Den monthly competition September 2018

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  • #806
    Daedalus
    Participant

    Denizens who used to be members of the sadly defunct Word Cloud will remember the monthly competitions. The format was that the winner of each competition would set the theme and parameters for, and judge, the next month’s competition.

    It was a good thing to do and prompted a lot of good writing, so we’re going to keep it. Forgive me for taking it upon myself to set the first one, but it’s just to get the ball rolling.

    A little bit of housekeeping – please feel free to comment on entries but ONLY AFTER THE COMPETITION HAS CONCLUDED. Post your entries as a comment below this. Please note the word count at the end, and give us a warning if there is any profanity or content that otherwise you judge might need a warning.

    So here we go – using the theme suggested by @Squidge I’d like to see a piece of writing – it can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry or prose – of no more than 400 words (not including title) on the theme of ‘New Beginnings’.

    You have until midnight on 30 Sept to enter. Away you go

    #814
    Daedalus
    Participant

    (Apologies – the theme was suggested by @Seagreen replying to the blog by @Squidge)

    #948
    Bren
    Participant

    Thank you Daed, I will give this a lot of thought. And hope My muse can turn a few words. Great to see familiar faces and names on here.

    #949
    Daedalus
    Participant

    You’re welcome, Bren. Lovely to see so many familiar names, indeed

    #1147
    GippsGirl
    Participant

    Thanks for kicking this off, Daeds. The theme couldn’t be more appropriate.

    #1239
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    OK, I’ll post the first entry.

    Content warning; contains graphic description of a pregnancy termination

    NEW BEGINNINGS – ONE IN A MILLION [370 words + title and warning]
    [Warning, some may find parts of this distressing]

    I’m one in a million!

    A million sperms fought to get to my egg first and my one won! I’ve been growing ever since. Cells doubling and re-doubling; quadrupling and re-quadrupling. I’ve got millions and millions and millions now, all my own. And they’ve grown into all sorts of funny shapes. On the outside I’ve got lips and a nose and eyelids and earlobes. And arms with fingers and fingernails. And a thumb! I managed to get the thumb into my mouth and I can suck it. It makes me feel good. When I’m not sucking my thumb I try kicking, ‘cos I’ve got legs and feet, too. And you know what? Once, when I kicked I heard my mummy say, ‘Oh! I felt that,’ for things are growing inside me, too. I’ve been growing now for 23 weeks and I’ve started to hear stuff.

    I hear my mummy crying and I feel sad. Then I hear her saying all sorts of things, but not to me. So after a while I give a little kick and she says, ‘Will you stop that!’ and so I decide to try not to do it so much. I suck my thumb instead. And feel mummy’s heartbeat going gallump, gallump, gallump, gallump. My heart goes patta, patta, patta, patta for each one of mummy’s gallumps. I like the rhythm, even if mummy’s not talking to me. We’re together. It’s warm and snug here. I can sleep.

    Mummy was crying again, but she gone quiet now.

    And still.

    I think she’s lying down. I can feel something pulling at me. It’s like when I suck my thumb but someone’s sucking me. Not nice. Don’t! You’ll pull me off my nice soft bed. Please stop.

    Mummy?

    What’s that? It’s cold and hard. It’s cutting me. No, don’t! Stop, please! Mummy!

    * * *

    ‘How are you feeling?’

    ‘Eh… a bit… yeuchy… tired… sad – a bit… relieved. Relieved it’s over.’

    ‘You’ll feel better soon.’

    ‘Yes.’

    ‘Just lie there and rest. Think about the future.’

    ‘I will. Am I really free again?

    ‘You are. He’s out of your life for good and now all traces of him are gone, too. It’s over.’

    ‘I’m free! A new beginning.’

    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by Tony Lyttle.
    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by admin.
    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by admin.
    #1280
    Seagreen
    Participant

    Might I request that the warning above be amended to highlight the offensive nature of the post? Thanks.

    #1288
    Squidge
    Participant

    At the very least, it needs a trigger warning…

    #1303
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    It does carry a trigger warning.
    Readers are free to decide for themselves whether they wish to be offended. That is not my intention.

    #1305
    Mad Iguana
    Participant

    It would be helpful to add a little more detail in the warning, Tony, just so people can be prepared for what they are about to read.
    This is not an issue with the story itself; but I think it might serve as a courtesy to others to let them know what they are about to read.

