Monthly Competition – September 2021

About Forums Den of Writers Monthly Competition Monthly Competition – September 2021

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  • #10861
    Knicks
    Participant

    Dreams. Most of us have them. Most of my stories are touched by the dreams I’ve been lost in for years. In 300-500 words, write a dreamscape based on the nocturnal playground your mind likes to romp in when your eyes close and you turn in from the outer world. It can be based on a recent dream, a recurring one, a dream you had when you were a child that you’re only now remembering as you read this. If you don’t dream, and have no inspiration for this piece, write anything you like, so long as the story is dream-like, and the writing dreamy. Get lost in it. I can’t wait to see what you bring out with you, on the other side ✨

    #10879
    Squidge
    Participant

    Oh my days…I’m going to be spoilt for choice, the state of my dreams! I’ll avoid the teeth-dropping out ones and see what else weird and wonderful I recorded in my dream diary.

    #10880
    Knicks
    Participant

    😃😊 Yayyy! Nothing makes me happier than that which is weird and wonderful. I personally won’t mind teeth-dropping out ones. There’s beauty in nightmare as well ✨

    #10885
    Libby
    Participant

    One of my instant thoughts was teeth dropping out! But like you, Squidge, I’ll set that one aside. Though perhaps there’s horror story material there…

    #10891
    Knicks
    Participant

    Most of my dreams are about me being chased, and my running away. Seems to be a recurring motif in my dreamscape. Sometimes it’s horrifying, other times a call to adventure, and most times, something in between the two 😊

    #10918
    Squidge
    Participant

    In the place and time I found myself, I had done something wrong.

    My punishment? A chain of large metal links, secured around my throat, pressing against my flesh, reminding me of its presence every time I swallowed or turned my head.

    A man, with whom I had a connection – were we related? Was he the reason for my wrongdoing? – received the same punishment. We left the place where the chains had been imposed upon us together, and I held his hand to give me confidence as we walked, in the time afterwards, through the busy market place.

    The chains showed above our collars.

    “It’s so visible,” I said to him.

    People avoided us, moved quickly out of the way when they saw the markers we wore, averted their eyes after the initial glance and the double-take which followed, and one last horrified stare. On the bus, I tried not to notice them noticing, tried not to care, tried to wear my punishment lightly.

    But the chain marked me out as different, as other, as having done
    wrong, although I knew not what it was that had been judged so.

    For the first time, I dared to touch the new and unfamiliar addition to my person.

    The chain fell away, and I held it out to my companion.

    “It came off,” I said.

    (Bit on the short side, 221 words, but based on a dream I recorded 8/8/19)

    #10928
    Athelstone
    Moderator

    Jay

    Jay says he loves me. He says ‘I love you, man’. He tells me he’s killed his mother, or maybe I just think that he did. He says he crushed her like Plasticine, but I can remember that it was really me who crushed my mother. She was made of red plastic and her feet were set on a little tab so she could be stood up. I crushed her with my thumb. I remember the pain and guilt.

    But Jay says we all get second chances, even though we screwed up so badly first time. So here we both are. I tell everybody I don’t have to do this. Not really. I don’t need it. Not really. It kind of doesn’t matter that, yet again, I haven’t done anything. There’s a meeting I have to be in, or maybe it’s an exam I have to take and I really haven’t any idea what it’s about. But I say it again. I assure everybody it doesn’t matter. We laugh at how unimportant it is that I’m wasting the kind of opportunity that should only come once. And the point is I know it’s not true. I’m going to be found out.

    Jay is fitting in well. He’s going to win something and he knows all the people here. My father is over there. He’s got a plate with sandwiches and stuff from the buffet. Jay bumps him walking by and I feel angry and want to beat him into a pulp. Dad doesn’t even notice. I just worry that I’m wasting my time. I shouldn’t be here.

    Dad says, ‘You know all the food is poisoned.’

    I say, ‘It’s out of date. But there wasn’t time.’

    He eats it anyway and I have a flash of anger or maybe fear. So greedy, he’ll eat poisoned food. Then I remember I don’t have to do this so it doesn’t matter. I feel a sharp stab of sadness for my anger at him. I don’t like the way things are going. I remember my dad is dead. He shouldn’t be here to witness this. And I shouldn’t be here, failing all over again. This is getting too confused.

