Welcome back! You’ve proved yet again to be the fiercest writing dragons anywhere; every time I’m sure you couldn’t possibly set a new record or outwrite yourselves, you do. In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve written that exact sentence every week for the past two months. Writers everywhere are going to be battering your doors down for your magical writing secrets. Thank you again for writing these stirring, disturbing, funny, dark, frightening, heart-wrenching, mind-blowing stories. And thank you for being the totally off-the-charts, supportive writers you are. HUGS FOR EVERYBODY! -oops. Apologies to whoever I just scratched with a talon.
And finally: a MASSIVE thank you to those who donated to the Flash! Friday lair this week. We have plans in the works for Flashversary (coming up CRAZY! FAST! December 5) and Year 3, most of which will cost a gem or two. (One hint (shhhh): did someone ask for a winners’ anthology, hmmmm?) Thank you, thank you for your support.
Reminder note: Flash! Friday entries are judged 100% blind; judges — we currently have a panel of five — see neither authors’ names, Twitter handles, or community comments until after results are submitted.
Judge Aria Glazki (who deserves an award of her own; only imagine the herculean task this week!) says: None of us expected such an abundant turnout of writers–and stories–but then this community never goes for the expected. The one predictable factor, of course, is the range of style, form, premise, and emotion in your stories. An outsider may think reading nearly 100 stories on the same prompt can become tedious, but due to your talents and imaginations, it truly does not. While I can highlight only a few of the submissions, I encourage everyone to explore them all and find your own favorites.
Here are this week’s Special Mentions:
(Judge) Margaret Locke,* “We All Have Our Roles to Play.” – So unexpected, with a dark twist to the humor. The narrative here leads the reader along a curious path, before finally putting everything in crystal clear focus. Well crafted. (* Judges are permitted special mentions, but not official awards).
Rasha Tayeket, Untitled. Standout imagery: “Windows rattled more violently than the fat rolls on his stomach”; and Sacrifice: “a woebegone Mary Poppins.”
Hannah Heath, “The Lucky Toy.” I especially enjoyed that this story didn’t take the prompt at face value, showing us the strength of a mother clinging to the memory of a lost child, despite that memory making her look “like some gothic parlor maid.” A nice reminder that our internal world cannot be seen by strangers on the surface.
Nancy Chenier, “Fidelity.” A compelling story told within a strict form but not trapped within it, poetic yet complete. I especially enjoyed the lines: “Her parasol parody / Against the tempest” — what a vivid statement.
Eliza Archer, “It’s My Job.” Storm deities might not be loved, but I loved the humor in this piece. The rhetorical questions gently force the reader into a more active role, even while not depending on a specific response to make the point, which is oh-so-subtly, and intelligently, manipulative. There are too many great lines to quote, so go read it!
Voimaoy, “The Dragon’s Daughter.” This story took a timeless tale of a young girl believing the grass is greener, then made us take a step back, refocusing on the father’s heartbreak at his loss. Efficient characterization (“As any loving father would”; “parading happily in platform shoes”) shows us these personalities and leads to the powerful final image of the dragon’s tears and claws ravaging the island, establishing a new mythology.
Stuart Turnbull, “Hanami for the Kami.” The respectful, mutual relationship between Sakura No-hana and the storm here, juxtaposed with her distanced approach to humans (“people like a bit of theatre”), is quite compelling. From the prayer, to that final image of her dissolving into blossoms, tugged about by the storm — the same storm that could “toss [boulders] around like a Mongol invasion fleet” but doesn’t destroy her — this was a nice read.
Brian Creek, “Most Valuable.” At first glance this story seems predictable: a girl left behind after a tragedy takes her parents is desperate to find them, to see the bodies. But then the urgency is turned on its head, as Sozuku gives up her slight protection (the umbrella) to break quarantine. The previous lines, her interest all still work perfectly, while entirely refocusing the picture we have of the girl’s hidden inner world, her true interest in her parents.
