Welcome to the results show. We had 44 entries for MB1.44. Spooky? Not as spooky as some of your flashes. A huge thank you to this week’s judge, Rebekah Postupak, for sorting it all out. Here’s what she thought:
You fabulous flashers never fail to surprise me. Where most weeks we exclaim over the myriad directions writers take a single prompt, this week you seem to have collided in one bone-chilling mass of shadows that quite set my teeth chattering. This week story was shoved aside by étude; you paused in creepy alleyways (including a most unusual iteration by [Chris and] Mike) and creepy cellars, watched silently in creepy forests and one extremely creepy library (or at least a library with a not-to-be-messed-with librarian). Thank you once more for entrusting your writing to us and allowing me to share my flimsy thoughts. Love this Craft? Oh yes. Oh, dear creepers in the night, yes.
Daughter of the Crafty One by Stella Turner
Holy worldbuilding, er, Beelzebub. This story is stark, as though told by a creature in chains and blinders: the narrator weaves his portrait of this world and his own passivity in a terrifying ignorance. We are given a single tiny scene, and in that scene we see (hear?) only hints of the violent overlords. Head down, mind your own business, needle in and out. This is a tapestry of life no one would wish for, beautifully and horrifyingly sketched. Great job.
Lovestruck by Firdaus Parvez
From the opening line (“Love is the most evil person”), we were set down a glorious path of angry opposites. This dark Cupid carries poisoned arrows and bares fangs, and though he still dutifully loathes hatred, as the tale progresses, we’re shown a unexpectedly creepy exhumation of his actions and motivations. The concept was fun, the voice fantastic, and the execution here really well done as we watch him work, from the tongue-in-cheek opening to the gleeful, hand-rubbing end.
500 Miles For Freedom by Ed Broom
One of the few takes personifying the closing bookend, I loved seeing Ellen & William Craft recognized. “Craft” is a name perfectly suited to this courageous couple who made their own way in a world set against them, and it was wonderful seeing their story so well executed here, from the title to Billy’s name to their flight to Philadelphia. This modern interpretation, echoed in today’s headlines, shows that over 150 years later, we still have a long way to go. Thank you for this story—and here’s to the fight for freedom everywhere. May it continue.
What Would Freud Say? by KM Zafari
This story was a hilarious romp from beginning to end: the dry, lonely professor who thought he could isolate the composition of love (“attraction plus compatibility”) and was proven most spectacularly wrong. But the punchline, though funny, isn’t what sets this story apart. It’s the subtle character development and worldbuilding, painted with a powerfully understated and masterful hand. And let’s not forget the fourth-wall-breaking title. This story is clever and knows it, but it’s so clever, we buy the whole kit and caboodle anyway. Awesome.
Strange Love by Marie McKay
Like “What Would Freud Say,” this story pairs a non-romantic human with an alien, only this time our would-be hero is following a romantic how-to book. The book’s instructions enable a fun story structure as the protagonist struggles to demonstrate a love he doesn’t feel to begin with. We follow the progress of the bumbling lover, and at a perfect calculated midpoint, suddenly his rattling tray meets the beloved’s monotone. “I cannot process tea,” she says, and in a hysterical downward spiral the lover’s efforts crumble and crash into failure. The really fantastic worldbuilding and the sophisticated pacing are what knocked me off my feet. So good.
First Day on the Job by Sonya
Capping a very impressive trio of runners up is this dark vignette with its chilling shades of Screwtape. The world is unveiled line by line as blacklight shines first on the humans, then on the apprentice and mentor, and then, finally, on the nature of the grim (haha) work being done. It’s dark labor set in shadowed irony against the story’s faceless title, and the unveiling is done with surgical precision. I love this piece’s intelligent voice and its arrogantly apathetic dismissal of its prey. Beautifully constructed and so very, very well crafted. Beware indeed.
Submission by Steph Ellis
“Submission” is so delicious, I could go on about it for a good full page or two: its layered storytelling, the sandwiched question structure, the portrayal of a forward-moving, lonely journey down dark roads to the “gates of perdition” (did anybody else picture the Black Gate??), the conscious, Poe-like unraveling of the narrator’s rational thought, and the double entendre of its flawless title. On one hand the story reads like a play to the judge (surely not!); on the other, for us flash fiction writers, this story speaks to the overpowering obsession we share. And therein lies the methodical genius behind this piece, because it’s specifically targeted AND simultaneously reaches past that target to a shared universal experience: that of sacrificing for something badly wanted. This story paints for us the cruel prison of the artist, the athlete, the addict. We recognize the character’s self-incrimination because those words fall from our lips at the same moment we ourselves are yielding. The character here is so well-drawn, we look deeply into the darkly lined face only to discover it’s a mirror. Powerfully, ironically, magnificently done, dear winner. And now—laptops to sleep, but only for a moment: tomorrow the flash week begins all over again, and, may God have mercy, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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.