A Three Minute Story I thought I'd lost.
Whoa, nice. The assigned last line, I agree, is a bit clunky and also pessimistic. One expects a sad rather than positive ending—or, at least, this reader did. I like how you turned this expectation around. In your second line you also turned the first line around to it’s opposite: the house was haunted—no it wasn’t. In this way your beginnings and endings echo each other.
Lots of beautiful writing here. The phrase “all polished wood and gleaming glass softened by the sounds of gladness” absolutely sings. The tragedy told in the sentences “When she succumbed, it was as if all heat and light had followed her into the earth. For weeks they clutched themselves, struck near speechless, feeble even in their breathing” resonates deeply. We feel it.
I also like the use of the word “wraith” to describe the plague—the way it matches the words specter and haunted, but here refers to disease. At the same time the word foreshadows Mercy’s death, as a wraith can be a wisp of white seen just before someone dies.
So...a lot of nice things going on here in so few words.
One small tweak: I would change the third sentence to “If there were haunts, the people inside would tell you they came not from specters but from memories. This puts the emphasis on the last word, the memories, which advances the story to what it really is about—the first happy then sad memories that happened in the house.
Proofreading—make all the em dashes consistent: either two hyphens or one em dash. Don’t mix them.
The grief turning to anger and blame is so sad and so human.
The short description of Mercy as “child of their lives” wonderfully and neatly sums up how much she was lived.
Good story, well told. I really liked it. I am sure you could publish it as flash fiction. But—do you think there is a problem doing that because you did not write the first and last lines? Maybe rewrite them in your own words?
I also liked your explanation of how you came to write the story—and so fast. It shows us how writing takes place not only at a desk, and shows how we can get something done quickly if we just DO IT!
I love it. Sustained hope...
Wow, Ramona...simply wow! Not usually a fan of fiction (so many real things in the world about which I know little or nothing), but well-written anything is a joy to behold, and I'm glad you wrote it and found it! How you didn't win is astounding!
On re-reading it, I kept asking myself, almost at every sentence, if I thought I could've come up with that word, phrase, or idea. The answer was always "no." I'll come back to the story often, and gladly, to let your words color in some more pictures in my mind! Thanks again!