Tuesday, January 16, 2024

“How to Win at Cards When You’re Sick of Being Queen” • by Elis Montgomery

The space inside my card satisfies: sunny window, velvety blanket. But what cat welcomes orders? Or magical floodings?

I’m my wizard’s high card: a queen. I grumpily emerge as mandated, fluffing into 3D on the table.

His opponent’s got nothing: her high card’s a jack. From it, a hatted dormouse nervously emerges.

My tail flicks. I’m no vegetarian, but being forced to eat is no fun.

I gently swat the jack. When he plays dead, I lean in, whispering my plan.


We’ve told the whole deck by the next royal-flush flooding.

As the magical animation begins, we pluck the suits from our cards as makeshift surfboards. I howl, clutching my spade. The deluge hurls us toward the cardroom’s swirling portal exit—

This time, we’re all in.


Elis Montgomery is a speculative fiction writer from Vancouver, Canada. She is a member of SFWA and Codex. When she’s not writing, she’s usually hanging upside down in an aerial arts class or a murky cave. Find her there or at elismontgomery.com.

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The Pete Wood Challenge
is an informal ad hoc story-writing competition. Once a month Pete Wood spots writers the idea for a story, usually in the form of a phrase or a few key words, along with some restrictions on what can be submitted, usually in terms of length. Pete then collects the resulting entries, determines who has best met the challenge, and sends the winners over to Bruce Bethke, who arranges for them to be published on the Stupefying Stories web site.

You can find all the previous winners of the Pete Wood Challenge at this link.

This time the challenge was to write a flash fiction piece playing off at least two of the following key words: cat, poker, storm, sandwich.

More stories to come!