Winter, 2010
24-Hour Short Story Contest
3rd Place Winner!


From her lap, his shiny black eyes stared up at her as she admired his permanent red smile. Fingering his tiny overalls, she pictured the little ones' faces, pressed against the icy windowpanes, waiting for her to arrive with another basket of her lifelike, homemade gifts. The last strand of hair was finally in place. As she gently inserted the needle to tie a knot, he lurched in her hand and a high-pitched voice said...

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

The Little Ones
by Alex Artukovich, Van Nuys, CA

From her lap, his shiny black eyes stared up at her as she admired his permanent red smile. Fingering his tiny overalls, she swelled with pride. This was by far her best toy yet. The last strand of hair was finally in place. As she gently inserted the needle to tie a knot, a dwarfed sized hand lurched forward and snatched the doll.

His sweet cherubic face roamed every inch of the doll's body. "Good job," he said in a high-pitched voice. The woman nervously smiled.

He held the doll high in the air. This wasn't too high since he was only three and a half feet tall. He was displaying the toy to two more little ones watching from an observation room. Their eager faces were pressed against the window. They too had sweet cherubic features. When they looked at the doll they erupted in jubilation.

Their enthusiasm didn't hearten the woman. She ached all over and was in need of rest. She tried to descend her wooden stool but a manacle strapped around her ankle kept her in place. She whimpered in despair and stared at the mass of toys stacked all around her. Thousands of gifts, each one of them crafted by hand, towered in every corner of the workshop.

The dwarf holding the doll carelessly tossed it aside. He pushed a step ladder over to the work table. He climbed the ladder and plopped a huge block of wood onto the surface. He turned to the woman and pointed at the wood block. "Rocking horse," he said in his high-pitched voice.

The woman raised her shoulders in bewilderment.

"Rocking horse," he said again.

"I don't know how," she fearfully confessed.

Suddenly dozens of black steel spikes grew out of the dwarf's head. His high-pitched voice turned to a demonic roar. "ROCKING HORSE!"

The woman reeled back in fright. Loud pounding came from behind. She spun around. The two dwarfs in the observation room were in an uproar. The girl dwarf suddenly had a long tail poking out of the back of her head that flailed about like a serpent. The shorter dwarf had fiery flames shooting out his scalp.

"ROCKING HORSE," they both screeched.

Hands trembling, the woman seized a hammer and chisel. With frightened haste she beat frantically at the block of wood.

The spikes on the nearby dwarf's head descended. He gently patted her on the back. "Rocking chair," he said in a light tone.

The dwarf climbed down the step ladder. He picked up a clipboard, marched about the workshop, and marked inventory of all the toys he passed. With his attention diverted the woman saw her opportunity to escape. She turned the hammer and chisel to her manacle. She brought the hammer down with a fierce stroke. The manacle broke apart. She leapt from her stool. Her legs, weakened from sitting so long, instantly gave way. She collapsed to the floor. The window from the observation room violently rattled. The two dwarfs inside were howling and thrashing about like wild animals.

The dwarf taking inventory turned to the fallen woman. His steel black spikes sprang out of his head. The woman mustered all her strength and lifted herself off the ground. She started on a hobbling trot towards the exit door.

The spike headed dwarf took after her. As he ran he let out a blood-curdling shout, "ROCKING CHAIR!"

In her desperate, panic-stricken dash for the door the woman began knocking into every toy in sight. Suddenly an immense tower of gifts crashed atop her head. Everything went dark.

The woman's eyes shot open and she sprang from her pillow. She looked about in relief. She was in her bedroom. It was morning.

A short figure peeked through her door.

"She's up," a high-pitched voice yelled.

A boy with spiky black hair marched into the room. Behind him was a girl with a long braided ponytail. And behind her was a little boy with a shock of fiery red hair.

"Christmas lists," the spiky haired boy announced. He handed his mom three sheets of paper. "I wrote Brandon's list since he still can't write. He just told me what he wanted." The little boy nodded in confirmation.

The mother glanced at the lists. "Okay, I'll see what I can do."

"Don't buy us presents we have to share," the spiky haired boy warned.

"I won't," the mom promised.

The spiky haired boy spun on his heels and marched out of the room.

"Stick to the list," the girl ordered.

"I will," the mom promised.

The girl turned and pranced away.

The mother was left alone with her little boy. "Morning sweetie! How are you?"

The little boy didn't answer. He pointed at his Christmas list and left. The mother checked the clock. It was nearly time to leave. She was working twelve hour shifts at the store to make up for the holiday expenses.

The little boy reentered the room and snatched his Christmas list.

"Forget something," the mother asked.

The little boy didn't answer he just scribbled on the paper. She figured he was drawing a picture of what he wanted since he still couldn't write. He slapped the paper onto the bed and left. The mother turned it over. Written in red crayon were the words, ROCKING CHAIR.

What Alex won:

$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)

Contest guidelines are HERE.

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