Sally was filled with fear. In the oppressive, quiet darkness, her heart flailed against her chest like a small bird beating its wings against the bars of its cage, desperate to escape. Although she tried to breathe deeply as she’d been told, her breath came in short bursts that rasped their way out of her dry throat.
She remembered her mother’s words: ‘Trust me, darling. Go towards the light. Grandma and Pop will be watching for you. Truly, they’ll be waiting to see you. Just go towards the light. You’ll be just fine.’
She remembered the tears and tremulous smile on her mother’s lips and the whispered ‘you are such a beautiful girl’. She remembered her father’s farewell, his strong arms holding her tenderly. She could still feel his lips kissing the top of her head. And now she was on her own – just waiting.
It was so sombre and silent. Even after all she had been through, all the preparation, Sally was no longer sure she was ready. She took a deep breath and was suddenly aware of an insistent hum forcing its way into her consciousness. She had been oblivious to the soft, orchestral music drifting through the background but now the volume increased until it surrounded her with an insistent, pulsing rhythm. Suddenly, with a fanfare of trumpets and clash of cymbals, the curtains swished apart and, looking like a million dollars, Sally sashayed down the catwalk towards the footlights.
Judy Evans 2011
Selection of the
Damian Mark Whittle
every roaring gust, he was hurled into a new clearing. He allowed
himself to be carried along by the winds, trusting to luck that they
would not crunch him into one of the angular trees. His hair streamed
back and forth, let and right, a white flame dancing above his head. He
drew his tattered green cloak tight round his scrawny body, keeping in
what little warmth he held. He hit the ground again, the impact making
his wobbling legs ache. He never fell, the attacking winds somehow
supporting him, too.
More than anything, he wanted to lie down beneath a blanket of leaves
and sleep. Just to stop. No chance of that. He was pushed from place to
place without end. An old man who could barely climb the stairs, dragged
through eternity and kept alive by some act of ruthless kindness.
Sometimes he walked quietly down gentle pathways. Other times, he
scurried the edges of nightmare landscapes of war and grief.
Occasionally, what he saw was simply unfathomable.
He knew that he was watched. Always, He had no idea if they did it for
pleasure or study. He sensed - without knowing how - that they were
recording his journey with words, pictures, sounds and other things he
didn't know the names for. Each reluctant step that he took was
significant to them.
He reached the end of the wood at last. Taking a deep breath, he brushed
the twigs from his hair and cloak.
Damian Mark Whittle 2011
Solomon G. was born on a snowy winter’s Monday morning. His parents, always in a hurry, took him to the church the next day, and the ice-cold droplets of water, sprinkled liberally from the christening font caused his little body to jump and his baby heart to skip. Throughout the service he trembled in the cold hands of the old vicar. He contracted pneumonia, and was a sickly child for all his formative years
He got married on a Wednesday so that he could have a full day’s combined holiday and honeymoon without taking too much time from his work. He was exhausted by the night’s exertions with his energetic young wife, and he was pale and ill the next day. His illness worsened on Friday, and by Saturday he was dead.
His family, still in a hurry, buried him on Sunday. The wake that night was a lot of fun; his widow got drunk and flirted with his workmates as they drank beer in front of a blazing fire.
Everyone agreed that Solomon G. would, for once have enjoyed himself, had he managed to be present.
Mike Morris 2011
selection of the
My friends and I are hurrying to get to the plane. We’re late. The three of us were called almost half an hour ago. It’s my first time and my heart is pounding. Everything is moving in slow motion. To make things worse, it’s a long haul flight, so it will be packed with passengers, waiting for us. Is this how people with a fear of flying are supposed to feel? I’m not scared of flying. I’ve flown lots of times, but that might change after today. This isn’t a holiday. This is work.
We’re almost there. I can barely see in front of me, the dying light of late afternoon lost several feet above us, the light from my headlamp fighting its way through the obscurity of depth. The rescue boat’s engine is now so faint, it has almost gone. My pulse is racing but I have to control my breathing. I’m holding on to a rope which is tied to my colleague in front of me. He turns, takes my wrist and guides my hand, placing it where I can feel and grip on to a large piece of metal. My eyes fix on wherever my lamp’s light lands, following the metal as I effortlessly pull myself along its length. It’s not immediately recognisable as the wing until I reach the propeller and then the body of the plane. Our lights bob back and forth with our head movements, coming to rest on a giant tear in the airliner’s side. I can where a row of seats ends, and the passengers, still fixed in position. Before I follow my colleagues inside, I glance over to a window, where I see a woman, very relaxed, staring in my direction. Not at me, just in my direction, her long hair floating around her face. The passengers are waiting. It’s time to get them out.
Andrew Newall 2011
Mud squelched beneath his feet and wriggled its way determinedly towards the top of his boots. Wrinkling his long nose in disgust at the foul smells emanating from the ground, Valdemar climbed onto a huge boulder to escape the mire. One hand hooked into his belt, the other gripping his sword hilt, he paused to take stock of his surroundings.
To his left, the village of Maldon was just visible through a dense grove of silver birch, and in a small dip near the copse Alrik and Moldof fought back to back against five Saxon warriors. From the summit of the hill to his right, Skap’s group descended like Thor’s hammer to aid the beleaguered pair.
It began to rain. Valdemar swore aloud. His eye patch seemed adept at gathering grit and his head sweated beneath his metal helmet. His arm ached from wielding his sword and his stomach hurt from lack of sustenance. He thought fondly of hot stew, warm, crusty bread and cool ale.
Gudrun might call him a coward, but he’d had enough. Scratching furiously at his beard, he stomped off in search of the nearest hostelry. It was definitely not for him, this re-enactment lark.
Sue Hoffmann 2011
“Remember, clutch down as you turn the key,” I say. It’s the hottest day of the year, and three months since my brother last drank. I glance in the rear view mirror and see nothing approaching except the swollen sky.“Can we leave this until tomorrow?” he asks, iodine fingertips tapping the steering wheel as keys jangle in the ignition. Three months ago our mother sang lullabies too fast, rocking his limp body as sirens hoarded the air.
“No,” I want to tell him, “no,” as a butterfly lands on the windscreen. My brother watches. His eyes are broken corks pulled from spoiled earth beneath forgotten wood. The butterfly is scrambling to steady itself on its glassy slope.
“Let’s just wait here a few minutes,” I say instead, “and see how you feel.”
A gust of wind yanks the butterfly away, and then summer hail bursts, surprising us both. It tears leaves from the trees around us. It probably tore butterfly wings.
Jamie Hershing 2011
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