Happy Sunday, and welcome back for our newest contest results! Tragedy and woe played large roles in your themes, which feels especially fitting given this week’s headlines. Thank you for taking the time to share your worlds and skills with us. Come on back tomorrow, if you’re in the mood, to get an up-close-and-personal look at one of your fantastic tales at #FlashPoints.
One last reminder (waaaah!) for the #DogDays contest, whose deadline is this Tuesday, July 22, at 11:59pm Washington DC time. Lots of stories already elbowing their way to the top — be sure to add yours!!! Link here and in the sidebar.
Judge Aria Glazki says: The creativity and diversity of this week’s stories are simply astounding. Not only did you have allusions to different cultures and religions, showcasing the assortment of backgrounds within this community, but you also addressed the full range of relationships, from the truly disturbing to the heartbreakingly self-sacrificing. Like in the Olympic arena, we went from one impressive performance straight to the next. I almost wish there was a code of points for flash fiction — my job would have been much easier! Many lines caught my attention, and ranking stories meant making unbelievably tough choices. So well done, all around!
Maggie Duncan, “In A Distant Voice.” Wonderful growth to the character aided by the subtlety of what spurs it. A lesson she could only learn for herself and yet probably wishes she hadn’t.
Michael Seese, “Big Sister.” Such strong use of perspectives with the quoted lines and of time passing. Unexpected horror growing so naturally from a sibling relationship we had assumed was adorable and entirely normal.
ifemmanuel, Untitled. “Left foot, right foot” — four simple words, and yet they give this story such a solid sense of rhythm, while also underscoring the character’s feeling of being trapped: as herself, in the background, in this world of gymnastics.
Rasha, “Redeem.” A short moment but with so much weight behind it. The use of numbers was subtle yet perfectly methodical, just like a winning gymnast, allowing the last line, “Ten. Ten. Ten.” to have immense impact
Lisa Shambrook, “Balance.” This story tells us everything we need to know in its first line, even though we can’t understand it yet. So it takes us through a lifetime of hurt, leaving us with a powerful yet understated image and filling out the bookended first line with all of that emotion. Very well done.
Nicholas Stearns, “Way to Salvation.” The first sentence here immediately grounds us in the world of the story — “Excited howls from hounds and men echoed through the dense forest.” We’re dropped straight into Anna’s emotions, trapped between an internal fear and an external threat, in a unique story that’s at once entirely unrelated to gymnastics and yet perfectly suited to the prompt.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Amy Wood, “A Star is Made.” This story is unexpected in a wonderful way. The initial, potentially off-putting pride of the mother — comparing the other gymnasts to “workhorses” — is flipped with the context, becoming sympathetic defiance — “So I’d sold my soul to get her healthy, what of it?” What would a mother do for her sick, dying child? Absolutely anything, and don’t you dare tell her she can’t.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Brett Milam, “Tumble.” I kind of hate that my position this week meant I had to read this story multiple times, because it is just so incredibly horrifying (and I don’t do well with horror). Such vivid descriptions, and the line, “She was perfect, once.” is so simple on its own, but becomes, in this story, absolutely haunting. And to top it off, we get a thought-provoking commentary on the world behind the perfection and smiles.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Image Ronin, “The Champ.” I love how this story lets our own preconceptions from the image lead us astray, then strengthens those preconceptions with the flash back moments, then turns it all on its head. The lights? Not a spotlight, but a cop car. The audience? Not thousands of fans but a cop. The inevitable, promised day? Not the shining Olympic moment but the low point on a self-destructive path. Each of those moments draws us down the wrong path and yet entirely holds up even when we know where the story’s going while rereading.
And now: joining the sparkly group of three-timers, it’s Flash! Friday
What a journey for this character. The disappointment and shame all still there, all still driving her, and yet taking a back seat to the fun twist of her new life, and of coming into herself. “Diamonds sparkled like tear-filled eyes” sums it up perfectly. Once, she’d been considered subpar, with tear-filled eyes, denied even a trip to the museum, and now her gymnastics opens every world for her, even those denied others, sparkling like diamonds and there for the taking. This triumph is even stronger with the juxtaposition of the discipline and submission to rules her gymnastics teacher must have wanted to instill, and the life Cherry built with those skills. “In your face…and thank you.” A wonderful balance (no pun intended!). Editor’s Note: The Flash! Friday dragons love this story too but would like to make it clear their personal hoard of diamonds, should such a thing exist, is off-limits.
Congratulations, Karl! Here’s another brilliant winner’s badge for your wall! Here also is your gold medal updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by so I can interview you yet AGAIN, lucky dragon, for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:
Cherry stepped into the deserted gallery and paused. The silence was heavy, expectant, like the moment before the tape clicked in, everyone waiting to see what she could do. Hopefully no one was watching her now.
Bending low, moving to a rhythm heard only in her heart, Cherry began to dance. She kicked and leapt, one graceful step after another, seeing not the museum but the gym floor. In her curiously doubled vision, she saw Miss Rushworth and her team even as she saw the glass cases and display boards. She had never been to the museum before, denied that treat when her clumsy dismount cost them the final, and the ancient shame reddened her cheeks as she made her final leap.
With a perfect dismount, she cleared the last alarm beam and took the glass cutters from her belt. Inside the case, the diamonds sparkled like tear-filled eyes.
“In your face, Miss Rushworth…”
She reached inside.
“And thank you.”