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.