Hey, gang! I had a movie shoot last night (out of nowhere) that went very late. As such, I’m just now able to post this. Luckily, things are now much simpler around here so this should be easier from here on out.

Here’s how scoring works: in each challenge, each of the judges gives medals to half the field. With 26 responders this means that this time, there are 13 medals: 4 Gold, 4 Silver and 5 Bronze, which are worth five, three and one point respectively. The four people who scored the highest will be the captains. During the season, scoring will work the same, and the team that scores the lowest number of medal points per person per challenge is the one that will eliminate someone (though in all cases, a team with a non-submitter will eliminate someone as well).

It worked out nicely: we have four top performers this week without having to break ties! However, there’s a lot of good stuff here, and even if you’re not a captain, you should read it for fun.

Let’s get to it. At the bottom, I’ll mention which four stories produced the captains and will shortly be asking them to draft their teams.

1

There once was a piece of cheese named Daniel. Daniel was not square-shaped and he did not have holes. He did however have a chunk taken out of him by a rather large mouse when he was first unwrapped and cut apart from the rest of the cheese. Daniel fled from the rodent, so rather than end a short life on a sandwich, he lived a long life surviving between the musty old walls of a musty old house. That’s when he met a tabby cat named Katie. She ate him, but not before he took one of her eyes.

K: Well, I think we’re in for a weird season. I’ll cop to not knowing how the cheese took an eye (did Katie catch a corner of the hardened cheese? Was it tainted?), but I’m amused by the first sentence of the season.

DK: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a story here use only my and my sister’s names before (although my sister spells hers differently, so I can pretend it’s not the same). There’s a lot of weirdness here that’s appealing without quite coming together (how does a piece of cheese flee from a rodent?)

G: I like the topic and the style somewhat, but the tone of the whole piece lacked any kind of hook or build-up to really grab me. Keep working at this kind of unusual idea, though, it’ll likely pay off in the future rounds.

2

Polished black shoes stepped into view. Campus police.
Mike kept his eyes down. “Hello officer.”
The cop eyed the wire cutters in Mike’s hand. “Whose bike is this?”
“Mine, but I forgot the combination.” Mike finished cutting the chain and pulled it from the spokes.
Red sneakers ran up. Chuck Taylors.
“HEY! That’s my bike!”
Mike bolted, cutters in one hand, chain in the other.
The girl thanked the officer, got onto the bike and rode off.
Mike sat on the bench outside Starbucks. Red Chuck Taylors stepped into view.
“That was awesome! I love this bike!”

K: Ooh. Already, a twist I didn’t see coming. The relationship is left the imagination, which is fine in this case as it would just muddy the reveal. BRONZE

DK: I like the con job idea. The prose is a little clipped, due to space I imagine, but the repeated use of shoes to signify characters is a nice touch and fits well with the circumstance.

G: Nice story with a tidy little twist undone by the number of words restriction. I could feel you struggling to get this one in under the wire.

3

“And that, Revas, is how I intended to break into your vault,” Lantain explained.
“So let me get this straight, Master Costis. You have been cheating every single game…”
“Nearly every game.”
“…in my club over the past two years, knowing the penalty of which is instant execution, in order to clean out my impenetrable vault and then you marched right up to my majordomo to confess? To what end?” Revas was obviously quite perplexed.
Lantain had Revas right where he wanted him. “Because I want a job.”
Three months later, Lantain walked away with the wealth of the Sinspike.

K: Heh. This could work as a much longer story. The payoff seems a bit rushed and I’m not sure I believe Revas would hire Lantain, but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. BRONZE

DK: I think I’m a sucker for the flowery dialogue sometimes, and this fits all the story it needs well into its space. BRONZE

G: Compacting 80% of the story’s plot into one expository statement by a character isn’t a choice I’d recommend going forward. What could have been an elegant little tale suffered from bloat, and a then-they-got-hit-by-a-bus ending.

