Flash Dash!

Horse racing event, Tokyo. CC2.0 photo by Tsutomu Takasu.

Horse racing event, Tokyo. CC2.0 photo by Tsutomu Takasu

Welcome to the very first Flash Dash contest! The parameters are short and easy:

* One prompt [[SEE BELOW FOR PROMPT]]
* Word count: anything up to 500 words
* Time limit: 30 minutes (starting when this posts at 7 am Washington, DC time). At 7:30am THE DOOR SLAMS SHUT!
* Where/how: add your story as a comment to this post
* Normal Flash! Friday guidelines regarding content apply

Today’s prizes:

* A Golden Ticket for inclusion in the Flash Dogs anthology (more about the Flash Dogs & their anthologies here). Mark “Golden Ticket” at the top/bottom of your story so we know you’re trying for it
* A brand new, color-changing Flash! Friday logo coffee mug
Winners will be chosen by the Flash! Friday team & will be announced Wednesday morning. If the winner is already in possession of a Golden Ticket, the prizes may be split between two winners, at the judging team’s discretion. 

NOW HERE’S YOUR PROMPT.

BEGIN your story with the following sentence:

Winning was all that mattered.

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170 thoughts on “Flash Dash!

  1. Word Count – 500
    Golden Ticket
    @susanOReilly3

    Mine

    Winning was all that mattered. I looked into his eyes and was completely smitten, my goal now to capture his heart. The trouble was he was my best friend’s new beau, and beautiful he was. Right there and then I decided he was going to be mine, and the beginnings of my demise began.

    I couldn’t stand seeing them together but to get to him I had to keep Sandra around. Hard to do when she had the same problem as me we were both obsessed with Tim.

    I found out his schedule from Sandra’s whispered phone calls. Learnt when he was playing football, bowling or table tennis. He was a sports fanatic, I suppose along with his mother that’s what made that fantastic body. The body I was soon going to be licking all over. I digress. I have to keep a steady head. I need to bide my time.

    I suddenly took a keen interest in certain activities, Sandra was bemused. I told her I just didn’t want to pile on the pounds like her. My beloved friend I watched slowly move away from me bit by bit. I cared less she was only still here at all, so I could keep tabs on Tim.

    I started sneaking photographs of her and Tim just one now and again, she had an endless supply. I was making a space to keep a record of me and Tim and all our firsts. The first time we kissed etc. I had to cut Sandra out and paste me in but I completely forgot that fact when the finished product was under my pillow.

    Poor Sandra stopped taking photographs every few weeks as she kept breaking out in some nasty rash and had swollen eyes and lips. Her allergy returned on and off but she couldn’t think what was causing it. I could, I was injecting the substance she was allergic to into her cream, and watched with a smile as she slathered it all over her precious to Tim’s face.

    Stupid idiot kept asking my advice, Kelly look at me, what am I going to do? I told her she may be allergic to the pill and she better stop taking it for a while until she got her doctor to check it out. I then had to listen to her go on and on about how she’d have to curtail her sexual activities with Tim, I already knew that.

    Today I’m getting a makeover it’s been three weeks and Kelly hasn’t heard anything back from the doctor, she would never risk pregnancy. I’m hoping a virile young man will be just ripe for picking. He has no idea just how close me and Sandra once where as he never sees us together now. So that will be one moral dilemma solved for him.

    Sandra was not as stupid as I thought. The resounding slap she landed on me, deserved. The tablets are now the beginning of my end.

    Bye.

  2. Make Me Proud
    @laurenegreene
    395 words
    Golden Ticket

    Winning was all that mattered. But, unfortunately, I was a born loser. I couldn’t even hit the ball off the tee when I started tee-ball. My father shouted from the stands, blaming everyone but his loser son. And the losing streak continued. My father, a wolf of the banking world, could not stomach my losses.

    At my basketball games in middle school, shoulders slumped over my chest keeping the bench warm, I cringed as my father shouted at Ryan Peterson, the star.

    “Come on Ryan! You got this. Four more points, and they’re beat.”

