National Short Story Competition 2016
We are happy to announce the results for this year's competition. Thanks again to everyone who entered and for Patsy who had the difficult job of deciding the winners. The Long List and Short List have already been announced, now here are the winners.
Apart from the top eight, all entrants will receive feedback by e mail. If you don't have an e mail address, please use our website Contact Form to receive the information on your behalf.
|First||Melting Point by Barbara Young|
|Second||Journeys End in Lovers Meeting by Jennifer Kharibian|
|Third||A Call to Arms by Michael Fleming|
Runners up in Alphabetical Order
| ||Heat by Jennifer Tucker|
| ||Penny for the Guy by Rosalind Hooke|
| ||Sleep of Eternity by Ellen Evers|
| ||The Contract by Kevin Brooke|
| ||The Petting Zoo by Elizabeth Brassington|
A very creative, interesting and varied set of storylines. Each piece had many points in its favour. I was pleased to see that the authors took the trouble to give their work different titles and that the theme was clearly used in all shortlisted stories. Each story also had distinct, three-dimensional characters and an appropriate number of them to suit the word count used. These things all combined to make judging just as difficult as I feared it might be.
To create a piece of writing which complies with all the rules, is written to a set theme and completed on time, is an achievement in itself. So is sending it out for feedback and judging. There will have been many people who'd like to have won this competition but didn't get that far.
Reaching the final eight out of so many entries is even more impressive. Congratulations to the worthy winners and commiserations to those who didn't win a prize this time. I hope you'll do better with another piece and/or in a different competition.
The Winning Stories
Click on title to read story...
by Barbara Young
"Hi, I'm Denise in case you've forgotten. You all know why you're here but I'll clarify a few points before we go on to the induction."
The last time I saw Denise she was dressed like my solicitor. Today she was doing 'down with the kids', wearing jeans, short leather jacket and a pair of red Doc Martens.
She leant back against the large desk behind her, pushing a hand through her short dark hair. "So, serious stuff first, I work for the Phoenix Group; we specialise in interventions with young fire setters like yourselves. We're independent from The Youth Offending Team but if you fail to attend any of the next six sessions, I will inform them, you will be breached and you'll be back in court again to face the original charges. Ok?"
There were five of us in the small room, sitting on plastic seats arranged in a semicircle facing her. Denise pinned each of us with a hard stare, it looked like 'down with the kids' had taken a hike. We all nodded our understanding.
"And no swapping tales of who burned down the civic centre or set the most wheelie bins on fire," she added. The boys laughed.
I fidgeted in my seat; it was far too hot. The smell of rotten trainers, a cross between wet dog and mouldy feet was foul. Denise wrestled with a couple of windows which wouldn't open as she droned on about fire exits, fire alarms, building self esteem, building rafts, building all sorts of shit. I zoned out and tried to pinpoint the source of the rotten stink; probably the grungy looking pair of Nikes worn by a lanky spotty- faced boy in baggy jeans.
"Zoey, would you like to tell us what you hope to gain from the course?" Denise had given up on the windows and was perching on the desk.
No I would not.
I felt a stab of panic in my stomach as heat rose in my cheeks. I didn't want to be here with this bunch of freaks. I didn't want to speak to them.
"Don't want to get locked up," I mumbled to the floor.
"OK, that's a good start. Anyone else got any ideas? Jordan?"
"You're gonna show us how to light a fire by rubbing two sticks," said rotten trainers boy.
The two smaller boys on either side of him, wearing matching grey tracksuits, sniggered.
"Yeah, we could build a mega bonfire and use the burning bits of wood as light sabres. Wicked." The blonde one waved an arm in the air like he was Luke Skywalker. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine I was lying on my bed listening to my music.
"Thanks for the input Darren, we might get to light sabres by the end of the course, but for now let's concentrate on some things that are a bit more achievable." Denise turned to the only other girl in the group. She was tiny with stick thin arms, hair pulled up on the top of her head in a tight knot and a pair of huge earrings. "Bethany, what do you hope to gain from the course?"
"The same as Zoey, I don't want to be locked up." She flicked her eyes at me and I gave her a half smile.
Ryan, the other smaller boy in the group told us he wanted to learn how to canoe and do Eskimo rolls. Jordan and Darren sneered at him whilst Denise lit up as if she had won the lottery and told him that was 'fab' because we would be on Hareshaw Lake in three weeks time.
