Furious Fiction: November 2023 Story Showcase

Welcome to the November Furious Fiction story showcase – a chance to bathe in the crystal clear (and sometimes murky) waters of our community’s creativity! It’s also the opportunity to have YOUR OWN story featured or acknowledged – out of hundreds received from around the globe. Here were this month’s criteria:

  • Your story must be set at a remote house or cabin.
  • Your story must include three different three-word sentences in a row.
  • Your story must include the words SPACE, KNOCK, WHISTLE, MYTH.
    (Longer words are okay if original spelling is retained.)

That was it. Time was short. The challenge, accepted. 


Storytelling has given us many great locations – but perhaps none more so than the “remote house or cabin”. It invokes immediate feelings of solitude and the freedom to tell an engaging story without distraction.

  • The isolation has lent itself to many compelling thriller or horror stories over the years – the idea of no one being able to hear you scream!
  • But it could just as easily be a romance – think Colin Firth writing his windswept manuscript next to the lake in Love Actually
  • We also received many fairy tale-esque stories, with many (especially the ones about children wandering in the woods) involving remote houses filled with grannies, witches or bears – oh my!
  • The rise of ‘AirBNB’ bookings gave a modern spin on many stories – a great place they had read about online, with five stars…
  • We asked you to consider the motivations of the main character(s) – WHY are they there in the first place? Do they spend the entire story INSIDE or do they venture out? That was up to you!
  • The criteria might initially give you ‘mountain cabin’ vibes. But it could just as easily be a makeshift shelter on a desert island! Or something MORE outside the box – as some of our showcase stories went with!

And on that note, please enjoy our selection of stories below, followed by our longlist of highly commended pieces from the many hundreds received. Congrats to all those featured this month and we hope to see YOU lining up for the next Furious Fiction challenge on Friday 1 December!

GRANDAD’s GIFT by Kim Graham, VIC

A house in a tree in the great beyond. That’s what my grandad said we were going to build, and when he said something, it was as good as done. We started building it on a Saturday, two days after my eleventh birthday. A space of my own. A place to retreat to when the world knocked me about. Grandad knew a thing or two about being knocked about by life, and I reckon he looked at me and saw that in my future too.

We built it a good ten-minute walk up the big hill behind where I lived, up high amongst the tall trees. Remote. We whistled while we worked. Grandad always whistled when he was setting out with purpose, and I whistled along with the sheer joy of being with him.

As we hammered and sawed, it took shape, and my imagining of it grew, taking on mythical proportions; a ship sailing atop foamy green leaves, a dragon swooping home to protect its hoard, a stately pleasure dome in Xanadu, a flighted dinosaur seeking its prey, a castle from which I could survey my forest kingdom…a hot air balloon racing around the world, or a heffalump crashing through the 100 Acre Wood…fantastical, wondrous flights of fancy.

And, in time it became a place to retreat to when I was told that girls can’t play footy. A place to hide when my clothes were laughed at for being too boyish, my hair too short. A place of protection for when I couldn’t work out what being a girl actually meant. I could see what it meant when I saw other girls, just not when I tried to apply that idea to me. A place for confused thoughts and lonely times. To be truly myself and not have to pretend to be something I couldn’t imagine and didn’t understand. No labels or demands or expectations. Where I didn’t have to explain myself with words I didn’t even have. Not having to monitor my gestures, my behaviour…or always being on guard. A place I could be me.

Grandad didn’t know the turmoil that would swirl in my head and infuse me with dread. He didn’t know that I would question everything that I had been told about who I was, and what I was meant to be. He couldn’t have foreseen my terror of knowing that the place I had been allocated in the world was not really for me.

What he did know was that he had a job in life to protect me, to provide a haven, and to create a space for me that would be whatever I wanted it to be.

When it was built, we stood back to admire our work. “Good to be among trees”, Gramps said. “Trees just are, they don’t have to do anything or be anything…just themselves. It’s good to be reminded sometimes.”

My safe space. My own place.

My grandad’s gift.


In a sea of remote log cabins or houses, this story was refreshing in providing a different take on the theme – a tree house. Yes, it was still geographically remote, but we also loved the way that it provided a place to truly get away from everything by tapping into the imagination (castles, dragons and hot air balloons). Of course, as the narrator gets older, it also becomes a different kind of shelter – a safe space when the world would become confusing and scary. A clever way to interpret the theme and told in a touching way, through a grandchild’s love for their grandad.


When the first light snows hit, we didn’t take it as a warning, but as proof of our good fortune. We were tucked up in a log cabin about five miles from the nearest active road in front of a roaring fire, sipping brandy and swapping stories, while outside the first storm of winter was just starting.

The snow settled so heavily that we struggled to open the front door, which was a reason to put our boots on and go for a walk. We should have been collecting firewood.

When the next morning came, the snowfall was so mythic that we couldn’t see out of the window and we couldn’t step out the door. Repeated efforts to leave were stymied, so we agreed to wait it out. As the winds whistled outside, we swapped fire-building techniques, demonstrating one method after another with no thought to how it affected our reserves of firewood. It was profligate. Foolish. Fun.

We were already running low on firewood. After the initial gloom, we were rallied by the thought that the storm couldn’t possibly last. Besides, we were in a forest. Fuel was all around.

