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Day 14- What If? by Leslie Stack

In today’s writing prompt will you grant your character the power to change the past?

StoryADay Writing Prompt illustration

The Prompt

“If only I could go back and do it over again, I would…

” How many times have we said that to ourselves?

In JK Rowling’s “The Prisoner of Azkaban,” Hermione Granger had a time turner necklace where she could turn back time to allow her to attend more classes, but more importantly, save two lives.

Whether it’s changing one seemingly small decision or a whole lifetime of decisions, there is usually one thing that we would change if we could.

Something that would make a difference in just one life or many more.

What is your character’s one thing?


Leslie Stack

Leslie Stack is a writer, musician, camper, and teacher who loves being on the water or in a museum. You can usually find her doing research behind dark glasses on a park bench. She lives in a house in Pennsylvania with her husband where the books are plotting a takeover.

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17 thoughts on “Day 14- What If? by Leslie Stack”

  1. Wow, this was beautifully cathartic. I have a feeling I could write this story over and over again for many different “what if” moments. This was also a treasure trove for ideas for future stories. Giving the situation (i.e. a difficult place from my past) to a fictional character helps distance me from it and have fun too. Yet, telling these types of stories can change my future too. They bring to life the possibilities from making braver, harder choices in the future so I don’t have to tell “what ifs” anymore…

  2. Fun prompt. I wrote down 14 sparks. Just wrote a short story about the time I told Siri to be quiet and he got even with me.

  3. I wrote a story titled The Second Chance about a woman who finds a genie lamp and gets 3 wishes. Her first wish is to have her mother back, alive and healthy. Her second wish is for her mother to live until her last great-grandchild is gone, never aging and never being ill. Her third wish is to have enough money to travel with her mother wherever she wants to go, starting with Hawai’i. Her wishes are granted, of course, but when she wakes up, her mother is gone. This one was personal for me. The story came in at just under 1000 words.

  4. I wrote a fantasy about a dying man who is given the chance to change something in his life by the Devil. He declines the offer. Given the way deals with the devil usually turn out, this is probably wise on the face of it. But the man also feels that for every setback in his life, there was a comeback. It’s the comebacks he remembers best. All in all, he had a good life. He doesn’t want to screw things up now.

