Pete has told me that these are awesome. He’d better not be messing with me. I got a late start because we had an outing I’d forgotten; the wife, kids and I went to Goodyear Ballpark (where the Reds and Indians play preseason games) where they were showing The Zookeeper for free. Jesus, I WISH I had been blind for that. But I digress…

(…some time later…)

Holy balls. This is the best week ever at this site, particularly given that there are so many of you. I cannot wait for all of you to read these. Unfortunately, we did have one person miss this one, as Matthew Gilman (in a move very unlike him) failed to send one in. Bummer there.

1 Andrew M

*tik *tik *tik *BAM*


*tik *tik *tik *BAM*


*tik *tik *tik *BAM*

“GODDAMNIT!” Tyler threw his cane to the ground in disgust. He sat himself down on the floor and held his head in his hands. He began to sob.

After a moment, he felt a tap on his shoulder. “Here you go.” Tyler felt his cane being pressed into his hand. “Now, let’s get you on your feet. We’ll try again.” The voice belonged to Gerald, his counselor.

“Just leave me alone, Gerald.”

“I would, but then how would you get home?”

Tyler begrudgingly let out a chuckle. Gerald always knew how to lighten his mood. It was welcome. Raising himself up form the ground, Tyler gripped his cane and began again.

*tik *tik *tik

*tik *tik *tik


*tik *tik *tik

*tik *tik *tik

“There you go.”

*tik *tik *tik

*tik *tik *tik

*tik *tik *tik *BAM*


K: It ends a little abruptly, though I admittedly don’t know how else I’d like to see this ended. It’s emotional and touching without reaching for melodrama, and has a character worth getting behind all in very few words.

P: At first I wasn’t sure if this was a trial by fire, or a weird minefield, or what. There’s drama to be had from a person learning the ropes of being blind, but the sound effects sort of take me out of it. The scene with the councilor is nice.


2 Colin Woolston

Deep, sultry smells of cinnamon, cumin and sweat poured from a doorway and hung in the night air. Sujatha watched as the scent tried to disperse in the intense humidity. It was the color of rust on a garden rake, and moved like oil in a bath. She stepped silently backward to side of the door and listened, unconsciously changing to the long, slow controlled breath she had trained to use.
Voices, inaudible to the average passerby – of which there would be none tonight, Sujatha had made sure – floated from inside the building. One, a deep and smooth baritone, seemed to be in command and was giving orders. Not that one.
A few minutes passed, then ten, then twenty. There it was. The voice she was waiting to hear. Sujatha closed her eyes in relief, and realized the folly of the gesture. Sudden emotion threatened to steal her focus. She felt heat in her belly radiating outwards, blood thundering in her temples. She strengthened her stomach and straightened her spine, releasing her shoulders, bringing herself into the Heart of Iron. Tonight she would repay all debts, and extinguish this fire.
After two hours her legs began to cramp, and Sujatha considered entering the house. From inside, then, came the sounds of someone approaching; medium build, tall heeled boots. She smelled him and her heart quickened. It was him, alone.
The man left the building and started west. Sujatha followed, her left hand pulling a small knife from her belt. In three impossibly fast steps she was on him, her hands deftly working her knife. Before the man could cry out, she held his eyes in her right hand, feeling their viscous warmth.
“Sujatha,” she said.
The man opened his mouth to scream, but her knife stopped his breath.

K: I want to see this in episodic animated form a la Aeon Flux. Sujatha is a memorable character both in name and in concept, and I was gripped by the prose throughout as I learned more and more about her, and her mission. SILVER

P: Oh, yes. The tension is thick and building, and the scene is painted not with imagery (obviously) but with clever use of the protagonists available senses. The revenge is sweet (and brutal), and does a great job of capping this fun little story.


