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  1. mootz

    mootz Member

    Mar 6, 2010
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    Short Story Contest 118: A President's Peace - Submissions and Details Thread.

    Discussion in 'Monthly Short Story Contest Archives' started by mootz, Aug 12, 2012.

    Short Story Contest 118
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "A President's Peace"​

    This contest is open to all members, newbies and the established alike. Please post your entries as replies to this post. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a separate thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. Unfortunately, there is no prize but pride on offer for this contest. As always, the winner may also PM/VM me to request the theme of a subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Themes: "A President's Peace" (courtesy of member seelifein69). Any interpretation is valid. Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.
    Wordlimit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Saturday 25th August 2012 10:00 am (us pacific time)

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. As below, any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    The next contest will be themed "If only" (courtesy of Sablenox). Be free to prepare an entry in advance for this contest, but do not submit your entry until instructed to do so.

    There is a maximum of 25 entries to any contest. If there are more than 25 entries to any one contest I will decide which are entered into voting based on adherence to the suggested word limit and relevance to the theme, not on a first-come-first served basis.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece manner to decide its legitamacy for the contest.

    Submissions may not have been previously posted on this site, nor may they be posted for review until voting has closed. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permissable.

    Please try to refrain from itallicising, bolding, colouring or indenting any text to help avoid disappointment. These stylistics do not reproduce when I copy-paste them into the voting thread. You may use visible noparse BB code to preserve style if you wish by placing [ noparse ] and [ /noparse ] (without the spaces) around the entire text.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets at the top of your story.

    If there are any questions, please leave me a visitor message or PM me. Please do not clog up this, or any other thread, with your questions.

    Please note that only current members are eligible to win.

    It's about time we got back to our contests, wouldn't you say?

    Thanks and good luck.

    Failure to include word count will result in disqualification​
  2. -oz

    -oz Active Member

    Jan 20, 2011
    Likes Received:
    The Great Sandy Waste
    A President's Piece [1,398 words]

    The shock wave woke up the President from his slumber. It was still pitch black, save for the caretaker’s torch outside his room, sending flickering shadows under his door. He heard a few footsteps outside said door before the routine knock that happened whenever something was wrong.

    “Come in”, he said, slipping out from the hammock. As his three feet hit the floor, the door opened, and an older gentleman stepped in, backlit by the torch.

    “Sir, from around the globe, we have reports on the neural net of a large beast, shining in the sunlight, flying with no wings. It apparently flew over the palace here, crying its terrible call. Some of our physicists think that it could be faster than the speed of sound, which according to the theory would compress the air to create this sort of wave, but the other traditional scientists discount that as even being possible, saying that it was a beast we’ve never seen before.

    “Despite the theories, a scouting party has left for the nearby village, one of the neural matrons with, so we’re receiving near-real time reports of what’s going on.”

    The president sighed and stretched, cracking a few joints in the process. “Tell them not to get too close until they figure out what it is.”

    The aide stopped, listening to his patch of the neural network for a few seconds. “I asked sir, it seems like they’re going to be another couple spans until they get close enough to where it landed.”

    “Oh good, I’m going to get a bit more sleep then.” The aide nodded and slipped out of the room, closing the door behind him.


    “Mission Control, this is the U.F.S. Dragon, landing has been a success. We are on the surface just ten miles north of the original landing site. From the initial fly-by, it appears that our reconnaissance was correct, this planet is inhabited. The atmosphere is breathable, and as such, we’ve released a small scouting party to gather some of the plants nearby for the scientists to study. Despite having been here for a whole Earth hour, or roughly a half-hour local time, none of the locals have arrived, though it is still dark here, the sun will be up in approximately five hours. Everything is going as planned; please let us know if you have further directions.”

    Commander Yates listened to his short recording to make sure he didn’t sound stupid, then hit send to compress it and hyperspectrally send the transmission for Earth to receive two days later. This certainly wasn’t the first planet humanity had landed on, though it was only the second with sentient alien life.

    His radio squawked with Private Jenson’s voice, one of the two he had sent out to explore the local area and gather a few of the plants. “Hey Commander, we’ve got a local out here. They look kind of like us, except they have three legs and a couple horns on their head.”

