Attached is a short story titled Picture. The story is complete. After you read it, however, you can tell that the story was not revealed in its entirety. My contest is simple: whoever can best answer these questions will win:
1 - why does the story end this way? (I know the answer to this one)
2 - what is the best finale you can create? (I have absolutely no idea what happened next)
Contest submissions: the contest is complete. Submissions were sent to Picture@NeverStopNeverQuit.com. Thank you all for your participation! Place in the bottom of the post for details on the winning submission.
Prize options: the winner (as well as potential runner-ups) will have the option to claim one of the following prizes:
1 - Two concert tickets: Wheezer/Pixie, April 6, Portland – Moda Center
2 - Two concert tickets: The 1975, April 27, Portland – Veterans Memorial Coliseum
3 - $50 gift certificate to Starbucks, $50 gift certificate to Amazon, $50 gift certificate to Apple iTunes
4 - Philips HD9240/94 Avance XL Digital Airfryer (2.65lb/3.5qt)
One of these four prize packages could be yours if you can Complete the Picture!
These are gifts I have acquired and will give to you for the sole purpose of sharing my thanks for your continued support. Thank you.
Without further ado, please enjoy my story.
The value is seen on the edges of my photograph. They are tattered and fringed, for I carry it with me everywhere I go. I will never have a copy made. There is no way to replicate the affection I have for this one. The glossy finish is quite scratched; a reminder of all the times I’ve pulled it from my pocket to tell my story of our time together.
The timestamp, an imprint awakening memories of that day with you, may be even more important than the still image itself. There are so many visions of that one date. Another early wake up, far before either of our bodies were ready, but we still heartily welcomed the sunrise. We were famished that day, more than I can recall from any other timestamp on any other photo. That was the day you watched me in silence, your eyes tracking my pacing back and forth across the kitchen floor. First, I presented your nourishment. You sat still, however, until I prepared my meal and sat with you. Hungrily, we scarfed down our food while we shared our special time reminiscing over our blissful slumber and weighing our options for the day’s activities. I remember the anticipation I felt when making plans. It was to be a day like no other, before or after.
Though subtler than the frazzled edges of the worn image and the faded moment in time captured by the date, the quality is a startling reminder of just how long ago everything happened. Your slightly blurred silhouette, with the grainy imperfections and overexposed center, has the dented look of photographs back then. God, it was so long ago! I was young and vibrant, ready to take that monumental next step with you, yet scared of everything I knew my actions would set into motion.
The location was once considered a significant landmark by travelers from across the globe. Only a select few are privileged to know how you and I are etched in its legacy. The bridge was built well before you were born, even before I came into this world. The water once below it is gone, but surely the span will remain standing long after our dust has scattered to the four corners of the earth. My only hope is that no one else tries to replicate our moment in that photograph, on that bridge. To do so would only mark their effort as a flawed, failed attempt.
What the details of that grainy photo do not show is just how warm it was on that timestamped date on an irrelevant bridge over an arid waterway. Only you, wearing a beautiful summer dress down to your ankles but open at the shoulders, tell that tale. Even through the distortions of the faded and scratched image, I can see the sweat on your brow. The heat on that March afternoon was stifling.
There are others on the periphery of our frame. As they walked about on the bridge, in that heat, there wasn’t a worry in the world. When I brought you there and waited while you posed for the perfect shot, everything seemed almost blasé, if I may use their word. Even today, I am lifted by the effect we had on their boring lives. In an instant, we were the focus of their attention. Later that day, or the one after, they would go back to normal where their lives would once again be blasé. It was the next moment, the one right after my photo, that shall be forever etched in their minds. “She looked so beautiful,” and “He startled her with that,” and “What an odd choice for him to pick such an inelegant place,” will be speckled in their tales for years to come. In the quiet streets on which they lived their everyday lives, they would never again have an adventure like that.
The back of our nostalgic photograph is still blank. A few years ago, I wanted to write a final message on it to you. I wanted to explain my attraction the first time we met—my enchantment on that bridge so many years ago, my pride and delight every moment of every day since. I once yearned to record those truths, but there was no need; the picture already says everything. On that bridge, on that day, in that heat, those people quickly fade past the background and through the paper, leaving the only impression possible on the back of the photograph. The only image that matters is you. Your innocent pose, your angelic face wrinkling the slightest smile, your glistening brow and glowing skin. They all echo a reminder to the world: Beauty still exists!
Your eyes tell a story far more exhilarating than my words ever can. There is a young girl, the epitome of grace and innocence, standing alone. In time, she could face the harsh, arid world on her own. Yes, she stood with the assuredness that, should she have to, she could exploit her grace and mar her innocence so that nothing would ever take her away. Yes, she could do that, but there was no need. If you look closely, in the fainted reflection of her eyes and the shimmer from a passing automobile, an image of me begins to take form. She doesn’t yet know what my life holds in store for her, but she knows enough to trust me. She says nothing; after the picture is taken, she will only need to form those two words before my world is complete. That’s the tale her image tells. It’s told on the face of the photograph better than it ever could be on the back.
I often wonder what story the photograph will tell when I’m gone. If the strangers I’ve shown the picture to and shared the story with should see it again, will they remember what I did? Will anyone know that right after I took that photograph I…
Contest Results: Spoiler Alert!
Below is the definitive answer as to why the story ends this way, as well as the best finale created.
Congratulations to Sarah Mott, from Portland, Oregon, for coming up with the winning entries for both questions.
1 - why does the story end this way? Sarah perfectly described what I was thinking why the story ended so abruptly:
The story is itself a photograph, a snapshot in time. In fact, the number of words in the story is 1000, alluding to the popular saying that “A picture is a thousand words.” The thousand words have been spent. To move beyond the moment does injustice to its impermanence.
Exactly my sentiment. The quote origin is often credited to Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper editor test Flanders stated, in 1911, “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” There’s some debate on this, but had the patient been worth 1001 words to me know the true answer…
2 - what is the best finale you can create? (I have absolutely no idea what happened next)
My claim is absolutely true here. I have absolutely no idea what happened after the picture was taken. In fact, I don’t even know if the subject of the photograph is an older woman, a younger girl, a child, or a baby. When writing the story, I envisioned all of them at different points.
We had quite a few submissions. Thank you to everyone who took the time, sharing your own creativity. I enjoyed reading every single entry.
The overall majority guessed that right after the man took the picture, he proposed. Somewhere more morbid than that…with a slew of answers in between. My guesses cover the entire spectrum as well, but Sarah’s answer was definitely the most unique and intriguing:
Will anyone know that right after I took that photograph I…simply walked away. I let all of it fall away. Not out of cowardice – but out of a special kind of courage. An unwillingness to watch a perfect picture of innocence and beauty fall to its knees. A special “Fuck You” to the universe. I’m not in it for the long-haul this time. I’m not willing to watch this one rot. So, within my world, in my reality, she’ll remain immortal. Timeless.
We’ll never make it to the end of the bridge. We’ll never age, deteriorate. We’ll never get sick. We’ll never get trapped in work we can’t turn away from. We’ll never have children and watch them grow and diverge from our expectations. We’ll never stop watching each other. We’ll remain here, in this moment.
Wow. There isn’t much as I can say after that.