3 Shawn Ashley

“Hurry up, Daniel!” My older brother Kyle yanked on my arm.
The sounds of the subway were just ahead so I knew we were getting close. It didn’t matter where we went, it still smelled like urine. I didn’t even notice it anymore.
I vaguely remembered what Kyle looked like. I was so young when they took my sight from me that it was a brief snapshot of a figure standing in the sun, a scowl splayed across his face as he looked down at me.
“The little blind ones always tear their hearts out. You get five bucks a pop for them,” Papa always said.
We had been living under the same bridge for as long as I could remember. I was probably about four when they burned out my eyes, now I’m ten. Papa had patted me on the back after that first day when we trekked down to the subway and made triple what we had any other day. “Gotta make stuff happen for you,” Papa said.
Kyle yanked again. “Pick up your feet, Daniel!” He yelled. He pulled me down the stairs and then I knew we were in the subway. People pushed into me, my face smacked with purses and shoulders.
“You’re getting way too old for this,” Kyle muttered and then we stopped. We spent the day begging, and from the sounds of the change going into the cup, we weren’t doing too well.
I heard the cup clang as Kyle picked it up. “Be right back,” he said.
So I sat down against the wall to wait. Not sure where he was going, he never had done that before.
I waited.
And waited.
I must have waited the entire night before I realized that he was never coming back.
And he never did.

K: The last sentence is totally redundant, but in concept and execution otherwise, I quite like this. It’s one of those stories where I’m begging someone to write a postscript where Daniel gets back on his feet and says eff you to the awful world he was forced into. The emotion in this one is raw and I felt it with Daniel throughout.

P: This reminds me of Slumdog Millionaire, obviously, which doesn’t necessarily hurt its case – because it’s well written – but certainly robs it of the novelty of a new concept. Good thing it’s well written, then. Whereas the previous story reveled in the protagonist’s ability to “see” without seeing, this one goes in the opposite direction, giving the reader a feel for the bleak void of the narrator’s life. The sadness of the coda stings.


4 Brooks Maki

There were no days or nights anymore, just darkness. If he had to guess, it was three days until he heard anything. An urgent whisper came from the doorway, “We have to go now.” Reflexively, he reached for his wife before he remembered. His would-be rescuer grabbed his hand, he was surprised at how small it felt, already his senses were turning on the one most recently lost – discrediting everything he remembered seeing.

They made many turns. Disorientation was a way of life for him now, so he hadn’t even tried to keep track of their route. Instead, his mind raced with questions, he wanted to ask if his wife was OK, he wanted to ask why his sight couldn’t be restored, he wanted to ask why he was still in one piece. He didn’t ask any of those things. The halls were completely silent, but he felt others in the hallway, and he didn’t want to say the wrong thing in front of the wrong person.

They stopped. A door opened, and his guide whispered, “Stay here.”

Then silence. He was trapped here, without any idea what the escape plan was, or whether it was working.

It had been too long. He couldn’t move, he didn’t know where he was. He heard something slobbering in the darkness behind him. His voice wavered more than he would have liked as he felt forward in the darkness, calling softly for his guide to return.


K: Oh, wowsers. Brooks, you’ll have to link to your first Swingtack story so people in the dark can be brought up to speed. Yes, this primarily works because it’s the continuation of a brilliant world Brooks created, but using existing media is fine and the tone fits the tone of the original. I don’t know if Brooks did this or if someone else jumped in to Swingtack’s world for a moment, but either way, the payoff worked on me. BRONZE

P: Hahaha, I saw it coming. I swear to GOD, I saw it coming. Kelly was worried that everything would be too monotone, but in only four entries, we’ve been shown such variety that I’m genuinely worried that the rest won’t be able to stand up to these four. As far as this goes, it’s of course excellent. The return of the lead character of one of the most popular stories in Casa de Leche history is cause for celebration, and this story does not disappoint. The disorientation of the doomed soul is vividly portrayed, and what could have been a mere victory lap feels instead like a natural extension of the story.


5 Joe Rakstad

The salty earth filled my mouth as the ground came up to greet me. It was dark, and it took me a moment to process what occurred. It was supposed to be a fight to the death, but somehow I’m not dead. I can feel my heart beat…and I can feel the blood pouring out of me. I try to feel my chest, but my hands are gone, cut off by my adversary.

I feel the heat of the day, but my eyes cannot see it. No… that’s not it. He took my eyes as well. Where was I though? He must have carried me, dumped me, but where? There’s dirt, I can tell that much. Upon the first sound I hear, I know.

