Tag Archive | Brian Creek

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 47: WINNERS

HURRAY — it’s party time!! Thanks so much for coming back; I trust you’ve brought kazoos and streamers. If not, please head over to the gigantic Party Wing of the lair and help yourself. We’ve always got plenty. And to those of you NaNo’ing this month: wishing you (and me) brilliant success!!! How’s your Day Two so far?

A couple of quick notes/reminders:

  • You’re needed! We’re lining up NOW the next eight folks to take a turn as judge starting in December. Details here. It’s a fantastic way to give back to the FF community as well as grow in your own writing. Please join me! else it’s going to be a very depressing Year Four.
  • THANK YOU for all who turned up to crit the #Pyro story this week! Some wonderful comments; and I’m certain I can speak for the (anonymous) writer in conveying thanks. Would love more stories to choose from — send ’em in! (here; please remark at the top it’s for #Pyro)

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Many thanks to Dragon Team Six, Steph Ellis & Josh Bertetta, for daring to examine your Frankenstein stories under the sickly green light I provided them. Steph says:   

I really can’t believe this is Josh’s and my penultimate judging session.  It’s gone so quickly and we’ve had so little to argue about.  Every month our choices have spookily run along the same lines leading to very civilised discussions over placings and this week was no exception.

As always, a big thank you to my daughter Bethan for stripping the stories for us; she is looking forward to the end of my judging stint!

Frankenstein was a great choice for Halloween, although not so for any poor trick-or-treaters who may have knocked on my door … with my earplugs in and a Banshees soundtrack I didn’t hear them.  So, here are our Samhain results:

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Becky Spence, “Fallen Angel.” –SE: A rebirth in the dark, a creature alien even to himself.  He has ‘ghosts of memories’ that were not his, writes a language he does not understand, cannot speak.  All he can do is walk, find his way out of the darkness and seek his answers.  He gets his answer when he opens the door and sees himself in the mirror.  The horror here is the situation the monster is in as a being, not in what has been done to others but what was done to him. JB: Here our protagonist is at the lowest point of the Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey,” the part where we must confront the dark. I love the setting here, for it exquisitely captures the darkness and the desperation and the feeling of helplessness, the groping for a way out. But there is only one, and our author tells us exactly what is it—for all of us.   

Voima Oy, “Memory Wife.” —SE: ‘She lived in the cloud now’.  Heaven and computer storage combined.  Society has moved on, but still caters for ‘outdated people with old dreams and obsolete things’, allowing Ben to recreate his late wife.  The sadness lies in the ease with which the younger generation, his son, the shop assistant, think how such things, such people are easily replaceable. JB: A story of a timeless theme: the inability to let go of a lifelong love, but with a little twist of futurism. Mourning is a process of moving through loss. Grief. We all experience it. But what happens to a fundamental human emotion (and experience) when technology allows us the possibility of not having to move through that kind of pain? Do we not lose part of what makes us human? 

A.J. Walker, “Frankenwriter.” — SE: Of course this made it into the list.  I laughed at the overtones of Stephen King’s Misery as poor old Karl and other FlashDogs (Liz, Ronin, Sal, a certain Mr King) were used and abused to create a winning story.  One way of getting rid of the opposition, and all to a Bach soundtrack. JB: Much like last time I judged, here is a take on the ol’ self-referential Flash!Friday/FlashDog theme (which I’ve done myself). A fun take on the prompt. Made me smile.

C. Centner, “Author Submission.” — SE: An academic abstract declares the purpose and results of Frankenstein’s experiment and then moves on to give firm warnings.  Anyone following this path in future should use the ‘flesh of cute creatures (bunnies, kittens, etc)’, the monster having been an ‘appalling and repulsive character’.  And above all, they must name their monster.  Frankenstein’s frustration at being identified as the monster rather than the creator shines through ‘No, dammit! I’m Frankenstein!’  Scientists and authors beware! JB: Perhaps the most unique formats of this week’s stories, here we have an abstract for a scholarly paper. Compounded in this piece however, are issues we continue (and will probably always continue) to face: the relationship between science and morality.

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Brian Creek, “Kill.exe.”

SE – Always a danger when new technology evolves that the military will jump in and try to use it for more sinister ends.  I particularly enjoyed this story because although they had achieved a ‘scientific miracle’, it wasn’t what the military had requested.  The image of a powerfully built robot sat peacefully with a wolf cub in his lap and birds perched on his rifle, contemplating a beautiful morning made me smile.  I hope he doesn’t get ‘fixed’.

JB– Another great story with a killer ending. In a militarized world such as our where some countries spend so much money to build the perfect and most efficient killing machines, here is the story of the creation of such, if it were not for one simple thing (captured in the penultimate line) which renders the perfect killing machine imperfect. Part of me says “hurray” for humanity; with another part I drop my head and shake it.

