Hot Topic Poetry Competition Winner

1st Prize:£150 Elizabeth Warner

2nd Prize:  £100 Max Crowther

3rd Prize: £75  G. Williams

Road Rage Remains

Here lies, your mangled remains, forged and wrapped around,
metal, smoking hot, the killing machine’s frenzied attack as that final corner, cut, oblivious and late for work.

Your cheery message, a faltering I love you, strikes a chord
deep inside me. I replay the voicemail over and over,  shuddering, weeping,  wondering why I couldn’t say goodbye when
fate snatched you from my clutches, you forgot to wake me as I lay tired, fragile from a night with our new born pride and joy.

I rejected your warmth last night, exhaustion crept in,
and  yet now, there is nothing left to
distinguish man and machine, yet still I try and they drag me, away, weeping from the car that took your life, only this metal beast can hug you to its inners.

Road rage they mutter, afraid to look,
as I try to identify the man I love.

A young man, shifts across the room, cuffed and forlorn, bent
on revenge for a foolish action, a forgetful moment of remorse and death. One will lay forever cold, the other walks, silent but bold. What price murder?

Open Poetry Competition Winners

Open Poetry Competition Winners

 

1st Prize: £500.00 Mark Ford
2nd Prize: £250.00 S. Long
3rd Prize: £100.00 Richard Carter
4th Prize: £75.00 Lynne Graham
5th Prize: £50.00 Stephanie Potter
6th Prize: Personal e-Coaching Sesssion – Joe Massingham
7th Prize: 3 Months Premier 1 Membership – Kris Abildgaard

Tears

by Mark Ford

 

The tear that falls is bittersweet,

a tale of betrayal, of bitter loss

Who knew that life could take this twisted turn,

your misery unfolds and the

trail edged of frost.

 

Once, joy reigned, and emerged

sparkling shimmer, as a sunbeam

sweeping through your life.

Why did your life turn to dust

the remnants of love, a distant touch?

 

Did you blink and miss the light that turned cold?

Did the smile of complacency wear thin?

A frozen mask as the sky turned in and the air grew cold cold?

Did love become frail, wither and die and seep

through the cracks, filtering away?

 

So the answer to love lost, was to do nothing bar weep,

tears of anguish and pain did seep

Alone, as your spring and autumn mingled to one and your

winter beckoned, overwhelmed and won.

Free Writing Competition March

We asked you to write the next line of dialogue using this photo for inspiration. You had just 50 words. Congratulations go to Pauline Leech with her winning entry below:

Pizza Express? That’s a joke! What do you mean you can’t deliver until I’m back home? I’m having a picnic and I want pizza….now!

Pauline wins 3 months membership to the Creative Competitor Premier1 Membership.

Love Poem Competition Winner

1st Prize: £75  Sarah Hills

2nd Prize: £50 David Allen

I feel whole, bursting with love, light and intensity. Pleasure, simple yet tender,

 and the touch of his hand, electric.

Sparks flow, cascading up my skin, erupting in a crescendo of power. I cry out his name

and breathe in true happiness and raw intensity as I melt, his liquid brown eyes pulling me in deeper.

I want to drown in the love that is reflected, here there is no beginning, no ending, we just exist, entwined in silence, no words can express

 the touch of his lips, all I need to hear.  Is this pure love all mine?

Loneliness fades, days, weeks, months begin to blur and fade, sepia like, my life plan rewrites in a blaze of colour. I exist and we are one.

Emotions Competition Winner

1st Prize:£75   M. Harrison

2nd Prize: £50  Elizabeth Johnstone

 Heartbreak

Janey ripped the letter to shreds, watching the fragments scatter and dance as the sudden breeze swept them away. The pain persisted though. Lodged in her gut like a blistering hot poker being twisted and turned, waves of nausea swept over her as hot, scalding tears spilled onto her cheeks. Her position, a solitary figure on a park bench, forlorn and staring out across the river, epitomised loneliness and she noticed how those around her, avoided her,  averting their eyes as she sat wrapped in the depths of despair.

Even the tranquillity of water lapping at the reed beds in front of her, couldn’t soothe her bitter fury, or the aching emptiness that engulfed her. If it were possible for a heart to break, hers must have surely been ripped apart? Janey closed her eyes, willing the tortured and fractured images to dissipate, violent, volatile images each one ending in a bloody scene, until she felt frozen in time, etched into the devastated landscape an onlooker replaying the scenes of violence forever. She tried to remember the stages of grief, how she had felt when her Grandfather had died. But these feelings of hopelessness, anger and hurt couldn’t compare. But deep down, some sense of logic was surfacing, recognising that somehow her tortured brain needed to look ahead, to a time when pain would lessen and reality became whole again instead of the fragmented, broken shards that currently existed.

It hurt to breathe, it hurt to think and it hurt to feel. Who could have imagined that this would ever have happened? These were things that happened to others, not to her, not to her family. Her sister, only a year apart in age, her beautiful smiling face no more. Janey could almost visualize the light going out of her eyes. The brilliant blue changing to the translucent grey of death. Her sister had been proud to wear that uniform, to represent their country in those war torn areas. She had promised she would be back as a celebrated hero and she was keeping her promise, back with honours, carried in a coffin and Janey didn’t know how she was ever going to cope without seeing her again.

First Page Fiction Competition Winner

 

1st Prize: £150.00 Jan Gray
2nd Prize: £100.00 Paul West
3rd Prize: £75.00 Sue Andrews

In the Shadows
by Jan Gray

Chapter One

Somewhere, down there in the midst of the crowded market square, her would-be killer was looking for her. She had no clues as to who or even why, but the bullet that had grazed against the flesh of her upper arm had been notification enough that someone meant business. She had been lucky, Catherine reflected, as she had meandered through the colourful market place only moments ago, something had caught her attention and she had changed direction, swivelling her body around at the last moment. As the bullet impacted her soft flesh and out, she had cried out watching in horrified slow motion as the woman in front of her had fallen heavily to the ground, the pavement staining  dark red under her bulbous frame, blood seeping through the bullet hole in her chest. Catherine hadn’t needed to look twice to know that the woman was dead, her open glassy eyed stare, wildly accusing. With panic building within her, running seemed to be the only option.

Finding a hiding place hadn’t been easy at first, especially as the stinging pain of her arm hampered every movement. Feeling sick with fear, the warm sticky blood had dripped down her arm under the confines of her jacket and she had desperately tried to avoid leaving a trail of blood splatter. In mass confusion, the crowd had surged forwards and backwards, pressing her up against a building almost crushing her in the process and as she had fought to get free, the crowd surged forward again and she ran toward an open doorway clambering desperately up the derelict stairwell.

Now in an abandoned room on the top floor, she risked peering out from behind the jaded net curtains that would have once adorned these windows with pride. Even from up here it was easy to see the sense of shock and disbelief etched on the faces below. The ambulance was only now pulling its way out through the crowds, no sirens, no sense of urgency and all the while a killer was out there, hunting down its prey. Tears threatened to overwhelm her; she felt so alone, so afraid and none of it made sense. The threatening text messages a few weeks ago had been terrifying but the bullet today meant the threats were serious. Who could hate her so much that they wanted her dead?

