Waking takes a little longer this morning. Your eyes open slowly to the ribbon of light sneaking into your bed through that gap in the curtains. It’s early, but you smile. You roll around for a moment in the warmth of the bed. They’re beside you, breathing heavily. You think of last night and the day before. Then you think of the night before that and the years of companionship and love which brought you to this place. You try to forget the moments of anguish and anger. You want to wake them, but you don’t. The chill only teases you for a minute before you step into the warm shower. The heat sails around you in the steam and you can only just see the bottle of bubble …

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2 beep..5 bip.. 5 bip.. 2 beep.. 4 barp..#blip. The bolt clunked open and was held there by whatever device it is that makes that buzzing sound. The subject, head down, hands in pockets, pushed the door open with his hip and walked into the foyer. He didn’t notice the lady watering the aspidistras, but she saw him. Later to be known as witness D, she was often fussing around in the foyer, and she didn’t miss a trick. “They always wore those hooded jackets and they always had these wispy beards.” She could single out this one though. “He always opened the door with his hip and he never ever looked at me. All the others looked and smiled. And yes he was definitely wearing a blue hoodie, black …

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  “They’re getting closer.” Tabitha was standing on the end table to peer through the vertical blinds, a slice of late sunlight across her eyes, tension in her posture. Her cousin Jim lay in the bed, eyes closed, his injured arm pulled close, wrapped in some old shirts Tabitha had found in the last house. The pain made him sweat, even though it was cool inside. “That’s great news,” he mumbled. “Maybe they can bring us something to eat.” Tabitha looked down at him, eyebrow raised. “Something to eat?” “Yeah.” Jim coughed a little. “Does it look like they’ve got a cooler? Something wrapped in foil?” He sniffled. “Kebabs? Cupcakes?” He shifted. “Waffles and syrup?” Tabitha sighed and hopped down from the table. She pinched the bridge of her nose …

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I didn’t know why I was there. I guess that day, I was feeling moody. I walked in a daze and ended up going to the aquarium. And then I saw you. You stood in front of the gigantic display, admiring the jellyfish. Your fingers glided over the railing. You seemed like you were in your own world. Why did it have to be you? Even now, I still don’t know. Perhaps it was the summer cologne you were wearing, it reminded me of fresh linen. Or perhaps, it was your fluttering skirt that gave you an air of elegance. ‘Miss,’ I called you. If you hadn’t looked at me, I would have walked away. I would have walked back home, feeling down and dejected. And I would’ve forgotten all …

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“Bring in the accused.” I was pushed forward and stumbled into the room. Two strong hands grabbed me before I would have actually fallen, and escorted me to the stand. “Accused, state your full name.” “W-Wilson, Barry Wilson,” I stuttered. “Barry Wilson, you are brought to this courtroom today to be judged for your crimes. How do you plead? Guilty or not guilty?” I couldn’t answer him right away as I was still trying to understand what was happening to me. Minutes before, I had been brutally awakened by the same two security guards that had tossed me into this courtroom. I had no recollection of how I had gotten into my prison, and the guards had refused answering my questions. “Your Honor, what is the crime laid against me?” …

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“Okay.” I say looking down. “You will come? You will help me?” I kiss her bumpy forehead. “I will do whatever it takes.” I answer. The pregnant clouds above can’t hold onto their weight any longer. They release heavy pieces of snow that begin to cover the corpse we leave behind. The earth will soon be white and new. Described by one of our judges as “A solid story with a savage little twist I stumbled into like a solid right jab,” these are the final moments of our winning entry. In Crimson Hope author Jewel Shkandriy has delivered on the promise of a story where bad things are done for good reasons.  Congratulations Jewel. It’s great to see a regular contributors undertaking something new. Crimson Hope and two others will …

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We just dropped the Grimdark short list in coordination with GdM’s first issue, but what else is going on at NITH? Well just like the title says, there are two new awards up on the site. Firstly, the THREE DRAFTS YOU’RE IN Award asks you to show your work buy writing three drafts of the ‘same’ story. We’ve also just put the NORMAL SUCCESS! Award, which has much simpler criteria. Just don’t forget that white picket fence! No less important, Needle In The Hay makes it’s first foray into the ‘real world’ at the Wollongong Writer’s festival this Saturday. I’ll be sitting on a panel about Art in Isolation from 10-11am. It’s early, but if you’re in the neighbourhood please come by and check it out. Full details at the …

