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.
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.
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!
Welcome to Week One!
-submit your 500 word story based on the photo prompt in the reply section.
-optional anthology theme is MAGIC
-submission deadline is 6pm PST Saturday
-see complete rules and guidelines here
Today’s photograph is provided by the inimitable Christian Miller:
Our winter flash fiction extravaganza begins in forty hours or less! You can review the contest design and rules here. The first photo prompt will be posted here on the LCP site at 7 am PST this Thursday. Come and play!