Showing posts from June, 2014

That's all folks!

Well, either you are completely sick of flash-fictions, and you won't even be reading this. Or, like me, you find them a source of endless wonder, and now you're all disappointed that they've come to an end.

Either way, I think all those writers deserve a massive round of applause, and we thank them for their words.

We will be back for next year's National Flash-Fiction Day, if not before. But in the meantime, keep writing, keep reading, and most importantly, keep flashing!

Calum Kerr
Editor and Director of National Flash-Fiction Day.

'Jump' by Rob Walton

“So how many’s that?” “Five this year.” “Christ.” “Yes, well.  That’s the way it goes.  This is the way it goes.” Wordsworth looked down and gestured for me to look down with him.  We were high, seriously high. “I’m not sure I like it up here.” “Come on then.  Let’s go inside.  You only need to ask.” Inside was reached through a door which seemed to have neither lock nor handle.  The furnishings were a settee and a wooden dining chair.  The chair was on the settee. “Make yourself comfortable.” I wasn’t here to carp, so I sat on the settee, removed the chair and put my feet on it.  I wouldn’t want to over-egg this, but I was profoundly uncomfortable; almost in pain.  The settee fabric was surely designed to relieve itches and the colour was there to make whatever mismatched outfit you had chosen look fantastic. “Tea?” “I don’t think so.” “Wine?” “Wine?” “Wine.” “All right.  Thanks.” He left and returned within a minute.  He offered me a large glass of red.  In his other hand he had a Lidl carrier bag. …

'Betwixt' by Thaddeus Howze

Paolo will sit in a dimly-lit coffeehouse after work.

Dirty work often required something to wash the taste and the smell from one’s mind. Paolo Diaz was an Agent of Order and of Chaos. Two monsters which invaded his dreams as a child.

They came on the fire and smoke, burning his eyes and nose, flames set to drive his family out of their homes. As Paolo died, he railed and cursed a heaven which allowed such evil. And these two came, one a visage of soothing beauty. Cold to the touch, she lifted his chin, examined him and deemed him worthy. “He will grow strong and beautiful.” The other monster, slapped him in his child’s face and said he was broken. “Listen to the screams in his head. It is all he will ever hear in the dead of night.”

He went to work for them. As such, his work lay Between.

The smell of burning coffee soothed him. It’s bitter aroma filled his nostrils, taking him to his childhood in Colombia; before the fire, when he was happy.

Paolo hated his job. Not the work, but t…

'Cuts Like A' by Simon Sylvester

The crowd fell silent as Marco took the stage. His cloak was lined with red satin. His moustaches were waxed into devil tips. The flat broad blades of his knives clashed at his hip. Across the stage, his wife was cuffed to a rotating disc. The wooden boards were scarred with countless knife strikes. Marco shrugged off his cloak, flexed his shoulders, cracked his knuckles, and spun on his heel to hurl the first knife. There were gasps from the audience as it flickered through the air and thudded into the board, inches from his wife’s neck. Marco grinned. God, how he loved showtime. His personal challenge was to land the knife close enough to make her scream, to make a fool of her. That night, he succeeded three times. Once, the blade landed near enough to nick her arm. The audience loved that one best of all. After the show, he berated her cowardice. ‘You’re nothing without me,’ he sneered, and poured another calvados. ‘I could find another assistant anywhere. Anyone could do your job.’ He …

'Eight Thirty-Eight' by Tracy Fells

6:38 am: Jackson’s eyelids twitch. Facial muscles contort, pulling back in horror. In two hour’s time his dream will come true. 6:59 am: Jackson opens his eyes. A sunbeam slips through the gap in the curtains warming the bedroom; dust particles dance in the morning’s glory. 7:00 am: Crickets chirp from the mobile on the bedside table heralding the official start of Jackson’s day. 7:07 am: The TV double-act recites road traffic statistics. Warning drivers to look out for pedestrians at two critical time-points in the day. Six twenty two in the evening is a deadly time for foot-commuters when the number of fatalities peaks… but Jackson is already stepping into the shower and doesn’t hear the second, more lethal, time of day. 7:08 am: Hot water jets over Jackson’s head and shoulders. Shampoo runs into his eyes trickling down his cheeks like frothy tears 7:21 am: Jackson checks emails one-handed while towel drying his spiky hair.  7:34 am: He pours boiling water into the travel mug, even though…

'Cat’s Eyes' by Karl Russell

The dead man came and lay with mummy again last night. Stanley just moved over to let him in, and mummy would have slept right through it like last time, so I had to do something. I arched and hissed like crazy, but when mummy woke, all she did was shoo me away. I spent the night on the landing, listening to him wheezing and groaning, doing the thing again.

