Οι νικητές του Διαγωνισμού Διηγήματος 2017 στα Αγγλικά (SHORT STORY COMPETITION)

που διοργανώνει το English Language Courses Argiris Hatzopoulos είναι:

2ο Βραβείο στη Χαρά Τσουκανέρη για το διήγημά της "Postmortem Present".

3o Βραβείο στην Κατερίνα Δακτυλίδη για το διήγημά της "Ravening shadow".

H απονομή των βραβείων θα γίνει το Σάββατο 9 Δεκεμβρίου 2017 και ώρα 18.00 στο χώρο του ELC Argiris Hatzopoulos.

Η επιτροπή έκρινε πως κανένα από τα έργα που κατατέθηκαν δεν πληρούσε τις απαραίτητες προϋποθέσεις για να κατακτήσει το πρώτο βραβείο.

Ευχαριστούμε πολύ όλους τους συμμετέχοντες και ελπίζουμε να καταθέσουν εκ νέου τα έργα τους στον 2ο Διαγωνισμό Διηγήματος στα Αγγλικά που θα προκυρηχθεί στην άνοιξη του 2018.

Παρακάτω μπορείτε να διαβάσετε τα βραβευμένα διηγήματα:


Στη φωτογραφία η νικήτρια του Διαγωνισμού Τσουκανέρη Χαρά


Tsoukaneri Chara


“Daddy come on, one more! It’s only ten—” “Ten on a school night, little monster.”

“Tell me one more or I’ll eat you with my big monster teeth!”

“And where will you put me, in that tiny belly? You can’t even finish a bowl of

Cheerios, think you’ll fit me in there?”

“You’ll be gone for so long… I want my fairy tales in advance!”

“Well, if you put it like that, you don’t give me much choice. Just one more, then lights off.

Once upon a time, there was a very unfortunate man who had no wife and no children and lived all alone in the middle of the desert. He had to walk five miles each day, through the hot desert, to reach the closest city and find water and food and then another five miles home.”

“Couldn’t he buy another house if that one was so far away?” “He couldn’t afford it, Melissa.”

“Well, maybe he could rent one, like Aunt Tina and Uncle Benny rent their house in Brooklyn.”

“Let’s just say he hadn’t thought of that and get on with the fairy tale, Honey, shall


“Mm, fine.”

“Well then, one day when he was in the city’s greatest fair, he laid eyes on the king’s only daughter. He thought she was the most beautiful woman on earth, and from that moment on, he could think of nothing else but her.”

“Yes, naturally.”

“Want a fairy tale, Mel, or should I turn off the light already?” “Ok, sorry.”

“No more interruptions then!

Days came and days went, and the unfortunate man could no longer eat or sleep because of his desperate love for the princess, until one day, as he was walking in the desert, he came across a rusty old lamp. He lifted it and wiped it clean, and then he felt a violent jolt, as if lightning had hit him. All of a sudden, he was lying on the sand looking at a majestic jinni, who told him that he could fulfill three of his heart’s deepest desires. The man couldn’t believe his luck! He wished to become king of a fertile land, to live in a glass palace and have his beloved as his wife. The jinni granted all his wishes and the man thought he’d live happily ever after.”

“But then what happened?”

“Well, then the princess’s father, the king, got so mad that he lost his daughter, that he decided to go to war to defeat the man who dared steal her and to take her back.”

“Like you’ll go to war, Daddy?”

“Melissa… We talked about this, baby. I won’t be fighting anyone. I’m going there to record what’s happening and to try to make the world see what a bad thing war is.”

“Do you think that if you show them, they’ll stop it?”

“I don’t know Mellie. I hope so. Your bedtime is long past, Honey Bee, give me a kiss goodnight.”

“I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you too, baby. Goodnight.”

* * *

It’d been a month since we arrived in Homs, and I already felt like I’d spent a lifetime in a war zone. Three days to go until we could pack up and go back to the normality of a house built of concrete, of drinkable water and not wearing bulletproof vests to go for a

smoke. I don’t know if we crossed a line, but I’d already seen a lot more flesh and bone than my stomach could digest, and I seriously doubted if I could ever look at the footage again.

