#QUICKFIC 22/03/2019: The Winner

Well that was very lovely!

Riding the high of actual sun (briefly, but I swear it emerged guv, honest!) we went for a brighter prompt this week. And not one piece involving murder this week! Death, yes, murder, no. I think that’s a #QUICKFIC first. Let’s take one last look at your prompt:

So without further ado, your brilliant winners:

Runner Up: Thea Oxbury

The Single

Charity shops? Sorry, no. I catch the melancholic whiff of lives dismantled, unwanted consumables ‘regifted’ in the name of a good cause, I’m out. Should never have crossed the threshold. Except for –

I was passing by when they caught me. Those eyes. How many years is it now? Thirty? No, more.

I still think I find your hairs, sometimes. Quavers and minims peppering a patch of floor. I dream about them. I rarely hear that tune, though. How could I? I’d need your voice for that.

But those eyes.

I walked in. Couldn’t look back at those eyes, so I went to a clothes rack instead. Felt the tweed of a motheaten great coat and thought of… the bus stop, how we’d stand together, both of us, inside that coat. They don’t make them like that any longer, do they? Didn’t in those days, either.

I turn back to the window display, because I want, at least, to pick up that old 45, cover frayed around the edges. It’s just a momentary memory, your smile, his smile, as you slid the vinyl from it’s cover.

I’m moving towards the window, but someone stands in my way. Some kid. He takes the record from its stand.

“Mum,” he crows, “This’ll be great as a place mat. Forty five pence!”

“Oh, go on then,” mutters the woman behind me.

No, I want to say. No, you can’t. You’ve no idea.

But I say nothing.

And I think: melancholic whiffs of lives dismantled.

Runner Up: Thomasin Sage

The Seraph of Forgotten Songs

She’d been leafing through the vinyl records for five hours now.

The only sound in the dusty shop was the shwip of each dog-eared record sleeve as it came to rest softly on the one behind it. The old cardboard sleeves had the kind of nicks and rips that showed they had been loved once, perhaps played at full volume with friends or alone with a glass of wine.

The shop keeper had given up trying to offer his advice. She had returned his queries with a warm, beatific smile before continuing her search without a word. It was eerie.

What is she looking for? he wondered. The question gnawed at him.

He put down his tattered paperback and decided to watch her instead. Sometimes she would pick up a record and nod to it as if greeting an old friend, or place a hand gently on the cover before returning it to the box. Other times she would close her eyes and tap out a rhythm with her foot, or simply shake her head sadly and move swiftly on to the next.

By the end of the day she was surrounded by a halo of dust from disturbing the forgotten songs. The early afternoon light filtered through it oddly and it felt like he was looking at her in an old, yellowed photograph.

He approached her once more, his heart pounding in his chest. She reminded him of when he was a young boy and still believed in angels.

The Winner: Gabrielle Turner

Breakages must be paid for

It was back again, and it wasn’t long since the last one. This time I tried to memorise how it felt. I wanted to write it down, in the blind scrawl that was becoming my handwriting, but how would I find anything to write with, in this state? I stood still. All around me, the world was becoming hazy. I steadied myself against the door frame and breathed in until it hurt.

It wasn’t a migraine, I was sure of that. In the hospital they’d talked about degeneration, about auras, oedemas and tunnel vision. I’d had dozens of scans. Drops that made my face go numb. My sight was perfect.

“You alright up there?” a thin voice called from the ground floor.

“Fine, fine,” I heard myself reply. In a junk shop, of all places, I thought. What about the china ornaments; the stacks of records and first editions at my feet? Could I make it down the stairs? If it was anything like the other times, I’d be like this for an hour at least.

The closer things were to me, the more blurred they appeared. Against the white walls, I could make out the rectangular forms of paintings and felt thankful for their reassuring green dullness. Certainty continued to melt, and the hard angles of the room were twisting slowly out of focus. Feet, hands, books, all becoming one. The disease was taking me to a place where there were no edges.

