Etched In Red

3rd in the 'Shades of Darkness - Inaugural 1997 Schools Short Story Competition - Horror/Thriller Theme' competition

The smell of warm bacon drifted to the Alsatian’s wet nose.

‘Mutt, Mutt, over here boy.’ Mrs Pound’s Alsatian bounded over to the kitchen. Her short, plump arm offered Mutt the pink feedbowl with “Puppy” etched in red.

‘Here you go, some yummy ‘Matey’.’ How could a dog maintain his basic canine instincts on marrow-bone jelly and fish oil? How he yearned to sink his razor sharp teeth into some real meat. Mutt ate quickly, the mailman was due soon.

The energetic cattledog went bounding into the bushes. He could hear the heavy breathing of the rabbit he had been pursuing. He could smell its quivering fear. A shrill whistle pierced the air.

‘Rusty, here boy, come fetch the mail,’ commanded his master, Bob Kennelworth. So close yet again to tasting living flesh.

There was a sharp knock at the door. Mrs Leash yelled out ‘Fetch!’ and her little dog Frisky was rushing to the small white envelope on the welcome mat. ‘Bring the mail here Frisky!’ Frisky this, Frisky that, Frisky was tired of getting the mail, her sharp claws were always getting caught in the carpet. Why should a pedigree chihuahua be treated as a substitute child? Frisky hated the lace collar. She hated the silk poncho. Frisky hated the fragrance of the daily shampoos and she hated the torture of the blow-dryer.

Paul McBeagle, the local dog catcher, had been following a stray for a long time. Finally it darted into a dead-end alley.

‘At last, the mongrel’s trapped!’ He picked up his net and entered the dark alley. ‘What the…? It couldn’t have just disappeared!’ He asked some passers-by if they had seen a mangy, yellow stray fleeing. None of the pedestrians or the mailman on his rounds had. Bingo crept out of the drain, the sunlight reflecting off his incisors. Toby sat motionless. His cold grey eyes watching the security gate of Mastiff Mansion. For the past three years he had sat and watched for the intruder who would never come. A highly trained Doberman being bored to death. He should be defending banks or famous people and attacking vicious murderers and assassins. His thoughts were interrupted by the familiar sound of the mailman’s books on concrete.

Devil sat expectantly outside the butcher shop. His black tail wagging as he waited for Mr Cleaver to slip him a rotten sausage or a piece of fat. That morning Mr Cleaver had displayed in the shop window. As Devil looked in the window, he saw his strong, muscular reflection. He saw his fang-like teeth and the drool dripping off his rough tongue. He was suddenly distracted by the revving noise of the mailman’s scooter.

The detectives sat motionless, their eyes glued to the seven circles etched in red on the county map. Next to each circle was a photograph of the slain victim and a description of the way they h ad been butchered. Massive mutilations were a common method of murder. Inspector Chien’s gruff voice broke the silence.

‘The suspect,’ he barked ‘is either a serial killer well known to the victims or a gang with vengeance as their common motive. Is it possible that we can be so animalistic?’


23 was established in 1997, and since then we have successfully completed numerous short story and poetry competitions and publications.
We receive an overwhelming positive feedback each year from the teachers, parents and students who have involvement in these competitions and publications, and we will continue to strive to attain this level of excellence with each competition we hold.


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