Great night for 5 Minute Fiction! But before we get to the finalists, I promised an announcement. As you might know, 5 Minute Fiction started three years ago at Leah Petersen’s website. During the two years that she hosted the challenge, good things happened–she sold a manuscript. Of course, that also means she got busy because the launch of a book is time-consuming. That’s when she bequeathed 5 Minute Fiction to me. In the year that 5 Minute Fiction has been hosted here at my site, good things have also happened: I sold a manuscript, and then I schnookered a very wonderful agent into taking me on as a client. It probably comes as no surprise that I’m now passing along 5 Minute Fiction as the release of The Trajectory of Dreams comes closer (March 1! Yikes! Coincidentally, if you live anywhere anywhere near Philadelphia, I have some signings/readings scheduled–check back in a few weeks for the schedule. Oh, and there’s a virtual tour, so there’s that.). I’m thrilled to announce the new host of is the fantastic Wendy Strain!
Wendy will be taking over the challenge beginning the first week of March. Please join me in welcoming Wendy as the new host! And I hope you’ll join me for the next couple of Tuesdays as my hosting duties wind down.
Okay, so back to tonight’s 5 Minute Fiction! The guest judge is Texas writer Jennifer Dean–her debut novel, BOUND, was released late last year. It’s a YA novel about true love. Here are the finalists Jennifer picked for tonight:
- Jill Grun, @Jill_Grun
- Lisa McCourt Hollar, @jezri1
- Tauisha Nicole, @shells2003
- Shell, @shellisthimbles
- Michael D. Hansen, @Buzzynutkins
And now…the finalists’ entries:
How many steps does it take until you are finally out the door? How many black eyes? Bruises on the cheek? How many long sleeved shirts to cover the scars on your wrists, the cuffs of each sleeve pulled loose from your constant tugging to hide the jagged slits of skin.
How many more apologies will you accept? How many more lies will you believe? Each time, his song and dance is the same. The same rhythm and blues, you know the melody by heart. His enthusiasm weakens with each performance, the uncommitted actor. But he continues to swing and tap across the stage, continues his nightly encores, always aware he has a captive audience.
Lisa McCourt Hollar
How many steps does it take until I reach home? My feet move of their own accord. I no longer notice the rocks that dig into my feet, cutting through the thin tread of my shoes. My heart beats, agonizingly inside of my chest. Each breath is painful and the blood oozing from my side has slowed. I don’t think this is a good thing. I’m dying, but my body refuses to stop. My feet continue down the road, past the devastation of what had once been my world.
Tommy Stevens waves at me as I walk past. He’s got a whole in his face. I know that I should stop and help him, but the only thing I want is to get home. That’s interesting the way he’s pulled Shelly Michael’s innards out. Smells pretty good actually. Maybe I should stop and take a bit… but I can’t. I have to get home. There is a need inside of me that is greater than the hunger that calls me.
I see it! I try to increase my pace, but there’s something wrong with my right leg. I can’t move it so I have to drag it behind. It’s painful. I pull myself up the steps, yelling for someone to open the door. I hear the reason I needed to come home… my daughter. She is screaming. I don’t wait for someone to open the door, but bash the glass in instead. The glass cuts my face, but I don’t care. My daughter is terrified.
Jonathan, my husband… her father… has killed them. My son is lying on the floor, a hole in his head. My mother… oh my God, he cut her head off. My Juliann is the only one left alive. He has her cornered and is aiming the axe at her head.
“NOOOO!” I scream, but it comes out more of a grunt. He turns, terrified. He lifts the axe to hit my head, but misses. My arm is now gone but that doesn’t stop me. I am on him, knocking him to the ground. His blood oozes into my mouth and I call for Juliann to join me. We feast together, our first taste of human flesh. The zombie apocalypse isn’t as bad as I had been led to believe.
“How many steps does it take until it’s over?”
Andrew looked over at his best friend, Kanisha. Surrounding her were millions of white wadded tear infested tissues. She curled into the fetal position in her favorite blue and bubble gum pink night clothes.
Sighing, he replied, “Until what’s over?”
He already knew where she was going with this.
“The pain is too much for me, Drew.”
“How many steps does it take until it’s over?”
He cleared his throat and looked up at her. “Heartbreak isn’t some twelve step program, Kan-Kan.”
She heaved and heavy sigh and blew her nose. “I was afraid you were going to say that.”
“Here’s the thing, though,” he turned to fully face her. “You’re never going to know how many steps there are if you stay in here on this couch. Sobbing.”
“It hurts,” she replied with a tiny voice.
“So you’ve said.”
Andrew felt bad for having a slight attitude. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about Kanisha.
But, he could care less about Steve.
And Steve’s choice in breaking up with girls.
And Steve’s choice in rebound women.
And Steve’s need to breathe oxygen like most humans.
Despite his feelings, he still needed to be there for his friend.
So, he grabbed her hand and smiled. “Come one. Let’s go find out how many steps it will take to get out of this apartment.”
She frowned. “Do I look like I’m trying to leave?”
“No. Thus, lies our problem,” he pushed her in the direction of her room. “Count how many steps it takes to get to your bedroom. Change. Then count your way back out here to me.”
“What will you wear?”
“Great thing about being a guy,” Drew grinned. “Jeans and T’s seem to be our general uniform.”
She smiled for a second and turned to go to her room. It was a spark of light in a dark room: hopeful.
He grinned, watching the first signs of life come back to her when her cell phone vibrated on the couch she vacated. Leaning down, he picked it up.
It was Steven.
Frowning, he answered it.
“Before you hang up, please hear me out!” Steve’s voice poured out in sickening sounds of non-sincereity. “We can get past this, right? We’ve gone through worse things before. Say you’ll forgive me. I’ll come over and we can spend some time-”
“I’m sorry, but the girl you’re trying to call is in the process of getting over you. Please don’t leave a message.”
Hanging it up, feeling proud of himself, he stuffed her phone in her pocket.
It vibrated again.
He ignored it.
His smile grew even larger when Kanisha stepped out with two different dresses in hand. “Black or red?”
“How many steps does it take until you’ve gone one step too far?” she wonders.
She looks at their shoes, hands in her pockets. There’s maybe a metre between the point of her shiny black boots and the battered rim of his scuffed up trainers. Two steps, maybe one. That’s all it would take to close the gap between them, to put her forehead in front of his lips, to have them breathing each other’s air.
She looks up, looks into his eyes, sees the sore red that lines them. Air puffs from his nostrils, misting in the cold. He looks away, lip under his teeth, throat working.
One step. That’s all it would take to go too far, past the point of no return.
She taps one shoes against the other. Hesitates.
And then she takes that step… and falls.
Michael D. Hansen
“How many steps does it take until you stop being a complete waste of time? Is that number 12, or is that in the maintenance program?”
Carl stared at her, wanting to fight back, but knowing that it was not his way anymore. “I deserve that. I accept your anger, and I know that you have every reason to be angry with me. I’m will never be perfect, but I’m getting better than I was. I’d like to see him.”
Megan eyed him askance as she picked up toys in her son’s room. “No. You aren’t going to see him again. Not after what you did to us. What you did to him, and to me. You can’t step your way back into our lives.”
He took a small step forward into his son’s room, lowering to his haunches as he picked up a few things that poked out from beneath the dresser – Starburst wrappers, baseball cards, a Lego that stood in wait of a bare-shod foot. “I’m not the man I used to be. I got my blue chip… A hundred ‘n ninety days sober. More than half a year that I haven’t seen him. What I did to you… I can’t fix that, but I can try. I can promise you, it’s behind me.”
She threw down the toys and papers she’d picked up, transformers cascading away from her fury. “YOU’RE behind US. You are history – the bad part of history that we don’t talk about, that we just quietly thank God will never be repeated.” She advanced on him, towering over him as she only could when he was down.
“I thank God for that too,” he began as she screamed. She grabbed the nearest thing at hand and hit him over the head with it. The inflatable hammer squeaked as it struck home.
He eyed her as the rage melted. She started to laugh; she lowered against the wall as the laugh turned into tears. “Just get out.”
Congratulations to the finalists! The prize du jour: the winner gets a signed copy of Jennifer’s novel BOUND:
17-year-old Emma Morgan believes she finally has the chance at happiness again when she relocates back to her hometown of Washington, North Carolina and reunites with her older brother, Sean. But after three years apart, their unique bond is tested when Sean protests her meeting of the oddly charming and bright-eyed, Liam Alexander. A boy who holds a very deep secret from the rest of the residents in Washington. A secret that will change Emma’s life forever and lead her to discovering the beginning of something she never believed could exist…true love.
And now it’s time vote for your favorite finalist entry…