To have your challenge entry recorded, please write your piece as a reply to this thread.
As a central theme of Consistency is the existence of time — ensuring that you are writing on a timely and daily basis — the theme of this month’s prompts will also be about time.
Today's prompt: [Chronic]
Definition: (of an illness) persisting for a long time or constantly recurring. Or, (of a problem) long-lasting and difficult to eradicate. Or, (of a person) having a particular bad habit.
╰┈➤ Write a piece inspired by one of the three meanings.
Word Count: Minimum 200 words, no maximum.
TRIGGER WARNING: This entry contains an episode of the chronic illness, dementia, and mentions of death.
"Where is she?"
Curious eyes stare back at me as I lay the tray on the nightstand. My patient of five years is asking for his wife again.
"Miss, where is my wife?" He repeats the question a little louder, the five words tugging the strings of my heart with innocent pleading.
"She's on her way here." I answer, "But before she arrives, why don't we take our lunch now?"
I don't have the heart to tell him she'll won't be able to come at all, and instead pull the bed table just above his knees, and set the plate before him.
"Oh my sweet, I'm so lucky to have her, you know?" He smiles at me, eyes creasing with wrinkles around them, still shining nonetheless. "She must be having such a hard time at home, taking care of the boys."
My back straightens at what he says. It has been three years since he had last mentioned his children.
"The boys..." He says, not to me, but to himself. "The accident."
I feel my heart swell, glad because he remembers, and sad because he remembers. This route will lead to one inevitable end, and I have to watch his heart shatter once again.
"My wife, she's dead." The stars in his eyes have frozen and withered away, "Isn't she?"
Stepping forward, I push the moving table backward. There are now two suns in his eyes, blazing as forces himself straight. "You lied to me! You- you told me she was coming!"
It's not the first time this has happened, and I pray that this won't be the worst one as I take his fist into my hand, "Sir, please-"
"I want to see her, where is she?" He cried, swinging his legs out of the bed frame with such force the table shook, spilling some of the food with it. "Where is she?!"
Just as he stands up, he stills, seemingly swaying in the air like a sheet of paper ready to tumble down at any external force, "Who is she?"
With the last of my courage, I help him sit back down, "What do you mean, Sir?"
He stares at my sleeve as if to look at my forearm underneath it, "What?"
He turns his head to find the spilled food on the table, and gasps, "Oh my, did I do this? I'm terribly sorry, Dear."
My sight is blurry as I take the plate before he can, placing it back on the tray, "It's alright, Sir. I'll have it fixed and brought back to you in no time."
"Oh, alright!" The cheer returns to his voice, smiling as I take the tray with me. "Bless your kind heart young miss!"
As soon as I exit the room, I burst into tears.
Mei kept photos of the cherry blossoms blooming outside their classroom in between the pages of her journal. It captured the blue sky of an early morning in March when Bronya once offered her a camera to take pictures of the petals dancing over their heads and falling from clouds. Inside those frames, a younger Kiana smiled, the corner of her eyes wrinkled and cheeks painted red. By the trunk of the cherry blossom trees, Bronya stared at them fondly, a subtle smile plastered on her face. They wore coats even after snow had long gone with the wind and Mei remembered cold hands reaching to hold her face for warmth accompanied with a soft laugh that tickled her ears.
Memories of a chill morning remained clearly in her mind, even as the months passed and the cherry blossoms withered and fell to the ground. Mornings turned warmer and Mei spent less time staring at the trees that covered cemented steps, but Kiana and Bronya never changed. Nights continued to last longer than days and silence never stayed too long with Kiana. Bronya stayed with the photographs that never left her journal’s pages, reminding her only of the happiest times of her life decorated in March’s flowers.
Laughter and childish banter stuck by her side until pink faded into green, and for every smile that stretched her lips since then, Mei never forgot to pray for thanks.
Mei reserved evenings for prayers, Kiana knew because she would never leave her room before 7PM and Bronya had told her one evening she tried to sneak inside.
