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WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Cage Bout #6




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

Here's the sixth and final cage bout before we move into the Playoff round. Once again, here's how WRiTE CLUB cage bouts work. 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.



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

Because of time restrictions, the voting period will be less than a week, so please pay attention to the dates posted. The voting for today’s bout will close on Thurs, Jan 20th (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 -

Stardust Forager


“A New Page”

 

Dusk had just turned the corner into night when an ambulance pulled up at my neighbor’s house. Well, neighbor by proximity only. I didn’t even know his name. When I’d moved here a year ago for the crown molding and the pine floors, he’d been raking leaves, looking like the grandpa I barely remembered. I’d walked over to say hello, but he didn’t speak first and my courage failed. And that’s a moment you can’t get back, the one where the most natural thing to do is open your world to someone else. This I’ve learned from a lifetime of letting hellos pass me by. So for a year I’ve watched him shuffle out to get his mail and he’s watched me water my petunias and we’ve never said a word.

But in an emergency, that moment circles back. I ran into his yard as they brought him out on a stretcher, his white hair dissheveled, an oxygen mask over his face. His rheumy gray eyes locked onto mine and he pulled the mask down long enough to gasp, “My cat. Will you feed my–” before a paramedic secured it again.

“Of course,” I said, watching them load him under spinning red lights. Then I ducked inside to the stench of mold and kitty litter. News buzzed from a corner of the den where a can of chicken noodle soup and a spoon had fallen to the floor. I picked them up, swallowing the prickle of fear that, give or take a few decades, this would be me.

“Here, kitty,” I said, glancing at an envelope on a stack of bills that covered the counter. J. Merritt. I was that much closer to his name, at least.

When no cat appeared, I stepped into the dark hall of every horror flick. “Kitty?”

A muffled bump answered. The cat. Just the cat. Still I grabbed for the light switch at the nearest room. Inset bulbs hummed on, reflecting off the last thing I expected. Rows of glass cases. The nearest held a yellowed volume, opened to Shakespeare’s Tempest. In the next, Marlowe’s Faustus stared up as a fluffy tabby materialized, twining around my legs. “What in the world, cat?”

That’s when I felt someone behind me. I turned, hackles rising, to the portrait of a woman, elegant and accusing. Her aquamarine eyes seemed to follow me out of the room as I fled back to the kitchen, banging through empty cabinets until I found three cans of Purr Delight. I dumped one in the bowl by the sink, trying to reel my imagination in. Still my thoughts kept drifting to that picture. Who was she? And who exactly was J. Merritt?

None of my business, that’s who.

On the way out, I snagged keys from the counter. I’d come again tomorrow, just to feed the cat and drop off some real food.

Definitely not to walk back down that hall.

#################################################################



Contestant number two is Iradessa


The king sat at his desk, weariness threatening to drag him into sleep. But he couldn’t sleep, not yet. There were letters to answer. Problems to address. Double agents to recruit. He rubbed a hand across his forehead before unrolling the newest scroll in his stack of unread mail.

He had barely broken the seal when he heard it: a quiet cough.

The king sighed and set the scroll aside. “How long have you been there, Ace?”

“Long enough.” There was a pause, and then the form of a man in his mid-thirties flickered into existence by the door. He leaned against the mantle, arms crossed. Bright violet eyes peered out of a heavily scarred face.

The king suppressed a shudder at Ace’s sudden appearance. The man’s ability to watch from the shadows was unnatural and unnerving, yet it had come in useful more than once. “Have you Seen something new?”

Ace frowned. He crossed the room and lowered himself into the chair opposite the king. “You won’t win this war sitting behind your desk.”

“Is that a Seeing, or just advice?”

A brief smile tugged Ace’s lips up, making his scars seem that much more gruesome. “Both.” He hesitated before continuing, “I see…beasts of old. Power bounces back and forth, but there’s no finality, no conclusion. The only clear thing is the opening of the sixth Vault. But I’ve been unable to identify if it is our enemy who opens it, or us.”