That last week, I couldn’t sleep, and every time I did, I had nightmares of my wife and daughter asking me to come home. One night, I dreamed that Melissa had come to find me in Syria and was looking for me all around camp. I could see her, I could hear her, I kept trying to run towards her, trying to shout, but I was dead frozen. I woke up sweaty and in tears, and Jessie, my first camera assistant, joked that next time we should film swimming pigs in the Bahamas, because I clearly couldn’t digest this. I told him to fuck off, and we went about our day as usual, filming destroyed areas outside town, interviewing former hostages and bombing survivors, and reciting words from Conversational Arabic for Beginners, because people always get more comfortable when you entertain them in broken Arabic. Our “secret studio” was a basement underneath Ali’s tobacco shop on the corner of Quwatli Square, and it smelled of rust and moldy tobacco. I thought it couldn’t get worse than that.

I remember the evening when it happened. We’d just finished packing the camera equipment. Kendra, my top-notch interviewer, had been stressed all day because her baby back at home had a fever and, as always when she’s stressed, she kept humming mainstream pop every time she found herself not speaking. With Taylor Swift’s Blank Space stuck in my head, I headed for the square to take a break and light the last cigar in my case. It tasted stiffer than my regular tobacco, but also richer, truer, the kind of stuff I imagined a king smoking in the company of exotic dancers. I settled myself in the low, half-crumbling mantel in the middle of the square, and I soon felt the marble sweating under my crotch. The sun was already low, making the shadows of the shacks colossal, haunted even. I felt my favorite poison burning through my nostrils as I watched dark figures moving about gingerly. It was one of my early observations in Syria that everyone walked in a disoriented way, always

keeping distances from one another, like chessmen in a pre-decided battle. I guess I should have known something would happen right then, cause something always happens when you let go even for a second, but terror had always felt cold to me, and this night was so unbearably hot.

I was halfway through my smoke when a young man entered my sight, no older than eighteen, heavily dressed, huge vest around his lap, and panting. Maybe I’m making this up now just to fill the gaps, but I remember his face, his eyes, his blind look of purpose. Then again, I might be mistaken, doesn’t extremism always look the same? There wasn’t much time to take it in, let alone to react. The thought was half-formed in my mind, then a horrifying shriek, a deafening blast, warm blood oozing from my ear, people screaming, Run. And I did. I hate to admit I wasn't brave. I didn’t look back at our shack. I didn’t look for my crew, and I didn’t look at the bodies I was stepping on, or whatever was left of them. But you have to understand, there was no time, no one can think rationally at such a time, I was in pain, you have to understand. I just ran as fast and as far as my legs could take me. I didn’t even stop to think how lucky I was to still be running.

I was almost out of the square when I started regaining consciousness of being, of still being. I numbly took in my surroundings. Everything had violently paused. Ruins, dust, so much dust, and silence. Through thick dust and smoke, I could see people running, people raising their hands to the sky as if imploring an invisible god, but all I could hear was an artificial silence. It was a silence I’d never experienced before, a kind of very full, very loud silence, which can perhaps only be described as a deep dive in the ocean, when your ears hurt so much and you hear everything and nothing at all.

Just then I thought I heard a muffled call in Arabic that I found myself recognizing.


I don’t know if it was the plea or the urgency to catch a breath that stopped me, but I hesitantly stopped and inspected the ground. At first, I saw nothing but dirt and rubble. Nothing looked alive. I was ready to keep moving when I saw a small hand emerge from under a cement fragment. I approached with caution and bent over it.

“Anybody there?” I said, my voice half-breaking.

“Please,” the tiny voice whispered again. It sounded like a child, and suddenly, my nightmares were coming true. I pulled the heavy stone with all the strength I still possessed and uncovered a tiny, frail girl, no more than six years old. The sudden burst of sunlight made her blink. Her half-shut eyes were bright green. She wasn’t crying, she looked so calm, angelic, so unaffected by the chaos she was found in; to my eyes, she looked like part of a different painting, as displaced as Icarus in Bruegel’s legendary Fall. And then I saw the lake of blood she was curled upon, like a tiny baby fresh from the womb, only instead of life, she was so much closer to death. I felt an incontrollable sob possessing me. Fuck why?

“It’s all right. You’ll be all right. Hush there,” I said, more for my consolation than for hers. I can’t remember a time I’ve felt more helpless. I took her tiny body in my arms, placed her head on my chest, and tried to soothe her. She looked at me with eyes of gratitude and expectation, and I was so scared in the knowledge that there was nothing I could do for her. I knew the only operating hospital was out of town and, in any case, she had lost so much blood that she would probably give in right into my arms. I clenched my fists and smiled through tears, weighing my options.

“Please,” she whispered again. Her arms were barely extended now, and she was holding a small wooden box. I took it and examined it briefly. It felt oddly heavy, and it had delicate carvings that had faded away with time, making it look ancient.