    “Do you want me to send a terp?” They only had a handful of interpreters onboard, those few select individuals who were quite adept at picking up the nuances of languages in a very short time.

    “No, he seems wary of us. We’re just going to gather a few more things and then go back—“

    “Okay Jenson, let me know if you change your mind.”

    The commander sat down back at his desk and pulled out his journal. It was old fashioned, but it relieved some stress on being a commander and helped document the trip. It was going to be an interesting day.


    The President slammed down his hand on the desk a few times. “Order!” The room quieted down as the President glared at his cabinet standing on their stubby legs around the table. His eyes eventually locked on a hunter standing nervously at the other end of the table, shifting his weight among his legs. “Now, run your story past us completely, WITHOUT the interruption of anyone at this table.”

    “Well, mister President and cabinet, I was nearby the nest as it fell from the sky, and I watched and waited, thinking it a beast. I had my javelin at the ready since I was after a jabberwocky, and before too long, maybe a span and a half, a couple creatures came out of the nest. They looked and walked much like us, except they only have two legs and no tail, a remarkable feat of balance! Their head is smooth—“

    “Yes, I know, I’ve seen the remains you brought in. Please, tell the rest of your tale.”

    “Yes sir. Anyway, they separated, and the nearer of the two began talking in this weird tongue, more varied than the jabberwocky’s tongue, but more annunciated than a bird’s. He seemed distracted, and me and my family were hungry, so I killed him, dragged him away from the other one, who was picking up a flower, and ate some of him, a delicious, tender meat! After becoming full, I brought the rest of him to the mayor as quickly as I could, who told me to take it here.”

    “Yes, your mayor is a Neural, isn’t he. No wonder he sent you here.” The President looked at the remains of the creature before thanking and shooing the hunter out of the room. He turned back to his council. “From the pictures I’ve seen, there could be hundreds of these things inside the nest. That being said, it seems that they may be sentient. The best thing we could do right now is to wait. From now on, only official parties may interact with this flying nest.”


    The commander took a long pull at his glass of whiskey. Yes, it was contraband, but yes, it was needed. Jenson was missing, disappeared. There was a small bit of blood where the other scout last saw him, but other than that, he had vanished.

    “Commander, there’s a group of the aliens approaching!” Yates thumbed the intercom. “I’m on my way.”

    The crew had become nervous after Jenson’s disappearance, and a few of them had weapons. “Holster those, men, and keep them that way. Sally, come with me.” Sally was one of their best interpreters and had a strange intuition about her, which had helped in the past. The two of them descended the ramp, stopping at the bottom.

    The sight alone was gruesome. Four of the three-legged people were standing over two dead bodies, one of which was Jenson. A lot of meat had been stripped off of Jenson, leaving stark white bone sticking out from his torso. The other dead body was of a four-legged creature, clawed, with three horns on its head, two wings, and a spiked tail. It was clearly a predator of sorts.

    One of the three-legged aliens stepped forward, speaking slowly in its tongue. The commander looked at Sally, who was staring wide-eyed at the speaker. “You okay, Sally?”

    “This is amazing! He’s speaking a variant of the Centauri language! He’s saying something about how they found this…beast with our…with Jenson in its… something. Mouth maybe? The Centauri didn’t have mouths; that could be what he means. He wants to make peace, at least the word for that is the same.”

    “Do you think they would understand the handshake for peace?” Sally simply nodded towards the alien speaker, who was holding his hand out. “I’ll take that as a yes,” he said, grinning and clasping hands.


    The cabinet stood around the table, silent this time, waiting for the President to speak. He shuffled a few notes before laying them down and looking up at the expectant.

    “We currently have peace with the hoo-mans. The one called Shallay ensured us that the hoo-mans will build their own camp and defend it, though we would exchange people to defend and learn. These hoo-mans breed very quickly, we’ve learned, only in four of our years, which we’ve learned is almost twenty of theirs. If a few of them go missing in that time…well, accidents happen. Gentlemen, with this “peace”, we will feast well for the rest of our lives.”

