Welcome to April’s Furious Fiction story showcase – a monthly celebration of our community’s creativity and the chance to have YOUR OWN story featured or acknowledged. So, without further ado, let’s remind ourselves of what April’s criteria were:
- Each story had to include something that CHANGES COLOUR.
- Each story had to include the words ACCEPT, POINT, RIDDLE, INKLING and LABEL. (You could use longer variations as long as the original spelling was retained.)
- APRIL FOCUS: Each story had to have an ENGAGING OPENING SENTENCE – one that will make your reader want to read on.
The many hundreds of submissions we accepted used the five mandatory words in myriad ways – including everything from solving riddles to walls riddled with bullets, pointy boots to 3-point shoots, label makers to inkling thinkers and so much MORE. (Did YOU notice the five words had the initials A-P-R-I-L?) We also saw a lot of hair changing colour, as well as chameleons, leaves, skies, skin, shirts and eyes – to name just a few.
Congrats if your story stood out this month and made it to our showcase. We’ll start with a selection of stories that embraced our APRIL FOCUS. Then follow with a further selection of favourites and a long list of others that caught our eye. Enjoy!
APRIL FOCUS: “An engaging opening sentence”
In flash fiction, you want to make an impact from the very start – engaging your reader from the FIRST sentence.
- Of course, there is no ONE way to do this. It might be achieved with a short impactful statement or piece of dialogue that shocks or intrigues the reader. A popular technique can also be something funny or initially confusing that piques interest – you need to read on to make sense of it.
- The reason openings are so important in flash fiction is that word count is so tight. As a writer, you want to get your reader hooked and immersed in the story as quickly as possible. No dipping of toes – push them in the deep end!
- This month, we were impressed by the variety of descriptive and attention-grabbing openings – many showcased below. As you read, ask yourself WHY you want to read on… what is it making you feel? Curiosity? Confusion? Intrigue? Descriptive prose? Any of these are a victory for the writer!
And if you want to learn MORE about creating great beginnings in all kinds of fiction, check out our ‘FOCUS ON… Openings’ online seminar today – only $55 and a great addition to your writer toolbox!
Here is a selection of stories that nailed this month’s FOCUS challenge:
WALKING WITH ELEPHANTS by Cath Krejany, VIC
If the elephant hadn’t taken a liking to his peanut butter sandwich, then maybe Sean would still be married. Was that really true? Who knows. But he often wondered about it. The idea sat at the back of his mind. Plagued his thoughts like a riddle he’d never be able to solve. It ate at him. If only.
If only the beast hadn’t trumpeted too loudly Marie wouldn’t have been startled.
If only those parents who wanted a better view for their kids hadn’t parked their stupid stroller behind us.
If only her first faltering backwards steps hadn’t caught those ridiculously large wheels.
If only he hadn’t seen the trickle of blood dripping down past her fierce eyes turning her new white blouse a dark crimson.
If only she hadn’t screamed at him that he was a useless idiot.
If only he hadn’t realised at that precise point in time, she’d never truly loved him.
If that day never happened, could he have made it work? He was good at fixing things. He could make any piece of machinery run smoothly. Golden hands they said. But ‘people machinery’ was different. He couldn’t touch it. Move the pieces. Manipulate it. He wasn’t even sure he knew where all the parts were. Truth was, things never were the same after that day. And he had an inkling it wasn’t all the elephant’s fault.
What was he even doing back here? It was hot. Really hot. Dust from the northerly stung his eyes. Most of the exhibits were closed. The crowds were slim. The few flannel-covered strollers were parked at the drinks stands where flushed and sweaty parents furtively eyed each other with I-told-you-so looks. He didn’t even like animals much. That was her thing. Maybe Marie was right. He was a moron.
Sean brushed the dirt off the label describing the exhibit. Facts and statistics he knew he’d never remember struggled to register. What was he looking for here? Some esoteric mystical thread he could pull to get his life back on track? If he came back here to the crossroads, could he turn his life in a different direction? Could he finally accept the loss?
He watched the closest elephant wallowing in the shallows. Spraying itself with muddy water.
“They don’t mate for life, you know. That’s a myth.”
He hadn’t seen the woman arrive. Sean glanced around quickly to be sure she was talking to him.
“That right?” he replied.
“Yep. Amazing animals though,” she went on. “One of only a few that can recognize themselves in a mirror.”
She grinned brightly from under her floppy khaki hat and layers of zinc cream. As she moved past him, he heard her whisper quietly. “They also grieve.”
Before Sean could think of anything to say she was gone. He watched the elephant in front of him slowly rise, dragging itself inch by inch out of the muddy water. Sean smiled. Maybe elephants weren’t so bad.
One of the best opening sentences we saw this month belonged to Sean and his ridiculous ‘cause and effect’ ponderings. As a reader, you’re immediately intrigued. Did the elephant EAT his wife? What happened? And so, we find out, through nice repetition (If only…) the real turn of events. But what’s Sean doing back at the scene of the straw that broke the relationship’s back? After some great descriptive stanzas (we loved “sweaty parents furtively eyed each other with I-told-you-so looks”!), we have our meet-cute and the elephant in the room is at last a thing of the past!
INVISIBLE by Judy Hogan, NSW
It wasn’t the first time she’d been hit by a car.
Each day after school she pedals slower, taking longer routes. Even if her parents are home, she rides alone through the streets, along busy highways. Sometimes the cars drove a bit close and bumped the back of her bike. The lanes are narrow.
On this particular cloudy day, she is swiped by a car and lands on the footpath. The car doesn’t stop. She rides home as usual, keeping it to herself. Her parents had enough on their plates.
When she gets home, her brother is on the floor twitching, and frothing at the mouth. She’ll get in trouble, again, she thinks. No one notices her bleeding knees. And she didn’t expect them to.
‘Ring an ambulance!’ her dad yells, pointing to the phone, not looking at her, his attention firmly on her brother, where it should be.
‘Where were you!?’ her mother yells.
‘You know you need to come straight home! Now look what’s happened!’
She accepts that this is her lot. She rings an ambulance, then turns her brother on his side, moving the chair away from his head. Eventually, his body slows, and the blue-grey of his face begins to subside, his colour returning to normal. Her parents pace, the ambulance officers check her brother out, and load him up again.
She has an inkling that this was now her life. The only place she was able to be herself was at school, and she worked hard. Everywhere else, she was always labelled as her brother’s sister. She felt invisible.
She goes to her room and licks a tissue, dabbing at the blood on her legs and she smiles. It’s her birthday, and she reaches into her bag and pulls out a squashed cupcake that she bought herself at school to celebrate. She hadn’t had time to eat it at the library when she was filling out her applications for university.
She goes to the kitchen for water. No one says anything.
Her birthday present sits on top of her brother’s pool table, next to his golf bag. Riddled with emotions that she can’t find words for, she draws in her room instead. She waits until midnight to turn off her bedroom light.
