Fifteen Minutes to Live

I signed up for #Trust30, an online initiative and 30-day writing challenge that encourages you to look within and trust yourself. Use this as an opportunity to reflect on your now, and to create direction for your future. 30 prompts from inspiring thought-leaders will guide you on your writing journey.


We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Prompt by Gwen Bell: You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live. 1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes. 2. Write the story that has to be written.

Here goes (c. 8.00pm).

The letter dropped from her hand. The paper was thick and ivory and bordered with a thin strip of pure silver. The door stood silent, not daring to say anything after a hurried “goodbye” to the winged messenger who had brought the note and handed it to the frowning girl.

Of all days, this was the last thing she wanted to read: the end of her life. Why today? Why now? She had paintings to finish and supper to make and a birthday to celebrate tomorrow. And now. This. Fifteen minutes to live, the note said. She had known what it was the minute the envelope iced her hand. The messenger wasn’t Death, though she wished now it had been. At least she would have gone before she had time to think. She bent down and picked up the fallen paper. Fire burned through the letters of her name and the time of her imminent death, looping flames of colour that trailed across the paper like the tail of a snake across sand. Fifteen minutes to live the note had said. It was worth repeating. It was a lot less than that now. She refused to look at her watch. What good was to know she’d wasted time standing at the door instead of doing whatever people did when they knew they had fifteen minutes left to live.

“Wait!” she cried out to the empty air. “Come back. I need to speak with you.”

In an instant the room shimmered with light and in a stream of blazing white a figure stood in front of the girl.

“You delivered this message to me didn’t you?” the girl demanded though she knew the answer. “Why?”

“Because you know who I am. I wanted to give you a second chance. Before it’s too late.”

“A second chance? At what? To be the nobody I was before I made a deal with the Devil? Look at me. I’m the most famous painter in the world!”

“A chance to be yourself before it’s too late.”

“Myself?” Her words stopped. “Who am I? I’m a poor girl from a broken family who had a mediocre talent in art. People laughed when I said I wanted to be a painter. That’s the person you want me to be in the last few minutes of my life instead of who I’ve become?”

“In your mediocre talent was a seed of light to be great, and to live a good life. You just had to trust yourself that it would carry you through the dark. You chose a different path. But it’s not too late.”

The girl felt the minutes draining away from her, her heartbeat growing thinner, the blood slowing down. She knew the figure in front of her was right. He was her guardian angel. He knew everything she had done and left undone. She felt the weight of regret in her eyes as she looked into the streaming light.

“What should I do?” she said. “Show me the way back to myself.”


Note: #trust30 is the twitter hashtag to post responses and read those of others who are taking part in this 30-day challenge.

I wrote this short piece directly onto my blog The Breeze at Dawn Has Secrets for the allotted time, without pausing to think. During the last minute, the scene led to a small ending, while leaving open the possibility of enlarging the story at a later time.

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