Your Monday Creativity Wake-Up Call: The Ultimate Secret

Hey writers,

I stumbled upon some old essays this weekend, and came across one of the most intriguing craft quotes I’ve ever read, courtesy of George Orwell and his piece “Why I Write”:

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

Thus, I revisited my haggard copy of 1984 and dug up an Orwellian Literary Roadshow prompt below.

Here’s to the writing angels and demons,


PROMPT: The Ultimate Secret

In 500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring, write a story inspired by or containing the following (from Orwell’s 1984):

No answer.
“Julia, are you awake?”
No answer. She was asleep. He shut the book, put it carefully on the floor, lay down, and pulled the coverlet over both of them.
He had still, he reflected, not learned the ultimate secret. He understood how; he did not understand why.

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7 thoughts on “Your Monday Creativity Wake-Up Call: The Ultimate Secret

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  2. Walt Wojtanik

    He came to a passage in his book; it was something she had once told him, underlined now for him to see. He wasn’t sure what she meant by it. Was it out of context, and if it was, why? Another quarrel; another chasm to fill in. They were volatile together, in both a good and bad way. When the passion flared, they were volcanic and molten; when the lava cooled they became cold and lifeless stones. Tonight came to a crescendo. He gently shook her shoulder.


    No answer.

    “Julia, are you awake?”

    No answer. She was asleep. He shut the book, put it carefully on the floor, lay down, and pulled the coverlet over both of them. He had still, he reflected, not learned the ultimate secret. He understood how; he did not understand why.

    Their secrets always came back to why.

    She snuggled in beside him, seeking comfort and warmth. There was sanctuary in the gentle rise and fall of his chest. His breathing was rhythmic; her sense of security, immediate. There was mystery in everything she did. He didn’t expect her to start offering clarity now. He stroked her hair gently as his tactile meandering traced a message of his own. The soft noise that was her response, was that of a contented kitten.

    He glanced down at her and felt his smile fill the room. His arm radiated a numbness to his fingertips as he pulled her closer. His lips found a soft place to land on her left temple. He nestled his nose in her auburn tresses, long enough to savor her unique scent.

    A vacuum sucked all sound from the room. The silence was broken as he uncharacteristically heard himself whisper, “I love you”.

    Julia’s eyes butterflied open, and her wide-eyed grin returned his sentiment. “You do understand after all!” she beamed as she rested her head close enough to hear his heartbeat.

    He still wasn’t sure what had just happened, but he was glad it did. Curiously, he reached for the book once again. The highlight seemed more alluring, drawing his eye to the words Julia had meant for him. “He came to realize, the healing power was in the love.”

    He finally understood.

  3. -Z

    Johnathan paused. Outside, the fog that was up in the mountains not an hour ago had predictably enveloped the cabin. What little sun that did shine had given way to it, just in time for the persistent night. Through the half-opened door he could hear crickets begin to croon; the onset of dusk confirmed with the hoot of a nearby owl.
    He was initially uncomfortable when she handed him her diary, asking that he read the entries that dated back a month. ‘It explains everything’ she had tearfully confessed; he felt her shivers on his chest as she handed it to him.
    He had hoped that his life would one day find him here, nestled with her – he grinned at the irony. With a nod, he acquiesced and found the page … she looked up at him expectantly, and mouthed a silent ‘please.’
    He felt his eyes widen as he began. With the trill of each read word, the more he couldn’t move, the more his visage froze and his chest constrict. His malaise was interrupted by her touch along his waist, her thumb beginning a repeated stroking of his exposed skin there.
    Her breathing slowed, more at ease, a subsequent effect of his reaction. She knew he finally began to understand. She shut her eyes, focusing on how he felt at the end of her hands, underneath her draped arm, every nerve a repository of him. Finally, she thought, a sigh of relief.
    The black of meticulously scripted words, a stark contrast to the wrinkled off-white paper it laid on, began to paint the backdrop for his questions – the ones that accompanied him day and night, in reality and in his dreams, ever since then. His eyes shifted to her perfectly symmetrical face – he felt the even wisp of air from her breathing, and the rhythmic undulation of her heart and chest.
    No answer.
    “Julia, are you awake?”
    No answer. She was asleep. He shut the book, put it carefully on the floor, lay down, and pulled the coverlet over both of them.
    He had still, he reflected, not learned the ultimate secret. He understood how; he did not understand why. Again, he looked out the window, the branches of the adjacent tree just a silhouette. The scent of moist grass and damp wood began to fill the room. He took a deep breath, and realized that that was enough.
    He shut his eyes and held her close. He had hoped that his life would one day find him here … and here he now was.

  4. Mark James

    There’s this garden I read about one time; a real sweet place where lions lay down with lambs, the sun’s never too hot, and the grass – it’s always green. And the best part – in this garden, you don’t ever die.

    All the stories I read about that garden says that’s where we all started, and check this out, the gardener – he was God. You know – the big cheese.

    I’ll buy into the Garden of Eden story. I’ll even buy there was a serpent there. But what’s up with God? Did he forget Lucifer was a silver tongued liar? Did it slip his omnipotent mind that the Angel of Light wasn’t exactly hoping all goodness and light for man?

    We know how he got in there – God put him there – but why?

    What was God thinking? Did he leave some extra snake shaped dirt lying around, or what?

