Well done to everyone who wrote and submitted a story this month and to the writers who made the longlist. Congratulations to the 10 writers who have gone through to the shortlist! The prompt word this month was SUN.
Vote for your favourite from these fab stories to win the surprise People’s Prize. Our judging team are busy re-reading to choose the winners of the cash prizes. Voting is open until 23.59 (UK time) on 23rd October 2023. Results will be announced on 24th. Good luck everyone!
A Chance Meeting on Moore Beach
Christine didn’t talk to strangers; so when, in the orange-hued haze of first light, an old woman
approached, her muscles stiffened.
“Would you like a shell?” An outstretched hand cupped a chipped clam. “It’s not perfect, but,”
the woman turned it over, “just look at that purple .”
Christine clasped the shell, holding it between them. They watched as the rising sun illuminated
an iridescent layer, previously hidden. The old woman nodded and continued down the beach.
A seagull soared overhead. Her phone pinged. Pls forgive me. Christine exhaled and pocketed
the shell as the tide stretched to touch her toes.
You lay the blanket across the sand. Moonlight rays shimmering with phosphorescent memories. Somewhere between dusk and dawn I feel your hand in mine, the warmth of your fingers, as I stretch my toes one last time to feel the tactility of grains against my skin. By morning I will be gone. You will fold me in the blanket, slip me back into the room from where you spirited me away, to be discovered as sun slips through slatted blinds. You’ll accept the call, already knowing the news of my passing and the mystery of the sand between my toes.
My mum’s an astronaut, studying solar flares. She’s somewhere so bright I can’t even look
without my eyes watering, but from down here I can blot her out with the tip of my thumb. That’s
called an eclipse.
People say I must be so proud of her. On Earth she glides through parties with her followers in
orbit, radiating a prickling heat that many mistake for warmth.
Personally I’ve always preferred the moon, although it can appear dusty and boring compared
to the sun. Pockmarked with scars, but well practiced in redirecting the sun’s excess light to
illuminate the darkness.
Lifting the Lid
The photographs were the hardest, the need to cull so many memories.
Her grief felt like that time in the playground, the eclipse, the disc of the moon covering the sun, the strange absence of light, of birdsong, the sense of unreality.
She pulled another box towards her, and there was her childhood in black and white, long-forgotten friends, Mrs Insley smiling in the 1961 class photo. She lifted it out, remembering how the kindly teacher had come to stand beside her as darkness had fallen – had sensed her distress. She reached for her bag and carefully placed it inside.
Never Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger
Gran reckoned anger, left to fester, turned your insides bad. Best to nip it in the bud before you went to bed.
The Summer Mum left, taking only the new curate and the bump under her baggy tops, the air at Gran’s Bible class was thick with flies and gossip. I sat at the back, peeling corpses off fly papers and pulling off the legs. Later, I’d bake the bodies into scones to serve to the church ladies, passing them off as currants. I was a credit to Gran, the ladies said.
Somehow, I didn’t feel so angry, after that.
People used to call before visiting. Now they appear saying, ‘just wondered how you’re doing,’ ‘just found these baby clothes in the attic’, ‘just cooked extra for dinner’. They orbit the cot, waiting for Sol to wake. You rotate through an endless cycle of eat, sleep, cry, while drooping flowers shed pollen on the white kitchen worktop.
You escape one morning craving birdsong, the chill of autumn air, the sight of a golden leaf twisting in the wind. But it’s your gut that’s twisting, and there’s a heavy, inexplicable pull deep inside your chest. At the street corner, you hesitate.
“How does the sun roll across the sky?”, my brother asks as he hurls his ball against the yard wall. I tell him the Ancient Egyptians believed it was carried on the back of a scarab. We don’t mention the thunder in our stomachs or how Ma won’t rise until dusk or that if the big kids borrow his ball, he’ll be kicking bottles. We put our lips to the tap to ease the drought. “Later,” I tell him, “Ma might fry eggs.” I think of us dipping our forks in the orbs of their yolks to taste the summer.
The Burning Question
Gender identity freezes my heart, resulting in deep thinking and shallow, painful cuts. Confusion and uncertainty serve to magnify my desperation for answers. What am I?
Not knowing which way to turn, I look upwards shouting: “I love the sunshine.” The sun’s neutrality calms my anxieties.
Liberated, I chase my new, heavenly saviour around the beaches of Europe.
In France, Le Soleil is masculine. He heats up my body.
In Germany, Die Sonne is feminine. She wraps me in her rays.
If the sun isn’t clear about its identity, surely I can live a colourful life beneath its glorious rainbows.
The Complications of a Sunburst
Sometimes, I imagine them like a white-hot sun, mostly because at school, when Ms. Carruthers told us not to look at the sun directly, we did it anyway. See who could stand it the longest. We’d remove our Barbie sunglasses and squint until we had to blink, the aftermath glinting behind our lids in oil-spill rosettes.
Like stealing a bit of light, she used to say.
I imagine them like a sun, the headlights, because even though I wasn’t with her at the end, it makes me think she saw them and pretended. Closed her eyes.
Maybe, thought of me.
The dark side of the sun
There’s a lot of talk about how terrible the weather will be this summer, hot and windy, they say.
Hundreds of pictures of the last bad summer are still on your phone, saved in an album named ‘fires’ and sometimes you can’t help looking for that one picture of the crowd on the beach with the horse, the sky behind them and the sand around them and even the sea in front of them glowing some part of the spectrum of the colour orange. They were waiting for boats, for rescue.
As always, you wonder what happened to that horse.
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