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2012 Varma Winners

First Prize

Body Found
by Brittany Kraus

          She lies in a field. Already the signs of decomposition mark her body, meticulous and irreversible. Soon the family will be notified. Now, there is only procedure. This is not the work of gods, merely the duty of the elements, insects and scavengers to proceed as they have always done, reducing the record of an existence to a frame of bone and enamel. If the family decides to bury rather than burn, there will be an intervention into this natural scene. An agent from the industry of death will stage a play of purgatory: the girl – no longer a girl, no longer human – will be momentarily revived to half-life, stitched and stinking of chemicals, ready to receive her final farewells.

           Hers was an ordinary death. Some piece of the extraordinary machine malfunctioned. (Let us say it was the heart). There was no foul-play, no gothic scene of treachery acted out beneath a moonlit sky. (Off-stage, far-off scenes play out their own morbid conclusions under another set of stars). There were no last words uttered into the blank night as a crazed lover/father/sister/stranger plunged a knife into her breast, or shot a bullet into her brain. There was no knife, no bullet. The story of her death comes later: anticlimactic, insignificant. There will be facts (time and cause of death) and fictions (She didn’t suffer). If the family is so inclined, there will be an obituary – a one or two-paragraph summary of a life cut, always, too short.

Second Prize

Love Story
by Tiffany Moriss

         She would come to me every day. Not always at the same time, but she seemed to know when I was loneliest. She would walk alongside me, letting her breath warm the cold air, trailing fog and wishes that she would half mumble, unsure if I was listening. Some days, she wouldn't let slip one word, preferring the comfort of silence.

         I loved her dark hair, dancing in breezes, how she would shiver, sometimes, from the caress of it. She always dressed contrary to the weather. Her long skirts tangled her ankles, but she would forge ahead, down those twisting, uncertain paths. Her skin wore bruises from those unsteady feet.

         I awaited her footsteps with patience. She came in my raging or my calm. She'd brave storms for me, and gaze out into the distance, counting the seconds between flashes of lightning and claps of thunder.

         Love--an accident chosen by the pale hands of Fate. Our love, gentle reader, was no exception. At long last, she fell for me. It was a hard fall, down a steep hill, filled with jagged stones and branches. Oh, but she took that leap. For me.

         The fall knocked her unconscious. Her temple bled softly, her angelic face as if in sleep. I rushed to her. Her lovely mouth was open in declaration, slowly breathing salt water. It felt good to touch her hair--at last! I wrapped my cold waves around her, and pulled her in, down, closer to me.

Third Prize

Phobophobia
by Alanna Ferguson

“That’s nothing,” said Julian in response to her bloodstained knee. She wasn’t one to fuss over scrapes, but the gash was deep, and she was pleased that her porcelain cheeks showed no evidence of tears. But Julian was lifting his sweater, revealing a malicious scar weaving between his ribs like a centipede.
“See? Nothing,” he said. Her bright-eyed ego was stung. She was determined to be the toughest little doll imaginable.
“THAT’S nothing,” she shrieked, bolting to a familiar crack in the dirt.
She peered at the dozens of thrashing bodies, wondering, as always, how they didn’t suffocate in that heaving, knotted mass. Julian carelessly selected a worm from the pile. She liked her new playmate, Julian -- he was fearless, like her.
He crushed the squirming creature in his fist. “That’s nothing.”
He led her to a flattened seagull, molting lifelessly on the pavement. She shook away a vision of its cranium imploding underneath an indifferent tire. “Th-that’s nothing,” she faltered. “That’s not all,” he snapped.
She found herself within the confines of a house. She worried about her silence - did it sound like fear?
“Where are your parents?” She wondered why, once voiced, it seemed like a foolish question.
She followed him up a dusky staircase, all the while feeling as though she were descending through deep layers of soggy dark earth. Julian’s nails dug into her flesh purposefully.
“That’s ...” she spluttered desperately, “that’s no- … no-”
“It’s nothing,” murmured Julian, gripping her feathery hair, “it’s nothing.”