I saw the reply to my submission email. Anxiously, heart fluttering in my chest, I clicked it open.
I was rejected. They thought my theme was nice, but the writing was too much telling and not showing, and the characters needed development.
You may not think this is the time to celebrate. I mean, I got rejected. Pushed away. Discarded. Ignored.
But that’s not how I saw it.
I’m not saying it didn’t hurt. It did. Really badly! I wandered around in my room, my senses dulled, my stomach aching after the butterflies had left, and my feet feeling like lead. I looked out my window and little depressing thoughts flitted through my mind. I’m not good enough. No one likes my writing. I’m a failure. I lost. I was defeated. I’m the worst writer in the world. I can’t publish a book. If a website rejected my short story, how will I ever stand a chance with submitting a full length novel to an agent? Will I ever be published?
Okay, now I’m probably starting to depress you. XD Sorry about that. I’ll move on. Like I said, it hurt, but I think all of that depression and all of those sad, despairing thoughts lasted no more than two minutes. Then my head cleared. I straightened up. I looked out the window again but this time with triumph in my eyes.
I had done it!!
I had submitted my first ever short story to a website. I had gotten over my fears of sending it in. Battled my doubt that I could actually click the send button to carry my little short story across the wi-fi to the other person’s inbox. But I had done it. And I had gotten rejected.
The best thing was that I was not afraid to try again. I don’t really care I got rejected. I feel rather proud of myself just getting to the point of receiving a rejection. And next time, maybe it will be different.
So to you, dear reader, if you have been rejected before, or if you are anxious, wondering if you will ever build up the courage to even send in your amazing work, even if you have sent it and are waiting for the reply, I tell you this: DON’T. GIVE. UP.
Never ever. Don’t even think about it. That will start you down the path of actually giving up. Even if it’s just a fleeting thought, it will start running through your head more and more. So fight that. Even if you’ve been rejected multiple times, keep at it. Because every rejection brings you closer to acceptence.
And a fun fact that I heard from someone: C. S. Lewis was rejected 800 times. 800!!! But he didn’t give up. And you shouldn’t either.
And now to the second part of this post: I shall give you the pleasure of reading the rejected short story.
*bows* Enjoy. 🙂
The ax whistled through the air with deadly precision and split the round wood chunk into two perfect wedges. It stuck quivering into the tree stump underneath.
Daniel Raclaw braced himself, tensing his massive muscles and pulled the ax blade out with one heave. He lifted his thick arms high and stretched his sore back. Reaching down he grasped the rough bark of another large log and placed it on the stump.
Two more perfectly wedged pieces of firewood toppled from both sides of the tree stump and lay in the dirt with many others.
With every whack of the ax, the pile continued to grow, and the pile of thick logs continued to shrink. When all the log chopping had been done, Daniel lay his dull and chipped ax aside and began to stack. One piece after another, perfectly laid out, went under the overhang beside the wood log shack which he called home.
It was a tidy property, if small.
His house, a garden in the back, a shed not far away, and then his only horse and the small wheat field that gave him the money which kept him alive.
The stacking was done swiftly and efficiently and when the sun was just beginning to sink underneath the wide mountains in the west, Daniel Raclaw rubbed the heavy bags under his swollen and bloodshot eyes and headed for the front door of his shack.
The vibration of webbed feet on the earth froze him mid-step. The quivering in the earth crawled up his legs, through his spine, and into his scalp, and he began to shiver violently.
Not Iraaz. Not again. He groaned and turned to the sound. Timen stood by the gate which was the only opening to the little farm. The lizard like creatures hissed and dug their massive claws into the ground, they’re scaly tails lashing the air behind them.
The tall fence that surrounded his property kept even the best horses from jumping over, but for the Timen it was no trouble at all.
They bunched their rippling leg muscles and leaped straight over it, landing hard on the inside. The Timen were not alone.
Iraaz and five of his men kicked their spur-clad heels into their large lizard steeds and moved toward the stooped, defeated man on the porch of his home. Dressed in not much more than rags and his hair wild and uncut, Daniel truly looked a miserable sight.
“What do you want, Iraaz?” Daniel said slowly, bitterly. He raised his head and stared hard at the massive man before him. Iraaz, at least six feet of nothing but muscle and toughness, smirked as he looked down at his lesser.
Iraaz was the master of the surrounding land, rich, power hungry, and cruel.
Down from the very depths of Daniel’s heart there burned a great hatred for the man. The man that had killed for his power, ruined poor families for his power, and stolen everything for his power.
“I’ve come again, Dan.”
“Daniel,” Daniel corrected, and straighted.“and once again, no, Iraaz. This is my land, my soil, and my home. You won’t take it from me. Not ever.”
