SHORT STORY Competition Winners 2021
The winners were as follows:
A: School years 2 to 4 – Poppy Down – St Joseph’s Middle School, Year 3
My name is Tabby, and I am a scaredy cat. I used to think that I was quite brave or at least no more scared than any other cat, but it seems I was wrong.
I am 5 years old. I was brought up on a farm in the Kent countryside in the south east of England. I would spend my days roaming free over fields, chasing mice and rabbits. Running away from the farm dogs and tormenting the chickens and other birds that dared to land where I was! I enjoyed kisses and cuddles from my people, mummy, daddy, Lily and Poppy. One day my family put me in a box in the back of the car but instead of taking me to the vet, I was in the car for days! When I was finally allowed to stretch my legs, Poppy told me we were here, in our new house in Gibraltar.
I did not know what they were talking about, but I was no longer on my farm. I was locked in the house for a few days. It was hot outside, and they had these gusty things called air conditioning units in every room. Finally, mummy let me out. We did not have a garden, so I walked down the street. I saw a dog and I ran. I ran, I ran, and I ran! I jumped up onto a wall and looked behind me thinking I was close to being caught but there was no sign of the dog. Just then I heard some laughing. I turned around and on the balcony above me two cats were giggling like they were being tickled! The white one spoke first. “Did I see you running from a dog?” he laughed! “Yes”, I said, “it was going to eat me!” The ginger one spoke next “you’re not from around, here are you?” “no” I said. The white one spoke again “it shows, you see, we don’t run from dogs” “you don’t run from dogs? Why not?” I asked “They stay on their lead here; they don’t just walk the streets. Their owners keep them in check!” said the ginger one. I thanked them and climbed down from the wall and walked home.
I saw another dog and I ran again! I could not help it; it was my instinct! Then I remembered so the next time a saw a dog I stood still, and it ignored me. So, I laid down on the pavement and groomed myself, when another dog walked by. It looked scared of me! I could not believe it. What is this amazing world where cats rule the outdoors, not just the indoors? I thought “I can go anywhere here.” I walked by the tennis club and met the chickens. They looked at me like we were the same. I did not try to chase them. I met the other cats from the alley, they were so kind! I walked to the beach, I had never seen the sea before. There were many fish too, but the sea is not like a pond on the farm, it is far wilder, so I did not try to catch one. The sand gets all over your fur and it does not taste nice. A seagull shared it is catch with me and told me where to sit to get food thrown to me from the people at the restaurants!
I then decided to walk up the rock. It looked quiet there. But no one told me what to expect. I had never seen a monkey before! No one tells you what to do. So, I froze. A tiny one came and touched my tail. First it stroked me, then it picked up my tail before it got on my back like I was a pony. The big monkeys fell around laughing. More little monkeys came to join in, taking turns to play with me. I was very tired, so I turned to go home. The daddy monkey said I could come back any time!
When I walked home that night I felt like a lion, not a little tabby farm cat anymore. I am brave and I can do anything!
B: School years 5 to 7 – Lili Murphy – Prior Park School, Year 7
I held my ticket tightly as I stood behind my mother. I did not feel the cold I was so excited. It was dark now outside, but we were getting closer to the foyer lights. Mum had bought us tickets as a surprise for Christmas. It was the best surprise ever and I love going to the theatre. We grabbed the popcorn, the sweets, and the brochure from the busy and bustling sellers. It was going to be a full house. We were lucky to get tickets.
We found an entrance door and were taken to our sets by the kind and smile usherette. We got comfy in our red velvet sets. The theatre felt magical, and I could hear the band warming up. We were here to see my granny perform. She was playing the wicked queen in this pantomime. I do not get to see her do this often, so I am excited. As the house lights went down, the band struck up and the big heavy curtain went up. We were sat very near the front, so I could see everything. I could even see a little in to the wings! To see the bright lights and the darkness at the side, just makes me think of all the people working backstage. All of a sudden, there was a change in the mood on the stage. The lighting was dark and green, and the music was sinister. A loud firework went off and granny appeared. The audience went wild as they laughed, booed, and cheered along with everything granny was saying. She looked so fantastically scary, even I began to boo!
