This is the first winner of the Matthew Cross Writing Contest!

Photo by Andreas Dress (unsplash.com/@andreasdress)
Photo of crocheted narwhal amigurumi, which is a prize for the contest, along with $25

The winner of the Matthew Cross Flash Fiction Collaboration Contest is Frasier Armitage!

SEPTEMBER CONTEST

Frasier wins a $25 Amazon gift certificate and the narwhal amigurumi collectible shown here.

I received so many great entries, and I’ll share some more of them as soon as I can. You can read some of my thoughts on why Frasier’s entry shone above all the rest. (It’s stellar!)

October Contest: I’ll be announcing the October contest soon! (Probably next Monday.)

I started the story below, and see how seamlessly Frasier picked it up after the red line and gave it his own twist!

But this is Frasier’s moment, so enjoy the story!

Hello, Universe!

Jess leaned back in the blue, plastic Adirondack chair on the back deck.  It was a kids chair and he had almost outgrown it.  But it was the only chair that allowed him to tilt his head back to look at the stars.

Tunes from the 1960s purred from the outdoor speaker.  His Mom kept the family speakers on a steady rotation of “decades” music going back seventy years.

They lived in the suburbs.  With light pollution, Jess knew he wasn’t even seeing half the stars up there.  But this summer, with all the bad news online, he found himself escaping to the quiet of the back deck and looking at the starry sky.

In school, he had read about the Civil War and the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement and a bunch of other depressing stuff.  And then his grandfather had died.  Jess and his grandfather were not close, but everyone went to the funeral and everyone cried.  Even Jess cried.

Sometime that summer, Jess realized everyone else in his family would die.  Not anytime soon.  Probably not, anyway.  But, eventually, his parents would grow old and die.  And, eventually, Jess would also grow old and die.  And if he ever had kids, they would grow old and die.  Someday, everyone Jess knew would be dead.

It sucked.

Staring up at the night sky made him feel small and a little scared.  It never used to before.  But when he was little, he didn’t know how much empty space was really up there.  And how tiny the Earth really was.

Last week and the week before he had stared up at the stars.

Maybe, he had thought, it would be OK to die as long as I’m remembered.  Maybe I could get famous like Elvis or Beyonce.  So famous that no one would ever forget me.

Jess had thought about that for a couple of weeks.  He would have to be really famous to be remembered in two million years.  Like Hitler famous.  And he didn’t want to be evil.  He remembered seeing photos of the gas chambers and shuddered.

In two million years, the wind might even wear down the Great Pyramids and the even the pharaohs of Egypt would be forgotten.

Words floated from the speaker on the dark, night air.

Words are flowing out like

Endless rain into a paper cup

They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe

It was “Across the Universe” by the Beatles.  His Dad loved the Beatles.  All of the Beatles were dead.

Pools of sorrow, waves of joy

Are drifting through my opened mind

And that’s when the idea struck Jess.  He rummaged through the junk drawer and found a penlight.  He sat back in the kid-size Adirondack and shone the light into the sky.

Dad was an engineer and he knew lots of science.  He said light beams were made of photons.  In space, photons just keep traveling forever–travel at the speed of light, Dad said–unless they hit something. Like a planet or a star.

Jess sent the weak beam of light into space.  He clicked the light on and off.  If he knew Morse Code, he could send a message on a stream of photons into space.  And if that beam never ran into a star or a planet, it would travel forever.  Unlike the pyramids, it would never be worn down by wind or time.

The next day Jess bought a brand new flashlight–the most powerful one he could afford at the big box hardware store.  That night on the deck, he sent coded messages into space.  He looked up Morse code on his phone and shot off the messages in different directions into the sky.

Hi

I am here

My name is Jess

Im alive

I dont want to die

Never forget me

 . . .

Halfway through high school, Jess had learned enough about lasers to build his own high-powered laser from a kit.  He even got his Dad to help mount it on the roof.  Mom thought he was crazy, but Dad was into science stuff and thought it was a cool project.