Congratulations to Gabrielle, Thomasin and Thea. Big thank you to everyone who entered. Happy weekends everyone!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 22/03/2019

Hello hello, and welcome to the new brighter, Spring like edition of #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition. Yes Spring is finally here and we can all put away dreadful things like winter coats, and darkness at 4 pm. 

Before you all spring into action and write me a piece, a rules refresher:

  • Use the prompt below to write a story of 250 words or less.
  • Pop the story into the body of an email, including the title and the word count, and send it to academy@faber.co.uk. Make sure it’s in the body of the email, not as a separate attached document!
  • Do all that by 2:50 pm today. 
  • At 3:30 we meet back on the blog for the winning entries to be revealed.

In honour of World Poetry Day, this week’s prize includes two brilliant collections by Christopher Reid and Simon Armitage in addition to our usual fiction fare:

a stack of books "Istanbul" by Orhan Pamuk, "The Wolf Border" by Sarah Hall, "Paper Areoplanes: Selected Poems 1989 - 2014 " by Simon Armitage and "The Song of Lunch" Chrisopher Reid -Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

 

You ready?

You set?

Okay….

Annnd here you go:

 

a half focused image with what looks like an open door, white paneled and wooden in focus. Out of focus and to the left is an ornate picture frame with a pastoral image, out of focus, just visible. In the foreground we see a hand holding a record close to the camera, while the other hand browses through a jam packed looking shelf of other records. The image is very cluttered and cramped, but somehow still homey - Faber Academy's flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC

Back at 3:30!

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. 

#QUICKFIC 15/03/2019: The Winner

I should never suggest you get dark with me, is what I learnt from today’s #QUICKFIC entries. Thank you to everyone that played along though! I may never look at forests, painting, camping, going on retreats or pylons the same way ever again. Here’s one last look at the prompt that inspired all that:

And here are your runners up and winner:

Runner Up: Lou Witts

On the Shoulders of Giants

The first blast took out the mobile networks. The second levelled cities. The last fragmented continents, decimated the population and sent us back to the Dark Ages. Where we stayed for the next four, five hundred years. Rebuilding took longer than anybody could have imagined. All records erased. Including the knowledge in our heads. So we retreated. To our make-shift homes, big enough to let us live, small enough to withstand the winds. Then, after what must have been nine, ten, eleven generations, we found a way. With enough light to power the plants, we passed our days sowing and reaping and watching the sun rise and set. Then sowing became hard work so we found tools to help. The tools became mechanised and the first sparks of electricity were rediscovered. What a joy, we said, what a joy to to be able to see after so many years in the dark. We’ll never let that happen again. And we really meant it, at the time.

Runner Up: Paul Jenkins

Getting Used to It

Your father warned you. His voice on the mobile responding to the good news. A boy, seven pounds exactly.

You yawn and your father laughs and says you’ll get used to it. A one-armed man glides past you with a drip trolley, seemingly oblivious to the lack of symmetry in his life. He got used to it. You’ll get used to it.

The boy’s mother smiles at you from the bed. The baby’s expression is one of resignation. Welcome to the world you whisper. You yawn again. No more sleep for you, your dad said and suddenly you see him as an old man.

Three years pass and you take your son to a park. The wind picks up; you check the hat is secure on your boy’s head. You check his coat is adequate.

Nearly there, you say to him.

But the park is full of people. Other children with diseases in their eyes and hate in their hearts. Look at the seesaw with its promise of knocked out teeth, the roundabout‘s silent menace. Your child is laughing and smiling. You push him gently on the swing. Everything is fine.

Higher Daddy Higher Daddy he shrieks, kicking out at the sun. That swing is creaking too much.

It is time to go home. Getting late, little man, you say in a voice you don’t recognise. You look at the sky, it might rain. That plane might crash.

How quickly it gets dark round here, how quickly it gets dark.

