Horrible Notions – an ISG Writing Exercise

On 2 March 2016, these three words were chosen:

  • Chain
  • Sweater
  • Tissue

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!



Try as she could, she was unable to get the chain of events out of her mind. Rita bundled up in her favorite over-sized sweater, and curled up on the sofa with a steaming cup of tea to think. First had come the appearances. The children with no homes and no parents. Then the disappearances had started. Everything from pets to cars to tissue boxes and even a mail truck.

Rita knew there was a link somewhere, some clue that would make this whole mess make sense. Instinct told her it had to do with the children. There had been six of them, all younger than ten. They had been put in foster homes, cleaned up, dressed in acceptable clothes, and sent to the appropriate grade in the local elementary school. Four of them had ended up in Rita’s class, and that had been her first inkling.

Of course, she had read about it in the history tomes, but she had never expected to actually have to deal with it herself. Alone. She shivered. These children did not speak, not even to give their names. Of course they wouldn’t give their names, Rita thought. If they were who she thought they were, names were too important to give out to every stranger one encountered. Rita wondered what they talked about together, for she was certain they did speak to each other if no one else.

She had just begun to scare herself with horrible notions of the topics of conversation of the eerie children, when there was a soft knock at the door.

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The chain dragged along the stone floor. At least I thought it was the floor. I supposed he, or she, could have been pulling it along the wall but that seemed like a lot more work and I didn’t see the prison guards as being particularly industrious. I sat in the corner of my cell wearing my ragged brown sweater and a pair of leggings with a large hole in one knee. At least it was spring, the cell wasn’t too hot or cold. Last time I was here, I was so hot I thought I would sweat all the water out of my body and just be a husk when someone finally realized who I was and let me out. I waited patiently for the box of delicate tissues, a bag of sugar and a note from my father to be delivered. I had been missing for, oh, four days now. Despite my drunken rampage into the knight’s lap, it was a pub after all, it wasn’t that big a deal, I was surprised they didn’t rough me up a bit more.

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The sweater was just ugly Dierdre thought. Whoever had designed a polyester sweater with loops of chain woven through it should be shot. She grimaced and pulled it off the rack. Boyd had specifically asked for this sweater for his birthday and she would make sure he got it.

Dierdre watched the sales girl carefully wrap the sweater in tissue paper before placing it in the gift box. What a waste. It wasn’t like the goblin cared. Or maybe he did. She thought about this as she walked back to the office. Maybe Boyd had a sensitive side and issued these challenges to see who would come through.

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It seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean, how could it possibly go wrong? Yet here I was sitting hunched over on the ground, chainmail draped over my sweater and tiny pieces of tissue stuffed up my nose. I looked accusatorily at the sword lying on the ground beside me then back up at the sign. It read “Sword of Pain”.

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The chain of silver was pooled on the table before her. SHe stared at it like it would catch fire, but nothing happened. He’d broken their bond, and the words he’d put into a god-damned text message were ringing in her head.

I’m sorry, I can’t do this. Six words. Keith had somehow shattered her, and her bond in a single text.

There’d been magic in the bond she’d secreted into their relationship. It should have been impossible to stop loving her, and the chain she’d enchanted to hold him to her should have been impossible to remove. But, this morning, when she came out to make coffee, he’d been gone, the necklace had been sitting on the coffee table, and his text message had been waiting. Maybe her magic had simply stopped working.

Sure, she’d tricked him. Sure, she’d held him against his free will. But love magic only worked when there was the glimmer of real love there. Somewhere inside, he must love her. Must have loved her.

She sat on the couch, pulling her fuzzy comfort sweater close around her and cried her way through a box of tissues. Her phone buzzed with worry from her friends. Damn. They were supposed to be at Jay Jay’s wedding.

“Where are you??” Glenis’ text message came through.

Another text followed right after. “Keith just showed up without you, looking confused. Asked whether you were here.”

Hope blossomed in her chest. “Ask him how we’re doing.” She answered quickly.

Her response beeped through. “He says ‘I don’t remember’. ???” Glenis seemed confused by this. Understandably.

She squealed, jumped up, shucked her way out of the sweater, into a spring-like dress, and ran for the door. Oh yeah, the necklace. She ran back to the couch, grabbed it, and ran out. She’d never let him take it off again. A fresh enchantment was on the way for sure.



“Hey, don’t cry,” Marcus said, handing a tissue to Samantha. “It will work out.”

Samantha accepted the offering, wiping her nose and nodding at his words. “I know,” she admitted. “It’s just…” She trailed off, unable to finish, and her shoulder shook with a massive sob.

Marcus put down the box of tissues he had been holding, and reached for her awkwardly. His arm draped across her shoulders, and even through the shuddering of her crying, he felt her stiffen, uncertain about what his half-embrace meant. “Really,” he murmured. “I know it seems awful right now, but it will be fine.”

“But…” she struggled to get the words out, face shiny with tears and other unmentionable liquids. Even besmirched, she was still lovely.

“It’s still a great sweater,” Marcus continued, hoping to encourage her despite the huge red stain smeared across the front of her shirt. “I love the chain knit.”

Samantha stopped sniffling to give him a quizzical look. “Chain knit?” she echoed. “What’s that?”

He reached out his other hand to trace the material of her sleeve. “The sweater,” he said. “This pattern. Isn’t it called chain knit?”

And suddenly, Samantha was smiling, her face beaming at him through her tears. “No, you doofus, it’s called cable knit.” She took another tissue from the box, but didn’t remove his arm from her shoulder. “And I know it’s just a sweater, but my mother made it for me.”

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