Week Ten Winner: Return Ticket by Image Ronin

“Number 11232242, please go to desk 48.”

Felix lifted himself up from the plastic orange chair that had adhered itself to his skin. Legs complaining, he set off across the vast room, past rows of bright orange chairs, each occupied by a resident clutching a numbered ticket. Envious glances marked his progress across the hall. Felix didn’t care, he was just glad that his number had finally been called.

Behind the polished glass of the cubicle was an attractive young woman. Felix felt his heart sink as his nemesis stirred in his trousers. They were always attractive and young, no matter his self-delusion he knew they saw him only as the balding overweight middle-aged man he knew he was. Her attention was focused on a computer as he approached, Felix went to cough politely but a raised manicured finger halted him mid intake.

Her fingers danced over the keyboard, she was blonde. Why always blonde?

Fucking hell he felt so horny.

“Boarding details?”

“Ah, somewhere and please, call me Felix …”

The look back, a marvelous combination of disdain and boredom stopped him midsentence.

“In the chute …”

“The chute?”

Another malevolent glare, a finger pointing to the brass tube beside the glass.

“Take a tube, put your documents inside.”

Felix clumsily stuffed his documents into the small canister, then watched it disappear up into the ceiling.

Moments later and with an elegant whoosh it dropped onto the desk in front of the girl.

“So …” She perused his documents, “ hmm, you’ve requested a return.”

“Yes, well when the gentleman at arrivals had explained my options, to be honest a return seemed a great deal.”

“Gentleman?”

“Tall, beard … very helpful … handing out brochures.”

Another raised finger; Felix dutifully fell silent as she picked up her phone. Her voice cheerfully melodic as the other person answered.

‘Hi, this is Claire from processing. Sorry seems Peter’s at it again … I know its just we’ll never hit our quotas if he … excellent okay, yeah and you.’

She put the phone down, her warmth fading immediately.

“Well if it was me you’d be getting the standard eternal darkness package, yet seems my hands are tied, so what were you after?”

“Well I was hoping for something a bit more athletic, sporty, I mean it’d be great if I was into running maybe?”

“”Sporty … well lets see, ah yes seems I have something suitable” her eyes lit up at the information on her computer screen, “if you could just place your hand firmly within the square etched on the glass.

Felix lifted his hand. The glass was cold.

“Will this hurt?”

“Probably.”

She hit a button.

White light.

Felix was running across a field, tongue lolling, heart racing, four legs sprinting in unison. He sped through the thick grass that brushed against his fur, a perfect blue sky above him.

A young blonde woman waiting for him, leash in hand.

Maybe this was going to work out after all.

Image Ronin spends most days plotting world domination from his undersea volcano lair located somewhere in Australia. Sadly his megalomania has been recently neglected due to moments of writing flash, washing dishes and generally getting in the way of his wife and children.

You can say hi to him @imageronin

Summer of Super Short Stories Winner…

Karl A. Russell!! Congratulations, Karl! You’ve won bragging rights and a Luminous Creatures Press e-book of your choice!

Thank you to everyone who participated! We’ve really enjoyed running this contest and have been consistently impressed with the amazing work that you’ve produced each week. Stay tuned for future flash fiction contests at Luminous Creatures Press!!

Summer of Super Short Stories Week Ten Winners!

The summer flew by, and we’re nearing the end of the dog days, which is why I chose this photo as our final prompt. My husband Dave took this picture of our dog, Ralphie, one overcast afternoon in Denver while we were visiting his parents. Ralphie had just had a bath, so naturally he had to roll around in the grass for a while. I was curious to see what stories my boy would inspire, and the range was impressive: from love to regret and from revenge to “irreverent deference.”

In “One Lunchtime” Karl A. Russell juxtaposes love and terror—leading us from unrequited love through a staged attack to a delicious afternoon romp. He writes with his usual cinematic clarity and hints of poetry, representing the carnal adventure with a well-placed ellipsis.

Image Ronin’s masterful humor is on display in “Return Ticket,” the story of a man who chooses reincarnation with lovely results. I love the carefully drawn details in this story: the plastic orange chair that sticks to skin and that raised manicured finger of the woman deciding his fate. Such well-placed details draw the reader further into the story just like a cinematic close-up—a perfect technique for flash fiction. Felix makes a great end, returning to life as dog. I’d choose the same thing.

“A Meeting of Pasties” by A. J. Walker is another love story with several layers—not just the potential romance between Ben and Isla but also the love between Karl and Ronin and Karl and Ben. And then there’s the real life layer of “irreverent deference” between A. J. and Karl Russell and Image Ronin—two masters of flash fiction. (I feel the same way about competing against them.) I love the sweetness of this story and the great line “guilt was hitting him faster than the calories.” I’d love to know what happens next.

The dog in Catherine Connolly’s story “Ceremonious Goodbyes” is metaphorical. Through a conversation between attendees at a funeral we learn about the deceased’s dalliance—the old dog—that caused his heart attack. Connolly does a marvelous job telling the story through gossip—leaving plenty of room for the reader to figure things out for herself, which is the mark of a good story.

