1st Place – June 2018




Cheri Fruehan


            I can’t remember when it was I died. Well, not the exact moment anyway. I certainly recall the day, and how it felt. Ungodly hot. On the day of my death, the summer air was abnormally thick and stagnant, the type of environment I wouldn’t dare expose myself to…ever. I hated summer. She was a sadist who took pleasure in draping her steaming hot blanket over us, holding it down, attempting to suffocate us all.
            I was not alone in my indignation, for there were others with me. We were all captive, within the same space, hiding, trying to keep cool, trying to avoid our eventual fate. A fate that would soon become glaringly obvious. Temporarily shielded from the sweltering atmosphere, we remained boxed within four windowless walls, shoulder to shoulder, with little room to move about. We were imprisoned, but at least it was cool within our confines. Chilly, even, as speckles of frost lined the walls. The air was fresh and crisp, almost sweet-smelling. A direct contrast to the hellish world outside.
            Every time the door to our shelter opened, I winced, shielding my eyes from the blazing sun, as its fiery orb pulsated in the hazy sky, threatening to end my life; all our lives.
            I scolded myself when I thought about the others. It was every man for himself in our sanctuary from the sun. I knew I had to push the others out of my mind. It was the only way I was going to survive. I needed to figure out a way. However, I was not in control, for it was the sentinel at the door who held our fate in his hands. Every time the door opened, our captor would remove one, sometimes two, of my brothers and sisters and send them out to be devoured in the cruel world by those who had no respect for our kind.  Sometimes, the guard would visit often. Other times, there would be a lull in the action. The frightening thing, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason in his choosing. I couldn’t figure out the pattern.
            Each time the door opened, I tried to make myself invisible, to be inconspicuous, to not draw attention. My plan seemed to be working. I hadn’t been summoned. I appeared to be safe in a population that dwindled by the hour. Unfortunately, I had the audacity to exhale.
            As soon as I thought I had averted crisis, it happened. I heard the mumbling of voices on the other side…something about choosing. Suddenly the door opened and I was grabbed by our captor, along with another brother of mine. We were frozen with fear. We could not move, as we were pulled out of our air-conditioned environment and into the stifling atmosphere. I began to sweat immediately, as I listened to the conversation.
            “Which one?” the guard asked the figure who approached.
            And that’s when I saw him, the one who requested me. There he was, walking down the street towards me, with a hunger in his wild eyes. He raised his chubby arm, pointing at me with his fat finger as he licked his upper lip. He was disgusting. The guard pushed me forward. “This one?”
            “Yeah,” answered my new master.
            The guard quickly shoved my brother back into our shelter and slammed the door. I was devastated. Dizzy from the heat, my vision began to blur as sweat dripped into my eyes. My master paid the guard for me and I was relinquished into his hands. His dirty hands. They were all over me as he looked me up and down, assessing every inch of me. I couldn’t think straight. I was furious, I was frightened, I was literally melting in the brutal sun.
            “You’re my favorite.” He spoke directly to me.
            Was he trying to soften me up? In any other situation, I could be sweet on the inside but not today. He wasn’t going to get the best of me. I was determined to preserve my hard protective shell. Alas, my determination found it difficult to withstand the scorching sun! I was weak and waning. I wanted to cry, yet I was adamant to not break, as my master started to undress me. He tore off the only thing protecting me from the sinister fireball in the sky.
            There I was, naked, sweating, as he drew his face nearer to me, his lips moist and plump like cherries pulled from the cooler, left to condensate in the heat. His hot breath, all over me, as he opened his mouth and licked me.
            “Mmmmm…” he said.
            I winced. It was demoralizing, this abuse. I wished myself dead. In that instant, as if he read my mind, he opened his gap-toothed mouth and took a bite of me. He had granted my wish. I heard the crunch and feared the worst as he gnashed his teeth. I must have been in shock, for I was numb. I didn’t feel a thing. Correction. I did feel one thing. Hatred.
            I hated that bitch, summer. I hated the oppressive sun. I hated being an ice cream bar in the hands of an eight-year-old murderer.

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