Many congratulations to our shortlisted writers! Vote for your favourite below to win the People’s Prize and our reading team are busy choosing their winners. Voting is open until 23.59 GMT on Monday 27th November. The prompt was FAIR.
If your story is listed below, please don’t tell anyone which is yours as all reading and voting must remain anonymous!
Eve and Adam, 1955
There was a bonfire but instead of Guy, they torched an effigy of you. My mother’s hot dog lips fixed in a grimace as your straw goatee fizz crackled. The Waltzer churned my stomach; I vomited apologies into the grass.
When they ran you out of town, they thanked the Almighty for my release, as if God could ever take me Ferris wheel high.
You were the devil’s own, pinking my cheeks until I was spun to candy floss. They hollered good riddance to flames as you burned. I licked my lips, longing for that toffee crunch of the apple.
Watching the passing plane, Sarah pondered whether the turbulence on their honeymoon flight had been an omen.
A passing unicorn, dipped in front of her, as if mocking the trajectory of her marriage. Had ‘I do’ become ‘I’m done’?
She waved as her children passed by, then looked over at her husband, back turned, engrossed in his mobile. Maybe his secret mobile, she’d discovered last week.
Looking back at the children, she smiled as their horse and racing car began slowing down on the carousel.
Was her marriage going round in circles as the attraction was coming to an end?
Her skin is delicate like tissue paper: sinew and wrist bone, her insides wrapped tight like they’re
trying to be her outsides. She’s white but not like heavy cream, more like a hemophiliac — she
exudes translucence. I want to hug her.
Gentle, I remind myself, floating toward the doorway.
In my arms, she is sand, spilled across the floor, which is to say I feel myself losing time through
cracks in the hardwood. It’s so late the night suggests first light and I’m struck because I miss my
mother, my grandmother, my sister, the gnarled oak roots in Northeast Ohio.
My Sister’s Life Was Nothing Like A Rollercoaster
The sensation seeking life was not for Louise, the adrenaline adventure, the racing heart, the dizzying heights, the freefall plunge, anticipation, fear, the exhilaration of those moments left hanging upside down.
The dodgems, though, she could relate to. Day following day, zooming around the same small circle, going nowhere, fast, the bumps, the shunts, the occasional pile-up, the knowledge that someone else’s finger flicked the switch that controlled it all.
Hook a duck is more her thing now. Placidly paddling, you’d struggle to pick her out from the crowd. Sunshine yellow on the surface, only she knows the scars inside.
Not a fair deal
A lion would have been his preferred option. An ‘aslanic’ after-life would have reflected his majestic demeanour, and the many sacrifices accomplished for Helen. A falcon would have been acceptable. Spreading his powerful wings and scanning the earth with his laser eyes, hunting for tasty creatures, would have provided him with much pleasure. He would have agreed to be a dog. Not any dog, but a husky or a German shepherd, he would have embodied. So, when he found himself, hours after his heart stopped, croaking at Helen’s door, he felt that a blatant mismanagement of his demise had occurred.
They called him Em.
He was five, and knew only the crumbling walls in the facility. When a green van came for him early in
the morning, only six were left. He didn’t bother to wake the other kids sleeping in concrete cages.
Voices guided him in the van.
The new room was white, and his ‘parents’ were many.
“Em, come in”, the first voice welcoming him was a mix of metals clanging.
“Fair chance, Em. Survive”, another voice said, in a turbine whirr.
He grew up among them, M for man.
The others were terminated, he heard, tears frozen.
The Ages at Which Her Faith in Justice Will Transform into a Plaintive Wish for Good Luck
Watching her father’s shrug, his creeping smile, as he checkmates her again.
‘Fair win,’ he says. ‘Do better next time.’
Standing at the student bar with her boyfriend, his hand edging up her skirt as he drains pints.
‘Just my fair share,’ he winks. ‘Wear lace next time.’
Leaking breastmilk and tears in the meeting room, while her colleague announces his promotion.
‘Fair’s fair,’ he whispers. ‘Show up next time.’
Comforting her weeping teenage daughter, who should be safe at school, but wasn’t.
‘It’s not fair,’ she says.
Hoping that there won’t be a next time.
The Community Court of Justice and Reparation Believes Experiential Learning is the Key to Rehabilitation
Clouds gather as the thump of an aubergine calls court to order. A beaming Judge hands her gavel, Habanero chillies, garlic, tomatoes, and a recipe to the beanpole teenager convicted of stealing. His sentence to nourish his family with a delicious eggplant stew.
Defendant two: a cruel Home Secretary, charged with immorality is brought to the dock in daisy chains.
‘You’d criminalise rough sleepers for living in tents?’ The judge accuses, giving the defendant a cold, hard stare and bashing the bench with a tent peg gavel to show the gravity of the crime.
Rain lashes the courthouse. The Home Secretary trembles.
The Fair Witch
Though she doesn’t wear a black pointy hat and is fairer of face than most storybook hags, the boy suspects her a witch. To reach her he must suffer the glassy-eyed stare of monstrous gilded horses. A pipe-organ bellows out a manic tune, engines roar, the ground shakes. He crosses her palm with silver as she stands behind her thrumming cauldron. Gossamer ghosts are created from thin air and wrapped around her wooden wand. He watches, mesmerised, until she thrusts the magical rose-tinted cloud into his grubby fist. He thanks the witch of the funfair and devours his sugary marvel.
These are all the things I think when my sister tells me she’s pregnant
That she is Sunday’s child, and I am Wednesday’s. That she glides through life with the grace of a swan. That I am the swan’s feet desperately flapping beneath. That I despise the fullness of her, the flatness of me. That it’s my fault my womb is a burst balloon. That it was she who accompanied me to the clinic when I was barely sixteen. That it was she who held my hand as the doctor said complication, infection, scarring.
That she is offering me the chance to love the nearest thing I will ever have to my own child.
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