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2011 OddContest Winners

Adult Division

Click on the titles to link to the stories below.

Adult Honorable Mentions with Judge's Comments

Adult Finalists


Youth Division

Click on the titles to link to the stories below.

Youth Honorable Mentions with Judge's Comments

Youth Finalists


Adult Division - First Place

"A New Life Awaits!" by Michele Ann Jenkins

Seventy-three years in stasis, fourteen light years across a dozen solar systems, and she has to go and lose their entry papers.

"Are you sure you don't have them?" His voice was still raw from where they'd removed the intubation equipment. His mouth tasted like old metal and floor cleaner. They said in the brochure the side effects wouldn't last-they'd better not after all he'd shelled out for this. He was going to spend the rest of his life working it off, but his kids-or maybe grandchildren-they would be free landholders on a brand new planet. Little Will's mutation could even give them an edge here. He should look into fitting the boy with a core drill bit. If they ever manage to make it through immigration.

"Nora! Did you look in the Welcome Packet?" For Pete's sake, had her brain not thawed out? Free-fall entry was in less than 20 minutes. The other families were already filing out of the cryo hall. He was going to be the last one out. The last one to set foot on that virgin soil, the last one take a breath of pure, clean, air (27% oxygen!). By the time he got Nora and the boy sorted out it'd just be a trampled mess.

Finally she turned to him, the stark lighting throwing her face into relief. So much for not aging in transit.

"Will's joint servos are on the fritz again." She made that tsking sound and he cringed.

"Maybe they're using some sort of microwave?" She frowned and looked around, as if she could spot E-M radiation bouncing off the corrugated metal walls. "That always does it."

"Damn it, I can carry him out if I have to." His hands were shaking-another side effect or plain old frustration. "The papers, do you have them? We haven't even got his transition suit out." The hoops they had to jump though! He'd like to see one of those resettlement agents with their megs of guidelines and protocols try to get a whiny three-year-old bristling with cybernetic implants into one of those things.

"I just had them ..." she caught herself and laughed, "... well, I mean, seventy-three years ago I just had them. Can you believe how fast it went by? Can you just imagine back home ..." She pawed around between the cryopod cushions as she went on.

He turned away towards the hall's one window. The planet took up most of the tiny portal: two huge landmasses, speckled dark green and dirty orange, and a yellow-blue sea beneath swirls of ivory cloud masses. A man could lose himself in all that space. A man could-

"Found them!" She yelled so loud it scared the boy into wailing. "Oh, darling! Mommy's just going to reroute your amplifier here. Don't you worry, we're almost to our new home. That's right. No, don't-"

He pressed his cheek against the glass, blotting out the view.

Judge's Comment

From the first line, the tension in this scene develops as a small family prepares to disembark into their new life. The writer uses convincing dialogue that reveals some complex emotions for the father as familiar frustrations play out against an unfamiliar landscape which includes cryopod cushions and a yellow-blue sea glimpsed through a portal. The three-year-old son's joint servos and mutation possibilities were intriguing. Best of all was the father's wistfulness evoked at the end. A well-crafted piece of writing.


Adult Division - Second Place

"Epilogue to a Story Never Written" by Ted Prodromou

The Palimpsest Project was cancelled, the building converted into a shoe factory, the fields salted, and the research papers burnt. The Six-Beast Tower was converted into an enormous hat rack for the entire city to use.

The Carter-Anderson School for Girls was also closed, the building also converted into a shoe factory, the playgrounds also salted, and the research papers also burnt. The murals on the walls were preserved for historical record.

Little Eugene never paused to catch his breath, and grew up running constantly. He attended an always-running academy of dentistry and founded the world's first ever-mobile dental office. Late in life, he met and fell in love with another running dentist.

Liz sold her stake of the import-export business and used the money to found a "no-enhancements-barred" baseball league in Dubai. She never got the apology she deserved from Eugene, and she never wore a silk garment again, spider or otherwise.

Jenny (the saint) was buried in Arlington as a hero. Six old rabbis leave pebbles on her gravestone on May 17th every year.

