As usual, you both terrified me and amazed me with your entries. Herewith the results
Special recognition for an entry that just cracked me up
Timothy Lowe 10:33am
Special recognition for a great sentence:
They grew up in the crossfire of every policy change, every budget cut.
There was no reboot after RA.8ies.
Special recogniton for use of prompt words:
Steve Forti 10:20am: ouroboros
Julie M. Weathers 12:51am: Jeroboam
The Sleepy One 6:42pm
"Whatever. Just have my medical catnip prescription ready by COB,” the tabby barked out.
Here are the entries that made the long list:
Steve Forti 10:20am
Julie M. Weathers 12:51pm
Kim English 12:56pm
Steve Wilkins 11:35pm
Here are the entries that made the short list:
(1) Lobo 12:31pm
Hated to do it to him. A legend. But we weren’t playing games anymore.
“You and what army?” he laughed, facial scars from countless winters on the trail wrinkling up like weathered bark on an oak.
“It’s all of us,” Vix said. “Big guy’s developed a taste for snow. The jolly kind. We got leverage.”
“Sorry, Rud,” a robotically cold voice rasped. “You’re history.”
The old vet turned and squinted into the stable’s shadow. “Don?”
Then he was down on the cobblestones. Never saw me coming.
Until his last breath.
“Et tu, Blixen?” he gasped.
His red nose flickered out.
I always love a story that makes me laugh and wince at the same time. "Et tu, Blixen" is hilarious, but poor Rud(olph)! And "big guy's developed a taste for snow. The jolly kind" is brilliant.
(2) The Doorman 1:16pm
“Dea, I understand. We’ve vetted the applicant...15...”A” student...Boy Scout...Responsible. Don’t worry.”
Nod. Sigh. Push my cobb salad away. She slides the contract across to me.
I see the teen outside, waiting, his finger trailing the bark of the willow I’ve longed to fell.
He’s staring at me.
He smiles. Robotic. Sociopathic. Murderous.
I sign, shaking hand. “My...my little Ethan was killed by a sitter. Not even $1 million could take away the pain. I have vowed to keep this baby safe.” I glance toward the gurgling bundle.
Pause. Then, I cry...softly...as planned.
This is utterly creepy in a very good way. "the willow I've longed to fell" is such a lovely hint of what's to come.
The only thing I'd change here is use of ellipses. You don't need them. A period actually works better in terms of style and rhythm.
(3) John Frain 4:30pm
Veteran Detective Mike Moynihan trails behind, hopes these witnesses corroborate earlier testimony.
“It’s Number One,” the husband barks.
“The Quaker?” Moynihan surprised. No match. Turns to the wife. “And you, ma’am?”
Points at Tony, in the stripes. “Number Three.”
“Grrrrreat,” Moynihan says, mocking. Three eyewitnesses, three identifications. Earlier witness picked Number Five: Cap’n in cobalt blue.
Chief walks in. Lapel reads Frank N. Berry. “Same M.O.?”
Moynihan nods. “Whacks the victim with a ceramic bowl. Stabs him with a spoon.”
Berry nodding. “No question. Signature of a cereal killer.”
Berry’s radio snaps, crackles. Pops to Moynihan as he leaves, “Cheerio.”
You have to read this one twice to really get the full effect. "Cereal killer" is of course the first broad hint, but when you re-read it's not the first hint.
The only thing wrong with this story is that it's missing Count Chocula.
It's so easy to be too overt or too subtle in stories like this. This one is perfect..
(4) Sara Halle 1:44am
Up here, no one can keep Rudolph in the dark. When Moppet and Velvet started doing more than cobbling in their trailer workshop, I knew. And when the bearded guy decided to impress his son, I prepared for trouble.
Kringle, Jr., who's as useful as a swimsuit in a snowstorm, does like drones, so Santa embarked on a test run. One flying robot, my would-be replacement, lit a bright red path in the sky — then plummeted down.
No one watching was more relieved than Moppet. His sabotage kept my job safe — and ensured Mrs. Moppet wouldn't learn about Velvet.
Christmas has arrived with a vengeance! Rudolph is really getting a work out this week. This entry made me laugh, particularly "as useful as a swimsuit in a snowstorm"
(5) Michael Seese 9:38am
She had a double wide heart, and a behind to match. Lonely beyond repair, Maggie would sit in her trailer and think of the men who'd come into her life, and never really left.
Darrel, whose face looked like it was cobbled together by Picasso and Dr. Frankenstein.
Edgar, so stiff he made robots look lively.
Al, he of the unshaven mug that felt like shagbark hickory in her hands.
Danny, the veterinarian who tried so hard to save Mr. Puff. For that effort, Maggie buried him beside her beloved pet.
The rest she just scattered across the north 40.
The opening line should be a country western song. And "never really left" is much much creepier after you've read the whole story.
And you'll notice the first letters of the men spell out a word vertically? Very very clever! (and of course, that the prompt works are in the same order they appear in the contest announcement)
There's simply no way not to choose John Frain as the winner. It's both hilarious, well-written and subtle.
Thanks to all of you who took the time to enter, and congratulations to all the short and long list writers.