View Poll Results: Please vote for the story you like best!

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  • Robbed

    11 39.29%
  • Angler No Longer

    2 7.14%
  • Darker Than

    4 14.29%
  • The Whole World Is Closed

    4 14.29%
  • A Chance Meeting

    7 25.00%
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Thread: 2007 Short Story Competition Final

  1. #1
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    2007 Short Story Competition Final

    Here we are, at the end of another year.

    I would like to thank everyone for their contributions and for their votes. However, now it is the time to determine our annual winner.

    Please vote for the story you like best to be the winner of Literature Network 2007 Short Story Competition!

    The poll will be closed on December 31st.

    Discussion of the stories is not allowed, so as not to influence the outcome of the poll.

    If those of you who have submitted a short story have any questions, you can email us at [email protected] instead of asking them on here!

    Please note that the authors agree to keep their identities secret when they enter the competition.

    Those who breach this rule will be disqualified automatically.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  2. #2
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Robbed

    She kept it in her coat pocket for years because it comforted her. It was always there, so she knew the feel of it like an extension of her own hand, but she’d half forgotten what it looked like, since she almost never took it out to see. It was always there until one very short scene in her life that took place on a bitter cold day. She could still call it to mind in its smallest detail even twenty years afterward. It seemed strange to her that she should have such a clear memory of one brief moment in her life when at the time she had not been very upset or frightened by it at all. In fact, she had been aware of being much calmer than she had always imagined she would be in such a situation, even though the man who had stepped out in front of her was very large, and even though she saw that the gloved hand was shaking as it held the trigger. She even registered the strange beauty of the way the slant light of the declining winter day gleamed off the barrel in the same way that it glistened off the ice on the leafless trees. It occurred to her to wonder if a gun would even shoot when it was below zero out like today. Maybe it wouldn’t work right in this weather and he knew that. Maybe it wasn’t even loaded but he figured just the sight of it would be enough. It was. She didn’t look up at him, not that she could have seen more than his eyes anyway in his winter layers. His voice, muffled though it was, came across as both cold and scared at the same time. She handed over her bag. She emptied her coat pockets when asked. Despite the way time seemed to have lapsed into a surreal slow motion, and despite her own calm, she knew she wanted to move away quickly and decisively. She turned her back to him and made her way as quickly as possible along the ice-covered sidewalks without looking back.

    It was what she did afterward that seemed like the strangest part to her. When some guy had snatched her purse off her shoulder the year before she had reported it to the police, and when she had gotten those strange phone calls from the heavy breather in the middle of the night she had also reported that and changed her number. She never walked alone at night. She usually played it safe. But now, after she’d just been robbed at gunpoint, she didn’t say a word to anyone. She went back to the grocery store she had just come from and wandered around the aisles, enjoying having all the people there and looking at all the food she had no money to buy even though she was feeling more and more hungry. She hadn’t had lunch and dinner time was soon. After about an hour of wordlessly walking the aisles she left the store and, in accordance with the logic that lightning never strikes twice and muggers never stay in the same place for long, she set out once again on the usual route home. About halfway home, however, she began to regret not having said anything to the people at the store. It was completely dark out now, and fear was beginning to kick in. She started to think she must have been in some sort of shock before. She found her bag tossed casually into some bushes about part way up the block to her apartment building. She grabbed it and rushed home so fast that she slipped twice on the ice before reaching her door. She had bruises for weeks.

    After she got in her apartment she went straight to the phone and picked up the receiver with one hand while she opened her bag with the other to see what all had been taken. She had to look twice when she saw her credit card still there in her wallet. The hand holding the receiver hovered in mid air as she took stock of the contents of her bag. The credit card and bank card were still there. The only things he’d taken were the twenty-seven dollars in cash and the few groceries she’d had in the bag. She thought about the groceries: milk, juice, bread, and a little cheese. She hung up the phone, which by now had started to tell her to please hang up and dial again. She didn’t mention the incident to anyone.

