Welcome to the results show. First, an announcement:
On Monday the 13th of July, voting will open for the best stories of this quarter. You’ll be voting for your top three stories from MB1.27 to MB1.39. There will be prizes! The top three stories will also go forward to the Micro Bookend of the year contest to be held in October. Remember, you’ve got to be in it to win it, so if you haven’t had a winning story yet, this week’s contest is your last chance for this quarter.
Okay, back to business. I’d like to say a huge thanks to this week’s judge, Foy S. Iver, who was not only judging here, but is also doing her first stint as judge at Flash! Friday. Thanks, Foy! Here’s what she thought of it all:
I absolutely adored the picture prompt this week. So much to work with! And can we always have the asterisk? What isn’t more fun with a wild card? Okay, enough envying you the prompts. Micro Bookends 1.38 saw everything from lost children to lost opportunities. My emotions swung. Pity at seeing an aged Peter Pan trying to convince himself there’s still a Neverland for him. Fear for those living under a terrifying movie director (Please stab him with that rusty nail!). Nostalgia for dusty days when my younger self knew the enchantment of “ground overrun by ragwort and ghostly dandelion heads.” All of them beautiful in their own way. And those that made the cut? A feast of world building and imagery to make your soul bleed.
Lengthening Shadows by Kelly Turner
Unfolding in slow turns, Lengthening Shadows explores the terrors of abandonment through glimpses of the setting. We learn that “the ice cream van had been and gone,”that the “water had been turned off this week” and “the only sustenance” the protagonist has is the melancholic drip, drip from a stingy faucet. It isn’t until the final line that we see whom our protagonist is, a boy alone, wishing “again for his mum’s return.” Tragic but brilliant work.
Silhouette Shift by
I’d love to know the inspiration behind this! Such gorgeous imagery throughout. I imagined that the sylphs’ could represent the wandering spirit of children rob of childhood. While they sleep, their childlike natures gather in the street, running, playing, “tagging others ‘It.’” The “Night is their playground” and as day awakens, we watch as “the sylphs’ skipping slows, as they tire” and return to their bounded form. And that final bookend (“save for a pinprick star”) delighted my poetic soul! Lovely, lovely tale.
A Second Life by Steph Ellis
With an eeriness that grew into the fully terrifying, A Second Life demonstrates riveting world building. Each read-through gives greater detail. We see “unsuspecting ‘children’” (chilling punctuation there!), happy to have “escaped the misery of the sweatshops forever,” while their “mysterious benefactor” smiles on with his own plans. A rich undervein is bled in the line “life had become recyclable” and we’re left watching in horror as they’re recycled back into the very place they hate, the children “only realising their mistake as the doors locked.” Bonus points for using such a delicious word as “Decrepitude”! Well done.
Pencilled by Marie McKay
From that first line “Childhood shapes haunt the landscape as if a 4-year-old god had sketched the world,” my mind sprang to Neil Gaiman’s “Coraline,” and the connection only grew stronger. On reading of the “grey stickmen and grey stickwomen” who “can barely hold their grey stickbabies with their bobble heads” (Other Mother, anyone?), I felt trapped in a crayon picture, bleached of all color. The phrase “sketchy people living sketchy lives” tickled my brain, while the light welcoming the stickpeople to join the “fleshed out world where children play, and laughter beats, and colour breathes” felt like a lungful of air. A highly original concept that deserves at the least an Honorable Mention.
Memento by Rebekah Postupak
This story has it all. Starkly defined characters, crisp dialogue, conflict, resolution, and back-story. The world is revealed in periphery: emotions and imagination gone (“Haven’t you seen what emotions do?”), human-life extinguished (They’ve been extinct, what, a hundred years?”), and a voice still yearning for things of the past (“yet you’d spend your one wish on human childbirth”). Images of those “mechanical fingers rubbing, rubbing, rubbing” won’t soon leave me, nor will the thought that we could one day miss one of the most painful and gratifying human experiences life has to offer, childbirth.
Indigo Mourning by Pattyann McCarthy
This piece took the idea of a lost childhood and peered at it from a fresh angle. That of a mother, her “dreams disappearing into vapor,” dealing with a childless reality as it forms. That originality alone clinched a spot on the winner’s podium. Through stunning imagery, the author captures the soul-shredding pain of a miscarriage (“I’m learning how to breathe, how to exist”), and the irrational guilt that often follows (“my uterus couldn’t sustain him, killing my son”). Life begins as a blinding joy, friends and family singing with you, only to dim, singing silenced, as the heavens appear indigo “through mourning eyes.” Personally it was difficult to read and I was grateful that the final line held so much truth: “In the midnight beyond, my baby’s the brightest star.”
Dull Silver by
So many things I loved about this one! The title seemed a subtle nod toward the silver screen and how many child stars have “dulled” in its light, a clever tie-in with the prompt. There’s something incredibly powerful about juxtaposition. We see what should have been, a father waking “bright and early” to make breakfast, and what was, “Bright and early, Papa put the barrel of his shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger” and instantly the act is more heart shattering. Mama, who should’ve been tucking her child in every night, instead cries “tears of salt and cigarettes” and never visits. The tangible tick upward of time (6, 8, 10, 12) marked years stolen from this child’s youth until that sun faded into the “dull silver of a dying star.” A worthy winner.
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.