Furious Fiction: April 2024 Story Showcase

Welcome to April’s Furious Fiction story showcase – where we bring you the answers to the questions we asked of our collective community this month. The creative prompts were:

  • Each story’s first sentence had to be a question.
  • Each story had to include something being pulled.
  • Each story had to include the words POST, TEAR and THUNDER.

So, pull up a chair and pull on some comfortable clothes as we take a look at some of the trends we saw this month. Yes, legs were pulled. Levers were pulled. Pints were pulled. Pork was pulled. Weight was pulled. And pranks were pulled. (To name just a few!) We saw wooden posts, social media posts, abandoned posts, postmen, post-haste and posters. Tears were shed as well as tearing everything from clothes to paper to flesh and ligaments. Thunder clapped, thunder roared and many were left thunderstruck (ah aaah ah ah ah ahhh). It made for quite the cacophony.


So WHY did we ask you to start with a question? Because it immediately engages the reader – even if the question isn’t being directed at them, it still can be a powerful way to hook your story. And we saw everything from narrator questions, rhetorical questions, dialogue questions and musing questions. Here are just a selection of our favourite openers to illustrate the sheer variety:

  • How did my life end up this way, so derailed, with nothing but labels such as “juvenile delinquent” and “nutcase” to show for it? (Jayden, VIC)
  • Hot air balloons are perfectly safe, aren’t they? (Karen Andrews, QLD)
  • What if? (C.L.Clifton, USA)
  • Why is a 48-year-old, second rate lounge singer, lying under a nursing home bed at ten o’clock at night? (Mick James, VIC)
  • Fart? (Simon Bruce, VIC)
  • Have you ever seen a Sasquatch sing? (Christian Weir, UK)
  • “This is a taco moment, am I right?” (Rebecca Belov, QLD)
  • Am I the only one who has ever used Google Earth to find true love? (Cheryn Witney, SA)
  • Zombies are just humans without hearts, aren’t they? (Amitoz Kaur, India)
  • If Sally took 100 steps forwards, 20 steps to the right, 3 steps backwards and 33 steps to the left, how many steps did she take with each foot assuming she started with her left foot, used a step-together-step-together method to step to the right, used a crossover method to step to the left and moonwalked for the backwards steps? (JM Storck, NSW)
  • “Mreelp bex wran herbwas?” (Andrew Paradiso, USA)
  • It’s always the devil’s fault, isn’t it? (Sunny, Germany)
  • What if Artificial Intelligence deliberately failed the Turing Test? (EB Davis, ACT)
  • “What do you think humans taste like?” (Emily Shortall, NSW)
  • “Do you have any last words?” (Andrew Harrison, NSW)

And a special shout out to William New (USA), whose ENTIRE story was one single, 491-word sentence ending in a question! 

Right then, that’s the questions. Now it’s time for the ANSWERS – our selection of stories – including our top pick of the month from Cheryl Lockwood of Queensland. Cheryl’s story, along with our shortlist and longlisted stories are all showcased below. Congrats to ALL who rose to the challenge – let’s do it again next month!


BANANAS by Cheryl Lockwood, QLD

“What are bananas made of?”

I pick up the baby, swing her onto my hip and bite into a finger of cold toast. A dribble of honey leaks toward my chin like a big, thick tear and the baby smacks her hand onto it and giggles. Pippa, sitting at the kitchen table, looks up at me earnestly as though she’s just asked me the meaning of life. I glance at the clock.

“They’re just made of banana… I guess.”

The baby swipes my toast, promptly dropping it on the floor and screams like she’s lost her right arm. Maxi is off the dog bed in a flash, gobbling up the sticky toast. Probably a good thing as I wouldn’t have hesitated in scooping it off the floor, plucking off the stray fluff and handing it back to the baby. Instead, I grab a strawberry from Pippa’s plate and shove it into the baby’s mouth, which stops her wailing.

“But what are they made of?”

15 minutes to get cleaned up and out the door and I know she’s not going to let it go for the whole car ride to day-care. Yesterday’s question, (How much would it cost to post an elephant?) had me trying to convince my 3-year-old that one can’t really mail live mammals, regardless of size. Another glance at the clock. I pull squashed strawberry from my hair and lick juice off of the baby’s fingers. I wipe Pippa’s face with a tea towel.

“OK, Pip, brush your teeth, shoes on. Let’s go, Mummy can’t be late.”

She drops the banana question to utter her new favourite word. “Why?” I ignore it, while I carry the baby to the kitchen sink to sponge dregs of food from…well, just about everywhere. I lift her up for inspection, sniff her nappy and decide she’ll pass muster without child services being called.

