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 prizes? 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.)

If you want an example, here is a bit of violence contained in a winning entry. This is the most visceral we’ve gotten so far. “Less than a second later, a searing bolt of plasma hit his chest like a sledgehammer and sent him tumbling backwards into the cold depths of the Elizabeth River.”

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 prizes. 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 (or if you e-mail it to me), 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!

For the March 2022 contest, I’m awarding the winner a $50 Amazon gift card, a crocheted rocket trophy , and much more! See the complete list of prizes here.

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, e-mail me at matthewcrosswrites@gmail.com.

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

Be stellar!

Matthew Cross