Showing posts from June, 2016

Coming up, Gasping for Air!

It's done, it's gone, the Flood is over for another year.

But, wasn't it good? Wasn't it?

The stories will, as ever, stay up here for you to read in the months and years to come. This journal has become something amazing with over 254,000 page views at the time of writing, and still most of National Flash-Fiction Day to go. Who knows, by the time the dust settles and you've made your ways through this issue, we may have topped the 300k mark. That is quite amazing, and we thank you for your support, your stories, and for reading all the wonderful words we post.

Thanks also to the amazing Editors: Annette, Sue, Cassandra, Caroline, Shirley and more, who do such sterling work here every time.

The Flood might be over, but the celebrations for National Flash-Fiction Day haven't quite finished.

In Dublin, on Sunday, there is the Flash Dash at Big Smoke. On Monday, Verbose will be flashing in Manchester. And on Tuesday, Paul McVeigh will be hosting a flash workshop in…

Carry Him Safely by Laura Tickle

After the funeral, Dhuka gathers her clothes and goes outside. She throws her robes and dresses onto the floor. The embroidered sleeves, brightly coloured materials and beaded qabbehs are muted by a veil of fine sand.
Beyond the garden and the gate, she sees Manaal approaching. The woman is weighed down by her age and the tin bath in her arms. The hem of her smock is orange with dust. It sweeps the floor as she waddles heavily.
Dhuka does not help Manaal as she struggles to open the gate. Instead, she steps back and loosens the tap under the windowsill. It takes two hands to break the seal of rust, and Manaal drops the bath down just in time to catch the rush of water.
 ‘Like the ashes of his body. May the water carry him safely.’ Manaal says this with her eyes closed in prayer, as she throws black powder into the bath. The dye curlslike smoke as she lowers her hands into the water. She gathers the robes and submerges them one by one.
Dhuka weeps as the dye bleeds into the fabric’s pores,…

Star-Crossed by Sonya Oldwin

He’s throwing another major tantrum – because of Lego. If I’m honest, I’ve had it. I duck to avoid a couple of bricks he’s thrown at the wall. 
‘What’s the problem now?’
‘The pieces. They don’t fit. They’re supposed to fit.’
I check the packaging.
‘No surprise. These were produced in late November while those were made in September. Everybody knows that Sagittarius and Virgo make a bad match.’
‘Oh, Marie, grow up. Astrology’s for teenagers.’
Says the man playing with children’s toys. 
I don’t know the manufacture dates of the pieces. But I know that he’s Virgo. 
And I’m Sagittarius.

Streak! by David Cook

My brother Gus and I ripped off our clothes and raced each other down the road. We ran like the wind, dangly bits flapping freely, waving at the neighbours as we passed. Gus was just behind, desperate to win, but – yes! – I reached the finish line first. I’d won! I raised my arms in victory, giving Mrs Jones a good look at my winkie as she stepped off the bus. It was only then I realised that when dad had said to me and Gus that ‘You two have a competitive streak’, he hadn’t meant it as an instruction.

'No one Knows You Like Your Mother' by A Joseph Black

"Joyce isn't really a 'Burger King' type of person."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, I just wonder if perhaps you might have considered bringing her somewhere slightly more salubrious. When a young lady is taken out to dinner, she doesn't expect to be asked if she wants to 'go large for 30p extra'. That's all."
Martin hid his irritation behind his cappuccino. He had expected his mother's indefatigable attempts to pair him off would abate when he moved out of home and into his miniature city centre apartment. But in fact, if anything, activity had increased. 
Moira, Martin's mother, had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of friends from her golf club, her bridge nights, her charity work - all of whom, it seemed, had at least one single daughter of marriageable age (a concept Moira had stretched to breaking point, and beyond, on more than one occasion) who was bright, funny, pretty and available. In Martin's expe…