“C’mon, Pip, honey let’s go.”

She emerges wearing a purple tutu, pink singlet and a Pokémon beanie. I herd Maxi out the back door and the girls and their paraphernalia into the car. Eight minutes to make the 10-minute drive to day-care. I’m now dreaming of strong coffee, hoping it will ease my headache from thunderous to bearable on the throb scale. Several more rounds of “Why this and why that?” sees us screech into the carpark, where I ignore the glares from those parents who obviously have it all together.

I make it to the office with about a minute to spare and a wet patch on my blouse where my left boob sprung a leak. Finally, I slump into my work chair and for a full minute, do nothing but soak in the peace. The sweet faces of my girls smile at me from a pasta-lined frame on the desk and just like that, I can’t wait for the day to end, so I can scoop them into my arms. I start opening emails, but really, I’m wondering what bananas are made of.


A hilariously accurate homage to working parents the world over, as well as an oh-so-relatable nod to this month’s question-posing prompt, for anyone who has EVER spent time around a toddler! Right from the first banana-honey combo, we know we’re in for a fun morning ride – multitasking between swipey baby, opportunistic dog and the ever-curious Pippa. And just like real life, despite these strands pulling in all directions, we also see Mummy’s morning play out through the centre – her own strawberry/hair moment, a nice use of the ‘pull’ prompt. Bookending the banana query, without slip ups along the way, made for a satisfying ending – it certainly had ‘a peel’ with us this month!

FLUORESCE by Athena Law, QLD

How many lightbulbs does it take to change a woman? There’s a longer answer if you really want to know, but the short answer— it was three.


The first lightbulb was in my university share house. Seven of us scattered through the ramshackle structure, a blissful tumble of bodies and thoughts and textbooks and takeaway curries. One night the kitchen light blew—a single hanging bulb previously illuminating the rusted fridge, the ripped vinyl floor and the stovetop spattered with flecks of dark red (baked beans or bolognaise, I don’t remember). We spent a week romanticising our reduced situation, foraging by torchlight, dining with candles, quoting the Bard. Peeling posters on the wall became art, cheap cask wine became nectar. They were all at lectures when I stood on the table and changed the bulb. It was a different mood that night when reality was observed under a 60-watt glare.


The second lightbulb was just after my wedding. When I say after, I mean within minutes. It was a back garden celebration – his idea, not mine, and as soon as the “I do’s” were said at sunset under the tree festooned with globe string lights, he was drinking beer with his mates. I sipped sparkling grape juice with the women who clustered around my homemade cake, and I stroked you in my belly. Your father made a game of throwing empty beer bottles into the bin, but a wild throw caught a glass bulb which exploded with a crack. A shard, fast and paper-thin, sliced me on my chest, my flimsy white dress spattered with flecks of dark red (blood, I do remember).


The third? You were only four years old when your father’s games became no longer fun, when his dark moods pulled him under, out of reach. His thunderous demands and my silence as I romanticised our reduced situation. Then one day I looked, I truly saw, your tearstained face, your sleep-crusted eyelashes, and your chubby bruised arm. He didn’t need to smash anything, I didn’t need to replace anything, there were no spatters or flecks of dark red. There was simply a moment when I understood, and in that 60-watt glare I gathered you up and walked out into the light.


Flipping the classic lightbulb question on its head, this cleverly constructed piece essentially plays out in a three act structure – each part a stepping stone to the ultimate resolution. We loved the commitment to the lightbulb premise, used literally in the first location – a new globe shining a reality check on the (highly relatable, but so-often romanticised) Bohemian lifestyle. A lightbulb also plays a lesser role in part two, with sublime repetition and contrasting meaning in the ‘dark red’ parentheses at the end. By the third act, the lightbulb moment has become figurative – a 60-watt realisation and culmination that sets her free. A powerful and compact (376 words) display of how to use a simple narrative device to tell a layered story, the title a nice nod to a life now shining bright!

