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Hear ye! Hear ye!

I present to you... a challenge.

By Alexander McEvoyPublished 8 days ago Updated 4 days ago 8 min read
Top Story - July 2024
Image Generated by AI

TL/DR at the bottom, following this symbol "-0-"

With a sound like the ringing of tiny bells, a horseman approaches the town. Heads turn as he passes, attention caught by the speed and clamour. A gentle sound, despite the speed of his horse, a sound that calls all passersby to pay attention. To gather round him on the village green and listen to his decree.

The crier alights from his horse before a small, curious audience. Behind the mask worn by each member of the village, faces twist in their unique and unknown displays of interest. He has never seen their faces, not for true, only the still images used to hide their expressions in the forum.

"Hear ye, hear ye!" He shouts, tilting his head so that the gleaming, and ornamental, bell-helm glinted in the sunlight. "I bring word!" Then, with great ceremony, he places a starkly red flower in an in-built holder over his right brow.

"What word?" calls a woman with flaming hair, standing on her toes try and see the crier more clearly.

"What news?" calls another, throwing her raven hair over one thin shoulder.

"Tell us," cries the local thatcher, adjusting his tinted glasses against the sun. "What news?"

"Is it war?" A bearded man in a broad hat inquires.

"Horrors from the Buchwald?" a woman asks, loyal dog by her side.

"It is news of the Curators," suggests a woman, her signature flower in her hand. "They send us news of changes to the kingdom, perchance?"

Another woman, having emerged from her creative retreat beside her fireplace shouts out, "the curators are responding to our requests!"

"Nay," the crier earns his title with the force of his exclamation. "Nay! 'Tis none of these things. Though hark unto me now, good residents of Vocalia. There is to be a tournament!"

Whispers take wing. Vocalians turn their heads to whisper into neighbours' ears. A tournament? Such is not so uncommon, yet the ink-stained fingers of each listener twitch in anticipation. Is it official? One given sanction by the Palace itself? Or yet has someone among their number released a challenge to which any brave enough may rise?

They clamour for the crier to inform them of this mission. They beg and shout to know the rules of this quest. A tournament is not so strange a thing, yet the Vocalians are industrious. They crave challenge, and are ever eager to know what the next one shall be. Ever eager to test their mettle against their friends and neighbours, even if the reward be only one of laurels awarded once the points are tallied.

Smiling, the crier allows their questions to flow. None have yet noticed the hole in their number, the gap left behind by the absence of one who, though quiet, is yet often present at such informative gatherings. For the host of such a tournament cannot themself participate, so the ancient and unwritten rules of such contests go. Yet the absence of one among the many is never so great a deterrence as certain schools of thought might teach.

"It is to be called, 'Seven Days Before,'" the words of the crier silence the majority. So many things could be meant by such a title. Seven days before what? What is to be the point of such an exercise? What themes or understandings are to be presented, discussed, or dissected?

"The patron of this tournament decrees thusly," and here the crier produces a scroll. Unrolling it, he throws his cloak of office over his shoulders, drawing eyes that had wandered in the time between announcement and proclamation back to himself. "With submissions opening henceforth, the tournament is to close at midnight ending the 9th day of August, in the year of our common era 2024. No submission shall be accepted that is in excess of three thousand five hundred words, nor yet any below the count of five hundred."

"And the theme," cries the flame-haired woman, bouncing now in eagerness, "tell us what it is to be!"

"From the pen of the patron himself, I tell you now! 'Each entrant shall present no fewer than one submission, and no more than three, telling the story of a single character who is transported back in time from the present to one of seven days immediately preceding the strictures of the pandemic that did sweep the Earth in year two-thousand-and-twenty of this common era. One character per story only is to be focused on!

"These characters," the crier loudens his voice over the sudden renewed clamour of his audience. "Are pre-determined! Mark these words, 'your choice of the seven characters shall be transported in the narrative to any of the seven days before the declaration of the pandemic by the Organization of Global Health. The method of their transportation need not be explained in any way, unless doing so is your desire.

"'They shall retain their memories of the world that came after the imposed lockdowns, and must, for good or ill, decide what different choices they can or should make. There will be no repeat characters in the winning, and the patron shall endeavour to ensure that as many of the available days are represented in the final list as possible, so work industriously and take with earnest action the path least trodden.

"'The protagonists are to be: a teacher, a single parent (guardian) - the neutral form is herein used to allow greatest freedom of choice for the parental role in question -, a vagrant or otherwise unhoused individual, a foreign migrant worker, a secondary school student, a truly wealthy person/politician or business magnate, and a person with an elderly relation in a care facility.'"

