The Decameron Project is committed not only to encouraging students to share their stories, but also to enabling young writers of exceptional fiction to win recognition for their work. We select winners on a monthly basis, for both themed and unthemed writing. Our team of readers –– ranging from students to Pulitzer Prize winners –– carefully weighs each and every submission before selecting such winners.  

This week’s winning stories are read aloud by National Book Award winner and New Yorker columnist Judith Thurman.

Winner | Justice

Impartial or Blind

Langston Hughes once said, 

That Justice is a blind goddess

Is a thing to which we black are wise:

Her bandage hides two festering sores

That once perhaps were eyes.

By Rhea Ahluwalia
11th Grade, New York , NY

Winner | Horror


The ground is perpetually damp, the buildings creak, and the sun seems more like a hole forced into the sky than the real thing, but that is not why the town by the sea is ruined. The town has existed for centuries and will exist for centuries more.

By Tanisha Shende
11th Grade, Hackensack, NJ

Runner Up | Horror

The Thing in the Wall

If we whispered the name of a dead person, it winked like a friend. If we suppressed our fright and kept quiet, it would leave quietly after several minutes. If it appeared in a wall and we yelled, we were doomed. The wall would shake, become hot and crack.

By Ife Olatona
11th Grade, Washington D.C./Olun, Nigeria

Winner | Hope

Crossing the Rio Puerco

Every year, when late Spring brought the snowmelt from the San Juans, the Rio Puerco took a victim—just last year, Mercedes Guzman, who managed, in spite of her girth, to clamber out the driver’s side window of her battered minivan before the vehicle surrendered to the charging waters.

By Samuel Cooper
11th Grade, Santa Fe, NM

Winner | Unthemed

Glory Be

The lights don’t turn on anymore. And the sink dribbles but doesn’t run. 

I drank all the sodas and crushed all the cans. There was nothing else in the refrigerator. I found a jar of peanut butter in the cupboard. I ate it with my finger. I turn the radio on and keep it on all day and all night because I don’t like the silence. She didn’t like it either.

By Aviva N.
9th Grade, Santa Fe, NM

Winner | Courage

My Friend Samantha

The day it happened was colder than usual, which was especially odd given the stifling humidity of a Maine summer. It began as camp days usually did. After the trumpet wake-up call, we rushed to get dressed, go to breakfast, and return to our cabin for clean up and inspection. Then we split up, each girl headed to her first activity of the day… 

By Sarah S.
10th Grade, New York City

Winner | Unthemed

Painting Answers

She is seventeen now and her hair is strikingly blue. She wears two orange clips behind her ears that clash with her piercing locks and pale skin. Her gentle blue eyes are tired and moist. She is sitting on a cold metal stool, gazing at her painting, her painting staring back at her…

By Jackie C.
11th Grade, New York City

Winner | Dante

The Dark Beyond

Her frantic footsteps echoed off of the twisting hallways. With every turn, with every sprint into the spiraling darkness, she felt herself becoming more and more hopelessly lost. Once or twice, lost in the absence of light and life alike, she had tripped. Each time, terror had chased her closer, nipping at her soul and threatening to dispel her…

By Dawn M.
12th Grade, Piedmont, SC

Runner Up | Dante

in light of

you breathe like an accordion, shuddering, your body emptying, because you hate knowing he’s the sun to your icarus, feel the wax dripping, and the sensation is a wisp of smoke you won’t find this…

By Amy Liu
12th Grade, New York City

3rd Place | Dante

Not Quite Icarus

Here is what they don’t tell you.

The fall from grace isn’t a slope but a cliff

One wrong step, gone forever

One shift of the wind and you’re out of time

It’s biting cold, the way down

Wind ripping past your cheeks and slicing your…

By McAlister Standford
9th Grade, Williamson, GA

4th Place | Dante

I Am That Book

I always wished for brothers, companions, guides towards the rest of my life. Hope for the hopeful and rest for the weary and a thousand words across a painted sky. I always hated sadness, curling inside myself, pinching my arm to know this was real life and I couldn’t run away just yet. I dove into the sea…

By Ben Wilson
12th Grade, Plano, IL