Contest #227 shortlist ⭐️

79 comments

Drama Inspirational Creative Nonfiction

The blizzard was inside him now, in more ways than one. He felt his bones grow goosebumps the way he thought they could only appear on his skin. They seemed to shiver between the muscle and tissue that were once soft, now like icicles hardening beneath the surface. His fingers and toes succumbed to their numbness much quicker than they had in the earlier days, warning him that even five minutes of stillness was too dangerous. But as he shifted in the small cab of his truck, the effort felt enormous, and his breath threatened to release the last bit of warmth in his body, leaving him like a thick cloud as bitter and cold as the storm’s breath outside.


Unlike the glacial mound atop his windshield, Matt’s hope was the only thing melting. Each day he had told himself that tomorrow would bring a merciful sun or a rescuer reaching out from the abyss. But each passing day only got colder, bringing yet another brutal stretch of waiting in an endless, blaring behemoth of white.


The snow had not stopped once in the eight days he had been stuck on the mountain, and in that dreadful week, he had witnessed the powerful persistence of nature’s coldest shoulder. She was mad and unrelenting, strangling the mountain with white hands, replacing its color with icy crystals, and sinking Her teeth into every crevice. Her violent terror had covered Matt’s surroundings in a curtain of blinding white, and clutched between her fingers, was his car, its tires unmoving against Her grip. Once, just days before, Matt had burrowed into his sleeping bag within the freezing cocoon and thought it would be enough to sustain him until someone found him. Help was sure to come, wasn’t it? When he had not made it to the campsite seven days ago, didn’t someone notice? But as the days passed, his hope of retrieval became buried deeper and deeper, swallowed by the harsh dark cover of another night.


It didn’t help that the tendrils of hypothermia and dehydration finally latched onto him. He had been able to keep warm, turning on the defroster in his car every few hours to soothe his freezing fingers. Small sips of water each day had not sustained his thirst, but it had helped him survive the last several days. From what he knew of hypothermia, he was not fearful. A brutal cold, followed by a warming sensation and an endless sleep seemed a bearable death compared to encountering whatever large cat had left its prints neatly in the blanket of snow outside his car. It was the creeping hunger tormenting his stomach, the aches that had spread to every corner of his frigid body, and the lack of mental distraction (since he had not even a book for momentary reprieve) that turned his mind into a storm of its own. Insanity was like a pair of vultures circling above him, picking at his logical senses, tearing his emotions to shreds. One moment, he was angry at the storm for coming early – a winter blizzard of this severity had no business riding the coattails of November; then, he became angry at himself for not bringing enough food, enough water, enough warm clothing to prepare him for such a disaster. The next moment, he was confused and frustrated that no one had come searching for him. Between each severed feeling was a melancholic thread of despair. What had once been, Just one more day, and they’ll be here, turned into, I cannot survive one more night. While a cup of melted snow could relieve his swollen and dry throat for a second, nothing offered him even an ounce of relief from the uncertainty and doubt that now clung to him.


As this eighth day darkened into his ninth night, a blistering wind turned the car into a meat freezer. His breath was not only visible now, he could hear it, like tiny sharp crystals crashing into each other. Instantly, Matt knew that if he allowed himself to sleep, this would be his final day on the mountain. He had not allowed himself to give up hope earlier, but he wasn’t sure if he had one more hour in him, as exhaustion now had the upper hand on his adrenaline. He searched his glove compartment for a pen and paper. Calling on his last remnants of coherency, his fingers were stiff and cramping as he recorded the events of the past week, day by day, remembering how he spent those first days clearing snow from the windshield and warming his fingers and toes, fearful of frostbite. He recalled his hours spent contemplating the risks of leaving his car and walking to the nearest town, thirty miles from where his truck was stuck. He even shared how at one point he’d imagined himself, the morning after he’d left for his trip, laughing with his friends about how stupid he was for not bringing snow tires. Matt included every detail he could muster, so that when his family finally found him, they would know that he had tried to stay alive. Thinking of his unborn son, swaddled and warm within Scarlett’s womb, his last action on this Earth would be one that would leave his son without any doubt that his father did love him. He wanted his parents to read this, their bereavement relieved by this small solace: their son was a fighter.


