First Place 🏆. That is all.

Well November is typically a difficult month for me. Notorious for leaving me pained, sad and tired, finding it difficult to get up and get on. It started as I expected it to. The grief I experience annually still arrived, but in desperation I tried to push it away. I’ve explained in other posts the ways it effects me, so there’s no need to repeat myself and I don’t want to make this post negative. At all.

Thankfully I packed October with productive tasks. Updating this site, creating and updating my Twitter account (@StephWrites40 for anyone interested!), studying, drawing and writing have all featured whenever I felt able. Thankfully I can draw even when I’m in pain thanks to my iPad, and the ideas for writing are starting to flow regularly so my trusted A5 pad on the table next to me features more scribbles than a 5 year olds colouring book. Do other writers live like this? Jotting down notes in the middle of the night because of a dream they had. Is this normal? Will I ever be able to shut it off? Whatever, I really love it and my once empty and painful life now has a sprinkle of purpose and that makes it more enjoyable, despite the difficulties.

I’m going to mention straight away that, although I love my drawing that accompanies this post (I put a lot of time and love in to it), it only relates very loosely to the story. It’s a re-imagined picture found on Pinterest. Extra items, detail and texture have been added to make it my own and more enticing. It should make sense when you read the title or after you’ve read the whole flash.

Anyway, that’s all white noise right now because…

My time came, finally, to get first place. That’s right. I won!

Back, once again, to the Secret Attic website. This time I took part in the monthly ‘Picture This’ contest with the goal of creating a story based on a picture in less than 1000 words. As usual the final draft that won (I WON!) is below for you to read.

If i’m being honest, I thought my idea was obvious and actually felt paranoid that I was way off mark. It’s the first time i’d entered a competition with a picture as the guiding theme and although I knew who the women in this picture were, finding a story about them proved a little tricky.

But I made some notes and slowly a story started to form. It ended up making me feel sorry for these women (women I invented 🤣) and wondering if other ‘celebrities’ end up feeling the same. Is there a sense of entitlement that exists because someone experiences 5 minutes of fame? These days I think there might be.

Proof of my win. Proof that I am getting somewhere. Proof that I should keep trying. Proof that even at the worst moments, good things can happen, can be seen here. Thank you, once again, to the Secret Attic team for the competition and for placing me first. I’m incredibly humbled and proud of myself for committing my brain to something fulfilling.

The story is called ‘Shining Stars’ and is below. I hope you like it. If you have any notes, ideas or thoughts for me then feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Thanks so much for reading and have a great day!


Shining stars

A ramshackle, white wooden building with a garden so dry it looked like sand, sat amongst only 4 others on a suburban road. Residents barely acknowledged each other. It was a town you lived in to become a recluse. The searing heat in the height of a summer in Texas was almost unbearable. Curtains remained closed and air conditioning units were at capacity.

Stay indoors, avoid the heat and the people.

Sat in their adjoining bedrooms in the white house they’d inherited from their parents, the twins were talking about what to do next.

“Honestly, I don’t think living here is doing us any favours”

“I know, I know. But how can we live anywhere else? Our paychecks from WalMart are barely enough to live on, and we’re not even paying rent. Anywhere we move we’re going to end up worrying about cash.”

The air conditioner shuddered to a halt, the sound of the mechanics thudded and crackled making the cold air retract quickly and allowing the warmth outside to come straight in. Kathy got up and pounded the side of the unit until the motor restarted. It was on its last legs.

“Maybe we need to think about this differently. What about if we try to get back into the business by updating our headshots. Maybe it’ll help us get work?”

Fame was their only goal.

They wanted to walk the streets and be noticed by people. Blanking fans who wanted autographs and ignoring requests for photos.

Perfecting their look had been their obsession since that first appearance, signing with an agent and having headshots taken. They were convinced their future was as bright as the sun on an August afternoon.

They were inseparable twins that thought in unison and wore the same clothes. They were projecting the stereotype, but it was standard protocol. The ability to read each other’s thoughts, feel the same emotions, find joy when matching their costumes for Halloween and wearing those same famous frilly dresses to birthday parties. It was all normal for them.

But months turned in to years and the phone stopped ringing altogether. The agent, who was full of promises and success stories all those years ago, disappeared. The opportunities weren’t there for a couple of ex-bit-part children who expected fame and fortune that, in practice, was long forgotten.

Desperate for a change from the status quo, they ploughed the last of their savings in to recruiting a photographer and getting some up-to-date pictures.

They’d talked many times about the things they could do to attract and revive opportunities as actors. Twins with a background in film production should be unusual enough to secure some work. They were too blinkered to realise those requirements didn’t exist. But they pushed on, tunnel vision forcing them to believe that fame was still within reach.

Their photographer claimed to be an expert in creating ‘rare and unique’ headshots for actors. He arrived at their home with suitcases bursting with matching costumes and wigs. He stayed for 4 hours, creating scenes that he thought would be desirable for agents and directors. Unique scenarios that would make them stand out from the crowd.

The final photo was easily their favourite, capturing their ability to be horror experts with a twist. He gave them both long, bedraggled wigs of solid grey hair with two Victorian nightgowns. They stood in front of the house, the white cladded building with an ornate porch, and posed morosely. The photo was taken in sepia, authenticating the outfits, and making anyone who saw it feel immediately spooked and uncomfortable. This was the photo they were convinced would open the door for them again.

They contacted their agent, buzzing with excitement that their new photos would make it simple for her to at least find auditions.

A month later the sisters were sat back in their adjoining bedrooms, desperately avoiding the continuing heat and both wondering why their phone wasn’t ringing. They were out of money and both silently accepting it was over.

In the relentless searing heat, they agreed that there was nothing left for them but a life of solitude, sadness and each other.

The air conditioning unit died and the heat seeped in again. This time there was no one to whack it back to life. No one to stop the intense heat engulfing every room making the air thick and painful to breathe. But it didn’t matter. They were no longer breathing. They lay parallel, in their beloved adjoining bedrooms, motionless. They planned it so they’d both fall asleep at the same time, and neither would have to watch.


A week later Hollywood reports on’ Z list’ channels started to hum about the twins, familiar and famous to everyone from a young age, being found in their family home.

Their agent released a picture, the same sepia one taken in their porch that they loved, along with the sad statement and press release.

The picture went viral and the movie was watched by millions again. Their social media accounts, created by their agent, were bursting with comments, memes and condolences. Fans were talking about their iconic roles, remembering the moment they first saw them on the big screen.

They’d been an overnight success, but their brief appearance in The Shining had left them feeling they deserved a lifetime of fame. Instead, 30 years later, they were genuinely shocked they’d become unknown celebrities. Women who craved fame without ever really doing anything. Women who treated their first and only motion picture as an event that should have been their breakthrough. Women who couldn’t accept it would probably only happen once.

In their eyes they deserved to be adored, idolised, and obsessed over.

Jack Nicholson retweeted the news, creating a desire for a follow-up film. The Shining 2. The same characters and setting, 30 years in the future.

Hollywood producers searched, but they never found anyone to play the twins.

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

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