My apologies on the lack of formatting this week.  I just want everyone to get their results, then I'm going back to bed.  Big thank you to judge David A Ludwig for his excellent reviews!

Reviews

Kimberly Gould (@kimmydonn)
NEVER SAY DIE –

Wow, great job building and maintaining interest from the start. Sounds like a zombie apocalypse to me, but I love that you never spell that out or even really show anyone at the full zombie level. Very intrigued by the fact that only adults seem to be affected, and love the contrast of the main character’s very reasonable level of self-involvement with the greater crisis encroaching on their special day. This one definitely engages my imagination.

L.T. Dalin (@ChessnySilth)
RANDOM FLUKE –

Fun interplay between your characters, I love the contrast of their personalities held together by their ‘survivors’ scenario—and of course the source of the virus is one of the survivors. Very intrigued by the concept of the apocalyptic plague, and you top the fun off with an excellent, and perfectly foreshadowed, emotional gut-punch when the survivor with him exhibits symptoms. I love the scope of the story you imply with this single scene.

Mark Ethridge (@LurchMunster) –

Egh, great job describing the experience of the symptoms in the beginning—took me back to the last time I was really sick, and that was a long time ago. I also love the narrator’s quoted commentary on his situation. The twist of robotization is a very refreshing deviation from the norm on this prompt, and you definitely had my interest with the silver as I tried to piece together what was going on alongside the narrator.
That said the transition from cold to robot take over felt a little sudden and lacking in set-up. I would have liked some subtle hint how he might have wound up ‘infected’ before the silver started showing up—and I wonder if we didn’t get too much information about the globabl takeover at the end. The implication of “Human unit 13527938 ready for use” would have been enough information to get me excited.

Nick Johns (@nickjohns999)
SOUL MUSIC –

The staccato rhythm of your set-up and sense of mystery as to just what’s going on and why priests are being brought up in relation to what was thought to be a cold is great. Ooo! Genius, like the piper’s music itself your piece flows in an eminently readable fashion. I loved the musical exorcism, but suggesting it to be the Pied Piper at the very last was a true master-stroke.

Rebekah Postupak (@postupak) –

Wow, great segue from the cold to the job situation. It makes this a very timely piece, and immediately takes it into territory I can relate to all too well. Also it makes the cold more intriguing in the context of being the first paragraph, but then set aside for the reader to wait to return to. The reveal of being an exchange student from Venus at the end was cute and definitely made me smile, but ultimately the piece felt like it lacked something.
You captured a brilliant and poignant day-in-the-life snapshot, but as we reach the clear ending of the piece I’m not sure what to take away from it. It was fun, but these competitions are intense enough it takes a little more than fun to win.

Honorable Mentions

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Jeffrey Hollar (@klingorengi)
COLD TERROR –

The immediate set-up of their marital relationship was a great direction to take things, focusing on the characters rather than the cold. Definite points for being the first story to actually scare me, even with some logically grim stuff in the others—which again I think comes from the initial focus on the relationship, after which describing his condition alone is frightening. Ack, and then she’s probably got it too at the end? That was some brilliant horror in a very small word count. Brilliant.
You got second place for being the best horror entry this week—if horror were more my genre you probably would have won. The technical execution, characters and precision of your craft were all excellent in this piece.

Alissa (@lissajean7) –

Immediately I’m grabbed by the depth to which you take us into the narrator’s point of view, the thoughts quickly began to feel like my own—and it doesn’t hurt that I don’t get sick easily myself. The number fixation and appreciation for the nurse were great details to immediately tell us a lot about the character. Yours is one of the stories that really immerses the reader in the reality of the epidemic by presenting it so entirely from a point of view to which it matters.
“Then start taking some blood, woman!” Made me laugh, I love that kind of fire to a character and it was a great counter-point to their dire situation.
I’m giving special mention here because your combination of dire circumstance, character and humor put me in a very similar mood to the winning entry.

Winner

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Robin Abess (@Angelique_Rider)

REGRETS –
Of all the disease stories, I particularly enjoyed your ability to set the scene immediately with your description of the symptoms and attempted treatments. The technical precision of your story really grabs me too, with each paragraph feeling like just the right amount of information before moving on to the next scene.
Okay, you really nailed this one! You got me to smile with a vampire/dhampir coming-of-age story, it actually seemed cute when the mom laid down for the dad and daughter to feed on her—and I sorta wonder if the doctor was in on the whole dhampir thing. Excellent characters, and you actually wrote a vampire story I’d like to read more of in spite of recent media vampire super-saturation.
You had some very stiff competition this week, some of which I’d say was just as emotionally compelling and technically executed as your story. Ultimately what makes the difference and allows me to say you are the clear winner is that on top of all that, you actually left me with a positive feeling at the end. I imagine the mom isn’t going to feel too good for a while and there are definite complications on the horizon, but I didn’t get the sense that she would die or that the complications were insurmountable. In a story where a little girl gets sick and turns into a monster and her mother is powerless to stop it, leaving me in a good mood is an amazing achievement.
So, in the context of my interpretation I’m not sure if “Regrets” is the right title for your story. I get that she has them, but that isn’t what I take away from the story. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, and either way I pick yours as the winner, but thought it was worth mentioning

Regrets
by Robin Abess


I thought it was just a cold. Mary was pale and listless, sneezing and coughing a little bit, but no fever. She complained of chills, so I wrapped her in blankets and put a hot water bottle on her feet. She couldn’t get warm, and as time went on, she was getting worse. I took her to the doctor, but he wasn’t alarmed. Said he’d seen a few other cases in children her age, and just to keep her on bedrest and lots of fluids. She should be fine in a few days. I took her home, trying not to worry.

The weekend came, and I heard Mary crying, so I rushed into her room. She complained that the bright sunlight hurt her eyes and made her feel funny, so I closed the blinds. The next day, she said her teeth hurt, so I gave her pain reliever, but it didn’t help. Her back started itching along her shoulder blades, and she scratched at her skin until she bled. I called the doctor again, but he insisted that she’d be fine and that she was having an allergic reaction to something.

I gave her oatmeal baths and juice and read stories until my throat was sore. I kept her blinds closed tightly, and even put a thick blanket over the window, when she said the light was still too bright. I wanted to take her to the hospital, but she cried so hard, I relented. Finally, I did what I hadn’t wanted to do at all – I called her father.

He was angry that I hadn’t called him before, but over the staticky connection, I heard him say he’d be there soon. True to his word, Duvid showed up on our doorstep that night. He brushed past me without even a greeting and rushed upstairs to Mary’s room.

“Papa!” Her voice was weak and thin, but happy.

“Papa is here now, my darling. You’ll soon be fine.”

I’d followed him, and I watched as he stroked her dark hair, so like his own, with his long fingers. He looked her over thoroughly, nodding thoughtfully at the spots on her back. He nodded again when she opened her mouth for him to examine her teeth, turning to face me.

Those eyes. They were deep and glowing and I fell into them. He beckoned me to the bed and I went without hesitation.

“Well, Emma, it seems we know now who Mary will take after. She’s going through the transformation now. By tomorrow, she’ll be ready for her new life.” He paused, smiling slightly. “Before then, she must…feed.” His voice grew low and husky on the last word. “As will I. It was quite a long journey.”

He gestured to the bed and I lay down beside our daughter. I listened as he taught her how to release her fangs and felt two sets pierce my throat. As I lay there, I wondered again why in the world I’d married a vampire..

 


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