    Maybe he got to that seventh day, time to rest, and there was these little messes here and there, and that snake shaped dirt was one of them and he just said, “screw it. I’ll clean up Satan tomorrow. He ain’t going no place.”

    And what’s up with those angels with the fiery swords? Was that the prototype for the light saber or what?

    I say we all get together, right now – everyone on Earth – and march on Eden; spray down those angels with the mother of all fire hoses. Let’s see how bad ass they are with soggy wings and no fire.

    Look, all I’m saying is Genesis – it’s full of how. God said ‘Let there be light’, and there was.

    God parted the night from day. He parted the sea from the land. He did a whole lot of stuff. But, when you get to those two trees in the middle of the Garden, and that serpent, just waiting for Eve to come along, and take the apple – I mean, what the heck? Why?

    God, he’s a real plan ahead kind of guy. He knew, in a few millennia, he was gonna be doing Judgment Day, and calling souls up to Paradise.

    But it’s like his son said – ‘in my father’s house are many mansions’. But “many” isn’t infinite.

    There’s only so many mansions God could build, and only so many souls could apply for housing. Know what I mean?

    So, I think God, he used that snake as part of his Paradise City Code Planning Commission. It’s not like you can have overcrowded slums in Paradise. So, he put that snake there, cause he knew how Lucifer was, knew he’d rose up and convinced a third of his angels to rise up with him and build a better Heaven. Damn right.

    I’m thinking, God left that snake shaped mound of dirt lying around, because hey, in Paradise, you can’t fit everyone.

    So here’s the ultimate secret, the ultimate answer to why Satan was in the Garden of Eden: building codes in Paradise are a bitch.

  5. J. Alvey

    <b A Complicated Calculus /b>

    She was turned away from him in bed, the way she always was when she was angry but not angry enough to make him sleep on the sofa. On his side of the bed, obvious in the bright glare of the reading lamp focuses on it was the old anthology, open to the poem he had written with a dedication to a woman he had known and cared for long before he had ever met her.

    He had re-dedicated the poem to her when they had become seriously involved, at least in his mind, this poem titled "The Daisies in Your Eyes, I Swear", had even presented a copy of it along with a basket of daisies when he first confessed his love for her.

    Naturally, he’d omitted the dedication to the former lover in the copy presented to her; that only made sense, seemed not dishonest but sensible. And he had been giving her daisies on every occasion ever since. And she had accepted them with the same glee and affection, or so it seemed, with which they had been offered.

    Today, he’d done the same. Out of the blue. For no special occasion, in fact, but just because he wanted to, a rare thing for him.

    She had plopped them wordlessly into the trash bin and headed off for the bedroom, where he found her now, along with the anthology.


    No answer.

    “Julia, are you awake?”

    No answer. She was asleep. He shut the book, put it carefully on the floor, lay down, and pulled the coverlet over both of them. He had still, he reflected, not learned the ultimate secret. He understood how; he did not understand why.

  6. duane sosseur

    “Bus stop getaways”

    …..Two men carrying fishing poles and a bag of fish each ran into view, out of the woods. They stopped to rest, looking back… worried about dogs. Jim kicked a trash can. They both cringed at the clatter. "I lost the god damned bait." He said, looking ashamed. "and I tol ya there was a wardens house out here somewhere."

    …..Cash started gutting some fish. "Well I didn’t know it was the warden’s boat. Dang it we were gonna take it back." In short work he ziplocked the filets, dumped the guts in the trash can then put the lid on. He kicked it so it would roll down the hill, and they watched it roll. "Dogs’ll be after that." Cash smiled. At least they would eat good for a couple of days. Deep fry. Jim swung onto the bus after Cash. "Cold beer’s what we need." Change rattled in the machine as he dropped it in and they sat, still free and feeling lucky.

    …..Back in the woods at the bottom of a very long and steep hill the dogs barked furiously at the trash can and four out of breath wardens with flashlights looked up to the top of the hill, a good mile an a half away. The Captain’s enraged face turned colors, he was too upset to speak and a walkie talkie crackled. "Two oh three, two oh three do you have suspects, over?" One of the wardens answered. "Uh, that’s a negative. They got away." "Roger two oh three, you have nothing. Base out." It almost sounded like laughter in the background. The Captain kicked the trash can, getting guts on his pants. "Dammit!" They turned off the flashlights, trudging up the hill in the moonlight. After a while they could hear the dogs still barking at the fish guts. One rolled in it, grinning happily.

    …..After the noon fish fry, Cash had his nose in the paper. "Says here there’s a goose problem in the park." Jim, in mid beer, grunted. "Roast goose." Cash went on. "Says they can’t shoot em an it cost’s six hundred apiece to test em to see if they’re ok to eat."

    …..At the park the boys could see wardens on the other end live trapping a very upset honking goose, while fifty or sixty other geese watched. In the little pond by Jim, geese lined the banks, shuffling and eyeballing the dried corn ear that he had tied securely to some clothesline. Cash kept the binoculars on the DNR truck, which was covered in geese.

    …..Five greedy geese wouldn’t let go of the corn ear and were dragged over and clubbed, one by one. Then they went into the duffel bag after being plucked and cleaned. The boys kicked some leaves over the feathers then headed to the bus stop across the street. They knew the ultimate secret of modern day survival, how to, anyway. Why? Well, who doesn’t like a nice roast goose?