Tag Archive | Steph Ellis

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 52: WINNERS

Howdy, y’all: welcome to our final regular results show for Flash! Friday — combined today with Saturday’s Flash Dash results (still rather mind-boggled that an 11-year-old managed to write an entire funny little story in the 30 minutes!).

As for the wealth of gorgeous, dragonish love you wrote Friday, I’m going to reserve my comments for Friday, when it’s my turn to say thanks. Remember we’ve a grand finale party this Friday (Dec 11) with Flashversary: mugs, posters, books, and all kinds of magnificent prizes at stake. I hope you’ll come back to write one last time. ♥ 

Tomorrow is our final global #Spotlight, this time featuring the lovely F.E. Clark from Scotland. Be sure to join us! Haggis optional. 

Last for today: an enormous round of thanks to Dragon Team Eight, Voima Oy and A.J. Walker. I’ve loved this pairing: Voima’s poetic spirit, A.J.’s tongue-in-cheekiness (and Catherine’s faithful blinding of the tales–thank you too!). Your thoughtful choices, your funny and poignant comments, your cheery spirits, your enthusiasm, every bit of it. And especially to A.J. who, I think, may have given me more dragons than anyone. Thankful til I die? Oh yes. And beyond. ♥♥♥  

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Up first: Flash Dash results!!! love the frenetic world of Flash Dash, getting a little peek at how brains work, how stories are born. Your stories were sheer delight, and yes, some fantastic creativity, everything from genies to werewolves. A literary buffet, y’all. Thanks to all of you!

Special mention first up for 11-year-old Crystal Alden, who defied the time limitations and wrote a creative, cheeky story with a strong start and hilarious finish. Great job, Crystal — you had me laughing aloud. Read her story here.

⇒⇒ The winner of the $20 Flash Dash Cash prize is

Nancy Chenier

Strong voice, spot-on pacing, and OH MY LANDS what a last line, executed with perfection. You’ve earned this one, baby. Watch your inbox for details on how to get your loot. Congratulations! And everyone: read her winning story here.

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Now for the final regular round of Flash! Friday! Here are Dragon Team Eight’s final comments:   

V — Thank you for all your great stories. Epic and  intimate, tragic and funny and brave — each unique and special.  It has been an honor and a privilege and so much fun to be part of this Flash! Friday community. To come together, to share  stories is  a remarkable thing. It takes tremendous amount of time and effort to make this place, this creative space.  Thank you, Rebekah, for everything. 

And I could not ask for a better co-judge than AJ. Your sense of humor and positive spirit is a delight–not to mention your own amazing talent.  Thank you, AJ for making Dragon Team 8 great. Thank you, Catherine, for sending us the stories. We could not do this without you. You are an essential member of Dragon Team 8! 

With the closing of MicroBookends, and Three Line Thursday on hiatus, we bid farewell  to other inspiring places for very short poems and stories. Thank you, David and Grace, for all your hard work. Thursdays and Fridays will be different now. 

These are very special places–here, we can come together. To me, the comments from other writers are part of the appeal of Flash! Friday, Three Line Thursday and MicroBookends.  People feel free to interact, encourage each other, appreciate a good line, or a fantastic ending.  This means so much to a writer, especially a writer who is just starting, or beginning again, this thing that we all do.  

Friendships have been forged here. Lives have been changed here. Writers have been born and grown here. 

The community continues to grow and change, inspired by each other.  We know writing can be a lonely business. Life can be demanding, and sometimes it seems impossible to write at all. Yet we need imagination and stories more than ever. We need possibilities. We need to imagine better futures.  We will write on, I do believe this. And we are not alone.

AJW — When #Team8 were put together all those months ago and the schedule set down, little did we know that we’d end up judging the last of the regular Flash! Friday challenges. It has been an honour to serve our most lovely Mother of Dragons, Rebekah. We’ve all enjoyed the anticipation in seeing what photograph, what phrase or book was to be our touchstone each Friday. Sometimes they floated our boat, sometimes they went up in flames. But always there would be fireworks somewhere, somehow, and Fridays won’t be the same without it. I have sent a personal message to Rebekah and so won’t get too schmaltzy here, but needless to say she has been a star and can be justly proud with what she created here.

This week’s stories have been smothered in thick gloopy love and affection for this special place and the keeper of the keys. The ‘beautiful girl who lived here’ turned out to be Rebekah, and she was either a resplendent dragon herself or very close mates with one (or at least an egg).  