The child cries out in terror. His mother follows with another scream, a slight pitch higher. The screams spread like a plague throughout the village. They all see me. I must look frightening. I try to rise, to run away, but my feet will not work. Damn. He took my feet as well. I start to cry bloody tears as I crawl toward anywhere I can to find a hole. I must find a way out. I call for the guards, but no one helps me.

“Dear God! What is that ….thing?” Cries were turning into words of horror. “Is that the…oh?” My memory starts to return. I was fighting for her. No… more than her, for pride. I could not let him win. I killed him. The machine took his life, I was sure of it. He returned though. He returned for her. The man in black. I thought he was bluffing… but no… he was not bluffing.

K: As a lover of The Princess Bride to an unholy extent – I say “As you wish” every time my wife asks me to reach up for something – I knew exactly where this was going. That didn’t ruin my fun in any way, as the clever use of horror, all leading up to a comical payoff based on a great monologue, was aces. There’s some singsong narration here in bits (in the first paragraph specifically) and that may be a tiebreaker here, in the end, as nobody has the slightest interest in sucking this week.

P: Sweet lord, this is a dark (yet explicitly described) take on a fun movie. Nicely played, though. With such a strong source story, this could have felt perfunctory and obvious, but instead, it feels cutting and horrifying. It ends up sort of as if the movie had been a medieval take on pulp comics, instead of fairy tales.


6 Erik Sundberg

Bryant’s thumb squeezed my right bicep twice, pushed again, moved right, down, and right once more. Two people, the one on the right, back pocket, right side. Bryant sped up, guiding me along. I followed his slight adjustments as he lined up my left hand. Bryant’s thumb then applied increasing pressure as we got closer and closer, aaaaaaannnnnnnndd…

“Ooofff!” I exclaimed when I ran into the gentleman. “Oh, sir, I’m terribly sorry!”

“I’m sorry, too,” Bryant explained, “Wasn’t paying attention.”

“No problem,” said the fellow amicably.

I tipped my cap, and we casually walked away. In response to a staccato push of Bryant’s thumb, I gave an imperceptible nod.

“452 Dollars,” Bryant said after we exited the café where he’d examined the fellow’s wallet. Bryant sure could pick `em. I heard the postbox door slam shut.

“There’s a good grandson.”

The USPS was good about getting wallets back to their owners.

After an hour of no noticeably good marks, I heard the near-silent, but unmistakable sound of vinyl rubbing against denim, with a couple Velcro hooks uncoupling from their loops on that ridiculous wallet Bryant carried.

My hand shot out and found purchase: a thin wrist, and a faint, floral scent, connected to a hand wrapped around Bryant’s wallet.

He interrogated her, though the only response I could discern was the waving of hands. “She’s dumb,” Bryant deadpanned.

“Well, yeah, she tried to—”

“Mute!!” Bryant rephrased.

Then, I felt a tapping on my forearm, and was taken back to my Navy days.


Just seeing if I was as good as you…

Bryant’s told me she in her 40s and surprisingly attractive. All I know is she’s one helluva good distraction, and a welcome third to our team. If we keep up at this rate, I’m picturing a Tahitian holiday by Christmas.

K: Cute and touching, in its evil little way. I like reading about crooks in general, and I have a particular affinity for small-time crooks, who are still easy to like, in general. This meeting seems like the first major plot point in a dark comedy, and I’d watch.

P: I instinctively knew not to trust these folks, but I needn’t have worried about the story that they inhabited. It packs a lot of info into its words, and by its end, we know a lot about the interesting characters that live in this world. Unrepentant con men (with a feminine presence rounding them out by the end) that the reader nonetheless  cares for and wants to know more about.


7 Dean Carlson

Although he couldn’t see the stream gurgling along the trail beside him, Steve was exhilarated as he rode his mountain bike through the stand of silver Aspens and up the sand hill, veering to the right to miss the big dip that would invariably send less seasoned rides down into the ravine. Steve had ridden this trail hundreds of times a summer since he was a kid committing to memory every bump, wayward branch, hairpin turn, and patch of loose sand to heart. Now he was testing that memory by riding the trail for the first time since he went blind.

