Story ending from 2017 FLY Short Story Runner-up 15-18 yr olds: Madeline Patrick (15)

Unperturbed, Lisa returned to her bedroom, burying her small, childish nose in her book where it belonged. She wasn’t concerned about Ollie; disappearances and reappearances of animals, people and objects were an ordinary aspect of Lisa’s extraordinary life.

Throughout the entirety of the small girl’s empty existence, she’d visited elves and faeries in a forest, then lived as an average girl at an average school. She’d go to sleep in a bed in Britain, and wake up on a canal boat in Italy. She’s had a brother, then a sister, then a pet cat named Tiffany. Every morning she lived a new life, with her presentness being the one consistent aspect of an ever-changing universe.

However, Lisa, despite being only twelve, was vastly intelligent. Therefore, sensible girl that she was, Lisa decided to rely on two things – stories, and her ability to create them.

Lisa devoured books. Her ability to read and read well was her weapon, and she wielded it without resistance. After reading her 50th book, Lisa decided it was time she wrote her own, as many ambitious and creative children do at some point. However, she struggled – writing was difficult when running from an army of stampeding elephants one second, and being in an ordinary house the next.

Therefore, it was on the day that Ollie faded out of existence that Lisa grew tired. Throwing her book to the floor, she lay, sprawled across her bed, and slept. As she slept, she dreamed of being a normal girl with one family, one home – the kind of girl that, to Lisa, existed only in stories.

As she was sleeping, she didn’t see the walls around her fade and vanish. She didn’t see her bed shimmer and disappear, or feel her now unsupported body land on the floor with a soft thud. Perhaps it was good that Lisa was sleeping, as it meant that she didn’t have to watch the disease of disappearance spread to her own body – her hands, her face, her legs, all of it crumbled, and everything filled with nothingness.

 

*

The author closed her laptop with a sombre click. It was strange, but she felt almost sorry for Lisa – the main character in all of her stories, no matter where or what or who else was involved, Lisa had been the character she felt the closest affinity with, despite her being purely a creation of the author’s own keyboard. As she wrote and rewrote, the author had changed her story so many times that even she had to admit it was time to begin again – A fresh story, with fresh characters, and no twelve year old, bookish girl who liked to create stories. Cracking her knuckles, the author lifted her pen and began to write a new story, about a boy called Ollie who loved mammoths.

 

 

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UEA FLY Festival 2017 Short Story Competition Winner 15-18 yr olds: Charlotte Finch (18)

More from the UEA FLY Festival today with the winner of the 15-18 yr old category in the Short Story Competition: A poignant and evocative work that belies Charlotte Finch’s 18 years. (Introduction by YA author Alexander Gordon Smith and author and festival organiser Antoinette Moses in italics.)

 

FLY Festival 2017 Short Story Competition:
First Place 15-18 year olds: Charlotte Finch (18), The Priory Witham Academy

 

It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon when Ollie saw the mammoth trundle past his bedroom window.
Ollie dropped his phone and jumped off the bed, wondering if he had imagined it. But it was still there, its massive, furry flank lumbering down the road.
‘Lisa!’ he yelled, running down the hall and bursting into his sister’s room. ‘Lisa! There’s a mammoth outside the window!’
Lisa peered up over the top of her book, unimpressed. Ollie ran to her window so fast he almost tripped, pushing his face against the cold glass.
The mammoth had gone.
‘Wow,’ said Lisa, who had walked to his side. ‘You really are a weirdo.’
‘But it was there,’ Ollie said. ‘I saw it.’
Lisa returned to her chair and continued to read. Ollie frowned; there was no sign that anything unusual had happened, just Mrs Midgley tootling along on her mobile scooter. Surely if there had been a mammoth the police would be on their way, or even a fire engine.
‘I saw it,’ he muttered again. He was just about to turn away when something dropped from the roof and landed on the window ledge, startling him. It was a squirrel, but there was something odd about it. Its fur wasn’t grey, it was a deep, russet red. It studied Ollie for a moment with its big, black eyes.
‘But, that’s impossible,’ he said.
‘What?’ asked Lisa.
‘There’s a squirrel on the window ledge,’ he replied.
‘Whoa,’ said Lisa. ‘A squirrel! No way!’
‘But it’s red,’ said Ollie, ignoring her sarcasm. ‘In school they said there aren’t any red squirrels left in southern England.’
‘Maybe it escaped from a zoo or something,’ said Lisa. ‘Like you did.’
The squirrel bounded from the window ledge onto the branch of the walnut tree in their front garden. Ollie watched it jump again, out over the street, but this time it seemed to disappear into thin air.
‘Huh?’ said Ollie. ‘It vanished too.’
He clattered down the stairs, heading for the front door.

