Fortnightly Writing Competition: Winter Solstice (Results)

Started by Sinitrena, Sat 09/12/2023 15:52:12

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Which entry should win the last FWC of the year?

Mandle: Throne of Snow
0 (0%)
Mandle: Frigoric Limerick
0 (0%)
RootBound: The Clearing of Light
1 (20%)
Baron: Blue Solstice
3 (60%)
RootBound: Between breaths
1 (20%)

Total Members Voted: 5

Voting closed: Sun 31/12/2023 17:40:30

Sinitrena

Winter Solstice



Twchnically speaking, the winter solstice is the moment when one of the Earth's poles is farthest away from the sun. This year, this will occur on 22.Dec, at 3:28 (thanks, wikipedia)

Culturally, the winter solstice (as well as the summer solstice, of course) signifies change, an end or a new beginning. It's an important date for agriculture. Many cultures celebrate the winter solstice in one way or the other, sometimes not directly - Christmas, for example.

Your story should take place on or around the winter solstice. It can involve some festivities, but that's not a must. It can just as well deal with the astronomical event rather than the cultural. It also doesn't need to be based on any real culture.

The deadline for this round is 24.Dec, but it is this time of the year, so you all might get an extension (not just because you might need one, but because I'll be busy as well.)

Mandle

THRONE OF SNOW

   It was the hardest thing to wake up grandma on that important morning and get her ready for the outing.
  Junichi and Kayoko Kaneyama, her grandchildren, did their best with their duties, pulling and cajoling the old lady up from her futon. Mother and father watched over both their children with pride and worry as the old lady was fed, washed, and then dressed in the same kimono she had been married in all those decades ago.
  "Does she look all right?" asked Kayoko to her parents, once the whole process was done.
  Father looked over at mother where they stood in the wood-framed doorway and asked her, "Does she?" To which mother, with a critical eye trained on the old woman, replied, "Pretty decent. I'll readjust the obi properly on your mother's waist once we get there. Children, get her writings. She'll want those."
  It was a long and arduous journey from the Kaneyama homestead to where grandfather was. The five-member generation of the current remaining family lineage slogged on through the flatlands. Bare rice fields laying short and dry and brown in their winter farrow ranged out on both sides of the road. The mountains inched their way closer at a slow pace, like gigantic grey and rocky snails capped here and there with cold white crests.
  The trek slowly turned from an exciting outing for the Kaneyama siblings into boredom. Other games and entertainments grew dull for them as their parents before them drew them onwards down the road, halting steps at a time, Grandma between them, her head lolling. The old farmhouses they passed by grew dull to their eyes. And the occasional large Torii gates they passed under, impressive at first, became just another part of the landscape.

  Junichi eventually got bored enough to take out the first on the stack of Grandma's diaries. He looked guiltily over at her, but her large glistening eyes in her small, wrinkled face had not even glanced away from the road ahead when he'd pulled the black leather-bound book from their luggage. So, he just opened the book and started thumbing through the pages. What he saw at first was childishly written hiragana prose about her elementary school years. Page after page, there were just ramblings about some teacher she thought was kind, or some boy she thought was cute, or another teacher she'd drawn a picture of with a coil of poop sketched above their head in loving detail of charcoal outline and brown wax rubbing. This made him chuckle.

  Kayoko, his unfortunate, gawky sister two years older than his own age of fourteen, looked over between their out-of-it grandma and asked, "Is it funny? Show me!"
  "Naw, you're too 'mature' to get it." he replied. Kayoko grinned down at him and said, "Hand it over, you annoying little octopus." And he smirked and gave her the open book.
  She looked at the same page with the 'unchi' poop drawing over the teacher's head and laugh-gushed some snot out of her nose and said, "Oh, damn, Jun-chan. That's great!"
  "I know!" said Junichi, secretly pleased that his older sister had thought so too. "She was a shitty kid way back then, too!" and gasped slightly and looked up at Grandma's face, in case she took offense. But she was just smiling slackly ahead as they snail-paced down the road, and his parents in front of them had not heard anything.
  The siblings passed the diaries back and forth between them during the rest of the outward trek to visit Grandfather, giggling now and then over each next page, and the next after that. And this is the sum of what they read:
 
