Emily Macdonald

For my twenty-fifth birthday, Nana gives me a Coco Channel lipstick. Re-packaged neatly in the black and gold case. I laugh. The tip is blunt, the pink waxy surface imprinted with lines from her bottom lip.

“Unhygienic,” my boyfriend grimaces. “The colour makes you look sick”.

My husband receives a tin of Valrhona Jivara chocolate. Disgusted, he sees one layer is missing, and the chocolates bloom with white powdery film. It’s the same tin, wrapped festively for Nana, the Christmas before.

In my forties I prune the withering husband, using the life savings Nana leaves me. Along with her secateurs.

This story won First Prize in the July 2021 Monthly Micro Fiction Competition.

About the author: Emily Macdonald was born in the UK but emigrated with her family to New Zealand as a child. She grew up in Auckland and studied English at Auckland University. After completing her degree, she did a one-year postgraduate course in creative writing with Albert Wendt. She started working and learning about wine as a student and has worked in the wine trade ever since. She began pursuing her interest in creative writing again at the beginning of 2020. Emily left New Zealand in 1990 to travel and now lives in south London with her partner and their two teenage children.

Little Pilgrim

Gillian O’Shaughnessy

Your cousin sees it first. Look. There’s sauce on your dress. You twist round, see a crimson bloom flood the white cotton, the colour of roses in grandma’s garden, their heavy scent, the flowers you use to pin in your doll’s hair or gather for vases. At night when he creeps in for goodnight kisses, he presses his mouth down hard on yours like you’ve seen cowboys do on Saturday movies. Well, he says, before he turns off the light, you’re a woman now. You curl up small, think about John Wayne and how you hate the smell of roses.

This story won Second Prize in the July 2021 Monthly Micro Fiction Competition.

About the author: Gillian O’Shaughnessy is a writer from Australia. Her work has been published in SmokeLong and Reflex Press.

The Jellyfish Princess

Martha Lane

I told Izzy Mum was the Jellyfish Queen, that they’d carried her off on their gummy-bear backs. Every night, under scrunched covers, I whispered stories of fish-scale freckles, seaweed plaits, her crown of seashells and pearls. I whispered the rules of the Jellyfish Kingdom, that once you were Queen you couldn’t return.

Izzy believed every word.

Dad said I mustn’t blame myself when Izzy was dragged from the water, her body a lionfish now. She’d spotted the bloom from our perch on the rocks. Said they would take her to Mum. Smiling, dived in.

I should’ve whispered that tentacles sting.

This story won the People’s Prize vote in the July 2021 Monthly Micro Fiction Competition.

About the author: Martha Lane is a writer by the sea. Her flash has been published by Sledgehammer, Perhappened, Bandit, Reflex Fiction, Briefly Zine, and Ellipsis among others. Balancing too many projects at once is her natural state. Tweets @poor_and_clean.


Anne Soilleux

She moves her cotton pyjamas and her book out of their bedroom whilst he is at work. She is done with the suffocating heat of his body, the snoring and the pawing, his stale morning breath and the ritual scratching of his balls.

Fine, he spits. But don’t expect me to live like a monk.

The front door slams.Her book lies beside a glass of water on the nightstand. The white sheets on the spare bed are slab-smooth and cool, inviting her to lie back and contemplate the silence. Later she sleeps and dreams of wombs and welcoming cloisters.

This story won First Prize in the June 2021 Monthly Micro Fiction Competition.

About the author: Anne Soilleux lives in Berkshire where she tries to write, among other things.

If You’re Trying This Hard to Salvage Your Marriage Should You Call It a Crusade?

Fiona McKay

A woodpecker could have made the hole in the tree, but there are none here and I’ve only seen them in cartoons.

We made this expedition – a sort of date-night by day – sitting beside each other in the car, facing forward, all the better to talk, but we don’t.

We don’t read the guide, wandering through the sculpture garden in the wrong direction, like prophets, or drunks.

I lie awake thinking how to spin this for the therapist. Is it communication? Forgiveness?

You sleep with your hands folded on your chest, holding love like a shield or maybe a sword.

This story won Second Prize in the June 2021 Monthly Micro Fiction Competition.

About the author: Fiona McKay lives and writes beside the sea in Dublin, Ireland. Words now or soon in Blinkpot, 50wordstories, FlashFlood Journal, 5minutelit, Sledgehammer Lit, Funny Pearls, Tl;dr Anthology.

His DNA in the Dust

Dettra Rose

Luke grows up with a heart-shaped family who cuddle him, but they’re chunky andfreckly not gangly and earthy-brown. When he asks why, their gentleness wills him on.

He hunts, discovers an aunt, then a cousin.

Across the sky, Tunisia smells of heat and mandarins. He locates the tiny town and graveyard, walks through ordered rows of stones. His heart moves towards a cedar tree, crumples beneath its evergreen.

Twilight, moonlight and sunrise, these words squeeze breath from his chest: ‘Proud Young Father, Beloved Mother’.

His penknife blunts scratching dust and rubble off the headstones, filling his pockets and socks.

This story won the People’s Prize vote in the June 2021 Monthly Micro Fiction competition.

About the author: Dettra Rose is an award-winning flash fiction author in the UK and Australia. She wrote her first flash in 2018, winning the first Australian Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction prize – and a love affair was born. Since then, her pieces have won and been shortlisted/longlisted in many esteemed competitions including: Bath Flash Fiction Award, Reflex Fiction Flash Competition, Retreat West’s Micro Fiction, and TSS Publishing Flash 400.

She is working on finishing her first novel despite her addiction to flash. A born and bred Londoner she now lives in Australia; she calls both places home.