Jess studied star charts and learned how to aim his laser using the computer in his room.  He sent coded messages into the night sky almost every night.  He aimed the laser into the empty stretches between stars, nebulae, and galaxies to give his messages the best chance of flying forever through space.

No human would ever see them.  Racing at the speed of light away from the Earth, no human could ever catch up with them to capture the light and decode it.

And what alien would ever know how to decode Morse code?  Or care to try?

But Jess knew that his coded messages racing through space would last longer than even the Earth itself.  Eventually, the sun would supernova and the Earth and the Moon and every human landmark in the Solar System would be absorbed, melted, obliterated.  But Jess’s small, silent, staggered rays of light would live on.

Forever.

. . .

In college, he studied engineering and physics, trying to decide which way to go.  Both were incredibly tough.  Jess had programmed the computer in his bedroom at home to aim the roof-mounted laser at the emptiest reaches of space.  He had saved hundreds of different coded messages and each night, his computer sent the messages into space.

He was so busy at school, he forgot about the laser most of the time.  And, miracle of miracles, he finally had a girlfriend!

But when he came home on breaks, he checked the laser on the roof.  He cleared the dead leaves away, wiped the lens, applied another coat of water proofing.  He checked his sky maps and scheduled some new programs to run when he was away.  At night, sitting on the deck, he thought up new messages to send.

Hi

I am Jess

This message will outlast everyone

The pharaohs

The presidents

Taylor Swift

BTS

Remember me

Jess was not trying to reach anyone out there.  He never thought to try to look for replies to his messages.  Besides, detecting a laser reply from space would be quite a trick.  That would take more physics, engineering and money than he had.

So it was merely by luck that he was sitting on the back deck after graduation, drinking a beer and peering up into the sky, that he saw it.


A single star blinked a rhythm of dots and dashes, over and over, like ocean waves. Jess’s beer crashed on the deck, spilling between the planks. He scrambled for his phone and recorded a video, pointing to the heavens, and muttering the words that flickered in clumsy Morse.

Hi Jess

Its grandpa

Dont worry

Everything will be alright

Jess staggered backwards and flipped his camera. He garbled something about his grandfather’s funeral and uploaded it to the Web.

Twenty likes.

Fifty likes.

Three hundred.

Eight thousand.

Within ten minutes, more than a million views ticked across the screen.

Was this really happening?

All he could think about were the lyrics to that Beatles song, stuck on repeat.

Images of broken light
Which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe

His phone shuddered. Unknown number.

Jai Guru Deva, Om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my . . .

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Jess Dawson?” A voice sharp as gravel crunched down the earpiece.

“Who are you?”

“Name’s Grant Knox, FBI. We’re sending a chopper for you.”

In the distance, a low rumble carried across the sky. Jess shook his head. “A chopper? Why?”

“For your protection, Jess. We saw your video. Half the world’s seen it by now. You’ve no idea how long we’ve been trying to make contact.”

“Contact? With who?”

“You’d best pack some things. We need to get you secure.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re about to go down in history, Jess. People will be talking about this forever.”

“About what?” Jess looked at the sky. The flashing dots.

Dont worry

Everything will be alright


I hope you enjoyed this piece of flash fiction that Matthew and Frasier wrote together. It was a fun collaboration!

For more fun endings to this story, look for some honorable mention finalists in a separate blog post later this week. And next week, we’ll reveal the October Contest story beginning and the new prize!

Finally, if you enjoyed Frasier’s prize-winning ending, please make sure and share some kind comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross and Frasier Armitage

Finish my story and win a prize!

Image: White farm house. Text: Almost Home - Win a prize if you write the best finish to my story. Matthew Cross Flash Fiction Collaboration Contest - MatthewCrossWrites.com
Flash Fiction Writing Contest – Photo by Derek Torsani (unsplash.com/@dmtors)

This is a finish-my-story contest where all you have to do is write the ending in 500 words or less.

