Week Six Winner: Of Earth and Stone by David Gentner

Those who lived in the quiet hamlet had long forgotten the original purpose of the colossal gray stones standing in the neighboring pasture. No trees grew near them; no moss or lichen gathered upon their smooth surfaces. But the air was always fresh, and the lush green of the hilltop always appeared dappled with sunlight, even on the most overcast of days. It had become a place of celebration: a place where they could rejoice in their blessings, mourn their losses, or where one could simply lie, alone, and feel complete.

The Vernal festival had concluded and crops were being sewn in the freshly tilled soil when the missionary returned. He had been there before, always claiming their ways evil and idolatrous. He spoke of sin and salvation, promising everlasting life in exchange for obedience. But to the villagers, it was nothing more than the buzzing of cicadas. The simple folk saw no reason to change when they were already so content. This time, however, he did not come alone. This time, he brought strange men with horse drawn carts loaded high with metal tools and instruments that glistened in the sun. Windows were shuttered and doors barred, in hopes that these men were simply passing through, but the villagers were disappointed to see the tents assembled on the outskirts of town.

The following days brought frigid rain and tenacious winds, and as thunder mingled with the din of the men beginning their work, the air grew rank with the fumes of the blacksmith’s forge. Not long after, one bewildering night, many of the locals were woken by great rumblings in the earth. Mothers consoled their weeping children as fathers went to investigate the source of the disturbance. As a group, they approached the clearing where the stones stood. An enormous pyre had been built, illuminate the area. Hideous shadows flickered and danced on the cracked and crumbled remains of the sarsen. Men had climbed atop them and were reducing them to rubble with hammers and picks, their sweat shimmering in the fire’s light.

Gradually the stones were fragmented into smaller bricks, and construction of a diminutive structure began. The missionary was overjoyed, yet his men grew uneasy. Stories circulated of curious grinding, scraping noises late at night. Large piles of unused bricks were found piled high where the stones had once stood, and many of the workers left after one of them became hysterical, claiming he had woken, choking, his mouth filled with the dust created by the boulders’ destruction.

Despite the many setbacks, the structure was completed in time for the Autumnal festival, and the villagers gathered in the clearing to celebrate their harvest, meager though it was. In place of their familiar stone circle stood a cold, dark chapel. And, as the missionary stood in the archway, arms outstretched to welcome them, the building shivered once, as if it were chilled, and the keystone slid out of the arch and crushed his fragile skull.

David Genter lives in a suburb of Chicago, IL, where, just two months ago, he and his husband Eric purchased their first home. David is a jack of all trades, running anywhere from wine making/drinking to soap making/lathering, but he’s always enjoyed writing the most. Unfortunately, David has a hard time finding focus with so many ideas running through his head, so most of them die early on. David isn’t working on any big projects, or websites, but he would like to prove to anyone that submitting stories to these types of challenges is worthwhile, even if your vocabulary runs dry after 150 words. When David started his story for last week’s image of the woman with the fruit, he didn’t think he would submit it. It was something he wrote just to prove to himself that he could. When it was finished, he really liked it, so he submitted it. That was enough to convince him to try again. Seven days later, David found himself writing the beginning, middle, and end of a world… And who knows what he’ll be writing next Thursday. The point is to try. Where’s the harm in it? Just see it through to see where it takes you.

Summer of Super Short Stories Week Six Winner!

Hello friends!

You are all writers after my own heart. You took a lovely pastoral photograph and turned it into something ominous. I enjoyed all of the stories, and was a bit jealous I hadn’t come up with one or two of them. ;)

Golden Afternoon – Poor Adam, all he wanted was to enjoy one last golden afternoon before the end of the world. Impatient Eva made sure it was the last thing he would enjoy. I liked the choices Carlos made regarding his character’s names; whether it was his intent or not, I rather enjoyed seeing Genesis unmade.

Country Air – I really enjoyed this one. It reminded me a lot of one of my favorite stories by Stephen King, Jerusalem’s Lot, which is also told in an epistolary fashion. If you haven’t read it, you should. The tone was slightly uneven—bouncing back and forth between excitement (inviting another friend to join her) and unease/fear (wanting to leave)—which made me wonder how the character was really feeling about her visit, but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless.

