So, what was inside ‘Graham’s Letter’? If I had penny for every time I’ve been asked that over the past 6 weeks I could buy a Mars bar by now, perhaps even a Twix too?
If you’re playing catch-up and have no idea what I’m talking about check this blog post.
OK, welcome back.
The results of the story writing competition were revealed and we finally solved the mystery by opening Graham’s letter, live on Nick Coffer’s show on BBC 3 Counties radio yesterday. You can listen to the whole thing for a few days here: we start speaking about ‘Graham’s story’ at 1hr 44min 30secs.
In total I had 22 very imaginative and entertaining stories to read at the close of the competition. So thank you to everyone who entered. As to be expected there was quite a lot of jilted lover/dear John stories; several recently departed parents too. A couple of people told tales where Graham was the mouse, trapped in the wrong body and ritually terrorised by my cats; the obligatory hidden fortunes from criminal activities made a showing or two as well. Sadly you can’t all win my prizes, but you’re all winners for having allowed your imagination to play for a short time coming up with your story. Thank you.
1st prize Martin Richmond – receives a signed hardback copy of my book, Elite: Mostly Harmless and you can read his story below.
2nd prize Patrick McCafferty – receives a signed paperback copy of my book, Elite: Mostly Harmless and you can read his story below.
3rd prize Linda Welch – receives an e-book version of my book, Elite: Mostly Harmless and and you can read her story below.
Special mentions no prizes, sorry, but you get published at the end of this blog too) go to Garry Clark, who’s fun and quirky story started with the line :
“Graham, here are the keys that open the loft door to the alternate universe ruled by a giant talking pie. Wear a sweater.”
… which is a story in its own right if you ask me.
And Andrew (twitter: @alignedchaos) for the clever way his story unfolds.
The Big Reveal
So it’s finally time to put us all out of our misery. What WAS inside the mysterious enveloped addressed to ‘Graham’?
As I predicted some time ago, something quite mundane. Sad that Graham never got his birthday card from Claire, Jasmine and Purdy, but life will go on I guess. If you’re out there Graham, give me a shout and I’d be happy to pass on your card and your keys.
Once again, thanks to everyone who played. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. For everyone else now, enjoy reading the winning stories.
1st prize Martin Richmond
It is said that beneath, ‘hope,’ in Pandora’s Box lay something far worse than the things that went before? A fanciful thought, that Pandora was mere fiction, but I know different now, you see, I have found that box! What? You don’t believe me? Well, I picked it up in a car boot sale. It was a cigar box full of keys; at least that’s what they thought it was. I could tell it was too light and flaking paper revealed something beneath. It revealed the name, Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus from Greek legend. It was his association with Pandora that excited me, that this could be the discovery of the century!
Why disguised as a cigar box? I can only assume someone knew what might be found? I peeled off the labels and discovered instead of simple plywood the box was made of dried papyrus! I’m an archaeologist by the way, and I know the difference, I’ve worked with the material for twenty years but this is the first time I’ve seen it fashioned into a box. Anyway, peeling away the cigar labels inside the box I came to an inscription in early, Ancient Greek script.
It took time to decipher but the upshot is that it listed everything that it held, in the form of runes, slips of parchment inscribed with every evil.
These runes could not be destroyed, only passed on.
Legend says that Pandora allowed the box to be opened outside where the wind took the runes and spread them around the Earth. Hope was released before she could close it but beneath this was the rune marked, Metamorphosis!
I wasn’t sure what this would do if released but in touching the rune I quickly found out and as I felt my body changing…
I caught sight of the name on the last rune after Metamorphosis and I cannot allow this to be passed on to infect the Earth.
Well, I sealed the box behind the fireplace throwing some of the keys with it and using tweezers I put the last rune inside an envelope. Burning it would only release it so this is all I can do in the short time I have.
My hands are becoming something that will prevent me from writing further. My brain will be too small to deal with this horror and I need to write a warning but my name on the envelope is all I can write.
I can only place it behind the fire in the vain hope that no one will find it and release it.
I wonder how long a mouse can live, maybe long enough to protect the world from vamp…
The End – if you open it?
