Tag Archive | Clive Newnham

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 11: WINNERS

HOLY MOLY, PEOPLE! What a joy to see the community burn up the board this round. Brian Creek took the prize for making the 1,000th comment; but truly, this milestone is thanks to the many, many, many of you who took time out of your full schedules to invest in your fellow writers. And when it comes down to it, it’s not the number of comments that matters (as much fun as we had counting!). It’s YOU, and the safe, welcoming community you are. And I’ll stop there today lest I get all maudlin and weepy and accidentally set something on fire.  

(Again.)

Next up! DON’T MISS TOMORROW’S exclusive interview with the founding members of the Flash Dogs. And then comes Warmup Wednesday, followed by Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. Then it’s the fun of Flash! Friday all over again! 

Finally: don’t forget to claim eligibility for FEBRUARY on the Wall of Flame. Once March 1 rolls around, the wall will glow ONLY with names of those who’ve earned the #RingofFire badge in February. Meanwhile, I’m toying around with the idea of a prize at year’s end to whoever’s earned the most #RingofFire badges…. 

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Dragon Captains Carlos Orozco/Eric Martell sayWe had another great turnout this week. The flash fiction community refuses to make our job easy, and we’re glad. It really is an honor to be able to read and judge so many great stories. Speaking of judging, we would like to share a little bit of our judging process for this week. We felt like some great stories were unable to make our shortlist because they failed to meet the requirements for the story element portion. This week’s story element was setting, and the setting you were asked to write about was “moon”. Many of the stories were really good but failed to incorporate the moon as a crucial part of the setting. For our shortlist we favored the stories that used “moon” (in any incarnation) as a setting, as opposed to using “moon” as an object. It might seem a bit trivial, but focusing on the story elements will help us all become better writers.

Well, that’s enough of the boring stuff; let’s move on to the results:

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

It will make you double take: Clive Newnham, “…and the moon.” The first time through it seems as if the characters are drifting through space, and then you realize they’re not. You will read this one at least twice.

Most unique setting: Holly Geely, “Poor Things.” This writer really used some out of the box thinking to take us into a completely different landscape (albeit an undesirable one).

Best… um… Something. Mark A. King, “***SPAM***Lunar Realty Inc — Special Offer.” {{Editor’s Note: Which, for some TOTALLY STRANGE REASON, wound up in the lair’s actual spam file.}} A unique story structure (Spam email) in the second person POV which will inspire some grins, lolz, and/or ROFLz.

What Happens When Cute, Funny, and Sad Are Mixed. Rasha Tayaket, “Nursery Rhymes.” This had us smiling at first and holding back tears in the end.

Story That Can Double As a Playlist. Charity Paschall,Just for Fun. This is a unique idea that seems like loads of fun (Warm up Wednesday challenge perhaps?).

Ideas For the Real World. Colin Smith, UntitledWouldn’t it be great if something like this could happen in every town?

Superb Monologue. Deb Foy, “Elegy for the Earth.” We would love to see this performed on stage.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Sarah Miles, Guess How Much I Love You.” We each debated how to rank this story because it was so well done, but did not utilize the moon as a setting prompt as fully as others. But how could you not be drawn into Jamie’s story? Too young to know what his father was doing to his mum (although there’s just a hint of what Daddy might be doing to him), and still innocent enough to believe his mum’s promises of an escape beyond his wildest dreams, you want Jamie to escape but know that he’s much more likely to spend the rest of his life being laughed at until he cries than ever walking on the moon. Heart-wrenching tale.

Rasha Tayaket, Stuff.” This was a story that just snuck up on you. It starts like a stereotypical argument between the arrogant husband, too stubborn to ask for help, and the over-packed wife, dragging half of her belongings on vacation while hectoring her husband. But there are hints that there’s more, until we’re smacked across the side of the face with the titular “stuff” that she was so reluctant to leave behind. What an imaginative view of the future, combining an almost magical vision of how new lives will be created with the horror of disposability of the weakest among us.

David Shakes, “The Sky is Falling.” From the first line we can tell the situation is hopeless, but the dad still pretends survival is possible to keep his son hopeful. The difference in mood from father to son is stark, and that juxtaposition makes this piece all the more heartbreaking. In the end, the characters’ roles are reversed and it is the son who has accepted their untimely demise while the father can’t help but weep. The image of the father and son hugging under the light of a giant moon and waiting for the earth to swallow them is very powerful, beautiful, and melancholic.