  5. Little over 800 words but this one was fun even though filled with revenge against a co-worker. Hope you enjoy.

    Stacy stood transfixed in front of the carnival midway’s fortune-teller arcade game. She gripped the business card in her hands the machine spit out. The tantalizing yet terrifying words, ‘Go back anywhere in time for up to an hour’, written in black ink on a white background. Stacy’s heart ramped up its pace. Where would she go? Was this actually possible? To go back in anywhere in time? One chance in…what…a billion…trillion? Could some good for the world come from this? Would it be possible to become a hero to her nation? She contemplated her options for a moment until a smile crept over her lips. Natalie.
    Closing her eyes, she whispered her desired time and location and within seconds she was transported in front of a dilapidated row house with overgrown bushes and patchy lawn. Stacy opened her eyes and knew in her heart she stood in a different time and in a sprawling urban area. Just like the Fortune-Teller promised.
    Stacy recalled her despised, overly-made up, snooty co-worker’s tale of out running a would-be attacker years earlier. Natalie. She thought she was God’s gift to the world, to the company, to her co-workers. Stacy sneered. Natalie wasn’t that great. Recently Natalie had beat out three other co-workers, Stacy included, for a coveted spot on the junior executive team at Colton, Mahoney, and Weiss, even though Natalie didn’t do half the work Stacy and the others had done. The grueling long hours into the night, coming in early, struggling to retain a good attitude even on limited hours of sleep. They all knew that Natalie was sleeping around with upper management. Stacy despised her for that. All their hard work didn’t pay off, like all the self-help podcasts claimed. Today Natalie would learn that sleeping around and being loose wouldn’t help her out.
    Stacy wiped the sweat dripping down her own forehead as she stood in front of a dark-stone row house. She remembered more of Natalie’s tale she relished regaling her weary co-workers at their morning coffee break. They acted politely, nodding towards their co-worker, gasping at the right times to placate her, hoping by being on her good side they would be able to move up in the company as well.
    Natalie had told them how she had escaped from a would-be attacker late at night as she was returning from a night out with friends at a popular night club that only seemed to allow the most beautiful and coolest people to enter. She was fortunate enough to out-run him down an alley, lungs burning, legs pumping for all they’re worth. She’d smile then, a fake ‘I’m-better-than-you’ one plastered against injected lips and perfect, laser-whitened teeth. Stacy sauntered to the alley next to the row-house where Natalie claimed she made her escape. Stacy crouched next to the green dumpster pressed up against the building and waited. This time Natalie wouldn’t be so fortunate.
    Within minutes Stacy heard a woman singing and giggling. Stacy peeked her head around the corner of the alley and saw Natalie stumbling up the steps to her home. Glancing further down, Stacy saw a man in a dark hoodie seated on the steps of a neighboring row house, and seemingly watching Natalie. Stacy giggled to herself. This was her moment to shine. The man stood from the steps and jogged up to Natalie as she fumbled to open her door. He must’ve said something to her because she stopped and turned her head towards him. He raced up the steps while Natalie, obviously suddenly sober, somehow weaved her way amazingly by him and turned to flee down the unlit alley. With one leg stuck out, Stacy tripped her nemesis and quickly squatted next to the dumpster again in the as the attacker turned down the alley and grabbed Natalie by her long hair, dragging her down the alley and into the darkness beyond.
    Stacy smiled and closed her eyes, once again transported to the present, not to the carnival midway but inside a luxurious office overlooking the magnificent view of downtown. She gazed down at herself, now draped in an airy long-sleeved cream-colored silk blouse and tailored black cotton trousers. Seated behind a large Italian-marble desk, neatly organized with stacks of paperwork and a small scented candle set on a round paperweight, she noticed her name engraved on a gold plate set on top of the marble. Wooden bookshelves stuffed with binders and leather-bound journals lined them, and tasteful portraits of lake, and mountain scenes lined the walls of the huge office. She sat back against the thickly padded leather chair swiveling around to survey her new surroundings, Stacy sighed with contentment. Her office. Her promotion. No sleeping with the bosses to achieve this. Giggling, she picked up what appeared to be a tumbler of whiskey filled half-way with round ice cubes. Stacy took a sip. She wondered for a moment…only for a moment…whatever did become of Natalie?

    1. Beautifully written, Eva. Your language, characterization and the clever use of the prompt is just out of the world.
      Thanks for sharing your story. Please keep writing. Best wishes.

  6. Didn’t write a story where the character could go back and change that moment, but just considering what xe would have changed. It got a bit emotional. 1001 words that just kind of poured out of me.

  7. What If….
    I had given myself permission not to write to the prompts on the weekends. But I ended up with a sound bite for my Short Story………
    What if Leah signs the contract?
    Wendy and Tucci can be together.
    Ms Savoy would finally be happy.
    Leah could pursue the handsome Mateo.
    But, what if she doesn’t?
    No matter what Leah decides ~The House Always Wins~

