Excellence in Short Fiction 2013 (Short Story Competition) Final Run-Off

27/05/2013 17:35

Here are the four stories that have been selected for the final run-off. Since you liked both short stories on Day Three the same, we decided to include both of them in the final run-off. Vote for the one you like best! The voting will close on Tuesday, May 28, at 8 p.m.

Final Fiction 1

Farewell

I walked around the house.

The rooms were quiet. I smelled wood and fresh laundry and a faint whiff of perfume, barely a trace, a hint of lavender in the air. I took my time walking up the stairs. Every third step, I closed my eyes and leaned against the wood panel wall and listened. That’s how I knew he was down in the kitchen brewing tea. Again. Brewing tea was all he ever did these days. I think he wanted to take care of me, but didn’t quite know how.

It had started to rain by the time I reached the bedroom. The drops were so small they looked like fine mist from where I was standing. The battered swing in the garden pranced about in the wind. I wanted to take a closer look, but the window was on the other end of the room. I tried to move one leg forward, but it rebelled, and I was stuck, me and the pain, familiar by now, the burn spreading throughout my body like vicious sunlight. I sat on the edge of the bed. My head was throbbing and I wanted to scream, scream so loud the window would explode into a rain of its own, but I never do, so I kept silent. The pain yammered on and kept eating my body from within.

The bedroom door opened, and there he was, a teapot in his hand. A pale, clueless spirit of fire with red hair and a crooked half-smile, but I could scarcely remember him, and he never smiled any more.

He sat in my favourite brown chair in the corner, and gave me a sad look. The steam from the teapot smelled like sugar and strawberries.

I had no taste for food or drink since we returned from the hospital. I turned away and gagged. I had not felt myself for a lot of days.

“How does it feel?“ he asked.

I lifted my eyes and looked at him. I didn’t know what he saw in my gaze, but he went a little bit pale.

“It hurts,“ I said. “Inside.“

“You’re a good man,“ he told me. “I’m sorry.“ He bowed his head. He was crying, but didn’t want me to see.

“At least you are better now,“ I said bitterly.

“I do feel better,“ he agreed. But he didn’t stop crying. We had spent years together. My whole life had begun with him, and now my whole life would end with him. Things like that wouldn’t just go away.

“What will you do after I die out completely?“ I asked.

“I’ll... learn to live like a whole person, I guess.“ The tears had turned his narrow face blotchy. It blended with his hair. I wanted to smirk and say so, but forgot the quip in the next moment. My mind was going now, too; we didn’t have much time left together.

I was afraid. Of death, of pain, of the slow fade into nothingness that I couldn’t escape, of losing him, of losing myself, of losing the only life I had, and yet it hadn’t been mine in the first place. But I’d always been the brave one, so I tried not to show fear as I watched him open the plastic bottle, even though they’d taught him how to be brave on his own now, and he didn’t need me any longer.

“You’ll be lonely,” I said, and hoped my voice wouldn’t waver. “Who’ll protect you if I die? There’s never been only one of you before.”

But I could see he wasn’t listening. They’d made him much better at ignoring me in the hospital.

Cold shivers ran down my spine. „Don’t,“ I whispered.

He didn’t look me in the eyes as he ate his Thorazine, and made the darkness come for me.

 

Final Fiction 2

Suddenly

In the Saturday morning, she was sitting at a sidewalk cafe and having lunch. Going to café was unusual for her. She needed to relax for some reason. Her name is Maria. She graduated university last year and moved to the city to work. One year had passed since she came here. She was getting use to her job, living alone and the life in the city, so she started to take Yoga lesson every Saturday afternoon.

“Today’s plan: Relaxing at café and later yoga! Perfect!”

However she didn’t know that one more special thing would happen to her...

“Excuse me? Isn’t it yours?” A man said and gave a keychain to her.

“Yes, it’s mine. I don’t know when I dropped. Thank you so much.”  Maria answered.

“You went Paris?”

“Yes, it was “Girls trip”. I bought it as a amulet not to come there again with same members.” She was still trying to fix Eiffel tower keychain.

“Why?? You don’t like that member? You didn’t enjoy??” His small round eyes become bigger.

“Hey, don’t be serious! Of course I like that girls, but I mean, it’s better to come to Paris with somebody special...hahaha” She laughed bashfully.

She had been acting such things superstitiously for good luck. Last night, she had just thrown all the things from her ex boy friend.

“Oh, I see…sorry I didn’t get it…haha…I believe everything I heard usually, so…I I often can’t get jokes as well…so my colleague always say I’m a boring person…So.sorry I talk too much I think, oh It seems to be crowded in this café. There is no seat, hahaha.” He said.