At the end of May, no one left the room where Mei once slept. No girl left the door early in the morning or barged into the room uninvited with snacks packed in plastic bags sneaked from the dorm’s kitchen at night. Mei was at home in her hometown now and so was Bronya, miles away from Kiana whose world stopped since. Days continued to pass but Kiana remained in the mornings captured in a photograph when cherry blossoms once fell from the skies and filled the air. For once she wished the time went by faster than it did. The rooms felt empty without her friend’s chatter echoing in her ears. The excitement that once weighed down her chest was replaced with a heavy feeling, and waking up had never felt like a chore until now.
But Kiana continued to get up her bed anyway, and although her heart felt heavy and hollow, pictures of memories taken seasons ago kept her awake and looking forward to the next day. July promised her affection in autumn, a winter blanketed in a close friend’s warmth, and for petals to kiss her cheeks in spring.
July told her, “Someday, we’ll meet again.”
I work as a Wendy’s cashier. I listen to people rattle off their orders. That’s the job description, really. But what I don’t do is listen to people talk about themselves nonstop — without ordering something. So as I hear Melinda Gabriella Wells, talking about how she doesn’t like her middle name, insisting I call her Mel, and reminiscing about travelling (she’d gone to Iceland, Germany, Greece, and Portugal), I can’t feel more exhausted.
Melinda has come here before. In fact, she’d come here every day this week. And what she does is she talks for twenty minutes, nonstop (I can’t even get any words in, like, “Can’t you just order please?”), and then she orders a small fries. You’d think that after lending twenty minutes to her she’d get something more expensive, but hey, I get paid by the hour.
And if that’s the case, there shouldn’t be a problem with Mel, right? But there is, because all I want to do is tap the order into the machine and give people their food and do it practically on autopilot because that makes the day go faster. I’m an introvert.
“...I bought a fish today, and she’s gorgeous, she’s a beta, and yeah I’ve had fish before but only as a child so like thirty-five years ago so I miss having them. I haven’t had any pets in such a long time, my mother would never allow them because she said they were too hairy but she did allow the fish, since, you know, it’s not hairy.” She takes a pause to think about what she’s going to tell me next, tucking her blonde hair behind her ears.
I take advantage of this and say, “Ma’am. This is a Wendy’s.”
“Ah, right. I’ll have a small fries, please.”
“Coming right up,” I tell her. And then I smile.
CW: implied depression
I’m sorry it’s been so long, I’ve really got no excuse. I received all your letters and read them a thousand times over, but when the time came to write back, I didn’t know what to say.
It’s been rough without you. Harder than I ever thought it would be. Sometimes I still look for you in the forest or hear your voice in my ear. I suppose the sickness has really been getting to me of late. You know the one. The one that never quite seems to leave.
It’s not even been that long.
Yet somehow it feels like it never ends. The pain. The longing. The bitter nights. The lonely days spent listening to the ignorant ‘it’ll get better’s and ‘she’ll come back’s from the townsfolk you’re so fond of. I know they mean well and I know it isn’t their fault… But every word strikes me in the heart.
It’s so much.
You promised me that it would all get better, that we’d be together until the last of our days; that I’d never have to suffer alone again.
But you promised me things you couldn’t keep, didn’t you, love?
In one way or another, you always have. It’s a nasty habit of yours you’ve yet to grow out of, just as I’m yet to learn my lesson in believing what’s too good to be true.
I know you don’t want this any more than I do. I know how hard it’s been for you– and how hard it still is. I can only imagine the horrors you witness every day. I wish I could be a better husband for you. I wish I could write you beautiful love-letters scented with your favourite flowers to ignite your will to fight, or better yet, be there with you; holding you up.
But I’m stuck here in the eternal fissure of the anguish that's my mind without you. Surrounded by the promise that ‘it will get better with time’. But what good has time ever done for anyone? You can’t fix this chronic illness with time.
Time only serves to remind me of how long it’s been since I last felt the flutter of innocent bliss. Or how long it’s been since I’ve seen your face… or smiled, or laughed…
And what little joy I’ve ever held parted with you. The fall from the high you gave me shattered my soul. I’m not just bad now, I’m so much worse than I’ve ever been; holding on only for your promise. Holding on so you can see me again when you return.
