September 2014

Congratulations to the twelve authors who made the short list for this award. We received over thirty entries, all of which were of a very high standard. If you didn’t make the short list, and would like feedback on your writing, please contact us via email needleinthehaywritingcomp @ gmail.com To read the full short list, click here.     

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He had known, in theory at least, that the day was not going to be easy. However, he could not have imagined just how difficult it would prove to be. Sitting on the fringe of the company, he watched in unspoken agony as a procession of dutiful family and friends tickled the baby’s cheek and made the requisite ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ sounds. Occasionally, above the happy hubbub, he could hear compliments being paid, the same sort of compliments being paid at Christenings and naming ceremonies the world over, he thought. – Ah, sure he’s gorgeous – Big strapping lad, he is. – Jaysus, there’s plenty of him. He’ll be a boxer that one – heavyweight champion of the world! – Aw Nuala, he’s beautiful. And the absolute image of you. …

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He descended the steps outside her stained weatherboard house. He looked up and down the street whilst shrugging on his pure wool coat; a new purchase, never worn until today. Only when he saw the street empty, did he remember to turn around and offer her a smile. She still stood in the doorway, hugging her loose dressing gown to herself, neck tinged red from his slight stubble. She was a contrast to her surroundings, dark hair, dark complexion, flattering against the off white of the house. It really was filthy, he thought to himself. Cracks in the plaster and dead grass on the lawn. She sipped the coffee he made her, even that movement was smooth and sensual, enough for him to almost turn back. Instead, he briskly crossed …

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  “You murdered a cop.” She says. “No I didn’t.” He replies. “I don’t have time for this.” “That’s not fair.” “Justice is fair and it will be decided upon in court. You’re wasting my time.” She stands. “Wait!” The handcuffs rattle as he bangs his palms on the steel tabletop. “I think I’ve figured everything out. Not just that night.” “Alright. Go on, but your lawyer should be here.” “I don’t need a lawyer. I need you and the police to believe what actually happened.” “Fine. Continue.” “I had a friend when I was a kid.” “Is this going to take long?” She interrupts. Silence. “His name was Adam and we did everything together. Everything.” “Please get to the point.” “We grew up and Adam decided he wanted to …

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Usually Sid woke to the smell of rotten eggs and meat. In the corner of his room was a puddle of cream that melted every day and congealed every night. Towers of encrusted pizza boxes had framed his bed and a snowfall of scrunched tissues had blanketed the carpet. His bed was stained with food and spots of urine, and he had been in it so long that bedsores had formed on his legs and back. On the twenty first of June, Sid woke to a clean and spacious room that glowed with sunlight from the dusted window. A pale, stick-like figure with wiry hair sat at a newly excavated desk. His eyes bored into Sid while his fingers fiddled stiffly with a dollar coin. “It’s one o’clock,” the man …

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  The first comes before you’re old enough to decide. Your parents choose it for you, all lustrous and white to symbolise your purity. You begrudgingly wear it, squirming against the stiff fabric. If you could walk, maybe flight would have been an option. Were you old enough to speak, maybe you would have criticised their choice—the cut is far from flattering on your pudgy, swollen, potato-like form. But then, if you could speak, maybe you would tell them a great many things. Afterwards, your parents take it back. Just a rental. You might smile at this until you realise others will fidget exactly as you have. You wait many years for the next. This time it’s your choice, so you opt for something nicer. None of your parents’ gaudiness …

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I am looking for green buds. The wind still bites and soil temperatures haven’t risen yet, but I want leaves. I ache for leaves. The trees have been bare for so long. It feels like spring will never come. I’ll never be released from this icy prison. Every autumn, I shut myself away. I promise to visit friends and see a bit of life but I never do. I need the warmth of her presence. I need to bask in her reflected glory. I am Seph’s warm season fling, her bit on the side. She puts me aside at the end of summer and goes back to her husband. I work so that I can fool around in the warm half of the year. I lock myself away and she …

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  The garden. In the garden I am lonely. Lonely but for pasty petals and frizzled ferns and thoughts of you. There are dusty, crusty scattered leaves and my pale reflection in a slow stream. You hated the water, though I loved it. We were different, you and me. The trees engulf me, as do those memories of you, with me, in the garden. It looks unkempt, like a graveyard of quiet and loss. Leaves curl on the cusp of brown, threatened by the closeness of death. I can’t let it take them. I see the spot where we first stood, all those years ago. Where we kissed for the first time. I remember it well because I had a tic-tac under my tongue. You didn’t care to mention it. …