The baddies, the goodies, the dancers and the comedians had us entertained throughout. I laughed so hard at all the jokes that my stomach hurts. I didn’t want it to end, but I couldn’t wait to go backstage after the show. As the show came to an end, and the finale costumes shimmered, we all stood up and applauded and cheered for more. The curtain came down and I felt so proud. Everyone around me was talking about my granny and how fantastic she was. I stayed very quiet and didn’t tell them I was her granddaughter.
A lady dressed in black with headphones and a mic around her neck was coming towards us through the crowd as we all tried to leave the auditorium. She told us to follow her, and I assumed she was going to take us around to the stage door. Instead, and to my delight, she took us through a small door at the side of the stage which led to a small corridor. There was another door with a security code, which then took us to a darkened area. I realized we were right by the side of stage. We were passing the scenery all stored efficiently to the side. I trod carefully and didn’t touch anything as there were buttons everywhere.
We then came into another corridor which took as to where the dressing rooms were. No 1, was on the door and it said her name. We knocked and entered in. Wow, there were wigs, costumes, makeup and so many flowers. There were good luck cards everywhere and, it smelt so good. I was so happy to be in this room and watch my granny get changed and ready to go home. People kept knocking on the door and coming in to chat to her. The sound man, the wardrobe lady, another actor, a stage manager, they all wanted to tell her something…something important each time.
At that moment, I felt I understood what my granny did. What her job was and how hard she worked. The amount of people who worked in this building was fascinating. Would I and could I ever work in a theatre too? At that moment I knew I would one day like to try.
C: School years 8 to 10 – Mikey Piris – Prior Park School, Year 9
Escape From Reality
A sigh of relief, passing through immigration as I swiftly glided on the conveyor belt. The distinct smell and buzz of an airport activating butterflies in my gut. My heart pounding with excitement as images of all my travels gush to all my senses. It all seems like a bizarre dream, Covid, lockdown, vaccines, travel corridors….but here I am embarking on a new wild adventure. Freedom!
This Covid business has been an excruciating nightmare to all. We all took a bad hit in one way or another, physical, emotional, financial, we are still grieving the loss of loved ones and trying to get our lives in order to a new normality.
My experience of this virus as a teen has been suffocating like a caged animal almost. Trapped within the concrete walls of my apartment. So much for going out to exercise or fresh air. That was limited almost a luxury for me. Due to our situation at home, having mum being immunosuppressed, we had to be extra vigilant.
Emotions were flying high, hormones untamed, I was needing physical connection with those of my kind, yes as if we were a totally different species under lockdown. There’s so much zoom you can take!
I was yearning for real contact, yes touching, the feel laughter, the wind in my hair, the touch and smell of money, so alien now after just all online transactions! Food my one and only consolation, the joy to my taste buds, indulging in the most exotic of recipes would transport me to to places where I craved to be.
On arrival I felt a wave of sensations awaken in me; satisfaction, excitement and exhilaration, my immense passion and desire for this country was no longer a fantasy, it was real. La Cidade Maravilhosa, was at my feet. My journey would start here in Rio, where I would relish in the buzzing atmosphere and treasures of the city, both rampant and mystic. Then it would take me, from this cosmopolitan community on to a trek to Manaus, an incongruous urban metropolis in the middle of the jungle. My doorway to the rainforest, my escape from captivity into the vast, virgin wilderness.
I knew it would not be a walk in the park, but a tough slog in the muddy and unforgiving jungle. But, that is what I most wished for, nature at its best, diversified, vibrant and ultimately untouched.
I wanted to go where not a single soul had been, to be at one with mother earth, ultimate liberation.
