Today, I’ve got the winners from the TWO contests we ran during our April Book of the Month feature in Holly Black’s Curse Workers series. First up, the winners of our signed books by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.
Julie Marcinik has won a signed copy of City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
Leigh Smith has won a signed ARC of Red Glove by Holly Black
Congrats! And now on to the winners of our Curse Workers Writing Contest! For this contest, we asked you to write a piece of flash fiction that takes place in the Curse Workers universe. Two winners each get a set of the Curse Workers books courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Click below the jump to see the winners & their awesome stories!
Winner #1: Amy Cheng
“Is he dead?”
The man with the swastika armband looked dead, I thought, as I rifled through his desk for the Key that the Queen, God save her, and her government had sent me after. There was something about worked sleep and normal sleep that differed, some sort of dreamy quality to it. Certainly, curse-worked sleep seemed to demand less of the lungs.
“‘Is he dead?’ Are you taking the piss?” I asked the American girl, who seemed to have the worst habit of appearing when she was least wanted. She was worse than those vultures of journalists, who made wild claims of secret Nazi curse worker armies or, even worse, secret British curse worker armies.
Not armies. Just spies. The Americans had caught on last year. Now, we just needed the Australians, and it’d be a bloody proper tea garden after all.
Sophie came around to my side of the heavy table and peeked under the man’s – Petersen’s – desk, parodying me. Dear God, I hoped not all the Americans were like this, or the entire world would be utterly doomed. “Taking the piss? You mean joking? No. You sort of do look like a murderer though. How old are you again?”
I hadn’t told her. It seemed to be a point of soreness for her. “Older than you.”
She laughed, and said, “You’d better hurry, Jacques.” Nationalities and noms de guerre seemed to be all we knew of each other. One side of her mouth tipped up into a half smile, half smirk. That, too, I hoped was not characteristic of Americans. You could start another bloody war over a smile like that. Or stop my heart. “The boat leaves in half an hour. And I don’t believe any of your English friends have found the Key” – that was, the Key to everything there was to know about curse workers.
I shot her a truly filthy look. “And your little American friends have?”
* * *
An hour later, I still didn’t have the Key and we huddled down by the Parisian docks. I twitched at the gunshot of boots a few streets over. War, especially world war, was never good for the nerves.
Then, the boat came. Except the river fog only outlined one silhouette, where it should have five. A trap. The Germans had us.
I leaned past Sophie – she was still saying, scandalized like a nun in a gentlemen’s den, “Why waste my time with something as utterly boring as sleep?” – and dragged her down to the damp wood of the docks, the reek of mold strong in my nose. “Not,” I told her, “a word.”
But since it was Sophie, of course, she demanded of me, “What do you think you’re doing?”
The silhouette turned toward us.
I waited for gunfire, and wondered what dying felt like.
But Sophie’s face lit up in a way that could never be a good sign. I thought about asking her very politely – like I’d asked Petersen in his office – to go to sleep, but I thought it might take more than just some persuasion to sway someone like her. And my head still hurt from the blowback.
“That’s my boat home,” she remarked, as she stood. “I’d better go.”
“Your boat home—?”
She was American, she was American, she was not German. While I thought this, I looked at her face, then down to where the Key was clenched tightly in her gloved hand.
* * *
“My boat home,” agreed Sophie. “I expect your British dinghy will be around later.”
She crouched down next to me, and took my hand. Hers was shockingly bare. Only the other hand – the one with the Key – was gloved. She was cursing me. My God, she was cursing me. Except she couldn’t, I realized a moment later, because I was awake. She could only curse the sleeping.
Her fingers crept up and pressed against the pulse on the inside of my wrist. My heart was in danger of failing. Something papery rustled as she closed my fingers around it – but not before I spotted DESTINATION: USA.
“Pleasant dreams, Jack Ashton, who is seventeen years old and therefore younger than me – I forgive you for that, by the way,” she added. “Come find me in America. The name’s Sophia Zacharov.”
Winner #2: Rachel Pietrewicz
A gloved hand snakes out of the doorway and yanks me inside the room. I stumble over the threshold, trying to keep my balance as the door shuts behind me. I wait for a light to be turned on, but the room remains dark.
“You’re a worker.” His rough voice seems to blend into the darkness. I turn my head away from his icy glare, unable to look into those familiar eyes that once gazed at me with such warmth, such undying affection. He wasn’t supposed to find out. I must have screwed up somehow.
I fight the urge to laugh bitterly. And here I thought I’d chosen the perfect pawn in my game. Oblivious, trusting, not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Yet here he is, standing before me in a cramped dorm room, no longer the useless guy I’d mistaken him for, but a guy who knows my secret.
My hands are clammy inside my gloves and my heart is pounding inside my chest. I want to scream; to laugh, to cry, to run. But I don’t. I can’t. Instead, I raise my gaze to meet his.
“What makes you think I’m a worker?” I laugh, as if this all just a great big joke, as if we’re just flirting. As if his accusation isn’t spot-on.
His hands lock around my shoulders and slam me into a wall. “Don’t lie to me,” he practically growls. “I saw you! I saw you at the party last night!”
Oh. The party. I mentally kick myself for not being more careful. I can’t afford any more stupid mistakes like this. I can’t afford this stupid mistake.
He continues to talk, his gloved fingers digging into my skin as he spits the truth into my face. I am not listening, only preparing myself for what comes next. I slide my index and middle fingers together, feeling for the tiny rip in the glove. Then I take an imperceptible breath.
“Hey,” I say softly, caressing his cheek with my gloved hand. My mouth is curved into a small smile; my eyes are wide and innocent. “Don’t you trust me?”
I don’t wait for him to answer. Instead, I press my index finger to his face, the sliver of bare skin brushing against his cheek. For a moment, his eyes widen and his breath stops as he realizes what I’m doing. He opens his mouth to say something, but he is too late.
A minute later, he smiles blankly at my retreating figure as I hurry out of the building with his memories.