Saturday, 25 April 2015

April Short Fiction Contest Winners


It's that fun time of the month again! I've read the entries for April's Shirt Fiction Contest and the rather sinister puppet inspired some fine stories. As always it was tricky to pick just three of them as the winners, but with the quality of the entries it was a fun job!

Before announcing the winners I'd like to thank everyone who entered and those who help support the competition by sharing the links. Please continue to share - I have a dream to make this a well known contest for short fiction!

And now it's time to announce the winners...

 - First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Michael Gunter's story 'Let Me Out'
 - Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Jon Jefferson's story 'Splinters of a Wooden Heart'
 - Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Jillian Bost's 'Virtue Rewarded'

Congratulations to the winners and here are their stories:

Let me Out by Michael Gunter

https://michaelguntertales.wordpress.com/

“Shouldn’t have built you.  Knew that tree was trouble the first time I saw it, you know.”

The wooden clack of shrugging shoulders was the only answer.

“Don’t look at me like that.  Didn’t get into this business to make things like you, hear me?  Puppets I like; little toys, telling a story on dancing strings.  But you... I’ve never quite known which way are your strings being pulled.”

With a scowl, he set his drink down on the workbench and reached for the paintbrush.   The colors on the palette, the movement of the carving knife, even the movement of the saw, had all lost their importance weeks before.

“Damn tree.  Didn’t care, did it?  Watched us walking, walking, walking around, for how many years?  Wanted legs itself, eh?  Well, you’ve got ‘em now, don’t you?   Use ‘em!  Or aren’t you done yet?”

Random strokes of the brush revealed the pattern of the eyebrow and he frowned at it.  Was it imagination, or was thing was smirking at him.  Shaking his head, he swirled the bristles in the palette again.  It didn’t really matter, one way or the other; he’d found that out standing at the foot of the tree with his axe.  His voice softened.

“How’s that?  That eyebrow’s more obvious now.”

He cocked his head.

“Almost looks real.  Wish I could take credit for that.”

Again the brush worked, dabbing color across the grain of the other eyebrow, but his voice had gone hard again.

“How’d you do it?  Age isn’t knowledge, not by itself, so someone showed you.  Trees don’t fish for people, no, they don’t, but you caught me, anyway.  Clever.”

The eyebrow finished, he sat back, examining the brush-strokes. Nearly perfect, just like the rest of it.  Not a mistake anywhere, not a color out of place or a carved line awry.

“Very clever, yes.”

He sounded bitter now, as he tilted back the cup for the last sip.

“Strings go both ways, eh?  Never realized it before. Should have.  Lift and let lift, that’s the way it goes with ‘em all.  All but you.”

Another wooden shrug.  The motion didn’t give anything away.

“Ha.  Like I don’t know already.  Doesn’t matter, though.  You’re done, aren’t you?  You wanted to walk, so walk.”

The head tilted, carved eyes on him.

“You done pulling my strings?”

Half a nod, maybe more.  He couldn’t tell, not in the dim light.  He nodded back, then relaxed in the chair, closing his eyes.  A patter of oak on the flagstones was soft in his ears.  The door opened and there was a pause... then it closed again.

The patter of oak feet on the road outside was barely audible, but he felt them go.  It felt like strings being cut.

Splinters of a Wooden Heart by Jon Jefferson

http://10thdaypublishing.com

With the tap of a hammer the last tack pressed into place and Serien finished the puppet. The demonic beast would play the villain in his latest performance.

They once questioned his abilities for creation. How could he paint the pieces before he assembled the puppet? Wouldn’t hammering them together mar and scratch his paintwork? He stopped listening long ago. It was the creation that mattered to him.

The painting gave each piece life and substance. The puppet became a part of him through the process. He knew their character and voice long before they were ready to move and perform.

“All we have left, is a name,” Serien said. “What would you like to be called?” He adjusted the puppet to a sitting position and moved its right arm so that the hand rested on the puppet’s chin. Serien sat and thought with the puppet as he searched his thoughts for a name.