    **********
    It wasn’t until she slipped her hand in her coat pocket the next day that she realized what she had lost. When he told her to turn her pockets out it must have fallen, perhaps into one of the high drifts of snow. She went back during the daylight to the place where it happened and she dug through the snow until, even through her winter gloves, her hands were too cold to move. She found her grocery list, some spare change, a packet of Kleenex, but not the thing she was looking for. She asked neighbors and passers-by if they’d found it, but nobody seemed to know what she was talking about. Finally she had to give up because there was nothing else to do.
    It was striking the way the feeling of emptiness in her pocket brought back the taste of peppermint even more sharply than the feel of the object had. She and Mommy had gone for ice cream and they both had peppermint, “because peppermint tastes happy” Mommy had said. The sun was out that day, and you could tell because Mommy had opened the drapes in the morning and let the light in, and Mommy had gotten out of bed and wasn’t crying or hugging her too tight like something was going to tear them apart if she let go of her little girl. Instead Mommy had held her by the hand and taken her out for ice cream, and they had even stopped by the toy store. They went right to the very best aisle, the one with the golden pony. He was yellow, the color of sunshine, with a real mane and tail that you could brush, and he had jointed legs so he could really walk. He was small, but not too small, just the right size for a child’s hand. There was also a stable, and accessories, and a whole bunch of pony friends you could buy, but she knew Mommy would never have enough money to get her any of that. Just that one golden pony would be enough, and on that day, after they had already eaten their wonderful peppermint ice cream, Mommy picked up the package with the golden pony in it off the shelf, carried it over to the cash register, and bought it. When Mommy handed it to her she was smiling a big smile and when they got home Mommy played the piano, which was something she hadn’t done in a long, long time. She made the little pony dance to the piano music and Mommy laughed at that. It was the last time Mommy laughed or smiled. In the coming days it went back to the way things had been before, only worse. Mommy wasn’t like Mommy at all any more. Now she didn’t even cry. She just stared vacantly and said things that made no sense. It was so frightening in those few days, that it was less scary to find Mommy one day lying perfectly still on the bed next to an empty medicine bottle than it had been to see her walking like a ghost who didn’t even know her own child.

    ***********
    It was about six years after the cold day when the mugger had taken her groceries that she visited a local church to see about volunteering in their soup kitchen. She went into the church office to talk to the pastor, and while introducing herself she happened to notice something that made her stop in mid sentence. There was a very small, somewhat dingy, toy horse made of yellow plastic sitting on one of the reverend’s bookshelves. It still had a few remnants of a “real” mane and tail, and it had jointed legs that could dance. When she asked about it, the pastor looked surprised but, being the sort of man who took things in stride, he went ahead and answered.

    “That was something that belonged to a little girl I used to know,” he said. “Her name was Nicky, and she and her dad, they used to come to the shelter the church runs when the dad couldn’t get it together for rent. The man had a lot of bad habits, and he wasn’t always nice, you know, but I think in his heart he wasn’t really a violent man and he did love that little girl. I believed him when he said he didn’t mean to shoot that man he robbed. I knew he stole, but he used a gun with no bullets, just to scare people. Somehow he ended up going out one day with a loaded gun and he had the shakes so bad, the gun went off on accident… Anyway, with the dad in prison, Nicky ended up out on the street full time. She had a tough life, and then she got shot in a drive by when she was sixteen. I visited her in the hospital where they took her and she gave me that little toy. She said her dad had brought it home on her birthday one year when she was a little girl, and she kept it with her all the time because it made her remember that her daddy wasn’t all bad. It helped her remember he loved her. She said her daddy smiled when he gave it to her, and knowing that man and his troubles, he can’t have smiled too much. She died the next day, and I kept the toy around because I like to think about it giving that girl a happy memory she could hold onto.” The reverend sat thinking for a moment. Then he leaned forward a little, looking puzzled. “But what made you come in asking about that thing? Did you know Nicky somehow?”

    “No, I didn’t,” she answered. “But I know about happy memories.”
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  3. #3
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Angler No Longer


    The wide, brown dock lead straight out into the water on termite eaten stilts. The other anglers slapped their knees and faces, got up randomly, walked about and cursed in their odd Scottish dialects. The ancient flee infested dog yapped away and constantly tried to nestle its head in the angler’s laps. But it was shunned. If anything wagged, it was the end of a worm dangling on a hook to lure a 30lb whopper.

    I pined for solitude, standing on that wharf in the dying day taking a mental picture of everything in front of me. It was for him that I was there, the only reason I could conceive, being that he looked so much different the others. Age had applied its own brush of ink to his golden cheeks. He was an image so clear in weatherbeaten garb, making a block of tough mahogany wood suffice as a seat. His blue eyes tinged with brown looked unrealistically flat in their bony sockets overlapped by reddish, molded layers of eyebrows. Voices in my wake spoke softly like whispers in an imploring tone, then grew louder, harsher, commanding my return; but I wasn’t going anywhere. The voices rose vociferously, I felt the sharp tapping of feet behind me and before I could see who was coming, I was pulled back to reality. I found myself looking straight into the sharp, inquiring pupils of Buddy Jake Fisher. He was my second older cousin and leader of our rented schooner.

    "The heck you doing Joe? We’ve been screaming at the top of our lungs and you act like you can't hear a damn thing." I was being pulled back into the omnipresent beauty of the wharf and that enigmatic old man. What was it he held?

    “C’mon man. Don’t make me have to bring the schooner around to this dock and trip your sludgy self in.”

    “Chill down for a sec,” I replied tersely.

    “Chill? First you had to go the restroom, then you had to stuff your fat cheeks with cheese dogs, now you’re standing on the edge of the farthest dock away from our schooner, staring into space and I gotta chill?”

    “Seriously, take it easy,” I said, tangentially rubbing my cheeks and forehead, “I am not your second mate. The boat won’t sink if you go without me.”

