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Rugby Cafe Writers were challenged to write something on the theme of Endings. Here is a selection of their contributions.

an alternative ending by Steve Redshaw 

Now it happened that as they were going along they stumbled over a bush, and with the  shaking, the bit of poisoned apple flew out of her throat. It was not long before she opened  her eyes, threw up the cover of the coffin, and sat up, alive and well. 

“Oh dear! where am I?” cried she. 

The king’s son answered, full of joy, “You are near me,” and, relating all that had happened, he said, “I would rather have you than anything in the world. I was captivated by your  beauty; so wondrous, so serene. Having laid eyes upon you, I could not avert my gaze. I  begged with all the passion that your perfect form had stirred within my heart that I be  allowed to transport you to my castle, where I could henceforth contemplate your  exquisiteness for as long as I live.” 

He paused and sighed in disbelief, reaching out towards her. She took his hands, was raised  to her feet and stepped, lightly and gracefully, from the coffin. 

“Such joy and delight, my Princess. By what marvellous miracle have you become mine in  both flesh and spirit? I will take you for my bride and you shall live a life worthy of your  grace, elegance and charm.” 

“No!” she exclaimed in distress, “That cannot be. Where are they, my friends, those I live  with and serve?” 

“Those pitiful dwarves? Why they are probably moping still in their meagre cottage at the  foot of the mountain,” responded the King’s son. 

“But I must be with them. Life, indeed, has been restored to me and I must return home.” 

“You do not understand,” said the King’s son, “I have liberated you and thus accomplished  your miraculous restoration to life. I will bestow upon you riches beyond your imagining;  luxury that surpasses all your experience; fame and adoration that befits your utter beauty.” 

“And there is much that you do not understand, it seems. I know a great deal about the  world you wish to flaunt me in and I tell you this: I cannot imagine even the smallest  amount of riches that will not taint and corrupt its recipients; my experience of the sort of  luxuries you are able to offer, show they lead only to emptiness and discontent; craving the  shallow adoration and flattery of others, breeds nothing but jealousy and hatred. It would  have been so much better for you had I remained a perfectly preserved corpse; under your  ownership and control; available to serve your vanity alone. I know where true riches,  luxuries and fulfilment lie.”  

She cast a brief, pitying glance towards the King’s son, turned and strode into the woods.

Ending by Fran Neatherway

This follows directly on from my previous piece, “Escape”.

Her muscles strained as she dragged the metal grill back over the shaft. It wouldn’t hold the Hound Masters for long, but it might give her the time to escape. Her ankle was throbbing with pain where the hunter had grabbed it. Should she hide or run? The Hounds could easily outrun her and they could scent her if she hid. Best to hide while she rested her painful ankle and wait for daybreak when the hounds were weakened by the sun. 

She limped through the darkness, listening for sounds of pursuit behind her. The empty streets were full of rubble, making them difficult to traverse safely. She searched for a safe hiding place and spotted a tall tower. If the stairs were intact, she could reach the top and block the stairwell. She was in luck. The narrow spiral staircase wound its way upwards into the gloom. Not having the time, or strength, to block the entrance, she hobbled up the stairs. Perhaps the Hounds would search the lower floors first. 

Time was running out. She forced her tired body to climb the steep steps to the roof. A wooden trapdoor was the next obstacle to be faced, but it opened easily and she emerged onto the battlements. The devastated city spread out below her, scarred by flames, its buildings destroyed in earlier attacks. She slammed the trapdoor shut and looked for something to keep it closed. There was nothing, no lock, no bolt. Only her. What was she going to do? She needed to think, but she was interrupted by a loud voice echoing across the sky. 

“Turn that thing off and go to sleep. You’ve got school in the morning. Have you done your homework?”

With a sigh, Daisy closed her laptop. “Yes, Mum.”

Last Years’s Fashion by Theresa Le Flem

Above the street level, up a storey or two, 
where our eyes rarely travel,
there’s the top of buildings we seldom glance at:
Victorian brickwork crumbling like biscuits,
windows of rooms above shops, 
black dirt-stained glass without curtains, 
silhouettes of shapes: boxes in storage, 
dusty, unsold, maybe damp, out of date.
Stock left waiting for a shop or a stall, 
ready to be released for the next Spring Sale,
seventy percent off, or a better deal,
or sent to the market, 
clothes hatching freshly from their wrappings 
like chicks to take their place on the glittering shelves,
or under the Christmas lights.

Some fashions never emerge again,
that might be their end.
They might stay there, dry and brittle in their paper,
embalmed, abandoned like chrysalises, the business in receivership, gone away, closed down.
Or they might be recycled, end up at a car boot sale
or a charity shop; all those trendy jeans, 
tee-shirts, skirts and dresses, all sizes, all the same.

I wonder where their lives began; cut from a colourful cotton bale of freshly dyed fabric on the other side of the world, fed through a thousand sewing machines,
stitched in a factory of industrial scale, 
noise and labour in the heat and sweat,
poorly paid workers with no time to eat,
but each garment skilfully sewn and folded, 
each button carefully chosen. 

The designers who visualise such catwalk beauty
should walk down the back alleys of the town one day.
I hope they will look up to see
to see empty buildings, see what’s upstairs,
the boarded-up shops where their workers now sleep, curled up in the doorways in boxes once used
as storage for garments, for packing and shipping.
They now house their people, the homeless, rejected,
the surplus stock of redundant people.
There were just too many tee shirts, too many ordered,
so many left on the shelves,
ageing cotton from last summer’s bunting, 
from last year’s fashion – unwanted, returned unsold.


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