4

Allen stared at the blank face of his digital watch and felt a suge elation. No more beeping; and annoying reminders of scheduled appointments or get togethers or dinner dates. His life had been taken back from the mechanical monstrosity, this self-inflicted shackle that chained him to the “beep beep beep” of everyday life.
He had set everything by that watch; forced himself to hurry to places he didn’t want to go, and watch as his life ticked away in seconds like seeing each blood cells beat through his heart.
He felt he could live forever.

K: This could be a supernatural thing where Allen stopped time, but I prefer it as a man slowly losing his mind so that’s how I read it. It almost all feels like exposition, but the ending belies that Allen is more interesting than he sounds.

DK: Maybe could’ve used a look-over, but the idea is pretty intriguing and relatable.

G: This story doesn’t really have enough going for it. Focusing on an isolated moment’s resonance for a character only works if we know the character well, know the stakes he’s facing, or if the description of the moment is amazingly written. Also there were some grammatical issues, and those are always going to lead me to judge a story a little bit downward.

5

The smell of grass. Flying as we rolled down the hill. We’d lie in the ditch, staring at the sky. Animals and houses floated above. Creating worlds for hours.
It started with a drop. “I should probably go in,” I thought. But the hill, the ditch, the grass, the clouds were too fun.
It came naturally to us kids. Flow: those moments you fully engage in something—lose yourself in it.
Exploration continued, while I soaked my incredible hulk underwear and shorts. “I’m peeing my pants”, I thought, but the grass and the clouds and the moment trumped all.

K: I didn’t have any idea where that was going, and now that it went there, I’m not sure how to feel. It’s a weird, whimsical and beautiful thing that takes a moment that should be tragic and turns it on its ear. SILVER

DK: I like the, uh, twist. The “drop” sets up the misdirection really well. Probably didn’t need the extra thought at the end from the narrator, since everything should be pretty apparent without it. BRONZE

G: Very meaty nugget of personal recollection, lots I could wrap my brain around. Wanting to defy the weather made for a quick injection of personal stakes in the idea too. If anything, I would’ve preferred not to have had that reflection about childhood right there in the middle. This didn’t need it. SILVER

6

When the water abated, Caleb emerged from his cavern. The long wait was over. Catherine had not returned before the flood. Finding her alive would be unlikely, but still he had to search.

Everywhere bodies littered the beach. Everywhere there was destruction; pain. Many voices called out to the missing. And then giant footfalls pounded the sand. The search turned deadly.

Everyone scattered, screaming. Caleb fled home alone.

“Daddy!” The sound boomed. Caleb hunkered down in the sand. “The tiny crabs are all dead!”

“Poor things.” The giant’s crouch plunged the crab holes into darkness. “Caught in the tide again.”

K: Cute enough twist, though I had the feeling from the beginning that humans weren’t involved. The story somewhat relies on the twist, rather than being enhanced by it, or maybe that’s just my read because I saw it coming.

DK: At least we’re kind of easing into another summer of death and destruction here, right? I like the hints of suggestion here, although I think this idea could be more interesting if fleshed out even more.

G: Interesting twist, but it felt like an anticlimax given how nicely the start of the story built up tension quite economically. If these had been people facing some calamity, I think I would have liked the story as a whole better.

7

It seemed the trip was endless when the fourteenth buffalo began lumbering across the highway in front of young Stephan’s family minivan. Yawning, Stephan turned toward the east.
The sun had now appeared over the mountains. The buffalo herd became more colorful, but not more pleasant to view.
Out of the corner of his right eye, Stephan noticed a boy in a blue shirt hanging half out of the car behind. Stephan twisted fully around, mesmerized by how it seemed that boy’s eyes were shining as bright as the morning.
“Whoa,” Stephan breathed.
“Yeah,” sighed Stephan’s dad from the front.

