Diana Brown Wins “Underground” Flash Fiction Competition

We are delighted to announce the winner of our flash fiction competition with ArtBelow. The theme is “experiences on the Underground or Metro”, and we received many excellent entries.

However, there can be only one winner, so we would like to congratulate Diana Brown, who won with her amusing, sly piece, “This is My Chosen Story”. Congratulations are also due to our runners-up: Hazel Compton, Sarah Dobbs, Vanessa Woolf, and Samuel Draper—you can read their entries here.

We would like to thank ArtBelow for making this competition possible and for providing a great prize for the winning entry.

Here’s Diana Brown’s story—look out for it soon on a poster at a London Tube station near you!

This is My Chosen Story

By Diana Brown

John James had been in love most of his life. With people he had never met. An expert on the human condition, he felt that there was one woman, an actress, he would literally die for. Rose Harbison.

It was astonishing, therefore, when one morning in late spring he found himself on a tube opposite her. Gazing at her for a long time, he was knocked out by her beauty. It was extraordinary that someone like her would ever choose to travel by tube. She looked at him and smiled straight at him. John James blushed to the very core of his roots and nearly died on the spot. It was her! From then on he played a game and decided to stare at her for as long as possible until she did it again. After she had vanished back into the crowds he vowed to himself he would look after Rose. He would be her protector. They had a link.

John James remained a devoted lifetime supporter of Rose Harbison until the year 2011 when she produced her first autobiography. He read with rapture the first 81 pages when he came across a small paragraph:

“My boyfriend paid me a lot of money to travel five stops on a tube once, because he knew I had a fear of such things. I was enjoying it until some annoying geek caught my eye and insisted on staring at me in a rather disturbing way. Needless to say I have never travelled on public transport again.”

Needless to say, John James never went to see a Rose Harbison film again.

Runners-up: 2011 Litro & ArtBelow flash fiction competition

We had some fantastic entries to choose from for this competition and although only one person can have the big prize, we are still very pleased to be able to feature the works of four runners-up here—from poetry, flash fiction, shorts, to something a little more experimental.

You can read the winning entry by Diana Brown here. To find out more about ArtBelow’s projects, artistic collaborations and contests, please visit www.artbelow.org.

My Good Robot Double

By Vanessa Woolf

If I could have one wish, I would wish for a Good Robot Double who would
around on the tube all day righting wrongs while I sit at home chilling
would give its’ seat to anyone who looked tired, it would pick up
coffee cups and convey them to the nearest exit. It would engage lonely
in deep conversation while leaving the shy ones well alone. You might meet
double one day, but you’d never know you’d spoken to a Robot.

I’d ask my Robot Double to play spooky tricks on teenagers. For example:
last tube at Elephant and Castle, my Double would hustle past a group of
clubbers, pushing along the carriage, right to the end. Then when no one

looking, my Double would press a Robot Button and go invisible. Vanishing,
like a ghost; totally eerie.  After that my Double might stay dark for a
a silent comforter for the real ghosts on the underground.

And I could stay at home.

The Underground Or Metro

By Samuel Draper

You have a special sense of style. I’ve only seen it once before. She laid out her books, waiting for a seminar. But once the lecturer started, she put her psychology books in her satchel and scuttled out.

Your friend tells you of her Friday night. Reminds me of Natasha, the blonde I wrote a poem for at primary school. Natasha laughed at me and then threw the poem away. Your friend laughs the same, reciting another anecdote.

The girl opposite reminds me of no one. Traces of a lover but no, nothing sticks. I like the way she flicks her magazine, switching back and forth between before and after pictures.

Then I look to my left. The window reminds me: I’ve missed my interchange.


By Sarah Dobbs


The escalator sinks her underground: Match.com, Match.com, Match.com. Hair slick, feet in tights in heels, her ‘to do’ list flickers. Men are just shapes in suits. She presses her lips together, affirming the lipstick tattoo.


Rush-hour crush. A woman’s hair probes her lip, split-ends snake-tonguing all the way up. She yearns to unravel, for someone to knead her arches.


A tourist infiltration. Cases clogging, they stumble and laugh to nobody when the tube jolts.


She blinks, eyeballs dusty. The tube drones, waspy iPod music tickling the near-quiet. Stop, walk, swipe, green light. A sax wreathes along hospital-like corridors. She checks their place.


Late. Lights wink as the tube speeds. A grandfather tells tall stories to rapt, strawberry-lipped children. She finds her reflection, eyes inked black.


Friday, finally. Hair unbunned the tube arrives, its warm electric breath fingering her fringe. Doors hish open.

She freezes. He raises his eyebrows.

A couple rush aboard, shiny and still polite.

Beep beep beep.

She nips on and he slips a thumb inside her hand, kneading.

“Wanna go somewhere?”

The tube slides away.

She glances at the couple, then themselves in the tunnel-black glass.

“Just home.”


By Hazel Compton

Circular routine movements, sometimes late and sometimes early. In the almost tropical carriage, we press into each other like penguins getting warm before the doors impatiently beep at people in their way. Scramble for a dirty handrail as the jolt of awakening sets off the train and its feminine voice calls us to dismount at the right station. Heavy air simpers through ventilation, an old man constantly exhaling whilst generations run past to their next urgent stop. Mobiles signal protest as we forge underground, always on the right side of the stairway so we can pretend we are not stressed into hurrying. Music from a downtrodden artist fills the secretive passages. It mixes with advertising and stained tiles to influence you, yet we all pretend not to hear. Amongst the bustle a stoic figure is seen looking at the tubing map with all but tears in their eyes, the colours transcended to a knotted ball of wire. Slot your card into the gateway, take it from the top and walk into the barrier, “Seek assistance” before you can get out of the labyrinth’s channels and then take a fresh breath of the natural air.

Day in, day out,

Author’s note: The ending “Day in, day out” links into the start again. “Day in, day out, / Circular routine movements…” so the writing is always in its own cyclical process and never ends.

Spring into creativity: Litro teams up with ArtBelow

Litro and ArtBelow
Litro and ArtBelow’s previous story poster collaboration at Angel tube station

Spring is finally just around the corner and to celebrate, we’re encouraging you to shake off those winter blues and be creative. We’ve teamed up with ArtBelow to bring you two fantastic March competitions—for both writers and artists.

For Writers

Pen a piece of flash fiction telling us about your experiences on the underground or metro, no more than 200 words. The winner will see their work displayed in a London Underground station.

Litro #100 cover art, by Stephen Farthing.

For Artists

Submit your artwork to us and win the chance to see your work on the cover of the April issue of Litro. The issue theme is “Science”, so let that be your inspiration.

Past cover artists have included Royal Academy Fellow Stephen Farthing; acclaimed painter Gillian Ayres; Maaike Schoorel (Mauren Paley Gallery); and Khosrow Hassazadeh (Scream Gallery, London).

Please send all artwork with the following specs:
105mm (wide) x 210mm (tall) with a 3mm bleed, preferrably with a 3mm border area free of type. Files can be in JPEG and PDF format, or CYMK format.

Please submit all entries to [email protected] by 7 March.