So much left unsaid. So much left dangling. So much still uncertain after the last post. And now? Well, now we do have some understanding…

We understand how the playoffs will go. And when they’ll start. What topic will start it all? Revenge. Make sure your story is, in some way, about one character’s revenge against someone (or ones) else.

All that’s left to know is who’s gonna be writing as a playoff contender…and who won’t.

Here we go, folks.


1 – Sarah Johnson

Prescription bottles scatter the kitchen table; she’s snoring with tinsel in her hair.

I’ll hang ornaments and drape garland. I’ll blow out the candles. I’ve done it every year.

I slid off the roof six years ago. My spine crunched in the glittering Christmas snow.


She sees me: she’s smiling again. It must have been the pills.


2 – Eric Schapp

Sitting at Martini’s Bar Marley surveyed the crowd. Desperation might as well have slithered down the walls. The holidays can do that. Nick stopped refilling George’s glass.

“Marley you need anything?”

Marley had always paid attention to Clarence’s motto: “Just try to help”

“Whiskeys neat; line ’em up, the rest will be here when they’re done with Eb. Thanks.”


MATTHEW: Well, you ask for some stories about ghosts that have lessons to teach, associated with Christmas…you’re basically asking for some downers. Both of these stories hit me solidly, and both of them use their pacing and language well. Story 1, however, has a poignancy to it, and it keeps just enough unrevealed to make that poignancy really resonate. WINNER: #1

Novak – Aw, #1 is both really sweet and really sad.  Is Thomas one of the Christmas Carol ghosts though?  I wanted this to just be Christmas ghost stories anyway (e.g. “there’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glory…”), so whatever.  I really like this.  The pace is a bit samey in each line, but I’m not entirely convinced a criticism.  #2 is smart, combining the stories.  I don’t even have much more to say, it’s just such an effective reimagining of two classics.  It’s my “Close Call” of the week, but I’m going to go with #2 in an amazing squeaker.  The realistic dialogue pushed it over the edge for me.

ANDY: I enjoyed these both a lot. Nice work. I feel like there’s a better, sharper focus to #1, and that gives it the edge. Winner: #1.

WINNER: Sarah Johnson



1 – Kelly Wells

The Scrooge project was finished.  The Ghost of Christmas Past hopped in his Buick, blasted some Megadeth, lit up a Lucky Strike and started heading home to Worcestershire for his usual job.

With “Ol’ Moonshine” – his trusty sickle – in hand, he’d spend the next 364 days harvesting souls before getting another day-long vacation to save one.


2 – Beau

Ghost Bar had been a respite.  Nowadays, every two-bit ghost and his uncle wanted their future told.  Inky and Clyde kept to themselves, but Casper was incorrigible.  Every night: Yes, you’ll always be friendly; No, never with Ricci.

“This one’s on the house.”  The bartender opened a beer, nodding at the door.

He looked behind him.  Patrick Swayze.  Shit.


MATTHEW: So Ghost Bar is becoming….Ghost ROAD HOUSE? Story 2 made me laugh, and I liked the way it played with the idea of downtime for ghosts. That’s an angle I wasn’t anticipating. But there was something very sweetly melancholy about the way Story 1 posed Xmas Past as a ghost who wanted to make up for the job he’d been saddled with the rest of the year. Tugged at my heartstrings, it did. WINNER: #1

Novak – Dang, these are some good stories.  #1 gives some serious new weight to an already weighty character.  And it’s fun to boot!  #2 is so chock full of references that it makes any of those Scary Movie/Epic Movie/Date Movie movies look like they’re trying to be original comedy.  But for as fun as it is, it doesn’t bring the new, like #1 does, so #1 is my winner.

ANDY: This seems like a great theme for you guys. We’ve already seen some great, original ideas, which I love. This one’s a hard one to call, but I’m going with #1. I like the concept a bit better, but #2 was really great as well. Nice work.

WINNER: Kelly Wells



1 – Colin Woolston

The iron minute hand stutter-marched its way toward dawn. Normally he would be among the revelers. 1,843 times he had risen for Christmas eve, a jolly giant blessing those with darkened hearts. Ebenezer had left such a sour taste; all he wanted was one more day to be reminded of why he came back. The minutes passed silently.

2 – Erik Dikken



MATTHEW: Another lovely paced, lovely constructed little paean to the business of saving souls. I really like what this challenge is bringing out of you guys. You had a really strong piece here, #1, it’s a shame it didn’t have to face someone head on. WINNER: #1

Novak – #1, who I assume is Will, wins.  It’s good though, so it’s probably someone like Kelly or Colin or SARAH or Dean or Zack or Beau or… (see what I’m doing here?).  Sorry Will, just a bit of ribbing at your expense.  Gotta get it in now while I’m still able to judge on the CdL.  Also, I didn’t include Pete in that list (eh?  eh?).

