Competition: Time to Cast Your Vote

Sticky post. Normal posts can be found below.

There’s only a little of 24 hours left to get your vote in.

The competition is closed to submissions, but voting is about to begin. First, let’s recap what the competition guidelines for the authors were:

All you have to do is write a story in no more than 500 words using three of the following ten words:

murder, mystery, fire, gates, cat
warlord, gold, dwarf, planet, ship

The story can be any genre. All entries will be posted on this website and a poll will be set up to find a winner. Visitors to this website will be able to read all the entries and vote on the one they like the best. The entry with the most votes at the end of the allotted time will win. Should there be more than one entry with the same number of votes, a tie breaker poll will be held (which could get exciting).

The winner will receive a $AU25 gift voucher to spend at Amazon and an ebook version of Speculative Realms: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

So that’s how the entries came about and now we must decide which entry is the winner. All visitors to this website are eligible to vote. All voters will be in the running to win an ebook version of “Speculative Realms: Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. All you have to do is follow the links below to the entries, read all of them and then, once you’ve decided which is your favourite, follow the link in the sidebar (or below) to cast your vote. It’s that simple, but here are the official rules:

1. A real name and valid email address must be provided at the time your vote is cast.
2. Only one vote per person permitted.
3. At the end of the voting period, all names of the people who have voted will be placed in a hat and one drawn out. This will be the winner.
4. The winner will receive their prize via email and the win will be announced on this website.
5. My decision is final.

Voting will close automatically at 11.59pm eastern Australian time (which is GMT +11) on 30 November 2009. All winners will be notified by email and on this website.

Let the voting begin! 😀

The Entries:

Entry 1: A Little Killing
Entry 2: The Black Window
Entry 3: An Angel Unawares
Entry 4: Happens All the Time
Entry 5: The Release of Thorim Hammerfist
Entry 6: One Enchanting Evening
Entry 7: What’s Theirs

Entry 7: What’s Theirs

©2009 Ellie Ann

Yosef crammed her skirt into the bag, he wouldn’t worry about her toiletries, they could buy some on the road. They had five minutes before the Elemental found them.

“I-I can’t go,” Jane said. She sat lotus style on her bed, arm protectively covering her sleeping baby. “It’s her bed time, she gets so cranky when I wake her.”

“The Elemental is coming for you now.” When he was stressed, his strong Middle-Eastern accent came out. With a yank, he zipped close the bag. “Not any Elemental either, this one’s a warlord.”

Jane’s face did not reflect the horror that it should. “What’s an Elemental again?”

“A Demon, Jane, they’re Demons.”

She stood up slowly, and leaned over the baby. “Demon,” she whispered.

Whether startled by a sound in the apartment hallway, or just paranoid, Yosef drew his pistol, studded in gold. He shifted from one foot to the other. “Does James know which apartment you live in?”

“James rents this apartment for me.”

A door slammed at the end of the hall. Footsteps thudded closer. As if a reflex, Yosef leaped towards the baby. He slid the child in the baby Bjorn and snapped it on his back. His movements were so fluid they did not even wake the little girl.

“Put her down,” Jane’s voice cracked. She pulled at the carrier but Yosef wrenched it away. He grabbed Jane’s face in between his two great hands.

“James is a demon,” he said, fire in his eyes. “Demons take what are theirs. I don’t care if you let him drag you back to his home, but this baby,” his voice softened, “is mine now.”

“The baby is his,” Jane said.

“Which is why I need it,” Yosef said.

The lights went out. Yosef backed against the wall. Not one beam of light reflected anywhere. Jane whimpered. Feeling along the wall, Yosef stepped silently towards the window. Jane’s breath came in gasps from the floor. She called out, “my baby. Where is my baby? Don’t leave me.”

If Yosef replied to her calls, it would murder the baby.

He had to be out the window in three seconds. Sulfur wafted up his nose. His fingers blindly bumped the latch, he popped it open.

Jane sobbed behind him.

