white rabbit in top hat

Hocus Pocus by Chris Cottom Hysteria 2023 flash fiction category winner

Chris Cottom is the winner of the Flash Fiction category in the 2023 Hysteria Writing Competition with his story ‘Hocus Pocus’. You can read the winning story below as you listen to the recording. It is published, along with the other winners and finalists from each category in the Hysteria 10 anthology which is published by Crystal Clear Books.

Listen to the recording

Read by Heather Cook during the Hysteria 10 Anthology Launch.

Read the story


Dad puts an upside-down top hat on my lap. Inside is a nibbly bunny.

‘Hello,’ I say. ‘Can I call you Hocus Pocus?’

Indian rope trick

‘We’ll get a takeaway,’ Dad says. ‘Mum’s tied up at work. She’s got a new assistant, Anil.’


Mum’s in a flutter, getting ready for a night out with Auntie Pam. I bring Hocus Pocus inside to show him her sparkly dress.

Card tricks

Dad pulls a fan of cards from Mum’s purse. ‘Hey Presto! No wonder we’re overdrawn.’

Cage escape

Mum finds Hocus Pocus in next door’s garden. ‘He’s had an adventure, the lucky thing.’

Vanishing coin

Sometimes Mum borrows my pocket money when she doesn’t have enough.

Find the lady

Mum isn’t in her room when I need her in the night. In the morning Dad says she’s stayed at Auntie Pam’s.

Magic carpet

I fall asleep on the rug and feel better when I wake up, although Mum still isn’t back.

Sawing in half

Mum says she’s going to live somewhere else. With someone else.

‘Auntie Pam?’

‘No, someone from work. Anil.’

I run outside to see Hocus Pocus.


Dad comes to find me. ‘You can go with her, if that’s what you want. You and Hocus Pocus.’

Hocus Pocus has magical powers. He’s taught me to understand rabbit thoughts.

I put my ear against his soft, warm head.

‘He’s decided,’ I say. ‘He likes it here.’


Chris Cottom lives near Macclesfield, England, and once wrote insurance words. In 2023 his stories won the Allingham Flash Fiction Competition, National Flash Fiction Day New Zealand’s Micro Madness competition, the South Warwickshire Literary Festival Writing Competition, The Phare’s Flash Dash competition, and the Off the Rails 3 Minute Story competition (for stories to be read to passengers on the Esk Valley Railway between Middlesborough and Whitby).

You can meet Chris Cottom in our conversation on Substack.


(Image by Evgeniy Parilov | Dreamstime.com)

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