The London School of Journalism

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July Short Story Competition Winner

July 2016 - Short Story

1st - Anne Morgan
Ashes & Sand

By Anne Morgan - 1st Place

Present day - St Ives

Flies swarmed round the headless, bloated corpse as screeching seagulls circled overhead like vultures. It was a sweltering morning in August. An ethereal figure of a young man hovered nearby as the sun scorched his skinny bones. In life, his eyes were piercing sapphire blue and broke hearts.

The mangled torso entwined in seaweed had been found by a woman out jogging just after dawn, washed up on Peregrine* beach.

As the body was driven away, three more ghostly figures of a middle aged couple & a young woman joined the young man and floated down the beach towards the sea.

Steadying his hand, knife poised, the rookie pathologist prepared to make his first incision.

Week earlier

James arrived in St Ives mid-afternoon after driving down from London with his mother's ashes to scatter in the sea. She had taken an overdose. Beside her body was an envelope containing a letter.

A month earlier, London's notorious black cab serial killer had been suffocated in his hospital bed. In her final letter, his mother had confessed to the killing.

James sunk several whiskeys in The Fisherman's Tavern before heading unsteadily down to the beach where he had spent idyllic summers as a child. The waves, like wild stallions, were coming in fast and storm clouds brewing.

Eight months earlier

On Christmas Eve the mutilated remains of Saskia, James's teenage sister, had been discovered dumped in bin liners near Embankment. She had been raped, strangled, stabbed & butchered. She was Jonathan Hardy's third victim. Shortly afterwards he was arrested after his forth potential victim, an off duty police officer, fought back.

Saskia's distraught mother, Jenny, recent widow of slain mobster Johnny Mack (whose killers were never apprehended) vowed revenge.

Month earlier

Thanks to 'inside' contacts at the prison where Mack was on remand, Jenny orchestrated a frenzied attack which would put him in hospital. An anonymous tip off revealed the whereabouts.

Disguised as an agency nurse, with a stolen ID badge, all she had to do was hold her nerve and foil the prison guard stationed outside his room. She would put the pillow over his head and personally finish the job.

Returning home, Jenny wrote her blue eyed boy a letter before calmly swallowing a handful of Valium. The black moth that slumbered in her heart had risen from the embers & unfurled its ugly wings again; the pain unbearable.

Present Day

As the scalpel slices into John Doe's flesh, an icy blast of salty air whips the pathologist's startled face & he hears the petrified screams of a drowning man.

A week later, horrified local fishermen discover a badly decomposed head and urn in their nets. The injuries suggest the victim was dragged under a boat. The urn contains waterlogged ashes and a disintegrating envelope.

And so the sea continues her onward journey, sometimes turbulent, sometimes calm but surely as the tide rises & falls, ashes will be scattered & footprints left on the sand.