PWTP4-2

Brian

When you are ready, you make the first choice.  The most important choice.

Freydo waved a hand toward the staircase.

“It is time, Brother.  How will you begin?”

I bowed before my mentor and walked toward the stairwell.  On the floor of the landing there was a simple bronze plaque on which was written a single sentence.

You are at the center.

I had spent the last ten years in meditation, contemplating this decision.  The maze expanded outward from this place, spiraling endlessly upward and downward.  No one knew how deep or high the labyrinthe went.  No one had ever returned.

This could very well be the last time I saw any human face.  I would spend the rest of my life contemplating the pathways of the labyrinth.  It was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

I chose to walk upward.

As soon as I entered the maze, I immediately began to lose my sense of time.  The whole structure was built out of a strange metal, finely crafted into a highly symmetrical design.  I covered my head with my hood, grasped the bannister at my side and began to walk.  I kept my breath steady and slow.  The meditation had to be precise, or I could lose my mind.

Time went on.  The same monotonous corridors passed by me, never changing, until I came upon another plaque.  My heart raced as I read the words:

You are at the center.

I remained calm, resisting the urge to fly into a rage.  I had been warned about this, that the maze was tricky, would try to distract me.  I grabbed the banister again and continued walking.

But in the back of my mind, I knew.  I think I had always known.

You are always at the center.

DK: I like the use of the repeated mantra here; it fits well with the image and the feel of the story to create the sense of this character’s experience for the reader.

DG – This is kind of straightforward obscurity, if I may.  I find myself wishing something would have happened to the protagonist.  But then that’s the whole point, isn’t it? I found myself liking this a lot just because it doesn’t reach for a payoff that was never going to be there anyway.  SILVER

Margaret

She wove across the rooftop like a leopard cat, careful not to wake the grieving emperor or her younger siblings, shinno and naishinno curled up in the highest towers.  One imperial wail would bring guards to her empty bed.  Pewter night would shatter into a thousand golden search lights, and all would be lost.

The palace roof was a dizzying illusion.  Tower after tower loomed, identical, but not identical.  Some seemed small from a distance but grew insurmountable as she approached.  Others were not towers at all, but great depressions, negative space.   She lithely navigated her way to the edge and dropped soundlessly to the ground.

The perimeter was guarded, but she slid unseen into the cherry grove.

She stopped aside a shimmering pool in the center of the garden, remembering her mother’s instructions.  Calling softly, she knelt and drew a honed, slender knife from her sleeve.  The Kappa rose to the surface, half greedy boy, half demon, webbed fingers grasping at the princess.

She knew what to do.  Feet tucked beneath her kimono, arms bare, blade glinting, she grasped the Kappa’s seaweed hair, tipping his head to expose his pale throat.

“Our Emperor goes to battle again, Kappa.  He needs gold, warriors, a safe return.  I’ve come to secure these things.”

“Nothing is free, even for naishinno.”  He twisted against her arm, trying to bite her porcelain flesh.

“I have your price, Kappa.”   Releasing him, she took the knife and sliced deep into her forearm.  Dark blood, black as iron, spilled into the water.  He lapped at it drunkenly.

“You taste like your mother.  But you are stingy!  She was so generous.”  He licked his lips and lunged toward her.

The princess continued wrapping her wound. “Gold.  Warriors.  Safety.”  She rose and turned back toward the palace towers.

DK: Nice taut descriptive action, and I like the hints at world-building that don’t need any more explanation than they receive.  The interactions between the characters here are fun too.  BRONZE

DG – Good story.  I liked Kappa’s complaint.  “She was so generous” is a wonderful line, telling the backstory hinted at before in a nicely unexpected way.   GOLD

Eric

Jumping from the bitplane, Zod looked down on the leveled buildings below. Drifting down each building grows and new peaks appear revealing monotonous architecture. Thousands of years makes everything boring; originality dies. The capital hasn’t seen change for many lifetimes.

Adjusting his left strap ensured missing the citadel by three meters. Not that Zod could tell. Except for their size the buildings looked exactly the same to outsiders. The computer printout was the only thing labeling the strange city.