Mimi N., “Alone, Together.” This piece delivers exactly what the title said it would. The main character isn’t alone yet, but she might as well be. She hears the madness of isolation creeping up through the beat of Stefan’s heart. It’s ironic that hearing that heartbeat does little to soothe her. Instead she goes outside (by herself) and looks at the Earth. For her, the view of Earth and the fantasy of floating home does more for her sanity than the company of someone else.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Jamie Hershberger, “Down on the Corner.” The first thing that pulled us into this piece was the creative use of the moon setting. Rather than giving the characters a moon under their feet or over their heads, the writer gives them a street called Moon. Also, the character descriptions in this are great. Saying the mother “smoked Virginia Slims” does much more for her character than simply saying she was a smoker. Finally, the last bit of bitter news reveals some vital information, answering many questions we didn’t know we had.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Alicia VanNoy Call, Bring an Extra Suitcase.” While the first person to set foot in any given place is an explorer, the day will inevitably come when explorers will be replaced by tourists, surrounded not by the staggering beauty of a world unexplored by the human experience, but by the detritus of a more “civilized” age. And yet, if one cocks an eye at just the right angle, there’s still magic to be found among the wonders of the universe. A wonderful story that finds beauty among the strip malls.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Brian S. Creek, “Oxygen.” This was a chilling story of an astronaut accepting that he or she was on a trip with no way of getting home. Except that there is a way home, through a hypoxic delusion taking us back to the astronaut’s childhood home. A masterful interweaving of the prompt setting and photo – the astronaut was on the moon, but also on Hope Street, where dreams of the future always reside.

DRAGON WINNER

PHIL COLTRANE!!!

for

“Runaways on Hope Street”

This story was one of the few we both had in our top ten (doesn’t happen often).  The piece was only 202 words, but it felt like a novel.  The required story element was also successfully used with the moon playing a crucial role in the story. We could feel the longing in the little sister’s gaze as she looked up at the moon while her brother told fantastic stories to comfort her. The story also did a great job of hitting all the little details. For example, describing the stars as uncaring counters the romanticized idea of the wishing star. Another little detail that makes the story successful is the word choice when the characters gaze “heavenward”. The brother’s story sounds like a heaven of sorts that’s placed in a much more tangible location (the moon). This places a silver lining on a grim ending.

Congratulations, Phil! Please find below the rights to a your fourth winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here are also your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Runaways on Hope Street

“Tell me it again, Rudder. About the Moon.”

Roderick embraced his kid sister, for warmth as much as affection. The wind ripped straight through his ratty coat. “They’s a huge castle up there on the Moon. Bigger even than this factory. But clean, ’cause the Man in the Moon has hundreds of servants to scrub away the grime.”

Blue eyes admired the bright orb. “It looks like ice. Is it cold?”

“No, Winnie. Up there, the sun’s so bright it makes everything glow like a gas lantern.” He leaned against the icy brick wall, gazing heavenward. Uncaring stars twinkled in the winter sky. “And they’s clear lakes, and open grassy fields for miles and miles and miles. Just like when we was young.”

“It must be real warm there, Rudder. I can feel it now.” Her shivering stopped. “And Daddy is up there?”

“Yes. Daddy went to be a servant to the King and Queen of the Moon. They pays him in diamonds, and dresses him in purple silk, and lets him stay in their castle.”

Sleepily, the girl closed her eyes. “When can we see him, Rudder?”

“Real soon, Winnie.” Roderick, too, closed his eyes. “We’ll be with ‘im real soon.”

FFwinner-Web

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 9: WINNERS

Today, it will please you to learn, is National Read in the Bathtub Day. I inform you of this first in case your plans did not already include reading in the bathtub and you need to change around the day’s itinerary. If you’re looking for reading material — which bathrooms ought to offer anyway — and have not read all of this week’s compelling tales, allow me to recommend them to you. The stories our judges awarded Honorable Mentions and above to are directly linked. Don’t miss out!