For an hour, Matt read the note aloud to himself in an effort to stay awake. He worried the snow would seal him inside the car, so he counted – each time he read the note five times, he opened the car door. And each time, the wind fought against him, roaring loudly a warning that it was not safe for him here. He clutched the paper against his chest. His love for his family was the only warmth left on this mountaintop, and as he closed his eyes, it seemed to spread throughout his body. Matt felt himself succumbing to its welcoming comfort, felt himself drifting into a darkness that was unlike the one outside. This one was gentle and soft, and it longed to deliver him into a sleep his body desperately desired. Slowly, he drifted deeper and deeper…


*


“Wake up!” A harsh and violent roar from within his chest startled Matt awake, and he was gasping for air. The realization that he was still alone in his truck reinstated the cold’s cruel bite. His hand lunged for the door handled, and he pushed. The icy seal resisted against him, and he pushed harder, using both hands now. When it finally cracked open, he was met with the same raw rage he had left behind in his brief moment of unconsciousness. This time, Matt shouted back at it, cursing his ruthless assailant and begging for his life, but his words were just another thing buried by the blizzard.


The midnight hours stretched endlessly on, each one tempting Matt into another slumber; each one taunting him into believing it would be his last. Matt fought through each minute, squeezing his note in his hands, promising to keep it from freezing solid. As the hours grew, the darkness faded, revealing the sheet of white Matt had learned to expect. He pushed open the door, preparing to take in the evening’s inevitable damage. Though the air was still bitter and sharp, Matt noticed a stream of light flooding in through the opening. He had grown accustomed to the brightness of the snow, but this was something different. It took him a moment, for he didn’t want a false sense of hope to bloom where it shouldn’t, but then he was certain.


The sun was shining, and after nine days, there was finally no snow falling from what was now a blue sky. And with it came a silence that had been absent from Matt’s ears since the storm began.


It was a strange sensation that overcame him next. This was meant to be his final day alive – he was certain his body could not endure more than it already had – yet, it was so beautiful. If there had been moisture left in his body, he would have cried, but instead what escaped him was a dry, aching groan.


For the first time since he’d gotten stuck, Matt could see more than a few feet in each direction. He looked from right to left, feeling that initial temptation he had felt to wander away from his vehicle. If help was not coming, was there any chance that he could find it himself? Perhaps, not all hope was lost.


He tucked his goodbye letter into his pant pocket. The ice cracked as Matt pushed the door further open and he began digging through the mounds of snow encased around his truck. Once there was enough space, he climbed out onto all fours, worried that if he stood, he would just sink into the snow’s frothy depth.


Ignoring the sting of the snow against his hands, Matt crawled towards the base of the mountain that lined the road he had foolishly trusted to get here. Finally facing the Earth’s tallest beast, Matt prepared to wage his final war against the storm. But which way to go? To his left was a blanket of snow, and to the right, another. As he toddled, neck turning from one side to the other, Matt thought he heard something. For days he had heard nothing but thrashing wind, so initially it was hard to decipher what he was hearing. The sound was coming from the right, so Matt slowly started crawling in that direction, taking gentle and small strides so as not to pollute the whisper of whatever was calling out to him. The closer he came to it, the clearer the sound became. The trickling of water ignited an excitable fire in his chest, and he quickly abandoned his tactful slow movements and raced towards the sound. But when he got there, there was no moving water. There was only more snow. 


Matt felt the last of his hope disintegrate. His body collapsed, with no strength left in him to save his face from meeting the ground. He had done everything he could to survive, but it was clear who was going to win this war. Matt reached for the letter inside his pocket and pulled it up to his lips. He offered a goodbye kiss, wanting his frozen body to be found with his most precious possession: the love for his family.


This time, Matt did not fight the warm sensation that he knew would bring his final breaths. He curled up tight and welcomed the sleep he’d spent all night suppressing. Soon, nature’s darkness embraced him as if Her cold, hard womb was where he belonged.


*


Despite the sub-zero temperatures, the sun was high in the sky when the rescuers found Matt. Snow glistened beneath its glow, sparking bright iridescent specs across the white-covered landscape. It was a transformation only Mother Nature herself could accomplish, a silent and daring reminder of how quickly Her mood could change.


There had been a team of five who had scoured the mountain looking for Matt, all of them hired by his wife, Scarlett, and his parents. But it was a large, bearded man with whom Matt rode back down the mountain with. The warmth from the car and provided blankets was as shocking as the cold had been, and Matt trembled as his core temperature attempted to acclimate.


