Welcome to the second portion of our first edition of UIC's online literary journal, The Write Stuff! This section contains all approved non-poetry creative fiction writing submissions that were received. If you wish to see the first segment of our first post, which contains essays and other academic work you may find it here.
These stories range from a fantasy retelling of a competition for prey between ancient creatures, to a heartbreaking story of two past lovers who differing beliefs drove them apart. Regardless of your literary genre preferences, you're sure to find these tales compelling, full of the creativity and passion their writers poured into them.
His name was Benjamin Bradford, but he didn’t let anyone call him that name. Instead,
he decided he would be Doctor Bradford to the locals, or Doctor to the ones who did not know his name yet, but never Benjamin or Bradford or even Mr. Bradford. He was a doctor, and he wouldn’t be called anything else.
All of that, he was told later, when his ego wasn’t so great that it was clouding his vision,
was never actually implemented and was only ever used to tease him.
He sat in his office, in the purple armchair embroidered with golden and silver threads
across the back that he bought from the nearest city about two hours away. The giant air cooler running behind him was using one of the only generators in the village. Despite these things, he felt his office was inadequate to be representing him as a medical professional. Still, he sent his translator, Mustafa, out to the village every morning to see if anyone needed help, and every morning, his translator proved to be useless. No one ever came except to ogle the white man in the bright new house.
Until that morning.
Doctor Bradford heard a high-pitched horse’s whinny just outside his house and rushed to
the window to push aside the curtain. There were always cows roaming the village, but a horse meant that someone new had come.
Sure enough, a man with a round white hat was standing outside his clinic, squinting up at the sign at the top of his tent. Doctor Bradford didn’t know if he knew English, but he himself did not know Pashto, the local language, so he dialled his translator.
“Mustafa!” he said into the phone. “There’s someone here! Come quick!”
As he waited for Mustafa, Doctor Bradford sat in his armchair and rejoiced in his first
real patient. For three weeks, he had not had the opportunity to treat anyone at the free clinic he had set up in this northern part of Pakistan. When he signed up to come with a transnational volunteer health organization and been placed here five months ago, he spent days packing exactly the right white dress shirts for this weather and requesting the medical equipment that would best represent what a doctor should look like and what a doctor could do for the people of a small village. All that would not be for nothing today.
The first day that he arrived, about a dozen children lined up outside of his office,
hesitant at first, then bolder as they realized he was no threat. Doctor Bradford felt very pleased with the massive young generation before him, all malleable minds that he could teach about medicine and education. He immediately asked Mustafa, his volunteer organization’s hired translator, to let them know to come in if they had any health concerns.
The first child who sat in his chair was a little girl with curly dark hair that went down to
her elbows and an embroidered black dress. She had an inflamed stye in her right eye that caused her whole eye to swell up, but she seemed unbothered by it. She bounced up and down in her seat, swinging her legs and scattering gravel dust from the undersides of her shoes all over the clean wood floor. She listened intently to Doctor Bradford, though she never responded to him before she heard Mustafa.
Doctor Bradford forced his stare away from the pile of dust accumulating on the floor.
“Hello,” he greeted her. “And what is your name?”
Mustafa repeated it to her in Pashto, and her smile grew wider. “Ayla,” she said.
“That’s a lovely name, Ayla. And what are you here for today?” he asked, already
mentally preparing a list of eye drops he had that she could take for her stye.
She spoke very rapidly, her entire face contorting in her expressions.
“She wants to know where you are from,” said Mustafa.
“Me?” Doctor Bradford smiled broadly. “I’m from England.”
Mustafa laughed when he heard her next question. “She wants to know what you eat in
“Eat?” Doctor Bradford frowned. “Well, I suppose we eat the same things you do. Meat,
After that, she and Mustafa talked for a while. Doctor Bradford grew a little impatient on
seeing the way the older man and the little girl carried on like best friends.
“Mustafa,” Doctor Bradford interrupted. “What is she saying?”
“She says they do not eat pasta, but she would love to bring you some of her mother’s
cooking, though personally I would advise against it because your stomach won’t be able to handle it. She also wants to show you around the market if you are free on Friday-”
Doctor Bradford’s eyes strayed down to the seat Ayla was sitting on, where she was
picking at the cover with her fingernails, leaving bits of dirt in the fabric. He interrupted Mustafa mid-sentence. “Is there anything she wants to talk to me about that is health related?”
Mustafa relayed the question, then smiled at her answer. He said, “She says she wants to
know why people do not stop breathing when they sleep.”
Doctor Bradford wiped the sweat from the back of his shirt. His neck was getting hotter
and redder by the second. “I meant,” he said, “does she have any pain or health problems she wants me to fix? The stye maybe?”
“She says she is fine, thank you, she has already been to Durdana’s house.”
“She’s the hakeem here.”
Doctor Bradford frowned. As far as he knew, he was sent to this area because they had no doctor nearby. “So what did Durdana give her?” he asked.
“A piece of raw garlic to put on her stye.”
Doctor Bradford cringed at the thought, but Ayla didn’t seem affected in the least. She
began talking very fast and waving her hands around. She ended with a beaming smile, stood, waved, and left.
“Now what?” Doctor Bradford asked Mustafa.
“She said that Durdana is a very lovely auntie that could teach you many things about
medicine, and maybe you could even be half as smart as her one day if you learn with her for a few years.”
“What is a hakeem?” Dr. Bradford asked. “Is that a doctor?”
“They are herbal medicine practitioners. A naturopath, if you will.”
The naturopath wanted to teach him? He, the doctor who had studied years and years at
the best universities in the world, who had witnessed open-heart procedures and brain surgeries and tumor removals? Clearly, the people of this town didn’t know what was outside their walls.
He waved a hand dismissively. “Just bring in the next patient.”
After sending away dozens of children that were only interested in what the inside of his
office looked like, what kind of pants he wore, why he didn’t have a mustache - anything and everything unrelated to medicine - some older men and women began to trickle in too. However, he got no information until an old man came to his door.
“If he doesn’t have any health problems, send him away,” Doctor Bradford repeated
through clenched teeth to Mustafa for the thirty-fifth time that day.
“He says he had a bit of a stomach ache in the morning.”
“Really?” Doctor Bradford shoved his chair back and stood up, leaning across his desk to
get a good look at the man. “How long was it? Was it a stabbing pain that came and went or a continuous dull ache?”
The man was silent for a while, then shrugged. He said something further to Mustafa.
“He says it was both, but Durdana gave him a pint of gulkand and he will be alright
Doctor Bradford threw up his hands. “Wonderful,” he gritted out. “See him out. You
know what? Tell them all to leave. I can’t see any more people today.”
By the time Mustafa returned, Doctor Bradford had poured himself half a glass of Scotch
and was drinking it at a rate he hadn’t done since he first started clinical rotations in the
“You want some?” he offered Mustafa.
Mustafa shook his head. “I don’t drink.”
“Then what do you drink?” Doctor Bradford asked incredulously. “Durdana’s gulkand?
What is that anyways?”
“Gulkand is a drink made from sugar water mixed with rose petals. It is very good for the
stomach. I myself often take it when I am having digestive problems.”
Doctor Bradford groaned and put his forehead in his hands. These people knew nothing
of science. “ This is Durdana? She tells people to drink rose petals?”
“Why are you so against Durdana?”
“I just don’t understand why the hell all these people keep coming to me to tell me about
Durdana!” Doctor Bradford set down his glass and stood up. He had never felt so humiliated in his life. Time and again, all he could hear was Durdana’s name, like some sort of brainwashing mechanism he was meant to endure until he, also, revered this Durdana.
“The people here are very kind hearted,” Mustafa said earnestly. “They are anxious to
befriend you. They are just trying to give you some advice about living here in this town. It is their way of making you feel like you belong.”
