Tag Archive | Rasha Tayaket

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 15: WINNERS

Happy Monday! Such fun, kicking off a week with winners and prizes and sparkly fiery confetti. And, obviously, TimTams WHICH, I will have you know, coincidentally guest starred in a Daily Science Fiction story last week called “Garbage Trucks of Discontent” (it’ll be posted at their site on Wednesday; because I find this whole TimTam thing hilarious, I will be sure to let y’all know when ).  

NO SPOTLIGHT interview tomorrow: these are a great deal of fun!! But I’m taking this week off so I can finish reading Silverwood and then interview our clever Betsy Streeter all about it.  

However, coming up we’ve still got Warmup Wednesday, then Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. And then, because time travels entirely too fast, it’ll be Friday. Again! 

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Dragon Captains Carlos Orozco/Eric Martell sayThis week we had some extremely original stories. Every story was different enough that we didn’t feel like we were reading a different draft of the same story, which is very difficult considering you all are so limited by photo prompts and required story elements. You can never make it easy, can you?  Again, just a reminder, we gave the edge to stories that fully incorporated the required story element which this week was setting.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Geoff Holme, “Character Assassination.”Best use of dialect. This is one you need to read aloud. 

Ray Morris, A Pirate’s Life For Me.”- Be careful what you wish for! Let this story remind us (in a humorous way) that what we want to say isn’t always as obvious as we think.  {Note: Lest you think Ray’s a newbie — a note that he won Flash! Friday’s very first public contest back in January 2013, with a scant 50 words. Oooo! ahhh! Here’s the link.}

Luccia Gray, Mary’s Alone.” – One of us had this as the best story of the week, but it didn’t really utilize the setting the way we’d hoped for. A chilling portrayal of bullying, control, and fear. 

Josh Bertetta, Eric Doesn’t Care For Titles.” – We loved this story – it was funny, clever, and well-written. But it seemed a little too much like it was written for *us*, and not to tell the best story possible for the prompts. Still, a wonderful read. 

Rasha Tayaket, Heat.” – Haunting. Just haunting. Might have to join up with the teller and get some aluminum arrows our own bad selves.  

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Reg Wulff, Warrior’s Song.” What we liked about this one was the uniqueness of the story while still being very believable within the picture prompt. A kabuki theater is not that farfetched, yet this was the only story that tested that idea. The plot was delivered skillfully, waiting until the last minute to reveal the twist. Very well done.

Brett Milam, The Forgotten.” This was one story whose first line gives us a superb description. “The dark pus of my brain dripped between the fingers of yesterday’s mistakes.” This line uniquely describes what remembering something forgotten feels like. The broken sentences throughout help enhance the feeling of things forgotten. In reality, who remembers things in flowing prose? It’s all bits and pieces that battle to surface, and we believe this piece captures that.

Brian Creek, “Taped Transcript of Officer Mitchell.” This story experimented with format, which helped it stand out from the rest. The first piece of information is very detailed which helps to gently lower the reader into the story. From there on it’s very believable dialogue that wins us over. This is one that we wished could keep going, but holds its own as is.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Jessica Franken, “Libero.” What happened at the archery match? The sadness of one kind of loss (competition) blends into the anger of another kind (love gone wrong). The line “We all laugh a little, except Kristi and Erin, whose parents are divorcing.” tells so much in just a few words. We can picture the girls there on the bus, see their faces, hear the nervous laughter. Mr. Anders might not get his target, but what damage can he do along the way?

SECOND RUNNER UP

Alicia VanNoy Call, To Fly.” The first description in this just pulled us in and didn’t let go, “I stand at the edge of the lot, where the pavement is cracked by dandelions.” That one sentence created the setting in ways that nothing else could. The characters in this were also great. Here we were given the one who died for an idea bigger than both of them, and the one who kept his/her promise so that the first’s death wouldn’t be in vain. And all of this was executed in 208 satisfying words.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Michael Seese, “Bulls-eye.” All’s fair in love and war. Gloria thought it was love. Ted declared war. In just a couple hundred words, the author shows us the aftermath of a love gone bad and then – just maybe – hope, not for reconciliation, but for acceptance. A lot of flash stories try for a twist at the end which ends up invalidating the whole story, but this one brings clarity.

