"Rise. Fall. Burn." by Ashvaria Rai — Our June 2018 Bronze Medal Winner

by - Monday, August 20, 2018

Ashvaria Rai is our third place winner from the contest posted in our June, 2018 issue! Ashvaria's entry crossed our inbox threshold just two minutes before the contest deadline, sure evidence that it's never too late to try!

What the judges had to say:
The mood of the story matched the main theme, which is a difficult task to manage but one that makes the story wholly believable. I felt sad for the main character while reading her struggle. She was memorable, and she evoked empathy in me as a reader. Congratulations!

Meet Asharia:

"Hi, my name is Ashvaria Rai! I am currently an undergrad student aimlessly ping-ponging between faculties while trying to sort my life out (although, I’m starting to suspect that no one really has it all together). 

My absolute favourite things to write are letters — I just love the intimacy and raw vulnerability that encompasses them! Recently I’ve been trying to incorporate those elements into fictional writing, especially since I tend to focus on mental health, which is still a sensitive topic for me. 

Special thanks to Blank Spaces for encouraging a small writer like me to venture out of my comfort zone!!"

The photo prompt:

the unedited story:

Rise. Fall. Burn.

by Ashvaria Rai

Rise. Fall. Burn. I try to coerce the embers of the fire into grounding my thoughts; they scatter every which way and my senses cling to them so desperately, too afraid to break away and be imprisoned by my mind.

“…. and that’s actually how I got this scar on my forehead!” Shit. I had completely forgotten that I was supposed to be in the middle of a conversation.

“That’s really cool!” I cock my head slightly towards the side and flash a flirtatious smile, praying that he doesn’t sense my distraction; hoping I can still pass as normal.

It seems to work too, because he smiles back and touches my shoulder; I see his eyes crinkle as he remembers another “one time I..” moment but there in the distance comes my saving Grace. Beer in tow, Grace passes one to Sam. He thanks her and she compliments his jacket and he turns his knees towards her and just like that I’m no longer crushed under the burden of false pretenses and forced conversations.

Turning myself back to the fire I try to monitor my breathing without drawing attention to myself. Am I breathing too quickly? Am I too loud? Can the others see me panicking? Stop, stop, stop. Focus on the fire.

I try this time to focus on its noise. The crackling of the wood, the sizzling, the subdued voices of everyone sitting around the fire, the soft noises of the couple making out across from me, the crickets chirping in the back, past conversations: “You’ll be okay, you’re probably just tired”, “It’s probably nothing, everyone gets sad sometimes…”

I’m surprised I’ve kept it together for so long, shocked that no one can see me crippling behind this well-worn mask of mine. I wonder if surprised and disappointed are synonymous in everyone else’s heads too.

Don’t do this to yourself. I settle my concentration on the feel of the fire instead. The heat as it radiates from the scorching center, diffusing into the air and gently warming my exposed neck. I find myself wondering how hot the fire is, how terrible the burns would be. Would they be more or less tolerable than the itching of my wrists? Would their scars be easier to hide?

Sierra sits next to me and reaches for my hand. I snap out of my dark reverie and look at her, flashing her my toothiest grin. She gives me a worried look and sits closer, embracing me. She’s always been observant.

“It’s okay.” She whispers because she knows me, and she knows the others, and she gets it. “You’re okay.”

I know her words are meant to provide comfort but they just don’t. Just like how this camping trip was supposed to make me feel welcome and happy and loved but it just doesn’t. Just like how I’m supposed to be “trying to get over this” but I just can’t.

I’m just so terribly exhausted. And isolated. And frustrated. And upset. And I just don’t understand why or what this is. Depression, what does that even mean? I wish the world would stop throwing this answer at me and help me find a solution instead.

I look at the fire again. Rise. Fall. Burn.

I just wish someone would tell me that it’s okay to not be okay.

I pull myself out of Sierra’s embrace and smile at her before throwing a small stick into the campfire.

“I know,” I lie as I watch as the fire slowly consume the twig.

[Read the first and second place stories]

Learn how you can participate in one of our Write-Prompt Flash Fiction Contests HERE

Order the next issue of Blank Spaces HERE  

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