Flash Fiction Month 2016, Day 2
Mrs. Withers didn’t say anything. She didn’t frown. She just tutted, and that was the worst possible thing.
“Is…is there something wrong?” asked Lucy, not sure she really wanted to hear the answer.
Mrs. Withers shifted her pear drop from one side of her mouth to the other. “Well,” she said, speaking around it, “it’s your story, Lucy. Your spelling is improving, and your handwriting is excellent as always, but a proper story really needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.”
“But it does!” Lucy leaned over the page on the desk. “Amanda finds a magic door in the cupboard under the stairs that leads to the mythical fairy world. That’s the beginning. She discovers that the fairy world has been overtaken by a wicked Goblin King, and sets out to defeat him. That’s the middle. After a long and perilous journey, she reaches the Goblin King’s fortress but—”
“You can’t just end a story with ‘She woke up. It was all a dream.’ It’s not the done thing!”
“I…” Lucy had always heard that a story was what you made it and that there weren’t really any solid rules. Then again, she had also heard a lot of solid rules. “I sort of ran out of time,” she said, meekly. “But that’s how Alice in Wonderland ends!”
Mrs. Withers gave Lucy a sympathetic smile. “Alice in Wonderland is a classic. It’s full of significant mathematical bits and pieces with lots of meaningful subtext. Alice in Wonderland can get away with it. You need an ending.”
“Okay,” said Lucy, thinking on her feet. “What if Amanda wakes up and thinks it’s all a dream, but then she realises that she’s still holding a gold sovereign from the Goblin King’s hoard.” She made a sweeping “get this” gesture with her hand: “It was all a dream…or was it?”
Mrs. Withers snorted, accidentally swallowing her pear drop in the process. She made a funny face for several seconds while she tried to work out whether she was choking or not. “That,” she said, once she was quite sure she had recovered, “is an even bigger cliché than the ending you’ve got now.”
“Oh.” Lucy began to regret trying so hard with her handwriting: it was starting to look like she would have to rub quite a bit of it out again very soon.
“And frankly,” continued Mrs. Withers, “I’m far more concerned that you came to school today without wearing any clothes?”
“What!?” Lucy looked down at herself. Mrs. Withers was right. “I was wearing clothes a moment ago!”
Mrs. Withers shook her head. “A likely story. No, I’m afraid you’ll have to stay after school. Forever. In the pit of eternal shame.” She got up from her desk, brandishing a vicious poking stick.
“What!?” said Lucy again, as Mrs. Withers pushed her over backwards into the classroom’s designated pupil pit. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!”
Lucy hit the bottom of the pit with some force, waking with a start.
It was all a dream.
Lucy felt a crumpled piece of paper beneath her pillow. She took it out and checked the title: “Amanda and the Goblin King.”
…or was it?