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As decided by vote, here's the next challenge, as proposed by Ceramicmrno0b:

Write a mute character

Many of your favorite fiction characters can speak. What if they couldn't?

Write a scene, any scene really, where a character cannot speak. Maybe it's 1st person from the perspective of the mute, or 3rd person omniscient and mute thinks the person signing at them is weird, and the signing person is confused as to why they aren't signing back.

Talking is overrated. Get creative and find out an alternative method of communication.


Go onward and write! Then post your story here as an answer, and get feedback in the comments. If you ask a main site question while writing for this challenge, leave a comment below this question or mention it in your answer.

Follow this question if you want to be notified instantly of any new answers.

You can also post and vote on future challenges here: The next writing challenge could be yours

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  • Okay, I've never done one of these writing challenges. I don't understand how this is supposed to work - I mean nuts-and-bolts like submission and word limits, judging, and so on.
    – DWKraus
    Apr 16, 2022 at 2:25
  • @DWKraus Glad to see you're interested! It's just writing for fun, so there's not much in the way of nuts and bolts. There's not even a word limit, though you would have to post multiple answers if you go over 30,000 characters, which may be a little awkward.
    – Laurel Mod
    Apr 16, 2022 at 11:22
  • So you post a story as an answer?
    – DWKraus
    Apr 16, 2022 at 11:27
  • @DWKraus Yep. You can see what people posted for the two previous challenges too (I'm listing all the challenges on the topic collection post).
    – Laurel Mod
    Apr 16, 2022 at 11:29
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    I actually started a story years ago where the main character was mute. I got quite a long ways in but then got a bit stuck and it has sat there as is since. Apr 20, 2022 at 18:34
  • @JoelleBoulet You can post it here even if it's not finished (though that would make whatever you post CC BY SA).
    – Laurel Mod
    Apr 20, 2022 at 22:18
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    Understood. I'll be writing a new bit to submit anyway since I do like this prompt/challenge Apr 21, 2022 at 4:04
  • Also for people interested in mute characters the movie Mute does a mostly good job of having a mute main character (if you've seen the movie you likely know why I say "mostly" - spoiler tagging doesn't work in comments so I won't say explicitly here why I say "mostly"). Apr 25, 2022 at 15:17
  • I'm not sure how this works. Are the submissions already over? I kind of wanted to submit something but was unable to finish it. Is there going to be a May writing prompt? May 2, 2022 at 1:47
  • @Nyctophobia457 Feel free to post something here even though the month is over. (That's the reason I don't close old challenges.) Also I just posted this month's.
    – Laurel Mod
    May 2, 2022 at 2:12

4 Answers 4

3

Listen

The bell blares. My hands clap over my ears as I jump out of my skin.

A hand clasps my wrist, giving the slightest pull. "Relax, Avi. That's the bell for second period, remember? Eight fifteen." Miss Evans says. She's wearing a simple blue dress with white buckle shoes today.

The bell dies down. I let my arms go limp, one arm smacking into the desk. Miss Evans lowers my other arm. "Good girl! Now, how about you tell me how you're feeling right now?"

I pull out my folder, and put all the laminated sheets on my desk. I shuffle them around, looking for the right one, a grid labeled "Everyday Life." I hunt with my finger across the different squares: happy, angry, sad. Each is illustrated with a stick figure. None of them feel quite right. Finally, my finger lands on a square bearing a green checkmark.

"Oh, so you feel 'OK' today, don't you?"

I respond in a monotone. "Mmmhmm."

"Great!" She moves on down the row, talking to each student before arriving at the front of the classroom. "Now it's time to go over today's lesson plan. First up we're going to go over an important life skill, how to buy a gift, say, for your mom or dad, or maybe a sibling."

She faces the board and begins to write. With every word, every letter, there's an agonizing squeal that makes me tug hard on my hair, anything to distract me from the noise.

"After that, we're going to do a coloring activity. Won't that be fun?" There's a brief lull in her writing as she talks, not enough for me to recover before she starts again. I grit my teeth.

"Then, assuming we have time, a short worksheet." I brace myself for the sound to come. It's just as bad as before but it's soon over and we're starting the first activity.

"Avi, have you ever bought a gift for someone? Tell us about that."

The square with the red X, "no," might be the easy option. But maybe she would just make me answer something else. My finger slides over to the green checkmark.

"'Yes'? Oh great, fantastic... What was the first step? Did you ask someone for help?" She pauses but before I can respond she continues. "Oh, let's not waste any time. Can I have a volunteer to hand out markers?"

Another kid starts shuffling around, handing out packages of markers, one on each desk.

I think back to the last time I had to buy a gift for someone. Mom, her birthday.

"Tell me who helped you."

