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…”

Aug 232015
 
Photo Credit: Xenja Santarelli via CC.

Photo Credit: Xenja Santarelli via CC.

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.

Honourable Mentions

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.

4th Place

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.

3rd Place

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.

2nd Place

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.

Winner

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.

Submission

Steph Ellis

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.

Aug 202015
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.44. This week we pay homage to one of the most influential writers in the horror genre, H.P. Lovecraft.

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was born on this day in 1890 in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. He had a troubled childhood; his father was committed to a mental institution when Lovecraft was just three years old and remained there until his death five years later. After his father’s death, he lived with his mother and extended family of two aunts and grandfather. His grandfather in particular encouraged his interest in reading by providing him with books and telling him his own tales of gothic horror. He also had trouble with classmates in school and was often kept at home by his overbearing mother. By the time he reached high school he was better able to connect with his peers and form friendships, but preferred a ‘nightbird’ lifestyle, rarely leaving the house before nightfall.

In 1916 Lovecraft’s first published story, The Alchemist, appeared in United Amateur. His first commercially published work came six years later when he was thirty-one. It was also around this time that he started to build a huge network of correspondents. It is estimated that he sent nearly 100,000 letters during his lifetime. Many aspiring writers later paid tribute to the coaching and encouragement they received by mail. Lovecraft was virtually unknown during his life and his work was published exclusively in pulp magazines such as Weird Tales. Stephen King, who acknowledges Lovecraft as being responsible for his own fascination with horror, has described him as “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.”

Join me in a celebration of all things Lovecraftian with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: Xenja Santarelli via CC.

Photo Credit: Xenja Santarelli via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Rebekah Postupak, winner of MB1.13MB1.15MB1.30 and MB1.43 (phew!). Read her winning stories and what she has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with LOVE and ending with CRAFT and incorporating the photo prompt.

Who?

Anyone, but especially you!

Why?

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.

When?

Now! Get your entry in BEFORE 5:00 am Friday (UK time: http://time.is/London).

Where?

Here!

How?

Post your story in the comments section. Include the word count and your Twitter username (if you’re Twitterized). Don’t forget to read the full rules before submitting your story.

Anything else?

Please give your story a title. It will not be included in the word count.

Please try to leave comments on a couple of other stories. It’s all part of the fun, and everyone likes feedback!

Remember, only stories that use the bookends exactly as supplied (punctuation, including hyphens and apostrophes, is allowed) will be eligible to win.

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.

Micro Bookends 1.42 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.42 – Results
Aug 092015
 
Photo Credit: Paul Townsend via CC.

Photo Credit: Paul Townsend via CC.

Now it’s time for our headline act. Please welcome on stage, Geoff Holme and the Micro Bookends 1.42 results:

It’s been quite a while since I’ve acted in the privileged position of Micro Bookend judge – way back as far as MB 1.12, thanks for asking… Nowadays, there are new writers joining in the fun all the time. The sheer number of entries this week posed a challenge, even before we consider the across-the-board high quality of the work submitted. As ever, the selections for plaudits is entirely subjective; regular contributors are aware of this. But if you are a newcomer and your work does not get a mention below, please don’t feel discouraged. Try again and – who knows? – your entry may chime with next week’s judge.

Honourable Mentions

Carry On Festivalling! by A.J. Walker

Best recreation of the ‘Ooh, er, Missus!” staple elements of the ‘Carry On’ franchise – mild sexism, smut and double-entendres. (Shame about the missing opening bookend – or did you think that the story began with the title?)

Post-Morpheme by Rebekah Postupak

Loved the pun in the title that sets up the structure of this piece. I had to chuckle when I came across the ‘red pen’ as this was what I was using to conduct my analysis of the entries. Very clever stuff. If, however, the photo prompt was incorporated, it was so subtly done that your judge failed to spot it…

3rd Place

Survivors by Emily Livingstone

This story really captures the zeitgeist, with so many people displaced by war. ‘…like an eerie pointillist painting’’ is a beautiful phrase that evokes the multicoloured, close-packed tents. The female character’s limbo existence – not knowing whether her family is safe or not – and her inertia about seeking information, that may lead to elation or despair, together with the male character gently prompting her to break this inertia, is very well drawn. A simple but effective story.

2nd Place

My Positive Wilderness Experience by Nancy Chenier

Original and inventive use of the bookends to create an anodyne “Wilderness Experience” leaflet, interspersed with contrasting snippets from the chilling revenge story. I just hope that the MC has got the right target for reprisal. Great stuff!

Winner

The Weight by Karl A. Russell

I liked this entry a lot. It made very natural and seamless use of both bookends. The details of the story unfold at a gentle pace – the use of ‘pink Metallica shirt’ and ‘pink Metallica purse’ show us what is going on, rather than telling us explicitly. ‘You want a clear conscience, the Krishnas do free lentil curry…’ – great line. (I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t how it’s supposed to work!) Very well done.

