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Read the "Now What?" Grand Prize Winner (14-18 Division)!

Last month, we challenged writers to revise and submit a 400-word excerpt from their NaNoWriMo novel. From over 650 stupendous entries, we chose two Grand Prize Winners and three Honorable Mentions. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did! (For more stories, check out this forum thread.)

From Splintered by Ben - Grand Prize Winner (14-18 Division)

“Do come inside.”

Leonard stepped into the room.

The room looked like an office belonging to someone rather important, the kind where the person sits facing the door behind a desk and waits for people to come inside so they can tell them to sit. 

The woman sitting behind this particular expensive desk was strong-shouldered, dark-skinned, and wearing a crisp grey suit with a red tie. Her hair was in dreadlocks, pulled back in a ponytail, and she wore reflective sunglasses. She carried herself confidently, with the smile of one who had complete control. Leonard had worn that smile before, but he wasn’t wearing it now. Something about her struck Leonard as familiar, but he couldn’t place it.

She laced her fingers together and rested her hands on the table. “Good evening, Mr. Patel. Oh, but—is Kumar Patel your real name?” She smiled knowingly.

Leonard forced his voice calm. “Of course it is. Why wouldn’t it be?” 

“Hmm. Well, Mr. Patel, you’ll be surprised to know we don’t have you on any lists here.”

“Maybe it’s a glitch? A misfiling?” Leonard suggested weakly. “I don’t know. I’m just trying to do my job.”

“Hmmm. Well. You’ll have to forgive me for this. We must take all necessary security measures, you understand.”

“Right,” Leonard nodded, but his eyes were focused on the nameplate on the desk. Grand Master Vesta O. Ellsworth, it read. He swallowed. He knew that name.

“My eyes are up here,” Vesta said with a hint of amusement.

“I wasn’t—but you’re wearing sunglasses.” Leonard’s eyes darted up to meet his doubled reflections.

Vesta’s smile split into a perfect white grin. Predatory. “Oh, are they a problem? Then let me just take them off.” She reached up and pulled away the glasses.

She opened her eyes. Leonard inhaled slightly.

The Grand Master of the Illuminati Society did not have what one could possibly call normal eyes. The irises had the precise color and reflectiveness as the sunglasses she had worn. Silver, mirror-like, and peculiarly captivating.

“That’s...” Leonard was at a loss for words.

“Different? Unusual?” Vesta suggested. “Mm, yes. But let’s not worry about that. You’re from another faction, aren’t you?”

“I don’t...” Leonard trailed off, his thoughts drifting into nonexistence. “What are you...?”

Vesta leaned across the desk, staring intently at Leonard. She didn’t blink. “Let’s try that again. What is your real name?

author photo

Ben is a teenage writer and thing-creator. He's fond of sharp suits, birds, and science. Ben is not his legal name, but it's one he likes. He has a lot of names. Others have described him as a cryptid, a chunk of the Void wearing a suit, a Teeth People, and a snake (in a good way). Ben cannot legally deny these claims. He dreams of being an eccentric man who lives with a lot of books and a lot of birds.

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