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 27th February 2023. Results will be announced on 28th. Good luck everyone!
Going Round In Circles
Royal Albert Hall.
Our eyes meet over intermission drinks. I ask if you’re enjoying Mahler.
I surprise you in the library, take you to the pub. My jokes make your cheeks dimple. Kissing on the riverbank, you taste of gin.
My dome tent.
Our first time. Exhausted from hiking, it’s clumsy, hurried. We cuddle in my sleeping bag, listening to owls, ignoring the wet patch.
The hotel jacuzzi.
On our only holiday: our last kiss.
Before you tell me about him.
Dancing wildly, our hips collide. I ask if she’s enjoying Elton.
She’s never been camping.
The Spiral Game
You stand in the middle as they march around you, chanting. Between your fingers there’s a swirl of skinned knees, ankle socks, pink jelly sandals stomping on concrete.
They spin you. Staggering, you wait for black spots in your eyes. A headrush. Maybe tears.
Some girls had fainted, others claimed they saw the devil himself. But whenever it’s your turn, you feel nothing.
You choke and buckle, fall backwards into arms and a flurry of questions. For a moment, you’re the centre of everything.
The bell sends you scuttling back to class. Tomorrow you’ll try again, hoping to be possessed.
What A Difference A Week Makes
You can’t. The trains are on strike.
Your legs are in plaster.
I’ve got my wheelchair.
Have you seen the snow drifts?
It’s not working.
Your wheelchair? You had it fixed…
Give it a chance. It’s only been…
Remember when we first met?
How could I forget?
It feels like yesterday.
It was yesterday.
True, but… you know what I mean.
Watch where you’re going.
I said I’m…
Don’t be sorry. Be careful.
It’s not working.
The wheelchair. There is no us yet.
The Lost Art Of Line Marking
Jim can name every road he’s put his mark on, if you buy him a pint. Technical terms trip off his tongue. He’ll tell you about surface friction, reflectivity, thermoplastics. It’s art, he says, and science, maybe even magic.
The day Jim gets his marching orders you buy him a whiskey chaser. He says he’s been painting in circles, arriving back where he started, with nothing to show for it.
The next morning, there’s a goodbye message on the tarmac, and his high-viz jacket neatly folded inside six perfect hoops. You hope he’s still working his magic, wherever he’s gone.
My Dad Died One Hundred Times
My dad died ninety-nine times, and he always came back. I liked to imagine, each time, that he was renewing. But each time he died, less of him came back.
Helping him with his shoes – death. Spooning soup into his mouth – death. Catching him in the corridor with no trousers on – death. Cleaning up his piss – death. Every time he forgot my name – excruciating death.
When one hundred came I knew he wasn’t coming back, but I held his hand, kissed him goodbye. Maybe in some magical place we will never see, he will begin again, but this time whole.
She’s Counting on Leaving
One hundred metres to the bus stop, three hundred pennies in a see-through purse, one livid sky threatening to unload, ten reasons not to run, two crows brooding in gossip’s gloves, three tumbling tower blocks keeping watch with crushing disdain.
Between then and now, an endless ochre spiral by an urban artist unknown- gathering the trash bags of the flirty, one girl from the council estate, one chipped, chewed nail, one chance to get out, one inherited mistake.
She folds the poem into the shape of a blameless child, pulls at its sticky hand with impatience and crosses the square.
Alternative Point of View
At playtime on the first day of a new term most girls from her class went straight to the freshly painted hopscotch, but not Shelley, she followed the path of the new yellow spiral. Each time she reached the centre she did an elaborate twirl, walked directly back to the beginning, and started again. There was a rhythm to each step like a silent dance. Miss Buckle stared out the first-floor window noisily stirring the spoon in her coffee. From this angle the markings resembled a vinyl record. Shelley was the needle in the groove picking up an unheard melody.
An Andalucía Widow
Late September, amidst a precipitation of gold and russet leaves, he’d passed away.
She mourned the regulation seven years, sweeping her home of memories, whilst each month unborn children shrivelled in her womb.
The new bridegroom arrived one spring morning, sun filtering through the smattering of light green foliage, his face reflecting anticipation.
Outside the day is apple blossom bright as she fights a fog of apprehension; a spider’s web of trepidation tightening, pulling delicate, sensitive strands into rigid filaments. A tentative knock, an anxious smile, her father offers his arm as they walk towards the singing church bells.
What Happens When You Peel An Onion
My outer shell disintegrates at your touch, to flake across the floor.
Exposed veins of pearl white map our soiled history.
Layer by layer you un-peel me… you’re embarrassing… you laugh too loudly… you were flirting again…
Your words cut. The tears begin.
Concentric circles of us… round and round we go.
But today we get to the heart of it all.
It pulses with its own roots… a seed… poisonous and elongated. A kernel of truth wrapped in bitter skins.
You react to me, but now it is me who has become intolerant.
…I hope I leave an aftertaste.
The Education Of Miriam Purdy
Miriam slammed her front door in the hedge-witch’s face so all summer a concentric pollen curse glowed on her path. The wildflower verges thrummed with bees but Miriam’s plants drooped, silent. Even brambles failed to fruit in her garden. On the first day of winter Miriam slammed her door again and followed cadmium scent trails into the bare woods.
‘I’ve come to learn another way,’ she told the hedge-witch.
‘Are you sure?’
Miriam nodded. The witch opened her mouth. A blanket of bees swarmed from her throat, wild and dark, and settled on Miriam.
And so began the first lesson.
Please vote using the form below. If you have any problems with the form, you can also vote via this link: https://form.responster.com/evWRkZ