“Please, take it. Take care of it,” she said with a faint smile and replaced her tiny hands around my neck. Her eyes had grown tired now, no expectation in them anymore, but

no defeat either. I placed the box aside carefully. I could ask questions, but what would be the point? I simply looked at her and, for the very first time since I saw her, she looked hauntingly her age. A fragile six-year-old, a fucking child, like my child, like any child, in the middle of a war zone.

Melissa’s words echoed in my ears as I held this little girl, no older than my daughter, in my arms. Do you think that if you show them, they’ll stop it? Nothing seemed fitting to say.

“What’s your name?” I finally said.

Her breath was now softer, her eyes were almost shut. It looked as if she wanted to say something, but nothing came out. Her embrace was getting weaker and weaker, almost lifeless. My tears fell on her wounds, my blood met her blood, and caressed her. Tears and blood are the same everywhere.

There were no words to say.

I remembered a lullaby my mother used to sing to me when I was little. I clutched her in my arms and through my tears, I sang to her.

Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee

All through the night.

Guardian angels watch will lend thee

All through the night.1

* * *

It has been a week since I returned home, and it’s not just my ear that hasn’t healed yet. I’ll try to put everything onto paper, it might be the only way to get it out of me. The worst thing so far is interaction, cause everyone’s so happy that I’m back, and I don’t know how to respond to that. I went to Kendra’s funeral yesterday. Her son had overcome his fever and seemed a jolly little thing, unaware that this very moment would mark his entire life with absence. At least Kendra has people remembering her. Remembering who she was and how she talked and how she laughed and what her name was. People will remember her birthday

1 “All Through the Night,” a traditional lullaby

and look at photos of her and cry over her absence. That’s more than what many get. My guilt is immense. The nightmares are worse now than in Syria, so yeah, I know now that things can get worse. I can’t bring myself to open that box.

“Honey,” I hear my wife from the half-open door.

“Jesus, you scared me, Violet.”

“I know, I’m sorry to interrupt your writing. I really need you to unpack your suitcase, baby. We can’t have it wrapped in plastic forever. Throw what you don’t need, and give me the rest to disinfect.”

“I told you nothing needs disinfection,” I sigh.

“And I said you know my rules about communal houses.”

“You’re giving me a very hard time for a man who just came back from war,” I joke.

She laughs and pushes the tightly wrapped package towards me, leaving the room.

“Melissa, why don’t you help Dad unpack? He’s in his office, go keep him company.” I hear Violet in the hallway. This is not a good idea.

“Can I help, Daddy?”

“Don’t you want to play in the garden Mellie? It’s a beautiful day.” “No, I’d rather sit with you.”

“Okay then.”

I start cutting through plastic. A couple of books, a set of pens, dirty clothes, really dirty clothes, some blood-stained clothes, and a bunch of unaddressed memories, all waiting to be sorted.

“Dad, who’s this little girl?”

I feel panic warming my veins. She’s holding a picture that says nothing to me. Then I see the heavy wooden box sitting on her thighs.

“Give me that, Melissa, and go play. Go to the garden.”

I take the box, empty now. So all it had in it was the picture. My hands are trembling, and I feel a panic attack approaching. I examine the picture. A little girl, my little Syrian girl, and a woman holding hands. Her sister? Her mother, maybe? The girl looks straight ahead, and the woman watches her affectionately. They look happy. I turn the photo to see an inscription in beautiful Arabic handwriting. Pandora and Nour, 2015. Below it, a line written with pencil, in large, unruly letters. I miss you, Mom.

Rest Pandora.

Thank you. Thank you.


