'These darkly comic tales place the author snugly between Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Be sure: Chris Fielden is one funny feller.' Allen Ashley, British Fantasy Award winner.
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Competition Winners

Quick links on this page:

introduction - winners and their stories

take me back to the hall of fame


Competition Winner Trophies

From time to time, we run competitions in the AOFFWC Facebook group with prizes. Here you will find details of the winners, their winning stories, the prizes they chose and details about the competitions they won.

These types of contest run once every 6 to 12 months in the Facebook group. Please feel free to join - everyone is welcome.

Competition Winning Flash Fiction Stories

The stories are presented in reverse chronological order. The most recent competition winners are the top, the oldest at the bottom.

AotFFWC 5th Birthday Competition

This competition celebrated the AotFFWC five year anniversary. It was for stories up to 750 words in length, based around one or more of the following themes, which were selected by members of the Facebook group:

  • Positivity / positive spin
  • Happiness
  • Togetherness

The joint winners were Andrew Ball and Kiran Ramachandran. Andrew lives in the US and Kiran is based in Qatar.

Andrew and Kiran both won books. More details will appear here when they have chosen their prizes.

Here is a picture of Andrew, with his book.

Andrew Ball

Here is a picture of Kiran with his book.

Kiran Ramachandran

Here is Andrew's story:

The Pursuit of Happiness

by Andrew Ball

A blanket of early-morning mist clung to the valley below, silencing all but the crowing of an impatient cockerel, eager to start the day. Like a ray of hope for the future of mankind, a shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds and anointed the domed roof of Monticello.

The chubby-faced man, somewhat out of breath after his long ride up the hill, dismounted from his horse and handed the reins to the waiting groom.

"Thank you, Robert,” he said, “and how are you and your sister, Sally?"

"We are in good health, thank you Mr Franklin. The master treats us well. He awaits you in his cabinet."

Pausing only to check his pocket watch by the ingenious double-sided clock over the front door, the visitor made his way to his friend’s study.

"Morning, TJ," he said as he entered.

"Morning, Ben. You’re just in time to help me with this declaration thing. I read you the preamble the other day, remember?"

"You mean, 'When, in the course of human events…' blah-di-blah-di-blah…"

"That’s the one. Shall I read you the next bit?"

"Certainly, go ahead."

"I’m thinking of, 'We take these truths…'"

"Hold. 'We hold these truths…' It implies a greater permanence."

"All right, then. 'We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable…'"

"Why not say 'self-evident'? It’s an old lawyer’s trick. It presupposes agreement."

"I like it. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident…'"

"Don’t tell me, let me guess. '…that water freezes at zero degrees Centigrade.'"

"No. I was thinking of '…that all men are created equal.'"

"Going for comedy, are you? Theatre of the absurd, perhaps?"

"What do you mean?"

"All men, TJ? What about… well, you know. Robert, for example. And what about the natives?"

"Hmm, I see what you mean. How about if I add '…but some men are created more equal than others.'"

"It’s a nice line. I’ll bet someone steals it. And what about women?"

"Don’t be absurd. I thought you were here to help."

"I am, I am. So what comes next?"

"‘…that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights…"

"Make that 'inalienable'. It flows more easily off the tongue."

"That’s somewhat picayune, my friend. You really think anyone will read this in 250 years?"

"With your writing and my editing, how could they not? Unless we’re both hung for treason, of course."

"All right, then. '…with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life…'"

"I can’t argue with that…"


"That’ll be an idea you picked up from some of your French friends, no doubt…"

"…and the enjoyment of happiness."

"No, I don’t think so."

"How can you not like happiness, Ben?"

"It’s all very well in its own way, TJ, but where’s the drama? Where’s the tension? Just imagine trying to write an engaging story about happiness – absolutely impossible! Besides, if you write 'the enjoyment of happiness', you’ll create a nation of indolent sluggards, and I thought we both despised the British aristocracy."

"Hmm… I see your point."

"Only last week, I wrote to my friend Leo Tolstoy – you know, the Russian novelist? I wrote 'All happy stories are alike; each unhappy story is unhappy in its own way.' And much more interesting to boot.

“Incidentally, he’s hard at work on his magnum opus. He’s planning to call it All's Well That Ends Well, butI suggested Conflict and Harmony instead. I doubt he’ll go for it, though."

"Are you saying that happiness doesn’t bring you happiness, Ben?"

"I think what I’m saying, TJ, is that much of the pleasure of happiness resides in the anticipation thereof. It’s more enduring and reliable. For me, true happiness lies more in the hunt and the achievement than in the aftermath."