After – So much is implied in this piece of flash, the truth hiding in peripheral shadows. I am dying to know exactly what has happened, but at the same time, I think this is a case where knowing too much would ruin the atmosphere. Suffice it to say that something bad—very bad—is going down, and that those auburn curls and freckles and not nearly as innocent and adorable as they sound. I’m kinda glad I didn’t see what was behind the door.

Speaking of innocent…

Innocence – The last line of this piece freaks me out. When you rob something of its center, leaving a vacuum in its place, what indeed remains to fill the void? Things that like to dwell in dark places, methinks. I have no sympathy for this narrator—as he said in the first line, he deserved what he got—the only sadness I feel for him was the sadness that his torment might soon be over. I hope the children are still waiting for him in the darkness.

Of Earth and Stone – This one struck a strong cord with me, perhaps because of the current political climate here in the States. It pissed me off. I’m not anti-religion, but I am strongly anti-force-others-to-live-by-your-religous-beliefs, and I think that is why this piece spoke so strongly to me. I was glad that the missionary was crushed by his own labor, it was a satisfying ending for a story that too-often in the real world, doesn’t quite play out that way.

My choice for winning story this week goes to Of Earth and Stone. The whole point of writing is to make your reader feel something, and though I enjoyed all the stories this week, David Gentner’s tale of paternalism evoked the strongest emotional response for me. Well done.

Thanks much, Beth, for letting me judge this week. It’s a tough gig, but every time I judge I feel like I learn a bit more about being a writer. It’s a wonderful exercise. Thanks David, Karl, Jacki, Voima and Carlos for sharing your stories this week. Keep writing!

Rebecca J. Allred

Thank you, Rebecca! And congratulations, David! Your story will appear on our blog tomorrow morning, just in time for #mondayblogs.

Summer of Super Short Stories Week Six

Welcome to week six of Luminous Creatures Press’s first Flash Fiction contest! Our guest judge this week is Rebecca J. Allred of The Angry Hourglass.

You have until 6 pm (PST) on Saturday to submit a 500-word story based on the prompt picture below. Post your story in the comments section; include your name, a title, the word count (not including title), and your Twitter handle if you’ve got one. Only stories submitted before the deadline will be eligible to win. We’re on San Francisco time; check the world clock if you have any questions. Good luck!!

Photo courtesy of Beth Deitchman

Photo courtesy of Beth Deitchman

Week Five Winner: Same Time, Next Year by Voima Oy

In the remote countryside, there are places that still observe the old ways. It is only recently that we have begun to welcome visitors. But, that’s the way the world is, these days. Times change, like the weather.

In the summer, we have a holiday for hungry ghosts. It is not the Buddhist concept, though. Based on Shinto, this celebration is even older than Obon and Tanabata, but it’s also about love and death and meetings.

The streets are hung with strings of colored lights and lanterns. There is dancing and talking until the stars fade in the light before dawn. Houses are decorated. Favorite meals are prepared.

We await the stars–the summer triangle of Altair, Deneb and Vega, forming a gateway that opens. We beat great drums to chase away the dark clouds, and summon our loved ones back to this world.

The other world is different, they say. Time is slower, too. It takes a while to adjust. A year here is like a day there, a summer afternoon. For them, this reunion is like coming home from a day in the fields, as lights turn on in the evening.

And at last here they come, a parade at dusk, just in time for the first fireflies. Walking down the roadway, one by one, all the dead lovers, and husbands and wives. They have put on silk outfits, and bodies. They have dressed for the festival, just for us.

At first, they are so hungry for this world. Their eyes try to take it all in. They admire the lights and colors. They cannot eat and drink enough.

They miss the weight of their bodies, the feel of skin. These first reunions have such sweetness. There is much touching without words. What is there to say? Which one will speak first?

The night passes so quickly. No one has time for sleep. All too soon, the first birds sing as the light returns. Bodies entwined, untangle. Some are so reluctant to leave. You can imagine there are many tearful partings. Sometimes, even arguments.

But now it is time to go, before the sun rises. We accompany our loved ones to the edge of town. Same time, next year, we’ll be laughing together, we promise each other. There is much waving and backward glances. At last they turn and walk into the light of the new day. We watch them until they are out of sight before we go back to our lives.

But in time, our loves grow tired of this world, the constant coming and going. So much fuss! Too many new people to remember. Why get all dressed up? The bodies become too heavy, and the lights begin to hurt their eyes. The food is just too much. They grow lighter, more transparent, more distant. Our fingers go right through them, as they disappear at dawn.

