That fun time of the month has arrived where I read the entrants for the last short fiction contest and re-read and re-read again until I pick the three winners. Once again the quality of the entries made it a difficult, although enjoyable task. Before I announce the winners I'd like to thank everyone who entered, I sometimes wish that I could afford to hand out more prizes! Thanks also to those who have supported the contest by helping to spread the word, please continue to do so, your efforts are much appreciated.
And now, with great pleasure here are the winners:
- First prize of a £50 Amazon gift card goes to Jonathan Hill for his story 'Lucy'.
- Second prize of a £20 Amazon gift card goes to Andrew Campbell-Kearsey for his story 'Johnny Remember Me'.
- Third prize of a £10 Amazon gift card goes to Anita Dickason for her story 'Not Dead, Not Dead'.
Congratulations to the winners, for fans of short and flash fiction come and join the Facebook group that I've set up to discover and promote stories in those forms:
And now let's enjoy the winning stories.
Lucy by Jonathan Hill
Mother was outside sweeping leaves when the doll first spoke to Beth.
“I can’t see.”
Beth turned from her colouring-in. She was losing interest anyway, having gone outside the lines more than once.
“I can’t see.”
“Of course you can’t see,” Beth answered. “You’re a doll. You’re not real.”
“If I’m not real, how can I be talking to you?”
“It’s all pretend. My imagination is making you talk to me. You’re not really talking, silly!”
“Of course I’m really talking, you fucking stupid bitch.”
And that’s when Beth knew the doll really was talking. Because she hadn’t heard of several of those words, so how could she possibly have made her imagination make the doll speak them?
“If you’re real,” Beth asked nervously, “what’s your name?”
“My real name or the one your dumb bitch of a mother gave me when she was little?”
That word again. Bitch. What did it mean? And why was the doll staring at her like that? She shrugged.
“My real name is Lucy. Lucy Fur. It’s NOT Jemima. Who the fuck does your mother think she is? Naming things that already have a name. It’s like me deciding to change your name to Lady Gaga or Bruce Forsyth. You wouldn’t like that, Beth, would you?”
The doll knew Beth’s name? That was more unnerving to her than the fact the doll Mother had handed down to her was talking at all. And who were Lady Gaga and Bruce Forsyth? She shrugged again.
“You’re not very communicative, Beth, considering you’re a human and I’m a piece of plastic moulded into something that’s meant to look pretty. I’ll tell you something, lady. I may look pretty but inside I ain’t fucking pretty.”
Beth looked at Lucy a little more closely. No, she didn’t look any prettier than before. She decided to be honest. “I’ve always thought you ugly, especially with that hole where your eye should be.”
“Ah, that brings me to where we began our little tete-a-tete. I can only see out of one eye because when your mother was five, she dropped me out of a window.”
“I’m sure she didn’t mean…”
“She did. She fucking did. She wanted me to die. But I’m prepared to finally forgive her if you do something.”
Beth nodded slowly. She didn’t want Lucy to hate her mother.
“Come closer then!” said Lucy, before whispering into Beth’s ear.
“Are you sure?” asked Beth.
“Listen to what your mother says. The clues are all there,” reassured Lucy.
Downstairs, while Mother was watching the news on television, Lucy listened carefully for clues. Finally she heard one.
“I can’t bear to see all this misery in the world,” announced Mother, grimacing at plumes of smoke rising from a burning building.
So Lucy was right? Mother really didn’t want to see any more.
Taking the scissors from the kitchen drawer, she knew what she needed to do. She had to cut the bitch’s eyes out.
Johnny Remember Me by Andrew Campbell-Kearsey
‘It’s your electrics, mate. You’re going to need the place completely rewired. It’s a deathtrap.’
John shook his head. The cash cow he’d inherited from his great aunt was fast becoming a white elephant.
‘It’s going to cost at least twelve grand,’ said the electrician before he left.