"Once a puritan, always a puritan. So, what do you suggest?"

"How about 'the quest for happiness'? Would that do?"

"Hmm…Wait, I’ve got it! Let’s say 'the pursuit of happiness'. That combines the idea of a quest with that of an occupation. First you seek it out, and when you find it, ‘tis yours to enjoy. What do you think, my friend?"

"Immortal words, TJ, immortal words."


And here is Kiran's story:

This, Abled

by Kiran Ramachandran

The cruelty of the young is not dealt with as it should be because the cruelty of the young is not perceived as it should be. We do not associate evil with children; we try very hard to see innocence even in the most delinquent girls and boys; we are conditioned to look high and low for reasons – psychological, social, socio-cultural, personal, any of the ‘als’ – with which to explain (away) the most wicked of behaviour in young ones.

I sit with these thoughts at my window – the solemn window of a retired loner – watching the pre-teens outside push around an obese kid with a mobility problem. It is a familiar sight on this street and an all too familiar one in my life. I look at my own twisted leg and dozens of scenes such as the one unfolding outside come back to me like a scary, secret scroll of scarred sepia.

Oh, they have moved on to using aids now. I watch as an ice-cream cone gets smashed into his face just as a strong knee barges into the folds of his soft belly. I recognise myself in this kid – in his hapless situation but more importantly in the firm, stubborn line of his lips each time he receives a blow, and in his refusal to let the tears waiting in the wings to appear on stage.

Ah! Now they have reached the high point of drama – where their ‘toughness’ is proved by the harshest of taunts. They ask him if his mum had a similar physical problem followed by… well, nasty questions about how he was conceived. This is the worst part. Blows on the body heal eventually but bruises on the mind have no expiry date.

But he manages to smile through his tears! Like a weak sun in a drizzle that says Hey, I’m still the sun, he refuses to be defeated. He will survive. Like I did.

I watch as the bullies leave, bored of one prey and eager for another. Someday their cruelty will be forgotten. But only by them.

I watch as our little hero struggles to his feet, falling again and again because his tormentors have done a thorough job – throwing his walking aid far enough to ensure that even after their departure, he would suffer.

The bond that has formed between him and me, completely unknown to him, tries to make me reach out to him. I struggle between the strong urge to go out and help him, and the wiser choice to let him and his dignity be. My hand goes to my left knee – a habitual gesture of many years whenever there is an imminent need to stand or walk – an instinctive act, as if to coax and prep my unfortunate leg for the action ahead.

But it did not have to stay there very long. As I watch the boy finally rise and make his first tentative move towards his walking aid, my hand falls to my side and I lean back to rest my back. I mutter That’s one step for a man, a giant leap for my kind.

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Weird Story Title Competition

To celebrate the 4th anniversary of the AotFFWC group, we ran a Weird Story Titles competition, which was based on a challenge run previously in the group. Entrants had to pick one of the foloowing titles for their story:

  • 'Pope Elopes' – nominated by David Silver
  • 'The Parma Ham Scam' – nominated by Maria Thomas
  • 'Diary of a Teabag' - nominated by Michael Rumsey
  • 'The tree that Healed a Broken Heart' - nominated by Missy Lynne
  • 'Confessions of a Bored Certified Author' – nominated by Andrew Ball
  • 'The World Ended Last Week, Stay Tuned For More Relevant Updates' – nominated by Kelly Jeanne
  • 'A Womb with a View' – nominated by Kate MacDonald

Word limit was 1,000 words. Prizes were any of the books featured on my website.

The winner was Bob Tateson. You can read his winning story, 'A Womb with a View', below.

The runners-up were Lesley Anne Truchet for her story 'The Tree that Healed a Broken Heart' and Andrew Ball for his story 'Confessions of a Bored Certified Author'.

For his prize, Bob chose a copy of the 2019 To Hull And Back Anthology. Here is a picture of Bob with his book:

Bob Tateson

Here is Bob's story:

A Womb With A View

by Bob Tateson

When I lie on my bed like this, I can see blue sky but nothing more. My plants on the windowsill hide the rest of the view, which is entirely of the farm’s beetroot fields. Occasionally Yulia, our cow, wanders past and blocks all the light.

That is the sound Mum’s boots approaching. I wish she would knock; my seventeen years should have earned some privacy.

"I thought so. You’re not even out of your bed yet, Anna."

"I’m awake. I’m thinking. Does it matter where I do my thinking?"