    A moment after I spoke I knew I had made a mistake. I had a hunch he would go harping off into one of his long speeches and he nearly did.

    “Go with you!”, he exclaimed, cynically grinning. “I voted for Orlando! I wanted to take that chick, Kate to Disney World! I wanted to go on that ridiculous looking Hulk ride while she clutched on to my t-shirt! I wanted to take a picture of her and Daffy Duck next to me! I wanted—”.

    “Looks like no one ever wants what you want, Jake” I said, amused at his childish rant.

    “That’s beside the point.” he snapped testily.

    “Just go without me.”

    “Your mom says she won’t go if you don’t.”

    His sparkling eyes continued perusing me but I turned away. The old man hadn’t seemed in the least bit perturbed by our quibble.

    “What's got you tied up in a knot with this guy?" Jake said, kicking the old man roughly in the knee and giving me a wide toothy grin. He can't feel nothing. His spine snapped like twenty years ago, trying to pull in a whopper and since then he hasn’t said a thing.”

    “Who told you that?”

    “The bartender.”

    “What caught you up in a discussion with a bartender?”

    “Cute babe. And trust me when I say--”

    “Don’t talk about it,” I said, frankly annoyed. “Just tell the others I won’t be coming along this trip.

    “Ok!” he exclaimed cheerily, licking his dry lips peevishly the way he did when he was getting ready to really exasperate me. “I’ll let you have some quality time with the old ninny!”

    He and his high pitched laugh flew down the planks while I tried in vain to catch him. I chased him until the dry, prickly grass brushed my feet and nearly tripped me. By that time his laugh was more like a whistle. I patted my knees with the ripped ends of my jean shorts and slapped my forehead where a series of mosquito bumps were already swelling. I returned to the old man who still sat there, unobservant and nonchalant. I sat next to him and peered at what he held. It was an old wooden crucifix with a small jewel in the center and a thin string of cat gut looped through a perforated hole. He stood up suddenly and beckoned me to follow with a bony finger. I did, although to this day I am unsure as to why. His steps did not creek the loose panels of the dock like mine did, but sounded rather like an ethereal creature whose soul and proportions glide along the earth in deathly sorrow and oblique form. He gesticulated at one of the schooners on the left side of the dock and neared it. I came close behind him and sat on a flimsy panel which connected both sides of the boat. He took up pieces of large leaf-like oars, placed the crucifix underneath his garments and began to paddle. The schooner gently oscillated in the waves. He said nothing, his countenance was implacable and the sun danced off the wrinkles in his cheeks.

    Though he looked fixedly abroad and hummed the low tunes of an ancient mariner one could tell he was no longer a man of the sea. His withered hands twiddled four fingers and an awkward stub in the water. When he pulled them out they looked burned and red like iron that is left in the water too long and begins to rust. After we had gone some distance he set the oars in the boat and sat next to me as if it was the most natural occurrence on earth.

    “E’er fished in these parts?” His voice sounded like a hot furnace being extinguished with buckets of ice.

    “No,” I said edging left, as far away from him as I could. “It’s my first time here with my family from Georgia.”

    His parch lips cracked into a slow smile. “Ya wanna job in the industry?”

    “Oh no, we’re vacationing.” I said not thinking it necessary to embellish further that we had cast a family vote which had promoted the trip. He gave me a weak, dazed nod.

    “We’re here for fun,” I said after he had remained taciturn for a time.

    His face was still calm and expressionless but I could see he was upset.

    “Many’ the young folk come for fun now,” he said. “It’s me that gets ‘em fired up most.”

    “I’m not sure I get what you mean.” I said, truly hesitant.

    He got up almost effortlessly and turned around. His dried hands went swiftly to his side where he began unwrapping his tattered clothing to reveal a deep, misshapen curve in his spine.

    “The yung un’s dun it years back when I felt pain. I can’t feel no more. Nothin’ no more.”

    “There ain’t no dreams that compare to a fisherman’s dreams,” he said. “Bein; out in the wide blue sky; all ya got is a line in your hand, a pole latched on rope and her. An’ she’s got to be pretty steady or ya don’t catch nothin’ more n’ 30 pounds without floppin’ in blue, all wet n’ soggy.”

    The schooner was in the middle of a dark blue expanse. The skies were in a pattern mist of red and grey. The water did not ripple even as the boat drifted on its course. The old man soon spoke once more. “But the fisherman’s dreams is different than other people’s dreams because our dreams are on the competition. Fifty or so others in a location, ya know. All out for themselves, every man for themself each gettin’ pay dependin’ on how good they do.” He chattered on garrulously. “I remember ‘em fish that was too light to be brought up. They was good lookin’ but they didn’t meet requirements of....uh...how you say.. “wharf policy”. Thrown back into the ocean they were n’ bloated up all funny; they puffed, dead as door nails so we called ‘em puffer fish. Ain’t no good to noone.”
    His bicolored eyes glistened with pearl like brilliance off the sunset.