“It’s fine, Jane,” a melodic male’s voice said, “It’s okay, I’m here.”

Yusef slid the window open.

“Oh James,” her voice shook, “you’re here.”

The hot outside air blew fiercely in Yusef’s face as he stepped silently onto the metal platform.

“Goodbye darling,” James said as he snapped her neck.

Yusef just had enough time to pull out the whittled cross before James was two inches from his nose. Yusef stuck the long end of the crucifix into the fleshy part of his chin. James gulped. “If you kill me, another demon will come after her,” he said. “We always get what belongs to us.”

Yusef plunged the cross into James’ mouth. “We always get them back.”

How to Vote:
If you want to vote for this entry, you must click on the survey in the sidebar and answers the questions.

Entry 6: One Enchanting Evening

©2009 Rebecca Emin

Melissa stood still and gazed around the marquee. The decor gave the illusion of being under the night sky instead of under tarpaulin. The deep blue satin contrasted with hundreds of tiny lights in the shape of stars, and if you looked carefully, you could spot the occasional model planet. It was truly a sight to behold. On each table, as a centrepiece, was a tiny intricate model of a bonfire, complete with oil burner at the centre.

Melissa shivered involuntarily as Tom joined her in the marquee. “Isn’t it beautiful?” she exclaimed, more as a statement than a question. “It’s perfect for us, just perfect,” he whispered in her ear. They both surveyed their surroundings, absorbing the backdrop, and enjoying the creation that would both enthral and entertain their guests later that evening. They stood silently, one in their togetherness, enjoying the scene.

The caterers had arrived, and were starting to set out the buffet as Melissa left Tom and wandered out of the marquee to check how the entrance looked. It was a sight itself, with two dwarf waiters either side of it, holding trays of champagne.

Walking back into the marquee, she enjoyed the way the scene before her both surprised and fascinated. That was just the reaction that she hoped their guests would have as they arrived. She looked for Tom but he was no longer in the marquee. Melissa sighed, and decided to place the gifts on the tables. She had bought a silver pen for each guest, which was beautifully encased in foil wrapping. Melissa was pleased that she had decided to go to that expense so that everyone would have a keepsake from the event.

Melissa brushed down her dress and smiled to herself. She was finally ready. As the band started to tune their instruments, she walked towards the entrance and started to greet the first guests as they arrived. The audible sighs and exclamations delighted her. That was just the reaction that she had hoped for.

As the sound of chatter and chinking glasses gradually grew louder, Melissa looked around nervously, wondering where Tom was. She walked towards a group of her friends, gathered in a corner quietly. She noticed their concerned looks as she approached but just as she was about to reassure them, Tom appeared at her side. “I think this is going to be a wonderful evening, Melissa,” he said. “Me too,” Melissa whispered, “I love you, Tom”. She felt herself shiver slightly as she walked over to her friends. Tom did not follow her, so she assumed he had other conversations to hold. Melissa’s best friend Sam gave her a hug. “This all looks amazing,” she said “but are you ok?” Her friends followed her gaze as she smiled and turned to the gold banner at the far side of the marquee ‘Let’s celebrate the life of Tom Dunning 1976-2008’.

Melissa raised her glass for a toast: “It’s finally time to say goodbye.”

How to Vote:
If you want to vote for this entry, you must click on the survey in the sidebar and answers the questions.

Entry 5: The Release of Thorim Hammerfist

©2009 Jordan Bourne

“Ugh! I cannot stand these lying, magic-wielding elves!” Thus did Thorim Hammerfist rant to himself as he restlessly marched the length of his six-by-eight paces cell. He could not remember how the elves had captured him, but the only way they could have possibly taken him alive was by using their devious magic. There were few dwarves from the Iron Cliff clan who could wield a battle axe as he did. Still fewer could boast falling head first down into the rock-strewn defile known as Knock-Out Slide and immediately arise still conscious at the end of the experience.