Rebecca Allred (won Vol 2 – 3), “Truth or Dare.” This story combines an inventive premise with some lovely imagery (“lashes thick as spider legs tangle together”) and a hint of mystery for a piece that runs shivers up the spine. While we, like the narrator, are left in the dark as to what causes such visceral reactions to the mask, we know from the first line (“the maid outfit is so cars will pick her up”) that these men aren’t innocent, suspicion which is subtly reinforced throughout with just a few well-placed words.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Nancy Chenier, (won Vol 2 – 38) “True Skin.” A unique take on relationships, underscored with imaginative imagery – Nori’s voice is “a reedy flutter”; “the sky curdles”; “Nori’s shivering spectre.” The juxtaposition between Umi’s cold-hearted dismissiveness of Nori (“As if the human heart could fathom love’s abyss”) and her unyielding love for the second serpent, whose presence is depicted at first by the waves, is especially telling, splitting a reader’s sympathies. Though the imagery is solid throughout, it is the love triangle portrayed by vivid metaphors (the lover who is dead dissuading her from the lover who isn’t; the waves scattering the spectre’s essence to disprove his argument; the coldness of a deep-sea serpent mimicked in Umi’s treatment of Nori) that makes this story special.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Eric Martell, (won Year One–Round 32 & Round 45), Untitled. This story had my interest from the skirt that “flared fetchingly” — what a great image to put us into the mood and right into Marcus’ head. Of course, it doesn’t last long, as we quickly see the tempers and motives of both characters, and ultimately the protective vindictiveness of the girl in the “little maid’s skirt.” Jenna’s flippant approach to the poison (she drank it herself!) is mirrored well in her physicality, with the flouncing skirt and hopping off the bed, balancing the darkness of her obviously meticulous plan. The attitude in the final line is the clincher.
FIRST RUNNER UP
UK_MJ, “The Footlocker.” The heart-touching nostalgia in this piece required mentioning. The layers of remembrances particularly stand out, underscoring the mix of a sweet past and the sadness of grief. We have the overlay of the present loss on the memories of loving times of “sifting through an old man’s [even older] memories” and the comparison of the forgotten footlocker with the current heightened memories of saying goodbye, brought to the conclusion of a fantastic use of the prompt’s image, and the relic of the “ancient gas mask” that had once saved Trixie’s grandfather’s life but couldn’t keep him alive forever. Poignant and touching.
And now: because twice in 7 weeks isn’t (apparently) enough, it’s three-time Flash! Friday
The dialogue that isn’t dialogue is the brilliance of this piece. In retrospect, the initial image sets up the possibility of both murder and suicide, but the following lines appear to be the internal dialogue and uncertainty of someone in desperate straights, contemplating something equally desperate. Only when she decides to say no, to find that inner strength, do we learn her demons aren’t internal but are in fact the physical and very distinct presence of her lover; that this back and forth isn’t her attempt to make a decision but a literal devil’s advocate, who is willing to take more drastic measures when the subtlety of conversation is insufficient. The twist of the ending that nevertheless makes such undeniable sense, conveyed through a risky yet perfect stylistic choice, steals your breath with the final line.
Congratulations AGAIN, Michael! Below is the comfortingly familiar winner’s badge for a third wall. Here are your updated winner’s page and your latest winning tale on the winners’ wall. Stand by for an email about this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:
The rain-swollen canal seemed eager to taste another victim.
They’ll never find the body.
Bodies are just containers put on this Earth to house the soul while it finds its path.
Water cleanses all sins.
Is it a sin to fall in love? To believe in love? To believe love could happen to her?
An affair with a married man? Think of the shame it will bring.
Why must there be shame? If they stayed, perhaps. But why couldn’t they run away together? They were happy. Or so she had believed. And now that they were three…
And what of the child? What kind of life can your bastard expect? It would be better for all if you would just take that step…
“No!” she said, finding strength for the first time in her life. “I can’t do it!”
She turned to face her lover.
I know, he said, applying an emotionless palm to her chest. But I can.