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2008 OddContest Winners

Adult Division

Click on the titles to link to the stories below.

Adult Finalists

Youth Division

Click on the titles to link to the stories below.

Adult Division - First Place

"Pod, Cast" by PS Cottier

Cradled in my pod, my body shut up like a bedside book, with a bookmark of drugs inserted to continue me some day, I had a nightmare. It was an old fear for the fourth millennium, that of being buried alive. And it came to whisper panic in my ear; you are forgotten. They have entombed you in speed. No-one will be there, at journey's end, to dig you out, little podded pea. Fool, to accept this alien life, to dream in airless space, a ghost not dead, a man suspended beyond hope. Hanging in time, rope of frayed expectations slipped around your neck, tightening. And still you fly stupefied, dumb, trusting those not yet born to release you. Listen to your heart beat the retreat, a jerking jazz rhythm of fear.

The living dead, that shady cast of zombie, of vampire, flickered like ancient film shadows through my mind, a hazy cloud of horror where no cloud ever forms, out here between one star and the next. Feeble belief of resurrection somewhere, beyond the years.

Sleep left me. Gulping, choking, drowning in doubt, my eyes scanned the dark inside of the pod, looking for escape, for any feature to tell me that I was, in fact, awake. That I was, in fact, alive. But the pod was like a closed eye, and I was trapped inside its blindness. How could I know? Was this lulling pod a grave? I fought to feel the walls of the capsule, read their enclosing story in Braille, but my arms were pinioned, would not shift. I was wrapped in spider's silk, a stupefied unbreakable embrace. My disquiet lead me further inside myself, with no twine of reason to bring me out. Knotted in a strait jacket, tangled in progress, I sped on into darkness.

Machines detected, read the chemicals, adjusted. Put me back to sleep, rocked a thousand years. But now I dream only of death, and the heavy years and the speed of light smother me. I staked my life on stability, that there will be no upheaval in which I will be swept away, an insect unmourned, amongst the crumbs of swarming stars. I am the unborn, dreaming in the womb, this metal womb, quickening towards my second birth, but bracketed in iron ifs and buts. Icarus with untried wings of steel. Hiatus, hubris and hell here, inside me, inside the pod, cast away.

Judge's Comment

PS Cottier delivers a haunting portrait of the paranoia and loneliness of a deep-space traveler in cold sleep on a journey between the stars. In the process, she metaphorically reflects the kind of fears that all of us may experience at one time or another in our lives.

Adult Division - Second Place

"This Poem Has No Meaning" by Terry Weide

In the beginning was the Word and it was Proust, or Homer or Shakespeare from whom all literature springs, bending time like a rainbow of gravity, a helix of semi-precious stones, an Annie Dillard essay, a green light from the sky that makes Jews give up kvetching, makes Mormons flee Utah, and makes Baptists shout "Halleluiah" in orgasmic glee as they experience forbidden


for which they must be cast into the fires of hell to whip themselves like ascetics, theirs the sin of reveling in pleasure, which they know God hates. Only after an age may they be rescued by Dante, Milton, and Ginsberg in a literary harrowing to save them the degradation of being converted to Catholicism in Rockland, Rockland, and after redeeming those who were merely religious hedonists, this poetic trinity climbs aboard the Good Ship Lollipop hurtling through the protoplasm of eternity, and Van Gogh, blood dripping, grabs the wheel and remarks, "Perhaps Atlantis existed and Lemuria did not, or perhaps they existed as covalent Yin/Yang brothers destined to destroy each other in an ancient nuclear war, the effects of which we can paint, if we desire. Yet if they were advanced, why did they need atom bombs or dinosaurs? Couldn't they have lobotomized each other with death rays or words of power, 'Let poetry and literature, art and magic, vanish,' so these things sunk with their kingdoms until our own benighted age where we still fear such honesty." And da Vinci says to Van Gogh, "You're stoned, dude," and puts on a Sun Ra cd and "Hole in the Sky" bursts from the speakers in jazz fusion ecstasy and Mozart says, "Man, I dig that cat," snapping his fingers as


ship roars through starry nights, past spider, dragon, dog, rat, cat, crab, and Ishmael Reed shouts, "Yeehah! I am a Cowboy in the Boat of Ra!" and Tesla yells at Van Gogh, "Here, let me drive, you're making a mess of things," and seizes control. "After all, I invented alternating current and earthquake machines, I know about sailing," and H.G. Wells cries, "Look out for the Morlocks!" and Einstein yells at Hawking, "You're a quack!," and Hawking, in voice box sotto, replies, "Be quiet, oh big daddy-o of relativity light beams, I'm discovering the secret of everything," and as the ship speeds through all possibilities, Wait Disney pops up and says, "Let's stop at Space Mountain and say hello to Mickey," and Arthur, back from Avalon, pulls the sword from the stone and creation and evolution do an ourorboros and poetry and literature are reborn, but Shiva says, "Why bother?" and erases the Word and Arthur disappears and the Star Child snickers like a skunk that will not scare as Liz Bishop tosses more wood in the Marvel stove, and the secret to everything is revealed as a purple blade of grass in someone's back lot as three shots ring out and everybody

D I E S.