    Then, I think he started coming to my games just to see Ryan. Silent meals, as I speared cauliflower and my Dad recanted Ryan’s winning moments. I sank further and further into myself. My mother’s sidelong glances couldn’t even save me from the fact that my father was overlooking me.

    I joined drama on a whim. Everyone has to be good at something, right? Turns out I’m good at stabbing Mercutio and rinsing imaginary blood from my hands.

    Back at the dinner table, I recited my monologues to the tone-deaf ears of my father. He rambled on about how the basketball team missed me.

    “Missed my what, Dad? My prowess of securing the bench to the ground?”

    “You should have seen it. I thought for sure we were going to lose, but then a foul was called, Ryan got the free throws, and as the ball was being bounced up the court, Teddy Andrews—do you know him?—stole the ball and threw the winning shot. It was something else.”

    The peas felt squalid and heavy in my mouth. I ate them, because if I didn’t I wouldn’t get any blueberry cobbler. And my mom makes the best blueberry cobbler.

    “My play’s on Tuesday night,” I told my mom the next day.

    “You should tell your father.”

    “Why? He won’t come.”

    Tuesday night, costumes littered the stage. Everyone rushed around, practicing their lines one more time. When the curtain rose, the lights glared in my eyes. I couldn’t see if my father was there.

    I recited my lines, stabbed Mercutio.

    “THAT’S MY BOY!!! THAT’S MY BOY!!! Look at that. Did you see the flick of that knife?”

    Peals of laughter rang out around us, but the show must go on. At least I knew he finally thought I was a winner.

  3. Winning Was all that Mattered

    “Winning was all that mattered, pain and sensibilities be damned. It all seems ridiculous now, thinking back on it. Well, you know how one can get caught up in things, the buzz, the challenge, the winning. I was young then, joints and bones all pretty much intact still.

    And I frickin’ flew. Oh yes – no one could catch me.”

    The television screen flicks to an afternoon movie channel, and I lean back in my chair again.

    I can tell no one believes me. One thing I have learnt, and it took decades, was to stop wasting energy trying to explain, justify. Making people believe – well you could lead them to the water as it were…….

    You let the anger of frustration rise up, and no one wins then. Boil you alive it will, fry yer brain. Rather, let it be the secret fire inside. Cultivate an air of mystery.

    “Oh, Gawd! I am not watching this tripe again. You hear me?”

    No one is listening. Air of mystery be damned.

    “I rode Red Gin. I won the Grand National. You hear me?”

    A commercial break is playing now, gawd knows for what. I use my grabbing stick – gizmo on the end like an elderly mousetrap. Daughter brought it for me, gawd, give me a whip any day.

    Reaching, reaching, reaching.

    CRASH.

    I am safely back in my chair when the nurses race in. The horse racing is playing on the television set, which is sitting on the floor now.

    I smile sweetly, cultivating my air of mystery.

    Yes – winning was still all that mattered.

