Open now is the Winter 2008 International Short Story Writing Competition. First Prize $1000, Second Prize $600 and Third Prize $400. Stories must be between 1000 and 2000 words each. You may submit as many as you can. There is no entry fee. Submit your stories in the body of the e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Stories submitted as attachments will not enter the competition. The closing date is 31 December 2008. Winning entries will be published on this page.
Here are winners of the Summer 2008 Competition.
Nyasha Wachi, Harare, Zimbabwe
Nyasha stood still like a mouse cornered by a hungry cat. He felt tiny droplets of venom penetrate his skin inflicting an excruciating pain. Like a sharp narrow arrow, some made their way to the marrow, while others joined the bloodstream.
‘If only I had heeded mum’s advice, I wouldn’t have brought myself into this danger,’ he serenely said to himself. A sparse intermittent rivulet of sweat trickled down his spine.
His mother had told him, ‘Don’t go hunting on a Sunday. It’s a day for us to go to church and praise God.’ He paid a deaf ear to her words.That 6th day of June 2004 was a fine one. The sun cast its soothing rays from the cloudless sky bringing some warmth to the wet ground. Birds could be heard joyfully singing everywhere. Animals came out of their hiding places to bask in the summer sunshine.
‘If I go hunting today, I will make a good catch,’ Nyasha said to himself. Calling his dog, Mart, he collected his bow and arrows and made for Sanye Mountain.
Before climbing to the top of the mountain, he killed a hare. After thirty minutes of hunting, a baboon tried to disturb him. Not only did it frighten his dog, but it attempted by all means to prevent him from proceeding, by blocking him whichever way he took and throwing stones at him. It was when he aimed an arrow at it that it ran away for good.
At the top of the mountain, Mart found a hare and ran after it. The hare ran into a cave. Mart followed but only to come out running at top speed. ‘Let me go for that hare. Mart is too afraid. He’s still thinking about that baboon,’ Nyasha silently said to himself.
When he had moved four metres into the cave, he felt a prickling sensation at the back of his head. He heard a sound like that made by water flowing through sand. He stood and pealed his eyes to have a better sight of the dimly lit interior.
Suddenly, he saw a very big cobra at the end of the cave, about two metres away from him. No hare could be seen. The cobra’s heard was raised up. As soon as it saw him, it started spitting tiny droplets of venom towards him. He loaded his bow with an arrow, aimed at the snake and released. He missed it. Second, third, fourth, and fifth arrow which was the last one, all missed.
No sooner did he try to run out of the cave than the cobra sprang to the entrance, blocking him. His heart throbbed faster. I need to think quickly. I must escape by all means necessary. He thought to himself.
The snake advanced towards him . He had nowhere to run to. It thrust its heard towards his. He dogged. The cobra struck hard on the rocky wall of the cave. It hissed in irritation and immediately threw its head towards his neck . In a fraction of a second, he moved to the opposite side and caught the snake by its neck.
Without giving himself time to think about what he was doing, he bit the neck. His teeth speeded through the flesh and then slowly crushed the bones. In deep pain, the cobra wriggled and wriggled. It moved its body round him. He fell to the ground but kept on breaking its neck with his teeth. Finally, he succeeded in separating the heard from it’s body. He quickly threw the head outside. Like water from a tap, blood kept on flowing from the snake drenching his clothes.
Panting, he removed the snake from his body and crawled out of the cave. He was all smiles. He had won the war against the snake. When he got out, he became very annoyed when he saw Mart lying dead with the head of the cobra tightly stuck to its stomach.
Silus Mwale, Bath, UK
Love In Hospital
His whole body shivered. Teeth chattered. A sparse intermittent rivulet of mucus trickled down his nostrils.
Sniffing, he soliloquised, ‘Oh, my God! I’m freezing.’
He painstakingly coughed out large amounts of bloodstained muco-purulent sputum, spat onto the wet ground and – at a tortoise’s pace- continued with his journey. A horde of flies soon feasted on his foul-smelling spittle.
James Chin, 34, was not only suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, but was also a martyr of cryptococcal meningitis and was HIV positive, too.
Most of the time people could here him say to himself, ‘I’m now dead. But I have enjoyed life. All those beautiful women I slept with. Which hotel, night-club or bar in this country did I not spent lots of my money in? But that girl! That girl!’
