Our 2018 - Week 26 Winner is ...
Halfway through the year, and this week we have two excellent entries -
This week is a bit different because both stories are winning stories, or would be if they weren't up against each other.
Mark Morris and Mil Ana have both turned out some amazing stories here over the past 26 weeks. Many times they both have winning stories and one will nudge the other out of place - it's the nature of competition - this week... well, I'm the judge and I feel both should win.
Let me explain -
We had two picture prompts, each chose a different prompt - both wrote amazing stories and they are totally different.
Mark Morris - You took the image and built a world full of atmosphere and imagery - you embedded the reader in the story and filled me with anticipation as I read the story - you built a world that lived and breathed in less than 400 words, and that alone warrants a round of applause. You told a complete story that left me with a smile (I always hit the ground before I wake)
Mil Ana - Your story was told in first person - it was all thought and perception. There was a lot of metaphor in you story that speaks to the reader on so many levels. The only problem I had with your story was I've seen you do a similar one, and that's not fair to you or this story because it needs to be judged by the individual story and, as I said, this was so deep and hit on so many levels - even waking up to the reality of an undeserving partner-- the love and passion doesn't go away.
You even gave your stories names (one of my pet peeves is an untitled story - it needs a name!)
I don't think I can tell the two of you how difficult and wonderful you make this contest week after week. As I said, some days one will outshine the other, sometimes they are too close to tell and this week... this week, your stories are just too good NOT to tell - so
Today's Winners are:
Mark Morris and Mil Ana
Mark Moris's winning story:
Mark A Morris
Horse stayed stubbornly in place, munching noisily on a nebula. He had no intention of moving.
Edith sighed and slackened his reins again, holding them loosely in her hand. Horse had carried her here without her asking him, following his nose rather than any instruction she’d given. She’d never ridden a horse anyway – she presumed the rider usually had some control over their steed – but this was a much different type of animal to any she’d ever known. She’d sat on a donkey once when she’d been five and felt sick, although that could have been due to the cotton candy and the ice-cream and the heat of the day, but Horse was a more solid sort of creature than that broken animal had been.
Her ride had been waiting for her that night, hiding in the shadows behind her eyelids, and she’d felt his reassuring warmth between her legs as soon as the day fell away. He began to move almost immediately, her imagination flaring with every reaching of his front feet, his hooves sparking stars every time they touched down onto the darkness. He’d galloped her away into her dreams and she’d screamed, but it’d been more from delight than from fear. She’d felt safer here than anywhere she’d ever been. She only wished it could have lasted forever.
They’d raced away so quickly at first but then Horse began to slow, cantering and then trotting and then only walking, his head lowering until he finally began to graze. Edith began to notice the passage of time then, sensing the night running away from them while they stood still, Horse caring nothing for what she wanted. It was as though she was no more to him than a flea crouched on his back, disregarded and nothing but an irritant. She began to beat on his neck and then pulled at his mane, determined to make him pay notice to her, to prompt him into a gallop again, knowing she needed to be home before the dark paled, imagining her body lying empty in her bed. She began to feel faint and then anxious, noticing Horse beginning to fade, the stars shining bright through his body where before they’d been eclipsed by his flanks. She fell from him and then tumbled, her hands passing through him as though he'd become a ghost…
And then she woke.
Mil Ana's winning story:
White was the color of her dress when she first came to me. Pale was her skin, radiating innocence. Pure and innocent she seemed, like Snow White, or better yet like a fairy storming out of a forest I had always longed to discover.
Only she didn’t want a man beside her. She wanted a horse.
“Why a horse?” I asked.
“Only horses can be loyal,” she answered.
If that was what my mistress wanted, that I would become. Into the woods we would ride together. Into the world we would dive. I set my needs on fire and forgot myself.
The horse rose from the ashes. Into a horse I willingly transformed, to fulfill her needs. She painted me white to match her dress.
I left everything behind. My mistress required I carried no baggage. She soon became my master.
I was a happy horse indeed, blindly obeying her orders; I remained still when she wanted me to. I ran when she called.
She trained me well. I ran and ran and won all races. She stood there beside me, applauding my victories, caressing my head after each contest.
A year went by. I couldn’t see the seasons; the blinders kept me goal oriented, focused on the path she had chosen for me. Yet I could hear them:
I heard spring, the birds happily singing.
I heard summer, the waves crushing on the beach, cicadas singing their lazy song.
I heard autumn, the rain falling, hitting the ground faster than the hooves she had placed on my feet.
I heard winter, the silence surrounding me, the sound of death and stillness.
Then came spring again. I threw away the blinders, got rid of the hooves, tossed out the saddle and ran free into the blossoming earth.
It was a companion I had been longing for.
She only wanted triumph.
She’s now found another horse to drag around. Another loyal friend to win her races. She still doesn’t know, yet true loyalty only comes with freedom.
She’s back in the saddle. Aiming high. Always winning.
I’m now free, watching her from afar, still loyal, yet not obedient enough for her taste.
White is the color of loyalty.
Snow white is the color she chose for me: the color of loyalty and freedom when the two of them go hand in hand.
Thank you all once again and stay tuned tomorrow for our next installment of ATA Flash -