July 2018 Competition

Mon, Jul 9 2018 09:46pm IST 1
991 Posts
Ok, it's summer and we should all be outside getting some vitamin D, so this one's going to be a short 350 words, excluding title.

The theme is (appropriately) severe weather events. Pick any you like, and you are free to stretch the definition (i.e. ash fall from a volcano - it's a kind of weather, and it's pretty severe!). I want the weather to trigger a discovery - of a secret, treasure, passion, dead body, impending doom, magical power, extinct species ... whatever. Just severe weather => discovery, the rest is up to you... Good luck!

Edited: I am closing the comp at 10am on 31st July so that I can judge and post the same day as I'm not going to have internet for the following few days.
Mon, Jul 9 2018 09:59pm IST 2
873 Posts
Superb! Thanks Raine, will get thinking
Tue, Jul 10 2018 12:56pm IST 3
814 Posts
Time for more thunkage - but good topic, thanks, Raine.
Tue, Jul 10 2018 05:05pm IST 4
3 Posts

The Confession

'We're going to die, aren't we?' Her voice low, but calm.

'Yes, I think so.'

The plane rattled violently, a child shaking a rattle.

Screams pierced the air, and drowned out the sobs and prayers of their fellow passengers. A man in a seat across the aisle had his head between his knees, rocking backwards and forwards, repeating, like a prayer, the word, 'Sarah.'

The stewards and stewardesses hugged each other, tears in their eyes. Their earlier professional calm and assurance replaced by fear and anguish. One of them drained a small gin and tonic, reached for another one.

The captain's voice, trembling, 'May God protect us all.' Then a static hiss. Then silence.

She stared out of the window. A flash of lightening lit up the sky. Rain and dense clouds enveloped them. The drops hitting the plexiglass with the ferocity of rocks hurled by the gods.

'I've got to tell you something,' she says, gripping his smooth hand. She had always loved his hands. Loved the way they moved, easily, across her body. Others' bodies too.

'What is it?' His dark grey eyes burrowed into her.

This trip, like all of the others, was meant to 'put you back in a good place,' according to the counsellor.

Ears popping as the plane plummeted toward the mountain range below, a heaving in the stomach.

It was now or never. 'I'm pregnant.'

His hand jerked away from hers.

Someone towards the back had started singing. A pleasant voice. Others were joining in. A deathly chorus.

'What are you talking about?'

A boom of thunder, she was thrown against him. He pushed her away.

'It's not yours,' she smiled. She wished that she had more time. Seconds left.

They'd been trying to have a child for years. But his sperm count was too low. Maybe used up on all of the others.

'It's Simon's.' His best friend. They'd both been very drunk.

The last thing that she saw was the colour drain from his face, a tear roll down his cheek and his lovely hands covering his sobbing face.

350 words.

Wed, Jul 11 2018 10:23am IST 5
2188 Posts

Dry facts

I’d heard mention of a drowned village, of course, told by those old enough to remember but after they died, and having no visual memory, they became just stories.

Around my mid-forties, following two/three years of okay summers, not much rain and winters thankfully short on snow, mention was made the water level hadn’t regained its usual, but grass grew, hid the mud and the problem went away.

My fiftieth, siblings came north for the party. Mike and my eldest secretly gathered photos, put up what I was not best pleased to hear then say was a ‘history’ display.

Family history,’ Mike stressed, and in truth it was fascinating to see how family likenesses got grown into; how much resemblance there was between us and our grandparents.

But, Esther, our eldest granddaughter, named for me, looking at her great aunts and uncles, said, ‘But not you Granny, you’re different.’

Had I not caught the flash of warning, sparking from one to t’other, I’d’ve dismissed it. Had they not been so vehement in their denials, would have forgotten it.

Three more summers, scorchers. Winters mild and snowless. Impossible to ignore the shrinking of the reservoir, the suspicion we might come into the category of ‘severely at risk’ like them down south. Much more possible, as shadowy outlines began to appear, to believe in the old stories of the clearing, the drowning of the village of Ebbsthwaite.