  Sachiko Kanda had fallen in love with Jun Kaneyama not in the slightest at first. In elementary school, he had kicked her seat and sometimes pulled her hair from the desk behind in Sueh-sensei's classroom. After classes, on cleaning detail, they had run up and down the corridors along the hallways outside on their haunches pushing wet cloths along the wooden floors. Jun had held her eye a bunch of times with a smile she had found charming as they had passed by but had also put out a foot to trip her enough times as well to make her fall over and yell him out as a bastard.
  Then Sachiko had been heading home from middle school one day in Spring along the embankment above the local dammed river and a huge gust of wind had blown a billion cherry blossom petals and almost her off the edge, but 'Creepy Jun' as she started calling him after this, had been stalking behind her the whole while and had grabbed her elbow just in time.
  And then, one or two diaries later, there was the time they met again on the university campus they didn't even know each other were going to. It wasn't Spring exactly, but it was a cool start to summer, and the cherry blossoms were still in bloom. He'd walked up to her on the college quadrangle, all confident young nervous sexiness, a smirked smile on his thin, boney face and said, "At least you can't fall here."
  But she did fall, and hard, for HIM! Over their college years, they had been inseparable. Study dates and hot dates all written in tones that made their grandchildren blush while reading them back and forth to each other.
  There was a gush of love and sex and dreams in Grandma's diaries leading up to graduation, but then...
  Then came a gap in the diaries where her lyrical writing tone grew dull, and she only recorded day-to-day spending and the whole book became a dry financial ledger. And each book after that, and the next after that. And eventually, both brother and sister put away the diaries out of boredom.
  It still took some time until the family reached the foothills leading up to the mountain where they were bringing Grandma Sachiko to meet Grandpa Jun. It was the middle of the night by the time they arrived at the trail head. After bedding grandma down in a comfortable way, they sorted their supplies for the climb the next morning.
  The mother and father awoke well before the break of dawn, waking Junichi and Kayoko and grandma with breakfast already prepared.  The family ate their fill, even Grandma Sachiko and even though she had to be fed a little at a time while her eyes remained fixated dreamily on the sunrise-shadowed mountainside and her jaw dipped and raised slackly as most of the scrambled eggs went down her throat, but some tumbled down her kimono.

  The climb up the mountain trail was hard. The mother and father had to switch out, carrying the grandmother piggyback much of the way. The kids sometimes dug their heels in and pushed at the boney butt of her frail body on their parents' backs to at least seem like they were helping out. Their feet went from loose soil, to gravelly scrabble, to rocky ground, and then into deeper and deeper snow.
  Eventually they arrived at the place. They sat Grandma Sachiko on a large snowy boulder with a deep divot carved out of it roughly in a shape somewhat like that of an armchair.
  Kayoko watched her father place her grandmother's diaries in her lap. Grandmother's eyes did not look down at the books. Kayoko thought maybe the old woman's eyes twitched just a little, maybe in her direction, maybe not at all.
  The father planted a kiss on Grandmother Sachiko's pale and wrinkled brow and said, "She is with him now. Back to the car, everyone."
  They started to walk away but then the mother said, "Hold up just a sec..." and went back and adjusted the old lady's obi belt so it sat just right around her pretty pink and blue kimono. And that is how they left her, sitting on her snowy throne of stone, stepping just as carefully around the bones at its foot as they had when they had put her there.

  The family's way back down the steep mountain trail was faster than the way up but harder on their knees and minds. Junichi held hands with his sister some of the way, to help her by rough rocks she may have stumbled over but also just for the warmth of her palm against his. And to help his mind from stumbling over the rough rocks inside it. Kayoko gripped onto his hand firmly at first but then less and less so, and then finally released it, only to hold it once again ever, many decades later, when his own time came before hers.
  Back in the car, with its heater on and the snowy mountain falling ever further behind in the rearview mirror, the father said, "Let's eat! There's a decent place just down the road a bit." and everyone agreed with him, even the mother.