For the October Contest, I’m offering 3 prizes, including the aqua narwhal shown below. You can see all 3 prizes here.

Image: Aqua, crocheted narwhal with striped sweater sitting on yellow submarine. Text: Finish my story and you can win this narwhal. Sorry, yellow submarine not included.-Matthew Cross Flash Fiction Collaboration Contest-MatthewCrossWrites.com

October Contest

October Contest: All submissions are due by midnight October 17, 2020. 

Look here for contest rules.

Almost Home

I look over my shoulder in search of the dark, floating shapes.  I stumble and fall face first into the crusty topsoil between rows of soybeans.  It’s almost harvest time, so the plants are half a meter.  Not tall, like corn, which can hide you.  I groan and roll over, looking up at the pure, blue sky.  No dark triangles up there.

Field of soybeans
It’s almost harvest time, so the soybeans are half a meter. Photo by Meredith Petrick (unsplash.com/@mpetrick)

I groan and make myself stand, even though my legs feel like jelly.  My joints ache, my head aches, and I shiver.  It’s the Vere.  I caught it either on the DR. ERNESTO GUEVARA, which everyone calls the “Che,” or on Mars.  Mars was already rife with the Vere, so it was not our fault.  And Earth had it before that, so I’m not the first to bring it here, either.  I’m just trying to survive it.

My facemask clouds with my breath.  I’m still wearing my entire suit because I don’t want to infect anyone else.  If not for my mask, I would be spitting dark, Indiana loam out of my mouth.

From behind the Old Barn and the windmill, a thin plume of smoke rises from the crash. The old, decrepit windmill still pumps the water for our irrigation. In a state full of wind turbines, the old windmill really stands out. People still use it to give directions by. It’s how I found home.

Old barn and windmill
From behind the Old Barn and the windmill, a thin plume of smoke rises from the crash. Photo by T.L. Strot (unsplash.com/@tammylynn)

I stole a local trader on Mars.  The owners didn’t need it any more.  I had to pull them from the seats, but I lay them respectfully beneath a nearby ship.  The trader was not made for interplanetary trips.  It did not have the fuel reserves for a fast shot between two planets.  But if you set your navigation correctly, you can save all your fuel for takeoff and reentry.  It’s a long, slow trip—weeks—but you can make it.

I made it, but just barely.  On Mars, a cop was cruising the abandoned spacefield.  My takeoff was too quick.  I was nervous and I’m not a pilot, so I burned a little extra fuel.  Precious fuel needed for landing in Earth’s stronger gravity.  But I survived the crash.  If I can get more fuel, I can probably get the ship working again.  I’m no pilot, but I’m a great engineer.

Still no triangles in the sky!  I should be glad, but instead I shudder, a cold spike running down my spine.  Is it so bad on Earth?  I push myself into a run to the farmhouse.  I still think of it as Granddad’s house.  We lived here with Granddad, until he passed away, and then it became Mom’s.  Like the generations before, we continued to farm the family land.  I did my share of chores, monitoring the cultivators and irrigators at the control board while I did my homework.  Once I learned some electrical, I even fixed a few machines for Dad.  And, yes, I drove a John Deere harvester every fall.  But once I reached midgrades, I realized I didn’t want to be a farmer like Mom and Dad.  I wanted to go to space.

Still no triangles in the sky!  I should be glad, but instead I shudder, a cold spike running down my spine.  Is it so bad on Earth?

I stumble through the soybeans.  The rows are too tall to climb over, especially in my condition.  I’m forced to follow the diagonal row instead of heading straight towards the house.  It’s still 100 meters away and I begin to wonder if I will make it, even without pursuers.  My legs are shaking so bad.  I slept the entire trip to Earth with autonav on.  I ran out of food three days ago, so there was not much else to do.  Between hunger, muscle stiffness and the Vere, I’m in pretty bad shape.

