I was all prepared to give my usual “welcome back, you incredible writers” speech (one of my favorites!), when I had to do a double take. Make that triple. Unless I counted wrong — which, as I was a Lit major in college, is entirely possible — there were 51 entries this week. FIFTY-ONE entries in a week with a prompt of an alien mailbox near a top secret government research facility.
I always knew y’all were good. But this week you took it to a whole other area (get it? AREA). Cue Twilight Zone music.
Judge Alissa Leonard says: If we’ve learned anything from this, it’s that combining mailboxes and aliens results in BILLIONS of dollars of debt, human abductions, time travel, conspiracies, UFO chasers, mysterious disappearances, and alien invasions with some desert adventure thrown in for good measure… Perhaps the aliens should use a post office box? Thank you all for your offerings; they were out of this world! Let me tell you about some of my favorites:
Worldbuilding: Winter Bayne, “Paid in Full”; James Marshall, “Reminder Notice”; and Bart Van Goethem, “The Takeover.”
Beginning: Tinman, “You’ve Got Mail”
Ending: Laura Emmons, “Alien Discovery”
Mood: Chris Milam, “Transference”; Joidianne4eva, “Plant My Roots (On Barren Ground”)
Characterization: Megan Besing, “Saturday 1:07pm”; John Mark Miller, “Special Delivery”; Clive Newnham, “SPECIAL DELIVERY”; Betsy Streeter, “Steve, Keeper of the Box”; Carlos Orozco, “The Alien”
A.J. Walker, “Settler.” Your first paragraph set up a life of peace and contentment – painted a picture of hard-earned solitude. You had me hooked there. I loved the line, “That was a matter of life and mum.” Seriously, that is brilliant. Because we all know, if you don’t call mom, you’ll be dead. 🙂 I also really enjoyed your clever take on the name and bill issue. It was unique and unexpected, and it tied into the characterization from the first paragraph perfectly. Very nicely done.
Katrina Ray-Saulis, “Dear Robbie.” The relationship is what caught my heartstrings with this one. A “goodbye” note from Gram to one who teased her and joked with her, but obviously loved her. He drove out to the spot where they found her car every year to write her a letter about his life – so sweet. So sad and hopeful and beautiful. And then the reassurance… Loved it.
Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “Bounty.” This one entertained my world-building brain so much! “Wanted dead, alive, or in stasis” set the scene very well. I enjoyed the deadpan bounty hunter – nothing fazed him. He checks that the cloaking device is working by the fact that no one screams. He considers incinerating the entire place so that no one can get the same info, but decides not to because it’s “probably not worth the fine.” –Probably?! Then he adds petty theft to the guy’s rap sheet. It made me laugh and filled me with so many questions!
THIRD RUNNER UP
Casey Rose Frank, “Not My Boat.” Your characterization is brilliant. The bored, business-like creditor; the paranoid (and wrongly accused) man; and the pranking alien combined to make this a hilarious read! Seriously, when Mr. Smith said, “What would I do with a boat?” I could see him flailing around in the desert. And then the end… the “large blue face wearing groucho glasses” peering through the curtains. I busted out laughing.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Marie McKay, “Overdue.” Oh, how I want this to all work out! I love the characterization of the little boy and his fascination with Buzz. He tries to be brave and “set his voice to ‘Hero,’” but it doesn’t work perfectly. I could picture this goodbye scene between so many fathers and sons and it broke my heart. Then the end… “I tucked three dollars in its fold telling Dad to put it towards the bill for his journey home.” So sweet and heart-wrenching!
FIRST RUNNER UP
Mark Morris, “Paid in Full.” Wow. This one knocked my socks off! The idea that the aliens would pay off your overdue bills is an amazingly fascinating concept – completely unique and enjoyable. I am dying to know the consequences for putting more than one bill in there per month… Please? 🙂 And yeah, the catch. It seems like such a reasonable question… That last line floored me. Seriously. Then my mind FILLED with questions: These people seemed like friends: were they? Did he seriously just sell out his friend? Does he find random people and convince them to go with him? And, really, what kind of person values a person’s life as less than one overdue bill for internet??? Mind: Blown.
And now: for her third time overall, but first for Year Two, it’s Flash! Friday
Brilliant. Perfect. Just… Wow. Your language was so evocative I needed a drink of water: “baked alive” “groan scratched its way out of my throat” “blistering sunlight” “grit scraped my eyes” “taunting me with the waste of water”. I felt sore and parched and I also felt that “blissful instant of relief” when the shadow fell over him. The captor is so very outlaw-esque, and I want to see more of her! I suppose that’s one way to get out of your debts… We start the story being “baked alive” and finish it with the possibility of two more weeks. It’s quite the ultimatum. And it floored me. It was seriously perfect and sucker punched me right in the gut. Beautifully written, wonderfully evocative, and very fun characters. Loved it.
Congratulations, Aria! Your brand new-to-you (isn’t it fancy!) winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me ASAP so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:
Waking up isn’t easy when you’re being baked alive.
A groan scratched its way out of my throat as I opened my eyes to the blistering sunlight. Soreness in my shoulders and ankles dissuaded me from moving.
One of only two shadows on the sand moved. Grit scraped my eyes as I tried to blink the motion away.
“Oh shut up.” The shadow fell over me for a blissful instant of relief, chased away by her grin. “How ya doin’ down there?”
“What the hell you stupid—”
“Ah, ah. Careful.”
The scorching spotlight found my face again. She spat, taunting me with the waste of water.
“You owe me,” I reminded.
“Well now, that’s why I’m here. You forget that little issue, and I’ll cut you free.”
“Are you off your—”
“Or.” Her shadow moved out of sight. “I could just leave you here, while I come up with the money. Shouldn’t take more than a couple weeks.”