Tag Archive | Brian Creek

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!

♦♦♦♦♦

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!

♦♦♦♦♦

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)

♦♦♦♦♦

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.

♦♦♦♦♦

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.

♦♦♦♦♦

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.

♦♦♦♦♦

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.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 38: WINNERS

 

Happy Monday! What a riot moving from a loud-mouthed and jovial fellowship en route to Canterbury to a clever-tongued and ancient fellowship en route to Mordor and/or Mischief. Your stories were wrenching and hilarious and, as always, unforgettable, which is spectacular news for my poor memory muscles, as they need the help. 

On a personal note: these days are difficult ones for the family and friends of former FF judge Beth Peterson, who’s decided — in her indomitably spirited way, of course — that she’s had quite enough of her problematic, problem-causing health problems and is quite ready to go on without them, thankyouverymuch. It is one of the greatest honors of my life to walk at her side now through these final pages of her life’s story. I read her the stories you wrote this round; though she’s past the point of speaking, she laughed aloud at Karl’s The Seven (which you must read if you haven’t). Your stories — and all the wonderful heartsongs you’ve shared with her (via me) on Facebook — your messages of courage and love, and your prayers, above all, are beyond priceless. Thank you.

(Note: As a part of her fellowship of writers, if you’ve anything you’d like to say to her, perhaps a favorite poem?favorite quote? favorite verse? — and remembering, of course, that funny is entirely appropriate too!!! — please add them in the comments below. It would be my privilege to share them with her.)

♦♦♦♦♦

Many thanks to Dragon Team Five, Holly Geely & Foy Iver, for judging the stories this round and teasing out their favorites. Here’s their take:   

FI:  Attempting an adventure epic in less than 400 words when Tolkien himself took four books, is gutsy! Good thing you draggins have plenty of those. If he could only see what his imagination has inspired! A special thank you to those of you who stirred up ember-memories of long winter nights and my father reading the Lord of the Rings to my siblings and me by firelight. 

HG: My Lord of the Rings memories are much less touching: in eighth grade the three “nerd boys” were reading it and I didn’t want them to get ahead of me nerd-wise. I am once again in awe of the abundance of talent. There was a sad lack of turnips, but I shan’t feel disappointed, for there will always be time for vegetables later.

♦♦♦♦♦

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Most Giggle-InducingWhen a Story Writes Itself by Michael J. BerryHG: Vanity dictates that this story be selected! This is a marvelously fun story and the names are superb; my particular favourite is “Grey-guy.” FI: Love it!! So clever and the thinly veiled references to FF are like hidden candies.

Most Likely to Become a Creation Myth: Legend by Sarah CainHG: Dragons – check, humans who thought they won but really didn’t – check, written like an old-school tale – check. Yep, I look forward to reading the book based on this world. FI: As a sucker for variations of the traditional genesis stories, I was hooked. As Holly said, I’ll be looking for this on bookstore shelves. 

Best Parody of All Things LOTRWhat Really Happened (For I Was There, Have Evidence to Doubt Me Do You?) by Eric MartellFI: Because even presented as farce, this one still made me long to be lost in that world again. HG: Dear writer, I don’t know who you are yet, but I love you. Once again I have different memories – of once upon a time when I wrote parodies for all my friends. Excellent.

Best Sleight-of-hand: Power Play by Brian CreekFI: Had to read this one to my husband. The troubles of a first world gamer. HG: As a gamer, I’d like for this video game to be real (minus the power outage).

 

♦♦♦♦♦

HONORABLE MENTIONS

A V Laidlaw, Respect.”

HG: The main character has spunk. I like it. She may not be as flashy as Archmage Sparkly (aka Johnny Big-Beard… excellent nicknames), but she knows her strength. The voice is superb; the sarcasm makes me smile. The ending made me snicker.

FI: Strong voice in this one and an irresistible cheekiness toward those who feel they’re better than she is. I have to agree, aren’t they ever out of Dark Lords?

Carin Marais, “The Last Song of Winter.” 

HG: This story is lovely. The imagery is vivid, beautiful and haunting, and I was taken on a journey. The ending is bittersweet; sad but full of hope. The idea of Spring as a beautiful young woman is one I absolutely subscribe too. Beautifully written, and well done. 

FI: Fresh as a winter wind, this story captured me for its originality. The stakes are clear and the battle lines unmistakable; I can see a whole series emerging from this concept.

Mark A. King, “Tinder | Box.”

HG: The three characters complement each other in a spiral of misery-and-hope. The three forms of immortality being sacrificed is an interesting take on both the prompt and the reality of this situation. So much emotion has been covered in this story, I’m still reeling.