Winner: Gillian English

Outside

I didn’t ask to come. Easily led, that’s my problem. Always desperate to be part of the group, looking for friends who can substitute for family. Now here I am, lost in a howling forest, in a tent as thin as a plastic bag. The wind is battering and the tent is straining, ready to split and fly. Rain is pounding from above, seeping in from below. I might as well be outside; the only real protection offered by this flapping plastic is that it stops me seeing what’s out there. It’s been out there for hours, ever since I killed it.

And I really didn’t need to. It’s the most frustrating thing. If she hadn’t – well, no point wasting time on that. The others were no help, standing there open-mouthed, one of them whipping out his mobile to film me, not even asking permission. The next minute they were off down the path, chasing a signal. So here I am, waiting. The wind is dropping and I can hear something outside, edging closer, squelching across the sodden ground. A fox or a badger, I guess, attracted by the smell. It’s nature’s way, and she was always a keen recycler. But it’s right outside now and I’m wishing I hadn’t dropped the knife when I hear it behind me, slicing through the skin of the tent, opening me up to the wind and the wet, bloody darkness.

Many congratulations to Gillian, Paul and Lou. Keep them coming!

We’ll be back at 9:50 next Friday with another prompt. Personally, I’m rooting for some sunshine and light next week.

Until then!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 15/03/2019

In keeping with the current London weather and our continued stormy skies, today’s Faber Acdemy #QUCKFIC flash fiction competition prompt is appropriately dark and moody. I know how much you all love to get dark and spooky, but before you dive in, here’s a quick rule refresher!

You’re going to see a prompt. Using that prompt, we’d like you to write a short story of 250 words or less. No more than that please! Send your story in the body of an email, including the title and the wordcount, to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50 pm this afternoon. Our wonderful winner gets these books:

Without further ado, your prompt:

I’ll wait for the wind to blow some wonderful pieces of flash fiction into our inbox. See you at 3:30 to announce the winner!

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. 

 

#QUICKFIC 01/03/2019: The Winner

Runner Up: Daniela Azzopardi

The Art of Summoning

She is flying.

She glided over the hard wooden floor as easily as if she were being held up by clouds and the dim lights showered over her an ethereal glow as she stood on her tiptoes. Her movements looked effortless, but from the edge of the stage he could see her eyebrows furrow as she moved with the music.

It was just the two of them; the audience did not matter, the theater staff did not matter. In that moment, she embodied the whole world. He was present, living and breathing, through her gentle movements; the precise control the ballerina held over every muscle in her body and every fiber of his being.

What had started as mere jumps and clumsy pirouettes only months after she had started to walk, had now blossomed into a full art form that could enamour anyone whose glance fell on her. His eyes grew hot as tears tethered on the edge. Had it really been that long since he waited outside those classes, when she would dance her way to his car, her hunger for ballet still not satiated after hours of lessons?

The music rose to a crescendo. The crowd heard their breath as the ballerina dove into her final bow.

Applause erupted. A chill ran down her spine and as she glanced up, she could swear she saw a familiar shadow flicker out of sight at the edge of the stage; the shadow of a protector long gone, but never forgotten.

The Winner: Victoria Clarke

Second chance

Dust clings to my fingertips as I drag the box out from under the bed, I wipe it on my trousers. It’s been years since I’ve opened this shrine for a life that nearly was. They’re still there, underneath the torn ticket stubs and crumpled flyers: my ballet shoes, tattered and worn, scuffed at the toes from hours spent en pointe. A symphony of soaring strings crashes around the walls of my bedroom. I close my eyes and inhale it, savouring the bittersweet taste on my tongue, rolling it around, trying it out for size again. Nothing in life compares. We travelled the world, relieving ourselves of the hunger pangs by throwing each other against the wall. Slight we may have been, but meek we were not.

I’d never call her a mistake. She was borne out of love, out of romance. Or so I thought at the time. In truth, he was persistent and I was naive. And then she was here, and he was gone, travelling off with the troupe to the incense filled warmth of the Middle East while I boarded a plane back to Europe with a suitcase and abdomen fit to burst.

