Challenge 96 – The 2014 Winter Solstice Open, The Donna Tartt Bracket

Challenge 96

The Iron Writer

2014 Winter Solstice Open

The Donna Tartt Bracket



The Authors:

Steven Bergeron

Dani J. Caile

Kara Kahnke

E. Chris Garrison

The Elements:

A grieving boy


Growing up and growing old

An imprisoning life

An adventuresome journey

Labyrinthos De ChristusSteven Bergeron

Steven L Bergeron

Whoever enters my tomb will live forever

I was straightening up the morning pews when I spotted him. His tiny shrivelled body all curled up in the front pew. I straightened up my habit before sitting next to him.

“What seems to be troubling you my child.” His blueish eyes finally met mine.

“Father Jenkins I was hoping you could help me with this?”

“It’s seems to be some kind of prayer book.”

“That’s what I thought it was, until I found this map here in it.It seems to be in some kind of foreign language, it belonged to my grand-father. Naturally I would have asked my father about it. But he was incarcerated last month on I crime he didn’t commit.”

“Sorry my child .I see you are not familiar with Latin the language of the times. It is the maze of Christ, whoever shall solve it will live an eternity. A lot of men had died in search of it’s power.”


Years had now past since Chris Maguire has come into possession of his grand-fathers prayer book. Through the guidance of Father Jenkins he received his discipleship with a major in Latin. His mission now in life, he must achieve where his grand-father and those before him had failed. To follow the “Labyrinthos De Christus”, where ever it shall lead him. He was ready to take down any human or beast that stood in his way. Before his father was incarcerated he taught him how to take someone apart with his own bare hands.

“It is my legacy that I give to you.” Remained his father’s final word.

Backpack in hand with the knowledge he learnt from the two most important influences in life he was on his journey. To go where no men has survived before him. Father Jenkins final words struck him.

“This is your destiny. You will survive as long as you believe in the after-life. Your faith in Christ will guide you in your journey.”

Days and months had past as the long treacherous journey was taking its toll. Just as he thought he was done it finally stood before it a tunnel that seemed to be the solution too his journey. A large boulder at it entrance told him he was in the right place. As he tried with all its might to move the boulder a shadow appeared behind him.

“Are you sure you are up for this.”

He turned around ready to pull out his father’s death hold when the old man struck him sending him half way down the path.

“Your father may have taught you the move Chris, but who must learn to combat the move.”

He stared at him for a good two minutes before finally accepting his hand for guidance.

“Who are you.”

“My name is James but around here I’m known as Rex the king of the cave. I’m your grand-father like you and other brave ones the soul survivor of Labyrinthos De Christus.”

Guardians of…on Second Thoughts…Dani-J-Caile

Dani J Caile

“On sensors,” squawked Yondu, his blue face searching the screens for signs of life.

“We got one, boss, three clicks away,” said one of his pirate crew. With a wave, Yondu ordered them to head for the coordinates now showing up as a red flash on the map.

“What’s it like? Healthy?”

“Looks like it, boss. Young, healthy, but I think it’s suffering from something…can’t quite work it out,” replied the same crewman.

“On livefeed,” ordered Yondu, and he watched as the screen filled with a crying, kneeling child. “Ah, a grieving boy, just right.”

“Yes, boss. We can manipulate him easier if he’s already under some emotional stress. Make him one of us,” said a second pirate.

“But he’ll have to suffer an imprisoning life on-board this ship until we can break him. Remember the last human? He’s still in a cage on Deck 8, asking for some ‘Big Mac’, whatever that is,” said the first.

“What? What are you saying? What right-minded youth wouldn’t take up the opportunity for such an adventuresome journey into the unknown, travelling through the universe with the Ravagers, the greatest and toughest band of pirates this side of the Laniakea Cluster?” questioned Yondu, getting to his feet and studying the small, sobbing boy.

“That one on Deck 8?”

They stood together, all three in front of the screen.

“He’s still asking for ‘Big Mac’?” asked Yondu.

“Yes, boss, whoever he is. Wants to eat him, apparently,” said the first pirate.

“Eat him? These humans are crazy.” Yondu scratched his blue chin and wondered. “How long’s he been down there?”

“What, this crying boy, boss?” asked the first.

“No, no, the one on Deck 8, how long’s he been down there?”

“Seven years. We just can’t seem to break him.”

“Maybe you broke him a little too much,” said the first to the second, making a ‘cuckoo’ gesture.

They stood in silence, still watching the screen.


“Not exactly growing up but growing old, for sure,” mentioned the second.

“Not good,” stated Yondu.

“Guess they don’t make ’em like they used to, eh, boss?” said the second.

“Guess not.”

The spaceship hovered over the boy who was now fully aware of their presence, standing up with his clothes flapping in the gusts from their engines.

“So boss? Do we pick this one up? Enslave him, break him and make him one of us?”


“Let him become a strong, powerful member of our crew of pirates, maybe even allow him his own independence and go his own free way?”


“And who knows? Maybe one day he, and he alone will be the one who unites a small unlikely band of warriors to defeat the greatest evil the universe has ever seen!”


“Boss? Well? Shall we take him?”

“No. Close livefeed. Head for Zirconium 6. I fancy some Geevon steaks,” said Yondu, sitting down and examining his nails. “And take this planet off our charts. It’s a complete waste of space.”

“Yes, boss.”

My Silent WorldKara Ann

Kara Kahnke

My words come out jagged like broken shards of glass. I envy people who can speak beautiful, fluid streams of words that they don’t have to think about. I know this will never be the case for me. I’m smart, but my stutter breaks my thoughts down into tiny pieces. Most people don’t stick around to hear me out.

As a thirteen-year-old boy, I wanted to be accepted more than anything, but I feared judgment from others. I chose to live my life locked behind prison bars of silence most of the time.

Her name was Gabriella. She had corn colored hair in a perfect braid that went down her back and complemented her hazel eyes. She always wore different shades of pink to match the consensus of her clique of ultra-popular friends. A few weeks after turning thirteen, I noticed that she was being nice to me.

I dropped my pencil in our math class, which rolled away from me and tapped her on the shoe. “Here ya go,” she said kindly as she handed it back to me. Later that day, she let me sit next to her on the bus on the way home when nobody else would. She gave me half of her cookie that she pulled from her backpack as the bus bumped along. She listened patiently as words dribbled out of me about my favorite video games. My body made me horrible at verbal expression, but physical skill was my thing. An arcade was my second home and I pressed the buttons of the games at just the right moment to make them do what I wanted.

When my dad and I went to the arcade that week, I resolved to do something nice for Gabriella. I thought of the touch of her hand as she passed me the cookie, and extrapolated it into an adventuresome journey that might begin between us. My dad gave me a wary glance as I manipulated the claw machine to land on a tiny gold pendent with a pastel pink stone in the middle.

The next day in math class, I dropped it into her hand as she sat down in front of me. I saw what I thought was a moment of regret cross her face. She turned to her snickering friend and said in an imitating voice, “I….I…I knew I could make the f….f…freak fall for me.”

I ran out of the room in tears. My favorite teacher found me in the hallway and put a reassuring hand on my shoulder as I cried through my grief and talked to him. He had kept my confidence many times before. It was hard to understand at thirteen, but I finally understand what he was trying to tell me. Growing up and getting old has taught me that the prettiest girl in the room doesn’t always matter. The one who matters is the one who will put her hand on your shoulder at the end of every worst day.

The Book of the Dead

Eric Garrison

E. Chris Garrison

“No! I won’t ‘snap out of it’! Grandpa’s gone. He’s gone, Emily. Nothing you or mom and dad can say will fix that.”

Emily sat down next to her little brother and pulled him close. “I know he’s gone. This is your first time meeting Death. You don’t remember Grandma, but she passed when I was younger than you.”

“That doesn’t make it okay, you know!”

“No, it doesn’t. I kept waiting for her to wake up, you know? Everyone would have a laugh and we’d have cake with Grandma. But she just slept in the box while people said nice things about her. But you know what?”

Ryan sniffed and pushed damp bangs out of his eyes to look up at her. He shook his head.

Emily smiled. “Something mom said. Grandma’d had a wonderful life, full of love, family, and adventure. This was just the end of the story. All stories have an end.”

Ryan’s face clouded again. He swiped at the tears leaking from the corners of his eyes and spat out, “That’s it? That’s supposed to cheer me up, that stories end?”

Emily nodded. “Yes. Because a story without end isn’t a story at all. It’s just stuff that happens. It’s unfinished. Grandma’s life is like a book, and we all carry around the pages of her life in our memories. Her book is complete, and now so is Grandpa’s. We have those memories to keep.”

Ryan hugged his arms to himself even as Emily held him to her. “That’s life, huh? The same old story. We’re born, we go to school, we get a job, and then we die? If it’s a book, then the cover and binding are sort of a prison. Grandpa can’t escape those pages, they’re already written and his book’s already shelved!”

“Oh Ryan, don’t look at it that way. Their stories may be fixed in ink, but while they lived, they had blank pages to write whatever they liked. A new story every day, and grand plots that spanned decades as well. They worked on those tales all their lives, and have left us with them at the end.”

“And all we’ve got are books when I want to go look at the stars with Grandpa and his telescope one more time.”

“But he’s taught you how, hasn’t he? And you can remember him each time you look through the eyepiece, every time you spot something you hadn’t before. We miss them both, but like a favorite book, we can revisit their lives by remembering them and telling their stories. Ryan, getting to ‘the end’ and closing the book doesn’t keep you from starting back at page one again. And don’t forget, we have our own pages to fill.”

Ryan fell silent a long while and let the tears flow freely, hugging his sister back now.


“Yes, Ryan?”

“Will you take me stargazing?”

“Me? Well, of course.”

“I want to show you what Grandpa taught me.”

“I’d like that.”


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