The Weight

Karl A. Russell

“Carry the tent first, then the beers.”

Simon sighed, hefted the tent and plunged into the freezing mud. Jay grinned.

“I’ll take the rucksack, then piggyback you across, yeah?”

The girl in the pink Metallica shirt giggled drunkenly.

It took a while, but she was eventually ferried to dry land. Jay and Simon slogged on towards the Pyramid Stage.

Simon sighed deeply.

“That was wrong.”

Jay shrugged.

“Let it go, man! You want a clear conscience, the Krishnas do free lentil curry… Or…”

He pulled out a pink Metallica purse and checked the contents.

“We can get burgers and beers before the Foos start.”

Simon’s stomach gurgled muddily.

“You’re on.”

Aug 022015
 
Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan via CC.

Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan via CC.

Welcome to the results show. There’s a treat for you this week. Judge, KM Zafari, has given feedback on ALL stories. How great is that? Thanks, KM. Here, have an Above and Beyond the Call of Duty award. Here’s what she thought:

Judging this week’s entries was unbelievably difficult. There were so many good ones! And I don’t mean that in an “you all deserve a ribbon because everyone’s a winner!” kind of way. I mean you all honestly blew me away with what you wrote. What a roller coaster ride of emotions!

It’s important to note that I, as one person, tend to gravitate towards particular types of stories. I did my best to put that tendency aside and judge everything objectively, but I’m only human.

In the end, I went with my instincts and narrowed the field down to those that had that extra “wow” factor for me.

If you didn’t make the official list, please don’t feel bad. Really, I wanted to throw around HMs like glitter because there were so many worthy stories. There really, truly were.

And if you won, you should be extra proud of yourself because the competition was fierce!

Whenever I enter this contest, I do my best to comment on each and every entry. I decided to do so again here because I really feel like you all deserved it.

Caring by Carlos Orozco

I’d like to know more about these two. Who they are, what their relationship is. Why does she want to get away? To get high? Or because she feels guilt? The ambiguity makes this intriguing. Nice visuals.

Butterfingers by Jack

If only more mothers were like this. lol I love her playfulness and that she doesn’t take things too seriously. I wonder where her child gets their seriousness from.

Hell’s heaven by Firdaus Parvez

Oh, wow. Nice incorporation of the bookends. Feels very natural. Sad and disturbing. “My tattoo covered arms camouflage my juvenile delinquencies.” Makes me think this person is still young. How sad.

INTEL by Steven Stucko

It never would have occurred to me to think of things from a cop’s point of view. Clear portrayal of his/her feelings without feeling like we’re being “told”.

Picture this… by Firdaus Parvez

Sad juxtaposition of the children playing and their mom’s actions. How awful for them. I just saw a commercial for Intervention where a boy is banging on the car door for his mom to open up, and she’s like “Just a minute” as she’s shooting up heroin. So this story is a reality for someone, somewhere. I just hope these kids can maintain their childlike innocence for a bit. At the least the girl. I think it’s too late for the brother. 🙁

Thump-Thump by Craig Towsley

I love picturing the girl as the needle. Really interesting take on the photo prompt. She’s withdrawing vitality instead of injecting something, which is how most people read the needle. There’s something so intriguing about people like this, isn’t there? I’ve always envied them.

Frankly My Dear by legreene515

I like the incorporation of the catch phrase and that it’s a different take on things – i.e., insulin vs drugs. A nice moment in time with someone who doesn’t let their medical issues hold them back.

Connections by Marie McKay

Poor Jimmy. Drake seems like a mean brother. What’s worse is that he feels guilt because Jimmy obviously cares about him. And yet, he doesn’t really seem to return it. Maybe somewhere inside, he does. But I don’t think so – he does think of him as “hopeless” and “useless”, after all. I’m not sure Drake deserves him!

High School Rejects by Foy S. Iver

Subtle. You have to search for meaning to understand she has diabetes “too many Butter Fingers”. That’s really nice. I like that she wants to be cool. Tries to pretend she’s a druggie, when she has no idea what drugs really are. lol

Childhood by Pattyann McCarthy

I love the focus of this piece. Yes, there are horrors going on. Yes, there are dangers. Yes, the adult world will intrude. But innocence still exists. And it is lovely. I adore this.

Food by Stella Turner

“It had been so easy, pounds shed like leaves falling off trees.” Nice incorporation of the photo prompt. Like the situation.

Bald-No-More by Holly Geely

Ha! What a unique take on the prompt. I love the imagery of the doctor being reduced to a pile of hair. Humor is so often ignored in our little contests, which makes me sad.

(Re)purposeful by Steven O. Young Jr.

I had to read this one a few times (in a good way). Beautiful language. I’d like to know more about their situation and why they’re where they are. Could be a good candidate for exploring further.

