Peer Review by AminahMcBina (United States)

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Swarm

By: VividReverie


FREE WRITING

Arilly dropped the bauble with a flourish. It fell for a second before pausing and hovering in midair, quivering slightly. It steadied itself and began to rotate slowly, shimmering and sparkling in the light.

She stood back to admire her work. “Perfect! The house looks more festive already, don’t you think? I can’t wait to get the rest of the decorations up.”

From the other side of the room, her sister Zilara groaned. “Really, Ari?”

“What?”

Zilara flicked her wrist, sighing dramatically, and the bauble went flying off to one side. “It looks much better over there.”

“Oh, okay. If you say so,” Arilly said quietly. Whenever the two of them tried to do the Christmas decorations, Lara would inevitably take charge. Arilly was used to it by now. They had lived together for three years, ever since that day when they both moved out of their parents’ house, deciding it would be convenient to live together. Neither of them had anticipated that their rivalry would grow so much that they found themselves arguing over every little thing. Maybe one day, I’ll have the confidence to go my own way, Ari mused. 

“Don’t just stand around looking miserable!” Zilara snapped, and Ari flinched. “Do something! We’ve still got heaps of decorations to put up. We need the house to look perfect before mum and dad come over to visit, remember?”

Ari rolled her eyes and took another bauble from the storage crate. It buzzed and hummed in her hand, waiting to be placed. She tossed it up and it hovered delicately near the ceiling. “Is that okay, Lara?”

Zilara glanced up at it. “Yeah, that looks fine.” She dropped three more baubles, then carefully nudged each one into position. 

The room started to glitter mesmerisingly as the sisters worked in silence, placing decorations all throughout it until every single bauble was out of the box and spinning gently in midair.

Ari dusted off her hands. “Well done, Lara. It looks great!”

Zilara shrugged. “I suppose. I just hope mum and dad like it. They haven’t been here since - well, you know what happened.”

Ari grimaced at the memory. Last Christmas, their parents had visited, and Zilara had accidentally started an argument with them. Some small disagreement had exploded into an enormous fight that ended up with their parents leaving the house in a fit of fury. They hadn’t even touched the elaborate Christmas banquet that Ari had spend days preparing.

But this year, everything would go smoothly. Arilly was sure of it.

“Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Ari said, confused.

Zilara frowned. “There’s some sort of high-pitched whining noise. I can’t tell where it’s coming from, though. It’s almost like it’s all around us...”

Ari’s eyes widened as she heard what Lara was describing. “Maybe it is all around us,” she said nervously as she looked up at the nearest bauble.

Zilara’s voice, usually calm and confident, had a tremor in it as she spoke. “Ari? Why is that bauble moving?”

Ari ducked, narrowly avoiding a bauble that shot through the air right above her head. “I - I don’t know. What’s going on?”

The baubles were congregating in the centre of the room, as if they were pulled by some invisible force. They formed a floating, rippling sphere that dominated the room. The sphere hummed and whirred threateningly as the individual baubles moved.

Zilara shook her head in disbelief. “It’s like they’re forming some sort of swarm. They must be malfunctioning. I’ve never heard of anything like this happening before!”

Ari shuddered. “I don’t like this. Should I call mum?”

“No! Then she’ll think that we’re not even responsible enough to put up some Christmas decorations without getting into trouble!”

The swarm of baubles pulsated ominously. Ari shook her head. “We have to tell someone. This is dangerous.” She reached for her phone.

“Ari, don’t even think about it!” Zilara screamed. Ari froze, watching as her sister glared at her. “You are not letting our parents know about this, and that’s final!”

“Just because you’re two years, three months and eighteen days older than me doesn’t mean you get to control my life,” Ari muttered. She surreptitiously reached into her pocket and took out her phone. 

As if they had sensed what she was about to do, the swarm of baubles surged towards Ari. She let out a terrified shriek, but then the swarm collided with her, stifling the sound and knocking her to the floor. Her phone fell from her hand, clattering to the ground and landing just out of reach.

“Lara, help!” The baubles pressed down on her, covering her entire body, forcing her to keep still. She felt herself being crushed under the pressure. “Lara?”

All Ari could see was a shimmering whirlpool of colour.

“Zi-la-ra?” She choked out.

Finally, a response came, but her sister’s panicked voice sounded distant and faint. “Ari, no!”

Ari’s head was swimming, her lungs were screaming for air. She felt the world beginning to slip away, and her vision faded to black. How had something as innocent as putting up the Christmas decorations turned into this nightmare?

Wish mum and dad a Merry Christmas for me, Lara.

Then, there was nothing.

This is a weird, overly dramatic sci-fi Christmas story that I wrote a little while ago, and I’m entering it in Princess Maira’s competition for Prompt #1!

Message to Readers

I’d love to get feedback on this! I’d really appreciate it if you left a comment or review.


Peer Review

The most delightful part was the sudden turn of events, when the decorations turned into a swarm of flying monster baubles. That was incredible!


The only part I'd really like more depth on is what happened "last Christmas." Why were their parents upset? What was the "small disagreement?"


Reviewer Comments

You're a very good story-teller! Well done!