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.
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.