Announcing the Winner of our Prince of Fools Writing Contest

Posted: April 13, 2014 in Competitions, Prince of Fools
Tags: ,

1964414_10152217178357156_1227909861_nWe are delighted to announce that the judges have come to a decision and have selected a winner of our Prince of Fools Writing Competition out of the many excellent entries.

Congratulations go to Håkan Pettersson, for his entry The Chauffeur.


With the overall high standard of the entries we would also like to give a special mention to the runners up:

First runner up: Mary NThe Hunt

Second runner up: Matthew Yeo, Motley

A huge thank you to everyone who entered and to our most excellent judges panel. Please see the shortlisted entries below, with some feedback from our judges.

The Chauffeur

Stockholm News on the radio. A double homicide. Apparently a gang-related shooting.
Parked outside a discreet club in the suburbs, the chauffeur listened idly.

“This city is going to shit”, he muttered.

He felt the same way about his life. After 18 years driving cabs, this offer had felt like hitting the jackpot. From minimum wage driving businessmen, tourists and drunken fools – to having a limousine and making impressive money with very little work involved.

Be available, don’t ask questions and don’t ever meet your clients’ eyes. Seemingly simple instructions.

The news report had given over to Classic Hits, when a noise outside the limo announced his client’s arrival.

A glance in the rear-view mirror showed a woman and three teenage boys entering the cab. The chauffeur’s heart sank. He didn’t like it when his clients brought company.

Laughter and champagne bottles could be heard from the back seat. The chauffeur headed north, raising the volume on the radio.

Always the same destination. It wasn’t far, but his clients liked him to drive around for an hour or so before arriving.

Sounds from the back were still audible. More strained now. The giggles had an edge of hysteria. Prince was on the radio. Purple Rain.

“I never meant to cause you any sorrow.
I never meant to cause you any pain.”

Sudden heat. Giggles turned to screams. Panicked shrieks. And below that, a low frequency humming, felt rather than heard. The Chauffeur swallowed and drove on.

An hour later he arrived at the destination, waited ten minutes, and walked around the car. His client had gone, but there were… remnants. And the smell of sulfur. The limo would need to be cleaned.

The chauffeur closed his eyes. The city and his life were indeed going to shit.

by Håkan Pettersson

Atmospheric little horror piece with a powerful sting in the tail and a clever and unique interpretation of “prince.”

– Luke Scull

What made The Chauffeur the winning entry for me was a superb combination of characterization, pacing, and story—all rolled into three hundred words. Congratulations, The Chauffeur is a very nice piece of horror flash fiction.

– Teresa R. Frohock

An excellent piece with a particularly well crafted tone. The combination of a tightly contained setting, controlled narrative and very well written character made for a high-impact piece of fiction.

– Snorri Kristjansson

A well crafted piece on a man habituated to horror. Complete in itself, but left you wanting more.

– T.o. Munro

An understated story viewed from a secondary angle that manages to inject considerable horror into just a few paragraphs and present us with the banality of evil in the form of a chauffeur.

– Mark Lawrence


The Hunt

The beast let out a final earth-shaking roar before it collapsed on the forest bed, slain.

Breathing heavily, Prince Robert approached the maiden whose screams of fear had attracted his hunting party’s attention. She was collapsed against a tree, unharmed.

“My lady,” he said, helping her up. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m wonderful! Why, I owe you my life.” The maiden leaned onto him, pressing a hand to his chest.

“Truly, it was nothing-“

“I see that your armor bears the royal crest. You must be the prince born under the burnt sun,” she continued. “I have heard many stories-“

“Ah, no,” he said. “I’m afraid that was my cousin.”

Her grateful smile twitched. “Oh, I can’t believe I didn’t see it before! How silly of me. By your clear blue eyes, you must be the son of the seven waters-“

“You must be thinking of my half-brother.“

“Daughter of the tempest?” the maiden tried.

“What? No,” he said. “There is neither absurd witchery nor superstitious drivel in my blood. I am Prince Robert, born to -”

“So you and your lot are just fools on a camping trip? No exciting quest you have set out to fulfill? No thirst for adventure you are attempting to sate?”

Robert groaned. “No. No quest. No adventure.”

“I see. That just won’t do,” the maiden said, stepping away and straightening her dress. “Come Morty, let’s see if we can find ourselves a real prince.”

The beast pulled itself from the ground and shook itself off. She climbed atop it and seated herself with the primness of a nun. “No hard feelings, I hope,” she called out.

The royal hunting party watched them ride off into the sunrise.

