We have had lots of amazing entries and the standard was high. The winning entry was written by Alexander Madakbas. Read his story ‘Phantas’ below.
Overhead I hear a noise. I rise to see a storm. It rages furiously as though it will never end. Raindrops like stones drop from the heavens and patter all around me, splashing up from the muddy ground. Above me, lightning flashes across the ghostly sky.
I shift my form. Like a mouse, I scamper to the cover of a nearby hole, shivering. I wait here for what seems like hours, while a torrent of water falls from the sky, obliterating everything in its path.
A boom awakens me. I have fallen asleep, afloat on a lake of rain. A crack opens in the sky. I know what will happen. A swirling vortex like the beads in a kaleidoscope twirls endlessly in the luminous sky; it is a dancer, whirling and whirling evermore to the music of numberless birds, roosting in trees; it is a beautiful beast, as if filling the air with the scent of Spring time, of comfort, of home. But it lies …
I will it shut. It obeys! I look up to a blue sky, white clouds, pollen drifting in the air. It comforts me. It makes me believe there is a future for me. But it lies …
Too soon, I lower my guard. Too soon, darkness pours in, extinguishing the clouds, extinguishing the sky, extinguishing my sense of home. I fall back to the ground. I taste blood. The vortex descends upon me. I am engulfed. Then everything vanishes.
When I next awake, the void is once again open. This time, I see pictures. My friends, my family: my old life. All so tantalisingly near. But yet, I know their ways. I know they know my mind. I won’t give them the satisfaction of victory. I won’t give them the satisfaction of my pain. I will never give in to them.
As if they hear me, a bitter wind picks up. Blistering wind tears at my battered clothes; it howls and whines, but will never conquer me. I yell my rage to the heavens. I hate this. I hate them. Trapped here on this phantom planet, this torturous world. Constantly having their might inflicted upon me. I hate them!
For the first time in years, dreams find me. I remember … the shots. Three of them, loud and clear. The crowd. Blocking my escape. The shouts, the cries for help. The perfect plan, gone wrong.
I get up. Pacing and pacing, shifting and shifting. Now a fox, then a bear, then a cat. I run. I run and run. The void has re-opened, but I keep running. The sky goes red, then orange, then blue, then black. I leave it be.
Like a sheet of glass, the crystal lake glitters with the light, catching it in its nets, stealing it away. I dive in, shift, and surface like an otter. I release all my anger in one terrible scream. I am seething.
Suddenly, the air cools dramatically. I look around, bewildered, and see … something. It’s saying… something. It has an eerie look about it, almost as if it’s a ghost or eidolon. Apprehensively, I edge towards it, and it lifts its head to reveal its face, with silver grey eyes…
Now I know what it is. It is me. My spirit. Muttering under its breath, it moves away, hovering just over the water, and I follow it. It comes to rest at the bank, and I resume human form. My spirit shoots upwards, and vanishes. I gaze down into the water, flat as a mirror, and look into my grey eyes – the mark of a shape shifter.