All the other girls do it, she said, face reddening, spoon discarded in her cereal bowl. You did it Mama, why can’t I?

The shoes slide on my feet as if I was Cinderella, at least Prince Charming gave me something. I’ll tell her yes when I collect her from school.

 

What a welcome back, courtesy of Victoria and Daniela. Many thanks to everyone that sent a piece in! We’ll be back the Friday after next for your next installment of #QUICKFIC.

Until then!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

Link

It’s a week of firsts, apparently. It’s the first day of a month, the first day I acknowledge that Spring may one day return (the two days of sun we had doesn’t count, I’m afraid, no matter how many of you decided to eat ice cream) and the first #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash Fiction Competition of 2019. Yes we’re back, bigger and bolder and brighter than ever.

First, it behooves me to explain the rules. If you’ve never played before or forgotten how over the break, here’s how to play:

  • You’re going to see a prompt on Friday morning at 9:50 am. prompts can be anything, including but not limited to: Playlists, Wikipedia Articles, Quotes, Pictures and anything else we can come up with, so be prepared!
  • Your task is to create a short story of 250 words or less inspired by that prompt.
  • Paste your story into the body of an email, including a title and your word count, and send that email to academy@faber.co.uk by 2:50pm on the Friday afternoon.

At 3:30 we’ll announce the winner and runners up for that week. The winner receives a stack of books. This week’s stack is this rather lovely lot:

ack of three books including ''Owl Sense' by Miriam Darlington, 'Innocent Blood' by P.D James and 'The Silent Musician' by Mark Wigglesworth - Faber Academy's flash fiction competition quickfic

Get it, got it, good? Perfect. Then your first prompt is below:

- Faber Academy's flash fiction competition quickfic

Let the #QUICKFIC-ing commence! See you again at 3:30!

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win. 

#QUICKFIC 14/12/2018: The Winner

We throw a #QUICKFIC curveball, and you all more than rise to the occasion! Thank you, all, for the stories. You gave us dramatic car chases, a retiring santa, terrible families, a spot of framing for murder and other truly heartwarming tales. It’s been an absolute pleasure to read your submissions these past few months, and this week was no exception. Thank you for them all.

One last time, here were your prompts and then on to the winners we go:

 

Runner Up: Thom Willis

Going to Town

The scents of Christmas – cinnamon, pine, the muted sharpness of oranges – were starting to feel oppressive. He’d lost his taste for mulled wine this year, and the warmed-over dregs of a cheap rioja, with shards of broken star anise floating like driftwood on the surface, disgusted him. The snow settling outside depressed him, made him feel trapped and lonely.

“Humbug,” he muttered, pleased with that at least. His face itched in the glow of the roaring log fire. He had been unable to find his razor, and his fresh beard was irritating him as much as anything else. Soon he would be out in the fresh air, and he relished it. Only good part of the job. A thousand years he’d been delivering presents and still it surprised him how enjoyable that was.

Last year he’d almost died. A slip on a loose tile. He was always so careful but was now overconfident and simply ignored the warning signs that had always kept him safe. Slates were always bad. Slippery at the best of times, this one rattled down the roof and he heard it shatter on the ground long after it fell, even as he was still sliding to the edge.

He’d got to stop. He was old now. No one cared if he came or not. There were no adorable children to restore his faith in Christmas. Not now. This would be his last round. After that, if everyone believed it was their parents, well, they’d be right.