Remember to join us back here tomorrow for the first part of our interview with Flashversary winner Maggie Duncan. And come back Wednesday for our second Warmup Wednesday feature: lots of fun writing and chatting. And, obviously, chocolate, which this week is brought to you by dragon captain Tamara Shoemaker, who came over to the lair this weekend (pic proof here; we’re joined by Margaret Locke & Allison Garcia) and taught us the proper way to eat Tim-Tams. (“Eat” being a rather generous term for the slopping/gnawing thing the event actually was.)

Finally, CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who earned the Ring of Fire badge this week. Please be sure to visit the Wall of Flame to get to know your fellow dragons. Note: if you earned the badge but haven’t requested it yet, please contact us here with the required info. Three stories in a calendar month, and the badge is yours to flash for that month!

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Dragon Captains Tamara Shoemaker/Mark A. King sayWow, did everyone make us live up to our position as ruthless judges this week! Ninety stories, and all of them so, so good. After anguished emails back and forth, we finally made our shortlists, only to discover that even with our shortlists, we still had more than half your stories in consideration. We culled, and culled again, and each time it was quite painful. When we hit 1st Runner Up and Winner, we liked both of them so much that we considered drawing straws to see who won. We didn’t actually do that (the Atlantic is a wide stretch to reach the straws), but there was an ultra-slim margin between our choices. So now you know that though the ones below are splendid examples of flash, so were most of the rest of the stories submitted this week. We hope that you still received recognition for your quality work in the community comments even if your story did not make it on this particular list. And now, without further ado, here we go!

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best Line: Deb Foy, “Life is a Curious Thing.”  “Then, without trying, that single line got its perpendicular mate.”

Fantastic & Vivid Word Pictures: Clive Newnham, “Little Heaven.” 

Unusual Twist on the Prompt: Sarah Miles, “Piece of Mind.”

Making-Us-Feel-the-Raw-Bite-of-War with the “unsexy shadows”: Brett Milam, “A Fallen God.”

Most Dance Steps in One Flash Story: Reg Wulff, “The Dance.”

Most Fleeting Moments in a Row: Charles W. Short, “Harrison Crosses Camphertown Square.”

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Sydney Scrogham, Quitting Isn’t Complicated.” 

MK – I feel it’s time to tell you about some of the discussions we had… I mentioned to Tamara that I had the utmost respect for great romance writers. It is, in my opinion, the hardest thing to get right. This was a great example of something I enjoyed. Fantastic description here, “sitting crisscross applesauce, and he picks at the hem of his brown t-shirt. My hands sandwich between my legs as I bounce my knees up and down against the grey-blue couch cushions—like a butterfly without flight”. I also enjoyed this, “My face lifts with warmth and I release the breath I’ve been holding” – understated, yet very powerful.

TS – Subtle, well-written romance that avoids cheese and goes straight to the heart is one of my favorite things to read. The author of this piece, I felt, captured that balance perfectly. I love how zoomed in we are at the start. The descriptions are really, really well written. “My hands sandwich between my legs as I bounce my knees up and down...” This is my constant position anytime I sit – I love how it’s described. Also, Mark was teasing me about my love of “story frames.” The repetition of the first line and the last line – the beautiful artwork inside those perfect ends – the emotional twist at the finish – this whole piece was just really well done.

Carin Marais, Blue Ribbons.” 

MK – An incredibly sad story and one that removes us from the rain itself, as the story informs us from the very opening line, “There should have been rain.” What a great start. The follow-up line is incredibly sensory, with “black clouds, thunder, and the tick-tick of hail on roofs before the ice stings your skin as it falls and bounces on the black tar.” We have more examples later, with cicadas and bees, flowers and cut grass, all leading up to the day at the undertakers. Congratulations on a brilliantly executed and highly evocative take.

TS – I totally agree with Mark; this is so evocative! The sensory language flows so richly: “Perhaps it should have been autumn. Yellow and red leaves. The smell of fresh compost in the back garden. The rough bark of the apricot tree beneath my hands and knees as we scaled the branches.” I could feel myself sinking into such a world as I read this, could nearly smell the compost and the crisp autumn air. The final line drives that home with: “For a moment I smelled mulberries.” Horrendously sad, and even more emotional with the exquisite use of sensory appeal to underscore it. Gorgeous.

