Traditional Publishing

International Short Story Contest

Thirteenth short story contest winners

The Thirteenth International Short Story Contest opened in May 2016 and closed on May 1, 2017. Deliberation over the final line-up of winners was long and hard, but by August 2017 the following successful entrants were announced:


Niamh MacCabe, winner of the Thirteenth International Short Story Contest

Congratulations to Niamh MacCabe of Fivemilebourne, Ireland, who wins £200 for the winning story, "Nobody Knows the Shivering Stars". The story is published below.

Born in Dublin, Niamh grew up in Paris, in north-west Ireland, and in Washington DC, where she graduated as a visual artist from the Corcoran School of Art. She worked in the Animated Film industry, returning to rural Ireland to raise her children. She began writing in 2014.
Twitter @Niamh MacCabe

Ten special commendations go out to the following entrants (in no particular order):

Nobody Knows the Shivering Stars

By Niamh MacCabe

I’m going to stay here on the sand hills for a billion times. That’s okay, because he’s here too, and he knows a lot of handy scout stuff. Like how to light a fire at the bottom of the garden, how to steal a turnip and put it on the fire for jungle food, all about sums, the adding and the taking-away, how to make a fishing rod and catch some type of fish, or a proper bow and arrow out of the bamboos like real Indians, and quizzes, all about aliens, planets, rockets, stars, all those kinds of yokes. I don’t know how to catch a fish, only their names; it’s mackerel, herring, salmon, also trout is one. Or he might be able to get a crab because I seen some of those here on the sand. They were a bit dead I think. All crunched up and not much good.

After we stopped with all the walking wherever we want and looking around at everything everywhere, he decided we better sit down and think about what you’re supposed to do if you don’t know where you are, and if your dad is gone. So I sat down beside him, just me and him. Like Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo Bear is what I said about it, sitting down here in the sand together, ready to make a plan about our new adventure, and no dad or mam around anywhere annoying you, telling you anything about what you can’t do.

I have a good stick. I can draw the plan in the sand, I told him. I can draw a treasure map, or I can draw a ‘Way Back’ with arrows, starting from ‘Here’, like a puzzle, back to the car. He can be Yogi if he wants, is what I told him. He said he didn’t care which one he was, and even didn’t care if he was one at all.

I told him we could build a fort because I know how to do that. I says come on, let’s build a brilliant fort and he says shut up, I was going to say that but he was lying because he wasn’t saying anything at all, just sitting looking at the sand.

The other thing, about not stealing the turnip, it wasn’t a real lie, because we didn’t steal it, we just took it. There it was sticking up out of the clay like the vegetable patch didn’t want it any more, so, you see, that doesn’t count. I says let’s take it and he says okay.

Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers. That’s a kind of poem I learnt in school. I won’t be going back there any more because of this new adventure about staying in the sand-hills here by ourselves, with nobody bothering about poems or the names of things or turnips gone missing for no reason that nobody cares nothing about.

My big brother doesn’t know how he’s going to find the car. Stop talking, he says, I have to think about all this problem of getting back to the car, we shouldn’t have gone on a treasure adventure, you shouldn’t have said to me to go, stop drawing stupid lines with your stupid old stick.

Now that wasn’t very nice to be saying that to me about my magic stick, not very nice at all.

He doesn’t know anything about this secret scout stick.

We sat down for a while in the big sand-hills with all the golden grasses blowing around because we were tired is all. I did the very thing that he said don’t, and that was drinking the water off the sand puddles. I might have gone a bit scared, I don’t know, maybe.

Boo-Boo is a bit scared now, Yogi, and a bit sorry about all the trouble with the adventure.

I said that in my own head.

He’s gone scared too. He was crying. So that’s when I says don’t worry, we can build a fort if we’re going to stay here forever, we’ll have a nice cosy place to live in, Yogi, cos I’m smarter than the average bear and he laughs and says okay and he didn’t know that I was sorry because I didn’t tell him.

In the car when we parked at the bottom of the beach lane Dad said stay here and don’t move I’ll come back and get ye in a short while will ye be alright it’s warm and dry in the car stay here won’t ye. He said he was going to go for a Jog. To get a Jog, you go away from where you are and you come back after your Jog is got. He said I was too small for getting this Jog because it was all the way down the whole long beach and we would be better off playing in the car and not slowing him down. You’re in charge of your wee sister he says to my brother.

I’m not too small for getting a stupid Jog. I’m very good at loads of things like which month has twenty-eight days and which one doesn’t, the trick is they all have twenty-eight days except for one I think, no, they all have twenty-eight days, that’s the trick.

