Greetings, all! Thanks for your patience as we worked feverishly over this week’s results; a LOT of effort goes into selecting the winners, and this week your judges have done you proud. Your stories were amazing and, I might add, quite OUT OF THE BOX; doing battle over the winner’s list as well as the time zones separating the hemispheres isn’t for the faint of heart. Raise your mocha lattes, and let’s hear it for today’s Dragon Team One, Image Ronin & Joidianne!
COME BACK TOMORROW for an interview with the fabulous freelance writer Carol Tice, who’s going to dish on the crazy worlds of self-publishing and marketing. You won’t want to miss her incredibly helpful and practical suggestions on these topics.
And then comes Warmup Wednesday, followed by Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. Then it’s back once more into the glorious madness of Flash! Friday!
Dragon Captains Image Ronin/Joidianne say: So you went and did it this week didn’t you? Be aspirational, the dragon demanded; take this image of axes and toil and run wild. Well you did, so much so that we were still wrestling, in the figurative not literal sense (which IR is particularly glad of as he reckons J would definitely win) with how to shorten a list down from tales that shifted from fairy tales to sci-fi, through to laments to loss and desiring better lives. The focus, however, was what we as writers all do: to aspire, and aspiration, in its many and varied forms was the keystone for each tale featured below that made the final podium.
We should add that the wonderfully talented @Avalinakreska took us somewhere completely unexpected this round, and though sadly it couldn’t be considered, it would be remiss to not advise you to have a peruse of her comic tale The Whetting Stone.
Anyway, here we go folks, trust me when I say this was so much harder that you can imagine and we enjoyed each and every tale. Yet as always, adopting our best Highlander pose, there can be only one … so here we go.
Award for a Title That Could Have Been on The Queen is Dead by The Smiths: Phil Coltrane, “With a Light in His Eyes That Could Burn the World.”
Tamara Shoemaker, “Someday Soon.” IR: The knight in shining armor within this narrative shines little, and lacks anything but false aspirations. The desire to move on, to exist beyond a life of toil and pain is elegantly captured. The writing, both descriptive and emotive, was delicately interwoven with moments of detail: “the drops evaporating before they could even cool her skin”; “the sun […] sunk behind the silver horizon.”; “the flow of stain instead of calico.” The sensory notes, kinesthetic and emotional were wonderfully implemented and the empowerment that the final line delivers, the desire to dance to the beat of her own drum, was a wonderful close to a well-written tale.
Becky Spence, “Home.” J: This tale was so ominous because of the questions it left. How old is Lily? Why is she running from the man? Who is the man? All of those questions are left floating in your head and they’re amplified by Lily’s despair when her escape is thwarted. Well deserving of an honourable mention, and we would love to read more.
Marie McKay, “Oh What a Big Appetite You Have.” J: I’m always one for horror with a bit of gore, and this tale hit the spot in spectacular fashion. The lack of empathy for the wolf cub was absolutely chilling and the transition from hunter to Little Red skipping to Grandma’s house made it even more spine-tingling.
Nancy Chenier, “Sharpened.” IR: “folded into an origami nightingale” that line, a perfect cinematic beat, captured me totally. The balance of description and despair, the desire to help someone. I found myself lost in a Nikita-inspired realm … where vengeance is desired above all.
Peg Stueber-Temp and Tea, “Creation’s Point of View.” An intriguing entry that much like “Dream(less)”, took us on a sensory laden journey into the prompts. The perspective of being the art itself, voyeuristically examining the “muse draped around him”, was wonderfully atmospheric, and the layering of aspirations, from artist to muse, to the desire of this created object to become one with its creator was an intriguing approach.
THIRD RUNNER UP
IR: “If you give a man hope, then he is going to want to pursue a dream. “ On first reading the words flowed like Renton’s anti-consumerism spiel as he flees in Trainspotting. However, as I moved on, the flow of those words continued to echo, a stream of consciousness that became a river that hurtled me along at break neck speed. The structure and beat, wrapped around the repetition of ‘if’ took this flash entry into an unexpected direction: one that flickered between narration and a social critique of, not only our axe-wielding labourer, but the reality of our existence in a 21st century dominated by corporate interests.
J: This tale reminded me of the snake eating its tail. There was such a level of futility because every dream and hope was chipped away at until there was nothing left and it brings to mind the question ‘It is better to have loved and lost?’ because in this case it seems that without the hope, the man might not have realized how much he’d lost in the first place. It seems that the only thing that hope brought was even more despair.
