WINNING SHORT STORIES FROM 2017
Winners and Highly Commended names can be found here
The Friendly Wolf by Juliet Pearce
One day in a faraway kingdom there lived a King, a Queen and a young Princess named Alice.
All she wanted was a pet. One day she went hunting for an animal of any kind. When Alice was walking through the woods she found a lost wolf.
“What’s your name little guy?” (Alice could speak wolf)
“Grrr “said the wolf.
“ Breaker that’s a nice name “, said Alice.
Then she scooped the homeless little wolf up and ran back up to the castle.
The wolf sniffed the mat and laid down and then rolled over. Then Alice picked up Breaker and ran to the tippity top of the beautiful, sparkly Pink Castle, which was her room. He was put in a special corner just for him.” There you go little buddy, it’s all yours.”
“Thank-you’” said Breaker.
Then she remembered that her parents hated animals so that meant she had to hide Breaker.” OH NO!” she said
She hid him under her big purple bed. Then she pushed all his supplies under the bed so they wouldn’t be noticed.
Alice realised that she still had her raggedy old clothes on and not her sparkly Princessy dress.
” Oh no look at the time, Mum will be here in a sec….”
BEEP, BEEP “The limos here and its pulling up right now” said Alice.
“GRRR, GRRR’” said the Wolf.
Breaker told Alice that she could run across the land on his back.
“Oh, really” said Alice.” So your saying we are running away and we’ll come back when I’m 20 years old, right?”
“GRRR” he said, shaking his head.
” GRRR, GRRR, GRRR.”
“OH wow come back when I’m a thousand, macaroni and cheese!” said Alice.
So then she packed her bags and put on her parachute, buckled Breaker in and jumped….
Alice’s parents came home and called out” Alice we’re home, Alice.”
The King looked under her bed” Wolf Fur?” the King said.” ALICE!” they both screamed together”
Alice and Breaker were now running through the Blackband Forest. Then there was a rustle behind the bushes, but it was only a harmless dear.” Phew!” said Alice wiping her brow with relief.
Back at the palace the King and Queen were determined to find their beautiful Princess Alice they had saddled up the horses and followed the trail of wolf prints and wolf fur.
It was pouring rain were Alice and Breaker where. Fortunately, they had found a nearby cave. Luckily Alice remembered to pack matches and breaker liked to collect sticks. So they soon had a warm fire to toast the marshmallows Alice packed, but Breaker preferred toasted bugs. They lit a torch on the wall with their fire.
They explored the cave until they found a wall with a door that needed a passcode. They tried two codes and a third and a fourth and it flashed “CORRECT!”
The King and Queen had only just arrived at the cave after following the tracks. Alice and Breaker were now in a cold place. Alice got out her jumper with lots of warm polar bear fur. Breaker was fine because he had nice warm wolf fur that kept him warm.
Then there was a rumble and the earth began to shake. There was an earthquake. There was no running back, because they were lost.
The King and Queen had now reached the cold place. Alice and Breaker came to a wall, a voice whispered that it was dangerous. Just when they thought that it was too late the King and Queen arrived. Breaker turned and howled to Alice saying
” Your parents are here”.
So she turned and ran to them and Breaker followed.
The Queen and King didn’t mind Breaker at all. So they all went back to the Kingdom and their palace and lived happily ever after.
The Day my Life was Ended by Tom Tritschler
You wake up one Saturday morning. Relieved that you don’t have to go to school, you grab your iPhone.
With a stretch and a yawn you lazily press the home button. You look at the screen.
If you play Pokemon Go, turn to page 2.
If you play Colour Switch, turn to page 4.
You’re playing Pokémon Go when you realise there’s a Pokémon outside your house. You go outside and look down on your iphone and the Pokemon is in the middle of a six-lane highway that you live next to.
There’s a gap in the traffic; you run… lane one…lane two…almost there!…lane three and you capture the Pokémon.
You’re so relieved that you have caught one. Then you hear a horn, but it’s not just any horn, it’s a long loud honk. There’s a semi-trailer speeding towards you. It runs over you – you die.
You’re playing Colour Switch when your mum calls. You run downstairs and yell, “WAT” stupidly.
She screams, “DON’T YELL AT ME!” and she adds, “Your father went to work before you woke up so you’ll have to make your own breakfast. I am going out…don’t burn down the house or you’re dead! Goodbye Sweety!”
You decide to make eggs. You turn on the stove and then it explodes.
You survive the minor explosion. Luckily, there’s a fire-extinguisher next to you.
If you ignore the fire and run outside, turn to page 6.
If you successfully put out the fire, turn to page 7.