She stands at the letter box, two letters in her hands. One from a university nearby, the other, a university a 10-hour drive away. She stares at the envelopes, takes a breath and opens them.
She’s accepted at both. She tears one up and throws it in the bin.
She puts her bags in the boot of her car. She has a long drive ahead.
‘Ring us when you get there, love,’ her dad says.
‘I don’t know why you chose a university so far away,’ her mum says.
‘That’s where I got in, mum,’ she lies.
She drives away, the early morning sky changing from soft pinks to bright oranges. She smiles, rolls down her window, and turns up the music.
Straight out of the gate, we’re pulling heartstrings tight with this tale of an overshadowed and shunned sibling. The opening sentence truly sets the tone here – the incredulous matter-of-factness of how it shares the fact with the reader, which is backed up in the paragraphs that follow. The present/past-tense jostle outlines a narrative of neglect, using show-don’t-tell to great effect and making the ultimate decision a lot easier!
INSTANT SISTER by Emma Goldman-Sherman, USA
Liza was the oldest in her family until Jane arrived. Then Jane took over as Big Squirt. Kit got to stay Little Squirt, and Liza was forced to become Middle Squirt. Liza was supposed to accept it, as if this impossible riddle could be normal.
“We're all supposed to be supportive,” said her Mom. If Mom was on board, even though Jane wasn't her biological child, this was not negotiable.
Liza, at 12, could take her bike to the ped-mall and hang out with her friends. But once Jane arrived that stopped.
“How can you let her go there? Don't you know they smoke pot over there? Why would you trust her?” Jane sneered.
“Is it true?” Mom asked.
What could Liza say? Maybe some kids smoked, but she didn't.
Jane pointed out Liza's faults. Her hair was too limp. Her pores were too big. When she blushed her whole face changed color. If there was something Liza liked about herself, Jane labelled it defective.
“You're gonna wear that? Bogus. Stupid. Childish.”
Once Liza yelled back, “I am childish! So what?”
“I win,” Jane said, laughing.
Liza didn't even know it was a game.
Liza told Jane, “I heard you in the shower crying.”
“None of your beeswax,” Jane said, laughing again.
Liza asked her mom about it, if something was wrong with Jane.
“We've got to give her time. She's making an adjustment.”
Liza longed to get out of the house. One day she just grabbed her bike and went.
The ped-mall was filled with kids and bikes and skateboards and scooters. Umbrella'd tables crowded with cooler kids were piled high with paper food boats, sodas and burger wrappers. Fries littered the sidewalk attracting pigeons. Liza moved to the grass where she put down her bike and used the seat as a headrest. Some high school kids formed a circle around her.
“She's your sister, ain't she?”
Liza sat up, and found she had no voice to reply. She could feel her face turning red.
“Where'd she come from?”
“Why's she like that?”
“I heard she was in rehab.”
“Is she a druggie?”
“Tell us the truth.”
“She a meth smoker?”
“Did she shoot up?”
“Did she try to kill herself?”
“Did she shoot H?”
Liza had no inkling what some of their words meant but other words were crystal clear. She got to her feet and tried to get on her bike.
“I don't know!” she said. “Leave me alone!”
They demanded answers, but Liza was able to swing her leg around and find the pedals. Kids scattered. She rode off as they called her names.
Now she knew that names didn't matter. But she hardly knew her new sister. If she was going to defend her, she wanted to know more. Whatever it was, she rode home for answers.
At first, the opening sentence seems like it has to be wrong – surely there is no quirk of age-bending that can create this scenario. And that’s how it hooks you in, through a demand for answers – swiftly and cleverly arriving in the form of a foster/adopted sibling (hinted at in the title). What we also loved was the 180-turn that happens in the face of the high schoolers’ interrogation and Liza’s loyalty to family first, despite her and Jane’s rocky beginnings. An authentic snapshot of another unique sibling dynamic.
BE CAREFUL WHOSE TOES YOU STEP ON WHEN YOU TREAD THE BOARDS by Hilary Ayshford, UK
The stench of stage fright is unmistakable. The prickly top note of sweat blended with a sour, rank bass note of terror wafts from stage left across to the dark corner where I hunch over the script like a carrion crow, unseen but all-seeing. I sense the thumping of her heart, her rapid breathing, the sweat on her palms, the effort it takes to unstick her tongue from the roof of her mouth, and the clamminess of her skin, transformed from whitewash pale to a glowing pink by the layers of grease paint.
The man in the spotlight declaims his line, her cue to enter. Silence. He repeats it, louder, glaring pointedly into the wings. She stumbles and almost falls onto the stage, propelled by the hand of the stage manager between her shoulder blades, and stands frozen, a plump, quivering gazelle transfixed by the stare of the voracious audience. She looks over at me, her doe eyes glazed with dread and panic. I meet her desperation with indifference.
I say her line – the line that should have been mine – but just too softly for her to hear. I may be only the prompt but she has no inkling of my power. In this moment I am omnipotent.
The rest of the company was puzzled when the cast list was posted, but it was no riddle to me. The director, my feckless husband with his wandering eye and groping hands, has always been susceptible to a pretty face and a heaving bosom. Right now I bet he's regretting his decision to choose looks over talent.
With a whisper of purple taffeta and a loud sob she exits stage left. The curtain falls with an angry thump, and over the PA system the stage manager begs the audience to remain seated, assuring them that the performance will resume once the leading lady has recovered from her indisposition.
I swoop across the stage to the dressing room, where they are already stripping her of the costume.
She has vomited – fortunately, into the fire bucket and not over the dress – and I wonder how attractive my fickle husband finds her now.
The dress is a poor fit, but tissues stuffed in my bra and some sticky tape create a passable cleavage, and the shiny row of safety pins down the back are concealed by the cloak. I apply makeup while the wardrobe mistress hastily tacks up the hem.
A swelling murmur of impatience from the auditorium is audible backstage as the cast resume their places. When the cue comes, I stride onto the stage and deliver the line – my line now, not hers.
At the end I accept the audience's acclamation as my due. It is not until the third curtain call that I spare a passing thought for my rival, shivering semi-clad in the dressing room. We both know she will never shake off the label of failure.
From shunned siblings to shunned stage wives we go. And a fantastic title, matched only by the emotion and immediacy of the opening line. From here, our underappreciated understudy details the visceral qualities of stage fright with aplomb and indifference, before exiting backstage to ready herself for the ultimate bait-and-switch performance. Marvellous descriptions throughout (“a whisper of purple taffeta and a loud sob”) make this a performance to remember from start to finish!
DEATH VISITS THE SUBURBS by KB Raines, USA
In the suburbs, Death arrives in a minivan. I knew this, because I was his new summer intern and we were currently weaving through traffic. He had a coffee in the cupholder, black of course, and let me tell you, that was an experience at the drive through.
“Who are we picking up?” I asked.
