Here’s your final set of results, Survivors. I didn’t know if this prompt would be high concept enough to be inspirational, but one way or another, our ladies made it work. Good stuff this week. It was definitely worthy of being a final.

Immune Person: get a vote to me as soon as you can.

Sarah Bizek

I was called Minerva after my father’s mother, though I never met her. She was said to be a course woman of a stoic nature. Few remembered ever seeing her smile. Hers was an unusual namesake, to be kind.

My own mother passed while birthing me in 1942, soaked in blood and wetted with the sweat of her effort, so I hadn’t the occasion to meet her, either. My older sister, June, told me that mother had absolutely forbidden father from calling me Minerva. I was to be Adeleine after her mother, who left behind an entirely different legacy altogether. He rather blamed me for mother’s demise, so chose not to heed her wishes.

I grew up in London’s East End where rats scampered across our dinner table and the dampness of the air leeched in through the walls. We had little in the way of food and shelter; even littler in the way of nurturing and proper upbringing. We were dirty children, June and I, with only a working man looking after us. We took ill often and never had a doctor. In 1950, June died of Tuberculosis just after seeing her eleventh birthday. I was merely eight at the time. I somehow survived.

Our father passed three years later when he was crushed between the docks and a cargo carrier at the shipyards. He was hewn almost cleanly in half. He was said to have died before even having the opportunity to feel his injuries. Though it was meant to comfort me, I was secretly saddened by that news.

And so it is that I came to be on my own. I was left at orphanage, being a family-less child, after my father’s death. Life was difficult there, competing for every bite, every drop of hot water, every hole-less pair of stockings. Television often tells us of the life-long friendships groomed in orphanage. There is nothing but untruth in these stories. It was each of us for our own.

At the age of sixteen I was sent forth from orphanage with no money and just the clothes on my back. Yet it was no different for me than for any of the others. We left with nothing but our first jobs lined up for us. I was to travel to the family Midford, where I would be charged with their two-year-old daughter, Agatha, and their twin sons, Peter Junior and Cameron, who were but infants at the time.

Maggie Midford, though weak of body and idle of mind, treated me kindly from the beginning. My bed had always a heavy quilt to keep me warm and I was fed and clothed amply. The children came to care for me, and it was the first I knew of an unconditional love since June’s death some eight or nine years earlier. After a short time, I allowed myself to feel at home there. I even smiled and laughed on occasion.

Not four months passed, however, before Peter Midford the senior began finding his way to my bed in the night. He would place his hand over my mouth and climb on top of me, his breath hot with whiskey and cigarette smoke. I was fairly new to my monthly, and was entirely uneducated about the act. He was to be my teacher. His visits increased in frequency until he began coming to me every night, and staying in my bed once he was finished. Maggie, he knew, had too much opium in her system ever to notice his absence.

Though my conscience told me it was wrong, I found myself not entirely immune to his charms. I played at the fantasy that he was my husband; that I did his laundry and cooked his meals and raised his children not because I was under his employ, but because it was my duty to him, under God, as his lawfully wedded wife. I found myself beginning to enjoy having him inside me; filling me up. I often had to bite my lip to keep from calling out against his shoulder. Some nights I allowed myself to place my arm around him once he had fallen into his drunken slumber. I daresay I was momentarily happy.

I was half way to eighteen when I found myself in the family way. When Peter, as I’d come to call him in the nighttime hours, came to me that night, I was filled with the excitement of sharing the news. We were to have another child! I longed to ask him what we would call the baby, and how we might fit a fourth cradle in the nursery. Did he wish for a third son or a second daughter? How many children, ultimately, did he wish for? I would provide them for him, and we would be happy together, I would tell him.

He finished hard that night, and I knew that it was because he could sense what I already knew.

I put my finger on his panting lips.

“Peter, I’m to bear you a fourth child soon,” I whispered, joyful tears in my eyes, my lips parted in a satiated smile.

He slapped me hard across the face. I gasped and grabbed at my cheek, my eyes stinging with tears of pain. I saw the abhorrence in his eyes.

“You’re to do no such thing, Minerva,” he spat. “You will have this taken care of, or you will have no job here.” He slid off of me and hastily began dressing.

“You won’t stay tonight?” I asked him.