You ignore the fire and run outside. The house burns down. Your mum comes home with lots of shopping. She sees the remains of the house. She screams at you for about two hours ranting that all her prized possessions were in the house. In a fit of anger she grabs a scorched knife and stabs you – you die.
You successfully put out the fire. Everything is a little charcoaled so you race into the shed and grab the paint. You run back inside and paint everything that is burnt. Things are a little out of shape but at least it hides the evidence.
You can now have your breakfast. You decide cereal would be a safer option after narrowly avoiding death with the egg. You fill your bowl with Cornflakes and go to the fridge and grab the milk.
If you don’t check the expiry date, turn to page 9.
If you check the expiry date, turn to page 10.
You don’t check the expiry date and drink the milk out of bowl once you’ve finished your cereal. You turn a nasty shade of blue. You start choking on the curdled milk. The chunks from the milk are stuck in your throat.
You grab everywhere you hurt but you don’t enough hands. You try to breathe but it just makes it worse – you die.
You check the expiry date. The milk is one month out of date. You throw the milk out and have toast instead.
After breakfast you go upstairs to get dressed. Then you realise that the dog is barking madly. You say to yourself, ‘Sometimes I wonder about him.’
Then your mum pulls up in the driveway. She sees your head in the window and yells, “Get down here and help with the groceries.”
If you go and help your mum with the shopping, turn to page 12.
If you pretend you haven’t heard your mum and go and play with the dog, turn to page 13.
You go and help your mum with the shopping. You have two bags in each hand, because of the weight, a bag rips and the glass jar of tomato sauce falls and smashes on your foot.
You swear badly and start hopping wildly. You run into the apple tree and shatter your skull – you die.
You pretend you haven’t heard your mum and go into the backyard and play with the dog. Your dog Shanker barks so you throw the ball and he runs after it.
You end up around the outside of your house chasing Shanker. Then Shanker stops in the front yard and barks again. So you throw the ball; it rebounds off the fence and rolls down the driveway and into the drain.
You run over to the drain and look down into the deep dark drain. A car zooms past and it gives you a fright. You fall down into the drain.
Miraculously, you land on your feet. You look up and see there is no way out. It looks like you have to wait until someone discovers you, if you don’t end up starving to death.
After a whole day and a long, smelly night – at least you think that much time has passed – you start to get hungry, really hungry.
You begin to think that Shanker hasn’t gone to get help. Your stomach hurts from the lack of food and water. Your mouth is really dry, your voice is extremely croaky and you’ve got a migraine.
Suddenly, you think that you hear your mum coming to save you but it turns out that you’re hallucinating. You’re being driven mad by the hunger.
You try and climb up on some pipes to get a glimpse of life outside the drain. The pipes are so old and rotten that they break underneath your feet.
You fall, but this time you aren’t so lucky – you die.
by Lucy Wilson
Contains references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.
The night was cool and the wind blew calmly against my face, the full moon illuminated onto the town. Tasting the fresh early morning air, I continued to run even though it was cold and I was tired.
Down the hill and near the outskirts of town, I ran. It was dead silent, I hoped that no one would wake and take me back, so that made me run faster.
The grass glistened in the moonlight and made it difficult to run as it was slippery. On the horizon, a small bright light was beginning to appear. Its sight was beautiful and one I hadn’t seen in years.
The buildings and houses on the outskirts of town became few and the grass had turned to damp dirt beneath my feet.
Tears stream down my face. I was finally going home, back to Mama and my older sister. I hadn’t seen them for two years, after being taken to the aboriginal girls’ home on top of the hill, called Bimbadeen.
Everything had been from me. My family, my land and to be equal to one another. At school, they treated us awfully and I felt like I didn’t belong. I would sit in the midst of the playground everyday, dreaming of what of it was like when I was free.
Suddenly sirens began crying from cars, and shouts echoed from the hill. I knew they were looking for me. I ran faster, the way to mama’s house. The sirens became closer and the calls closer. I was sprinting so hard, I was only thinking of home.
I turned and saw a Ute chasing behind me, a man with a gun ready to shoot out the car window. The man was from Bimbadeen, the man was the caretaker, but was spiteful as a person could get.
I was the fastest girl around and I even beat the boys. I ran to school everyday and ran all the way back. But could I outrun a car?
Am I going to die? I thought, terrified as the Ute was gaining on me, its engine roaring like a storm.
Suddenly, I fell to the ground and could run no more. A bullet had hit me in the arm, my clothes stained in blood. I could smell the stench of blood and feel the sweat dripping from my forehead. Laying on the dirt-patched road, feeling no comfort, as dagger-like rocks from the road pierced my body and arm. It was agonising, and I cried quietly in pain.
