Winners

Emma Zetterström
February 2017 Third Prize

Manganese

by Emma Zetterström

We’re like magnets, I say.
More like velcro, the distance scratches your voice.
Velcro lies flaccid until you stick it together. We snap, I say.
Not anymore. I stamp the snow on the platform.
We should repel, by the laws of nature, and my mum, because we’re the same. You ignore that. In ancient times minerals had a gender, I don’t want you to say what you want to say, but I want you on the line. My credit will run out in minutes.
Why can’t a stone just be a stone? you spit.
Manganese used to be, in, like, ancient times, two black stones. The male one attracted iron and the female one didn’t, I am stalling for you. The train arrives. I learned that at school today.
And only males have magnetism? you’re raising your voice. The train pulls away. Outside, winter has surprised autumn, stumbling in before the leaves have gone.
Magnets don’t work at a distance. Here it comes now. Tear apart the velcro. It’s time to end this.
What about the moon? I plead. It pulls the sea from afar.
I need more than a lunar body to tug me, your voice merges with the train’s rattle.
But I’ll be back once I leave school. Once Mum can’t decide. The words catch in the tiny holes covering the microphone. High rises become houses with junk-shaped snow in gardens. They become fewer. Until there are only white stretches interspersed by black trees. I hold my phone and watch the warning message light up. The money’s almost up. Rooks rise up in fright from the train’s trundle. Their outlines vivid against the snow.
All I hear before the phone cuts is Good.
Good.

About the Author

Emma is a Scot living in Sweden. She writes short stories from a red house on the edge of a forest north of Stockholm. Some of them have been published in the Island Review, Dactyl, Valve and one was long listed for Radio 4’s Opening Lines. She also translates, helps refugees with Swedish and English. She tweets @cookazstorm.

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Barbara Mogerley
February 2017 Commended

Cups

by Barbara Mogerley

Two artists shared a studio in Montmartre. The younger slept on straw in the corner of the room. His desire for realism tormented him, “Art is truth and truth is art,” he used to say. He rose at sunset, worked ‘til dawn; forgot to eat and rarely slept. He worked outdoors, he worked indoors; his inspiration had no limits.

The elder drew forks. His creations included: Fork with Still Life, Fork at Rest and Fork City, the latter inspired, he said, by Elliott’s Preludes. Celebrities appeared in them: Fork and Bono, students copied them, art collectors collected them. The New Yorker featured an article on his work: Is the fork what separates man from beasts?

One day, the younger – tired, dishevelled, hungry, broke - watched the elder complete Fork and Knife: A Study in twelve minutes, then eat a bacon roll. ‘Simplicity’, the elder advised, is the key. The younger bought a beginner’s art book. He mastered the outline of a cup in five minutes; produced four paintings an hour; named the naturalists as his inspiration. He drew cups with saucers, cups with plates, cups with teaspoons, cups with cups. His most fêted piece was a collaboration with the elder called, Cup and Fork: It took them fifteen minutes to complete. A dissenting voice called it ‘pretentious fork’, another called it ‘passé’. The world’s attention soon turned towards a young spoon artist.

About the Author

Barbara Mogerley lives in Dublin where she is researching and writing about her German grandfather's internment as a civilian P.O.W. Barbara is also working on some personal essays and short stories. She has been longlisted for two Fish Prize competitions and long listed and shortlisted for writing contests at the online journal, Someblindalleys where she was also one of the winners of their 'Fiction of the Future' competition. Other wins include a place on writer Molly McCloskey's workshop organised by Trinity College, Dublin.

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Elisabeth Ingram Wallace
February 2017 Commended

My Thirty-Eight Step Korean Cleansing Routine

by Elisabeth Ingram Wallace

Six months ago, my Mum and I started to get serious about skincare.

Mum’s goals were to be ‘barely there’, ‘flawless’ and ‘age-defying.’

My goals were to ‘go big’ and ‘colour!’

Mum tried ninety-eight Concealers and Foundations.

I tested Highlighters (for inner glow) and Contouring kits (to define).

You can find all our reviews on YouTube. With the product placement offers rolling in, we took things up a level.

Mum had her tummy tucked.

I got a bigger bum, bigger boobs, and bigger lips.

We weren’t getting the impact we wanted, YouTube viewer wise, so we upped our game.

Mum spackled plaster into her wrinkles and applied beige masonry paint.

I had my forehead surgically removed and replaced with the skull of a tiny baby bird. I’ve always felt insecure about my skull, ever since I was a toddler and I first noticed my cranium was disproportionate to my mandible.

Mum started sleeping with a bucket full of slugs on her face, so the slime would infuse her epidermis overnight.

