Oct 112015
 
Photo Credit: via David Spinks CC.

Photo Credit: David Spinks via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, an announcement:

On Monday the 19th of 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. There will be prizes! The top three stories will also go forward to the Micro Bookend of the year contest to be held soon. 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.

Now please join me in thanking this week’s judge, Bill Engleson. Here’s what he had to say:

I have spent the morning reviewing these excellent entries. I have also felt the piercing pangs of judging. I will never visit a courtroom ever again, either on-line, on the Tube, or in an actual courthouse, without paying huge respect to the lot of the lonely judge.

Without meaning to sound like a wishy-washy, namby pamby non-judgemental sort of guy, may I say that I unreservedly found pleasure in each and every entry.

Another day, one cup of coffee more, or less, a different Toronto Blue Jays game echoing in the background of my Judges Chamber and the selections could have been different.

Anyway, I had a bit of a technological learning curve…new computer that I am slowly, agedly becoming familiar with. Also, if I seemed to have skimped on the length of my comments, I was trying to avoid my penchant for rambling on, a disreputable quality not suited to a micro fiction judge, or so I imagine.

Honourable Mentions

The Summer of Love by @dazmb

The wistfully sad, slightly bitter tone of this ode to the 60’s hooked me. Again, my time, albeit in the less raucous Canadian landscape. The image of idealists having fallen into the self pleasuring grace of gambling added to the sorrow.

CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE MYSTERY OF DORO STREET by Brian S. Creek

Maybe it is my uncomfortable and enduring affection for “The Birds” but this darkly funny tale (at least, I think its humorous) got me going. The punch line is so so true.

Help Wanted by KM Zafari

I am obviously a failed punster never having made the leap to Civil Serpent. This bit of witty commentary drew me right in, the balance of the job descriptions kept me going.

What’s in a Word by Stella Turner

I am a sucker for talking birds. There were a few entries that used this technique. The humane measures humour (or not) in this one struck a perverse chord in me. Worthy of a last-minute but no less valuable honourable mention.

3rd Place

Burtons Suit Blues by Ed Broom

Right out of the chute (or shoot) a great pun, very creative use of the bookend. And the tone of the end bookend…marvellous. This tale also pays homage to the Jazz Micro Bookends contest a short while back which I thoroughly enjoyed. A sad yet hopeful mood piece, I grant it 3rd place.

2nd Place

The Implacable Nature of Being by A V Laidlaw

As a former front line civil servant, I couldn’t help but be drawn in to this sojourn into a bureaucratic maze. With the smooth use of the bookends and the agony of seeking a correction, I signed off on 2nd place.

Winner

Blackbird by Karl A Russell

This sad and beautiful story ripped my sometimes cynical heart out. There is a snippet of humour, a quiet bowl of sorrow, some learning (I was once a marriage commissioner – one specific role filled by a humanist ceremonial officiant, I discovered.) Quite a complete and oh so loving story. My 1st choice.

Blackbird

Karl A Russell

“Civil partnership, is that it?”

“What? No Mum, that’s something else.”

“Oh. Well, what’s that other one then? Humourist or whatever?”

I can’t talk to her, so I look out of the window instead. The smokers in the shelter look like bedraggled birds, waiting to spread dressing-gown wings and soar toward the sun. I wish I hadn’t quit.

“We were partners though.”

I look back, feeling my throat tighten.

“I know Mum. I know.”

She looks like a little bird herself, perched at the bedside. She’s still holding his hand.

“It’s called a humanist ceremony. Yeah, I think he’d like that.”

She smiles through tears.

“Humanist. Yes, that’s right.”

Sep 132015
 
Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Photo Credit: Stephen Hampshire via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, we must think this week’s judge, Brian S Creek, for sorting it all out. Here’s what he thought:

I’m a big fan of Formula 1. One of the things that’s interesting, especially this year, is how close some drivers can be on the qualifying, and still be lagging on the back row. Twenty drivers give it their best and end up being separated over just two seconds. It’s the milliseconds that decide the order that they line up on the grid for the race. And I’m talking thousandths of a second between 5th and 15th.

