Hey, Prosers! The challenge was to write a story about a person with superpowers.

It was rough going at times this week. It’s strange…I can ask for a simple backdrop and get brilliant supernatural stories, but apparently when I ask for the supernatural, it just isn’t as inspiring. These are for the most part way behind last week’s stories, though the concepts are still strong.

However, now that I’ve thoroughly brought everyone down, I want to say that there’s no one story that I actively disliked. Nobody’s writing anything that makes me sit here, wondering what I can say without being agonizingly mean like a couple of long-retired judges. And believe me, in Spookymilk Survivor, sometimes I feel that way.

Also, I’m about ready to throw in the towel on the word count thing. Last week, wordcounttool.com gave smaller counts than Google Docs, and also more accurate. This week, the wordcounttool actually gave higher numbers, and neither was accurate (I checked the four longest stories…well, they may have been the four longest stories. Who knows anymore?). One came out to 304 (within my graces) after the tool said 317 and another came to 298 after it was quoted at 324, so it’s hard to care what the tool says. I’m not going to sit here and count each one each week, so I’m about ready to say “I’ll only check these if they look disastrously large, and will DQ you summarily.” I just don’t know. Is it that hard to create a word count tool that counts words?

Also also, I’m gonna do something this week that I haven’t done before: I’m going to let you read them anonymously, like the judges always do. Stories are marked by the numbers, and the key is at the bottom. If you enjoy this, let me know. If you dislike it, let me know. Of course, if you dislike it, you can always scroll to the key first and then scroll back up, you unresourceful idiot.

Anyway, let’s do this thing. Bret didn’t get a double-gold this time, so someone else might have a chance at the regular season championship!


Jake dialed the phone just as he did every morning.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“Morning Rita, it’s Jake. Ready for a doozy.”

“Ok, honey, lay it on me.”

“First, there’s going to be an attempted robbery at First National Bank on Pike around noon. Call in the Swat team, you’ll need them. Next, send some officers to 1701 N. Washington. A husband is about to find his wife in a most disreputable situation and won’t handle it well. And lastly, the traffic lights on Main and Columbus are going down at 3 and unless the city finds and fixes the problem a few school busses are going…” Jake hears a scream and something tumbled down the stairs. “What was that?” Jake dropped the phone and rushed to the stairs to find his four-year-old daughter lying with eyes glazed and body limp.

Jake’s world froze.

He cradled her in his arms and just sat on the cold tile floor. He stared at her, her perfect little nose, her little blonde pigtails, her Kool-Aid stained mouth, the perfect little girl. He couldn’t believe it, it wasn’t true, it couldn’t be true. He just held her.

“But this is what I do.” he muttered, “I didn’t see you fall; but I see things, I see things. I saw the robbery, the murder, the busses colliding. I see every tragedy in this city, but I don’t see you fall down the stairs?” He pulled her close, buried his face into her little body and descended into tears for what seemed like hours.

The doorbell rang.

Startled by the interruption, Jake lifted his head. He looked to the door and saw EMTs rushing to his side.

She was gone, he had to let her go. Jake sat alone, so very alone.

K: This is a powerful idea for a story, although the opening is some forced exposition that in retrospect seems like the storyteller rushing to get to the end. The revelation loses a little something, too, because the girl’s existence hasn’t been established. A few mentions of her playing in the next room would go a long way. Once I found out my wife wrote this (this morning, long after judging), after killing her for writing it, I mentioned that the drama would have been stronger had the character KNOWN that his daughter was his kryptonite, so while he can control every aspect of crime in his city otherwise, he lives in constant fear of the one thing he can’t control. You don’t even have to kill her off – just give her a minor incident, and have Dad overreact. Trust me, dads are prone to overreacting to minor incidents. BRONZE

P: This one has an interesting idea (dude sees future, but can’t see his own future crashing down around him), but does it in a rather perfunctory manner. One second, he’s on the phone, the next, he’s mourning his dead daughter. It’s jarring. I do like the idea, and the word count certainly hurts it in that it’s not allowed the space it needs to breathe. In a good week like this one, it just doesn’t quite cut it.