Having sampled the best and the worst of Rio, I felt almost complete, for these were memories to cherish for a lifetime. A blend of contrasts, the beauty of its vivacious colours in both wealth and squalor. Squeezed into a narrow, astonishingly lovely zone between vegetation clad cliffs and the sea. I felt Rio de Janeiro pulsating like an artery. The most captivating place in the world, its sublime natural features, the sugarloaf, Corcovado Mountain. The renowned beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, expansive white sands encompassing an array of pulsating life and flesh, from surfers to beauties, maybe not so natural in weeny bikinis. All of these sights showcased in the outstretching arms of Christ the Redeemer.
Another touchdown, now in Manaus, feeling confident but somewhat anxious about what was yet to come. Having left the glamour of Rio and urban life behind, here I was at the gateway to the Amazon. Again another bustling but somewhat gritty city. I lost myself once more amongst a colourful mosaic of friendly locals and a vast collection of produce, some of the most exotic and bizarre fruit and vegetables I’d ever seen. At times I felt a little out of whack, the pace, the sweltering heat…
But the life, the freedom, no restraints.
“Get up, Mikey, it’s time for your online lesson” she shouted “Yet another day in lockdown!” muttered mum under her breath.
“ Did you hear last night about a new Brazilian Variant of the Virus?”
D: School years 11 to 13 – Honor Easter – Prior Park School, Year 11
The swaying symphony of a long-dead ballroom lingers. In a building two silhouettes sway, the echoing nostalgia faintly ricocheting off the walls. Plain walls of peeled plaster, and marbles floors that echo with every step they take.
The outside world is dead; the ballroom, alive; like a sonder greeting these two dancers with open arms and wistful expression.
The Lead is suave, torn suit and scuffed shoes that pace the polished floor, the look in their eyes is tired, ready to leave the ballroom at the drop of a hat, gaze averting the walls around them, stretching ever so far, yet seeming to be a cage for their enclosure.
Whilst the other, the one who follows, has an evanescent smile; calmly, eyes shut and swaying. Sometimes, when the lingering music skips a beat, or jumps to static, you can still hear how it was; sounds of ghosts still dancing on air, and the accompanying band receiving a polite round of applause from gloved hands. The sounds are muted, like listening through a wall; the feeling is of missing out on a memory you once were a part of.
And so, trapped in a daze, the dancers continue; until the Leader pulls away.
“You can’t keep coming here,” the Leader says, “This place is dead, you must move on.”
But over the years, each revisit slowly reveals the dying state of the ballroom. It had been years since its heyday; the memory of it, beautiful; the reality, slowly deteriorating.
The visits follow a pattern, overstretching through the time they stay there. The Follower begins in a hallway, decked in the dimmed colours of a faded past. The Leader is there, hands folded behind their back, and stern expression that had recessed from a welcoming smile. The Leader offers a hand, it is taken, and the two start to sway, the music emanating from the shadow of a band, echoing off the ever-stretching walls.
Each day the dance grows slower, the steps slowly forgotten.
The Leader grows tired.
“We have to let go. We should leave”
The Follower’s eyes are closed, still swaying to the empty symphony,
The Follower snaps out of their dazed state, as eyes snap open and look at the Lead, wide with realization, the words surfacing some sort of lucid thought.
The Follower’s features seem to freeze, stilling for a moment, before the Lead sees their face flash back into the sombre smile; and they continue to sway.
And then the Follower began to walk away; their form silhouetting against the walls; the music changes, it is clearer, there is the faint humming of a singer, the voice of a violin, the deep croon of a cello to its company. The Follower reaches a certain distance, and turns around,
And then the peeling walls, and the dusty floors flash from the remains to the glory of the ballroom. The image of what once was and what is flashing in the Leader’s eyes. They are separated, smiling yet strangely disquieted. Then the sound of the whistling growing closer, the realisation of a split-second before the scene will reset again. A short time to remember the truth, to stare at each other in terror. They will never run for cover in time.
“This was when the bomb hit; this was our ballroom.”
A blinding flash.
The swaying symphony of a long-dead ballroom lingers. Two silhouettes sway, the echoing nostalgia faintly ricocheting off the walls. Plain walls of peeled plaster, and marbles floors that echo with every step they take.