Cadete Juan Carlos (of the Armada de Chile) answered the homing signal, ten minutes too late. He still keeps a chunk of "Perma-Ice" on a locket around his neck as a memento of what might have been.

Jenny (the robot) won the world's chess championship in Moscow the next year, but was disqualified a week later when the judges discovered her other terrible secret.

James and Douglas were married on the Canadian side of Niagra Falls. The beautiful ceremony was attended by thousands, but their request to adopt the infant Sturmljotr was denied, supposedly due to international regulations. They agreed never to discuss the events of May 17th again, but they still live on the orca plantation, and still hang their hats on the Six-Beast Tower every morning.

Jenny (the golden retriever) lives happily in Ainsworth State Park near Corbett, Oregon. Loving owners of other blind dogs often bring their pets to Jenny for instruction and guidance.

Sanjeet eventually launched his singing career, but he could never sing Middle C again.

Jimmy "The Jerk" Maldonado was convicted of environmental violations, petty theft, postal fraud, and operating industrial construction equipment without a permit. He was sentenced to 40 months in a maximum security prison. He converted to a radical Norse Pagan sect in prison, got off drugs, paroled early, and now preaches the gospel of Odin.

Elanor Chang eventually repented for what she had done, and abandoned all plans for time travel and winemaking. Over time, her mannerisms grow more cat-like, but she insists that it is a coincidence. Every Friday, she and Amanda sit down over tea to discuss the weather, but they rarely reach any working agreement.

The stack of haiku poetry still rests in a near-abandoned government document storage basement in Rome, Italy, hoping that some new innocent will find and read it.

Your humble narrator is, for all legal and sociological purposes, still considered a humble frog.

Judge's Comment

This writer's imagination offers compelling glimpses of a larger story. Brief allusions to different character's resolutions build a tone that satisfies until the last two passages. While the writer's references to a stack of haiku and the frog narrator fail to live up to the other fresh and engaging previous segments, I really enjoyed this piece of writing. In particular I was entranced by Jenny (the robot), Liz and her silk garments, and Sanjeet. I hope that this writer actually does write this story, because I'm in.


Adult Division - Third Place

"Thanks for the Memories" by Miranda Raine

Voice: This call may be recorded for archival purposes. (Muzak)

MASS: Memory Archival Storage Systems; how may I help you today?

Me: Hi there. I seem to have misplaced my set of meta-keys, and I was hoping someone could check my memory back-up and find them for me?

MASS: I'd be happy to help you with that request. Could you please put your palm on the identifier next to the screen? Thank you. Now, are you currently synced to the Backup Assistant?

Me: Yes, I'm all plugged in.

MASS: Excellent. I'd like you to form a mental image of the keys. Thank you, I've captured the image.

Now, please think back to the last time you knew you had the keys. Yesterday after work? Please hold while I run the template against your memories since that point and search for a match.

Yes, I've got a hit. It looks like you slipped the keys into the front pocket of a blue hoodie yesterday before running out to get the mail. In a related memory, I see your two-year-old once accidentally locked you out of the house while you were wearing nothing but a ... Ah. You have just constructed a Privacy Wall for those memories.

Me: Yeah, sorry; nothing personal. But I think you're right about the blue hoodie, let me just go check. Yes! Here they are. Thank you very much.

MASS: You've very welcome. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Me: Well, as long as I have you on the line, back in college, I knew the entire periodic table. Could I please Renew that information?

MASS: I'd be very happy to help you with this request. Let me just check your account. I'm sorry, you are currently enrolled in our basic package: one back-up a night, and three Renewals a year. Unfortunately, you've already made three previous memories permanent.

Me: That can't be right. Which memories?

MASS: According to our records, you recently requested a Renewal for Monty Python's Philosopher's Song. To find the other Renewals, I would need to conduct another memory search, and your package only entitles you to one a day. However, since you've been a loyal customer since 2026, we can offer you unlimited searches, five Memory Renewals a month, remote back-up service for those times you are on-the-go, plus a wireless upgrade to your home unit, all for only an additional 100 credits a year.

Me: That sounds great!

MASS: Excellent. To make these changes to your account, I will need the password you chose when you initially registered with MASS.

Me: The password? But that was eight years ago. My memory is just terrible. I'll never be able to remember that password!

MASS: "I'll never be able to remember that password" is correct. Someone will be by between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. tomorrow to install your new hardware. Please make sure you are home, and thank you very much for calling Memory Archival Storage Systems. Have an unforgettable day!

Judge's Comment

I salute this writer who maintains humor and a dialogue that crackles with authenticity. Here is an all too familiar conversation but with a delightful spin. My favorite moment was when the MASS noticed the construction of a "Privacy Wall." This piece moves along crisply and clicks with just the right punch at the ending. It is a great romp to read. Well done!


Youth Division - First Place

"Salutary Reminders for the Comatose" by Donna Kwon

Where am I? I attempt to shuffle my feet, but my shoes slosh together within the quagmire I am sinking in. Swamp? What the-

"Are you lost?"

My head jerks up, and I'm startled to see a small mountain erupt from the middle of the marsh, climbing higher and higher and higher-until I step back and suddenly it's a wall. Only a wall, and there is a girl sitting at the top, her feet dangling precariously over the edge.

"Are you lost?" she repeats, but doesn't wait for a reply. "You are, aren't you? You wouldn't be here otherwise."

Bristling and defensive, I scowl. I want to tell her to back off, to leave me alone, but when I open my mouth all I hear is, "No. No, I'm not lost."

She leaps from the wall, then-all twenty feet of it, I might add-and I open my mouth to whatdoyouthinkyou'redoingdon'tjump, but suddenly she is standing beside me, one hand clutching my sleeve. "I think you're a liar," she says breathlessly, and I have just enough time to realize that I hadn't actually seen her land-

We're standing at a crossroad.

I wrench my arm from her grasp and take several steps backward, gulping several lungfuls of air. "You-what-!" A dizzy spell hits me like a sledgehammer and the terrible urge to vomit claws its way up my throat.

"You're lost," she says gently, and her voice is so compelling that I'm tempted to agree, but there is still a spark of stubborn denial. Her eyes narrow as though she can hear my thoughts. "You are," she says more forcefully, and the feeling of wanting to puke triples in intensity.

I drop to the floor and heave up burning acid. "All right!" I gasp out, struggling to keep my stomach inside my body. "I get it-I'm lost!"

She smiles beatifically and the pressure disappears immediately. "Yes, you are," she agrees. "So I think you should go that way." Pointing towards the right, she glances at me expectantly.

Warily, I stand and take a few steps forward on the road. "Where am I going?" I ask, and I turn just in time for the freight train to run me over.

-and over.

-and over.

-and

Where am I? I attempt to shuffle my feet, but my shoes slosh together within the quagmire I am sinking in. Swamp? What the-

"Back again?"

My head jerks up, and I'm startled to see a small mountain erupt from the middle of the marsh, climbing higher and higher and higher-until I step back and suddenly it's a wall. Only a wall, and there is a girl sitting at the top, her feet dangling precariously over the edge.

"I'm disappointed," she says, and something about her seems familiar, "but I guess we can do this again."

I open my mouth to say something, but she doesn't wait for a reply.

"You are lost," she says, and I believe her.

Judge's Comment

This entry is a winner. The writer maintains urgency using the present tense and tight construction. The dialogue keeps the pace lively and mysterious without confusion. That is a finely wrought balance. I was also impressed by the writer's sparing use of repetition to create a deja vu effect. Each time I read and reread this piece I connect with the narrator and also find the girl, who sits on a wall, feet dangling, "compelling." The ending was neatly timed and carried a satisfying punch. Well done.


Youth Division - Second Place

"Fireworks, Several Ducks, and a Miniature Dragon" by Emily Polson

I walk towards the house, and when I hear fireworks coming from within, I sigh heavily.

"Why, hello Carrie, come on in!"

I'm about to drop my bag on the floor, but when I see the miniature dragon huffing puffs of smoke, I change my mind and place it, along with my shoes, on the end table.

"Roman is hungry" a small girl informs me, while strangling her pet dragon in an attempt to bestow some sort of affection upon him.

"Duck!" yells a boy, as a duck flies over my head and out the door. He tries to follow it, but I redirect his path to the kitchen with my hand atop his head, and close the door. Sorry, duck.

Despite the children's pleas, I don't let the dragon eat at the table. Even if it is convenient because I let the macaroni cool too long. The duck is quacking to be let back in, but I ignore him.

The dragon is brooding under the table.

"Roman doesn't like macaroni," the girl tells me.

Then the fireworks go off again, and another duck appears in the fireplace. I grab the duck, and throw him outside with the other one, which doubles the quacking.

By the time I come back, the dragon has set fire to the macaroni, and I send the kids over to the wigwam while I put it out. They whine about being hungry, so I heat up some sort of leftover from the refrigerator. They devour it, and promptly turn a deep shade of purple.

"Not again!" the boy screams, a sound masked only by fireworks and a third duck's incessant quacking. I send the boy to the wigwam for yelling, and the girl grabs my sleeve, dragging me over to the laundry room.

"Isn't it pretty?" she says, stroking the bubbles formed on the partially melted washing machine. I assure her it is, and usher her out and the troublesome dragon in. "Roman will make more pretty bubbles," she says. Judging by the flames emitting from the base of the door, I assume he is doing just that. We go to the wigwam, and find it full of pixies, one of which I step on. Sorry, pixie.

I drag the boy up to his room, trying my best to avoid the swarms of pixies now free-flying about the house.

"Brother let the pixies out again. Brother's in trouble," the girl says, trailing behind.

I put them both to bed, without singing a lullaby, as I hear more fireworks go off downstairs. I set to work bribing the pixies, who have already brutally slaughtered the newest duck, back into their cage. When all the pixies have been bribed and look the same shade of purple as the children, I hear the unicorns in the driveway and the parents come in.

"Hope they weren't any trouble!" the mother says as she hands me my pay.

Judge's Comment

Kudos to a writer who can manage humor! This entry works dry humor into the young narrator's world-weary voice. While the situation of a beleaguered babysitter is not new, random ducks and miniature dragon add a lot of fun to the mix. Most importantly the writing gains its immediacy from the rapid fire action and crisp dialogue. There is a good imagination at work in this brief, but cinematic scene. A joy to read.


Youth Division - Third Place Place

"With the Destruction of the Fourth Dimension" by Bharat Sanders

Finally having accomplished the freezing of time, her mission was upon her. Walking outside into the snowy atmosphere was strange-the tiny droplets of ice were suspended between heaven and earth. They stung her face and hands, as she glided across the moist ground. Soon, the doors of Otis's Tavern swung open, and she graced the pockmarked wooden floor with her high heels, the color of claret. The barman had been pouring a hard whiskey for a gruff young man, presumably just broken up with a girlfriend. She gazed upon the wretched faces of the men and women in the bar, all in the midst of their happiness or sadness. Her hard-set face betrayed not a smile, not a frown. She had to find it, now, or there would be no more happiness, or sadness. In 1.39 seconds, the core of the earth was going to implode.

Yes, she had caused that. A ridiculous mistake on her part-of course that man who asked for the token wasn't her husband back from the dead; it was an impostor. Anyway, the Resurrection technology wasn't scheduled to be created until next month. No, she had caused the end of the world, and it was now up to her to stop it.

And there it was! Within the spotless stream of whiskey, falling eternally into the fragile glass. She would not fail this time; it was so easy-within reach. Her hand entered the whiskey, the cold and wetness making her shiver. Clenching it between two fingers, she quickly retracted her hand, but watched it stop before it could get to her pocket. It felt as if someone's hand had grabbed her around the wrist, restricting her from pulling it away.

"Got you there, didn't I?" The voice emerged from the air beside her.

Shit. I forgot.

"Invisibility technology debuted last Thursday, hun."

And with that, she fell, slowly, to the pockmarked Tavern floor.

Judge's Comment

This entry attracted me because I was drawn to the notion that "Resurrection technology" and "Invisibility technology" debut on specific dates. The writer wisely plants this idea early and then capitalizes on it as a device to clinch the close. Good detail and description. My favorite part of the work is the bit of dialogue at the end after the main character's wrist is grabbed. Here the story becomes most immediate. Keep writing!