Tag Archive | Alicia VanNoy Call

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 16: WINNERS

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???

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Dragon Captains Joidianne4eva/Image Ronin sayThis 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.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Marie McKay, “Routine.”For one of the most realistic portrayals of obsession and compulsion and the fear that links each. 

Michael Seese, At War.”- For a portrayal of dedication so strong it was almost tangible.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Geoff Le Pard, Pandora’s Jury.” 

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.

Foy S. Iver, “Moonrise.” 

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.

Steph Ellis, “Bees In Her Bonnet.” 

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

Alicia Van Noy Call, Uncomplicated.”

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

Craig Anderson, Jury. Duty.” 

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

Phil Coltrane, “Hooked.” 

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.

DRAGON WINNER

Sinéad O’Hart!!!

for

“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.

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 15: WINNERS

Happy Monday! Such fun, kicking off a week with winners and prizes and sparkly fiery confetti. And, obviously, TimTams WHICH, I will have you know, coincidentally guest starred in a Daily Science Fiction story last week called “Garbage Trucks of Discontent” (it’ll be posted at their site on Wednesday; because I find this whole TimTam thing hilarious, I will be sure to let y’all know when ).  

NO SPOTLIGHT interview tomorrow: these are a great deal of fun!! But I’m taking this week off so I can finish reading Silverwood and then interview our clever Betsy Streeter all about it.  

However, coming up we’ve still got Warmup Wednesday, then Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. And then, because time travels entirely too fast, it’ll be Friday. Again! 

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Dragon Captains Carlos Orozco/Eric Martell sayThis week we had some extremely original stories. Every story was different enough that we didn’t feel like we were reading a different draft of the same story, which is very difficult considering you all are so limited by photo prompts and required story elements. You can never make it easy, can you?  Again, just a reminder, we gave the edge to stories that fully incorporated the required story element which this week was setting.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Geoff Holme, “Character Assassination.”Best use of dialect. This is one you need to read aloud. 

Ray Morris, A Pirate’s Life For Me.”- Be careful what you wish for! Let this story remind us (in a humorous way) that what we want to say isn’t always as obvious as we think.  {Note: Lest you think Ray’s a newbie — a note that he won Flash! Friday’s very first public contest back in January 2013, with a scant 50 words. Oooo! ahhh! Here’s the link.}

Luccia Gray, Mary’s Alone.” – One of us had this as the best story of the week, but it didn’t really utilize the setting the way we’d hoped for. A chilling portrayal of bullying, control, and fear. 

Josh Bertetta, Eric Doesn’t Care For Titles.” – We loved this story – it was funny, clever, and well-written. But it seemed a little too much like it was written for *us*, and not to tell the best story possible for the prompts. Still, a wonderful read. 

Rasha Tayaket, Heat.” – Haunting. Just haunting. Might have to join up with the teller and get some aluminum arrows our own bad selves.  

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Reg Wulff, Warrior’s Song.” What we liked about this one was the uniqueness of the story while still being very believable within the picture prompt. A kabuki theater is not that farfetched, yet this was the only story that tested that idea. The plot was delivered skillfully, waiting until the last minute to reveal the twist. Very well done.

Brett Milam, The Forgotten.” This was one story whose first line gives us a superb description. “The dark pus of my brain dripped between the fingers of yesterday’s mistakes.” This line uniquely describes what remembering something forgotten feels like. The broken sentences throughout help enhance the feeling of things forgotten. In reality, who remembers things in flowing prose? It’s all bits and pieces that battle to surface, and we believe this piece captures that.

Brian Creek, “Taped Transcript of Officer Mitchell.” This story experimented with format, which helped it stand out from the rest. The first piece of information is very detailed which helps to gently lower the reader into the story. From there on it’s very believable dialogue that wins us over. This is one that we wished could keep going, but holds its own as is.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Jessica Franken, “Libero.” What happened at the archery match? The sadness of one kind of loss (competition) blends into the anger of another kind (love gone wrong). The line “We all laugh a little, except Kristi and Erin, whose parents are divorcing.” tells so much in just a few words. We can picture the girls there on the bus, see their faces, hear the nervous laughter. Mr. Anders might not get his target, but what damage can he do along the way?