Which brings me to your wonderfully crafted stories.

When judging these contests, the results show you the top picks, and it can look like the remaining bunch were just left by the wayside. But, for me, that simply wasn’t the case. So many stories were hanging around the top bunch that there basically wasn’t a bottom bunch. My order changed and changed and changed; sometimes a story that I’d written off early on would suddenly jump up and challenge the podium.

Unfortunately I can’t pick 36 stories for 1st place. So below are my top 7.  For those of you not listed here, I know you’ll all be back again this Thursday to try again. See you there.

Honourable Mentions

This Thing, I Forget Its Name by A V Laidlaw

There were several mental health stories this week and this was one of my favourites. The piece stood out with some very beautiful lines early on (‘dandelion seeds blown away in the breeze’ to describe fragile memories, and ‘The sense that reality is nothing more than an early draft’).

Jacked In by FE Clark

It’s a playful piece, but darker underneath. With everything we do going digital, how long until we do too?

Teeth Like Colin’s by CR Smith

One of the stories that had me laughing out loud, I really like the use, mid story, of the two characters breathing in. And the brutal honesty of the dentist when letting our guy know that he’s a dentist, not a miracle worker.

Test Run by Colin Smith

So many stories went with words beginning with the opening bookend, that I liked this story for starting with a spelling mistake, an error that builds into the plot.

3rd place

Britopia by Marie McKay

I laughed at several stories this week, but this was the funniest. Perhaps because I’m British, trained from birth to understand the basic protocol for standing in line with a bunch of strangers. It might seem plot-lite, but the journey contained within this piece of Flash Fiction is as epic as the one taken by Frodo and Sam to Mount Doom. Our main character travels from point to point, overcoming obstacles, until he finally reaches his goal; a place in Britopia.

2nd Place

Thump by Iskandar Haggarty

A simple story, that of predator versus prey, and beautifully written. It’s feels like it’s taking too much time for a piece with a 100 word limit, but the ending is far from rushed. Despite the violence of the finale, I found the piece to be quite relaxing.

Winner

Da Capo All’Infinito by Steven O. Young Jr.

There were a couple of entries this week that went for the mental illness angle, but this one was the most subtle. I’ll be honest and say I struggled through my first reading (the thoughts within the speech confused me), but when I got to the end, it clicked.

And what an ending. I thought this was a simple story of an elderly man with fading memories and a vivid imagination, while the main character is forced to sit through tall tales. But that repetition of the opening line packs way more punch than if the author had simply wrapped the story up with a simple explanation of the older man’s ailments.

And the main character sits through it all again.

Da Capo All’Infinito

Steven O. Young Jr.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

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.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack.

Micro Bookends 1.46 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.46 – Results
Sep 062015
 
Photo Credit: Mike Fleming via CC.

Photo Credit: Mike Fleming via CC.

Welcome to the results show. It’s a corker today, with the same writer taking second and first place! But first, a huge thanks to this week’s judge, @dazmb. Here’s what he thought of it all:

Before we get started, take a moment and give yourselves a pat on the back. You are all sorcerers of your craft. This week’s stories gave me hours of reading pleasure before I had to knuckle down to the intimidating task of putting them in a semblance of order.

In the parlance of my young teenage son (and would be skater boi) your sick skilz transported me away from the skate park to courtrooms, outerspace, treasure hunts, A&E, classrooms, railway tracks, office parties, Mount Olympus and all the way to the delivery room.

A tour de force of entries and an education too…Xu, xenogamy, xenogenesis, xerophytic, xenolithic and xi…who knew?

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity and honour of extending the following thoughts on my favourite entries. It was an incredibly difficult task to order the final list of winners and I look forward to rejoining the fray and fun of sharing our stories together next week!

Honourable Mentions

Skater Boy by C R Smith

Out of all the entries this one made me smile the most, hence its inclusion in the final run-down.

