Well done to all who made the longlist and congrats to the writers of our shortlisted stories. Please honour the spirit of the competition and vote for the story which you think is the best – not the one you’re guessing your friend wrote! And if you’ve been shortlisted remember to celebrate anonymously 🙂 The prompt this month was “Shrink”.
Vote for your favourite from these 10 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 27th June 2022. Results will be announced on Tuesday 28th. Good luck everyone!
Diorama of a Better Little Life
She silences the shouting, excludes the slamming fists, thrown bottles, and smashing glass. She shrinks her family to size and seats them around the laid table. Through the spy hole she sees them serving each other generous helpings—Mum sitting square and smiling; Dad asking with interest about her school day; her button-cute brother, bright and cheeky, making them laugh.
She used a mustard lid for a table and made chairs out of Dad’s beer tops, glued onto corks.
She covered the battered shoe box with magazine pictures of trees.
Inside she painted the sides—clean, pure, dazzling white.
In the Aftermath of a Supernova
I sit in the packed lecture hall, dizzy from crying, watching matter disintegrate till it’s just me and the professor. He says a neutron star is what’s left behind after a supernova. A shrunken, iron-filled heart of a once brilliant celestial body. A furious has-been, spinning violently in orbit around its partner star, stealing matter from it till it has the mass of three suns.
The professor pauses. He looks at the bruise on my forehead, an expanding universe of many shades of purple.
He says neutron stars become black holes eventually.
He says nobody gets out of that alive.
When I got out of the pool and toweled off, I noticed the tattoo on my bicep had shrunk. I have many tattoos, mostly of faded pinup girls, but this one is different: a brown and black heart branded with the name of my first dog, Miss Lacy. A beagle. We got her from the local dairy farm; I named her after my kindergarten teacher, who had a tender nature and soulful brown eyes.
I told myself it would grow back to its normal size over time, then warned my daughter not to dive so close to the shallow end.
Molly’s Memories of Her Shrinking Father
No more shoulder rides, you’re too big! Molly protesting, climbing up regardless, crushing Daddy’s tiny head, as he stumbled.
Daddy a thumbnail on a screen, in a desert, flinching at a gunshot, promising he’ll be home soon.
November 5th: Daddy back, altered, alien; his body curling, shrivelling on the sofa as fireworks crackled/pounded.
Dad leaving for his last Tour, receding up the street; Molly making a thumb-forefinger circle, peering through, capturing him as he shrunk to a dot.
The withered raisin in the casket, even smaller than she remembered. Molly wondering why, after seeing death, avoiding death, he chose death.
Tinder Encounters of the Fully Disclosed Kind
It’s our first date.
‘Show me yours and I’ll show you mine,’ she says.
I undress, unbuckle my artificial leg, expose the shrivelled stump. ‘Melanoma. Amputated,’ I explain. ‘Friends call me Stumpy.’
She whips off her top, then some well-adorned contraption, and proudly thrusts two shrunken moon craters at me. ‘Breast cancer,’ she says. ’My friends call me Lucky.’
For foreplay, I air-kiss her breast spaces while she strokes my missing leg, and we make love amid the buckles, stays and straps of our prosthetic detritus.
And just like that we become more than the sum of our missing parts.
You feel the swell,
life’s e x p l o s i o n.
wade – in – seas – of – unproductiveness.
You wipe windows, wipe away, whitewash walls repeatedly, whitewash walls repeatedly, recycle paper, so much paper, paper in every shape and form, formless, full, flowing, overflowing…
You make space,
fight for peace.
You echo in the hollow, noise replaced by nothingness.
You stare at life outside, within walls void of anything.
You read newspapers every day then wish you never had.
You long for sticky fingerprints, for small creative hands.
You feel the passing, feel life shrink.
Krishna was at the charity bazaar examining a tiny Limoges box adorned with grinning hippos, mildly annoyed at such infantilization of a dangerous predator, yet oddly aroused by smooth, sensuous porcelain against her skin, when she spied it. Her wedding dress, draped across a shopping basket shared by two teenage girls who were at that moment snickering at something on a cell phone screen. She’d had it cleaned, of course, before donating it, but the bloodstain across the bodice was indelible.
For a Halloween costume, she supposed. How perfect.
What the hell, she decided. She’d take the hippos.
What the Fisherman Knows About the Oceanographer
She has a blue whale tattooed on the pale skin of her thigh, a lionfish on her shoulder, two seahorses on her hip.
She cries over the melting ice, bleached coral reefs, and the orcas who are starving, their shrinking bellies lined only with toxins.
She hungers for cool, open water, the deep blue beneath her feet, the migratory life of a great white.
She is the waves, rolling, lifting, and frothing, a spring tide on a moonlit night. She is a rip current pulling him from the shore, a sunken wreck resting on the seabed, its treasure hiding within.
Once a baby tornado crossed our path, torn from its mother’s side. She was a beauty, funnelling her tower of humid air to the cumulous clouds, havoc in her wake. Ed and I burnt rubber in the chase, our instruments winking as she shrieked through Corona County. Her baby swirled beside us, a ten-foot, dancing dervish of air and mortal dust. Just a wind-devil spitting shreds of matter sucked from its mother’s maw. I watched it swell, then suddenly, it died. As if she sensed it, mother swayed. Her funnel lost its grip on ground and sky, her motion gone.
Words From a Time Traveller
I travelled back to a time of longhand, sealed with candlewax, then jumped forward to the penny post, waving as the mail coach thundered by. Another jump and the night-mail whistled in my excited ear on moonlit track, snatching bags of midnight mail.
Then I landed in a world of emails shouting ‘Hi’ and Facebook shrinking lives to minutes of banality and TikTok taking time and squeezing it to seconds of inanity.
Gradually, all books were skipped or burned, so I returned, clutching written evidence for future archaeologists, proving that, although quite mad, the human race was not totally insane
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