As part of World Book Day 2019, we ran a ‘Short Story Competition’, where students were challenged to write a story up to 500 words in length. We had many entries, particularly from Key Stage 3 students.
Stories were judged by our Sixth Form English students. The Key Stage 3 winner was Rachel Daly with her story, "Alpha 1". Nuria Everett was the winner of Key Stage 4 with her story, "Walk". Particular congratulations to those two, but also to everyone who entered. It was clear they had all worked hard on their stories!
This was also a House competition, with points awarded for participation. First place went to Blackstone, with Bigg in second, Christie in third and Matilda in fourth place.
Here are the winning entries...
by Rachel Daly
A crisp, crimson leaf glides from its branch as I step outside. I notice everything; these are my last hours on earth, my last memories. A time bomb ticks away in the back of my head, reminding me of how little time I have left.
Alpha 1 will be ready to launch in just a few hours. All I have to do is get to base. I leave early, my family holding my hands as we enter our car. No one knows how long I’ll be away, whether it will be a few months or a few years. I know I have to make the most of this precious time – it is precariously suspended from my fingertip.
Our Volkswagen stops abruptly at the entrance to the base, just a few minutes early. A welcoming committee shows me to the rocket after my last farewells. Boy, is she a beauty. Her smooth panels reflect like a mirror of ice, yet they are as sturdy as a mountain. I look out of the porthole window, prepared for glittering lights and vast, desolate emptiness. Our crew stand with me, alongside Officer Hammersmith. He was in the army not long before, and now he is our captain.
He leans into his radio and reports: “Alpha 1, standing by. Over.”
A distorted, crackling, almost robotic voice replies.
“Prepare for lift off. Let the launch procedure commence.”
I switch on the monitor to see us live. Millions, perhaps billions are watching us, hoping. Hoping there is someone else out there, that we are not alone. And that is our mission: to find sentient life.
After what seems like a millennium, I hear, “Five”. “Four,” comes a while after. “Three.” I know there is no turning back now. “Two.” The space of one second spreads out into decades of silence. “One.” Everyone is on the line, waiting.
A flick of a switch and the engines are roaring, stirring from their hibernation. Crows, pigeons and starlings all scatter as far as the eye can see before they disappear entirely. A spectrum of scarlet dashes up the sides of Alpha 1, then we ascend. People, then all kinds of buildings, blink from existence – before all that is left is a sapphire and emerald sphere.
A vast abyss engulfs us. Glitter is splashed everywhere, as though a child found the art tray. Yet, despite the immense allure, we are horribly, terribly alone.
Hammersmith picks up the radio. “Alpha 1 to Earth, I repeat, Alpha 1 to Earth, do you read me?”
There is nothing. Nothing but an atrocious abominable silence. Somehow, somewhere, the lines have been cut and there is no rescue for us, no way to retreat to our beloved home.
by Nuria Everett
It wasn’t a cold night, nor a windy one. But it was dark. Oh, so very dark. It poured out of crevices and alleyways, drowning the world in its anti-light. It pressed down on you until you squirmed and twisted with fear, constantly looking back, only to see the darkness hot on your heels, but no matter how fast you ran, how scared you were, it was always, always, right behind you…
I stepped outside, torch in one hand, the other on the door. I pulled it shut. It bounced on the latch a few times before locking with an awful, final clunk. Turning around, I could see nothing without the light from the house so, hastily, I switched on the torch, and it displayed its weak light onto the muddy-brown path in front of me.
“Stupid torch…” I muttered under my breath; it was usually a lot brighter. Maybe the batteries were running out.
Or maybe, came a voice from my mind, the darkness is too thick for it.
I shook myself off. Where that thought had come from, I didn’t know, but it wasn’t going to hinder me from my task in the slightest. My right foot swept forward automatically, the boot connecting neatly with the ground. The left followed obediently, and soon my coat was swaying with the steady, rhythmic pulse of my footsteps, my jaw set in determination and my trembling hands clasped firmly around the torch as if it were the last light in the world. I didn’t look anywhere but forwards.
The night was so still, so calm, so empty, I suddenly and frighteningly became aware of every little movement I made.
I had just rounded the first corner when a deathly chill snaked up my back. It didn’t stop, either; it wrapped its icy fingers around my head in an invisible clamp, and I clenched my teeth ever harder, so much so that I thought they would crack. I halted abruptly, my foot rooted to the ground, as if it were nailed to it, and the numbing presence in my head started pounding with a dull pulse, like it was continuing the broken rhythm of my footsteps.
I glanced around fearfully, and my eyes were drawn to the sky. It was a terrifying, inky black. There was an infinite, gaping hole where the moon should’ve been, and it looked like each star had been pinched out and smothered with the giant hands of the night sky. It must be cloudy, I reasoned, for I could think of no other explanation for why the usual, comforting silvery glow of the moon and stars could not be visible. The problem was, I couldn’t see any clouds.
I forced my gaze away from the horrifying void, and swung the light around, silently thanking my only companion as it illuminated the path. There was nothing there, like I expected, but the menacing presence lingered. I directed my eyes forward to continue my journey…
The light flickered out.