Plot! Character! Thought! Aristotle would be proud. Okay, those are only three of Aristotle’s six elements of drama, but I didn’t have time to write the other three. Rather than criticize me for instead writing a sentence about how I didn’t have time to write the other three, why don’t you get to the stories and enjoy a couple of whip-smart, thrilling rides through time and distant places? This was an excellent finish to what felt like one of the strongest seasons.

John Wreisner
Returning to South America in November of 1978 began in a room reeking with ambergris and charcoal. I suppose it had started much, much earlier, when I first met Jim.
Jim came to me in a dream. He was wearing aviators and a red silk shirt, with a rhesus monkey on his shoulder and carrying a Bible. He’d seen me struggling, he said. He could help. He wasn’t Jesus, he said, but he was close. The thing about Jesus, Jim told me, is sometimes he looks like the Devil. Sometimes he makes you afraid. You have to have enough faith to get through your fear. That’s how you know he’s your father.
Jim told me first I’d have to be ready to die. I was already ready, long before him and his monkey ever showed up to talk me into killing myself. I was about to do it the night he came to me, in fact. I put the belt from my bathrobe over the towel rack, but the fabric had too much give so I took a bunch of sleeping pills and lay down. Jim came that night.
Not die like that Jim told me. His voice had an accent that was impossible to place, part deep south, part eastern Europe. He spoke each word with intense clarity, enunciating everything with precision, even when he was shouting. Jim shouted a lot.
I asked him if love was the answer, as I’d so often been told it was.
“Love ain’t the only weapon” he said. He was behind me. Sometimes I could see him now, but it was always like the reflection in glass. He had a form, but no substance.
“Martin Luther King died with love. Kennedy died talkin’ about somethin’ he couldn’t even understand, some kind of generalized love, and he never even backed it up! HE FUCKED UP!”
He was sweating again. His monkey was gone. Instead of a Bible he was holding a bullhorn. I could see the shape of a pill bottle in his shirt pocket. Jim had needle marks on his arms. When I asked him about them he said he had cancer, he was receiving treatment. “But you’re not real, Jim’ I said. “I’m just crazy, probably.” Jim told me he’d prove to me he was real. “Look for the signs” he told me. Then he was gone.
I didn’t dream about Jim for a few weeks. I laughed about it a little bit during the day, when I was outside in the sunshine smoking cigarettes and walking to the library. At night though, I was always afraid he’d come back. Eventually he did.
The dream that night was like a movie. The whole screen of my brain filled up with a close-up of his aviators. I could see his face in one lens and mine in the other. Eventually the face drew back and a raven took its place. The phrase “white night” kept repeating, over and over. White night. White night. White night. The raven flapped its wings, flying around a globe. It landed on South America. I was confused, but not afraid. Not then, anyway.
I went to the library the next day, keeping an eye out for ravens or anything else that might have been a sign. I didn’t see anything though. Inside the library, however, it was a different story.
I saw a book called “Raven.” It was about a man named Jim. I opened it.

James Warren “Jim” Jones (May 13, 1931 – November 18, 1978) was an American religious leader and community organizer. Jones was the founder and leader of the Peoples Temple, best known for the mass murder-suicide in November 1978 of 909 of its members in Jonestown, Guyana, the murder of five people at a nearby airstrip, including Congressman Leo Ryan, and the ordering of four additional Temple member deaths in Georgetown, the Guyanese capital. Nearly three-hundred children were murdered at Jonestown, almost all of them by cyanide poisoning. Jones died from a gunshot wound to the head; it is suspected his death was a suicide.

