Contest #91 shortlist ⭐️

30 comments

Fiction

Standing on the edge of the ship, Alan could feel the cold spray of the ocean on his cheeks, the wind tug on his long hair, and the warm rays from an open sun on his face. The calls of other sailors were carried on the wind to Alan’s ears.

“Land Ho!”

The excitement started to buzz among the -


“Larry and John! If you wish to remain in the library you will have this debate another time!” the woman behind the desk said, glaring at two boys sitting at a table with cards between them.  


Alan shoved his bookmark in his book, closed it with a snap, and stood up. He glared over at the two boys who had caused this interruption and huffed. Picking up his bag and the small bean bag chair he sat on, Alan walked further into the library seeking a quieter corner, ignoring the grumbling beast in his stomach. As he walked he held his one foot at an odd angle to keep the broken sandal from falling off. 


Reaching the back row titled Business and Politics, Alan placed down his bean bag chair and sat his bony bottom down. Wiggling a bit to shift the beans away from his sore ribs, Alan opened his book and allowed his mind to travel back to undiscovered, fascinating adventures.


The ship pulled in closer to the strange island. The crew scanned the shores feverishly to detect signs of inhabitation. As Alan walked along the deck, his boots thumped on the solid wood. He scanned the shore with the captain and they agreed on the ideal spot for landing. Alan would of course join the search team and explore the island for much needed reserves and repair materials.  


His body bobbed up and down with the waves as the small boat of explorers approached the rocky shore. Alan breathed in the salty air, his skin tight from long days in the sun. He could see a wild shoreline ahead with tall unkempt trees further back. The island was heavily green with many splashes of color. As the boat reached the shore, the angry crashing of waves intermittently drowned out the loud squalls of birds.  


“There you are Alan!” said the librarian. Alan looked up to see her standing at the end of the aisle, pushing a cart of books to be re-shelved. She had a tight look about her with her hair done up neatly and her clothing set just right but a soft warm smile spread across her face.

“I see I've interrupted some wild adventures. There was a conference here today over lunch in our meeting room. They left some food behind.”

Alan’s eyes grew wider and his mouth salivated as his eyes scanned the books in the cart.

Ellie the librarian pulled out a small plastic tray that was nuzzled in with the books and carried them over to Alan. Half filled with pre made sandwiches and the other with vegetables and dip.

“Thank you Ellie,” Alan said as he looked at the ground.  

“I also brought this new book for you. It’s the next sequel to a series I know you like - we just got a copy. Let me know what you think of it,” Ellie said as she handed over a hard covered book. As Alan took hold of it, the smooth cover sent tingles along his fingers. New places waiting to be experienced.  


Ellie returned to her cart and continued along the rows, returning other worlds to their waiting places. Alan opened the container and engulfed several sandwiches. He pulled out a disposable water bottle from his bag, wrapper worn off, and took a drink. The drink washed down the dinner, calming the grumbling beast below. Alan popped a few vegetables in his mouth and returned to his book.  


The group spread out along the shore, scanning the rocky terrain and the jungle edges. Alan followed the captain, awkwardly walking quickly on a rocky beach. The chirps of birds scattered along the trees were suddenly interrupted by an ear splitting roar. Alan and the captain froze in place. Alan’s heart was racing and his palms were clammy. He reached for his knives at his belt in time with the captain. Their eyes both pierced through the jungle underbrush as they stepped backwards away from the tree line.  


A creature unlike anything Alan had ever seen before, stepped out from the underbrush. His eyes frantically traced over it as his knuckles went white from the death grip on his blades. The lizard beast with large teeth approached curiously, eyeing up the two men in front of it. Alan eyed the captain to see what his plan was. The wind, crashing of waves, memories of the past, life situations, all fled from Alan in the intensity of the moment. He could feel his heartbeat hammering against his chest, eyes flying along the pages, hungry for more.


“Alan, dear.”

Alan felt as though his mind was being pulled by a high speed spaceship, returning to his home planet. His stomach plummeted as his adventures faded, his mind trying desperately to stay there. Alan’s eyes fluttered up to Ellie.

“Closing time?” asked Alan.

“Yes dear. You have 5 minutes to pack your things up. Let me know if I can help you with anything.”

“I’m good, but thank you Ellie.”

Alan carefully closed the container of food and placed it in his bag along with his water. He carried the books gently in his arms to the front desk where Ellie sat, reading a book. Looking down at the ground Alan said, “Thank you Ellie. Have a good night.”