Mummy was crying in the kitchen this morning, but she doesn’t know why. She just feels tired, like she isn’t sleeping properly. I wish I could talk, but Stanley says we can’t do anything, so why worry? He only cares that his bowl is filled. I tried to cheer mummy up by rubbing against her legs, but she tripped over me and yelled at me. She’s never done that before.

The dead man came back later on, when mummy was in the garden. She just thought it was the wind, blowing her skirt up. I could see his friends, standing by the fence, watching; they’re more here than before, but still not enough to touch her themselves. I tried to claw the…

'Full Marks' by Elaine Miles

I wish you’d stop standing there, gawping.  Surely you’re not that stupid.  Did you honestly not see this coming? Teacher training didn’t prepare you for this, did it.  Didn’t prepare you for me, fifteen, hot ( let’s not deny it), bursting out of my uniform, desperate for a shag.  Or so you think. Big mistake, letting me stay behind so many times.  You should at least have kept the classroom door open.   Did you really believe I was that interested in Chaucer?  I fucking hate Chaucer.  Got those questions off the internet.  You seriously thought I was that keen? Bless. You know what they say.  Don’t get mad;  get even.  It’s nothing personal.  You just happen to fit the profile, that’s all.  Poor you.  Old enough to be disgusting, far enough from retirement to be destroyed.   And, most importantly, you remind me of him. I can’t fix him, so it’s going to have to be you, I’m afraid.   And who are they going to believe?  Traumatised,  pre-pubescent schoolgirl or sagging, overweight, divorced …

'Left Untitled' by Anna Tveritinova

It was getting dark outside and it was only 2pm. He noticed there was a small gap in the window and thin stream of cold air streamed through. He shivered and pulled over his green velvet jacket. He looked back at the room illuminated by soft yellow light. It felt like an oasis of life in midst of winter wilderness. He could sit here for hours, enjoying the sound of scribbling pens, ticking clock, and wind outside. But today he decided to finish early. The holiday spirit was already here and the students would be too distracted to do anything now.

“Alright. Time is up. Pens down.” What followed was a mix of groaning and relieved sounds. With reluctance test papers were passed to him. He delicately collected them and put them into his briefcase. “You can go now, today we can finish early. Have good holidays. Get some rest.” Happy faces streamed past him and he watched them with melancholy, already beginning to miss them. He returned to his chair and resumed staring outside.

He woke up f…

'Angela Breaks Free' by Ninette Hartley

I’m a tad fed up.

Cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, making beds, moving through forests of detritus left by family of one husband and three children. It’s time to stop, time to change.

Isn’t there a piece of paper somewhere that says I have a degree, that I am a graduate, a person? Is there a photograph? I can't remember who I was before…

Before I was Mrs - before I was Mum - before I was - Love. Do I have an actual name?

Ah yes I remember it. Angela.

I peel off my yellow marigolds and throw them into the sink, rip away the Keep Calm and Carry On apron. A cup of coffee would go down well so I make one and take it into the living room so that I can think.

Before my brain turns to mush and I forget all my dreams and aspirations and lose my identity as a person, I must make some time for myself and exercise my grey matter. They (the family) think I can’t use the computer but today I’m going to prove them wrong.

Today there is to be a big change. I go to the study, (usually my hu…

'Easter Egg' by Andy Cashmore

‘…and Kyle is a great guy and a half-decent actor to boot. We’d get up to all kinds of crazy stuff on set - oh wait, just quickly here’s a great scene where he’s just told Curtis, my character, the whole shabang and look how angry, how tight his face is. That’s because this scene took us a whole afternoon. We kept on cracking up whenever he walked in shot because on the first take the tree tree there fell over and tripped Kyle up. We took a ten minute break so they could clean his make up off the floor. But every time Kyle walked on set he would hesitate around the tree and the team would burst into laughter. It was funny the first few times but the director, our lord and saviour Mr Bergerac, got mad. Then when we tried to do the shoot properly the bloody tree kept falling down. And if it wasn’t the tree it was the stop sign, even the gas pump somehow fell over. Now this was my first major shoot, but I was certain things weren’t supposed to fall over. So after about twenty takes where…

