- Prompt: Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt above. You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.
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Out of 130 entries, Writer’s Digest editors and readers chose this winner, submitted by Bridget Young of Brecksville, Ohio.
The screams finally stop as daylight fades away. I’ve gotten used to human laughter but never the cries of fear. A feeling of dread, a sensation I’ve learned from the humans, comes as I wait for the Reporting Council to begin its communication. I am several light years away from home. Distance has given me time to reflect on my assigned territory: Earth. Will I be able to communicate to the Council the agony I encounter here every day?
“Agent, please begin your report. We are most interested in the inhabitants’ daily life,” says the Council.
“I first want to thank the Council for the opportunity to study planet Earth. The inhabitants refer to themselves as humans. My territory is 400 acres using human measurements and completely void of human life when the sun doesn’t shine.”
“We have received similar reports from other agents. Are the humans in something called a cubicle during the day?”
“No,” I say, shaking my head. It’s another human trait I’ve adopted. I want to stand out as a top agent, so I try again. “The humans arrive during daylight in a primitive cart with four wheels. They abandon the carts and don’t retrieve them until they leave my territory.”
“Consistent with other reports.”
“They ride in smaller carts once they arrive,” I say quickly as my brain shuffles through everything I’ve learned. “The carts move at fast speeds for humans. The carts’ paths take unnecessary twists and turns and sometimes go upside down for no apparent reason. The human riders have no ability to control the carts.”
“We’ve not received similar intelligence. This is quite disturbing. What have your biometric reports uncovered?”
“The cart riders experience an increase in heart rate and breathing. Chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol are released.” I inhale a deep breath. Our biology isn’t that different from the humans, and I feel like I’ve begun to understand them in my time on Earth. “They seem nervous before the ride.” I pause but decide it is best to continue. “The humans scream in terror during the ride.”
“What about after?”
“Most are smiling.”
“They are likely relieved the ordeal is over. Where do these rides go?”
“Nowhere? How could that be?”
“The ride starts and ends at the same spot. The humans are strapped in and are unable to exit the cart. I’ve not been able to determine why the humans ride the carts. The humans refer to them as roller coasters.”
“The humans frequently have leaders that control them. It is a concept we are still trying to understand. Have you noted any such individuals?”
“There is a giant head decorated with white makeup and a red nose. It towers above everything in my territory. Most of the humans stop in front of the giant head and use devices that produce what they call photographs of themselves with the head. Select humans dress up as the giant head and are referred to as clowns. The clowns roam the territory. The youngest humans frequently become upset and burst into tears when the clowns approach.”
I stare at the giant head as the council deliberates. It continues to smile as though it is unaware of the horror it inflicts.
“The Council has determined that the giant clown exerts influence over the humans by subjecting them to terrifying roller coaster rides that go nowhere. It is Council’s wish that the humans be liberated from the clown.”
I concur with the Council’s assessment. Soon the head will lay motionless on the ground. I will liberate the humans and return home.