Archive | December 2013

Composers for Relief: Renaissance

On November 8, 2013,  the deadliest natural disaster in Philippines’ history, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), stole the lives of over 6,000 mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters, and countless children.

More than 16 million people have been affected by this horrific tragedy, their world ripped apart with every loss… their hopes torn from tortured hearts.

Though we are scattered across the globe, we are connected to their anguish, we feel their sorrow as if it were our own. They need our help, our empathy, our compassion, our action!

Samantha Redstreake Geary

Thirty composers from sixteen countries joined their musical talents and produced an album of hope. To complement their efforts, writers from around the world wrote stories inspired by the songs. 100% of the funds raised by the album and companion e-book (the book will be released in January) will go to the non-profit group Gawad Kalinga (“Give Care”) to support the victims of Yolanda. 

My song inspiration is Renaissance, composed by child prodigy Ainan Celeste Cawley.  Listen to his song here (the playlist is on the right-hand sidebar). The melody is hauntingly brief, with lighter notes of hope chasing the lower reaches of despair. As to what story rose from the watery depths… dare to come along with me on the journey to find out. And thank you.

♦♦♦♦♦

Renaissance

The entire tribe came out for my Fledging, dropping gifts of fish and baby squid at my parents’ trembling feet. There was something both exciting and unsettling about finally seeing a Fledging ceremony—the first in ten years, they said. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, wove in and out of our island’s glowing black rocks, singing (how did they do that??), bowing, and clapping their bills in the grandest of displays. The singing and dancing would go on for hours, and then…. I would fly.

But for now I cocked my head and just watched. The ceremony murmured, its patterns of song and drumming blurring with the sounds of crashing waves and the island’s own gentle rumblings. No one seemed to mind I slept. I couldn’t sing or dance myself yet, anyway, and though my mother tossed a few wry grins my way, she said nothing. There would be time enough for learning the songs over my family’s years of glorious exploration.

“Mana, daughter, are you ready?” My father’s voice shattered my dreams like a fragile eggshell.

I started guiltily. The ceremony was over; had I been that deeply asleep?

“Yes. Yes, of course, Father.” I stretched out one wing, then the other. They were still baby ash-brown, and would be for some time yet. A light breeze tickled my under-feathers; I swallowed a giggle.

“The flight will be long,” said my mother. “We will show you how to eat and sleep and rest. There are dangers, and you must listen and obey now more than ever.”

“I will obey, Mother.”

Her grin returned, and she nipped at my shoulder. “I know you will, Mana. You always do, when it counts. Just make sure it always counts this time.”

I wish I had taken that grin and wrapped it in something strong enough to last forever.

My awkward feet followed my parents to the cliff’s edge. Their wings (why did they suddenly look so frail?) clung to each other briefly before they flung themselves into the air and circled gently, waiting for me, smiling.

I leapt.

It was everything I had imagined. The air dipped soft like sand in places, clenched hard like rock in others, and though the wind faithfully kept me above the dark sea, it took me some hours until I managed to stop fighting it. And when I did, flying was wonderful. One could roll, or dive, or soar, or simply keep the wings outstretched and sleep, safe. What dangers could there be? This sacred expanse above the sea belonged to us alone.

My strength grew with each passing season; joyous was the day I found two brown feathers had turned pale peach.

“You must go back soon,” said my father one day. We were lying full-bellied on a narrow piece of driftwood sunning ourselves, a rare quiet moment in their tireless search for whatever they seemed so desperate to find.

“I know. Someday.”

“You have a job to do there.”

“I’d do a better job if you taught me to sing,” I said, eyeing him. “How can I raise the next generation of chicks without knowing a single melody? And anyway, you know more songs than the rest of the tribe combined.”

Something changed in the air, a sudden darkness as a cloud dragged itself across the sun.

“Tell her,” said my father, standing. “It is time.”

My mother twisted to look first at him, then at me, her delicate blood-red feathers tense as she nodded. “It’s not as simple as you think, Mana-chick. Things are not as they once were, when many eggs came from the fire.” 

Distant thunder rolled. “What do you mean?”

“The tribe is dying.” My father’s sky-blue feathers fell dully to his side. “Each time we return to the island, fewer remain. You were the only chick in a decade, and no eggs have risen since. Your task is crucial: you must lead the tribe. You will find a way.”

