Micro Bookends 1.50 – Results

 Results  Comments Off on Micro Bookends 1.50 – Results
Oct 042015
 
Photo Credit: Nano Anderson via CC.

Photo Credit: Nano Anderson via CC.

Welcome to the results show. A wonderful collection of musical inspired tales this week. Here’re my winners:

Honourable Mentions

Man Talk by Stella Turner

A fun moment in a father son relationship. The son wants to discuss sophisticated topics like the Latin origin of the word ‘perfect’ (great use of the opening bookend by the way) and the pitch and tone of the guitarist. The father has his mind on the football. But they’re talking to each other and the most important thing.

My Final Guitar Lesson by A.J. Walker

I love the set-up here: a girl reads aloud from her boyfriends diary and is upset he’s amused that she hasn’t mastered the Bm7 chord. So she ‘Townsend’s the guitar’ into his skull. What a great line. Nice, natural use of the bookends.

Child’s Play by Geoff Holme

It was nice to reminded we can beat the Aussies at something. Very clever to use the guitar in the photo as a means to torment the Aussies with air-guitar on the cricket bat. Nice use of the closing bookend too.

3rd Place

Making Beautiful Music Together by Carolyn Ward

This one made me laugh. I like the details in the opening paragraph of the differences between the two friends: Erika ‘prim and powdered’ and ‘pamper[ed] and preen[ed] for Hairy Bob (great name) while Tabs prefers the extra hour in bed. Then we learn why; Erika is in a relationship with Hairy Bob. Great descriptions of the pair ‘clanging and rattling, fingers playing each other’ in the music cupboard. And the closing line is fantastic: ‘struggling amid the maracas in their musical prison, black as pitch.’

2nd Place

Washed Up by Steph Ellis

I really liked the language and descriptions in this piece; ‘acoustic crouch’, ‘defeat perfumes the air you breathe’, ‘your melodies drift into half-remembered mists’. This downward spiral of the musician ‘tainted by sordid stories’ is wonderfully told in poetic yet lean prose. You really feel for this person for whom music was their life, especially if the sordid stories (‘always denied’) weren’t true. But as we know ‘mud sticks’ so ‘Why sing when no one listens?’ The closing bookend is used wonderfully in the line, ‘once luminescent pearls fading to pitch’; a metaphor for the music and the artist.

Winner

Cortigiana di Lume by Bill Engleson

A sad story about the effect of time on a once beautiful and exotic lady. I loved everything about this piece, but the one line that stood out is the fantastic description of ‘a wrinkle that insists on flinging itself out from the left side of her face’ as a demisemihemidemisemiquaver. What a great image and, together with ‘strings pulled and plucked’, a subtle and clever use of the photo prompt. I love the final paragraph with its wonderful descriptions, that depicts the character as one who has enjoyed (endured?) the company of powerful men and has become a powerful, and still sought-after figure, even though her beauty is fading. A lot to like about this complex little piece. Well done.

Cortigiana di Lume

Bill Engleson

Perfect, she is! Perfectomundo, she might once have said! In certain casually carnal company. In the end, all she could think, sadly, was how perfunctory it had become!

Glenys Walters sits before the mirror. Her finger traces a wrinkle that insists on flinging itself out from the left side of her face right near where her upper and lower lips converge, that little fleshy junction, spiraling into a demisemihemidemisemiquaver.

She has risen too far above her station; her wiles, her guile, strings pulled and plucked, the back stairways where the aromatics wander in search of favors, ever pandering for her piquant pleasures, for the courtesans indulgently intoxicating pitch.

Aug 272015
 

Welcome to Micro Bookends 1.45. Ready to write? Here we go:

Body modification is the intentional alteration of the human physical appearance. In some cultures, body modification is associated with rites of passage, religious beliefs, or for cultural identity such as the neck rings worn by the women of the Burmese Kayan people, or the lip plates worn by women of some groups in Africa and Amazonia. In Western cultures body modification is more likely to be for aesthetic reasons such as body art, or piercings, or for shock value and self-expression. Body modification can range from a single ear piercing to extraocular implants (eyeball jewellery) and includes surgical procedures such as breast augmentation.