Voices rise, ideas begin to flow freely from ear to ear as none in attendance held any fear of their conceptions being stolen. The residents of Vocalia, the true and honest ones, are plentiful; earnest in their desire to compete in a fair tournament of true skill. Those few who render themselves amiable to none, and still worse, those who utilize unholy algorithms are discounted in all meaningful competition. Such is the true value of residence in such a village.

Already, before the glories that shall be bestowed upon the victors are listed, the light of creativity blooms across the village green. Pens appear in hands as the first glimmers of their submissions shine in the imagination of those who listen to the crier's words.

"To each of seven winners, one for each combination of day and character, shall a bounty be given!" Silence crashes down among the crowd, again their attention is grabbed by the declaration from one who does not currently stand among their number. "Five dollars per victor, and the eternal glory of being among the chosen! Go forth and create now, the patron declares, go forth and in the coming weeks, present your finest work! The tournament begins today!"

Like fog in the early morning before the glare of the sun, the crowd disperses. Fleeing their places of creative refugee, ideas and concepts already churning in their mind.

Pleased with himself, the crier removes the red flower from his helmet, indicating to the now non-existent crowd, that the proclamation has ended. Climbing back into his saddle, the crier of Vocalia returns to the Palace of Curation, awaiting his next declaration.


TL/DR begins now.

Good day fellow Vocalians! If you've read the above, then you know what I'm about today. If not, I'm hosting a contest! Yes, really.

The rules are simple, select one of the characters I'll outline later and send them back in time from the present day to before the declaration of the worldwide pandemic on 11 March 2020. So 7 days before would be March 4th, for example, and explain what different choices they make and why in the days until the declaration of the pandemic.

There will be 7 winners, if I'm lucky enough to get so many submissions, each one receiving a $5 tip through Vocal.

Select a character and one of the 7 days before, write your story, and link it in the comment section of this post. Consider and discuss what the character thinks, how they act, and what different choices they make - or else, what choices they wish they could make - to achieve a better outcome than their previous chance. These stories can be triumphant, tragic, hopeful, horrible, happy, or sad, take your pick.

My dream is that I will get one outstanding story to list in a follow-up article of the winners for each character, and I will try to include as many of the days as possible. So, try one of the days that you think are likely to be less used to boost your visibility :)

The characters are outlined below:

- A teacher who knows that they will be switching to exclusively online learning.

- A single parent who might struggle to balance child care with their work, or perhaps one who knows they will lose their job. Really, anything works just put as much soul in as possible :)

- A homeless or unhoused person who knows how their world will change. They could be a veteran, an abandoned queer person, a person struggling with mental health or addiction issues, or anyone else the world has left behind.

- An international migrant worker who knows that they, once the pandemic is declared, they will be trapped away from family and home.

- A secondary school student who must face the turmoil of isolation and lockdown a second time.

- A really rich person of any description, such as a grocery executive or major landlord, who has a second change to do good, or else reap a greater reward for their misdeeds. This could also be a politician from the ruling or opposition party, really it's up to you. They just have to have money and power.

- And a person, adult or minor, with a beloved though elderly relation who lives in a care home. I included this one because, at least in Ontario, many of these people were severely neglected and many died due to that neglect.

Just in case I wasn't clear, I know this is a bit of a complex ask, the story structure should go like this: A person from 2024 is transported back to when they were a secondary school student in 2020, 4 days before the declaration of the pandemic. Now they need to try and make different choices to either clear regrets or try and make their lives through the pandemic better. If you still have any questions, please drop them in the comments and I'll do my best to explain the madness behind my method. :)

I'm imposing a submission limit of 3 stories per entrant. The word count minimum is 500 and the maximum is 3,500. I think that's sufficient :) I want each character to have an entry in the winners' circle, and I'd like as many of the days to be included as possible as well, so be courageous in your attempts! Although I don’t want to limit your creativity this is important as the winners will be assembled into an anthology here on Vocal of days 1 to 7.

The submission deadline is 9 August 2024 at 11:59 EDT.

I will embed links to each entry in this article. Please include in your comment which day and character you're using just so that everyone has a decent idea of what the competition looks like. And if you think anyone else who might not have seen this would be a good fit, try and recruit them! Really make the decisions HARD for me! It'll be fun :)

Good luck to all! And may your ideas flow freely.

- Alex


The Entries:

By Mike Singleton. Day: 9th Marth 2020. Character: homeless/unhoused

By Liam Storm. Day: 9th March 2020. Character: Secondary School Student


About the Creator

Alexander McEvoy

Writing has been a hobby of mine for years, so I'm just thrilled to be here! As for me, I love writing, dogs, and travel (only 1 continent left! Australia-.-)

"The man of many series" - Donna Fox

I hope you enjoy my madness

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Comments (23)

  • L.C. Schäfer2 days ago

    A smashing idea for a challenge! I shall mull on it and see if anything sprouts forth!