I focus on the white house, on Home, as I fight dizzyness and nausea.  My aching muscles, atrophied for two weeks, don’t want to move.  And when they move, they scream.  So I don’t mind getting all nostalgic.  I’m glad of the distraction, and my fuzzy brain is going there anyway.  I remember telling my parents I wanted to study engineering and not FarmAg at college.  It broke their hearts.  They had trouble conceiving me, and I was their only child.  And Granddad’s only grandchild.  Once I left, there was no future generation to take over the farm.

It may not matter, now that we have the Vere.  It’s sweeping across Mars, Jupiter’s moons, and Earth.

It may not matter, now that we have the Vere.  It’s sweeping across Mars, Jupiter’s moons, and Earth.  If it gets really bad—worst-case scenario, they say on news feeds—the remote asteroid colonies might be mankind’s only hope.

I need to get to the house.  I need to get inside.  Granddad was not exactly a Prepper, but he’d lived through two wars, and the basement was always stocked for the family to ride out three months.  And in flush years, Dad had always made a few upgrades to the security systems.  You know, just in case.

Sunflowers
I shamble across the green dooryard, skirting Mom’s giant sunflowers.  They wave joyfully in a light breeze. Photo by Nicky Osipova (unsplash.com/@voodoonicky)

I have not heard from Mom or Dad in several weeks.  Mostly because I never check in.  But at the very least Mom sends me a weekly vid with any news and asks for a call back.  I never call back.  Only for Mother’s Day or one of their birthdays.  Or Granddad’s birthday, which is kind of like MLK Day, a day to be somber and proud at the same time.  But no messages from Mom for weeks.

I need to get inside.  But I’m also afraid of what I might find.

My left leg suddenly gives out just shy of the end of the row.  I take another tumble and this time it takes longer to stand up.  My vision is going red, but my mind is so foggy, it just seems whimsical, not scary.  Red.  The farmhouse looks red, like it’s on Mars.  I giggle.

That’s not good, says a voice in the back of my brain.  You’re losing it.  I giggle at the voice.

I shamble across the green dooryard, skirting Mom’s giant sunflowers.  They wave joyfully in a light breeze.  I wave back.  When did this yard get so big?  I thought things were supposed to look smaller when you went back home.  The five steps to the wide porch are the hardest.  I have to drag my left leg behind me, and I trip over the top step.  I flail and stumble my way to the screen door.  It opens with my voice authorization.

I limp to the kitchen as the house system greets me.  “Welcome home, Cass!  It’s good . . . .”

“Shut it!” I say.

“OK!  You have messages.  One from your parents to all employees.  One to you from Mom and one to you from Dad.”

“Play the first one,” I say.

I hear Mom’s voice, weak but trying to be cheerful.  She says they are OK but they are showing symptoms.  They are headed into town to see the doctor.  It’s a couple week old, but I sigh with relief.  They might be OK.  They might just be in the hospital.

A field of wind turbines. Photo by Nathan Gonthier (unsplash.com/@natejgo)

I peek out the window and I finally see them.  Just two tiny triangles, but one is already veering off to the left.  I think maybe it’s headed to another farm, but it just keeps going down at a diagonal until it crashes in a field of wind turbines.  The lead ship comes straight ahead, following my smoke plume.

Submit your story ending

I can’t wait to see your story endings! Don’t forget to read the contest rules.

Please post your story endings below. And if you just want to leave a comment, that would be great, too!

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

This is the first winner of the Matthew Cross Writing Contest!

Photo by Andreas Dress (unsplash.com/@andreasdress)

The winner of the Matthew Cross Flash Fiction Collaboration Contest is Frasier Armitage!

SEPTEMBER CONTEST

Frasier wins a $25 Amazon gift certificate and the narwhal amigurumi collectible shown below.

I received so many great entries, and I’ll share some more of them later this week. You can read some of my thoughts on why Frasier’s entry shone above all the rest. (It’s stellar!)

Photo of crocheted narwhal amigurumi, which is a prize for the contest, along with $25

October Contest: I’ll be announcing the October contest soon! (Probably next Monday.)

I started the story below, and see how seamlessly Frasier picked it up after the red line and gave it his own twist!

