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 24th October 2022. Results will be announced on Tuesday 25th. Good luck everyone! The prompt this month was ‘warning’
Warning: Do Not Approach 1989
Because that’s when you were sent home early from school with period pains and caught Dad in bed with Aunty Sharon, then told Mum, so she kicked him out and you never saw him again because you opened your big mouth, toppling this family like the Berlin Wall, at least that’s what your brother Stevie said, and now your daughter wants to know what happened to Grandad, why Uncle Stevie never visits, why Grandma never says nice words, even though you’re dying, so you keep it inside, hold on to today, because that way you can breathe a little longer.
No one knew where the hole came from. There it was without a by-your-leave as if a giant tree had been uprooted. ‘Come on down,’ said a man in a hi-vis vest to dog-walkers peering over the edge. ‘Join the fun!’ Each day the hole got bigger as the subterranean party grew. True, the darkness lent their moral high ground an unexpected hue, but all were far too busy congratulating themselves to notice.
Strolling past the media hubbub, Billy Singleman watched journalists join those waiting to jump. Not unlike lemmings, he thought, trampling a new path through the long grass.
Delilah licks the foam from her Bee Sting Latte, savoring the lavender honey syrup, daydreaming about the hunky barista’s tongue tunneling for nectar between her sticky lips. She should be in school but who can resist when the day is fine, cute boys buzzing everywhere.
Seduced by the scent of lavender, a bumblebee flies out of the honeysuckle, lands on Delilah’s lips.
The barista opens the door, eyes searching, something aglitter in his fingertips.
She is already in shock when the ambulance arrives, the barista handing over her medical bracelet, the bee sipping from her latte pooling on the ground.
The Lost Art Of Origami
They wait as he folds the letter into four. He carefully lines up the horizontal edges and creates a centre crease using his thumbnail. He does the same vertically until he has a perfect rectangle which he puts into his jacket pocket.
His manager sighs. ‘This is the final warning, Paul. Meet the targets and stop daydreaming.’
At lunchtime, he heads to the lake. There he unfolds and smoothes the paper, considers his options. He bends and pleats, creases and crimps, tucks and wraps. He places the tiny fragile swan onto the water, watches it float away, braving the waves.
You Are The Duchess of Argyll
Fall down a lift shaft but survive. Underneath your furs and cosmetics, you’re a thing of steel and stitches.
Marry Ian, Duke of Argyll. His first wife, powdering her nose in the cloakroom, warns he’ll take all your money then divorce you.
Project-manage the restoration of Ian’s dream castle Inveraray, lavishing cash on it.
He and his daughter break into your London house and grab your diary. They motor off in the rain, leaving you rat-tailed, screaming.
Speaking for three hours, the judge calls you immoral and promiscuous. Ian’s lizard stare. His boys in the public gallery. All men’s eyes.
There Was An Angry Hornet On The Dashboard
The light warned of something. But what, she couldn’t tell.
‘Look in the bloody manual, woman.’ Donald spat.
But the symbol wasn’t there.
The light remained yet the engine seemed fine. Until the dashboard started buzzing.
‘Maybe it’s something silly.’
‘No doubt,’ he replied. ‘Daft. Like You.’
Next, the car hummed. The irate wasp flickered and spat; the steering wheel sparking.
‘You can’t bloody drive it.’
But she did. She stroked the pedals, rocked with the chassis and drove until his words faded away. Far away.
And the light on the dashboard winked, once more, then flicked back to black.
How To Ignore A Warning
Whales heard it first, echoes beneath the waves. A call they’d never heard before.
Sea bed and sands shivered at the strange vibration.
Hills sensed shudders beneath them. Stalactites trembled within caverns. Glaciers slipped; melt-water like tears. Magma flowed from the core, pulsing upwards through Earth’s crust.
Trees perceived reverberations on passing breezes, turning leaves to rust. Autumn arrived early. Winds blew harder, the wailing alarm wound within their altering paths. Seasons merged.
Bees became disorientated, were unable to navigate. Harvests failed.
Finally, quakes shattered, volcanoes overflowed, flooding covered Earth. Humans screamed as the World disintegrated, “There was no warning!”
When A Magpie Pecks At Your Window
One, two, three.
I fob off the magpie, flicking a tea-towel. Seth’s ‘Best husband’ mug falls from the table, breaking in two. My finger bleeds on a sharp edge.
Four, five, six.
Seth is late, the tapping makes me shiver. He’ll walk in, slouch on the sofa, demanding food before he showers to go out, smelling like a gigolo on heat. I don’t need beer apparently, nor wine.
Seven, eight, nine.
Two solemn uniformed officers on the doorstep. He was the most darling of husbands, the love of my life. I’ll cry when required, then go out when I want.
Crossing The Line
We’re playing fetch by the railway line. I should know better.
I lob Mozart’s ball recklessly. It bounces across the tracks towards the station. He freezes, sniffing. I laugh at his confusion, forgetting the danger.
Until I hear the train.
As the locomotive rumbles into view, his tail rises.
I yell. But too late.
As the fender hits him, time slows.
The train derails, ploughing through the platform. Pedestrians go flying. Nearby cars are upended.
There’s yelping, screaming. I gape in horror.
Incredibly, Mozart staggers on, sniffing debris, relentlessly searching for his ball.
“Bad dog! You’ve wrecked my train set.”
Whispers Of Windfalls
Our first crop of apples, blood red and shiny, fell together on one windless day. Dropping to earth in a careful, thudding sequence, only stopping when we caressed them, slipped them in our pockets and carried them away.
In the kitchen we remarked on their roundness, storybook colour and fairytale shine.
Then we cleaved them in two and found pips curled into symbols. A name, then a date, words trapped, held there in time. Passed between us, in huddles and whispers.
While Dad, pale and shaking, dug in the orchard. Every cut overseen by the boughs of the trees .
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