As decided by vote, here's the next challenge, proposed by Joelle Boulet:

Write a scene where the protagonist dies or stops existing

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2 Answers 2


Jocelyn broke the window easily with a gloved fist, not caring about the sound it made. The festival was making more than enough noise in the street below that none of the revellers would hear anything, and she'd already made certain that none of the residents were at home. Anyway, she'd never been one to care about taking risks. She hung exposed, near the top of the building, where any passing surveillance drone could have seen her and picked her off. To her, danger was the spice of life.

She cleared enough broken glass out of the frame to be able to reach through and unfasten the latch. A moment later, her boots thudded softly onto the thick carpet inside. It was a child's bedroom, as expected. What she needed was downstairs, but the top window had been the easiest to reach when hanging from the roof. Slipping silently down the stairs, she reached the safe without triggering any traps or alarms.

"What's the code?"

"7-4-1-8-2-0-3-6-2-9. Trust me."

Gloved fingers easily twisted the dial. Jocelyn snorted in satisfaction and jerked the door open, not seeing the thin wire connected to it at the top. The snapping sound was almost too quiet to hear, but surely it had triggered a much louder noise somewhere.

"There was a wire. We're on the clock. No time to give you the details; I'm just grabbing what we need and getting out."

A thrill of fear, quickly suppressed. Jocelyn knew what she was doing. Hadn't she always said so?

Papers. So many papers. Jocelyn riffled through them, faster than any normal human eye could follow. She slid the selected documents into a black folder strapped to her thigh, and stuffed the rest back into the safe. No need to bother closing the door: they'd know it had been opened anyway.

She straightened, turned to the door. And froze.

A massive figure stood there, motionless, staring at her in the dark.

Everything we'd feared.

Jocelyn moved smoothly, a knife appearing in her hand as she ducked low and sped towards the guard. It reached out, almost casually, seizing her hand and lifting her easily off the ground. Not seeing the knife in Jocelyn's other hand until it was too late.

She was incredible! Even if she did always say so herself. Taken by surprise, she'd managed to stab the guard in the centre of its chest and still seemed unharmed herself.

Until the guard lashed out with a bladed foot. Jocelyn writhed desperately to avoid it, but it hit her in the side with a sickening crunch. Lightning fast despite her injury, she retrieved her knife and used it again, and again, until the guard's grip loosened and she dropped back to the floor with a grunt of pain. As the guard collapsed, she finished it off with one last stab and made for the stairs. She couldn't move as fast as before. Was she going to escape before reinforcements arrived?

Back to the bedroom. Out of the window and up the rope. Collapsing, panting, onto the roof.

"I'm not going to ... make it. That was a ... ugh, who knew they're armed with ... foot-knives nowadays? Never saw ... before."

"What do you mean? You've taken worse wounds before. Of course you'll make it."

"No, there was ... poison on the blade. A new type. I don't ... have the antidote. I'm ... sorry."

It couldn't be true! This wasn't happening!

Jocelyn started to remove her helmet.


She paused. "No need for you to share these moments with me. It won't be pleasant."

"I'm sorry. You only took on this mission because of me. If this is ... if this is the end, at least let me share it with you."

Jocelyn laughed. "Goodbye, Ash." And with that, she was gone.

I leaped out of my chair and screamed at the monitor, as if she could still hear me. Without the camera and communications system built into her helmet, there was no way I could reach her. I could no longer see what she saw, had no idea where she would go in her last moments. She'd cut herself off from me, just to spare me the emotional pain of seeing her physical pain. A final act of kindness.

Think, Ash! That was my contribution to this partnership, after all. I thought, she acted. Frantically I went back over every conversation we'd ever had. Had she mentioned anything about new poisons, new antidotes? Anything at all? No, I was searching in the wrong place. If she'd told me anything, then she'd have the information, she'd know herself what to do. What else did I know about poisons and antidotes? I paced the room, racking my brains. Surely there must be something. It couldn't end like this.

I was still pacing when the window exploded inwards and Jocelyn landed in my bedroom.

