Look at all of you over here so failtfully adding your literary genius to 5MinuteFiction on a day when, as far as I can tell here at work, everyone has already gone on vacation for the rest of the year.

And we have new faces too! Welcome! (Say hi, everyone.)

Well, of course judging was hard. It always is. This is only the second time I’m done it “officially” though I often pick out the “best” in my head as I read through. (And so many times they aren’t the same ones the judges pick. That’s what I love about this guest-judging thing.)

At least this time I only ended up with eight “finalists” when I was finished, not ten like the last time. And then I had to take three away from that number. Grrr.(Oh, wait. Three. Did I really just do that? Hahaha.)

Here they are, this week’s finalists:

Richard Wood, @rbwood

Eric, @briefconceits

R.C. Murphy, @RCMurphy

Paul Freeman, @PolFreeman

Aisling Weaver, @AislingWeaver

And these are their entries, which I know you’re agonizing over right now. I hear you, it’s going to be tough picking just one. Good luck! Poll’s at the bottom of the post and the winner will be announced tonight after 9:30. See you then!

Richard Wood, @rbwood

Climbing that fucking ladder.

The corporate workplace seldom rewards true sweat and effort. More often than not, it’s that evil prick in the corner who’s taken your report, word-replaced your name with his and sent it in who gets all the kudos.

Or the jackass in the next cube who’s willing to give a better blowjob.

Real work is passed over by politics. Time and time again. You’ve seen it—I know you have.

But, see, I’ve figured out a way to beat the bastards at their own game.

Take Basman, for example. Smart guy from India, has a lot of degrees. You’d think he’d climb the fucking ladder the right way.

But no. See, he got cozy with the big boss at the Christmas party. The two of them disappeared into a bathroom stall for thirty minutes and just like that.

The Indian fucker’s my boss.

I took a week of his smug gloating, nonsensical orders and dictatorial management style. Then, I discovered the solution to all the fucking ladder climbers.

See, I know Basman loves fast cars. He’s got one of those Audi two-door jobs. Boat-load of speeding tickets in the trunk.

Too bad the breaks failed one morning on the way to work.

It was sad, of course. We were all broken up by his James Dean impersonation. But the big boss asked me to step in ‘for the good of the company.’

So my secret to success is to change the rules a bit. When the fucking ladder-climbers skip a rung or two, just even the odds.

I have just about everything I want now. And believe-you-me I worked for it. Just about everything.

Except Steve has that corner office with the nice view of the three rivers…

Eric, @briefconceits

“Okay, Let’s get this straight! How many of you are there again?” Jasmine’s head was pounding from all the mental exertion.

Phillip, all of them, gave a puzzled look. “Three.” they said in unison. “It’s not that hard to figure out.”

“I’m Phillip from the present time,” Philip said.

“I’m Phillip from a war-torn apocalyptic future of horror,” Phillip said.

“And I’m Phillip also from the present time, but from an alternate reality in which mutant asparagus monsters rule the earth,” Phillip said.

Jasmine’s eyes moved from one Phillip to the next. “You all look the same. You’re even wearing the exact same shirt!”

“There was a sale a Kohl’s,” the Phillips said.

R.C. Murphy, @RCMurphy

Lucifer clucked softly. Black eyes grazed over the three souls hovering in the air. Three really was a wonderful number, he mused. Screw that six-six-six number of the beast shit Christians rambled on about incessantly, three was his perfect number.

At least at the moment.

“Will they do, sire?” a frail demon asked from the back of the room. No one made it further than a foot or two inside his private rooms. For some reason they thought the intrusion would land their head on a pike. Could have something to do with the rotting carcasses chained up outside the doors.

Lucifer shrugged the thought away and refocused on the three perfect souls before him. They were untainted by the war between him and the Creator. Had they substance he would gather them close and hold them, simply to feel innocence again. It had been a very long time since he could claim to be innocent. The stars were nothing but newborns when he first began to realize that all was not right with the Creator’s plan.

“They will do, Trynt. Take these to the birthing center.” He watched the demon tip toe into the room. A silver net flung over the bright orbs, trapping them without harming their essence.

“What will ya do with ‘em?” Trynt asked, hoisting the bag over his bony shoulder.

“I feel the need to have more children.” Lucifer said simply. For once he wanted to bring a being into the world that didn’t reek of evil. The universe was about balance, and he was setting to tip the scales heavily in his favor.

Paul Freeman, @PolFreeman

Brother Kevin huddled against the wall of the round tower, his knees pulled tightly to his chest. His jaw chattered uncontrollably his whole body shook, never had he known such fear.

He had heard about the raiders from the north, pirates spawned from the loins of demons, how they struck with lightning speed, leaving only devestation in their wake. He had heard… now he had seen. Three fellow monks lay dead in the grounds of the abbey, their heads caved in, their limbs hanging loose from savage cuts.

He could hear the harsh guttural barking of the sea raiders as they circled the tower, trying to find a way in, trying to get to the booty, trying to get to him.

“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” he began, but his voice shook and he could not continue. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to think about the dead monks. He knew he shouldn’t have pulled up the ladder he knew he shouldn’t have shut the door. In his minds eye he could see them fall one after another, see the looks of horror and betrayl on their faces as he barred them from the tower

Lying beside him was a sack, golden goblets and crucifix’s spilled onto the floor. It was for this, these belongings of God the demons had come.

He heard a loud thud and then a crash, “Oh merciful Lord,” he whimpered. The sound of boots rushing up the wooden steps filled him with terror. He had already wet himself, long ago.

The door to his small refuge splintered open, and he screamed…

Aisling Weaver, @AislingWeaver

“What does this mean?”

I looked up from my book to meet my lover’s gaze, his eyes bright with curiosity. I wanted to sigh. It was just another straw in the pile of reasons we were poorly suited.

With infinite care I marked my page, 393, and closed the novel. A flicker darkened his face.

“Why won’t you use a bookmark?” A pet peeve he never failed to remark upon.

“If I can’t remember something so simple as a page number, Ryan, there’s a problem,” I murmured, rising to join him at his desk. A stack of files waited, ominous in their simplicity.

How is it that such things can be so complicated, and yet so easy, when all’s said and done?

He did sigh. We did that far to often, that passive expression of exasperation pushing vexed air and energy at each other. “Anyways. What’s this?” he asked again and I leaned over his desk, refusing to sit in the chair waiting, to let him treat me as supplicant; it would weaken my position far too much.

“Petition for Disolution,” I answered, sliding one deceptively thin for what it would end.

“Quit Deed,” I slid another over, my signatures already gracing the pages that would end my claim on this simple house.

“You’re leaving.” His voice went flat and cold as a steel blade.

“It’s time and then some,” I replied. He pressed his fingers down onto his blotter so hard his knuckles lost their color, showing stark white.

He looked up at me, blue eyes gone brittle, icy, blue. “I won’t forgive you.”

I nodded. All my belongings were gone, everything back and stowed in my car. “I know.”

“Get out.” I expected a louder, more extensive confrontation.

He grabbed my book before I could retrieve it and I slipped into my coat. His grip tightened on the spine when I reached my hand out for it.

“Read it then,” I said. “Perhaps you’ll find answers to the questions you’re refusing to ask.”

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