2023 Short Story Competition


Trigger warning for brief and non-explicit mention of death.

Light swirled in his pupils, like cream in cold brew. In that coldness, an unmistakable depth crouched, pleading. I dug my gaze out of the coldness and let it fall gently on his eyes.
“Did no one look for you?” I asked.
“They looked.”
There was a thin gap between my lips, just enough for words to pounce on my next curiosity. He noticed this curiosity and continued.
“But they took a good look, turned around and never looked back.”
I wanted to ask why. I wanted to ask who they were. I wanted to ask a whole bunch of questions but I knew — by the recoil of his knees into his chest — that he was not in an answering mood.
He buried his head in his knees, curls of his hair crashing into them like waves. I heard rustling leaves.
“I have to eat too, you know,” he said. “They just don’t care.”
He glanced up from behind the crest of his knee. One slow blink, then another. I saw — for the first time — his bare scowl. It waxed and waned, like a rabid hound struggling against its leash. His pupils were still except for the swirling light in them. However, a famished expression soon devoured his pretense and a cruel hunger launched his hands at me.
“You’re mine!” he said.
A sharp whistle shot through the air and a thud answered promptly. The light leaked out of his eyes, spilling into a pool around his head. The hilt was warm but my palm unfurled and let the clatter of metal meet the air. In solidarity with the deceased, my palm welcomed the cold.

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