Halloween Fiction Competition Winner

 

1st Prize: £250.00 – Adam Ford

2nd Prize: £150.00 – Katy Young

3rd Prize: £75.00 – Richard Thompson

The Graves End Pact

By Adam Ford

As the moon glinted through the darkening clouds, two figures began their journey through the murky undergrowth of Porters Wood, their hesitant footsteps heralding the difficulties in the overgrown trail ahead of them.

“Do you think they will come?” Alex asked, his breath frosted in the cold winter air

“We made a pact didn’t we?” Carter demanded, “Don’t a pact mean anything to you?”

“Yes, yes of course it does, just that it might be difficult….” Alex’s voice trailed off as he caught sight of the house at Graves End, even from this great distance, he could make out the glow of pumpkins that blazed a welcoming trail down the long drive to the porch.

“Oh my God,” Alex breathed, “they really have come”.

Carter swallowed hard, it was everything that he had hoped for but hadn’t been able to completely believe. This was going to be one hell of a Halloween party.

“C’mon,” he ushered Alex forward, taking a swig of his beer before clambering on through the brambles that sprawled like evil tendrils across the path. The beer burned his throat with a bitter taste but unaccustomed to alcohol; he liked the immediate hit as the alcohol surged through his brawny frame. When the bottle was empty, he threw it into the undergrowth, as a heady rush made him feel suddenly dizzy.

Finally, the house loomed in front of them, foreboding in its architectural design and with no electricity, it had an eerie atmosphere with windows gaping like widened eyes and the massive porch, becoming an extended giant mouth about to swallow them up.

“The pumpkins are awesome” Alex murmured, “Wow”. Alex spun around on the spot, fantasizing that the grotesquely carved pumpkins were emitting a life-force of their own as the power of the flame forced the shadows back across the path and surrounded him with an ethereal glow.

‘This would have taken a lot of work’ Carter thought watching Alex lost in the moment, how could their two mates have done all of this on their own? Suddenly he was filled with self-doubts, what if they were gate-crashing another party and they would find themselves surrounded by hoards of stupid girls from that posh girls’ only school up the road? He hoped that he was wrong, this place was theirs. It had to be theirs alone for tonight.

Suddenly Carter flinched and clasped his left wrist, as pain surged through the jagged scar. Even through the overwhelming pain, he was aware that Alex was clutching his arm too and tears were rolling down his cheeks as he grimaced. As quickly as the pain arrived, it was gone and both straightened up, wiping their own tear stained faces, shaken to the core. They looked at their wrists, the scars both glowed from a light surfacing underneath the jagged edges.

“Do you think..?” Alex began.

“It means they are here and we should go in” Carter put his arm around Alex “It will be ok-honest” he whispered, knowing that there was no way back anyway. He felt for Alex, he was so young to have gone through all this in his meager twelve years.

United they walked into the porch way, flinching as unseen cobwebs brushed against their faces. More pumpkins lit their way down the darkened, derelict corridor as roaches scuttled across the floor in front of them. “There is no music” Alex complained, “It’s so quiet”

“We will make our own don’t worry” Carter smiled, trepidation and anticipation rising up within him threatening to choke him.

He reached out to push the door to the old sitting room open. It creaked on its hinges and sent a shiver down his spine. He could see his breath frosted on the cool breeze that swept in from the open porch, his skin felt chilled to the bone and the hairs on the back of his neck had frozen erect. The room looked empty, ears straining for the slightest sound but there were none, apart from the sound of his own labored breathing, Carter acknowledged, as fear threatened to strangle him.

Walking in to the room, Alex spotted them first…”Lance…you made it buddy” he ran forward and clutched the hand of his friend. From behind Lance, a tall geeky lad hidden in the half shadows moved forward, his smile wide.

Carter reached forward with arms outstretched and hugged Regan, “God man, it’s so good to see ya…it’s been…”

“Ages!” Regan extracted himself from Carter’s eager embrace “Beer?”

The four boys sat huddled in the corner of the room for warmth enjoying the feast of snacks that Lance and Regan had managed to bring with them. Carter felt himself relax, the beer warming his body. It was all going to be ok, their friendship and the blood pack had brought them back together and they had honored their vow to meet up here every Halloween. Carter breathed in sharply, his memories were so alive at this minute that they felt like a physical ache threatening to tear him apart, but may be it would always be like this.

“We really wanted to get here for tonight but it wasn’t easy” Regan began “Lance and I had to creep out of our house, it’s a ten mile trek to get here but we were lucky and stowed away in Ol’ Man Pasco’s truck and it took us most of the way”.

“I wish you had never moved away” Carter said bitterly, “it’s not been the same since you left..”

“We’re glad you made it anyway, “Alex interjected, “not sure if we could have stayed here on our own” he mumbled, his mouth stuffed full of chocolate.

“Didn’t get much choice really” Lance sighed, “My scar started to burn like hell and only eased off as we got here, Regan’s scar did the same. Bloody hurt”

The four looked at each other, aware now of the true strength of their blood bond, only one of their group missing and yet, the one they all wanted to see.

“It’s nearly midnight,” Carter cried, “ do you think……?” his voice trailed off as the pumpkin candles around the room began to flicker and an icy wind filled the room. Huddled together they started calling out a name, united in desire and intent, their voices resonating around the empty room, shattering the eerie silence.

From out of the darkness, a shape began to materialize, Glenn, their childhood friend who had been stolen from them only 12 months before. This eerie, long forgotten house had become his resting place as they had enjoyed their Halloween party, just the five of them and a pact so strong that it would bring Glenn back from beyond the grave. Glenn had always been the most vivacious of them, so full of life that it seemed unthinkable that his life force could be extinguished by the fall through rotten floorboards on that Halloween night. Death had claimed him in seconds.

For a few seconds only, Glenn’s materialized form drifted forward and became enveloped in the circle of friendship that would last a lifetime.
“Happy Halloween Glenn – we will never forget..” and as their voices trailed off, Glenn disappeared from their midst and the boys were left alone once more and strangely bereft.

“I miss him” Alex cried, choking back his tears.

“We all do, but we’ll be back…next year and we will see him again.” Another pact formed as the boys placed their scarred wrists on top of each others. United once more, the boys began to blow out the pumpkin candles and made their way out of the house.

“Nice work with the pumpkins by the way” Carter said, wiping the tears from his eyes and taking a deep breath to steady himself.

“We didn’t do anything, could never have carried pumpkins with us” Lance admitted and laughed emotionally “I’m guessing that somehow buddy Glenn had something to do with it, he knew we would be back after all and I guess, he wanted to welcome us.”

As they all turned back to look at the house, one final light in the window was extinguished as if a ghostly breath had erased the flickering flame and the house sank back into darkness and peace once more as the boys turned and walked out into the night.

Winter Ghost Story Competition Winner

1st Prize: £500.00 – Jane Booth
2nd Prize: £200.00 – Clyde West
3rd Prize: £150.00 – C.Gordon
4th Prize: Flash Fiction Writing Course – Sarah Edwards

House of Marianne

by Jane Booth

The cottage was dark and depressive but it was exactly what Calvin needed, even so, shivers ran down his spine at the thought of staying too long in these tainted shadows. Looking around the room he could imagine the murder that took place here only too well, blood splattered walls and the dismembered body. He wondered what her last thoughts would have been before she lost consciousness.