Last time.
This is the last time.
I will not do this anymore.
I never thought fairness would matter to me. I have always prided myself on being dead inside. Feelings need to be seen to be felt.
My work comes costing nothing but recognition. Heard but not seen, no one even knows. When they are looking right at me, I feel the gaze but that is all.
So I watch. They don’t even know I’m in the room. This is wrong.
I should leave.
But a debt is owed. Payment is no longer sweet. It really isn’t fair.
Loneliness is a curse.

K: Now here’s a strong character written in very few words. Though it’s dangerously close to being too vague, I don’t need to know what debt is owed to get to the heart of this character, and the story really is a character study. A lot of people struggle each week to come in JUST under the word limit, but it doesn’t take nearly 200-300 words to have some impact. SILVER

P: So, it’s an invisible man (an emotionally stunted invisible man), but what exactly is he doing? Vagueness is often a good thing, and leaving the audience hanging for details is often critical to any sort of tension, but this one doesn’t give us anything to hold on to. I like the possibility of a hollow-feeling invisible man, but it needs some manner of hook.


The Red Daemon held the vial of deadly toxin above her scaly head, glorying in the terrified screams from the crowd. They had come expecting a Jimmy Buffett concert, but now she held them hostage as part of her diabolical plot!

Somehow unnoticed, a flashy motorbike roared up. The dumpy man who climbed off it wore a suit made of strips of brilliant color, but they blended into a muddy brown. His confident stride towards The Red Daemon faltered as he mounted the stage, and her head snapped towards him as he ducked behind the drum set.

“So,” she purred, “I thought I’d killed all the superheroes. ” She raised her laser pistol as she spoke.

The man slowly stood up. “No, I’m not a superhero,” he stated diffidently, “I am… The Failer.”

The Red Daemon cocked her head and flicked out her forked tongue. “Hmm. Never heard of you.” His already droopy shoulders slumped further.

“Though,” she hissed, “You’ll surely be more famous once I’ve killed you!”

“Yeah!” said The Failer, perking up. “Here, let me move closer so it’s an easier shot.”

He started forward, but his foot caught the cymbal tripod and he flopped forward as The Red Daemon snapped off a laser blast. The crimson beam nailed the falling brass cymbal and reflected back into her torso. The fragile vial of toxin dropped into the resultant squishy mess, landing safely on the remnants of The Red Daemon’s liver.

The Failer sighed and stood up, gagging slightly at the smell. Now that the city was safe again, it was back to trying to make his wife divorce him and attempting to turn their kids into juvenile delinquents. It’s a delicate trick to succeed when you know you’re going to fail at anything you put your mind to.

K: Okay, so this character can work. Initially I thought of the humor as a little desperate, but by the end, The Failer had my empathy. He really does have a semi-useful power, though also a pretty shitty life. BRONZE

P: This sort of reminds me of some of the stuff that I did for similar challenges – make a ‘superhero’ who has a minimal superpower, in this case failing at everything he attempts. There are certain logistical problems with this (if he’s going out of his way to purposefully fail at something, is he failing at all?), but it’s clever and funny, so I’ll laugh along.


