Posts Tagged ‘Mark. A. King’

Happy Tuesday, writers! Thanks much to everyone who submitted and commented on stories this pas weekend. Thanks also to Sal Page for commenting and making the tough choices. You’ll find her top picks below.

A man holding a microphone, with a raised arm. Who is he? What’s he doing? Well, you came up with a wide variety of different interpretations. Amongst other things, he was a singer, a motivational speaker, a footballer collecting an award, a volunteer for a space mission, a grieving father and there were, coincidentally, a pair of onstage renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’ earning each the coveted Ham Sandwich Award. Congratulations!
Good work all round and so hard deciding which to place, which is why I ended up with three HMs. Don’t make me do this again …

Glory Song
A lovely celebration of the reasons for and the power of music, through the character of the singer. I like the varied sentence lengths, the line ‘The rhythmic stamping of feet rises to a crescendo and only the earth beneath his feet hears’ and the idea of ‘inviting the world in.’ This flash itself, all in one paragraph, also rises to a crescendo, reiterating that this man always sings.

We Believed
The narrator goes to see a motivational speaker and is convinced by him. ‘I heard the tiredness in my own voice’ is the moment of them coming down from the euphoria of the event, the realisation that there was nothing specific being spoken about. It was about being caught up in the moment. There are hints that all is not as it seems; he’s ‘dangerous’, a ‘master salesman’, ‘Dad says he’s a fraud.’ And now the moment’s gone, maybe, as the pleasing ending indicates, eating cake with friends is just as good.

Alexander Thompson Jr.
This whole story enfolds in an impassioned speech by the father of a drunk driver victim. ‘I will never feel his small hand in mind as we head to the ball game’ he tells his audience, going on to eloquently stress what this boy with the same name as him has missed out on by being killed and to persuade those listening to join him in his campaign in his son’s name.

One Day the Muse Spoke to Him
Bus driver Jeron’s muse is an old lady who is a bit like his grandmother. She knows things about him. His poetry, for one. I love her persuasive speech about the Open Mic, especially the line ‘You with your poems about pigeons and skinny kids’ which really made me smile. As did the ending when his muse is in the audience as he performs. Hope I meet her on a bus one day.

Things Can Only Get Better
George is infatuated with singer Reggie, born out in sentences like ‘He ached for the next time while dreading its arrival.’ He’s supported in his infatuation by his sweet sister Pelly, who organises a concert trip for his birthday where he goes up on stage and, never mind things can only get better, it’s more like dreams can come true. Though we don’t yet know why Reggie is inviting him to his dressing room and can only speculate.

Honourable Mention
The First by Mark A. King
A veteran footballer – the first black player – rebels against the problems of racism and homophobia in the sport by rejecting his lifetime achievement award. When he remembers racial abuse he says it didn’t ‘throw him off his game’ as fans of the opposing team might hope for, but ‘he used it like Popeye used spinach.’ Wonderful! And, as he has ‘grabbed the microphone’, it leaves the reader speculating on what he is about to say.

Honourable Mention
Can’t Hear Ourselves Think by Sian Brighal
Set decades into the future and narrated by the owner of a rare photo of a black person. We aren’t fully told what has happened but can surmise, from such lines as the shocking ‘Eighteen months in a detention centre at the age of twelve for the crime of searching GlobalNet for ‘black person’ and the reference to ‘cleansing repentant fires.’ The words on the back of the photograph ‘Did you hope we’d lose our voice?’ reminds me of the belief of slave traders that those people whose descendants went on to form the African diaspora would just forget their culture. Then, a hopeful ending, an implication of online communications and the realisation that the narrator is black in ‘we’re louder than ever.’ Of course …

Honourable Mention
Strange Band by Steve Lodge
These memories of a local band made me laugh, beginning with the absurd but still kind of believable lyrics to Cold Hands. Once heard never forgotten I’m sure. This piece contains some lovely phrases; the pleasing and economical description ‘dreadlocked and jetlagged’, the sentiment behind ‘It may have been a rat hole but it was our rat hole’ and the repetition of ‘gutted’ using the two slightly different meanings. And then, despite the humour throughout (I missed ‘Lost Vegas’ during the first reading!), a sad, end-of-a-era ending.

2nd Runner Up
Bernard’s Brilliant Ideas by Ewan Smith
This one made me laugh. It felt like an episode of a dodgy but fun sitcom. And I LOVE sitcoms of many different types. It gave me that feeling you get from sitcoms of wanting to stop these daft characters from their silly ideas. Cringing & laughing at the same time (Why don’t they just let themselves be inspected? Because it wouldn’t be funny, that’s why.) Full of good dialogue, ridiculous but fun. Feels like a very complete story as the three suggested ideas give way to the punchline, what Bernard actually did. Kidnapping the entire inspection team? Who says Bernard’s ideas aren’t brilliant?

