Monthly Archives: July 2014

Week Four Winner: The Paths Divergent by Karl A. Russell

We walked through the Doubling Woods, my Ghost Girl and I, marching in time to an inner beat, a rhythm known only to us. Matching breath for breath.

One of us raised a hand in greeting, and one of us returned it, but neither could know which was which.

We walked in companionable silence, beneath twinned boughs and mirrored blossom, to the sound of dopplered birdsong, and it seemed an endless, pleasing pathway.

Until we came to the clearing and the splitting point and the paths divergent. We stood a while, my Ghost Girl and I, and we thought on the choices ahead.

To go on, along the paths, into deeper, darker, solitary woods, where our breaths would no longer match?

Or to stay, side by side, in the clearing? No shade, no shelter, no chance of destination’s rest, yet still, together; Matching breath for breath.

She made to speak, to break the silence and to argue for or against, but all I heard was the echo of my own voice, ringing in my ears. I moved to sit, to rest and think, but found her sitting also, occupying my space.

We collided, my Ghost Girl and I, repelling each other with equal charge and we leapt apart, crying out in unified pain.

The idea took us both together and we turned like clockwork figures, hoping for the safety of retreat, but we found only greenery, lush and thick and impenetrable. There was no way back to where we had been before.

We faced each other again, my Ghost Girl and I, my tears rolling down her cheeks, hers down mine, unable to hear each other’s sorrow over the roar of our own. Matching breath for breath.

And so at last we turned again to the paths divergent, Unable to stay and to settle, barred from the unity of the past, we turned away from each other, there in that clearing beneath the sky, and we each took our first, hesitant steps apart.

I took the left and she the right, footsteps falling in perfect unison, watching each other through gaps in the foliage, longing for the paths to converge once more, to reunite us at some unknown point in the future.

But the way curved ever wider, the brush deeper, the cushioning fall of old growth deadening all sound.

And when I realised that I could hear but one voice, one footfall, one breath, I fell to my knees and I wept. And I know that she did too.

But it passed, and I rose and returned to my path, and I know that she did that too. And though I can no longer see her or hear her, I know that we are on similar journeys, my Ghost Girl and I. I know we shall not meet again, nor walk again in step to our shared rhythm, but I know that as I move on, she does too.

One step at a time.

Breath matching breath matching breath.

Karl A. Russell comes from the North West of England, where he lives with his wife and five year old daughter (his toughest critics). He’s been writing on and off for his whole life, but only started to actually finish and submit things a couple of years ago, when the spectre of turning 40 started looming in the not too distant future. He can be found most weekends posting at Flash! Friday and The Angry Hourglass.

Karl is currently working on a novel, which he might get to the end of this time, if he doesn’t waste all his spare moments on Twitter. If you want to read more of his work, his pay-what-you-want charity collection is available here.

Summer of Super Short Stories Week Four Winner!

Our prompt photo this week depicted a dreamy forest scene, and so I was not surprised to read hypnogogic stories full of forest creatures, the shades of bittersweet memories, and changelings.

I loved the clash of “urban smells and adult sensibilities” with the fairytale heaven for lost children in Casey Rose Frank’s story, “Him.” This story balanced its two sides, the weight of loss and image of the idyllic forest, with graceful aplomb.

Voima Oy’s fae wedding of forest creatures conjured vivid images—a parade of hares and squirrels, bouquet-toting raccoons, and of course the green-eyed cat bride with her veil of spiderwebs. The cast of characters gave this story life and motion.

The winning story this week is Karl A Russell’s well-crafted “The Paths Divergent.” The rhythmic, poetic cadence enhanced the bittersweet subtext, and I truly felt the heaviness of our narrator’s steps down the divergent path as he left his “ghost girl.”

Congratulations to Karl and thank you to everyone who participated this week.

-ejs

Summer of Super Short Stories Week Four

Welcome to week four of Luminous Creatures Press’s first Flash Fiction contest! Luminous Creature Emily June Street returns for another week of judging.

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. LCP is on San Francisco time; check the world clock if you have any questions. Good luck!!

Photo courtesy of Laura Lynn Lukens

Photo courtesy of Laura Lynn Lukens

Week Three Winner: The Strange Machine by Voima Oy

And then, one day, the numbers changed. Pi became a pattern, repeating. Then, things got really strange.

Before that, Emi was a model, a face in trendy magazines. In real life, she was fond of red fingernails, black cats and black dresses. She had just bought a rehabbed loft in the warehouse district. She loved the white and empty space, the light from the floor to ceiling windows.

Many artist types lived in the neighborhood, and that’s how Emi met the diLunas, Vasco and Rae. Emi could tell they would become good friends. Rae was charming and talkative. Vasco was more quiet, but she liked him, too.

One evening, they invited her over to their place. They lived just down the street, in an older, less-improved building. They had cats, and lots of room to work in. They made all kinds of unique and useful things.

The space was filled with their eccentric objects. Suspended from the high ceiling was what looked like a skeleton of some strange creature in flight.

“I have to ask,” Emi said. “What is it, a bird, a dragon, a whale? ”

“Yes!” Rae smiled in delight. “It is also a light fixture. I am so glad you enjoy it.”

“Oh, I love your work!” Emi danced from piece to piece. Wood, steel, polished bones. She was imagining these creations in her own new place. She had never seen anything like them. “Do you sell these things?”

“Of course. We do commissions, too.” Rae said, whirling around the room.

“Whatever you would imagine.” Vasco added, his arms outspread, as if he were about to take flight.