I hope to hold on until then, my love. Promise me, you will too.
Yours until the day I die,
(( cw: toxic relationship ))
You're like a bad habit. I wish that I could have caught it earlier on than I did, because maybe if I did, it wouldn't stress me out so much to think about you. To be reminded of you. But it's hard, you know? And it was hard then. It's so difficult to lose people even if you know somewhere in your gut that what's happening is wrong and the things they say and do aren't at all good for you, especially in the kind of situation I was in. I was being singled out, and it was scary. It was change. It was terrifying. And you were a sense of familiarity and a loving figure in that darkness. People were chaos that I was never ready for, and you were security, and hanging onto you and ignoring all the red flags was just so *easy.* I wish it never happened. In a way, I'm grateful for the experience and how, in its own messed up fashion, it was another lesson that I otherwise might not have learned in time to stop something much worse. But why did it have to go so wrong? Why did you have to be the way you were? I wish things were different. I wish things were better. In a way, I wish I'd never met you at all. Obsessing over it, reliving every moment and trying to pick apart just where it all went wrong and how I never noticed it earlier, that's the bad habit. And so is the way in which I organize my life around any reminders of you and the situation and everything that might bring it all back. And so is my tendency to avoid conversations like this because of how much more simple it is to pretend it never happened. If only it never had to.
“So what if I’m going to be sick forever? It’s only until I die.” She grinned, her face paler than the petals of the flowers outside. “Are you sad? Are you going to cry? You never cry, Ma-kun.”
“Who said I was going to cry?” My cheeks burned. “No, it’s just - it’s just that—”
“Just what?” She tilted her head, looking at me with those dark brown eyes of hers. I always wanted to look at them longer, but it might make her uncomfortable. So I always averted my gaze whenever she looked at me.
“It’s just not fair!” The words burst out of my mouth before I could stop them. “It’s just not fair that out of everyone who is young and healthy, you have to be—” Tears stung my eyes, and I quickly wiped them away. I didn’t want her to see me cry. Not like this.
But she took my hand, and still she smiled, and seemed ever more fragrant, blossoming, beneath the spring wind that caressed her hair from the open window. Spring, the season when everything was living, coming to life, but she was inching closer to death by the day…
“It’s going to be all right, Ma-kun. As long as I take care of myself, and do as the doctor says, I should be fine. A little weaker, a little sicker, but I’ll be fine. Even if I go… One day, you’re going to look back, and realize that I was never that important to you. You’ll soon forget me, and then you’ll no longer be sad. You’re going to be fine, you hear me?”
How could she say that? Forget her? Not be important to me? Never! No, she would remain in my mind forever, like those quickly fading flowers on the trees outside, here one day, gone the next, but their beauty would be imprinted on my soul for the rest of my life. And the difference was, they would come back every year, but she wouldn’t, once she left.
I was crying, I was holding onto her hand and crying, but still she smiled, perhaps so that I would remember the most beautiful side of her.
You know you have a problem when you don't even realize it when you tell a lie. None of the guilt in your stomach, the truth in your throat, your conscience whispering. Nothing at all, just lies. Light lies, heavy lies, strong lies, simple lies, complex lies, salty lies, sweet lies, yellow lies, green lies, blue lies. Sabrina had stopped memorizing her lies, and if she ever bumped into a lie from the past, she just lied more and more, until the person believed her once again. She began to feel proud, but that pride faltered when on one occasion she accidentally told the truth.
The first time she thought she had misremembered, having lived among so many lies, it was a chance to tell the truth in one of the many lives she made up for herself. What was in her purse? A Channel lipstick, of course. The moment it was borrowed, Sabrina was ready to pretend she couldn't find it in her purse, and what a surprise Sabrina got when she did indeed find a Channel lipstick in her purse. She lent it to her friend, confused, but she wasn't going to say anything. Was Sabrina, apart from lying, now stealing without realizing it? She pondered for a moment, well, it didn’t matter.
