A Glimpse of Paradise – Part 2 (SSC)

**If you’ve missed the first part of the ‘A Glimpse of Paradise’ – read it here.

Polly’s bitter assessment held true. When the doctor showed up, his diagnosis was as vague as frustrating. 

“We’re managing a host of symptoms. Re-hydration took care of blood pressure, seizing, and vomiting. The kidneys look bad. The underlying cause is unclear. Allergies, infections, drugs—”

“We’ve been through this!” Polly hissed. “Sera’s no junkie!”

The doctor ignored her. “We have nothing concrete yet, Mr. Roth, and need more information for precision testing. For now, it’s wide-ranging standard tests until something crops up that limits the parameters.”  

Nathaniel pinched the bridge of his nose. As a brother, he’d dropped the ball. Whatever had happened to Sera was just another forensic puzzle. He knew how to solve those: intuition as to which details might prove relevant, straightforward logic, and the common investigation principles: identify, record, assess. If the doctors needed more information, he’d get them some. 

When the doctor had gone, he turned to Polly. “We need to retrace Sera’s steps. Last month to six weeks. Who she met. What she did, ate, drank. Where she was.”

Polly perked up at once. “It’s all on the social. Look it up.” 

“Why don’t you tell me?”

“Wait, you don’t follow her?” 

Nathaniel ignored Polly’s horrified expression. He would not discuss his social media habits with an influencer. “No. I don’t that stuff anymore. So…?” he prompted. 

“She was at The Glimpse. A last-minute opportunity with this new jewelry brand, Body Armour. Impossible to pass up. I would’ve gone too, but I had that gig in Gibraltar.” 

“What’s The Glimpse?”

“Just the hottest location in the world. A secret Caribbean Island.” 

“Right. Then that’s where I’m going.” He pulled out his phone. If an answer was out there, he would find it. “Caribbean, you said. Which airport? San Juan? Havana?”

Polly rolled her eyes. “Nassau. But that will be the closest you get. The Glimpse picks up all their guests.”

Nathaniel shrugged. “A stack of bills will solve that issue—”

“No!” Polly threw up her hands. “You don’t get it, do you? The island’s location is the best-kept secret since…the Coca Cola’s original formula, maybe? It’s not a second FYRE Festival where everyone with a couple thousand bucks can buy themselves popularity by proxy.”

“Sat-nav geolocation says no place is secret once you’ve been there. I don’t see them taking influencers’ phones. So…”  

“Sera’s phone is locked,” Polly deadpanned him. “And no, I can’t unlock it.”

“Alright. Who else has been there?”

Polly snorted. “No influencer would risk blabbing. The Glimpse is exclusive. Invite-only. You need a sponsor, a model, and a photographer to qualify.”

Nathaniel paused, then smiled. “You’re a model, and I am a photographer. Sort of. So… who’s going to be our sponsor?” 

Thirty-eight hours later, Nathaniel and Polly sat at a diner outside Nassau Airport. They had both called in favors: Nathaniel with his fellow investigators, Polly with Rhingo Glasses, their new sponsor.  

They huddled over Polly’s phone, swiping through Sera’s profile. Promos and staged product placements alternated with more private pictures. Nathaniel focused on the latter category. 

Click: Sera and Polly in dirndl dresses at Munich’s Oktoberfest, drinking, singing, laughing.

Click: Arm in arm at the Eiffel Tower.

Click: Atop Grande Dune du Pilat, their mingled hair dancing in the wind. 

“Trekking up was hard,” Polly said, smiling. “Thousands of years’ worth of sand pulling at our feet, a free face exfoliation from the sand in the air. The view was worth it, though.” 

Ding! A notification interrupted her reminiscence. 

She checked it. “It’s from JC, Sera’s photographer,” she said. “Listen. ‘Hey, I can’t get ahold of Sera. BA is asking why she’s not posting/boosting. Get her on it ASAP! Hope it’s not the a pinkeye like mine that has her out. Talk soon. xo’ Man, I wish we just had to deal with a fucking pinkeye,” she huffed. Looking up, she added: “I haven’t told anyone about Sera’s condition.”

“Nobody’s business anyway, “Nathaniel said and drummed his fingers to the tabletop.” So, this JC guy uploaded pictures of Sera?”

Polly’s eyes went wide. “Damn, I should have checked their tag before. Of course JC and the sponsor posted something, even if Sera didn’t.”

She opened JC’s profile, and Nathaniel took it all in.  

Click: Sera in a wide shot, body wrapped in too little fabric and too much jewelry, her hair streaming behind her in the wind. 

Click: Sera stretched out near the surf, sand clinging to skin and metal alike. 

Click: Sera’s face in a close-up, eyes closed, lips sandy, tongue playing with a delicate silver chain. 

Nathaniel caught Polly’s eyes, his throat thick and dry. What if JC’s pictures were the last? What if the worst came to pass?

Up until four years ago, Nathaniel had enjoyed Sera’s profiles, had kept in touch with her. Before bed, he’d scrolled through the social media sites, smiling at pictures of her day’s activities. Then, Sera’s influencer career had gathered momentum, and the experience soured. 

