It was a hard task for the judges, who had to whittle down nearly 400 entries to a list of their favourite twenty five. These lists were then amalgamated to form the shortlist that we posted earlier in the week, and from this they had to chose their top tens. Again we put the lists together, and from that has emerged this final list of winners.
I'm sure you will agree that these are ten really wonderful micro-stories, but we'd like to send out our congratulations to all of you who entered, for making the judges work so hard. So many wonderful stories - thank you!
Next week we will be opening entries for this year's anthology, which will also feature all of these stories, so stay tuned for that, but let me not hold you in suspense any longer. Here are the results:
FIRST PLACE WINNER:
‘Never Let Me Go’ by Cathy Lennon
SECOND PLACE WINNER:
‘Night-time Knitting’ by Roz Mascall
THIRD PLACE WINNER:
‘If Kissed by a Dragon Fish’ by Tania Hershman
‘Dare’ by Simon Sylvester
‘The Star Falling’ by Morgan Downie
‘Sintra’ by Parineeta Singh
‘The Sponge Diver’ by Danielle McLaughlin
‘Peppermint’ by Jennifer Harvey
‘The Invisible Girl’ by Karl A Russell
‘4am’ by Angi Holden
FIRST PLACE WINNER:
'Never Let Me Go' by Cathy Lennon
First it was cartons and tins on the worktops, then newspapers on the stairs. Each window-sill sparkled with tin foil. He made me a necklace of ring-pulls and bottle tops. Like swans we perched on our bundles of rags and flattened boxes, smoothing the creases from wrappers. The hallway was Manhattan, a canyon of towering piles. Across the no man’s land in our bedroom our fingertips would touch, until one day they couldn’t anymore. From the other side, perplexed, he watched the tears slide down my face. He threw me two empty film canisters to catch them in.
SECOND PLACE WINNER:
'Night-time Knitting' by Roz Mascall
A gorilla is living in my cupboard. Every night, he swaggers onto my bed and waits for me to wake-up. I pretend to be asleep but hear his knitting needles clicking together. He is making a very long scarf for me. Squinting at him from under my blanket, I see his huge hairy hands scratch his scalp in disappointment. He looks sad. A pang of guilt hits me. I sit up and he hands me a ball of pink wool. His watery eyes meet my gaze. He is lonely. We lean against each other and knit until sunrise.
THIRD PLACE WINNER:
'If Kissed by a Dragon Fish' by Tania Hershman
If kissed by a dragonfish, do not bite. If kissed by a dragonfish, make sure you are sitting. Do not worry during the kiss, before the kiss, or after. Do not worry about a scale or two between your teeth. The dragonfish's skin is armoured but its heart beats loud and soft. You will not forget the kiss. You will not forget the coolness of the dragonfish's breath inside your lungs. You will look down through the floor of glass and see nothing, swimming. You will part, like an ocean, and on your sea bed you will pearl.
'Dare' by Simon Sylvester
Every day that summer, we played Dare. On hot afternoons we escaped the sun by hiding in the fort. We ate apples and counted pips and swapped secrets. We sat close, damp with sweat, bare skin sticking. She traced her fingers up my leg. Her fingertips whispered inside my thigh, and my breath caught in my throat.
She always chickened out. I taunted her, urging her higher, but she always chickened out before me.
When that summer was finished, we went back to school. We don’t really talk any more.
I heard she started playing Dare with boys.
'The Star, Falling' by Morgan Downie
When his eyes grew so bad that he could no longer see the horizon he built an artificial one in his garden. Afterwards he persisted in a stubborn refusal to cross it in case he should fall off the edge of the world. Asked, on reflection, if he had realised his intention as a younger man, to live the brief and fiery life of a meteor, he looked out across the universe of his garden, to the wife he still loved indescribably and said,
‘I am a meteor, just moving very, very slowly.’
'Sintra' by Parineeta Singh
I have followed you to this small town. I have walked the same cobblestones that you once trod on. I have stood on those hilltops in the mist you spoke of. I have felt it as smoke in my throat. The air I now exhale was the air you once breathed in. But this is not love; it is nowhere close to it. Love was the time when I put my ear to the flagstones listening for your footfall.
'The Sponge Diver' by Danielle McLaughlin
They knew each other a month when he told her about his Greek grandfather who, as a young man, had been a sponge diver. She closed her eyes, saw a figure – lithe, tanned – dive naked from a boat in the blue Aegean. He surfaced, water glittering silver on his skin, as if a shoal of tiny fish had followed him.
Opening her eyes, she noticed how her lover was most unlike a sponge diver.
After it ended, she bought a sea sponge, yellow and pocked. She sat it on her desk at work, and thought about his grandfather.
'Peppermint' by Jennifer Harvey
Afterwards, he thought about the gum stuck underneath the desk. It would still be there.
Every morning he watched as she slipped a finger in her mouth and prised it out, acting coy, though he knew she was aware of him.
Once, she’d looked him in the eye, stretched the gum between her teeth and let it snap, like a flirtatious wink.
He slid his fingers under the rim. It was still there.
Picking it loose, he popped it in his mouth.
It was fragrant, peppermint fresh. A taste of her he could keep and roll across his tongue.
'The Invisible Girl' by Karl A Russell
It should have been an accident, Mel always thought. Something sciencey and catastrophic. Experimental bombs, or maybe the bite of an irradiated marmoset. That's how it used to happen in the comics anyway; A good dose of cosmic waves transformed you.
And everyone loved you.
Even the villains.
But there were no sciencey accidents in the real world. All it took to make Mel invisible was a split lip, or a black eye, or a few raised voices on a Saturday night, just after chucking out time.
And then, for just a little while, no-one could see her.
'4am' by Angi Holden
I open the bedroom curtains.
Dawn seeps across the horizon. The long grass beneath the hive glistens with dew. Hand-trimming takes patience; this summer I’ve neglected the garden.
I straighten the sheet across your chest. The air cradles the sour milk and vinegar scent of the sickroom.
Downstairs, I fumble with the lock, step into the morning. My slippers absorb the damp. No matter, I have a task to perform. Before I call the doctor, your sister, our son.
I walk down the path, your black crepe bowtie dangling from my hand. There is news I must tell the bees.