Shortlist

Page 8

This week's shortlist

The title of a sixties hit whispered in my mind like the punch line of a sick joke. How odd that I could hear it despite the siren that wailed above my head. Even stranger, why should I imagine the title or sense that it somehow held reproach? I surely wasn’t to blame for this lousy mess—for my sitting here trapped in a wheelchair, unable to push it to safety. After three endless minutes, the siren cycled from a pulsating screech to a robotic voice:

“Flood warning…flood warning! Move to higher ground! Flood warning…flood warning! Move to higher ground!”

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Eduardo and Luciana were walking hand in hand along the shoreline of Corcovado Beach. To their left side, the slope of the big hill rose above them, topped with the man-like statue that towered on the peak.

In spite of having lost its arms in the everlasting battle against acid rain, the Cristo Redentor was still majestic and breathtaking. A symbol of men being able to put their art above nature, telling the world that in their faith of God and Jesus, anything could be conquered.

When has God turned His back on us? Eduardo thought like he always did when he saw the mutilated statue. Who has lost their faith in the other first?

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The door swung open and a middle-age man entered. Closing his wet umbrella and leaving it at the corner, he took a seat at the center of the bar counter. Inside the warm, dimly lit bar, one would not guess that it has been pouring heavily since the afternoon.

“Harada-san,” the young bartender greeted his patron with a smile. “It’s been a while.”

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On the wateredge lies a television set and a lungdead man.

In the South Pacific there was an island much like this one. Its three tiered plateaus holding in their plains no life. The tripping gulleys of a spring, which broke out as an interruption, a green splinter of eden on the west of the aerial map, were the homes that some evolution had made. Alike was the fact that the island and its gulley ferns had broken away from the mainland millions of years prior to their discovery by concious, human minds. Visited by men from the northern regions, the island saw nothing but occasional breaks in its peace by dry mouthed and deceased crew members, looking for freshwater in an ocean of denser turquoise salt, and finding this little plateaued eruption bulging lustily from the curves of the waves. It washed them all back out to be buried at sea.

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They had been planning this holiday for an eternity, so to have finally arrived felt like a dream. They had been driving for days, stopping at beaches along the way, but nothing compared to the bustling vibe of Surfer’s Coast. They had heard about it before from a few of their friends who travelled here one summer, but they’d never actually been. And now they were here.

They gaped at the number of people on the main street and the crowd cluttering the sand. They stood in the car park together for an unreasonable amount of time, leaning against their four wheel drive and attempting to burn the scene into their memories.

Eventually, Erik turned to Emmelie. ‘What would you like to do first?’ he asked.

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I sat on the chair opposite my daughter, Eliza, a closed book in one hand and a drawing of my daughters in the other. She’d just spent the last twenty minutes drawing it and had just given it to me, it was well done given the fact she was only six. I studied the paper, quickly realising it was the park down the road that she’d decided to draw, a dusty orange ground with a lonely swing set in the middle of it. There wasn’t much else to draw with that park in mind, I smiled and passed it back to her before learning back on my chair again.

“How is it daddy?” Eliza questioned, leaning forwards towards me anxiously.

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I haven’t spoken to another person face to face for five years. The last person I touched was my father. I kissed him on the cheek and thanked him for giving me a lift. I had been hired to review the revolutionary way we’d all be living within five years. I was among 500 people spending a month in one of the prototypes of The House of the Future set up in various locations all over the world. So the manufacturers’ PR lackeys told us. As events unfolded their target of five years was beaten by four years, 49 weeks and two hours. Three weeks after the campaign launched with the 500 people across the world entering the pods, the planet gave up on humanity and began to take them one by one. It was proven to be the most truthful and promise fulfilling advertising campaign since advertising began; the people who inhabit these protective future pods are the only humans left living on earth.

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At first, all I could hear was the rain. Slowly, I started to wake. Used to be that I looked forward to rain while I was sleeping. It wascomforting. Listening to the gentle patter of rain as it fell on the roof and bitumen was soothing. Smelling the petrichor used to bring a sense of homeliness, of familiarity, reminding me of the big rains on my family’s old farm.