BUBBLES by Kate Gordon, TAS

How soon could she get to L?
She was excited about the new project. It was an honour to be asked. It meant the managers saw she could do more than only stand at the service desk, scanning books; handing out printer tokens.
“You can do A-L,” Lenora told her. “James will take M onwards.”
She looked shyly at her red-headed coworker. He smiled back at her.
That was all it ever was. A smile.
She looked down at her sensible shoes.
“Leave anything published post 2010. Pull anything out of date or problematic, offensive …” The phone on Lenora’s desk rang. Lenora waved a hand. “You know what you’re doing.”
As they left the office, James leaned close. “Do we know what we’re doing?” he whispered.
Her cheeks heated. “Up for debate.”
A student pushed a trolley cart by, stacked high with books. It sounded like thunder; made her start.
James touched her elbow. “You good?”
She nodded, embarrassed. “I’m good.”
And then, they parted.
“I’ll start at Z,” he said. “We can meet in the middle.”
How soon could she get to L?
She wondered if a book on the history of “Czechoslovakia”, written in 1990, might be considered out of date.
Or if a book on the virtues of housewifery could be called problematic.
Definitely, some of the old books on “baby-rearing” were more than a bit offensive. Why wasn’t the father helping? Why were the boys all dressed in blue?
She was creating quite a pile.
And she was, she found, quite enjoying it. This removing of the old world, its outdated attitudes, scrubbing it clean, ready to replace with knowledge that was right and now.
And then she was at K.
And there was a tiny volume, between Klein and Klekociuk, a slight tear in its cover.
A feather pattern on its spine.
The title was, “These are words that will never be untrue.”
She couldn’t help herself. She took a seat on her wooden stool and she began to read.
The purest thing is kindness.
We do not know what we do not know.
It is a privilege to learn.
We must teach with love.
A smile is enough.
Not everything old is wrong. Not everything new is right.
We can learn from our forebears. Even if they did not use all the correct terminology.
There are no new stories. There is only new understanding.
The sweetest thing is connection.
She turned back to her little pile.
“Huh,” she whispered.
“Up to L, yet?”
She turned to look up at him. “Only K. But actually … I think I might go back and reconsider some of the ones I pulled.”
He smiled at her. A smile is enough. “I can help you,” he said.
And the purest thing is kindness.
She looked over at the books starting with L.
She nodded. “Please.”
He brushed her shoulder. “Book dust,” he whispered.
She looked down at her sensible shoes, blushing.
The sweetest thing is connection.


Okay, you can write about any subject, but if you want to win over a bunch of writers, doing so with a setting full of books is a great place to start! Of course, none of that works without a purpose and sharp writing – both of which could fill a trolley cart in this story. Librarian Lenora has been tasked with banishing the bad parts of published history – A to L to be precise. And as the opening question sets up, she’s in no mood to linger – out with the old and all that. Yet, amid the Czech history and blue check shirts, a small book reaches out and gives her some timeless lessons. In an age filled with constant change, this was like a lovely oasis – a reminder that old, new, wrong and right can be mutually exclusive.

OLD SALT by A. Atkins, Canada

Is this how it ends?

“Man your posts! Do your duty!”

My words are stolen by the wind, but it doesn't matter. The crew knows what to do. They don't need to be told.

There's a crack in the world, where the sea meets the sky, an invisible fold tucked neatly into the horizon. That little red line covers up the little red truth, like crisp linen on a blood-stained mattress: The sea is a brothel. Don't let her pleasures fool you—nothing good happens here.

Our eyes burn with salt and sweat, the only time you'll see the tears of a sailor except for maybe the birth of his son. Gnarled fingers heave on ropes and cloth as the rain gives us back our dignity. This canvas, beaten and weathered, is our Lord and Savior now.

Was she repaired right? Did my men pull their weight?

There's no way of knowing for sure, but we pretend we do anyway. Doubt is the biggest killer at sea. Lose faith in your crew and they'll spoil, curdle aboard your vessel like milk in the sun.

We watch the hands of the gods pry the world apart, grab onto that little red thread and give it a pull, conjuring a fissure in the darkness and filling it with thunder.

Is this vengeance? Boredom? Or maybe we just don't matter enough. I wish I knew.

I brace myself and close my eyes, steadied by the familiar sway of the boards beneath my boots, even as this wet bitch rages against my ship. I can feel my heartbeat in my fingertips, dry and callused from years of labour, my pulse tethered to the swells like rigging to masts. If the storm is a song, this is her crescendo.

I raise my arms to the sky, face turned to the heavens, and dare her to break my boat.

“Is this all you’ve got?” I scream.

She screams back, my hat whipped from my head, but she's tiring. Gods—not unlike toddlers—tire swiftly.

My ship rights itself, black sky breaking, dotted with pricks of light as starlight finds her way back to us. I sink to my knees, gazing up at the canvas with relief.

I thought this was it.

The voices of men return, along with the sweet smell of rum. The air is heavy. Stagnant. Something is wrong. I check the stars and my brow furrows. We're off-course.

I can't feel my heartbeat anymore. It's as silent as the wind is still. My men sway in the breeze, too drunk to notice there isn't one.

A voice, like broken glass in the dead air, whispers to me, “Pray to your sails now. I dare you.” She hums to herself—the tune that of a trickster turning tricks; nothing good happens here.

