March competition

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    John S Alty

    Well, I think the subject is obvious this month – Spring. Interpret it any way you want in under 400 words. I know you’ll all be brilliant. Good luck!


    The Spring Has Sprung

    ‘The birdies is upon the wing, but that’s absurd.’

    Tom was on his hundredth rendition of the poem when I clutched his hand and pointed to the merry-go-round.

    ‘Look, Tom. Your Uncle Fred and I used to play on that when we were your age. Do you want a go?’

    He pulled himself free and ran to it with excited bouncing steps.

    ‘Spin me, Daddy. Please.’

    So, I span him, slowly at first and then in answer to his pleading, faster and faster. It was a beast of a thing, ancient, rusty with flaking paint. It had lived a long autumn but still seemed perfectly at home in the blossom of the park and the bright sun of April. At last, he demanded I stop and let him spin it, so I retired to a bench and watched him strain to get it moving, full to the brim with determination.

    ‘The wing is on the bird,’ I said. Not that there were birds any more. There had been that morning. I was reasonably certain that I’d heard birdsong and I had a memory of sparrows or something gathering nesting material. Not now. I looked around and listened. I could hear the creak and clank of the merry-go-round, but no birds. No cars either. I hadn’t seen cars for a day or two now. I think I saw a lorry the afternoon that Peggy went, but I might have imagined that.

    Tom lay on his back with his feet towards the hub, looking up to the sky. Fred and I did that too, a long time ago. Watched the clouds spin by as the merry-go-round turned. Every few seconds Tom went out of site as the hub hid him from view. After a while he didn’t appear.

    Tears rolled down my cheeks. I had hoped he would stay longer: that perhaps he would remain and I would go. It had felt fitting for spring, a time of renewal when the young replace the old. But now he was gone too. I looked up at the perfectly clear blue sky.

    ‘I wonder where the birdies is.’

    I was going to have one more go on the merry-go-round, when I realised that I could see grass where my feet used to be. It had come to this.

    I would sit in the sun, instead. As long as it lasted.


    Oh yes, under 400 words


    (Bang on 400 words, I think)

    Spring-Hollow Secret God Sleeping

    Bring withy willows with you to weave a net on a night when the moon rides high. We will catch her face in the black mirror at our feet, dance her widdershins and threefold so that our withies weave moonlight all around.

    Bring silver sage and silver blades and your hair hanging down. Your green ivy crown is night-rendered a wreath of black hands holding all your dreams. We burn the sage, smoke-screening, ashes fine as sadness on the water, white on black and the moon watching us, and watching herself. Smoke and dreams and withy webs, then barefoot we stand still again, our breaths herb-scented, the black water holding still as ice, as glass and a heart lying quietly.

    The water sleeps, the moon waits, we have woven our bodies along our danced line between moonlight and shadow, smoke and darkness, memory and forgetting. We have woven ourself tight and now raise our cradled hands to fill with silver light and all the wishes and secrets spoken to no-one but the nighttime and ourselves. We fill our cupped palms with them. The water waits black and silver, the forest breathes us darkly. Now bring the silver blades, their faces reflecting the moon and us like half-forgotten dreams. We are woven into the night, unravelling. Silver parts us from ourselves skin from skin, body from blood, one half falls into the black eye of the water and one half stays behind.

    Bring the breath in your lungs and the blood of your heart. Bring the dark, the moon, the dreams you cradled. Give it all to the water. Our flesh is woven into the night, held by the moon because we held her dancing. Our everything else we give to the water.

    The water is an empty doorway and the cavities of a heart. The water is sleeping, dream feeding on our wishes, our scented ashes, our blood. Dream feasting. Waking.

    The moon’s mirrored smile wavers. The water tastes of smoke and salt and darkness. Waking.

    Now. Now for the wishes we fed it, our dark secrets. Payment in blood and silver and guarded by the moon. Now, water, now spring-hollow secret god sleeping in the forest, now we have woken you, and now we ask for our wishes made true. Blood wishes, nighttime wishes as the moon rides high.

    Revenge, revenge, revenge.