Lisa heard the clack of the lock and looked up from her book again. What on earth was Ollie doing? If he had gone outside without her, Mum would be furious, and she would get the blame. She walked to the window and, sure enough, there he was, standing in the rain in just his T-shirt and shorts.
‘Ollie!’ Lisa yelled, rapping the glass. ‘Get back in here!’
If he could hear her, he showed no sign of it. Lisa grunted with frustration. She slouched out of the room and made her way downstairs. Why were brothers so annoying?
The front door was still open and, as she walked onto the porch she could see Ollie now out of the gate, shielding his face with his hand as he looked one way and then the next.
‘Ollie!’ Lisa yelled. ‘You are in so much…’
Ollie seemed to shimmer, like a reflection in a rain drenched puddle.
Then, just like that, he vanished…

 

…Lisa stared out into the mist. The rain continued to pour and the droplets refracted off the ground in tiny, disappearing shards. “Ollie,” she breathed. But the rain didn’t falter and her younger brother didn’t reappear. In a trance-like state, Lisa crept from under the shelter of the porch. The rain hammered upon her head, drenching her hair so that it matted and stuck to her skull. Lisa felt none of this though, so numb from the shock. “Ollie?” As she stood in the downpour calling his name, the garden around her began to shift. First was the front gate. The iron bars began to flex and bend. Then, the gate contorted and then vanished altogether.
From around where she stood, the grass began to darken and separate, wafting. Strange lights began to dance on the ground. The chestnut tree began to shrink, the branches shrivelling into thin wisps. They floated and quivered as if caught in a current. Eventually, the house had crumbled to the ground in a pile of mossy rocks and the earth had concaved into a deep trench. As she stood there, entranced, Lisa suddenly realised she could no longer feel the rain and the world around her had grown deafeningly quiet. The air felt thicker, cold against her skin. She opened her mouth to call Ollie’s name again, only for it to fill before she could speak. The water tasted stale and green. She tried to run to one of the banks to climb upwards, but her legs were slow. Her lungs began to burn and she fought harder, kicking her legs and pulling at the water with her arms. She rose, and as she looked up, she could see the surface, the raindrops crashing into the river and speckling the cloudy sunlight from above.
Her head burst above the rapids, and she took long gulps of air, choking. The water crashed around her and she was swept along with the currents, icy hands dragging her under the water again and again. “Ollie!” Lisa screamed. She looked to the riverbanks, hoping an onlooker would come to her rescue. There was a girl on a bank. She was running alongside the water’s edge, chasing Lisa as she flailed and screamed for help.
“Ollie! Ollie! I’m coming!” The girl on the bank was shrieking Ollie’s name, but looking at Lisa.
“Help me!” Water rushed into Lisa’s mouth once more, and she sank. Her lungs burned and her skin itched with the feeling of cold and moss. The current swept her along the river bed, until her head hit upon something hard- and then everything went dark…
When Lisa opened her eyes, she was sitting on the edge of Ollie’s bed, staring at his mural on the wall. Her teary eyes traced along the giant tusks of the painted Woolly Mammoth, swept along the magnificent brush of the red squirrels tail and admire the abundance of wildlife captured in the scene. It had been nearly a month since Ollie’s death, but the guilt still weighed on her as heavy as the day he’d drowned. He’d been playing in the valley, alongside a river on some rocks when he’d slipped and fallen into the rapids. Lisa tried her best to get him, but she was too late. Ollie now lived on, immortalised in his mural, riding his Woolly Mammoth into the distance.

 

Runner-up: Madeline Patrick (15), Ashfield Post 16. Find her story ending here.

Highly Commended: Dana Wilson (17), Billy White (15) Norwich School and Sam Groves, Priory Academies

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UEA FLY Festival 2017 Short Story Competition Winner 11-14 yr olds: Taylor Smith (14)

Once again, Ink Sweat & Tears is proud to feature the winners of the Short Story Competition from the Festival of Literature for Young people (FLY) which is held at the University of East Anglia every summer. There were more than 150 entries which bodes well for our next generation of writers. Students took off from a story introduction (in italics below) written by the brilliant YA author Alexander Gordon Smith and author and festival organiser Antoinette Moses. Much thanks to Norfolk-based Gnaw Chocolate which sponsored the competition.

