November 2019 Micro Fiction Shortlist

November 2019 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 25th November. Winners will be announced on Tuesday 26th.

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

A Journey Through Lung Cancer Distilled into a Hundred Carefully Chosen Words and Silences

Tumour. Malignant. Expect a year.

Muddled, mistaken, somebody else’s news.

A way off yet. A full circle of last things. Holidays, anniversaries, birthdays. Goodbyes.

Aggressive. Spreading. Hope for six months.

Hospice visits, home assessments, information leaflets, alien language, kind-faced nurses, cups of tea. You sleeping eighteen hours a day, me lying awake bone-weary, listening to you breathe, imagining cells replicating cells replicating cells.

You were 28. I was 26. Married 30 years if you make it to December.

Exhausted. Alone-together. Already lost.

Letting go of fragile hands. Getting my new bearings. Longing to talk but there are, no more words.

 

Empty

I walk towards the emerald meadow where we used to lie, pollen-caked and sun-weary, talking the nonsense of the day. My fingers remember the grooves in the drystone wall, the wrinkles across my skin drawing a map of where I have been since, but always leading me back here.

Waves threaten to crest on my cheeks as I round the corner.

You are not here. I feel your absence in the coarse grass and brown earth; the lack of you in the bland air. A dry patch of scrubland.

Turning to leave, I falter, no longer knowing where home could be.

 

Eradicating Common Pests

Snails fire love darts, like Cupid. Their strong, helical shell emboldens them. When I met you, I remembered Patricia Highsmith. She kept snails as pets, carried them to parties in her handbag, releasing them onto the table to horrify and entertain. I forgot, at first, that underneath a snail is just a slug. An unwanted pest. Their slime trails show where they have been. I followed yours to dark, foetid places. Unless you take a snail far away it will return. No surprise then, when you reappeared. I turned to ‘Ripley’ for inspiration, tongue shrivelling with the promise of salt.

For I’m the Tip of His Long White Cane

Every pavement my stage, his eyes on the ground, kerbside, amongst gutter-sludge and crisp packets fluttering like kites, he arcs me over asphalt and brown glass splinters, unblinking, oblivious to the wake of stares. Losing and rescuing me from one pavement crack after another. Skirting dogshit, pedestrian-kicked, taking the hit for him. Probing onwards, pushed off high kerbs into puddles like diving board to pool. Long grass suffocation, scolding melting tarmac, sweeping semi-circular crescents, left, right, left, carving pathways, his unsteady walk, heel, toe, heel, toe, swaying like the weary or the drunk. I lead, as he follows me home.

Frayed

An invisible thread pulls me back to you, frayed yet still strong I feel its undeniable pull. Who am I to resist? I was always your puppet on a string, a string loose enough for me to think my life was my own but with one little tug you reel me back in. Automatically I follow the path that leads me back to you, disoriented I stumble across the once-familiar landscape, because this time it looks different, I’m different. As the last length runs through your fingertips, I smile triumphantly and jerk backwards, snapping the string. I’m letting me go.

Life Bearings

052o for forty-six miles. My home, wife and kids.

078o for four thousand, eight hundred miles. Production line for the fidget spinners.

112o for one hundred and fifty miles. Overnight truck stop.

197o for two hundred and eleven miles. Depot where the container was to be collected.

245o for ninety miles. Shop desperate for delivery before they opened.

275o for eighty-five miles. That curve on the A303.

312o for twenty-nine miles. Family house of the blue Volkswagen Golf.

342o for too few miles. Graves of the mother and baby.

360o for two metres. My life for the next six years.

Lost in America

The other girls zip along on bikes.
She wrestles with rusty roller skates.
“The bearings are shot,” dad says, “save your money for a new pair.”

What money, she wonders? She gets no allowance.
Her bearings aren’t shot; she’s lost her bearings.
Her parents speak with an accent.
Her hair isn’t blond: her eyes aren’t blue.
She brings scrambled egg sandwiches to school,
and Dad’s radio only plays Neapolitan songs.

She hides in the closet with her transistor.
Hours pass. She learns all the words to every top ten song.

Monday she walks to school. Familiar lyrics her new compass.

 

Make or Break Getaway

We’d met through our love of hiking; back when I had a waist and he had hair. The weekend was a chance to recapture us. We had lived as strangers for too long.