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Congrats to all our short listed authors for the LORD GRIMDARK Award. We received over 25 entries most of which were a very high standard. Impressive given the genre requirements usually mean we get fewer entries. It’s great to see a mix of old hats trying their hand at the genre and new blood no doubt drawn by the visceral nature of grimdark fiction. We chose a short list that hopefully runs the wide gamut of potential for grimdark. There is villany, fantasy, criminals, theives and the underworld. There  is Anger and Hope, and a little bit of wry humour in there as well. As always we look forward to your comments so check out the full short list here. Finally a big thank you to Adrian Collins and the …

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  “Damn bureaucrats!” he said slamming down the phone. “They can’t run a project to save themselves but they want to tell me how to run mine! Why can’t they just leave me alone to do what I need to do?” “What’s wrong Mr Bob?” asked Stephanie, his Chinese secretary. “Bloody Ministry of Forestry in Beijing again. Can’t stop sticking their fingers into everything. Worse than the bloody Asian Development Bank and the World Bank put together!” He rubbed his chest. Damned indigestion. He popped a pill from his top drawer. He’d barely got back from a big lunch with the local ministry officials when the phone had rung from their bosses in Beijing. He’d thought he’d fobbed them off but obviously not. He’d have to get them drunker next …

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The rope chafed the skin of Farrow’s neck. The fraying strands twisted around each other, weak worms making up the strong boa that would crush his windpipe and snap his neck when the trapdoor beneath his feet was released. More rope bound his hands together behind his back and his legs just above the ankles. The five garda hadn’t deemed it fit to give him the blessing of a blindfold. Their captain stood a few metres away, down on the ground, his back straight and his chin high. His eyes glimmered as he caught Farrow’s gaze and returned it with a rise at the corner of his mouth. Farrow lowered his face, blinking rapidly as he pretended to examine the splintered wood beneath his feet. His bowed legs were shaking …

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The sun rose, filling the horizon, spreading a scarlet glow over the world. The aftermath of the battle – the earthly remains of two armies – lay silhouetted, stark black against the bloody background. The dust-laden wind moaned as it laid its soft blanket over the newly dead. The muted calling of birds drew his attention to the lack of other, more human sounds. The bitter iron smell of blood mingled with the fetid odours of death and decay. Alaris stared, remembering the bright, joyous army that had marched out of the city gates less than a week earlier. He slipped off Blaze, leaving him snatching mouthfuls of sparse grass in amongst the rocky outcrops, a little way back from the devastation. Blaze was content to rest from the hard …

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‘I never liked crowds.’ – that was what he told me when I asked why the mansion was so quiet. ‘I value peacefulness more than anything, Father.’ I nodded and continued eating the soup. But that wasn’t the case. No one wants to have anything to do with the family, let alone work for them. Those who stay are faithful servants that have been working for generations. Everyone else in Paris avoids them like the plague. They believe that any contact with an executioner would bring a dark shadow into their lives. ‘Even for someone like you who has angels on his shoulders, try not to involve yourself with them,’ – a well-meaning friend had told me. ‘You shouldn’t be judged by your profession,’ I said. The young man dabbed …

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  Azime grunted in pain. Getting stabbed hurt. A lot. The blade had been left behind, and its cold steel grated against her flesh. Warm blood trickled down her leg. “Bastard,” she muttered. She was wearing her favourite pants. Azime was Angry, but she didn’t use it. Anger could be… unpredictable. She rolled onto her back to get a better look at her attacker. The beefy man loomed over her, reaching forwards with monstrous hands. At least she’d disarmed him. Sort of. She drew her knee to her chest and kicked out hard with the leg that hadn’t been knifed. Her heavy boot connected to her pursuer’s face with a meaty crunch. She knew she wore those ugly things for a reason. He stumbled and slipped, roof tiles cracking under …

