Posts Tagged ‘Voima Oy’

Hello, writers! What happens when your hostess is post-call? She forgets to schedule the winners and humpday quickie posts! Never fear – I have results and a story for your Wednesday enjoyment. As always, thank you to everyone who submitted stories this past weekend, and thanks also to Voima Oy for judging. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

I’m happy to be here to judge Round 132 of Hourglass. Thank you Rebecca for having me as judge, and Ashwin Rao for providing this intriguing image. Thanks to everyone who wrote stories this week. The variety of stories here are all examples of excellent writing and the possibilities of the flash form. So much can be said in 360 words or less. Well done, everyone!

Here are my comments—

Now Sing–This story is set behind the curtain, in the moments backstage before a performance. There is a feeling of reluctance, then resolve. The details here are wonderfully observed, and the countdown is very effective. I especially enjoyed the ritual of the shoes before going onstage. The ending is perfect.

Santa Played the Sax–what a great title! The idea of a snowman costume made of industrial glue and white rice is so funny and surreal. The dialogue is superb–“Just hope this sh..pardon me boys, this stuff comes off cos did I mention I’ve got a job interview tomorrow?” Great characters and a story that begs for more stories.

JoySmile–I think this story makes very good use of the black-and-white photo. This is a story of a dazzling smile and a lifetime in show biz, from the early TV days of Ed Sullivan to an appearance on The Ellen Show.
I really liked this line, too–“Unless, of course, the unexpected happened which, of course, it did.”

Kawaii–The setting is Japan, Eiga Mura, movie town in Kyoto. This is a place of appearances–geishas and ninjas and Hello Kitty. The narrator is a traveller, an outsider, a stranger. The word “Kawaii” is the common connection. People seem friendly, but the experience is elusive, the meaning just out of reach.

Dad had a Fan in His Office–Here the setting is a movie theatre, years ago. It is as if the curtain is pulled aside to reveal the horrible events. The details here are so vivid–the velvet seats, the sound of the gunshot, the red everywhere. That ending–wow!

The Stain of Laughter–Here is a story with a history–There are the two adopted Vietnamese brothers. There is Grandfather, and his memories of the Burma war. The “Incident” seems to be an ominous foreshadowing, but the game of hide-and-seek behind the curtains turns out to be quite funny. The “yellow peril” ending is wonderful!

As Close as it Gets–The narrative voice carries this story of distance and photographs. The writing here is beautiful–“Why didn’t you ever say? Why didn’t you show your face?” Holding the photos is the closest they will came to touching. This realization is all that’s left, now. A sad and beautiful story.

These are all excellent examples of the flash form–possibilities as varied as the writer’s imagination. Thank you all for your stories. Here are my choices–

Special Mention–

Now Sing by Margaret Lonsdale–marvelous details

JoySmile  by Frank Key –Surprise ending? Yes!

Honorable Mention–

As Close as it Gets by Sian Brighal — Strong narrative voice, beautiful writing

Santa Played the Sax by Stephen Lodge — Great characters, and an open-ended story

2nd Runner Up

The Stain of Laughter by Geoff LePard –Vivid characters, a story within a story, and a very funny ending.

1st Runner Up

Dad had a Fan in his office by C.R. Smith –The details, the horror, the ending, wow!

And our Round 132 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

Angelique Pacheco

with Kawaii

–worlds within worlds, mysterious and elusive, this story lingers.

Congratulations, Angelique! Your story will be featured as the HumpDay Quickie! This weekend, April Foolery will be judged by David Shakes. Hope to see you all there.

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! Thanks to everyone who wrote and commented on stories this past weekend. Thanks also to Marie McKay for volunteering her time and judging. You’ll find her comments and to picks below.

Thanks, Rebecca, for allowing me to judge this week. I always feel unworthy of the task especially when the stories are all so fantastic. We had mystery, tragedy, humour, murder and the supernatural:

Three Mile Stretch

The narrator finds the story of ‘Old Man Redpath’ eerie but treats it with a good dose of scepticism. The real story lies in what the old man’s family are trying to hide in creating the ghost story in the first place. Intriguing, I really want to know what truth is buried beneath this ‘stench’ of lies.
I love the line: ‘Now it is fear that follows the course of the lake.’

The Hipsters and Mister Takada

This story outlines beautifully the details of how Mister Takada’s interest in photography has developed:
‘The youthful past-time became a teenage hobby that progressed into an adult profession…’
Mister Takada seems to have fallen prey to a scam. We’re not sure if ‘the hipsters’ are moved by conscience or by Mister Takada’s brilliance, but things are squared by the end

Five Friends At The Lake

This is a tragic tale that tapped into one of my worst fears. The reader is introduced to what seems like an idyllic setting. But as the first part ends, we are made aware of a tragic event, this event dominates the second part.
I like how this writer works with structure. This sentence makes ‘the deep pool’ a character in itself:
‘I made sure to catch the reflection of the deep pool against the rocks.’

