Contest #210 shortlist ⭐️


Fiction Science Fiction Friendship

NOTE: The following documents have been recovered and organized in such a way as to give a chronological and contextualized view of the events that took place between OCTOBER 19XX – MAY 19XX. The information found within this dossier is accessible only to agents with minimum Level A5 clearance. The contents of this dossier are not to leave Floor XX Room XXX of the facility, be copied digitally or manually, and must be observed while in the presence of an agent with Level C7 clearance or higher. Failure to adhere to protocol will result in immediate termination.





James SXXXX, AGE 14


Austin LXXXX, AGE 14






SOURCE: Journal belonging to James

August 20 – Today we found out that me, Austin, and Marie all ended up in Mr. Mahoney’s class!! Sucks that Austin’s gonna be moving at the end of next summer but at least we all get one last school year together. We’re already making plans to go the arcade every weekend and we’re gonna have a sleepover at my house next Saturday. I’m so pumped!

It’s gonna be weird when he’s gone. We basically grew up together. We gotta make this year really awesome. Do something none of us will ever forget! (And maybe he’ll finally make a move on Marie – if I have to watch them not-so-secretly make googly eyes at each other for another year I’m gonna barf)


SOURCE: Excerpt from The PXXXX Post, local newspaper


By Steven JXXXX

August 27, 19XX

A curious array of lights was seen hovering over [REDACTED] Forest by at least seven locals the evening of Saturday 24. While accounts vary, there seem to have been at least five white lights spinning in a concentric circle nearly 25 feet over the treetops. One local, who wished to remain anonymous, had this to say:

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I mean, sometimes, the kids, they like to throw parties out there, you know, especially in the summer, with bonfires and flashlights and those sorts of things. But that, that I’ve never seen before. And they were gone as quick as they showed up! Just, a blink, and it was just the stars again. Whole thing couldn’t have lasted more than two minutes. But, yeah, it was certainly odd.”

The forest has long been a place for the teenagers of [REDACTED] to blow off steam, but it’s not the first time something peculiar has occurred near those woods. Older residents of [REDACTED] might recall the summer of…


SOURCE: Journal belonging to James

October 21 – We still haven’t decided on our Halloween costumes. Austin and Marie want to go as Star Wars characters, but I only want to do it if I get to be Luke, but Austin wants to be Luke and Marie wants to be Leia (which ew gross it’s like they don’t remember Return of the Jedi at all!) and Austin is refusing to be Hans Solo. I wanted to go as the Ghostbusters, but Marie says they’re lame and super old (like Star Wars isn’t basically a decade older!) and Austin says we’d be short one and it’d look weird.


Anyway. There was a new kid in class today. Weird time for her to start. Her name’s Xander. Weird name for a girl. I guess everything about her was pretty weird. She was quiet and kept making like really intense eye contact whenever anyone talked to her and was constantly writing in this super thick binder.

At the start of lunch no one was talking to her anymore. She was sitting alone and still scribbling in that binder, glancing around at everyone. I felt kinda bad for her. It’s hard being the new kid, especially if you’re the weird new kid.

Austin didn’t want me to at first, but I asked Xander if she wanted to join us and Marie for lunch. She slammed her binder closed as soon as I got near her table and then stared at me the whole time I spoke. Her eyes are very green and very pretty. She just stared and stared, and I was starting to blush and I was about to just leave when she suddenly stood up and walked over to our table and sat in the empty spot beside Marie. She definitely spooked Marie (because she was busy staring at Austin – gag) who yelped and that made Austin laugh, but they both smiled at her.

I sat beside Xander, and we had a chill lunch. Marie complimented her binder and offered to give her some of her star stickers to decorate it, and that made Xander smile, probably for the first time that whole day. She has a very cute smile. She kept making Austin laugh with her weird questions, but he always answered them nicely. Like, she had never heard of Oreos before, but he still gave her one to try. She shoved the whole thing in her mouth and just absolutely could not chew through it, and that made Austin laugh until he cried. Then we started debating the best way to eat an Oreo (Austin splits them to eat the cream first, I dip them in milk, and Marie eats them dry ‘cause she’s nuts). I’m gonna bring a whole box tomorrow so Xander can try them each way and break the tie.

Xander’s for sure a little strange, but no one in our group is really all that popular. I think she fits right in with us.


