Posts Tagged ‘Sal Page’

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 Saturday! Welcome to Flash Frenzy Round 131. Our judge this week is Sal Page.

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 and be crowned Flash Master of the Week.

Here is your prompt.

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photo courtesy Ashwin Rao

Hello again! As promised, here’s today’s second winner’s post! Thanks to everyone who wrote stories and to Steph Ellis for being more on top of judging than I was this past week. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

Oh dear. You all certainly made me work this week and on a Monday night too. I had to read and reread a few times before I could make up my mind – and even then I kept chopping and changing placings. There really wasn’t a lot in it, especially between the Winner and the 1st RU and the 2nd RU, and oh, did I mention the HMs and those who didn’t get placed but were great as well? But in the end my choices covered the range of elements that get me every time – some were dark, some were moving, some were written by poets. What more could I ask for?

Golden Daffodils

Great fun, wonderful names and the line “Read it, buffoon, or I will eat your slab and urinate on your coiling” is inspired.  And don’t forget the puns ‘a host of Golden Daffodils’ meaning a totally different thing in this case!

War Games

A slow dawning that these are not quite the war games I expected, a child’s perspective on the weekly shop with them making the most of any edible opportunities – as kids will. I’m glad those days are behind me. Standout line: “If I’m holding a wedge of cheddar, it’s safe. German salami? It’s over – save yourself.”

Marked

This intriguing story hints at things rather than coming straight out and telling you what’s going on so that you can put your own interpretation on it. The mark is a visible representation of whatever events had occurred the night before – sex, drugs, something supernatural – it is for the reader to decide. But whatever happened, it has happened to so many others, it’s normal, plenty of others were ‘Marked’ and Jess would deal with the consequences of it in her own, brave way.

Eyes

Eyes are the one thing I’ve found that adds an extra something to any piece of dark writing, they certainly have the ‘cringe’ factor. Her fetish whilst not yet being the death of her – “Your fetish with eyes is going to be the death of you, my dear,” – is certainly the death of others.

Captured

Poor man, wanting to live the life of a hermit and then getting captured. I think there was an element of pride coming before a fall here, he was a little too cocky ‘sauntering’ to the door, then falling over the tripwires which he had claimed to know all about.

Those Eyes

The eyes have it – or not, in the case of this couple they are hiding so much – the ‘story waiting to be told’, a future built on lies and deceit, liar’s eyes. I wonder how much their desire for fame is going to keep them together.

Camouflage

A dangerous woman here, manipulative, setting the scene for a perfect murder. Not someone to be crossed. A lot is conveyed in a very short story.

HM: A Sword in the Hand by Angelique Pacheco

Beautifully descriptive piece: phrases such as the sword was ‘heavy and burdened with many a tale,’ ‘when I was sixteen and the lotus began to bloom,’ ‘rain poured down in silver sheets,’ all set the scene and tone perfectly. I like the way that although it finishes with him waiting for his attackers, for me it implies – because this story is being told some years later and he still has his sword – the younger version of Grandfather had fought of his attackers and won.

HM: The Confusing Nature of Student Life by Ewan Smith

Entertaining story focusing on those rites of passage we all have to go through with parents. Showing them we’re adult enough to have a drink, a partner, they’re reaction as they have to let go of the child and accept the adult. This was done with great humour and warmth and it was a nice twist that the blacking was accidental rather than a particular fashion statement.

2nd RU: The Poet Brigade and the Elixir of Truth by Richard Edenfield 

Gorgeous language and turns of phrase in this story. A tale of hope and the aspiration to change things using words, ‘feathered bullets bleached with an unfettered pride’ as youth and Ms Williams takes on Trump. Wonderful that there are those who have such visions and dreams although I’m not quite sure what Trump’s reaction would be. I think perhaps something from Mother Goose might be more at his level!

1st RU: Garden Party by Sal Page 

A very grim but extremely well-written piece. The pacing was perfect, drawing the reader on as the would-be victim turns the tables on her assailant and comes out the victor. The first line draws you in right away “He’s supposed to be dead but he’s staring at me,” sign-posting a wonderfully dark story is on its way. Plus there are elements that are blackly humorous “His kilt is still up around his waist, the sporran skewiff. No idea where the orange wig and tartan cap are.”