1st Runner Up
The Stranger’s Voice by Frank Key
Our guy is making a speech about how he’s been accepted after arriving as a stranger. But its cut short. This flash surprised me. Twice. Surprise One: the crowd sing happy birthday. He realises ‘as much as he liked listening to the sound of his own voice, the unified sound from other, he like more.’ It’s a lovely moment, utterly spoiled by Surprise Two: the shock of the authorities coming to take away this man who’s become a part of his community and isn’t a stranger.

And our Round 131 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Steph Ellis

with
Penance

This needed a couple of readings for me to totally ‘get’ but when I did … what a whole lot of story it is. As much as I like funny, I like proper tragic too, as this certainly is. I like the way it makes excellent use of the raised hand in the prompt picture. And then there’s the countdown to blast off, as we gradually find out through his reliving what happened as the numbers count down, why he’s so keen to volunteer for a space mission, ‘a one way journey into the unknown’, he knows he will not survive. Penance indeed.

Congratulations, Steph! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay quickie. Thanks again to Sal for judging. Next weekend Voima Oy returns to judge round 132. Hope to see you there.

Happy Tuesday! In my post-call stupor I barely remembered I owed you all a winners post, so forgive my tardiness. Thanks to everyone who wrote stories this past weekend, and thanks much to Mark King for judging. You’ll find his comments and top picks below.

Thanks for all the fantastic stories this week. Like all judges, I await the image prompt hoping it’s going to be something different or interesting and I couldn’t wait to see what you did with this prompt. As always, your creativity and vision are something to behold.

Choosing is hard. It’s always a paper-thin decision. Another day might have generated a different set of podium finishers. Know that I enjoyed every one of the stories immensely.

The art form of flash fiction is very much alive and well.

Drums On The Broken River

Cheeky, fun and entertaining. I had a smile all the way through reading it. The banter from the wonderfully described Native American warriors was humorous and very well observed. I loved how the images were woven into the story.

Untitled / The Princess and the Dragon

Dragons? How I’ve missed them. Haven’t we all? This brought back so many fond memories of Flash! Friday and the incredible gift it gave to all of us. Thankfully, we have the Angry Hourglass to enjoy such creativity and storytelling as displayed in this fine tale. A lesson in etiquette and manners, but also a cleverly disguised ending. Poor dragon, then again, it was going to eat an entire herd of cows, so I guess I can’t feel too sorry for him.

Scents of Time

If anyone says that flash fiction can’t create worlds, characters, backstories and sensory imagery so rich you can taste, smell and touch them—point them right at this story. Very well done.

Fire Fighting

Creepy and unsettling. I had images of Backdraft running through my mind as I read it. The writing was tense and very precise with how it made the fire a living creature, stalking, and claiming its victim. I could imagine this being a film or the next must-see mini-series. Loved the double-meaning title.

The Judgement

Another wonderfully masked and cleverly disguised story. I thoroughly enjoyed the language and sense of dread and foreboding all the way through. As for the ending, it’s a feeling many of us know so well. Having said that, from the quality of the story, I very much doubt if the author gets many rejections.

Staying

This felt very personal and the passion of teaching (despite all the reasons not to do it) came through in waves of powerful emotion. This is how it must feel to be a teacher, a nurse, a police officer facing a world that seems to make the experience as unrewarding as possible – yet, there is always that hope of making a difference. Expertly crafted.

Cleansing Ritual

Brooding, intense and corrosive. I liked it very much.

Temple Tears


Wonderful world-building skills. It was almost like have a teleportation machine formed by 360 mighty fine words. I enjoyed not only the scenes, but the depth to the character/s and the journey they were on. I tip my hat to the author of this tale.

Lost in a Tenement Window

Such a great title. It immediately drew images before I had even read a word of the story. A wise technique for using those uncounted words to reach out to the reader and grab them. I loved this, “Uncurtained tenement windows hovered above, diamond adorned old lady fingers lingered below. The scent of recently lit lavender incense wafted through the air all around her. The clamor of a forgotten name inner city, echoed off the plaster walls and into the spiraling chambers of her panicky cochlea.”

Scratch-N-Sniff Story

Talking of titles… this one is a beauty. I do enjoy experimenting with form, and I loved the breathless opening and the linked sentences, the block of words almost adding physical weight to the story. The narrator unnerved me in a way that had me checking the windows looking for him (or her).

Temple Contemplation

I feel like I know Kev, with his memory cards full of pictures he’ll never do anything with. Kev is the tourist that goes unnoticed in almost every part of the world. The writing draws great comparisons between Kev’s temple experience and through the art of showing we learn about his own life and his views on the world. Here’s to you, Kev. Very nicely done.

Moving On

Excellent story. From the revelation of the medium through to the spine-tingling (yes, it really did give me the jitters) ending. This had tinges of some of the best short horror stories. Well done.