    #1306
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    Unfortunately, Mad Ig, the post no longer allows me to edit it 🙁

    #1308
    Mad Iguana
    Participant

    OK. Would you mind if an Admin made a small edit to the warning (have a look at your DMs if you want)?

    #1318
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    Yes, OK. I’ve DM’d you.

    #1348
    Jonathan
    Participant

    The Power Word

    Jeff stood by the rounded tree, whose branches were starting to sag. The leaves had turned a papery shade of brown, the trunk would whiten next, and then it would be only him and the dead earth. Not even a microbe.

    Clouds topped the blue air. Did he regret having used the power word? What had possessed him? Jealousy, he supposed. Boyish anger. But what cruel creator could allow such a device? What purpose could it serve? It wasn’t his fault such an appalling thing had been left lying about. A self-destruct button, that’s what purpose it served. A great big cosmic I-told-you-so-but-you-wouldn’t-listen.

    By now contrails in the sky were a memory. Had birds fluttered across the valley just then, they would have startled him rather badly. The day he had uttered those syllables, that phrase had consigned him to life everlasting even as his schoolyard tormentors grew up, grew old and then died. Then their children. And their children’s children, while centuries spanned into millennia upon millennia til the wind was his only companion. And hunger. And pain from infestations and tumours that had taken root and ballooned in him, even though the power word would not, for the sake of a moment’s forgotten vindication, let him die.

    “Where is God in all this?” he cried. Pages from Bibles spoke of names long gone, of ice ages that came and went, came again, and still Jeff hurled himself from the branches of the rounded tree to smack onto jagged rock, or breathed in lungfuls of toxic waters. Nothing. Limb separated from limb, to crawl back to his body, a spurned lover who cannot bear solitude. And even these diversions were denied him when the oceans turned to vapour and the mountains flattened to desert with every visible increase of the sun’s reddening disc.

    Every bit of him would be sizzled away, yet something awful would persist. There must be a reverse word to counteract the effects of the spell. He tried saying it backwards. The heat mocked his efforts – this power word was a one-shot gift.

    The rounded tree was dead. Through clouds and steam the approaching red disk pressed close. One day, Jeff thought. One day, the sun.

    Time runs funny the nearer one gets to a celestial body. Something might happen. Could he go back? Would he have the nerve to never give voice to those words?


    #400w excl.

    #1357
    Janette
    Participant

    Dancing With Words

    Humble, that’s how my kind are deemed: the humble pen.
    I don’t know why, since, led by the right hand, we’re capable of causing wars. Stopping them. Uniting distant hearts or breaking them apart. Telling tales that stir a million souls across a thousand years without pictures, smell or sound.
    I aspire to that. Which is why, fumbling my way around the net, I sought a gathering of kindred pens.
    I found them in among a host of paper clouds.
    So many were there to welcome me, looking patiently on as I danced before them, tripping nervously while they uttered words of encouragement. I admired their confident loops and strokes. Their ability to move. Some pointed me towards a dance class; the ess-eee course, they called it, run by not one, but two wonderful instructors who taught us how to move in cheek-to-cheek or swing out, using the whole room. Under their guidance, a class of us stepped; quickly, slowly, skipping and sliding. The more we learned, the more we moved, growing wings when we found we could fly; growing any darned thing our imaginations conjured, be it gowns of lace, armour or dragon scales.
    Inside the class or out of it, this humble pen often teetered on her nib, but so many were around to take me by the clip, I’d soon be dancing again around the cloud …
    until…
    nothing.
    The clouds popped and there was darkness. And I tumbled through the heavenly net, falling, falling, looking for a haven.
    A dot of new light appeared in the distance and I saw others like me moving towards it. I followed, until the dot became a parchmented den.
    A new home.
    The den shone with newness, its doors open wide. Pens drifted inside and I joined them. It was still being built; doorways erected, floors being layed. Ohh but look, I knew that pen – and that one, and that; so glad we made it together again. What an adventure! Falling and tumbling and landing here.
    They’re all ready to take up the dance and, you know, so am I.
    I found this door; nailed to it, a set of instructions: a new rhumba, or waltz, please. In fact, any rhythm you like, but make it in four-hundred steps.
    New beginnings, how exciting.
    I’d best get dancing …