Mother Tongue by Alison Lock

The orange fell apart with a single push of the thumb; the segments, juicy and firm, their pungency piercing the air. She let the aroma envelop her in a sweet embrace. Even the cicadas in the long grass were music to her chambered ear. How she had missed them on those cold silent nights when the snow had smothered her world. How she had yearned for the rhythmic clicks that rose to meet the stars with orchestral inclination. It wasn’t her idea, or even her wish. Decisions like that were never made by children. ‘We are no longer a family,’ he’d declared. ‘It is time to go and you are coming with me.’ She opened her mouth to argue but only howls of pain emerged. Of the journey, she remembers only the dark hull on a black sea, waking up to the sound of the ship’s horn echoing against the walls of a foreign harbour. The new home was a place as harsh as the marram was razor sharp, as unforgiving as the barren dunes that were set like concrete in the constant freeze. She always knew she would…

Breathing Space by Joanna Campbell

The little dog is tethered in the sun. From a distance, she has a rough coat. But when I’m close enough to stroke her, inside the pool of her reflection on the slow-baked sand, she is soft.
You tell me not to touch. “Fleas, Simon,” you say.
I drag your case up the hill. So many clothes. All from the cheap shop so you can justify their number, their casual disposability. I hoped you would spend all week in your white swimming costume. But you want changes, multiple changes.
The room disappoints you. The humming fridge disturbs your sleep. The toilet gasps and gurgles. The ceiling fan struggles to stir air thicker than Brown Windsor soup.
“I can’t breathe,” you say.
The little dog cries all night.
You burn on the beach, so you stay in the room. You smother your skin with cream, but refuse to let me baste you. I buy you more lotion—"Too watery, too melon scented"—from the shabby shop. Down the hill, up the hill. You want stifado in a carton. Down to the jaded restaurant, up again. Yo…

'Liberties Taken' by Emmaleene Leahy

Water sloped against rushy banks. We swayed, floating in the boat. Just below the surface flitting minnows shimmered in moonlight. We lay in each other’s arms and watched the stars glinting. Carried away on the optimism of each other, we spun stories together, predictions of our happily ever after entwined in each ending. He was all mine that night.

The seasons changed. A wind rose and whipped up a war of whispers, instilling fear about what was to be found in the distance. Leaves were torn from tormented trees and flung into a defeated frenzy. The waters we had floated on surged and slammed boats together.

Then there was her.

Her, who threw her head back in a fit of dramatic laughter. Her, who flicked her hair teasingly to attract his attention. Her, who distracted him from the tales we had told each other.

As the wind stripped the world, a hunger for him coiled in my stomach and growled with yearning. He drifted away. The distance impossible to judge in diminishing light.

I saved a…

Waiting For An Invitation To Enlightenment by Ally Clark

I have no idea where it came from, and no idea what caused it. But here I am. Totally and absolutely dead flat. But this time it’s weird. It’s like a melancholic acceptance of there being no future. But no, it’s not even that. I’m actually quite enjoying the moment. I feel at peace with the world. I feel in touch with nature. Cliches. Mmm. It’s been a strange few days.

It started with a rush of physical illness. As if i’d had one too many drinks - which I hadn’t. I’d been on top of the world. Felt great. Really chipper in fact. Enjoying the simple pleasure of a walk in a foreign land. Pleasant temperature, the sight of sun trying to break through the clouds. Not a care.

Sure the restaurant was overly warm, but I don’t that could explain the sense of nausea that seemingly pushed the walls towards me. Boxing me in until I had to leave for some air.  Outside I steadied myself against a pillar, but found it did little to prevent the waves sloshing from one side of my head to the other.  …

The Show-off by Seana Graham

Horrid Jack watches us through a knothole in the fence for awhile before
he climbs up to peer over it.
“What’re you doing?” he asks, as if that isn’t obvious.
“Go away,” I say.
“Can I play?”
“No.” That’s Sally, his sister.
“Why not?”
“Because you wouldn’t like it.” I say. Horrid Jack is only interested in
sports or games where you pretend to shoot people or blow things up. This
isn’t one of those kinds of games. “Go find someone else to play with.”
“There isn’t anybody else for miles!”
This isn’t true, but may as well be. If he can’t get in with us, he’ll
have to play alone. And Horrid Jack isn’t really the solitary type.
“We’re having a tea party. You could be the prince,” says Charlotte, my
sister, who loves him.
“Real tea? With cake?”
“No. Pretend.”
“What’s the point of that?” He’s on top of the fence now, balancing his
way along it. “Hey, look! I can reach that tree from here!” He hurls
himself at the limb of the giant oak in his yard and hoists himself up.
We watch for a moment and then go back to o…

'A Mermaid’s Purse Is Also Called A Devil’s Pocketbook' by April Bradley

Clara measures time by tide. The intervals of the spring tide along the shore impose a metronomic order upon her worry. She huddles upon the strand with her knees drawn up against her swelling breasts and gazes at the wrack floating in the channel of tidewater. She listens for a heartbeat she cannot hear. An October squall rakes off the Sound, adorning her with spindrift, feeding her salt. Soon, it will rain, and she must leave to prepare dinner for her husband and their glittering company—glittering company is the most tiresome kind.

