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Spring, 2012
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.



1ST PLACE!

SURVIVOR
by Janelle McHugh, Palatine, IL

Lindsey snuggled her muffler a bit higher on her face. The cold was biting, life stealing if you didn't have the right equipment. But Lindsey did. To her, the arctic night air was refreshing; clean and crisp, cooling and cleansing. She took a deep, languid breath, and even with the muffler, the sharp air flowed through her chest and filled her limbs with energy.

It was a welcome change from polluted city air. To Lindsey, her yearly vacation to the frozen north was a pilgrimage to purify herself of all of life's built up detritus and toxins. If she could, she would live up here year in and out, but, well, a girl's got to eat.

The land unfolded around her. Aurora borealis was quiet tonight, so the night sky was blue-black from snow drift to starlight. The full moon, hanging heavy and close, glimmered the frost and snow with its pale silver light. Lindsey fancied she could even see the edge of the ice, where the glacier's pantomime march down the mountain ended abruptly, a sheer cliff of blue-remembered white.

But she wasn't there quite yet.

Lindsey hoisted her tripod back on her shoulder, and settled her pack, set off again. One foot after another. Her snow shoes crunched beneath her, breaking a thin crust, and settling an inch or so into the powder below. A sure sign, she knew, of the temperature dropping.

But mere cold would not deter her. She was equipped for that. She welcomed it. This year she would catch the glacier calving, and preserve the sight on film. Each year before, if she arrived later in the spring, she'd find great slabs of ancient ice, lying scattered on the valley floor. But if she arrived earlier, nothing but smooth valley snow and unspeaking glacial wall would welcome her view.

This year, she thought she'd timed it just right. The wan warmth of day and leeching chill of night would lever the children from the sheet, and she would be there, to catch it all on camera.

Day broke distant, an arctic aureole haloing the horizon. It found Lindsey on the glacier, tripod in place, tent erected. She wished she could film it from below, but the danger was too great. In her dream's aperture she'd watched the slabs go tumbling, and there was no sure safety in that valley. But up here, she'd measured just right. Tripod set where the edge would be, close enough, she hoped, to watch the calves fall gracefully away. The tent planted up a bit higher, just in case.

Preparations complete, Lindsey walked to the present edge, her eyes out sharp for cracks. None showed themselves, and Lindsey stifled the thought: that perhaps she was again too early, or was this feted spring too cold? Instead, she took in the valley view, a spread of long, frosted arcs and diamond white. Blessedly, no sidewalks, no dirty tower buildings, and off in the distance, was that caribou? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, it was better than the herd that could be seen from her city apartment's line of sight.

The sun rolled along the distant horizon, and Lindsey stood taking it all in, smiling. This made the long hours worth it. This gave her hectic life meaning. This annual pilgrimage was what, each year, reclaimed her soul.

A rumbling interrupted her; it was her empty stomach, and dinner beckoned from her tent. She turned and trudged and made it almost there, when up above she spied them - cracks under transparent sheen, and beyond her tent, up the glacier, higher! Cracks that under icy sun grew wider! Shots rang out or so it seemed, as new cracks snapped into being. A moaning rumble from deep below shivered through Lindsey violently. A scream of fear fled her lips and Lindsey leaped behind it into a dead run.

To cross the gaping cracks was Lindsey's goal but she did not make it. The ice shifted, tilted, angled against her desperate run. She fell to her knees and clawed the sun-slick surface. Against the odds she found a hold, and desperately hung on. Her camera gone, her tent tumbling by, Lindsey dangled over the valley floor. The ice slab shifted, sat itself, end down, and leaned over some more. Lindsey lost grip and went sliding, rocketing past the glacier's edge and out thru open air. Her flight soon interrupted by a dune of snow, rushing up to meet her. It did its best and passed its test, and caught her oh so gently.

She lay there for a while, embedded in the snow. She spent her time productively, counting her fingers and her toes.

The great slab of ice hung there, and seemed to think it over till at last the rays of sun warmed its side and it resumed its fall.

And Lindsey got her wish and found her view - not bad at all! - from below, of the glacier calving.


What Abe won:

$300 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)

ENTER THE NEXT 24-HOUR SHORT STORY CONTEST HERE!
Contest guidelines are HERE.


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