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Monthly Short Story Winner: Seven Deadly Sins

We’ve been getting such good feedback for the short stories our members have submitted in our Monthly Short Story Competition that we have decided to post them on the main site at a rate of one a week. Today we will be looking at the winner from our August 2014 contest.

Gluttony by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

The Seven Deadly Sins is not a new theme. Above you see Gluttony by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, who painted this and the other six deadly vices in 1558. You can find them in Dante’s Divine Comedy and in many other pieces of art, no matter if written, drawn, sung, or sculpted. Unilever even made a Magnum ice cream series about them.

This month the contestants had to write a story inspired by one or more of the seven deadly sins:

Lust
Gluttony
Greed
Sloth
Wrath
Envy
Pride

They did not have to include religion or the concept of sin.

Rules:

1. This can be prose or a poem.
2. The story must be inspired by one of the seven deadly sins.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
5. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That’s why they’re called limits.
6. Your entry can’t be published somewhere else first.
7. This is a writing contest, not a “I wrote something like this ten years ago” contest. So if you pick an already existing piece of your work, I’d like it to have a major overhaul/edit. Work for it. 😉

August’s winning story was “Septum Insidias” by AlmightyZael. In his story we meet all seven sins as anthropomorphic beings. Congrats, AlmightyZael!

You can find the other entries here. You can also get updates on our monthly contests on Twitter by following @ffwritingcomp. And now on with the story!

– – –

“Septum Insidias”
by AlmightyZael

Greed tossed the worn bone dice across the dusty floor.

“Seven,” he said in a voice rough as gravel.

Beside him, the dark and twisted form of Envy scowled, a veil of writhing shadows encasing his beaked face. “I’m sick of this game.”

Envy picked up the die and flicked his withered wrist. The bones skittered along the soot, kicking up delicate clouds in their wake. The smut wisped and danced, until it was lost in the rotten purple of the sky above.

Several feet away an ancient concrete wall protruded, crumbling to sand under its own weight. Rusted iron fingers stuck out like the awkward legs of a spider, grasping helplessly at the sour air. Behind this totem of collapse and putrefaction, the rest of the siblings sat in a crooked circle. To their right burned a pitiful fire that threatened to peter out at any moment, never quite working up the courage to let itself die. It projected a greasy, orange light upon them, revealing their knotted, warped forms.

The five of them stared lifelessly at the centre of a squat table.

“Four of a kind,” rasped Lust, placing the gritty cards she held onto the centre of the decayed surface. Bits of wood flaked off beneath her thin, skeletal fingers.

Sloth yawned at his sister’s victory, his joints popping as he stretched. He threw his own battered cards down, and lay back. More popping and crunching noises followed.

“Bored already, brother?” Wrath asked, his wicked eyes glimmering with something akin to hatred.

“Just wake me in another hundred hands or so.” And with that he turned his back on them and the futile warmth of the fire.

A snapping, squishing sound echoed over a stinking breath of wind as Gluttony crushed a mangled rat beneath his pudgy hand. He raised it to his mouth and swallowed it whole. It did nothing to sate his hunger. He looked around for the chance at another snack. Of course there was none.

“Finally, I see how you’ve maintained your figure,” Pride rumbled. His voice was harsh and humourless, but it earned a sniff of amusement from Lust and Wrath.

“Oh,” Gluttony wailed dramatically. “So long has it been since one has gorged one’s self merrily on wine and sweets!”

“Say no more on gorging,” Lust replied drily.

Pride stood abruptly, the dust that accumulated on his hide over the years was thrown into chaos, swirling and twirling in vortexes around his arms. He began to pace away, heading nowhere in particular. The ground crunched and cracked beneath his boots.

“Where are you going?” Gluttony asked in a fluttery voice.

“Anywhere but here.” He kept walking.

“It’s all the same out there, brother,” Wrath cautioned, his face a thunderstorm. “We already searched high and low centuries ago.” His voice took on a solemn quality. “This world has changed.”

The black, creaking creature they called Pride was undeterred.

“I know,” he said simply. Several piles of trash and detritus collapsed beneath his weight as he skirted around the larger segments of toppled concrete.

“Well,” Lust said with finality. “That’s good enough for me.” She stood to her full length, and again the motes of dust were excited into spiralling around her emaciated form. Dark, dry hair spilled down to her thimble-thin waist and rested on her jagged hips, splaying at the ends like some hideous waterfall.

Greed and Envy tilted their heads at the sudden burst of movement, a pinprick punctuation in the forsaken wastelands of the world.

“What’s this?” Greed called over. A rockslide would have held more enthusiasm.

“Walk.” Lust turned to follow her brother.

At that Envy settled back down, losing interest. He muttered something about dead lands and deader company. He scratched at his stubby beak and picked up the die once more.

“Roll anything below a seven and we go with them,” Greed told him.

The bone cubes did their dance across the grit and skidded to a halt. When the cloud had diffused and their sight was once more unburdened, they saw the die’s pupils staring up at them. Greed lowered himself once more.

“Nothing out there, anyway.” He snatched up the dice.

Wrath was a sudden blur of motion as he came up and jogged over the sand-clotted plains, his own collection of filth trailed him like a phantom cloak. He walked abreast his siblings in silence for what may have been several hours.

“What made you join us,” Lust asked finally.

“Better company than those we left behind.”

The sky above them darkened to another shade of putrid purple, and they knew that it would retain that hue for a horrifically long time. It mattered little. It would brighten, vaguely, once more eventually.

The three of them wondered aimlessly for another untold period, saying nothing, thinking less.

“I could have done this alone,” Pride eventually said as they were walking across a disintegrating bridge. The crusty paint that sheathed it had worn under the abrasive wind to a depressing brown. The stretch of ocean that had once roared beneath its stretching limb had long since run dry. Now only bones and grit awaited them below.

His brother and sister offered him no reply.

They walked ever onwards, seeing not much of anything save for the tombstones of fallen buildings and the remnants of long dead inhabitants. Here the rust-pocked shell of an automobile, there the melting panes of glass as they slowly puddled over the course of many millennia under gravity’s unrelenting will.

Still, they pressed on, never intending or expecting to find something different, something new. They had grown used to whatever this was that they called their existence. Grown used to the ever present hunger within them to meddle in the lives of those who no longer existed.

Back at their camp, if it could be considered as such, the remaining four sat unmoving. Save for the eternal skittering of dice and the occasional, peculiar ruffle of wind, no one made a sound.

Gluttony sat with eyes fixed on nothing. Sloth balanced on the edge of wakefulness and slumber.

The small fire, still refusing to succumb to the cold hand of death, cast a glow upon them that was far from comforting.

It was an abyssal knowledge that filled all seven of them; they were no longer needed.

The world had changed.

– – –

Congratulations again to AlmightyZael! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for my information. Happy writing! 🙂

Title image by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

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