If Life Was a Circus, You Were My Clown

Julia Ruth Smith

Trampolining on seagrass, our performing dog dives and stinks. Silver hoops hold acrobatic seabirds. Rainbow-scaled, ready for the final act, I hear fate tip tapping. 

The pretty girls are painting your po-face; I find a swing of driftwood and soar, following the signposts, up and over the waves, a rocket pointing towards the sun. Golden surfers squint and wonder at the no going back of it all.

When I burn down in flames, I perform a backwards flip and land in the heart of your one-handed applause. As I take a low, magnificent bow, the ringmaster turns out the lights.

This story was shortlisted in the November 2021 Monthly Micro Competition.

About the author: Julia Ruth Smith is a teacher, mother and writer of small things who lives by the sea in Italy. You can find her poetry and prose in Full House Literary Magazine, Sledgehammer Lit, Glittery Literary and elsewhere; shortlisted for Retreat West Monthly Micro. Twitter @JuliaRuthSmith1

A Sign of the Times

Stephen Gallagher

Every breaking wave ushers in that great hush you hear right now, the half-remembered memories, childhood holidays, waves, sea, the blind woman with the dog, the old man selling periwinkles, the blowholes on the cliff tops gushing spray up into the sky remembering when they were Gods. The sea-side traders, yelling, selling their merchandise. All the signs of a previous life. 

Now, November, on the beach each hush carries a smile, a gesture, a snippet of a conversation, a burst of fragmented audio, light/dark, past/present, and those Derridean binaries returning from the past like static on a broken radio.

This story was shortlisted in the November 2021 Monthly Micro Competition.

About the author: Stephen is a writer from Ireland.

A Man With a Cracked Heart Walks into a Bar

Sharon Boyle

Concealed words riddle his body: fractured across his heart; overworked – liver; underused – penis. He taps the pint glass, glancing at her on the bar stool opposite. Lonely scrawled on her forehead. And round her heart, a wavering impaired

She too must have a trail of regrets clattering at her heels. 

He chances a smile. She looks away. He dips his head, sips his pint, his eyes flicking up. 

And he catches it, the sign: her lips softening, just for a second.

Soon he’ll go over and talk, hesitantly. She’ll remain guarded till, relaxing, her heart shivers and settles on paired.

This story won the People’s Prize in the November 2021 Monthly Micro Competition.

About the author: Sharon lives in East Lothian and writes around her part-time job and family life. She has had several short stories and flash pieces published on-line and in magazines, including Ellipsis Zine, Exeter Writers, Writers’ Forum and Cranked Anvil. She tweets as @SharonBoyle50 

The Shadows Cast by Silent Stacks

Charles Prelle

A man in a well-worn suit faces the crowd. He’s well over six feet tall, a barrel stuffed into a perfectly pressed white shirt. A banner reading ‘One factory. One family’ trembles above him in a stiff Midwestern breeze. He raises a megaphone to his lips. From there his words become distant, fragmented. 

…closing down




…cutting costs

unsettling time…


A tattered American flag flutters overhead. Grey and pink stripes. Fifty grey stars. A few miles away my daughter plays in piles of orange leaves. My wife watches distractedly as clouds spill across the horizon like oil.

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

About the author: Charles Prelle is a London based writer and playwright. His short fiction has been published in The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Idle Ink, Storgy and Reflex Press among others. Charles’s writing has been longlisted in Flash 500, Glittery Literary and Reflex Fiction and is included in the Reflex Press ‘Beguiled by a Wild Thing’ anthology. Find him on Twitter @CharlesPrelle or on his website https://cprellewriter.wordpress.com/

Conscious Connected Breathing: A Beginner’s Guide

Releases unresolved issues

Inhale. Exhale. How can breathing clear years of anger and suppressed emotion? I flick my eyes open, gaze around at those in cross-legged nirvana. Maybe.

Allows confidence to grow

He destroyed every shred of self-belief. I couldn’t cook, was a useless partner, hopeless mother. His dismissive snort shattered every aspiration. Force the chatterbox monkeys out of your head, the teacher said. Focus on the breath.

Improves physical health

It started with one glass, poured in the kitchen with the fridge open. Hoped his blaring TV would drown out glugging Chardonnay. Ended with clanking bottles smuggled into the bin in the early hours. I inhale. A sensation of blood flowing, purging within.

Experience the sensory body

I hear breathing around me, a wave vibrates from the community of silent strangers.

I feel my mind release the endless spiralling thoughts.

I see my way out of the labyrinth.

This story won Second Prize in the Online Flash Fest Micro Competition.

About the author: Denise Bayes is a teacher in Barcelona who writes short fiction especially Flash and Micro. She has been shortlisted in Retreat West, Flash 500, Wells Literary Festival and NFFD NZ Micro Madness. She loves all things Flash.

All the women in my world

Eleonora Balsano

To the heartbroken girl sobbing in the street at 5 am I’d say, Hang on in there, you’re getting stronger.

To the exhausted mother taking the motorway at midnight, her sleepless, screaming baby strapped in the car seat, I’d say, You’re doing it right.

To the fifty-three-year-old woman lying awake beside her husband at night and wondering, will I ever fall in love again? I’d say, It’s up to you.

To the white-haired lady in neon earrings and battered old fur crossing my street every morning, her steps heavy and tired, her chin powdered and fierce, I’d say, Please take my hand.

Tell me that all these years, the crushed hopes, the slivers of joy, the nights of despair, will make sense in the end.

That I, like the others, will make it alive.

This story won Third Prize in the Online Flash Fest Micro Competition.

About the author: Eleonora Balsano is a journalist and writer based in Brussels, EU. Her short fiction has been featured or is forthcoming on publications such as FlashFlood, Retreat West, Micro, Fictive Dream and others. Eleonora lives with her husband, three sons and a feisty Jack Russell.