Broken Skin by Pattyann McCarthy

This reminds of me of Dick Van Dyke’s notorious British accent from Mary Poppins. lol Without knowing who the author is, I can’t tell if it’s a Brit making fun of themselves or someone else making fun of the British. We have so many Brits in these contests that I assumed it was the former, but the quotation marks lead me to believe otherwise. I never in a million years would have thought of a drum and piercing the skin. I love it when people surprise me like that.

Dope by A.J. Walker

“I can see you’re full of poison, burgeoning thick and black through your veins like an algal bloom choking up a river.” What a gorgeous line. And ha! Superman picking on Arnold! Hilarious title.

The Evening News by Dylyce P. Clarke

Haha I think anyone who’s been in a bad relationship can find the humor in this piece.

Hope by Jacki Donnellan

I love the wordplay, here. “She sounds as fiery and golden as autumn.” vs “I sound as rusted and dry as autumn.” I think she is speaking to her reflection. Why does she see herself as more hopeful than she is inside? I’d love to read more.

Downward Spiral by Dylyce P. Clarke

Rhyming poetry (in English, especially, with our limited rhymes) is quite difficult. As such, I don’t always care for it when people try. (I realize that sounds snobbish.) But this is well done. It evokes emotion and tells a story, while doing very little poetic cheating.

When Words Are Not Enough by TanGental

This is beautifully written. The descriptive language is awesome.

Little Brother by Matt L.

“I’d go from little brother to living brother just like that.” Chilling. Ugh! I don’t understand why he hates his brother so much. This is very well written but leaves me sad.

Just Once by Iskandar Haggarty

“The needle kissed my veins.” Love this line. Good morality tale or words or warning. So many people die from just trying something once, don’t they? Frightening.

Honourable Mentions

Untitled by Nancy Chenier

Oh, how I wish this didn’t exceed the word count. What a lovely story. So much world and emotion. Fantastic writing here. Blast that one extra word. This one will really stay with me. Excellent.

CHRIS AND MIKE vs PNEUMONIA, WEREWOLVES, AND A FOREST FULL OF FAIRIES by Brian S Creek

Awesome use of the bookends into this story. “Damn,” said Chris. “He’s already taken the formula.” Such a clever way to incorporate the needle. There is so much story implied in such few words. Great world building.

Mind Over Matter by Marie McKay

What a depressing tale. In a way, I feel bad for Johnny. Trapped, alone with his thoughts. His life is essentially over, and now he has only time to think upon his mistakes. I love the staccato style of writing, which reads just like thoughts. Really well done.

Chasing the Dragon by MT Decker

Ooh, this is really cool. Great imagery. Reminds me of a spider bite that numbs its victim. Here, the victim of the dragon (or drug?) is taken in by the euphoria. I’d never heard the phrase “chasing the dragon’s tail” before. Like this one a lot.

[insert drumroll here]

3rd Place

The Chase by Rebekah Postupak

Whimsical and fun. I love this. Not only is it an unusual subject matter, it’s charming and sweet. The playful banter is really well done. And yet, there is a story here, too.

2nd Place

When Childhood Ends by Steph Ellis

Wow. I’m always caught by stories of innocence lost, which seems to be a running theme this week. I love how the children don’t see the needle as a threat but a plaything. This story highlights the real danger of these needles. “I’m Sleeping Beauty!” So sad and prophetic. And you can feel the mother’s heartbreak. I can’t imagine seeing my child holding up a needle like that.

Winner

A Winter’s Tale by Geoff Holme

Tragic, sad, and beautiful. This had all the hallmarks of what I look for in a great story – emotion and excellent writing. It’s beautifully crafted from beginning to end. The protagonist is lamenting the loss of his brother – not necessarily his physical life but the life shared with him. There’s a lot of genuine emotion in here, especially the crying/laughter that comes along with fond memories while you’re grieving. Lots to love here.

A Winter’s Tale

Geoff Holme

“‘Catch me? You couldn’t catch a cold!’ Remember you used to tease me with that when we played tag as kids?”

My breath condensed into clouds in the railyard where I’d found him . I cradled Benjy in my lap as he stared into the distance, eyes like glass beads.

The syringe fell from his arm.

I thought my older brother was too wasted to hear my words, until I heard him whisper, “Momma always said life was like a box of chocolates: when you reach the bottom, you don’t have many choices.”

“Yeah, man.” I choked, a tear rolling down my cheek. “She always was good for a memorable phrase.”

Micro Bookends 1.38 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.38 – Results
Jul 052015
 
Photo Credit: via CC.

Photo Credit: Cliff via CC.

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.

Honourable Mentions

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 Catherine Connolly

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.

3rd Place

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.

2nd Place

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.”

Winner

Dull Silver by Iskandar Haggarty

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.

Dull Silver

Iskandar Haggarty

Childhood is supposed to be golden.
6.
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.
8.
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.
10.
Friends are supposed to stick up for you.
The whole baseball team disappeared the day the bigger kids came for me.
12.
Childhood is supposed to be golden.
Mine was the dull silver of a dying star.