  Up on the snowy mountaintop, Grandmother Sachiko's boney buttocks grew numb and stopped aching on the stoney throne she had helped put her beloved Jun on all those years before. His bones lay at her feet and her writings in her lap but none of that mattered anymore at the end of her life. It was her time. It was her time to close her eyes and remember. She didn't need her books to remember...
    ...to remember how handsome Jun had been on that day, May 25th 1957, when he'd strode up to her on the college campus and said, "At least you can't fall here." He'd been so tall and straight and lovely. Weeks later, as he'd taken her virginity on that weird round rotating love hotel bed, she'd been thinking the whole time what a weird little kid he'd been and how much she'd hated and loved him over the years growing up together. She'd also been thinking that she was having sex for the first time in her life and how much it kind of hurt and, in the back of her mind, thinking what she would be telling her friends about the whole thing as he pumped and groaned on top of her, his handsome face twisting in such weird ways she had never seen it do before. He was so cute when he came.
  The days at Uni in class and at cafes hanging out with mostly his friends seemed grey now against the vibrant bouts of sex that had come with every nightfall at first once they had their own apartment together. At first.
  Sachiko opened her eyes for the last time, her tears starting to freeze, solidifying down her pale, wrinkled cheeks. She wished she could have seen Jun standing in front of her just one last time in the flesh, but she knew only the bones at her feet were the last bits of him. Then she closed her eyes, also for the last time, feeling the cold that had crept up her legs and into her stomach putting her thoughts to sleep.
  Why had she still loved him even after that horrible graduation night and then even married him and stayed with him forever after? Out of love? Out of fear?
  As her brain started to doze into its final rest, she remembered him bringing her to this place that night. Showing her the throne. Telling her they would both sit here one day. Showing her the bones. Telling her the legacy she would birth. And she had... and now she was gone.

  On the drive back home, during the usual massive traffic jam, Kayoko glanced up in the back seat from her tablet game, a thoughtful expression creasing her brow as she took one of her airbuds out of her ear and asked, "Wait, are we gonna have to do this to you guys, too?"
  The father replied, "Maybe." at the same time the mother said, "Yes."

Sinitrena

One week left and we already have an entry? That's a good start!

Anyone else working on something?

Stupot

Quote from: Sinitrena on Sun 17/12/2023 19:08:49One week left and we already have an entry? That's a good start!

Anyone else working on something?
It's looking increasingly unlikely that I'll have a chance to sit down and get anything on the page, but I might be able to whip together some flash, or a limerick or something.

Mandle

FRIGORIC LIMERICK

There's a day called the Winter Solstice,
Celebrated with pretty much nonsense,
By hippies with bongs,
On the day the least long.
I'd rather be suntanning in Cyprus.

RootBound

Managed to pull something together.  :)

The Clearing of Light

The stars held the kind of clarity only a freezing night imparts, the air dry enough to crack the skin of our hands. All of us huddled at a fire too small to blunt the cold, useless as the pine trees that towered around like ice sculptures. We sat on logs that felt like frozen rocks and ate canned baked beans we'd halfway heated with a busted old pot in the fire. We scarfed down big spoonfuls before they could get cold again.

Rachel had insisted that beans were rustic camping food. The longest night of the year, she said, was best warmed not by fire or feast but by stirring the heart with spirits and camaraderie. It'll be fun, she'd said, when she called us up one by one, trying to gather as many friends together as she could, maybe to make the whole thing feel less insane. And she had convinced each of us, even though this far north, the solstice night lasts 19 hours.

We all made a point of not naming the temperature aloud. Even Rachel shivered, despite her thick hat with ear flaps, her knitted fingerless gloves, wool scarf, parka, and fur-lined boots. She stared at the flames as if keeping her eyes there might fan the fire. The beer bottle in her hand long empty.