To Voimaoy — THANK YOU!  For your patience and understanding. And being an all-round great judging partner. It has been a true pleasure. and I think we have worked well together. Cheers  x.   Thanks as ever to Catherine for forwarding the stories to us so we could judge them blind. Thanks too to everyone who entered this week – I trust that you have all mopped up the tears from your keyboards and that none of your computers exploded into flame from tear damage (I’m sure insurance for tear damaged electronics is impossible to get – more chance of getting Dragon Cover).

After toying for a millisecond with the idea of making everyone a winner, that was discounted for being a cop out; someone deserves the last badge after all. It was a really tough call picking the top ten or so and then drilling down to the winner, but we have. So, without further ado, here’s our call:

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MENTIONS

Chris Milam, “Table for One.” A bite of reality

Karl A. Russell, “The Girl and the Egg.” A door, an eggshell, magic!  

Bart Van Goethem, “Rebirth.” Refreshingly unsentimental–with a wonderful one-word ending.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Carin Marais, “Arad’s Dragon.” V – A beautiful story of friendship — the epic economy of flash

Bill Engleson, “Thanks Stan.” AJ – Hey, I like humour, and this one made me laugh. Snappy dialogue. Simple idea. Not being allowed within 100 yards of a maiden again. Poor lamb. Thanks for the laugh!   

Stella Turner, “Sins of the Flesh.” V – Dark, dark, humour–Love this take and the turns of phrase–“sliced bread, butter knife”…and “caught devouring bacon” 

Jennifer Terry, “#TimelessBeauty.” AJ – Loved the emotion in this piece. Getting old gracefully, perhaps not confident in oneself, then a nice uplifting end. And of course I’m a big Twitter fan so it needs a mention (Twitter has been great for us writers, hasn’t it?) #uplifting 

Geoff Holme, “Aubade.” V – Although a late entry, this deserves mention for a lovely tribute–Aubade is a song of parting, and greeting a new dawn.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Craig Anderson, “Mother of Dragons.”

V — This one had me in tears.  It is heartfelt and beautiful in its simplicity–“The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free” to “How magnificent they are.”   This is a testament to the economy and power of flash. Wonderful and generous writing. 

AJW – ‘The hardest part about raising dragons is knowing when to set them free.’ Well, that first line says it all doesn’t it? Like so many of the stories this week the heart is well and truly on its sleeve, on a badge, on the T-Shirt and in bright flashing neon, but it doesn’t get in the way of the story. Bookended (don’t get me started on Microbookends please) by last line; ‘I gave them wings, now they must fly,’ it is an instruction. Or at least a call to try. You’ve all got an extra hour or so on Fridays from now on; see what you can do with it…

Graham Milne, “The Auction.” 

AJW – Lovely idea, perfectly written. Who’d have thought dragons could have had their teeth pulled and fire put out by Capitalism? Picturing the once-proud beast with paddle No.68 having to bid for their supper/maiden is a super/supper idea. ‘Faded scales that once glittered’ perfectly encapsulating the idea. 

V — I agree with AJ: it is a sad commentary on Capitalism and the current state of affairs in this materialistic world. It  is so well done, and I love the take on “dragons bidding”  too!  We need magic and humor more than ever.

Steph Ellis, “Legacy

AJW – If someone can sort out the music, it could become an anthem for the FlashDogs and the ‘brothers and sisters’ we’ve found through writing here at FFF. Some powerful phrases and another call to arms/pens. I especially liked ‘‘take their fire, and burn down the battlements, breach the closed doors, of literati’s elite.” I’m feeling emboldened just repeating it!  And yes, we do see “the Dragon horde gather.’ 

Stirring stuff – get out those power chords!  

V – Forged in a “volcanic nursery” out of the “monotonous monochrome of the safe and the known” — these are   powerful and moving  words. This is an anthem, and a manifesto. Write on!

 

 

SECOND RUNNER UP

The Imaginator, “A Beautiful Girl Lived Here” 

AJW – Who doesn’t like a bouncing bosom (or preferably two)? And I must say we don’t see enough corsets in Flash! so thanks for that. Seriously, a well-crafted story. I liked with the simple use of ‘pon and ‘neath to give us an idea of the time of the setting (although maybe it could be contemporary Morecambe?). The description of the woman ‘a force of nature’ and the effect she had on both the menfolk and the women was very visual. I could picture the scene perfectly, even through to the unfortunate end and the ‘entrails on the moonlit cobblestones.’ 