Ringtones sounded. "Excuse me; I'll have to get this." Denise pulled a phone out of her pocket and walked out of the room.
Jordan stood up and walked over to me. "So what did you get nicked for?"
"School toilets," I lied.
"Sweet, where are you from posh girl? The way you talk I bet you live in Highgate with all them big houses and flash cars."
"From down south," I said. I wasn't going to tell them he was right.
"You sound well posh to me."
Jordan turned his attention to Bethany. "Come on Bethy, your turn."
"Wheelie bins," she said, twisting a finger through the drawstring of her hoody.
"Get a life." Jordan leant forward and flicked her on the ear. She didn't flinch, although I could see the red mark that his fingers had left. I was relieved his attention was no longer on me. I tuned out their words and faded from the room. I focused on a tiny flare of ice in my stomach, coaxing it to life, willing it to blot out everything.
"She's blanking me the cow." Jordan stuck his face in front of mine. His skin was pitted with acne scars; I could see an angry red spot under his nose. He pushed me on the shoulder, I didn't react, I had my wall up, he couldn't get to me.
Denise came back into the room. "OK, Jordan that's enough."
"I'm just having a frisk, a bit of a laugh," Jordan said backing away from me.
"Well, not everybody is laughing. So just sit down and listen," Denise said.
Jordan moved behind me and swaggered back to his seat, jabbing a finger into Bethany's neck as he passed her. She didn't move. If Denise saw him do it she chose to ignore it.
Denise outlined the activities planned for the next few weeks, handing out a pile of leaflets with the course dates and venues. I wasn't listening; I just wanted to get out of there, to be on my own. She told us she would see us next week and I was through the door like a shot. I reckoned I had time to call in at the bookshop on my way home.
I pulled my jacket tight; it was getting dark and starting to rain as I made my way towards Midley Park. I usually avoid the park, but I had spent too long in the bookshop, I was cold, and I wanted to get home so I decided to risk the short cut.
There was a group of boys in the kids' playground shouting and messing around with a small black and white dog. One of the boys was sitting on a tiny swing, sliding lazily backwards and forwards. I could hear the creak of the chains. The sickly sweet taste of skunk hung on the air.
The two smaller boys pushed the dog down onto its belly. The figure on the swing took a long hard draw on his joint, bent down, and blew a thick cloud of grey smoke up the dog's nose.
"Jordan. Stop it. What are you're doing to Skip? Stop it." Bethany flew out from the trees, and skidded to a stop a few metres from the group.
"Look he's enjoying it." Jordan lifted his head waving one of the dog's floppy paws around and giggled. "He's well stoned. Hey Skip, you gonna whitey?"
"Let him go. Skip, Skip come here boy." Bethany's voice was high and hysterical, her skinny arms punching the air in frustration.
All I could see was the dog, lying on the ground frozen in terror whilst the boys taunted it. I felt something crack deep inside of me. I felt the lump of ice that lay there splinter into a thousand pieces. I felt a red hot jab of fury flood my veins.
I had a thick stick in my hands, I don't remember picking it up. I heard myself screaming, saw myself running, watched as my arm lifted the stick above Jordan's head, saw his face blur in front of me. Then suddenly they were gone, running away through the park, screaming:
She's a nutter, she's a total fucking nutter.
I bent over breathing hard. The world tipped around me as I listened to the roar of my lungs and the pounding of my heart.
"Zoey are you ok?" Bethany appeared at my side, holding a piece of string with Skip attached.
I nodded, dropped the stick and watched the trembling in my fingers subside. "Is the dog alright?"
"I think so." Bethany put her hand on my arm. "Thanks from Skip as well as me."
I bent down to scratch Skip behind the ear. He licked me on the nose. His fur was coarse and wiry, he stank of wet dog. It suited him better than it did Jordan's feet.
"Will you text me later, to tell me he's alright?" I asked.
"Sure I will," said Bethany. "You do live over there don't you?" She tipped her chin towards the big houses to our left.
I sighed. "Yes but don't tell Jordan."
We went our separate ways out of the park.
I hurried through a narrow cut in the woods, which brought me on onto a street of large houses set well back in their tree-lined gardens. My feet crunched on the gravel drive and I could hear the whump of the pond pump as I pushed open the front door.