I killed a man and climbed inside his body and wore him as a moisturising onesie.

That week, we got 4.8 million followers on Twitter!

Yesterday Mum filled the bathtub with sulphuric acid. Overnight, her body fizzled and melted into slime. By dawn, she was barely there. I drained her away this afternoon.

With Mum gone, I need to find myself. Centre myself. Be Me.

That’s why I’ve established my thirty-eight step Korean cleansing routine.

Self-care is a core component of mental health.

No more drama, surgery or make-up. Just clean healthy skin; twelve toners, three ampules, eight serums, nine moisturisers, and six sheet masks, twice a day.

It’s me time. No more Twitter, no more YouTube, no more Facebook. No more sharing, friending, following. No more words.

About the Author

photo credit Rob MacDougall

Elisabeth has worked as an art director, production designer and prop maker in adverts, horror films, music videos and Kids TV. She’s made (fake) bombs, torture dungeons, flying sandwiches, vegetable rock-bands and giant emus.

In early 2017 she received a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust, which means she can now spend less time building murder lairs in the forest and more time writing.

Elisabeth is currently writing ‘The Precinct’, an apocalyptic short fiction series, and is in the middle of writing her first novel. She can be found @shortstoryprize.

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October 2016 Judge’s Report
Robert Vaughan

Robert VaughanWhen Jude Higgins asked me to judge her Bath Flash Fiction Award, my initial excitement was checked by schedules. It would be October, my week of potential reading of finalists would follow my already booked trip to New York City to read at the venerable KGB Bar. Not once, but two evenings, Friday and Saturday, for both the ever-exciting F-BOMB series, and also the Best Small Fictions event. It was an incredible trip, but I arrived home depleted, exhausted. And now I had the task of turning to the 50 awaiting stories, the vetted Long List of Bath Flash Fiction semi-finalists.

As I read through them the first time, I was stunned. Not a single story that didn’t fit, that was not rightly placed among the stunning 50. I started sweating, drawn into these unique landscapes, the unusual words, startling sentence fragments, the odd characters. These were highly unique and remarkably crafted stories. I’ve been a judge more than a few times, also have edited for several magazines (and still do). These were not “normal” submissions. So, I got to work. I read them each two more times, separating them with a numerical system. Narrowing down the 50 stories, over the next three days, to an eventual Short List of 20.
Read in Full

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Helen Rye
October 2016 First Prize

One in Twenty-Three

by Helen Rye

Our land was beautiful. You should have seen the cherry blossom in the springtime, the foot of our mountain was clothed in it. And the sweetness of the figs in autumn – there is nothing like it anywhere.

Figs were our country’s first gift to the world. Anzuki, Halabi, Bouksati, Oubied - such poetry there is in the names, and in the soft, ripened flesh you could taste the warmth of the sun that falls on the land of my grandfather’s fathers.

We burnt the trees to keep our child from dying of cold, the winter after the power went down. My husband wept as he carried the branches from the orchard, but the snows were coming and we had nothing left to burn.

He spared one.

The last fruit was ripe on its branches and the leaves had almost gone, the day the rebels took him away.

I took my son to my sister in the city, but then the bombs came. They fell on the library. On the marketplace. On the internet café at the corner of the next street. On the hospital. On the people who were fleeing from the hospital.

Our lives compressed to the twelve-metre span of this boat.

I called my son Ocean, because once I loved the sea. Now our land lies scorched and turned toward the earth, and ten thousand have fallen like leaves beneath these waters.

Did you know that the fig is not really a fruit? No, it is a flower that has turned in on itself, so that all of the beauty and goodness lies hidden on the inside. All the colour that could in another life have become bright petals is wrapped in darkness, away from the world. But it is in there.

It is in there.

About the Author

helen-ryeHelen Rye lives in Norwich, where she juggles part-time work with parenting and writing. She has benefited from tutoring by some of the absurdly talented writers who live in the city. Her first piece of flash fiction was shortlisted for the 2015 Bridport Prize. She is writing a novel, very slowly, and the occasional picture-book text.

She has loved writing since she was a child but returned to it only relatively recently via workplaces including a physics lab, a needle exchange and a theatre company.

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Christopher M Drew
October 2016 Second Prize

The Perfect Fall

by Christopher M Drew

You twist your tiptoes into the textured edge of the board and rock up and down in perfect pace with the lullaby lilt of water far below.

Hush. Hush.

You taste sweat and urine and skin and blood and inhale the sterile chemical remains of a thousand nameless souls that float beneath you like flotsam.

Breathe.

You close your eyes as the massless void inside you dilates like a black hole and collapses, pulling you into its gravity.