    Spring’s Beautiful Bounty
    ‘No-one ever said that Life would be a bed of roses.’ Spring 2020 is proving that old saw to be true in no uncertain terms worldwide.
    But Mother Nature continues her cycle for the eye’s appreciation and the lifting of spirits; for inspiration too.
    Unseasonal buds have appeared on climbing roses which reach up to the warm Spring sunshine. Earlier battered by fierce March winds and torrential rainfall, they have fought back with a determination to survive and flourish.
    At ground level in the loam the Spring flora is predominately exhibiting shades of yellow. There is the pale lemon of fragrant hyacinths, the delicacy of miniature narcissi, daffodils such as Wordsworth extolled, primroses and cowslips. All as beautiful when contained within a walled garden as they are freely growing in the wilds of nature.
    A shrub stands tall in bloom with blousy pink blooms giving way gradually to pale green leaves. A stately camellia is showing its red flowers amongst its dark green glossy leaves.
    In my fanciful thoughts, I turn to the olive tree planted many years ago in remembrance of a dear, olive skinned friend and appreciate its seeming wisdom and its symbolism of peace as it watches over the garden in a protective manner. It, too, has given us a bounty this Spring in the form of a tiny crop of black olives, yet to be tasted.
    In a sheltered corner of the garden an unassuming aubrietia with its spiritual purple flowers takes me back to childhood. In those far off days another such, planted under an apple tree in the small plot that was mine to tend, was home to fairies.
    In these worrying and uncertain times, I feel it is even more important to count the blessings of simple pleasures and voice appreciation and gratitude for the beautiful bounty of Spring.
    (306 words)

    John S Alty

    Last day to get your entries in!



    Rheology: the study of the deformation and flow of matter.

    Henry considered himself an expert in such matters. Lying on his back on the grass, unable to move, he was suitably impressed by whoever had applied the sky for this particular assessment. It was, he knew, the most perfect finish he’d ever seen. A solid block of colour – Saltire Blue, if he knew anything about colour (which he did) and not a sag or wrinkle in sight.

    A gentle puff of wind teased his olfactory senses with the subtle scents of Primula marginata and Callianthemum anemonoides. Henry’s circuits vibrated with pleasure. Oh, well done! A delightful combination. And a whiff of Rhododendron luteoflorum, too. How perfect! Already this promised to be an improvement on last year’s results.

    There! A goldfinch. Carduelis carduelis unless he was mistaken, which he most certainly was not. And Erithacus rubecula chiming in for good measure.

    Henry closed his eyes for a second to better process his delight and found, to his disquiet, that he was unable to open them again. Not that he foresaw it as a problem. Even with his head resting at this unnatural angle and his commlink severed, he would still be able to formulate his findings and send his report to Command Central through his personal locator beacon.

    Or he would if his positronic network continued to function.

    His lower limbs spasmed and he felt the tug of being dragged across the ground – unjustly, he felt, and without due appreciation for his position as a Seasonal Adjudicator. Henry opened his mouth to remonstrate with the offenders, but there appeared to be a significant glitch with his voice unit. A series of high-pitched clicks and whirrs erupted instead of his usual perfectly modulated tones.

    ‘Devon, what the hell have you done?’

    Henry searched his memory banks. Devon. There were 3 million, six hundred thousand and two. Ah. Devon Peabody. Recently removed from the Winter Garden Project due to ‘irregular activities.’

    ‘Just making sure we don’t lose again this year.’

    ‘By taking out one of the officials? You moron! We nailed it this year! We were a shoo-in to win.’


    Henry’s neural network chirruped like birdsong as pond water leached into his damaged components.


    Henry rerouted the necessary circuits.

    Spring – disqualified due to illegal tampering.


    John S Alty

    So, four very different entries this month. Eenie, meanie, minie, mo.

    Seagreen made me laugh, Jill made me smile, Raine worried the hell out of me and Athelstone made me melancholy.Can’t separate you, all excellent.

    But I’m going to give this months prize to Raine for all that energy and power.

    Well done all of you!


    Thank you, John for setting this competition and for your kind comments. Raine is, indeed, a worthy winner – we all need ‘all that energy and power’ especially now to keep us going! Loved the other two entries too. When I joined I said I probably would not be entering competitions as I needed to concentrate on my own writing at the moment, but I could not resist this one …


    Well done, Raine! Thanks for the comp, John.


    Congratulations, Raine. Your story has made me shiver with anxiety! Well done – fabulous writing.

    Thank you John for setting the competition. I’m sorry March passed me by in a blur, what with one thing and another, and I didn’t manage an entry.


    Congratulations, Raine, and thanks, John. Glad poor Henry lightened your day. I have absolutely no idea where he came from, but he was a timely visitor 🙂


    Thank-you so much John and everyone! I am delighted to have worried you all! I love how utterly different all our stories were, so well dones are due to the rest of you as well – each one was great. 🙂


    Congratulations Raine. And thanks to everyone for their stories and the pleasure they gave me as well as John for the competition.

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