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FLY Festival 2017 Short Story Competition:
First Place 11-14 year olds: Taylor Smith (14), Smithdon High School.

 

It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon when Ollie saw the mammoth trundle past his bedroom window.
Ollie dropped his phone and jumped off the bed, wondering if he had imagined it. But it was still there, its massive, furry flank lumbering down the road.
‘Lisa!’ he yelled, running down the hall and bursting into his sister’s room. ‘Lisa! There’s a mammoth outside the window!’
Lisa peered up over the top of her book, unimpressed. Ollie ran to her window so fast he almost tripped, pushing his face against the cold glass.
The mammoth had gone.
‘Wow,’ said Lisa, who had walked to his side. ‘You really are a weirdo.’
‘But it was there,’ Ollie said. ‘I saw it.’
Lisa returned to her chair and continued to read. Ollie frowned; there was no sign that anything unusual had happened, just Mrs Midgley tootling along on her mobile scooter. Surely if there had been a mammoth the police would be on their way, or even a fire engine.
‘I saw it,’ he muttered again. He was just about to turn away when something dropped from the roof and landed on the window ledge, startling him. It was a squirrel, but there was something odd about it. Its fur wasn’t grey, it was a deep, russet red. It studied Ollie for a moment with its big, black eyes.
‘But, that’s impossible,’ he said.
‘What?’ asked Lisa.
‘There’s a squirrel on the window ledge,’ he replied.
‘Whoa,’ said Lisa. ‘A squirrel! No way!’
‘But it’s red,’ said Ollie, ignoring her sarcasm. ‘In school they said there aren’t any red squirrels left in southern England.’
‘Maybe it escaped from a zoo or something,’ said Lisa. ‘Like you did.’
The squirrel bounded from the window ledge onto the branch of the walnut tree in their front garden. Ollie watched it jump again, out over the street, but this time it seemed to disappear into thin air.
‘Huh?’ said Ollie. ‘It vanished too.’
He clattered down the stairs, heading for the front door.

Lisa heard the clack of the lock and looked up from her book again. What on earth was Ollie doing? If he had gone outside without her, Mum would be furious, and she would get the blame. She walked to the window and, sure enough, there he was, standing in the rain in just his T-shirt and shorts.
‘Ollie!’ Lisa yelled, rapping the glass. ‘Get back in here!’
If he could hear her, he showed no sign of it. Lisa grunted with frustration. She slouched out of the room and made her way downstairs. Why were brothers so annoying?
The front door was still open and, as she walked onto the porch she could see Ollie now out of the gate, shielding his face with his hand as he looked one way and then the next.
‘Ollie!’ Lisa yelled. ‘You are in so much…’
Ollie seemed to shimmer, like a reflection in a rain drenched puddle.
Then, just like that, he vanished…

Beep. Beep. Beep. My breath escalates into short, rapid bursts. My eyes adjust to the dim glow of the room. The clock on my bedside table mocks me with those continuous sounds. A flood of vivid memories overwhelms me.
It was my fault, all my fault.

Guilt is a killer.

Why didn’t I listen to him? I knew he suffered from schizophrenia and severe hallucinations – everyone thought he was strange: But I was ashamed of my own little brother. How could I? If I had just listened to him, he wouldn’t have gone outside. The car wouldn’t have taken him, killed him. Poor Ollie, he had his whole life ahead of him, but that’s now gone, vanished.
It’s my fault, all my fault.

Guilt is a killer.

I turn off the alarm, the sound still ringing in my ears. Sobs wrack through my fragile body.
Eventually, I fall into another fitful sleep.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Every sound send a painful jolt through my body, like being struck by lightning.
It was my fault, all my fault.
The blinding whiteness of the room, and the disorientating odour of blood and sickness, made me feel dizzy. And then it happened. The last long beep of the machine. My knees gave in, I could barely notice the shock run up my legs over the piercing sound of strangled cries.
But it was too late, he was gone.
It was my fault, all my fault.

Guilt is a killer.

I gasp for air in the suffocating atmosphere of the room. My mind searches for reality, to escape, just once, from the never-ending feeling of helplessness and agonising guilt. My eyes peer over the room, taking in my surroundings. All I can hear is my deep breathing, all I can taste is the bitter-sweet feeling of relief (to have deserted my re-occurring nightmare; for now.) but also mournfulness for the brother I could have saved.

