The lightning has struck and here we are again, caught in the flash. A few more entries this time round. Glad I pushed the boat out one more time after last week’s wee wobble. You’ll recall there’s a prize up for grabs this time round – a copy of This Twisted Earth. Well stuff it, you’re all winners. A copy of the book will be winging its way to each of our entrants this week. Thank you for joining me. I’m thinking of shaking things up a bit for the next 10 contests. Similar set-ups but with some specific targets, encouraging us to flex some different writing muscles. Until then, why not have a read of this week’s entries?
Future Imperfect – by Tabatha Wood (WINNER)
Where were you when the red rains came? When the first flames rippled through the forests, with hot, bright fingers of pain. Did you turn to watch or try to flee? Most tasted the rough tang of smoke in the air and breathed deeply for as long as they could. Before their lungs shrank and withered into black, charred coals.
Nothing lives here any more. Nothing of substance anyway. After the final turning of the world, when the gunships roared and gorged themselves on murder and destruction, we were left in the cold surrounded by ash. You and I, we held hands and dreamed of places far away where we could dance and love again. We imagined the chances we might have taken, if we hadn’t missed the lifeboats. The saviour ships gobbled up our cherished ones, but not us. We watched them fly to unknown lands. We waved goodbye.
They told us. They knew. They saw it coming, but chose instead to carry on regardless and ignore the inevitable. We trusted them to make it better and make it right. We put our lucky pennies in a wishing well, not understanding that our lives were mere stakes in a lottery which we never stood a chance to win. And yet now I realise, it was always meant to be that way.
The fire and the dust never bothered me. When my skin blistered, melted and peeled away, my metal bones stayed strong and steadfast. My chips and circuits were well protected. My body built to withstand any bullet, bomb or blast. As if they knew. Your battery — solar — was rendered useless by the mantle of pale ash which smothered everything. Your heartbeat slowed and your pale, blue light grew dim. Our time was limited and short. One day, perhaps, the sun may break again, and I will try to fix you.
I stayed behind to build a future. To rebuild the world for those who fled, so they might one day return.
My battery is low and it’s getting dark.
I’m so lonely.
All Things Lost – by Colin Sinclair (WINNER)
“The pin-men might have him,” Molly says. “Teddy Frost.”
Her mother Jack looks up from tidying a scattering of toys and games
on the bedroom floor. “What did you—”
“They gather up the missing and forgotten, nanny says.”
“Well,” Jack says, “I’m not sure that nanny—”
“Maybe they can find my lottery ticket?” Molly’s father Frank settles
on the edge of her bed, wrestling with a stack of books. “I’m sure
that was a winner.”
“Frank,” Jack says, using that tone. “Don’t start.”
The books go back on the bedside shelves as Molly continues:
“The pin-men carry things across the sea of burning sand. Fly away to…to…”
Jack frowns. Games sorted and boxed, she’s folding clothes on a small
blue chair. “Oh yes?”
Molly sighs. “I can’t remember the word. Nanny says—”
“Well I’m sure that’s a wonderful story, Mol. And it’s very good of
nanny to feed your imagination like this. Isn’t it good, Frank?”
“It is not a story,” Molly tells her, eyes fierce. “Archie shot at one
in the garden yesterday. It was pulling at something in the grass down
by the shed. I told him no, no, Enn-Ohh, but he brought his bow and
arrow. I got in the way so he wouldn’t shoot it again.”
“Molly Walker, it’s long past your bedtime and you should be sleeping.
Let’s find teddy tomorrow.”
Molly settles under the covers. Her parents stepping softly to the door.
“All things lost are cherished,” Molly says. “Where the pin-men live.”
“A haven for misplaced belongings,” Frank says. “You have to admit
it’s a lovely thought.”
Jack smiles. “Can’t argue with that.”
“Night mummy, night daddy.”
Jack hits the light switch, leaving the room in the cool blue of the night lamp.
“If you get lost,” Molly says. “I’ll follow the pin-men to find you.”
“Oh! Here’s teddy, mummy. He was under the pillow all along.”
“So the pin-men weren’t to blame?”
Molly giggles. “No, daddy, not this time.”
Frank eases the door to almost-closed.
“Unless they brought him back to me.”
Jack and Frank exchange a glance.
“Great imagination,” Frank says. “Wonderful.”
Jack nods. “But maybe have a chat with nanny tomorrow.”
“Yes,” Frank says. “Let’s do that.”
In Molly’s room, a shadow moves unseen across the wall, and a small
dark shape slinks silently away.