Dennis Avner was born on this day in 1958. Who’s that, you ask? Perhaps you know him by his Native American name, Stalking Cat. No? Then perhaps you will recognise his face. He was best known for his extensive body modifications intended to make him look like a female tiger, his totem animal. His modifications included extensive tattooing, facial subdermal implants, septum relocation, silicone injections, splitting of the upper lip, filing and capping of the teeth, ear shaping, hairline modification, and piercing of the upper lip and transdermal implants on his forehead for wearing whiskers. He also wore a mechanical tail and green, cat’s eye contact lenses. Avner took his own life on the 5th of November 2012. Shannon Larratt, founder of Body Modification Ezine, described him as,

A wonderful and complex person, he was at times as troubled as he was remarkable.

Here is this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: David Elwood via CC.

Photo Credit: David Elwood via CC.

The Judge

Judging this week’s contest is Steph Ellis, winner of MB1.44. Read her winning story and what she has to say about flash fiction here.

What?

A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with BODY and ending with MODIFICATIONS [singular MODIFICATION is also fine] 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.

Aug 252015
 

Steph EllisOur most recent winner is Steph Ellis. Follow her on Twitter and check out her website. If you enjoyed Steph’s MB1.44winning story, and want to read more of her work, take a look at Terror Tree Pun Book of Horror Stories, which she co-edited.

Steph has very kindly agreed to judge this week’s contest so pay attention as she tells us a bit about herself and her writing:

Steph lives with her husband and 3 children in sunny Hampshire. To earn a living, she works as a TA supporting teenagers with SEN; to live, she writes. Her speculative fiction stories have appeared in anthologies and magazines and she has also co-edited a collection of horror stories. She has recently completed (sort-of) a gothic horror novel which now lurks with hundreds of others on Hodderscape’s virtual desk. When not writing, she is usually to be found reading or watching something on TV with subtitles (by which I mean foreign, I’m not deaf!). She also surprises people with her love of heavy metal … proving appearances can be deceptive.

So, great story. How did you get there from the prompt and bookends? Hmm. Could I say haven’t a clue?! Is that allowed? The picture showed a lonely road on a dark night and so immediately I’m off on a journey. Lovecraft’s voice is already in my head (his works are on my shelf) and it is as though he is actually reciting it to me. Many of his stories deal with madness and obsession and that led me to consider the obsessiveness of writers, when their need to tell a story becomes all and everything. (Thankfully I have a tolerant family). And the title? It can be taken two ways, the submission of a story, or the submission of the writer to their obsession.

100 words ain’t many. How do you fit a story into so few words? I usually write two or three times the word count and then just cut and cut. Anything flowery, anything not vital goes.

Why do you like flash fiction? The sheer challenge of trying to tell a complete story in so few words. It forces you to consider your words carefully and to slaughter your darlings mercilessly. It has also brought me into contact with some wonderful writers in the Flash community and I love reading their work to see what I can learn from them.

Been writing long? For a few years on and off, mainly poetry at first with some local and national publication. Nothing serious fiction wise though until a couple of years back. I discovered an anthology call for a short horror story and thought I’d give it a go – I’d NEVER written horror before – and they accepted it! After that I just kept writing and submitting … and learning to take rejection.

You write anything else? I have a blog that I never seem to update regularly even though it’s on my to-do list. I have almost completed an alternative Nursery Rhyme book – you know, Mother Hubbard flaying the children, Mary, Mary as a mass murderer that sort of thing; all for fun and I intend to self-publish that some time this year. I’ve just recently submitted a novel for the first time. That was a big step in itself – just completing it, I kept putting it off all the time. Oh and the other big step forward was being invited to write for an anthology instead of having to submit in the usual way. I’ve also got a few stories due for publication this year and I’m waiting on decisions for other short stories and a novella (that was another first). It sounds a lot when I look at it like that but it never feels it. Flash fiction takes over the rest of my time Thursday – Sundays(!) I enter most of the comps on the schedule over at www.flashdogs.com

Any advice for other flash writers? Just dive in. Write the story and don’t worry about the word count, that can come in the edit. First and last lines seem to be quite critical in flash and again I would say don’t spend hours trying to get these lines perfect until you’ve got your story arc.

If I’m writing for one of the Flash competitions, I try not to read what others have written until I’ve submitted. I get depressed because I immediately start judging myself by what’s already been posted and thinking I’ll never match their standard. The drawback to that is when you find someone else has had the same idea and done it better, posted earlier than you. Writers are their own worst enemies.

Any interesting writerly projects in the pipeline? I’ve had an idea for some time now for another novel but would never allow myself to start it until I’d actually finished the one I sent out recently. It’s a horror story based on the world’s diminishing resources and how far man would go to maintain his power supply.

