The Demon

by Dana Pavlovic, Beachmere State School

It smiled. Large jagged crimson stained teeth were shown.  The man before it cowered in utter terror.
"P-please have mercy" he whimpered.  Its smile broadened.
A withered grey skeletal hand drew from beneath its black cloak.  The man started to sob uncontrollably.

Pathetic, it thought as it swiped the air in front of it in one smooth motion.  He screamed soundlessly, his eyes turning pearly and blank, staring up at the sky that he could not see.  It bent low over the lifeless and cold body and pinched the air above the man's gaping mouth.  Between its fingers it conjured a liquidlike strand that swirled gracefully.  A tiny bottle appeared out of nowhere.  It uncorked it and the strand slithered inside and swirled like liquidized light.

"Another soul claimed,"  its soft, ghostly spinechilling voice made the trees and animals draw back and shiver.
It placed the bottle carefully into its pocket and glided away into the disturbingly silent night.

****

A sudden chill settled over the village it was approaching.  Dreams were clouded with dark thoughts and terrifying memories were relived.  Children huddled into their parent's arms, crying fearfully.
No one knew why the night had turned so cold and remorseless, why the gentle gaze of the moon had become ominous and foreboding.
No one knew what fate had awaiting them.
No one knew that it was coming, hungry for their souls.

It drew back its hood.  An ashen skull was revealed in the rays of moonlight.  Eyes like empty black caves with sinister glowing crimson slits surveyed the village before it.  It absorbed the surrounding air, relishing the feeling of despair the atmosphere was now tainted with.  An eerie fog crept behind it as it stalked closer, slithering around the village like wolves cornering prey.

****

It stopped.  The fog swirled around the house in a sinister way.  The family inside clutched each other tighter as they stared dumbfounded at the fog that now clouded their windows.  A shadow heightened in the moonlight, they tensed.  There was a knock on the door.  It twisted the door handle.  The door swung slowly open with an echoless groaning creak.  The family drew back, shuddering fearfully.

"Time to die," it purred silkily.  With a sharp intake of breath, the adults collapsed on the cold timber floor with a muffled thump, leaving two terrified children.  Oh how it loved the soul of children, still young and alive, still innocent to the world.  It smiled, once again showing its large, sharp and bloodstained fangs, which glinted, dully in the feeble rays of moonlight that streaked through the windows.  One child fainted while the other sat agape, mouth opening and closing, too scared and panicked to move.  Her body was then wracked with sobs.
"Please don't hurt us!" the child wailed, burying her face into her hands.  It laughed.  It was an insane high, cold out-of-control sound.  Its usual soft and vague voice was replaced with a laughter that raised the hair on your neck.

It was humourless.  It was terrifying.  It sealed your death warrant.

The child's eyes filled with tears that instantly slide down her face.
She screamed.  But before she could stop screaming, it had moved towards her with unearthly speed and sank its needle sharp teeth into her throat.

It felt the strangely deliciously satisfying taste of blood burst in its mouth, and shuddered with pleasure.  Her scream cut off with an agonized gurgle and crimson dribbled down her chin, into the gory and pulpy mess her throat was now reduced to.  It drew back, teeth now freshly stained.  It put its hood back on, the cowl hiding its skull of a face.  Its red slits in its eyes pulsed more ominous and red as ever.  It summoned four bottles that appeared out of thin air.  Their souls spiralled gracefully past their white lips and snaked, swirling and mysterious into the bottles, which it placed carefully into its pocket.

"Master will be pleased" it hissed as the sky started to blossom into a creamy pink.

"He will be very pleased indeed"

It hung its head, eyes now pulsing an evil magenta.  It murmured something inaudible under its breath and in a wisp of black smoke, it returned to the netherworld, its reign of terror completed for the night.

 

Judge's report

Beryl Exley

Greetings from the tropical savannah of PNG where I am working with teachers and teacher educators. My long term colleague and an esteemed teacher, Dr Linda Willis, has kindly made herself available to deliver this report on my behalf.


This year the number of entries in Section D burgeoned and I think Deb was almost apologetic about the size of the bundle that was shipped to me. Despite the volume, it was indeed a pleasure to see so many young writers sweat over every word choice and finally hand over their work for public consumption. I'd like to think there was a home and classroom celebration to mark the completion of each and every story. Writing your first short story for public consumption is a marvellous undertaking and achieving that task is worthy of a public celebration. This year 3 prize winners and 4 highly commended awards have been given in Section D Short Story for Years 6 & 7.


4th Highly Commended: 'Cuckoo Clock' A bizarre topic about two cuckoo clock birds who start out as foes but end up as friends provided a most satisfying read. This young writer resisted the urge to magnify emotions, instead showing a remarkable observance of everyday social interactions. I sense that this writer could make any topic interesting.


3rd Highly Commended: 'A Better Life' This young author showcased the benefits of undertaking some research of the context and content. Set in Afghanistan during a period of intense conflict, the young female protagonist inches her way across the border to Pakistan with the help of an unlikely accomplice. This piece would benefit from a title that creates anticipation rather than one that gives away the plot.  Nevertheless, 'A Better Life' is a gripping read and most deserving of being listed as a highly commended awardee for 2014.


2nd Highly Commended: 'And then Disaster Struck' The hallmark of this young author's work is what can be achieved with a simple but carefully planned plot. This author's sense of humour shines through as household shenanigans are documented in graphic detail but with comedic timing. I winced through every plan and the ensuing mishaps. The belly laugh moment was the thought of a human body coated in custard, powder and feathers. Andy Griffiths and Paul Jennings would have been immensely proud of this work had they conceived it!


1st Highly Commended: 'The Box' This young author knows how to develop rouge but likable characters through intense description and short but essential monologues that confirm the credibility of the character. This young author also offered remarkable observations about people's differing life circumstances. I was captured by the sentence which showed maturity beyond the author's young years: 'But the living was cheap'. The unpredictable but not unreasonable ending left me wanting to know what this character did with his unexpected windfall. It's a sign of a good story when readers ache to know the next instalment. 


3rd place winner: 'Ring of Fairy Tales' I've not read anything quite like this before and I've not seen anything like this explored in class either. Although 'Ring of Fairy Tales' had shades of Jon Scieszka's 'The Stinky Cheeseman and other Fairly Stupid Tales', it was still in a realm of its own. In the space of 800 words, this author pulled off the seemingly impossible - introducing an array of fairy tale characters to a plot completely removed from the oft-used fairy tale setting and certainly outside the domain of the fairy tale genre. This sophisticated use of intertextuality served to give the multiple characters more depth and thus made their actions and dialogue more credible. I can only but imagine the brainstorming and multiple re-drafts that had to take place with this short story; it's a credit to the author that it came together in the final version.


2nd place winner: 'The Return' This short story transcends historical and future time and earthly and intergalactic place. Shifting temporal and spatial relations are extremely difficult to manage and quite risky in the confines of a 725 word short story, but this young author achieved such an undertaking. I was also struck by this author's apt vocabulary for describing feelings and characters' responses to the issues of being displaced and assuming identities as intergalactic refugees, a result of being complacent with environmental conservation on Earth.  Although not for open discussion in the story, the moral themes were handled with a maturity not often showcased in the writing of young authors. I appreciated the way the author's cautionary vision of a future life stayed in my consciousness for days on end.


1st place winner: 'The Demon'   As undesirable as tautology is, I would have to say that this short story about a demon that tortures and bottles human souls to feed the Master's whim is simply delicious. The expansive emotional vocabulary and the syncopation of pithy sentences against complex and highly descriptive sentences worked a treat. I appreciated the author wanted to build some mystery around the demon, making reference in the third-person singular neuter pronoun of 'it', but use of 'it' to refer to the bottle, for example, created unnecessary ambiguity. This relatively minor comment should not detract from what is essentially a sophisticated piece of writing that begs for a future instalment for those who have the guts to read on.

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