    "But you," he said looking at me suddenly, his face implacably calm, the sound of his breathing obstreperous but low. "I brought you here for a reason. I see you as different from 'em little 'uns." He paused for a moment as if wanted me to take note of this. I nodded and forced a weak smile.

    "There's lots of us who goes to the other side," he said, smiling contentedly. "But so few of us goes the way we want'a. Every sea man starts out at the sea. Looks up in a boat at the eyes of a pretty thing with long beautiful hair bouncin' down the cheeks an' then a nice handsome fisherman next to her with summant in his hands. First things all fishermen born get is a nice stout pole n' small bait. I got this," he said dangling the light brown crucifix on cat gut string. "But where we start ain't where we end up," he resumed ensconcing the little thread in his undergarments and taking a deep sigh. "Ole' friend a' mind planned on ownin' a fishin' company by the time he was a 'good, young senior' as he liked to say. His dream age come on an' went by long ago. Died at seventy somewhere in those woods." he said, pointing at the outlines of the distant trees. "I remember his pooch too; cute little girl she was. Well that's her now," he said pointing towards the docks. I thought of the flee infested dog and winced. "As for my ole' friend. Wharf kicked him out. Says he wasn't nothing but a burden. Caught nothin', fussed all day cantankerous type. I don't wanna be a fisherman whose life ends up in 'em woods. I was born from the other side, in this here spot."

    I didn;t think it would be impolite to say "what?" now because nothing he said made any sense. He must have noticed my confusion because he tapped me lightly on the shoulder and grinned brokenly.

    "Jus' know that when I go back to the other side don't leave me on this ole' gal. Make me a puffer fish." He reached once more beneath his garbs and produced an object. At first glance I presumed it was his crucifix but it wasn't. It slipped his throat to the nape of his neck in an instant and then all was still. I clutched my stomach and nearly fell backward into the water. I tried to call for help but my voice was a prolonged wheeze. His body bloated and the schooner began to sink. I leapt into the blue and dog paddled to the docks as swiftly as my limbs would take me. By the time I reached the surface voices were calling me. Chiding, heated voices. I was up on my feet in an instant and walked drenched from head to foot towards the others. I looked back only once at the old angler's place of birth. In that one glance I could have sworn I saw a large round spherical shape slip beneath the last golden ray of the sunset.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  4. #4
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Darker Than


    It’s the strangest thing, but I never meant to talk. When they brought me in, handcuffed and bleeding from my nose where the constable “accidentally” banged my face against the police car door, I swore I’d tell them nothing. What was the point? I’ve been around long enough to know they’d never believe me. One word about what really happened, why I killed them, and I’d be sectioned; placed in a white-washed room with nothing to do all day but eat pureed food.

    But as I sat in the interview room I realised that it didn’t matter. I’d killed my neighbours – a woman and her twelve year old son. The white washed room beckoned and I’d gain nothing from keeping silent.

    ‘Billy…you don’t mind if I call you Billy?’ asked Detective Constable Davies. ‘I guess I don’t have to tell you this is a serious business, but believe me, it’s worth saying again – very serious. Have you ever been to prison, Billy?’

    I shook my head even though I knew that Davies knew I hadn’t. He’d almost certainly have checked by now and knew what little there was to know about me. William Grant, forty-two, born and brought up in the city. I’d never lived anywhere else but the apartment I lived now, the one I’d shared with mother before she passed away three months, seventeen days and six and a half hours ago. I’d been her carer until she went and didn’t have much time for anything else. Some people would have found it an uninspiring life, but I’d been happy.

    ‘They swallow people whole in prison. A man like you…who killed a woman and a child…’

    He trailed off and shook his head, sitting back down to shuffle the paperwork in front of him.

    Davies popped a stick of gum into his mouth. ‘Let’s get down to it. Tell me everything, Billy. Start with why you did it. Why you killed them.’

    I cleared my throat and leaned on the table. ‘I thought that would be obvious. I killed them because they were vampires. It was my duty.’

    Davies stopped chewing. I almost expected to hear the tiny whir and tick of gears as his mind failed to grasp what was a simple fact.

    ‘…Vampires? Like, like Dracula, or something?’

    ‘Yes, that’s correct. Vampires. It’s a fairly well known legend.’

    Davies glanced to his left at the mirrored glass that ran the length of the wall. He searched his reflection, at a loss as to how to proceed. I’d seen enough police dramas to know that it was two-way glass.

    I reached over and placed my hand on top of his. He pulled away suddenly, as though he’d accidentally touched something caustic.

    ‘I realise it’s hard to believe,’ I said. ‘I didn’t want to believe at first. But after a while you can’t kid yourself anymore. After a while there was simply too much evidence. I had to stop lying to myself and get busy doing something about it…’

    ***

    I’d be the first to admit that I’ve never been a sociable person.

    Mother and I were happy in one another’s company and there was no call during the forty years I lived in the apartment to acquaint myself with my neighbours beyond the brief nod one gives when passing in the stairwell or on meeting on bin day.