  8. I wrote a micro story about a character whose big regret is that she didn’t let herself have regrets.

  9. I started writing at 2.55 PM and finished this one within an hour. Cheers to me! Here is my story entitled:
    The Ifs and Buts of Life :
    Uchchasa’s mom was lying in bed, her eyes closed. She had heard the doc tell her dad that her mom was in the last stage and there was no knowing if she would open her eyes again or shift from light sleep to the deep sleep.
    The doc even told dad that if he (Dad) agreed then they might try out another shot on mom just to see if there was going to be any improvement.
    She looked at Dad looking so very unsure, confused, lost. For thirty-nine years, he had lived life by Mom’s standards. He simply worshipoed her. Even Aryan, her husband, used to make fun of Dad’s fondness and love for her mother. Dad didn’t look at her before telling the doc something that shocked her and soured her relations with him for a long, long time to come.
    Anyway, to come back to the story – this was what Sudhansu Babu, Uchchasa’s father told the doctor:
    ” I think that the poor woman has suffered enough. The woman, who dreaded the very mention of injections, has had nearly five hundred inserted in her body in the last five years since her galstone operation.” Dad looked so calm and composed while speaking like that at that time! How could he? Mom was in the ICU fighting for her life!
    “If you aren’t sure about the effectiveness of the shot you were talking about, I’d request you to let her be, let her die peacefully, Dr. Bhattacharyya.”
    The doc looked at her father comprehensively, nodded his head and murmured :
    “In that case, let me tell you that she wouldn’t survive the night. Seven to eight hours, by my estimation.”
    Uchchasa had been inside the General Room since then. General Room because Dr. Bhattachryya told them that there was no point keeping the patient in the ICU anymore as that would only add to the mounting bills or expenses.
    Uchchasa looked down at her mom. Her chest was heaving up and down. Her eyes half-shut as if she was aware of an eerie presence in the room. As if Yama, the Lord of Death was present there in the room, commanding her to let go of her last attachment to the world – her daughter. Finding her fighting a lost battle till the end, Uchchasa’s mind flashed through to the day her JEE result was out.
    “I’ve something to tell you, Mom. I know it will hurt you. But keep your promise to me you must.” She could feel the tremor in her voice.
    “What is it, dear? I’ve a feeling that your JEE result is out and you’ve got through in flying colors.”
    Uchchasa stared at her mom, nonplussed. How did she know in God’s name? How could she? The result was out only at 2 O’clock in the afternoon. She checked her result not even five minutes back and how could Mom deduct it that she was going to talk about her result?
    Sujata looked at her daughter lovingly before asking :
    “What is your ranking?”
    “1205.” She replied hesitantly.
    “That’s wonderful. Congrats. You’ll get a medical college within the city.” She sounded excited.
    “No, mom. Don’t be so excited. Remember you promised to let me study English Literature instead? ”
    “I know I did. But what about Dad? He won’t agree.”
    “Leave that to me, Mom. I’ll handle it.”
    Sujata always stood by her daughter but Sudhansu was not easily convinced.
    “Are you insane, Uchhs ( he called her by that Nick name)? Think about the future you’ll have. Pride, Prestige, Prosperiry.”
    “You know Dad, I ain’t the studious type. So, the MBBS Course is not for me. Besides, even after the degree, I’ll have to go for specialization. There’re unemployed doctors mushrooming all over the city these days!”

    Her parents respected her decision in the end to let her pursue a degree in English Literature instead and didn’t force her anymore.

    Now, standing in front of her mom’s bed, an inexplicable pain shot through Uchchasa. Perhaps, if she had listened to them at that time, if she didn’t lie to dad about her not being all that studious,(She had done that deliberstely so that her parents didn’t have to spend an exorbitant amount on her studies!) she could have done whatever it took to try to save the person who loved her the most in this world.

    Just then, Sujata batted her eyelids before opening her eyes for a second. She cast an unseeing look in her direction before looking behind her. Her chest went a notch higher for one final time before it stopped. Uchchasa could feel tears coursing down her cheeks as she stepped forward to the still body in bed. Holding her Mom’s still warm feet in her hands, Uchchasa bent her head, her face wearing a dead expression. She touched her feet and said,” If I ever hurt you by not pursuing the MBBS Course, forgive me, Mom.”

    She could have sworn then that just for a brief second, she felt the caressing touch of her mom on the back of her head.
    The end

    1. Very nice. Extremely touching. A type of “what if” that many people had. You encompassed it beautifully.

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