This was it, the sign. It was Jim Jones. He sold monkeys door to door in his youth, saved souls, and led people into a pavilion to drink poison. He came to me in my dreams.
‘Why, Jim? I asked that night, when he appeared (without his monkey.)
“Those people committed revolutionary suicide. We died together, rather than be taken prisoner by the racist, corrupt Capitalist government bent on destroying a community full of loving people. And we can get it back. We can get it all back. You and me.”
Jim talked most of the night. About how depraved the modern world was, even then. About how he’d been in a sort of limbo since the last “White Night,” waiting for an avatar. That was me, Jim said. And now, when the world was simultaneously in the grip of extraordinarily rapid moral decay and the dawning of unforeseeable liberties, the time was right. We could be saved. Socialism could save us. Jim could save us. I could save Jim. But first I had to die.
“It needs to look real” Jim said. “It’s part of the ritual. You’ll need your body when you come back. This is just a place to keep it for a while. Like a bus station locker.” I ordered the coffin online. A Batesville knock-off, brushed nickel with grey crepe interior. The box it came in was too big to fit through my front door, so I had to break the shipping crate apart on my front stoop and push the coffin through the door in full view of my neighbors. I didn’t worry too much about what they’d think. I was too busy building an altar.
“The glasses” Jim said. “They’re a tangible link to my power. When you go back, get them. And put them here” He pointed to the small balsa wood pavilion that formed the centerpiece of the altar. “After that happens, I can take form. We can start over. Together. You and me.” I nodded and adjusted some of the things on the altar. A bible, a handgun, a monkey skull, some coconuts. Tonight was the night.
I lit the incense, the candles, read passages from “Das Kapital” just like Jim said I should. I broke apart about thirty capsules and poured the powder into a shot glass. I mixed it with grape juice, not fruit punch. It was a sacrament. Jim stood behind me the whole time. ‘White night” he said. “White night.” I drank.
Before I noticed the smell, it occurred to me that I had doubted Jim. The fact that I was surprised to be standing in Guyana was testimony to that. I thought maybe I was crazy, maybe I was just killing myself. I didn’t much care either way. And here I was.
It was impossibly humid. I couldn’t tell where my skin left off and the air began. Sixty foot tall palms waved above, making the ground below them imperceptibly swell as their massive root balls strained against the soil. They sounded like the rigging of a ship, groaning. Above everything was the thrumming of insects. You could feel it in your solar plexus. You didn’t hear it so much as feel it, like bass from a stereo. So many of them. Billions. They made the air look grey.
Strange, I thought, that everyone was wearing such tight clothes. But they had fit perfectly well just the day before. The heat and insects had made the bodies swell up to twice their normal size. Some bodies had popped the buttons off their shirts and their distended bellies pushed the fabric away like snakeskin. Many of them died arm in arm. Most of them were face down. You could hear bodies ‘working” under the jungle sun, groans coming from dead, vomit-flecked mouths as decomposition gasses made a depraved mockery of speech. A lot of them had shit themselves. White pants with shit stains and red shirts with foamy white vomit. Bodies had convulsed out of their sandals. Rictus held crumpled paper cups in hands with dirt under the fingernails. Birds started in on the eyes and lips of those who had died face up. I picked my way through the bodies towards the pavilion.
Jim, or the Jim then, was lying in the front of the pavilion, next to a big chair. People would call it a “throne’ later, as if he thought of himself as royalty. It was just a wooden chair with a cushion. Jim needed it. He sat in that chair late into the night, helping people through the fear to make them see how much he loved them. He’d shot himself under the right ear. Pieces of tooth were stuck to his lips with dried brown blood, and the shot had avulsed his eye socket. The eyeball was jelly, the bottom lid a tiny cup full of dried blood, delicate lashes a perch for bottle flies to eat from. Behind him, his aviators. The relic that would restore him.
“You’ll know” Jim said, when I asked him how I’d get back. As I put the aviators in my shirt pocket, I turned around to see a paper cup sitting on Jim’s chair. It had my name written on it. In my handwriting. I drank.
I woke up in the coffin with the green-black smell of death in the jungle still rank in my clothes and hair. I put the aviators on the model pavilion. A hand appeared from behind me. Jim. He grabbed the glasses and put them on. He was whole. He smiled, smoothed his shirt. The monkey chattered its teeth. “Let’s start the revolution” Jim said. There was a tiny daub of blood under his ear. ‘But first, I need a drink.”