    Once, around ten years ago, Mrs. Peterson, who used to live in 14B, locked herself out and rang our door for assistance. I reluctantly invited her in and mother sat with her while I made tea and waited for her husband to return from work with his key. But she was the most course creature you can imagine, who took four sugars with her tea and ate the filling from her custard cream before tackling the biscuit. She was not our sort of people at all, and as mother said at the time, it wouldn’t surprise me if she hadn’t lost her key at all, but simply wanted a nosy into our apartment.

    Anyway, the point is I liked to keep myself to myself. But after a few weeks of the cardiac blast of base-beat through my walls I was at the end of my tether. I decided I would go next door and ask them to turn it down.

    The plaque on the door read “O’Brien”. I felt nervous; Mother had always warned me against the Irish. A disagreeable race, she’d said, one that was never happy unless at someone’s throats. But as I looked at that door, something unexpected happened. I lost my temper. It began with a slight fluttering in my right temple, like the trembling of a butterfly’s wings. Standing there, listening to the O’Brien’s stereo reverberate down the corridor I could feel the blood rushing to my head. Before I knew what was happening I was pounding on the doort. At the time it was exhilarating, although I don’t mind telling you I needed a cup of tea afterwards to sooth my nerves.

    The music stopped, and I heard someone approach the door. A chain rattled on the other side of the flimsy wooden barrier and suddenly the door was open and I was staring at a young boy.

    For a moment I was dumbfounded. The boy could not have been more than eleven or twelve, but his hair was sculpted into a monstrous Mohawk, the ends died red. Gold hoops dangled from each ear and another pierced his bottom lip. A chain ran from a studded belt to the back pocket of his jeans. But the worst part, what really shook me, was the boy’s tee-shirt. Emblazoned across his chest, below a picture of a skull, were the words: “I FCUK DEAD PEOPLE”.

    ‘Help you?’ the boy mumbled. He did not look me in the eye, but gazed down at his feet.

    ‘I-I certainly hope so,’ I said. ‘Is your mother in?’

    He rubbed his nose with the back of his hand and turned back and shouted. ‘Movverr!’ – he said it just like that, mother with a ‘V’! – ‘Some old bloke for you!’

    He turned back and nodded. ‘I like your cardigan, looks nice and cosy.’

    ‘Thank you, it’s one of my –’

    I stopped short, realising he was teasing -- “taking the Mickey” as I believe the young people say.

    ‘Larry, what have I told you about answering that bloody door without putting on the chain!’ The voice was shrill, coming from the hallway behind the boy. ‘They’re going to find us murdered in our beds ‘cause you let some psycho into the house!’

    At first glance there was nothing unusual about the woman. She was heavy about the bosom and thighs, her dress clinging closely to her flesh. Her hair was very black, too black to be anything other than dyed, and her eyes were framed with dark mascara. She seemed normal – not our type of people – but the kind of person you could encounter on any street in the land.

    ‘I’m sorry to disturb you,’ I said, ‘but I live next door and was wondering if you wouldn’t mind turning your stereo down. I-I don’t mean to be a nuisance, but, well, it’s rather loud and…and the walls are terribly thin…’

    The woman wasn’t saying anything, just standing in the doorway with her arms crossed, her mascara daubed eyes blazing.

    ‘…like paper you might say. Tissue paper or s-something. Anyway, if it’s not too much trouble then I’d be most grateful if you could. Turn the stereo down, that is.’

    Well, this isn’t the time to tell you what she said. Suffice to say it was the choicest language I’d ever heard or ever care to hear for that matter. The whole encounter left me standing in stunned silence.

    It was then, with the sound of filth ringing in my ears, that I noticed what changed everything for ever. As she screamed her abuse I caught sight of her teeth. A pair of sharp, curved incisors protruded over her bottom lip.

    My skin went cold as the world contracted. All at once I felt the life go out of me. I don’t know how to describe it better than that. It was as though reality blinked for a moment and when I came back to myself I knew that something was altered forever.

    I was still standing in the hallway. The door was closed and I was alone. It took an effort to turn and make my way back to my apartment.

    I tried to tell myself that it was shock. After all I wasn’t used to confrontation. I made myself a fortifying cup of tea and decided to go to bed. At least the music had stopped, although I found myself wishing for it back.

    Sleep was very far away that night. I lay looking upwards, seeing nothing in the absolute dark of my bedroom. From time to time I would hear something next door; some sly and slithering bump that took shape and substance in the darkness. It was the sound of a body being dragged over floorboards; the noise of a coffin lid closing; the scuttle of claws over linoleum, the insectile clicking of incisors – I saw it all in the darkness that night and every night since. That night was darker than anything I’d known. Darker than heart’s blood. Darker than midnight. Darker than…

    ***

    ‘Darker than…’

    I suddenly realised that I had been talking for forty minutes and that Davies hadn’t uttered a word.

