The right thing

Alisha watches her future husband through a gap in the curtains. “What a brute”, she whispers. His muscles coil like knots, his face locked in a permanent snarl. “He is the one, my sparrow”, says Nanna Tersia gently.

[He radiates an animal grace that’s irresistible. No wonder the clans follow him, birds drawn to the sun.]

Her parents offer salt and bread, as is the custom. Her suitor gulps and chews. Alisha, in the shadows, watches with sickened fascination.

[He shares their offerings, honouring their house. Alisha watches, enthralled, entranced, enchanted.]

“It was a miraculous thing, child, to negotiate this. Our people could not hope for a better union.” Alisha agrees, understanding the politics completely. If only she was braver. She reaches for the vial.

“This is serious magic”,  Mama Tersia warns her. “You will both be undone. Do you understand?” But the thought of his monstrous arms embracing her, his foul breath on hers, his bulk on her small body, shakes her to the bone. She’s not strong enough.

She lets a drop of the potion fall into each goblet, sealing their fates.

[She thinks of the clans united, the dream of a golden age. She imagines touching, caressing, loving him. Being his.]

She emerges, carrying the wine. “This her?” His cold eyes judge her, dismissive. “Let’s hope you bear sons.”

[Their eyes meet and lock, finding each other for the first time, completing and consuming one another in a burning moment of realisation.]

He raises the tainted wine. They drink. The love potion takes effect, and they are both unmade, [remade, for each other, in all the past and all the future, for ever after. ]

13 thoughts on “The right thing”

  1. I enjoyed this a lot as well. We may have found Sure Thing hard, but I have really enjoyed everything that has been written about it.

    I really like the way you have used the italics again (different but similar to your last entry :-)) It is a wonderful juxtaposition that really works and makes beautiful sense when you read about the potion. It was great reading two perspectives on the suitor throughout: sexy man-beast or brutish lout.

    I can’t find any criticisms – it works beautifully as is. Thanks.

    1. Thank you!

      I’m glad that the itallics made sense (in terms of the rewriting of the past) and I was a bit worried that I’m becoming “itallics girl” but then I thought What The Hell. Basically.

      I’m really really glad you liked it!

  2. Parfles, I found this an effective bit of writing, but I have to agree with your italics worry, you’re repeating effects! Same alternation/italicisation/different viewpoints as your Soup story; also a nicely subersive romance motif. Both stories work, but I found I couldn’t fully immerse in this one because I was so strongly reminded of the alien soup romance.

    Despite all of above: lovely imagery, strong and effective sense of the girl’s terror and conflict, and a truly nasty political kick to the ideas. As a snapshot exploration of destiny, free will and the cost of political expediency, it has teeth.

    1. I have been pondering your comment a lot (I’m truly dreadful at this “constructive criticism” thing!). I discovered that I have been thinking of the micfic concept as a bit of a hatchery for bigger stories. Just about everything I like is a very distilled skeleton of an idea – squeezing in way too much story into 250 words is a constant issue in all my attempts. But I have been seeing each of these stories as a possible seed for a larger tale. This has made me less concerned with “body of work” than with each story… I see this one as having better potential of being a longer story than the Soup one, which is essentially a little thing and could not be stretched to more than 3 pages.

      But, I agree that I shouldn’t bore you lovely people by dishing out stuff that’s too similar! I will try and keep this other objective more firmly in mind.

      It sounds like you enjoyed the story in its own right though, thank you for the nice things. Did you get the “rewriting time” aspect of it? I am not happy with that as I think it could have been much cleverer. That’s what happens if you leave it too late!

      1. The squeezing-bigger-stories-into-250-words issue is very familiar, most of mine do exactly the same thing. We might like to experiment with a topic that’s set slightly longer for a change, sometime – 500 or 600 words? But I didn’t feel that there was too much not being said in this, it’s a very punchy piece of writing.

        I also felt a bit mean the instant I’d posted the comment, but decided to let it stand because honestly the repeated italic thing did block my enjoyment of the story. It’s more than the format: in both stories you’re using the alternate-viewpoint thing to concoct a more complicated version of events than a single viewpoint is able to deliver, which is efficient given the word constraints, but could too easily become a gimmick that prevents you developing alternative techniques. I think that’s why I felt it was important to make the comment in the first place.

