Thank you to all of the participants in this year’s One Read flash fiction contest, “If I Werent’ Me.” Writers rose to the challenge and gave us a tourist slipping away in a foreign land, a reluctant soldier, identity-exchanging twins and more stories of imagined fresh starts. Congratulations to our winners Katie Hobbs and Cate Richard, as well as honorable mention recipient Paula Donoho! We are pleased to share with you their stories.
Boone County Winner: Katie Hobbs
I never imagined that the end would be like this. We brought it upon ourselves. We ignored the signs, and now we have thirsty landscapes and starving people to show for it. Our world has become an eternal desert. Only the chosen few can stay alive. The wealthy, the influential, the powerful- these are the people who will hitch a ride to some new place, leaving the rest behind. They have the lists. No one gets on board unless their name is included.
I have a sick feeling in my empty stomach, but if I were to become ill, nothing would come out. My body is eating itself from the inside.
People are gathering around the launch site. We look like some army of the undead, attempting to push through the metal gates to feed on the people within. This isn’t far from the truth. We are all slowly dying.
A woman approaches and introduces herself as Jane Hawkins.
“Is this the launch site?” she asks.
“Yes,” I reply, tiredly.
She explains that she is lucky-she gets to leave. I play along, telling her I am lucky too. I persuade her that there is a less-crowded entrance a few hundred yards away. We walk out of earshot of the ghostlike crowds. No one will hear.
Ten minutes later, I am back at the site, within the gates now.
“Jane Hawkins, please board,” the man with the list calls.
I nod to him and board. My new life has begun.
Callaway County Winner: Cate Richard
Midlife. Divorce. Standing at the edge of forever. Who I was is gone. Who I will be, uncertain. No one to decide but me; my dance card is empty. Trapped. My old Victorian house echoes with voices from the past. I start to listen. Whispers. Entreaties. Pleas. From widows. Spinsters. Women living alone for years and years. Women like me. Women who don’t want to be forgotten. Pick one. Be that one. Mary? Sallie Tom? Bettie? Dollie? Anna Belle? Who shall I be? I only know who I don’t want to be. The sad one. The lonely one. The one who was abandoned. From the shadows, one woman steps out, takes the stage. Strong, twice widowed, a mother, a writer, a character in her own life drama. Elizabeth…Bettie. I decide. She will be my model. Like her, I have lost it all. Like her, I can choose to become queen of my own destiny. On the surface, I seem fragile, vulnerable, the “weaker” sex. Like her, I hold my secret close. The forgotten power. The truth of my existence. I am Her descendant. More than Bettie. More than a queen. She came before, and paved the way. Now her home is my home, and in it, I create a haven – for myself, and for other world weary travelers. I am the host. I am the caretaker. I am the friend. I am the sister. I am the mother. I am a daughter of the Goddess. My light beckons all.
Honorable Mention: Paula Donoho
The flash caught me by surprise! I had forgotten to wear my wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. It seemed like such a quick errand to sneak out to the drugstore for some aspirin. My head still pounded after the filler injection near my eyes. I NEED ASPIRIN!
“Ms. Shannon, tell us about your ex-husband. And what is going on with the series? Is it true the producers are looking for a younger version of you?” the reporter asked, and suddenly four photographers clamored behind a low drugstore shelf.
Horrified, I snatched up my package and turned away. “No comment,” I mumbled as I scurried away with my face down. Who were they to ask questions of a Hollywood star? Why I could buy them all with one hour of my salary. “Look at me. I HAVE a GREAT LIFE!” I thought as I hurried into my penthouse, slamming the door on the bathroom door. “Look,” I thought as I gazed at my forty year old body. “Look!”
The pounding on the bathroom door took me away from my reverie.
“Mom, MOM. can I have a Popsicle? Hey, is it OK if Abby has your lipstick? Uh oh, I can’t hold it any longer. Moooooooooooooooommmmm!”
Ahhhhh, dreams took me away for a bit to that rich, unachieved life. . . I raised my forty year old cellulite, stretched-marked body up from the bubble bath. Famous actress no longer. I donned my robe and opened the door to act in my own wonderful life.