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)


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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