    He paused for the dramatic effect, looking at each of the cabinet in turn. He knew it would be unanimous, but as the President, he had traditions to follow. “All in favor say aye.”
  3. SuttonMichael254

    SuttonMichael254 Active Member

    Jun 15, 2012
    Likes Received:
    North Dakota
    A Happy Ending (1380 words)

    They knew, the whole town knew, they had to.

    Paranoia usually accompanied Edward everywhere he went, a side effect of the drugs which also never left his side. It had been two months since the election that he won by a land slide hands down. A great victory for Edward.

    But murder…

    Now that would put a wrench in his engine, that would automatically place him back a thousand steps, and then behind bars, where there would be no drugs. He couldn’t have that, he had to do something.

    The small town of Pruit, population 428 where everyone knew everyone housed some of the best cotton mills in America. Tom Parker, now a widower after his wife committed suicide two weeks after their daughter's death, sat in his chair on the front porch of his home rocking back and forth slowly, staring blankly out into the sky, flask of whiskey in his lap. He had not moved all morning.
    It had been an incredible shock to the town when that girl ended up dead behind the bar, her delicate neck bruised from the unworthy hands that had drained the life from her. It had been a night to remember after a special guest had made a surprise appearance in their small town after a victorious debate in the capital. No documented evidence linked anyone to the murder. But Tom knew better.

    It was the talk of the town when presidential candidate Edward Falons walked into the bar for a few drinks, and news spread around quickly. No more than an hour later half the population had packed the building wanting to shake hands with the man they were about to vote for.

    Elizabeth Parker had watched from the back of the room as people crowded him, his body guards desperately attempting to keep everyone at a safe distance. Edward didn’t mind, he adored the attention. After a quick trip to the restroom with a straw and small bag in his pocket he saw her, waiting for him outside the door.

    She was a gorgeous blond with an incredible body that demanded attention. He wondered how he did not see her before. She smiled shyly at him, her hands together behind her back, one foot rocking back and forth. He wanted her, he must have her. It would be a great story for back at the office.

    Only he didn’t tell the story in the office, as a matter of fact he never mentioned his visit to anyone. Not even his body guards were aware of his decision that night behind the saloon. His decision, his horrible decision that kept him up all night, made him restless, no peace.

    But the incident made no difference to him at the moment; it was past tense, now he must focus on what had to be done. If anyone in the town spoke, anyone at all, he would be under investigation immediately.
    What should I do?

    Poison the drinking water? No the risk factor for being discovered was too high.

    Release a violent string of viruses? No the risk of it spreading too far was even greater.

    Then it hit him. Edwards’s mouth twisted into a crooked smile as he picked up the phone.

    “Hemmington Labs.” The voice on the other end answered.

    “Yes this is Mr. Falon; I think it’s about time you repaid your debt.”


    It was a cool Monday morning and Tom was at his usual post where he had been for the past few months, rocking back and forth in his chair. The pain of losing everything he cared about had not numbed at all, and his routine had not changed either. He rarely ate or slept, the only part of his diet that was consistent was the whiskey in his flask which was refilled almost hourly.

    It was Monday, which meant that Miss Sue would be here any minute with one of her casseroles with an attempt to bring Tom back to life. She had not shown up last Monday and Tom had been grateful for that. Pity was not something he felt he needed.

    Only Miss Sue did not come. Perhaps she finally gave up hope, Tom thought to himself. He staggered back inside to pour more whiskey in his cup of pain reliever to discover he was almost out.

    Tom hated going into town, every store that he stopped at always looked at him strange, and occasionally a brave citizen would approach him and give their full sympathy, which Tom would always brush off. But now with no whiskey, he had no other choice.

    He sighed as he slide into the seat of his old beat up truck and cranked the engine and made his way into town. The whole ride there he could feel the excruciating pain of loss build more and more in his already damaged heart. “Whiskey, I need whiskey.” He said aloud.

    Tom pulled onto Main Street to find it completely empty, no cars, no people, no sign of anything. This was unusual. In the small town of Pruit there was nothing to do except go into town, and that was the usual routine of every citizen that lived there.

    Tom slowly drove down a residential street and to his shock saw a body lying on the sidewalk next to her mailbox. The further he drove the more bodies he saw, some by their doorsteps, but most lay motionless in front of their mail boxes.

    In utter confusion Tom stopped his truck by one of the dead bodies, it was Miss Sue. He stepped out of the truck and walked over to her lifeless corpse. She lay in her bathrobe clutching only an envelope. Tom picked it up and inspected it.

    “OFFICAL GOVERNMENT INFORMATION ENCLOSED” Was printed across the top of the envelope. Tom crumpled up the paper and threw it on the ground with a scowl on his face, hopped in his truck and tore back to his home.


    “I assure you Edward it’s perfectly safe. I engineered it to be active for 120 hours after exposure to oxygen.”

    Edward smiled “I thank you for your assistance, consider your debt paid in full”

    He hung up the phone and stared at the sign. “Welcome to the city of Pruit”
    He was alone in his car, it had been hard to get away from security but he had to be alone to see this. If his plan had worked everything would be fine now. Just another triadic event he could chalk up to a terrorist attack.
    Too many sleepless nights of anxiety and worry had made Edward tired and restless. But now he could finally be at ease, finally at peace.

    He put the car in drive and made his way into town.
    Tom watched from the woods as a black sedan slowly crept along the streets of Pruit, inspecting every building.
    The fire of hatred coursed through Tom’s veins as sweat poured off his angry face. His fists clenched, gripping one item, an unopened envelope.

    The sedan crawled to a stop in front of a home Tom knew very well, the Watkins. Terra Watkins was Elizabeth’s childhood friend, always full of life and spunk, but now she lay breathless on the lawn.

    The door of the sedan opened up and Tom’s heart started to pound violently as he saw the devil himself appear. He looked happy with a satanic smile spread across his face as he slowly walked to the door of the home and walk inside as if he owned it.

    Without hesitation Tom bolted from the woods and sprinted to the car. He quickly opened the door and tore open the envelope, holding his breath he dumped the contents into the passenger seat. He closed the door quietly and ran back into the woods.

    Ten minutes had passed before Edward reappeared from the home. Still smiling he almost skipped back to his car. He took one last look around the street before he opened the door and hopped into his sedan.

    The president felt incredible smiling from ear to ear. “Finally it’s over.” He said out loud.
    He took a deep breath and sighed happily. It was his last breath, his last sigh as he closed his eyes and fell asleep, still smiling, finally at peace.
  4. rubisco

    rubisco Member

    Jan 24, 2012
    Likes Received:
    A President's Peace
    by Rubisco
    (2882 words)

    “Actually Ronald, I'm pretty sure that the pink-footed goose migrates from Iceland to England, not Canada,” interjected Ernie Watkins. Amy looked at me and rolled her eyes. Walter was rubbing his temples like one of his migraines was coming on.

    This was a common scene lately. Pretty much ever since Ernie decided to join the Pinetown Middle School birdwatching club. Just a few weeks ago, our club was as awesome as it ever was, three best friends: me, Amy, and Walter. We got to hang out after school twice a week and occasionally get the school to sponsor “birdwatching” trips to the movie theater.

    All that was ruined the day Ernie joined, and there was nothing any of us could do to stop him. We had thought nobody in their right mind would ever want to join a boring birdwatching club, and we were right. Ernie was not in his right mind.

    Now we had to actually do some birdwatching, lest Ernie report on us. We initially had tried to go to the movies and goof off during our meetings to see if Ernie was game, but Ernie made it clear he was in the birdwatching club to actually watch birds. The jerk.

    As president of the club, Ernie looked to me as if I was some of bird expert. I honestly couldn't tell a bald eagle from a tarantula hawk. Not only that, but Ernie expected me to organize birdwatching outings.

    But all of that was nothing, no, nothing at all, compared to Ernie's constant correction of everything, and I mean everything, any of us said or did.

    “Come on guys, let's go watch some birds!” I said with a small dash of exasperation and a larger roll of my eyes. I turned up on the door handle and opened the classroom door.

    “Did you know that if you turn the handle down when opening a door, it requires less force and is therefore more efficient?” asked Ernie. “Go ahead and try it.”