“See you tomorrow Alan! Don’t let that new book keep you up all night. I have heard good things about it.”


Alan walked out of the building into the crisp air of the evening, holding his two books in his arms. Dusk had fallen. Most families were at home, only the odd car drove around. He pulled off his broken sandals and walked along several streets of houses barefoot, feeling the warmth from the sun of the day. His feet brought him along the path as his mind explored the island shore, looking for a detail he may have missed. Alan reached a trailer park and walked along towards the trailer at the back that was never locked. 


As he walked to the door he took a deep breath and told himself he was a spy, like the ones in the movie Spy Kids. His mission was to get to the other side without disturbing anyone. Alan moved his hand to his ear, pretended to be listening to directions in an earpiece, then slowly turned the handle and stepped in. His ears perked up, ready to detect sounds to guide him along. Alan moved his feet steadily, slowly shifting his weight from one foot to the other, heart thrumming. Acrid scents filled the house and loud music played from a stereo. Alan the spy approved of the loud music, it will block sounds.


Slowly peeking out around the corner, Alan saw the living room. A couple were on the couch, lying on top of each other kissing. Alan didn’t quite understand why everyone did that. A third person was passed out on the floor. Picking his steps carefully, Alan took quick long strides and made it across the living room. He dodged several beer bottles at the doorway and stood with his back to the wall, slowly turning to look down the hallway to his room.  


The other few doors were closed. Alan the spy nodded slowly in appreciation of this. He kept his back to the wall as he swiftly progressed along to his room. He thanked the stains on the carpet that made it easier to map out the quieter paths. Passing his parents room, Alan could hear shouts. He gauged it as an average level and nothing to be alarmed about yet.  


Reaching his door, Alan entered quickly and silently closed the door. Finally breathing deeply, Alan the spy smiled. Yet another mission accomplished. He walked over to his mattress, placed down his bag, pulled out a sandwich and his water bottle. Escalating noises from the other room had Alan whip his head around, ears perked. Not quite able to tell if they were good or displeased noises, Alan crawled under his covers and turned on his reading light. He bit into the sandwich as he looked at the new book from Ellie.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he read across the top. As the noises of the small trailer grew louder, Alan opened the book and plunged his attention into the elegantly written words. The book called to Alan and he willingly dove into its depths.  

As his eyes travelled along the page, his mind travelled to a different place.  

Haunting memories drifted out of sight.

The sounds around him faded.  

Pains in his body melted.  

Different scents.

A different world.  

Anywhere else.

Escape.


April 28, 2021 02:15

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30 comments

Isabella Sanders
17:05 May 07, 2021

Some copy edits are needed, but the subtext is amazing! It is just enough to hint at the situation without making it too obvious.

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Sam Ackman
19:15 May 07, 2021

Thanks so much for the read and the comment!

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Nina Chyll
16:06 May 07, 2021

Really touching in a very open, honest way, congratulations!

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Sam Ackman
19:14 May 07, 2021

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and for the comment :)

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Rachel Smith
15:37 May 07, 2021

I really enjoyed this story. Congrats on the shortlist! Look forward to reading more from you.

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Sam Ackman
15:49 May 07, 2021

Hey! Thanks so much for reading and for the comment :)

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Sam Ackman
15:23 May 07, 2021

Wow! A shortlist! I feel so honored! Huge thanks to everyone on this site that have read my stories and help me improve - you are all awesome!

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Claire Lewis
18:31 May 01, 2021

Hi Sam, this is a really strong submission. I loved the way you weave between reality and fantasy and hint at the struggles Alan faces and why he enjoys reading so much. The writing is incredible, really vivid and detailed in both the real world and the fantasy scenes. A couple small suggestions if this hasn’t been approved yet: Maybe you could italicize the fantasy scenes to differentiate them a bit more from reality. This would make the transitions faster to follow, but visually contrast the two worlds. And a couple wording things to c...

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Sam Ackman
19:01 May 01, 2021

Thanks so much for the comments!! Not approved yet so still able to modify. Glad you liked it :)

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Claire Lewis
21:52 May 07, 2021

Congrats on the shortlist, Sam!!

