Maligne Canyon: A Blank Page Short Story Challenge Submission

The first Blank Page Short Story Challenge just ended and the top 3 stories have been chosen. I decided to share one of my favorite stories that didn't make it into the top 3 with you. Check out the top 3 stories and vote for your favorite here

If you've never heard of The Blank Page Short Story Challenge, it's a short story challenge started by the amazing and talented Simon Thurtle. Each month we post a prompt and give participants a whole month to write a short story. After the deadline, Avrin Kelly, RQ Woodward, and me, read all of the stories and pick the top 3. Then it's left up to the public to decide the winner. 

You can follow The Blank Page Short Story Challenge on Twitter. And be sure to look for the next short story prompt on Match 19th. I'm looking forward to reading all the submissions.

Here's the prompt that inspired this short story:

Maligne Canyon by Elizabeth Hopper

CC: Director of Human Affairs, Area 51 
Letter reads: 

Winter, 1986 

My dearest wife, 
Today, I missed my sister’s wedding.  
Yes, the wedding I have written to you about frequently for the last six months, agonizing over. Something came up, that is the least I can say. Right now, in fact, I am far from home, sitting at the bottom of a canyon which is covered in snow. Do you know how long it took me to get here? As it stands, I may well die of hypothermia because it is winter, of course, and I am in Canada, in my tuxedo. I do have the emergency blanket out of the back of the car, so I’m dying slowly at least, if I am dying. There’s plenty of time to get up and hike back to the car, if I were really desperate to live. But for now, I am waiting.  
I did go on a date last week, and I think it went rather well. I haven’t called her yet, though, so I have probably shot myself in the foot, there. I’m just not sure I’m ready yet. Plus, it would be rather shocking to her if I were to die on this trip. It’s probably for the best.   
I have started to wonder what on Earth possessed me to listen to this thing, because I am, in fact, in Canada, at two o’clock in the morning, in a tuxedo. Maybe I am having a mental breakdown. It’s not outside the realm of possibility, I suppose. 
To pass the time, I guess I can tell you how I got here, because I’m sure if you were here to see this you would call Mother a hundred times fussing about it. In fact I think the box may be yours, anyway. I found it buried in the backyard, wrapped in a raincoat with your name written inside it. Well, I suppose it was buried, it was mostly covered in dirt and a few inches deep in mud. I think it must have risen to the top during flooding a few days ago.  
You see this small box, maybe eight inches wide and about four inches deep, started ringing. Like a bell, like ears ringing, something like that. It was early in the morning on Tuesday and I came downstairs to hush the dogs barking. They started to whine, so I let them out into the backyard, and they ran straight to this spot in the yard. Finally gone after the source of the noise—and, I would guess, what had had them barking—they went quiet, and I heard the sound. So I wandered into the yard—fell on my arse and ruined my favourite pajamas too—and found them scratching at this box with strange markings on it. I took it inside and washed it off, hung your coat in the bathtub to be dealt with later. I suppose you hid the key somewhere, but I never found it.  
Anyway, it wouldn’t stop making that noise, so I shut it in the closet under some pillows and went back to bed. But then it got louder! I don’t know what in the devil kind of toy you locked in there, but I wanted to break it. I went back downstairs and the darn thing was upside down in the closet, out from under the pillows. It went quiet when I picked it up out of the floor, pieces batteries finally dead or something I suppose. Then it started talking. Like, calling my name and answering questions talking. It was in another language, but I know my name when I hear it.  
I was freaked out, so I went back to bed. But I dreamed about the box. And in my dream, the words were in English. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but the word “home” was loud and clear. I’m not crazy, but it was weird. And then I dreamed about this place. Not specifically this place, but a place like it. Over the next couple of days I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I started day dreaming too. I want to say they were visions, but like I said—I’m not crazy.  
I was all prepared to throw the box out, or pry it open and find out what was inside, or chop it up and burn it. Then I dreamed about you and this box last night. Your sweet face. I got up, got ready for the wedding… and in all the stress and anxiety of the idea of facing this wedding, I just got in my car and started driving. I had heard about this place called Maligne Canyon with a great ice walk or tour or something, so I came here. I chucked the box a few feet away from me, so it’s sitting there, buzzing. I’m waiting to see what happens. I feel like something is supposed to happen. I dreamed about that, I’m sure of it, but I can’t remember what happened in the dream.  
It’s been a few hours, and my eyelashes have ice on them now. At least if I’m going to die, it will be in a beautiful place.  
The box has flipped open, now. I’m afraid to move. 
Lizzie, I’m seeing the Northern Lights. They’re so beautiful. I can definitely stand to die underneath all of this. 
It’s not the Northern Lights it is the box. I must have gone to the wedding and be drunk now. It’s scary, but the light is warm and I’m suddenly not very un-glad they are there. 
I feel breath on my neck but there’s nothing there. I am going to keep writing. Maybe this will make a good joke some day, if I am drunk. If I’m not drunk, then I guess it’s for science.  
I hear a voice. My god. It’s your voice. I’m coming home, Lizzie. 

Please forward this letter to the appropriate archives, in connection with The Incident.  

Nehemiah G, Assistant for Planetary Affairs  

About the Author: 

Elizabeth Hopper is a science fiction writer from the southern US. In her free time (when she's not writing amazing stories) she likes to travel. You can read more from Elizabeth on her Wattpad account. Check it out here. Also, be sure to follow her on Twitter.

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