Jillian started writing fantasy after reading, and promptly falling in love with, A Song of Ice and Fire. She has a novel in the works.
- Valentine’s Day is approaching quickly, and being the procrastinator you are, you’ve not yet gotten your significant other a gift. On the night of the 13th, you decide enough is enough. Tying an apron around your waist and grabbing a shotgun off the wall, you head out the door to find the perfect gift.
- As the TA of an advanced Boolean logic class, you're tasked with collecting and grading students’ homework assignments. When one of them starts turning in papers covered with symbols you’ve never seen used in math, let alone Boolean logic, you confront them and threaten to fail the assignments. Shrugging, they hand you a sheet of paper mapping symbols to syllables and walk off.
- You’re a barista working three part-time jobs to make ends meet. Sometimes, you see the same customers several times a day, but at different locations and while you’re dressed in different uniforms. After a couple of weeks, one of them pulls you aside and asks, sincerely, how you managed to perfect a teleportation spell.
- As a broke college student, you do anything you can to make money. One of your most fruitful strategies is walking around campus early in the morning to collect spare change sitting in vending machines. On one particularly dark morning, you slide your hand into a coin return slot and feel something... different.
- For the last two weeks, your town has been ravaged by rainfall. You’ve coped by locking yourself indoors, but as the fifteenth consecutive day of stormy weather dawns cold and gloomy, you decide you’ve had enough. Steeling yourself, you run outside in your pajamas, turn your face up to the sky, and tell the rain sternly that it needs to stop. It obliges.
- You’ve earned a reputation among your group of friends for the paintings you give out as gifts on birthdays and holidays, and now they’re encouraging you to sell your prints online. You feel bad telling them you can’t, but the truth is, you’re not the one making the paintings.
- You just got locked out of your apartment, and not knowing who to call, you wander to the closest liquor store to grab a snack and think things over until your roommate gets off work. As you’re checking out, the cashier nods towards a door by the freezer section, telling you you’ll find “just what you’re lookin’ for” behind it.
- You’re several hours deep in a cram session for one of your hardest classes. Empty Red Bull containers litter the floor beside your desk, and the words in your textbook have started to float above the page. You start reading them aloud only to find that each glows a different color as you say it. When you reach the end of the page, the book starts burning... but you find yourself impervious to the flames.
- You show up to work expecting the office to be just as dull as usual. When you clock in, however, you notice something’s off: Music blasts from a radio you can’t see, and streamers hanging from the ceiling announce your company’s “promotion.” When you ask a coworker what this promotion entails, she tells you enthusiastically that your branch has been acquired by the Retail King.
- You pet-sit for a living. Of late, business has been booming, and you can expect on any given day to see a variety of exotic species delivered to your home for specialized care. Today’s batch includes a parrot whose owner very specifically informs you not to mention anything regarding magic, spells, or warlocks in its vicinity.
- You live in a world where companies dispatch agents to surreptitiously evaluate potential hires before calling them in for an interview. You've never suspected any of them have shown interest in you until five men dressed in suits pop out of the bushes and ask to see your resume.
- You work in the food court of a large mall. Hundreds of people come through the court each day, and for the most part, you don't remember what they look like. As you’re closing up shop one evening, a customer wanders to your check-stand, throwing a twenty-dollar bill on the counter before ordering something that isn’t on the menu. Before you can tell them everything they’re doing wrong, they’ve slid you another twenty.
- After discovering your best friend has been stealing money from you behind your back, you head to a coffee parlor to relax. As you fold yourself despairingly over a table at the far end of the building, you feel someone settle into the chair across from you. Before you have time to react, they’re asking you what’s wrong.
- As the princess of a wealthy, well-known nation, you’ve never been fond of the marriage your parents arranged for you when you were younger. It’s not that you hate the prince they’ve chosen, but more that you prefer his younger brother.
- You and your best friend have been each other’s wingmen for as long as either of you can remember—yet despite all of the bars you hit up, neither of you has gotten a date in years. Annoyed at your prolonged lack of an intimate relationship, the two of you resolve to try a new strategy at the next party you attend.
- You’ve always loved going to the park late at night to stargaze, but work has kept you from it for the last couple weeks. When your boss decides to let you off early one evening, you run to the park with a blanket thrown over your shoulders... only to find that someone is taking up your space.
- You’re making a frenzied run to the grocery store to pick up a bottle of spice you didn‘t realize a recipe called for until you’d gotten halfway through preparing it. Your hair‘s a mess, you’re in sandals, and you’re more than certain there’s a dab of sauce on your face, but how you look is the last thing on your mind just now. As you round the corner and enter the spice aisle, however, you see someone who makes you realize that’s probably a mistake.
- You’ve been making an effort recently to get involved in clubs on campus, knowing that developing a good social circle is part of what makes the high school experience so memorable. You show up to your chosen club’s first meeting only to be swept off your feet by the president’s welcome speech and, intrigued by their style of speaking, and you ask how they got so good at public presentation. Their answer isn’t anything like what you expected.
- You’ve always hated your job, but it’s the only one you can seem to find within walking distance of your house. You tell yourself things will get better one day, and eventually, they do: You get a new coworker who catches your eye.
- You’re the ruler of a small principality on the outskirts of the kingdom. Life has never been particularly hard for you, a fact in which you take great pride. Then the boat shows up.
