|Annette Corkery, Adult winner Craig French, author Caroline Busher who presented the prize and Ann Gerety Smyth.|
Adult Section - Winner
I still don’t know his name but he hangs there on the wire in front of me – a scarecrow of tatters and shreds with the wind whistling through the holes where his eyes used to be and a rictus grin splitting his face, his teeth clenched as if he were biting against the agonies that had tormented him. For three days and nights he had slowly died, torn and pierced through by cruel metal and begging to be released. His cries and whimpers were pitiful to hear but they didn’t stop me shooting down any who tried. Their remains litter the ground around him and all is rot and putrefaction.
Now I cannot sleep and he keeps me company through these long hollow nights when I strain my eyes to exhaustion, trying to peel back the surface of the dark to reveal the horrors I know lurk there. I can hear his dried insect rustlings out in the tangle of wire and battlefield wreckage and then the slow slithering as he drags himself through the mud to sit on the edge of the trench. There he squats, a blacker shape against the night, oozing secrets with a voice of congealed blood. Around him stand the other faceless dead, silent and accusing and each marked with a bullet from my gun.
And what does he tell me? He tells me of how I’ll die - of the wound that suppurates, of the thirst that rages through every fibre, of the cold steel in the guts, of the meeting of hot metal and pale flesh and the slow leakage of scarlet into the mud. The others give their mute approval. My death is assured. Here is the rifle and here is the trigger – why delay it? I nod; I understand. Blessed sleep.
Adult Section - Highly Commended
Sweet Revenge by Desmond Howett
“It’s nice to see you again, Mr. Patrick. Would you like a pre-dinner drink?”
A leather choker with a snake head clasp circles her neck. I shiver as her blood red lips attempt an anaemic smile.
“A hot Jameson please.” I reply. “The restaurant is very quiet tonight?”
She bows and recedes into the dimly lit room without replying, her jade green dress caging her in.
I check my watch. Just three more hours and twenty minutes, and it will be over for another year. I dread Friday 13th.
“Your drink sir, and a little amuse-bouche with our compliments.”
No cloves I note, but the house treat is a nice touch. They’ve upped their game since last year.
Perhaps they read my review?
There is a curious tang to the drink but it goes down well. It’s been a hectic day, so I’m looking forward to this treat.
I lift the cloche. A long mottled brown sausage nestles in a consommé juice, it’s delicately patterned skin wrapped in concentric circles. The juice begins to shimmer, enticing me to take a closer look. A pair of eyes pop up. The snout of a snake emerges to the surface, its nostrils flaring. It glares at me. I sit paralysed, fork aloft my body defying the shouts in my brain. My pulse quickens as the snake slithers off the plate, its scaly skin trailing silently over the red table cloth. It nudges between my thumb and forefinger, up under the sleeve of my shirt. As it shimmies up my arm, over my shoulder and entwines itself around my neck, I retch uncontrollably.
Her voice whispers from behind.
“Are you enjoying your little treat Sir? ‘Chef’s Revenge’, we call it. You’re finding it hard to
breathe? I’m so sorry.”
Adult Section - Highly Commended
Journey’s end by Andy Jones
The lorry came to a sudden stop in the pre-dawn twilight with a loud hiss of air brakes. An old-timer, trying to keep his balance on the slippery floor, raised his weary head and inhaled deeply. A particularly unpleasant aroma lingered in the air.
Life amongst their persecutors had been hard. To be taken from familiar surroundings without warning, then loaded onto the transport with kicks and shouts had shocked the group into terrified silence. They hoped that this place would be an improvement on the squalor they had left behind.
Time passed before the doors swung open. Morning sun reflected off concrete, painful to eyes that had been in darkness for too long. Men stood at the rear of the lorry, urging the new arrivals towards a low whitewashed building. The exhausted passengers yearned for sanctuary. A place of rest, and water, perhaps even a little food.
The Gadarene rush for asylum was checked by the noises that began to reach their ears from the killing area. Those that tried to turn back were shown no mercy. The smell detected earlier now revealed its origins. It was the unmistakeable odour of death.
If they could have read, the sign above the gate would have explained everything.
“ This little piggy Ltd”. it said, with a graphic of a smiling piglet. “Best quality Irish Bacon
Products. All animals humanely slaughtered”
Teen Section - Winner
Uncle Kevin by Laura Carroll
‘We can’t go in there!’ Evan tells his older cousin as they come to a halt before the immense oak double doors with intricate carvings. ‘Uncle Kevin said it’s forbidden!’
‘But Uncle Kevin is in town’ Rick says, smiling mischievously, his hand on the brass knob.
‘He’ll never know. Come on, don’t you want to know what’s in there?’ Evan’s silence answers his question.
‘After you then’ Rick says, turning the knob and pushing the door open, creaks filling the empty hall. Evan braces himself, peering around the door into the blackness. Before he can do anything else, two hands shove his back, sending him crashing to the cold, tile floor.
‘Hey let me out!’ he screams, pounding on the door to no avail. Swallowing the lump in his throat, Evan searches the wall for a light switch. His pudgy hands travel along the smooth wall before meeting a string. He tugs it, the lights flicker on.
It takes his eyes a second to adjust to the light as a gurgling noise sends chills down Evan’s spine as the walls part around him. Large glass tubes with objects suspended in an orange liquid appear.
Intrigued, Evan edges closer, then falls to the ground in horror. The ‘objects’ are body parts- arms, legs, torsos. A floating head, eyes still intact, is mere centimetres from Evan’s own. An impressive array of gleaming silver tools decorate the walls Evan hears footsteps, and conceals himself behind the worktop, which he realises holds a semi-dissected body. ‘Rick? Is that you?’ When he gets no answer, Evan looks out from his spot.
‘Hello, Evan’ Uncle Kevin murmurs, a wicked grin on his face as he reveals the saw with two
sets of razor sharp teeth from behind his back. ‘Fancy seeing you here.’
Teen Section - Highly Commended
The Spectre by Philippa Brennan
Only my flickering candle penetrated the darkness. I shuddered. The night air chilled my bones. I lay in bed, moments away from sleep. The house was silent.
Dreams had almost grasped me when I heard the creaking of a floorboard, someone approaching. My heart beat faster. I crept to the door, pressing my ear against it. It was again silent.
Then, my candle was blown out.
The light did not slowly fade and die. The room was plunged abruptly into blackness. Paralyzed by fear, I dared not move. Blood was pounding in my ears.
‘Who’s there?’ I whispered.
In reply, I heard a demonic cackle which froze my blood. I blinked, my eyes adjusting to the darkness, turning slowly.
Out of the shadows loomed a spectre, an image of ghost-white skin and hollow obsidian eyes. I could hear the horrible wheezing of its breath as it approached me.
Terror choked me like a noose about my neck. I could hear a blood-curdling scream which I then realized was my own. I rushed to the opposite side of the room and instantly regretted it; the spirit was now blocking the door; I had no escape.
Surely this was some terrible nightmare! Surely this grotesque spirit was a figment of my imagination! It could not be real, yet still it advanced towards me.
The ghost was inches from me now, I felt my back hit the cool window. My pulse stopped. Overcome with sheer fright, I thrust it open and began climbing down the ivy-covered facade. When I reached the ground, I ran into the night, where no such horror could find me again!