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10 Minutes – City of the Dead

They say when you step through the Mists for the first time as a living being it’s a terrible experience. It’s the first thing you learn in school, possibly even before your first year. Me, I learned it from my parents.

Standing right outside its icy veils now I held my breath – a necessary precaution to take for any living soul stepping through – and made that big step.

At first I was scared of opening my eyes again. My grandmother had always waved away their warnings saying the same wouldn’t happen to me, but my parents had been determined to put me off trying. I was special, my grandma was right, but special enough for this? The other side of these mists was not something any living human should see, yet here I was, chancing my luck.

Slowly I opened my eyes, preparing myself for seeing ‘nothing’ for the first time. Just, when I opened them, I didn’t see ‘nothing’. I saw a beautiful meadow stretch out as far as I could see, something faintly resembling a shining city at the very horizon, and there were some smaller ruins scattered throughout the landscape. Here and there I saw pale shades – the dead, I knew – wandering around, enjoying the day out in the bright green afterlife sun.

For a moment I forgot how to breathe. Was this- No, it couldn’t be. No one living had ever laid eyes on Essil, the city of the dead. According to old legends, it’s where we went when we died. A haven for the souls, so to speak. Everyone knew the stories, but no one had ever seen it to know for sure. Yet… No, it couldn’t be. I had to be mistaken, I just had to be!

Careful not to disturb anything more than I seemingly had already, I set one foot in front of the other. I could walk. Here. Most people just floated in a sea of dark nothingness when they arrived, apparently. But I could walk across a meadow, amongst the shades of the departed, catching a glimpse of Essil.

Panicking at the implications I let myself fall back, ignoring every instinct I had to run as fast as I could to the golden city miles away before me. Or maybe it was merely a thought away? Who could say. I was the first to do this as only the dead were able.

Breathing fast and my eyes wide, I clutched the sides of a nearby tree terrified I’d drown. Just when I accepted that I really was back in our plain, Grandma grabbed my arm, pulling me into a comforting embrace.

“Sshhh, it’s all right, baby girl. What happened?”

How could I tell her? Thank the Maker my parents weren’t here, they’d never believe me. Grandma, on the other hand… She had believed in me, hadn’t she?

“I saw it. Essil. The city. I saw-”

Her hold on me tightened, bringing forth more force than I had known her to possess at the proud age of eighty-one.

“Truly. Then the legend… You must go back, baby girl. We are all depending on it.”

Well, I didn’t want to. They would just have to find someone else to bail them out. Someone else with the same impossible ability as me.

I sighed. What choice was there, really?

“Open it again.”

“Oh baby girl, I didn’t mean right now. It can wait until after you’ve rested.”

Eagerly, I shook my head. “No, it’s fine. I wasn’t there that long. I’m fine to go again.”

A proud smile on her lips, my Grandma did as I asked. The mists slowly, gracefully curled around our feet and slowly up our bodies. Grandma stepped away to a safe distance, whereas I held my breath ready to step through once again.

Ready to walk right into Essil, and find the reason the mists between our worlds had been disturbed in the first place.


All of my 10-Minute stories are improvised, unplanned, and unedited apart from spelling and grammar mistakes. The idea is to kick-start the dreaded Monday with a short, creative exercise without thinking about it, and simply writing for the sake of writing.

For all other 10-Minute shorts, take a look here.

Published inMonday ShortsUncategorized


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