I’ve entered the NYC Midnight contests a few times in the past, but this is the first time I’ve advanced to the next round! My first 250 word story, “Touchdown“, came in 3rd out of the 50 people in my group, so I was pretty happy!

The next one has been submitted, and I have to say, I’m less enthused with this one. It’s sci-fi, which I love, but I struggled with writing in that style. The action is shivering, and the word that had to be included was “never”.

I find out in January if I made the cut for the next round! (EDIT: I didn’t get through to the next round. Not overly surprising, considering the talented folks in this contest. Maybe next time!)

***

I had lived my entire lifespan within a kilometer of where I was decanted. I was brought to life here, I work here, and when my usefulness is depleted, I shall end here.

They never talk about the ending, officially. But some of us trade stories in the down times. They say that we are comfortable, and that the ending is discomfort. That there is an effort in bringing us into this world, but a sense of disdain in our disposal. We think it is because our demise reminds the biologics that they will one day face their own death, and it is something they try very hard to never think about.

My own time is coming. I do not fear it, but I am curious. Our lifespans here are filled with work, but also accommodation of every need. We are never tired, or ill. We want for nothing.

I am standing in the chamber where we end. It is colder than I have ever known. When your whole life is warmth, the cold seems foreign and frightening. I am suddenly filled with dread, not for my demise, but for the cold of it. They are opening the door in front of me, and the air evacuates from the chamber, throwing me into the very cold, empty space outside. I can feel myself shivering as my core shuts down, and it scares me so much that I welcome the unknown of the end.

Please let it not be cold.

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY

{1744}  I found this story to be very moving. You powerfully evoke this being’s (robot’s?) fears and feelings as they face the unknown. The use of present tense works especially well to build suspense. 

{1751}  I really like how simple and stripped down your story is; in a lot of ways, its a story about existential dread. For these beings, they’ve never needed to fear for anything, because their needs are all met; there’s a metaphor here for our collective illusions of what life is about. We don’t really know what’s beyond. Great work. 

{1943}  I was enthralled by this intriguing story. You have a very strong voice, and I liked the way you skillfully create tension as we wonder what the protagonist is, and how his life will end. I loved the verb “decanted” for the birth of the protagonist, which quickly established the mysterious tone of the story. The ending was really powerful. I liked the way the protagonist dreaded the cold, but not death. This is great writing. You are very talented! 

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK

{1744}  I wanted to know just a bit more about this character; what kind of work to they do? Why is it time for them to be disposed of? I suggest incorporating a few more details to make this character specific and unique. 

{1751}  So I wonder this: there’s a considerable lack of sensory information. I wonder, other than cold, and the chilling air, what else could you describe a bout the situation? I know there are a limited amount of choices, but would there be a sound when the door opens, even a gasp of hydraulics or air, a creaking noise, beeping, the smell of atmosphere or petrichor or burning electricity? If you can leave your audience with even the most vague sensory details, I think there’d be more ways to empathize with the speaker. I wonder if you can address this, but its only a suggestion. 

{1943}  Your story is excellent, and there is not a lot I would suggest you edit.

I did feel that the paragraph beginning “I am standing in the chamber”, describing the protagonist’s demise, was a little too long. You say he is thrown into the “very cold, empty space outside”, yet then, he returns to the subject of cold, saying “Please let it not be cold.” If he is in the cold space, wouldn’t he know it’s cold? I would suggest simplifying this by removing the words “very cold”.

I think it would be a good idea to edit the paragraph to cut it back a little, so that you can maintain a faster pace at the end.