“Belong?” Doctor Bradford let out a short, harsh laugh. “I don’t need to belong. I need to
“You do need to heal,” Mustafa muttered under his breath.
Doctor Bradford ignored him and downed the rest of his glass. “We need to try a
different tactic,” he said. “This isn’t working.”
“Then what would you have me do?”
“I don’t know, find someone. That’s your job, I’m the doctor.”
Mustafa shook his head and stood up from his chair. “I will see you tomorrow.”
Since that day, Doctor Bradford had not had a single serious patient. This was why he
was so anxious for Mustafa to show up and let him know what the man with the horse at his doorstep wanted. Mustafa was there within ten minutes, his brown face beaded with sweat, dark stains growing under his armpits from the heat of the mid morning sun. He wiped sweat from his neck with the back of his shirt and greeted Doctor Bradford and the man with the horse.
“His name is Amir,” he told Doctor Bradford. “He’s from the neighboring village of
“Alright, sure,” Doctor Bradford said quickly. “But what is he here for?”
The man motioned to his horse as he talked to Mustafa. Mustafa said, “He thinks his
horse is going blind. He says he’s tried everything.”
“The horse,” Doctor Bradford repeated. He looked between the man and his animal and
back to Mustafa. “He’s come to me - for a horse ?”
“He needs his horse to keep working,” Mustafa offered. He shrugged. “Isn’t this what
you wanted? To practice medicine?”
“People, not animals! Send him away! No, wait. Better yet, send him to Durdana,”
Doctor Bradford spat. “I’m sure she’ll be mighty pleased with herself.”
Mustafa frowned. “You want my advice?” he said. “Take him to Durdana yourself. See
what she does. Maybe you’ll see she’s not someone you have to always compete against.”
“I don’t have to compete with anyone, and I wouldn’t go to Durdana’s if it’s the last thing
I ever do!” Doctor Bradford went inside, slamming the door to his office shut after himself.
Doctor Bradford didn’t remember when exactly his bottled water ran out, but it was
somewhere around the fourth week of his living in the village. He boiled the well water Mustafa brought him twice before he drank it, but upon the beginning of the cramps and diarrhea the next morning, he realized he had been sloppy in his haste.
He laid in his bed, unable to eat or drink anything besides more of that offensive water.
He hated anyone seeing him in that undignified state, unable to even get out of bed to go to the bathroom by himself. His hands shook when he tried to fix the blankets. His body was racked with cold shivers yet he felt constantly drowned in sweat.
On the second day, he developed a bit of a fever and felt awful enough to ask Mustafa to
call his supervisor and send down a doctor from the nearest city.
Mustafa did as he asked, but then sat down at his bedside and said, “I know you’re not
going to like this, but-”
Doctor Bradford shook his head. “If you ask for Durdana, I will never forgive you,” he
rasped. “Don’t you dare take me to her.”
But the next day, he felt worse. He hadn’t eaten anything substantial in days, and he was
feeling a deep, throbbing ache in his bones. Despite the warm weather, he couldn’t stop shaking, and his muscles were tight and sore from being clenched in shivers all night long. Having seen hundreds of patients in medical school, he knew it was not getting better.
What was worse was that his supervisor called Mustafa back and told him the doctor
would not be able to come for the next three days.
“No help is coming,” Mustafa said after he relayed the bad news. “I’m getting Durdana.”
Even if Doctor Bradford wanted to protest, he felt too weak. Mustafa tucked the ends of
the blankets more firmly under Doctor Bradford’s back and legs and said, “Try not to go
Doctor Bradford closed his eyes and tried to remember why he ever thought moving to a
completely foreign country would be a brilliant move for his career. He should never have come here. He didn’t know the language. He didn’t know about the culture. He hadn’t even known where Peshawar was on a map before coming. The only person who needed him was an old, half-blind horse who could just as easily be taken to the distinguished Durdana and apparently be cured by drinking a gallon full of rose petal water.
