§ Rebekah says: Happy Monday! Here we are with the latest round of contest results—a delight, as ever, platforming your words. Speaking of platforms: be sure to drop by yesterday’s Flash!Future if you haven’t yet, featuring Fire&Ice writers P.A. (Maggie) Duncan & Bill Engleson. We’ll highlight two more writers next weekend to round out our collection of Sunday posts. And finally, we’ve just two more contests before closing up our five-month (!) run. This Friday will be judged by the most Excellent Betsy Streeter & Karl Russell. For the final contest on December 18 Deb Foy and I will serve as your judges, and we are excited to mail off a rather amazing pile of prizes to the winner. We hope you all will be able to join us for one last merry round before we collectively and permanently ban 2020 from the present. And now on to the winners!
Quick note on judging: Six pairs of judges across multiple nationalities and genres are taking turns reading your submissions (meet the judges here). As soon as each contest round closes, your stories are first stripped of all personal info before being sent on for judging. This represents our effort to maximize every story’s chances, whether it’s the first or hundredth story you’ve written. ♥
SOL 17’S JUDGES SAY:
Tamara Shoemaker: It’s been so much fun to dip back into the flash fiction world these last few months and reminisce over the short and powerful stories that eke out of the weekly prompts. Thanks again to the Dragons, who trusted me with the responsibility of weighing your words, to my fellow judge Eric Martell, who has good-naturedly put up with my plethora of emails in his inbox during our judging weekends, and to each one of you for consistently dazzling me with astounding stories. I have enjoyed this sojourn!
Two quick shout-outs before we jump into the winners list: Tinman’s “Water Sport,” for making me snort coffee up my nose at “burst gloriously through the surface right into the midst of the Danish Synchronised Swimming team.” Helen Laycock‘s “Ocean Lament“: for the gorgeous and heart-breaking Romeo/Juliet-esque love story.
Eric Martell: In all of the chaos that 2020 has brought, there have been not nearly enough lights in the
darkness, and one that has been a big part of my life the last few months has been the return of Flash! Friday. The combined work of the Ice and Fire Dragon Queens, and their graciousness in inviting me to judge, has allowed me to return to writing and given me the privilege of reading so many wonderful stories. This marks the third and final go-round for me in the hot seat. I appreciate your indulgence and your patience with my judging idiosyncrasies. Thank you. And for whatever poetry I lack in my words, you get to read those of the incredible Tamara Shoemaker.
Before we get to the winners, I’d like to give a few shout-outs to: Becky Spence‘s “Untitled” [I stand on the cliff top]: “Always waiting, for that part of me to return.” StellaKateT‘s “The Sea Shall Give Up Her Dead“: What we lose when we extinguish another’s light. And Phil Coltrane‘s “0°C“: “I’m sorry, my dear. I thought you were someone else.” Thanks to everyone who wrote this week. It took forever to narrow my list down this far.
“Black Sea Dreams” by Maggie Duncan
TS: This story, encased in some vivid mermaid bookends, shows such a sharp contrast between one life and the other, one subterfuge and the next. Loved it!
EM: When we pretend, for a time, we may become another.
“Untitled” (Arielle Danced) by Mark Giacomin
TS: I was particularly caught by the way the words of the story themselves became the ocean in the weighted limbs, the oblivion-covered memories, and the dancing water. Simply gorgeous!
EM: A beautiful story of grief and the dangers of being consumed by it.
“Waterling” by Nancy Chenier
TS: This story touched on my mother’s heart and made me tear up a little. Granted, my own children are no waterlings, but most parents identify with the necessary distance that takes place in the inevitable growing stages. I could feel this parent’s despair in this line: “Or all the love I poured into this little boy only for it to evaporate into a spritely haze of indifference, webbed fingers always slipping from my hand.”
EM: We raise our children knowing they are their own people, that one day they will leave us and begin their own lives. We don’t expect it to happen at the age of four, nor that they will sink beneath the sea to begin a new life. This story broke my heart.
And now: it is our pleasure to present to you our
“Untitled (I’m Sorry, I Thought You Were Water)“
TS – I agree with Eric in his comments below; the opening line of this one snagged
my attention immediately and kept me riveted the entire way through the story. I loved how this
story is a communication, almost a eulogy from a lover to his beloved who has gone before. The
enforced separation between what is above and what is below is gutting, and brought to mind the
African proverb: “A fish and a bird can fall in love, but the two cannot build a home together.”
The narrator’s impotence with “I fell back…” shattered me; the emotion all too readily resonates
with many of us as we watch our biggest dreams, hopes, desires slip through our fingers. This
was so well done, and very deserving of the win.
EM — What an opening line! The first line of the first story of the week, and I was
hooked. We try to stay attached to the people we love, but we don’t always walk the same path.
Sometimes, they’re not who we think they are, or wish them to be. This story painted that picture
so well, with such vivid imagery, that it was impossible to look away.
Congratulations, Betsy! Here’s your winning story:
Untitled (I’m Sorry; I Thought You Were Water)
I thought you were water.
I thought we spoke to each other in waves, and currents, and depths. I believed we felt the same seasons, saw the same colors.
We would swim side by side, every so often touching, squinting in the white sunlight from above, drifting in the dark below. I taught you what I knew. It wasn’t everything.
Sometimes we were still, other times we got tossed around, but we would pull back together like strands of kelp. Free-moving, but growing from the same stalk.
There are creatures that live so deep in the ocean dark they never bother to grow eyes.
You broke the surface, and I tried to follow. But howls of wind and machinery and screeches of gulls lashed my ears.
I fell back helpless, useless, and watched you shrink to a speck, now seen, now not, retreating toward the shore, forever.