SOURCE: Journal belonging to James

November 2 – Halloween was AWESOME!

Me and Austin argued about Luke and Hans until like three days before Halloween, and I was gonna freak ‘cause we were running out of time, but then Marie suggested the Ghostbusters again and said we should invite Xander! We were both down ‘cause I really like we all really like her, so we asked her the next day at school. She didn’t get what we were talking about ‘cause they apparently don’t have Halloween in her old town, (which, bummer) but when we explained how it works and she got super excited! (I mean, about as excited as Xander ever gets which kinda just means she nods, like, a LOT).

Marie’s mom made all the costumes for us super last minute and they looked AWESOME (Mrs. VXXXXXX, you rule!) but since we took so long to decide we couldn’t make proton packs BUT we wore our backpacks instead, and that ended up being way better because we were able to fill them up with so much more candy! We hit every house on our streets, AND the nice streets on the other side of the town! Xander didn’t get as much as us, though, ‘cause she left her binder in her bag, but whatever. Still a killer haul!

After, we went to the forest to trade like we do every year and we brought Xander. Austin and Marie sat on one side of our clearing (probably, like, giggling or whatever) so me and Xander sat together on a big rock on the other end so they could have some “privacy” (barfbarfbarf). She was quiet like she always is, but she was also staring up at the stars. It was a pretty night. The leaves had fallen off a lot of the trees, so the ground was crispy and orange, and we got a super clear view of the night sky. It was a full moon, too. Kinda made me wish I’d gone as a werewolf.

I told her I like the stars too, and she smiled at me in a way that made my heart feel like it was gonna barf. We talked about space and stuff, and she pointed out her favourite star, and said it was probably her favourite spot in the whole universe.

And then, I don’t know why, but I told her I was glad I met her. I almost sprinted home. But she said she was glad, too. I said cool, then she said cool. I couldn’t look her in the face, but it was cool.

I gave her all my single packs of Oreos, and she gave me all her gummy bears.



SOURCE: Journal belonging to James

December 20 – Christmas break is coming up. Marie’s going to visit her family up in [REDACTED] for a few days like always, but Austin’ll be staying the whole time this year. We promised Marie we wouldn’t go skating on the lake till she got back, but Austin and I are still gonna go sledding and build a snowman! Last year, we had to get his dad had to help us, and the snowman ended up taller than him, but we’re gonna try to go even bigger this year!

I don’t know if Xander has plans. I didn’t ask ‘cause I thought it might be weird, but I still wanted to get her something for Christmas. I almost psyched myself out of doing it when I saw her at school this morning. She seemed nervous about something. Like, she kept fidgeting with her binder and looking out the window into the parking lot.

She must’ve been really nervous ‘cause when I tapped her shoulder, she almost hit the ceiling, but when she saw it was me, she laughed. I immediately forgot all of what I’d planned to say and just shoved the Christmas card at her. She read it, and then took out the polaroid my mom took of the four of us in our costumes on Halloween.

Xander’s face can be so unreadable sometimes. She just stared at it for a while, and I thought I fuc screwed up and pissed her off or something. I was gonna apologize, but then she hugged me. Really hard (she’s like, freakishly strong). It lasted a really long time, and I got the heart-barf feeling again and I didn’t really want to let go but I hugged her back.

I felt like I could fly all the way to space.

I did glance at the parking lot to see if there was anything weird out there but all I saw were cars. I mean, there was one really nice, expensive-looking black car that sorta stood out against all the old trucks and soccer-mom vans. But, whatever. Maybe it’s a rental.



SOURCE: Art assignment for [REDACTED] School, completed by Austin

The class assignment was to draw a scene of a happy memory with at least two figures and full scenery. The drawing above depicts a daytime winter scene of a frozen, outdoor lake rendered in graphite and coloured pencils. Four figures are skating together. Figure A (presumed to be Austin) holds hands with Figure B (Marie), while Figures C (James) and Figure D (Xander) skate behind, also holding hands. Each figure has a happy expression and wears well-detailed winter attire.

Final Grade: A-


SOURCE: A birthday card

The image above is of a birthday card with a pale pink background and a white unicorn coated in iridescent glitter taking up three-quarters the space. The words “Happy Birthday” are written in flourishing cursive in the upper left-hand corner.