“You can sit here if you don’t mind.” She suggest because she was using a table for 4 people alone and she was sure he was nice person. Height, weigh and face… all of them is a little bit less than average….

“That’s really kind of you.” He smiled

…But he had a good smile

It was awkward at the beginning, but she could enjoy the conversation with him after he continuously talked to her. He is a one of stammer man but she was getting interested in him because he had exactly the same taste as her. When he talked about his favorite movie, author, food, and music she could definitely agree with him. Under the hard sunlight, yellowish green leaves came to her with breeze. She felt presentiment of romance. Spring had come to her. She clasped the Keychain he passed her. It seemed glass slippers to her on this day. Princess needed help recently because there were strange things happened to her. For example she got nuisance phone call many times at night, sometimes her mails were disappeared from mail box, only her garbage bag in the garbage area in her apartment was opened, and so on. She dreaded it so the reliable prince who can fight for her was needed.

She started to image the future with him. In her mind, she was dating in cinema, park and zoo.

“I met him suddenly. -It must be destiny!”

He was not handsome but this sweet situation made her wear the pink glasses.

Especially in spring, every girl wants to find somebody. The topic that she wants to talk first to her yoga-friends was made…

“I have to go because I have to prepare for the event tonight” He woke her up.

“Thank you for offering a seat, I enjoyed talking as well, so it’s on me” He took his wallet from the bag.

“Oh, thank you so much, so next time let me…..” She gave a gasp…

There was a one thing that she found…”----I know this wallet----“

It must not be the same wallet as his, because he had the wallet she gave his ex boy friend for his birthday and it was tailor-made.

 “Oh..Ok! I have to go as well!!” She prepared to leave quickly.

“Yoga class??” He grinned.

She was sure that she didn’t tell him about it because she told him that she was going to take ballet lesson to make her image better.

Her pink glasses were broken and her face turned blue because the one thing came into her mind…

“I will call you later Maria”

 There was only a broken Eiffel tower that had been felled on the table in the café.


 
Final Fiction 3
 

A hug, please.

Boredom is what characterizes Mary and Fred’s marriage. Love faded, passion said its farewell long ago, even respect was on its way out. Today was their 17th wedding anniversary, the only reminder being a Post-it note on the fridge. Flowers, dinner, good night. A duty. All the same for the past years.

Fred glanced at his watch. He rolled his eyes and drummed his fingers impatiently on the armrest of his chair. “Jesus Christ, Mary, get a move on!” he yelled in the direction of the bedroom.

“I’m coming. I’m coming,” came the feeble answer. Mary sighed. Even such a special day sank into the dull frame. She checked her reflection in the mirror and shrugged. “Well, it’s not like he’d notice…”

Five minutes later they were sitting in the car in silence, speeding towards the restaurant. Their favourite restaurant. Every year, for the last sixteen years…

The familiar waiter seated them, brought the menu, and some nuts. Just to keep himself occupied, Fred flicked through the menu despite knowing what he’d order. “No point in starting a conversation,” he thought. He gave Mary the once-over. “Not with her anyway.”

“Excuse me, may I take your order?”

“I’d have the beefsteak, medium well, with chips,” Fred spoke up.

“Very well. And you, madam?”

“I…ehm…I, well…” Mary’s voice trailed off.

“Now, Mary, come on,” Fred grumbled.

Mary was quickly running her eyes up and down the pages. She knew what she wanted but this type of menu failed to provide it. 

“That’s alright. I can come back. Can I offer something to drink in the meantime?”

“A beer,” Fred was quick to reply. Then he hesitated as if why they were there occurred to him for the first time. “No, wait! Make that two glasses of red wine.” Fred’s romantic self stirred somewhere deep down but fell asleep an instant later. 

 “Thanks for the wine.” The polite smile she tossed him didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“Yeah, sure,” he waved her off. “But what do you want? This kind gentleman here is waiting…” he urged her.

“Well, that’s his job, isn’t it…?” Mary thought.

“No worries, I’ll come back in a while.”

“No, my wife surely knows what she wants, right, Mary?” Fred grunted, his leg bouncing under the table. He could never bear her indecisiveness.

“Ehm, yes. I’d like the chicken cutlet…”

The waiter was writing it down.

“No, wait. Maybe I’d rather have the pork chop?”

Fred gritted his teeth. “Is she doing this on purpose?!”

“…with rice…” Mary thought aloud.

“If you’ll excuse me, I’ll be right back with the wine.”

“No!” Fred barked, boiling with anger now. “Order. A. Damn. Meal.”

Mary took a deep breath and put down the menu. “Alright.”

