Ah, a staircase. The thing you fall down, walk down, curse at and, apparently, today produced some of the best paces of flash fiction it’s been my privileged to read! You all truly out did yourself this week.
Here’s one last look at your staircase of dreams before we hit the runners up and the winner:
Runner Up: Ana Acapella
“Eid Mubarak” she silently whispered to herself as the early morning sun streamed down from the skylight onto her bed.
Half asleep, she reminisced of this day a year ago. So happy. So full of love. So different.
Normally she’d have spent last night helping her mum preparing the Eid feast, listening to her father’s stories of his bygone days and adorning her hands with henna. Staring at her bare hands, she thought that they were the perfect metaphor for today.
She rolled over in her bed, reluctant to start her day. Downstairs, she could hear a soft, thudding noise gradually getting louder. Footsteps. She knew exactly who it would be, even before the door burst open into her room.
“Aisha, Aisha! Get up!” Jenna said, ‘’Go downstairs now!” Aisha looked up quizzically at her best friend.
“Why?” asked Aisha but before she could get an answer, Jenna pulled her duvet away and chucked her out of bed. Aisha quickly grabbed her hijab as she was pushed out of her room. While Aisha tied her headscarf around her face, the two best friends wound down the mahogany, spiral staircase slowly.
They both could hear muffled voices getting louder until they stood in front of Shirley’s office. The first voice was definitely Shirley’s (her case worker). The second was of a male and he was vehemently asking to see Aisha.
“Dad?!” Aisha blurted out from behind the door.
Almost immediately, the door opened…
“Eid Mubarak darling” said her father.
Runner Up: Katy Brinicombe
13 Steps to Freedom
That’s all it would take.
13 steps to freedom.
This day was a long time coming. He had spent sleepless nights imagining how he would feel on this day, at this time. It had remained elusive. Even now, a mixture of feelings threatened to swallow him up. Where would he go? What would he do? He had always known that the world was a scary place – he had witnessed enough fear and terror to know that no-one could be trusted – but he had always had the safety and security of his room. Somewhere to hide and feel safe once more. His space.
But now it was gone. Today it belonged to someone else and he had to go. He grasped the handle of his small, battered case a little tighter. It was the one he had arrived with all those years ago, and he was sure it would still be with him when he died. It carried each and every one of his meagre belongings that he had accumulated over the years. It carried his identity.
He remained on that top stair, still unable to move. He looked at his feet, in the worn-out leather brogues, and willed them on. He took one last look up the stairs, at the scratched wooden doors, and of the ghostly faces that peered at him through the balustrades.
One deep breath. One step. Towards freedom.
Winner: Gillian English
Instead of the usual fast-talking twenty-something, the estate agent looked well past sixty and seemed to be struggling for breath.
“How long has it been empty?” I asked. He muttered something and then coughed violently, clamping a greying handkerchief over his mouth.
“You sit here, I’ll look round myself” I said, helping him into a chair. He was still bent over his handkerchief, taking long hoarse breaths.
I wasn’t going to be long – I could already see this was far too big for us. It even had two staircases leading to different parts of the building. Used to be a school, so someone told me.
I was on my way back down the stairs in minutes, wondering if I should take the old man to a doctor. But then I stopped. In front of me was the door to the front entrance. But now it had a large wooden noticeboard nailed across it, blocking it up. I must have come down the other staircase to the back of the building.
I went up and came back down the other way. And there was the blocked door. No sign of the old man either. I went up and down the stairs two or three more times, becoming increasingly short of breath, always ending up at the blocked door.
Then, wheezing slightly, I walked up to the blocked door and read the single dusty notice on the board.
“Influenza – school closure, 17 June 1918”
And I began to cough.
Big congratulations to Gillian, Katy and Ana. Thank you one and all again — this week was one of the toughest to judge, but you all knocked it out of the park.
I’ll be gone again next week, trapped in a Summer Party induced haze, but I’ll see you again the week after that!
For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.