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Still shaking from last week’s -16 chill? Fear not!

Broken Pencil’s Deathmatch 2017 has returned to electrify a freezing winter. Reader voting for the competition has just started, but stories are already neck-to-neck in vote counts. Even with the indubitable talent underlying the diverse pieces, which range from chilling science fiction shorts to exhilarating con-jobs, there are clear crowd favourites.

Let’s take a quick look at the top eight pieces leading the competition in rankings.

8th place: Androids (do not) dream of electric sheep

In Vicky Savage’s “Fogger”, an android embodies the art of replication to the extreme by performing humanity. As they recount interactions with other “genuine humans” and the therapist Dr. Susan, questions begin to arise about the strange conditions in which the narrator exists.

7th place: Another 007 fantasy

“A Gun for Chekov” thrusts you into a fantasy of an illicit double life. From a middle-aged office worker to the mysterious mafia-esque character he invents, Wyatt McRae keeps readers asking: what happens next?

6th place: A guide to recognizing yourself

Kaitlin Tremblay’s surrealist piece takes us through a woman’s troubled relationship with self-identity and unrestrained violence. Throughout “Her Shadow’s Bones”, Elizabeth’s confrontation with past lovers forces you to deconstruct what it really means to belong.

5th place: How to do life, but better

Burdened by a washed-out musician father and good-for-nothing boyfriend, Katie struggles with the possibility of achieving more. P.D. Walter’s “Sick to Death of Stories” explores the notion that one’s life and circumstances, much like work of fiction, can be rewritten.

4th place: Should’ve learned from Frankenstein

Channeling literature’s classic fascination with the boundaries between genius and bad science, “The Illuminated Throat” is a treat for lovers of the old-school horror genre. Rob Onofrey will keep you in suspense while exploring the age-old adage, “don’t experiment with what could kill you.”

3rd place: Don’t get taken alive

When Susan Read’s eponymous protagonist finds herself accused of theft in the workplace, what should have been a simple investigation turns into a full-fledged struggle of wits. “Failure to Cooperate” will lead you on a tumultuous journey that keeps you wondering long after the story is over.

2nd place: Once more, with feeling

“I Want You Around” perfectly embodies the mental process of cycling through could-have-beens. Rich with nostalgia and longing, and haunted by impermanence, Rachel Rosenberg’s intimate snapshots of an unnamed “I” and “you” will haunt readers.

1st place: Hard candy

Hege Lepri’s “The Very Last Mr. Jones” offers an unflinchingly brutal take on the possibilities of teenage malaise. Forget The Virgin Suicides; these girls know what they want and stop at nothing to get them. This dark tale will have you sleeping with one eye open.

With this year’s incredible contenders, it’s anyone’s guess which piece will emerge as the juggernaut of the fiction ring. Who’s to say what the next week holds in store? Keep voting to find out.