Nancy Chenier, “Slobber and Sympathy.”

MK – Wonderful take on the prompt. Great line here, “alien skeleton”, to describe the umbrella. This was also lovely, and heart-warming (not knowing what was coming next), “The wistfulness in those two words makes your tear ducts tingle.” For me, the Point of View deserves a mention.

TS – Really enjoyed this. I love the fact that the main POV thinks they have the umbrella guy figured out three times before the final line, which swings way wide of what the original understanding was. I felt that this was understated and subtle, which shows a lot of writing finesse.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Becky Spence, “Distraction.” 

MK – I have to hand it to you all. I didn’t think about the office blocks or windows overlooking the scene, but many of you did. In this story we have the drudgery of office worker, Rich, staring out of the window. “Distracted he watched the rain, stared through the translucent patterns, saw the artificial light catch in the hypnotic molecules,” not only places the character, but creates beauty with the rain drops. There is a real sense of Walter Mitty about Rich, with many of the following lines, especially this, “Thunder cracked loud and invasive, office buildings all around, perfect for a sniper, for a single shot of death. Still the faceless man stood, relentless he was unmoved by the noise, by the torrential rain, pouring upon him.” We get the confirmation of daydreams at the end, by which time, we’ve been transported around the world and back again, back to Rich and his mundane office job. A very different take on the many office stories. Original and well written.

TS – The stream-of-consciousness style for this piece was a little different, but I thought it worked really well. The piece is a wrap-up of Rich’s daydreams, one thought colliding with the next as he stares at the man out of the office window, so anything less than stream-of-consciousness wouldn’t have felt as dream-like. Heavy skies falling down,” “tears of the world,” “droplets dancing on the pane“… This is the kind of imagery that leaves me breathless and hypnotized. Beautiful story.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Phil Coltrane, “Visions in a Morning Sunstorm.”

MK – I deeply connected to this as I thought it was the best example of a real-life character. Yes, I know it’s just a picture, but I can see, and more importantly, I can feel the fabric of the life this man lives and the life he has lived. It’s not mentioned, but I can taste the dust and concrete; I can feel his excitement and joy for living – and this is a truly wondrous thing to do as a writer. I adore the title. We’re more familiar with the word “sandstorm,” yet a “sunstorm” is something that conjures colour, heat and feeling. This really sets the tone, “Retirement is for old people, and I’m barely seventy years young.” We then have visions from earlier days, “When I was a child, this was all cornfields” and “…at night I dreamed about life in the big city”. My father is a builder, so I can vividly see this; but you don’t need to have lived it to appreciate the craft of the great writing, “…worked our magic across the landscape, metamorphosing horizontal agriculture into vertical architecture”. The writer gives us clear and joyous links between the practical work of construction site and the majesty of a storm. This was simply fantastic, “I see the sparks from the welding torches setting the girders into place. Thunder claps like the staccato rhythm of the riveters, and the bass rumble of the earthmovers.” Despite the great images, I still come back to the character, the life he’s lived and the life he’s still living. Bravo.

TS – This story does an excellent job of connecting the past fleeting moments to the present/current rainstorm/prompt. Rain slapping broken pavement connects to sparks of welding torches. Thunder equates with staccato rhythm of riveters. Lightning flashes with bustle and children laughing. Such a great interlacing of past and present images.

Also enjoyed the ring of fire in the sky; I wondered if it was a nod to the Dragoness’ Wall of Flame she’s introducing? I, too, loved the use of the word “sunstorm.” Such a vivid term, accompanied by lots of rich mental pictures in my head. Well done.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Emily June Street, “A Fleeting Dream.” 

