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#QUICKFIC 02/11/2018

Remember remember, the 2nd November, when Jade-Louisa gave you all a new prompt…Yes, fresh off the heels of Halloween, we’ve got another themed edition of our #QUICKFIC flash fiction competition! This one is Bonfire Night themed. Or as I like to call it, Celebrating the Time a Crime was Narrowly Averted with Fire and Mayhem Night themed! The first is catchier, I’ll grant you that.

But before we get go to it, a rules refresher:

  • Use the prompt below to write a story of 250 words or less.
  • Pop the story into the body of an email, including the title and the word count, and send it to academy@faber.co.uk. Make sure it’s in the body of the email, not as a separate attached document!
  • Do all that by 2:50 pm 3 pm today

And if you do, you’re in with a shot of winning these criminally good books:

"Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D.James, "Fateful Mornings" by Tom Bouman and "Collusion" by Luke Harding -Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

And with that, here is your prompt: 

A shot of what we can assume is the very top of a bonfire set against a pitch black sky. The fire is spitting gold and orange sparks across the sky like a firework. The flame is so bright it lights up the bottom half of the image in a warm golden glow. -Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

Bye until 3:30 pm! 

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. 

 

#QUICKFIC 02/11/2018: The Winner

A shot of what we can assume is the very top of a bonfire set against a pitch black sky. The fire is spitting gold and orange sparks across the sky like a firework. The flame is so bright it lights up the bottom half of the image in a warm golden glow. -Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

Runner Up: Susannah O’Brien

Cheese Slices and Car Parks

There were fireworks the first day she met him, although it’s an awful cliché to say so. Both students, they were working at the big Tesco in town. He was meant to be cutting cheese slices behind the Deli counter, and she was normally on Bakery, but that day, their respective supervisors sent them both to help with Seasonal. So there they met, selling Catherine Wheels and Roman Candles to middle-aged men who had over-promised their kids.

“Make sure to check for I.D., and give them this safety leaflet,” Joe, Deputy Manager (Events), said to them.

There was a brisk trade and although neither of them knew the first thing about fire safety, punters were only to happy to ask for their advice, hand over the cash and walk off with Rockets and Sparklers in one hand and Joe’s leaflet in the other.

She was working the late shift, but he’d been in since breakfast. At 6pm, her Long Break and his Finish collided in the car park. They stood together, holding mugs of tea from the Staff Room and watched as the sky became a shriek of purple swirls and green stars from the municipal show down the road.

“Remember, remember, the 5thof November,” she whispered as he kissed her there in the car park.

“We’ll never forget our anniversary,” he said, putting his hands into the pockets of her Tesco fleece and pulling her in.

It was just a shame that they had broken up by Christmas.

Runner Up: Mike Blakemore

Remember Remember

His faced burned but he held his position, too close for comfort but determined to savour this moment.

Eventually, his sister pulled him away, just as she had when the old man had been alive. This time her tug on his arm was gentle but many times she had grabbed him hard, trying to save him from himself.

His father had laughed then, just as he had when he had been the author of violence and no one had been able to stop him. Not the tiny children at his mercy and not their terrified mother.

His sister wasn’t laughing now and his own hysterical response sounded more like a cry of pain than anything resembling pleasure. But this would be closure; this would be the beginning of happier times.

Yes, it had been tasteless to dress the guy in his father’s clothes but he had never hesitated, vigorously screwing up pages of the newspaper the old man had hidden behind at breakfast and stuffing them into the moth-eaten suit. This was the uniform of respectability his father had worn to work each day, seating himself at the desk where he would proudly point towards a family photograph when colleagues asked after his kids.

The guy was all but burned now and there was just one act left to perform.

He tipped his father’s ashes into the orange flames; a second cremation because burning him once had not been enough.

Winner: Laura Riley

Penny For the Guy

It all happened so quickly — at least the beginning did. A spark of an idea I couldn’t quite shake.

