We’d like to present our Gauntlet Champion, Dimitra Nikolaidou, in a little better context. During these past four rounds, she proved to be a well-rounded competitor not to be trifled with. She answered our challenges with the kind of storytelling, criticism, and sense of humor we demand. You should pursue her articles over at Cracked.com, and her short “The Garden of Daedalus V” now posted in the Quantum Shorts competition! You can follow this rising Greek author for updates on Twitter (@D_Nikolaidou). But the best place to start getting to know her lies below.
Here is a sample of her winning entry, written in under two weeks for our Final Round.
(From “Blindness” by Dimitra Nikolaidou)
His foot slipped, and he fell.
But as he fell, among the snowdrops and the flame and his own short gasps, he saw her. And she was everything he had been promised. And he did not scream, even as his back hit the frozen ground and the world went away.
“I had never thought it would be her.”
Plato’s grandfather kept saying the same thing every time they opened the window. He had been blinded early in the days of the new regime, when taking the eyes of artists was more common than the rain, and the violence had taken all his words away. And yet, every time the shutters unlatched, this single sentence was let out, floating in the air between them.
He glanced at his grandfather, then turned towards the small part of the square that was still visible from their apartment among the tall buildings and the weighted clotheslines and the rusted antennae. The statue of the masked woman in its middle was the only shade of white among a sea of dirty concrete.
Almost a thing of beauty.
He laid against the windowsill, looked down. Every woman walking in the street looked exactly the same, the bones of their faces twisted in the exact same shape to form the same flower-like mask. Hands covered under gloves, clothes similarly cut. Not even his own eyes could tell strangers apart.
The policewoman in the corner was a different one again, as far as he could tell by her height and the way her uniform fit, and the apartment opposite them had been vacant for three months now.
No, Grandpa had to mean the statue. Brave Lady Manya, the first one to free herself from the tyranny of beauty that held all women captive before the new regime took over and elevated them, whether they wanted it or not.
“I am going for a walk,” he told his mother, backing into the room. She turned her head around, her hands still on the keyboard. She was worried about him. He felt it in her stance. It had only been three weeks since he had been released. Grandfather’s silence though had seeped through the walls of this house, and she only nodded as he picked up his tiny camera and put on his coat, the slits of her eyes turning back to her screen.