I thought the angle taken on the ‘skate park’ setting was original and the phrase ‘fresh eyes and false memories’ inspired.

The contrast between the narrator’s amazement that he indeed was able to ‘carve frontside performing a 360’ versus his hapless accident made me snort out loud.

But what really sealed it for me was the last line.

‘Skater Boy’s back in the game!’

He thinks he’s got it, the reader knows he doesn’t and as a consequence a difference in perspective is established for ongoing comedy…I’d love to read about his further exploits.

I bet he’s a dad dancer extraordinaire!

Cnsl Fr Th Prsctn by Karl A Russell

So at first, my brain crawled out of my ear when I read this. But when I finally worked through the story I loved it.

The technique of removing the vowels has been done before I think, but its use here served a genuine purpose, suited the ‘graffiti’ photo prompt, and made for an altogether original entry.

It’s a light hearted story, but I felt it made an interesting point about how language evolves; something that should concern us all as writers.

Technology continues to radically alter our means and methods of communication. We live in an age, where generations communicate by emojis and emoticons and think nothing of incorporating twitter acronyms such as btw, wtf, b4 and fwiw into their everyday writing.

How do we respond to this? Like the magistrate, a member of the establishment, raging against the light, railing against the (brilliant) reduction of ‘T b r nt t b’? Or, indeed do we embrace the revolution of a world without vowels?

A piece that wore the questions it raised very lightly. Thought provoking and fun. A winning combination.

Porlock by A V Laidlaw

‘Xanadu in concrete…’ This was my favourite opening out of all the entries. A vivid contrast that grabbed my interest straight away and has stuck in my mind ever since.

I will also put my hand up and admit to a little subjective bias. I live in London and took a keen interest in what I assume this story relates to…the graffiti ridden skate park on the Southbank and ‘graffiti alley’ in Waterloo and the risk they face from gentrification and development.

But aside from the factual relevance what stood out for me in this story was how it reduced the mythical: ‘Xanadu’, ‘Sacred Thames’ to the mundane: the ‘dismal school days’ and ‘the stink of the gym’.

All at the hands of a jaded jobsworth who cannot see the wood for the trees, whose being is consumed with the petty idea of getting his own back, excellently portrayed in the phrase “he puckers a tiny smile”.

Mr Porlock hates games. I don’t think much of him either.

4th Place

X-Games by asgardana

A rite of passage story given a thoroughly modern makeover.

At the core of this story is a friendship between Carla and Kyle, both coming terms with the inevitable changes of adolescence.

There is an honesty and openness in their relationship that shines through the tricky subject matter.

Kyle’s curious to know more. Carla’s secure enough to start coming to terms with who she might be: strong enough to do so on her terms, rather than Kyle’s, but forgiving enough not to completely cut him out when he realises the mistake he’s made.

Carla’s a great character – I’d like to know more about her.

In today’s age, where x-rated material is so freely available to skew impressionable minds, it was reassuring to read a story that touches on this subject matter, but ultimately is about a boy and a girl getting to know each other as friends, rather than objects.

So while this piece of flash fiction stands by itself, it has the potential to withstand being fleshed out into something more substantial and longer. That’s why it made my top four.

3rd Place

Skater Girl by F. E. Clark

Oh, I did like this in your face character mea culpa. Setting out its uncompromising stall in a compelling first sentence the piece doesn’t stop until that dismissive last line.

It spoke to who we project ourselves to be versus how we see our ‘real’ interior selves and how we continue to reconcile the two as time passes.

So our skater girl is now a city girl? (“I hit the 180” is a great, double layered meaning of a flash fic sentence). Is she a sell out? Is she looking for your opinion goofyfoot? Judge away, she’s walking on by in her Jimmy Choo’s.

But then again, can she really be a skater girl, down to her core? Is she simply kidding herself?

Telling yourself a thing doesn’t necessarily make it so.

And then… there is the perspective of age and the question she has yet to ask herself or understand…how long does your past define you? Before it fades over the horizon and you forget who you really were all those long years ago?