Church tower emerged. The church had been sited in a hollow, lower than its burial grounds. Congregation entered from the village; the dead and the mourners via the high road. Which is why some gravestones were uncovered in their entirety before even a third of the church could be seen.

In those years I’d been secretive. Not idle. Visited Record Offices. Examined Parish Registers. Downloaded wills. Gained suspicions. Formed theories.

Now I just needed to see it writ in stone: IN MEMORY OF ESTHER TATE ◊ BORN 21 JULY 1943 ◊ DIED 18 MARCH 1965.

My Mum’s sister. Died the day I was born. Unmarried. Not my aunt. My mother. Father unknown.

[350 words]

Wed, Jul 11 2018 12:39pm IST 6
57 Posts

The Dominant Leg

Parched grass crackled under Bothniss’s steps.

“Got to get water,” he muttered. “Maggie’d like that.”

The Lord had forgotten the land. Church attendance was up, ever since this heatwave had crept past the four-month mark like a lioness gliding through the yellow savannah. Bothniss couldn’t even remember what green fields looked like. His leg ached as he heaved himself up the shop steps. Maggie had nipped his thigh last week. He’d ask Reverend Dickey about that at service. It felt strange.

“How about this very excellent heat we are having, Mr. Barry?” Rawal pushed the medicine across the counter. “And actually the football is coming home, is it right?”

Bothniss didn’t care about football, not since the reservoirs had evaporated to pools of grey. His leg was thrumming now. He took the bottle and the packet of pills with a surly grunt.

But then why, when he had been so adamant about the water, did his leg spin him up the hill, towards St. Omicron’s? Was there a service on? Maggie would be barking up a fuss now. Paving-stones radiated warmth like a clayman’s oven.

His leg didn’t settle among the pews. It jittered and jerked as Bothniss received his blessing. It started to kick up a rattle as Reverend Dickey bedded into a sermon concerning paucity, but when the priest made a jovial crack about the team, a bolt shot from Bothniss’s ankle to his knee, through his hip, chest, neck, searing the Lord’s knowledge across his synapses. His leg propelled him standing.

“No water!” he shrieked. Pastel-sleeved hands bracketed congregational O-mouths. “Team’s never coming home!”

“Barry – ”

Fragments fell from the altar. He ached to kick someone, the preacher, anyone.

“The whole world’s burning!” he shrieked. “Class war, race war, holy war, there’s no more rain!” An awed pitch tremored his voice. He clawed his hands at judgmental Mrs. Dickey, who slithered sacklike to the floor. His leg was a demonic blur. Something terrible was happening.

Later, they said the Lord branded His faithful with heart-stopping power on that rubicon summer’s day.

And I try to believe them.

Fri, Jul 13 2018 02:46am IST 7
87 Posts


It was going to be hot. Of course it was going to be hot. It was February, forecast 46 degrees. Les parted the dusty Venetian blinds and looked out over parched red Queensland paddocks. The dogs on the veranda heard him, they met him, warily, at the back door. Gone was their natural exuberance, they just panted and followed him out to the ute. He laid the rifle on the seat and started the motor.

The dogs trotted along behind. They should be racing ahead, circling, barking excitedly, dashing after birds. But there had been no rain for months and there were no birds apart from a few manic parrots and opportunistic crows.

A few hundred yards from the house the last water source sulked behind dying trees. The mud had dried and cracked, there were a few traces of dessicated slime on what used to be the bottom of a dam 10 feet deep. Three bony cows were standing on the cracked clay, they looked old and defeated. But they weren’t old, they weren’t yet two years old, and their pedigrees were the best.

One got down on her knees. Les knew she would probably be too weak to get up again. He took the rifle and loaded it. First them, then himself. He looked at the dogs, they were behind the cow waiting for the shout to get her to her feet. He couldn’t bear to think about them. But the older dog, a red heeler called Poppy, seemed to realise something was wrong. She moved away from the cow and came up to him, nuzzling his hand. She wasn’t usually a demonstrative dog and he felt tears in his eyes. He wiped them away and looked down at her. She wagged her stumpy tail and suddenly looked past him, barking. He turned around and the wind blew cold into his face. Purple clouds were building up fast and lightning flashes were followed by deep rumbling thunder. Les put the rifle back in the ute found some handfuls of hay for the cows.