Momentarily forgetting his trouble, he grinned widely and thought of all his kin who were proud of his accomplishments and battle worthiness. Many younger dwarves aspired to be just like him. But then, he focused on the bars and snapped back into his present predicament. Though the fire of his wrath had somewhat cooled by the fleeting pleasant thoughts, he still needed to make someone pay for this dirty deed! His confinement was such an offense that he would need his whole clan to rightly carry the grudge until gold be paid or vengeance be well-visited upon his captors.

Thinking back over the last few days, Thorim began to grow very impatient, for though the elves had provided everything needed to sustain his life and relative comfort, they would NOT talk to him. Much less, they steadfastly ignored his every request and demand to tell why he had been captured and what they intended to do with him. Now he began to think differently. No, he would still behead them, after keeping them in cells half the size of his for at least twice as long, with little or no food and nothing but dirty water to drink; but, he now thought of a way out.

“Ahem! Guard!” said Thorim in a normal voice, something much less than a hate-filled roar, but still sounding awfully mean. “Yes?”, asked the elf. “It talks!”, Thorim continued, “I have a bargain for your leader. It involves the war. I am sure he will want to hear what I say.”

Soon, Thorim got his wish and Lethvalinel, an elf general, stood just outside the cell. “What do you have to tell me, dwarf?” Thorim motioned conspiratorially for the elf to come closer, saying, “It is for your ears only.” Lethvalinel did. With quickness worthy of the elves, Thorim reached through the bars, grabbed the captain’s long knife, and used the threat of killing the elf to force his own release.

After Thorim left, an elf mage explained to Lethvalinel, “Yes, it was necessary to have him threaten your life. By this means alone could we know that your brother is truly convinced that he is a dwarf. Here is a Ring of Remembering. Touch him with it, and he will remember who he really is and the outer illusion will vanish as well.”

How to Vote:
If you want to vote for this entry, you must click on the survey in the sidebar and answers the questions.

Entry 4: Happens All the Time

©2009 Paul Liadis aka StrugglingWriter

Officer Dan stared at the blank sheet of paper, clueless on where to begin. He had been on the force in this sleepy little college town for over twenty years and had never had a night like this. Nor had he ever been so perplexed by his paperwork.

Maybe, he thought, it would be best to start with the date. Friday the 13th. Or perhaps it would be helpful to mention that a full moon had illuminated the chilled autumn sky. Superstitions, for sure, but these details were better than any other explanation he had for what happened that night.

How about the beginning? It began with a routine call. Fire alarm in one of the freshman dormitories. Happens at least once a semester. When he arrived on the scene the building was gone, and in its place stood a group of happy looking dwarfs guarding a large cauldron filled with gold doubloons. Happens to everybody, right?

No, that little incident would be better left unmentioned. After all, by the time backup arrived everything was back to normal. The dwarfs had magically transformed into undersized underclassmen and the gold into a hackey sack.

The second call of the evening was no better. According to the witness,a student was passed out in a shrub near the stadium. It was a serious matter, for sure, but sadly not terribly uncommon.

What the caller failed to mention was the bearded man standing over the unconscious student, holding a wand and mumbling Latin, or some variation of the dead language. They told him at the hospital that the young man will make a full recovery, but Dan wasn’t so sure.

None of that could be included, nor could his run-in with Officer Smith. Dan’s head throbbed as he remembered the smug look Smith’s face when he had offered to cover the rest of Dan’s shift. Dan declined, refusing to give his rival the satisfaction, using what remained of his fragile will to refrain from punching him in the face.

The memory spiked Dan’s adrenaline and led him to an epiphany. He picked up his pen, ready to do something he had never done in all his time on the force. He would lie, and not just a little white lie. He would report that it had been a quiet night, with nothing out of the ordinary happening. Maybe he would mention the fire alarm, and maybe he wouldn’t.

Smiling for the first time all night, Dan put the tip of his pen to the paper. Just as he began to write, he caught movement outside his window out of the corner of his eye. A black cat, raised a paw to its brow, saluted, and with a smile walked away. Officer Dan’s pen was not far behind.