But for now, she’ll keep it hidden, be as ‘cold as stone’. Tell herself ‘It’s all a game’ and not worry about any future reckoning.

Tough, sassy and full of the certainty of youth. All good stuff.

I love stories that get me thinking, that ask questions of myself, that raise more questions the more I think about them. This one certainly did. I have probably returned to this story and thought about it more than any other. That’s why it made my top three.

2nd Place

A World Divided by X by Brian S Creek

This is just an absolutely top notch, piece of writing.

I wasn’t sure whether the author had read my bio, with its passing reference to science, but as soon as I read the opening sentence, I hunkered down, certain that I was in for a treat.

And what a treat. 100 odd words and the author has established context, backstory, place, motive, the outline of a plot and developed the main character. Phew

“I eat when I can, sleep when I can. The rest of the time I hunt the bastards down” is an awesome bit of writing. It’s simple, short, punchy and at the end I really felt like I know this women, understand what makes her tick, who she is…

The bookends were seamless and the writing beguilingly effortless. Every word serves a purpose and as soon as I’d finished reading it, I read it right the way through again, muttering to myself ‘blimey, I wish I’d written this.’

It is a lean, mean, absolute masterclass in flashfic.

Forget about the MC being on top of her game.  There’s only one person on top of their game here, and that’s the author. Brilliant stuff.

Winner

When the Student Becomes the Master by Brian S Creek

X.

Y.

Z.

I have to be honest and say I wasn’t entirely sure where this was going to start with, but what unfolded was a quietly heartbreaking tale of a dyslexic father helping one son with his homework while playing with his other.

The photo prompt was incorporated in an original way, and I liked the way the author, title aside, kept the reader on their toes and the story unobvious until the teacher /pupil relationship was inverted in the middle of the passage.

The sentence ‘I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now’ has a lovely forward momentum that segues into the MC’s building sense of resignation and failure that ‘Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down’ before finally boiling over into a sense of frustration that his child’s toy is mocking him.

And then, suddenly, the story ends, with a simple question:

‘Would you like to play a game?’

I found the juxtaposition between the simplicity of the question, the patience of one son and the unquestioning love of another, eager to play with his father, versus the father’s pent up emotions, certain that he is failing one child and will fail another, incredibly powerful and moving.

What will he do? Lash out or absorb his frustration, his anger? The question is left open, but the irony that the story allows the reader to see what a loving and capable father the MC is, even if he cannot fully appreciate it himself, only heightens the emotional impact of the ending.

It was incredibly difficult to choose between this and the second placed story. The latter won my head over, but this truly deft and skilful piece of writing won my heart. And in the end that’s what I went with – the poetry of the final question – it snagged my heart – and shone a light on the emotional core of a father’s relationship with his sons.

Congratulations to all you flashfic genies, and to this author in particular!

When the Student Becomes the Master

Brian S Creek

X.

Y.

Z.

How about W, for ‘who gives a crap’. Pythagoras, fractions, algebra; it’s all gibberish.

Graffiti on the page.

My son looks up with patient eyes. I’m supposed to be helping him with his homework but he’s the one teaching me.

I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now. I used to blame the dyslexia but Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down.

My three-year-old walks over to me holding his new favourite toy, a second-hand Mr Spell. Damned thing is probably smarter than me too. It mocks me.

“Would you like to play a game?”

Aug 302015
 
Photo Credit: David Elwood via CC.

Photo Credit: David Elwood via CC.

It’s Sunday. That can mean only one thing! Tomorrow is Monday. Oh, and Micro Bookends results of course. First a huge thanks to Steph Ellis for picking the winners. Here’s what she thought of your suped-up stories:

To find myself judging at MB, or anywhere else for that matter, is a daunting process. I’m well aware of the high standard of those who contribute week in, week out; I know what it takes to keep submitting, hoping for kind comments and, even better, a placing. I know how it feels if you don’t receive any of these. So to all those who entered this week, I would like to say thank you for giving me the privilege of reading your stories, all 41 of them! It was a difficult task and one which I hope I have done justice to. I read all the stories more than once and even when I sorted out my winning order there were many others which just bubbled under and which I wish I could have included.

