Saturday, 26 December 2015

December Short Fiction Contest Winners

Painted by Luciana Nedelea - https://www.facebook.com/LucianaNedeleaArt/

December's image painted by Luciana Nedelea inspired some remarkable stories and it's taken me all day to whittle them all down to just three winners and here they are:

 - First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Sheila Deeth for her story 'Chalice'.
 - Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Nicola Ferguson for her story 'Black & Grey'.
 - Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Andrew Dempsey for his story 'Firestarter'.

Congratulations to the winners and a thank you to everyone who entered and those who support this contest.

And here are the winning stories:

Chalice by Sheila Deeth

www.sheiladeethbooks.com

He couldn’t quite believe it, that first time. The pre-school teacher handed sheets of paper around, pristine and white, together with thick black crayons. Then she told the children to scribble all over their pages.

Tom’s crayon had that slightly murky scent of something buried too long in a drawer. Its paper sleeve slid off under his eager grip. Underneath the surface was stickily slick, like blood. It coated his fingers; drew its own dark promise on his hand. Meanwhile the pristine white paper grew dark, covered in thick black whorls and swirls, with intersecting curves, its pure clean spaces falling prey to night, with black black black black black, till all was done.

“Look, class,” said the teacher, lifting Tom’s page from his desk and displaying it around. “Tom’s got the idea. This is what I want you to do. Just cover the page.”

“Shoulda given us black paper then.” One of the pristine white girls muttered behind pink fingernails as she flapped her red-clothed arm in sweet dismay. Tom imagined the red-clothed arm uncloaked and the smoothness of blood like crayon slippery and thick in his hands.

When the pages were covered, just the way the teacher wanted, each child was given a pencil-shaped piece of wood.

“it’s got no writing bit,” the red-dressed girl complained, to which the teacher responded it didn’t need one. Instead it had a point.

Tom tried the point out on his palm. Not quite sharp enough, it didn’t cut, though maybe, if he pressed harder...

“I want you to draw on top of your crayon,” said the teacher. “No Tom. Not on your hand.”

So he pressed harder on the crayoned page, watching the black blood carve itself into shiny white-colored lines and pristine shapes. “Yes, like Tom’s doing. Press down harder, Elaine.” Elaine was the girl in the red dress.

Tom pressed harder and carved and cut. He was making himself a small Elaine all of his own. But when the teacher held his image up, she didn’t understand. She said he’d drawn a chalice and host, like in church, and he was a wonderful holy little boy.

Tom couldn’t quite believe it; he’d done just what he wanted, destroyed and scribbled, made white turn to black, and carved with a cruel point, and he was holy.

They found Elaine’s body in the woods not long after that. She wasn’t pristine and white anymore, but red and black with mud, slick-shiny with swirls and whorls of smooth red crayon. Her dress spread around her like a chalice drawn on the ground. Her hair curled out from her face, which shone as pure as the holy host. She smelled of something buried too long in a drawer. She was his first.

Black & Grey by Nicola Ferguson

Mandy flicked though the sticky plastic pages of the album sitting on the table. This was her first tattoo and she was looking for something unique that would be a talking point in years to come. One design immediately caught her eye, a black and grey piece of the angel Belial; wings stretched out in flight.

Not her usual style at all, the design was intricate and full of vitality, leaping off the page past the tired butterflies and dolphins that characterized the typical tats her mates had. As she looked at the design more closely, Mandy saw what she had taken to be shading was actually elegant, cursive script, twisting and snaking across the models skin.

“I love this one, but what does the writing say?”
“That’s one of Jared’s designs. He’d be able to explain but he only works Tuesday and Saturday nights. Let me check his dairy and get you booked in for a consultation”
“Well you’re in luck! We have a last minute cancellation for tomorrow at nine. If you’re happy with the design he could start on the tattoo straight away then work through the night until it’s finished. Sound good?”

It wasn’t much notice but Mandy was already caught up in her growing excitement of how the angel would transform not only her back, but also her confidence and even her life. No-one could say she had no self worth with an angel as gorgeous as this protecting her. She could just imagine its wings spreading and rippling across her shoulder blades as she worked her moves on the dance-floor. If she was out of the parlour early enough she could even go onto The Palace and show everyone. Wear that backless dress she had been keeping for a special occasion.
“Yeah, definitely get me booked in.”

Jared carefully eased the tracing paper off Mandy’s fine, porcelain skin. A work of this size with spells of this complexity and strength would take hours, so he would start with the essentials, filling in the details as the piece grew and took on a life of its own. Speed was imperative as even though the ink was fresh, it would quickly cool and coagulate, clogging the tattooing machine. The inscriptions binding Mandy to Belial had to be finished by midnight to give Belial enough power to materialize and Jared knew he could make no spelling errors or mistakes. Otherwise the piece would remain cold and lifeless, just another cool tat to be admired

Quietly so as not to startle Mandy, Jared begins to whisper the spells which will help summon Belial. The fallen angel is deceptively beautiful for a demon, his name meaning ‘without worth’ he resonates and speaks to certain customers on a subconscious level. In effect they choose themselves.

“Per Vitam Vero Doloribus Urguentibus”  Through Pain Comes Life..........


Gently steadying the skin of her back Jared smiles to himself as he inhales the inks warm, coppery scent and he begins to tattoo.

Firestarter by Andrew Dempsey

Subconsciously he played with the weight in his trouser pocket. It was the tenth time in the last three minutes that his hand sort the comfort of the lighter. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he still had cigarettes, but the last one was smoked, days ago. Not that it would matter much longer. Cigarettes or no cigarettes, he was still lost.

The plane had gone down somewhere east of the mountains. How he survived the crash when everyone else died was a mystery.

Still, what was life, if you couldn’t smoke?

He had tried pieces of grass, fallen twigs and even the end of a bone he had found, but nothing could replace the real thing, the cravings were becoming unbearable.

To make matters worse, the rain had begun again.

He fell to his knees and vowed to stay there till his eyes closed for the last time.

He turned his head, something had made a noise. It sounded like laughter, but that was not possible. No living creature lived here. The mountains weren’t called ‘death’ in the native tongue for nothing. But, there it was again. A soft laugh, it sounded like it was mocking him. It teased him to enter the cave and seek shelter.

He slowly rose from his dirty knees and took a step forward.

*****

Where the creature, demon, or whatever it was had sprung from he didn’t know. It was made of pure fire and swirled and danced before him.

“Another foolish creature, that I will consume,” it howled.

He tried to speak and it was a long time before he managed to stammer, “Why. Do. You. Want. To. Eat me?”

“They always ask the same thing,” it boomed. “Never is it anything else.” The flame drew closer. “I live on the life force of the living. I consume the fire of souls.”

“Why not eat animals instead?” he managed to ask despite the rising terror within.

“Did you see any animals out there?” the creature said.

He shook his head.

“That’s because I have consumed them all. I haven’t eaten anything for over five centuries. So hungry am I.”

He could see the creature’s teeth, hundreds of tiny pointy flames.

He felt the weight again in his pocket. His hand had gone there, as it always did in times of stress. He felt the lighter. He withdrew it from his pocket and shakily held it out front. “Stay back or I will consume you like I did with the last of your kind,” he commanded.

A warm mocking laugh was the creature’s reply.

“Do not lie to me human, lies will not save you here?”

“I’m not lying. I’ll show you.”

With a flick of his thumb, the lighter erupted in a small golden flame.

The creature’s eyes went wide with terror and it turned and fled screaming into the depths of the cave.


He put away his lighter and fled back out into the rain as fast as he could.

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