Tag Archive | Ifemmanuel

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 37: WINNERS!

Happy Results Day! Y’all went utterly nuts this week in commenting on each other’s tales. Thank you so much to the many, many of you who took the time to do so. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say your stories are changing lives, as you encourage each other and drive us all to write better. There is certainly no obligation to comment, but know how grateful the entire FF team & community are to you for making such a precious investment. What’s a silly old dragon badge by comparison?? 


Judge Aria Glazki says: Well, unsurprisingly, you all have done it again — made my job, which seems so simple, incredibly difficult. So many stories offered something special, whether that was the message, the unique form,  the masterful imagery, the emotion conveyed, or the inventive take on the prompt. My “narrowed-down” list was still far too long. I have faith, however, that those stories which unfortunately had to be cut away from my list will have received the praise they deserve in the comments, because that’s how awesome this community is.



Margaret Locke, “Oh Captain, My Captain.” Death caused by a careless caress, what a poignant image and core to this story, that throws new light on the arrogance we think we understand at first and leaves us with heartbreak in its place. (And congratulations to Margaret on the Flash! Friday anniversary!)

Abraham Wolfgang, “The Pirate’s Lament.” Containing a story in a limiting form is always bold, and in this case it also works. The form here leaves so few words to tell the story, and yet neither the form nor the story is sacrificed.

Evan Montegarde, “Failure on Nexius 7 Prime.” What a lesson on the cost of arrogance, and on treating people well, in this inventive take on the prompt. The added arrogance of Blake provides extra depth, as I can’t help thinking  he’ll have his comeuppance for torching an entire planet.


Ife Oluwa, “Why Captain Show Teeth Like Shark.” The voice here! That unseen observer’s role, coupled with the voice, gives us such a good sense of the narrator as a character. The bewilderment of the title suddenly makes perfect sense when drenched in this voice (and what an image there, too!).

Sarah Cain, “A Reversal of Fortune.” This story turns the expected on its head, with the help of its great central line: “They expect me to die. I do not plan to oblige them.” Not only does the marooned sailor escape his fate, but he also gets revenge by inflicting the same punishment the others tried to achieve. “They will hallucinate.” Not our narrator. “They will writhe in agony.” Not our narrator. “They will perish.” Not our narrator. With the amount of intelligence and foresight his plan required, you can’t help but think this narrator’s own arrogance is well deserved.

Chris Milam, “Isle of the Condemned.” Fantastic imagery from the very first line here paints this story with paradoxes. The sun’s greeting is a “searing kiss.” The “tranquil morning” is closely followed by the “waves heaving and groaning.”  The captain’s breath is “sweet with rum,” while his actions are anything but. And the arrogance of our narrator’s attackers juxtaposes her own, in anticipating her revenge. Well crafted.

M. T. Decker, “Alone.” At first glance, this story stands on the strength of its surprise ending. We get the drama of the experience of being marooned, the introspection that goes along with it, only to have it both undermined and strengthened by learning Nox is actually looking at a painting. The use of the palindrome is quite interesting as well, both tying this story to exile (in Elba) and warning us that everything’s about to be flipped.

Rachael Dunlop, “I Am Therefore I Own.” The internal journey of this narrator was captivating. We go from a soul-crushing solitude that brings him to tears when finally touched by another living being, to the destruction of that being, for the narrator’s physical sake. What a commentary on human nature, well supported by the imagery and underscored by the title.


Taryn Noelle Kloeden, “A God in Ruins.” There’s so much story in this piece. We’re taken from the build-up of a hero, an upstanding character who follows divine rules, to the seduction of arrogance, through to the inevitable end. The use of “I rose / I rose / I rise / I fall” lends structure and rhythm to the story, and to the beats of an entirely human life. All in all, this is an effective and evocative representation of hubris, from the seeds that sprout it to the realization of mortality and self that wipes it away.


Karl A. Russell, “The Sailor’s Lament.” So, I have to admit, I have a weakness for Faustian deals (I even wrote multiple papers on them in University!). While that helped this story catch my eye, however, the piece also stands on its own. The “devil” character’s demeanor is achieved so well with the mention of his “too-wide smile” paired with his lines of dialogue. The wisher’s constantly cut off dialogue works wonderfully. The danger of the arrogance involved in striking such a deal is excellently portrayed, as is the bewilderment of getting precisely what you wished for, versus what you wanted. I also loved the subtle bitterness of the line “nothing to do but enjoy it” that ties the story together oh so well.