And our Round 130 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

K.M. Zafari

with

“Homecoming”

This is such a sad, but uplifting, story. The initial feeling that perhaps there is an element of estrangement between the children and their father changes as they dig through old memories and put them in perspective. It is the difference in the eyes of the younger, carefree footballer compared to the eyes of the soldier that reveals the truth, the effect that war can have on a person and subsequently their loved ones. The eyes have given Jace the understanding he needs to try and bridge the gap with his father, despite the latter’s dementia. Moving.

Congratulations, K.M.! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s second HumpDay Quickie!

Thank you again everyone for contributing your time and talents, especially our judges. The Angry Hourglass truly could not exist without your efforts. Next weekend, Sal Page is back for another round of judging. Hope to see you all there.

Happy Tuesday, friends. I hope the day finds you well. Thank you to everyone who submitted stories this past weekend (after seeing AJ’s comments, I’m really glad I didn’t post the photo prompt I was originally contemplating!). Thanks also to AJ for volunteering his time to read and comment on the entries. You’ll find his comments and top picks below. 

Last time I judged there were just seven entries, this time thirteen and they were all tremendous (I can still use that word, right?). 

I did tweet prior to the prompt ‘bonus points for not making the stories about Trump’ as I was having a weekend trying not to think about him – not even my country and I feel I needed a break. And only one of you did, so thank you for that. And I didn’t mark the offending piece down; in fact it made me laugh, which I’m always a sucker for.

Each story included a train or two, which would have seemed coincidental but for the prompt photo and of course someone had to throw in a bit of Warren Zevon – let’s face it that is always a wise choice for any given day. Aah wooo! 

Needless to say all the stories were strong and I was quite torn, especially between the top two, but I have done it. These are the facts, not alternative ones, real ones. 

So, without further ado my favourite lines and my picks of the week…

Fave Lines:

1. Shokolokobangoshe

Hatch was on a 2 year contract, teaching Ceramic Engineering and Flirting at the Iffy Ilumasha University.

2. The White Room

Those first nights, whenever a train passed, I thought it was an earthquake.

3. Runaway Train.

She will be back once she finds all her missing pieces.

4. The Mission

He fell again, tumbling head-over-heels through bushes, against trees, and then crashed out onto open track to see the huge, shrieking train racing towards him.

5. Condemned

He felt the guard’s cold breath as he whispered in his ear. “Waiting, see. Waiting for the son.”

6.A Community Welcome

It’s not ideal but it’s not war-torn.

7. Tremendous

How dare they make him look like that? He’s the most important man in the world now.

8. A Winding Up Of Sorts

Their invention outlasts their hearts – wound tight, at first, then loosening, with time.

9. Chhotu: little one

That’s where the real people were, they would enjoy a cup of strong ginger tea.

10. Askance

I’d set our daughter free. But in that moment I wondered what else I had unleashed.

11. The Man in Blue

For the night comes for him.

12. It’s All in the Leap

Today, Sam marries his sweetheart: that was me, but he says it’s always been her.

13. Werewolves of London

What the hell had been let loose on the 9.15 am from Coventry?

HMs 

– The Mission by Ewan Smith

There wasn’t that much humour in this batch of stories. Which is fine. No, no, it really is. Anyway, this one had a nice punch line so thank you for giving me at least a little humour. Starting off like a scene from The Hunger Games to end with the less than exciting Trainspotting (i.e. nothing to do with the new film from Danny Boyle).

– Tremendous by Sal Page

Well hell I said no Trump please and what happened? This tremendously fun story about someone who seems a bit Trump like (can’t put my finger on why I think it could be). The train heading closer and going round the bend. Indeed. Safety information can be found under the seat in front of you and in between the carriages. Good luck.

(Okay, this was humourous too I think. Or was it alternative fact or Double Speak? I don’t know who to check with these days, we can’t trust anyone. So perhaps it wasn’t humour at all. In fact it probably wasn’t about Trump either now I come to think about it.) 

Runner Up – The Man in Blue by Mark A. King

I’ve been to Auschwitz and this story even on the first read took me straight back there. Thankfully merely as a visitor, but it’s not a place you can forget. It can be hard to write about such serious subjects especially with so few words to play with. So many people love trains, as can be seen in all the other stories; the journeys, the excitement; the possibilities about where you could be going to. Then there’s this place. Miles of train tracks, ash and detritus. 

