Fiction, The Billingham Challenge: The Gap between the Willow trees


Sudo One loves a contest, so he set a challenge. A writing challenge. He writes an opening paragraph of a story for me to complete and I write a paragraph to start him off. He named it the Billingham challenge in honour of Mark Billingham the crime writer, who did the same thing for a competition in which I came second. You can see that effort here.

So here is my Short Story with Sudo one’s opener in brown. I’ve called it ‘The Gap between the Willow trees.’ Enjoy…

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The Gap between the Willow Trees – A Short Story by Gary Shaw (AKA the Resident Weebler)

The Willow Trees (Monet)

She waited with baited breath.

With any luck the groundwork had paid off. Tonight was the night it was all going to come to fruition, the stars in the inky night sky were, she hoped, aligned. She deserved it, didn’t she?

It was time... her time, Annie’s time.

Annie had been told about the creatures by Freda Percival, a long time resident of Hillfrome, her place of work, over two years earlier. At first she disregarded the stories as flights of fantasy, even madness. But after what had happened to Freda, what she’d seen with her own eyes, they must be able to do to her what they did to Freda.

Waiting in the woods, which surrounded the Hillfrome Estate, she watched the space between the twisted misshaped willow trees.  It had been a year ago today that Freda had gone missing from the home and Annie had found her here. A year ago today that the creatures had come through the gap in the trees and she had seen those black creatures crawl over Freda.

In her fifties now, Annie had regretted how her life had turned out. She had no real family to speak of. An only child, her parents passed on, she had no children, and the man and life she had always dreamed of had never arrived. She had so much love to give, and now nearing the autumn of her own life, only had the residents of Hillfrome to pour it on.

It was Freda that Annie had warmed to the most. The two ladies would often sit on the wooden bench at the rear of Hillfrome house on warm evenings, looking down on the vast wood that lay at the foot of the hill.  They talked of older, better times and how they both wished they were younger. Annie was reminded of her mother’s kindness as they spoke. So when Freda started to speak of magical creatures in the woods that could make them young again, she felt a terrible heartache. She remembered how her mother had started saying nonsensical things before her mind decayed, and how Annie had to look on as the mother she knew slowly disappeared. Read more of this post

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