    264 words
    F. E. Clark @feclarkart
    #Flashdog

  4. Golden ticket 495 words
    @Viking_Ma
    Food For Thought

    Winning was all that mattered. The four women stood trembling over their trolleys at the annual Bison Supermarket Trolley Dash. Their lucky tickets had been selected from thousands of readers of The Bored Housewife magazine. Whoever could grab the highest value of goods would win the contents of the trolley.
    Kate eyed the other three. There was an older lady who looked frail. One swift kick to the ankle would sort her out. Kate narrowed her eyes at the final two. One was a big woman who resembled a rugby player. She would be trouble, Kate knew. As if the woman felt eyes on her, she turned and snarled at Kate. Charming! She thought, baring her teeth in reply.
    The last woman looked graceful and elegant. She was even wearing high heels, scoffed Kate, curling her lip.
    The Mayor had arrived, ready to blow the starting horn. A huge crowd had gathered, some excited, some wondering how long the store would be closed for.
    Kate rapidly thought tactics. Liquor was an ideal choice, along with steak, the lobsters, the huge luxury chocolate cakes. Her mouth watered as she considered the delicacies.
    The women were lined up at the entrance. There wasn’t much room, and already the rugby woman was snapping her trolley about, spinning the wheels like a goddamn drag racer. Kate felt adrenaline flood her veins, and the horn blasted through the air.
    ‘GOOOO!’ screamed the crowd, leaping up and down with excitement.
    Kate gritted her teeth and sprinted forwards, hunched over her trolley like a champion jockey. She was the swiftest, but rugby woman was on her heels. The elegant woman was hefting pumpkins, and Kate rolled her eyes. The idiot! She flew to the liquor aisle and piled in bottles of everything. Blackberry vodka…designer gin…and cognac. She smiled as her mental trolley value totted up. Next, she hefted the heavy load to the fresh meat, and grabbed an enormous leg of lamb and some thick fillet steaks. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the old lady moving surprisingly fast. There was thirty seconds left!
    The screaming and shouting reached fever pitch as the women galloped around the store. There was a faller as the elegant woman slipped on her petticoat and snapped her ankle. Men ran to help her. The old lady lost her breath and her strength at the cereal aisle, where she had grabbed a tonne of porridge.
    Kate and the rugby queen bolted for the checkouts. Kate aimed a swift kick at the woman’s fat knee, but her foot slid off. The woman roared and barged her back like a truck. Kate went flying, her trolley spinning wildly. Somehow she held on, twisting her weight to gain control of her load, and lying flat over her trolley, feet in the air, she sailed past her rival and over the line as the horn sounded the end of the dash.
    ‘Disqualified for foul play!’ Howled the judge.

  5. The Games
    @mishmhem
    412 words

    Winning was all that mattered. Second place is just another word for ‘top loser’, and lord forbid if you scored less… that was what I was taught in the games- it was what every sprog was taught, but until your eighteenth birthday the true meaning of the lesson was a distant nebulous rule, something the adults used to keep you in line.

    Only after your eighteenth birthday, when you had reached the magic ‘age of majority’ did the axiom actually really mean anything to any of us former sprogs. On our eighteenth birthday we were too busy celebrating to notice, but the day after… that was when the games began in earnest…

    It was bad enough that our eighteenth birthday was also the day of the great change— the day when my brood-brothers grew legs and learned to walk on land… it was also the first day the games were played to the death. Standing on rickety feet, we were ushered into odd rooms and told to wait, then two by two we were called out to play, one against the other, until we were half of our original number. The great Army Brood went from Army to Platoon…

    Our keepers say it is to keep our lines pure and only let the strongest of our kind survive— the strongest or the luckiest, but I have also heard others say it is to keep our population down.

    As I sat in my room, waiting to be called, I heard the first rumblings of rebellion. The first inkling that this was not the natural way of things and we should be free. It was also the day that I watched my Clutch brother die at my own hands. I killed him for a handful of food. I killed him for trying to kill me.

    As I heard our oppressors’ laughter I knew I’d rather fight them— and in that moment, I felt my blood boil and my soul cry out for justice. In my next bout, I fought, not my clutch-mate, not another faceless member of our now small unit, but our oppressors themselves. It was then I truly realized that winning was all that really mattered.

    In the game you learn that the winner is the one with the most determination, and they have never played this game. In the end, it’s all in how you play the game— and with whom… We have nothing to lose, but the games.

    — No ticket for me… just for the halibut —

  6. In League
    @lizhedgecock
    249 words

    Winning was all that mattered. Not just to him, but to all of us.

    The stakes were high. The hand of the king’s daughter and untold wealth; or demotion from the Chariot Premier League, followed by merciful obscurity.

    So we looked after Octavian and his trappings. Chariot A was tweaked, tested, and cleaned daily. That was my responsibility. His horses had the best of everything, and their coats shone like slick wet stones. Octavian himself enjoyed sumptuous yet healthy meals, one of which would have paid my wage for a week. He could be denied nothing.

    And in a blur of sweat, dust, pounding hooves, whip cracks and blood, Octavian triumphed by a length.

    I was the most pleased of the crew, possibly more than our winner. Octavian was led away to be wreathed, garlanded, placed on a pedestal, and worshipped for the rest of his natural life. He had all the prizes, while we might be thrown a gold coin if we were lucky. But there was one that eluded him. He had entered a sphere where his every move would be taken note of, and marvelled at. Now I knew that my jewel beyond price was safe. He would never be able to force his way into my home again. Never be able to try and take my daughter again. His position would deny him, though I could not.

