After two rounds of competition and from an original field of over 7,600 around the world, 200 remaining writers were challenged to create a story no longer than 100 words based on the following prompts:


Genre: Open

Action: Unpacking a suitcase

Word: Light


We are proud to present the top 10 stories from the final round below.  We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!


by Ophelia Hu Kinney

Original Illustration by Yevgenia Nayberg

Soon, she’ll land. Her father will be shorter. Her mother’s bones, lighter.

“Aiyaa, it’s been five years.” It’ll need to be said.

At their apartment, she’ll unpack her suitcase: gifts, vitamins, medicine for their restless legs.

Her mother will kiss her. “We have these things in China now.”

In two weeks, they’ll repack her suitcase with the life she could’ve had: water spinach seeds, photographs, native honeysuckle cuttings for flowers that will make her weep.

In five more years, the honeysuckle will cross her fence. Its children will grow toward the highway, and then the ocean, and then, and then...

About the Author

Ophelia Hu Kinney (she/her) lives in Maine. She is a daughter, sister, and wife, and she writes to translate identity and experience.



The Old Man and the Moon

by Regan Puckett

  For millennia, when a star flickered, the old man ascended the stairway toward the sky carrying a suitcase of starbulbs. Eventually, his knees cracked with each step.
“Let the stars twinkle,” begged the Moon. “You must rest.”
Unpacking a new bulb, he shook his head. He descended with a lighter suitcase and heavier heart.
Exhaustion soaked his bones, but his work was never-ending.  The Moon called to him, longing. He longed for her, too. For a final time, he journeyed upwards.
Now, stars twinkle freely. The stairway rusts.
In a crater, the old man on the moon rests, sound asleep.


by Sam Baldassari

  The suitcase lights my dashboard up like a Christmas tree.

I sigh, wave the girl over, unzip it, thinking: how many signs do people need? Thinking: here’s my life, confiscating shampoo from teenagers.

Inside, there’s one layer of clothing draped over ten water bottles. Ritz-Carlton labeled, from the hotel mini fridge.

Why? I wonder, looking at her. She says nothing but her eyes plead.

The man behind her shuffles. Angry. Hovering, like Dad would, before I got my government job, moved Mom out.

“Step aside, ma’am.”

I usher her in—she obliges.

Gratitude pulsates between us like something newly freed.


Between The Earth and The Sun
by Kalyn RoseAnne

  The moon hung low above the mountains and in the almost-dark it resembled a thumbnail puncturing the skin of a plum. It was August, sweltering, and heat lightning illuminated the peaks and valleys as she drove.

She recalled unpacking her suitcase at the last hotel and unfolding the now-weathered note: “See everything! Can’t wait to hear about it. Love, Mom.”

She had packed and repacked that paper for ages, reflecting on grief and how it ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes, is sometimes veiled but never gone. Going home would never feel good. But it finally felt right.


by Emily Roth

  Her son vanished.

His car was discovered near a river, hours north. His shoes stuck in the shallows; his wallet trapped in mud.

She rented a motel room on the riverbank and unpacked her suitcase, pulling his baby photo out last. Her chest ached at his toothless smile.

Day faded to dusk outside her window.

She watched the river churn, its gleaming surface chewing moonlight into specks. She imagined it could swallow her whole.

A knock at her door startled the silence. Cold coursed through her.

The answer waited. She paused, hand on the knob, embracing uncertainty a moment longer.


An Urn Full of Rice
by Jesse Chen

  Sooty rain crashed against the hostel window. My jetlagged fingers unzipped the suitcase, extracting the birch urn. Light in weight, heavy with expectations.

I missed final exams. Mom missed busy farm shifts. We both missed Grandma.

Mom broke the silence stretching from LaGuardia to Shanghai. “Grandma got two urns when Grandpa passed. This one’s hers. It stored our rice. My tiny hands reached in every day, helping her cook.”

Grandma and her urn. Prepared decades ahead, providing food for the future, preserving dreams of a better life. I’d carry them forward.

We hugged, three generations of immigrants; burnt-out, sun-burnt, burnt. 


by Helen Ritchie

  Her babies are finally asleep, so she unpacks the suitcases by the light of a streetlamp staring between the curtains.

She couldn’t sleep at the last shelter either. Every night the janitor’s keys sang like a jailer when he mopped down the hall. She jammed a stopper under the unlockable door but the song came in anyway.

This room says nothing. Still she defends herself to the empty drawers yawning accusation, and gags them with shirts and pants. “Just until we get our own place,” she promises. The curtains do not respond when she tries to pull them closed.
The traveler
by Nina Seale

  A stranger approaches you on a packed train.

“Everyone here is in danger.”


“Quiet. I have no time left. Soon, you will need one of these.” She unpacks glowing jars from a suitcase. “Choose one. Choose well.”

single someone out

cast shadows

make them doubt


You choose.

“Who are you?”

“A traveler. I fix the narrative.”

She is gone.

A scream.

A man. His body swollen with bombs. His eyes dark with hate.

You unscrew the jar lid, shaking.

The light pulses. His eyes transform, becoming bright and warm.

The label reads:

give wisdom
It's not the end of the world

by Martin Busse

  Where had it gone wrong? The Garden. He’d begin again.

God unfastened the clasps of the suitcase and raised the lid.

“LET THERE BE — hang on.”

He carefully lifted out a stack of firmament.


His hand searched the suitcase, sweeping aside the heavens and the earth.

Surely He’d packed it?

God upended the suitcase, spilling formless void and darkness across the swirling chaos. The suitcase was empty: no light anywhere. God sighed, causing ripples on the water.

“Well.” He flexed His fingers. He’d have to make do.

Forgotten in the outer pouch of the suitcase: a faint glimmer.


Mint Julep

by Arielle Chapin

  Ice clacks in the bottom of the glass. “Make it strong,” my sister says, still unpacking her suitcase.

“Your phone’s buzzing.” I splash in a good helping of bourbon.


“Not gonna pick up?”

“We’re in Georgia.” Like that’s an answer.

We sit out back and take long cool sips. Hot summer humming on our skin. She needed a vacation, she’d said. We chose the coast, where the evening light catches in the cattails.

Her phone buzzes again.

“Dan?” I ask. She looks down, fidgeting the ring around her finger.

“Maybe I’ll move here.”

As if that’s an answer too.






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