“How’d you find me?” Matt’s voice was hoarse and low. It was the first thing he'd managed to say since he regained consciousness and realized that his rescue was not a figment of a deluded imagination.


The man glanced at him, and then returned his eyes to the road. He sighed deeply as if it were a complicated answer. “Believe it or not, my son faced the same blizzard you just met about ten years ago. ’Cept he wasn’t as lucky as you. We lost him that night, right in the very spot we found you.”


The bounce of the truck as it traveled the bumpy terrain filled the silent pause between the two men. Matt didn’t have the strength to offer his condolences, the shock of his own trauma was still shivering up and down his body.


Finally, the man said, “The whole time we was out lookin’ for you, I heard my son telling me, ‘Keep goin’, Dad. He’s still out there.’ So, we just didn’t stop until we found ya.”


Matt had never been one to believe in ghost stories, but he knew with absolute certainty that he should not be alive. He remembered falling asleep inside his car, ice forming a lock around his car door as he drifted off into a warm, blissful unconsciousness. He could have easily kept his eyes closed just a moment too long, and it would have changed the entire trajectory of his story. But something inside him, something other than the unforgiving, brutal cold that threatened his demise, woke him up.


“What was your son’s name?” Matt asked.


Without looking at Matt, the man said, “His name was Mason.”


It was then that Matt felt the blizzard finally leave him, replaced by a warmth that came without cautious warning. Smiling, he said, “That’s my son’s name, too.”


*


This is inspired by the true story of Daryl Blake Jane who spent nearly two weeks trapped on Mount Adams in Washington during November, 2006. I have changed a few things for creative purposes, but this is really his story. You can read about his experience here:


https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/bainbridge-man-survives-nearly-two-weeks-trapped-in-car-near-mount-adams/

December 09, 2023 02:52

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79 comments

E. B. Bullet
21:06 Dec 10, 2023

You described things beautifully! I've seen and read a few blizzard trapped stories, and the way that nature is described as so powerful and unfeeling, without malice from the people trapped, is a very specific feeling I can't place. It's almost a kind of respect for how fickle we are in her domain. Capturing the human desperation to survive amidst an almost hopeless situation is no small feat! You did very well in painting the mood to this piece~ Thank you for sharin!

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AnneMarie Miles
17:02 Dec 11, 2023

Thanks for the kind words, E.B.! You are right - we are truly no match against Mother Nature. She'll win every time. I appreciate your time, thanks again for reading!

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Tara Carey
19:04 Dec 10, 2023

Wow that’s an amazing story. Great descriptions of cold. Imagine goosebumps and on your bones. And shivering bones. Also good reference to a meat locker. Really drove home the pain of the cold with all that. Thanks for sharing!

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AnneMarie Miles
16:38 Dec 11, 2023

Thanks for reading, Tara :)

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Laurel Hanson
13:25 Dec 10, 2023

Fantastic work with sensory imagery and developing the tension in this particular situation where the protagonist is just waiting. When the "Wake up!" comes, the anticipation of his rescue is immediately thwarted by the reality and that really packs a punch. Well done.

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AnneMarie Miles
15:06 Dec 10, 2023

Thanks, Laurel! I have not spent much time in the snow, so I definitely did a little research here to capture the power of its cold. Happy to hear it paid off in the sensory details. I appreciate your time!

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Laurel Hanson
18:07 Dec 10, 2023

Writing from the cold, white, north, you did very well indeed.

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Danie Holland
13:11 Dec 10, 2023

Oh wow. Heart wrenching stuff. The ending literally hits you right in the heart. I truly believe stuff like this happens all the time too. That his son would be named the same. Total chills. Great descriptions, harsh material to read. I hate the cold and I’m going to go warm myself by the heater. 🔥 Great story this week!

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AnneMarie Miles
14:28 Dec 11, 2023

Thanks, Danie! I struggled with how to end this. I mean, I knew the ending, but I worked on this right up until Friday's deadline, so I scrambled a bit. My intention was that Matt would name his unborn son after the rescuers son whom he believed helped him survive that last night on the mountain. And part of that is actually true! When Daryl was rescued, the man told him his deceased son helped guide him. As for Daryl's unborn son and such, that was all fictional (as far as I know, lol). But you're right, stuff like this does happen! Hope y...

