Good evening! Hope your weekend’s been spectacular in every way. Thanks for coming back to celebrate the winners with us!
Warmest congratulations to our own dear Craig Anderson, who stopped by post-contest to add a precious tale in honor of his just-born daughter (please be sure to read it & leave joy for him!). CONGRATULATIONS, Craig, to you and Lauren, and a fiery (in the best way) WELCOME TO THE WORLD to sweet Neve. Thank you for sharing this most wonderful story with us!
Judge Nillu Nasser Stelter says: Oh Flash! Friday community, what a wonderfully talented, wise and supportive group of writers you are. We had forty fabulous entries this week; both old-timers (metaphorically speaking) and the bright new things dazzled me with inventive concepts and skillful prose. As a judge, I found this my most challenging one yet. There are just so many masters of the ink amongst you. I found myself wanting to applaud a fantastic premise here, a wondrous way with words there, an elegant resolution in one story and superbly drawn characters in another. You gave me horror, romance, fantasy, comedy and science fiction. I discovered wonderful contemplative pieces and action-packed thrillers. I read about dragons, lovers, children, soldiers, skydiving octogenarians, planetary explorers, parachuting brides and nature personified. I dove into stories of hope and regret, love and courage, exhilaration and longing. It is little wonder that I short-listed a quarter of you for a second reading.
Before I unveil the podium places, here are some special mentions for writers, whose work leapt off the page for me this week. AJ Walker’s concept of an Octogenarian Russian Roulette Club in ‘A Jump into the Unknown’ was equally surreal, terrifying and funny, and held some wonderfully memorable sentences – ‘he plummeted earthwards towards the dark carpet of spruce.’ In her story ‘Body of Truth’, Margaret Locke writes movingly about someone who has finally accepted herself and whose body is its own parachute. Horror isn’t a genre I have come across often during my time as a Flash! Friday judge, so this week I’d like to tip my imaginary hat to Joidianne4eva for her piece ‘With Bloody Feet On Hallowed Ground’ and her alarming concept of menacing trees, whose age has brought ‘wisdom and cunning.’ The final special mention this week goes to current judge Erin McCabe for ‘Tender Peak’, for a beautifully chosen title that set the tone for her story of a mountain’s consciousness. I was swept along by poetic phrasing – ‘Animals graze under my shadow and drink from pure waters trickling down my ridged body’ – and the simple elegance of the last sentence – ‘I only hope it knew my avalanche was both death and love – was master penmanship at work.
And now, the winners! A rapturous applause please for:
Robin Abess, “The Chosen.” Robin’s submission charmed me with its beautiful phrasing – ‘Darcy’s breath hung in the air as she floated downwards’ – and melancholic tones. The world-building here was effective – ‘the hungry ground’ – and included the invention of terms such as ‘Otherlands’, which gave the hint of a story unfolding outside of this one.
R.F. Marazas, “Bored Reckless.” The tension builds beautifully in this piece, in which traditional roles are turned upside down and you find a dare-devil wife and her exasperated husband. I loved the feisty heroine in this piece, who tackles an armed robber on her honeymoon, and there is a corker of an ending.
SJ O’Hart, “The Long Step.” I liked the concept of rebirth in this piece, and the use of paragraph breaks to emphasize the protagonist’s loneliness – ‘Nobody wanted to say goodbye’ / ‘Pablo had no dependants now.’ There was one simple sentence in this piece, with imagery so perfect within the context of this story and the prompts, that I knew it had to make the podium: ‘Peace enfolded him, like a closing eye.’ What clever plotting to have women waiting to catch the newborn at the bottom of the mountain, like evolved midwives.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Sarah Cain, “Second Jump.” This story encapsulated the innocence of youth and the wisdom of old age. It got off to a cracking start, with the reader thrown into the memories that haunt the central character – ‘He’d made this jump before. Then the night had lit up with anti-aircraft fire – and beautifully-crafted descriptions – when the door opened they stomped in unison, terrified yet exhilarated’. It was filled with clever contrasts – ‘the blood and horror, Jack’s fast grin and bright blue eyes’, ‘he sees now what he couldn’t then’ – and a resolution that the reader knows has been expertly foreshadowed throughout the story, but still sparkles with truth and beauty.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Image Ronin, “The Romantic.” This was one of the rare submissions in which the central character is watching those sky-diving rather than taking part himself. It centred on a romance between Art and his late wife Lara. I loved the gentle tone and language in this piece – ‘mirroring the hypnotic descent of the parachutists dropping out of the sky.’ The ending of the story, in which Art takes his life, was for me unexpected, given that he is merely a spectator of the action, but utterly convincing. I found his wish to be reunited with his wife comforting and moving, particularly given his rather pragmatic look down memory lane. What a wonderful final sentence: ‘Before long he was free falling back to her’.
And now: presenting first time Flash! Friday
This comic piece by Tinman stood out for its refreshing take and its tongue-in-cheek homage to that wonderfully British hero James Bond. In this story, Bond is wearing thermal underwear when he is sent on his final mission two days before retirement, which ‘made him practically a walking gravestone’. The pop-culture references and comic timing in this piece are impeccable – ‘[he] pinballed from branch to branch, each one slapping his face like some beautiful spy that he had slept once with and then left.’ The imagery in this story was well chosen for the mood of the piece – ‘he swung gently, like a Christmas bauble poked by an enraptured child’. I loved also the thought that hard as nails Bond would choose to wear thermals for this mission (which proved to be his undoing) ‘lest he catch his death.’ Congratulations Tinman for your win!
Spectacular mission completion, Tinman! Your winner’s badge greets you adventurously below. Here is your mysterious yet debonair 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. And here is your winning story:
Bond had been sent on this mission with just two days to go to retirement which, as any cop in any film could have told him, made him practically a walking gravestone.
So it’s no surprise that as he parachuted in over the Alps he was held up by the thermals, and so overshot Blofeld’s secret base and plummeted instead into a dense forest.
He hit a tree with all the force of Wile E Coyote hitting a canyon floor, then pinballed from branch to branch, each one slapping his face like some beautiful spy that he had slept once with and then left.
Luckily his plunge was halted just five feet from the ground, and he swung gently, like a Christmas bauble poked by an enraptured child.
The elderly Bond had dressed warmly, lest he catch his death, and was being held up by the thermals.