The simple title gave no clue about the story and then the memory of trains and the people it brought to him for this evil man was one he enjoyed; while I could but shudder. It didn’t sound like the protagonist was that haunted by his past, but it was good to find out in the end he was – at night, at least. Evocative and brilliantly done. 

And our Round 123 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Firdaus Parves

with

Chhotu: Little One

Loved this vignette, could really see ‘the little one’ waiting at an Indian train station. Hoping that the train would come shortly (a lottery with many a timetable) so that the tea would still be saleable and desperate to get the tea to as many customers as possible, maximising the possibility of profits, however small, in the short time available. 

At the the end the fear that one customer had got away without paying for the tea was nicely played, and the uplifting end made me feel all nice and warm – like I’d just had a taste of some of that ginger tea. In short, I felt like I was on the platform watching the scene unfold. I felt hot and dusty and had to put the kettle on. Well done.

Congratulations, Firdaus! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie. Recruiting for February judges shall commence shortly. Anyone interested in judging (even if you haven’t been a Flash Master) is welcome to contact me, and we’ll arrange a date. Next weekend, A.V. Laidlaw will be presiding judge. Hope to see you all there. 

Happy Tuesday! Thank you to everyone who submitted stories this past weekend, and thanks much to Voima Oy for judging and commenting. You’ll find them below:

Welcome, everyone. It’s so good to be here, in this place. These uncertain times need stories more than ever. We need all kinds of stories–funny, sad, warnings, courage, hope. This photo by Ashwin Rao is wonderful, even iconic. Where would it take you? You have risen to the challenge brilliantly. Thank you for sharing your stories with me.

On to the comments—

The Last Fires of the Fall–I love the voice in this one, so down-to earth in the bleak landscape–“I’m an old man and Sonny is my last dog.” This is a post-apocalyptic world without much hope, a virus has devastated the earth. But the smile on the boy’s face as he pets the dog Sonny is a sign of life. There is a moment of beauty and grace, even here.

Mabel and Ron, Stella and Roger–The characters and details really make the story, here. This an everyday tragedy, a harsh reality–the judgements, the separateness of people. The dog, Roger, is a reminder of our shared humanity. Very sad story, and beautifully done.

The Big Move–Let’s hear it for the power of brevity! This says it all in those few words–six if you count the title. Perfect with that photo. My sentiments exactly.

Byron & John Keats on the Road–In this traveling library through a post-apocalyptic landscape are spirits of Whitman and Kerouac (On the Road) and Ray Bradbury (“I sing the body electric,” and Fahrenheit 451) too. This is a powerful story of hope. The last paragraph is marvelous, pure poetry.

A Dog’s Life–I can picture these dogs on the road–what great characters they are. I love the point of view. There’s wonderful humor here “stop using our wee-mail!” — and such a free spirit. What a delightful story!

Ragnarok–It’s not the end of the world–yet–but the sense of impending doom is so strong in this story I can feel it. I can see the Norse gods among the rusted trucks and dreadlocked potheads. I love Loki as the dog and Odin on the roof of his van turning his eye to the sun. Great stuff!

Wag this Tale Off–This is truly the dog’s tale–I love the voice in this, the spelling and the language, how it conveys the energy, the enthusiasm and loyalty–the bond with the you-man. Truly dogs are in a state of grace. They do have a buddha nature, living in the moment. Just beautiful.

Sparrowditch. The Beginning.— I love how this story unfolds, such subtlety. The voice is just a little bit creepy at first, but it becomes more and more sinister. Scary stuff!

Idiosyncracies– I’m reading this as a vampire tale, and humans are the prey. It could also be an allegory of the wealthy elite. The voice here speaks of clans, entitlement, and a rejection of that society–“I left behind the comfortable life they had created.” and a need to “feed my soul,” embracing a life of uncertainty, the thrill of the hunt. Really chilling.

931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway–This pilgrimage to the last piece of America rings true. So many great lines–“show what this country blows up for..there was America in those eyes…we were ready to take back our country..” The appearance of Jefferson, and the violet of forgiveness is breathtaking.

Nature versus Nurture –What a great opening! This is flash at its finest–not a word wasted, and the details are so vivid. The story gets darker and darker. It has a medieval feel, or post-apocalyptic. The last paragraph is a terrifying twist. The God of Greed is Mammon–I looked online and pictures look frighteningly familiar. Amazing piece.

