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Samples of award winning stories

Short Stories

Corrugated Dreaming (HQ/HarperCollins award)

I hate this place.

Night after night the moonlight invades my silence. It cuts through the darkness and stealthily creeps onto naked white walls. It slides slowly downwards onto the floor, then crosses the room to my cancerous bunk where it casts rippled shadows on grey sheets. It taunts me, like God’s holy torch inspecting the wicked in hell. It reminds me that I am a prisoner with no past and no future. It begs the question that so many others have come to this prison to buy. It asks why I did what I did. But my shoulders just roll.

I like rolling my shoulders. It feels good, like exercise.

I don’t speak. Words are for passionate mouths. For lawyers and doctors and judges. For people with reason to elbow their lips into nouns and phrases. Words are for writers and actors to twist their illusion to reason. In court the judge asked what I wanted to plead. I opened my mouth then snapped my teeth tight. I could have spat twist or flip, or impressed them all with bobby pin or catapult, but decided to rest beneath armour. The man who slipped in to defend me explained beautifully to the judge that the girl is a mute. So guilty it was…

****

Unplugged (Ginninderra Press Award)

There is a voice in my head. A thunderous voice that hurls heavy phrases through the attic of my mind. It slams painful words against the back of my eyes and whispers obscenities into my ears. It scrapes its claws down my blackboard of sanity and hammers at the door of my being. I push the voice deeper and deeper into the orchestra pit of my soul where it fiddles and festers and waits for a drama to unleash its crescendo on an unsuspecting audience.

I am not alone on this earth…

****

Still Life (Scarlet Stiletto)

Sam and I sit by the sea. She is painting while I write. The seascape threads its way into her mind through her olive eyes where it is dissected and arranged into neat little squares. It washes through her arm and with a twist of her wrist it finds life on the canvas. I tell her it looks nothing like the ocean and she advises me knowingly that it never did.

I turn my head to one side hoping to see what she has seen. She asks me what I’m doing and I tell her I’m thinking about the enormous amount of money the gallery paid for her work, The Stalker.

She casts an eye over my page and tells me if I am determined to get him off my chest by constantly writing about him I should at least use a pen with ink in it, and not introduce the story with a feeble line like, Sam and I sit by the sea. She tells me that I should move on and if I had used my artistic talents on him like she had then I would be over the whole thing by now.

I sweep my hand across the page like a wave across sand and ask her how she would tell the story. She scratches her cockleshell ear with the butt of her brush and whispers, the scariest part was when the meat cleaver hit his head and bounced off his skull like it was made of petrified wood….

****

Hot Dog Stand (Scarlet Stiletto)

I was on my way to work when it happened — the thing that changed my life. If I had left home a minute sooner or a minute later I wouldn’t have been standing at the traffic lights next to the man with the hot dog. He was ordinary, slightly balding with wispy hair cobwebbed into a comb-over. He was standing no more than two feet away from me and we were waiting for the lights to change so we could cross the road. He was nervous and had twisted the top of his hot dog bag into a knot when the blue van came hurtling around the corner.

The man with the hot dog was slower to move out of the way than I was. Before I knew it, the van jumped the curb and hit him full force, tossing him into the air like a puppet. My legs ran faster than my body and my face slammed into the bridal shop window. The man flipped over and over in the air. He landed on the bonnet of an orange Charger with a black GT stripe. The blue van didn’t stop. It didn’t even slow down. People ran to the Charger to help the stunned driver who sat staring at the eyes of death as they slowly closed on his windscreen.

I picked up the hot dog bag and peered inside…

****

The Butcher of Mena Creek (Scarlet Stiletto)

Maggie Smithers yanked at the stiff oven door in the kitchen of the Meena Creek RSL Club. A gust of steam billowed upward, frosting her glasses and tightening her skin. Its hot misty breath brushed over her face like a runaway ghost.

Never in her thirty years had Maggie smelled a lasagne as rich and full-bodied as this. She stood for several seconds basking in the glory of her creation, tempted to have just one taste – but she was running late – the speeches were over and those who had paid fifty dollars to rub shoulders with the Mayor were hungry.