Of course I couldn't do it alone. I fish through my folder to find my "Family" sheet, and I point.

"Your brother, I see."

Even if I tried to leave on my own, I needed a car, something to get anywhere.

"Younger, older...?" We used to be mistaken for twins, though I'm younger, but she doesn't wait for my response. "So you went to the store? Where did you go?"

Someone puts markers on my desk. Careful to not knock them off, I leaf through the sheets sprawled on my desk. My eyes scan over my options. "School," "Food," "Weather," nothing that would help.

Miss Evans grabs a sheet from the back of my folder and puts it in front of me. "Around Town." It offers me "Restaurant," "Supermarket," even "Museum."

A locker slams shut in the hall, hitting my senses as if it smashed through the wall. After a second, I recollect myself.

My finger slides to "Mall," complete with a picture of a generic-looking building. How fitting.

"Oh, so the mall. I bet you found something great, didn't you?" Miss Evans says, without missing a beat.

I respond immediately with a gesture, rubbing my bare neck. I trace the thin chain of the necklace as I remember it on my mother, a gift to show off.

It doesn't matter. "So, Rodney, how about you tell us about a time when you got someone a gift. Were you saving up your allowance?" Miss Evans has already moved to the next desk.

As the other kids talk in turn, I take the black marker from the box and uncap it. Holding it in my fist as if ready to strike, I press it down on the blank side of one of my laminated sheets, drawing lines as straight as I can make them.

Across, then down. My hand tremors, marring my carefully drawn lines. I try to wipe the errant line off, but it smudges, like a black cloud. I flip over another sheet and start again.

With the glossy, blank expanse of another sheet in front of me, I get to drawing again. I move my hand even more slowly than before, up and down the sheet, then left to right. The lines don't come out straight, buckling and wavering as though uncertain, but it's close enough to what I want.

Ten rows. Ten columns. One hundred empty squares. I see a number in each, as if I wrote them down myself. But my handwriting has never been precise enough to do that.

I move my finger down each column. My mouth instinctively shapes itself, as if the words would fall out of my mouth. One, two, three... But the words, almost inaudible, that I say are "un, uh, eh..." For the next column, two, four, six... My utterances are just as unearthly.

I take out the colored markers. Red is first. I mark the first square, number one. Pink is next. The next square diagonally I mark: Four. I dot the two other squares that would contain fours and then connect them with an arched line, like a smile facing the wrong way. I move to the next color, the next diagonal, the next number. Nines all in orange, I connect them. Then, sixteens in yellow, again connecting them. The line makes its way off the grid, off the page, onto the desk.

I cap the marker, putting it down so that it doesn't roll away. But a second later it's gone, reclaimed by Miss Evans who is standing in front of my desk.

"Avi, coloring time is after we finish talking. If you behave." She plucks the rest of the markers off the desk. "Many of your classmates haven't had a chance to share."

Her shoes tap as she walks to her desk at the front to stow the markers. Each step, each sound, makes me stiffen. I focus on what I still have left, my grid. Putting my finger in the next square, new lines emerge as smudges from the old, weak yet visible. The arc that could have been another tilted smile looks instead like a mouth snarling, teeth ready to snap.

"You're making a mess."

My fingertips are black, as if I'm being fingerprinted by the police for a crime.

She takes my folder. "We don't play around when our classmates are talking." Next, she begins sweeping my sheets away from me, piling them up in the folder. Even the one I was drawing on. I grab the sheet as it flies off the desk.

"Avi, let go." Miss Evans tugs gently.

I don't let go.

"Avi!" She maneuvers her wrist so the sheet twists in my fingers. And then it's gone. My grip can't hold onto it.

"Ah-ah!" I exclaim. I have words to say to her that she'll never hear.

"You'll get it back when you can use it properly." As she walks back to the front of the room, the clack of her shoes joins the cacophony of sounds.

With every click-clack, my chest tightens. The ruffle of papers as she rearranges her desk makes me close my eyes. Without my sight, the world begins to spin, as if I'm swimming in a current. My breath comes out in ragged gasps. I'm drowning. I can't open my eyes. Before I hear anything else, I cover my ears.

1

The torches burned brightly, illuminating the guards by the gate. From beyond the gate sounds of merriment and music drifted out onto the dark street. Mirami hid crouched behind a barrel outside a shop. She looked towards the guards with narrowed eyes. They would be her first challenge tonight.

Mirami adjusted the sleeves of the stolen dress she wore. She needed to look her best if she was to make it past the guards and the festivities that lay beyond the gate. Taking a deep breath she closed her eyes and focussed on thoughts of her father. He always told her she would not amount to anything but that only inspired her to prove him wrong.