V — I couldn’t agree more. This story reads like a folktale, and it’s as visual as a movie (a classic Hammer film, perhaps?). A “force of nature” indeed. and what a powerful ending!

FIRST RUNNER UP

Image Ronin, “The Subject.” 

AJW – A neat original take with so few words to play with (I think it could make an excellent longer piece) it brilliantly shows Rebekah’s realisation of what she was and what she’d done. I loved the dawning of reality as she sees her eyes in the reflection in a shard of glass and then her ‘fingers becoming talons’.   The use of the font change to end the story was simple and perfect. Well done.

V –  The writing throughout is stunning in  economy  and confidence–“the truth of what she was, of what she’d done”.  And the final word –the Greek letters for “Dragon.”  Yes!  Powerful and fierce and beautiful.  This one is for the Dragon Queen.

And now: for her very first time (no, this couldn’t be more perfect; yes, I cried when I saw her name), it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

CATHERINE CONNOLLY!!!

for

“Through Lettered Lands

AJW – Time for more olde powere chords? Maybe not. An almost perfect piece (I’m overlooking the added apostrophe (damn autocorrect) – sorry Geoff) and a fitting winner for the last of the regular FF. It perfectly presents us – the writers – from simply ‘writ(ing) a sentence on entering’  through to the creation of entire worlds yet to be mapped, and presenting the writer as an explorer: Lovely. The third stanza in particular stood out for me: ‘Take care little wanderer, they told me -/ once hunted, few care to return from/ the beauty of script scribbled in spaces/ blank, ‘til creation begins.’ A fitting epitaph. Don’t you think?

V — It is an epitaph, an epic poem–but most of all it is a story — our story — it beautifully describes the writer’s journey from initial hesitance to curiosity, and on into ever-expanding lands and worlds into the uncharted unknown—

“It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me 
take it wherever you go
its end starting whole new beginnings…
Explorers seek it, perpetual”  

In the as-yet unwritten future — “All write upon entering — Here Be Dragons.”  

Beautifully done!  

Congratulations, Catherine! I can’t imagine a more perfect writer nor more perfect story to take the very last Flash! Friday dragon crown. Here’s your lovely, brand new winner’s page; apologies for the tear stains. Watch your inbox for interview questions for this week’s #SixtySeconds. And now, here’s your winning story:

Through Lettered Lands

There’s a world of words, they told me.
Mythic in size and proportion.
The magic admits those
who write a sentence on entering,
leaving chocolate drops behind
to mark their route through lettered lands.

Some territories are unknown, they told me.
You must map them yourself,
with other explorers.
They seek you out, supportive,
once you know where to find them.
They run together in packs.

Take care, little wanderer, they told me –
once hunted, few care to return from
the beauty of script scribbled in spaces,
blank, ‘til creation begins.

It expands on arrival, they told me,
so few know how large it’s become,
save for those who’ve travelled since beginning
their journey some long-score prompts passed.

It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me –
take it wherever you go,
it’s end starting whole new beginnings,
cartographic creators’ creations,
living inside ever after, full grown.

Explorers seek it, perpetual.

All write on entering –
Here be dragons.

FFwinner-Web

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Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 50: WINNERS

Good morning! Thank you so much for your overwhelming, loving support following Friday’s announcement that I’m closing up shop after December 11’s Flashversary. I’ll have more to say on that over the next three weeks, but today belongs to you; today is not my farewell — not yet –, but Steph & Josh’s (much as you and they are conspiring to keep me in tears for the next three weeks!).

**NOTE!** We still have a couple more global #Spotlight interviews ahead: please join us tomorrow for a trip to Bulgaria with Cindy Vaskova!

And now: a mountain’s height of thanks to Dragon Team Six, Steph Ellis and Josh Bertetta. We should perhaps be a little frightened and/or impressed by the sychronization of your judging thoughts — both of you should probably tuck that away for future use somewhere! It’s been a great honor serving the community alongside you. Thank you for your clever sifting of stories, for your generous comments, for your faithful support of flash fiction and this community in particular. Above all, thank you for contributing your own powerfully unique talents by sharing your stories here. We are so grateful to and for you.

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Here are Dragon Team Six’s final comments, crystallized by Steph, who apparently has no respect for my deteriorating supply of tissues:   

SE: I was feeling somewhat sad that my time as a judge was coming to an end at Flash! Friday but then came that bombshell from Rebekah about the closure of the site, an announcement which I must say left me feeling almost bereft.  I’ve just had a scan through the Flash! Friday archives and found my first entry back in October of last year.  I find myself amazed that it’s only a matter of some 13 months and not longer; this particular competition has become such a huge part of my life giving my week a writerly structure that I have followed (more-or-less) religiously.  What will I do?  What will we all do?  Well, we’ll carry on writing as she has trained us so well: we will continue with the familiar (MicroBookends, Three Line Thursday, FlashDogs anthologies, Angry Hourglass) and attempt new pastures.  So the gap will be filled, but it will not be the same.  I do have some more to say to Rebekah, but those words you will find in some of my responses to the stories below.

As it’s my last week I would also like to pay tribute to my partner-in-crime Josh Bertetta.  I know he has been unable to take part this week for personal reasons and I missed our few minutes of haggling across the pond.  And when I say few, I mean few.  Nearly every single time, at least half, if not more, of our choices matched; and where they didn’t, we quite often found that we had similar choices ‘bubbling under’ which allowed us room to manoeuvre.

I would also like to thank my lovely eldest daughter for her efforts in stripping the Flash stories for me, especially as she tends to work late; whether it was Bob Dylan or The 1975, she still managed to wake up not too long before noon and get the stories to me and Josh!  For that I have rewarded her with a Korean Vegetarian cookbook – as you do.

And one more big thank you – to all of you who have provided us with such wonderful stories to read.  Keep writing and submitting.  We will see you here until the finish, and hopefully we will continue across the Flashverse, taking our stories into unchartered territories and cheering each other on.

Now, without further ado, let the drum roll begin …

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Brady Koch, “Bougainvillea.” An apparently innocent start to the story, a young man returns home having travelled the world, for what you would think would be a much-wanted reunion with is family.  But instead we are faced with him drawing a plant whose leaf ‘grew out of the long-picked skull of the artist’s father’.  Then we discover that not only is there a skull, but a knife in the rib-cage, put there by our returnee.  Not quite the reunion expected.  Nicely dark.

James Atkinson, “Times Change.” A warning to those who would promote isolationism.  Initially the families were separate enough when their village’s isolation first occurred for there to be no problems in terms of marriage but as time passed cousins married cousins so that eventually all became closely related.  This seems to concern only our narrator.  He recognises that they need ‘another supply drop’ but implies this would be not of goods but of people to refresh and strengthen the gene pool; this latter a good example of showing not telling.

Bill Engleson, “Sweetapple Dodds.” Great pulp fiction tone to the narration of this story.  The agent’s in his office and in she walks ‘Hell, you could smell the country on her’, ‘wiggling her fanny as if she’s revving up for the Indy 500’.  He feels sorry for her but he has an ulterior motive, he ‘could see potential, a tremendous chassis’.  Wonderful language and a fun read.

Firdaus Parvez, “Born With the Devil.” I think everyone imagines twins are born with that unbreakable bond, where one would do anything for the other.  You certainly don’t expect them to be so different that the sister hates her brother to the extent that she would slit her wrists and ensure not only his death, but her own.  Unique take on the bond between twins.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Charles W. Short, “The Captain’s Calling.”

An homage to Flash! Friday (Dragonwraith) and its Captain (Rebekah) and an unashamed placing.  This one is slightly different in that it is the creation of Flash! Friday in a world in which flash was almost an orphan.  She built the ship, which grew larger, was a ‘spokeswoman for her cause’ and developed her vision until other ‘Teams developed, friendships formed, and entirely new classifications of vessels took shape’.  We have all seen how the flash world had grown, we all meet up on other sites, not just on this ship so that now we can give the Captain the freedom to take her own path.  ‘A new calling awaits the captain, and she has the proven courage to undertake it.’

Michael Wettengel, “May-Born.” 

I love the personification of Ambition and Inspiration, those little devils that assail us all but which often never seem to work together, as in this particular story.  Inspiration is intent on wrapping himself up ‘like he’s spinning a cocoon’ whilst Ambition ‘walks and fumes’.  (I will whisper now, I am a May baby so I huff occasionally too).  The deadline hits and they run out of time and Ambition isn’t happy with the rambling end.  But the author walks away to look at the falling snow, as sometimes you have to.

Holly Geely, “Cousin Jackson

Of course I would place a story with a good pun, especially one which worked itself out so easily.  I had no idea it was coming (I mean, a banana plantation in a non-tropical climate?? how did I not see it?) but there it was, waiting, a perfect little gem to be discovered at the end.

Michael Seese, “In Here.”

This trapped me as soon as elephants on shoulders were mentioned.  I knew at this point something crazy was going on, the writing bringing to mind the madness of Carroll’s Wonderland.  The MC, a child, has occasional glimpses of sanity ‘when the mists clear,’ but she cannot leave her world where there are ‘Pixie Stix’ trees and ‘priests in prehistoric garb’ as well as mocking marionettes.  And even though she wants to leave, her mother tells her, ‘You can never leave this place, dear child. Insanity is your home.  Wonderfully crazy.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Nthato MorakabiWhat Child Is This?

The God Delusion!  Casting Dawkins as a priest, working from the inside of religion to subvert its message was a very clever ruse.  Dawkins has pretended to be a priest and foretold the end of the world, indicating certain signs, for example the baby with the pig’s tail would foreshadow it.  The nurse’s message brings him joy, he has been proved right.  But it is a scene he has manipulated (he has no ‘virtue’) by adding chemicals to the water supply so that mutations occur.  He has used science, he had ‘faith’ that science would make these changes.  Now science supplants religion, it has become the new faith.  Nice inversion.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Karl Russell, “One Day, in the Square” 

This is a story about self-belief and self-worth.  There are so many talented people in this world who just never show what they are capable of.  The old man who appears at Juan’s side and gives him such good advice turns out to be the ghost of a musician who’d only just died.  He had been a brilliant guitarist but had never followed the advice he now gave Juan, leading him to his sad ending on the bench by the fountain.  He had wasted his talent and played for the pigeons.  But his ghost returned and hopefully Juan will take his guitar and play to people and not to the birds.  I must admit to a soft spot for this story as I have a son who is a talented guitarist but already he is playing for people.  And to all those of you who think your writing’s not good enough to send out, well, if you’ve been submitting here, you’re definitely good enough – take that step and find your audience.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Mark A. King, “Genesis.” 

How could I not choose something like this considering our Dragoness’ recent announcement? This acrostic builds a true and heartfelt tribute to Rebekah for all her efforts on our behalf.  All of us have fought, as writers, to find our niche, we have all lived ‘in the wilderness’, seeking ‘the lands of promise’, the bookshop windows, we were all ‘alone’.  But she created a place for us, a ‘fortress’ where we could hone our skills and become strong enough to challenge the ‘elite’, where we could make friends and recognise that our own writing has worth.  Through this platform and the support and comments given so freely and generously week in, week out, we have developed to the extent that many are now pushing onwards and upwards, and some have even made it into the bookshop window.  Things are changing indeed, but it is not goodbye.  We no longer need a fortress: we have a world.  This piece was a lovely way for us all to say Thank you, Rebekah.

And now: for her gorgeous, fantastic, stirring FOURTH win, it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

MARIE MCKAY!!!

for

“To Care: More Than Just an Action

A poem has claimed first place this week with a message that needs to be heard on a larger platform.  The army of carers that is out there amongst us is large but invisible: the husbands and wives having to care for both elderly parents and young children, young children caring for parents or siblings, an elderly wife, herself frail having to care for her husband and vice versa.  This army does so much and their efforts go largely unnoticed and unrewarded but they do it even though they are so often at breaking point – ‘She cares/Until she screams’, ‘You care/Until you break’, ‘I care/Until I reach the edge’ – but they always ‘care some more’. 

Short lines, consistent repetition from different viewpoints punch the message home and wrings out the emotions, the feelings that at times seek to destroy the carer .  We are not allowed to be separate from the message of this poem, we are part of it because ‘We. Should.  Care’.  Simple.  Powerful.  Effective.

Congratulations, Marie! Thrilled to see you take your fourth crown this week, which you’ve done and drawn our attention to this underappreciated cause. Thank you so much for sharing this achingly beautiful poem. Here’s your updated winner’s page — a page that includes your winning tales dating back to your very first in Year One (Week 26!!!! darling thing, still here after so long!!). Please watch your inbox for instructions regarding your interview for your fourth #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:

To Care: More Than Just an Action
*inspired by Carers’ Rights Day in the UK

I care
my hands raw;
my eyes black;
my arms sore;
my hair out.
I care way beyond my own lifetime.

You care
yourself to sleep;
yourself awake;
yourself guilty;
yourself frail.
You care yourself lost.

She cares
herself bruised;
herself hungry;
herself lonely;
herself sick.
She cares herself away.

He cares
himself angry;
himself gaunt;
himself blunt.
He cares himself blue.

They care
themselves invisible;
themselves insular;
themselves inadequate.
They care to the quick.

I care
until I can’t, and then I care some more.
You care
until you cry, and then you care some more.
She cares
until she screams, and then she cares some more.

