WRiTE CLUB 2020 - Cage Bout #3


Reminder - You can follow along with all of the bout results right HERE.

It's CAGE BOUT time!

Here's how this works. Instead of two writers competing against one another, now it's THREE AT ONCE. But there's a twist. All of the winners have been given the opportunity to absorb the feedback offered during their preliminary round and submit an edited version of their original submission. As a writer, utilizing feedback can be a tricky proposition - because frankly - not all feedback is equal. This is our chance to see how the contestants used that feedback (if at all).


The readers/voters are to choose one of the three to move on.  There will be six daily bouts (Mon-Sat), and no saves this time.



Remember, one of the real values of this contest is FEEDBACK. So, please be respectful with your remarks!

Even though there will be a different bout every day (M-S), because of time restrictions the voting period will be staggered somewhat, so please pay attention to the dates posted. The voting for today’s bout will close on Sunday, June 7th (noon central time).

The piece that garnishes the most votes will move on to the next round where they’ll face a different opponent with a BRAND NEW WRITING SAMPLE

As always, in case of a tie, I’m the deciding vote.

Here are the voting guidelines –

1) One vote per visitor per bout.

2) Anyone can vote (even the contestants themselves), but although our contestants are anonymous, voters cannot be. Anonymous votes will not count, so if you do not have a Google account and are voting as a guest, be sure to include your name and email address.

3) Using any method (email, social media, text, etc) to solicit votes for a specific contestant will cause that contestant's immediate disqualification. It’s perfectly okay, in fact, it is encouraged to spread the word about the contest to get more people to vote, just not for a specific writer!

4) Although more of a suggestion than a rule - cast your vote before you read other comments. Do not let yourself be swayed by the opinions of others.


Here our the contestants for this first cage bout (in random order) are -

Invernia

Fifteen.

 

They say fifteen is too young to fall in love. But love didn’t wait.  


The first time he said it, we were sitting in the fried grass of the sledding hill in June, watching the sun split like ripe fruit over our shitty town. He had run away from home for the day—the night, the week—because his stepfather had a keen way of making him feel unwelcome. Against the bruising, his eyes were blue and tragic like icecaps.

“I love you,” he said, but what I heard was “everything” and “forever” and “this is the biggest feeling you’ll ever allow again.” Then he kissed me, and it tasted like the sweet-salt of caramel corn. My braces and his tongue made it awkward, and we laughed about it later as we clung to each other’s voices through a phone line until the stars winked out one by one.

He got a job to save escape-money and rode his bike fifteen miles to see me after opening shifts. He smelled like coffee and brought my father crullers and smiled through red-rimmed eyes. We fell asleep curled on the couch, thinking how wild that there could be an entire world between someone’s arms.

Come fall, he stopped making the long ride. The air and his eyes grew colder. I picked him up from a field where he said the sky was raining angry faces and it must have been something he took. I hid him in my basement and rubbed his palms in reverent circles as he came down. “You feel like home,” he whispered.

Winter snuck up on us, then Christmas, and I bought him a sweater from the mall. It sat in a box under my parents’ tree because there was a reason—so many reasons—he couldn’t make it over. So I brought it to school, and it watched from my locker as his best friend pulled me out of class to tell me about Her. I remember the hard linoleum under my knees, and how the hurt was so big it had to crack ribs to make room in my chest.

We both cried when it ended, and it was not unlike mourning. I felt an irrefutable shutting of something. A Little Death. “I love Her,” he said, but what I heard was “you aren’t Her” and “you aren’t Her” and “you aren’t Her.” They made coffee together and shared spoons, and she understood all his broken places.

They ran away, looking for smiles in the rain and new lines through which to cling to each other. The next time I saw him was in our shitty town paper, next to a notice about his service. The black ink got his eyes so, so wrong.


They say fifteen is too young to die. But death didn’t wait. It wrapped him in a new sweater and laid him in a box and brought him home again. “I love you,” I said, but what he heard was

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Contestant number two is Artichoke


EARTH 11

All was darkness and silence, until God ignited his incubator lamp and pulled out a chair. The large laboratory sprang into faint relief from this corner workbench, shadows flickering where his colleagues had busied themselves earlier.  He sat for a while, thinking deeply. It was a good time to act, he decided: no interruptions, no endless requests for answers. No snide comments.

He brought forth his tray of Petri dishes and examined the cultures. All eleven looked healthy and well-developed after only a week. Pleasing indeed.

He updated their labels for Step 2: Earth 1-10 and - of course - Earth Control.

Check.

God collected together the additives bottles Devils 1-10, and tested each on his wrist. Hot little darlings, some of them, but within the tolerances. No-one could accuse him of overloading the evil.

Check.