    Not good. The pillow is damp under my sticky mouth. My head aches. At least it’s over and I’m awake.

    It occurs to me that I don’t know anybody called Jay.

    398 words

    #11022
    Seagreen
    Participant

    Couldn’t make more than a patchwork quilt of the remnants of my dreams so was forced to resort to the daydreaming option. (Can you tell I’ve been watching Supernatural? 😊)

    SACRIFICE

    Awareness filters into my consciousness like oil seeps into unleavened bread, slowly and without fanfare. The darkness in my mind begins to withdraw.

    I feel nothing.

    Ripples of sound – muffled tones, indeterminate speech, and a single note of discord – originate from a source somewhere above and behind me. The voices nudge my senses, seeking reassurance, seeking acknowledgement, but I brush them aside as ants from a sugar spill.

    Not yet, I tell them, knowing they cannot hear.

    Still, I feel nothing. Nothing except the weight of ages pressing down upon my fragile bones.

    Ah.

    I begin to understand. I am caught in that unseen place between what was and what will be. I am my own captor and only I can set myself free.

    Cool air brushes across too hot, too dry skin and a drum beat, slow and rhythmic, vibrates in the hollow place within my chest. Echoes of a past life surface like flotsam in my mind and I allow them to drift past. I will come to them later.

    Consciously, I draw air into my lungs – a painful, ragged intake of breath that scours delicate passageways. The air is foul, heavy with the bitter scent of birch and belladonna, and the copper taste of spilled blood. Old magic. I recognise it for what it is. The spell of rebirth. A spell that requires a human sacrifice.

    Am I to be the sacrifice?

    No. The knowledge that I am destined for more important things comes unbidden, without relief or glory, as the voices push ever more persistently to be recognised. I open my eyes to the grey-orange gloom of an immense tomb, lit by sputtering tallow candles and lined with the shadow-figures of long-dead Guardians, silent and still.

    I had expected more, I realise. The person I once was had dreamed of this moment with excitement and exultation. I do not feel… anything.

    I turn my attention inwards then, to search my new vessel, this lithe body of someone I had once called a friend – yet still betrayed – and discover my soul is missing.

    #11027
    Sandra
    Participant

    Another pieced-together piece, and only 245 words, but best I can manage.

    Bourbon dreaming 28 December 2012

    A bottle of Makers Mark from my husband for Christmas and a wine-free tea (Köstritzer Schwarzbier instead) so I took a glass of bourbon to bed with me, along with John Rebus.

    And I dreamt, more vividly and memorably than usual, with more logic than usual too but little of it, nevertheless.
    A dawn-dark car park wherein we had to wait permission for a place and then a pale blue pillowcase of clothes.
    A French class I had to prove my credentials for – and then find the classroom.
    An attractive man in a blue and white check shirt, re-drawing in red ink a poor photocopy map of the university layout: three capital ‘A’s, top points converging.
    A conversation in a celebrity-crowded corridor with Camilla Parker-Bowles concerning the health and whereabouts of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

    By morning, the alcohol should have dissipated, but enough remained for one last dream, just before I wake (so the sense, the emotion, the wishful thinking and regret of it stays all day)

    In this dream, a man I’ve long and lightly fancied, for his gunslinger walk and easy smile, sits behind me, naked (as am I, but for a hospital gown). We gaze in silence across a hazy Tuscan valley, olive trees dusty against a pale blue sky. Lombardy pines imply the twisted lies of adulterers, as his erection emulates a fancy-carved church candle.
    Even before I wake I curse my eager clumsiness, grateful for his understanding grin.

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 3 weeks ago by Sandra.
    #11037
    Raine
    Participant

    449 words. CW – it’s a little bit dark.

    The Hounds

    Dark water curls around the bases of the towers and somewhere the hounds are baying. From here, on the bared skeleton of the top floors you can see fires burning on other towers, flags red as blood flying like strings of prayers and there is safety there, possibly, but they are as far away as the moon.

    The hounds bay.