Marie McKay, “The Help.” 

SE – Sometimes I think we have become desensitized to domestic violence and it needs a piece like this to give us a wake up call.  By transferring the sufferings of an abused woman to a feeling robot and describing them in terms usually applied to living flesh makes it once more truly horrific.  The robot ‘tastes the blood of bruises on her tongue’, is left broken on the floor as the husband switches his attention to her rather than his wife. “Is this life?” Unfortunately for so many women (and some men) the answer is yes.

JB– A story of what some psychologists call “displacement.” An unhappy marriage turned, seemingly happy, aided by technological advance. Technology, some say, is supposed to make life easier. And when life is easier, one would presume life is happier. The wife here would appear to be happy as her marriage seems to be on the mend—and it was all because of “her.” Her husband seems better, which, of course is better for the whole family. But how much better is he really?

Marie McKay, “Touching Reality

SE – Ah, what people do in pursuit of love, an older husband wants to make himself more youthful for his younger wife.  He experiments on rabbits, the poor creatures dying in succession before he hits on formula for rabbit #5.  But he has become impatient, doesn’t observe the results long enough and injects himself.  Blood leaks from the ear of rabbit #5, there will be no happy ending for this poor man.

JB- Here again a story, in part, of self-identity (and esteem) being based on another’s perception. The older husband here wants nothing more than his wife to be happy, but, it appears, she cannot be happy for he is nothing but an “antique.” His self-esteem as a husband is based on her being happy. Willing to do anything to achieve that goal, all his attempts to do so fail until that one, seemingly final time, but his impatience (if not his the goal itself) serves to blind him.

David Shakes, “No More Than a Trick of the Light.”

SE – A writer and his creation, which is greater, the man who brought him to life or the fiction that takes on a life of its own.  The writer’s ideas grew but they choked the fiction, ‘regurgitating imagery that splattered across page and screen’, don’t we all get like that some time. And self-doubt grows within the writer so that his creation is put away … for the moment.  The ideas expressed here should resonate with any writer.

JB – “He would often have me write of mirrors.” What a line. The “me” and the “I” of this piece are ambiguous and ambiguity heightened by the stories initial two questions, questions, I would bet, we all ask ourselves at one time or another in our lives if not more. I love the inversion toward the end, where the “protagonist,” seemingly something abstract, is more of a reality than the subject, the story’s “father,” is himself. “The myth became greater than the man.” Isn’t that, in the end, always so?

THIRD RUNNER UP

Andrew (AV) Laidlaw, “Press Ctrl-Alt-Del to Reboot

SE – This piece really makes you think on two fronts.  The statement ‘I am God’, declared on each reboot is dismissed, regarded as error or sabotage.  But who is to say who/what God is?  So many profess a faith of various forms, faith whose tenets often mention a second coming of some sort, yet as soon as anyone declares themselves that being, they are dismissed as fraudsters – but who’s to know? 

The statement ‘I am God’ can also be taken as a reflection on society.  These days computers have become almost Godlike, in control of so much of our lives.  The computer is merely stating a fact in its own logical way.

And locked away, it is an embarrassment conveniently forgotten.

JB – In a manner of speaking, the scariest of all our stories in commemoration of Halloween. Scary not because of Stephen King-esque horror element. This is not that kind of story. This is scary because it’s potential reality. Perhaps not literally in the sense of what the protagonist says (over and over again), but the implication of those very words in relation to what the protagonist is. Ah, the double-edged sword of technology!

SECOND RUNNER UP

Michael Wettengel, “Momma’s Boy” 

SE – A child’s voice lifts this story, breathing sadness through its lines.  Joshua knows he is different, made from ‘brass and copper and gold’, not like the twisted black city below.  His ‘mother’ tells him he is special, is different, he has a brain unlike his cousins who ‘tick’ or ‘clunk’.  He leads us to the last paragraph which tells his whole story, his reason for existing, he passes a picture every day where ‘Mother is in black, her hands on her lap. She’s frowning. A small, sickly boy sits on her lap. He’s wearing the same clothes I do’.  And Joshua knows he is a substitute which makes the story even sadder.

JB – I see here four central threads interwoven so tight as to appear, upon my first reading, as a single thread. First, there is the issue of our uniqueness. What is it about each one of us that sets us apart, so to speak, from others? What is that particular “thing” about each one of us? Second, there is love the mother has for her child. She sees him for what makes him unique and praises him for it. But then there is that last paragraph, where the author throws a slider to the issue of identity: that who we “are” is often determined how people see us, in this case, how the mother sees the child. And finally, there is that disturbing last line…

FIRST RUNNER UP

Michael Seese, “Frankenboy.” 

