Good morning, and welcome to Monday! Thank you so very much to everyone who dared take on our fierce jury this week. Those hats!!!!! A true marvel, and I was delighted (and in some cases, mortified) to see your varied interpretations. Makes me wish I had hats as glorious; though of course my Tigger ears are precious to me in their own special way.
FF Event Updates: I hope you’ve loved the Spotlight interviews as much as I have! Alas, trying to pull off this feature on a weekly basis about did me in, seeing as how I have a day job (:waves at Dear Boss:) and a novel (:waves at Dear Characters:) clamoring for attention. I’m going to keep doing the interviews but switch them to monthly instead. Thanks for understanding! In the meantime we’re plotting other nefarious activities in the days ahead: look for a Spring Fling cash prize bonus contest in April, and the opening of a Flash! Friday store in which you can get your talons on some sparkly logo items and support our efforts here at the same time. And finally: in April we will also open up applications for the next teams of Dragon Captain judges (to start in mid-June). WHO ELSE NEEDS A NAP NOW???
Dragon Captains Joidianne4eva/Image Ronin say: This week’s judging was the perfect depiction of man vs self. The tales that were produced spanned from the stunning originality of scientific fantasy to the most ordinary of human activities twisted in ways that left it anything but ordinary on paper and from between the lines slithers of the supernatural crept to tantalize and terrify us in turn. The decisions were hard to make, nails were bitten and more than one container of smelling salts was utilized, but in the end we persevered as many of your protagonists (and antagonists) did. While it was difficult playing judge, jury and executioner, we enjoyed every second of it.
Image Ronin – The fight for equality and the pioneering mindset of our narrator led us on a stream of consciousness that unpicked a snapshot of society. Agnes’ narration drifts, taking us on a voyage of present and future potential, a byproduct of her presence at the trial. The question of power, the root of our culture, and the role of gender and sex at the heart of that dyadic were well thought out. The consideration of ‘machines’ that would replace the ‘domain of the muscled male’ (was I the only one imagining poor old Arnie replaced by the Terminator wearing an apron?) hinting at the reality of scientific breakthrough and gender equality/empowerment that awaited – well at least the former anyway.
Joidianne4eva – I must say this was a brilliant build-up, the way that Agnes saw the future as one of limitless possibilities for women all building on the single foundation step built by the chance that they were being given as part of the jury. It was such a tantalizing glimpse of what could have been and to have it all crumble in an instant begs the question of whether the compassion displayed here didn’t serve the same purpose as that tiny bit of hope that crawled from Pandora’s box? After all hope is sometimes seen as the worst thing that was trapped in that box because it also gave birth to disappointment.
Image Ronin – I’m a sucker for dystopia, more so sci-fi imbued reflections on our own existence, something that Waiting For Moonrise (damn love that title) delivered. The interplay of world building, terminology and narration developed with a lightness of touch that left me wanting to know more. Here’s to the next sunset.
Joidianne4eva – I must say that there is little I love more than a good piece of world building and this tale truly delivered. From the very title, there was this sense of ‘other’ that just became more pronounced as more of this world was revealed and more I read the more I wished that the word count was longer.
DJ Chapman, “Mistletoe Effect.”
Image Ronin – Am I permitted, with my captain’s bonnet firmly affixed, to delight in one line? Well I’m going to …
“One aged hardwood shaded a corner, lending approval in the guise of a nodding bough as the light winds of inexperience bent the young growth.” I meandered back and forth across that sentence, the imagery, the scene setting the playfulness. The rest of the tale that followed only added to the pleasure. A wonderful piece of writing.
Joidianne4eva – I read this once, spent most of the time cackling like a hyena, came back to it, read through it again and literally snorted. Just sheer brilliance.
Image Ronin – Another rich cinematic moment, of ‘visions’ whose wings battered ‘against the confines of her headdress’ drew me in. The pressure of stress, ritual and conformity delivered an insightful and intriguing slant on the prompts. A really enjoyable and unexpected piece.
Joidianne4eva– I love the evolution of thought and expectations captured here. The way that Julia grows beyond what she knows is expected of her into what she expects of herself was a brilliant use of the prompt and well worth the read.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Image Ronin– The opening beats, the wordplay and shift between down and drown hooked me in. That sense of nothing, of letting go succinctly captured. The sensation of being in the water, of a “heartbeat […] in the muffled stillness” really setting the scene and the internalisation of the narrative. I wallowed along with the narrator, feeling every fibre of my being ache in their sadness, and hoping that they would soon find the peace they craved. A powerful and evocative piece.
