100-word story competition: The winners

Reader's Digest Editors

After thousands of entries—and months of voting—we can finally reveal the winners of our short-story competition

Now in its eighth year, our 100-word-story competition continues to grow in popularity. The entries have flooded in during the past few months but while we’ve enjoyed reading every story, only a few can come out on top! You, our readers, voted to whittle the shortlist down to the ultimate winners—revealed overleaf. The finalists will also be published in an anthology, thanks to our sponsor Lulu.

 

Adult category

Winner

MONKEYS WITH MONEY AND GUNS

By Matt Soden, Chelmsford

Shaving the chimp and getting it into a suit was one thing, but getting it elected? Madness. Gullible, yes. The people weren’t stupid…were they? Sure, he looked like a businessman and he had even learned to talk, but what he knew about running a country you could write on the outside edge of a dollar bill—plus the animalistic urges remained. Less fiscal, more fist-full.

Let the people decide! Oh, I didn’t think…The world waited to see how this monkey business would end, as he sat beating his chest, staring at the big red button on his desk.

 

Runner-up

CONSIDERING THE WEATHER

By Noah Russell, Kent

Two boys lay in the grass, considering the weather. “The sun is very strong,” said one to the other. But under the tree, in-amongst the roots, it was cooler. The bells of the church rang out, the sound rushing through the soil, sending bone-quivering quakes down their spines. St Mary’s stood tall in its fertile grounds, the deep, green blades surrounding it appearing like an algae-covered lagoon, spattered with engraved, jutting rocks; the central spired building, a great flint island. In the yews, blackbirds hopped from branch to twig. The boys’ headstones cast arching shadows across where they lay.

 

Runner-up

ENCROACHMENT

By Penny Blackburn, Tyne and War

He presses the piano key, frowns. The soft, muffled sound does not match the crystal sharp note in his head. Not yet 30, his hearing has aged beyond him. Normal conversation has become impossible and he socialises rarely now, to hide it. He rages at the silence that encroaches further each day, feels a spasm of pain when he thinks of the music that is lost to him. 

He rests his head on the piano surface, feels the note’s vibration. This is what will be left when his world falls silent. Someone calls him:  ‘Ludwig! Ludwig!’ He does not hear.

 

The judges said:

“We were really impressed by the sheer ambition and scope of Matt’s story.  Literature has always played an important part in voicing some of our deepest fears and concerns as human beings in politically turbulent times, and this piece echoes the tradition with great force and pithiness. 

Discerning commentary is definitely Matt’s forte and we look forward to seeing more of it in the future.”

 

Matt said:

“I had no idea what I was going to write, I just wanted to start with a strong opening line and so the chimp in the suit came first. Then it was just a case of finding a big  but…and what could be bigger than getting it elected?  It just kind of flowed from there.

I’m beyond happy to have won and can’t wait to see my story illustrated and in print in Reader’s Digest.”

 

Under-12s category

Winner:

GAME OF SCONES

By Quin Williams, 11, Essex

I sat among my arch enemies: biscuits, cakes and worst of all—eclairs. I’m a scone (for those of you who don’t know what a scone is, it is a crumbly thing that posh British people eat with jam and cream while holding a cup of tea and going, “ahhh.”) It was almost time. The big moment—the afternoon tea. We sat on the tables, people started filing in. The eclairs were instantly snagged by the children—classic manouvere there. The adults nibbled on…biscuits? This wasn’t right. After 40 sad minutes, I was thrown away. No one likes scones.

 

Runner-up:

THE STORM

By Layla Farmer, 10, Porlock

This day, when the storm awakens, the black cat rises out of the sea. With foam shaping in its jaws, it slashes its talons at the raging waters, waves forming and hitting the land like a bullet. Fishermen’s ships cascade into the depths of the water, never to be seen again. The young lads at the sea-shore yell and dive for cover, but it is too late. Waves crash over, pulling them into the blue world below, but they escape just in time, for the black cat pounces onto the pier. Boats scatter, and the black cat settles to rest.

 

Runner-up:

WHY CATS AND DOGS AREN'T FRIENDS

By Fiona Stewart, 10, Surrey

Some years ago, though you may not believe it, cats and dogs were best friends. However, one day Kitty (a cat) suggested that they play Scrabble since they were all lazily lying around. Everyone agreed. Usually, animals play games that are in their own language, but on this occasion, they decided to play with an English version instead. Dogs learn commands from humans and because of this the dogs knew more English, so they won and the cats lost. They left, no longer friends but now worst enemies, all because of one game. And that is why cats hate dogs.

 

The judges said:

“We loved the sense of fun in Quinn’s story and his delightful flair for creating such a distinct (and unusual) character.

There’s a real variety of tones at play here: drama, humour, tragedy, nostalgia: it’s an impressive feat to unleash them all within just 100 words!

Quinn has a real talent for comedy, and we hope he writes more in the future.”

 

Quinn said:

“My ambition is to become an author, so I feel very proud and privileged to have won! I enjoyed reading the other shortlisters and thought I had some stiff competition. I was inspired to write Game of Scones when the 2Cellos’ version of Game of Thrones came on and I’d had a scone for breakfast (not something I do every day). The idea sprung into my head and Game of Scones was born!”

 

12-18s category

Winner:

THE THREADED HEART

By Aaysha Ahmad, 15, Buckinghamshire

Your stitches come undone, so you pick up a needle and begin sewing with your heartstrings. Honey as adhesive, silk as tape, your slits bind together, until fresh planes of skin begin emerging. Bit by bit. Layer by layer. And moment by moment, you’re healing. Heartbreaks are just surgery. Grazes are just stories. Somehow you have managed to turn destruction into a delicate piece of art. You bleed with a smile and then paint with the red, as the phantasmagoria you romantically call life repeats itself: your stitches come undone again. But your heart can only offer so much string.

 

Runner-up

THE AISLE

By Catherine Kerr, 17, Omagh

The woman walked slowly down the aisle. Up ahead, she could see the man she loved, looking down at his hands, thinking. Her own hands were wrapped around flowers: red roses. Pretty. She smiled. All around her were people, and in the background, she could hear soft music playing. A piano, humming through the air. A love song. She reached her fiancé at last and looked deep into his kind, loving eyes…“Baked beans for tea?” He asked, holding up a Heinz tin.  

“Sure,” she replied, placing the flowers in the shopping trolley. Together, they walked slowly down the aisle.

 

Runner-up

COLOUR BLIND

By Evie McLean, 16, Shropshire

Once, a girl told policemen the Indian neighbours had stones thrown through their windows. She defended the boy with dreadlocks when others tried to cut his hair. She got punched for stopping a bully removing a girl’s hijab. When people have no issue with another’s skin colour, or the style of their clothes, are they colour blind or are they living in a world where everything around them is as multi-coloured as multicultural? When she came out, her parents disowned her. But those she had stood by stood by her. It didn’t matter that she was white, and they weren’t.

 

The judges said:

“There’s something incredibly tactile and visceral about Aaysha’s standout story. She manages to capture the perpetual process of looking for love, having your heart broken and healing again—a journey we all go through—with both delicate poeticism and manual-like pragmatism. We were blown away by this 15-year-old’s wisdom and deliberation, and hope she continues writing moving, soul-searching prose.”

 

Aaysha said:

“I am absolutely delighted that this many people took my story to heart! The word ‘heal’ has overwhelmingly positive connotations, so I sought to illustrate its uglier side—the raw, honest truth. I’m glad people saw the message and realised that healing isn’t always accomplished with just silk and thread.”