Runner Up: Jane Healey 

Sticks and Stones

Peter’s bones are slowly turning to cinnamon sticks; they crunch when he rolls his wrists, his muscles burning with the fiery heat of the powder seeping from the joints; they jostle against one another with a clattering sound when he breaks into a jog to catch the bus; and when he types the last batch of this year’s emails he does so slowly, carefully, so that the single sticks in each of his fingers do not snap and shatter. It’s Christmas party season now and he can no longer discern between the spice of his own sweat and the breath of those who have gulped down mugfuls of mulled wine, eats every minced pie he is offered gingerly because he fears that the taste means his teeth are turning to cinnamon too and disintegrating in his mouth; and as he stands at the back of the last office meeting of the year, gingerly cupping elbows that are crumbling into shards, stooping so that he cannot feel the scrape of his vertebrae against one another, the hot shiver of ground cinnamon cascading down his back, his manager turns to him and says, what we’re looking from you next year, Peter, is a bit more oomph, a bit more spark, a bit more – she pauses to bite into a slice of the festive cake that Peter’s work nemesis Samantha has made and brought to the meeting – spice. He nods and coughs, swallowing a jagged piece of bark.

Runner Up: Bridget Yates

Cold Shoulder

It was cold, bitterly cold as I expected. But it was working.

I ploughed on, the sun setting behind me and giving an eerie glow to the icy waste that was the road. And he was still there; his headlights clearly visible in my wing mirror.

It had taken planning and my heart fluttered in my chest every time I thought about what I had done, no -what we had done.

He had the body in the boot.

To say the situation had become unbearable was an understatement; she had made our lives a misery with all that crying and moaning . And when she fell down the stairs yesterday morning, well, it seemed a kindness to let her just slip gently away. And he had used a feather pillow .

But I needed the money to be able to keep the house.

So we decided to keep her alive so to speak and we put her body in the boot of his car.

He thought the plan was to dispose of her body by the roadside in the next State and then later abandon the car. But I had a different plan.

When we crossed the State line I would wait until he was close behind me and when there was more traffic around I would brake suddenly.

The cops would be called.

And he had a body in the boot of his car.

The Winner: Roger Evans

Cinnamon Scrolls

One day you may find, lurking at the back of a cupboard, a bag of cinnamon sticks smelling faintly of Christmas, with no memory of their purchase. Tight rolls of spice prompting thoughts of mulled wine and sweet confections. Pay good attention to this bag, as within such a treasure trove of flavour may lie a greater one.

For cinnamon can hold a secret, hidden from sight, waiting for the moment to bestow its fortune upon you. You see, rarely, very rarely, as the bark curls into its quills, the forest spirits bestow their luck upon one piece.

So hold each one gently before you consign it to the recipe, and see if will unfurl gently in your hand.  And read the message written within.

Good fortune.

Many congratulations to Thom, Jane, Bridget and Roger. Here’s to all of you #QUICKFIC writers, to the rapidly approaching new year, to the holidays and to all the brilliant flash fiction pieces you’ve written and have yet to write.

Happy Holidays! See you next year!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 14/12/2018

Welcome welcome, to the last #QUICKFIC, Faber Academy’s Flash Fiction competition of 2018. I merrily skip off after this week and wanted to give you something a little bit different to celebrate the season and the end of 2018.

Now under normal circumstances here is where I’d go through the rules and most of you nod impatiently because you’re old hats by now and know what you’re doing. This week there’s a twist, so pay attention!

  • You’re about to see three different prompts, numbered 1, 2 and 3.
  • This week you can pick whichever prompt you like the look of the best and write a piece of flash fiction 250 words or less on it.
  • You can only choose one though, so choose wisely! No multiple entries please.
  • Give your piece a title, copy it into the body of an email and tell me the wordcount and which number prompt you wrote the piece based on (this is important!)
  • Send that email to academy@faber.co.uk no later than 2:50 pm today

At 3:30 we announce the winner of this bumper crop of books:

Got it? Three prompts, choose your favourite, write a piece and we’ll choose our favourite, then all our days will be merry and bright. Here are your prompts:

1. 

2. 

3.  

 

Go go go! Write away!

By entering Faber Academy’s flash fiction competition #QUICKFIC , you’re granting us non-exclusive worldwide permission to reprint your story on our website should you win.

