Monthly comp – October 2020

About Forums Den of Writers Monthly Competition Monthly comp – October 2020

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    If you don’t mind, I’m going to steer away from the typical Halloween-type thing. Instead, I’d like you to get in touch with your negative emotions – hate, fear, despair – whatever you like and however you like.
    I’m setting the word limit at 350 words to keep it intense.


    0815 Wednesday 12 December (350 words, 1 an expletive)

    I assumed … God help me, I assumed McCallan had come with news of arrests, of mitigation. Or at least reassurance of progress
    Instead –
    Instead – Rob.
    Robbie my son, my first-born.
    Dead in her car.
    She the driver. No blame … no blame for Robbie, McCallan said.

    Robbie, who Moira reported missing, had been found.

    Robbie who, four days ago (McCallan had showed me CCTV) was driving her black car. Near Glasgow.
    I’d not told Moira.
    Not said I’d sent him to her. To make sure she was safe.

    Both dead.
    Off-road in heavy snow, McCallan said.
    Black car. White snow.
    South of here. Two hundred miles.

    About to burst into manhood
    will have done, in one way, the five days he’d been with her … (I’d be glad of that, for him, later … except why should she have shared his final days?)

    She dead too … McCallan said no way yet to say she to blame (and gave away to Moira I knew who and what she was) … but Rob

    I … folded. Heard myself groan, like I’d once heard the collapse of a part-axed oak. Me then Robbie’s age – no! I’d not long had my eighteenth birthday.

    Rob would never reach eighteen –
    I’d understood the tree knew it was about to die.
    Now wished the same applied to me.
    Had Robbie known?

    McCallan, dour-faced, watched. Ready to steady. To raise me up.
    Like Lazarus? (And from where the fuck this biblical stuff?)
    Moira frozen at my side. Turned to stone. To ice.
    Neither of us took up their suggestion we sit to hear what they’d come to say. Their grave insistence told us it was bad. We … I … wanted to be seen as strong.

    From upstairs, voices. Sarah, bossing Ian to hurry up in the bathroom else she’d be late for school. In Moira’s absence she’d taken over …
    Moira took a step towards the door then stopped.
    I knew, because I’d thought it too, how could she find the words to tell them?
    To say their brother’s dead.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by Sandra.

    By the Sword – 347 words (a couple of expletives)

    Another hand clutched my black-jacketed shoulder.
    Another cliché joined the collection.
    Another pitiful frown.
    Whispers drifted over; how brave she was being; a credit to her husband – oh, how she would miss him …

    The bastard.

    These people, they had been as blind to reality throughout the shit’s life; to his barbed digs, his veiled threats, his fear-inciting scowls, over-speaking and shuns. Thank goodness they were true to form today, when my mouth curled; when my fist twitched that air-punch as the coffin slid through the hatch. Fifty years married, they sniffled. How heartbreakingly romantic.

    They were right, he had financially supported his wife and never once raised a hand in anger. But I’d have chosen a slap any day, above the insidious words that came from his mean mouth. Above the shouts and the taunting – anything to unnerve.

    My fault, of course. I would press his buttons. Make him boil. Oh, and how he boiled: beetroot cheeks and tautened lips. Trembling fists, twitching to hit out while I cowered. The doctor confirmed a dangerously high blood pressure; prescribed tablets to control it; advised to take better care – calm down.

    My fault again, he had huffed. So many buttons pressed – I should rightly feel guilty.

    I did.

    So much so, I undertook to care for him better; pick up his medication; change his diet. The pills I collected looked different from the others, he complained. A different supplier, I supposed – not a lie. A placebo, I neglected to add. And I did watch his diet: ham omlettes of a morning instead of sugary cereal; an extra slip of salt – for flavour; licorice replacing his toffee treats. Instant coffee changed over to percolated – fresh surely more natural. Oh, and the doctor clearly meant more exercise, like carrying bags to the car. It pressed buttons, but that was only to be expected.

    I felt relieved when he uncovered the truth. The almighty rage it brought on was enough to burst a blood vessel … and bring him here today. Still, he who lived by the sword, and all that.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by Janette.

    “Written in the Scars” 101 words

    Some people left a scar, it was a vertical one, slashing straight down. Not on the skin, where anyone sees it; this is inside, where it leaves its mark on your mind.

    Then, others cut another scar, a horizontal line across the top of the first, and another right below it following the same track. An F.

    So it went, for years, more letters forming, until the whole message was revealed:


    And so I follow that.

    So if, and when, they criticize me for my solitude (I think of it as minding my own business), I point to the message and say: You wrote that.


    Halfway through the month, so still time to get an entry in!


    There’s a monster inside of me.

    It was born when Noellia moved into number 14.

    The car started it. A shiny new Fiat 500. Electric. In powder blue. Parked on the drive. I looked at my own clapped out Fiesta and felt the first stirrings of new life, deep in my chest.

    She fed the monster well, did Noellia.

    Had an open house, she did. Invited all her new neighbours round after three months, to see what she’d done with the old place. Champagne glass in hand, I wandered round the glossy open plan kitchen-diner with Mrs Sim from number 23, and the Pattens from number 15. All that noise from the workmen had been worth it.

    Noellia got to bask in sleek lines and chrome fittings, when I still had patterned paper, 80’s cabinets, and cheap formica tops.

    I stepped outside for a breath of air and got a noseful of fresh-cut grass.

    The monster roared.

    “Oh, don’t walk on the grass,” Noellia twittered at me. “It doesn’t look as nice when it’s flattened.”

    So I stayed on the pristine patio and gazed out over a velvet lawn, comparing it to my own dandelion-studded and thatched-moss affair. Had she got Charlie Wotsername – the one that never wore a bra – in to design the garden? The planting was certainly more exotic than my own self-seeded buddleias and rampant golden rod.

    “Have you seen the garden room?”

    That’s when the monster opened his eyes…

    Garden room, my arse. It was a garden bloody mansion. Had more furniture in it than my entire downstairs, including a bar with rainbow lights. Bet the booze don’t taste any different from there to when I grab a can from the fridge and drink it sitting in my mouldy old deckchair.

    …and his eyes were as green as Noellia’s grass.

    306 words

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by Squidge.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 7 months ago by Squidge.

    A week left to get your rage on the page or your venom on the vellum!


    346 words excluding title

    Learned Habits

    Her flatmate said she wanted a chat, about the apartment. She called it an apartment but with its beige kitchen units, its shower over the bath, its dingy paintwork, it was an old-fashioned flat.

    Both women were in their early twenties.

    Jess sat down on the sofa. The sofa, said the flatmate. Its fabric was threadbare on the arms and cushions. Jess had the skills to make new covers. She could mend the sofa. Please.

    They’d had this conversation before. Again, Jess explained it was hard to find the right fabric even though they’d already agreed on something like the old one. She didn’t explain that her job at the bank was boring, her friends were drifting away and her life had petrified. That the shabby flat was claustrophobic. Couldn’t say the flatmate no longer seemed a friend, that it was hard to relate to someone with an exciting career in advertising, a loving partner and a bursting social diary. Didn’t say that the wide horizons of the flatmate’s life were too bright to bear.

    Jess smiled. The flatmate sighed and a few days later cooked a lasagne so they could eat in. The job in advertising was tiring and quite often she didn’t get back in time for a meal at all but she’d made a special effort. They needed, she said, to talk.

    They sat on the sofa with trays on their knees. The lasagne was delicious. The flatmate had asked Jess to buy paint to redecorate the living room. Was there any update on this? she asked. After all, the flatmate would do most of the painting herself. Jess only needed to –

    Jess said she hadn’t had time, and smiled.

    The flatmate’s face was dull with disbelief. She was almost pale with it. Jess’s behaviour rasped at her endurance. But she didn’t say anything. It hadn’t worked before when some slight criticism had left Jess sulking for days.

    Jess pushed aside most of her lasagne and enjoyed her own smile and the fib about not having time. The lie fizzed like an assault.


    Apologies for the delay in posting these results…You know what I’m like with feedback but I did my best.

    Firstly, though, many thanks for taking the time to post an entry 🙂

    Sandra – Great use of short, staccato sentences and broken sentence structure to indicate disorganised thought. Sharp intake of breath when I realised where this was leading (although I confess to losing the thread a bit further on). Thanks for kicking things off.

    Janette – great scene setting, use of emotive language and that understated, but no less sinister, sense of vengeance.

    Doug – loved the title! Cautious of saying too much in case I’ve got it wrong, but I felt you were holding back and would love to see this explored further.

    Squidge – I can SO relate! Now, when my garden is an overgrown patch of weeds, my own green-eyed monster stirs at the sight of the work of art that is my sister’s neighbours’ garden. Does that make m a bad person?

    Libby – Underlying tension which is more than a little creepy. And those smiles… *shivers*

    Any one of you could have walked away with this month’s virtual bottle of wine, but Sandra gets it for the sharp intake of breath. Over to you.


    Thank you Sea, not least for the challenge itself, which forced me to face and write a scene I had been putting off; I look forward to the time that bottle of wine is anything but virtual. And yes, I was glad not to be the judge this month, so many differing emotions to choose from. I’ll be back in the morning with a challenge for November.


    Congratulations, Sandra – an excellent story. And thank you, Sea, for the feedback and setting a challenge I could rise to.


    Thank you, Sea, for the challenge. It was a challenge, too! Not more normal kind of writing.

    Congratulations, Sandra. An excellent story.


    Thank you, Sea, for the challenge. It was a challenge, too! Not my normal kind of writing.

    Congratulations, Sandra. An excellent story.

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