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SNAP shortlist entry by Natasha Obrien - Murmuration


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Mary’s paddle glides through the water, and the soft whisper of ripples penetrate the almost perfect silence of the dawn. She used to come here with her sister.  The quiet pools and sleepy waterways at Minsmere were their favourite place to get lost together. She looks up:  shafts of feathery orange pepper the navy blue sky as the sun lumbers from its sleep. You’d love this, she thinks, as she paddles through the reeds and waving grass.  She looks to the front of her small craft, half expecting an answer.  Her eyes rest a minute on the empty bench, and she feels that familiar pang grow deep within her chest. It’s your birthday, today, she thinks.

            Mary caught her sister dancing once. She thought the theatre empty as she placed the old CD player on the black floor and hit “play.” Stepping back a few paces to the centre of the stage, she let the music fill her body while she remained in a momentary stasis. A soft, midnight sonata crept gently into her sister’s lungs and filled her chest. Neck tall, arms out, but from the elbow curved gently in towards her centre of gravity. The pink satin of her shoes glittered in the spotlights as she lifted her slight weight onto the tips of her toes. And there, as if on cue, the melody took flight, and she with it.  Mary watched from the shadows, careful not to let her sister see. She felt a warmth grow deep in her chest as her sister danced without reserve or judgement. For a moment, Mary wished she could become the soft chiffon dress that floated like a cloud around her sister’s body; wished she could dance alongside her, limb to limb in a pretty duet.  But her sister never did let anyone get too close to her, not even Mary. She often thinks of that stage now: empty and dark.

            Mary reaches into the little bag next to her foot. Their father insisted on interring the ashes at the family plot, but Mary scooped some out one night before the urn was sealed in marble stone. She opens the bag and lets the grey dust filter through her fingers, drip into the soft, still water. There, she thinks. Now your heart is free.

            She turns back, but her own heart is stilled as a chorus of flapping feathers erupts around her. She watches as hundreds of black starlings take flight, soar above her in formation and dance gently upon the morning breeze. The echoes of that midnight sonata play in her mind as she watches the starlings, transfixed. She thinks of her sister’s chiffon dress, of the way the fabric danced with her, caressed her. Her silhouette made ethereal, like angels on Christmas cards.  Mary’s heart lifts, and a solitary tear glides down her cold cheek. After a moment of breath-taking adagio, the starlings settle back into the tall grasses and disappear again, as though they never were.

Student New Angle Prize

The Student New Angle Prize is a competition partnered with the New Angle Prize for Literature, a national book award for published authors. SNAP is an annual event and offers all students of the University of Suffolk the chance to enter by submitting 500 words of original writing as prose or poetry. Like the New Angle Prize, all entries must either be set in or clearly influenced by our East Anglian region. 

The SNAP competition gives offers a chance to hear new voices in the region and encourages students to add to the literary representations of the region which continue to make East Anglia such an important place for art and literature and poetry. Every year a different judge is invited to join the panel. 

If you are interested in writing, why not consider our BA (Hons) English or MA in Creative and Critical Writing?

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