  • I only just found this story… loved the Town Crier etc. What an interesting challenge.

  • Cathy holmes4 days ago

    What a creative way to introduce a challenge. Well done. Can't promise, but I may try this one. Just need to decide who and when, and find the time. I hope you get lots of entries.

  • Kendall Defoe 5 days ago

    I'll have to wait for the weekend to get started on this...but I am on it!

  • Liam Storm5 days ago

    Alex, I have one for you, Secondary School student gone back to the Monday (2 days before) I have gone a bit off piste here, but I hope you like it aha https://vocal.media/fiction/the-mysterious-mc-evoy

  • Cyrus5 days ago

    Congrats on TS!

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Sam Avery6 days ago

    Really amazing interesting good work excellent.

  • Shaun Walters6 days ago

    Looking forward to seeing what people do!

  • Donna Fox (HKB)6 days ago

    EHHHHH!!! Congrats on Top Story Big AL!!!!! 🎉

  • Liam Storm6 days ago

    Told you it would make top story!! Back to say congrats and my gears are still turning on mine 🙌👌

  • Paul Stewart6 days ago

    Congrats for this getting Top Story, Alexander! Hope you get lots of entries!

  • Anna 7 days ago

    Great challenge, with a long deadline. Gonna check this out later😊

  • Is your only character allowed the student? "A person from 2024 is transported back to when they were a secondary school student in 2020" or any of these characters? Mine is running around in my head but I wouldn't want to be restricted but I can do Thanks

  • Nicole Elmy7 days ago

    This is pure genius! I live the idea of a Day 1 thru 7 anthology of stories going from a lot of planning horizon to literally none at all…think of all the TP I would have stockpiled ;) - just teasin’. I am intrigued by the concept of what supports I would have put in place had I had the opportunity. BRAVO!

  • Oooo!! This is so exciting! What a fantastic idea. I'll definitely be mulling this over and working on some stuff :) Also, the opening story here was oddly satisfying for me. I felt sucked back in time. You've got a knack for medieval-era stuff. Anyway, here's to many great entries!

  • Donna Fox (HKB)7 days ago

    Loved the opening scene, I could took deal with more midivil era pieces from you!! The characterizations were amazing and just really drew me in as a whole!! Now, on to the challenge. To make sure I fully understand I need to repeat it back to you! Word count 500- 3500, pick a character and a single day (with in 7 days before lockdown) and have them make a choice that would have made their lockdown easier. Correct??

  • Paul Stewart7 days ago

    Oooooh, Alexander! This is an excellent idea for a challenge. I loved your intro! Helped give a bit of tension, excitement and intrigue to the whole thing! So...just incase my brain isn't properly working yet - for instance, if I were to enter just once...I'd chose one of the characters above and write about them going back to one of the 7 days before the pandemic was announced on the 11th of March 2020? so one of the days between the 3rd to the 10th. So...like if I only chose my character to go back to like the 10th...there is potentially less time for them to plan much out and make changes, whereas if they went back on the 3rd, they have at least a few days to play with. I feel like in trying to explain it, I've overcomplicated it again lol. I think I've got that bit right though - choose one of your excellent characters, pick one of the days between 3rd and 10th of March 2020 and write about what they might do different. Either way, it is a marvellous challenge and really creative. I bet this gets Top Story - hope so- and then you get lots of excellent entries!

  • Liam Storm8 days ago

    Amazing 😂 loved the build up, I was wondering where it was going until I saw it was announced to the good residents of Vocalia 😂 I will get my gears in motion and try to come up with something! P.s. I'll be surprised if this doesn't get top story

  • I've added this to the VSS Unofficial Challenge thread as well , expect my entry at some point https://www.facebook.com/groups/376191867241324/permalink/1013209476872890

  • Mackenzie Davis8 days ago

    This is SO CLEVER! I love the specificity and the promise of an anthology at the end! I’ll have to really change gears for this! Fantastic, Alex! And so well written. I love the fantasy setting you chose for the first half! I was totally transported! What funnn!!! 🤗

  • I'm sorry but I'm very confused. I know that we cannot write about our own characters but would have to choose 1 out of the 7 characters that you've provided. But what do you mean by "each character must have at least an entry"? Do we like have to write 7 stories for all your 7 characters? And the 7 days, what is that? I don't get that at all 😅 I only understand that the character goes back in time before the pandemic was declared

Alexander McEvoyWritten by Alexander McEvoy

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