For the fifth year in a row, we partnered with Iceland Travel to run a competition to win a spot at the Iceland Writers Retreat. This year’s theme was “Equality” and we received over 400 submissions from the around the world.
The winner of the competition is Giacomo Roessler from Germany, with his story “Ferðin”. Second place went to Petronella Wagner of South Africa with “Volcanoes”, and third place was awarded to Alyson Hilbourne in the United Kingdom, with “On Reynisfjara Beach”. You can read Giacomo’s story below, and we’ll publish the other two in the coming days.
There are still some spaces available to attend the Iceland Writers Retreat. Click here to sign up.
Ferðin, by Giacomo Roessler
Snow is whirling all around as I make my way towards the white building. From the road, it was barely visible. Now that I am getting closer, I can see smoke rising from its tiny chimney and warm light floating through the windows. The small building stands oddly in this wide field of stones. Like a toy an unmindful child had dropped. To the left, an old wooden shack is peeping through the snow.
I take the few steps up to the house. The wind is howling like a hungry beast. I knock on the door, but the noise is not piercing through. I wait another second before I swing open the red wooden door. I shut it as quickly, to keep the winter outside. A man is sitting at a long wooden table, huddled next to a small fire.
He glances up at me. “Car broke down?”
I nod and remain at the entrance. A few moments pass.
“Are you not coming in?” he asks, staring into the fire.
I hesitate. “You don’t look… alarmed.”
He looks up and chuckles. A chuckle that warms me up more than a fire could. “Should I?”
“No. It’s just that… sometimes people are afraid of me, you know. I can see it in their eyes.”
“People are afraid of monsters under their beds, while all they really fear is being alone. They get so used to it, they start seeing demons behind every corner.” He pauses. “I don’t mind you standing in the doorway, but it’s cozy over here. And I have some soup left.”
I take a step into the room. It is bigger than anticipated. Apart from the table there is a bench and two bunk beds. After finishing my soup, I notice a handful horseshoes attached to the wall. A coat is hanging from one of them. “What is this place?” I ask.
“It’s actually a church. Péturskirkja. Used to be a shelter for shepherds. Guess we are not so different from them, are we? Seeking shelter from the storm. Only without sheep. Or have you hidden some under your coat?” He looks at me thoroughly, shadows dancing over his face. As I start to giggle, his face softens.
We spend the hours without many words. Outside, the storm whistles the tune of ancient times. Its rhythm as gentle as a lullaby…
“You never asked me where I come from,” I say as we leave Péturskirkja. The storm has passed. It is still dark, yet the pale horizon shows the first signs of morning.
He gazes at me for a while, then walks on. “To me, it is more important where we are going, not where we come from. I believe we are on the same journey. It’s all that matters.”
I look up at the pulsing shades of light dancing over the sky. Trying to get hold of the moment. “It’s all that matters,” I whisper to the new morning.Tags: books, Iceland, Iceland Writers Retreat, IWR2019, writing competition