'Me, But From The Future' by Tino Prinzi

I was looking straight at what looked like me, but it couldn’t be. I mean, yes – it was me. His face, height, frame, every visible detail of the man stood before me was me. But it wasn’t me. He looked deflated and hopeless. “Who are you?” “It’s me George. I’m you, but from the future.” He sounded just like me. “You must listen to me. I have–” “No – I know where this is heading. I’ve seen this kinda thing in films. You’re gonna say that some kinda evil is going to steal something seemingly pointless and take over the world and out of the billions of people I’m the only one who can stop it.” My future-self stared back at me with a vacant expression on his face. I didn’t think he was expecting me to just snap at my own face like that. “I don’t have time to gallivant around the world on some silly quest to save the future. You of all people must know how little time I get to relax. You come traipsing in from the future, disturbing me on my holiday–” “In the future, George, there is no Thailand.…

'The Death of Love' by Julie Lees

“She’ll be the death of you, one day!” My mother’s words seemed to echo around the room. I’d dismissed them over thirty years ago with a slam of the front door after I’d walked through it, just as you did a few minutes ago. My mother and I never spoke again. I loved you, and that was more important to me than the claims of an embittered middle-aged woman, who no longer had time for her husband. Now, I know better. Now, I realise she could see in you what she’d witnessed in my own father. But I didn’t listen, and now I’m paying the price, just as she did when she died at the age of fifty-six, alone and penniless. I can picture you now as you were then: hair the shade of roasted chestnuts, strawberry-blushed lips, legs well turned and lithe and adept at encircling my waist. But it was your shoulders that entranced me: porcelain-smooth and soft against the brush of my mouth. Love, or should I say lust, does strange things to a man’s sense of reason. It warps his thought processes, strips hi…

'Full Belly Moon' by Rachael Dunlop

The horse chestnut tree cracked and toppled during the night when no one was watching. Inside the ripped stump, the wood was still warm, damp, golden, when we looked at it the next morning. ‘They do that, horse chestnut trees,’ said the old woman next to me. ‘I’ve seen it happen four, maybe five times in this park over the years.’ The huge trunk had pulled away from its own stump as it had fallen, as if it were trying to make a run for it, pull itself free from the snare of its own roots. For just a moment, it flew. And then it fell. ‘Last time it happened,’ the old woman continued, ‘over there, on the other side of the park, there was a babby killed.’ She leaned on the handle of her shopping trolley as if at a bar in a pub. ‘It was in a pram, the babby, its mother was just over there in the playground, pushing an older one on a swing. Shocking.’ She didn’t sound shocked. She looked at my stomach and nodded, waiting. I resisted the urge to cradle the swell of my belly as I’d seen other w…

'The BirthdaySuit™' by Wendy Booth

Amid a cherry-scented cloud, Chantal patted every inch of her body with Deodorising BirthdaySuit™ Powder.  Already regretting the second tiramisu, she knew this would be a squeeze.  Inside-out, on her wardrobe door hung the second skin which had become less fashion item, more part of her.
Since their inception, these breathable rubber skins had evolved to give customers the taut, twenty-something body they craved.  Few would consider their summer wardrobe before donning a BirthdaySuit™.  But, in winter, the unexpected advantage of a BirthdaySuit™ was its insulating quality.  Many wore short skirts, baring their year-round tans and partied in strappy tops with no need for coats.
Hitching the suit up over her puckered behind, Chantal glimpsed the reflection of her now smooth round bottom and smiled.  For a lady of her age, she was generally blessed with curves in the right places.  However, now, women (men-shaped BirthdaySuits™ were still being prototyped) worldwide were squeezing into Bi…

'Chief Mourner' by Virginia Moffatt

The woman was there again, sitting in her usual spot: the corner of the back row on the right hand side of the church. Her long black coat was buttoned round her thin frame, her grey bob,neat and tidy. Since starting the job in Spring, Jake had seen her in the same pose at every funeral service. Each time he and the pall bearers conducted their two-step shuffle down the aisle, he was conscious of her eyes staring at the casket, the sniffle of her sobs resounding through the church. Who was she? Why was she there? She was gone before the final hymn or favourite song of the loved one conveyed the deceased on their last journey. No-one knew. The only thing certain was that she was a recent arrival in town, only ever sighted on these occasions. It was as ifher career of perpetual mourning was all the life she had. And no-one could say why. Today, Jake was going to find out.For once, he wasn'tneeded to bear the coffin out of church, the deceased sons were doing that. His fellow pall-bear…