Echoes of our youth had begun to flicker over familiar maps.

Later, on a peak, the unpredictability of the season swirled and our search for a safe route led to bog breached boots, and squelching steps.

But it was amidst the freezing rain that we began to laugh. Our steps fell into one another until our brushing fingers twined, our once-blind eyes seeing the other once more.

 

Repair

Jess looks at the painting hanging on the wall behind her friend – that Ikea one of the shambolic wooden jetty stretching out into a loch – and realises she’s seen it in every house recently. Every friend she’s visited to console, calm, let coorie into her as they weep their weary words of wastrels or widowhood or want.

She closes her eyes, lets her mind drift onto the jetty, feels wood splinter her bare feet, water pull her to the edge of a cold darkness.

Back home she kisses her husband then takes the jetty painting down from above their bed.

The Way Home

I peer out of the window. ‘How do they do it?’

‘How do who do what?’

‘Racing pigeons – how do they find their way home?’

The old lady next door opens the coop and the flock takes flight.

‘I read they have some sort of magnetic compass.’ Tom snaps his suitcase shut. ‘They don’t always make it back though.’

‘I’ll miss you!’ I hug him tightly.

His body stiffens. ‘It’s only a week.’

‘Is Polly going?’

‘She’s my PA! She has to.’

Outside, a pigeon strays off course.

I take a magnet from the fridge door, slip it inside Tom’s pocket.

 

 

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November 19 Micro Fiction Longlist

Thank you once again to Joanna Campbell for providing this month’s prompt. You can read Joanna’s stories in our three annual anthologies: What Was Left, Impermanent Facts, and Future Shock. As well as in No Good Deed, our charity anthology published on 7th November 2019.

We received 95 entries so the winner will receive £190 and 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.

The final ten will be published next Monday with public voting opening at the same time.

All readings and votes are anonymous so writers if you are on this longlist, please do not tell anyone which story is yours.

Thank you to all who submitted and congrats if you made the longlist!

Longlist:

  • A Journey Through Lung Cancer Distilled into a Hundred Carefully Chosen Words and Silences
  • Bearings
  • Empty
  • Eradicating Common Pests
  • Escape
  • Fire Ants
  • For I’m the Tip of His Long White Cane
  • Frayed
  • Freckles
  • Going the Distance
  • Greased Lightning
  • Here, in the field
  • Hinterland
  • In the Silence
  • Intersect
  • Life Bearings
  • Lost
  • Lost and Found
  • Lost in America
  • Lost in the Fog
  • Make or Break Getaway
  • Man’s Best Friend
  • Never Fall for a Weather God
  • Repair
  • Save the Bears
  • Sunday Morning in the Neighborhood
  • Sweet and Cool
  • The Lighthouse
  • The Lights
  • The Way Home
  • Vessel
  • What we lose
  • You Always Loved the Circus

Enjoying our Flash Fiction comps? Check out our new Flash Fiction Memberships, tailored to suit the flashing enthusiast.

Water Themed Flash Longlist

Water Themed Flash Competition Longlist

Thank you to everyone that entered the Water themed flash competition. We received 97 entries and the quality of writing was particularly strong this time, so an extra big well done to you!

Congratulations to the writers of the stories listed below for making the longlist. Judging is still anonymous so please don’t let us know which is your story if you see it here!

  1. Ask And The Sea Shall Answer
  2. Baptism
  3. Bath Man
  4. Between the Main Course and the Pudding
  5. Boiling Point
  6. Chickens Crossing Roads
  7. Climate Change
  8. Collecting
  9. Holiday
  10. If only it had been the Great Salt Lake
  11. Last Piece of the Puzzle
  12. Last Week of July
  13. Listening to the Water
  14. Mermaid
  15. Rinse and Repeat
  16. Sink or Swim
  17. Ten minutes and counting
  18. The Absolution
  19. The Box
  20. The Fairy Tale Ending
  21. The Falling Dusk
  22. The Mistake in the Weave
  23. The Oxbow Parenthesis
  24. The Shadow of Stained Glass
  25. Today Is Not That Day
  26. Unspoiled
  27. Water
  28. Your Anger

 
The shortlist will be announced later in November.

The deadline for the next quarterly flash comp (EARTH) is 29th December 2019. Winners get cash prizes and published on the website. Get all the info here.