Just as he was beginning to regret the day he decided to become a doctor, the front door
squeaked open and he heard Mustafa and a woman talking and laughing. The woman’s voice was gravelly and slow, but her laugh was loud. Doctor Bradford tried to sit up straighter in bed, maybe not look so weak and defeated in front of the woman who was stealing all his patients, but Mustafa had set the blankets too tight and he was left laying in humiliation when Durdana walked in.
After hearing Durdana this and Durdana that, he always imagined her as someone larger
than life, so huge and imposing that people naturally flocked to her and followed her. However, Durdana was a very small woman, with wisps of gray hair escaping the top of her hijab and dark skin that was creased full of smile lines.
“Hello there,” she said, her accent thick but her English perfect. She pulled her
stethoscope from around her neck and adjusted it in her ears. “It is nice to finally meet you.”
Doctor Bradford’s mouth hung open as he took in the old, thin woman whose dress hung
off her bony shoulders and was too long for her short stature.
“Cat got your tongue?” She laughed and turned around. “That is the English phrase, isn’t
“I think so,” he said.
Durdana shrugged. “What do you think, Benjamin?” she asked as she put the stethoscope to his heart. “Those are the right words, are they not?”
Before he had to think of a suitable response, a bout of coughing took over him and he
curled up on his side, something bubbling up in his stomach. Durdana immediately had the bucket next to the bed and he vomited a bit of water into it.
“Oh, dear,” she said, brushing away the sweaty hair from his forehead and patting his
cheek when he laid back in his pillow, groaning. “It’s very bad, isn’t it? Mustafa tells me it was the water. And Mustafa,” she said to him. “Go heat up the drink I left in the kitchen.”
After Mustafa left, Durdana checked Doctor Bradford’s eyes, nose, and mouth. As she
worked, she talked.
“I heard you came here with a health organization a few weeks ago,” she said. “That’s
quite a selfless thing to do. I don’t think I had half the sense you already have at this age. All I wanted was to get out of my parents’ house and get a job. Of course, that didn’t work out, but I guess things don’t always do.”
Doctor Bradford kept quiet as she felt his throat. Surely she knew that he wasn’t as
selfless as this job was supposed to be. Surely she knew all those things he had said about her. Why else would she not come to his office, when the whole village had already been at least once, just to see who he was?
“Your temperature is very high,” she said as Mustafa came back in, holding a large cup.
“First thing you need to do is drink a bit of this.”
She held the cup to his lips, but when Doctor Bradford saw the chunky yellow liquid
inside, he turned his head and nearly vomited again. “What is that?” he rasped. “Moldy rose petals?”
Durdana’s eyebrows furrowed for a moment in confusion before the crinkles around her
eyes deepened and she threw her head back and laughed. “Gulkand?” she said when she could speak, wiping her tears with her free hand. “That is not for infections. This is milk mixed with turmeric, among other things. This will help, I promise.”
Doctor Bradford had indeed read up on the antiinflammatory properties of turmeric
during his time in medical school, but he was still hesitant to drink the revolting-smelling liquid. It was a true testament of his weakness and misery that he gave in and drank a few sips of it. Grains of turmeric clung to his tongue and throat, but Durdana made him swallow when he tried to spit it out.
“This is disgusting,” he said.
She pulled his covers higher up to his chin and wrung out the cloth on his forehead. She
dipped it in the cold water bowl near his head, placed it back on his face, and patted his cheek. Her fingertips were rough from years of hard work. “Medicine is not always so glamorous, is it?” she said. “Now rest a little. I’ll come back in a few hours.”
And she did. She came every morning, afternoon, and evening until Doctor Bradford
could sit up in bed by himself. Even after a doctor came from the volunteer agency and
administered antibiotics, she continued to bring her own strange concoctions to his office and hover around his bed until she was sure he would not waste a single drop.
