|Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
As always I'd like to thank everyone who entered and please leave your appreciation for the winning stories in the comments below, I'm sure you'll agree that they're all an excellent read.
- First prize of a £50 Amazon gift card goes to Colbey Pratt for 'Achromic'
- Second prize of a £20 Amazon gift card goes to Kath Middleton for 'The Tree'
- Third prize of a £10 Amazon gift card goes to Will Macmillan for 'Ysgaddril'
If you enjoy reading short or flash fiction, or you have written a piece you'd like to share then why not join my Facebook group, click here to take a look.
And now let's enjoy October's winners:
Achromic by Colbey Pratt
I live in a world divested of color.
My senses escape me, lost and separated from the void in which I am trapped. I cannot feel the warmth of the light, nor the icy chill of the shadows. I cannot taste any fragrance in the air, of the dandelions that dance with even the subtlest hint of a breeze. I cannot hear the rustling of the Great Tree's leaves, or even that soft static that always accompanies silence. And, even though I can decipher shapes, I cannot perceive the color they may or may not possess.
Of my senses I can only smell, but even that is a curse in and of itself. For the only odor I can detect is of ash and smoke, of soot and the lingering essence of death. I am not quite positive of where it comes from, and every theory I've created has been squashed by simple logic...although logic is untouchable from my prison.
I am completely alone, isolated from any other soul that may occupy this realm as I do. Once, a while ago or so I believe, I thought I glimpsed another being passing by, tiptoeing just along my peripheral. But the instant I tried to look, anyone that might have been there had already vanished, and I was forsaken once more. I remember endeavoring to call out, but no sound came - and where no sound can be heard, no sound can be made.
I have no memory of a past or place before this province before this never-ending moment suspended in the fabric of time - only a knowledge of what should or should not be in the presence of reality. And that alone gives me the notion that I'm ensnared in the clutches of a world, of a universe, completely detached, severed from all facets of reality. It simply does not exist where I reside.
And that, I suppose, is the most frightening aspect of all. The idea, the possibility, that I am caught between the thriving before and the sacrosanct after.
The Tree by Kath Middleton
This tree has come to symbolise my life.
I was nineteen years old and taking part in early experiments in electrical conductivity when something happened which made me different from others. I believe it occurred when one of our experiments went badly wrong. We were passing a powerful current through a cadaver and I caught the full blast in error. I was thrown across the laboratory and had my hair singed. I even lost consciousness for a time and spent two days in hospital recovering.
It was after this that I realised, very gradually, that physical changes which affected my fellows left me untouched. I didn't age. Oh, I don't mean I still look nineteen. I have filled out a little and my facial features have matured. That was all over a hundred and fifty years ago though. Unless someone cuts off my head, shoots me or runs me through with a blade, I will live on, potentially forever.
So many people think that it must be wonderful never to age - never to die. They don't know what they're talking about. Being immortal doesn't stop you from falling in love. Every woman I have ever loved has aged before my eyes, has become bent, grey and wrinkled. She has died of sickness or old age and I have lost her. It happens to many people once. It has happened to me several times, that I have buried the woman I love while appearing to the outside world as though I were her grandson.
When I lost Lilian, my first wife, I buried her and planted a seed above her withered body. The tree that grew there would be her remembrance. I go back every year and watch as it grows. It's in the prime of life but I have buried two other beloved women since its seed was sown. I now know that I will either live alone and desolate, or I will love women yet unborn and lose them too. It's not just the loss that hurts, it's watching helplessly as day by day she slips away from me. I am now aware that my memory tree has reached its own maturity and will begin to decline. I shall have to collect seeds from it and begin another tree.
Now my fifth wife is white-haired and looks like my grandmother. For the first time, with this wife, Ellen, I have a son. After a wonderful childhood I watched him grow, taught him much and now see him looking like my father. My life feels like a tragedy.
Today is the anniversary of Lilian's death and my first great grief. I stand under the canopy of my mourning tree and finger the seed in my pocket. Unless I take my own life, I will need another tree to commemorate my lost loves - and children.
I stoop, bury the seed in the damp earth and stand back.
Ysgaddril by Will Macmillan
I don’t know about you, but I love trees. I spend as much time as I can walking in the woods and talking to the trees. They are alive you know, and everything that lives talks and communicates to its fellows in some way. Look at the oak trees. Did you know that you even get male and female varieties? So they love and mate as we do: only it all takes place over a much longer life cycle than ours, obviously. They talk, they must talk, and I try to hear them and understand their romance.
If you’ve any spark of romance in you, then like me you probably get drawn to the lone tree. Don’t you love the image of the single tree on the skyline of a ridge? Especially when the rosy fingers of a summer dawn glow on the leaves, or the cold, sweet light of the moon shines stark through the bare branches as the autumn wind howls. At times like that the lonely tree still talks, but to whom?
Well, to me for one. Every year at this time there’s one special tree on a skyline for me. It isn’t far from where I pass the days, and one night in the year I go and sit there beneath the bare spreading branches and talk to the tree of the season fled, the approaching winter and the spring beyond. Does it hear me? I’d like to think so, for I always rise from the grassy seat feeling I have been refreshed and gifted with enough energy to last me the coming year. One reason I think of it as my tree of life.
Sometimes as I walk away down the ridge with the grey dawn rising at my back, I look back and outlined with the branches I can see my body hanging from the tree, just as I left it there all those years ago.