And now: as only the second-ever BACK-TO-BACK WINNER (after Cindy Vaskova), it’s Flash! Friday





Where do I even start with this story? It stayed with me as I read the others, which may say it all. “Lucre has a way of muting morality” is a very strong center for this piece — that awareness of man’s fallibility, while also a distance from understanding that draw of riches, highlighting the difference between man and God, in a story that on the surface only likens the two. 

The initial misdirect of the Captain’s involvement that makes such perfect sense in retrospect; the repetition of the line “against the laws of man. And God,” coming first from the doubt of those involved in a heinous choice, and second from the weary resignation of the one charged with being the “Captain of all men”; the chilling and poignant message of the burden inherent in being God; the pain and the solitude of being the one responsible… Overall, there’s just so much in these few words. 

Was the Captain arrogant in creating man? Were the men arrogant in praying to the Captain while knowing they broke those aforementioned laws? Is the very expectation of them being good, and the vengeance that follows when they’re not, also arrogant? An answer isn’t simple in this incredibly complex, thought-provoking story.

Congratulations AGAIN, Michael! Below is the still-gorgeous winner’s badge for your wall. Here again are your (updated) winner’s page and your (latest) winning tale on the (updated) winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for the new questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds II interview. And here is your winning story:


They’re all dead. And it’s my responsibility. Mine alone. I am the Captain, after all.

The scalding sands — and the memory — may well have been the fires of Hell. With no clouds above, the sun is a relentless, yet honest, adversary. I wondered if I had erred. Should I have done otherwise?

When setting sail, some of the more superstitious men voiced concerns.

“Trafficking is wrong.”

“They’re just children.”

“Using them like that is against the laws of man. And God.”

But lucre has a way of muting morality.

As the storm turned their ship into kindling and their bodies into chum, the crew looked to me for guidance. They prayed I would help. I turned a blind eye. Indeed, not only did I ignore their pleas, I doubled my vengeance. Because they were right. Their actions were against the laws of man.

And God.

Such is the burden I bear as the Captain of all men.





Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 32: WINNERS!

Happy Sunday, and welcome back for our newest contest results! Tragedy and woe played large roles in your themes, which feels especially fitting given this week’s headlines. Thank you for taking the time to share your worlds and skills with us. Come on back tomorrow, if you’re in the mood, to get an up-close-and-personal look at one of your fantastic tales at #FlashPoints.

One last reminder (waaaah!) for the #DogDays contest, whose deadline is this Tuesday, July 22, at 11:59pm Washington DC time. Lots of stories already elbowing their way to the top — be sure to add yours!!! Link here and in the sidebar.


Judge Aria Glazki says: The creativity and diversity of this week’s stories are simply astounding. Not only did you have allusions to different cultures and religions, showcasing the assortment of backgrounds within this community, but you also addressed the full range of relationships, from the truly disturbing to the heartbreakingly self-sacrificing. Like in the Olympic arena, we went from one impressive performance straight to the next. I almost wish there was a code of points for flash fiction — my job would have been much easier! Many lines caught my attention, and ranking stories meant making unbelievably tough choices. So well done, all around!



Flawless imagery: Mark A. King, “The Weight.” “A sound. The splatter of colour.”; Marie McKay, “Balance.” “My image sits in little glass cages mounted on living room walls” (oh the layers!).

Maggie Duncan, “In A Distant Voice.” Wonderful growth to the character aided by the subtlety of what spurs it. A lesson she could only learn for herself and yet probably wishes she hadn’t.

Michael Seese, “Big Sister.” Such strong use of perspectives with the quoted lines and of time passing. Unexpected horror growing so naturally from a sibling relationship we had assumed was adorable and entirely normal.


ifemmanuel, Untitled. “Left foot, right foot” — four simple words, and yet they give this story such a solid sense of rhythm, while also underscoring the character’s feeling of being trapped: as herself, in the background, in this world of gymnastics.