The car was leaking diesel again. A sticky pool growing larger each day. I knew I couldn’t collect it, that would certainly arouse suspicion, but I could still use it. A dab here, a drip there, only enough to appear accidental of course. He’d been sniffling all week, perhaps he wouldn’t notice the smell of a blot or two on his trainers or the edge of his jeans.

He’d already decided that we’d attend the Bonfire party at the crappy pub down the road. On arrival, I saw no evidence of safety precautions. If I was lucky, this could work.

I couldn’t leave him. He knew that. We barely had enough combined, what life would I have alone. Alive, we both had share of an empty pot; but if one of us was to die, our life insurance would fill it right up.

I’m not sure what I thought would happen — but I never imagined that a small child, afraid of the sparkler a parent had clasped in their hand, would finish the job for me. Loosening their grip, they let the glowing stick fall beside my husband’s shoe. In an instant the gathered crowd froze as fire took its natural devastating form. It licked at the sides of my husband, until he was just an effigy of a man, his screams in harmony with the wailing Catherine Wheels above.

No firework display or bonfire could hold a (Roman) candle to you lovely #QUICKFIC writers. Many congratulations to Susannah, Mike and Laura — three different but wonderful spins on this week’s prompt picture. Much like how no two Catherine Wheels will spin the same, yet all look beautiful.

We’ll be back next week at 9:50 am with another prompt, minus my bad attempts at making fireworks based jokes.

Until then!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 26/10/2018: The Winner

Runner Up: Thea Oxbury

In-Between Time, or The Pumpkin Princess

The magazine had provided instructions: Pumpkin Perfection: A Fabulous Festive Face in Ten Easy Slices.

Alice had wanted to practice alone, master the technique before she sat down with the children, but there’d not been time. When was there ever?

Still, she’d made the initial incisions herself: stalk handled discs trepanned from each gourd’s pale crown. Then, her half-hearted attempt to convey the magazine’s primary instructions to Jessica and Rory: a single, crescent-shaped slash to map the smile, carefully placed, mirroring chevrons to plant a suggestion of laughing eyes.

Too late. Rory digs a fist into the pale hollow. Jessica grabs the potato knife, hazel eyes glinting keenly as its sturdy blade. Alice remembers the overalls she’d set aside, but forgotten to usher the pair into. And then a slew of realisations: tomorrow’s deadline for the committee’s report, her stepfather’s birthday (yesterday!), her overdue response to the neighbour’s planning application.

The boy licks sinewy pulp from his knuckles. (Raw pumpkin? Toxic?) The girl incants, knife gashing gaping sockets into a hollow, vegetable skull.

Samhain, remembers Alice, the in-between day, neither last year, this year, nor the next. Outside time itself. Souls roam and riot as they will.

Silently, she steps back from the table. Her children oblivious, she unlatches the garden gate, paces past the house, out, out, onto the windy road, towards the trees, the clatter and clamour, the raging in-between time, no time, the howling, boundless freedom of the celebration of All Souls. Alice walks and then runs

Runner Up: Thom Willis

The King’s Promise

The Pumpkin King was wrong.

He made the same speech every October, as his subjects grew ripely orange in mist-laid fields. He meant it to inspire them, to give them hope in their futures, to push them on to greater things. He spoke in good faith. He was wrong.

He told of transformation, of becoming. How the destiny of pumpkind was to be the jackolantern, how the fierce light would burn from all of them, how it would push the shadows back into their corners, how they were, for one night, the stars come to ground.

He told the stories humans tell, of headless horsemen with guardian lanterns, he told rousing jokes about the traditions of the season, of tricks played and treats given. He delighted the rows and ranks of his fellows. They saw how important they were, they felt unstoppable.

The Pumpkin King was wrong.

Stacked high in cardboard troughs, the harvested pumpkins sat and awaited their ascension. Days passed. The terror of those at the bottom of the pile became feverish as the first blooms of decay appeared at their stembases. This was not their calling, this was death. 

