Honorable Mentions: Bebe Yama and Amanda Finlaw

Paul and Joe, the Giant Squids

A Cephalopodcast Fanfic by Amanda Finlaw

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Once there was a giant squid named Joe. Joe was very sad and and lonely because he meandered through the oceans alone with no one to appreciate his giant body and intellectual squid thoughts. Then one day he met another giant squid named Paul, who turned out to be his long lost brother! Joe's tentacles flailed left and right in excitement. "Poor Joe, you must have been so lonely" said Paul, who had many friends including an anglerfish named Hank and a bird named Jackson. 

So now that Joe and Paul were no longer estranged brothers, they went on a giant squid extravaganza. During this time, they found themselves not in the ocean, but in the Wissahickon River in Philadelphia, PA. They rose to the surface, saw a large castle on top of a hill and thought they returned to Hogwarts, where their great grandfather giant squid was born. But no, Jack the Bird said, "You doofuses don't even know you're in Philly at Chestnut Hill College?" And then they knew. 

Paul and Joe, the giant squids, settled in the river and found that Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home, even if it isn't really Hogwarts. Joe was never lonely again. 

 

Aaron's Day Off : An Aaron Carter Fan-Fiction

by Bebe Yama

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What is a day off, when you had no childhood? thinks Aaron as he stares at a 5-foot xerox cutout of his own face. The face--a gift from some fans in Florida--is leaning against the glossy grey wall of his den. He takes a swig of Simply Orange brand orange juice and turns on the TV. The flickering glow of the TV outshines the white glow of the sun that whispers from behind the closed vertical blinds. It's 11AM. Aaron's freshly bleached hair and A-Top are an ideal canvas for the dancing light emitted from the TV. The cable box is always left transmitting the MTV or Starz channels. He opens the Instagram App on his phone, yet another source of dim blue-white light illuminating the face of a bankrupt American heartthrob. 

Author's note: After conducting further research on Aaron Carter's current situation, the author has forfeited her attempt to compose a piece about him and would like to personally wish that Aaron experiences a sense of peace and communion with himself those that surround him.

Third Prize Winner - The Pants of Many Mothers by Dirk Keaton

The Pants of Many Mothers by Dirk Keaton

A Mad Max x Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Story

love this story as much as we do? feel free to email Dirk at bioproject@gmail.com

We all knew the Keeper of the Seeds came from a place beyond the green space, beyond the salt expanse.  For years she had said so little, but as she grew old, time loosened her tongue.  We sometimes heard her call it Beth Esda, but we could scarcely understand the things she said about it.  Beth Esda, she saidd, was by Washing Town, a city between two rivers where people used the water to play in.  Young girls ran through it as it sprayed from holes in the street, and older ones paddled through it in canooze and kie-yaks.  In the river was a green place, greener than the one we called by that name, where the paths wound narrow through plants so thick they could choke out the light.  There was a time when no one would have believed her, few believed her still, but for her sincerity, our respect.  Later, we believed her for the pants.

Capable had them first.  Soon after we returned to The Citadel (which we came to call the City of Del, wanting to wash the taint of Immortan Joe off all things) she began spending time in the garages with the tradies and those war boys who had stayed behind in Immortan Joe's final battle.  Her first days among the black thumbs were hard.  They were respectful, more so than most of the men and women who followed her with eyes envious, salacious, or hateful, the sweating one in the dirty gray coveralls who rubbed against her while she stood waiting for necessities distributed from the opened pantries of Immortan Joe.  She tried to watch at a distance at first, but the tradies made many supplicating gestures and talked of their work with great pride, showing off condensers which gathered the water, the repairs they had made on broken war rigs and trucks which Immortan Joe had left behind and now were the backbone of Del's army.  "Teach me" she asked, but it was no use.  Bananna Bender, a war boy whose neck was so ringed with lumbs that he could barely move it, said "Teach ye what lady.  You're a goddess ye are.  We got nothing to teach ye."  

She stayed back and watched a war boy named Hoon work on a motor.  She pretended to herself she was learning from his ministrations, tried to pick out a pattern, but there was none that she could find.

A week passed like this with Capable staring intently, the ratchet and clang of tools the only sound.  She felt foolish, and thoughts of rejoining the other former wives, finding some other use of her time, grew more and more frequent.  Then, Hoon broke the silence, "Goddess, Goddess.  Would ye spread the flux for me.  I can't barely hold it."

He indicated a can and paint brush with a hand that had developed reddening blisters of no certain origin.

Once she realized what he was saying, she skittered over and did as she was told, spreading an amber colored goo on the pipes he indicated.  After all of the loose ends of the pipes were coated, he appraised her work with a satisfied click of his tongue and asked her to unwind some solder.  He demonstrated how to hold it and lit a guzzoline [1] torch.  It burned blue.  That flame was the most beautiful thing Capable had ever seen.  They worked like this, fashioning a roll cage for what seemed like hours, the goggles she had worn since her escape from Immortan Joe fogging in the heat, until a smoky smell interrupted them.  The crepe of Capable's wrap was on fire.  She threw it to the ground, and both stomped at it madly.

They were catching their breath and coughing from the smoke when Banana Bender's great hand smacked Hoon.  He doubled over.  With a second swipe of his enormous paw, Hoon was down.

She ran screaming.  When she sat down in her cell, she let out a second scream, this one in anger at herself.  She beat her mattress and cried.  She knew she should have stayed there and explained.  She knew she should have never gone there to begin with.  Hoon was surely dead.  She knew what the War Boys could do.

It was all she could do to walk through the door the next day.  Banana Bender was the first to see her and Hoon skulked behind her looking only a little worse for yesterday's beating.  The expression on Bender's face was severe "Goddess, i can't get rid of ye.  If i can't get rid of ye, then i must make a black thumb of ye.  Hoon, show her the ropes today.  Then, show up tomorrow in some decent togs."  His eyes smiled.  "I don't want ye starting any more fires."

She and Hoon worked late into the evening, and when she left, her clothes were more black than white.

 

Toast and Carmana of the Vuvalini had taken charge of cataloging and distributing the stores of Immortan Joe to the Citizens of Del. Toast always had a good head for numbers, and though she had never learned to write, she picked up the script that Carmina taught her quickly.

Toast stifled a laugh when she saw Capable.  "i won't even bother to ask what you need."  She rifled through orderly stacks of clothes and pulled out a shearer's shirt and a pair of blue jeans.

"They belonged to Keeper of the Seeds," she said as she handed over the jeans.  "She was so tiny, but they look like they might fit you."

Most of the clothes worn at Del were old, remnants of the time long ago, patched, darned, and thin most everywhere.  The pants, however, the pants seemed...not new...but not worn out...not as old as the other clothes...It was as if they had been made on a Pants Farm not so long ago and treated as Immortan Joe treated his treasured things.  They seemed perfect in every way.

They were wide, straight, and stiff with cargo pockets at mid thigh.  The shirt was cool and soft.  She looked in the mirror, a gilded thing taken from Immortan Joe's chambers.  She liked what she saw.  For so much of her life, she had been exposed, her limbs things stared at by Immortan Joe and his cronies.  She envied the tradies who were proud of their arm and legs, proud of their strength.  In those clothes, she thought, she might some day feel the same way.

"Get me a pair of blunnies" she smiled.

***

They rode through the desert. The sandy ground was packed hard, and the thick tires clung to it almost as tightly as a road.  See smiled at Hoon who rode alongside her on a dirt bike, and he mouthed "fang it."  She opened the clutch.  50, 60, 70 miles an hour.  She whooped, and Hoon yelled, "This is Valhalla."

She and Hoon had spent the past few weeks building their buggy.  It sat one, and Hoon had insisted she be the first one to drive it.  This was one of the kindest things she could imagine.  She had learned so much on this buggy, how to solder and weld, how to change a tube, how to replace a spark plug, what the sound of a healthy engine was.  This knowledge seemed more than everything she had learned before.  This, a tear running down into the gulf between her goggles and her face, was the first thing she'd ever really made, the first thing she felt like she'd ever really done.

Ahead were a stand of trees, or what were once trees, now husks, all desiccated and some charred .  Two figures emerged from them.  Covered in dark rags, they vaulted on long poles flying towards them.  Capable pulled a hard left, and the buggy rolled, rolled three or four times before landing upside down. 

Her head and neck ached, and her very bones seemed sore.  When she unclasped her buckle and tried to get out, she landed hard.  She was sure this only made matters worse, but her adrenaline was pumping so hard she couldn't be sure.  She crawled out of the buggy's open window.

Two ragged figures rushed up next to her.  A blade flashed.  She put up her hands instinctively to keep the blow away from get face and was rewarded with searing pain in her palm and wrist.  The other smacked her on the side of her head, and she saw brief dazzling lights as she crumpled.  Then, she heard Hoon yell, "Goddess!"  He ran swinging a long spanner.  They deflected his clumsy blows easily, but he pressed the attack and circled towards her.  Still feeling feeble, Capable reached into her sagging cargo pocket and produced a small, toylike pistol, a treasure she swiped from Joe's war rig.  She fired twice without bothering to line the creatures in her sight, not that she knew how. It had the desired effect.  The two wraiths turned tail and ran. 

"Why dinya tell me ye had a fookin gun," his pounding heart slurring his words

She didn't answer.  Hoon grabbed her by her still bleeding hand, and she climbed on the back of his motorcycle and clutched him.  After few miles, he stopped, and she slid off feeling weaker from the loss of blood.  The white powder that adorned his skin made her blood stand out in steaks and rivulets on his chest.  Hoon pulled a stained bandana from his throat and tied it right around her wrist.  "Don't die on me goddess," he said. She thought of Nux, the sweet-natured war boy who died to save them.  She leaned her head on Hoon's shoulder.  He stiffened, but he did not move away. 

***

Dag visited her the next afternoon in her cell.  Capable had vomited the few times she'd tried to stand, but the loss of blood had left her ravenous.

"You look like shit."

"You look like a regular Garbo yourself," Capable replied.

Dag beamed.  She was covered in the dirt of the garden.  Like Capable, she'd thrust herself into work after arriving at Del.  In many ways, her job had been the hardest.  The War Boys valued strength above all else, so while they may have regarded the wives as goddesses because they were once the consorts of Immortan Joe, their allegiance went to the victor, and there could be doubt that Joe had lost.  Joe's gardeners were loyal, well-fed, and sure that they had nothing to gain and everything to lose from an alliance with the Vuvalini, who were as concerned with feeding those Citizens of Del once called The Wretched as they were with feeding themselves.

For a while, Carmana, the Vuvalini who organized the defenses of Del, simply exiled them from the garden, but a gardener, Eustace, snuck in one night and set fire to the fields, destroying most of the crops before a bucket crew organized by Dag snuffed it out.  Eustace had shown up the next morning declaring what he'd done with a self-satisfied smirk on his face.  Carmina had nearly beat him to death.  Dag had been the one to restrain her, and in the week since, he sometimes wished she hadn't.  Ortlinde (who we all called Lindie), the older of the surviving Vuvalini and the one closest to The Keeper of the Seeds, had told her that the ashes of the fire would help things grow, but that was cold comfort.  The people needed food now.

"Take the pants."

"Loonie"

"I don't mean keep 'em, but wear 'em for a while.  I'm gonna be laid up, and those things of yours are more hole than pants."

When Dag put them on, the pants seemed transformed.  They still had the same pockets, but they fit tightly, hugging the upper thighs and flaring at the ankle.  The grease spots that Capable had left there seemed faded, almost artful.  Dag had always hated it the most when Immortan Joe wanted to root, but no one was more confident in her looks.  While Capable and Cheedo had slunk away from the attentions of the guards that Immorten Joe had placed on them and Toast and Angharad had withered them with an imperious glance, Dag had always laughed them off or flirted back.  The pants seemed to know that she was bold, reckless, unfraid of being seen as sexy. 

"You look a chickie babe in those."

"Fag off."

"Really."

***

Toast worried that Immortan Joe mgiht have been right.  Hundreds died or began dying in the initial rush to slake their thirst when they opened the aquifer to the Citizens of Del.  They vomited violently and passed out, made sick by too much water too quickly.  Lindie, after finding Immortan Joe's stores of salt and sugar, had mixed water "that tasted like tears" and brought some back to life.  She arrived too late to save many, and others weakly spat up the solution.  By Toast's estimates, Del had less than twelve hundred Citizens.   Almost a third of them wouldn't take any more water than Joe had given them, and they refused the extra food that they were offered.  Toast believed that, after the fire, they had enough fresh food to distribute at current levels for a month.  After that, they would have to resort to tins.

Joe had an impressive store of tins, but no one knew how long those would last.  A perfectly fine looking can of fruit in heavy syrup might open with a sound like a gunshot, a sign that the savvy foragers among them knew meant certain death to those who tried to eat from it.

Seven days after the fire, a sleek black sedan, spotless, with its trunk and back seat sawed away to accommodate a gun platform, and a phalanx of similarly black ATVs arrived at del.  The sedan towed a trailer packed with quandong, warrigal greens, and other produce.  A woman stepped out, tall and made taller by impossibly high wedge heels, her black hair greased and pulled back in a severe ponytail, and her ears filled with dozens of rings chained to a single ring in her nose.  It was Braineater[2] , the new ruler of Gas Town.

She strode into the former throne room of Immortan Joe where Toast had made her office.  "Do you now rule, little one?"  She appraised Toast with a glance that was followed by a tremor.

Toast was too stunned to speak, but Carmana had never had trouble finding the right thing to say "We all rule Del."

She looked out the window of the throne room, theatrically stared at the hundreds of citizens basking in the sun, too starved to do anything but linger.  She stifled a chuckle "I see."

"We have heard you're in need of food.  We have food--quite better than you can manage here."  She tossed Toast and Carmen quandongs.  Toast tried hers.  It was larger and sweeter than the kind you could sometimes find wild.  It would almost make a meal in Del.  Carmana took one bite and spat it out.  Braineater laughed, a deep laughed stopped only by one of her tremors.  "This one is too droll"

"You need food.  We always need more hands.  Hands to work our pumps. Hands to drill our wells."

"Hands to shove up your bum," Carmana shouted.

Braineater wheeled and turned away.

Toast pensively ate her quandong, worrying its thick, brainlike nut with her teeth.

***

Cheedo hated the watch, but she felt like she did so little, so she could never refuse when her time came.

While the other wives had traded out the revealing clothes of wives for something more practical, she still wore her accustomed whites.  This was, perhaps, because she felt like so little had changed for her, for the City of Del.  While the others had found jobs, welcome changes from the tedium and fear of their days with Joe, she spent most of her days in her cell, resenting that she could not find a new life to lose herself in.  When she got out, she walked among the citizens, most often those who starved themselves.  She'd help them when she could, coax sad eyed ones to take a spoon of broth or sometimes sit with those who waited quietly to die.

The night watch was cold.  Winds whipped hard and fast across the sky and chilled the sweat that gathered on her skin throughout the day.  Dag had loaned her a light flannelette and a pair of pants that she said she had borrowed from Capable.  She didn't bother to look at herself in the mirror, but the pants hugged her waist and hips in a way that felt comforting, right.

She sat with a dozen others and gazed out from the roof the central tower of Del.  The smell of last week's fire seemed to hang in the air.  The automatic rifle weighed heavily in her hands, its strap digging into her shoulder.

A shout pierced the night, and she rushed to the edge of the roof with the other guards.  Through the night, she could make out spindly-legged things skittering across the waste.  Fires guttured and spread.  Tents collapsed.

"Get on the fucking lift," Carmana shouted.  "Cheedo, stay here and help me hold the fort."  Cheedo was ashamed and thankful for her.  She knew Carmana would rather be running headlong into battle with the rest, but she didn't trust Cheedo to guard the roof alone.

Muzzles flared and blades flashed in the distance.  The battle was noisy, so noisy that Cheedo almost missed the distant rumble of a guzzoline engine.  Cheedo, superstitiously quiet, motioned to Carmana.  They crept to the the other end of the tower.  A black insect crept across the desert.  Carmana's binoculars revealed it was a long truck, plated with chitinous armor and topped by a ladder.  The rig slowed and the ladder telescoped out, inching towards the roof of the central tower of Del.

It stopped short, but a ragged figure assembled at the top.  It tied lines to the ladder and threw out grappling hooks, rough, spiny, wicked looking things.  These were not tools left over from the time before but creations of a twisted smith--extra rows of hooks and spiky, harpoonlike teeth glinted.  A few caught onto the roof.

Carmana kicked away a hook, but still more followed.  The truck backed up slightly, pulling the hooks taut.  Carmana bent down, working them free.  Another hook, one with few barbs but several wicked harpoon points, caught her in the shoulder.  She went down.

Cheedo froze, watching her death approach.  More ragged figures streamed up the ladder and crawled across the web their lines had made.

Cheedo sobbed.  She wanted to give up, but the rifle strained against her shoulder in protest. She couldn't just let Carmana die. She spayed the ropes and ladder with bullets, her eyes half blind with tears.  The bruising recoil ended with a click.  Though more slowly, the ragged figures advanced.  She fumbled with the clip, sure she couldn't replace it in time when a blinding flash exploded in front of her.  She shielded her eyes to turn away and saw Carmana, hook still portruding from her shoulder, ready a second grenade.

The truck pulled away after the second blast trailing still-burning streamers.

"Fuckers," Carmana yelled after them.  "You saved me out there, Cheedo."

"I doubt i hit a thing"

"We call that suppressing fire, and I'm always thankful for that."

***

"They had quandong nuts in all of their pockets." Toast dropped a nut on the table for all to see.  The former wives of Joe and the Vuvalini met the morning after the battle, in Joe's opulent dinning room. 

"That slagger is sending us a message" Carmana said, wincing from hatred and the pain of her recently cauterized wound.

"I think...I think we should listen," Toast said.

"Get stuffed," Dag spat.  "You want to give up, and I'm not ready to be a part of that slagger's barbie."

"Give me a fair suck of the sav.  More people are eating more, drinking more water than they ever did before.  This is the life we want, the life the people of Del deserve.  We can't keep feeding them if we don't have food.  You know that better than anyone, Dag.  We lost another 100 last night.  We've got to save who we can."

"Is it what you want or what the Citizens of Del want?"  Carmana hissed.  "Do you think you're Immortan Joe?  You wave a hand and everyone races into battle or into the refineries of braineater."

Toast hung her head.  "What would you have us do?"

"The Vuvalini talked." Lindie was usually so quiet, so her words held an uncanny weight.  "And then we decided together.  We are...were...a family.  That's what families do."[3] 

***

Capable felt for the first time like a creature of the wastes, a citizen of Del.  Her arm was in a sling and her leg in a brace that could bend a little that the tradies had made that for her.  She slunk across floors that she once strode.  Now, she knew why Joe called them The Wretched.

She and Hoon could at best do the work of one person since they each only had one usable hand, but they had little help.  Most of the ones who could hold a rifle were out patrolling, looking for the Ragged Ones. They were building a truck that could fight them.  A flamethrower sat on a platform atop its flatbed, and a shell of pipes surrounded the body of the truck.  Capable modeled it after the dome where Immortan Joe kept his his wives, but this dome fitted with spikes and blades was as fearsome as Joe's was serene, idyllic.