The interior of the card is blank except for a handwritten message done in cursive. The message reads as follows:

Thank you for inviting me to your birthday party. I hope the 100-pack of variety sparkle stickers and 3-piece Lisa Frank notebook collection are satisfying and enjoyable gifts.

Marie, I value our connection cherish our friendship more than words can say.

I wish you nothing but the happiest birthday!



SOURCE: Note written by Xander

Austin, Marie, James

I’ve got to go. I would like to say goodbye in person, but I’m not supposed to.

I’d like to always remember the night we captured spectral entities and bartered sucrose Ursidae together. I wish I could be with you all under the light of a lunar cycle which had reached its fullness one last time.

My time here with you guys is something I’ll never forget. You made it special. You made it important. I’ll miss you all.




SOURCE: Journal belonging to James

May 14 – I haven’t seen Xander in two weeks. She just stopped showing up to school. I don’t know what happened. None of us know where she lives, I don’t know what I might’ve done, we have no way of finding her. I’m really starting to freak out.

She was getting really anxious about… something, right up until she disappeared. She was always watching the parking lot at school and at the diner. Maybe it’s got something to do with that weird car?

I just hope she’s okay.

The following entry is presumed to have been added later in the same day.

I’m definitely freaking out now. I found a note folded in the front cover of my journal and it’s from Xander!! I don’t know how long it’s been in there, and I didn’t get most of what she said. I just thought she was saying goodbye, but Marie thinks it’s a secret message. It took us a while, but now we think Xander was talking about when we were in the forest on Halloween, and the whole “lunar cycle” thing is about the full moon, and Marie checked – there’s one tomorrow night!!

We’re all gonna go. I’m not missing a chance to see Xander one last time, if it really is gonna be the very last time.


SOURCE: Journal belonging to James

UNDATED. It is presumed this entry follows the events of May 15, 19XX.

We found her. Xander explained everything. Guess I’ve got no choice but to believe her after what we saw. She left her binder behind. She said I could have it. I promised to keep it safe. It’s covered in Marie’s stickers, and she slid a bunch of Austin’s sketches under the plastic. A copy of the polaroid of us on Halloween, too.

We planned to meet up at the diner on Saturday. I’ve started looking inside and there’s some wild stuff in here. More notes for me, for Austin and Marie. Some notes and writing I don’t totally understand, either…

Maybe if we figure it out, we can see her again. Maybe it’ll all mean absolutely nothing. I don’t know.

But we’ve gotta try. There’s gotta be some reason why she left it for me.

I promised. I’ll keep it safe. I’ll figure it out. I will see her again.


SOURCE: Confidential field report from Agents B. and G.


NOTE: Agent G. has made the executive decision as highest-ranking agent on case to henceforth refer to [REDACTED], self-named “Xander,” as SPECIMEN X4ND3R for the purpose of record keeping.


With the evidence of [REDACTED] craft likely to land in [REDACTED], OREGON again, Agents B. and G. were sent out to location to observe at distance and with minimal interference the possible reason for recurrent contact. Once in location, Agents B. and G. determine purpose of contact to be for retrieval of SPECIMEN X4ND3R.

The following report details the event of contact, noting time, place, and interactions and behaviours between figures present. Figures include SPECIMEN X4ND3R, and locals of [REDACTED] recognized as James SXXXX, Marie VXXXXXX, and Austin LXXXX.


Agents B. and G. arrive at location with [REDACTED] craft already present and camouflaged as expected. SPECIMEN X4ND3R arrives at location at approximately 22:36HRS on MAY 15, 19XX. Agents remain unseen.

At approx. 22:58HRS, James, Marie, and Austin arrive. All run to and embrace SPECIMEN X4ND3R. All begin talking rapidly at once.

NOTE: [REDACTED] equipment malfunctioned when Agent B. attempted to use. Agents B. and G. were unable to record or hear conversations without breaking distance protocol.

SPECIMEN X4ND3R takes control of conversation, speaking for approx. 2 MINUTES 13 SECONDS. Austin and Marie share shocked expressions, James shakes head in dismissal. SPECIMEN X4ND3R turns away from group to face [REDACTED] craft. After approx. 3.4 SECONDS of silence, [REDACTED] craft comes out of camouflage. All members of group wear expressions of disbelief. SPECIMEN X4ND3R turns back to group. James speaks for approx. 57 SECONDS. All members of group, including SPECIMEN X4ND3R, now teary-eyed or crying.

