It doesn’t matter how long we do this. It doesn’t matter how cheery the prompt, how Spring-like the weather, how chipper the readers. You always find the darkness.
We had death, we had demons, we had disasters. We had cracked smiles and stolen pooches and all manner of evils.
But we also had some brilliant, brilliant writing, so great job. Thanks to everyone who entered.
As every week, it was tough to decide, but we think we managed. Here they are, a winner and a runner up.
RUNNER UP: Simon Higgs
STOPPING SHORT OF CHICAGO
“That dog,” said the old man, holding the silver framed photograph in both hands, “That dog would chase anything. Sure, he’d chase a cat or a stick like any other mutt, but he’d chase cars too, and the silver train that ran across the plain past Omaha and up to Chicago. He’d hear that warning bell as the train approached and Pa would have to try and grab him, else he’d just set on after that train, never a hope in hell of catching it.
“We’d have to go out in the pickup along the side of the tracks, sometimes for miles. Eventually find him, in the shadow of a shed or a lone tree, worn out with running and that big old tongue of his hanging out. He was a bright enough animal, but he’d just do that same thing, over and over. Must have made him happy on some level I guess, but he sure never made it to Chicago.”
The old man put the photograph down beside him on the table, he looked at the time on his gold-plate carriage clock, then picked up the silver framed photograph again and held it in both hands.
“I remember the day this was taken.”
“Tell me about it.” She said for the fourth time that day.
He looked blankly at his daughter, failing to recognise her. “I can tell you about that dog young lady.” A smile spread across his face, “That dog would chase anything.”
WINNER: Simon P. Clark
TIME TO GO
The man is running, and he’s holding something. His shouts are muffled by traffic. He tries to wave one-handed, struggling under the weight of whatever’s in his arms.
Jane squints to see better, turning to her husband.
‘Is that Vincent?’
‘Damn fool’s making a scene,’ he mutters. The car’s engine thrums to life.
‘He seems rather upset,’ says Jane.
‘The train leaves at eleven sharp.’
A hand on his arm. ‘Yes, honey, I know, but – ‘
‘He’s shouting something,’ says Danny. He stands up, resting a hand on Bumper. The dog’s tongue lolls and he shifts his weight.
A horn cuts through the air, a curse, the screech of brakes.
‘Good God, the man’s insufferable!’
‘What’s he shouting?’ says Jane. A thought strikes her: something else has happened.
‘Look, Daddy, he’s running through the cars!’
Danny laughs and waves to his uncle.
Vincent’s voice is raw with terror, his face shining and white.
‘Stop! Please! Get out!’
Jane shields her eyes from the sun. ‘What is he holding? Is that – what is that?’
Danny is still waving. ‘Hello!’ he shouts. Bumper growls and the air quivers.
‘Look!’ shouts Vincent, and he’s near enough now. ‘Look! It’s Bumper! Good God, it’s Bumper!’
The body is limp and awkward in his arms.
‘Not your dog!’ shouts Vincent, wild and mad. ‘That’s not your dog! Get out of the car!’
They turn to look, and already the thing is grinning, and changing, and opening its jaws, but there’s nowhere to run.
Brilliant stuff, right? Special mentions also go to Nicky Tate and Andy Vale.
Keep them coming – join us next week!