She was into Paganism or astrology or something, thought the solstice was an auspicious, even powerful night. "When that sun comes up," she said, "it'll be like the first dawn you've ever seen. You won't look at sunlight the way you used to. You'll understand why ancient people worshipped it."

"I sure hope so," one of us said. We were all thinking it. We'd helped lug a big pile of wood to the pit when we'd arrived, but Rachel made us ration it. We'd at least gotten her to agree we could go home if the fire went out before sunup. All night she'd urged us to wait whenever one of us tried to add a log, but this time, when someone jumped up shivering and grabbed a big limb, she made no objection. The log made a satisfying crunch as it landed, and sparks flew up. We all watched them fan out and vanish.

Rachel pulled her scarf over her face so all we could see were her glimmering eyes and sharp eyebrows. Her gaze shifted around to each one of us. "I know this isn't fun. But it keeps you in the moment. Clears your head for new ideas. People say light is good and dark is bad, but... I think it's the opposite, you know?"

Maybe talking was the only way she could take her mind off the cold.

"A so-called dark night of the soul is supposed to cleanse, like you learn something from it. Even if it's just discovering how small you are. And like, in a way, darkness itself is kind of like cleanliness. Being clean is being free of impurities. When light is there, it reflects and bounces and gets in everything, like dirt. But a shadow can't bounce or reflect or get in anywhere, because it isn't actually anything. It's the clearing away of light. So darkness is more pure. More whole. Same with cold. Heat is just an additive."

If we hadn't all been tipsy, someone would have disagreed, but nodding as if this was the most profound thing took less energy than laughing or debating.

At that point Rachel paused, and silence spread out from us, the night now emptied of sound. The dark of the sky and the stillness of the air made the fire seem indeed like an intruder, but we needed it. Without the sun, we had to make all our own light, and no amount of it could match what the sun gave every second. All the human light in the world couldn't.

We waited for Rachel to speak again, but she only tilted her head back, pulled down her scarf, and tried to glean any straggling drops from the beer bottle. Then she covered her face again, threw the bottle into the bucket with the other empties, and leaned forward, reaching her hands closer to the fire.

We all did the same. Words couldn't make the cold stop, and words couldn't bring up the sun. For a while, no one else took up the torch of speaking.

But the one thing words could help with was time, and we still had hours to go. No one but Rachel was much for philosophy, so one of us started a long, meandering story. The rest of us clung to the sound and the flames. Around us, beyond reach of the fire, the purity left by the absence of light and heat was more than we could bear.
J. They/them. Here are my most recent games:

Baron

Blue Solstice

Olga sat in her warm SUV, waiting for Conrad.  A few shoppers filed by in the parking lot, heading to the mall.  The thoughtful display of seasonal lights tried to dispel the gloom of late afternoon that was basically indistinguishable from true night.

The radio tried valiantly to put Olga into a festive mood, churning out sappy carol after sappy carol.  As usual, the holiday rush had made it difficult for her to actually enjoy the season.  She had often remarked with irony that the shortest days of the year always felt like the longest.  Olga sighed, watching a young girl pass in front of her, swinging from the arms of both parents on either side, revelling in the glory of carefree cheer.  One day that kid would grow up, and that spirit would be crushed by the merciless weight of the real world.

Her phone rang.  "Olga," she answered curtly through the handsfree feature in the SUV.

"It's Anya," the voice of her teenage daughter replied equally curtly.  "When's dinner?"

Olga sighed inwardly.  The last time they had spoken had been a big fight about appropriate clothing, so she tried to take a conciliatory tack.  "I might be late, Pupsik.  There should be a frozen pizza in the freezer if you're hungry."

"I don't like that cardboard shit," Anya replied, still clearly spoiling for an argument.  Olga could imagine her at home, defiantly wearing the short skirt that she had forbidden.

"You'll have to wait for me to be done then," Olga said, wincing at the grating undertone in her own voice.  "I'm still waiting on Conrad."

"Oh, Mom," Anya complained, her eye-roll audible through the phone.  "I thought you were done with that loser."