So, this is how it ends.


All aboard! And all eyes on the horizon as this stormy shanty serves us up a mix of brine and brimstone – almost as if we’ve been dropped into the middle chapters of a longer Pequod-esque adventure. There are some fantastic similes (“like crisp linen on a blood stained mattress”) and some fittingly weathered but reliable turns of phrase as we join our captain – equal parts resolute, equal parts pessimistic – for a showdown with the sea gods. Gritty and compelling, perhaps not everyone’s cup of rum, but a good example of using the prompts to create something unique!

THE INTRUDER by Bree Manning, QLD

Was it real? Her heart was pounding. Shielded behind the flapping curtains, she stole another glance. Thunder rumbled as the once-silent night now roared to life, the curtains whipping furiously in the sudden gusts. As she hurried to close the window, a flash of lightning had illuminated a figure braving the storm, heading straight for the house. She only caught a glimpse of him before he vanished into the darkness.

Rainclouds shadowed the moon, casting an eerie dark over the night. Peeking from behind the curtain, she strained to see into the blackness, questioning if what she had seen was real. The room remained dark around her, shielding her from the outside. The scent of rain hung heavy in the air as her eyes darted over the vast darkness, searching. Another flash of lightning struck, illuminating her view. Her heart leapt into her throat as she jumped back, startled. The shadowy figure had advanced closer. She hadn’t been expecting anyone.

She tried to calm herself, hoping he hadn’t spotted her. Acting on instinct, she kept the lights off, believing it was best if he thought there wasn’t anyone here. With nowhere to flee in the fury of the storm, she had to hide, but where? Hastily, she rushed towards the bedroom door, pausing abruptly as she did a doubletake on the dresser. The jewellery, she thought. Silently, she opened the drawers, delicately pulling out the most precious items and tucking them safely in her shirt. With no time to waste, she dashed to the laundry room and sought refuge behind the hot water system, waiting in silence.


The crash jolted her. The front door flung open with frantic force as lightning crashed again, louder this time. Panicked, she cursed herself for forgetting to lock the door again.

Drip, drip, thud. Drip, drip, thud. The rhythmic drip of water hitting the tiled floor melded with the echoes of his slow footsteps as he prowled down the hallway. Was it his footsteps or her heart pounding? The sounds merged into one, blending with the storm's fury. Tears welled in her eyes. Drenched in sweat, she had to choose: flee, fight, or hide?

Amidst the chaos, the ringing of the phone was barely audible.

‘Hello, police, fire, or ambulance?’ She strained to hear the voice on the other end.

‘Police. Someone’s broken into my house. Please, help.’

She made her choice.


He crumpled to the floor, his phone clattering on the tiles, ending his call. Post-impact, he lay still. She checked; he was still alive and would survive. This was her only chance. She couldn’t risk being caught.

Leaving no trace of her intrusion, she fled with the jewellery into the darkness of the storm.


It was a dark and stormy night! This story drops us right into the tension already playing out – a scared homeowner watching on as an intruder invades her space. The pace is fast and all the senses come into play as we’re with her right up until that phone call… Ah. Well played, that author. At last, the true culprit is unmasked – a classic ‘bait and switch’ that never gives us time to get comfortable or question anything in the tense build up, so that when the rug is pulled (along with the jewellery), we’re left as dazed as the poor mislabelled homeowner. A clever cocktail of chaos, with a twist!

UNTITLED by Melanie Noller, QLD

What to do, what to do? I was balancing on a precarious seesaw – at one end, tears of happiness, at the other, tears of misery. It was mine if I wanted it. My fingers twitched, so tempted to say yes.

“You should do it. Buy it now while you have the chance,” Phil said, voice hushed.

“No way. You can’t afford it. Skip it this time,” Mabel disagreed.

That didn’t help – I was being pulled in two different directions by my friends. I looked up, mentally calculating the risks. I had the money. I could afford it right now. But if something came up, any unexpected expenses, I’d be screwed. But this might be my only chance. I could develop it and make so much if it worked out.

My heart thundered. I had to make the decision now or it would be too late. What if I bought it and had buyer’s remorse? I didn’t want any post-purchase regret. On the other hand, this could be it. It could be the beginning of my own little empire. My hands were shaking. I was going to do it.

“I’ll buy it,” I declared. Phil laughed and Mabel groaned.

I handed over all of my money and snatched up the deed. Mayfair was mine.


