Olympian Short Story Contest Runner-up: “Unknown”

Congratulations to The Olympian Short Story Contest Runner-up, Dianne Jin! “This story is short and sweet,” said judge and senior Evan Griffith. “It uses the power of an omniscient narrator only to pose questions, while using the characters’ voices to inform the reader of relationships, personalities, and conflicts. It is impressive to see a complex moment in the relationship of a daughter and mother depicted only by small details in short form writing.”

“[This is] a little piece I have written in the past. I wrote it for a reason, yet perhaps you can tell me the reason?” said Jin.


Unknown

There were no hints. Just sudden realization and understanding. 

The rice heats the other food in her mouth, contrasting the temperatures. It lingers, but she can’t taste anything. A rush of adrenaline tries to aid her, stuffing it down to her stomach, but the loud flaps of slippers approach closer. She swallows the food in her mouth. It’s too late. 

She watches and waits. The woman enters the kitchen, gets herself a serving of rice, and seats herself to her left. For a while, chopsticks are in motion alongside the mechanical movement of jaws opening and closing. 

“Don’t leave so soon. Stay seated.” 

She sits back down. “Yes?” 

“Do the dishes tonight.” 

“… I have homework I need to finish.” 

“Your sister washed yesterday.” 

“And my brother can’t do it today?” 

“He can’t do it.” 

“Can Dad do it?” 

“You can ask, but he’s busy. He probably wouldn’t do well either.” 

“Can you do it?” 

“I just got home. It’s your responsibility to do some chores.” 

“I have homework. I’m busy.” 

“I don’t think so.” 

“Ha..!” 

“What.” 

“Exactly. What. What am I? A robot?”

“What?” 

“Am I a robot? Am I supposed to follow everything you say? Am I supposed to have feelings?” She stares at the woman’s confused face and continues. “Maybe I am a defective robot that wasn’t supposed to have feelings. Is that why you’re gone all the time? Going to a secret lab and recording data that no one would imagine is weird if a woman in a mail carrier outfit would have the information?” 

She stares closer at the pale face. She understands everything. She laughs. 

The universe loves to watch the show called Earth.

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