Her feed became too good to be true, a picturesque mirage that—once one looked past the oversaturated color, the pushed contrasts, and the carefully cropped view—faded to what it really had been: a woman as genuine as a Barbie, hawking useless gadget to her followers. 

Nothing real. Nothing that could last.

Soon, he couldn’t bear looking at her over-processed images and sun-flared selfies anymore. He had felt sad for her. In retrospect, it seemed silly. Stupid even.

 Ding! Another notification made them both jump. 

“It’s Rhingo Glasses. The props delivery is five minutes out. After that, we have another hour until the guys from The Glimpse are due.”



A Glimpse of Paradise – Teaser (SSC)

The NYC Midnight SSC 2023 started on Jan 20th – the first round running for 8 days. If you want to see the prompt I got, read about it here. And as promised here, I’ll share a few snippets.


A forensic photographer who vehemently rejects all things social-media must team up with an influencer to find out what’s ailing his sister after her stay at The Glimpse, an invite-only island resort in the Caribbean.

Nathaniel Roth pressed his forehead to the glass pane separating him from his sister’s hospital bed and let the cold seep into his skin. The chill in the observation room did nothing to calm the questions whirling in his head like lost leaves on the wind. 

What on Earth had happened to his little sister? People in their mid-20s didn’t end up in the ICU for no reason. He knew in his gut that someone was responsible.

He turned at the sound of nearing footsteps, desperate for a doctor with good news or at least some answers. Instead, a young woman opened the door and gave him a quick once-over.

“You’re the cop brother?”

He nodded. “Nathaniel Roth.”

“Took you long enough to get here.”

Nathaniel’s inner photographer took her in the way he would catalog a crime scene.

Click. Tired eyes, handkerchief balled up in her fist.

Click. Crumpled dress, strap sandals, battered sling bag.

Click. Delicate features, messy long hair. 

She hadn’t slept or changed clothes since last night. Loyal friend of Sera’s.

“You’re the…roommate who called 911?” She held out a hand. “Penelope Machiello.” 

Nathaniel didn’t recognize the name—and Penelope noticed. “Does Polly Papillon ring a bell?”

It didn’t. “Ah, Polly,” he feigned recognition. 

Polly didn’t buy it. “Whatever.” She crossed the room and touched her hand to the observation window. “I found her crumpled on the floor, seizing every minute or so. Blood streaked vomit everywhere, her eyes rolling back in her head….” She turned away from Sera’s immobile form, eyes squeezed shut. “You have probably seen worse. But for me, it was so horrible. Ghastly!” 

Nathaniel made a noncommittal sound in his throat. Polly knew a lot about him, while he hadn’t been precisely involved in Sera’s life. Was Polly a close friend, a travel companion, or a co-worker? Did influencers even have co-workers? For him, the idea didn’t fit with an influencer’s MO: the relentless self-promotion, the jet-setting, the freeloading. Plane tickets, accommodation, promo gadgets. Everything was fair game if it came with a hashtag and an additional cheque. 

“I’ve seen some ugly scenes,” he volunteered. “But those were strangers. Anyway. What are the doctors’ plans for Sera?”

“The white coats know shit what to do!” Polly spat. 


Read the 2nd part here.

NYC Midnight SSC – The Submission

for the first round IS DONE!

And it wasn’t even a last-minute submission either. I didn’t have to pull an all-nighter, even though it took me quite some time to actually get started on writing.

Somehow, the 48h timeframe with last year’s FFC put me on the spot and I got the stories out fast – with 8 days to go, I seemed to lack the motivation to even start in the first days.

But anyway, now it’s done and submitted and all I can do is wait.

As always, I’m trying to not get my hopes up in terms of advancing to the next round. With the FFC, every participant got to do the first 2 rounds, regardless of their placement in the first challenge. But with the SSC, I would need to be among the best 5 in my group to advance – and that’s a high bar.

I’ll share snippets and the synopsis with y’all at a later time. Promised!

SSC – The Prompt

Today is the day – the challenge starts and the prompts are here. This is what I got:

Just like last year’s Flash Fiction Challenge (FFC), I’ll be writing a Mystery. Whelp!

With the FFC, writers got Genre, Location, and Object as a prompt. Now I got Subject and Character? Uhm… I didn’t expect that.

I better read up on how to use those in the story, so I don’t run into problems.

The Challenge will run for 8 days (20th to 28th midnight NYC time) so I got until Monday 29th 6am (due to time zone difference) to get something to paper that fits.

Everyone, wish me luck!


Here are the statistics for this year’s SSC:

So many writers from all over the world!!! Happy to be part of this and the amazing writing community.

Short Story Challenge

Last year, I participated in NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge. I didn’t expect to get far when I started, flash fiction being a new kind of writing for me. (In general, I’m an over-writer, so flash fiction didn’t seem to be the best fit for me…)
BUT, surprisingly, I made it as far as round 3 of 4 – finishing 4th and with honorable mention in my group in round 3.

NYC Midnight holds other challenges during the course of a year. Upcoming right now at the start of the year is the Short Fiction Challenge – and of course, I signed up! The challenge will start in only two days’ time.


(Secretly dreading that I will get a bad genre because I have been so lucky so far.)

I’ll yet y’all know what I got to work with once I got my prompt.