Tag Archives: Catherine Connolly

Winter of Whimsy and Wyrdness Week Seven Winners

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We saved this image for Week Seven because it was so magical, and everyone knows that seven is the most magical number. We also knew Christian’s photo of Barrio Alto in Lisbon would inspire great stories—and we were not disappointed. This week might have been the best yet! It’s been interesting to watch the evolution of submissions over the course of this contest—it seems like you regular submitters began to notice our judging preference for a novelistic style and adjusted your writing accordingly.

This was one of the reasons we wanted to do an anthology contest (we didn’t tell you): we wanted to honor tightly crafted stories that followed a true narrative arc. This means we did not weigh some other elements so highly—though next time around we might be looking for a different secret approach, so keep your toolboxes open and don’t toss away your descriptive poetics too quickly.

We plan to host three competitions next year—Spring, Summer, and Fall—each one with different parameters and outcomes. We’ll keep you posted as our spring contest approaches.

Many thanks to everyone who submitted a story in any week. It has been a pleasure to read the fruits of your imaginations. Keep it up!

First off, we have an exciting announcement:

We decided to include Catherine Connolly’s story from last week, Their Guardian Generals, into our anthology. Catherine did a great revision on this story, and we think you’ll love to read it in its latest incarnation. It will be the fourth story associated with the image Totem in the collection. Welcome, Catherine!

And this week’s anthology winners:

Similitude by David Shakes

This dark story sat with us for a while after reading. Beginning with a splash of vibrant colors, David painted a scene in vivid detail. Against the cracked blues and radiant golds, he gives us a moment of beautiful simplicity: “A last shopper stares hopefully at some overpriced antiquities but her husband has buried his hands in his pockets and is heading back to their hotel.” His last line chills us to the bone.

The Jeweled City by Holly Geely

Holly offered a fresh take on the theme of magic, opting to explore the metaphorical nature of belief and hope rather than the more overt fantasy genre story. The result was a meaningful meditation on the power of one’s choices. Nothing is easy in this story, and the final line beautifully sums up an uneasy truth about magic.

Torrent of Gold by Nancy Chenier

We pretty much knew this story belonged to Nancy Chenier even though we were reading blind. Her distinctive polished style is easy to recognize, and we always know she’s going to give as a good story, complete with plot elements and characters we care about. In this case, she also gives us a fair dose of language as exciting as the colors in the photo. Delicious verbs describe the action–legs wobble, grips gnarl, and golden ichor oozes. Striking images abound: a wild-haired mermaid of a girl swimming in a supernatural sea. The twist at the story’s end startles and horrifies.

Colourful Talents by Catherine Connolly

Catherine surprised us with this fantasy tale evoking Czarist Russia. We felt deeply for her heroine set to work on a magical task that would sap her—the Creatures love a female protagonist brought in to save the world’s colors, not to mention the time-honored fantasy theme that every magic has a cost. We think Catherine should use this idea to create a story of longer length. A novella, perhaps?

This concludes our winter flash fiction session. Join us again in 2015 for more. Thank you to everyone for making the contest so much fun. Stay tuned for details about the release of Five Hundred Words of Magic, the anthology collected from this contest.

–In appreciation, The Creatures.

Their Guardian Generals by Catherine Connolly

Bong hears the chuckle begin and scoops Chin up, holding her close as she runs. Luckily, they are yards away from the group of pillars rising tall at the edge of the trees, no more. Several quick steps and they are beyond their boundaries and amongst the whittled wooden bodies. Bong holds Chin’s hand, as she traces the edges of the Great General and his black inscriptions with her nails. He doesn’t seem to mind. His laugh, at least, is still loud, above that of the others; his mouth wide and gaping, as he mocks into their masses before him.

It is a night since they last laughed. Though she, at least, has heard them again. Eun. Hwan. So many more. Far too many. “Hold tight to the General,” Bong says, as she turns towards the lamps. Darkness is descending into their light – testing their warriors where they stand. “Turn away and keep him at your back,” Bong says, voice firm. “No peeking now! You know what you’ve been told?” Bong exchanges a glance with Suk, who sits cross-legged nearby – back already turned, before his eyes dart away. She thinks she sees him close them, before he presses his hands tightly to his ears.

Chin sighs before obeying. “But I want to see!”

“No,” Bong says. “You don’t. You’re on a promise now. No turning ‘til they’re gone and the Generals have sent them away. You remember what we’ve said before?” Chin pauses, then nods. “Now. Cover your ears. I’ll tell you when it’s safe. You trust me, don’t you? We’ve been okay to now?” Chin’s eyes look into Bong’s, as her head moves up and down. “So – hold faith with your favourite General.” Bong puts an arm around her; holding her to her side, whilst she keeps contact with their guardian.

There are twelve of them here, sitting, together – waiting for the noise to cease, though it is welcome, too, whilst it lasts. Perhaps others in the areas east, south and west. Perhaps not so many. Bong reaches her other hand towards Suk. It quests into air. Glancing sideways, not backwards – ever – she sees only unoccupied space. A flattened patch of green where his body had been. It is warm to the touch. Bong’s eyes are suddenly swimming. She closes them briefly; breathes in, then out, before opening them and keeping them trained on Chin. Their laughter is long, tonight – though she hasn’t kept count of the timing.

It takes Bong a moment to realise the din is no longer deafening her and that Chin is tugging at her hand; on both knees now. “Where’s Suk?” she demands. “He was there, wasn’t he? With us?”

“He couldn’t keep his promise to the guardians,” Bong tells her. “He had to see. Once he had, he had to go with them. The Whatevers. Wherever. He can’t come back. Like the others, remember?” Chin nods vigorously; mouth trembling. They will add again to the stone pillars beyond the wooden whittled bodies tonight.

Follow Catherine Connolly on Twitter: @FallIntoFiction or on her blog: http://www.fallintofiction.blogspot.co.uk/