Blindness came to Steve slowly but it grew progressively worse until there was no denying it: Steve was permanently losing his eyesight. It was some sort of congenital disease with a big fancy name that Steve immediately forgot. As Steve sat at home, contemplating his blindness, he couldn’t shake the fact that he’d never get on a mountain bike and ride his trail again. It got to the point that he would go through the trail in his mind to keep sane. First it was just the memory of riding, but eventually Steve would start to think about the trail in great detail: Where the dips were, how he would have to avoid the stack of rocks after the big hill so that he could navigate the next turn. Steve convinced himself that he knew the trail so well he could ride it blind.

It took two days to find Steve’s body. First no one knew where he was or how we got to the trail. Apparently the wooden bridge over the stream was missing a plank, hurtling Steve headlong into the water where he washed up underneath a long-branch Willow tree.

K: Oh, snap. We have what seems like a triumph of the human spirit, only to be kicked in the balls by a tough but completely fair tragedy. Turns this dark almost always seem forced, but given the parameters of the scene and the fact that Steve wouldn’t know about this, it makes perfect sense. Damn. BRONZE

P: I was committed until the end. I had convinced myself that it was mean-spirited, but after a couple extra readthroughs, I don’t find that to be the case, I just really wanted Steve to make it okay. The ending does leave me a little cold, with the abrupt change in tone, but it’s more realistic this way.

8 Bret Highum

The old blind man sat at the bus stop, hands folded over his cane, unmoving. The last bus came and went and the shadows grew longer, and James got curious. He ran his business from that corner, and the old man was out of place, scaring off customers. James walked over and grabbed his arm, and the old man started talking.

“I sold my sight to the devil a while back. Well, first I sold my soul to the devil so I could become rich, but I decided after a couple years that I really would rather have my soul, so I had to make a trade.”

James gave a bark of a laugh. He got a scowl in return.

“So, I went down to a crossroads and did the whole demon-summoning thing again. The first time I was nervous as hell, but now? No sweat, easy-peasy.”
“The devil showed up in a wisp of greasy smoke, same as last time. I told him I’d like my soul back, and I was willing to trade almost anything. He didn’t hesitate, just asked for my sight. I thought for a bit, figured what the hell, I’m pushing seventy, why not? Well, it wasn’t exactly what I thought. Now, the devil himself uses my eyes to look out on the world.”

James tried another laugh, but it stuck in his throat when the man took off his dark glasses, revealing swollen, saffron pupils. James swore and tried to jump away, but now it was the old man with a grip on James’ arm.

“Devil wants his due, James,” the old man said. “He’s been looking for you. Now he’ll take your soul and return mine to me. Soul for a soul. Not the trade I thought I was making, but close enough.”

K: You guys are killing me. Golds for everyone, damn it. I love this scene, this concept, this narration. The old man is an excellent, gripping character and, at the risk of repeating myself, I’d read a novel just about him. SILVER

P: You folks are bringing it. Initially, this felt like it was going to be a somewhat rote “Devil at the crossroads” story, but it goes somewhere much differently, and the old man switches from poor pitiable soul(less) to pure evil on a dime. More impressively, the story makes the transition in a believable way.


9 David Larson

I thought I could imagine a cloud, or something
Neck craned back so that the muscles hurt
No more than a cotton puff escaped from a medicine chest
And I can’t see the sun today.

