Winner: Dark Fantasy
Evil Editor's unpaid assistant had been reading slush sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, ever since college had let out for Christmas vacation. "I want to go home," she said. "It's Sunday, it's New Year's Eve, and it's freezing in here."
"I told you before," Evil Editor told her again, "if you get cold, shovel some manuscripts into the furnace. Heating fuel is expensive. Manuscripts are a dime a dozen. And not my dime."
"But I worked Christmas. And I have a date. Have a heart, Master.""All right, already," EE told her. "Anything's better than listening to your whining. Be back by five A.M., or you can forget about that job recommendation."
Five minutes passed. There came a knock on the door. "Now who could that be at eleven o'clock New Year's Eve?" Evil Editor grumbled.
She was back.
"I thought you had a date, Cathy," Evil Editor sneered.
"It's Candace," said the assistant. "And my date's right here. Come on in, hon."
Evil Editor tried to close the door, but Candace forced it open.
The figure that entered behind her was no pimply-faced college boy. He was tall, dressed in flowing black robes, and carried a scythe.
"Grim Reaper?" said Evil Editor.
"Evil!" Death thumped Evil Editor chummily on the back. "How the hell are you?"
"Fit as a fiddle," Evil Editor replied.
"Really?" Death raised one eyebrow.
There was an awkward pause. Candace checked her watch.
"We're going to be late for the dance, Grim."
"I am the dance," said Death. "They'll wait."
"Ah," said Evil Editor, relieved. "You're here for the girl?"
"Candace? Oh no," said Death. "She's my date. She's off limits, professionally."
"Undead," said Candace. She smiled with her lips curled back to reveal sharp, white fangs.
"Oh," said Evil Editor.
"You remember our deal, don't you?" said Death. "December 31st, 1996? We played a game. You won ten more years."
"It's starting to come back to me," said Evil Editor, sinking onto the edge of his desk. "Well, what do you want this time?"
"You, obviously," said Death. "But failing that..."
Death's gaze came to rest on the slush pile -- or rather, piles. There were twenty of them, each stacked five feet high from the floor.
"You know the drill," said Death. "One of these manuscripts is pure gold. It's Nobel prize-winning material -- and it will top the bestseller list for years. You have three days. Find it, and you win ten more years. Fail to discover the work of genius, and..." Death playfully waved his scythe.
Sweat was pouring down Evil Editor's face despite the lowered thermostat.
"Candace," he said desperately, "do you think...?"
"No can do, Master," said Candace. "I have a date. Oh, and about that job recommendation?"
"Anything," said Evil Editor. "But I wasn't asking you to read the manuscripts. Don't take this the wrong way, but do you think you could . . . bite me?"
Continuation by mb