Contrary to what you might think, there was no debate about burning books. They were first. Next, pinewood shelves. Then, the table. Everyone agreed that heat was more important than comfort, so we smashed chairs and fed the flames. Even beds and blankets.

It all burned so fast, and in the heat of the moment, we were desperate to find something, anything, everything, to keep the fire burning just a little longer. We sacrificed everything to the flames until we stood sweating, shivering and naked in front of the fire, looking around in the dimming light for anything else to burn.

Nothing was left. Everything in the cabin had been burned.

Apart from the cabin.

The group split into two—those who wanted to use the cabin logs for fuel and those who were firmly against it. Neither side could understand how the other could be so short-sighted. The argument went round and round, over and over, until someone eventually proposed a compromise.

Two walls and a section of the roof.

Some said the compromise was ridiculous, but they were soon shouted down. Everyone else was just so relieved that we had come to a decision and were finally doing something. Log by log, the first wall was knocked down and turned into fuel. We told ourselves that the new fissures were not so bad, that the blizzard coming in was perfectly tolerable. Some even said they found it a refreshing change from all that heat. As each log was removed, the hole got bigger, the cold got worse and more people demanded fuel for the fire.

Here we stand, our fronts too close to the flames and our backs to the chill of the wind.

The problem isn’t heat, fuel or space.

The problem is people.

Too many people around this fire.


Part fable, part winter retreat, this intriguing tale presents a frantic yet compelling picture of humanity, hubris, and the decisions we make. What starts out as a cosy tale fuelled with brandy and stories is very soon turning on itself as the very fuel becomes the issue. As a reader, you simply watch agape at the way the events unfold, with each decision surely more questionable than the last. And speaking of last, those final few lines were killer (literally). Read it as a bad holiday or read it perhaps as a metaphor (cabin equals planet?) – whatever the case, it’s flaming good.

TWITCH by Wes Hawkins, WA

Jenny’s legs are going numb, hunched over as she is behind a tumble of a fallen tree. Bird calls abound, the familiar screeches and cries of the Australian bush. She intently scans three shrubs fifty metres away, constantly adjusting the focus on her binoculars. Waiting.

She jerks, her eyebrows raise, and she whistles quietly to herself. Opening a book, she notes her observation. A good day, so far. Already she’s bagged a Western Corella, a Common Bronzewing, and now a Red-capped Parrot. She stretches her legs, flicks blonde hair out of her eyes, and continues her vigil.

One hundred metres away, in a discreet hide, Gary downs his binoculars and similarly opens his own, expansive, notebook. He gently turns to the section marked ‘Birds’, adds Rainbow Bee-eater, and carries on. A moment later, his breath catches in his throat as he spies Jenny. He observes her carefully for a full minute and again reaches for the book. Skipping past ‘Birds’, he carefully opens the section entitled ‘Twitchers’. He records Yellow Crested Whistler, annotated with date, time, and location.

Before closing the book, he looks over previous entries. Spectacled Knock-kneed Flat-capper. Miniature Red-legged Pony-tail. Juvenile Spotted Vegan. He murmurs to himself, the sound of deep satisfaction, as he tenderly turns each page, every title his own creation. They have to be, Gary thinks, no-one else in the world would be compiling such a list. A life’s work. Eventually, it’ll be the star exhibit in a museum. The last page is blank; he has left a space for the ultimate entry. Overly optimistic perhaps, but one day, one day, he may catch sight of the Mythical Attenborough.

He scratches his beard and resumes his work. A cloud of raucous Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. The darting Splendid Fairy Wren. He sights a Grey-haired Anorak, but doesn’t log it; too common. Camouflaged Pensioner. Again, common. What’s that? A slight movement to the left. He swings around to check, but too late. Did he catch a sight of something, a rarity? No, it’s his imagination playing tricks. He’s been at it too long. Time to go home.

Two hundred metres away, in an even more discreet hide, the Mythical Attenborough leans back and sighs with relief. Nearly blew it, he thinks. He opens his elaborate, decorated notebook. He flicks past ‘Birds’, past ‘Twitchers’ to a small section at the back, entitled ‘Twitcher Twitchers’. His hand, trembling with excitement, makes the seventh entry in forty years; Unique Long-necked Bearded Observer. He sits back and sighs, rubbing his eyes, overcome with emotion. What a day!

He now has the full set.


How delightful! This forest-dwelling story starts out innocently enough – we’re out in the bush, ticking bird species off our list. How lovely. Oh, but who’s this? Gary with his own notebook – watching from his ‘hide’ (qualifying as the remote shelter). And it’s here, among the ‘Spectacled Knock-kneed Flat Cappers’ and ‘Juvenile Spotted Vegans’ that we meet the humour in this piece. Brilliant! Of course, we’re not done yet, with a Russian-doll final layer of observation still to come. ‘Grey-haired Anorak’ may be a common species in this world, but it was one of our favourites! Clever, tongue-in-cheek observation at its finest.

SILENCE by Mike Rymarz, UK

I am waiting. Waiting for you. In this house. And you have no idea…

My knees are killing me, and you’re to blame. And the worst thing is that I can’t even complain about it. To whom would I protest? You sure as hell won’t give a damn, and if I ever dared to speak out, I know full well I’ll be hushed up, forced to shrink back into the shadows.