Another twist! Okay, this is more of a ‘reveal’ – as our unnamed narrator seems to struggle with a life-altering decision. At different ends of this metaphorical seesaw (yes, it’s a metaphor, no playgrounds were harmed), friends Phil and Mabel act as counterweights to this vague but clearly important choice. As a reader, you have no choice but to believe in the stakes and feel the stress of this purchase. Until of course, the pieces (literally) fall into place, the game is up and we’re sent to story jail. Do not pass GO. It may not hold the monopoly on complexity, but at just over 200 words, it takes a CHANCE and comes away with a simple win.

ASS by Alison Bernasconi, NSW

Really? A donkey? Not a severed head on a pillow, or a cut-off foot or hand, or even a gouged-out eye. A live donkey.

The beach house in its earlier configuration had been modestly furnished with cane chairs and cotton floral pillows and cushions, pink and yellow hibiscus. Not loud. Well-washed and cared for. Wooden floors, small pastel rugs. The kitchen table had been a small square timber extendable table with simple wooden stools put together with mortise and tenon joints wedged with wooden pegs.

The table now lay in several pieces, angular and stiff, like a massacred giraffe. The living room floor had long gouges where something heavy was dragged. The lounges had holes kicked through the cane insets and the frames were spread around in dismantled splintered pieces. The pillows and cushions were torn apart, with copious white clouds of stuffing giving a dismal degenerate post-Christmas effect. Mounds and smears of brown defecation decorated the room.

It was the smell that hit Shelley when she opened the door more than the visual. She struggled not to inhale but the more she tried to hold her breath and breathe out, the more she defaulted to inhaling, then gagging, tears spiking her eyes. She pulled the door shut. She put her hands on her knees and focussed on settling her breathing, and the rising nausea. She heard the animal braying somewhere in the house, thundering out its fear and objection to being imprisoned.

She had to work hard to comprehend what was happening. What had happened. This was supposed to be her weekend at the beach.

She knew this was Lorenzo and Aldo’s work. Greedy mongrels. But Raf had been cocky, and ignorant, then litigious. Her ex-husband was like the donkey inside. Contain him, go against his will, he’d explode. On this occasion, with the three brothers’ grandmother having passed away and a contentious will, listing a number of mortgaged properties and years of tax evasion, each of them pleaded their cases to each other so they would be unified dealing with the lawyer.

Raf had been named as the executor and refused to bond with either of the brothers. He believed he was chosen for his financial acuity, his rationale, his stability. As a real estate agent running a small country business, his grandmother had had pride in his work ethic and his ability to hold a business together, especially because he was the youngest. The other two brothers had lived on and off the grandmother’s farm, helping with the fruit orchard and the vegetable gardens, and the markets where they sold their produce. On and off.

Their outraged response was the donkey.

Raf’s retort would be a step up, whatever that could be. Shelley shook her head. She sank down onto the doorstep, the donkey cries and occasional smashes and crashes punching through the walls of the house.


There’s something magnificent about the combination of the double-meaning title (the donkey and the ex-husband) with that incredulous opening paragraph. We’d almost say it was like a breath of fresh air, but, well, you know. As for beach-hopeful Shelley, well, she bears the brunt of all this horseplay – the story’s order cleverly giving us her first response, then taking in the damage and returning to add more context. And quick, someone grab Phil, Mabel and the metaphorical seesaw from the previous story, because this one is like a real life Monopoly deal! Actually, scratch that, with disgruntled brothers named Lorenzo and Aldo, plus allusions to expected severed equine heads, it’s The-Godfather-by-the-Sea. Shelley’s body language is wonderful, as she is ultimately left on the doorstep sitting on the third meaning of the title!

SUMMONING STORMS by Elizabeth Carmody, QLD

‘So where does fire come from?’
We’re perched on the edge of the summit’s rocky outcrop, the valley stretching and arching below us. Summoning storms again.
Deaz leans on the hitching post beside me, eyeing me curiously.

‘If water is the heart, air’s the mind, earth’s the feet – where does fire come from?’ I shoot him a sideways glance.
‘Focus!’ he snaps, and circles behind me. ‘Or you’ll lose it again’.

The storm clouds are collecting in the distance, and I can feel the growing power spreading through my body like a swelling wave. It takes all my focus now to pull the clouds together, to collide and combust these immense forces of nature.
‘Fire is from the belly’ Deaz whispers behind me, watching the building storm I create. ‘The place where we are strong, fearless, the seat of our will. Our true source of power’.

Storms are the best way to practise, according to Deaz, because all of the elements are in a storm. But I can’t seem to hold one for more than a few minutes.

