Happy Easter! It’s been a glorious sunny day here–I hope your weekend has gone smashingly. In a good way. I continue with plottings and machinations here in the lair. Oh my lands. SUCH fun attacking the impossible! Which writers do on a daily basis. You amaze me, by the way. And now:
Judge Jess West says: I knew I’d have my work cut out for me, and boy was I ever right. With so many well written stories, choosing a top ten list was a feat in itself. Nearly every story had vivid personalities, was packed with internal and external conflict, and was loaded with flip-the-script moments that knocked my socks off. I greatly enjoyed reading your stories, and can’t thank you enough for participating this week. I sincerely appreciate you taking time out of your day to contribute to this fantastic community of writers. By allowing me to read and assess your work, each and every one of you has helped me to become a better writer. That is a gift from you that I am unimaginably grateful for, and will treasure always. Okay, before I get too maudlin, on to the winners!
Bart van Goethem, “The Great Train Robbery.”
“I think we’re on the wrong train, Charlie.”
This one line combined with the title provided me with enough of the elements I needed to hook me. I pictured a pair of western train robbers hopping a train and finding sleeping vampires or dead bodies awaiting disposal instead of the treasure they’d expected to find. Really, it could go any number of ways. In any event, you got my attention, Bart. Among the tools in a writer’s belt, the one-line elevator pitch is a must have. That is why you get a special mention.
Marie McKay, “The Collector.” With just two words (Social Anxiety) the writer provides a fortress worth of internal and external conflict. The story supported the character’s conflict, revolved around it, and ended with the resolution of it in a most profound way.
Charity Paschall, Untitled. I love flash fiction that hints at a much larger story, just as this one does. What are Morlings? Why does the Morling’s voice render Loraine unconscious? Don’t even get me started on her sentient hair! If this was an excerpt on the back cover of a book, I’d open it up to page one.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Robert Marazas, “Train to Nowhere.” You set the melancholy tone right from the start with a funereal train in a deserted station. You continue with ominous hints throughout. The visceral descriptions really make “Train to Nowhere” stand out in my mind. Though I may not have remembered the names from such a short piece, I remember the wounds of each overnight. It’s a great thing to have a story stick with you like that. Well done!
FIRST RUNNER UP
M.T. Decker, “Murder on the Marrakesh Express.” The final line was sheer brilliance. I have to admit, though I read this blind, I had a good idea M. T. Decker wrote this. Hers is a voice easily recognized, as she is a truly unique talent. M on the ME is loaded with conflict, the main character a vibrant personality. I can’t help but wonder where that crow was headed with its treasure. Is there a colony of rogue thieves below-ground? Oh, and that title … perfection!
And now: for his very busy third time, it’s Flash! Friday
In Terminal, you manage to hint at a past, present and a likely future. You tell us how our government failed us, and like any good captain, the Senator goes down with his ship. Though he may have been the bad guy in the stories that led up to this moment, even the antagonist has virtues. Clearly things have become dismal, but there is hope for the survival of humankind. In this brief moment, we see what happened to bring us to what is, as well as what’s to come.
Though the word isn’t mentioned, treasures abound in this piece. “Food to feed ten thousand for a lifetime.” “Earth’s surface should be habitable again within two centuries.” With just these two sentences, we know that there are precious few humans left. “I hope it’s enough.” This sentence tells us just how valuable these supplies are, making them treasures in their own right. And the “…final look at the future he would never know.” was a bitter-sweet cherry topping the cake. However long the Senator lives, I know he will treasure that moment.
For characters with tremendous depth, sufficient and strictly essential world building (big bonus in my book), enough of a hook to make me want to read the book, and the best use of this week’s prompts, “Terminal” stole the show and won the prize!
Congratulations on your THIRD win, Phil! Your winner’s badge (very familiar to you by now) waits for you below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Watch your inbox for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature interview questions. And here is your winning story:
The Senator stepped out of the train and marveled at Mile Deep Station. “The electric bill must be astronomical!”
“The light is Cherenkov radiation,” explained the General. “Our nuclear reactors produce enough electricity to light up Pittsburgh.”
“Harmless. It’s to keep humankind alive, after all.” The General pointed to a storage area. Pallets stacked four stories high. “Food to feed ten thousand for a lifetime. Seed banks. Hydroponics. Textbooks. Spare parts.”
“I hope it’s enough.”
“Earth’s surface should be habitable again within two centuries.”
The last of Mile Deep’s new inhabitants disembarked the train. The Senator patted the General’s shoulder. “Time to go.”
“Senator, are you sure you won’t stay?”
He shook his head. “Our way of thinking is what made this place necessary.”
They boarded the train. As the doors closed, and the train began its slow return journey to the surface wastelands, the Senator took a final look at the future he would never know.