I eased the door shut and crept up the stairs. I could not face my mother's dull pretence at interest in my life.
"Is that you darling? How did it go?" My mother's voice wobbled a little on its way up the stairs; onto her second bottle for sure.
"Fine, I'm just going to my room for a bit," I replied
My mother thought my room was like a monk's cell, that I should brighten it up; but I liked the bare walls; I liked that I only had three bits of furniture and my computer; and I liked that everything in my room had a function.
I threw myself on my bed, fumbled for my IPod, and flicked through my playlist; Lana Del Ray, 'Born to Die', perfect. I lay back and closed my eyes. Jordan's face loomed into my head, sneering and laughing. I dreaded seeing him next week. I watched my iPod jitter in my hands, I was starting to panic.
I took a deep breath; I stood up and stepped across to my desk. I concentrated on the spot of ice that was my stomach. I could feel it spreading outwards; I willed it through my veins.
My hands steadied as I opened the drawer to my desk and pulled out two lighters, one purple and one yellow. I set them down carefully in front of me.
I loosened my top and eased my jeans down to my hips.
I studied the puckered rash of scars that littered my stomach. My fingers fluttered over them, teasing sparks of pain from the fresher ones that were crusted with blood.
It was not enough. I needed more.
Yesterday I had promised myself I would stop.
Tomorrow, I will stop tomorrow. I flicked the yellow lighter and flirted the flame above my skin, dipping and rising, hovering like a bird of prey, feeling the promise of heat; heat to push through the numbness, through the ice.
My hand jerked and the flame died as the insistent buzz of a phone jolted me back to reality. I tapped answer.
It was Bethany. "Hi Zoey. Thanks a million for today. Skip's fine though he ate a huge tea. Fancy meeting up tomorrow morning in the park?"
"What if Jordan's there?" I tightened my grip on the lighter.
"You're kidding. He's scared shitless of you. If he's there he'll be crawling up your arse, trying to be friends with you."
I smiled. "Friends. No chance. Yeah, I'll see you and Skip there."
I laid the phone down, picked up the purple lighter, opened the desk drawer, shoved both lighters right to the back under a stack of papers and banged the drawer shut.
Maybe today would be the day I stopped.
Good title and a great take on the theme.
The main characters are distinct and believable. Dialogue is used well to progress the story and show us the personality of the characters. It differs appropriately for each character.
I liked Zoey's observations and cynicism. They help the reader get inside her head and sympathise with her.
The plot is clear and easy to follow. I did feel it was slightly 'convenient' that the group happened to meet up again in the Park, but it isn't impossible and otherwise the plot is entirely plausible.
The subject matter of this piece is serious, however the author has managed to stop it being unbearably grim without trivialising the issues. Appropriately it doesn't finish with an instantaneous happy ever after, but there is hope at the end.
Journeys End in Lovers Meeting
by Jennifer Kharibian
Sucheta was escaping. For once in her life no one would know where she was except Jeremy and no one would know where he was either. Even now he was driving up the other side of the country to collect the keys to a cottage in the Lake District. All she had to do was 'look anonymous' and take the train.
Jeremy's hands had gripped hers against his chest, 'If we travel together we'll be recognised.' His actor's intensity made her dizzy, swept her up and carried her away. He suggested she change her sari for something less conspicuous, by which he meant Western. Can you do that; is it against your religion? He knew nothing about her. Dress was the least of the transgressions she could never atone for. He didn't seem bothered about lying, deception, adultery.
All week she had sat beside him on set, interviewing people she barely saw, hardly heard, alert only to the electric space between them on the sofa, hiding notes he wrote her off camera in the folds of her shimmering skirts. At the end of today's lunchtime telecast she and Jeremy had left the studio in opposite directions. But instead of returning home, Sucheta, journalist, lawyer, married woman with everything to lose if she was discovered, spent the afternoon systematically erasing her identity.
She changed her clothes in the toilets at John Lewis, then drove to City Airport and left them, with her jewellery, mobile, cards and house keys in the boot of her car. Using the cash machine she bought a travelcard and changed trains twice on her way to Euston. With scrubbed face and a denim jacket borrowed from her brother she mingled unrecognised in the Friday get-away crowd.
She was early and wandered round WH Smith arguing with her mother. I always say you can't go wrong with the classics - I know you always say that, Ma, but I prefer new writing - You'll pollute your mind - Oh, for heaven's sake. Exasperated Sucheta bought News Week and moved to the coffee shop.
