In this round you’ll choose from these entries and vote in the poll at the end of this post for one entry you think is best.
The entry receiving the most votes will be the winner, and the author will receive a $25 e-gift card from either Amazon or B&N. (In case of a tie, we’ll have a run-off vote).
Voting will last until midnight (Pacific time), Sunday, August 3.
And now the finalist entries (presented in the order in which they were submitted):
The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. There was always death wherever he turned. Why not, for a change, choose life? Not for him. There’d never been life for him. For them.
Terrified screams forced him back into reality. He glanced down at the child staring at him, brown eyes as soft and liquid as deer’s. He would not see them glazed with death.
“What do we do, Mister Tagren, sir?” The small boy asked as the building shook again.
“Go to Mother Dassah.” With a gentle shove, he sent the boy towards the cluster of children being gathered by the Sisters. Tearing his gaze from them, he swung down to the lower flower and began his advance towards the entrance where howls and hammerings demanded way. Rubble showered around as he stalked on; cracks began to run through the murals.
When he was first brought here for healing, he should have known they would come, drawn to light as flies to corpses.
Why would you give your life for them? The question tore like a barb, halting him before the ailing door.
There was no other way.
You can flee and live another day!
What was another day for him if there would be none for the children?
You owe the children nothing.
“I give my life for I love them!” he shouted. There was no one to hear him; he was alone.
Then how could I do any less for you?
The words, silent yet resounding, whisked all breath from his body.
He was here as the Sisters said, beside him…with him.
With a final groan, the hinges bent and the wood splintered. Calm, Tag drew his blade with a swish sibilant in the storm.
Perhaps, even through death, he would find Life after all.
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From Lyn Perry
The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. Which was what Jud had intended all along. The phase-implant only worked ‘going out.’ If he tried to return—to phase ‘back in’—to his own timeline, he would die. Or so Jud said.
So he’d stick around, obviously. Think things through. Maybe figure things out. The only drawback was that he’d eventually meet his double. And that couldn’t be a good thing.
Or could it?
This particular dimension, this again from his former friend, was as close to an opposite parallel universe as they’d been able to find. They. The New Foundation. Whose goal was to eliminate all believers from their current timestream. Phase them into an alternate reality.
A reality where their mirror images were unbelievers. Haters of Christ.
Jud was a hater himself, a member of the New Foundation. He’d been the one to hand Tag over to his superiors. Tag couldn’t fathom his friend’s betrayal. How long had Jud been plotting, pretending to be a believer to gain Tag’s trust? Years, now. He kicked himself for being so naïve. So trusting.
And yet. Wasn’t trust the key to everything? He trusted God, whether he lived or died. He also trusted that he’d been sent to this timeline for a purpose…
Maybe meeting his double wouldn’t end in his death after all. Or if it did, who knew what good might come of it? What if he could share the love of God with his parallel self before he was killed? Could he convince himself—his other self, the hater of Christ—of the truth of Christ?
The question became more than academic when Tag spied his spitting image in the face of a young man walking his way. The man was holding a weapon, a slow smile forming on his face.
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From Katie Lynn Daniels
The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. If he stayed they were burn the stable down around his ears—a small price to pay for the capture of the greatest thief who ever lived—and if he tried to leave they’d shoot him down without another thought. A fine target he would make, silhouetted against the flames of his failure.
His breath came more quickly, and his palms were slick with sweat. He tried to rub them on his thighs to dry them, but that just gave the sweat the opportunity to mingle with the dust on his clothes and form a nice grime that stuck to everything. He reached up to brush away the hair dangling in his eyes and left a streak of grime there as well. Giving up, he assessed his situation again, trying to find a third option.
There wasn’t one.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” he muttered to himself, crawling around in the hay, looking for something, anything that would help. “Stupid to come here, stupid to take the job, stupid to think I could get away…”
The smoke was getting thicker, and it was getting hard to breathe. Tag hunkered down close to the floor and pulled his shirt up over his nose, careful to take shallow breaths.
Now that he wasn’t moving around and making distracting noises with his muttering and breathing he could hear the shouting from the archers outside.
“Raphael Taggert,” shouted the Captain in his high-pitched, nasal voice. “Surrender yourself to the queen’s law and your life will be spared.”
Tag allowed himself to snort in derision. Like he’d take the word of Captain Smarty-Pants over the inevitable shower of arrows waiting for him the minute he showed his face.
– – – – –
From Athelas Hale
The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.
Wind touched an ocean of grass, calling him. Stretching before Tag, the meadow boasted flawlessness that made him long to lie down and become a part of it.
The urge to speed the process of losing his mind hovered at the edge of his thoughts, even as the idea got the blue ribbon for fears. The world teemed with contradictions. A flawless world at first glance, it twisted the mind of anyone staying on long-term.
Focus, Tag. “Trevor!”
His voice echoed back.
Trying to fight mounting frustration, he ignored the voice in his head reminding him of his three more days. “Why are you like this? Can’t you be beautiful and good, or evil and ugly? You don’t have to trick people like this!”
The world laughed.
Hunching his shoulders, Tag shouted. “Trevor!”
Nothing. “And why don’t you quit with the whole insanity thing so Trevor could get home on his own?”
I could leave.
The thought—his thought—made him freeze. No.
“Abandon Trevor? Let him go mad without even realizing?” Tag forced emphasis into his voice. “Never.”
But what if it’s too late—he’s already dead?
Tag knew the rules of the game. If he returned to Earth, he could have decades before the insanity set in. Here he would have three days—five until death.
Both options ended the same way, but every instinct screamed for more time.
Tag never expected to feel such intense fear.
Taking a shuddery breath, Tag balled his hands into fists, soundlessly repeating the words some Sunday school teacher once drilled into his head. “God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love, and a sound mind!”
He screamed to the world. “You cannot stop me! I will find him!”
The world studied him, and did not laugh.
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