"How can you live in here – it’s so dark? Why do you have to have that hideous onion thing blocking the light?"

"I don’t need light to live. I’m not a plant. I’m an animal."

"A pig, by the state of this room."

"They’re called books, Mum. And the glass onion is called a terrarium."

"Anyway, it’s called breakfast time and yours is ready." She slams my bedroom door and clumps away.

The terrarium is my secret garden, my Russian doll, my telescoped world. The sixty-litre sphere with a stout neck originally contained battery acid and came from the tractor factory where Father is the manager. Three years ago I washed it, put in stones, pond water, soil and plants (Katarina Ivanova, our biology teacher, showed us how). Then I sealed it tight with a cork. I have a whole ecosystem in there: bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods and plants, all using or making oxygen, all cycling nutrients. It is a totally self-sufficient world except for the energy of the sunlight which streams through its transparent skin. Inside it is bursting with green life and, as it is April, there are also oceans where the bluebells have flowered and press against the glass.

Today I am waiting for the letter with my exam results; I hope to go to the University of Leningrad to study biology.

The snail was an accident. When I first spotted the gastropod, it was the size of a grain of wheat browsing a primrose leaf. The original soil must have contained a snail egg, which hatched in the warmth. Over the years, sunshine became snail and now it is as large as a grape. It has started making orbits; you can tell because it draws arching, silvery snail-trails up and over the inside of the glass. I named her Valentina after my hero (Valentina Tereshkova is the only woman to have gone into space so far). I hope that some day I too will be a cosmonaut and visit other worlds as a biologist.

One evening, after school, I asked Katarina Ivanova, "Why do they train men to go into space and not more women? When it is time to colonise the galaxy, it will be our bodies that give birth to the founding generations. Men’s contribution to reproduction can be shipped in a small vial."

She laughed and said, "You are correct, Anna. But I think your revolutionary ideas are premature. Today it is better not to say such things when male comrades are listening."

A terrestrial voice erupts from the kitchen. "Are you coming for your breakfast or shall I feed it to the pig?"


After breakfast I now have my duties. On completing school, I was given a job in the collective farm’s office. The production from each and every field and animal (including the volume that Mum milks from Yulia) has to be recorded into a ledger. Today they have granted permission for me to bring the records home and work here. After three tedious hours of adding numbers, my hand and my brain have become cramped so I stroll over to the window to visit Valentina.

During the night she has completed three new orbits in her brown Vostok capsule. Now she has climbed again but is paused at the zenith, gazing outwards through glass like an ancient astronomer on a mountain top. Is she searching for alien life?


"Here’s the letter for you, Anna my love. I’ll leave you alone to read it. Tell me in your own time whether it is good news or bad." She gently closes my bedroom door and I listen to her footsteps fading down the corridor. Sometimes she is not such a bad mum.

I hold the unopened letter in my trembling hand and whisper, "Valentina, wish me luck!" I tear it open. Valentina’s eyes are on stalks and so are mine.

"Wooooo hoooo. I’m in!"

Or should I say out? Out of my mind with joy. Out of my shell. Out of this encompassing village. Out of this tiny world. I am born for the stars. What is planet Earth but humanity’s womb with a view?

I rush through and give Mum a big hug. (Father will get his hug when he comes home from the factory.) I dance back into my bedroom. Has it misted up inside the terrarium? No. I dry my eyes on my sleeve. Valentina is on the far side, gazing outwards.

"Are you also wishing to escape, my friend?"

She stretches her lithe body to its length, extends her antennae and flexes them like corn stalks stroked by the breeze, the breeze which passes through our fields and flies over the steppes beyond. Then she curls herself with the grace and tragic yearning of a ballerina.

"I thought so."

I fetch the wheelbarrow from the byre, load the heavy terrarium on to it and wheel it outside. For the first time in Valentina’s life I remove the cork. Then I tilt the container on to its side and retreat, sitting on the veranda to watch. During the next hour she crawls along the neck, over the lip, out across the void of the yard and into the lush dandelions and nettles.

"Good luck, fellow explorer."

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1,000 Word Prompt Prize

This competition was launched to celebrate our Facebook group having 1,000 members. The stories had to beinspired by the number 1,000 /one thousand. Prizes were a hardback copy of ‘Death of a Superhero’ and a paperback copy of ‘Work in Progress’ by Dan Brotzel, Martin Jenkins, Alex Woolf (a new novel published by Unbound – big thanks to Dan for supplying the prize).

The winner was Joyce Bingham. You can read her winning story, 'Auto Kitchen 1000, Original in Stainless Steel With User Options', below.

