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Vidya and Sharad sat on wooden stools and watched the flames leaping high. The winter in McCluskieganj was severe that year. Thankfully, their caretaker had arranged for a mini campfire outside the small cottage.

Vidya rubbed her hands together, grateful for the warmth. She looked at Sharad and spoke in a soft tone, “I hope the others reach tomorrow without any glitches.”

Sharad shrugged his shoulders. “Who could have predicted a road blockage near Ranchi airport?”

An uncomfortable silence descended over them. Two hours before, they had met for the first time in person. They were members of various writing communities and had won accolades for their stellar stories. So, when an email arrived in their inboxes asking them if they were interested in a retreat-cum-workshop, they replied in the affirmative. 

When they arrived at McCluskieganj, they learned their mates would arrive only the next day. Having no other option, they struck up a conversation with each other. 

Sharad blew into his palms. “Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t we play a game?”

Vidya’s ears perked up.

Sharad continued, “Truth or dare.”

Vidya nodded excitedly. 

Sharad smiled at her. “Ladies first!”

Vidya cleared her throat and pondered for a minute. She grinned and shot the first question at him. “Did you like Animal?

Sharad laughed out loud. “What type of a question is this? Ok. Ok. I’ll answer it. I despised it. Now my turn!”

He hummed for a minute before shooting his question at her.

“Have you ever stolen an idea from another story?”

A flash of alarm flashed over Vidya’s face, but she recovered soon.


The arrival of the caretaker interrupted their game. He brought two cups of hot chocolate, which he placed on a small tool. After he left, Vidya and Sharad grabbed the cups gratefully. 

Vidya took a sip and looked at Sharad. “Have you ever flirted with a fellow writer?” 

Sharad shook his head, but not before Vidya had sensed an iota of hesitation.

“Have you ever trolled someone?” That was Sharad’s question to Vidya.


“What was the most outrageous feedback you have ever received?”

Sharad laughed at Vidya. “You should know that. Remember my story ‘The Night at the Cemetery’? That person with no profile picture wrote an entire paragraph dissecting it.”

Vidya made an aah sound.

Suddenly, a scream reverberated in the area. Startled, Vidya and Sharad got up and looked around. There was a rustling sound coming from the bush. But before they could react, a silhouette of a petite girl appeared before them. 

Vidya rubbed her eyes in disbelief. A girl in pigtails approached them.

“Who are you?” Sharad demanded to know from the stranger.

“I am Rati,” whispered the girl. “I stay in the cottage. My father is the caretaker.”

Relief swept over Vidya’s face. “But you shouldn’t have startled us like this.”

“I am sorry.”

“It’s ok,” said Sharad, waving his hand. 

“You know, I’m a writer too,” said Rati.

Vidya suppressed the giggle that was threatening to escape her mouth. 

“Oh yeah!” Sharad’s tone was equally sardonic. “May I know what you have written?”

Kabristan me ek raat!”

Sharad staggered back. His eyes were wide. The shock was writ large on his face. Rati turned towards Vidya. 

“Nobody believed me when you stole my story and wrote your ‘Letters to Amma’!

Vidya drew a long breath. “How dare you accuse us of something so outrageous! We are acclaimed writers.”

Rati grimaced. “I am not smart like you. I wrote my stories for the sake of enjoyment and was content posting them on my blog. But when someone drew my attention to your stories, I was taken aback.”

She glared at Sharad. “I contacted you, but you played your most charming game and apologised to me. You also promised me that it wouldn’t happen.”

It was Vidya’s turn to gape at Sharad. “You knew her all along.”

Sharad’s eyes were downcast. “I remembered the profile picture, but I was not sure.”

Rati pointed her finger at Vidya. “You are not innocent either. When I politely requested you to take down your story, you played the victim card and blocked me on social media. You also ensured others did the same. Of course, you are well connected.”

The leaves from the shrubs rustled. 

Rati continued to speak. “I invested time in my stories. You both didn’t even have the decency to acknowledge it.”

Vidya murmured a barely audible sorry. Sharad stood like a statue.

“When the lorry ran over me, I thought about the battle I could have fought. But fate had other plans. But I refused to leave this mortal world.”

“Excuse me!” Vidya raised her eyebrow.

“Yes! I died that day.”

Vidya and Sharad looked at each other for a minute. Then they broke out into laughter, bending back and clutching their stomachs. 

“We have a ghost!” Their tone was mocking. 

Rati came near them. The flames cast their light on her face. Or where it should have been!

Vidya and Sharad let out a scream. They tried to dash towards the cottage, but they couldn’t budge.

“How about a lesson in plagiarism!” hissed Rati.

The caretaker went about in his kitchen, rolling out rotis. The screams grew louder, but they failed to penetrate the glass windows. 


‘Writers Forever’ continued its successful run. Two of its star writers, Vidya Jha and Sharad Malhotra, quit the Facebook group. It was brought to light by a user that the two often stole ideas from unsuspecting people. Their award-winning stories were lifted from a girl in Jharkhand. When the admin tried to contact her to apologise, she came to know that Rati Munda was no more. A freak accident had snuffed the life out of her. 

As a group which had zero tolerance for dishonesty, the two were blacklisted from the writers’ community. 

When asked by Vidya and Sharad about the workshop at McCluskieganj, the admin denied sending out any such email.


Story of Prompt #7 –

A campfire, a scream, a lie that keeps getting bigger & bigger

Word Count –

1000 (only the story)

Prompt by –



  • Romila says:

    The story had a captivating blend of mystery, suspense, and a twist of the supernatural. The setting in McCluskieganj added to the eerie atmosphere, especially with the winter cold and the mini campfire. The introduction of Vidya and Sharad as accomplished writers who initially connect during a retreat-cum-workshop sets the stage for an unexpected turn of events.

  • Jaee Jadhav says:

    I loved the setting of the surroundings here! well described. Best Regards,

  • Tanvi Agarwal says:

    Your take on this prompt is well thought. I mean to bring in this context how there are people who steal other people’s work and make it theirs. It is splendid to pen it as a story

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