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Michelle Harrison Michelle Harrison

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THE OTHER ALICE – Writing Competition Results

Posted on October 1, 2016, tagged as Results, The other Alice, competitions

Writing comp1

Thanks to all who entered the short story competition. I enjoyed reading through the many entries, which were fantastically varied and creative in their content and approaches, from young writers all over the world. There are four winners: one in each age category who will each receive a signed, dedicated book, bookmark, paper cut artwork and a bespoke charm bracelet based on The Other Alice. In addition I have chosen several runners up, who will also receive a little something in the post.

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Entrants were asked to continue and complete the following story in no more than 350 words:

The parcel felt heavier than it should have. Amelia’s face was hot as she stepped out of the sun and into the Post Office. She wandered past the sweets and newspapers to the back. Typical. There would be a queue. Today of all days, when she was in such a rush to get rid of the package in her possession. She joined the queue, willing it to move faster, but its snail’s pace was maddening. She tried not to think about the contents of the package but it weighed heavily on her mind the same way the parcel did in her arms. Why couldn’t she stop sweating? Sure, it was August and blazing heat outside, but in here it was air-conditioned. She should’ve been chilly. When it was finally her turn she placed the parcel on the weighing scales. The moment it left her hands, she felt lighter, and she couldn’t help but grin at the man behind the counter. But it froze on her lips when he asked, ‘For safety reasons, can you tell me what’s inside?’ She stared at him, dumbstruck. She hadn’t known they would ask this, and so she wasn’t sure how to answer it. Taking a deep breath, her mind flitted between truth and lies . . . but which should she choose?

9-11 age group

WINNER ~ Nicky Belle Anderson, 10, Cumbria (UK)  A magical, fun and whimsical take on Alice as we know her . . .

‘Sweets,’ she lies.

The man leans close. ‘Open the box,’ he growls.

Amelia’s mother, Alice, told her someone wanted it. She runs away. Heart pounding, she opens the box. Inside is a gold bracelet with six charms; stag, bird, bee, baby, fire, and sea. She slides it on and her hand tingles. Footsteps echo. She runs again, but ends up facing a wall. Her eyes close as she braces for impact but the impact doesn’t come. When she opens her eyes she’s the other side.

A man looks at her. ‘Hello.’ He tips his hat. ‘I’m the Mad Hatter.”

‘And I’m the March Hare. Tea?’

Amelia looks down and sees a hare carrying a teapot. A mouse pops its head out. ‘Treacle.’

‘The queen!’ a crow shouts.

‘Eat this cake!’ the Hatter whispers. Amelia eats it and shrinks to the size of a pea. The Hatter puts her in his hat.

‘Where is she?’ the Queen yells.

‘Who?’

‘The girl! Off with his head!’

‘RUN HATTER!’ Amelia shouts.

‘Look at the bird charm!’ he says. Amelia looks at it and becomes a nightingale flying. She feels happiness, then fear as the Queen becomes a hawk and chases her. She looks at the bee charm, turns into a bee, and stings the Queen. Then she flies to the ground, looks at the stag charm, and gallops off. The Queen turns into a wolf and bites her leg.

Amelia falls into the sea, touches the sea charm and turns into a seal. The Queen splashes in beside her as an orca. Amelia swims away and jumps from the water as herself. The Queen leaps up. ‘GIVE ME THE BRACELET!’

‘NO! By the power of my friends your reign has ended!’ Amelia looks at the fire charm and the queen is immersed in flames. All that is left are ashes.

‘Just in time for tea!’ says the Hatter. ‘I have to go. Goodbye.’

Amelia looks at the baby charm and wakes at home. It must have been a dream. But she feels something cold on her wrist.  A gold bracelet with nine charms.

 

RUNNER UP ~ Minna Elster Jones, 11, Wales Beautifully described and emotive, I felt this story’s parcel contents was one of the most original ideas.

It had never occurred to her that posting them would be illegal, but now she doubted herself. She imagined how much her mother had suffered from her mistake. She wished that she’d never left home without letting her family know why, but the constant arguing between her mother and father had grown too much to handle and leaving had seemed the only option. All she had as a reminder of her old life were her grandmother’s ashes that she had taken the night she left, wanting to feel close to Grannie who she’d loved so much.

