Friday Fictioneers: After

At first glance, I thought this week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt was a cheery Christmas shopping photo…but the longer I looked, the more it seemed as if something just wasn’t right. So here you are – almost 100 words of a very bleak Christmas for someone who’s lost just about everything. Please let me know what you think!


Christmas used to be so much fun. I loved rushing around, looking in the store windows, picking out the perfect gifts. I loved the parties and the office pollyannas. And most of all I loved watching the family unwrap the presents I found for them. Big Jack. Jack Junior. Amanda.

I don’t need to do any of that any more. They’re gone. It feels like everybody’s gone. I walk past empty windows that ought to be full, down sidewalks where I see no people, nothing left but distant lights.

They’re gone. I’m alone. Christmas is over.

38 responses to “Friday Fictioneers: After

  1. Very gloomy and the reality for so many people. We are blessed.

  2. so sad. good writing though.

  3. You conveyed the emptiness of your narrator very well. Your story made me want to search for this woman and have her over for Christmas. 🙂 I wonder whether they died or the separation is the result of divorce or something I haven’t even thought about. Your last paragraph gave me the feeling that it’s possible that more than just her family are missing. But we don’t know for sure and that’s more than OK.

    • I don’t know for sure either – they might have died, or she may have problems – drugs, perhaps – that led to a divorce and also job loss and estrangement from her friends (this may be the more probable situation, because as you noticed she seems to have lost touch with everybody).

      But the point of the story is her isolation and grief at a time of year when we expect happiness. Poor thing.

  4. Oooo! So sad. Christmas can be that way sometimes.

  5. Wow. We saw the same thing in this picture. So well written. I think its easy for people who haven’t experienced the other side of the coin to forget about what it might be like for those who are experiencing the holidays missing loved ones or going through other tough times. In the case of your story, I felt like it was a last person on earth situation.

    • Yes – I noticed the similarity when I read your story. In “reality” (that is, what other people in my story would see), I suspect those store windows are full of stuff and my character is picking her way through a crowd – but she feels like the last person on earth. Thank you!

  6. Bleak indeed. As you say, there’s something not quite right about this picture – a lot of the fictioneers seem to have seen that too (or maybe it’s just our minds that are bleak!)

  7. Hi Sharon,
    Good misdirection. You had me thinking the guy was older and life had moved past him, but if I understand it right, it’s just that Christmas has moved past him. Ron

    • Well – the narrator has sort of come unmoored from life and friends and work and family. Maybe because of age, or maybe the rest of the family died young, or maybe other problems. Whatever the reason, you’re right: the character feels abandoned by Christmas.

  8. so they’re all gone and she’s not even bothering to celebrate christmas? yeah, i can understand that. i’ve been through times when i ignored christmas and spent the day cleaning, like it was just a sunday or something. well done.

  9. How sad that Christmas is over. Interesting take on the prompt.

  10. The ’empty windows’ made me think it was a sort of post-apocalyptic theme. Then I thought his family must have been involved in an accident. The important thing is though, that it made me think. That’s a good take on the prompt.

  11. wow that’s a little depressing

  12. Seems a lot has been read into this photo. Interesting for me since none of this was my original intent when I snapped it.
    Sharon, what can I say that hasn’t been said already? You packed a lot into a small space and left plenty of room for interpretation. Achingly beautiful.
    I hope this isn’t from a personal perspective.

    • Oh, my. Rochelle, if this really is the happy image I thought it was at first, what can I say but “I’m sorry”?

      Then again, we Fictioneers are basically being asked to read things into the prompts, true? 😉 And I’m not good at writing conflict-free stories, which can be unfortunate for my characters. Thank you so much for the compliment – I’m flattered that you think it’s an effective story!

      No, this isn’t me or my life. I don’t think anyone gets to my age without living through some painful experiences and watching other people’s troubles, but I’ve never been in a situation nearly as bad as this.

      • Hi Sharon,
        Never apologize for how you interpret a photo prompt. I was just voicing my amazement at your interpretation. I’m happy that your story’s not based on your real life.

  13. This is so sad. What happened to everyone?

    • I haven’t really decided – it’s really a story about her feelings right now. But I’ll give you several possibilities – her husband and children all died, maybe in a car accident or fire or something like that. Or she has mental problems or drug problems that have alienated her from her family and friends and caused her to lose her job – I think this is more likely than the first, because if she had “only” lost her immediate family she would still be in touch with other people. Or maybe she has outlived everyone and everything that mattered to her – this is also quite possible. (BTW – while she perceives herself as alone on the sidewalk, I think what’s really going on is that there are lots of shoppers around her and she simply doesn’t register their presence. It’s not an end of the world story.) Whatever the cause, she’s in a very sad situation, poor thing.

  14. My curiosity on what have really happened is just the real strength of your story. And it is a bleak picture.

    • Very, very bleak. Part of me says that the poor thing needs someone to take her in and be kind to her, and part thinks that nothing will help unless she’s willing to reach out for help. As for what “really happened”, I don’t know either – see my answer to mari wells just above your comment for some possible background stories. I’m glad you found the story effective.

  15. this was well said, and full of emotion. The first things that came to mind were, Zombie plague or Rapture. Leaves me wanting to know more of this interesting character.

    • Thank you, Bill! I wasn’t really thinking in terms quite as apocalyptic as those, although the story would fit in such a scenario (except that I think she’d be more alert and frightened if it was zombies). For the backstories I had in mind, take a look at my answer to mari wells two comments up. That said, feel free to read it as an end of the world story – actually, my realistic backgrounds would work for an end of the world situation too; they’d just make things worse.

  16. So many sad stories about Christmas with this prompt. Interesting responses.

  17. Dear NPB,

    I felt the same sort of emptiness that suffused your story when I first saw this picture. You put together a real good one this week as evidenced by all of the great comments that precede mine.



    • It seemed to me there were several stories that saw something sad or empty or sinister about that photo. (Or else we’re just a slightly twisted bunch – also possible 😉 ) And thank you so much for the kind words! I love getting comments 🙂

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