I won’t ever forget this, I hope you know that, and I don’t care how embarrassed you feel, or your empty, insipid platitudes. You are the only one to blame.

Why it had to be out here, God only knows. Middle. Of. Nowhere. You couldn’t make this easy for me, could you? Well, tonight’s the night it all comes home to roost, and I hope you never forget it.

My bloody knees. I’m cramped for space, hidden away in the musty, dirty corner of this living room, itself hidden away in a musty, dirty corner of the house, a house at the end of a musty, dirty country lane. It was a hell of a trek to walk down here earlier, I hope you know that, just to ensure my car wasn’t seen. But hey, you won’t be bothered about that, will you? Not your fault, eh?

I’ve found my spot, though. And I know you’ll come. They always come. Eventually. I’ve been doing this for years, but don’t worry, I’ve learned the art of patience. And silence, of course. That’s the key.

I’ve seen better men than me crumble. Fold under the pressure and cock it right up. Well, that’s not going to be me, let me tell you. I’m dispelling that myth of the old, doddery fool that can’t be relied upon. No, sirree. A job has to be done, and I’m the man to do it. And you just happen to be the target.

What’s that noise? A whistle? A screech of a barn owl, readying itself for its own personal quest to surprise some unsuspecting quarry. The baying of a fox, on the hunt for 8pm prey? Or a faint jolt of a car door.

I hear voices. You’re not alone. Not a surprise. I shift my body, my ageing knees screaming at me in the silence, and I grit my teeth. There is no way I’m going to make a sound. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?

There’s a knock at the door. You, or your husband? Doesn’t really make much difference, I suppose. The door creaks open, and a sliver of light invades the room. The silence is overwhelming, and I almost can’t control myself. Despite my grumbles, I do quite enjoy this bit.

The door to the living room opens, slowly at first, and then inching wider.

I steel myself for the effort I am about to make with you, my best friend’s wife.

SURPRISE! The room erupts, your friends and family delighting in the look on your 70-year-old face.


Sometimes stories have sudden last-minute twists that catch you off guard and leave you gasping. Others, like this one, are more of a slow boil. The intention is not to shock you, but rather to have you simmer in this story’s uncomfortableness – to frown at the descriptions and gently wonder where it’s all headed. It has traces of thriller (“I know you’ll come. They always come.”) and yet despite its strangely sinister vibes it somehow feels familiar… The clues are all there, and while the title cleverly gives nothing away, the narrative finally makes instant sense, like switching on a light. Like old friends emerging from the gloom. Surprise!

ALONE by Hashinee Weraduwage, VIC

She had lied.
She came here to be alone by choice. ‘Solitude' she told them. She needed some space, a bit of quiet, she explained.
The truth was that she was alone wherever she was, but at least here she had the illusion of choice.
And there was no ‘them'. In her head there was a ‘them', but no one had actually asked her what her plans were.
She had practised the conversation nonetheless. In case there was some unexpected interest.
She did this often. She would imagine a knock on her door, an acquaintance stopping by to say hello, and her opening up to them.
They would listen. They would care. They would stay.
She found these daydreams made her feel better about humanity, and herself.

So here she was. Alone again.
Three hours away from her own house she lived alone in. Paying long weekend rates for a 3 bedroom house near the mountains, surrounded by a forest.
Because even if no one knew what she did or what she was doing, she was brought up in a society that told her she was a loser if she didn't have close friends, a group, a pack. If she didn't have somewhere to belong. No one else knew, but she did.
It was a myth that she was an independent woman. That she loved the ‘solitude'. It was a defence mechanism.

So here she was. Alone by choice this time.
No people around because that's what she paid for. Not because no one cared for her.
She tried to whistle to fill some of the silence but the echo made her feel worse.
She felt heavy again and slipped under the covers.
The cocoon and blanket weighing her down. Keeping her in this world for a brief moment.
Then she left it again. In her head someone else knocked on her door.


The title kind of says it all on this one. Our singular character is looking to get away from it all, but in truth, she knows that there is nothing to escape. Yet this is what people do. So she is doing it. In a month when so many stories had people stranded in isolation with their loved ones unable to help (or hear them scream!), this stood out for the opposite reason. Our protagonist wishes she had someone to tell of her plans. She had rehearsed the words. It’s not that no one knows she’s here. It’s that no one cares. And so, when many stories presented a knock at the door as something sinister, here it is what she wishes for. “They would listen. They would care. They would stay.” A tragic, compelling tale of loneliness. So, if you read this, reach out to a friend, workmate or relative today who lives alone – just see how they’re going.


If, following your parent’s acrimonious divorce, your father suggests a dad-daughter weekend at a remote cabin, where he’ll teach you how to fish, how likely are you to agree?

  1. Not likely. You believe your mother’s assertion that your father is nothing but a ‘deadbeat jerk pretending to be Grizzly Adams’.
  2. Somewhat likely. You want to please them both, but finding a balance is exhausting.
  3. Very likely. You love your father, and though your mother disapproves, you don’t want to hurt his already bruised heart.