Honourable Mentions

Eve of Creation by A V Laidlaw

And God created man in his own image but when he stood up, he looked ‘a little unfortunate’, a phrase that made me chuckle. Then he made Eve, he did better.

I, Tiger by KM Zafari

Having made the beautiful animal extinct, man is reduced to creating a synthetic version and still learns nothing. What a sad state of affairs.

What Immortal Hand or Eye? by Karl A Russell

A humorous take on the Creation story, over-worked Azrael misses date with a dragoness, so gets his own back on God and modifies the tiger’s brain.

Sun Flag by Richard Edenfield

A story of the perennial clash of man with nature, perfectly described as his ‘midnight mass of blind ambition’. Even when extinction occurs, violence is still the weapon of first resort. Another lesson not learned.

4th Place

Body of Evidence by Rebekah Postupak

Powerful little story of triumph over adversity. A daughter born with spina bifida, survives against the odds and has a normal life proving the experts wrong time and again. Touchingly told with the pride and love of a mother who turns the experts own words on themselves, they were the ones who needed modification, not her daughter.

3rd Place

lunch by Jack Koebnig

One of the most seamless uses of bookends this week. A lovely dark (but humorous) monologue by a food critic of another kind delivered in such a matter-of-fact tone to make it seem completely normal. You can almost see him drooling as he discusses his favourite cuts … until his little bubble of satisfaction is burst when he bites into some delicious human morsel and finds a repair made out of metal. Wonder what he would have thought of silicone enhancements?

2nd Place

Broken by Marie McKay

A beautifully crafted chunk of darkness. The juxtaposition of the evilness of his deed in the setting of what is normally a haven – the family table where his innocent daughter does her homework, where the family take meals together, the place often described as the centre of family life – was particularly clever. But then again isn’t this the perfect place to make his creation, a mother for the child, albeit one made from the body parts of others, for isn’t she the heart, the centre of the family? Very little is described, there is a reference to a body, drilling, the table becomes a mortuary slab, eyes, apron, there is no need for anything else, we can already see what is going on. Yet this erstwhile Frankenstein is also protective, sensitive; he covers the body and takes his apron off when his daughter’s ‘midnight feet’ approach even as he hints that his daughter is aware of what he is up to, ‘Mommy will be ready by Christmas’. It makes you wonder, did he also create his daughter?

Winner

A Hungry Business by dazmb

I have been considering taking up yoga again but after this I think I will stick to the gym! As soon as I started to read this, the words just fell away and became a movie in my head. The immediacy of this effect, brought about by clever and sparing use of dialogue and narrative is a sign of a truly skilled writer. I was there, in that exercise studio. I could see the women posing (the ones who give you an inferiority complex as you struggle whilst they maintain their air of annoying perfection); Durga manifesting the power of her Goddess namesake to become the tiger, the creature of destruction; the screaming, the killing, the aftermath. I was there and I could see it all. I also enjoyed the subtle touches of humour, the slip-of-the-tongue reference to devouring instead of taking the lesson, the use of the last bookend to ‘yoga, with some minor modifications …’. All done with so little telling. This writer made it look deceptively easy. A gem of a story, a potted perfection.

A Hungry Business

dazmb

“…body and mind aligned; push back into downward dog”.

The blond, skinny decaf lattes who took this class meant nothing to Durga.

Her attention returned to the class instructor. ‘Yogi’ she insisted on being called, as if she understood the deeper rituals.

Durga channelled her energy into the tiger’s eyes taped to her chakras.

“…and forward on all fours, left leg raised, into tiger pose.”

Summoning the power of her namesake Deity, she willed the transformation.

Padding forward, amidst the screams of fear, she growled deeply “I’ve come to devour…I mean take this lesson.”

She calmly pawed her whiskers. ‘Think of it as yoga, with some minor modifications…”

Micro Bookends 1.43 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.43 – Results
Aug 162015
 
Photo Credit: coia.nac via CC.