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Danie Holland
16:20 Dec 15, 2023

AnneMarie WE DID IT. Congrats 💜💜💜💜

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AnneMarie Miles
16:52 Dec 15, 2023

🙌🥳✨🍾🎉

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Belladona Vulpa
10:24 Dec 10, 2023

Successful descriptions, an immersive story, and really a scary scenario to be trapped and trying to survive in such brutal freezing conditions. Even scarier that is based on an actual story. How wonderful is the human mind. Well-written!

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AnneMarie Miles
16:51 Dec 11, 2023

Thanks for reading, Belladona! I agree - the human mind is capable of wonderful things! Sadly, I have such anxiety of being so cold that I don't know if I'd have the mental strength to survive a blizzard. That's what is so inspiring about Daryl's story. Thanks again for your kind words and your time!

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Suma Jayachandar
05:20 Dec 10, 2023

Such brilliant sensory imagery! interspersed with meaningful metaphors set in poetic prose -I could feel the icy fingers running down my spine. The entire piece is stunning for its immersive experience, but I found the paragraph portraying Mother Nature captivating. Thanks for bringing alive a true story. Greatly enjoyed reading it!

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AnneMarie Miles
15:11 Dec 10, 2023

Thanks for reading, Suma! I find Mother Nature to be an exceptionally captivating and poetic beast to capture. As someone who has not spent a lot of time in snow, I'm so happy the sensory imagery worked. I appreciate your time, Suma, and enjoyed reading your story yesterday.

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Suma Jayachandar
16:27 Dec 15, 2023

Congratulations AnneMarie!

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AnneMarie Miles
16:53 Dec 15, 2023

Thank you so much, Suma!

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Hannah Lynn
04:37 Dec 10, 2023

Wow! I honestly didn’t think he was going to make it. Well done!

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AnneMarie Miles
15:14 Dec 10, 2023

Thanks for reading, Hannah! I wasn't sure if I should let him live or not, but the real story is so inspiring, I couldn't defy it. :)

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Hannah Lynn
15:37 Dec 10, 2023

You definitely made the right choice in my opinion. We need stories of survival!

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AnneMarie Miles
15:47 Dec 10, 2023

I totally agree! Especially since I'm always giving my characters a bad ending, lol. Thanks Hannah!

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Aeris Walker
01:20 Dec 20, 2023

Fantastic story, AnneMarie. I was so immersed in Matt’s struggle for survival, I felt cold at the words—at the idea of being trapped in the blizzard for over a week. Your writing is so lively and concise, with fresh descriptions and metaphors. And that was a perfect ending with the cathartic release we all needed after holding our breath, waiting for Matt to die. (How cool would it be if the man this story was based on could read it.) Wonderful job, and congrats on the well-deserved shortlist ✨

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AnneMarie Miles
16:04 Dec 22, 2023

Thank you Aeris!! Your words mean a lot to me. I'm so glad the descriptions were immersive. As someone who hasn't spent a lot of time in cold weather, I did a lot of research for this one, so it's such a relief to hear it was time well spent! I wish Daryl could read this too! Thanks again friend!

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Story Time
08:21 Dec 19, 2023

I thought this was one of the best stories I've read about man vs. nature. Just a profound sense of the magnitude and beauty it possesses. Wonderful job as always!

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AnneMarie Miles
13:59 Dec 19, 2023

What a high compliment, thank you, Kevin!

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Kate Winchester
19:19 Dec 17, 2023

Wow! Beautiful story! Congrats on the well deserved short-list.

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AnneMarie Miles
21:03 Dec 17, 2023

Thanks so much Kate!

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Kate Winchester
23:00 Dec 17, 2023

You are welcome 🤗

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Philip Ebuluofor
17:49 Dec 17, 2023

Fine work. Congrats.

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AnneMarie Miles
17:51 Dec 17, 2023

Thanks, Philip !

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Kristi Gott
19:28 Dec 16, 2023

Wow, what a story! The vivid sensory details and imagery are incredible.

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AnneMarie Miles
19:44 Dec 16, 2023

Thanks for reading, Kristi!

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Laurel Hanson
14:57 Dec 16, 2023

Well deserved!

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AnneMarie Miles
14:59 Dec 16, 2023

Thanks Laurel!

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Chris Campbell
00:15 Dec 16, 2023

Congrats on the shortlist, AnneMarie. Beautifully descriptive. Having travelled in weather like that, I felt the chill as I was reading your story. Well done!