K: Hmm. Well. This one will be hard to beat. The story’s main reveal happens at the right time, giving us more than enough space to enjoy the meat of the story rather than hit us with a “gotcha” at the end. This version of Jim Jones seems a very honest portrayal and, importantly, still believes himself to be in the right, which is always a hell of a lot more interesting than a sneering character with garden-variety bloodlust. The backdrop was engaging, the scenes were gripping and the prose was smart and interesting. This is probably my favorite character study of the season.

CW: This was a really smart piece. You encompassed all of the prompt requirements beautifully. None of this felt forced. I really want to know what happens next! This story is why you’re in the final two.

Matt Novak

The bell shrieked with condemnation as I hurried towards the old oak doors of the lecture hall. It rang in the air for a slight moment longer than seemed natural, a delay that gave its shrill voice an artificial quality. I reached the classroom, and stood outside the door, catching my breath and straightening my tie. I was already late. There was no sense in betraying myself by appearing hurried and panicked too. Pushing open the door, I felt the eyes of the classroom, save Professor Drake, who, rather than look, revealed his awareness directly in his lecture.

“The late Utimarians,” he explained “and I don’t mean late like our research assistant Mr. Weatherby, were fond not only of intelligence, but also of cleverness. The texts they’ve left us are rifled with riddles. Riddles about trivial things, riddles about deep things, riddles that reveal they knew a great deal more than any other of the great ancient societies. And yet… even they could not know the source of Mr. Weatherby’s perpetual tardiness.”

Except for a brief reference to my work on translating what had become known as the Utimarian Bible, I was spared further mention throughout the rest of the lecture, and fielded only a few questions at the end of the class. The midterm break was upon us, and though few students ever missed one of August Drake’s lectures, they were still eager to shuffle off for a few days without books and papers. I too was looking forward to the holiday, and was about to head out when Professor Drake summoned me over.

“Nick, meet me in my office. 10 minutes,” he said, while slipping me a piece of lined notebook paper.

With that, he walked briskly for the door. I unfolded the piece of paper, and read inscribed on it “5 minutes. Nurses’ station.”

After lounging for a short time in the Assistant’s Lounge, wondering what the Professor had planned, I grabbed my pack and ducked inside the health office. Drake quickly pulled me behind a sea foam curtain, indicating with a finger to his lips that we should whisper.
“What are we doing here?”
“I’ve got an understanding with the nurse.”
Drake’s understanding with Nurse Pearson had, for several years, been a much-rumored secret.
“Were you followed?” he asked
“I don’t think so?”
“Where’s the note I gave you? You didn’t throw it away, did you?”
“Right here,” I answered, pulling the creased paper from my back pocket.
“Smart kid.”
“What’s going on?”
“I’m being followed.”
“You mean the short guy, with the square glasses?”
“Kid, you are good.”
“He’s been around,” I explained, “I overheard him say something about National Geographic.”
“I wish. He’s an Utimarian Cultist.”
“He’s after the Resurrection Stones.”
“But they’re on display.”
“Not exactly.”

As I began to ask what Professor Drake meant by that, we heard a muffled cry, and the curtain was whisked open. It had been pulled aside so abruptly that it wrapped around me, and I froze in its pleats as I heard the unmistakable accent of the man with the square glasses.