“Some guy named Lawrence Pfeiffer,” Death said. He cursed and laid on the horn at a young mother who switched lanes suddenly. “Damn dangerous to drive around here,” he grumbled. Back to me, he said, “Routine heart attack.”
“Is he expecting us?”
“Not an inkling. He thinks he’s healthy for some reason.” Death poured some coffee down his maw, which went straight to the seat and floor of the minivan since he was all bone and no flesh.
I held my tongue.
We pulled onto a residential street and parked. There was noise in the backyard, so we jumped the fence into the midst of a barbecue party. Death peered through the crowd, then pointed toward an obese man in a t-shirt that said, ‘Official Bikini Inspector’. “It’s gotta be that guy.”
The fellow had food and beverage in hand, and was talking to an attractive woman who drew Death’s attention as we walked. “We’ll give her a story to tell, eh?” he murmured, poking me in the ribs with a bony elbow that was an actual bone. We walked through the crowd, invisible to all but one, me in my shirt and tie and Death in his signature black robe and scythe. Death caught the man’s attention and curled his skeletal finger to come to the other side.
I’ve never seen a man’s complexion turn from ruddy to white so quickly. He looked from Death to me to Death again. “What’s happening?”
“It’s time,” Death said. “Let’s go.”
“I’m only 47 years old,” the man said incredulously. “This is not right! I don’t accept this!”
“Let’s not make a scene,” Death said.
“Why me? Why now?” The man’s face transitioned back from white to red as anger replaced shock.
“It’s not exactly a riddle, is it? You smoke, you’re morbidly obese, and …”, he peered at the label on the man’s drink, “that’s your 12,114th lifetime beer. Are you really truly surprised?”
“But I’m too young! I have a family! I can’t have this happen!”
“You should have thought about that earlier.” Death laid a finger on him to seal the deal.
We escorted his mortal soul to the minivan as the woman screamed and a crowd converged over his fallen physical body. He wept piteously as we climbed into the minivan. “Car doesn’t move until everyone’s seat belt is fastened,” Death warned. “Workplace policy.” We blindly complied.
We had just begun to move when Death braked abruptly, staring with empty sockets at the address on the front of the house. “Wait,” he said, “was the address 11954 Paradise Way or 11594 Paradise Way?”
I checked the form. “11594.”
Humour is a great way to kick open a story and draw your reader in – as we see in this suburban story of juxtaposed proportions, with its minivan-driving Death and sidekick (scythe-kick?). Loaded with great comic timing and easy dialogue, we follow along, Training Day style, as Death hilariously sips coffee and collects souls with equal dollops of disdain and disinterest – the criteria words silkily woven throughout. A stickler for seat belts but clearly not for double-checking addresses, the final line is dead funny.
YEARS AND YEARBOOKS by Thomas Elson, USA
They took no classes together, and, after that first year, never attended the same school, but somewhere, inside the scattered years of their lives, there were yearbooks.
He drives more slowly than he used to, even more slowly today, through the empty school parking lot for the first time in fifty-eight years. Windows not yet boarded. Walls not yet graffitied.
His cane balances an unsteady walk as he inches toward his youth. His raised left hand shields his eyes, once a sparkling blue, now a time-faded and cataract-clouded gray, from the sun’s reflection, then steadies him against the window as he searches for two adjoining lockers, their numerical labels still attached – where she had slammed her locker door; and, when it hit the side of his head, he looked at her for the first time.
Somewhere at the end of another hallway, he has no inkling in which direction, was the lunchroom, where one evening, at the end of the school year, he walked toward her – sitting with legs crossed atop a long table; and, after she said, Yes, handed her his yearbook. He remembered how she cradled it. How her hands smoothed the blank page, and his not wanting her to release it.
She wrote, Well, Mike, we met when I hit your head with my locker door. Hope we get the same lockers next year. Before she handed it back, she pointed to what she had written. “Please read this carefully.” When he looked at it, he frowned. She smiled, “It’s not a riddle.” His yearbook, now lost. His words written to her, now forgotten.
He thought of her all summer. Wished he could be with her, but their district split and sent them to different schools.
That September he called. She accepted. And they grew into a couple – every Friday and Saturday together and three nights a week on the phone – through difficult classes and summer jobs. Their parallels as a couple abounded – she the cheerleader; he captain of football and basketball teams. Both college bound.
Their lives were stride by stride until he discovered the world, and she preferred a classroom. He wanted her to change. She wanted peace and security. He traveled the country. She moved to a farm and taught in a small school. He continued to feel her presence decades after she returned his ring.
He saw her only once after that – from afar and was forced to lean against a wall to quiet himself. As he does now when he drives to the high school and searches through the window for their lockers – where for a moment he is young and unbroken.
In just 440 words, we travel the decades in this tale of young love laced with nostalgia and regret. And it all begins with an intriguingly long opening sentence – 27 words that shouldn’t really go together but succeed in laying out the essence of the entire narrative. From here, we tag along with Mike – now in his late 70s – as he walks the hallways of a past long-since lost and forgotten. Deftly told with melancholy that never descends into cliche, it’s a familiar portrait of a man looking to both relive and remove memories that keep hold of his heart.
Some more of our favourite stories from this month:
THE LONG WAIT by Athena Law, QLD
The second best part of Bevan Horton’s death was the freshly-vacated position of President of The Merry Valley Yowie Committee. I anticipated hot competition for the role, especially given the suddenness of the situation; usually candidates would have months to prepare for their campaign.
Glancing at the clock above my office desk, I calculated that because I’d finalised my reports in record speed I’d now have nearly three hours to perfect my speech. Opening a previously saved file on my desktop I pulled up the list of other prospective presidents, their experience and qualifications in dot points next to their names. Mary I had notated as a ‘slim chance’ – too new, too green. Trevor was labelled as an ‘old-timer’ – stuck in his ways, not tech savvy. Sanjay, oh dear poor Sanjay – definitely an obsessive, I had an inkling that too much time making yowie traps in the bush could make anyone loopy. All signs pointed my way, a respected local professional, excellent public speaker and one of the few who could claim a true sighting.
Later that evening, I prepared to wrap up my rousing speech by first taking a moment to glance at each member of the assembled group sat before me under the harsh lights of the draughty town hall. “It’s no riddle why I stand here before you tonight, ready, willing and able to take the MVYC into its next chapter”, I stated in my most authoritative tone. “For too long the yowie community has not achieved the respect and recognition it deserves and I’m the only one who can change that, beginning tonight!” I pounded the lectern with my fist for emphasis and the hall erupted into cheers and applause, even a raucous catcall from Sanjay.
Straight afterwards, Clara Horton approached me, her right hand outstretched to shake mine. Instead I clasped it warmly between both of my hands and gazed deep into her clear grey eyes. Her usually pale complexion instantly flushed as I watched, a deep rose blush that swept across her cheeks endearingly. “Congratulations”, she said. “It’s what Bevan would have wanted.”
