Winners

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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Shelley Wood
June 2016 Second Prize

Rags, Riches

by Shelley Wood

So hot, so hot: heat being ladled from the sky. Danny—not his real name, but the name everyone knows him by, even the cops, even Danny himself—Danny woke late-afternoon to find the shade had stolen itself away, leaving him lying on the pokey-dry grass in the blazing sun like a man on a griddle. A man on a griddle: head muddled, head duddled, head fuddled from whatever he’d drunk-smoked-pricked through his thick hide leaving him sizzling in his own stink at the base of a tree that must have turned away, nose wrinkling, yanking its shadow clean off Danny and setting it down somewhere else.

Danny can’t stand his own stink. The whole sour-salt-sweet-cheese-rank-rotten-apple-funk-shit-wreck of him. These days, Danny doesn’t hear so good, can’t taste for crap, but his sniffer works just fine, works like it’s the only thing left on him capable of putting in an honest day’s effort.

Kids are clowning around on a raft in the bay, squealing and leaping into the shimmering waves. Two tight-skinned teenagers pull themselves up the ladder, their golden limbs slick like creatures newly birthed. Danny has to glance away, wondering if, in a different life, he’d ever learned how to swim.

Soon enough, Bylaw will come by and nudge Danny’s shoe telling him he’s gotta-getta move-on. Danny is goddamn tired of moving on.

But here’s the heat again now, inching around the tree and bringing Danny’s stink with it. Walking’s the only thing left. Walk into the lake and keep walking until the waves have scrubbed him raw, his clothes have washed clean off his ruined body, and the slivers of glinting silver have shaved him smooth as a baby. Surely if he just keeps walking he can surface on the other shore, bejewelled.

About the Author

Shelley Wood

Shelley Wood’s short stories have appeared in F(r)iction, the Nashwaak Review, the New Quarterly, carte blanche, and Room. In the past few months, she has won the Tethered by Letters contest and the Cobalt Review’s Frank McCourt prize for Creative Nonfiction, and was shortlisted in the Writer’s Union of Canada Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers. She divides her time between New York City, where she is the managing editor at TCTMD.com, and Kelowna, Canada, where she is researching a suitable home for her first novel.
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Elisabeth Ingram Wallace
June 2016 Third Prize

The Baby Came Early, Screaming

by Elisabeth Ingram Wallace

Davina clocked Harold the second he was born. She slapped his arse and shoved her wrist-watch in his mouth. He sucked the tinny heartbeat, silenced. “I understand you,” she said. “You just need more time.”

By six-months old, he had twenty-six manual alarm clocks, four digital time-pieces, and a free-standing grandfather clock which he slept in like a crib. The days pounded. The flat pulsated. Davina slept in the bathtub like each night was a hurricane warning.

Each time Harold cried, Davina gave him a new watch, or let him touch the numbers on her iPhone. Then the wailing began again.

“What’s wrong Harold?”

But Harold just sobbed, his big hands in his mouth. The hands were from a 1919 train station clock. Czechoslovakian, solid bronze. She’d bought them off eBay.

“You’re too small a number to explain. Maybe when you’re one, or two. Then you can tell me what’s wrong.”

She played him ‘Hammer Time’. She read him ‘The Hours’. At night the clocks glowed neon, and crawled round the room with their slow worming glow.

They listened to the woman on the phone-line tell them the Greenwich Mean Time, over and over, and the time was always different, except for twice a day.

That’s where Davina got the idea. To stop all the clocks, before time consumed them. “Then you’ll be right. Not wrong. At least twice a day.”

Davina killed the iPhone in the washing machine, on Cottons, ninety degrees. She unplugged alarm clocks, removed batteries from watches, pulled pendulums from carriages.

From the grandfather’s belly, Harold kicked, howled and emptied. Davina had morning sickness, all over again.

About the Author

Elisabeth Ingram WallaceElisabeth did lots before fiction: silver-smithing, production design, and working as a prop-maker for children’s TV. She’s made diamond rings, giant emus, a dog’s birthday cake, as well as shoving steaming microwaved tampons into pies to make them look fresh-out-the-oven-scrumptious. After receiving a Dewar Arts Award, Elisabeth studied Creative Writing in Glasgow, and has been published in two anthologies and edited another. Elisabeth is currently writing ‘The Precinct’, an apocalyptic short fiction series, and is in the middle of writing ‘Lobster Queen’, her first novel.

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Anita MacCallum
June 2016 Commended

Boobless

by Anita MacCallum

A commitment to permanent scratching, these tights, tucked into my regulation-grey knee-length skirt. Knickers, white cotton, are stuck to my bum with a thin layer of sweat and still the teacher drones on and on. Fat black fly bangs against the window matching the rhythm of the numbers spilling from Mr. Weston’s mouth.

Calculators mashing sums inside dirty plastic cases, I can spell ‘hello’ and ‘Boobless’ and ‘Boobs’ and all sorts of things like that with my upside down screen but I can’t add up. Dust particles dance in the air as numbers crawl across my book. A particularly plump number eight squats on the page. I push down hard trying to squish it flat. I want it to stay still.

