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Competition No 3878

Set by Valerie Yule, 18 April

You were asked to write a book (well, 150 words) to rival The Da Vinci Code.

Report by Ms de Meaner

When I asked for 150 words, I wasn't expecting a synopsis. However, so many of you took that (easy?) route that I have capitulated. £25 and Tesco vouchers to Mr Greenwell; £20 to the two others.

The Life Phial

Moses Evinaard studied studiously.

Three letters. A-S-P. Cleopatra's snake. Was life a serpent?

Heart beating furiously, he manipulated off-white Scrabble tiles. There was no PSA in the dictionary. Or APS. Or PAS -

Wait! Alarm bells tintinnabulated in his cerebellum. PAS! A French word!

Evinaard leant forward. What did "PAS" mean? Not! It meant "Not"!

"It means 'not'," he told Arabella.

"It means nothing, then," she said, rearranging tiles, her eyelashes fluttering.

SAP! The stuff of life! What Peter the Great had looked for, criss-crossing continents. He'd found the root of all evil. And good. But where?

"But where?" he blurted.

On the fresh, lawn-green baize, she spelt out SPA. "Spa," she murmured. "In Wallonia. After 'Walha', meaning foreigner. Tourists in their own temples. Where Peter the Great drank fizzing, ferrous, carbonated waters. Where the largest pouhon bears his name, like St Petersburg."

"The bubbles!" gasped Evinaard.

The stuff of life was not water but gas trapped within it. As the Russians had discovered. And the KGB had discovered the discovery. And . . .

A shadowy figure appeared from the shadows. "Vladimir Ulyanov," he said, proffering his hand. "I live on."

Bill Greenwell

The Dear Voucher Code

For the first time, roadside floral tributes have been analysed, their locations plotted and tallied with rural suicide patterns. Proof positive that each rain-soaked, pathetically cellophaned homage represents a local planning officer extinguished. Extrapolating the equally oblique connection with the initial letters of the "serving suggestion" garnish vegetables on Morrisons own-brand fresh egg pasta products was also crucial; when arranged in the order they were first marketed, the evidence mounts. "Account Card Holders Only" is the arcane but less than cryptic transcription. This is the key to plans to make over the world; it is the source of funding. The final capitulation came when PG Tips threw in the towel and withdrew their tea cards, Robertson's Jam having ceased their Golly offers just months before. The empirical criteria for the Retailer Point Accumulation Event Horizon had been met. Whilst of only academic interest to staunch Keynesians, the notional value of 0.001p per point or voucher provides the £7bn per annum needed by those who would seek to make over the world.

John Griffiths-Colby

The Tracey Emin Code

The curator grabbed Emin's priceless Uneaten Bowl of Cornflakes from its plinth. The alarm sounded. In the ensuing mayhem, the curator was buried under the prizewinning Precarious Tonne of Bricks, leaving vertebrae crushed and art aficionados bereft, until the unveiling of Murdered Curator in Formaldehyde. There followed a deadly hunt for the cornflakes, led by Professor Langdon who lectured on "Spurious Hermeneutics" at Harvard, seeking to prove that they contained ancient encrypted messages. Emin had claimed that the random pattern of flakes, each entirely unique, depicted the human race. Langdon knew better. The Holy Gruel! Dried out and connected like a jigsaw, the flakes would reveal the genetic DNA code of Enoch, who "did not see death", and also of Sir Cliff. Falling into the wrong hands, they would spell disaster for humanity. Langdon vowed to find the cereal killer before it was too late.

David Silverman

No 3881 Set by Valerie Yule

Artful report by an organisation against the trial of a cheap invention that might affect its interests/profits. (Difficult? Don't worry, it's done all the time.)

Max 150 words by 19 May. E-mail: