Your Story #81: Winner!

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  • Prompt: Write a short story, of 700 words or fewer based on the prompt at left. (For mobile users, it will appear below.) You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

Once again, you’ve made the Your Story competition a success! Thanks to everyone who participated in competition #81 (either by entering, reading or voting).

Out of more than 450 entries, readers helped
us pick “The Last of the Amazing Mazons” by
John W. Salvage as the winner. For winning, Salvage’s story will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest.

Winning Entry
“The Last of the Amazing Mazons”
by John W. Salvage

Mallory inched her foot forward, feeling her way along the narrowing branch. Her eyes were open, but unfocused, gazing through the veil of leaves to the hazy sky beyond. The last time she was up so high her family was still alive.

“You’re doing great!” Stephanie called from behind. “Don’t look down. Keep going.”

It was hard advice to follow when the loose bark of the sycamore’s limb tugged at her feet. Not so long ago she performed backflips along a narrow cable fifty feet above a roaring crowd. Walking along this branch should have felt like walking across a highway overpass, and yet her heart pounded and her lungs constricted more with each step.

She concentrated on her next moves. Adjust all her weight forward. Lift her back foot. Hold out her hands for balance. Slowly bring her back foot around in front. Even out her weight. Repeat. It sounded simple, yet every second was filled with the sickening, empty-bellied sensation of free-fall.

Once she loved that feeling. It was like flying. No! It was better than flying. When she was “on” everything felt right. She knew the trapeze would be there when she reached for it, or that her foot would find the wire right where it was supposed to be. The moment of weightlessness as she reached the apex of her flight or landed a complex feat felt like mastery over the world.

“You’re doing great, Mallory!”

When she woke up this morning she did not expect to try this. Instead she planned merely to have breakfast with her life coach. Afterward they walked through the park. They discussed her acrophobia many times, since the support pole fell, killing her husband and daughter, while she watched, screaming and slipping off the edge of the platform. She suffered three broken ribs, a pierced lung, and a broken arm. Those wounds healed, but the certain knowledge that the ground would open up and plunge her to dark depths continued to plague her.

Therapy was expensive, but money was no issue. After the investigation the insurance company made good on its commitment. Realizing the depths of her fear and sorrow she sold what was left of the show. Three generations of the Amazing Mazon’s Family Circus came to an end when its assets were liquidated, its bookings canceled, its roster of talent scattered to the wind.

Only the money remained.

That wasn’t entirely true. Some of her injuries lingered as well. She could feel her ribs ache when she cried too hard or too long. Sometimes her arm pulsed when rain threatened. That combined with her jaw, which ached with the coming snow, made her a living barometer.

Her jaw was a much older injury. One she suffered only a week after marrying George. That had been the last time he hit her in the face. Her bruises and welts proved a distraction when it was time to perform. After that he concealed his fits of rage.

It didn’t happen often, and each time she thought it would be the last. When he turned that rage on their daughter, however, she knew there was only one way to end it.

The decision to loosen the bolts on the tension support had been easy. It was done while Maisie should have been resting. Instead she snuck out to watch her parents practice. George stepped onto the high-wire and it held until he reached the middle. Maisie screamed and ran forward as her father fell. She didn’t see the pole falling like an old sycamore. Mallory reached out for her, her cries drowned out by the crash of timber. Mallory slipped from the platform, the world spiraling around her as she plunged downward into the bottomless pit of her new life.

“You are so close! Maisie would be so proud!”

Mallory’s world swirled about her. She couldn’t remember the last time she breathed. The branch seemed to sway beneath her. She fell into the awaiting fear that would never let her go.