The female TB Ward at Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital was hundred metres away from the male TB Ward. Separating the two, were the Children’s Ward, the Out-Patients Department (OPD) and the visitors’ toilets.That morning of the 20th of December 2003, James gathered his guts and went to the female TB Ward during the visiting hour. He wanted to propose love to Mary Teams.
Mary, 20, was an extremely gorgeous woman. She was of medium build with a supple yellowish skin. Barely a year after her husband Simon Grand, 25- a motor mechanic by profession- had been found guilty of car theft and sentenced to two years in prison, she contacted pulmonary tuberculosis from a work-mate at a construction site.
‘Good morning Mary,’ James said as he took out a soiled handkerchief from the breast pocket of his leather jacket. He blew his nose making an irritating sound.
‘Excuse me,’ he said.
Removing her right hand from under blankets and extending it to shake hands with him, she replied, ‘Morning. How come it’s too cold today? Is it raining outside?
‘It’s not raining. Get up and let’s get some fresh air, stretching our legs outside,’ he responded.
With great difficulty, Mary got up from her bed and stood up. As soon as she was on her legs, she couldn’t balance well and was about to fall when James supported her.
He got the first chance to get his body as close to hers as possible.
‘Thank you James,’ she said in a soft voice.
A few silent seconds slipped by.
‘My legs are painful,’ she broke the silence.
When they were at the door, a very cold wind whistled past the area. Both began to cough deeply and noisily. They turned back and moved to her bed. The two sat on the bed and started telling each other general stories.
Gradually, the general talk transformed into love talk. Moving his rough cracked fingers on her back, he told her, ‘You are very beautiful, Mary.’
‘Don’t flatter me dear,’ she uttered in a low romantic voice.
‘I’m married. Didn’t I tell you the day we first met?’
‘We are mend for each other. God drew us from distant places we were living, separated us- in different ways-from our loved ones who now no longer visit us, brought us together in suffering and made us feel for each other like we do. Do you want to despise the will of the Almighty, darling?’
‘No. But we are patients here,’ she replied tucking her little body in the blanket, revealing the upper part of her thighs.
The bell to mark the end of the visiting hour rang. All visitors went out of the ward and James was the last one to go. Before leaving, he kissed her good-bye.
Mary remained with a lot of questions gyrating in her mind. Does this man mean it when he says he loves me? Why me in particular? Am I more beautiful than all those young nurses and student nurses I see around? What did he mean when he said God separated us from our loved ones?
She thought about how she felt when he kissed her on her lips. ‘Yes! Yes! That’s a real man,’ she serenely said to herself.
With the eyes of her imagination, she saw herself and James on their wedding day soon after being discharged from hospital. She heard the ululation, whistling and sound of drums after the priest had said, ‘May the groom kiss the bride.’ Smiling, she quietly said to herself, ‘That will be my happiest day on earth,’ and fell into a deep sleep.
For the few months that followed, James and Mary made love in the public toilets on most evenings soon after the visiting hour. They were never caught because these
toilets were used by visitors who would have gone to their homes by then.
One day, the two were not in their beds when the doctors and nurses went around examining patients, collecting specimens and giving medicines. On being asked where they had been, James quickly answered, ‘A relative of ours was with us at the tuck shop.’ No further questions were asked.
After sharing love with Mary for three months, James passed away. Mary was two months pregnant. Four months after James’ death, she was discharged from hospital.
The same day she went out of hospital, her husband, Simon was released from jail.
On seeing that his wife was pregnant, Simon became very angry.
‘What’s this I’m seeing?’ he asked. ‘Is this you my wife? Is this you, Mary, who betrayed me like this?
Mary kept her mouth shut. Neither had she talked to anyone about her pregnancy, nor expected her husband to come home that day. She felt embarrassed. She wished she could dissolve in the drizzle.
Overcome by anger and depression, James went out by night that day and hanged himself in the orchard. He left a note written, ‘Live in peace, Mary.’
Zex Thompson, New York , USA
God Healed My Ankle‘No growth obtained after 24 hours of incubation.’ The laboratory test results read.
'This means we have not been able to find any bacterial infection,' Doctor Fish explained.