“August Drake. Give me the Stones.”
“Let her go.”
“First the stones.”
I peered delicately around the far end of the curtain, and saw the man, standing behind Nurse Pearson, one hand locking her arms in place, the other holding a steel knife tightly against her neck.
“They’re in the museum.”
“We know better, Drake.”
“Okay,” said Drake. “Don’t hurt her. I’ll get them. They’re right over here.”
Slowly, Drake stepped away from the curtain, rotating slowly across the room, forcing the man to angle himself away from me. Then, Drake flashed his eyes from me to the man, and, almost without thinking, I dashed at him, grabbing his wrist and forcing the knife from Nurse Pearson’s throat. She dropped quickly to the floor, and scrambled from the fray. The man was stronger than I anticipated, and he held onto the knife, now turning, and forcing it towards me as I held his wrist with both hands. Professor Drake rushed to the rescue, hitting him solidly on the head with an IV pole he had requisitioned from the corner of the office. He slumped to the floor, and the Professor rushed to the window, pushing it open.
“You coming kid?”
“Out the window?”
“There’s gonna be more of them on the other side of that door.”
“Yeah! Wait for me.”
I practically leapt out of the ground-floor window, behind Professor Drake, who stopped suddenly.
“I almost forgot,” he said, turning back to the portal, where Nurse Pearson, stood, leaning out after us.
“You can handle this?” he asked her.
Then, without answer, he leaned in and gave her a kiss that absolved whatever difficulty it was he had just gotten her into.
“Thanks,” he said.
And with that, we raced across the campus lawn for Drake’s Studebaker, and parts unknown.

“Where are we headed?” I asked the Professor, as we headed quickly out of town. The top was down and I had to shout to be heard over the wind.
“I must not have heard you right,” I yelled back, “I thought you said Utimar.”
“I did.”
“But Utimar is lost!”
“Not anymore.”
He pulled the car to a stop at a set of intersecting gravel roads, our dust trail quickly overtaking the vehicle.
“If you want out Nick, now’s your chance,” he explained. “There’s a town about two miles that way.”
“Not on your life.”
“Good. Let’s go.”

Half-hour later we pulled up to a neglected airstrip, where a wizened figure dressed in an aviator’s jacket hurried to pull open the sliding doors of a tin shed. Drake pulled the car inside, and led me to the small twin-engine that was waiting nearby.
“Professor August Drake!” laughed the old man, “Decided I needed to fly this one myself.”
“It’s good to see you again too, Norman.”
“And who you got with you there?”
“This is Nick Weatherby. Nick, this is Norman.”
I shook the old man’s hand, as Drake continued.
“Now, gentlemen, introductions having been made, I suggest we hurry. We may not have much time.”
“Clock’s a ticking!” laughed Norman, hurrying as best he could up the steps towards the cabin.

There were two seats in the plane, and a metal locker fitted with a foam cushion. I volunteered to take the locker, avoiding the embarrassment of being assigned the same. A small window perched above my right shoulder, and I craned my neck to see as we pulled out of the shed, and onto the unkempt runway. A grove of distant trees framed the wide field.
“Hold on tight!” shouted Norman, gunning the rotors.
Drake snapped his belt, and, taking his cue, I looked for one myself. Finding nothing to fasten myself in, I braced my arms and legs against the wall, as we bounced across the grassy strip. The plane gained speed, and I struggled to keep hold as we were jolted in all directions by the uneven ground. As the trees grew more impending, the plane lurched forward, hit a bump in the runway that jolted us skyward, and we were finally airborne. Looking back through the window, I watched as a black car pull into the yard. Our haste had been warranted.

“So, where we headed?” asked Norman after several minutes of flying.
“Ask the kid,” answered Drake.
“You’re the one who deciphered the texts.”
It dawned on me then that my work on the Utimarian Bible had, in fact, given precise geographical descriptions of a supposed heavenly land. The texts had been called the Utimarian Bible because of the similarity between its final chapters and the Book of Genesis. Our hypothesis was that the authors of the ancient Hebrew scriptures had borrowed liberally from the Utimarian’s description of heaven for their own Garden of Eden.
“But even if we have landmarks to follow, we still don’t know where to start,” I explained.
“That part, I’ve got.”
Drake pulled a small sheet of paper from his pocket, with a set of coordinates written in pencil, and handed it to Norman.
“You just worry about knowing those landmarks.”
“I’d need the texts here,” I answered, as the plane veered, turning towards the south.
“Already taken care of,” replied the professor, pulling the original Book of Utimar from his leather pack.
I’d worked with the book many times, but never outside of the watchful eye of the Administrator of Rare Books.
“Review those final passages,” instructed Drake, “Don’t miss anything, alright?”
“And Nick?”
“You keep that book safe. We’ll need it when we get there. With the Cultists after us, it’s better to have that and the Resurrection Stones in different places.”
He pointed to my pack, then patted his bag. I nodded solemnly, opening the ancient book.