My last thoughts were of Mama and me by the river, singing me to sleep. We were home, I could see the little cottage on a hill not far from the river, smelling the gum trees and feeling the fresh Summer breeze. I was home, in Mama’s arms, I was safe. Her lyrics soothed me and her words hushed me to sleep…
ITS ALL IN THE EYES
by Mikyla Edes
Folded into the corner of the room, the small frame of a child was bent, much alike to a crumpled piece of paper thrown onto a leather couch, where she sat. Across from her, an older woman held a pen loosely in her left hand, the click which it made against the glasses she wore, had broken the silence which surrounded this small client. In an instant, the child pressed deeper into the couch, wide brown eyes, the psychologist noted, were just like her own. Those eyes had darted to the withered face of the older woman then returned to the floor. The psychologist took a deep breath and released, “Your condition is not rare”.
“Does that make it more acceptable?” The child spat. Her last word had been mispronounced, a look of frustration crossed her face and she repeated, slowly, to correct her mistake. “I don’t deserve this”. It was a horrible thing to witness, the realization of a child, the moment the innocence in their eyes fade to be replaced with an anger, a hate toward the world.
The psychologist raised a dark brow as she crossed one slender leg across another, “It was Albert Einstein who said” she paused, “if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
“What does that mean?” The child straightened her shoulders. “I’m stupid?”
“It means” she corrected, “no matter how smart or talented someone could be, when tested against the wrong obstacle, they will believe themselves a lesser person, despite having strengths in other areas.” At her words, the child rolled her eyes, still, the psychologist continued. “What if an artist were tested in an advanced math exam? He might not do well, but that’s not his strength”.
As the clock ticked, the mind of the child also worked, whether in consideration at her words or in silent disapproval, the psychologist did not know. As the child thought, however, her wandering eyes had noticed the ornaments on the desk across the room, clay sculptures of small animals, misshapen and noticeably crafted from small, inexperienced hands. “Who made those?”
An eagerness could be heard in her voice, as it raised a curious octave. The psychologist evaded the question with an ease gained from experience. “You like art?” A nod, although slight, had been given in response. “Do you take any classes?”
“Online classes.” The child reached for her other hand, twisting them both in a knot. “To avoid being humiliated” Again, the latter word had been clumsy, almost foreign against her tongue.
“Dyslexia is nothing to be embarrassed about.” If this field of work had taught the psychologist anything – it was to not allow a person to be insecure of the workings of their mind. Especially not this person. “Pablo Picasso, for example, was an extraordinary painter, who also had this condition. Do you think he was embarrassed? Did he decide to avoid the world? No. Instead, he painted what he knew, what he could see when no one else could”, pausing for a deep breath, she continued. “You are going to do wonderful things, don’t let this block that path.”
The cheeks of the child were flushed, as were the cheeks of the elder woman, as her passionate speech echoed throughout the almost-bare room. Until, a wide smile pulled at the mouth of the girl. The psychologist wore an identical grin. “Tell me about the art you make”, although vibrating from the adrenaline which had fueled her speech, the woman prompted for conversation. The child flinched toward the couch, “It’s mainly collages”.
“Of pictures?” She asked, although she already knew.
The child turned, without thought, toward the frame on the wall. A frame which hadn’t captured her attention until this moment. “No. Of words, all kinds of words. Words I don’t understand, in the ways that I see them.” Her eyes frantically searched the frame. “Like this.” In that frame held a collage of words, all printed in the darkest of black ink against a contrasting blue paper, arranged in a concerning mess which confused the mind.
“A hobby of mine. I’ve been told it can give other people a headache” the woman stood to walk across the room, “Does it bother you?”
“It’s very familiar” the child moved to stand closer to the frame, as her fingers reached to touch the glass. As the child faced the psychologist, the eyes of the elder woman became clear, although the skin around them was aged, with visible lines which told of her joyful life, the dark brown color of them stared into hers, with a youthful gleam. “Do you have trouble with words?”, the child ventured. The psychologist stared back into the eyes so similar to her own, which reflected the self she would become, as what she saw was the child she once was, before she knew her true purpose and before she had truly faced adversity. Yet, despite having the knowledge of the troubles her former self had to face, the happiness of what awaited the small girl caused her to smile, and the sickness in her stomach to calm. In a soft voice which washed over the child, she answered. “I do”.
