Bonus - Original Story Prompt

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Author's Note: Never Go Home originated from a writing prompt challenge over a decade ago. Originally, it was a fantasy. I wanted to share its first conception in all of its rough-draft glory that ends abruptly (the challenge was 400-500 words). I hope you enjoy this peek into the evolution of my dystopian world.

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The Offering Sign

You can never go home. Those words had seared themselves into my brain. The sign on the side of the road had once been a fine work of art, but now the wood was weathered to slate gray. The words, however, were still coal black, carved and burned into the wood. Rotting crab apple bits peppered the surface as though someone had been practicing their throws.

It was a warning to some, present on any road out of any city, town, or village. I viewed what I now think of as "my sign" on my out of Chernibden, my birthplace. I left for various reasons, some of my own and some of my family. Girls of the small villages of Tell-Eile were required to eventually leave their birthplace to find a suitable husband. Only women who dedicated themselves to the healing arts were allowed to stay in the village of their birth. Healers didn't usually marry, but some did. Some were bred especially if they had proved to be good healers. A village values a bloodline like that.

I, however, was not a healer, and so I left. The trip had begun as normally as any trip would begin. My things were packed, goodbyes were said, and advice was given. We left in the morning, me and a few of the other girls who had come of age. Tears stung all of our eyes, and the walk down the dirt road was quiet except for the snuffling that all of us suffered. The wailing of our mothers faded quickly as our fathers brought them inside. They had been through this too.

You can never go home. I think all of us saw that sign. It stood alone. The woods around it had been cleared, and the grass surrounding it was neatly kept as though it were a temple to the Gods. No one said anything, and we passed by it in single-file, boots crunching on the gravel and dust beneath. Sniffling ceased. We all passed as though we tread upon our ancestor's grave.

"Talia, do you think it is true? That we can never go home?" said Eluena, my best friend.

"You know the law as well as I do, El. We can only see our family if they visit us." I took a glance back at the sign. We were well past it now. Soon the pines would block it entirely from our view. Our village was already gone from sight.

"Don't look back. It is bad luck," Eluena whispered as though my glance back would destroy us all.

The other girls continued to walk along, boots dragging in the dirt. Little puffs of dust rose underneath our feet like the group of old bachelors smoking their tabac.

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