“You look well today,” she said about a week later when he walked into his kitchen to
find her heating up the turmeric mix on his stove. “How do you feel?”
“I feel fine.”
Doctor Bradford had finally felt able to stand up and walk to his front porch that
morning, and just that small accomplishment put him in a good mood. He slowly ambled to the stove where he peered over Durdana’s shoulder as she sprinkled turmeric and brown, black, and yellow spices into a pot.
Without turning around, she asked, “Do you want to know what goes in here?”
Doctor Bradford jumped a little but he quickly pasted an uninterested expression onto his
face. “Doesn’t matter,” he said in a forcefully casual tone.
As Durdana pointed out the things in the mixture to him - cinnamon, ginger, black pepper
- Doctor Bradford shuffled impatiently on his feet and shrugged when she asked if he had any more questions. But later, when she left, and he was alone in his house, he took out the ledger that he packed specifically to keep patient records but never got to use, opened a fresh page, and wrote down everything he remembered.
Temporal Vortex Project
Samuel Griffin wiped the blood off his jeans as he walked down the dark lonely road. He
finished with his cigarette and cast it into a gurgling stream beside the road before it disappeared
into a storm drain.
Damn it. He thought. I can’t be seen in the open.
He ducked into the shadows of the trees, content in walking beside the street. He didn’t have his
knife on him anymore, so it would be difficult for him to defend himself. He kept his guard up.
Walking at a brisk pace, he still felt slightly perturbed by the incident from earlier. He could
faintly hear sirens in the distance, but he was far enough away from them now. Samuel noticed
the lights of a gas station just behind a building up ahead. He made his way toward it.
Samuel crept past the abandoned building and began crossing the gas station parking lot. Then,
he saw something that stopped him in his tracks. Two cars sat next to each other in the parking
lot twenty yards away. In the one closest to him he could see a woman in the driver’s seat. Her
window was open all the way. From where he was, Samuel could tell she was wearing braids.
He checked his surroundings to make sure she was alone before he made a beeline to her in the
same way a starving lion would approach a vulnerable antelope. She looked up at him and
“Hey there, lovely!” he called out.
“Hey yourself.” she said back.
As soon as he came up to the car she opened her door and stepped out. She was on the taller side,
about five-nine at most. Samuel’s eyes were drawn to her sagging tank top which displayed her
exceptional cleavage. She closed the door and leaned against it before taking out a pack of
cigarettes from her pocket.
“I like your leather jacket.” she said casually.
“Well, thanks. What’s your name?” he asked.
“Sonya.” she answered, taking out a cigarette from the pack. “You want one, handsome?”
Her voice had the slightest hint of mischief.
“Of course!” he took it from her. She handed him a lighter as well. He lit it, closed his
eyes, and took a couple puffs.
“Rough night?” she asked, looking him up and down.
“What, do I look like shit?” Samuel asked her.
“You look like you could use a good time.” Sonya said with a smile on her face.
“And you look like you came to give me a good time.” Sam responded. He reached his
hand up and ran his fingers through her braids. Then he moved up against her and began kissing
her neck while holding his cigarette away in his left hand.
“I do have a thing for melanin.” He whispered, barely paying attention to Sonya’s right
arm reaching through the open driver side window. Sam leaned away to take another puff from
his cigarette. He blew smoke into the night.
Sam froze once he heard the click of a shotgun right next to his ear. The cigarette dropped from
his fingers. He turned slowly to see Sonya with her arm extended pointing the shotgun at him.
He could see the pair of handcuffs hanging from her right hand at her side.
“Could you kneel for me?” she asked.
“W-what is this?” He stammered. “What the hell is this?”
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked. You’ll want to kneel. Now.” Sonya demanded. She
cocked back the hammer on the gun.
“You a cop?” He challenged. “Is that what this is?”