MK – This story has everything. It is a prime example of the art of flash conveying an entire novel in the space of 200 words. Indeed, I’ve read many 400 page novels that struggled to deliver a single percentage of this story. The opening is clear and simple – it gives us the backstory without any wastage. This is a great example of how to save those precious words for later. With this line, we have the hopes and dreams of both characters, ‘She had imagined greenery, a garden, goats. She had dreamed their children, eyes like his. “We’ll have a healthier life in Costa Rica,” he had said. “Rainforests and eco-living.”’ There is then clear transition to a new phase of the story, on in which we learn that all is not well, ‘She has tried and failed to make friends, to learn Spanish. “Gringa, macha, men hiss when she dares to walk out—old-world sensibilities rule here. Men see her as loose if she ventures out alone. Women wonder where her babies are, why she doesn’t attend church,” this part not only tells us the human story, but paints a vivid picture of the new world. The line, ‘Once-easy love now strains,’ is just perfect. Despite attempts to build happiness from inside, it is impossible to do, as ‘Concrete stretches beyond her window. Leaving the city requires hours of driving in diesel-tainted air. There is no garden, no goats. Her neighbor begs for money to buy crack.’ A dream turned vividly to nightmare in a truly brilliant flash fiction story.

TS – So, so much story packed into such a small amount of space! Absolutely agree with Mark that there are novels out there with less story than what is right here in this little flash piece. Some of the phrases were delicious bites to feast on: “She had painted paradise in her mind.” “Happiness is between your ears.” “Once easy love now strains.”

The downward spiral is so heart-breaking. I’m pulling for the brilliant dreams that I see at the beginning, but with lines like “Down pours the rain,” and “Where is he?“, I can feel the foreshadowing, and am drawn in. A silent clock ticks time toward a dark resolution in phrases like “She sits inside, watching the rain.” “Afternoon rolls into dusk.” “He disappears for hours.”

In the end, that final line: “Water rises to the crack beneath the front door,” provides dark brilliance as we realize that the protagonist is drowning in a flood of grief and broken dreams. Exquisitely written.

DRAGON WINNER

Nancy Chenier!!!

for

“Ripple Effect”

MK – Stunning. Mesmerising. Layered. These are the sort of words that don’t fully do this piece justice. Near the start we have the word “petrichor”, a word I’m not familiar with, but on reading the definition, what a perfect word. The writer gives us this, “Her form shivers like the reflection in a wind-ruffled puddle.” Shortly followed by this, “What is a ghost but a dire event that ripples across the pool of time?” The first is a wonderful visual image, the second seems like philosophy given to us by powers beyond our comprehension. Yet it is more than that; it is an early glimpse of the story yet to be told. We have the heart-breaking vision of Cecilia about to be hit, “the tragic song by heart: her giggles, the staccato of her stamping feet, the squeal of tires, her mother’s ragged cry, the fade in and out of sirens.” The writer then combines beauty with the seemingly mundane, “a carousel whirl of colors. Red ladybug boots, yellow bumblebee raincoat, green umbrella. She stomps and hops and crows the magnificence of her splashes. The driver’s too busy balancing an apple pastry on his latte thermos to notice.” There are many more wonderful lines, but this deserves special mention, “The squeal and thud cuts my pantomime short,” as we get frantic physical action from the narrator combined with the accident itself, conveyed in a minuscule package of words. Then we get the reveal at the end, for the tragic events have cast a ripple across time that Cecilia’s grandfather saw before she was even born. A truly magical tale, told with the best very skills of a flash writer.

TS – I don’t know that I can add much more than what Mark has already said. This piece absolutely floored me. Some of my favorite phrases are the ones with layers upon layers (which were nearly all of them). I could keep unwrapping each phrase and stumble on some new gem or point of genius.

What is a ghost but a dire event that ripples across the pool of time?” followed by its mirror image near the end: “The violent death of a child ripples both ways across the pool of time.” These two lines add such a stunning frame to the piece.

The author of this piece struck at this mommy’s heart with their description of the girl: “red ladybug boots, yellow bumblebee raincoat, green umbrella.” Her “carousel of colors” paints such a vivid mental picture that my heart lodged in my throat when I realized that the driver was too busy with his pastry and latte. Stunning detail. Fantastic imagery. Absolutely flawless story.

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Congratulations, Nancy! Please find below the rights to a second heartbreakingly fabulous winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is also your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Ripple Effect

Whenever rain spatters the Paradise parking lot, she rises from the pavement like petrichor. Her form shivers like the reflection in a wind-ruffled puddle. What is a ghost but a dire event that ripples across the pool of time?

Five years, I’ve watched shadows replay Cecilia’s last moments against curdled clouds. I know the tragic song by heart: her giggles, the staccato of her stamping feet, the squeal of tires, her mother’s ragged cry, the fade in and out of sirens.