There is no more time, so she gives way to despair and hope, secreting this fragile thing away. She rises and stumbles on a Mermaid’s Purse laying in the receding wash. The translucent pillow of the egg case startles her. She races for the parking lot as the storm quickens. She is soaked through, frigid, and as she drives home, she fears the wetness between her legs is blood and loss.

Published in Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, Issue 6, January 201…

Contraband by Paul Beckman

The nightmare man arrives again while I'm still awake. Guard bangs on my cell door and I heft myself out of my bed and waddle my obese body in a fat man's walk over to the metal sink hanging off the wall. He unlocks the door and enters. I no longer have the temptation to look and see him; but I wait for him to smack me in the butt with his night stick and then I drop my underwear and lean over the sink—legs spread—hands intertwined—head resting on my arms. I hear the snap of his rubber glove left on from his other cell visits and try not to tighten up. He probes my anus deep and rough, looking for something he thinks I'm hiding there. He finishes my humiliation and I remain in position while he tosses my cell trying to find the drugs that someone ratted me out for. He flips my mattress—shines his high intensity flash around, rustles through my desk drawer, knocks over my books and checks inside my shoes and clothing. Guard whacks the back of my leg and I stand up and turn…

Rocks by GJ Hart

My death mother and death father are very different to my life mother and life father. I hope I don't come to resent them because of this.

They meet me outside the shopping centre and tell me my clothes are inappropriate. They hand me a carrier bag and tell me to change in the public toilet.

It feels odd to have parents again, certainly parents that appear barely old enough to vote. But they seem confident and accomplished and I am happy to relinquish my liberty to them.

They lead me to their car and I get in. The car is small and fun and smells of wet canvas and lawnmower oil. On the seat next to me is a laminated brochure. On Its front page, an ink drawing of a large house on a small rock.

As they drive me away, my death mother turns and tells me where we are going. I don't listen. I look down at the booklet. I recognise the rock. It is shaped like ginger root and calved from cliffs I climbed one summer in Devon. I remember deck chairs at the river's edge, its banks pocked w…

'In the Spotlight' by Fiona Kyle

When the lights go off, everything changes. The chatter of the audience dulls to a hum then silence. The feeling of anticipation hangs heavy in the air.

The first actor walks confidently across the stage and the audience starts to relax. Backstage, I try not to let my nerves show. I sit still as my make up is applied and concentrate on breathing in and breathing out, once then twice then again and again.

As my time comes closer, I stand in the wings, listening out for my cue. My body teems with adrenaline, desperate to turn and run. But I don’t. My feet carry me on stage step by step until I see the glare of the lights. I open my mouth and start to speak. For a split second which feels like a year, the sound of my own voice distracts me and I can’t remember what to do next. Then I am flying, carried away by the performance, transported. I am not a plain Yorkshire schoolgirl, I am a Siamese princess. When I talk, people listen, when I sing, people smile. The gloomy moors retreat and I …

The Building by T O Davis

"Seriously? You expect me to go in there?" “If you want to join our club,” Chad said. I turned back toward the old Jones’s residence. It was more a tool shed than residence. They had owned the property on Clifton Street for what seemed like eons. Now it was a vacant lot surrounded by red clay hills, kudzu and factories, and even the factories were now empty. I nudged my toes into the red mud, felt it squish and give against my foot; there was honeysuckle in the air, and I savored it for as long as I could. “You going or are you yellow?” Josephine asked. I picked up a dirt clod and flung it at Josephine. Her freckled face went white before she ducked. The clod sailed past her and exploded in a patch of tall grass. A fly buzzed, and I thought I could see its wings move one by one. I took a step closer to the rusted, metal shed. There were no windows, so I would get no sneak peaks. The sun glinted off the tin roof burning my tired eyes. The wind rattled hot and fast stirring up dust…