Titanium and Supplication

Imagination and creativity in abundance. The choice of a sci-fi genre was unexpected but highly enjoyable. Some great names and I think the author should get a patent on Popping Penguins, it sounds like the next big app.

A Girl Named Euphoria

Euphoria, what a great idea and character. I think there is a whole range of possibilities in this character and the stories she could tell from those that come to see her. I’d happily read many, many more tales like this one.

Honourable Mention: For Untitled / The Princess and The Dragon by Rebekah Postupak. I loved the story, but it also reminded me of so many wonderful times and stories from the gone (but not forgotten) land of dragons.

Second RU: Scents of Time by Firdaus Parvez. For the brilliance of transporting me to a different world.

First RU: Cleansing Ritual David Shakes. Brutal, urgent and perfect for the modern world we’ve found ourselves in this last year.

And our Round 125 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

 Steph Ellis

with Staying

Because it had heart, voice, realism and despite everything, hope.

Congratulatins, Steph! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! I hope to see you all next weekend when Firdaus Parvez takes her first shot at judging. Have a great week!

Happy Tuesday! Only a few stories this weekend, but every one of them was a gem. Thanks to Steph Ellis for reading and commenting. Her thoughts are top picks are below.

Many thanks to all those who entered this week’s Angry Hourglass competition particularly as for some it was the end of half-term with all the demands on time that that brings. As usual, the stories were all written to a high standard and again – as usual – I found it difficult having to leave some off the podium. So without any further ado, here are my favourite lines and placings:

Favourite lines:

… beyond the port lay a courtyard with its eternally patient, hungrily waiting shadows – She shouldn’t Have Set Foot in the Shadows

The dead are ever-present—those ones, who paved the way with blood and bones, will walk alongside me in this foreign port. – Passages

“Lieutenant, you know we got toothbrushes on board. Right?,” Yancy said, pointing to plastic device in her hand. – Port of Call

I’m going to take your heart, Johnny. I’m going to pull it out between your ribs and squeeze it until all the blood has dripped through my fingers. – Matters of the Heart

Braids wind through the wide boulevards, tangling in the side streets, twining around the lamp posts. – City of Women

She pushed the glass panel and felt that same enticing breeze of outsideness, which filled her heart with nostalgia and longing and oh-so-many other feelings.  – Lightning Does Strike Twice

HM Lightning does strike twice – Sal Page

Beautifully gentle little story of a doll coming back to life and seeking out the boy she had met the first time she had been struck by lightning – a boy who would now be a man. It is possible that he might not be there but Cecily is so hopeful, so sure, that the reader in turn shares that hope for her.

2nd RU Matters of the Heart – AJ Walker

Hunted down by the Whore of Basildon, this is a woman after Johnny’s heart although not in the way he had hoped or imagined. Despite his best efforts, he is tracked to a little Italian piazza where he realises he has no escape. Angelica in white – an angel in white (love the irony at play here) – is anything but, she is ‘going to take your heart, Johnny … pull it out between your ribs and squeeze it until all the blood has dripped through my fingers’, a nicely gruesome image.

1st RU She shouldn’t have set foot in the shadows – Shadow Walker

As the winning story spoke to the poet, this story channelled my darker side. The repetition of ‘She shouldn’t have …’ takes you back through each of the stages, step –by tension building – step, that brought her to this place, to the ‘patient, hungrily waiting shadows’.  And you know she has signed a contract with the Devil, even though he is not mentioned; he has deceived her with the ‘gleam in his eye … the shimmering in his voice … that promised her things … beyond human reach.’ 

And it draws you in so that you want to warn her but no, that is ‘pointless’. Wonderfully sinister.

And our Round 110 FLASH MASTER is..

FLASH MASTER

Voima Oy

with

City of Women

As a writer there are two sides to me – the dark/horror author and, in complete contrast, the poet and this story spoke to the poet in me. The language was lyrical, describing an island society that rose ‘like Venus the shell’, where poetry holds sway over all aspects of life, of a place where women are capable of tackling all professions, it does not matter that there are no men – the women are perfectly able. Wonderful images are conjured up of women whose hair is ‘long and wild, black as the wings of blackbirds … tangling in the side streets, twining around the lamp posts. The town’s population is boosted by female babies cast-off from nearby towns – how often, even today, are female children abandoned or aborted because they are perceived as less than men?  Here, there is a sanctuary, where women are valued. And here there are no men except for one night only; here there are ‘no men, no murders’.

Congratulations, Voima! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie!

Thanks to everyone who wrote this weekend and to Steph Ellis for judging. Next weekend our judge will be Mark King. See you all then.

Loyalty Scheme

by Mark A. King

Today I give her the Halloween special. It’s a hundred outside—middla May—sidewalks hot enough to fry eggs. Skulls in coffees ain’t due for five months yet.

During the holidays, I gave her the tropical iced mango and pomegranate infusion. She held it through those fancy therma-gloves. I didn’t like that; it ruined the sense of touch.