DRAGON WINNER

Taryn Noelle Kloeden!!!

for

“Reincarnation”

Whether you believe in spiritual reincarnation or not, the knowledge that whether as matter or energy, all that is is all that has been and all that will be is a powerful one. But while we always hear about those who were King Arthur or Leonardo daVinci in past lives, if we have lived before, we’re all much more likely to have taken an arrow to the chest. This story paints life after life in bits of powerful detail and brought a fascinating idea to a beautiful telling. It takes a deft hand to have five distinct (by one count) settings in such a short story, which means that details need to be sharp and to the point. Each scene as brutal as the last, each death as meaningless. “All that there ever was, so there is now.”

Congratulations, Taryn! It’s been a while — couldn’t be more pleased to see you back at the top! Here’s your freshly updated winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here ASAP so I can interview you for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature (can’t wait to hear — officially — what you’ve been up to!). And now, here is your winning story!

Reincarnation

“Energy is not created nor destroyed, all that there ever was, so there is now.” Dr. Howard scratched the words ‘Conservation of energy’ across the dusty blackboard. Physics, the only class I ever failed.

The sky is above me. But it’s not all puffy clouds and soaring birds. Smog paints the stratosphere in jaundiced hues. There are power lines and buildings framing my spotted vision.

Last time the sky was cerulean. And I wasn’t alone. There were men all around, sporting musket holes, and trading groans.

But the time before, the sky was black. So were my robes, my hair, my blade’s sheath. I never saw the arrow coming, but I did feel it burrow into my chest. Blood welled, leaking with each shuttering thump of my foolish heart.

“The atoms in your body were forged in stars, breathed by mammoths. All that you are will never disappear. It will merely change shape.”

Warped sirens. The cold pull of blood-loss sinking me into the asphalt. I’ll be the headline on the 6:00 news. ‘Twenty Year Old Stabbed in Broad Daylight’.

Knife, musket, arrow. Burning in the heart of stars, raining, freezing, digesting, growing, decaying. I feel it all.

All that there ever was, so there is now.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 13: WINNERS

Greetings, all! Thanks for your patience as we worked feverishly over this week’s results; a LOT of effort goes into selecting the winners, and this week your judges have done you proud. Your stories were amazing and, I might add, quite OUT OF THE BOX; doing battle over the winner’s list as well as the time zones separating the hemispheres isn’t for the faint of heart. Raise your mocha lattes, and let’s hear it for today’s Dragon Team One, Image Ronin & Joidianne!

COME BACK TOMORROW for an interview with the fabulous freelance writer Carol Tice, who’s going to dish on the crazy worlds of self-publishing and marketing. You won’t want to miss her incredibly helpful and practical suggestions on these topics.

And then comes Warmup Wednesday, followed by Thursday’s Sixty Seconds interview with today’s winner. Then it’s back once more into the glorious madness of Flash! Friday! 

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Dragon Captains Image Ronin/Joidianne saySo you went and did it this week didn’t you? Be aspirational, the dragon demanded; take this image of axes and toil and run wild. Well you did, so much so that we were still wrestling, in the figurative not literal sense (which IR is particularly glad of as he reckons J would definitely win) with how to shorten a list down from tales that shifted from fairy tales to sci-fi, through to laments to loss and desiring better lives. The focus, however, was what we as writers all do: to aspire, and aspiration, in its many and varied forms was the keystone for each tale featured below that made the final podium.

We should add that the wonderfully talented @Avalinakreska took us somewhere completely unexpected this round, and though sadly it couldn’t be considered, it would be remiss to not advise you to have a peruse of her comic tale The Whetting Stone.

Anyway, here we go folks, trust me when I say this was so much harder that you can imagine and we enjoyed each and every tale. Yet as always, adopting our best Highlander pose, there can be only one … so here we go.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Title That Most Demanded a Dictionary Check: M.T. Decker, “Malappropriate.” (Still confused even now.)

Line That Still Makes Us Shudder: Eliza Archer, “Tough Meat.” Terror makes tough meat, she says, but it is nothing you can’t stew away.”

Art Critic Funnybone: Betsy Streeter, “I Am Going to Be Great.” The desire to capture “intentional mud” made the art critic in me roar with laughter.

Award for a Title That Could Have Been on The Queen is Dead by The Smiths: Phil Coltrane, “With a Light in His Eyes That Could Burn the World.”

Evocative Title: Steph Ellis, “Grimm Beginnings.” Nothing else need be said, surely. 

Best Flow of Words: Susan O’Reilly, “A Gentleman’s Promise.” 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Tamara Shoemaker, Someday Soon.” IR: The knight in shining armor within this narrative shines little, and lacks anything but false aspirations. The desire to move on, to exist beyond a life of toil and pain is elegantly captured. The writing, both descriptive and emotive, was delicately interwoven with moments of detail: “the drops evaporating before they could even cool her skin”; “the sun […] sunk behind the silver horizon.”; “the flow of stain instead of calico.” The sensory notes, kinesthetic and emotional were wonderfully implemented and the empowerment that the final line delivers, the desire to dance to the beat of her own drum, was a wonderful close to a well-written tale.

Becky Spence, Home.” J: This tale was so ominous because of the questions it left. How old is Lily? Why is she running from the man? Who is the man? All of those questions are left floating in your head and they’re amplified by Lily’s despair when her escape is thwarted. Well deserving of an honourable mention, and we would love to read more.

Marie McKay, “Oh What a Big Appetite You Have.” J: I’m always one for horror with a bit of gore, and this tale hit the spot in spectacular fashion. The lack of empathy for the wolf cub was absolutely chilling and the transition from hunter to Little Red skipping to Grandma’s house made it even more spine-tingling.

Nancy Chenier, “Sharpened.” IR: “folded into an origami nightingale” that line, a perfect cinematic beat, captured me totally. The balance of description and despair, the desire to help someone. I found myself lost in a Nikita-inspired realm … where vengeance is desired above all. 

Peg Stueber-Temp and Tea, “Creation’s Point of View.” An intriguing entry that much like “Dream(less)”, took us on a sensory laden journey into the prompts. The perspective of being the art itself, voyeuristically examining the “muse draped around him”, was wonderfully atmospheric, and the layering of aspirations, from artist to muse, to the desire of this created object to become one with its creator was an intriguing approach.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Rasha Tayaket, “Dream(less).” 

IR: “If you give a man hope, then he is going to want to pursue a dream. “ On first reading the words flowed like Renton’s anti-consumerism spiel as he flees in Trainspotting. However, as I moved on, the flow of those words continued to echo, a stream of consciousness that became a river that hurtled me along at break neck speed. The structure and beat, wrapped around the repetition of ‘if’ took this flash entry into an unexpected direction: one that flickered between narration and a social critique of, not only our axe-wielding labourer, but the reality of our existence in a 21st century dominated by corporate interests.

J: This tale reminded me of the snake eating its tail. There was such a level of futility because every dream and hope was chipped away at until there was nothing left and it brings to mind the question ‘It is better to have loved and lost?’ because in this case it seems that without the hope, the man might not have realized how much he’d lost in the first place. It seems that the only thing that hope brought was even more despair.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Roger Shipp, Found in Mom’s Scrapbook.” 

J: This story grabbed me because of the level of deception implied between the lines. Was Mr. Turney Eleanor’s current husband, and if so did she leave another family behind to be with him? Or did she con Mr. Turney from the very start with no intentions of following through? It’s a lovely twist and I guess the truth is up to the reader.

IR: Sometimes a writer approaches a tale with a format that delivers stylistically, but misses the mark in telling an actual story. FIMS, however, delivers with both taking the photo prompt, and playing off the demand for aspiration as the driving force between Eleanor and Lorenso. “ I am also an honest woman”: this statement lingers at the heart of the tale, a statement that can be read as one forging links, or alternatively a Machiavellian gambit. The demand that she will answer “no questions” and Lorenso’s faith in wiring “travelling expenses” leaves the reader in a narrative which is not so much the coming together of star-crossed-lovers but the sense of a potential long con in which one party preys on an oblivious other. I found myself long pondering Eleanor, and what the daughter ever knew of Lorenso. Was he indeed a father to her or just some correspondent locked up in a scrapbook with other victims of her mother’s wiles? A delightful tale whose structure offered up more questions than answers.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Alicia VanNoy Call, “Human.” 

J: What really got me about this piece was the question that it left me with at the end…’what is it to be human?’ The contrast of the narrator’s physical being and the lives it has led brought that question to the forefront of my mind, and its yearning to have one more chance leaves the tales on a sorrowful note that stayed with me until the very end. In the end I think that narrator was more human than it realized.

IR: Ah, the desire for immortality. Whereas our winner took us off frame, this worthy runner up took us into an alternate reality.  We strode across a thousand lifetimes, each offering our narrator only stepping stones, brief moments that he clung to in his desire to truly exist. For a moment I found myself poised in Blade Runner “a boy, space walking to fix a broken valve on his ship, turning his head to take in a nebula’s wash of iridescence”, and like Roy Batty the question of what we aspire to be, and the reality of getting it came to the fore. The question of eternity, the longing to have another moment, one that captures the essence of what our existence is permeates the narrative. The aspiration here leading isn’t to touch the stars, but to remain close to the earth. A wonderful piece of writing.

DRAGON WINNER

DEB FOY!!!

for

“Dead Fruit”

J: This tale is a beautiful and macabre depiction of grief and what it can drive a person to. There is a point, about mid-way through the piece, when something suddenly doesn’t feel right.  The comments made by the narrator, the hatred focused on Leah, it starts to feel like a build up to something more and the story surely delivered in the end. A brilliant piece, completely out of the box, and well deserving of the first place this week.

IR: The despair in this tale was evocative. Taking the photo prompt as a backdrop the sense of toil, of scratching out an existence marked by loss, was wonderfully represented. Aspiration was the theme, and here it was a subtext, a horrid terrifying burden that drives our narrator into actions and words unspeakable. Whereas the photo prompt offered up an image of a masculinity struggling to eke out an existence, the writer here took us a far more disturbing conflict within the domestic sphere. In this off frame space we are subject to the cruel inversion of desire and dreams cruelly lost. A truly evocative tale.

Congratulations AGAIN, Deb! Please find below the rights to your third 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 EVEN MORE interview questions for this Thursday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Dead Fruit

Leah hopes for what I have. That’s why she comes less.

“I brought roots,” she says, the smell of manure and earthworms clinging to her. Carrots and potatoes tumble from her apron and thud onto the oaken slab.

“No fruit?” I stay rocking, my fingers entwined with burlap-brown yarn, a blanket for my angel-boy.

“William and me didn’t get much from the trees.” Barren as a babe and too ignorant to see the jab. “This one’s for pain,”–hands rough as a man’s hold up green herbs–“an’ this one’s for sleep.”

“Reckon I’ll need that.” My cheeriness unhidden. “Way he keeps us up at night, Silas has taken to sleeping with the mare.”

Her felt-gray eyes peg me, ruddy cheeks ugly with envy. Does William ever regret picking her?

She turns and I stand. “Do you have to leave? Don’t you wanna hold him?” I scoop our baby from his cradle. “He sleeps deep as death.”

My hips sway and when a tear slides down her plain face, I almost feel for her.

“Naomi,” she’s saying and my muscles stiffen. “Please, let us bury him?”

Hatred, a freshly filed axe, cuts through the sapling of sympathy taking root.

“Get out!” I scream it, clinging to my future, my hope.

FFwinner-Web