“Could you?” Emi said. “Why don’t you surprise me!”

So, that’s how it started, anyway, pleasantly enough. In no time, the three of them were inseparable, doing everything together.

Then, one day, Vasco and Rae delivered Emi’s commission. She had no idea what it was. A towel rack? A time machine?

“Yes, and it is based on numbers,” Emi explained. “Fibonacci ratio. Triangles. And Pi.”

“It is also a light fixture,” Vasco said. “Here are the instructions.”

She should have read the instructions, Emi thought later, after it was too late to change the settings back to the way they had been. She turned the knobs this way and that, again, and again and again. Colors began flashing, repeating, flickering like fireflies.

Vasco, standing in the white room, his arms outspread, as if he were about to take flight. Rae, whirling in the white room, dancing.

Hadn’t this happened before? Now, the numbers had changed.

Patterns began repeating.

Then, things got really strange.

Outside the windows, everything was swirling, like a hurricane or the arms of a spiral galaxy, a vortex of spinning colors. In the center, an eye was forming, a green eye with a black slit, like the eye of a cat. The winds began to howl.

Emi was alone in the white room at the center of the world.

Then, everything went black.

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 Three Winners!

I am faced with the most difficult part of my week: picking the Week Three winner. Given that this week I biked over 60 miles, heaved a piece of soapstone from a very finicky box, and also finished and formatted a novel, this is saying something.

I’ve rewarmed my coffee, eaten a snack, browsed the Twitter, and walked the dogs. I have vacuumed, rearranged the desk, and dusted the living room. The only thing left to do now is pick the winner. I’m feeling like a five year old presented with thirty-one ice cream flavors. My inner child is throwing a tantrum. But here we go.

Tony Caruso posted early with “The Easily Distracted Doohickey” a hugely amusing stream of consciousness rant by a mysterious device in the midst of an existential crisis. And by “hugely amusing,” I mean, “I cackled wildly while reading it.” Caruso’s consistent voice, style, and humor impressed me. I can see this piece in the Shouts & Murmurs section of the New Yorker with a line drawing of a ladder barrel and a cat on top. My favorite line, which I’ve been repeating to myself in tortured tones, is: “What if I’m a clothing rack? How pathetic would that be?”

Karl A Russell batted second with another wickedly funny story, “The Workout,” about the reunion of a frisky couple. Karl’s story has been doing its Pilates. It has core strength; he makes every word count and packs an entire plot, complete with twist, into a tiny number of words. Karl was also the first to identify the true nature of the device in question: it’s a Pilates apparatus called a ladder barrel. I’m still dying to see “how [Rose] can use it later…”

Russell Magellan, unknowingly or knowingly, wandered in to prime Luminous Creatures territory with his story, “Treasure Chest,” about a son who inherits a mysterious object from his mother. It turns out the machine contains the key to bringing Ross deeper into magic. Magellan nicely balances story, description, and character. Also, I spotted a magic wand in there. Magic wand=extra credit point in my book.

Voima Oy painted a vivid picture of urban artists in “The Strange Machine.” Oy also picked up on the Fibonacci spiral on the side of the ladder barrel in our prompt picture. I was blown away by this story’s natural rhythm and ability to speak between the lines—the numbers and patterns that hinted at the ultimate outcome. I’d love to read a second installment that shows me what happens after everything goes black.

C. Connolly took the prompt in an entirely unique direction with “In Loving Memory,” using the image as a loose inspiration for an Icelandic/Scandinavian death ritual. Connolly created a mysterious, slightly ominous world full of small details: a boat’s bronze dragon prow, ritualized drinks with hints of inebriated visions, and a journey into other realms.

Casey Rose Frank made me giggle with her fictionalized craigslist email exchange, “For Sale.” She earned points for creative alternative storytelling and an eye to detail—I noticed that Eric didn’t capitalize Pilates but Amy did. I deeply sympathized with the teacher at the Y who was unimpressed by Eric’s barking in downward facing dog, and “Wait, what?” was a perfect ending to the exchange.

Jacki Donnellan produced an experimental piece, “Fully Equipped” which managed to tell a story almost entirely obliquely, through (imagined?) dialogue between a mother and her child’s therapist. This story really worked at the emotional level, and the final lines “So, Mrs. Smith. Just how far can you bend over backwards to help your son? Shall we see? Shall we watch?” echoing the questions at the beginning of the session literally made my skin crawl with dislike for the self-described “prodigy of remedies.” This is another one I could see in the New Yorker’s Shouts & Murmurs.

Don’t laugh, everyone. I actually had to make a rubric to judge these because I was simply hopeless at making a decision otherwise. My rubric contained criteria such as “word economy” and “voice” and “structure” and the amorphous “overall feel.” It was based on numbers, so not surprisingly our winner this week is:

Voima Oy for “The Strange Machine”

Our runner up is:

Karl A Russell for “The Workout”

Thank you all for participating and producing such a diverse and exceptional bunch of stories.

Here is the Ladder Barrel in its natural habitat:

Ladder barrel

Yes, it’s possible to lie down on it without re-killing one’s corpse.

And it is also a light fixture.

-EJS

Summer of Super Short Stories Week Three

Welcome to week three of Luminous Creatures Press’s first Flash Fiction contest! This week your judge is Emily June Street.

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. LCP is on San Francisco time; check the world clock if you have any questions. Good luck!!

Photo courtesy of Emily June Street

Photo courtesy of Melissa Thornhill