Distant Memories Now Freshly Awaken

This is a sinister story. The repetition of questions gives this story pace. The reader is not made fully aware of who the voice in the story belongs to, at first, but it is slowly revealed. I love how this one unfolds and the details that help provide great characterisation:
‘When Anna-Marie cut her hand in craft class. You were first there to help- tasting the coppery blood whilst others fussed with bandages.’
In the end, there is no reward for Satan’s work.

“At the Bank of Gallow’s River”

The ending of this story has stayed with me. We don’t know if the mobster is sparing the lives of the characters, or if he is just toying with them before they are executed, but the line:
‘”So this is what fear looks like,” he said, and he gazed out over the river, his head tilted to one side.’
is incredibly menacing.

Summer Afternoon

This is a beautiful piece of science fiction. We are given snippets of information about Earth, and we can perhaps assume that something has gone wrong there:
‘“A place like this would be protected by razor wire, guards.”’
On their journey to Earth 2, Riley, the main character simulates Iowa. The photograph that is taken of the characters is of their simulated experience, making this line very poignant:
‘Life becomes a dream of life, a summer afternoon with friends, just the way he remembers.’

Macbeth In The Park

The dialogue in this story is blended with Shakespeare’s text to great humorous effect. I love the idea of the river being the cauldron. But my favourite part of its being the cauldron is the dialogue:
‘”You can get the worst diarrhoea from it.”
“Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”’

Memories of generations

This story is reflective and beautiful. This is the last photograph the narrator will take as he/she appears to be nearing the end of their life. Looking on at his/her grandchildren, the narrator says of youth:
‘I remember having boundless energy which I wasted doing everything and nothing.’
And life brings us full circle:
‘I made all the mistakes that my son is currently making and my grandchildren will make in the future.’

Should Have Used the Flash

The title gives us some idea of what the conclusion is going to be, but it is the events leading up to that conclusion that are very entertaining. The three characters are truanting from work; yet, I can’t help but like them: the writer’s characterisation and depiction of their relationship make it hard not to. Therefore, when the photograph doesn’t turn out, it is rather a happy ending.

The 60-Watt Pulse and the Garden Wall

This story is brimming with stunning imagery:
‘The moment was caught and placed in a tiny zoo where is was kept and fed with just the proper amount of darkness and light…’
The extended metaphor of the embryonic nature of a photograph as it’s processed is used fabulously throughout the piece.
Also, the idea the main character is making a ‘noise’ by snatching a photograph off an unsuspecting photographer is wonderful.

Snap Harry

This story uses a clever play on words to create a terrifying plot. The narrator’s longing for a relationship with the girl in the story is made very clear, and once he employs the skills of Snap Harry, the results are horrific. The fate that befalls the narrator’s love rival will haunt me for a while! The final line is perfect:
‘The picture was of a young man, captured on a perfect summer’s day.’

Honourable Mention: Five Friends at the Lake by Alva Holland

Second runner up: Summer Afternoon by  Voima Oy

First runner up: The 60 Watt Pulse and the Garden Wall by Richard Edenfield

And our Round 128 FLASH MASTER is

FLASH MASTER

David Shakes

with

Distant Memories Now Freshly Awaken

Congratulations, Shakes! Your story will be featured as tomorrow’s HumpDay Quickie! And with that, February is a wrap. Tune in next weekend when Ewan Smith is back for another round of judging. 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.

Hello again! Welcome back to Flash Frenzy! Your Round 115 judge is Voima Oy.

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 Ashwin Rao

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.

City of Women
by Voima Oy

Somewhere, there is an island that rose from the ocean fully-formed, like Venus on the shell. On this island, there is a city of women, called Parthen. Some say it was originally settled by mermaids, seeking freedom from the sea. Others say they came from the stars. There are no men, no murders. Female children from the nearby towns are left at the gates of the city in woven reed baskets provided for that purpose. Here, they find homes, like stray kittens.

Although there are no men in Parthen, there are sailors and carpenters and firefighters. There are doctors and musicians, teachers, scientists and mathematicians. There are poets in Parthen, too. It is sometimes called the city of poetry, because everyone is a poet, there. Every bake shop and cafe has readings. Every office has poetry contests.

In the main plaza downtown there is a statue of Sappho. She was an ancient poet, and sometimes called the Tenth Muse. She is one of the Muses of Parthen, but there are also statues of Demeter and Isis and Kuan Yin. There are many followers of Kali, and the Sisters of Medusa, who never cut their hair.

The women of Parthen are known for their hair. It is long and wild, black as the wings of the blackbirds that perch on the marble and granite statues. The hair is twisted and braided, coiled on their heads. Braids wind through the wide boulevards, tangling in the side streets, twining around the lamp posts.

In the summer evenings, when the women of Parthen gather on their balconies combing out their hair, the breeze is filled with the smells of rain and gardenias, oceans and cinnamon, smoke from autumn fires.

The scent wafts over the gates of the city, where men gather from far and wide, drawn by the irresistible perfume. The gates open for one night on the summer solstice, a night of feasting and dancing, wine and love. At dawn, bodies lie sprawled in the plazas. All morning, the sky is dark with blackbirds. By noon, the sun shines again on the bright white streets.

In Parthen, there are no men, no murders.

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.

Welcome back, weekend writers. Thanks to everybody who wrote stories for Round 108 and to Mark King for reading them and choosing his favorites. You’ll find his comments below.

Trees hold a special place for many of us and, as I’m starting to realise, they act as a major source of inspiration for my own writing. Inadvertently, I found that three of my FlashDogs Solstice stories were based forests/woodlands.

Recently (as morbid as it sounds), I’ve been looking at woodland burial sites (nothing sinister, I promise). I like the thought of returning to nature and to be part of these landscapes of stunning beauty and rebirth. Many of the stories captured the mystery, fear, magic and spirituality of these places.

An arboretum – fantastic – a chance to dabble with nature, science and perhaps myth. You worked wonders with such a simple prompt. I doff my cap to you all. I enjoyed all the stories and choosing was a difficult task – thank you.

Favourite lines and podium places below:

Would For The Trees “Beneath this dusting of pine needles rests layer upon layer of nutrient rich earth – the forest feeds itself through biodynamics or God’s divine plan.”

Obscured By Blood “He saw on the dash his loyalty card from Gulch Coffee Shop over in Noon City. The card was soaked in blood. “

Firebug “The masking tape on each was clearly noted with the date he’d set each fire. Some fizzled out after he’d fled the scene, but most got the job done.”

Part Transcript of Interview with Miss D. Tremores “They found remains of more than forty people tangled in the roots of trees at the arboretum.”

The Return “Her ancient bones warmed to the kiss of the Samhain fire, heat rising from the cleft of the yew trunk to ease her rebirth.”

Caught “I look down at my feet, remembering a tango in those shoes. I watch my body turn transparent and start to melt away”

Keep it in the Family “The leaves whispered to me, told me what I had to do. They provided me with the instrument of death; I whittled it to a point.”

The Sound of Darkness “Yet, one day, Earth, beleaguered by our apathy, will surely lose her patience and tremble at her core.”

The Colour of the Fox is Gold “…the credit cards heavy with debt, the photograph of John before he lost his charm to the after-work scotch – and drop it against the roots of an oak tree gnarled with age”

The Fox Bride “There are congratulations from the guests, and the party begins. The frogs have brought their lutes and drums. The squirrels have brought mulberry pies.”

Butterfly Graffiti – almost too hard to pick just one. Breath-taking words everywhere. “The sun started speaking french as it came through french windows. An accent of morning gathered in the applause of your softly fluttering eyes. Wings awkwardly floating past glass. Butterfly graffiti.”

Picnic “He tensed more as they neared, she thought his shoulders might snap like an elastic band pulled too rigid.”

The Place That Talks “I pat the smooth cool timber of the birch beside me feeling its breath. Sensing its memory. The collective memory of this sacred space.”

Honourable Mention – The Place That Talks –  AJ Walker: I loved this piece. The vivid world-building, rich character work and the overall sense of the ‘spirituality’ of the location were rather special. Top work.

2nd RU – The Fox Bride – Voima Oy: There is a beautiful, stripped-back, economic beauty to the piece. I adore the fact that it is carefully constructed, Disney-like, on the surface layer, and so much more beneath.

1st RU – The Colour of the Fox is Gold – AV Laidlaw: To choose between this and the winner was a very tough choice. There were so many beautiful lines in this story that to tell them all would be to tell the story again. The poetry of the words and the hints of ancient myths and legends – I loved it all. Stunning.

and our Round 108 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

David Shakes

with Would For The Trees

I opted for this because I wrote a story about a woodland that allowed the children that never lived to come to life for just one day. This felt like it could have been a prequel in many ways. That story was special to me and this one powerfully resonated with me because of that. Apart from my own connection as a reader – there was so much to love here; the well-crafted bond between the couple, the tangible loss of their hope, the attempts to lessen the grief of their planned future, the inevitable death of a soulmate, the dichotomy of nature/loss vs religion/God. A Hollywood tearjerker in 359 words. A worthy winner. Many congratulations.

Congratulations, Shakes! Your story will be featured as Wednesday’s HumpDay Quickie!