    “Nah, I don't mind burning a few extra calories to open a door.”

    “You really should just try it and see.”

    “The birds are waiting, Ernie.”

    “Come on!” exclaimed Ernie. “You'll thank me later.” He grabbed my hand and forced it down. I honestly couldn't tell a difference in effort at all.

    “See!” exclaimed Ernie. “Isn't that much easier?”

    “I honestly can say it would have been easier if I did it that way in the first place.”

    “You're welcome!” exclaimed Ernie with a smile and with that he strode out the door. “Remember, I know a lot about a lot of things, I'm just trying to help out!”

    “I hope we're watching birds somewhere where no one can hear him scream,” whispered Walter to me as he walked out the door.

    “I hope Ernie migrates somewhere," added Amy as she walked past.

    I could tell already this was going to be an outing to remember.


    We rode our bikes to Haven Grove park, on the outskirts of town. On the other side of the park was pine forest for miles. A birdwatching paradise, for sure, too bad only one of us was even remotely interested in it. I had to go out and buy three sets of binoculars the day before (Ernie already had his own pair).

    “Quite an expense to fool Ernie,” commented Walter as he looked at the pair of binoculars I handed him. He was referring to our plan to ditch Ernie in the woods and go hang out somewhere without him.

    “Who knows? Maybe we'll see some birds that we will want to spend hours looking at,” I replied sarcastically.

    “Hey guys,” called out Ernie as he pedaled up to us. “I couldn't help but notice your bike chains need some oil. You know, without proper maintenance, your bike is going to break.”

    “You know Ernie, without shutting up, you are going to--,” Walter started.

    “Going to have to find the best spot to watch birds,” I interrupted. “Be nice,” I mouthed to Walter.

    Ernie's face brightened. “Really? I get to pick the first place? Hmm, let's go over to that outcropping of rock on that ridge. I think it overlooks a creek. Birds can't live without water.” He started to hike up the hill.

    “Outcropping of rock, hmm?” said Amy. “One little push . . .”

    “Come on guys, can't we at least tolerate him until we ditch him?” I said.

    “Aww, I think somebody has a soft spot for the dweeb,” commented Walter. “Maybe he reminds you of yourself when you were younger.”

    “Come on guys!” called out Ernie. “And remember, breathe in and out through your nostrils so you retain the air's moisture and not get dehydrated! Gotta keep those mucous membranes moist!”

    “Ok we'll push him, but only if I get to do the honors,” I said as we started up the hill.


    We sat on top of the ridge overlooking the creek for about a half hour. Ernie had his binoculars glued to his face the entire time, ooh'ing and ahh'ing over the three birds that were in the trees up above. Walter, Amy, and I were sitting around, enjoying the view.

    “You know, I'm kind of glad we went on this outing,” Amy said, “we rarely hang out outdoors, it's a nice change.”

    “I know what a nice change would be,” commented Walter while eying Ernie standing on the rocky outcrop. Just in the half hour of birdwatching, Ernie had already informed how to focus our binoculars, how to breathe as not to scare the birds, how not sending thank you cards was a major faux pas, how to sign up for krav maga lessons, how his dentist was the best in town, and how one should properly ride a dirt bike.

    “Have you ever rode a dirt bike?” I asked Ernie. I hoped we would be able to ditch him soon.

    “Shh! Someone is coming!” Amy whispered. Off in the distance we could hear men talking.

    “Of course, I never give advice on something I've never done,” replied Ernie.

    “Shh!” we all said in unison.

    We all sat in silence as three guys walked down the creek. Two of them had pistols and were leading the third, who was blindfolded, gagged, and had his hands tied behind his back.

    “All right, this is far enough,” said one of the men with a gun. He pushed the blindfolded man down to his knees. He turned his gun sideways and pressed the barrel up against the man's head.

    “He's holding the gun all wrong,” whispered Ernie.


    “Holding a gun sideways can upset its accuracy!”

    “SHH!” Walter grabbed Ernie and clamped his hand over his mouth.

    “What was that?” said the other man with a gun. “I think we're not alone Frank.” The men started looking around. We flattened out on the ground and slowly tried to slide down from the outcrop of rock. If we can silently slide down this hill, I thought, we might stand a chance.