The king remained silent, afraid his voice would tremble if he spoke. For centuries, his family had guarded that Vault, protecting the power that rested within it from those who would use it for evil. He’d sworn an oath to only open it and use the power within if there was no other choice.

The time was coming to make that choice.

Many difficult decisions blocked his path forward, but now one rose above the rest, a question that nagged every time he met with this man.

Did he trust Ace enough to commit the entirety of his resources based on the man’s word alone?

Ace had appeared out of nowhere nearly a decade ago. He had unnatural power, more than any human should ever have, but for years now, the man’s visions hadn’t steered the king wrong. Those visions had allowed the king to stay a step ahead of the enemy.

Yet still, it worried him. Ace’s motivations were a mystery. He appeared not to have family or a life, nothing to fight for. Yet if that was the case, why lend his aid at all? There was something that the man was hiding, and the king feared that secret might be his own undoing.

The entire Erminian kingdom hinged on his choices here and now. On his instincts. He couldn’t afford to hesitate, couldn’t afford to waver. It was a time for decisiveness.

The king rose to his feet. “It’s time to assemble our forces. The Vault will not be breached.”

#################################################################



And finally, number three is Durden Mayhem


Payoff

 

Five minutes in the bank line, and I’m hoping I get the attractive woman as my teller. Landing in front of the older, married fella would be odd for both of us. 

It works out. I approach the smiling Jillian, who certainly didn’t wake up this morning expecting the kind of deposit I’m going to make.

“Can I help you?” she says to me as I get to her plexiglass.

I make sure my phone is angled correctly, and while looking at her nametag, I get straight to it. “I’m in love with you, Jillian.”

Her lips curl into a scowl.

“Excuse me?”  Her face defines dumbfounded.

I respond. “Sorry. I know we have never met, but when you know, you know. I saw you when I came in, I watched you while I was in line, and yeah, I’m definitely in love with you.”

Jillian looks side to side at her colleagues to see if any of them are responsible for me. When she realizes nobody at her workplace put me up to this, she looks back at me.

“I’m going to get my manager.”  She makes a determined move like she is going to have a higher-up come over to bring me down.

“Wait. Hold on, Jillian. You don’t need to get anyone. I’m leaving. I just needed to say what was on my heart.”

I leave her there with a smile and a wink.

As I make my way out the front door, I turn off the video on my phone and quick text it to Jeff.

Jeff is the guy I lost the bet to, and he always insists on video proof of my payoff.

“Express your love to a complete stranger in a public place” was my bookie’s demand since I couldn’t pay my debt with cash.

I bet $500 on the Cowboys.

Never smart. 

Especially when you don’t have the money to pay.

Thankfully, Jeff is not a knuckle-breaking sort of bookie. He’s got a YouTube channel with a million followers, where he features fools like me shaming themselves in various ways to pay off their debts. He makes more money from advertisers than he would if I had paid him actual dollars.

Works out for both of us. 

As I step into the bank parking lot, I approach my car, which has some worried people standing near it, pointing at the pounding coming from my trunk.

The sounds of my second payoff.

“Put a drunk stranger into your trunk for an hour.”

That was for the $4,000 bet I made on the Lakers.

And I do have video proof it wasn’t kidnapping – dumb, hammered college kid just climbed into my trunk thinking it was his pub-crawl Uber, I guess.

I comfort the onlookers. “Stupid, drunk fraternity dare.”

They buy it.

I’m sure glad the guy knocked. I had forgotten about him.

He’s been in there since last night.

I’m a jerk and an idiot -

With three more bets to pay off…

#################################################################


That's it. 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!

In order to give everyone enough time to digest and vote, the playoff bouts will not start until next Wednesday, January 19th. 

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!


WRiTE CLUB 2021 - Cage Bout #5




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

The cage bouts continue in WRiTE CLUB and here's a reminder of how that 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 Thurs, Jan 20th (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). First up is -

DoNotAwoo


She kept her nose low to the ground as the sharp, acrid odor of blood grew stronger above the rancid stink of the alleyway garbage. Music pulsed and thumped from one of the nearby buildings; the driving beat echoed the mad pounding of her heart.

Carly let out a low huff. Closing her eyes, she shut out everything but the scent and let her nose guide her. She placed one hand-like forepaw in front of the other—only to pause when the scent of death pressed the faintest kiss upon her muzzle, like a whisper of a forgotten memory. She opened her eyes and immediately flattened her ears as her hackles raised. A low whine escaped from between her bared teeth.

A woman lay face-down in the alleyway, limbs splayed at awkward angles across a pile of seeping garbage. Half-congealed blood oozed into the foul-smelling puddles. Carly backed away, jerking her head up and scanning the alley. This was bad. If anyone saw a werewolf alone in a dark alley with a dead body…

But the woman could still be alive. She might need help. Or, worse, the killer might still be lurking nearby, waiting to pounce on someone else. Carly’s lips pulled to one side in an almost human grimace, and she rubbed at her half-morph’s muzzle.

“Oh, man,” she muttered as she reached out to delicately touch the body, minding her claws. “Miss?”

It was cold. Oh, God, it was cold! She shuddered all over, shaking herself like a common dog as she stifled a gag.

“Aw, shit.”

Carly blinked at the unfamiliar voice.

“They actually killed me. Un-freaking-believable.”

She turned, casting a glance over her shoulder—then stifled an undignified squeal. A pale, half-translucent figure stood over the corpse, hands on her hips and annoyance written across her face despite the blood that spattered her torso. Her hair, vague and colorless, cascaded in a frizzy wave matching the body that lay sprawled in the trash.

The woman lifted her head to look at Carly. She quirked an eyebrow, then let out a groan as her shoulders slumped.

“A werewolf? That’s just perfect. Absolutely not what I needed today,” the ghost grumbled, shaking her fist at Carly. “Go on, get, you rotten scavenger!”

Carly frowned, fur bristling at the insult. She forcibly un-tucked her tail, then cleared her throat and pushed up to stand on two legs.

“I’m not a scavenger. By the way, uh… you’re… You seem to be, er—”

“Dead? A ghost? Yeah, thanks, genius. Wait; you’re the first one that found me, right? And you touched me?”

“Um. Yes?”

The ghost let out a stream of curses, half of which Carly was sure she had invented on the spot. She then kicked at her own body, only to let out a half-strangled scream of frustration when her foot phased through the corpse.

“All right, wolfy, ears up,” the ghost said, pointing at her. “We’ve got a lot to do.”

#################################################################



Contestant number two, representing the YA Contemporary genre and not plain Contemporary as listed in the first bout, is The Sparky One


I sat on the cold concrete floor in shock.  Had Iris hit me?  I wasn’t sure if I was more shocked by the violence with which she’d touched me or the words she’d flung my way.  


 “I’m sorry,” she stammered and reached out a hand to help me up from the puddle I’d collapsed into on the floor.


 I ignored the hand.  Did she really think a gesture like that was enough?  Pain sliced through me, so acute I couldn’t even tell if it was real, physical pain from falling, or the agony her words had caused.  How could I have been so foolish?  I wanted to kick myself for thinking I could change her mind.


 “Juliet…. Please?”  She looked at me and I could see the pain and confusion in her eyes. The longing and the fear.

 I climbed to my feet, a little shaky, but uninjured.  Except for my soul that felt as if it had been torn into a thousand tiny scraps and left to blow in the wind.  Pieces of myself seemed to drift away as I stood there.  “What?”  I asked finally.


 “This…  Whatever this is between us.  We can’t keep doing it.  It has to stop.”  The words felt dragged from Iris’s lips.  As if she didn’t want to say them any more than I wanted to hear them.  They felt heavy as they hung between us, tangible enough I could reach out and touch them.  I wished that was real.  I wanted to pick them up and fling them back at her.  I wanted them to wound her as deeply as they had wounded me.

 I swallowed hard.  I was not going to cry.  Not here, not now.  She could break my heart, but no way was I letting her have the satisfaction of seeing it, of knowing it. 


 I pushed past her and left the alcove.  Left her behind in the space that had once felt like the only safe place in a cruel and ignorant world.  A place where love had triumphed over bigotry and intolerance and willful misunderstanding.  A place that gave me far more solace than the church ever had.  God had never felt as present or tangible to me as he had when Iris and I squeezed together in that cramped alcove and showed each other the truth.


A sob caught in my throat as I dashed up the stairs.  How had it ended like this?  I’d been so happy.  I hadn’t felt like that since middle school.  I thought I’d found my soulmate again, the person who made me complete.

But here I was, wrong.  And once again, I was alone.


 The bell rang and people drifted into the hallways, chattering and laughing as they hurried to class.  I drifted with them even though I couldn’t even remember what class I had next.  It didn’t seem important.  How could I focus on math or literature or French or biology when Iris had torn my heart to pieces?

#################################################################



And finally, number three is ch3ru


“So we should probably talk,” Leah says, cutting into her stack of pancakes.

Sol blinks, shutter-fast. We should talk. A particularly charged human expression with only one possible outcome—conversation—and that is where Sol's knowledge ends.

A syrupy square approaches Leah's open mouth in slow motion.

Five seconds elapse, during which Sol's internal temperature sensors trigger a critical failure warning. Leah finishes chewing, swallows. Smiles at Sol. Sol's hands spasm around their empty can of electro-plasma, metal scraping metal. Mechanical error? Thirty seconds of audiovisual data are automatically dumped for analysis.

“Ummm,” Sol hums, overwhelmed. The results for every possible topic that could follow the phrase we should talk are too numerous and varied to be processed in five seconds of socially acceptable silence.

“Why don’t I start?” Leah offers. “Alright, well. I won’t lie, last night was pretty mind-blowing. That's probably an understatement, but. Whatever. You were there."

"I was," Sol confirms smoothly, just to get a reaction out of her. Leah bumps their feet under the table, grinning. Sol nudges her back.

"Anyway. I like someone who can beat me at cards, and doesn’t run out of things to say.”

“I’ve been told I have a tendency to ramble, actually."

Leah shrugs. "I like the sound of your voice." She sets aside her plate, leaning forward to mirror Sol’s posture. “I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing you again, getting to know you better. Find out if this thing has legs, y'know? But if last night is all you want, no hard feelings. We can still be friends. If you want, that is."

"Friends," Sol echoes. They have several acquaintances categorized as 'friends'. Leah does not fit into that limited category—or any other previously defined category—even provisionally.

The only logical solution is to create a new category, using Leah herself as the initial point of reference.

Sol recalls Leah's patience as she taught them the rules to one card game after another. Trading anecdotes, Sol's stellar cartography for her musical studies. Her childhood in the colonies, surrounded by generations of family, for Sol's decades of solitary operation in uncharted space. The dance of her fingers across heavy piano keys, the frequency of her voice. Neon lights painting her bare skin bright colors in the dark. The texture of her lips…

"Did I break you?"

She's still smiling, but Sol registers the minute tension in her brow. Twenty seconds have elapsed.

"Undamaged," Sol assures her. "But 'friend' is…insufficient."

"Meaning…?"

Sol reaches out for her hands. Warm flesh and blood in cool, malleable plasteel, slotting together as neatly as the newly-formed partition set aside in Sol's memory banks for all things 'Leah'.

"Meaning, I suppose I can endure beating you at cards again."

A laugh, and then a kiss that is barely a whisper of pressure against Sol's mouth. Leah falls back into her seat, picking up her fork with one hand. The other remains in Sol's grasp.

"Then I suppose I can endure more rambling about space dust." 

#################################################################


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!

Remember, we’ll be back Saturday with one final cage bout. Please help all our writers 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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