One of the benefits of listening to loads of podcasts is that you get to hear about all sorts of interesting resources. Thanks to Val and Al, I recently learned about the Australian Writers’ Centre – and their fantastic monthly short fiction competition, called Furious Fiction.
Here’s what the website has to say about the competition:
On the first weekend of every month, you are invited to put your storytelling skills to the test in the ultimate writer-takes-all short story competition. Armed only with our simple brief, your job is to race the clock to come up with your best 500 words-or-fewer story and be in to win a tasty $500 – every single month.
Doesn’t that sound amazing? Well, it does to me, and I took the plunge and entered this month. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t win or make the short list – the competition is STIFF! But I had a lot of fun, and every word written is good practice.
I thought I’d share my entry with you, here.
Madeline awoke in a cold sweat for the fourth night in a row. There was a smell of lavender in the room, tainted with a faint trace of used matches. Her chest heaved as she struggled to calm her breathing. Her pulse raced. She ached from her scalp to her soles.
It was lighter than she expected it to be and she realised she had fallen asleep with her bedside lamp still lit. There would be a row with her flatmate over that later.
She had flung off her blanket in the course of whatever had happened. It lay in a rumpled heap at the foot of the bed. The sheet, wet and musty, had snapped off at the corner to expose the rose-patterned mattress beneath.
On the side table, the clock blinked 01:17 in unsettling red digits. She’d been gone for an hour. It was always an hour. The lost hour.
Madeline moved herself slowly out of the bed, wincing as her feet hit the floor. She knew the soles were cracked and dirty, and her feet burned with every step she took.
In the bathroom, she splashed cold water on her face. The bruises on her arms continued their progress from wine red to unhappy blue, en route to the sickly green that would mean they were healing. New bruises had appeared around her neck, leaving her looking like an overactive teenager.
She looked at the tub at the far end of the bathroom and considered drawing herself a bath. She pictured herself in the water, the warmth on her skin, the pleasant buoyancy – the liquid filling her lungs as she slipped under, drowning in her exhaustion.
She slunk back to her bed and turned off the light.
For the fourth night in a row, Madeline lay awake, alone in the dark trying to remember what had happened to her. The shape of the thing was there but it disappeared when she looked at it. She tried to sidle up to it, take it by surprise, but it always seemed to be a step ahead of her, just out of reach.
At dawn, she gave up. She dressed for work, draping a scarf around her neck to hide the bruises, and stumbled into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. The sound of the kettle boiling roused her flatmate who recoiled at the sight of her pale face and bloodshot eyes.
“Good grief,” said Sydney. “You look like you’ve been to hell and back.”
Madeline shuddered, and said nothing.
I hope you enjoyed that because I loved writing it, and I can’t wait for November’s competition. You can be sure I’ll share whatever I write when it’s all over!