I set upon the earth a monolith where there were no shrubs, nor no plants, for there had been no rain. Then a stream rose up, and it became a river. Then the river split in three, and where it split one part went down to feed the world, and one part went underground, and the other part led to the land of resurrection.


I drifted off with the book in my hands and slept a dreamless sleep. I woke as the plane descended, an arrival that equaled the turbulence of our departure. We landed in a city that had an unpronounceable name, and Drake located a pair of camels. We said goodbye to Norman, who promised he wouldn’t move from the cantina where we left him, no matter the length of our return.

We rode through the desert, until a solitary rock formation rose before us.
“The monolith.” We had traveled in near silence, and my voice cracked from lack of use.
“We’re on the right track.” agreed Drake. “Another half day’s ride should bring us to the stream. You still good?”
I nodded.
“Let’s keep going.”
It was dark when we reached the stream and stopped for the first time. It was only a gentle spring at its headwaters, but there was grass, and the camels ate. Drake handed me a small package of rations, and we ate too.
After a short rest, we followed the stream to where it split, and followed the third branch towards a dense jungle in the distance. As we reached the tropical forest the first rays of morning crested over the horizon. Near the edge of the jungle, a small cemetery marked a more recent culture in the area, and we tied our camels to a post there.
Drake led us through the undergrowth, his machete slicing vines so thick they immediately closed up again upon our passing. He seemed at home, finding sure footing through the roots and uneven ground. I was able to keep up well enough, and after what felt like hours we stopped before a hidden cave.
“Professor Drake, look at this!”
I brushed aside moss that had grown across an almost life-sized carving of a man, etched into the wall outside the cave entrance. The artistry was exquisite, even after millennia.
“Mid-Utimarian,” he agreed.
“Joor-mias?” I asked.
“Almost certainly. See the double sash across his chest? That would have put him ahead of all other Utimarian leaders. Congratulations, Nick. I’d say we’ve found the tomb of the Trickster King.”
I let out a low whistle.
Joor-mias had become known in archeological terms as the Trickster King, but he was far more than the name would imply. He combined the wisdom of Solomon and the ruthless efficiency of Machiavelli. Joor-mias was a man who always got what he wanted, and in the texts, many of which he had written himself, his was sometimes called The Immortal Reign.
“Just be careful,” reminded Drake, as he pulled a flashlight from his bag and headed slowly into the cave, “We have no idea what we might find in here. When people mention that the Chinese invented gun powder and paper, I remind them that the Utimarians had technologies beyond what we’ve discovered even today.”
“Do you think we’ll find more Resurrection Stones?”
“We might. The texts describe systems of matter transportation, artificial light, precise timekeeping, all of those things needed energy.”
In the text the Stones were described as both religiously and technically important. They were to bring about an eternal heaven by somehow operating as a power source. Made of an otherwise unknown material, the Stones had always defied analysis.

We hadn’t made it more than a dozen strides into the pitch blackness of the cave when a figure came charging at us out of the darkness. I prepared myself to ward off another Cultist before I saw that the form was floating off the ground. It had an unearthly appearance, withered and its vacant eyes were too large in its head. It began to shriek, and, feeling a hand on my shoulder, I jumped and ran from the cave.

