Summer, 2004
24-Hour Short Story Contest

1st Place Winner!


It had taken him almost an hour to climb over the rocks to the hidden beach. His metal detector was strapped to his back and he didn't think many other treasure hunters would go to this much effort. It was low tide, so he started at the water line and began sweeping the detector back and forth. On his fifth pass, the detector gave a strong beep...

It's Just A Game

By Matthew Peterson, Peoria, AZ

The game was getting intense, and Trapper was in the lead. He looked over the vast landscape and saw the other slaves fighting amongst themselves. Most had already expended their two precious bullets on wild beasts or on other competitors. But not Trapper. He was smarter than that.

A cluster of pomegranate trees hid the burly man from the frenzy down below. He took his buck knife and sliced one of the orange fruits in half. Red, jeweled seeds spilled out of the leathery casing. Though they were sour, they were much better than the sludge Trapper had been forced to eat during the past three months.

Sophia had fed him pomegranate seeds once. At the time, he had never tasted them before. He remembered they were sour back then as well. However, between each painful bite, he was blessed with the sweet taste of Sophia's soft lips. Where was his Sophia now?

This world had no room for romance. Romance is what got him in this predicament in the first place. If only he had stayed put. He could still be washing the scum off the kitchen floor right now. Not fighting for his life . . . for his soul.

When Trapper had stepped though the strange portal back on Earth, he never expected it to lead to the dungeons of an evil warlock. He had been tricked. Even worse, Agath, the warlock, used his twisted power to enslave Trapper's soul into a silver orb-the same orb the prisoners were now in search of.

Even as a slave, Trapper had found favor with Sophia, Agath's bride-to-be. In reaction to Sophia's betrayal, Agath placed Trapper in the game. The game, if you can call it such, had one simple rule: find the silver orb by any means possible. The winner would receive his soul back, but the losers would all experience an instant death.

Trapper hugged the sunbaked rocks as he climbed. He hoped no one would see him-especially Ranagin. If there was one other person skillful enough to find the orb, it was Ranagin. The rest of the treasure hunters probably wouldn't exert as much effort as this man; their souls had been removed from their bodies for too long.

Trapper knew where the orb was. He didn't know how, but somehow he knew. It was just over these rocks. Just a little further. Suddenly, a giant wombat with sharp, protruding fangs appeared above him. He knew wombats were not indigenous to rocky terrain but enjoyed grassy plains like that of Australia. But who was he to argue with the creator of this world? If He wanted to put giant wombats on a rocky cliff, then so be it.

The wombat took a swipe at Trapper and almost hit the metal detector strapped across his back.

"What's a wombat doing on the side of a cliff?" he yelled. Trapper often spoke his mind out loud, as if he had an audience at all times. He was angry at the creator for defying the laws that he, himself, set up. "Wombats do not climb cliffs!" Trapper raised his gun and shot two bullets through the wombat's chest. It died instantly.

No bullets left. Trapper had been foolish. He should have saved his ammunition for a mightier foe. If the creator had written a biography for Trapper, it would have read: Hero loses his soul, angers warlock because of a woman, fights his way up a mountain to regain his soul, and gives up his defenses because of a foolish act.

No matter. Trapper threw his gun down and climbed the rest of the way up the rocks. He was angry now-angry because of the wombat, angry because Sophia was gone, and angry that he didn't seem to have any control over his destiny. He felt like a pawn in this bizarre world-like a puppet being thrown around at the master's every whim.

Maybe he had been without his soul for too long. Did he even remember what it felt like to have a soul? Yes. Sometimes Agath would torture him by giving him a taste of his soul. During those excruciating times, it made him realize how much of life he was missing. When he was able to feel just a tiny part of his soul, he felt like a fish who had just discovered it had fins. But then Agath would quickly laugh and tear those fins away.

Trapper was on the other side of the cliff now. He climbed down the rocks and found his way to a secret beach. The tide was low and the sand was ready to be searched. He'd been here many times before, but he couldn't remember how he knew that. He started at the water line and began sweeping the metal detector back and forth. On his fifth pass, the detector gave a strong beep. Suddenly, he remembered the last time he was here. "Not again!"

He turned around quickly and reached for where his gun used to be.

Ranagin was standing a few paces off with his weapon outstretched. "Die, Trapper!" The hunter fired two clean shots into Trapper's forehead, killing him on the spot.

In a millisecond, the entire world dissolved into nothing, followed by a tiny crackle of static electricity and a frustrated scream.

"Ah! I'm never going to win this game!" cried a young teenager. "It took me an hour just to get past the dumb rock level."

"Honey, come to dinner!"

Johnny threw down his video game controller. He pointed at the blank TV screen and mumbled before leaving, "Next time, Ranagin, you're mine!"

What Matthew 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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