K: I’m torn, as this is a very nicely written story that doesn’t really take me anywhere. Though I might not give it the highest marks, I think it suggests good things for the writer down the road. BRONZE

DK: I really enjoyed the way this captures the dual perspectives here in a succinct way, as well as the contrasts between Stephan’s viewpoints on the various things he sees. SILVER

G: Some really warm, evocative descriptions in this little story. I almost hope this was a real event the author experienced. SILVER

8

The Birth of Bertha Christ

He knew the death of Robert would come. It took many years, longer than he had anticipated. As a boy he would sneak off into his mother’s closet plotting Robert’s death with a high heel or possibly an Hermes scarf. He would tie that scarf tightly around Robert’s neck and kill him, completely. Granted he knew it would take more than a scarf, some chemicals on the face would also help Robert to disappear entirely. Tonight was the night. He applied the gloss a third time. Was it enough? Yes. The stage awaited the birth of Bertha Christ, drag superstar.

K: Oh, dear God. When this one comes together, it’s painful and hilarious to read all at once. The payoff is hidden expertly and the story hit me just as the writer intended. A high heel…ugh. I’m trying not to think about it. GOLD

DK: At first I was like, “oh yeah, another CdL killer”, then I got more excited when I realized it was a figurative death. BRONZE

This is an idea that deserves to be drawn out a little more. But you did well fitting it into 100 words; the concept revealed itself nicely, and it felt pretty authentic, with just the right dash of fabulousness, worthy of a drag queen. BRONZE

9

That is impossible.
Your statement is necessarily false. Something impossible cannot be. Either “that” IS, and therefore cannot be described as impossible; or it ISN’T, contradicting the “is” in your sentence.
So, which isn’t it?
The problem is that your negative, “impossible”, arrives too late to negate the thing that cannot be. You’ve already called it into existence with your verb choice.
Making that possible?
Afraid so.

K: I’m a dork for wordplay and this was pleasant enough to read, though I’m not sure I can favor a story that’s just a language exercise rather than a story. Keep doing unconventional things like this, though, and there’s a good chance they’ll pay off.

DK: I both like and dislike this to an extent somewhat greater than many others here. The more I read it the more I appreciate the “conflict” presented, but logical pedantry is a tough bridge to cross to interest me in a story on its own.

G: More a linguistic exercise than an actual story, it still got me in some small way. Of course, it helps that I have a background in Wittgensteinian philosophical langauge-game theory, as well as an understanding of the Austinean investigative process into perlocutionary and illocutionary speech acts. But hey, don’t we all? BRONZE

10

The earth was a pale-blue dot out the hatch window when they finally embraced for the first time.

She looked out at it, at everyone she’d ever known, as she whispered in his perfect ear, “I’m ready.”

His pulse quickened, “I’m ready too. And don’t worry. I’m clean.”

She laughed at the joke. They’d been through a battery of blood tests before leaving earth. These two were physical specimens in their prime, elected to go forth and reproduce. The joke was a pleasant surprise– she’d found him dull and brutish before this.

“And I have no sperm so we’re safe.”

K: That is a gut punch of a final line. I’m still giggling at our dull, brutish and also apparently idiotic protagonist. I have to overlook the fact that he wouldn’t have been sent if he was spermless, but I can do that for the sake of the laugh. SILVER

DK: The ending seems to raise more questions than conclusions to me. Otherwise, this is a good idea, and certainly a setting I’d enjoy, that doesn’t quite hit the spot in execution.

G: For a long time I’ve insisted that we need a printed sigil to represent the “you just lost” horn sound from The Price is Right. And the end of this story reinforces my argument. Lovely. SILVER

11

Niacin. Riboflavin. Thiamine. They make your piss glow.
She stared at the frosted purple ring bathing in an ivory pool on the spoon beneath her nose. She held the box with the cackling toucan. She read.
Folic acid. Pyridoxine hydrochloride.
A whimpering human lump mewled in a body bag on the kitchen floor. A kitten in a pillowcase. A runt to be flung in a river.
On the box, a child’s maze completed in licorice-scented marker. Get Sam To Paradise Island. Mission accomplished.
The body heaved, settled, tried to make words. Tomorrow she would take its tongue out.

