Our winner this time was Ross Tuohy! Ross, your story kept me on the edge of my seat and was a heart-racing adventure that I read over and over again! I appreciated your style for this piece, and the fear and anxiety that you elicited from the reader. I would LOVE to read this short story or full-length novel - I want to know more about this world and character! Ross has won a 3-month scholarship to the Author Transformation Alliance!
Our runner up is Mark Morris! Mark, your story was so incredibly deep and I loved this perspective and the analogous direction you took with this prompt. I could feel the character's restlessness and desire for freedom; your words pulse from the page and entrance the reader, transporting them to another world! Mark has won a 1-month scholarship to the Author Transformation Alliance!
Thank you so much to everyone who participated!
Here's the winning story and the runner up follows it:
Whispers in the Wind by Ross Tuohy
Needles of ice slashed across Donna’s cheeks as she stumbled through the trenches of snow. Her breathe came in hot, panicked mists swallowed by the howling wind. Flame infested her lungs, her muscles screamed and her joints squealed like rusted metal. She had to keep running. The barren trees surrounding the snow surged forward like grasping claws as the wind whispered through them like a thousand disparate voices. Jack screamed for her, Clara’s terrified sobs exploded across the snow and Amy called for her again and again. Streams of hot tears cooled against her cheeks as they came in contact with the frigid air, she HAD to keep running. Better to die in the snow.
Her legs quaked beneath her as the snow grew deeper and she hauled herself through it, slowing to a crawl. Clara sobbed and brittle branches snatched at Donna’s ruined coat, slicing scraps of fabric from it, dangling from the frozen limbs like discarded skin. She chanced a look behind her as the wind rose and the impenetrable whiteness shrouded her eyes. Shadow slunk between the trees as eldritch green lights flickered in the mist like old miner’s lanterns. Then she heard it.
‘ Where are you sweetheart?”.
Her heart seized at the sound of that voice and the tears flowed again.
‘Granddad?’ she whispered and the wind clawed the word from her mouth
Despite her mind screaming for her to keep moving, she stopped, heaving in breath after breath of the frozen air as she squinted into the distance, scanning the pristine vastness for some sign of a man that she knew, deep in her heart was already dead.
‘Donna? You stay where you are! Don’t you move’.
The trees were smaller now, almost lost to the white and yet, if she concentrated, forced her eyes to focus, the shadows shifted again, they appeared human shaped under the veil of snow but if she looked away, out of the corner of her eye the shapes twisted into thin, wasted, bestial forms.
She yanked her coat around her again, offering her family one silent prayer before she surged forward again. She had to keep moving, even as her legs quavered again and her muscles seemed to beg for energy her body could no longer provide. She needed sleep. Just a little sleep.
The soft crunch of hooves against the snow and gentle rocking roused her from darkness. A black horse trotted in front of her and she cast her eyes around for its master. A man curled into his seat next to her against the cold, shrouded in a thick, black cloak.
‘You’re safe now’ said the figure, urging his horse on and Donna’s eyes fixed on the road ahead. A clear path flanked on either side by thin snow covered branches revealing the end of those hideous woods.
The wind roared and within it Donna heard their screams, the beasts in the trees gnashing their jaws in ravenous fury as their prey disappeared over the horizon.
Instability: A Dark Horse Memory ~ 470 words by Mark Morris
Hellas took my hand. I could feel the bones in her fingers, the hard metal bands of the rings she wore. I’d seen the rich plum-purple of the enamel on her nails, the gloss of her manicure drawing my attention to the blood I knew was pulsing through the veins beneath her skin. She was warm and she was inviting, and she expected nothing more from me but my loyalty.
But that would always be the one difficulty which separated us.
I’d thought I could overcome it. I could settle with her. She offered me stability; a home, a regular companion, the physicalities which developed from the trusts shared by two people who became more than friends. She would ask for nothing tangible. I had nothing to give. All I had was myself and the time we would share if I could only push past the resistance which built up every time the question was asked.
She refused to ask it now. I hated to disappoint her, and I knew it pained her even more. Even the thought of it now made me baulk and pull away.
I was by the door. I didn’t know how I’d got there. I’d been spooked by something I’d seen which wasn’t there. My hand was already on the lever of the handle, pushing it down, my hip against the wood which filled the doorway. The hallway beckoned me, the promise of free space, an unrestricted flight away from the bridles and bits she represented. She was watching me as I stood there alone, the way I would always be.
I had to go.
The floor in the hallway was covered in parquet, my heels clop-clopping as I turned and wheeled about. I knew there was freedom at the other end; another door, another handle, another choice to be made. I would never be broken or tamed. It would be easier this time, the expectations she had growing smaller until eventually she’d never think to ask me to stay again. The trainer becoming the trained; the reins working to lead the rider, not the mount.
It was cold in the street and I shivered. The pavement was covered in ice and I slid at first, my legs opening and closing as I fought against the gravity which I’d taken for granted. I felt like a colt; my legs new, my body fighting my panicked reactions, now falling forward into an uneven gait which smoothed progressively as the distance grew. Responsibilities; freedom; expectations and choices; I scented them all. They rode me still, even though I reared and bucked. I would have none of them again, I vowed.
I needed to run. I had to run. There were no other options this time.
I could be free if I let my legs take me away.
Contest Specific Rules:
-Word Count -300-500 words
- Please include a title (not included in the word count)
- Special Guest Judge - Audrey Hughey
Special Prize chosen by Audrey
- All writers retain the rights to their work -