Though perplexed for a moment, she didn't let it stop her, and her life went on, but there came a point where she could no longer look away from the changes around her. The straw that broke the camel's back was when she was asked the color of her car, what color was it? Purple, just like the car of the actress of the moment, and when Sabrina went to where she was to go home, her white car was now a beautiful purple color.
Sabrina seemed to freeze in time as from the sidewalk she watched her car. Sabrina might not have a conscience, but she did have a superstitious grandmother who had once warned her that lies were sometimes more dangerous than the truth. Sabrina snapped out of it, without conscientiously saying a word, she drove straight home, rushed inside and grabbed a notebook that sat on her dining room table. She began to write down all the lies she could remember, paying special attention to the ones she had mentioned to the four winds that day. Sabrina paled as she realized that she had lied that day in order not to go to a party the next day, because on the news she had seen that a storm like never before would hit the city for days. Shit, now she was going to found out if a double lie worked too. Credits due to the amazing idea Yue proposed in the Clam Land chat :)
One day I drank water a little too quickly and got the hiccups.
That's fine, I thought. It'll probably go away over time. Worst case scenario, I'll play some game with a jump scare and it'll spook them out of me like it's supposed to.
The key words in this equation were "supposed to".
I tried everything in the book. Holding my breath for 30 seconds, hanging upside down from the bed… I even went through the trouble of deliberately watching scary videos on the internet just to get those darned hiccups out of my system! Any and all attempts at eating anything would result in some kind of absolute mess, but the biggest hurdle standing between me and coping with the idea of living the rest of my life with a permanent case of the hiccups…
…was water. Or any drink, for that matter.
You see, the thing about hiccups is that as much as I try to time them or prepare myself mentally, they happen at pretty much absolute random. I can try to enjoy a nice glass of tea or Pepsi, but I have to time my sips just right so I don't hiccup everything out of my throat at best or choke on my own drink at worst. Even then, sometimes even my best efforts would be in vain, and my chronic hiccups would get the best of me just because of bad luck.
After seeing I still had the hiccups after she'd dropped me off two days prior, my friend insisted that I visit my doctor. I refused at first, but she wasn't taking no for an answer. I couldn't make up a coherent enough argument as to why I'd be fine (mostly because every hiccup disrupted my train of thought), and eventually, my frustration got the better of me and I caved. She strapped me into the passenger's seat of the car, and together we sped off towards the doctor's office.
Long story short, sure enough, the doctor diagnosed me with chronic hiccups right then and there. He told me this disease was very rare, but since the symptoms are rather clear-cut, for obvious reasons, he figured it was safe to do so. On the way back, while in the passenger's seat of my friend's car, I remember trying and failing to get the precious shut-eye I'd been unable to grasp since these accursed hiccups infiltrated my life.
I've just about had it with these hiccups, I thought. There's no way I can live the rest of my life like this.
Just as I was almost catching a single wink of decent sleep, I remember hearing a thunderous "Ba-DUMP!", followed by my torso being flung forward for a split second. I remember my friend cursing and practically screaming at nobody in particular about how massive and dangerous that pothole was. Everything after that felt like nothing but a blur…
I was woken up by my friend shaking me by the shoulder. With baggy eyes and an overall groggy disposition, I turned my head out the window only to find we'd made it back to my place. I commented on how fast she got there, completely oblivious to what had just happened.
My friend just chuckled and asked me, "You do know you slept like a baby ever since I hit that pothole earlier, right?"
Exhaustion doesn’t quite explain it these days. The chronic fatigue that haunts your every waking moment. Sleep was no longer a solution to how you felt. Each night your head collided with the pillow and you were left laying there for hours, wondering when salvation would come. And as if the exhaustion wasn’t enough, the never-ending pain that terrorized your every existence solidified the fact that your life is Hell.
No one could ever understand it for you could never find a way to describe it to them. How do you explain that whether you sleep for two hours or twelve, you feel as though you haven’t at all? How do you tell someone that there are days where nothing can alleviate the pain you feel? Medication doesn’t assist you in making it through the day. Resting doesn’t help when you’ve never been able to go twenty four hours without some degree of pain. All these solutions the world throws at you are meaningless.
