Huge congratulations to all who entered and to our final winners of course. It took sometime to judge this one as the standard was high and quite imaginative.
1st Prize: £150 – Tina Williamson
2nd Prize: £100 – David Green
3rd Prize: £75 – T. Meadows
Short-Listed: Scott Cairns, Muriel Clubbe, Loren Reed.
The Room at the Top
by Tina Williamson
Mona glanced nervously up the stairs. They seemed ordinary, but they led to a place where nobody wanted to go. There had been tales that some people were actively forced to make their way up to the next level, the sound of their footsteps ominous, breathing jagged, anxiety overwhelming them. No-one knew who would be summoned or when, but a bell would chime, so they all would stop and make their way to the foot of the stairs, watching, wondering and waiting.
Mona remembered the looks on the faces of those around her, awe, reverence and fear. Curiosity was dampened down by the trepidation of leaving this sanctuary. She had witnessed groups of people occasionally walking slowly up the stairs, hands reaching out for each other, supporting, encouraging, defiant. Those people were never seen again. For days afterwards, Mona would hear the whispers, voices questioning, but gradually, they would be forgotten.
So many people, they seemed ordinary, diligent, normal, just like her. Even Kelly, her closest friend, there one minute, giggling to her about her antics the night before, but then the summons, and suddenly, it was as if Kelly had never existed. The day had turned a little darker for Mona, the air tinged with anticipation. Who would be next?
Mona kept herself busy and aloof from the others. There was no point forming attachments, she had learned her lesson when Kelly had been taken from her. Now there was no-one that she could confide in, or trust. In the winter months, Mona lost weight. She felt ill, the fear of falling behind, not keeping up with the group weighed heavily. The door at the top of the stairs had remained closed for a long time, no-one had left and no summons had been heard. Mona wondered if she could relax at last. Perhaps she had made it through. The question burned on her lips but she dared not voice her concerns.
Then, without warning, the bell sounded. Loud, demanding and final. From behind her, she felt the grasp of long fingers, ice-cold against her shoulder. Her heart sank.
Now, it was her turn. She swallowed hard, noting the scared faces of the others, all sympathizing but so very glad that they were not in her place. They knew they would never see her again. Mona wondered if they really cared. Her instinct said to run, but she didn’t want the shame, best to go quietly.
Dazzling, bright light hit her, blinding her as she reached the top stair, it was a dazzling blue and gold, arced outwards, like some mesmerizing entity. Confusion flowed over her, heart beat erratic. Mona moved forward, walking into the light, as it engulfed her, surrounding her, wrapping her in its elegance. She blinked, and suddenly the light dimmed. A stark white room, one tall window and a curving desk placed in the centre of the room. Seated at the desk, black hair scraped away from her face, dark eyes and bright red lipstick, a focal point on those pale features, a woman, mysterious, and stern. Eyebrow raised, the woman held out an envelope. “Congratulations, you will report to the next level at 8am tomorrow. Do not be late!” The envelope was placed firmly in her hand. “You may leave now, not that way, through the other doorway.” She ushered Mona away with a brief flick of the wrist.
Gulping and not fully understanding what has happened, Mona left the room, her nerves jangling, thoughts running wildly through her mind. Congratulations? What had just happened? Shaking her head in disbelief, Mona decided she would go to the nearest bar, buy the largest drink she could and then, when her nerves were calm, she would finally open up the envelope.
She closed the door marked Human Resources and made her way down the new and unknown staircase, bewildered, but relieved leaving the shadows and then, out onto the street.