It’s a game I play with her.

Her name is Amber. I know this because she told me.

I know this because I write her name with a flourish on her cup t’ go. I take my time, always put a hidden heart at the end, I make it look like its sposed to be there— a period. So small she wouldn’t notice. Nobody would notice. But I know it’s there.

I savor the moments she runs her elegant fingers over the letters. Hold my breath when her glittered nail varnish picks at the heart. Sometimes she catches me. Does she enjoy it when I watch her?

Sometimes she stands there and sips infronta me. It’s only for a seconda two, but I’ve learnt to make it last longer by payin’ close  attention. I watch the steam moisten on her porcelain skin. Watch her slurp, gently—daintily. She rests the cup on those lips—lips that carry her honeyed voice—lips so full, that I imagine how they would taste to kiss. I watch her tip the cup and I imagine how the hot liquid it skims those artic-white veneers.

We’re sposed to know ‘bout our customers.

It helps brand loyalty, they say.

There’s nothing I don’t know ‘bout Amber.

I know she volunteers at the place where old folk go to die.

I know she likes to eat by herself and the glow of the TV screen makes her look like an angel in the dark abyss of her lonely room.

I know her ex treated her bad.

A man like me would know how treat Amber.

I’d treat her like she’s special.

I always give her my special. Just for her.

It’s a game we play.

Happy Tuesday, and welcome to the Round 106 Winners post. Thanks to everybody who wrote stories last weekend and to Rob Knipe who did an admirable job as a first time judge. You’ll find his comments below.

This is the first time I’ve ever judged anything, more or less. I’ve inspected things and made sure that they’re all done to a certain standard, but this was far harder than pointing out a build up of carbon and telling someone to bring it back when it’s clean. Two things you should know, I use smiley’s way too often, and sometimes I write a joke in a story then have to delete the smiley at the end of it. I smile too much, and I put them everywhere. Apologies in advance.

Some great stuff here. I was going to do some HMs and 1st and 2nd, but thought they all deserved something.

So thanks for submitting and making my life more difficult that I usually find it!

Judged blind, I’ve matched up the names afterwards.

Take This Cup From Me by Julia Handel: Is it going to be a happy and joyous time for Michael, or is everything about to go wrong? I want to know! I’m not surprised he’s looking forward to a return to the peaceful world of food, drink and pleasant company – sounds ideal!

Favourite Line: “Arthritic hands clawed toward the Candidate, grabbing at salvation.” – An excellent visual, really like this line. Also, was Sinister, Dexter a reference to the 2000AD stories by Dan Abnett and co?

The Eiffle Tower in my French Roast at Starbucks with Thoreau by Richard Edenfield: Very poetic piece this. Some nice description and visualisation in here, and it feels almost dream-like when you’re reading it… or dreaming it?

Favourite line:  “Things don’t change, we change. If the world is getting warmer… it is because we are becoming colder.” – Very thought provoking like that too, you could imagine Socrates or someone saying that.

The Haunted Man by Stephellis2013: Sinister! I thought this was along the lines of someone suffering from PTSD, so only clicked that he’s a killer towards the end! Bravo! I liked the dark moodiness of this piece, and the fact that it did catch me off guard.

Favourite Line: “At night it was easier, the streets were empty and he could take his ghosts and drown them in the dark; alcohol subdued most but not all of his demons.” – I know this feeling so well…

Fortunes by AV Laidlaw: It feels like there’s an inevitable outcome incoming from the very start, and I like how the Sight gives the narrator a premonition in such a discreet and minor way. Something minor for something major. Pretty sure this story could be used when telling people to slow down and enjoy life a little. 

Favourite Line: “He’s an English graduate working here until he finishes his novel.” – Even when finished, the struggle is relentless. So long as she never tells him that!

We Demand Frothy Coffee by Sal Page: I loved the plays on words – something I really do adore – and they made me laugh out loud. The consistent crazy in the writing is like a textualised Les Dawson piano tune – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nNGlaiVypU Marvellous!

“We want our bacon cooked correctly. The fat should be brown and crispy, not white and flappy.” – Amen, this a thousand times over!! If the bacon bends when you pick it up by one end, it’s not cooked yet.

About Last Night by Steve Lodge I’ve had nights like this, with less soiling, but similar embarrassments! I think Ellie is a catch! I think this is something most people can relate to in some way or another, have drink to steady nerves before meeting someone,  realise too late that you’re mashed. The bit about soda water, not cola made me laugh out loud.

Favourite Line: “Well, you know me. I was a bit nervous, so while I was getting ready I poured a largish drink as a livener to steady my nerves. On an empty stomach, big mistake.” – I can totally relate to this…

Excitable by Jeff Rowlands: Oh wow, the end of happiness goes with the end of the dream? I found this quite moving, and I like the idea that while he’s following his dreams, the Excitables are having a great time. Then he takes a bank job with spreadsheets, and projects and goals, and the Excitables leave one by one, until the final one does itself in. Gutting.