I have also started sketching out ideas for a crime story. I love the noir element of a lot of Scandinavian and European crime novels and TV programmes and would really like to have a go at writing a novel in that genre.

As you can see I’m a cheerful type of writer.

I just finished reading a book. Can you recommend another? The one I recommend to anyone and everyone is Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, a dark gothic tale with one of the scariest carnivals ever, and also any Discworld novel by the late, great Terry Pratchett.

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 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.

Jun 142015
 
Photo Credit: Kamyar Adl via CC.

Photo Credit: Kamyar Adl via CC.

Welcome to the results show. If you didn’t click on the Two Ronnies link in this week’s contest waffle, I suggest you do. It’s comedy gold.

You gave me 27 fantastic stories to judge this week. There were a few comedic turns to lighten the mood, but most of you gave me car wrecks and death. C’est la vie! Here’re the winners:

Honourable Mentions

Teenage Kicks by @dazmb

Fantastic title. I read the rest of the story listening to this on repeat. “Double math, it even sounds airless.” Great opening line. I’m sure we all felt like the narrator at one time, but I suspect we all come round to repeating the father’s advice. Great final couple of lines: “Because I don’t have a map. But I know it’s time to act.”

The Car Wreck by Lynn Love

Clever title, referencing not an actual car wreck, but the car wreck that the MC’s friend’s life has become. I love the descriptions of Lexie: “eyes like headlights on full beam, lashes batting like hummingbird wings. Her backside…a hypnotic pendulum in zebra print.” But Lexie’s lifestyle has caught up with her and “the headlight eyes have clicked off.”

A Foreign Country by Steph Ellis

I assume from the marching reference that the MC is a soldier suffering from PTSD. The foreign country is not only the place where he saw action, but also his mind, and perhaps also the place he used to call home but where he has become “inconvenient, beyond repair.” The final lines, where the MC fails to recognise his visitor, probably his wife, are very emotional.

The Car Auction by Mai Black

Macbeth is my favourite Shakespeare play. I loved this humorous interpretation of the three witches speech and a few other choice quotes thrown in. “Is this a Jaguar I see before me?” Genius!

3rd Place

Wreckage by Marie McKay

“Double entendres and the aroma of cheap coffee would have sullied the air here once.” Such a good opening line. No, it’s not Professor Tim Hunt’s empty office, but a garage in a post-apocalyptic future. I love the little details of the obligatory page 3 pin-up (“Courtney (19) loves dolphins and hates the wars in the Middle East” is great) and custard creams. The final line cruelly leaves the reader wanting more.”‘Jess. Driver’s seat. 3 o’clock. Act!'”. I’m thinking zombies. But then I often do.

2nd Place

Letting Go by @dazmb

A tear-jerking story of the final moments of someone’s life. I love the contrast between “I’ve been dreaming. Of fields rushing up into the first scuffs and scratches of childhood”, then “the blink of an eye and it’s all neon beeping, needles and catheters.” Nice use of the photo prompt: “All this technology…can’t save the clapped out bangers in this car park.” Goodness me, those final three lines hit hard. Sniff.

Winner

Kiss of Death by Geoff Le Pard

Excellent figurative interpretation of the photo prompt as a mass graveyard of those dead or dying from a terrible disease. There’s some great description here, such as “serried ranks of decrepit bodies”. It’s a sad truth that in death people become anonymous, especially after an epidemic or disaster. This is shown wonderfully in the line, “Now in the throes of death we are ubiquitous, homogenised by decay and depersonalised by disease.” The plight of the dying is evident when even knowing the disgust of those who are ‘taking care’ of them they still “crave the careless spray of their spittle to moisten parched lips.” The final lines round the story off brilliantly, ending on a seamless use of the closing bookend.

Kiss of Death

Geoff Le Pard

Double vision, nausea, bone snapping pain.

They stack us up, serried ranks of decrepit bodies, left to corrupt.

You see it in their eyes. Once we were unique, individual. Now, in the throes of death we are ubiquitous, homogenised by decay and depersonalised by disease.

If you didn’t know they had abandoned you before, the perfunctory response to any request screams the truth. Yet even knowing their disgust, you still crave the careless spray of their spittle to moisten parched lips.

The irony isn’t lost on any of us for it was the self-same sharing of fluids that brought us here. Death determined by such a simple act.