The house, famous for its murderous past had long stood empty, the current owner had inherited the property and had tried to sell it for years, ensuring that the essentials of the house were cared for during those viewing times, but he had long since given up on trying to sell it as its reputation was too grisly and even the locals tried to avoid the house. Calvin imagined that in its former glory, it would have looked beautiful. It was large for a typical cottage and some of the rooms had fairly high ceilings avoiding the claustrophobic feel of other cottages he had been to but the doorways were low and he had already managed to bang his head when he had struggled in with his cases. As the sun emerged from behind the clouds, shafts of golden light filtered into the gloom and when he looked out the window, the unloved garden showed glimpses of its former beauty.

Calvin stepped back out of the cottage into the sunlight and breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t believe in ghosts and the fact that the cottage was reported to be haunted didn’t faze him but he had to admit, it was good to get out of the murky gloom. He followed the jagged pathway around to the back of the house, noting how the weeds were choking the life from the remaining plants. He surveyed his accommodation and surrounding garden with curiosity, if the right person bought the place, they could do so much to it, he mused. The garden was big, densely planted, overgrown but it had that typical country garden feel to it and it could be a restful place, charming even.

A large oak tree sprawled impressively to one side, its branches reaching towards him like a giant claw. An old wooden swing hung from one of the branches and he wondered if anyone used it now. The swing was moving gently and Calvin furrowed his brow wondering if the breeze was strong enough to cause the movements, but then he shrugged and turned his attention elsewhere. Drawn to the thicket clumps on his right, he began pulling away large quantities of  choke weed, feeling a sense of satisfaction as the taught vines gave way under the pressure. As he continued to clear some of the undergrowth, the sun emerged, golden rays warming his back and chasing away the shadows. The light glinted on a small object half buried in the soil. Prizing it from its resting place, he straightened up, holding it up to the light, a small golden pendant faded with age and covered with dirt, it was elegantly designed but he couldn’t make out any details without cleaning it up first.

Calvin stepped back suddenly from the borders; as a wave of giddiness threatened overwhelm him.
For a second or two, he swayed, fighting the roaring noise in his ears and the trembling in his legs. ‘Must have stood up too quickly’ he thought, steadying himself as the waves of dizziness dissipated. The pendant felt warm in his hands, unnaturally so and yet suddenly Calvin felt cold. A shiver ran eerily down his spine as if being watched and he turned quickly, looking back at the house. Scanning the garden, he noticed the swing moving eerily but there was no one watching him. As the sun disappeared behind a series of grey clouds, Calvin left the pile of weeds and raced back to the cottage as the first drops of rain splattered to the ground.

As darkness enveloped and the rain splattered against the windows, Calvin typed away on his battered old laptop, inspired by his surroundings as he continued with his series of commissioned articles on ghost watching. As a non-believer, he hadn’t wanted to turn down the writing commission as money was short but trying to write as a ghost hunter enthusiast hadn’t been easy. Talking about his frustrations in his local pub over a few beers had led to the suggestion of him staying in a haunted house overnight to experience the thrill for himself, and then someone had mentioned this cottage, speaking of the young woman who had been murdered and the blood ravaged body that had been found some weeks later.

The rest was history, Calvin mused as he tried to focus on the tasks at hand, he was here and he was still struggling to conjure up his enthusiasm for the articles. He had to admit though that it was far easier to succumb to the creepy atmosphere now that he was here and he could at least see why people reacted in the way that they did. Shadows danced around the room from the four large candles and only the light from the laptop pierced the gloom convincingly. But even so, he wasn’t scared, merely enjoying the sensation of becoming more ‘aware’ and touching base with an inner sensitivity. Not the flickering flames in the sudden cool breeze, or the creaking floorboards on the stairs could make his heart race dramatically. He just simply didn’t believe. The house was old, floorboards were unstable and wood contracted in the coolness of night, there was always a scientific explanation.

The murder had been real though. The young woman’s remains had been found in the house and the murderer never caught. He felt sorry for her, could imagine the fear of facing your last moments so brutally. He wondered who had been so evil to end the life of an innocent woman so casually and why. Calvin yawned, moving his laptop to one side, it was time for bed. Maybe inspiration would strike in the morning. Taking one candle up the old staircase and refusing to turn on the lights, he bent his head to avoid the low beams and walked into the largest room at the tops of the stairs. At least the owner had taken the time to make the bed fairly comfortable for him; he was so tired that he couldn’t wait for sleep to overtake him. Leaving his clothes in a discarded heap on the floor, Calvin collapsed on the bed, his eyes shutting instantly and consciousness slipped away.

His dreams were torrid. He watched as the young woman was held down and gagged, he felt each and every blow as she gradually regained consciousness and was beaten again and again. He felt his limbs being pulled apart, the searing pain as a heavy bladed saw cut through skin, and felt the jagged edge as the saw connected with the hardness of bone; he sat upright in bed screaming, clutching his arm.

It took Calvin a while to realize he had just been dreaming. His skin was drenched with sweat and he checked his body relieved to see that he was intact, the vividness of the dream refusing to ebb away.. without a doubt sleep had deserted him and he clambered out of bed to put on the light. Relief flooded through him as the shadows disappeared and he saw he was unscathed and still alone.
He didn’t remember the last time he had experienced a nightmare of those proportions but this had been truly terrifying.

With lights blazing, he made his way downstairs to his laptop, thinking that a practical approach to his article writing might clear his head of cobwebs. He felt drugged, head foggy and he still ached. Surely a nightmare couldn’t actually inflict physical pain. As he leaned over his laptop, clicking to his article page, he stepped back in sudden horror….the name ‘Marianne’ was typed all over the page. Mouth dry, skin pricking, Calvin shivered, how the hell had this happened? Who could have done this?

Common sense reasserted. It had to have been his friends, after all, weren’t they the ones who had suggested this house to him?  It was likely that they were just trying to scare him, prove that he wasn’t as tough as he seemed. Taking a deep breath, he checked the front and back door. They were securely bolted. Doubts filled him mind again, Marianne, who was she? The girl who was murdered? Damn it, he didn’t believe in ghosts. The locket glinted in the electric light compelling him to pick it up, and as before, the gold burned into his skin and the room started spinning. He knew without a doubt that the locket had belonged to her and held on to the desk until the dizziness passed. Just what had happened here all those years ago? Was it the trauma of her violent death keeping her bound to this house?

He remembered the swing moving in the garden, hadn’t it looked as if someone was sat on it, moving it gently? Was that Marianne? Or had other things occurred here? Calvin suddenly felt an overpowering urge to know, his fear ebbed and his determination rose. Was it too late to uncover the truth and put Marianne’s spirit to rest? Suddenly Calvin knew that he had a mission, it would be the investigative journalism assignment of the year, hell no, of the century and he had the opportunity to do something worthwhile and of course, complete his ghost watching series with relative ease.

As he dressed, Calvin made his plans. Go and see the owner, extend the rental period to a few weeks at least and then start his research in earnest. He just needed to pick up a few more things from his apartment if he was going to stay longer. As Calvin walked down the path, he welcomed the new day as a hazy sun emerged and began its trail through the sky. Calvin stopped at the gate and looked back towards the house, and breathed in sharply, it might have been a trick of the light but he could have sworn the shape of a woman was standing in the doorway watching him leave.