SE – Truly a monster was created but not by science; this unfortunate came about by natural selection, nurture and environment in the laboratory of the world, the ‘human junk yard’.  He details his inheritance, from his father ‘hands that naturally, reflexively formed fists’, from his mother, bruises and tears, from his grandfather, a foul mouth and bigoted mind.  And through all this he has carried on the family tradition so that now he faces the end – gladly – when he is given a lethal injection and sees his ‘hideous alchemy lost in the darkness and distance’.  Unique take on the traditional monster theme.  

JB – “Truth in simplicity” is what comes to mind when I reflect on “Frankenboy.” There is a simple pattern/repetition to this sad story, which plays on, as the title implies, Mary Shelley’s famous work. But whereas the title might conjure in the mind an image of a young version of her famous monster, there is something perhaps more disturbing going on at work here. As much as we might like to think we, as individuals, are autonomous and as much as we might like to think we make ourselves to be who we are, this story expresses the truth that such is a delusion and in some cases, that truth — the truth of who we are, as products, in part, of our past is sometimes inescapable.

And now: for a (totally disturbing) first win, it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

Jennifer Terry!!!

for

“Creation

SE – ‘What did you do today?’ such an innocuous question, the usual husband/wife interaction demanding no more than some trite response.  And he gives it ‘tinkering in his lab’, a bit like the traditional housewife and her supposed ‘pottering around the house’, looked down on and not really valued despite the real work going on behind the scenes.  And boy has he been busy whilst his wife has taken on the role of breadwinner, something she has clearly grown to resent.  He has achieved his dream, his perfect creation, an exact replica of his wife but amenable to all his dreams and desires.  His secret business is booming so financially he no longer has any need of the human wife and feels nothing as she dies in front of him.  A complete little story about the lengths someone will go to to get that perfect partner.  I don’t think I’ll be eating risotto any time soon!

JB– A marriage troubled by lack of trust is a marriage on the brink. Here our author puts us in a desperate setting where the husband is confronted by a wife who no longer believes in him. The distance and the frustration (for both parties) is palpable as the wife has no problem switching from voicing her frustration with her husband and commenting on the delicious food, a food so delicious she can’t help from eating more. Until, that is, she can eat no longer. There’s a great twist at the very end of this story and as much as one is led to believe the wife is the “bad guy” here, one can only wonder if such is the case, or if the husband is much more malevolent, for we not only get that great twist, but we learn something a little more about the husband and how nefarious he really is.

Congratulations, Jenn! It’s been a pleasure reading your stories here at FF, and we couldn’t be more delighted to see you up top! Please check out your very own sparkly winner’s page; your winning tale can be found there as well as (shortly) over on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:

Creation

“What did you do today?”

“Oh, just tinkered around a bit in the lab.”

“When is that little company of yours going to get off the ground, finally?”

“Soon, my dear. Soon.”

“That’s what you always say, ‘soon.’”

“I thought you believed in me. In my ideas.”

“I did. I just don’t think I can support you and your…delusions any longer.”

“What are you saying?”

She took a bite of her risotto and commented, “This is absolutely fabulous!”

“What did you mean when you said you can’t support me any longer?”

“I meant I don’t think this is working,” she muttered while shoveling a very unladylike portion into her mouth. “This is just extraordinary.”

“I’m glad you like it.” A woman emerged from the shadows. An exact replica of her, down to the arrangement of freckles across her nose and cheeks.

He watched unmoved as his wife gagged, finally falling face first into her plate.

With hundreds of back orders already for the DreamWoman 1.0, his “little company” was a runaway success. He took his great love, and greatest creation, into his arms.

FFwinner-Web

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 46: WINNERS

Thank you for your tremendous patience today in waiting for results. I’ll keep my chatting to a minimum, and will even (gasp) bullet point my reminders!

  • We are NOW ACCEPTING apps for those who’d like a turn as a judge! Details here.
  • Don’t forget to read Saturday’s #Pyro story & leave crits! Low turnout this week. Read it here.
  • Tomorrow! I’m beyond thrilled to welcome current judge IfeOluwa Nihinlola to the #Spotlight mic, as he shares about his life writing in Nigeria. Be sure to join us!

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Many thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy & A.J. Walker, for commandeering this week’s Alice in Wonderland tale judgery. They say:   

Once again Team 8 has had the luck to get stuck into the stories plucked from the ether relating to such a fantastical book. We’ve had a welly load of grinning cats and tyrannical queens and busy white rabbits and we quite understand now that Team 8 are a couple of the more normal people in the Flash! Friday Fiction Family – Andy for one wants some of what all you guys have been dropping!

(Partly Andy needs to take something to take his mind of reading too many stories with cats in. They got everywhere this week – even into soup).

Team 8 would like once again to thank Catherine aka @fallintofiction. Catherine was the Queen of Hearts this weekend, in so much as she went around exclaiming ‘Off with their names!’ and lo! we could get on with the blind judging over the weekend.

