2020 Adventure Bound Writing Contest

Winning Stories

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

Writers competed in two rounds of writing with word limits in each round and a visual prompt to incorporate into their stories.  Writers selected the genre of their submission and winners were chosen by a panel of judges based on how well the writer incorporated the prompt; the strength of the writing - grammar, flow, organization; overall writing style; and story impressions left on the judge.  Rubrics were used to make the judging consistent across entries.

1st Place - Lora Hawn, NC

Thunder cracked.

Lightning flashed.

Wind whistled through the trees.

The storm made a soundtrack to the night, highlighting how different the world was now

that the chaos of nature reigned supreme.

The little bird huddled under his mother’s wing. It didn’t completely shield him from the

whipping winds or the torrent of the rain, but it at least provided him the comfort of his mother’s

warm, steady heartbeat. Thump thump, thump thump, it went. If he could, he would crawl into its

rhythm, just to escape what the world around him had become.

Earlier in the day, the bird could remember searching the reflective sands of the beach

for crustaceans that live just below the surface. He and his mother flitted adjacent to the waves,

looking for the tiny bubbles coming to the surface of the sand, letting them know their meal was

waiting underneath.

They’d danced this dance for as long as he could walk, but that morning had been

different. A strange buzzing filled the air and the crushing weight of foreboding pressed down on

the young bird’s chest, and he knew something terrible was coming.

What had once been a serene blue sky had turned a dark, angry grey. The water that

had been still and reflective was now black and choppy.

His mother flapped her wings at him, urging him back towards the trees. When they

finally reached the juncture of branches with their nest in it, darkness had fallen like a curtain.

The wind picked up then, and before they knew it, all of the straw and leaves of their nest had

blown out from under them.

He and his mother had spent so long gathering the droppings from the trees around

them to make their nest, and, without warning, all of it blew away from them in a single, powerful

gust of wind. All the two of them could hope for was that the palms above them and the long

trunk below them would be enough to get them through the storm.

He didn’t know how long they had sheltered in the tree, as time ceased to mean

anything the longer the storm continued. The wind howled and the rain battered them through

the palms, but the bird tried his best to focus on his mother’s steadily beating heart. Though she

shivered just as much as he did, her wing never faltered around him.

Eventually, the wind quieted and the rain ceased. The bird wiggled his beak through his

mother’s feathers, looking at the world.

The ground below wasn’t visible through the debris of fallen leaves and branches. The

other birds were just beginning to emerge from their trees as well, chirping tentatively to the

seemingly clear air.

His mother raised her head to peek around the branches of the tree at the beach in the

distance. The sky was a steadily lightening violet, the water a glistening reflection. It seemed the

storm had lasted until daybreak, and the sun was finally making its presence known.

He wiggled under the comforting weight of his mother’s wing until she returned it to her

side. He looked up at her and then to the beach waiting just beyond the line of trees and the

fallen debris. When he looked back at her again, she nodded her head.

At that, he made a whirlwind of rain from his wings and took off towards the beach. The

wind of his own making whipped against the feathers of his face, and he sighed deeply.

When he landed on the sand he could see himself in its reflection. Each step he took,

the sand sank away from his talons, marking his path along the water’s edge. Just as before,

bubbles rose to the sand’s surface. The crustaceans had made it through the storm as well.

He looked up at the sky to find that it was lighter still, now a brightening pink. The sun

was just rising from where the water became the end of the world.

The bird looked back and saw his mother watching him from the tree line. He knew that if

there were still any danger for him that she would have come to get him. So he looked once

more at the skyline and then chased the bubbles in the sand.

2nd Place - Nancy Rolen, TN

Waiting

Even with his eyes closed, he knew where he was. He could feel the ebb and flow of the waves,

hear the cries of the seagulls; the feel of the breeze on his face added to his comfort and

sprinkled the smell of salt on his face. Even though he was alone and waiting, the elderly man

wasn’t lonely. It was pleasant lying here, warm and still.

His mind drifted back to the days he used to spend indoors. His work, repetitious figures,

columns and reports, were a dim memory. Yes, he excelled and yes it had provided for his

family, but over 35 years with the same company had sapped his energy. Time for a much-

earned change, time away from wearing a shirt and tie, time for sweet vacations with his family.

His wife would be here any moment.

More memories drifted by like clouds in the sky. The children growing up and leaving home.

The birth of grandchildren. The caring for his elderly parents. Such happiness and such sorrow

all tumbled together like the sand and shells on the beach.

Vaguely, he heard a woman softly say, “Try this- it’s your favorite dessert.” He ignored her,

assuming she must be talking to someone under the umbrella nearby.

Fishing- that’s what he wanted to do when he got up. Fishing in the surf was relaxing and who

knows, maybe it would supply their supper. But for now, he relaxed and let the sun relax him.

There would be time for that later. For now, he couldn’t summon the effort to rise.

He casually wondered about his wife; she never ran late, so there must be a good reason. It didn’t

really matter- he was content and would be grateful to see her whenever she came.

Another voice, an aide he knew, disrupted his thoughts, “This has been the longest day. How can

we explain to him why no one visits? I know his daughters would be here if they could. He keeps

asking for his wife, but she’s been gone for years.” He thought that was a strange comment to

make on the beach. The woman must be talking on her phone.

He couldn’t feel the sun anymore and shivered in the cooler air, but then a blanket was laid upon

him and he was grateful for the warmth. He smiled remembering when he was young and shared

a bed with his brother. Bobby would steal the covers so he would wake up freezing! How long

had it been since he had seen his brother? Had Bobby been to visit him here last week?

The man ran his tongue over his dry lips, trying to gain a little moisture. He felt the nurse brush a

soft, wet sponge against them, soothing his mouth. He couldn’t seem to form any words so the

‘thank you’ died in his throat. Had it grown darker? He fidgeted with his edges of the blanket as

he felt the burden of waiting grow stronger. Why wasn’t she here?

The same kind voice of the hospice nurse drifted in, “You got a pretty card today. I’ll read it to

you and maybe it will help you relax and rest... ‘Daddy, we’re sorry we can’t be there with you,

but this corona virus is keeping us from visiting. We are so sorry you have been feeling worse.

We want you to know how much we love you and are grateful for all you’ve done for us. It’s

Easter and we’re at home celebrating as best we can. You and Mama showed us how we

shouldn’t be afraid in tough times, so we are trying hard to follow your example. We remember

especially how you taught us that because of what Jesus did for us, true life comes after death.

We are there with you in our hearts and prayers and we love you very much.’” The nurse

continued, “Then the card says, ‘Rejoice! He is Risen!’’

Curled in his bed at the nursing home, thought that was exactly how he felt, like he was rising.

The sound of the water faded completely, but the light grew brighter. In the distance, he

glimpsed the familiar outline of his wife, next to the shadow of His Heavenly Father. Waiting

was over. Time to go home.

3rd Place - Elizabeth Fisher, NC

Blue Heron

I wish him dead every morning.

The sun comes up, and for a moment I can breathe the happiness of life like one swift suck of joy

before his form manifests itself in my periphery.

“Good morning, Darling,” He smiles that squint-eyed early morning grin, and my heart dies.

Waking hours are an ugly under current of hatred glossed over by candied words and pretty

platitudes. I am trapped by the stale cigarette stench of his side of the bed.

The baby cries.

As I busy myself with changing the first of many soiled, off-brand diapers of the day, my co-

procreator begins his morning ritual.

He showers. He shaves. He makes himself breakfast; he used to make me breakfast too, but now

that is reserved for weekends and special occasions.

My heart skips a beat when I hear him clanging too loudly in the kitchen, because I know this

means I accidentally left dishes in the sink the night before, and he will make me cry this

morning because of it.

“I don’t understand why you can’t pick up after yourself! It’s like living with a teenager. I have

to do everything around here. Why can’t you just do your part?”

I swallow the acid that rises in my esophagus like rage filled lava. I begin to cry angry tears as I

make food for the baby. There is no point in arguing with him. Maybe he’s right anyway. Maybe

I don’t do enough. I have begun to disremember how I spend my days.

“Do you need anything before I go, Darling?”

He speaks to me like he hasn’t hurt me. He rubs my shoulders and smiles at me. I believe the

tenderness in his eyes.

The pan he used to make his eggs is still on the stove, and the baby has thrown food all over the

floor.

“I guess not,” I say. He leaves, and I will not see him again until after the baby goes to sleep in

the evening.

What happens next?

Somewhere between chasing my newly mobile baby and trying to check off the most pressing

daily array of household chores, I manage to get some work done for my assortment of writing

gigs this month.

By the evening, the bulk of my day is a blur, but I’ve done a load of laundry, and dinner is in the

oven, and I think I remembered to eat something other than tortilla chips for lunch this

afternoon.

“Does the trash can have a dent in it?”

He comes in with concern after the baby has been asleep for something like half an hour. His

half of dinner is in the microwave. I am working on my writing. I make good money if I keep my

deadlines.

“Does it?” I ask.

“Yeah, there’s a big dent in it right here.”

I suddenly remember kicking it with rage after the shit filled diaper I’d been juggling in one

hand (squirming, screaming baby in the other) had splattered to the floor leaving noxiously

green half-digested peas splattered against the side of the can.

I shrug in false bemusement.

“We can’t have anything can we?” He is angry now. It is unexpected, so I don’t have time to put

up my defenses. He continues, “I don’t understand why you have to ruin everything. I don’t know

why I try. The house is a mess and you’ve broken the damn trash can.”

My heart. My heart. My poor broken heart tears again and again with every word.

Is the house a mess? Maybe it is. Maybe I didn’t clean any of it today.

“Fucking shit everywhere,” he says and grabs the stack of mail off the counter.

How did it get there? I must have checked the mail today. I did. I remember. My check from last

month’s work is in that pile.

He opens the trash can and goes to toss it all away. I grab his arm, “Hey!”

“What the fuck?” He says, and I watch the ugliness behind his eyes make its way forward. He’s

going to hit me. I have the thought just as his fist contacts my sternum.

~~~~~~

There is blood on my hands.

That is the first thing I am aware of as the sound of waves slows my pulse and moves me back

into the present.

There is blood on my hands.

My baby is asleep next to me. The rise and fall of her chest is a comfort. She looks peaceful, but

my bloody handprints are glaring stains on her innocence.

Where else did it land? Where else is all that ugliness that is caked underneath my nails?

I remember.

I fell against the counter

A knife in the block behind me.

I grabbed it before I had a moment to think.

Red.

Red.

Red.

I saw fear in his eyes for the first time.

I took my future, and I ran to the ocean.

A lone blue heron lands on the breaking waves, her beak trained towards the movement of her

dinner.

We both breathe the same salty air.

The bird stays near me as I bring my baby to the water and wash the gore from our skins.

A fiery sun sets in the distance.

We are free.

© 2018 by Adventure Bound Books, LLC