“A superwhat?”
“Supertaster,” he said over the din of the bar.
She looked confused. “Your clothes aren’t exactly high fashion.”
“Not that kind of taste,” he replied, “I mean flavors. I taste things other people just don’t.”
Annoyed, she let out a corrosive laugh. “So…you can taste colors? Like an acid burnout?”
“More like, when I eat a burger, it’s much more burger-y.”
“Fffffascinating.” She downed her shot.
He continued, ignoring her annoyed look. “It’s awful. Everything tastes too powerful. That’s why I’m having water.”
She shook her head in disbelief. “So this is where I’m supposed to ask what that’s like, and you tell me that I can see for myself over breakfast tomorrow, right?”
He smiled wanly. “No, no. But if you’re really interested…”
“Don’t bother. That’s a cheesier line than ‘Hi there, can I buy you a drink? I’ve got superpowers,’ which I now regret finding funny.”
Looking down at his glass, he muttered “I just wanted to get you away from your friends for a moment.”
She looked genuinely ticked off, “…so you could tell me about your idiotic superpower. Right. Look, just pay for my drink. I’m going back to my table.”
“Well,” he stood, grasping her hand and pressing his thumb into her palm, “I didn’t say it was the only superpower I had.” With a complex mental push, he passed an energy between them. Her eyes glazed over. Her mouth unsneered. “Let’s go to your place now,” he commanded gently.
Dazzled by something just beyond her field of vision, she goggled at him.
“We need to pay for our drinks.”
She pulled a twenty out of her purse and left it on the bar. Grasping his hand more fully, unblinking, she led him wordlessly out into the night air.

K: It’s a funny payoff, but I admit I was interested to see how the supertasting story paid off. Would he prove it somehow? I really wanted our hero to succeed in that story, and in the end a different story was told entirely. I don’t want to fault the writer too much for my expectations, but this was a total deus ex machina. BRONZE

P: Heh, it’s a complete bait and switch, but it’s a fairly effective one. The ‘supertaster’ bit doesn’t end up meaning anything, and the twist is more than a bit sinister. The challenge was “character with superpowers” after all. Nothing that says you have to use those powers for good. GOLD


I was diagnosed with Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy when I was 16; a mild, controllable form. Five years since, I’ve had a couple of mild seizures, and a relatively strong one two months ago. During that last one, I felt something… “knock loose”, I guess you could say.

If only it had been strong enough to kill me…

You know that thing that you did? That horrible, awful thing that you’ve never told anyone about? Well, I know it too.

Whenever I meet someone’s eyes, those memories flash inside my head as if they were my own. I know every emotion, sensation, and intangible element that memory is constructed from.

To be sure I wasn’t crazy, I asked a guy in an elevator about what he’d done to his niece. The widening of his eyes told me everything.

I know about my father’s infidelities, my mother’s teenage abortion, my roommate drunkenly raping a girl at a party. I know my pharmacist caused a fatal heart attack with incorrect dosage, my priest has a sizable collection of child pornography, the coffee girl hit someone with her car after a few too many and sped away. I know about so many appalling things.

You’d be surprised how hard it to avoid every chance meeting of eyes. It’s a mix of human instinct and obstacle avoidance. Every walk down the street is a parade of vile sins, transgressions, and trespasses. Every day, all I see is the absolute worst of humanity. The depthless depravity that people are capable of.

My dad gave me a gun of his after I moved to this neighborhood. For protection, he said. It’s been sitting in the closet with other unpacked boxes, but I took it out a few weeks ago. Most nights now, I hold it for hours, contemplating the weight…

K: This would be a crushing power to have, and certainly it would drive one to madness, but this story could be told with much more impact. This one is all tell, tell, tell instead of show. If I’d seen the protagonist in a scene – particularly the one where he learns that his mother had an abortion, all while having a completely innocent-sounding conversation – it could have really kicked some ass. Besides the structural issues, it’s really written well.

P: Eye contact in general often seems like too intricate an action to give away to a random stranger, so this works for me.. The idea of seeing everyone’s darkest secrets via mere eye contact is a nightmarish prospect, and the concept is delivered on quite well here. BRONZE


Dearest Sophie,
It pains me to write this letter to you, for I am ashamed. In my wrath toward your mother I acted hastily and did something I deeply regret.
You must know the truth. I was given a gift of telekenesis. But for many years I was unable to control myself and the power that I held. I admit that I used my power more than once against your mother, against my associates and even against you. I am deeply ashamed of myself and hope to clear myself of my conscience before I end this. This is what I deserve. Shed no tears over me. I pray for solace for your mother. I never meant this for her. I’m sorry you had to find her like this and that you had to find out about me this way.

