Category Archives: Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness

Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Five Winners

What a long busy weekend it has been! What with the Flashdogs and Flashversary excitement, we’re surprised anyone managed to turn in stories. Our prompt photo this week showed one of Emily’s flying trapeze teachers falling to the net after releasing the trapeze bar. Enjoy this video of LCP’s own Emily June flying on a rig (yes, in a tutu) and fortunately NOT falling into the net:

 

And without further ado, our three anthology picks of the week are:

Salty Embrace, by Holly Geely:

Great character development lends humor to Holly Geely’s story—especially in the non-human Blue Moon as a mechanical Jeeves to Stewart’s alcoholic Wooster. Though the story has a clear arc and resolution, Geely gives us a revealing but open end, suggesting that perhaps Blue Moon’s wishes will come true.

Sideways, by A.J. Walker:

In A.J’s fine story, details such as the green and red walking socks, the fluttering jeans, and the yellow mustard stain work as close-ups, bringing us right into Samuel’s confusing world. Walker feeds us only as much information as Samuel has, so we share his disorientation. The clever conclusion gives us a satisfying but still surprising explanation for the story’s mysteries.

 Portents and Eventualities, by Nancy Chenier:

In her richly layered story, Nancy hints at a larger narrative, giving us a glimpse into a well-drawn world. She paints lovely images with delicious language: “apathetic stars,” “the earth shuddered with eventuality,” “eyes wide enough to reflect the moon.” Strong character motivations ground this story and give it meaning and complexity.

Congratulations to all and thanks again to all participants for giving us your stories week after week.

Week Four Featured Story: The Break by Brett Milam

The Break

Lines of coke, syringes of heroin, bottles of Oxycontin, Gavin had tried them all, but nothing compared to the break. When the break happened, it was like his mind was airlifted into another dimension where colors were unimaginably bright and they had a physical property to them.

It was as if the sky had violently torn apart and from this chasm manifest a shower of light that transported Gavin to that other dimension. Worldly things and concerns drifted away like sawdust off of a well-chiseled hunk of wood.

Even so, the second before the break, he still got swelling around his pelvis and feverish droplets of sweat underneath the curvature in his back. It fucking hurt, all the same.

The other night, he’d woken from an uneventful dream. Dreaming had turned mundane once you went through the break.

Almost immediately, he craved the break.

Gavin pulled the sleeve back on his black turtleneck — he’d become prone to wearing them after his ex, now dead from a methamphetamine overdose, said they looked “snug” on him — to expose his forearm.

Then he directed his pointer finger with the kind of blood-rushing, centralized power feel you get from a boner toward his forearm, hovering a centimeter from the delicate flesh. With a simple tap and eyes closed, he snapped the radius bone clean in two.

The bone broke through the skin and a torrent of blood gushed out. By then, his mind was gone. It was zip-lining through the cosmos, hopscotching around the stars and the asteroid belt. It was like the tail-end of his mind had a rocket attached with enough jet fuel to encircle the Milky Way.

A few minutes later, he returned to the confines of his limiting cranium, his arm lifeless at his side, blood no longer spilling out, but pooling near the foot of the bed, and he could see in the mirror across the room, which displayed his ashen face.

Another tap of the pointer finger to the snapped radius and it was healed instantly. The blood was gone, returned back to its normal functioning beneath the surface of the skin.

Somewhere in the copious opium binges, Gavin had developed this, whatever you call this. Even in his high state, magic didn’t seem the right word. Magic was beautiful, illuminating; this, this was something else.

Often times, Gavin thought maybe he was on a cold slab somewhere waiting to be disposed of by the county, having already overdosed and all of this was some post-death hallucination, lasting residual effects of all his drug abuse.

When he’d first discovered it, he started small, literally, with the stapes bone in the ear. It was like his first marijuana bong hit. Pleasant, but weak. Before long, as he was a fast learner, he’d snapped both femur bones.

But it was no longer enough. This, whatever this was, satisfied him no longer. So, he soon tapped his finger to his landlord’s frontal bone.

Gavin had found his new rush.