Favourite Line: “The last evidence that they had ever existed nothing more than a tear shaped indent in the foam on top of his coffee.” – Ouch!

The Harbinger by David Shakes: Death moves in mysterious ways… and in pubs. I like the thought of Death just wandering in, looking gaunt and not being too out of place. Kind of gives a good lesson too, don’t judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. Death could have been ill, naturally (or unnaturally?) skinny (like me 20 years ago…) when the narrator poked fun at him. Turns out he was death. Who got the last laugh? There’s a moral in there. I like it!

Favourite Line: “You wonder why I am telling you all this? Take a closer look at your coffee and try not to panic.” – Creeeeeepy last line. *note to self: don’t look at the foam on a coffee ever again.

Pocket Demon by Mariemk1:  Interesting idea that makes me want my own pocket demon, so that even when I’m alone, I wouldn’t truly be alone. That said, if the treacherous little swine ditched me, I think I’d want to crush his skeletal head between thumb and finger too!

Favourite Line: “And now, all that’s left for me is a pang where a red mark used to be.” Another gutting ending! The pangs are always worse!


2nd

I really like the idea of new beginnings and starting afresh and this story reminded me why. Everyone has some grim times, and sometimes the future can look terrifying, then some little things just fall into place and make anything seem possible again.

The Half-Life of Caffeine by A.J. Walker – I like that it starts off quite sad, and, like the breakdown of any relationship, it’s a bit gutting. Then, as it goes on, there’s hope, and there’s good in the world again. I was so glad it ended on a happy note! Bravo!
Favourite Line:  “The froth on the last coffee had been a pair of sunglasses. Just like Deborah’s. It was clear. A new chapter was beginning, much quicker than anticipated.” – It’s an ending with hope, because there’s ALWAYS a silver lining.

1st

I chose this one because of my favourite line in it, and the build up to it. It could have ended right after ‘room’, because that line was so hideous. I could imagine the eyes of this fellow squinting in through the window while she’s there unsuspecting. SO CREEPY! Well played!

Our Round 106 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Mark A. King

with Loyalty Scheme

I read this as a sinister stalker type, and it made me more and more uncomfortable as it went on. It’s not too sinister, just a guy noticing things (a little creepily at times) about a girl he likes, until that one outstanding line… that just freaks me out! *shuts the curtains* 

Favourite Line:  “I know she likes to eat by herself and the glow of the TV screen makes her look like an angel in the dark abyss of her lonely room.” – Mein Gott! Why would you write this?! Brilliant and terrifying.

Well played everyone, and thanks for letting me judge!

Rob K

Congratulations, Mark! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie. Next weekend, Marie McKay returns to the judge’s seat. See you all there.

Happy Tuesday, friends. It was a tough but lovely prompt this round, and you all rose to the challenge. Many thanks to those who submitted stories and to Mark King for reading them and choosing his favorites. You’ll find his comments and top picks below.

While the image is a beautiful one, it would have had me scratching my head for a long time to come up with a unique angle on it. This, my friends, is why this competition is so good – making it easy, wouldn’t stretch or challenge us – being challenged only makes us better writers. Angry Hourglass has always been a great place to strengthen our skills.

Thank you for the rich diversity, beauty, humour and power in your stories.

On to the comments, then the podium places:

ETYMON

I adore a six word story.

Water Lilies Painting Monet

Wow.  Just wow. Reading the text was like looking at a beautiful, multi-layered Monet painting.

The opening line sets the tone.

As poetic as it was, the subsequent line was hard to read as it lacked any pauses, but as a reader I felt this was a deliberate mechanism by the writer, to make me work a tease out the meaning.

I like stories that have hidden meanings, that make you work as a reader. I also like rich descriptions and lever use of structure and pacing (in this story we swap from long to short sentences, then back again).

This story really delivers.

The Fault in My Star

This is a very clever piece.

From the title that is a play on a famous book/film, to the use of the oil and Mon Étoile (‘my star’, which ends up being oile).

I love the cheeky use of clichés only to dismiss them as clichés a moment later.

The use of Van Gogh to contrast with Monet is good craft, as it allows the reader to visualise the scene and feel the emotions:

“Now it was more akin to Van Gogh’s dead sunflowers, with it’s tangled mess of mucky browns and dying greens.”

The Art of Fencing

Sooo good. Great idea to use the fencing element of the picture.

I’m not sure if the names and scene setting were deliberate, but it thoroughly reminded me of a light-hearted prod at The Apprentice (which I love).

Wonderful use of descriptions to draw a picture of Daniel at the start.

We even have the word ‘impression’ weaved in seamlessly.

How I wish there were more artistic barrier builders in the world.

Just imagine what Claud could have done with the Berlin Wall.

Blue Sky Thinking

When people look down on flash fiction, just come and point them at this story. Then tell them firmly that they’re wrong.