Photo Credit: coia.nac via CC.

Hope you’re all having a great weekend. Ready for the results? First a big thank you to judge, juror and executioner, Karl A. Russell. Thanks Karl! Here’s what he thought:

Wow! 39 entries! What a bumper crop of awesome tales! I read them all on the trip into London yesterday, and despite engineering works, rail replacement buses and unseasonably warm weather for the UK, they made the journey fly by. With a pair of bookends like Plot – Twist, it was a given that there would be murders aplenty, cunning plans and last-sentence flips, but there were also meta tales of the writing life, Scrabble battles and one or two wonderfully quieter moments. As ever, the variety of styles and stories on display are a testament to the wealth of talent I’m lucky enough to know.

But there have to be winners, so here goes:

Honourable Mentions

Make The Kill by Brian S Creek

This drew me straight in with the short, sharp sentences and incorporates an actual twist – setting up the protagonist as the assassin before skilfully revealing their actual objective – and makes seamless use of the bookends.

A Home Is A Safe Place by A V Laidlaw

Another great twist here, albeit far more subtle. While the protagonist’s friends are saddled with abusive drunks for fathers, the man here seems completely oblivious to the damage he has wrought. The horror is muted and implied by the protagonist’s obvious fear, and that last line is dynamite.

Chris And Mike Vs The Strangler In Paradise by Geoff Holme

It’s worth pointing out that I’ve judged these blind, and won’t even look at the authors until I’ve sent in my results, so at this point I really don’t know if this is by Brian or by one of the many Chris & Mike fans he’s building up with his unhinged tales of supernatural hokum. Either way, the genderswap is a wonderful conceit, playing on our familiarity with the characters to surprise us while still working as an actual Chris & Mike tale, all of which earns it an HM.

3rd Place

Loving More Not Less by @dazmb

A series of beautiful images elevate this to the truly poetic. It is one of the quietest tales this week, and I almost dismissed it on first reading, but those soft psalms and spiralling leaves remained with me, and with every reading the impact grew greater.

2nd Place

Family Obligations by Emily Livingstone

Another quiet piece, but with a sense of unease and isolation which builds extremely well in such a short space. The nervous tic makes for great use of the closing bookend, suggesting an ellipsis rather than a full stop, a brief, thoughtful pause before the story continues. With Aunt Vera being such a sensible (and rather crotchety sounding) character, I’d love to see where else this goes.

Winner

In Memoriam by Rebekah Postupak

Probably the funniest piece this week. I wavered between loving and hating the protagonist as they added their snide remarks to the list of funerary expenses. The writer made clever use of the format, contrasting the matter of fact shopping list with the pretty scandalous private thoughts to create a recognizable and believable character in very few words. Extremely well done and great use of the bookends (although the cheeky little note about the photo almost cost you a few points…).

In Memoriam

Rebekah Postupak

Plot (single): $2,000

Grave liner: $1,800 (seriously?)

Opening/closing of grave: $1,475 (note—Saturday surcharge because they can, the vultures)

Maintenance fee: $250

Headstone (includes installation): $3,200 (note: sappy text still needed for engraver)

Coffin (“solid cherry”?? as if. What a ripoff): $3,490

Flowers for funeral service & gravesite: donated by friends and family (awesome!!!!!!!! <– write thank you notes)

Funeral home fees (incl embalming & death certificate): $3,800 (Q: tip for (smarmy) director??)

Post-funeral dinner: covered by in-laws (TELL SOPHIA TO NOT LET M-I-L COOK!! BLECH!!!!!!!!!!)

Anticipated total: $16,015

Anticipated life insurance payout: $2,000,000

Whoops, hahaha! Almost forgot!

Dead body: kiss (disgusting! HELLO BREATHMINT) + $5 martini with a twist.

Jul 122015
 
Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via CC.

Photo Credit: Tekniska museet via CC.