SECOND RUNNER UP

Alicia VanNoy Call, To Fly.” The first description in this just pulled us in and didn’t let go, “I stand at the edge of the lot, where the pavement is cracked by dandelions.” That one sentence created the setting in ways that nothing else could. The characters in this were also great. Here we were given the one who died for an idea bigger than both of them, and the one who kept his/her promise so that the first’s death wouldn’t be in vain. And all of this was executed in 208 satisfying words.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Michael Seese, “Bulls-eye.” All’s fair in love and war. Gloria thought it was love. Ted declared war. In just a couple hundred words, the author shows us the aftermath of a love gone bad and then – just maybe – hope, not for reconciliation, but for acceptance. A lot of flash stories try for a twist at the end which ends up invalidating the whole story, but this one brings clarity.

DRAGON WINNER

Taryn Noelle Kloeden!!!

for

“Reincarnation”

Whether you believe in spiritual reincarnation or not, the knowledge that whether as matter or energy, all that is is all that has been and all that will be is a powerful one. But while we always hear about those who were King Arthur or Leonardo daVinci in past lives, if we have lived before, we’re all much more likely to have taken an arrow to the chest. This story paints life after life in bits of powerful detail and brought a fascinating idea to a beautiful telling. It takes a deft hand to have five distinct (by one count) settings in such a short story, which means that details need to be sharp and to the point. Each scene as brutal as the last, each death as meaningless. “All that there ever was, so there is now.”

Congratulations, Taryn! It’s been a while — couldn’t be more pleased to see you back at the top! Here’s your freshly updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature (can’t wait to hear — officially — what you’ve been up to!). And now, here is your winning story!

Reincarnation

“Energy is not created nor destroyed, all that there ever was, so there is now.” Dr. Howard scratched the words ‘Conservation of energy’ across the dusty blackboard. Physics, the only class I ever failed.

The sky is above me. But it’s not all puffy clouds and soaring birds. Smog paints the stratosphere in jaundiced hues. There are power lines and buildings framing my spotted vision.

Last time the sky was cerulean. And I wasn’t alone. There were men all around, sporting musket holes, and trading groans.

But the time before, the sky was black. So were my robes, my hair, my blade’s sheath. I never saw the arrow coming, but I did feel it burrow into my chest. Blood welled, leaking with each shuttering thump of my foolish heart.

“The atoms in your body were forged in stars, breathed by mammoths. All that you are will never disappear. It will merely change shape.”

Warped sirens. The cold pull of blood-loss sinking me into the asphalt. I’ll be the headline on the 6:00 news. ‘Twenty Year Old Stabbed in Broad Daylight’.

Knife, musket, arrow. Burning in the heart of stars, raining, freezing, digesting, growing, decaying. I feel it all.

All that there ever was, so there is now.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 13: WINNERS

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! 

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Dragon Captains Image Ronin/Joidianne saySo 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.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Title That Most Demanded a Dictionary Check: M.T. Decker, “Malappropriate.” (Still confused even now.)

Line That Still Makes Us Shudder: Eliza Archer, “Tough Meat.” Terror makes tough meat, she says, but it is nothing you can’t stew away.”

Art Critic Funnybone: Betsy Streeter, “I Am Going to Be Great.” The desire to capture “intentional mud” made the art critic in me roar with laughter.

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.”

Evocative Title: Steph Ellis, “Grimm Beginnings.” Nothing else need be said, surely. 

Best Flow of Words: Susan O’Reilly, “A Gentleman’s Promise.” 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

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

Rasha Tayaket, “Dream(less).” 

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

Roger Shipp, Found in Mom’s Scrapbook.” 

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

Alicia VanNoy Call, “Human.” 

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.

DRAGON WINNER

DEB FOY!!!

for

“Dead Fruit”

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!

Dead Fruit

<<STORY PULLED>>

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