~ ~ ~
An old computer lit the office of an almost-bare room with white walls. The child which once had sat in this same room within her mind – with a woman just like herself, had become a reality. Now, years later, she typed, with speed, to fulfill her brilliant idea, an idea which would allow others to experience, for themselves, the troubles of dyslexia, in a creative light– a simple website, named Wordle.
by Martin Boyle
Mild-mannered bachelor, Ted O’Rafferty, grazed his sheep on a smallholding high in the hills overlooking the mighty river. Penned on his property was a large black sow he named Gertie, after a school ma’am from his childhood days. The pig’s fate was to be a baconer, but when the time came Ted hadn’t the heart for the deed: he’d grown so fond of her.
In the porcine world, Gertie was one in a million: her feet were freakishly large, and she possessed the unbelievable ability to rise up onto her hind legs, where she could remain for a few seconds.
Of an evening, Ted enjoyed listening to the wireless and escaping into adventure stories; yet there were times when the loneliness of the hills became unbearable; on those occasions, the ageing recluse was known to soothe his soul with a draught or two of Tolley’s Hospital Brandy.
On one particular evening in September, 1959, Ted had self-medicated with a certain zeal, resulting in the pen gate being left ajar. Hitherto unknown for her opportunism, the sow moved gingerly through the gate. The night was lit by a thumbnail moon and, way down in the valley, the lights of the village beckoned. In a frolicsome mood, Gertie raced and twirled down the lengthy incline, traversed the bridge over the river and finally arrived at the village.
That same evening, Miss O’Neill, spinster and self-appointed guardian of other people’s morals, had just finished arranging the flowers for Sunday mass, when the cold grey hand of melancholy gripped her heart. She sat on a pew and breathed deeply, but the feeling would not pass. In a nook at the back of the church, she took a bottle of Croft’s Invalid Port from her bag then facing the wall, she sipped furtively. Back in the pews, she sought divine assistance through the offering of a few decades of the rosary; however, between the decades she repaired to the rear of the church for additional fortification. Leaving the church that evening, she failed to shut the door, let alone lock it.
Gertie was exhilarated at being in the village and proceeded to munch her way through flowerbeds, vegetable gardens and dog bowls. Garbage bins – receptacles of the finest delicacies – were overturned and their contents shamelessly strewn. Humans, assuming the noise to be the work of dogs, shouted aggressively in the dark. Taking heed, the wily pig trotted away. She trotted through mud and puddles till the scent of beeswax caused her to halt at the back door of the church. Gertie pushed her way through the half open door. After cleaning up the votive candles – mere titbits – she wandered into the sacristy. There she butted open a cupboard and, using her somewhat prehensile snout, nosed a bottle of altar wine onto the floor. The omnivorous animal licked-up the contents of the smashed bottle then consumed the store of yet-to-be-consecrated wafers. Along the pews, she rootled and snuffled before entering the altar space.
Devout Miss O’Neill, replete in flannelette nightie and netted hair-rollers, lay down her weary head to seek the solace of sleep. Her eyes had barely closed when she sprang upright – she hadn’t locked the church door!
Meanwhile, mayhem continued at the church: the scurrilous sow, up on her hind legs, knocked over the large candlesticks. With one corner of the altar cloth in her teeth, she yanked it from its sacred edifice. Up and down the aisle ran the pig, trailing the cloth behind her. Gertie chewed it, bunched and plumped it with her snout, tossed it in the air, and rolled on it. By quirk of fate, the cloth formed a loose toga-like garment around her.
Miss O’Neill took a goodly slug of Croft’s Invalid Port, then set off for the church as speedily as her fitness would allow. On reaching the church door, her head was too fuzzy to notice the sounds being made by the picaresque porker. After switching on the vestibule light, the spinster was horror-struck by the footprints on the floor – the cloven hooves of Old Nick, himself! Every fibre of her being screamed – run; yet she did not. Invoking her guardian angel and all the saints for protection whilst clutching her Sacred Heart scapula, she switched the church lights on. At that moment, Miss Mary, Dolores, Concepta, Anne O’Neill had come to gaze upon what her soul had dreaded most – the Devil himself. Here before her was the hideous beast, black as sin, cavorting in the aisle, profaning the sacred altar cloth and giving off the most hellish noises imaginable – curses aimed at Our Blessed Lord and His Holy Mother, no doubt. She fled to the priest’s house.
Something within Gertie told her it was time to get back to Ted. She slipped out of the church and out of the village, to make her way back into the hills. The altar cloth came off while crossing the bridge and floated down the river.
Kindly Father Davey tried valiantly to comfort the inconsolable Miss O’Neill that night; he could smell the port on her, and was well aware of the poor soul’s obsession with the diabolic.
