Reflex Fiction is a quarterly international flash fiction competition for stories between 180 and 360 words. They publish one story every day as they count down to the winner of each competition. The authors of the first-, second-, and third-placed stories will receive £1,000, £500, and £250 respectively.
Hello, everyone! It’s great to see your flashy faces again. Two items of business today. First the good:
Micro Bookend of the Year Winners
Thanks to everyone who voted for your favourite three stories. The votes have been counted and the top three stories are:
1. Dull Silver by Iskandar Haggarty
2. Hanger Hangar by Bunmi Oke
3. A Winter’s Tale by Geoff Holme
Congratulations, Iskandar, Bunmi and Geoff.
Now the bad:
There will be no more Micro Bookends
Alas, life has got in the way and unfortunately I don’t have the time to devote to the site anymore. Thanks to everyone who wrote, read, commented, judged and made MB a fun place to be. Good luck to everyone with your writing ambitions and I’m sure I’ll see many of you in the dark places where tiny stories dwell.
VotingComments Off on Micro Bookend of the Year – Voting
Photo Credit: Kodak Views via CC.
It’s time to find the top three stories from Micro Bookends Year One. Below, I’ve compiled the winning entries from the four quarterly polls. Below them is the voting gadget. Please take a moment to read the stories then vote for your favourite three. Voting is open until 5 a.m. on Thursday 3rd December. This time the number of votes each entry has received will be shown after you have voted. I’ll formally announce the winners on Thursday.
Sacred it truly is, the privilege to peep through his favourite antique of a gadget.
But how objects at both extremes hang precariously bother me some – as though if my grip wobbled, the fellow on the ladder to the right with his aircraft would come sliding, crashing into the pretty lady in the center. Dad yaks about the device’s ‘wide angle lens,’ ‘aspect ratio,’ (or is it ‘field of view’?) as responsible for that ‘panoramic view.’ Whatever.
Thrill of my 6th birthday treat peaks with the brief flash on depressing the knob – this moment captured and cached into my childhood memory by the shutter’s clicking sound.
Blueberry was never bored. She saw possibilities for joyous expression everywhere. She made colorful collages from discarded magazines and gave them as personalized gifts. She bent soft twigs into heart shapes and suspended them from elastics pulled from her socks to make elaborate kinetic mobiles. She used broken blocks of cement to create art on the steps of the run down housing project where she lived with her six siblings. Blueberry saw beauty everywhere. In her mind she lived in a glorious wonderland of her own creation. She was the curator of a great museum on the hill.
Beat the drums. Shout it out. Write it down. Document everything. Fill the archives. Build more archives. If I don’t describe it, it will remain undescribed.
Walking to work today I saw an old man in boxer shorts open his front door, float up his rosebud fingertips, and fold into a perfect arabesque penché to lift the newspaper from his front stoop. I worry so much that no one will know this.
Hunched modern scribe, I fantasize about ceasing—ceding to the universal subconscious (a gyre spinning slowly below, gathering in all our tiny hearts). Every sigh and sandcastle would be inherited, written onto the bones of the next generation.
New layers of architecture rise beyond the minarets. The old muezzin looks up to see the changes, for the physical world is no different at eye level: children impoverished still naively play, kicking up the dust of decay.
The muezzin sits mute. He draws his eyes down knowing there are other changes for those who stay the same. The cacophony of the city’s noises are transformed. The diminished soundscape tires him: the blend of chants for prayer now a single electronic voice.
Taciturn he shakes his head, another layer, another coat that strips the ancient city of its old but colourful clothes.
She picks up her pace, an hour in and her tits and legs ache. She’s nauseous. Contorting and twirling make the air crawl up her exposed skin. The sensation triggers her synapses. She wonders if the men below still give their daughters music boxes that play You Are My Sunshine while the stiff pop-up ballerina spins.
‘Plaything number 1. You are thinking!’
Before she detaches again, becoming a distorted rag doll in a glass box, writhing for the ‘nice men’, she allows one last lucid thought to fire across her brain:
‘Fear me,’ he says- just as he hands me my change; just before the train pulls up; just before the guy behind me shouts, ‘What’s keeping you, Lady?’
I try to find a trace of the words on his face. In the lines across his forehead. In his pinpoint pupils. In the shiny gold between his yellow teeth. But they’ve disappeared.
Except, somehow, I am in possession of them. I carry them onto the train, feel them fluttering at my chest. I try to pull them into some other shape. But the train thrums, ‘Take care! Take care!’ I turn towards the squawking skies and watch the noises flying.
Childhood is supposed to be golden.
Fathers are supposed to wake up, bright and early, and make breakfast.
Bright and early, Papa put the barrel of his shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Mothers are supposed to tuck their kids in at night.
Mama cried tears of salt and cigarettes when the judge found me a new home, but she never visited.
Not even once.
Friends are supposed to stick up for you.
The whole baseball team disappeared the day the bigger kids came for me.
Childhood is supposed to be golden.
Mine was the dull silver of a dying star.
VotingComments Off on Micro Bookends 1.40 to 1.52 – Voting
Photo Credit: Kodak Views via CC.
It’s time to find the top three stories for the fourth quarter of Micro Bookends Year One. Below, I’ve compiled the winning entries from rounds 1.40 to 1.52. Below them is the voting gadget. Please take a moment to read the stories then vote for your favourite three. Voting is open until 5 a.m. on Thursday 22nd October. I’ll announce the results on Saturday 24th October.
The authors of the three stories that receive the most votes will each receive a copy of Writing Short Stories by Ailsa Cox. That’s a real book with paper and ink and that new-book smell! The winners will also go through to the Micro Bookend of the year competition to be held soon.
Love is a light that has faded from my life. The roads I have taken, dark and lonely. My journey, as I cast off friends like worn-out clothes, is one they cannot follow. It is obsession that has brought me here, to this place.
Will my words gain my admittance, my acceptance? Or will I be rejected and be sent back into the void?
I cling to my sanity, now wafer thin and leave my offering at these gates of perdition, my words, my other self. And wonder again at how I have been consumed by this craft.
I pull a cigarette out of the pack. “You mean ‘British’?”
“No, ‘Brithic.’” I know. “You probably don’t believe me, but there’re aliens!”
“Oh yeah?” Smoke limits my words.
“They took me in my sleep one night.” You weren’t sleeping. “They experimented on my brain.” They were trying to repair the damages I’d done to your jigsawed skull. “I bet they don’t realize I remember it all.” I wish you did. Or could.
The ashes collapse as your story ends and I dread your moment of silence. Again.
Mum’s right, of course, in her own unpredictable Nokia text speak. Lazy bones is exactly what I am. I should have popped round today to say hello and to talk about Col’s birthday. Unlucky lad had his Raleigh nicked last week and she wants me to find him a replacement on eBay.
THIS BILE. WHAT SHOULD I SAX?
Pay what you like, Mum. This 18 speed hybrid looks good, though. Auction ends later tonight and the current price is £40. I think it would be a steal at twice that.
Perfect, she is! Perfectomundo, she might once have said! In certain casually carnal company. In the end, all she could think, sadly, was how perfunctory it had become!
Glenys Walters sits before the mirror. Her finger traces a wrinkle that insists on flinging itself out from the left side of her face right near where her upper and lower lips converge, that little fleshy junction, spiraling into a demisemihemidemisemiquaver.
She has risen too far above her station; her wiles, her guile, strings pulled and plucked, the back stairways where the aromatics wander in search of favors, ever pandering for her piquant pleasures, for the courtesans indulgently intoxicating pitch.
Good evening, afternoon, or morning to the international flash fiction community. What a fantastic round of MB that was: forty-three great entries and a few new faces (welcome, friends from IICS). Before the results, some announcements:
At 5 a.m. BST Tomorrow (Monday 19th October), voting will open for the best stories of this quarter. You’ll be voting for your top three stories from MB1.40 to MB1.52. The authors of the top three stories will each receive a copy of Writing Short Stories by Ailsa Cox (that’s a real book with paper and ink and that new-book smell), and will also go forward to the Micro Bookend of the year contest to be held soon.
Remember, after this round I’ll be taking a break while I deal with a major family event. The next contest will (hopefully) be on Thursday the 3rd of December. Watch out for Twitter updates.
A curious story with a nice use of passing time to lead the reader through the story. A very literal use of the photo prompt for the town of Greyscale with its achromatopsia-afflicted (literal or figurative?) inhabitants.
One from the weird drawer the uses a single detail – the pointed leather shoes – from the photo. They’re so pointy that all male members of the proud Shoemaker family (I love the line, “The Shoemakers made sandals for Jesus, for Christ’s sake”) must have their little toes removed at birth to fit into them. Fun.
Such a fun premise. A guy can’t get a date because he’s very particular about how she writes her number and uses silly childish rhymes to teach her. Made me chuckle. Still, our man does his duty and takes her dessert order. Great closing line.
Another fun piece that had me laughing. While most stories had the man in the photo as a menacing figure, this one had him has the hapless Uncle Enzo, smoker of putrid cigars and clearer of restaurants.
A very creative story that on another week may have made it into the top three. I love the use of code as the two Mafia men discuss the hit. The golf clubs, tee-off time, is the ball liable to run fast when I start putting. All very clever with a classic closing line, “My respects to your family.”
This piece is just crammed full of conflict: the pressure from her mother to marry him to repay ‘the debt’; the fact he’s twice her age and “his huge frame filled the space across from her”; the fact her lover who was trying to persuade her to leave has recently been killed; and the clincher – when she realises the man in front of her was probably responsible for his death. The MC sums up her situation succinctly in the line, “Do I have a choice?” Excellent title too.
So much tension for such a short story! From the details (“drinking his favourite coffee: a cappuccino, with cinnamon and chocolate on top”) you know this operation has been long in the making. We don’t know what the target has done, but the MC dislikes him (“the fat bastard”) and that’s good enough for us. I love the three short, short sentences, “My rifle waits patiently, trigger begging to be squeezed. My target looks up at the sun. My phone beeps.” Then BANG. It’s all over in a moment. Nice closing line.
This emotive piece made me think of two cultural references: the scene in The Godfather where Vito Corleone is frolicking with his grandson in the garden before dying the perfect death (oh, the injustice after he was the mastermind of so much violence) and Vultures by Chinua Achebe where “the Commandant at Belsen Camp going home for the day with fumes of human roast clinging rebelliously to his hairy nostrils will stop at the wayside sweet-shop and pick up a chocolate for his tender offspring waiting at home for Daddy’s return.” Yes, love can be found everywhere even in those “whose very name inspired fear.” The line “caskets were not supposed to be that small” had me reaching for the tissues. And the conclusion brings home the perpetual cycle of violence these people are involved in because you just know their families are going to want revenge…
Five years old. Capricious. Mischievous smile. He could still feel her tiny arms wrapped around his neck. “Faster, Grandpa!” she’d shout as he galloped around the house like a pony.
What a softie she turned him into. He, of all people, whose very name inspired fear.
Loving her left him vulnerable; he knew that. But there were unspoken rules, lines that shouldn’t be crossed.
Caskets were not supposed to be that small.
If they thought they’d finally broken him, they were right. Was it time to hang his hat? Perhaps.
But not yet.
He checked his watch. Dinnertime – perfect.
They were about to learn the true meaning of “family”.
Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.52, the last contest before we move into year two. But first, a couple of announcements:
After this round we’ll be voting for our favourite stories from MB1.40 to MB1.52. If you haven’t been a winner yet, this is your last roll of the dice for this quarter. Good luck!
After this round I’ll be taking a break while I deal with a major family event. The next contest will (hopefully) be on Thursday the 3rd of December. Watch out for Twitter updates.
The five families (Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese) are the organized crime families comprising the New York Mafia. The division of the Mafia into the five families happened after the Castellammarese War, a bloody power struggle between Joe ‘The Boss’ Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. Maranzano won, declared himself capo di tutti capi (boss of all bosses) and set about changing the structure of the Mafia in an effort to avoid future gang-wars. As well as dividing territory between the five families, Maranzano also introduced the familiar Mafia hierarchy of boss (capofamiglia), underboss (sotto capo), advisor (consigliere), captain (caporegime), soldier (soldato), and associates. Maranzano was murdered just months after the Castellammarese War. The position of capo di tutti capi was scrapped in favour of The Commission which is still the governing body of the American Mafia today.
Mario Puzo, author of the classic Mafia novel The Godfather, was born on this day in 1920 in New York City. Puzo was born into a poor family from the Province of Avellino, Italy. He joined the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, but due to poor eyesight did not undertake combat duties. Puzo published The Godfather in 1969 after the publisher suggested his earlier novel The Fortunate Pilgrim (a story based on his mother’s honest immigrant struggle for respectability in America) would have sold better if it had more Mafia in it. Puzo also co-wrote the screenplay with Francis Ford Coppola for the 1972 adaptation, The Godfather, for which they won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Puzo died from heart failure in 1999 aged seventy-eight.
A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with FIVE and ending with FAMILIES or FAMILY and incorporating the photo prompt.
Anyone, but especially you!
Why not! Because it’s fun. Because it’s a challenge. Because the winner will receive their own winner’s page, their story on the winning stories list, a ‘Who is the author?’ feature to be posted next week, entry into the ‘Micro Bookend of the Year’ competition, and a copy of this year’s winning stories compilation.