SECOND RUNNER UP
J: This story grabbed me because of the level of deception implied between the lines. Was Mr. Turney Eleanor’s current husband, and if so did she leave another family behind to be with him? Or did she con Mr. Turney from the very start with no intentions of following through? It’s a lovely twist and I guess the truth is up to the reader.
IR: Sometimes a writer approaches a tale with a format that delivers stylistically, but misses the mark in telling an actual story. FIMS, however, delivers with both taking the photo prompt, and playing off the demand for aspiration as the driving force between Eleanor and Lorenso. “ I am also an honest woman”: this statement lingers at the heart of the tale, a statement that can be read as one forging links, or alternatively a Machiavellian gambit. The demand that she will answer “no questions” and Lorenso’s faith in wiring “travelling expenses” leaves the reader in a narrative which is not so much the coming together of star-crossed-lovers but the sense of a potential long con in which one party preys on an oblivious other. I found myself long pondering Eleanor, and what the daughter ever knew of Lorenso. Was he indeed a father to her or just some correspondent locked up in a scrapbook with other victims of her mother’s wiles? A delightful tale whose structure offered up more questions than answers.
FIRST RUNNER UP
J: What really got me about this piece was the question that it left me with at the end…’what is it to be human?’ The contrast of the narrator’s physical being and the lives it has led brought that question to the forefront of my mind, and its yearning to have one more chance leaves the tales on a sorrowful note that stayed with me until the very end. In the end I think that narrator was more human than it realized.
IR: Ah, the desire for immortality. Whereas our winner took us off frame, this worthy runner up took us into an alternate reality. We strode across a thousand lifetimes, each offering our narrator only stepping stones, brief moments that he clung to in his desire to truly exist. For a moment I found myself poised in Blade Runner “a boy, space walking to fix a broken valve on his ship, turning his head to take in a nebula’s wash of iridescence”, and like Roy Batty the question of what we aspire to be, and the reality of getting it came to the fore. The question of eternity, the longing to have another moment, one that captures the essence of what our existence is permeates the narrative. The aspiration here leading isn’t to touch the stars, but to remain close to the earth. A wonderful piece of writing.
J: This tale is a beautiful and macabre depiction of grief and what it can drive a person to. There is a point, about mid-way through the piece, when something suddenly doesn’t feel right. The comments made by the narrator, the hatred focused on Leah, it starts to feel like a build up to something more and the story surely delivered in the end. A brilliant piece, completely out of the box, and well deserving of the first place this week.
IR: The despair in this tale was evocative. Taking the photo prompt as a backdrop the sense of toil, of scratching out an existence marked by loss, was wonderfully represented. Aspiration was the theme, and here it was a subtext, a horrid terrifying burden that drives our narrator into actions and words unspeakable. Whereas the photo prompt offered up an image of a masculinity struggling to eke out an existence, the writer here took us a far more disturbing conflict within the domestic sphere. In this off frame space we are subject to the cruel inversion of desire and dreams cruelly lost. A truly evocative tale.
Congratulations AGAIN, Deb! Please find below the rights to your third winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here are also your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for EVEN MORE interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!
Leah hopes for what I have. That’s why she comes less.
“I brought roots,” she says, the smell of manure and earthworms clinging to her. Carrots and potatoes tumble from her apron and thud onto the oaken slab.
“No fruit?” I stay rocking, my fingers entwined with burlap-brown yarn, a blanket for my angel-boy.
“William and me didn’t get much from the trees.” Barren as a babe and too ignorant to see the jab. “This one’s for pain,”–hands rough as a man’s hold up green herbs–“an’ this one’s for sleep.”
“Reckon I’ll need that.” My cheeriness unhidden. “Way he keeps us up at night, Silas has taken to sleeping with the mare.”
Her felt-gray eyes peg me, ruddy cheeks ugly with envy. Does William ever regret picking her?
She turns and I stand. “Do you have to leave? Don’t you wanna hold him?” I scoop our baby from his cradle. “He sleeps deep as death.”
My hips sway and when a tear slides down her plain face, I almost feel for her.
“Naomi,” she’s saying and my muscles stiffen. “Please, let us bury him?”
Hatred, a freshly filed axe, cuts through the sapling of sympathy taking root.
“Get out!” I scream it, clinging to my future, my hope.