An entire world, a post-apocalyptic civilization delivered with 310 knockout words.

References to words being powerful are as old as time itself, and here the consequences are realised. Yet words could have prevented the outcome.

Clear writing techniques employed as well. Top work.

A Trade In Truespeak

A very unique angle on the prompt. A hushed interaction between customer and shopkeeper, making me think vividly of wartime secrets. This is a story that hints at ideas and concepts far bigger than this scene.

I’m curious to know more about Truespeak, Deepspeak and Plainspeak and it’s great to leave a reader wanting more. This is especially true in flash fiction, where is it almost more important to know what to leave out than it is to know what to put in.

Well done.

Money or Monet

Such character building and relationship observation within a fractional space makes me admire this story and wish I had such skills.

The names of the characters are perfect (as is the use of a Citroen). The use of class systems in schools, the references to My Little Pony and JB were excellent as they said so much. The narrative voice is very strong, probably the strongest of the stories this week.

I tip my flowered hat to you.

It was a tougher call than I thought it would be. Any of the stories could have made it, so congratulations to you all, but I have to pick so…

2nd runner-up goes to Money or Monet  by Stella Kate – for the very strong voice and supreme character work.

1st runner-up goes to Blue Sky Thinking by Steph Ellis – for the incredible world building and visions of past and future civilisations.

And our Round 96 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Richard Edenfield

with Water Lilies Painting Monet

– for the beauty, the layering, the structure, the depth (sorry) and for truly painting a picture with words; such as ‘His beard washed with a tiny breeze born of a hillside and died on the tip of imagination’ and ‘A protest of freesia scent swinging in the air’ and many, many more. Congratulations.

Congratulations, Richard! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie!

Next weekend, Voima Oy returns as Flash Frenzy’s esteemed judge. Hope to see you all then.

Good morning. We’ve got a guest photographer this week. Friend and fellow author, Sean Igo, has provided the Round 96 photo prompt, and Mark King is our judge.

Before we get started, here’s a brief reminder of the rules.

Deadline: Sunday at 6:00pm MST. You all have 36 hours to create your best work of up to 360 words (exclusive of title) and post it into the comments below. Please include your word count (required) and Twitter handle if applicable. For complete rules, click here. 

The winning author and their story will be featured as Wednesday’s Hump-Day Quickie, receive a winner’s page, and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

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photo courtesy Sean Igo

Hey folks. Welcome back. I hope everyone had a great weekend. Thanks to everyone who found time to write stories this round and to AJ for braving the Valentine’s Day weekend as judge. You’ll find his comments below.

Thanks guys and guyesses you did another bad thing. Is bad still good (‘sick’ seems so last year)? Perhaps I should stick to literalism: You guys, as ever, were good.

Those who saw my twitter plea for a lack of mawkishness decided to take that as a challenge; one way or another. There were the odd lines which came damn close to Valentine’s vomitville. These were usually cleared up in the next line or two by a change in direction (usually with the bloke (or boxed pet) ending up somewhere sticky (in a not nice way)). So thank you.

There was a good deal of Liverpool, beer, cheese, and a pet called Mawkish. Even my writing group, Poised Pen, got a mention. I’m not entirely sure whether these nods of obviousness deserve plus or minus points. Sometimes I feel the point scoring can be more obscure than in an episode of QI. In any case thank you also for the notable lack of cats – your assistance in such undertaking to not put cats into these love and anti-love stories is very much appreciated (and without my asking too, you knows me!). Sorry… almost mawkish there. So, without further ado, I’ll plunge right into my picks of Runners Up and Flash Champ. And in true Sal ‘FlashDog review-style’ I’ve put a line in from each piece. Sal, you’ve created a thing!

Lines

Love Potion at the Stilton and Maggot

Fave Line: ‘His gurning grimaces proved the one-toothed rumour beyond doubt.’

Heartless

Fave Line: ‘he was a coward and he could never let her see the man he had become.’

A Right Plum, on his own in the Train Station, with the Lunchbox

Fave Line: ‘Right now, he needed antihistamines.’

Love Train

Fave Line: ‘I don’t care for yellow flowers. But I do want the pilgrim soul.’

A Conscious Coupling

Fave Line: ‘We charge by the hour, so might want to make your mind up.’

Train of Thought

Fave Line: ‘If I can’t be with you, I don’t want you to be with anyone else either.’

Angel of the North(ern Line)

Fave Line: ‘Barry the Spank Engine, wasn’t happy’

Photoshoot

Fave Line: ‘She only ever looked that happy when she was on her phone.’

The Tracks of My Tears

Fave Line: ‘the 12:24 train to Liverpool—home of ‘The Poisoned Pen’, a publishing house that specialised in whodunnits.’

A Plate of Pasta

Fave Line: ‘luckily she had more bullets, one with his name etched on. She hated clingy men.’