The following morning, the Chief of Police opened the door to his office and found a note, in which the following text was written in shaky handwriting:

I QUIT – OFFICER DAN

How to Vote:
If you want to vote for this entry, you must click on the survey in the sidebar and answers the questions.

Entry 3: An Angel Unawares

©2009 Kat Bradley

When my mother died, I sat grieving for days in my living room rocker. I cried myself into a major headache, as I wondered how life could possibly proceed without Mom to hold it all together. I lifted my head long enough to blow my nose, and there sat a calico cat in my window. Pretty as a picture and quite ethereal, her green eyes penetrated mine, and I knew that she understood.

I tottered over to the screen and breathed in the crisp spring breeze as I placed my finger against the rough metal. She touched me with her nose and I felt its cool moisture. How could I resist. I lifted the screen and she confidently stepped inside, as if she belonged with me. She lifted her face to mine; and when I bent down, she caressed my jaw with hers. This heartwarming gesture brought more tears; but this time, I tingled with hope.

She stayed for four days, until the bounce returned to my step. Then, when I grabbed my purse to go restock my panty shelves, she followed me outside. When I turned my back to unlock the car door, she vanished. Her coming and going presented a mystery. None of the neighbors saw her. I feel sure, they secretly wondered if I had all of my marbles in the ring when I talked about her behavior.

I had her courage within me now, though, to jumpstart my life into active service.

When my husband followed my mother into eternity a few months later, I crumpled back into the rocker. Paralyzed with fear of the future and bereft of my best friend, I sought the solace of the rocker’s rhythmic movement and watched the window with half an eye. That afternoon, the mystery cat returned. This time a cold wind ruffled her fur and I quickly offered her the warmth of my home. Once again, my feline friend renewed my hope. She took up residence at my hearth and warmed herself in front of the fire as the chilly wind haunted the house. I started calling her Angel, and I fed her tuna from the can. She stayed long enough for my spirit to renew, before she evaporated into an unknown realm.

After a few days, I missed her. I thought about adopting an unwanted cat from the shelter. On my way home from work a week later, I took a detour and parked right in front of the building. Barks and meows greeted me, as the door swung open. A smiling woman with silver hair and crinkled eyes welcomed me with warm enthusiasm. She offered me a tour of the cat room and I eagerly followed in her wake. When she moved aside for me to enter the door, I did not need to take another step. There sat Angel, poised inside the window of the cat room. Only this time, instead of looking through the glass, she looked straight at me.

About the Author:

Kat’s articles appear in “Christian Activities Online,” “Christ in You” magazine, and “The Downtown Crowd” newspaper. The “Upper Room” magazine accepted three of her devotional works and her self-published book, The Fulfilled Life, is in use in Bible studies.

How to Vote:
If you want to vote for this entry, you must click on the survey in the sidebar and answers the questions.