“No, I’m not a cop,” she said. “Unlike a cop I don’t have to arrest you. I could just shoot
you right here. Get on your knees!”
Samuel suddenly spun and knocked the gun from her hand, sending it clattering against the car
and onto the floor. He swung with his right only for Sonya to dodge around him and quickly
hook her left arm around his neck. She brought her right arm down on his head. He fell to his
knees gasping for breath in her chokehold. He heard her casually chuckle before he blacked out.
Interview Log x5044, Date: 06/04/05
Interviewer: Professor Zoey Boswell
Interviewee: Sonya Cooke
: Please state your name.
: Sonya Cooke.
: As you’re already aware, this interview is recorded.
: Yeah, I know it’s recorded, whatever. What questions you got for me?
: Actually I’d prefer it to be more of a discussion. I don’t want it to be me just
learning about you. I also want you to learn about me and of course, what we do here.
: And what exactly do you do in this abandoned warehouse?
: [Chuckles] Let’s take this one step at a time. We’ll start from the beginning. What
do you do? Well, what did you do before the incident four days ago?
: Well, I was a bounty hunter along with Miller. That’s what we were doing when you
met us. Hunting for our next target.
: Ah, I see. Tell me about you and Miller.
Sonya stood over Samuel Griffin as he lay unconscious on the ground. She picked up her lighter
before taking the opportunity to go through his pockets.
“Huh, no cash.” she said in disappointment.
“Sonya!” a voice called out. She bristled and spun around to point her gun at the face of
the shorter curly haired man. He looked at her with a frown.
She let out a sigh and lowered her weapon. “Miller, don’t sneak up on me like that.” she said.
“I told you to wait for my signal.” Miller said, approaching her. He had come from the
building behind the gas station.
“Well I caught him didn’t I?” She pointed at the man on the ground. Miller shrugged and
walked over to the car. Sonya bent over and handcuffed Samuel’s hands behind his back. She
then took off his leather jacket.
“Where were you? You took a while to show up.” She said as she brushed dirt off the
jacket. Sonya then put on the jacket over her tank top, surprised that it fit her.
“I was scouting the area,” Miller told her. “What do you plan on doing with the car?” he
asked, tapping the dark green surface with his knuckles.
“What do you mean?” Sonya asked.
“It was your idea to steal it. You’ve got a plan for what to do with it, right?” he asked.
“I dunno dude,” she said, lifting up the unconscious man. “Burn it, roll it into a lake,
make it disappear. Give me a hand with this asshole, will you?”
Miller sighed and opened up the back door. They both slid Sam into the backseat horizontally.
As she closed the door, she heard somewhere out in the distance a high pitched wail. It almost
sounded like a woman’s scream. Almost.
Sonya flicked her head back and tossed her braids. Then she looked over at Miller. “Did you
hear that just now?” she asked with narrowed eyes.
Miller nodded. “What was that?” he wondered aloud. Sonya shrugged. Whatever it was, it
sounded a little too close for comfort. She got into the driver’s seat and Miller got into the
passenger side. They drove out of the parking lot, going outside the reach of the gas station
“Good job in catching the perp. Should’ve told you that before.” Miller said.
“Just remember that since I located him, it’s a sixty-forty split this time.” she said as she
“Yes, I haven’t forgotten Sonya,” Miller said, rolling his eyes. “Sixty-forty split.”
“Um, sixty-forty split what?” she asked, clearly playing dumb.
“Sixty-forty split in your favor.” Miller finished.
“That’s what I like to hear.” Sonya said. A smug smile had spread across her face. She
refocused on the road. “Y’know, this really beats selling moonshine.” she said.
“That’s because this is more legal.” said Miller.
Sonya scoffed. “Miller, we’re driving a stolen car right now. None of this is legal,” she said.
“But you’re actually helping the community this time.” Miller pointed out. Sonya only
took a deep breath and remained silent. She looked ahead at the trees rolling by on either side as
they traveled through the night.