‘Good…. now pull it towards us’.
I use all my focus to pull the swirling sea of black clouds to me. Power cursing through my body, my heart thumping and my muscles aching. The wind tears through my hair in a torrent. I squint my eyes against the pelting rain.
‘Good!’ Deaz raises his voice against the howling wind ‘Keep going!”
I don’t know how much longer I can hold it. I feel like I’m going to explode, it's too much, too much power. I can’t see through the torrential rain, I can’t hear anything but the howling wind, I brace my body as it threatens to launch me into the air as my gown becomes a sail.

Then I feel something different, something new. The power is still there but there’s a new sense. An itch, no, a zap. Like electricity.
Thunder booms in my eardrums and blinding white light flashes around us. I panic, I flinch, I step back….and I lose it. Again.

We stand there, soaking wet, watching the dissipating clouds evaporate into the blue sky. My wet hair sticks to my face and I clench my fists in frustration.
Deaz laughs and pats my back. I hate how he does that.

‘You’re getting better’. He leans back on the hitching post. I turn to face him.
‘So what happens when I can summon fire?’
He smiles, and his eyes grow wide.


Using fantasy elements in flash fiction can be a tough assignment – usually due to the amount of world-building required in such a small word count. But here, it’s the elements themselves that are harnessed for this story, wisely choosing those we’re familiar with (water, air, earth and fire). The story also makes the decision not to explain these beings – essentially superhuman in their abilities and hinting at Eastern master/apprentice elemental stories like Avatar: The Last Airbender for shared inspiration. But all that aside, what stood out was the commitment to the storytelling – confident throughout, with a respect for the reader that they would understand what was happening. Much like the earlier storm-summoning ship story, we feel we’re part of a larger world here, happy to glimpse just a flash of it in this flash fiction piece.


How many virgins have I eaten? Too many to count but one thing is certain. I’m bored to death.
I yawn as I drag my ancient and tired body into the sacrificial chamber.
‘Let’s get this over with.’ I don’t even bother opening my eyes. I can smell the girl from a mile away.
‘I’d rather not, thank you.’
I open my eyes and peer at the girl tied to the post. She’s pulling at the ropes but looking directly at me.
‘Why aren’t you screaming in terror?’ I ask.
‘Would it help?’
I sigh. ‘No, not really. It was exciting for the first hundred years or so. The virgins screaming and pleading for their lives. It’s just boring now.’
She stops trying to free herself. ‘Virginity is a social construct.’
‘A what?’
‘It’s just a way for the patriarchy to keep women enslaved.’
I laugh. It sounds like a clap of thunder and the girl covers her ears.
‘I like you girl. You’re most entertaining and it will be a shame to eat you.’
‘Well, the thing is, I’m not even a virgin.’
‘Of course you are! I know a virgin when I see one.’
‘How? You can’t possibly know if a woman is a virgin or not.’
I frown. ‘You all taste the same.’
‘You’ve been tricked, dragon. The men bring you any girl they want to get rid of. One who speaks her mind and wants to improve life for women. You haven’t eaten a real virgin in centuries. Think about it. If you knew you were going to be sacrificed to a dragon, would you remain a virgin?’
‘You have a point, girl. It doesn’t matter. I feel peckish. I’ll eat you anyway.’
‘You don’t have to. You’ve been tricked and kept here by men. Help me and we can smash the patriarchy together.’
‘Why would I do that?’
The girl points at me. ‘You’re female. You’ve been kept here on the promise of virgins to eat. The men of this country wanted their own town. Somewhere they can drink whiskey and gamble and not have to worry about being nagged by their wives. So many men. All in one place. It’ll keep you going for years.’
‘It would be nice to have a full stomach. There really isn’t much to one girl. Only keeps me going for 10 years or so. I’d like to eat enough to have a good long sleep. 100 years should do it.’ I snort and flames shoot from my nostrils. ‘It also sounds very exciting!’
I help the girl untie her ropes and she climbs onto my back. ‘The future is female!’ She pumps her fist in the air.
The men don’t put up much of a struggle. We surprise them, the non-virgin girl and the dragon. I feed well. Tearing and ripping into flesh until I can’t eat anymore.
How many men have I eaten? Too many to count.


Speaking of fantasy … a dragon! And this deliciously humorous change of pace gives us front row seats and first person access to this hungry (yet bored) dragon – with the opening question one of our favourites. You cannot help but be intrigued by this point of view immediately, even more so once you realise that the dragon has met its match in the form of this no-nonsense sacrificial sass-machine! Great lines ensue (‘You’re most entertaining and it will be a shame to eat you.’), as slowly our non-virgin makes her case. (‘if you knew you were going to be sacrificed to a dragon, would you remain a virgin?’). We loved the originality of this one, the modern twist and the near-repetition in the final line is a nice touch. Sleep well, she-dragon! 


