Tag Archive | Stuart Turnbull

Flash! Friday Vol 3 – 3: WINNERS

Tomorrow is the last day of 2014. Time is such a fickle beast. Don’t you remember those long summer days in childhood that stretched on forever and ever, day after eternal, mind-numbing day, and you despaired because you just knew it would never, ever, EVER end?? Then someone flips a switch, and all you can do is shake your head like Grandpa Time saying things like, I Remember the 1990s Like They Were Yesterday and They Didn’t Have Google When I Was a Kid and I Walked to School Uphill Both Ways in Twenty Feet of Snow and Kids These Days.

(Maybe I’m the fickle beast?? Don’t answer that.)

In either case, please accept the heart-deep gratitude of the entire Flash! Friday team for the vital role you played here in 2014. And as for 2015:

May your year be bright and sunny
May your words flow rich and free
May your books make lots of money
May you spend it all on–
[[CHOCOLATE!]] 

PS. A quick note that this week for the HM awards and higher I have linked the winning story titles to the original stories, in case you missed reading them the first time around.

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The Team Four Dragon Captains of Pratibha Kelapure/Sinéad O’Hart say

Sinéad: I was struck, this week, by how many stories dealt with themes like masking, hiding, and beginning afresh, and how creatively the idea of ‘the dragon’ was used. Dragons turned up as dearly longed-for children, as a measure of human strength, as a way of describing mental and physical illness, as guardians and enemies, as bestowers of preternatural gifts whose price is, ultimately, too high, and as ancient beings reborn in new skin. They are seen as beautiful and powerful as often as terrifying and nightmarish, but always treated with respect (naturally!) I loved how masks were used as disguises and as means of salvation, as well as windows into a different and terrifying dimension, and especially how one skilled writer made me smile with a sweet tale of a mask being used as a blessing. Ultimately, choosing a winner was a huge challenge, involving many painful decisions, but every story I read this week gave me something remarkable. Well done, everyone.

Pratibha: Frankly, I was stumped by the prompt. But your creative minds brought out so many themes and characters that it is astounding. Dragon fared quite high on the list (as expected), and so did the new year. Emotions ranged from tender to grotesque and everything in-between.

I would have you know that the judges agreed on most of the stories, except for the winner. We went back and forth a couple of times, and there were no flares thrown, and we quickly came to the conclusion.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS

Special Mention for Point of View: Peg Stueber, “Who Mourns the Dragon?” We liked this because it’s written from the dragon’s POV, and it has a moving, lyrical quality which is relevant to the tragedies and genocides happening in reality.

Special Mention for Title: Craig Anderson, “Paper Cut.” We thought this idea – that the paper dragons were really all-powerful enemies plotting the takeover of the world – appeared several times this week, but this one was fun. We thought the stroke of sibling rivalry was brilliant too.

Special Mention for Best Use of a Dragon’s Head: Becky Conway, “Protect this House.” We love the name Pog, and this little story made us smile. We particularly enjoyed the detail about having to abandon his favourite pair of socks, and the image of a dragon head dancing down the street without any apparent means of propulsion.

Special Mention for Best Use of a Mask: Annika Keswick, “Hidden in Plain Sight.” This story’s treatment of the idea of the ‘mask’ was used here in an interesting and original way. We loved the rhythm of the language, and the recollection of the injury or accident, and the way it recreated, a wounded dragon falling from the sky.

Special Mention for Best Use of Poetry: Stuart Turnbull, “Moments of Stillness.” Sinéad: I mean, a villanelle? I take a bow to any writer who can craft a poem in this form, so well and so quickly! Pratibha: I loved the title and the repetition of phrases. Of course, anyone who can write a complex form poem on a short notice is worthy of praise.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Brett Milam, The Embers.”

Sinéad: Primarily I like this for the perspective, and for the language, particularly ‘The wiring around your brain was in discarded heaps and more frayed every day,’ and ‘me, Norman… a puddle of uselessness.’ I like how the story begins and ends in the minutiae of domesticity, and the middle section is figurative, imaginative and powerful. I also enjoyed the use of the motifs of light and darkness, the ‘flickering candlelight in the cavernous dark’ almost like a distant dragon, waiting to pounce.

