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GUY RAZ, HOST:
OK. We are very close to the end of Round 8 of Three-Minute Fiction where we ask you to write an original piece of fiction that can be read in about three minutes.
Next weekend, our judge this round, the novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, will finally announce the winner. Now, remember, this time, the first sentence had to begin: She closed the book, placed it on the table and finally decided to walk through the door.
We received more than 6,000 stories this time. That's a record. So let's hear excerpts from two of them that our readers liked.
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MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: She took the ferry over to the island. In a snack bar no bigger than a bathroom stall, she bought two cellophane-wrapped tuna sandwiches on white bread and used them to cushion the revolver in her bag. The man at the opposite dock who opened the gate to allow the ferry passengers entry smiled in a familiar way, though she did not know him.
Certain pale roses lining the path to the rocky beach also had a familiar look, as did the worn gray boardwalk and the color and tilt of three beach umbrellas: a red one sloping west, and the other two, a green stripe and a solid blue to the east. She walked between the red and the green stripe down to the shore, stepping over a curving line of seaweed stranded by the tide. A small silver button shone within the cage of its tendrils.
For almost an hour, she walked east along the shore, the backsliding waves filling her footprints with foam and sometimes minute, opalescent shells. She looked back three times. The three umbrellas diminished from colored shapes to dots and finally to points of indeterminate color and orientation. She knew she was approaching the next part.
RAZ: That's NPR's Melissa Block reading an excerpt from the story "Exercise" by India DeCarmine of Babylon, New York. Here's another excerpt from a story our readers picked.
BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: She feared their arrival but found herself lost among the individual characteristics contained within the lifeless horde. Each member of the undead congregation seemed to retain features that told a little story about who they had been in life. There was a zombie dressed to play tennis. Another was a policeman in uniform. One was balding but clearly favored a comb-over hairstyle.
Another had beautiful, shiny, long black hair. The one with the lovely hair seemed to be a smiling - a death grimace, really. She wondered what lay beyond that disturbing grin. Who had these zombies been? What had brought them to this disturbing place? Were they gone completely, or were they still inside their earthly containers, trapped by fate?
RAZ: That's our Bob Mondello with "Letting Go" by Graham Sanders of Oregon City, Oregon. Thanks to all our listeners who submitted stories for this round. You can find the full versions of these two and more at our website, npr.org/threeminutefiction. That's Three-Minute Fiction all spelled out, no spaces. And don't forget to tune in to WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED next weekend when our judge Luis Alberto Urrea reveals the winner of this round of Three-Minute Fiction.
(SOUNDBITE OF CLOCK TICKING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.