If, following your mother’s hair-raising tale that the cabin is haunted by a ghost-child, who knocks at the door seeking shelter before murdering her victims and feasting off their still warm blood, how likely are you to still go on the trip?

  1. Not likely. You know that your mother is manipulating you into rejecting your father because she’s still furious about his illicit affair.
  2. Somewhat likely. You’re torn between your mother’s compelling narrative, and your father’s insistence that the story is, ‘Utter crazy hokum. A stupid myth. Damn your mother.’
  3. Very likely. The cabin’s booked and non-refundable, and despite it being off season and cheap, you’ll feel guilty if he loses money, what with the alimony he never stops mentioning.

If, after a long drive through mist glowing eerily yellow in the headlight beam, you arrive at the squat cabin to hear the cold wind whistle over its brick chimney, how likely are you to wake from feverish dreams in which the pale-faced ghost-child laps blood from a severed throat?

  1. Not likely. The cabin is comfortingly cosy once your father has lit a fire and heated a pan of tomato soup over the flames.
  2. Somewhat likely. Although rain ominously drums the roof, you’re charmed by your lamp-lit room with just enough space for a feather bed.
  3. Very likely. This being precisely what happens.

If, after a night’s heavy rain, the river is a swollen torrent, how likely is it that your father will be swept away in his determination to catch the promised fish?

  1. Not likely. He wouldn’t risk both your lives by insisting that you wade with him into the tumultuous waters, would he?
  2. Somewhat likely. You could head back to the cabin, but no way does he want to hear your mother say, ‘I told you so.’
  3. Very likely. He’s stubborn, and if you hadn’t managed to grapple up the muddy bank to safety, you’d have been pulled under too.

If, on stumbling through the forest for what feels like years, you find the cabin and rap the door to be greeted by a concerned middle-aged couple, who invite you in, poor child, how likely are you to cut their throats with your father’s fish-gutting knife and suck blood warm as tomato soup from their gushing arteries?

  1. Not likely. You didn’t drown.
  2. Somewhat likely. Did you? You’re pale-faced, hungry.
  3. Very likely. They look like your parents. Damn them.

Perhaps it’s all those teen magazine quizzes we did with the multichoice answers, but there is something so readable about this story’s unique format. And while it could have been used simply as a framing gimmick, it becomes a very slick storytelling device. With the title already hinting at the way this ‘choose your own adventure’ will proceed, each of the five stanzas paints a broad picture of this getaway and its players. Through the three choices, we are able to glean so much information about their personalities and motivations. And while the first four are hilariously detailed and layered, the final set hit hard with their brutal simplicity. What a brilliant idea – expertly executed!


Oxygen critically low.

Tori leant back in her chair. Seven minutes left. Alone in space and seven minutes left. Not exactly the grand adventure she had expected, but it could always be worse.

Fire, for instance. She could have been on fire. That would have been much worse. Without much oxygen, a fire wasn’t particularly likely now. Suffocation, sure, but no fire. Solid positive thinking, Tori.

She tapped her fingernails on the arm rest. Funny how there was so little to do. She had always thought there would be more screaming. Some crying perhaps. Famous last words? You’ll forget me. But nothing. It was really boring.

Oxygen critically low: five minutes remain.

Tori pulled herself up abruptly, might as well do something with her last five minutes. Whistling to herself she pulled a cloth out from the drawer. Enough time to wipe down the cabin’s control panel and check in for any messages. Unlikely to be anything, Daniel left three weeks ago. If there was any news, it would have come by now.

Though, knowing Daniel, he might not have said anything, opting instead to scare her by knocking on the window as he floated past in his stupid green space suit. The man, the myth, the absolute moron.

Tori caught herself glancing out the window just in case.

Oxygen critically low: three minutes remain.

Tori sat back down and opened the communication log. Last comms from earth was months ago. More scouting teams had been sent out in a similar direction. It was always unlikely they’d meet, but it was nice to know she wasn’t completely alone.

The last comms from Daniel was just moments after he left.

~Don’t forget me loser, you still owe me a chess rematch after you totally cheated last game.~

Tori smiled. A sad smile. A lonely smile. She took a long, slow breath.

Maybe her mum was right. After years of preparation for this mission, months of dedicated training leading up to launch. “You’d at least have had a chance for companionship down here, Tori. But out there? Not a chance.”

Yeah, thanks mum. Delightful.

Oxygen critically low: 60 seconds remain.

Tori frowned. There wasn’t really a point to swapping from measuring in minutes to measuring in seconds just for the last minute. Anyone still around at this point already knows there’s only seconds left. She’d have to put that in her daily log notes. Maybe send a last-ditch communication?

~Hi Earth, it’s Tori. Just wanted you to know the internal warning system could do with an update. Feels a bit stunted.~

Mission control would love that.

Oxygen critically low: 30 seconds remain.

Well, that’s just ridiculous. No one needs a 30 second warning.

Tori rolled her eyes and slumped back in her chair, snatching her stuffed penguin from off the console and folding her arms across her chest. Maybe she should’ve been a zoo keeper.

Too big a risk of fire though. Not a great way to go.