————————-

HM

A Plate of Pasta by Stella T

Wasn’t going to select a HM but it was hard to call between this and the other runners-up, but a few typos made the difference (we all been their). But had to mention it because it’s a great story well told. Loved it. Next tim

Second Runner Up

Angel of the North(ern Line) by Mark A. King

Well, come on, you know I’m sucker for a bit of humour so getting me grinning from Line 1 is a good thing – as long as it delivers for the rest of the piece too. And this one did. Nice idea and I’d like to know what the writer had been drinking when they came up with the idea (it seemed like a four pinter story to me).

Anthropomorphic trains was a good slant on the love story for this weekend (why did I volunteer for this weekend – what was I thinking btw?!) and mawkishness was replaced by the rather rude Barry the (well you know). Thanks for the laughs!

First Runner Up

Photoshoot by Carlos Orozco

A good modern take on a relationship being lived in the (not so nice) gaze of social media. Turn off your Twitter between Flash challenges guys (and just get rid of that Facebook malarkey).

I can visualise the protagonists all too easily. Their different view on the day and the pain in it makes me hope that after he’s watched whatever he was catching on the box that they decided to go their separate ways – or at least don’t make it until the next VD.

and our round 94 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Catherine Connolly

with

A Conscious Coupling

No real shred of love in the traditional sense here and the furthest from the Planet Mawk you can get. Huzzah!

I thought this was a really clever take on the prompt with the use of the railway and train terms without said railway or train (and certainly no Spank Engine). It had a feel of Minority Report meets Blade Runner; which is a great bit of world building with such a small piece.

I thought the atmosphere of the piece was choice. Good work!

Congratulations, Catherine! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie. Next weekend, CR Smith takes the judge’s seat. Hope to see you all then.

SPIT | FIRE

by Mark A King

He’s sworn two oaths. One to his homeland, one to King George.

He’s skimmed the cordite skies of Poland, barrelled the shrapnel-strewn Belgium ether, endured the insectile fury of the Messerschmitt swarms above France.

Each time, one of the few to survive—he starts again in a new land. He becomes another foreigner, not accepted. At worst, he’s despised, at best he’s welcomed with suspicion and contempt.

Yet, the RAF needs pilots. So, grudgingly, they accept him and those like him—on the lowest ranks—he must know his place.

The cockpit is familiar. His worn leather gloves clasp the controls as if they are extensions of his soul.

A private chapel of hellfire. A crucible of death.

He once carried the Bible. Once folded a photo of his latest wielbiciel into his breast pocket. But these are talismans of false-hope. He has lost those that hoped. Hope is a luxury for those that mourn.

Hope is for those can’t fly the Spitfire like he can.

Perhaps his enemy has his own lucky charms. They will fail him.

She feels shaky, skittish and flimsy compared to the Hurricane, yet the sound, oh that sound. It rattles the skies of London, rumbles the cratered earth. The noise is like the god of thunder, Thor, dying of consumption.

Some brave kids must hear the noise. He sees the excited dots below. Escaped vagabonds from the wire-frame chicken-run Morrison shelters which sit precariously beneath the trembling tables of their terraced house. The dots try and outrun him—but only God can outrun the Spitfire.

Above the Home Counties, he has the insects in his sights. He is overwhelmed in number, but these odds are normal.

They fall.

Fall.

Fall.

And when he lands, there is no celebration, no credit.

Just the sound of another siren.

Happy New Year! Welcome to the first winners post of 2016! Thanks to everyone who wrote stories this weekend and got 2016 off to such a great start. Thanks also to Marie McKay for judging and commenting. You’ll find her responses below.

Happy New Year to you all. Thanks for allowing me to read your wonderful stories. Thanks to Rebecca, also, for this competition. I have commented on a few of the things I liked about each of the flashes, but I could have said so much more about all of them.

Forbidden Flames

The introduction of this world is handled expertly:

“Back in the day, fire was freely available… They pumped heat around our city through elaborate installations of spaghetti-tangled pipes.”

What a great concept. Highly original.

Before the Flames Go Out

I read this as a vampire story. This one was fast-paced and tense right from the outset:

“Fuck! Why did I come this way? Now I’m trapped and helpless.”

I also like that I have to work out what these vile creatures are:

“You don’t like fire…”

“How long do I have until sunrise?” Thoroughly enjoyed.

What Do Fire Eaters Have For Pudding?

“that thrilling crackly sound and, ah, the tantalising smell.”

It’s at this point I realise I might not be dealing with what I had first thought. Instead of the main character being a neglected or abused runaway, he is, instead, an arsonist.

What he misses about his parents is also interesting:

“… comforting smell of Dad’s pipe. Mum… fried bacon and eggs on the gas cooker.”

Dark yet humorous.

Firestarter

“Only at night was he free from persecution.”

This story of an outsider contains beautiful language:

“as the dark glass of his eyes bathed themselves in the light of day.”