But this is Frasier’s moment, so enjoy the story!

Hello, Universe!

Jess leaned back in the blue, plastic Adirondack chair on the back deck.  It was a kids chair and he had almost outgrown it.  But it was the only chair that allowed him to tilt his head back to look at the stars.

Tunes from the 1960s purred from the outdoor speaker.  His Mom kept the family speakers on a steady rotation of “decades” music going back seventy years.

They lived in the suburbs.  With light pollution, Jess knew he wasn’t even seeing half the stars up there.  But this summer, with all the bad news online, he found himself escaping to the quiet of the back deck and looking at the starry sky.

In school, he had read about the Civil War and the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement and a bunch of other depressing stuff.  And then his grandfather had died.  Jess and his grandfather were not close, but everyone went to the funeral and everyone cried.  Even Jess cried.

Sometime that summer, Jess realized everyone else in his family would die.  Not anytime soon.  Probably not, anyway.  But, eventually, his parents would grow old and die.  And, eventually, Jess would also grow old and die.  And if he ever had kids, they would grow old and die.  Someday, everyone Jess knew would be dead.

It sucked.

Staring up at the night sky made him feel small and a little scared.  It never used to before.  But when he was little, he didn’t know how much empty space was really up there.  And how tiny the Earth really was.

Last week and the week before he had stared up at the stars.

Maybe, he had thought, it would be OK to die as long as I’m remembered.  Maybe I could get famous like Elvis or Beyonce.  So famous that no one would ever forget me.

Jess had thought about that for a couple of weeks.  He would have to be really famous to be remembered in two million years.  Like Hitler famous.  And he didn’t want to be evil.  He remembered seeing photos of the gas chambers and shuddered.

In two million years, the wind might even wear down the Great Pyramids and the even the pharaohs of Egypt would be forgotten.

Words floated from the speaker on the dark, night air.

Words are flowing out like

Endless rain into a paper cup

They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe

It was “Across the Universe” by the Beatles.  His Dad loved the Beatles.  All of the Beatles were dead.

Pools of sorrow, waves of joy

Are drifting through my opened mind

And that’s when the idea struck Jess.  He rummaged through the junk drawer and found a penlight.  He sat back in the kid-size Adirondack and shone the light into the sky.

Dad was an engineer and he knew lots of science.  He said light beams were made of photons.  In space, photons just keep traveling forever–travel at the speed of light, Dad said–unless they hit something. Like a planet or a star.

Jess sent the weak beam of light into space.  He clicked the light on and off.  If he knew Morse Code, he could send a message on a stream of photons into space.  And if that beam never ran into a star or a planet, it would travel forever.  Unlike the pyramids, it would never be worn down by wind or time.

The next day Jess bought a brand new flashlight–the most powerful one he could afford at the big box hardware store.  That night on the deck, he sent coded messages into space.  He looked up Morse code on his phone and shot off the messages in different directions into the sky.

Hi

I am here

My name is Jess

Im alive

I dont want to die

Never forget me

 . . .

Halfway through high school, Jess had learned enough about lasers to build his own high-powered laser from a kit.  He even got his Dad to help mount it on the roof.  Mom thought he was crazy, but Dad was into science stuff and thought it was a cool project.

Jess studied star charts and learned how to aim his laser using the computer in his room.  He sent coded messages into the night sky almost every night.  He aimed the laser into the empty stretches between stars, nebulae, and galaxies to give his messages the best chance of flying forever through space.

No human would ever see them.  Racing at the speed of light away from the Earth, no human could ever catch up with them to capture the light and decode it.

And what alien would ever know how to decode Morse code?  Or care to try?

But Jess knew that his coded messages racing through space would last longer than even the Earth itself.  Eventually, the sun would supernova and the Earth and the Moon and every human landmark in the Solar System would be absorbed, melted, obliterated.  But Jess’s small, silent, staggered rays of light would live on.

Forever.

. . .

