A costly Toll

July 2021 (Round Two)
Genre: Ghost Story
Word: Field
Action: Losing a Coin
Time Constraint: 24 hours
Length: 100 words

Lured by the serene promise of Elysian Fields on the distant shore, Alex shoved through the crush of frantic souls toward the tiny skiff, while the moaning river of luminescent wraiths lapped at the rotting bank.

The cloaked ferryman silently proffered an expectant palm, and Alex fished out his coin with shaking fingers, when a jarring elbow knocked it into the swirling waters. With a panicked cry, he reached into the shallows, desperate for his lost toll.

The hungry souls yanked him in, swallowing Alex with the lost change. 

And the ferryman held out his palm to the next passenger.

JUDGe’s Feedback

This one came in 7th place in my group, and I got to advance to the round 3! Feedback is below.


{1772}  Alex’s actions shape the plot and his choices make the end feel like an appropriate conclusion to his journey. The story is crafted with rich description and detail to bring the scene to life.

{2092}  The ending works well, it has that heavy sense of dread as Alex is pulled into the waters. This also adds that sense of recurrence, as the reader can expect that Alex isn’t the first or last to be taken into the river. 

{1940}  An enjoyable and horrifying piece that sets and scene and tone very well. Readers will acutely feel Alex’s despair as he drops the coin, knowing his chance of reaching Elysian Fields is gone. The last sentence where the ferryman dispassionately holds his hand for the next fare is great.


{1772}  One way to continue to develop the story might be to explore more of Alex’s character. His frantic and careless behavior might illuminate the kind of person he was in life. For example, if it is more established that he was the type of person who got what he wanted no matter what, then the end’s “moral” is even more powerful.

{2092}  The verbiage was a bit in consistent and overly complex for the actual events within the story. In multiple areas this causes the pacing to jarringly change, leading to a lack of immersion in the details. Consider reworking the story a bit more, in order to build a consistent language that continually draws the audience in. Try building the complexity based on the protagonist. The details of the world shouldn’t be more complex than Alex is, since he is our guide into those understanding those details.

{1940}  Overall, a great piece, but subtle hints into Alex’s personality could help readers to root for him. We don’t get much of a feeling for the character’s personality.