Oh, but not yet. First we must hear what our judge Shakes has to say:
"I like the idea that the Helter Skelter is a dwelling here, an abandoned fairground the perfect stomping ground for the mysterious wand maker. There are shades of Doctor Who in our aging magician, including his ‘bigger on the inside’ display room – although his method for longevity is a little more diabolical than the Doctor’s regeneration.
Love is, indeed, an infernal business. I liked the playful twist in the once only spell and the careful description of how the wand always comes to work upon its wielder.
The delicious moment the recipient of Arthur’s affections prevents him from breaking the spell had me grinning from ear to ear.
The story is dotted with nice phrasing and detail and its lighter tone helped to distinguish it from the darker entries.
Well done to the author."
And the name of our Third Place winner and the author of The Wand Maker is ...
... Chris Stanley. Congratulations, Chris.
Enjoy his story.
“I thought you’d come down the slide,” says the boy at his front door. He has the narrow shoulders and bowl cut of a lonely twelve-year-old. The corner of his schoolbag reads “Arthur” in a mother’s hurried scrawl.
“Why would I do that?” asks the old man. “You never know which way you’re facing and the only way is down.”
He’s lived in the Helter Skelter since the fairground was abandoned. It suits him perfectly. The peeling paintwork and rickety slide make visitors uncomfortable. People see the word “Condemned” and stay away.
But not this boy.
The old man leads Arthur through a short hallway to a storeroom, where the walls are lined with rows of wands, hung by hoops of leather. One spell per wand, one casting per spell. The room is impossibly large given the exterior dimensions of the ride. Between the wands, a grandfather clock ticks backwards. It’s eight in the morning but the clock says half six. Arthur fidgets in the doorway.
“What are you after?” asks the old man.
“There’s a girl.”
The old man rolls his eyes. Love is an infernal business.
“You know the price?”
“One year per wand.”
The old man climbs a stepladder and selects a mahogany “Fairy Finger” gilded with gold-leaf lettering.
“And no refunds.”
He gives the wand to Arthur and a spark of electricity passes between them. The clock hands unwind to half-past seven.
The old man follows Arthur at a distance. Wands are impatient things, demanding to be used immediately. As expected, the boy heads straight to school and waits in the playground. The old man remains outside, watching the other children as they arrive. He studies them all, his eyes asking questions of every girl who passes. And then he sees her and knows everything.
Hand shaking, Arthur points the wand and reads the inscription on its shaft. There’s a flash and he doubles over, falling forwards and landing hard on his shoulder. His body contorts as he transforms.
Over the years, the old man’s learned it’s safer to change his customers than the world around them. Breaking the wand breaks the spell, so they can always undo what they’ve done. His careful design means no one ever asks which end of the wand to point.
Arthur pulls himself up using a window ledge and studies his reflection in the glass. His delicate chin and long, blonde hair. His newly acquired breasts. He reaches for the wand to break it but the girl stops him, smiling shyly. She touches his arm and asks if he’s okay.
The old man returns to the Helter Skelter and awaits his next customer.
Christopher Stanley lives on a hill in England with three sons who share a birthday but aren't triplets. In the past year, his stories have won prizes and been published by Raging Aardvark, Retreat West, ZeroFlash, Corvus Review and The Molotov Cocktail, as well as being included in the 2015 and 2016 National Flash Fiction Day anthologies. Follow him on Twitter @allthosestrings and check him out at https://whenonlywordsareleft.wordpress.com/