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Margot hands Carl the menu and says, with a lovely smile, “Be right back with your water.” While she’s gone, he examines it anticipatorily. It’s past eight o’clock, he worked ten hours non-stop; he’s hungry. It’s cold out and he wants something hot and filling before he goes home to his empty apartment and another night of ennui-inspiring TV and net surfing. This, despite his MBA. Soup for sure. The menu says “Soup du jour: Ask your server.” Margot, who’s thirty-five and tired (it’s not that busy now but the dinner “hour” was frantic, and she’s been on since two this afternoon. She needs to stay high energy: She’s divorced, her ex owes her and she, in turn, owes everyone else, so tips really matter. This, despite her MFA), returns, …

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I had never worn a costume into the bedroom before, nor did I ever intend to. But when the ten year hurdle comes around, compromises must be made. You have to keep the spice in the marriage or he will stray like a mutt, humping everything in sight. So I agreed to his terms. One night in a hotel room, role playing this fantasy. I, the seductive schoolgirl, playful yet naïve. He, the infatuated teacher, knowing the risk of getting caught but unable to resist. A passionate and forbidden affair ensues, hopefully not resulting in pregnancy. The moment I stepped into the hotel room, I couldn’t help but scoff at the whole situation. The silly things one has to do to keep a marriage afloat. Laying the outfit, if you …

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It only felt real when Susan saw the ‘for sale’ sign outside the house, the wooden stake driven through the dry lawn and into the clay soil. She drove up the driveway, put her shiny silver hybrid into park and sighed. They were really selling the house. This house had been their dream. She and Michael used to drive past it every Saturday after their weekly poker games at the hotel. They always stared at its three storeys longingly. They had known they’d never be able to afford it, but that didn’t stop Susan fantasising about fixing the wilted front garden and giving the intricate architecture a fresh coat of paint. Then they hit the jackpot. Susan slipped her Dolce and Gabbana handbag over her shoulder and locked the car. …

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“We have found your tent, Miss,” the man at the door said. My tent? I couldn’t believe my ears. Didn’t he know? “Good thing you had the label sewn in.” Of course, my thoughts flew right back to that day, only two weeks before. It was a hot, sunny day, the eighteenth of August. People were happy, singing along with the many bands on the stages. Seventy thousand of them, mostly teenagers and young adults. Marvin wasn’t feeling so well, even though it had only been the first day of three. “I’m going to lie down a bit in the tent, ‘kay?” “Sure babe,” I answered. “Shall I come and comfort you a bit?” To my surprise he shook his head. He must be really sick. I waved at him …

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Andrea hoisted herself onto a stool and leant across the counter. She grabbed a menu from the stack and flipped to the all-day breakfast. She could never decide between pancakes or scrambled eggs in places like this. The Appetite Plate had both, but she wanted one or the other, without the added hassle of hashbrowns and bacon. The mirror was full of faces. Andrea could hardly see the wallpaper of her childhood bedroom through the collage of relatives crowded behind her. Her own hair took up a third of the space. For some reason she’d thought it would be a good idea to curl it and now she was mildly concerned it had become a safety hazard. Her 5-year old cousin was half drowning in the frizzy mane. “You look …

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A Tale Of Two Rebeccas  It’s with much excitement and and without further ado that we announce the winner and second placing for the MYSTERY OF THE CELLAR DOOR Award. In first place, a story that was described by one judge as ‘the most fluid, most enjoyable to read’ and another as ‘Weirdly excellent!!!’ Congratulations to the author of ‘Birdcage’, Rebecca McDowell. Rebecca wins $1000 AUD as first placing in the competition. In second place, another first timer to NITH, please congratulate Rebecca Hadland (Sylphien) for her awesome, thoroughly original story ‘You Cannot Open The Cellar Door.’ The MYSTERY OF THE CELLAR DOOR award was NITH’s first major award and we were pleased with the quality of the entries. We’ll be announcing our next major award in the near future. …

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Daniel’s story, Eatery, is part of the MYSTERY OF THE CELLAR DOOR Short List. You can read it here. What is the influence / story behind the story? I had been making my way through some horror novels because I like the idea of being able to scare a reader. For a person to be so engrossed in a book that they’re actually terrified is pretty cool. The fact that I had to sleep with every light in the house on was a small price to pay for discovering some great stories, but I noticed that the genre is full of stereotypes. There are plenty of awesome tales about zombies, werewolves, haunted houses and whatever else but it’s hard to find anything totally original. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, …

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Needle In The Hay is pleased to announce the following entries selected for the MYSTERY OF THE CELLAR DOOR Short List. Congratulations to: Alayna Cole – Guilty Daniel Mac – Cellar Door Dakoda Barker – Unlocked Rebecca McDowell – Birdcage Lauren Clark – Macabre Manor Rebecca Hadland (Sylphien) – You Cannot Open The Cellar Door Daniel Norrish – Eatery Debb Bouch – Symon Says   . Thank you to our ten judges for the long list. The judges for the short list include a fiction magazine editors, former contestants, and a nautropath. and a Best of luck to everyone. The winner will be announced in two weeks    

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