"You expect to defend Del with that?" Bananna Bender asked one night.  He had stopped by, ostensibly to get guzzoline for his bike but probably to check on the pair who often worked late into the night.

"We plan on taking the fight to them," Hoon replied.

Bananna bender smiled.  The next night he and a teenaged war pup named Bogan joined in.  They didn't announce themselves.  They just grabbed guzzoline torches and asked where to solder.

The truck was finished a week and a half after the attack on The City of Del.  The hardest part had been getting the big swamp tires on the truck.  Hoon and Capable knew nothing about pneumatic suspensions, so Bender had to teach them.  Since neither knew how to leave well enough alone, they spent the day experimenting, making changes that Bender would have to undo in the evening.

Capable wore the pants on the night of their raid.  They had been passed among the the other three wives almost daily, though Cheedo wore them the most, sometimes handing them off to Dag or Toast at night and asking for them again in the morning.

This was the first time that Capable had worn them since the attack on the buggy.  They seem to have absorbed the smell of the oil lamps that Toast worked by, the dirt that dag worked in, and the heady smell of those Citizens of Del once known as The Wretched that Cheedo spent most of her time among.  She would, she knew, add the sickly sweet stink of guzzoline.

They traveled by night.  No one knew if the ragged ones were nocturnal, but their truck would move slowly across the swamps.  Any assault made during the day would be obvious.

Hoon sat alongside her, and Bogan was strapped into a rumble seat by the gun platform.  The always considerate Hoon had offered to move the pedals to the left so that She could more easily drive with her good leg, but she didn't want to.  Flipping the buggy and losing Hoon's steering wheel had made her cautious.  Hoon drove now with a simple wheel that Capable had made out of pipes that she had soldered together, brass and iron alternating.  In the bottom, she had etched Hoon's name.  Hoon had been never taught to read and treated the wheel and the discovery of his own name as precious.  He'd asked Capable what her name looked like once, and that morning, she'd awoken to find that both of their names were etched into the car in a rough hand.

The close air of the swamp broke her reverie.  Hoon had flipped the lights off miles before the Swamp, so they traveled only by his night vision.  Fireflies flocked through the air dazzling sight.  Any hope she had of spotting one of ragged one's cap fires was at best naive.

A thud resounded against the shell.  Two more followed.  Capable aimed a 44 caliber pistol across her body.  She braced it with her right arm which was still bound in a sling.  The ragged figured crawled around the dome, poking experimentally with their swords.  One skittered towards her, blade flashing.  She fired a shot that shook her arm and chest.  She doubted that she hit the figure, but it, at least, slank away. 

Bogan shouted "arms in," and he swept the cage with the flamethrower.  The figures screamed and rolled off, streaming flames.  In the light of the flamethrower, Capable could see more lurk towards the truck, navigating the swamp on stilts.  A volley of spears flew at the truck, but they clattered helplessly off or became caught In the cage.

Hoon turned on the headlights and turned in the direction of the advancing figures.  He knocked over some stiltwalkers.  One or two lept away, but still others were less successful.  They were speared on the spikes of the cage or slashed by its blades.

The ragged ones fought valiantly, leaping and slashing, hoping to get in a cut at Bogan who responded by setting them on fire. 

The fray was interrupted by a rumbling.  Water coursed through the swamp, and the ragged figures climbed up the husks of petrified trees or vaulted away from the its course.

The water seemed to taste and smell like the whole outback: the bitter flavor and reek of human waste, chemicals, salt, and dirt flooded their mouths and noses.  The water kept rushing for long moments until they worried they would drown strapped into their seats. As soon as its flow had ceased, the figures were upon them poking long spears into the truck's cage.  One caught Hoon in the arm, and she could hear a muffled groan from Bogan.  Capable fished out the 44 and shot across Hoon, scattering his assailants and aimed it at her own attackers with her still-shaking arm.  She managed to hit one dead in the chest more from luck than skill, but two more seemed to take his place.

"Fang it, damnit, fang it," she yelled, and the tires spun but only slowly found purchase.  They inched away, sometimes stopping dead still for terrifying moments.  Meanwhile, the ragged figures massed, brandishing their spears.  One thrust narrowly missed Capable's head.  She knew that she would not be so lucky a second time.

A light cut through the darkness and Bogan's flamethrower reignited.  At least a dozen ragged figures caught fire.  Those who weren't burnt ran away.  A few bolder ones continued pelting them with spears from a distance, but as the truck backed out of the swamp, it was clear who had won the day.

***

The next morning, Capable washed the pants.  Washing clothes seemed an almost sinful waste of water, but the pants were suffused with the foul muck of the swamp.  It seemed an even greater sin to toss in them in a trash heap when the four former wives had loved them so much. 

 

Capable scrubbed hard, working off the mud and even the base coat of old grit that seemed to cover all things in Del.  The pants were a lighter shade than she had expected and strange words had been written on them "Effie," "Carmen," "Lena," and "Bridget" were all written on the left thigh.  The second word seemed close to Carmana, and Capable wondered if Carmen was a name, the name, perhaps, of a relative of the Vuvalini?  Each was written in a different hand, and she wondered if these were the names of the wearers of the pants.  If the former wearers of the pants had inscribed their names on them like Hoon had written their names on the truck.  Still more words written in those same hands covered the ankles, "Bailey," "Kostos," "Eric," "Baja, California," and "Walman's" to name a few, but Capable couldn't guess at their meaning.

 

***
When she woke the next day, Hoon wasn't at the garage.  No doubt Linde had made him stay in the clinic that she had set up in one of Joe's old milking chambers.  While the Organic Mechanic had been careless, cocky on his treatment of wounds and rarely bothered to clean his instruments, Linde believed in little creatures which wormed their way through woundsinto the bodies of people spread disease, so she watched her patients carefully, washing them often.  While few knew what to make of her strange beliefs, her patients' health spoke for itself.

 

A cluster of war pups and those once called The Wretched approached her as she began her work that morning.

 

"Goddess"

 

"Please don't call me that," Capable replied with more venom than she intended.

 

"We heard about your attacking the things in the swamp.  We want to help"

 

She looked at the crowd in front of her: while a few of the citizens wore sturdy looking jackets and pants gleaned from Joe's closets, many still dressed in the rags they had worn for ages.  The clothes hung off them and their bodies were mottled with bruises (a sign, Linde once told her, of eating poorly).

They weren't ready to fight, but, she thought, had she been when she first stood up to the garage?

"Call me Capable"

"They call me Stubby on account of my shorts" their spokesman said and indicated a pair of garish yellow things.  This was met with a laugh, stubby was the shortest of the bunch and as round as a stubby of beer.

"You six," she gestured to the fittest looking, "come with me.  The rest of you, you want to be tradies?  Visit Toast in the main tower.  Ask her for some proper togs and blunnies for your plates of meat.  Eat whatever they tell you to for three days, and then come back to me."

***

Bushranger, Stubbie, Sheila, and Ranga gathered in Immortan Joe's dining room with the former wives and the vuvalini a week after the raid on the ragged ones.  Even Furiosa was their.  The injuries that she sustained in the battle against Immortan Joe had left her an invalid.  She took this change hard, becoming quiet as a wraith, keeping only the company of Linde except in times when all of the Vuvalini were called to meet.

"The six of us are of the opinion that the ragged ones will strike again."  Toast paused to gather herself.  "We think It might be wise to strike again as Capable and her friends did.  We believe we would have the best chance if every able-bodied Citizen of Del took part."

Linde joined in. The words were Carmana's, but they both knew that Carmana had trouble putting things gently in the heat of the moment.  "Each of you are respected by your fellow citizens and none of you were in positions of power during Immortan Joe's reign.  Whatever you say will be heard and won't be heard as an order.  Explain to your friends and family that we believe that an outright assault on the ragged figures is the Best option for our survival.  Find out how many feel the same way."

"Perhaps you worry too much," said Sheila, a practical, good-natured woman who used to be one of Joe's Milkers, "We haven't seen them in a week."

"We're sure they have the backing of the brain eater.  If they're remaining peaceful, it's only because they're regrouping, growing stronger,"  Toast replied.

"What about other scouting missions, like the one you led, Capable?"  Asked Bushranger, a portly war boy who had managed to survive, albeit wreathed with growths, into middle age.

"We won't survive open war," Toast said.  "Our crops are already mostly burnt.  Another attack means another chance for Braineater to try to burn down what little we have left.  Months spent fighting a long war are months that we need for planting."

"If Braineater's trying to hide that rhe ragged ones work for her, she's doing a piss por job of it," Dag interrupted, "She wouldn't use them if Gas Town could defend itself.  I say we go to Gas Town and kick em in the fanny."

They all nodded in quiet agreement.

“Tell your friends, then,” Furiosa broke the silence.  “If they agree, we attack.”

 

***

 

The night before the attack on Gas Town, the former wives of Immortan Joe met in his banquet hall, again.  They sat on the floor, and a few oil lamps guttered.  Toast, at Capable's request, had brought one of the ink pens she used to do accounts.  Capable wrote her name on the left thigh next to "Effie," carefully going over it several times so that it would be sufficiently dark and passed it on to Toast who did the same.  After all four had written on the pants, Capable held the pants and said "I have reason to believe that four women such as us once wore these pants.  They loved them and wrote their name on them as we did.  At least one of them became one of the Vuvalini of Many Mothers

 

"If they are the Mothers of the Pants, we are their daughters.  We are, tonight, Sisters of the Pants.  We give the Pants the love of our Sisterhood so we can take that love into battle.”