“Deep breathes, deep breathes, you just need to relax and maybe the pain will ease.” But what they don’t understand is this is something you will live with your entire life. That some days the simple act of breathing hurts. Pain radiates from your core with each intake of air and crushes you with each exhale.
“Maybe taking a walk would help? Get your mind off of it?” And yet as you start the insufferable trek to the park, the pain worsens with every step. It feels as though your legs will buckle out from underneath you at any second, and you slip into a stilted gait in no time at all. The limp is visible and there’s simply no way to hide it anymore.
“Have you tried any home remedies? Maybe those would help.” You can hear yourself chuckling before that sentence is ever finished. Home remedies? Nothing will cure this. Nothing will make this easier to live with, and those who don’t experience it don’t get it. It’s never helped that you look so, so young. For what child is truly in this level of excruciating pain at all times? To the general public? None.
“You’re just a kid. You don’t understand what real pain is. When you’re my age, you’ll get it. But for now, shut your trap and walk it off.” As if being a child means you don’t understand pain. Your joints have hurt for as long as you can remember, and your muscles have struggled to meet every realistic expectation thrust upon you by the world. No one seems to understand that it is chronic. It is permanent. The symptoms can be managed at best, but not cured. Hell, you don’t even understand why you’ve been cursed with this. The doctors don’t know either, so you’re left to suffer with no answer in sight for years on end. Maybe even for the rest of your life.
“It’s just a phase. Every kid thinks they’re going through Hell at some point.” The words meet you filled with disinterest and a lack of faith. It’s fruitless to argue with these people anymore. Their heads are filled with thoughts that are not theirs. They’ve been conditioned to believe that you are lying. That you’re crazy, and maybe if they just drill that same belief into you it’ll snap you out of your little stupor. The need for attention will fade and suddenly the ‘chronic pain’ will be no more.
But now you are twenty two, nearing twenty three and it’s only gotten worse. Getting through each day is a never-ending challenge and sleep is almost nonexistent. You don’t know what to do because at a young age, part of you had prayed that something would solve this. Something would happen and you would no longer go through the Hell that is your life. But instead, you remain at a higher risk of injury. Doctors don’t believe you when you express that in their pain scale, it may be a zero, but that’s because it’s your baseline and you almost can’t notice it anymore most days. They also don’t believe when it’s a twelve out of ten and chastise you for breaking their scale. To the majority of people, you’re a liar. You look as though you’re fine, so maybe you’d just been crying wolf for years.
It leads them to believe the injuries were false too. Six times? You simply couldn’t have injured the same place that many times without a lasting mark. No, but make it seven and there would now be a scar you would never be able to rid yourself of. You do all these things that if you were really suffering would be impossible. Yes, because it is expected of you; no, it is required of you. Regardless of the pain you feel, you’re meant to continue through your day and hope that maybe tomorrow will be a little easier. And when it isn’t, you trudge through yet again, with a little less hope left in your tank that salvation from this chronic Hell will come.
Word count: 229 🏥
(Based on a d&d character I played in a oneshot: Linidaa the Dragonborn Cleric!)
here she is :)
When Linidaa wanted to leave the temple of Ilmater, nobody expected her to be able to get by in the wider world. She had been born with a right leg unable to support her properly, so she needed to use a crutch whenever she wanted to move. She was a talented and faithful healer, yes, and the world would certainly benefit from her services, but there was a nervousness among the monastic community that she simply wasn’t strong enough to travel very far. They expected her to return within the season.
She didn’t return that season. She didn’t return the next, either. It was only after a year that she made it back home, cheerful and bright as ever.
Linidaa told them about her journey. How she made her way through a trap-ridden dungeon to rescue a halfling prince. How she worked as a healer for a circus troupe making their way across the land. How she survived something she called a ‘zombie apocalypse’ – a rising of the undead by a powerful and dangerous necromancer.
After that, the monastic community gave her a formal, full-time adventurer’s leave. She was more than capable of looking after herself, and magically more powerful than most of them combined. Linidaa would always remember her time with the temple, but she was glad to be free to pursue what she loved: discovering new things.
