Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 39: WINNERS!

To all the doubters who think flash fiction is “nice” because people just don’t have time to write or read a proper story? I dare you to read even ONE story from this past week’s contest and claim that again with a straight face and/or without lightning crashing on your head. These writers are good.  

As for you dear crazy flash fiction people! You clearly, like me, have some kind of serious flash fiction obsession problem. I couldn’t be more grateful to you for commiserating with your fellow Flash! Friday addicts here week after week. Thank you for joining us! Come back Wednesday for the champ’s interview; come back Friday to do your awesome thang all over again.     

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Judge Craig Anderson (you should see the post-battle mess of his poor brain!) says: Who knew that a simple stone shack on a deserted island could house so many wonderful stories? It has been fantastic to see the community grow these last few weeks as more and more people have joined the fun. It positively warms my heart to see our little flash family flourish. Try saying that five times really fast!

The toughest part of being a judge (apart from the judging obviously) is not being able to read all the wonderful comments on everyone’s stories, which are often just as much fun to read as the stories themselves. These all get stripped, along with your names, for the sacred judging scroll, which is hand written in unicorn tears before being delivered by tiny fire-breathing owls. No expense is spared in the name of fair and equitable judgery-ish-ness. On a totally unrelated note, don’t tell tiny fire-breathing owls how cute they are if you like your eyebrows.

One or two of you took on the optional ‘Stella challenge’ this week, leading to a cavalcade of Stellas. Some were hunters, some were prey, some were young and some were old, some were human, some were not and one of them was quite literally a pregnant planet! More than one was a dragon, just like our very own stellakateT. I hope that ‘our’ Stella enjoyed the surprise when she popped by to check out this week’s stories 🙂

Anyway, enough of my ramblings; on to the important business of the results…

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Eliza Archer, “How It Began.” The opening line for this one did such a great job of setting the scene – “I’m pretty sure I was born between a rock and a hard place.” The ending was a fun twist that tied this tale into a wider mythology

SJ O’Hart“Star of the Morning.” Some beautiful imagery in this one, and I loved the idea that the baby’s first steps would be on the soil from the “land o’ your mothers.” There was a really sweet, almost sentimental tone throughout

TanGental, “On Fertile Ground.” This story slowly built up to the haunting imagery of babies springing from the ground. This was incorporated nicely into a fun punchline, which quickly flips the tone from horror to comedy

Brian Creek, “Doubt.” The demon in this story reminded me of a venus fly trap, an innocent exterior with a less than fun surprise inside. A crying baby would certainly be a very effective way to coax passers by into your lair! The poor knight doesn’t get to save a baby, but at least he grants a temporary reprieve to the rest of the traffic passing by

Drmagoo, “Labor Pains.” I loved the concept of this piece, with the planet having a surprise birth of a second moon. There was some great imagery and fun language (Stellaquakes!). Just how does a planet get pregnant? Answers on a postcard

Adrienne Myshel, “The Lair.” I enjoyed the twist with this one, as the entire King’s army surrounds the home of an innocent sleeping dragon only to find themselves at the mercy of a “mercy-blotting” sneaky dragon daughter in disguise. Serves them right!

THIRD RUNNER UP

Allie Lahn, Untitled. This was a story grounded in a sad reality, and I really felt for the protagonist as she delivered the baby of the local Tacksman. It’s never explained why this child was the tacksman’s, but enough detail is provided to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions. The mother’s frantic searching of the baby’s features in the hopes of little to no resemblance tells us all we need to know. In one short sentence the full enormity of the situation becomes apparent: “Given time, the boy could grow to resemble the man that he would call his father.” The Mother’s sense of hope that perhaps all will be ok is short lived with the final sentiment, “over time, men only grow into their monsters.” 

SECOND RUNNER UP

David Hartley, “Rock Monster.” I loved how this story incorporated a sci-fi theme into such a pristine and low tech setting, immediately creating an interesting contrast. The ‘monster’ is quickly established as non-threatening, casually bumbling around consuming stones with its “doorway mouth”. This is followed by a great moment where our hero tries to reconcile the creature standing before her with the fearsome ‘Scourge of St. Kilda’ she has been sent to hunt down. Perhaps a case of over exaggeration from the villagers? 

In the tradition of all the best action movies her superiors are more than happy to shoot first and ask questions later, but the creature has other ideas. David could have gone with a more direct approach here, with Momma suddenly appearing to save the day, but instead he plays it far more subtly. The baby’s cry for help is answered in the far distance, and in that moment both the reader and our protagonist have the grim realization that she’s switched from hunter to prey. By allowing the reader to experience the hero’s surprise alongside her it makes this moment all the more powerful. I’m just hoping Stella escaped in one piece!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “After Pompeii.” This story contained some beautiful language, used to great effect. One of my favourite lines was, “I watched the sins of greed, the exchanges of coin for touches of flesh, and choice of ignorance over the obvious.” This could just as easily be describing a modern day city, but in this case it is the doomed city of Pompeii. This single line captures the essence of an entire tragedy and how it came to pass.  