I care
until I reach the edge, and then I care some more.
You care
until you break, and then you care some more.
He cares
until he says he won’t, and then he cares some more.

I care
You care
She cares.
He cares.
They care.
And us?

We. Should. Care.

FFwinner-Web

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 47: WINNERS

HURRAY — it’s party time!! Thanks so much for coming back; I trust you’ve brought kazoos and streamers. If not, please head over to the gigantic Party Wing of the lair and help yourself. We’ve always got plenty. And to those of you NaNo’ing this month: wishing you (and me) brilliant success!!! How’s your Day Two so far?

A couple of quick notes/reminders:

  • You’re needed! We’re lining up NOW the next eight folks to take a turn as judge starting in December. Details here. It’s a fantastic way to give back to the FF community as well as grow in your own writing. Please join me! else it’s going to be a very depressing Year Four.
  • THANK YOU for all who turned up to crit the #Pyro story this week! Some wonderful comments; and I’m certain I can speak for the (anonymous) writer in conveying thanks. Would love more stories to choose from — send ’em in! (here; please remark at the top it’s for #Pyro)

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Many thanks to Dragon Team Six, Steph Ellis & Josh Bertetta, for daring to examine your Frankenstein stories under the sickly green light I provided them. Steph says:   

I really can’t believe this is Josh’s and my penultimate judging session.  It’s gone so quickly and we’ve had so little to argue about.  Every month our choices have spookily run along the same lines leading to very civilised discussions over placings and this week was no exception.

As always, a big thank you to my daughter Bethan for stripping the stories for us; she is looking forward to the end of my judging stint!

Frankenstein was a great choice for Halloween, although not so for any poor trick-or-treaters who may have knocked on my door … with my earplugs in and a Banshees soundtrack I didn’t hear them.  So, here are our Samhain results:

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Becky Spence, “Fallen Angel.” –SE: A rebirth in the dark, a creature alien even to himself.  He has ‘ghosts of memories’ that were not his, writes a language he does not understand, cannot speak.  All he can do is walk, find his way out of the darkness and seek his answers.  He gets his answer when he opens the door and sees himself in the mirror.  The horror here is the situation the monster is in as a being, not in what has been done to others but what was done to him. JB: Here our protagonist is at the lowest point of the Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey,” the part where we must confront the dark. I love the setting here, for it exquisitely captures the darkness and the desperation and the feeling of helplessness, the groping for a way out. But there is only one, and our author tells us exactly what is it—for all of us.   

Voima Oy, “Memory Wife.” —SE: ‘She lived in the cloud now’.  Heaven and computer storage combined.  Society has moved on, but still caters for ‘outdated people with old dreams and obsolete things’, allowing Ben to recreate his late wife.  The sadness lies in the ease with which the younger generation, his son, the shop assistant, think how such things, such people are easily replaceable. JB: A story of a timeless theme: the inability to let go of a lifelong love, but with a little twist of futurism. Mourning is a process of moving through loss. Grief. We all experience it. But what happens to a fundamental human emotion (and experience) when technology allows us the possibility of not having to move through that kind of pain? Do we not lose part of what makes us human? 

A.J. Walker, “Frankenwriter.” — SE: Of course this made it into the list.  I laughed at the overtones of Stephen King’s Misery as poor old Karl and other FlashDogs (Liz, Ronin, Sal, a certain Mr King) were used and abused to create a winning story.  One way of getting rid of the opposition, and all to a Bach soundtrack. JB: Much like last time I judged, here is a take on the ol’ self-referential Flash!Friday/FlashDog theme (which I’ve done myself). A fun take on the prompt. Made me smile.

C. Centner, “Author Submission.” — SE: An academic abstract declares the purpose and results of Frankenstein’s experiment and then moves on to give firm warnings.  Anyone following this path in future should use the ‘flesh of cute creatures (bunnies, kittens, etc)’, the monster having been an ‘appalling and repulsive character’.  And above all, they must name their monster.  Frankenstein’s frustration at being identified as the monster rather than the creator shines through ‘No, dammit! I’m Frankenstein!’  Scientists and authors beware! JB: Perhaps the most unique formats of this week’s stories, here we have an abstract for a scholarly paper. Compounded in this piece however, are issues we continue (and will probably always continue) to face: the relationship between science and morality.

 

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Brian Creek, “Kill.exe.”

