Kristal’s story a winner

Kristal Sorby won this month's Bellarine Writing Competition. (supplied)

There were 16 entries for this month’s Bellarine Writing Competition, all of a very high standard and some with an unusual innovative approach to the story.

The winner, Kristal Sorby, presented a different approach to a murder story and Ali Holborn, highly recommended for her story with its unique approach to hell and heaven.

Also recommended was Jenny Eddy with her light-hearted, amusing approach to prison life.

The next Writers Group will meet on Thursday July 4 to do an unusual writing stimulation exercise plus examine a male writer’s effort to produce a story from the female point of view.

Anyone interested should find out details by emailing

Judges’ comment: Kristal’s story was engaging and very well written, with great use of historical imagery. A clever and enjoyable story, with an almost comedic use of sinister murders! We thought the story used the ‘Free Again’ theme exceptionally well and particularly we liked the way all the characters were portrayed so well.

Kristal Sorby

Kris started writing at about five years old, and her parents were cool enough to support the habit with a computer, a typewriter, and reams upon reams of paper. While at high school she was invited to a local adult’s writing group, and since then has written in international flash fiction contests and within LGBTQIA+ online-publishing circles.

Now 33, Kris works full time in Disability Employment Services in East Geelong and Ocean Grove, and as a serial learner she is also studying a Diploma of Auslan. In her leisure time she can be found in a pile of ‘to be read’ books, nose-to-screen in a video game, or hiking the Victorian bushland.

THREE AGAIN by Kristal Sorby

The cliche is that the first one is always the hardest, but for Elsie it was the second. Her portrait afterwards had been lovely; the black of her dress in sharp relief to the pale of her face, the daguerreotype softening her curls about her head. The dress itself had been too plain for her tastes, but after the first she’d seen no need to have another one made.

By contrast the third had been almost a holiday. Number Three – Edward, maybe? Edwin? – had ordered her to stop spending nearly so much time in the library; a waste of her time with the piano there to be practised. But Charles Dickens had been publishing his monthly instalments of Oliver Twist, and Elsie hadn’t been able to abide by such nonsense – it was 1840 for God’s sake – and had eventually found herself back on the market.

It had always been her mother’s idea, really. “Getting on in years, Elspeth,” she would say each time, her father nodding behind his pipe and opining that he only wanted to see her taken care of.

Elsie had always railed against the whims of her mother, dodging embroidery and gala balls to sneak out of the house to watch every hunt her father and his friends had galloped off on.

She would return with twigs and leaves in her hair, and always welcomed back by her governess wielding a cane across her knuckles.

So when Number One – Jack – had been trotted out in front of her, Elsie had outright said no. She’d ended up in wedding silks despite her protests, and had her liberty stripped from her to be replaced with ‘housewife’ with all the pomp and circumstance expected of her social status. Though it was fortuitous that he had allowed Elsie to choose the wallpaper of their new sitting room, and the resplendent yellow-green had complemented the dark wood of the floors. It was a terrible shame, people noted much later, that the wallpaper had started flaking almost as soon as it was laid.

And Number Three – definitely Edward – had been so insufferable that she’d hardly managed to tolerate him for the summer before she asked for the rats in the cellar to be sorted out. A horrible way to go, the doctor said as she donned the black dress again, how unlucky that he insisted on always laying the strychnine pellets himself, so terribly unfortunate that it contaminated the wine he was keeping down there.

But oh, Number Two, dear Charles. He had been content to sit near and read with her, or follow her to the theatre, or take her to dinner in her best gown simply to be seen with her.

He had been charming in his own way, but so close as to be a shadow. It had suffocated her, to always have him by her, taking her hand in his or laying his lips close to her temple. He had never let her breathe. His horse had thrown him – a horse fly bite to the rump, she was told, but in truth a well-placed jab of her hatpin – and he had landed against a rock wall in a most terrible way. There was no saving him, they’d said, but the deep red soaking into his pale hair had spoken to that already.

And finally, Number Four. She had been left to her own devices a full year from the end of her half-mourning before her mother had wheedled him before her, thrice-widowed and no longer the catch her family hoped. A drunk, though at least not a cruel one, he was found most nights purple-lipped from wine and preferred sleeping on the floor than his bed. It had taken Elsie time to find an appropriate birthday gift for him, but the old antimony cup had been so well received that he used it most nights, and the vomiting assumed more an effect of the drink than its vessel. The vomiting ceased only with his breathing.