    388 words excl title

    #1374
    Athelstone
    Moderator

    Bonjour

    When we lived in La Rochelle, my governess tried to make me say ‘Bonjour,’ to people we met in the street. It was polite she said, I would never be a gentleman if I did not learn to be polite. But I was shy, and after our morning walk she would scold me, and shake me impatiently. Papa was away at the war and Maman was – distant. I knew she loved me, but she said I reminded her of Papa and it was too difficult. So I continued trying to please Eva, usually failing. On one of our outings we saw Loïc approaching. He was tall and handsome. Eva blushed whenever they met. I decided that this time I would make Eva proud. When he was close, I stepped forward and said, ‘Bonjour, Monsieur Durand.’ As I spoke his foot struck a cobble and he lurched clumsily. His mouth opened wide, but a second later his eyes settled on me and I saw something else: an intense dislike. He spoke curtly to Eva and hurried on his way. She in turn was rough with me, accusing me of mocking the poor man.

    Papa did not return from the war and Eva said that the Germans had reached Paris, so Maman put me on a boat to London and I stayed with her sister, Agnes, my aunt. Unfortunately, children were being evacuated and in short order I found myself on a farm in Cornwall.

    Back then, I had no idea that I was destined to live in this desolate area for sixty years. It suited me. Maman died. I inherited and then sold the family business, became a reclusive Englishman who never had to say ‘Bonjour,’ to strangers. And I came to see that, perhaps, it wasn’t desolate after all. There was a bustling town nearby: a community where people worked, loved, lived. There was one person in particular: Mary, a widow. She seemed the sort of person who might tolerate me. Of course, I could never speak to her.

    One day while walking along the coast, I emerged from a leafy tunnel where bushes grew around the path and the view held me captive. For the first time ever I realised I was at home. I also realised that somebody was nearby and smiling as I gazed out to sea.

    ‘Good Morning, Mr. Mercier.’

    Without thinking I replied, ‘Bonjour, Mary.’

    400 words excluding title

    #1386
    Seagreen
    Participant

    UNTITLED (321 words)

    I remember the first time we kissed. An unsatisfactory blending of my pickled onion Monster Munch and his chips and curry sauce. No tongues. We stayed in the shadows at the side of the house so my mum wouldn’t see us from the kitchen window. He wiped the drips from his nose on the sleeve of his Harrington jacket and tried to slide his hands under my jumper. It tickled and I laughed and he slipped on the icy path when he ran next door in the huff. We were fourteen.

    I remember kissing in the play park late at night. He spun the roundabout so fast I felt I was falling even though I was lying down on warped wood and peeling paint. I screeched like a four-year old in a dizzying mix of fear and laughter and he knocked the air from my lungs when he fell on top of me as he jumped on. The kiss that night was a blend of half a can of Special and a bottle of Diamond White. I got bird poo on my brand-new jeans and he told me he was sick. The stars tumbled around me.

    I kissed him the last time at the hospital, in a side-room with no windows; the beeps and whirrs of machinery silenced and his mother’s sobs receding down the corridor. I took an ice chip from the saucer on the bedside locker and ran it over my lips, then gently, oh so gently, pressed the coolness of my mouth against the dry, cracked riverbed of his, tasting the sweet smell of his decaying breath on my tongue. I breathed air into his mouth and prayed for just a moment longer to tell him I would love him forever and that we were going to have a son.

    **

    One of the many, many times I kissed him was on the roundabout where he was conceived.

    • This reply was modified 3 years ago by Seagreen.
    #1396
    Squidge
    Participant

    All the colour disappeared from her world the day she moved in with him.

    It’s minimalist, he told her. A blank canvas.

    Surely, a blank canvas exists for the sole purpose of being filled, she wanted to say.

    But didn’t, because it was all too new, too fresh, too…him. And more than anything else, she wanted him.

    As time went on she still wanted him, but she faded in his company. Faded until she no longer stood out against the bare and empty walls of their home. Faded into the background, too afraid to upset the balance, the status quo, his mood.

    He found out – too soon – that minimalist, simple living didn’t guarantee a long and simple life.

    She bought herself, literally, out of the greyness of mourning with a bright pink skirt, a rainbow striped mug, and a single yellow rose in a vase on the mantelpiece.

