As always, thank you to everyone who tweeted, wrote, and read this week!
Honorable Mention | Soldier | Wakefield Mahon
Cara Says: The upbeat tone and clever incorporation of additional song elements made this a delight to read.
Ruth Says: Oh, the dreaded tangle of college tuition, loans, and grants! The bane of both my sisters, so I loved that element included in all the other little touches that made this such fun to read!
Second Place | Underboss | Siobhan Muir
Cara Says: This snippet gives a good peek at the darkness inside Jaime, and the lengths she’ll go to forget about it for a while. Nice hint of intrigue to come, too.
Ruth Says: This is one of those pieces that has so many bits tucked into it, it’s hard to believe there are less than 500 words. I’m hoping to see a lot more of Jaime and her story in the near future.
Winner | Boss | E. F. Olsson
Cara Says: This is like an urban legend come to life… only for a refreshing change, not everyone dies at the end. I love the narrator’s turn toward doing the right thing at the end, and giving the Gray Lady the peace and closure she’s spent her life (and afterlife) searching for.
Ruth Says: Great job ratcheting up the tension and the gesture of goodwill by the narrator that allows the Gray Lady to rest in peace makes for a refreshing twist and wonderful read.
THE WINNING STORY
OLD HILLIARD’S SECRET by E.F. Olsson
We stood at the edge of the forest. It was cold, dark, and quiet. Joseph stood close by me. A man nearing fifty and he was afraid of what was in there. I was unnerved – but it was only a ghost story. The Gray Lady roamed the forest searching for her missing daughter and haunted the men that passed through.
“Are you going?” Joseph said nudging me with one of the shovels.
We trended quietly, careful of the sounds around us. I followed the map that Hilliard drew. So far, the route was spot on. When he first told me the story I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could Hilliard have murdered someone? He was such a kind old man. And to dump the body in a shallow grave? He was rich, but he wasn’t stupid, I thought.
Leaves rustled behind us. I was afraid to look.
“Was that a whisper?” Joseph muttered. “She warns all with a whisper.”
“How’s Edith?” I asked to change the subject.
“She’s still hounding me. ‘You need to make money, Joseph.’ Here I am. Making money off old Hilliard again.”
“I’m sure she means a real job. Not a scavenger hunt.”
There was the small clearing Hilliard mentioned. My heart began to race. This was real. The entire time I wished he had gone mad in his old age and sent us off on some wild goose chase. There’s the giant oak tree – the tree was split now – I’m sure the landscape has changed a lot in the forty years since the crime.
Twigs snapped in the distance. I fought not to look.
“Hilliard told you he did this?” Joseph said.
“The priest was also there. Maybe he assumes the ghost will be waiting for him on the otherside. He wants to die with a clean conscience.”
“I seen her searching once. When she was alive.”
“We all mourn differently,” I said.
We continued to dig. Suddenly, it felt ice cold. Goosebumps ran up my arms and around my neck. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her appear. The Gray Lady watched. I couldn’t hold the shovel steady anymore. I felt a deep sadness. Dirt fell off the spade. Joseph noticed my discomfort. She moved in closer coming up behind him. He glanced at me and noticed the terror on my face. “What is it?” He muttered.
I couldn’t speak nor look up. Finally, I jabbed the shovel into the ground – it was stopped by a large rock. I kicked away the dirt to free it, and uncovered the skull.
“There she is.” Joseph said.
The wind picked up – in it was a whisper, “Help her to me.”
“We’ll notify the police first,” I said, more for the ghost.
“What about our money?” Joseph said.
“This has been buried long enough. It’s time to do the right thing. No one needs to roam these woods any longer.
“What do I tell Edith?”