1st Place Winner
I’m Not Her
Identifying the item was an easy task for my father- the aged and rusted shovel I had found was the exact shovel I used years ago when I was tending to our beloved garden. Maintaining my grip, the rusty shovel was lifted as I scanned up and down the rotten wood base- I tried to recall my memories of gardening, this shovel- to no avail. Noting my silence, he spoke, avoiding eye contact, “I’ve always wondered why you ever stopped gardening, it’s a shame- you were a natural green thumb.” Obtaining the item- to my father’s disregard- I decided to take it with me to the garden- once there I proceeded to kneel down and observe the plants. Testing the plants, feeling their smooth, green leaves I decided that it would be okay to replace them- no one could tell the difference anyways. Harvesting is just a general happening in life, whether objects are deemed useful or useless, they are easily disposable resources. Enjoying the beautiful flowers, plentiful plants- many components that would protest the rough stabbing of the ground with my shovel- I dug straight through a patch of glistening tomato plants. Replying to the tool, a solid object was quickly uncovered- a weathered butter knife with a partially rotten wooden handle laid in the indent I had made in the ground. Implying a close treasure, I dug deeper- until a strange odor resonated from the earth- potent and oddly sweet smelling. Never-ending, deeper stinging coughs escaped my lungs as if I had been stabbed through the chest- I felt as if I was dying. Everything seemed oddly suspenseful- the garden, the digging, the butter knife- it all seemed like an appetizer in a sense. Vandalizing our garden had proven to be a very entertaining and amusing activity. Embroidering could never compete with the pure euphoria I gained from the experience- my lavender dress, frilled white socks, and heavily polished, black boots- were all covered in dirt, and I had never felt happier. Rooting through the soil, I finally found what I was looking for- what i had sought out, purely for a sense of nostalgia. Wasting no time, I clawed out the item with my hands, lovingly and tenderly brushing it off I held it up, examining its shape and solidity, a grin spread across my face. Astonishing, several years being feet under and her skull had remained intact and in stunning condition. Saving me- it was your biggest mistake. “you were the kindest soul I had ever met; you’ve even taken it upon yourself to provide these plants with the nutrients they need to grow. I’m sorry that I had to stab you in the back- you were an amazing person. You never seemed to fail at anything- well, besides one time- you failed the moment you trusted a changeling.”
*Changeling: A child surreptitiously or unintentionally substituted for another
(In folklore) An ugly, stupid, or strange child left by fairies in place of a pretty, charming child.
2nd Place Winner
For two seconds I was trailing my soft, young fingers over what I assumed was my father’s hand as he was rubbing my shoulder telling me to have a good night’s sleep. As the third second passed, I had realized that the hand rubbing my shoulder was not my father’s. The hand felt as if they had been crushed by a cinderblock. I could feel bones protruding from his knuckles and his fingers bending back as if they could touch the back of his hands. Fear had taken over my body. At the fourth second, it began to get harder to breath. It had felt like there was a twenty pound sandbag on my chest. I began to peer over my shoulder only to see this disgusting, disfigured creature crawling out of the window. This creature’s body was so contorted and broken. Now the fifth second has approached, the creature had only one leg out my window. When he noticed me gasping for air he started crawling back inside. His empty eyes reached into my soul and I was frozen. Then, at the sixth second, his arms are completely stretched out in front of him and he breaks into a staggered sprint towards my shocked body. His gruesome fingers around my throat pushing my last bit of air out and I started to fade into a dark tunnel. Within the seventh second, the lights turned on and I was alone in my bed in the presence of my mother who had come to check on me.
3rd Place Winner
Autumn in Red
It’s finally here: autumn. All doors are locked, and barely anyone goes outside. If you are wondering why, it’s because autumn is when the streets run red.
“Shujii, be careful out there; it’s almost that time of year!” her mother called out to Shujii as she headed out the door.
“Yeah, yeah I got it, nightmare creatures are scheduled to awaken on two moon rises,” Shujii called back. Little does she know I’m gonna awaken them early! Autumn is one of the most frightful seasons of the year. Every year on the blood moon, creatures make their way to the surface from Hell. Hell is the home to many monsters, most commonly demons. On the blood moon, a night where the moon is a deep red, the ‘gateway’ to Hell opens up, allowing passage two and from the world.
Once Shujii traveled enough distance where the house was no longer visible, she hurried down a small pathway in a sea of freshly fallen leaves; there she followed the path until it broke into a tiny clearing with a gravestone dead center. Cracking a smile, she bounded towards the center, barely placing her foot on the ground. Her smile soon turned grim, for it was time for them to awaken. The gravestone was cool to the touch, almost as if it had just been taken out fo a freezer.
“Eins, Zwei, Drei…” She spoke softly, gritting her teeth as the stone suddenly became hot. “Vier, funf, sechs, sieben.” Shujii’s han burst into purple flames, the flames of Hell. “Acht, neun, zehn!” The flames slithered up her arm, quickly consuming the fuel from it’s energy source. The charred carcass fell to the ground, all life drained.
Hours passed; a dusk had marked it’s territory in the sky, soon followed up by the blood moon. A seal of some sort suddenly became visible in the clearing, as it it was invisible ink and the sun was ultra-violet light. Suddenly, the seal started to glow, and in a flash the ground disappeared. A miasma soon clouded the air, followed by the creatures of Hell. Those with wings shot up into the air, getting a quick scan of the area. And with signal from a harpy, they headed off.
“They’re here; the nightmare creatures have come!” shouted a man who was standing to the fields. It didn’t take long for the townspeople to disband, frantically trying to get in their homes. Before they could, hound-like creatures thundered towards them, ripping them into chunks of flesh. The humanoid ones, demons, tortured their victims to death; ripping their skin off the bone. Blood curdling screams filled the air, only making the creatures more excited. One by one, the town withered away, bits and pieces flew in every direction. A few bits of flesh clung to the wall where some had their skulls bashed in. This lasted until the end of two full moon cycles. AFter that, the blood moon lowered, and the gateway to Hell is closed once again.
No one really knows why it happens, but when it does, red will be the last thing you see.