Here is my Spring 2016 entry for 24-Hour Short Story Contest. In this quarterly contest, the writers are given their prompt at noon on Saturday and have until noon on Sunday to turn in their entry of no more than 950 words. The story must reflect some element of the prompt, and judges look for innovation and love surprise endings, so I tried to write with that in mind. Here is the prompt, and what I came up with in that challenging window of time! It didn’t get me anywhere with the judges, but hopefully you will like it!
A brisk breeze pushed through the hatchway, cooling her sunburned cheeks. Saltwater lapped at the hull. A mariner’s lullaby. She smiled, pondering her perfect life. No people. No stress. Just the occasional storm, and sojourns to the mainland for provisions. Just as her tired eyes closed, violent knocking and shouting erupted on her starboard side…
Barbara had it all. A renowned architect living in a dream house of her own design, she was wealthy beyond imagination. She served on charitable boards and turned heads at every gala thanks to her stunning good looks, fabulous figure, and opulent wardrobe to match. The love of her life was her equal in looks, stature and success. To an outside observer, Barbara was the last person who would want to “get away from it all.”
And yet, her favorite pastime was to take her small boat out into the harbor, drop anchor, and simply sunbathe peacefully, alone. Although she tried to fit workouts into her busy life, Barbara’s nearly 60-year-old body was often stiff and unyielding. The gentle bobbing of the water was soothing in every way.
On these outings, Barbara would often strip down and plunge into the warm water, without a care about who would see her or what native creatures she might encounter. Over the years she had encountered colorful fish, birds, and even the occasional fellow skinny dipper on his or her own marine sabbatical.
On one day when the water was particularly clear, Barbara was able to see the harbor floor littered with all manner of junk, including rusted cars and other long-forgotten items.
Another afternoon Barbara’s boat traveled to a new area of the harbor and discovered a waterfall that she’d never seen before. Throwing caution to the wind, the boat maneuvered under it, staying just long enough to soak its captain and the deck, but not long enough to sink. Since that day, the waterfall has been part of every excursion.
Last week, as Barbara was sprawled on the deck of the boat, a faint knocking could be heard to the boat’s starboard side. It was accompanied by a strange noise – a babbling sound, but the words were unintelligible.
Suddenly, a dark shadow loomed over the entire harbor. Simultaneously, the boat was pulled aside with such force as to nearly lift it out of the water, and Barbara came dangerously close to falling overboard.
At once, the waters began churning violently, waves splashing onto the deck and causing the boat to seemingly rock in all directions at once. The peaceful marine life was flying across the harbor, and even one of the sunken cars went spinning into the distance as if pulled by a tornado.
The foreign noise continued, and a second, higher-pitched sound added to the cacophony. This time, however, the words could be understood.
“No fair, Mom!” Suzie screeched. “I don’t want Liam in the tub with me! He’s ruining everything!”
“You’ve been in here for half an hour, and there’s plenty of room for both of you,” Mom replied calmly. “Let him have the cars and the rubber duckie, and you can keep playing with Barbie.”