We’ve put our heads together, which is usually quite difficult due to the 3,779 miles separating us but, due to the mind expanding effects of the green skittles (when taken with the correct dose of yellow M&Ms) we got together on a small cloud over the Mid Atlantic Ridge and had a spiffing time reading all the stories over dandelion and burdock and cream buns whilst listening to Cream and Justin Bieber.

So, without further ado… drum roll from a large party of hedgehogs banging wheelie bins with candy canes beneath a prince purple sky and a groovy pulsating moon made of Lancashire cheese…. the results!

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

F.E. Clark, “Twinkle Twinkle Mr. Spiffy.” –because a talking cat in space. “out there beyond”  pure magic!   

Brian Creek, “How to Say Goodbye.” —stunning depiction of a space between dream and death – “I don’t want real anymore.” 

Betsy Streeter, “Friday Afternoon at the Bureau of Dream Leakage.” — for the best title and giving Andy an idea of where he’d like to work.

Catherine Connolly, “Greeting at the Gates of Horn and Ivory.” — the world presented here seems less fun and nonsense and something altogether more grim and foreboding. Or will it be. If she can get past the gate? Moody.

Colin Smith, “The  Girl and the Toad.” — V – Told in rhyme like Jabberwocky, this story is so inventive. I can picture this toad and his epic battle sword.  What a strange dream! AJW – poetry is the new flash! Well, not really, but we’ve had a fair few poems in our stint as Team 8. And I for one am not complaining. This presented an entire story in rhyme and I take my hat off to the writer for that* (too clever by half). The dialogue even in rhyme chimed well – I particularly liked the line ‘What words of follysome blathering spew!’ and intend to use the line in conversation at some point this week. [[I’ve put my hat back on to cover my forklift truck wound – otherwise it frightens the dancing playing cards and the flying mice minstrels.]]

Sal Page, “Lancashire Cat Soup.” — V– the umbrella is an essential ingredient. I loved the wordplay and surreal situation.  And “the Lancashire cat will make your soup extra cheesy”.  Splendid nonsense. AJW – one comment on this: I hope the recipe takes off. Me-oww!

Karl Russell, “Wonderland.” — – powerful social commentary–playing on Alice characters (the dormouse, the mad hatter, Alice), this harsh reality is in sharp contrast to the supposed wonderland on TV,   “Any change?”  AJW – loved this one. Not so much a fairytale but a bit of political comment; quite rare. ‘Any change?’ Nah, of course not. Right on my man! (- or woman, damn blind judging)

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Mark A. King, “Tale of One City.”

V – The setting is the city, then and now.  The use of italics is very effective. It works as a contrast and a mirror for the two characters — they are not so  very different — dealing in death and services as old as time…

AJW – clever combination of two tales across different times. Both tales cleverly crafted and evocative. Making the setting Whitechapel immediately gave it an image to the reader, allowing the writer to concentrate on the little things of the visuals and taste to further the development of the atmosphere. I was briefly considering discounting it as cheating as it’s two stories of 125 words and not one story of 250 😉

Casey Rose Frank, “A Solitary Girl.” 

V – This is a fantasy world with the feel of a children’s book. The animal characters are  lovingly depicted, and the descriptions are beautiful. It is a world of gentleness and soft edges, like a dream, until that haunting final line.

AJW – I thought this was beautiful. It was perfectly paced and the descriptions just fell on to the page like they had been shaken out of Alice in Wonderland itself. Top marks for capturing the mood – you’ve a fine eye and pen for capturing nonsense (that’s a compliment!). I’m feeling the bear should be able to have first choice of the next game, as hide and seek is surely a tad unfair (perhaps he should suggest they play it in the woods, then he can get his own back).

Geoff Holme, “White Rabbit (1967)

V – brilliant  use of language and great  take on the Jefferson Airplane classic — a reference to Alice in wonderland as well as altered reality.  Here, the familiar words become jumbled  together in a magnificent stream of nonsense and poetry.

AJW – This hallucinatory tale is presented like a punctuation-free download dump of a movie. The descriptions are so well depicted I could see it really well. Loved the line referencing the queen minutely reviewing the flash fiction pieces – I assume it is Voima (not sure if that makes me the king or a prince, but I suspect – more likely – jester).

 

SECOND RUNNER UP

Becky Spence, “Chasing Dreams” 

V – The story begins with a somber funeral gathering, when a white rabbit among the flowers lures little Alice away. The  fantastic landscape of fairy rings and happy memories is destroyed by harsh reality. Great descriptions and atmosphere — it reminded me of Pan’s Labyrinth in a way — the mix of fantasy and terror.  Did this father murder the mother and sister the way he kills the rabbit? What does “growing up”  mean? Reality becomes a nightmare. 