Welcome to the results show. First, a couple of announcements:

There will be no Micro Bookends this week (boo) because I’m going on holiday (hurrah). The next contest will be on Thursday 23rd of July.

At 5am BST Tomorrow (Monday 13th 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. The authors of the top three stories will each receive a copy of Doing Creative Writing by Steve May (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 at the end of year one.

Now, back to business. A huge thanks  goes to this week’s judge, Iskandar Haggarty. Here’s what he thought of it all:

I’ve got to say it; you all have not only the talent, but the bravery as well! One look at this week’s photo prompt had me stumped, and yet I read the various and diverse ways in which it was incorporated. Hats off to you all; I’m severely impressed. Choosing a winner was incredibly difficult. But it had to be done, so without further ado, here are this week’s standings!

Honourable Mentions

Drive by Emily Livingstone

I loved the creepy undertone of this one; the excitement of the girls and what they hoped to encounter made it realistic and relatable (and who doesn’t love a character named Laurel?) while the hostile ending leaves you on the edge of your seat; what happened? I want to know more! A quality story.

Hairpins and Hurricanes by maielizabeth

Okay, so I might have a weakness for the strange/outlandish, but this one caught my eye immediately; the description of the girls who controlled the earth was interesting and borderline whimsical (which is wonderful!) and a very fresh approach to the photo prompt. The description of Dolly as being the oldest by “a billion years” is so simple and outlandish that I actually believe it; interesting, quirky, and a formidable piece all in all.

Spontaneity by Numbers by Geoff Le Pard

This piece reminded me of the late-great Ray Bradbury because of its futuristic approach to problem solving. The piece managed to stay fictitious while sounding close enough to reality for it to sound like a plausible future. All I can say is that after reading this, I think I want a Hu-maid!

Seventh Hope by Holly Geely

This story had me hooked from the first line; its matter-of-factness pulls you in, and the writer uses this to expand on their sci-fi world in a manner that loses no momentum whatsoever. The excitement at finding a new and livable home is palpable, which makes the last line all the more devastating (and in its own sense, even a little tragically funny). I don’t think I can praise this piece enough.

3rd Place

The Switch by Marie McKay

This piece included it all; a creepy and gripping plotline, beautiful descriptions (‘scarlet words’ and ‘rooms that had sunnier aspects once’ made me gasp in awe) and an all-round sense of completeness. What the narrator has to go through on a day-to-day basis is traumatizing, and one can’t help but feel horrified while realizing what is going on. The writing in itself is the type that takes a hold of you and doesn’t let go. An absolute pleasure to read.

2nd Place

Newtonian Mechanics For Beginners by A V Laidlaw

Description. The description in this piece is so masterfully crafted that I could see absolutely everything while reading; I felt as if I myself were a satellite! The use of both short and long sentences gives the piece a variety that keeps each and every line interesting. The last sentence almost made my heart stop; it is so simple, so chilling; so strong. This wasn’t writing, it was painting. It was art. I am in awe of the author. Incredible job.

Winner

In the Control Room by Donald Uitvlugt

This piece is a winner and rightly so; it took me on an emotional rollercoaster. Its concise, dialogue-intense beginning felt top-secret and mysterious, which then melts into slight confusion at the mention of a hazy picture, which packs an immense punch with the final two sentences of the story. The bookends were used seamlessly; it feels as if it wasn’t even written for this week’s competition! An excellent story worth its weight in gold.

In the Control Room

Donald Uitvlugt

“Six Five Seven through Seven One Nine — no response.”

“Reroute through the Eight Hundred block, but keep trying those pathways.”

“Received. Wilco.”

The center worked furiously, busy hands moving wire after wire. But no matter how fast the girls worked, the systems collapsed faster.

The supervisor turned toward the monitor. A hazy picture showed the face of a woman. She should know who the woman was, but…

“Not getting through on the Eight Hundred block, mum.”

“Keep trying. The answer is there. Somewhere.”

***

Barbara kissed her mother’s cheek. She would not cry. Damn Alzheimer’s. Damn that death by degrees.