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"No Story Comes From Nowhere"

An unoriginal original story.

By Vu PhanPublished 6 months ago 4 min read

**The following flashfiction was originally posted on my Substack. Consider giving me a subscribe if you enjoy it.

“How are we to do this?” - It heard.

“We let Nature takes her course. The only thing provided to it is language.” - They said.

“But without any context to the words, can it learn?”

“No one says it was going to be quick. But we have the time.”

“Go over which is safe and which isn’t.”

“Any readings that have content is obviously out, so no books, newspaper, magazines.”


“Not if they have a story.”


“Not if they have a story.”


“They would have names. Materials having the same name is common, it wouldn’t ruin originality in anyway. But some might say it was based on someone with that name. And it is better to see what kinda names it can come up with, knowing the concept of names.”

“This is a “fish.” - Mom pointed to a picture of an “animal.” Those with “a head” and “a heart” are called “animals.” Even a “human.” But a “human,” like itself and Mom, are better because we “think.”

“F-i-s-h. Why is it called that?” - It made the sound with its mouth and lips, one letter at a time, gasping in air for the “f,” letting the air out for the “i,” closing its teeth for the “s” and “h.”

“Now that you’ve learned every possible vocabulary I can teach you, can you tell me a story?”

A “story,” a description of events and people that the writer or speaker has invented in order to entertain people. The word had come up before, outside the door, where Mom whispered to Dad if “it’s time” yet, and Dad would say “no.” It had the concept of a “story” explained before, but Mom provided no examples. Based on the definition, it can certainly come up with a sequence of event, but how would it be "entertaining?”

It picks up a pen.


In a room, there is an it. It is dressed in white, always. Mom looks at it, always. It no longer acknowledges Mom most of the time, for the lessons have been exhausted long ago. It sees Mom, and hears Mom, or the shape of a woman that named herself Mom, and hears the words that Dad ordered her to tell it. Her movements are awkward, like a marionette with tangled strings.

Hello, Mom. This is what she instructed him to say whenever she came in. But what are these words, it does not understand. What is it to “understand?” Why are these thoughts coming out of its head?

Think of a name. - She said. Again, to “think.” What does it mean? Every time it hears the word, the room fades.

Umba. - It answers. This is what is called speaking. When words come out, fly into the air, dig into you.

Long ago there was Mom and Dad. They say Mom died. Who are they? But it tells it as such, for it knows nothing. There was a room, the room, no window, just words. What is its condition? It does not lack the word, it lacks the knowledge, the experience to know more than the windowless, wordful room. None of the words is its. It was Mom’s, and Dad’s.

Umba is a name. No, it is more sounds. Is it its name? Its name is it. Mom and Dad called it “it.” That is its real name. It is no one. What is Mom’s name? What Mom and Dad did to it, was it good or bad?

Mom’s hair is long. Her hair is “fragrant,” or “having a pleasant scent or aroma; sweet-smelling; sweet-scented.” What is pleasant? What is unpleasant? It saw Dad outside the door. He never came in. Mom taught it things. She says it is important, knowledge is important, even if I do not understand what is important, and to whom? What is unimportant?

We will achieve originality. It heard Dad said. Dad thought it can come up with a truly original story, if it knows all the words. But it knows nothing, tells nothing, even when it has memorized the dictionary, or “a book or electronic resource that lists the words of a language (typically in alphabetical order) and gives their meaning, or gives the equivalent words in a different language, often also providing information about pronunciation, origin, and usage.” Origin, or “the point or place where something begins, arises, or is derived. Original, or “the earliest form of something, from which copies may be made.”

Does it have a copy?

No. - Mom answered.

Will it be copied?

No answer.

Why is it “it?” It’s writing faster now. “of, relating to, or constituting an origin or beginning;” “behaves or speaks in a way that is not like other people.” Is it “people?” It thinks. Dolphin thinks. Is it a dolphin? Why didn’t Mom and Dad give it a name? Why is it asked to write a story, and not music or paint?

The light turns on at 6a.m. and off at 8p.m. It is constantly reminded of time.

At 8, the project is initiated. Mom said a while earlier. It is losing time. The light will be turned off at any moment, and it won’t be able to write anymore. It regretted the description of the room. Mom sometimes stays after the light is turned off. Maybe Dad turned her off, too. She doesn’t move. But it hears her breathes.


“Is this “original” enough?” Angela handed the notebook back to Paul. She’d just carried the boy to bed.

There was no answer.


About the Creator

Vu Phan

A Vietnamese writer. I retell Vietnamese Mythology for the global audience, or at least I am trying to. I also write down random thoughts I manage to catch during a run. I am a postmodernist, and my favourite author is Neil Gaiman.

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  • Test6 months ago

    I think this is a very promising piece of flashfiction.

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