Monday 29 December 2014

December Short Fiction Contest Winners

Attribution: Bobamnertiopsis and Immanuel Giel
I've just finished the fun task of reading the entries for December's Short Fiction Contest and picked the winners. December's fairy tale themed image inspired a good variety of excellent stories and as always it was difficult to select just three winners. I'd like to thank everyone who entered and also everyone who has helped promote the contest by sharing the links - your help is much appreciated and please continue to do so.

Here are this month's winners:

 - First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Stuart Ayris for his story 'Under the White'
 - Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to John Moralee for his story 'A Hunter's Tale'
 - Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Andrew K Lawston for his story 'Hansel and Grendel'

Congratulations to the winners and now let us enjoy their excellent stories...

Under the White by Stuart Ayris

“Boy! Listen to me! And you, girl, get down off his shoulders!” the old lady said.

The two children, who just moments ago, were having fun, had suddenly felt a darkness come upon them.

“What’s h-h-h-appened?” the boy murmured. “Why is everything black and white, me, you, my sister, everything?”

“Nothing is ever all black and white.” The old lady grinned an entirely toothless grin. “Now how old are you?”

“I am five.”

“And your sister?”

“She’s six.”

“Well I am one hundred and seventy-four at the very least. So listen to what I have to say.”

All the world was white within and white without, no shade, no light but white, no bright but white.
“As you can see and, no doubt, hear children, I have misplaced my teeth. They fell out during the colourful night. Do you understand?”

“Yes miss,” the boy mustered.

“Now I am an old lady of at least one hundred and seventy-four years. My bones ache and my eyes are not what they were. They used to be made of crystal during which times I could see through mountains. These days they are made of clay. That’s what happens when you get older. Have you ever got older boy?”

“I think I have.”

“Then you will know what I am talking about. But enough of this. I need for you to find my teeth. Your sister may be of some help if she manages to stop crying.”

“What do your teeth look like Miss?”

“Well they’re white of course!”

“But everything is white.”

“Precisely! Now get looking.”

The boy turned to his sister who wiped her black tears from her black face with the back of her black hand.

“Oh,” said the old lady as she was about to turn away.

“Yes?” said the boy, looking up.

“If you find them, I will use this stick here to bring colour back to the world and you will be returned to your parents.”

At once, the boy and his sister began their search. They searched under the white, outside of the white and above the white. They ran around and the crawled, they walked and at times they just stared, ever in search of the old lady’s white teeth. Then, at long last, the boy squealed.

“I’ve found them! I’ve found them!”

He and his sister rushed to where the old lady was standing.

“I’ve found them!” he said once more, handing the teeth to her.

The old lady reached out and took the set of teeth from the boy. She opened her mouth wide and pushed them in. She chomped up and down once or twice just to assure herself that they were indeed her teeth.

And then, when all was quiet, when all had settled down, she lifted the stick that she held in her hand and brought it down upon the heads of the two children. She ate first the boy and then the girl. Well what the hell did you expect?

A Hunter's Tale by John Moralee

Witches. They live everywhere – but most people can’t see them. Only the young and those gifted with the second sight can see through their glamours.  For everyone else, you only see what they want you to see – which is how they can hide in plain sight.

There are clues to finding them, of course, if you know what to look for. You can follow the cats on any street because eventually they’ll lead you to a witch’s door. That’s how I found the one living in the corner house on this street.

The evil crone at Number 18 lives alone and rarely leaves her home – but she has several cats that flit in and out of her house at all times of day. The cats look cute and harmless, but they are dangerous predators. They hunt small animals for her and bring them back for her meals.

For days I’ve been watching the activity at her house from my van parked down the road. A grey striped tabby guards the front through the window. It must be her familiar – the leader of her pet army. I watch and wait for it to go hunting, leaving her vulnerable to attack.

My name is Will. I’m an ordinary human – a fifty-year-old man with no family because of what a witch did to me. When I was a little boy, I went with my older sister trick-or-treating. We knocked on the door of a old lady’s house. She invited us in to see her kittens. We fell for it and paid a high price. She drugged us with sweets and locked us up in steel cages in her cellar, where she starved us and mutilated our bodies. She ate our fingers and toes and tore flesh off our bones. My sister died after a month. I would have died too – but I escaped through the bars of my cage because I was so skinny.

This morning I’m armed with a crossbow with bolt tipped with silver, the only metal that can kill a witch – and only if shot into her heart. I had the crossbow specially made so I can aim, load and fire it with the two good fingers of my left hand. I wait until the tabby leaves before approaching the house. I’m carrying a ladder like a window cleaner so nobody thinks it is odd when I climb up it and sneak through an open window.

I sneak inside a dark bedroom smelling of cat urine and creep across the room to the landing, where I stop and listen.

I hear snoring from another bedroom.

I approach the door and kick it open.

The witch is in the bed waking up.

She looks surprised and scared.

I can’t let her cast a spell.

I aim and fire.

The bolt flies towards her.

It slams into her chest.

“Got you,” I say.

In death she looks like an innocent old lady.

They all do.

Hansel and Grendel by Andrew K Lawston

The caramel windows were the first sign we were dealing with a troubled mind.

By the time she'd locked me in a cage to fatten me for the oven, we twigged she was barking. When we convinced her that an old bit of bone was my forearm, we realised she was both blind and gullible.

Seriously, I scoffed so many cream buns locked up in there that by the time my sister sprung the lock, you could build your own confectionery abode from the muffin top I'd developed.

"Quietly," she murmured. "She's napping."

I hauled my newly enormous arse from the cage. "Have I got time for a wee? I think I've become diabetic."

I waddled after her through the crone's living room towards the hallway and, well, the walls might have been gingerbread, but you wouldn't have touched them if you'd seen the three inch layer of dust over her greasy marshmallow-stuffed armchair, or the four foot stack of newspapers in the chocolate fireplace.

And then the dreadful clackclackclack of the old crone's stick, and the grasping old witch had shuffled between us and the front door, her bonneted head swivelling to track whatever tiny noise we'd made.

"Where are you going?" she screeched, lurching towards us. "Prepare the oven for your greedy brother!"

My cake-distended stomach lurched, but my sister had slipped behind me, in case the crone could make out our shapes, and spoke for me.

"You ate my brother this morning. I sobbed and pleaded."

"I... who?" the crone wavered, and the full extent of her decline struck us. "Didn't I... ask you to check the oven?"

"Yes. The heat singed my face at a dozen yards, and I ran out so as not to see my brother's awful death. His screams filled the cottage and the stench of his crisping skin will never leave my nostrils as long as I live."

The crone wept then. "But I'm hungry," she whimpered, "is there any left?"

My sister's hands touched my shoulders gently as I struggled to contain my revulsion. "You left his haunch in the oven for supper. Don't you remember?"

The cackling witch clackclackclacked into the kitchen, and jerked across to her huge bread oven.

"Supper!" she screeched, flinging open the door.

I don't know how my sister rigged the ferocious jet of flame that tore from the blazing oven and set to devouring the crone's face, but I'll never forget her banshee screeches of torment, nor the dreadful Sunday lunch smell of her searing flesh.

The witch roared and flailed, trying to avoid the flame with one arm beating at her burning head. When my sister had finished laughing, we saw we had to finish what we'd started.

She was a bit too big for the old oven, but with her toffee hammer and pastry knife, we got most of her in eventually, slammed the door, and left hand in hand.

This might not be exactly what we told our case worker.

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