 

She then passed the pants to Toast.  They seemed to tell her that Toast despite being strong, uncomplaining needed them the most. 

"Now, let's kill those fucksticks."

***

As they neared Gas Town, Hoon muttered, "Shiny, crome." Capable couldn't disagree.  The flame burnt off tall stacks making her think of a massive soldering torch.

She rode alongside Hoon in the truck that they had designed.  They had since built a second one for Toast and Dag, but instead of her flamethrower, the bed held a mounted machine gun.

The Doof Warrior was long since dead, a tragedy since war boys loved to ride out to his music; but, Sandgroper, an elderly Citizen of Del, had discovered a stereo among Immortan Joe's effects.  He painstakingly wired its speakers to a long flatbed rig.  In the center, they mounted three kettle drums which Ranga, a wiry-limbed young lady who had campaigned tirelessly for the assault on Gas Town with the youths of Del, played with two of her friends.  They were defended by two ranks of war boys who operated guns and flame throwers and by a canopy of pipes and barbs that the tradies had welded overhead.  They drummed along to the beat of songs played by a spinning silver disk printed with the fitting words "Screaming for Vengeance."

At the front of their caravan was Bushranger who drove a re-purposed bulldozer.  The black thumbs had strung a wire net between the arms which once held a plow.  He was flanked by Carmana and Banana Bender who rode cycles.  Hoon and Capable had mounted unmanned sidecars which held flame throwers on each and had rigged their exhausts so that they shot out flames.

A dozen other cars and cycles bristling with weapons and spiky protrusions meant to keep the Ragged Figures at a distance made up the caravan.  A nondescript box van took up the rear.  Sheila drove it and Linde and Cheedo sat in the back.  They had fitted it with several cots that the injured could be strapped to and casks of water which could be used to clean their wounds.

As they neared the tank farm, the storage area next to Gas Town, a dozen ragged figures launched themselves onto the top of the caravan.  Bogan swept the dome of their truck with the flamethrower.  The light was blinding.  Hoon swerved, and their truck shook as its cage grated against Toast and Dag's own.  The figures had never burned so quick or brightly before.  They must have coated themselves in guzzoline, Capable realized, and offered themselves up as sacrifices to the flames of Del.

There was chaos on the back of the rig.  A precise shot from a flamethrower must have caught a ragged figure who landed atop the rig already on fire.  His partners embraced him, and the bed of the rig erupted into blue flame.

Bushranger fared better.  A few ragged figures had jumped into his net of wire, and he engaged the switch that sent electricity coursing through it.  The figures caught in his net burst into blinding flame, but he cut the current and lowered the plow arms to toss sand over the burning bodies which soon feel off.

The caravan rolled out of the tank farm, trying to avoid a second attack by the ragged figures.

The rig blasted its horn in warning and rolled to a stop.  It released its hitch and started to roll away.  A small sphere fell from the sky and landed on the on the space between the cab and the trailer.  The cab pitched over and the still-burning trailer tumbled striking Carmana's bike.  She became part of the conflagration.

In frenzy of the battle, no one had noticed that a gyrocopter had entered the fray.  Now, it circled back preparing for a second pass.

"Slagger," toast yelled spraying the sky with her machine gun.

The gyrocopter banked away.  Bullets bounced off its underside.

Capable shouted "back into the tanks" into the staticy radio that Sandgroper had wired.  The caravan scattered.  Bushranger, whose heavy machine was the slowest, now took up the rear.  A second bomb landed in front of him, tearing rents in his wire net

The ragged figures tossed volleys of spears.  They rattled off Toast's cage.  She couldn't return fire without risking hitting the guzzoline tanks, so she scanned the sky looking for signs of the copter.

ATV's in the black of Braineater's sedan rolled into the tank farm.  Though some were driven by ragged figures, most were piloted by people from Gas Town.  Their faces were studded and pierced, and they were draped in the torn and wrinkled finery of the time before.

Toast switched to a 9mm.  Its small rounds, she hoped, couldn't pierce a tank.  A few found their mark in a mohawked man with a ragged tail coat.  Two more residents of Gas Town drove at her, firing wildly.  She pressed close to the column that her machine gun rotated on deftly avoiding their shots; but, she did not see the ragged figure coming in the other direction.  He stabbed a toothed lance through the cage.  It found her thigh.  The impact of the collision sent the figure flying from his ATV and twisted the lance widening the gash it made.

Toast crashed to the bed of the truck.  She was amazed the lance wound still hurt.  She should, she thought, have gone into shock by now.  The blood ran from her leg in rivulets.  After a moment, it slowed to a trickle.  The pants, which anyways seemed to expand and shrink to fit the four former wives, now tightened to cut off the flow of blood in her leg.

"Blow em..." toast mumbled into her radio headset before passing out.  "Blow the fucking tanks."

As if to punctuate her point, another bomb landed on a squadron of war boys who had left the tank farm to chase an ATV.

"Come gimme a ride, Linde,” Bushranger shouted through the radio, “Stubby, cover me.  I'm going to do it."  Stubby turned his wide work truck, and pulled alongside Bushranger as he backed out.  Two war boys emerged from a shield mounted in the back of Stubby's truck and took position at mounted machine guns. One opened fire at the atvs that turned towards them while the other swept the sky keeping the gyrocopter back.  Bombs dropped haphazardly.

Bushranger's pushed the damaged arms and nose of his bulldozer against the the burning wreckage of the flatbed.  The fire and searing heat made it impossible to see and licked at his skin like an afternoon spent uncovered in the sun.  He shifted into the highest gear and engaged the cruise control.  Then, he hopped out of the and dove into the open doors of Sheila's van.

Sheila yelled "everybody out" through the radio, and the van sped away while the plinks of bullets resounded against its walls.

The ATV's broke away from their fights and concentrated their fire on the bulldozer. The gyrocopter dropped bombs indiscriminately on the runaway truck.  The charges on these seemed stronger.  They tore rents in the earth and overturned ATV's.

Great hunks of metal flew from the truck, and it sank into the holes created by the bombs. 

A lump rose in Capable's throat.  Their best hope of igniting the tanks was lost.  She yelled, "Just take that chopper down."

The Citizens of Del turned away from the tank farm exposing their rear to attacks from the ragged figures.    The copter listed left and right avoiding some bullets, others bouncing off its armor-plated bottom. 

Capable leaned out her window and pointed a flare pistol.  The copter was engulfed in a maroon burst.  It tumbled dramatically, losing height before righting itself. 

A harpoon flew through, the air.  This was not a harpoon of Del make.  The ragged figures, she thought, were angered by the reckless bombing of the copter pilot.  More joined and trucks of war boys fired their harpoon cannons.  They fanged their accelerators, dragging the chopper to the ground.

After the chopper crashed, the few remaining ATV's roared disappearing into Gas Town.  Toast got out of the bed of her truck and crawled out from underneath the protective dome.  She was the first to reach the wreckage.  When she saw the figure crumpled among it, she spat on the corpse.  It was Braineater.

***

The former wives of Immortan Joe and the last of the Vuvalini arrived two days later to negotiate the surrender of Gas Town.  Toast's wound was still healing, but the Tradies had cobbled together a wheelchair for this purpose.  She rolled alongside Furiosa who cast her a knowing look from her own chair.

As they surveyed Gas Town, it was clear why they needed hands.  Though the unspeakable appetites of the People Eater were well-known, Braineater had been, by most accounts, even worse.  There were no more than 400 people left in the town.  Most were clerks, chemists, plantworkers, and the cockies who worked Gas Town's fields of bush food.  If one asked where the young, the old, and the unskilled lived, one needed only to look into the large room near the cooling tower.  It served as cold storage for dozens of bodies in various states of mutilation.  Though Conchy, Braineater's lieutenant, evidenced an air of disgust, the twitches that ran like a shock through his hands suggested that he shared his former employer's pleasures. 

He would have to be dealt with, Toast thought.  Stock would have to be taken of their stores of food, fuel, and fertilizer.  For the moment, Toast, who still wore the pants tried to enjoy the victory.  She snatched a pen off a table as she was rolled past by Dag.  She wrote the words “Gas Town” on her thigh, tracing them over and over.

 

 

 

Second Prize Winner - Andy Radical, Giant Opossum Tackler by Moose Lane

Andy Radical, Giant Opossum Tackler
A Parks and Recreation/Harry Potter Fic
shamelessly written by Moose Lane

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Note to readers: if you aren't familiar with Parks and Recreation, go watch the episode "The Possum" (season 2, episode 18). Also maybe "Time Capsule" (season 3, episode 3).  While you're at it, go ahead and watch the rest of the show, too.

If you aren't familiar with Harry Potter, what are you doing with your life? Fix it. Fix it right now.

 

Pawnee, Indiana: First in Friendship, Fourth in Modern-Day Witch Burnings. In the humble opinion of Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Leslie Knope, Pawnee is the Greatest City in America. Move over, Baltimore!

Pawnee may not have the largest magical community in Indiana, but it has one that is truly special, full of people who care and live out their lives happily. Well, aside from the witch burning thing, but that mostly stopped in the seventies. The last recorded witch burning was just one of Ron Swanson's ex-wife effigies, mistakenly reported.

Damn, they really need to change that slogan.

Pawnee, Indiana: Move Over, Baltimore!

But that is not the fight Leslie has come to tackle today. No, today is something much more serious.

--

Leslie stands in front of Ron's desk, hands on her hips.

"Ron, wizard secrecy is very important. It's been a part of wizarding life since the 1692 International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. We can't just violate that for a muggle who wants to join the peewee quidditch team."