    I’d considered cutting a cable, causing an accident. But victory was less detectable.

    Winning was all that mattered.

  7. 436 words
    The Jump
    @clivetern
    Winning was all that mattered. Carla sucked her cheeks together, clapped her hands above her head to gee up the crowd, rocked back and forth on her feet to loosen of the tension and bring the muscles to the right pitch.
    She dropped her arms and started running.
    It was alway like this. The roar of the crowd was there, but muted, like her brain dialed it down to background noise. The smell of grass which had been recently cut and refreshed by rain was rich in each breath taken. Her launch point drew nearer. At the start of the run up each step was precise and individual, she could identify where one stopped and the next began, they were discrete motions bound only by their commonality to her. Now, as she curved her run, the strides were one single fluid motion, flowing into each other like waves rolling across the ocean.
    Carla reached her mark and sprang high, twisting as she did. The world slowed to a crawl, like watching something in slow-mo on her high-def television. The floodlights which ringed the top of the stadium had blueness in the depths of their intensity; flash lights from camera’s rippled in the stand, bright fire-flies capturing this single moment.
    She arched her shoulder, twisting her back. For fun, once, they had tried limbo. But going under the bar had felt unnatural. Now her head was dipping back down. This was it, the last moment of the last chance. The final jump and all she had to do was clear the bar. She kicked her heels, but too late.
    The metal pole flexed under the impact from her heel, deforming along it’s length. It bounced up when her foot slid back off of it. The gasp of the crowd was like a punch to Carla’s stomach as she watched the bar jump up while she continued to fall backward.
    The landing mats cushioned her, absorbing the energy of her collapse, as the bar also began to fall. One side of the pole struck it’s rest, and it span, bouncing onto the track.
    Carla stood on the mats staring at the bar. Bile rose in her throat, the taste bitter with the disappointment in heralded. The crowd was clapping and cheering, appreciative of her efforts, of the battle of wills in which she had partaken.
    She applauded back, an automatic response which meant nothing, because she had nothing.
    Later, standing on the rostrum, accepting the silver medal around her neck, she managed to smile. But it was an empty smile. Winning was all that mattered.

  8. Winning was all that mattered.

    He would do anything to get his hands on a Flash Dogs golden tickets. Even have a full-blown bust up with his wife about spending a mere 30 minutes of this miserable existence desperately cobbling together a piece for the Flash Dash! contest when she had secretly booked a romantic anniversary lunch in the same restataurant where they had gone to on their first real date.

    Didn’t she realise that they could do that any time? The inaugural Flash Dash! was a once in a lifetime experience! And the chance to win a golden ticket was a double whammy! No contest.

    The slamming door was followed by perfect peace: just what he needed to concentrate…

    But what to write? Come on, come on! Think!

    He wasn’t used to this sort of pressure. He struggled to come up with something half-way decent for Flash! Friday; and he had 24 hours for that! And he’d never come anywhere, not even an Honourable Mention.

    He should have been proactive and written something on spec. His typing skills had never been great, just two fingers and a thumb. And his laptop was playing up again.

    Looked like he would be just another also-ran. Again.

    @GeoffHolme
    Word Count: 205
    Golden Ticket

  9. Winning was all that mattered. Hellion knew her talents deserved it. Who she crushed in the race to the top was immaterial. The secretaries in the pool had to do her bidding, and they better do it with snap, polish and excellence. Their lax work couldn’t affect her ratings. She’d fired more than her share to get where she was. The researchers in the field had to do her bidding. Sloppy facts and inaccurate reporting weren’t tolerated. Missed deadlines meant you went to the breadline instead of an office. If a company didn’t produce flawless products, she smeared their reputation. How dare they insult her perfection with their pitiful efforts? Yes, Hellion had left a lot of fallout in her race to the top.

    Hellion had stood in her top floor office with the panoramic view and surveyed her domain. Top of the heap at last. She’d shown that derogatory mother of her’s, The one always yelling at her she’d never amount to anything. Well, she’d mounted to the top. At the knock on the door she’d barked, “Go away!” Nothing was going to spoil her triumphant moment. When the knocker persisted, she’d yelled, ” I SAID GO AWAY!”

