The shortlisted and winning writers of the Noirwich flash fiction competition were revealed at the finale of this year’s festival, Noirwich Live with Elizabeth Haynes, on Sunday 16 September.
Read Hannah Scuffham’s shortlisted story, ‘No Turning Back’, below.
No Turning Back
It started with a familiar feeling. As she left the warmth of the church and the comforting chatter of her fellow sewing group members she felt a dread creeping into the pit of her stomach. It was an unwelcome sensation that she hadn’t experienced in many years.
Next came the glimpse of movement from the corner of her eye as she hurried along the cobbled streets of Tombland. She turned sharply, sure she had seen a reflection in the window of a darkened cafe. There was no-one behind her, the only other people venturing out on this rainy winter’s evening were a couple huddled under the bus stop on the opposite side of the road.
As she made her way through the gates and into the Cathedral grounds she wrapped her coat tighter around herself. It couldn’t be him. It just couldn’t. She had made sure he would never be able to find her. She clearly remembered arriving in Norwich, on a night not dissimilar to this one, with just a suitcase containing all that she dared bring from her previous life. She had chosen the city at random. It sounded small enough not to overwhelm her, but big enough to get lost in. She would be safe here – and for nearly a decade she had been. Lately she had begun to even feel a spark of her former self. She decided she wanted to pursue her old dreams of starting her own business and had joined the sewing group as a way of meeting people and brushing up on her old needlework skills. But perhaps she had got complacent. Just as she had started to finally breathe again it seemed he had found her, and suddenly her lungs felt so constricted she could practically feel the grip of his hands on her neck.
She began to run, almost slipping on the wet ground. Why had she come this way? It was so isolated and she would soon be at the river where the streetlights would no longer protect her. She was certain she could hear footsteps close behind her and quickened her pace. She wanted to call out for help but the words were caught in her throat.
She could hear his laboured breathing now, was sure she could sense the hand reaching out for her. If she didn’t act now this would be the end. She came to an abrupt stop and in one swift movement reached into her bag, pulled out her dressmaking scissors and swung around to face the figure behind her.
As she plunged the point of the weapon into the man’s neck she locked eyes with him. His face was frozen in shock as he fell backwards, his hands desperately trying to stem the flow of blood.
She stood completely still, time seemed to have slowed and all she could hear was the beating of her own heart.
What had she done? She had been so certain.
Longlist for the Noirwich flash fiction competition
Jacqueline Beard, Kate Dillon, Mariah Feria, Sandy Horsley, Jemima Pett, Jane Phillips, Hannah Richmond, Emma Styles, Donna Tracy, Cally Worden