Ron catches a paperweight as it tries to creep across his desk and returns it to a stack of papers. "That statute was written by a bunch of redcoats. This is America. Besides, what's wrong with muggles liking quidditch? It's a great game. The peewee team doesn't even use brooms."

Leslie stares down at him. "It's not just the game, Ron. If muggles find out about quidditch, next they'll find out about—about floo powder, or Appalachian Ridgebacks."

Ron folds his hands on his desk in front of him. "Let muggles deal their own dragons. They're perfectly capable. The Department of Magic has its fingers in too many pies."

Leslie glances over at the clock in the common room, nearly jumping as the hand with her name inches across the dial towards Public Forum. "Oh no, I'm gonna be late. This discussion isn't over, Ron."

Ron grins.

"No! Don't you dare look smug!" Leslie yells as she runs out the door. "You haven't won! Dammit! Why won't they let us apparate within the building!?"

Leslie Knope loves her job with Parks and Recreation, she really does. She loves public forums, she really does. This is both the exact kind of civic engagement and hostile environment she needs to conquer in order to be the first female US Secretary of Magic.

She is just not, you know, feeling it right at this moment.

"I walked through the bushes behind the sign that says 'Stop! Poison Pimplyweed Beyond!' and now I have a rash!"

"I ate a vomit-flavored Bertie Bott's in one of your parks and it was disgusting!"

"There are too many owls in Slippery Elm Park!"

"No! There are not enough owls in Slippery Elm Park!"

"There are just the right amount of owls in Slippery Elm Park! And I hate it!"

"One of your gardening classes taught me how to de-gnome my garden, and I did it, and now all my gnomes are gone!"

"Uum," Leslie stutters into her Sonorus-charmed wand. "Is that a problem?"

"No!" the belligerent witch yells.

"Okay," Leslie sighs. "I guess, carry on."

Leslie is nodding sympathetically at a man complaining about how he ate a salad for lunch, and it was disgusting, when Tom bursts in.

"Heeey, Leslie," Tom smiles. "I have some news for you, but first, what do you think of these threads?" Tom spins in around, his muggle-style suit bewitched to glint as he moves. "Think Kanye would go for them? I mean, if I were allowed to market them to muggles. Just, as a what if—"

"What’s the news, Tom?" Leslie sighs in exasperation.

"Oh, uh, there's a opossum or something that bit Director Gunderson's dog at the golf course," he shrugs.

"Oh my God!" Leslie jumps out of her seat. "Tom, finish up the forum, I have to go take care of this!"

Tom watches her go, shaking his head at her boring, plaid, spell-less robes. He is going to make a fortune one day.

Tom invokes an amplifying spell with a flourish of his arm that shows off his coat's shine. "Just wanted to let you all know that Thursday night is Witches' Night at the Snakehole Lounge—"

"I HATE WOMEN!" A man screams from the crowd.

"Oookay. You're uh, you can all go home now."

Andy sits on a bench below the sign reading Shoe Shine and Wand Polish and tunes his guitar. "How about this one?" He takes a deep breath and—

"No, you have to close your eyes," April admonishes.

"Why?"

"Definitely not because I'm going to make a chocolate frog to jump in your mouth while you're singing," she promises.

"Oh, okay," Andy agrees and closes his eyes. "This one is about the Pit."

"The bottomless pit you fell into last year?" April asks as she inches a chocolate frog toward Andy's face.

"Yeah, that one!" Andy glows with pride, eyes still shut. "It was okay though, I landed on a flying rat king and rode it back out. Too bad Jerry fell in and disappeared during the groundbreaking for the new park."

"Who?" April asks, nudging the frog with her wand.

"Larry."

"Oh, yeah." Her fingers are right in front of his face but the stupid frog will not jump. "I wanna hear the song."

"Okay," Andy starts strumming, "The pit, I was in it, the—"

Just as the frog jumps, Leslie runs up shouting Andy's name. He opens his eyes and the frog lands on his cheek.

"Oo, chocolate frog! Thanks April!" He pops it into his mouth and sucks on it. "Want some?"

"Sure." She sticks out her tongue as the half-melted frog jumps from his mouth to hers. Leslie makes a squeamish noise. "Hi, Leslie," she smacks around the chocolate.

"Uh, hi, April. Andy! How are you at opossum-tackling?" Leslie asks.

"Um, the best?" Andy bursts, straightening up and wagging his eyebrows at April.

April smirks and rolls her eyes. "Isn't Control of Magical Creatures supposed to take care of that stuff?"

Leslie pouts. "Yeah, but you know those guys. C'mon, if we take the lead on this it will look really good for the department. I bet Director Gunderson will thank us personally for avenging his dog. He might even give us a commendation," she trails off dreamily.

"I'm in!" Andy jumps up. He pulls a rope across the Shoe Shine and Wand Polish booth, ignoring Kyle's protests that his wand is still caked with globs of polishing wax.

Leslie and Andy rush back to the Parks Department to grab their brooms, and nearly topple Ben as they zip out the door. "Sorry Ben! Gotta run! We've got a opossum to catch!"

Ben stares back, dumbfounded. "A opossum?"

"It bit Director Gunderson's dog!" Leslie exclaims, hovering in the hallway. He does not look convinced.

"Why are you dealing with it? Shouldn't we call, maybe, regular Animal Control?"

Oh Ben, beautiful, naive, muggle-born Ben. Leslie sighs, "Have you ever seen a opossum? With those teeth? And the eggs they lay everywhere—" she shivers. "No, this is definitely a Control of Magical Creatures problem. I'll see you later!"

Ben gives a confused wave as they take off.

They collect a crate and two Control of Magical Creatures employees-slash-professional-slackers, Brett and Harris, on their way out of the building.

"The opossum is called Fairway Frank," Leslie announces as they begin to apparate. "We should find him by the sixth hole."

"Wait, what did you say?" Harris asks as they touch ground on the putting green.

"Dude, she said we're gonna get Fairway Frank," Brett punches him in the shoulder.

"Isn't that the opossum that's, like, ten feet tall?"

Leslie scoffs. "What? No, that's ridiculous. There's no ten foot opossum in Pawnee—" she stops short at the sound of rustling and chattering behind her. She whips around and stifles a scream.

The opossum, yellowed teeth dripping with foamy drool, is at least fifteen feet tall. This thing is possibly more terrifying than the pack of Rodents of Unusual Size that lives in Ramsett Park. Leslie makes a mental note to update her list of "Most Terrifying Creatures in Pawnee" back at the office. The opossum rears up and hisses, and Leslie lets out a squeak of terror as she fumbles for her broom.

Abruptly, Leslie hears three screams behind her: two of Brett and Harris running away, and one of Andy shooting toward the opossum on his broom. 

"Andy!!"

Andy knocks the beast out cold and tumbles over its muzzle triumphantly. "Ha ha! Take that, Fairway Frank!"

Leslie coaxes Brett and Harris back, and they unlatch the sides of the crate. The panels fold outwards further and further until the edges reach bulk of the opossum.

"I don't think we've ever had to fit anything this big in these little crates before. Probably should have brought the medium-sized one," Brett mutters.

"Eh, it fits," Harris shrugs. "Man, these things are ugly."

"Not as ugly as you are," Brett cackles as Harris starts kicking him.

"All right boys, come on," Leslie chides. "We'll apparate Frank back to the courtyard at the Department of Magic."

Evelyn Roushland, Representative for Director Gunderson, holds back her robes and eyes the creature skeptically. "You certainly did a good job, Ms. Knope, but the opossum that bit the Director's dog was more... normal-sized."

"What?" Leslie exclaimed. "I mean, yes, that's what I assumed to, until we saw it on the golf course."

"There is a reason people usually skip the sixth hole. Regardless, the Director is still impressed. If you ever need a special favor, give us a call," Evelyn concludes, handing Leslie the Director's card.

A queasy feeling rolls in Leslie's stomach. She shuffles past April, who is watching Andy pose for the newspaper.

"Check it out, April! Andy Radical, Opossum Tackler!" He flexes his bicep.

"It's so gross, I love it. We should adopt it." She grins.

"Ann! Where are you right now! I have a problem and we need to talk about it," Leslie whispers urgently into the floo powder-lined fireplace.

Ann's expression hovers between a look of concern and an eyeroll. "I'm still at work, there was a bad case of vanishing fever going around and we had trouble locating our patients all day. Can I come over in an hour?"

"I don't know, maybe? Possibly? Sure, okay, meet me at the Parks department as soon as you can. There's a giant opossum, Ann!!" She pulls her head out quickly and goes back to pacing her office.

An hour later, Ann puts on her patient face as Leslie begins.

"Ann, you beautiful, tropical mermaid, I need your help." Leslie leans over her desk. "I caught the wrong opossum. But the one I caught is really big and monstrous, and has probably terrorized people, but I don't actually know that for sure. What do I do? Do I let it go? Do I let Control of Magical Creatures get rid of it? What if this opossum is innocent, Ann?"

"Um," Ann starts off, trying to piece through Leslie's story. "Is there maybe a way to find out whether the giant opossum has any complaints against it?"

Leslie's face lights up. "Oh Ann, you are just as brilliant as you are gorgeous. C'mon!" She grabs Ann's hand and races down to Control of Magical Creatures. The office is empty, so she ducks behind the desk and starts rifling through a file cabinet. Ann follows and scans a shelf of binders.

"Aha! Here it is! Fairway Frank!" Leslie tugs out the folder and spreads it out on the desk. "Oh my god, Frank ate someone's owl last year. And interrupted the Indiana State Golf Championships the year before. That seems pretty damning, right?" She turns around to see Ann peeking into a back room, shrieks and chittering coming through the doorway.