SE – Always a danger when new technology evolves that the military will jump in and try to use it for more sinister ends.  I particularly enjoyed this story because although they had achieved a ‘scientific miracle’, it wasn’t what the military had requested.  The image of a powerfully built robot sat peacefully with a wolf cub in his lap and birds perched on his rifle, contemplating a beautiful morning made me smile.  I hope he doesn’t get ‘fixed’.

JB– Another great story with a killer ending. In a militarized world such as our where some countries spend so much money to build the perfect and most efficient killing machines, here is the story of the creation of such, if it were not for one simple thing (captured in the penultimate line) which renders the perfect killing machine imperfect. Part of me says “hurray” for humanity; with another part I drop my head and shake it.

Marie McKay, “The Help.” 

SE – Sometimes I think we have become desensitized to domestic violence and it needs a piece like this to give us a wake up call.  By transferring the sufferings of an abused woman to a feeling robot and describing them in terms usually applied to living flesh makes it once more truly horrific.  The robot ‘tastes the blood of bruises on her tongue’, is left broken on the floor as the husband switches his attention to her rather than his wife. “Is this life?” Unfortunately for so many women (and some men) the answer is yes.

JB– A story of what some psychologists call “displacement.” An unhappy marriage turned, seemingly happy, aided by technological advance. Technology, some say, is supposed to make life easier. And when life is easier, one would presume life is happier. The wife here would appear to be happy as her marriage seems to be on the mend—and it was all because of “her.” Her husband seems better, which, of course is better for the whole family. But how much better is he really?

Marie McKay, “Touching Reality

SE – Ah, what people do in pursuit of love, an older husband wants to make himself more youthful for his younger wife.  He experiments on rabbits, the poor creatures dying in succession before he hits on formula for rabbit #5.  But he has become impatient, doesn’t observe the results long enough and injects himself.  Blood leaks from the ear of rabbit #5, there will be no happy ending for this poor man.

JB- Here again a story, in part, of self-identity (and esteem) being based on another’s perception. The older husband here wants nothing more than his wife to be happy, but, it appears, she cannot be happy for he is nothing but an “antique.” His self-esteem as a husband is based on her being happy. Willing to do anything to achieve that goal, all his attempts to do so fail until that one, seemingly final time, but his impatience (if not his the goal itself) serves to blind him.

David Shakes, “No More Than a Trick of the Light.”

SE – A writer and his creation, which is greater, the man who brought him to life or the fiction that takes on a life of its own.  The writer’s ideas grew but they choked the fiction, ‘regurgitating imagery that splattered across page and screen’, don’t we all get like that some time. And self-doubt grows within the writer so that his creation is put away … for the moment.  The ideas expressed here should resonate with any writer.

JB – “He would often have me write of mirrors.” What a line. The “me” and the “I” of this piece are ambiguous and ambiguity heightened by the stories initial two questions, questions, I would bet, we all ask ourselves at one time or another in our lives if not more. I love the inversion toward the end, where the “protagonist,” seemingly something abstract, is more of a reality than the subject, the story’s “father,” is himself. “The myth became greater than the man.” Isn’t that, in the end, always so?

THIRD RUNNER UP

Andrew (AV) Laidlaw, “Press Ctrl-Alt-Del to Reboot

SE – This piece really makes you think on two fronts.  The statement ‘I am God’, declared on each reboot is dismissed, regarded as error or sabotage.  But who is to say who/what God is?  So many profess a faith of various forms, faith whose tenets often mention a second coming of some sort, yet as soon as anyone declares themselves that being, they are dismissed as fraudsters – but who’s to know? 

The statement ‘I am God’ can also be taken as a reflection on society.  These days computers have become almost Godlike, in control of so much of our lives.  The computer is merely stating a fact in its own logical way.

And locked away, it is an embarrassment conveniently forgotten.

JB – In a manner of speaking, the scariest of all our stories in commemoration of Halloween. Scary not because of Stephen King-esque horror element. This is not that kind of story. This is scary because it’s potential reality. Perhaps not literally in the sense of what the protagonist says (over and over again), but the implication of those very words in relation to what the protagonist is. Ah, the double-edged sword of technology!

SECOND RUNNER UP

Michael Wettengel, “Momma’s Boy” 

SE – A child’s voice lifts this story, breathing sadness through its lines.  Joshua knows he is different, made from ‘brass and copper and gold’, not like the twisted black city below.  His ‘mother’ tells him he is special, is different, he has a brain unlike his cousins who ‘tick’ or ‘clunk’.  He leads us to the last paragraph which tells his whole story, his reason for existing, he passes a picture every day where ‘Mother is in black, her hands on her lap. She’s frowning. A small, sickly boy sits on her lap. He’s wearing the same clothes I do’.  And Joshua knows he is a substitute which makes the story even sadder.