What can I do with my Grandma’s suitcase of stones?
On the top shelf of her pantry, amongst the yellow pickles and souvenir teaspoons, I’ve found Grandma’s old brown Globite suitcase.

I stretch it down, heavy, unwieldy, and lay it on the laminate table. Run my finger gently over the carefully hand-painted red letters of her name, then creak the stiff locks open with my thumbs.

Inside, piled high, are rocks. Smooth river pebbles. Sandstone slivers. Grey slate, worn soft by rubbing. Small and large, all colours. Black-and-red-striped, green-speckled, sandy-yellow. All the rocks collected from her travels. Tiny pieces of earth, symbol and memory of the lands she’d walked on.

But what to do with them now? Her delicate bone-china cups and travel-laden spoons have been divided amongst the family. I don’t think anyone will want this old brown case, heavy with stones.

I pull the suitcase carefully to my car, wedge it safely on the floor. Take it home and stand it on my coffee-table. I ponder its fate while I read. While I watch TV. While I eat noodles, and drink my morning tea from her china cup and saucer. The sun travels across it through the day, tree shadows reflecting through the windows.

At last, I make a plan. I take the suitcase of stones to her favourite place, the wide flat hill near the river. I choose a space looking to the east, listening to the water fast-flowing. Tear a space free of grass, and smooth the earth flat.

I open the suitcase, and bring out the stones, carefully piling one on another to make a pyramid. A tiny cairn of her memories in her favourite place. I post my favourite photo of her into a space between the layers, until she’s resting comfortably. Sun-speckled, tree-dappled, birdsong-echoed.

Everything done, I pour tea from my orange thermos into two china cups and saucers. Unwrap two buttered scones, and drink a cup of tea with her. I toast to her life, and her memories and her collection of countries.

Before I go, I wander along the riverbank, down past the thundering rapids, and the quiet eddies, until I find them. I crouch down, pull them from the sparkled water. A round grey-blue stone, and an oval flecked with silver light. I walk back slowly, rubbing one in each palm, thinking of her light, her kindness, her soft hands.

I balance the silvery stone on the very top, slip the blue one into my left pocket. I take pictures to remember the light, the silver pebble, the shadows from the river. Wrap the cup and spoon carefully, slip them into the old suitcase. Run my hand gently over her new resting place.

With a last wave, sure that I can see my Grandma waving back, I turn and head for home.


This is a classic problem/solution story – the task laid out in the very first sentence. Drawing such a vivid picture of this Grandma’s home, this piece immediately (and creakily) unlocks that shared experience of sorting through items of a departed loved one – and the eternal question of what to do with those things that held a sentimental audience of just one. In this case, as we first sit amongst the yellow pickle jars and laminate table, we learn that the items of value have already found homes. But (to repeat the opener), what to do with the suitcase of stones? Our unnamed narrator eventually works it out, and we are treated to a lovely, nature-infused scene that combines both a sense of place and a sense of peace. The trick here of course is that this was never simply a story about a suitcase. It was about all kinds of emotional ‘baggage' – honouring memories and finding the perfect way to say goodbye.


“Daddy, where did I come from?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Well Melanie at kinder said that she came from her mummy's tummy, Darren said he came from Queensland and Weird Willy said he came from Kmart.”
“Why do you call him Weird Willy?”
“That's what everyone calls him.”
“But why is he weird?”
“He likes celery. Nobody else in the class likes celery. It’s yucky.”
“Well I like celery. Does that make me weird?”
“No Dad, you're a grown up.”
“So grown ups aren’t weird?”
“No, just old.”
“So how old do you have to be to be a grown up?”
“I dunno. More than 50 at least.”
“But I’m only 42, so am I not a grown up?”
“Of course you are! You have big teeth and a beard. Kids only have little teeth that fall out. Then the tooth fairy comes and gives us $20.”
“$20? I don’t think the tooth fairy gives you that much.”
“Well that’s how much Melanie got when she lost her Grandma.”
“Why did the tooth fairy give her $20 when she lost her Grandma?”
“Her Uncle Al gave it to her because he said that her Grandma had gone to be with the tooth fairy.”
“Are you sure her Uncle Al didn’t say that her grandma had gone to be with Jesus?”
“No, it was the tooth fairy up in the North Pole near where Santa lives.”
“Is it not a bit cold for the tooth fairy up there?”
“Dunno. Maybe she puts on her big girl pants and they keep her warm.”
“Big girls pants? What are they?”
“Melanie was wearing them the other day. She showed us all in “Show and Tell.”
“Really? What did Mrs Robinson say?”
“She said they were very pretty and looked nice with the pink windcheater she had with Elsa on.”
“Who’s Elsa?”
“Da-ad! Elsa from Frozen!”
“Frozen what?”
“Frozen the movie. It’s about princesses. Elsa makes it snow and thunder and everything freezes and there’s a talking snowman called Olaf.”
“You're pulling my leg. Snowmen can’t talk.”
“This one can. He has a carrot for a nose.”
“Is that why he can talk?”
“Nooo he talks because he’s magic.”
“Magic? Is that right? Like Harry Potter?”
“Who’s Harry Potter?”
“The postman. Come on, put your shoes on, we’re home.”
“Don’t want to. They hurt.”
“Your feet will get all wet if you don’t. Then your toes will shrivel up and drop off, and there’ll be tears! You won’t be able to paint your toenails!”
“Carry me!”
“You're too big to be carried now.”
“Piggy back!”
“Oh all right then. Grab your shoes and climb on, and don’t be pulling my ears this time.”
“So where did I come from Dad?”
“Ask your mother!”