Okay, remember how we said that there were some stories that took the ‘remote cabin’ idea to a new place. Well, this was one of the few that thought to set it on the cabin of a ship! A space ship no less, in the remotest corner of space. That alone got our attention (hey, sometimes you get tired of gravel driveways and forest huts). But it still needed to give us an engaging story, and we get this in the form of Tori and her fast-depleting oxygen levels. As she reflects on her own story to date, we are regularly reminded of the time left for the story and for Tori – peppered with some delightfully banal and funny observations in the middle. (“No one needs a 30 second warning…”) Perhaps she should have been a zoo keeper after all.

THE LETTER by Simon Shergold, USA

The last chink of light fidgeted on the horizon and the old man turned away from the window. He knew what was coming. The house had been especially soothing this year, the quiet landscape a welcome refuge from work. ‘No visitors’ was the rule, for his own good. A safe space. At first the solitude was welcome, time to reflect on past successes and the never-ending nature of the challenges to come.

But as summer turned to autumn, something changed in the old man. An internal clock awakened as the days lengthened and the time neared again. His tiredness lifted, a subtle shift in his head and his stomach; unseen, but felt in the air by those tuned in to him. Mary always noticed first, no matter how small the signs. The morning walk now accompanied with a whistle; the belt loosened one notch after Sunday lunch; the five o’clock shadow turning to serious stubble. All these little moments as sure a sign as the first changing leaf and the stretching of the shadows that the time was nearing.

The old man sat in his chair and remembered simpler times. Sometimes the memories were lost in the mists and myths of time, at others they shone with a clarity he could scarcely believe. He closed his eyes and immediately felt the leather strap in his hand, resisting the tug from the other end. He saw his breath frosty in the midnight air, a white swirl on an indigo curtain drawn across the sky. His map laid out in front of him, the parchment corners turned up like a child’s smile – meticulously marked, the route snaking out to the edge of the world.

A knock at the front door broke the spell. The old man pushed himself up, more slowly each time now he noticed, and went back to the window. He saw the young man close the garden gate and swing his leg over the bicycle, the only evening postman in the whole world. He rode into the gloom, his shadow merging with the trees that lined the lane.

Mary pushed the study door open. The old man looked at the face he knew so well – loved so well – and smiled. She held the silver tray in front of her, reserved specially for the first letter to arrive. He glanced down and saw the spidery writing. Upper- and lower-case letters randomly mingled, filled with hope and magic and love. Most of all love.

‘I’m tired, Mary’ the old man said.

‘I know’ she replied kindly.

‘I’m not sure …’ he began.

‘For the children, Nick.’

For the children. The unending call. Always reason enough.

Santa smiled, nodded and held out his hand.


A remote ho-ho-house. It makes sense really. And here, the idea of exactly whose home this might belong to is kept intentionally vague from the start. If you pick it early, that’s okay. If it comes to you later, it’s a delightful discovery. But at its heart, this is a tale of an old man reflecting on his achievements and realising just how tired he is. Of course, his job is a unique one, and when his beloved Mary provides him with the first letter of the season, well, all is revealed and all is well once more. Right from the fidgeting light in the first line, we were hooked into this world – loaded with clever detail and well worth a second read. 


“Sony! Get out here!” Sharp called. “We want to watch a movie, and the VHS-player won’t work without you!”

“I’m busy playing lost!” Sony called from under the couch. “Can’t Pan do it?!”

“No, I cannot!” Panasonic responded. “We don’t have a DVD of *Back to the Future*!”

“Fine!” Sony retorted. He crawled out and faced the VHS-player. He touched his forehead. The machine came on. He pressed his right hip. The film started. The three residents took up their favorite positions in the small cabin space to enjoy the flick.


Marty McFly had just caused Biff to run into a truck of manure when RCA came to the door. She whistled.

Sony paused the film.

“Everybody, we have a new retiree who’ll be living here,” RCA announced. “This is Logitech. Log for short. He’s a universal. He can control everything!”

“Nice to meet you.” The remotes nodded and introduced themselves.

“Back to the movie, Sony,” Sharp said.

“I got it,” Log jumped in, unpausing the film. After an uncomfortable moment, the remotes went back to watching the movie.

Later that night, the group decided to listen to some music.

“Sharp!” Pan called into the kitchen. “The stereo!”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll do it,” Log said and turned on the music-player.

A few minutes later, Sharp entered the room. He saw everyone dancing already. “I thought you needed me.”

“I took care of it,” Log said and kept shaking his plastic hips.

Sharp glared at him and went upstairs.

One week later, the remotes were so tired of Log jumping in to do their jobs that they hatched a plan.

That night, Sharp snuck into Log’s room and loosened one of his batteries. *That ought to do the trick!* the stereo remote thought.

That morning, when Log attempted to start the DVD-player, nothing happened. He tapped his forehead until he had a headache. When the player still failed to turn on, he stomped off.

In his room, Log sat on his bed. He just couldn’t understand what happened downstairs. He was supposed to be the cream of the crop of remotes; how could he have failed?

A knock on his door took him out of his reverie. “Come in!” he responded.

The three remotes entered.

“We’re sorry, Log, but we had to teach you a lesson,” Sony said. “It’s a myth that a Jack-of-all-trades is better than singularly-talented beings.”

