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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