I used to be a regular in the monthly 75-word flash fiction challenge on the SFF Chronicles forum as well as their quarterly 300-word challenge. Sometimes I even won. Not an easy task: competition is stiff! There are so many talented writers on the Chrons.
Writing flash fiction is an excellent exercise in being concise and getting your ideas across in as efficient a way as possible. There are plenty of websites — such as the Chrons — that hold regular flash fiction challenges. If you haven’t tried it before, why not give it a chance?
I’ll spare you the pirate poem that won a 75-word challenge in June 2014, but here are my winning 300-word entries. This particular challenge is based on visual prompts; for the original images, look at this thread, and here.
OCTOBER 2014: A Fairy Tale
The tiny fairy hovered, obscuring the pages of the book.
“Go away,” I snapped. “I’m trying to read.”
“Can’t I help?” she trilled, voice like tiny silver bells.
I sighed. “No. You can’t. It doesn’t work that way.”
I longed to swat her away like a fly but that would have been cruel. It wasn’t her fault I had saved her from that Rottweiler. How was I to know there was some fairy law about payback? Until last week, I hadn’t even known the ruddy creatures existed. Now I was stuck with her until she saved my life in return.
I set the book down and Tink walked onto the page. Of course, her name wasn’t really Tinkerbell, it was some unpronounceable gibberish, but who could resist? So Tink it was. To be fair, she didn’t seem to mind.
“Who is the small human?” she asked.
I resigned myself to conversation. “The Lost Princess. The woodcutter raised her, but now the evil queen is hunting her. That’s the queen’s knight.”
“And will he capture her and carve out her heart?” She was surprisingly bloodthirsty for such a tiny thing.
“No, the knight will show mercy. He has a boy of his own, see? The boy will grow up and fall in love with the Princess.”
She considered this, head tilted fetchingly to one side. Her fair curls, almost white against her blue skin, drifted like dandelion seed in the breeze and she gnashed her needle-sharp teeth.
“Humans are strange. Better to just carve out her heart.”
Her eyes glittered and I shivered, uncomfortably aware of just how alien the small creature was. I closed the book as she watched hungrily. I was suddenly very, very glad she owed me her life.
APRIL 2015: Whisper in the Wind
She limped along, small bare legs a mess of cuts and darkening bruises, tiny feet clad inadequately in plastic sandals. Insect bites, thorn scratches, blood on her cheek. Wild tousled hair, with one pink ribbon still hanging forlornly from the remains of a braid.
The jungle grew thicker, darker, denser. She stopped, pulling up the hem of her gingham sundress to wipe away the sweat. No tears, though, there were no more tears. The tears had stopped a long time ago, swallowed by exhaustion.
She wanted to rest, but the wind tugged at her hair and whispered, “Just a little longer, darling, just a while more.” So on she trudged, swaying in the wind that eddied up around her and coaxed her along. “Just a little longer, my love.”
When the day turned to night she wanted to run from that black and frightening world of chirping, calling, rustling things, but her tired legs wouldn’t obey and the wind told her, “Hush, baby, nothing can hurt you here. Just a little longer, we’re almost there.”
At last, a glimmer of light, of hope. She stopped and stared, wondering if it could really, really be?
“Yes, come my sweet, we’re here, you’re safe.”
And the wind pulled her forward, pushed her through the last tangle of branches and vines to a clearing and a small, shining farmhouse.
The next day, the newspapers were full of the story. How had the tiny girl, lone survivor of the plane crash, walked for hours through the jungle to the only house in miles?
But when the old farmer opened his door that night, he saw a multitude of shadows accompanying the child, and as she tottered forward she turned and whispered to the closest one, “Thank you, Mama.”
APRIL 2016: Tiny Bones
I crouch down in the garden, poke them with a stick. Small things, wispy and fragile. “Just a bird,” they would say. “Leave it alone, Sarah. It’s just a dead bird.”
It’s raining again. There’s been nothing but grey since the Weeping began. I haven’t seen the sun in over two years. I hate this rain, the feel and the smell of it. It trickles off the bird bones and sinks silently into the moss.
The bones are truly minute. If I picked them up, I could cradle them in my hand.
I wanted to cradle Sam, too, but they wouldn’t let me. He was so small when he was taken. Not even a proper baby yet. He never felt any pain, they told me. But what do they know? What do they really know of tiny bones and hearts and souls?
He was the fifth, this year alone. Since the Weeping, no child lives in this aging compound of ours. One by one, fading, failing. In this diseased world, we scream and rage, but still the silent killer strikes, deadly accurate, picking off our young ones one by one.
We bury the bones, bury them deep in the hidden place so they can’t come back, not like Marion’s Ava who killed three people before we trapped her in blankets and ran her through the wood chipper.
Because when they come back, they’re not human. Not any more, not after the Weeping.
But I don’t care. I want my Sam. I leave the bird’s tiny bones alone and make my way to the hidden place. I sink my fingers in the rain-damp soil. And then I begin to dig.