The day approached. Those pumpkins with healthier skin, whose roundness and orange glow was undeniable, were taken. This was the it, the King’s promise fulfilled! Only for the chosen few, they realised now. Only the elect.

And for the elect, for the most pieous, the lighted ones, what horrors now awaited them.

The Winner: Sarah Nash

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

The woman thinks this is fun. She thinks she’s in charge. They never learn do they?

Grownups.

Susie’s got a knife. A very sharp knife.  Makes it easier.

The volunteers are so sweet – doing their bit for the poor little orphans. Then going back to their comfy homes and forgetting all about us.

Not today.

They never ask how we became orphans. Who taught us everything we know. Taught us how to fend for ourselves.

I’ve really perfected this kooky little boy bit. Tongue out’s particularly good, don’t you think?

Sometimes I’m afraid Susie’s going to waver – think it would be cosy to be NORMAL. Disgusting word. Sometimes I’m afraid she’ll crack and ask if we can go home with one of these losers. Play happy families.

No way.

There’s no such thing as a happy family.

Sometimes I have to give Susie a pep talk. At least she’s been perfecting her knife skills. One day she started talking about working in a restaurant when she grows up. Silly cow. I told her, people like us don’t grow up. They make sure of that.

It’s the moments just before I enjoy the most. The tension. The build-up. I feel myself growing calmer, happier, sunnier.

“What a dear little boy,” they say.

Any minute now I’ll give the word. No-one will even look up, not at first.

They don’t know she’s the one who taught us what to do when the time came.

Any minute now.

“Mummy!”

I didn’t know quite how many sinister interpretations you’d all manage to get out of that adorable scene up top, but I do know exactly who I’ll have to blame for the nightmares I’m going to be having for the next few weeks. Congratulations to Thea, Thom and Sarah and many, many thanks to everyone that sent in their spooky tales! I’ll be back next week — same time, same place. Less horrific prompt.

Until then!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 26/10/2018

Happy almost Halloween! In defiance of the calendar, we’ve (I’ve) been celebrating Halloween all week and so it is only right that today’s flash fiction competition prompt is spooky and terrifying and all things Halloween should be.

A quick reminder of the rules, before we begin.

You’re going to see a prompt. Using that prompt, we’d like you to write a short story of 250 words or less. Send your story in the body of an email, including the title and the wordcount, to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50 pm this afternoon. No later! The winner wins these books: 

'All My Puny Sorrows' by Miriam Toews, 'Nine Lessons' by Nicola Upson, 'All the Beautiful Lies' by Peter Swanson - Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

Ready? Here you go: 

Image of a table outside of a wooden cabin. There are three people sitting at a table; two children and an adult. The young children both seem to be carving miniature pumpkins. The female child is using a knife to carve the inside of the pumpkin, while the boy has his hand inside his pumpkin, presumably about to pull out the innards. The boy is pulling a face of disgust while the adult is watching and laughing. Around the three are some fully carved pumpkins, other gourds and some pumpkin shaped food stuffs. Just visible behind one of the figures is a banner, partially obscured, reading Halloween - Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

Terrifying, right?

Be back at 3:30!

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. 

#QUICKFIC 19/10/2018: The Winner

an image of coffee being made and poured on a table, with a faint woodland scene in the background. There is a large, steaming coffee pot just visible to the left, with two glass mugs waiting for coffee to be poured in. Coffee beans litter the table, spilling out of a copper bowl. Two ceramic looking jugs containing mysterious contents wait on the right, while an hand pours freshly made coffee out of a small glass cafetiere and in to one of the glass mugs. - quickfic, flash fiction competition

Runner Up: Claire Bennett

Coffee with a Colleague

She’d not really slept the night before, thoughts of the morning running through her mind.

She supposed she couldn’t really refuse his invitation and on the face of it, it was only coffee with a colleague, coffee with a colleague. Her mind ran over and over the phrase like some sort of mantra to help keep her anxiety at bay. Weeks of private smiles in meetings, accidental run-ins in the kitchen, graduating to the forwarding on of corporate emails, adding in commentary and recommendations of favourite books and music.