Judge's Comment

Terry Weide's stream-of-consciousness roller-coaster ride of a prose poem, inhabited by literary, musical, artistic, and scientific cultural icons, belies its title by having so many different possible meanings.

Adult Division - Third Place

"Instructions for Converting Your Deathbot To A Gardenbot" by Matt Betts

Congratulations on your purchase of a G-B39 conversion kit. Your garden will soon be the envy of the neighborhood.

TheHappybotGardener.com is not liable for any damages to property, person or said neighbors arising from failure to follow these directions exactly.

Ready? Let's begin!

Power down the Unit. We cannot stress this enough. Power the Unit down completely.

  1. Make sure laser eye attachment is not in scan mode by throwing something in front of it. If the object seems to burst into flames, check your power-down sequence again. Once you are certain the eye is in rest mode, quickly stab the sensor repeatedly with a long screw driver or pry bar. Tear out all related circuitry. Firmly secure straw hat at apex of Unit.
  2. Using a .25" drill bit, detach the missile guidance system from left shoulder. Carefully remove all missiles. Thread standard garden hose through missile tubes, attach sprinkler to exposed end.
  3. With a pair of standard snips, cut red wire leading from exposed housing marked 'auto destruct'. Attach part n-02 (seed spreader) in its place using an arc welder.
  4. Remove Unit's right arm with an axe. This may take some time.
  5. Place one foot on severed arm and use adhesive (BR-90) to secure pruning shears to unit's hand. Let dry for twenty-two (22) hours.
  6. Reattach right arm.
  7. Make sure to don a level-3 hazmat suit (not included) before attempting steps 2, 4 or 8 as the radiation levels may spike due to outer body breach.
  8. Remove upper back panel with a Phillips-head screwdriver. Locate series of buttons used to punch in the new activation code. It is located just above the glowing, pulsing, core. Press the light green button three times before holding down the dark green button for six seconds. By then pressing the sea-green button*, your Gardenbot should be ready to go!
  9. To test your Gardenbot, ask an acquaintance to stand nearby with a rake. If your new Gardenbot takes the rake and begins gathering those pesky leaves, you've met with success! If the Unit takes the rake and runs your acquaintance through with it in a frenzy of destruction, try steps 7-9 again.
  10. Repeat as necessary.

Congratulations! And enjoy your new Gardenbot!

*Do not deviate from this sequence. Any derivation could have dire effects including, but not limited to: headache, hair loss, high-pitched squealing, blood lust, radiation leak, minor twitching, cranium melt and/or total system evacuation.

Judge's Comment

In this humorous slapstick of a prose poem, Matt Betts gives new meaning to the Biblical concept of beating swords into plowshares, demonstrating that the complex weapons of the future-and our present for that matter-will not adapt to conversion so easily as the simple ones of the past.

Youth Division - First Place

"I Made My Last Sale to a Corp." by Megan Arkenberg

Balding, ratty briefcase, skin so green it'd look out of place on a frog-your typical stock man. It wasn't a bad deal, considering the crash. His contract had the usual haul: low floor inhab, two bedrooms, nice side of town: two-door cruiser, early model but suited for city driving. His bank account wasn't what you'd call Midas exactly, but in the Grace business, you take what you can get.

"Got a ship?" I asked, folding his contract and tucking it into my duffel.

He snapped the handle of his briefcase between two fingers. "If I had a ship, don't you think I'd be on it?"

"There's some don't think they could get far enough."

And yes, I'm one of them. Give me the choice between a big rock and a big ship, and my money's on the rock.

The Corp shrugged. I sighed. We were standing in the middle of Central Park and it was hotter than hell. Let me tell you, Central's the worst place south of the Harlem to drive a deal; back in the day, the Cents would raise holy hell if they found an Angel on their turf. I wouldn't have been there, but I tell you, it's a bitch trying to lure a Corp to our side of town.

The Grace business had a whole new Clientele since the collars started preaching the end of the world.

"All right," I said. "No ship. Got a goldfish?"

His froggy eyes bulged in their sockets.

"No? Shame. Those new gen-ens catch a Dutchman on the black market."

"Please," he said. The briefcase handle snapped to attention. "Everything's in the contract, for all the good it does you."

What, frog-face, got somewhere to go before the end of the world? I bit my tongue. When your business is suicide, you don't disrespect customers.

I took a brown bottle from my duffel bag. The Corp made a move at it-greedy Wall Street bastard-but I stepped out of reach. The bottle was hot in my hand as I unscrewed the cap and shook out a single white capsule. Grace.

"Bite, don't swallow," I said, tossing it to him. He caught it in one hand. "Brain death in three minutes; the heartbeat stops in five."

That's how Grace works-at least, that's how it's supposed to work. I'd raced on this batch. No one knew how things'd work out, not until frog-face took the first dive.

I shoved the bottle into my bag and zipped it closed. "Anything else?"

What the hell do you say after that?

He paused with his hand halfway to his mouth. "What are you going to do?"

I gave him a long, hard look. "There's things you learn selling Grace," I said. "What a man looks like when he's gonna die, for instance. And I tell you, this world don't look like it's gonna die. And if it does?" I shrugged. "I'm going out one damn rich Angel."

Youth Division - Second Place

"What's a Demon For" by Therese Arkenberg

Erik hadn't quite known what to expect when he summoned the demon. Some pyrotechnics, maybe, or all-engulfing darkness, or at least an ungodly moan as reality itself was rent apart to permit the entry of a creature that should not exist. But he expected something impressive.

Instead, the demon appeared, shrugged, looked around the pentacle in red paint on the basement floor, and scratched her horn.

"Waddaya want?" she mumbled.

"Uh ..." Erik had planned a great speech, but with the words forgotten, now he had to ad-lib a bit. "I want revenge. No-power. Er ... success ..."

"Beg pardon?" One of the demon's eyebrows rose like a maggot. Acutally, he realized that it was a maggot, just as it rose and squrimed off the demon's head and worked its way into the shadows of the basement.

"I want to be able to show up my brother. He's driving me crazy. Everything I can do he can do better. Sometimes I wonder if he's already met up with you guys ..."

"No. Oh, no. Not sibling rivalry. Sweet Lucifer-I can't handle sibling rivalries!"

"But I need to be able to one-up him on something. Couldn't-"

"Look, kid. You're asking for talent, and God-given talent is one thing we can't help you with. That, and ... sibling rivalries ..." The demon shuddered and began to fade.

"But isn't there some way you can help me?" The demon thought a moment. "Y'know what you kids don't do often enough these days? Join Math Club. Whatever your brother can do, I'll bet he can't do calculus without more help that you'll get inside Math Club."

"Couldn't you teach me?" Erik asked hopefully.

"Oh, come on. I'm already in Hell; I won't add integrals to my torment." A goat's foot scratched at the painted pentacle. "And maybe look into your geometry. It was a real pain to get here with a pentagram that isn't drawn straight." With that, the demon faded, not seeming sorry to go.

Youth Division - Third Place Place

"The Possibility of Gills" by Kexin Yin

I stared up at my tutor. "Tutor?"

"Yes?" He looked at me expectantly, and I sheepishly grinned.

"I just have some questions."

A sigh was heard. "So I assumed correctly. We are already two lessons behind; I see no use catching up now."

That was all the answer I needed, "So, genetic mutations happen all the time, but it's like a needle in a haystack since there's so many people, right?"


"Right, but if it's something extraordinary, how could people not notice?"

"Mutations generally do not change a being much. The most common are the physical changes. Those are, most of the time, for the worst. Internal ones might never be detected and die along with the mutant."

"But extraordinary ones are possible."


"So scientists could try to mutate an organism on purpose and try to see if ..." I pondered over this a bit and continued, "maybe the organism could grow gills instead of lungs."

"They could, yet those chances are slim. First of all, the government is wary of these experiments and would never allow them. Secondly, the scientists could try, yet they would never know what kind of mutation would occur."

"How big a mutation are we talking about when lungs become gills?"

"A big one, that has a chance slimmer than the earth resetting its tilt. For an organism to go through that alteration, it needs to, of course, grow gills, but it will also need other parts of the body transformed in order to survive underwater. It might need fins, different set of teeth, larger eyes, less body mass, an armor that offers more protection than skin, maybe a smaller brain, and so on. This means that it will change almost to a different being, similar to a fish."

"What if it does happen though?"

"Then it will be studied and monitored 24/7 as long as it lives." His voice was grave.

"The government."

"Yes, the government will try to use it as a weapon. World domination is well sought after. An organism like that could conquer the ocean which means the country that controls it would control 3/4 of the Earth. That would be a great advantage indeed."

"So there is no way a government would let it go?"

"I'm afraid not. It is too great a temptation."

"Do you think that this kind of mutation has already occurred-except that parents wanted to protect the child and never announced it?"

"I can only hope so."

"I'm really glad you're my tutor." I stared up at Einstein.

He gave me a warm smile. "And I'm glad the time machine was finally invented to bring you to me."

A mischievous smile lit up my face, "Thanks. Oh! Remember how we've learned about the elements and how they react to temperature changes? Well, I heard somewhere the reason why water expands when it freezes is because then it provides insulation for the fish during winter. So what if..."