Ever the dutiful wife, Elsie dressed once more in her blacks. There would be no more suitors, her mother cried, not for one so unlucky. The corset would constrict her breathing, she knew, and the veil hide the world from her eyes, and the shoes pinch her toes and stop her from dancing.

This portrait of her, free at last, is sweeter. The silver-plating on copper once more softening her curls, the corners of her mouth dancing to hold back the smile.


Colours drifting through the thermosphere wreaked havoc on Earth. Awed drivers watching the sky. Not the roads. Too many folks currently in Shadowland trying to figure the way out.

Sam would have sold his soul to take the night off. Best aurora in decades, but no rest for the wicked, eh? Once a joy, he now found the graveyard shift soul destroying.

When witching hour ended, Sam dropped his uniform and trident into his locker, grabbed the bottle of red he’d procured on his way to work, and headed to the only working elevator in Shadowland. Gone were his days of using stairs. Even downwards.

At the next gate, Mary was struggling to keep her eyes open. Retirement age had long passed, but she was constantly having to cover Peter’s shift. Some people called him a saint. Mary called him anything but. Having worked her fingers to the bone, the hypnotic kaleidoscope of light was just the tonic she needed – the bigger than normal crowd at triage, not so much. Lights constantly flickering because of the geomagnetic interference hadn’t helped either.

These days, the concept of time was irrelevant to Mary, and normally she’d stay until the last in the waiting room had left. Tonight though, she had nothing more to give.

For the first time in an eternity, at 4am, Mary left her minions to cope without her.

Too exhausted for the long climb home, she weaved her way through the crowd to the lift.

She startled at the sight of Sam heading in the same direction. Flaming insolent good for nothing! Tsk! These days the arrogant upstart called himself Lucifer.

Adrenalin surging, she ran to the elevator and thumped the ‘ascend’ button, but Sam swept beside her and pressed ‘descend’ with equal force.

Mary hurried inside when the doors opened, trying unsuccessfully to block Sam’s access. His presence was overwhelming, his sulphurous aftershave nauseating.

Brimstone, Mary guessed. She turned her back to him, pounding the up arrow, but mirrored walls hide nothing, and Sam was just as madly thumping the down arrow on the opposite control panel.

Mary screwed her eyes shut. Enclosed space. Not good. The elevator jerked. She kept her eyes shut, couldn’t tell if they were headed up or down.

“Up!” she begged. “Please!”

“You’re hilarious,” Sam chuckled. “Who you praying to?”

Mary opened her eyes to glare at him, but the lights had gone out. It was pitch black in the elevator and it wasn’t moving. Up or down.

Dark, confined and trapped. She moaned, groping her way down to sit on the floor.

“This is hell!”

“It really isn’t.” Sam laughed. “Between you and me, though, I’m too old for this shit.”

Sam nudged her as he too sat. A bottle unscrewed, the glug of liquid and the smell of alcohol. An aged shiraz if Mary wasn’t mistaken.

“Want some?” Sam pressed the bottle to her.


“You know full well it’s not a sin, and since when did you get so virtuous!” Sam

scoffed. “Wasn’t it you that instigated the miraculous production of wine when it ran out at that wedding?”

Mary’s cheeks burned. There was no denying it.

“I will not break bread with a devil such as you,” Mary muttered.

“What, no baguette or cheese? We could have had a last supper.”

Mary’s breath caught.

“Ah, shouldn’t have said that,” Sam mumbled.

Dammit, that wine smelled good! Mary fumbled for the bottle and took a long swig. It tasted fantastic, but too much of a good thing was bad. Led to stupid mistakes. She’d made enough herself, but Sam sure as hell had paid for his. Still was, in fact. How much punishment was enough? Tears of guilt pricked her eyes.

“I’m sorry, Samael,” she said quietly. “Will you forgive my hatred?”

“Heart of an angel me,” Sam muttered, “albeit a fallen one. Just so you know, I hate my job and the hell I’ve put so many through.”

“Time for a truce?” Mary suggested.

As they shook hands firmly in the darkness, the elevator doors suddenly opened.

“Hallelujah!” Mary scrambled to freedom. “Oh, pity. The aurora’s over.”

“That’s not all that’s over,” Sam mused. “Listen!”

Mary’s eyes widened. “As above, so below!” she exclaimed. “It’s peaceful!”

With conflict between heaven and hell at an end, peace on earth was finally free to reign again.

“We should have a party to celebrate,” Mary laughed.

With a wicked glint in his eye, Sam held out his hand. “Shall we dance?” he winked.