2019 Adventure Bound Writing Contest

Winning Stories

* Entries/winning stories shared herein are done so with the written consent of the author. * 

2019 was the inaugural year for the Adventure Bound Writing Contest.  Participants wrote in two rounds, using a visual prompt to guide their word-limited stories.  Writers chose their own genre and a panel of judges selected the top stories in each round.

 

1st Place - Gregory Knight, NC

Evocation
This was turning out to be one of the longest nights of Frank’s life. All he could do

was wait. He felt powerless.


He tried keeping himself occupied as best he could – watching TV, catching up on

office work, emptying the dishwasher. Anything. Still the hours dragged on, and

still Mark was all he could think about. Mostly he just paced.


Frank’s daughter, Emily, found Mark when she dropped by to check on him. Mark

lived alone, not fitting in anywhere really, always seeming to surround himself with

chaos. She found him on the kitchen floor, unresponsive, a syringe still in his hand.


She called 911. An ambulance came. It looked bad. That was hours ago.


Still no word.


Frank had run out of things to occupy his time, so he turned his attention to that

kitchen drawer that every kitchen has – full of odds and ends without a place, that

don’t fit in anywhere. Perhaps he could somehow cure this incurable mess.


He rummaged around in the drawer, taking things and setting them on the counter

top. Removing a half-used book of matches, Frank spotted something round, and he

froze.


It was a child’s wooden building block, cut in the shape of a half-moon. Once upon a

time, it was a happy, bright yellow block; but now, weathered with age, it was no

longer bright, but was instead dingy with wear.


Lifting it into view, he barely breathed. It was so light. And he could feel the

imperfections scoring its curved edge. Frank recognized this block. He closed his

eyes and let the memory flow.


Frank was no longer in his kitchen.


Instead, he stood in a small living room, inside the little house where they once

lived. The windows facing the front porch were open, and the curtains – pristine

white, and bathed in summer sunshine – waved easily with the cool, gentle breeze.


At his feet sat a brown-haired boy, no more than 2 years old, wearing only a large,

cloth diaper, busy at play within his imaginary world of painted wooden blocks,

sprawled haphazardly atop a braided rug. Frank watched in hushed silence.
 

“Dadda! Look what I builded!” The toddler looked up from his masterpiece, his face

lighting the room more than sunshine ever could.


“What have you got there, Buddy?” said Frank, lowering himself to the rug.


“Issa castle, Dadda! I builded a castle. See!” He took his little index finger and

pointed to unrecognizable stacks of various sized blocks.


Frank nodded and pointed to the blocks. “I see, Buddy. It’s a castle! Wow! You

made a great castle. You’re so good at building things.”


Frank reached out and gently laid his hand on the child’s back, remembering the

sensation of soft, smooth skin, and the clean smell of baby powder. Cleaner than

sunshine.


Frank drank it in. A little body with no scars, no homemade tattoos, no track marks.

Perfection.


“I builded a great castle. It was hard.” The little boy nodded his head, as he reached

for more blocks to improve his masterpiece.


As he watched the child play, Frank’s eyes were drawn to a much taller tower of

mismatched blocks beside the castle – mostly oblong – and precariously stacked end

to end. Crowning the tower was a bright yellow, semi-circular block, lying on its flat

edge, curve to the top.


Frank pointed to the tower. “And what’s this, Buddy?”


“Thassa sun up ina sky, Dadda. Issa sun! See?”


Frank lovingly stroked the delicate, thin hair on the boy’s head. “Why, of course it is,

Buddy. It’s so beautiful. You are so smart.”


The boy snatched his blanket at his side, clutched it up to his mouth, and looked up

at Frank with two beautiful blue eyes. Frank lost himself in the sight.


Let this last forever.


A piercing ring tone ripped the vision away, and Frank opened his eyes with a jerk.


He spun around, and looked down at the kitchen table. Emily was calling.


This is it.


He took a deep breath as the annoying ringtone did its work and tapped the display.

 

“Hey, sweetheart. You’ve heard something?” Frank grasped the table edge with

both hands and held on tight – like he did as a child at the doctor’s office when he

was about to get a shot.


“Hey, Dad. It’s Ok. It’s not bad news. They just called from the emergency room.

It’s Ok.”