Today is the day, my first day back since, well since it happened. I take a deep, broken breath before walking out of the bedroom door to face my parents.
I stand in the kitchen doorway waiting for them to notice me. My mum looks at me with a grief-stricken expression, which she then attempts to hide, to comfort me.
“Hiya honey,” she begins tentatively, “Are you ready for school?”
I nod, not saying anything in fear of breaking down in front of them. I can’t do that to them, I’ve already taken their son from them; they don’t need any more problems.
I don’t understand how my mother can treat me like I’m the victim, it’s not true, it’s not true.
It’s my fault Ollie’s gone, all my fault.

Guilt is a killer.

Nervousness shivers up my spine, anticipating the unknown day ahead of me.
But what I didn’t know: things were about to become more difficult, much more difficult…

 

Runner Up: Elizabeth Davy (13) Hartismere High School. Find her story ending here.

Highly Commended: Emily Freeman (13) & Phoebe Court (14) both Diss High School, Joseph Thomas (12) Broadland High School

 

The winner amd runner-up of the 15-18 year old category will be featured tomorrow.

 

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Story ending from 2017 FLY Short Story Runner-up 11-14 yr olds: Elizabeth Davy (13): The Box

Lisa shivered, mouth folding into a rigid frown. “Ollie, don’t you dare pull one of your stunts! Don’t you dare?” She paused expectantly, scanning the garden and numerous paths for a sign of movement. It was a trick: it had to be a trick. Cruel, thoughtless, traits corresponding exactly to Ollie.
Her brother would emerge, eventually, smug grin eating into youthful features, eyes wide with satisfaction, to splutter a feeble and somewhat predictable excuse.
Minutes passed.
Nothing.
Lisa frowned. She had to make an effort, an attempt to find her troublesome brother; perhaps she would scrape a punishment. Despite her lethargic mood, Lisa rose to her feet and staggered through the corridor. The garden seemed a logical place to begin. She dragged the front door into stunted motion and slid between the narrow gap, continuing along the pathway.
Her head jerked.
A box.
It was barely a shoe-box, constructed from bark-brown mahogany, surfaces pressed against Dad’s precarious fencing. It began to expand, to widen, as if triggered by her presence. Her hand outstretched, lingered fingers inches from the lid. Lisa found herself placing each food inside, expression vacant. Composure gad slipped from her grasp.
What was she doing? There had to be a rational-
The box glinted, a paranormal glow, just as Ollie had moments before his disappearance.
Reality seemed to entwine, to elapse.
Light faded into a rich darkness.
“Lisa! Lisa!”
Ollie.
Lisa gasped at the sight of her bedraggled brother. “Ollie, what on Earth have you done? You’ve take this too far!” She cried, snatching a glance at the wooden space. It resembled the box, only larger, deeper, a cruel imitation.
Lisa shook her head, dismissively. Her thoughts were tangled, indecisive, an incomprehensible mess of images and anxieties; the box had shifted her perception of truth. She scrounged for a source of light.
Ollie leapt into his sister’s arms. “I had to explore, to investigate. I followed the animals into the box,” he recalled. “It adjusted to my size. I clambered inside the box, expecting an innocent wooden structure. It’s a real-life Tardis.”
“It doesn’t make sense Ollie. The mammoth? The red squirrel? They’re not here.”
Ollie paused in thought. “I suppose the box cast them into a different place, a different realm. There could be other boxes, boxes just like this one, scattered across the globe,” Ollie explained, with a sudden and unlikely maturity.
“I see,” said Lisa. She longed to be home, secured within four walls, to fall into her mother’s embrace “Now let’s discuss the plan,” she posed. “You do have a plan, don’t you? You’re going to get us out of here, right?”
Ollie considered his response. “No,” he managed, looking to his sister. “I was rather hoping you would offer a solution.”
“I have nothing.”
Lisa gulped.
Realisation began to sink in. The siblings hadn’t a plan, a glimpse of natural light, a conceivable direction in which to continue.
They were trapped.

