Here are the winning stories from December. Yes, stories. Generally there will only be one winner. But there were four stories that we really loved, and since it’s our first contest we decided to go big with multiple winners. We’d like to offer our congratulations to the winners. You can read each of their stories below. The winning stories in no particular order are:
“Santa’s Letter (written on recycled paper)” by L.P. Melling
“Perigree” by Lucy Zhang
“Bow to the Sun” by Liam Hogan
“Of coin crunches and menthol water” by Cosimo Suglia
Santa’s Letter (written on recycled paper)
by L.P. Melling
I know I could do more to help the world, and promise promise promise I will if you can please send me the items on the list below:
- A solar-powered drone so next year we can send all our presents carbon-neutral, including our present to Aunt Lizzie in Austria.
- The Start-Your-Own Roof Garden kit. I’ll be honest it’s more for Dad than me so we can work on it together.
- The last holo-book from Greta she did before she passed. I still really really miss her. 🙁 Oh, and thanks for her other books over the years!
- A model Boeing 999 for my little brother Kyle. He loves aircraft, bless him, and never got to see the last jet-powered plane in the sky, so I know he’d totally cherish it!
- A SmartCompostSystem for Grandpa. You have to eat things fast before Grandpa tries to compost it! And now it’s getting cold and he’s getting old (but don’t tell I said that!), it’d be nice if he could use a compost chute instead of having to do it manually.
- And finally a plastic box if you can find one for my bestest ever friend, Indya, to help with her plastic collection. Well, she calls it a collection, but it’s easier to find diamonds these days and she only has an old bottle cap and semi-melted shampoo bottle. So it really would mean everything to her.
Thanks Santa! You’re the greatest!
by Lucy Zhang
Mom tells me to move my Photon tree to the basement for Golden Day. We’re supposed to keep the house dim when the satellites and stars orbit close, a cluster of turquoise and violet plasma glittering like fireflies—enough to light up my room which is buried in the back of the house, cradled by narrow walls and a single, thin window. I’m not bothered because my Photon tree provides a soothing glow. This is the only time of year that the stars reach a perigee, but it’s purely ceremonial—how far the stars are doesn’t change how much we extract from feeding plasma into the ergosphere of black holes, manufacturing energy from whatever gets flung back out at high speed. It’s enough to keep the world lit forever, mom says. I like the idea of not worrying about stumbling on something I can’t see like the short, compact vacuuming robot which zooms around with no logical sense of direction or shying away from attics and basements which I swear gain a mind of their own when pitch black. But it’s ok to be a little on edge; too much comfort leads to complacency, according to mom. I hold my breath as I carry the Photon tree to the basement and catch a glimpse of my room, an abyss swallowing the shadows of furniture. I pluck and pocket a glowing bud from the tree before returning to the main floor and tell mom I’m not afraid of the dark.
Bow to the Sun
by Liam Hogan
Heads dip low even at noon; shadows stretch long and thin. Cold today, though the sun is shining. Cold like it hasn’t yet been this winter. We’ve been lucky. An overnight frost paints the leeks and kale with ice that lingers wherever the warming rays have yet to shine.
I push mittened hands deeper into pockets as the ceremony draws to a close, our heads mimicking the collectors, eyes shut, basking in thin red sunlight for a communal minute, before the gong ends the silence.
“Come, Emily,” mother says, as the crowd begins to disperse, our shadows overlap as neighbours smile and chat and young adults my age catch each other’s eyes, shy promises to be kept, perhaps, when the weather warms and evenings stretch forever.
Back in our habitat, through double-doors that retain the heat, mother taps the meter, more by ritual than to take a reading. The solstice has been marked. From now the days begin to get longer, the sun higher; imperceptibly at first, our batteries slowly topping up, until the summer glut, before thoughts turn once again to saving energy, squirrel like, as autumn binds tight.
But that is months away. Tonight we’ll light the brightest lamps, a small celebration: another year off-grid. Above our heads the petals of the solar collectors dip towards the horizon and the setting sun, catching the last trickles, before slowly turning unseen throughout the dark night, ready to greet the new dawn.
Of coin crunches and menthol water
by Cosimo Suglia
Your wings chafe – feather against feather – as you expand them for the first time in a long time.
The wind pushes through your marrowless bones. You look down, past the thick talons gripping a bough. Brooks escape a river, vein-like.
You’ve missed this.
You don’t feel like frogs today. Too earthy and peaty. Besides, it’s mating season, you don’t want to take that away.
Fish? They are way too tough at this time of the year.
Bugs it is then. You zoom in, camera-like, the gravel shore becoming clearer, like gazing at static until an image crystalizes. Water beetles sailing for survival. You jump, wings tight, air pressure splitting against your beak. You see your shadow mirrored on the water’s surface; the beetle takes it. It might as well have sighed. You snap at it as you dive, a coin crunch inside of your mouth, menthol water pushing it down your throat.
You float back up. The water pearls off your plumage like marbles.
You feel the scuttle stop inside your stomach. Thank you, you say.
You expand your wings again.
A pull underneath you, and you realize, you won’t get away, as an alligator snaps at you, a coin crunch inside its mouth, menthol water pushing you down its throat.
You take the control glasses off and sigh.
It’s the holiday season. Biofarmed birdbots were sold out.
The seller warned you.
But you didn’t listen.
You lay in the garden and pretend to be a worm.
Happy holidays, you.