24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!
TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:
She rolled her eyes as another one of her cabin mates tried to stifle sobs. She couldn't believe she had to stay at this horrible camp all summer! Her stomach growled. As she stepped toward her trunk for a forbidden snack, she tripped on a loose board. Curious, she leaned over to peek between the cracks, and saw...
Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.
The Futility of Hope
by Lucy Williams
Every year it's the same.
The girls come. Some of them with excitement and joy in every step, others holding their nerves so tightly their steps hesitate then falter. They will all fall into a similar rhythm soon. I prefer that cadence, when everyone is calm and relaxed with only the occasional bouts of excited pitter-patters. I always wonder if any of them might be familiar to me, but the likelihood seems further and further away as more come.
The first day is always the worst. There are those that cry and sob into their pillows. I can't see their faces, but I always imagine them wide-eyed and just barely blinking, their breaths coming in shallow gasps. I don't understand their tears. They are here. They are now. They exist. What I wouldn't give to be them for just a moment. But that will never be.
I ignore most of the day. The cabins are typically empty then, leaving me with only the occasional interruption of familiar silence. My favorite part is at night, when the pine floorboards seem to come alive, cracking and creaking as everyone sleeps. There are ears to hear and it always gives me hope. Shame on me for that. Time has already taught me the futility of hope. But I always find myself thinking that the next squeal of expanding and contracting wood just might be loud enough. It just might be enough to awaken someone and send them scurrying for answers. My rescue is fueled by their curiosity, you see. But it never happens.
On the last day of camp the girls always sit around to reminisce about their experiences and say their good-byes. I often wonder what I would say if I were invited to participate. How I would begin my tale. How my words would reverberate across the room, and what the pitch and timbre of my voice would reveal. I've been here awhile now, but I still remember my first day. I hesitated into this world too, my nerves wound tight from the unknown, hoping for the same safety and security that I had experienced over my first nine months.
I knew it would be different, but I had hope that I would still be held in warmth. That I would be loved, cherished, and cared for - what we all desire. Then it was there. Something sweet. A mild breath. A more severe intake of oxygen as I grabbed on for a taste of life. A wail of enthusiasm about what I had found. So much space and air and time and freedom and...hope.
There is a part of me that thinks I experienced everything there is to experience in that brief moment of life. Fear, joy, pain, sadness, disappointment, happiness...isn't that all there really is to it? Fear, joy, pain, sadness, disappointment, happiness wrapped up in different decisions and experiences but still the same underneath. When that thought comes I barely feel slighted.
I hear impatient footsteps above me and if I could speak I would yell for them to be careful. But it would be too late anyway. The sudden break in cadence and the thud of knees hitting against the slats tell me just that. The wood barely shifts and the floorboards groan in protest. I don't pay it much attention. But then I hear the sound of fingers exploring and the crack of the shifted board becomes a crevice. If there was breath left in my lungs, I would hold it. I give it a moment and though I know the futility, I can't help but feel the rising and swelling of that thing called hope. There are those that say it springs eternal and they are so right. Still, I try to dampen it with logic and reminders of past disappointments. But, it remains there, persistent. I listen. I hear nothing. As time passes I feel hope crash and singe my soul. I return to my reality, my always. They peek, they peer, but see very little and I forgive them because I know that the curiosity of kids is just not sufficient when put up against the tricks and treats that camp has to offer. Certainly, not enough to free me from my eternal resting ó
There is something there.
A brilliant flash of light.
I hear a mild breath...A more severe intake of oxygen. I hear more feet pounding against the wood, the brilliant tip tip tapping of shoes running, and voices marked with italics and exclamation points right before I am grabbed into life. I hear their wails of fear and pain and disappointment over what they have found. But I feel joy as I am given over to space and air and time and freedom...and I admonish myself for believing in the futility of hope. Someone is finally holding me in warmth and for a moment I am loved and cherished and cared for and I feel as if I have finally been born.
What Lucy won:
$300 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
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-- 1-year subscription to THE WRITE MARKETS REPORT
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