Jammed // a (One Quirk Later) short story

Salutations my friends, I am back with another Quirk! If you’re new, Jem Jones has created a stupendous flash fiction prompt series, where she provides the blogosphere with a picture prompt, and us deranged writers craft a story inspired by it.

It’s a lot of fun and you should definitely join in. Not that I’m accusing you of being deranged. But if you’re a writer the probability is high.



find out more about the quirk here!

Le Prompt:

Disclaimer: I apologize in advance for turning such a cheery prompt into…whatever this story is. 🤔

Le Story:


“You are not bringing Pontifica to work,” I sternly told my little sister.

Brielle clutched our fluffy grey cat to her chest. “But I need her. They’re going to send you away tomorrow.”

I clenched my jaw. “No they’re not. I’m going to succeed today.”

“Don’t lie Malva. You’ve been trying for a whole month. And do you remember yesterday?”

“Of course I remember yesterday,” I muttered.

“Exactly. You’re not going to get it.” Her lip trembled. “And I’ll never see you again.”

I blew out a breath and pried Pontifica out of her arms. The cat tossed its head and meowed pompously. Probably lecturing me on my pathetic life choices. But then again, I never really had a choice.

“I’m not going to leave you, and I’m not going to let the orphanage take me away.” I set Pontifica down in her favorite spot, the sunny window ledge. Then I grabbed a basket of glass jars filled with jam and handed it to Brielle. “I’ll find a way. I’m your big sister. Trust me.”

Brielle eyed me skeptically but took her basket. “I better get going,” she mumbled. “The directors need their jam.” She spun on her heel and hurried off.

I scowled, grabbing my bag and heading out into town. The directors. Those evil, jam-obsessed monsters who put on a great show of caring for orphans, when they really just possessed us.

They only loved two things: money and jam. When an orphan got too old, he had about one month to find a profitable occupation. If he could, he was forced to give his earnings to the directors in exchange for food, clothing, and shelter. If he could not, the directors would give up and sell him away to traders, the mines, or the brothels. Then they would celebrate by feasting on jam.

There was only one job that was both in my skill range and would earn me enough money to satisfy the directors: assistant to the local alchemist. At least, it should be in my skill range.

I swung open the door to his shop, the bell ringing. “Good morning Mr. Quillion.”

A cloud of blue sparkles burst from behind a conglomeration of glass tubes and bottles. “Morning Malva!” a voice cried out. Then the alchemist stepped into view, his face dominated by glasses speckled by blue dust. He wagged his finger. “Remember, today’s the day. Either you prepare me the correct healing tonic by sundown, or your apprenticeship is over. Aye?”

I gulped, swamped by visions of getting sold away and abandoning Brielle. “Aye.”

“And will you swear to me what happened yesterday will never happen again?”

I bobbed my head vigorously. “Yes sir. I swear. Never again.”

He let out a harumph and then disappeared behind his workbench.

I hurried to complete my basic duties, tidying things up and bringing Mr. Quillion his special tea. Then I grabbed my bag and dumped my materials on my own workbench, the glass vials and pipettes clattering. I heaved a huge sigh. This shouldn’t be difficult. All I had to do was measure out certain potions and herbs according to a list the alchemist gave me, and then mix specific combinations together.  

Yet I always managed to do something wrong. My hands were unsteady. My eyesight wasn’t precise enough. I added too much or too little of something. Even adding or subtracting an extra tiny speck of purple dust or moonleaf could turn a lifegiving tonic into a deadly poison.

Mr. Quillion had been kind and patient with me for a month, probably because I prepared his tea the best, but after yesterday…I shuddered. That had been the last straw. Dozens of ingredients wasted. Precious materials up in flames. Charred wood on the walls and floor. Worst of all was him yelling at me. Mr. Quillion, the most gentle, easygoing man in town. Shouting that I was a good-for-nothing idiot, couldn’t even do basic mixing, couldn’t let him invent new medicines in peace.

I wiped away the tears brimming in my eyes. No. That wasn’t true. I wasn’t useless. I could do this. I would give Brielle and me a good, safe future.

Taking a deep breath, I rolled up my sleeves, tied an apron over my dress, and got to work.

All day long, I hunched over the table, counting and measuring and pouring, all with the most meticulous care and attention. I only took breaks to bring Mr. Quillion his meals and more tea, eating nothing myself and barely drinking anything. I would succeed. I had to succeed.