It started to rain.

350 words
Mon, Jul 16 2018 07:20pm IST 8
128 Posts

“A Most Curious Incident”

Winter had arrived in all its viciousness, and General Ferdinand Heim, commander of the XLVIII Armeekorps, was concerned. There had been reports of Soviet incursions over the past 24 hours all along the part of the front for which his force was in reserve, but he couldn’t make sense of them. Now he’d been ordered north towards Bolshoye. Like many tank commanders he’d chosen to ride out with his men, rather than hide away in a remote headquarters. What could you do with mostly useless bits of history when you were well and truly out of it?

Conditions were terrible, visibility was nil, a white-out so complete you couldn’t tell where the horizon was. Morning ground fog had given way to a blizzard and his forces had been ordered to advance right into it.

And now, one by one, his tanks were conking out, building his concern. Sometimes they just went silent, sometimes they stopped, stuck, useless. Field-mice had invaded their warm-seeming tanks at night and left their calling cards in the smell of their piddle. The little buggers had evidently also helped themselves to the insulation of their wiring and caused endless short-circuits. Now of all times.

By mid-afternoon they had made slow progress and had then been ordered to turn east. Night had fallen around 1600 hours. In the darkness they’d run into a large column of enemy who had appeared out of nowhere, switching their lights on and off to flash-illuminate their targets in the otherwise blank dark.

Even muzzle-flashes gave away positions, but whose? No-one could see anything. Lights on - off, on - off. Then gunfire and death. They couldn’t see each other properly, or their targets, and the breakdown numbers spiralled up in the chaos. Soon the command was incapable of functioning at all. By morning the 48thwas little more than a flag stuck on a piece of wood placed on a map, which the other generals pushed around futilely, hoping something would happen. But it didn’t, and Zhukhov’s pincers clamped shut two days later, isolating the German Sixth army in Stalingrad itself.

(350 words)

Wed, Jul 18 2018 08:48am IST 9
John Alty
John Alty
41 Posts

The sky was an unnatural green, the air humid, as Aaron looked across the corn fields. The rotating cloud had descended and he knew the funnel would form now, a spinning vortex that promised death and destruction.

“C’mon Martha, son, we need to get in the shelter now, no more time.”

Tornados were a regular visitor and the underground shelter Aaron had dug a dozen years before had been used often. He opened the steel door set into the ground and the boy, clutching his ipad, was first in. Martha followed with a canvas bag holding bottles of water. Aaron stood outside a while longer. He had a sense this twister was different. It had a malevolence he hadn’t felt in other storms.

The noise came then; like the shrieking of a jet engine ready for take-off. The air was black with dirt and debris. Familiar things flew; a farm gate, corrugated iron sheets ripped from the roof of a neighbour’s barn, a tractor tumbling like a toy tossed by a child in a tantrum. Aaron stepped into the shelter and bolted the door after him.

It was morning when they emerged. Where once there had been a house with outbuildings and paddocks, there was only rubble. Splintered timber, shattered roof tiles, broken glass, snakes of electrical cable and tangled water pipes. A swathe of flattened crops showed where the base of the tornado had sped towards them, shattered their lives and continued its journey to the horizon.

Aaron and Martha clung together surrounded by the ruins of their home while Aaron Junior wandered through the remnants identifying possessions, some treasured others mundane. Then he dropped to his haunches.

“What have you found, son?” called Aaron.
“It’s a box, I’ve never seen it before; I think it’s made of some sort of metal.” Aaron Junior shouted back.

They gathered around the box which was held closed by a hasp and bolt arrangement. Aaron Junior slid the bolt free, grasped the hasp and lifted the lid.

Aaron, Martha and their son would never be the same again.

(345 words)

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