"You said it was a fifteen foot opossum?" Ann asked.

"Yeah, why?" Leslie follows her back. The room is full of cages, most empty but a handful holding indignant critters, most of them pretty freaky-looking. In the center stands a cage large enough to hold a fifteen foot opossum, but holds instead a small, yapping puppy.

"Huh."

They both stare at the puppy for a moment, until it suddenly shifts into a seven foot tall flobberworm. They scream and run from the room, barring the door.

"What the hell!" Leslie shouts. "Not only did I manage to not get the right opossum, but apparently I didn't get an opossum at all!"

Ann tries to catch her breath beside her. "Maybe we should use a revealing charm, and see what it really is."

Leslie nods. "Good idea. You go first."

"No way, this is your monster!"

"Okay, fine. But stick right behind me," Leslie gets up and inches the door open. She points her wand at what is now a boa constrictor testing the gaps between the bars of the cage.

"Aaaaaaaaaa! Aparecium!" Leslie flicks her wand wildly at the creature.

They watch with baited breath as the creature transforms into a hairless, bug-eyed, bat-eared creature with spines up its back.

"What the hell is that!?"

Ann seals the door with her wand as Leslie frantically digs the Director's card out of her pocket. She sighs with resignation, thinking of all the lost favors she could have been calling for.

"Just call him!" Ann yells.

"Okay, okay!" Leslie throws floo powder into the office fireplace and gets Director Gunderson on the other end. "Hi, this is Leslie Monster—I mean Leslie Knope! Who caught that monster earlier today. Well, the opossum. Well, except that it's not a opossum. Anyway, I think we need to call in Control of Magical Creatures from the State level. Possibly Federal, I don't know. Call the US Secretary of Magic, I'm sure you have his number." She nods a few times listening, then sits back into the room.

"Okay, we have to guard that thing until the President of the United States gets here."

"What?" Ann looks at her with exasperation.

"I don't know who they're sending! Just, we can't let it get out."

"Yeah, I got that much."

Not long later, Leslie and Ann both let out little screams at the sound of someone pounding on the office door.

"Leslie," April's voice complains from the other side, "Andy and I were sneaking into the building to steal the opossum so we could adopt it and keep it in our creepy basement, but then these people from Indianapolis showed up and they want it instead."

Leslie gets up carefully, making sure Ann keeps her wand pointed at the lock to the back room, and eases open the office door. "It's in there, it's back there, I don't know what it is, but it's in there."

"Don't worry, ma'am. We're from the State Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Now, could you show us the creature?"

"Yes, of course," Leslie says, composing herself and walking towards the back room. "I just want to point out that I'm not sure it even is Fairway Frank. Though if it's not, that means there are two very large opossum-things running around the golf course. But if it's not Fairway Frank, this creature might be innocent."

"Excuse me?" The Control officer asks, shifting her stance.

"What I mean to say is that we don't know for sure if this was the thing that bit Director Gunderson's dog."

"Let's just have a look at it, shall we?"

Leslie leads them to the back door, and Ann releases the locking spells. The Control officers stand on either side of the cage, considering the spiny, hairless creature.

Leslie points at it. "It was a fifteen foot opossum earlier today."

"Yeah, and I tackled it!" Andy boasts from behind her. April gives him a high-five.

"This is a chupacabra," one of the Control officers explains. "They've been known on occasion to shape shift. But it's incredibly rare to find one this far north; I've never seen one in Indiana before. We will take it and make sure it gets handled safely."

Andy gasps, then grins at April. "I tackled a chupacabra!?"

"I'm proud of you, babe."

"Good look," Donna remarks to Tom as he shows off another of his glimmering suits. "Kanye would go for it."

"TOLD YA!" Tom cheers. "I'm gonna start a new clothing line, Tommy Fleek."

"It could work," Donna considers. She sniffs. "Are those perfumed?"

"You know it," Tom struts.

Ben walks in and scans the office. "Where's—"

"Not only is there no precedent for this, it's against tradition, and it's also clearly against the rules!" Leslie bursts from Ron's office with Ron in pursuit. "But the point is, it's a risk for the witching community to allow muggles onto the quidditch team."

"The wizarding community."

"I prefer the term witching."

Ron huffs and crosses his arms. "Well then you're the one who has to go tell this child why she can't play on the peewee quidditch team. And then probably wipe her memory of the whole thing. She's six, by the way."

Leslie scrunches up her face at him. "Look, I wish muggles could play quidditch, but they can't!"

Ben glances between the two of them. "Um, muggles play quidditch all the time."

The office erupts in a chorus of gasps and disbelief. Ben holds up his hands defensively. "No, really, it's popular on college campuses. There are whole muggle quidditch leagues. Here—" he pulls up a video, on Terry's abandoned computer, of kids running around with brooms between their legs, throwing balls at each other.

"Ha ha, they look ridiculous," exclaims Andy. "I wanna play!"

"Besides, there are a few witch and wizard kids on the local muggle soccer team," Ben points out.

Leslie sighs. "Okay, fine. But for the record, I'm giving into Ben, not Ron."

Ron shrugs. "That's fine. I just don't want to talk to any parents."

"Andy! Come here," April beckons to Garry's computer. She pulls up a slew of pictures of chupacabras.

"Ew, gross, I tackled one of those?"

April sighs. "I can't believe we didn't get to adopt this thing."

First Place Winner - Silent Smiles by Ashley McDonnell

Silent Smiles by Ashley McDonnell

A Hunger Games fanfic

follow Ashley on Twitter or check out her Digimon podcast

 

The Peacekeeper stalked through the snow, camouflaged in their bright white uniform. A speck of blood would stand out more than them if it weren’t for Prim, walking by their side, bundled in a dark blue jacket trying to stay calm and warm. Fear paralyzed Peeta for a few seconds as he watched the two approach his house in Victor’s Village. He let out a breath and looked at the painting he’d been working on.

 

In it, Katniss’s sleeping face—which normally he found solace in for its serenity—was marred by the welt she’d received from a whip after stepping in to protect Gale from further lashings. She slept in a chair, her head cradled in her arms on the table where Gale fought to recover from the whipping. Capturing the hue of Gale’s ruined olive skin covered in blood soaked up by a once-white cloth in a dark room proved challenging for Peeta. But he’d have to postpone that challenge, because now he had a new one—protect Prim and himself from the Peacekeeper at all costs, or be haunted by new nightmares.

 

After Peeta put his painting supplies down with care, three hard knocks came at his door. While descending the stairs to the ground floor, he quickly composed his face with an airy smile, like he’d been dreaming happier thoughts about Katniss than he actually had been. When he reached the door, he didn’t hesitate to open it.

 

“Hey, Prim,” Peeta said, stepping forward to hug her. Even though they’d never hugged before, Prim wrapped her arms around his torso and pressed her face to his chest with more urgency than he’d expected. The fear lingered between them as they broke apart. “You have your own Peacekeeper now? You must be even more special than Katniss,” Peeta joked.

 

The Peacekeeper—a middle-aged woman with short-cropped brown hair that Peeta didn’t recognize—turned to him. “Speaking of Miss Everdeen,” she said, in a voice as cold but not nearly as fragile as the snow, “she wouldn’t happen to be with you, would she?” Her smirk let Peeta know she already knew the answer.

 

“I thought maybe she’d come to see you, like she does sometimes, so you can spend time alone,” Prim added hurriedly. The absurdity of her statement almost made him laugh. Katniss had stood on his doorstep a few times before, like they were all doing now, but had never set foot inside his house in search of private intimacy. The Capitol had become quite good at killing his laughter and leaving the tattered memories there to torture him, though. Surely his house was bugged, and the Capitol knew Katniss had never come over, yet he tried his best to play along with Prim’s game.

 

“I’m sorry, but she’s not here right now, and I’m not sure where she is,” Peeta said, hoping he wouldn’t be forced to say much more on the matter. The more details he gave—like that he hadn’t seen her today, or that he had been expecting her now, or anything else—would make the lie harder to coordinate with Prim and her mom.

 

“Why don’t you come over while we wait for Miss Everdeen to return for dinner?” the Peacekeeper asked.

 

Peeta forced himself to smile wider. “Of course. I always love more excuses to see Katniss. But why are you waiting around for her? She’s not in some sort of trouble, is she?” He felt powerless without information, helpless with no way to get it, and despair at the possibility of getting Prim into trouble with his questions.

 

“We have a message for her from Head Peacekeeper Thread,” the Peacekeeper said.

 

“Why not leave the message with Prim? It must be boring for you to sit around in their house,” Peeta said.

 

“Head Peacekeeper Thread would like us to personally deliver the message.”

 

Peeta nodded like this made perfect sense. “Let me get my coat.”

 

Once he returned, the Peacekeeper said, “We’re going to Mr. Abernathy’s house as well to see if Miss Everdeen is there.” She turned on her heels and started crunching her way through the packed snow. Peeta and Prim exchanged glances that said more than their veiled words could. They would both be wary. They would work together. They would free Katniss from this trap. Somehow, it didn’t appear to be as easy as taking a beating from his mother to toss her a loaf of bread, or losing a leg to protect her from Cato’s sword. He didn’t know what he was up against. He only knew that Katniss’s dark humor was rubbing off on him.

 

Prim jogged a bit to keep up with the Peacekeeper, with Peeta bringing up the rear. Prim was just as slim as Katniss, and even shorter, but aside from that, Peeta saw no hints that they were sisters. With her blond hair trailing behind her in pigtails, her blue eyes, and her pale complexion, Prim looked more like she could be his sister. And in a few months, once he’d married Katniss, she would be his sister, by law, anyway. It made him feel even worse about the marriage being nothing more than a political power play than he already did.