    A daub or two on the blank canvas at last, because with him gone, she was free to paint the world any colour she wanted.

    #1465
    Karen Telling
    Participant

    I am the last one to leave the cottage that we had lived in for thirty years. Our little cottage, tucked away down the farm drive with its apple, pear, plum and cherry trees. My daughter grew up there. A succession of animals had come into our lives and given us their love and kept us company; an assortment of shapes and sizes of collies, jack russell terriers, cats and horses.
    Still alive and well is Charlie cat who is safely secured in her cat basket on the front seat of the car. My husband has the other two surviving collies in the back of the land rover and has already left.
    I’ve cleaned the kitchen floor and taken one last walk around the house. I cry. A lot. I’m so glad there is no-one around on the farm to see me. So many memories flashing through my mind as I head down the drive for the last time. I didn’t think it would be this hard.
    We were tenant farmers and I always kept a little part of me back from loving the farm and the cottage because I knew, one day, we would have to leave. And that day had come.
    I cry on and off, all the way to the M3 but despite the rain, I start to look forward to our new life.
    I catch up with my husband at a service station on the A303 and we drink coffee and sit in silence with our own thoughts.
    Once through Taunton I am nearly home. Turning off the A358 I head up the hill towards Exmoor. The road twists and turns, passing pretty cottages and farms before I finally catch a first glimpse of the coast through the trees. Round the next corner and the Exmoor coast and the Bristol Channel is spread out in front of me. The sun glints off the water and Wales lies in the far distance. The view is stunning and takes my breath away. The road continues to climb very steeply in places. Charlie cat is getting restless. Nearly there, I say to her.
    A few miles further on, passing the gnarled, windswept beech hedges that are so characterful of Exmoor, I arrive. Tucked away in a little hamlet of three houses, is our new home; just a few minutes walk from the Moor and a herd of Exmoor ponies. A new beginning.

    #1539
    Jules
    Participant

    Impact

    The EVA suit’s read-out flashed Warning! Oxygen levels at 18% in eerie red. Jepson’s mind was foggy, irrational. All her training hadn’t prepared her for the reality of being stuffed into a damaged evacuation tube and launched into the airless void.

    It had begun with impact. Many in fact, although Jepson only counted three as noteworthy. The meteor which had broken into seven chunks in Earth’s upper atmosphere, each landing with the force of a hundred atomic bombs. The event had propelled the Santa Maria’s fleet into orbit four years early. An exploratory mission became a desperate one way exodus. Jepson had grown up on the flagship. Kepler 186f proved inhabitable, but a second planet in the cooler zone of a new sun was discovered. The remnants of humanity cluttered some four dozen ships, creaking from decades of constant use and repair, with barely enough fuel for the trip.

    Jepson tried to see the stars through the cracked hood of the evac-tube. Nothing. Endless, indifferent darkness. Her mind skipped and caught and skipped again. The cramping, tingling of her limbs had faded to numbness. Not good.

    The second impact was the unkindest. Santa Maria was in visual range of the planet when the engines took a direct hit. Another mass evacuation. The resultant micro debris had totalled the tube’s thrusters – hardly an impact worth mentioning, except it would kill her.

    Jepson remembered another impact. One that made her entire body throb like a rotten tooth. She must have greyed out. Woken for the final moments. The last lungful. She didn’t want to die, adrift in the void. A memory of other tubes flaring past in brilliant streaks. The last gamble, futile. A streak of hot colour grew in her peripheral vision. Brilliant. Beautiful. Deadly. Jepson felt no fear although surely she was about to burn up on collision with a flaming piece of ship. Except who would have thought death could be this beautiful? What are we, except one huge organism, living and dying as the universe seeks to understand itself?

    Jepson blinked. The o2 warning light blinked a dirge but she was breathing. Cool, fresh air. Instinct stabbed her numb hands at the emergency release, the hood tore away. That third impact! Dawn! She crawled from the tube on to the surface of a new world as the sun rose, gleaming on other tubes and a new day.

    #1588
    Raine
    Participant

    The Place Where You Fell

    This is the place where you fell. Your bright swords and old shields faltering. All your angers and all your courage turned the soft earth to mud and the valley must have echoed, it must have echoed to your cries. In the cool dawn, in our houses we can still hear you shouting, and if we come down into the fields, if we listen in the evening, we can hear you weeping. When mist gathers in the low meadows, we gather our children away and think of risings and despair. Over the many years, priests have come to cast upon you all their holy waters, their incense and prayer. But when the rains come and the waters rise, you are still there, your bones hold the burn, your longing and your sorrow slows the floods.

