Winner of the February 2019 Writing Contest!
This contest is now closed to submissions!
The prompt for this contest has been...
Re-imagine a sport of your choice by adding a major twist to how it is played. You may use the photo for inspiration, or let your imagination fly.
And the first-place winner is...
Thomas Gates with "Soccer Course"
This contest has sparked some truly original ideas. But one story stood out not only for its originality but also for its gripping twists and turns. Hold on to your seats, this one is a doozie!
Outstanding job, Thomas!
Read the winning entry below.
By Thomas Gates
Lexia stood at the edge of the board, blazing in her white Jersey, striped cleat resting lightly on top of the brand-new soccer ball. The crowds in the stadium above her roared and jeered with a sound like thunderclaps. She watched the faces of the opposing team, coldly fixed upon her and murderous in their conviction. Jenna, flanked by the team in their crimson jerseys stood stonily on the opposite side of the field; her entire body flexed.
The referee watched the team captains warily, arm shot straight up in the air like a pole, lips pursed around the whistle and his cheeks so inflated they appeared veiny and stretched.
Lexia closed her eyes amid the onslaught of screaming voices and envisioned her leg kicking the ball into the goal in a straight line—foot flexed, body torqued, heart thumping.
All she had to do was get past the trap doors, the flying fish, the anvil, the pendulum, the crocodiles, the flamethrowers, the soap dispensers, the limbo, and of course… Jenna herself.
Bring it on, she thought.
The referee’s cheeks seemed about to burst.
Jenna gave her a scowl from across the field.
The whistle’s shrill scream cut through the crowd’s roaring.
The red team attacked first. Figures, thought Lexia. They don’t know a thing about strategy. She turned toward her defense and saw that each girl was in place exactly where she’d told them to be, on the grid she’d told them to stick to. They were not to move unless absolutely necessary. Lexia knew that one or two steps to the right or left, and they’d fall through to crocodile or shark-infested waters, be burned to a crisp, crushed by an anvil, swung and hit by an iron pendulum, caused to slip and fall all over the field, or be tripped by a large metal bar.
Her team had been relentless and fierce enough to make it here, to the Olympics of the greatest, and possibly the most dangerous sport ever conceived of: The Soccer Obstacle Course. It was like any other game of soccer, except the field it was played on laid on a grid that was rigged with an assortment of booby traps and dangerous tricks that could result in anything from minor injury to certain death. Only the ruthless and the crazy played it. Only the tenacious won. Jenna was certainly ruthless. Lexia happened to be all three.
The red team collided with the white team’s defense, attempting to move them from their positions. The white team women spun around in a triangular formation and stretched out their legs. The red women kicked the ball—white tossing it back, keeping it within the threshold of the triangle. Lexia ran in a straight line in front of them. The girl in the back passed the ball to her. She smiled triumphantly, watching the looks of dismay on the red teams’ faces. The only way straight to her was past the flamethrowers. She ran with the ball, in a zigzag, charging toward the red team’s defense. It was foolproof. The game would be over in a few minutes. The offense was trapped on the other side of the field.
But Lexia was cocky, and in a moment the soccer ball slipped from between her feet. She began to follow it and stopped herself. She watched on tiptoe as the square she nearly stepped on removed itself to reveal a gaping hole that fell several feet below into a tank of crocodiles, snouts snapping hungrily toward her. Jenna came charging a moment later and snatched the soccer ball from the tile next to it, avoiding a flamethrower and pendulum as she did. The white team merely watched, dumbstruck. Lexia had never committed such a fluke. She turned toward them, flashing her pink and white ponytail angrily.
“Well, don’t just stand there! Come on, go to plan B positions!” The white team women obeyed immediately, shifting cautiously yet quickly on the grid as the red team cautiously filed toward them. Lexia watched as a red woman jumped over the metal bar. Another avoided a large, gold-plated fish, its pointy nose nearly stabbed her in the chest. Lexia swiveled on her ankle and took off in a convoluted arrow toward Jenna, avoiding and anvil that smashed through the grass to her right, and a jet of slick soap between her legs. She ran past one of the red teammates as they disappeared in a flash of red flames. The audience yelled as though they felt her pain.
The white team flanked Lexia, the goalie unmoving over the specific tile she had been assigned to. She was placed so the only way she could move without something awful happening to her was if she took three steps to her right. As Lexia chased her, Jenna swerved just out of the pathway of the pendulum, which grazed Lexia so closely that she lost her balance and almost fell. Angry with herself for her initial hubris, she watched, horrified as Jenna ran toward the goalie, who stared back like a bull, nose-ring formidable in her flaring nostrils. The collision happened quickly, with Jenna kicking the soccer ball at an angle that was unmistakably bound for the goal. Lexia watched the goalie take two steps to the right and stretch her arms out—and miss the ball by a quarter of a millimeter. The ball went in.
The referee blew his whistle. The crowd cheered and booed in almost equal weight. The white team was distraught. A moment later, as Jenna made her victory lap around the field, something completely unexpected occurred: a tile removed itself and she fell through with one scream into a vat of hungry sharks. As soon as it was clear that she was dead, every eye was on Lexia. She shook her head fervently. “It wasn’t me.” A red team member stepped forward with a smirk. “I know. It was me.” She said.