ANDY: This one sets a nice tone. I enjoyed it. And it wins against a non-sub!

WINNER: Colin Woolston



1 – Ian Pratt

Vision complete

Ebenezer complete

Dirt and death and

Scenes flittering through the veil

Dashes of time and time and time and time


Time complete

Resolution complete

Slough off the slithering robe

Returning to no time

L’appel du vide


Entropy complete

Diffusion complete

Hold nothing in no arms

But a hint of a flicker

Of a scene through the veil


2 – Zack Sauvageau

As Ebineezer retired to his room after an exhausting day of Christmas merriment, he noticed an open bottle left on his bureau. The candle light illuminated the deep green liquid. Absinthe. Suddenly the events of the previous night made sense. He was positive there was no such thing as ghosts. He was right.


MATTHEW: Oh man, you guys. You guys are killing it this time out. Story 1: Incredible job at making a big risk work. Beyond the risk, just a lovely little evocative bit of word-art, one that uses its word limit expertly as well as its words. Story 2: I was worried I’d have to dock you some points for not actually being about the ghosts, but turns out you wrote about them in the nicest, most intriguingly unexpected way. I wish you didn’t have to face that poem; you wrote a lovely story. “Hold nothing in no arms,” though…smashing. WINNER: #1

Novak – Ooh, this is a tough one for me.  Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of poetry.  When it’s been done here though, it’s usually been done well.  This isn’t an exception to that, though it’s not my favorite either.  I like my poetry to be a little more direct.  Great language though.  #2 is a story that comes really really close.  That last sentence says too much.  Rather than leaving us wondering whether the drink is the real explanation, we’re told in a far too conclusory fashion the result we should walk away wondering about.  Fiction 56 would have been a kinder challenge for this story than Fiction 59.  As such, #1 wins.

ANDY: An interesting concept, #2, but it falls a bit short in the execution. It feels a little too straightforward for the subject, and left me wanting a bit more. #1, you took a big risk with the form. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I think it might not have won against some of the other entries this week, but I enjoyed it more than #2. Winner: #1.

WINNER: Ian Pratt



1 – Dean Carlson

The Ghost of Christmas Past signed the contract, made a copy for himself, and stuck the document in the office outbox.  He hated selling his stories to TMZ but there was an unquenchable desire for celebrity dirt and he had some doozies.  Apparently an 11 year-old Brad Pitt puking up remnants of warm eggnog is interesting to some people.


2 – AMR

“If only I were the Ghost of Alternate Future Christmases!” the drunk shouted. “I never saw what a tyrant Timothy Cratchit would become.  He should have died as a boy!”

A young man in a red uniform approached the cloaked figure.  “Speaking ill of Our Dear Leader is treason.  Another word and you’ll join the Irish in the camps.”


MATTHEW: Perfect timing for a little comic relief. Both of these made me chuckle, and I liked the world that Story 2 invented for itself. In a squeaker, I give the nod to that story, since each story’s last line had to be over-the-top ridiculous to really sell it as the funnier one, and #2 pushed it just that much further. WINNER: #2 

Novak – Oh these are funny.  #1 bring in an effective satire of the world we live in, but probably tells too much, and shows too little.  #2 does a great job developing the characters within the story.  It was already funny, without having a punchline, and then the punchline brought it all home to victory.  #2 wins.

ANDY: Sorry, #1, but unfortunately your concept didn’t do it for me. I like the angle that #2 took, and that makes it my winner.




1 – Christina Pepper

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come faded into nothingness, leaving Scrooge alone and trembling. The night’s work was yet unfinished for the shrouded figure. He traveled through a sea of moaning phantoms with haste, readying lessons of wisdom, fairness, and justice. He rubbed his bony hands together in anticipation of his visit with Gilman, Rustleund, and Novak.


2 – Erik S

Jacob Marley stood in front of his old friend’s grave.  The Christmas Yet To Come never had, and now a much more revered tombstone stood than the one Ebenezer had once been shown.

Though Jacob had steered Scrooge toward righteousness, his own legacy remained besmirched.  The bitterness was one more chain to carry around until the end of days.


