The teen category of our Storytale Festival 2020 competition certainly didn’t disappoint! Inspired by both of our YA events, Gabriel Dylan’s Halloween Scare, and Kate Mallinder’s Feel-good Fiction for Teens, our judge, Roz Keir, founder of the Bristol Teen Book Award, commented on the entries: “all of these were a great read, enjoyed by me and my teenage children. Well done everyone!”
The winning story, which was inspired by Gabriel’s event, is If Only They Knew by Esha Dewa. Roz described it as “simple, beautifully told and chilling!”
Roz gave second place to The Delivery Man by 14-year-old Edith Kean calling it an “original idea and funny!”
Third place goes to When the Room is Silent by 13-year-old Lucy Jones, which Roz described as “a chilling idea with a twist.”
Congratulations to everyone who entered! Here’s Esha’s story.
IF ONLY THEY KNEW by Esha Dewa age 13
I’m Johnny Dalton. You may know me as the kid living at the corner of Vestela Avenue who never seems to go anywhere. Or, by what the other children like to call me – ‘pale face’. Either way, everybody knows of me, but nobody knows anything about me. Whatever you’re thinking, you’re probably wrong.
As I said, I live on the corner of Vestela Avenue, number 83. It’s quite a shabby street, where the blotchy bricks crumble at the touch; where the rooves yield to reveal the silvery cobwebs scattered in attics. I’ve never gone to school; I’ve never spoken to a soul. I’ve never felt the intense touch of the sun, only have I glimpsed the moonlight through the canopies of the woods. I won’t say I’m happy about it, as that would be a lie. I just try to be grateful for every day that’s thrown at me.
Having different responsibilities, different priorities to other children, I guess you could say I’m a bit of an outcast. I wish I could play in the park just like them or laugh along with them. How I hope to one day be able to thrive in the sun’s balmy blanket, absorbing myself in the tranquil breeze. But no, I must be honest with myself. I must accept my reality. Instead, I’m a figure of stoicism, with no way out. “Watch out for that kid, he just sits at his window watching us,” I hear them say as they stride past, their troublesome smirks flashing amongst the night’s sinister shadows. People these days will turn anything into conspiracy. I should know, I’m a conspiracy theory in clothes. If only they knew where their harsh words and gossips go.
It’s dark by now, and the shadows are starting to creep up the walls. Everyone has dispersed from the street, and the only sound that occupies it is the drumming of the rain as it plummets from the bristly trees.
Suddenly, I hear a shout. “They’re chasing me! Help!” Hearing the desperation in the voice, and the hasty patter of footsteps along the street, I begin to walk towards my front door. It’s her. The one person living on our street that has spared me a smile, the one person who never calls me names. She’s quite a skinny girl, always wearing rather scruffy clothes, not like the other kids. I try to restrain myself, but I feel compelled to let her in. The supressed voice in my head tells me that this is my chance, my chance to find someone just like me. This is what I’ve hoped for, a way to gain a friend – a fortuitous opportunity.
“Hey!” I shout, peering round my front door, my face hidden from the crepuscular illumination. She stops and turns around, her cocoa hair astray, her face ornamented with dewy tears. “Come inside. Come, quick!” Slightly reluctantly, she advances towards me, her hesitant footsteps slowly morphing into a hurried scamper. My inner budding self seems to sprout further as she comes closer, and I shudder as she steps foot into the corridor. Her brisk breath replicates the rapid beats of my heart. Realising her chasers are no longer present amongst the gloom, I shut the door behind her. She gasps for breath, and looks relieved, as if I had just saved her. If only she knew.
“Thank you,” she says, “you… you saved me.” I don’t smile back or acknowledge her words. My mind is buzzing with thoughts, arguing with itself, flittering between right and wrong. She looks confused, and I begin to get agitated. Taking a deep breath, I wait for the right moment.
Before giving it any more thought, I bring myself forward, and bite. My teeth pierce her fragile skin. She squeals in pain, the ruby blood trickling on the floor. The taste is entrancing, but seeing the cyan fading in her eyes, my desire for a companion overpowers my yearn for blood. I can’t bring myself to regret what I’ve just done, and any lingering doubts banish from my mind. It gives me a rush I’d never experienced before.
“Welcome to our world,” I declare, as she looks at me with an expression I can’t identify. She’s confused, horrified, grateful, all at the same time.
There’s a reason I don’t go out in daylight. A reason I live like I do. A reason I bite. If only they knew that I, Johnny Dalton, am a vampire.