The knowledge that he was the only jumper was something of a comfort. Touching down unseen was the idea hatched half a world away, but now its importance was paramount.

Luckily, Zod’s mission was almost complete. He touched down on the lowest level; built years ago beyond count. Suit, helmet, and chute destroyed he entered the nearest door. History wouldn’t just keep building up towards nothing, Zod would ensure that.

DK: One of a few ideas I really like this time that I wish have a little more fleshing out.  The hints present (i.e. history building towards nothing) are really intriguing, and I’d like to see more of where it went.

DG – There are things I like here, the kind of foreshadowing description of the buildings as “leveled”, and the lowest level being built too long ago.  I just felt like it was kind of straightforward.

Christina

“Loser,” snorted Cara as she passed by. “You’re so pale everyone’s gonna think we locked you up all summer.”

She rummaged around the laundry room in a highly random fashion. All evidence suggested that she sought her bathing suit. Which had been in my bedroom ever since it got mixed up with my laundry two days earlier.

“It’s not there,” I called out. “It’s prolly already in your bag in the front hall.”

She stomped away. In forty or so years, she could thank me for doing my part to protect her from skin cancer.

“You coming, David?” yelled Mom from the top of the stairs. She dared not come too close to my subterranean lair.

“I’m busy,” I responded. Neither she nor my beloved elder sister seemed to be cognizant of the blooms of acne all across my back and chest. On May 25 along the western side of the outdoor pool at approximately 3:40 p.m., Darcy Lovington had asked if I had chicken pox, and I swore I’d never return. Always a man of my word, I am.

Besides, my masterpiece was nearly finished. Initially, I had envisioned recreating the Templo Mayor. I knew everything about it courtesy of the three-week unit on Mesoamerican Cultures last year. But as I worked, I realized I could make improvements. And then it just kept growing, becoming an entire city before my eyes. Artists of the future would be amazed at what I had achieved with MacPaint as the only tool at my disposal.

When I closed my eyes and the image would persist, as though imprinted on the inside of my eyelids. I couldn’t stop now. Just a few more gaps to fill, and I would achieve it. Uniform. Predictable. Perfection.

DK: Great brief picture of a sympathetic character, and using the image in this way is pretty creative, too.  This delves well into David’s headspace in a short time.  GOLD

DG – OK, I actually kind of laugh/snorted at the MacPaint line.  I just wish the joke at the end matched up better with the introductory portion.

Kelly

I cling to the side of the building, trying not to look down.  Okay, that’s not true.  I’ve been immune to looking down for a while now, but I don’t do it very often because the novelty has worn off.

    I slap the suction thingies connected to my hands a few more feet upward, and find a good spot for a break on a large window.  I’m looking into a small room with a copy machine, where a besuited, mustachioed man furrows his brow at me for a moment.

    “Necesito que me digas dónde diablos vamos. Además, yo no soy tibetano.,” says the Tibetan Sherpa who started helping me out about a year ago now.  I don’t speak the language.  I once thought I’d learned something, but it turned out to be his name.

    “I agree, Steve,” I say.  “I think this building’s the one.”

    I glance downward, pulling out my binoculars, searching for the red chrome that’s eluded me for going on three years now.  Will I ever find it?  How long have I climbed?  Shouldn’t the past tense of “climb” be “clumb?”

    We continue upward, and the next day proves to be a quick trip to the apex.

    I recognize some of this.  Not only do I recognize it – I recognize it from this distance and angle.  Chase Bank.  Starbucks.  The other Starbucks.  All of it.

    “Oh, Steve,” I say.  “We clumb this building last March through June.”

    “Es hora de elaborar un plan de pago. Esta mierda no es gratis,” Steve says.  He’s right; this was a fool’s errand in the first place.

I take one last look through the binoculars, but it’s just to satisfy my will to succeed.  In my heart, I know it’s over.  I’m never going to find my car.

