A little over a week ago, I launched my two short story competitions (with prizes!) One of them is for a short story of up to 1000 words on the theme of TREASURE. How you choose to interpret that theme is up to you. You could write about money or jewels. Or the treasure may not be physical, but the search for the meaning of life or the treasure of achieving something important in life.
Free your mind and let you imagination take over.
Here’s my story – here the treasure in question is the treasured feeling of freedom:
I am falling like the darkness. All around me are unfamiliar smells and sounds, unknown predators weaving their way towards me. I steady myself and make for the safe sanctuary of the tree as the rain begins to stab at my eyes. I gulp, listening to the wind, no longer the gentle breeze of the day.
‘Sam. Sam.’ I’m sure I heard my name.
I know there’s no one there. My captors will have missed me by now, but they won’t find me. I am free at last.
‘Sam. Sam.’ There it is again. I laugh. It’s just the wind whistling through the tall grass.
I lie down on my makeshift bed of leaves and stare up at the vast branches above. I’m certain it’s an oak; I think I can see the acorns dangling down. My hands touch the mulch and mud oozes its way under my nails. I flinch. It’s only a worm gliding over my hands. I hope there aren’t any rats. There’s a squeak to my right. I scream. Small scurrying feet fade.
My stomach churns, a mixture of fear and hunger. Crisps, chocolate, cheese, bread – multi-coloured images of fresh food flash through my mind. But I had no choice. I had to flee, there and then.
The dazzling moon shines its pale blue brightness through the branches. Shadows dance around me, tall figures looming closer. I lean against the tree and my fingers claw at the gnarled bark. I wish I could merge with its trunk.
I stifle a yawn and my heavy eyelids droop. They jerk open. I can’t sleep. They won’t give up until they have me under lock and key once more. Eventually, my body takes over and I sink down onto my damp bed, the leaves squelching beneath.
A new brightness suddenly pricks my eyes. I battle to open them while the sun beams down on me to reveal a fresh new day. My aching body reminds me of my dreadful night’s sleep. There is a staleness in my mouth and I swallow a lump the size of a satsuma.
I struggle to my feet, my soggy clothes sticking to my body, their stench telling me they are more than two days old. Gagging, I stare down at them, an instant reminder that they aren’t my clothes, but conscription garments. I hope no one can see me. I stand out like a fox amongst a pack of hounds.
I scan the horizon. My eyes come to rest on a farmhouse. I grin. I will have breakfast today. I run towards it, sure I can smell the sizzling bacon. I stop. I will have to be careful. I can picture the farmer and his wife now – dashing to the telephone as I lunge outside, away and to freedom once more.
I peer through the grimy window. The furniture with its layer upon layer of dust and the cobwebs swinging to and fro are an indication of the building’s emptiness. I push the door and the ancient wood almost gives way at my touch. My fingers move quickly over the work surfaces. They fumble with the cupboard doors. My eyes are alive as a can of beans spills out onto the counter.
‘Sam. Sam.’ The door creaks my name and gapes open.
I can’t stay. The search will have started at dawn. I can almost feel their presence. I grab the can, my eyes fast and furiously seeking a can opener. A noise upstairs. I freeze. Footsteps are on the stairs. A tramp? Or is it them? Have they been lying in wait all along?
The can crashes to the floor. I sprint to the door, fighting the thick cobwebs as a spider tries out its new home in my matted hair. Almost falling over my feet, I grab the doorframe, using the splintered wood to hold myself back.
‘Looks like he came this way, Ted,’ a man says, not fifty yards away, ‘let’s check out that farmhouse.’
I run back inside and crouch in the corner. There are ten of them. For a moment I smile, proud of the number needed to restrain me. My smile disappears at another sound on the stairs. The kitchen door bursts open. My knuckles turn white as my grip on the cupboard tightens. My eyes are wide, staring at the creature now in the same room.
The huge dog flies at me, its claws sharp and teeth clenched. I flinch, my arms covering my face. Nothing. I dare to look. As suddenly as it came, the wild beast has vanished through the back door. I collapse against the cupboard, catching a moment’s breath, readying myself for the next fight.
The door bangs open. ‘Sam. Come on, Sam. We know you’re in here. Don’t make this any harder than it already is,’ the stern voice fails at pleasantries.
‘We’re a man down, Sam. That dog went for Ted in a big way. We just want to make sure you’re okay,’ another, kinder this time.
I smile. Only nine left to play with. I shan’t be fooled. They don’t care for me. A third set of footsteps enters the room.
‘Sam, it’s me. Look, son, enough is enough,’ a familiar voice now.
A tear pricks the corner of my eye. I blink it away. I can’t cry. I can’t let them see me like this.
Images flick through my head – a warm bed, hot food, friendly faces, love. I stand up. Suddenly, I run forward, allowing myself to be hugged close, safe in the strong arms.
‘Sam, we’ve been so worried about you. I wish you had said you weren’t happy at boarding school, instead of running away. Come on, son. Let’s get you home to Mum,’ Dad says.
I grin at him, my days as a fugitive firmly over.