Populated by winners of each contest, each issue of this magazine has a different premise. This issue includes three winners and three honorable mentions on the premise of time. At first, I wasn’t looking forward to the pieces, expecting the classic race against time scenario, but I was pleasantly surprised to see time handled in a much different way.
The first place winner—which I will agree is the best in the issue—is T. N. Collie’s “The Fugu Feast.” Imagine a camp where everyone desires to end his or her life. Imagine that they do not mind not knowing when it will happen, as long as it does. And imagine that these people are willing to play games, take chances with fate, until they do die. Imagine that, and you’ve got the premise for this story.
Each day is a different game, and the characters choose whether or not to play. Most haunting—to me at least—is Wednesday’s game: Tic-Tac-Toe. “The lines of the game had been spray-painted white on the grassy terrain making nine large squares with a round hole dug into each of them, ten feet deep.” Each player is either an X or an O, and when they decide where to go, they must get inside the hole and while someone else seals it shut with a large boulder. The winners come out of the holes; the losers are left in the holes to die.
I feared that “Miss Betty Comes”—third place winner—by Theresa Rovillo would be one of those time-chaser stories (as the first section starts building up with specific times), but I was happy to find out that instead it was a piece about Miss Betty, a ghost that haunts the apartments, who never leaves but “always comes home.” Does that make sense to you? Well, it doesn’t make sense to the tenants either, but they have figured out that as long as their doors are all shut at the same time for a certain amount of time on the fifteenth of the month, life will be normal.
In Ruba Abughaida’s “Traveling” (honorable mention #2), the characters fight the clock of life: “Time—that had spread before them as endless, sometimes suffocatingly so—was now a withered sliver of a thing that they grasped onto, praying it would slow down.” On a trip to London (from Lebanon) to visit their daughter, Mary and Henry must decide what’s best as Henry’s health dwindles.
Of course make sure to read the other three pieces as well that come from John Burridge (“Reset Romance,” second place), Sarina Dorie (“The Quantum Mechanic,” honorable mention #1), and James Calbraith (“Transmission,” honorable mention #3).