Frank felt every muscle in his body release a little. He allowed himself to settle into

the nearest kitchen chair. “Tell me.”


“It was definitely an overdose, but Mark’s stable. He’s not completely out of the

woods, but they think he’s going be Ok.”


Frank was breathing again, and one by one, his muscles relaxed.


He’s not dead. My son is still alive. Mark’s Ok.


Frank knew he sounded distant on the phone. He picked up what important details

he could, and then brought the call to a close.


“I love you, Dad. I just wanted to call you as soon as we found out. So you wouldn’t

worry. Are you Ok?”


“Yes, sweetheart. You’re an angel for staying up all night. He’s got an amazing

sister. Anyway, let’s get some sleep. Goodnight, sweetheart.”


Frank hung up and leaned back in the chair. He sat there for a long time, staring out

the window into the darkness. Slowly, the black of night was melting into the gray

of dawn, and Frank realized that the sun would be coming up soon. He had been up

all night.


He stood, allowing the changing landscape to draw him to the window. In the

distance, he could just make out the profiles of the mountains against the horizon.


He realized that his left hand was still clenched. Releasing his fist, he closed his eyes

and affectionately pressed the old toy block against his lips. He didn’t notice the low

clouds, just beyond the mountains, slowly exploding into a blinding bloom of golden

light.


But it was all right. He didn’t need to.

2nd Place - Elizabeth Fisher, NC

Ascent

I trekked slowly up the hill with the sun against my back. I’d been out hiking all

afternoon. I was exhausted. I’d parked at a trailhead earlier in the day and at the end of my

excursion had decided to climb up to the outcrop above my car to catch a glimpse of the sunset

before heading home. I’d tried all day not to think; I had wanted instead to simply experience the

world around me. I had managed nicely up until the sun started settling into bronzy hues

signaling the eminence of nightfall.

My mind sputtered and started at the close-of-day.

I thought about how one day not far from now I wouldn’t be able to walk anymore. I

wouldn’t be able to see the horizon behind me or the tree line in front of me. I wouldn’t be able

to taste the salty beads of sweat slowly evaporating off my upper lip or smell the sticky fresh

aroma of the pine trees surrounding me.

The sudden appearance of a doe in the brush a few feet ahead threw me momentarily

from my melancholy reverie. I thought briefly about taking the animal’s picture but decided

against it. I didn’t want to spend any of my last moments of perception staring through a lens.

I wanted more chances to watch deer.

I wanted to be able to reach out and touch the animal.

I moved towards her hopefully. She saw me.

“Easy,” I said. “I won’t hurt you.”

I shortened my steps and relaxed my breathing.

A branch cracked under my feet, and the doe was gone in an instant.

I turned away from the deer hiding somewhere in the trees and stared out at the orange

ball of fire teetering on the edge of the world. Something lurched inside of me. My eyes and nose

stung with a surfacing of emotion. I fervently wished that the sun could keep me alive just a little

while longer.

I’d come out here to be in nature one more time before my condition truly began to

worsen. I’d come alone knowing that it was probably the last chance I would get to try and come

to terms with what was happening to me without the input of everyone who would try so hard to

understand.

My mother would be the worst.

The thought made me sick to my stomach.

I remembered the last time we’d talked. How positive she’d tried to be. How gently

realistic I’d been.

“Anything could happen, Toni,”

she’d said.

“Anything is possible. Scientists and doctors,

they invent new things, new treatments and medicines, every day. You can fight this. We’ll find a

way!”

Even through the phone I could see her moving her hands emphatically the way she did

when she was particularly adamant about something. She wanted to force her words into action. I

wanted her to accept the most probable reality.

“I don’t know, Ma. Look at what happens to most patients with this kind of cancer. Look

at how they end up, even with all the experimental treatments and holistic remedies. If I go back

to the doctor and it’s as bad as they think it is there’s a good chance that there’s nothing

anybody will be able to do to stop it.”

She’d been quiet for too long. I knew she was trying to save her tears.

“We’ll see. Don’t you give up yet, Antonia. I swear I’ll never forgive you if you give up

that easily.”

I’d promised I wouldn’t and told her I loved her before hanging up the phone and going

to bed three hours before the sun went down.

Sunset was seconds away now; It would be the first time I’d seen it in months. I was too

tired to wait on the moon anymore. I missed the night sky.

My phone buzzed from my pocket. Two weeks earlier, I’d flown across the country to get

a second opinion from a new specialist at my mother’s behest. My body locked up. I’d been

waiting for the doctor’s follow-up.

This phone call would be the final pronunciation of the lifespan I could expect.

I closed my eyes and answered, “Hello.”

As the doctor spoke, the stars began to come out above me and the moon started its

ascent behind me.

I felt a wave of relief wash over my spirit. His words pronounced what I had understood

as impossible. The cancer wasn’t as advanced as they’d originally assumed. My first doctor had

given me a partial misdiagnosis.

Time. I had time.

The doe came out of the woods from my peripheral, a small spotted fawn at her heels.

3rd Place - Dorian Miller, NC

Sunrise

An eerie glow from the neon light outside of the motel window greeted me when I

awoke, the decrepit sign flickering against a deep, black sky. The sheets clung to my skin, damp

with sweat despite the chilly autumn night we had slept through. My gaze fell over the still figure

beside me, and if not for the way the neon lights caught his pale blue eyes and shadowed them so

hauntingly, I would have thought he was asleep as his chest rose and fell with slow, steady

breaths. His stare was fixated on the ceiling above, and I knew that although he lay next to me,

his mind was somewhere far away; it always was. How long had he been awake?

It did not matter.

I peeled myself free of his embrace and the clinging sheets, and stumbled my way to the

bathroom. The harsh glare of the red alarm clock’s number followed me along the way. It was

still 4:00 A.M.

I did not expect the fluorescent lights to flicker on, and I raised my arm to shield my eyes

from the cold burn of them. When I lowered it, an unfamiliar reflection greeted me in the aged

mirror. Grabbing the hem of the large shirt I has slept in, I wiped away the grime and dust

collected on the glass. I could barely recognize myself now-- how long had it been since I last

cut my hair? Were my eyes always so dark? And yet, the chest of the girl before me rose and fell

in time with my own cautious breaths. Dark circles lined the eyes of my reflection, and my veins

stood out terribly against skin that had grown pale. I clutched the edge of the sink as I leaned

forward, looking into my own eyes that I did not seem to know. I could not tell you how long I

stood like that, in unstable cold light, unblinking. Even if it were only a moment, it felt in my

heart to be unending.

A noise came softly from the room outside, a rustling and a shuffling of feet on carpet. I

tore my eyes away from the doppleganger I saw; shadows moved within darkness, and my heart

skipped a beat. I peaked my head out the doorway, peered around the corner. He sat there,

already dressed-- if you could call his state dressed, in threadbare jacket and tattered jeans-- with

his fingers woven together neatly on his lap. How this broken shadow of a man and I had

become so deeply intertwined, I still could not say, but we were bound together through some

chaotic conspiracy of fate. His eyes drifted slowly up from the floor to lock onto mine, and a

moment of intimate, quiet sorrow was shared by us in that instant before either of us spoke.

His ghost of a smile was bittersweet as he said what I already knew: “We can’t stay here

much longer. We need to move on.”

The clock read 6:30 A.M.

I simply nodded.

I gathered what little we had with us in the room, only the necessities could go with us.

All I had to do then was lace my shoes; we left the bed unmade, and stepped together out into a

dull, stale heat. The neon sign above, a dim glow now against the weakly growing light of the

early morning sky, simply spelled out “Motel.” Nothing more, nothing less. He wandered his

way the car, an old and rusted thing that somehow still managed to run. But I could not help

myself but to look out at the office building. Perhaps once it had been a charming place, in a

retro fashion, but now it stood dilapidated with broken windows taken over by dry, long-dead

plant matter.

With a rumble, he started the car and I rushed to open the passenger’s side and join him.

The radio played only static, quiet but ever-present as he pulled out and veered onto the highway

that stretched across a barren expanse. The land around was was dull, and lifeless, just like the

place we had stopped the night before. We had yet to find a safe place, and supplies were

running low. But on the horizon, we could see the outline of the trees, and beyond there, the

mountains laid waiting for us. The sun began its rise into the sky, bleeding out against the

horizon and into our eyes as we continued the drive.

Soon, we would be safe, and soon, we would free again. Until then, it is simply the two

of us on the run.

© 2018 by Adventure Bound Books, LLC