Spring, 2010
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!


He'd had a lifelong weakness for football, golf, and younger women but none of that mattered anymore. The vultures were just outside, already fighting over the best morsels. He hadn't moved or spoken in weeks but, as she reached over to touch the thin vein slowly pulsating in his hand, his eyes flashed open and he said...

Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.


by Eric Wallace, New York, NY

There is one incredible, eternal moment between living and dying when time stops, suspended like a fat, sticky, dewdrop stubbornly hanging from the edge of a petal, reluctant to plummet to oblivion.

In that paradoxical moment of forever-now there are many options. Reviewing your entire life in full detail. Shaping defiant, optimistic plans for conquering leftover desires, old dreams, the unfulfilled. Exploring the sweet and mysterious portals of the yet to be. Learning with exquisite clarity the answers to everything. Or maybe, in a swirling, slow-motion kaleidoscope, wandering through all the options, humming, dancing. Not yet screaming no, no. No.

Karl wasn't very good at dying. In fact, he had been making a quite mess of it. After being in supreme control his entire adult life, now his mind, his body, his fluids, his very cells were skewed, sliding, seeping, collapsing, taunting, betraying. From revered and feared global CEO, a giant astride the unassailable towers of immense power and enormous wealth, how far, how quickly he had already fallen.

His new world: respirators, tubes, wires, electrodes, monitors, catheters, umbilical horrors. Drip in, drip out.

Absolute command, vigor, pride, arrogance, deceit, indifference, calumny all sagged mutely in sour, coarse sheets, his sweat-drenched monogrammed silk pajamas mocking, mocking.

Now he'd come to his last humiliating seconds, the long-ignored, even sneered-at arrival of the great leveler. His final moment as Karl cum Karl.

Every second of his childhood tumbled before him. The playmates. The games. The toys. His scruffy, sad-eyed Scottie dog. Sun filled summers. Secret hideouts. Lewis Carroll, callew, callay! A giggling little redhead. His grim, often-absent father. A bitter tear. His worn-down mother. Seven maids with seven mops. Ever: the yearning. Early: the resolve.

High school. Wielding cleverness. Finagling. First kiss. First love. First betrayal. Scholarships. College. Coeds won, coeds cast aside. First job. First promotion. Clawing, cheating to the top. Natural selection. His hero: Darwin. Buyouts, mergers. Good luck, intuitive moves, ruthlessness.

Karl became an opportunist of the first rank. He soared, triumphed, crushed his enemies, stepped on friends, deceived his wives, alternately ignored and harangued his children. Dined with presidents, bedded starlets, thumbed his nose at the rich, turned his back on the poor. Bought, sold, influenced, manipulated. Laughed at the world and indulged himself in the extreme.

Floating in memory to the smooth voice of Bing Crosby. The blue of the night. Delicious young flesh, tropical moons. The gold of the day. Endless golf, immaculate greens. Spindrift sailing. In command. Football from the 50-yard line, from the owner's box. Oh, how happy I would be. Gilt lined boardrooms and guilt free decisions. Crosby softly whistling, crooning on. Someone waits for meÖ

And what did he still most desire? Eternal youth, eternal life--not possible, even his cart wheeling mind knew that--but one more masterstroke, one more symbol of his near-invincibility, just one more. And it rushed at him as he believed it surely must.

Where there's a will, he chortled, there's a way.

He knew that somewhere close by was a greedy throng, waiting to exult, divide the spoils, spit on his grave. Haha! He could will it all to something or someone absurd, show them who still has the power, even...even then. He'd will everything to an old dogs' home, to the Foreign Legion. Will it all to the society for counting grains of South Seas sand. Oh, frabjous day! Get the damn lawyer!

Bolstered by his plan, emboldened in his forever moment, Karl peered into the infinite - seeking the unambiguous answers he alone was powerful enough to possess.

Ahead, below, above, behind, a glow, a brightness, dazzling but serene. It billowed, enfolded, comforted. Soft voices murmured reassuringly as he slowly tumbled, like Alice, down a radiant and benign tunnel. The answers, he suddenly knew, were in these pearl and coral clouds shimmering before him. Boldly he thought aloud the big questions: What? Why? Who?

Immediately the white glow shredded with a blinding burst of energy, leaving Karl frowning at an infinite mass of gray and black twisting shapes. Agonizing, alarming.

The more he peered, the more he recognized fragments of his life, coiling and uncoiling. Writhing. Pulsing and repulsing. Flashing through them, flaring with bursts of color, were a myriad shards of missed opportunities. For once, not opportunities for more gain or more power. Quite the opposite.

He recognized friends he'd spurned, family he'd ignored, kindness he'd sneered at, lives he'd ruined, talents he'd squandered, goodness he'd buried.

Something clarified and slammed at him like the fierce blue jolts of a defibrillator. Karl's mind opened wide, and he gasped at the tangible image of a word he'd always ignored. One small, visceral word with the searing power of lightning: regret.

The word hammered at his ears blinded his eyes tore at his heart. Regret. Oh, how happy I would be.

There is one incredible moment between living and dying when time stops, suspended... How could anyone possibly know that?

Well, I am Karl. This is my story, my life, my reluctant dewdrop, and, oh, now it is sliding, falling, falling...

A final time I force open my eyes, stare from the dark with terrible intensity at my mother, no my wife, no my daughter, no some bland stranger, and compel my cracked lips, my hellish tongue to rasp out the mantra I have learned in my moment of eternity.

"If only..."

What Eric 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)

Contest guidelines are HERE.

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