 “Yes?”

She sat up straight and crossed her arms over her chest. “Hmm…I’ll take…” She took her time. Fred’s nostrils were widened, his lips pressed together.

“I’d like a hug, please.”

“What the...?!” Fred was absolutely baffled.

The waiter smiled to himself and played along. “Excellent choice, madam. With a touch of kindness and appreciation, maybe?”

“Yeah, sure. And for dessert I’d like a compliment…and a bit of patience on the side for my husband.”

The waiter grinned and nodded and off he was, certain he had never had such a bizarre order.

“And a bit of brains…” Fred mumbled. “So embarrassing…” he shook his head and glanced around the restaurant to make sure nobody was listening.

Mary had finally reached a decision, ridding herself of the heavy chains that had been dragging her down for so long. “You see, I finally know what I really want,” Mary held her head high feeling the excitement rolling in. 

“You don’t say. Actual food?” Fred smirked.

“No,” she smiled proudly. Fred made a face clearly annoyed.

“A divorce.” With those two in-your-face words, she slammed her hands down on the table, stood up, waved the pleasant waiter goodbye, and walked away with a spring in her step. She didn’t look back.

 

Final Fiction 4

The Encounter

A swift jump got him onto the metro train in the very last second right through the closing doors. People stared at him and moved out of his way, until he found a nice spot to stand. He was panting like a dog all the while.

When he finally caught his breath, he took a look around. Day after day he got on the metro at the same time and travelled to the fifth station, so he was hoping to see something that would break the routine. Often it would be someone in a colourful costume or with an unusual pet or a group of people celebrating one thing or another. Today he was especially lucky, today there was Her.

After whole day spent among the peacocks in his work, she was like a breath of fresh air. She was sitting three rows in front of him, eyes pinned into a book, it seemed like she didn't even notice his dynamic entrance. She was about his age or maybe slightly younger. Her copper coloured hair was falling in long unruly curls almost to the middle of her back. Her skin was almost white, and her small nose was covered with hundreds of adorable freckles. Something in the book had put a smile on her face, that was one of the cunning sort and made him wonder what was going in her mind. Her clothes were simple, just blue jeans and a plain green t-shirt, although it did nothing to harm her beauty, quite the opposite, for him it made her even more remarkable.

"Dude, you realize that you're staring?" the voice in his head warned him. He turned his eyes to the blackness behind the window.

            The train stopped, people got in and out. Luckily no one got between them, so he could steal a glance at her from time to time.

"And now you are acting like a creep, job well done," the voice said. He desperately tried to focus on something else, but he failed to find anything of use, so he returned his gaze to the window.

"Try looking more inconspicuous," the voice recommended.

"But how?" he asked.

"You could act like you are thinking."

"Of course! Except, I have no idea what I look like when I'm thinking!" he answered.

Another station derailed his train of thoughts.

"You now, if you like her, you should just go and talk to her," advised the voice.

"No shit, Sherlock. But what should I say? I only have one shot at this. What if I mess it up?"

"Come on, you are a smart guy, you can figure something out."

"I have to start with something clever or funny. Certainly something she hasn't heard before. No stupid pick-up line will work."

"Look for a connection, there must be something you can talk about. What about, I don't know... public transport?" suggested the voice.

"That's unbelievably stupid"

"Weather?"

"Bloody original. Is that the best you can come up with?"

"No, just give me some time. Of course! The book, you nit-wit! It was right in front of you the whole time. "

"Excellent! I can talk endlessly about books or perhaps, change the topic to movies."

"All you need is to get past the first sentence. Once you start, your natural charm will kick-in. You'll be fine."

The train stopped again.

"Maybe I could say that I'm an amateur writer and I am curious about what people read these days."

"Yes, ask her what she's reading, why, whether she likes it, what other books she likes. It's simple."

"And if I all goes well, I can ask her if she would like to meet up sometimes and chat some more."

"You should wait till the next station. That way if things go south, you can just get out at the first opportunity."

He could see the plan clearly in his head. He closed his eyes and took a series of deep breaths to calm down and to work up the guts to take action. His mouth was dry like a desert. He felt the train slowing down. His stomach turned into a raging ocean. He could sense people moving in and out of the train. His limbs were so heavy he didn't think he would be able move them.

As the train moved again he opened his eyes. All nervousness disappeared, he was determined like never before in his life, but She was gone.

 

 


 

 

 

Poll

Which short story do you like the best?

Final Fiction 1 (39)
58%

Final Fiction 2 (2)
3%

Final Fiction 3 (19)
28%

Final Fiction 4 (7)
10%

Total votes: 67

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