DK: I got too much enjoyment out of this one to avoid slapping a high mark on it.  The language jokes, the guy’s name, and the capper at the end – I’m in a good mood.  GOLD

DG – You made me groan.  But it seems like that’s what you were going for, so well done.  Maybe a few extra jokes packed in here?  Everything stays with the overall tone of the piece though.  SILVER

Erik

It was the last time i saw you

Over at the water tower place. you’ve been Redshifting. i hadn’t seen you in that light before. you were on a City bench on a disarmingly warm March day when everyone was carrying their coats because they didn’t believe it could be

that 55 could feel that nice in march.  I couldn’t tell if you were staring at something or nothing. the sun had already dipped below

(inbound)

the Skyline. the granite generously gave off the warmth it had brokered from the sunlight with anyone that needed it.

This is grand.  You are looking at something or nothing and looked hallow on the last time i saw you.

a smart collar stiff against the breeze. The cardigan’s split ends yielding with less protest

you are crashing through subterranean darkness inbound. 4 days a week and sometimes Friday.  This is a Division.  you smile warmly at old ladies and young mothers.  A warm smile that shoots off in boundless distances on either side of your mouth. Everyday I’m stuck in

Park.  This is a Blue

day. Same as any other day. Run another circuit and another, encumbered with the milage.  there are doors closing.

you sit facing the wrong direction every day.  It lets the sun shine against your

face.

Doors closing.

You look beautiful you cut your hair you look even more beautiful since the last time i saw you.

DK: Some really interesting work here, I like the way this fragmentation of thought meshes with the imagery of the picture we provided.  SILVER

DG – this sets a really nice melancholy mood and slowly builds on the theme throughout.  I like it quite a bit. SILVER

Annette

Failing miserably by taking her son to Target instead of the mall, Claire left Marcus and his surliness to try on shoes alone. She wandered over to the toy section and sighed nostalgically. Simpler times.

Claire idly picked up a 1500 piece jigsaw puzzle consisting of geometric shapes. Just the sort of thing that would drive her absolutely bat shit trying to put together. It reminded her of her grandmother.

Nana had moved in with her family when Claire was 11. She staked claim to the seldom-used dining room table to work her puzzles on: thousands of pieces of autumn leaves, pine trees or bouquets of balloons. Claire would sometimes sort them for Nana, by color or edge, but never for very long. She didn’t have the interest or patience.

Claire had thought it a ridiculous hobby. And yet, Nana was . . . available. Claire’s father worked long hours or vedged in front of the T.V. and her mother was always chasing the “oopsy” twins she had in her mid-30s. It was Nana who bought Clare a pregnancy test, after her first fumblings in the backseat of Jimmy’s Nova. It was also Nana who insisted Claire carry her own condoms when the scare turned out to be a false alarm.

Nana listened to her for long hours while Claire debated whether to take the out of state scholarship or stay in community college and marry Jimmy. She would calmly take the opposite side of any argument while piecing together puzzle after puzzle.

Claire looked from the puzzle in her hand to her son in the shoe isle. She thought of the sinking grades, the angry outbursts and the gay magazine secreted among his winter sweaters.

She tucked the box under her arm and headed for the checkstand.

DK: Another unique usage here that I got a lot of appreciation out of.  The whole nostalgia/recollection thing is carried off well, in the way this evokes those kinds of feelings in me as a reader even without the same experiences (at least not from the same perspective).  BRONZE

DG – That’s a different inspiration from what we’ve seen so far.  I do like the flashbacks more than the actual current conflict.  But I like the flashbacks quite a bit.  BRONZE

Melissa

Nin awoke to blood.  Her sheets glared red at her, a dreaded announcement.  The bells would ring today.  They’d echo off the walls of the ziggurats, peal over the City of Temples to signal what everyone had waited so many years to hear.

The princess could bear children.

Which meant Nin had two weeks before he came for her.

The first morning light glinted off the temples outside and reflected into her windows.  She needed to hurry, or she’d lose the chance to talk to the shadows, the chance to make this stop.

She left behind her stained sheets and years-worn dolls to race barefoot through the cold temple.  Droplets of blood trailed behind her in the hallway, one with an imprint of her heel left in it.  She didn’t care.

When she reached the ancestors’ room, she found an urn still smoking.  The air smelled of citrus and leather.  The High Priestess had been here, praying that blood would come to Nin as she’d prayed every night.  She’d prayed it for Nin’s sisters, too.  It had never worked before.  Why had the prayers been heeded this time? .

