Pick of the story tellers

Winners of our competition announced IT WAS a very close decision but the winners of this year s Comet short story competition have been picked. Dozens of people entered this year s event, which is in association with 1book4stevenage, and Nightfall by Pat

Winners of our competition announced

IT WAS a very close decision but the winners of this year's Comet short story competition have been picked.

Dozens of people entered this year's event, which is in association with 1book4stevenage, and Nightfall by Patricia Rogan, of Hopton Road, Stevenage, was picked out by our judges as the winner of the over 16s competition.

Praising the story, international best-selling author Ken Follett said: "It made me laugh out loud. It has a big surprise ending and a very good atmosphere."

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The manager of Ottakar's bookstore in Stevenage, Libby Shaw, was our second judge and she said it was a "quirky story which was a deserved winner."

Bethan Jones, of Gordian Way, Stevenage, topped our under 16 category.

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The 15-year-old beat off strong competition with her entry The Rose Sign, described by Ms Shaw as being "vividly written with a very good and unexpected ending", and all the stories were praised for their high standard.

Bethan said: "Wow, I can't believe I actually won."

Both winners received book tokens from Ottakar's and a collection of books from Bloomsbury Books.

The Comet would like to thank everyone who entered this year's competition


Ellen had known they would use the protection of darkness to get her. Yet when it happened, she was caught off guard.

Two men with mean faces had knocked oh, so politely on her door.

Thinking it was her neighbour, she'd smiled as she opened the door. One of the men told her what they wanted. The other man stayed silent, unsmiling.

Instantly frightened, Ellen managed to hold her smile in place.

'I'll just go and get what you want. I have to close the door. Sorry. I don't want to let the cat out. Sorry.'

Shutting the door. Ellen whimpered with fear. She grabbed her car keys as she ran to the back door.

A quick look through the kitchen window and she was out the door and into her small high fenced garden. She was so scared. What if they'd realised what she was going to do and they were out there? On the other side of the fence. Waiting.

Ellen shivered. Shallow rapid breaths condensed in the freezing cold air and were made visible by the dull amber glow of a street light. She leaned forward, listening. She didn't know what to do.

The gate hinge had always creaked. They would hear her and know she was trying to escape.

Until this moment, Ellen had been happy in Stevenage. She lived with John and this was their first year in their new home. From their bedroom window, they'd had a magical view of the spectacular firework display in Fairlands Valley park.

Footsteps! She could hear footsteps, coming closer. Ellen felt trapped. 'Please, please, don't let it be them,' she mouthed the words, too scared even to whisper.

The sounds stopped. Right outside. Ellen couldn't move, she found it hard to breathe.

Crick! The latch lifted and the gate screeched open.

Her face contorted into a wide mouthed scream. The scream was taken over by gasping sobs of fear as she was grabbed. She almost fell backwards.

'Ellen! What's wrong? What's happened? What is it? Tell me.'

Ellen's knees almost gave way. 'John. It's you. The TV licence people. They're at the door. The money we'd saved. I bought shoes instead of the licence.'

'It's OK love, I guessed what you'd done. You were so evasive when I asked where the licence was. I finally remembered to buy one at the post office, not five minutes ago.'


There was a sign on the door.

The house was empty. It had been empty for a long time. Lois had never seen such a lonely house. You'd know if you'd have seen it. Lois had seen it.

The windows were boarded up and the door was locked. Lois had checked. Just in case. There was a board missing from one of the windows. One of the back ones. Lois had looked through it. There was nothing there.

It was a very, very old sign.

Every day for the last six months Lois had walked past the house. It had never looked scary, just lonely. A lonely house.

Once Lois had shone a torch through the window. She wanted to make the house feel lived in but the light only showed up the bare rooms and grimy walls.

The sign was grimy too and faded.

Lois had always lived in Stevenage but her mum had come from Scotland.

Her mum had told her stories of haunted mansions and wicked curses. But Lois didn't think the house was cursed. It wasn't haunted either. Just lonely, she said. A sad lonely house with no one to look after it and nowhere to go.

No one had looked after the sign either, the words had faded away.

Alice said that was a silly thing to say. She said houses couldn't be sad, and they couldn't be lonely.

Lois tried to tell Alice that she was wrong; she tried to show Alice the house. But Alice wasn't interested. So Lois went alone. All on her own. Like the house. Rose house. That's what the sign said. Rose house.

That's what Lois thought the sign said.

Lois never came home that evening. Her parent's looked everywhere but no one had seen her. They looked for the house too but they couldn't find it. There were no derelict houses in Chells the police told them. Lois knew where it was, but she wasn't telling, she wasn't telling anyone anymore.

Rose knew what the sign said. So did Lois now.

This was Rose's house. She was born here in 1666 and she died here in 1676 and she will rest here for all of eternity.

There's another sign now, just beneath it. A different sign.

Here lies Lois Rose Taylor. Born 1996. Died 2006.

Rose and Lois wrote that sign.

So Rose wouldn't be lonely anymore.

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