 

The one time he’d had any meaningful conversation with Prim happened only two weeks ago, when they’d been tending to Gale after the whipping. Growing up, they’d exchanged nothing but small-talk every once in a while. Much like he’d done with Katniss, he admired Prim’s kindness when surrounded by such despair from afar. His father was particularly fond of her, but he’d always been a quiet man, so he mostly showed his admiration by making favorable trades with Katniss for squirrels.  Now he gave them more cookies or cheese buns than they’d paid for when they came to make more legal purchases.

 

There was no time even for small-talk on the short walk to Haymitch’s house. Peeta got in the quip “Haymitch is coming too? So much for a romantic evening with Katniss,” and then they were at his front door. The Peacekeeper knocked three times, just like she’d done at Peeta’s house. They all waited in silence on Haymitch’s doorstep.

 

When he opened the door, his gray eyes lit up and he laughed. “Well, this looks like an interesting party we’re gathering here,” he said. “Thank you for coming to invite me.”

 

“We’re looking for Katniss Everdeen,” the Peacekeeper said, ignoring Haymitch’s strangely jovial outburst.

 

“You’re going to have to keep looking, then,” Haymitch said.

 

“While we wait for Miss Everdeen to return, you’re invited to come to her house for dinner,” the Peacekeeper said.

 

“As long as you’re not cooking,” Haymitch replied with a shrug, retrieving his jacket from a hook right beside the door. He locked his house and started leading the way back to the Everdeen’s. Despite his inappropriate jokes, Peeta was glad Haymitch would be around while they all waited for Katniss to come home. As District 12’s once-lone Victor, now a famous figure for public drunkenness and spectacle each year when the Hunger Games rolled around, Haymitch got away with saying pretty much anything he wanted. If he had held up a bunch of berries and threatened to commit suicide, people probably would have just laughed and let him die. Nothing he said was seen as a serious threat.

 

“Are you with the new shipment of Peacekeepers?” Haymitch asked.

 

“I was brought in by Head Peacekeeper Thread. You should address me as Peacekeeper Septima,” the Peacekeeper replied.

 

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Peacekeeper Septima,” Peeta said, which may have been the biggest lie he’d told so far.

 

The conversation died after that, and Peeta was almost glad to find a second Peacekeeper, Titus, waiting at the Everdeen’s. Introductions sustained the conversation a little longer before the Peacekeepers’s presence stifled it again. At least they could entertain each other while Peeta thought of some way to put on a show of Prim and him being close friends.

 

Haymitch wandered over to Mrs. Everdeen, to help put her at ease with some tasteless jokes. The Peacekeepers sat at the long kitchen table. The last time Peeta’d been here, Gale had still been recovering on that table, laying on his stomach as his back throbbed in pain. Two weeks ago Peeta and Haymitch had to drag Katniss away from that table, away from her mother, at whom Katniss hurled curses that weren’t nearly as accurate as her arrows. This catastrophe convinced her they had to stay in District 12, had to do something to fight the Capitol rather than run from it. Peeta looked away from the table and instead focused his gaze out the window, on the setting sun. Had she run away, or had she instead run straight into trouble?

 

“Katniss’s wedding dresses came today,” Prim said to him. She started walking towards the rockers next to the fireplace and he followed.

 

“It’s a shame that Cinna made all these dresses, and only one will ever really get worn,” Peeta said.

 

“That’s true,” Prim said, sitting down in one of the rockers. Buttercup, the Everdeen’s mangy orange cat, came scampering over to lay in Prim’s lap. She stroked his matted fur with a smile on her face.

 

“He should make another six dresses, one for every District. We should hold a separate, live ceremony in each one,” Peeta said. He thought that was a pretty good idea, by Capitol standards, actually. Effie would love it.

 

“He’d need to make thirteen dresses. One more, for the Capitol ceremony.”

 

“That’s right! We can’t forget about the Capitol.” His eyes shifted to the Peacekeepers for a second.

 

“You could start with the Capitol ceremony and end in Twelve. It would be perfect!” Prim said.

 

“It really would,” Peeta said, trying not to think of marrying Katniss thirteen times when she didn’t even want to marry him once. “What about your dress, Prim?”

 

“I don’t think Cinna’s had time to worry about that yet. And I’m a little nervous about getting all dressed up like that …” Even though her current clothes were simple—an off-white sweater and cozy black pants—they were such a step up from the threadbare or patched or baggy clothes the Everdeens wore before Katniss won the Games. He, too, had more clothing now, more clothes that didn’t have stains from cooking all day or painting. But none of their clothes competed with the finery of the ones he and Katniss wore in the Capitol. Just one of Cinna’s dresses currently packed in a box in the corner probably cost more than all of their clothes combined.

 

“Don’t worry. You’re very pretty, Prim. You’ll look amazing in your dress. Cinna will make sure of it.”

 

“He’s not going to set me on fire, is he?”

 

“He usually only sets fake fires, but you never know.”

 

“I thought you both looked beautiful during the Tribute Parade,” Prim said as she looked down at Buttercup.

 

Peeta smiled. “Thank you. Honestly, making us beautiful was the least Cinna could do after making us fear he’d roast us alive before the Games even began.”

 

“What’s the Capitol really like? I’m nervous about leaving District 12,” Prim said.

 

Peeta’s eyes flicked toward the Peacekeepers again, as they remained silent, sipping tea or some other hot drink Mrs. Everdeen had given them, clearly eavesdropping on their conversation. Nervous about leaving District 12? Everyone should be grateful to leave the clutches of the cold winters and coal mines for the finery of the Capitol. The only reason he and Katniss left with any consternation involved what they believed to be their fated death sentence.

 

The Capitol had wanted to kill Prim at one point, or at least, to make it very hard for her to survive. She’d only been twelve at the time. The rage District 12 felt after Effie called Prim’s name at the Reaping could only be expressed through dead silence, and that assured that everyone would hear Katniss’s rebellion when she declared she volunteered. Watching Katniss walk up on stage, insisting that Prim let her go—it was all so cruel and by the Capitol’s design.

 

What if he and Prim had fought in the Hunger Games together instead of him and Katniss? His hand moved to his artificial leg. They’d probably both be dead right now, but he’d still have fought Cato and whoever else to keep her safe. He would’ve given his life for her.

 

Luckily, he and Prim survived and were simply talking about dresses for a wedding that wouldn’t have happened without the Hunger Games. He would never be grateful to the Capitol, but he could keep it together for this conversation.

 

“Everyone dresses a little funny, but the food is delicious and they’re all really nice,” Peeta said, looking Prim in the eye. “Plus, the Capitol loves you already.”

 

“They don’t even know me,” Prim said.

 

“It’s okay, they have Katniss vision,” Peeta said. “And when they do finally get to know you, they will still love you.”

 

Again Prim turned away, focused on scratching Buttercup behind his mangled ear. “We should make dinner.”

 

The sun had set sometime during their talk. The mention of dinner brought a new sense of dread over Peeta, but he agreed to help Prim. They set to work making a stew—cutting up carrots and potatoes and small chunks of meat—and then Peeta showed her how to make a slightly sweet but still hearty loaf of bread. Throughout, they hardly talked, and when they did, it was of small things, like how Lady, Prim’s goat, was handling the harsh winter.

 

By the time they’d prepped everything, Katniss still hadn’t returned. While the bread baked and the stew warmed on one of the lowest settings on the stove, Peeta and Haymitch decided to play chess, with Prim watching. She didn’t know how to play so they briefly explained the rules to her beforehand, and then reiterated them every time they made a move. Haymitch provided snarky commentary every time he took one of Peeta’s pieces. His humor wasn’t enough to entertain Prim for more than a half hour before she wandered off to see if the Peacekeepers or her mother needed anything.

 

Another fifteen minutes passed. The Peacekeepers now stood in the threshold to the kitchen, arms crossed, staring at the stove. “Prim, can you take the bread out of the oven for me? I’d do it, but Haymitch will cheat if I get up,” Peeta said.

 

“I’ll have you know I’m a very honorable man. That’s how I won the Hunger Games. With honor,” Haymitch replied.

 

“I’ll get it, Peeta,” Prim assured.

 

“Alright, next time both of you distrust me, remember that I helped keep that Katniss girl you both love so much alive,” Haymitch said, in a light tone that proved he wasn’t taking this at all seriously enough.

 

“I know, Haymitch, and I’m so grateful to you,” Peeta began. “But I also really want to beat you at this chess game.”

 

The older man laughed. “You determined your fate about four turns ago, boy.”

 

“We’ll see.” And so they kept playing, pretending they didn’t notice time passing without the appearance of Katniss. How late would it have to get before the Peacekeepers smiled at Mrs. Everdeen to report that their comrades had killed her daughter hours ago? Peeta leaned his head against his hand, covering his mouth. Any move he made on the chess board led straight into trouble and an eventual loss. He moved his knight anyway.

 

Only a few turns before Haymitch could take Peeta’s King, Katniss came home. He and Haymitch continued to stare at the chess board like her arrival didn’t matter as much as their rivalry. They heard her greet the Peacekeepers with a curt “Hello,” and her mother claimed she was just in time for dinner, even though the bread has been ready for a while, and even on a low heat setting, the stew had cooked plenty.

 

The Peacekeepers asked where she’d been, and she dodged the question with “easier to ask where I haven’t been” as she headed into the kitchen, passing between the two guards. Then they all started to enact some sort of comedy sketch, one of those low-brow ones Peeta’d seen on TV from time to time that he supposed were popular in the Capitol, where only laughs came cheap. He played the teasing but kind and caring boyfriend as Katniss insisted Prim gave her the wrong location for the Goat Man.