Joidianne4eva– This tale painted a vivid picture of mental illness using only allusions and the occasional direct glimpse into the narrator’s psyche. There was a level of futility lingering within every word that slowly eased, much like the narrator’s fear, as her medication began to work and yet as the tale draws to a close the discontent, introduced at the beginning, slowly starts to creep in again.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Image Ronin – Oh the curse of lust and desire. Our narrator seems caught by a visage and persona of a man who, we assume, has implemented those very talents to commit his acts of criminality. The snapshot of a shared gaze, those ‘aqua blue eyes’, was a wonderfully eloquent means of capturing a pivotal moment as our narrator falls prey to the very thing she wanted to find abject.
Joidianne4eva – I think this story captures the essence of the saying ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’ The initial build up expressing the narrator’s confidence in her own ability and the ability of her peers to stand firm despite the many who thought them incapable of their task quickly crumbles despite her attempts and in her faltering conviction we see that the naysayers may have been right all along.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Image Ronin – Oh “Hooked,” no, not the rather tragic Spielberg-Pan romp but this abject slither into an addiction of pure otherness. The opening lines set the scene perfectly (“reshaping his body into a human silhouette”), setting the alien otherness of our protagonist and his seeming plight for escape. What is he fleeing from precisely lingered at the front of my mind, only to be undercut by the sense of horror that followed:
“Their hats are removable,” he scolded himself. “Not their heads!”
The laugh that stole out at this moment was wonderful to experience.
Then the interplay between light and dark that was playful but never lost sight of the horror of an addict unable to deny his ID, written with depth and adroitness. A fine runner up.
Joidianne4eva – I must admit I enjoyed this tale a lot more than I should have, given the dark nature of the piece, but I place the blame for that firmly at the feet of the author. This was a brilliant mixture of horror and macabre humour that kept me giggling then chastising myself in turn. Much like I.R. I particularly enjoyed the line: “Their hats are removable,” he scolded himself. “Not their heads!” and you can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the poor, if a bit homicidal, protagonist; after all it’s not his fault and he did try to fight his addiction…emphasis on try.
“Judge, Jury, Executioner”
Image Ronin – There were a lot of juries, deaths and broken lives this week, unsurprising with the prompts supplied by our Royal Dragoness – some nailed the photo, others the theme but this week’s winner was one of the few to actually bring both strands together. The narrative, as untrustworthy as the narrator, leads us down a path of betrayal, lust and ultimately sacrifice that bleeds into one horrific denouement. The juxtaposition of the defendant, a flawed man of admirable qualities and our narrator, whose zeal for revenge is amplified by her desire to hide behind the innocent, only adds to the tension.
An intriguing and rich take on the prompt that truly deserves this week’s grand prize.
Joidianne4eva – It’s not often that I come across a story as intricate and original as this one. The narrator’s disgust at her own actions both past and present contrasts so vividly with her duty as foreperson, producing a gripping interpretation of the ‘man vs self’ prompt. But beneath all of that what really caught my attention was the description of the defendant, the way he kept staring at the narrator’s husband because in a tale as dark as this one that underlying current of self-less love is what truly held me captivated. This was a brilliant tale and well deserving of the winning spot.
Congratulations, dearest Sinéad! At long, long last! Here’s your brand new, sparkly, glowing, fiery winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature (which is all about YOU YOU YOU YOU!!!!!!!). And now, here is your winning story!
Judge, Jury, Executioner
He looks so fine up there, his head thrown back, a thick pulse thudding at his throat. If it weren’t for his shackles he could almost be in church, a pillar of righteousness.
But instead he’s in the dock, and I’m here.
The judge reviews the evidence, making it sound even more damning than the prosecution had. Gruesome injuries, he drones. Overwhelming strength. I tremble, but the defendant doesn’t hang his head; he stays straight-backed, his eyes fixed in the crowd, on one face in particular.
I don’t have to look to know which one.
When I caught my husband sneaking out at night, I did nothing for the longest time. I waited. I chose my moment carefully, following on silent feet. When I saw him embrace another man – this man, whose life I’m about to judge – a rage like hellfire filled my bones and blood.
So I crept to his house. I murdered his wife. It was as if a demon overtook me.
And when they dragged him to trial, this fine innocent man, he confessed. To spare my husband, he confessed. To spare me the shame.
‘Madam Foreperson. Your verdict, please.’
Like a coward, I rise and condemn him, and his eyes never leave my husband’s face.