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writing competition

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Short story, writing competition

You know nothing about the summer ( The Gauntlet runner up )

Author: Matt Kirby

Illustration: Mark Smith

You might think you know something about the summer, or the sun beating down on you, but you know nothing. Me, I know everything, lying on the ground of central Baghdad during the searing summer months with no protection from the elements. Here the sunshine reigns supreme, 46 degrees of dusty vacation nobody wants.

Of course you wouldn’t just lie on the ground given the choice but I’ve been stuck for thirteen long years of stagnant scorching. Once I stood tall casting my gaze across the square and beyond whereas now I lounge staring solemnly along the ripples of heat-soaked ground.

My ego is but a tiny morsel of its former self. Try having the occasional rabid dog emptying its bowels on you. Oh sure it dries quickly enough but that smell lingers long in the heat. Then there are the kids climbing all over me, no respect for history, no concept of dignity, declaring that it is they who are the kings of the castle. Well I used to represent a king-of-sorts, reaching to the sky with pride.

I had the best view in the house when it all kicked off. Everyone knew it was coming; it had been on the cards for years, the only surprise being that it took so long for them to arrive. I was gifted the perverse pleasure of watching the most fearsome fireworks display of all time.

Hauling me down was part and parcel of the whole experience, a symbolic gesture of victory and defeat. I could hardly blame them, for I represented the past, my boss Sadaam, and a dark chapter in the history of our great nation. But they acted in such a hurry, giving no thought to what they’d do with me when I’d been removed from my plinth, or with the country after the invasion had ended.

So I’m left in the dirt to spend my days reminiscing about how things used to be. The past was far from ideal but we could rely on certain standards that have yet to return. Whilst I can’t see as well as I once saw, and the sideways view is nothing if not tedious, I see enough to tell you the truth.

We still have foreign troops in our country. Can you imagine it; the great state of Iraq blighted by this shame. There is the violence which haunts us without signs of an end. Still the suicide bombers are leaping expectantly into an afterlife that they cannot guarantee to find. And the ruins are everywhere, the scars of relentless bombing, so much yet to heal and be rebuilt. If tears could come to my eyes I would have shed many.

So enjoy your summer, safe and secure, free and easy, soaking up the rays, wherever you’re blessed enough to be. But you know nothing about summer, like that of a fallen retired statue in an Iraqi summer, and if you’re lucky, for luck is all it is, then you never will.

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Short story, writing competition

WINNER OF THE GAUNTLET- WE WERE KIDS

Author: Nesbit & Gibley 

Illustration: Teapotsforelephants

Our instructions were clear: exit the bus in Tolbridge, walk 11 miles south-east, turn left at the farmhouse and walk to the sea. Bring some beer, bring some board games but don’t tell Mum and Dad.

We convinced our parents we were all going to summer camps, so they were happy to pay for the journey. Following the notes, we exited the bus, made the route, and arrived. Sat on the clifftop, meters from a 300 foot drop, was the cottage.

It belonged to Agnes Howler’s parents. They had enough wealth to gold their belt buckles, silk their shoelaces; this was just one of their dozen homes. It had been years since they stayed, as they forever spent their time in the African sun. Because her parents hadn’t been to the cottage in years, there wasn’t any electricity, nor a single drop of fuel for the generator. There was also a problem with the plumbing, which meant no running water. But we accepted it for the price of an underage, unadulterated party. We cooked in the dark using camping stoves, we boiled water from the sea and we went to the toilet outside.

There were six of us in total. Imogen Tully, the Bradley brothers, Jim and Dick, Marcus Dahl, Agnes and myself. All of us friends from school. We spent days trekking the high cliffs and plodding along the thin beaches, collecting shells and picking up driftwood for the evening fires. We skipped stones and built sandcastles, like we were eight year olds.

On our last day, with the sun clamped behind the clouds and the infamous furious winds battering the clifftop, we remained indoors. We only realised then that we had three copies of Monopoly, two boxes of dominoes, and a pack of cards to entertain us. Although, being as close friends as we were, it wasn’t a problem. We drank the rest of the beer, cooked all of the sausages, and swapped stories from our childhood, shouting over each other as the strong winds contested our voices. We only braved the wrath outside to drain the beer we drank.

We all met up for a coffee last week. It’s been twenty years since our stay at the cottage and twenty years since we’ve spoken. Everyone has come so far. Imogen is a teacher and happily married to a marine biologist, Jim and Dick have their own furniture business, and Agnes is a successful author.

