FIRST PLACE: Contested Contingent by JulesPaige
SECOND PLACE: To the Rescue by Anne Goodwin
THIRD PLACE: Goodbye Fall by Ritu Bhathal
HON MEN: Chasing the Past by Sascha Darlington; Addressing the Animated Alarm by JulesPaige; and He Had Kind Eyes by Susan Sleggs
Contested Contingent by JulesPaige
They are silent soldiers. A rare unified army. Commanded by a queen to seek the supplies to survive. Instinctual training leads them through dense foliage to the structures of giants. With all the unseasonable torrential rains their homes have become flooded. Yet they expect no outside relief. They are a self-sufficient bunch.
Mother has not seen the arrival of the invaders. In her nightgown, robe and slippers she ventures into the morning light of the kitchen and… draws a blood curdling scream. Father rushes to her aide. His bravery unsurpassed, he calms Mother and calls the local ant exterminator.
To the Rescue by Anne Goodwin
Cold cruel enough to cut the breath from me. Waves roar loud enough to drown out other sounds. It took a fool to dive in after her. It’ll take a hero to ferry her to shore.
Hair and beard turn to icicles. Arms to cartwheels, legs to flippers, brain to military command. Kick harder! Plough faster! Fight off lakebed vegetation, fear and fatigue!
I’ve almost reached her when a tether takes my ankle. I yank it back. It reins me in. I’m swallowing water when I grab her wrist. How will history judge me: a hero or a fool?
Goodbye Fall by Ritu Bhathal
Below me flowed water, fast and furious.
I tightened my grip on the pot.
“All ready?” The instructor checked my harnesses.
But I nodded. I needed to do this.
Launching myself, as instructed, I fell, headfirst, feeling the air zoom past me.
The elastic went taut and I bounced up and down several times.
My heart was in my mouth.
As I came to a stop, I looked at the pot, still in my hands.
Loosening its lid and allowing the contents to fall into the water, I whispered “Goodbye Jake,” before slowly being pulled back up.
Chasing the Past by Sascha Darlington
Blake’s ultimatum: “Stop storm chasing or I’ll leave.”
The first fat drop of rain hits the windshield as I pull onto Rafferty Road. Forget Blake. Focus.
The hail throttles me awake. The tornado falls out of the sky, barrels toward me. Momentarily, I’m awed by the intensity, the blackness, the harsh windy sound of the twisting, family-killing creature.
“Stupid!” I jerk the Suburban’s wheel, bounce over the median, then turn right onto a dirt road. I’m nearly standing on the gas pedal. The rearview shows only blackness. Debris shatters the back window.
If I survive, I’ll never storm-chase again.
Processing the Results by JulesPaige
Sylvia tries to remember to breath. All she can think of is that this is his fault. Well she did sort of consent, and at the time it was a rip roaring heck of a time. What a ride!
Now though, Sylvia feels like an elephant with duck feet. She wants to trumpet wildly, OK just plain scream. They keep telling her that it’ll all be worth it. But she can see her mother snickering, just wanting to outright guffaw like a bellowing jackass.
Hal stuffs more ice chips between Sylvia’s parched lips. Says she’ll be one great mother!
He Had Kind Eyes by Susan Sleggs
The bartender told the tarted up woman, “There’s a rule; the boss gets first dibs on any strange and then they share?”
She stayed, sipping whiskey a little too fast. The Harleys roared in.
The group entered. The noise level tripled. They eyed her until she ordered another. A man smelling of leather, and aftershave paid; took proprietorship. Soon walked her out.
In the quiet night, he said, “Your perfume smells like fear. What do you want?”
Tears formed. “To prove I’m not a mouse.”
He kissed her like no other had. “Go home. You proved it to me.”
Ride To Riches by Sherri Matthews
She lunges strong against the reins, foam spewing from her bit.
He digs in hard, metal stirrups on a quivering mass of chestnut lean muscle and the gun fires.
She pulls out fast ahead of the crowd, grass clumps fling from her hooves…That’s it, here’s the jump, come on girl…her flank, rippling flesh steams with sweat and she snorts and lifts, long and high, scraping over the fence.