My heart jumped with a dozen emotions. I leaped to her side and held her tightly. "You came back."

"I've got everything I need now, the job is almost finished."

I was confused, but elated by both her positive mood and the strength with which she spoke. "You've got an antidote?"

"No, I've got the documents I need."

That had been the point of this whole escapade, after all, but there was no use in the documents enabling our life together if her life was ending. "And the wound? You sound so much stronger, I knew you'd be fine."

"Of course I'll be fine." Her voice was strange now: strong, but distant, not the same way she'd spoken to me before. "I'm always fine."

My heart was almost bursting from my chest. "Then we can leave tonight? You'll be fine?"

Jocelyn pushed me away from her, onto the bed. "I said I'll be fine. Not you."

What was she talking about?

"Sorry, Ash."

Something hit me in the chest. I looked down in disbelief to see a knife handle. Shock overwhelmed any other emotion; I couldn't feel anything. I looked back up at Jocelyn.

"Did you really think I'd give up my life for you? A weakling with glasses, working in an accounts office?"

"But we were going to ..." I croaked. What had happened to her? She'd just risked her life for the papers that would ensure our future!

"I wasn't going to anything. I needed papers to get out of this city, and you were a way for me to get them. Poor meek little Ash, you were easy to seduce. Nobody had ever looked twice at you before. Your hacking skills were very useful to me, but I never intended to give up my life for you. You were a fool to think otherwise."

My world was collapsing around me. Had it all been a lie?

"There was no poison on the blade. I'm wounded, but I'll recover. I always do."

"Jocelyn ..."

"Come on, Ash. Did you really think the superpowered warrior would settle for the bespectacled accountant? It was never a match made in heaven, and some part of you must have known that. I am grateful for your help, getting the code for the minister's safe and helping me to plan and arrange the theft, but I can't have you telling anyone what you know about me, so ..." She shrugged elegantly. "I don't like loose ends."

Loose ends? A thread of anger seeped in among my roiling emotions. Was that all I meant to her? After all the plans we'd made together?

She leaned forward and plucked out the knife. The pain flooded me suddenly, and I gasped, my mouth open in a soundless scream. She nodded as I collapsed onto the floor. "You'll be dead in a minute. I made sure it'll be fast." Nimbly she sprang to the broken window and seized the dangling rope. "Goodbye, Ash."

With the last of my strength, I dragged myself to the window, crawling across the floor. I accepted my fate easily - the pain of betrayal was worse than the pain of the knife, and I had nothing to live for now anyway - but I wished that somehow she would get her just deserts. Or did I just want to see her again, one last time? I watched the distant inhuman monster leaping across the rooftops, and my last thought was of my future with her that would never exist.


Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

It had meant to only be a joke. A proof of concept. Noelle was just so fed up with all the haters on her social media account. And the idea was hilarious. She wrote a script to monitor reactions on her account, and when someone down-voted, it would track down their location, and feed it to the targeting computer of the nuclear launch facility where she worked.

In the simulated test system.


Not the actual live system. That would be insane. She didn't want to start World War III.

Which made it rather unfortunate that she only noticed after committing the new analysis code to the feature branch, after making a pull-request, after lunch, after Mark approved her PR and merged it to the main branch and started deployment, that she was an idiot. She had accidentally committed her ill-conceived social media nuclear retaliation script together with the analysis code. And that idiot Mark had just rubber-stamped the PR without noticing.

Deployment was almost finished, and there was no way to interrupt it anyway. The only option was to quickly shut down her social media account. If people couldn't respond to it, it wouldn't trigger her script. And then she could remove it in the next update.

Just a quick post to let people know first.

"@noelle: Sorry people, I have to shut down my account. I'll miss you."

And then shut it down.

Account options.

Close account.

If you close your account, it will be frozen for one month before being permanently deleted in case you change your mind or made a mistake. Are you sure?

Yes, I'm sure.

We've sent you a confirmation email. Click the link in the email to confirm closing your account.

Done! Finally.

Noelle cast one last look at her goodbye message on her now frozen account.


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