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AnneMarie Miles
01:15 Dec 16, 2023

Thanks so much, Chris! Having never travelled in weather like this, I worked really hard to make this realistic.

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Chris Campbell
02:17 Dec 16, 2023

Then, doubly well done!

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Mallory Jones
20:29 Dec 15, 2023

Super interesting read! I was very drawn in by the vivid descriptions . :) Congrats on the shortlist!

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AnneMarie Miles
20:51 Dec 15, 2023

Thanks Mallory! That means a lot coming from a skillful scribbler like you :) appreciate you taking the time to read!

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Hannah Lynn
19:25 Dec 15, 2023

Congratulations!!! 🎉😊🥳

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AnneMarie Miles
19:31 Dec 15, 2023

Thank you, Hannah! 😊

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Hannah Lynn
19:35 Dec 15, 2023

Exciting and well deserved !!

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AnneMarie Miles
19:52 Dec 15, 2023

This one means a lot to me. It was so hard to write 😅

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Richard Allen
17:15 Dec 15, 2023

Great descriptions and a wonderful read. You placed the reader squarely in that car and I felt his cold and his desperation. Of course, I couldn't stop. I had to hurry through to the end. Naturally, the most compelling part was the rescuer's dead son pushing his father to keep looking. It was heartbreaking to hear about his son who wasn't found in time. I wondered who's voice he heard that woke him up. I read in all the writing books that we're not supposed to be preachers, writers are entertainers period. But I've always felt that good l...

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AnneMarie Miles
16:47 Dec 17, 2023

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Richard! I always love to hear what comes up for readers when they read one of my stories. This was a unique writing experience for me for many reasons: it's a true story, but not my own; and it's a story about being in a blizzard when I have never really experienced snowy weather before. So, that was fun to go somewhere in my writing I've never actually been. I'm sorry to hear about your friend's daughter. My mother is battling terminal cancer now, too. When death is knocking at the door, everything in th...

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Jennifer Leckie
12:05 Dec 15, 2023

Great Story! The descriptions describe exactly how snow makes you feel if you are stuck in it. I have never been trapped in a blizzard, but it does make you aware of your surroundings and to try and be safe. I like to believe there are spirits out there that are protecting us and watching over, it makes me comforted...i unfortunately have too many that have passed on.

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AnneMarie Miles
16:55 Dec 15, 2023

Thank you for the kind words, Jennifer! I'm sorry for your losses, but I do believe they are out their guiding and protecting you. 💫

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Michał Przywara
21:41 Dec 13, 2023

It's wild this is based on a true story, but also completely believable. In our convenient modern society, with our tech and gadgets and worries and traditions, it's easy to become disconnected, to think we're somehow separate from the world. And so, we underestimate things, like nature, and how it can completely flip everything upside down with a “mere” storm on “just” a mountain. There's some good descriptions here. One, right at the start with “He felt his bones grow goosebumps”. That's new to me, but it immediately speaks of the deep k...

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AnneMarie Miles
18:21 Dec 15, 2023

I fully agree with you. Our society has totally conditioned us to think we are somehow superior or immune to the strength of the natural world. Watching Daryl's interview, he describes his outfit as light clothing and tennis shoes. Even I, queen of avoiding all things cold, know that he should have packed a hell of a lot more warming clothing. But, despite his naivete, I still find his story inspiring. Sheer will and love his family/friends undoubtedly carried him through for those long two weeks. Really quite incredible. Thanks for reading...

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Michał Przywara
21:34 Dec 15, 2023

Woo! Congrats on the shortlist :D

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AnneMarie Miles
03:15 Dec 16, 2023

Thank you! I worked really hard on this one so I'm both surprised and ecstatic 😁

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Helen A Smith
18:11 Dec 13, 2023

What a beautifully told story! I loved the way you describe Mother Nature’s relentless character in the remorseful and remorseless blizzard. I really didn’t think the MC was going to make so was greatly relieved when he did. Very visual, encapsulated his despair and determination and ultimate hope when all seemed lost. Poignant ending with the name. Thanks for sharing.

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AnneMarie Miles
18:23 Dec 15, 2023

Thank you so much, Helen! I had thought about changing the story and having him not survive, but the true events and his survival were much more inspiring to me. I'm so glad all of the mental desperation came through. This was one of the hardest stories for me to write, so I am really pleased with how it turned out. Thanks again.

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