She lands hard and her knees buckle: he twists in the saddle and slams to the mud and the end of his wealthy retirement.
She bolts and leaves him for dust.
Silent But Deadly by Norah Colvin
The sun danced seductively on turquoise ripples and glistened suggestively on snow-white sands.
“Come play with us,” the ripples teased. “Share our joyful mood.”
“Stay,” soothed gentle sands, caressing his supine body. “Stay safe.”
Green fronds bowed and whispered the warnings planted in the dunes, “Beware.”
But still the ripples teased. He wasn’t fooled, knowing their sparkles belied the dangers lurking underneath. But this day was like no other.
He tossed back his head and, with arms outstretched allowing the golden orb to imbue him with invincibility, charged into the water.
Silently he disappeared beneath gloating ripples now blood-red.
A Once and Final Statement by Bill Engleson
They’ll think we missed the turn, careened over the levee, plunged into the river.
That’s what I would think.
A nasty convergence of triple bad luck.
“No,” she screamed as the car plunged hard into the freezing water.
“Yes,” I yelled. “Yes!”
“Why?” she bawled and punched me on the shoulder. “Why, you freak?”
There was that moment went we just floated, air tight, water tight.
Her hand reached for the door handle.
Her brain told her wait.
The weight of the water pressed in.
You could almost hear the metal wail.
Whales Ahoy by kate @ aroused
High-pitched screams from my baby are freaking me out! I need calm to focus on which direction to rescue him. He’s so distraught he can’t even hear me.
Oh no he’s tangled in a shark net. I try in vain to ram that net with all my physical might, tons of it. We’re only this close coz I’ve just given birth and thought the shore was safer.
Some men come to help. Hard to hear your new born in such distress as they wrangle with that net. At last Wally is free and we swim straight out to sea.
Bite Me! by JulesPaige
Bitten smitten. My extra sensory tingling tells me when wrongs need righting. I thread my way through shadowed city streets to wrangle the bad guys. That is a breeze. Weaving through those iron walls of skyscrapers that are hiding villains that need to be secured behind the walls of the law. That is the easy peasy part.
Being a teenager, school, dating and living with my widowed aunt. That’s the rough road to ride.
I’ve had to learn on the fly, so to speak without a mentor. And I have to work for clowns. That’s my Spidey’s hero life.
A Debt Repaid by Colleen Chesebro
The old mage dallied, his breath ragged. “Turn over the animal.” Fragments of dark energy rippled around his form like an ebony cloak. The fetor of blood churned through the glade.
Evanora crouched in defense. A crimson stain spread down her arm where the mage’s magic had found its mark. “He’s my responsibility,” she screamed.
She steadied her injured arm and aimed her wand as flames erupted in a torrent to immolate her foe. Black smoke drifted from his remains.
Beside her, the last unicorn touched his horn to heal her wound, a grateful acknowledgment for saving his life.
Joyful Leap by Kerry E.B. Black
Air pounds a deafening roar, buffeting ear drums as Rick falls. He’s flattened himself as instructed, spread like a deranged seastar out of its element. Below, the miniscule landscape grows defined. He counts, calms his thundering heart, controls his breathing, but he doesn’t close his eyes. He’ll not miss a second. He’d allowed others to dictate his risks his whole life, but not now. Now he was old, and he would leap with joy. With a thrilled whoop, he dove from the plane. Some would declare him crazy, but this exhilaration made him feel alive despite the growing cancer.
Her Biggest Challenge by Anne Goodwin
I’ve skydived, run with bulls, surfed giant waves across the reef. Relishing, until today, that adrenaline rush.
Approaching, for the umpteenth time, the iron gates. Shying away again. Sweaty palms, parched throat, trembling limbs.
“Try harder, Sharon. Sound it out!” The letters blur; my classmates’ giggles burn my ears. Twenty years ago feels like now.
We’ll climb trees, splash through puddles, bake mud pies. Cross deserts on horseback, cruise waterways in dugout canoes. Real-life adventures, better than books.
