The Bridge – Submit Your First Short Story For 2018 Today


It’s our first short story deadline for 2018. That means we’re done with January.

Welcome to all the new writers who have joined the challenge. I hope you will all have a wonderful year with us. And welcome back to the writers who will be attempting this for the second year. Here’s to #12/12.

Well done to everyone who made it. I am proud of you.

Reader’s Choice Award for 2017

Congratulations to James Parent who is the Winner of the Reader’s Choice Award for the 12 Short Stories Competition for 2017. James wins a complete short story appraisal, plus a 45-minute writing consultation via Skype. The Reader’s Choice was judged by the writers who submitted stories for the 2017 competition. Well done, James.   

Submission process:

I will accept and approve posts for The Bridge (Word count: 1200 words) from 24 January 2018, 8:00 (Johannesburg time | GMT +2:00), until 25 January 2018, 8:00 (Johannesburg time | GMT +2:00) on 12shortstories.com.  Please ask Google to figure out what time that will be in your part of the world. 

Please use the correct format:

In the post title bar:              Story Title by Author Name.

Just above the story:             Prompt: XXXXXX | Word count: XXXXXX | Genre: XXXXXX

Warning: Please add a warning if your story is not appropriate for sensitive or younger readers.

Can I still join?

You can join the 12 Short Story Challenge in any month. So, if you start in June, that will be month one for you and then May 2019 will be month 12.

Here is the procedure:

  1. Read today’s post.
  2. Post your story on 12 Short Stories.
  3. Read and comment on at least four other stories. Please spread the love. Look for stories that haven’t been read, instead of everyone reading and commenting on the same stories. If you want tips on how to comment, read this post: The Complete Guide To Evaluating Your Short Story.
  4. This is an exercise in discipline. The comments are a bonus. There is no prize because I want you to focus on writing for yourself and to try and take more risks.
  5. Be kind when you comment. Start with a positive comment, suggest an improvement, and end with something positive. We are here to learn.
  6. Our next prompt is at the end of this post.

A few more points:

  1. I will try to read as many posts as possible, but I do have a day job that I would like to keep.
  2. NO hate speech. None. If you see something nasty that I should be made aware of, please send me a message.
  3. Be careful of profanity.
  4. I need to approve every post. Please be patient with me. I am teaching during the day and I will approve them as quickly as I can. They will all go up.

Here is my short story:

Prompt: The Bridge | Word count: 1200 words exactly | Genre: Action

Warning: Profanity and violence.

Joy slumps against the wall and lets the water pour over her. Her cut stings as she washes away the blood and examines the wound. Her stitches have pulled, but not all the way. It still hurts like hell.

The faucet squawks as she turns it and the stream dwindles to a few drops. She rests her head against the cool tiles for a moment before drying off. The heat is tangible, concrete, alive.  

The cuts on her knuckles pull as she tugs on a clean vest and flexes her hand testing the movement. She walks towards the smell of food.

“Please say that’s for me.” She goes straight to the pot barely glancing at the short, wiry man in her kitchen.

“It’s for you.” Lupe says as he leans over the map on the table.

“You’re an angel.”

“That’s an insult to angels everywhere.” His gold tooth flashes as he grins.

She opens and closes the dilapidated doors of the cabinets trying to find anything hollow to eat in. She settles on a mug. “Want some?” She asks waving a second chipped cup.

“I’ve eaten.” He doesn’t look up but moves around the map.

“You ok?” she frowns.

“Yip.”

Joy sits down on a crate. “Has it changed much?”

“More than this shack.” He nudges the chair and it collapses.

“Ikea doesn’t deliver to South America, amigo.”

He shrugs, “It’s changed some,” and reaches for the marker.

“How much is some?”

“He moved the containers to the south side of the compound. Here.” Lupe draws a circle on the map and crosses out the previous position, over it he draws a square. “And this is going to be our biggest problem.” He taps on the square with his index finger.

“What’s that?” She points with the spoon and he frowns as a blob of sauce lands on the map.

“Shit.” She grabs the rag from him and cleans it as best she can.

“Eat like a lady.”

“I’ve never been lady. You be a fucking lady, big brother.”

“Fuck you, niñita.” He waves his hand over the map.  “So, this is the trouble. He’s built a tower, a fucking fortress, that looks out over the bridge. You can’t go that way. You’ll have to find another way to get in.”

“I’ll get past.” She moves to the window. “Did he do anything to the bridge?”

