We’ve had a wonderful time reading all the stories entered into our #100Words story competition inspired by a beautiful photograph of a lighthouse.
The shortlist has now been judged by Amanda Saint, author and founder of award-winning publisher, Retreat West Books. We’re delighted to announce the winners below.
You can also now read their fabulous stories alongside Amanda’s comments on why they stood out.
Congratulations to all the winning authors!
1st Place – Castaway
Read ‘Castaway’ by Joanne Key
I can’t concentrate on what she’s saying
because of the voice
coming up through the floor,
calling for water. I push my chair back,
lie down, an ear to the ground.
‘What is it?’ the doctor asks.
‘I feel faint,’ I say, closing my eyes so I can hear better.
A ship’s bell. Waves.
A cry for help.
Eye to the spy-hole, I shine my light. He’s there
in his boat, big arms rowing hard
through the glow.
When he gets close to shore I take a deep
Let him know there’s a storm coming.
Amanda said: ‘I love the surreal feel to this tiny story, which is a “poemy micro fiction”, and how what’s really going on is very open to interpretation. I read it over and over trying to decide what the narrator was experiencing, whether it’s real or not. I can’t decide and that’s where this story’s strength lies. As well as the beautiful use of language and white space, you can take something different from it every time you read it.’
2nd Place – She Became Me
Read ‘She Became Me’ by Dettra Rose
My grandmother wore black glasses and a mangle of bobby pins.
She told me tales of sailors navigating seas without stars.
I was afraid of her scratched, opaque glasses.
Her mumbled numbers when she walked up the stairs.
Her clattering and scuffing.
At the top of the lighthouse where the sky lives, my grandmother never admired the fuzzy pink twilight.
Or golden jewels on the waves at sunrise.
Instead, she admired the scent of sea, cry of gulls, my hair between her fingertips.
Some days, I wore her glasses to understand why. In time, they became mine.
Amanda said: ‘There were lovely details in this story of ageing and growing into understanding. Such a vivid picture painted of the grandmother in that first line. It left me wondering about what the glasses enabled the narrator to see and why the glasses were handed down the family line. This story is not as straightforward as it initially appears and left me with more questions than it answered.’
3rd Place – The Invitation
Read ‘The Invitation’ by Kim Russell
The postcard was unexpected. ‘Come for the weekend,’ it said, in faint blue italic that she knew so well. The date was smudged, as if from sea spray.
When she arrived at the lighthouse, the sun was kissing the waves with an orange glow. The door to the keeper’s cottage was open. Everything needed a lick of paint.
‘Anyone home?’ Her voice echoed.
She fumbled for the switch and clicked on the light. The table, set for dinner, was covered with cobwebs. Her eye was drawn to a calendar on the wall.
The postcard had arrived twenty years too late.
Amanda said: ‘The initial simplicity of this story is deceiving and afterwards it leaves you wondering about these people and the things they felt twenty years ago when the postcard went astray. What happened to the person who sent it, who set the table? Why didn’t the narrator get in touch when she didn’t hear anything? Why was she so quick to go and visit after all that time? Another great story full of ambiguity.’
Highly commended – The Captive
Read ‘The Captive’ by Kate Maxwell
He’d be waiting. Probably sitting on the front porch right now, with his shotgun over his knees; picking at his old scabby fingernails, his big brown mongrel lying sentry at his feet. But the pink morning sky was enough for me to know he wouldn’t launch tonight. Old seadog like him took those sayings literally. I hadn’t seen her for two days now. But she’d be alive, I kept telling myself. She was his trading card with the mainland survivors. My wound had almost healed, but I’d eaten the last of my supplies. It had to be tonight.
Amanda said: ‘This is a great, dark story that hints as so much more going on outside this scene. Feels like the start of something much bigger and I’d like to read it.’
Read ‘Lost and Found‘ by Alyson Hilbourne
The sun set in the west, painting the sea and the sand and gilding the lighthouse with pink light.
‘Sarah would love this,’ Miriam said. ‘A pink world.’
He thought about his small daughter, pink shoes, pink t-shirt and pink ribbons, skipping along beside him.
In the morning, light came from the other direction and veiled the lighthouse in a pink haze.
That’s all it had taken. A moment’s distraction and a look in the other direction.
A hand slipped from his. Brakes squealed. A thump. A scream.
The world of pink, as he knew it, was gone forever.
Read ‘Once, at Sunset, There Were Stars‘ by Gina Headden
He’s alone in the dorm when he strikes the match, when its tip becomes the summer sun, when he kneels down as if in prayer and flames the scrunched-up pages torn from books that blaze the upturned wooden bedframes, the drawers from broken lockers, blankets burning bright, brighter than the orange and red and purple sunset that blessed him when he paddled with his mother at the water’s edge—the lighthouse flashing out its warning—the year before she died, and now he sits back on his heels, gasps as she smiles at him, from the heart of the inferno.
Read ‘Second Skin‘ by Lyndsey Croal
She arrived as the sun lit the sky a rusty orange. Her first step on land was like learning to breathe again, toes curling on cool pebbles, bare skin feeling the chill of dry air.
As she climbed cobbled steps to the house, a man stepped out, hunched over. The years had been unkind. He waved her inside.
From the corner of the room, he unlocked a wooden chest, pulling from it a coat as dark as night. A flicker of life returned to his eyes.
‘You’ll protect the land dwellers?’ he asked.
She nodded. ‘Goodbye brother, the sea calls.’
Read ‘Siren‘ by Bayveen O’Connell
When I was a siren, I furnished the wild Atlantic with gifts of writhing, life-begging sailors. My voice, cracked as sea-glass, made whale pods shudder.
Pirates tried to pay me off with coins, but blood and bones were all I wanted, when I was a siren.
I sent waves like huge white stallions crashing down on frigates and fishing vessels as they steered towards me, to their jagged doom.
When I was a siren I locked lips with mermaids on the bows, whispering: ‘You can’t save them now.’
I had but one nemesis, the lighthouse, when I was a siren.
Read ‘The Annual Lighthouse Race‘ by Jo Heinrich
They wait at the entrance. Tension swells. Maxime, unbeaten, 307 steps in 48 seconds.
The first whistle blows. Every 10 seconds, another man starts. Pierre’s turn. Eyes on the worn steps, legs pumping. Another whistle – Maxime next. Spiralling tighter, thighs on fire, steps uneven. Echoes of panting, shoes hitting stone. And then, a voice from below.
‘I love you.’
Pierre stops, turns. Eyes lock with Maxime. Pupils dilate. Heart beats even faster. Maxime closes in.
A slap on the back. ‘Just kidding!’ Maxime overtakes, laughter rebounding, then a gasp: he’d forgotten the broken step, and the missing balustrade.
Read ‘The Art Lesson‘ by Denny Jace
We meet at the lighthouse. The picnic blanket ruches up along with my skirt; my mind empties as the kamikaze gulls vocalise our stifled cries.
In class I drew it; you panicked and gave me detention, held my hand and whispered, ‘I’ll ruin you’. Then I let you close the door, press yourself against me; your beard infused with turps and charcoal, your mouth verboten.
Afterwards you tell me you couldn’t help yourself, that I’d cast a spell. You trace gentle circles into my palm with your thumb, ‘I’m powerless,’ you say, then your brow crumples as you sob.