“But you could—”

“This is our last flight, starlight, your mother’s and mine. We tried finding a new home for our people, but we lacked the strength to fly far enough. Take heart, Mana; you are young and will triumph where we could not.”

“Next year, surely?”

The answer buried itself in my heart like sharks’ teeth. “At the end of this season,” said my mother.

I squawked. “You mean I must return alone??”

My parents tried over the final weeks to comfort me, to no avail. How could mere words ease this new and awful terror? As we said our goodbyes and I plunged into stormy air, their words of hope beat in my ears as fruitlessly as my wings against the gale.

After weeks of pushing through howling tempests and angry rains, at long last I saw the island rising up, a dark shadow against a darker sky. I pushed faster, desperately, my eyes darting this way and that, searching for familiar faces and welcoming voices.

None met me.

The island lay empty. Empty??

Broken.

It looked as though the very heart of the island had exploded. Black rivers of dried flame tangled across each other, and a gaping chasm of nothingness replaced my very home. Giant, angry boulders carved new mountains for themselves. Nothing remained but ash.

I was alone in truth.

Who knows how long I stood weeping; the sun rose and fell many times until the ache in my stomach burned more than the ache in my heart. Enough. I shook off the tears and wandered the island, rapping at holes, chirping at shadows. I would find a little something to eat and begin my own final journey toward death.

Perhaps I could even find a way to fly it with courage, as my parents had. That, I would do, in their honor.

I stretched out my wings, thin layers of ash dancing on my peach and orange (!) feathers, which glimmered like cold fire. I was the last of the great phoenix; I would give the world a death such as it had never seen.

My talons clutched the cliff’s edge, and I readied myself for one last flight.  

Then I saw it: the tiniest of golden flashes, from behind a rock. Could it be— Yes.

An egg.

Chipped, dented, and buried almost entirely in soot.

But it was an egg.

From somewhere deep inside me, a song erupted.

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Sixty Seconds with: Rebecca Allred

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Rebecca Allred.  Read her winning story here, then take one minute to get to know her better.

1) What about the prompt inspired you to write your winning piece?  I thought that for there to be something new, something else needed to be destroyed.

2) How long have you been writing flash? About 3 months.

3) What do you like about flash? I feel accomplished for finishing a work, and often my flash stories serve as seedlings for larger pieces of fiction.

4) What flash advice would you give other writers? Pay attention to language. You don’t have a lot of words to work with. Make every one count.

5) Who is a writer we should follow, and why? Gordon White. He’s a wonderful writer, and his feedback helped me get my first story (flash!) accepted for publication. 

6) Do you participate in other flash contests, and which? Race The Date and Finish That Thought. Also, I’m starting my own THIS SATURDAY! Y’all should come over and play.

7) What other forms do you write (novels, poetry, articles, etc)? I write short stories and I have a few wannabe novels in various states of disrepair.

8) What is/are your favorite genre(s) to write, and why? Horror – my mind wanders into dark alleys, always asking “what’s the worst that could happen?” I write down the answers.

9) Tell us about a WIP.  I’m working on a short story about a doctor forced to consider the virtues of alternative medicine when fighting disease. 

10) How do you feel about dragons? I love them. Growing up, my friends at school called me The Dragon Woman.

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 3: WINNERS!

10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2…. JUST KIDDING! Can’t say that last digit as it’s not New Year’s Eve yet (not even for our bold Aussies!). It’s another full week here at Flash! Friday, with our winner’s interview posting hopefully Tuesday, and our regular contest on Friday–the first one of 2014, if you can believe it; which, since we kicked off in December 2012, makes me feel reeeeally old.

Also going up on the FF site in the next two days is my story contribution to accompany Composers for Relief, a fundraising effort to support the victims of November’s Typhoon Yolanda. This companion e-book will be published in January, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity organization. Your support is gratefully appreciated!

And now: here are comments and results from our valiant, brand new Year Two judge Erin McCabe:

She says: So here we are, the last Flash Friday Fiction contest of 2013! I’m so grateful for being given the opportunity to judge it! I must admit this was a challenge for me, so many wonderful entries this week; putting together my finalist list I felt like a kid in a candy store being pulled by my Mother as I screamed hysterically, “Can’t I just have one more?” I won’t lie: it was really difficult to decide, but I guess that is the hallmark of an excellent and vibrant writing community like this one.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter their work this week and to those who came along to read. This close to Christmas it can be hard to get time to write, so the effort is appreciated.