Entry 2: The Black Window

©2009 Su Polo

Most of the time, I concentrate on bringing the speckles closer. They first appear so far off in the edgeless grey distance. The sequence begins with the glowing sphere coalescing in the center, pulsing in expanding rays flowing like a red dwarf sun radiating fire, orange and gold. Sometimes indigo blue and rose violet bands appear and sometimes it swirls in spiraling colors turning clockwise. It is so beautiful to behold. I can hear sounds— swishing, a deep toned hum growing soft to loud, soft to loud. Eventually, all color and movement blend into the pure grey field. In the distance I see the tiny cluster of black dots. I invite them, come to me, closer, closer, yet I must not focus on them, keeping my view wide as possible, as if I am inhaling or widening myself in order to pull them toward me like gravity or space for them to fill. As they near, they gather to form an oval pool floating horizontally in the grey. I move toward the night-black shape to look into and see it’s a window through which i can view stars in the vacuum depths of space. I poke my head through looking down to see tiny sparkling lights. Flashing, as if images on pages are turning, as though flipping through a book on it’s side, the pages, one after the other, moving so fast it’s a mystery, strange and wonderful – dazzling. I realize it is a directory possibly of everything there ever was and is to be. All at one point, the gates of now and forever. As I watch, the spinning stops. A page lays open black on black yet begins to take on depth and dimension. I am looking down now upon the curved surface of a planet as if from a ship in space. There are cities with sharp futuristic spires, arches defying gravity; a tumultuous webwork of lace highways, buildings and towers with sparkling lights all blinking bright with energy in shiny blackness and I realize I am climbing through the oval window and almost all the way through when a thought intrudes like a floating question mark in the blackness of outer space… How long will the window stay open? Will I be able to return? Suddenly aware of myself in the middle of an endless universe, I am human once again, pulled back in the snappy wink of an eye out from the depths, away from the planet of spidery lacework. Snapped back through the oval window which is murdered by awareness, shattered to pure black shards, receding into the distance from whence they came, and I, now through to the open, infinite, grey demesne, then back into my world, my room, my chair, my meditation. Colors in the room, light in my eyes, cat on my lap. The Warlord’s asleep. Is there no one I could tell? Who would believe my story?

How to Vote:
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Entry 1: A Little Killing

©2009 Alan Baxter

It was a murder mystery that had the colony gossiping. Was it possible that a cat had killed a dwarf? Was it possible for a Warlord to get away with murder, blaming his mistress’s pet? Everyone on Sigma Outpost Seven knew the Rigellian Warlord was seeing Trix, the exotic dancer. Everyone knew that Trix was also seeing the dwarf. And she had a cat. That was the thing about outposts like this; everyone knew everything. Or thought they did.

When the calm of a Sunday morning had been shattered by rushing security, the bored denizens of the outpost knew there was a chance that something might break the monotony. When the blatantly casual crowd loitering around Trix’s apartment saw a stretcher emerge with a very short covered body, tongues started wagging like tails on excited dogs.

It was considered a kind of badge of honour on Sigma to spend the night with Trix. Man, woman, gender indeterminate alien, it didn’t matter, Trix was both desired and open to conquest. Spending a second night with Trix, however, was something of a gold medal achievement. The Warlord had demanded extra time with Trix, deluding himself that she wanted his company. As a Warlord, he had an innate sense of entitlement. The general consensus was that Trix put up with him out of fear for her safety.

The dwarf in question, Robinnus De Fleggum, was a man with a personality inversely proportional to his physical size. He had arrived on a passenger ship, walked directly across the planet surface dividing himself and Trix, and took his turn in the dancer’s bed. There seemed not the slightest thought in his mind that it would go any other way. Trix, according to gossips and close friends alike, had greatly enjoyed that tiny package of overwhelming confidence and continued to see him. And nobody minded that at all; it was unanimously agreed that Robinnus was a top bloke. Nobody, that is, except the Warlord.

When the day of the inquiry came the gossip centred around how a dancer like Trix would give evidence against a Warlord. After all, if the Warlord said that Trix’s cat had mauled Robinnus to death, what good was the word of an exotic dancer? The colony was buzzing with excitement. The court was an open session, every gallery packed. The presiding judge sat officiously at his bench. The inquiry was due to start at 9.00am precisely. At 8.59 the sound of heels clicking against the tile floor hushed the crowds. Trix strode seductively in. She looked calm, though a fire burned in her eyes. At the wooden gates before the judge’s bench she paused, letting all the eyes present drink her in. “Your honour,” she said huskily, “I’m afraid the Rigellian Warlord won’t be attending this inquiry today.” The judge raised an eyebrow. “It would seem,” Trix went on, a smile tugging saucily at one side of her mouth, “that my cat has killed again.”

About the Author:
Alan is an author living on the south coast of NSW, Australia. He writes dark fantasy, sci fi and horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu. Read his short stories, novella and novel extracts at his website – www.alanbaxteronline.com – and feel free to tell him what you think. About anything.

How to Vote:
If you want to vote for this entry, you must click on the survey in the sidebar and answers the questions.