All members join in embrace with SPECIMEN X4ND3R in center. Group contact lasts approx. 23 SECONDS. Marie and Austin break away from group. James and SPECIMEN X4ND3R continue contact for approx. 13 SECONDS.

SPECIMEN X4ND3R exits contact and enters [REDACTED] craft. Remaining members run approx. 10 YARDS from [REDACTED] craft and observe ignition, liftoff, [REDACTED], and exit, waving during entire process.


Agent B. concludes integration between [REDACTED] species and humans possible and likely. Despite limited time on Earth, SPECIMEN X4ND3R exhibited and experienced camaraderie, sentimentality, empathy, kindness, and generosity.

Agent G. determines results of event may be skewed due to age and location of participants. Further experimentation required.

Fully detailed report to follow in three days with photographs enclosed within.

Following signatures from,



During clear-out procedures Agents B. and G. witnessed James, Marie, and Austin in possession of thick binder, with James reading sections quietly to group in local diner, [REDACTED]. Agent G. believes binder previously belonged to X4ND3R and must be retrieved with urgency. Clear-out procedures halted as Agents B. and G. determine how to retrieve documents with minimal damage.


August 06, 2023 20:13

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Amanda Lieser
01:36 Sep 15, 2023

Hello! Oh my goodness! Congratulations on this stellar shortlist! It was utterly thrilling and I loved the way you took me back to my youth. When I was a teen, learning how to write a research paper, I had to sort through all different types of sources to make my argument clear. This reminded me of just receiving buckets of information and then sorting it all out to draw my own conclusions. I admire how each was a puzzle piece, leading us to the truth. Nice work!!


C. J. Peters
21:00 Oct 05, 2023

Thank you so much! Speaking of being a teen, writing this felt like a way more fun version of a project I had to do in high school history class (we had to create a scrapbook of personal letters, government forms, newspaper articles someone might've collected during WWI) so I'm glad it came off as something exciting with interesting things to discover.


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Mary Bendickson
05:36 Aug 25, 2023

Why of course they would send a teen to connect with teens so all could be clearly understood.😏


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Marty B
17:14 Aug 18, 2023

The story had a 'Stranger Things' vibe, without the Demogorgons ! I liked the teenager interactions, it felt very realistic. Congrats!


C. J. Peters
17:35 Aug 18, 2023

Thank you so much!


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Ken Cartisano
02:14 Aug 18, 2023

This is a very entertaining story, C.A., an imaginative and creative tale, without any of those tawdry extraterrestrial details, like saucers, aliens or abductions. The format adds realism and gravity to the account, and the writing is spectacularly realistic in James' journal, and funny. I've never seen that technique of simply crossing out phrases, but that is exactly what a 14 year old would do in his journal. However, the story ends without a proper conclusion in my opinion. It doesn't have to, but in this case perhaps the story shou...


C. J. Peters
14:04 Aug 18, 2023

Thank you! I really enjoyed writing in this format, and especially James' journal entries - he's just a sweet, awkward kid who loves his friends and that was fun to write in. As for the conclusion, I get what you're saying about it feeling not quite finished, but that was also kind of my intent. With only a 3000 word count limit, I wanted to sort of leave it feeling like this is only the beginning of a much bigger story (and maybe we the readers just don't have the proper clearance yet for the rest lol). Maybe I will continue the adventures...


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Katy B
23:53 Aug 11, 2023

I love the format for this story. It really puts you in the right mental space.


C. J. Peters
00:02 Aug 12, 2023

Thank you! I've not really written in it before, but I always enjoy this kind of format for how immersive it can feel, and I'm glad it came across that way!


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21:00 Aug 06, 2023

Very well done . This took a lot of work. Nice ET vibes at work. The fact they got the binder is slightly troubling!


C. J. Peters
22:22 Aug 06, 2023

Definitely troubling! Thanks for commenting!


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Philip Ebuluofor
13:07 Aug 20, 2023



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Mariah Adams
22:17 Aug 15, 2023

I love verisimilitude and you nailed it. Appreciated the small details and the story overall.


C. J. Peters
23:41 Aug 15, 2023

Thank you so much!


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