JB – I see here four central threads interwoven so tight as to appear, upon my first reading, as a single thread. First, there is the issue of our uniqueness. What is it about each one of us that sets us apart, so to speak, from others? What is that particular “thing” about each one of us? Second, there is love the mother has for her child. She sees him for what makes him unique and praises him for it. But then there is that last paragraph, where the author throws a slider to the issue of identity: that who we “are” is often determined how people see us, in this case, how the mother sees the child. And finally, there is that disturbing last line…

FIRST RUNNER UP

Michael Seese, “Frankenboy.” 

SE – Truly a monster was created but not by science; this unfortunate came about by natural selection, nurture and environment in the laboratory of the world, the ‘human junk yard’.  He details his inheritance, from his father ‘hands that naturally, reflexively formed fists’, from his mother, bruises and tears, from his grandfather, a foul mouth and bigoted mind.  And through all this he has carried on the family tradition so that now he faces the end – gladly – when he is given a lethal injection and sees his ‘hideous alchemy lost in the darkness and distance’.  Unique take on the traditional monster theme.  

JB – “Truth in simplicity” is what comes to mind when I reflect on “Frankenboy.” There is a simple pattern/repetition to this sad story, which plays on, as the title implies, Mary Shelley’s famous work. But whereas the title might conjure in the mind an image of a young version of her famous monster, there is something perhaps more disturbing going on at work here. As much as we might like to think we, as individuals, are autonomous and as much as we might like to think we make ourselves to be who we are, this story expresses the truth that such is a delusion and in some cases, that truth — the truth of who we are, as products, in part, of our past is sometimes inescapable.

And now: for a (totally disturbing) first win, it’s this week’s 

DRAGON WINNER

Jennifer Terry!!!

for

“Creation

SE – ‘What did you do today?’ such an innocuous question, the usual husband/wife interaction demanding no more than some trite response.  And he gives it ‘tinkering in his lab’, a bit like the traditional housewife and her supposed ‘pottering around the house’, looked down on and not really valued despite the real work going on behind the scenes.  And boy has he been busy whilst his wife has taken on the role of breadwinner, something she has clearly grown to resent.  He has achieved his dream, his perfect creation, an exact replica of his wife but amenable to all his dreams and desires.  His secret business is booming so financially he no longer has any need of the human wife and feels nothing as she dies in front of him.  A complete little story about the lengths someone will go to to get that perfect partner.  I don’t think I’ll be eating risotto any time soon!

JB– A marriage troubled by lack of trust is a marriage on the brink. Here our author puts us in a desperate setting where the husband is confronted by a wife who no longer believes in him. The distance and the frustration (for both parties) is palpable as the wife has no problem switching from voicing her frustration with her husband and commenting on the delicious food, a food so delicious she can’t help from eating more. Until, that is, she can eat no longer. There’s a great twist at the very end of this story and as much as one is led to believe the wife is the “bad guy” here, one can only wonder if such is the case, or if the husband is much more malevolent, for we not only get that great twist, but we learn something a little more about the husband and how nefarious he really is.

Congratulations, Jenn! It’s been a pleasure reading your stories here at FF, and we couldn’t be more delighted to see you up top! Please check out your very own sparkly winner’s page; your winning tale can be found there as well as (shortly) over on the winners’ wall. Please contact me asap here so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds! And now here’s your winning story:

Creation

“What did you do today?”

“Oh, just tinkered around a bit in the lab.”

“When is that little company of yours going to get off the ground, finally?”

“Soon, my dear. Soon.”

“That’s what you always say, ‘soon.’”

“I thought you believed in me. In my ideas.”

“I did. I just don’t think I can support you and your…delusions any longer.”

“What are you saying?”

She took a bite of her risotto and commented, “This is absolutely fabulous!”

“What did you mean when you said you can’t support me any longer?”

“I meant I don’t think this is working,” she muttered while shoveling a very unladylike portion into her mouth. “This is just extraordinary.”

“I’m glad you like it.” A woman emerged from the shadows. An exact replica of her, down to the arrangement of freckles across her nose and cheeks.

He watched unmoved as his wife gagged, finally falling face first into her plate.

With hundreds of back orders already for the DreamWoman 1.0, his “little company” was a runaway success. He took his great love, and greatest creation, into his arms.

FFwinner-Web