The air in the classroom is solid. Dense like lead. I’m thick in the head. That’s me. Big head one leg, that’s number nine, he’s mighty fine. Twenty two, ducks, quack. Nineteen ninety nine Prince and the revolution and number seven takes me to heaven. Times, add, divide and conquer, Willy Wonka, exploding sweets. Numbers rise up from the page to the sounds of ‘Hands Up, Baby Hands Up’ eight ladies wobbling, ducks dancing, prancing from the page, a parade of disco numbers and I…

‘Susan Braithwaite.’ A rubber bounces off the side of my head.

‘Susan Braithwaite, get down from that chair this instant.’ Mr. Weston’s claret-coloured face watches as my legs climb down and cease their apparent kicking. I resume my seat in my splinter ridden prison that contains me Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A new ladder creeps up my tights, from my knee to the top of my left thigh. Mr. Weston’s black oil eyes squash the disobedient dancing numbers back into place on the page. They line up neatly, casting off their costumes, waiting.

About the Author

Anita MacCallumAnita is a Bristol based writer, full-bodied with a nutty after-taste. She writes about people living on the edge of society, mental health and feminism. Transformation compels her and she is inspired by stories of positive activism. Anita can often be found performing her work in and around the South-West of England. She is currently writing a play exploring motherhood and mental health.

Anita works as a socially-engaged artist playing with words, glitter, flowers, projections, installations, hearts, minds and loves collaborating with other writers and artists.
Twitter: @loud_word
Facebook: MacCallumAnita
Website: loud-word.co

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Michael FitzGerald
June 2016 Commended

Falkland Island Walk

by Michael FitzGerald

The Turkey Vulture bobs about the moor here. He has a head like a red nightmare and he doesn’t care, he’s not looking for friends. He would rather you were dead. You are just calories to him. We both thought he’d found a dead crow on the track but it was a broken umbrella. I’m moving over the land like him, dropping a bit, rising a bit, it goes on this way. Landmarks can be a solitary post, a plank or similar, often sticking up, other times lying down. Closer to a settlement the bits get bigger, sheets and slabs appear, then holes in the peat, full of black water, like tar, then big sandwiches of matter such as a piece of roof. The wind makes the heather buzz. Everything is built on stilts, nothing will embrace the ground. It’s all hovering, still deciding whether it wants to take root or not. Loops of movement begin. A dog goes in and out, in and out. Hens pop in and out. Sounds pass on the wind like fleeing ghosts. A man comes out then in, out then in, like the hen but slower. You wouldn’t notice these cycles unless you observed them over time, which I did. The wind goes in and out, the sun, the moon, the day, the week, the hen, the dog, the man.

About the Author

Michael FitzGerald

I am delighted that my writing has been commended. I wrote this piece after spending a winter surveying the remoter parts of The Falkland Islands to create a Historic Building Register. I’ve recently got into flash fiction as an exciting bridge between prose and poetry – I like both the freedom and the ambiguity of it. A single idea or whim can turn into a piece quite quickly, and the editing requires a ruthless discipline where only the essential can remain....not unlike the subject of the piece.
Thanks everyone.

Artist: www.studiofitzgerald.com
Architect: www.mfitzgerald.co.uk
Facebook: @michaelfitzgeraldartist
Instagram: @studiofitzgerald

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Sheila Armstrong
June 2016 Commended

October 29th, 1.17am

by Sheila Armstrong

Someone found the cat under a park bench, fur flat against its back, wet-sleek from an oily stain. Someone said it had probably been up under a car, that they go for engines because they’re warm, that they fall asleep and either wake up in pieces or in another county. Someone said that this one looked like a badger. Or a skunk. It stinks enough, someone said. Mangy, too.

Someone said it was drain-water, not oil, because it had been raining earlier, and the thing had probably been chucked out of a car straight into a puddle. There was laughter. There was silence. Someone said there was one way to find out, and lit a match with a careful wrist-twist, then flicked the stick of wood forward, so it tumbled, arcing skywards, fanned brighter by the night-time breeze.

Someone started forward, mouth full of a swallowed shout, but stopped as the screech began. A shriek that crawled inside the eardrum and beat its tiny fists against the surface in agony; that writhed, pain pouring from every crevice; that clawed at every nerve. Someone cursed, a chain of words stitched together into a high-pitched shout, and fumbled with a scarf, grasping at the fur, fanning the singe-smell into little circular orbits. Someone flung a can of beer in a hopeful spray of amber foam that slowed and stretched out the time into puddles that clamoured to be allowed to pass.

Then the seconds broke free, and spilled all at once, and the cries began to drop back down the register. And someone turned and ran, skittering across the gravel, then another someone, and another, until all the someones were gone, but the weak and soft noises continued, spiralling in on themselves until they spluttered out with the last of the flames.

About the Author

Sheila Armstrong

Sheila Armstrong is a writer and editor. She grew up in the west of Ireland and is currently based in Dublin. She has been published in The South Circular, Literary Orphans, The Irish Independent, Litro magazine and gorse journal. In 2015, she was nominated for a Hennessy Award in the First Fiction category, and she contributed to Young Irelanders, a short story collection published by New Island Books.
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