Well done, everyone! I'm so glad you all could join us this week! If you missed any of the stories, you can read them here. Now on to what the judge had to say:
What a pleasure to judge the stories that flowed once again from your imaginative writerly brains! The list of literary characters below are the tip-top of all my favorite bookish heroes that have traveled with me thus far into my life, and I was excited to see how you all incorporated them into your stories. You did not disappoint! You introduced many of my old friends into delightful and interesting new situations, and made me laugh, and think, and ponder, and reflect. Good on you!
At any rate, without further ado, your stories!
By: Mark Driskill
First of all, I thought the world-building in this one was mesmerizing. Red sand and lavender skies, and a second summer (who wouldn't want a second summer, I ask you?). The description reminded me at first of the Reaping in the Hunger Games, but then it branched out and built on itself until I could completely picture this world as it grew.
The second thing I noticed and appreciated was the introspective take by the narrator, the tendency to step back and appreciate the short life he/she is granted. This line in particular resonated with me: “When you're one of the few who've managed, by some mocking providence, to make it beyond 33 harvests, you learn to live a little more intentionally. You take your time with the water rations, drinking deeply, with a kind of sacred reverence. You used to run across the dunes, but now you stroll hand in hand with the world around you, like two young lovers dreading the goodbye.”
A message I think most people can understand and appreciate. Gorgeous and profound. I loved this.
Fifty Shades of (Gandalf the) Grey
By: Dr. Mike Reddy
I enjoyed the set-up—the three strangers appearing as the death to any fan boy/girl's dream, representing the major publishers of the various literary characters, who (who knew?) hung out in Sally Antrim's kitchen.
A very tongue-in-cheek approach that had me giggling my way through it. Vivid details added strength to the story, and captured and kept my attention: “Steam coming from the downstairs bathroom recalled my hurry to answer the door, thinking the intrusion another Amazon delivery.” Also, “The three men turned about, insisting that each other go first, then swiftly walked down the garden path, stepping gingerly over the weed strewn cobbles.” I got a good laugh out of that line, picturing the men bumping into each other in their over-zealous politeness.
The banter between Harry, Gandalf, Sherlock and Katniss in the kitchen was well-done and in keeping with their characters. And of course, the last line wrapped it up nicely, delivering a delightful comedic question to the reader. Indeed, what would the world be like if Sherlock loved Katniss Everdeen? This will go on my list of “questions I have never asked myself, but now can't stop thinking about.”
Life After Death
By: Anna Elizabeth
Wow, this was a compelling piece. Impending death stands on this girl's doorstep, and like a true revolutionary, instead of bowing her head, accepting the inevitable, she does the only thing she can do to reverse her fate.
I enjoyed the world created here, the dark mentions of “the One,” his unrequited hunger for a soul. I particularly liked the hopelessness woven in here: “The first takes your soul. The second takes your mind. The third, it takes what’s left. Your body. Your broken, empty shell.”
And then the seed of hope appears, the idea sparks, and in one final, powerful ending, she says, “No.”
Really enjoyed this.
Death: Hand Delivered
By: A.J. Walker
I loved this! So tightly written (as I've come to expect from the author) and with a mix of humor and a dark sadness that really dipped into my emotions as I read this. The first line delivers the whole tone of the piece as with death in the pockets of the strangers, the narrator “welcomed them.”
I thoroughly enjoy a well-shown phrase, one that doesn't say something straight out, but only hints at it. This line in particular stood out. “The packets were scrunched up by the glass to look something smaller - less important.” And so, of course, I knew that the packets were immensely important, the crux of the entire piece.
Loved how the literary characters were seamlessly woven in, the delusional state that had Harry Potter in a fight and Katniss breaking the glass door, Sherlock deducing the situation in the kitchen, the final line that shows us an outside perspective of what's going on.
Perhaps it was the despair that got to me in the end. It was never explicitly stated, but my heart wept for the protagonist by the time the last line scrolled into view. Well done!
Into the Nothing
By: Erin McCabe
This one made me laugh in several places. I enjoyed the unexpected idea of Gandalf the Grey as some sort of horrible, flesh-eating monster who, no longer a kindly wizard with a propensity for fireworks, instead chose to attack legs and other body parts. This line in particular, while morbid, made my “awesome-phrase-o-meter” waver wildly: “Tiny sharp pieces of Gandalf's skull, embedded in the floorboards, continued to mark the location of his untimely inauguration.”
