Here is the winning entry for my first flash fiction contest. This piece won because it received the highest scores from the judges for both technical competence and how emotionally moving it was. Congratulations to Amy Curtis!
Thank you to all of our amazing judges who gave freely of their time and energy to make this a success. These friends mean so much to me!
Liz is a lifelong reader who has proofread so many of my works. Well-read and meticulous, Liz is a mom of three, including the cutest canine named Romeo.
Aaron is the author of the Psygens and Space Cats series, and the Onicranium Dragons series. Aaron is a certified Linux nerd who’s been a fan of both Star Trek and Star Wars as long as long as he can remember. Naturally he writes space-opera. He lives in rural Michigan with his wife, four kids, and at least two cats. You can learn more about Aaron and his books at aarondemott.com
L.N. Weldon is a small-town librarian who dreams of the big city, a world traveler who dreams of seeing more, and a writer who prefers to read, because she’s lazy like that. She lives in the Midwest in a cozy apartment with a million books, and has a promising future as a crazy cat lady.
She is a fantastic cover designer, and designed my Astound booklet!
During the day, RJ is a stay at home mom of two active little boys. When she has ‘free time’, she enjoys reading, writing, baking and sewing.
After many years of creative writing classes, writing fanfiction drabbles and daydreaming, it was high time to start writing her husband Mike’s story. She dove into the world of Terrene and hasn’t looked back—except for when she runs out of dark chocolate.
Any free time not spent in Terrene is typically expended on hosting dinner and game nights, running amok with the two little monkeys or watching nerdy movies with Mike.
H. A. Titus is usually found with her nose in a book or spinning story-worlds in her head.
She first fell in love with speculative fiction when she was twelve and her dad handed her The Lord of the Rings. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior with her meteorologist husband and young sons, who do their best to ensure she occasionally emerges into the real world, usually for some kind of adventure. When she’s not writing, she can be found mountain biking, skiing, or playing table-top games and RPGs.
John Thomas is an avid reader, especially of historical narratives. But, he has read many books of a wide variety of genres. He also wrote a novella, “Mara is Crying”. https://racheliscrying.wordpress.com/rachel-is-crying/
John was a corporate executive in information technology and was a County Commissioner overseeing the county he lives in as a member of the five person Commissioners Court. He served in the military as an Army officer and was an Airborne Ranger. He graduated from West Point and Harvard Business School.
Faith Blum is a 20-something author of multiple books in various genres. She loves to write, read, play piano, knit, crochet, sew, watch movies, and spend time with her husband. She lives in Wisconsin in a small town with her husband and cat where she can write to her heart’s content during the day. Faith’s goal in her writing is to encourage Christians in their walk with Christ.
As the daughter of missionaries, Kara Swanson spent her childhood in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate to characters dropped into a unique new world, she fell in love with the fantasy genre and was soon penning stories herself.
Shortly after moving stateside, Kara received the Mount Hermon Conference “Most Promising Teen Writer Award.” Her latest release, The Girl Who Could See, was a finalist for a 2018 INSPY Award and won the 2018 Parable Award. Swanson is also on the faculty for the Young Writer’s Workshop, where she helps to guide thousands of young writers.
Kara is passionate about crafting stories of light shattering darkness, forming sincere connections with readers, and becoming best friends with a mermaid—though not necessarily in that order.
And without further ado – the winning entry:
“The smallest coffins are the heaviest.” No one warns you about that, ever. No one talks about it – at all. A baby boy, he’s her biggest newborn yet. Once you look past all the tubes and wires keeping him alive, so we can say hello and goodbye, he looks just like his siblings. He might even be the most handsome yet.
How his momma and daddy are doing this, I don’t know. I don’t think I could. There are twenty of us huddled in the birthing room next door waiting our turn to cherish our sixty seconds of time with their precious, silent four-day-old. If ever prayer held someone up, it was now. Digging my nails onto my forearms I close my eyes and press back into the corner praying again that He would change His mind, hold them up, make a way in the dark.
My mother-in-law touches my elbow and says it’s our turn. My knees want to buckle and I can’t breathe right. My hands go to my tiny but growing belly. All I can think is, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I am still pregnant, I’m sorry they won’t get to grow up together like we planned. I’m sorry you have to see my hope in the middle of your pain. I’m sorry the three bundles of hope, four months apart, are now only two. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
Hiding in the back of the small group I see his daddy, so strong and kind, encouraging each one to hold a little pink hand or stroke a soft baby toe. His momma sits holding him in her arms with physical pain, that I’ll understand later, and emotional torture blanketing her face. I now perfectly understand the phrase, “Silent tears traced rivers down her cheeks.” “You have to hold her! Don’t let go! You’re the only comfort she has.”
With how hard emotions and situations like this are for me, I surprise myself when it’s my turn by stooping down and kissing his blonde peach-fuzz head. He’s so warm and soft and normal. How can it be that he won’t just open his big, undoubtedly blue, eyes? How can it be that this sweet-smelling, squishy baby won’t be with us in a few short hours?
Terrified that I have overstepped some precious boundary, I quickly retreat to the hall. I find his biggest sister and their aunt sitting on the floor hugging their knees and crying. In the pale green hospital hall next to the water fountain they lean on each other and sob yet again for lost hope. Another thing no one tells you is there is pain you can’t comfort.
Heartbroken and spirit torn apart for my family, I can’t go back into the crowded room. I can’t bare the pain that has seeped into the hallway either. A sob echoes in the hall. Maybe I’m selfish, or maybe it’s pregnancy hormones, but without saying goodbye I make my way to the elevator. Two things will forever stay with me: how tangible this grief was and the softness of his peach fuzz. Stepping inside feels like leaving a different reality. No one on the other side of these doors knows about the literal ocean of grief flooding through the halls of Maternity Ward B Room 102.