Happy Results Day! Y’all went utterly nuts this week in commenting on each other’s tales. Thank you so much to the many, many of you who took the time to do so. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say your stories are changing lives, as you encourage each other and drive us all to write better. There is certainly no obligation to comment, but know how grateful the entire FF team & community are to you for making such a precious investment. What’s a silly old dragon badge by comparison??
Judge Aria Glazki says: Well, unsurprisingly, you all have done it again — made my job, which seems so simple, incredibly difficult. So many stories offered something special, whether that was the message, the unique form, the masterful imagery, the emotion conveyed, or the inventive take on the prompt. My “narrowed-down” list was still far too long. I have faith, however, that those stories which unfortunately had to be cut away from my list will have received the praise they deserve in the comments, because that’s how awesome this community is.
Margaret Locke, “Oh Captain, My Captain.” Death caused by a careless caress, what a poignant image and core to this story, that throws new light on the arrogance we think we understand at first and leaves us with heartbreak in its place. (And congratulations to Margaret on the Flash! Friday anniversary!)
Abraham Wolfgang, “The Pirate’s Lament.” Containing a story in a limiting form is always bold, and in this case it also works. The form here leaves so few words to tell the story, and yet neither the form nor the story is sacrificed.
Evan Montegarde, “Failure on Nexius 7 Prime.” What a lesson on the cost of arrogance, and on treating people well, in this inventive take on the prompt. The added arrogance of Blake provides extra depth, as I can’t help thinking he’ll have his comeuppance for torching an entire planet.
Ife Oluwa, “Why Captain Show Teeth Like Shark.” The voice here! That unseen observer’s role, coupled with the voice, gives us such a good sense of the narrator as a character. The bewilderment of the title suddenly makes perfect sense when drenched in this voice (and what an image there, too!).
Sarah Cain, “A Reversal of Fortune.” This story turns the expected on its head, with the help of its great central line: “They expect me to die. I do not plan to oblige them.” Not only does the marooned sailor escape his fate, but he also gets revenge by inflicting the same punishment the others tried to achieve. “They will hallucinate.” Not our narrator. “They will writhe in agony.” Not our narrator. “They will perish.” Not our narrator. With the amount of intelligence and foresight his plan required, you can’t help but think this narrator’s own arrogance is well deserved.
Chris Milam, “Isle of the Condemned.” Fantastic imagery from the very first line here paints this story with paradoxes. The sun’s greeting is a “searing kiss.” The “tranquil morning” is closely followed by the “waves heaving and groaning.” The captain’s breath is “sweet with rum,” while his actions are anything but. And the arrogance of our narrator’s attackers juxtaposes her own, in anticipating her revenge. Well crafted.
M. T. Decker, “Alone.” At first glance, this story stands on the strength of its surprise ending. We get the drama of the experience of being marooned, the introspection that goes along with it, only to have it both undermined and strengthened by learning Nox is actually looking at a painting. The use of the palindrome is quite interesting as well, both tying this story to exile (in Elba) and warning us that everything’s about to be flipped.
Rachael Dunlop, “I Am Therefore I Own.” The internal journey of this narrator was captivating. We go from a soul-crushing solitude that brings him to tears when finally touched by another living being, to the destruction of that being, for the narrator’s physical sake. What a commentary on human nature, well supported by the imagery and underscored by the title.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “A God in Ruins.” There’s so much story in this piece. We’re taken from the build-up of a hero, an upstanding character who follows divine rules, to the seduction of arrogance, through to the inevitable end. The use of “I rose / I rose / I rise / I fall” lends structure and rhythm to the story, and to the beats of an entirely human life. All in all, this is an effective and evocative representation of hubris, from the seeds that sprout it to the realization of mortality and self that wipes it away.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Karl A. Russell, “The Sailor’s Lament.” So, I have to admit, I have a weakness for Faustian deals (I even wrote multiple papers on them in University!). While that helped this story catch my eye, however, the piece also stands on its own. The “devil” character’s demeanor is achieved so well with the mention of his “too-wide smile” paired with his lines of dialogue. The wisher’s constantly cut off dialogue works wonderfully. The danger of the arrogance involved in striking such a deal is excellently portrayed, as is the bewilderment of getting precisely what you wished for, versus what you wanted. I also loved the subtle bitterness of the line “nothing to do but enjoy it” that ties the story together oh so well.
And now: as only the second-ever BACK-TO-BACK WINNER (after Cindy Vaskova), it’s Flash! Friday
Where do I even start with this story? It stayed with me as I read the others, which may say it all. “Lucre has a way of muting morality” is a very strong center for this piece — that awareness of man’s fallibility, while also a distance from understanding that draw of riches, highlighting the difference between man and God, in a story that on the surface only likens the two.
The initial misdirect of the Captain’s involvement that makes such perfect sense in retrospect; the repetition of the line “against the laws of man. And God,” coming first from the doubt of those involved in a heinous choice, and second from the weary resignation of the one charged with being the “Captain of all men”; the chilling and poignant message of the burden inherent in being God; the pain and the solitude of being the one responsible… Overall, there’s just so much in these few words.
Was the Captain arrogant in creating man? Were the men arrogant in praying to the Captain while knowing they broke those aforementioned laws? Is the very expectation of them being good, and the vengeance that follows when they’re not, also arrogant? An answer isn’t simple in this incredibly complex, thought-provoking story.
Congratulations AGAIN, Michael! Below is the still-gorgeous winner’s badge for your wall. Here again are your (updated) winner’s page and your (latest) winning tale on the (updated) winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for the new questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds II interview. And here is your winning story:
They’re all dead. And it’s my responsibility. Mine alone. I am the Captain, after all.
The scalding sands — and the memory — may well have been the fires of Hell. With no clouds above, the sun is a relentless, yet honest, adversary. I wondered if I had erred. Should I have done otherwise?
When setting sail, some of the more superstitious men voiced concerns.
“Trafficking is wrong.”
“They’re just children.”
“Using them like that is against the laws of man. And God.”
But lucre has a way of muting morality.
As the storm turned their ship into kindling and their bodies into chum, the crew looked to me for guidance. They prayed I would help. I turned a blind eye. Indeed, not only did I ignore their pleas, I doubled my vengeance. Because they were right. Their actions were against the laws of man.
Such is the burden I bear as the Captain of all men.