Thanks so much to all of you who participated in both Phase 1 (posting entries) and Phase 2 (giving thumbs up to the ones you liked best) of the Winter Writing Challenge. We now have our three finalists. I’ve reposted their entries below, followed by the official poll to determine the 2013 winner. You will be able to vote only once for only one entry to determine who will receive the $25 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes and Noble. The poll closes at midnight (Pacific time), Sunday, January 20.
The entries are re-posted in alphabetical order by last name of the author. The poll will randomize the selections.
Selection A by David Alford
If the reports were true, Galen had reached the right spot. 2018. Winter Olympics. Westfield Investments. His finger paused an inch above the play button. Then descended sharply.
He remembered this one. That was the year he’d gotten that really bad flu and missed work for like 6 or 7 days. He’d rolled his eyes each time it had come on, muttering parodies of the advertizer under his breath. Now he couldn’t take his eyes off the screen. It was in here somewhere.
He punched the pause button. Bottom left corner. He wiped sweat from his forehead as he jotted down the ten digit number on his hand and rose. They were probably in the building already.
His hurried footsteps echoed on the marble floor of the Repository. One more glance behind and he reached the back stairwell. Call! He pushed the door closed behind him, breathed, and pulled his phone from his pocket.
He was taking the steps two at a time now.
Today, a bad flu didn’t seem so bad.
He put the phone to his ear.
Selection B by Austin Gunderson
If the reports were true, Galen had reached the right spot. If they were false, he’d likely never stumble upon a wronger spot at a wronger time. And, if that neurotoxin hadn’t yet cleared from his brain stem, their veracity wouldn’t make much difference either way.
“Fitgers?” he whispered, blinking against the incessant drizzle and the blackness vignetting his vision, “Fitgers, where are you? I told you to keep this channel open!” His own voice warbled in his ears as if it’d bubbled up out of some viscous pool. With effort he lowered his head, remembering to breathe. The great black pit yawned patiently at his feet.
His earpiece stuttered to life. “Sagacity to Away One. Get out of there immediately! Sir.”
“Can’t,” Galen warbled, “Shuttle’s gone.” He glanced up at the red smoke bleeding all over the green sky.
“Are you mad? You’re risking hundreds of lives for the sake of one—”
“I made a promise to his wife, Fitgers. You’re acting captain now. Start acting like it.”
A long pause. Galen, not without amusement, imagined the man’s reddening face. “Fine,” Fitgers bit out at last, “I’m instituting an emergency command reconstitution. Captain Galen Kolbeth, you are hereby relieved—”
Galen smacked his wristplate with the heel of his hand, silencing the acting captain. He’d never before thought of his aethercom power switch as a point of no return. No, he corrected himself, you passed that point two weeks ago. With a brief grimace and few rapid breaths, Galen launched himself out over the pit.
Selection C by Timothy Hicks
If the reports were true, Galen had reached the right spot. He glanced down at his chronoguage, then tapped the display with his index finger in frustration. A green LED pulsed a steady rhythm, illuminating the chrongauge faceplate and his jumpsuit’s silver sleeve.
“If this is it, where is my contact?”, Galen yelled. A cold wind howled in answer, stirring up little dust devils in the sandy desert floor. Galen folded his collar higher around his neck, and shoved both hands into his pockets. He stamped numb feet,turning in a slow circle.
Moonlight lit the sands a harsh white, and cactus shadows wrote long, capital letters in black. The wind stopped; replaced by total silence. The sound of small rocks and sand crunching beneath shoes drew near. Galen turned to watch a figure approach and stop a few feet away.
“Oh, you’re here already? Has it already begun, then?”, the figure said.
Galen straightened, and slid his hands from his pockets. “Are you my contact?”
The figure laughed and stepped closer. “You might say that. We’ve met before.”
“No, I don’t remember you.”
“You will.” Galen’s face stared back from the figure. “Hurry now to your future, and my past”