UPDATE: We are currently working on publishing the three winning entries, the work which includes the design of three individual, specially-designed PDF templates and comment on the winning entries from Frank P Ryan and the winning authors themselves. Thank you for your patience.
I am delighted to announce the winner and two runner-ups of our inaugural short story competition. After very careful deliberation Frank P Ryan selected three stories from our shortlist of nine:
In third place is Kat Zantow for the well-written classical fantasy / science fiction tale To Ashes.
“I was twenty miles from the city of ashes when my eyes started sliding shut of their own volition. My body demanded coffee, and I obligingly cut off a honking sedan to make the exit. I followed the ramp to a small string of shops sandwiched between a church and a motel. The café looked familiar, so I parked out front. I hadn’t been to this place since I had escaped the City on the Hill with—
Leigh. My stomach twisted, and I wondered if I could make it to my car before she realized I had arrived. I hadn’t recognized her pull. She was always so good at sliding her intentions naturally into my thoughts.
I spotted her through the window. Her back was to the glass and there was nothing familiar in the sheet of purple hair, but I knew her at once, as I always know her. My hand throbbed with the tempo of her heartbeat, and I could feel, in sharp detail, every point in the pattern she had tattooed into my knuckles those years ago.”
An excerpt from To Ashes
In second place is Kirsty Logan for the very stylish and witty Coin-operated Boys.
“That August, Elodie Selkirk became the latest lady in Paris to order a coin-operated boy. Despite her hooked nose and missing pinkie finger, Elodie was suffering from a rash of suitors; unfortunately for them, she was in no need of a gentleman. Elodie glanced down the hall to make sure that the maid was still safely in her room, as instructed – it was best to keep the boy a secret until she could check him over. She straightened the silk bow at her throat and opened the door.
Her apartment was close to the busiest shopping street in Paris, and all of the city’s ephemera were passing by, their feet at eye-level. A parade of life, from the glittering right down to the groaning: whispering petticoats dirtied at the hem, leather shoes shinier than pennies, wheels ticking on cobblestones, snatches of scandal… Usually, Elodie could not stand the racket, but it all slipped out of focus the moment she saw the boy. From the calm angles of his cheeks to the ruled lines of his cravat, the boy was a mathematical sum. He added up perfectly.
‘Mademoiselle Selkirk? I am pleased to meet you.’ His voice was as clean as dew, but Elodie would not forget her manners.
‘Do come in, sir. There is tea in the parlour.’ She swept her arm to clarify, fingers carefully curled to hide the missing pinkie. The boy bowed as he passed her. His pinstriped boater seemed to tilt; Elodie looked away from the imperfection as she closed the door, and by the time she walked to the parlour he was sitting at a perfect right angle to the chaise longue.”
An excerpt from Coin-operated Boys
And the winner is David Rudden for the poetic and simply outstanding Senescence.
“My father built coffins for our village’s dead.
He was a small man, his eyes two nail marks in an umber mass of beard and sun-darkened skin, his hands gnarled masses of knuckle and nail. When he worked, old scars shone white under sweat, a nonsense-scribble of forgotten wounds. As a child, my world was made up of things that he built; the walls of our cottage, the wide, low bed that we shared, the simple toys he had carved.
My mornings would be broken by the sound of saws, the hacking cough of mallet on chisel. Sunlight would pool on the earthen floor as I swept sweet-scented pine shavings into neat piles, brought tools to the whetstone to be sharpened, or brought jugs of water to him when the sun turned the air to ripples of choking heat. He would split green wood and leave it to season, weighted by stone so that the wood would not warp. When the moisture dried creaking from under grain he would stack it and wrap it with canvas in the corner of his workshop, the ends painted with acrid-smelling sealer he made from the berries that grew above the graves on the hill.
At night he inked the symbols on his arms for the thousandth time, and waited for a body to build around.
Our village lay in that curve of forest that spread from Winter’s Edge to Farcal Rise, one of the few settlements this far north. Just a few hundred farmers and hunters, a village so small it did not have a name or a reason to exist beyond people desiring people, cottages huddling together out of necessity, a bulwark against lonely night. A few hundred metres from our cottage door, the world devolved to the cracked clay and wiregrass of the true north, the wasteland scoured by wind and roofed by storms.”
An excerpt from Senescence
I would just like to offer my congratulations to David, Kirsty and Kat, whose submissions were wonderful examples of high-quality short-fiction. The winning stories will be published in their entirety on Fantasy Book Review and Swift Publishers in seven days time (November 8, 2011).
The winner, David Rudden, will receive an Apple iPad, while Kat Zantow and Kirsty Logan will receive an Amazon Kindle each.
Thank you to all who entered the competition.