He smiled and admired his experiment for a time, anticipating Lucifer’s humiliation and his own unstoppable ascendance. Eons of Archangelic arrogance about to come crashing down. Sweet. Lu had stopped by earlier, with his usual refrain: “Constant diverse moral challenges, God, it’s what builds strength; yours will be hopelessly vulnerable.” Ridiculous. Any fool knew that cultures needed absolute hygiene to be completely safe. Any fool. And here would be the proof and there would go Lucifer, bye-bye.

God regathered his thoughts and focused intently on the task; no room for error here. One type of Devil per Earth 1-10, while leaving Earth Control alone. Nothing but purity and peace in that one. He dripped a drop of Devil into each respective Earth; then he put the dishes back in the incubator, carefully checked the seals on the almost-full bottles, and started to consider dinner. By the morning there would be measurable changes in the cultures to report to the Committee. An early night then, if he could sleep. He strolled to the door, performed a happy twirl and strode energetically down the corridor. The lamp glowed on, in the silence.

Time passed; then, in a far corner, movement.

A figure cautiously separated from the shadows and approached God’s incubator. It was Lucifer, scowling and tense. He studied the dishes closely, noting small changes already taking place in the doctored cultures. Despair rose in him. He was sure of his truth, but now also sure God would convince the Committee of the opposite. God had twisted Lucifer’s premise: this was not actual diversity. God would get the new funding, not he, and that would be the end of Lucifer’s own Earth project. The end of the most vital work of his existence.

Lucifer hovered, uncertain - an idea arriving appalling in its boldness. In highest conflict may emerge…..superbeings. He stared at the cultures, unseeing, his future painted all too brightly in his mind. There was no choice, come what may. Lucifer slowly opened all ten Devil bottles and emptied them, one by one, into Earth Control.

Down on Earth, the people looked up to the sky in puzzlement.

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And finally number three is Wanda Lust

The potion was ready.

It had taken me two years to gather the ingredients, eye of newt, pineapple spore, wild chamomile and madwort gathered on the seventh night of the seventh moon of the seventh year. My hands still carried the scars from the wolfsbane. As I stirred the mixture exactly one hundred turns, I whispered my true love’s name: James, Harris, James, Harris, James, Harris. I added the salamander wings and counter stirred a hundred turns, repeating my name: Jane, Swanson, Jane, Swanson, Jane, Swanson.

I pulled the pot off the stove and while it quieted, I chanted, “Day and night, you and me. Husband and wife, for eternity. Good and bad, for all to see. Wife and husband, so mote it be!”

A flick of my wand and I knew the potion was perfect when it turned a Valentine’s red.

The next part was easy. I had brought donuts to the office every Friday for months, so no one would suspect. By now, I knew who ate what. Turner always picked the Boston Cream, Tom liked chocolate and Lana had the sprinkles. Mary Clark didn’t care and usually snuck a second donut after lunch. And James Harris, my boss, always ate the jelly.

I walked into the office Friday morning and found a stranger. “Can I help you?”

“I hope so,” he said, pausing to smile. “Jim and I are old friends. He said he’d squeeze me in.”

I glanced at the clock. “Mr. Harris should be here any moment. I’ll have coffee ready in a jiff.”

He smiled again. “Why thank you, ma’am.”

I walked out, wondering who the handsome stranger was. It was so typical of James to drop his plans and fit in an old friend. The media had started to call him, “Wall Street’s Latest Money Machine,” but despite the success and publicity, James was a noble and dedicated young man. That’s one of the reasons I loved him.

The mere thought of James brought a smile. One donut and he was mine.

James brought the man into the lunchroom a few minutes later. “Good morning, Miss Swanson, I’d like to introduce Harris James.”

“Harris?  James?  What a coincidence,” I said, although witches didn’t believe in them. “Your names are reversed.”

“They kidded us a lot in school,” James said, as he poured two cups of coffee and passed the donuts to Harris. “And we might’ve chased the same girl a time or two, but otherwise we’re exact opposites. You know, like night and day, or good and bad.” 

Harris grabbed the box. “Thanks, it’s nice to see your manners have improved. Dibs on the jelly.”

“Wait a minute. I like the jelly too.”

“Wanna flip for it?”

“I’ll do you one better,” James said, pulling a knife from the drawer. “Just like the good old days.”

My look of horror didn’t stop the men. They were staring straight into my eyes when they bit into their halves of the jelly donut.

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Please leave your votes and critiques in the comments below. Again, be respectful of your remarks and try to point out positives as well as detraction's.

We’ll be back tomorrow with another cage bout. Please help all our writers out by telling everyone you know what is happening here and encourage them to come vote.

This is WRiTE CLUB—the contest where the audience gets clobbered!


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