Now it fills me with dread.

I could hear the squeaking of something scraping against wood coming from the living room. Clumsily, I threw off the sheets and put on pants and an oversized tshirt. It was too humid for clothes or a blanket most nights. But then I wasn’t sleeping outside.

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‘Are you sure it’s real?’

‘It’s real. Amazing, yes, and unbelievable…but real.’

‘What do you hope to achieve?’

‘You’ll see.’

Professor Donalds stepped slowly towards the TV and turned it on. Static rumbled through the room, and a few professors covered their ears. Professor Donalds turned towards the girl and looked at her gravely. His eyes pierced hers as he prepared to ask her the question. Continue Reading →

Today is the third anniversary of mommy’s disappearance and daddy decides to take little Sally to the cliff.

It’s a quiet, bright, sunny day and this makes little Sally smile. ‘No sudden wind gusts or mini-tornadoes are expected in the area,’ said the chief meteorologist on the TV last night. At least one day without any of those sudden, cataclysmic events that has become frequent visitors for the last few years.

The air is crisp and clean and the golden sun rays mercilessly bleach everything in their path – hills, forests, rivers, villages. Continue Reading →

“You are fired.”

Those rumbling words replay over and over again in my mind as I trudge home carrying a box stuffed with my personal belongings. That’s right; I am walking home. My car wouldn’t start and I hurried like a saint to church to catch the stinking bus in hopes I would make it to work on time. I was late and consequently fired. Then I managed to miss the last bus home. This is not my lucky day.

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First up a warm welcome to all our newcomers: Mel Watts, Jess Grimmonds, Laurence Deam and Saskia Griffiths, and special shout outs to Debb Bouch and Disapol Savetsila, who scored really well, closely missing out on the top three. This time around we tried a different judging method. In the …

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  ‘Remember, beautiful things grow in the most unlikely places.’ He held out a cardboard box with pink, hand painted roses that seemed to soften in his weathered hands. Rosie was old enough to know that when a man gave her something and called her beautiful, it was more of an exchange. And …

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Tchk-tchk-tchk-tchk roils the gravel beneath the tires. I’m hanging upside-down on my uncle’s pickup truck from the cab rack. It reminds me of gymnastics when I was in Minneapolis. Palms white with chalk. Gripping the bar like religion and Amelia Leinz saying “one, two, three, go!” as I try my hundredth time …

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There it was, nestled in velvet and lustrous in soft light from a concealed spot. Several other small collectibles lay scattered tastefully around it within the confines of the glass cabinet. No doubt about it though, the Faberge egg was the jewel in this particular crown. With reluctance, I brought …

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  My eyes settle on the golden green Napoleonic Fabergé egg which sits, perching, encased in strong glass. The bustling Metropolitan Museum of Art surrounds me, its walls threatening to close in at any moment. I exhale and walk to the next exhibit. I check my watch to discover that …

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  They like to say Pierre brought unhappiness to our town, but that’s bull. He made us realise how unhappy we were. That’s why everyone is gathering to burn down Pierre’s house. They’re at the school hall, officially there for a PTA meeting, but they’re passing out the pitchforks and …

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Even the walls of the cinema are specked with dirt and grime, ash from the ciggies and gum from the smoker’s mouths. Occasionally some schmuck drifts out with a small shovel and a mop. They always have pimpled faces and look like they should be studying, as if it’s shocking …

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Macy stared up at the ceiling as another drop of condensation narrowly missed her head and splashed onto the pillow. For nearly an hour now she’d been playing a game of Russian roulette with the air conditioner which was working so hard to fight off the February heat that the …

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If I hadn’t been so stricken by Gran’s fragile state, I probably would never have agreed to her outlandish request. I had a mountain of work waiting for me back on the farm and here I was jet setting across the country to find a woman I had never met, …

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