“A lily is sprouting from my head.
First I love it, then I want it dead.”
The valley was Charda’s home. The river provided. She was old enough now to be on her own. However, Zot kept her company.
Zot was the gentlest krist on the northern continent. At three meters, with a translucent, jagged body, he was imposing. Yet Charda felt safe. Mostly, they played games. They’d race down hills or skip rocks. She would sit on his shoulders, which was unheard of. Every krist has a short sprout up top. The one time she saw him upset she had touched it. Krists don’t speak, but he made it clear this was very dangerous.
It was a peaceful life. Their few visitors spoke of turmoil in the south. Tales of vicious creatures kept her up at night. But morning always came, and she and Zot would play.
One morning, while Zot was hiding for their usual game, the sky turned charcoal. A tinny, metallic sound crescendoed. Every hair on her body stood up at once. She wondered if a horrible storm was coming. But as the sound–now a loud hum–approached, she discovered it was not the weather. It was something, at least a thousand or more somethings. And they were alive.
The buzzing was so loud she didn’t hear Zot rumble in from the woods. Furiously, he dug a hole in the soil. He gave her a fierce look and pointed at his sprout. Confused, she shook her head. He pointed at the wall of sound without breaking his glare. He then lowered his head to her lap, vulnerable.
She dared look again. The swarm was almost upon her. Without thinking, she yanked on Zot’s sprout. A hollow pop startled her as it came out in her hand. She quickly buried the sprout and covered it with dirt. Charda looked up in time to see Zot’s body liquefying, seeping into the ground around her feet.
The creatures flew towards her, a jumble of furry legs, crimson wings, and giant stingers. Before she could scream a giant flower burst through the ground, rising three meters high.
Every beast flew right into the head of the flower, as if they were pollinating. The flower swallowed each one in turn. Thirty seconds later, all was still. The only evidence of a disturbance was Zot, standing beside her.
It hit her. She was alone. And, somehow, she was the safest she’d ever been. She placed both arms around the stalk and hugged her friend. And wondered about the future.
K: What a strange, beautiful idea this is. The prose is lovely, the mythology is well-built and the characters are very likable despite their obvious handicap in the traditional storytelling sense (the fact that they can’t talk to give us information). This was unexpected, and quite nice. GOLD
DK: I like this as a measure of world-building. The story gives enough detail to allow the picture to come clear through the context without spending the space to spell everything out. Plus, it builds to a suitably engaging climax. GOLD
For the final challenge I decided I needed to take some chances. I almost always use dialogue, and I did away with it. And I have never written a story where I had to create a new world first. This was a lot of fun to do. It’s the best thing I’ve written in a few years, I think.
The two gold medals were just what I needed to launch me into first place. Finishing just two points ahead of the second place contestant, I have a bye in the first round of the playoffs. We’ll see you in about a week with my semifinals story.