FIRST PLACE: Contested Contingent by Jules Paige
SECOND PLACE: To the Rescue by Anne Goodwin
THIRD PLACE: Goodbye Fall by Ritu Bhathal
HON MEN: Chasing the Past by Sascha Darlington; Addressing the Animated Alarm by Jules Paige; and He Had Kind Eyes by Susan Sleggs (story is at bottom)
Contested Contingent by Jules Paige
They are silent soldiers. A rare unified army. Commanded by a queen to seek the supplies to survive. Instinctual training leads them through dense foliage to the structures of giants. With all the unseasonable torrential rains their homes have become flooded. Yet they expect no outside relief. They are a self-sufficient bunch.
Mother has not seen the arrival of the invaders. In her nightgown, robe and slippers she ventures into the morning light of the kitchen and… draws a blood curdling scream. Father rushes to her aide. His bravery unsurpassed, he calms Mother and calls the local ant exterminator.
To the Rescue by Anne Goodwin
Cold cruel enough to cut the breath from me. Waves roar loud enough to drown out other sounds. It took a fool to dive in after her. It’ll take a hero to ferry her to shore.
Hair and beard turn to icicles. Arms to cartwheels, legs to flippers, brain to military command. Kick harder! Plough faster! Fight off lakebed vegetation, fear and fatigue!
I’ve almost reached her when a tether takes my ankle. I yank it back. It reins me in. I’m swallowing water when I grab her wrist. How will history judge me: a hero or a fool?
Goodbye Fall by Ritu Bhathal
Below me flowed water, fast and furious.
I tightened my grip on the pot.
“All ready?” The instructor checked my harnesses.
But I nodded. I needed to do this.
Launching myself, as instructed, I fell, headfirst, feeling the air zoom past me.
The elastic went taut and I bounced up and down several times.
My heart was in my mouth.
As I came to a stop, I looked at the pot, still in my hands.
Loosening its lid and allowing the contents to fall into the water, I whispered “Goodbye Jake,” before slowly being pulled back up.
Chasing the Past by Sascha Darlington
Blake’s ultimatum: “Stop storm chasing or I’ll leave.”
The first fat drop of rain hits the windshield as I pull onto Rafferty Road. Forget Blake. Focus.
The hail throttles me awake. The tornado falls out of the sky, barrels toward me. Momentarily, I’m awed by the intensity, the blackness, the harsh windy sound of the twisting, family-killing creature.
“Stupid!” I jerk the Suburban’s wheel, bounce over the median, then turn right onto a dirt road. I’m nearly standing on the gas pedal. The rearview shows only blackness. Debris shatters the back window.
If I survive, I’ll never storm-chase again.
Processing the Results by JulesPaige
Sylvia tries to remember to breath. All she can think of is that this is his fault. Well she did sort of consent, and at the time it was a rip roaring heck of a time. What a ride!
Now though, Sylvia feels like an elephant with duck feet. She wants to trumpet wildly, OK just plain scream. They keep telling her that it’ll all be worth it. But she can see her mother snickering, just wanting to outright guffaw like a bellowing jackass.
Hal stuffs more ice chips between Sylvia’s parched lips. Says she’ll be one great mother!
He Had Kind Eyes by Susan Sleggs
The bartender told the tarted up woman, “There’s a rule; the boss gets first dibs on any strange and then they share?”
She stayed, sipping whiskey a little too fast. The Harleys roared in.
The group entered. The noise level tripled. They eyed her until she ordered another. A man smelling of leather, and aftershave paid; took proprietorship. Soon walked her out.
In the quiet night, he said, “Your perfume smells like fear. What do you want?”
Tears formed. “To prove I’m not a mouse.”
He kissed her like no other had. “Go home. You proved it to me.”