Winter of Whimsy & Wyrdness Week Three

Welcome back to our winter flash story arena. This week’s photograph was requested by Beth. It is called Zingaro, by Ozan Uzul.

Submissions of 500 words or less are due in the reply section of this post by Saturday at 6 pm PST. Stories considered for the anthology must contain some element of magic or the supernatural. See complete contest rules here.

zingaro

*image courtesy of freeimages.com

For Mittens by Holly Geely

“Isn’t raising the dead a job for nighttime?” Stephen asked.

Jeff chose one of the perfect rows of tombstones, and counted fifteen in. He beckoned for Stephen to follow.

“Well? How are you going to make a zombie before noon?” Stephen’s tone was sardonic rather than amused.

“Have you done it before?” Jeff asked.

“No.”

“Exactly. Shut up.”

Jeff emptied the cloth bag onto the grave. He had a sharp knife, a bouquet of red roses dipped in black paint, an assortment of gemstones and the skull of a cat. The skull still made his stomach twist when he looked at it.

“That looks like a pile of junk,” Stephen said.

Jeff regretted bringing a non-believer. The equipment was sinister enough to belong to necromancy and a believer would never have questioned it.

Stephen was only half-right, anyway.

“Do you want to do this or not?” Jeff asked.

“It sounded like fun last night when I was drunk, but now it’s just stupid,” Stephen said.

“Go home if you want.” Jeff always gave them a last chance.

“I’ll stick around. You’re my ride home.”

As far as assistants went, Stephen was among the worst. Jeff had met plenty of others who enjoyed the process. He couldn’t remember what had made him choose this one last night in the bar; he’d been more than a little drunk himself.

Jeff lifted the skull and turned the empty eye sockets to face Stephen.

“Touch the skull,” Jeff said.

Stephen rolled his eyes and stuck two fingers in the holes.

Jeff grabbed his wrist with what must have seemed a surprisingly strong grip.

“Don’t touch Mittens,” he said. He could tell Stephen was rattled, and rightfully so. Even non-believers could sense when the power was in the air.

“Let’s get this over with,” Stephen said.

Jeff placed both palms on his chosen grave. His arms tingled all the way up to his elbows.

“Read it,” Jeff said, nodding to the headstone.

“Here lies…” Stephen paused. “Is this some kind of sick joke? That’s my name.”

Jeff kissed the top of Mittens’ bald head. He released the tingles into the empty space where her brain had once been.

His father would disapprove of him using the magic this way. “It’s family only,” he’d say. Mittens was family enough for Jeff. Besides, Jeff had already delivered plenty of bodies for Father; he deserved one of his own.

“A soul for a soul,” Jeff said.

“What?”

Jeff picked up the sharp knife and buried it in Stephen’s left eye. He was an expert by now and his chosen didn’t live long enough to scream.

He went back to the car for the shovel. He buried the body with the gemstones and painted roses. It wasn’t necessary, but he didn’t feel like carrying them home.

Mittens rubbed up against his leg and he stroked her soft fur lovingly.

“I’ll raise Father again tomorrow,” Jeff told her. He didn’t have the heart to murder someone else so soon.

Follow Holly on Twitter: @hollygeely or read more of her stories at: hollygeely.wordpress.com

Winter Of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Two Winners

Our prompt picture this week was a film still from a movie called Recurrence, which is currently showing in the Lucerne International Film Fest. Directed by Marc Schicili and Brady Wedman, the movie is an abstracted, modern retelling of an early flash fiction, An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce. Originally published in 1890 and weighing in at less than 4000 words, the Bierce story was flash before flash was popular. Not to mention the story contains the mother of all plot twists.

Side note: wouldn’t many flash fiction stories make great short films?

Our image shows the National Cemetery at the Presidio in San Francisco, California, which holds the graves of American veterans and their family members.

It was a tough week for judging. So many of the stories had great concepts. Emily had to get out the rubric again.

Honorable Mention: For Mittens, Holly Geely

Here we have a classic example of strong flash: a clear story arc with a central conflict, a single well-described scene with economy of language, and of course, the creep factor: “Jeff always gave them a last chance.” Add a zombie cat and what’s not to like? Perfectly balancing darkness and humor, Geely staged this story expertly, displaying authorial confidence and panache. This one wins the sprezzatura prize of the week. Read it on our blog tomorrow.

Anthology Winners:

Growing Pains, David Borrowdale: David offered a vivid and memorable interpretation on this week’s prompt—seeing teeth instead of gravestones in this tale of the tooth fairy’s origins. We love a story that drops a reader right into its action and doesn’t give away all its secrets at once. Little details like Alice’s dancing pigtails and the predatory canines paint a clear picture of the setting. Written with a light hand, this story hints instead of shows, leaving room for the imagination to fill in the gaps between teeth.

Nothing Personal, Nancy Chenier: Nancy’s first line brought us fully into the story—enticing our senses with beautiful descriptions of the alchemist’s art. In the way of a true storyteller, she doles out information bit by bit, keeping us hooked until the very end. The complexity of the idea suggests that this could be the seed of a larger work. We expected disturbing stories from the graveyard picture, and this one took the cake for wyrdness. We’re still pondering the ramifications of multiple selves in parallel universes.

Potential Energy, AJ Walker: This story pushed edges in many ways: subject matter, characterizations, imagery. There is an art to developing characters in only five hundred words, and AJ managed that beautifully here, not only with the grave robbers but also with the off-stage characters of the wytches (love the spelling!). Balancing sweet imagery with dark creepiness, the story sticks in the mind. We remain worried about the potential of those Gaimanesque wytches.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Mark A. King: What bold choices Mark used: second person, multiple eras, balancing repetition with advancing story-line, painting in broad strokes that nonetheless locate us in time. Mark’s story straddles the line between prose and poetry with startling poise. We especially appreciated the depth of thematic layers in this one—religion, war, god, beliefs. A truly unique take on the prompt.