    What were you longing for, when you fell? We have always thought it was vengeance, we have drawn back from your voices and closed our doors, in the rising mists and the sunrise we stoppered up our ears to escape your fury.

    But in the evening we hear you weeping. The flocks gather along the fencelines and the water, they turn their bewildered eyes to the burn and the hare passes through long grasses without pausing. How many of you were fathers, missing your hearth and the bright eyes of your bairns? How many of you were boys, with thin fingers wielding weapons too heavy for your arms? We always thought you wanted vengeance, even though we heard you weeping. How many of you were fathers, missing your bairns?

    In the winter I watch the floods freeze and the old mud return to the surface, carrying you with it to stare at the heavy skies and the bravest of the stars. In the spring, when the evening is as soft as butter and the lapwing flies like petals above us all, I come down to the meadow with my bairn.

    I come down with her in white linen and my arms, and the meadow dreams in rainbows, the grass a sea. I pick flowers risen from your blood and she reaches for them with her hands; I hear you weeping, and I sing. I sing lullabies in the evening with your flowers in her hair, and you listen. The sun drifts along the edge of the hills, and I sing until you are sleeping.

    #1596
    Alan Rain
    Participant

    Your world

    Tell me about your world.
    Is it the wreck of a leaking container ship,
    pronounced toxic, towed from shore to shore,
    or a one-way journey on a flat ocean,
    ending when you spill into the abyss?
    Is your past a set of random collisions,
    now flotsam on an incoming tide?
    What about your future?
    Has your gift of time degenerated into a scabrous imp
    tethered to your shoulder, preaching about unattainable goals,
    abandoned hope, and bleak horizons?

    Tell me about your culture.
    Is your music a dirge,
    your theatre a tragedy,
    your art a crucifixion,
    your mass a requiem?
    Does your world ever glitter with inspiration, is it ever aglow
    with the embers of ambition, ignited into the heat of compassion,
    or a petrified, gelid place where survival is the single reason to be?
    Are tolerance and inclusion integral to your world,
    immutable as the strata of your rocks,
    or concepts vacuous as space dust?
    Is your soul a sunken relic
    waiting to be dredged from the silt of the deadest of seas?

    I crave to leave my world,
    and sail as a free man to your world,
    but fear I would be as much a stranger there as I am here.

    #1702
    Sandra
    Participant

    Summer 1999

    I told myself, at my age, I didn’t need to be nervous. But knew what I could do well was conscientious.
    ‘Bring portfolio’ the letter said, so I went out and bought a huge one. Filled it, with two years of one-day a week class-work plus evening Life Drawing. Plus the watercolours I was especially pleased with.
    Appointed day, I parked in the college’s near empty car-park –first interview of the day. Lugged portfolio two-handed, somehow aware I was being watched. Regretting – yet again – at fifty-two I’d still not learned how to do elegant.
    Man appears, smiling a tricky smile (I later learn that’s just how he is) and I wonder Caretaker? or what, because he doesn’t say but leads me into a high-ceilinged room, glass-partitioned and a smell reminding me of childhood crayons and maybe twirly red Sunday School candles.
    And another man, longer, thinner, check shirt, torn jeans and more honest smile.
    Stood between the two of them I heave portfolio onto cleared workspace beneath green-painted aluminium window. Unzip and open to reveal what I’d intended as evidence of my … what? Talent? Application? Eagerness?
    Feel a fool, aware of exchanged glances, me pig ignorant in the middle.
    Then nicer man seizes one, examines, asks question I am able to answer. Give me confidence to apologise: ‘Had the bag not been so big I’d’ not have felt it necessary to fill it!’
    They lift pieces out, look and murmur. I excuse. Become conscious of time passing. Of another would-be student arriving. Despondent, I begin shuffling sheets of paper, fingers pastel- and graphite-stained, preparatory to zipping up. To lifting and lugging out.
    Then tricksy man says ‘We look forward to welcoming you in October.’
    ‘Really?’ I beam, amazed and delighted. But wait until I receive official letter before believing.
    Accept immediately, before they change their mind.
    Unaware just how much the next six years of self-discovery will improve my life.

