We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for the best stories of SpeckLit’s first quarter. As we said beofre, while we love all our authors’ stories (we wouldn’t publish them if we didn’t), our readers have their favorites.
Congratulations to Sierra July and Anne E. Johnson for their wins!
Sierra’s Storytime was our readers’ number one story
And Anne took both second and third prize with Stitching Death and Bully Balloons.
Both authors will receive online bookstore gift certificates.
We look forward to hearing from our readers again in July for our 2nd Quarter Best Of.
The Giant girl knitting on the mountainside cast a shadow over the village church. With each row she knitted, a villager died. When a posse climbed up to beg her to stop, she just giggled.
A boy, inspired by his puppy, suggested they build a huge ball of clay and cover it with glass panes. Once the villagers had pushed the ball up the mountain, they let it roll down past the Giant. The giggling girl dropped her knitting and followed the shiny toy to the next valley.
Today the clever boy is mayor, and knitting is considered bad luck.
Author’s note: Folktale style works particularly well in very short form, I think, since such stories often strip life-altering adventure down to its most essential elements.
Recker, Kung fu and pistol master, was Jayne’s avatar in Reign of Goodness, which she played ten hours a day. In the game, Recker loved Demo, a dashing wizard.
The love felt real, and Jayne longed for a real-life meetup with whoever played as Demo. “Maybe he’s twelve,” she laughed, “or a fortyish man in Mama’s basement. Or a woman. It doesn’t matter. Demo’s player is my last chance for R.L. love.”
Jayne hacked the gaming company’s database to find her lover’s identity. No such avatar existed. Smiling, she sighed, “It’s proof that the game world is my true R.L.”
Author’s note: I thought it would be fun to condense the endless hours of this woman’s gaming into a hundred-word search for love.
Marla’s parents were human. She was a plant. “Some recessive gene,” they told her. Embarrassed, they put Marla in the back yard. Her roots took hold and she grew into a vibrant shrub. One day, without goodbyes, Marla’s family moved away.
Dreaming of the world beyond, Marla died and regrew before a new family moved in. Peter, their little boy, didn’t speak, but every day he sat by Marla and sang. He made up ballads about a plant girl who had adventures. Peter’s parents wept at his madness, but Marla knew she’d found the only person who’d ever understood her.
Author’s note: As autism becomes more an more prevalent, I find it valuable to consider how people on the spectrum have almost super-human perception in very specific situations.
Laramie was smart, but nobody liked him. Once a day somebody kicked or shoved him. “I must go away,” Laramie realized sadly. After months of toil, he invented a serum to let him fly like a balloon. When he tested it, he scraped the ceiling.
Outside, he prepared to drink a mug of serum and float far from home. The pink sun peeked from behind the mountains. “I can’t leave this beautiful place!” he sobbed. So instead, he poured the serum into the stream and watched everyone else drink up and fly away.
Alone and unmolested, Laramie enjoyed the sunset.
Author’s note: Bully Balloons is an homage to Shel Silverstein, whose poem Long-Haired Boy allows a bullied child to escape by flying.
Papa’s vinegar was the best in Modena. With his profits, he sent me to business school.
Once I’d taken over the company, I discovered the source of the vinegar’s magic. A crone, older than time, was chained to the attic wall. Black blood dripped from her finger into a chute, down the wall and into the barrels in the cellar.
I tried to free her, but the moment the chain split she shriveled and died. Flavoring vinegar was her reason for living. Now bland vinegar has ruined Papa’s legacy. Success is much more complicated than we’re taught in business school.
Author’s note: I’m fascinated by the flavor of great balsamic vinegar. It seems other-worldly to me. This story is meant as a creepily fantastical explanation.
The blue and green planet’s atmosphere wasn’t ideal, but Ashea was in emergency mode. She landed her ship in a wide desert. Because there was too much gravity and oxygen for her to function, Ashea hibernated, letting sensors track revolutions around the sun and climate changes.
Three hundred revolutions she waited in the sand before the flood came.
“Glaciers melted,” she realized upon emerging. In the new ocean, Ashea could stand and breathe. Debris of a ruined civilization floated by. Occasionally she even saw a bipedal body, its soft skin swollen from the waves.
“Their gods were angry,” she knew.
Author’s note: This story is meant to show the consequences of abusing the Earth’s environment, from the point of view of an alien visitor.
Joey, the foreman, didn’t bother reporting that the concrete wasn’t setting right. He’d hightail it out of town long gone before anyone noticed, anyway.
He stopped by his pad to collect his stuff. The TV blared the breaking news: A powdery gray fungus, growing fast, covered sidewalks, cars, skyscrapers, and bridges. Even some people, sitting on benches, were suffocated. The infection stemmed from Joey’s construction site. Scientists called it an alien parasite in the concrete.
“That’s right,” Joey crowed. “Goddamn aliens. I mixed it right. This ain’t my fault.” Still, he decided he’d better leave right away, not wait for morning.
Author’s note: My purpose here was to suggest a world-ending scenario without showing much of it, and letting the person who may have caused it walk away…although he’ll probably pay later!
A message came from the Agrantels, Earth’s new allies: “Help! Zherans kidnapped our beautiful Princess!”
Commander Rodgers led his Lightspeed Troops from Earth to Zhera. Picturing this Princess´s delicate features, he daydreamed of her swooning at his heroism. But at the coordinates they found no princess, only a cavern splattered with oily slime.
Saddened, Rodgers sent a message: “Princess devoured by horrid viscous substance. Condolences.”
As the Lightspeed Troops headed home, the Agrantels responded: “Extreme fear turns Agrantel bodies viscous. You left our Princess behind. Worse, you called her horrid. We break our allegiance and hereby declare war against Earth.”
Author’s note: Royal Beauty was my attempt to condense the largest things I could think of (war and space travel) into a tiny format.