Happy Monday! So glad to see y’all; it’s a gorgeous sunny autumn day here in the Shenandoah Valley, and after a fun, quick morning hike, we’re all set for the results party!
But first: it’s a fond and heart-rich farewell to Dragon Team Five, Foy Iver and Holly Geely. Y’all have been just fabulous. I’ve loved your thoughtful comments, your passion for the community’s stories, and your all-round good humored approach to judging. What a delight and privilege working with you this round. Thank you so very, very much.
And here are Dragon Team Five‘s parting words:
HG: I can’t believe how quickly the past few months have gone! It’s been grand. I’ve read so many great stories and I’m so impressed by the talent and the kindness in this community. I don’t even have anything silly or sarcastic to say because I’m so happy to have been part of this.
FI: I have to echo Holly – this whole adventure has been like a carnival ride: over before the quarter hits the bottom. (I’d put in another but the attendant is telling me I’m too old for the miniature carousel.) Thank you all for the tears, the laughs, and especially for the privilege! I still don’t feel qualified to judge your words but it surely has been a pleasure walking among them and listening to the stories they’ve told.
for Best Mental Image: Craig Anderson, “The Young King.” FI: Anyone else picture Ramon Salazar from Resident Evil 4?
for Hacking my Brain: Margaret Locke, “Autobiography.” FI: It’s like you have a camera in my head…
for Most Kick A$$ Princess: Michael Wettengel, “Refuge in Audacity.” HG: I love it when the princess fights back, and this one has attitude. Love it.
for Unrelenting Grip: MT Decker, “The Lonesome Road.” HG: Highly poetic and thought-provoking, with a gripping final thought.
Nancy Chenier, “Rescue.”
HG: The maiden is not the prize, indeed. This is a well done piece all around but the closing line is particularly clever, not an ending at all but a hopeful beginning.
FI: What I loved most about this little twisted tale was the opening paragraph, and realizing that our heroine had taken what a man, father or former conquistador, had designed to keep her prisoner and used it for her own good. Talk about empowerment!
Casey Rose Frank, “She Walks.”
HG: The format of this story is what grips you from the beginning, and a journey with no destination has its own appeal. It speaks of a dark past but leaves the explanation to the readers imagination.
FI: Ninety-nine words of literary tapas, “She Walks” carries its power in its form. We taste darkness, melting heavy on the tongue, until hope, in a zest of orange, reminds us that it’s the going and not the where that matters. Beautiful work.
Joey To, “The Long Path“
HG: The four riders are not the apocalyptic ones of lore but they might bring their own apocalypse. The narrator of this story isn’t the main character; the doomed people of the needlessly warning cities are the protagonists.
FI: One of the reasons I loved this prompt was that, as a child, I watched the Pilgrim’s Progress adaptation “Dangerous Journey” until my eyeballs bled. Not really but you get the point. You, writer, did an incredible job capturing the allegorical feel of Bunyan’s work while giving us a fresh story. The names, the foreboding, all work so well together!
Emily Clayton, “Cerise.”
HG: The short story tells a much longer one and both are tragic through and through. I think this is the greatest tragedy, not your own death but the death of a loved one because of your choices and mistakes. In a few words, true pain is captured.
FI: So much of this story is told in the periphery. We’re hooked from the first line but then only given blurry details because ultimately the history can be forgotten. It’s the outcome, the “true pain” as Holly eloquently put it, that matters. Everything else is just another shade of red.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Bill Engleson, “Madame Mayor“
HG: This story has my favourite corrupt mayor. Through dialogue you learn the casual indifference with which she regards her subjects. It tickles the funny bone with dark humour and hints at a much larger problem the mayor’s subjects will face.
FI: High points for the names! Even higher points for the wordplay. I thoroughly enjoyed the cheeky commentary on politicians and their “desire” for bipartisanship (does this mean the other pinkie has to go?). It might be unseemly to admit but I wouldn’t mind if this lion-sized security system were implemented in our own capitol… Very clever, dear writer.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Colin Smith, “The Farmer’s Gift”
HG: In my heart I believe this story was a personal gift to me. He talks about protecting his soul and making offerings, and suddenly bam! It’s a pun. There isn’t much in this world that makes me happier than a well crafted pun.
FI: I have to agree with Holly, that last line won me over instantly! You pulled me in with the world you built, the religious structure you unveil, the unfamiliar names you created, and, once you had me completely, peas. Just, peas. Jarro’s smile could only be a cheeky one.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Mark A. King, “The Mountain and the Valley.”
HG: This is lovely. The change of the identity of the mountain is gorgeous. The vision of the soldier with his sweethearts picture in his pocket… familiar, horrifying, sad. A story truly deserving of a prize.
FI: Your brilliant use of bookend phrases brought out in bold the protagonist’s change in perspective. You dragged me down into dusty alleys, made me taste the fear and the sweat, and worry for his sake. But more than that, your story holds deep meaning. It speaks for us, the significant others that are left behind, often forgotten, and shows the strength that it takes for us to carry on in a loved one’s absence. I’m not usually one to cry over stories, but you had my heart in tears, dear writer. Masterfully done.
And now: for a stunning, super marvelous FIFTH win, it’s this week’s
“Amoeboid Eremite’s Lament“
HG: I’m no poet and if you know me at all you know it, but this poem is super cool (case in point). I like to read it aloud with a little goblin voice and shriek “deceivers!” The little voice saying divide, divide… awesome.
FI: This is one of those stories that I could read a thousand times over and find a new reason to love it every time. Writer, you earn so many points for originality (in fact, the direction I least expected), for cleverness (an amoeba with a spiritual and existential crisis, yes please!), and for flash on a truly micro scale (how on Earth did you fit so much into 99 words?). You have my respect, my envy, my congratulations – absolutely adored this.
Congratulations, Nancy! Thrilled to see you take your fifth crown which, truth be told, I set aside for you some time back. Check out your updated winner’s page; your winning tale has found there a comfy, non-lonely home there with your other winning tales. Please watch your inbox for instructions regarding your interview for this week’s #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:
Amoeboid Eremite’s Lament
God is Unity
Nature corrupts with its dyads
Purity is in the waters, they say,
Yet my long liquid hermitage
Hasn’t cleansed my thoughts
They say, too, the urge gets easier to resist,
The need to populate my loneliness
Shudders through my cytoplasm.
The mocking moons in their dual dance
Ooze across the sky.
The psalmody of our One daystar cannot mute
The taunting of wanton satellites.
Divide, they chide, divide
Under light and darkness, I strain
against that which would desecrate
my singular celibacy.
–Such lust cleaves our devotion!–
My mitotic sin.