Check out Brett Milam’s blog and more of his stories at: http://milambc.wordpress.com/. Follow him on Twitter: @brett_milam

Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Four Winners

Our prompt this week came from our friend Ryan, freshly home from a two-week vacation in Japan. He took the picture while descending into Tokyo. We thought it would inspire all kinds of interesting ideas (and it did!). As always, we wondered whether anyone would recognize the location and use it as the setting for a piece, but we mainly received stories with looser associations this time around. Emily wrote a story for this prompt called “The Stowaway,” which will appear in the anthology, and Beth might have something up her sleeve, too.

Honorable mention: The Break, by Brett Milam

Creepily delicious, Brett Milam’s story takes us into the mind of an addict, who seeks higher and higher highs. Though the imagery horrifies, we can’t seem to look away—its draw is too strong. A bizarre yet creative premise set this story out from the pack, and the final line chills us to the (unbroken) bone.

Our two anthology winners are:

Sentinel Satellyte, by Mark A. King. Mark wins best opening line this week in a story rich with intoxicating language. The story begins with a glorious account of Aardvark’s past: He once stalked dragons! Using a bit of the old bait and switch technique to create great narrative tension, Mark shows us Aardvark’s new passion, at the same time developing a compelling main character with dimension. Fantastic imagery abounds in “smudged-pastel impressionist sunsets,” a “milky cataract haze,” and the glorious “suburbia terra ferma.” Mark beautifully juxtaposes the grandeur of the language with a keen sense of humor: this “supreme stalker of the firmament” hides from his mother. Tight writing and strong word choices pushed Mark’s story to the top of our list. Great work!

 Night Flight by Karl A. Russell drew on arcane vampire mythology for its premise, but Karl created a thoroughly modern setting for this comic-book style epic battle between old enemies. Karl manages to convey an entire history in a scene of only five hundred well-chosen words. His clearly-drawn characters inhabit a well-defined world. This story played cloak and dagger games, giving itself up in the details only after several readings. Cleverly told.

Congratulations, Week Four Winners, and thank you to all who participated.

Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Four

Happy Thanksgiving to the Americans playing our flash fiction game. Today we offer a photo prompt by Ryan Lynch, titled  “Arising.” We recommend that you click on the picture to see it in a larger format. Let your imagination fly and produce a story of 500 words or less, submitted into the reply section of this post by Saturday at 6 pm PST. Remember, all stories considered for the contest anthology will contain a supernatural or fantasy element. See complete contest rules here.

image

Monday Featured Story: Wish by Laura Pinhey

Wish

They stumble over toys, bags of fertilizer, and charcoal grills. They slip on the dewy grass, muttering “fuck.” Jeff stops and nods toward a yard. “Check it out” he says. In the moonlight they can just make out the objects there: a wooden man with a blue Ball jar head and a garden spade violin, a swaybacked horse of tree branches, a tin bird with bike reflector eyes, all displayed like trophies. In the center of the yard sits a crumbling stone well. Jeff ruffles the flange of hair spilling over his collar, takes a swig of Everclear, and hands the bottle to Emmie. She shakes her head. “What the hell is wrong with you tonight?” Jeff asks.

“Nothing.” Emmie stuffs her hands into her pockets. “I’ve just had enough.”

“I can’t believe you never heard of this place,” Jeff says. But Emmie has heard of it. She’s found excuses to wander by, alone, many times. If Jeff knew she thought the place was cool she would never hear the end of it. “Must be some kind of devil worshiper or fag to have shit like that in your yard,” Jeff says.

“Maybe.” Emmie decided months ago that the yard was an artist’s. An artist was what Emmie thought Jeff was when she first saw him in the back of civics class, drawing a perfect replica of the inside cover of Led Zeppelin Four. She moves to the well, her sneakers squeaking on the grass.

Jeff follows. “Maybe,” he mocks. Emmie dips her fingers into the water and then touches her face. “Jesus, Ember, that water stinks.”

“Emmie,” she says, wiping her fingers on her jeans. “I told you to call me Emmie.”

“Here we go again. Emmie. Sounds like some old lady.” Jeff sits down on a brick wall under a tree. “Nasty well.” He lights his pipe and inhales. A seed crackles. Getting stoned is all Jeff wants to do these days. He has stopped drawing. Emmie had grown tired of heaping phony praise on his unoriginal works, anyway. The stuff in this yard, though, Emmie has never seen anything like.