You bend your knees and push, and push, and push.

Your arms stretch in an ichthys over your head and curve through the apex of the dive like a breaching dolphin.

This is the moment, in the soft blue silence between the leap and the fall, when the world ceases its incessant spin. When agony and ecstasy fuse into numb oblivion and all you can feel is...

...the rush of hot air over your skin. The fizz of adrenalin through your blood. The shock of your flattened palms, as pitiless and precise as a scalpel, slicing the surface of the water with a rip like torn tissue.

You disappear piece by piece by piece until you are submerged, invisible, spinning through the viscous fluid like the sombre cycle of the seasons.

Light, dark, light, dark.

You link your arms around tucked knees, empty your lungs in silent scream, and ascend inexorably towards the shattered surface.

In. Out. Breathe.

You lie still, weightless, and listen to the muted white noise of splashing, laughter, music, life. Your heartbeat slows, echoing the rhythmic lap of water in your ears.

Hush. Hush.

You cradle your arms and try to remember the weight of him, the tufts of his satin hair, his skin like folded silk, his infinite smile.

But all you can feel is the fall.

About the Author

chris-drewChris has always been a writer. His earliest memory is composing a short poem in primary school (which could be described as flash fiction, although he didn’t know it at the time) about a deer running through the woods. In between writing, he works for a University and spends as much time as possible with his wife and two children. He is currently writing another flash, two short stories, and has an idea for a novella-in-flash that almost certainly won’t be ready by January. He is also working on three novels, but really needs to pick one and finish it.

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Julianna Holland
October 2016 Third Prize

White Matter

by Julianna Holland

Through the smoke and the opaque mantle of my cataracts and bee veil I note that the waxing honeycomb has filled with a hatch of eggs, the mass of white absurdly distinct. All my life I have been hounded by the gleam of whiteness. In the snowfall of my childhood, a ram’s bone remains in a ditch, the pearl germs in my children’s teething gums, the hoar evinced itself in sharp focus.

It has dogged me since my fifth year when my brother died one Sunday in spring. That afternoon I stood before my mother and the still baby in her bedroom gloom holding a spray of tiny, white buds. A tea tray on the dressing table glistened with a spoon, half-harrowed in the sugar, tempting as a spade in sand. I ventured closer holding out my wilting flowers. A meagre offering. My lowered stare took in her swollen chest and, startling me, her breasts cried first. Milk tears spilled and spread across the strained fabric of her nightdress. My infantile bravery shattered. Dropping the white cluster on her bed, I ran from the room. I see them now, the same restive sprays, dancing boundless beyond the bulk of the hive. Were they meadowsweet or cow parsley or Queens Anne’s lace? I had neglected to learn the name of the spirited white flowers, paragons of remembrance, tenacious souvenirs of my boyhood. I turn to my wife and ask at last. ‘Baby’s breath’ is her reply and my mourning carries on.

About the Author

julianna-hollandJulianna Holland is a writer living and working in the North West of Ireland. She studied Film and Psychotherapy in Dublin and Galway.
Julianna is a member of The Sandy Field Writers' Group based in County Sligo and has previously been shortlisted by Fish Publishing and The Bridport Prize.

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Caroline Reid
October 2016 Commended

Last Dog

by Caroline Reid

After I had my dog put down I went to the beach where I saw another black staffy chomping on frothy waves like she was that crazed with thirst and hunger she could have drank the ocean, eaten all the fish, dived to the bottom to feed on crays, munched her way through the Great Barrier Reef, before gobbling up the entire Pacific trash vortex. Then a squall of kids stormed out of the Life Savers Club, scaring the shit out of me in their red rashies, and when the staffy heard them she took one quick preserving look over her shoulder, plunged into the sea and paddled like mad. And I remembered my first dog, the way she took ill suddenly. After the fits you could smell the terror on her, metallic and wet like steel pipes left in the rain and I was hard on myself because I got more upset over that dog than my dad, who had died the previous summer. I’d watched him shrink to half his size in the hospital bed, wiping grey gunk from his mouth, holding my breath against foul smelling boils that erupted on him daily as if anger were its own revenge. I watched the staffy drift to safety further up the beach and I thought that when the oceans fish have dried up, the reefs are white as Styrofoam and there are only starving mobs of kids left, this is the way the last dog will go. Hounded by a herd of freckle-heads across blistering sands, she will be forced to dive beneath toxic waves before disappearing for good. I sat in the shallows and let the sand fill my knickers, knocked the top off a bottle of bourbon and bawled my bloody eyes out.

