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A LIFE SENTENCE

January 5, 2020

While working on novels, I went on a bit of a short story bender to try and win some competitions and get some clout for submitting my manuscripts. But aside from that, there’s something satisfying about writing and competition a work over a few days or weeks compared with the longer slog of novel writing.


Criteria: 500 words, your story must include;

- a COUNTDOWN of some kind 

- a character who SHARES A SECRET

- the word  SERENDIPITY.

A Life Sentence: Work

This chapter of Joy’s life started in a cell.  Some 273 days later, she was about to leave, her whole life ahead of her. The long countdown was almost over.

The last few days had been the most difficult, the walls were closing in. Without any last-minute complications, it would be mere minutes before she was set free.

Joy’s release had come early, much to the relief of her parents who had spent the last few weeks counting down in nervous anticipation. The facility wasn’t the most welcoming place, with its drab concrete walls, harsh lighting, and tiny rooms smelling of chemical cleaners and attempting to neutralise disgusting smells. 

For a brief moment, Joy’s mother felt a wave of guilt. Her daughter would never have ended up here if it wasn’t for her and her husband. She hoped Joy wouldn’t resent them for it, and prayed the mother-daughter bond was still intact. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. 

Joy’s father paced around nervously. He wondered how his daughter would feel after such a traumatic experience, and whether she’d recognise him. 

A wooden-faced security guard watched on with disinterest from the corridor. To him, Joy was just another number. He knew that once she left through the revolving door, there’d be another one rolling in, screaming and struggling to adapt to the surroundings. 

It seemed like Joy had spent an eternity in darkness and isolation, until she realised she was sharing her room. Her black cellmate hadn’t communicated the entire time, had even slept facing away from her.  There had been the occasional physical altercation, a kick here, a scratch there, understandable within these confines. Though there was an underlying animosity between the pair, they shared the same experience and would be bonded for life.


A man and woman ushered Joy through the corridor and readied her for release.  In just a few minutes, she’d be safe and sound, on her way home to her new life.

Her gestational shackles were unlocked, the cord attached to her belly button clipped, and she was swaddled in her father’s arms.

“It seems,” the Doctor said, “your daughter has been hiding a secret she wants to share with you.”

“What is it?” Joy’s parents asked.

“Her twin sister,” the Doctor smiled.

Minutes later, another baby was brought into the world. The new parents beamed at each other as their collective hearts burst with joy.

In a beautiful instance of kismet, Joy had taken on her mother’s Caucasian features, while her twin sister had taken on her father’s darker ones.

As the mother cradled the ebony and ivory miracles in her arms, a thought occurred. They’d only picked out a single name.

“What shall we call her?” she asked.

The new father thought for a moment.

“How about, Serendipity?”

A Life Sentence: Text
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