We only spoke of the future; where we all hoped to be in the next ten or twenty years, where we’d like to be living. Of course, it was all an effort to dodge the subject of Marcus, and our memories of him.

We had a laugh, though. Jim and Dick are still jokers and Agnes can really tell a story. We did our best to hold a smile, to let each other know we were all okay.

We never blamed ourselves for what happened. It was summer, and we were kids.

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writing competition

The Gauntlet #2 “SUMMER”

The time has come to throw down another challenge to you, our favourite readers and authors. This time we want you to write on the theme of ‘summer’.

Let your pens run riot! We want to see the magic of solstice celebrations, sip an ice cold Pernod in the oppressive heat of 1920s Paris, and remember the eerie lure of ice cream vans.

What does summer mean to you? The curl of a vengeful mermaid’s fingers around your oars? Twilight which lasts forever while the hours draw longer and the dark never truly sets in? The scents of pungent elderflower and sickly sweet rose masking decadent decay?

“BUT WHAT WILL I WIN?!” We hear you scream, and you are well within your rights to scream it. The winner will receive a rather fetching Murder & Glut t-shirt, have their story published on our site ( accompanied by an illustration created for your story ) and potentially feature in our first ever physical release, an anthology, we’re releasing at the end of the year! We will also have two runners up positions who will also have their stories published on our site.

Send your entries to editor@murderandglut.com marked ‘COMPETITION’. Entries should be no longer than 500 words. Closing date is Friday June 3rd ( MIDNIGHT ), with the winners announced on the 6th.

As ever, your obedient servants,

Murder & Glut

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Short story, writing competition

Nocturnally ( Runner up of The Gauntlet )

Author: Lydia Smith

Illustration: Christopher Harrisson

Marc was a complex soul. To the outside world he was master of zen, he even had the stripy hippy trousers to prove it. But this had not always been the case and no-one ever knows the real story unless they themselves took the lead, and even then they can easily give into concepts of false grandeur or excuses for bad behaviour, but Marc was aware of the truth.

As Marc’s fingers gripped the gentle curls of the finely woven rug beneath him he inhaled, as he exhaled he let everything go, he lost everything that he was, lost his ego, he was faceless.

During deep meditation a person loses their identity and becomes one with the Universal energy, all well and good, but something was missing for Marc. The emptiness in his life was easy to access, it was a vacuum longing to be filled.

Back in the day Marc was a charmer, he could have any woman he wanted, and he did. He thought back to the fine meals he would woo ladies over, pan-fried fish and a full bodied red, and they were like a Rubik’s cube in his hands.

But none of them mattered after the day he met her. Initially he thought he’d seen a shooting star hurtle across the sky, but then she landed at his side. They talked nocturnally under the glittering sky, she told him about the places she’d travelled through and the strange things she’d seen. Marc told her…almost nothing about himself, what could he say, he realised he was ashamed of himself. All his stories were of conquest and the trail of broken hearts that he no longer blazed but which now hounded him. They kissed before she left, he begged her to stay but she told him the time was wrong, she would come back when the clocks were right, she left him with a single rose that she retrieved from behind her oxygen pack, Marc treasured it still.

It was then he embarked on this life changing path, he was a changed man, unrecognisable from his former self, except in Letchworth nobody seemed to be able to let go of Marc’s reputation as easily as he could. People jeered him with stories from his past and offered him invitations for easy sex.

Marc grew his hair long and started wearing a miserable blue fleece made from the most unnatural fibres he could find, the sort that catches on even the softest hands, but even this didn’t seem to dent his reputation as a stud.

The stink of stale fish and morning wine breath haunted his soul until he eventually took a knife to everything that he knew, killed it for good, and moved to Doncaster.

Nobody in Doncaster ever supposed he could handle a blue joke, or for a moment considered him “highly shaggable”, in Doncaster he was Marc, boring, predictable, quinoa munching Marc.

And Marc looked patiently to the stars waiting for the clocks to be right.

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Short story, writing competition

His. Him. He. ( Runner up- The Gauntlet )

Author: Matt Kirby

Illustration: Christopher Harrisson

Ah, shit, I forgot all about it, his Rubik’s cube.

I wonder if I could kill him with it. I’ve never seen one looking broken, worn or old. Is it sturdy enough to crash into his head over and over and over again? Maybe. Probably.

