Archive | September 2014

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 42: WINNERS!

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.        

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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.  

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

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.

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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 

DRAGON WINNER

MICHAEL SEESE!!!

for

“Drowning”

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:

Drowning

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.

 

FFwinner-Web

 

 

Exposed

CC Photo by Felix Castor

CC Photo by Felix Castor

Exposed

by Rebekah Postupak

Pohe sat silently at dinner, stabbing holes into her vegetables. There wasn’t much to say these days beyond “pass the salt,” and even simple phrases sounded irreverent.

“How was your day at school?” Her mother’s cheeriness felt like an intrusion.

My teachers are angry; my classmates are terrified. “Fine.”

“How go the caving lessons?”

Please don’t make me live without the sun on my face. Weak rays are better than none. “Fine.”

Her mother’s hand searched for Pohe’s cheek. Her gloved fingers were feathers. “How are your eyes?”

The greatest pain I have ever known. The… the burning under my lids, even while I sleep. The dreams, something more than hearing, something more than touch. I don’t recognize it, and I am afraid. “The same.”

“You’re using the cream Dr. Koretake prescribed?”

“Of course.” Pohe swallowed down the sudden irritation with a bite of carrots.  Her mother meant well—they all did, fussing over her in the middle of the biggest crisis in their planet’s history—but it seemed pointless. A dying sun. Their entire civilization forced to abandon cities and move deep into the caves. What could a pair of sick eyes matter?

She excused herself and fled to her room, the faint beeps of the hallway’s sound strips hurrying to catch up. People said the sound strips had been the first thing installed in the caves, that living below the surface would barely differ from life above. The subterranean rivers had allowed the first hydroponic vegetable fields to be planted; lava streams threading beneath the deepest rocks had been painstakingly rerouted to provide warmth, and heat for cooking. People said life would be idyllic. The national poet had even composed a triumphant cave-themed ode about it.

Am I dying too?

Grabbing her sound stick and coat from their hooks, Pohe clambered out the heat window and followed the streets’ sound strips to Outside.  Living at the city’s edge allowed quick passage to her beloved meadow—so small now!–and peace. She desperately needed both.

Her sound stick pulsed in her hand; someone was already there, and within twenty meters.

Pohe waited for the customary announcement, but heard only silence. At length she sighed and called out, “Pohe.”

Another long moment. The response, when it came, was tinged with annoyance. “Rarua.” Ah. Her brother’s wife; the rudeness made sense now.

“What brings you out here?” My eyes hurt and I fear I am dying like the sun. Please don’t rob me of my goodbye.

“Fresh air,” said Rarua. “Are you the air police?”

“I apologize for the bother.” Pohe mentally cursed propriety, which granted privilege to the first-arrived. “May I join you?”

Rarua snorted. “Did this thimble-sized patch of grass magically expand? There’s not enough room here for both of us.”

The words shot from Pohe’s lips before she could stop them. “There’ll be even less in the caves.”

“Don’t remind me.” Bending, Rarua felt around and then ripped out a handful of grass. “You know, sometimes I almost think I might miss this stuff.”

“They say the cave grass is really soft. In some quadrants we won’t have to wear shoes.”

“Great. Because we need the smell of more stinky feet.” Rarua tossed the grass in the air; frost-fringed blades floated down in tinkling whispers. “Fine. I suppose I’ve had enough time in this lousy frozen air, and doubtless you’re aching to be alone again. Enjoy it while you can.”

Pohe, rubbing at her tender eyes, listened to her go. Stinky feet would be the least of her problems if her brother’s joint housing application was approved. Pohe, her mother, her grandparents, and now her brother and Kuara in a cramped, two-lobed cave? Unthinkable.

A tiny flake landed on her nose; she itched at it almost without thinking. It smeared across her skin and a familiar smell burst into her nostrils. Not snow. Ash? Oh no. It was real: they were burning the fields today, to prevent surface beasts from settling in the soon-to-be abandoned spaces. It would still have to be a decent-sized fire to disintegrate the few remaining trees. Her eyes throbbed at the thought.

Wait.

Not throbbed.

Her mind felt thick, clumsy, as her eyes strained. Was this what death felt like?

No.

She reached back into legend.

Pain.

Fire roared through memory.

This was—

what was the word???—

Yes.

Sight.

Sight??

And as she—watched!!!—the orange swords raging across miles of lifeless earth, Pohe trembled.

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750 words. Written for the flash contest Christian Flash Weekly, based on John 12:35, “Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going.”

Flash! Friday–Vol 2 – 42

Welcome to Friday! Do you hear that giant sigh of joyous relief? That’s me, now that you’re here. Even though this is the last week of September, which is totally wrong, do you hear me, WRONG. I’m trying not to weep too much over how time flies, even though I’m not kidding, we’ve just enjoyed seventeen Fridays back-to-back. Speaking of back-to-back, I hear that current dragon champ Carlos Orozco is looking to pull a Michael Seese and nab a second crown in a row today. Crazier things have happened, so I’d watch out.

Moving on to the prompt: today’s anniversary is rather a somber one for our friends in Japan. On this day in 1954, the rail ferry Toya Maru sank in a typhoon, killing over 1,150 people; and exactly five years later, Typhoon Vera hit, killing over 4,500 people and leaving 1.6 million homeless. Vera is still, to this day, the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall in Japan. It’s to the memories of these ones lost in typhoons that today’s prompt is dedicated, with a deeply respectful nod to brilliant photographer Shuji Moriwaki. As ever, I dare you to tell the story lurking beneath the surface of what you see.

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Also lurking beneath the surface (and right behind you, in point of fact) is returning judge Aria Glazki. She too loves stories that stand out for originality and fresh concepts. As you all know, that’s tough to do in a crowd. But possible? oh yes, dearests, you have proven it possible week after gorgeous week. Read more of her tips (in her own words, this time) here.   

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Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays.  I (Rebekah) post my own unbalanced writings sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays.   

Now, head inland and let’s get to it!

Word limit150 word story (10-word leeway) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (140 – 160 words, exclusive of title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity. 

***Today’s Dragon’s Bidding (required element to incorporate somewhere in your story; does not need to be the exact word(s) unless instructed to do so, e.g. “include the name “Hakodate”):

includeadeath

***Today’s Prompt:

Typhoon Maid Thursday. CC photo by Shijo Moriwaki.

Typhoon Maid Thursday. CC photo by Shuji Moriwaki.