With deep sorrow and regret.
“Is it done?”
“What did you do?”
“Well…. You messed her up good. Her neck was broken and she’s definitely dead.”
“Oh geez!”
“But, I let her husband take the fall.”
“What? How?”
“I killed him and wrote a suicide note.”
“A suicide note, moron. You know, saying he takes all the blame.”
“Uh… yeah… but won’t they see it’s a fake? Won’t they check his handwriting or something?”
(smile) “Heh… it’s in his handwriting.”
“I made him write it before I pinched his aorta.”
“And now he’ll catch the rap for some other things I did as well.”

K: This is yet another idea that could have much stronger execution; the villain’s thoroughly rotten and cold, but the matter-of-fact conversation really rips the life out of the thing. A short story like this deserves a darker tone.

P: The finale is a little pat, but I find myself enjoying the more devious (and, indeed, downright evil) uses of these superpowers. One thing… who’s he talking to in the end? It seems like the telekinetic peson is simply talking to “Mr. Plot Exposition”. The writer also seems to love elipses nearly as much (though not *quite* as much) as me. As it turns out, neither of these things are nearly enough to dim my enthusiasm for this one. BRONZE


Jim woke sore and confused in the infirmary with the warden standing over him.

“Good morning. How are you feeling? I can see you are wondering what
happened. You were assaulted during a card game. Allegations of
cheating, it would seem.”

“And Tiny?”

“Mr. Douglas? Witnesses said he immediately retreated to your shared cell.”

“Asshole…Oh, not you Sir. Tiny.”

“Yes, well, let’s get you back to your cell.”

“What the hell, asshole?! Some muscle you are!”

“Sorry man, I got scared. Won’t happen again. Promise.”

The next morning, Jim again awoke with the warden standing over him.
“Get up and come with us,” the warden said, gesturing to the detective
at his side.

“So Tiny smothered himself with his pillow? That’s your story?”

“The guy is…was twice my size. How could I have possibly held him down?”

“You got a better explanation?”

“Yeah, I have telekinetic powers.” Jim laid the sarcasm on thick. “I
held him down with my mind rays and choked the shit out of him. I
don’t know, you’re the detective.”

“It’s no use. Take this mope back to his cell,” said the detective
with a dismissive wave of his hand.

K: Two telekinesis stories in a row? What are the odds? Well, in this challenge, the odds are probably fairly good. Never mind. Anyway, though this story isn’t a “big” one like several others attempt to be, it’s much more successful because there’s deception on the part of the characters and the reader gets to savor knowing the truth while the detectives have it dangled right in front of their faces. BRONZE

P: mmkay… is this actually the sequel to one of my favorite challenges from last week? It really doesn’t seem to have the same whimsical spirit as that one did – it’s a lot darker, and a lot less fun than its predecessor. It’s sort of grimdark 90’s “well, he was a card shark, but now he’s using those powers to murder”. It doesn’t end up convincing me fully.


Against a pillar in the dining room of the Crooked Nook, Jonas shifted his weight to his left, and re-assumed his attitude of ‘fuck-it-all-ness.’ Just to put a fine point on it, he lazily ran the index finger of his left hand through his darkly dyed bangs, managing to leave each strand perfectly aligned in front of his face.
The Boss Man was really into this one. Jonas could tell by the deep red color in The Boss Man’s fleshy cheeks and the steady bouncing of his right knee. This one must mean something big, was Jonas’ thought.
Marvin brought the food out to the table, and as The Boss Man and the deal raised their forks to their mouths, Jonas let his mind tune.
“Oh my god.” The deal’s fork paused in mid-air, and his face was slack with wonder. “Oh my god,” he squeaked again.
A momentary glance from TBM told Jonas he’d laid it on a little thick. Too late now.
Dinner went on, the deal in absolute rapture with every bite, only pausing to repeat the only phrase his over-stimulated mind could manage.
After the meal, the discussion. Then dessert. Jonas’ face became pinched as he focused. The Boss Man gave the signal, the deal was a no-go. Well fuck him then, thought Jonas. His mind tuned and as the deal lifted his spoon to his thick, rubbery lips, and Jonas focused on the image of a small red pepper. Then two. Then an entire garden full of plump, fresh, glistening red cones.
The deal’s spoon clattered to the floor, and Jonas slouched toward the exit. So fucking lame, he thought, I should get a real job.