That tragedy itself was described just as powerfully, as “lava flowed, and choking dust cemented lungs,” our narrator watches from the skies, powerless to help. When the dust finally settles, the survivors look to place blame and “A god of fire and wing was an easy target.” Of course mankind would have been better off taking a closer look at their part in the proceedings rather than blaming the poor old Dragon! {Editor’s Note: SERIOUSLY! Time and again!}

The banishment to St. Kilda initially looks like an improvement, a chance to start over, but unfortunately one set of problems has been traded for another. This time it’s “Distended bellies giving fleeting life for tetanus to take it back – infected knives ripping at umbilical cords.” Mark again does a wonderful job of conveying a terrible reality in so few words. The difference this time is that our narrator refuses to idly sit by; instead, he adopts a baby girl and brings her under his protection. It is left up to the reader to decide just what this entails, but I like to think that the dragon decided if he can’t save them all he’d at least save this one. It’s both an admission of defeat and a last glimmer of hope, a great way to wrap up this moving tale.

And now: taking the crown is one of our newest dragons. Huzzah to Flash! Friday

DRAGON WINNER

JOHN MURRAY LEWIS!!!

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I’m sure I say this every time, but picking the winner was a particularly tough task this time around! There were a lot of great stories to choose from, covering a huge range of subjects and styles. All of the finalists stood out in their own way. John’s story was one that really jumped out at me on my first read through, due primarily to the amount of twists and turns he’s managed to squeeze into 160 words!

The story begins with Margaret carrying baby Ian across a moor. There are immediately ominous undertones; the use of the phrase “did as she was told” suggests this isn’t something that she wants to do, and I found myself curious as to what happens next. It’s a strong opening, one that drew me in immediately. 

The tension continues to build, with Margaret telling herself to be brave, like Ian’s father. It’s a nice way to lead into the backstory, which is succinctly told but leaves much left unsaid. The gossip in me wanted to know how Margaret and Father Macquaig found themselves in such a compromising situation, but it’s smartly omitted as it’s not relevant to the story being told. Sometimes the hardest part of flash is not what to write but what to leave out! 

Not being familiar with the baobhan sith I googled it (here), and it’s a suitably Scottish beastie for this tale. I love it when an author goes the extra mile to incorporate small details from the setting – it could have just as easily been a vampire or generic demon waiting in the barrow, but the inclusion of this particular nasty helps to reinforce the time and place this tale takes place. 

Leading into the conclusion I was expecting a tale of sacrifice, perhaps the gory details of the terrible deed that Margaret did for the sake of the wider good. What happens instead is much more interesting. After psyching herself up to perform the unthinkable Margaret finds herself face to face with Agnes, another woman from the same village, cradling a “bloody bundle”. Agnes reveals that she brought the ‘chosen child’ and have a guess who the father is? It seems Father Macquaig may have to spend a bit of time on the other side of the confession box! With this switch up the story suddenly becomes a dark comedy and in a final self-aware nod this is emphasized by baby Ian’s first laugh (which I chose to imagine as a bond villain-esque cackle). 

A second read through only makes the story more enjoyable. Knowing the ending means we can now see Father Macquaigs act for what it is, a desperate attempt to get rid of the evidence. How many young girls have made this same sacrifice before them? Is there even a Sith lurking in the barrow, and if not what’s happening to those babies? The story left me wanting to know more, and that’s what makes it great writing and this weeks winner.

Congratulations, John! Below is the mega sparkly winner’s badge for your wall(s). Here also please find your winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

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Margaret did as she was told, carried her baby across the moor to St. Kilda’s Barrow. She’d named him Ian, after his father.

She had to be brave, like Ian’s father, brave Father Macquaig. How he had trembled when she brought the baby to his rectory door, when she told him the child was his, when they prayed together; when he told her, then, of the baobhan sith and how it could only be sated by the blood of the chosen child—this very child!—sacrificed in the barrow of St. Kilda.

The barrow was close now, an island in the mist…

Something was not right. Father Macquaig had instructed her to remove the entrance stone, but the stone was already gone.

Inside the barrow, Margaret found another village girl, Agnes, cradling a bloody bundle.

“The chosen child,” she cooed. “His own daughter…”

“Whose?”

“Brave Father Macquaig’s!” Agnes said, weeping reverently.

Beneath Margaret’s cloak, Ian laughed for the first time.

 

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11 thoughts on “Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 39: WINNERS!

  1. Brilliant stuff all round. Thanks Craig for plucking out my Rock Monster – had a lot of fun writing it so I’m glad people enjoyed reading it. Congratulations to John for the victory!

  2. If the amount of people joining week in, week out is anything to go by then there is only one course of action; clearly we’re going to have to extend the weekend by two new days to allow the judges time to gorge themselves on the insane volume of fantastic writing.

    Hands up all those in favour of a four day weekend.

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