First, I apologize for the delay in our 2020 Spec Faith Winter Writing Challenge finalists announcement and the poll to make the choice of winner. Due to illness I was not able to meet the schedule we’d laid out when we started. No worry. We still have a week to vote for our winner. We’ve had wonderful entries—and helpful comments during the (extended) evaluation phase! Now it’s time to announce our finalists!
Just a reminder. This is NOT a popularity contest. We really do want to acknowledge writers who have honed their skills and demonstrated their ability in this little exercise. So, those who vote in the poll, please be sure you read all three of the finalist entries and give a fair assessment.
Special thanks to all who entered and all who gave their feedback.
We’ve also had a number of excellent, helpful comments, so hopefully you all who entered gained some insight into your writing. I hope the challenge has encouraged and inspired all the writers.
So here, in alphabetical order by last name, are your 2020 Spec Faith Winter Writing Challenge finalists:
- Cathy Hinkle (originally “Hinklr” for those who may be looking back at the first post)
- Ari Lewis
- C. S. Wachter
All that’s left is to select the winner, and that’s also in the hands of our visitors. Choose from these finalists and vote in the poll at the end of this post for the one entry you think is best.
Voting will last until 10:00 A.M. (Pacific time), Monday, February 3.
And now the finalists’ entries:
- Cathy Hinkle
The fact was, Kelly simply didn’t have time or opportunity to find out if the offense required the death penalty. He hadn’t planned on stealing anything. He wasn’t a thief, but that vial—just sitting there—had been an answer he hadn’t dared to ask for. A gift.
The stoppered glass burned through his tunic like mid-winter’s ice as he dodged people and booths. Hooves clattered behind him; he risked a glance over his shoulder. Just cart horses. Not temple guards. Should’ve known the difference.
The rancid smell of garbage met his nostrils when he ducked around the corner, but he pelted through the winding alleyways. Had to get there on time. Had to reach her before—
A trumpet sounded, freezing the blood in his marrow.
They knew. They were coming, and their horses’ heavy hooves thundered after him.
His legs burned as he ran even faster.
His home’s western door stood open, to let out her spirit, so he raced around to the front instead. Couldn’t take the risk of interfering, if he was already too late.
Kelly took the stairs two at a time, but Fia didn’t even move when he skidded to a halt by her pallet on the floor. He knelt and unstoppered the vial, then, slipping an arm behind her sweaty head, he tipped it into her mouth and waited.
The building shuddered as the guards pounded up the backstairs and through the door, but Kelly didn’t leave Fia’s side.
A guard’s voice resonated in the barren room: “We’re too late.”
Her lips lifted slightly. She whispered, “Drink it, Kell.”
So he did.
Fire and ice and mercilessness lanced through his veins, and confidence flooded him.
“Step aside,” another guard said.
Fia opened her eyes. Scarlet flames danced in her irises.
Roiling energy burned away his own fear. All would be well. He turned to face the guards, a smile creeping across his face.
- Ari Lewis
The fact was, Kelly simply didn’t have time or opportunity to find out if the offense required the death penalty. She had homework to finish and a calculus test to study for. It was just not possible for her to make that kind of decision. Whoever they were would just have to wait until Mom came back. Kelly turned away from the computer screen and bent back over the math textbook.
As she studied, she could still see the flashing notice on her mom’s computer out of the corner of her eye. It really wasn’t her responsibility, right? Just because her mom was Lady Justice didn’t mean that Kelly too had to be a dispenser of right or wrong, right? Right … of course. That was Mom’s job. But Mom wasn’t here. She pulled out her phone and read again her mom’s text from a week ago – “If I can’t get back, would you take care of the computer jobs for me?” Kelly looked back at the notice on the screen. Of course it’d be something big.
For a while, she tried to re-focus on studying. Eventually, with an exasperated sigh, she got up and jerked open her mom’s desk drawer to pull out a bronze physical balance scale. It’d be fine; she’d watched her mom do it hundreds of times. She closed her eyes and held out the scales. Pushing aside thoughts of failed calculus and disappointed teachers, she made herself focus on the image of the scales and the weight they represented. After releasing a long breath, she began, “I stand on holy ground. I shall hear all words and see all actions. I shall stand firm and resolute for I am justice. Scales, reveal the balance.”
- C. S. Wachter
The fact was, Kelly simply didn’t have time or opportunity to find out if the offense required the death penalty. If she didn’t reveal her wings now, the screaming child clutched within the strong claws of the small griffin would be reduced to nothing more than a sweet breakfast. She pulled in a deep breath, dropped her cloak to the ground, and, tightening muscles, expanded her silver-etched wings with a sharp slap of sound.
Angry, fearful comments beat the air, rising in volume around her. Whether they were aimed at Kelly or the retreating monster, she didn’t know or care. In the eyes of the residents of Carroll City, she too was a monster.
A couple quick steps and a jump carried her above the heads of the surrounding crowd and gave her the height she needed to extend her wings fully. Three flaps later, she soared out over the churning, blue-gray sea, her eyes locked onto the retreating figure. Already the child’s wailing faded in the distance.
The ocean’s salty tang fell behind as she arced upward. Her wings strained as she caught an updraft and used it to propel her higher. Her hope: climb above the griffin and plunge into it from above.
Kelly dropped onto the griffin; her wings folded tight and her blade outstretched. The razor-sharp point impaled the creature, piercing its young heart. A screech of anguish split the air. Kelly shifted her wings. Slipping back and beneath, she snared the little boy.
She hovered, watching the griffin tumble downward as she cradled the child. Pain seared her chest. Why she chose to save the human mystified her. The choice could have gone either way. Half human she was; but half griffin as well.
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