Students from international schools in the south of Spain were invited to send in a short story of no more than 300 words on the theme of Home.
Best secondary short story
It is the 29th of January. 2022. 1am in the morning. I feel like I have been dragging boulders the whole way. My mouth is dry. A deadly breeze wraps its cold fingers around me. My eyes are red and stinging. The path upon which we walk is endless, stretching towards a strange horizon.
Mother will not speak. She stumbles clumsily, my baby brother, Ragi, cradled in her arms. His huge eyes gaze at the twilit sky. Father’s ghost jabs at my insides: the gunshot is still ringing in my ears.
We left everything and everyone behind in the place I once called home: Father, Grandfather, Grandmother, Cousin Ashima. My tears are infinite misery and sadness. No! I shouldn’t cry. It’ll only make walking harder.
Our destiny is clouded and difficult to see. I can only hope for what awaits us behind the borders of Iran.
The trees around us shake with the cold. When I look down, I see the stony ground beneath me is a maze of pebbles and dust.
Finally, I can bear it no longer. My legs collapse under my weight and I fall helplessly. Is this the end? Is this how I depart this world? Am I to leave my corpse in this barren, arid place? This range of death?
It cannot be. I cannot leave Mother and Ragi alone. I slowly push my hands against the ground and haul myself back to my feet.
I look up. Ragi’s cries have stirred hope back into my beaten body. The light of faith beams upon me. The sun is rising. A new day has begun. Maybe today we will find a new home.
Nicolás Minguela Espinosa de los Monteros, age 13Laude San Pedro International College
English Literature undergraduate Lily Farrant said: “This story is very moving, and feels ever more pertinent given the current climate. Through very powerful descriptions, the narrator conveys the situation that they are living through, without ever listing a series of events. The descriptions of the setting amplify the reader’s understanding of the characters. The rising sun gives this story of endurance a brave and hopeful ending.
Runner-up secondary short story
Old noodle takeaway boxes were dismissed in a corner, not nearly important enough to be properly put away. The tracks stood still, though the dried leaves were jumping up and down with the wind. The sun had long set, and a dullish moon was settling in for the night.
Checking my wristwatch, it was way past 20:42.
Looking up from the pavement the arrival board seemed to be stuck at 20:42. Her train number was simple to remember: ‘2034A’ . It was the only one on the board, but I checked her ticket again. Still 20:42. I was standing still, leaning on the crumbling brick wall.
Closing my eyes, I tried to swallow down my emotions. What was I feeling? Was I nervous? Or was I scared? I spent the whole day roaming around her house wondering if I would make the right decision. She deserved to know.
Finally, after a long time, a monotone female voice announced the arrival of her train and apologised for the wait. I looked around. I was the only one here, if you didn’t count the small black kitten, feasting on the spilled milkshake on the cement. I thought about the 20-40 people who bought the tickets with her. They will arrive, and they will leave. No one will greet them. No one will ask them about their trip. No one will drive them home, laughing at their stories.
At last the train tracks started quivering. Not a minute later the brownish grey train stopped in front of me. It was almost empty. I swallowed the lump in my throat and tightened my grip on the limp bouquet that I didn’t even realise I was holding. She finally came out. My home, my world.
Elvira Samokhvalova, age 14Swans Secondary School
English Literature undergraduate Lily Farrant said: “This story is very compelling because of the suspense which is built up throughout, for example with the repeated reference to the time, which invites the reader to ask why the narrator is so nervous, who they are waiting for, and what they have to tell her. There is an impressive attention to detail, such as the kitten lapping up the spilled milkshake."
Special mention secondary short story
Molly didn’t quite like the feeling she got when being alone at her grandfather’s house. He played old music on his gramophone that she never recognized. They were apparently holy songs from the Great Andamanese tribes in India. The intense drumming and the high pitched yelling sent shivers down her spine.
The whole house was filled with precious items, carefully selected throughout decades. Books, images and stories from all over the world, now in his massive house, just laying around.
She often found herself alone in the almost castle-like mansion. It was fully packed with various rooms with an extraordinary amount of decor detail. Yet, a still, hollow and sorrowful mood drenched her like a rainy cloud, while walking in its narrow hallways, entering colossal dining rooms, wandering about brimful libraries or ambling through another grand and exhaustive wine cellar. Her grandfather was overly proud of his wide wine collection.
People she met told her how utterly grateful she must be to live with her grandfather. But she didn’t really know what she felt.
After school, she explored the libraries, finding another golden gem, bringing it to her corner and reading it. She loved suddenly living in another universe, away from home, pretending to be someone else for a while.
She loved the conservatory the most due to the glass roof. That way she could look up at the stars as she fell asleep. Dreaming about the infinite stars and the billions of thrilling galaxies out there in space. It had always been something she found fascinating. Astrology.
It was like the stars called out to her. Like if they needed her, the way she needed them.
Erica Matsuda, age 16Sunny View School
“This story is wonderfully multi-faceted, with a moving and lost narrator who longs for a sense of belonging,” said Lily Farrant.