JUDGE’S NOTE: I chose this as the winner because of the way it managed to combine a real sense of tension with a surprisingly deep plot considering the word cap of 500. Fascinating story and a great read.
2nd prize Patrick McCafferty
Kate considered putting the envelope back where she found it but her curiosity got the better of her. She slowly carefully prised the envelope open & read the letter inside.
“Graham, Son, if you are reading this, then I am in trouble & only you can help. I have a secret life, one you know nothing about. I’m a time traveller. This isn’t a joke, it’s not a wind-up, it’s true. I always meant to tell you about this but I never could find the right time! Although I have been doing this for years, centuries even, time travel is hazardous & so throughout your life I’ve created these little ‘rescue points’ (moments in time when the two of us are together) and hidden this note & my house key where I know you will find them.
Whenever I go time travelling I plan my trip extremely carefully so that my journey is as risk free as possible. Normally I have no problem bringing myself back to the attic with the wearable controller technology I have on me. If I am not there with you then something will have gone wrong & the established timeline has been altered, I am trapped sometime in the past or the future & need you to help me come back.
On September 12th 2015 we spend the day together taking out the gas fire that was in this house when you moved in & replacing it with a brand new one. I left this little ‘rescue point’ in this fireplace decades ago when the house was being built. If I am there with you, I will take this letter & key without you noticing as I have done many times before at other rescue points. If I’m not there with you, then I need you to go to our house, let yourself in using this house key & go up to the attic. The attic door is locked but if you reach up above the doorframe you’ll find the key. Inside you’ll find a console with a number of different shaped buttons. Find the green triangular one and turn it to the right. That will hopefully bring me back to the silver circle beside the console. If I do not reappear then we both know what that means. On no account should you consider trying to find me. Time travel is no job for a novice especially an unadventurous one like you, besides you’ll have something even more difficult to do : explain all this to your mother.
I know all of this will come as a shock to you but we’ll discuss it if, no, when you bring me back. I can only hope that whatever altered the timeline does not further disrupt the chain of events and cause someone else to discover this letter before you do.
See you soon. Hopefully.
If you have found this letter & key and you’re not Graham, PLEASE put them back where you found them.”
JUDGE’S NOTE: I chose this as second because of the skillful way the time travelling conundrum was unraveled to a grand reveal at the end. Very clever writing.
3rd prize Linda Welch
Every time I try to talk to you, I can tell you’re not really listening. I never see you sober. By the time I get home from work you’re already drunk, and when I get up in the morning you’ve already gone to work. At the weekends you sleep in all Saturday morning and God forbid that your wife should stand in the way of you and your mates and football on a Saturday afternoon, and your evening at the pub!
We used to have Sundays, at least, when we’d prepare lunch together, go out for a walk while it was cooking, then come home and eat, but then our walks before lunch became walks to the pub, and soon I was coming home on my own to finish the cooking while you had one more pint. At first you’d come home quite soon after me, with a bottle of wine to share, but for weeks now I’ve eaten Sunday lunch alone and kept yours warm in the oven for when you finally rolled in. Now you don’t come home until the pub shuts on Sunday evening, and I can’t stay married to a man I only see sober for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning.
I’ve rented a flat, number 6, Wykeham Court, on Risewell Crescent. I’ve left you a key and when you’ve decided what matters to you most, come and see me. You have to choose, Graham, me or the drink. I love you too much to share you with a bottle. Just come round when you’ve made your choice.
I hope you won’t make me wait too long.
She left the letter and the front door key on the mantelpiece above the fireplace, where Graham was bound to see it. She took a final look around the room, committing it to memory, then left the house and closed the door quietly behind her.
Moments later Buster ran in through the cat-flap, a terrified and squawking magpie in his mouth. Buster clamped his jaws tighter shut, but a sharp talon tore at the inside of his cheek and he yowled, momentarily releasing his grip. The magpie flew onto the mantelpiece, flapping wildly, and knocked the letter and the key behind the gas fire. Buster chased it round the room but it settled on the curtain rail and mocked him with its harsh caw.
