We throw a #QUICKFIC curveball, and you all more than rise to the occasion! Thank you, all, for the stories. You gave us dramatic car chases, a retiring santa, terrible families, a spot of framing for murder and other truly heartwarming tales. It’s been an absolute pleasure to read your submissions these past few months, and this week was no exception. Thank you for them all.
One last time, here were your prompts and then on to the winners we go:
Runner Up: Thom Willis
Going to Town
The scents of Christmas – cinnamon, pine, the muted sharpness of oranges – were starting to feel oppressive. He’d lost his taste for mulled wine this year, and the warmed-over dregs of a cheap rioja, with shards of broken star anise floating like driftwood on the surface, disgusted him. The snow settling outside depressed him, made him feel trapped and lonely.
“Humbug,” he muttered, pleased with that at least. His face itched in the glow of the roaring log fire. He had been unable to find his razor, and his fresh beard was irritating him as much as anything else. Soon he would be out in the fresh air, and he relished it. Only good part of the job. A thousand years he’d been delivering presents and still it surprised him how enjoyable that was.
Last year he’d almost died. A slip on a loose tile. He was always so careful but was now overconfident and simply ignored the warning signs that had always kept him safe. Slates were always bad. Slippery at the best of times, this one rattled down the roof and he heard it shatter on the ground long after it fell, even as he was still sliding to the edge.
He’d got to stop. He was old now. No one cared if he came or not. There were no adorable children to restore his faith in Christmas. Not now. This would be his last round. After that, if everyone believed it was their parents, well, they’d be right.
Runner Up: Jane Healey
Sticks and Stones
Peter’s bones are slowly turning to cinnamon sticks; they crunch when he rolls his wrists, his muscles burning with the fiery heat of the powder seeping from the joints; they jostle against one another with a clattering sound when he breaks into a jog to catch the bus; and when he types the last batch of this year’s emails he does so slowly, carefully, so that the single sticks in each of his fingers do not snap and shatter. It’s Christmas party season now and he can no longer discern between the spice of his own sweat and the breath of those who have gulped down mugfuls of mulled wine, eats every minced pie he is offered gingerly because he fears that the taste means his teeth are turning to cinnamon too and disintegrating in his mouth; and as he stands at the back of the last office meeting of the year, gingerly cupping elbows that are crumbling into shards, stooping so that he cannot feel the scrape of his vertebrae against one another, the hot shiver of ground cinnamon cascading down his back, his manager turns to him and says, what we’re looking from you next year, Peter, is a bit more oomph, a bit more spark, a bit more – she pauses to bite into a slice of the festive cake that Peter’s work nemesis Samantha has made and brought to the meeting – spice. He nods and coughs, swallowing a jagged piece of bark.
Runner Up: Bridget Yates
It was cold, bitterly cold as I expected. But it was working.
I ploughed on, the sun setting behind me and giving an eerie glow to the icy waste that was the road. And he was still there; his headlights clearly visible in my wing mirror.
It had taken planning and my heart fluttered in my chest every time I thought about what I had done, no -what we had done.
He had the body in the boot.
To say the situation had become unbearable was an understatement; she had made our lives a misery with all that crying and moaning . And when she fell down the stairs yesterday morning, well, it seemed a kindness to let her just slip gently away. And he had used a feather pillow .
But I needed the money to be able to keep the house.
So we decided to keep her alive so to speak and we put her body in the boot of his car.
He thought the plan was to dispose of her body by the roadside in the next State and then later abandon the car. But I had a different plan.
When we crossed the State line I would wait until he was close behind me and when there was more traffic around I would brake suddenly.
The cops would be called.
And he had a body in the boot of his car.
The Winner: Roger Evans
One day you may find, lurking at the back of a cupboard, a bag of cinnamon sticks smelling faintly of Christmas, with no memory of their purchase. Tight rolls of spice prompting thoughts of mulled wine and sweet confections. Pay good attention to this bag, as within such a treasure trove of flavour may lie a greater one.
For cinnamon can hold a secret, hidden from sight, waiting for the moment to bestow its fortune upon you. You see, rarely, very rarely, as the bark curls into its quills, the forest spirits bestow their luck upon one piece.
So hold each one gently before you consign it to the recipe, and see if will unfurl gently in your hand. And read the message written within.
Many congratulations to Thom, Jane, Bridget and Roger. Here’s to all of you #QUICKFIC writers, to the rapidly approaching new year, to the holidays and to all the brilliant flash fiction pieces you’ve written and have yet to write.
Happy Holidays! See you next year!
For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.