The Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing: Volume 3

The Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing: Volume 3

Secret duets, murdered butterflies, sabotage, pockets full of pink, and the desire to be desired: all these and more make up volume three of New Writing, our collection of original short-fiction and poetry from India. This third edition of New Writing features no fewer than 25 short stories and poems inspired by our theme (‘Strange Love’), all of which have been handpicked by our trio of judges: Krishna Udayasankar, Sharanya Manivannan, and Jai Arjun Singh.


Sharanya ManivannanIt’s always with some trepidation that one opens a shortlist of selections for a contest—but what a pleasure the pieces of fiction I read for Helter Skelter’s New Writing: Vol. 3 were. I laughed out loud to the hilarious The Groom and His Dog. I loved the simple, elegantly-told narrative of Trees. And the poignance of Duet stayed with me well into the next day after my marathon afternoon of reading and rating. I was truly delighted by the quality of the writing in the fiction shortlist. It was a pleasure to read these stories, and I hope all of them see the light of many computer screens, if not in this anthology then in another.

Sharanya Manivannan



Roseapples, illustration by Dyuti Mittal

Hyphens Are Pink

There were moments when our rhythms matched, and our feet, with a muddy shoe or two, were up in the blue sky together.

Lost Bells, Illustration by Tara Isha

Lost Bells

Even in his blue silk dhoti, Shekhar looks like a walking insect—a fancy walking insect. It is an interesting look for someone with no personality.

Trees, illustration by Kamal Singh


The girl and the boy made love to each other every night, and every night they climaxed knowing that they had climbed trees to get to one another.

Mother, illustration by Tara Isha


I take you like a paper doll and crumple you.

Bandages, illustration by Kamal Singh

Why Else Do You Think I Carry Bandages?

Salves and salvation were two poles, and he, like the Earth itself, was slightly flattened at the doorstep of both.

Anonymous Asked, illustration by Kamal Singh

Anonymous Asked: What Is Dating Like in Sri Lanka? And for You?

You can do it. Accept that he isn’t upper class diplomatic or a refugee of war or lover turned killer.

Papercut, illustration by Dyuti Mittal

Paper Cut on My Tongue

When we left, we knew we’d probably never find our way back again.

Duet, illustration by Tara Isha


She felt as though she had done something terrible. But technically, she had just been singing in her own bathroom, hadn’t she?

David, illustration by Tara Isha


There is nothing to be said. The hour is past, and he should leave.

Fugitive No More, illustration by Kruttika Susarla

Fugitive No More

You would be pleased to know that the evidence has been removed.

Skylight, illustration by Pooja Satish


I was always watching you but you never felt the heat of my gaze.

Butterfly Love

Butterfly Love

Layers upon layers of fabric, he knew, were surely hampering his beloved white butterflies from fluttering in the breeze.

In Calcutta, illustration by Newman D'Silva

In Calcutta

What does her smile look like? Does she have crooked teeth like me? Do her eyes crinkle up when she smiles?

Scenes from a Lonely Dinner, illustration by Newman D'Silva

Scenes from a Lonely Dinner

One slip is all it takes for this night of loneliness to culminate in a crescendo of muffled moans and suppressed sighs.

Church Hill, illustration by Osheen Siva

Church Hill

Bright lights flash about her, and the city steeps in her lap for an unexpected reunion.

Sexy, illustration by Osheen Siva


The man’s voice had reached where his hands couldn’t have.

Illustration by Kruttika Susarla

The Girl in the Leopard-Skin Brassiere

You don’t know me but I have lived a lifetime with you.

The Last Butterfly, illustration by Ria Rajan

The Last Butterfly

When she sipped from the flowers, she would make sure that her wings were stretched out and displayed properly for him.

Invitation, illustration by Pooja Satish


Maybe it wasn’t her love that was strange. Maybe it was Grandpa’s.

The Dead End, illustration by Kavisha Dharia

The Dead End

Like every other time, I couldn’t crawl into your first verse or your second, your bridge or your chorus.

The Hatter's Wife, illustration by Newman D'Silva

The Hatter’s Wife

Alice pressed her palm to the cool glass as her husband snipped away at the fabric that would form his fourth hat that week.

Dolls Are Like People; Illustration by Newman D'Silva

Dolls Are Like People

Her joints are stiff, but it’s nothing to worry about. It’s her natural condition.

Letting Go; illustration by Kavisha Dharia

Letting Go

I could roll the window down to let out your scent, your presence that lingers here beside me like all the bad choices I’ve made.

Chandrakala, illustration by Newman D'Silva

The Groom and the Dog

It was the summer before her final year of college when Vaidehi first saw Suresh Babu.

Dead Saffron, illustration by Kavisha Dharia

Dead Saffron

I was baptised with dead saffron and don’t know 
what simple games of your childhood sound like.