First Read: Three-Minute Fiction

Our first reading from Round 10 of our Three-Minute Fiction short story contest comes from Kevin Windorf of Westfield, N.J. Read the full story here.

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

More than 4,000 stories. That's how many of you submitted your original fiction to us from this latest round of our Three-Minute Fiction contest. Now, we're going to start poring through those stories that did come in with the help from graduate students at more than a dozen schools.

They include Indiana University, Cornell and McNeese State University in Louisiana. Every story will be read. The best ones will be passed on to our judge this round, the novelist Mona Simpson. The challenge was to write in the form of a voicemail message, and, boy, did we get some great messages. Here's one that really stands out: a story called "Call from the Cabin."

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BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: (Reading) Where are you, man? You said you'd be back home by the time we got here. So I'm at the edge of the porch now and, yeah, the front door is definitely open. Well, it's ajar, anyway. The thing is, the screen door is closed. I don't know what to make of that. I don't think anyone's inside. I mean, the lights are all off. Maybe they're sleeping. I don't know who you would've let use the cabin. Obviously, you knew I was coming up here tonight with Ellen and the baby.

Damn, I don't get this. I mean, what if someone found the key under the rock - there's still no sign of the rock, by the way - and they just let themselves in, you know, like Goldilocks. I'm going for a little levity here, man, because this feeling way creepy. OK. I'm going to around the back and see if I can see into a window. There's just enough light from the headlights to see on the left side of the cabin. OK. I'm along the side now, and the cabin is all dark. Definitely no one in there - awake, anyway, I think. I'm going to walk around the other side. It's totally dark, but I'll use my phone to light the way so I don't break my neck or step on a snake or get attacked by a raccoon.

Hold on a minute. OK. I'm back heading towards the car. Now, I'm seeing spots because I'm staring into the headlights. Nothing on that side of the cabin, anyway. OK. I'm back in front. I'm going to tell Ellen. I'm just going to go into the cabin. Hold on. Ellen? Ellen? Oh, for Christ's sakes. Where'd she go?

LYDEN: That was NPR's Bob Mondello reading an excerpt from the story "Call from the Cabin," written by Kevin Windorf of Westfield, New Jersey. If you want to find out what happens next, you can read the entire story on our website, npr.org/threeminutefiction. That's Three-Minute Fiction all spelled out, no spaces. Be sure to tune in tomorrow to hear more voicemail excerpts from Three-Minute Fiction Round 10.

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Call From The Cabin

For Round 10 of our Three-Minute Fiction contest, we asked you to send a story in the form of a voice mail message. Our winner was “Sorry for Your Loss.”

Cabin in the woods i i
iStockphoto.com
Cabin in the woods
iStockphoto.com

Hey Jimmy, it's Kevin. Pick up if you're there.

We just pulled up to your cabin.

What? Oh. Ellen says hi. Annie too, but she's sleeping in her car seat.

Anyway, it's pitch black. No lights on in the cabin. You said you'd leave the porch light on. Doesn't matter. I'm lighting up the porch with my headlights.

Thing is, it looks like your front door's open. I thought I should call in case it might be a problem.

Anyway, you're not home I guess. Wait.

Ellen doesn't want me to hang up. Okay, I'll keep talking, hoping you come home and pick up.

She's a little freaked out. (Yes, you're freaked out.)

Jimmy, you said to use the key under the rock on the porch, but I don't see any rock. It doesn't matter since the door's open. Guess I have to check it out.

Never occurred to me to bring a flashlight, and I don't keep one in the car. That's pretty stupid. Guess what? Ellen agrees.

Anyway I'm out of the car and heading to the porch. I wish you had told me how dark nighttime is up here. Could be a full moon, but that's not helping me under all these trees.

I'm sure you're thinking I should have realized coming up here at night meant darkness and maybe I shouldn't be driving my wife and kid up to a god-forsaken no man's land in the middle of the night. Well just remember buddy, you said you'd leave a light on on the porch. Where are you man? You said you'd be back home by the time we got here.

So I'm at the edge of the porch now and yeah the front door is definitely open. Well it's ajar anyway. The thing is, the screen door is closed. I don't know what to make of that. I don't think anyone's inside, I mean, the lights are all off. Maybe they're sleeping.

But I don't know who you would have let use the cabin. Obviously you knew I was coming up tonight with Ellen and the baby. Damn I don't get this.

I mean what if someone found the key under the rock — still no sign of the rock by the way — and they just let themselves in. You know like Goldilocks.

I'm going for a little levity here, man, because this is feeling way creepy. Okay, I'm going to go around back and see if I can see into a window. There's just enough light from the headlights to see on the left side of the cabin.

Okay I'm along the side now but the cabin is all dark. Definitely no one in there. Awake anyway. I think. I'm going to walk around the other side. It's totally dark, but I'll use my phone to light the way so I don't break my neck or step on a snake or get attacked by a raccoon.
Hold on a minute.

I'm back. Heading towards the car. Now I'm seeing spots because I'm staring into the headlights. Nothing on that side of the cabin anyway.
Okay I'm back in front. I'm going to tell Ellen I'm just going to go into the cabin. Hold on.

(Ellen?)

Oh for Chrissakes. Where'd she go? ELLEN? Damn, I'm going to wake the baby. ELLEN! Let me check on Annie.

Holy ... she's not in the car either. ELLEN! Jimmy's something wrong. I'm going into the cabin. ELLEN!

Shit! Jimmy, the headlights just went out. ELLEN!

Oh my God. Jimmy, please pick up. Call 9-1-1. There's someone else here.

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