The Perfect Project

From prompt Write a story that includes someone saying, “You’ve got this.”

See my Reedsy profile here.

“No, no, no! That’s all wrong!”

I look up from my work at my mentor who is shaking his head, long scraggly white beard swaying with the motion. His bushy white eyebrows are drawn into a frown, nearly covering his eyes. I use my forearm to wipe the sweat from my forehead, trying not to smear anything from my gloves onto my skin.

“My boy,” my mentor continues, “you are a bright and promising student. You have done this before, and done it well. What is the problem today?”

I drop my head in shame. “I’m sorry, master. This project has taken much longer than any other. I am very tired.”

My mentor nods knowingly. “I understand, my boy. This is delicate work and you have done very well thus far. Only now do I see you begin to falter. Steady yourself. You know you cannot stop now. If you do, the project will be ruined.”

I squeeze my eyes shut, nodding at my master’s words. Yes, I think. I must focus. I cannot stop now. I’ve got this. I can do this.

I take a deep breath through my nose and exhale slowly through my mouth, centering myself, gathering my confidence. I can do this.

Opening my eyes, I examine the diagram I am following again. For a second, my vision swims under the bright lights of the workroom and I fear I may faint. I lock my knees to keep from collapsing. No, I tell myself, I will not faint. I will not shame myself or my master. This piece will be completed and proudly displayed with the others. The project would not be complete without this last piece.

Breathing deep a few more times, I resume my work, carefully, delicately, my hands steady. From the corner of my eye I see my master’s beard bob up and down as he nods in approval. The sounds coming from my work table threaten to distract me, but I hold firm. I will not be distracted. This piece will be finished and it will be my finest work to date.

My stomach roils. How long since I last ate? How many hours has it been? No, concentrate!

The table rattles a little as my work in progress writhes. I absently tighten the restraints and pick up the next tool I need. The project is coming along nicely now and I am pleased with my work. A quick glance shows my mentor is smiling and I know he is pleased as well.

“Well done,” he compliments and I allow myself a small smile. “This line here is particularly fine.” He runs a finger along the line in question and the subject writhes again. The restraints hold much better this time and the table barely even shivers.

I place a small magnifying tool over my right eye, select the finest needle in the collection, thread it and begin on the truly delicate work. My subject attempts to scream around the gag, but the sound comes out dull and low. No doubt the throat is raw from many previous attempts.

My mentor shivers will delicate and removes the gag. This has always been his favorite part. When the final touches are being added, the subject is weak and nearly expired. Standing at the head of the table, my mentor gently places his hands on either side of the face and leans over, his lips nearly touching that of the subject.

I finish the last of my work and straighten up, my spine popping. The subject exhales for the last time and my mentor breathes it in with a shudder of satisfaction.

“My boy,” he says, ecstasy evident in his voice. “You have outdone yourself. I always knew you would be my greatest apprentice and you continue to prove me right. I know you will continue to exceed my expectations.”

Exhausted, but thrilled, I allow myself a prideful smile and survey my work. It is indeed the best I have ever done. I pull the bloody gloves from my hands and wipe sweat from my forehead again.

“Shall we set it up, master?” I ask, a little breathlessly. He nods and together we hoist my finished project up off the table, and carry it to the far side of the room.

We set it up at the end of the existing line, positioning it just so. A few adjustments are made as each of us steps back a moment for a wider view. When we are both satisfied, we back up several paces. I stop as the work table makes contact with my lower back.

Crossing my arms and blinking my tired – no doubt, red – eyes, I survey the completed project with pride. Before me, my work is displayed. A line of what used to human females, seven of them, in a row. Each one has been dismembered, their parts exchanged between the bodies and reattached according to our designs.

The right arm of the first corpse was now on the left hip of the third corpse. The left leg of the second now attached where the right arm of the fifth used to be. So on and so forth, as had been decided long in advance. The drawing of the plans had been only step one, taking days to meticulously draw and tweak.

Step two had been obtaining the subjects. An endeavor that also took days. The third step was the work itself, the cutting and sawing, the dismembering and sewing. Nearly forty eight hours of unstoppable work and now it was finally complete. Now that it was done, I suddenly realized how hungry and thirsty I was, but I didn’t want to move just yet.

Anticipating my need, my mentor handed me a glass of cold water. I took it gratefully, swallowing several large gulps. He clapped me on the shoulder, “truly fine work, my boy. Truly fine work.” A large grin splits my face.

I knew I could do it.

Ok, well, I surprised even myself with this one. It’s pretty sick and disturbing. I think I need to have my head examined! hahaha

The Bridge

*This story was written starting with a prompt from*

Begin your story with a protagonist taking shelter under a bridge during a thunderstorm. An animal scurries past which shouldn’t exist. Against their better judgment, they decide to follow it out.

