Annesha Sengupta


Ghosts. Talking plants. A sense of self. Just a few of the (sometimes hazardous) surprises in store for last week’s protagonists as they took took up quarters in a vacant house. Congratulations to the winner of Week Two, Annesha Sengupta for her story “Rust.” The more times we read it, the eerier it gets.

Check out this week’s prompt here!


The walls sit warm around her like a hot blister of skin. There’s a splinter in her finger and she holds tight to the pain. Sonali has always believed that women live out the opposite of their names. What burst of cruelty caused her to blurt out, on that blood-soaked hospital bed, the name Ananda for her daughter? Ananda. Happy.

Sonali looks older than she is, with skin that unfurls from her cheeks in limp curtains. They flap slightly in the summer breeze as she rises from the corner of the house in which she was sleeping, her bedding lined with newspaper. The windows are cracked with grime, but Sonali takes a corner of her jacket and rubs until a ray of sunlight slithers into the room. She can see the road now, the picket fence, the For Sale sign on the lawn. Yesterday, she had a scare; two real estate agents in pencil suits came to apprise the house’s value. She had to grab all her things and roll-dive into the backyard.

“Smells like someone’s been living in here,” she heard one of them laugh.


Across the street, Sonali’s daughter, Ananda, is getting her kids ready for school. Their outlines flicker through translucent curtains, they look to Sonali like shadow puppets. When she closes her eyes, she can hear them speak perfectly and ordinarily; “PB&J, or grilled cheese?”

The kids come out wearing tutus and Iron Man masks. Ananda lets them do whatever they want. Sonali fights the urge to tsk, remembering the mornings she pinched Ananda awake, then slapped her red-blue for refusing to wear the high-collar button-down salwar Sonali had chosen.

“We’re in America, Mom.” Two more slaps; one for America, another for Mom. She couldn’t abide that word, the stretch of the jaws around the central vowel like a snake heaving down prey. M-A-W-M.

In Ananda’s driveway, the car reverberates. Sonali sees the children’s fuzzy heads bob up and down in the backseat as her daughter carefully drives away. She closes her eyes.


Sonali lives alone in a state two hours away. She has a neighbor housesitting and feeding the cat. She has sprinklers on timers and lights above the garage door that blink in case of an intruder. She has tenure and a well-stocked fridge. She has everything but a daughter who will return her calls.

So she’s here, now, sleeping on the floor and hiding from real estate agents. Drinking sludgy water from plastic faucets and listening to raccoons scratching under the crawlspace. She thinks several times a day; I should go back to my life. But Sonali means gold and she was meant to rust. She will wait until the day she is flaky and red, she will wait until the act of vanishing. Then she will come out of the house and kneel down in front of Ananda.

“I am sorry for your name, I am sorry for everything.”


Annesha Sengupta is an undergraduate student at NYU studying English and Creative Writing. She edits the Minetta Review. 

Here’s the Plotto prompt that inspired Annesha’s story: {B} has taken up her quarters in a vacant house.

PLOTTO: THE MASTER BOOK OF ALL PLOTSIn the 1920s, dime store novelist William Wallace Cook painstakingly diagrammed and cataloged his personal writing method—“Purpose, opposed by Obstacle, yields Conflict”—for the instruction and illumination of his fellow authors. His efforts resulted in 1,462 plot scenarios and Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots was born. A how-to manual for plot, Plotto offers endless amalgamations to inspire limitless narratives. Open the book to any page to find plots you may never have known existed, from morose cannibals to gun-wielding preachers to phantom automobiles. Equal parts reference guide and historical oddity, Plotto is sure to amaze and delight writers for another century.