Sunlight glared through the windows, threatening to steal the shadows before Nin could speak to them.  She raced to prayer wall, knelt beside it.  “Tell me how to stop this,” she whispered.

Give us back the blood.  Feed us.

She squatted, wiped her hand along her calf, up her thigh.  The blood glinted in the light.  They could have it.  All of it.  She pressed her hand to the wall.

“Save me,” she whispered.

The shadows licked at her fingers, but it wasn’t enough.  They hissed as the sun rose, and they disappeared when voices rang down the halls from Nin’s room.  Voices rejoicing.

Nin bowed her head.

The bells rang.

DK: Great combination of setting, atmosphere, and building tension.  In a short space this builds up a strong interest in Nin’s situation and desire to see her resolve it successfully, and descriptions like the bloody footprint help illuminate that struggle well.  GOLD

DG – See, this just sets up the story so well.  I love the opening and the rest of it follows through very well, with an ending that’s not happy, but perfect for the set-up.  GOLD
An aside – I didn’t realize I enjoy blood-drinking demons so much.

Pete

The caravan was silent as it made its way through the jungle. At times, the foliage that lined the wayside looked to be a dead end, but the guide always pressed on seemingly by instinct.

We had all privately wonder what the reasoning was for such a path, one that led us off the well-travelled roads that made their way through the heart of the continent. The truth was unknown, but the fact was, you didn’t hire a guide like Omri if you intended on taking the well trod path.

Omri spoke to no one. He progressed through the vines, only stopping to look back at Jeho, our leader. Jeho would simply deliver a knowing nod, and the guide would continue.

In the silence, I found my curiosity piqued by the map that Jeho was reading. It was a map thick with coded meanings, adorned with pagan symbols. I briefly fancied it might be a treasure map, but it resembled the architectural drawings my father’s work.

Omri broke the silence.

“Gentlemen,” the man grimly announced “Welcome to the Halls of the Dead.”

Structures unlike any I’d seen lay before us. Small temples aligned with larger versions, growing larger and larger until they became so big as to blot out the sun.

One of the younger recruits stepped off the trail to investigate one of the smaller shrines. Jeho called out a warning, but the youth triggered the trap, a blade sprung from nowhere, cleaving him in two. We stood transfixed.

“I have done as you asked” said Omri. Jeho gave one last nod of acknowledgement, and Omri departed into the jungle. A few cries of bewilderment arose, but none dared follow him.

“Rest up, men” said Jeho in a slow, even voice. “We begin the search tomorrow, and we will need to be rested and of clear mind if we are to kill a god.”

DK: Lots of great atmosphere here.  That ending gives me another one that I’d really like to read more of to see where it goes.

DG – Clearly those two were up to something, but I have to admit I didn’t think it would be this.  Another good set-up that finishes well, I’m not looking forward to trying to separate these.  BRONZE

Will

The helicopters arrive after nine, Warren explained. They wait until the sun sets because they can swoop low and use their spotlights to find the stragglers.

Anyway who wants to survive the night must scale their home or stay inside, he continued.

“But how –” the boy with the tussled hair interrupted.

Their spotlights have tractor beams, so they suck a boy up once they have the light locked on, Warren continued without acknowledging the attempted intrusion, He’s never seen or heard from again.

Warren stretched his legs in front of him and looked disdainfully at the boy with the tussled hair.

Seizing the pause, the boy with the tussled hair asked deferentially, “How do you know this?”

I’m twelve, Warren responded, You’ve learned things in life when you’re my age, Warren glowered at the boy.

You must make your decision. Your parents will try to keep you inside. There is a reason they raised you here on the ground level below all the peaks where important decisions are made – they were too cowardly to take the risk. But the last twelve Emperors each risked everything to scale their home before they were ten years old. Unless you are satisfied with your parents’ lives, you should attempt the climb when the eclipse begins.

“How old were you when you climbed?” the boy with the tussled hair asked.

Think carefully, Warren told the others ignoring the question. Do you want to see the sunlight? Do you want to leave this city? Do you want power? Warren let these words drift over the boys. He stood and began to walk away.