#QUICKFIC 07/12/2018: The Winner

Thank you, lovely writers! I asked you for silliness, and silliness you did provide. Thank you everyone, for making me laugh hard enough that there was nearly a small incident involving a very full coffee cup and electronics. Here’s your prompt once again:

A quote from Jan Austen's "Emma" reading “Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way.” against an image of a tree in the process of losing its leaves, with the contrast turned up and the image overlayed with a pink and orange colour gradient until the trees look like etchings - Faber Academy's Flash Fiction Competition #QUICKFIC

And without further ado, here are your #QUICKFIC Flash Fiction Competition winners:

Runner Up: Sarah Nash

A New Woman

“Enough is enough,” Jane says to her reflection in the bathroom mirror. “Thirty years in the same firm and never noticed. I am fifty tomorrow. Time for action. I shall take the morning off.”

“Never see you on a weekday,” says Tracey at Cut and Dried. “Same as usual?”

“I rather fancy going pink,” says Jane.

Tracey nearly drops her scissors, but seasoned pro as she is, rallies immediately.

“All over or just a touch?”

An hour later Jane strides, pink-rinsed, down her local high street. To her surprise, no-one laughs.

She decides (who is this new woman?) she needs a new face to go with the new hair and finds herself in the cosmetics hall of her local department store.

“Can I help?” asks an elegant woman.

“I wish I knew,” answers Jane honestly and submits.

On the way out, mascara-laden, she feels as if two spiders have landed on her eyes and tries not to blink in case they wreak havoc over her face. She pauses in shoe sales and remembers a survey (French of course) that stated women are more successful if they wear lipstick and heels. She licks her shiny lips and shops.

At noon precisely, Jane strides into Mr Carter’s office. (In reality, she teeters.)

He looks terrified.

She is Modesty Blaise, Wonder Woman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She is unstoppable.

“I want a promotion and a raise. Enough is enough!”

He surrenders.

Winner: Mary Thompson

John Coltrane, he is not

My beau’s penchant is the saxophone, and every Friday, after dinner and a small glass of Malbec, we retire upstairs where he extracts his instrument and begins to play. I want to be seen as a supportive lover so I perch on the end of the bed and murmur words of encouragement while he balances his sax on his extended belly, blowing into it as though it were a breathalyser. John Coltrane, he is not.

One day I’m on the top deck of the 133 with a banging hangover when he calls.

‘Not feeling well,’ I murmur. ‘Mixed my drinks and didn’t eat.’ And my head lolls back on the seat.
‘Hang on a second,’ he says.

Almost immediately I hear the sax. Its nail-hammering tones are so loud a baby starts wailing at the back of the bus. I try to switch the phone off but drop it under the seat and the screen smashes.

’Fuck!’ I scream, but he keeps on playing, even after I’ve exited the bus and staggered the five minutes to my flat, run a bath and watched the bubbles rise, dropped the phone on the floor again, submerged myself in the bubbles, lowered my head under the water so I can’t hear the damn thing any more, only I can as the crazy, fucked-up noise reverberates right through the bath tub.

Until finally, eventually he stops.

‘How was that?’ he asks, as I pick up the phone with a soapy hand.

Congratulations to Mary and Sarah! With that, I’ll send you all on your way for another week.

Until Friday!

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.

#QUICKFIC 23/11/2018: The Winner

a quote from H.G Wells' "The Time Machine" set against a background of a cloudy sky as the sun is setting. The clouds are all coloured in various gradients of pink, white and black. The quite reads "It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning."

Common sense isn’t typically what we go for in Faber Academy — we’re more on the whimsy and reaching for the sky and achieving your dreams side of things — so why would we take H.G.Wells’ advice here? No waiting until the morning for us, here are your #QUICKFIC flash fiction competition winners for this week:

Runner Up: Annie Bien

Sensing the Night

The crickets stopped their night strumming, a hiccup of silence. Then the bullfrogs stopped belching, two alligator seconds. She recognized the tiny feet of a friend scrambling across the grass and dirt, followed by larger feet pressing down the brush. Car tire sandals.