Emmie peers into the well. “Wishing well,” she thinks. Emmie never knows what to wish for, but she knows she wants something. She digs a penny from her pocket and tosses it in. The penny plops, leaving tiny circles in its wake. Emmie feels her wish fluttering inside her, nameless. A fish leaps from the water, arcing in the air, glistening, water droplets trailing like shooting stars. It splashes back into the water. Emmie gasps.

“What,” Jeff says through held breath.

“There’s a fish in the well. It jumped.”

Jeff snorts and exhales a stream of smoke. “Ember, you are stoned out of your gourd.” But one sip of Everclear is all Emmie has had tonight.

A window over the backyard fills with light. “Aw, shit,” Jeff says. He falls to his knees, groping the overgrown brush for his dropped pipe. Emmie runs, not looking back.

Week Three Winners!

Week Three opened with one of our favorite prompts, combining two compelling themes: music and the outsider. We were surprised that no one took up the cause of the outsider in the stories this week. Before posting the prompt we had conversation about the word zingaro and its meanings—I (Emily) worried about the photo’s title being offensive. Zingaro is an Italian word meaning “gypsy,” derived from a Greek word meaning “untouchable”—as in the caste, not as in a superhero. Beth used both meanings of “untouchable” to great effect in the story she wrote for this prompt, which you will be able to read in our anthology. We decided to leave the title despite its unsavoriness to see what you all made of it, since even a word with unpleasant connotations can stimulate creativity in interesting ways.

For the first time during our judging of the contest, Beth and I had very little overlap in our personal selections, demonstrating what a strong group of submissions we received, spanning the range from experimental to traditional. Nice work, everyone!

Honorable Mention Winner: Wish by Laura Pinhey

Replete with clear and easily visualized images, Wish succeeded in showing us rather than telling us. Laura strikes a marvelous balance between leading the reader through the scene and leaving room for our imaginations. On the one hand, she provided beautifully drawn details: a wooden man with a Blue ball jar head, the bottle of Everclear, the inside cover of Led Zeppelin Four, and the crackling seed in the pipe. On the other hand, with Emmie’s nameless wish, she invites our speculation, leaving us to wonder why Emmie runs without looking back.

Anthology Selections:

The Screaming, by Jacki Donnellan

We love a great opening line and what could be more enticing than a confession like this one? Jacki has given us a creepy tale about possession and obsession with an inanimate object as a central character—a character for whom we feel compassion. Anyone who has seen a great violinist perform knows that there is a palpable relationship between musician and instrument. This story takes that relationship into the realm of the supernatural. What if Itzhak Perlman’s violin turned on him? A horrifying thought. The Screaming’s flashback structure reinforced our narrator’s obsession, and the juxtaposition of the magic (music) with the mundane (tinnitus) added texture and layers to this piece that deftly captured the essence of magical realism.

 The Zingaro Exclusive, by David Borrowdale

This boldly told story explored the dark secret behind a legend’s success. Our fantasy-loving hearts were pleased by the magic system wherein the musician evoked and then destroyed ghost-people with his playing—what a creative concept, ripe for further exploration. The clever use of redactions lent the story mystery, while precise details gave stunning specificity: horsehair caressing cat-gut, a G3 breve as a fat old lady, and middle C quaver as a sensual young woman. David demonstrated expert restraint while slowly revealing the conclusion.

The Storm King, by Voima Oy

In this lovely fairy tale, Voima appeals to all five senses with rich imagery: the unblinking blue sky, mouths as dry as dirt, notes falling like raindrops onto thirsty ears, a cool breeze stirring hair, and the scent of wet earth. These details built a world we could picture clearly and left us wanting more. The strong story structure introduced the central conflict early and led us to a satisfying resolution.

As always, judging was HARD. So many excellent stories. Thank you to all who contributed again this week.

Winter of Whimsy & Wyrdness Week Three

Welcome back to our winter flash story arena. This week’s photograph was requested by Beth. It is called Zingaro, by Ozan Uzul.

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.

zingaro

*image courtesy of freeimages.com