Waves crash like a large, languid metronome
Hot sand has me groping and stumbling on tiptoes
Along with other midnight cat burglars
On their beach vacations
Claiming their towel-sized eminent domain

Breeze and heat play a silent tug-of-war
My shirt stays on, but open
Sea birds dart about in the dark like bats along a tree line
Or like men on stilts striding amidst the salty spray
Behind an inky stage curtain

A cotton ball cloud blows steadily towards the horizon
But I can’t see the sun today

I picture my plot of sand among fields of bikini beauties
Charles Atlas on standby
Waiting for the inevitably kicked sand
While children wade the surf gathering captivating shells

Digging deep below the coarse surface, I find China is a cool, damp place
Particles between my nails
And on greasy arms smelling like coconut and piña colada
Unable to shield flying sand from a nearby Frisbee crash-landing
(I think)

I still can’t see the sun today
Hidden in broad daylight behind the brim of my hat
And layers of blackness
In a cloud-free sky

K: I have railed on many entries that attempted poetry in this game, but this sure ain’t gonna be one of them. This has undeniable emotion and achieves its goal in a way that so many others in this site’s history have failed to do. The imagery is smart, the theme is catchy and even tosses in a Charles Atlas gag that doesn’t rip the reader out of the dramatic setting. GOLD

P: The unexpected continues. Damned if I don’t really like the poetry to this. The mental imagery lets me in on the poet’s world, and it’s beautiful in a sad sort of way the whole way through.


10 Cathy Wells
“Sarah, why did you had waited this long to get the ocular implant? Everyone has one, the only people who don’t are those naturalistic freaks that live down by the river.”

“I’m not sure Lily. It probably has to do with my parents. They didn’t think people should see. ‘People couldn’t see a hundred years ago and civilization got along just fine. The price is too high.’ I must have heard that at least once a week growing up, but I just never totally believed it. I have eyes, they just don’t do anything. It just didn’t seem right.”

“I know, right? I love my eyes. They’re blue.”

“I can’t wait to see color.” The clock tower in the nearby plaza struck three. “Oh, I have to go. I need to pick out my donor before the procedure tomorrow.”

“Can I come? I loved picking out my donor. Mine had brown hair.”

“Sure.” The girls entered the donor store and began to stroll up and down the aisles Lily seeing and Sarah using the audio guides. Sarah’s guide described each donor’s size, color, clarity and history as she carefully weighed her options.

“Oooh Sarah, check out this one. It’s has brown hair too!” The girls stopped in front of a display case with Lilly just fawning as Sarah listened carefully.

This specimen is a 6 month old Lebanese female. Weight, 14 pounds 3 ounces. Length, 28 inches. No previous harvestings, specimen fully intact. Ocular lobe, essential for eyesight viability, $4000. Arms $2500 each. Legs $3750 each…

“This one sounds perfect. I’ll take it and this time tomorrow I’ll be able to see!”

K: First of all, fuck you. Second of all, this is yet another insanely creative concept that makes my fear of samey stories seem like the stupidest thing I’ve said in a while. I’ve always been a sucker for a sweet story that has utter darkness lying just underneath its surface; this is the basis of a lot of great horror – particularly the cerebral stuff that I eat up – and this payoff, complete with Sarah’s optimism that belies the fact that she and her society have no qualms about this kind of harvesting, packs a fucking wallop. GOLD (Later…this is my WIFE?!  Who is she, really?)

P: Whoa. The payoff. You feel ill at ease throughout the story (the “naturalistic freaks down by the river” can’t be refusing sight based purely out of spite. But shopping for eyes off an unwilling infant donor is just so… ugh. The cheery optimism and giddy chatter of the girls is thrown on its head with how cavalierly they’re willing to treat this as the given standard.


11 AMR

They had warned me about what would happen if I stared into the sun, but I was a heedless boy and I wanted to prove their ridiculous superstition wrong.
From my paper route, I knew at about what time the sun rose each day, and also of a parkbench atop the river bluffs that looked down the hill and to the east.
I did it on a Monday morning because that day’s paper was usually the lightest. I set my alarm at 5:03 instead of 5:27 and drank an extra glass of water after brushing my teeth.
Before I left, I set a note on our sink.
Your friends are liars, I’ll prove it. See you at 8. Tell Mom I’ll be late.
After my route, I put my butt on the bench and got ready to start my watch’s timer. One hour should prove my point.
I had never noticed how quickly the sun rose. It must have been three minutes tops until it was completely above the horizon. I can’t be sure, because I wasn’t going to avert my gaze.
Ten more minutes and the orange of sunrise was gone. I was staring at the regular sun.
Another ten and the colors shifted and changed a lot. Greens and pinks bubbled and slipped past each other. Then the whole circle changed colors: blue then orange and back, flipping every time I twitched.
When my watch beeped, I closed my eyes hard for about a minute to rest, and smiled in satisfaction. When I opened my eyes, I could see a bit of grass out of the corner of my eyes, a washed-out blue. Nothing more.
* * *
Aaron found me about an hour later, still sitting. He held my hand and walked me home.

