Hi guys, as part of a challenge set by my writing group I had to write a story of around 400 words without using the word ‘the’. It was a fun challenge and, of course, I decided to write about my favourite Constellation. So I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into Asher’s childhood. Let me know what you think, and if I should stop using the word ‘the’ entirely!

“I hate you.”

“Good, means I’m not coddling you.”

A table, an umbrella, a pair of socks, a candlestick, some papers. Asher had to know every item in every space he entered by heart within seconds. It wasn’t easy when his eyes ran in streams and his back was sticky with his own blood. A tremor in his legs tried to steal his balance, but there was no way he’d dare show signs of wavering in front of his dad.

“Again.” That dry command would come until Asher perfected his technique, even if it took days.

It was timing, that was all it was. And he’d gotten faster. Blinking away water; not tears, just water, he stretched out an aching arm and tapped a rolled scroll. It took less than a second of concentration before it teleported, swapping places so that tacky candle wax now pressed against his fingertip.

“We’ve figured you can Juggle, concentrate on what you’re doing, yeah?” His dad sounded more frustrated than Asher felt, even though he stood doing nothing but barking orders and languidly swinging a blade.

“I’m fast.”

“Get faster.” Those two words were accompanied by agony as a honed sword tip scraped across Asher’s left flank. Umbrella. It should be switching, stopping his skin from ripping apart. He just had to touch one object and see another. Why wasn’t it working? His lungs were being pummelled from fighting against blind panic, gulping air through grinding teeth.

“Enough!” Asher blurted, heart sinking as he stumbled out of range. Another failure.

Warmth trickled down to his waistband, a liquid that also decorated his father’s sword, it didn’t seem real anymore. He’d seen his own blood so many times. His side throbbed and a kind of pure, bright-white anger pooled in his chest.

“It’s not gonna happen, okay? It’s not coz I’m slow, I can’t concentrate when it hurts…”

“Yeah, well, we’ll practice ‘til you can.”

“We? Like you’re doing a damn thing!” Asher stood straight, looking down at his father. He couldn’t remember when it had changed from having to crane his neck to gaze upwards, but that could be sleep deprivation robbing his memory.

“Son, we’re not that kind of Lucidian. We weren’t born with a perfected power, we need to train it. One day you’ll be untouchable by any weapon coz you’ll Juggle it before it cuts you. Don’t you reckon it’s better you learn with someone that isn’t actually trying to kill you? Every time I hurt you, it’s coz I care about you, yeah? How else you gonna keep up with Lucidians that have combat gifts? Do you want to be weak?”

“No…” There was more he wanted to say, of course, if he’d dared. So much more. One day he’d finally speak his mind. And he wouldn’t ever stop.

“Okay. Again. Oh, and son? Don’t ever speak to me like that again.”