I’m delighted to announce the results of this year’s Northampton Literature Competition Flash Fiction competition. Each entry had to be 500 words or less and this year they all were (we had a 610-worder last year which was disqualified). So without further ado…
The seven Highly Commended (in surname alphabetical order) are…
The Secret – Fay Dickinson
Identity Crisis – Tracy Fells
Underneath Her Clothes – Alice Parrant
I remember every line – Nancy Raynsford
The Scent of Lilies – Deborah Smith
The Anniversary – Deborah Smith
Hangman – Deborah Smith
In third place, winning £15…
Blink – Paul Isaac (written in my favourite viewpoint: second-person)
Oh no, you think, halfway through wiggling your key needlessly in the lock. The last time he snuck home like this you found him sitting on the stairs with his things thrown angrily and carelessly about the hallway. An expulsion, a trip to court, and a change of school later, things were just getting back on track. A streak of red comes away on your palm from the door handle and you shudder as you blink away the memory. He’s been trying hard to control his temper.
You step inside and his bag is by the door, his coat hung up neatly on the rail. That’s a relief. But strangely, yours is missing. Your son emerges into the hallway.
‘Why are you home so early?’ But he just walks straight past you. You go to stop him but then you catch sight of his eyes. They’re red and raw, like he’s been crying.
‘What’s going on? Why aren’t you at school?’
He pauses, and his lips look like they’re about to say something. But then they fail, the movement you spotted was actually a quiver. He’s not even looking at you, you realise. He’s looking through you. Something terrible must have happened.
Ignoring him for a moment, you push through and enter the room he’s just left. You solve the mystery of your missing coat pretty quickly, but the next question is who he’s hidden underneath it.
‘What have you done?!’ You demand, screaming this time. Again, he just walks past you back in the direction of the corpse, whispering something quietly to himself that you can’t make out. The guilt, you realise, he must be in shock.
Slapping him doesn’t help. He takes the blow like a pro and wears your crimson five-piece like a badge. Blink and it’s gone. Memories have never been so corruptible. Fuming, and a little confused, it’s about time you play detective and see to the unveiling.
Looking down, the deathless face is like a mirror and you sink to your knees in horror. The shroud both has and hasn’t moved.
‘Why?’ you whimper. It’s funny, that coat is so thick with blood by now it’s like it’s wearing you.
A knotted ball forms in your stomach, you gave everything, thick and –
When did it get so dark? You beat your eyelids a couple of times to recalibrate and notice he’s holding a letter. It starts to glow. You’re fighting the intensifying light, shielding yourself with a raised, dripping hand until –
Now you remember.
‘I’m so sorry.’ You beg, but it’s no more than a lost whisper between worlds. He explodes into a fury and rips your goodbye to shreds. Words of sorrow burst as fire and when they fall, the darkness is absolute.
You and all the others, so quick to assume the worst in him. Yes, there’s been murder here, but that blood was on your hands. In taking your own life, you’ve taken what’s left of his as well.
In second place, winning £35…
The Butterfly – Vasiliki Scurfield
He traced the path it took, as it fluttered and wavered, its yellow and brown wings gilded in the harsh sunlight that streaked across the floor of his cell. A bible fell unnoticed to the floor, its delicate, unread pages creasing in the dust as he rose to his feet.
The butterfly danced and danced, just beyond his reach as he leapt clumsily about the tiny space, his child mind unable to coordinate his adult body. The butterfly evaded his fingers, remaining just beyond his grasp and he laughed at the game.
‘Jim boy,’ the sheriff’s voice was gruff but not unkind. ‘Come on son, it’s time.’
Jim watched the butterfly meander through the bars as they bound his hands behind his back.
The words passed over him their concepts too much for him to understand and he lost interest, unaware he approached the scaffold, his eyes searching the sky above their heads.
The noose around his neck and still he searched the sky his eyes finally focusing on a growing glimmer of gold.
The door opened and, in the sudden rush and snap, the sky filled with butterflies.
And in first place, winning £50…
Soft Touch – Andrew Campbell-Kersey
Her outstretched hand hardly figured on my radar. I pushed it away. I was the asset-stripping king and late for a meeting. I give to plenty of charities – well, my companies do. The payments are tax deductible so it makes good business sense. If I gave to one beggar, I’d become known as a soft touch.
‘Next Winter’s Solstice your touch will bring an icy death.’
I saw from the luxury of my limousine two hefty security guards escorting her from outside our head-office.
It must have troubled me on some level since I googled the date for the Winter Solstice on my smartphone. It wasn’t for a couple of months.
It was ridiculous that I even recalled the old woman’s curse. The morning on the actual day of the Winter Solstice I felt foolish that I’d ever thought those few words could have an impact on my impregnable life. They were the rants of a jealous woman, who coveted my status and trappings of power. I was a modern-day Midas. Everything I touched turned to gold.
At a lunchtime business lunch, I shook hands with a colleague. ‘Cold hands, warm heart.’ She laughed. ‘Sorry, it’s just something my grandmother used to say. Your hand feels pretty chilly.’ I smiled and turned the conversation to our new corporate takeover deal.
I was chauffeured home that evening and for some reason I just couldn’t warm up. I put on an extra jumper but still shivered. I decided to go to bed early as I was going down with a chill. Tomorrow would be a big day – my daughter’s fourth birthday. To surprise her, I’d had a gazebo erected in the back garden. She’d been visiting her grandmother with my wife. I had been occupied with business but this weekend I intended to devote to my wife and daughter.
As I left my bed the next morning, there were tiny crystals of ice where I’d slept. A hot shower did nothing to warm me up. I dressed in extra layers of clothing and went outside to inspect my daughter’s birthday present. The builders had followed the architect’s drawings meticulously. They knew my reputation. The pink gazebo was situated at the bottom of the garden. I walked towards it. As I stepped on the first paving stone it changed colour. The same thing happened with the next place I stood. They had turned icy blue. I retraced my steps. The surface was slippery. I looked back and saw a trail of frozen footprints from the house. I reached the gazebo and the beautiful varnished wood was transformed into ice under my touch. I put my hand up to touch the brightly coloured birthday banner but my fingers froze it instantly.
The horrific implications of the old woman’s curse filled my thoughts. By the time I heard my daughter calling out to me it was too late to escape. She flung her arms around my neck.
The hug was the last she ever gave.
Congratulations everyone. My thanks go to everyone who submitted and to preliminary judges Brenda, Julia, Len and Monica. The standard was incredibly high this year so don’t be disappointed if you didn’t make the top 10. The competition will run next year with the details on the https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/competitions-calendar/nlg-flash-fiction-competition page of the blog.
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