“Thank you for accepting me so readily as your new president Clara”, I said cosily. “You really must allow me to take you to dinner sometime soon, to pick your brains so to speak – I’m sure you were the beauty and the brains behind the scenes of Bevan’s long reign.” She blushed again, and after a long moment nodded her assent. I silently congratulated myself. Twenty long years of waiting and finally she was within my reach. The first and absolute best part.
A nice tactic to open the story here was to give us a tease, with the second-best thing about the situation for our unnamed protagonist vying for the top job in the MVYC. So, if the position becoming available was not the best thing, WHAT was the best? The campaign and subsequent success plays out and it seems like it was just a tease after all, until we finally get the numero uno ulterior motive!
GETTING AWAY by Forestina, UK
Like a piece of baggage awaiting collection, you have a label attached to your toe.
Ridiculously I feel the need to check it is indeed you, for you bear little resemblance to the person you were. Your once florid face now blanched like sunken tallow; your eyes firmly shut to what you have witnessed, and for that I am grateful. The livid bruises I know are there, have been discreetly covered to avoid distress together with the wound from which your blood had fountained. The point of the blade had proved surprisingly lethal, and I had recoiled aghast.
I had pleaded with them to let me see you, to help me accept what had happened. And I now confront your pathetic carcass, so diminished in death.
The mortuary attendant stirs uneasily, indicating my time here is at an end.
I turn to leave, half expecting you to rise from that cold steel table, pointing with an accusatory finger. Miraculously others seem to have no inkling. As a respected member of the community and outwardly loving husband; your death remains a riddle.
I think I have done what was expected. I leave the building, my ordeal over. Despite the risk ,you are there waiting to take me home, just as you'd promised.
I wonder why you are just standing there, not moving, until I see others approaching.
I stand passively as steel cuffs are snapped onto my delicate wrists and I am led away past gathering bystanders baying for my blood. What did they know? Indeed, what did anyone really know?
The opening line provides a wonderful comparison and sets the scene in a unique way here, as our guilty party goes through the morgue-motions but ultimately doesn’t quite get away with everything after all. A bite-sized narrative that ultimately asks more questions than it answers.
GREY by Denise Newton, NSW
A week after the diagnosis, my hair turned grey. Iron grey. Not pepper and salt. Not a soft white, or a gradual sprinkling of silver amongst the auburn curls. No, it was grey—the colour of a submarine, or a railway bridge.
I had no inkling of why, until my first appointment with the oncologist to discuss treatment. She gave me a sympathetic look and gently hinted that, as I would soon be losing my hair (chemo, here I come) perhaps I shouldn’t mind that it matched our concrete driveway. The label ‘cancer’ entered the room, sat down on the chair next to the doctor, and leered. Stones of dread settled deep in my belly. Cold and hard, immovable.
She was right, of course. A week after my first treatment the grey curls weakened, gave up the fight. They fell into my teacup at inappropriate moments. My head was scattered with sad clumps. I now looked like a half-plucked, grey chicken. I have never seen a grey chicken, but there you are.
I decided to accept the hair situation and act because it was the only thing over which I had any vestige of control. Why waste energy trying to save my chicken feather hair? I took to it with scissors, then my husband shaved the last tufts with his trimmer. I suspect he shed some tears while he did so. The trimmer hummed and buzzed, while I kept my eyes squeezed shut. When he was done, we both looked down at the feathery drifts on the white tiles.
‘Wonder what colour it will grow back?’ I hoped for auburn again but was not foolish enough to believe it would happen. This was cancer after all—an unsolvable riddle.
Three months of treatment—I use that word carefully—being poisoned every two weeks by several bags of malevolent-sounding concoctions pumped into my veins. One of the bulging plastic bladders contained a substance so detrimental to human health that the nurses wore protective gear while they hooked it to the drip pole. I kept my eyes shut then, too. In my mind I imagined the drops from that bag as mediaeval knights on white chargers, galloping out to kill my cancer cells. Their armour glinted in sunlight; lances sharpened to evil points, horses’ hooves pounding as they bore down on the enemy.
Afterwards, the relief of finishing chemo was so profound, I stopped looking for signs of hair. That was when I saw it: when I no longer cared. Isn’t that the way? When you’ve stopped wanting something with a desperation that is visceral, it arrives. On a beautiful sunny morning, as I was brushing my teeth in front of the mirror, I noticed…chicken feathers! A downy blur across my previously shiny scalp. Over the next days and weeks, the blur became a fuzz and I saw that it was grey.
I could laugh then, because I no longer cared.
The comparison of grey as a submarine or railway bridge made us smile – the perfect language for someone struggling with this change of colour. But then, once the dreaded ‘label’ arrives, the grey is eventually welcomed back and treated as an old friend, not the enemy. A unique but authentic perspective on a sadly all-too common stage of many lives.
THE CLOTHESLINE by S.C. Mizzi, VIC
In the arid Australian heat, our rusted clothesline squeaks. My trousers dried stiff, cracked. A gust of wind could turn them into dust. Her favourite dress still hangs, no longer its factory royal blue, but rather a chalky grey. It’s quite fitting, actually. By the time the terrible-awful-very-bad-thing had reached her brain, her skin had looked much the same way. A pointed gesture from the beyond, she might have suggested. If she were here to suggest such a thing.
Our Moscow Water Dog, Chai (full name Tchaikovsky), sits on my foot, drawing attention away from the squeaking clothesline. I think of all the times he showed us an inkling that something was wrong. Dogs have a sense for terrible-awful-very-bad-things, you know. Chai would lie on her chest and weep. A riddle that remained unsolved until it was too late.
There are five garments on our clothesline. Including my stiff trousers and her once blue dress, there are also three odd socks. One piece of clothing for each stage of grief, she might have said. If she were here to say such a thing. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. I wonder at which point I’ll stop imitating her half of the conversation.
Being alone isn't as easy, or nearly as fun, as it used to be. The phone rings a lot. Voices with distant familiarity ‘just checking in'. I get pains in my chest, but the doctor said there is nothing physically wrong. I read about broken heart syndrome and sometimes I feel ashamed that I didn't love her so much that I died too. But then who would feed Tchaikovsky? She always said I was terminally pragmatic.
The front door opens.
The clothesline takes another turn, and the dress in rigor mortis barely moves.
‘There you are, Dad. Are you okay? Your label's sticking out.'
My daughter's hands fold in the tag of my t-shirt and she gets busy clanging around the kitchen. Chai follows, anticipating scraps. Unexpectedly and out of the clear blue sky, it began to rain.
‘A sunshower!' my daughter declared from the kitchen.
I frown and look up, searching for signs of a storm. Another riddle. I open the sliding door, it makes a sucking noise. I step into the rain with my palms up, catching rivers in my lifelines. My daughter follows and Chai gallops into fresh puddles. When I look up at the clothesline I see that the dress is slowly getting wet through. With it, its darker colour returns.
