Welcome back, writers. A big thank you to everyone who submitted stories for this week’s prompt as well as to Marie McKay for volunteering her time to judge. You’ll find her comments and this week’s top picks below.

Thank you for letting me read your wonderful stories. The prompt inspired rich, poetic tales. Our attitude to the environment was a recurring theme in a lot of stories, as well as the power of water and our vulnerability. Other stories dealt with themes of love and loss. All were fantastic.

The Boy who Fished in Raindrops

This story is touching and magical. A 9-year-old and his pigeon friend, stop the ‘metal teeth’ of machinery from destroying the forest. This line,

‘little boys with imaginations as real as the sun’ sang to me. A story that encapsulates the hope of childhood.

We Can Make The World Stop

A story of Creation, but the Creator is tired, cynical. It seems he has been here before- he has created the world many times over only to find that humans destroy it each time.

‘On the seventh day I will rest. By the time I awaken, [humans will] have made a holy mess of it, and it’s all downhill again.’ He faces the dreary prospect once more, and in a marvellously throwaway line, we are told his ‘lab’ will be taken, if there is another failure.

The Spiritual Car Wash

‘He saw his soul as an automobile.’ What a great line! This piece is highly original. The metaphor continues,

‘conscience’ is an alarm ‘if it goes off, direction changed.’

In the end, ‘the world needed a spiritual car wash.’ Quirky and clever.

Naraka

‘there is no place to go outside the camp, only the dust and ashes that clothe this world in its funeral robes.’ This harsh prison is inescapable.

A criminal act results in physical incarceration, but the guilt the protagonist feels is a prison, too. His victim is written in the Hell around him: he sees ‘his slothful eyes that barely flickered in the alien stars at night, feels the heat of his blood on skin in the blaze of the small white sun.’

‘There is no forgiveness in this river.’ Stunning imagery.

Brain Freeze

A fun and offbeat piece of writing. But the humour belies a serious theme. Creation, and how poorly we humans treat our precious planet, is the theme of this one.

”’Brain freeze might have been the worst thing they’ve ever had to worry about, but their generation will be just like all the others. They’ll take and take and we’ll have to find Earth 38.”’ Those involved in clearing up the mess are jaded by human failure.

Hummingbird

‘The water joined like a record album rippling out in grooved seance. Not science. A turntable of air you balance on and sing.’

This image kept coming back to me. A hummingbird just above the water singing its song. Unexpected and wonderful. This was a very poetic work. ‘photograph fluttering in a camera’ -wonderfully elusive. 

Moves like a Panther

Ah, we humans and our completely incompetent way of dealing with our planet’s resources! The protagonist, having made a fortune from the gullible with bottled water, is about to embark upon ‘bottling air’ from the ‘dreams of butterflies.

A Father’s Love

Samil requires a successor for his ‘shadow world’. He has only two sons now to choose from. However, paradoxically whoever can be trusted to rule a world of shadows, cannot be trusted. This story contained beautiful language of epic proportions:

‘So Ubel drank. And his thirst emptied the Nile and the Congo, the Limpopo and the Zambesi. He tasted rock and stone, bone and blood…’ Excellent world building.

Seal Trappers

Another powerful story that deals with the damage humans wreak upon the planet. The fisherman watches

‘sparkling drops run between calloused fingers. Life was calm and peaceful, but he knew the Seal-trappers would come, and then troubles would begin for him.’ Beginning gently, this story sees a peaceful people forced to load ‘canoes of silver Sycamore with weapons of spears and axes’ to defend their way of life. A heartbreaking story of courage and loss.

The Nature Of The Beast

A short, powerful piece. This is a terrifying world:

‘His hands were sore from the pollution, his eyes tired of seeing the terrifying sights, his mind slowly unravelling with the anarchy of it all.’ What a fantastic description!

The character is hopeless as ‘the Sins of the World kept coming, unabated.’

and I can’t help but think the events are set in this world rather than an imaginary one.

Act Now, Don’t Wait, Guaranteed to Work: 

This is an incredibly moving piece, yet it is as humorous as it is heartbreaking:

‘“Bonus party favor,” you said, grinning, as a cherry-colored, duck-shaped stain suddenly appeared on my chest.”’

Our clumsy narrator (and I wholeheartedly relate to this) wears much of her food and drink on her clothes, including her wedding dress! The various stains are the basis for the structure of this story, and we find out what mark it is that can’t come out:

‘…you’ve really done it: crossed the Great River and smeared a violent mark across my heart.’

The narrator pretends to chide her friend for leaving the mark of true friendship on her heart, but in a tale of warmth the narrator’s gratitude to her friend shines through. Clever structure and beautiful words.

TAKE ME TO THE WATER

‘I dive into the memory, sweet and caramel toned, but my full attention burns it out, and it’s gone.’

I read this as an older person, perhaps in an institution, memory coming and going like waves, missing the world they once occupied:

‘The sparkle of the sun on the water, the rot-stink of the seaweed, the grit of the sand beneath me; sacred and free. The lick of salt on your skin.’ Gorgeous description depicting old age and its restrictions, with the character of Marly and her kindnesses providing uplift.

THE DISCOVERY

An original way of handling the prompt. Water itself is stripped back, when we see its discovery:

‘It was bluish, almost transparent. He couldn’t move freely in it, like when he walked the earth.’

This interesting way of handling the prompt not only makes the reader reconsider the wonder of water (in itself pretty incredible) but provides the opportunity for wit and warmth.

‘Bha-aal… plunged his head in the substance, eyes wide open.’ Having worried his tribesmen after choking himself in the water, ‘he decided to try again tomorrow, but with Na-Nuhl. Though he didn’t tell him yet.’ Lovely!

The River

A people full of trepidation journey:

‘What if they could not trust the water now.’

This story is poetic and charming.

‘The river looked so peaceful, whispering secrets to itself.’

Despite the ominous feel this story starts with, it ends on a surprising and sweet note with a frolic in the water:

‘He reached out and pulled her in.’

The Inner Isle

The Maister and his apprentice are concocting mixtures of a supernatural nature. The apprentice is overly curious, questioning every step of the process. A story based mainly in wonderful dialogue gives us a key question:

‘“What if I want to, though?”’

This was my favourite ending of the week: The Apprentice’s curiosity leads to his demise, The Maister left to ‘blend’ another with a tad less curiosity.

Oliver

The author placed a footnote after this piece of flash telling us this story is based on actual dialogue that took place between the journalist Lawrence Weschler and his lifelong friend, Writer and Neurologist Oliver Sacks (who recently passed away.)

This is a wonderful tale of friendship and a wonderful tribute. The prose surrounding the dialogue is stunning:

The sky is a shy shade of pink, as if the sun weren’t yet convinced to rise.

Oliver dips his legs into the slightly coral-colored waves.

“It tastes like love.” He says, closing his eyes.”

Thank you for writing.

Missionary

This is another short and powerful piece. The dialogue is very effective. The Gran is confused, her behaviour concerning and her language archaic.

The protagonist has to find ways of dealing with this situation and language:

‘not calling them heathens in the first place.’

But it is a difficult task

‘She looks at me as if I’m the one about to head into the bush in my slippers.’ Humorous yet incredibly human and painful.

Backwash

The perpetrator of a hit-and-run suffers a year of guilt after the horrific road incident.

‘I killed a man. His wife. Their unborn child. That’s not a ripple, that’s a tsunami.’

The unborn child ‘talks’ to him in his demented state. He enters the river:

‘This cleansing river, this holy river, is rotten with the filth of the city.’

He has gone beyond redemption. Everything is sullied.

‘I taste its gritty truths. I add myself to the filth of this fetid artery.’ This line was the most powerful I read this week.

I have probably said enough. This was truly difficult but here goes:

Honourable Mentions: Hummingbird by Richard Edenfield for its poetry. Oliver by Iskandar H. for its stunning prose.

Third place: Naraka by AV Laidlaw for wonderful language and imagery.

Second Place: THE DISCOVERY by Bart Van Goethem for originality and the author’s brilliant approach.

And our Round 76 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Rebekah Postupak

with Act Now, Don’t Wait, Guaranteed to Work

for its wonderful characters, clever structure and depth of emotion.

Congratulations, Rebekah! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie!  Next weekend, Karl A. Russell is back to judge your stories. We both hope to see you all there. 😀

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Comments
  1. […] to darling Flash! Friday draggin Beth Peterson (December 29, 1960 – September 2, 2015) via last weekend‘s Flash Frenzy weekly flash fiction contest. Host Rebecca Allred gives a whopping 360 words […]

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