If you are a new anthology winner, please email: emily at luminouscreaturespress dot com

Thanks to all who participated and gave us such a wealth of stories to read!

 

Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Two

Welcome to week two. Our picture prompt this week is an image called Recurrence, by Brady Wedman. Submissions of 500 words or less are due in the reply section of this post by Saturday at 6 pm PST. Stories considered for the anthology must contain some element of magic or the supernatural. See complete contest rules here.

cemetery

Hands of a Charlatan by Chris Milam

I ate clocks in the beginning. My therapist said it might help, she said I had nothing to lose.

They don’t taste all that bad, a hint of manufactured bitterness on the palate, but I have an iron stomach, so I chomped away. Digital, mechanical, quartz, atomic, water, cuckoo, and analog; a cornucopia of time that I placed between my desperate teeth. I even consumed sundials and hourglasses. They didn’t cure me. Nor did therapy.

I tried surgery next. After extracting my heart, which the surgeon said was fatigued and bathed in shadows, he placed an alarm clock in the gaping hole then stitched me up with his finest synthetic thread. My pulse was in tune with the tick tocking, creating a melody of synchronized clock-beats. A shrill bell would vibrate against my ribcage randomly, a plastic quake to snap me out of the doldrums. It was more annoying than anything else. It didn’t fix me, but I never overslept.

I tried living in a massive grandfather clock after that. It wasn’t cheap and it took months to arrive from Germany, but it was worth a shot. I had to curl up in the fetal position to fit inside, which seemed appropriate, I didn’t mind. Polished cherry wood is pretty to look at, and that brass pendulum was rather majestic, but it was too loud in there. To be honest, grandfather wasn’t the quietest of fellows. Every hour on the hour, a thunderous bong would roust me from my stupor. There were just too many creaks and monotonous chimes for it to be any sort of remedy. I only lasted two weeks inside that chamber of gears. If you look close, you can still see my claw marks.

My neighbor, Claudia, is an amateur magician. Nothing revolutionary or anything, she uses steel rings, playing cards, and black top hats. She does the occasional children’s birthday party and the kids seem to believe that she is the housewife version of Houdini.

I told her about my dilemma yesterday. She nodded excitedly and said she could help me. She told me she needed a keepsake to make the trick work properly; something cherished, something that was smeared with the residue of grief. I told her I would bring Hannah’s Movado bracelet watch that I had given her on our first anniversary. It was stainless steel with rose-gold plating. She used to wear it everyday, her delicate wrist burdened by the weight of caustic love. She eventually removed it and placed it in a jewelry box, an ornate coffin for lost things. Claudia said to bring it over tomorrow along with her forty dollar fee.

I’m not hopeful that whatever illusion she has planned for tomorrow will work. They say time heals all wounds, but maybe that’s a myth only fools believe. I’ve tried everything to diffuse the sorrow, a yearlong journey of failure. My belly is full of clocks, but the pain is still there. And Hannah is still gone.

Follow Chris on Twitter @Blukris or on wordpress: http://wispofsmokemilam.wordpress.com/

 

 

Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Wone Winners!

Happy Sunday! We spent the day deliberating over the brilliant entries we received this week. Christian Miller’s striking photo prompt inspired a lovely variety of stories, all with special touches of magic.

If you are interested in seeing more of Christian’s work you can follow him on instagram, call sign “bookworm7219.” The prompt photograph was taken, as some of you may have guessed, at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The Musée building began its life as a railway station; Emily’s story for this picture, which you will see in the anthology, involves the clock in its actual habitat at the Musée.

We are happy to report that we selected three stories for the anthology this week, as well as one honorable mention that will be posted on our blog tomorrow. Anthology winners, please send Emily an email so she has your contact information for publishing logistics:

emily at luminouscreaturespress dot com

 

Honorable Mention: Hands of a Charlatan, by Chris Milam @Blukris

This piece captivates with its lush language, rich imagery, and a compelling opening premise. The voice of the protagonist shines and brings us down to the intimate and bittersweet end.

Anthology Winning Stories, in no particular order:

The Mistress of Neglected Time by Nancy Chenier @rowdy_phantom

We fell in love with this story and it’s endearing protagonist, 8:43. Well-crafted and satisfying like cool butter on warm bread, it pulled out all the stops. Nancy used such dynamic verbs, clear details, and evocative images; we were helplessly pulled under her bittersweet spell. The blending of the ordinary with the magical echoed a desire to find magic in a mundane world. Highlights of the gorgeous imagery: a gibbous moon peering through the clock face, 8:43 getting his toes tangled in a lace tablecloth, and the Mistress wearing a floral housecoat. And the ending’s poignancy will linger with readers long after they finish the story.

The Almanac of Kinks in Reality by Jacki Donnellan @Donnellanjacki

From the title to the last line, we adored this story, and we defy anyone to resist that delicious first line. We were roped in with Jacki’s full bodied characters and fast pacing, enchanted by verisimilitude amidst a magical storyline. This story also exemplifies great flash fiction: it has a clear arc, well-developed characters, a conflict, and a resolution—all in only 500 well-chosen words. True sprezzatura.

The Collector by David Borrowdale @MicroBookends

With undertones of horror, this story snuck inside our heads and took root like that dangerous first rule, leaving us thinking about it long after our multiple readings. Just enough foreshadowing enticed the reader and led to a satisfying conclusion structured with the tightness of fitted gears. The story concept was well-executed, and the clever structure really made the piece. We always love to see a strong villain.

Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all who participated. We hope to see you again next week!