Olga had to bite her tongue.  Now that she was a teenager Anya had become extra judgy about her mother's life.  In retrospect, Olga probably should have kept some of the more gruesome details secret, but her only daughter had for a long time been her only true confidante.  It hurt that they were now quarrelling over such petty things, when all they really had in life was each other.

"You let me worry about Conrad," she said evasively.  "Tell you what, why don't you order-in some Sushi from that fancy place?  I should be bringing in a little extra this month to pay for it."

"I don't want fucking Sushi!" Anya replied provocatively.

"Then figure it out," Olga said flatly, finally losing her cool.  If her daughter really wanted to do this, then this was what they were going to do.  "I've still got a long list to work through, and it's not getting any earlier.  You do you and I'll do me."

There was a long, agonising silence on the other end of the line.

"Listen, Pupsik," Olga said, caving first.  "I'm just...  It's a busy time of year, and this Conrad thing is just making it all that much more complicated.  I'm sorry we fought, it's just... you know how I feel about drawing that kind of attention to yourself."

"I know, Mom," Anya broke as well, choking up a bit.  "I understand, given your history, why you think it's a bad idea to get noticed.  I just... hate feeling so invisible, that's all."

Olga nodded.  She had been a teenager, years ago.  A very troubled teen.  That was a big part of why she was working so hard to build a better life for her daughter.

"Hey, Mom?" Anya asked.

"Yes, Pupsik?"

"How about...  How about you just leave the rest of your list for now.  Come home, and we can watch hokey Christmas movies together and pig out on junk food, like in the old days."

Olga nodded to herself.  What could possibly be more important than spending quality time with the most important person in her life?  "Sounds like a plan, Pupsik.  The rest can wait.  I'll call my boss and I'm sure he will understand.  Just let me get Conrad and I'll be right home, okay?"

"Okay."

The line was disconnected.  Olga felt a hot tear run down her cheek.  It was tough, feeling like she was being pulled in two directions at once.  But that was her problem.  Anya was clearly just reaching out for someone to show they cared, and Olga was thankful it was her instead of some nogoodnik. 

Then from her place of vantage she saw his unmistakable silhouette emerge from the glow of the mall entrance.  Conrad.  She felt a slight shudder run up her spine and instinctively pulled her scarf up over her face despite the warmth inside the SUV.  Her daughter was right, he was a loser. But Olga had been around the block enough to know that even losers could be worth it.  The fool man was walking the wrong way, of course - why would she have expected any less?  She shook her head and pulled out.

A mob of shoppers thronging into the mall blocked her progress temporarily.  Olga drummed her fingers on the steering wheel impatiently, trying not to lose sight of Conrad.  At least he was moving towards a less-busy part of the parking lot.

At last the way was clear and she hit the gas to catch up with him.  At the last moment he turned, his surprised expression lit up by her headlights like a camera flash.  And then he was under her tires, thumping like a rag doll.  Olga stopped the SUV, got out calmly, and surveyed Conrad twitching on the icy ground.  She pulled out her gun, pumped three silenced shots into him, and then got back into her vehicle.

Olga crossed another name off her list and dialled her boss as she peeled out.

RootBound

Wrote another just to keep things interesting.  :)

Between breaths

Breathe out. Hold.
Breathe in.

A turn of an axis away from the light,
A day without air, before turning back.

Each nearing of one pole retreating the other,
Each year one elongated breath.

Breathe out. Hold.
Breathe in.

Only recurrance makes long night
A solstice;
Only in repeat do breaths become breathing.

To live on, the night takes its inbreaths according to physics:
To fill, lungs must first empty out.
J. They/them. Here are my most recent games:

Sinitrena

Oh, two from Mandle and two from RootBound. Should I consider all of these as official entries, or would either of you like to limit their's to just one? Let me know before the deadline.

There's still time for more entries, so don't panic if you work on anything last minute.

RootBound

@Sinitrena I'll leave both of mine in. Wasn't planning to submit twice but I'm pretty happy with both of them.  :)
J. They/them. Here are my most recent games:

Mandle


Sinitrena

That makes it five entries from three participants, and with that we are closed.

