Your Story #81: Winner!

  • Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetPrompt: 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.

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42 thoughts on “Your Story #81: Winner!

  1. Elbairis

    I vote for C. It’s very well written, leaves you thinking about what could have happened to the little girl, packs in a chilling, innocent, excellent plot in a very short story.

    1. kjh

      Do you remember the title or content of A? I wish this website had some more tech people on their staff. They should maintain the voting list for posterity.

  2. StoneFree

    I vote “C” – Not that I wanted to (because of the subject matter) but you can’t argue with results! (I also really appreciated the atmosphere created in “A”. But I’m not sure the last sentence held together – it seemed to dissipate rather than providing a punch. Same for “B” – for me, it seemed more built for a funny ending rather than a tragic one.)

  3. julie2616

    I vote for “A”. IT is brilliant! Descriptive, well-written, emotional and analytical at the same time, with layers of complexity that reach far into your psyche.

  4. littlealex

    Hi, just finished reading through the chosen stories and I must say c stood out!! It started off very easy going
    and then it took a drastic turn. I didn’t see the ending coming, and that makes for very good writing in my opinion.
    I thought the man was going to turn out to be a child molester, but I hadn’t even thought that it would end like it
    did. Great job to the author!!

  5. heloisejones

    My vote: Story A.
    Descriptive, great choice of words, compelling narrative drive, and an ending that leaves you wondering about more than the moment or character.

  6. Hope Pilot

    I cast my vote for story A. Its vivid descriptions transported me into the mind of someone yearning for freedom, while causing me to reflect upon my own condition. Excellent work.

  7. Silveringofrose

    My vote is most definitely for C… Upside down… It’s innocent and chilling, and could even be a true story… It’s going to haunt me for a while!!!

  8. Abhilasha Sharma

    Below is my story for the above image. If fellow writers have time, please critique:

    Old Wounds

    I always wanted to peel the skin off my past and taste it but my mother told me it was poisonous fruit.

    After acing police academy I felt safe to deal with that venom and so I planned with George, Mom’s boyfriend, to take her to our lakeside cottage in Mistyfalls — my hometown that I hadn’t returned to since we left seventeen years ago. The trick we used was sleeping pill in her tea, but when she woke up her eyes were streaked with terror, as if we won’t make it out of Mistyfalls alive.

    She refused to leave our cottage and so I made all the grocery trips to town. On one such trip I met Uncle Ray — a family friend and a Lieutenant — just like my parents in old days.

    “Ell…Ellie, you he…here?” he stammered, his shoulders jerking in nervous ticks that he used to cope with his stutter.

    I invited him to visit us in our cottage and asked him about the Biennial Killer. It was the most debated serial killer case in our class. Even though the killer was executed, students argued that he had a partner — trained and possibly from one of the security forces. Many psychoanalysts supported that theory and there were rumors that a similar incident had occurred two years after the killer’s execution. Mom had returned to Mistyfalls around that time, and then never again. It was declared as a copycat kill but opinions varied.

    I never told anyone that it was the last case my parents had worked together, before dad left us. Even after the execution, the carnage stuck on my dad like a leech and one night he took off.
    Soon after, mom quit and we left town. We were broke for a while in the new town but George came around. He is an Ex-Navy seal with two tours to Iraq and a prolonged one to a trauma treatment center. When mom met him, their darkness coalesced.

    As I drove back from the grocery store, the case gripped me like an undersized skullcap. Flashbacks dug into my old wounds — my father slumped in the garage surrounded by empty bottles of whisky sour, mom crying after him when he took off on long walks inside the woods.

    En route I saw a tree — its bough twisted sideways like a tormented soul’s plea for help. On a whim I climbed it, instantly knowing something was crooked. The answer laid at the end of the trunk —a jagged branch covered in massive dried blood spills. The neighboring branch carried bloody fingerprints.

    I got my kit from the car and lifted samples, taking them to the police station. Furnishing my parent’s reference, I requested use of their forensic lab. Personal references stretch far in small towns and I was allowed. I checked in all known databases of Biennial Killer’s victims including federal databases of dead or missing people but nothing matched.

    Then I checked the law enforcement and military personnel database and got two matches! The result spread an inky chill through my ribs.

    I zipped back home. Tucking my service gun inside my shirt I entered the cottage carrying grocery bags. Ray, George and my mother were chatting in the living room. George had his arms around mom’s neck.

    “Car’s stalling, will you guys have a look?” I asked.

    As Ray and George moved towards me I pulled out my gun and pointed at mom.

    “You killed my father,” I said.

    “How…?” she asked, her face ashen like she had seen a ghost, then she realized, “Oh you found the tree … forest was dense back then.”

    “WHY?” I demanded.

    She explained that even after the killer’s execution she persisted with the investigation and the clues led her to dad. One night she tailed him in to the woods and confronted him. He confessed and lashed out trying to kill her. She killed him in self-defense.

    George and Ray believed her and took my gun away. They left to remove the evidence.
    Inside the cottage, alone with my mom, I felt my body prickle with a primeval fear.
    Who was the killer’s partner, my Dad or my Mom?

  9. Abhilasha Sharma

    I vote for C. It was chilling. Writer used good technique – No blood on knife, ‘world upside down’ on tree imagery etc. to lull us into sense of comfort before pulling the rug off our feet.

  10. Leslie125

    I vote for C!!!!! I really love the twist and how the “Mister” fooled Cassie. I would love to read more of this story. It’s just a shame that this kind of stuff happens every day; makes this story very relatable.

  11. Dwalgen

    I vote for story C. I felt I was right there with the little girl wishing she would run. The dialogue was so good. Normal to a ten year old yet at the same time threatening to the adult reader. And mister’s final present to the little girl, his game “turning the world upside down,” played right into the twist at the end. Congrats!

  12. MZ

    I am casting my vote for Story C (the one with the little girl who gets the friendship bracelet from the man who has obviously just killed her folks). Totally phenomenal. I love that it doesn’t say outright that the parents are dead, but we know.


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