    She’d turned in time to see them slip an envelope under the door. Tearing it open she’d read, “You;re fired.”

    When Hellion got on the bus, Shirley, the secretary she’d sacked blocked her from sitting next to her. When she went to the grocery store, Ralph, the researcher she’d humiliated, refused to help her. When she looked for a job, no one would hire her.

    When she ended up at the soup kitchen, Angela, the assistant she’d verbally abused countless times, slopped the food on her tray in such a way that some spilled onto Hellion’s racing shoes.

      • Clive, my computer was having a hissy fit this morning so I ended up with 15 minutes to write something. Because it was being temperamental I shaved off two more minutes on the end to ensure it posted within the time frame. However, in light of your question about the who, how and why here goes:

        Hellion worked in advertising and a lot of information came in by snail mail so they had a person who delivered it. The day before she moved to the top floor a new employee delivered the wrong mail to her. She flung it in his face whereupon the edge of an envelope left a small cut.

        That night the teenager’s grandfather (who owned the company and had given him a job to get him started in the family business), asked about the cut. Upon learning the details, he determined to fire the employee.

        Thus Hellion failed to open the door to the mail room guy who was heir to a fortune, so he shoved his grandfather’s note under her door.

  10. Gamer
    178 words (Golden Ticket)
    @DHartleyWriter

    Winning was all that mattered. Gamer shaved his fingers down, stuck them in ports and let the mindsparks fly. Each digit blitzed against a different server: right-hand-index shot zombies, left-hand-little commanded armies, right-hand-middle solved puzzles, and his ring finger began a second simulated life among the billion teeming others.

    His eyes buzzed with a thousand shifting landscapes, his mouth muttered through war cries, platitudes, solutions; prayerwords to an button-mashed god. His body morphed through the character-builds: him one minute, her the next, then something else – something neither. Even his toes were fused, twitching through the sports games; a touch of acceleration, a top-corner volley. All connected, all in-game.

    Except his thumbs. His thumbs stayed free and tapped a furious rhythm against an ancient keyboard. Green lines cascaded at the edge of his vision. Codes. Manipulations. Cheats. StormCloud Digital had them all hooked, every part of every cell. But his thumbs were free and Gamer would be their saviour.

    He had to win, of course. Winning was all that mattered – but it was his taken parts that counted.

  11. Golden Ticket Entry
    “Trust Me”
    447 words
    Sydney Scrogham @sydney_writer

    “Winning was all that mattered.” I jab my finger at his chest. “That was what you said.”
    He lifts his hands, and then they helplessly flop back down against his sides. Shadows darken half of his pale face, and a drip of rainwater falls from his soaked blond hair. He doesn’t step off the door mat. “I lost the link, okay? I screwed up.”
    His words smack me stunned. I’ve never heard Ryan admit that before. He’s always been Mr. Do-The-Impossible, suck it up, and battle by my side. We don’t fail. Ever.
    “What if, just once, you let your guard down?” Ryan’s blue eyes are deep like he’s taking a long, warm drink. And he’s staring right at me.
    I swallow hard and take a step back, but only a small one. “People get hurt.”
    “Ariel.” Ryan finally walks away from the door to touch my arm.
    I spin away from him and stalk to the edge of the cabin to paw through a wooden trunk for blankets. It’s going to be a long night, and if he stays soaked, he’ll freeze. Ryan’s feet tap, tap, tap behind me. I drop my head and close my eyes. I can hear him breathe, and I flinch when his body heat warms the tip of my ear.
    “I can’t change who I am,” I say. I grab the edge of the trunk for support.
    “If anyone on our team is going to get a mind link,” Ryan says, “it’s us.”
    Hearing him say the word us makes my abdomen clench so fiercely it scares me. I should tell him we can’t do this, that we’re breaking the rules, but no words come out of his mouth.
    Ryan whispers in my ear. “Let me know you.”
    I twist and face him. My legs ache from squatting, so I sit, and Ryan sits across from me. I want to hang onto my past, but I want a mind link so we can defeat Victoria. And, as my stomach churns horribly, I want Ryan. But I can’t want anyone.
    “My dad abused me and my sister,” I whisper. “I only wanted to protect her.” I stare down at my hands. I want to say more, but I can’t. Ryan will know. Somehow, he always knows. Ryan opens his arms, and I look up at him. He’s a question waiting for me to give him an answer.
    I nod once.
    He pulls me up into his lap. “Thank you.”
    I cup my hands around his face, and in the split second I meet his eyes, our minds link. Winning wasn’t all that mattered. Being real is the only thing we ever needed.