        I’m not too sure what you mean by “rewriting time”. The story seemed to me to fairly clearly establish that the love potion rewrites the girl’s perception of events, but the story puts the two viewpoints in parallel rather than showing the literal, chronological change in her perceptions at the moment she drinks. It’s a particularly elegant solution. I don’t think it matters whether the issue is a punchily-shown act of changed perception, or a punchily-shown act of magic rewriting time :>. (I read it as the former, fwiw).

  3. The Right Thing is about Alisha, who — for political reasons — needs to marry someone she finds brutish and who clearly thinks little of her. She enlists the help of a friend to obtain a love potion for her, which she gives to both herself and the Brute.

    If love potions worked, they’d be on sale for this commercial/political reason :)

    I enjoy many of the descriptions, like “coil like knots”, “gulps and chews”. I thought they gave a feeling for the person without being blunt about it (as I think “monstrous arms” is blunt). I also enjoyed the political nature of the story, and the use the love potion is put to.

    This does remind me of your previous, Soup Themed story, where the piece is told in two parts. I thought it worked great in Renegade Romance, but I’m sure how much it adds to this one. The first paragraph in square brackets could be Alisha’s thoughts and observations, but that’s not true for the rest of them. I also wasn’t sure why the last sentence was split between portions inside and outside of the brackets, but that might be because I haven’t understood what the brackets and italics are doing :( I played with the idea that this could be related to her taking the potion and changing (“remaking”) herself, but the italicised text occurs before she takes the potion (so I’m assuming the content in the brackets is not potion related).

    Anyway, my wondering about the need for the brackets aside, I did enjoy the story :)

    1. Thank you for comment!

      I agree “monstrous arms” was a cop out – i tried to go for “showing not telling” with the other descriptions but just ran out of words. I will try and re-think.

      The stuff in square brackets is meant to be an alternate reality/alternate perception of reality (thanks, docinatrix!) which comes into being in the past and in the future after the love potion takes effect, making the pair perfect for each other, always having been perfect for each other. I think more than one reader did not catch this intention which means the story does not quite work, and I would like to try and rewrite it.

      My initial intent, (for which words failed me), was to have the sentence before the bracket and the sentence in the bracket directly contrast each other, playing with the language to change the underlying sentiment. Much work still to do to get that right!

  4. Really interesting interpretation of the theme: It pleases me the way the device of the love potion (which is usually kinda silly) is used in such a seriously philosophical way.

    Great rhythm and beats in some [in love] phrases (enthralled, entranced, enchanted etc).

    I think the whole thing comes together very powerfully at the end as the dissidence between the voices reaches near contradiction. The last paragraph really works: climax, summary and explanation in less than 30 words!

    That said the first time I read it I was very disturbed by the temporal paradox involved in the two voices and found it somewhat confusing and slightly surreal.
    It only started working for me after the second read through.

    1. Thank you, I’m glad it worked for you!

      I am very glad the temporal paradox did become apparent, although I still think it needs more honed writing.

      The discomfort on the first reading sits well with me. I have a strong fascination with short stories that make you go “Oh, that’s what that was!” at the end, and force a re-read. These are my secret pleasures, but I hope they don’t get too irritating!

  5. Really enjoyed this, despite being confused by it for a while.
    The concept of the love potion remaking is ace, much more interesting than the usual potion shenanigans, and the descriptions of the couple are great.

    I’m not so sure about the form for delivery. The remaking is a very tricky thing to get across and I wonder if it would have worked a bit better without the italics / brackets, or in some other presentation. The similarity to the previous stylings was only a little distracting, and only on the fist read, for me.

    Overall – lovely. Me like lots!

    1. I have been thinking about a rewrite, but can’t come up with another mechanism unless I change the entire story – remove the dual path.

      Thank you for the nice things – I am only moderately mid happy with this one and positive feedback makes me feel all squishy :)

  6. @ Docinatrix – argh, sorry, there seems to be no opportunity for fourth-level-comment in blog!

    1. Promise to develop alternate techniques
    2. I agree, rewriting perceptions or rewriting time, the story works either way :)

    Thank you for ample commentage :)

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