Her mother's voice once admitted was impossible to shut out. So why are you catching a train? - Sucheta refused to be drawn - A good man your Arun - You should know, you chose him - Arun is a substantial man, not an actor who shuffles his feet on stage - Ah ha, so she knew about Jeremy - Baba and I say you must go home, now, before it's too late - This is nothing to do with you and Baba; you are an interfering old woman - That's no way to speak to your mother - But you're dead - What difference does that make? Until she was safely on her journey her mother's harangue was unstoppable. When the whistle finally blew, its shrill blast rushed past Sucheta's ears as if she was casting herself off a cliff. But the train pulled smoothly out of the station and no thunderbolt struck her down.
Settling back she stretched her trousered legs and accidentally nudged the girl's feet opposite. She smiled, and they adjusted leg room. It was a long journey, plenty of time to relax; she stared at her unfamiliar Westernized image in the window then through her reflection to the evening outside. The sky was sapphire blue, dark overhead, still pale against the skyline, pierced by a sickle moon and a single star. There would be frost on the fells tonight and every excuse to sleep late in the morning. Her slim hand, with the indent where her wedding ring had been removed, lay on her magazine. She was tired. Maybe she slept.
The pretty red haired girl opposite fidgeted with her mobile before making a call. Sucheta listened idly to the one sided conversation.
'Mum is really ill, believe me, I'd rather stay with you but I have to look after her.' Someone the other end was not pleased, 'I couldn't get hold of you yesterday, believe me, I tried.'
Sucheta was amused, no one telling the truth says 'believe me' twice. She remembered lying to Arun. She'd invented a fund-raiser she and Jeremy were to co-host, and was over elaborating when she realised he wasn't listening. Providing she maintained his honour, and her cheques were credited to his bank account, he didn't care. He was too complacent to be suspicious, but if he thought another man was invading his territory he would be murderous. Jeremy was right to be cautious.
Jeremy, just his name transformed her, she was as powerless to resist him as the tide was to resist a full moon. Within hours they would be together. She felt shy of him now. What if he found her inadequate? She had only known Arun. Did Jeremy realise that her skin was brown all over, no white bikini marks? She knew it was fragrant, she oiled it, but she had a dark line from her navel to her pubic hair that worried her. She imagined his pale skin against her belly and flushed.
The girl opposite babbled on and spread her hand in the sort of gesture a magician might make, see nothing in my palm, nothing up my sleeve. Sucheta stared and shivered in a sudden chill; the girl's hand was totally blank. No head line, heart line, no life line, all erased, vanished, completely absent. She watched horrified as the girl curled her fingers and the skin ruched up like the soft gathers of a curtain.
Sucheta leant her forehead against the icy window. The moon had disappeared and darkness pressed close. The poor girl had probably been in an accident or had a genetic abnormality.
Her mother would say no lines were a death sentence, but her predictions were notoriously unscientific. Sucheta was an educated woman not given to superstition. The girl had unsettled her, yes, but nothing more than that. There would be a rational explanation. There had to be.
The least you can do is move away - her mother's voice was so loud Sucheta rose in her seat to obey but was blocked by a man asleep beside her. The last thing she needed this weekend was Mama's running commentary so she negotiated. I'll move away on condition you promise to be quiet - I'm not listening to another word - I mean it. But why stay where she was to spite her mother? It would do no harm to change seats, and she had to admit that the flame haired woman had scared her too.
She took down her bag and walked as calmly as she could through the swaying compartment. She tried to see other people's hands but only a baby, his short arms spread wide in sleep exposed the inside of his palm, utterly relaxed and perfect.
There were no empty seats so Sucheta stood in the buffet and noted that the attendant's hands were perfectly normal. To her relief her mother kept her side of the bargain and didn't comment even when she ordered a brandy. With the burning liquid to warm her she almost convinced herself she had imagined the fiery headed girl. She leaned against the window, listened to the muffled roar of the train heading north and watched the calm reflection of the attendant finishing a crossword.
From time to time she glanced back down the train and noticed a ticket collector, appearing and disappearing as the train snaked from one side to the other. He was a big man and for some reason he made her nervous. She held her ticket ready and stared out into the night. Suddenly, without a sound, his reflection appeared behind her. He had thick rimless glasses, his eyeballs were huge, every vein magnified. The train lurched and he gripped her elbow to steady her. His touch made her shudder.
