The broad challenges tend to bring out the best writing, and this week was no exception. Our job was to simply create a tense story with a cliffhanger, in 500 words or less.
Edward King’s father hadn’t beaten him in eight days. He wasn’t entirely sure why he counted. He did know that twenty-one more days and it would be a record. And maybe hope.
Sometimes Eddie wished he went to school in a bad neighborhood, where some kids were lucky if their parents chose to buy food instead of heroin. He could then fantasize his life as better than that of his friends. But every minute he spent away from home was a cold reminder that he didn’t have one.
What kept Eddie from deliberately working on an escape plan was Mom. She couldn’t protect him from his father’s “corrections” any more than she could protect herself. But he knew she cared, and that was enough. Eddie couldn’t wait until he was old enough to protect her. In nineteen days was his eleventh birthday. Almost an adult.
His birthday was one reason Eddie was sure he wouldn’t break his record. But his report card was another. It came today and his father knew it. And Eddie knew the only thing his father would care about was the B-minus in pre-algebra.
The harsh clanging of the garage door jolted Eddie out of his self-pity. Sitting down at the kitchen table, Eddie stared at the report card, hoping to get this out of the way.
His father came through the door and set his briefcase on the table. Eddie sensed his father looking at him, then the report card, then back. He tensed as his father’s hand came to his forehead. But his father simply ruffled his hair before silently walking towards the stairs.
Eddie couldn’t tell whether to be relieved or frightened, but goose bumps shot up his arms. Unfortunately, this debate would have to wait as a scream from upstairs broke his paralysis.
Normally, he would go outside so he wouldn’t have to listen. But this time something compelled him to walk up the stairs. As he did, Mom’s protests became softer but more desperate. Reaching his parent’s bedroom, he looked carefully around the door jamb. Then he took a step back.
Mom’s blouse was torn. Half-naked, she looked helpless on the bed as his father towered over her with his dick out, stroking it. Not knowing exactly what his father planned to do, but knowing it was bad, Eddie reacted. “Mom!” he shouted from the doorway.
His father’s glare darted from his mother to him. He expected shouting, but his father calmly pulled up his slacks. “Edward. Get the hose.”
Shaking, Eddie made his way to the garage. This task normally was humiliating, but right now he only felt fear, and rage. Pulling the hose off the far wall, Eddie considered destroying it, realizing that doing so would only make things worse. But then he noticed the adjacent cabinet was slightly ajar. His father’s .45 was lying on the shelf.
“Edward, you shithead!” he heard in the distance. “Get up here!”
Eddie closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Coming!”
Spooky: Yep, you had me skipping breaths here. It starts out sounding like an obvious and manipulative Lifetime movie, but it soon spirals into something much more interesting. Also, “His birthday was one reason Eddie was sure he wouldn’t break his record” is perhaps the greatest heartbreaking line I’ve ever read in this game. 5
I was hoping someone would comment on that line. It’s probably my favorite. It’s funny, though. In Bantam Bulwyr when I used random names, you felt they were symbolic. This week I was very careful about what name I picked, yet no comment :)
DK: Great, disturbing situation, and the tension is really palpable. I felt a few of the early sentence structures were a little awkward, but again I’m being really pedantic to force myself to find separation. I’m just finding this week really great overall. 4
When I finished writing this, I was at 587 words. Most of what I chopped down was in the beginning, so the awkwardness is probably due to that.
I’m really pleased with these scores. I didn’t feel I had a pure cliffhanger, as this story could end right here and be totally fine. But the conclusion is not forgone, so there’s that.
The Vogons did not finish in first place for the first time, though our team still had an exceptional week. The other entries were just that good. Unfortunately, we had one more non-submitter from another team, so the voting is yet again a formality. Fourteen players left!