It made her feel excited in a nervy way and try as she might to keep her composure, she found her mouth fixed with a permanent smile for hours afterwards. There was an undercurrent to it all though, and that was what had kept her from sleep. Why was she feeling this oh-so- recognisable feeling about a man 30 years her senior, a man she wouldn’t look at twice if he tried to catch her eye on the tube?

Runner Up: Jennifer Harvey

This Fantastic, Incomparable, Instagrammable Life

Here, let me show you how it’s done. It’s all in the polish and the presentation. Nothing is too dull. Everything can shine and glisten. Even a life like your own.

No, trust me, it’s true. I can take your drudgery and spin it into gold.

Like this morning, when you woke feeling listless and emptied from a dreamless sleep? We can fill that space with aspiration. All you need to do, is imagine, believe, dream.

Ready? Okay, then tell me, what you see.

A room, morning bright, air filled with the oily aroma of coffee, table set with care and attention. Spoons polished. Napkins folded. A flower. And two cups. In this place you are not alone. The days begin with little rituals of affection, and life stretches ahead with such promise.

An illusion you say? Perhaps. But the dream is yours and who’s to say what’s real or imagined. Look, here, take it. Hold it to the light, turn it this way and that. See how it sparkles, how it shines. How it makes you smile.

You feel it don’t you? A flutter inside. Happiness? Yes, let’s call it that. And though it is fleeting, it fills you all the same. And your longing, is now your reality.

Believe. Imagine. Dream.

And hold on to the illusion. Face the world with a glow of perfection. They will never know. Because there you are, and they see you now, fantastic, incomparable.

And happy, oh so happy. 

Winner: Anstey Harris

This is Me

Cut!’

Five pairs of hands bustle in. One to take the jug from her before there is a chance of the coffee splashing onto her skin. Two to thrust cushions under her wrists lest those hands land awkwardly somewhere or snag on an unseen menace.

‘It’s not just the hands,’ says her entry in Spotlight. ‘The wrists, the angle of bone and sinew, the skin tone: there are so many reasons Jennifer Dunn’s hands are THE hands.’ So many reasons her hands are insured for ten million dollars, so many reasons that no one ever touches her except with – real – kid gloves.

Her assistants – Maureen and Joe – hold the gloves and, mechanically, she slips each slender finger into place. Joe doesn’t look up. Maureen doesn’t ask about her life, what she’s been doing. Everyone in the studio concentrates on Jennifer’s matchless hands.

If Maureen had asked, Jennifer might have told her about the man who moved in across the hall yesterday: how he looked at her, really looked. How the constant cloak of loneliness she wears shifted, slipped slightly, gaped.

There is a big green bin outside Jennifer’s block. She drops the gloves in, one at a time, and knocks on his door.

‘Hi’ he says and his eyes trace the scar under her eye, note the missing hair above her left ear. He smiles.

‘I forgot to get your number,’ she says.

‘Easy,’ he says. He lifts her hand and writes – a tattooed promise – across her perfect skin.

Well! What a welcome back! Congratulations to Anstey, Jennifer and Claire. And a huge thank you to everyone who sent in a story — every last one was completely brilliant. Have wonderful weekends everyone, and we’ll be back next Friday at the slightly earlier time of 9:50 am.

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 19/10/2018

Good morning everybody! You asked and asked, and we answered! Yes, #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition, is back and it’s bigger and better than ever. We’re coming at the slightly later time of 10:50 but, as you’ll see below, this is a one time only occurrence. So don’t get used to it!

Here’s how to play:

  • You’ll be presented with a prompt on Friday morning at 9:50 am. This is anything my devious mind can come up with, so be prepared!
  • Your task is to create a short story of 250 words or less inspired by that prompt.
  • Paste your story into the body of an email, including a title and your word count, and send that email to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50pm on the Friday afternoon.