Iraaz snarled and drew his scimitar. His men did the same. He brought the blade down to set it upon Daniel’s neck.
“I don’t care what you say, peasant. I want this land, and I am going to have it!”
Daniel slapped the flat of Iraaz’s blade. Not expecting the sharp move, Iraaz dropped it. It clattered to the cobblestone road which led to the foot of the house.
Iraaz stiffened and then motioned for one of his men to pick it up. The man scrambled over the side of his Timen, nearly fell, and then stooping, picked up the blade and gingerly offered it to Iraaz.
Iraaz snatched the curved weapon up and sheathed it with a bang.
“One month, Daniel Raclaw. One month to move out, or I’m coming in.”
Iraaz whirled his Timen, and then charging for the gate, leaped over it and was gone. His men disappeared after him.
Daniel ignored Iraaz’s warning, but it constantly nagged at the back of his mind. Throughout the next day he continued to work, but always he thought about how all the work would go to waste in a month’s time.
His healthy golden wheat would be trampled, perfectly stacked wood scattered, and dirty, filthy men like Iraaz would be living in his tidy, little cabin.
When it grew towards the evening he walked into the shed, which doubled for a stable, and began to softly stroke his horse, feeding it from his hand.
“Hey, Hilven. How are you doing?” he whispered to the powerful animal.
Hilven nickered and licked up some more grain from Daniel’s palm.
Just then there was a loud whinny from outside.
Daniel groaned. Not Iraaz. Not again. Had he changed his mind about staying out for a month? Had he decided to take his land now? Then he straightened. No, it couldn’t be Iraaz. He and his men always rode Timen, never horses. But who else would be out here at this hour to torment him, a poor man scarcely making enough money to continue living?
Well if it was not Iraaz, he was willing to face it. His legs began to pump toward the gate. He skidded to a halt, sending cobblestones and dust flying every which way, and peeked through a hole in the gate to look. He saw a horse’s snout sniffing him through the gap.
He quickly pushed up the latch and tugged the wood barrier away on it’s squeaky hinges. The horse walked in, but with a man on it’s back. And it wasn’t just any man. He wore a chain mail shirt which came to his knees where it then met hunting boots, scuffed and worn from constant use. A thick leather belt strapped around his waist held a silver sword in a highly polished scabbard. A dark blue tunic came over the chain mail and a bright coat of arms displayed his loyalty to a kingdom Daniel was not familiar with. A helmet covered his features, but Daniel knew right away he was unconscious. He slumped over the horse’s broad shoulders, and he was completely limp. With further inspection, Daniel saw why. A huge tear in the chain mail which covered his arm revealed a nasty looking gash.
He knew that this man must be a master of riding if he had stayed on for so long. The dried blood all over showed that, along with the way the man straddled his mount.
Daniel’s first thought was to turn the horse around and send it away, but a nagging feeling in his heart continued to let the horse and rider in.
When they entered, the horse moved too close to one side of the fence and the knight’s shoulder bumped it. He tilted and began to fall.
Daniel rushed to the other side of the horse just in time to catch him before he struck the ground. That’s when Daniel saw the extent of the wound. It was deep and horrible. He could not turn this man away. Gently pulling him from the stirrups, he carried the knight inside.
It took great effort, but Daniel was strong. He lay the knight on his bed and then knelt beside him. He slowly pulled the knight’s helmet away from his head. He set it to the side and stared into the man’s face. It was noble and handsome, but tightened up in pain. He had large bruises and a nasty looking scar that ran from his hairline to the high cheekbone, then continued across his chiseled jaw and ended just before it hit the neck.
“But he’s alive,” Daniel whispered to himself. “Even after both wounds!”
Daniel slipped the dark blue tunic off, then the chain mail.
Stripping him of the rest of his armor, he examined him for any more wounds. Bright blue and purple bruises covered him, but nothing else.
Was this knight in a battle? Was he attacked by Iraaz while he rode through this area of the country? What happened? The thoughts flowed through Daniel’s mind as he rose from the side of the bed and walked to his medicine cabinet. There wasn’t much there, but he took everything he had anyway. Settling down on the stool next to his bed, Daniel went to work. Taking a damp cloth he cleaned the young knight of the crusted over blood, and then smeared ointments over his open wounds.
His fingers drug across the coarse surface of the bandage he pulled from his box and he winced. It might be so rough that it could open the wound even more than if he didn’t apply it, but he tied it on anyway. It was better than worse, more or less, and would keep the wound clean.
He rose from the stool and walked to the small fire in the hearth. Quickly pouring some warm broth from the pot into a bowl, he came back to the knight and spoonful by spoonful, fed it to him. The knight spit much of it up, but some went down.