Rasha, “Redeem.” A short moment but with so much weight behind it. The use of numbers was subtle yet perfectly methodical, just like a winning gymnast, allowing the last line, “Ten. Ten. Ten.” to have immense impact

Lisa Shambrook, “Balance.” This story tells us everything we need to know in its first line, even though we can’t understand it yet. So it takes us through a lifetime of hurt, leaving us with a powerful yet understated image and filling out the bookended first line with all of that emotion.  Very well done. 

Nicholas Stearns, “Way to Salvation.” The first sentence here immediately grounds us in the world of the story — “Excited howls from hounds and men echoed through the dense forest.” We’re dropped straight into Anna’s emotions, trapped between an internal fear and an external threat, in a unique story that’s at once entirely unrelated to gymnastics and yet perfectly suited to the prompt. 


Amy Wood, “A Star is Made.” This story is unexpected in a wonderful way. The initial, potentially off-putting pride of the mother — comparing the other gymnasts to “workhorses” — is flipped with the context, becoming sympathetic defiance — “So I’d sold my soul to get her healthy, what of it?” What would a mother do for her sick, dying child? Absolutely anything, and don’t you dare tell her she can’t.


Brett Milam, “Tumble.” I kind of hate that my position this week meant I had to read this story multiple times, because it is just so incredibly horrifying (and I don’t do well with horror). Such vivid descriptions, and the line, “She was perfect, once.” is so simple on its own, but becomes, in this story, absolutely haunting. And to top it off, we get a thought-provoking commentary on the world behind the perfection and smiles. 


Image Ronin, “The Champ.” I love how this story lets our own preconceptions from the image lead us astray, then strengthens those preconceptions with the flash back moments, then turns it all on its head. The lights? Not a spotlight, but a cop car. The audience? Not thousands of fans but a cop. The inevitable, promised day? Not the shining Olympic moment but the low point on a self-destructive path.  Each of those moments draws us down the wrong path and yet entirely holds up even when we know where the story’s going while rereading.

And now: joining the sparkly group of three-timers, it’s Flash! Friday




“The Routine”

What a journey for this character. The disappointment and shame all still there, all still driving her, and yet taking a back seat to the fun twist of her new life, and of coming into herself.  “Diamonds sparkled like tear-filled eyes” sums it up perfectly. Once, she’d been considered subpar, with tear-filled eyes, denied even a trip to the museum, and now her gymnastics opens every world for her, even those denied others, sparkling like diamonds and there for the taking. This triumph is even stronger with the juxtaposition of the discipline and submission to rules her gymnastics teacher must have wanted to instill, and the life Cherry built with those skills. “In your face…and thank you.” A wonderful balance (no pun intended!). Editor’s Note: The Flash! Friday dragons love this story too but would like to make it clear their personal hoard of diamonds, should such a thing exist, is off-limits.

Congratulations, Karl! Here’s another brilliant winner’s badge for your wall! Here also is your gold medal updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please stand by so I can interview you yet AGAIN, lucky dragon, for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

The Routine

Cherry stepped into the deserted gallery and paused. The silence was heavy, expectant, like the moment before the tape clicked in, everyone waiting to see what she could do. Hopefully no one was watching her now.

Bending low, moving to a rhythm heard only in her heart, Cherry began to dance. She kicked and leapt, one graceful step after another, seeing not the museum but the gym floor. In her curiously doubled vision, she saw Miss Rushworth and her team even as she saw the glass cases and display boards. She had never been to the museum before, denied that treat when her clumsy dismount cost them the final, and the ancient shame reddened her cheeks as she made her final leap.

With a perfect dismount, she cleared the last alarm beam and took the glass cutters from her belt. Inside the case, the diamonds sparkled like tear-filled eyes.

“In your face, Miss Rushworth…”

She reached inside.

“And thank you.”





Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 5: WINNERS!

Happy Sunday evening! I hope everyone’s had a pleasant weekend and you’re all set for a fresh week. Just look ahead at all these lovely days filled with potential! May we all make wise and abundant use of them. With a dash o’ crazy thrown in for good measure, obviously. And plenty of coffee. 

Here are a few opening comments from our fabulous Year Two judge M. T. Decker. She blogs further about the judging experience here.

She says: Once again I am pleased, surprised and awed at the amount of emotion, adventure, horror and humor you all are able to evoke in 140-160 words.  I find myself learning even as I rate the stories, because judging a story I have to go beyond “I like this” and get into “why.” Why do I like it?  What did the author do to make their story stand out, and why did they do it?  Why does one twist, or point of view or word redefine a story – take it from a good story to a great story? 

For me, a great story is like an old friend.  The first time you read a story—you’re meeting them for the first time, but there is some quality that brings a smile to your face and makes you seek them out again, and when you do find them again and re-read the story, you remember not only the story but the way it made you feel, long before you finish reading.  That, my friends, is staying power and part of what makes a story great.

Before I begin, I would like to thank our other three current judges for their entries – they provide excellent examples of great-stories, and great writers.  These ladies turn out some amazing stories on a consistent basis week after week.  So, thank you Erin McCabe, Nillu Nasser Stelter, and Whitney Healy for sharing your talents with us this, and every, week!



Zevonesque, “Owl and the Arrogant Giant.”  This story is a case of doing research on the actual picture and the history surrounding it and  including the tree’s final demise in the weaving of a good fable.  This is something that takes a particular talent, not only to execute the story so well, but to make it seem effortless.  Well done! 

Catherine Connolly, “Interludes.” Through a series of slow dissolves, Catherine tells a tale spanning anywhere from 20 to 50 years from the point of view of a tree.  This creative technique allows her to spin a tale with more depth and breadth than 160 words should be able to tell, and gives it a sense of timelessness.  This technique allows her to show, not tell the story and is masterfully done.

Charles W. Short, “TreeGate.” This story was an original take on the prompt.  “TreeGate” reads almost like a newspaper clipping, sparse in details and very factual, but the last little twist, and implied ending is notably haunting and leaves the reader with a slight shiver that stays with them: creepy, in a well written and haunting kind of way.


Kristen Falso-Capaldi, “iPhone 40TT/S.” Through a resourceful use of dialog, Kristen takes us to a time when Time Travel has been, for lack of a better term… app-ed.  But that is only the first layer to the story because it also hints at how the relationship between man and machine has changed.  Asking Siri to call him ‘sexy’ speaks to Oscar’s need to feel wanted and cared about, and through him we get a glimpse into life in the future.  It speaks of the human condition and the fact that even with the whole of history at hand… sometimes all you really want is a good burger.  But again there are layers.  Is the burger a burger, or is it a metaphor for a better time, a more innocent time?  That question is left as a tantalizing thread that left me hungering for an answer… and a trip to Bob’s Big Boy.


Image Ronin, “Traveling Without Moving.” This story has a slow, almost lyrical pace to it that makes it feel as if it could indeed be the thoughts of a 2,000 year old tree.  The first line draws the reader in: “I seek solace within ancient tales, of sap and water, root and growth.”  There’s not only a musical quality to the words, but these are things that a tree would value above all else.   Establishing this point of view makes the narrator’s final declaration that much more poignant, and leaves me longing for ancient tales of sap and water, root and growth…

And now: raise your glasses with me to our




“Still Standing”

In “Still Standing,” Margaret misdirects us ever so slightly—making us think that we are hearing another tale from the tree’s point of view. And then in a clever twist Margaret lets the theme flow from the narrator to the tree, allowing them to reflect each other, and the tree goes from a metaphor of the narrator’s suffering to a fellow survivor and monument to the fact that they are indeed… still standing.  I have always believed that while there is life there is hope, and this story states that message with such mastery that it leaves the reader with a sense of haunting determination.  This story, like an old friend, makes me smile whenever I think of it—and that is part of what makes it this week’s Flash! Friday Winner.

Congratulations, Margaret, on your third win! Your brand new winner’s badge waits, jumping up and down, for you below. Here is your updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please watch your inbox for a new set of questions for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Still Standing

I long to go back. Back to when I was young, to when my roots felt strong, to when I wanted nothing more than to branch out into the world, soaking up sunshine. Life was easy then, back when I was solid, before she ripped this gaping hole in me. Many have passed through since. None have fixed me, though a few tried.

I eye the giant hulk of a tree before driving underneath it. In and out in a flash. That tree and I are alike. Relics of a past life – a passed life -, shells of who we once were, damaged by those who thought they’d found a better way.

I stop the car. I walk back to the tree, touching it, caressing it. “I’m sorry,” I murmur, not sure whether I’m apologizing to it or myself. Spindly forest surrounds us. We are giants among weaklings, the tree and I. Scarred. Broken. But we are still standing.