2019 Flash Fiction and Short Story Prize Shortlists

2019 Flash Fiction and Short Story Prize Shortlists

Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who submitted stories in these competitions. With 190 flash fictions and 277 short stories received, Amanda, Mary-Jane Holmes and Emma Finlayson-Palmer have been kept (happily) busy reading your work! We’re finally down to the shortlist stage and can reveal the writers!

Next, it’s over to our judges, Meg Pokrass and Angela Readman, to make the final decision. Good luck!

2019 Flash Fiction Prize Shortlist

  1. Buried by Emily Harrison
  2. Cuba by Bruce Meyer
  3. How to Hold an Umbrella by Caroline Greene
  4. Love is Many Things, None of them Logical by Hannah Storm
  5. On the Death of a Friend by Jason Jackson
  6. Ticket by Sherri Turner
  7. The President Comes Home by Reshma Ruia
  8. Treating the Stains and Strains of Marriage by Sherry Morris
  9. Wormholes, Mushrooms, Silverfish by Timothy Boudreau
  10. Riverwater Cistern by Niamh MacCabe

2019 Short Story Prize Shortlist

  1. Load More Comments by Jan Barker
  2. Mess of Love by Jason Jackson
  3. My Kind by Emma Hutton
  4. National Order by Helen Eccles
  5. Prime Meridian by Geoffrey Graves
  6. Whale Watching by Louise Farr
  7. Sal by Emma Hutton
  8. Strawberries by Claire Zinkin
  9. The Black Hole of Westminster by Rhys Timson
  10. The Pendulum by James Northern

January 2020 Micro Fiction Shortlist

January 2020 Micro Fiction Competition Shortlist

Well done to everyone who had a story on the longlist. We’ve had a few debates but the shortlist is finally decided upon! Congrats to all the writers whose stories appear below. Voting is anonymous though so please don’t tell anyone what your story is called.

Voting is now open until 23.59 on Monday 27th January. Winners will be announced on Tuesday 28th.

Enjoy these great micro fiction stories and then vote for your favourite in the poll at the end of the post.

A Birthday Wish

Cake was an unheard of treat in the orphanage and so the anticipation of sweetness on tongues brought smiles to sad eyes. The candle wick released a hiss as the flame took hold, Lorna closed her eyes – and wished.

The damp grey melted and she opened her eyes to a beautiful forest clearing. Whispers of her mother’s voice curled about her until warm arms folded her into a perfumed embrace. Matching brown eyes shone as they danced, feet damp with dew, hair swirling free, their laughter breathless.

Under a soft lunar glow, a sleepy smile carved itself against salt-streaked cheeks.

 

An Exquisite Pain

Sylvie’s excited to be turning four – the doll she’s begged for, the cake with too much icing, the party games, the four candles to puff out with her delicate wisps of breath. To her, four means big school and pinafore dresses and pig-tails with bubble-gum bows.

I dream of it too. For her. And for me.

In reality, an ever creeping shadow looms. Our subsuming is inevitable. The four allotted formative years end so They come.

She goes.

The hopeless unknown shreds me daily – one choice too permanent to contemplate, the other to exist without my beating heart.

 

Diary Entry: The Presents Keep Coming

I’d prayed all night, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, and the mosquitoes said Yes, Jesus and Mary said Yes, even God said Yes. I could eat the whole cake! Another surprise – a lovely dress, a pair of red leather shoes – the type we can’t afford – ever so special! I put them on straight away and waltzed into the kitchen. Mum said she couldn’t see anything, would I shut up. She was cooking all kinds of nothing, my stomach was rumbling and it was getting cold. Daddy, your shoes are under the bed. Nobody can see them except me.

 

Frosting Trails

She catches the sugar drops of his words on her tongue. They’re sweet and warm like an iced birthday cake. She swallows them. Always.

His glances are like silk and she doesn’t feel the barbs. His hands trace frosting trails in her skin, linger a pulse-beat at her throat.

Where are you going? What time will you be back? Who’ll be there?

His words taste like love, his love feels like safety, and his safety feels all-consuming.

His love hurts, but she thinks it’s better than no love at all.

She could almost take it. But their daughter is watching.

 

Fury

And when I am Queen, I shall build a castle of shell and stone, and I shall stand on the tower and scream into the sky scattering crows like arrows of my anger, and I shall sweep down the stairs with steel in my blood and send armies to meet you and their shields will blind you with the white heat of my fury and their swords will slice you like milk.