In college, he studied engineering and physics, trying to decide which way to go.  Both were incredibly tough.  Jess had programmed the computer in his bedroom at home to aim the roof-mounted laser at the emptiest reaches of space.  He had saved hundreds of different coded messages and each night, his computer sent the messages into space.

He was so busy at school, he forgot about the laser most of the time.  And, miracle of miracles, he finally had a girlfriend!

But when he came home on breaks, he checked the laser on the roof.  He cleared the dead leaves away, wiped the lens, applied another coat of water proofing.  He checked his sky maps and scheduled some new programs to run when he was away.  At night, sitting on the deck, he thought up new messages to send.

Hi

I am Jess

This message will outlast everyone

The pharaohs

The presidents

Taylor Swift

BTS

Remember me

Jess was not trying to reach anyone out there.  He never thought to try to look for replies to his messages.  Besides, detecting a laser reply from space would be quite a trick.  That would take more physics, engineering and money than he had.

So it was merely by luck that he was sitting on the back deck after graduation, drinking a beer and peering up into the sky, that he saw it.


A single star blinked a rhythm of dots and dashes, over and over, like ocean waves. Jess’s beer crashed on the deck, spilling between the planks. He scrambled for his phone and recorded a video, pointing to the heavens, and muttering the words that flickered in clumsy Morse.

Hi Jess

Its grandpa

Dont worry

Everything will be alright

Jess staggered backwards and flipped his camera. He garbled something about his grandfather’s funeral and uploaded it to the Web.

Twenty likes.

Fifty likes.

Three hundred.

Eight thousand.

Within ten minutes, more than a million views ticked across the screen.

Was this really happening?

All he could think about were the lyrics to that Beatles song, stuck on repeat.

Images of broken light
Which dance before me like a million eyes
They call me on and on across the universe

His phone shuddered. Unknown number.

Jai Guru Deva, Om
Nothing’s gonna change my world
Nothing’s gonna change my . . .

“Hello?”

“Hello, is this Jess Dawson?” A voice sharp as gravel crunched down the earpiece.

“Who are you?”

“Name’s Grant Knox, FBI. We’re sending a chopper for you.”

In the distance, a low rumble carried across the sky. Jess shook his head. “A chopper? Why?”

“For your protection, Jess. We saw your video. Half the world’s seen it by now. You’ve no idea how long we’ve been trying to make contact.”

“Contact? With who?”

“You’d best pack some things. We need to get you secure.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re about to go down in history, Jess. People will be talking about this forever.”

“About what?” Jess looked at the sky. The flashing dots.

Dont worry

Everything will be alright


I hope you enjoyed this piece of flash fiction that Matthew and Frasier wrote together. It was a fun collaboration!

For more fun endings to this story, look for some honorable mention finalists in a separate blog post later this week. And next week, we’ll reveal the October Contest story beginning and the new prize!

Finally, if you enjoyed Frasier’s prize-winning ending, please make sure to share some kind comments below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross and Frasier Armitage

Win a cash prize if you write the best finish to my story!

Image: Person pointing flashlight into the night sky. Text: Hello, Universe!--Win a cash prize if you write the best finish to my story!
Photo by Andreas Dress (unsplash.com/@andreasdress)
Photo of crocheted narwhal amigurumi, which is a prize for the contest, along with $25

This is my very first Finish-My-Story Contest. So I’m offering a cash prize of $25 plus this amigarumi collectible that I crocheted myself. (It’s a narwhal.)

September Contest: All submissions are due by midnight September 15, 2020. 

Look here for contest rules.

Hello, Universe!

Jess leaned back in the blue, plastic Adirondack chair on the back deck.  It was a kids chair and he had almost outgrown it.  But it was the only chair that allowed him to tilt his head back to look at the stars.

Tunes from the 1960s purred from the outdoor speaker.  His Mom kept the family speakers on a steady rotation of “decades” music going back seventy years.

