Each issue features a Mysterious Photograph. Readers are invited to submit a 250-word (or less) flash fiction story based on the photo. The person who invents the best mystery story receives a prize of $25, and the story is published in a future issue.
The Story That Won the September/October contest:
© Vitalii Nesterchuk / Shutterstock.com
by Jess Harris
Many dozens of ice climbs taught Vina how to plan approaches, jam her crampons for footholds, and swing her axe in smooth, penetrating arcs. But she suspected that Yosemite’s Widow’s Tears, her most ambitious and dangerous climb yet, would be a life-changing experience.
She pulled herself onto the ledge after the eighth pitch, and paused to enjoy the view. Long sheets of glittering ice streaked the sheer canyon walls. An eagle made effortless circles below them.
She secured herself into her belay station, then pushed a loop of rope through the carabiner on the belay point, starting a figure eight. Remembering, she untied it and wound the loop around the ice screw, holding the end in her hands.
“On belay!” she shouted to her husband, Ritter, waiting a hundred feet below.
Shaking and fatigued, but too cocky to quit, he climbed, taking over an hour to make the pitch. He reached for the ledge, then disappeared. The belay rope pulled taut. Vina peered over the edge, where Ritter dangled in his harness.
“I’m fine,” he said, voice trembling.
She shook her head. “You’ve got the screaming barfies, Rit. Alcohol and lack of sleep will do that. You know better. Just like you know that when you crawl back into bed at four a.m., you shouldn’t smell like booze and cheap perfume.”
“I’m sorry,” Ritter said, but he never really was.
Vina’s arms and back ached from holding the rope.
“C’mon, V,” Ritter pleaded. “I’m sorry, okay? Let it go.”
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