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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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