    (321 words)

    #1707
    Alan Rain
    Participant

    I forgot to add my word count (204), and can’t edit the post. This is odd, because I was able to edit a post in a private group.


    @sandradavies
    I can’t. The reply option just sets up a new post. I think the rule is that you can edit (with the edit option) providing your post is the last one. When someone else posts, you lose the ability to edit.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 12 months ago by Alan Rain.
    #1789
    John S Alty
    Participant

    A New Dawn

    A blood red sun rose through the smoke from a thousand cooking fires, smoke that hung like mist over distant Alexandra township. A typical African morning on the highveld, but this was not a typical day. Daniel and his mother stepped from the bus onto the dusty road and followed the other passengers. Daniel wished his father could be with them and had implored him to leave the hostel at the mine in Witbank so they could all be together for this day of all days but the loss of his attendance bonus would have been intolerable and the journey difficult.
    Daniel and his mother joined the end of the line, a line that disappeared off into the distance, returned and then set off again towards the old tin-roofed school house below the kopje. They greeted those ahead of them with warm words. The line shuffled forward, not nervously, not reluctantly but with determination. The impossible was happening.
    The sun was high in the cloudless blue sky by the time they reached a copse of thorn trees and Daniel shared with his mother the water he carried with him, then offered it to others who had paused in the shade. The tail of the line was escaping out into the sun and heat again but they knew no-one would jump ahead and they took a few moments respite and then scurried to reunite with the line.
    Every now and again singing would break out, spread down the line, and they would join in too, pass the singing along behind them. The line danced and toyi-toyied as it closed on its destination.
    Polling Booth, it said in big black letters on a sign hanging over the door to the school house. Daniel and his mother went in and each made a choice and became part of a new beginning. It was April 27, 1994.

    #1916
    Daedalus
    Participant

    Last day to enter this, if anyone fancies a go. 400 words, theme of ‘new beginnings’

    #1980
    Daedalus
    Participant

    Thank you so much to everyone who entered the first Den of Writers monthly competition. We now have a whole new section of the forum just for the monthly comp, so all future versions will be held there. Here’s the link: https://www.denofwriters.com/forums/forum/den-of-writers/monthly-competition/

    For those not familiar with the monthly competition from the Word Cloud on which the Den’s is modelled, the judge does not have to offer feedback, but if you can, it’s generally appreciated!

    To the entries:


    @tonylyttle

    New Beginnings – One In A Million

    What starts as a lighthearted monologue takes a genuinely surprising turn into much darker territory. This was undeniably hard-hitting, though ultimately I was not totally convinced by the voice of the foetus and the epilogue lacked enough nuance to do the subject matter justice. I feel your ambition outstripped the word limit a little here, but credit for pushing the envelope.


    @jd73
    Jonathan

    The Power Word

    A horrifying vision and the ultimate ‘be careful what you wish for’. It’s sketched with confidence and economy, and I like the return to the tree every so often as a common thread running through. It raises intriguing questions, too – how did Jeff get hold of the Power Word? I sense there is a new beginning coming, but we don’t quite get there. Perhaps it’s more about the desperate hope for a new beginning? Again, I felt this was a touch constrained by the word limit – it would be great to see it expanded so we could experience the full desolation of Jeff’s catastrophic mistake.


    @janette

    Dancing With Words

    This is delightful. A truly uplifting celebration of our new online home, with a sprinkling of metaphors that brought a smile. I’m so glad someone sought to talk about our own new beginning here on the Den and to express something of what it means to you – and articulated the sentiments of a lot of people, I’m certain. Thank you, Janette


    @athelstone

    Bonjour

    Another uplifting tale to offset the darkness of the earlier entries, and told with your customary command of voice. It takes some skill to be able to tell a whole life from childhood into adulthood, with the modulation of that voice from innocence to cynicism, and with the thread of the evolving sense of the simple word ‘bonjour’. There were a couple of parts that I felt risked sliding into a bit too much ‘tell’ over ‘show’, but that hardly seems fair considering what you achieved in the word count – and you always won me back with a line such as ‘she seemed the sort of person who might tolerate me.’