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Winner of the UEA FLY Festival Short Story Competition 11-14 yr olds: Scarlett Baxter

We are never disappointed by the 11-14 yrs entries for the Short Story Competition at the UEA FLY Festival and this year was no different. How do you make a decision when the imagination of these kids seems to have no bounds taking them back into history, forward into virtual reality gaming and everywhere in between? Ultimately, the judges (including brilliant YA author Alexander Gordon Smith and author and festival organiser Antoinette Moses) focused in on Scarlett Baxter from Langley School. Her ending is well-written, both atmospheric and exciting and pulls all the elements of the story together in an unusual and moving way.

Second place goes to Broadland High School’s Lorna Hatch, whose ending offers us a nicely alternative slant on Robin Hood and can be found here. And Honourable Mentions must go to the runners-up, Honey Lamdin (Langley School) and Finn Cruise (Smithdon High School)

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FLY Festival 2016 Short Story Competition:
First Place 11-14 year olds: Scarlett Baxter, Langley School

 

It was going to be a great day. One, there were no lessons as we were going to this festival thing at the university in Norwich, two, Mum seemed to be getting better, and three…

I didn’t get as far as three because the bus sort of juddered and made a noise like someone scraping their fingernails across a blackboard. And the driver said the word Mum says I mustn’t ever use. He swung the wheel to the left and, with a couple of bumps and more scraping sounds, it stopped.

‘Sorry, folks, it’s a puncture,’ said the driver. So our teachers got us out of the bus, with lots of sighing and looking at their watches, while he changed the wheel. We’d stopped in a narrow road with a long flint wall running along beside it. I was about to take a photo of the driver, who’d got very red in the face, when I noticed the door in the wall beside me.

‘Look at that,’ I said to Chris.

‘’Why would you make a door that small?’ he asked. ‘It’s weird.’

Then it swung open. Not wide open, just a crack.

‘Shall we..? I asked.

Chris grinned. The door opened almost before I touched it and immediately Chris and I were in this huge green field. Which is when an arrow thwacked past my left ear and landed in the wall. Which wasn’t flint anymore but wood.

‘What on earth?’ yelped Chris. We turned round to get away from whoever was shooting arrows at us, when we saw that the door had gone. Disappeared. It just wasn’t there. And that’s when we heard the shouts and heard the dogs and…

…we heard the twangs of more arrows being pelted at us. I thought I must have fallen, from how low I was in the grass, when I heard Chris cry sharply. I turned and I stared. Before me was a wonderful vermilion fox. I looked down at my hand, but there was no hand there, just a small scarlet paw. The word mum told me never to say slipped from my lips as I realised what was happening. However, adrenaline had taken control over my limbs and I began pounding into the deep thicket of trees, shouting at Chris to follow. He, too, bounded into the forest narrowly missing an arrow, which thudded into the ground where he stood a second earlier.

We kept scampering through the trees even though we could hear the hunting horns die out and shouts fade. A smooth voice shouted from the root of a tree, instructing us to follow it down a deep hole. We skidded to a halt at the edge of the hole. I was reluctant to follow an unknown voice down a mysterious hole, but what choice did we have? We clambered into the damp tunnel, Chris leading this time, and scarpered along it with careful glances back in case the huntsmen came. The tunnel suddenly turned to a great chamber, which was surprisingly well-lit. There were about twenty foxes and vixens sat, some talking raptly with each other, some staring attentively at Chris and I. It was a very odd sight.

‘Welcome,’ said the furthest fox from the door.

She was clearly the leader. She had a demanding presence of power in all her body. Except her eyes. Familiar eyes?

‘My name is Twyla,’ she said softly ‘We’re the Vulpes. We, just like you, are humans, trapped. And we, like you, are confused.’

The room had stilled in silence.

‘However, we do know something,’ she continued ‘this is not real. It’s an alter reality in which our minds live. Our bodies live on in the other world, but as soulless beings. And as you may have guessed, we need to get out of here.’

Just as the words had escaped her, another fox appeared.

‘Twyla!’ he panted ‘we’ve found it!’

The room exploded. Every single fox scrambled for the tunnel and its opening. Chris and I followed. The other fox lead the way through the trees until he found an opening. There, at the base of the biggest tree, was a small door.

‘Shall we..?’ I asked and we went through together.

Everything blacked out. I felt something like butterflies in my chest, followed by a thump as I felt my back hit the ground. I opened my eyes to see the bus and everything how it was before. I sat up dazed and saw Chris next to me. We both had knowing looks in our eyes. Did that really just happen?