K: Sweet, merciful crap. Dark, cruel, beautiful. The nonchalantness of the narrative drives home the character’s flatly evil motives. GOLD

DK: OK, you might be sick, and so might I, but the imagery here is so potent and the depravity is so absolute that I had to sit up and acknowledge it. GOLD

Ew. Gripping, but also a little too isolated? Maybe it wouldn’t work better with more words or more understanding of what’s going on, I dunno. It’s definitely agreeably chilly for what it is. I mean, I liked “Audition” as much as the next guy. BRONZE

12

It was then, with the primroses in full bloom and the larks singing sweet folly in the fields, that John Jacob Mordecai Williams decided that dredging the moor to try to find the lost Clark boy was the worst possible way to spend the day. He ruminated for a moment on what abandonning his post meant – most likely a life on the bread line – but a day like this was worth inhabitting. He dropped his rake.

The Clark boy would go unfound. John Jacob Mordecai Williams would lay underneath the apple tree and listen to the brook babble to itself.

K: This is a strange slice of life that works not despite but because of its lack of resolution, though it has competition too stiff for such a gamble. The misspellings don’t particularly help, either.

DK: Another setting where I sort of wish there was more room to play with. Believe me, I know it’s not easy to come up with punchy ideas for short spaces without finding concepts that are too good for the room.

G: The description of the day seemed a bit over-the-top treacly, like I wasn’t meant to take it seriously. It made the Clark boy’s body seem like an unnecessary element in this little pastoral moment in time. This just didn’t hold much for me.

13

Turning the pot over, she patted the bottom with the palm of her hand. The dirt loosened and separated from the clay. She flipped the plant around and gently laid it down into the earth.

She remembered the first time she had done this. He was young, and her hand shook. It had been the coldest winter of their lives, and she wasn’t sure the seedling would make it until the next day.

She remembered exactly how the dew had looked on the grass, his hand covering hers. But she could no longer quite remember his face.

K: I like this bit of remembrance, though my alertness around here is trying to make me think that she’s burying someone beneath the seedling. As it is, it’s a nice, soothing story, albeit very small in scope.

DK: I’m down with the melancholy, guys. SILVER

G: Aw shit, man. Really well written, very organic (ha!) and subtle stinger right at the end. I got a sense of pretty much everything I could want about this woman from just 100 words. Very nice. GOLD

14

A career as a Samuel L. Jackson impersonator isn’t as lucrative as it may seem. When those ophidiophobe groups hire entertainers, the Indiana Jones assholes get all the work. And while Shaft gets to please that booty, he ain’t no gigolo. So yeah, money is tight. When the Westboro Baptist Church called with an offer, I couldn’t say no. I’ll be headlining a few parades, and if they like me, I’ll get to speak at some funerals. A time to kill, indeed.

K: This one gets the award for most absurd story thus far, and the narrator’s casual confidence despite adversity makes it as funny as it is. This one has a voice unlike all others so far, and anything that sets you apart is a good thing. GOLD

DK: That the WBC called this guy is maybe the least believable thing in this entire slate of stories, including the apparently self-mobile cheese. But the idea amused me enough anyway. BRONZE

G: Many points for taking an otherwise unconsidered idea and fleshing it out like this. But like anything that features Samuel L. Jackson, or one of his impersonators, if you don’t give him the chance to say “motherfucker” at some point, you’re wasting resources. BRONZE

15

It was the first time Peg understood the phrase “sea of faces,” as they pitched and rolled around her, muttering condolences for her husband.
She held a brave face, which most attributed to her son at her side, and only two to the still-bloodied knife in her purse.

K: This isn’t new territory for this site, so I assume it’s a new player taking a risk. It doesn’t go to the lengths to make it stand apart, but I think it shows potential for stories to come.