When the sun set, I had ten vials of clear, liquid healing tonic, all different kinds. Only one of them had to be correct.

As Mr. Quillion tested each one, I bounced on my toes. Today would be the day. I’d double, no, triple-checked each vial. I’d done every test and mixing at least five times. I’d taken much longer than anyone could ever need to do such basic preparations.

The alchemist straightened up, face haggard.


A pit opened up in my stomach. No. No, no, no.

“I’m so sorry, my dear. I really wanted you to succeed. But…” He gestured helplessly to the vials. “I can’t sell those to the physicians. It’s poison.”

“No. You’re wrong.” My heart rate accelerated. “Test them again. I did it correctly this time, I really did! You must have missed something.”

“Malva.” He exhaled. “I’m sorry. This work just isn’t for you.” His words were final, sealing my fate. My future of slavery.

“This is wrong!” I shouted, tears blurring my vision as I shoved the vials into my bag. “It’s all your fault. You hear? Your fault.”

He didn’t know about my situation. The orphanage had coerced us into keeping quiet about their illegal arrangements. But I couldn’t help but fire him a glare before I scooped up my bag and fled out the door.

Tears flowed freely down my cheeks as I stumbled back to the orphanage, where Brielle would be preparing new jars of jam for the next morning. I’d failed her. I was her big sister. I was supposed to protect her and look out for her. But I’d failed. Tomorrow, the directors would haul me off to be sold to a brothel in one of the big cities, never to see her again. In a few years, she might end up in a similar fate.

I swiped a hand across my eyes. No, that would not happen. I had to think of something. My thoughts flew with each step I took. Another job? I could easily secure a position as a maid, but that wouldn’t make as much money for the directors as selling me would. Flee? Brielle and I could sneak out of town and head to the next one. But no, I didn’t have enough money for a train ticket, and the swamps between towns were too dangerous to navigate alone. Hide? Impossible. The directors would be sure to find us before long.

I scowled. The directors. Haunting my every move, tracking each orphan as if we were their personal property. All at once I froze in my tracks.

If I could get rid of the orphanage directors, Brielle and I could hide somewhere in town while I worked as a maid. I would keep all the earnings to myself until I could get us tickets. Then we could carve a new life for ourselves in a far-off town. We’d be free from slavery. Free from a fate worse than death.

I quickened my steps and soon found myself back at the orphanage. The vials in my bag clinked together as I entered. Girls and boys were scattered throughout the dingy rooms and hallways, doing their chores and minding their own business. I descended into one of the cellars. Her face lit by a single candle, Brielle worked alone, bottling jars of jam and placing them in her basket. How the directors could eat up so many jars of jam a day, I could hardly guess. Unnatural monsters.


She looked up. Froze. “You failed, didn’t you.”

My voice caught in my throat.

Her gaze dropped and she continued mechanically capping jars. “I knew you would.” She sniffled. “Don’t feel bad. Most of the orphans do.”

I set my bag down on the table and took out the vials and a pipette. Then I grabbed a jar before she could screw a lid onto it. She frowned.

“Malva? What are you doing?”

I dropped some liquid from a vial into the jar, mixed it, then pushed it in front of her. “Screw the lid on.”

“But…that’s the incorrect potion, isn’t it?” Her eyes widened. “You’re not…”

“Poisoning the directors,” I finished, pushing another jar towards her. “Yes, I am.”

“Oh Malva,” she breathed out. “But that’s…isn’t that murder?”

I blinked. “They’re not…that is, I don’t think they’re that poisonous.”

But what if they were? My head suddenly felt faint. I squeezed my eyes shut. Murder. Would I really be willing to risk that? No. No, I couldn’t do this. I hadn’t thought it through. I would regret it. This was stupid. Like me.

But if I didn’t do this, if I didn’t do something…I would definitely be sold. I’d heard the stories. The horrors and the scars and the trampling of human dignity. And then Brielle, sweet, beautiful Brielle…how could I abandon her? How could I let her live an uncertain, terrifying life when I had the chance to do something?

I opened my eyes and wrapped my arms around my sister, squeezing tightly. I took a shaky breath. “Do you trust me?”

