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Your Story 42 Winner: The Safe Zone

Categories: Your Story Competition Tags: Your Story Competition.

Prompt: Write a short story, of 750 words or fewer, that begins with the following line of dialogue: “I’ve got to get out of these clothes–fast.”

Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in the competition (either by entering, reading or voting).

Out of more than 600 entries, readers helped us pick “The Safe Zone” by Patricia S. Cook as the winner. For winning, Patricia’s story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.

Winning Entry

“The Safe Zone”
By Patricia S. Cook

“I’ve got to get out of these clothes—fast,” I say softly to myself, my voice breaking. I obey the man holding a cattle prod inches away from my half-naked body. When the electrified stick crackles close to my ear, the fine hair across my skin raises. I twitch.

“Lift your arms and keep your distance girl,” he roars. “Good. Lift your head. Let me see your neck. Good. Turn around, bend over, touch your toes and spread your legs.”

I move fast and follow the orders given. Besides, what choice do I have? If the man with the prod doesn’t get me, I’m sure one of the others with the M16s would. All the guards look the same with their yellow bodysuits, black gloves, clear face shields, and identical nervous looks in their eyes.

“This one’s clear,” he shouts and then nods at me. “Move along.”

With one last checkpoint ahead, I see the lucky clothed people behind the barbwire fence huddling in groups with army green blankets. I join a woman in line and watch her try to cover her naked body with her hands. I dispense with any sort of modesty and hug my arms, rubbing them in hopes the friction will warm me.

Puffs of smoke laced with the aroma of grilled meats drift by. My stomach aches for food. I don’t dare look down because I imagine it looks as if an alien perches inside, ready to burst through.

Icy winds bite at my flesh. I squat, wrap my arms around my legs and rest my head on my knees. The tingle of tears pricks my eyes while I ignore the knots twisting inside. It’s dusk, and all those who don’t pass the checkpoints by dark will be forced to start all over again tomorrow.

The cry from the woman in front of me draws my attention. She winces as the man scrapes her head with clippers. The buzzing shears moan in protest against her thick blond hair, which falls in strips at his feet. I see his eyes widen right before he jumps back—and I realize she’s infected. He screams and races toward a decontamination tent.

I don’t know if I hear the shots first or see her body jerk under the impact of the bullets. As she falls to the ground, three men with meat hooks in their hands run up to inspect the spot right above her ear. I strain to hear what they say, but can’t make out their muffled words. With blunt force they sink the metal talons deep into her flesh and drag her away to a pit full of other lifeless bodies.

My mouth gapes and my body heaves from the sight, but no tears fall. My humanity is denied all because of dehydration. The pain in my chest deepens when I glance at the people behind the fence, and they seem not to notice or care for the fallen. I’m not sure which.

“This one has been in line with her all day,” I hear a guard announce to a new man at the post.
The words rip through me and my chest tightens. “I’m fine.” I raise my hands in a submissive position. “I’ve kept my distance. I didn’t touch her or even talk to her,” I plead.

“No.” He grabs me to brand my arm with a rejection mark. “Don’t come back for nine days.”

“Please, I’ve traveled so far and I will freeze without clothes,” I beg and pull against his tight hold.

“I can’t help you.”

“Don’t send me back out there,” I sob.

“How old are you?” His brow creases.


The man drops my arm and I overhear his whisper. “I don’t want to do this anymore.” He stares at me. “My daughter was twelve, too.” A tear betrays his appearance of control. “Where is your family?” he asks.

“They died in the first wave of bio-attacks. I’m all alone.”

He takes a quick glance around and looks to the sky. “Damn it,” he mutters.

I don’t move or say a word as I watch the man unravel in front of me. But I do smile for the first time in three years when I hear the gentle hum of the clippers click on.

It’s dark as I stumble through the last checkpoint. A guard leans down and strokes my cheek. “Don’t be scared little girl,” he hands me a blanket and grins. “You’ve made it to the safe zone.”


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52 Responses to Your Story 42 Winner: The Safe Zone

  1. Sampil1 says:

    When can we vote for this?

  2. archerbma says:

    Can someone tell me if I did this right? It’s my first time and I submitted my entry by email and saw all the information that was required on the entry form. Was I supposed to give all that information in the email or was I supposed to fill out the entry form as well? I would appreciate a reply.

  3. BadAdverb says:

    I received an e-mail postponing this deadline until June 11. I finished my story several weeks ago, and held on to it for last minute editing. Will my story still be considered?