“Second maiden we’ve lost this fortnight,” Robert sighed. “Well, third time’s the charm.”

by Mary N

This was funny—and just plain fun—with the twist of the women using their distress and frightening beasts to lure a potential mate. I also enjoyed the banter. Again, the issue here for me was pacing and that is so hard to accomplish with a three hundred word story. You made me laugh with this story, and writing an entertaining tale is half the battle.

– Teresa R. Frohock

Very clever and well written.

– Snorri Kristjansson

Well written with humor in the lines as well as the whole.

– Mark Lawrence



“To wear the motley is to balance wit with motion. Steel in the one, softness in the other.”

The words of his grandfather still echoed in his ears as Laserre slipped into the stretches and calisthenics he had been taught, grandfather to father to son, stretches that seemed longer and more painful every year. In his head he saw his Grandfather stumble. He saw the wince and heard the pop in the knee, so carefully hidden behind the never ending smile, and remembered the fear as he was rushed in stumbling, too young, to fill his place. The Black Fools were bigger than any one man.

In his head he ran through the pits. The Duke of Callowall was a cuckold. The bishop of Rheins buggered children. The crown prince still wet the bed at 8 summers. Skewer, but not too close, his father had said. Leave but a spot of blood and nothing more or necks will be wrung and wrung tight.

The motley slid on, easy but too loose. He tucked in the mended sleeve edge with practiced care. His right boot heel felt loose. Juggling the cobbler, tailor and food was infinitely harder than juggling balls.

The greasepaint was last, the transformation achieved quickly. One minute man, the next maudlin. He was just putting on the cap ‘n bells when the ragged curtain was pulled back. Ghoros thrust his face in, red-nosed and stinking.

“Time to dance, little clown. This time try to give ‘em a little more of the bump and wiggle.”

Once, it was minuets and court. Now it was a concertina, drunken fingers and ignorance. He slipped on The Face and danced in, grinning through the reek and noise, capering sideways in a practiced stumble. The show must go on.

by Matthew Yeo

Made powerful use of the language to inject considerable atmosphere into just 300 word – a restrained but poetic touch produced prose I would be proud of. It seems unreasonable to ask more of such a short piece, but a lack of tension/momentum was probably why such fine word-smithing allowed this entry to reach the top 3 but not the top spot.

– Mark Lawrence

Excellent prose; possibly the best-written story I read on a line level, though lacking in tension & ultimately impact.

– Luke Scull

This was exquisitely written with atmospheric use of language, felt a bit like seeing a shot of Tony Hancock in his dressing room, but lacked that sense of dramatic tension needed to drive it to the top of the list.

– T.o. Munro


New Solitude

A rock fell from the cliff above. Gilbert spun, eyes squinting.

A woman stood at the edge of the world. The morning sea breeze whipped her gown like a plague of microdrones. Her face was in shadow, but sunlight flowed along the glitter of technology braided along her bare arms.

“What do you want?”

She answered by turning into a swarm, diving down next to him and coalescing back into shape. He turned away.

“You look like her.”

“I am her.”

“I’m not a fool. I know she’s dead.”

“She was a flawed genetic clone. I am the original.”

His body shook, blood pounded.

“That fact does not make her any less special,” the woman said. Her appearance shifted. Any tell-tale sign of her technology disappeared. The iridescent shine to her eyes left, leaving the deep brown he knew so well. Her hand came up to caress his cheek and he let her.

“We only want what is best. One coupling and you will save humanity,” she said.

“You want me to fuck you?”

“We’d rather a complete integration.”

He pushed her away, and made a haphazard retreat. He tripped, going down on his ass on the sandy beach.

“I’m human. I don’t want to be—“

“Like me? I was human – once. Now, I am like a god.”

“Controlled by…what?”

“Code. A set of rules developed fifty thousand years ago. It has worked remarkably well for us. You are the last of humanity, Gilbert. A prince among none. Would you rather let the human species go extinct, or join a new one?”

“I’d rather be my own person. Make my own decisions.”

“We are all bound by our code.”

After a moment’s thought, Gilbert stood and walked into the ocean.

by N. E. White

This piece stood out by moving into a very distinct setting and squeezing a lot of story, but not too much, into the tiny space on offer. Combining this with some well turned phrases secured a place on the shortlist

– Mark Lawrence


The Price We Pay

The rain fell in a steady cascade that whispered of empty streets and warm fires. It poured down on Pembleton Library as an elderly gentleman struggled through the doors with a large package. A small group of children, gathered around an empty chair, turned at the sound and gazed excitedly upon the painting Ralph began to reveal.

