Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dog Days Contest Entry

Hey all! I wrote this piece too quickly last week for the Dog Days of Summer Contest over at Rebekah Postupak's Flash!Friday blog. This is a special contest with a cash prize! I made it through the first round of judging and into the final ten! Now the rest is up to you, the readers. The winner will be chosen by popular vote. ...I've never been one of the popular kids, but if you like the story, I'd appreciate your vote. It's extremely easy and fast: just follow this LINK TO VOTE, click on my name in the poll (Alissa Leonard - third from the bottom), and click vote. (And the counters will show you how pathetically far behind I am, so spread the word!) Or you can go here to read all ten entries, and vote for your favorite.

Anyway, whether you vote or not, you can read my story. I like to think outside the box a bit. The theme was Childhood Summer Mischief (Tom Sawyer-esque), and I didn't want to do the same thing as everyone else. It took me nearly the full two weeks to come up with my idea. There are things I would change if I had more time, but this is the entry as I submitted it. I hope you enjoy! :)

by Alissa Leonard

The vibrations from Mrs. Cockle’s scream sends a school of snapper scattering and makes my teeth throb, but I keep swimming. Her scream has nothing on Momma’s. Besides, I only put a tiny shark among her clambeds…

I glance to make sure she isn’t following, then speed ahead to catch the current that will take me to my secret cave. She certainly got a good look at me; I’m hard to miss. My algae, skin, scales, and gills are red, orange, yellow, and gold respectively instead of normal greens and blues or at least browns. But I read the rules carefully, and being seen isn’t grounds for disqualification.
Being caught is.

I curse my parents and ancestors for their ‘artistic sensibilities’ and the breeding plan that culminated in me: a freak. However, those same sensibilities will cause them to completely forget Mrs. Cockle’s complaint by the time I get home, so it could be worse.

I dive out of the current and approach my favorite patch of coral. The colors and variation attracted me at first – bright yellows next to deep pinks and pale purples in all shapes and sizes. I noticed my cave only after hours spent inspecting the diversity. The coral grew up and around it, blocking it from view, but I followed a clownfish down into the reef, under the green shelf next to the blue spikes.

I dart there now, thankful I haven’t grown too big yet. Several twists and turns later, I enter the cave and swim straight to the two shells on the shelf. I lift the clamshell out of the first one and move it to the second, already filled with symbols of my initiation tasks. I have only a single sun-cycle to complete all eight tasks, which gives me until shortly after sunset to do this last one.

I lift the stone from the shell, wishing its form was something other than human.

Humans should be avoided.

I have to take a human thing and replace it with something I made.

I place the stone back in the shell, and slip the shell bracelet I made onto my wrist. I need to breathe before I start this. I swim to a tunnel at the back of the cave and follow it up to a secluded pool.

I lay on my back and just float, my gills swaying in the water beneath me, my lungs breathing in long and deep, and my skin absorbing all it can. I need every bit of energy to pull this off. My coloring will make stealth practically impossible, but I have to try. Going at sunset is my only chance. Hopefully it’s colorful tonight.

I take a deep breath and return through the cave and out into the open water toward shore. My nerves make me hyper-sensitive to the movement of the water and the tastes and vibrations and songs. I approach the cove I’ve chosen, and the crashing of the waves drowns out a lot of the other sounds.

There’s a long pier jutting into the water; which is my reason for choosing this cove. I need cover. A group of humans have a fire on the beach. Three. Too many. I consider leaving to find another, but then I see the sea turtle.

It’s tied down, pinned to the beach with rope and staked into the sand. A pile of things lie close to the surf. I could easily grab one and go… But the turtle starts grunting and pulling at the restraints. I have to do 

Slowly, I glide under the pier, navigating around the logs until I’m close enough to shore to place my hands on the sand. The turtle is several body-lengths from the edge of the water. I see no way to get there fast enough to avoid being seen.

The humans are on the opposite side of the fire. Behind me, the setting sun sprays reds and golds across the water. It may be enough cover. They’re not looking this way.

Now’s my chance.

I follow a wave as far as I can, then fold my gills flat along my back and roll to the turtle. I hide myself behind her, and reach up to her neck to comfort her and tell her to stay still.

I pull up the spikes imbedded in the sand one by one, and lay them with my bracelet on top. As I do, a plan forms. The turtle will need time to make its way to the water. I can do that.

I coil the rope around my arm, and glance to make sure they’re not looking. I tell the turtle to wait for my signal, and roll back into the water. I swim just past the pier and across the cove from the turtle and splash my tail wildly on the surface.

The humans run into the surf at the same time as the turtle pulls itself toward the water. Now to get the humans far enough out that I can teach them a lesson…

I unwind the rope as I splash about. Once the humans pass the breakers, I dive to the bottom and dart to the first, slipping the rope around his leg, tying a knot. I move to the next, making sure not to pull the first, and tie a knot around the second. Then hurry to the last and tie his leg as well. Let them feel what it’s like to be tied up.

I tie the end to the pier and pull hard on the rope. All three get a dunking.

The human screams as they reach the surface and pull against each other are music to my ears.

I catch up to the turtle and ask her to accompany me. How else will I prove that she totally counts as a human thing?

Again, if you liked it, I'd appreciate your vote. Thanks so much! (Here's the VOTING LINK again.)

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