“I won’t come again until you’ve had it taken care of, of that you can be certain.” He left my room in a huff, slamming the door behind him.

I was crushed. A broken child. I didn’t understand what he’d meant by “taking care of” the pregnancy. My dreams felt far away from me that night, like something I would never have, never achieve, never secure for myself. I cried bitter tears until I slept from pure exhaustion.

I went to a woman in the East End, an herbalist and midwife who was rumored to know much about the state of pregnancy. I asked her about being taken care of. She knew immediately what I was speaking of, even when I myself did not. She laid me on a filthy table and lifted my skirts over my waist.

She used a tool that resembled a wire coat hanger, and in moments she told me that I’d been taken care of. The pain was immense and the bleeding that came from me was worse than any monthly I’d ever experienced. My dress was soaked in blood. I imagined that I looked rather like my mother on her own death bed.

I was allowed to recover for one half of an hour, and then I was thrust forth into the bustling East End street to find my way home in my weakened physical state. I was thankful for the long wool coat Maggie had bought for me the winter before. Without it, I would certainly have been found out. I made it back to the Midfords’ house, and went immediately to work, despite the cramping that plagued my abdomen.

I was made to repeat this process three more times while in the employ of the Midfords. It drove me to the brink of madness, knowing of the lives I’d willingly ended. The thing that saved me was Peter’s presence in my bed each night.

The fifth time I became pregnant, I was twenty-one years old. It was 1963. When Peter told me to take care of it, I refused.

“I won’t,” I said. “I cannot go through it again. Please, Peter, please. Don’t send me to her again. My body cannot possible handle it.” I felt like vomiting.

He took me up in his arms and kissed the top of my head. I felt elated. I smiled against his chest.

“Of course, darling,” he began, “of course you must go again. How could it be explained? Try to see it from my side, dearest.”

“You don’t love her, Peter. You love me. Leave her, and I will raise all of your children. I love you so dearly, and I love Agatha and the boys, as well.” My voice was frantic. I’d never spoken to him so forwardly. I looked up at him, imploring, searching for any shred of true compassion or care for my wellbeing. Instead I found an insolent smirk.

“Leave Maggie? Are you mad, you daft cow? Why would I leave Maggie? For you, who are practically no higher in calling than a scullery maid? For this child who comes to be out of lust? I do not love you, child. I have never loved you. I long for you like a man longs after a whore. Nothing more than this.”

I was sobbing, kneeling at his feet, clutching his trousers at the knee. My mind was cracking right in front of his eyes.

“I expect that you’ll be packed and gone before tomorrow’s breakfast.” He pulled his legs away from me and left the room.

And that is how I came to be a beggar on the streets of London. My state of unwed pregnancy became rather clear as the months passed, and no one pitied me any longer. They looked upon me as if I were a whore. And I will admit that I had to resort to it time and again.

My child and I found ourselves in the poor house by the time she was three years of age. We were separated and I didn’t see her again. My sorrows never ceased. They grew worse and worse.

There was no hope for a future greater than what I’d known with the Midfords. I allowed myself to become lost in my imagination, in fantasies I concocted to conjure happiness in my own mind. I dreamt up the wildest of stories as I cleaned and laundered and cooked and fed and washed and pressed and hoed and dug and planted and weeded and picked and canned. I dreamt myself out of that place.

And in time I found myself out of that place. Not because I’d gotten out of the situation I’d found myself in, but because the poor houses closed. By the late eighties, I was wandering the streets searching for my daughter, without luck. I’d been searching for so long. I was tired. I was old. I went to St. Joseph’s Home for the Dying and Destitute in 1993. I was fifty-one years old. I’ve been here ever since.

Despite the comfort of having a place to sleep and food to eat, and knowing that those commodities were stable, I continued to dream up tales of science fiction and fantasy and fiction and biography. I began to write them down in my slow, crawling script, a bit shaky in its loops and curves. I filled notebook after notebook with my little dreamings and musings. It passed the time as my hands began twisting in on themselves with arthritis.

