Short Story Competition: Fourth Batch Is Open for Voting!

By Daniel Scocco

Here are ten more short stories for your delight. This is certainly the most creative batch we have had so far. Some curious ideas and formats have been used by the writers.

Anyway make sure to read them and cast your vote to the story that you want to see featured on the grand final. (RSS and email subscribers need to visit the website to see the poll)

The Sponsor

The competition is being sponsored by WhiteSmoke. It will offer 3 full licenses to the executive edition of its writing software (with a value of $250 each).

If you are considering to buy a professional writing software, check out the ones from WhiteSmoke. They have the most advanced spelling, punctuation and grammar checkers on the market, as well as a patented style checker to improve your text.

1. Memories in Yellow by Bobbi K Nutter

My world, back then, centered around one small hand print—my left, I think—embedded in the thick yellow paint on the far wall of my room. It was an awkward shade of yellow: not the yellow of sunshine but the deep, dark yellow hidden underneath gold. It was a dull yellow but it carried with it an inner glow of warmth that felt inviting even if the hue itself somewhat repelled.

That yellow hand print was maybe three feet up from a dark brown carpet that was like fertile soil to my imagination. On it my bare feet padded around, becoming doctor’s feet, mother’s feet, artist’s feet; here glimpses of the future first began, and they seemed endless. Adventures were born in a womb of ocher, and dreams became vivid while I clutched my blanket in the dark. It was yellow—like the walls—with a red trim that would deteriorate over time from the loving fingers that rubbed against it. A yellow that would soon dull into a field of dark lint as the print faded with time.

The outside of the house may once have been white, but long years of ill repair had antiqued the siding to a yellow cream. In the backyard grew an ancient hollyhock, a bush grown for generations until it had evolved into a tree. Its white branches spread wide, embracing the sky above and inviting me to climb ever higher even as its fingers clawed at my clothing, inevitably ruining them.

We had to move away from the yellowing house, my room, and my hand print. Though, even as I grew, I would pass by and fondly recall my little world and how large it had seemed: how limitless. I’d immerse myself in remembered happiness, a happiness far sweeter for its brevity.

But no amount of reminiscing can halt the progression of time. One day the tree was gone. They’d taken down the old hollyhock, cutting into the centennial wood and ripping its roots from the ground of my memory. Years later they bulldozed the house. The last I saw, a plywood billboard pierced the bare grass where my world once stood.

I’d stand before that billboard, at that ad for the carry-out down the road, and wonder: Had they stared at that yellow hand print before tearing down the wall? Or had the later occupants buried it in paint of a different color, sealing that tiny hand in a tomb of vanished childhood?

My memories have become hazy with time, but little fragments still seem clear. I can still remember the texture of that wall; I can taste the air from my childhood. In me, that house—that room—still stands. It glows like the yellow behind my eyelids as they close against the sun. And in it that tiny hand print shines forever—like a beacon of youth—of young and happy times when the world was the warm yellow color that shone under gold.

2. A Life Uncovered by Sharon Tootle

Mr. Handsome and PT

are mysteries to Wag and me.

They haunt our dreams

and tantalize our curiosity.

Until we are totally obsessed

and raid their bags of trash

hoping to learn their lives

and find, perhaps, some answers.

We find:

an old discarded Nike

worn on the inside sole.

an empty tofu carton

wiped clean and neatly smashed.

No cans, no frozen dinner packs

no empty bottles of booze.

15 drained AquaFina bottles

and a thick purple band

that once bound broccoli spears.

A trace of onion skins

blend with shriveled used bags of tea.

A wayward squeak toy dwells among

these many revealing discards.

a full Rogaine bottle hides

among some withered

Romaine leaves.

A testament to acceptance

of a healthy body and a balding skull.

Stuffed clandestinely in an empty

five pound bag of Iams

are circulars from

Singles Connection Inc.

A CD, bent in half…

“Love Song,” no longer loved,

is wrapped in a letter

that begins “Dear John.”

Fragments of a photograph

flutter from a Greenies box.

And there, at the bottom of the bag

is a lonely wedding band

no longer gleaming…as

worn and weary as the words

engraved inside:

“December 12, 2002…our love

will last forever.”