Ralph made his way over to the empty chair and propped the painting up for all to see. A window into desolation sat before them as they looked upon a faraway king, sitting in a barren hall that leached the colour from the world around it. Distressed murmurs ensued before a nervous, ‘why is the man so sad?’ arose from the crowd.

‘His name is the Melancholy Prince, and in his heart he held a loneliness that drove him from all that is real.’ The children leaned in, listening intently to every word Ralph said. ‘He was a man who fell in love with a paper doll, but he was so blinded by love that he forgot all about the rain; only to be reminded as his happiness turned to horror when the rain tore into her flesh like one thousand tiny arrows. He sold everything in his kingdom to try and regain his love, but to no avail. Now he spends his days sitting alone in his sadness and living in a world inside of his head where his love has not disappeared.’

Marcie’s mother sat behind the rest of the parents, attempting to hide the fact that she was constantly occupied. ‘What fools, listening to the drivel of an old man. Who would be stupid enough to fall in love with a paper doll‘, she thought to herself as she checked her bank balance for the fourth time that day.

by Hannah Brian

I really loved this particular piece, especially for the clever twist at the end. I love stories that have a message embedded in the prose, and I believe this piece handled that objective very subtly and well. Unfortunately, this was another case of the story being cheated by the word count. The author focused on atmosphere, which was very good, but I would have loved to have seen more of the king’s story told, so it was more a matter of pacing for me. It wouldn’t take much at all to craft this into a very nice short story.

– Teresa R. Frohock


 The King, The Fool

It was a misty morning the day I decided to end my life. The sun was but a knife edge on the horizon, a pale orange ember. I looked down at the sidewalk thirteen stories below and imagined my corpse splattered at the bottom.

We all have regrets. Words said, or not said, that haunt our every waking moments. Deeds done that sicken us to our very core, deeds that have consequences for both those involved and those not. Some can move past these regrets with no real backlash, trade their unhappiness for a dull ache and a feeling of guilt. Others find it more difficult, and find themselves looking down at the street below.

I have many regrets; but my biggest regret is existence I mean creating it. Take in everything, and sit enlightened when I tell you that it’s all my doing.

I’m God; I’m not Christian, not Muslim, not Orthodox. I’m not anything you’ve labelled me, I simply am.

If I could, I’d end it all. You wouldn’t even know; one moment you’d be handing over the cash for your latte, and then next there would be nothingness.

But I can’t. I made the rules, I’m the most powerful being in creation. You’d think if something displeased me, or something was broken, I’d be able to fix it. Yet even I can’t change the game I made. I’m a prisoner in my own construction. Forced to wander around the Earth for eternity, because what else can God do?

No hesitation. I stepped off the ledge, knowing full well I’d be back in the same position in a day or two.

You call me the King of Heaven, the Creator, the Wise, the Just.

In the end, I’m just the Prince of Fools.

by Alexander McCrorie

Struck out in a different direction to many with a piece that had not so much a twist as a sharp kink in the middle. Thought provoking but perhaps too ambitious a concept for the word limit, with a God it was difficult to warm to. Hence shortlisted but not placed in the top three.

– T.o. Munro


A Sweet One, And A Fool

“Have you enjoyed the feast, Wayland?” Geswin’s voice interrupted his thoughts. She leaned down, giving him an eyeful of the long line of her throat. “You don’t look well, my prince. You should come with me.”

“I’m not a prince,” Wayland replied thickly, setting down his empty cup. He willed himself to his feet. “I just live here with Andvari. I’m just a blacksmith.” For some reason this fact seemed very important to Wayland in his stupor, so he fixated on it.

“You’re a king then?” The Valkyrie laughed, guiding him by the elbow toward the back of the hall.

“We shouldn’t leave. Andvari’ll be upset.” Wayland’s mind was working much too slowly, like honey dripping off a spoon.

“Andvari’s fine. Odin wanted to discuss something important.” They veered down a hallway and then into a dark bedroom that smelled of down and wool. He stumbled against the edge of the bed and felt Geswin push him down on the mattress. She was on top of him then, lithe limbs enfolding his. Where had her dress gone?

“What are you doing to me?” Wayland’s head swam. A distant part of his mind became alarmed when he felt her slip the knife from his belt and pull at his shirt. Her body was a pale gleam in the dim room.

“No. Stop it,” he whispered. “I need to find Andvari…” As his mind rebelled against her ministrations, his body complied. The last thing he was conscious of was the weight of her hips on his, rhythmic motion, and then darkness. He did not wake when Geswin rose from the bed, unsheathed his knife, and slit the leather thong securing the key around his neck.