- As the lesser-known discoverer of a popular spell in your community, you’ve never been recognized as being particularly powerful. In fact, most people don't think you can use magic at all. One day, a girl approaches you in the market with a strange request: She wants you to make her a mage.
- You work a side gig as a ticket cop at your town’s biggest shopping center. As you’re putting through the parking lot in your world-class Segway, you notice a group of people decked in chainmail emerging from two rundown Civics. You think one is wearing a crown.
- On your way out of the grocery store, you notice a table set up by the cart return. Thinking it belongs to your local Girl Scout chapter, you wander over with a hand on your wallet, searching for loose change to satisfy your craving for a sweet treat. When you reach the table, however, you nearly drop your purse in surprise at what—or who—you see sitting there.
- You just moved into an apartment with three of your closest friends. The rent’s cheap, the apartment’s close to public transportation, and the landlord doesn‘t bother you. In fact, you can’t recall ever having seen the guy. Curious as to his identity, you walk down to his office with some doughnuts and a bottle of Coke, but when you knock on the door, someone you weren’t expecting answers.
- You’re looking through the Facebook marketplace for a cheap place to stay while your house is under renovation. After a couple of minutes of scrolling, you come across an ad that seems too good to be true. The only catch?—The owner wants a roommate with "pronounced magical aptitude."
- You work as a busboy in a family-owned pizza shop by your house. You don’t mind the work, but sometimes you wonder if there’s more out there for you in the world. On a particularly slow day, a stranger stumbles into the shop blabbering in a language none of your coworkers understand. When they call on you to muscle the stranger out of the shop, he grips your arm and repeats his message. Shockingly, you understand him.
- After a year of pinching pennies, you’ve finally saved up enough money to jet off to a foreign country you’ve had your eye on for ages. When you arrive at the airport, however, the concierge informs you your ticket doesn’t match any flights in the public database. It does, however, match one in the private database—something you didn't know existed.
- Your neighbor is a retired chef with lots of time on their hands and has offered for years to share the food they make with you. You’ve always denied them, thinking the offer strange, but when you end up on bed rest after breaking your leg in an accident, you decide to call them up.
- As your community’s local bog witch, you’ve spent countless hours cultivating a frightening image for yourself. So far, your work has paid off: Nobody bothers you in your cottage by the swamp, and you get to enjoy unlimited peace and silence. That is until a boy knocks on your door, saying he wants to meet the “nice lady my mother told me about.”
- You deliver pastries for a multinational baking company. One day, your boss calls you into her office, sliding you a single-page invoice that reads, “Brimstone Brownies, seven dozen.” When you tell her you’ve never heard of a product by that name, she shrugs and admits she hasn’t, either. “But if you manage to get this order out,” she says, “I promise you a hefty commission.”
- You play video games professionally and pride yourself on your stance among the top .01% of players in several popular games. Because you view optimizing the way you play as a full-time job, you devote most of your day to practice. Your commitment pays off when you qualify for the first in a series of tournaments that will put you against the best of the best.
- You’re a geologist investigating an abandoned cave in the foothills. Normally, such environments don’t faze you, but as you move further below the surface, you become aware of unfamiliar sounds in the darkness. When you shine your flashlight in the direction of the noise, you see three forking tunnels—and a sign posted in front of them.
- You’re waiting for the evening bus home when you feel a soft tapping on your arm. You look down to see an elderly woman wrapped in a threadbare pink shawl. When you try to ask her what she wants, you find yourself unable to speak.
- You’re a necromancer employed by the king to resurrect knights who’ve fallen in battle. You’ve lost count of the number you‘ve brought back over the years, but keeping track has never been important to you—that is, not until you’re reading the fine print of the contract you made with the devil at the start of your career and come across a line reading, “After recovering 20,000 souls without a renewal of the blood pact, the undersigned‘s soul will be promptly, and irremediably, consumed after a period of three months.”
- After falling on hard times, you’ve started to sleep in the trunk of a car you found parked in your town’s junkyard. It’s not the most comfortable of situations, but the junkyard seems abandoned, and it’s a relief having somewhere to lay your head at night. You sense something isn’t right, though, when you settle in one night and feel a bump under your pillow.
- Through years of work, you’ve earned a reputation for being the best detective in the business, and as a result, people from every walk of life come to you looking for services. You’re confident that you can handle any case, but when a boy comes in and tells you the Rampant King has taken his brother hostage, you start to question whether you're up to the challenge.
- You don’t get out much. Your roommates, however, have convinced you to come with them to the maze beneath your university’s central hall. Apparently, students have died there after getting lost in the dark, winding passages, but you've never believed in those types of urban legends. They’re all fake, right?
- There’s a painting in your living room that’s been there as long as you can remember. You don’t look at it much, but it has an odd style you kind of like—and besides, taking it down would be a hassle. One day, you notice its colors have changed. Within the next couple of hours, it’s morphed into something... unsettling.
- You and a friend decide to go dumpster diving one particularly boring afternoon, figuring you might find some neat trinkets lying around in the trash. You set out for an apartment complex down the street, but when you peer into the first dumpster, you find items you weren’t expecting.
- You boot up your computer one evening to find your desktop background has been changed to a picture you thought you’d never see again.
- You access a shady website to download textbooks you need for school, but when you click the link at the top of the page, you find yourself being directed to a site you didn’t think still existed.
© 2019 Jillian Cameron