Summer, 2003
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!


It always looked so easy on television! But she had been teasing the door lock with a bobby pin for almost 10 minutes and it didn't show any signs of opening. The ocean surf pounding in the background drowned out any clicks that she thought she was supposed to be hearing. Suddenly, the door flew open, she fell forward with grunt, and there stood...


By Trey Dowell, Maryland Heights, MO.

"I don?t care how nice the house is. If you can?t leave, it?s a prison."

Sarah used her best grown-up voice, and followed with a picture-perfect big-sister pose: hands on hips accompanied by a steely "I-know-more-than-you-ever-will" gaze in her eyes.

Although it would have been more convincing without the wisp of blonde hair that always managed to escape from the white band around her ponytail. Nothing screams "weakness" to your 10-year-old brother quite like having to blow hair out of your eyes. As usual, Toby pounced on any sign of weakness.

"Oh, you know so much, don?t you? You?re just the Queen of the Universe, who knows everything about everything!!" Toby waved his arms theatrically and stomped in a little circle while ridiculing his sister. "If you knew so much, you?d be able to leave."

"THAT?S what I?ve been trying to do for ten minutes," Sarah exclaimed. Her frustration bubbled over, causing her voice to crack just slightly. She immediately cursed herself, because it made her sound scared, and the one thing she didn?t want to show Toby was fear.

But strangely, she didn?t even really feel afraid...no, it was less threatening than that...more like frustration and bewilderment swirled together. For some reason, being in unfamiliar surroundings?these particular surroundings?didn?t really scare Sarah. The unexpected sense of calm, however, did not change the score.

She wanted out.

Toby was another story.

"What?s the big deal, anyway? It?s kinda nice here...quiet and stuff. Y'know that bed we saw upstairs? It looked pretty soft, and I?m sleepy..."

His voice trailed off as he walked towards the mahogany banister that led upstairs.

"Stay with me, Toby. That?s an order." Sarah was all business now, with no hint of wavering. It was enough to get Toby to stop short and come back, though he protested every step of the way.

"But I?m tired. I just wanna take a nap," he whined.

"Don?t you remember Goldilocks?" she warned. "Who knows who might come home and find you in their bed?" Sarah couldn?t suppress a small grin. "Now just shush and let me think."

She looked back across the small, well-appointed house, with wooden floors and massive red-brick fireplace in the living room. Nothing had changed since their arrival?every door was solidly locked from the outside, no telephones to be seen, and worst of all, the picture windows revealing the forest outside were unmovable.


Sarah touched the cool glass of the nearest window. She suddenly wanted to throw one of the kitchen chairs at the window?make her own door?but eliminated that possibility when her fingers made contact.

It was thick. Really thick. Her shoulders slumped and she beat a small fist on the solid surface of the glass.

"Dammit, this isn?t fair. I just want to get out."

Tears welled in her eyes. Toby?s sleepy yet optimistic voice made her turn back.

"Don?t cry Sarah. You always figure stuff out. Just do that thing that Dad always says?think about the box."

She smiled weakly and wiped her eyes with a stroke of her forearm.

"?Think outside the box?, goof."

"Whatever. You know what I mean."

"Yes, I do. I?" and then it struck her.

If you can?t make your own door, make your own key. And when she looked down, the bobby pin had already found its way into her hand.

"See," Toby muttered. "I knew you?d find a way out."

Sarah?s excitement carried her to the heavy oak door across from the staircase. She didn?t notice Toby inching toward the stairs.

"I?m sure it?s not as easy as it looks on television, but I bet I can do it," she breathed. She knelt in front of the lock and began to probe inside. The tumblers danced over the surface of the pin as Sarah teased the lock gently. Surprisingly, it started to give way almost immediately.

"It?s working!" she exclaimed. "I?m almost there!!"

Toby was already halfway up the stairs.

"That?s cool, Sarah. Let me know... I?ll just be upstairs taking a nap."

His words barely registered. She was too engrossed in getting the lock to submit.

"Just wait, Toby. Stay with me! I?m almost there!!"

Click. The tumblers aligned and the door fell open, Sarah spilling out into the sunlight beyond. Everything felt wonderful...

...until the vomiting.

"I?ve got her!!"

The man?s voice rang in her ears, almost drowning out the sound of the waves crashing behind her. Her coughing body was forcefully shoved over onto its side, her head pressed firmly into the sand. The salt water burned her throat and nostrils, but cool air soon rushed deep into her lungs.

"It?s okay, sweetie... you?re gonna be just fine," the man said. He sounded very relieved.

"What about the other one?" he said to someone nearby.

"I don?t know, man. He?s been down a long time," was all she could hear.

She whispered to the man above her head, and he knelt to listen.

"What is it, honey? What did you say?"

The words squeaked out of her ravaged throat.

"I told him to stay with me, but he was tired... he wanted to go upstairs," she said as the tears came.

"Toby went upstairs..."

The 1st Place winner gets:

$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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