  4. therealjoeben says:

    I kept getting an error message so I submitted several times till I didn’t get the error message. Sorry if you got multiple entries.

  5. pswinton says:

    Also, is there a way to know if the entry went through when submitted? I’d hate to clutter your email by sending it via personal email and through submission. I submitted it today through submission.

  6. pswinton says:

    Do the title and name count towards the 750 word count?

  7. Shahjehank says:

    This is my first time too. I am editing my story and I will send it out soon before June 10. True blood premiers on June 10 on HBO.

  8. Debbie says:

    This is my first time. When will we be able to read the entries?

  9. osouniq says:

    Just submitted my story for the first time….this should be interesting!

  10. FishJunkie says:

    I cant wait much longer to read some entries, i am way to excited about this.

  11. Americannae says:

    I had to submit mine twice because there was an error in the first entry that I sent – I hope that’s okay! Just ignore the first one. First-timer’s mistake!

  12. BadAdverb says:


  13. jonathanlivingston says:

    Another first-timer joins the community. I submitted mine as well, let’s hope for the best…good luck everybody!

    Looking forward to reading all the other entries.

  14. LunaRaven says:

    Another first timer. I doubt i’ll win but the challenge was good opportunity to stretch my creative writing muscles–which have been sadly neglected in favor of the many tedious academic papers i’ve had to write for school.

  15. BadAdverb says:

    I fertilized the ovum titled “I’ve got to get out of these clothes–fast!” My seminal work produced three children, and now I do not know how to proceed. Do I offer all three monstrosities at once, entering them together on the same page? Should I pick a favorite progeny and enter only one? They are all horrible and beautiful in my eyes. I have never entered a contest before and am grateful for any advice.
    Thank you

  16. Philster999 says:


    I was just about to post my 750 words (another first-timer) when I noticed that the few italicized words I had included in the story didn’t copy into the post box as italicized. Is there any remedy for this? I looked but didn’t see anywhere that I could possibly adjust the font for the submission. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  17. Michelle Tibbetts says:

    Oh my gosh, this is so much fun! My first time too. My idea hit early this morning and I had to work all day with it bouncing around my brain. I sat down as soon as I got home. I’m happy with the result. I must get back to my WIP but this was kind of like a coffee break. A chance to freshen up the creativity.

  18. LetMeBeYourStar51 says:

    First time submitter! I enjoyed participating! :)

  19. dougsgoodz says:

    My first attempt at sci-fi. XD wish me luck!

  20. sarah15 says:

    Yay; just submitted my story! I was so excited that I forgot a title…

  21. Mag says:

    From these, it seems as it there are a lot of us first timers. I wonder if that will reflect in the genres we wrote. Can’t wait to see other entries. How long after deadline until we get to read entries?

  22. JenWind says:


    I was submitting, and hit the “submit” button before I put in the title and did a few tweaks to formatting. The whole story is there, and I think formatting is okay, but the title is still missing. Is this a big deal? The title would have put me over 750 words though.

    Sorry this is my first time, and I just want to get it all right!

  23. cjv750 says:

    Had fun with this one as much as my first one. It is such a good way to get the writing juices going.

  24. R.L. Page says:

    This is great! I’m also among the first-timers. I love the prompt! Reading different interpretations of the prompt will be interesting. I hope people will enjoy reading mine as I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading others. :-)

  25. fereitica says:

    I am also a first-timer here, but my dad always told me to check out writer’s digest, because he has always encouraged me to write more… I know I could have taken this story so many different ways, but I went with the first one that really struck me. I hope others like it! (whether I win or not). :-)

  26. GirlRoomGlitz says:

    I’m working on mine now!! I love these writing exercises…they get my brain flowing! Good luck everybody.

  27. ima_duck says:

    first time Competitor!! :) so excited to see how things turned out!

  28. Brenda P. Smith says:

    Well…, my work is entered. Have no idea how its going to be received, however, I have faith that it is amusing.and will be judged as unique. You have got to be better than that in order to win this one (smile).

  29. burrowswrite says:

    I just submitted mine! I’m really exited. I just hope it is not too edgy.

  30. I’m going to enter this as soon as I can!
    I’d be amazing if I could even make it into the Top Five(:


  31. StephStrick says:

    I have submitted my entry and I can’t way to see what direction other writers went. The prompt definitely can be the opening to so many genres of writing.

  32. Darlingnightmare says:

    First time I have entered a writing competition =]

  33. Bonnee says:

    This sounds like a great prompt, I’m going to start the word document now and make sure I get back to it!

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