Fiction Friday – Contest Update

Despite all of your well-wishes and crossed fingers, my entry for my local writing contest was not selected, though the judges did say they had a difficult time choosing a winner. I’m really proud of my submission, though, so I thought I would post my entry here. Note that this is just Chapter 1 of a five-parter, and therefore I was trying to plant little hints for other writers to follow up on. Also, I was really trying to build interest in the story, to get people to look forward to the next installment. Check it out, loyal reader, and let me know what you think. Here is the beginning provided by the newspaper:

Chance Amberton wasn’t sure what to expect, but then, he had never waited for a stranger to step out of the night. His phone had rung around noon as he, late again for class, stuffed notes and folders into a battered briefcase. A quavering female voice spoke, a student. They hadn’t met, but she needed to see him — for what she wouldn’t say. Could they talk that evening in the HUB?

So here he was, loitering on Pollock Road at 9 p.m., a balding Penn State professor meeting a mysterious woman like some noir detective. A trickle of sweat ran down his back despite the chill. Though divorced for years, he couldn’t help feeling as if he had skulked off to an illicit rendezvous. Of course, it could be a joke, the latest from the department’s resident prankster, Slauson. It seemed just his speed.

Chance’s breath swirled, and he thrust his hands into the pockets of his maroon ski jacket. A few students passed by, all bright fragments of cell-phone conversations. Nobody wrung their hands. Nobody sighed. He peered down the sidewalk. He knew her name and not much else, not why she had sounded so anxious, nor why his heart was starting to pound. Maybe she wouldn’t show, and he could laugh this off in the hallways at work.

He heard her footsteps before she emerged from the shadows. She wore a faded leather jacket, the sleeves too long, a backpack slung over one shoulder. Her boots poked out from the tattered flares of her jeans.

“Mr. Amberton?” she said, looking him in the eye through her brown bangs.

“That’s right.”

She glanced down for a second, then squared her jaw.

“I’ve got something for you.”

Here is my entry:

Chance took the clasped manila envelope from Amy’s outstretched hand, studying her face for signs of chicanery. He would not put it past Slausen to use one of his own students against him, rigging a seemingly benign envelope with some nasty prank. This possibility troubled Chance, but what concerned him even more was that his wife had served him divorce papers using the exact same type of manila envelope, knowledge that only Chance and his ex-wife Barbara were privy to.

Chance’s heart rate rose as the sweet, pulpy smell of the envelope filled his nose bringing with it memories of the worst night of his life. Someone clearly wanted his attention. Was Barbara trying to take even more of his hard earned money?

“What’s this?” asked Chance finally, as he began to undo the clasp and peer into the envelope.

“No!” replied Amy, closing the envelope before Chance was able to see its’ contents. “Don’t open it in front of me!”

“Why not?” said Chance.

“My boss told me not to be there when you open it,” replied Amy.

“Well, who’s your boss?” asked Chance, trying his hardest to stay calm. It wasn’t working. Chance would not need to do any cardio work tonight, as there would be little possibility of his heart slowing down anytime soon. There was little that scared Chance more than the unknown or the unexplained.

“Someone very familiar to you,” said Amy, slowly putting distance between herself and her clearly agitated professor.

“But, why..?” asked Chance.

“It will all be revealed in time,” answered Amy as if reading from a script. “Gotta go study now.”

Chance had always noticed something unusual about Amy, something he could not quite put his finger on. Amy dressed not quite like the other young women in his class, in clothes by designers he had never heard with styles he had never seen before. Also, Amy had just transferred into the Physics department that semester from a university Chance never heard of. It was more than that, though. There was something familiar and yet foreign about her, as if she was an old friend he had yet to meet.

As Chance walked toward the Hub, he fought the urge to deposit the envelope into the black metal garbage can, still furious that he had wasted his time coming to the Hub in the first place. As it were, he figured he might as well see what was inside the envelope, even if it meant a face full of confetti.

Chance walked around the Hub, toward the doors facing Old Main. He always preferred this entrance, as it gave him a chance to walk past the large saltwater aquariums. Pausing briefly to check on “his clownfish”, Chance continued on to the Union Street Burger Company, ordering his usual Union Street Burger meal and sitting in his usual back corner booth.

Holding the envelope like a freshly soiled diaper, Chance gingerly loosened the clasp and in one swift motion emptied the contents onto the table. In front of Chance lay a key, a piece of paper with an unfamiliar address scrawled on it in handwriting very similar to his own, and a copy of the Centre Daily Times.

Chance was puzzled by the key and the address, but what caught his eye most was the newspaper. On the bottom fold of the paper was the headline “Happy Birthday Penn State” and the accompanying picture was of a building Chance did not recognize. Flipping the newspaper, Chance was stunned to see at the top of the page the date of October 9th, 2055.

Seeking answers, Chance grabbed his cell phone and called the secretary of the department, asking for Amy’s phone number. After several unsuccessful attempts, Chance resigned himself to the fact that Amy would not answer any of his calls and decided he would see her in class the next morning. Chance would soon discover Amy had dropped out of school that very night.

6 thoughts on “Fiction Friday – Contest Update

  1. I love what you’ve done with this – and I want to read more! I thought the picture painted by the first paragraph wasn’t massively inspiring but you brought it to life and made me want to enter that world. I loved the cliffhanger and what was in the envelope. But wah! Can’t you write the whole book and give it to me to read? I want to find out who Amy is.

    I’m wondering about the competition. Will they publish the winning entry as the “next instalment” and then hold a competition asking readers for the third paragraph? It would be interesting to see where the story goes.

    And I’m really surprised your entry didn’t win!

  2. Thanks Helen, that really means a lot to me. What will happen next is that they will publish the winning entry in the newspaper and then readers will again be asked to come up with the next 600-700 words.

    I’m really hoping the winning entry is good and goes somewhere interesting, because otherwise I will be disappointed.

  3. That’s impressive that you’ve written it and have entered it. So many people sit around their whole lives thinking about doing what you’ve done and never get around to doing it, so you deserve a prize for that at least!

  4. Thanks Michelle. I needed less motivation on this one because I had won in the past.

    Thanks Bryan. I will post a link to the winning entry sometime today. I like mine better, but I’m not impartial. I think the winning author did a good job.

  5. Pingback: Winning Entry « The Struggling Writer

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