‘Don’t worry’, he whispered, ‘I’m coming back and I will find out what happened to you Marianne’.

When he blinked, the figure had gone and he wondered if tiredness was affecting his judgment, but as he turned towards the wrought iron gate, it swung open in front of him, guided by an unseen hand and as he walked through slowly and with shock, it closed gently behind him clicking back into place. A shiver went through him but also, a sense of anticipation for the tasks ahead.

He smiled at thin air, wondering if she knew he was trying to help her and then made his way back to the car, it was six am and he had a lot to do if he was going to unravel a mystery that had laid dormant for almost a hundred years and finally reveal the truth about the house of Marianne

The Inheritance Fiction Competition Winner

 

1st Prize: £150.00    Barry Thomas

2nd Prize: £100.00   J. Wood

3rd Prize:   £ 75.00   Rachel Harrison

 

The Inheritance

By Barry Thomas 

A letter was the sum total of his inheritance and yet it was the most precious gift ever…

The fact that she had remembered him at all amazed him.  Elspeth, the foster mother who he had clung to when he had to move to a different family, he remembered burying his head in the folds of her apron and promising to be good if he could stay.   Deep down, he had known that she could barely bring herself to wave him goodbye, her ill-health had been the decider.  His memories were hazy but he knew she had been kind and caring to the disillusioned child who had been left in her care. He had gone to her after a series of temporary foster care homes had left him feeling bruised and unwanted by the system and his brat like behavior must have tried her patience but she had somehow made everything ok again. He tried to picture her now, short, ruddy complexion, dark curly hair that sat in waves on her shoulders. Buxom, warm and kindly, a typical farmer’s wife, he contemplated.

He had experienced freedom there like nowhere else, fresh air, room to grow and to be able to expand his horizons and simply play like any nine year old should do.  Eventually, when he had been removed kicking and screaming from the farm, he had been adopted by a professional couple who gave him financial stability and a yearning to learn. This made up for their lack of emotional warmth and although they had been good to him, their love had never touched him the way Elspeth’s had. Their influence however had enabled him to study science and to eventually teach it, a job that was perfect for him.

He realized his hands were shaking as he sat waiting to be called in outside the office of Lawrence Montgomery-partner in Montgomery and Munroe – Elspeth’s family solicitors. He knew from their stiffly written letter that Elspeth had finally died and had left him something in her will. With children of her own and an abundance of foster children over the years, Frank doubted it would be very much, but he was touched that she would remember the scruffy, tousled haired lad who was aggressive to all, burying his pain in anger instead. He supposed she had seen through the defiant wall he had built up in his nine short years and suddenly, unbidden, a fleeting memory touched him and he smiled. All of the foster children had been given pets to look after and he had inherited a gorgeous large white rabbit who he called ‘Mr. Ears’. One morning when his rabbit had been found dead, Frank had run away, consumed with grief and it was Elspeth who had come to find him, searching acres of farmland to discover his special hideaway, the foundations of an old stone barn, where the land had reclaimed possession of the stone work, with trees and shrubs forming a framework above the dilapidated ruins. How she had found him, he never knew but she had crawled in through the thickened undergrowth and comforted him, explaining the cycle of life and death and how people should always appreciate the ‘now’. Strange how that memory had surged within these sterile walls.

He rose from his seat as Lawrence Montgomery walked towards him, his hand outstretched and ushered him into his office. He was everything that you expected a solicitor to be, professional, courteous and aloof and Frank sat across the desk from him and waited patiently, resisting the urge to fidget.

“Mrs. Turner, as you know died a short time ago,” Lawrence informed him, “She made strict provisions for all those who were in her care, some little trinkets, and items of jewelry for the girls you know, nothing of any great worth- apart from any emotional attachment you understand.” He paused, “The farm got into real financial difficulties when Mr. Turner had an accident and couldn’t walk and over the years, it was almost repossessed. Mrs. Turner died before that could happen, not long after her husband, fortunately in a way”, Laurence murmured, a faint hint of emotion creeping into his words, “It’s my belief that losing the farm and all her memories would have destroyed her”

Frank frowned, “Had you known her long?”

Lawrence sat back in his chair and sighed, “Like you, I was fostered by Elspeth and I have since represented her as a way of paying her back for her incredible kindness- for rescuing me from the system if you like.” He paused, carefully selecting his words, “She was an unbelievable woman- we were all very lucky to be touched by such kindness” He leaned forward and handed Frank a large envelope, “This is yours, you don’t need to open it here, but please do sign on the dotted line now to say you have received it”.

Frank left the office in a daze; the envelope taunting him with its hidden secrets. Sunlight greeted him when he emerged and he shivered as waves of sadness swept over him at the thought that he would never see Elspeth again. He was shocked by how much that thought hurt him. Why hadn’t he gone back? Had he been worried that she wouldn’t have wanted to have seen him? Worried that she might not love him now that he was a grown man? He made his way down the busy street debating whether to drive back to his apartment or to find a quiet pub and wash down his inheritance with a beer or two. He could always get a taxi back home. Without having made a decision, he found himself outside The Lonely Man public house and somehow it seemed fitting, because despite his career success and being a rational adult, his insides were churning and he felt terribly alone.

Finally, as he sat with his beer in hand and the alcohol had suitably soothed his jagged nerves, he slit open the envelope and pulled the contents onto the table. At first his eyes were drawn to the numerous photos within. His childlike image captured forever, cradled in Elspeth’s arms and smiling directly into the camera. Then another with Mr. Ears and a group shot with all of the family gathered. He wondered who had taken the last photo. Waves of nostalgia swept over him, seeing the old farm and everybody in these photos bought it all flooding back, all of the good times, he thought. As he gazed at the photos in turn, a smile touched his lips, recognizing the Turners, in happier, healthier times, smiling and waving at the camera.

With shaking fingers he laid the photos to one side and turned his attention to another small sealed envelope and began to read.

My dearest boy,

Not one day has passed without me thinking and wondering how you were doing. I always meant to get in touch but my ill health and that of my husband always stopped me from seeking you out. You were a challenge in those long ago days my boy, but I loved every single minute that we shared. I hope in that year we were given together, I showed you love and what family is all about.

Family was always important for me and I took the liberty in making some enquires as to your background, in case you remained that angry little boy who never wanted to look back at his beginnings and found himself lost in his future. I hope my darling boy that you will not be angry with me but I am certain that the name on the slip of paper inside this envelope is of a man who is related to you, God forgive me if I am wrong.

Don’t be afraid to find your roots Frank, but live for the present and cherish each day. I pray your future will be filled with light and love.

My best wishes and love always,

Elspeth.

Frank leaned back heavily, he felt exhausted. His heart ached. She had given him a gift beyond monetary value, the gift of pure love. What more could any man ask of family?

He scratched at the stubble on his chin, perplexed. Did he want to know the name tucked away inside the envelope? Did he want to turn back the clock and find out his humble beginnings? Elspeth had obviously thought it was important enough so maybe it was something to consider for the future. For now, all he wanted to do was honor the woman who had shaped him from the angry boy, to the man who wasn’t afraid to embrace love or to cry. He wiped a solitary tear from his cheek and tucked the photos and letter back in the envelope; he needed time to think and time to remember the woman who would forever be his mother.

