As a Second Year Apprentice at The Company, I wasn’t allowed to submit to the Spring Writing Contest.

For those who don’t know, The Company hosts a writing contest every quarter! These contests are great opportunities for writers to put themselves out there. Besides that, the prizes are pretty cool. $100 bucks to Amazon and publication to The Pearl. The best part? They’re free to join! I had the wonderful opportunity to judge the Winter Contest recently, and the winner was just published with The Pearl this past week (go check it out here).

After judging the winter contest, I watched as all the first years geared up to judge their first contestthe spring writing contest. The theme is “Buried” and I immediately got an idea. I don’t often put my writing out there and I rarely join contests unless I have a decent idea. But unfortunately, as an apprentice, it would be super unfair for ME to join the contest. I mean, I live with one of the judges, after all.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t write what I would have submitted and share that with you guys today, right? (Full disclosure, I never would have shared this if this hadn’t been an assignment. Even though I’ve been here at The Company for nearly two years now, I still get anxious sharing my writing. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. If you have an idea for the spring contest, go write it and submit it! (Here’s the link!) Throw your hat in the ring! The worst that can happen is someone else wins. The best? You win!)

So, without further ado, please enjoy my take on the Spring Contest, Buried!

None of this was fair.

I gasped—sucking in a deep, guttural breath of air. My lungs burned. My whole body trembled. I rolled onto my side, coughing. I shifted, half buried in the ground. I forced my eyes open. My eyelids felt crusted and swollen, and I only managed to open my left eye a sliver. Above me, the sky had taken a molted shade of gray, the soft pale fingers of sunlight reaching out like a hand bursting out of a grave. I coughed again and closed my eyes. I rubbed my throat—the inside felt raw and coarse, as though I’d spent hours shrieking and then decades without speaking.

He—” I attempted to call out for help, but my words cut off into a groan as fiery pain shot up from my right leg. I sucked in a breath and shifted onto my stomach. I could see the ends of my hair—once blonde and silky straight, now matted into a thick shield, dirt and mud holding each strand in place like glue. I batted the strands I could see out of my face and forced my eyes open. This wasn’t fair. This should never have happened to me—I’d thought I was so lucky to have him last night…

I had sat in the driver’s seat of my little white sedan, my knees pulled up to my chin, and my head rested against the window.

“Amelia?” Justin’s voice crackled through the speaker of my phone. The evening sky had just begun to grow dark, and the street lamps clicked on one by one. I attempted to keep my voice even as I let the tears fall freely from my cheeks.

Yeah?” I asked, picking at a stray thread on my scrubs. It’d been a hard day. Three failed tests in the last week of finals before winter break had completely shot my nerves. Other majors had it easy. If they failed a test in school, it wouldn’t potentially cost the lives of their future patients. Life was so unfair.

“You…want to take your mind off things?”

I had said yes in a single heartbeat.

The ground around me stunk as though roadkill had been left rotting in the sun. I felt stiff, each joint screaming, as I shifted on the muddy, dirty ground. I gagged, and slowly, I rolled onto my stomach and pushed myself up. Pain shot through my hips up to my lower back. I clenched my teeth and continued until I could bring my left knee to my chest. I risked a glance at my right leg—broken, I knew, from how it stuck out at such an odd angle at the knee.

Beside me was a red solo cup, a grave marker of the lively party from the night before. The trees in this section of the forest were thick and cut off the world around me. I blinked and forced my left eye to open further. The blue cooler was knocked over on its side in the clearing. Around it, the broken brown glass of beer bottles shimmered.

I stood. Slow, at first. My joints ached and then popped, and I stumbled forward. I had to get to town. I had to report what had happened—they wouldn’t get away with it. That wouldn’t be fair.

The night had started off so well. Justin had swerved to Mr. McConnor’s shop, which was right on the edge of town. A tiny little gas station with cheap food and even cheaper beer. Mr. McConnor had frowned disapprovingly at us as we’d giggled our way through the store, grabbing snacks and drinks.

“Be careful!” He’d warned. I’d laughed at him. I should have been able to laugh at him—it wasn’t fair. Justin had brought me out here, to the forest, in his blue pick-up truck. We’d rode down the highway with the windows down and the music loud. He’d pulled off to the side of the road next to a few other cars, and we lurched to a stop as he’d slammed on the brakes. I’d giggled and made fun of his driving.

We got out and slammed the doors behind us, then trekked up the grassy hill, hand in hand. We’d come to the clearing and set our loot next to the blue cooler. That’s when I saw her. The curly-haired witch. I was forced to watch Justin out of the corner of my eye—I had to see how he followed her with his gaze, how his pupils dilated at just the sight of her.

Then we started to drink—and it didn’t take Justin long to forget himself and join the curly-haired witch. They sat close together on the cooler, their knees touching, as they whispered and giggled to each other. She’d been his girlfriend the semester before. Then, one lousy summer break up later, I’d finally had him. He was supposed to be mine.

I grabbed a stray bottle and marched over to him. It all happened so fast after that. One minute, we were fine, and the next…the curly-haired witch was shrieking as Justin clutched his bleeding scalp. I stumbled back a step, then two, staring down at the broken bottle in my hand. The curly-haired witch lunged at me. We scuffled. I’d never been in a fight before, but she? She’d been in plenty—she must have had practice. The rest is a blur, but she must have won.

They must have hurt me—must have thought that they’d killed me and left my corpse to rot! They’d be in for a sorry surprise.

He’d pay—they all would. It wasn’t fair what happened to me. They’d face the consequences—I’d make sure of it. The town wasn’t far off—I could make it. I stumbled to the top of the hill and stared out at the small little city. The street lamps were still on, the sun just behind the large rocky mountains. The sky was a sickly gray. I started off down the street. My knee screamed at me as I slumped forward, step by step.

I huffed and groaned at the pain—not bothering to hide or keep quiet. People would hear me—they’d have to. They’d know what had happened to me. They’d see how unfair it was. I struggled onto the concrete and kept going. They’d have to take pity on me.

I came around the bend in the road and stopped at the sight of Mr. McConnor’s shop. I knew he slept in the pathetic little studio apartment above it and that he lived alone. He’d hear me if I called—he’d have to. He’d have to call for help.

I limped my way down the paved road until I reached the edge of the shop. I stumbled onto the curve, took a step towards the window, and stopped.

A molted gray creature stared back in the reflection. Its eyes were yellow, one swollen completely shut. Its blond hair was matted in clumps around its face. Half its jaw was crooked and hanging open, and its teeth were yellow and black. It’s skin was rotted, chunks missing to reveal white bone underneath. Dark, rusty brown stained the scrubs it was wearing, and its right leg was bent out at the knee, crooked and deformed.

This wasn’t fair.

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