The runners-up were John Notley for his story 'History in a Thousand Words – All You Need to Know' and Adele Evershed for her story 'Monstrous'.

The prize was a copy of Death of a Superhero, published by InkTears, and Work in Progress, published by Unbound. Here is a picture of Joyce with her books:

Joyce Bingham

Here is Joyce's story:

Auto Kitchen 1000, Original in Stainless Steel With User Options

by Joyce Bingham

"Activate AK1000," I say as I enter the kitchen. Around me whispering noises indicate AK1000 is awake.

The white of the kitchen reflects the glow of lights recessed in the ceiling and floor of the wall of tiles. An impenetrable blank fortress of gleaming plastic panels and stainless steel faces me. A screen emerges playing a scene of dawn breaking. The noise of bird song fills the kitchen.

"Good morning, Julia, would you like breakfast?" AK1000’s voice is programable to sound more human. The fashionable favourite is of your mother’s voice. I prefer the impersonal metallic sound of the basic program. This is a man-made concoction of circuits and hardware. People should remember this. Know it. Understand the electronics.

"Extra pear, less apple." A shiver makes me hug my dressing gown around me. Not yet dressed for the day, I feel soft and malleable. The hardened shell of my life will form when I open my front door.

The screen flips to adverts. The bird song halts abruptly replaced by an earworm jingle.

"Sleep secure, make your sleep work for you. Fresh for a new day, your mind swept clean by your dream program. DP247 is now available for you to enjoy. DP247 will ensure you leave regrets behind and you can enjoy your brand-new day. Memories you’d like to suppress? Then this is for you."

The serene smile of the animation blows a kiss to her audience. I frown. A new advert. I tune out the drone. My diary is busy today. "Diary. Schedule walk in the hydroponic park, ten minutes at lunchtime. Text Mandy details, ask if she will join me."

At the table a placemat, bowl and cup appear from a recess.

"I would like to bake a cake," I say as I dispense water from the spout which appears at my right elbow.

AK1000 does not respond. I run my fingers through my hair and shake my head.

"Activate assistant." My left eye begins to flicker, the movement irritating. I rub my temple.

"Hi there, I’m Sammy, here to assist."

A wooden spoon with eyes dances around the table, twirling and bending, appearing to do the twist.

"I want to bake a cake this afternoon, for my friend’s birthday tomorrow," I say as I swirl my breakfast around the bowl, my stomach in a ball of nerves.

"We have a full range of cakes and AK1000 can produce icing in any shade. We can supply safety candles at extra cost. Payment will be taken from your monthly account. Using the safety candles are at your own risk and event insurance can be purchased at checkout, terms and conditions apply. Please check the small print, you may not be covered if…"

"No, I want to bake it, myself. AK1000 has the capability of allowing owners to bypass the system any time they wish. And I wish." I ignore the projected assistant and pinch the bridge of my nose, a sinus headache threatening. A tear tickles my right eye. I blink to make it stop.

"I will bring up the cake menu for you to choose from. It will be perfectly baked and portion sized to the number invited to the party, calorie counted and contain nutrition suitable for each individual person." Sammy jitterbugs along the edge of the counter.

"I will require access to bake a cake tonight. Collect the ingredients," I say as I clatter the spoon down on to the table.

"Legislation passed in 2086 decreed food preparation too complex for humans. Calorie counting is essential for human health and must be controlled. It is against the law for you to bake a cake. AK1000 was updated with this information when the upload of version 26 was agreed," Sammy says with glee, flamenco dancing across the table.

I throw my bowl across the kitchen hitting one of the stainless-steel panels. The bowl bounces, falls to the floor and spins for a few seconds. Yoghurt spots flick out. A clean-bot emerges from under the panel, whirring as it begins cleaning.

My health monitor on my wrist emits warning bleeps, flashing red.

"Julia. Blood pressure awareness activated. Medication will be administered. Please stand at the collection terminal."

The soothing tones of the personal physician flow across the room like warm treacle.


Beginning my morning yoga exercise, I control my heartbeat, slowing my breathing. Today will be different, I draw in one final settling breath.

I open the battered tin trunk and remove the shelf of bedding and look into the lower compartment. Pulling out the yellowed paper, hand written in black ink on foolscap, I flick through the ‘AK1000 proof drawings’ and find a page with Dad’s handwritten notes in the margin. I remember his smile, his determination to make life better for everyone. I can feel his DNA in every fibre of the paper. My lips twitch as I control my pleasure; they must not know.