She clung to me, the tears she’d been trying to hold in spilling over. “You can’t leave me, Malva.” She hiccupped. “I can’t…you can’t leave me.”

“I’m not leaving you, Bri. We’re going to start a new life tomorrow.”

She sniffled for a moment. Then she glanced up at me. “But we’re keeping Pontifica, right?”

I smiled. “Of course.” I gave her one last squeeze and then pulled back, brushing a strand of hair from her wet cheeks. “But for this to work, you have to do exactly as I say.”

She nodded, and together we labored, entering into a smooth rhythm, my mind buzzing with plans to pull this off properly and keep us safe.

As I dropped the last of my poison into a jar, I thought of the money-loving directors, only willing to care for orphans if it gave them a profit. All too ready to throw our useless, pathetic lives away for a profit. Then I glanced to our basket of glass jars, our ticket to freedom.

I hope they regret giving up on us.


WELL that was fun! This is definitely not in my usual style of writing, but I enjoyed experimenting with it nonetheless. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and if you plan to do this Quirk yourself so I can go squeal over it! 😀

Until next time,

Bon Voyage!

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25 thoughts on “Jammed // a (One Quirk Later) short story

  1. Awww, Brielle and Malva!!! *lets out a breath* Wow, SO interesting!!! It’s so cool how you came up with that story from that prompts – and I haven’t heard of the One Quirk Later series but it sounds so fun! I’ll have to check it out 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  2. SISTERS. My Quirk also features sisters. 🙂
    I am SO CONCERNED for these children though! You cannot leave us like this. Malva is a precious disaster child and Brielle is so sweet and innocent and they NEED HELP. SOMEONE HELP THEM. Perhaps Pontifica is actually their fairy godmother in disguise and makes everything better…that would definitely fit with the style of the story.
    But in all seriousness, this is fantastic! Lovely, lovely job.

    Liked by 2 people


      *starts a fundraiser for the poor dears* Ooh…Pontifica…that is actually not a bad idea 😂😂

      Eeeekkk thank you so much Sponge! 😀 *scurries off to read your Quirk now that I’ve finished mine*

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow… that was intense. XD Very, very well done, though!! You really need to give your poor, morally conflicted characters a home together so they can rest… or put them in a longer story. *coughs* Maybe Alef saves these two? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Khylie! 😀 Oooh they can stay in the same cottage with Zane and talk about their miserable lives 😛

      These two do live on the same planet as Alef, but they’re on a different continent separated by two oceans…so he can’t help them unfortunately XD

      Liked by 1 person

  4. oooOOOoooOOoo POISON JAM. I did not anticipate that when I made the prompt, how awesome xD This angry smol child who takes the slow trip to “…perhaps…murder?” out of desperation for her little sister, I love her and I hope they get out safely. (If not I may be required to… smash some jam jars? stab an orphanage director with a very small knife?)

    And also. Awful system, awful people in charge, etc etc etc, excellent… and then you throw in the little bit of spice in the serious story with “these monsters are also unnaturally Jam Obsessed”. It makes the whole thing tastier, having, well, a little fun in the sad?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. POISON JAM. Because obviously when I see food the first thing I think of is poison. 😂 EEEEEEE I loved reading these comments!! Pure gems, Jem 😛

      *whispers* they do get out safely. eventually. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You took jam and made it DISTURBING. Which is impressive, considering how much I love jam. (And I don’t mean because you put poison in it. The directors are AWFUL and their obsession with jam is somehow very unsettling)
    And these DEAR CHILDREN. …Is it bad how okay I was with the prospect of murder in this context? I dearly hope Malva and Brielle will be okay ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love jam too!! It’s such a homey, comforting thing, especially in their lovely cutesy jars…so of course I had to turn that upside down. XD

      They will be okay, I assure you. Eventually. 😉

      *scurries off to read your Quirk*

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This went in a direction I was totally not expecting (as many other people have said…and they’re right), but I loved it! The directors deserve everything that’s coming to them, and more.

    This feels like the beginning of a chaotic but wonderful middle-grade novel…and I’m pretty sure you’d have readers if you wanted to write something like that, just saying. 😉


    1. Aaahhh thank you so much Samantha!! 😀 Hehe I’ll keep that idea in mind. I’ve always wanted to write a chaotic middle-grade novel, where my imagination can run wild and it won’t look too weird. 😂


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