    I swallowed and felt my throat click painfully. ‘There’s not much else to tell, I’m afraid. The pressure got too much. I was growing weaker each night. I tried so hard to stay awake, but it was impossible. Each time I woke I knew that they’d been in my apartment, feeding. I had to do something before it was too late. Before I was too weak to continue.’

    ‘So you killed them?’

    ‘Yes. I drove a sharpened broom handle through each of their chests. The boy made quite a racket. The police arrived before I could finish. You really have to cut off the heads to be sure.’ I looked at my hands, folded on the table top. ‘We just have to hope I’ve done enough.’

    ‘…Yes…’

    ***

    Davies splashed water onto his face and looked at his reflection in the mirror.

    ‘Christ! I’ve seen some head-cases in my time, but this one takes the biscuit. If you ask me he should be dropped down a very deep well and forgotten.’ The gruff voice of Detective Inspector Reeves echoed off the tiles in the bathroom. Davies could see the man’s back in the mirror, shoulders slightly hunched as he used the urinal.

    ‘The man needs help,’ said Davies. ‘Poor bugger’s delusional.’

    Reeves zipped up and wiped his hands on the legs of his trousers. ‘In my day they’d have plugged him into the mains and gave his brain a good zap. No more delusions, no more anything. Just gaga until it was time for potty.’

    Davies rolled his eyes.

    They stepped outside and into the hallway. In front of them was the window of the interview room. Davies could see the man sitting at the table, his head in his hands. He looks perfectly normal, he thought.

    Somehow that was the most disturbing thing of all.

    Reeves lit a cigarette and coughed. ‘What’s our man had to say about his accomplice? Any names yet?’

    Davies glanced at Reeves. ‘Accomplices? I’m pretty sure he acted alone, boss. He admitted as much when I interviewed him.’

    Reeves turned and regarded Davies with quiet contempt. ‘Then who took the victims’ bodies from the morgue then?’ He snorted a laugh. ‘Or perhaps they got up and left by themselves?’

    Davies swallowed and looking back into the interview room.

    He found he had nothing to say.

    The End.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  5. #5
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    The Whole World is Closed!

    Mandy and her mother had been shopping for a new pair of jeans and a t-shirt that Mandy could wear to her cousin's birthday party. The birthday was going to take place in just two days, and Mandy was in a panic because they still hadn't found a pair of jeans or a t-shirt that she liked.
    "Don't worry," her mother kept saying, "we'll find something."

    But they had been shopping all afternoon, and now the stores were getting ready to close and Mandy's mother announced that it was time for them to call it a day.

    "Just one more store, Mom, please. I'm sure we'll find something I like."

    "The mall is closing now, Mandy."

    "Couldn't we go somewhere else, Mom, please! I'll die if I have to wear one of my stinky old jeans to the party."

    But her mother was already heading for the exit.

    "Just one more store, Mom, please," Mandy pleaded, walking quickly to keep up with her. "I'm begging you. Please. Please."

    "It's a holiday, Mandy," her mother said. "The whole world is closed."

    Mandy stopped in her tracks. "That's ridiculous, Mom," she called out. How could the whole world be closed? But her mother was already too far ahead of her to hear.

    Mandy looked around. Sure enough, all the stores that she could see were closing their doors or bringing steel shutters down over their windows.

    All the way home, the only lights that they could see were the street-lamps. One by one, as Mandy and her mother drove by, store lights were being turned off.

    Before she went to bed that night, Mandy went to the window in her room. She opened it a bit, as she always did, so that she might have fresh air while she slept. Looking out, she could see the distant stars, like faraway worlds that would be open all night long.

    Sighing unhappily, she crawled into bed and fell asleep. And soon, she was having a dream, a terrible dream. She dreamed that it was the day of her cousin's party and she was still out searching for the ONE PERFECT PAIR OF JEANS AND T-SHIRT.

    She was high up, high above the world, flying through the air. The stars were closer than she'd ever seen them before, as close as the kids who sat next to her in class. And the moon was bright and very large.

    She flew first to Paris, because she had heard that Paris was the fashion capital of the world. Just as she got there, however, the gendarmes were pulling together giant iron gates all around the city.

    Paris was closed!

    The Eiffel Tower was closed!

    The Champs Elysees was closed!

    So was Montmartre, the Louvre, every famous place she had ever heard of, and of course every store.

    The whole city was closed. In fact, as she rose higher in the air, she saw that all of France was closed!

    "Can I get in, please," she said to the gatekeeper, but he said:

    "Sorry, closed."

    By dozens, by hundreds, lights were going out all over the country. Around its harbours, ships were locked out and were lying at anchor. Overhead, several 'planes circled around hopelessly or turned back and headed elsewhere, searching for a country that might still be open. And on the ground, at every border crossing, trains and cars and trucks were piled up in long, long lines, unable to get in.

    Next, she flew to New York, the one city in the world, she thought, that never closes, never sleeps. But just as she got there, the police were shutting the doors on New York City, and here, too, the lights were beginning to go out.

