Read the Winning Story in the Books LIVE Flash Fiction Competition: “Am I in the Right Place?” by Jen Thorpe
Competition entries were inspired by South Africa’s unique newspaper posters.
And the winner is … “Am I in the Right Place” by Jen Thorpe, inspired by the headline “Phone Call From a Tokoloshe”.
Congratulations, Jen! We hope you enjoy your new Kobo Glo.
Read the winning entry:
‘Am I in the right place?’
The man continued to stare at his desk as I talked to him. He was wearing thick-rimmed spectacles and I couldn’t see his eyes clearly.
‘Are you Iris?’
I nodded and he gestured for me to take a seat. There were three chairs and I wondered who else we were expecting. I chose the one closest to the door.
‘Will others be joining us?’
‘We will have to wait and see. It depends how many of you the master called.’
He scanned the room nervously and I followed his eyes, noting the dust along the skirting boards and what appeared to be long brown hairs on the floor. I bent forward to dig in my bag for my hand sanitiser. As I sat up, I noticed that Spectacles’ chair was on bricks.
The deep voice came from a blond and muscular man in the doorway, holding a cap in his hand. He smiled at me as though we were old friends.
‘Adam, take a seat,’ said Spectacles, ‘and don’t talk too loud.’
Adam sat next to me rather than leaving a chair between us, so that I could feel the heat from his body where our arms were touching. He smelled of coffee and seemed oblivious to the instructions to remain quiet.
‘I don’t think we’ve met.’
‘No, we wouldn’t have, because you just got here.’
I didn’t mean to sound rude but Spectacles was freaking me out. Adam extended his hand across my lap. I shook it reluctantly.
‘I’m Iris,’ I said, shifting my arm so we weren’t touching.
‘Did you also get a call?’
‘Yes, but it’s weird. I’m struggling to remember what it was about.’
I hoped that my face hid my shock. I’m normally meticulous, I make lists, and now I couldn’t remember a call or find my hand sanitiser. I looked at Adam for answers.
‘What did the person in your call say?’
‘His name was Tok. I think it was something about … did we win something?’
‘I’d remember if it was that.’
‘I can’t remember either.’
I can tell from the knitting of his brows that Adam’s unease is growing too. I wrack my memory trying to remember why I came here. Spectacles turns towards us, holding a finger to his lips. This time I can see his eyes. They are pitch black, and full of fear.
I’m about to stand up to leave but something I hear stops me. It sounds like the clicking of hooves on tiles, and it’s coming closer. I desperately try to remember what the caller said, feeling that if I can, we’ll somehow be safe. There is no other exit.
‘Adam?’ I whisper.
‘What is that?’
‘I don’t know.’
Before he can answer the clicking stops just outside the door, and over the drum of my heartbeat I hear a gargling breathing sound. I can’t see it yet, but I can feel it, and I know it’s waiting for us to run.