About the Author

caroline-reidCaroline Reid wrote her first commissioned work for theatre twenty years ago and since then her plays, fiction and poetry have been consistently performed, broadcast and published. She has written for arts organisations, schools and community groups; and has created work alongside independent artists, artist with disabilities and young people. In 2016 she was writer-in-residence at the South Australian Writers Centre and a finalist in the South Australian Poetry Slam. She is currently working on her first novel. Caroline lives in Adelaide, where she loves to go walking with her family in the shade of her pink and green umbrella.

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Michelle Elvy
October 2016 Commended

Whale Shark

by Michelle Elvy

I dreamed I was a whale shark dreaming he was a boy dreaming he was a whale shark dreaming he was a boy dreaming he was a whale shark dreaming he was a boy. Illuminating. Diving. Soaring. All in one night, or maybe it was one hour, or even one minute. I dove down down down and found fluorescent charms swinging from the snouts of seahorses. I flew firecrackerfast, fearsome and jubilant at the dizzying depths and the iridescent shape of things. I fed on plankton but they weren’t plankton at all – they were morsels of delight, merry magical minstrels skipping on my tongue, pressing and lifting at the same time. Between bites (gapes, because there’s no chewing when you’re a whale shark) I napped and dreamed, and I was the boy, and I had a ladder, and I climbed and climbed and climbed. The ladder went up to the top of my house and beyond. It touched treetops and the salt of the sea-sky in the harbour. It exceeded the reach of my mother’s call, way out in the everdark of the night. I dove through silk raindrops and I was a whale shark again, pectoral fin browsing slippery sand. And then I was a boy again. Shifting back and forth, down and up: first tail swish, long and smooth and elegant like a shark but not a shark, then boy with hands – hands! – digging a mote of water for protection (naturally) around a castle, singing sea-lavender songs. As a whale shark, I dreamed the boy, and as a boy, I dreamed the whale shark. And so on. Blueblack of ocean to blackblue of sky. Down and back up. Swimming laddering lunging climbing.

I can be anything in my dreams.

I open my mouth and swallow the stars.

About the Author

m-elvyA writer and manuscript editor based in New Zealand, Michelle Elvy edits at Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction and Blue Five Notebook. She is chair of NZ's National Flash Fiction Day and Assistant Editor of the critically acclaimed Best Small Fictions series. This year, she is assembling an anthology of New Zealand flash, with Frankie McMillan and James Norcliffe. Currently in East Africa, Michelle is writing two collections, one essay and one flash, inspired by the extraordinary animal life she’s encountered during her travels aboard her sailboat, Momo. ‘Whale Shark’ is from those new stories. Read more at michelleelvy.com and svmomo.blogspot.com.

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Sharon Telfer
June 2016 First Prize

Terra Incognita

by Sharon Telfer

The galleys wallow home, bellies low with other men’s gold. The sailors stagger to the brothels. The masters go first to banker, barber, court, then to the mapmaker.

On lookout, she spies them, stumbling over cobbles, ducking the jutting houses.

She whispers each name so her father can greet them. They sit heavily, still unsteady on the unmoving land. She brings soft cheese, cherries, peaches – whatever is ripe.

They spill their stories before the solid ground can make them fast. They tell of days when the sun never sets or never rises, birds that swim but cannot fly, great fish that sing, of smoking mountains, shrieking ice, forests where men become trees, one-footed men, dog-headed men, waves as high as cathedral bells, seas as still as death. They have sailed so far they have gazed at unfamiliar stars and wondered how they are to find their way back.

She replenishes the wine, sharpens quills. Their salty eyes, narrowed as horizons, navigate the billows of her dress, each swell and dip, seeking always somewhere to make landfall, claim dominion.

They go, at last, to wives or mistresses. She puts the shutters up and bars the door. Her father rubs his milky eyes, pushes away the notes he can no longer read, unrolls the vellum. The grid is ready, the compass rose points north.

She takes the quill. Her father puts his hand over hers. Together, they fix the stories they have heard. The feather swoops, charts the safe harbour, skirts the reef. This is where she will paint the puffing winds, here devouring monsters, there pattern those strange constellations. Beyond this line, nothing; the map waits.

The mapmakers work late in the closed room, conjuring from ink and skin new worlds neither will ever see.

About the Author

Sharon TelferSharon loves writing anything but author bios. She works as a freelance writer and editor turning complex research into short, clear prose. She discovered flash fiction through Twitter in 2015. She’s won the @FaberAcademy and @AdHocFiction competitions and is published in the 2016 National Flash Fiction Day anthology. Her shortest winning story is a six-word sci-fi for the Arvon Foundation. Her essay on Angela Carter’s inspirational tales won the 2014 Thresholds Feature Writing Competition.
Say hello on Twitter: @sharontelfer.

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