Summer Short Story Competition 2016

We wouldn’t want you to get bored while you’re sunbathing, so we’ve launched our Summer Short Story Competition.

The theme is: JOURNEYS and the closing date for submissions is Monday the 18th of July.

Follow the link (https://gucreativewriting.wordpress.com/summer-short-story-competition-2016/) to head over to our Summer Short Story Competition page to find out more information and submit your short stories.

Happy writing x

 

GUCW Board 2016-17

As you may or may not know we had our AGM last month and decided upon our board for the 2016-17 session of Creative Writing Society. We won’t be officially in charge until September (when the next semester of Uni begins) but in the meantime we thought we’d better introduce ourselves:

 

 

Maura Kenny

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Hi I’m Maura, and I’m going into my third year at university, studying physics and astronomy. I enjoy reading and writing and I really love the creative writing society! I adore musicals (especially Les Mis) and superheroes and Harry Potter and space and queer lit and I base my opinion of a restaurant/pub/café on how nice their nachos and/or mac and cheese is. I take mac and cheese very seriously.

 

Heather Caldwell

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Bored and raised in Scotland – descended from the MacFarlane clan who were thrown off their own land for stealing sheep. In my spare time  I enjoy reading, writing, little bit of drawing, and listening to music (especially Stevie Nicks). Physically very short and often have brightly coloured hair. Living at home because no flat is big enough for my book collection and imaginary dragon. 🐉

 

Hayley Rutherford

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Oh no! Its her again… Don’t worry I’m about to go in to final year of Scottish Literature so I won’t be back after this. I’ll have to get all my mischief out during this session of creative writing. My favourite things are lifting and creative writing, which are surprisingly difficult to do at the same time. My reading habits are much like my dress sense you’ll either find me in a kilt or looking like Frankenstein’s monster.

Curse of Knowing

The seconds keep ticking away, my life moving past so quickly- and it’s so easy to see when you have a fucking hourglass tattooed on your arm, and the sand moves every second, showing me exactly how long I have left.

It’s a curse, and a punishment, and I hate it. I wish I could carve it off my skin. And I have tried, believe me. It does not work, just hurts like a bitch and then heals as if nothing had happened.

Sometimes the weight of all these seconds left is too much. Sometimes the thought of living for this long is a terrible burden, as I watch the sand trickle through, knowing I have nothing and no-one to occupy my seconds. And sometimes it feels frantic, like too little time is left to me, and how can I fulfil any dreams with such a tiny amount of time?

But I don’t have any dreams left, really. It’s funny how an awareness of the magnitude of the universe and your exact place in it can trivialise your dreams, make you realise how worthless everything is. It’s a wonder how anyone fights this fear, this crippling realisation, how anyone even gets out of bed.

Then again, no-one really knows. Everyone else is oblivious, content to live their tiny meaningless existences. Their eyes are closed to the realities, to their insignificant lives. And they can survive.

But my eyes were opened. I was made aware. And it’s difficult to forget that when you have fucking tattoo of your seconds ticking away.

 

By Maura Kenny

(prompt: picture of hourglass tattoo)

Foolish Deal

The moon was full, the sky clear, the stars bright. The night was cold and crisp. It was time.

There was a clearing in the forest, almost perfectly circular, the grass trodden flat from numerous pairs of feet. It was empty now, illuminated by the light of the moon. The trees were crowding around, ominous, an oppressive presence.

Suddenly, movement in the forest- people, in dark cloaks, feet bare, slipping silently into the clearing. One by one they entered, forming a circle around the perimeter, until there were maybe twenty people, standing silently, watching, waiting. There was a palatable air of tension.

Some time passed, with no movement from the waiting figures. And then the mood change, the atmosphere grew even tenser, and then there was a flash of light. A sudden mist fell, an intense swirling fog. The watchers flinched, but stayed where they were, breathing growing ragged, and the air grew colder, as the fog seemed to thicken in the centre of the circle, until each person could barely even see their closest neighbour.

And then the mist seemed to gather even denser, to solidify, and then in the centre of the circle a figure slowly formed, tall and broad and seemingly humanoid, shaking off the mist that had borne it.

WHO HAS SUMMONED ME HERE? it spoke, and the words seemed to enter the people’s brains directly, reverberating around their skulls.

One of the cloaked watchers stepped forward, trembling visibly, the cloak rustling as they shivered, and then spoke, their voice clear and loud despite their obvious terror.

“We have summoned you,” the person said, “to bring havoc down on this flawed world, the ruined world. You will strike fear into the hearts of all you face, and you will do our will, to make this world a better place.”

The creature seemed to ponder this for a few tense moments, and then it raised its head.

I AGREE, THAT ALL SOUNDS GOOD.

There was a perceptible relaxing of the surrounding people.

APART FROM ONE SMALL ISSUE, and it reached out and lifted up the speaker, as if the person weighed nothing at all. I WILL NOT DO ANYONE’S BIDDING.

And the screaming started.