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Sam Ackman
01:35 May 08, 2021

Thanks so much!! It’s really exciting

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Alyson Ackman
18:15 Apr 29, 2021

Absolutely love this one, as usual :P Alan is such an easy character to love. He is obviously very innocent in a tough situation. The hints of his life in the beginning were really well done and your descriptions are just enough to feel like you're there without going into too much detail. There were only one or two small things that took me out of the story. Small things - like a reading lamp I picture as a lamp so not able to be under the blankets, vs a flashlight or something? Again, super small things. Amazing writing :)

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Sam Ackman
19:37 Apr 29, 2021

Thanks for the comment! I couldn’t think of a different word for a reading lamp but could have likely figured something out - thanks :)

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Cathryn V
22:39 May 09, 2021

Hi Sam, I love how subtly this story is told. As he walked he held his one foot at an odd angle to keep the broken sandal from falling off. (excellent specificity!) ...away from his sore ribs, Ellie the librarian pulled out a small plastic tray that was nuzzled in with the books and carried them over to Alan. “Alan, dear.” walked along towards the trailer at the back that was never locked. I have to admit that I didn't see it till the last part. Beautifully done. Congrats on a well deserved win.

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Sam Ackman
22:47 May 09, 2021

Hey! Thanks for reading and for the helpful feedback. Always a bit tricky learning how to pace a story and when to reveal certain information as you as the writer know the details.

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Cathryn V
22:55 May 09, 2021

I agree. Just a single brushstroke might do it. The sore ribs might be the place as I did notice the detail but hadn't the foggiest idea why he had sore ribs... It's a balancing act!

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T.H. Sherlock
20:33 May 09, 2021

This is beautifully written Sam. I really like the representation of the library (and Alan’s imagination) as a place of sanctuary and escape. I’m pretty new to Reedsy but this is one of my favourite stories so far. Thank you for sharing it.

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Sam Ackman
21:24 May 09, 2021

Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words! Welcome to Reedsy!

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Alison Brewis
09:24 May 08, 2021

Well done Sam on the shortlist! I like the idea a lot and you've done really well to get the reader to love Alan in such a short period of time. I know it's too late for corrections now, but just for future work, I wonder if you could have made the fantasy story a bit more emotionally engaging. It may have just been me, but I felt I wanted to get back on with the "real" story. But great work!

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Sam Ackman
12:32 May 08, 2021

Hey Alison, thanks so much for reading and for the comment! It was an tricky balance of wanting the real story to be interesting as well as the fictional one. I’ll think on how to tweak the fictional story though (they can be changed when the competition is done). Something mysterious about the setting can often pull a curious person along. Thanks again!

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Kanika G
11:59 May 01, 2021

Wow, I loved the story! First of all, you've aptly captured the idea of books providing an escape (adventurous in Alan's case) to anyone in any kind of situation. I felt sorry for Alan, really. I'm so glad he had a great book to keep him company and shut out his grim reality. I've never been inside a trailer but reading the story was like really being there. I loved the ending lines, the way they appear on page with the shortening sentences until it ends with 'escape.' Excellent work!

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Sam Ackman
12:46 May 01, 2021

Thanks so much for the feedback! I changed the ending right before submitting - I haven’t played much with structure yet, glad it worked out! :). Looking forward to the next batch!

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Kanika G
06:39 May 08, 2021

Congratulations, Sam!!! This story deserved recognition. Excellent work! I'm glad I was among the first ones to read it. Good job.

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Sam Ackman
12:28 May 08, 2021

Thanks so much! I’ve appreciated your feedback on my stories! Helps when someone can point out what is working well and what could be altered. I’ll be sure to check your new one out soon .

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Sam Ackman
12:35 May 08, 2021

Not sure if I noticed this before but we are both engineers and both moms :p. Really didn’t expect to find many engineers here!

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Kanika G
08:12 May 09, 2021

Oh wow, that's great! Good to know we have things in common. :) I don't believe there would be many engineers here!

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Darya Silman
18:38 Apr 29, 2021

The story kept me engaged from the first word to the last. It is perfect in every way possible: a relatable main character, vivid descriptions, captivating plot, and no mistakes. The escape in books theme is a cliche, you are not the first one to use it, but you took the story in and made it sound unique and...well..as yourself, Brilliantly done!

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Sam Ackman
19:14 May 01, 2021

Hey there! Thanks so much for the comments and glad you enjoyed the read :).

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Zilla Babbitt
14:52 May 11, 2021

There's one book that comes to mind that transports me the way you describe. That's Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind. I love that book and reading this story reminded me of it. Congratulations on the shortlist, Sam!

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Sam Ackman
15:24 May 11, 2021

Thanks for the read and the comment! We all have a few books where reading seems to melt the real world away.

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