They lived in the suburbs.  With light pollution, Jess knew he wasn’t even seeing half the stars up there.  But this summer, with all the bad news online, he found himself escaping to the quiet of the back deck and looking at the starry sky.

In school, he had read about the Civil War and the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement and a bunch of other depressing stuff.  And then his grandfather had died.  Jess and his grandfather were not close, but everyone went to the funeral and everyone cried.  Even Jess cried.

Sometime that summer, Jess realized everyone else in his family would die.  Not anytime soon.  Probably not, anyway.  But, eventually, his parents would grow old and die.  And, eventually, Jess would also grow old and die.  And if he ever had kids, they would grow old and die.  Someday, everyone Jess knew would be dead.

It sucked.

Staring up at the night sky made him feel small and a little scared.  It never used to before.  But when he was little, he didn’t know how much empty space was really up there.  And how tiny the Earth really was.

Last week and the week before he had stared up at the stars.

Maybe, he had thought, it would be OK to die as long as I’m remembered.  Maybe I could get famous like Elvis or Beyonce.  So famous that no one would ever forget me.

Jess had thought about that for a couple of weeks.  He would have to be really famous to be remembered in two million years.  Like Hitler famous.  And he didn’t want to be evil.  He remembered seeing photos of the gas chambers and shuddered.

In two million years, the wind might even wear down the Great Pyramids and the even the pharaohs of Egypt would be forgotten.

Words floated from the speaker on the dark, night air.

Words are flowing out like

Endless rain into a paper cup

They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe

It was “Across the Universe” by the Beatles.  His Dad loved the Beatles.  All of the Beatles were dead.

Pools of sorrow, waves of joy

Are drifting through my opened mind

And that’s when the idea struck Jess.  He rummaged through the junk drawer and found a penlight.  He sat back in the kid-size Adirondack and shone the light into the sky.

Dad was an engineer and he knew lots of science.  He said light beams were made of photons.  In space, photons just keep traveling forever–travel at the speed of light, Dad said–unless they hit something. Like a planet or a star.

Jess sent the weak beam of light into space.  He clicked the light on and off.  If he knew Morse Code, he could send a message on a stream of photons into space.  And if that beam never ran into a star or a planet, it would travel forever.  Unlike the pyramids, it would never be worn down by wind or time.

The next day Jess bought a brand new flashlight–the most powerful one he could afford at the big box hardware store.  That night on the deck, he sent coded messages into space.  He looked up Morse code on his phone and shot off the messages in different directions into the sky.

Hi

I am here

My name is Jess

Im alive

I dont want to die

Never forget me

 . . .

Halfway through high school, Jess had learned enough about lasers to build his own high-powered laser from a kit.  He even got his Dad to help mount it on the roof.  Mom thought he was crazy, but Dad was into science stuff and thought it was a cool project.

Jess studied star charts and learned how to aim his laser using the computer in his room.  He sent coded messages into the night sky almost every night.  He aimed the laser into the empty stretches between stars, nebulae, and galaxies to give his messages the best chance of flying forever through space.

No human would ever see them.  Racing at the speed of light away from the Earth, no human could ever catch up with them to capture the light and decode it.

And what alien would ever know how to decode Morse code?  Or care to try?

But Jess knew that his coded messages racing through space would last longer than even the Earth itself.  Eventually, the sun would supernova and the Earth and the Moon and every human landmark in the Solar System would be absorbed, melted, obliterated.  But Jess’s small, silent, staggered rays of light would live on.

Forever.

. . .

In college, he studied engineering and physics, trying to decide which way to go.  Both were incredibly tough.  Jess had programmed the computer in his bedroom at home to aim the roof-mounted laser at the emptiest reaches of space.  He had saved hundreds of different coded messages and each night, his computer sent the messages into space.

He was so busy at school, he forgot about the laser most of the time.  And, miracle of miracles, he finally had a girlfriend!

But when he came home on breaks, he checked the laser on the roof.  He cleared the dead leaves away, wiped the lens, applied another coat of water proofing.  He checked his sky maps and scheduled some new programs to run when he was away.  At night, sitting on the deck, he thought up new messages to send.