I sink my face into the soggy cotton of the hanging dress. Rain puts out fires. Grows agriculture. Washes away children's chalk on sidewalks. Rain quenches thirst. Rain ends droughts. Rain has if only for a moment, brought her back to me.
Great imagery from the opening line, with the sound of the rusty line, the wind, and a grieving husband and dog. Subtle details unfold without drama – appropriate for the no-nonsense setting. The five items hanging on the line (including the rigor-stiff dress) provide a lovely metaphor and a moment of brief comfort as the rain brings back some colour. Beautifully told.
UNTITLED by Kirsten Due, NT
I am barely able to look at this little bundle swaddled in pink. Aaron fusses over her, his eyes bright and tears glistening with the wonder of new life. How does he do it? After last time, how can he bear to hope?
Kayla had lived a whole eleven minutes. I remember the feel of her on my skin and seeing her curl her tiny fist around Aron’s pinkie finger. She carried all our hopes and dreams and then in a moment, quietly slipped away with them to another world. Never to return. Her breathing had slowed, and her hands went blue. Then her lips. I watched her whole face change from a glistening new-born pink to a purplish grey. In a flurry of controlled panic, the nurses took her away. We heard them talking, getting oxygen, calling the paediatrician. But she had gone.
The next day we went home with a bag of baby clothes, a box of congratulations cards and a carton of new-born nappies. But no baby. No dreams. No future. Aaron had wept, not with quiet shaking shoulders, but with gut-wrenching, aching sobs that I knew the neighbours would hear—if not the whole street. Me—I felt as if I had a boulder on my chest. As if I was the one who couldn’t breathe. Who couldn’t cry.
I'd had an inkling something was wrong before she was born…. but the doctor labelled me ‘Anxious first-time mother’. I read it in the notes.
Six months after she died, people started to say, ‘You just have to accept it and move on. It’s something bad that happened at one point in time, don’t let it affect you for the rest of your life.’
No one could give us any answers. Her heart was perfect. I remember she looked so beautiful as I held her still body in my arms. Science has solved the riddle of planetary motion, but no one could tell me why our baby died.
Now I am afraid to reach out to this new miracle. I am afraid to give her a name. Aaron holds her gently and places her warm wriggling body on me. Her eyes are closed and her lips are a rose-bud pink. A great grief wells up inside me. What if she dies too? But what if she lives? I touch her face with the edge of my fingers and kiss her forehead. All the love I had for Kayla wells up and spills over. I feel a pebble in my throat as I try and swallow and the tears run down my cheeks.
The next day, we decide that her name will be Miracle. One day we will tell her about her sister. But for now, we are lost in our love for this new little gift.
Raw and full of emotion, this newborn narrative brings plenty of past baggage to the latest arrival – told with heartbreaking realism as a new mother reconciles what is lost with what is found. Sadly all too relatable for so many new parents, it flicks back and forwards effortlessly and the result is a well-paced piece that is equal parts grief and relief.
LOUNGE LIZARDS by Matt Wallace, VIC
I realise too late that the man licking my neck is wearing the same cologne as Dad. Cool Waters or Jimmy Choo. Something horrendous Mum buys him. Well: in for a penny, in for a pound? Or a pounding. I mean, that’s why I’m here. No point denying it.
Attraxx Lounge, 11pm. One of those sex-on-premises joints you find sequestered down alleyways amongst garage doors and restaurant waste. Fifteen bucks entry. Two-storey, dark corridors with darker nooks. Like a laser-tag but with horny men and amyl nitrate.
No, I’m not feeling it. Not with this guy, not anymore. It’s the cologne.
“I might have a wander.”
He’s still at my neck like a dirty gay Dracula. He heard me, I know he heard me. I pull from his clutches. He accepts, reluctantly.
“Tease.” He zips his jeans and does a little snort.
The way the low light hits him now I realise he’s very similar in appearance to a guinea pig. Snouty, whiskery. Older than I thought. And villainous in a cartoon way. Like the Riddler.
He limps away. “Go on, find a younger one then.”
Self-pity, the grossest emotion. Fuck off, old man.
I walk through a corridor and into an open room with a TV in the wall, leather seats lining the circumference. A few guys stand around, half lit and scouting. A man watches the TV from the seats, hand down the front of his shorts. He’s young, maybe my age. Fashionable, labels. He looks over and eyes me up. He’s beautiful. Italian, probably.
He jolts his head: come over. Easy. I start to. I have an inkling Guinea Pig is watching from my periphery, and I want him to. Standing by the wall, seething, no doubt. Let it seethe, Jimmy Choo.
Then I thought it was my heart but it was footsteps. Quick succession, rising rising. *Bum-da-bum* – Bam! A door busts open.
“Fire! Everyone out!”
From the shadows men emerge I didn’t know were there. Swiftly, carefully, tactfully out. Men whose faces remain permanently blurred. Attention here is bad attention, life-destroying. Out, out.
I shuffle along with the rest of them, this strange brigade. Out a fire door and down the stairs, single file. I smell the smoke and my organs sink. What if I die here? I should’ve called Grandma more, I never call Grandma. Her agapanthuses will be changing colour this time of year.
A few heads in front I spot Guinea Pig. He looks back and sees me. I try to avoid him but he sees my eyes and he sees I’m scared. And in this moment he mouths “it’s okay” and gives me an a-ok with his fingers.
Out in the alley and into the night air. Safe. Turns out it was a kitchen fire from the Chinese restaurant below, controlled. A few of us watch as a wok is extinguished in a gutter. I look to find Guinea Pig but he’s gone.
Nicely paced and weirdly intimate (but not for the reasons you expect), this piece is filled with a hilariously casual inner monologue, making its intentions clear from the first cologne-soaked sentence. Our protagonist proceeds to give one guy three nicknames and uses them to great effect. But just as Guinea Pig (aka Jimmy Choo or dirty gay Dracula) is fading into the shadows, more drama forces thoughts of grandma and a moment of blurry clarity. Wok-solid scene setting.
RUNNING AWAY by Merinda Young, TAS
I look at my purple floral suitcase. It isn’t ideal, but it is all I have. A backpack would be better, but I stupidly lent it to my little sister last week. What to take? Who knew running away needed this many decisions?
I’m never coming back. I’ve had enough of being told what to do every moment of every day. Can’t they accept I’m an adult and I’m old enough to make my own choices?
I open the wardrobe door and stare at the clothes. How do I choose? Comfort over style, I suppose. I grab a light dress, my favourite pants, and a black jacket. From the drawers, I choose some undies and socks. That will do. I can get anything else I need once I’m out of here.
I pick up my diary off the window ledge, where it has faded from bright red to a shade of pink. My thoughts, dreams and plans are too personal for them to pick over. Around me are my favourite things. I can’t take it all, so I will take as little as possible. My hand hovers over the photos. That day at the beach with Scarlette and Bella was one of the best days of my life. I slip it in on top of the case, close the zip, and lift it down, ready to go.