The Valkyrie paused at the door, looking back. “You’re a fool,” she murmured. “Both fools.”

by Meg Floyd

Well written, atmospheric and subtly dark, this piece left a lingering impression on me. I particularly liked the Valkyrie – her character was deftly sketched.

– Snorri Kristjansson


 The Eternity Crypt

“Time is no ‘Great Destroyer’ in this place.” The old man’s words fall to dust and settle across the ancient book beneath his mottled hands. “It paces its frustration from beyond a looking-glass. It stares in at us watching, waiting. It sharpens all around us, but is incapable of reaching through.” His pus-stained lips and remaining green teeth produce his vowels in utter clarity, while his consonants slur as if masticated into paste.

He looks up and locks his gaze with mine. His eyes are blind: green-ringed marbles sunken in pools of aging milk. Yet he sees me as clear as I see him, and, oh, how I see him. I see his yellow fingernails scraping against the book’s crumbling leather cover. I see a translucent grub squirm from his ear and fall into his lap. His body shakes with every breath, and the cobwebs in his stringy hair quiver with his heart’s every beat.

Yes, I see him. He is an aging, but undying, Prince of Rot and Decay.

He watches me and begins to speak once more, his breath hot with fever and disease. He speaks, but I slam my fists against the filthy table and ignore his philosophizing. I say, “You claim time holds no power here. Yet you decompose before my eyes, ravaged by unending life. You offer me an eternity in which my own flesh will mold and fall away.”

“There’s always a price,” he replies. His tone pleads me to stay. I shrug his beggar eyes aside, stand, and gesture for the book. He hands it over, taking no notice as its weight snaps two of his finger bones.

I turn to leave. At the threshold, I whisper, “Yours is an offer for cowards, terrified of dying, acquired at a price for fools.”

by Adam Carter

Nice little snapshot. Very good descriptive writing that borders on taking itself slightly too seriously, but ultimately doesn’t. Consequently there is little space for the ending, but the author does very well with what he has.

– Snorri Kristjansson


Just Desserts

Gooseberry fool wriggled in its bowl. Alongside laid two spoons. Two halves of an intestinal-red berry stared at Rebecca from the custard, knowing it was too late. She was already in the dining hall, forty-seven footsteps from the man who called himself prince.

For eight years, Rebecca padlocked the pantry, keeping its key fortified between her breasts. She pressed her ear to keyholes. Squeezed life through droppers. Licked spatulas. And waited in fear.

But not tonight. Tonight, poison came from her own hand.

The false prince once scraped the bowl clean and demanded seconds. That was before his oak chair was gilded gold, before he shaved all but the circlet of hair, outgrown and twisted upward like sun-withered roots. Before fools chanted his name. Before he traded machines for the boy.

The boy sat nearby, his shaved-side facing the prince in servitude. “I accept your offering on my Prince’s behalf,” He smiled at Rebecca, his remaining eyebrow arched over an eye so like her own.

“May it please his Majesty,” Rebecca fought the urge to knock the spoon away. Instead, she shuffled backward, never exposing the hair-side of her head. At twenty-three steps, her son finished the compulsory third spoonful.

“Boy’s growing fast. Cook, can he have another spoonful?”

“One more won’t hurt.” Her son’s antivenom-rich veins could outlast half a bowl. Maybe…

“No, I imagine it won’t. What about a fifth?” He shoveled fool in her son’s mouth, “Sixth? How many before it hurts?”

Rebecca was no longer backing up. She was charging when the bullet unpeeled her stomach like overripe berries. Her son stumbled towards her before retching.

“Promote a cook,” he yelled, gun smoke curling through his crown of hair, “and fetch me her son.”

Revelation stopped Rebecca’s heart: Her son’s danger lived only while she did.

by Abigail Dunard

A busy piece that crammed a lot of plot into 300 words. Nodes of a great story leapt out from its short lines, but in the end too much of a quart squeezing itself into a pint pot to make it into the top three.

– T.o. Munro




  1. Adrian Bickley says:

    Worthy winner. Congratulations. Nice to have the judges comments as well. Gives some pointers for those of us who didn’t make the shortlist.

  2. sourmead says:

    Congrats to the winner and thank you Snorri Kristjansson for your comment on my entry. 🙂

  3. Dan James Brown says:

    Congratulations to a great winner well deserved, I was very impressed with all the entries so well done to all

  4. N. E. White says:

    Yes, indeed, all worthy entries. Congrats to the winner!

    I haven’t read the complete list (80 plus, right?), but plan to. Also, thanks to Mark Lawrence for his comment on my piece. Much appreciated.

  5. buried toast says:

    What a wonderful opportunity!

    A hearty congratulations to the winner. It has been a pleasure writing with you all.

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