K: This is another heart-wrencher. The idea that a child could believably make this kind of mistake, dead certain that the consequences have to be some sort of myth, just wounds me. Every word in the explanation of what the boy saw was harder and harder to read, as the reader knows what he doesn’t – those cool images aren’t a good thing. Oy. BRONZE

P: Oish. You know what’s going to happen the entire way, but it’s still unfortunate when it happens. The different etched-in colors as his eyesight is being burned out of him is nice psychedelic horror.

12 Sarah Johnson

The bathtub is covered in gibberish. The clusters have formed on the cupboards and along the floorboards. I thought they might be riddles, left by the last blind tenant in this home. Now they just feel like ghosts.

I’ve ripped the labels off the walls. I’m afraid of the smooth spots where braille used to be. I’ve never felt a language like this before – the textures change as soon as my fingers sweep them. My fingers must be haunted.

The words have started to move. They reached the bedroom today: I could hear them as they slipped beneath the door, scratching and dragging themselves to another wall. The dots form clusters that whisper through my fingers in a dialect I’ve never imagined.

My hands are wrapped in bandages. I can’t take it anymore. If you are listening to this, please send for my brother. Ask him to bring sandpaper.

K: Wow, here’s a fun little bit of weirdness. “Ask him to bring sandpaper” is a scorcher of a final line, comical, but comedy that’s steeped in character so it doesn’t merit an eye-roll. This is one I’m already sure is going to be burned by the week’s talent. I love the problem, but I hate it for some players’ sakes. BRONZE

P: I have a soft spot for doomed diaries. This one is a proper entry into that wonderful tradition. We never really do learn what is happening to the narrator, or his house, but the creepiness mounts and strains at both the protagonist and the reader. The ending feels like it could be a little stronger, but the idea of the words “start[ing] to move.” sends a shiver down my spine.


13 Eric Schapp

I can feel the grain of the wood with my finger tips. The rising smells of dust, oak, and lacquer help to rouse me. The dust slips between my fingers as try to assess my location. I hear my analogue clock in the background. Even across the room I can tell that it needs to be wound. If the darkness doesn’t disorient me, I suppose the falls shouldn’t either. I feel the rough comforter I’ve owned since freshman year. For some reason the velvety ripples of the corduroy are reassuring. I close my fist around it and hope that the blankets will hold as I pull myself back into bed. They do. As I stare into the darkness I wonder if I have time to sleep before my alarm rings. I push my face into a pillow and try to sleep. At least it’s a sensation I can control.

K: I love this imagery, though as a story, it’s pretty light (not because of the small number of words, but because it’s just a story of a dude or chick waking up). It’s the prettiest story I can recall reading about a person waking up, but again…this week. It’s just this week, that’s all.

P: This one is short, but packed with insight into the character’s situation through his eyes (ahem). It doesn’t have the stakes of some of the more high-concept stories of the week, but it’s a damn solid entry in a strong week.


14 Ian Pratt

Ansel’s was crowded. Too many bodies for Abigail to squeeze through. She went the long way to get to her usual table, trailing a long finger along the outside wall. Third table in, right in front of the stage. She’d slipped Ansel a fifty to keep it open for her. Abigail had been to his club every Friday and Saturday for the past three weeks to hear Josephine Dow sing.

Abigail’s fingers curled around a tumbler of bourbon and clinking ice cubes. A courtesy care of Ansel. The man appreciated loyalty. She reached into her pocketbook for a slim cigarette case and let the smoke drift in and out of her lungs, soaking into her skin and her tight wool dress. The bumble buzz of the crowd shushed for a heartbeat, making way for claps and whistles and the click of a long pair of legs in high heels walking on stage.

