Short Story Competition 2018 – First Place: Through but Behind Hedges, by Dorus Asselbergs

They fell in love in the vineyard,
In between empty barrels
and hanging sweets.
I should have acted,
But I can just remember.

Comfortably leaning back, he sat in a white plastic chair, with his feet resting in front of him on an equally white and plastic table, off which the sunlight glitteringly reflected. On its almost glowing surface stood only one cloudily condensed glass, still full of thin orange soda, which had to share its space with a red-white striped straw, some slowly melting, subsequently evaporating ice cubicles and loads of nonchalantly ascending bubbles. Although most of his body seemed worry and stress free, his hands passionately held the two hostage-like parts of an opened book, sandwiching the paper with every turning of a page. The skin on his forehead was similarly squeezed into several frowning wrinkles and almost unnoticeable, yet shadow shaping bumps.

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Short Story Competition 2018 – Second Place: Her, By Tom van Veenendaal

It came as no surprise to me when I heard Daniel Price had died. We all knew it was coming. All who were close to him had been witness to a long-standing love affair of his that was gradually dragging him into the grave. When he was alive, I wished him better, but now that he is gone I feel little grief. Perhaps it’s just as well that he saves his breath – I don’t think anybody could have saved him from Her.

Daniel Price – DP, as everyone called him – was a classmate of mine from ’87 to ’89 at the Oklahoma Technology Institute. Neither of us ever sought each other’s company, but in the way it used to go back then we would often end up in the same social circles and at the same parties. I graduated when he was in his third year, but we stayed in touch through happenstance. Ultimately we knew each other for years, but our middling, inconsistent acquaintanceship never grew into something warm or enduring. Nevertheless I felt a certain affection for him, the distant kind of affection that is so often created when you see someone with some regularity for years on end. By now I haven’t seen him for over 2 years – I don’t know if he saw anybody but Her.

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Short Story Competition 2018 – Third Place: The Unlikely Bird, by Chaakir Benzina

Have you heard of the unlikely bird? They say he was everywhere. Everywhere, yet always nowhere. Nowhere, yet always somewhere. They say his wings were as resilient as his company. Effortless, yet never careless. They say he was unlikely, and a rare breed. Untroubled and unlimited. Sometimes unwelcomed.

There was a time when he flew with the blackbirds. The white coats called them redbreasts. They say it was an unlikely match. The redbreasts had a habit of breaking out in unfamiliar song, carrying a curious culture on their curious wings. They were dominant, but gentle. The unlikely bird was still a young one, so he grew to consider the redbreasts as his own, slowly singing the alluring hymns of the red-breasted blackbirds. But one day, things changed.

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