2015 U15s Writing Competition Winner

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Thank you to all those who took part. The winner is Deya Shergill from Godolphin School with a wonderful ghost story.

Judge Mavis Cheek says

Deya has understood the first rule of any thriller, and that is to hook them in with the opening sentence: ‘She hated everyone. They hated her. What was the point?’ Of course we want to know why. And then, when the story darkens she hooks us right in with ‘It was only now that her eyes had really been opened to her terrifyingly confined surroundings…’ You must, of course continue to read on – and Deya does not disappoint. The schoolgirl who is the heroine of this tale takes a journey through the grimmest and most threatening of surroundings, meeting an old woman who leads her on through the grimness. It is compelling and all very nicely controlled with a finale that is all the more shocking for its devastating twist.   Very well done indeed.

The Face at the Window by Deya Shergill

She hated everyone. They hated her. What was the point? She slumped into her chair, drumming her grubby, chipped finger-nails on her desk, her eyes glued to the clock. The second hand seemed to take an hour, every tick and her patience was tested. Twenty five seconds left of double maths and she was free.

The bell ran and she sighed a sigh of relief and tried to gather her books with such urgency that it felt as though she was trying to pick rice grains out of a carpet. As she urgently paced out of the school gates she felt as though she was moving in slow motion. She pictured herself in a Hollywood movie, bursting out of the school gates with a strong beat pounding in the background.

When she was about five minutes away from home she remembered how she had to face her constantly arguing parents and the thought made her mouth taste sour and dry, it was like sandpaper. It was at this moment that she came to the conclusion of running away. The idea gave her a buzz and she began heading down the alleyways with a spring in her step. Not many would dare enter these alleys, let alone with a smile on their face. However, she paid no attention to the walls that peeled like a sunburnt back, or the stench of five month-old beer and cigarettes, because she was in a world of her own thinking through the freedom she was to have.

Eventually, her bubble of excitement burst and thoughts of dread and regret swam around inside her head and tangled in her stomach. She couldn’t leave her family. Where would she stay? How would she eat? Who would she have? When would she find love? After three minutes convincing herself to go home and tell her parents she was at band practice, she swivelled on her heels to attempt to find her way back. It was only now that her eyes had really been opened to her terrifyingly confined surroundings.

Something caught her eye, she was reeled in like a fish on a reel. It was a person. Its silhouette gradually focused and the dark shape fizzled into a clear figure of an elderly woman. She hesitantly crept closer to the woman and as she got closer she stopped squinting and the sound of muffled wheezing dissolved into her hair.

She was an arms’ length away from the anonymous woman. Although she was to the left of her due to peripheral vision she was obviously acknowledged. The woman was silent and didn’t move a muscle, not even an eye-lid. All that moved was her matted grey hair, the ends were like rats’ tails swimming in the air.

The ever so curious girl wanted to see the woman’s face so she slowly edged round until she was looking her straight in the eye. The woman did not flinch, her eyes remained fixed. She looked through the girl’s forehead with a neutral expression. Her skin was course and sandy and her eyes were murky diamonds. The girl scarcely had time to observe her stance and physique when the woman broke into a roar of laughter.

It was the strangest of laughs. The overwhelming volume knocked the girl back and the wheeze that backed up the laugh sounded agonising. The woman’s body remained stationary but her face was scrunched up and her eyes dug into the girls and sent a shiver down her spine. The shrill laughter rebounded off the walls and whizzed around in a viscous and terrifying cycle.

The girl started running backwards and after a few steps she turned her back and began to sprint. She was about to run through an alley that ran alongside a run-down building but she stopped in her tracks. Her feet were welded to the ground and her mouth went dry. There was a face in one of the windows. It was the face of the woman, but she wasn’t laughing anymore.

Petrified, the girl whipped her head around to see if the woman was still behind her. She wasn’t. Something was not right. She looked back around to where the face was and it was no longer there.

A wheezy whisper emerged next to her ear. “Won’t you come inside?” An ice cold breath pricked her neck and without blinking she slowly turned her head ignoring the sound of her heartbeat pounding in her ears. She knew what to expect when she turned around, and she was right.

The grinning elderly woman wrapped her spindly arm around the girl and guided her in a direction. The girl was too shocked and frozen to argue so, in fear, she followed.

The two came to the entrance of a building. The writing above the door had decayed and had fingernail scratches on it, but it read ‘Bonefield Asylum’. Confused and wanting to be home and safe, the girl laughed a nervous laugh and said. “I’m sorry, I have to go now.”   But the woman stayed silent and gripped the girl tighter as she led them through the door.

The first thing the girl noticed as she was dragged in was the muted moans and cries that trickled though the long corridor that they stood at the beginning of.   The hallway was lit only by candle light but as dusk fell, this wasn’t enough. Down either side of the corridor there were doors about a metre apart, each one was identical. No doctors. No beds. No medicine in sight.

“I’ll take you to your room,” said the woman excitedly.   She looked hopefully at the girl but the girl looked to the floor.

“No, you’ve got it wrong. I’m not crazy, or mad, in fact -”

“Maria Calsepp? She gigged. The girl instantly looked the woman in the eye, totally bewildered.

“How did you know? Wh-wh-who are you?” She begged, escaping the woman’s clutch.

“Your room is opposite mine, remember?” You think you’re a schoolgirl who hates it, but you aren’t.   You belong with me, with us. We are eighty-four.”

“But that makes no sense, I need to get home -” She was cut off when she glanced down. To her horror, she saw pale, aged hands and they had rivers running through them and up her arm. She wasn’t in her school uniform at all, she was in a blue hospital gown with a chewed up hem.

She ambled down the corridor and found herself slouched outside her door labelled ‘Maria Calsepp’. She knew who she was now, but tomorrow she would be a schoolgirl again.