We asked you to create a story around the above photo in 700 words or less. We had some amazing submissions but are really happy to announce our winners and to publish the overall winning submission. Congratulations to our winners but also, well-done to all who entered. The standard was amazing.
1st Prize: £500 – Frankie Fox
2nd Prize: £300 – L. Bell
3rd Prize: £200 – Richard Cross
4th Prize: £100 – K. Edwards
No Way Out
by Frankie Fox
His head was going to explode. Thoughts, a jumbled mess that tortured his waking hours, even his slumber was disturbed by the distorted shapes and whispering voices that infiltrated his sub-conscious mind. Quiet but sinister. They whispered dire warnings if he stayed. Tired, fretful and scared, the mornings provided a stark contrast to the shadows of the night. Were the dreams just his inner fears or were they premonitions that he should get the hell out of here?
He ran his slender fingers over his jawline and then up over his aching temples. Everywhere hurt, it was like a million nerve pains had been set on fire. He stretched from his cramped position and felt the movement stacking his vertebrae back in place, the sensation gave some relief. He felt each day as if he crawled unwillingly from the foetal position, his long legs curled up towards his torso, arms wrapped around himself to protect from the violence within his dreams.
Yellow tinged sunbeams broke through the greying net curtains casting a hint of promise around the room. Dust danced in the invading light and his eyes followed, noting the laptop still blinking at him from his desk. So many times he had tried to write to her to tell her that he couldn’t go through with it. He had to leave, it wasn’t her, it was him. He was no good for anyone, a coward, a man who couldn’t face up to responsibilities, a man who always chose the easy way out.
But she believed in him. That belief alone had him trapped and at her mercy.
He pictured her beautiful dark hair and those intense brown eyes. They more than reached into his soul, they penetrated his armour. He felt the increased beat of his heart, this was an alien feeling. He didn’t want it but he couldn’t break free. He wasn’t sure that she would ever forgive him if this time he lapsed back into old ways. Trapped. No way out.
He could still leave…if he was quick. She would arrive and find him gone, just a note on the table that begged her forgiveness. The temptation was strong. Where would he go? He’d left it too late to plan. Doubts and panic united and welled up inside of him. Now he felt sick to the core. He wasn’t ready for this. He’d never be ready for this. The image of her face formed before him, he saw her brown eyes widen, questioning, he saw the shimmer of tears as they formed, the fullness of her lips quivering as she said his name and all the time saying, ‘Wasn’t I enough to keep you here?’
He swallowed hard. No way out.
The doorbell sounded, harsh but insistent and he automatically uncurled from his position resigned. As the door opened, she stood, empathy blazing from her eyes, here early as if she knew just how terrified he would be feeling. He’d tried so hard to hide the truth from her, to not hurt her by running away. He’d wanted to be strong, to be manly in her eyes, but it seemed she’d seen through his protective mask.
“Ready?” Her smile, warm, lips full and inviting. She held out her hand.
“It’s just the dentist, a few teeth, it will be over in no time. “
She led him by the hand down the steps towards the waiting car. “My dear, it’s time to grow up and face your fears.”
Sitting in the car, seat-belt tightly strapped, he realised, this time, no way out for sure and swallowed hard. But mixed in with his fear, the first signs of relief began to surface, maybe…just maybe, he could do this.