John remembered childhood stays at this seaside resort where “The Fright of Your Life” was the biggest tourist attraction in the area. He recalled the queues and helping out on the ice cream stand. His parents were concerned that spending time amongst the machines that were designed to scare the punters with their staring eyes and mechanically controlled limbs would lead to nightmares. But John had loved seeing behind the scenes as well as hearing the squeals and shrieks of shock and horror from the paying public.
A stocktaking of his inheritance showed that half of the models were beyond repair and that the remaining half required substantial work to get them functional again.
He longed to escape his IT job in the city but wondered whether this was a viable money-making option. His business self knew it was a huge risk. He worried that the public’s tastes had become more sophisticated when it came to horror. They demanded realism. But his sentimental heart wanted to resurrect the attraction as a way of recapturing his childhood memories.
John decided to spend the evening walking among the exhibits before he made up his mind. His friends had suggested throwing a party. They thought it would be cool to spend time there after-hours amongst the fake blood and pretend instruments of torture. But he needed time on his own. Besides, the place was a health and safety minefield.
He let himself using the huge bunch of keys the solicitor had given him. “The Fright” had been locked up for years and the natural spiders’ webs made the place look creepier than any special effects expert could manage.
He stopped at the refreshments counter. There were just a few popcorn kernels visible on the counter. The few working lights flickered. John lit his path with the app on his iPhone. The soles of his trainers stuck to the carpets in the hallway. He looked in at some of the rooms, whose names he recalled from his youth. “The Mad Dentist” had always been popular with shrieks from the hapless patients while he extracted teeth without anaesthetic. There was a door at the end without a name. Perhaps it was for storage. He tried the door handle. It was stiff but gave way when he applied pressure. He was in a small room he didn’t recall. There was a small mannequin of a girl in the centre attached to an electrical cable. He put the plug into the socket to see if the machine came to life. Her one lifeless eye appeared to stare right at him. She spoke with the voice of his aunt,
‘Why did you have to kill me, Johnny?’
Not Dead, Not Dead by Anita Dickason
The doorbell ringing at 4am was not what I wanted to hear after two hours in bed. The last three days had been hell, with little sleep and excessive cups of coffee. The reason: Amanda Hawkins, age six, three days missing. Following leads from the Amber Alert meant pounding the pavement, with an urgency of minutes passing with no success. Being the police chief was not always a desk job.
Flipping on a light, I step out my front door. Finding no one at my door did not improve my mood. Seeing a creepy and battered old doll leaning against the porch rail added more irritation. The doll was a child’s nightmare come true: tangled grey hair, dirty and cracked face, black eye socket with an eye missing and a ragged looking dress.
Not having time to deal with someone’s idea of a prank, I turn to walk back in the house. I hear a voice echoing in the dark: “not dead, not dead.” Looking back, the doll’s one eye seems to bore into my very soul. For a second I am disoriented, everything whirling around me. Following an urge I did not understand, I pick up the doll. Suddenly, I am no longer on the porch. The doll is pulling me through a fog laden tunnel. I have a momentary vision of the doll in a stark and barren room with peeling wallpaper and skulls hanging on the wall. Another child is there. Somehow, I knew the child had been abducted and tortured. The doll is hers. As the little girl dies, the doll changes from a pretty toy to the ghoulish figure I hold. The doll absorbed the horror of what happened to the child in that room.
The doll pulls me further into the tunnel to a street corner I recognize. I walked this street talking to the Hawkins’ neighbors. The street disappears and the tunnel ends in a basement. I see Amanda lying on the floor, hands and feet are tied. The voice repeats: “not dead, not dead.” Before I can reach her, I am pulled back into the tunnel. When my vision clears I am back on my porch still holding the doll.
At that moment I knew, with absolute certainty, where to find Amanda. I had talked to the owner of the house during the neighborhood search. Dropping the doll, I run to my car. I call for backup as I race to the location. When the search team enters the house, I immediately head to the basement. I find Amanda lying on the floor, just as I had seen her. She was alive and again I hear the voice, this time with a note of joy: “not dead, not dead.”
At home, I cannot find the doll. It is gone. As I ponder my incredible experience, for a brief instant I see the doll: desolate and alone, standing guard in a barren room of lost hope.