    @seagreen

    Untitled

    I don’t know what it is about this month’s theme, but there’s some serious ambition on show. This is another stunning encapsulation of a life over decades, and told with nearly 80 words to spare. The world you present is realised with such deft strokes it put me right there in all the sensory details – pickled onion Monster Munch, the drips wiped with the sleeve of a Harrington jacket. And, my god, the punch in the guts in that third section. It’s all so unpretentious and almost anti-romantic, but the tenderness at its heart. Wow. If I had a complaint it would be that the ending felt a touch abrupt, but this is such a special piece of writing it feels churlish to say so.


    @squidge

    Untitled

    This is as powerfully bittersweet as it is unassuming. It’s as minimalist as the unnamed ‘him’, at a tiny 173 words, and understated, but all that emotion, and hints of the history of the relationship, hovering just beneath the pristine surface… wow. Again, I wondered if there was a little bit of ‘tell’ in the middle that could have been evoked more strongly, but then the way it is done suits the deliberately minimalist style. Superb.

    Karen Telling @karen

    Untitled

    I don’t know whether this is fiction, fact or some blend of the two but I am utterly convinced. This is so poignant, speaking of a life that you could not help but fall in love with, coming to an end. There’s the odd slightly cliched phrase, but other than that this is a beautifully observed and deeply, disarmingly personal piece about an ending and a new beginning. It’s a tribute to the strength of the voice that you don’t let the grief for the ending overwhelm the uplifting nature of the beginning. Well done

    Jules @jillybean

    Impact

    It’s great to see another genre entry, and this is pulse-pounding sci-fi adventure at its best, with overtones of the Golden Age zines. You keep us guessing, and the pace racing until the very end. I love the little hints of the wider history glimpsed in the cracks between the MC’s experiences, and some great images – the evac-tubes flaring past. Love too, that epiphany of mankind as a single organism whose life and death is just an aspect of the universe’s struggles to understand itself. My only complaint is that the decades-long voyage, and the life after the new beginning, can only be hinted at.

    Raine @raine

    The Place Where You Fell

    Mesmerising, poetic – almost a prose-poem, in fact – and layer upon layer of meaning. The language is beautiful, lyrical and wistful. I had to read it a few times to draw the thread of the narrative from it, as it was so easy just to get mesmerised by the rhythms. That’s not exactly a negative, as the style of the piece is such that it rewards careful and repeated readings. There is so much more unsaid than said, though so much is said. A beautiful fragment of folkloric reminiscence.

    Alan Rain @alanr

    Your World

    I’m so glad someone entered a poem. I freely admit that despite many years studying literature, I never really got the hang of poetry criticism, but in narrow terms of whether this worked for me or not – it did. The tone of it, the rhythm, the cadence I found affecting. There were some lovely turns of phrase, and a despairing new beginning rather than a hopeful one, and such hopeless longing in the last line.

    Sandra @sandradavies

    Summer 1999

    Such a great voice in this one. The clipped, fragmentary sentences are so expressive of someone used to disappointment, of not even trying to hope. I can feel their actual voice being like that, saying as little as possible. It’s really clever, and I’m right in that hall with your narrator. I love how the last line takes us into an as-yet unknown future, and it’s really possible to imagine how your not-daring-to-hope character responds. Lovely

    John S Alty @johnalty

    A New Dawn

    This is another of those pieces that rings so true it seems it must be written, in some measure, from personal experience – I would love to know what! The atmosphere is completely convincing. I’m there in the heat, the dust. The slow reveal is handled so deftly that when it becomes apparent what and who Daniel and his mother are there for, it was almost a punch-the-air moment. And that revelation in the last line – so understated but so powerful. A line or two here and there could have been a little less on-the-nose, I feel, but that’s a minor point.

    And so, after lots of ado, without any further of it, to the result.

    The winner of the inaugural Den of Writers monthly competition is Seagreen

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by Daedalus. Reason: Tagging
    #1985
    Janette
    Participant

    Congratulation, Sea, very well deserved. And thank you, Daeds for such kind comments on my own story and for kicking all of this off.

    #1987
    Sandra
    Participant

    Well done Sea – a breath-stopping piece beautifully (dare I say?) conceived.

    #1988
    Daedalus
    Participant

    I just amended the post to tag people, which I’d forgotten to do before. I hope people get notifications of tags when it’s an edited post? Oh well, we’ll find out

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