The Mystery Fiction Competition Winner

1st Prize: £100.00 Roy Peters

2nd Prize: £ 50.00 Julie Walters

 The story had to include:

 Ellie Lacey

A stolen jewellry box

A photograph.

Echoes of Time

by Roy Peters

All I had left of the woman who haunted my dreams and spurred me on to my greatest achievements was the aging photograph. Ellie Lacey, my great grandmother who had died shrouded in mystery and tragedy and the story had woven a place in my heart forever.

My mother had talked of her a great deal when I was young, prompted by my inquisitive boyish curiosity, we sat in the hearth and roasted chestnuts in the open fire at Christmas and talked of how our dwindling family had once been great, until Ellie Lacey had allegedly betrayed those around her and had stolen an exquisite jewellery box-no one knew why she did this but I knew there would have to be a good reason. To my small ears, Ellie had sounded wonderful even though, through the years she had been marked as a prostitute, a home wrecker and a witch.

‘How could she have been all those things?’ I had innocently remarked. I remember well, the sensation of my mother running her smooth, cool fingers over my head, comforting me even though I didn’t realise the atrocities of her death. All I knew at that tender age was that she had died accused. As I grew older, I realised there was far more to the tale than my mother had revealed, the story had been softened for that young boy but as a man, the need to know my family background was strong and Ellie seemed the ideal starting point. I had no brothers or sisters and my mother was ill. Soon I would have nothing left but memories and history.

Ellie’s legacy was strong. I had inherited her love of herbs and enjoyed earning about the medicinal qualities. Her love of gardening had been passed to me too and I tended the home of my childhood with a great deal of love and care. One part of my garden had been dedicated to Ellie, the message hidden within the flowers that I planted. My mother knew I think but said nothing. I just caught her looking at me quizzically sometimes and a faint smile upon her lips, sometimes I would find her sat in that shady bower, reading, her long brown hair tumbling over her shoulders. She said she found the place both spiritual and peaceful.

All that was so long ago. Now death was waiting eagerly for my mother to pass and I too longed for that moment because I couldn’t bear the pain that she was enduring. She was only half the woman I remembered, the cancer was eating her alive and her face was haunted and hollow. Only the day before, she had made me go into her bedroom cupboard and pull out a large, old wooden box that was covered with dust. She made me promise not to open it until she had passed away and I had promised. I had stored it in my bedroom desperate to know its secretes and yet, knowing when I did, that my mother would be dead. She had clung to me that day, her eyes wide and staring, whispering that I must be my own man and forge my own future, I must not live in the past. I didn’t really understand what she meant but I kissed her sweating forehead and told her to sleep.

And now as I stand in her room, I know the end is near. I want to cry as I see her thrash in pain. Convulsions, headache, impaired vision and abdominal pains all symptoms of the poison I had slipped into her glass earlier. I think she had known as her eyes softened and misted but she took the glass from me, desperate for release.  Her cries are ripping me apart, I want to stay with her and hold her hand, tell her I love her, I want to see her through from this world to the next but I can’t bear to see her suffer and I hate myself for running out of her room and locking myself away.  

I sit on the floor, whimpering like a child and I realise that I am not strong at all. She has stopped crying out my name now and I know that it is all over. I feel more alone than I imagined would be possible. I reach for the box that she bequeathed me and my breath catches through my tears as I see a beautiful jewellery box within and an abundance of other precious items. In an instant, I know that my mother had kept every last item that belonged to Ellie. I can barely focus on all of the items because the tears keep welling up but there are letters, necklaces, rings, a journal, and her herb books. I feel overwhelmed by it all and the past moves a little closer to me. At last I am going to find out the truth.

 As I read her journal, I learn more about Ellie than I could ever have imagined. She wrote beautifully and honestly and recorded every thought and feeling including her affair with a married man. I search to find his name but it seemed that even in her journal, Ellie couldn’t break the silence surrounding their affair. The love she felt for him oozed from every page and I couldn’t put the book down. On the last page, her handwriting was blurred in places as if she had been crying whilst capturing her thoughts and as I read, I could finally understand why. The love of her life had died at her own hand, not with malice but to protect him from pain and suffering as his illness was long and fatal.

 Our lives were inextricably linked and sadness permeated through every pore and the air felt heavy and desolate around me. Was this what my mother had meant when she had said I must be my own man and not to live in the past? Both my life and Ellie’s were bleeding into one. At that moment our connection was strong and I felt her pain as much as I did my own, she had killed to protect as had I but Ellie had paid the price with her own life. The shadow of my guilt was heavy but I still had a chance to forge a good life for myself and bring honour to my family name. Unless, I like Ellie am caught and made to pay for my sins.

Past Love

 

1st Prize: £100 Christine Penny

2nd Prize: £75 Mike Mills

 

The Truth Will Out

By Christine Penny

The rat! The absolute rat! Laura fumed. How could he? She had never felt so humiliated in her whole life. Fighting back the tears, Laura felt a surge of anger so strong that she knew if Luke Adams was stood in front of her now, she would punch him right on the nose.  Emerging from the offices of Holby and Grantham and struggling to hold back the tears, she walked resolutely out into the busy market square.

Throngs of people were already emerging into the sunlight having escaped from the confines of their offices, Laura silently fumed as she stomped across the square desperate to find haven in her friend’s coffee shop. She hated people seeing her cry but the tears threatened to fall and she needed to release the valve. Almost running down the quaint street in her eagerness to get to her destination, Laura finally made it to the Hot Spot coffee house and sighed with relief. Sasha took one look at Laura as she emerged from the office, stopped in her tracks, and carefully handed a tray filled with steaming mugs of coffee to a nearby waitress, ushering Laura in and closing the door behind them for privacy.

“What on earth is wrong?” She queried, pulling a chair out for Laura as she burst into tears “Did the interview not go well?”

“It went brilliantly and it’s my dream job” she sniffed,””They even wanted me to meet the Head of marketing who would be my direct manager”

“Well, that’s not sounding so bad?” Sasha said slowly, “Or am I missing something?”

“Luke happened” Laura sighed, wiping away her mascara streaked tears, “He is the Head of Marketing. I always knew he would do well in life, but I never expected that he would be running the Marketing department over there. “

“Your ex Luke? Oh no” Sasha wrapped her arms around Laura and hugged her. “I’m so sorry”

“That man is determined to ruin my life” Laura cuddled in to Sasha and wept freely wishing with every part of her body that she had never met Luke.

He had been the love of her life. When they had met he had been her Team Manager in a small Marketing and PR firm and although she had tried to resist him, in the end she had succumbed and her life changed in an instant. Their relationship spiralled and intensified until eventually Luke asked her to marry him. The wedding plans gave Laura something to focus on and she handed in her notice so that she could ensure the big day went smoothly. With hindsight, Laura realised that had been her fatal mistake, Luke had fallen in love with her business minded creative energy and not someone who pandered to his every whim and hung on to his every word. How stupid of her to have put her own life on hold and just focussed on him. Bringing her attention back to the present, Laura sighed and smiled weakly “I’m an idiot”

Later that night, Laura padded around her small apartment listlessly. This had been the first place she could find to rent after moving out from Luke’s but it felt like home now, beautifully furnished, it had become her bolthole for the last couple of months. It cost her more than she could afford though and as a result Laura had used up the biggest part of her savings, so her need to start working again was real enough. She had been fortunate to earn a little by freelancing but her heart hadn’t been in work mode for months and now that emotionally, the wounds had been healing, her perfect job had been pulled out from under her by the very same man.