At 3:30 we’ll announce the winner. That lucky person gets a stack of books as their prize. Much like this stack, in fact:

Stack of three books including 'Sugar Money' by Jane Harris, 'Lullaby' by Leila Slimani and 'For the First Time Ever: A Memoir' Peggy Seeger - Faber Academy's flash fiction competition quickfic

So here we go. Your first prompt is below:

an image of coffee being made and poured on a table, with a faint woodland scene in the background. There is a large, steaming coffee pot just visible to the left, with two glass mugs waiting for coffee to be poured in. Coffee beans litter the table, spilling out of a copper bowl. Two ceramic looking jugs containing mysterious contents wait on the right, while an hand pours freshly made coffee out of a small glass cafetiere and in to one of the glass mugs. - quickfic, flash fiction competition

See you back here at 3:30!

QuickFic Flash Writing Competition Winner! 12/02/16

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.

Some folks in a Volks

Some folks in a Volks

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!

QuickFic Flash Fiction Writing Competition – 12/02/16

Hi there!

Are you feeling in a flash-fiction sort of mood?

Because we have exactly the thing if so. Yep, it’s time for another round of QuickFic – so, experienced Fic-ers, head to the bottom of the page for the prompt!  For those of you who are new around these parts (welcome, by the way), it’s a very simple game:

We’re about to show you a prompt. You should write a story, of 250 words or less, inspired by that prompt, and send it to us (academy@faber.co.uk) by 2:50pm this very day. No later.

The winner will win these LOVELY BOOKS:

You *don't* win my weird hand.

Look at these books! You could win these books! But not my weird hand! You don’t win that!

Come on then. Let’s have a look at this prompt.

qf55_799

Wow. Don’t they look creeptastic?

See you back here in a bit!

By entering our QuickFic writing competitions, you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. The winner will also get a chance to win a place on one of our Start to Write one day courses, because at the end of the year we’ll be choosing our favourite of all the winners – the champion of champions, basically.

For more creative writing exercises, click here.

QuickFic 30/10/2015: ? The Winner ?

Ooooooooooh, well, if that wasn’t the spookiest 250-word flash fiction writing competition that happened today, I’d like to see a URL pointing towards one that was spookier.

As ever, you took the prompt and ran with it, often into a dingy forest-scape, sometimes across the ill-lit plains of the mind. And as always, it was tough to gouge the winners from the fleshy mass of entries, but we did, and we’re delighted with them. So without further ado, here they are.

Scary animal person teenager thingums holding hands

? Oooooooh! ?

 

RUNNER-UP: Finn Cotton

The Work Virus

‘Are you alright?’ asked my manager. He was standing in the doorway of the printing room with a sagging horse mask pulled right down over his face.

‘Mm hmm’ I said in response. The room was small, my back pushed up against the printer as it beeped and whirred, pages spitting out onto the tray beside me. I didn’t feel good. His silhouette was blurring at the edges near the ceiling and fading slightly. Chin forward, lying beside the printer, I managed to speak: ‘I need to go home.’

The printer shuddered, a fan spun somewhere nearby and the manager signalled reluctantly to a colleague beside the door. ‘The virus has taken its toll’, he said. I was the fourth member of staff so far – each one was found gibbering in a corner of a room somewhere, clutching a contract or a wad of papers, sweating into the air-conditioned office. He walked briskly out of the printing room to a window at the far side of the building for a gulp of fresh air.

Colleagues crowded round me with their masks moving in the office breeze, leaning in towards the printer, jostling for a better view. They laughed and pointed, drinking it all in. Every microscopic germ, I knew, was travelling around the room, passing through them all. Perhaps they would all fall sick, I thought. It wouldn’t take long. ‘I hope you all catch this’, I coughed, ‘you bastards’.