Word Count: 910 words tw: mentions of death and blood (but nothing graphic)
I hope this counts for the prompt because my brain is soup and I don't know if this made sense 😭
A lover's spat, misunderstood intentions, deep grudges, then murder. Shinichi was used to cases that hid tragedies in their core, yet…
"If only you remembered…"
"Was everything we went through all for nothing?"
He laid his forehead on the car window, blank eyes gazing at Coral and sunset skies reflected on the bay. Memories. Such a mundane triviality was a concept he never deigned to ponder on outside of cases, but maybe such abstractions were what drove him to finish this case early.
It may have hit a little too close to home.
As the car sped through the bridge, he watched.
Smiles, a proposal by the cliff, scattered roses along dimly lit pathways, blood, wrecked cars, stark white hospital walls, the first movement of pale fingers, a doctor's stern face—
He breathed, clutching his head to fight the stinging ache. Too close.
"Um, sir? Are you okay?" said the driver, a new addition to the force. He had young eyes and good intentions, but Shinichi didn't think either yes or no could answer the man's question.
He waved a hand. "I'm fine." Leaning back, he gazed once again out the window, carefully holding the reins to his thoughts lest they wander again.
The sun still hovered over the city skyline, painting glass panes in glaring gold. A mantle of violet and faded mauve, waiting for dusk, spread over their heads—and Shinichi preferred its darkness over the luster of the city. Tokyo glowed like a masterpiece in the hands of Monet and Pissarro. Beautiful, if he were to muse. The ache simmering at the back of his head just won't cease though, and it wasn't because of resting his head on the car window or staring too hard at the blurs of strangers.
His phone buzzed. It took a few seconds for him to close his eyes and fight lethargy enough to lean back. Taking out his phone, he pressed it to his ear.
As the bay glowed ruby and the sky rouge, the ring on his finger gleamed.
The door's creaking echoed through the shadows of the mansion as he slipped inside. Routine settled in: hang his coat by the door, replace loafers with soft slippers, and head towards the library.
That was where she always waited.
He made sure his footsteps were heard even before he knocked, yet only when he entered and stepped onto the wine red carpets did she look up from her book.
"Welcome home." Shiho smiled softly. "I didn't hear you coming. Have you eaten?" Under the old chandeliers he could see her pallor, the slightest bit ashen. Maybe he ought to remind her to rest more often. Banning her from the lab wasn't enough.
He smiled weakly. "Not yet, have you?"
With quiet steps, she walked to his side. "No, but I can go prepare a quick meal." With the smallest quirk of her lips, she added, "We both know who's the better cook."
That made him chuckle. "Thanks, but you stay here. I'll prepare it and take our dinner here."
She stared into his eyes, hand wavering before his arm, yet many words remained unsaid.
Shinichi took her hand and caressed the calluses on her fingers. As his mind slowed and the nerves within him gradually loosened, words from the case once again flashed in quick succession.
He dropped her hand. "I'll be quick." Not letting her speak, he turned away, a fist in his pocket and a hand on his head.
He forced his mind to remain blank even as he walked to the kitchen and prepared a quick batch of scrambled eggs and toast. Shiho was right; between them, he was the one not to be trusted in the kitchen. At least, he had to learn how to cook since the accident.
And there his thoughts spiraled once again.
It couldn't be helped; within their home there were too many memories they shared. Every room and corner glimpsed so many seconds of their story. In the kitchen, he remembered her tirades over badly burnt toast and a ringing smoke alarm. In his study, he remembered sleepless nights poring over case details as she offered her thoughts between sips of tea.
Shinichi had made too many memories with Shiho since the day they decided to restart their lives together. And he promised, many times, that his presence would be by her side every step of the rest of their ways.
That no matter how cruel things get, no matter the walls that bear down on their lives, he would hold her hand and replace the drab grays of her past with ocean blues of a better tomorrow.
And so, as he walked towards the library, a tray of their dinner in his hands, he reiterated in his head his promise to never give up.