    The giant neon signs on Broadway sputtered and went out.

    The Empire State building blinked several times as if in protest. Then it, too, went dark.

    The Brooklyn Bridge was closed, the Lincoln Tunnel, the Museum of Modern Art, Harlem, Manhattan...

    "Can I get in, please," she called out to the gatekeeper, but he said:

    "Sorry, closed, shut."

    She went to Tokyo, to Rome, to Toronto: closed, all closed. Sweden, Ireland, China... Wherever she went, it was the same sad story.

    Finally, desperate, she flew to Africa. No one could close Africa, she was sure. It was so big, and parts of it, she had heard, were still wild. But when she got there the jungles were just being locked up for the night.

    The lions were going to sleep.

    The giraffes were laying down their long, graceful necks on soft grass.

    The hyenas were retreating into their lairs.

    The apes and monkeys were curling up in trees or caves.

    A tall bamboo fence had come down around all of Africa. A few restless animals, not yet ready for sleep, stood at this fence and looked out, longingly.

    "Can I get in, please," she said to the gatekeeper, but he said:

    "Sorry, closed, shut. All locked up."

    Her mother was right: the whole world was closed! She couldn't have bought the one most horrible jeans and t-shirt, let alone the one perfect jeans and t-shirt, if her life depended on it.

    She turned around, defeated and sad. She would never find the one perfect jeans and t-shirt in time for her cousin's party. She would have to wear some ugly old thing that looked horrible on her.

    She was beginning to miss her family and decided it was time to go home. But as she turned around to fly back, an enormous iron cage came down on all sides of the world, fastened with the largest padlock she had ever seen.

    The whole world was closed!

    She rattled the gates as hard she could, but they wouldn't budge.

    "Can I get in, please," she called as loud as she could, but the gatekeeper said:

    "Sorry, closed, shut. All locked up. Too late."

    Then she saw a window, a window that was slightly open, just wide enough for her to crawl through.

    And she was back in her room, in her own bed - awake! She looked toward the window, where the sun was shining through. Getting out of bed she went to the window, and yes: there it was, bathed in sunlight - the whole, beautiful world!

    She ran to her parents' room and entered quietly. "Mom, Mom," she whispered, shaking her mother gently:

    "It's time to get up - the whole world is open!"

    - § -

    --
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  6. #6
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    A Chance Meeting

    The summer dust was everywhere. But, Grace was used to dust and heat and mosquitoes and blisters on her hands. The cotton needed chopping and she had to work alongside the rest of her family in the fields. Five days a week her days started before sunup and didn’t end till the sun was down. Saturday was a half day, ending at the noon break. That was just the way of life for field hands. This Saturday afternoon though, she was making the three mile walk to see a movie even if she had to walk by herself. Grace had not been to town for two weeks.

    The only shoes Grace owned were her work shoes and they weren’t fit to wear to town. She hoped to be able to buy her own pair by the end of the pickin’ season, but right now she’d have to be nice to her sister so she could borrow her pair and go to town. Not that her sister had lots of shoes, she only had two pair; the old ones and the not so old ones. If sister wasn’t going to town, Grace would get to wear the not so old ones. Of course, this would cost her in chores the next week, but it would be worth it. Luck was with her when Sister said she was staying home to wait for her beau.

    So with shoes polished, skirt pressed, and hair curled, Grace headed down the mile of dusty road to the highway. There the highway would take her the two miles into town. Surely there would be someone there she knew to sit with. Otherwise, she would sit by herself and enjoy her time away from field work and the heat.

    The line at the theater was long as usual. This was the only entertainment in a small cotton town and the only place that had air-conditioning. There must have been a hundred people waiting for the box office to open. As she stood in line, Grace watched for someone she knew to come by, someone she wouldn’t mind sitting through a movie with.

    Emmit was glad it was Saturday. After a week of hard work, he deserved the break. Going to the movie was what Emmit worked the fields for. Every week he would go and watch and dream of making a life like the ones shown on the screen. The quarter he got to keep from his week of hard work was enough to escape for a couple of hours from the only life he’d ever known. And, although it would take all of his money, he would go and watch the newsreel and movie and enjoy the air-conditioned darkness. It was a lonely trip walking by him self, but he was fine with that. Large families could make a man want some time alone. And the five mile walk gave him time to think about where his life was going. Staying in the fields was not what he wanted to do.

    Grace saw Emmit as he was walking toward the back of the waiting line. As he walked near, he made eye contact and smiled; she reached out and touched his arm, pretending that she had been waiting on him the whole time. “Oh, I was afraid you weren’t coming.” she said, just loud enough for the people around her to hear. Emmit understood, knowing that some would be angry if he just cut in line. So he stepped in beside her and said, “I was late getting the chores done.” It was easy to pretend that he had been looking for her. She was petite with brown hair and soft brown eyes. They had worked the same fields often and he knew her to be quiet and a little shy.

