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Here it is, boys and girls! I’m ahead of schedule with this one, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. That’s right, it’s time for the August Writing Challenge entry! Thanks to Sonia over at Doing the Write Thing for this month’s challenge prompt. This month, Sonia asked us to write a 500 word short story about doorways. It’s a little bit “Adjustment Bureau” and a little bit “Monsters Inc.”, and was a blast to write. Maybe I’ll tie it in to my May entry, “Fiction or Non?” just for kicks. Anyway, here goes. Bonus points to anyone who knows where the title comes from without googling it. 😀

“A Ball of Light in One’s Hand”

Damien gasped for breath as he ran across the temple’s cool, slick marble floor. He didn’t know where he was, or when, but he knew he was being pursued. He knew why. When he saw the tall woman, he sensed maliciousness, and he had fled through the nearest door. She followed.

Where had this all started? The bookshop, he thought to himself, careening around a corner through a stone door into a dimly lit log cabin. The snow outside the window hinted at a northern climate, far from his home, far from the room he’d just exited. He paused for a moment while the rest of his body caught up to his racing heartbeat before he moved to the nearest door. His raven hair surged behind him as a gust of wind greeted him, and he rushed through the portal into the unknown beyond.

He blinked. Bright desert sun shone down on him, and the smells of the marketplace he’d stepped into surrounded him, overwhelming and discomforting at the same time, for there was something familiar behind the smells. Paper. Paper and ink. Paper and ink and death. The bookseller was near. Damien’s nostrils flared as he tracked the tall woman’s scent.

She’d had the gift first. The book describing the techniques of door travel had been in her possession longer than she even knew, he suspected. There had been others before. Now Damien had learned, and she would pursue him until she killed him, as she killed all who attempted to use the door portals as she did. He’d heard the tales.

He turned and saw her, tall, thin, grey, cold, seeming to grow and blot out the light that surrounded them. Damien held up the book, knowing he had one desperate chance.

“Give me the book, boy, and I’ll kill you quickly.”

“‘The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand,’” he replied, quoting the book, remembering the day he’d first made his way into her bookshop. It had smelled of paper. Paper and ink. Paper and ink and death. Just like the woman who stood before him now. He’d not known the scent of death at the time, but as he had journeyed through the doors, he had learned many things. She had pursued him as soon as she realized he’d taken that book.

He had read it, learned the ways of the doors. They let him go anywhere, anytime, but he could not control it well. Not yet. Now he had little time to make a choice, and the tall woman who smelled of paper and ink and death stood before him. She had learned of his deception and tracked him through every door he’d ever used. Now she was here. Damien’s body tensed. The book began to shine. He opened to a picture of a great oaken door, open, waiting for him, threw it to the ground. Damien leapt, vanishing through the door, the book snapping shut behind him before vanishing as well.


  1. Fantabulous! Would work exceptionally well with “Fiction or Non?” as well. You’ve definitely got a concept worth continuing here.

    • Thankee. I’m growing fonder of the idea of writing a group of somewhat related stories, doing expanded versions of both of these stories. I really enjoyed this one. I’m glad you liked it.

  2. Brilliant! I want more detail on door traveling, how one comes by this, and who this woman is who is so stingy with her ability. Even in such a short story, you draw me right in and paint a very vivid picture. Can’t wait to read more.

    • It was, as I said, a blast to write. I am considering adding a few other stories to this little universe of books that I’m developing. I’ve got at least one more planned out that would fit in with this and Fiction or Non? Thanks for the input!

  3. I really like the idea of a whole series of doors going from one world into another. I can see how you could make a universe of stories. I’d love to find out where Damien went and how he’ll defeat the woman, if he does.

    I also want to apologize for not reading this earlier. It’s been a brutal couple of weeks for me. Thank you so much for joining the writing challenge. I always love your entries.

    • Thank you very much, Sonia. I understand the delay completely, and I hope that everything is going better for you right now. I would love to expand upon this one someday as well. For now, it’s a good start to something.

  4. I liked the whole story, but especially the ending. Through each door Damien travels to a new world (or a different part of our world). Now that he’s in the book, he’ll experience a whole new universe of worlds. He’s gone much further down the rabbit hole. Very cool!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! I hope to keep producing stuff like this for some considerable time to come. Yes, there’s a whole new layer to Damien’s travels, now that he’s managed to make his way into the book. It could get very meta from here.

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] A Ball of Light in One’s Hand by SwordsoftheAncients […]

  2. […] me an opportunity to revisit an older piece. Back in August of 2011, I wrote a short story entitled “A Ball of Light in One’s Hand” for a writing challenge hosted by Sonia M. The story was a 500 word microfiction piece for a prompt […]

  3. By A Door | The Swords of the Ancients on 07 Oct 2016 at 11:17 am

    […] written a lot about doors. Secret passages, locked doors that contain various secrets, portals to other places… It’s definitely a recurring theme in my work. So imagine my surprise at finding […]

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