DK: You guys and your murderers. But I found myself liking the “sea of faces” metaphor a lot, and the ending is at least nicely understated. SILVER

G: “Only two” is a major stumbling block in this little tale. It injects maybe a bit too much specificity about who might know the truth of the situation. If the two are Peg and her son, then it’s not made clear enough. If it’s two in the sea of faces, then more needed to be said. You certainly had enough words to spare.

16

Last night I heard thumping from the twinkling black ocean.

I imagined a rolling, hazy rescue ship full of food and medicine. I peered from a cloud of whirring insects, shrieking beneath the moon, until I saw it come into focus.

It’s not a boat.

It bobs and swells and moves closer. A tilting head, balanced on its body, sways and jerks, blocking the horizon. It is impossibly large; I crouch beneath a canopy of humidity and palms, stiff from terror.

It is here: one watery, bulging eye pierces the trees as I retreat into the rotted jungle.

K: Sleek and scary. I want to read the rest of this horror story, right now. GOLD

DK: This hit all my sweet spots of description and world-building. Lots of tasty (and/or repulsive, I suppose) images. GOLD

G: Damn, yo. That’s some nice, tidy little thriller shizz right there. Very well done, and achingly well described. GOLD

17

Donny knew it was Nick. Nick was the asshole who apparently wasn’t potty trained. Donny couldn’t stand it. Every time he went to the bathroom there was piss everywhere. He was going to confront him. He was going to make Nick pay.

He heard Nick enter the bathroom. This was the time.

Nick unzipped his pants. His stream of urine started to fill the toilet. Donny stood on the toilet in the neighboring stall and screamed “WHY DO YOU ALWAYS PISS ON THE FLOOR, NICK?” Nick was startled. He jumped.

A stream of piss hit the floor.

K: This one works as well as it does because the character takes it so damned seriously (as does the narrative). Poor Nick. BRONZE

DK: I’m a little intrigued by the possibility that it’s all Donny’s fault to begin with, and it’s a funny treatment even if it’s not really an engaging subject for me initially.

G: Funny, yeah. Not much to it beyond that. I guess I just didn’t feel too compelled by it.

18

“Fuck! I should have actually gone to the conference,” I said aloud, on my knees next to tiny bones enshrouded in a filthy and faded yellow dress. They were stuffed under a log I rolled when breaking off the dead limbs for firewood. My wife thought I was at a software conference in Philly, not camping in the Appalachians with my assistant, Heather. Considering our inevitable divorce and custody battle, I was risking everything by being a cliche. I silently begged her parents’ forgiveness and rolled the log back over her grave. I’ll just have to live with it.

K: Hmm. This one seems a little too eager to shock and I feel a tad manipulated. This one may need more space to work fully. The imagery of breaking off the dead limbs for firewood is excellent, though, and the horror bits worked better than the character stuff, which rang a little hollow. I’m not sure what that says about our writer…

DK: This is getting a little close to pushing our morbidity fascination to absurdity. Some of the individual lines land a little clunkily, as well.

G: Definitely an interesting concept, but the delivery didn’t hook me quite that much. And ending something meant to be tension-driven with “I’ll just have to live with it” seems counter-productive.

19

LEGACY
The hotel’s old neon sign had been there for decades.
Flashing four words in sequence with a welcoming arrow
arriving late at the bottom.
SLEEP
“He was old. It was his time.” she says.
Her eyes are red because she’s been crying,
My eyes burn because I won’t let myself do the same.
AND
We stare at lights changing in front of us,
commanding and shepherding our movements.
We take a left and drive toward the cemetery.
“Stay” I whisper.

K: Much of this story is kept hidden, but I like the format so much I can’t bring myself to mind. SILVER

DK: I like the simple, quiet presentation of emotion, and the integration of the sign works very well. GOLD

G: Evocative, on the correct side of the shmaltzy/authentic divide. Nicely paced too, with that neon sign serving well as a tempo-keeper. GOLD

20

He saw her from across the street, through a mesh of rusted screen. She retrieved her mail and started to flip through. One off-white envelope slipped to the ground as she made her way to the stairs, struggling with her luggage.
He limped across the street, in through the apartment’s creaky door.
“You dropped this, ma’am.”
She looked up in surprise. “Thanks,” she dismissed, as she took the letter.
His hand wrapped around the old hammer shoved in the large pocket of his dirty coveralls. “Can I help you get that thing upstairs?”
He smiled, showing crooked teeth.
K: Here’s another story I feel like I’ve read before, since it doesn’t give any new payoff or offer a new angle. It’s written a bit clinically, so the twist doesn’t have the punch it otherwise might.

DK: Sooner or later I start seeing hammers in everyone’s pockets. The first paragraph is a nice bit of initial set-up and description, though.
G: Good descriptions, but the story itself wasn’t as gripping as I think the author hoped. I could sense there was an evil twist on the way. It’s good that it remained a suggestion and not an action. BRONZE

21

I was so busy thinking of ways to end it, I didn’t notice him sit down. When he said my name I looked over at him and gasped “Grandpa?”

“Not quite, kid.” He looked me in the eye, and then I recognized him. “You get it now?” he asked.

I nodded. “Good. This business is harder than it seemed. Took forever to zero in on this moment, but I’m here to let you know that you’ll be alright. Got it?”

“But how is it possible–”

He stood up to walk away. “Don’t think about it, kid. You’ll get a headache.”

K: I have a feeling this is something big, but unfortunately has some missing pieces due to the word constraints, or the writer hasn’t made things clear enough. I’ve come up with the idea that maybe suicidal tendencies run in the narrator’s family and the old man is actually the narrator’s father (who killed himself) as he would look today, but that’s just a guess.

DK: The mystery here is one that draws me in more than pushes me away, and the hints of possibility are fascinating in their levels. SILVER

G: This is just too puzzling. I think it’s supposed to be a time-travel thing? It’s not made clear enough. And it would have been nice to have some hint of what the kid is suffering from, or how deep his despair is.

22

Today: The late afternoon light lingers on them as they stroll down the sidewalk choked with harried commuters. She reaches up, dropping his hand, to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear. He leans in close and they laugh.

One year later: She accuses him of caring more about his band than he does about her. He looks out the window and says nothing.

Two years later: His band makes it big. Four songs on the new album are about her. Her new boyfriend, unaware, puts it on one night. She looks out the window and says nothing.

K: That’s a hell of a passage of time. I’d cut the timelines and tell the story as it happened without them, and I’d cut the first section entirely and focus on love lost. This is just too much for the space.

DK: Nothing too surprising, but again I like the treatment of the relationship and their emotions in both positive and negative lights. BRONZE

G: It’s an interesting study in the progression of a relationship, but the isolated incidents are too much like snapshots; there’s no way in for me. It reads like a timeline, not like moments.

23

Four hundred and sixty-three steps. What’s worse: that I counted, or that I counted a second time just in case? Both times I got the same number. I still doubt it’s correct.

Anyway, the ascent up the tower is monotonous, but the view upon arrival is spectacular; rolling hills for miles with snowcapped mountains on the horizon.

The approaching men wade across the river several hundred feet below. As I dump the boiling oil over the side, their screams are muffled by the vast open space in all directions. They won’t be reaching the portcullis today.

K: I rather enjoyed this turn, as I was attempting to put together a picture of this world and the payoff was something I haven’t read before. It doesn’t have the power of some others, but anything that feels original is good.

DK: One more I’d almost like to see in a longer treatment. There’s a hint of a very cool character here in that first section, that just doesn’t have the space to get further developed.

G: Cute little scene, but the resolution of what’s going on here made the opening paragraph seem really extraneous. Which is too bad, because it felt kind of compelling, then discarded.

24

Lola was seven months pregnant on the Day of the Holy Kings. She laughed when Ricky bit into the Rosca de Reyes and his teeth clicked against the plastic Jesus.
“El Padrino,” she declared.
Her husband would’ve hated that.
She glowed so warm. So hopeful, even when the baby came that night; even as she screamed. She squeezed Ricky’s hand so hard her diamond ring pierced him. A drop of blood. His brother’s final jab before taking her from Ricky.
As they wheeled her away, the baby screamed in Ricky’s arms.
El padrino.
El padre.

Somewhere, his brother smiled.

K: Trust your imagery! When the diamond ring pierces Ricky, it’s very obvious what that’s supposed to symbolize; don’t over-explain it. That’s a wart on what otherwise is a story with some interesting, confusing morality. BRONZE

DK: I liked this a lot and I guess I’m not sure why. It feels unique here so I suppose that’s enough. I mean, I like how we have darkness that seems to be borne out of complex relations between complex characters, and the story gives enough suggestion of that without needing to be bigger. GOLD

I like the conflict here, quite a lot. But toward the end things got a bit muddled (maybe just for me). Either way, that’s some high telenovela-level drama right there, mate. GOLD

25

Sgt. Matthews was grinding his teeth; a habit he noticed roughly half of the time. Though the hose was opened up just a fraction, he still had to keep his feet set and mind on his task.

He recalled the heroic visions of the job he had as a child, back when he thought everyday would be pulling babies from burning buildings. Instead, he stood in a rundown park on the south side of Chicago, rinsing a basketball court of the blood of the 13 people shot earlier.

He sighed while trying to decide if the water was becoming less pink.

K: Although a cop struggling with what he thought the job would be and what it really entails is kind of a cliche, the grit – and the stifling banality of it all – comes through. I didn’t think this character was going to go anywhere, and although it doesn’t stand up there as one of my favorites, it’s a well-told bit, despite the cliche.

DK: You guys know what you like, that’s for sure. I admit, if you haven’t noticed already, there’s a chance I’m going to be harder on these type of stories this time around. Or maybe by next week I’ll give them all high marks. With 26 stories and several of them taking turns like this, it was a little tougher to grab me than it’s been before.

G: Aw, sad. I have also wondered what happened to all those kids who wanted to be firemen when they grew up. If this is actually a job that the fire department has, I don’t want to know it’s true.

26

She lifted the picture cube to her ear. Tilting her head, Ena listened to it like a seashell.

The tiny voices reverberated safely inside, swelling with sadness, but she knew it had to be this way.

“I love ya mama,” Ena whispered. “I love you daddy.”

Her mind wandered to them. Salty tears strayed down her cheeks, tasting of ocean. The little girl longed for her father’s sandpaper hands holding hers. She ached for her mother’s enfolding embrace.

The voices calmed and simpered. It shouldn’t be long now.

“Soon, soon,” she soothed. “I’m not gonna let you die again.”

K: My, my. I can’t put this together completely – though surely, ideas abound – but it’s too interesting for me to forget. The picture cube could command a much longer story (and maybe should) but this one will stick with me, and that’s never a bad thing. Okay, sometimes it is. But this time it’s not. SILVER

DK: This was real close. This hints at some things it doesn’t fully reveal, and like before, sometimes that’s better for creating the feel the story is trying to convey.

G: This one feels maddeningly incomplete. Something otherworldly is happening here, but the author hasn’t given me enough to grasp it yet. Still, it’s a lovely piece of writing, and the fact that I want more can only be seen as a positive here. SILVER

————————————————-

Alright, everyone. The four of you that will draft their crews are as such: #11, #16, #19 and #24. The four of you are on the hook to order the other 22 stories from top to bottom and I’ll do a snake draft to determine your teammates. #16 will get his or her first choice, by virtue of highest score, followed by #19. The other two will be randomly ordered, since they tied. We do reverse order for subsequent rounds.

After they’ve all done this, I’ll post the teams, but not the draft results.

The captains must do this by Tuesday night at 7pm Central. I’d rather not wait that long to get going, but such a thing will take a bit of time. At that point, teams will be announced and you’ll all get your first “real” challenge, followed by an elimination.

Alright, so does everyone understand? Good. Cheers, Survivors.

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