“Rigged it. If it blows it’ll take everything within a twenty-mile radius with it.” 

She turns back to him, leaning against the sill.

“How does he get in and out if the bridge is rigged?”

“The chopper.”

“And the men?” She turns to the window again. Something is off.

“They don’t get to leave.”

She snaps her jaw shut.  “You’re kidding? They must be going crazy.”

“They’re waiting for you. Itching rather.”

“I feel flattered.” She shrugs.

“Fuck, Joy. This isn’t funny.” He bangs the wall. 

Joy opens one of the cases stacked in the corner. She reaches in and finds what she is looking for. She cocks the pistol trying to settle the unease. “How did you get out?”

“I missed curfew.” They both grin.

“Some things never change.”

“Those were the days.”

Joy circles the room checking the windows one by one. In the kitchen she yanks on the handle of the old Frigidaire and grabs a beer. “If a bloody drug lord doesn’t kill you this fucking heat will.” She holds up her beer and takes a swig.

“Cheers.” He says swinging his own bottle between his fingers. “So, what’s the plan?”  

“Get Miguel.”

“I think you may be over simplifying, niñita.”

She scoffs, “I’m still thinking about the how,” and collects the dishes and stacks them in the sink. The clatter of cutlery and an over-full sink disturbs the silence of the jungle. “What can you tell me about weapons?”

“He has everything. Way more than before. He is very angry.”

She folds her arms and paces again, window to window. “He’s always angry.”

“Not like this. I’ve never seen him like this. He chose you. Out of all of us. You are his daughter and you betrayed him.”

“He chose you. He chose Miguel too. He came to the orphanage and chose us all.”

“He didn’t want a daughter, but he went back for you. He chose us because he wanted soldiers. He went back for you.” 

“Just stop it. You shouldn’t be here. It’s between me and him. I have to finish this.”

“You can’t do it alone, niñita. It’s not safe.”

“We’ve never been safe. We won’t be safe until he’s gone.”  She runs her hand through her hair. “Where is Rita?”

“I sent her away.”

“Fuck, Lupe, this is insane. You should just go. You have a family.”

He grabs hold of her shoulders. “It is insane. You shouldn’t do it.”

“I’m getting, Miguel.” She twists away and goes to the window again. Scanning, checking. On edge.  

“Miguel isn’t the same.” He sighs and wipes his hand over his face.

“I can’t leave him behind.”

“You already did.”

“I had no choice.”

“I don’t think he has forgiven you.” He says. Quieter. Gentler.

“What do you mean?”

“He almost died,” he turns to face her, “because of you, niñita.”

She stands guard in front of the window, trying to hold onto her emotions, but they rise like bile. “Padre told me.”

Lupe relents, his shoulders soften. “How is Padre?”

“He is as always.” She says.

“Mysterious and full of shit?”

“Pretty much, yes.”

Shared memories. Shared smiles. Shared tears. Too much.

“Miguel isn’t the same. There is very little left of the man you knew.”

“I’m going to get him.” She sounds petulant but squares her shoulders.   

“We can always barter for him.” Lupe says leaning back on the only serviceable chair.

“Never.”

“You’re sitting on a shit ton of his coke. What are you going to do with it?”

“I’ll deal with it later.”

“Maybe if you give it back he’ll forgive you?”

Their lock eyes. No answer needed.

“Where is it?” he asks.

“Not here.” She keeps her back to him.

“Would make a great start up fund, new little hacienda State side.”

“Not happening, Lupe.” She turns back with a grin.

The bullet hits him in the forehead. He slumps forward as the glass showers the room. Joy dives for the floor and crawls through the splinters and glass creating a trail of blood.

“Lupe, oh God, Lupe. Por Favor.” She holds his face. His eyes are blank. Devoid of anything. Even light. Her hand slides over his warm skin. She closes his eyes.

She must move. She must get out of here. She scoots over to the crate and crouches over it as she grabs weapons.

“Más rápido, más rápido.” The voices are coming from the south of the shack. They’re close. She slips the pistol into her belt and slings the AK 47 over her shoulder and crawls out the back. The front door collapses, followed by a booted foot. It’s the last thing she sees as she flings the grenade into the kitchen.

She counts it down: three, two, one. The blast is deafening, but she can’t stop. She runs.

Here is the second prompt for the 2018 challenge:

If you want to learn how to write a short story, join us for Short Cuts in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

 by Mia Botha