Guest Post: Castle, a Short Story by Ashley Amber

Thank you to everyone who submitted work for the November Short Story Contest. The 2nd place featured entry is:

Castle by Ashley Amber

Ashley Amber is a 26-year-old author who calls Boston home. Whether it was her first picture book that she entered in a Reading Rainbow contest at 9 years old, loads of fanfiction as a teenager, or her own novels, Ashley has always been writing. When she’s not writing, she’s making videos as an “Authortuber.” Ashley is currently expanding her writing credentials while she seeks a home in publishing for her LGBTQ book series. Visit her website at

Zvi’s entry was based on this writing prompt:

The writing prompt

Please Enjoy


It always looked like a castle. The old, stone exterior, turrets pointed to the sky and the stained-glass windows reflecting the world outside them. It was something out of a dream. Or a movie, or a story. Like her favorite page in her pop-up book come to life, shooting up right before her eyes.

The clock tower would ring with every hour and she swore a princess would come running out when it struck midnight.

Walking by, but never in, she’d hear the bells, but never sing. She’d see the clock, but had to wait, for the day this castle became her fate…

The first time was magical.

Hurrying through the busy city, the strangely warm, November air hit their faces thanks to the way the seasons shifted. She wondered why she even brought a hoodie.

A full day ahead of them, they hoped they had time for it all. Pizza in the buzzing food court after window shopping at the mall, then popping over to check the weather in the big, glowing beacon perched atop a building in the distance. They’d swing back around to conclude their day at the candy shop that’s sugary aroma could be smelled from down the street.

So many people filled the sidewalk, headed every which way around them. The suits went hand-in-hand with the phones to their ears and the heels against the pavement were silenced among the hustle and bustle and the lonely teens sat on the city library steps. She wondered if this was the norm as they hurried across the street, new to this part of the city.

She looked up, a never-ending building hitting the clouds above them. She knew it wasn’t the camera in her hand that made her look like a tourist, but the wonder in her wide eyes as she took it all in.

So many skyscrapers and illuminated signs and painted crosswalks enclosed them in the city. She’d always loved the look of tall buildings; the way they turned any city 3D without even needing those red and blue glasses.

Her eyes wandered across the street and that was when she saw it. Stopped in her tracks, she was lucky she’d already made her way off the crosswalk.

It stood out among the rest, shaped more intricately and made of something that wasn’t brick or concrete.

It looked as if it was built with children’s building bricks, or that game with the wooden blocks that tower until they fall. Except there was no way this could fall.

The windows looked like they were colored with every crayon in the box and the melodic sound of bells chimed as the little hand landed on whatever time it was. A sight like this could make you lose all sense.

“A castle!” She pointed to the rustic, old building across the street as they made their way by.

It popped against the blue sky behind it, beautiful stone and stained-glass windows mirroring the city outside them. But those pointy turrets were what gave it away.

How could something so magical sit in the city? Like some kind of hidden gem, this building was a treasure among the rest. If she could fill up her camera with just pictures of this, she would. Because of all the things she expected to see in the city that day, she never expected to see a castle.

“That’s a church,” her mother said, unknowingly shattering her daughter’s dreams only a tad.

They laughed, but she still chose to believe it was a castle as she snapped a picture on her way by.

The next time was more of a comedic effort.

The air was even warmer and the sun was even brighter in the spring as they walked down the street, a better sense of direction this time around. Who needed maps when you had memories guiding your way?

They remembered their pizza order and where the weather beacon glowed and the exact spot between a cafe and a clothing store where the candy shop sat.

She spotted those same old skyscrapers and signs marked with more rust and crosswalks covered with tire tracks. The sweet scent in the air was combined with some kind of musky, inner-city smell of smoke and drains.

They were just about to cross the street when she spotted it.

“My castle!”

It had the same stone on the outside and the same majestic mysteries on the inside. The same stained-glass windows tinted the ground a rainbow and the clock still moved by the minute.

“Now it’s your castle?” her mother asked with a chuckle.

