Two cyclists. Photo © Colin Cowperthwaite.Congratulations Matthew Lewin. The Judges were very impressed with the clever use of the title and poem in your piece. The narrator and friend create a sense of fear, excitement and awe. The move from the physically real to the surreal is handled neatly for such a small story. Powerful use of descriptive language and a well-crafted, intriguing story.

As I rode up the green hill, my lungs heaving, my legs burning like fire and heavy like lead, I spoke to me friend, Ted. We spoke of the ride, of games, of the countryside, anything and everything that would distract us from the pain in our bodies. Slowly, so slowly but surely, we reached the apex of the climb, and collapsed breathlessly panting onto the soft, mossy grass atop Stags Fell.

‘That was hard,’ I panted. ‘Second run of it?’

‘No, no, definitely not,’ replied Ted, equally breathless.

‘Do you want a snack?’ I queried, holding out an oat chocolate bar.

‘Yes, thank you,’ said Ted, tearing off the wrapper.

After refuelling our bodies with energy bars and water, we set off on the now rocky and grey road, which was a more manageable shallow slope. Our spirits were high, and our bodies were strong. Before long though, the clear if windy weather turned dark, and black clouds gathered overhead. Slowly, the remaining blue sky on the horizon disappeared, and we were left in dim daylight, crawling along the track on our bikes. A thin layer of frost began to form on the grass beside us, creating deadly points and edges on previously luscious, harmless grass. The clouds began to swirl, forming dark faces, contorted into expressions of anger and hate. A rumbling began overhead. Not thunder. Nor the sound of a passing plane. Something chilling. Something ancient. Something… else.

Glancing at each other and the clouds, we began to pedal faster, faster and faster, almost sprinting, to get away from the faces above. But they followed us, and did not disperse as regular cloud formations do. We were being hunted.

After a while of frantic, fear fuelled pedalling, we came across a rock formation. Tall stones were bent into each other, almost touching. They were arranged in a circle, all identical in size, shape and colour. In the centre of the circle, stood a rugged, roughly hewn stone altar, aligned with the rising of the sun and moon. It was eerie. Only a couple of dozen feet away, we sighted an old miner’s hut, wrecked and precariously supporting itself, but it had a roof. That was what we needed. Shelter. From the rain, from the frost, and from the faces. Inside we found nothing, except a few unopened jars and bottles of various liquids and spices. There was enough room for both of us and our bikes. We huddled inside, talking, trying not to show our fear of the sudden change in atmosphere. We had only gone out for a bike ride. What had happened to force us into shelter? What was that outside? And what did it want?

‘How long do you think we’ll have to wait? For the clouds to pass,’ I asked fearfully.

‘I’m not sure. Wherever they sprung up from, those clouds are natural,’ replied Ted, equally shaken.

Suddenly, unearthly screams sounded from outside. They sounded like they were coming from the standing stones. Then, there was a crack, like a tear was being violently ripped in the fabric of existence itself. The crack shattered the stone hut we were in, miraculously leaving us unharmed. After the dust cleared, what we saw scarred us. It was something we had never seen before, and would never see again, save in nightmares. The sight was ancient, only seen by a single being, eons ago. This was the second it had happened, and hopefully the last. The standing stones were glowing. They were glowing with a blue light, shimmering with a purple under layer, and surrounded by dancing specs of white light that left trails, not unlike comets. Each pillar bore a sign, floating above it, only by a few inches, moving slowly to the centre of the circle. All the signs were different, and illegible to both me and Ted, but we knew. This was something important. This was something powerful.

The stone altar remained unchanged, the only comprehensible thing in the whole forsaken structure. Until the signs touched each other. The signs fired a beam of white light, red hot, into the altar and the altar absorbed it. The whole scene disappeared, all the light, all the signs, all the wonderful white trails. It all… vanished. Then the beam rose again from the altar, picking up speed, still white, but tinted with blue, red, green, yellow but in pastel shade. Once the beam hit the stratosphere, it really did violently rip a tear into existence. Beyond, we saw a black void. A black void covered with stars. Blue, red, white specks of light. And from that crack, fell a single item. A scroll. Yellowed parchment, rolled up, capped on either end with polished acacia wood. I stepped cautiously forward, to investigate it. My heart was hammering. I was scared. I was… so scared. Yet I continued. I lightly lifted the scroll up off the charred grass it had fallen on. I opened it. On it, was a poem. A single poem written in wonderful ink, light blue, with a shimmering purple under layer. Around the letters were dancing specs of white light. The poem went as followed:

Upon a hill, there was a stone.

A stone that stood all on its own.

Over time, men began to roam,

And settled by the stone, calling its land ‘home’.

Their houses grew tall,

But soon began to fall,

Left behind were twelve pillars,

Carved quickly by professional stone millers.


Then one day,

Along their way,

Two boys beheld this wonder.

But they looked up, past the altar and yonder.


The altar saw fear,

Incredibly near,

And decided upon recreation,

To reverse man’s destruction.

Ted sneaked up behind me, and read the poem over my shoulder. He looked at me. I looked at him. We both knew what the poem was saying. Soon, the universe would be recreated. And we had just witnessed the start of it.

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