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Competition No 3699

Set by John O'Byrne on 17 September

You were challenged to come up with the "worst possible opening sentence" of a bad science-fiction, detective or romantic novel.

Report by Ms de Meaner

A popular comp. And we have quite a few hon menshes: Anne Du Croz, Katie Mallett, Chas F Garvey, Sid Field and, especially, Adrian Fry ("Eldigrim N'PanBillionth, ten thousandth son of Nosquillas, ten millionth Lord of the Eighty-Four Thousandth Dimensional Portal, set his limbwheels in motion, rolling inexorably toward Zone Control, the cluster of penises at the apex of his primary head blackening . . ." and so on). £20 to the winners; the vouchers go to D A Prince.

Seeming to have reached a decision at last, he took courage and, allowing his trembling hand to wander hesitantly in the direction of her drawers, felt almost overcome, in fact a little shocked, by the uncharacteristic nature of such a masterly decision on his part, indeed the realisation of his boldness, the audacity of a possibly, perhaps probably, resented invasion, violent desecration even, of a young woman's most intimate sanctum, once again arousing and sharpening his already acute feeling of uncertainty, almost had him rushing from the room in embarrassment until, realising that, having got so far in his amorous quest, so close to the "diadem", now was certainly - to adapt a popular phrase of a friend renowned for his countless conquests of the "fair sex" - "not the time to allow a faint heart [or more accurately an empty pen] to lose a fair maiden", he launched himself resolutely into his task, carelessly exposing the contents of each one of the Fair Cecilia's drawers until, finding a Biro, he added to the card, with a determined passionate flourish, a tenth kiss to the other nine he had earlier written below the words "Happy Birthday" and his nervous signature.

David Barton

Death, the final frontier, the thin blue line between Being and Nothingness (as Sartre or Camus put it in a memorable phrase), the great Equaliser that is always scored in the final minute, with no extra time, the Grim Reaper who lifts the bails at close of play - when at last the lean and slipper'd pantaloon shuffles off this mortal coil, yet a consoling voice seems to answer, like a Madonna's prayer, "Though I walk in the valley of the shadow, the Lord is my shepherd and will separate me from the goats" (these cogitations, sombre yet mournful, tragic yet replete with catharsis in the true Aristotelian sense, were doubly resonant with dramatic irony as they evoked the clue - Blodwyn's broken hairpin - that would provide the denouement to this grotesque chronicle): such were the thoughts that swirled around Morse's brain, diaphanous as a cathedral window, flecked only with the remnants of seven pints of Watney's Old Peculiar, as he checked to see if there had been any homicides reported since he had knocked off the previous evening to go to the pub.

Ian Birchall

As the sleek, streamlined saucer-shaped spaceship ploughed its way relentlessly through the vast, empty, unexplored and uninhabited expanses of interstellar space, noiselessly, stealthily, imperceptibly entering our own solar system, passing Jupiter on the right, Mercury on the left, carefully negotiating its way through a cloud of asteroids, unnoticed by any earthly observers, unseen by any eye, naked or otherwise, the ship's crew - diminutive, green, jelly-like, garlic-shaped and angst-ridden - communicated silently and telepathically with each other, frantically, obsessively, mechanically expressing for the billionth time the one mind-wrenching, cosmically significant, eternal triple question which now, three thousand, four hundred and fifty-five light years from home, formed their only thoughts and the final objective of their mission: was there intelligent life in Leeds, where would they park and would they get there in time for kick-off?

David Silverman

Whatever way you looked at this screwed-up Escher-style case, Detective Inspector "Brillo" Padd knew that it wasn't what it seemed, that the damaged template of dirty normality would be ripped up yet again, that this was a bio-organism of diseased and jumbled nuclei, a wretched palimpsest of disproportionately grubby desires and drug-driven deaths, a clutch of fatally lost hopes and terminally loose ends, a delirious anarchy of abuse and political scheming, a welter of cross-talk and cross-dressing, with all the scab-scrapings and snotty snivellings of this low-life cantankerous cesspit of a city squeezed into one pus-sodden bubo threatening to explode exponentially into virulent toxicity smearing every strata of society, and that his whole alcohol-impelled present, a balls-wrenchingly miserable career, his future - compared to which a tottering house of cards was a building indestructible as the Pyramids - and the personal wreckage and emotional detritus that his counsellor ironically called his "marriage", would hang on its impossible likeness to a passably happy ending.

D A Prince

No 3702 Set by John Crick

"Idiot's Guides" to complex subjects are everywhere these days. Let's reverse the trend and have an overly complicated "guide" to a very simple subject (football, conkers, royalty, soaps . . . ) of your choice.

Max 200 words, to be in by 17 October

(to appear in issue dated 29 October)