How We Write – Islands of Sleep at the End of the Map

Our prompts were: Islands at the end of the map, drinking water.

This was the first short we wrote where we didn’t interpret the prompt literally. Our prompt, drinking water, became the name of a street, instead of just having someone drink water for no reason other than to use the words. Besides, we set the story in a pub! Who goes to a pub to drink water?

We also experimented with the form on this one. We wanted the reader to become part of the story. We hoped that by the end, the reader will feel like the narrator is speaking directly to them.

When we edited the story, we found the length was exactly 503 words. So we read back over it to see if we could find three words that were unnecessary to the plot to make it end up at exactly 500 words. And we succeeded!



Barkeep? Gimme another drink.

No, I have not had enough yet!

What’re you doing here in the middle of the day, pal?

Sally sent you? To bring me home?

That’s not going to work. I got business I need to handle.

This thing? It’s magical. Got it from Esmerelda. You know, the witch on Drinking Water Lane.

Don’t laugh at me like that! I know it looks like something your cat would play with, but it’s not a normal ball of yarn.

How’s it work? I just prick my finger, put one drop of blood on the end of the yarn, and it starts unspooling. Then, I follow wherever it leads to find the Islands.

Yeah, those islands. The Islands of Sleep at the End of the Map.

I know you know the tales, I saw you cringe.

Your nanny told you the stories, didn’t she? Of the demons that come from far away and snatch small children right out of their beds?

You made her leave a light on in your bedroom, didn’t you, so the demons from the Islands of Sleep wouldn’t get you.

You and your pals in elementary school probably dared each other to find them. Double dared, even. You all stayed up one night watching your little brother or maybe your sister sleep, hoping to catch a demon when it came to steal them away. But you never caught one, did you?

By high school, you shrugged off the tales as baby stuff or a legend used to scare the little kids. I know you laughed at the little ones when they cried.

After that, you probably forgot about the Islands of Sleep.

Except for that occasional night when you found yourself alone, in the dark, in some unfamiliar place. Noises in the darkness made you look over your shoulder or put something solid at your back.

You worried that the Islands were real. That the tales were true. And you shivered, like someone ran an icy finger down your spine.

I know that look in your eyes.

Haunted eyes.

I’ve seen the same one looking back at me from my shaving mirror.

What’s that you say? Why did I go to all the trouble of visiting Esmerelda to get this spelled yarn?


That’s right, Lucy.

The light of my life.

My angel.

My reason for living.

No, no, I’m not crying. Must be…dust in the air.


Anyway, Lucy’s gone.

They took her.


Those demons from the Islands of Sleep.

Took her right out of her crib.

Why, you ask?

Because I turned out the light.

She cried, but I thought she just needed to learn to sleep without a night light.

I told her, A big girl like you shouldn’t need a night light anymore.

I thought I was so smart.

I turned out the light and closed the door behind me!

It’s all my fault.

Now I’m going to make things right!

Lend me your knife, will you, buddy?


500 words/3.5.18

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