So glad to see your grinning faces today! (OK, some of those grins are creeping me out. You can stop now.)
Just five more days to toss your name into the judging ring, btw. Please consider joining us! Flash! Friday works in large part due to our fabulous teams of judge captains, who toil giddily over your stories each week. Questions about it? Please email me here, or DM me on Twitter, or message me on Facebook, and let’s chat about it! More details here.
Coming up later this afternoon: The announcement of our second Flash Dash winner! I’ll update this post and tweet the winner like mad.
And yes: many of you are patiently waiting for your Ring of Fire badges; you’ll have those by day’s end. Thank you!
Dragon Captains Image Ronin/Joidianne4eva say: So here we are, brave purveyors of tales of torment and woe, desire and dismay. Another week, and another round in which your collective skills and deft storytelling leaves us dismayed at having to whittle you down to a select few. As you may be aware, you can throw your writerly cap into the judging circle for the next quarter. (Details here!) We have both learnt so much from spending time engaging with your work over this period and therefore can only say how rewarding, including free dragon treats, the experience is. So if you have even the slightest inclination, go for it, you and your writing will never look back.
Anyway, the drumroll of glory beckons, and here’s to the fabulous few who made their way into the shining light of freedom this round!
J – There was something extremely satisfying about this piece, the constant give and take between the narrator and his audience, the quick rethinking each time another aspect of the scenario is presented in a new light. This was a brilliant portrayal of how easy it is to judge without all the facts yet with all the facts we might hesitate to make any decision at all for fear of the consequences.
IR – A partner piece to The Inmates – this tale offers up another narrator, again fully convinced that they are in control. However, whereas in Inmates this certainty slowly fades, the narrator here offers us nothing but sleight of hand and a stream of consciousness that challenges us to take a leap into the unknown. An unsettling approach to the prompt that left me pondering long after reading.
J – There was something so heartbreaking about this piece, from the self-flagellation in purchasing a live specimen to his grief even as he admires his collection…a brilliant use of the prompt.
IR – I was unsure whether to feel pity or hatred for this narrator of seemingly wealth, taste and a desire to entrap nature to suit his own obsessive desires. The catch 22, of yearning to let something exist but needing to maintain its perfection was delightfully played out.
J – My attention was first captured by the almost lyrical use of language here and then the meaning behind the piece hits you and the knowledge that there was grief written between every line from the very beginning makes the impression of this tale all the more effective and absolutely heart wrenching.
IR – That first line, as if ripped from The Pixies’ Doolittle was what stuck. A serenade of wailing guitars accompanied my reading, as I delved deeper into a reality in which the ‘real’ is marginalised into the ‘unreal’. This unheimlich quality permeated the sense of existence, leaving me feeling raw in more ways than one.
J – This tale was a brilliant portrait of contrasts. The question of where to draw the line or whether there was ever a line to be drawn in the first place were perfectly presented in a way that captured and held my attention from start to finish.
IR – This stream-of-consciousness led us deep into a labyrinth of despair and uncertainty. Each twist and turn denying as much as it revealed.
THIRD RUNNER UP
J – The despair and fear of the narrator bled through this piece, from the first words, until the thought that any revenge would surely be justified was almost solidified in my mind then I started to question just how reliable the narrator was at the point where he indicated that he had more than a little sway over the other inmates. Which begs the questions are the Reinfields truly the villains of this piece?
IR – One of my favourite traits is the unreliable narrator, and this tale took me back to the realm of Dr Caligari and his asylum in The Cabinet of Caligari (Wiene, 1920) in which we begin a journey only to find out that the voice of rationality is as damned as those he deems insane. Inmates delivers in a moment of flash such a voice, our narrator seemingly aware and understanding their role within the asylum, only for the façade of his own conviction crumble into dust.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Nancy Chenier, “Bootleg.”
J – This tale was so intricate that I wanted more, I wanted to know about this Zerox invasion, I wanted to know what had happened to the original narrator but what truly cinched this tale for me wasn’t the questions it was that final line…absolutely heart-breaking and an original twist on the prompt indeed.
IR – Alien Invasion + Doppelgangers? Shotgun wielding survivors + DIY? An alien culture riffing on a well know photocopier corporation? Bootleg took me on a 1950s gamut of aliens and small town Americana – that took up the notion of futility, but this time placed that in the hands of the would be coloniser. The reveal of the lock and how that held the “key” for the narrative was wonderfully set up. Very nicely done.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Tamara Shoemaker, “Escape.”
J – The sheer lyricism of this piece alone was enough to capture and hold my attention and then the futility of narrator’s situation becomes clearer with every line. To forget is to give up the only link to what they’ve lost but gain a chance to move forward but on the other hand there is the choice to remember but be stuck in the rut of that memory.
IR – Sometimes it’s a line or a moment that stands out, sometimes a tale takes you down an unusual perspective – forging a till down untrodden path. The tension of the poetic language that wraps itself around the tormented reality of our narrator is both moving and harrowing in equal measure. Further the imagery leapt from the page, from “Shadows of those keys” (evoking Plato’s cave) to “a breath of wind that stirred my hair” the sense of loss and guilt were layered into a wonderful tableau.
And now: joining the super sparkly group of 4-time winners, it’s the mega talented Flash! Friday
J – The inescapability of the scenario was made just that much worse by the tiny flicker of hope which in the end trapped the narrator more securely than any lock. Let go of the key, let go of hope…hold the key, Sheila dies. This was an effort in futility from the very beginning and such a brilliant approach to the prompt, absolutely stunning in the execution… no pun intended and a well-deserved win.
IR – Oh the curse of our poor narrator! Much like J, I found the claustrophobia, echoed with the bleak stripped down layers of description, to bring to the fore the inertia of our would-be hero. In particular the shift from fractured torment into the realisation that we are in the midst of some dystopian game show was deftly executed without losing focus on the fear of our protagonists. The theme of catch 22 perfectly captured, the photo prompt delivered to the proverbial T, a worthy winner.
Congratulations, Michael! Here’s your very familiar, extra bejewelled winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature, your FOURTH! And now, here is your winning story:
She gasps a little when she sees me reach in through the small gap in the door.
“Don’t worry. I will get you,” I say evenly.
She tries to speak. But terror owns her voice.
“Where is it?” I hiss. “I know it’s here somewhere.” Then my fingertip finds metal.
“Please,” she begs, “just go.”
“You know I can’t do that.”
I wish that I could crawl through the tiny peephole, and end the game. The key is close. I can just jiggle it with my middle finger. I block out her cries as I focus on the task. Sinew tearing, I stretch the last inch, and snatch it from the hook.
“I’ve got it,” I say. “Sheila, I’m getting you out.”
“You’re too late,” she sobs.
“What do you –”
“Quite the quandary,” says a slithery baritone. “Do you know how they used to capture monkeys? They’d place a banana inside a cage with a narrow slit. Small enough for an open hand to reach in, but not wide enough for a clenched fist to come out.”
My limited view allows me to see only his torso.
And the knife.
“Not wanting to drop the prize, he remains a prisoner. Willingly. I hope you enjoy the show.”