MATTHEW: Cute, story 1, but my heritage demands that if anyone’s gonna teach me a lesson, it’ll be the Dybbuk of Chanukahs that Happened Just That One Time, Could You Let it Go Already? Meanwhile, Story #2 felt like a solid little jab to the ribs. Nobody thinks about Marley when the cast is taking its bows. WINNER: #2

Novak – Alright #1, I laughed.  I won’t call it meta, since it’s not really, it just uses us as characters.  There’s actually really vivid imagery here too, with great word choice.  #2, took me a little bit, but I’m glad I puzzled it out.  Marley being bitter that he was effective in helping Scrooge, and that Scrooge didn’t give him credit… what a great idea.  The wise, fair and just decision is that #2 wins.

ANDY: Here we go. These are two solid entries. I enjoyed both of these a lot, and these are the toughest to make a call on, as they go for such different results. I really want to reward #1 for a great use of the judges that I didn’t see coming, and I think actually works well. Unfortunately, I was really drawn in by #2, and have often wondered myself what Marley must have thought after Scrooge was redeemed, and he was stuck in chains. Nice work, both of you, but winner: #2.




1 – Melissa D

The Ghost of Christmas Past had spent last Christmas haunting the prisons.  Those men sat in dark rooms, cursing the holidays, if they remembered them, and Christmas Past got to show them starvation, loneliness.  Death, and cold, and insanity.

Christmas Past breathed long through his opium pipe.

Abandoned at his boarding school?

Scrooge was a pussy.


2 – Pete Bruzek

Mrs. Future usually didn’t allow Mr. Future to talk about work in front of the children, but it was Christmas, and they were so happy.

“They had him shook. When I pointed – should’ve seen his face.” Future chuckled. “Guy freaks out, repents, and buys a turkey. He took the whole ‘you will die’ thing as an object lesson!”


MATTHEW: I feel like Story 2 came up just short of selling a deeper point. Something about death and loss as inevitable, therefore celebration-worthy, aspects of life. If that was the intent, it didn’t quite get there. Painting Xmas Past as a gonzo druggy fella worked nicely, even if the lead-up was a bit unsurprising. WINNER: #1

Novak – Another good matchup.  Two very fun entries.  For me, #1 turned into a comedy too late.  Or maybe it isn’t meant to be a comedy, in which case the last line was a bit too glib.  The writing is crisp and effective though, so it’s only a question of tone.  #2 knows what it is, but could maybe have been punched up a little more.  The 2nd to last line is where the real gold is, and more like that would have made this an easier decision.  Still, for me, #2 makes it through in a tight match.

ANDY: You guys are bringing it this week. Well done again. I really enjoyed #1, but it was refreshing to see some solid straight-up humor this week that really fit the theme well. I really buy this version of the Mr. Future character as well. Winner: #2.

WINNER: Pete Bruzek



1 – Will Young

Scrooge was his hundredth successful conversion, so Sam was eligible for the promotion he craved.

Sam would be relocated across the pond.  Even better, he would be allowed to remove his robe and show his face – his flowing gray hair and the goatee dropping to his sternum.

Now, his right arm will advertise a different, yet still important, message.


2 – David Larson

Santa entered the large chamber to begin his yearly review of the prospective Ghosts of Christmas Past/Present/Future.

“Lots of chains, good, good …. and hey, I like the red eyes – nice touch.  You – add another couple layers of gauzy cloth.  Impressive garland crown!”

“Wait a minute … Daneeka’s Ghost?!”

The gaunt, ethereal cheetah slunk out of the exit.


MATTHEW: If any of you guys can be described as a gaunt, ethereal cheetah, I’m never attending a meet-up. Story 2 was cute, and I like the idea of Santa being involved in the selection of the various Xmas ghosts. But it was in service of a hook that didn’t work on me, since I don’t know who the hell anyone is around here still. Story 1 was meatier, and I’m glad I figured out who it was referencing. It’d be interesting to see the author lay out just what the consequences would be of an ancient British spirit pimping for the US military. WINNER: #1

Novak – #1 makes me go “huh.”  Huh.  Where did this idea come from.  The transformation from Christmas yet to come to Uncle Sam is so out of left field that I can’t help but be impressed at the concept.  #2, on the other hand, has such a strong inside joke reference – but not too inside, as we should all get it – that I’m a huge fan.  It’s very good showing vs. telling too, so I’m happy to give #2 the win.

ANDY: Hmm… not sure what to make of these two. I’m in a bit of a stupor, so forgive me, #1, but I’m not grasping what his right arm will advertise. Otherwise, I like the concept and it’s written well, with the right tone. #2, you came close with the Santa character, but for some reason I’m not feeling the meta in this entry. Sorry. Winner: #1.

WINNER: Will Young


There you have it, all. Regular season done. Once the final placements in the chart have been finished, we’ll know the matchups and seedings for the season. Prepare!