The winning entry is The Want by Rick Bylina.
In the cold, dark night, I want the sun to rise, the rain to end, and the clouds to lift. Old Sol needs to burn off the fog. I want to light a fire, rub my hands in its warmth, and cook a hot meal. I want to ease my pain. I’d laugh at my list of wants, but it would hurt too much.
I tongue the blood on my lips then palm the box. Dry. The mat on top keeps the rain off. I stretch and tap where the breach is and find the large bough and dense brush still in place. The scent of pine fills the space. His boots chafe my sore leg--too bad for me and him. Sore toes beg to get out of their jail. Not yet. Not here. I must be long gone first.
A dog barks. Fear strikes me still. Can he see me? Smell me? A door creaks. A gruff voice says, “Here.” Snarls fill the dark. It is food, not me, the dog wants. My gut wants. I ache. The door slams. In the night I am as much a ghost to the dog as I was a wraith to him in the day.
I’m still too close to death and so far from life. Just bark, heel, beg, give up, and then dine on your soul. It’s a price too steep, and I won’t pay it. I will push on and grab what I can, what grows, crawls, or swims, and what I can run down. Cross the woods, ford the stream, and I will be safe.
A far off shot rings out. Is it him? Dawn hints: it’s time. Life stirs in me and in me. I birth from the box. I’m gone.