It's that fun time of the month where I get to read the entrants for the latest short fiction contest and it's also the hard time of picking a winner. This month's image was the Poe inspired picture of a raven by a gravestone. I expected some spooky stories and I wasn't dissapointed!
I received thirty entries in total and a big thanks to everyone who entered, the quality of the stories where excellent and picking the three winners was no easy task. I have however whittled the entries down to the three winners and they are:
- First prize of a £50 Amazon gift card goes to Emily Nemchick for her story 'Worms'.
- Second prize of a £20 Amazon gift card goes to Jason Purdy for his story 'The Face of God' (Double congratulations for Jason as also won third prize in July's contest!).
- Third prize of a £10 Amazon gift card goes to Ian Thompson for his story 'A letter from the dead'.
December's short fiction contest has started with a rather sunny picture as this month's inspiration, check it out here:
I'm also running a Facebook group which is an excellent place for readers to discover new short and flash fiction and is also somewhere that writers can show off their work in those forms. COme and join the group here:
And now onto November's winning stories:
Worms by Emily Nemchick
The bird perched thoughtfully on the cold, frozen ground beside the gravestone. He gave the frigid earth a tentative peck, as if the taste of the ice might be some indicator of who lay beneath.
Each person was different, you see. Some tasted sweet, like fresh honey dripping from the honeycomb. Those were usually the young ones, the innocent and the dreamers. Others were as bitter and galling as acid, their vitriol soaking into the earth around them and making the worms fat with pulpy white malice.
The worms were what he was seeking, you see. The bird had sampled many a human corpse through the plump, wriggling medium of the graveyard's worms. Each one had its own distinctive flavour, left over from the fragrance of the lives of the people they had consumed.
He had tasted many worms, but never had he found the taste he was seeking above all others. The mingled sorrow, wisdom and hope of his long-dead master, whose shoulder had been his world for so many happy years. He couldn't read the faded lettering, etched in the human tongue, and although he had called the name time and again on his search, the same 'caw, caw' was all that fell on the ears of the mourners. Now, with the ground frozen by the early November chill, he would have to wait a while longer to see if this gravestone covered the memories he sought.
He would know with the first bite whether he had found a granite shoulder to perch on.
The Face of God by Jason Purdy
Every time he found a dead bird on his hand, he’d take it home, pluck it, and add the feathers to his collection. He had a lot of time for feather collecting. Most stayed away, especially after the incident, where the young boy got hurt and the blood stained the sun bleached porch boards a deep crimson. Now he kept to himself. Never even went into town, got everything from the land. Sometimes he ate the birds, but only if things weren’t going well. Only if the crops were failing, or the traps weren’t catching anything.
The birds died a lot around here. There was something in the air. He felt it, thick, and heavy, an evil, like a fog that settles in your lungs and slowly kills you with a black, bleak miasma. Though it could just be the fumes from the coal mine.
Three more birds and he’d be done. He was making a suit. A suit of feathers, a suit of wings and bones and cartilage. A suit that he’d drape himself in and take a flying leap off the cliffs with. Then he’d fly away, all the way to somewhere warm, somewhere where the sky isn’t perpetually grey and where every glance, every gaze, doesn’t come laden with pretence, with hatred and prejudice.
He was quite mad.
Someone had once told him he was mad as a hatter but that confused him, because he didn’t own any hats. Their tone of voice and their face told him that they meant it as an insult, but to him, everything was an insult. Every life, every second, every blade of grass, every drop of rain, every moment spent lying awake, writhing in agony as the sickness wracked his weary body. Every moment was an insult of cosmic proportions.
Maybe if the suit worked, maybe if he could fly, then he’d arch his wings and tear his way into the sky, ripping a whole through the stars, flying right into the man on the moon’s mouth and coming out face to face with God. Then he’d spit at him. How great would that be?
Another bird drops, like a thick, fat rain drop. He watches it’s descent through his grimy binoculars. Only a few more to go and he’ll be ready. His mother told him he was mad, but she’s the mad one, thinking she can stop him, thinking she has a say in anything when she’s nothing more than a bag of bones and the rotten threads of her Sunday best. To say less about his father, who’s nothing, nothing but ash that he tossed down the old well.
There’s nothing but him and the birds and his great mission now. Two more fall, off in the fields, passing in and out of the belching smoke from the mine. Disappearing, then reappearing, ethereal and real in turns like the roll of a dice. This is it. He’s ready to fly now. He’s ready to visit with God.
A Letter from the Dead by Ian Thompson
My dearest Jonathan,
I hope I find you in good health after your recent adventures.
May I firstly congratulate you upon your most meritorious marriage to Wilhelmina Murray. Whilst I felt a trifle disgruntled not to be invited to the celebration, I also understood your reasoning. Time has, as always, wafted that ire away. I hear little Quincy is growing up to be a feisty toddler. Your fighting spirit is a tribute to your lineage, and has obviously been inherited by the little fellow.
It was such a shame that our last meeting ended so abruptly, and most discourteous of Abraham. One day I will be forced to have words with him, as I cannot have my sisters being treated so. But that is for another day.
I have enclosed a painting for you, as I know how much you enjoyed watching the indigenous wildlife during your stay. It is a very rare bird from the crow family. So rare, in fact, that it only inhabits certain dwellings. Yet it is not the dwelling that it favours with its presence, more the occupier. This picture is of mine own bird, and I painted it whilst recuperating.
The feathery marvel is from mythology, and is an offshoot of an ancient Roman bird, namely the Caladrius. Now, myth holds the Caladrius to be a snow-white bird, but as you can observe, mine is blue. You see, whilst the original birds were able to take human sickness into themselves, and then fly away and disperse it; that was not quite enough for people like me. For we have our own peculiar needs and therefore we modified legend to make the birds our own.
I beseech you to understand that the upkeep of immortality demands more than mere chance. For around any given corner or alcove, there may be a shadow, lurking, waiting, to cut off your head, or worse; drive a stake through your heart. But you know all about those people.
The bird is thing of beauty do you not think? I re-named mine Lucy, recently. The bird did not seem to mind, and it gives me some fond memories. Lucy took an age to heal me. You did, after all, leave me for dust.
However, let’s let bygones be bygones. Do you like my new coffin? It’s made of stone, specifically a grey limestone from the mines of Govajdia. You probably do not like the carvings; after all, you never had a flair for the flamboyant. I cannot say the same for myself.
Well, this was just meant to be a short note, but I find myself rambling as usual. I must end now, to rest and continue my convalescence.
As soon as I am fully restored, I will be sure to drop by, as I miss both Mina and yourself. And I find that I have a growing thirst to visit your shores, and London, once more.