“We do not mind you helping out sometimes, but we feel unneeded when you take over our jobs,” Pan chimed in.

“But that’s exactly why I was trying to help. I wanted to fit in. Bad enough I’ve been retired; to not even be able to help in a retirement cabin sucks.”

“How about you just help each of us on different days, then?” Sharp suggested. “You do Sony’s job on Monday and Thursday, Pan’s on Tuesday and Friday, mine on Wednesday and Saturday. That way, everyone gets a break but is still useful.”

Log nodded. “I like that idea.”


True story – when the criteria were chosen for this month, one of the team commented that it would be hilarious if someone actually created a house for remote controls (seriously, we love that stuff). After all, we encourage you to push the boundaries of the criteria. And here’s a story that did exactly that. Naming the characters after the logos that no doubt adorn their plastic form was a great way to usher the reader into this alternate reality. A retirement home for remote controls is quite the elevator pitch and it’s delivered with plenty of fun and silliness. That folks, is sometimes (although not always) how you get noticed!

COBBLER’S SPRING by Caroline Finlayson, Norway

Here she comes. Open it. Read the note.

All is going to plan.

A hiker comes through my door. A girl. Woman.

Rain turned to sleet over the ridge. I’m the only refuge.

Only, no-one knows Cobbler’s Spring anymore. The track is overgrown. The hut is no longer on the map.

My loft is rotten but warm with a fire going. Up here in the high country summer turns to winter in a whistle of ‘Kookaburra Up The Old Gum Tree’.

So, stay.


Clouds dump their load on my tin roof by way of an answer.

She unzips her parka. Pulls at mud caked boots.

Why’s she alone? Did the hike group split? Gone to Taylor’s Gap enjoying hot showers and company. I have neither but I’m safe.

She pulls out a device. Holds it up. Face falls.

No love, you’re outta range at Cobbler’s.

She knocks it hard on the stone mantle. It shatters. Glass tinkles into my blackened grate.

Then I see the red needle spinning uncontrollably in the cracked face of a compass. North, East, South, West. North. ..

She rips off her clothes revealing welts up her spine. The skin on her arms is blackened and ashy. Is she burnt by something more than a fire? Chemical?

There’s a noise outside like nothing I’ve ever heard.


She hits the ground. Spies something orange in the dark.

‘Open in Emergency’

The lid is stiff but eventually gives.

Inside a 2010 logbook reads : ‘Veronica, If you make it this far, nothing can stop you!!’

There’s a bottle of water from my spring as it used to be ; clear and fresh from the rock. There’s Beans, antibiotics, a gun and a small bar in a purple wrapper. She sniffs it then remembers she hasn’t smelt anything since the first wave. No-one has.

Turns it over.

‘Sweet as you are Petal, you deserve this. Gran’

Wraps her mouth around the bottle, wedging her body against the fireplace. She drinks.

Then the strangest thing. Her pack crackles alive.

‘…Alert… stay vigilant…it’s coming…not one survivor, I repeat not one…oh god -’


Her eyes stare blank into space.

She breathes. Does she die here? This wasn’t my plan.

She pockets the gun and pills then peels back the wrapper of the bar as though it might explode. Whatever it was has gone white after fifteen years. She bites. She can still taste its warmth. Her mum was here, her sister and her gran. They laughed. They wiggled frozen toes while their billy spat carbonara into the flames.

‘Keep up ‘Ronie. You’ll be left behind!’

She hated bushwalking. Hated Gran for making them come to this impenetrable mountain range instead of the beach with bonfires, beer and boys.

They’re gone now.

Boys and men were first taken.

Veronica wraps the bar. It was mere myth such things as chocolate still existed.

‘Thanks Gran,’ she whispers.

Had she known?

She saves half. For later. For the steepest part of the unknowable road ahead.


We had a few dystopian tales this month – but none were told from the unique perspective of the cabin itself. Except this one. It watches its latest visitor, updating us throughout and slowly revealing details that this is no random stranger. There is intention behind the visit. The story is told in short stabbing paragraphs. Stilted. Broken up, like the world outside appears to be. Ragged and short on flowing prose. Perfectly matching the chaos that lies behind and the unknown that lies ahead. The narrative itself reads like the pause in between the action scenes, and yet in these quiet catch-your-breath moments, we learn so much.

PALEO COOKING WITH RED by Romany Rzechowicz, ACT

Dawn filtered cautiously through the trees; lifting the fog and illuminating the clearing in golds and silvers. A remnant patch of smoke sat low over the dark red cottage, eddying as the two influencers approached, ragged, dirt-smudged and exhausted (#lostinthewoods #probablygonnadie).

And hungry. Oh, #sohungry.

Red watched from the window as the muscled one raised his hand to knock. Then paused, commented to the tight, strong one. Faces scrunched, they both tilted their heads as if it would change what they were seeing. Same every time. It wouldn’t change. It was real.

After they’d finished taking photos and scheduling them to their insta for when they had wifi again (#saved #bigforesttinyhouse), Red opened the door to welcome them. The girl looked her up and down disparagingly. Red’s cape was definitely from the uncool part of the last fifty years.

“Welcome to Red’s House of Paleo. I’m Red!”