The sky was angry. 

Black clouds roiled above, flashing with lightning as sheets of rain came pouring down. Instantly, I was soaked through. The weather forecast had not called for this. It was supposed to be a sunny, only slightly cloudy, day. Where had this storm come from? 

Squinting through the torrent of water, I see a structure up ahead that could provide some shelter. Hugging myself, I sprint out into the storm and duck under the structure – the bridge as it turns out.  

Of course it’s the bridge, I chastise myself. What else would in be in this particular part of the town? Afterall, I’d known perfectly well where I was before the rain started. With a sigh, I pried my long hair from my face, trying to smooth it back into some semblance of order. Not that it matters. No one is around to see me. 

I sigh again, grumbling to myself about how the world hates me, when something catches my eye. Something small and ….white? I startle and nearly jump to my feet and the creature freezes, front paws splayed, head slightly down, tails up and alert. 

Wait! Tails? 

Staying as still as I can, I examine the creature. It’s about the size of a small dog, a Pomeranian maybe, with big pointed ears, a narrow but short snout, a long sleek body of glistening white fur and at least three tails swishing around it’s hind quarters. A fox? With multiple tails? 

“Wow,” I whisper on an exhale. At the sound of my voice the little creature takes off at a run towards the other end of the bridge. 

Without any conscious thought, I scramble to my feet and take off after the little animal. “Wait!” I shout, but of course the creature doesn’t listen. 

What the hell am I doing? I wonder. Why do I do things like this? 

Before I can come up with any sort of answer to these questions, the creature reaches the other side of the bridge, with me hot on his tails. We shoot over to the other side and I feel –  

The sun hot on my wet skin? 

The light is blinding. I crush my eyes shut and bring both hands up to shield my face. It was definitely still raining while I was under the bridge, so what happened? 

Squinting, I slowly open my eyes and lower my hands a fraction. The little white creature is only a few feet away from me, looking up at me with curious eyes and wagging tails. All around us is green. Towering trees with large emerald green leaves surround me in a circle. I tilt my head back and can hardly see the top of them. The sun shines down through a perfect circle in the canopy. 

I’ve been here before… 

A memory begins to bubble up in the back of my mind, a memory from ten years ago when I was only eight. 

The townsfolk always muttered about the bridge. Don’t go under the bridge unless you have to, they’d say. Stay away from the bridge at night. 

A rustling sound catches my attention and my eyes are drawn to the forest in front of me. A creature like the small one I followed here emerges from the shadows of the forest, except this one is huge! My eyes travel from paws larger than my hands, up the sleek white fur of its strong front legs, up to a thicker ring of fur like a mane to its narrow snout and finally its eyes. Behind it, several bushy tails fanned out, like a peacock with its feathers on full display. 

Deep liquid brown eyes stare at me, on level with my own. This creature is massive. 

In my head I hear my mother’s voice: Stay away from the bridge or you’ll disappear just like little Jane Hodgson.  

The old memory is in the front of my mind now. As a child, I never liked to listen to anyone, especially my mother. When people tell me not to do things, I always want to do them just because. Eight year old me went to the bridge. Like everyone in town, I’d always been wary of the bridge, and though I had been scared, that rebellious part of me just had to know what was there. It had been a rainy day and the sky was overcast. Slowly, cautiously, I crept under the bridge. 

Stay away from the bridge or the creatures will snatch you away! 

Eight year old me got to the far side of the bridge and tripped on a rock. I landed face first, my head, arms and shoulders on the other side of the bridge. I looked up and saw the forest, saw white fur, fear sending tingles down my spine. My legs and hips had still been under the bridge and I’d managed to scramble back under, the sound of snapping jaws ringing in my ears, missing me by a little more than an inch. 

This time, my whole body had crossed out from under the bridge, my feet planted firmly in the grass as my wet clothes steamed in the heat. I turned around, panicked. All I saw was more trees and shadows. The bridge was gone. A growl sounded behind me, deep and guttural, and I felt the hot breath of the predator behind me. 

Little Jane Hodgson went under the bridge and was never seen again. 

The small creature I had followed yipped around my ankles, prancing in an excited dance. 

Against my better judgement, I slowly turned back around. I was always doing things against my better judgement, doing things I wasn’t supposed to, going places I’d been warned not to go. Why did I never listen? Why did I follow the little creature? 

I came nose to nose with the larger creature, its lips peeled back from long, sharp teeth and growled again. Hot, fetid breath washed over me and a small whimper escaped my lips. I squeezed my eyes shut and sobbed as the jaws of the creature closed around my throat.