    “I’m glad you made it.” She said. Grace didn’t want to be the only girl at the movies alone. And she had known Emmit and his family most of her life. Knowing that Emmit would offer to walk her home was a relief. Walking home in the dark alone wasn’t something she was looking forward to.

    As they stood in line waiting and talking about unimportant things, more friends came by. Neither asked others to step in line with them. Without questioning they both pretended like they had planned this meeting.

    The heat was waiting when they left the theater. “Is it alright if I walk with you?” Emmit asked, knowing it would add an extra two miles to his walk home, but not caring. He was enjoying the company more than he would have imagined. “I’d like that.” Grace replied. “I was dreading the walk back home alone.” They started off toward the homes and lives they lived, walking slow and holding hands. It was a quiet night after they left the town with the crowds and cars passing. The sky was clear and full of stars. They talked of family and of work and of what they hoped their lives would be.

    When they reach the small house Grace and her family lived in, they were both reluctant to part. “I’ll go to the show again in two weeks.” Emmit stated quietly, knowing it would take that long to save the money to pay for both their tickets. “I’ll come by and walk you into town if you want to go.”

    “That would be nice, should I meet you at the highway?” she asked.

    “No, I’ll come by proper and walk you.”

    They smiled at each other, both realizing that it could be as simple as that. Their lives would change and lives would be created because of this chance meeting in a small cotton town.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  7. #7
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Not sure whether all this silence is a good or a bad sign...
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  8. #8
    Registered User Granny5's Avatar
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    I hope everyone is reading. There are some really good stories here.
    Avatar by Pendragon
    "All we are saying is give PEACE a chance." Beatles[/SIZE]
    Granny5's Blog
    http://www.online-literature.com/for...p?userid=35805

  9. #9
    malkavian manolia's Avatar
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    Nice stories
    But somehow i expected more of them..shouldn't there be ten stories or something? (One for each month minus December and...??)
    Through the darkness of future past
    the magician longs to see
    one chance out between two worlds
    'Fire walk with me.'


    Twin Peaks

  10. #10
    nobody said it was easy barbara0207's Avatar
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    I've made up my mind at last. Pity one can't vote for two stories - decision wasn't easy.

  11. #11
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by manolia View Post
    Nice stories
    But somehow i expected more of them..shouldn't there be ten stories or something? (One for each month minus December and...??)
    We actually have 5 rounds (once every two month and last two months dedicated to the final).
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
    ~


  12. #12
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Wow, that's a lot of votes aready. I hope that means we will have good turnout. I'm usually lazy and wait toward the deadline.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

    Books are embalmed minds.

    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

  13. #13
    malkavian manolia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scheherazade View Post
    We actually have 5 rounds (once every two month and last two months dedicated to the final).
    I haven't noticed that (somehow i thought that i voted every month )
    Through the darkness of future past
    the magician longs to see
    one chance out between two worlds
    'Fire walk with me.'


    Twin Peaks

  14. #14
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    What are the criteria by which we are asked to judge these stories? Would it be appropriate to apply the same standards applied to the stories written by professional writers? I have read articles in which legitimate editors have said what they look for in a short story submission
    and here are some of the things they have said:
    --they want to be "grabbed" in the first paragraph or two.
    --they immediately stop reading when they come to a blatant grammatical or spelling error or a cliché.
    --Of course, they would want something "original" -- a new idea or if a well-established theme, say a "slice of life,"
    formed in a totally new way.
    -- There should be a sense of "urgency" about the story turning it into an instant "legend" ( the origin of the word
    meaning "things that must be read.")

    I think these criteria are a bit too stringent for the stories on the LNF, but they are lurking in the back of my mind as I begin to read each entry. I will approach all of them with an open mind, and then make the difficult decision
    as to which one is the best of the lot.

  15. #15
    Suzerain of Cost&Caution SleepyWitch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post
    What are the criteria by which we are asked to judge these stories? Would it be appropriate to apply the same standards applied to the stories written by professional writers? I have read articles in which legitimate editors have said what they look for in a short story submission
    and here are some of the things they have said:
    --they want to be "grabbed" in the first paragraph or two.
    --they immediately stop reading when they come to a blatant grammatical or spelling error or a cliché.
    --Of course, they would want something "original" -- a new idea or if a well-established theme, say a "slice of life,"
    formed in a totally new way.
    -- There should be a sense of "urgency" about the story turning it into an instant "legend" ( the origin of the word
    meaning "things that must be read.")
    Aye, and if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a wagon!
    I think these criteria are a bit too stringent for the stories on the LNF, but they are lurking in the back of my mind as I begin to read each entry
    yep, those criteria are a bit stringent, but I'll admit that they tend to lurk at the back of my mind, too. If I can't get into a story after a couple lines, I won't read it . I read all of the stories in this thread, but in previous rounds there have been some that I didn't read at all
    but that's totally subjective, of course. e.g. Graham Greene's short stories don't grab me at all, but he's a renowned writer and apparently his stories do grab lots of other people.

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