 

October 2019 Micro Fiction Shortlist

Thanks to everyone who took part in the latest comp to write a story inspired by Retreat West Books author, Sophie Jonas-Hill’s beautiful artwork. Lots of great stories have been read to get to our shortlist of 10 stories shown below. Congratulations to everyone who’s made it through to the final round of judging and to all the writers who made the longlist.

Voting is anonymous so if your story is on this page please don’t tell anyone what it’s called!

You can vote until 23.59 on Monday 28th October 2019 and winners will be announced on Tuesday 29th. Go read and vote!

Ash and Cinder

His world, engulfed in ash and cinder. Strange how in the fire and heat there’s more smoke than flame, more darkness than glow. He stands there in tatters, a rabbit carcass on his head like some kind of wild and primitive king. He’d just shaved yesterday and not thought to take a hat. The burnt patch on his head is aching now.

Looking out across the dam, he glimpses a small green shoot sheltered under a rock beside the water. One life untouched, in all this chaos. He imagines its tiny roots desperately clinging to the earth. He walks on.

A Family Portrait

She returns home from university, unexpected and tearful. Her parents make tea and help her unpack.

You kept my picture up, she says.

A picture above the bed, painted in art college. She can see the figure again – the trees forming its shape, dark to match her mood, visible only to her.

Her parents always threatened to take the picture down. They believed it to be harmful, stifling her recovery.

Well, they say, I guess sometimes it’s OK to change your mind.

They hug with brave smiles, and when she looks again at the painting the figure has gone.

Chimera

In my dreams you stand tall, upright and proud. All around are spikes of grass, trees, reflections; pushing up to the sky, fracturing into water. A jagged world.

You used to tell me tales of a chimerical creature that was half-rabbit, half-human. It stalked my sleep until I was old enough to understand that it was just a story. Such creatures don’t exist.

Now, clearing your house, I find a head, fur-covered, rigid, ears long and stiff, and wonder: why would you have this?

At night I wake shaking, forgotten nightmares gripping me tight. Questioning my memories, fearing the truth.

In Search of Alice

She’s not here. I thought, hoped, she’d be here. Dormouse said she wouldn’t come. They all said it was madness to expect her.

I stand still, ears forward, listening for her gentle laugh. Staring at the skeletal trees around me as they search for the sun. Their wasted limbs stretching upwards out of the gloom. Chasing a warmth that is only a memory. I look down at where the rabbit hole

should be. Long since collapsed. The persistent drizzle filling it in.

I know time changes things.

Memories slip silently into the fog.

Children become adults.

Rabbit holes become ponds.

Payback

They came from the woods, the meadows, the railway embankments. Thousands of thrumming feet, pulsing hearts, twitching noses. Over the fields – what was left of them – toward town.

They would finish before the sun melted into the horizon: reclaim the land, ruined from over-farming, over-housing, overuse, overabuse. They would devour crops, dig up gardens, slink through cat flaps, draw blood.

A canine. It gave chase but skittered to a stop when a forest of ears rose up. Seconds later it ran fast and far, ignoring its master’s whistle. The human shrugged and headed to its bricked-up burrow.

The rabbits followed.

Reflections on Alice

‘I’m sorry. Do you mind?’ White Rabbit twitched his cigarette towards the officer with a yellowed paw.

She placed one hand on his sleeve. ‘Go on.’

‘Don’t believe Alice’s stories.’ He took a long, deep drag as his gaze darted across the glass-like waters. ‘I’ve still got the watch, look, and I was running late, but that’s where the truth ends.’

‘And the Queen of Hearts?’ she asked again gently, handcuffs ready.

His paw trembled, dusting his jacket with ash. ‘She was a lovely woman. Just lovely.’

He retrieved the evidence from his bag. A rose, painted red. Blood red.

The Fate of Small Creatures

We were brown-seed eye-tiny with tawny-soft feathers. We were needle-teeth nibblers whisker-twitch tender. We were earth-clad or air-bent, just gentle-nest small things. We pecked or we scurried or fluttered or dug, and our colours were ochre and bull-rush and earth-straw. We lived tiny and balanced by roots and dark-water, died quiet in nature by mist-muted dusk-mud.

You were huge-brained humongous with massive potential, striding like giants regardless of small things.