He looks like the Dog’s B*ll*cks in the Light of the Super-moon—I had to look up the reference to the Dog’s B*ll*cks, but it means the best there is. This is a tale of personal apocalypse, a story of survival and hope. It is harrowing, heartbreaking, beautiful.

Well-done, everyone!  I love all these stories, and every one of you.  Here are my choices–

Special Mention

The Big Move by Bart van Gothem–power of brevity!

A dog’s Life by Angelique Pacheco–great characters and humor

Honorable Mention

Last Fires of the Fall by AV Laidlaw–sad and hopeful–a moment of beauty

Wag This Tale Off by Sal Page –Beautiful writing of a state of grace

2nd runner up

Ragnarok by Steph Ellis –Feeling of doom, and Odin in the sun

1st runner up

Nature and Nurture by Stella Turner –subtle and horrifying.

And our Round 115 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Richard Edenfield

with Byron & John Keats on the Road

Powerful spirit–epic and hopeful

Congratulations, Richard! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s Hump Day Quickie! Thanks again, Voima, for volunteering your time. Next weekend Steph Ellis is acting judge. Hope to see you all there.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Father’s Day weekend. Thanks to Sal Page for judging this week’s entries. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

Comment: Five well-written stories, using this interesting photo prompt as inspiration. A missing story, which is the one I would have written if I wasn’t the judge. I wonder what that would have been? Quite amazing how we bring something new into existence week after week. But each one of these has something that could’ve made it a winner. In the end I decided to just pick a winner plus one runner-up, which was a tough decision and could easily have had a different outcome. Have I got it ‘right’? Who knows?

Sunflowers by Voima Oy
A vividly drawn portrait of the art loving Mr Serrano, who even dresses to honour his favourite author and artist. He seems a rather sad character, who has no one around him who really shares his interests.
Fave line: ‘He imagined himself in a painting by Van Gogh, staring out at the star-filled sky.’

She Never Got to Wear Purple by Steph Ellis
Our man here is Francis, attempting to bridge the generation gap with poetry. Sad irony that his wife never got to wear purple when she was old, as her favourite poem advocated.
Fave line: ‘He knew the young regarded the elderly as an alien race.’

The Mover by Marie McKay
Looking back on his life and his gift, he is accepting and philosophical. Short but sweet, leaving much to the imagination, especially at the end.
‘Some days he still used it for his own amusement- a party trick for the man who never attended parties.’

Dad by Firdaus Parvez
Well-drawn characters of an elderly father and his adult son. Of course they can’t replace something that was a gift from a loved one but they still have each other and can laugh at the turns life takes.
‘We searched for a similar coffee mug and when we found one which looked quite like the old one, dad didn’t seem too happy.’

Don’t be a Mug by Avalina Kreska
The mugs in the picture are this man’s family reincarnated. Of course! Enjoyed the end when Tommy buys up all the mugs and tiles the bathroom with them and I’m left wondering if they will carry on talking to him.
‘ … the whole family agreed in a cacophony of spoons hitting ceramics.’

Runner Up
Don’t be a Mug – Avalina Kreska
For being the most unusual take on the prompt and making me laugh.

And our Round 112 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Marie McKay

with

The Mover

For being understated and leaving so much unsaid. ‘He’d been different and he’d enjoyed it’ takes on a whole new meaning when we realise this man’s gift involved making children fly through the air or sticking them to a wall.

Congratulations, Marie! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Next weekend, David Shakes steps back into the judge’s seat for Round 113. Hope to see you all then.

Welcome, writers, to Flash Frenzy Round 112. Your judge this weekend is Sal Page.

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 Aswhin Rao

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.

What They Expect of a Monster

By Sal Page

They took Mother away, treating her like a bag of garbage, loading up the van, pulling tarpaulin over. She’d have hated the manhandling, the laughter and jokes. They didn’t know I was here. She’d protected me well, right up to her dying day.
We’re not like the others. We’ve had to hide ourselves away, safe from folk who stared at us, shocked and repulsed. Once I would peep from behind mother’s batwing arms to admire their blond curls, delicate noses and sylph-like bodies.
I hid in shadows when those boys come down here to smoke and drink. They talked and laughed. I got used to their company, even though they were unaware of my presence.
Then – I was careless – they saw me. I tried to greet them but our smiles have never worked. I’ve only ever had one pair of teeth. Stunned at first, together they were fearless, calling me names, throwing sharpened sticks, stinging stones and half-bricks. They crept close to me, then dodged away laughing. I’d lash out, angry and confused. Their laughter echoed as if there were a hundred boys rather than a dozen. They tried to lift the massive stone that hid mother’s treasures but none was strong enough.
Night after night they returned. They lit a fire, filled bottles with petrol and threw them, setting my clothes alight. I lay steaming in a puddle to put them out. They stood in the shadows chanting.