Daniel sighed greatly. What was he to do? He would probably kill the knight instead of heal him. A suddenly flash of memory overtook his mind, and he saw his wife on the bed, just like the knight, sick and dying. Everyone of his family had lain on the bed and he on the stool, taking care of them as best as he could. And they had not survived. Not even one.
Tears blurred the knight before Daniel and he angrily fisted them away. He would help this knight. He would heal him. Even if it cost him every cent that he owned and every breath in his own body, he would heal this man.
The days passed quickly. The knight began to grow more stable, and his breathing came in a normal rhythm, if slightly shallow.
The only problem was that Daniel was running out of medicines, not to mention food. He never had enough food for himself in the house, but for two full grown men? The knight had begun to swallow normally now in his unconsciousness, and Daniel always fed the man before himself. Now there was nothing but a crust of bread and some broth between them, and the medicine cabinet held all but empty bottles.
Daniel slowly broke the crust into several small pieces and fed them one by one to the knight. When the knight had finished, there was but a bite of bread and a swallow of broth. He ate it, and then eased himself up from the stool and walked to a small drawer. Taking a key from his belt he unlocked it and took out a small sack of money. He had never used his only savings for anything, not when he had been sick, or when his horse had, or when he had run out of water for the wheat. He had always found another way. But this time he had to use it to get more food and medicine for the knight.
He walked toward the door, wavered, and turned back. This was the only money he had. If he used it, he would never have more money for any other emergency. He closed his eyes tightly, and leaped through the door.
Don’t think about it, Raclaw. Just don’t think about it. He sprinted hard, and opening the gate, raced out toward the nearest village. It did not matter if this was the last of his money. He would save this knight. He had not been able to save his family, but this time he would do it right. Whatever the cost.
A bell above the door tinkled as he stepped into the old shop’s dim interior. The floor boards creaked as he eased his weight on them to come to the medicine section. Scanning the tilted and sagging shelves, he finally found all that he needed and came back to the front of the store where a scruffy man waited behind a counter. He took the medicines.
“Will that be all?” he asked in a disappointed voice.
“Oh!” Daniel started and looked around. “I would like some food as well.”
The man brightened and pointed. “Just that way,” he directed.
Daniel thanked him and collected the food he needed. Then with his emergency money, he payed for it all.
As Daniel walked home, he was surprised that he felt happy.
I should be depressed. I have no more money. But no. I did the right thing. Daniel began to whistle and he did so all the way home.
When Daniel reached his patient back at the house, the knight looked as if he was doing much better, but his wounds still looked ugly.
He quickly dressed them again with brand new strips of bandage and then prepared a small but tasty meal for them both.
“Well, looks like we’ve got everything we need for about another month,” Daniel spoke to the unconscious knight. “You and I, we’ll have a good time of it together, won’t we?”
The knight shifted on his bed.
“Well I’ve never seen you do that before!” Daniel said, excited and concerned. He rushed over to the knight, but he was still sleeping.
“Here,” Daniel offered small bites of bread to the knight and then spooned some water and mush into his mouth. The knight took it all without as much as a gag.
Daniel smiled and sat down to his own meal. After never having anyone on the place for several years, this was very different.
Daniel walked outside to care for his horse and his wheat field. It would soon be harvesting time and he would make just enough to keep himself fed and sow his field for the next year, plus enough to sell to get the little money he needed for everything else. He had enough wheat to live off of, but not enough to continue increasing the size of his field, so he was stuck in a continuous loop of harvesting his wheat, having enough to live off of, and sowing his field for the next year. If only he had a little more money or a little more wheat he could expand his field, but it was unlikely. Chances were he would be stuck in the loop until he died on the bed just like his family before him. Daniel tried to stop the tears but they squeezed out. When the first drop fell hot onto his cheek he let them come, and buried his head into Hilven’s neck. His horse nickered and it’s hot breath blew into his ear as it nuzzled him.
Daniel was preparing a meal for himself and the knight, when he glanced over at the man on the bed and saw his eyes were open.
Daniel nearly dropped the food in his haste to come over and sit beside him.
“Hello,” he said quietly.
The knight was not looking at him. It didn’t even seem like he was looking at anything. A glaze was over his eyes.
Daniel sighed in disappointment. He must just be in a trance, or sleepwalking or something.
“Well, never the less, it’s good to see you recovering,” Daniel said nonchalantly. “You’re doing much better then…then…they did.”
Tears began brimming once again in his eyes. He quietly wiped them away, then took the spoon and lifted it to the knight’s lips.
The knight opened his mouth and took the spoonful of mush.
Daniel gaped. He had always pushed the spoon into the knight’s mouth. When the man swallowed, the glaze over his eyes seemed to disappear and he blinked.
“Hello?” Daniel tried again, leaning forward.
