March 2020 Micro Fiction Competition Shortlist
We received lots of great stories that made creative use of the prompt so well done to everyone who got longlisted last week and an extra well done if you made the final ten. Special mention to I’ve got you in my sights, Hayley Pringle which we really liked but didn’t quite have room for below.
Thank you again to Gail Aldwin for providing our bumpy prompt. Gail is a Dorset-based writer of fiction and poetry. Her short fiction collection Paisley Shirt was longlisted in the best short story category of the Saboteur Awards 2018 and her novel The String Games, about a child lost on a holiday in France, is available through her website, gailaldwin.com.
We received 117 entries and so the winner will receive £234, in addition to a free entry to the annual Retreat West Flash Fiction Prize. The runner-up will get a free entry too, plus both stories will be published in the Flash Fiction section of our website.
Voting is anonymous so please don’t tell anyone what your story is called.
Voting is now open until 23:59 on Monday 23rd March. Winners will be announced on Tuesday 24th.
Enjoy these great micro fiction stories and then vote for your favourite in the poll at the end of the post.
“She’s been around eight times; I don’t know what to do. No-one’s coming to collect her…”
Tears fall backwards as I spin, the lights and sounds are sickening; electronic disco noise, kaleidoscopes of red and gold.
I catch glimpses of mothers waving, laughing as their children reappear, quickly snapping photographs. Where is she?
She tightens the harness, places teddy in my lap and smooths my hair. ‘Always know I love you,’ she mouths as the ride begins.
I beg her to take me, we haven’t been anywhere since Dad died. He always loved the fair.
Katy likes coming here and so, despite the dereliction, we sometimes sneak in on our walks.
I kissed a boy once, in this very spot. I don’t remember his name, if I ever knew it. He was older than me and smelled of nicotine and hot sugar. He tasted of wondrous sin to me. I watched him watching me and felt my heart beat a tattoo to the dodgems’ blaring Relax as I accepted his invitation – the slightest nod away from the crowds.
I like coming here too.
“Katy darling, time to go. Mummy will have dinner ready for us.”
Found by hunters she was a snarling wolf child with a muddied face and matted hair.
Now, she’s a biologist tracking packs where others refuse to go.
The man she didn’t marry said she’d always be feral.
In the ghost city of Pripyat, where the half-life lingers and the wolves thrive in the lack of human contact, she explores the abandoned theme park.
She crouches, runs her hand over dusty prints before rising to sniff the air.
Throwing her head back, sunlight warms her silver throat as she howls into the absence and waits for them to return her call.
First & Last Date
‘I won’t hit you. Promise.’
We rushed towards the yellow cars, giddy from too much candyfloss.
It felt strange, pulling a seatbelt over your head. No signs of danger. Old speakers bashed out a song I’d never heard, although it was probably a hit. Others bopped along. Lights pulsed purple and blue.
Years later, we walked past the same spot. The fair was derelict now. Dead like lots of things. Dangling, broken steel. Damp ground-swollen like bruises. I kicked at twisting weeds. A breeze rattled through the dodgem shed; carrying his words from our first date.
Learning to Drive
Dad called it her bumper car.
The paintwork on the driver’s door was a firework of scrapes. She’d been shunted one day when she’d tried to slow down. Hurried along on several others.
“You go at your own pace, pickle,” he said.
But six months on, the front wing was crumpled; remoulded into foreign shapes, like fingerprints in dough.
She was swept along, racing, until there was cider. Cigarettes. Steam on the windscreen.
And first love. Fast: just a little too fast. Leaving tiny specks of blood – fireworks, fingerprints – fading to rust on the back seat.
There’s not much left of the carnival. Muddy bumper cars, faded signs, a few tall metal frames.
Her childhood quietly rusting away.
She can still see the flashing lights, taste buttered popcorn heavy on her tongue, feel the thrill of the night ahead.
All gone now.
A left-behind game coin lies in the mud, a token of better times.
She remembers the coin pushers. Remembers putting in coin after coin, pushing her luck night after night, always hoping for that golden rainfall that never came.
Even then, the game was rigged.
She pockets the coin anyway, and walks back home.
They took our passports and drove us to the edgelands where thirty square metres of wasteground were transformed into a yellow-boarded car wash. We sponged cars for thirteen hours a day, our flip-flopped feet – calloused from the coastline route – soaked in chemicals.
When the boss left, we’d go to the only other place around – a disused fairground, and smoke the butt ends dropped on the forecourt. Our dreams became bound to the abandoned dodgems. One day someone would see their vintage worth and retrieve them. We were sure of it. We had to be sure of it.
Choose your lens wisely.
Rose-tinted bathes memories in a deceptive glow. You’ll recall breaths of candyfloss, sun-kissed skin, frissons of pleasure. The funfair…
Gold-tinted sparks fizzes of joy, thrills, screaming laughter, dares. This intensity may smother reality.
A smoky lens muddies edges, softens blows, obscures detail. Is that blur a tear? What happened?
A smudged lens… Spit. Polish with your cuff. See how little is discernible in the murky beyond.
A clear lens exposes paint-flakes along rusted cracks, stagnating pools, weeds still weaving their tendril traps around your ghosts. Childhood fame headlined in “Deadly Dodgem Dare Devastation.”
Go for gold.
Ten Years After the Pandemic’ Symposium – The findings of the first trip into the outside world
‘Slide 311 – Photo of an abandoned fairground.’
The audience leans forward.
The breath catches in my throat. We met on the bumper cars. You made a beeline for me, your eyes sparkling with the lights of the fair.
I twiddle my wedding ring on my finger.
‘As you can see,’ the speaker drones, ‘nature is reclaiming the land. In the face of destruction, it is a time for regrowth.’
Regrowth. The word echoes in my ears.
‘Slide 312 – Looking to the future.’
Chest tight, I slip off the ring, cradle it in my palm, place it in my pocket.
Under the Willows
He stalls by the dodgems: pyjamas the same dark rust as the corroded paint; drizzle coating his bathrobe and slippers.
Above me, teenage willows whisper their secrets. I wonder if he hears them now; if that’s why he comes.
— Just a few more steps
Then he shuffles round with hollow eyes and I know we’re both lost, just in different ways.
They’ll find him. They always do, now they know where to look.
But they’ve never found me.
— I’m still here Dad
Nothing but earth and roots and bones, but I’m here.
Just a few more steps.
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