Sitting on the balcony overlooking the bustling side streets, she felt strangely alone. She had never envisaged her life being this empty. Where had she gone wrong? She had been convinced that Luke was the love of her life. Since the breakup, Laura had shut herself away, hardly leaving her apartment, screening her calls in case he rang, but disappointingly he never had. Losing him had been a bitter blow but knowing that he hadn’t even tried to find her was worse somehow, at least to her pride, but maybe it had been a blessing. Feeling the light warm breeze and the last of the summer sun before autumn commenced, Laura turned her face towards the sky and tried to stop thinking about all she had lost.

The sound at her front door was insistent, ominous and she made her way to the door, her heart racing. Laura couldn’t contain her surprise when she saw Luke in the corridor and her heart skipped a beat. His hair, with fetching silver strands looked ash blonde in this light and his perpetual tired features looked strangely appealing.

“May I come in?” She stood back to allow him access and shut the door sombrely behind him. “Nice place”

Her hear was beginning to race again, just being near him was enough to turn her stomach inside out in knots” What do you want?”

“I want you to take the job. You are the perfect person for it, we both know that” He stepped forward and touched her arm, and she shivered” We can turn the clock back Laura, start afresh, we will make a great team again”

“Turn the clock back? You mean with us?” Her breath caught in her throat, wasn’t this just what she had waited to hear?

“It will be fun” He laughed, displaying perfect white teeth, there was even a glint of mischievousness in his eyes, how she had loved that about him. “We will have to be discreet of course, but hell that will just make it more fun”

“Be discreet? Of course but..why?”

“I’m sort of involved with the MD…….but it’s not serious…I just needed to get my foot in the door, you know how it is, where as you and I…”

Laura stepped back sharply, her breath caught beneath her ribs…she couldn’t believe that she was hearing this. She looked up at him, searching his face in amazement, was he so confident of his looks and his power over her that he thought she would accept that romantic crumb? “Was this why you finished with me?”

“I didn’t expect you to move out and disappear, I just wanted us to cancel the wedding and lie low for a bit. Don’t look like that Laura, you are taking this the wrong way, this is business and she is my stepping stone to success”

As if in a blinding sense of realisation, Luke’s smooth veneer dropped and she could see him finally for the man he really was and job or not, he certainly wasn’t worthy of her.

Throwing him out gave her the most satisfaction ever, the pompous, arrogant man. She was too angry to cry over him again, and suddenly she was so glad that he had come to see her as her emotions had finally turned full circle and she now had closure.

Sitting on her balcony overlooking the street, she watched him slope off, his hands in his pockets, head bowed. His ego for once was massively dented she realised and she wanted to laugh out loud. As the sun gave one final burst of warmth, Laura decided she would seriously start job hunting tomorrow as she was ready to commit 100% to the role and get her career back on track, but she would definitely give Holby and Grantham a miss. A lucky escape if ever there was one.

Memory Loss Fiction Competition Winner

 

1st Prize:  £150.00 Eve Green

 2nd Prize: £ 100.00 S. Denby

3rd Prize:  £   75.00 Chris Foster

The Ravages of Time

 

“Are you the Doctor? “ The voice was wobbly and laden with confusion.

I handed her the cup of tea, carefully making sure that her trembling fingers had gripped the cup firmly. “No, are you expecting one?”

She shook her head as confusion swept over her, “I don’t think I’m ill”

“I don’t either,” I agreed “You look in good health to me”

She leaned forward in a clandestine manner, “It’s just my flamin’ memory dear. So annoying, for example, I can’t find my glasses today and I need them if I’m going to do my knitting.”

“They are on your head, here….” I took them from her silken grey curls and handed them to her and she whooped in delight.

“Well now, fancy that, I looked everywhere…or, at least I think I did”

“What are you knitting?” I asked looking at the beautiful green wool in the basket by her wrinkled stocking legs.

“It’s a surprise, a jumper for my daughter”

I glanced at the cover of the pattern and saw the image of a young girl “How old is your daughter?”

She hesitated for a moment, brow furrowed as she dug deep for the answer, “I am terrible, I can’t remember exactly….I think she is ten or twelve. My dear, time does pass so quickly and children are never children for long. Do you have any?”

I shook my head, with a recent divorce and approaching my fortieth birthday, the likelihood for the patter of tiny feet weren’t good. I had never worried about it before but now, the years, empty and alone stretched ahead of me. I swallowed as a wave of emotion rose from the depths of my belly. “No children” I whispered.

We sat in comfortable silence for a bit and I watched the buzz of activities around the room. Nurses busied themselves pouring out drinks, administering drugs and getting their patients to stand for a few moments so as to keep the blood circulating to prevent sore areas developing and I admired their care and consideration. As a solicitor, our jobs could not have been further apart and yet for all of my lack of care, I was paid so much more. It didn’t seem fair.

 As I broke off my reverie, I noticed how peaceful she looked now that she was asleep. Her glasses were at an angle across her nose and her chest rose and fell with shallow breaths. She looked so tiny that it broke my heart.

Today wasn’t a good day for her. The Alzheimer’s had claimed a little more of her and there was no point staying, plus I had an overwhelming urge to escape and feel the fresh air on my skin. I don’t know if it was hot in the room or just that emotion was ripping me apart but I needed to get out of the care home. I stood up quietly, trying not to wake her up and walked away.

“There you are dear, hope you weren’t sneaking off? I was only having a little nap”

I turned to look at her quizzically.

She yawned as she struggled to sit up straight and straightened her glasses“Well come and give  your mother a kiss for goodness sake, I’ve been waiting ages, although a very nice lady kept me company for a while…or did I dream that?”

She held out her arms and I bent down and hugged her, struggling to hold back the tears. She was back, who knew for how long, but time was precious with her and I was only too glad to have my mum back with me because I missed her. I really missed her.

Choices Poetry Competition Winner

1st Prize: £100 Jean Harper

2nd Prize: £50   Myra Blake

 Full Circle

by Jean Harper

My life, my loves, a mingled mass

of emotions deep with scented pain

Of choices made and corners turned

with revelations newly found and lost again

From birth to death, I chose my path

wandered askew at times with grief

key moments of wonder then news would come

fear, hate and then alone at last.

Twist in the Tale Winning Submission

Changes

 by Penny Carter 

Twenty years of marriage and this was the worst set of arguments that they had ever had. Not even the trials and tribulations of raising twins had caused them to fall out on this scale. Marilyn breathed in the familiar scent of her husband’s cologne, loving his silent form so much that it hurt. She had brought the cologne for him on his birthday a few months ago and now the evocative scent brought her memories rushing back. They had spent such a perfect day together, no children, just a peaceful day out on the river, splashing about as if they were young and carefree and not venturing into their 40’s. Who could have predicted that their love would be under such pressure just weeks later? His anger and hurt, resolute and firm from the moment she had told him her news.