“I’m doing it,” he heard the boy with the tussled hair tell the others. “I don’t want to stay here with Warren.”

DG – I like Warren getting what he wants for the wrong reason, that’s kind of a messy result but doesn’t make the story seem messy.  GOLD

DK: The switching between one character’s dialogue and the other’s is a little jarring, but I really like the way this unfolds the unnamed boy’s underlying motivations, and how that folds into the world-building going on.

Bret

Ethan sighed and pulled off his glasses, scrubbing his tired eyes.  Karen had blasted into the lab this morning in a wave of icy silence and gone straight to work.  She hadn’t looked up when he apologized (again!), and the coffee he had fetched her had sat ignored all morning.

He’d been excited when she’d accepted his offer to grab a drink after a long week, and they’d been getting along so well- and then he’d told her his secret.  She’d laughed at him, teeth flashing in the neon bar light.

“No, I’m serious.” Ethan had insisted.  “I thought… I thought you should know, is all.”

“Ethan,” Karen said, putting her hand on his.  “That’s enough.  It’s a funny little joke, but work is… well, work is work.  Don’t take this wrong, but-“

“Dammit, Karen!” Ethan had erupted.  “I’m not joking!”

Karen had pulled her hand away, the smile slipping off her face.  She’d headed for the door as Ethan was apologizing and left him there to stew in his own misery, just like now.

His reverie was interrupted by Karen’s scream and a splash of cold coffee onto his khakis.

“Ohmygod” she squeaked out, pointing at the electron microscope screen, backing away to the far wall of the lab.

Ethan scooted over and peered at her monitor, looking down on the surface of the microchip, magnified into ziggurats and crenelated towers.  There it was!  With a steady hand, Ethan centered the laser on the gargoyle that was tearing at the circuits and blasted it to infinitesimal ashes.

Karen stepped forward, staring at the screen.

“You…you weren’t joking,” she stammered.  “I thought we were just looking for errors…”

“Usually, we are,” said Ethan.  “But sometimes- well, things at a near-atomic scale get weird.  How about we knock off early today?”

DK: Another one I probably got too much of a kick out of, but I got drawn into Ethan’s situation and enjoyed his tossed-off last line a lot.  SILVER

DG – I love the idea of nano-scale gargoyles.  I’m not sure the bad-date thing quite works as well as it could, but damn I want more nano-gargoyles. BRONZE

Colin

X’itlphuan sighed. Or rather, approximated a sigh; emotion was a beautiful luxury, but one she had not spent much time with.

She adjusted her neural interface to detach from her home planet’s mind, and attempted to connect to earth’s. She tried impatience, and found it annoying, which was a nice surprise. Surprise she had been working closely with. It stimulated her, without any glanded chemicals.

The ORB known as 5 -not for any cataloging or sequencing purposes, the droid simply liked the sound of the number – rotated and faced X’itlphuan. 5 was kind enough to put on a glowing pink area to approximate a ‘face,’ so X’itlphuan would recognize the gesture. “As long as it takes, I would assume.”

“I don’t think command has any idea what is happening down here. We could, conceivably, be here forever. By the way, I’m having difficulties connecting to Earth’s mind. Any ideas?” She remained facing forward, letting her eyes roam over the landscape of Las Vegas.

“I doubt it would happen quickly. This was the first constructed mind, you know. It’s probably a bit eccentric by now. I’ll see if I can get some info for you.” 5 made a few pings and beeps, a joke it never tired of.

“Never mind, I’m in now. It appears the contest has begun. Not that anyone paying attention doesn’t already know what’s going to happen.” She looked back to the ship. She tried wistfulness. It was nice. “No matter what galaxy one is from, everyone knows the Vikings haven’t won a Superbowl in over a millennium, and it’s never going to happen.”

5 dipped slightly in the air. “I believe you’re right, miss. Still. the mission is to document the event, should it occur.”

X’itlphuan tried indignation. It felt right.

DK: The ideas here are pretty interesting as far as the approximating emotions thing goes.  Not quite as sold on the Vikings joke.

DG – “She tried impatience, and found it annoying, which was a nice surprise”  Yes.  My favorite line of this story by far.