You can now vote for the winner of the last winner of the FWC this year with the poll above, which ends on the evening of 31. December (timezones apply).

As a quick reminder, our entries are:

Mandle: Throne of Snow
Mandle: Frigoric Limerick
RootBound: The Clearing of Light
Baron: Blue Solstice
RootBound: Between breaths


Vote once, don't change your vote (because you can't) and comment here if you feel like and and because feedback is love.

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas or whatever else applies to y'all!

Mandle

Feedback:

The Clearing of Light (Rootbound):
Spoiler
A brief glimpse into what I guess is a post-apocalyptic world and into the lives of what I thought were children following a fellow survivor not all that much older than themselves. Beautifully written and pulled me along the whole way.
[close]

Between Breaths (Rootbound):
Spoiler
I read this one through a few times. I thought it might be some deep thing about how our lives can be represented by the cycles of the solar system, with how a breath doesn't mean breathing. But I don't think it landed for me completely.
[close]

Blue Solstice (Baron):
Spoiler
I could see the story growing shorter on my screen, still wondering if it would be just a vague glimpse into these people's lives, which I would have been fine with. BUT then you pull everything together at the end with that twist, and now I HAVE TO read it through again to spot the tricks!!! Like how the mom was concerned about the daughter not calling attention to herself via her dress code, but not for the usual parental concerns. Definitely has my vote.

EDIT: Just read back through and, WOW! EVERY turn of phrase leads the reader to come to a completely different vision of what the dynamic is between Olga, Anya, and Conrad, and yet never does a single word lie to the reader. This is one of the tightest plotted "O. Henry" short stories I have ever read!  Also, I like that the girls' names are Russian, suggesting a larger backstory of assassin training that is the extra spice, but doesn't need to be told in full. Mr. Henry would have loved this one himself! Screw it... gonna read through again a third time to spot anything extra I missed, like rewatching Fight Club one more time...

EDIT 2: Found these hidden gems:

"As usual, the holiday rush had made it difficult for her to actually enjoy the season."

"Olga probably should have kept some of the more gruesome details secret, but her only daughter had for a long time been her only true confidante." (How GOOD it is that the reader assumes this refers to the mother's love life shared with her daughter. SO GOOD!)

"I should be bringing in a little extra this month to pay for it."

"Just let me get Conrad and I'll be right home, okay?"

AMAZING STUFF!!!
 
[close]

Baron

Stuck on my mobile while traveling, so please forgive typos and brevity.

@Mandle
Spoiler

THRONE OF STONE:  You established an intriguing feeling of mystery in the first half - why are they dragging this comatose old lady up the mountain?  Only after she is on her stone throne do you realise the significance, which for me was the horrifying climax.  The mystery of why she stayed with Jun after (what did happen on graduation night, anyway?) was much less satisfying.  Top marks for writing technique, though.  I especially liked the mountains advancing like giant stone snails and the metaphor of holding hands to steady each other (even inside their minds).

FIGORIC LIMERICK:  Tongue-in-cheek it's true, but not terribly deep or rhymey (the two things I tend to look for in poetry).

[close]

@RootBound
Spoiler

THE CLEARING OF LIGHT:  This was the opposite of Mandle's story for me, in that I thought it had a weak beginning.  You use beautiful language to set the scene ("The stars held a kind of clarity only a freezing night imparts...") but then the story seems to lack direction.  I take particular issue with how winter camping was portrayed, since I know from hard experience that wool mittens without fingers wouldn't cut it if it was cold enough for the logs they are sitting on to be frozen like rocks.  Nevertheless, as the story unfolds the central idea of the purity of cold and darkness (and silence, tacked on) becomes clear.  I thought it was a strong ending, realizing that people might aspire to purity but in reality deal very poorly with it.  As the message stuck with me after reading, this was the story I voted for.

