Pencil drawing of buildings forming a cityscape flowing out of a quill.

January 2020 flash fiction (urban fantasy, death). For the Patreon post, click here.

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My name is Amara and I was lost once.

When I was six, I learned the universal truth, just like everyone else. Whatever you’re skilled at is the one thing you cannot have. Like a shoemaker walking with blistered feet on cobblestone, or a seamstress dressed in tattered rags.

Across from Nana’s shop was the house of a muse, her hair streaked with purple and white, lips always quirked into a smile. She came to the Valley of the Forgotten after her eyesight had faltered. Back in the City, where the streets were filled with the creations she’d inspired—where her architect had thrived—she’d been driven to a blindness that the Valley had kept at bay. One day, Nana gifted her a painting of the prettiest building in the City, and I was surprised when she thought the canvas was blank.

That was when I started asking my own questions, curious about the magic of the Valley.


When I was twelve, I learned that Nana wasn’t my grandmother, not by blood. She didn’t tell me why she’d been caring for me, or who my parents were, or where I’d come from.

There, in the Valley, we wore ill-fitting clothes made by blacksmiths and lived in houses built by cooks. Everything was always on the verge of falling apart, nothing ever worked quite right, but it was a place of safety from the clutches of fate. The Valley was where the tired ran to. Some remained for the rest of their lives, others only sought refuge for short reprieves. All resisted their calling, their own skill. So did I, after figuring I would’ve been a storyteller, if I’d lived outside, in the other world. But I left it be. Reading tales was enough, and Nana provided as many as I wanted.


When I was twenty-four, I found the piece of paper that had condemned me to the Valley. There, in blue ink on yellowing paper, sat the words forbidden and mandatory isolation and punishable by incarceration. So if Nana took me to the City, she’d be held responsible for whatever effect my special talent would create. Upon myself, not upon others. I had been chained against my nature for reasons nobody deemed I should know.

I raged, simmering quietly. My anger had to go somewhere, and it turned to everyone around me. To our muse neighbor, first, who did nothing but ensure greatness in the City I wasn’t allowed to visit. So I wrote about her, mingling my misery with her own. In my tale, though, she’d remained by the architect’s side, growing more and more obsessed with the creations she could not see. In my story, she’d fallen off the highest clocktower, betrayed by her gift as I had been by mine.

Many acclaimed my writings, after I’d secretly sent them outside the valley. Many mourned and roared with me, the spawns of my imagination spreading wide, beyond the City and the borders of our lands.


When I was thirty-six, I wrote my final piece.

I hadn’t realized it, not in the beginning, what I was actually good at.

Not storytelling itself, because the tales of adventurous kittens and brave knights befriending dragons had been dismissed, one by one. No, what I had a skill for was death. Dished out in violent bursts or served in increments, whenever my protagonists suffered, the world rejoiced.

When I was thirty-six, I lay on the pavement, staring up at the Valley’s only clocktower, my assumptions confirmed. The world thought of me as an abomination. They feared and shunned. Abandoned.

They came for me, then, men in military uniforms, to escort me to the border. Nana told me, whispery and fragile against my ear, to wait for her. To be patient.

That rage, it boiled over, and I ran.


When I was thirty-eight, I found them. Hidden away high on a mountain slope, a small village of lost souls. Nurses of old battlefields, caretakers for the incurable, masters of funeral rites, executioners. Among them, arms spread wide, was Nana.

“Welcome home, child,” she said, face unweathered, smile unchanged.

She explained, then, how my skill had been discovered as a small child. How I’d been marked for isolation. We could’ve fled long ago, but she wanted me to grow outside the village, without the weight of our final resting place upon my shoulders. It wasn’t difficult to understand why she’d done it, why she’d kept it from me. Why I had to discover my fate on my own.


When I was forty-four, I wrote my second first-story. It was about a muse who sacrificed herself to inspire the creation of new medicine, but instead of her life, she paid with her gift.

Because, I realized, death is what we make it—an ending, a journey, passage to another existence, the tearing of a soul to shape it into something new.

My name is Amara and I am Deathless.

This is where my life begins.

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