Zack

Hello? Helloooo?

Helllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo?

Shit. You know, I told them when they were showing us the blueprints that they needed to have an exit. “No way!” they said. “It’s just for the pharaoh!” they said.

Why would they listen to me? I’m just a slave. It was worth killing my family to forcing me to build this pyramid, but I guess it wasn’t worth it to make sure they brought me home.

Nope. So here I am. Trapped. Left to die. Buried alive.

FML.

DK: Heh, that’s a pretty terrible fate to be subject to.  The juxtaposition of modernist language is probably catering to a specific sort of taste, though.

DG – That sucks, hopefully this guy runs into the monk from the story above.

Jonathon

For the third straight year, Rebecca Gormann had lost the Gingerbread House Building championships to Lisa Weast. She scoured the rulebook for any violations that would vacate Lisa’s win, but found a very unsympathetic judging corps. Lisa’s work, she was told, was just too creative to overlook. The fact that Lisa built more of a city than a house was not a disqualifying feature; the structure could contain dwellings, and that satisfied the rules. The fact that it was abstract (it was titled Gingerbread Macchu Picchu in Abstract, for crying out loud!) was apparently not enough to disqualify it. The fact that Lisa was a smarty-pants know-it-all was not enough to disqualify it.

Rebecca’s appeals to the judges had to be exhausted before the results could be officially announced.

While they were talking through each objection that she brought up to them, Rebecca approached Lisa.

She set her second place entry next to Lisa’s gingerbread sculpture and wheeled on Lisa. “Why do you insist on making a mockery of this competition?”

“What do you mean, Rebecca?”

“It’s not really a house, is it? You just technically follows the rules, but what is that thing? It’s not appetizing, and it’s not beautiful! Why are you even here?”

“Oh, but I find the edges of the rules to be where the real joy is! When you remove the traditional conception of the expected, you find more freedom than you do when you follow the path that everyone else takes. Did you know that in Macchu Picchu—“

Rebecca cut off Lisa’s soliloquy with a bang, and walked away. She considered complaining to the judges that Lisa’s sculpture was now fragmented and topped by her own smashed entry, but figured even that probably wouldn’t be enough to disqualify it.

DG – I like Lisa, the edges of the rules are the place to be.  Plus I love a smarty-pants know-it-all.  This is cute, and I like the story in general.

DK: I wonder if one could see this story as a metaphor for this game we play.  Especially Lisa’s line near the end.  I could ruminate on that for a while.  BRONZE

Ben

They hadn’t known how hard it would be getting there. In the end, it was probably harder than anything they’d attempted together before. “Part of the allure” they’d tell themselves afterwards. “It’s what we’d signed up for,” they’d say. Only it wasn’t, not really.

They’d come to Ingapirca as amateur historians, recreational archeologists and barely competent academics. To a person, they knew only the Spanish they’d learned in high school or picked up in Cancun, Mazatlan, Cozumel and the like. Most of that was best used for ordering beers, lining up acid and dope, and trying to find the most authentic tacos.

They’d been abandoned by their guides due to some miscommunicated insult. It only made it worse that they didn’t know when. They had later lost the equipment they’d cobbled together from REI catalogues and the Army Surplus store in Fresno. Everything from satellite phones to the right kind of spare socks was in those packs. They didn’t know who’d last been responsible for them.

The first two weeks following their abandonment weren’t terribly challenging, mostly a stoned haze of climbing, tripping (peyote – because it’s what the ancients used) and ‘communing with nature’. They’d stumbled into the cavern as a way to get out of the rain. As they sat around the stone chamber, each lost in the awesomeness of space stretching away above them, none would know what they’d found, an Incan treasure the modern world had never known.

When they realized that they didn’t have gear, they were mildly disappointed. When they were finally all relatively sober at the same time, they realized that no one knew where the guides were or when they’d left. Some part of their brains screamed at this reality, but it wasn’t the rational part. The collective response was much more sanguine.

DK: I like and yet am held off a little by the tone here – very detached for a situation increasing in desperation.  A lot of the details fleshing out the collective characters are solid.