And you will say shhh, it’s okay, and stroke my hair. And I will let you wrap me in your smell and my castle will crumble like sand.

 

Negative

A snapshot, black and white. Each minute detail etched roughly into the back of my eyes. Is it real, this memory? My room, a stark prison cell. The cake, a peace offering from my familial warder. Icing slammed against the side of the cake. White sweetness against the black. The cake knife glints as it lies there, daring me to cut and slice. Wasn’t I lucky to have such a lovely cake made for me? That’s what everyone said. They didn’t see the butter being beaten to a smooth, submissive pulp. The hidden anger as the wooden spoon was wielded.

 

Playthings

Mama tries not to come to conclusions about boys’ natural urges. Outside Gustav is rattling his pedal-driven go-kart against a bucket, while inside Phoebe sits alone in front of her 4th birthday cake. Round and round the wheels spin, kerthunk, kerthunk. Why? Mama would seriously like to know what besets the child, but she will not call him yet again. Instead she prepares to light a match.

“Mama,” Phoebe interrupts. “Can’t we wait for Papa to come back?”

Another crash. Mama places the matches beside the cake. She’s trying so hard not to
come to conclusions about boys’ natural urges.

 

Safety in Numbers

“Not one lick of buttercream,” Mama warns. “The cake is for the party.”

Simi bites her tongue before it talks back.

Turning four means helping scrub her brother’s stiff grey socks. Four for starting school. Four, the number of probing fingers on Uncle Pachy’s right hand.

Simi glares at the cake until her eyes water. She pokes it. Buttercream gives way, knuckle-deep, and Simi bores four even holes.

She pictures herself in the schoolyard, morning light sunbursting on the windowpanes, disappearing in a clatter of uniformed children. The safety in numbers.

Simi scoops up buttercream and takes a bite.

 

The Making of a Monster

After she told them about her vision on the beach, showed them the sculpture she had created, they kept her in a room. It was bare only for a simple bed and the sand she moulded into her prophesies. Once a week they allowed her to go to Mass. She was made to stand in front of Father Howard while he studied the reflection in her shiny black patent shoes and told her she was ‘holy’. One day she would squeeze the sand into an image of Father Howard and then she would pound it into obliteration with her fist.

 

When The Last Flame is Blown

‘Is this Mum?’

‘Yes…she’s about five.’

My sons are sorting through my things. Kneeling, heads bowed, piles of photos dripping through their fingers.

‘Yes,’ I chuckle; ‘Me on my fourth Birthday! I was cross, your grandad had forgotten the candles.’

The boys nod and sigh.

The photo’s moved to the bottom of a pile, then absently shuffled like a deck of cards. We could play Poker or lay them face down like Tarots.

The shuffled pack is tossed into the binbag.

‘No!’ I shout.

They don’t hear me; I’m the silent sudden chill that breathes goosepimples down their spines.

 

 

If you can’t see or use the voting panel below, you can cast your vote on this link: https://form.responster.com/46o3UJ

 

2019 Flash Fiction and Short Story Prize Longlists

2019 Flash Fiction and Short Story Prize Longlists

Many thanks to all the writers who sent us stories this year. We received 190 flash fictions and 277 short stories. We’ve had a mammoth reading task over the past 7 weeks and my thanks go to my fellow readers, Mary-Jane Holmes and Emma Finlayson-Palmer. We’ve whittled the stories down to the longlists shown below. Well done if your story is shown here. We received two flash fictions entitled Remembrance so they are numbered below.

Readings are still anonymous until we have chosen the shortlists so if your story is shown here, please don’t tell anyone what it’s called! We are going on a festive break from this week so will have the shortlist in January now and then the 10 stories in each category will go to our judges for the final decision. Good luck!

2019 Flash Fiction Prize Longlist

  1. A Rare Bottling
  2. Atrraversiamo
  3. Buried
  4. Caged Light
  5. Cuba
  6. Dancing On Broadway
  7. Die And See Paris
  8. Die Young, Stay Pretty
  9. Echoes
  10. Enormous Gigantic Titanic Love
  11. Flesh And Water
  12. Good Girls Really
  13. How To Hold An Umbrella
  14. Insta-Life
  15. Love Is Many Things, None Of Them Logical
  16. Mouse Racing
  17. Omne Vivum Ex Ovo
  18. On The Death Of A Friend
  19. Pink. Bright. Bold.
  20. Remembrance (1)
  21. Remembrance (2)
  22. Riverwater Cistern
  23. The Albatross
  24. The Arctophile
  25. The President Comes Home
  26. The Short-Term Mourner
  27. The Way She Looks At Me
  28. The Woodsman
  29. Thistles
  30. Ticket
  31. Treating The Stains And Strains Of Marriage
  32. We Don’t Kill Our Mothers
  33. What Lawrence Did
  34. Wormholes, Mushrooms, Silverfish