Water Like A Stone by Fiona J Mackintosh

There’s never any actual snow at Christmas, not round here. Sleigh bells, reindeer, the bloody Snowman on the telly, it’s all just propaganda for this one dismal day.
I’m invited to daughter’s house as per. A good kid, but her posh friends witter on about wine and talk in special voices to me, like they’re on stage. I want to say you’ll be old too one day, you know. 
On the way to the bus stop, I nip into the Paki shop for some smokes. You’re not supposed to call it that anymore, but old habits die hard. The young fella says, “Happy Christmas, mate” as he hands over my change, and I want to ask him, “Is it all as meaningless to you as it is to me?” But no voice comes out.
The cold outside’s a punch in the chest. There’s a crushed lager can in the dead leaf pile in the bus shelter. No one’s about, all indoors with their Yule logs and tinsel. It’s like a piece of plywood over a broken window, this day. The real world’ll still be there when the sherry wears off. 
The driver’s wearing a Santa…

'The Discovery' by Bart Van Goethem

Bha-aal studied the substance that encapsulated him up to his chest. It was bluish, almost transparent. He couldn't move freely in it, like when he walked the earth. The substance created a resistance for his limbs, but not an unpleasant one. In fact, he felt good in it, refreshed. This surprised him, because in his experience, things you didn't know usually got you killed.

He cupped the substance in his hands. How strange. Like nothing is there, but still it is there. Then he turned around to his tribe, standing on the shore. Bha-aal lifted his hands in the air, showing this new, exciting thing he discovered. The members of his tribe nodded and grunted approvingly. And then it happened: Bha-aal closed his hands and the substance splashed his face. Confused he stared at his palms. The substance was gone. Again he cupped his hands and filled the space with the nothingness. Again he closed his hands and again the substance escaped his grasp. He looked back at his tribe, who wer…

Even A Ferryman by Nan Wigington

I put up with the dead. Even when they came empty handed and expected to get across.
Look, I'd say, Hell has its economy. I work. I get paid. An obol, please. Or a piece of your liver, a sliver of your heart. But the dead can be so needy. Who wanted their wailing? I began poling for almost nothing – a leg to gnaw, a golden locket, a feather for my hat, twice a diamond, once a pince-nez.
I suppose it was the war of shapes and stars that did me in. Hermes felt the strain. The first load he brought in a great iron box with iron wheels. So heavy, he could only walk and pull it by its long, silvery tongue. Each step sunk him deeper into the sand. A man with wings brought so low. Huffing and puffing. I stood on my wherry in the reeds and scratched my beard.
When Hermes opened the door, such a stench – bitter almonds, a liquefaction of despair. They all had eyes like hollow furnaces, dark and blazing with hunger and thirst. All wore yellow stars. They had nothing to give me, not even co…

Flight Path by Mandy Huggins

Beyond the pier I watch two men as they repaint the end wall of the new apartment block a startling orange. 

    ‘It’s the geese,’  explains a voice behind me. ‘The block has been built in their established flight path. On a dull day, or in the half-light of dusk, the geese think the grey wall is sky, and they fly into it.’

    I know that it’s you without turning round. 

    I have replayed that winter evening a hundred times. A goose had landed on the bridge, stunned after clipping a streetlight. As the skein flew on down the river, it staggered, bewildered, caged in by railings and relentless traffic. It had no runway.

    You walked towards me and our eyes met. Without a word you took off your coat and threw it over the bird. We lifted it swiftly to the top of the railing, held it steady for only a moment, and then stood back. As it took off, its wings and underbelly were up-lit by the street lamps, aglimmer against the darkening sky. We smiled, suddenly a little awkward, and mumbled …

'Honour Maid' by JACQUELINE PYE

It’s the village festival in St Anselm, and young hearts are fluttering. The girls are hopeful but their admirers fear the worst. The lord always chooses the Honour Maid, relishing the rights it brings him. He is fair of face and of means; many girls would pay the price for the Honour. But sometimes that price is higher than just one night in his bed. Matilde is vomiting weeks after being crowned. With the freedom of all the village fare on offer, she takes little yet grows ever larger. Two months before her time, the pains become vile, and the poor baby boy is stillborn from her young-teen body. Her parents weep, perhaps more for loss of the lord’s financial support than for Matilde who has years for childbearing. He has been generous to his Maids in the past. According to custom, the carpenter gouges a hole in the trunk of an oak. The part-formed babe is wrapped in white linen and sealed in the tree while the preacher intones: St Anselm, take this infant in your name, to nourish th…

Meanderson by Beret Olsen

Marty Anderson didn’t exist for me during the first weeks of Philosophy 101. He was not yet “Meanderson,” so dubbed after his first exploration of my mountainous regions. He was just one of twenty-nine other students in the room. Wedged in my desk chair, I doodled in the margins of my notes, thinking not of Aristotle or Kant but of the kind of person I had been in high school:defined. Now my map splayed outward, endlessly, to include any road, any destination. But as October’s fiery breath enflamed the maples, I noticed the lanky one sitting catty-corner from me. Once I did, he appeared magically wherever I went. He was there in my periphery in the dining hall, in the walkways, always on the threshold of my consciousness. Was his proximity on purpose? I wondered, suddenly and excruciatingly hopeful. The effect of his small details accumulated into a sort of harmonic tremor within me—his slightly parted lips, the angle of his jaw, the way his bookless arm swung with his loping stride. …

Crocodile Friend by Agnes Marton

3 March, 2015
It took me 243 days to tame Frédi. He has always been mesmerized by my voice. I tell him tales and lullabies while we swim. He keeps asking for more. Sometimes he splashes, slaps his tail back and forth, breaks whatever he reaches. I’m teaching him how to shape the trunks. It becomes his way to tell me stories. He uses his teeth too for piercing and holding onto the flesh of trees. Then he carries these torsos, proud.

18 September, 2015
Tuesday: pot-roast pheasant with chorizo, butter beans and parsley, figs with honey-orange mascarpone. Wednesday: whistling with dolphins. Again his message: “you made my day.” Is it the best part, or figuring out the next treat? Something I can’t afford so I wouldn’t choose for myself but if it’s for his sake, I don’t mind breaking piggy-banks. Something unheard of, against your boring ‘How to keep your reptile.’ Even better when the surprise is handmade, I fold booklets and scrawl my spells in. It works, those words keep away enemies and …

'The Women of Troy' by Jane Roberts

When rosy-fingered Dawn dances over the rocky outcrops, the women of Troy are washing the undergarments and tunics of the Trojan soldiers in the river. They cleanse war from the wool fibres with practised fingers.

The women of Troy are given pathetic epithets by the Great Poet in his epic. Weeping and wailing, the women of Troy wash. Wretched wailing and weeping. Still the women of Troy wash the undergarments and tunics of the soldiers in the river.

Up in the palace there is weeping and wailing. Queen Hecuba. Cassandra. Andromache. The Woman of Troy – lovely-haired Helen – who is not from Troy, yet will define this city for eternity. None of these women have yet washed the undergarments and tunics of the men who fight this war. These women will be heard crying from the lofty battlements of Troy, beseeching both gods and enemy to spare their kith and kin. Down below, where the misfired pleas fall leaden onto the ever-death-hungry, blood-libated earth, the women of Troy are washing the…

Postcard by Kate Mahony

“She’s not dead, you know,” a voice beside me says. The woman sharing the park bench in Kensington Palace Gardens has been observing me write on the back of a postcard. Years have passed since that immeasurable worldwide torrent of grief. Even so less than fifteen minutes ago, I’d found myself unable to walk past that famous face on a display of vintage cards at a Bayswater Road stall. “Diana’s not dead.”  The woman shifts on her thighs and re-settles herself on the bench, a faint unidentifiable smell exuding from her dirty grey overcoat. Really, I can’t help myself when it comes to Diana. You have had to be around in her time to understand the mesmerising effect she had on people. “Oh?” “She wasn’t in that coffin.” “Oh?’ Despite myself, I am intrigued. The woman eyes me steadily, holding me fast with her gaze. “No. She’s in a mental institution.” The tone is matter of fact. “Under lock and key.  They’ve kept it from everyone.” She gives me time to consider this, turning her attention to a m…