Once a month all of the women in the shelter were expected to attend a women’s support group. Women who were once tenants of the shelter were also invited, and many came. We met and shared coffee and muffins. We talked of our lives. For years I’d been asked to share some of my stories and ideas with the group. One day in March, my friend Jo approached me and encouraged me on that day to take the leap of faith and let the group see what I had been working on. She had once lived in the shelter with her very small children, and I had grandmothered them while she searched for work. She visited me often and I shared my stories with her. On that day in March, I did, in fact, take the leap.

I told the group the story of a young boy whose parents had been wizards, but had died when he was young. I told them of how he went to school with other wizard children and learned about the life he didn’t know he had been missing. It was my favorite of all the stories I’d dreamt up. And it was the one I knew would take me longest to scribble down in my notebooks.

As I told the story, I saw Jo’s eyes light up. After that day, she visited me much more often than before, and each time she asked me to tell her more of the story about the young wizard I’d called Henry Porter. We went for months like this, visits every Sunday afternoon, and then once I’d come to the end of the tale, Jo didn’t come the following Sunday. Or any other Sunday after that. Some years later, while I continued scribbling the Henry Porter tale in my notebooks, I saw Jo on the television set.

“Turn it up, please, John,” I shouted to John Gregory, a hard of hearing man who used a wheelchair. “That’s Jo. Remember Jo, everyone?” I stepped closer to the television.

Below her picture was the name J.K. Rowling. I’d never known her by this name, but it was as such that she was being addressed. She was talking about books she’d written. I was just elated for her!

And then I heard the name “Harry Potter.” And I knew that Jo had stolen from me the one chance I’d had at true happiness and prosperity. She told of her troubled life, of her poverty. The people on television, the people of Britain, ate the story up. “Local Woman Makes Good” was the headline everywhere, it seemed. I wondered what they would have thought if it had been my life story attached to the success of the Harry Potter series. As it could have been. As it should have been.

K: What a beatdown our protagonist has taken. This twist ending sort of changes the timbre of the entire story, and seems like a tacked-on ending to a story that didn’t need it (other than to fulfill the prompt’s obligation, though I thought to that point that she was simply “ineligible” to be pregnant in this situation). However, the story to this point is extremely strong, and the sad ending fits the story’s tone, and the protagonist’s casual defeatist attitude does as well. GOLD

DK: I think in some ways this feels a little anachronistic; some of the elements of the story, and the way the characters think and talk, seem like they might fit better in the 19th century rather than the 20th. And I found the transition to the ending and the reveal of the “Vote for Brooks” moment to be a little jarring. Having said that, the main bulk of the story is extremely involving, and the descriptions of Minerva’s life and her tragedies are really moving. SILVER

Margaret Martin

Flanked by security vehicles and men in black, limousine after limousine pierced the media perimeter and approached the front steps of Oslo City Hall. Rich belltones from the hall carillon froze into tin in the icy air.

Inside his stretch Escalade, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un watched a mostly false version of his life story stream across the limo flatscreen. He was trending! On The Twitter! He didn’t know what that was, but he loved watching his name scroll under the talking newsheads: #KimJongUn.

His pride blew open as he considered the prize. Even his father could not have imagined such glory!

The Great Successor had found Great Success. He leaned forward to study his face in the mirror behind the glittering limo bar, feeling a little self-conscious. He noted that the committee had stocked the bar with Soju. South Korean. But still, an admirable gesture.

His name flickered across the screen again.

“Welcome to the Kim Jong-ungle!” #KimJongUn #NPP2014

At the Chongjin Defense Laboratories in North Korea, Lee Seoyun and Sook Minjae took turns smacking a 12” black-and-white television and rearranging the wires of the antenna. Finally Seoyun tuned in a weak signal from a TV station in South Korea’s Gangwon Province.

“I’ve got a picture! The Supreme Leader has entered the building. Come and sit down! We’ll see the glory of Korea tonight.”

Minjae grabbed a contraband bottle of Soju and two small glasses and swung his legs over the back of a metal chair. He scanned the TV with pride. “Hey, what’s that at the bottom of the monitor? It looks like code for something. Someone is sending us a message! Write it down!”

“Oppenheimer Gangnam Style!” #KimJongUn #NPP2014

Oslo City Hall was decorated beautifully. Kimjongilia begonias, rich and red, violet Kimilsungia orchids, creamy magnolias. The flowers of Korea adorned the pillars and the dais at the front of the hall, a nod to North Korea’s mysterious past and a celebration of hope for its future. On chairs upholstered in red velvet, royals and heads of state waited in poised perfection for the reclusive and secretive guest of honor to arrive.

