Completing the Story 1: Striking Oil


You may have seen these floating around your local chain store: Piccadilly’s “Complete the Story,” one of the company’s many writing-prompt journals.

On a whim, I bought one. And I’m taking the title literally.

The book contains a separate writing prompt at the start of each page – but I’m chaining them into a single narrative.

New episodes drop every Saturday, with the previous week’s ending included for continuity purposes. Previous episodes are in the category “completing the story.”

Piccadilly’s prompts are in bold; my contributions are not.

At first, we thought the black liquid was oil, that we’d struck it rich and that we’d be able to retire and live in leisure. We actually started writing down all the ways we’d spend the money. Our first choice was avocado toast, followed by a fancy new iPhone just for show and another for Sundays.

The thought of saving diamonds, fabric softener, paper napkins, or Applebee’s never crossed our minds. Because the oil had colonized them before we could realize it.

The black stuff wasn’t oil. It was an alien, who had cleverly normalized the idea of itself as fictional by first colonizing multiple science-fiction television shows, all of which were available on Netflix. It had a specific hunger for the brains of Millennials, which is why Netflix was its medium of choice.

The aliens enjoyed hipster irony almost as much as we did, which explains how we found it in a crate of old “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” VHS tapes stashed in the back of the Salvation Army warehouse where we were working through our fifth unpaid internship.

I’d describe Brett’s laughter as he opened the box or the way his blue eyes lit up when I pointed out the “oil,” but honestly, I don’t remember either one. In fact, I’m no longer even sure that my best friend’s name was Brett. It could have been Deandra. Or Chuck. But we’ll roll with “Brett” for now.

Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world where the black stuff was still oil and we were rich and she had not suddenly started referring to herself in the third person.

Was that Brett screaming in the corner? Or was it the alien? She couldn’t tell. In fact, she wasn’t certain she could hear at all. She’d never given a single thought to her auditory cortex before this moment, and now that she had, it was too late. Typical Millennial.

She glanced up as Brett stood. Had his eyes always been so black? She couldn’t remember.

When he spoke, his mouth didn’t move; the words echoed inside her head, instead, within the auditory cortex she’d taken for granted like so many participation trophies.

“I never thought having limbs would be so invigorating.”

She tried moving her own. Weak, clumsy, curiously stiff. She couldn’t share Brett’s enthusiasm.

Her words echoed back to Brett. “Only four. I told you we should have chosen the octopus.”

“The octopus lacks stamina,” Brett replied. “Plus they pay their interns.”

“What now?” she asked. In her mouth, her tongue lolled like dead meat.

“I’ll explain. I’ve lived in this town my whole life, and most of the time that’s fine by me. But in late fall when the sky fills with birds migrating south for the winter, traveling thousands of miles, I get homesick for places I’ve never been. Places like-“

This nonsense brought to you by coffee. Buy me one and keep the story going.

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