"You all right, Miss?"
He held out his hand for her ticket and she saw that his palm was smooth as a pebble.
Sucheta made no attempt to rationalise this second manifestation. She was on a train with two people marked for sudden death. Whatever threatened them was either on the train or approaching from outside. Jeremy had booked her on a fast train, it rattled through station after station, and she waited by the exit ready to jump off as soon as the train stopped. Better to arrive late than not at all.
There was nothing to do while she waited but try to pray. The familiar words seemed jumbled together, warring between themselves and offered no comfort. She turned instead to Jeremy, saw him waiting for her in the cottage, opening the wine, log fire burning, he moved to the window as though he could see her, but instead he drew the curtains and shut her out in the night. She was in limbo, in a no man's land between her old life and the new. Salvation lay with Jeremy, she had to reach him.
'Preston is your next station stop.' She gripped the handles of her bag, finger poised over the button that would open her escape hatch.
A blur of people crowded forward and Sucheta pushed through, stopping only when she was as far away from the train as the platform allowed. Should she warn these people piling on? What could she say? It was too late anyway, the doors were closing, whistles blew and the train gathered speed. She watched its tail lights disappear down the track.
She was safe. Her panic subsided. Everything that was to be decided had been settled. She would find a pay phone to tell the cab company she would be late and wait quietly for the next train. There was a cold wind blowing, she pulled up her collar and shouldered her back-pack.
Most of the other travellers had cleared; the ramp leading from the platform was almost deserted. Something about the passenger ahead was familiar, a tall long legged girl in a black coat and fur hat. But what caught her eye was that blowing round the side of the brown brim was a wisp of glittering orange hair. It couldn't be the woman from the train. As though Sucheta had called her name she turned and their eyes met. No!
She tried to turn back but stumbled and a firm hand steadied her elbow, 'Are you all right, miss?' The ticket collector was a step behind her. Sucheta threw back her head and screamed.
At almost the same time there was a slow rumbling explosion from the ticket hall, glass fell in a shimmering cascade, wood splintered and fragments were tossed in the air igniting like fireworks.
There was a loud crack as the roof buckled, paint on the hand rail blistered. A vortex of scarlet rolled down the slope towards her.
My identification is in the car. No one will find me.
Over the inferno Sucheta heard her mother's sharp voice, I tried to warn her, Baba, but she is a stubborn girl.
Jeremy, she whispered, please know that I tried.
Ash floated high into the sky.
Sucheta was escaping. For once in her life no one would know where she was except Jeremy and no one knew where he was either. All she had to do was reach the Lake District and push open the cottage door. They would be together, nothing must stop her, No one must keep them apart.
The opening of this immediately drew me in. I wanted to know what she was escaping from and to, and why no one would know where she was.
There are good strong characters in this and an appropriate number of them for the word count.
Although there's very little true dialogue in this, that feels right for this piece. The 'voice' of Sucheta's mother works in much the same way as dialogue and in addition provides back story in a neat and effective manner.
There are some excellent descriptions and I loved those blank palms. Very unnerving!
The final paragraph prevents the story ending on a completely bleak note and allows the reader to imagine Sucheta is free and happy at last.
A Call to Arms
by Michael Fleming
Tell me I'm wrong but I say that any car burning in a rural lay-by should be the cause of some concern. So my screams for somebody to save the hard-top Audi coupé with flames feeding off the passenger seat should have come as no surprise. After all it was my car. And I was still in it.
Moments earlier a volcanic bout of retching and coughing had brought me around from a deep stupor. The mix of fluids that had erupted from my nose and mouth were now forming themselves into a fondue goatee. A rhythmic thumping bowled around inside my head. Smoke filled the car like bubble-wrap fills a box of fine crystal tumblers. I snarled and snorted. Despite the smoke and the snot I could still smell the whisky. And something else: the faintest hint of her fragrance.
I sent the standard instruction from my brain to my left arm to raise itself and move to the seat belt so that my hand could release me. My arm paid no attention. I could see why. It was weighed down with one of her long blonde hairs, lying like a serpent on my sleeve. I assumed it was the smoke and heat that caused the irrationality but I found myself chastising my left arm, saying aloud that I'd deal with it later. I now instructed my right arm to carry out the task. It too disobeyed. Limb solidarity. I addressed both:
'Okay, I get it, but could one of you AT LEAST OPEN THE WINDOW?'