Car tires sandals were cheap and left no trace of a poacher’s foot size or shoe style, just another tire track on the road into the conservancy. She picked up her rifle, nudging her companion who nodded. They edged out, following the footsteps. Her eyes easily adjusted under the moon crescent. She lived here now, breathed the bush. No one would treat her charges the way her ex-husband had treated her.

She saw the back of a man putting the small ball of scales into a sack. She placed the rifle in the poacher’s neck.

“Drop the sack. Hands up. No pangolin for you.”

“Evelina? Is that you, darling?” Her husband asked, unafraid. “Come home, you’re tired. The children miss you. So do I.”

That singer’s voice, cooing at her. The sack was still. She cocked the trigger.

“Wait. You know I love you. There’s never been anyone else. Come home. A good night’s sleep brings a fresh start in the morning.”

Her companion put the cuffs on her husband. She never spoke to him again. Tenderly opening the sack, the pangolin unrolled and ran into the dark.

Runner Up: Alex James

Cycles

The sky was turning the colour of a bruise, of an inflamed gum. I stroked his head in my lap. He was shivering, his jaw working on nothing.

“I’m sorry,” he croaked.

“It’s okay.” We were leaning back into a pile of dirty duvets, a few reinforced shopping bags. Everything we had, soaking up the cold from the ground.

“What?”

The cars passing overhead were deafening. I had to shout.

“I said its fine.”

For a while, we just sat like that, watching the sun duck from cloud to cloud. Our stomachs growled. He picked at a scab on his hand and looked up at me. Under the grime I could still see the lines of his cheekbones. His eyes were hot, wet.

“I’ve got a plan. We can hitchhike to Stockport; post up at my uncle’s place for a while.”

This again. I said nothing. I knew he hadn’t talked to his family in a decade, maybe longer. Why did he say these things? Always at dusk, when he knew we weren’t going to go anywhere, or do anything.

“I know you don’t believe me. Doesn’t matter. We are going to get out of here,” he said. “Out of this life. I promise.”

“Sure, babes. Wait ‘til tomorrow morning, yeah?”

Tomorrow morning, we would wake up and hike into the centre of town, as we had done every day for a year. Tomorrow evening, we would be here, making our plans all over again.

The sun dropped, readying itself.

The Winner: Cait Gillespie

Nobody is Watching

She moved about the darkened room, following her hips as they beautifully crashed from east to west. It was past midnight. Her head turned like a hunting owl, catching my gaze before twisting back round in the opposite direction. Her fingertips caught the music and held it solid, pushing it in pulses through her belly and into the ground.

I was in my mother-in-law’s kitchen, and she had shape shifted into an Egyptian dancer. I liked routines and exercises that could be repeated neatly, with more accuracy each time. My mother-in-law didn’t do routines, and repeated nothing that wasn’t commanded by emotion. I had to shake off my Scottish cladding of self-consciousness, and move with her, to somewhere else.

I was now standing beside her, a veil swept across my shoulders. She starting moving her elbow in delicate circles, her forearm poised at an angle that suggested things unseen.

I was now the centre of gravity, as she passed the pulse to me. The tempo of the drums quickened and my hips started to twitch. I closed my eyes and pictured nothing. The drums tapped faster and faster. I listened to my joints, tested out my muscles. They were in agreement. They moved. I kept my eyes shut, and started to move my feet. They were ready, and stepped out a quick pattern, pushing the pulse back to her. I was caught in the dance now, and couldn’t stop until every possibility had been explored.

Congratulations to Annie, Alex and Cait. Many, many thanks yous to everyone that entered this week; that beautiful sky and reprieve from my nonsense made you produce some beautiful pieces!

Lovely weekends all. We’ll see you next Friday.

For a look back at our previous #QUICKFIC flash fiction competitions, click here.