Cut The Strings – Submit Your Ninth Short Story Today

Nine down and three to go in our short story challenge! Well done to everyone who made it.

Submission process: 

I will accept and approve posts for Cut The Strings (Word count: 1000 words) from 4 October 2017, 8:00 (Johannesburg time), until 5 October 2017, 8:00 (Johannesburg time) on  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 to sensitive readers can go after that.

Can I still join? 

If you still want to join 12 Short Stories you can. The next prompt will be your first and you will keep going until you reach 12 stories in 2018. The system allocates one point for every story you submit per month. We will start with a new series of posts in January 2018.

Missed deadlines: 

You can still upload stories for the previous prompts, but you won’t earn a point. To get 12/12 you need to submit on time, with the correct word count and have a story related to the prompt.

Here is the procedure:

  1. Read today’s story below.
  2. Post your story on
  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 speak. 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:

Cut the… by Mia Botha 

Prompt: Cut the strings | Word count: 1000 | Genre: Thriller

“Open your eyes and look at me.” He says. 
His hand is heavy on my shoulder. I shake my head, a small almost indiscernible movement only someone half an inch away from me would notice. 
“Open your eyes, Miss.” He squeezes my shoulder. His voice is deep. 
“Gwen. My name is Gwen.” My eyes are still squeezed shut. I try to shift my weight. 
“Don’t move. Please Gwen, don’t move. It’s rigged to the chair. If you move, it will go off.”
I whimper and tears run down my face. 
“Gwen, look at me. I need your help. My name is Clive and I am going to get you out of this.” 
I open my eyes and look down at my chest. Red lines blink in tiny black blocks. The lines changing and changing and changing again. 
I blink. 
I whimper. 
“Gwen, I need your help. I can’t do this alone. If we’re going to get out of this we need to do it together.” He is on his knees in front of me, face visible through the visor.
I nod again, but I keep the movement small and my breaths shallow. The minimum amount of movement. “What do I need to do?” 
“I’m going to take a look at this and try to figure out what we are dealing with. Just hold still, okay?” 
He takes off his gloves. 
“Is that a good idea?” 
“I’ve done this many times. I need my hands.”
He has thick fingers tipped with pink square nails. I watch him trace over the thick webbing. The black plastic netting stretched tight. 
“How bad is it?” I look up at the ceiling. It’s an ugly cream colour and perforated like a pegboard. Classic government issue. A sign reads The Internal Revenue Service. 
He moves around me feeling his way along the vest. “It’s not good, but I’ve seen worse.” He just looks at the bomb. 
“Can you get it off?” 
He doesn’t look at me when he says it. 
“Can you tell me what happened?” Clive asks.
I think back to my morning. I laugh, but it is hysterical and I end with a sob. 
“I just wanted to sort out my tax return. There was a mistake and I was furious.” I’m smiling and crying. “Stupid, huh?” 
“Nothing stupid about a tax return.” He moves around the chair. “Shift your arm a little.” 
I do and he touches the edge of the vest peering inside. 
“Have you done this before?” I ask. 
“How many times?” 
“Unstrapping women from bombs is that common?” 
“Terrorists like strapping bombs to people.” He is behind me. 
I try to see what he is doing without changing my position. “How often do you get them off without them blowing up?” 
“I’m still here, aren’t I?” He grins behind the visor of his helmet. 
I try to smile, but my eyes fill with tears. 
“Hey, I’m not going anywhere. I’ve done this many times.” 
I look at the ceiling again. 
“Do you have kids?” I ask. 
“Two boys. You?” 
“Two girls and a boy.” I don’t know if knowing that helps. 
“Ok, tell me about it? What happened this morning?” he says. 
Moments of the day flash through my mind. 
“I was in the queue. It took forever.” 
He reaches for a small tweezer. I watch as he follows the path of the wires. “And then?”
“It was almost my turn and then he walked in. He was waving a gun. Everyone screamed. He shot the security guard” I don’t look at the door. I know the guard is still there, lying next to the potted Yucca. Instead I look out the window. Police cars, barriers, journalists, even a hovering helicopter. 
“Is it always like this?’ 
He glances out the window and then back at the bomb, “Sometimes,” he says and keeps working, “What happened then?” 
“He made everyone lie down until the police arrived. That was when he moved this chair here to the window.” I keep my eyes on Clive. I know the man is lying a few feet away. I don’t want to see him. I don’t want to see the round, black hole in the middle of his forehead, I don’t want to see the trickle of blood that runs into his eyebrow. Precise. 
“What did he want?” 
“He kept yelling. Saying they took everything from him. The manager tried to talk to him. Said they could file a claim, but he shot her. Point blank.” My chin starts to wobble again, but I swallow the tears away.
“He grabbed me then and strapped me in. I was closest.” 
“I’m sorry this happened to you.” 
“At least the others are safe.” Evacuated. Behind the barrier. 
“And you are going to be soon.” 
“Can you tell me what happened? What did he do to get the vest on you?”
I start to cry again, but I keep talking. “He pulled me up, held the gun to my head. He made me put it on. The timer started once the fasteners clicked into place.” 
When I say this, he goes back to the fasteners and looks at them again. 
“I want my kids. I want to hold them. 
“Soon Gwen, very soon.”
“Soon enough?”
“With time to spare.”
We both look down at the timer. 
He slips the small pliers around the green wire. He looks up at me. “Ready to get out of this thing?” 
“Yes, please. I want my kids.” 
I hold my breath as he squeezes. “Let’s do this.” 
I can hear the snip. We both stare at the timer. The numbers change again. 
The screen goes black. We both sigh. I am crying again. “Thank you.” I say and he smiles. 
“Come on. Let’s get you out of this thing.” 
I stand and something goes click. I look at him. I see the panic. 
I grab his hand. “What was…”

And here is the tenth prompt:

 by Mia Botha

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