Here she comes now, a carousel whirl of colors. Red ladybug boots, yellow bumblebee raincoat, green umbrella. She stomps and hops and crows the magnificence of her splashes. The driver’s too busy balancing an apple pastry on his latte thermos to notice.

I leap forward waving my arms. It startles her from her puddles. There’s a flash of recognition, but my snarling face chases her between the parked vehicles. Away from harm.

The squeal and thud cuts my pantomime short. Her mother screams.

I’d witnessed her death since before she was born, and hell if I’d just let it happen. The violent death of a child ripples both ways across the pool of time. The death of an old codger like me won’t – not even if he’s her grandfather.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 5: WINNERS

Happy Monday, and welcome to the latest #FlashFridayFic results show! I’ve a feeling Joan would have loved many of the adventures you all plotted out for her this week. Or, if she didn’t, she would have loved beating the living daylights out of you to avenge her reputation. Fiery lass, she was, and unafraid of sharing her words with the masses. Not too far afield from many of you, I expect…  

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Dragon Captains Image Ronin/Joidianne sayThis week we’ve been regaled with everything from angels to demons. We’ve had the pleasure of reading through tales of heart-breaking loneliness and sorrow while the damned crept across our pages, hidden beneath flowery language designed to mask their true intentions. We’ve listened intently to whispers of mystery and happiness while we tried to unravel the meaning behind your words. Jeanne d’Arc has leapt from our computer screen, clothed in the imaginations of countless authors, bloody yet unbowed, and for that we have to thank every single one of you that participated. It was a marvelous selection of tales and we can’t wait to see what you manage to come up with next time around.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Best Line: Mark A. King, “Construction.” “ … where the builders hung over the edge of the steel bones like handsome angels with hate in their heart.” 

Bravely tackling 3 POVs in one tale: Elizabeth (formerly Dragonsflypoppy), “Gone.” 

Fear inducing line: David Shakes, “Predetermined.” “…and he shall be known as the Prince of Pestilence, the juvenile pariah of nations.”

Most Inspired Use of One Word Dialogue: Josh Bertetta, “A Walk at Night.”

Best Closing Line: Brett Milam, “An Awakening.” “Human flesh was not like wood, but naturally it would be just as stubborn.”

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Clive Newnham, Yesterday’s Tomorrow.” 

This tale carries such a haunting cadence that I find myself longing to read more. There are so many questions left unanswered, but I think these questions really bring the story together because the reader is free to interpret it as they will and the story, like Jeanne’s, will live on.

In light of the recent events in Paris it was understandable, indeed moving, that we would find tales wrestling with the relationship between image and society. No more so than in this tale of a dystopian realm where questioning is the ultimate crime. #jesuischarles

Liz Hedgecock, Teenage Kicks.” 

This was such a brilliant glimpse into the life of a young Jeannie. I love her rebelliousness and how the author has managed to show the difference between what her family wanted for her and what she wanted to accomplish for herself in a few witty words.

There were, unsurprisingly, a multitude of tales that took on our fair maiden and her well documented life … though few explored the little known teenage years of Joan D’Arc Aged 13 3/4 … fun, playful and with a satisfactory ending that left one smiling. 

Tinman, Ring of Fire.” 

The artist’s interpretation of Joan is one that made me smile. After all, she did spill forth words like fire, so to be portrayed as a magnificent fire-eater could be said to be her due.

That final line, our heroine, fist braced to ward off another bout of heartburn, made me chuckle in delight. The rest was pure farce, though with the lightest of touches to convey the sense of community and desire that made up this circus troupe. —Oh, and no clowns; couldn’t agree more.

Michael Simko, “Guardianship.”

This take is one that truly managed to embody the idea of the ambiguous phrase ‘For the greater good.’ In the angel’s eyes there is no greater good than to serve the person he is assigned to, even if it means harming someone else in the process. What really hits me is the tiny hint of empathy and sorrow that he feels for his ‘lady’; but not even that is enough to stir him from his task. A lovely look at morality and manipulation is managed in just a few words here.