Pratibha: This a dark tale told in a patient and sympathetic voice. The narrator delivers the saddest philosophy with deep understanding and acceptance, “Life wasn’t so neat and predictable. It was more like a flickering candlelight in the cavernous dark.”

KM Zafari, Trophies.” 

Sinéad: I liked the imagery of the dragon’s eyes here, and the power they still wield despite the fact the dragon has been killed. I felt a tug of horror at the revelation that the dragon had been a mother defending her young, and that her mission had been futile. I liked the mention of the villagers, and how the hunter sees himself as the balance between his people being the slayers or the slain, but I also liked the note of uncertainty at the end of the story, when the hunter begins to doubt himself and his worldview starts to shift. As well as the subtlety of the story, it was very well written and expertly paced.

Pratibha: This story highlights a hard-to-swallow truth, “kill or be killed.” How we wish it weren’t so. The most profound line, “They were the same, she and he.” highlights the dilemma of a tortured conscience.  Even though of its philosophical bent, the story has the identifiable structure.

Nancy Chenier, Old Glory.” 

Sinéad: I loved this for the phrase ‘An odd thrum makes my spangles jounce’, because how could you *not* love a story with sort of command of language? I really liked the idea here, that the paper dragon is more than simply a decoration or a symbol of power, but an important being in its own right, and its sense of wounded pride and tired irritation made this story stand out for me. I also liked the progression from humiliation to pleasure, and how the dragon realises that some indignities are worth it for the chance to dance.

Pratibha: I loved the images in this story, “I once shook tempests from my mane” and “bubble-tea-cheeked children.” Once proud dragon reduced to a show puppet, but he will not yield his sanity in the face of humiliation. A very sympathetic character!

Tamara Shoemaker, Masquerade.”

Sinéad: This story is written wonderfully and with an almost dancing rhythm, making me think of a masquerade ball even as I read, which is compounded by the visual imagery created. I loved the idea of people hiding in the crowd afraid to let their flower bloom in case it reveals its vulnerability, and also the perspective created by the viewer being themselves unseen. Another story which deals with masks, and what lies behind them, but done in such a masterful way.

Pratibha: I liked this story for its reflective tone. It is more of a musing than a story, but the tone and the images such as “brilliant colors and flashing lights distracting all others from the fragile wisps of soul-tears” are breathtaking.

THIRD RUNNER UP

Betsy Streeter, “The Invisible Man.” 

Sinéad: I liked this story because it’s totally unexpected and very original, and I enjoyed the title, too – it has layers. Both Stuart and the ‘dragon’ are invisible, in their own way. I loved the idea that Stuart has to invent someone to tell him how important he is because his own family don’t appreciate him, and then I wondered why this is the case – particularly given that Stuart replies ‘I know’ to the dragon’s declaration that Stuart is a ‘diamond’ (perhaps the man is part of the dragon’s hoard? Who knows!) Overall I found the character compelling, and the story world intriguing, and I loved the use of the idea of the dragon as a sort of ‘imaginary friend’ who may, or may not, have Stuart’s best interests at heart.

Pratibha: An antidote to the holiday “family” gatherings. The tone of the story is humorous, but the underlying pain is palpable. There are some gems of phrases, such as “mouth like a switchblade,” and “He inhales the dragon’s breath, exhales the thick living room air.” This story reminded me of Pete’s Dragon, and that made me smile.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Elisa @ Average Advocate, “Hydra’s Dancers.” 

Sinéad: This story’s title was an excellent, and witty, reference to not only the prompt image but also the ‘many-headed’ narrator, who is dealing with conflicting messages from all corners. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the author recreates the visual and auditory disruption the headache causes, and how well it all wraps into a performance, both the dance of the writhing, clashing dragons and finally the gentle whirl of the ballerinas as everything settles into its proper place. Another tale with an unusual take on the prompt image, and a story which made great use of all the senses.

Pratibha: One word, execution. From the opening line to the resolution, the tension builds gradually and unwinds skillfully. This unique take on the prompt left me breathless. The image of the dancers as a collective unit, hydra, as seen through the eyes of an aching head, is painted vividly in the second paragraph. Tension mounts in the third paragraph, as the music reaches the crescendo. I loved the description, “the wings, melded from knives into free-spirited tinsel.” Upon finding the cure for his/her headache, the narrator is relieved and so does the dramatic tension, and the dancers now move “lithe and lovely.”   The skillful use of language and clear story arc put this story high on my list.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Marie McKay, “Gifted.” 