WINNER: Stephen Oliver

LITTLE SISTER

I found the moleman on the internet. He set the traps when I was out last week, then tonight at dusk he comes back to check them. But this guy whose job it is to kill moles, brings his young daughter along with him. The traps are buried underground, marked with sticks painted white at the top. These little white-tipped sticks are poking out of the ground all over the lawn and the little girl is running around to see if the traps have gone off. And she’s singing. Singing a nursery rhyme to herself as she checks for dead moles. When I go out again three moles in plastic bags hang from the bird feeder. The traps have been dug up and the girl’s running around with one of the white sticks tap tap tap. Just in the right place to set the mechanism off. The steel jaws snap shut and the whole thing leaps a few inches into the air. The moleman collects the traps and they get into their ancient estate car job done. I’m standing looking in the boot where all their paraphernalia is. And in the gloom I see a little girl’s foot in a white ballet pump poking out from under a dirty blanket. Then I see the moleman watching me in the rearview mirror. A jackdaw flaps overhead on the way to its roost and, when I look back down, the moleman is getting out of the car again.

*

Congratulations to our winners, and 1,000,000 thanks to everyone who entered. Come back next week for another, less terrifying flash writing competition.

QuickFic Writing Competition 11/09/2015: The Winners

Oh Autumn. Season of yellow fruitiness.
There's definitely a unicorn in there SOMEWHERE...Judging a writing competition – even a little one like QuickFic – can be quite a Zen thing. Passages of equal length, on an identical prompt, can take on a lulling, cosmic quality. Beautiful descriptions of lush forest. Warm evocations of the season, of the mists, of the poets and the flora and the ineluctable cruising on of time’s Corolla.

And THEN there’s a unicorn.

And THEN someone threatens to murder a weeing schoolchild.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun reading the entries, and a lot of trouble choosing between them, but choose I did, and here they are. Congratulations to both, and thanks to all – come back next week for more.

RUNNER UP: Magic, by Alexis J Reid

The villagers are coming. All flaming torches and pitchforks. How parochial. I’d expected more from them, I’d hoped for a little ingenuity from my oppressors. But no, here they come, chanting their inane chants and brandishing their poorly-spelled placards. Sigh.

‘Give us our forest back!’ Shouts a rotund, red-faced woman who I believe is the baker’s wife.
I open the shutters, looking down on the crowd below, trying to find a friendly face amongst the sneers and the booing.

‘But you have a forest. I just made it better. Look how beautiful the trees are,’ I say.

‘You made it autumn. It’s the 15th of March!’

‘Yes, but look at how pretty it all is. All of those reds and oranges.’

I can feel their hostility growing, they obviously don’t appreciate the aesthetic wonder of an autumnal display.

‘You’re supposed to help us, wizard, not plunge us into eternal winter.’

Autumn. I’ve plunged them into eternal autumn. Can’t these people get anything right?

‘We need summer to come! We need our crops!’

Always with the crops.

‘There will be a bounteous harvest,’ I shout, pleased with my own munificence.

‘We want summer!’

And they all take up the chant. Someone spits at my house, a little globule of silver spittle dribbling down my door.

Truth is, I can’t change it back. We’re stuck with it. An autumn that will last through the ages.

‘Better find your brooms, you’ll be sweeping up leaves forever,’ I shout. And then I run.

WINNER: Waldeinsamkeit by Anand Modha

She’d heard about the girls who were eaten by wolves. Wolves whose mouths grew bloody and their bellies fat on the gristle of hooded Year 7 children. However as the rows of trees marched away from her, she had no fear. In fact, she had no words to describe how she was feeling. If only she’d known German, as then she’d have a word. A word to describe the solitude of being surrounded, yet alone. Yet she’d bunked off her double language lesson to be in the woods right now, so she was doubly at a loss. She’d heard of murderers dragging corpses to the copses, and burying people, both alive and dead in the woods. Yet the sun streamed in at friendly angles, and birds chirruped in the branches high above her, and she found it impossible to be scared. Instead, she stretched out her arms so her hands brushed the trunks of the trees that were nearest. She span on the spot, and danced in that way you only do when you’re alone. Little did she know, that she truly was experiencing, and enjoying, waldeinsamkeit.