Contrast contest winner: ‘Paradise Lost, Eternal Hell Found’

(Atticus Rice / McDaniel Free Press).

Congratulations to Sophia Gilbart, winner of last month’s Contrast contest. Below is her submission, in which she describes something ordinary in an unrelated genre style. 

I could see it in the dark corner of my room, peeking out from the desk. A quick flash of red in the light of a passing car and then darkness again. It had followed me. I thought I had escaped it when I graduated high school and moved away, but no. There was no escaping it. This damned thing was going to follow me straight into hell. I risked another glance towards the desk where it was hidden and shuddered. This was going to be the end, then. I was going to have to face up to it after all. All the delay and procrastination in the world wouldn’t be enough this time. I would have to face it like the adult I now was. I slipped quietly off the bed, not daring to make a sound. The least I could do was not wake up my roommate. She wasn’t going to want to experience this. It was far better to face the devil on my own. 

There were only about eight feet to the desk, but I took them as slowly as possible, trying to appreciate my last few moments as an innocent before coming to stand in front of that infernal desk. God help and forgive me, but I had to face this creation of hell face-on if I wanted to see another day. Hands shaking, I took those eight small steps and stopped, staring at the infernal thing in front of me. It was small, all things considered, though this was in no way an indicator of the misery it was about to bring me. I summoned all my courage, took a deep breath, and reached out my hands. 

They touched the cool, smooth cover of the book. Paradise Lost by John Milton. I had been assigned passages of it for my high school AP English class, but escaped with my life due to some light skimming and vague answers. That wasn’t going to work this time though. This time, I had to fill out a worksheet full of questions on it. The old-timey English. The small print. The meandering sentences. How cruel that the English classes I loved so much had brought me here. As I opened up to the story, I felt something die within me. I could see my life flash before my eyes, all the free time I was going to lose reading Milton. There was nothing more horrifying. As I cast my eyes upon the first sentence, a tear ran down my face.

 At this point, I’ve been reading for 65 days. I don’t have much left in me. The very least I can do is leave this note at the beginning for some other poor soul to find. If you’re reading this, it means I’ve died from boredom in the extreme. Heed my words, put down the book, and pray to god you won’t meet the same fate.

The Free Press is partnering with Contrast to bring creative writing contests to both of our readerships.

Read the next prompt below, and feel free to contact Contrast Co-Editors Marya Kuratova and Nathan Wright at, or visit a Contrast meeting on Oct. 8, Oct. 22, Nov. 5, Nov. 19, and Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. in Hill 208 to workshop your writing and receive feedback from other creative minds on campus.

This month’s prompt: You’re on your way out the door when you catch a look at yourself in the mirror. You realize you’re missing something, something you can’t just lose like a phone or set of keys. In up to 500 words of prose or up to 50 lines of poetry, write about what happens. Email submissions to by 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 13.