As you might remember, this week we asked for 250 word QuickFic stories inspired by this topical image:
Image Credit: NASA/APL/SwRI
We always knew stories inspired by such a, well, inspiring image would be pretty epic. But we had no idea, guys. You took us to whole new worlds and it was pretty wonderful.
Let’s have a look at this week’s winning stories:
RUNNER-UP: Nafisa Muhtadi
The Art of Self-Belief
‘Believe in yourself.’
I hear my mum’s voice inside my head, like she is talking to me. She sits on the second row and her lips aren’t moving. She says that to me all the time. Believe in yourself. She said it when I was too scared to go down the slide and held up the line and everyone started walking around me like I was a statue. She said it to me when I fell off my bike and my cut knee had a redness that was bright as jam. She said it to me when she was sewing my costume.
You’re not a real planet, they’d said.
‘Don’t believe them,’ Mum said.
She showed me the photo in the newspaper. Round as a coin and the colour of Gran’s tights. It even carries a heart like a present, like it was waiting for us, like I waited for Dad to come to my birthday party. He missed it.
I walk across the stage, arms stretched wide to hold up the round edges of my costume. Flash! I twirl. Flash! I smile. Flash! I dance. Mum will get told off by Mrs. Thorne. She has that angry look on her face when she wants to shush someone for talking in class. But Mum doesn’t care.
I stick the photo next to Pluto in my scrapbook. Mum says she can see both of us carrying our hearts and that is what believing in yourself is all about.
RUNNER-UP: Charlotte Geater
The Coldest Planet
It’s cold enough outside that the ice cream doesn’t melt. My fingers are slow, as dull as my head. He has to repeat himself twice before I understand. The van doesn’t have any proper heating, although I’ve got a portable radiator plugged in near my feet. I do my best to scrape a proper scoop — you know, a planet, a perfect snowball — of the raspberry-vanilla swirl and my muscles strain across my back and down to my elbow.
He gives me a fistful of pennies and I count them out, one by one. I hand him the cone, and he holds it up to the sky, which is already starting to get dark. No stars yet, though. He winces after the first bite, and presses his fingers to his teeth, as if they can help. ‘I told you it was cold,’ I say.
‘I’m already cold,’ he says. There’s ice cream trailing from his nose to his chin like snot. Or blood.
‘Not as cold,’ I say. I look up at the sky. It was clear today, but clouds have started to rush in with the night. The heater is making the same noise my cat makes before she coughs up a hairball. I look down at the boy again, blue-nosed, hungry enough to keep going.
‘You have somewhere to be?’ I ask. He nods, but doesn’t move.
I want to put the jingle on, but I don’t, and I don’t leave until he’s gone.
WINNER: Thom Willis
On To New Horizons
He could see her across time, from years away. In the crowd, there she was, his focus. All he could see was her face, wan in the distant sunlight. As he came closer he could see her skin was cream-pale, with a heart-shaped birthmark (or was it a scar, a scald from an accident in her youth?).
For nine years he had no other thoughts. Everything, she was everything. He was cold; she warmed him. He was alone; she kept him company. He was lost; she was his destination.
He chattered excitedly on his radio home, but no-one ever answered. He didn’t know if they were listening and he didn’t care. They’d sent him out so fast he could still smell the burst ozone; the thunderclap of his exit still rang in the delicate filigree he used to listen to the silent, empty universe.
He was close now, so close he could touch her. Forgotten parts of him burst ecstatically to life, eyes he never knew he had opened wide to take in her unseen beauty. He shot pulses of information behind him, sending image after image of HER; the furthest planet out, the final post at the end of the Solar System. Nine years, and
He could not even turn to see her recede as he passed on, into the stars. He fell into her shadow and closed his eyes.
Congratulations, Nafisa, Charlotte and Thom! And thanks to everyone who entered. You are all bright, shining stars in our Friday galaxy.
Join us again next week for a brand-new prompt — happy weekends, all.