If they stopped nagging, I would stay. I’ve been labelled a troublemaker, and maybe they have a point. There was the time I threw a tantrum when they expected me to sleep with the bedroom door open, but I deserve my privacy just like anyone else. Seriously, I’ve never done anything that bad. My mother once said I was a riddle to be solved. Isn’t everyone?
If they had the slightest inkling of my plan, they would make it so hard for me to leave. Cut off my allowance, maybe.
Just as I turn towards the door, I hear a clatter in the passage and the door handle turns.
‘Hello, Thelma. What are you doing with your suitcase?’
I freeze, my plans tumbling around me like a winter avalanche.
‘You know you shouldn’t be wandering around without help, Thelma? Come back over to your chair, love. You don’t want to fall now, do you.’
I knew I should have left earlier. The nursing home is so busy just before our dinner at 5 pm.
I’ll try again next week.
Poor Thelma – so close, and yet so far. What plays out like your typical teenage runaway sequence keeps any clues close to its chest, choosing instead to map out the steps to freedom and the surprising parallels regardless of age. And while she is ultimately thwarted in her attempt, Thelma and her floral suitcase will be back at it next week!
MORNING REFLECTIONS by Robert Fairhead, NSW
Mum's up first, as always, though she doesn't like looking at her reflection nowadays. She splashes her face and turns away from me with a towel.
Over her shoulder, I watch Mum gaze out the frosted bathroom window, changing red with the dawn. And when she turns back to hang up the towel, she’s wearing her pained expression again, like she's failed to solve the riddle of life.
Tilly's next in line, spending more time than some might deem necessary applying makeup and styling her hair to attend university lectures. But I have fond memories of little Tilly, standing on a stool to peer over the sink, pulling funny faces.
Now, all made up, she reminds me of Mum. Though back at the point when Mum pouted at me as Tilly does in the mornings. And I hope she never turns away from me like Mum.
Outside the door, Dad's been pacing up and down the hall. And when it's finally his turn, he grumbles as usual about building an en suite bathroom.
To be fair, Dad has a middle-aged male problem and gets up frequently in the middle of the night. So to be kept waiting for the bathroom, especially when Tilly's in here, can be excruciating for him.
Dad stands at the sink brushing his teeth and tells himself he should see a doctor about the problem and not just accept it as a part of getting older. But Dad's been saying this to me for a while, and I worry he may leave it too late.
Zane's the last to appear, later in the morning, after Mum and Dad have left for work and Tilly's caught the bus to university. I don't recognise the cheeky chappy he used to be these days. He looks surly.
When Zane left high school, he got involved with the “wrong people”, as Mum told me once. They “led him astray”, Dad confided to me another time. And Tilly only mentions her brother's name now if he bangs at the door when she's making up, and then she shouts and swears back at him.
Zane plays up to his label as the black sheep of the family. And I often suffer listening to him curse Mum and Dad, even Tilly. Yet I remember Zane and her as young and happy kids, elbowing each other for the front position at the sink, laughing at their images in me.
After the morning rush and Zane's late visit, there's little to entertain me until the evening, when the frosted window reddens, then darkens again. And I spend my day musing on the family and their lives beyond me in the bathroom.
I wish Mum still felt confident in herself, that Dad would see a doctor, and that Tilly and Zane could be friends again. But selfishly, I also hope an en suite and bathroom renovations won't end my involvement in their lives.
And I reflect, do they have any inkling of my feelings about them?
A clever narrative device, as this mirror-mirror on the wall witnesses the entire family’s hopes and fears – warts and all. And yet, despite being on hand to quite literally hold a mirror up to each one of them, there is little it can offer in the way of advice or even bathroom banter, stuck in place where even sunsets are simple colour changes on frosted glass. The language doesn’t need smoke and mirrors to tell this story either – a simple narrative and final moment of reflection.
UNTITLED by Victoria Palmer, NSW
In the main artery of Pemblebrooke, a clot of people formed around a wooden post. The label was as follows,
A trill from the trees,
Living lichen, webbed feet,
Its eyes will show you wisdom or doom,
Or grand prosperity.
Darker in day,
Lighter in night,
Do you accept or do you fight?
Marguerite didn’t know how to make sense of it. A small girl of twelve, the soul of a bird, sneaking of a cat, had again spirited away from her lioness mother, Peony. She ran as fast as she could, feeling the air race behind her, till she found this new riddle.
Their snow globe town had finally reached its summer. The crisp straw on rooftops crinkled when sparrows alighted, the salt of fishmongers sprang further down the streets, oak filled the village coffers, but not enough. With vibrant aggressive hues, Peony clawed her daughter back home.
A week passed, Marguerite watched Edgar the butcher slink home a small mass, an animal in his arms. It was the dead of night, his lamp screeching through her sleep.
He became rich, buried heirlooms graced his household. A cart was changed to a carriage and old linen Edgar trundled away a very happy velvet man.
Another week passed, more lamps drifted out into the nearby forest, less came back. An investigation occurred. Bodies were found petrified; others grew more despondent. Small animal eyes were found lying around as if to be eaten. Peony found it a dizzying disease coursing through the veins of the town.
It quieted when a boy went missing, little Sprig, 8 years old. The night-time search became a daylight hunt. Marguerite was forced to stay chained to her mother’s side or enclosed at home pooling in her tears.
An autumn day fell, the oaks clustered as she and her mother searched for firewood to dry. As they coiled their way around to the lake, the ground became softer, the air sung fresh notes of dewy grass, a flute-like trill sounded in the distance. Marguerite turned, surprised at the sound, it was so soft and fluttery. She waited for her mother to turn, and she ran. Alone under a fiery mosaic of leaves she looked up. A Grey Tree Frog sat upon a branch having emerged from its little hole. Its fungus skin grey and lightening in colour as the sun began to set.
An inkling of fear wriggled in her muscles. Its eyes were a black hole among stars and her mind scattered over the riddle. In the quietness she pointed at the frog and said, “I accept you.” The frog convulsed and spewed out a strange twig. She picked it up befuddled. The frog looked down at a small indent lower on the tree. She put the twig inside the hole.
An hour later a small girl and boy flew through the forest faster than falcons, a tree filled with treasure left behind them untouched.
In this fleeting fairytale, we are introduced to a ‘snowglobe of a town’ – the charming Pemblebrooke and our protagonist, 12-year-old Marguerite. Through the summer, she weaves her way through the town and its dark riddle that slowly nibbles at the fringes. And when she solves it, the real treasure is indeed the friends she meets along the way! Ambiguous yet amiable storytelling.
GOING GREY by John Noonan, WA
“You said your hair was brown!” This, as she pushed herself up on one elbow and ran a hand through my thick and flowing locks.
Turning my head, I was lost for a moment in the beauty of her face, the sparkling eyes, the flawless skin, and the cheeky smile playing around her mouth. “Of course I did. It’s always been brown. And you know, I love your mischievous grin. A mischievous grin looks good on a woman. It looks so good on you that I don’t think you need to wear anything else.”