Katerina Daxtilidi

Ravening shadow

The digging was taking forever. I was aware deep in my heart that the mother wouldn’t have liked it. And the hole wasn’t large enough. I had to dig and dig again. The spades were there, waiting to be used, one after the other. It was back-breaking. It seemed that it would last for ages. I had lightly overcome the toxic mix of shame, pain, guilt and, peculiarly, the desire to appease me, on the face of the mother. It was as if, even though we had argued, we had remained friends. I couldn’t deny that I loved her. The mother had chosen to call my love “a necessity”. She had no idea that I truly never meant to harm her. I observed the hole. It wasn’t broad. I glanced at the mother. She was quite portly. It would take me more time to finish what I had started. And the mother was showing signs of regaining consciousness. It was evident that the drug was ineffective. I was perspiring. My heart pounded. Beads of sweat rolled down my cheeks. Or, were they tears? For the inevitable? It was irrevocable. To turn the tide. Undo my deeds. It would have been the descent thing to do. But, also, the impossible one. My comedown was dismal. Endless. I had been accused of my wonderful husband and kids’… They were liars. And after all, to whom should I be accountable for my actions? The neighbors? Who gave them the right to report me to the authorities? They should have minded their own business. I was working hard. I was striving to repair the cottage. Nobody helped me. And the renovations would be prolonged. The roof had to be replaced. The rain had to be kept outside. The gusts of the howling wind penetrating through the crannies of the cottage had to be petered out. I was on my own. The obligations were grueling. And so was the stepdaughter. Her pigtails were wiggling around her face whenever I pulled them hard. I didn’t believe I was causing her any suffering. I didn’t enjoy it. I used to hold back her long, black hair and threatened to cut it short, if she didn’t obey me. The stepdaughter always did. She couldn’t defend herself. She was so tiny. Like a miniature doll. With a porcelain complexion. An inexpressive gaze. Sometimes, she reached out to me. She needed a hug. A cuddle. In vain. I couldn’t be bothered with her emotions. I was superior. Feelings had no place in my daily routine. I continued digging, struggling to eliminate the torturous memories. The mother shuddered. It was pointless. She should resign herself to her fate. There was no escape for her. She had been bounded hand and foot. Her mouth was gagged. I turned my face the other way. And the thoughts continued to haunt me. If only I could locate the bloody box. It contained everything I had loved and cherished. I had already wasted precious time and energy on its quest. For nothing. The bloody box and its valuable contents were nowhere to be found. Slowly, I stepped closer to the mother. Poor soul. Her eyes were half-opened. Her fingers were trembling. A groan shook her chest. But, it was immediately suffocated at her throat, which I had begun to squeeze firmly. It felt as if I was squeezing a lemon, the juice of which is an essential ingredient for my homemade rice soup. The mother’s eyes opened wide. Then, within seconds, they protruded. It was a funny sight. When I watched the news on TV, there were videos of men strangling other men, or children. Oh, no, the videos weren’t broadcasted on the TV news, but on “You Tube”. In any case, they were mortally interesting. Βy throttling an orange, I had tried to imitate them. It was not thrilling. Instead, the juice stained my white garment. Now, the mother seemed peaceful enough. I let go of my squeeze. Digging had to be continued. As I burrowed the layers of soil even more, I heard the shutters creaking. Dark clouds portended the onset of the storm. The stepdaughter had always been horrified by the storm. Still, I didn’t comfort her. When the lightning was unrelenting, I made her stand by the window. One of its panes was broken into pieces, allowing violent cloudbursts inside. She had just her nightgown on and she was gradually growing cold, as her body was drenched to the skin. She was barefoot. I had thrown away her slippers and forced her to step on the shattered glass. I relished looking at her scarred, bloody soles. It was such a pitiful sight. At night, I compelled her to walk on the muddy trail of the preserved spinney on the mountain ridges that sheltered the cottage. She could barely trace the route to head back, if I abandoned her amongst the dark boles. She was begging me to be with her. And the worst was unspeakable. I shook my head. I wished to reminisce no more. I was unable to handle it. The mother lay in front of me, motionless. She used to pick poppies from the fields and bring them to me, in delicate, red bouquets. Paul was proud of her. He called her “my breeze”. Silly? He and Patrick were inseparable, hunting together, chasing after girls, participating in bingo competitions. Before they left to go for car rides, they promised to come home in time for supper. They never did. I was kept waiting. Frightfully alone. In an empty kitchen. With the plates on the table. With the knives and forks. Clean. Untouched. Waiting. For them. To come back. To me. Painful. I put the shovel down. I reached for my back pocket. It was moderately moist. The red liquid was beginning to dry. Paul’s eyeball would be retained. On me. Safely. A souvenir. Of a great love. With great expectations. I shoved harder. To blot out the echo of the merciless voice. “A Scotchman?” my