My brother doesn’t remember where the car is now because he didn’t watch where we were going like you’re supposed to do in the scouts. If he was any good he would have had a plan for the treasure adventure. Too bad. Losers Weepers. He thinks it’s gone from where we left it. He couldn’t find where we left it and he thinks that’s why it’s gone and he can’t see it anywhere and he can’t find where we were.

This place is like the moon, the same goes on forever. Just all flat ground and hills with big grasses like scarves on them, waving at us as if it doesn’t matter about not knowing where you are. And the white sky has a whiter moon in it which means this whole day is gone upside down.

Dad and Mam will be sure to tell Santy about us gone. Tough. All that red man ever gave me was boring stuff like a jewelry box with nothing in it only a bendy orange ballerina twirling around with a sideways leg for no reason and her feet too big.

It doesn’t matter about all that. Santy won’t be coming here. There’s no chimney on our fort and there’s no other houses anywhere, just some birds and crabs and insects. We’re Wild West Cavemen with sharp sticks now, we’ll roar at everything, we don’t care about stuff with Santy.

We made the fort out of the grass and some branches and it’s not that good but it’ll do. We pulled the big golden grasses up over our heads and smashed some on the ground for sleeping so it’s kind of like a tent, like an army tent. We put the branches in front and behind so no one will think they can just come in or something, or any monsters even though they don’t exist. My brother said you have to watch out. He said it’s just like the scouts except we don’t have the right badges and we don’t know the right songs, not the ones for armies or scouts.

When we left the car, we took a shortcut. I think it wasn’t the right type of shortcut, like the ones the Indians make when they’re trying to sneak up on the few cowboys in the desert.

It’s okay, I had my stick. It was small, but it was good and pointy.

It’s not a nice beach, you can’t see any sea, just hard sand with ripples all over, like baby-hills the insects can climb for adventures. That’s why we went to the big sand hills and sat down in the wavy gold grass.

There was this fat seagull that was flying around and then he landed beside us and gawked sideways at me with one half of his head. He wasn’t afraid of anything. He stayed there, looking at the sand like us, and having a little scratch at his white feathers with his beak. I decided to call him Flipper even though though he’s a bird, but you see, he doesn’t realise.

My friend has a blue budgie called Peg, who never even looks at you, just at her dirty old mirror all day long, like the pink ballerina in my jewelry box, but she only does that when I open it and the tinkly music comes out. I don’t know what she does when it’s closed, probably nothing at all, just waiting around for someone to open the box. But you have to remember to wind it up if you didn’t lose the key behind the fridge.

Maybe if we were proper scouts we’d know how to get a drink. My brother said did I forget I’m not allowed be a scout because first you have to be a boy. I told him I’m allowed be whatever I want here, and he better shut up and he said no you shut up so I said make me and he didn’t, because he couldn’t.

It’s gone cold and dark . We’re sitting together inside our golden fort and our seagull is back. There’s also come four big crows. They’re just staring which you’re not supposed to do because it’s bad manners. Also pointing at people is bad. You can point with a wand or a stick but not with your finger. There’s no other people here so I can point at anything, it doesn’t matter, I can point away everywhere. I’m pointing at him with my magic stick and I think he’s whingeing about that. No point in whingeing about that.

I can hear other birds calling and crying and are they getting lonely.

Birds can’t be lonely because they’re used to the whole thing about being cold and thirsty and don’t give a damn about any of it and just like to fly around all day in the big sky and have a little sleep at night and maybe eat a few berries or beetles.

We lie down on the smashed grass of our fort. The ground is sticking into my back. I see a bit of sky through the big grasses above us. It’s dark grey mostly but wherever there’s a star, the sky is black. If you started counting now you’d be well dead before you’d counted all the stars. Imagine counting non-stop without stopping.

My eyes shut and I see is sparkles. I can hear him breathing. I think he’s crying.

Poor Yogi, don’t be sad, we don’t have to live in our fort if you don’t want.

I told him that in my own head.

He says keep your eyes open Boo-Boo, don’t shut them so I’m trying to keep looking.

How long can you keep your eyes open without blinking is a good game, which I’m probably the best at. At least I’m the best right now.

I’m looking up at the stars and I’m thinking about how many lines there would be in the sky if I did Join The Dots on them, and I’m thinking about the secret line I made in the sand from the car all the way here with my small pointy stick behind me, hopping over the insect hills on the hard sand and twirling the letters of my name without stopping. It’s called Joint Writing and it’s like one big long letter for everything instead of a hundred by themselves.

The stars are shivering a bit like us. They’re way up there in the black on their own not even beside each other, just shivering away all alone every night. My brother says also during the day, though no one sees them, they’re still there, shivering like mad until they explode some day and that’s the end of them forever even if nobody knows it.

I hold hands with him and tell him he’s very good at knowing all those planet things, and then I tell him I know a few good things too, and I tell him I know where the car is.