I couldn’t figure the thing out, only picked it up so I could fiddle with something to relieve the tension. My first visit to his flat, streams of anxiety pulsing through my veins. He told me I should take it home. How could I refuse him when I’d yet to figure out if he was for keeps?

That was the second present he gave me, the first was the DVD. There were two ladies in the pub, one selling roses for some obscure charity, and the other flogging dodgy copies of films on the cheap. Can’t say I’d spotted him but he bowled over and sat right next to me. He said pub flowers were too tacky for his tastes as he handed me a DVD; The Wedding Singer. He can’t have known that I already loved the film any more than he knows that I now hate it because of him.

It was only three days back that I put everything I could find that had any association to him in a black bin bag. Left it outside a charity shop, one I never normally visit, to be long forgotten. Only the underwear couldn’t be recycled. I felt like burning it out on the balcony in the vague hope that he might be driving past to see the flames but I resigned myself to throwing them in the neighbours’ bin where I would never have to see them again.

That stupid bra didn’t fit anyway. Stupid men always assuming they know the answer to such an easy question to ask. But as he’d gone to the effort of buying it I wore it for him anyway and fucked him like I imagined he had intended the scene to play out.

It took a drunken tip-off from a friend of a friend, the latter deeply concerned and the former an apologetic messenger, for the truth to hit home. It’s not so much that I didn’t want to believe what I’d been told, more that I didn’t want to think I could been a part of his games. I can’t help but wonder how many others went the same way? Maybe there was a woman for every square on this cube, the fifty-three of them, and me, all played the same way.

The purge had to happen. He went first, closely followed by his lies, then his truth, then the multitude of his excuses, and then the bin bag of memories. I forgot about this cube though, hidden away in this draw I rarely ever use. This fucking cube. His fucking cube. What’s the point of them anyway? No use to anyone except maybe, just maybe, for caving-in his skull. Maybe.

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Short story, writing competition

The Yoga Guru ( Joint winner of The Gauntlet )

Author: Alberto Furlan

Illustration: Christopher Harrisson

This is not what I had in mind when my friends recommended Kinziak the “amazing yoga guru.”

“You just have to try it,” they said, covered in suspicious bruises.

I’m looking up into the thatched roof of a mongolian yurt just off the M25 near Slough, breathing incense, London’s daily offering of smog and what is likely marijuana.

“Let my voice guide you” says Kinziak with the annoying voice ads use when they want to sound like they’re sharing a secret. Like they’re post-coitally telling me where the family treasure is buried in between Agents of Shield on a Sunday night.

“Picture the first thing that comes to mind when you hear me.”

Christ how long is this going to – did that clock just appear out of thin air?

Yep, a clock is hovering above my head. Whatever Kinziak’s burning with the incense, it’s good.

“You’re a natural” says Kinziak like I didn’t just break the laws of physics. “Now, imagine something you want to get rid of. It will bother you no more.”

I nearly sneeze. Hay fever. Mother nature’s special gift. A rose materialises. Am I totally off my face?

“A rose” Kinziak says in a non-chalant tone. He must be higher than me. “Let’s continue. Keep breathing. In… aaaaaaaaahhhhnd out.”

I want to murder – oh look a knife. I should keep this in check.

“Be careful where your emotions take you.”

What if I drowned him? There, a fish.

“Now, imagine something that you love, but hurts you. Something you know you should get rid of.”

He hasn’t even finished his sentence that a bottle of wine appears above my head. I could do with a glass of wine right now. How is this happening?

“Finally, imagine something that you miss, that you’ll never get back. Something you need to let go.”

Before I can think of anything other than calling the guru a tit, my sub-conscious kicks in and I conjure the notes of Bowie’s Starman in my mind.

Obviously this isn’t magic, so David Bowie, who admittedly I will miss on occasion, does not resurrect. However, I have wished for a starman, waiting in the sky, so I get Tim Peake. Tim Peake is now hovering above me in his space suit, and I can see his eyes through the tinted visor. He looks confused.

Kinziak does not.

“To end the ritual, think of something that you have wanted to fix for a long time.”

I’ve never tried very hard, but all those people who say it’s easy can fuck off. I hate the Rubik’s cube.

Tim Peake looks panicked.

“To finish the ritual” Kinziak inhales “this might be painful, but you need to let these things go from your mind. It’s you keeping them up there. Let go.”

“Are you seri-” I begin, turning to face this idiot with the powers of a shit Green Lantern. But then Tim Peake and everything else comes crashing down.