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January 2023 Contest Winner: Against Fate


There, in the overgrown forest, you gaze skyward, unblinking, gasping from exertion after having bawled your eyes out, your tear ducts straining. Your lips hold only an expression of scorn. You scream out, cursing the gods, the deities, the puppeteer that wrote your plotline.


That day, you crept through rugged, wintergreen shrubs, deeper into the neck of the woods than you had been intending to go to. Father was a traditionalist; he believed every boy should go hunting once of an appropriate age. After your series of childish fits, your Father granted you his gun, and you stood arrogantly, despite stumbling from its overbearing weight. After wandering for quite some time, tripping over shrubs every so often, you caught sight of a doe and scrambled into shooting position. You fired blindly, unaware of the precision of your shot. So, when your Father, who had been shepherding beside you, deemed that you had merely shot it in the hind leg, and not its heart, he sent you over to allow it mercy. You begged him through tears to go in place of you, but he sent you forth regardless of how woefully you cried. So, with darkened grass and mud encasing your boots, you tread towards the ripe and gored greenery where the deer had fallen to its preceding death. You hoped, for a second, that it was already relieved of its pain.

However, as your eyes laid upon its still body at the sinewy ankles of the tree, under the scattered light filtered from the foliage above, you knew. Its solemn eyes glazed over, peering up towards you, glistening glass through darkened lashes. They were void of any emotion. In its gaze, you saw your own reflection in its fading mortality. Whitish speckles peppered its tan pelt, unlike any of the stags you had ever seen your Father bring home from his hunting trips.

What caught your attention, upon further inspection, right before you set to press the head of your rifle against the muscle over its expanding sternum, was its third eye. It watched, not animalistic or wild. Instead, it was slick, questioning and darting back and forth in fear. The oddity was human-like, somehow. The pale coloring of its irises matched that of your Mother’s. Once it had ceased its panic, it looked down at the barrel of your gun and its pupil froze. Your stomach lurched at the familiar sight of such an emotion.

A tear welled at the corner of its odd deformity, seeming as if it was begging for relief. It wasn't a matter of morality for the doe; it was a simple matter of survival, and its journey beheld an inescapable course of life. In its creation brought forth life; it knew it was only a matter of time before it had to return it to the womb of earth, so it forgives.

You wondered: if there was the hunter and the hunted, why was it you both shared the same fear of death? You bent down until your head was at the height of its bowed crown, and you cried bitterly at life’s deception, its ridicule. Between you two was no distinction, no separation, only the reality of two afraid beings, molded from the earth’s dust and clay. Then, slowly, as if every inch brought it an unbearable, world amount of pain, it brought the top of its head to yours. You stayed in that position during the last moments of its life, weeping selfishly as its third eye remained unblinking, tilting its gaze at your now fallen rifle. You shook your head stubbornly. In that sliver of time, neither were more human than the other. It continued to stare until you finally decided, your face thick with dread.

You shivered silently, and your fingers trembled, reaching for the gun. The procedure was drawn out enough for you to feel every joint in your body creak. Forcing yourself to fixate on the pool of crimson hurt surrounding its raw leg, your sadness tripled, and you finally decided. In the moments after, your fingers curled around the trigger, and you finally shot it as it went quietly to death. In devastation, you sobbed into its still-warm body, never-minding the scent of the flux in the bleeding grass.

Through tears, you saw something so utterly mystifying, it startled you to the core. Quickly, spindling vines spilled out of its wound. You witnessed its body become enshrouded beneath a bed of gleaming violet and periwinkle flowers, tender roots twisting under sprouting infant leaves, the soil encasing it like a blanket. In such a miracle, against fate, the doe was given life again.

now, once more

The narrator really set you up, did she not? The narrator doomed you from the start. She birthed you from the prologue and nursed you with the milk of inspiration, the very essence of creativity. And you. You were still plump with childhood, merely a premature seedling. The narrator nurtured you; she knows why you wept; the narrator knows why you feared. She directs through her words, your grim story, destining you to blackish-blue turmoils. The events in your narration submit to the inevitable, like the swing of a metronome, timely, and occasionally opportune. And despite so, you pressed forward—unwillingly, perhaps—with the very truth and understanding of humanity that she bestowed upon you lying within the very space between your lungs.

The narrator lets you love. The narrator lets you hate, gives you the burden of guilt and watches you disintegrate beneath it. And as she observes you sweeping the slightest bit of gritty rubble off of your arm and smearing away stubborn, black soot—like that of squid’s ink—from under your left cheek, she is content. Oh, to surrender to the course of fate! The narrator crafts a pretty bit of speech and lets you go forth on your own terms sometimes. She wordlessly studies you as you dribble wine from your open mouth, sobbing, hoping it was all just a nightmare. But she also watches you as you rebuild your fortress, your haven of a heart, and reach for an elusive dream; for something more.

Did the narrator love you, though? Did I love you? The answer is yes. I loved you. I am grateful that my fingers could create you to begin with.


Alli, the winner of WriterVana's January 2023 writing contest, is a fiction writer. Find more of her works here: Linktree

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