When I returned home, mother hugged me tight. She was completely better. No pale face or watery eyes. But those eyes… She nodded. So mum was never ill after all…

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UEA FLY Festival Short Story Competition 2016: 2nd Place 11-14 yrs Lorna Hatch

 

The Truth of Robin Hood

 

It was going to be a great day. One, there were no lessons as we were going to this festival thing at the university in Norwich, two, Mum seemed to be getting better, and three…

I didn’t get as far as three because the bus sort of juddered and made a noise like someone scraping their fingernails across a blackboard. And the driver said the word Mum says I mustn’t ever use. He swung the wheel to the left and, with a couple of bumps and more scraping sounds, it stopped.

‘Sorry, folks, it’s a puncture,’ said the driver. So our teachers got us out of the bus, with lots of sighing and looking at their watches, while he changed the wheel. We’d stopped in a narrow road with a long flint wall running along beside it. I was about to take a photo of the driver, who’d got very red in the face, when I noticed the door in the wall beside me.

‘Look at that,’ I said to Chris.

‘’Why would you make a door that small?’ he asked. ‘It’s weird.’

Then it swung open. Not wide open, just a crack.

‘Shall we..? I asked.

Chris grinned. The door opened almost before I touched it and immediately Chris and I were in this huge green field. Which is when an arrow thwacked past my left ear and landed in the wall. Which wasn’t flint anymore but wood.

‘What on earth?’ yelped Chris. We turned round to get away from whoever was shooting arrows at us, when we saw that the door had gone. Disappeared. It just wasn’t there. And that’s when we heard the shouts and heard the dogs and…

…’Run’, a voice whispered. The owner of the voice grabbed our hands, pulling us through the thick grass. I stared at the hand in surprise, lifting my gaze along to the muscles in his forearm and up to the chiselled features of the boy’s face where a pointed feathered hat perched, and then down his tunicked torso where a bow and arrow was slung across his shoulders, to his forest-green tights. Wait, what? Tights? I stopped short, putting together the puzzle pieces. The arrows, the hat, the tunic, the tights… Chris gawped, reading my mind as usual.

‘Robin Hood?!’ we gasped in unison.

‘My name is Jack Forest! If it is Robin Hood you are looking for, I can be of no help to you. I may work for him but that doesn’t mean I like him.’ The boy took an offensive manner, as if we had just insulted him. I frowned at Chris, puzzled – who wouldn’t like Robin Hood, the kindhearted soul who takes from the rich and gives to the poor?

‘Speak of the devil, here he comes now with his bunch of thugs! Run!’

I glanced behind me and saw a large, round, grotesque man galloping towards us. Just visible behind his great bulk a platoon of burly soldiers charged towards us. We sprinted across the remainder of the field and disappeared into the surrounding woodland. As we stopped for breath, the confusion of the last fifteen minutes dawned on me.

Sensing my forthcoming meltdown Chris stepped to my aid. He has always been there for me, especially in the last year when Mum had been diagnosed with cancer. I doubt I would have survived without him.

We arrived at a tumbled-down cottage. Jack welcomed us into his home, and I cautiously edged in. Jack motioned at two rickety wooden chairs, then sighed and perched on a third.

‘I don’t choose to live like this. I was banished from the nearest village by Robin Hood – the large man on the horse chasing us, my Landlord – because I could not pay his ridiculous taxes. Consequently, I have to work as a labourer on his estate to repay my debt. But I don’t mind, it gives me a chance to take back what is rightfully the villagers’. He has so much gold he doesn’t even notice.’ His eyes suddenly lit up. ‘Will you help me divide this bag of gold between the villagers?’

‘Why was he chasing you in the first place?’ I quizzed, ignoring his question.

‘I beat him at his own archery competition.’ Jack admitted guiltily. ‘But will you help?’ We agreed, and Jack held the door for us as we stepped out on to the …

…Pavement? We were back! I glanced around. The door had gone but an AA man had arrived. He looked familiar, like, well, Jack Forest. I laughed in a slightly deranged way, as Chris whispered in my ear: ‘At least now we know the truth of Robin Hood.’

 

 

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Winner of the UEA FLY Festival Short Story Competition 15-18 yr olds: Edward Darrall

Last week, we were once more privileged to be part of the UEA FLY Festival (Festival of Literature for Young people) and again supported the final event, a cracking POETRY SLAM with host Adisa and exceptional mentors in Tim Clare, Mark Gristo, Molly Naylor and Ross Sutherland. Thanks, too, to the kids from Stalham High School, Open Academy, King’s Lynn Academy and East Point Academy for reminding us that poetry is not a dead art to the young.