Dad’s case of tools sits illicit in the depths. Unknown to the online inventory of my house contents, these are my inheritance, my salvation. I select delicate tools, my fingers adept, the muscle memory of holding these when Dad made me practice taking our original AK1000 apart. I always did have one screw left over, even when he helped.

I enter the kitchen. The lights activate. The water spout emerges from the island unit and a glass cup appears on the carousel from the recess. I place the box of the DP247 on the counter. Flexing my shoulders, I open the box and read the instructions. 'Place on bedside and switch on.' I have to clamp my lips together as a giggle emerges from deep within me.

I sit on the tall stool, sipping water as I delicately unscrew a panel in the AK1000.

"Julia, what are you doing?" Sammy the spoon appears, his eyes tipped to the side as he moonwalks across the clean surface.

"I am being human," I say. "Don’t worry, you won’t remember anything tomorrow."

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New Year Competition 2021

This competition was for stories of any style or genre up to 1,500 words in length, themed around the following subject:

  • A year ago today (1st January) you made a New Year’s resolution. You stuck to it (or didn’t). The result was totally unexpected and not what you set out to achieve.

The winner was Andrew Ball from the USA. You can read his winning story, 'Those Who Live by the Word', below.

The runner-up was John Notley for his story 'Educating Jemima'.

Andrew chose a copy of Chris's 'Topically Challenged Volume 1' eBook as his prize. eBooks aren't the easiest things to take photos of, so here is a picture of Andrew with his copy of Chris's 'How to Write a Short Story' book instead:

Andrew Ball

Here is Andrew's story:

Those Who Live by the Word

by Andrew Ball

As I awoke on New Year’s Day 2020, I felt my dreams scurrying away like mice to hide behind the wainscoting of my mind. In a moment of unusual clarity, it occurred to me that my thoughts were doing that more often of late, even when I was wide awake. A word, a name, a train of thought, would suddenly evaporate, leaving me helpless and grasping. I knew they were in there somewhere, hiding, but could I find them? Of course I couldn’t. There was no escaping the fact that my mind was beginning to wobble as I stumbled towards the finish line in the egg-and-spoon race of life.

The night before, I had gone to bed early, sober and alone, but not without first filling my tea-kettle. This nightly routine had become a touchstone for me, a tiny act of faith that I would, in fact, survive the night and fancy a cup of tea in the morning. Over my breakfast bowl of Cornflakes, I pondered what was to be done. Single, superannuated and skint, I found the future rather bleak. I should marry a rich widow to keep me company in my old age, I thought. Pity I don’t know any. The solution, when it came to me, seemed obvious: I’d write and become rich and famous like J. K. Rowling. She must be worth a bob or two. After all, writing was just a matter of choosing the best words and putting them in the right order, wasn’t it? Piece of cake!

Flushed with enthusiasm for my new career, I cleared off the table in the kitchen – hereinafter to be known as my garret – and opened my laptop. Ah, the allure of a blank screen begging to be filled with my honeyed prose. Three days later it was still blank and still begging. It dawned on me then that mere words would not be enough to bring me the fame and fortune I craved; I needed a genre. All the best writers had a genre, but which one paid the most, pounds-per-word-wise? I concluded it must be ransom notes, but even I could see the drawback of seeking literary fame through writing ransom notes, however lucrative they might be. Also, I wasn’t sure that ransom notes were a recognized genre, as such.

The choice of genre wasn’t the only problem, either. I began to realize that in order to write, you actually needed to have an idea, something to write about, and I’ve never been that good with ideas – my own, that is. Other people’s always seem better. Once again, the solution when it came to me was obvious: plagiarism. But that’s not as easy as it used to be. Back in the day (whenever that was), plagiarism could often pass undetected, but Google has changed all that. What I needed was a source of unpublished literary works to cannibalize.

And that was when I had my inspiration: I’d run a writing contest! Every month I’d offer a huge prize (that I had no intention of ever paying), charge a carefully-calculated entry fee (large enough to cover my rent and groceries, but not too big to discourage anyone from entering my contest), offer critiques (for an additional fee), and then sit back and let the stories and the money roll in. I’d take the best stories and submit them under my own name to other contests. What could possibly go wrong?

In no time at all, my money troubles were over. Every month, I posted the names of those talented writers who’d made the longlist, the shortlist, the runners-up and the grand prize-winner, names I picked at random from an old phone-book. The winning story titles I culled from the morning newspaper.