‘Maggie, darling!’ The voice bounced over hot tiles like an injured cat. ‘Are you having trouble?’

Maggie turned blindly towards the direction of the voice…

****

Set-up (Cairns Post writers award)

If Sarah Parker-Court’s parents really loved her, they would not have planned a romantic second honeymoon in Paris, they would not have sent her to boarding school at the tender age of six; and they would not have organized a sour-faced nanny called Mrs Black to watch over her during school holidays. If they really loved her, they would have let her go to the dance with George Malone and she would not be lying helpless and bleeding at the bottom of the back stairs. How was Sarah to know it had been raining? It must have started while she was in the basement. If her mother had loved her, she would have told her to be careful on that top step. She despised her parents. She was glad they were gone…

****

Novels

Let Sleeping Gods Lie (Australia/NZ IP Picks)

Nick Landau slowed his motorbike on the highway and looked up at the road sign that welcomed visitors to Bookalong Creek. Beneath it the words, ‘Tidy Town’, were laced with bullet holes. He had deliberately bypassed the sign that pointed to the place where the nightmare began.

He padded harder at the brake and turned onto a corrugated dirt road that led to a labyrinth of sugarcane fields. The corpse of a rock wallaby lay on the side of the road like an old brown blanket draped over door knobs.

The afternoon sun shone through a gap in the flame trees. He shielded his eyes from the light and the memory — his first memory, sitting in his high-chair in the kitchen of the old farmhouse before they moved into the Queenslander. A circle of light on the food tray in front of him that speared down from a hole in the tin roof. He had moved his hand to grab at it; it disappeared and reappeared, refusing to be snatched. Tiny angels floated through it as his mother swept the daily deposit of farm dust from the linoleum.

But that was a lifetime ago. There were no more memories. They were trapped in the dark place…

****

The Everything Theory (Australia/NZ IP Picks)

News of the earthquake screeched through the two-way radio warning the archaeological group to get out of the caves. A shot of explosives were about to end months of work deep in the Baian Kara Ula Mountains in China.

Seira Kanahele scrambled from the tunnel and into the dying light where the colours of dusk and shadows of dark clouds moved like sharks through the mountains. As she looked behind for the others, her long, black, plait flicked like a snake at her back. She covered her head with her gloved hands as the mouth in the mountain spewed dust and rocks and millions of years of history across the remote, uninviting slopes. The series of interlocking tunnels inside, with their glazed squared walls and ancient warnings, were now dust floating in the icy breeze. The sky took on a dark oily hue and she knew this was no aftershock.

Only humans could have created the beauty of the caves and only humans could have destroyed them…

****

Soul’s Child (YWO Book of the Year)

My father chiselled his way around integrity and common sense to find celebrity status of a sort. He was born Mervin Oswald Jones, but this name wasn’t good enough for a dynamic screen image so he had it legally changed. He became ‘Clive Soul’, and the shape of the name stuck in my teeth like metal filings. His Hollywood show Soul Search sought to prove the reality of precognition, ghosts and demons. The show made enough money to buy all the friends my father craved and the ones I didn’t  People would come around to visit, lounge around the pool and dance and drink late into the night. My father loved the attention. He was famous because he said he could talk to the dead and see into the future.

He was a liar…

************

5 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. starproms / Dec 14 2012 5:32 am

    That was an interesting view. I find the first sentence grabs me or not, as the case may be.

    • diannegray / Dec 14 2012 7:48 am

      First sentences are really important. I find I’ll put a story down if it doesn’t have that immediate ‘grab’ :D

  2. Runoffwriter / Jan 26 2013 12:28 pm

    Really like Still Life. Very fine work. But I don’t need to tell you that…

    Thanks for visiting my blogs, and for the follow. I’m enjoying wandering through your posts and pages…

    • diannegray / Jan 26 2013 4:22 pm

      Thank you so much. I’m very flattered ;)

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