2019 Short Story Prize Longlist

  1. Angerland
  2. Breathing Backwards
  3. Contacting Caroline
  4. Dead Tissue
  5. Every Scar Has A Story
  6. Latecomers
  7. Load More Comments
  8. Mess Of Love
  9. My Kind
  10. National Order
  11. Prime Meridian
  12. Sal
  13. Strawberries
  14. The Black Hole Of Westminster
  15. The End Of The Pier
  16. The Eyeglasses
  17. The Forest Road
  18. The Language Of Flowers
  19. The Pendulum
  20. The Thing That Happened To Philip
  21. The Time Of Their Lives
  22. There Is A War
  23. To Daydream On Dewdrops
  24. Tonight’s The Night
  25. Trotter
  26. Whale Watching
  27. What Counts As Theft
  28. Wings On Her Feet

Climate Change by Epiphany Ferrell

Climate Change

Epiphany Ferrell

We were to meet at eight. I assumed a.m. but maybe it was p.m. Finding myself alone on the beach, with slate sky and squid ink water, I counted white-capped waves until I got to 547, then wandered off from our rendezvous point, snail’s pace, walking in the foaming surf with my sandals left on the beach.

I wandered down the smooth sand, leaving a crooked path of water-filled steps. I was no longer sure we really had said morning. I began to suspect myself of intrigue.

Evidence: I went to the wrong restaurant to meet him just last week. I knew it was the wrong one, but I went anyway. Evidence: I wore my hair in a low ponytail to the beach rendezvous, a style he loathes. Conclusion: I am a saboteur.

I stepped around a jellyfish that had washed onto the beach. It stretched itself so thin I could almost see through it. It distorted the sand with its body, and yet the distortion made it more beautiful. They thrive, I’ve read, in warming, oxygen-depleted, acidified oceans. How fortunate is a jellyfish to benefit from climate change.

I was in water to my knees when I looked back and saw him, standing alone on the beach at our rendezvous point. He had his back to me, or I think he did. I walked into the swell of the next wave and the one after that, counting backward from 547, because that’s what we do, we hysterical young brides, with rocks in our pockets. I kept walking into the water, and it flowed into me, through me, spreading my white broomstick skirt around me like a bell, like a pulsating, jellyfish bell.

There are women, they say, who have seal skins they shed when they want to live on land. They reclaim the skins when they want to return to the sea, when they want to leave the world of men. I had no seal-skin but into the water I went, permeable, tentacled.

 

About the author: Epiphany Ferrell writes most of her fiction in Southern Illinois at Resurrection Mule Farm, so-named after a mule survived a lightning strike there. She received a Pushcart nomination in 2018, and her stories appear recently in The Slag Review, Blue Fifth Review and Pulp Literature, and she blogs intermittently at Ghost Parachute. She is a reader for Mojave River Review and New Flash Fiction Review.

 

The Fairytale Ending by Jan Kaneen

The Fairytale Ending

Jan Kaneen

Jill and Mason had been together for 12 years when they decided to marry. As between them they already had four children ranging from 16-year-old Violet to six-month-old Alfie, they resolved to make their nuptials more celebration of home and family, rather than their well-established partnership. They invited 100 nearest-and-dearest to their sixteenth-century cottage on the banks of the river Ouse. As the cottage had a large and charming garden, they hired a marquee and a sit-down hog roast and a brilliant magician to do impossible sleight-of-hand tricks and a bouncy castle full of red and yellow plastic balls to keep the children amused. The big day dawned fortuitously dry and sunny, and friends flew in from far and wide. The children bounced and laughed and threw the balls everywhere and at each other and everyone said it was the best wedding ever − a day they would always remember.

Five years later when Jill and Mason were pruning foliage under the ancient and majestic copper beech, they found a yellow plastic ball lodged in the undergrowth. How the memories flooded back. They squeezed each other’s hands as they shared a nostalgic smile.

Thirteen years after that, they planned a garden party to celebrate Alfie going to university. They braved the drizzle to cut back hazels by way of tidying up, when they found a single red ball perfectly preserved after all these years. Long-ago laughter echoed around their imaginations as they kissed in the verdurous gloom.