Cecaelia – by Zoe Farr (WINNER)
I drifted t’ward a sunset sky
Trained at my back swift arrows fly
And ev’ry cresting wave a lottery
I tightly clung to my crude boat
Success uncertain, hope remote
And dreamt of home across an ochre sea.
My torment lengthened hour by hour
Sweet liberty now tasted sour
My once-bright spirit sapped by lethargy
The makeshift craft ploughed through the surge
No more could I resist the urge
And drowsed atop my crib upon the sea.
My journey ceased with jarring slide
I spilled from slumber o’er the side
Initial cheer turned to despondency
Instead of feet on dry, firm land
A subaquatic bar of sand
And moonlit surf as far as I could see.
I staggered through the misty spray
My erstwhile strength stealing away
As ankle-high rose slowly to my knee
Espied the rough-hewn basalt stack
The Lady there, She beckoned back
With sparkling eyes that plumbed the depths of me.
She arched, unfurling on the shoal
Her gleaming skin mirrored Lune’s soul
I’d never seen such sensuality
Her lower half by breakers hidden
My weighted, brine-soaked legs unbidden
Converged upon my beauty from the Sea.
‘Twixt neck and navel she was bare
The maid, she didn’t seem to care
About such things as impropriety
Red coral framed her turquoise locks
Live crabs and molluscs lined the rocks
And on such fare she dined so daintily.
I splashed across to laden skerry
Unsure if all imaginary
Afraid to snub Her hospitality
Still gesturing She bade me eat
My stomach rumbled in defeat
I fell upon the bounty of Her sea
Proclaiming me her honoured guest
She clutched me ‘gainst Her pallid breast
Caressed my cheek and gently asked of me:
Forget the world that mortals cherished
Without Her I’d’ve likely perished
An empty husk upon the churning sea.
Under the stars I gave permission
Desires unchained by my volition
Alas She wasn’t what She seemed to be…
Into the depths She took Her prize
Whilst grasping tendrils climbed my thighs
Awash within Her undulating Sea.
In daylight, sheltered from Her charm
My yearning but a stifled qualm
Her siren touch a distant memory
But come the moonrise I drink deep
Succumb to Her, and in my sleep
She waits for me beneath a sightless sea.
Save Your Souls – by Dion Winton-Polak (I feel like a WINNER just having you fine folk along for the ride.)
How did we lose those cherished days of ignorance and eternal possibility?
Can you bring it to mind? The feel of childhood, the pulse of excitement at every day’s dawning? Do you remember what it was like to see no farther than the end of an hour? To drift carelessly in the ocean of Time, tossed about by currents unseen. That was living. That was Forever in a day.
Tch. Such a weighted word, ‘ignorance’. That sense of wilfulness foist upon the wide of eye. As though it were deliberate. Defiant even. Ignore the implication. That state truly is bliss; an Edenic life lived lightly before knowledge piled rocks in our pockets.
Every experience was a mighty wave, thrusting high to show us new horizons, new joys and terrors, though none stayed long enough in sight to become certainties. Hah! We couldn’t make headway toward them if we tried. Difficult enough to stay afloat.
No. One wave at a time, and let the current worry where. Imagination was our guide, life a lottery, the whole world our prize. We had nothing but we had everything. Most of all, we had freedom! Simple, pure, unadulterated. But then that’s the twist, I suppose. Adulthood.
It shone out to us, a beacon in the storm. A warning to those in the know, but to those of us floundering – ah – how strong it looked, how proud amid the spume and sputter. How warm and welcoming the light. Its power called to us, clear across the waves.
How fine it must be to stand so firm, to see so far! And then, ’mid the gleam, we picked out ships plying their trade. Grown men and women venturing with purpose, returning with riches. Flying across the waves. Forging their destinies. Might we not do the same?
Resolutely we applied ourselves, ditching our jollies. We built calluses with our work, learned how to chart our own course, how to trade. (And didn’t we just trade? Anything. Everything.)
And the stronger we grew, the more confident we became until – proudly – we stepped from our boats entirely and rooted ourselves to the rock. Inflexible. Immutable. Immovable.
We see it all now, struck to stone with horror. Amid the waves, children bob and play, never knowing the danger they are in.
How we hate them for their ignorance. How we envy them.
Go back! Save your souls!
Righty-ho. WINNERS, please email me your addresses and I’ll get your prize in the post ASAP. I’m off to the bank, now. Chores aplenty today, then editing a Twisted Earth novella this afternoon. It’s all go. I’ll be back here on Saturday 6th July with a new contest, so keep your eyes out. Have a smashing weekend; you’ve earned it.