Retired civil servant, Tony Oswick, is the winner of the Creative Writing Awards 2013. A proud granddad, he lives in Clacton-on-Sea and is married with three grown-up children.
He plays table tennis “badly but regularly,” is a supporter of Essex cricket (in the summer) and FC Clacton (in winter).
A founder member of ‘The Seaview Scribblers’ writing group he said, “I am greatly honoured and really pleased to have won.”
Here is Tony Oswick’s winning story:
Spacemen from the Stars
[dropcap color=”#000000″ font=”arial”]P[/dropcap]rofessor Conrad Sanderson held his breath. His assistant, Fergus Poole, stood silent beside him. The rat ignored them both as it meandered around the clearing, its tail guiding like a rudder, its black eyes glimmering in the semi-darkness, its nose twitching as it searched out grubs. The creature’s ears flattened as if sensing a distant sound but, hearing nothing, continued its foraging. For the last four decades, Professor Sanderson had studied rats of every shape, size and breed on all five Continents. Now, here in the half-light of the South American jungle, was the Holy Grail, the culmination of a lifetime’s work. Abrocoma aureus. The Venezuelan golden rat.
The two naturalists watched the rat scurry around the undergrowth, silently urging it to stray towards their carefully-set trap. On cue, the rat spied the pile of juicy grubs and, with a spring, dived towards them. As it did so, the door of the trap clicked shut, snaring the rat in the wire cage.
Fergus signalled a thumbs-up, aimed his torch at the cage and watched the Professor’s smile of success as he lifted the golden rat to eye-level. It was the first time a human being had ever seen a Venezuelan golden rat – and the first time a Venezuelan golden rat had seen a human being.
Time was of the essence. First sedation, then examination and documentation back at base camp in preparation for later analysis, and finally back to the clearing to return the rat to its home.
So it was that, five hours later, Fergus Poole returned to the clearing to release the rat back into the jungle. He shone his torch at the cage, opened the door and, like a greyhound out of a trap, the golden rat scuttled into the undergrowth to search out the safety of its burrow.
In her burrow, the female golden rat was worried. Her whiskers quivered in anxiety. Where was he? Her mate had been gone too long. Had a snake or bird of prey got him? How would she cope on her own with a litter of twelve youngsters – and another brood on the way? Then she heard his familiar pattering. “Where on earth have you been? I’ve been worried sick. There was I thinking our children would be fatherless orphans.” The words gushed like a torrent.
“Calm down woman,” said her mate. “You won’t believe what’s happened”.
The female sighed. “I’m all ears. Tell me.”
“Well, I was sniffing around in the clearing as usual when I saw a heap of grubs. The next thing I know, I’m trapped in a cage. There was a blinding light in my eyes and this ugly monster lifted me up and stared at me. I just played dumb. Then another monster arrived, chattering in some foreign language. They carted me off to a creepy-looking place and – wait for it – stuck something in me. I blacked out.”
The rat sensed the female’s scepticism. “Yes, I know it sounds strange but hear me out. The next thing I know I’m in the cage but back in the undergrowth. I thought I was a goner. Then there was another flash and the cage door opened. Well, I ran back here as quick as you like.”
The female rat raised her eyebrows. “And you expect me to believe that?”
“But it’s the truth. Every single word.”
“How many times have I told you not to eat those berries? They do things to your mind. Monsters? Traps? Lights? What do you take me for? Or have you been to that other burrow – with her? You promised you’d never go there again. Do you think I’m a fool?” And with that she huffed, turned her back on him and went straight to sleep.
Five thousand miles away, Molly Behrens is sitting in a Devon police station. It’s the village constable’s house but the front room doubles-up as the station office.
Constable Derek Prosser is a patient man but Molly Behrens is the last person he wants to see. She lives in a cottage on the edge of the moors, three miles away. Sometimes she becomes fixated about someone – or something.
“But I tells you Constable, I sees it with my own eyes. I were locking hens up at seven o’clock. Moon and stars were all out, not a cloud in the sky, when I notices one of the stars light up brighter than the rest. Then it sort of explodes and I see something shiny coming towards me – and this gigantic saucer-shaped spacecraft lands no more’n a hundred yards away. Silver it were, glowing like hot metal. Before I has time to think, the light goes out, there were a big wind and I were blown off my feet through the door of the spacecraft.”
Constable Prosser groans.
“I were in this huge room, big as a mansion it were, white with coloured buttons on the ceiling. Four weird creatures comes towards me, slimy-looking things covered in green scales, with no arms or legs, shuffling like blobs of Plasticine and making a humming noise. I feels a pain in the back of my head and I passes out. When I comes round, I were back outside hen-house. No spacecraft, no lights, no wind, no nothing. Just me and the hens. I looks at my watch. It were midnight. Five hours had gone. I were in the spacecraft all that time. I tells you, Constable, I were abducted by aliens.”
“All very interesting but don’t you think it’s a bit far-fetched, Molly? Like a bad dream?” Molly tries to interrupt but Constable Prosser raises his hand. “Why don’t you go home and get a good night’s rest? I’ll give you a lift home and check to make sure the aliens” – he stifles a giggle – “have gone home.”
Molly understands. Everyone thinks she’s a crank. But she knows the truth. She knows what happened. And nobody will persuade her otherwise.