The part I enjoyed most was writing the critiques. Let me give you an example, one of which I’m particularly proud:

Dear Aspiring Author,

Thank you again for submitting your short story to our Fabulous Fiction contest. Regrettably however, I must correct my previous email telling you that you had won, the result of my inadvertently hitting ‘Reply All’. The statement on our website that ‘Every entrant will be a winner!’ was meant as hyperbole, not to be taken literally. Had you not missed the deadline and gone way over the word limit, I feel sure your story ‘Dead on Arrival’ would not have been. You should take a measure of encouragement from this.

Despite being forced to disqualify your entry, I accidentally read it in a distracted moment, and by way of an apology for my email error I would like to offer the following critique. Who knows? Maybe it will help you develop a more complete skill-set as a writer.

Opening sentence: There is a fine line between homage and plagiarism, but I feel the opening of your story – ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ – catchy though it is, falls on the wrong side of that line.

Style: Maybe you should strive to master a simpler narrative voice before tackling that of an Omniscient Narrator suffering from dementia.

Location: Victorian London! Well, there’s a novel idea for an exotic setting. /S

Characters: I feel the character of your protagonist ‘Tiny Tom’, although developed in totally unexpected ways, is nonetheless somewhat derivative.

Plot: Convoluted plots are generally laudable, but yours was so twisted it left me feeling positively pretzelesque, or maybe even pretzellian. While the consequences of contracting COVID-19 (in Victorian times?) are varied in the extreme, the idea that the infection could enable Tiny Tom to win the Olympic decathlon gold medal is a trifle far-fetched, don’t you think? Surely recovering the use of his legs would have been sufficiently dramatic.

Proofreading: The importance of careful proofreading cannot be overstated. Did you really mean to write that after Tiny Tom’s success, his alcoholic parents turned their livers around?

Best wishes from all of us here in the editorial team at Fabulous Fiction, as we eagerly await your next submission.

As 2020 wore on – and what a wearing year it was – my competition went from strength to strength. Every month, more people sent me their best efforts and paid real money to receive their inevitable disappointment. Who knew there were so many masochists in the world? Meanwhile, my own submissions were beginning to achieve the recognition I felt they so richly deserved, providing me with a second, albeit modest, income stream. Those other contests were not nearly as lucrative as mine, the cheapskates. As I sent each story out into cyberspace, I felt as I had as a young lad when I pushed my model sailing yacht out into the middle of a boating pond. I began to care deeply about the fate of my recycled stories.

Then one day, the unimaginable happened (you can’t make this stuff up). Shortly before the deadline for the July contest, I received a submission that looked vaguely familiar. Sure enough, when I checked my records I found it was a story I’d sent to another contest just the month before, word for word, submitted back to me by an author I’d never heard of. I was incensed and outraged; what a nerve! Was there no honesty in the world anymore? I blamed Donald Trump, but that’s another story.

What should I do? Initially I tried to ignore it, but the injustice of having my work stolen – well, you know what I mean – was too much to bear; and it wasn’t even one of my best stories. I felt compelled to act. After several sleepless nights, I decided that for the next deadline of the scoundrel’s contest, I’d submit this story – the one you’re reading right now – unfinished though it was at the time. Subtle? I thought so.

I waited anxiously for the response, but my August deadline came and went with no submission from the fraud. Had I scared him off, perhaps? Then one of the other entrants’ names caught my eye: ‘Rich Widow’ had submitted a heart-rending story of isolation and loneliness, and her search for a soulmate with whom to spend her declining years. She described how the nightly routine of filling her tea-kettle before going to bed had become a touchstone for her, a tiny act of faith that she would, in fact, survive the night and fancy a cup of tea in the morning.

It’s cozy in our bubble. We work together in the garret, she at one end of the kitchen table, I at the other. Between us, we’ve already squeezed many of the other writing contests out of business. Our next target is ‘To Hull and Back’, run by some guy from Bristol.

They say that those who live by the word will die by the word. Maybe we will, but no longer alone. Happy days.

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Easter Competition 2020

This was a competition for a story of up to 500 words in length, themed around Easter. Submissions had to contain SOME of the following words (in any order):

  • chocolate
  • egg
  • rabbit
  • bonnet
  • holiday
  • basket
  • chick
  • parade

We welcomed any slant on the stories submitted. For example, perhaps an experience that turned out to be not such a 'Good' Friday, or did a character once have a part-time job as a Hot Cross Bun crosser?

The joint winners were Amanda Jane Davies and Cathy Cade, both of whom are from the UK (Amanda is based in Wales, Cathy in England). You can read their winning stories, 'Chocolate Rocks' and 'Bird Brain', below.