BETWEEN BREATHS:  Okay, so the rhythm of solstices is like the rhythm of breathing - so far, so good.  But night is the in-breath?  Filling the Earth with... purity? (based on your last story?)  I could kind of see the lengthening days being associated with life filling up, and then a slow reversal back to winter, but that's the opposite.  In the end I was confused, sorry.

[\spoiler]
[close]

Mandle

Baron:
Spoiler
Taking the elderly to a snowy mountain when they became a burden on a struggling village is a practice that apparently took place here in Japan in the distant past. And, this being Japan, the elderly went willingly, seeing it as their final duty in service of the greater good. The term "take them to the snowy mountain" is still used here as black humour when talking about an elderly relative who is considered a burden on the family. Japanese humour can be very grim at times.
[close]

RootBound

@Mandle
Spoiler
Very good writing! I wish I had known about this tradition as you explained it  in your comment, as it would have cleared up the confusion I had about the family's motivations. I kept asking myself what their reasons were for doing this, and I would have been a lot more affected by the story if I'd known. Now that I know, the story seems stronger, which would certainly have influenced my vote had I known before.
[close]

@Baron
Spoiler
This got my vote because I connected with the characters. Unfortunately, the ending to me felt like more of a simple "gotcha" moment than a purposeful twist. That said, I think the piece could work well as the beginning of a longer story, where the twist serves to establish a certain tone in the writing and set up an ongoing dynamic between the characters. For me personally, I like when twiss support something larger rather than existing for their own sake. I know lots of others feel differently though.
[close]
J. They/them. Here are my most recent games:

Sinitrena

And we have a winner.

But first, some comments:

Mandle:

Throne of Snow is a very well-written story that left me slightly confused at times. Your later comment helped clear up most questions - for an international audience not familiar with japanese traditions it should have been mentioned in the text itself to some degree. Anyway, I found it interesting that the mother was the one more interested in the tradition than the father, even though it was his mother they brought to the mountain - she makes sure the old woman is dressed properly, she insists in the end that the children should do the same to her and her husband at the end of their life. Also, the mention of the "horrible graduation night" is left a bit hanging there. I took it as meaning Jun showed or told her about his families tradition that night, and it shocked her, but going by Baron's comment that might not have been as clear to others as it was to me and one more sentence actually telling us what happened then might help.

Frigoric Limerick: A nice little limerick, and I undertand the sentiment. Compared to the other entries, including your own, it's just not very deep or meaningful.

Baron:

I don't know how, because there's honestly nothing in the text that gives it away early, but the thought that Olga's a contract killer poped into my head halfway through the story. Maybe there are subtle hints, maybe I'm just weird. Anyway, the re-contextualization of the whole conversation as well as the narrative is amazing here. So many things seem to mean something else on the first read than on the second: "gruesome details of her life" - love life vs. killer; "Conrad thing is just making it all that much more complicated" - boyfriend vs victim; "busy time of the year" - normal Christmas stuff vs. a lot of people want someone dead that time of year --- and so on. An interesting point is that you can actual re-contextualize the relationship with Conrad twice or even three times: boyfriend in the beginning; ex boyfriend further along; person she has a personal grudge against and kills in the second-to-last paragraph; contracted victim in the very end - only the last paragraph makes it absolutely clear what she is - and I love it. Well done.

RootBound:

The Clearing of Light read well, but somehow I missed the plot. There's just not a lot happening here. The whole time I read it, it felt like set-up waiting for something to happen. But in the end we only get a bit of (questionable) philosophy. Sorry, not my favorite.

Between breathes is interesting, and even more philosophical than your other entry, but the metaphor was somewhat lost for me. I get the circle of change, of renewal, but I can't get it together with breathing as much as I would like. Yes. breathing is also renewel, but I was constantly picturing the earth swelling and falling like a chest and that just doesn't work.



With that said, we have a fairly clear winner this round:


Baron



Congratulations!

Happy New Year, everyone - see you next year in the next round of the FWC!!!

Baron

Wow, thanks for all the votes everyone!  I'll try to get the next competition up and running quickly.

Mandle

Fair comments from all. The best story won... Baron's was a grand slam!

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