Abigail flicked her cigarette into the void and fought to steady her breath. Josephine made it difficult. Just knowing she was up there was almost too much. She fondled the hem of her dress to keep her hands busy. A nervous, dangerous move, so nearly something else entirely. Josephine made everything difficult. The crowd resumed its murmur, but Abigail focused on the tap of Josephine’s heels, the pat pat pat of the singer smoothing her dress. The deep, boozy breaths in Josephine’s breast. This was the moment. The precious pause before Josephine unleashed her voice and filled Abigail with something close to madness.

Abigail’s fingers still fought against the hem of her dress. She would trade just about anything for a pair of eyes, to take in Josephine with one more sense. She would trade anything at all for Josephine herself.

K: This is a wonderful love story. Or lust story, maybe, but whatever. Either way, Abigail may feel like she needs one more sense to take Josephine in, but she feels more completely than most folks with their senses intact. The sexuality here is raw and powerful but never exploitative. Neat trick. GOLD

P: Abigail is a great character, and Ansel’s in a great setting for a story like this. The sounds and smells and ambiance of the room makes me wish I was there, and the authoer does a great job of letting the only barely controlled lust ooze from this and saturate every word even before we know the depth of it.


Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.
– John 20:29

The children play on the hills, their laughs pointed at one another. I hear them tumble, chase, slide on the ground. The grass is warm and the gravel is cool. I feel the burning in their lungs as they search for breath, laughing too hard to find it. Their mothers’ soap and gossip coalesce into an acid that rises up from the river, piercing my temples, and I already know each story as the women air their laundry.

I sink back into the walls and sleep. I am part of them, and we protect the city; no one dares come near. Armies shrink and children wail when they look upon me.

It is silence that awakens me. The laughing has stopped. There are no whispers, no splashes, no cries. The sun beats down on me, and I brace myself for what will come next.

The whispers start slowly and crescendo into a wave. I feel it sweep over me, hushed tones and tunics brushing my face. I stretch out my hands to the crowd, beg for a crust of bread. They ignore me. I know who they are following. I feel a hand wrap around my own. Warm, bony fingers pull me upward.
“Go,” says the man, pushing me forward, “ask, and see what he will give you.”

They want me to make a fool of myself, but I won’t volunteer. I’m blind and I can see better than all of them.
“Ask him! Ask!” they begin to chant. I fight against the surge, the tide carrying me towards the healer. I’m jostled. I fall. Their legs form a cage around me. I am trapped.

“Rise,” says a voice. And I do.

K: It’s rare when people utilize Christianity for a story here, but when they do, the results are usually strong (it seems like nobody goes to that well unless they can back it up). Just to annoy me and make judging harder, this one is no different. This character brings the story to life in a way that’s rarely done; I’ve read the Bible a few times, and the thing sadly just isn’t very human. I love the chance to be drawn into the faith/myth/whatever. We end with a strong story in a week that blew my freaking mind. BRONZE

P: There’s a lot of wonderful storytelling in the bible, and this story seeks to take a little bit of it for itself. Like just about everything this week, it does a fine job. It commits to making you feel the man’s presence, and his voice is an interesting one. I like the ending quite a bit. One (minor) quibble. The blind man doesn’t appear particularly believing in this story, making the verse that serves as the foreward slightly unnecessary. It isn’t needed to set the biblical feel, either, as the prose does a good enough job of doing that by itself. It kills me to not give this a medal, just as it killed me on every one that didn’t medal, because this story is really good. What a week…


Thanks again, everyone, for playin’ around here.  These were pure joy.  I can’t stomach the fact that I had to give some people no medals; I gave a full 11 people scores of 90 or higher as I did these (and none below 84; last week almost half of them were).  I’ve gotten used to numbering these based on how good I think the rest will be, but this week I was just bombarded by great stories, strong characters and powerful endings that felt honest.

I wish blind people could read these.  They’d probably really like them.  If you know any blind folks, read them this week’s entries.

Your next challenge, due Monday with a 200 word limit, is to write a story about a tribe/group/whatever choosing its next leader.

You’re great, Prosers.