Monthly Archives: August 2014

Week Seven Winner: The Choosing by Karl A. Russell

They ran through the woods, white clad ghosts flitting between the trees. Lachlan caught sight of Sheilagh and swerved to join her, hoping that she would be one of the lucky ones. He called her name, then realised too late that she was not alone. A roar of hungry triumph told him that The Beast was close by, but it was a meaningless, abstract realization. For the moment at least, all of his thoughts were of Moira.

She wore the ceremonial robes, as they all did, an ornate headdress singling her out as the Chieftain’s daughter, but where it would look foolish on Sheilagh, a child’s drawing of a clown, Moira looked beautiful and elegant, as if she had chosen to dress that way. He slowed to a jog, his voice dying in his throat. The women turned to look at him, expectant and confused.


Sheilagh frowned, the familiar name made strange by the other woman’s voice. Lachlan looked away, trying to hide his shame even as he turned towards the woman he truly loved.

“We need to keep moving. It’s close.”

As if to confirm this, a cry went up from the path ahead, cut short by a feral snarl. Like sparrows, the trio turned as one and plunged into the undergrowth, running at right angles to the path, away from The Beast’s latest kill. As they ran, Sheilagh fell in on his left, Moira on his right, and without thinking, he gripped their hands and pulled them both along.

It would be so easy, he thought, to let Sheilagh slip, to run on ahead and take another path. But what if she survived? Each year, The Beast decimated the youth of the village, but that still left strong odds in her favour. And even if she was taken, there was no guarantee that Moira would be his; They had talked in the shadows of the fire hall, but she only knew him as Sheilagh’s betrothed. Could she ever understand how he felt for her? Had she always known but chosen to ignore it? He was beneath her after all, by birth and by caste; Even if they were free to wed, would she want him?

The thoughts tormented him, stinging him as the low branches lashed at his face, drawing blood which speckled the front of his own robes. Blood which scented the wind and drew the attention of The Beast.

It broke through the treeline before them, rearing up on its shaggy haunches, baring it’s broken, clotted fangs and spreading it’s great sinewy arms in welcome.

They faltered, frozen by the sight of the thing they had been raised to fear.

It was time to decide; Push Moira forwards and hope that he could live with himself and with Sheilagh afterwards, or sacrifice Sheilagh and hope that Moira would understand and accept him.

The Beast roared, forcing him to act.

Closing his eyes, he raised his hands, gathered the ceremonial robes in his fists and pushed.

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 Seven Winners!

First, let me say that I was honored to be asked to judge Luminous Creatures Press Summer of Super Short Stories contest for week 7. I am often humbled by the caliber of writing found amongst my ilk on this media called ‘social’. This week’s entries were no exception. Four writers entered the contest, and all four stories were spectacular, with well-drawn characters, vivid imagery and creative structure. Each writer, to my delight, attacked the prompt photo with a distinctive idea! Bravo, people. –Kristen Falso-Capaldi @kristenafc

A little note on each story:

“The Eternals” by Image Ronin

To me, “The Eternals” had the feel of both a timeless fairy tale and a futuristic dystopian story. The concept of sacrifice-equates-honor is a theme that intrigues me. Here, we meet young Amelia, a girl who has been chosen to represent her school and possibly become one of the Eternals. In the past, Amelia’s mother had been passed up for the honor, being deemed “too plain…uninteresting of face and mind.”
So, now it is Amelia’s chance to shine. If she “wins,” her father promises her it won’t hurt, and he vows to visit her everyday. She will become frozen, and well, it seems, dead. I liked this story a lot. I loved the ending. Will she become eternal? We know that she wants to be, which to me is better than knowing if she gets what she wants.

“In the Garden of Charm and Strangeness” by Voima Oy

Oooh, altered reality, an alternate universe, or as it’s called here, an inter-dimensional vortex, all brought about by messing with pi. As a former math nerd (former, because, truth be told, I have lost my math skills in the many days since HS) and a current book nerd, I dug the concept of this story. Plus, I always suspected there would be repercussions from messing with pi. Here, we meet three friends, two of whom built a “strange machine,” and the fashion model whose blunder sent them to said alternate universe. They find themselves dressed oddly and mistaken for fairies before getting back to their own dimension in time for pie. I loved the description here, as well as the clever dialogue; “Her hairdo made me hungry.” Great concept and great writing!

“The Choosing” by Karl Russell

Oh, boy meets girl. Boy meets ‘better’ girl. Boy contemplates throwing girl to a child-eating beast. I love, love, love stories that do not apologize for their characters’ actions. “The Choosing” brings us into the world of Lachlan, a young man who has been promised to Sheilagh, but has since fallen for Moira, a girl who is above him “by birth and by caste”. He’s got issues, obviously, but the more significant one at the moment is the fact that all three are running from a hellish beast with “broken, clotted fangs and…great sinewy arms” that yearly decimates the youth of the village. Great description by the way! Scary stuff! In the end, I am left wondering who was the sacrifice. In any case, Lachlan must live with his choice, at least until his next encounter with the beast.

“Ursa Major” by David Gentner

Mimes! And not just mimes, but a whole camp full of miming children . Ok, that’s just my own issue, but wow! I would never have come up with this idea in a million years. Here, we are brought into a summer camp, where neither the children nor their matron speak. Instead, they “kick the non-existent ball…(swim) through the air or (blow) their friends over with fictitious gales.” At night, whilst eating s’mores (real ones, that leave their white painted faces and gloves sticky), they pantomime stories of beasts with claws and hooks. It’s all good until the grisly bear arrives, breaking the silence and thus ending the summer at mime camp. I love this story not only for its concept, but for its brilliant details.

Well, there you have it, folks. The four wonderful stories.

And here you have THE WINNER: Karl Russell’s “The Choosing”

And here you have THE RUNNER UP: David Gentner’s “Ursa Major”

Thank you, Kristen, for judging this week’s contest! “The Choosing” will appear on our blog tomorrow in time for #mondayblogs!