Hi

I am Jess

This message will outlast everyone

The pharaohs

The presidents

Taylor Swift

BTS

Remember me

Jess was not trying to reach anyone out there.  He never thought to try to look for replies to his messages.  Besides, detecting a laser reply from space would be quite a trick.  That would take more physics, engineering and money than he had.

So it was merely by luck that he was sitting on the back deck after graduation, drinking a beer and peering up into the sky, that he saw it. (This final paragraph is optional for your story ending.)

 . . . .

Submit your story ending

I can’t wait to see your story endings! Don’t forget to read the contest rules.

Please post your story endings below.

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross

Contest Rules

Each month, I’ll post a new, unfinished story. Write your own ending in 500 words or less. Post your ending as a comment at the bottom of the contest story page.

I will read all the entries. I will judge them based on three factors:

  • How interesting the ending is.
  • How well the entry continues the style and feel of my part of the story.
  • How well written the entry is, including if it contains a good mix of exciting action, snappy dialogue, and vivid description. (Not all endings require dialogue, but if done well, it always helps.)

What about the prize? OK, Slytherin, if you want to know so badly, skip to the end below!

Deadline

All entries must be submitted as a comment on the original story contest page by midnight on the 15th day of the contest month. If the comments remain open after that time, you can leave a comment or paste your story ending, but it will not be considered for judging.

I will pick a winner. I will announce the winner in a new blog post by the end of the month. I will also announce the winner on Twitter at @mattcrosswrites. If you leave your Twitter handle in your post (and if you win), I will include your Twitter handle in my announcement. On Twitter, I will mention you more than once. Probably an embarrassing number of times. I’m very proud of all my contestants, and especially proud of the winners.

Content and Name

All story content must be PG-rated or G-rated. Because I am the judge, I will decide what is PG-rated. If your submission is more like PG-13 or more “mature,” I will read the story and I may share a comment with you if I like it. But I will not allow it to post to this site. (I like all good writing, but this site is just not the right forum for such “mature” content.)

Your name and your Twitter handle don’t have to be real names. I love pen names! But don’t make me feel foolish posting them, or I won’t pick you as the winner. I’m not going to announce the winning story was written by Iam A. Moron, also known on Twitter as @FartFace. (I may be a moron and a fart face, but don’t make me announce it on the internet!)

Do you have to provide a Twitter handle? No.

Do you have to provide a real e-mail address? Yes. Without an e-mail address, I can’t send you the prize. And I won’t pick you as the winner.

What will I do with the e-mail address? If you are the winner, I’ll use the e-mail address to let you know you won and make arrangements to send you the prize. For other uses of e-mail, see my Privacy Policy.

Who owns the story?

We do. I own the beginning I wrote. You own the ending you wrote. The complete story that includes your ending is owned by both of us. It will be written “by [Your Name] and Matthew Cross.”

If you send me a story ending by posting it in the comments on my website, then you are giving me permission to post any part of your submitted story content on any page of my website forever.

Announcing the winner

By the end of the contest month, I will post the winning story–my beginning and your ending–as a blog post for all of our fans to read. If I have enough good entries, I may also post two or three finalist stories. At this time, I only have the resources to give one prize. To the winner go the spoils. (Also, “There can be only one!”)

Prizes galore!

Maj. A. Ward

For the December contest, I’m awarding the winner a $25 Amazon gift card, the astronaut trophy, Maj. A. Ward (shown below or to the right), and much more! See the complete list of prizes here.

Also, Maj. A. Ward is not a toy. She’s an astronaut. She’s also not made to safety standards for children to play with. So just put her on a high shelf and admire her.

And I will post your winning story on my website! Fame and glory await you!

What else?

I think that covers it.

If you have any questions, post them as a comment on the contest story page or e-mail me at matthewcrosswrites@gmail.com.

Otherwise, get to work. You have some writing to do. Best of luck!

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross