Greetings, Friends!

I’m so pleased to have seen so many of you again this past weekend. As usual your stories were wonderful. Our guest judge this week, Voima Oy, faced a difficult decision. She not only rose to the challenge and provided us with her top picks, but thoughtful comments for everybody who submitted as well. Thank you, writers, for sharing your imagination here every week, and thank you, Voima, for stepping up and making the tough call this round.

Judges Notes:

I have the honor to act as judge this time around.  What an amazing challenge!

First, let me thank everyone who took the time and care to send a story.  This photo prompt is quite evocative–what does it suggest,  a simple cross on a hill with flowers?
There could be many  possible interpretations. These stories are all very  different and  each one is excellent in its own way.  I have learned so much from all of you. Well-done, everyone!

Let me offer some comments on the stories in the order they were submitted—

Karl A. Russell has written a tale of undying love, and a hill covered with forget me nots.  It has a kind of magical realism, as well as  the realities of banks and mortgage payments. There is a timeless quality to the story,
like a fable or a folk tale.

Stella’s story takes a less-is-more approach, told in understatement and vivid details. Relatives gather at a  funeral, and confusion ensues. Even the eulogy could be for someone else. Poor Auntie Sheila!

C Connoly takes a very different turn.  This time, there are  psychic elements, a hurried getaway in the heat and sun. There are suggestions of something dark and mysterious. What happened to Tess and Dan?
Who are Helen and Maddie?  And what about  the missing? This story is haunting, and lingers.

Cathy Lennon offers us a  tale of bad love, tragic loss, and moving on. “She walked until the streets finished, then the footpaths.”  The scene where she buries the box on the hill. She has a different life, now,
yet the past returns. Too late? This is powerful stuff.

Bart’s story suggests the precariousness of appearances,  and how quickly things can change.  I will admit I thought at first Toby was  a person, but the family’s reaction to the dog falling off the cliff is just as shocking–
and well-told.  In time, there is  a new dog, and the girl heads for the cliffs again.  Suddenly, everything changes.  Was  it an accident the first time? Will the story repeat itself?

zevonesque depicts a bleak world with little hope, or possibility. But offering the flowers is a gesture of beauty, not despair. Amid the harshness, this is a story of how fragile and precious all life is–and how persistent.
Head west, and go on.

Beth tells a story of secrets, and  years of things unsaid. This is a vivid moment of clarity, and one is left with a feeling of hope for the future. Moving and powerful.

Image Ronin’s  tale is vividly surreal. This is an astonishing science-fiction story of an experiment gone horribly wrong. The language is as lush as the vegetation, words twining like the vengeful vines of Byrony.

CaseyRose Frank has quite a surprising twist, and what a name for a cat–Prunella Fluffens.  I found this story quite delightful, refreshing  and weird.

Every one of these stories is wonderful, and I’m really impressed by them all.  So much talent here. Thank you, writers!  Do I need to tell you it’s more fun to read or write  stories than it is to judge them? All could stand on their own, without the photo prompt.  But with the photo? You have given me quite a challenge!  Here are my choices—

Honorable mention–Cathy Lennon–for a stark and powerful story. Beautifully written.
Honorable mention–CaseyRoseFrank–for a perverse tale, dark as chocolate in the sun.  And she made the flowers look so cheerfully macabre.

3rd place– Karl A. Russell–for magical realism and careful details.  I can see the hill, covered with a profusion of  colorful blooms.  Poetic writing, but not too flowery, this is a marvelous story.

2nd place–C. Connolly–for gritty detail, suggestions of supernatural, and haunting mystery. I keep seeing Maddie’s  final vision of the crosses on the hill. In spite of the heat, the feeling is chilling.

Your Round 25 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Stella

with The Final Resting Place

Stella wins for saying so much in so few words.  This story is less than 300 words! The narrator’s perspective, the vivid detail and family dynamic is just perfect.  The power of things unsaid. In a way, this is a classic take on the photo–the marker on a hill–a life, a funeral, the awful relatives,  etc.  but there is so much more!  The flowers are even more poignant. This hill on the moor is not Auntie Sheila’s  final resting place–or is this where her true spirit lingers?

 

Congratulations, Stella! Your story will be featured this Wednesday as the HumpDay Quickie!

Thanks again, everyone. Next weekend, Flash Master extraordinaire Karl A Russel is back again to judge your stories. If you can’t wait till Saturday, check out the brand new FLASH MASTERS challenge hosted by Grey Matter Press, and don’t forget the Friday Flash Challenge, Flash! Friday. 😀

Hope to see you all Saturday.

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