grandpa had yelled, when I told him. “I will never give my consent” he had bellowed furiously. I was under age. His guardianship was strict. I pleaded with him to give us his blessing. He disagreed fiercely. I assumed that his spending some nights in the basement would make him reconsider his decision. It was freezing and humid in there. He would be surrounded by cockroaches, rats, spiders. Deadly ones, I had shouted at him, when I thrust him downstairs, padlocking the basement door with a loud bang. He was terrified. Up to that moment, I was his princess. Then, I became his prison guard. He was deprived of the bare essentials. No steady meals. No bathroom facilities. He was at my mercy. I couldn’t accept his accurate assessment of the Scott’s character. Paul was my personal selection. I was absolutely certain that he had a kind nature. But, I was naïve to think of him highly. Still, I couldn’t get over him. Whenever I was hypnotized by the hail of fire that was burning in the fireplace, I was reminded of Paul. His remains had been carbonized in a similar blaze. Nevertheless, I hoped that Patrick would understand. He was my real favorite. I bathed him every night. I sang to him. Lullabies. Suddenly, thick lumps of earth obstructed my shovel. Reality struck me once again. Could there be something buried in the ground? I imagined that my bloody box was under my feet. Having escaped my attention. Concealed. In the unthinkable. A plot of land. So close to me and yet so distant. I spat on my palms. I should dig deeper. I had to be reunited with my bloody box. But, my calloused and dirty hands hurt. Devastated, I postponed the assumed discovery of my bloody box. I stopped digging. Besides, Paul’s eyeball could rest in another secure storage place. I had to be contented with the current size of the hole. My mouth, eyes and ears were full of dust and glinting blood. I touched my forehead. My huge, bleeding wound wasn’t healing, but it was an open hole. Resembling the one I was digging for the past few hours. The stepdaughter had managed to hit me on the head with the poker. It was sizzling. I was poking the fire with it and she came at me from behind. With a fit of rage, she smashed all the photo frames which were peacefully placed on the mantelpiece. Immediately after, the stepdaughter walked briskly towards the staircase, intending to go for Patrick, who was sleeping unconcerned in the upstairs bedroom. I had to prevent her from harming my favorite one. With a leap, I landed on her back. She was crushed, as she should, being a porcelain doll since birth. After all, I had possessed her for ten whole years. And, there was Patrick. I had entered the upstairs bedroom. I had caressed his face. Bright pink. My favorite color. On my favorite Patrick. I recalled that one lock of his hair was wrapped up in my brown bag. Or was it in my white bag? Details. I threw the shovel away. At last, I was satisfied. The hole was appropriate. I dragged the mother. I pushed her into the hole. Then I thought that I should have listened to her heart first. Too late. I felt no remorse. A rose was flung inside the hole. It landed on her disfigured face. Ultimately, I was audacious. I had buried the mother. I had married the Scott. I had crushed the stepdaughter. I had retained Paul’s eyeball. I had conveniently long forgotten my grandpa in the basement. I shoved the piles of soil into the hole. Upon returning to the cottage, I would prepare a tasty meal. I patted my tummy. It was rumbling. I was famished due to all that manual work. I had to cook. I would boil the rest of Patrick. With fresh tomato sauce. Onions. Perhaps, some garlic. And a pinch of pepper. No salt. Patrick would be delicious. I should keep in mind to write down the recipe. Use it on a future occasion. I gathered the tools. The car was parked in the driveway. I carried them there, one by one. They were heavy. I put them in the trunk. They barely fitted. Before I closed the trunk, I promised myself to remember to discard the rusty chains, the bloody ropes and the wormy sculls that were scattered in the basement. A spring cleaning was required, so that the guests wouldn’t think that I was sloppy. Because, there would be more guests for me. To entertain. To keep me company. I hated being alone. The mother shouldn’t have left me. The stepdaughter shouldn’t have left me. Paul shouldn’t have left me. Patrick shouldn’t have left me. Grandpa shouldn’t have left me. The peacefully placed on the mantelpiece photo frames shouldn’t have left me. I didn’t deserve to be left alone. I was only six at that time. I was in the attic. I was wearing my mum’s black high heels and her salmon hat with the feathers. I was cradling my doll. I was the mum and it was my child. I would have baptized her. Betsy. My favorite name. He, was my favorite person. I adored him. I trusted him. I smiled at him, as he approached me. In the last seconds before his brutal attack, I had given him my doll to play with. I was in and out of consciousness in hospital for a month. The doctors fought to keep my heart beating. Finally, one of them cried. I was laughing. I was free. I was strangely strong. I could go anywhere I wanted and do whatever I pleased. I went back to the cottage in the twinkling of an eye, travelling on the tails of swallows. The cottage was adequately crowded. Straight away, I came up with the idea to begin filling the bloody box that I have recently lost. And I started. And the cottage is empting from its guests and is being inhabited by others through the past decades. And, I keep digging…