3. Who Am I? by Phoenicia Lam

Here I was at 1.00am sitting in front of my laptop staring into the empty space.

“What am I going to write about anyway?”

I want to enter the Daily Writing Tips’ Short Story Competition but there is no specific topic and I am scratching my head thinking of what to write.

“What are you doing there? Aren’t you going to sleep?” my husband asked.

“I am writing,” I replied. “You go to bed first.”

“Alright, but don’t be too late,” he reminded me and went to bed. The lights were off except for the yellow bulb in my work room.

So the story goes…

I was born and raised by a very conservative Chinese family. Everyone who knew me would know how my family was biased with a pinch of racism running through our blood.

Sometimes, I would ponder, “Why am I being born into this family?”

Often, I can’t answer the question because if I can answer it, I wouldn’t be asking it again. Still, the question that remains in my mind even until this day, “Who am I?”

The reason behind this question is simple. I was being told by a cousin that I was not part of the family. My parents bought me from someone else for a mere RM10,000.

How would you react if you were the one receiving the unpredictable news?

I was speechless and needless to say, I doubted at first. However, I looked closely to find some resemblance between me and my ‘parents’. Shocking but real, I have no whatsoever resemblance at all. That was when I dropped the bombshell and the truth is revealed.

I wasn’t their child. I was merely a baby being purchased as if I was an item at the supermarket. A couple came along and picked me to the counter, paid the amount and brought me along with them for 18 years.

At first, I was outraged. I don’t wish for such a life. I began to hate my life and that was when I left home for the first time, searching for the real ‘‘me’.

Don’’t get me wrong, I wasn’t going to find my real parents. I was simply lost and I needed to find my own space, my own living and my own identity.

Hard to say this but I wished I was never born at all. However, everything changed when I started to blog. I started out for fun but later, I began to develop more love towards blogging and today, I am proud to call myself a blogger.

I am not famous, I am not a celebrity. I am just me. I finally found me within my soul.

4. Under a Killing Moon by Sandy Adams

The sun in his eyes woke him. He rolled away from the offending light, feeling the hard ground beneath him. He smelled leaf mold and damp earth, heard the bright twitter of birds.

Tasted stale blood in his mouth.

The memory of last night slammed into him, knocking him flat on his back. Denial tried to rise — but he remembered. He remembered the campers, a family toasting marshmallows by the fire. He remembered the child, a girl. Little. Maybe five or six. Pretty bows on her blonde pigtails.

He remembered the heavy copper tang of blood and the sweet give of raw flesh between his teeth and on his tongue. He remembered howling his triumph to the full moon.

He emptied his stomach onto the leaf-litter. It took ten minutes for the heaving to subside, leaving him sobbing curses at the birds and the picture-perfect sky.

Naked, he stumbled back to his own tent. Found the gun, wrapped in an old Ozzy t-shirt. Found the silver bullets.

At home, his wife and three-year-old daughter waited for him. He held the gun. Remembered the taste of succulent young flesh.

Pulled the trigger.

5. The Hand by Dan Graney

In the town of Maneo, a dynasty of sorts was about to be challenged. Maneo’s librarians had come from the Fustay family forever. But the town was growing and they needed an assistant for Matron Fustay, the head librarian. Since there were no Fustays of age, they hired an outside librarian that was young, beautiful, and was beloved by all. All but one. Matron Fustay became anxious and viewed the new hire as a threat.

One of the new librarian’s duties was to extinguish all gas lamps nightly. Her fear of fire made her dread this task, and worse, it required a tall stool to reach the lamps. Matron Fustay recently scolded her for taking too long with these duties. Despite the matron’s ire, the new librarian found favor with everyone. Matron Fustay meant to change all that, and in a fog of fear and hate, weakened the legs of the new librarian’s stool.