 Marilyn couldn’t sleep. Butterflies danced in her stomach and she felt sick, more than sick, terrifed. She had made a mistake, the biggest mistake of her life probably.  Marilyn turned over, sliding her arm around the sleeping form of her husband, sighing as she realized that he had fallen asleep as far away from her as possible, and he lay facing the wall in preference to her.

The alarm clocked ticked away the minutes until the pale streaks of dawn stretched fingers of light across the sky and through their partially drawn curtains.

Marilyn slipped out of bed, throwing her silk dressing gown around her ample frame. She needed coffee, hoping that the caffeine would filter energy into her tired body. Nursing the hot cup and sipping the strong black liquid, she considered her options, not relishing any of the suggestions that popped into her mind. She had never been one to quit but now….she would do anything to turn the clock back and to avoid making the decision that was threatening to tear her life apart. Perhaps she should apologize to Malc, say that it wasn’t worth falling out and it was just a silly, silly mistake and that she had changed her mind? Marilyn didn’t realize how long she had sat there with tear blurred eyes but she was suddenly aware that she wasn’t alone, she glanced hopefully in Malc’s direction but he was intent on making his own coffee, ignoring her as if she was no longer a part of his life. His grey eyes were remote and showed his disdain for her actions.

Marilyn walked away to get ready for work. It seemed Malc had made the decision for her, he didn’t want her and she couldn’t afford to lose everything. Fortunately, make-up held the power to dim the shadows under her eyes and to reduce the sleep deprived strain away from her features but this wasn’t how she had imagined looking and feeling.

Her arrival at the office caused a stir and she hardened her resolve to paste a confident expression on her face when every little step only increased her sense of dread. She hadn’t realized just how long the walk was through the open plan office and it seemed as if everyone was there witnessing her journey through the plush suites towards the office where no doubt a confrontation awaited her.

Swallowing her sense of dread, she re-played the years of study that she had endured to reach this moment in her career, months of juggling home-life with study, caring for their children and forcing herself to push her work to an ever higher academic level that had kept her active brain from turning to mush.

Finally, she entered her own office, the brass plaque on the door ‘Marilyn Walters – MD’ on the door silently mocking. The office led to an outer reception where her PA’s worked, she knew one but not the other and still hoped she would receive support of sorts in these early stages, Marilyn wasn’t sure she could cope with this role if she was truly alone. All those years of study hadn’t prepared her for the sense of isolation she felt right at this moment and any feelings of achievement were marred by the tattered remnants of her marital situation.

Sighing, she noticed a large bouquet of flowers lying on the desk, and reaching for a card, reading eagerly, tears welling up as she recognized the handwriting…

 

You have my support..as always..Good luck in your new role, boss!  Malc

Tears welled up in her eyes as she turned to look at the PA’s desk, absorbing the look of love emanating from her husband who was big enough to welcome her into his work environment as his boss and yet, who would still be there to support her in this brand new role after all.
 

The Announcement Winning Submission

1st Prize: £75.00 Nicole Webb
2nd Prize: £50.00 Dan Lloyd

Fingers Crossed

By Nicole Webb
 
It had taken her some time to actually write the announcement even though it was only a few words but it was for The Times newspaper after all, so she couldn’t write any old thing and these things had to be done properly if they were going to be done at all.

Jenny sighed, she still wasn’t sure of her wording but at least the basics were in place.  She remembered back to her time in school, it seemed like eons ago but her shrill toned, shrew-like teacher had constantly berated her for going ‘all round the houses’ when it came to her story-telling.

‘Keep to the point Jenny, the story must flow forward and not meander aimlessly’.

She put the advert down, there were too many words and at this rate, the expense was going to be huge. Time was on her side however as the deadline for publication was a few days away and she knew that she would be pouring over the words in the coming hours. It was very important that the ad did what it was supposed to do and that the message was loud and clear. Something of that significance needed to have time spent on it. 
 

Jenny stared out of the window whilst she waited for the kettle to boil. Her garden was small but unkempt and it was just one of the many jobs that needed doing since she had moved in. Discontentment hit her like a wave, she felt so lonely and so isolated. Her box-like house might be on a large housing estate but she saw no one. The neighbours seemed busy with their own lives and her dreams of sharing a cup of tea over the garden face whilst having a good natter had shrivelled and died.

As a child she had seen her mother chatting to all of the neighbours as she indulged in her gardening passion but then her mother was amazingly green fingered and everything she touched flowered in a burst of colour and enthusiasm. People had stopped to admire the abundance of colourful displays when they walked by and Jenny wished she had taken the time to learn, to study and to understand her mother more. Her own colourless garden made her feel nostalgic for the childhood that had been warm and full of giving.

When her father had died, Jenny had just rebelled partly with the shock of losing him and partly because she could. She had wanted to escape, make her own way in the world and not have to witness her mother’s devastation at losing her husband of thirty years.  She couldn’t stand the endless tears, not when her own grief was tightly knotted together inside of her.

 Switching off her emotions had been her salvation but also the cause of a great divide between her mother and herself. It was too late for regrets of course, because the chasm that had opened up between them seemed too enormous and now Jenny had moved whilst her mother still lived in the same rambling old house of her childhood. Happy times tinged with rebellion. Jenny realised that she hadn’t been a very good daughter.

Tea in hand, Jenny returned her focus to her advert. She had to make the announcement stand out, it had to say all the right things but in a simplistic way. That wasn’t going to be easy but space was limited as was her money and the advert wasn’t going to be cheap.

She had never been one for contemplation previously but her changed circumstances had made her grow up of late. Years of rebellion had finally given way to a maturity beyond her years; she felt thirty but in fact, was only just twenty five, a lifetime of experiences within a ten year span where she had cared for no one but herself. ‘Selfish, spoiled little girl,’ she could hear her mother’s contemptuous words lethally sharpened and enough to dent her self-imposed barrier.

Finally, when her mother had snapped and had packed her belongings up, Jenny had stormed out with all the fiery muster of a sixteen year old bent on hell-raising. That had been the last time she had seen her mother. Nine long years wasted.
 
Jenny turned back resolutely to her advert, time to focus, time to say the most important things and the rest would follow, hopefully later….
 
Hands trembling, she re-wrote the advert – a half page spread that could change her life:  Melissa Talbot – You are cordially invited to the one year birthday party of Timmy Jonathon Talbot – 21ST December. She typed her contact number and then sat back in relief. It was direct and to the point and her mother would appreciate this formal approach, she so liked things to be done the right way. She would like the fact that Jenny had named her son after her father too, a sign of respect and love.
 
Jenny looked down at her sleeping son, and stroked his golden hair ‘You’ll soon be able to meet your Grandmother, my darling boy’ she said softly. ‘Fingers crossed’.

Descriptive Writing Competition

 

1st Prize: £100  Gayle Potter

2nd Prize: £50.00 P. Carter

Poetic in Blue

 

by Gayle Potter

Picture postcard, a watercolour palette of mottled blue hues spreading across the expanse of sky.

