As a bit of fun, the UK Kindle forum on Goodreads, to which I belong, ran a 200 word short story comp in February 2017, where a certain line had to be included. I managed to come up with an idea that would make use of the line, and was a joint winner with four other people. Not a huge number of votes for any of us, but it was nice to get some votes of confidence let alone ‘win’.
The story follows:
I don’t know when our rivalry began, but by the time we joined the skydiving club, it was well established. They called us the Obstinate Squad. Whatever one did, the other went higher, riskier.
I’d waited weeks. Mr Perfect’s new motor provided my chance as everyone thronged outside. I hung back saying I needed the loo, buying me two minutes alone with his gear. Then I joined the admirers of the lovely sleek crimson lines. His gaze caught mine, a satisfied weasel smirking behind his eyes. I lost sight of him as we discussed the impending drop and I fought back the laugh of pure joy that threatened to bubble up my throat. Mustn’t seem too happy.
I let him go ahead, of course. He looked back, smiled, then leapt out into the plane’s slipstream. How I would have loved to see his face when he discovered what I’d done.
I followed, spreading my arms and legs to the air, my gleeful scream lost behind me. It was only when I pulled free the ripcord on my main parachute that I understood his final smile. Gasping, I grabbed the reserve cord –
– and that’s when it came off in my hand.
In case anyone wants to know, that last line was the one that had to be included.
The group subsequently ran another competition at the end of March/beginning of April in which five words had to be included, as follows:
TO MANIFEST (or manifesting, manifested etc – use the verb in whatever tense, mood or voice you desire)
Here’s my effort – didn’t win this time, but it was still fun.
Marie’s needle stuttered against the thimble. She tutted, then slipped it through the material and drew the thread after it. She glanced at the clock. Where was the dratted man? She put down her mending. No good: she couldn’t concentrate.
In the kitchen, she filled the kettle and switched it on. As it boiled, she looked out of the window at spring flowers bending beneath the March wind. Funny; he’d been a bit odd lately. Skittish, you might say. Like a lamb finding its feet.
Her ears caught a whisper of sound, as if the front door was opening stealthily. She stalked back into the lounge and stood, her arms folded. If this was a waiting game, two could play it.
The clock ticked on. In the kitchen, the kettle clicked off. Exasperated, she pulled open the door to the hall. It was empty and the front door was closed, sunlight streaming through its glass panes. So, he hadn’t manifested, after all.
It was only as she turned that she saw the looming figure on the stairs just above. And a flash of sunlight as the blade descended.
SFF Chronicles Forum Challenges
In 2016 I produced a few short-shorts for the SFF Chronicles forum, in the 75 word and 300 word challenges. Each month, for the 75 word challenge, a theme and a subject are set, so entrants must produce a story to the brief, within the appropriate word count: any story that goes over the limit is removed by the Moderators. The forum members then vote for their favourites and the winner sets the next month’s challenge.
A similar process is followed for the 300 word challenge, except that these are held every three months.
Once voting was complete, I was at liberty to post my entries here. I’m not doing them at present as I’ve been busy, though I did find time for a similar Goodreads competition (above).
75 Word Challenges
January 2016 – Theme: Hair; Genre: Weird Western
A Bad Hair Day
Deputy Dawg scratched his head. The prairie had turned brown, c’ept it wasn’t on account of the grass dying. No siree, it was covered in a layer of short brown hair. He rubbed some between his fingers. “Coarse,” he observed, then pricked an ear. What was that low drumming? The ground shook beneath his boots.
He turned, just before a wave of newly moulted mutant gophers stampeded him into the ground.
February 2016 – Theme: The Things You Don’t See; Genre: Horror
The Lurkers from Beyond
They don’t see us.
We are the breath of cold on their necks; the caress of soft stealing air brushing their heads in the hallway.
We are the hidden.
The between-the-cracks bide-a-wees: lingering lost ones with hushed voices that scrape their nerves.
No, they don’t see us.
But they will feel us. Soon.
March 2016 – Theme: New Worlds; Genre: Space Fantasy
Skin of the living ship radiates pearl, sapphire, indigo.
Mind speaks to mind. Follow.
The Old One, last enemy, jinks sideways through the vortex.
The ship speeds after. Inside, the beings with strange eyes hold apart, keeping mutual hostility caged.
Surely this is the last? With this kill, the war will be over.
Slow into normal space. Planet ahead. Their prey burns through atmosphere.
Justice evaded? Or their long wait begins?
300 Word Challenges
February 2016 – Theme: story based on beach image.
Fins writhe, break surface, slippery. Hands grab, hold. Bash against rock. Teeth sink, tear. Warm, wet. Stings broken lip-skin. Chew. Soft, salt, good. Eat. Lick fingers. Belly no-gnaw self now.
Look up. Shade eyes. Light slashes air. On water, shifting. Nothing there. No danger. Look along sand. Dark splashes. Not-good-smell. Something happened. Something –
No, don’t think. Don’t.
Sun falls to water. Shadows across sand. Air cools. Go to cave. Hide.
Move deeper. Red light in rock mouth. Gone. Dark all round. Lie in hollow. Wriggle. Must sleep. Eyelids closing …
Uh! What is it? What? Bright stab. Strikes across stones. Reaches. Reaches for feet. Pull them back. Noise! Hands over ears. Don’t listen. Lies! Tricks!
Shape against light. Two-legs, like others. Second one. Light in hands. Hurts eyes. Moving.
Stones scramble. Forms loom. Rock at back. Trapped. Need sharp. Hands hold. Can’t get it.
Words. Noise is words.
“Keep him still.”
Hissing against shoulder. Sleepy. Everything going away.
Light jabs eyes. Blink. White. Where? No sky, just white.
“Don’t worry. You’re safe.”
Flinch. Dark face looms. No hair. No mouth. Blue covering around head? Across mouth, too. Woman? Word should mean something.
“He’s awake, doctor.”
Turn head, see man. In blue. He speaks.
“As the psychotic effect of the atmosphere wears off …”
Struggle to shape mouth; make tongue work. “Where?”
Woman. “You’re on the starliner Turnbull. Rest now.” Looks round at man.
Move hand to thigh, while she won’t see.
“Keep him sedated, nurse. And clean him up.”
“Are the effects permanent?”
Man shakes head. “Too early to tell. But he’s the only survivor. Damn bad luck to crash there.”
Pull out sharp from side – pocket? Quick. Did plenty good work before.
Will have to do it again.
100 Word Challenges
These challenges are anonymous on SFFC, posted by whoever agrees to host each comp. The identities of the writers are revealed only when the judging is complete. I may occasionally enter one or two of these, depending on the set theme.
March 2016 – Theme: Gold; Genre: Fantasy
Spinning a Yarn
“Why do I have to spin this flax? In a story, it’d turn itself to gold.” Mary threw down the spindle. But Mother wanted it done for Tuesday market, so she would have to sit ruining her eyes by firelight. She picked it up and carried on.
At last she nodded off. When she awoke, an unexpected weight in her lap glistened in the firelight.
“Oh, goodness! It really is gold. We’re rich!”
She jumped up and flung open the door. Daylight from the kitchen window reached the nugget in her hand. It sagged, transformed into yarn again.