She-troll.
Evil Old Hag.
Monster.
MONSTER.
MONSTER.

I’ve been in this puddle for ages; at rock bottom and my tether’s end. Darkness falls and the boys gradually drift away. I bide my time till just a pair linger, poking at the fire’s embers. I drag myself out of my puddle and fetch mother’s hacksaw from under the stone.
They’re weedy little kids really. I nail these up to warn the others off.
This is my space. My home. It’s what they expect of a monster. Just like mother before me.
No. Not quite. She nailed up the heads. Call me over-sensitive – squeamish even – but I just couldn’t.
Their limbs swing. Blood drips down as the sun comes up.

Hello again, and Happy Tuesday. Thanks to everybody who wrote stories for last week’s prompt and to AJ Walker for reading the stories and choosing his favorites. You’ll find AJ’s comments below. 

Thanks again for making the job easy for me. Er, well maybe not. Loved the prompt photo myself. It seemed to open up so many possibilities. Yet, the similarity in some of the stories was striking (even down to ham sandwiches turning up in more than one story – what’s that about?!). The photo seemed to provide a definite chance for reminiscing it seemed. Though as well as ham sandwiches many of the stories seemed to be quite sad. I’m going to need cheering up after this. Great writing as usual of course, but there must be a winner. And today’s winner is…. (drum roll)… 

 ….Leicester City. 

 No. Not really. Well, yes, really. But no, not in Angry Hourglass it ain’t. Though I’ve judged blind and if the winner turns out to be Jamie Vardy… well, he just bloody well deserves it okay. And he can put this up there with his Champion’s medal.

 Anyway, today’s other winner’s are… (real drum roll)…. 

HMs 

 – After School by Daisy Warwick: A nice picture, built up largely through simple dialogue, of brothers being best mates trying to get by in awful circumstances. You feel for them.

 – Otters by AV Laidlaw: Similar style of story to After School. The bible nut ‘full of pious vinegar’  told the story of the boy’s home in the simplest way. The change in the place through time – otters now a possibility where once the land and water could not support them seems familiar to us (we even have them in the Mersey now – and not always just floating on their backs). 

 – Je Suis by David Shakes: Stayed with Shake’s at the weekend, who turns a bit French after a pint of Under Current. He may be ‘a little bit French’ but he is mostly English when it comes to breakfast. So, really it’s a gratuitous HM for the black pudding! 

 2nd RU – Wilted Flowers by Firdaus Parvez

 Yet another difficult childhood picture (I hope all you writers this week can access some suitable help or special little pick-me-ups) nicely paced. Being put up in the attic whilst their mother did things she didn’t want them to see, wth people other than their gravely ill father, was a simple idea (sad yet an adventure for the kids). And the whole piece was sad and told straight without the storyteller becoming judgemental. ’Beautiful, like a booked pressed flower’ was a lovely line to end on.

 1st RU – Cast a Spell by Stephen Lodge

 This deserves a place for being up beat and fun. The photo seemed to inspire mostly introspection along the line of; life’s all a bit crap really. So a bit of Mary Poppin’s was surprisingly welcome. The dialogue between the two children was fab and the spoonful of something in this cast a spell on me. I almost smiled. Several times.

And our Round 105 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Sal Page 

 with

 What They Expect of a Monster

 Je suis un winner! Loved this story of a monster being created. The inevitability of it was sad and all too predictable – children being the cruel beasts they are/we were. The story was the most satisfying read for me with nice development and story arc (whatever am I talking about now?), which was well done in such a short piece. It had just the right amount of drippy blood gore and, yet surprisingly, no ham sandwiches.

 Congratulations, Sal! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! Next weekend, Rob Knipe joins the Flash Frenzy Judge’s team. Hope to see you all there.