Short Stories

Prompt: Stars and Robots

I didn’t have time to write a post because of my Behavioral Neuroscience exam later today, so I’ve decided to do a retrospective analysis of one of my older works. The story is pasted in WordPress text under the Tumblr post.


And just like that, it was all over.

Her mother always told her that the breeze was a melody. Listen to the wind at night, child, and the stars will sing a lullaby. Now, as everything fell to pieces around her, the girl called her a liar. Though the wind rushed loud in her ears, ripped viciously as if demanding her attention, the girl heard nothing at all. She heard not the metal, not the flames, not even her own shrill screams. In her ears was silence. In her eyes was light.

The robot struggled valiantly to stay in flight, gears clanking, motor whirring, every mechanical moment spent straining to get its young charge just a little farther away. Somewhere far below and behind, in the city they escaped, there was an explosion. The robot cradled the girl tighter in clasped hands, surging forward despite the flames that licked at the panels of its shoulders.

There were flares from below. Smoke hissed from the robot’s engine as it stopped, tried to spin away. Too much momentum. Too little strength. The flares collided like musket balls, tearing away the steel, and the robot fell.

What parts weren’t devoured by fire burned red and then white with the friction. Thick sheets of steel peeled away, exposing the delicate inner mechanism of the robot’s form. Even so, the robot kept to its duty. Even so, the robot held fast to the girl. With hands folded, tucked to its chin, sheltering its delicate charge, the robot shot down from the sky in prayer.

The girl’s skin seared in the heat. She stared up first through gaps and then through the absence of the robot’s fingers when the metal broke away, watching as the flames rose in fragments up to the sky. She wondered vaguely if they would become the stars and realized anew that she would die. Knowing this, she fell silent, and as the robot sparked and burned, she despaired. The tears lifted from her eyes and turned to nothing in the rippling heat.

Back in the city, there was rain. It came not from the clouds, but the shattered pipes that drizzled oil and spoiled water. Slowly the land around the abandoned factory turned to iridescent shallows. Beneath a twisted catwalk, a wheelchair sank into the dampening earth. A young woman lied limp across the walkway above, legs at odd angles. She wept without words, jaw cramped as she bit back sobs. She was starting to go cold.

Her hands, calloused, rubbed raw from creation, were slick with sweat and grease, but still she held tight to her rusted tool. Clutching the wrench that served her so long, she wrung her hands in prayer. Prayers for help. Prayers for safety. Prayers for an end to this war. As another explosion marked a chorus of screams, her eyes opened wide in fear. Her tears dripped down her nose to join the industrial blood below.

As she lied there, the wind caressed her cheeks, and beneath her, the young woman saw the stars. Though crude oil swallowed the light in curling swirls, where the water was clean, she could see the sky, and she thought to her mother and the stories she told. She thought to the sister she’d sent away with her life’s work. The breeze carried a lullaby that whispered her to sleep, and as her eyes closed, staring below, she caught the reflection of a falling star.  “Please,” she whispered, tired, spent. The oil smothered a handful more glimmers. Somewhere behind her, a bomb destroyed another building, a thousand or so more lives. Knowing her sister had escaped such fate, the young woman gave a smile.

“Please keep her safe.”


In actual fact, this post was written before I knew what I wanted to do with this blog, so I have this long, drawn-out retrospective self-critique that I already have written that I might as well keep to pad the word count, so here it is:

Uh, anyway, even though it was hastily written, I genuinely believe that I can benefit from critiquing my own work, no matter what the conditions were. If you choose to read my self-critique below the cut, please read the linked story first~

The first thing, before anything else that I check for is clarity of plot- how clear were the events that happened in the story? Now, I admit this is kind of hard for the authors themselves to do since they know exactly what they were trying to say, but the trick is to take a break (I wrote this piece a whole four-point-five months ago) and then read it like you’re reading it for the first time.

Immediately I see two points of uncertainty, one of them in the first paragraph;; yikes, past-me.

“Her mother always told her the breeze was a melody,” reads the first sentence. There are two characters identified as female here, the mother and the protagonist. As a result, I should have been more careful with the pronoun ‘her’ since it could refer to either of them.

However, in the sentence, “Now, as everything fell to pieces around her, the girl called her a liar” is unclear because the first ‘her’ referred to the girl, but the second ‘her’ referred to the mother. How is the reader supposed to know that for sure?

They can’t. All I can do is clasp my hands and beg for the best because that was my mistake. They might have interpreted

Tsk tsk, this is why revision is important. The second point of confusion comes later as the robot starts to break down.

“Smoke hissed from the robot’s engine as it stopped, tried to spin away,” I said. As a first-time reader, I was confused because I assumed that meant the robot’s engine was what stopped and tried to spin away, not the robot itself.

And it’s left incomplete at that, so. Yeah. I’m sorry, what readers I may have, it seems I have failed you in terms of quality this post. I assure you, after this week, I will return my full attention and efforts to this blog.

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