I felt a twinge of extra pain on my ankle. Suddenly, I felt a prickling sensation at the back of my head. Questions started to gyrate in my mind. How are they going to treat the wound then? Will it ever heal? What's that mischievous bug eating my ankle?
Now, it's beginning to gnaw the bone. I held my face in both palms and prayed silently.
Running his left hand through his bald-head, he added, 'Anyway, we will carry out further tests to find out the aetiology of the problem. Don't worry, we will nip it in the bud.'
His words soothed me a little bit. But this is not in the bud, I thought to myself. I looked straight into my mother's face as she opened her mouth to speak. I was trying to guess the words she was going to say.'So, what are we going to do?' she asked with a lot of concern which could be read from the expressions written on her face. All the faith she had put in modern medicine began to dwindle. She cast a glance at the deep wound on my ankle and tears began to trickle down her cheeks.
'Lets hear from my boss,' he answered.
He sent for Doctor Sup, the medical superintendent who came in within a few minutes. 'This is an extremely difficult case Doctor Fish,' he said as he relaxed in an armchair.
We all listened attentively as Doctor Sup spoke.
'My decision is to discharge him from hospital. But make sure you give him some antibiotics to take home. We will get back to him after further tests,' he continued.
Rising from the chair, he assured me, 'You will get well soon young boy. We are trying our best.'
I had injured my ankle three months earlier. My elder brother John was carrying me on the carrier of his bicycle that first of June in 1986. We were on our way to church, about three miles away from home. By then, I was eleven.
We were travelling at top speed along a dust road. When we reached a sharp bend, a truck speeding towards us appeared suddenly. John immediately applied breaks and quickly swerved to the edge of the road. The driver of the truck also applied breaks at once and there was a noisy screech of tyres. I detected the smell of burning rubber. I was frightened. The bicycle ran into sand and kept on swerving from left to right and from right to left. Accidentally, part of my ankle went in-between the spokes. A deep wound was cut into it. The bicycle came to a sudden halt and both of us fell off.
Holding my left leg, I sat down. I gazed at the wound. It was covered in sand, but I could see blood oozing out of it drenching the sand. The whole leg was numb. I did not feel any pain.
'Are you not hurt lads?' the truck driver asked as he got out.
Cleaning the wound with a piece of cloth, John replied, 'I'm okay, but my young brother is seriously injured.'
'It's only a scratch,' I uttered.
'It's a deep wound boy. I saw what happened.' He ran and took some water from his truck. With the help of my brother, he cleaned and wrapped it with a piece of cloth.
The truck driver come up with a suggestion. 'Lets rush him to hospital, otherwise he will run out of blood in his system.' He drove us to Silveira Mission Hospital, about ten miles away.
On the way to hospital, the wound started to be excruciatingly painful. It was still bleeding so profusely that the cloth covering it became thoroughly soaked. By the time we arrived, the whole leg was swollen.
At the hospital, the nurses cleaned the wound with cold water first. When it stopped bleeding, they cleaned it using cotton wool soaked in menthylated spirit. After that, they applied some medicine whose name I can't remember and bandaged it. They gave me some painkillers and told me to go home and come back after two weeks for a check up.
Instead of healing, the wound had started to become bigger and deeper. Although my mother cleaned it and applied some medicine daily, it worsened.
After a fortnight, I was taken to hospital for a check up. When the doctor examined the wound, he found out that it was getting worse. I was admitted in hospital. He cleaned it and gently pressed the sides. Foul smelling pus was collected. 'I'm going to send it for laboratory tests,' he said.
A week passed but there was no improvement. Some more specimens were taken and sent to the laboratory. After two months, I was discharged from hospital. The doctors said they were unable to find the causative agent of the problem.
Soon after being discharged, my mother carried me on her back. All the way to the bus stop, she sobbed.
I was confused. I didn't know what was going to happen to my ankle, let alone my whole leg. Was this wound going to spread? What if it's cancer? Amputation? I thought to myself.
At home, all members of the family prayed for me day and night. We held prayers together every morning before breakfast and every night just before retiring to bed. In addition to this, we fasted for two days every week.
A month after being discharged from hospital, the wound began to heal. I could not feel any pain except when something pressed against it. I started to walk to school.
Three months later, I was playing soccer with the other children. Eventually, the wound healed completely.
Thus, when all had failed, God won. He was always there, ready to show His great power over the bug. He is always there to help us.