Her throaty chuckle was quickly reined in. “Stop changing the subject. Have you looked in a mirror lately?”
“Every day for the past 60 years. Why?”
“Well, and I want to say this gently, there’s this thing that happens as we age, something we really just have to accept. You’ve probably heard the expressions, politicians chasing the grey vote, grey nomads towing caravans around the country…”
“No need to speak in riddles, sweetheart. Are you getting close to making a point here?”
She snuggled down into me, her head at my shoulder, a smooth cool thigh sliding over my legs. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love your full head of hair. But let me give you an inkling of the transition that I see going on, right here, as close to home as you can get. How should I put this…Streaks of silver over a base of gunmetal grey… does that sound appealing… does it sound familiar at all?”
The hand that had been drawing little circles on my chest seemed to be heading south. I forced myself to concentrate. “I mean, of course I’ve seen grey hair on old people, but I don’t see…”
“There are other labels apart from ‘old’ that can go with grey hair: mature, distinguished, wise, peaceful…”
“You’re not saying…”
“I’m saying that what once was brown, now appears in delightful shades of… silver?”
“But you don’t think I’m…”
“Oh, I don’t think you’re old. In fact, there are times when you display all the vigour of a young …”.
I had lost focus. That hand had crossed my tummy and was now lingering at the edge of the undergrowth, like a child wary of what unseen dangers might lie within. “And,” I gulped, “silver… it’s just a colour, right?”
“And one of my favourites, second only to gold.”
She eased herself on top of me, kissing my neck, working her way up to my mouth. Colours swirled before my eyes, and all of them were beautiful.
This story took one of our words – LABEL – and said “discuss”. The result is a surprisingly heartwarming scene filled with natural dialogue and authenticity as a couple grapple with the concept of going ‘grey’ and what it means to be labelled as ‘old’. An excellent final sentence sums up the findings (before the cameras stop rolling!).
CAN YOU HEAR ME? by Jenny Baker, VIC
The truck comes out of nowhere. One minute the road is empty. Then 20 tonnes of screaming steel is crumpling her bonnet. Soft, vulnerable flesh forced into leather seats, the airbag explodes in her face. Darkness, a distant scream fades into silence broken only by the tinkling of cooling metal….
Flashing lights. A voice calling “Can you hear me? Open your eyes!” She tries… too hard….
“Lift on 3!” Her body sears with pain. A small gasp escapes her lips. Again the insistent voice,
“Can you hear me? You're in hospital. You’re gonna be fine.”
Someone forces open her eyelid. A light is shone in. She moves her head to avoid it. Pain radiates through her body.
“Can you hear me?”
A familiar smell. Manly and inviting. She tries to investigate. Nothing moves. Noises from her left, a change in the light as something moves in front of her.
“Lucy. Can you hear me? It’s Andrew.” Of course it is, no one else smells that good. She tries a smile. Something works. The resulting noise is half chuckle, half sob. A finger gently strokes the side of her face as she slips back into darkness.
The light is softer, more inviting. The noises less threatening. Again that wonderful familiar smell. She reaches her hand towards it, the pain almost bearable. Gentle fingers engulf hers infusing warmth and love.
The voices are close. Snatches of the conversation seep into her brain.
“The point is… What if…. Are you absolutely certain… You'll have to accept…..”
“I can hear you” her mind screams “Talk to me.”
This time the pain is less. The intrusive finger is pulling at her eyelid again, torchlight intruding into her brain.
“Can you hear me? Open your eyes.”
She forces her eyes to open. The left one responds valiantly, the right less inclined.
“Welcome back. Do you know where you are?” A slight nod, lips moving, nothing coming out. A straw is slid between her lips. The effort to suck is enormous but the reward immense.
“Hospital” The word is barely audible. Another suck on the straw.
“Bad?” There is a notable silence.
“I’ll get the doctor” The voice leaves.
Her eyes scour the room. No one. Her brain explores her body. The feedback is minimal. Two figures enter. One is recognisable, welcome; the other unknown.
Andrew sits beside her, taking her hand. Tousled hair, shadows around eyes, label sticking out of his jacket collar. Unknown speaks in low tones. The words hover before her. Paralysis, brain damage, spine… nothing really makes sense. The important thing is Andrew is here.
“Thanks Doctor Riddle,” Andrew says. Unknown leaves the room.
“Mirror?” Andrew holds up his phone. The bruising is changing from black to purple. A jagged scar reaches from eyebrow to chin.
“You look much better,” Andrew says, reading her expression. “The bruising will turn yellow soon.
You always look great in yellow.” His hand squeezes tight. A single tear slides down her cheek.
Told with the distance of a 3rd-person POV, yet an intimacy of details, this story does not muck around – delivering action in the very first sentence and the ‘tinkling’ (nice use of INKLING!) of cooling metal. From here, the repetition of ‘can you hear me’ plays out expertly as we feel the ins and outs of consciousness, half conversations and fragile first moments of a new reality between this couple. Scary and confronting – like a crash, it’s difficult to look away.
NEW SHOES by Alistair McKillop, NSW
“What you looking at?”
The menace in the question was reflected in the steely blue eyes that were burning through me. I was staring at two men, one with his back to the wall, his face hidden in the shadows.
The lane was dark. A solitary streetlight at the far end threw random shadows and reflections off the rain-soaked pavement. But this pair hadn’t found their way into the darkness.
The trash bag I was carrying dropped to the ground as I noticed the white shirt of the man who was pinned against the wall turning red. That wasn’t going to come out in the wash.
I was rooted to the spot, but the flash of the point of a knife that caught the little light there was brought me to my senses. A man was being murdered in front of me. The ground beneath the victim darkened as his blood seeped into the cracks in the pavement. I could see the victim’s eyes staring straight at his attacker, accepting his fate but at the same time making sure his assailant would never forget the death stare.
The murderer turned to face me as his victim slumped to the ground. He repeated the question.
“What you looking at? You want to die in this alley too?”
I was too transfixed on the scene that had unfolded in front of me to register what he was saying. I had simply come to throw the trash in the bin with no inkling that I would gate-crash a murder.
I tore my eyes from the victim just in time to see the murderer take a step closer to me. A riddle started to play in my head. Stick or twist? Fight or flight?
I didn’t have time to work out the answer.
Another step closer. I saw the blade of the knife catch the light again as he lunged towards me.
Fear rooted me to the spot, but my attacker had been too busy stabbing someone to realise that the rain had turned the surface into a greasy skid pad. He overreached, his front foot slipped and he lost his balance. Instinctively I couldn’t resist the target of his bald head falling toward my foot. After all, playing centre back at soccer for twenty years meant I kicked first, asked questions later.
The crunch of my size 10 shoe crushing his nose was as sweet a sound as I’ve ever heard. He twisted and landed on his back. The knife clattered away from his hand. His head made a satisfying thump as he hit the ground, just before he groaned and fell silent.
