It’s coming up on a HUGE week in Flash Dog Land: in case you haven’t heard (not possible!!), the newest, most compelling flash fiction anthology, Solstice: Light/Dark yet is hurtling into publication on June 21. Make sure you’re following @FlashDogs so you won’t miss a thing. In honor of this event, tomorrow our Spotlight feature will shine on the Pack Leaders themselves, Mark A. King and David Shakes. Be sure to come back for this exciting, behind-the-scenes look.
In the meantime, it’s another goodbye-fest here at Flash! Friday, as we bid a fond and grateful farewell to Eric Martell and Carlos Orozco in their capacity as dragon captains. They’ve judged your stories faithfully and with excellence, wrenching themselves out of deep and comfortable naps beneath large, warm rocks to do so. Now that’s love! –They’ve promised we will still see much of them as they write and share stories here; help me chase them down if they don’t, k? THANK YOU, dear friends, marvelous writers, for giving of your time and hearts to this community. We’re so very, very grateful.
Eric: The best part about judging for Flash! Friday is that you have to read all of the stories. You can’t let life get in the way and miss all the wonderful writing – so you see the brilliant things people come up with week in and week out. The worst part about judging for Flash! Friday is that you have to choose! Every week there’s about twenty stories I consider for my top choice, plus a bunch more that Carlos liked and, when I re-read them, see them in a different light. Then you say “this is the best one!” Ha! Best! So I’m going to be glad to turn that choosing over to someone else. But thank you to Rebekah for giving me the opportunity to read all these stories and the responsibility of choosing. I only hope I haven’t messed up too much.
Carlos: First off, I’d like to thank Rebekah for giving us this great, safe place to write. She does so much behind the scenes to keep this contest rolling week in and week out. It’s truly inspiring. Believe me when I say, I would probably not be where I am with my writing if it wasn’t for the dragon lair. With that said, if you ever get the opportunity to judge, do it. It not only gives back to this flash fiction community, but your writing will also get better. When you’re up late on Saturday night trying to cut your list of 20 down to 10 and trying to justify why story A should make it and not story B, you really see what separates the good from the spectacular. Then you have to write why that story felt so right (trust me it’s a lot harder than it sounds). But in the end, you start seeing similarities in what makes a story a winner. Once you have that, it’s like: Eureka, I have the secret formula for winning.
Now that we’ve gotten our tears and goodbyes out of the way, let’s get on to what you have been waiting all weekend for.
This week gave us many great stories about prisoners, theaters, prisoners in theaters, and theaters inside of prisoners, but per norm, the unique takes on the prompts are the ones that stood out the most. Also, this week was the first week where we both agreed on the top spot (battle to the death averted). Now without further ado, let’s get to the winners:
Best description of the man in the photo: Mark A. King, “The Unreliable Narrator.” “…his smouldering Oscar Wilde look about him, his unruly cravat, foppish hair and come-hither eyes.” With this description, we had no need for the photo.
Andrew Laidlaw, “And Then is Heard No More.” So much story here, and so much yet to tell. We don’t know who the prisoner is or who the guard is, but we know they’re playing roles – the prisoner pretends that he hasn’t been beaten and the guard knows that *how* the prisoner says it could determine what happens to him. We really wanted to read more of this one, so compelling a picture it painted.
Liz Hedgecock, “Monologue.” This was a perfect marriage between humor and horror. Our protagonist is haunted by that one commercial he did. While some seek fame by going viral, this person was destroyed (enslaved) by it. He will forever be the “Oat bar guy” unable to continue his career in acting. Our final verdict for this story “It’s SO good”.
Phil Coltrane, “Matinee of Torment at the Theater of Lamech.” Starting off like a noir crime story and ending like a foray into the world of Edgar Allen Poe, this tale of one man’s revenge against the woman who had spurned him and his comeuppance was a joy to read. A man who celebrates killing his wife by watching her on the silver screen? What a compelling and remorseless character, Humphrey is.
Carin Marais, “An Audience at Bedlam.” This story is told almost entirely through the audience’s dialogue, and it works well. We get a very strong sense of how the caged man feels. In a way it’s like the audience is telling us those things. But before we get a chance to feel bad for the man, he lets his ego out, trying to perform for his fans. It’s in this action that we get the feeling that perhaps he did something to deserve being put in the cage.
THIRD RUNNER UP
Mark Morris, “Brother Computer’s Final Final Show.” A takedown of reality television, a dystopian future, and a zombie story all wrapped in one. Quite a lot to put into 209 words! Painted with tons of descriptive terms which set the scene easily (view-screen, time-code, MoltoCon, paddock, dying and already undead), plus some inventive character naming which set the story in a world both like ours and not, we’re brought into the story along with our narrator, Brother Computer. A lovely and sad tale.
SECOND RUNNER UP
Eliza Archer, “The Long Run.” We liked this story because the setting enslaves the character in this one. He is bound by what most other actors seek: success. It is the flipping of traditional beliefs on their heads that makes the story stand out. And the image of the crowd devouring the actor’s soul was very vivid and maniacal. It felt like something from a nightmare.
FIRST RUNNER UP
Michael Seese, “The Fourth Wall.” This story did a wonderful job of revealing the theater and the prison that can hide within the commonplace. Samantha and Jonathan live the American Dream, but not *their* dream. Terms like “Middle Generica” show that they’re trapped in roles which were defined for them, but which don’t have meaning for them. The picture of ennui and antipathy that the author paints is one which can make us all question our choices – are we living the live we’re choosing to lead, or choosing to live a life that we feel has been chosen for us?
And now: another new member of the Quad Club: celebrating his own FOURTH win, it’s Flash! Friday
The first line “He slid the CD, a meal of memories, into the mouth of the plastic device” took our breath away, and it only got better from there. From “He was a human tree on the couch, rooted in the fabric” to “Newspapers piled up on the porch like black and white firewood”, every description in this was deliciously original and we were beyond envious. This writer showed a strong command of the language, twisting and contorting each word and phrase to tell a great story. The pacing was also well executed. Like the depressed protagonist we lose track of time and slip into the monotonous routine of daily life. Ordinary objects become fantastic (mailboxes gaining weight, lawns turning into extraordinary landscapes), but it doesn’t matter to us because the story also drops us into that dark place. Well done.
Congratulations, Chris! What a pleasure seeing you nab your FOURTH win! Your writing, often dark and disturbing, always haunting and beautiful, nabs readers’ eyes and imaginations each week, so it’s only fitting. Here’s your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by for questions for Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story:
He slid the CD, a meal of memories, into the mouth of the plastic device. It accepted his offering with a grinding, mechanical thank you, a sound that became his friend over time, his partner in torment.
Images leaked from the television, coating the walls and his face with the chaotic light of evacuation. He was a human tree on the couch, rooted in the fabric, sedentary, except for his eyes. They shimmied in their sockets, pulsating blue, as they drank the beauty on the screen and devoured the colorful silhouettes that crawled through the darkness like radiant serpents.
Over time, he had moved his bed into the basement. And the refrigerator. The microwave. He turned a storage closet into a matchbox bathroom. This theater of solitude became a damp penitentiary of the past. Daily, he slammed the mental bars, turned his key of regret, and did his time.
Newspapers piled up on the porch like black and white firewood. His lawn grew into a suburban savannah. The mailbox gained weight.
Richard couldn’t differentiate between dusk or dawn, snow or sunshine. The outside world was as foreign to him as happiness.
He snatched another CD, stabbed Play. Caged bones and iced soda, their trip to the zoo last summer.