The Last Day

beach, tropical, shoreline-1209726.jpg

The Australian Writers’ Centre runs a monthly short story competition, “Furious Fiction“, which encourages writers to challenge themselves with a short, sharp story that is subject to a different set of constraints each month. The topic comes out on a Friday afternoon, and the 500 words must be submitted by midnight on the Sunday. This is an example of the type of challenge they set, and my response to it. The variety of stories that are produced under the same set of criteria is quite remarkable.

In June 2021, the parameters for the story were:

Your story must include (word for word) the following SEVEN descriptions at any point in your story body (i.e. not in the title):


the last day

Alone, silent and still, he stood at the ocean’s edge, small waves lapping over his bare feet. Contemplating his last day in this world.

Before him, choppy water reflected the golden glow of dawn, like the light of a million candles wavering in the breeze. No birds wheeled overhead, no sound pierced the silence enveloping him, thick as honey, deep as night.

Tomorrow, there’d be no trace of him, not even memories. Erased, like the footprints marking his path down the beach. The world would have no care for his absence. Why should it? It had never known he was here.

Enough with the self-pity. You knew the deal.

Nick sighed, pulling free of the thoughts that engulfed him. He still had today. One last day to experience this world. He inhaled deeply, the delicate perfume of the ancient tropical forest behind him layering over the raw salty tang of the ocean.

His feet had sunk into the sand, warm water turning it soft and doughy. He wrenched them free and trekked back up the beach. Rocks, crushed by a million years of tides and motion, pressed into his skin, razor-sharp but too small to draw blood.

He reached the campsite, in a clearing amidst the towering trees hanging with unfamiliar vines and moss. She was still asleep, draped with a light blanket. Lying on her side, hands in prayer pose under her cheek, red hair falling loosely across her face. Beautiful.

He watched her sleeping, drinking in her shape, her smile. The heart-shaped birthmark on her freckled shoulder.

That’s enough. It’s her last day too. She should enjoy as much of it as she can.

Kneeling, he gently touched her. “Wakey, wakey. Rise and shine, Olivia.”

Her eyes opened, looking confused for a moment until she focused on him. She smiled and sat up, wrapping the blanket around her.

“Morning. So, this is it then? Our last day?”

He nodded. “We’ve still got a few hours. We should make the most of them. Up you get.” He reached out his hand; helped her to her feet. She unfolded with smooth grace.

“Let’s pack up first,” he said. “They won’t wait if we’re late.”

He gathered up his sleeping gear, and headed for their landing craft, hovering inches from the ground. Perfectly reflective, silver, its hull smoothly curved and flawless. A door materialised as he approached. He placed his bundle inside, Olivia following moments later.

A wicked look was in her eyes. “Swim? Last chance, Nicky-boy.”

“Um. I haven’t…”

“There’s literally no one here. Not one living thing. We’ve got the whole planet to ourselves. Hurry up!”

Without another word, she slipped off her t-shirt and shorts, turned and ran towards the beach, her feet lightly brushing the ground, hair flowing behind her.

He watched in a daze. What are you doing? Get moving.

He stripped, then sprinted to join her in the water as the second sun crawled above the horizon.

Alone, together. A planet to themselves. Yet again.