Kim Jong-un’s limo pulled up to the steps. The leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, silver hair shining in the winter sun, descended the stairs to greet him. Jong-un stepped out of the vehicle, pulling down on the hem of his military jacket, adjusting the collar that sat tight against his fleshy throat.

Kim Jong-un took his seat on the stage, and though he was deeply familiar with the seat of honor, he felt an odd buzz of nerves in his stomach.

A bank of trumpeters stood frozen in time, ready to herald the arrival of King Harald and his commoner-turned-princess wife, Storybook Sonja. Their brassy notes broke the silence as the Royal House entered the building. Jong-un stood with the rest of the assembled, gazing upon the King and Queen of Norway.

They were stately, regal, in their western suits and sapphire crowns. He wished he hadn’t refused a pair of better-fitting pants.

The Committee Chairman addressed the room.

“Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, distinguished guests. Welcome.

“Alfred Nobel believed in a world made better by the actions of humanity,” the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee intoned. “As we move deeper into the 21st at the hands of humanity. Injustice abounds. The blackness of war roars outside our fragile windows.

Nobel wished to reward those who fought back against the darkness of violence. Today we gather to honor one such man.” He smiled at the childlike man on the dais.

“Nuclear proliferation is last century’s equivalent of a childish game of ‘My father can beat up your father.’ A child boasts, but an adult would never crave such an outcome.”

Kim Jong-un felt discomfort prick at his skin. Was the chairman taunting his father?

“When the President of the United States nominated Kim Jung-un for this prize, the world reacted with shock. What peace could the mysterious despot, heir to a mysterious despot, bring to this earth?”

Jong-un squinted his eyes. He was sure that they were taunting his family now. He was about to stand in protest, but the chairman of the committee continued.

“Friends, the evidence is overwhelming. The committee has been presented with a rich file of satellite imagery and other intelligence that proves it: North Korea was once committed to achieving nuclear weapons and using them against the world powers. But quietly, humbly, this man began his tremendous pursuit of peace. It is with joy and gratitude that we embrace the wisdom of that decision here tonight.”

Jong-un kept his doughy face emotionless.

“Here we see an image of centrifuges being removed from an ore enrichment facility near the Japan Sea. And in this image,” the slide advanced with a satisfying click, “we see that they were intentionally disabled.”

Kim Jong-un looked askance at the image. It could be said that the centrifuges had been deliberately broken. He felt the flutter of anxiety taking flight in his bowels.

A wave of applause filled the hall and echoed against the high ceiling, and he swelled to know that it was all for him. He pushed his doubts aside and drank deeply from the cup of fame and honor he was being offered.

Seoyun was shocked to see an image of the top-secret enrichment facility on the TV. He drained his glass and quickly refilled it. “Ah, Minjae! Remember that day? When we were going to move the centrifuges to the new facility in Hwanghae?”

“How can I forget? We learned a hard lesson then about the glass internals and subzero temperatures.”

Minjae bowed his head, remembering the Supreme Tirade that had followed that accident. “That was not a glorious day for North Korea. Why do they show it there?”

“Numero Jonguno!” #KimJongUn #NPP2014

Seoyun and Minjae kept working on the code.

The speaker continued in Oslo City Hall. “And here we see the wise leader’s compliance with UN demands for the destruction of North Korea’s long-range missiles. Prior to this day, the world feared North Korea’s long-range capabilities. But with power comes responsibility, and this brave leader…” he gestured at the Supreme Leader sagging over the edges of the chair “…embraces that responsibility.”

Another image appeared on the large screen behind the stage. The missiles had all been opened and gutted. Their casings lay on the ground like the discarded exoskeletons of metallic earthworms.

The dignitaries applauded again, and Kim Jong-un felt the heat of their admiration course through his belly.

“Long-range missiles! They couldn’t even make it to Pyongyang!” Seoyun laughed, pointing drunkenly at the image on the TV. “Idiots!”

Minjae’s head nodded as he snorted another glassful of Soju. “Is there an international award for failure? Cause that’s what this one looks like!”

