We are delighted to announce the winners of the Roy Chapman Ltd BeaconFlash story competition.
The Roy Chapman Ltd BeaconFlash Prize:
WINNER:Dawn Knox - A Half Baked Idea
£75 plus up to 5,000 words critique from the competition’s judge Morgen Bailey (worth £100) and free entry to the following year’s BeaconLit fest festival in July 2024 with publication on the BeaconLit website.
Second prize: Sarah Bennett - Not Burying the Dead
£50 plus up to 4,000 words critique (worth £80) and free entry to the 2024 BeaconLit festival, plus publication on the BeaconLit website.
Third prize: Gail Warrick-Cox - A Pain in the...
£25 plus up to 3,000 words critique (worth £60) and free entry to the 2024 BeaconLit festival, plus publication on the BeaconLit website.
Runners-up (in no particular order):
Jane Ricot - Yeah Right
Lisa Greaves - The Petalswick WI Murder
Josie Lane - Stuck in a Moment
Sandra Falconer - Only a Fool Messes with Meg Martin
Kevin Cheeseman: Captured on Camera
Each wins free entry to the 2024 BeaconLit festival.
Morgen Bailey is the judge for each round and for the final shortlist judging. Judging is blind, i.e. the judge will not know who wrote which story until the prize winners are announced. Please note that no author can be awarded more than one prize so, if an entrant has more than one story ranked in the top eight, then only their best story will be selected. The best story by another author outside the eight will then be a winner. In effect, the best stories by the top eight authors will be awarded the prizes. The judge’s decisions are final. Results will be posted on the. website.
Dawn N Knox spent much of her childhood making up stories filled with romance, drama and excitement. She loved fairy tales, although if she cast herself as a character, she’d more likely have played the part of the Court Jester than the Princess. She didn’t recognise it at the time, but she was searching for the emotional depth in the stories she read. It wasn’t enough to be told the Prince loved the Princess, she wanted to know how he felt and to see him declare his love. She wanted to see the wedding. And so, she’d furnish her stories with those details. Nowadays, she hopes to write books that will engage readers’ passions. From poignant stories set during the First World War, to the zany antics of the inhabitants of the fictitious town of Basilwade; and from historical romances, to the fantasy adventures of a group of anthropomorphic animals led by a chicken with delusions of grandeur, she explores the richness and depth of human emotion.
She has been a finalist in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards for 2017 and 2020, Readers' Favourite Book Awards 2018 and Independent Author Network Book of the Year Award 2018. Dawn has also written two plays about the First World War, which have been performed in England, Germany and France.
She opened the oven door and peered out into the kitchen.
It had been a shame to demolish the oven, but you couldn’t have a time machine without a window, could you? She closed the oven door with a satisfying clunk. It had taken an entire can of oven cleaner, not to mention hours of scrubbing to remove the baked-on debris of years. When she arrived back in 1950, she must try to be a cleaner cook.
Should she have made the time machine cabin larger? It was a snug fit. And somewhat claustrophobic. But she’d been hampered by her choice of materials, only having access to the scrapyard down the road and the odd household item. Oh well, it was too late to change anything now, although, on reflection, she should’ve brought another cushion. The driver’s seat she’d stripped from that Morris Minor had long since given up any pretence of lumbar support. If indeed, it’d ever offered any. As for the lumps…
Still, mustn’t grumble.
She checked her watch and put the safety colander on her head. Nearly time for take-off. Her pulse quickened and her breaths came sharp and ragged. She shook the medical kit. The reassuring rattle of pills. In her youth, she hadn’t needed them so she’d only require sufficient for the duration of the journey. Should she take another blood pressure tablet now? No, best save them. It was natural to be nervous. Going back in time was a big step. And not one about which there’d been much information on the Internet. One website had suggested each minute would take her back by one year. That sounded right. At least, there was a neatness to it. But just in case it took longer, she’d baked a Dundee Cake. She nudged the tin. It thudded solidly, and the blade of the knife clattered, metal against metal. She’d toyed with bringing Victoria sponge but eventually had plumped for the heavy richness of fruitcake. She patted the thermos flask. Shame the tea wouldn’t be fresh.
Still, mustn’t grumble.
A sudden thought. Had she cancelled the milk? Stop panicking! Of course, she had. She’d been using that ghastly long-life stuff from the supermarket since last week. Once back in 1950, she’d order from the milkman. Things would be slower, kinder, altogether more civilised.
It was time. She clutched the modified television remote control. As soon as she pressed the button, she’d take off, travelling backwards through time. Her thumb hovered over the controls. Why was she hesitating?
She took a deep breath and jabbed the button. Waiting. Listening. Eyes swinging right and left.
Through the steamed-up oven door, she could still see the kitchen. Darn it! Her fourth failure in as many days.
She climbed out of the cabin and removed the colander from her head. P’raps a cuppa and slice of cake before she tweaked the booster rockets.
Oh, well, mustn’t grumble. At least she wouldn’t miss The Archers. She’d postpone the launch until tomorrow…
Sarah Bennett lives near Manchester with her husband, three geriatric ducks and a cat. She has a degree in Economics and Politics which she hadn’t made much use of, and an accountancy qualification she has made enough use of for the novelty to have worn off. She started writing short stories last year after joining a brilliant evening writing group. Two novels are gathering pace, neither veering towards the overly serious.