Before I get to the winners, I would just like to make a special shout out for Amy Wood‘s  In Silence I Wait.” When she mentioned that her Mother had exclaimed this weeks’ prompt looked like a Dragon’s eye I was immediately transmitted to that scene in JurassicPark where the terrifying T-Rex is peering through the van window, excellent interpretation of the prompt!

I’d also like to make a shout out for Chris White‘s “There Wasn’t Much Room for Hope, mainly for the excellent use of pacing and paragraph structure that works so sublimely well. This felt like the start to a larger story that I would be itching to read more of. 

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Karl A. Russell, “Attempt # 408?”.  I really loved this piece, a blend of sci-fi and fantasy, the choice of words easily created a very visually detailed and intricate little scientific world and workshop; “splintered roofbeams (#360, #387) each with their own numbered casual connections. The addition of the tiny protective daughter “Hope” was utterly adorable. I now really want to own a “flask of tiny, swirling stars”. 

Adrian George Nicolae, “Talks.” Through only one side of a conversation, Adrian had me in stitches with this one; I love the dismissing, judgemental and cheeky tone of the main character. I also love the idea of a bumbling creator who has caused his people to stop believing he ever existed through his sheer incompetence. The line; “yours will sulk without a reason” is such a perfect and condemning way to describe the nature of the human condition.

A J Walker, “Patricia.” I have to praise the skilful use of language throughout this piece; the relationship between the telescope, the viewer and the vast expanse of space is beautifully captured through lines such as: “speckled dance of life and death played out above him on an enveloping black sheet.” Really well imagined and a nice use of the prompt, especially the notion of hope.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Dieter Rogiers, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Excellent piece of world-building in such a small word count, with the addition of a great title which had me humming that song all morning. (I’m a sucker for a good title!) It is made obvious that our character has watched his home and all he has ever loved burn; a home connected to our own through object reference such as the LPs and candy floss; human kind now appear to be floating aimlessly through space, devoid of hope. Yet our character does not dwell on this destruction. Instead the story is willing us towards optimism, towards new beginnings: the start of a new song, which this time will probably be far from the sounds of the Beach Boys. This piece ties in particularly well with the prompt too, it had me hoping they find a new home, well done!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Joidianne4eva, “We Will Light the Heavens.” I loved the poetic style of this piece; it was both stunning and glorious. I like the idea of space pressing in from all sides; that the void can be so purely dark, that its sheer nothingness has its own oppressive presence. I’m a huge fan of great endings and the line “Alone they were nothing but soon they would be a star,” is the perfect endings for this piece. Clearly this line extends the story beyond the nature of mere stardust to encompass mankind. Together, through collective bravery we can accomplish the greatest things, things far beyond our individual imaginings. That is what this story tells, through poetry, stellar motions and song. Beautifully done!

And now, at long last (seriously!), for her very first time as 

DRAGON WINNER

REBECCA ALLRED

for

“Rebirth”

The central premise of this piece is so powerful: Christa stayed behind to experience what it is to be engulfed by a black hole, not for any suicidal notion, but merely for the sake of curiosity, to experience the unknown.

There is also a political theme here too. The poor, the ill and the crazy have all been left behind to die, presumably because the rich have abandoned them, their wealth providing them opportunity to flee.

The approach of the black hole being signaled only by the extinction of the stars is really effective; its consumptive power can only at this point be perceived through tiny incremental acts. I also love the use of the world “cartwheeled” to describe Christa’s movement into the singularity; it’s so playful, reflecting her nature. I also appreciated the use of the word “unborn” to describe the sensation, something we can articulate but not truly experience and therefore understand. The end for me was a fantastic surprise; I had imagined Christa being locked in the singularity forever, infinitely extended beyond herself; instead she bursts through it to be born again as a new light, a bright star heralding new hope. A highly deserving winning piece. Congratulations!

Congratulations, Rebecca! Your winner’s badge waits most excitedly for you below. Here is your winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature, which this week will (I think) post Tuesday. Woooohooo!

FFwinner-Web