Short Story Competition Winner
The first Hellens Short Story competition took place towards the end of 2020, arranged on social media. We are very pleased to be able to publish the winning entry, “Crewel Yule“.
Crewel Yule by Viv Burdon
It was time.
They gazed sightless through the window where the blackest of nights peered back fashioning dancing shadows in their candle light. Melancholy filled the room with each sad toll of the bell. “She be sadder than sad this Yule Tide my sisters”.
Nodding slowly the old one spoke. “Her confined sorrow these many years has harmed us not. But ‘tis said this night she will beckon forth the unsettled souls. The Catholic’s martyred protector will soon roam through the Great Hall destroying the saturnalian revelry laid out for the morrow”.
The third sister wrung her hands and whispered “His rage and cries will bring forth the lost and tormented. Our young women’s wrath too will be free to roam wild. Together, their swollen hate will wreak vengeance on the farmers of this parish. The soil will perish for decades to come”.
“Hell is empty, all the devils are here” wailed the first.
The old sage spoke again “Take heart young one, for it is foretold that whilst May Hill can still be seen through those menacing clouds we are safe. So make haste, fetch hither a flagon of Hellens’ finest Gwehelog Perry. We must work sisters. As in centuries past, when doom has dared to venture out, we have toiled, and so we must toil again this night. Be at peace my dear ones. This too will pass“.
The bell tolled on and the Monk’s rage grew and the gifted ones worked that long cruel Yule.
As eternity passed, their fingers crafted images, their heads bowed together. And then closer. Better for rheumy eye to catch the last single hair of wool glide through the tight circle of cloth.
“’Tiss complete”. hardly words, more a breath or a sigh.
Their frail fingers smoothed the teeming dragonflies and bumblebees as the tree of life emerged from its wooden hoop. “There there” they crooned. Centuries unfurled beneath their gnarled nails. Their hands soothed and calmed the stitches that untold the turmoil of times passed. Pictures imagined and then revealed to those who will take time to see. “We must hang these drapes now before full light dawns. Drawn, they will set forth the wrongs that our crewel work hath put right”.
The dawn washed light through the Manor heralding brighter spirits. These merry makers dusted away sorrows and festooned joy with their sprigs of holly and mistletoe. Soon Hellens did flush with families and friends, marvelling at all things past and present. And those that took time to pause by some window or door, sensed they glimpsed a young woman, fair and smiling, drifting across wildflower meadows towards the ancient woods. Or was that an old monk, sipping sweet-mead, crouched within his cloistered physic garden?
Spirals of life delivered back to nature. But, nothing remains of those that worked magic through the night, save for the finest of drapes and motes of wool dancing in the shafts of the festival light.
Here are some other entries we thought we would share with you:
Some Sunny Day by Shelagh Newman
When the letter first arrived Jean’s immediate reaction was to put it in the bin.
She didn’t recognise the handwriting – the postmark was unreadable – there was no address at the top and no signature at the bottom. It said “Meet me at 3pm Hellens Manor next Thursday, favourite spot”.
Jean hadn’t visited Hellens Manor all summer. When Johnnie was alive they would visit as often as they could. They loved to walk down to the lake and marvel at how different it looked according to the weather. They would stroll among the standing stones trying to decipher the uplifting words. They always ended up in the same place on a bench in amongst the flower beds. They loved the magical atmosphere of the old buildings, the birdsong and the flowers which added up to so much more.
Since Johnnie died Jean couldn’t bring herself to go alone. She missed him badly. When he became ill in the spring he was whisked off to hospital. The Corona virus rules prevented her from visiting and Johnnie died before they had a chance to say goodbye. Her sadness deepened all through the summer. She had reached a very dark place and she hardly left the house at all.
The invitation to Hellens was impossible to consider although it was only a short walk away. As the days passed she became more and more intrigued by the request. She was curious – then vaguely excited.
At 3pm on the following Thursday Jean headed for her favourite spot on the bench by the flower bed. It was a chilly day but when the sun came out it felt good. She lifted her face to the light and closed her eyes. She felt that Johnnie was beside her – she felt his love surround her. He was warm and real. He kissed her cheek and said goodbye.
Hellens Manor by Elesha Leighton, aged 9
Today my mum and step dad are going on a honeymoon so I’m left with Aunty Rose. She is so old fashioned.
“Please can I have 1 hot chocolate and a donut “I asked the waitress giving him the money. Out of nowhere a train came, my train OH NO PLEASE WAIT!!! I screamed at the top of my lungs luckily I got on the train. But then I got a message from Aunty Rose
Hi Ellie, I can’t pick you up sorry but I’ve sent you a taxi
LOVE Aunty Rose :]
Just great I’m going in a taxi with a person I don’t know! At least Aunty Rose uses a proper phone. After a while I looked out of the window because I bored, but then I saw some roads that I didn’t recognise. I got out of the taxi there was a long driveway leading to a house but not just any house this was a huge Manor house. I went up the drive to ask for directions when I looked up I saw some strange markings. I knocked at the door, a man answered a kind looking man I said sorry to bother you but I’m a bit lost can you tell me some directions please, the kind man stepped backwards and replied it looks freezing out there why don’t you come in. I stepped in and I saw the biggest hallway I had ever seen in my whole life, it looked grander than grand, I needed to use the bathroom so I walked up the squeaky stairs looking all around me in amazement, I saw a door in front of me and opened it, there it was I was in the room with all the markings, it had bars on the windows and it felt like a prison, I imagined myself being stuck in this room all alone with no one to talk to, the room felt chilly and I was a bit scared so I walked anxiously out of the room wondering about the bars on the windows and all the markings, I quickly used the bathroom then walked quickly down the stairs to ask the kind man what happened to the person who lived in that room, meanwhile I had told auntie rose the name of the house and the information the man had given me and she was arranging to pick me up, the kind man offered me a hot chocolate and that’s when I asked him about the room, he told me all about a girl called Hetty and how she got locked up by her mother and made the words on the window. I was amazed by what the man was telling me , my phoned pinged it was aunty rose she was here, I was so sad to be leaving as I wanted to find out so much more about Hetty and the house.
Ghosty Story Hellens Manor (castle) by Isabella Leighton, aged 4
(Isabella says she has seen a ghost in the area near the cafe before, so Isabella’s has been typed as she told it)
Ghosty story Hellens Manor (castle)
The ghosty in the house in a dress, it was scary it ghost move it came see us a follow us, it freaky. It went through wooden door in little house and back in castle. Me saw its face and it looking in the room, she had blue dress in little house and pink dress in castle. Me run back to table tell Nanny Plum. Me went in little house Nanny plum, Grandad and Elesha, I see it little eye Elesha,Nanny plum Grandad not see it they looking round. I go on swing.