K: I really dig this. The story gives the right amount of information, the scene is set beautifully, and I’m truly enthralled by the apathetic superguy. I was secretly hoping for stories like this – it’s deeply human despite ostensibly being a story about the supernatural. GOLD

P: What would this superhero’s name be… the Flavorsaver? The concept for this one is pretty funny, especially in the middle and end. Normally, I’d be a little put off by the attitude of the protagonist, but that just makes the denouement better. SILVER


It was at this bar by my office, The Stopgap. I was there after work to watch game 4 since I didn’t have cable or internet at home. The Stopgap’s kind of a shithole so it was empty except for me and this one guy.

So, I’m watching the game and the Ducks are killing it, whatever. The other guy’s just sitting there drinking, not watching the game, so I just ignore him. But of course eventually he starts trying to talk to me. He starts saying, yo, I got this trick, you wanna see it? He’s clearly wasted, so I’m just like ugh, this fucking guy. I tell him sorry, dude, I’m watching playoff hockey right now.

He laughs and says keep watching it, something’s about to happen. Then he gets this real serious look on his face, like he’s focusing really hard. I’m thinking he’s about to start puking, and I’m like oh shit, and he’s taking these quick breaths like he’s about to give birth. Then he makes this loud UNNGghhh sound like he’s fucking jizzing his pants or something and all the lights flicker and the TV cuts to static. I look at him like what the fuck, and without saying a word he just gets up and walks out.

The bartender’s all pissed since the guy didn’t pay his tab, but I tell him that if he puts the game back on I’ll give him a big tip. Obviously that didn’t work since Bridgestone Arena had just been fucking vaporized, so I just sat there and got drunk. I didn’t even know what happened until I got to work the next morning. Then it wasn’t until I saw his face when he went public after zapping Dallas that I finally realized who I’d sat next to. Fucking crazy.

K: Once again, I like the idea a lot but the story didn’t engage me. I just want to be dropped into the world with these people, and this monologue just doesn’t get the job done for this story. BRONZE

P: This kind of reads as a water cooler story. I like how it obscures everything, only to completely blow your expectations out of the water. The actual writing here is passable, but I do enjoy the concept. I also enjoy the fact that it’s able to tell a complete story (the time I met a psychotic supervillain at the shithole dive bar) in the allotted space. SILVER


I woke to the insistent ringing of a cellphone. It was the HSA’s scrambled line – great. I cleared my head and answered.

“Is your end secure?” asked the voice on the other end. “One of our generals reported this week’s Atlantic submarine fleet movements have been stolen – can you find them?”

Yes, of course I could. After studying my cuticles for a few seconds, an image formed. “Locked in the top drawer of the second filing cabinet in the general’s anteroom. Probably left them sitting out, and his secretary secured them for him.” Idiot.

“Thanks, we’ll get back to you if they don’t happen to be there.”

“Oh, they’re THERE alright, sitting on top of three phone books.” I hung up before he wasted more of my time. Another idiot.

I got up, took a leak, then switched on the coffeemaker (what good is the timer when I wake up before it?) and the laptop. Geez, 47 emails already.

Josh, can you help me find a gift for Ginger and Ronny’s wedding? Thanks! -Aunt Cynthia

You’re kidding me – even my family is piling on! I took two deep breaths. I’ve told you before, I can only find a specific item, not something vague like that. Another deep breath. Buy them a coffeemaker. With a timer. –Josh

Why couldn’t I have a real superpower? A costume? A name? I’m just “the finder”, and not even with capital letters. Crap, even The Kidnapper wears a cape, and how stupid a “superpower” is that, being able to get children to sleep?