About the Author:

In real life Voima Oy lives in Oak Park, IL on the western edge of Chicago, south of the expressway and the elevated train line.

She has written short forms for years–poetry, prose poems and very short stories. She loves the possibilities of twitter and flash fiction!

She also has a blog, Chicago Weather Watch, where she writes about life, nature and weather.

Summer of Super Short Stories Week Five Winners!

This week’s photo inspired a surprising range of entries, from Voima Oy’s lyrical description of a festival of the dead, to David Gentner’s legend of a dumpling-starved dragon, to Jade Moss’s reflection on a young woman’s physical and emotional displacement. Even those entrants who set their stories in an imagined Chinatown explored different details of the prompt, like the “No Parking” sign (Joshua Swainston), the evening light and the movement on the street (C. Connolly), and the rather prominent barricades (Karl Russell).

Several authors played with the “twist,” or surprise ending. Brett Milam’s was perhaps the most disturbing, even as his chiropractor’s psychopathy is evident upon a re-reading. David Gentner’s mustachioed, green-robed stranger at the door convinces the cocky young protagonist, Chen—and the reader—that there may be something to his grandfather’s slavish devotion to legend. C. Connolly draws her reader into a dream state—or was it real? And David Shakes pulls a switcheroo on his audience akin to that experienced by his mysteriously healed hero.

In a notable point of overlap, Karl Russell, Voima Oy, Jade Moss, and Joshua Swainston meditate on relationships, but even these range from the quotidian to the quirky. Swainston’s readers wonder who really wins the debate over civic order, the “authoritarian armadillo” who polices Portland drivers, or Paul the scofflaw, intent on getting his pregnant wife some Chinese takeout. We strain along with Karl Russell’s Michael to piece together details of his life from his estranged wife Allie, who remembers it all because she has not yet been infected by whatever lurks within the mysterious holes appearing in English cities.

What an entertaining bunch of stories! Even so, two of this week’s submissions hit me hard (in a good way). The runner-up is “We Come and Go” by Jade Moss. I’m a sucker for a good line, and in Moss’s story that line is, “I want to be crushed by the weight of something unfamiliar.” It conveys the protagonist’s desire to be somewhere else, with someone else, even as she is present enough in the here and now to know how to spell “Zushi” in Japanese and that Thomas loves her “in a reckless sort of way.” Moss probes the woman’s state of mind, and we understand how she’s gotten here: Thomas’s allegiance has shifted; the setting has changed; beach sand is no longer romantic when it’s stuck to the soles of your feet. And then the lovers step off the train, and they are not where they think they are. Is this the unfamiliar? Is this what the woman wants?

The winning submission is “Same Time, Next Year” by Voima Oy, a story about how the living and the dead adjust and adapt themselves to loss. In Oy’s imaginary, the dead move on, but the rest of us do not, and somehow this idea seems so sad and just about right. I’m impressed by the elegance and economy of Oy’s prose. Take this part, for example: “And at last here they come, a parade at dusk, just in time for the first fireflies. Walking down the roadway, one by one, all the dead lovers, and husbands and wives. They have put on silk outfits, and bodies.” Oy’s writing is poetic, really. Images unfold in the imaginations of her readers, and her fireflies become our fireflies, and her dead become our own. It’s a beautiful story, one I will remember.

I have enjoyed being a guest judge in this week’s flash fiction competition, and I thank Beth and Emily of Luminous Creatures Press for inviting me to play along. Keep writing, everyone!

Many thanks to our judge, Tiffany Aldrich MacBain!

Summer of Super Short Stories Week Five

Welcome to week five of Luminous Creatures Press’s first Flash Fiction contest! This week Tiffany Aldrich MacBain will be your judge!

You have until 6 pm (PST) on Saturday to submit a 500-word story based on the prompt picture below. Post your story in the comments section; include your name, a title, the word count (not including title), and your Twitter handle if applicable. Only stories submitted before the deadline will be eligible to win. Our server has been having some problems, so if you cannot get onto the website to post your story, send it to beth@luminouscreaturespress.com by 6 pm Saturday. This week we’ll also be posting the prompt and instructions to our Facebook page. LCP is on San Francisco time; check the world clock if you have any questions. Good luck!!

Photo courtesy of Dave Peticolas

Photo courtesy of Dave Peticolas