CWA New Generation Flash Fiction Competition
The CWA New Generation Flash Fiction competition, held in the run-up to the CWA Annual Conference at Edinburgh, was open to MA writing students at Napier, Edinburgh and City universities. We received 12 entries – 3 from Edinburgh, 7 from Napier and 2 from City university.
They were given one title: ‘The Cruelest Lies’.
The two joint runners up were: Anna Ibbotson and Sarah Saville from Napier
And the winner was: Stephannie Cleary from City.
Congratulations to all three writers. Their stories are published below.
Winner: The Cruelest Lies by Stephannie Cleary
When we met, she said her name was Mary. It was really Priscilla, but I didn’t know that until we signed our marriage certificate. Mary was her middle name.
‘I’m David,’ I said. My real name. I offered her my hand. She took it gently, giving me a small squeeze with her fingertips. She flashed that smile, the crooked one that made her dimples show. I realize now that smile was cruel. A lie.
‘I think I could love you,’ she said. Another lie.
Back then, I thought it didn’t matter what her real name was. It wasn’t a lie, it was an omission. Irrelevant. What mattered was her soul and my soul and how they had finally met their match.
There’s a Greek myth that Mary loved to tell. Humans were created with four arms and four legs but Zeus split them in two, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other half. She would come up behind me and wrap her arms around my middle and pretend that we had become one.
We would talk about death and how she wanted me to love her even after she had died one day.
‘Don’t be silly,’ I said. ‘I’ll die first.’ That was the first lie I told her. Lies are lies whether intentional or not.
Her lies started out smaller. Tiny, miniscule untruths that could hardly be labeled lies. She weaved a web of them.
‘I love tulips!’ she said once. I later found the bouquet in the trash.
Her web got bigger. So did her cruelty.
‘I’m working late,’ she said.
Or ‘I’m visiting my sister this weekend.’
Some people think cruelty comes from the magnitude of the wrongdoing, but really, it’s in the small stuff. It’s in keeping up the pretense when you know the foundation is crumbling underneath.
I followed her. Right to the motel and waited outside until he showed up, too. Then I waited some more and timed my entry just right; to when I knew they’d be fucking.
What I found was worse. They were on the bed, fully clothed, her arms wrapped around his middle. I thought of the myth of two halves. The cruelest lie she ever told me.
The police came to my door the next morning, hats in their hands.
‘I’m so sorry, Mr. Richards, but your wife…’
I lied by playing the role of grief-stricken husband.
When they concluded her lover must have gone crazy – a murder-suicide, they called it – I lied then, too.
‘I can’t believe she’s gone,’ I said.
‘So cruel, to have to die that way,’ the priest said at the funeral.
Even her grave is a lie. She has a headstone, but no coffin is buried underneath. You can’t bury a body that’s been cut in half. They delivered her ashes in a tin container. I threw them away.
When they asked what I wanted on her headstone, I could only think of one thing:
The Cruelest lies here.
Runner-up: Cruelest Lies by Anna Ibbotson
Scarlett’s big brother does not care about her.
There’s no point in asking him. On his good days, he’ll claim to love her. But on his dark days, he spits her name out like cold mushrooms. She’s all types of bitch, apparently. Sometimes just a stuck-up bitch, sometimes much worse.
Scarlett’s vision has adjusted to the dark days. That’s where the truth is.
Because if he cared about her, he would not be making her spend the evening of her 26th birthday driving away from the police station, trying not to look at the angry bruises smeared over his face like finger paint.
It’s not her problem. He’s old enough and ugly enough to look after himself.
Except of course it all comes down to her. Always. He’s got no-one else left. One by one, he’s yelled and stomped and kicked at them till they went away.
She can’t tell mum he’s failed yet again. It’ll break her heart. And so here she is, crunching the gears of her poor wee car in anger and not looking at him. His face melted with tears and shiny with self-pity.
She gets him back to her flat. Does he even have anywhere to stay right now? Well, he isn’t going to be here long anyway.
She wraps him in a blanket. A fleecy one patterned with cupcakes which looks absurd around him. He’s only a few years older than her but life has pushed his body to the point of old age. He is shrivelled and saggy and snotty in her nice clean kitchen. In her new clean life.
She turns her back away from him, and crushes the pills. Mixes them into strawberry jam, the way their mum did when he was little and wouldn’t take his medicine. Funny the way things go.
I’m sorry. He says it over and over. It was a repeated mantra through her teenage years, always in the background. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Never sorry enough. Not enough to stop. Only sorry enough to make him feel better. This has to stop, he says. I can’t carry on like this, he says.
Here, Scarlett says. Write it down here. It’ll make you feel better to get it all out.
Now eat this.
She closes her eyes, waits for his breathing to steady. Pushes the spoon back into his hand.
He keeps going. Spoon after spoon. Maybe he cares more than she thought.
She wraps the blanket around him when his eyes close, and shuts the kitchen door. Better he did this on his own.
She’s holding the letter he wrote. She puts it in an envelope and props it on the door handle.
It had all become too much for him, she will say.
It isn’t really a lie.
Runner-up: The Cruelest Lies by Sarah Saville
Now there, calm down, calm down. There is no need to panic so. Calm down.
Please, quiet down! There’s truly no need to act in this manner, if you were to just calm down it would be so much easier for you. Yes, good, there we are, is this not
better? If you continue to breathe, yes just like that, we could both calm down and behave as maturely as possible.
Thank you. This will be much better, I think. If you simply try to calm down and remain quiet, you and I will have no problems tonight. If we can just behave maturely
and act nice, there will no issues between us whatsoever. Perhaps we can even enjoy ourselves.
Oh, are you not convinced? There is no need to shake your head so vehemently, my dear. I understand that you must still be adverse to the experience that I am creating for us here. Please, allow me to win you over.
As I was saying before I was interrupted, and quite rudely if I may say so, I am very happy that you are here tonight. You are very beautiful, my dear, very beautiful indeed. Oh, do not give me that sulking face, it is purely an aesthetic comment, believe me. I do not find you remotely sexually appealing. I know that there are many who do, after all I saw some of those men.
You had a specific man on Tuesday, I believe. A very tall man, not quite as tall as my father, but still very tall. My father was an unnaturally tall man, very noble and fair. He would often announce tomorrow’s weather, since he was tall enough to see far across the horizon. Yes, it was an amusing lie he told us children, I suppose, but amusing nonetheless.
My dear, I must apologise, I have digressed. Where was I? Oh yes, the man.
Very handsome, I suppose, but I do believe that is your type of man. He appeared to find you intensely stimulating.
Oh, am I making you uncomfortable? My dear, if you are not comfortable with your own promiscuity, perhaps you should not be spreading your legs as often as you do. Morality has lost its compass in these modern times, I must say. Women like you, my darling, are comfortable with all manner of behaviours that are not at all becoming for a young lady.
See, now you have gone and forced me to become quite agitated. I was hoping we would have a splendid night together, you and me. I grow tired of this. I grow tired of you. Quiet now, quiet! Oh, a girl’s tears are a potent thing, but they serve no purpose here. I will cherish them, though, my dear. Quiet now. Quiet.
The CWA looks forward to seeing works of crime fiction in print in the future from these and other students – the CWA members of the future – who contributed so much to the recent conference. Thanks to all who helped, and to all who entered the competition.
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