'Becoming Nemo' by Anne Summerfield

Her school taught Latin, was old-fashioned enough to see this as something a teen might need to learn. But it was the Cambridge Latin project, so they got Ancient Rome brought to life, and as part of this the teacher allocated them Latin names. He came with a prepared list and seemed taller and more bespectacled than ever, rising to the occasion of those unreligious baptisms. Mainly the names were translations of all or part of their surnames, nothing too outrageous, sometimes there was a choice depending on how the translation worked out. So her friend whose surname was Warman became Bellicosa – warwoman since she was a girl - and though there was amusement around the word ‘belly’ she could tell that that the newly-minted Bellicosa liked this. Others were also named happily. She was given a choice between Agricosa – ‘old hag’ they all said - or something meaning summer which also provoked far too many jokes. She said no to both and the teacher was kind, says he’d have another think. …

'Tiger and Turtle' by Sinéad O'Hart

Truth be tol’, I feel like hell the day Turtle and me decide to ride the rollercoaster. ‘They ain’t gon’ let us on,’ I say. ‘Les’ jus’ bounce.’ ‘Fool, I know the ticket guy, ai’ght? No sweat.’ I can’t do nothin’ but shrug, and hope my head stops hurtin’ soon. Eventually, we facin’ the top of the line. ‘You two jokers, right?’ says Ticket Booth guy. ‘Git. You gotta be this tall –‘ he points at some grinnin’ fool on a billboard – ‘to ride.’ But Turtle, he know a back door. Soon, we on board. My head bustin’ like a neverendin’ punch, an’ Turtle talkin’, but I ain’t hearin’. Two seats in front, there’s a tiger sittin’, stripes an’ tail flickin’. He turns, growlin’, an’ I smell his meat breath. Coaster starts movin’, an’ I lean across to Turtle, real slow. ‘Turtle, man,’ I say, so low he can’t barely hear. ‘What you sayin’?’ he yells, leanin’ in. He soun’ like a freight train. ‘Turtle, man! Up front. Up front!’ I’m flickin’ my eyes in Tiger-boy’s direction but it ain’t no good. Turtle, he refuse to…

'Blink and Smile' by Jo Gatford

I don’t use that hackneyed line. I’m not on a stage, but in a supermarket queue. My line is worse than “look into my eyes” but it works, drawing attention to hers, instead: “My God, you have beautiful eyes…” And she’ll look away sideways, give a purse-lipped smirk, leave it there on her mouth longer than she needs to, and then - there it is – right into my gaze. She has to take those few little moments to decide if she’s flattered, freaked out, or if I’m worth flirting with. All I need is a slow blink and a smile. The blink is the clincher. By that point I have my hand on her shoulder – just enough weight behind it to anchor my words – and the suggestion of acquiescence whispers across the checkout. Her eyes close and her heart rate slips a few beats per minute. I tell her not what she needs to do, but what she wants to do, what suddenly seems like the very best idea, to void the till and open the register, to shift her hips to the side as the drawer shoots out. Her conscience is clean…

'Clock' by Danielle McLaughlin

My aunt’s flat is like the inside of a clock:  small, shining, exact. A place of things impeccably ordered. Silver teaspoons with filigree handles; a pin cushion with a hundred pearl-headed pins; gold-rimmed china cups. My aunt trails a finger across the bruise on my temple, but she does not ask, not yet. The asking will come later. ‘I could have met you at the station,’ she says, taking my suitcase, ‘I could have helped.’ I sit on her sofa with its row of red velvet cushions. I think I hear a soft whirring, like cogs going into motion. I listen for the tick, the tock, but it is my aunt boiling the kettle to make tea. When she opens the fridge, I glimpse a plate of raw meat: a swollen, purple ox tongue from the market, a sheep’s heart with its marbling of fat. Here, in this flat, my aunt makes time for me. We negotiate each other within the safe confines of its walls: me, striding and jarring, she, meticulous and precise. Big hand, little hand. I am frightened as a wounded…