Sinéad: I loved the different perspective in this story. I also loved the piecemeal, forensically focused way the character’s body is described, and the revelation that she is not a son, which makes it begin to spin, slowly, into pain. I particularly loved the way the prompt is used: the dragonish ‘heat’ pouring from the mouth, and the mention of ‘Eve’ (which brings the mind, naturally, to the serpent – or the wyrm/dragon). I loved how the parent (presumably) is described as ‘chewing on the morsels of… half victory… lulled into slumber’, just like any self-respecting hoard-guarding dragon, and the sense of hope at the end, as befits the hero of any tale. This was a memorable, emotional and accomplished piece.

Pratibha:  I loved the gradual disclosure and the expert use of language to tell a familiar yet difficult story.  The feeling of suffocation is brilliantly painted as “neat, little gift boxes.”  Halfway through the story, the big reveal comes, and things begin to fall in place. I loved the phrases, “I damp down the searing disappointment with academic results” and “chewing on the morsels of this half victory.”

And now: for her first time, it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

STEPH ELLIS!!!

for

“Holiday Deals”

Sinéad: This story stood out for several reasons: its unobvious approach, for one, and also its oblique references to the prompt image. The colours in Mr Wilson’s tie, the opening of a mouth, and the ‘bite’ of  a needle like that of a rampaging dragon all chimed so well with the colourful paper masks which were the inspiration for this tale. I loved how the story utilised not only the idea of predator and prey (in true dragonish style) but also the idea of a mask concealing a hidden identity. When it’s all upended at the conclusion, and we learn who the true holder of power in this situation is, I can’t help but lift my hat to a well-crafted piece of flash fiction. This entry not only tells a story, complete and fully formed, but it also unfolds into a larger, hinted-at, world, where little boys have elemental, ancient, all-consuming powers and poor unsuspecting dentists with cruel wives can meet terrible ends.

Pratibha: This story is well-told with a clear story arc and gradual revelation. I liked how the writer weaved the image of the mask into the narrative: the dentist’s mask, his “fish eyes,” and a “garish purple, hideous orange” tie. The character of dentist is brought to life by the observation:  “She must really hate him to give him that, thought Jimmy. And he must really love her to wear it.” The ending is raw and gritty, bringing the irony of “Holiday Deal” in focus.

Congratulations, Steph! Below is your merry and simultaneously creepy winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Holiday Deals

“Open wide.”

Obediently Jimmy’s mouth became a cave, a deep dark chasm for the probe to explore. He kept his eyes fixed on Mr Wilson as the man lowered his masked face towards him, bringing his fish eyes, dead eyes ever closer; a tie, garish purple, hideous orange.

“Present from the wife,” said Mr Wilson, responding to his look.

She must really hate him to give him that, thought Jimmy. And he must really love her to wear it.

“No,” said Jimmy as a needle was produced.

“It’ll stop it hurting.”

“No.”

Mr Wilson paused, disconcerted. “Do you want your mother in here with you?”

“No,” said Jimmy. “I came on my own.”

He opened his mouth wider still. New Year was his favourite time, when the best deals were always made.

Wider. And Mr Wilson fell into the void his wife had begged for, and Jimmy fed on the pain that only flesh and blood could give.

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Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 46: WINNERS

Welcome to results day!!!! So glad you’re here. Thanks for taking the time to write & comment, and thank you for coming back to see whose names are inscribed in gold on the trophies this round. MWAH!

Quick VERY COOL note: judge apps are already coming in for the first panel of Year Three. You’ve still got some time, but not a whole lot, to apply too and join the AWESOMEST dragon team anywhere; check out the details here

Final note: today it’s deep thanks and (sniff sniff!!!) goodbye to outgoing judge Betsy Streeter. Betsy, it’s been a privilege having you on the FF team this last quarter. Thank you for all your hard work and general wacky awesomeness. Can’t wait to read Silverwood for myself. Is it March yet???    