The word shard boomed crystal clear in his mind, a word he remembered from the start of this puppets birth. He carved and scraped at the wood to form each piece. At the time he had pushed it away. Shard was a piece of a gem, a mineral that had nothing to do with wood or life. Still the word thundered through his mind.

Serien stretched his arm across his work bench and retrieved a paddle and string for the puppet’s last connections. With the new strings attached he brought the puppet to life. His pull of the strings and paddle gave the puppet a semblance of something more than just wood.

After a few minutes he set the puppet in a stand next to others that would perform in their next show. Again the word shard popped into Serien’s mind as he looked at the puppet next to the others. The monstrous puppet was no bigger than the others but its horns and hooves marked it as something alien and different.

He had worked for some time on each of these new puppets but this last one, the demon, had been the most difficult. Without clothes and attachments for the head like hair or a beard, there had been nowhere to hide any mistakes.

“My name is shard.”

Sirien had turned his attention to the cleaning of the workbench. The voice hadn’t been in his head. He glanced around the shop knowing he would still be alone.

Shard had fallen from the stand. The demon sat on the edge of the counter; leg’s crossed and arms at its side. Its paddle lay on the counter and the strings that controlled it had been cut. But it was the change in the puppet’s appearance that caught Sirien off guard. The wooden flesh had softened. The creature looked exactly as it had in Sirien’s mind, though now it had become something more.

“My name is Shard.”

 Virtue Rewarded by Jillian Bost

Tonight's the night. It's been a year. You know it, though you remind yourself that you don't remember.

I watch as you type on your computer, feverish. You stop; you've deemed yourself worthy of a break. You open another window, and the loose stack of papers by your keyboard ruffles in the breeze. Do you feel trapped?

You glance at me; or rather, in my direction, for you don't know I'm watching you.

Always.

"Red eyes," you mutter, as you shake your head. "How ghastly." You always speak like a fop, and you think of her, and how she's no longer here to tease you for it, to jokingly thank you for "slumming" with her at charity shops, while you think of buying jewels off a high street shop for a lark.

I'm the last remnant of those cast away moments with her. Why haven't you killed me? Why haven't you burned me, or put me in the bin with your squeezed-dry teabags and old packets of cheese and onion crisps? Or even shoved me in the hands of a patient, elderly man at Cancer Research? But that would remind you of her, and all the deigning and feigning you did for her sake. And so you keep me here, a constant casual reminder that you won't get rid of what makes you fine, because you are fine, you never think of her, and getting rid of me would mean she isn't dead to you. You keep me to keep static. I am the killer of change.

Your desk rattles. Was it the wind again? Or something else? You look at me. I'm already smiling. You can't make me stop. I will never stop.

Your brow furrows, and you push me back farther on the shelf. I wobble. Do you hope I'll fall and break? What might happen then, I wonder?

Perhaps you should try it.

You return to your typing, and become engrossed in it once more. You smirk. Maybe you've just used a very clever turn of phrase, or you've thought of an ending for your little piece.

How wonderful. So have I.

You cease typing and stare at me again. Your eyes narrow. "I never could work out what you were supposed to be," you mutter. "A demon? But no, the horns and red eyes make it a bit too obvious. Too crass."

Ask me, if you truly want to know.

You shove back your office chair and stand. "Screw this. I'm going to bed."

My eyes flash, and you gape, then shove me onto the floor, where I crack. You grunt in satisfaction. So do I. Thank you.

Later, while you toss and turn in your double bed, I creak deliberately as I walk. Thud. Creak. Thud. Creak.

I loom over you.

Your eyes fly open, and your breath catches in your throat as you begin to shake. Oh, how I relish it.


"Hello, my darling," I whisper. "I've been waiting."

4 comments:

  1. Nice stories. Congratulations, everyone!

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  2. These were excellent stories. I tried to come up with something for this picture but it never came to me. Can't wait to see the next month's entry. Well done to all three winners.

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  3. All three are excellent work! Congrats to everyone.

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