3 words

Gossip Girl

As soon as my skin touched the hot water, my body relaxed. A bubble bath was the best thing after a hard and tiring day. The bubbles gently hugged my body. The warm water made it feel even better. A sigh escaped me as I leaned back and relaxed. For a few moments I lay there with my eyes closed, enjoying the silence. The room was filled with the pleasant scent of my favourite liquid bubble bath, milk and honey. A sweet fragrance with the feeling of pure skin care. The perfect way to relax.
I opened my eyes. Our bathroom was gigantic. The left wall was practically a window. Even from my bathtub I could enjoy the beautiful view over the city. We were on the fiftieth floor. No one could see me, but I could see them in the distance, tiny people walking around on the floor like ants. That was a nice feeling.
But I wasn’t here just to relax. I pulled the tray closer to me. On it was one of my laptops, and it was already prepared for use. My favourite, in fact. It took me a moment to log in. I can type very fast. At least that’s what I was told very often. My password was quite long, and although I type quickly, it took me a moment to finish. You might think I’m exaggerating, but wouldn’t you want your secrets to be as secure as possible?
Yes, that’s what I thought. While I was writing my little blog, I heard my brother playing the piano in the living room. A big grin appeared on my face. He was really good, and that helped me relax even more. Some time later, he knocked on the door. „Come in,“ I said, still focused on my writing. He came in and squatted next to the bathtub. „Are you spreading the gossip again?“ he then asked, squinting at my laptop screen. I chuckled. „And you? Have you been playing a little something to one of your admirers again?“ He chuckled as well.
„Very well played, sis,“ he said with a grin. „Why are you here, Lev? You know this goes very far into my privacy,“ I remarked, looking at him. „So? We used to bathe together when we were kids,“ he countered, shrugging his shoulders. I rolled my eyes. He just wanted to know what was going on in our school. „Flattery doesn’t work on me,“ I said as I turned back to my work.
„Okay, then don’t. Give me some input, Gossip Girl,“ he looked at me seriously. I smiled. „Here we go again. You know, we’re going to have a new student at our school. A girl, not much money as far as I know,“ I said. That was the only thing he was interested in. Girls. „You’re the best, sis,“ he grinned. This girl wouldn’t have it easy. And my job was to make her life at school even worse.

by Kimberly Sommer, February 2022

The jury comments:

  • The author has a talent to make the reader not only understand but also share the sensual feelings of the narrator-protagonist. It is fascinating that although there is a complete plot change the storylines are convincingly linked.
  • Your story is fascinating to read because of your vivid descriptions and dialogues and because of the suspense you manage to create. I must admit, though, that I was a bit disappointed by the ending, by discovering that the protagonist‘s “secret“ is simply spreading gossip.
  • Your story is atmospheric. The mood of the I-narrator, especially during this bathroom situation, is perfectly well described. The plot itself is very calm, not being written to create neither suspense nor surprise, but it emanates harmony and a kind of innocent und uncomplicated brother-sister-relationship. All in all, it’s a relaxing read.

My music came from the bathtub

How could it be that such a talented woman is sitting there bathing her son, inside a bathtub, that has a bonfire burning underneath it to heat up the water“.
„Yes! I ask myself the same question. Some say She was actually a concert pianist, ones“. This is a conversation my neighbors could have been having, while my mother played piano for me, which was every third day in our backyard when she gave me a bath. Those are the most magical early childhood memories I have. My mother would first set up the fire,
starting by the smallest sticks. She would tell me to close my eyes and choose a piano piece for her to play. It had to be one that she had already played. Since I didn’t remember the names of the pieces, I would hum them for her. By the time we had deciphered my humming and decided, if that was the piece that I had meant, she would have finished setting up and lighting the fire and would be sitting in front of the piano ready to start playing. The fire accompanied her as it engulfed the wood, warming up the water. It only took a few minutes to heat up. Then she would put me on the other end of the bathtub while the fire was still burning. I sat on a wooden plank that was screwed onto the bottom of the tub. She gave me a scrub and soaped me up and would usually tell me the name of the next piece she was going to play. Other times I would ask complex questions like ,where is my father. As I grew older, she elaborated her answer. He had been much younger than her and had handled the pregnancy cowardly, But my mother never showed any resentment. She had been the main pianist in an Opera house, and he was the director. Out of fear of having his affair with my Mother come to light, being a married man, decided to do everything in his power to have her kicked out. The repercussions of his actions lead to us having to leave the country altogether. His hate spread to everyone we knew. But his hate did not reach my mother’s heart. „I don’t blame him“ she would say „we must look inward my son just how you do when you listen to me play, that’s how you find your heart, that’s the most important part“ When I was a kid I had less trouble understanding what she meant.
Years later I was invited to that same venue. I was told he ended up losing everything and going mad. It seems he did not manage to escape his fate after all.
My greatest compositions today I owe to those magical moments listening to the water sizzling, the fire crackling, sparks flying, the sun piercing through the leaves drawing motion on the rising smoke. She always knew I would be a star.

by Mateo Hochfärber

The jury comments:

  • The reader cannot resist being drawn into the story right from the beginning. All the different strands convincingly come together. A winner text, if only it fulfilled the requirements of the task: Although the concept of gossip is represented in the story, the word itself isn’t. 
  • You have created a very interesting, heart-warming story, skillfully weaving information about the background story and the narrator’s present situation into the vivid description of the bath tub scene – well done!
    Unfortunately, you left out the word “gossip” in your story.
  • The idea of the situation, together with the title, is very well chosen to contradict the atmosphere to the tragic story of his birth/her pregnancy, so the effect to the reader becomes even sadder. All-in-all, it is a good story, but unfortunately, it has nothing to do with gossip (apart from the beginning, perhaps).

Eternal Peace

Breaking news! Hacked robots microwave Vis-facility! Tragic programming failure or malicious terrorism by anarchistic worker’s union? On the 21st dot 3 dot eight at Skyrise Park, a 5.8-S-class
E-Supervisor-facility of the people got melted down by havoc-wreaking machines. Authorities described the-…”
Angelica sighed and tapped her Vis. The small device strapped to her wrist played a little sound, the AI-generated human face levitating above it while reporting the news vanishing.
“These … people had no idea what they were doing. We are one nation, united in heart and spirit improving the planet step by step and this mentally ill scum knows no better than sowing mindless destruction. The absolute state of mind of those people!”
The girl in the uniform grunted and raised her arms in a begging manner towards the sky as if the sun held the answers to why anyone would ever do something like that.
“C’mon girl, chill out!”
A gloved hand grabbed her shoulder. She grabbed it, her other hand at her hand-fire-weapon.
It belonged to Donald. He laughed and caught up to her. Angelica exhaled relief and hid the gun under her jacket.
“It’s not like those wannabe gangsters got something to laugh once you’re Junior Strategic Advisor, right?” He smiled as bright as a floodlight and managed to shift the girl’s focus back to what was important. The ceremony was about to begin! She and Donald hurried over to the big hall that used to be an old airplane hangar and saluted the frontman.
“All hail the Republic of Eternal Peace!” she yelled with the frontman barely looking up from his post.
“Yea yea. Glory to Rep…” he mumbled and waved the two teenagers through. The two students went in line and waited for the ceremony to begin. Angelica tapped her Vis which promptly announced in a robotic voice: “8 minutes and 42 seconds until “Ceremony @ School”
They were still in time.
After 8 minutes and 46 seconds, trumpets started playing. A fanfare from the Orchestral Educations Club, then the violins set in. Applause. Nobody cheered, all students remained in their lines. All dressed in military school uniforms. Only a dozen stage-builders were still walking all over the place, taking images and standing in corners and behind stacks of boxes.
And then she stepped in. Lady Authority. A Veteran. Lost an arm in her youth piloting a tank against the resistance army. She still crushed the opposition.
Head of school. The headmistress.
She was already equipped with Speaks-Gear and so she stepped upon the stage into the light and took a deep breath.
Silence. She smiled.
“Students!” she greeted the teenagers and children standing in the hall that was decorated with banners and flags.
“I welcome you to the 3rd annual honor ceremony since the last attempt of war. But not with us. Not on the land of the Republic of Eternal Peace!
Students. You are the future of not only our country but the entire world. You are the elite, the best of the brightest. All of you are aware of mankind’s failings.
A world war. Two world wars. The atom bomb. Mankind has created horrors beyond human imagination. Mankind was so..!”
The woman raised her index finger.
“…close to total annihilation. But through us, humankind was saved. But enough talk for now. We should enjoy the time of peace and not waste it with talks of war and death. And so I am delighted to be able to present to you…” The woman now pointed at a covered piece of furniture, hidden under a blanket.
Angelicas heart started to pound.
“… a tool that has brought not despair but a joy to the masses. An invention by a family named Cristofori di Francesco was thought to be impossible to replicate but here it is!
A wooden box, equipped with keys and strings to cause the air to vibrate and bring peace to the spirits.”, she continued while the OEC played another Fanfare.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the Piano!”
The woman pulled away from the blanket and revealed a weird shelf with some sort of bank and a seat in front of it.
Nobody said a thing. Someone coughed.
“Sadly,…”, the headteacher continued and sighed, “nobody is able to play this absolute marvel of human engineering.”
Angelicas heart now beat faster and faster.
“Nobody but one student who has made it her task to ensure a bright future for the world and its children. I welcome to the stage: Misses Mainhoff!” The teacher’s hand made an inviting gesture.
Angelica stepped out of line and greeted the headmistress: “All hail the Republic of Eternal Peace!”
“Come on now, child! We’re waiting.” The headteacher told the students. “I’m most certain these young souls are sparkling with joy to listen to your most cheering song of the farmer of advanced age who owns a farm to feed his country while he showcases his variety of mammals and birds. Truly awe- inspiring!”
The headmistress swiped a tear off her face while Angelica made her way to the stage when suddenly she heard a boy shouting. She turned around and saw a gun aimed at her head. The surprise was audible throughout the hall as the stage-builders all had drawn guns and aimed at the crowd.
“Nobody moves!”, the same boy yelled again while another one approached Angelica. She recognized a face from a wanted-ad she constantly saw while browsing. Edwin Thunderlake. Most certainly a fake name. Member of a secret underground organization called the Red Wing. Dangerous criminals. She heard a lot of gossip about its members.
Angelica closed her eyes, ready to draw her gun when suddenly the boy approaching her whispered something in her ear.
“Play along. Your father sent us.”

by Jasper Kuntz

The jury comments:

  • A great narration with a catchy storyline that plays with unanswered questions the readers must develop while reading. Set in an unfamiliar society, the author manages to create understanding for the emotional state of the protagonist is relatable.
  • You manage to conjure up images of a future society dominated by technology, authoritarian structures and violence very vividly. I especially appreciate your creative ideas (like reintroducing the piano, the announcement of the song “Old McDonald had a farm”) and the way you use sentence constructions to underline the atmosphere or certain character traits.
    Unfortunately your story is too long and doesn’t include the word “bathtub”.
  • I guess you have the language skill and the creative power to become a sci-fi-author! Furthermore, you put a lot of effort in it. I like those stories a lot and there is a lot of potential in it, but for a short story, it is a bit overshot and hard to get into it. Describe and contextualize more and you have the basis for a novel!