Thank you to all the entrants, and congratulations to all the finalists! Guest hosting was more adrenaline-filled than I ever imagined it would be. After five minutes went by, I was wondering whether anybody would enter this week…and then the entries started pouring in!
Also a big thanks and a hug to our great guest judge Dave Galanter!
In alphabetical order, our five finalists are:
- Geri Bressler
- Rob Brunet
- Tauisha Nicole
And honorable mentions to Onetarot and Rebekah Postupak, whose stories Dave loved even though they were disqualified for missing a word.
Here are the entrant’s stories… enjoy them, then vote for your favorite! I’ll close voting at 9:00 tomorrow night and announce the winner at 10:00 pm Eastern Time.
The summit was beautiful. I don’t think I had ever seen anything as breathtaking as the wilderness stretching out as far as I could see. The sharp scent of spruce was intoxicating. I could hardly believe I had made the trek all the way up. At any moment I expected to hear the laughter of my friends. I told them it was fine if they went on ahead. I couldn’t compete with their lung capacity. They had grown up in these mountains, and lived here still, while I was from a family of sailors. I don’t remember how high they said I was, and it didn’t really matter. I loved this height…and breathing was overrated anyway.
My friends must have been playing a game or something. I didn’t see them anywhere. I stopped the crunching of my feet and attempted to breath more quietly. I heard a soft skitter of some small animal and the twittering of some birds, but no giggling or whispers or anything else. Where could they be. There was only one trail up. I know I didn’t get lost, there were no forks or anything. I spun in a circle, again awed by the snow covered peaks in the distance and the lake in the valley below, glimmering in the noonday sun.
Perhaps they left clues as to which way they went? They had been trying to teach me tracking skills on the way up. I rubbed my hands together and surveyed the ground. I didn’t notice any scuffs in the dirt. Nothing broken that didn’t look like it had been there for a very long time.
I scratched my head. Where could they be?
In the distance I heard a scream.
The last leg of the race was through a massive spruce forest–a trek of more than 50 miles for those who chose to compete and had made it that far.
Lizbeth stared at the line of trees ahead of her and tightened the straps on her gloves. She’d survived a two-day climb over a glacier and more than 120 miles across a frozen tundra, but she’d been warned about this stage. Two years earlier, only two of the fifteen competitors who entered the forest came out on the other side. The other thirteen had never been found.
She hitched her pack up higher on her shoulders and breathed into the heavy muffler that all but covered her face. The huge trees seemed to welcome her in as she entered the shadow they cast on the tundra. Sound, what there was of it this far north, faded away.
Memories of mornings waking up to new-fallen snow floated to the surface, making her smile. She watched the others–she wasn’t sure how many had made it this far, but she’d seen at least seven ahead of her when she’d descended the glacier, and there’d been four above her by the time she’d made it to the bottom. Two bodies had met her there as well; evidence that this race was no game.
As the shadows deepened, Lizbeth found herself taking longer strides and listening for whatever sounds could be heard. The prestige of finishing this race was what drove her, but she hoped to place as well.
A movement to her left brought her gaze around, but nothing stirred. Before she could relax, a sound tore through the air, bouncing from tree to tree. Not an animal, she thought.
But what? If that sound had come from a human…
Her steps quickened. Fifty miles.
She just had to make it fifty miles.
She was never one to spruce up before meeting a guy or guys, for that matter. She pulled her black, of course, dress over her head and shimmied it down her lithe body. Tonight was going to be interesting.
She arrived at the hotel 5 minutes early and strutted in as if she were going to compete in some hipswing contest. And perhaps she was. She found the speed dating room without a problem and began scanning the guests. She had done this so many times before, she knew exactly how to plan who she’d see first. Ah, there he was.
The caller called time and they all sat down at tables, she across from her first choice. When he asked where she was from in that tight Southern accent, she knew the trek had been worth it.
Rob Brunet @RRBrunet
Nathaniel didn’t spruce himself up for job interviews. It just wasn’t in him to compete. As far as he was concerned, anyone who tried too hard when it came to finding employment had their priorities all screwy. After all, seventeen years in discount retail hadn’t brought him any closer to retirement. Twenty more weren’t going to make a difference either.
On the morning of his interview at Jake’s Emporium, he put on his second best pair of jeans and a reasonably clean t-shirt and made the trek in just under an hour. It was hot again today, had been all week. By the time he arrived, the sweat pasted the shirt to his back and chest. It seemed to improve the peach colour, a detail he didn’t fail to notice.
When the interviewer called Nathaniel into the board room, he introduced himself as Steve.
“Where’s Jake?” Nathaniel asked.
“Jake. The guy who owns this joint. Why isn’t he doing the interview?”
Steve looked at his pad and ticked a couple boxes. “Sense of humour,” he said.
“Really,” said Nathaniel. “I made it all the way here. Least the guy could do is spend a couple minutes meeting his future employee.”
“Uh, so where do you see yourself in ten years,” asked Steve.
“Well, not in that chair,” Nathaniel said, pointing across the table.
Steve ticked another couple boxes and told Nathaniel the interview was over.
“So, when do I start,” Nathaniel asked.
“I think you’re done,” said Steve.
“Me too,” said Nathaniel. He shook Steve’s hand and picked up a fresh t-shirt from the pile outside the boardroom on his way out.
Tauisha Nicole @shells2003
“Just drink it.”
Paul looked at the mug in his hands with much speculation and hesitation. “What is it?”
“Drink it, dude. It’ll put hair on your chest.”
“I’ve already got that.”
“You’ll grow more when you drink that, man.”
Shrugging, Paul decided to do as his friend, Andy suggested. He took a hefty gulp of the mysterious brew.
Within seconds, that brew spewed forth from his lips in several directions. Andy laughed, unable to control himself.
“What on earth was that, dude?” Paul was incredibly angry.
Andy chuckled. “You heard me. My grandfather only makes the best, or so I’ve been told. People come to his cabin in the mountains to compete for it at least once a year.”
Paul rose a curious brow. “Random strangers make the trek out there?”
Andy shook his head. “The natives there. They swear by it. Good stuff.”
Paul sat his mug down. “In what universe?”
“It grows on you.”
“That the hair you talking about?”
Andy laughed and slapped his knee after taking another gulp of his beer. “No. My grandfather used this drink to discipline us. Whenever we ran too far off in the woods, or untied his horse, or tried to scare the girls silly when they tried to sleep at night, we had to down a shot of this stuff. Nasties stuff to a twelve year old. Best thing on God’s green earth now.”
Paul shuddered. “I’d do whatever he said if he threatened to make me smell it.”
“Dude, it’s just spruce molasses and yeast,” Andy scoffed. “Be a man. This is why you’re still single. You’re too afraid to embrace new things.”
“And I suppose married people embrace new things?” Paul pointed out. “You’ve had the same woman for five years.”
“And I’m glad,” Andy smiled. “I met my wife when she came to compete for some of this stuff. Instead of winning the beer, she won me.”
“Some consolation prize,” Paul smirked. “You suck.”
“Well, at least I’m happy,” Andy took another hefty drink.
Paul had to agree.
And now for the voting!
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