Short story winner: a tale from Mexico on the agony of doubt | Roberto Franco-Alba

As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, the UK’s Institute of Development Studies held a short story competition for members and research partners, to encourage fiction writing on development. We publish the three winning entries

First prize: Choosing the Sea by Roberto Franco-Alba

By four o’clock, when I first left my room, my belly hurt a lot. In the living room as in the rest of the house, everything was in silence and the kitchen, which usually smelled like soup and burnt corn, was cold and dusty; the wind seeped through the open window and made the curtains sway. I opened the cupboard’s wooden door and took the biscuit tin. When I shook it, the crumbs made the bottom tinkle. I turned back to the shelves with the cartons and the herb jars and dusted off the boxes with my hand. I found a packet with crackers in the corner and a bottle of mayo in the fridge, and then ran back to my room.

As I didn’t want to think, I spent my time sleeping, day and night in my pyjamas, with a pillow on my head so I didn’t see the light. I also felt less hungry that way. When I got tired of sleeping I tried to read but I couldn’t, so I took my old Discman and a noisy album and listened to it until my ears hurt. The silence was dreadful because it made me remember. I am no whiner, but I didn’t want to remember, I hoped that I could open my eyes and things would be over. I wanted to

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