'The Journal' by Susan Philip

It’s one of those days. A late afternoon lull, the children at school, dinner slow-cooking, and there’s you with not much else to do.
The garden shed beckons; it is time. You pull on your cardigan and old trainers and let the door slam. Trudging through wet grass, your feet squelch.
The air in the shed smells of dust and tastes of cobwebs and the earthy damp sends a shiver over your spine. The gnawing in your stomach grows.
Leaving the door open, you rummage for a torch and manoeuvre a chair from between two boxes. For a moment you sit in the semi-darkness, listening to the roof under the rain.
You think about how you followed him once. A Sunday morning, you woke first and waited on the porch. When he came out you begged to go with him but he refused, told you to stay home with mother. He walked in the direction of the river, carrying his fishing gear and you slowly followed, carrying a heavy heart. You kept out of sight, slinking behind trees whenever he looked up. Full of panther like s…

'Dust' by Bridget Arregger

Dr Elizabeth Rictus sat stooped over her desk like a desiccated praying mantis, elongated legs entwined under the bespoke orthopaedic swivelling office chair, elegant long fingers stretched over the keyboard. Her long painted nails would have made typing difficult but they were needed only to hit a few strategic keys before activating the voice recognition software.

Dr Rictus tapped in the letters, ER, selected today’s favoured username from a list of anagrams and watched two more dots add themselves to the row representing her hidden password. She waited the briefest of moments as the website calculated her matches. She had 1000 matches available. Some, unknown to the website, were no longer viable. Her profile stated that she was an historian. Why would she lie? It wouldn’t appeal to all men but she didn’t want all men. She was taller than average; fit, active and very comfortable. She made sure that her photographs showed her luxurious home to its best advantage. There would be men…

'The Idaho Kid' by Darren Seeley

She wouldn't look at me.  Not while this Idaho kid was around.   Only a few weeks ago she was still coming over to my house at least twice a week, and whenever me and Stan turned up at the beach, it was never long before she appeared. Beautiful Kimberley Vaughan with her golden hair and dirty mouth.   We were going to change the world.   Back then in the long days.  We smoked, wrote songs on our thrift store guitars, and slowly planned the revolution.
It was going to be so easy, so inevitable that the good would out, and our new land of opportunity, of peace and love would be born.  Kim and I would get married and make speeches about what was wrong and what was right, and we'd have a family, five kids and a simple house with a small piece of land.  Our destiny fulfilled.
But he changed everything.  His name was Stevie, the Idaho kid,  and Stan said he was here for the whole summer.  He was good looking I had to admit, but real dumb.  All brawn and no brain Ma would say and I tri…

'Fresh Roses' by Zeeshan Ahmed

As she passed through a flower shop, she noticed the fresh roses. She could see droplets of water on those. Fresh roses always reminded her of him. How she used to find fresh roses on her birthday every year. Every year, on her birthday, she would find them on the dressing table in the bedroom. She waited for the roses every year. It was the most beautiful part of her birthdays. A few times she had forgotten her birthday as well, and the roses had reminded her of that. He never forgot her birthday. It all started after their marriage. On her first date with he had taken her to a flower shop and given her a bouquet of roses: all fresh.
It was last year, in fact a month after her birthday, he had passed away. A part of her life had gone away, and she just had to live without it now. It was her birthday in two days, and she knew that there would be no fresh roses anymore. She thought she’d buy some for herself, just to keep his memory alive.
She woke up early on her birthday, as usual. She…

'They Follow Orders' by Jonathan O'Brien

You are a Roman conscript, a Christian forced to fight in foreign wars but they train you well, teach you discipline and how to follow orders so you survive and return to the Nile, to your home.             But you can't settle back into your old life, too much has changed, you have changed. There is no order to things. So you head into the wilderness, away from the disorder of town. Your parents are broken hearted. They had waited so long for your return. You don't look back.             You wander in the desert till you find a teacher, one who walks the path ahead of you. He says his name is Palemon. He is ancient, his skin is old leather and he smells like a dead goat. He lives in a cave. You are so hungry you ask him for help. He takes you in and teaches you how to survive in the desert, how to find water, he teaches you the ascetic discipline, how to find God in everyday things. You follow orders.              Time passes and others arrive from the towns, many of them soldie…