Really great to see so many entries for our second micro fiction competition – almost double the amount received in the first month! Some of the entries we received were invalid though as the stories weren’t 100 words long and/or didn’t include the word leaves. So do read the comp instructions properly!
Nevertheless there were plenty of fantastic stories to choose from and we whittled them down to a longlist of 26 and then to this shortlist of 10, which is now open for public vote. The winner will get the £234 cash prize and a free entry to the annual Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize, and the runner-up will get a free entry too, plus both stories will be published in the Flash Fiction section of our website.
- Autumn Leaves
- Autumnal Colours
- A Fresh Start
- A Shoulder to Cry On
- Evening Primrose
- Eye of the Beholder
- Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong
- Katyn, 1940
- Museum of Curiosities from the Former Planet Earth: Exhibition – The 2030’s Cult of Youth
- No Doubt You’ll Regret it Later
- Nothing But the Rain
- Promises, Promises
- Remember Me
- The Escape
- The Fall
- The Industrious Life of Leaves
- The Problem with Seven
- The Quick
All readings and votes are anonymous so writers if you are on this shortlist, please do not tell anyone which story is yours. The voting panel can be found at the bottom of the post. Voting closes at 23.59 (BST) on Monday, 22nd July 2019. Enjoy these fab micro fictions!
A Shoulder to Cry On
You arrive late at nine thirty; the train spews out passengers. Some take the tube, affluent take taxis and many walk. You know the way, ten minutes at most. Short cut though the park; forlorn leaves litter the grass. Somewhere a siren wails, a young woman distraught on a bench. People stare; hurry past. You’ve another interview tomorrow; you sit close, not too close. You ask if she needs help, between sobs she nods. Grabs your hand, leans into your shoulder; your arm offers her comfort. You ask if she’d like to talk, another nod; you know a café nearby.
He leaves you.
No forwarding address. The overwhelming scent of lilies. Three hundred coloured pencils, none of which are the colour of lies. A map of Paris you mark with your battle sites. His father’s ashes. A bag of silk ties you forget to add mothballs to. Four occupied mousetraps. Without apology. The cracked teapot. Only one Leonard Cohen CD. His handprint in blue and black on pink. A smashed bookcase, which you will repair. Bereft. An unused tent. A flock of ancient chickens. To find another job.
You will return some of these but will keep your empty womb.
Museum of Curiosities from the Former Planet Earth: Exhibition – The 2030’s Cult of Youth
Item: Golden Visage, c. 2030
Material: Gold – metal, of great value on planet of origin
Face gilding is widely rumoured to have occurred in affluent areas of Earth, where the practice was thought to preserve a youthful appearance and protect from climate damage. Leaves of gold can clearly be seen in the layers of this artefact, said to have been removed posthumously from the wife of a plastic surgeon; effectively providing a death mask. From the irregular surface it can be surmised this surgeon used his wife’s face to hone his skills.
Property of the Museum via anonymous donation, 2055
Nothing but the Rain
I don’t want to go, she says.
He doesn’t answer.
They watch the rain slide down the glass, the rows of grey rooftops, the chimneys. Night is falling; the sky is inky with clouds. It’ll be cold out there, and wet. The pavements black and slimy with the rain, the street lamps puddled iodine.
She wants to remember everything of this room – the warm lamplight, the books, him – and she wants to remember nothing. Nothing but the rain. When she goes, she will not return. They both know this.
She doesn’t speak, she simply leaves.
Darkness, puddles, rain.
No Doubt You’ll Regret it Later
Wind whispers through summer leaves. Shifting. Peripatetic. Over there, it hum-roars in the trees; then sneaks up on you with a custard-pie gust to the face.
Life used to feel like that. Now it’s predictable. Steady. Still. Walk the dog. Make a salad. Watch Homes Under the Hammer. Don’t laugh – or wince – at the song choices. Do a jigsaw, one thousand pieces: Safe Harbour. Use the window of fine weather to hang baskets of washing. Leave it in guilty piles. Yield to your partner.
He used to jolt sparks, like electricity.
Throw caution – and your pills – to the wind.
It was supposed to improve crop yield in arid places and for a time it did. The concept was simple enough; thinner leaves that required less water but produced the same energy for the plant. Then the mutation started. Leaves became thinner and stronger. Harvest was difficult, then impossible. Lawns turned razor sharp; capable of cutting through shoes, flesh and bone, and then even the blades used to control them. Deforestation slowed and stopped as the rainforests fought back. Governments fell as sticks once again became the state of the art in warfare. The message to humanity was clear: Leave.
Fortune teller Mary is giving me the glad-eye. Trapeze artist Chico is finding it hard to resist my charms. It’s not easy being gay in the circus. Last week a unicyclist gave me a blow job underneath a chestnut tree. The canopy of leaves fanned my hot cheeks as I sucked in air, smote by diesel fumes. I studied the paper perforations of an old ticket stub left on the ground as the unicyclist licked and slurped. This would be his last performance before he wobbled and weaved his way back to life with Carol the Contortionist. Fickle as fuck.
In the summer I gather leaves. Fagus sylvatica, acer campestre, elm, oak. Then I undress them. With loving care, my fingers peel the succulent, green flesh from around each groove, leaving the thin veins beneath.
I did this as a child. Portions of green and red and brown littered the house during the summer months, as I left the dainty, delicate wisps of seams and stems on windows, in books, on the fridge. My sister hated them. “They’re like skeletons. It’s gross. It’s like you’re dissecting them and leaving corpses around.”
When she died, I covered her coffin with them.
The Problem With Seven
There are seven leaves on the new pillowcase. My breathing quickens, as if the pattern of vines entwines my chest. I divert my attention. Eighty-two leaves on the duvet cover. Forty-six spots on his pyjamas.
Seven: your age. Seventh: the date. Seven: the number of minutes late the ambulance was.
I run to the garden. Thirteen paces to the pear tree. Grasp a plump leaf. Pluck. Thirteen paces back.
Your brother sleeps on, his breathing rhythmic. One, two… I count till seven passes.
There are eight leaves on the pillow. My body loosens. Eight will keep him safe.
Waiting for the 09.27 to New Street I bite a fingernail, an eclipsed milk-moon clipping. I drop it onto the earth behind the wall. On the wall is a line of ants carrying leaves, seed husks, bee wings, headed for a mound of writhing dirt. One ant bows beneath the arch of my fingernail clipping and carries it away and into the ground. Now the ants and the earth know who I am they’ll be waiting for the rest of me. The end of my finger bleeds at the quick. I’ll stop biting my nails and grow them long.
Well done to all the writers here – a fab selection of takes on the prompt word. Vote for your favourite here: