24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!
TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
With blistered, salty skin and matted hair, they were down to their last sips of fresh water. A recreational day at sea had turned into a fight for continued existence. Slumped on the bow, searching for any hint of a breeze to soothe her burning face, her eyes widened when she noticed something fast approaching in the distance...
Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.
by Janelle McHugh, Palatine, IL
I rarely get playmates. It's no wonder either. I'm not the safest playground.
Today I was rowdy, fractious. Today I beached a whale and drove a group of small fishing boats into my harbor's jagged rocks. It gave me a moment of pleasure. But only a moment. Humans break so easily.
Most days I just slosh around in my confines; see how high I can hurl myself up the rock faced cliffs, like a child playing ëtidal wave' in its bathtub. It's lonely, being Water. There is only so much I can do with myself. Wind won't play with me anymore. She says my games are mean. I told her she was dull and that there are plenty more of the little creatures. She told me I was stupid. I tried to launch a nearby surfer at her with one of my waves. I missed.
When I'm not sculling around on my sandy floor then I'm watching the humans. They never cease to amuse me, these little grubs. Beautifully stupid creatures. Why don't they stay away from me? I've drenched enough of their harbor towns and capsized enough boats to give them good reason. Maybe they think the only dangers are my sharks' wide grins or my whiplash currents.
But I shouldn't complain. If they left I would be horridly bored.
The best days are the survivor days. When my ship toys tip over and everyone drowns but one. I had a survivor once. I remember the exact moment she hit my waves. Her eyes blinked shut from my salty water; she had hair that fanned out like a seaweed garden. It took her two minutes to reach the surface. In those two minutes she danced, fingers stretching, legs kicking, water logged clothing held her motionless beneath their weight.
I moved beneath her and nudged her toward the top. No sense in playing with a corpse. She thrashed and somehow made it look graceful; her coat fell off her shoulders like a caterpillar's skin. As she moved her arms her iridescent purple top fluttered out like newly formed wings. She swam with purpose now. Free from her heavy burden, she reached air and sucked it in. She tread water, sometimes dropping beneath my waves when her legs gave out. I danced and pranced beneath her, gleefully planning the next few days.
She grabbed a chunk of ship bow that floated past, a pitifully weak thing. Water logged, like she was. I'd sunk enough ships to know that it would float just about as long as she would.
Her lips started cracking a few hours later. They were crusted with salt. I tried to splash my wave onto her face to cool her but she dodged my attempts. Then something annoying happened. A bottle floated by. Not one of those silly ones with messages in them but one with water, drinkable water. I've never seen a human move so fast. She drank almost all of it and I rumbled with amusement when most of it came right back up. Then she started to swim. I followed right alongside of her. She made it about thirty feet before I scooped her up with a wave and carried her back to her starting point. She started again, and again, and again. And each time I sent her right back to where she had started from. The only reason she didn't cry is because it would've wasted water.
The second day her skin became textural, like the surface of coral. She cried. If I had lips I would've smirked.
Then I sank down to my floor and started to thrash about. Waves foamed and slammed into each other. I rushed upward, about sixty feet away from my survivor. I'm very good at making tidal waves. Her eyes went wide; cracked lips fell open in terror. She threw away her water bottle and kicked towards the shore. I spun around and around, I could feel my wave gaining power. Then a thought occurred to me. If the wave was sixty feet, didn't that mean she would be carried sixty feet closer to the shore? I didn't have time to stop it. It grabbed her and her bow chunk and threw them towards shore. I raced towards her, hoping to catch at her feet with a small current. But she hit the sand line and no matter how I jumped at her she was now firmly land bound.
She rolled to her knees, her limbs shook and she spat out sand like a viper spits venom. She was angry. I had the curious feeling of being noticed, like she was looking right at me. I didn't like it and I tried to throw another wave at her.
With a surprising amount of enthusiasm she picked up a nearby rock and hurled it into me. I felt it when it hit my floor. She stood, limbs still shaking, her fist raised and she pointed at me.
I sank lower into myself, as if she would lose sight of something she couldn't see in the first place. She staggered away and I decided not to play with humans for a bit.
Wind called me stupid again.
What Janelle won:
$300 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
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