The knight focused on him, frowned, and looked down at the bowl of mush in Daniel’s hands. Daniel carefully offered it too him.
The knight took it and looked up at Daniel again with pure thankfulness and trust in his eyes.
Daniel smiled back.
The knight slowly began to eat, and Daniel talked. He talked on and on, all of the things bottled up inside of him pouring out. He talked of his wife, how she had fallen ill, how he had tried to save her…how he had not. How his two children had become sick as well, and how they had died just the same way. Then how he had lived for so long alone, facing Iraaz and his want for Daniel’s land.
The knight did not say a word the whole time, but seemed to be listening. When he was finished eating, he handed the bowl back to Daniel and rested his head on the pillow.
Daniel quickly got up and left the house to let the knight sleep. He expected he would not have this strange guest much longer. He would have much more food since he did not have to give some to the knight. He would have more medicines. He would have more time to work instead of take care of him. Yet strangely, Daniel felt sad. The knight was very weak, and had not talked at all, but it was good to have someone to talk too. And Daniel guessed that this man was nice, good. Not like Iraaz.
Throughout the days, the knight was awake more, ate more, and gained strength and weight. But he did not talk, and rested many times in the day.
Daniel was in his shed once again, sharpening his tools, when Iraaz came back. It had been exactly a month, and now he had come. Daniel heard the cry of a Timen, and dropping his tools, he rushed outside.
Iraaz grinned at him from atop his mount.
“Hello there, peasant!” he said smugly. “Time for me to take your land. Unless you want to fight.”
Daniel’s heart began to race.
Don’t let it show. Don’t let it show. Daniel told himself.
“No, Iraaz. No,” he glared up at the massive man.
Iraaz laughed and drew his sword.
“What’s wrong, Daniel? Don’t know how to fight? Can’t fight? Scared?”
The sound of a blade being freed from it’s scabbard came loudly from the doorway of Daniel’s hut. Both Iraaz and the farmer turned to look, and there in the doorway stood the knight. His armor was back on, and his shining sword was in his hands.
Daniel’s heart jumped to see this sight.
Iraaz paled, and the hand holding his curved scimitar visibly began to shake.
Scared? Daniel thought, and smiled grimly.
The knight walked quickly up to Daniel, right past him, and stopped nose to nose with Iraaz’s Timen.
Seeing an opportunity to stop the fight right there, Iraaz ordered the Timen to kill the knight. The Timen screeched and lunged forward, but the knight ducked and sidestepped, and the Timen’s massive jaws clapped down on empty air. The knight’s sword sliced through the chest of the Timen. It screeched again, this time in pain, and toppled over on it’s side, dead.
Iraaz’s leg was trapped underneath it and he screamed and writhed, struggling to free himself. The knight dropped his sword and lifted the lifeless beast off the large man.
Iraaz leaped to his feet and then nearly fell again, gasping in pain.
“You broke my leg,” he said in amazement.
The knight did not reply. He gripped his sword again and set his feet into a masterful swordsman’s stance. Iraaz gulped. He still gripped his scimitar and he slowly walked to meet the knight. Daniel knew Iraaz was a good sword fighter, but the knight was better by far. His double-edged longsword met Iraaz’s scimitar before Iraaz was ready and it was blasted from his hands and skidded in the cobblestones to one of his men’s feet.
“Pick it up!” Iraaz screamed. The man grabbed the scimitar and fairly hurled it at his master. Iraaz caught it in midair and leaped forward on one leg to meet the knight. Their blades flew fast, the sound of metal upon metal ringing through the still air. Daniel was stunned by the knight’s swordsmanship, and no doubt he would have been even better had he not been lying in bed for a month. Then the knight cut across Iraaz’s arm and Iraaz dropped his blade for good. Iraaz gripped his wounded arm with his other hand and moaned. The knight placed his sword on the man’s neck and leaned forward. He spoke for the first time.
“Leave, and never terrorize this man again for as long as you live. Never.”
Iraaz nodded, his face a very strange gray color. The knight shoved the sword even harder into Iraaz’s neck.
Iraaz leaped back, stumbled over to one of his men’s Timen, and raced away. The rest of his men followed suit.
“They won’t be back,” Daniel said, an enormous grin spreading over his face. “Thank you.”
“No,” the knight turned and sheathed his sword. He lifted his visor and smiled kindly at Daniel. “Thank you.”
He walked into Daniel’s shed and in a minute he came out on his horse. He pulled a bulging sack from his saddlebags and plopped it into Daniel’s hand. It clinked and was heavy in Daniel’s hands. No doubt gold coins.
“Thank you for your care,” the knight whispered as he closed Daniel’s fingers around the sack, and then galloped to the gate, opened it, and rode away.
Copyright © 2019 Caleb E. King
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