    “Let's just get this over with,” said Frank, now out of sight. “So Mikey boy, not feeling so hot now are you? Thought you could skip town with my money. I hope you spent that money on a good last meal.” I heard the sound of a trigger being cocked.

    “STOP! Turn your gun vertical first!”

    I closed my eyes and prayed to God. I couldn't believe this was happening. Couldn't believe that Walter let his hand slip. Part of me wanted to run, run like hell, and never look back. Part of me, perhaps the president of the birdwatching club part, felt responsible for Ernie's safety.

    “Who the hell is out there?” yelled Frank. Ernie stood up and walked to the rock outcrop where we were before.

    “You really should turn your gun right side up before you shoot,” said Ernie, “it will improve your accuracy and therefore the likelihood your shot will be fatal.”

    “Get the hell out of here kid!” yelled Frank. “Or you're next!”

    “See!” exclaimed Ernie, “Even when you point the gun at me, you're holding it all wrong. Here, let me show you.” Ernie disappeared out of our sight as he started to climb down the rocks to the stream. I started to wiggle my way back up to the edge of the outcrop in order to see the horror that was unfolding.

    Walter grabbed my foot as I wiggled up. “Let's get out of here!” he hissed. I looked back, Amy was nodding her head vigorously, her eyes wide with fear.

    “You guys can go,” I whispered back, “but I'm the president of this stupid club, I need to see if we can get Ernie out of there.”

    “Dude, you were made president because you won at rock, paper, scissors. Don't feel obligated to stay because you have that title. The dweeb threw himself into this situation. Would anybody in their right mind expect us to rescue him?”

    “You and I both know there are plenty of people out there not in their right mind,” I replied. “I'm going to try to rescue him, with or without you.”

    “What the hell man,” he whispered. “Why do you put me in these situations, fine, only because I'm not leaving you,” replied Walter. Amy slowly crawled back up.

    “No, Amy, go back into town, get help,” I said. “Run as fast as you can, Walter and I will try to buy some time.”

    Amy looked at us with tears in her eyes, paused, then nodded. She wiggled back down the hill and started running back down the path.

    Walter and I wiggled up to the edge of the rock outcrop. Ernie had made his way down to Frank, Mikey, and the other man with a gun.

    “Oh my God,” whispered Walter. “Did we bring a casket?”

    Ernie was standing in front of Frank, and he had his hand on Frank's gun hand.

    “See, let me show you, turn your hand vertical, I promise, you'll feel the difference,” Ernie said to Frank.

    “I'll make you a deal kid,” said Frank. “How about I shoot you with my hand vertical, and then I'll shoot Mikey here like I was going to, and then I'll compare notes. How about that? Now get the hell out of here! I don't want to shoot you kid, but get your cootie-infested hand off of mine or I will!” Frank shook his hand away from Ernie's, his gun still pointing at him.

    “Paul!” yelled Frank to the other guy with a gun, “grab this kid so I can shoot Mikey here without any criticism. We'll figure out what to do with this kid after we take care of Mikey.” Paul grabbed Ernie by the arm and dragged him away from Frank. Frank turned to Mikey and lifted his gun again to his head, this time his gun was vertical. Frank glanced at Ernie.

    “Happy kid? Right side up.” He then focused on Mikey.

    “STOP! Are you going to pull the trigger fast? You need to pull it slow so you don't anticipate the shot and the recoil. You are going to screw up your accuracy if you don't. And if your shot isn't accurate, then it might not be fatal, and . . .”

    Frank strode over to Ernie and backhanded him. Ernie collapsed to the ground. Frank pointed his gun at Ernie, “I'll make you shut up kid.”


    I couldn't believe what I just did. I had no idea where it came from, but I opened up my mouth and that one word flew out. Such a small word. Part of me wished I could take it back. Part of me knew Ernie would have done the same for me, probably not for the same reasons, but he would have done the same nonetheless.

    “What the hell!” yelled Frank as he looked up and saw Walter and me. “Did somebody put Mikey's funeral invitations in the mail early or something? Who the hell are you kids? The boxcar children?”