Checking the pile of mail by the door, I saw the plane tickets, and couldn’t help but smile. Who else could find the perfect location to finally get away from everyone?

K: I really like this character. He’s cynical and he’s funny. The touch of “finder, but not with capital letters” alone gives this character more depth than some Marvel superheroes. GOLD

P: Ha! “Kidnapper” is my favorite gag this week, and it’s just a throwaway line. The little touches in this one go a long way. The hero gets a vacation in the end! It’s stakes are low, but damn, that ‘kidnapper’ gag. SILVER


They were smart, grabbing me on a business trip when I already had my return ticket. They entered my hotel room as I was sleeping; they said that they knew what I could do. They just needed me to bring few things onto my flight for them.

If I didn’t, they would blow up my house before my family woke up. If the mission fails, that’s their sign to carry out the detonation.

I asked what would stop them even if I helped. They said that they wouldn’t want to draw the connection to me if they succeeded. I don’t know if it’s a perfect plan, but I sure couldn’t see a way out, without sacrificing my loved ones. They knew they had my compliance, and left.

Five minutes after the seat-belt light turns off, I’m to put the contents of a duffel bag into the bathroom sink. In the bag were two handguns, ammo clips, knives, and grenades.

One by one, I pressed the items against my skin and absorbed them. It’s a lot, but it’s just minor discomfort. I feel constipated. I knew that the items would undetectable until I expel them. Then I got dressed and waited for my cab.

It’s funny, I was still pissed they made me check my bag. Like I’m going to have to wait at the carousel when I land. Like I’m going to land.

The belt light just turned off. I can’t think my way out of this. I’m a coward. Please delete this as soon as you read it; I want you to know, and no one else.

I’ve made mistakes but I love you, Janeine. Tell Cotter every night that I love him and I’m watching out for him from heaven. Even if I’m not.


K: There’s a subtle but important difference between this one and the other monologue-style stories: love. This character is giving important information to someone he truly cares about – not just some dude reading a story – and I can feel the difference. Some of the lines could use punching up, but the power is interesting, the situation is interesting and we have a real tragedy on our hands. SILVER

P: Does Paul go into the bathroom to ‘expel’ these items? Are they no longer metal once he absorbs them? I suppose it’s wise to not ask a lot of questions, but the concept that the writer took kind of ends up demanding it. Otherwise, it’s pretty good. The “narration as letter” thing works out in the story’s favor in this case, where it doesn’t in some others. BRONZE


Even as a child Mike hated his supersonic hearing. He could hear the taunts cooler kids would make behind his back, nasty little barbs they never thought he heard. Teachers mumbling under their breath about his lack of prospects would take a toll too. The worst was hearing his parents have sex. His bedroom was in the basement, but he could hear everything. It got to the point that based on the moans, the creak of the bed, or moving of the bodies he could tell how they were doing it: missionary, anal, blowjobs, he knew. It was titillating when he was 12, gross by the time he was 15.

As an adult, he tried to use his power for profit. He joined the CIA as a listener, and was damned good at it too. However, officials eventually determined that mechanical listening devices were just as reliable, a lot cheaper, and were no danger of ever being compromised. Mike was discharged from the Service with a handshake and letter warning him to never talk about what he had done, under threat of the full force of the United States Government. He spent the turn of the century on Wall Street, listening to clandestine conversations at lunch to gain insider knowledge; he made a bundle until the bottom fell out in 2008.

Fortunately he saved most of what he made. Mike spent the rest of his days smoking Thai weed, listening to early Pink Floyd, Syd Barret solo stuff, and Roky Erickson studio outtakes on $3000 sound masking head phones. “It’s incredible what you can hear in those Pink Floyd songs if you really listen,” said Mike to his empty apartment. “Every note is a symphony in itself; Syd was a genius I tell you, a real musical genius.”