We began the showcase with the questions of a child, so it felt fitting to end with the same! However, this time it’s a father and child engaged in an all-dialogue conversation that covers everything from Frozen to celery to Harry Potter and the going rate for a dead Grandma on the tooth fairy market. In particular, we loved the three different places the friends had ‘come from’ – mummy’s tummy, Queensland and Kmart! Also, by engaging in a metronomic back and forth, there was no need for dialogue tags at all – always clear who was speaking. On the surface, it seems mostly silly, but there is plenty going on in each answer – also highlighting the meandering journey that you can go on when you talk to a child!


Each month, we like to include an extra LONGLIST (approx 5-10%) of stories that stood out from the submitted hundreds and were highly considered for the showcase. Remember, all creativity is subjective, but if your name is here, enjoy a moment of satisfaction! And to ALL who submitted stories, we’d LOVE to see you again for next month’s challenge!

THIS MONTH’S LONGLIST (in no particular order):

  • TRANSCRIPT by Joe Durham, UK
  • DEAD CENTRE by Michaela Dawn, WA
  • THE BIG QUESTION by Steve Cumper, TAS
  • BOOTIE CAMP by Gale Deitch, USA
  • SHATTERED by Lee McKerracher, NSW
  • FINAL ACT by Christy Hartman, Canada
  • WEREN’T YOU THE ONE? by Maricel Abraham, SA
  • RODNEY’S BUCKET by Michal Przywara, Canada
  • CLOWN TEETH by Laura Nettles, Canada
  • A CUP OF KINDNESS by Sally Farmer, NSW
  • MONSTERS AMONG US by Amy Morgan, VIC
  • THE CORD by Matt Best, NSW
  • TICK-TOCK by Deborah Sale-Butler, USA
  • POST-CHRISTMAS by Nell Holland, SA
  • THE WAITING GAME by Lynette Grimes, NSW
  • A BOOK’S PROTEST by Laura Lai
  • THE SKATER by Graham Walsh-Green, NSW
  • THUNDER AND LIGHTNING by Bruno Lowagie, Belgium
  • BRIGHT IDEA by Annie Lance, Ireland
  • WHY BOB? WHY? by Keith Hood, USA
  • LIKE PULLING HEN’S TEETH by Punxsutawney Phillipa, VIC
  • THE BIG PLAN by Sukanya Singh, India
  • THE NIGHT WHICH SEES by NamSav, South Korea
  • GRAMPS by Laura Testa-Reyes, USA
  • A SUMMER STORM by Mia McMorrow, VIC
  • HEALING by Lois Hibbert, Canada
  • THE POND by Phantom Union, USA
  • NOTHING TO DECLARE by Helen Renwick, WA
  • DOUBT by Ruth Quirk, NSW
  • UNTITLED by Erika Henry, QLD
  • GIANT JUSTICE by John McParland, NSW
  • THE BIG FIB by Ràna Campbell, Canada
  • GALACTIC HUNGER by Emily Shortall, NSW
  • PRIMARY LOVE by Chris Tattersall, UK
  • THE ROOMMATE by Hannah Elstub, NSW
  • ALONE by Anne Moorhouse, QLD
  • UNDER WATER by Galen Weedom, VIC
  • THE JAR by Paul Harris, UK
  • TREATMENT ROOM 5 by Daniella Speirs, ACT
  • THE OLD HOUSE by KE Fleming, NSW
  • THE SWITCH by Simon Taylor, VIC
  • UNTITLED by N.A. Mae, Philippines
  • LOSING MIA by Freya King, QLD
  • LOST AND FOUND by Narges Jalali-Kushki, Canada
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