“I’m Gretel. That’s Hansel. We’re lost.” She stepped inside and waved her phone around. Whistled. “Whoa. This space is sooo retro! Love what you’ve done with the outside too. It looks like meat. What’s your wifi password? Wicked stepmum took our SIM cards so we haven’t had reception in days. Do you have a charger I can use?”

Hansel took advantage of Gretel’s distraction and cautiously licked the doorframe. Red could see he was fighting the urge to tear through it with his teeth.

“Not just yet, young man. Let’s get you some proper food.”


“Indeed. This isn’t called Red’s Paleo Shack for nothing. I was just about to take a batch out of the smoker.”

“Sweet. This starvation thing has really been messing with my macros.” (#eatclean #instafit)

His macros were clearly already well out of whack – nowhere near enough marbling to be had in that 2% bodyfat body. It’d be all sinews and stewing chunks.

“Yeah,” added Gretel. “I was soooo worried wherever we ended up would be all, like, traditional and they’d try to feed us bread or potatoes or things like that.” (#lowcarb #paleo4life)

“Well, if you’d been here a few years ago, there’s a myth that the house was made of gingerbread. Imagine that!”

“OMG I would rather starve!”

“So I opened Red’s Paleo Palace.” She gestured out the back door, where the smoker happily belched. “One has to keep with the times, you know!”


“You’re welcome to stay as long as you like.” Long enough to tenderise, anyway. Red squeezed their shoulders experimentally as she steered them to a pair of massage chairs, perfect for softening their muscles. A couple of weeks was all they needed, she reckoned. “Now, what can I get you? Wolf stew? Bone broth? Some delicious young pork? There were three of them, so there should even be some crackling still floating around somewhere.”

“All of it!”

She passed them each a bowl of stew (#tender #meatlovers).

“Any chance of that charger?”

“You don’t move, my dears. I’ll just go find it.”




Fairytales did feature in a bunch of stories – and a few were longlisted also. After all, there are indeed a lot of remote houses in the woods littered throughout children’s tales. But rather than simply retell a classic, this story goes ALL IN on a once-hero turned villain and a melting pot (literally!) of familiar characters. The innocence and naivety of our fairytale influencers Hansel and Gretel is delightful, as are the hashtags that provide a modern aside. (We laffed out loud at #bigforesttinyhouse.) It’s an insta-tale for the ages and a good reminder that children should never lose their charger or WiFi signal in the forest. Hilarious and unique storytelling.

UNTITLED by Sukanya Singh, India

McAdams turned to his laptop, cup of coffee in hand. On his phone were five missed calls from his agent.

A new message lit up the screen.

The editor gave us a deadline, next week Friday.

McAdams sighed. Writing, he was discovering, could be a real pain. Especially when you were an established horror writer with a reputation for churning out bestseller after bestseller. The stakes were just too high after each book.

He typed a few sentences and then got up again. The November chill was getting to him. He looked around the room for a blanket, arms spiked with goosebumps.

The cursor blinked on the laptop screen next to the words: KNOCKS IN THE NIGHT

At the time he had thought it was a good title for a chapter, but now he wasn’t so sure. Coming to his cabin for a weekend writing retreat had been his wife’s idea. She had insisted that the time alone would do wonders for his writing progress. McAdams knew the truth though.

She’ll probably have a guy over every night I’m gone. He knew she’d been cheating for a while now.

At that exact moment, there was a knock on the door. His eyebrows furrowed. The caretaker had already dropped off the dinner for that night. Who was it now?

He opened the door and peered out into the fast-darkening dusk.

No one.

I’m hallucinating them at this point, McAdams laughed to himself.

He came back to his laptop and began the chapter.

The Native Americans have a myth about the Stick People. It is said that the forest goes quiet–

A sudden creak interrupted his typing. He turned around to see the door to the cabin open ever so slowly.

He froze. Then he got up and quietly closed it.

Had he previously closed the door?

He definitely had.

Wait, had he?

Yes, he had.

It was at this moment he realized that the woods had turned silent, save for a lone whistle that seemed to slice through the air.

McAdams decided he had no time for noticing the oddities of the woods. He was here to finish his book, and finish it he would.

Coming back to the laptop for the hundredth time, he flipped back to the last chapter to see where he had left off.


Sometimes, the light will flicker and go out. When you are alone in the darkness, and a whistle calls to you, do not pay heed to it. It is the call of the–

McAdams sneezed. When he opened his eyes, there was a fine red spray across the keyboard, all the way down to the spacebar. He barely had time to finish his thought: Blood?

The light above his head flickered. And then it went out.

The door opened with a creak.


We did have a lot of scary cabin stories, but the meta elements of this one caught our attention. The set up seems familiar enough – tropey almost – with our horror writer taking to the lonely cabin to meet that publishing deadline. What follows is a procession of uh-oh moments and look, he was doomed from the moment we saw those first words on the screen. The only thing we’d love is a title for the story to really bring this one home – perhaps “DEADLINE”! (Although “UNTITLED” also makes perfect sense for a book that will never be published…oooh.)

UNTITLED by Matt Neal, VIC

He comes early. Knocks three times. Whistles a tune.

Through the dirt-caked window I see him waiting, hands in pockets.