    If you could fly, you think, if just you could remember wings and feathers and lift yourself, and it ought to be possible. It has been before, there have been times you have wished yourself airborne and floated from tree to tree, from fire to mountain top and back again, your body like a flung arrow, or like a scrap of paper kicked loose by gales. Your muscles braced for the fall, but your heart in between the stars. So, feathers, you think. The waves are rising, hooking their sleek claws into empty windows. The hounds are closer now, unslowed by stormwaters, they pass through them like a waveform, becoming flesh and teeth again on each tower. The whole landscape is greys and shafts of light, broken towers like endless blackened bones and the waters rising. You can hear the men who follow the hounds, their callsigns and footsteps even from another tower.

    You wish for feathers, for the sky. Your feet leave the concrete, the metal spars.

    You rise.

    The hounds become waveform, intangible they cross the waters, they reach your tower, solid again, floors below out of sight but singing hunger.

    You falter. You fall. Your feathers slip from your arms, float loose out into the empty air and descend towards the sea slantwise, slowly. So instead you run. There are footsteps and the scrabble of claws and your legs are not your own. Below the knee your own flesh has been stolen and replaced with foreign things, white as pearls, weighted and slow they will not lift themselves, they will not listen, they will not run.

    The hounds reach the rooftop, spreading out, their men crowd the stairwell with their knives brighter even than the hounds’ bright teeth. Your unbelonging limbs will not move for you, your feathers have fallen, you have been here so many times before that you face the hounds, the men, almost with relief.

    Just one last thing remains. The choice.

    It should be easy, because you have done them all a hundred times. You have felt the knives and the teeth, you have chosen the fire, you have chosen the fall. They all end the same.

    This time you fall. You tip out over broken metal and plunge towards the waters. At least this way you might find your fallen wings.

    #11049
    Knicks
    Participant

    Hello and thank you to all who took the time to participate. I have just finished up work for the week and really look forward to reading the last few entries over the weekend before I select this September’s winner. Please bear with me as I get it done. Results will be posted by Monday latest ✨

    #11052
    Knicks
    Participant

    Okay guys, I’ve completed my reading and I really must say these are all so good and left my expectations very well-met.


    @squidge
    – I enjoyed this far-away, fantastical dream sequence, with its lightly pressing sense of isolation, elusive understanding, and finally, lucidity.


    @athelstone
    – Gorgeously streaming subconsciousness with this one, full of grasping, phantom feelings and encounters with what you know to be true even as it confounds and lingers with the dream-drenched mind upon waking.


    @seagreen
    – I loved the voice here, the way it takes its time to notice the details – all the sensory imagery – and yet lacks the power to influence them. That sudden, eerie realization at the end that would have made my heart sink had this dream been my own.


    @sandradavies
    – The way this piece slips from scene to scene to scene, focusing in for a suspended moment before moving on – in a way that feels both collected and arbitrary – is exactly the kind of dreamy account I enjoy and was hoping for.


    @raine
    – Of dreams and recurrent nightmare, chaos and fear and the desperate scramble for survival; this has the kind of imagery that lulls and lingers long after awaking. I love how inevitable and . . . sticky . . . it feels – like spider’s web – delicately spun with the intention to slice. True of dreams and your prose in general, methinks :3

    This was too tough. In my heart I have at least three pieces that are tied for winning but I’ve never seen ties done in short story comps before and I don’t want to break form, lols. So I’ll break my heart instead and make the choice.

    Congratulations Sandra Davies!! Your piece is resonant and quietly lovely, just like a dream! Thank you all for participating in September’s competition, and well done for penning such wonderful, dreamlike sequences. This was great! 🎉😊✨

    #11054
    Athelstone
    Moderator

    Fabulous stories and especially well done, @Sandradavies. Thanks for a great comp @knickylaurelle

    #11055
    Raine
    Participant

    Very deserved win @sandradavies, well done! & thank you for an unusual, fun challenge @knickylaurelle. Everyone’s entries were great (& fascinating insights into your psyche!!).

    #11056
    Seagreen
    Participant

    Woohoo, Sandra! Congratulations! ☺️

    And well done, Knicky. Thanks for a challenging (for me, anyway) comp 👍

    #11059
    Raine
    Participant

    @knickylaurelle just to let you know Sandra won’t be able to set a challenge as she’s offline for a wee while. Did you want to set another? Or I can invent something?

    #11072
    Knicks
    Participant

    Go for it!! I don’t need to tell you whose piece tied with hers in muh heart 😍😍 haha #mybiasisshowing

    #11074
    Raine
    Participant

    Done! and lol! 😀

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