Nothing. Total insubordination. I gave my left hand, the one I saw as the ringleader, a look. I peered more closely. Through the smoke I could see the hand was blackened and curled like a crab on a barbeque. Had it tried to put out the fire? To use its initiative? Now I felt a little ashamed.
As if sensing my remorse the hand moved. It lifted itself through the thick, stinking air and fell claw-like onto the steering wheel. Well what use was that? That wasn't going to get me out. That didn't help me breathe. As soon as these thoughts had flashed through my mind the shame returned: the hand was trying to sound the car-horn! Of course it was. But it had landed too wide and too high. Nonetheless its heroics had stirred the right hand into action and I watched with a misplaced fascination as it rose towards the rocker switch: the one that would open the driver's window. Millimetre by smoky millimetre it climbed. The hand hovered, aligned itself and then drove down its forefinger. Although contact with the switch was clean, nothing happened. It punched again. Nothing. The ignition was off. The electric windows wouldn't operate without it. Not to be beaten without a fight my right hand crawled towards the door handle. But I knew before it gave its pathetic tug that the door was locked.
Panic engulfed me. I screamed for help; hollered for someone to smash the window and drag me out. The back seat was alight. Globules of burning fabric dropped from the roof. The heat was unbearable. My screams faltered and juddered to a halt as smoke forced its way down my throat along with reality: the chances of anyone else being on this forest road, at two in the morning, were nil. Panic flipped to despair. I began to sob. My thumping head dropped. The seat belt unreeled as my body keeled forward. The wail of the car horn filled my ears. I shot back in the seat.
Revitalised, my right hand took control. It fished in my jacket pocket for the car keys. It rammed in and turned the ignition key. I heard the sweet and beautiful, disengaging clunk of the door locks. I watched with growing hope as my right hand crept once again to the door handle. A great wave of air, flame, smoke and heat roared around me as the car door swung open. My coat was on fire. My hair was burning. I screamed at my left hand to unbuckle the seat belt, 'DO IT!'
To my amazement it obeyed. Using every strand of strength and will I rolled to my right. My trunk flopped out of the car in a flail of arms and smoking clothes. My shoulder smacked onto the road. I gulped down the cool air and coughed up balls of soot and phlegm. I turned my head to see the fire ripping through the inside of the car.
I twisted onto my back. I begged my leaden legs to move. I began to pull. The right leg twitched and started to draw itself up. The left leg remained firmly where it was: the last of the rebels. I needed traction. I spread my arms wide, forming a cruciform shape on the tarmac, willing my nails to find fissures in the pitted surface. From deep in my gut I pulled. Like a tourist gawping at Tower Bridge I watched in awe as my right leg, bent at the knee, rose from the car. Now I jammed my foot onto the sill and pushed. A searing pain in my left ankle burst its way up through my leg. Was my ankle broken? Were the ligaments ripped? Of course not, the biting pain was caused by the clamp: the steel wire clamp with which I'd coupled my ankle to the clutch pedal thirty minutes or so earlier; my insurance policy in case any do-gooder tried to drag me from the burning car.
I lay there looking at an endless black sky pinned to the heavens by a million stars. Among them a moving stud of light marked the path of a plane taking people somewhere they thought might make them happy. I wondered how many seconds before the fuel tank blew. Ten? Five? Although the thumping inside my head had reduced to a tapping, like a lover's finger on a window-pane, it had maintained its rhythm: the time-signature for my death. And it was then I realised that the sound wasn't inside my head at all: the noise was coming from the boot of the car.
The theme is used very well.
The story is told as an internal monologue with almost no dialogue, which is perfectly appropriate for the situation and works well.
I was drawn in by the opening, which is fairly gentle. The reader only gradually realises the seriousness of the situation. The tension builds and we feel the character's panic.
There's a double twist. The first is excellent. It took me completely by surprise, yet there were clues so although unexpected, it seemed almost obvious once I thought about it. That's not an easy thing to achieve. The second could have been a little clearer. I'm assuming it's 'her' in the boot, but perhaps not as I doubt her attempts to free herself would produce a sound which was rhythmic throughout. That uncertainty stopped this story being placed higher.