The walk towards the guards took little time. Mirami did her best to stay calm as she approached. She managed to not stumble though her walk did betray her hesitation through the uneven pace.

"Stop!" The guard on the left held out an arm to block Mirami's way. Mirami's heart beat fast. She so badly wanted to respond but could not, as always.

The other guard looked Mirami up and down. Their gaze made Mirami's skin crawl and she adjusted her dress, hoping its ill-fit would not give away the game.

"You have an invitation I presume?" The guard on the left frowned. Mirami smiled and took a step towards the guard on the left. She raised her left hand to present the invitation she had stolen from the former owner of her dress. When the guard grabbed at the invitation, she caught their wrist with her right hand. With a quick glance to the other guard, she kissed the guard before her's hand. The guard flinched in surprise and let go of the invitation. Mirami let the invitation fall to the ground and released the guard. Stepping back she crossed her arms and looked pleadingly at the guards.

The guard on the left, still in shock, knelt to pick up the invitation. The other guard frowned and let out a sigh.

Mirami held her breath. She had to keep the guards off balance if she was to get past them without needing to speak an answer to a question. And since she could not speak, she had little other option than to continue to press at them the same way.

Once the kneeling guard had picked up the invitation, Mirami grabbed their collar and pulled them to their feet. She smiled into their surprised face and planted a kiss firmly on their lips. The guard nearly dropped the invitation again but Mirami caught it as she released the guard. She then slipped through the gate, leaving the guards behind her.

"What the!?" She heard the guard on the left mutter as she approached the crowd by the front door of the mansion.

Mirami, confidence boosted by her successful infiltration, glided through the throngs of guests inside the house. She smiled and nodded at people who caught her eye and at last arrived at the grand staircase up to the bedrooms and private offices of the household. There by the stairs she found an elderly person with a long crooked nose who looked at her with notable curiosity.

"Pobald Dribak at your service my dear." The person with the crooked nose put themselves between Mirami and the stairs. They extended a hand in greeting which Mirami took and bowed her head gently. "May I have your name? I do not believe we have met." Pobald tilted their head to the side and narrowed their eyes.

Mirami froze and blinked back at Pobald. She could not give her name. Her mind raced as she tried to find some way out of the bind she was in. "Your name my dear. It is not novel I ask for, merely a word or two." Pobald grinned.

Mirami glanced about the room, searching for an escape. Her heart beat faster and her breathing quickened too.

"Well?" Pobald held her hand tighter, the glimmer of a frown crossing their face for a moment.

Her breathing grew faster again and Mirami felt a bit lightheaded. That lightheadedness though gave her an idea and she opened her mouth as if to speak and then let herself collapse, fluttering her eyelids as she fell. Pobald yelped when Mirami fell but they managed to catch her, though only barely. They shouted out for help and people parted to make a space around Mirami and Pobald.

Mirami looked Pobald firmly in the eyes and weakly mimed at drinking.

"Oh yes! Water!" Pobald gently put Mirami down and ran off through the crowd, presumably in search of water.

With Pobald gone Mirami pulled herself up to her feet with the bannister. She did her best to make herself seem weak still. With people watching she pointed up the stairs. A path cleared on the stairs so she slowly made her way up it. Once she got to the top of the stairs she dropped her act and made quickly for her goal.

In the master bedroom she found hanging on the wall a gem encrusted golden scabbard and matching sword. Though the room was dark, Mirami knew just how dazzling this sword was to behold in the light. She had seen it many times before, proudly adorning the hip of its owner. Well now it would adorn her hip.

Mirami removed her dress, revealing the light clothing she wore beneath it. She stuffed the dress up the fireplace and took the sword and scabbard down from the wall.

With one glance back at the door, Mirami smiled and leapt out the window into the dark bushes below.

0

For a moment, Autumn blinked at the scene.    The pool of blood spread from Brian.    Otto and Walter turned toward her, their hands holding the bloodied swords.

Walter's face contorted.    "She'll never hold her tongue.    Silence her!"   

She stepped backward.    He lunged, and Otto followed.    She ran for the window.    Brian's strictures about rain and climbing were moot.    If he had not gotten himself killed, she would not need to flee like this.

And, she realized, feeling cold, she knew which window to run for.    Otto's hand reached out, and she dodged about a table, nearly slipping on the rug, and ran. They ran after. Only her head start would give her a chance -- her heart was hammering -- and if they realized why she did not flee out the first window, it would not work.

It stood open ahead, and she put on a burst of speed. Scrambling out, she got a gust full of rain in her face, but she saw her brothers closing the distance. She climbed out the rest, though the window frame was slick under her fingers, and she scooted along the roof as quickly as she could while counting every step, and keeping her footing. At least there was light enough to check.