Maybe it sounded like a joke, but she certainly wanted it to be. She snapped a few pictures on their way by, needing to capture the moment.

It wasn’t for over a year later that they met again. She could only imagine what had changed in her year away, and what had remained the same.

They walked against the cool breeze, bewildered by the cold weather on this summer day and wishing she brought her hoodie.

The pizza was still good and the weather beacon still glowed. There were still plenty of suits on their phones and heels strutting by and the library steps occupied by teens.

It looked exactly like the memory in their minds, until they continued down the street.

They noticed a red bulb burnt out on the illuminated sign and the candy shop had closed its doors. The street seemed just a little less magical now.

She let her steps slow, saddened at how much a place could change in a year.

Until she saw it.

She had to admit, she’d forgotten. It had been over a year, after all. She’d moved on and those wondrous dreams that came with this view had moved along with her.

She’d donated that pop-up book and had become too busy to reminisce with her photo album and more things on her mind than fairytales.

But it all seemed to come flooding back the second she spotted that first turret.

“There’s the castle!” she said, a year older and a year wiser, but committed to her princess dreams.

“Yup, there’s the castle!” Her mother’s voice was joking, but she still felt it in her to believe.

She snapped a picture of it, the once blue sky behind it now colored gray, a fitting backdrop for this cold, gloomy day. But not even gray skies could taint the picture-perfect scene that was this building.

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The final time was the following year.

October brought the cold and the day before Halloween brought the spookiness to the foggy street.

So many shops in the mall had come and gone and the food court was replaced by a restaurant owned by some chef from the cooking channel.

At least whoever owned that sign replaced the bulb, the red tint of light shining down on them as they walked by.

She was a few years older and the street was a few more steps walked down. Eyeshadow replaced her bare lids and a cardigan replaced her old hoodie, but her mother was still by her side as they made their way down the street.

Her mother searched for the weather beacon in the distance, hidden somewhere behind the fog. It glowed as red as the illuminated sign, letting the city know it was about to get wet.

When she turned, she noticed it through the fog. It was like seeing an old friend; an old friend who had aged on the outside but never on the inside. The worn stone looked darker and the clock’s hands were stilled, but the bells would assure them of the time.

She remembered what she said just a few years back, missing that childlike view and whimsical outlook.

“Hey, there’s your castle,” her mother said as they crossed the street.

“Remember that?” she said with a laugh, a hand on the camera in her pocket, and she let it catch her eye for just a moment.

She looked up at the stone that stacked into the rustic shapes. She looked through the stained-glass windows, always wondering what was on the other side of them. She looked at the clock, losing all sense of time. She looked at the turrets that always made it look like a castle.

Because it was never a castle.

The church bells rang as the clock struck twelve.

The pews inside were full of suits and heels and teens, their chitter chatter drowned out by the hustle and bustle outside.

The buildings stood in celebration and the illuminated sign blinked with excitement.

She stood outside, her cardigan replaced by a white dress. But her mother was still by her side.

“Are you ready to enter your castle?” her mother asked.

She certainly looked like a princess today. “I’ve never been more ready.”

“Let me get one more picture,” her mother said, whipping out her phone to add another picture to the growing album.

She smiled, knowing her old friend was smiling with her.

She followed her mother inside as the music began, watching all the guests stand from their seats and spotting her future spouse at the end of the aisle.

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Because today, this street had woken up. The buildings stood tall and the crosswalks were freshly painted. The weather beacon glowed an optimistic blue that matched her eyes and they swore the street smelled of sugar.

Today, she was finally a princess.

Because today, this church was finally a castle.

Walking by, but now in, she heard the bells, but now she’ll sing. She saw the clock, but doesn’t wait, today’s the day this castle becomes her fate.

More From the Author

Hear more about Ashley’s writing process in her AuthorTube video:

Enter the Contest

Each month, my site hosts a contest. The contest is unique in that it is based on a visual writing prompt. For this month’s writing prompt and full contest rules, visit Contests.

Previous Winning Stories:

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