DG – Again it’s an entry that doesn’t go for a big payoff.  The fact that the group is so unlikeable and hopeless makes the story kind of cry out for some kind of consequence for their action.

Joe

“This is Charlie Delta Lima two three niner on approach to Wenego Space Port, please respond.”  Nothing on the radio.  Thirty seconds pass – only static.  “Wenego Space Port, this is Charlie Delta Lima two three niner on approach.  Limited visibility.  I need vector and coordinates.  Please respond.”  More silence.  Daniel flipped off the Com and flipped on the log recorder.  “Daniel Parma, 2nd Lieutenant, spacecraft CDL-239, December 19, 2270 AD.  I have circled the planet Wenego four times now attempting to contact the Space port in an attempt to land and deliver a shipment of rations and supplies.  There has been no response and I fear that …”

Abruptly, the clouds parted and Daniel tensed in the cockpit.  Below him was not the desert he expected, but a bizarre arrangement of towers and steps not unlike that of ancient Aztecs.  He grasped the controls in order to maintain stability, but his mind was still lost in confusion.  He navigated haphazardly around the tallest structures and looked around for some place to land.  His hand reached over and turned on the Com again.

Instantly, deafening static blared through the Com.  Daniel quickly turned it off.  Something was not right.  He punched some buttons on the controls, changing vectors back to Transport 2.  As he steered the ship out of orbit, he suddenly felt a force grab onto the ship, jarring it back to the structures below.  He engaged turbo to break the pull, but it was no use.  They had him down on the ground in mere seconds.  He was atop one of the structures.  His eyes glanced over at the log, saw that it was still on.  “Daniel Parma, continued.  My ship has been taken captive by an unknown race on the surface of Wenego.  I’m about to engage… standby…”

DK: One more that really draws me in and yet makes me wish our word limit wasn’t so small (even if I don’t really have time to read longer stories yet this season).

DG – A story that just got started as it ended.  I like the discovery of the unexpected structures, but I wish there was even a hint of what that means for the pilot.

Sarah

The lab was silent except for the whirr of the refrigerated units. I disarmed the security panel and crept inside. I’d worked in the research facility long enough to have my own key.

It was late Friday night. I hadn’t been able to sleep. My mind had been racing since I’d seen it – the angular, crowded colony of shapes on the glass slide’s surface. The strange pyramids and plateaus, magnified on my microscope, appeared to be inorganic.

Earlier that day I’d started a routine pathology analysis. I’d been told to give the case priority. I prepared the sample.

I’d though I’d used a dirty slide until I zoomed in closer. What I saw was structured. A cluster of miniature shadows, arranged in neat stacks and clean lines, reached out towards my eye. It looked intelligent.

I hadn’t shown anyone else what I’d seen. I wondered if the twisting design, greenish-gold and glimmering, was a result of my recent insomnia.

I returned to the lab to use the only Scanning Electron Microscope we had. The SEM could magnify my strange discovery to 30,000X. I hadn’t used it earlier, afraid my coworkers would ask questions

I loaded the sample into the SEM. I hadn’t believed what I saw: movement among the symmetrical architecture. I blinked and stepped back, my arms going numb with a horror. I looked again. Blurry dots floated through the linear landscape, and I’d zoomed in tighter.

The higher magnification revealed everything. I saw machinery, fountains and waving banners.

Finally, my eye focused on the floating dots within the lines: people. One craned his face up at me, scowling. Another disappeared into a stacked structure.

I fled the lab and called our supervisor. I told him I needed some rest; I’d be out the rest of the week.

DK: I like the miniaturization approach to using the source material, and I like the way this builds up the increasing fear in the protagonist’s mind as what’s being seen becomes clearer and clearer.  SILVER

DG – Just the discovery again. I’d like to see a consequence here, even if it’s just someone else pointing out that it was just a dirty slide and lack of sleep or something.

—–

A double gold!  Congrats to Melissa who sees the season’s first such occurrence.  I had a lot of stories that were in my “give this a medal” bucket this time around, and only some of them ended up getting medals.  I thought this was a really good round.

Full Results and Standings (it’s a spreadsheet!)

The next round will be due Thursday at 8 PM Central.  Word limit: 302.

Image:

  PWTP4-3

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