Gossip also plays a role in Mark A. King’s “When the Mailman Chases Dogs.” Here we have the everyday order of a quiet suburb overturned by the mailman swearing revenge on his canine nemesis. King plays with rhythm and rhyme in lines like “mutts nuts on show grinning like a psycho” (which is a great description of the photo). His references to the hyperbole of social media hit home as well.

David Shakes gives us some marvelous imagery in “Unleash the Dogs of War,” a chilling story about filial revenge. He begins with the writhing dog, a specter of menace for the narrator—a harbinger of what is to come. In the lines: “Illicit meetings and stolen kisses / Smart uniforms and broken hearts / Black news and swelling bellies” he tells an entire story with lovely linguistic economy. The repetition of the line “It’s in his eyes” conveys the narrator’s horror, leaving the reader with gooseflesh.

Strong writing and clarity of imagery mark “Unbound” by Wisp of Smoke, a story about the end of love and regret held at bay. The narrator’s almost jaunty tone belies the reality of his feelings, which are revealed in a last line that punches the reader right in the gut.

And then there’s “Ralphie’s Itch” by fellow Luminous Creature Emily June Street. I’m not ashamed to admit that this beautifully written story left me in tears—in the best way. Emily has the advantage of knowing Ralphie and knowing how Dave and I found him (through the Milo Foundation, a Northern California dog rescue operation). With the simplest of phrases she captures my husband: “the gentle gaze of a slender man with glasses.” And I’m delighted by her description of me as “elfin.”

Voima Oy offers a completely different perspective on the prompt in “I am a Cat.” The feline narrator does not hide her disdain for the humans and dogs of the story. Through a simple juxtaposition of night and day, Voima captures the difference between cats and dogs, cat people and dog people. I’m especially charmed by the line “insomnia and the moon are her familiars,” the cat’s description of her mistress.

Carlos Orozco blends the canine with the feline in his cleverly-titled story “Curiosity Killed The.” He gives us a Hell made of an eternal expanse of green grass, marred only by the appearance of a dead dog named Kat. But the narrator, who doesn’t heed the warning sign, suffers the same fate. I’m left wondering how many bodies will pile up next to that warning sign.

And now for the winners:
David Shakes, 2nd Runner Up
Wisp Of Smoke 1st Runner Up
and this week’s winner:
Image Ronin

Congratulations!! Your story will appear on our blog tomorrow for #Mondayblogs!

Summer of Super Short Stories Week Ten!

Welcome to the final week of Luminous Creatures Press’s first Flash Fiction contest! Beth is back to judge this week.

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 Dave Peticolas

Photo courtesy of Dave Peticolas

Week Nine Winner: The Harbour of London by Mark A. King

I want to swim in the sea, to feel it, to cleanse my sins, to wipe away the viscous blood from my hands. But…I know the sea will kill me, almost as quickly as the authorities will.

My husband was a powerful man. They never approved of me, and now he has lost warmth, they have opportunity and motivation; I will surely get my comeuppance.

I sit and listen to the Thames tide lapping at the edges of the synthetic golden shore. I try to appreciate this folly, this profligate profanity, for soon the whirligig lights will come for me. The frigid-blue and afterburner-red hues will spin their mesmerising spell, penetrating even the dark and seedy shadows of London; then the men with serious faces will take me away.

The Harbour of London houses the oligarchs, the tech-pimps and the puppeteers. I do not belong here. Not many people do. Perhaps this place is the opposite of me. I once was beautiful; once was desirable. I tenderly touch my skin and run my fingers over the bruises, their oil-spill colours and my crackle-glaze scars somehow define me now. I believe he once loved me; if that’s even possible.

I remember his last words, “You’re past your sell-buy date, darling. Damaged goods. Look at you, you’re a mess. You disgust me!”

I didn’t respond. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words. His unused golf clubs are now used: soiled with human tissue and DNA that even Cillit Bang! would struggle to remove. Knowing his friends, the story of the object will only add to its value, only intensify the conversations in the wish-fulfilment dens and substance bars.

I remember when I was his chosen one, “You are stunning. You are amazing. I know it’s crazy, but will you marry me?”

“No,” I told him, “why would you, you could have anyone – why me?”

“It’s because I could have anyone. You are unique, you make me feel incredible. You will do anything for me.”

This was true. This was the problem.

I watch the city from this island of hulking excess. I see the forgotten worker drones, hustling to jobs they hate, sustaining lives measured by meaningless objects. I listen intently to the tide. Beneath the crashing of the incoming waves, beyond the exhale of the moon beckoning back the flow, I hear the fizz, the forgotten fizz – the sound of a million unseen bubbles extinguished and unnoticed. I think about the plight of these people and realise that, perhaps, I am lucky.

The first autonomous hybrid of human and machine. Two point five billion pounds race through my lab-born veins. But…that did not give him an excuse to own me, to make me do those things, to treat me like a object that had to be controlled, debased, abused and subjugated.

Oh…I hear it now. Not the mythical sirens of the deep, these are more artificial and deadly. I remove my human clothing. The water looks cold, refreshing and inviting.