K: The listener couldn’t find a bigger musical genius than Syd Barrett? Well, I’m not here to judge (er…wait). The crack about Mike knowing what position his parents were in rings completely false, since why the hell would he have any frame of reference for those positions? Otherwise, I rather like this, as it follows what I believe is a real and believable progression of what might happen to someone of Mike’s abilities. SILVER

P: This one ends up reading sort of like an autobiography summary. I suppose that’s the point, but it makes it a little more dry than it has to be. The idea of a lonely man saddled with a great power that has obvious and awful downsides is good. BRONZE


There are so many babies. They’re missing feet, faces, fur and beaks.

The mallard can’t swim at all. The left side of his body is gone.

We took in a headless raccoon last October. The laundry sink’s full of shattered turtles. I’m not a healer.

They’re always bleeding; I change their bandages, soupy and torn. My hands are stained. Sometimes they bite me. They’re alive.

Two months ago I found a doe twitching on the hot road. She was road kill. Her front legs were snapped, twigs tossed into the ditch. She bled out on my jacket, dying in a thrust of violence. I cried. Her eyes opened. It’s been happening ever since.

They’re beautiful, my babies, and I bring them back. They’re mine.

My wife is leaving. She says I’m a monster. She says the carpet is ruined. She’s afraid.

I think she’s too religious.

She’s packing the truck for Ohio: that’s where her papa lives. “I’m leaving. You can’t stop me.”

I don’t want to argue with her. I don’t want her to get smart on me.

I’ve rigged the brakes and the fuel tank. I’ll hear the crash in a few hours.

She’ll bleed out; I’ll carry as much of her back as I can. She’ll cough up blood in the barn’s yellow floodlight. She’ll be revived and she’ll look to me, free of the power to run. I’m not a healer. I’ll smash her legs so she can’t run. I’ll throw her fingers in the wood chipper so she can’t call her papa.

I’ll ask, “What was it like to die?”

She’ll thank me. She will.

K: Sweet effing Christ, here’s the thunder. A reanimator who isn’t a healer? This is a small twist on a standard theme, but so gorgeously dark and vivid that I doubt I’ll ever shake it. The lead character is the week’s most interesting, probably. I LOVE that she loves her “babies.” I love that she believes she’s doing them a favor. This one will stick. GOLD

P: For a story about little ducks and baby animals, this one’s pitch black from the beginning, and only gets more disturbing from there. Luckily for the reader, the dark twist is revealed slowly, before going off the deep end by the finale. “I’m not a healer”, indeed. GOLD


Johnny looked nervous, and that was making everyone else jittery. After what happened to the last shipment, Scoles could understand it, but Johnny was supposed to be the unflappable one. Scoles grabbed another box out of the back of the truck and was halfway out of the trailer when The Watcher made his thunderous entrance.

Everyone jumped a foot in the air, Scoles dropped the box he was holding and whirled to face the door, drawing his weapon. Slowly they all realized that the door was still intact and there was no one in their sights. The Watcher was behind them, Scoles was the first to find him, stone-faced and unfazed by the guns trained on him. Scoles peeked at the ceiling, expecting to find a gaping hole, but there was nothing. “How?…” he began, but was drowned out by Johnny, “Eat lead you Easter Island motherfucker!” his gun firing round after round at the intruder. The magazine clicked empty leaving only The Watcher’s unflinching stare and the distant sound of police sirens to fill the room.

Everyone scattered, but Scoles knew it was too late. Instead of making for the door leading outside, he darted the other way, found a supply closet in the hallway, hunkered down, and listened as the entire crew was rounded up. At long last the warehouse was silent, and just as Scoles started to think about moving for the door, a thunderclap knocked him backward. When he regained his feet, The Watcher sat in front of the door, silent, unmoving, expressionless.

Scoles rushed The Watcher, this was his only chance to escape with the police no doubt on their way. The Watcher filled the whole doorway, impossibly heavy. It would take Scoles a few hours to realize the police weren’t coming.

K: This one leaves me a bit cold, as I never did get to know the characters much. I’m obviously in a big “character” mood tonight, but with a challenge that hinges on super-characters, that probably shouldn’t be a surprise. It took me a bit to put my finger on why it didn’t move me, but I think I have it: this is merely an action sequence, and the story that set it up is absent.

P: Ooh, fun. I like the power, I like the concept, “Easter Island Motherfucker”, and I like the ending. The idea of criminals being trapped by what amounts to their own guilty consciences. GOLD


I watched as David clicked over the nine of clubs, dragging it to the empty space. A queen of hearts popped up where the nine had been.
“Nah, that doesn’t help me. Let’s try something different.”
A few keystrokes later David was happily clicking his way to another victory. I continued to stare as the digital fireworks skipped their way across the green playing surface.
David was my older brother. Had a scholarship to Stanford. Everyone loved him. Then there was the accident – he’d been drinking – and everything changed. Traumatic brain injury. Paralyzed. Couldn’t even speak. Doctors said that was pretty much it for him; he wouldn’t amount to much.

“You know, Howard,” David mused, “I think I liked it better when you couldn’t undo as much. They used to limit how many you could have.”
I mumbled a response as he continued.
“Seems like cheating to be able to undo everything.”
A certain wistful sensation washed over me as he spoke those words. A summary, if you will, of my “heroic” experience.

At some point – it wasn’t even really that long after the accident – I realized I had a choice. I could make David’s life better. Just by wishing it so. It was a one-time use, as it turned out, and I probably could have spent it better. But here I am today: all out of undos.

At least David can talk. At least he can play solitaire.
“8 o’clock, Howard,” David said, turning off the computer screen, “Bath time.”
He stood up, and stepped over to my chair.
“Got something there again, huh?” he asked, tucking his wrist into his sleeve. The fabric felt soft against my chin and I tried my best to smile in thanks.

K: I’ll admit I don’t know what the lead character wished for. Certainly, he doesn’t think he shouldn’t have saved his brother? Or am I misreading what was done? I want to really feel this one, but there’s a lack of clarity here.

P: Aaaaand we go out on a depressing note. The cruel irony makes this one work for me. It sort of feels like that one story where the dude sells his watch to buy curlers, and the wife sells her hair because that happened a lot back then to buy a chain for his watch, because that was important. It’s well written, and while I’m not sure that a single wish is what I was looking for in a superpowers week, this one at least capitalizes on its concept. BRONZE


Also, Shawn Ashley, of all people, is a nonsub. She did send a word of apology, as she apparently had an idea but ran into a poorly-timed emergency and couldn’t do it.

Anyway, here’s your key:

1. Cathy Wells
2. Eric Schapp
3. Bret Highum
4. Matthew Gilman
5. Erik Sundberg
6. Joseph Rakstad
7. Andrew McGuire
8. Colin Woolston
9. Ian Pratt
10. David Larson
11. AMR
12. Dean Carlson
13. Sarah Johnson
14. Brooks Maki
15. Matt Novak

As you can see, scoring was all over the place this week – that’s a common occurrence in an “okay” week like this one. We even had a gold/nothin’, which is quite rare (especially when it’s me giving nothing to Brooks).

Only one person, Sarah Johnson, got the same score by both judges – and hey, it was gold! Good for her. And hey, good for everyone, because everyone got a medal (I’m secretly thrilled by this, because there was nothing I wanted to totally leave out this week).

Anyway, as I said in the post last night, your next one is a story about a person or community of people no more than an inch tall. Word limit is 200. The diminutive Matt Novak said, “So, it’s an autobiography?” I laughed. They’re due EDIT: Monday at 9pm Central.

Alright, tiny dancers. See you in a few.