Twenty-two years later when Jill was scattering Mason’s ashes over the roots of a newly-planted apple tree, Alfie showed her the crumpled yellow shell he’d found when he dug the hole into the claggy soil. Tears shone in Jill’s eyes as she recounted the plastic’s history. Alfie hugged his mother and dropped the plastic into his pocket – a timely reminder of a moment of joy, in an increasingly volatile world.

After Jill’s death, the cottage eventually passed to Alfie, the last of his kin to live in that beautiful place. As a diligent citizen he replaced the saturated topsoil every year in line with government recommendations, and sometimes when he did, he found concave hollows of red and yellow plastic mixed in with the waterlogged loam and smiled a wistful smile.

A century later when the then-owners dug out the rotted apple tree and the drowned copper beech and replaced the last surviving plants with genetically modified flood-hardy crops, they were horrified to find slivers of coloured polyethylene terephthalate in the saturated mud. They shook their heads as they carried the filthy polymer into their stilt-built home, shocked by the folly of previous generations.

A thousand years after that, when ocean had replaced all that had ever been: the soil, the ashes, the cottage, the river – deep beneath the surface of wind-lashed waves, amongst the submerged ruins left by the last of humanity, salt-worn fragments of red and yellow lined the lairs and nests of water-scorpions and sea-snakes, remembered by no-one, signifying nothing.

 

About the author:

Jan Kaneen has an MA in Creative Writing from the OU. Her flash fictions have has been published hither and yon, most recently in Ellipsis, Flashback Fiction and Molotov Cocktail. She tweets @jankaneen1 and blogs at jankaneen.com. Her memoir-in-flash The Naming of Bones is scheduled for publication by Retreat West Books in April 2021.

 

The Oxbow Parenthesis by Anne Howkins

The Oxbow Parenthesis

Anne Howkins

 

Chloe writes plodding B-grade essays, with correct grammar and punctuation. A teacher once tried to encourage her to expand her vocabulary. ‘It’ll help you use your imagination, Chloe.’ Chloe prefers not to explore her minds-eye or think about certain words. Delight and despair are arrangements of letters that exist in a dictionary she can’t open. She once knew the words father and foolish, but their meaning is scumbled. They sometimes echo in her head, when she walks home along the canal towpath. The days she sees a reined toddler bouncing with excitement as his dad throws bread for the drab ducks. When another man lobs sticks into the water for an exuberant brindled terrier, Chloe gets a hint of tragic and family pet, feels that lump in her chest, and jogs home. She tries not to think of grasping grey water writhing through frosty fields in another place.

Mr Thompson hands out geography worksheets, notes solitary Chloe hunched over the corner table. Her pencil is filling in the sinuous curves of blue on the paper, making them straight. He tells the class to listen to him, answer the questions on the sheet, then finish the diagrams. Chloe pays attention when she hears

‘The river erodes the bank on each side, forming bends.’

Erodes is a word that echoes in the empty vodka bottles mum drops in the recycling bins when there’s no-one around. Bank was crumbling, without handholds. Bends are what mum is slowly navigating.

‘The water flows faster on the outside bends, slower on the inside, changing its course into a meander.’

Chloe contemplates meander. Silently rolls the word around with her tongue. She looks up when Sean raises his hand and asks what meander means.

Mr Thompson says ‘Chloe, do you know?’ Chloe has never answered a question in class before, but he is kind, so she does.

‘Is it to do with wandering about?’ she whispers, as her face flushes the colour of her school cardigan.

‘Well done Chloe.’

She considers her slow reluctant traipse home. Her mother’s shaky-legged return from The Vine with Chloe’s latest uncle.

‘Continual erosion and deposition narrow the neck of the meander.’

Chloe thinks of the things she’s seen deposited in the canal, jostling against the lock gates. Supermarket trolleys, flat tyres, half a bike, sometimes bloated rodent corpses. No matter how often the council clear it away, it always comes back. Deposits are sometimes the things people don’t want any more. Sometimes a deposit is the most valuable thing you possess.

‘During a flood the river cuts through the neck and abandons the meander.’

Chloe wants her water enclosed, straight. Meandering water abandons small children on its eroding banks. It adds human flesh and bones to its deposits, spits out stupid Labradors.

‘The cut-off becomes an oxbow lake that will eventually dry up.’

The worksheet shows a rotated letter C, rocking on its curved spine, without any watery arms reaching for its parent.

Chloe wonders when she’ll eventually dry up.

 

About the author: Anne discovered flash fiction in her seventieth decade, and gets huge amounts of pleasure playing with the form.