 

By Maura Kenny

(prompts: havoc, moonlight, summon)

Beacon of Hope

There was a single flower growing. Its petals were a muted, dusty rose pink, fading to an almost white at the edges. The centre was yellow, bright and vibrant, like an egg yolk, almost. It had forced its way out of this dull, dusty, barren ground, fought weeds and scraggly grass and emerged, triumphant and beautiful, poking out amongst the stones and rubbles. A fighter.

Like us all, I thought, looking around at the group of us, huddled around a weak fire, shivering, chewing hungrily on the few slices of dried meat that were the only food we had left. We’d survived so much. We could survive more. And if this flower could survive in this desolate wasteland, then so could we.

We moved on soon, not staying in any one place for too long, and we left the ruins with the flower outside, but I kept thinking about it. How it could grow, so pretty, in such a sad place. The thought of it kept me going through the horrors we saw. The flower became a symbol of hope for me. If flowers could grow here, eventually other things could.

But as one by one, the members of our group died or left us, and we all became more and more desperate, and food and water became more and more scarce, I began to doubt myself. What if I hadn’t seen the flower? What if I’d been hungry and woozy from lack of sleep and imagined it? Deluded myself into thinking I’d seen some beacon of hope?

I found myself obsessed with this thought. I had to get back to the place I’d seen it. I had to know. My group- my friends- all tried to dissuade me. I was being ridiculous, they said. A foolish risk, a silly errand. But I left them, I said goodbye and I left the group and I followed our path back.

It took days, much longer than it had taken us as a group, ad soon I had no food and despite my careful rationing, no water. But eventually I made it, made it back to the stretch of wasteland we’d camped on, with the ruined houses and the torn up road and the place where the flower had been…

I practically sprinted over, dropping my empty bag and my empty canteen and running towards the place, my heart alight with hope and expectation…

But then I shuddered to a halt, my stomach lurching. The flower was there, alright. But it was dead. I knelt beside it, sharp stones digging into my knees. Its once perfect petals were browned and curling, and it was lying on the ground instead of pointing up towards the sun.

I looked at it, dead and pathetic, and I thought about my desperate hope and I realised that I had no food or water and I couldn’t survive out here for long and I’d been stupid and I’d chased a foolish dream and if the flower was a metaphor for all of this, then I was not appreciating the irony.

I was going to die just like the flower did, like everything did, in this hellhole. And with that thought my control broke, and I couldn’t hold back the tears, and I wept for everything I couldn’t have and everything I’d never get back.

 

By Maura Kenny

(prompts: flower, desolate)

If you can’t connect…

At the end of today’s volleyball practice, Mira was overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness.

It was a feeling she detested, a feeling that left a bad taste in her mouth, a feeling that made her feel like someone was shaking their head in disapproval over her shoulder.

The squeak of volleyball shoes against the polish gym floors had always reminded Mira of good friends and good fun, but today, as her new teammates jogged to the exit of the gym, she just felt alienated by the sound. It was too loud, sharp against her ears as she made her way towards the exit as well, involuntarily replaying the speech their coach gave them before declaring the end of today’s practice.

“Connecting is essential. Connecting in volleyball is the key to good defence and the start of an offensive play. If you can’t connect—”

You can’t win.

Mira hated how she remembered, with the utmost clarity, that the coach’s eyes had passed over Kori and her as she finished the speech. Mira didn’t like to think the coach had directed the entire speech towards the two of them, after all, the other freshers were getting used to playing with their seniors as well. It wasn’t like Mira and Kori were obviously clashing. It wasn’t like their clash was so bad it could affect their team dynamics. Nope. Not one bit.

No, Mira wasn’t worried at all.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Kori walk towards their captain. When they began talking, Mira instantly averted her gaze, zipping up her bag with more care and interest than usual.

How should she even approach this? How should she begin solving this problem? Could she approach a person like she would do a mathematical equation? Move the pieces around, add, subtract values to cancel out unnecessary numbers until you were left with the simplest form? Or was that over-complicated? Should she just approach this like any other problem on the volleyball court? That in the face of a high, cold 3-person block wall, the key was to stay calm, stay smart, and hit the ball with her classic determined optimism.

Her captain put a hand on Mira’s shoulder as she left the gym for the locker room as well, the same smile of encouragement given after Mira and Kori argued on the court for the first time. Mira blinked, and smiled as best as she could back. The captain glanced towards Kori’s figure before she left, leaving Mira with a new sense of determination.

Mira cleared her throat. She waited for a reaction from Kori, who perhaps didn’t end up hearing it, because the the other girl just proceeded with picking up stray balls from around the court, then putting them into the square volleyabll cart.

Mira shuffled her feet, feeling awkward. Picking up a stray ball near her, she cleared her throat louder once more. “Kori!” she called, grabbing Kori’s attention, who snapped towards with an eyebrow raised. Mira served the ball she was holding over to Kori, who caught it with ease.

“Thanks,” she said coldly. She turned away quickly, tossing the ball into the cart behind her.

Mira breathed through her nose, trying not to let that get to her. From her observation of the way Kori interacted with the other girls, it seemed like that Kori was naturally cold to everyone she met. It just seemed like part of her personality. “You’re staying behind?” Mira asked, clasping her hands behind her back.

Kori, in the middle of bending down to get another ball, paused before straightening up to face Mira. “Yeah, I want to work on my serve,” she explained, spinning the ball in her hand.

“Oh.” Mira was hoping they could walk to the subway station together, talk, get to know each other better, bond or something. She supposed she wasn’t going to get another shot like this though, which was probably what drove her to blurt out, “Mind if I join you?”

Kori seemed to be just as surprise as Mira, and there was an awkward, one second long pause where they just stared at each across the volleyball court.

Mira couldn’t blame Kori for hesitating though. Since the two of them didn’t get on particularly well on-court, their interactions off-court was close to zero. Kori was probably surprised that Mira would actively seek out time together.

“Um, go ahead,” Kori finally said with a shrug. Mira was expecting her to turn away again, but her eyes widened when Kori continued to speak. “Do you—“ she glanced to a side, breaking eye contact “want to receive or work on your serve as well?”

Mira let out the breath she didn’t know she was holding, feeling like something heavy was starting to lift off her chest. “I’ll receive first!” she exclaimed, shrugging off the jacket she had put on only moments ago. “Though I might have to ask you for some tips on jump serves.” She grinned. “I’m still having trouble perfecting mine.”

Kori nodded. “Sure.” She slapped the volleyball down to the floor a couple of times as Mira jogged over to the other side of the net.

“You ready?” Kori asked and Mira lowered herself to the basic volleyball stance.

She slapped her thighs twice. “Kori, nice serve!” she called as a response and watched Kori crack the first smile in all of their interactions.

With enough effort and practice, Mira knew they could connect in time.

 

By:  Eugenia Lo

(prompts: connect)

 

Penny Dreadful: The Visitor

Gazing into the mirror, Meg powdered her face. ‘Not too pale, my love,’ she remembered the Madam had told her. ‘You have beautiful skin.’

Her foot tapped-tapped with nerves: awaiting her first client, her first victim. Setting the powder brush down, she glanced at the reflection of the vial nestled between two goblets. The routine was simple: poison. Seduce. And if the poison takes too long, slit his throat.

A nightmare had kept her up most of the night. She felt the spray of warm blood on her body. A knock at the door distracted her from remembering the taste.

‘Come in’. She calls out lightly. She walks to the foot of the bed and shifts the gown off of her shoulders.

‘Hello Miss. I’m Master Thomas. It’s very lovely meeting you.’

Oh no he’s so innocent, but he’s caught in her web all the same. She beckons him to her, gently removing his outer wear.

‘Good evening Master Thomas. You may call me whatever you like’. She positions them by the side of the bed. ‘Here, take a deep drink to calm your nerves. It’ll be better’. She smiles prettily as she lounges on the bed. Thomas smiled at her, politely declining the drink.

‘No thank you,’ he spoke softly. ‘I want to be fresh for this.’ Meg smirked; she would have to do this the hard way.

‘Whatever you please,’ she breathed sweetly. Lying upon the bed and rolling down her stockings. Thomas looked decidedly nervous. ‘Just relax,’ she smiled, letting the sheer lace stockings flutter through the air towards him. Thomas lay his coat upon the bed. Finally, thought Meg. Pausing, he took a breath and thrust his hand in to the pocket of his coat. When he drew back up, he glared at Meg with venom in his eyes. In his outstretched hand, he held a gun.

She laughed a blood-curdling cackle of a laugh that from such young angelic lips was made even more hellish and uncanny. ‘Foolish, foolish boy’. She grinned, her serpentine teeth glinting in the candlelight.

‘I cannot die. You cannot harm me. I shall have you, devour you, consume you, and you shall wish that you had never drank my poison. Now, I shall not spare you even a moment’s pain’. Nonetheless, the young man did not falter, and held the barrel to her tainted flesh.

‘I know about you,’ he stuttered, flushed with nerves and anticipation. His grip on his gun clenched and unclenched- obviously an amateur who has done nothing of this sort before. ‘You can’t scare me, I just want to talk-‘

‘Oh, is that why you decided to point a gun to my face?’ She said, reaching underneath the bed for the knife. She hadn’t had to use this in a while, and a pity too. She had looked forward to an easy night.

‘Don’t- stop moving!’

He fired the gun and she flew backwards, crashing into the mirror and crumbling to the floor. He moved slowly towards her, the gun still pointed at her.

‘I’m sorry’, he said, his voice shaking. ‘I didn’t want to do that’. In a flash, she flung herself up and thrust her knife into his chest. He fell to the ground, his blood seeping into the carpet. His veins ran cold as he saw the bullet wound in her eye completely healed of its own accord.

‘What are you?’ he said. She closed her eyelids and opened them to reveal yellow snake-like eyes. Opening her mouth, she revealed row upon row of sharp inhuman fangs. Her skin by her mouth parted into a Glasgow smile, and a metallic screech pierced his eardrums.

 

By  James Reynolds (& friends)