Tall Tales, Short Stories writing competition – Third Prize: Manon Heard

Manon completed Irenosen Okojie’s short story ‘Synsepalum

The light that was thrown out of the museum was unfathomable and Noma felt as drawn to it as a moth to a flame, its grip relentless. He peered in and through the layer of dust on the window saw those same, familiar sights of the sewing machines. Like many of the locals before him he felt a sense of pride, for these machines were the town’s heritage. In that one whimsical moment he suddenly felt inclined, although he’d many a look before, to feel the cold metal, to feel the history. It seemed not to appear startling to the gaunt young man as he stepped through the unlocked doors to the museum or more perhaps why there was a light on at all seeing as the repository for antique sowing machines only opened on weekends and today was a Wednesday. Manu smelt the carbolic soap and sawdust before the door closed, he continued. The light formed eddies, catching the dust when Noma opened the door, it pulsed as though it was alive, and he felt an unnerving shiver go through him as one does when they feel they are being watched. He moved towards the Singer 66-1 Red Eye Treadle, just like his late mum’s old one and for a moment it was as if all his worries were gone and it was just him and his ma in a void of lost memories. The silver flowing pattern seemed to flow and shimmer just like the stars but imprisoned in a black night sky of lacquer. Noma laughed, what was he doing here, he was meant to be leafleting not loitering around. Noma reached for the handle but paused as an almost sad and unearthly sense told him to stop. Then he remembered the light and turned to face the source, it also dawned on him that the door was unlocked which just added to the peculiarity of the situation.

‘Hullo, is anyone there,’ he called. There was no answer, he walked down into the atelier, but it was as empty as the day all the workers had left it when the mines opened, fabric and needles strewn all over the place. Now everyone worked in the mines. How odd, Noma thought to himself, one of the staff must have left it on and kept the doors unlocked. Perhaps they were here for the night. He made to leave but as he got up, he felt a presence, a tear rolled down his eye. ‘Ma if I have disturbed you in any way, I offer my apologies, may you rest in peace’ his choked-up voice filled with sorrow. With that he rushed out of the museum and as soon as he was back on the street it was as if nothing ever happened. Meanwhile Manu held his breath, shook his head and thought to himself ‘Not another hopeless spirit believer’ and got back on with his work.

Third place: Manon Heard, aged 14

Author Irenosen Okojie gave the following feedback on the story:

“Congratulations on your third prize Manon! I’m thrilled you successfully took on the challenge of completing the first half of my story, ‘Synsepalum’. May you continue to interpret the world around you through your own unique lenses. Remember that your voices matter. They’ll enrich the lives of others. Keep writing, keep being excited about stories. Keep finding ways to feed your imaginations. The world needs your stories. I hope this wonderful space the RSL has provided for young people through the Tall Tales, Shorts Stories competition gives you the fuel going forwards to brew more magical tales.”

Tall Tales, Short Stories celebrates 20 years of the V.S. Pritchett Prize, the great range of the short story form, and what is possible when we use other writers as inspiration. Our anthology contains the first 500 words of winning entries to the Prize and of stories from judges over the past 20 years. Our Tall Tales, Short Stories competition asked those aged 14-18 to finish one of the stories with a new ending of their own.