We darkened. We sharpened. We hardened, grew larger, swelled by your ruins, your wastelands your twilight.

We watch from the shadows, hate-biding our time, ghost-eyed and tooth-clawed soft-gentle no longer.

The Lepus Hadn’t Come

The new tree by the lake is growing fast. No-one else notices it. They walk around the water, skim stones, feed the ducks or leave carrots for the Lepus who protects the wood.

One day the tree was bare branches. Next day it was covered in leaves. Third day it had brown apple-like fruit. Next day the fruit was rotting on the ground and the tree had bare branches.

Following Tuesday I found saplings where the fruit had rotted. I pulled them up, burnt every branch and root. I had to protect the wood, and us. The Lepus hadn’t come.

Turning Mermaid

She knew of a method, she said, to turn mermaid, she said; a place in the woods, a copper bath, in the midday sun of All Saints Day, she said, and she invoked the I’d do anything for you, babe promise – something I’d said, repeatedly.

So, for once, we had a sober Halloween and we hired a van, drove through dawn, and set up in Wych Elm Wood. This is it, she said, heat up the water, she said, I love you, she said, while she wriggled her toes in the carpet of leaves and muttered her goodbyes to them.

When the Party’s Over

You say you love me.

It was my birthday.

You forgot.

Invited you to my animal print party.

You didn’t come. Didn’t text.

We met at a masquerade ball; you gave me kisses and your mask.

Took a while, but I unpicked the gauze and sequins. Stitch by stitch.

Don’t show up now in your new costume.

Touching me. Following me.

Brandishing a limp flower under the darkening sun.

I won’t laugh this time.

Your superhero clothes and funny sky-high ears won’t beguile me.

Nor buffed, gushy words.

Go find a monster party.

There’s nothing real here. It’s all pretend.

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October 19 Micro Fiction Longlist

First off, thank you to Sophie Jonas-Hill for her mystical artwork. Sophie is a writer and illustrator, and Retreat West Books will be publishing her forthcoming Unprotected in November. You can follow her on Twitter.

We received 104 entries so the winner will receive £208 and 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.

The final ten will be published next Monday with public voting opening at the same time.

All readings and votes are anonymous so writers if you are on this longlist, please do not tell anyone which story is yours.

Thank you to all who submitted and congrats if you made the longlist!

Longlist:

  • A Family Portrait
  • A Hallowe’en Surprise
  • Ash and cinder
  • Bare Trees
  • Black Swan
  • Chimera
  • Computer-in-Chief
  • Disquiet
  • In His Mind, Autumn
  • In Search of Alice
  • Invisible
  • Life Abound
  • Lonely Mother
  • Notes
  • Payback
  • Reflections on Alice
  • The BaoBhan Sith
  • The Fate of Small Creatures
  • The Lake
  • The Lepus Hadn’t Come
  • The Meeting
  • The Test
  • Turning Mermaid
  • Uncharted
  • Visiting Home
  • When the Party’s Over
  • Without You

Enjoying our Flash Fiction comps? Check out our new Flash Fiction Memberships, tailored to suit the flashing enthusiast.

September 19 Micro Fiction Longlist

Once again, we’ve had a great mix of stories to choose from, so well done to all!

We received 108 entries so the winner will receive £216 and 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.

The final ten will be published next Monday with public voting opening at the same time.

All readings and votes are anonymous so writers if you are on this longlist, please do not tell anyone which story is yours.

Thank you to all who submitted and congrats if you made the longlist!

Longlist:

  • A Sweet Mistake
  • A Tinder Kinda Love
  • Chimera
  • Choices
  • Falling In. Falling Out.
  • How to Boil an Egg
  • I went wrong at 1
  • Ice Cream
  • In Their Childhood Garden
  • Lists
  • Lunch in Llandudno
  • Making Friendship Fly Again
  • March Afternoon, Twilight Falling
  • Pinhead, Marble, Snooker Ball
  • Reality Raw
  • Taste the Rainbow
  • The flame
  • The scream
  • There Must Be A Better Word For It
  • Time’s up, sugar
  • Tin Man
  • Unbridled Spirits
  • When I Remember Sally September
  • When Mummy taught her daughter how to make a Fortune Teller and lived to regret it

Enjoying our Flash Fiction comps? Check out our brand new Flash Fiction Memberships, tailored to suit the flashing enthusiast.