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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Cage Bout #3

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

Here's our third WRiTE CLUB cage bout. Three of our 1st round winning writers competing against one another, but there's a twist. Everyone has 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 Tues, Jan 18th (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 are the contestants for this first cage bout (in random order) are -


Tilt Toward Me

The April sunset lengthened across the horizon in a bright lavender band and then suddenly burned out, snuffed by the passing storm. Winter’s desperate grasping covered the lake, the dock, the opposite bank--all that I could see--in snow and ice. A flock of robins hopped around the yard as confusedly as I felt about the spring freeze, but by the evening I had welcomed the oddity.

I started a fire in the pit we made in February.

Do you remember? After we dug the circle and lined it with smooth rock, how we chopped the white birch logs and piled them in stacks? You said, Will they be dry enough next winter? I pointed out how the wood had aged, how easy it was for us to cut them. Okay, let’s save them. Remember how you said that? Let’s save them.

It took awhile, but the flames spread, and I prayed the fire would burn forever and the cold would hang on even though the spring air is bound to return tomorrow--for with the greening of the ground you’ve gone, and I can’t see far enough ahead to know when you’ll come back.

You will, won’t you? And we’ll sit here on the stones we dragged from the shoreline, and we’ll talk about the otter pups up the creek and how they grew so fast over the summer, and about the wonder of watching their rolling play. Yes, that’s right, and you’ll point out to me it isn’t really that long to be gone again, and how it’ll get easier for us.

Of course. We’ll get used to the cycle of your going and returning, the both of us will. Yet--why shouldn’t I embrace a day like this one? This storm of memory with hope twinkling in the hoarfrost?

Now the coals glow at my feet. They cover themselves in ash, and I have to stir them back to life. And if I focus on the orange, the deep surge of color that’s always folding into black, I can fool myself that soon you’ll let the screen door slam on your way to sit with me.


Contestant number two is StoryWeaver

The dark stone called to Harriett like a blank canvas to an artist. An ideal location for tonight’s work. She brushed her fingers across the textured surface of the overpass, letting their memories fill her thoughts. A great cliff framing a roaring waterfall materialized behind her eyelids. The rainbow over the cascade was the perfect place to begin.

She took a moment to ensure she was alone as she set her backpack down. Tugging on the zipper, her heart swelled with pride at the contents. Sixteen cans of spray paint stood at attention, layers of fabric crisscrossed between them to create sleeves for protection. And most importantly, silence.

With a sweeping arc of red paint, the top of the rainbow appeared. More colors followed, then cliffs of gray stone touched with moss. Using both hands at once, blue and white combined into frothing water cascading down into a rippling pool. Green stretched out in a surrounding meadow, dots of pink and yellow for flowers filling the expanse.

The sound of the midnight bus overhead reminded her she had to hurry and ended her internal debate about adding fish leaping out of the pool. There wasn’t time. It was still a bit rough around the edges, but it would have to do.

A final check of the darkness ensured her privacy for her real purpose. Squeezing her eyes shut, she placed both hands on the mural, pouring magic through her palms into the stones.  She felt slight stirrings beneath her fingertips as she released the stones from the mortar, empowering them to return to their former glory.

Done. She stepped back. To the untrained eye, the overpass looked much the same as before. People would smile and assume it was a beautification project by the city, but Harriett could see the sparkle of unstoppable magic on the wall. Her soul felt the excitement of the stones as they began a slow transformation.

Experience told her it would take two days for the structure to collapse, and a week at least to recreate the landscape she had envisioned. Plenty of time for authorities to reroute traffic once they recognized her work condemning the bridge.

That reminded her she had forgotten to sign. Grabbing her favorite color, red, she gave the can a few good shakes as she decided on a name for the mural. With a smile, she held down the sprayer and added a few words beneath the green meadow and rippling pool.

Fall of Water by Preservationist.

Checking she had everything, she sprinted away from the scene.

Intent on her own exit, she didn’t notice the hooded figure passing her. He carried a duffle bag that didn’t quite conceal the clinking of metallic cans inside. If she’d paused long enough to look back, she would have seen the new arrival begin his own work of covering the walls of the overpass with colorful graffiti.

Harriett only knew she was away unidentified, paint cans as silent as her soft-soled shoes. 


And finally, number three is Captain Skyrider

Finley Shaw and her family usually avoided places like Rigley-Beck, a dust-ball planet in a desolate part of the galaxy.

Meeting the contact here was Finley’s first clue that something about this deal wasn’t right.

“Stay alert,” Mom said as they suited up. Mom and Dad tucked blasters and concussion bombs into their gear. Just in case.

Dad had two rules: never do business with people you don’t know and stay away from illegal clones. This job broke both rules.

“Dad, why are we doing this?”  Finley asked.

“We need the money.”

That was true, but Finley thought it was something more. Dad had done some shady things when he was young and rebellious. Maybe helping these clones was his way of making up for it.

“You don’t have to come,” Mom said.

Finley didn’t like it, but no way they were going without her. She shouldered her pack and followed Mom, Dad and her older brother Jed down the shuttle ladder.

The wind, stinking of the ammonia leftover from the planet’s terraforming days, blew sand into her face. They headed for a squat corrugated metal building at the edge of the field, barely visible through a forest of fuselage carcasses and old ion engines. Sand rats chased around the hull of an old destroyer half buried in sand.

Who would put a space station in the middle of a junkyard?

Inside, a ceiling fan circled overhead, clicking with each wobbly turn. A man standing behind a counter typed on an ancient keyboard. Eyes bulged in his narrow face reminding Finley of the pop-eye bugs they’d encountered in the Quintero system.

Dad and Mom approached while she and Jed leaned against the back wall. Finley glanced at her brother and he rolled his eyes, indicating this job made him uneasy too.

“What can I do for you folks?” Bug-eye asked, not looking up from the com-screen.

“Here for Stillwell. Cargo pick-up.”

 “Out back.” Bug-eye hooked a thumb over his shoulder.

Dad nodded and headed that way. Finley followed the others into a narrow yard cluttered with more starship wreckage, surrounded by a tall metal fence.

No sign of Stillwell. Mom and Dad exchanged wary looks, putting Finley on edge. She liked this less and less.

The “cargo” they’d come for huddled in the shadow of a lean-to. Ten or so service clones, dressed in faded civilian clothes, not the usual crisp grey and yellow corporate-clone uniform. They gazed down at their worn boots or stared blankly ahead, clearly miserable. Outside of Interplanetary Council protection, unregistered clones usually ended up working in illegal mines or out-galaxy terraforming projects. But Finley’s family would be delivering this bunch to a resistance group and freedom.

“Let’s just take the clones and go,” Finley said.

“Not till we get paid.” Dad started for a shed across the yard.

Finley barely had time to process what happened next.

The roar of air-strikers and gunships filled the air, approaching fast.

Dad’s eyes widened with panic. “Run!” 


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 detractions.

Finally, in order to keep this contest going AND GROWING, I'm asking folks to donate to the cause on my Ko-fi account (shown on the sidebar). Let me assure you, 100% of the donations will go towards the contest prizes for this year and next!

We’ll be back tomorrow with cage bout #4. 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!


  1. Wonderful job, all three of you!

    Axis, I love many of the revisions, but the timeline didn't make sense to me. First, it's April and the narrator is remembering February, but the next paragraph slips back to April without any indication other than a new paragraph. I had to read the story three times before it clicked that it was April again. I'll freely admit, however, it could very well be that my brain simply isn't functioning at it's highest level these days. But that's something to keep in mind. While it's never good to assume your readers can't follow or keep up, it's also important to make things clear enough that the reader doesn't have to work too hard to be able to keep up.

    Storyweaver: My only critique is the last two paragraphs took away from the piece. I almost felt as if you added it in to make the piece hit the 500 word mark, but sometimes less is more.

    Captain Skyrider: I thoroughly enjoyed your first version, and this second version is an improvement over the first. Your piece is voicy and it's a quick read, but the ending still didn't work for me because it felt too abrupt.

    I can see how much work you each put into your revisions and you should all be extremely proud of yourselves!

    My vote goes to Storyweaver.

  2. I enjoyed all three pieces, but I'm voting for Axis today because the descriptions were so evocative and pulled me into the scene. I'm still not quite sure what is happening, but I felt the emotional weight of it.

  3. Great job writers, I think all three of you worked really hard on revisions and it shows!

    My vote goes to Storyweaver, but I agree with Dannie that the addition in the end didn't quite work for me, but I found the rest of your revisions to be really intentional, and they definitely strengthened your piece overall.

    Axis and Captain Skyrider, I don't have any additional comments for you.

  4. A vote for Storyweaver from me, but my honourable mention definitely goes out to Tilt Toward Me... I'm not sure whether I'm in a mood for it today, but compared to the first time I read this it very definitely resonated with me, well done for capturing those emotions

  5. Oh, grief. I hate that these three are pitted against each other.

    Captain Skyrider, this reads like a piece of a larger work that I might enjoy reading.

    Story Weaver, I'm not sure the addition at the end made this stronger, but I still love the concept.

    Axis, the poetry of this piece impressed me from the first time I read it, even though I wasn't entirely sure what was going on. It reminds me of Life Below Zero (Alaska survivalist show), but reading it today, little details make me wonder if we're dealing with Hades and Persephone. If that's the case, I'm going to need more of this story.

    My vote goes to Axis, but I wish I didn't have to choose one from these three.

  6. My vote goes to Storyweaver. I love the concept! The introduction of the graffiti artist at the end took me out of the story trance you so artfully created and left me with unanswered questions that left me frustrated.

  7. My vote goes to Captain Skyrider. I liked it before, I still like it now.

    Axis and Storyweaver - nicely written, but just too Purple for my taste.

  8. Tough one. I liked the last a lot, but it felt too unfinished. The first two were evenly and well matched, but I'd give the edge to Axis because I could feel the woman's plight.

  9. My vote goes to Captain Skyrider.

  10. Captain Skyrider. Quick, engaging read that I would love to read more of.

  11. Voting for Axis. Especially for that hoarfrost line!

  12. Funny, I thought it was a man's pov!

  13. My vote goes to Axis for wonderful imagery and beautiful prose.

  14. Captain Skyrider gets my vote. Can hardly wait to see where this goes!

  15. My vote goes to Story Weaver - I see some readers were not fans of the addition at the end, but I think it added tension to the piece, and sets up conflict of some sort for your next piece, which I hope we get to read.

  16. Congratulations to all three writers! This is where I picked up the contest, so not too much to say.

    I didn’t catch a lot of revisions for Axis or Captain Skyrider - maybe they were so seamless I didn’t notice?

    Storyweaver added to the original - and nothing else seemed missing. Story appeared to tighten without losing anything.

    My vote to Storyweaver.

  17. Vote is for Axis. I couldn't disagree more on the changes to Storyweaver's piece. I think they took away from what worked so well the first time.

  18. Axis--I just love the mood here. I can picture it so clearly, and I love the mournful nature. I vote for Axis.
    StoryWeaver--I love this one, too, and all of the creativity of it. I liked the former ending better. Somehow the title of the "work" and the signature as the end left me wonderfully.
    Captain Skyrider--Really interesting and creative.
    Thanks so much all of you!

  19. My vote this round is for Storyweaver, I thought the addition to the ending opened up your options to continue the piece into a larger story arc that the original piece provided. Congrats to all for making it to this round.

  20. Axis has really beautiful prose. I feel like I don't fully know what's going on beyond the story.

    StoryWeaver, the altered ending makes me wonder if others also have magic?
    And what source will feed that waterfall, if the bridge overpass thing eventually becomes the drawing. How well known she is that the authorities will know to reroute traffic. So many questions! Seems like a good full-length story. You have my vote.

    Captain Skyrider, I don't read much scifi. This seems good. There are just somethings missing for me. I'm not sure what I want to happen for the daughter main character, what her goal is here.

  21. Axis has so many great discriptive words. But do I know the plot or theme? I barely even know the MC. But it sure is a pretty bit of flash fiction.
    StoryWeaver makes me wonder what happens if the MC is caught with the cans? What the conflict of the story will be.
    Captain Skyrider, this feels like it has the most potential of the group, and thus has my vote.

  22. It appears we have a tie between Axis and StoryWeaver...and by the rules it's up to me to break the tie. These two were as evenly matched as you could get. Axis had the better scores from our Slushpile readers, but StoryWeaver garnered more votes in their 1st bout. It basically comes down to my own personal preference, and I have to give the SLIGHT EDGE (cold comfort) to StoryWeaver.




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