    “No!” yelled back Walter. “We're a birdwatching club!”

    “Shut the hell up! Enough of this!” yelled Frank. He walked over and shot Mikey in the head. Mikey's body collapsed to the forest floor, his blood and brain tissue spread out over the pine needles.

    Maybe it was Ernie's stupidity earlier, his calmness and confidence going up to these men with guns, that I actually thought rescuing him was possible. Reality now hit me, and hit me quick. What the hell did we get into?

    “Paul, go grab those two! We can't have any witnesses!” Paul ran to the side of the ridge and started to climb.

    Neither of us had to say anything, we started running. We ran like hell. As I ran down the path, I could just imagine Ernie, laying on the forest floor. It would probably be only a matter of seconds before Frank . . .

    I heard a gunshot off in the distance. Tears streamed down my face. What was I going to tell Ernie's parents? I looked back. Paul had made it up the rocks and was now into a full sprint towards us.

    Then we heard another gunshot, then another, and another. Paul stopped running at us and looked back.

    “What the hell?” said Walter, both of us stopped. Apparently Paul must have thought the same, as he started to run back towards the creek.

    “Well, what now president?” said Walter. I hesitated, there was a chance Ernie was alive, unlikely, but why were four shots fired? In any case, if we did go back, there was definitely still Paul who had a very real gun.

    I made a decision, it was a stupid one, but it was the only way Ernie might possibly get out of this alive. I took off down the trail, sprinting back towards the creek.

    This is what being Ernie must feel like, I thought as I ran, willing to do anything, even stupidly putting your life on the line, to help out people. I prayed the timing of my plan would work.

    Paul was ahead of me on the trail,climbing on the rocks. He reached the top of the ridge right when I reached the bottom of the hill. He hadn't noticed me yet. He seemed focused on finding out what had happened with the gunshots. I started climbing up the rocks.

    “What the. . .,” said Paul softly as he leveled his pistol down to the creek, “that kid. I can't believe that retarded kid . . .”

    I still didn't know what had happened, but it sounded like Ernie was still alive, and that was all I needed to know. My adrenaline kicked in overtime, and I leaped up the rocks right behind Paul and barreled into his back with my body weight right as his gun went off.

    “Wha? Arghh!” yelled Paul as he lost balance and fell over the ridge. His body fell the thirty feet down to the rocky creek bed. A pool of blood started to surround his head.

    I sat down, trembling. I had just killed a man. I was so shaken I hardly noticed Frank's dead body, and Ernie making his way across the creek. A felt a hand on my shoulder.

    “I thought you were crazy, man, I almost left you,” said Walter. “But look at that, Ernie is alive, and it's over.”

    “Ernie, alive?” I mumbled. I still couldn't comprehend how he was still alive.

    “Hey Ronald!” yelled out Ernie from the creek, “next time you push a guy off a cliff, try using more of your shoulder, you'll hurt your back doing it your way!”

    “That kid is crazy,” said Walter. I nodded.


    The rest of that day was like a fuzzy dream. Amy arrived back with the police, who quickly identified Frank, Paul, and Mikey. Frank and Paul had multiple murder counts on their record, along with drug running, and they had both escaped from prison about a month ago. Mikey was an old associate of theirs who had been missing for two days.

    That was believable, what all of us had trouble believing was Ernie's story of how he tried to disarm Frank, which he had learned in his krav maga class. According to Ernie, he grabbed the gun as Frank pressed it against his head (bad form, according to Ernie), and he tried to twist it away. The gun went off during the struggle multiple times. The last bullet bounced off a rock and entered Frank's skull.

    “If he only held his gun right, I wouldn't have been able to do it,” commented Ernie, and there was nothing any of us could do but believe him.

    “Hey,” Ernie added, “let's have another outing next week! Studies show that clubs with weekly meetings have better rates of success!”

    “You know what Ernie?” I replied, “I think I'm done being president and being a birdwatcher. It wasn't as peaceful as it sounded in the brochure.” Amy and Walter nodded in agreement, and we all walked away from Ernie.

    “See you around?” called out Ernie. This time we just kept walking and didn't look back.
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