I enjoyed the build of courage from the beginning of the piece to the end. She begins in the house behind boarded up windows, Harry Potter protecting her with his wand at the front door. By the end, she's entering the dark night beside him, and hang the consequences. I love the last line: “...and if that meant spending an eternity staring blankly into oblivion, at least it was an oblivion shared.”
Back to Life
Oh, the power of pets to heal deep-seated wounds. I love the emotional arc the protagonist takes us through, from the bitterness at the beginning, to the emotional bond with the kittens (especially the ginger one) at the end. The line, “So you see, not only did these three little strangers bring death to my duvet, they also murdered my misery,” illustrates so well the compelling healing nature of love, and its ability to dip beneath the surface to erase the stains of things that may have scarred earlier.
Plus, with names like Hairy, Stinky, and Curly, how can you not love them?
Mercenaries and Dinghy Fever
By: Charles W. Short
Wow, chills! I love the twist at the end of this; it totally caught me by surprise. Now, I wasn't sure whether the bag of penicillin was used as a result of messed up communication or as a result of intentional vendetta, but either way, it was a shocking end.
I thoroughly enjoyed how the literary characters came to life as hazy parts of the protagonist's consciousness, each of them serving their own character so well. An Asian Gandalf, a French Anne Shirley, and of course, a British Sherlock Holmes.
The short rhythmic sentences in the middle, “Yes, I know I am in Thailand. Yes, I am allergic to penicillin. No. I don't know what happens when I get it. No. I am not aware of any other allergies,” breaks the whole piece nicely into two sections. The first section is dedicated to the haze of consciousness, the second to a conscious decision to escape.
Very well written, well thought out. I really enjoyed this one.
Three Wise Men
This piece is set inside a hard-hitting frame: the three strangers on the porch as Rhett Butler, Dracula, and Sherlock Holmes. In the end, the protagonist identifies with each of these three, using the blood lust of Dracula, the shrewdness of Sherlock Holmes, and the charisma of Rhett Butler, who together present “a devastating trio of qualities that have yet to reach their peak.”
I liked the concept, the ability to use his/her mental powers to make things happen. In a rather chilling sentence, the protagonist admits that he/she can “look at a photo and wish a person dead and it happens.”
I did particularly enjoy Sherlock's perusal of the cupboards. I wonder what he would find if he should visit my house? Perish the thought!
By: JM MacF
Ha! This is fantastic! So many humorous twists throughout. I particularly enjoyed the arrival of the police box, and the introduction of the doctor. “Doctor Who? No, no. Just the Doctor, mate.”
The mystery surrounding Pip's benefactor was a hilarious question that only Jeeves could answer, and as we come to the brilliant last line, I was a melting pool of giggles. “Well, sir, I suggest you read the book.” If I only had a dollar for every time I've said to that my husband, I'd be rolling in riches.
A wonderful tongue-in-cheek tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this.
Beautiful, descriptive, seamless writing. I love the concept of death as a “she,” singing “a slurry version of Silent Night. That snagged my attention right away and didn't let go. The imagery throughout the piece is stunning: “...kind of a reprobate Anne Shirley, one who would paint anarchy symbols on the green gables and fancy herself edgy.” Also, “She glared challenges at me that I let drop to the rug.”
The back and forth dialogue between Death and the narrator was full of twists, and kept my attention riveted. That last paragraph was amazing. As a lover of books, I could thoroughly identify with the “fortress of human imagination.” And that final line sunk deep: “The worlds within the pages, though, continued to thrill me.”
Special Challenge Champion: Necwrites
There was so much I loved about this piece, but the thing that stood out to me was how seamless the literary characters were woven into the work without feeling contrived or inserted. The harder the characters are for me to find, the better they work, and I had to go back to search a few times before I caught some of the references. Gorgeous work.
Runner Up: Mark Driskill
More than the world you built in your post, more than the excellent ideas and imagery you offered, it was the concept of appreciating each day, making the most of the time given us, that stuck with me, that resonated in a message that I could take with me and use. I loved the piece. Well done, sir.
Grand Champion: A.J. Walker
It was the gripping emotion that made me remember this long after I had read it and come back to it many times since it was submitted. It delved deep and resonated and I couldn't forget it. Flawlessly written, beautifully put together. If I had a hat, I'd tip it to you, sir. Brilliant.