Distant mountains dominate the skyline, mesmerising, a perfect frame and the scenery, envelops me.I feel the cool shades nurturing and cocooning my frazzled senses, wrapping me in a tranquil blanket, serenity itself.  The lake mirrors the sky and only a gentle splash breaks the surface as fish rise to greet the day. There is a feeling of hush, of whispered secrets in the new morn as I sit on dewy grass and contemplate life. A cool gentle breeze teases the leaves and grasses rustle at the foot of the tree trunk sending a shiver of anticipation. This ethereal world so removed from the hustle and bustle of reality, fades away as dawn and gentle bird song herald the day.

First Line Competition Winner

 

1st Prize: £100  Kelly Spreadbury

2nd Prize: £50 Peter Hudson

3rd Prize: £25 Olivia Hunter

 

Alone

By Kelly Spreadbury

The mist was rolling down the hills around her and soon she was enveloped in an eerie, unfamiliar cloak ….the shroud seemed to muffle her calls, stifle the fear in her throat until she felt hoarse with trying to make herself heard. Where was she? How could a three year old move so fast? It was dangerous out here on the moors, the mist was thick and it disorientated even the most competent of locals. It was also cold and she shivered.

Two minutes that’s all she had left Jessica for, two stupid minutes. What would Frank think when he got back home? His only daughter missing out on the moors, lost, lonely, hungry and frightened. Hannah looked around in desperation, she was losing her own bearings, which way was the house now? The mist was becoming denser by the second and she tried to think how far she had come from the safety of the garden. One wrong step and she could easily take a tumble. Hannah felt tears prick at her eyes and she struggled to blink them back. Cry baby she thought. First sign of trouble and you put on the waterworks. Hadn’t her mother consistently chided her for that when she was young? She almost smiled but then with a cold jolt, remembered Jessica, all blonde curls and big blue eyes, out here alone. Oh god. What if she died out here? She would never forgive herself ever and neither would Frank. The thought chilled her and spurred her to search further. Swallowing hard, she carefully pushed forward out in the direction of the open moors, one steady step at a time.

“Jessica” she bellowed, straining her ears to listen for signs of crying, but only a cold silence greeted her. At first there was nothing but then, a faint sound, a cry from out of the mist. “Jessica,” Hannah breathed a sigh of relief. She was out there and alive and now she just had to follow the sounds.

“I’m coming pet, don’t you worry. Stay where you are!” Jessica’s faint sobs could still be heard through the gloom, Hannah hoped she sounded calm and had managed to quell the desperation from ringing out in her voice. She had to stay calm. The ground felt slippery underfoot and her tension rose yet further. She still sounded so far away. The ground was uneven and dipped ahead, where was she?  She felt the ground give way in front of her and jolted her back as she lurched forward stumbling a little. She didn’t have time to stop and feel sorry for herself, the muscles in her lower back were starting to throb but Hannah knew she didn’t dare give up. Jessica’s cries were getting fainter but the mist had wrapped its icy fingers around her and she was starting to feel paralysed with fear. Was she near the old mine? Had she walked so far? Sure enough the slope was heading down before her and it felt steep in places and uneven, but if so, Jessica had fallen into the disused mine shaft. Oh god, please don’t let that have happened she prayed desperately.

“Jessica pet, can you hear me?” A slight sound, stifled in the mist and Hannah eased forward, her heart lodged in her rib cage, stress levels escalating as she strained to identify the direction. Hannah felt disorientated, the mist seemed to be affecting her hearing too and suppressing her instinct. Worse, fear threatened to rip through her as she agonised over the prospect that Hannah could be seriously injured. Guilt weighed heavily and she realized that she had been keeping her feelings for Jessica in check, holding back, feeling resentful that Frank had loved Jessica’s mother and fear had led to her stifling her emotions, unwilling to bond with his beautiful daughter. Fear, jealousy, guilt, powerful negative emotions that had led them to this moment and her having been distracted enough to have let Jessica wander off alone. She had to save her, had to.

From out of the depths, Frank’s voice sounded, desperately calling her name, she could hear the fear in his voice, he was home and he had realised that Jessica was missing. An overwhelming urgency to find Jessica swept through her so that she could reunite them all and she stepped forward, a loose boulder sliding underfoot and she fell awkwardly, her head hitting the ground and the hazy mist suddenly went dark.

She was cocooned in strong arms and it felt good. Masculine scent evaded her nostrils and she turned instinctively towards the source, head nestling into the warmth.

“Hannah, are you ok? Can you hear me?”

Frank, the realization swept through her like a wave of pleasure, diminishing in a second as she remembered Jessica and her plight. “Jessica..is she?” Her lips felt swollen and the words too big for her mouth but she needed to warn Frank, tell him how careless she had been.

“Sssh,” he said, “she is fine, absolutely fine, I was worried about you, you took a nasty fall”

Hannah struggled to sit up, waiting for the room to stop spinning before attempting to open her eyes again. “The mine? Did I fall down the mine?”

Frank threw his head back and laughed “No, pet, you slipped on a lump of coal in the back yard and fell down into the bunker.

 “No, that can’t be right, I walked miles”.

“You must have walked around in a big circle” he laughed, relief warming the sound “the mist does that here, it’s so thick, it’s disorientating. I was so worried about you especially when I found Jessica alone in the house”

“In the house?” Hannah shook her head, “I was searching for her, she had disappeared, I’m so sorry Frank, I only turned my back for a moment. I heard her outside calling for help.”

“No, you didn’t, the mist disorientates everything including noises, Jessica was hiding from you, but in the house, she never left, it was a lovely game of hide and seek until she got bored of waiting to be found”

Hannah nestled into Frank’s arms, all was safe, and suddenly life had changed for her. In those desperate moments that she thought Jessica was missing, she had realised just how much her new family meant to her and an overwhelming feeling of relief swept over her. It was time to shrug off her past relationship fears and embrace the new life that was hers for the taking and she had the unforgiving mist to thank for bringing her finally to her senses.

300 Word Fiction Winning Entry

 

1st Prize: £100.00 Chris Tucker
2nd Prize: £75.00  L. Hinton
3rd Prize: £50.00   Kathy Jones

Never a Truer Word

By Chris Tucker

Kenny traced his hand over the car bonnet lovingly. His dream car, sleek and classy, just like him, he thought puffing out his muscles. He had been surprised when ex girlfriend Jade had agreed to let him keep the car. It was a classic after all but she had begged to keep their pedigree chiwawah, mangy pet! He snatched the keys out of her hand lest she change her mind and went to give her one final squeeze, trying to ignore the way that she visibly shuddered when he touched her. Oh well! Her loss.

He clambered into the car and felt the superior bodywork almost mould itself around him. They were a perfect match. He grinned as he pressed his foot to the floor on the accelerator pedal and went screeching off, narrowly missing the dog. As he sped off down the road at high speed, he glanced back in the mirror and saw his ex, mouthing obscenities at him. Good riddance to the whining and that went for the dog too!

Kenny knew he was going way too fast down the S bend road and the adrenalin washed over him, in his mind’s eye, he was a champion racing driver, admired by scantily clad women and shrieked with excitement as he handled the car round the tight bend. Suddenly, a tractor appeared on the tight bend and he panicked, jerking the steering wheel left. Feeling the momentum take him flying to one side, he burst through the wooden fence and drove straight into the biggest pile of dung he had ever seen. As his lovely convertible filled up covering him in manure, he remembered Jade’s last quip to him, ‘You really are the biggest sh*t ever and right now, she was right!