Guilt and grief gnawed at Amelia and a lump formed in her throat. Nothing would make up for what she’d done but returning the ashes was a start. Her mother had planned to scatter them on Grannie’s birthday and Amelia was in a rush to get them there on time.

She decided that it was safest to lie. ‘It’s my Grannie’s old clothes’.

The man behind the counter glanced at the clock and then at the scales, bored. ‘Twelve pounds, fifty…. It’ll take a week to arrive’, he drawled.

Amelia’s relief at the man’s indifference turned to panic. Her grandmother’s birthday was in two days and it had to arrive on time. ‘Is there no way of getting it there by Friday?’

‘You can choose Special Delivery, but it’ll cost you five pounds extra’.

Gratitude flooded through Amelia, ‘Special Delivery it is then’.

**********

Amelia sat in the kitchen of her small flat, reading. She was glad to finally have her own place after six months of sharing one with three other friends, but now she was almost broke. The measly wages she earned from her job as a waitress wouldn’t pay the rent for much longer.

A ring at the door broke her concentration. She rushed downstairs to greet her friend Jessie who was due for coffee.

She opened the door and started as her gaze took in her mother’s smiling face and open arms.

 

 

RUNNER UP ~ Joyce Mari Hodne, 10, USA Well written with a spooky twist!

A lie. But what? Milk, books, jars? she thought. She sighed. “It contains a few jugs of milk and cheese,” she said.

The man behind the counter frowned. “Mam, would it not rot in a few hours?”

Amelia shook her head. “No. I just bought it today,” she lied.

The man was suspicious of this. “Mam, I do think you need to hand it over to the person you are sending it to. But I will tie loose ends and say this. Next!”

She smiled at him and walked out of the post office. “Phew!” she said rubbing sweat off her face. She hurried home and sat down.

She was still anxious. The reason of this was due because the contents of the bag was the complete opposite of milk and cheese. Her sister Valerie walked in and said, “Did you deliver it?”

Amelia glared at her. “Yes, but why are you asking me this? I am sweating and clearly hot and the most important thing on you mind is the package of dumb stories!”

Valerie stared at her open mouthed. “My dear! Well, I will have you know, that these stories are our only hope of finding Alice!” Amelia and Valerie glared at each other for a few minutes and Valerie was the first to look away.

Amelia kept looking at her and then got up. “Valerie.” she said softly. Valerie looked at her with a frown. “Who knows what happened to her! For all we know she is dead. Or worse!”

“No, she is in a story…”

 

12-14 age group

WINNER ~ Mitali Singh, 13, India Beautifully written and powerful, the description here is amazing . . .

She squeezed her eyes shut, flashes of her mother’s screams burning in her mind.

Amelia clenched her fists, staring stonily out the window. A raven-haired man was being lugged away by the police. She rubbed the red marks on her arms, cringing when she heard the hysterical sobs from the other room. Hastily filling a glass with water, she rushed to her mother’s bed, where she lay; hair sprawled across the battered pillow, face wet and sticky from the shivering droplets that stuck to her cheeks. Amelia stroked her mother’s face, wrapping her fingers around her hand. “Mum,” she croaked. “Mum, we’re better off this way.” Her mother lifted her red, puffy eyes. “I know that’s what I should be thinking, but it’s not. Amelia, that’s what scares me.”

Some days she lost control, throwing things across the room and screaming about how she could have hid those bottles from the police. And one day, Amelia couldn’t coax her to get back into bed. She’d been awoken by the thumps of crashing feet along the corridor, and the sour breath that whispered frantically into her face. Her trembling fingers were curled around a metal gun, and today, the look in her eyes was fierce. “Need to give it to him,” she whispered hoarsely, sliding the silver machine into a heavy, dust infested book. Tears slipped down her mother’s cheeks. “Please. Amelia, promise me you’ll do it. Send it to him, he needs to get out of there.” Amelia shook her head, horrified. But when she saw her unsteady eyes and desperate pleas, she knew she didn’t have a choice.

Tears trickled down her cheeks, as she met the man’s eye. “It’s a gun.” His eyes widened. She snatched the parcel away, ripping it open, and flung the gun away. Sobbing, she tore a page from the book. Dad, she wrote, turn yourself in. Tell them the truth, and they won’t do anything- if you don’t fight back. Do it for mum. Then she staggered to the man. “I need an envelope. It’s a letter, for my father.”