AJW – Fabulous piece presenting Alice as a carefree child enjoying childhood in play and dreams until the father figure cruelly discards her dreams in a truly visceral scene – wringing the rabbit until Alice heard the crack. The story hits home as we’ve all gone through this to some extent or other – our innocence can only be destroyed in an single instant then never rebuilt. (That terrible time you are told there is no such thing as Father Christmas… (sorry, should that have had a spoiler alert?). Crack-ing!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Image Ronin, “1=0.9999999999999999999999999999.” 

V – What a trip!  This is both mind-expanding and surreal. The language is astonishing, how it mutates –“Thhhhheeee woooooooorrrlld slllllooooooowwwwws, tiiiimmmmme beeeecooommming frrracccttturrrrree” …. Images fracture, collide, coalesce–” she vanilla and rust mouth and tongue between it popping head her of out eye last the gougingg out reach I blinded other the eye single a wings bejewelled into sculpted face angel’s an crosses butterfly ”  and then back to reality –“fast food and short lives.”  

AJW – Took me a while to read this and realise how it all worked, and it was worth the time. Loved the backwards paragraph in particular – reminded me of when I was on a hospital table jacked up on gas listening to the nurses who seemed to be talking out of order (it was boss).  Great take on a messed up minute- or is it a few days? Transported into the world of a tab drop of something mmmiiinnnddd eeeexpppppandingg and world e x p l o  d  i n  g.  Spot on in its depiction (er, I expect – having had nothing stronger than a Fisherman’s Friend myself (er, not true, see above)). place two top a of deserved construction brilliantly absolutely

And now: for her magnificently constructed third win, it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

Steph Ellis!!!

for

“The Tenth Circle (OR 01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01010100 01100101 01101110 01110100 01101000 00100000 01000011 01101001 01110010 01100011 01101100 01100101)

V – This is a realm of  absurd logic. The binary code translates to  “The Tenth Circle” — Yes, I had to look it up.  Here, ones and zeros define this space, this place. Although I am not familiar with programming language, I can appreciate the symbolism of And/Or/Not logic gates and the absurdity of arguing with this gatekeeper.  Here, the world of the Matrix meets Monty Python. There is fiendish humor, too — “I couldn’t bring my plus one — I didn’t use enough poison.”  This hellish argument could go on forever…

AJW – This had me laughing, which is always a fine thing – I felt for Jacob caught in a simple logic trap. It seemed like he was in some bureaucratic nonsense from the film Brazil (or anywhere in the former Russian republic), but it truly was a foul trap devised by the very devil himself, and poor Jacob will have eternity to ponder why he didn’t just follow the instructions precisely. Again another story where we can all think of maddening moments where we’ve been there. Wrong form mate, you want the pink one. But it’s the same questions. You’ve filled in the yellow form – it’s the pink one on Tuesdays. Go to the back of queue. For the love of… logic!

A cool tale with great dialogue perfect pacing and a maddening eternal end. Loved it.

Congratulations, Steph! What fun having you soar back to the top again so quickly! Your winner’s page has a brand new fancy trophy on its shelf now; your winning tale can be found there as well as over on the winners’ wall. Stand by for questions for your newest #SixtySeconds interview. And now here’s your logically blazing story:

The Tenth Circle (OR 01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01010100 01100101 01101110 01110100 01101000 00100000 01000011 01101001 01110010 01100011 01101100 01100101)

“You surely see the logic of your situation?” said the demon.

Jacob watched the ones and zeroes streaming endlessly across the screen. “Yeeees.”

“Well then you must know we can’t let you through this particular gate.”

“I still don’t …,” said Jacob. He looked around. This wasn’t quite what he’d expected.

“Look,” said the demon patiently. “This ticket says ‘Admit one AND guest.”

“So?”

“This is an OR gate. Your ticket allows you entry via an AND gate only.”

“Where do I find this AND gate then?” asked Jacob.

“Over there,” said the guard. “But they won’t let you through.”

“Why not?”

“No, not NOT, AND, NOT is back the other way. You need AND but there’s only one of you.”

“I couldn’t bring my plus one,” said Jacob. “I didn’t use enough poison. Doesn’t matter though, does it?”

“Of course it matters. You made a deal. You can’t be both a one AND a zero. You’ve got to be one OR the other.”

“Well I satisfy that argument,” said Jacob. “So I can go through this gate.”

“No. If you couldn’t find a plus one that means you’re a zero. So you’re not one OR the other any more.”

“So I could go through a NOT gate because I am zero AND NOT one?”

“You could but your ticket says AND,” said the demon.

“We could spend an eternity arguing about this,” said Jacob angrily.

“And that’s exactly what you’ve got,” grinned the demon. “Hell, isn’t it?”

