* Winner of the 2016 Story of the Year Award *
I am numb, paralysed from the neck down. Strangers over-ooze sympathy when they hear the word: quadriplegic. Family and friends avoid me, too embarrassed that they can stand on their own two feet. I hate this prison of false emotions. I want to be back in the real world, the way I was before my so-called accident.
The sea was my fascination. I would sail, swim, dive, or if it was in a fury, stand back from the shore to watch pebbles being hurled out of its spindrift.
The injury happened when I was diving in the newly discovered Forden sea cave in Gothenburg’s archipelago; 33 metres depth and 240 metres in to be precise. A pink granite boulder twinkled wildly in my lights. Curious, I diverted towards it. Two strokes should have got me there. I barely got three quarters of the way. Puzzled, I checked my oxygen via my wrist screen. Levels were normal. I felt my lips with my tongue. They were warmer than normal, a sign of carbon dioxide poisoning. My diving app had gone haywire.
* Winner of the 2015 Story of the Year Award *
George found the rip in the fabric of space on a Thursday morning, some time after elevenses. He leant over to throw away his empty packet of rich tea biscuits and there it was, a tiny hole hanging in the air behind the long-dead hydrangea the HR people had put in his cubicle in an attempt to pretty up the place.
After a quick look around, George cautiously stuck the tip of a pencil in the hole. The pencil slid in halfway, the tip disappearing into thin air. George left the pencil hanging there and went back to work on the Masterson report, after carefully moving the hydrangea a little to disguise the hanging pencil.
Next day, the rip had torn a little wider and the pencil had disappeared. George bent over and peered into the tear. It was now wide enough to see into. On the other side he saw white sand and gentle waves of the clearest, aquamarine blue. The sun shone and trees rustled softly on a distant hilltop. The pencil, disturbed by the growing hole in the fabric of space, lay on the sand.
George looked sideways out of his cubicle, to where he could catch the barest glimpse of the grey office block across the street. The hum of London traffic was audible even above the ordinary office noises. From the rip, a soft breeze blew and the salty tang of the sea beckoned. Continue reading
* Winner of the 2014 Story of the Year Award *
Prosecutor General Eve Marshall – the meanest cross-examiner in the courts of New Scotland. Eyes that glint when she goes for the kill, a mouth that tightens at every lie, a manner that pulls jurors in and makes them believe.
And a babe; long hair practically to her waist, glasses she looks over the top of just so, and a way of sucking a pen that keeps men awake at night, and plenty of women, too.
Just my luck to get her on my case.
The jury were hanging on her every word. Sixteen fine upstanding citizens, chosen for this, “the trial of the year”. All of them watching Eve stick her little tongue out, all of them riveted as she put me through three days of questioning.
Three days where I hadn’t cracked, not once. Three days where question after question got hurled at me and I found the right answer. All I needed to do was survive this day and I’d be home and dry.
“So,” she said, in her lispy, false-cute voice. “You can’t tell us where you were the night of the murder, Oskar?”
“No, ma’am. Just that I wasn’t in the Five-in-a-Line store.” Continue reading