LOVE all the directions you took our wacky nuclear guy this week. Who knew so many stories lurked in that odd mask? (You did, obv.) Couple of reminders before moving on to results:
- FLASH POINTS is back with a vengeance on Mondays, where one of your stories will be lovingly chopped to bits and analyzed up, down, and sideways.
- Our new judge panel starts this week, yeeeeeehaw, kicking off with dapper Craig Anderson (aka @TodaysChapter)! Can’t wait for them to strut their fine judgy stuff!
- DOG DAYS of SUMMER special contest w CASH PRIZES kicks off Tuesday, July 8. Ohhhh I’m giddy. Don’t prod me too hard or I may spill the secrets every which way.
Judge Jess West says: Well folks, it’s all I can do to write this with a steady hand and dry eyes. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from you all these last few weeks, or how well I’ve come to know you through your writing. Each of you has touched my heart in some way: some as like-minded friends, others as sources of inspiration, and a few as teachers who have played a part in the writer I’m becoming. I have a heavy heart as I write this, but you know what? That’s silly. The end of my judging only means the beginning of rejoining you all as a writer. Though I will miss lurking behind the scenes – I think the confines of the dragon cave have gotten to me, I’ve become quite good at lurking, and even enjoy it – I can’t wait to get back in on the action.
So, I’ve dried my tears, and done a little happy dance, and now I’m ready to humbly offer you my thoughts on this week’s entries.
Oh, and Bart… I’m coming for you, buddy.
SPECIAL, SPECIAL MENTION
Margaret Locke, “The Days Are Long, but The Years Are Short.” Let me begin by saying I was *very sorry* to have to disqualify this story, but after counting it every which way I could, and even calling in for reinforcements, “The Days are Long” came up 2 words – 2 measly words I tell you! – over the limit. But it deserves a place in the list nonetheless because before I’d checked the word counts, “The Days Are Long” had made it into the short list, specifically for its unique take on the prompt that weaves a bit of reality into fiction.
John Mark Miller, “We Were.” Terrifying, but very real possibility of the extinction of the human race.
Amy Wood, “Rough But Poetic Justice.” Aptly titled, poetic justice indeed.
Craig Anderson, “Resolution.” What a twist!
Hannah Heath, “The Accident.” Another great twist, totally didn’t see that coming.
Karl A Russell, “If You Were the Only Girl in the World.” Down to the last, and this war still rages on.
Brett Milam, “Gunny.” Elicits a great deal of emotion, specifically of the “I want to kill that antagonist so hard” variety.
Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “We All Fall Down.” Great build up of tension by creatively using the “clicks” to heighten suspense.
Rasha, “Ever After.” This is another one that formed a lump in my throat. The characters are well formed, and the circumstances are clear. This story makes good use of the photo prompt as a reference to a memory, an event, that leads to the highly emotional decision, and heart-wrenching consequences.
JM6, “The Important Thing.” By the end of the story I got the distinct impression that Julie was in a bad way and it was somehow the reporter’s fault. There’s a lot of world behind this story; it’s one of those that I could easily see expanded, and would definitely like to read.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Carin Marais, “Shells.” This one really stuck with me, especially because of the “I wanted to, but didn’t” that repeatedly translated to “I wanted to comfort you, but I didn’t want you to lose hope.” “Shells” really tugged at my heartstrings. My favorite part was, “Only broken shells remained. Shells of cities, shells of people, shells of souls, shells of prayers…” Great imagery with emotional connection all in one powerful punch.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Bart Van Goethem, “I Am Invincible.” What I loved the most about this one was that the author took a cliche, “If looks could kill…” and turned it into a delightful spin on the dragon’s bidding, perfectly demonstrating the opposite of Patience. When I went back and looked at the name, I wasn’t surprised to find out who it was. Next week, when I rejoin the fray, I’m coming for you, Bart! Your consistent clever wit is a technique I hope to learn, a talent I hope to emulate. Can we get this guy a Medal for Consistent Excellence?
FIRST RUNNER UP
Carlos Orozco, “Close Enough.” What impressed me the most about this piece is the sheer volume of personality, not just of one character, but two. On top of that, the dragon’s bidding was put to excellent use by delineating these very different personalities with dual use of patience, both as it is and its adverse twin. One of these characters patiently awaits the inevitable, the other does not. Though there were no marks of distinction within the dialogue such as ‘he said’, there was no doubt in my mind which character was speaking. That is dialogue and characterization done right. Carlos made the best use of the prompts this week, in my opinion, to draw a concise dividing line between two characters. Well done!
And now: what a joy, after such a very long time, to crown Flash! Friday
Typically, I struggle for hours at the end of a round of judging to pick just one winner, but this week Maggie outdid herself. From the very first read through, I got chills with this one. I still get chills reading it. That’s what gives a piece real staying power. I can’t quote the words, or give you a name of the narrator, but I can tell you exactly how it made me feel. The first paragraph tells us what’s going on, and places a great deal of weight on the narrators actions. The second paragraph sets us up, giving us hope. I found myself breathing shallowly, crossing my fingers, hoping not only would the narrator have good news to share, but that he/she would feel the pride of being the one to deliver that news. And at the end of that paragraph, I was certain of a happy ending. Maggie whisked me off my feet, brought me to the heights of hope, and tossed me off the side of the cliff. I was devastated at this twist. Aside from the emotional impact, the world building is exemplary, there’s no doubt where we are and what’s going on. Though the people behind the airlock are safe, and will celebrate their own happy endings, our poor Checker will not share in their joy. That is truly tragic. Maggie, you’ve broken my heart, but I gotta give it to you, this was some damn fine writing. Very well done!
Congratulations, Maggie! Your imperial supreme winner’s badge awaits you below. Here is your crowning achievement-ed, updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Stand by so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:
Procedure here is all important. The temptation is to throw on the anti-radiation suit and get to the surface to sample the soil and air. Checkers must don their protective gear with slow, calm deliberation. A single, unseen hole or tear is a death sentence.
The samples over the past two years have crept steadily toward optimum. Every Checker wants to be the bearer of the good news, and it fell to me. I checked and re-checked the readings, but I could reach only one conclusion: In a few months we could return to the surface.
Back inside, I remove my mask, hoping my smile will herald the news, but I see the technician back up, hand over her mouth. My lip just below my nose itches, and I rub it. My fingers come away bloody. The technician closes the airlock.
I’m alone on the surface, awaiting the inevitable with slow, calm deliberation.
Procedure here is all important.