January writing prompt: Death Ship

I’ve been needing and wanting more writing prompts and exercises in my life–something to practice and get words flowing that I don’t have to treat too seriously. So I signed up for Susan Dennard’s Story a Month Challenge (follow the link if you’re curious or want to sign up–it’s not too late!) where she sends out an email on the first of every month with three prompts to choose from.

Now I’m going to do something that generally terrifies me and share the rough (very rough) draft of what I wrote in January, complete with typos and everything. For patrons over on Patreon, I’ve peeled back the curtain on some of my process to share my revision notes: the things I need to change and work in to make it a more satisfying and complete story. We’ll see how the year goes, especially once a newborn joins the mix, but for now I’m planning to share both the story and an analysis every month.

For January, I chose the audio prompt. Feel free to click the link and give it a listen for the full experience as you read:


Death Ship

Dear Stef,

Damn this storm. It’s been going on for days. What seems like forever. Hours become weeks, become years. I don’t know what it’s like anymore to feel dry and truly warm. I miss our fire, tiny though it was. I mis the way we would curl together for warmth, your breath on my neck, your scent in my lungs. I don’t remember what it’s like to have something solid beneath me, even bare earth—what I wouldn’t give now for the scent of earth! For its solidness and its green growing life—instead of this pitching, shuddering, tipping deck.

I’ve smelled rain and salt and damp wood and unwashed bodies and human sick so long I barely notice it now. Perhaps I’ve killed my nose (I might be better off that way—I can hear your jibe now). My hearing is going the same way, I fear. The rain, the incessant, damnable rain, scurries and taps like a living thing. I jump and swat at shadows, thinking them chittering pests, but there’s never anything there. Booms of thunder, a whisper, a sigh I barely hear. The masts creak and hull groans and scream from those farther belowdecks are the sirens finally singing us to doom.

I won’t say we don’t deserve it.

…We must have done something to deserve it. Why else would we be in this hell? But for all that I remember your touch so clearly I swear I can feel you even now—I have goosebumps and have to keep looking to be sure you’re not behind me—I can’t remember what we’ve done to be here.

Gods, Stef.

There are gaps in my memory large enough to sail this ship through. I was so focused on you, on remembering you, I’m only now noticing.

Where are we going? How did I even come to be on this ship? Half the time, we didn’t have coin for food, let alone ship passage. I must be working my way. But I don’t know the names or faces of the crew. I remember everyone, but they’re all blank.

What is going on?

I am well and truly scared now, Stef. Have I been sick? Or am I mad?

I need you. Gods damn, I need you! Are you here? Are you somewhere on this ship? I can’t imagine leaving you. What would take me from you? Gods help me, I can’t remember.

I can’t think with all this creaking and rattling! And the thunder.

Where did I get this pen? Short and thin and white. The ink, thick and slow to dry—it smells too much of metal. With the smoky-sweet tallow candle, it makes me sick. Or maybe that’s the constant pitching.

If I stop writing these words, I’m afraid of what might happen. I can’t remember anything of before I began this letter. I’m scared, Stef. More than I’ve ever been. More than my father’s rages when I was young, more than our first kiss.

How can I remember all that and nothing else?!

And my bed. This bed I lie in is nothing but rags and parchment. Paper. Gods—

Stef, they’re letters.

Letters to you, In my scratchy scrawl. But they all look the same. They’re all…exactly like this one…

I don’t think this is paper, after all. Vellum. Made of skin. Your skin. Because I know your skin better than I know my own hand. I know these rags beneath me.

Stef? I think you’re dead.

I think maybe I am, too.

Gods, no. No! I don’t want to remember! Don’t make m

Dear Stef,

Damn this storm…


I warned you it would be super rough, right? But if you want to see how I’d save this mess, please head on over to Patreon! The analysis is available at even $1 a month. (The payment isn’t taken until the first of the month, so feel free to sign up just to look around–I won’t be offended if you cancel before the end of the month! It’s taken me a while to get my feet under me on the platform, but if you like what you read I’d love for you to stick around for more stories, shop talk, and writing news!)

Or if you like what you see and want the analysis without a monthly commitment, buy me a coffee and I’ll send it your way!

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