July's short fiction contest was the busiest one so far with over eighty entries. As you can imagine that made selecting the winners the hardest of the all the contest so far! It's taken me two days to read them all and then reduce the entries to a short list and then the final three. The standard of entries was very high and I'd like to thank everyone who entered there are some truly amazing stories in the entries.
Unfortunately there can be only three winners, although I have selected a few others which I will be featuring in the Sunday Story over the next few weeks so keep your eyes open for those. They might not have made the final three but they are excellent stories.
Today's post however is about the three winning entries and deserving winners they are, so without further delay here are the winners:
- First prize of a £50 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to Harrison Cutts for his story 'The Mysteries of the Manifold Man'
- Second prize of a £20 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to David Haynes for his story 'The Truth'
- Third prize of a £10 Amazon gift card or PayPal prize goes to Andrew Orton for his story 'He Does Not Want to Die'
Congratulations to the winners, their stories are an excellent read. Thanks to everyone who entered and thanks to everyone who has helped spread trhe word about this contest. Please continue to do so as I'm sure you'll agree these stories deserve to be read.
And now enjoy the winning stories:
The Mysteries of the Manifold Man
by Harrison Cutts
‘You don’t understand the Manifold Man;
Don’t know what he sees with those eyes made of glass.
He’s sitting and watching the world going by
And watching the long ages pass.’
21st Century Proverb
Sometimes, they snigger in corners, the huddled masses, laughing at the Manifold Man, out in the cold. Sometimes, they pity his glassy eyes that can never smile; they wonder, in their quieter moments, if that gaping mouth has ever spoken the simplest of words.
“I love you.”
“Nice day, isn’t it?”
“Where were you when the bombs came down?”
The urchins in ragged scraps of cloth swarm about him when the winter subsides; they wipe his glassy eyes of their icicle tears and their small white hands free the snows from the thick folds of his own clothes. He is a friend to some, always there; he always listens as they pour out their troubles to his motionless form. He never judges them, never speaks, but they know he listens. He is a terror to others, and they sit by their bedsides as the fires die for the night, watching him watching them. If they can’t see him in the street, he’s under their beds, in the dark of their corners, coming to get them.
“Don’t stay out tonight,” their tired mothers say, “the Manifold Man will get you.”
“But he never moves,” they say back. Hoping they’re right.
And as they watch him from shattered windows, or throng around firelights that keep the night at bay, they do not understand the Manifold Man. What he has seen. What he has done. Who he is, and what he was. It does not matter to them.
To them, he is a symbol, a grim reminder of the day the bombs came and the fire fell from the sky. He is an icon, proof that all can stand the test of time. A comfort by day to one lonely child, a terror at night to another. The older ones remember; he was there before they were, he will be there long after they’re gone. Has he always been there? They close the shutters, some afraid, some inspired. He is eternal; whether he brings fear or faith, he will always do so.
What does he see through those reflecting eyes, in the glare of the flames and the cool of the moon? The man who never moves, never speaks, does he see at all?
And the days come and go, and winters and summers blend into one. Stars move in the sky, new constellations rise and fall. Rock turns to dust turns to sand in the wind, and a thousand, a million, new faces flash past the Manifold Man. Still, he sits, motionless. Sitting and watching the world going by.
With long-dead eyes.
by David Haynes
They said it was out there somewhere. They said it tip toed through the wasted ruin that was once called earth and whistled a merry tune. And when The Truth winked with its one good eye, you better get the hell out of the way.
The Truth, that's what they called it.
I call it something else.
Five of us set out. The Sons of Men they called us, for the fate of all mankind rested on our over-burdened and weary shoulders.
'Go find The Truth and bring it back to us,' they whispered. 'Find it and set us free.'
But how do you find something if you don't know what it is you're looking for? How do you find something that doesn't want to be found?
And should never be found.
We searched. We followed our brief and we looked. We got down on our god-dam hands and knees and looked under every stinking corpse until we could taste their rotting flesh on our tongues.
And then The Truth found us.
Like I said, when The Truth tips you a wink you better run because it won't wink twice. But we didn't run, not the first time anyway, we just stared. What else were we supposed to do?
What Jonesy was thinking I'll never know but he didn't even scream when the windows on his mask filled with blood. His own beautiful blood.
He never made a sound when his body betrayed him and The Truth ripped his guts apart, inch by bloody inch.
We ran then. We ran and we didn't stop until our lungs burned with the festering air we gulped down with each choking breath.
But when you go looking for something that should never be found, it has a nasty habit of finding you.
One by one we fell. One by eviscerated one.
Now only I am left. The last of the so called Sons of Men.
And the ones who sought The Truth no longer know why they desired it so.
And I no longer care.
I shall run until my last breath. I shall run until my legs can no longer bear my weight. But it will not be forever. I know this.
When The Truth is so terrible, so unbearable, that you cant think straight, you can either wink right back at it and pucker up for a big old kiss, or you can run. You can run.
But it will find you and when it does...
He Does Not Want to Die
by Andrew Orton
He does not want to die.
He hears their voices. They are coming.
He stands alone on the front line, his comrades mercilessly gunned down on the fields of war. There is no-one left to support him, no last minute reprieve; no-one to continue the fight or to save his life. The enemy approaches, guns blazing. He is doomed. He does not want to die.
They are without mercy. They stand against everything he believes in: the ultimate freedoms of humanitarian love versus the cold, hard logic of death and power. Here, in the treacherous battlefields of a deserted no-man’s land, the two sides converge: bone and sinew meet metal and plastic; human body in conflict with armoured war machine. And they are winning.
They are unstoppable. They swarmed his defences in an hour, wiping out his brothers-in-arms and leaders, warriors of the highest order. And now he stands alone, awaiting death. The war is lost. There is nothing left save a desolate world. He does not want to die. He is no commander, nor ruler: he is but one soldier of the front line. He is the only line. He does not want to die.
It is said that when facing death, your life flashes before your eyes; but not his. So focused is he on his task, his training has taken over, and though survival is not an option, he knows he does not want to die. He is the last of his people, the others wiped out by these vicious, relentless killing machines, enjoying the destruction they deal out. He almost admires their power.
Their energy weapons are getting closer. They desire to kill him. He does not want to die. Extensive training and conditioning suggest suicide as the only option; take as many of them with him as possible. But he has broken his conditioning. He does not want to die. He retreats.
They had once seemed under control, these monsters. The scientists back home created a virus only partial to their composition. It was futile. They survive everything thrown at them. Here they were held by his people for experimentation, rather than destroyed as animals as would now have seemed sensible. Here they grew tired of their captors, incensed at their imprisonment. And here, they fought back.
They are coming. Their machines of war move ever closer, the low hum increasing, as he prepares his weapon in defence. He cannot move away quick enough. He does not want to die. He has retreated, something that would get him killed if his superiors were alive to see it. He turns at a sound behind him.
They are here. With a thought impulse to his gun arm he charges up his weapon and aims it at his enemy. It is futile.
He is the Last Robot in existence. The humans are coming for him. He does not want to die.