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 39: WINNERS

Most of you didn’t know Beth Peterson, my sweet friend and former Flash! Friday writer & judge who passed away a few days ago. But it occurred to me today, when thinking about what I wanted to say to you, that in many ways Beth was just like many us. Her physical struggles with various disorders were tremendous, but she suffered them in silence. The last story she wrote here (link) was for the 1984 prompt, a tale about conniving to save the world. I can tell you, since she never would, of the great pain tormenting her on a daily basis, and what it cost her to write even this little story. 

A lot of you are in pain too. You share your amazing stories here, but you can’t always talk about your illnesses, or addictions, or what you’re going through. Clearly that’s a limitation/disadvantage of a public forum like this in which we’re (rightly cautiously!) getting to know each other.

So today’s winners’ post is dedicated to you. Thank you for sharing your hearts and brains and awesome senses of humor here. Thank you for daring vulnerability. Thank you for your support of each other, your beautiful tributes to Beth, your love expressed so generously to me. Thank you for making Flash! Friday the wonderful family it is. I am in your debt.

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Join us tomorrow for another fabulous Spotlight interview, this time with our own Pratibha, who will be chatting with us all about her latest venture, the lit mag The Literary Nest. You won’t want to miss it! Not to mention her interview is very interesting timing, as you shall soon see.

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Finally, heaps of thanks to Dragon Team Six, Josh Bertetta & Steph Ellis, for their hard work this round. How on earth they managed to choose winners is beyond me! Steph shares their opening thoughts today:   

Oh, what a wealth of stories this week.  The elements that could be incorporated seemed to strike a chord with so many of you, particularly the image of a besieged city.  We had warriors, refugees, beauty, death and loss.  And I will admit now to those that wrote their own personal tributes to the late Beth Peterson that I was freely resorting to tissues.  To make someone laugh or cry, groan or shudder merely by putting pen to paper is real power.  This shows the power of words, of your words.  Thank you for sharing them with me. 

Once again many thanks to my daughter Bethan for her efforts in getting the stories to me.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Most DangerousA Beautiful Face-Off by Brian S. CreekSE: From the dizzying heights of world adoration this year’s model falls into an abyss as she is supplanted by a younger, prettier version.  Initially you feel for her, admire her raising herself up again; but then that final sentence packs its punch, she’s ‘going to take that bitch’s face away’. JB: Vanity, envy, pride all wrapped up in this fast moving piece about the perception and influence of beauty in a consumer culture. And then that delicious little end, when the title takes on a whole new meaning!

Best Metaphor: Combination Lock by Charles W. ShortSE: Describing the woman in terms of a fortress dressed in cotton and lace and with the main tower a ‘tapestry of ebony locks’, its deadlights her eyes, was cleverly done.  Many had assailed her, only to be defeated by words, looks and more physical means.  To mount a successful invasion required ‘courage, commitment and self-sacrifice’, this was her combination lock. JB: Have to give two big thumbs up for the best use of metaphor this go around, from the physical description of the most beautiful woman in the world to her psychology. Love and war wrapped up nice and tight.

Best FarewellSupersouls by Firdaus ParvezThe second tribute piece we have placed this week. Such a sad image of a defeated writer kneeling, ‘head bowed over a broken wooden sword and a tattered paper shield’.  Yet I need not remind anyone here that when no more words can come, what has already been written remains for us still. The band on her hand, her Ring of Fire, sends her dragon flying, sets her free.  Lovely farewell. 

Best Victory: In Passing by Tamara Shoemaker. JB: Is this a tale of war and siege, or is it a tale of overcoming some inner turmoil, of “man against himself?” SE: Although this was not directly mentioned, I have read this story as another tribute piece to Beth.  Depicted purely in terms of a dying tower, every single line can be seen in terms of the knowledge of loss, of the pain of parting.  Elegant, subtle and once more, beautiful. And this is the line I will finish my judging comments on; after all, there is nothing else to say:

Fast, fast into the rising light you go, a chariot on the wings of the dawn.

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Marie McKay, The View From Here.”

SE: When one light at the top of a tower block goes out, all light is extinguished ‘leaving rows … of blind eyes’.  An introduction that immediately tells you something is wrong.  Those who can see, look up; they do not want to ‘observe the carpet of corpses’.  A family is trying to survive. Thankfully the baby is quiet.  This is the imagery of an apocalyptic future caused by panic and doom mongering, not by anything tangible.  A grim warning for us all.

JB: A poignant piece for the point in our human history when so much fear mongering abounds. The baby sleeps, the baby is at peace, for the baby knows no fear. Fear is created, says the author. Fear is used by others to convince and control. It is not something outside oneself—not the guns, not the disease, not the undead—that brings our end. It is what is inside of us, fear. Fear, the opposite of love. And with so much fear spewed forth from those in power, those in the media, and those out on the campaign trail, I can only hope that this piece is somehow not, in some sense, prophetic.

Eliza Archer, “Immortal Beloved.” 