Lightning flared.

Walter swore.

Otto said, "Now we know you are in cahoots with him to bring shame on the family. We will never let you escape!"

Autumn, shuffling along, thought that the least wise thing they could have said. She would never let them come close enough to ensure that.

But Walter was already out, and Otto following. She started down. If there had been a path that could take her weight and not theirs -- her foot slipped, and she told herself to pay attention.

She missed when they miscounted. Walter's fall was a dark shadow in the corner of her eye, and then Otto's scream drew her eye. Both her brothers fell to the ground.

For a minute, she stood, perched halfway up the wall, and then slowly, she began to climb. When you had a magically protected escape route from your house, it was wiser to remember how to avoid triggering the protections.

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  • 1
    Do Otto and Walter not know she is mute? They're talking about her talking.
    – DWKraus
    Apr 22, 2022 at 16:39
  • 1
    She's mute in the sense that she's not speaking. hmm -- it was discussed in the comments on the proposal topic.
    – Mary
    Apr 23, 2022 at 1:10
0

The Hunt:

The outsider Lindorm Moved slowly down the valley and Maya hastened to follow. It failed to hide the aura of its fear, or the stink of its pheromones. The outsider was a she, but Maya still struggled to think of her as an intelligent being. That was unfair, because technically Maya was the same species.

Maya had gotten past thinking of the members of her own adoptive Lindorm pack as monsters. Buttercup, her adoptive sister, was slithering silently through the dense brush along the western ridge to encircle the outsider, and several of their pack were swinging wide through the clearing to the east to cut off retreat.

Maya’s head injury throbbed from the fast pace of chasing the outsider. The injury that left her unable to speak and to barely think was healing well. Maya thanked both the Goddess and her adoptive father for the healing. Maya didn’t mind pain. Pain meant you were alive.

She was still blind in one eye and her hearing was coming back slowly. Only having a head injury meant the more primitive part of her, housed in her abdomen, was coming fully awake. Maya’s inner psychic sense was exploding, and the outsider’s emotions glowed warmly as the instinct of the hunt flooded Maya’s mind with a predatory thrill. It panicked as Buttercup began snaking her way down the ridge. The outsider’s longer limbs were of little use in this tangle. It began moving backwards towards Maya.

Maya quietly slid out her knife. She briefly longed for her gun, lost along with a chunk of her skull back at the ambush site. Unlike the outsider, Maya was well trained in controlling her emotions in combat. She gave away no aura of her own to reveal her intent. To this outsider, Maya was a weak member of the pack with no claws, no fangs, horns, or any of the other gruesome mutated weapons common to Lindorms.

When the attack came, the outsider was able to launch itself surprisingly fast across the tops of the trees and bushes. It had a head like an alligator’s, with a jaw half a meter wide and fused claws bent into terrible hooks. Maya barely had a second to mount her own defense. What Maya lacked in weaponry, however, she more than made up in psychic gifts. Her telekinesis came down like a wall, with the outsider crashing into it like a hammer. The telekinetic wall became a net and entangled the outsider for long enough that Maya was able to glide up to the creature.

It whined, realizing the trick and knowing it’s fate. It stared at her, and Maya could see the intelligence in its eyes. For a moment, Maya hesitated, remembering another girl Maya had cut the throat of. But that girl had been innocent, and this creature was trespassing and knew it. Instinct won out and Maya slashed the knife across its exposed throat.

The blood sprayed. Overwhelmed at the smell of it, Maya brought the knife to her lips and tasted the orange ichor. The tang snapped Maya back with memories of her family and the taste of blood at her uncle’s funeral. She was a permissivore, damn it! She couldn’t eat anything sentient without its permission. Maya spat out the blood and breathed deeply. Control took long moments to return.

The pack was gathering around her. Greedy for the taste of the outsider, Killer and Runs-fast grabbed a limb and began pulling the body away from Maya. Instinct once again thrust forward, and Maya launched her knife at Killer while yanking the carcass away from the two of them. Killer whimpered and Runs-fast growled. Standing tall and upright, Maya seemed to tower over her much larger pack mates. Buttercup, the supportive sister, lowered in submission. One by one, the others backed up and waited with hunger gleaming in their eyes.

While Maya couldn’t eat the stranger, she had no illusions about her pack mates. Maya let out a victorious screech she didn’t even realize she knew how to make. She was the leader! Maya snapped the knife mentally back to her hand and sliced open the outsider’s belly. One organ at a time, Maya flung the steaming chunks out to her mates to gorge on. She cracked open the skull and tossed the brain to Buttercup, who beamed back satisfaction.

The warmth of the pack, the thrill of the hunt, and the sharp joy of taking control was better than any flesh.

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