That very night, hurrying to tend the lamps, the new librarian’s stool swayed uncontrollably, she lost her balance, grabbed the lamp and snapped the gas line. The lamp’s mantle, still glowing, then ignited the gas. The uncontrolled flare burned her face and set her hair afire, she raised her hand to her face to block the flame, but it did little and she crashed to the floor. There she lay, burned and dying, but not alone. A pair of sinister and satisfied eyes watched from the dark recesses. When they carried the body out in the morning, the crowd’s only remark was how the accident had left what looked like the image of a hand on her face.

The years passed and the town and its library continued. Some things changed, the library was renovated with new paint and electrified gas lamps. Some things stayed the same, including the town’s Fustay family librarians. But, each successive Fustay librarian noticed a reddish blotch on her face that at times felt warm to the touch. And with each generation the blotch took on a more identifiable shape, some said a star, some said different.

While closing one evening, the present librarian Fustay felt an intense burning of her face and an overwhelming sense of dread. The sensation intensified daily until she felt unfit for duty. She desperately wanted to quit, but family pressures to maintain the library legacy made that impossible. Ms Fustay sought counseling to address these eerie sensations, but continued to experience them. She became fearful and patrons reported Ms Fustay nervous and on edge.

One evening, right before closing, Ms Fustay was dusting the lamp fixtures. As she was in a hurry, she grabbed a long forgotten stool that should have been tossed decades ago. The old stool collapsed and she broke her neck. When they carried the body out in the morning, the crowd’s only remark was how the accident had left what looked like the image of a hand on her cheek.

No Fustay has worked at the library since.

6. Gramajane by Megan Risley

Put on your brown dress and your white tights. Let me do your hair. Where are your black buckle shoes? I have to help your sister get ready, too, so please don’t squirm – we don’t have time to start over, and I’m very tired. Your father is waiting in the car, and we can’t be late – please, it was his mother, after all.

Everyone in the car now, buckle up. Please don’t talk too much, the drive isn’t that long.

I know this is a strange room, dark and chilly. I am going to have to sit between you two if you don’t stop fighting, and I hardly have the energy, with your brother being almost here and all. Please stop fidgeting, girls. It makes more noise than you think. I don’t know how to translate this to you. I know the room is cold. But, it’s almost done.

“I know you loved her, Steve.”

Girls, please. Your father just needs a little more time.

“But…does she?”

We are outside the cave room now. We are walking a long time in a big field. There are lots of flowers. They look like the ones Gramajane used to put in her hair, and then, behind her ears when she didn’t have any hair left. She had turbans that were different colors, and some of them had flowers on them. She would always bring flowers to our house, too. Except when she had to go to the hospital.

We are standing around a big square that goes very deep into the ground. Four boys and my daddy are putting a big wood box into the big square and then throwing dirt on it. Their faces are all wet, but my daddy’s is a different wet. It is very hot. Maybe my face is wet, too. Sometimes my daddy sprays me with a squirt gun when it is summer outside because he says that I am a squirt, too.

I can’t see the wood box anymore. My daddy is waving at me to come over. He gives me a little green speck and tells me to put the speck in the dirt they just piled. He shows me how to dig a small hole with my finger – very soft, like you’re petting a kitten – because it can’t go too deep so the green speck can breathe. He tells me to put the green speck into the hole and push it into the ground. He puts dirt in the little hole and pats it. It shrinks down around his hand and there is my daddy’s handprint in the dirt piled on top of the box.

“What do you want to name it?” My daddy points to the place I pushed the green speck. “Name it a big, special name because it’s going to grow for many years.”

My daddy’s face is very wet still. My mommy has to stay in the car because it is too hot. My face is definitely wet now, too.

“Gramajane.”

7. Silver Aspen by Christina

It started hailing in the dead of night. The wind was blowing the leaves in all directions. A flash of lighting lit up the sky for a second, than vanished in to the moonlight. Moments later an eerie, mournful howl penetrated torrent. Since friend and I were in one tent we decided to go look alone for the wolf that had created the commotion. Linda, my friend, only decided to go with me because she knew I loved all animals.

We put on our raincoats and boots and stepped out side. The dirt had turned muddy, from the rain, showing us our own footprints. We started to hike up the hill against the wind in search for our quarry.

We didn’t bring a flashlight for the moon gleamed like a candle, showing us our path. We were almost at the top of the second hill when we spotted the wolf. She looked like a slivery silhouette, but the detail was clear. Even though it was freezing, I knew that the shiver that ran down my spine was not because of that. Her eyes gazed into mine, unblinking, I tried to look away but it seemed I couldn’t.

Her seemed to say, “Help me.” her fierce blue eyes were sparkling and her body stood out against the concealed forests that lay beyond. I heard a growl and rather abruptly her eyes were filled with fright and dashed out of sight.

“That growl was frightening,” I exclaimed.

“What growl?” asked Linda?

“You didn’t ear the growl? But it was very loud!”

“It was?”

“Yeah. That’s weird. Let’s go to the place where the wolf was.”

Linda was full of questions but decided to ask them later. We reached the spot where the wolf had been.

“Very strange,” I said.

“What’s very strange?”

“Look at the ground.”

We were astonished by what we saw, for where the wolf had been, even though it was the ground was still muddy, there were no tracks, no trace of the wolf we had just seen.

Unpremeditatedly, I started to walk into the forest, but Linda grabbed my arm to stop me.

“Where do you think your going?” demanded Linda

“Into the forest.”

“But we don’t have a flash light!”

“We’ll go by the bright moonlight”

“But, but…”

“Anyways, if we go in the morning my parents would worry about where I am, but if we asked them they would say no.”

As she had no more excuses she finally agreed to go. When I stepped into the forest the first thing I noticed was that it was made of mostly maple, oak and aspen. The aspen trees were almost the exact same color as the wolf.

“Let’s call the wolf Aspen.” I whispered to Linda, who nodded in agreement. It had stopped raining, but it was a bit misty as we searched for Aspen. Then I saw her amidst some trees. Again, her aqua blue eyes stared straight into mine; she never blinked once when she gazed into my eyes. This time only her eyes stood out, for the rest off her camouflaged into the aspen trees and hidden by the mist. But this time she kept twitching her snout nervously.

“She’s nervous, ”I said to Linda who was confused and numb from the cold like I was, but I was warmed by the excitement.

Again, I heard the vicious growl, and Aspen became tense but stayed where she was, and seemed to say, “Come with me.”

“She wants us to follow her,” I whispered to Linda under my breath, “Come on!” we dashed after Aspen who darted between the trees. She led us to a ledge where we had a good view of where we had just stood. T seemed to come out of nowhere. A big black dog came, which seemed as if it were searching for something. The black dog had shaggy hair, razor sharp teeth, with dried blood on his snout and saliva trickling down his chin.

We stood still, barely daring to breath, hoping that the dog wouldn’t see us. The wind was blowing towards us so the dog couldn’t smell us. The shaggy dog looked around and spotted us. I forced my self to look into his malicious, unblinking eyes. I formed a low growl that he heard, but took a startling step forward…

While I was distracting the dog, Aspen lunged from the ledge and attacked the dog. The dog turned around and ran away limping and with a bite on one ear. The dog was never seen again.

8. The Ice Cube in the Soup by Linda Podowski

After two broken appointments, a flat tire and the general nastiness of his last customer, Stan’s mood was not improved in the diner when he saw that ice in his soup.

“Waitress,” he cried, halting Agnes’ progress from his table to the next.

Turning on a well worn heel, Agnes reversed her direction and approached Stan’s table. With a work weary smile, she wondered what this guy was going to heap onto her overloaded soul plate.

She was two steps from reaching his table when Stan began, “There’s an ice cube floating in this soup. I ordered hot soup and that’s the only kind of soup I’m going to pay for.”

Following the direction his pudgy finger indicated, Agnes saw through tired eyes that he was correct. There was clear square that shouldn’t have been there floating in his tomato bisque. She emitted a sigh of patience that was fraying about its edges and picked up the offending bowl. With a promise to return with a new one, she plodded to the cook’s station and placed the bowl on the counter.

“Ice in the soup,” she grumbled to Sam.

Shooting a quick glance at the bowl’s contents, Sam asked, “How’d that get in there?” Then, he slid the bowl to the edge of the counter and by the time he’d ladled another fresh bowl, he forgot about its existence.

At the end of the evening, Giacomo, the bus boy, noticed the bowl still sitting on the counter. With an automatic motion born of fatigue, he tossed it into the half-filled tub he was carrying and proceeded to the back of the kitchen. He dropped the tub by the sink and headed for the back door.

The next morning, when the dishwasher, Chi, saw a diamond floating in a bowl of tomato bisque, his eyes went wide. He plucked it out, rinsed it off, admired it briefly and put it in his pocket.

And that’s how Chi’s Emporium on Stevens Street got its start.

9. Silver Magic by Karen Rancont

“Once upon a time, Lunial, a dragon, suffered under a curse, to live among men as a man. He had been in the guise of a man for so long his heart became like a man’s. He fell in love with the king’s daughter.

The princess returned his love. Unfortunately, she was pledged to another. When this prince came to claim her, she ran away with Lunial. They married and lived together in a cave. She kept it as their house while he labored in the fields. Their lives were happy for though they did not have much, they had each other.

The prince was unhappy, and bade his magicians to find out what they could about this man the princess loved above all else. When he learned his rival was a cursed dragon, he decided to become a hero to two kingdoms, and regain the princess.

He hid, waiting for Lunial to return home. The prince struck from behind, driving his lance through him. Lunial struggled against the weapon pinning him while he bled silver. But, the lance was spelled to withstand a dragon’s might.

The prince left to find witnesses for his triumph. When Lunial died, the curse would lift. The prince’s lance transfixing a dragon to the ground would be proof he had slain it, the cowardice of his action concealed by the transformation.

The princess appeared before the prince returned. She couldn’t free the lance. Lunial started to confess his secret. But she said not to worry; she had seen the silver blood. She knew he was a dragon.

She kissed him. In a spray of magic he became a dragon again and wrested the lance from his shoulder.

“You freed me! My curse was to live as a man until a woman loved me knowing my true nature, though I could not speak of it. But, this is no place for a dragon. I will have to leave you…” The dragon moaned for he loved the princess very much.

“No,” the princess said. In the imperious way of princesses, she commanded, “Lean down so I can reach!”

He did. She kissed him again before daubing some of his silver blood on her forehead and over her heart. “Two kisses combine, like to like, heart to heart, mind to mind; I choose my love, he chooses me, together we shall always be!”

“Just then, the prince returned. The princess denounced him for his cowardice. As she finished speaking, the love spell she had cast took effect. She became a dragon herself. The dragons flew off from this very point, and they…”

“…lived happily ever after!” An eternally young man approached, hand in hand with a regal woman.

The storyteller crossed his arms and pouted. “Lunial, you always ruin it!”

Grinning, Lunial exchanged a glance with his wife. They turned into silver dragons and winged across the water.

“Happily ever after,” the storyteller repeated under his breath.

10. The Body by Roohi Ahmad

Sheena drew the curtains hurriedly. She placed the pot of money plant on the window sill to obscure the view of her bedroom. The man was stretched below her bedroom window. Now, it was afternoon and he was there since morning. He had not moved from that place and Sheena was getting very scared. She believed that he has come to steal or rob her. Until her husband came in the evening, she could not do anything.

Another hour went by and the man had still not moved. ‘I might as well ask him what he is doing here’, Sheena thought and keeping the pot as a shield, she shouted, “Hey you, what are you doing here? Don’t you have anywhere to go? Go away or I will call the police.”

But the man did not stir an inch and Sheena felt very angry. ‘Now, what will I do?’ Then she called her husband and told him of her fears. “Sheena you are just being paranoid. He must be a poor man taking shelter under the tree outside our bedroom window. Don’t be scared, he will go away on his own after sometime.”

“But John, I am more scared because he has not moved a little. Even when I shouted at him, he showed no reaction.” Her husband consoled her, “Come on Sheena, didn’t it occur to you that he might be sleeping. I will talk to him when I come home. Now, try and relax.”

The rest of the day went similarly for Sheena and she was on edge all the time. She shouted at him a couple of times more but failed to elicit any reaction. Her maid, Shanti, who stayed close by, came in the afternoon and Sheena told her about the man outside. Shanti’s opinion was that he must be drunk and would have lost his way home. She advised Sheena not to bother too much about these vagabonds and went about her chores.

When John came in the evening, he too found it strange that the man was still there and hadn’t moved at all. He immediately called the police and briefed them over the whole situation. They suggested that they stay inside till they come over. After about half an hour, the police came and they all went outside. The man was still lying full length on his side and appeared to be asleep. One of the policemen poked his stick in the man’s stomach but he did not respond, so the officer squatted and turned him over. His arms fell on his sides and there was blood oozing from his mouth. Upon checking, he was found dead. The officer asked his men to search the nearby area, in case someone was missing. After only a few minutes, they returned with Shanti, who took one look at the man and fell unconscious. Sheena and John were informed that the man was Shanti’s husband who was a drunkard and had died due to liver failure!

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16 Responses to “Short Story Competition: Fourth Batch Is Open for Voting!”

  • Ellie Eisenford

    Uhm…. I thought there was a 500 word limit on the stories. At least one of these is like 750. Did I misunderstand the rules?

  • cutelilsk8rgramma

    I can’t bring myself to vote for any of these.

    🙁

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Ellie, no that is correct.

    The stories over 500 words won’t be able to go to the final round, and they won’t be able to win the prize either due to not respecting the rules.

    But a couple of stories that surpassed the limit were published anyway, because I imagine the writers took time to write them (although not the read the rules…).

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Cutelisk8grammar, luckily enough voting is not compulsory 🙂 .

  • TMG

    I had a hard time choosing between The Hand, The Ice Cube in the Soup, and Silver Magic. Great job, all!

  • Dora

    If the stories over the word limit are up for voting anyways, but won’t be able to advance to the next round or win, isn’t it a waste of votes? We could be voting for other stories that respected the rules. hmmm…

  • Juli

    I hate this competion! Why let the person compete when she (as I assume from the name, “Christina”) can’t win! What if she didn’t work a lot on it? Isn’t it kind of discuraging? Like if her scores are the highest, but then she can’t compete?

  • Eunie Guyre

    I liked the visual in “A Life Uncovered” and I voted for this one. “Memories in Yellow” also brought me back to my home and some initials carved on a cabinet wall. Both stories were great!

  • chaos856

    One thing bothers me about “The Ice Cube in the Soup” — diamonds don’t float, and tomato bisque is opaque. Unless the restuarant gives a very shallow amount of soup in a very wide bowl, how could anyone see the diamond?

  • Babygurl69

    I agree Eunie, but here’s the thing: I was about to click on “A Life Uncovered,” before I felt something pitter over my bare feet, which gave me such a fright I jumped and clicked on “Who Am I?” instead. LOL . . .LMFAO . . .OMGOMG . . . BRB . . . A/S/L!!!<3

  • surprised

    “A Life Uncovered” is not a story. It is a poem. How is that a qualified entry in a short story contest?

    Also, it appears the majority of readers here prefer navel-gazing (and essay-like writing) over storytelling. I think it’s a shame that “Harvest” (the best of the lot, in my opinion) didn’t do better in the voting. That’s some amazing world-building and storytelling in a tiny amount of “space”, not to mention the smooth prose and style.

  • Tony

    Why should someone who cannot use the ‘word count’ be allowed to submit their article? If the rules states ‘500 words’ why were those who submitted their article with over 700 words allowed to be accepted? What does ‘ (although not the read the rules…) mean???? We can all accept that one or two words over the limit can be accepted but 250…Come On!!!

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Dora, that was our fault, wont happen again.

    @Juli, the story slipped through our word count. Also, you are describing a lot of IF’s, none of those happened. The story did not receive the highest number of votes on this batch, so the problem is solved.

    @Tony, you are right, it was our fault.

  • chaos856

    I’m confused. Is there a reason why the Third and Fourth Batches are still open for voting when the Fifth is now closed?

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Chaos, all polls are closed (meaning I wrote down the winner already). Just forgot to close it on the script. Will do it now.

  • Anne

    Do I need a comma after Inc.? Example: Franciscan Ministries, Inc., is a shelter ministry.

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