Sunday, 1 February 2015

January Short Fiction Contest Winners

By Creator:George Grie (Own work, [1]) [Public domain, GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

I've read through January's Short Fiction Contest entries and picked the winners. It's never an easy task to choose the winners, but January's image sparked a lot of imaginative and well written entries so it proved a more difficult than usual.

Before I announce the winners I'd like to thank the winners and considering the quality of the entries remind the writers that you can post the stories in your own channels now that the winning stories have be posted. Thanks to everyone as well who've read the winning stories and shared the links to the contest - your support is appreciated and I hope you'll continue to share.

After much deliberation here are the winners:

 - First prize of a £50 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Paul R Hardy for his story 'Edmond Halley: Moonhunter'
 - Second prize of a £20 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Randy D Rubin for his story 'The Bone Frigate'
 - Third prize of a £10 Amazon or PayPal prize goes to Matthew M Bartlett for his story 'The Birth'

Congratulations to the winners and now let's enjoy the stories...

Edmond Halley: Moonhunter by Paul R. Hardy

www.neverenoughworlds.com

HMS Paramour, Atlantic Ocean
The night of the second of September, 1699

Edmond Halley, Fellow of the Royal Society and temporary Captain in the Royal Navy, hides below decks in the shadow of a cannon, one hand cupped over the glowing coal of a slow-burning match cord.

A beam of starlight spears the gloom amid the guns, throwing swift shadows across the crew as they crouch motionless among their weapons. The light passes on as the source – Sirius, perhaps? – flies over the ship, illuminating the tarpaulins that conceal the marines in the tops.

“Now, sir?” whispers Lieutenant Broderick.

“Not yet!” hisses Halley.

He peeks through a sliver of gun-port. Wave-crests glitter as a constellation of stars orbit in a halo around the ship. But they are only scouts. The true enemy is not in sight. Not yet. Not until the ship has drifted and turned enough…

And there it is. Shining alongside them, wetting its craters in the churning Atlantic, higher than the loftiest spar of the tallest ship in the navy: the moon, come down from the sky to hunt for men and wreck their ships.

Few have survived the attacks, and less still believed their reports. The Royal Navy gave no credit at all to the tales of moons falling from the sky and rolling over ships as they fled, splintering them from stern to bow. But it was enough for Halley to make a diversion from his voyage to map the southern magnetic field. How could he resist seeing the stars and moon so close?

The ship’s turn is slow, but inexorable. The wheel is lashed tight to a rail, forcing the Paramour to swing constantly to starboard. Just a little more…

“Now!” says Halley.

“Open the gun-ports! Bring up the guns!” shouts Broderick. Men spring up from the deck and dash to their places, flinging open the ports and rattling their cannon up to the ready.

“FIRE!” cries Halley, pressing his match to the fuse-hole. Ten guns thunder their shot across the water and into the side of the moon.

Halley peers through smoke and sees the impact – a shattering crash that blasts new craters into the Mare Serenitatis. Moon-rock flies out and cracks rush across the lunar landscape. Smaller impacts jar the orb as the marines throw off their tarpaulins and pour musket balls into the regolith.

The stars rush to their wounded fellow and circle around, protecting it from further insult as it rolls away at a sudden gallop, cutting a boiling wake through the sea.

Halley and his officers climb to the quarterdeck, strewn with shards of lunar rock. From there they can see the moon and stars disappear over the horizon, while high above them are the gaps in the sky where once they shone.

“Your orders, sir?” asks Broderick.

“Make sail for Portsmouth, as swift as ever you can,” says Halley. “We must inform their majesties – we are at war with heaven.”
The Bone Frigate by Randy D. Rubin

My beloved Annabella walked into the sea. The moon shone full like the pate of an exposed skull. I could see the tears streaming down her face from the stern of my vessel that terrible night. I stood there and watched, helpless to save her.

My first love is the sea. They say she is a harsh, no, more like brutal mistress. To this I can surely attest. I watched her silently murder my sweet Annabella for simply walking towards me, her beloved Captain, on the stern of his frigate. She had seen me off for a half year’s voyage, an exploration of oceans freshly charted and navigated. A virgin maiden awaited, ready for the deflowering but only by a true man of the sea, a genuine sailor with sea salt coursing through his veins.

She had given me her perfumed kerchief as a bon voyage gift. I inhaled her scent and stuffed the lace and embroidered linen cloth into the tightly buttoned cuff of my scarlet uniform coat. I kissed her on the cheek, though I sensed she wanted more from me. I vowed my return in half a year, and she agreed to wait or me. We both swore our love.

After some weeks an encounter with a vessel of pirates left us sorely bruised and battered. These were no ordinary pirates. These were enchanted creatures animated by hell’s own master. They were skeletal in appearance and they fought fierce with the fodder of cannon, cutlass and dagger. They could be beaten by loss of their head but this news came at a most deleterious cost of crew.

And so after so much time and so many moonlit nights we were headed for the shores of our ancestors. We lashed what was left of our sails onto the high masts and chased the midnight moon, skimming over the salty supple skin of the sea in a soothing sensual caress. Magically, passing under the watchful ecru eye of the moon, we were carried home to our very own shore.

We dropped anchor in the harbor. I saw Annabella on her balcony that night with the aid of my telescopic glass. There were tears of joy running down her cheeks glistening in the moonlight.

I waved to her across the sea from the aft deck of the frigate beside the jackstaff. At first she didn’t recognize me. Then my scarlet uniform coat with her scented kerchief still tucked in the sleeve caught her eyes and she stopped waving and stood paralyzed with her hand still stretched above her head. That’s when she screamed. And then she screamed again. And then she left the balcony on a run and hoisting her skirts in both hands, ran all the way to the shore. She stopped. The kerchief in my sleeve, the scarlet coat, and my skeletal remains standing there on the stern were more than she could manage. My beloved Annabella walked into the sea.
The Birth by Matthew M. Bartlett

www.matthewmbartlett.com

In sodden November the earth began to bulge as though pregnant. The ocean split to admit the great swelling thing, and the waves crashed about its circumference as though in the thrall of some ancient dance of adoration. “It is a tumor,” swore Michaela, my favorite dancer at the Swinging Door. “It is the Lord returning to earth for a great reckoning,” insisted Blance Raftin, the radio announcer.

We did not know what it was, and so I summoned my crew and we set sail.

The ocean bubbled as though boiling, though the cold permeated the great body of the ship and the frail bodies of the crew. Through the boards, through our coats and underthings it swarmed, turning us as blue as the great sky above us. The winds buffeted the ship, causing the boards to shriek and mutter, old wood pushing out old nails as a body pushes out splinters. The clouds swept themselves up in a penumbral crescent, and the thing rose before our eyes. We could hear the bulging thing torn open like flesh. A great moon? The crown of a newborn giant? Or, perhaps, a planet? At its topmost curve a light shone. “It is the light of its eye,” said Willaby, the cook. “It is the light of salvation,” cried Bellows, the guard.

We did not know what it was, though we shone our own light to hail it.

And when the great thing turned and shew us its face, we all knew, and we despaired, and we fled. Now we wait in our tiny, flickering candle-lit city. The whiskey flows and we sing the hymns taught to us by our fathers even as the great shadow moves up the low road to extinguish all. Oh, the great and awful infant birthed by the world. You have finally come, as the fathers of our fathers did promise.

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