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He cautiously let the light of his torch fall upon the carved surface. Oh my God, there must be hundreds of them! Carefully not to wake them, he approached and unsheathed his weapon. The sound of steel grinding against steel cut through the silence of the night. He dared taking another step. Suddenly, he got the feeling one of them had moved, and he panicked. With an unearthly scream, he launched his attack. Slashing around his weapon, the Editor cut sentences where he could and moved them where they belonged. Redundant word after word he sliced, stabbing many grammar mistakes and chopping down a few punctuation errors. Suddenly, his intuition warned him and he dove. Just in time, as it was only seconds before he would have become prey to …

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There were eight only of us left. All veterans of the battle that was fought out a week ago. Eight remained, too stubborn to die. Or too stupid to. We were survivors of the Battle against the Droom. Little did we know it would be known by everyone else as The Fairfield Massacre. All we cared about was surviving the day. And the night. I dropped against the cave wall when Captain Gifford announced a short break. He didn’t look too well. Hell, we all look like shit. I took out the bottle and put it against my lips. The strong liquor only released me from my memories for three sweet seconds. Then, images of how this all had started returned, mocking me in my misery. # Ten thousand of …

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Anxious, Mathayus hurriedly hooked up the cable connected to his brain to the data server, to download the last remaining records from the Knowledge Base. His metallic wings fluttered and his eyes flickered, as he bombarded himself with all the information that Haven contained. Angels were mostly devoid of emotion, but the amount of data he had downloaded seemed to be influencing his disposition. The door beeped as Michael entered the data center. Mathayus was too preoccupied to notice the incursion. Michael glided swiftly, yet silently, toward his comrade. Like Mathayus, Michael had an air of quiet confidence. Both had high-bridged noses and eyes that have a color that could only be described as “blue-within-blue.” Their jaw line were sturdy, anvil-shaped; their chins, pointed. Mathayus had hair that was bright …

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Go-Go Tico stared at himself in his handheld mirror. He looked like a gangster, dressed like a gangster, stood like a gangster. Tico was gangster. He wiped the blood from his knuckles with a greasy rag. He stepped over the two chups he had just layed low and paced across the garage. Some yupos just had to learn the hard way. He snapped his fingers and three heavily muscled thugs slinked after him like whipped dobermans. He always had them with him. He hadn’t needed them yet, but he never knew when some upstart whippet would grow a pair and he might need an extra set of hands. He hopped into a black sedan and placed his large silver rings back onto his fingers. This was his neighborhood. No one …

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I lay curled in the fetal position trying to block the outside world from creeping into my delusions of calm. Cold seeps through my thin dress and rocks jab into my back. It hurts, but not as much as the pain slithering through my lonely chest. I know that soon I will have to drag my tired body up to face another day of tracking, of hoping. It is hope that murders me every night, yet revives me each morning. The promise that my goal may be achieved forces me to trudge on until hopelessness surrounds me once more, and I collapse into despair. But, even now I feel the spark, a glow, urging me to get up and keep looking. Maybe today will be the day. Maybe, I will …

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The master caution alarm blared. Michaela’s eyes ran across the cracked panoramic screen, the schematic blinking: hydraulic fluid leak in the right leg actuator, 5.7mm gun damaged … not good. And her mech was on its side. Also not good. She tapped the screen. The alarm ceased, the crack propagated another inch. Great. She winced as she pried away the panel which pinned down her right arm. Michaela held her breath and listened. Nothing. And as far as she could see: concrete columns, beams and manholes; overhead, multiple levels of road arterials stretched in all directions, disappearing into the distant black. The usual. She huffed, thrust her feet against the pedals, gripped both joysticks and gently pulled back, bringing her mech up onto its feet. Quietly. Or as quietly as …

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Clarissa NG is a frequent contributor to NITH and the designer of CLARISSA’S HEMINGWAY Award. A few weeks ago, we asked you to make us laugh, make us cry, or surprise us in less then 600 words.. And guess what, you really did! Attracting more than thirty entries, you’ve kept our first readers on their toes. The shortlist didn’t disappoint. You’ve brought us stories from a baby christening to a funeral, from a wedding party to a restaurant, from bedroom games goes sour to a jackpot that went (horribly) wrong. In the ens there can only be one winner. That one story we couldn’t wait to share with our friends. Without further ado,  join me in congratulating our winner, Dakoda Barker! Dakoda is no stranger to NITH shortlists. He’s won …

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