Mark A. King has sung to the Pope, played football for the England Manager, been held at gunpoint, and cooked for royalty, but none of these things were as exciting as winning his first writing competition, on Luminous Creatures. After a decade of inactivity, he has only just started to write again as he felt the need to dedicate something tangible to his beloved mother, now he can do this he’s not entirely sure what to do next. A novel in his head is fighting for freedom.

Mark lives in Norfolk, UK, hiding from the apocalyptic screams of geese. He adores his wife and two children who are the bright centre of his otherwise flaky universe.
Read his embryonic blog here. Follow him on Twitter @Making_Fiction.

Summer of Super Short Stories Week Nine Winners!

What is it about the sea that brings out the poetry in even the most hard hearted of writers? It can be powerfully destructive or pure and cleansing, a Biblical flood or the gentle tide, wiping away our fleeting footprints. It’s said that it gave us all life, and it’s taken away its fare share too. Personally, I find it a terrifyingly alien environment and had I been writing this week, I would have filled the depths with all manner of scary beasts, hungry for my tender flesh…

But instead, we had stories which grasped every poetic possibility of the tide, and showed once again what a talented bunch you are…

Recital by Image Ronin is a reflective, recursive piece, revealing layer upon layer of a mystery buried as deeply as that curious metal box. Ronin offers us no easy solution, leaving us with countless questions and hoping for answers, or at least a few more clues, on the next turn round.

In Cleansing, A J Walker expertly sketches in the distance between his protagonists, revealing a far deeper division than the simple question of where to take their weekend away. When talk turned to a long ago death, I expected a twist ending, a second murder perhaps, but what AJ gave us was altogether sweeter as Robert is drawn away from Belinda’s shores, only to roll in once more.

In The Harbour of London by Mark A. King, a true trophy wife, a rich man’s plaything, takes her revenge on the man who owned and objectified her. The sympathy she shows for the drones suggests that she was perhaps born into that same social class, but the eventual reveal puts a new complexion on the tale’s opening lines, where the clinical lack of emotion makes way for a strange kind of desperate machine poetry.

Dead Sea Lions by Kristen Falso-Capaldi is our darkest tale yet. The unnamed siblings are on the verge of being cut adrift, orphaned to fend for themselves, with as much chance of survival as those titular cubs. While the younger sister is clearly in a bad place, Kristen’s glacial prose gives the narrator a distant, medicated voice, suggesting a far deeper similarity between them, however unacknowledged.

Just Like Jesus by Rasha Tayaket gives us three levels of parental oversight, with a mother, a father and a lord who are all completely blind to the narrator’s pain. Rasha also captures the contradictory nature of the sea, with the marvelously blinkered mother seeing it only as a calming reminder of her late husband, while the narrator sees a far darker potential in the waves.

In his untitled piece, MarmadukeB brings us an intriguing Creation myth, with God and Satan recast as a pair of worldly wise but apparently inconsequential beachcombers. The Tempter does what he does best, leading to a wonderfully understated apocalypse. In a masterstroke, the bird and the bunny start afresh without so much as a backward glance, proving that while they may talk like us, these lords of creation are anything but human.

In The Party To End All Parties, Catherine Connolly gives us our second apocalypse, but concentrates on the ebb tide moments, before it crashes back in. There’s a sense of real regret and romantic longing between the characters, an understanding that they may have missed out on something special that they no longer have time to fully enjoy. It’s a whistful, bittersweet tale, with the turning of the tide an ominous ending.

With a title harking back to Nevil Shute’s classic post apocalyptic novel, Voima Oy subtly clues us in to the fact that her pristine utopia is not all that it seems. Neither, it transpires, are her protagonists, and we pull back through a layer of fake reality to find the broken world it hides. Leaping off from Shute’s tale of a mundane apocalypse, a brief glimpse of a floating city and another mention of Voima’s beloved Mars takes us firmly into Philip K Dick territory, and ensures that this week’s stories end not with a whimper, but a bang…

So, to the decision making. This was tougher than ever. I love SF and time travel, tales about creation and apocalypse are always good in my book, and there’s nothing better in flash than the perfectly observed depiction of a small, human moment, and this week’s stories covered all of those bases and then some.

In the end, on a purely personal basis, the three stories which spoke most deeply to me were:

2nd Runner Up: AJ Walker, Cleansing, for the beautifully wordless capitulation as Belinda understands why they’re there.

1st Runner Up: Kirsten Falso-Capaldi, Dead Sea Lions, for her perfectly controlled and immersive viewpoint.

And the winner: Mark King, The Harbour Of London, for the poetic policemen, the crackle-glaze scars and for using an SF conceit to tell an all too human story.

Congratulations to all and thank you, Karl, for judging this week! Mark’s story will appear on the LCP blog tomorrow in time for #Mondayblogs. Next week, Beth (that’s me) will be back to judge our final round in the Summer of Super Short Stories.

Summer of Super Short Stories Week Nine

Welcome to week nine of Luminous Creatures Press’s first Flash Fiction contest! Our guest judge this week is flash master Karl A. Russell.

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