And the Winner of the NPR Three Minute Fiction Contest Is...

...someone else.

So NPR ran a contest where you had to write a short story in 600 words or less beginning with the line "Some people swore that the house was haunted," and ending with "And nothing was ever the same after that."

I wrote my version of the story on the bus ride home from work one day and then spent a few days revising it before submitting. Unfortunately I didn't win, nor did I place as one of their "favorites". Bummer!

For what it's worth, here's my version of the story titled "The Trapese Artist":

"Some people swore that the house was haunted," but Garrett didn’t seem to care as a fistful of pebbles left his hand and arced towards the window. I cringed as they clinked off of the remaining glass panes in the abandoned house.

As he picked up another handful, I threatened mutiny, “I’m going home. We shouldn’t be here.”

Garrett slowly turned, a scowl on his face. I took a step back when our eyes met. “Says who?” he sneered.

“Nobuddy,” I mumbled. As he wound up for another throw I added, “I just have a bad feeling that’s all.”

His fist came out of nowhere and connected with my jaw, throwing me off balance and I tumbled backwards off of the rock pile. I hit the bottom and rolled onto my side, expecting another attack but he just stood there, staring into the house. I got up, brushed the dirt and leaves off of my pants and spit into the gravel.

“You jerk, why’dya do that?”, I shouted. Through the blur of tears and burn of anger I saw him sway slightly. I caught him as he fell, mouth agape, eyes wide and the shaft of an arrow sticking out of his chest.

“Jesus Garrett,” I sputtered as he lay motionless in my lap. I forced myself to look at the arrow, black feathers on a four inch black shaft sprouting from his worn corduroy jacket.

It was then that I noticed the thin black thread extending from the arrow up over the rock pile. I shifted Garrett's immobile bulk off of me and reached down for the thread but as my finger and thumb closed around it, it faded and scattered like fog in a carnival fun house.

Suddenly, the thread went taught with a twang. I watched in amazement as the thread began to bounce up and down. Squinting, I followed the hazy black line as it led from the arrow in Garrett over the rock pile and into the second floor window of the house beyond. It was then that I noticed a dark figure casually walking down the line like a trapeze artist, intent on his task and seemingly completely unaware of my presence. Through the light and shadow of the leaves he faded in and out and I tried to cry out with fear or laugh at the absurdity, but I was as immobile as Garrett was.

As he passed by me, I could see the house and trees through his coat. When he got to the end of the thread, he perched upon Garrett's chest and howled triumphantly to the surrounding forest. A chill ran up my spine as the shadowy man turned to face me, hollow black eyes beneath a high top hat. His lips pealed back revealing blackened teeth and he smiled at me as he reached down and touched the arrow. Without a sound, he and the arrow and the thread were gone.

A convulsion ran through Garrett's body and he abruptly sat up coughing. “Not fair,” he wheezed, “you can't jump me when I'm not looking!” It was then that I realized I was laughing hysterically; laughing so loudly that the sound of my voice echoed off of the house and the surrounding hillside. Garrett stood up and pushed me. “Let's get the hell out of here,” he skulked, “I'm bored.”

We rode home in silence, "Nothing was ever the same again after that."

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