Seoyun dragged his chair closer to the TV and opened a second precious bottle. “Tonight! For the Great Glory of empty missiles.”

“Impossible? KIM-possible!” #KimJungUn# KoreaReunited

“Congratulations, Mr. Kim Jong-un. I call you forward now to receive the gold medal for the systematic and complete dismantling of your nuclear weapons program.”

Jong-un stood up and approached the podium. His pants were too long, and they caught a little as he walked, forcing his weight to shift forward. He righted himself, trying to stand tall, as the Norwegians did. He held aloft the medal and portfolio bearing Alfred Nobel’s name. Cameras flashed as everyone in the hall stood, overwhelmed by his greatness. He smiled upon them, as he had often smiled upon his vast military. It was much more fulfilling to be loved by the entire world.

Jong-un began his speech to the nations. “Friends of the world…” he waited for the simultaneous interpreter to finish. “It was no easy decision to dismantle our fully operational nuclear program. We have the finest scientists in the world, and it broke them to see their life’s works destroyed.”

Seoyun gasped and started choking. “Dismantle? Fully operational? Which nuclear program is he talking about?”

“Well, we DID try to start the reactor again.”

“Hah! Steam is my life’s work then?”

“Russell gets new Wilderness Badge!” #KimJungUn #Pixar

“Russell? What the hell does that even mean?”

“My most humble scientists do not seek any glory for their ground-breaking work in fusion and weapons design.” Kim Jong-un went on, straining upward at the microphone, which had been set just a bit too high.

“Would that be the design we got from the Iranians in exchange for radioactive scrap?” Minjae laughed into his empty glass.

“Would that be the design that didn’t work?”

“Would that be the radioactive scrap that wasn’t?” The men hooted at their ground-breaking science.

“The Great One has a Great Imagination! I drink in his honor!”

The face on the TV stared directly at them, full of fire. “Our nuclear program could have destroyed the world! It was my own genius idea to bring it down. I am grateful that the Nobel Committee noticed my contribution to world peace. I defy anyone who would say otherwise.”

Another bit of code scrolled by. “Jung-Un à la une!” #C’estNobel2014

“I wish I could figure out what it all means,” Seoyun leaned in toward the mystery at the bottom of the monitor.

Minjae looked into the Supreme Leader’s eyes across countless miles of broadcast signal. “I think it means we should keep our mouths shut.”

Dennis Rodman leaned back in his chair, long legs claiming a good portion of the rug between them. Barack Obama did the same. Similar in height and build and ego, the two men filled the space.

“So he gets to have a successful nuclear weapon program, AND he gets to stop trying to have a successful nuclear weapons program.” Rodman tipped his head toward the day’s headlines. “You did him a huge favor, though of course he’d never admit it.”

“Well, it could still go terribly wrong. I had to get the entire world on board. At any point he can just admit that North Korea was nowhere near nuclear capability. He can spurn the award, get back to work.”

Rodman stood to leave, and with slender dark fingers, pulled his phone from his pocket.

“Guess who’s on The Twitter!”

Kim Jong-un @SupremePeaceLeader 37 million followers

He smiled at Obama. “Nah. It was a good call.”

The President smiled back. “Got any fans in Tehran?”

K: That’s two stories that don’t show their colors until the end. I typically can’t stand stories that make use of controversial public figures and as such this was rough going for a while. I will say some of the more casual humor won me over, though; while the Twitter gags may have outstayed their welcome, Jung-Un’s stupid optimism and childlike demeanor definitely grew on me. When I saw Rodman and Obama being introduced in the end I figured we were in line for some lazy political humor, but we sidestepped it. This story made me not hate the kind of story I always hate, and that’s pretty impressive. BRONZE

DK: Heh. This is a good idea for this challenge, and lots of pieces and individual parts work as humor. I admit I thought the running thing with the Tweets and the guys in the defense lab, while funny, might be leading somewhere else, and so the way it ended instead with Rodman and Obama felt slightly deflated (although it makes “sense” in real-world context). Still, plenty amusing. BRONZE

