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Short Story Competition: The Gospel Of John Lost


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They’ll come at you thick and fast. Picture yourselves, 10 of you, maybe 20 or 30. You are all you and you are all in competition, you think. To get to that finish line, whatever that may be for you, it doesn’t matter. Your soles rest on a field of dark and concealed grass, your eyes can barely see anything farther than a few inches and for some reason you are complacent in that fact, a fog almost dreamlike in its nature posits itself before you and your goal but you are confident in its recession, almost childlike in that belief. At first all you do is unimportant, you just saunter around the starting line for years, oblivious to change, heedless to the tasks awaiting. Then,


The atmosphere turns, heavy and laden with drama, you all break at the braces, each one moving with conviction. “Why are we all running?” you ask, questions falling on ears deafened by reverberations of the loud pistol. “Why am I running?”  This time there is a reply “we must reach our goals”, before an appropriate line of questioning can follow, you are stifled. The pack is halted not by choice but an ever growing fear, in front of you, almost beyond the reaches of your eyes, cannons! Multiples in attack formation.

You attempt to communicate with the metal beasts but before words can trickle out of your mouths, a shot is fired, what emerges baffles the mind, not balls of gunpowder and destruction but tentacled creatures flying at your faces, whipping through the air to maintain height but the you move with tapered reflex and evade successfully. Before you have time to process the events unfolding you realise one of you has been struck. It landed on your chest, it seems to be useless there, the creature withers and dies. The cannons breathe and immediately begin bombarding you, each creature emerging with new intent and foresight, eventually you are hit in the face, the tentacles wrap around your head and you fall to the floor. You struggle to remove yourself from its grip but it only tightens, harder and harder as you gasp for air. You are floored and motionless, entering gestation. The rest of you stand around horrified and silent, no one can seem to bring themselves to budge. Within minutes you start to violently seize, writhing in agony with no respite.  A smear of blood, blossoms on your chest. The fabric on your shirt rips open and a small head, the size of a fist, punches out, coming out of the woodwork! You stand there with a dawned sense of horror but an inescapable feeling of urgency takes hold.

The rest of you look up and the cannons are gone, it seems they have accomplished their task and vanished into thin air. Without a second thought you all dash off, leaving the fallen behind.

For some ineffable reason you are relieved. “Why did that need to happen?” Before you can muster up another easily ignored question you begin to sense something, a presence at your rear. It’s you but with a sense of assuredness. “He looks like a guy with answers” you think to yourself. You slow your pace to allow him to catch up but before you can attempt another question he speeds past you.  You have now reached the existential crux of your comprehension “why is he, he, not we, nor us but he” the weight of these questions labour your movement. Now he has the lead! He promptly takes a right turn and you suddenly realize the path trodden before by you had been littered with junctions, windings and turns. They’ve become so clear it’s as if you have just been jolted from a deep slumber. You gaze ahead and perceive your path getting narrower, he is now fully in the lead and the rest of you follow dutifully, almost entranced by his confidence. As he takes you further you begin to feel the path resisting you, a sense of not belonging proliferates and stirs you into activism.

He continues to lead the pack but his sense of conviction has lost its enticing draw, you are now riddled with confusion and you have now become tired and listless, he has led you astray but astray from what? You resolve that he must end his tenure as pack leader but cannot seem to devise a way of stopping him. He has conducted this literal and figurative exercise in delusion for too long. You just stop, no cunning trick or ploy, you just stop. He keeps moving but each step sees his existence come into question, soon he vanishes from your sight and you feel a burden lifted. You decide to give this whole questioning thing a one last ditch effortful attempt and say “where do we go now?”  You reply with a renewed sense of assurance “I do not know”.


This is an entry to The National Student's short story competition. The text has been edited for grammar and punctuation only. 

The National Student's short story competition is in association with the Home Entertainment release of Mistress America. Mistress America is available on Digital HD in the UK on 7th December, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Watch the trailer below: 

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