a postcard story about how humans burn and burn and never burn out

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Story Engines

a postcard story about how humans burn and burn and never burn out

We came to see how, while our world dimmed with age, yours blazed in bright defiance, not like a flame calling to a moth, but like a moth on fire, burning and burning and never burning out. What are you humans, that you burn so?

There is a creature in your oceans that cannot stop moving, or it will stop breathing. And it cannot stop breathing, or it will stop moving. “shark,” you call it. It's magic, how it breathes in one set of molecules through its gills and gives back another, the world forever transmuted by its passing.

It is the same with humans, too. You breathe in the world by moving through it, by surviving it. You take in one kind of matter-trials and victories and burials and trysts and hardships-and transform them into stories. And then, by some aching alchemy of the soul, the world become the tales you tell about it, about why there is hope, about how you have survived as long as you have.

And if you stop breathing, you will stop telling stories. And if you stop telling stories, you will stop breathing. And this is the fire you carry inside you, the fuel that burns and burns and never burns out. You are story engines, and you will carry on making stories until the tale of you is over, and you become fuel for another furnace of memories burning through the darkness.

We came to your world, and we saw this, and we understood you cannot save us. You cannot teach us to burn. But there is one thing you can do.

You can take in the memory of us having been here, having survived as long as we have, and you can make a story from it. And in that way, maybe you can save us. Or at the very least, keep us burning and burning and never burning out.

I am so thrilled to announce the launch of The Story Engine Deck, my second Kickstarter project for The Shortest Story. It's a deck of endless writing prompts, story ideas, D&D campaign ideas, character concepts, and more! Whether you're looking for something to inspire your writing, or your looking for a gift idea for a writer or D&D player, I think it's a really powerful creative tool!


Short story written by Peter Chiykowski

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Story prompt taken from a photo by Zoltan Tasi