Shawn Ashley

It was a town that people normally just drove through. One gas station- Gus’- hung on the edge of town, although people rarely stopped that weren’t locals.
There were trailer parks sprinkled around Barnett; an occasional house that was pretty run down, mostly old cars that needed work filled the streets at the five o’clock hour. But it was a small town. There wasn’t really traffic. The annual household income was less than twenty thousand dollars.
The Marks family lived in one of the trailer parks on the edge of town. “Lefty” Marks was a plumber, when he was sober enough to make it to his appointments. His wife had taken off years ago, couldn’t take it. She left him and the two boys- Jack and Luke-when they were just toddlers. Now, Jack is eighteen and Luke is sixteen.
The trailers were so close together that everybody helped raise everybody. The Marks’ mom had disappeared but all the other moms helped raise those boys. They all knew the kind of mean, drunk father that Lefty was.
“Dad, dad,” Jack said, shaking him awake. Lefty rolled to the side, the half empty bottle rolling to the floor. Jack grabbed it just in time, before the brown liquid started to pour onto the floor. “Dammit!”
Lefty just groaned.
“Dad! You have a nine a.m. at Ms. Gunther’s place across town. Get up!” Jack pulled his arm again.
“Get the fuck off me!” Lefty growled, and swung an arm out to try and smack the evil person trying to wake him from his slumber.
Jack jumped back, just missing the attack arm. He sighed as he watched Lefty settle into the couch again.
He grabbed his father’s tool box and a coat and pushed his way out of the trailer into the morning frost.
“Mornin’, Jack,” a voice came from his right. The voice was filled with years and years of cigarette smoke and hatred. She sat with her oxygen tank beside her and the mask dangling from her neck like jewelry, as she puffed away on a Kool.
“Hey, Ms. Horton.”
“Doin’ a job for Lefty today?” She asked through a squint and a puff.
“Yeah…he’s…” Jack just gestured behind him.
She just nodded. “I got a leaky toilet if you wanna come take a look at it later.”
Jack nodded. “Yeah, I can do that. Hey, I gotta run. See ya later,” he turned to go.
“I keep seeing your brother at Cain’s trailer.”
Jack stopped without turning around. He knew what that meant. “I’ll look into it,” he said and was off.
The job was easy. Ms. Gunther’s house smelled of cat urine and garbage, but she gave him a sandwich so it made it all worth it. As he rolled back up to the Park, he saw his brother, Luke, coming out of their door.
“Hey, man,” Jack said as he walked up.
“Oh, hey…whatcha doin’?” Luke wouldn’t look him in the eyes.
“Had to do a job for Dad down at Gunther’s.” He paused and looked him over. “Where are you goin’?”
Luke kept avoiding his eyes. “Thought I would hang down at Kelsey’s place.”
Rage started to burn low inside Jack. “Do you mean Cain’s place? You told me you quit that shit, Luke.”
Luke threw his hands up. “Naw, I go to see Kelsey! That’s all!”
“God dammit, Luke. You were doin’ so good…”Jack said, shaking his head.
“I’m not using, man.” But Luke wouldn’t look at him, so Jack just knew.
“Get the fuck out of here,” Jack said, dismissively and headed into the trailer.
He got into the living room and stood over his father as he snored loudly, his face pressed into the back of the sagging couch. Frustration filled his entire body and he wanted to scream. Luke had been using off and on for over five years. One time, he had almost died. Jack had found him geeked out in their bathroom and rushed him to the hospital. Now, they had hundreds of medical bills they needed to pay off from that AND he still wasn’t clean.
The sad part was that Luke was really smart. He could definitely get a scholarship to a good college if he just lay off the crap. But deep down, Jack knew he never would. Just like he knew Lefty here would never quit drinking.
Jack just wanted out. He was smart too, but he wasn’t that sure he could get a scholarship like Luke could. His grades were ok, but he spent more time cleaning up both his father’s and his brother’s messes and working his own part time job at the grocery store, that he couldn’t really focus. He graduated in June but he still didn’t know where to go or what to do.
He got home from work late that night and realized that Luke was still not back. Angrily, he headed over to where Cain and his sister Kelsey lived. He had walked to try and blow off some steam before he got there.
He just walked right in and it came as no surprise when he entered into a scene of drugs and alcohol. Kelsey was half naked and he had a feeling the rumors were true that her own brother made her strip for his friends and make videos of her to put on porn sites for money. They were all so cracked out all of the time that he was sure she didn’t even know what was going on anyway.