I open the door and he looks up at me, head tilted back. ‘I remember you being bigger.' He pushes past my hairy elbow and starts taking a look around the dingy, stale interior. ‘You live in a cabin?'

‘No. It's abandoned.' I poke my head out, scan the woods and close the door. ‘I wasn't about to meet you where you could find me again. Have you got the footage?'

He taps the satchel slung at his hip and turns to me. ‘You got the money?'

I grit my teeth at the injustice. Just one news story, one social media post away from a carefully preserved myth becoming irrefutable reality. Peace and solitude becoming unbearable fame. Not to mention the inevitable poachers. First the Abominable Snowman, the Nessie. We keep in touch, so they'd warned me about him, for all the good it did. They'd managed to avoid exposure, but at a price. Now I had to pay mine.

Bent-necked under the roof I lumber over to the corner and pick up the duffle bag, grip it tight, feel its weight. The cost of complacency.

‘Open the bag,' he says.

I face my extortionist and unzip the duffle, rummage pointedly through the stacks of cash. ‘Satisfied?' I take my anger out on the zip as I close it. ‘Hand it over.'

‘At the same time,' he says. Sidles over, holding out the satchel by the strap, raises it to my height with a smug smile. We lock eyes as we make the exchange.

I can't guarantee there aren't copies, but what can I do? He smirks as I take out the SD card, stick it into my laptop on the moss-mottled table, pull up a chair. I open the video file.

There I am. Broad daylight. Fly fishing in ultra high definition. I'm so angry at myself. I know better than to venture into open spaces. But I'd overheard the fish would be biting there that day like never before. Turns out I was the one taking the bait.

‘You proud of yourself?'

‘I mean, yeah,' he says, counting the bundles. ‘I got more money to keep quiet about Nessie, but you were my favourite as a kid.' He looks me up and down. ‘A little disappointing though, if I'm honest. You wear waders and have a MacBook. Guess I just thought you'd be different.'

‘Well it's not like I came from another dimension. I was born in Portland.' I snap the laptop closed with a heavy, furry hand. ‘Now take the money and go.'

‘Pleasure doing business with you.' He stops on his way out, hand on the door, studies my simian features. I see his eyes dart downward. ‘Surely there's a Mrs. Sasquatch?'

‘No. Why?'

‘Well, you know what they say about guys with big feet.'


There’s an effortlessness about this final story in our showcase – thanks largely to our whistling, nonchalant visitor with the SD card. It’s a rendezvous of some kind and immediately distinctive as the cabin is purely a meeting place and not a dwelling. Nice. What unfolds in this well-described exchange is a very clever idea of why we simply never see these mythical beasts that supposedly roam the planet – extortion! In less confident hands, this concept might have fumbled, but the execution is sharp and the dialogue flows throughout. In fact, it’s the matter-of-fact vibes that make this so good and even the ‘big feet’ joke feels fresh in this ‘big foot’ universe. Nicely told – definitely one for the conspiracy theorists!


Each month, we like to include an extra LONGLIST of stories that stood out from the hundreds and were highly considered for the showcase. (If you’re wondering, this month it’s around the top 5%.) Remember, all creativity is subjective, but if your name is here, well done (if it’s not, don’t despair – you may have simply been in the top 6%). We hope to see you ALL next month!

THIS MONTH’S LONGLIST (in no particular order):

      • HUNTING by Sherryl Clark, New Zealand
      • NO PLACE LIKE HOME by Nina Peck, WA
      • FROM ALL THE WAY UP HERE by Madelyn Grace, NSW
      • UNTITLED by Annabelle McKenzie, VIC
      • THE THREE WISHES by Bruno Lowagie, Belgium
      • STRANGER ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR by Kyle Callam, Jamaica
      • THE WHISTLE OF HOPE by Christie Mack, NSW
      • THE HUNGRY FOREST by Sarah Oakes, UK
      • NO TOMORROW by Sarndra Vaughan, QLD
      • KNOCK, KNOCK – WHO’S THERE? by John Walker, NSW
      • UNTITLED by Anne Wilkins, New Zealand
      • A KNOCK AT THE DOOR by Robert Fairhead, NSW
      • MY FAVOURITE GUEST by Freya N, ACT
      • GRAND by Helen Renwick, WA
      • THE FARM by Cathryn Girdwood, QLD
      • NEMESIS by Greg Wickham, NSW
      • THE LAST 24 HOURS by Rosanna Elves, Canada
      • THE THIEF by Joni Braham, NSW
      • UNTITLED by Celine Ho, NSW
      • ON THE RUN by Tom Penrose, NSW
      • THE BEACH HOUSE by Denver Grenell, New Zealand
      • SURVIVOR by Pam Makin, SA
      • NO SEQUEL, NO TRILOGY by Andrew Whalan, VIC
      • HUMPY TOM by David Christensen, VIC
      • THE VIEW by Marie Nauppas, Canada
      • FOR HE IS ONLY HUMAN by Andi Wu, VIC
      • WHAT SURVIVES by Karen Cutler, QLD
      • UNTITLED by Sarah Stretton, UK
      • OFFLINE by Anita Link, QLD
      • LIARBIRD by Jake Watts, NSW
      • UNTITLED by Matt Goddard, UK
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