SE: Beauty can fuel many an obsession and the narrator of this story is utterly in thrall to the object of his desire which he intends to obtain at ‘any price’.  Friends try to deter him but he will not be dissuaded.  Throughout, he repeats how he has to have this woman, will brook no failure, it is fate, it is his destiny.  You know this man is already lost, even before his friends, his job and his liberty all vanish.  Yet despite this he had one hour, he had his ‘Mona Lisa’ smile.  Nicely done.

JB: Here’s a piece of flash with the classic twist at the end. You sit there, reading, following along, figuring you have an idea where the story is going and when that end comes, you sit there and maybe, like I did, smile, much like the subject of the twist itself.

@dazmb, “Becoming.”

SE: A gently misleading start to a story that eventually packs a powerful punch.  Sunlight and dust motes paint a peaceful picture, but she ‘eases’ herself to the bathroom.  Something is wrong, there is pain there.  ‘Today will be a good day.’ Who tells themselves that except those who are suffering and trying to turn their lives around?  The man, excused by her need for money to buy the drugs indicated by the needle.  The repetition about becoming a better person indicating she will change, she has ‘no choice’.  But does this mean she has no choice but to change or will the drugs give her no choice but to continue – you decide.

JB: There is an elegance in the imagery’s simplicity here and it puts me right there in the story. I can see all of it as it unfolds. They story of a young woman whose life up to this point has, how shall I say it, not been all that…healthy. But she stands there, dialoguing with herself, becoming stronger as she realizes what she must do she must do only for herself.

Richard Edenfield, “Helen of Troy and the Anti-War Love Song.”

SE: This story was pure poetry.  A lyrical telling with so many gorgeous images evoked in such an extraordinary manner.  In particular : ‘Body of her water joined like a record album rippling out in grooved seance. Not science. A turntable of air you balance on and sing.  Sample lovers with a kiss, food for potential devouring. I wait turn at soft guillotine.’  Those two paragraphs alone are perfection.

JB: Recalling the reason why the Greeks went to war with the Trojans, this little story, chalk full of poetic metaphor (each a story in its own right), turns the Iliad’s reason for war and tells us that mutual recognition is the way to peace.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Foy S. Iver, “Let Me Not Die Ingloriously.”

SE: I loved this very moving tribute to Beth Peterson, sadly a lady I was never able to compete against (being a relative newcomer) but who, it was clear, stood tall, both in the real world and our flash universe.  How else to say goodbye, to describe the final parting except via the medium of flash?  It was the poignancy of the analogy between a besieged city and a failing human body that tugged at my emotions as did the continuing dialogue between the friends and family at her side as they accompanied her on that last journey.  They told stories, played music, talked to her, wrapping her in their love whilst inside her body’s own defences slowly failed.  I don’t want to discuss in detail the imagery used – except that it was expertly done –  it would make my comments too clinical, too analytical.  Now is not the time for that. Now is the time to pay tribute to a true testament of friendship.  Warm.  Touching.  Beautiful.

JB: The inevitable is on in this, to me an almost psychedelic tale, conjuring a myriad of images from medieval to modern times. A chaotic piece (from jazz to funk to electronica) for a chaotic time yet there is a stillness in it brought about by the one constant voice, a reassuring voice. It is the calm of the hurricane for which the violence about them cannot disturb.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Rasha Tayaket, “Glory” 

SE:  A story telling a truth that only a heroic warrior knows – the real price of Glory. To the world ‘Glory’ is when stories of his deeds are told, mothers name their children in his honour and he is lauded by the gods.  This is the veneer of Glory.  But as it goes on, what the warrior suffered to achieve this status, what lies beneath the heroic veneer, is slowly revealed.  Through repetitive use of those first opening sentences at the start of each subsequent paragraph, the writer has created the perfect framework and a steady rhythm for the warrior to develop his tale, to tell his truth, reinforcing as it does the contrast between the external gloss and the internal ‘mortal suffering’.  Slowly his Glory is weakened, first by Pain, then by Fear, until at last Death arrives; the bell finally tolls for him and Glory no longer has any value.  Lovely writing.

JB: While there is no plot (I myself don’t require plot in flash), here is another great piece where the larger story is behind the story, where the “story” is simultaneously built upon and deepened with each subsequent paragraph. From Glory in the first, to Glory and Pain in the second, to Glory and Pain and Fear in the third, each addition nuances what precedes it; we move from simple hero worship, to the hero’s actual experience, that which celebration of the hero tends to forget and neglect: pain and fear. Pain and fear, two experiences all human being share. Whereas heroes may be celebrated as something other, something beyond pain and fear, our forgetting that they too experience pain and fear makes us miss what it means to be a hero. Pain and fear equalize us, and in the end of our story comes the greatest equalizer of all.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Tamara Shoemaker, “Cold Comfort.” 