I looked down at the unconscious body in front of me. I didn’t care if he was alive or dead. The little light there was fell on a price label on the sole of his shoes. Brand new, never been worn outside the shop.
I sighed and muttered to myself, “Never wear new leather-soled shoes to a murder, too slippy.”
A nice opening line delivers a clever flashback technique in the form of how we ended up here, before repeating the line halfway through. It’s the kind of alley we can all picture from movies or just real life, although we’re not sure anyone will expect the final moral of this story, delivered in succinct slippery fashion at the end. We certainly wouldn’t want to be in his shoes right now…
FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY by Damian Perry, VIC
Wu Xian straddled the roof of Eureka Tower and prepared to call lightning into his outstretched palm. Black clouds, crackling with violent energy, roiled in a sky that had moments before radiated warmth and blue calm. On the street below, Melbournites ran for cover, cursing the weather as rain burst from the clouds and drenched the city.
The weather shaman screamed an incantation into the deluge and lighting exploded from the sky and coursed around his reaching fingers. He focused the energy between his hands, face illuminated and furious, and then hurled the deadly coruscation across the Yarra towards Collins Street and his ancient enemy.
At the top of the Rialto Towers, Karina Smaugon laughed and threw up a mesh of steel with a gesture. The lightning dissipated along the improvised faraday cage and Karina, her eyes glowing, drew in a preternatural breath and blasted the stormclouds with a gust of freezing air.
On the streets below, city workers dashed for cover and stared as hail plummeted from the sky and struck the pavement in golf-ball sized chunks. None of them had any inkling of what was happening above.
Above the SkyDeck, Wu Xian, mighty weather shaman, spun with a complicated dance and whipped up a gale to direct shards of ice towards his enemy. Smaugon snarled and ducked for cover as glass shattered on the top floors of the skyscraper. Across the CBD, umbrellas were torn from hands of stoic citizens cradling soy lattes.
The feud between the Wu clan and the Smaugon family had simmered for almost a century since the rise of Stalin had forced the elemental dragons out of Russia in the 1920s. Their natural disruption of weather patterns wreaked havoc on the Wu weather magic. Needless to say, this annoyed the local Wu shamans, local since the Gold Rush. Conflict was inevitable.
Despite their animosity, both families grew and prospered in Melbourne, building successful empires. The feud waxed and waned, with long periods of inaction followed by widespread roaming battles across the city.
Of course, the mortals knew nothing of this ongoing conflict. All they understood was that Melbourne was a city where the heat of summer could be punctuated by freezing winds and pouring rains in a matter of hours. They accepted it, took pride in it, without ever solving the riddle behind this meteorological anomaly.
Open warfare, however, would not be tolerated. Wu Xian and Karina Smaugon both stared in dismay at the broken windows. They both looked upwards, to the recently completed Australia 108 building.
Atop the building labelled tallest in Australia, Astrid Baillieu pointed at the two combatants and waggled her fingers. Light spread from her like a warm blanket over the city. The sky changed from grey back to blue. Melbournites doffed their jackets with a chuckle. The sun goddess shook her head and disappeared once more.
Suitably chastened, the shaman and the dragon nodded at each other, and returned to their families to apologise for drawing attention to themselves.
A fun, god-sized take on what modern Melburnians have long-since assumed was simply an affliction of meteorological causes, not dragons atop skyscrapers. Along the way, we get an unexpected guide to some of the tallest towers in Australia as well as the backstory to these fictional foul-weathered feuding foes. ‘Weather fan-fiction’ could be a whole new genre, sure to at least attract plenty of fair-weather fans of Astrid Baillieu, at the very least!
THIS MONTH’S ‘LONGLIST’
While this isn’t a competition, we still include a LONGLIST of stories to encourage those whose stories made an impact on our team and were highly considered for the showcase this month. If you’re here, well done! (You’re above the 90th percentile of all stories this month.) And for ALL who took part, remember that it’s a subjective, furious process – you’ll get another chance to WOW us on the first Friday of May!
THIS MONTH’S LONGLIST (in no particular order):
- OCEANHOLD by Sarah G Williams, NSW
- LOOK UP by Michelle Cook, UK
- DO IT FOR ME by Matthew Dewar, WA
- JANUARY by Jenna Treloar, WA
- TANGLED LITTLE LIVES by G.H.Casanova, VIC
- GRAVITY DOESN’T HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOUR by Susan Manwaring, WA
- NOT THE PERFECT WEDDING by Magali Boizot-Roche, Switzerland
- ROLLED by Averil Robertson, VIC
- DOUGHNUTS by Joe Durham, UK
- BLUE MEANS GO by Jacky T, VIC
- RAINBOW FACE by Sarah Edmunds, WA
- MEL’S MARVELLOUS MEMORIES by Linda Schueler, Canada
- FRETTING by Richard Gaynor, WA
- THE DAY JAY STOPPED JAYWALKING by Bruno Lowagie, Belgium
- UNTITLED by Jane Jackson, France
- SOUL CLEANSER by Debbi Voisey, UK
- THE COLOUR OF HOPE by Jo Skinner, QLD
- CHAMELEON by Christy Ockelford, WA
- THE FOCAL POINT by Gabrielle Mee, NSW
- PINK by Pam Makin, SA
- WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP EVACUATE NOW by Immy Mohr, NSW
- WHAT COUNTS by Joe Levitt, NSW
- THE RIDDLETREE by Dead Carcosa, USA
- BLUE by Kate Gordon, TAS
- UNTITLED by Sarah Lewin, QLD
- WORLD IN GREY by Alison Knight, VIC
- UNSOLICITED SPERM by Das, NSW
- SILENT LIES by Margaret Bloch, WA
- BURGEONING by Estelle Owen, QLD
- A BRIEF HISTORY OF ALL THE HEARTS YOU BROKE BEFORE MINE by Julie Dickson, VIC
- UNTITLED by Emma Tinning, VIC
- WHAT’S IN A NAME by Tom Gerrans, NSW
- THE THIN RED LINE by Patrick Slee, VIC
- FOR ANDREI by Jake Watts, NSW
- IT’S NOT EASY by Sharyn Swanepoel, VIC
- A SCHOOLBOY CRUSH by Georgia Rocca, WA
- BETRAYAL by S.J.Alnaghy, NSW
- TRUTH OR DARE by Melanie Gordon, VIC
- DIRTY SECRETS AND ZUCCHINI SLICE by Melinda Coxhead, VIC
- CHANGING COLOUR by Gael Bell, UK
- ALL THE KING’S HORSES by Penni Giuliani, VIC
- NOT IN A VERMILLION YEARS! by Melissa Myles, NSW
- PERIMETER by Han Whiteoak, UK
- UNTITLED by M.R.Lehman Wiens, USA
- FOREST GREEN by Munira Tubassum Ahmed, NSW