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Fall, 2003
24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!

TOPIC OF THIS CONTEST WAS:

"I must have taken a wrong turn after the river, Dad. The pavement stopped awhile back and there's nowhere to turn around."

"Hold on, honey, I'm trying to find it on the map."

"You're starting to break up some."

"I don't see any dirt roads in that area. I'm hearing another voice on the line. It's like a whisper, can you hear it?"

"No, I'm just hearing you and static."

"hang... now... mine..."

"Did you hear that?!"

"Did I hear what, Dad?"


The Call
By Brendan Bruce, Indianapolis, IN

The headlights of the car barely illuminated what little road there was ahead. Lori squinted over the steering wheel, trying to see through the thick fog and getting a hopeless feeling in her stomach ? she was lost. An hour before, she had stormed out of her house, furious with her father following another terrible argument that left them both near tears and their ears ring from the shouting.

"Why can't he just treat me like a seventeen year old, instead of a child?" she asked herself in the silence. She knew the answer, at least she thought she did ? she was all he had left after her mother died last year. A massive stroke took her at forty-five, stealing the very heart of their family. No more meatloaf with extra ketchup and late movie nights curled up on the couch together in the hideous colored afghan mom had made in home economics when she was sixteen. Lori dealt with the theft of her mother by fleeing from the house of memories as often as she could.

Her father stayed at the scene of the crime. Aside from work, he sat motionless in front of the television, obviously watching nothing and tuning out Lori and the world. He slept on the couch at night, never going back to the bed he had shared with his wife of 21 years.

Lori stopped the car on the dirt road she had been travelling and leaned over the steering wheel, resting her chin on her hands. She had no idea where she was, having been too lost in anger as she drove to really pay attention to where she went. She hadn't seen a car in some time and the trees alongside the road seemed to close in on her like long black fingers. The fog thickened, hanging in the tree branches and snuffing out the light from her headlights until she could see little more than a yard in front of her. Lori's anger melted away and was replaced by an icy fear that took her breath away. She felt someone was outside the car watching her and it took all of her effort to keep from screaming out loud.

Lori locked the car doors, fumbling through her purse for her cell phone, never taking her eyes off the road, the woods and the deep rolling fog. She found her phone and called her dad. "Please, pick up... please, dad," she whimpered, knowing he usually never answered the phone anymore. True to form, the answering machine picked up on the fourth ring.

"Dad, please pickup, I'm lost... I took a wrong turn past the river and ... I'm scared. Call me as soon as you can, I'm just sitting here and I'm really scared ? please, pickup ? Dad!" Lori nearly screamed the last few words as panic rose in her. She saw movement all around her as she cried, prayed and cursed under her breath all at once. Her phone rang, causing her to shriek. She punched talk, "Dad, is that you?" Her words sounded like a muffled scream. There was a short pause and she heard her dad answer "It's me, Lori, what's going on?"

She let out a deep breath, calmed by her father's voice, "Dad, I'm so sorry, I just took off and started driving, I'm lost ? somewhere on a dirt road.... I'm about to really freak out here, it's so dark and..."

"Lori, who's with you? I heard another voice on the message, a woman's voice? is it one of your friends? Who else is there?"

"No, dad, it's just me.... I'm..... come get me.... somewhere past Stone's bridge a dirt road, but I don't...." the signal went dead.

Lori stared at the phone, waving it around to get a signal when suddenly it rang again. Her father urged her to clam down. "Honey, I'm in the car now, I think I know where you are, just sit tight, I'll be there.... keep talking, okay?"

Within ten minutes, her dad's Jeep pulled up alongside her car. Lori ran to him and hugged him tightly, something she hadn't done since her mother's death and she realized how much she had missed him.

"I'm sorry, dad," she sobbed into his jacket, "let's just get out of here, it's so creepy."

Lori followed her dad back home and into the house.

"I'll make some coffee, maybe we can talk a little," her dad said and went to the kitchen.

Lori smiled, hurrying down the hall to drop her purse in her bedroom. She walked past her father's room and stopped as she glanced inside, seeing a pistol lying on the bed. The telephone lay beside it. She stepped into the room and carefully lifted her father's gun from the bed, holding it out in front of her by the handle with two fingers, like a dangerous insect. Tears welled in her eyes as she stepped back into the kitchen and met her father's gaze. He saw the gun and gave her a knowing shrug and said, "I don't think I need that after all, Lori. Don't worry. I think after tonight, things might be better around here. Lucky call, huh?"

Lori had no idea what to say, she was numb ? "I'll hide this... just in case, okay?"

Her dad nodded and she went outside and tossed the gun into the thick bushes beside the driveway. As she walked past her car, she noticed a splash of color illuminated in the backseat by the porch light. She nearly walked into the house, but froze in her tracks, spun around and went back to the car ? her heart pounding.

Although it had been thrown out with most of mom's things, Lori remembered ? she had done it herself, she walked back into the kitchen holding the hideously colored afghan her mother had made years ago. Many hours, tears, and pots of coffee later, Lori felt things might indeed be getting better.


The 3rd Place Winner Got:

$200 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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