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  • Writer's pictureAutumn Shah

May Writing Contest

Each month we hold a writing contest for our members, by our members. Writers are given parameters, such as a word count and/or a prompt. Entries are judged and discussed blindly. For May, submitters had up to "write "the truest sentence you know" then write a short story, using Hemingway's writing style as much as possible.




Warmth by Marília Bonelli


A raindrop plopped onto his nose and Luke leaned back against the wall to look

up. A ray of sun stretched out from behind the clouds, like a cry for help, then was

engulfed.

The breeze was cool and smelled of rain. If he were lucky, it might even get chilly.

Maybe Calla would come again tonight.

Before he realized it, the rhythmic cadence of the temple’s service gave way to

scrambling footsteps. Voices became louder and louder as they approached his hiding

place next to the front steps.

He peeked around the corner, watching the last of the retreating crowd. A girl

shouted atop the steps as she ran out, reaching for an older boy that was already at the

bottom. She grabbed him but slipped on the still-muddy ground and they both struggled

for balance, holding onto each other, and her umbrella slipped from her hands.

Luke stepped forward and picked up the umbrella, offering it to the girl while

keeping his eyes downcast. He watched her hand instead, which the boy still held in his.

Neither of them moved. Luke looked up, catching the exact moment disgust turned to

fear when their eyes met.

Gazes multiplied and piled up like boulders.

Mundane conversations that had been interspersed with laughter gave way to

whispers and malice.

Monster.

Abomination.

Curse.

His own anger fed the darkness and bled into his eyes. The rising fear of the

crowd culminated in a moment of silence.

Then he breathed, a long exhale.


And then they hurried off, sticking together like a pack of scared animals. The

boy and girl of the forgotten umbrella were no different, hands clasped together the

entire way.

Luke looked down at his own hand holding onto the damp umbrella.

Was it warm to hold someone’s hand?

Would his hand be rough from all the calluses or would it be soft regardless of

what marred the surface?

His parents must’ve held his hand when he was little, but he couldn’t remember

it. There were so few happy memories from before he became the temple’s

property—something to be studied and fixed.

He clenched his fist tighter around the umbrella, running back to his shack just

down the hill. Better not run into anyone else. He was unlikely to keep his feelings from

his eyes.

A raindrop fell onto his forehead, a couple more onto his chest and back.

Would Calla come tonight?


With the same patience from when he stalking prey, Luke sat in a dark corner

and watched the door he’d propped ajar.

Gusts of wind sprinkled raindrops across the opening, but it wasn’t cold. There

was no winter here, not like in the mountains. There was no snow, and blizzards didn’t

stab at your eyes. It would be nice if it were a little colder.

On the opposite wall, the yellow umbrella stood out even in the darkness. He

clasped his hands together, trying to imagine it was someone else’s hand he held.

Movement caught his attention as a shadow slid into the room. Silent as always,

Calla moved far enough from the door to escape the rain but not enough that she’d be

unable to run away.

Luke held his breath, fearing she might see him.

Calla startled at the presence of the unfamiliar umbrella. Luke cursed himself,

wishing he’d tossed it away.

Unable to control his gaze, their eyes met.

Calla froze.

Luke blinked, slowly, once.

Again. Longer this time.


Calla blinked as well when he did it a third time.

He dared to move then and rose to a crouch.

“I won’t harm you. I promise.”

The cat, still wary, remained where she was.

Even then, animals were better. They recoiled, but there was no disgust, nor was

there hatred in their eyes. If they feared him, it was not because he was anything other

than human.

Luke laid on the ground, hand outstretched towards the cat. Calla only stared,

alternating between watching his hand and his eyes.

Maybe the darkness from earlier remained in his gaze.

He wished she wouldn’t reject him tonight. Tears left a cool trail along his cheeks

as he tried to clear his mind and strip himself of every dark, turbulent, and violent

thought. With them went his rage and indignation at the unfairness of his life until all that

was left was his broken self on the cold floor.

The lightest touch along his fingertips, a puff of air. Calla sniffed his hand.

His fingers trembled. She pulled back.

Luke stretched as far as muscles and joints would go and brushed the soft fur

underneath her chin.

Calla accepted the caress and inched closer.

He brushed his hand along the cat’s wet fur. Minutes passed before he could

move, minutes more before he managed to hold her. It was close to an hour before he

could pick her up.

Luke squeezed her little paw gently, for only a second, before she pulled it away.

He still craved human touch, be it the memory of a caress he must’ve received

as a child or an ordinary handshake others thought a nuisance. But this wasn’t bad. It

was something to hold on to. Something to keep whatever was left of his sanity safe.

Even animals needed something, so why wouldn’t he?

It was a pity that the nights would get warmer in a couple of weeks and the rain

would stop.

A tear fell onto Calla’s whiskers and she looked up, curious.

“I’ll feed you and keep you safe. I’ll dry your fur when it’s wet and hug you when

you’re cold, so please, stay.”

Calla purred and directed his hand to a spot on her head.


His breaths slowed. Sleep beckoned.

The purring, soft and unchanging, vibrated against his chest.

He closed his eyes, hugging the small creature as close as it allowed.

It was not human, but it was warmth.

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