“Hey buddy!” Luke said when he saw him, holding up his beer bottle in a ‘cheers’.
“C’mon, Luke. Let’s go,” Jack said and gestured towards the door.
“I’m havin’ fun!” He exclaimed.
“Luke, let’s go.” Jack stayed firm.
Cain sauntered over to him. “Look, buddy, he doesn’t want to go.”
Jack just looked at him with steely eyes. Cain was a big, muscular guy with longish, dirty blond hair. He had always been the older bully of the Park. Now he was known to be the guy to get your drugs from. The hatred for Cain went way back to when Jack was a kid.
“He’s leaving. Family business.” Jack walked over and pulled Luke up. “Let’s go.”
Luke really didn’t put up much of a fight; he was so out of it. As they made their way home, he started to get really sentimental, talking about when they were kids and their mom being with them.
“Don’t you ever wonder where she is?” Luke asked him as they walked along the main road. It was dark, but clear. The moon was eerily bright, yet small and round this night. It made it so Jack could make out Luke’s silhouette but not his face. He was a shapeless mouthpiece.
“I don’t think about her,” Jack replied. He had tried to harden his heart against their mother a long time ago. She had broken their family when she had left but now he understood why she did it. Hell, he hated being there too. Some days, he hated his family.
“Yes, you do,” Luke retorted and as he did, a car came zooming by them, probably at a hundred miles an hour. As it hit the curve, it was going too fast and couldn’t make it. The sound of screeching tires filled the darkness and the car headed straight into the huge oak tree in front of it.
Jack remembers the sound of the crash vividly, to this day. It had to be one of the most horrific things he had ever heard. He and Luke stopped and watched in horror as it happened and then, simultaneously, they both broke into a run to the car. It had started smoking and flames had developed under the hood.
When they reached the site of the crash, they stood for a moment. They got as close as they could and Jack noticed a baby seat in the back.
“Good fuck….”he breathed out. He froze.
Luke sprung into action. “Get on the other side, man. We have to get these people out now! It’s gonna blow.”
Jack couldn’t move.
“Jack!” Luke had broken the window and was wedging the door of the passenger side open. He unbuckled the woman unconscious in the front seat and yanked her out.
“Jack, get on the other side!” Luke yelled as he dove back in the car as the flames started to grow higher. Jack watched as he pulled out a baby seat from the back, with a baby in a full-lung scream. He just kept moving, carried the baby seat out to the road so it was far away from the car.
When he came back, Jack was still standing there, frozen. “What the fuck, Jack! Get the guy!” Luke ran to the woman, picked her up and brought her out to the road.
Jack tried to make his legs work but they wouldn’t. He was almost in tears.
Luke had come back and pulled the guy to safety. Then got Jack to the road as well. “Dude, what are you doing? Are you fucking crazy?”
That’s when they heard the sirens. Luke looked at him with wide eyes. “Oh shit, Jack. I’m high as fuck.”
Jack was starting to return to normal. “It’s ok, Luke. You saved a family. No one is going to care.”
Luke shook his head. “No, I gotta get out of here. Just say it was you, I’m taking off.” And he ran towards the Park, leaving Jack to deal with the police.
They asked him all sorts of questions, what he saw, how it happened…he answered everything as if it were he saving them. Not Luke. He felt horrible doing so, but he just kept on.
In the days that followed, he came to find out that the family was the Heatherington family from Georgia and they were some of the richest people in the state. They were coming back from a family wedding here in Missouri and had decided to rent a car and make a little road trip out of it. The husband and wife were in intensive care at the local hospital but the baby girl was just fine. The rich parents of the husband came to retrieve the baby in Missouri and met Jack at the hospital.
They insisted on a lot of media coverage for Jack saving their family. All of a sudden, Jack was in every state and national newspaper with the Heatheringtons claiming he was the angel that saved their family, the beacon of light from a small town. Jack never corrected them that it wasn’t he who saved them.
At first, Luke was supportive and laughed about it. “I think it’s great, man. Let them think it was you.”
But as the weeks went on and journalists were coming out to interview Jack and when the Heatheringtons decided to give him five hundred thousand dollars as a “scholarship” to get him out the hole that he was living in, Luke started to get upset.
“You have to share that with me, man,” Luke said one day as Jack came home from yet another interview. The press had made him out to be this down-on-his-luck kid with a heart of gold.