 

15-18 age group

WINNER ~ Hannah Evans, 16, Kent (UK) This seemingly innocent encounter with a brother and sister has a sinister twist. Hannah has cleverly constructed her story around a real life assassination and was the only entrant to weave fiction around fact. Note: the name Amelia is changed to Sinead.

“Letters,” she said quickly.

The cashier raised an eyebrow.

“A parcel of letters?”

Sinead nodded. “There’s a lot, for an old friend.”

The cashier raised the other brow but held out his hand, took the coin Sinead gave him and gave her a receipt in return. Sinead took it and practically ran out into the sunlight. Now the initial fear had worn off she felt calm and yet exhilarated. She wasn’t even bothered as she made her way past the Garda station, her spirits high. She smiled as she thought of the stir the letters might create among the advisers to Earl Mountbatten.

Her brother, Thomas, met her on the corner of their street and brushed her red hair back behind her ears.

“You’ve done it?” he asked her softly.

She nodded. “It’ll be grand.”

Thomas pulled her into a tight hug, tucking her face into his shoulder.

“I wish I could go to the boat with you next week,” she said softly.

“I know,” he replied. “But you’ll be better off at Warrenpoint with the other lads. Those English won’t know what hit them.”

 

RUNNER UP ~ Shannon Gifford, 15, USA An intriguing and poetic piece about the power of stories and imagination – inspiring!

Amelia did not know what to say, but one thing was for certain: she needed to get rid of the package. Quickly. Before—

Too late.

The package began to shake. She could feel it moving in her sweaty hands, like something inside was trying to get out.  Then, gradually, the way rain starts as a drizzle and then turns to downpour, the whispers began.

The package shook harder and the whispers continued to grow. She needed to get away, but she was frozen in place and watched in horror as the parcel began to tear—

Amelia jerked awake with a scream. She’d had this dream multiple times; about the mysterious parcel. Amelia didn’t know the contents, only that she was scared to see them. In each dream, she tried to escape the package. But it kept coming back to her, and each dream it got closer to opening.

As Amelia climbed out of bed, she kicked something. She looked down to see what it was.

It was the parcel.

Amelia gasped. What should she do? Throw it out the window? But she was afraid to touch it. The parcel shook harder. The whispers grew louder.

The parcel exploded.

Bits of wrapping floated everywhere. Amelia stared at the spot where the parcel had sat. There was nothing there.

But there were voices. There were words.

No longer contained by the parcel, the muffled whispers had become real, coherent words.  The words filled the room, and Amelia listened in fearful wonder as they spoke to her.

There were thoughts and fears, questions and stories. Words that had never been voiced. Sometimes Amelia wrote them down. She would go into the woods, alone, and read them aloud where there was no one to hear her but the trees and the sky. She spoke until the words were ripped from her mouth by a gust of wind. The words jumped and twirled, dancing in the stream of air. The wind carried the words close and far and all around. The wind carried the words to someone or something who was listening.

 

RUNNER UP ~ Lauren Stein, 15, USA Tense and dramatic, with great description and a chilling twist . . .

Lies. Always lies. Her life had been lies ever since the man in the pink coat showed up in her backyard and taken her sister, Anna, away. “To protect her”, he claimed. From who? Amelia asked, but he disappeared as quickly as he appeared, only to reappear a day later.  Pink Coat Man claimed Anna’s freedom could be won, so long as she followed his instructions to the letter. “Instructions for what?” But he was gone again. Tasks. He said delivering this package was the last task, but she knew better.

Amelia’s eyes fluttered shut, and a memory wormed its way into her mind. The first task. A midnight black alley. An ear splitting gunshot. The echo. Amelia clutched her head and sank to the mangy carpet. There was blood, gushing and running in a river around her. The stream of death had come to take her away, finally. She deserved it after all. The blood was on her hands, and Amelia rocked back and forth, shaking, clawing at the ground to take her away, open up and take her to hell.

“Ma’am? Are you all right?”

Amelia widened her eyes. The man behind the counter’s eyes were red. The rose red of the blood she had spilled. His teeth elongated, pointed, and he leaped at her from behind the counter in a single bound.

“You’ll get what you deserve,” he hissed, spit hitting her in the eyes and nose.

