As ever, we received so many brilliant stories this month, so well done to everyone whose story was longlisted. And an extra congratulations to you if your story made it to the final ten below!
Thanks to Emma Finlayson-Palmer, Amy Barnes and Joanna Campbell for helping to read and choose the lists – narrowing the longlist down to just ten stories is always a very difficult job.
We received 93 entries, so this month’s cash prize is £186. This will be split between the two winning stories, with first place receiving £111 and second place taking home £76. Both winning stories will be published in the Flash Fiction section of our website. Plus: all shortlisted entries will get free entry into next month’s competition.
Voting is anonymous, so please don’t tell anyone what your story is called.
Voting is now open until 23:59 on 24th August, with the winners announced on 25th August.
Enjoy these great micro fiction stories, and then vote for your favourite in the poll at the end of the post.
When rub the skin with tarmac, leave on you bone-shaped pictures, you say, blowing hard to reach the bloodflakes, each unique. You reach, stretch, fail to blot the wound.
Smashing gavills, the wind says, Parallel lines don’t ever meet, prevails on.
Alone, I peel off the plaster’s back.
If opposites meet in contranyms, you say, so can we. And shout inflammable, sanction, fast.
Dust. And left.
Just over seven octaves apart we are, as you big stride a low arpeggio, Satie. Count distantly in.
Plead with the wind to bend the Earth, and that we become, you and I, longitudinal.
Hansel and Gretel’s Paradise
Spacious and vibrant beechwood forest situated in quiet undisclosed location.
Blank canvas of murky shaded undergrowth offers ample opportunity to put individual stamp on place. With only neighbours being the local birdlife, chances of being disturbed are slim.
A short walk North-West leads to limited-time option of delectable cottage. Features include original frosted windows, and somewhat overbearing housemate with questionable sense of personal space.
Ideal for two ferociously independent youths escaping the needless torment of controlling stepmother, and father incapable of standing up for those who should mean the most to him.
In 4th Year Juniors, Mrs Miller Will Read Donna’s Stories to the Class
Donna stands outside again, looking in. Mrs Bassett banished her for talking. Donna can’t control her mouth, but everyone else was chatting too. Well, the boys were. It’s not nearly as bad as when Mrs Bassett banged the desk down on her arm after Timothy Sturgeon dropped her rubber through the inkwell; or the time she tore up her end of year tests for putting history on the geography pile. But now Mrs Miller’s click-clacking down the echoing corridor and she’ll clock Donna’s been punished again. Cast her off as a wicked, useless girl before she even becomes her teacher.
We are exiles.
I sell pastizzi on street corners. The smoky window of your car hums down. Your mouth is a triangle of pink flesh, wet with saliva. You make a crude joke about tasting my pastizz. I know the slang, and what you really want. I pretend to think you just mean pastries.
My boat was no bigger than your car. Nineteen people were flung into the surf; fewer crawled onto the sand. Your arrival was sweeter; your family still breathes the warm Mediterranean air.
I escape anarchy, you the revenue service. You buy citizenship. And pastizzi. Tax free.
A Serious Threat to Life
My name is Louise. Lauren
I’m from Brighton. Birmingham
I’m single. I’m married. I miss him….
When they told me about the Osman letter, I imagined a folded dogeared piece of paper, gratitude scrawled in a bic biro. Then I visualized crisp A4 manila, reassuring me in bold Calibri. I got neither. Instead they sent me away.
Isolation and loneliness have become physical starvation; I cower in the corners of this unfamiliar house; fear follows me, the chairs don’t fit my body; it smells of old tobacco and bleach. It’s bland, wiped clean, like me.
Witness protection…. or punishment?
The Inevitable Path To Relationship Exile
- He tells you it’s over.
- You call after one too many rhubarb gins, sobbing into his voicemail.
- You linger outside his favourite pub on quiz night. He pretends not to know you, another woman on his arm.
- Your cat dies so you message him your heartbreak but he doesn’t reply, even though he bought you the cat, even though he said he’d love you forever.
- You find the perfect two-legged carrot with boy parts and even though you’re dying to, even though he’d love it, you don’t send a picture because you’re irreparably exiled now.
Where the Wild Things Are
We’re the lucky ones. We escaped “Kutairi,” the cutting. Today we dance, kicking up cinnamon-dust in dresses the colour of blood we didn’t shed. Our alternative rite of passage into womanhood celebrates our academic achievements, not the shredding of our capacity for sexual pleasure.
Below us stretches the Serengeti bush, where the sun nestles among the acacia trees. Where their bodies were tossed to the hyenas. Our sisters, denied a burial by the myth that the Lawalawa curse, not the brutality of cutting, killed them.
At dusk, we hold hands and sing, lulling their souls out of exile to rest.
Two Steps from the Rim of the Moon
They travelled with few possessions, but each tucked into their pack something to remind them of home: a curled sepia photograph of their grandparents, a stone smoothed by the waters of the lake or a tail feather of a bird that shone in blues and greens in the light of the moon.
Marooned now in the concrete and glass of the city, where no birds sing and darkness is never complete, they look up at a moon that is smaller and less bright, but they know it to be the same one. Which tethers them to the possibility of return.
The Law of KWERTY
They told her she must leave. Twenty five of them had discussed the new law in secret – no, make that twenty four; U had abstained.
But I’m needed, she insisted.
K goosestepped forward. I’m doubling up. W will assist.
Where will I go? Q looked at U. He shrugged. Although partners, he had the advantage of being able to link with others while she had to remain monogamous. Not a fair relationship.
P and R shuffled closer together. That’s not our concern.
– They watched Q go, knowing she would become archiac, banished to the past, nothing but a kwaint memory.
At the zoo, my daughter informs me she knows why vampires are so mean, and returns to her ice cream without further comment. There’s a man inside the gorilla habitat, sweeping up piles of rotten fruit and feces. The gorillas are nowhere to be seen. I ask her what she meant.
She says, “I just know these things.”
“But why are they mean?”
“Because,” she says, like I’m trying her patience, “when they look in the mirror nobody’s there.” She licks her ice cream and taps the window.
The man inside continues sweeping.
She knocks again, harder, absolutely correct.