On Sunday morning, the sight of the open gate filled Ted with consternation; but his fears were soon allayed when he caught partial sight of his beloved Gertie slumbering deeply in her shed.
The gross violation of the church stunned the village. Wild and wise opinions abounded as to the culprit. It was finally agreed that the vandalism was the work of a rogue animal; the consensus being a pig. However, the sheer size of the footprints was wont to keep speculation a-kindle.
Up until her death, Miss O’Neill enjoyed a certain celebrity amongst a small coterie of parishioners – passionate believers who wouldn’t be swayed from the claim: that on that night in September, 1959, the Devil, in all his depravity, had imposed his monstrous presence on their beautiful little village.
Dingbat goes for a ride
by Lawry Herron
Dingbat was asleep on the verandah when they pulled up. Slavvo got out of the driver’s seat and walked over. His jeans were torn at the knees and oily down the thighs and he had his cowboy shirt on. He toed Dingbat in the meat of his thigh, not quite a kick –
‘Geddap, bro, you’re comin wid us. Dis is a special ride in your honour. Your lucky day.’
Dingbat knew not to argue. He wriggled his thongs on and half-crawled to the wagon, heading for the far side.
‘ Inna back with Kogan here n mind Pigdog doesn ged a taste for ya.’
Kogan moved over then Doggo came round from the front and got in so Dingbat was sandwiched in the middle. That left Slaggers in the front with Slavvo. Pigdog panted away in the rear, gobs of his slobber dribbling on the butt of the gun. Dingbat didn’t want to look at the gun. There was an axe and a shovel too.
‘Dja get ya licence back?’ No answer from Slavvo.
‘Shuddup, bro’, from Slaggers.
Dingbat couldn’t see a rego sticker either but he didn’t say it. Slavvo was getting the tail to hang out on the gravel corners and the dust was coming under the doors. Kogan threw his empty Bundie can out the window. Dingbat couldn’t tell where they were going. It was a bad track and pretty bushy but he didn’t ask. Best not.
They pulled up and sat and the exhaust pipe tinkled as the heat went out of it. The bush had that hot bushfire feeling. Still and quiet. No birds. They listened and there was nothing until Kogan popped another Bundie and Coke. Then truck noise from the highway a long way away. Pigdog panted and slobbered all the more in the back. Dingbat felt his own and Doggo’s sweat and Kogan’s Bundie breath was sick.
‘Nobody about. This’ll do. Your big moment, bro.’
The four got out but Dingbat stayed sitting. ‘Geddout, bro, this is for you. Like I said, your lucky day. Geddout.’
Dingbat got out. He didn’t stretch like the others had; he didn’t look around; he squinted against the glare and scratched his bum and his forearms and eased his shorts. His mouth was dry and he swallowed. ‘Any water?’ No answer. He walked a couple of paces and bark crackled and a crooked stick flicked up and scratched his shin. He stood and watched Doggo open the tailgate. Slavvo reached in for the gun; the barrel banged against the petrol can as he dragged it out. He hefted it and swung it back and forth across Dingbat’s belly. His mouth grinned but his eyes didn’t. He broke the gun and there was the shine of a brass shell-cap in each barrel. The closing snap was sharp and echoed off the car and away into the scrub. Dingbat felt his guts turn over. ‘Wadda ya gunna do, Slavvo? I haven’t done anything to ya.’ No answer.
A siren went south away on the highway. Doggo looked that way and said, ‘Police.’
‘Na, ya dong, ambulance. Police are different.’
‘You’d know, Slavvo.’
‘Shuddup and get your stinking old dog out.’
Pigdog came out. He was white, sort of, with blue and black patches and he had mange all over one hip and both ears were ragged from fights with pigs and other dogs; his ribs were scarred and his offside back leg was crooked. He hung his head and slobbered but when Slavvo gave the gun to Dingbat the old dog looked around as though there might be pigs.
‘Doggo doesn’t want to do it. So you get to feel what it’s like to kill something up close and personal. Say goodbye to him Doggo, if ya want to.’
‘I can’t. Just get it over. Youse can bury him and pick me up back down the track. Just bury him – don’t burn him.’
Pigdog’s yelp came through the ringing after the explosion and he arched around and bit at the wound and then was still. Dingbat felt powerful and sick. He was shaking but he broke the gun and popped the spent cartridge and the live one and put the gun back in the wagon.
‘Ya did good, Dingbat’, said Slavvo. ‘None of us wanted to do it, either. Get the shovel, Slaggers.’
They were still quiet on the ride back. There was one Bundie left and Kogan gave it to Doggo.