With another kick my unborn son insists I’ll read him bedtime stories. For him, and me, I brave the remedial class.
Untitled by Floridaborne
I fear the quiet night.
When he rides a motorcycle, it’s like watching a perfect tango. Why do I dance with fire?
A car roars down our dirt road and I glance at the rifle on our wall. I shot it once. He laughed when I fell backwards.
I cry, wishing for the strength to walk away, to forget about a year of fists, slaps and accusations.
He enters, the acrid scent of whiskey fouling my air, and grabs the 30.06.
“No! That’s your wife!” his mistress screams.
He points it at me, squeezes the trigger…
Finally, I’m free.
The Fallen and the Dead by Geoff Le Pard
Two steps, don’t look down. I should have gone again. Did Jerry need to go? Is that sweat?
‘Open eyes, mister. Looky, look.’
The river’s like a suture on a corpse. Fuck, stop. Just breathe.
‘On three. One…’
They say you can detach a retina.
Stupid idea, step back. Jerry’d be happy with a toast. You don’t have to jump.
When had Jerry’s aneurism blown? Was the air still screaming in his ears?
Thank Christ, I’m bouncing.
It really is silent. They said it goes quiet, when you stop falling.
When had Jerry’s silence begun?
Addressing the Animated Alarm by JulesPaige
They sit around quite a bit. But their hands aren’t idle. In their spare time they keep their credentials current and their equipment clean. Each man and woman forming a bond, a second family that they can depend on. Some are volunteers, others get compensation. Some paid members volunteer at other locations. Not a one would consider themselves a hero.
Whenever that klaxon rings, fear gets pushed aside. Danger gets treated with respect and all follow the leader who barks the orders of where the equipment and bodies need to be. There is no hesitation for the brave firefighters.
Never Underestimate A Butcher by Marjorie Mallon
‘How’s your day been?’
‘Exhausting, but exhilarating. I saved a young man’s life today. And you?’
‘Boring, I hate being a butcher.’
‘Nonsense. Your meat’s terrific!’
My identical twin sister is an eminent brain surgeon. I dream of her delicate hands working their masterful magic.
I raised the scalpel in a fury of sibling rivalry. My eyes twitched, but no one questioned my power to play God or to ruin my sister’s reputation as a top surgeon. My hands shook, until I sliced. I smiled, she’d be so proud. Blood pounded in my head as bright, red blood spurted.
Not on My Watch by Liz Husebye Hartmann
The wildfire reared and roared, wrapping blistering arms around the rare bambinus aqueous. They steamed and chittered, unable to fully transition to their aquatic form and reach the river.
Chase cursed. Was that a natural fire break? The wildfire shrieked denial; Chase’s arms sizzled as he jumped the fireline.
River goddess Jewel torpedoed through the water. Neither protector nor wildlife was going to burn on her watch.
She emerged, green and dripping. Chase gathered as many bambinus as he could. Jewel scooped up the rest, wrapped him in her arms, and dove into the river, her mouth on his.
Maestro by Saifun Hassam
The rising river roared past the horse corrals. The rank smell of marshland permeated the humid air.
Grayson stood very still. His heart was pounding. Maestro was determined not to leave the river. Grayson could not leave him. They would swim or drown together.
He threw the lasso. Maestro sidestepped nimbly, oblivious to the muddy quagmire. Grayson slipped. Maestro reared up, walked towards him, lowered his black satin head.
Grayson opened the gate. Maestro glanced momentarily at him, went flying out the gate through the flooded fields, and into the hills. He would return, he was a river horse.
Eight Seconds by Traci Kenworth
Steve bent to the ground. Shards of glass poked up. Was this part of the game? He shook his head. Concentrate. What brought him here tonight? He couldn’t say for sure. His head ached. He needed the upper hand on this. Otherwise, he’d forfeit. The taste of whiskey filled his mouth. Who had he made the bet with? He’d said, “Death.” But that couldn’t be right, could it? He stepped forward. Glass blocked his steps. He backed. More glass jutted up. He searched for a way out. There wasn’t one. Dead end. A shadow loomed ahead. Was it him?
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