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.


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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