  12. Winning was all that mattered, he said. He flashed a smile at the room. Literally. How did he get those teeth so white? Were they even real? Was he even real? His face, on the conference room screen, just his face, disembodied. Was he one of them? Nah, couldn’t be.

    I looked around the room to see if anyone else was thinking what I was thinking. But then again, how would I know? You can’t tell just by looking. You can’t tell anything just be looking. Not any more. You have to dig deeper, look at the code.

    That’s what we’re all here for, or at least that’s what we’ve been told. The conference hall is huge, there must be at least a thousand of us. All with our tablets open and ready for the download. It’s the Chinese we’re targeting this time. Word has leaked out that they are going to launch one of their disruptive viruses again. The last one, is was a doozy. Completely rewrote the global economy. Apple managed to roll it back just in time from the off-plant Time Machine, but we can’t have that happening again. No sirree-bob.

    It’s kinda nice, though I shouldn’t say it, to see a room full of people with a purpose, a job to do. Shouldn’t say it because it was only near-disaster brought us coders back. Sentient algorithms. And we thought global warming was the biggest threat we face. We had no idea. No. Idea. At. All.

    Ideas, though, that’s the thing we have that they don’t. No imagination. They just do what they’ve been programmed to do, or what they programme each other to do, and their parameters are limited. We’re only limited by our imaginations.

    Winning is all that matters, he says again, and I can see something, someone, moving across the stage, far in the distance at the front of the room. Good. He’s not one of them, then. Has a body. Good. He’s real.

    I cracked my knuckles, make sure my finger tips are clean. I feel the adrenaline flow. It’s like the old days, the gamer competitions. Except now that the prize is stopping society from collapsing.

    My screen lights up. Here we go. Here we go. And then I read what it says.

    You’re not real

    (Golden Ticket) (No time to proof read, apologies in advance!)

  13. Winning was all that mattered. Because in the Califax Qualifications winning meant life or death. And pray to god your parents picked the right tourney for you.
    My dad wanted to put me in Physical, but Mom knew me better. So I got Cerebral.
    Here I am.
    Facing off against Kelly Jorgensen. Our first Bout ended in a draw – we both solved the Trigonometric equation simultaneously.
    We wait until they give us the parameters for the next Bout.
    Sweat is dripping down his eyelashes. They’re longer than most females, something both socially and evolutionarily not advantages.
    My heart beats in my thumb.
    We wait.

  14. This Time

    Winning was all that mattered. He stared at his watch, knowing that the results would be posting in a few seconds. He frantically hit refresh until the names came up. He scanned them anxiously, praying that it would work this time. As he got to the bottom and saw a name that wasn’t his he let out a frustrated grumble. Why had it not worked this time. He’d put dragons in there, and mentioned chocolate. He’d referenced in jokes and old stories. He’d carefully analysed every other story, to find out what made them tick, and then he had incorporated all their best elements into his. Why wasn’t this working? He was stuck in an eternal loop of flash dash. He angrily tapped the buttons on his time machine and waited to go back to 6:59 on April 14th. This time he’d get that darn mug!

    @todayschapter

  15. Word Count 91
    Golden Ticket
    @susanOReilly3

    Living In Tomorrow

    Winning

    was all that mattered
    Now my peace is shattered
    You were my goal
    You conquered my soul

    now
    I’m afraid of the unspoken
    the secrets you keep
    will they be love tokens
    or things to make me weep

    I’m
    scared of not-happened-yet rows
    I want us to be like this always
    the flames I’m ready to douse
    in my head scenarios play

    I’m
    trying to live in the present
    just enjoy what we are
    but the future is pissing on my lamppost
    marking me, leaving a scar

  16. 480 words
    @callthewriter

    Winning was all that mattered.