“What do you mean, Luke? You ran away. YOU were high as shit and told me to take credit. So I did.” Jack started to throw things in a bag. He was being flown to Georgia to see the Heatheringtons at their estate.
“YOU froze! YOU wouldn’t have saved anybody! They would all be dead if it had been left to you! At least fucking share, man! I’m your brother.” Luke had been drinking, it was obvious. But Jack knew that Luke was also a star wrestler and could take him pretty easily.
“Luke, that’s not true. I would’ve eventually done something….but you told me to take credit. You said it.” Jack turned his back.
Luke spun him around and got up in his face. “I want half that money, Jack.”
“Too bad, Luke. I’m getting out of Barnett, Missouri.”
“You don’t think I want out?? Livin’ in this trailer park? With drunk dad? Screwing used up, passed-around pussy? I want to go to college and screw sorority girls.” He smiled at the thought.
Jack threw more things into the suitcase. “Luke, you will just shoot all that money up your arm. You will not see a dime, if I can help it.”
The next thing Jack knew his head was cracking against the side wall. Luke was then on top of him, punching his face. Jack tried to get his feet under him to push Luke off but it wasn’t working. Finally, he rolled to the side and got an elbow to connect with Luke’s face.
“GAAHHHH!” Luke grabbed his face.
Jack swung a leg back and kicked him in the head and watched as his skull connected with the coffee table and he fell to the floor.
Jack stood over him. Luke was still breathing, but obviously unconscious. Panic filled him. What if Luke decided to tell the truth? What if people believed him? Jack needed to get out of Barnett. He HAD to. He could taste the sweet life right in front of him and he wasn’t letting his messed up family ruin it for him, like they did with everything else.
He looked around and saw Luke’s backpack sitting on the kitchen table. The idea just came to him.
He rummaged around until he found the things he needed. He had never actually done it himself, but growing up in the Park, he had seen in done enough times that he was able to figure it out. He just hoped he used enough to have the desired effect.
He cooked the powder quickly over the stove burner on a spoon, then he filled the needle and quickly hurried over to where Luke was sprawled out on the floor. He easily found the track marks where Luke regularly found his own veins, and plunged the needle into it. He emptied the entire vile into his arm.
Then he stood and looked down at him for a minute. What if it wasn’t enough?
He hurried back over and found another vile and repeated the process.
Jack decided that he didn’t want to be there to see the end result and so he frantically finished packing and got out of there.
By the time he reached the airport, he felt nothing at all.
He got the call that they had found his brother dead from an overdose when he had reached Atlanta. The Heatheringtons delivered the bad news to him and told him to call his father immediately. But they whispered to him that Lefty had “seemed a little intoxicated”. Jack just nodded and decided that he would call him later.
Jack never did go back to the trailer park. Not even to collect his things. The Heatheringtons had helped him get into Georgetown University that fall.
He never looked back.
K: I like a lot of what’s going on here, although it is a LOT, and it has some trouble getting itself into this rather small space. With more words to tell the story, I think this would have been at the top for me; the characters and their relationships are complex enough and the final moments can have a lot of punch. As is, I feel like I read the treatment for a Hollywood movie that tried to give me every important story beat as briefly as possible. SILVER

DK: Well, I think this is pretty great. The setting and feel of these kind of circumstances is evocatively realized, and Jack is a well-developed character that I’m really interested in seeing the outcome for. The bond, strain and ultimate irresolvable conflict between the brothers is palpable. I also really like this idea and usage of the challenge’s gimmick, and that usage creates the space for such a powerful, dark ending. Nicely done. GOLD

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So, we have our nightmare tie scenario. Well, it’s hardly a nightmare, but we had hoped to avoid it. DK and I conferred after coming to these results, and I admitted my Gold and Silver choices were extremely close to one another, and DK seemed more firm. So, in the end, DK’s choice gets the nod this time. He’s very sneaky, Survivors.

Immune: Shawn Ashley

Shawn, get me an elimination as soon as possible, and I’ll send that person to the jury room so we can finish this thing.

Cheers, Survivors. Thanks for a great and bizarre season.

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