On the first Friday of every month, the Australian Writers Centre reveals a new set of story prompts. Writers have 55 hours to submit their best 500-word (or fewer) story.
THIS MONTH'S CRITERIA
And – touch.
I want to sink, but I push my face through the surface of the water, gulp in the air, smooth back my hair. I look at the stands. My parents are hugging. Friends on the team are jumping. People everywhere are on their feet. Cheering. It’s deafening.
The scoreboard confirms it. Better than my personal best. World record. World best. I’ve done it.
Friendships and experiences sacrificed for this precise moment. I’ve done it.
Now what? My legs, which had just powered me to victory, are like lead.
Justine suddenly appears from nowhere, pulling me from the pool. I grab hold of her shoulders, leathery from decades of sun-worship, and collapse near the starting blocks. I doubt I can stand, let alone walk, to face the waiting media scrum. She’s saying something, but I can barely hear her.
I’ve done it.
I’ve achieved my impossible goal.
Do I set another goal? Do I even want to? Is it worth it?
Tears come from nowhere. I brush them away. I imagine the headlines in glossy magazines - ‘Tears of Joy from our Golden Girl.’ Am I joyful? Or just confused? Are they tears of relief, or anti-climax? Tears of pride, or regret? Could they be tears of emptiness? Or fear? Or resentment? Most likely tears of exhaustion.
Justine has managed to get me on my feet. I smile and wave. The noise! A microphone and camera are in front of me. I speak, but I’m not sure what I say. I hope I’ve said thank you. And that I’m happy. And that I swam my own race.
I’m whisked down a narrow corridor into a room with comfy chairs. I’m shivering. Drinks appear. Everyone is talking at once.
I hear voices. Justine. Mum, Dad. Other voices I don’t recognise. I hear words, but they make no sense.
My arm is cold. Something’s happened, but I don’t know what.
I see people. Where’s the pool?
I’m tired, but manage to open my eyes. Mum’s asleep. Dad’s drinking coffee. I’m in bed. I try and speak, but can only croak.
“You’re ok. You’re ok.” Dad’s by my side. Mum’s awake.
I don’t know what’s happened, or what will happen, but I see their tears.
Tears fall. Pure joy.
Grateful to the Australian Writers Centre for sparking creativity each month with the Furious Fiction competition.