His voice forced his way into her brain, limbs, blood, and Amelia screamed. And screamed. And screamed. She sat up and screamed as the white-white walls of the asylum closed in and the man in the pink coat dragged her sister away.

 

19-24 age group

WINNER ~ Katie Louise Jones, 19, Manchester (UK) Intriguing with a good twist, based on one of my favourite myths. I wanted to read more!

***

“What did you say?”

Amelia jumped at the sound of that Welsh drawl she knew too well. She turned to see the lanky 20-something just as he pushed himself off the brick wall behind her. He looked like he could have been straight out of an old photograph if it weren’t for the ridiculous nest upon his head that he called hair.

“The truth,” she responded bluntly. That was a lie. Well, an almost lie. Like she’d told the man at the Post Office an almost truth. He’d believed her completely, of course.

“The truth?!” He grabbed her wrist, stopping her as she began to walk away. She turned to glare up at him, which turned out to be rather difficult considering the August sun was glaring down at her from behind his head. Diverting her eyes, she felt like she’d lost the only power she had against the taller of the two. If her eyes couldn’t pierce a hole through his head how else was she supposed to assert herself as his equal?

“Yes, the truth. I wouldn’t have thought that would be too difficult for you to comprehend, Emrys,” Amelia teased, she looked over her shoulder, trying to pass off her inability to glare at him as impatience.

“And how did the Royal Mail take the knowledge they were in possession of humanity’s hope then, ‘Melia?” He took a step closer, his hand still grasping her wrist, his nest of hair now blocking out the sun.

“Very well, considering I told them it was a vase.” She looked at him, glad to be able to do that again. A devilish smirk grew across her face as his turned from disbelief to a different kind of disbelief.

“You told them that Pandora’s Box was a vase?” She nodded, her smirk now a wide grin. He shook his head, his seriousness vanishing as he dropped her wrist, choosing instead to drape it over shoulders. “I guess that is somewhat true.”

“You bet it is. Tell the Archive I don’t plan on mailing another artefact anytime soon. Far too stressful.”

 

RUNNER UP ~ Sophie Hickman, 21, Kent (UK) Imaginative and unusual, this was one of the more inventive entries . . .

“It’s a jumper. For my sister.” Amelia wanted to grab the parcel back – Her fingers twitched – “And some chocolates. She’s in hospital.”

The man sucked his lips. Her heart tha-thumped.

“I didn’t think young people did that sort of thing these days. Ah, well. In the post it goes.”

“Thanks.” Amelia stepped backwards. Trod on someone’s foot “Sorry. Thank you.”

Even in the fresh air, she felt sick. What if he got suspicious and opened it? Yes, he’d find a jumper, but it was tiny and had four arms. He’d find chocolates, too, but what if he ate one? She shuddered. Of course he wouldn’t do that. She had to calm down.

Her phone beeped.

Sent them yet? Xxx

Just now. Hope they help xxxx

She walked home. She felt like there was a massive sign above her head: I’VE BOUGHT ILLEGAL INGREDIENTS OFF THE INTERNET AND KNITTED THEM INTO A JUMPER. AND MADE THEM INTO CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES. Everyone was staring.

You’re amazing. How much did it cost? I’ll pay you back. xx

ALSO, MY SISTER IS UNNATURALLY ILL. Don’t worry about it. Just hope you feel better this time.

Her hand shook as she unlocked the door.

SHE TURNS INTO A CAT ONCE A MONTH.

I’m sure I’ll be fine. I had a good day – I even walked on the beach! 

She ran upstairs and locked her bedroom door.

Yay! Just wish I could come and see you. Love you xxxxx

She grabbed the formulas from her drawer and went to rip them up, but stopped. A jumper to reduce transformation nausea, she’d scrawled, might be more effective in cat form? She’d worked so hard. Chocolates could be used pre-and post-transformation, to ensure complete pain-relief. 

No. She had to destroy everything. If the police found the package, she’d be in trouble. If the clinic found it, they’d both be in trouble. Lily wasn’t supposed to self-medicate. She ripped the notes into confetti.

Me too. Love you. Thanks so much.  Xxxx

Amelia flopped onto her bed and pressed her hands to her face. She just wanted everything to be okay.

***********

Congratulations to all the winners and runners up, and look out for another writing competition coming very soon . . .

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