Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned

Finish the Story: Lake


Join in for a lighthearted, no-pressure writing prompt. Leave your perfectionist at the door and follow a dangling story thread to see where it leads you.

I always post my story doodle in the comments, and I’d absolutely love to see yours as well if you feel comfortable sharing it!

The lake was as still and shiny as glass, as if he could step on it and walk all the way across. It was one of those days when anything seems possible, and he stood there, breathing deep and imagining …


  • The lake was as still and shiny as glass, as if he could step on it and walk all the way across. It was one of those days when anything seems possible, and he stood there, breathing deep and imagining a different life for himself.

    “What would it have been like?” he wondered aloud. “If I hadn’t fallen that day? If the ice had been thicker? If the other boys hadn’t goaded me into that hockey game? If my parents had made me chop firewood instead of allowing me to visit the lake with my friends?”

    A voice, dark and thick as hot mud, rose from the too-still lake. “Such answers are not permitted.”

    He tucked his chin to his chest, burying his salt-and-pepper beard in the pristine white ermine of his coat collar. “I am aware.”

    He stood there, saying nothing as the sun traced its path from apex to mountains. Not long now.

    “Are you displeased?” the voice seemed genuinely curious.

    “No,” he answered.

    He was not displeased.

    He had been given everything his little boy’s heart knew to ask for, with no hidden shadows and none of the deeper game many of the old stories told of deals with the fae folk.

    He had been a child, and they had dealt more than fairly with him.

    Heroism. Adventure. Glory. A kingdom and a beautiful wife.

    His heroism had been untinged by grief. His adventure unsullied by bloodshed. His glory at the expense of a true villain. His wife clever as she was pretty.

    No, he had not been cheated by his deal.

    He had been cheated by time.

    Forty years had seemed so very distant to his ten year old self.

    The thought of children, even grandchildren, never even occurred to him. The reality of leaving behind a full life, a loving partner, bright and wonderful family … not once did those realities occur to him then.

    The deal he’d made … it had brought him so much happiness. Had breathed life into lungs filled with icy waters and set his heart beating.

    He’d forced his attendants and knights to stand waiting with the carriage by the lane so that he stood here alone on the banks of a lake that should have been frozen over excepting the fact that the weather in his kingdom had been unseasonably fair and favorable for exactly forty years now.

    No one knew. That was one of the requirements of the deal, after all. The words froze in his throat if he even considered it.

    The tallest mountain peak pierced the sun, splitting the land with a shadow that raced across the landscape like a loosed hound.

    “The time has come,” said the voice, not even trying to contain its excitement now.

    The king shivered beneath five layers of heavy linen, wool, and fur.

    “They’ll blame me,” he said, voice breaking. “The next forty years — whatever you plan to do to them, it will be as if I did it.”

    “You made the bargain.” The surface of the lake didn’t quite break, but the depths darkened and the shallows quaked. “Forty years of what you want. Forty years of what I want.”

    He thought about trying to kill himself again. He’d tried every method over the past year, when the distant specter of forty years loomed like death himself. He couldn’t die. He poisoned himself only to wake the next morning to the still, cold body of his poisoned wife. Cut his wrists only to find his oldest son dead by the same method.

    The fae had been fair in all things.

    “God forgive me,” he whispered, then stepped into the lake.

    “You don’t belong to him,” whispered the lake as it swallowed his body, stopped his heart, then entered his lungs.

    The king stepped from the lake, its waters rolling from his undripping form as if they were made of silk. If his skin was a little paler, his eyes a little darker, and his ears a little more pointed … well, no one noticed until it was far too late.

  • The lake was as still and shiny as glass, as if he could step on it and walk all the way across. It was one of those days when anything seems possible, and he stood there, breathing deep and imagining all the ways things could have gone differently.

    There are choices, an infinite and varied amount of choices in life, and it’s was crazy to think that every choice, even the ones that seemed most inconsequential and trivial, have just as much impact on your life as the large ones.

    For instance, what if he’d gone left that day when he left the cottage? They lived at the base of a cul-de-sac and the exit was one way. He could have just as easily gone left as he’d gone right.

    What about when he’d seen the glint of metal on the side of the road? He could have just as easily ignored it as a trick of the setting sun. He could have left it alone at the side of the path instead of stepping over to investigate.

    And when he’d seen the knife? Glimmering with the pale violet light? He should have left well enough alone. He could have just as easily dismissed the damned thing and continued along his walk.

    But he hadn’t.

    He hadn’t and it had set off a chain of events that led him here, to this moment.

    Odd when he thought about all of the possibilities that had been available to him at one point, because it felt a lot like there were no possibilities left.

    He looked down at the knife held in his hand, covered in blood, but the violet glow still bloomed from the folded steel and the runes carved into the wooden handle. For that matter, most of his clothes were coated in blood. Dried, tacky, and an ugly maroon, it formed a terrible badge of shame that hung heavy around his neck.

    The past night and day had been a blur but one thing had remained clear. The knife, shining and glowing beneath the blood and the seductive whisper, pushing him to bloodlust and mayhem.

    The effect had worn off with the dawn, but he could feel it stirring again, rising in his gut like a flood.

    He’d made choices this past day, but every choice seemed to be another step along the path of a helix, and he’d reached the tip.

    There was really only one choice left.

    He checked his pockets, feeling the weight of the rocks he’d gathered and ensured that his jacket was zipped tightly shut. He made sure the knife was secured to his belt with a wet knot that wouldn’t loose, and he began to wade in.

    He made choice after choice, the last choices available to him.

    One step after the other.

Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned