Amanda Wuenschel won first place with her response to our prompt “Forging Colossal Character.”
Read it below, or have Chappy read it to you.
“I’m sor—I’m sor—I’m sor—I’m sorry.” Each word rising in volume, her head flashed right to the beat of her stutter, braid jerking over her left shoulder.
An arm pulled her close and squeezed, a wet cheek pressed against her own. Chapped lips smoothed along her sunburned temple.
Birds chirped to each other from the safety of branches on the tree across the street. She could climb up to join them, the whim stretched through her mind. She would even be safe for a while. Until she ran out of food or water or the undead gathered so thick that they knocked the tree down with a crash.
She’d seen it happen.
No, this was better: surrounded by people she trusted, on the bridge where she got her first kiss, and with her flash almost silent. She’d be saving their lives.
Hands squeezed her shoulders, tugged her braid to rest flat down her spine, clasped her wrist where it wrapped around the metal railing. Those hands had saved her life once. Now they were letting her go.
Her head flashed to the right, once, twice, three times, and she grit her teeth to keep the word inside, face scrunched toward her nose. She wasn’t safe for them, not since she’d run out of the medicine that kept her tics in check.
“Shi—“ She released the grip of her right hand, capturing the yell before it drew unwanted attention. The movement unbalanced her, sending her right foot off into the air.
A hand steadied her as it had steadied her since she was a teenager and angry at the way the eyeliner dragged across her face. It was still bandaged from breaking the glass at the pharmacy when it had become clear that every drug had been looted or smashed into powder on the floor. They’d already been to three others in the exact same state.
She held on to the hand, knowing her grasp was painful, but she needed another moment before she could play the hero. Finally, she let go and wrapped her right arm around the railing again. Each footstep away strengthened her.
All alone, back against the railing, she gazed across the sea. The birds had gone quiet, startled by the noise of her party stepping away or fleeing from any undead drawn by the aborted shout or just gone because they were birds and had that freedom.
Fingers unclenched slowly. They were white from the strength of her grip but steady. She could do this if it meant saving their lives.
She closed her eyes and stepped forward into the quiet.