Thoughts on Judging
In addition to entering the competitions, I have also had the privilege of judging this week at The Angry Hourglass for their weekly Flash Frenzy. I must say this has renewed my respect and admiration for all those who regularly give up their time to judge these competitions and find ways of giving positive feedback in a continually new and fresh manner. I think the hardest part for me, apart from trying to choose a winner from so many great entries, was putting into words my own response to a story, a response that is usually a feeling which is so hard to define and the appropriate words for which are so often elusive. This weekend I will be judging on a larger scale for Flash! Friday with my judging partner Josh Bertetta - and I know it's going to be tough!
Cracked Flash Fiction
8th July. This is a new competition, posted on Saturdays with a 24hr window. The prompt is a first line. There were only a few entries this week, perhaps something to do with it being a holiday across the pond but I would highly recommend it anyone and I hope to see its numbers grow each week. Come over and support it if you can.
Prompt: The fireworks were spectacular.
One Last Night
The fireworks were spectacular. Rainbow colours scattered like confetti across velvet night. Explosions of gold glittered across the sky, casting even the brightest star into shadow.
“Why here, Dad?” asked Bobby, shivering despite the blanket wrapped around his shoulders.
“Because I wanted you to see something beautiful tonight.”
“Why couldn’t Mum come with us?”
Ray thought about Chloe lying cold and alone in the shelter. She had wanted Bobby to have this. One night of wonder and wishes. One last night.
Another explosion ripped through the darkness, timed to synchronise with the display so that Bobby wouldn’t notice.
Ray glanced at his watch. The detonators had gone off like clockwork. By now the compound would be ash. His wife, parents, friends, all ash. But the gas he had fed through the ventilation system had sent them to a peaceful end long before that destructive blast.
Contagion had wiped out other settlements and despite their own precautions, the plague had infiltrated the compound. When all hope was gone, the adults had voted for a quick end rather than face a long and lingering death.
Ray had volunteered to administer the last rites.
“What do you think so far?” he asked Bobby.
“Awesome, Dad. I just wish this night could last forever.”
“Saved for a special occasion. A toast,” he said. “To a night that will last forever.”
They chinked their mugs together. Ray pretending to sip, watching Bobby, making sure he had drunk every last drop. Then, as the boy’s eyes began to droop, laid him gently down, tucked the blanket even tighter around him.
Alone, he watched as the last of the fireworks fizzled out and the world returned to stillness. Then he finished his own drink and he too slept.
7th July. This was a new competition for me but I found myself up against the usual culprits. I only discovered the comp a few hours before the deadline and submitted my story with one hour to go. Winning was a total surprise.
Photo prompt: “My forest dream is still a dream” by Vinoth Chandar
“There are more this year,” said Red, looking out from her Grandma’s … no, her … cottage window, an inheritance she had been reluctant to accept.
Nobody heard. She was alone with her memories and the wolfskin rug.
Entering the kitchen, she noticed her father’s axe behind the kitchen door, long unused. That was why the trees had crept nearer. No one to thin them out. No one to cull them.
Red shivered, picked up the wolfskin, wrapped it round her shoulders. Just as she had done as a child.
She sat in her Grandma’s chair, rocked backwards and forwards. Just as she had done as a child.
“Tell me a tale,” she whispered into the silence. But that story had finished long ago.
The air, dry and stale was suffocating, driving Red out into the small garden, taking the axe with her. The trees had crowded ever closer, even in that short space of time. They bowed over her, branches reaching out, wanting to touch, to hold, to claim.
A lone howl caught her attention, a mournful sound that drew nearer with each heartbeat. A wolf appeared.
It advanced fearlessly towards Red, despite the axe she held.
She stood her ground. Remembered.
“You lied, little girl,” he said.
Red hefted the axe, felt that old sense of power. The animal didn’t flinch.
“We both know the truth, don’t we?” said the creature.
The truth? Yes, they both knew the truth. How she had hated her Grandma. Had lost patience with the woman one fine summer’s day. Had taken the axe …
Red looked down at the shaft, the stain had deepened over the years.
The moonlight dimmed. A passing cloud she thought. But as she looked up she saw a dense canopy form, boughs intertwined to create a tree-borne roof.
Now Red stepped back.
The wolf followed.
“We have our witnesses, little girl.”
The trees shifted closer, the light grew dimmer, the wolf’s breath hotter.
“Time to write another story,” he said. And the darkness became complete.
This week saw the introduction of a new style of prompt based on a novel:
This week it was: The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas.
I chose story elements: character and theme
There was still a photo but this was optional.
‘Til Death Do Us Part
Honourable Mention 6th July
“Oh you poor man!” said Mary. “To have been married to such a creature. You are truly a saint!”
William lowered his eyes, displayed the expected humility, hid the smirk hovering at the corners of his mouth. “I am a compassionate man,” he said. “And Lucy needed help. The judge agreed an asylum was more appropriate to her needs.”
He did not mention the money that had changed hands to achieve the transfer from prison to sanitarium.
“And you did not think to divorce her?” asked Mary’s brother, Lord Henry. “I mean, good God man, she tried to kill you!”
“No, the doctor advised me she wasn’t long for this world,” said William. “And we were happy once.” Before I spent the money.
His new housekeeper slipped into the drawing room with a tray of drinks.
“Another act of charity?” asked Henry after she had gone.
“What could I do?” said William. “The vicar brought her to me.”
Behind the door, the housekeeper thought of the vicar and their night together. A secret he wished to keep. Just like the sanitarium doctor and his prescriptions.
“A toast!” cried Henry.
They raised their glasses. Drank.
The poison worked quickly, efficiently, bringing the party to a sudden end. Now she could drop her disguise.
“Prison and the madhouse, William,” said Lucy, enjoying the horrified realisation on his face. “They corrupt and destroy the innocent. Poor William, you look so thirsty. Let me get you another drink …”
Bookends: Child ... Star
A Second Life
Honourable Mention 5th July
Childish delight greeted the approaching vehicle. The twelve were ready to meet their mysterious benefactor before they escaped the misery of the sweatshops forever.
Dr Nayyar pulled his minibus in at the kerbside.
“Your results were truly phenomenal,” said Mandeep Singh looking out at his rejuvenated employees. Decrepitude and senility had been replaced by youth and vigour; life had become recyclable, his workforce sustainable.
“All thanks to your investment in our age-reversal trials,” said Dr Nayyar. “You had faith.”
The unsuspecting ‘children’ clambered onboard, only realising their mistake as the doors locked behind them. And the sun that had shone so brightly on their new lives became a dying star.
A writer - I think that says it all.