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Judge Betsy Streeter says:  Thank you so much, Dragonness, for asking me to be a judge. There is nothing that improves your writing like doing a lot of reading, and Flash! Friday is like receiving a great learning experience on fast-forward each week. I’ve loved having the chance to share thoughts on the pieces, and to be really thoughtful about them out loud, and I hope it’s been helpful to get feedback in that way – everybody please keep writing!

Now for comments on this round: Something about this particular photo, and its vintage, and the notion of bankruptcy took many writers to similar places this week – both in terms of story and in terms of tone and dialogue/dialect. I haven’t seen a set of stories that were this convergent before!

Having said that, there seemed to be two forks in that road: Pushing the idea around until it became something new (a twist, a reference to a TV show, perhaps even aliens), or sticking with it as a pure expression of a time and place that really seems to resonate with people.

The stories that struck me grabbed onto a detail, or a moment, or a conversation, and held it until it yielded something that implied a larger story or situation – opening up a new world in the process.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

David Borrowdale, “The Art of Keeping the Horse Between You and the Ground.”  David took that idea of failure/falling and applied it to the sometimes precarious act of riding a horse, and beautifully conveyed how our efforts not to let our world fall apart can take the form of both literally and figuratively climbing into a different place.

Stuart Turnbull, “The Gift Horse.” This is a great example of a small exchange implying a large story. Like in many Westerns, family bonds hold even in difficult circumstances. But choices must be made, and families must try to look out for one another even when they are just offering a least-worst alternative. This is classic Western, and the writing carries it out: “This ol’ nag looks in worse state than the one that left you to flit back to her folks in Mobile.”  

Matt L, “Untitled.” Many stories jumped into a particular tone and dialect, and this one did it particularly well. It reminded me of the speech at the beginning of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in which a small-time criminal’s many transgressions are listed out at length. The writer here really committed to the voice, and the content of the story supports it. Westerns have a certain craftiness and intelligence to them even when the characters seem to be just simple folk. I loved the use of squash.

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THIRD RUNNER UP

Eric Martell, “Untitled.” This story is so authentic in the dialog, the tone, and the delivery. I love: “unless you squinted, you couldn’t see that horse anymore.” Also wonderful: “nowadays luck trumped breeding every day of the week and twice on Sunday.” This is a great meditation on the fact that social standing falls apart right along with the economy, and how that can tear apart a person’s dignity and sense of who they are.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Karl A. Russell, “Too Big to Fall.” This is a great example of taking a premise and pushing it farther and farther, drawing on known fairy tales and blending it with another narrative. Karl here tells a huge story in very little space, containing it all in one expression of the rage you know is just under the surface in hard times. And this phrase: “returned home to the shotgun and the pot.” It’s almost a poem.

FIRST RUNNER UP

Holly Geely, “Christmas Dinner.” I kept coming back to this one, such a small moment between two characters but conveying so much. The contrast between the invented and outlandish story and the real circumstances lets the reader feel a creeping desperation. No action takes place, but it is implied and that’s what creates the tension. I found myself really wanting that horse to still be outside come spring.

And now: for her very first time EVER, it’s Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

GRACE BLACK!!!

for

“Depression Glass”

This is another I kept coming back to. It beautifully conveys how grief and loneliness are made worse by the loss of the small but meaningful parts of one’s life, and how those parts are encapsulated in shared everyday objects. It took me right to my grandmother’s house. A life built over time, torn asunder, and uprooted into another home. Somehow it’s just not enough, and the narrator knows it never will be. The glass is unmoored.

Congratulations, Grace! Below is your super cool/hot stunning winner’s badge for the wall(s) of your choosing. Here is your very own, brand new, mega sparkly winner’s page and your winning tale on the winners’ wall. Please contact me here asap so I can interview you for Wednesday’s #SixtySeconds feature. And now, here is your winning story!

Depression Glass

I watch birds now, their various wingspans, as I sip my coffee. Overpriced coffee from oversized mugs, brewed in coffeemakers costing more than my monthly wages when I was still a productive member of society.

That sounds ungrateful though, which I’m not or at least I shouldn’t be. My granddaughter has kindly taken me into her home. A home I never could have provided for Vera, but then times were different.

Her petite, gloved-white hands flapping around as she’d prattle on about some sale at the nursery. “Lilacs,” she’d said. She fancied gardening, and hated horses, but her hands remained petal soft even in the end as I held them between my own calloused monsters.

Milk-glass cups—we used to drink our coffee from—are kept on the top shelf of the hutch I built, collectibles now. We don’t drink out of them.

“Lilacs are in bloom.”

“Ah, yes! How are the birds today, Grandpa?”

“They don’t change.”

 

FFwinner-Web

 

 

Flash! Friday Vol 2 – 42: WINNERS!

Welcome back! You’ve proved yet again to be the fiercest writing dragons anywhere; every time I’m sure you couldn’t possibly set a new record or outwrite yourselves, you do. In fact I’m pretty sure I’ve written that exact sentence every week for the past two months. Writers everywhere are going to be battering your doors down for your magical writing secrets. Thank you again for writing these stirring, disturbing, funny, dark, frightening, heart-wrenching, mind-blowing stories. And thank you for being the totally off-the-charts, supportive writers you are. HUGS FOR EVERYBODY! -oops. Apologies to whoever I just scratched with a talon.

And finally: a MASSIVE thank you to those who donated to the Flash! Friday lair this week. We have plans in the works for Flashversary (coming up CRAZY! FAST! December 5) and Year 3, most of which will cost a gem or two. (One hint (shhhh): did someone ask for a winners’ anthology, hmmmm?) Thank you, thank you for your support.

Reminder note: Flash! Friday entries are judged 100% blind; judges — we currently have a panel of five — see neither authors’ names, Twitter handles, or community comments until after results are submitted.        

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Judge Aria Glazki (who deserves an award of her own; only imagine the herculean task this week!) says:  None of us expected such an abundant turnout of writers–and stories–but then this community never goes for the expected. The one predictable factor, of course, is the range of style, form, premise, and emotion in your stories.  An outsider may think reading nearly 100 stories on the same prompt can become tedious, but due to your talents and imaginations, it truly does not.  While I can highlight only a few of the submissions, I encourage everyone to explore them all and find your own favorites.

Here are this week’s Special Mentions:

(Judge) Margaret Locke,*  “We All Have Our Roles to Play.” – So unexpected, with a dark twist to the humor. The narrative here leads the reader along a curious path, before finally putting everything in crystal clear focus.  Well crafted. (* Judges are permitted special mentions, but not official awards).

Rasha Tayeket, Untitled. Standout imagery: “Windows rattled more violently than the fat rolls on his stomach”; and Sacrifice: “a woebegone Mary Poppins.”

Hannah Heath, “The Lucky Toy.” I especially enjoyed that this story didn’t take the prompt at face value, showing us the strength of a mother clinging to the memory of a lost child, despite that memory making her look “like some gothic parlor maid.” A nice reminder that our internal world cannot be seen by strangers on the surface.

Nancy Chenier, “Fidelity.” A compelling story told within a strict form but not trapped within it, poetic yet complete. I especially enjoyed the lines: “Her parasol parody / Against the tempest” — what a vivid statement.  

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Eliza Archer, “It’s My Job.” Storm deities might not be loved, but I loved the humor in this piece. The rhetorical questions gently force the reader into a more active role, even while not depending on a specific response to make the point, which is oh-so-subtly, and intelligently, manipulative. There are too many great lines to quote, so go read it! 

Voimaoy, “The Dragon’s Daughter.” This story took a timeless tale of a young girl believing the grass is greener, then made us take a step back, refocusing on the father’s heartbreak at his loss. Efficient characterization (“As any loving father would”; “parading happily in platform shoes”) shows us these personalities and leads to the powerful final image of the dragon’s tears and claws ravaging the island, establishing a new mythology.

Stuart Turnbull, “Hanami for the Kami.” The respectful, mutual relationship between Sakura No-hana and the storm here, juxtaposed with her distanced approach to humans (“people like a bit of theatre”), is quite compelling. From the prayer, to that final image of her dissolving into blossoms, tugged about by the storm — the same storm that could “toss [boulders] around like a Mongol invasion fleet” but doesn’t destroy her — this was a nice read. 

Brian Creek, “Most Valuable.” At first glance this story seems predictable: a girl left behind after a tragedy takes her parents is desperate to find them, to see the bodies. But then the urgency is turned on its head, as Sozuku gives up her slight protection (the umbrella) to break quarantine. The previous lines, her interest all still work perfectly, while entirely refocusing the picture we have of the girl’s hidden inner world, her true interest in her parents.

