|John Tenniel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
Before I announce the winners I'd like to thank everyone for taking part and everyone who reads the stories and shares the contest. Your help is much appreciated!
And now for the winners:
- First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to David H Fears for his story 'The Pig'
- Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Jonathan Hill for his story 'The Mirror'
- Third prize of a £10 Amaon or PayPal prize goes to Allen Stroud for his story 'Looking'
Congratulations to the winners and here are their stories:
The Pig by David H Fears
Alice clambered up on the mantel and pushed an eye to the peephole. She gazed upon a barnyard filled with vivid excited animals. Alice was mesmerized:
A pig strutted by dressed in a green mohair tuxedo and singing, “Big girls don't cry-yi-yi” in falsetto.
“Are you a white male, or a fascist pig?” the red-haired, menopausal frump asked in a mewling voice, tugging down her skirt and white-knuckling her purse up under her chin. She didn’t trust anyone in a green suit.
The pig turned, saw the mass of flaming hair, tipped his hat, winked and warbled:
“Shame on you, your mama said,
Shame on you, you cried in bed…”
She can take a joke, thought the pig.
“Bed!” screamed the woman, edging toward the road. “Bed? Just what do you mean by that? Is a girl not safe?” Her heart fluttered and seized cold, tormented, but just a wee bit thrummed by the idea of pig rape. Alice realized she could not only hear the animals speak, but she could read their thoughts!
“Curioser and curioser,” she whispered to herself.
The turkeys flapped and gobbled, craning to see, crushing themselves against the wire fence and feeling foolish to be in such a stupid flock. The Cow was contented by the controversy raised and counted its stomachs. The horse twitched its tail in rhythm, dreaming of a home stretch with its nose pointed to the finish line, while the bullfrog ribbitted a bassdrum beat.
Some of the audience joined in: “Shame on you, you told a lie.”
The woman stood on a rusty, galvanized washbasin and bellowed at the top of the cornstalks, her face misshapen with red anger: “I’M OFFENDED, DO YOU HEAR? OFFENDED!”
The chickens broke into voice, with geese in harmony, all high-stepping through muck behind the flashy pig.
The farmer leaned over the barn door, laughed and joined in:
“Big girls don’t cry, that’s just an alibi,” came the chorus, echoing over the valley.
A big finish with the pig tap dancing and twirling a cane, hanging on a lamppost ala Gene Kelly.
Smiles, chuckles, backs slapped all around.
The pig took bows while the frump took her leave.
“This life has never been so good,” the gaunt farmer said. “Answering that ad in the New York Post for a used pig outfit was the smartest thing I ever did.
The Mirror by Jonathan Hill
“And how are you settling in?”
Martha looked over the fence at their new neighbour. “We’ll settle eventually,” Martha replied. Then, so she didn’t appear too negative, “It’s a lovely neighbourhood.”
“Yes,” said the neighbour who’d introduced herself as Lynette. “But then I am biased.” Her eyes smiled but there was a flicker of something else there. “You have a daughter? I saw her earlier.”
“Alice. She’s nine. We love her.” Martha laughed. “But then I am biased.”
“Alice… a lovely name. As in the book…”
“Yes, but it’s coincidental. Although…”
“Although, dear?” Lynette queried, her stare hardening.
“She’s rather taken with a mirror left behind by the previous owners. Our Alice’s own looking glass.” Martha smiled but it felt unnatural, like a forced laugh from a sick bed.
Lynette looked from side to side and then pushed her head closer to Martha’s, before whispering harshly. “If you’re wise, you’ll get rid of that mirror.”
Martha laughed uneasily. “And why would we do that? It goes so well with the room it’s in. It’s… well… it’s too good just to throw away!”
Lynette smiled and shook her head. “You know, dear, I almost feel as if I’ve been here before. And that’s because I have. I presume you didn’t hear about the previous occupants… why they had to move?”
“They had a child too,” Lynette continued. “A daughter also.” She stopped talking, as if she’d just explained why the previous owners had moved but plainly she hadn’t.
“I know we’ve only just met,” Martha said, gaining a stubborn confidence, “but I find it rather impertinent of you to tell me what to keep and get rid of.”
“I don’t mean to intrude, dear. I merely offer you these words of advice and implore you to listen. What have I to gain by advising you to get rid of -”
“A mirror,” snapped Martha. “You want the mirror!” She shivered as a cold wind blew, looked up at the sky, saw it was no longer blue and said to herself, “Curious.”
“Is your daughter alone right now?” Lynette asked gravely.
“Why do you even need to… no, she’s with Louis. My husband.”
“Go inside. Check they’re okay,” bade Lynette.
“Go,” Lynette snapped back. “GO!”
Martha turned to go, not because this crazy woman was telling her to but because the wind was up and the weather was turning.
Inside, something made Martha take the stairs in twos. Perhaps it was the silence which pressed on their new house like a heavy blanket of snow.
She flung open door after door until she came to the final room. She stepped inside tentatively, felt her heart stop at the sight of her white walls drenched in blood. On the bed her husband lay still, a knife by his side with a bloody thumbprint on the blade. The size of the print was precisely that of a nine-year-old child.
Looking by Allen Stroud
I raise my head to find Miss Hargreaves peering down at me over her thick black glasses. She's asked me a question, but I wasn't paying attention. She's holding a book in her hand, the same book that's on my desk, the same book I'd been staring at but not seeing. Lewis Carroll - Alice, Through the Looking Glass, about a girl with my name, but a different life.
A better life.
I can hear the sniggering behind me in the back two rows. I can guess who. Michaela, Josh and Sarah, it’s always them. Any weakness and they're ready with words like knives after class. I know why. Starting with the names and teasing means others don't start on you, but just because you understand why people pick on you doesn't make it easier. You bleed on the inside. I'm a target these days, spotty face, hair that won't behave.
"Sorry Miss Hargreaves," I say, feeling the building heat in my face.
"Do you need me to repeat myself?" she asks, her tone suggesting I better not, but I've no option.
"Please," I say.
"I'll do that after school then," Miss Hargreaves says. "I trust you'll be more focused until then?"
"Yes miss, sorry miss."
The bell sounds an hour later, the others all troop out. I stay put, a little relieved to avoid the shoving and name calling. I answer Miss Hargreaves question about chess pieces as characters. She leaves me alone in the room to wait out my punishment. I stare at the book again; flip through the pages to a picture. The girl in old fashioned clothes climbing on the mantelpiece to the mirror. Maybe the book is my looking glass, a window to another world. Anywhere's better than here.
By the time I'm walking home, everyone is long gone and it's dark. Mum'll be upset with me. Dad'll be angry with her when he calls at the weekend from his new life without us.
I keep my headphones in and turn up the volume on my mobile as I make my way through the streets. Loud angry music to wash away feelings and make like I'm not really there. Channel it all into whatever the singer's screaming, raw pain about being alive, about being me.
I get to the main road lit up by streetlamps. On the other side there's a figure. As I get closer I realise what it is. A human-sized rabbit, dressed in a coat. It waves, pulls out a pocket watch and impatiently beckons me to cross.
I stare for a bit. The rabbit stares back, points at the watch again and mouths words at me. I can't make them out, but the meaning is obvious.
I step into the road.
Lights blaze from my right, I look and see the car, too close to avoid. Brakes squeal, but I know they won't stop in time. I don't even raise my arms.
Anywhere's better than here, right?