Sep 202015
 
Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

Photo Credit: Rojer via CC.

Welcome to the results show. Before we get down to business, please join me in thanking this week’s judge, Steven O. Young Jr., for sorting right from wrong. Here’s what he thought:

I feel it may be necessary to admit that I haven’t acted as a judge since screening entrants in my elementary school’s talent show. It’s never easy to hold one’s work against another, but it was a fairly simple process back then; we were only kids, most of whom weren’t especially skilled yet. The field practically came together on its own—I can’t recall having to make any tough cuts.

This, however, was nowhere near as elementary.

There’s a tad bit more talent this time around, which took the prompts in incredibly varying directions. Your pieces ran the gamut from the psychedelic to the subdued; from using Shakespeare and Tolkien while establishing contemporary settings, to having Grateful Dead lyrics outline a couple’s relationship; from works of utter playfulness to stories of subtle despair. It made for some difficult decisions that required multiple readings of each piece to even be able to trim the list down whatsoever.

Still, decisions had to be made and they’re surely a matter of subjectivity. Well, that’s fairly obvious, but what I mean to say is that there were plenty of worthy stories that could have very easily gotten the nod with someone else reading. At any rate, thank you all for making my part in this process a struggle, and congratulations to our winners!

Honourable Mentions

Desperately Seeking by Marie McKay

The quiet façade of this story hardly hides its viciousness. “Desperately Seeking” is an incredibly apt title; its message is not guardedly veiled, from the immediate admission of a “soon-to-be single” seeking a “man who takes care of people” to the bold print spelling it out a bit more explicitly.

Destination by Marie McKay

The use of synesthesia determined a sort of bodily-detached reading for me. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it certainly fit the diagramming of constellations and the “long distance souls skirting the edge of places”—lives told in the forever unobtainable, where the characters were all too eager to cast their dreams in the “empty track.”

3rd Place

Almost Fooled by Jacki Donnellan

With the vivid descriptions, it seems dangerously easy to be fooled by the illusionistic majesty of the scenery that surrounds the speaker. However, the curt sentences set a distinct rhythm that embodies the speaker’s fatigue. Her punctuated narration dismisses the possibility of allowing herself to become too attached to any of the potential delights after having suffered once. That realization is made all the more tragic when the speaker expresses the rigidity of her sense of solitude after feeling her baby kick.

2nd Place

Schoolboy Error by Sonya

This piece has such an innocent and genuine feel to it. Sure, there may be some sense of mild malice at the heart of the events, but Benny seems like such a gentle and earnest character that the reader’s attention is wholly diverted to Benny. While that may be an incredulous statement seeing as Benny only says two words—though “Chrimbo” certainly adds definition to him—the narration of the last paragraph sealed it for me with the pranksters set as the foil to Benny’s kind-hearted naïveté.

Winner

Merry Andrew by Karl A Russell

I’m jealous of more than a few pieces provided this week—more than just those that made this list—but this reads so naturally I’m almost annoyed to know it was written in a day! The lilting cadence carries throughout, dictated by a consistent syllabic patterning and rhyme scheme that molds each stanza. The use of “fayre” hints at the poem being a folktale of considerable age, which only goes to amplify its mythos. Plus, it practically demanded that I read the poem with my poor rendition of a Middle English accent. This isn’t as bawdy as many poems of that age, but it’s delightful nonetheless.

Merry Andrew

Karl A Russell

Merry Andrew jigs and reels,
A-dancing through the fayre,
To frighten boys
Deflower maids
And tug their flowered hair.

In motley caravan he comes,
To sing the summer in,
On potter’s fields
And plague pit mounds,
With revelry and sin.

A powdered face, a rictus grin,
A crown of jangled bells,
But none dare meet
His shadowed eyes,
Nor hear the tale he tells.

For when the dance is over,
And all the sinning’s done,
The tent’s took down,
The earth stripped bare,
To claim them one by one.

And Merry Andrew travels on,
To spread his lies like cancer,
Of summer’s warmth
And endless joy,
That damned infernal prankster.

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.