    That’s what he kept telling himself. What Lizzie kept telling him. What they told each other and the rest of the team.

    Winning was all that mattered. A mantra to whisper with every breath, until his lungs were coated with it, the bitterness of winning like a cough caught in the back of his throat.

    The alarm went off, a high-pitched beep timed to flashing time that shone on his ceiling. But he was already awake. Had been awake long before the alarm sounded. Reciting the mantra.

    He rolled from his bed, stood, stretched for a moment and went to the sink. He went over the scoreboard while he brushed his teeth, digital numbers scrolling on the mirror. He swiped to the leaderboard. Down. Further down.

    They’d slipped to 17th place during the night.

    He swore, grabbing his comm. Lizzie picked up on the first ring.

    “Did you see the scores?” she asked.

    Her eyebrows were raised, eyes wide like a skittish horse.

    “It’s okay,” he said. “We’ve got time.”

    She ran fingers through her cropped hair. “Michael,” she said. “We can’t fall any further. We get below twenty and we’re done.”

    “I know,” he told her, shrugging into his jacket. “Don’t worry. We’ll make it up today.”

    Lizzie didn’t ask how. She just nodded. They agreed to meet at the wharf and start the day with the whole team gathered.

    +

    “How am I supposed to keep going?” said Carlos. He said it nervous, rodent twitchy and glancing over his shoulder. “I got kids to feed.”

    “You wanna keep those kids,” said Michael,”keep playing. You know that’s the only way.”

    “What if we fall below twentieth,” asked Nina.

    “We won’t,” said Michael.

    “We’ve all got people,” said Lizzie.

    “We can’t afford I think about that,” said Michael. They stood in a circle on the wharf, the brine smell of dead fish lacing the air. He hooked his thumbs in his gun belt. “We only have the game.”

    They all looked at the ground, their hands, the sea. Not at each other. Michael could feel their bond evaporating. Of all the things that would be their undoing, it was going to be the leaderboards? Worrying about the goddamn score?

    “Hey,” he said. “We started this game not even knowing each other. And now we’re a family. We stick together. We stay alive. We play the game and we win.”

    Their eyes flicked up to him.

    “Winning,” he said. “Winning is all that matters. We win and we get to keep our heads. Keep our heads today, and we’ll win.”

    A few of them smiled at his joke.

    He tossed one thumb over his shoulder.

    “Who’s in?”

    They all clambered into the skiff, hanging tight to the hope of winning. The skiff moved out, into the dawn light and crisp salt air.

    The hunt was on.

      • Thanks! The concept is a worldwide televised scavenger hunt that has been going for years, with hundreds of thousands of participants. There are certain penalties for failure, and certain teams expected to perform at a certain level, with everything at stake: livelihood, life and limb, family at risk if you don’t succeed.

        Task after task, year after year, increasingly difficult and ridiculous. But if they don’t keep a certain score, they die.

    • “A high pitched beep timed to flashing time?” Should have been “readout,” not time.

      This is was comes of writing on your phone at 4am.

      Don’t do it people! Dangerous and silly-looking!

  17. Winning was all that mattered; always had been. Their marriage had been a battle of one-upmanship and Jason was going to make sure he had the last victory in what had seemed at times like a seven year chess game.

    He had her cornered. She had nowhere to go and his lawyers had made sure there was nothing left for her to live for. He had sat her down and explained all this with delicious clarity before handing her an offer of alimony.

    One gun, loaded with a single bullet.

    Golden ticket
    Very rushed!

    As he walked away as her final move reverberated around the house.

    • Sorry – that didn’t even post properly! Feel free to ignore. Written on my phone on long car journey with the kids fighting on the back seat!

      Just wanted to enter *something* –
      Love the idea!

      Sarah x

      • Anyone who can write on their phone is amazing to begin with. I’ve fought with swype, voice recognition and every other attempt to ‘help’ you phones have to offer. Not only did you keep from getting … interesting translations- you got a good story out in a very short period of time.
        You got something good, out. Be proud!

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