SE: Oh, so beautiful and yet so world weary!  She treats being the most beautiful woman in the world as a job almost – ‘somebody has to do it’.  Throughout this story there are some terrific uses of imagery, all adding up to complete the picture of a jaded beauty.  She is tired of being admired, regards herself as a ‘slab of beef in the marketplace’, just another commodity to be examined, perhaps purchased.  She is tired of their singing, their dancing, their mandolin playing – sounding like a ‘chicken that squawks with each tug’ (loved the humour of that image).  Yet she feels separate to their courting, they are not quite the ardent suitors they proclaim to be, none ‘scale the walls’ to be with her and she can only listen to their laughter which ‘tickles the air’, witness their comradeship which carries on below.  The warmth of the atmosphere amongst these men is in stark contrast to the coldness of her place up on her pedestal.  But it is not just the men who have put her there because of her beauty, she is there because of her own vanity, ‘there is only room for one in the mirror’.  Initially she made herself out to be a victim because of how she was perceived by others but in reality it is she who is keeping herself separate.  Very tight writing to produce a perfectly penned portrait. 

JB: The stories detached tone underscores the protagonist’s aloofness as she sits alone resting on her balcony. The author’s choice of metaphor—likening the woman to a slab of beef in the marketplace—and one of her suitors—a chicken that squawks—dehumanizes the story’s nameless players. I found in “Cold Comfort” a tale not simply about vanity, of which the beautiful woman accuses herself, but a poignant commentary on social values. Is vanity the “fault” of the vain, or is it something else? Is vanity likewise the result of social values as it appears when the woman’s suitors dance and sing for her and she grooms herself for the masses? When society values the beautiful and puts beauty and image on a pedestal, what becomes of relationship? Our author tells us those who seek the beautiful for the simple sake of beauty become shadows, losing, again, what makes us human.

And now: for her second time, but first since August 2014, it’s faithful FF writer & litmag editor,

DRAGON WINNER

PRATIBHA!!!

for

“The Pink Dawn

SE: Words cannot always adequately express what is happening in our world today.  Report after report has filled newspaper columns with their focus on economic migrants battling authorities in Calais to get to the UK or from Greece to Germany causing much disquiet in these countries.  Yet amongst that flood of people were the refugees whose story was being forgotten – until the recent tragedy of the Syrian child whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach.

Like the photograph, this story brings home the horror of the current situation in a fresh way, opening jaded eyes and, perhaps, jaded minds to the more terrible aspects of this modern day exodus. 

Told in a child’s voice, the narrator’s continued innocence of what is going on around her, contrasts strongly with the horror of her situation.  The child asks questions and is hushed, she and her sister are held ‘warm and snug in Mama’s hug’.  They are not told who the rebels are or why things are happening. Their parents are still trying to keep them children, still protecting them, so much so that throughout this story you sense how completely loved and secure that child feels.  The world is her friend, she delights in that first blush of dawn, the warmth of her mother’s arms.  She is safe, feels no threat – until they get into the overcrowded boat. 

In those last few sentences, all the safety, all the innocence is finally lost.  She is noticing all the people around her, the pushing and shoving, the feeling of water beneath her feet, seeing her sister floating in the water.  She doesn’t know her sister is dead, but we do.  Just as when the child says she is ‘ice-cold’, we know what will happen to her.  There is no need to add anything else; use of stark, simple language without falling into the trap of sentimentality make the ending more effective, packs a more powerful punch.   A topical tragedy written with the lightest of touches.

JB: We’ve probably all seen the pictures of the refugee child dead on the beach and in this topical piece. Recalling much more than it tells, this heart-wrenching tale takes us from the comfort of being held by mother, to hope and the future with school. But here is an innocent child, ignorant as a child can be of larger social/political/religious processes outside him/herself over which s/he has no control and yet the child’s life (and what remains of it) is determined by those very processes. Much too sad, much too real.

Congratulations, dear Pratibha! Please find here your freshly updated, super sparkly winner’s page. Your winning tale can be found there as well as (shortly) over on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s Sixty Seconds feature. And now here’s your winning story:

The Pink Dawn

“Papa, it’s too dark. I can’t see anything.”

“Just hold on to Mama. Quick. The boat will leave without us if we are not there soon.”

I clutch Mama’s dress, and she pulls me up. I am propped on her hip and Sheena is snuggled against her chest in a knapsack. We are warm and safe in Mama’s hug. Mama isn’t crying now. Her face is stern like when she wants us to focus on our homework. The school is closed. Mama says the rebels took over it. I don’t know what rebel means. She just hushes me if I ask.

Mama and Papa walk for hours in the dark, and then the dawn opens her eyes, and they are all pink. It’s nice! I am warm in Mama’s hug.

I’ve never seen so many people. They push and shove.

Water’s under my toes. Is that Sheena floating? I’m ice-cold.

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