When your time is done
the company of shadows
is all you will keep
When your time is done
the company of shadows
is all you will keep
A Gothic Short Story Writing Competition
Hosted by Tavistock Library https://www.facebook.com/TavistockLibrary/ and supported by Tavistock Heritage Trust https://www.heritageintavistock.org/ as part of ‘Tavistock’s 1st Gothic and Neo-Gothic Celebration – Literature, Art, Architecture, Theatre, Film and Creative Fun.’
From Saturday the 12th of October and culminating in a market and author event on Saturday the 19th of October 2019.
This new celebration aims to encompass writing, film, drama and art activities. There will be a Gothic market for writers and traders to showcase their work, and a range of related events.
Theme: A short story in the Gothic tradition incorporating folklore and myth.
Prizes: A cash prize will be offered to the overall winner 30% of all entry receipts will form the prize fund. There will also be a second prize of 30% of all the entry fees awarded to a ‘Gothic’ story based in Tavistock and incorporating its Gothic and Neo-Gothic Heritage. Additional runners-up prizes of books will also be awarded. The prize winners will be notified approximately two weeks prior to the prize giving. The remaining 40% of the entry fees will be used for administration costs and for festival and library events.
Presentation of the Prizes: The results will be announced, and the prizes presented at an event to be during the celebration.
Judging: The judging will be in two stages. The final short list of stories will be judged by a panel of librarians, authors and publishers. Shortlisted entries will be ranked by a final judging panel.
Tips: The judges will be looking for interesting and original stories that are factually correct where appropriate.
Publication: Depending on the number and quality of the entries received an e-anthology may be published.
A Gothic Short Story Writing Competition
For anyone over the age of 18
Rules and Conditions of Entry
The seeker of truth
will find honour and deceit
in equal measure
The stream looks calm, no ripple disturbs the surface. As if viewed in a mirror, images of the banks and wide sky form exact portraits of the landscape without the need of artist’s brush or photographer’s lens. The beauty of the scene is of no concern to you though.
It is Autumn and the waters of the brook are swollen after the first seasonal rains. Intuition tells you that changes will be taking place within the recent torrent. Now-placid and canal-like. This could be what you have been waiting for. From your pocket you take a jam-jar, emptied of it’s sticky contents, label removed and ready for use.
Three feet below the water’s surface the annual miracle has started. If, like some Old Testament miracle, the waters were to part, you would be able to witness an amazing spectacle.
Not trusting to any help from Moses your jam-jar will be required. Cautiously approaching the water’s edge you lie face down and place the jar on the surface. All the action is now laid bare to your eyes.
Before your eyes activity hidden from view is revealed. You are able to glimpse the private love act of salmo salar, the Atlantic salmon.
After years spent cruising the Atlantic ocean male fish known as jacks have answered an uncontrollable urge to return to their birthplace. The increasing depth of water due to rain has enabled them to make their way up small rivulets. On their way the urge is so strong that they have no time to eat. Sea-lice has caused their scales to turn from fresh silver to a chalky white as they shrink and fall to the riverbed. Acquiring a deep blushing red the jaws resemble elongated hooks making the act of eating impossible anyway.
Females have laid millions of eggs in scrapes on the gravel beds and as the males release their milt it forms opaque clouds before settling on the eggs ready to fertilise and start the new life necessary for the success of the species.
All this is revealed as you lean over the water’s edge with the jar resting on the surface.
You take the jar and leave the fish to their devices’ knowing that within a few days with little rain the waters will return to their shallow state. Returning to the brook you will see many salmon stranded and dying, their work done. Their bodies forming a bonanza feast for the local wildlife.
Meanwhile within the stream the fry will hatch and soon be swimming, ready to face the trials of life and begin the cycle once more
The poppy’s power
to beautify corruption
will not diminish.
As ten thousand petals fall
then we will remember them
The blushing leaves dance
with soft chattering whispers
coy before the breeze
The tweet had come through to my phone whilst we were driving over to see my aged Mother. This was to be a surprise visit. For three weeks she had been pestering me to introduce my latest girlfriend to her. I suppose she was as shocked as I that a nice young girl was willing to accommodate my foibles, bad habits and awful sense of humour and be foolish enough to meet me more than once.
Every time I had ever mentioned a girl’s name I could imagine her plotting a wedding. So far, she had been disappointed and I wasn’t sorry to keep dashing her hopes.
I could imagine her reaction when I had announced that I’d met someone and this crazy girl had expressed a desire to meet her despite my reservations and thinly veiled warnings.
The afore-mentioned was called Sally, and was beside me in the car. She picked up the phone when the notification sounded and told me that it was a tweet then asked if I was happy for her to read it for me.
It transpired that a Great grey shrike had been sighted about fourteen miles away from our destination. Sally was aware that I was a pretty keen birdwatcher and had occasionally sat quietly in a bird hide with me and despite her probable boredom had manged to retain a sense of humour. I sensed that under the attractive exterior was a closet twitcher.
This bird would be a first for me and as I always carried binoculars in the car this was an opportunity not to be missed. We stopped and taking the phone from her I checked the time of the message. Then we pulled the atlas out of the glove compartment and with a growing excitement on my part, started to plan the route to the last known sighting place. We could get there within half an hour. It was out at the edge of the moor, quite close to one of the narrow B roads that abound in that part of the country.
As we approached the site it was easy to spot for there were quite a few cars drawn up along the grass verges. We followed suit and grabbing my binoculars and camera we headed for a break in the granite, dry-stone wall. Luckily the ground was dry as there had been unseasonably little rain for the past couple of months.
There was a small group of people standing about a hundred yards from the opening; a few standing next to tripods on which were perched cameras with telephoto lenses attached. Each as long and thick as one of my arms. All lenses pointing at a medium height ash tree with sharp, snapped limbs and very little leaf cover.
Sally and I tagged on the end of the semi-circle and raising my glasses I started to focus on the bare branches. It only took a couple of minutes to spot the first tell-tale sign of the shrike. Festooned over the spiky, short branches I spotted a frog, two mice and numerous large flying insects, all hanging grotesquely like circus acrobats frozen in mid-swing. Each little corpse starkly silhouetted against the darkening sky. A few twitched haphazardly in their death throes. I asked Sally if she wanted a look and was surprised at her eagerness to take the glasses from me. She asked me what was happening there so I explained about the rather gruesome habits of this bird, also known as the Butcher bird. Her fascination was palpable when I explained that the bird catches prey when it can and uses a tree or sometimes a wire fence as a larder in case food becomes scarce.
An excited tremor passed through the group and all eyes went up as suddenly the focus of our attention turned to a small grey bird that flew rapidly back to the tree. Then it hopped from branch to branch looking for another natural hook on which to hang the still struggling body of a field-mouse. Then he was off again and with my desire to add this bird to my list sated, Sally and I took a few photos of the grisly display. With a broad grin on both our faces we returned to the car to continue our journey.
I was happy that Sally had been so interested but the look on her face when I told her about the larder could be a bit worrying as it might show a different side to her character..
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