I come to visit you sometimes Frank, although you don’t know it. You have a commemorative brick with your initials on it. Truth be told, there are a lot of initials on it. It was too expensive to have one of your own. It’s also a tad high for comfort. I struggle to see it unless I stand on my tiptoes and squint. I used to bring steps so I could run my fingers over your name, its tiny letters on the corner of the brick, but too much time has passed, and although the ‘F’ is still there, the ‘G’ looks more like a ‘C’ now as you fade away.
Our planet is overrun with humans. Like vermin they jostle for space, scratching and scuffling and scurrying about their daily lives. It took thousands of years for us to reach 1 billion humans, but a mere 200 years later we were 8 billion, and now we infest ourselves with an extra billion people every 10 years. We are bursting at the seams. We need more houses. We need more food. We can’t waste space storing dead bodies for eternity.
The government decreed we should make them into paste and build with them. “We’ll re-use humans. We’ll wait for you to die, obviously no specific rush, but please don’t dawdle. The doctors won’t treat patients over 80 now anyway. We may have grants for those volunteering early.”
Hooray, this will help the councils reach their previously unfeasible recycling targets. Once humans croak, dry them out, crunch them up, top up with cement and you have an endless supply of bricks. “Repair, re-use, recycle,” we chant our scarce resource mantra obediently, and feel good about ourselves.
I think you are part of the main bedroom Frank. I wonder what it must feel like having visitors staring at the walls of your house every day? I suppose you get used to it, but you can’t leave the curtains open too often. You would chuckle if you could see what colour you are. They inject the brick mix with orange dye to make it look as if it’s been made the old-fashioned way with sand, so now you have a permanent suntan. You are Frank Orange, not Frank Grey. I’m not sure you would approve. I can still hear you now, every time I used to try and book us a holiday abroad.
“Izzy, there’s nowt abroad that you can’t get at home,” you’d say.
Well, yes there, is. The lovely warm sunshine. My friends would come back looking bronzed and healthy while we had to spend the week in a caravan overlooking Whitby Beach, venturing out to wrestle chips from papers buffeted by mischievous sea breezes, and gulped down with gallons of Yorkshire Tea.
I heard a rumour the owners of your house are building a conservatory. I wonder if I should apply? Frank and Izzy finally reunited. At least I would get the sunshine I’d always wanted.
Gail Warrick-Cox has lived by the sea for most of her life. She currently resides in Dorset where she enjoys long beach walks, reading, time spent with family and friends and of course, writing. Gail’s work is regularly published in magazines and anthologies, she has also achieved competition success for her short stories and flash fiction, all of which are a constant source of amazement to her.
Frank twerked towards the mirror and began to pluck cactus needles out of his derrière. He’d never liked that cactus, standing there in its terracotta pot like a tall thin prickly man. And now he’d had an altercation with it and come off worse.
It was a tough job removing those needles. Despite his willowy frame Frank could barely reach his rear end. His neck hurt with straining to see his bottom in the mirror and everything there appeared back to front. He needed some help, but who to ask, he didn’t have a partner. He used to believe there was someone for everyone but age had kindled a sharpness in him and love had passed him by.
Mrs Edwards from the flat below had given Frank the cactus when he moved in, perhaps she would know what to do. He made is way downstairs, clenching his perforated posterior and knocked on her door.
‘ Hello Frank,’ she said, ‘everything alright?’
‘I was wondering if you knew the best way to remove cactus needles from, err, from flesh?’ he asked.
‘Pull ‘em out quick,’ she replied cheekily and with a degree of concern, ‘is Spike alright?’
‘Spike?’ Frank questioned.‘Yes,’ she said, ‘Spike, the cactus I gave you, I chose him specially, he reminded me of you.’
Frank played along. ‘Spike’s fine,’ he said, ‘but he jumped onto the sofa and I accidentally sat on him and now I’ve got cactus spines in my, err, in my unmentionable.
’‘I see.’ Mrs Edwards narrowed her eyes. ‘My daughter Izzy’s here,’ she said, ‘Izzy’s a nurse, she’s good at getting to the bottom of things. I’ll have her come up and take a look at your… at your predicament.
’Frank clenched his predicament all the way back upstairs.
Izzy arrived, a short round bustling middle aged woman with rosy cheeks, a nice smile, a pair of tweezers, some gauze and a bottle of PVA glue.
‘Drop your trousers and lie on the bed,’ she instructed, ‘we’ll soon have those little pricks out. ’
Frank glowed with embarrassment but did as he was told. Izzy pulled the large spines out with tweezers then put a thin film of glue onto the gauze and draped it over the affected area. As the glue dried, she gently pulled the gauze away extracting the smaller spines. ‘All done,’ she said, ‘you’ll resemble a pin cushion for a while but you’ll be fine. ’
Frank was relieved. ‘How can I ever thank you?’ he asked.
‘ You could cook me dinner on Saturday,’ Izzy replied.
The aroma of bubbling bolognaise filled Frank’s flat, the table set with candles and napkins. Izzy arrived wearing bright pink lipstick that matched her rosy cheeks. She carried a plump spherical cactus with a single cerise flower on top.
‘Here,’ she said, ‘a friend for Spike, I’ve named her Rosie.’
Frank placed Rosie on the windowsill beside Spike.
‘They look good together,’ he said. ‘There’s someone for everyone,’ Izzy smiled, ‘even a prickly old cactus.’