The notion of power and the question of the true nature or our narrator is skilfully unpicked. The ownership/connection that is hinted at from the outset leads us down one particular path only to find the rug artfully and expertly pulled out from under us at the last moment. 

Clive Tern, “Foul Justice.”

I couldn’t pass this tale up because it has all my favorite tropes… horror, the undead and revenge. I ask you, what’s not to love?

This tale took a different slant to the prompt, taking us into the moments after the burning of Joan D’Arc. The sensation of the aftermath of her fiery demise evocatively captured. The horror tinged ending perfectly bringing closure and hinting at the carnage to come. 

Betsy Streeter, “A Wish, Or a Promise.”

This story was heartbreaking in its simplicity, innocence is woven into every word exchanged between the brother and sister and the ending, with its reference to the inevitable loss that will soon face the two children, is one that will not leave me any time soon.

A simple, elegant, yet heart wrenching tale that toyed with our understanding of the innocence of youth and the fragility of existence.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Grace Black, “Unraveled.” 

The first thing that came to mind after reading this was the punishment of Sisyphus. There is a lingering air of inevitability that makes me ache for the narrator and his/her trials. The final line truly cinched this feeling, and it’s one that will stay with me for a while.

The opening, the imagery of awakening in a world bound around you, was intoxicating, then that line “silence is loudest with the absence of chatter” perfectly sets up the rest of the scene. The tension between silence and chaos, a mind racing against the consciousness of being was artfully captured. Indeed, the skilful merging of the cinematic alongside the interior was what drew me into this realm. The sense of wrestling with oneself, a battle seemingly as old as time itself, wonderfully captured.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Tam Rogers, “Kicking Up Dust.” 

This tale is one that has so many layers that I had to read and re-read to actually get the full picture, and I still feel like I’m missing so many things. What caught my attention first was the flow of the words, but then the meaning behind each line (or my interpretation of the meaning) reached up off the page and I was hit with this feeling of absolute desolation. Such a brilliant piece of work I admit I still haven’t fully managed to grasp.

“Grit sticks to my lips, bones cut my flesh.” As a young man my world was shaped by the lyrics of The The’s dystopian tinged album Infected. That line was as great as any of that fabled touchstone, a line I wished I had written. The sensory laden opening meander, a world of sugar and indulgence slowly sliding into a realm of dirt and grim was just wonderful. The rage and anger, resentment and despair … a work of beauty and challenge and a worthy runner up.

And now: for his second time: it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

CHRIS MILAM!!!

for

“Wireless Echoes”

J: If there was ever an award to be given for wordplay, this tale would deserve it. Just like the computer system, we’re presented with varying levels of processes designed to portray an almost visceral need for companionship and understanding. Beneath it all there is this throbbing ache for the character Faith that really hit me; even as her purpose to heal the narrator fills me with warmth, the question of her own fate is one that lingers.

IR: The opening line hooked me in deep, setting up what felt like a descent into a William Gibson neuromancer inspired maze. The subsequent unravelling didn’t disappoint. With each binary twist we delved deeper into this relationship that the writer captured with lyrical prose. “Vacant bones” that led to “gigabytes of ache,” the intersection of flesh and date wonderfully dissected. Yet the surface of information was peeled back to reveal the pain and despair that lingered at the core of this tale. A majestic ode to pain that left me reeling in a digital realm.

Congratulations, Chris! Below is your gorgeous, comfortingly familiar winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Wireless Echoes

We were birthed from machines. Armed with digital missives and vacant bones, we found one another behind a blinking cursor and gigabytes of ache. No skin. No voice. We yearned and soothed with prose typed from plastic keys.

Faith wasn’t only her name. She believed in soul mates and the fairy tale of true romance. She worshipped at the altar of sonnets and serendipity. Men had derailed those notions repeatedly.

Her poetry spoke of loss. Of fading heartbeats, like a wisp of crimson smoke dissolving in the night air. Her messages, her electrified ink, told stories of fractured encounters.

She lounged on my synthetic lap. I asked for her sorrow and a purging of the loneliness. Her analog heart spilled throbbing blood across my screen. I cleansed it with a sympathetic text.

I was the therapist. She was the savior. Her melancholy ruminations suffocated my own pain. Faith reached through the machine like a replicated angel and healed me.

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