Bridges are fascinating structures. Architectural wonders, embodying millennia of trial-and-error and engineering invention, they provide powerful and versatile metaphors for the human mind. In both their functional and metaphorical capacity, bridges connect two domains that might otherwise be mutually inaccessible. But a bridge is also a bottleneck where access can be granted or denied by whatever authority controls the span.
The stories in this week’s round use the bridge of the prompt in diverse and interesting ways. In Karl A. Russell’s “The Holy Island” a bridge initially grants access to both members of an unhappy couple and then denies it to one of them, thus contributing to the (presumed) happiness of both, though it sounds like Dave gets the best part of that deal. As a fellow Dave, I can only approve.
A physical bridge makes a brief appearance in Voima Oy’s “Here Be Dragons”. But the ancient remains of an unknown creature is the far more important mental bridge both to the past and to myth for the inhabitants of an island and the visitors now flocking there. The ending reminds us that some of the most important bridges are the connections made in our heads.
“The Viaduct” by Mark A. King has its own ancient creature, in this case one still very much alive. This story highlights the bridge as a point of defense and demonstrates that the true authority behind a bridge can change quickly, as the arrogant explorers learn to their sorrow.
Finally, in “Forgotten” by David Gentner all of the bridge metaphors seem to come together at once. A bridge is simultaneously a link to the historical past, a lifeline to the modern world, a defensive point of a town, and the abode of our third and final creature-from-the-depths-of-time. Who, it seems, is the new sheriff in town. Whoops! Civic improvement sure is dangerous.
Flash fiction is a new genre for me and I love it. I’m not sure if it has any precedents, but it certainly appears tailor-made for the internet. The author of fiction of any length has three important choices to make: how much to tell, how much to show, and how much to leave unsaid. The limited and strictly-enforced word count of flash fiction makes the answers to those questions critical. Every word must be chosen with care if the story is to come together as a whole.
Because of their length, I think the best flash stories are often the ones whose endings merely conclude the opening act of a longer tale left for the reader to ponder. Both of my selections for this week use this device to good effect.
My choice for runner-up is “Forgotten”. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the setting. The “wheat colored supports”, “swirling clouds of dust”, “ancient clay” and “stale air” were just enough to conjure a vivid picture in my thoughts. But it was the creeping horror of the last sentence that made this story one of my choices. One guesses the next scene is going to be a bit messy. Nicely done, David.
My choice of winner is “The Holy Island” and the only one without an ancient creature. Or is that Marsha? Anyway, putting the funny in fiction is never as easy as it looks and this story shows a skilled humorist at work. I was smiling from the opening line (note to self: use “flaccid” in conversation more) and grinning after the delicious savoir faire of the last. The pacing is excellent and the marvelous economy of words demonstrates the importance of choosing what not to say. Congratulations, Karl!
Thank you, Dave, for judging this week’s contest! “The Holy Island” will appear on our blog tomorrow morning. Next week Karl A. Russell takes the helm as judge of week nine’s stories.