Next weekend, Round 108 Flash Master, Shakes, takes a break to spend a few days in the judge’s seat. See you all there.

Hello and welcome to the Round 104 winners post! Thanks to everybody who wrote stories last weekend, and thanks also to Voima Oy for judging. You’ll find her comments and top picks below.

Greetings again. I am so happy to judge Round 104 of Angry Hourglass. Thanks to Rebecca for having me, and thank you again Mark A. King, for filling in for me the last time, when I was sick. Thank you, Ashwin Rao, for the inspiring photo. This image offered such intriguing possibilities. Is Sand Point a place, a state of mind? I am impressed by all the stories. Well-done, everyone!

Here are my comments—

Sand Point–There is so much packed into this story. What a strange town, and what a quirky cast of characters! Wonderfully inventive. I love the pub names—Fox and Astronaut, Duck and Prime Minister and the Haunted Poacher. Then, there is a disturbing turn, an apparent murder. We are left with a mystery. Yes, I want to read more….

Monstery, I Guess– Dialogue and description tell this weird tale. From the first line of dialogue–“There’s a monster in the garage,” to the enigmatic ending, it gets really scary, really fast.

Always–What a beautiful piece of writing. It is a prose poem, “a life like any other’ in so few words. So many wonderful lines here!

Dull Eyes–A haunting story about a desolate place of beach bums and stray dogs. Tristan drives the Maserati into the sea. No explanation is offered. It has a feel of magic realism, horror and mystery.

The End at the Beginning–The dialogue tells the story within the story–“Because if I hadn’t written all those damned Sand Point novels, if I hadn’t leaked some of that world into this one, then maybe the doorways wouldn’t have started closing.” And, a wonderful ending.

Business at Sand Point–In this story, a sea gull is the sole witness to a scene of brutal violence and murder. There is intense, vivid description, yet we witness the grisly business at a distance. There are no names, no dialogue. The final image is unflinching and unforgettable.

Here be Monsters–Is it just a story that there is a monster that haunts the town of Sand Point?

Could there be a real monster? Is the narrator insane? What happened to Jacky and the parents? This story gave me chills!

Working Things Out–How quickly things fall apart in this desolate town. This story of a father and daughter is beautifully told–working through loss, hoping for a better future. There is saving, in more ways than one.

Destination Sandpoint–There is an uncanny feel to this story. Who is this client? What kind of place is this Sand Point? Who goes there, and why? The story becomes more and more disturbing. Is it a dream or a nightmare?

What I would Tell You–This is a story of dreams and memories. Although there is a dreamlike quality, the descriptions make it seem so real and solid. It is sad and very beautiful. The ending is breathtaking!

Return to Sand Point–Due to a family obligation, the narrator returns to his home town after many years. Much as he would like to forget Daniel and Lucy and what happened years ago, his return brings him back to that time and place, where it seemed like nothing happened.

Favorite Lines–

Sand Point–In the graveyard, a gentle breeze disturbed a mole, who raised his head and twitched his delightful nose, while his eyes and ears remained alert for the arrival of the gravedigger or (less likely) a zombie….

Monstery, I Guess–Rosalie had to fight it off with a large blunt object that turned out to be her right arm.

Always–the invisible words we drew just beneath breath

Dull Eyes–Water gasped surprise as the tires soaked into the fresh tide surf, no stop, no stop, water flooding the exhaust, sputtering, diving into the incoming wave, coasting into complete submersion, salt staining the leather interior, splashing Tristan’s face as he instinctively held his breath, then eased it out and the car disappeared into the ocean’s welcoming embrace.

The End at the Beginning–I hear the sound of the fairground and smell the ocean.

Business at Sand Point–They don’t talk. It isn’t quick.

Here be Monsters–“I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, it’s just a story, nothing more.”

Working Things Out–The house was full of absence now.

Destination Sandpoint–“You’ve been before, perhaps?” the woman asked. “A satisfied customer?”

What I Would Tell You—And then I wake up. And I am broken. And yet I am whole.

Return to Sand Point–To try and forget Lucy and Daniel again and the events of that sticky summer evening.

And now, the winners–

Honorable Mentions–

Sand Point by Steve Lodge –quirky and imaginative

What I Would Tell You by Casey Rose Frank–sad and hopeful –beautiful writing

2nd Runner Up–

Destination Sandpoint–uncanny and unsettling

1st runner Up–

The End at the Beginning by Brian S Creek–Evocative storytelling. Marvelous ending.

And our Round 104 FLASH MASTER is…

FLASH MASTER

David Shakes

with

Business at Sand Point

For it’s brilliant POV, unflinching storytelling, and unforgettable imagery.

Congratulations, Shakes! Your story will be featured as this week’s HumpDay Quickie! Next weekend, AJ Walker returns for another round in the judge’s seat. Hope to see you all there.