Rebecca Allred (won Vol 2 – 3), “Truth or Dare.” This story combines an inventive premise with some lovely imagery (“lashes thick as spider legs tangle together”) and a hint of mystery for a piece that runs shivers up the spine. While we, like the narrator, are left in the dark as to what causes such visceral reactions to the mask, we know from the first line (“the maid outfit is so cars will pick her up”) that these men aren’t innocent, suspicion which is subtly reinforced throughout with just a few well-placed words.

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THIRD RUNNER UP

Nancy Chenier, (won Vol 2 – 38) “True Skin.” A unique take on relationships, underscored with imaginative imagery – Nori’s voice is “a reedy flutter”; “the sky curdles”; “Nori’s shivering spectre.” The juxtaposition between Umi’s cold-hearted dismissiveness of Nori (“As if the human heart could fathom love’s abyss”) and her unyielding love for the second serpent, whose presence is depicted at first by the waves, is especially telling, splitting a reader’s sympathies. Though the imagery is solid throughout, it is the love triangle portrayed by vivid metaphors (the lover who is dead dissuading her from the lover who isn’t; the waves scattering the spectre’s essence to disprove his argument; the coldness of a deep-sea serpent mimicked in Umi’s treatment of Nori) that makes this story special.

SECOND RUNNER UP

Eric Martell, (won Year One–Round 32 & Round 45), Untitled. This story had my interest from the skirt that “flared fetchingly” — what a great image to put us into the mood and right into Marcus’ head. Of course, it doesn’t last long, as we quickly see the tempers and motives of both characters, and ultimately the protective vindictiveness of the girl in the “little maid’s skirt.” Jenna’s flippant approach to the poison (she drank it herself!) is mirrored well in her physicality, with the flouncing skirt and hopping off the bed, balancing the darkness of her obviously meticulous plan.  The attitude in the final line is the clincher.

FIRST RUNNER UP

UK_MJ, “The Footlocker.” The heart-touching nostalgia in this piece required mentioning. The layers of remembrances particularly stand out, underscoring the mix of a sweet past and the sadness of grief. We have the overlay of the present loss on the memories of loving times of “sifting through an old man’s [even older] memories” and the comparison of the forgotten footlocker with the current heightened memories of saying goodbye, brought to the conclusion of a fantastic use of the prompt’s image, and the relic of the “ancient gas mask” that had once saved Trixie’s grandfather’s life but couldn’t keep him alive forever. Poignant and touching.

And now: because twice in 7 weeks isn’t (apparently) enough, it’s three-time Flash! Friday 

DRAGON WINNER

MICHAEL SEESE!!!

for

“Drowning”

The dialogue that isn’t dialogue is the brilliance of this piece. In retrospect, the initial image sets up the possibility of both murder and suicide, but the following lines appear to be the internal dialogue and uncertainty of someone in desperate straights, contemplating something equally desperate. Only when she decides to say no, to find that inner strength, do we learn her demons aren’t internal but are in fact the physical and very distinct presence of her lover; that this back and forth isn’t her attempt to make a decision but a literal devil’s advocate, who is willing to take more drastic measures when the subtlety of conversation is insufficient. The twist of the ending that nevertheless makes such undeniable sense, conveyed through a risky yet perfect stylistic choice, steals your breath with the final line.

Congratulations AGAIN, Michael! Below is the comfortingly familiar winner’s badge for a third wall. Here are your updated winner’s page and your latest winning tale on the winners’ wall. Stand by for an email about this week’s #SixtySeconds feature. And here is your winning story:

Drowning

The rain-swollen canal seemed eager to taste another victim.

They’ll never find the body.

Bodies are just containers put on this Earth to house the soul while it finds its path.

Water cleanses all sins.

Is it a sin to fall in love? To believe in love? To believe love could happen to her?

An affair with a married man? Think of the shame it will bring.

Why must there be shame? If they stayed, perhaps. But why couldn’t they run away together? They were happy. Or so she had believed. And now that they were three…

And what of the child? What kind of life can your bastard expect? It would be better for all if you would just take that step…

“No!” she said, finding strength for the first time in her life. “I can’t do it!”

She turned to face her lover.

I know, he said, applying an emotionless palm to her chest. But I can.

 

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