 

While Titus seemed quite amused by their incompetence, Septima frowned and asked Katniss what was in her bag. Clearly she hoped to trap Katniss with a bag full of dead game. Peeta got up after Katniss dumped the contents of the bag on the table, ready to jump to her defense if a squirrel came rolling out.

 

Instead, she’d gotten a bunch of fresh bandages and a bag of candy. Peeta came over and opened the candy bag, again hoping he didn’t find a dead squirrel inside. “Ooh, peppermints,” he said, taking one for himself. Katniss tried to get them back but he tossed them over to Haymitch, who stuffed a handful in his mouth. Probably only part of his punishment for Katniss making him wait around for her all day.

 

Peeta tried to calm Katniss down before their comedy act started to wear thin. He wrapped his arms around her gently, yet she yelped like she was a dog he’d just kicked. To cover it up she turned the sound into something of a snarl, a sound of anger rather than pain. All the more reason to placate her. He admitted Prim gave her the wrong directions, and they’d been idiotic for trying to fool her into thinking otherwise. Begrudgingly she accepted this apology and his kiss before asking the Peacekeepers what exactly were they doing in her house, again?

 

They relayed the message they’d been withholding from Prim and their mother all day—that the fence bordering the woods of District 12 would now be electrified at all times. So that was it. They’d been hoping Katniss would get stuck on the other side of the fence, thus proving she was a punishable lawbreaker. They could do more than give her one good lash to the face with that kind of evidence. Peeta continued to hold her gently, being careful not to touch the small of her back.

 

Katniss thanked the Peacekeepers for contacting her about this patch in security, and nearly collapsed on the kitchen table as soon as they left. With care Peeta led her to one of the rockers by the fire and lowered her into it while she explained that she’d slipped and fell on some ice. He didn’t believe her for a second—the girl who had berated him constantly in the Games for snapping every stick, who walked through leaves so swiftly and soundlessly, would have to be taken by complete surprise to fall hard enough for these injuries—but they all let it slide. He and Haymitch stayed for dinner, suspicious when Katniss asked for a third bowl of stew. “Save some for the rest of us,” Haymitch said halfway through his second bowl. Katniss didn’t respond.

 

The only person she talked to after dinner was Prim, who sat on the floor next to her older sister, resting her head in Katniss’s lap. Prim popped a peppermint in her mouth and handed another to Katniss. They sat in silence for a bit, Katniss stroking Prim’s silky blond hair. Then they started talking about school and wedding dresses. Peeta watched them from the kitchen table, feeling like a child as he listened to Mrs. Everdeen and Haymitch talk about all the mangled bodies seeking her healing hands with this new regiment of Peacekeepers. District 12 didn’t need Muttations or fancy technology to be riddled with deadly traps. Compared to the people who came with whip marks or burns from the mine or frostbite and any number of other horrors lurking in District 12, Katniss had minor wounds.

 

While Peeta and Prim cleaned up the dishes, Mrs. Everdeen checked Katniss over again, bandaged her up, and gave her a cup of tea with sleep syrup. Navigating the stairs would have been hard with her banged-up heels, but became impossible when the sleep syrup started to take effect while she still sat in the rocker. Knowing sleeping while sitting up wouldn’t be good for her tailbone, Peeta volunteered to put Katniss to bed. Initially she simply leaned on his shoulder. Halfway up the stairs, though, he decided this would go much faster if he just carried her. So he picked her up, making sure her feet didn’t hit the wall. He remembered the time in the Hunger Games she’d dragged him into the cave, their hiding place, when he couldn’t walk. The strength contained within this small girl endeared a whole nation to her, made him keep loving her even if she didn’t feel the same about him.

 

He tucked her in and wished her good night, but as he turned to go, she grabbed his hand and asked him not to until she fell asleep. How could he say no? He sat down on the edge of her bed and took her hand in both of his, expressing how he’d thought she’d run away today in the vaguest of terms. A few seconds passed before she understood and assured him she’d never leave him just like that. As if to prove it, she brought his hand to her cheek and smiled as she said “Stay with me.”

 

“Always,” he whispered, feeling the faint pulse in her fingers fire up his own.

 

Had she asked him more directly, he would have crawled into bed with her, like he used to on the train, to make sure that when she woke to the screech of her own screams, she’d be greeted by his soothing whispers about everything being okay. But she was drugged, and hinted that she’d prefer Gale’s company, so he just continued to hold her limp hand while watching her sleep.

 

Soon after dozing off, Katniss appeared at ease, her hair in a blissful, disheveled state from the snow and her brows no longer creased with worry. The lash mark on her face still stuck out prominently to Peeta, but it was no longer so angry or ominous. The new skin came in a lighter, more tender tone than the rest of her tanned face. This blemish did nothing to diminish her beauty, and Peeta could only that this was the Katniss who haunted his dreams tonight.

 

“Peeta,”  Mrs. Everdeen whispered from the doorway. She said it with some mix of pity and a light admonishment. Pity for his pathetic puppy love after watching her daughter come home happy after secretive jaunts with Gale out in the woods. Admonishment for taking advantage of her daughter’s affection while in a drug-induced sleep.

 

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “She asked me to stay until she fell asleep.”

 

Mrs. Everdeen just stood in the doorway nodding, unsure what else to do. The obvious response would be “she’s asleep, so you can go now,” but instead she said, “The syrup should help her stay asleep tonight. I don’t give it to her on other nights because I … I don’t want that to be the only way she can sleep.” She glanced at him again. “You can stay as long as you want. And if you ever need anything …”

 

“Thank you, Mrs. Everdeen,” he said softly.

 

It only hit him then how awkward his romantic advances on her daughter must have seemed during the Games, especially since he told the whole nation that his father had been in love with Mrs. Everdeen. What did she think when she looked at Peeta? Did she see his father in his youth, too shy to act on his crush? Did she think he was pathetic? Did she like him well enough? Mrs. Everdeen had always been perfectly cordial to him, but she’d never treated him like he could possibly be her son, and he didn’t think it was all part of her “Katniss is too young to marry” act.

 

Another shadow stretched across the room from the doorway. Peeta expected Mrs. Everdeen to reprimand him this time, but instead Prim walked into the room and sat down beside him.

 

“Do you have nightmares, too?” she whispered, even though Katniss couldn’t be pulled out of her sleep by their normal speaking voices.

 

“Yes,” Peeta admitted. “I don’t wake up screaming like Katniss, though. I wake up silently, overcome with fear, or sadness, or anger.”

 

“I try to comfort Katniss,” Prim says, staring at her sister’s peaceful, limp body. “I don’t think I help that much, though.”

 

“No,” Peeta said, shaking his head. “It’s just hard to calm Katniss down afterwards. But I’m sure seeing you when she wakes up reassures her.”

 

“How do you know?” Prim asked. It wasn’t accusatory, like he could never know what Katniss wanted more than Prim did. She said it sadly, like she needed to be reassured she did something—anything—useful for her sister.

 

“Katniss entered the Hunger Games to keep you safe, Prim,” he said, also leaving out any accusations. “And she did keep you safe. Seeing you after a nightmare would remind her of that.”

 

She nodded a bit to this and remained silent. Had he made it sound like everything that haunted Katniss was Prim’s fault? It hadn’t been what he meant, but he couldn’t think of how to say it without making it sound like it really had all been her fault.

 

After a moment of silence, Prim said, “But you live alone. So what do you do when you have nightmares?”

 

Peeta shook his head. “I just try to convince myself it’s not real. I look out the window and see your house across the way and I remind myself that Katniss is there.”

 

Again Prim nodded, and before the conversation could get into any more of a terrible territory, he said, “And I really should be going home.”

 

They walked down the stairs together. The cat meowed at their presence. “Goodbye, Buttercup,” Peeta said, giving the cat a quick scratch. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Slipping on his shoes with his prosthetic leg still made him feel self-conscious. It was always obvious he was missing a limb—one of his pants legs looked much less filled out than the other—but when putting on shoes, he actually had to look at the leg, had to reveal it to others. Prim didn’t say anything, but he knew she was watching.

 

He opened the door and stepped outside before turning around to tell Prim goodbye. But before he could say his handful of words, she whispered, “She wants to protect you, too. To keep you safe. Because she loves you.”

 

First Peeta frowned at this, trying to decide whether he should laugh or cry. He did neither; he settled for a smile and a gentle joke. “Yes, but we all know who she loves the most.” Not Gale. Not him. Not her mother. Prim. It had always been Prim.

 

          In the pale blue light from the reflection of the moon off the snow, Peeta watched Prim’s face flush a dull red. He assured her he’d visit tomorrow and trekked back to his house. Knowing what nightmares awaited him in his bed, he went back to his painting from earlier. He stared at it a bit before getting a new canvas and starting a happier painting, one where Katniss held his hand to her face, smiling and covering the scar on her cheek.

Fanfiction Contest Jawn

In honor of our Fandom Episode and Grace's return from GeekyCon, we're having a contest and that contest is all about fan fiction. 

We talked about the fandoms we'd like to read about on the episode, but there are lots of things we haven't even considered so go nuts. Your only limit is your imagination. 

Send your entry to: bookjawnpodcast@gmail.com. 

Contest deadline is September 18. 

Word count max is 8,000. (1,500-5,000 is ideal though.) 

Winners will be read on air and posted on the Book Jawn website with author's permission. 

Here are a few of the prizes you can win. All of the prizes are books, of course. We're a book podcast. (Makes you kind of glad we don't spent an hour every couple of weeks talking about hemorrhoid cream, doesn't it?)