“It was just me,” said Drake, laughing as he caught up, “just my hand on your shoulder.”
He held it out for my inspection.
“See? Still attached and everything.”
I couldn’t speak.
“It was a ghost,” he explained, as if that somehow set things right, “remember the text? In the light we do not see the hidden dead around us. In the darkness we can see what is not really there.”
He continued, “It wasn’t real. It was a projection. Come on, I’ll show you.”
I followed Drake back into the cave, and, reaching the same spot we had before, the figure once again came rushing at us, repeating its earlier performance.
“Look, when you move to the side here you can see the way the light comes from that point over there.”
He was right. The beam glowed like the light from a movie projector. Instead of a screen, the light reflected off the tiny particles of dust that filled the cave, and the ghastly vision kept repeating behind us as we made our way further into the tomb.

After a time, we entered a small room with a large, ornate door standing on the opposite wall.
“This is the antechamber,” explained Drake, “Now this is where you come in, kid. I’ll need you to help me with the texts.”
I could see that Drake was in his element. His confidence and focus had grown the further we’d come, and now that we stood on the cusp of Joor-mias’ tomb, his excitement was palatable. I was sure he didn’t really need my help with translation, but I was honored all the same.
I pulled the Utimarian Bible from my satchel as Drake did the same with the Stones. There were eight slots in the door, one for each of the Stones. Turning to the relevant pages, I read Drake the riddle.

“The one that you seek, wants to be found.
Stones call his name, the most glorious sound.
The portal will open, death is no curse.
His temple is yours, if you see in reverse.”

“The Stones have markings on them?” I inquired.
“Yes. But they’re not anything obvious.”
“Let me see…” I shuffled them around on the ground in front of me, counting the notches in each Stone, deciphering the rudimentary code Joor-mias had left for us.
“They’re numbers,” I said finally, “The lines are one-dimensional. They represent the ones place. The two-dimensional figures, the circles and squares, represent the tens place.”
They weren’t the same as the actual Utimarian numbers, but there were enough similarities that I had been able to decipher Joor-mias’ riddle.
“Of course,” agreed Drake, “They each correspond to a letter in Joor-mias’ name. That’s why there’s two of these with the double hatch marks. Well done, kid.”
I beamed, my excitement matching Drake’s own, as he began putting the stones in their corresponding place, spelling out Joor-mias’ name backwards with the Resurrection Stones.

As he placed the final stone, we heard a whirring sound, then a series of echoes, as eight locks disengaged from the door. Professor Drake pulled it open to reveal a small closet, with a bright green light shining down from far overhead. It was only big enough to fit a single person, and Drake stepped in.

As he did, the door suddenly swung shut, and I heard the locks reengage. The bright green light continued to shine under the door as Drake pounded on the other side.
“Get me out, kid!”
“I’m trying!”
I quickly pulled each of the Stones from their place on the door, and started to put them back in the same order.
“Hurry, Nick!”
S, a, i, m r, o, o, j. Sa im rooj. Roughly translated as “Return.” I hadn’t noticed that before.
As I fumbled with the final Stone, I hoped this would work again to open the door.
The green light suddenly flashed blue, then white, then green again, as I clicked the final relic into place. I heard the same whir and echoes, and Drake ceased his pounding on the door.

Prying the door open, Professor August Drake stood before me.
“Thank you,” he said with a slight hesitation. All of his earlier excitement seemed to have vanished.
“You okay?” I asked
“Yes,” he said thoughtfully, then, looking down at the book in my hands, “Come on. Let’s go.”
With a sudden purpose, he began walking from the antechamber.
“Without the Resurrection Stones?”
He paused in his stride.
“I suppose we should bring those. Collect them please.”
I did as Drake asked, setting them carefully into his bag, which he had left in the corner of the room, and hurrying to catch him as he continued down a long hallway.
Coming to a fork in the path, Drake broke left.
“Professor? We came from the other way.”
“Yes. But this will be faster.”
He walked quickly, and, after only a short while, he stopped, and revealed a small ladder hidden in the wall. Drake began climbing, came to a small wooden door, and pulled it aside. A skeleton tumbled past me, crashing to the ground below in an unceremonious pile. A second wooden fixture followed, and Drake continued his ascent, clawing through a small layer of dirt before breaking through to the daylight outside. Passing through the opening Drake had made, I found myself coming to light in the cemetery that stood on the edge of the jungle. We had exited through one of the burial plots.
“Cultists,” offered Drake, by way of explanation.

We rode the camels back to the city in silence, and it was all I could do to keep up with Drake. Reaching the edge of civilization, we walked to the bazar in the center of the town. As I continued towards Norman’s cantina, Drake began to head the opposite direction.
“Where are you going?”
“I have something I need to do.”
“I’ll wait at the Cantina?”
“No. You go home. I’ll follow when the time is right.”
“Are you sure?”
Then, he turned, and disappeared into the busy sea of vendors.

I found Norman, faithfully perched at the bar, and the next morning we were airborne, heading for home. Norman knew better than to press, and we flew mostly in silence. Somewhere over the ocean, I pulled the Utimarian Bible from my pack and began to reread the texts about the temple. Then, finally realizing what had happened, I gasped.
“What you got there?” quizzed Norman.
“We have to go back.”
“That book say that?”
“No,” I answered, “But listen to this.”
Then, translating the new words on the page, I read the text aloud to the pilot.

The tomb was a trick, he wanted it found.
He came back from the past, switched us around
Sent me back to his time, the temple a fake.
Drake is Joor-mias, and Joor-mias is Drake.


K: I suspected Drake was from the past early, so when we learned of the “Trickster King” I predicted this ending. That’s not really a criticism, as I appreciate that the story was told in a structurally sound way that allowed me to put things together on my own. This read a lot like an Indiana Jones movie (and even more like an Uncharted game), though it also packed in as much plot as either of the aforementioned things and may not have had the space to do it. This story could be told with the same amount of words but could work better, and I think the key is foreshadowing, and giving us something enticing to look forward to. I felt like I was being thrashed around a lot and not given the relevant information until the scenes happened; in the third Indy movie, to use a relevant comparison, we know about the three trials long before the two Dr. Joneses ever arrive to face them. This is all very interesting world-building, but even given the large number of words, I felt some necessary transitions were missing. It’s a pretty good story, but hey, we’re in the finals, and decisons must be made. I also have to call out “his excitement was palatable” when you meant “palpable.” It wasn’t a big thing, but I kind of smiled at it.

CW: Another great story by a great writer, proving you belong in the finals. I can’t say this one surprised me in anything that happened, but the journey was exciting. This kinda felt like Tomb Raider mixed with Uncharted mixed with Fifth Element mixed with The Mummy. I like all of those things.


Well, you’ve probably figured out by now that both judges ended up favoring the first story, which means it’s the first PwtP victory (and attempt?) for our resident casket master and perhaps my all-around favorite writer around here, John Wreisner (though it’s the fourth victory for his clearly greedy household; how long before Lowell starts winning these?).

When I’m reading a story of John’s, I almost always know it, given the language present; in the early days when he started writing at CdL, his stories were also often marked with a distinct lack of character development and interaction. This season, though, that one gap in his writing seems to have dissipated if not completely disappeared, as the relationship between Jim Jones and the narrator in this story was one of the strongest and most interesting all season. So, there you have it; John had exactly one problem and he fixed it and now everyone else is f*&ked forever.

Meanwhile, our resident gnome also had a very good season, which was cool since he largely phoned in his last one. Matt’s plots are always both interesting and intricate, and he typically has a way with realistic dialogue that doesn’t come easily to our sometimes-antisocial crowd. The story this week was a massive undertaking with incredible scope, and while laser focus probably would have helped, I deeply admire the fact that he’d even consider writing such a thing with only a week to get it done.

This was a very strong season all around, people, and we should probably just get to the part where we slap each others’ asses in congratulations as we swell with pride and – yes – a little self-satisfaction. The work here keeps getting smarter and stronger, and I can’t imagine ever tiring of the lot of you.

Now to put that fantastic beard on the sidebar, and wait for people to start asking when the next one will be. See you all before long, I’m sure, Prosers.