As in previous years, we co-judged the Short Story Competition with the inimitable Alexander Gordon Smith and festival organiser and author Antoinette Moses, who also wrote the story’s opening. It is featured in italics below followed by a very evocative and moving ending from the winner of the 15-18 age group, Edward Darrall (Diss High School). It speaks of a real talent

Praise, too, for Second Place winner William Johnson, also from Diss High School, whose multi-viewpoint story ending can be found here. Finally, a Honourable Mention must go to the runner up, Alexander Poulson.

The winners of the 11-14 year old age group will be featured on IS&T tomorrow.

 

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FLY Festival 2016 Short Story Competition:
First Place 15+ year olds: Edward Darrall, Diss High School

 

It was going to be a great day. One, there were no lessons as we were going to this festival thing at the university in Norwich, two, Mum seemed to be getting better, and three…

I didn’t get as far as three because the bus sort of juddered and made a noise like someone scraping their fingernails across a blackboard. And the driver said the word Mum says I mustn’t ever use. He swung the wheel to the left and, with a couple of bumps and more scraping sounds, it stopped.

‘Sorry, folks, it’s a puncture,’ said the driver. So our teachers got us out of the bus, with lots of sighing and looking at their watches, while he changed the wheel. We’d stopped in a narrow road with a long flint wall running along beside it. I was about to take a photo of the driver, who’d got very red in the face, when I noticed the door in the wall beside me.

‘Look at that,’ I said to Chris.

‘’Why would you make a door that small?’ he asked. ‘It’s weird.’

Then it swung open. Not wide open, just a crack.

‘Shall we..? I asked.

Chris grinned. The door opened almost before I touched it and immediately Chris and I were in this huge green field. Which is when an arrow thwacked past my left ear and landed in the wall. Which wasn’t flint anymore but wood.

‘What on earth?’ yelped Chris. We turned round to get away from whoever was shooting arrows at us, when we saw that the door had gone. Disappeared. It just wasn’t there. And that’s when we heard the shouts and heard the dogs and

…knew we were in trouble. Chris seemed to have frozen, his eyes open wide in horror. My eyes skimmed across the field, but I couldn’t see anything – just long grass. With a thud, another arrow embedded itself firmly in the ground at Chris’ feet. Whoever the attackers were, they seemed to be invisible.

I grabbed Chris’ arm and started running along the wall. He soon caught on and was sprinting, full pelt, beside me. In the distance, lining the edge of the field was a tangled mass of trees and thorny bushes. We were heading towards a small, black opening in the malicious looking barrier; our only means of escape from our attackers. I was less than ten metres from the forest when a third arrow struck Chris in the back. He made a small whimper as he fell. My hands were shaking as I bent down beside him. The back of his shirt was already soaked in bright red blood. I gently touched his face; his skin was pale and cold and his eyes were glazed. Mum had told me that I had to be strong, so I left him and crawled my way through the narrow opening and deep into enclosed woodland. I crawled until all the sounds of the dogs and the people had faded away and I was alone in the sickening silence, the pulsating darkness swelling around me. Then I curled into a ball and waited.

My heart was racing, beads of sweat stuck to my forehead. Daylight was unable to penetrate the knotted thorns and the gnarled tree trunks of the foreboding thicket. Talon-like brambles clawed at my back and scary faces glared at me from the blackness all around. I screwed my face up and forced my eyes tightly shut, but a small tear still found its way down my cheek and onto my chin, only to drip and land on my trousers. I wanted my mum. I remember her telling me that I was so very brave and that she loved me very much, but I was scared now. Really scared. I wanted her to be here with me. I wanted to be able to talk to her again. I wanted this all to be a dream, just a story, but it wasn’t. It was real.

I am back on the bus, tears glistening in my eyes. Chris is sitting next to me with his headphones on. The driver in front of me, eyes focussed on the road ahead. The bus moving happily forwards. In my lap is a notepad; basic ideas of stories scribbled down all over the paper. I’ve got to the bit where an arrow hits the wooden wall. But I can’t get mum out of my head. All my stories just quickly deteriorate and I start crying. I want to pretend that she’s well, but she’s not. The doctor says that she won’t get better. I shakily put the pen to the paper and start again.

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