FI: Another super original response to the prompt! Like Holly said the intertwined perspectives offers an especially insightful peek into the lives, desires, and struggles of these three. The added philosophical puzzler of digital immortality (vs their true selves) makes it a well-deserved honorable mention. 

M.T. Decker, “To Accept What Cannot Change.”

FI: Such beautiful imagery with a poetic voice that is irresistible! Every line drowns me in its murky waters of forbidden love, harking back to tales of gods who slept with mortals they claimed more fair than their own celestial women. We aren’t meant to live in isolation and this piece shows that well. 

HG: The moth and the flame…great choice! Every word is carefully selected and every line is a tragedy. Well done!

THIRD RUNNER UP

Tim Kimber, “Defender of the Corn.”

HG: You had me at “Oh, bloody… Hail!” Matthis is a delightful use of the “ordinary person” and his no-nonsense attitude is admirable. He became the conquering hero, but…at what cost? What will happen to him next? This has a good mixture of my favourite kind of dark humour; Matthis is in trouble but you cheer for him anyway.

FI: Matthis is fantastic! I can almost smell the dirt on his clothes and feel the spirit in his bones. Though his fate isn’t fully revealed, I like to think he stood his ground and proved the wetter man. Clear characters and a well-developed story arch, gave this tale a podium spot.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Richard Edenfield, “A Butterfly in Brooklyn” 

FI: One of the most unique stories that came of this week’s musings, everything about this piece works in harmony: nature is painted with words that HDT himself might’ve used; paragraphs unfurl like pages of Walden; characters are sketched then filled in the way a human eye might absorb a landscape after all it’s known is the city. Slow, detailed, and poignantly executed.

HG: “The pages fluttered in the breeze.” For me, this last line is the most beautiful. This reoccurring image of the butterfly, and the artist as a butterfly, with a book as his wings…incredible.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Eric Martell, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” 

FI: Gritty and so human, I couldn’t help but identify with this very personal struggle. Though Marl and his wife believe they’ve buried their light, their beauty, death is only the beginning. I appreciate that it ends hopeful where there is little hope. Conflict, resolution, and character depth all accomplished in a few choice words. 

HG: The poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” always makes me think of Pony Boy. It’s a beautiful title for this heartbreaking tale of suffering and loss. “…for why should a man love someone who would be taken from him so quickly, but she was impossible to hate.” My heart is aching. I, too, like the beautiful ending and he birds that help cope with loss.

And now: for his FIRST TIME, it’s faithful FF writer & brand new

DRAGON WINNER

REG WULFF!!!

for

The King Who Wears No Crown

FI: This piece not only gave us gorgeously woven words, it brought echoes of familiar fields where foolish men battle and whispers of a different “King under the mountain”, one that is just as tempestuous as a dwarf by with a heart of true stone. While paying subtle homage to Tolkien, it remains distinct, an incredible feat. 

HG: My favourite line: “He has tasted the tears of creatures chased from the sanctuary in fear for their life.” This is a king who demands respect. The people who underestimated him sure regretted it. The gardener is a fascinating character. The Tolkien-esque elements are there but nothing has been copied – everything is unique and uniquely pays tribute.

Congratulations, Reg! Please find here your brand new, mega sparkly, and very crowned 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 Sixty Seconds feature. And now here’s your winning story:

The King Who Wears No Crown

As I walk in the shadow of the king, I tend his garden. I slip among the trees, sometimes dancing on the wind. None sees me, but all feel me.

The king likes the garden unspoiled, as it has been for a millennium. He prefers the natural order of things. He calls it the sanctuary of the living, even though death is always part of life. The king understands that the garden has a cycle of life, death and rebirth. He respects the cycle.

Men do not.

The king has heard the cries of the trees torn from the ground and dismembered. Men cut down the trees in their prime and rip them to pieces. Men burn them and live in buildings made from their skeletons.

He has tasted tears of the creatures chased from the sanctuary in fear for their life. Men pursue them relentlessly. He has felt the final heartbeat of the ones that could not escape. The ones slaughtered for their flesh and skin. Men rob the young of a future and the old of a peaceful ending.

When man pushes the king too far he will defend his garden through its destruction. His scorching anger will overflow and destroy those who have desecrated the sanctuary of the living. Their flesh will burn and fall from their bones. Their charred remains will feed the garden as it grows again. I will tend to the young sprouts and give the king a new garden, more brilliant and beautiful than the last. I will weep for the innocent creatures that suffered the king’s fiery wrath, enshrining their bones and singing to their souls.

As death is part of life, sacrifice is part of victory. The king is always victorious.

The mountain may not wear a crown, but not all kings need such a pittance. Once again, man has encroached, and soon, I will have a new garden to tend.

FFwinner-Web