Division: A Short Story
Flash fiction, written in 20 minutes, around the prompts of identity, berries, whispers of an approaching storm, and a table-tennis competition played on Mars. Obviously.
[For context, 'vix' is a variant of table tennis invented by my housemate and I, and we're confident it's going to take the world—and apparently beyond!—by storm. For the context of how this story came to be, its origins are explained at the end!]
It had been hailed as a triumph for intersex rights—the inaugural Martian vix championships would be the first UVA-sanctioned event with an intersex division. The Universal Vix Authority had thought that the colony’s event would receive less coverage than the Earth finals, but the popularity of the new division had instead drawn huge crowds and a strong media presence.
“It’s an honor,” Alrian had told the assembled journalists countless times. They really were excited to be competing, achieving a lifelong goal, and the recognition of their gender-neutral status was amazing. Alrian had even become a poster-person for the local intersex group. It was the cherry on the cake of a wonderful few months.
Alrian’s mind flashed back to last night, at the championships’ launch party. Betaville Colony’s top mixed doubles partners, Juki and Hindall, had drifted over to them as they stood nursing a Pepsi-Cola. While Juki leaned in to plant a kiss on Alrian’s cheek, Hindall had turned his palm up to reveal a handful of bright red berries.
Confused, Alrian took one out of politeness and offered Hindall a smile. “What are these?” they asked.
The partners both took a glance around and stepped forward as one. “There’s a storm coming,” they whispered. “The UVA wants the intersex division to be a bust. We know not to drink the water here. But they could have more tricks up their sleeve. These will keep you out of trouble. Powerful antidotes.”
Hindall pressed the berries into Alrian’s hand, his voice now more urgent. “They’ve really got it in for you, Alrian. Please be careful.”
Juki flashed a smile and laughed a forced laugh, Alrian thought.
“Best of luck tomorrow darling,” she called as the two of them drifted away.
Now, palms sweating, vision blurring, with just minutes before they were expected to be called for their opening game, Alrian wondered if they’d been foolish to trust the pair so quickly.
Or was this just nerves? Their match against Bari, Sector 9’s top intersex player and a fierce rights advocate, would be their biggest stage yet.
Were they ready to be more than just a vix player? A symbol for an entire group? Sure, they’d embraced their intersexuality, but this pressure was unlike anything they’d felt.
“Can I be more than myself?” Alrian asked aloud.
No answer came. Mars was a godless planet.
[prompts: identity; a handful of bright red berries; the inaugural Martian Vix Championships; “There’s a storm coming,” they whispered.]
How This Story Came to Be
My housemate and I decided to have a short story contest, where we'd write a handful of prompts, stick them all in a hat (we didn't have a hat, so it ended up being a frisbee), draw a few, and use those to create a story. Prompts could be themes, settings, characters, dialogue, objects... whatever! Of the four below, three happened to be mine, with the setting—Mars's first vix championships—my housemate's suggestion. We stuck a 20 minute timer on and got started!
It was pretty intense, especially as the time ticked on, but a really enjoyable exercise. It's amazing as a writer to rediscover how much you can churn out in a short space of time! My story, at just under 400 words, was far shorter than my housemate's, who got to around 700. It was also really interesting to see how we interpreted the prompts differently—I went for a character-driven story full of dialogue while his had much more action.
We've got plenty more prompts left in the frisbee, as it were, so hopefully there will be more short stories here soon! I hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to use the prompts yourself and happy reading!