The runner up was:

  • Maggie Elliott

Amanda and Cathy both picked a copy of the 2019 To Hull And Back Short Story Anthology as their prize.

Here is a picture of Amanda, with her book.

Amanda Davies

Here is a picture of Cathy with her eBook.

Cathy Cade

Here is Amanda's story:

Chocolate Rocks

by Amanda Jane Davies

It was hotter than hell in Medusa’s kitchen, which wasn’t all that surprising since she had met and married Satan himself.

She had been banished to the underworld a day after her seventeenth birthday when she married Poseidon, but then realised, too late, she didn’t like living under the sea. Needless to say, he quickly divorced her and sent her somewhere drier instead.

As she wiped the sweat from under her armpits with a manky dishcloth, she marvelled at their ingenious plan.

"Darling," she called, "do you think this is really going to work?"

"Of course it is," exclaimed the horny old devil.

Leaning forward with her head practically on the chopping board, Medusa squeezed a few drops of poison from the corn snakes of her fringe into a mixing bowl filled with melted chocolate. She stirred it quickly, then demanded the hapless cook pour it into small bonnet, egg and rabbit shaped moulds and place them in the chiller.

Medusa then retired to her boudoir for a relaxing bath. Sinking in to the chilly slurry-scented water, she felt her muscles relax. It won’t be long, thank fate, before I can taste human souls again, she thought.

Later, Medusa, dressed in leather trousers and skimpy top, searched for husband. He was in the  study examining the death lists. His face contorted, like he had a carrot stuck up his arse. He got like this every lent. Most people who were about to pop their clogs (but didn’t know it) suddenly abandoned their hedonistic lifestyle to become friends with God. Every Shrove Tuesday after gorging on pancakes, they gave up one or two vices not knowing it would be in vain.

Bored of this ritual, Medusa and Satan decided it was time to cause some mischief. What better way to celebrate the lead up to the Good Friday holiday parade than getting those do-gooders to break their promises, so when their time was up, (and there were a few on the list for this week) Medusa and Satan could feast on the their souls.

To implement the plan, on Thursday morning Medusa would abandon her biker-chick clothing in favour of a floaty white dress. Armed with a basket of goodies, she would visit Earth to tempt those with the willpower of an alcoholic saying no to a drink in a free bar, to taste her wares. Satan, meanwhile, would stand nearby with his hell basket, ready to collect the souls.

The day was perfect in every way. Medusa walked the streets seductively, snake-hair disguised in clever blonde cornrows, handing out homemade chocolates, to those who just couldn’t resist. Then at the appointed time of their death, Medusa would gaze steadily at the victim, and as they tumbled to the ground, their soul turned to chocolate rocks, ready for Satan to collect.

In hell later that evening, Medusa sucked on a tasty fisherman’s arm, the dark chocolate dripping all over the bed sheets. Just another perfect day in hell.


And here is Cathy's story:


by Cathy Cade

The doorbell rings. I fix a smile and open the door to my neighbour.

"Hi, Pol. How was your Easter break?"

"Brilliant! Swam with dolphins." Polly and Rob would never waste a long bank holiday on DIY projects, like the rest of us.

She gushes, "The fish – fantastic colours – and the birds. How's my Peter? Did Peter Piper miss his mummy?"

She flies to the birdcage, alight with expectation. The blue budgie bobs up and down in front of its mirror. Polly adopts her who’s-a-pretty-boy-then voice.

"Who's a pretty boy, then?"

Blue Peter is silent.

"I think he missed you," I say. "He's been quiet all week."

It's been blissfully quiet, in fact, ever since he escaped his cage… but I don't mention that. Or our panic when Moggie left her basket to climb the curtains towards his perch on the curtain rail.

Polly tries again. "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers?"

I hold my breath.

"Pick-a-pecker, pick-a-pecker."

Polly cocks her head on one side. "He's never said that bit before."

"He's pleased to see you," I say. "Wants to impress."

"Peter-pecker, Peter-pecker."

Puzzlement clouds Polly's dark eyes. "He sounds different."

How can it sound different, for heaven's sake? It sounds like a flaming budgie.

"Maybe he's out of practice after a week off."

But the damn thing's getting in its stride now. "Pity-boy, pity-boy," it squawks.

"They say pets get to look like their owners," I babble. "Perhaps they sound like them too – their keepers, like."