When Graham came home Buster was sleeping innocently on the sofa. Fresh magpie had disagreed with him and Graham had to step over a pile of cat vomit on the kitchen floor to reach the cupboard where he kept the whisky.
He sat down beside Buster and drained his glass, wondering idly where Maddie was. She’d probably told him last night where she was going but he couldn’t really remember much after about 8 o’clock. He hoped she was having fun. She’d been looking a bit down lately.
Graham refilled his glass and didn’t give her another thought.
JUDGE’S NOTE: I chose this as third because I loved the heart-wrenching storyline that’s revealed at a good pace. Particularly like the irony of the last line, which is a great balance to the rest.
Special mention Garry ClarkWhat was written in the letter was this.
“Graham, here are the keys that open the loft door to the alternate universe ruled by a giant talking pie. Wear a sweater.”
How it got behind the fireplace was quite strange.
“These are the facts as I see them.
1.Given the contents of the letter, it is obvious to me that Professor Hawking is correct in postulating the existence of alternate universe’s where every possible scenario is played out, this in turn answers in turn the question of why the sweater and why the talking pie.
This is the forty second such dimension I have come across but it does not answer the question of why here, why you and who is Graham.
- Graham is clearly not you and the only ‘Graham’ you claim to know is the one who done the announcements on the popular TV show Blind Date.
Then at sometime, this mysterious Graham has become aware of this door and the need to wear ‘something woolen’ but my question is this.
Where is Graham now? Has he left the country? Is in hiding? Dead? Or has he already passed through the door with another key?
My records show that at no point in the history of this house, no one with either the first or even the surname Graham has ever lived here and even stranger nor has anyone who has lived in this street which is strange in itself.
I also believe that the keys were on a Top Gear key ring just for the fact that you both work or worked for the BBC and for that reason why there are in your possession now”.
The suspiciously familiar looking American accented man with the quaffed brown hair eyed what looked like an old piece of newspaper on the mahogany coffee table and held it in his hands inspecting the item carefully before putting it back down.
“Miss Russell” he said “Do you own a cat?”….
Special mention Andrew (twitter: @alignedchaos)
30th October 1994
I ‘m leaving this letter on top of the fireplace along with a little surprise where I hope you will see it in the morning.
One of my technicians from the facility called at 11pm as there has been a security breach at the Neutrino decay lab. I have to go in and check. I know I promised you and your mother that I would be here for your 21st Birthday and as soon as I have sorted this out, I will be. I know I’ve said that before, but I will make it this time.
I want you to know I am proud of you, I know you were really disappointed with your University results, but there is no real failure in life unless you give up. Great success is built upon layers of lessons learned when things don’t go to plan.
See you later,
80p The Daily News 31st October 1994
An explosion has devastated the Science Research Facility at the West Business Park in the early hours of this morning and violently shaken houses within a five-mile radius. Fire crews wearing HAZMAT suits have been working through the rubble searching for survivors, two have already been found. It is understood that three more people are still unaccounted for, a security guard, a possible intruder and the facility manager who was onsite following a reported break in.
A Police spokesman has said it is currently unclear as to whether the possible intruder had anything to do with the explosion.
The entire business park remains closed whilst investigation and recovery is underway.
80p The Daily News 11th November 1994
In loving Memory
Edward Jack Harker
- 16th April 1946
- 31st October 1994
Husband to Elaine, Dad to Graham & Claire.
Taken from us suddenly.
A short ceremony will take place at West Road Church at 11am on 14th October, no burial or cremation.
12th October 2014
I hope you are enjoying living in Canada. I know we haven’t spoken since the Christmas after Dad went missing, I just couldn’t let him go – I know that was hard for you and Mum. I didn’t understand how he could have just left the night before my Birthday without telling me.
On that morning I saw an old guy outside our house. He looked just like Grandpa Harker even though he’d passed away years before. He told me I’d dropped my spare key on the pavement and handed me a rusty old key. I was surprised when it opened the car and found the documents in my name. He told me he was certain that Dad was proud of and loved me and that I should remember that in dark days to come.
I saw him again last month, brought him coffee and cake at the local café and we talked. He died last week.
Claire, he was proud of us both.