He takes his revenge on his persecutors, burning them with his eyes.

“They were too far from their families for their screams to be heard.” This is harrowing, yet, I still have sympathy for him because of the story’s stunning last line:

“And only when the Firestarter cried, did the flames finally die and he turned his gaze to the ground once more.”

A Morning’s Walk

Great world building and original take on the prompt.

A highly privileged member of a society disguises himself, discarding with “the emerald toga of the casting classes…”

This sentence is just so beautiful and concise:

“Jarritt feigned fear, whining for mercy and offering a silver coin, his likeness emblazoned on it.” Great writing.

SUNDIAL

“In the backyard of an estate the sundial had lasted… Through the years children played with it not knowing its significance or use.”

This piece contained wave after wave of beautiful imagery. The theme of time is handled exquisitely.

“No sign language of ticking clocks were needed… Birds would sit on the hand that did not move receiving crumbs of eternity.”

The conclusion to the piece so very fitting.

‘The Block’

This one made me smile. A writer suffering from writer’s block. The hideous nature of that block described vividly:

“tangled veins”

“dark matter.”

Then, when it is finally overcome, I love:

“Warm honey hued liquid oozed out from a cavity, seeping through cracks, filling the voids, flowing through the arteries.A heady scent of stories filled the air.”

The Beast Inside

“I have grown old in my quest for the fire-beast.”

A whole life in one flash fiction piece. Beautiful language takes us through, not only seasons, but years so that the story feels rounded:

“But now I complete my quest… the castle, now in blackened ruins, our battle flags torn and the ladies of the court withered. I will find the fire-beast lurking in the vaults…”

Homecoming

Once again, great world building from the first line:

“He’d been in the bowels of the earth since the height of the solstice.”

What I really like about this piece is the characterisation which adds humour and tenderness to the piece

“he was still just a man – his thoughts those of any young man in his prime:

How do I look?”

BURNING PASSIONS

This is unusual as it starts out as a dystopian world, and then life seems to improve. I loved the descriptions of harsh times. “Food was a daily challenge… The grocer with fruit from the bottom of the barrel.”

However, as conditions improve, the conflict begins and a lover is spurned:

“She left me. Left me to wither like a grape unpicked.” Terrific imagery.

Finding the Light

Given the striking prompt, it’s not surprising there were wonderful descriptions of fire and its properties.

“The reddened light pulsed making his shadow dance across the timber columns of the wood.”

“A fire that burned like life itself.”

“A giant sprite in a bizarre dance partnership.” Fantastic descriptions.

MASTER OF MAN

A mysterious tale made up of intriguing dialogue.

This line embodies the story’s enigma: ‘”That’s precisely who I am, no shadow.”‘

Whoever/Whatever this force is, is terrifying.

Beauty

“the nothing-color of [her] hair and eyes…” does not stop our narrator from finding a loving partner.

and

“Two kind, plain but happy people [birth] a beautiful girl.”

The theme of beauty and vanity is explored so well in this flash piece, a feeling of completeness, if not happiness, found in

“I sit down and wonder how I raised one of the cruel girls…”

Spit | Fire

He’s sworn two oaths. One to his homeland, one to King George.

My interpretation of the wonderful introduction to this story is that our narrator is one of the refugees who flew for the RAF during WW2.

The economic use of language is stunning

“He’s skimmed the cordite skies of Poland, barrelled the shrapnel-strewn Belgium ether, endured the insectile fury of the Messerschmitt swarms above France.”

Yet,

“on the lowest ranks—he must know his place.”

Language such as

“A private chapel of hellfire. A crucible of death.” depicts the treacherous, and perhaps, ironically, the spiritual nature of this task.

This story explores the alienation of the WW2 fighter pilot, and the alienation of a refugee.

“And when he lands, there is no celebration, no credit.” Brilliant.

The Man Without a Face

“I’m in love with him. He wears a hat. I can’t see his face. I don’t need to see it to know how I feel about him.”

Such strength of feeling in such a short piece!

“Every night, he has a different face.” and I love the ambiguity of this ending.

Bulwark

“A bulwark made of pure madness… Drake wanted that title. He wanted to be considered mad.”

I really like the idea of this force of uncompromising madness. A very intriguing concept. I also enjoyed the dash of style and humour at the end:

‘Drake replied, “If I’m going to officially declared a mad man, I want to be a good-looking one.”’

Here goes:

Honourable Mentions:  Beauty by  Casey Rose Frank and SUNDIAL by Richard Edenfield

Second Runner-up: The Beast Inside by AV Laidlaw

First Runner-up: Firestarter by Steph Ellis

And our Round 89 FLASH MASTER is 

FLASH MASTER

Mark A King

with Spit | Fire

Congratulations, Mark. Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie. Thanks again Marie for your comments. Next weekend, multiple-time Flash Master Sal Page will be acting as judge. See you all on Saturday.