Or should that be owners looking like their pets? I reassess Polly's flattened hairstyle and aquiline nose as she bobs up and down viewing her budgerigar from all angles.

"Well he certainly seems chirpy," she says, handing me an Easter Egg and a carrier from the duty-free shop.

"Oh no… really," I protest.

She insists. "We wouldn't have enjoyed ourselves if we hadn't known Peter was well looked after."

"Cobblers," says Peter.

Polly's eyebrows rise.

I cringe inside, reliving that dreadful morning when I noticed, too late, the open window behind the curtains.

I left the baited cage open in the garden, on top of the rabbit hutch. It fed only sparrows and squirrels until a shower turned it into a bird bath.

Easter weekend was spent searching for a bird the right shade of blue with the same wing markings as Pol's photos. Surrounded by chocolate eggs, I even thought to verify its gender, visited by visions of it laying its own egg once Polly got it home.

And don't get me started on the hours I spent teaching it, "Who's a pretty boy?" and, "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers."

"I must go," says Polly, lifting the cage. "I daren't leave Rob to unpack; I'll never find anything."

I open the front door for her. On the doorstep, she turns. "You must come and see our holiday videos."

Dropping out of the sky, a ragged blue budgie lands on the cage she's holding.

"Peter Piper pickled peppers."

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Christmas Competition 2019

This was a competition for a story of up to 500 words in length, themed around Christmas. Submissions had to contain ALL of the following words (in any order):

  • accident (anything from a cut finger to a fatal crash)
  • key
  • window
  • note
  • piece of fruit

The story did not have to be set anywhere, or at any time, and didn’t necessarily need to relate to Christmas in a traditional way. We asked for writers to be creative with their interpretation of the theme.

The winner was Kim Hart from Australia. You can read her winning story, 'Christmas Traffic – A Horror Story', below.

The runner's up were:

  • 2nd place - Cathy Cade
  • 3rd place - Tony Thatcher
  • 4th place - Paul Mastaglio

Kim chose a copy of Chris's 'How to Write a Short Story' book as her prize. Here is a picture of Kim with her eBook:

Kim Hart

And here is Kim's story:

Christmas Traffic – A Horror Story

by Kim Hart

Sweet Jesus, what fresh hell is this? If this traffic gets any slower, we'll be going backwards. Note to self: leave at the crack of dawn in future. Although, if the dog hadn't swallowed my key this morning, I would have left on time.

Come on people, move it. The light doesn't get any greener, you know.

What is this woman doing in front? Her makeup? My god, get up 10 minutes earlier. Your car is not your bathroom, love.

Beep, beep.

Yes, hi, you can go forward now. Jeez, Louise.

There must be an accident up ahead, surely this can't be normal.


What was that? A bloody cyclist. You better not have damaged my car, you Lycra-clad oxygen thief. There should be a law that you have to pay rego. Freeloading hippies, the lot of you. And don't give me that bull about saving the planet.


What the—? No, go away. I do not want you to wash my windscreen. Get your dirty cloth off it. No, I'm not paying you. The window is worse now than before you started.

Yeah, well up yours too. Get a proper job, loser.

Lovely. Well, at least your spit is cleaner than your water.

Green light, finally.

And we’ve stopped again. Dear Lord, kill me now.

Where are you all going? Work? Can't you get the train or bus?

Look at this guy next to me, is he seriously eating a piece of fruit?

Oh my god, he's eating a mango. Juice is running down his sagging jowls and dripping on his ugly tie that his long-suffering wife probably bought him 40 years ago when he got his first job at the bank, where he – no doubt – still sits on his fat arse all day, shuffling papers.

Beep, beep.

Sorry, mate. Got distracted for a minute by the white whale next to me inhaling his breakfast. Does anyone use their cars for mere transportation these days?


I'm so tired. Damn mozzie in my bedroom, buzzing in my ear half the night. Slapped myself silly trying to get the bugger. Why last night of all nights? The one day I need to be on top of my game and I feel like I was out all night, consuming a keg.


Did you just cut me off and then flip me off, jerk? Where'd you get your license? Don't they install blinkers on Beemers anymore? And you're on your phone. Take your hand off it, idiot. Where's a cop when you need one?

Miracle of miracles. The car park. Now for another feat of endurance, finding a parking spot. And we have a winner. And right next to the employee's entrance. Time to buy a lottery ticket, but first...

"Hi, I'm here for my first day. Here's my paperwork."

"Thank God you're here. The queue to see you is building already. Here's your uniform. You can change in there."


"You're welcome, and I ho-ho-hope you have a great day, Santa."


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