Themed Flash Fiction with Shirley Harber
First and Second Placed Entries
Winning Story by Elizabeth Ducie
Elizabeth Ducie trained as a scientist and worked as a project manager and technical writer in the international pharmaceutical industry for nearly thirty years before deciding she wanted to make a complete change of direction. She gave up the day job, began studying the craft of creative writing, and has now writes fiction more or less full-time. In addition to her debut novel, Gorgito’s Ice Rink, she has published three collections of short stories. She also wrote The Business of Writing, a series of books on business skills for writers.
Elizabeth’s website can be found here: http://www.elizabethducie.co.uk; she can also be found on Facebook and Twitter
Editor's apologies - Weebly does not allow us to provide original layout of this story.
His thoughts chase each other inconclusively around his head. Today he leaves the city, but in which direction?
He pushes his hands deep into the pockets of his greatcoat and stamps his feet. The April sunshine melts the last vestiges of snow, but the pavement still holds the winter chill, seeping through the soles of his boots.
When he opened his eyes that first morning, gentle fingers sponged dried blood from his face. The early-morning light formed a halo around her head and he wondered if he’d died on the train journey from the Eastern Front.
‘Welcome back, Captain,’ she said, ‘my name is Sveta.’ She stayed with him until his disorientation faded and, although she didn’t always work on his ward, came to visit to him whenever she was on duty. Their love started slowly, before springing forth fully formed, like the chestnut blossoms in the Petrograd parks when the winter ice disappears overnight.
His old school-friend Igor arrived at the hospital weeks later. With his bandaged eyes, he sat on Vasily’s bed for hours every day.
‘It’s our time,’ he said repeatedly. ‘Remember we used to talk at school about the cruelty of the Tsar and how we would change things when we grew up?’ Vasily did remember--and his heart sang at the changes in great Mother Russia.
One week before he was discharged, he had two visits within an hour. Sveta came first, trembling and blushing as she took his hand.
‘I’m leaving Russia,’ she said. ‘Without the Tsar, life will be terrible. My parents are already in Finland, and begged me to join them--but then I met you. Now my grandfather is leaving and I must accompany him. Come with me, my love. We can start a new life together in safety.’ Vasily was saddened she didn’t welcome the new regime as he did. ‘Meet me at the station next Wednesday at 3pm,’ were Sveta’s final words as she left his bedside for the last time.
Igor arrived soon afterwards. His sight was recovered and he was being discharged.
‘Vasily, I’m going to Moscow,’ he shouted as soon as he came into view. ‘Vladimir Ilyich needs comrades like us.’ Vasily’s head reeled as his friend urged him to go too. ‘Meet me at the station next Wednesday at 3pm,’ were Igor’s final words.
Now, as the hands on the clock crawl around to 3pm, Vasily ponders his choices one final time: due west to Moscow with Igor for excitement, adventure and the fulfilment of their boyhood dreams as a new era dawns in the history of this great nation; or north-west with Sveta to safety and a loving family, but exiled, possibly forever, from the land of his birth.
Finally he decides. He will let fate choose. He will accompany whoever arrives first--and live with the consequences.
Vasily hears a voice call his name and watches as a familiar figure walks down the street towards him. His decision is made. His journey begins.
Judge's comments - It immediately drew me in with its intriguing story. There's a choice to be made. What will it be? At the end the author cleverly leaves the reader guessing at which person he will leave with.
Second placed entry by Emma Shaw
Emma is, more or less, a retired actress now turning her interest to writing. She has had four Flash Fictions published across three anthologies, and is spending time trying to produce some winning short stories, and putting together her own anthology of flash pieces
I sit on the side of what was once my coronation bed, and gaze at the pale shaft of morning sunlight that strikes across
the stone floor. On the cold flags I place my bare feet and stretch my little neck until I stand at my full height.
'There you are, Anne.' I say to myself. 'Every inch a queen.'
I step unsteadily towards the windows. I haven't slept well. It's still early but the day is already clear; blue sky, no
clouds. Spring blossom will soon give way to summer's showy blooms but in here it's winter, where nothing thrives. I
turn away, tears starting in my eyes. Yesterday my brother died on the scaffold, and soon it will be my turn. Will
anyone come to see me before I am led out, I wonder? Not the King, of that I'm sure. He has convinced himself of my
guilt and cast me aside. What price now his protestations of undying love from so very few years ago? What price his
desire to possess me? To defy Pope and People and put away his wife just to have me wed. What greater love could
Cromwell may find an excuse to gloat in person. He has won, yet again, but only for now.
'Beware Master Cromwell,' I mutter to the unforgiving walls. 'The mighty do fall and you have enemies greater than
mine I think.'
My uncle, Norfolk? Who conspired against me, with Cromwell and others, and delivered my death sentence albeit
with what may have been a tear in one glittering eye. I suppose not.
I take a robe from the bed and pull it close around my shaking body. I kneel at the small lectern and open the bible,
hoping to find some comfort. I've been accused of treason, adultery and even incest.
'How the common people will love that in the taverns.' I think, and can almost hear their bawdy jokes and songs. They
have no love for me. They believe me a witch and the cause of all Henry's misfortunes. To give him a still-born son
could not be forgiven. A tragedy for the King, a tragedy for the nation, a more than cruel blow for the mother.
'Forgive me, Lord.' I pray. 'I admit to my mistakes, but I place my trust in you and am not afraid to leave the world.
God is the final arbiter. On earth I'm found guilty, in heaven maybe not so.'
Tears course down my face, I feel I cannot bear this. My prayer is hollow. I am so cold, so alone, so afraid. My time is
nearly over. Today, or tomorrow maybe, Sir William will come to tell me when I must be ready. And I will be ready. I
will not show my fear and I will forgive the King for all to hear.
He was my husband, he was my lover and he is my King. And I, still a Queen as I die.
Judge's comments - This is a moving and well written piece poignantly telling the story of Anne Boleyn's misfortunes.
She relays her feelings of betrayal and the injustices she has suffered, as she awaits her execution.