Furious Fiction: March 2024 Story Showcase

Welcome to March’s Furious Fiction story showcase – where we revisit what sparked your collective creativity this month and celebrate our favourites. Here were the criteria/prompts that we asked for in March:

  • Each story had to include a character who revisits something. 
  • Each story had to include the same colour in its first and last sentence.
  • Each story had to include the words CAMP, FAST and SPARK.

(Longer words were okay if original spelling is retained.)

We’ll revisit the first prompt below, but before we do, we thought you might be interested to learn what were the most popular COLOURS used in your stories! Of course, there was a large variety – from golden sands and silver moons to orange formica, azure skies and cerulean seas. But by far the most common colour was RED (perhaps the presence of mandatory word FAST helped!). BLUE came in second, with BLACK, GREEN and WHITE rounding out the top five. As for the required words, always take note if you’re allowed to use longer words. In this case, it means things like “SCAMPered” and “breakFAST” were totally fine.


This month, we explored powerful fuel for storytelling – revisiting something. We wanted it to be a SIGNIFICANT return to something/someone, and suggested that simply returning to the kitchen with plates for the dishwasher was not likely going to cut it! (But special shout out to longlistee RM Liddell Ross, who took this as a challenge and did indeed make that subject interesting!)

  • There were a lot of childhood homes revisited – sometimes with happy memories and sometimes not so happy. In fact, there was a LOT of nostalgia in general – not surprising!
  • Revisiting a camping spot or summer camp was also borne out of the mandatory ‘CAMP’ word this month – and there were a lot of “in tents” stories as a result (boom tish).
  • School reunion anyone? We had a lot of those too – always ripe for a second chance at love or perhaps something sinister (you know who you are!).
  • Revisiting a loved one (or not so loved one?) was also a strong theme – either a former partner or an older relative. This made for some powerful stories sure to resonate with readers.
  • Death featured prominently – be it revisiting a grave site or having a protagonist who is themselves the dead one revisiting those left behind.
  • It wasn’t all sadness though, with some lighter stories that explored some of the less likely things having a revisitation and telling their stories (a couple of space-based ones are shortlisted below!).
  • In all, we were impressed with the sheer creativity that you sought out ways to return or revisit something – congratulations if you submitted a story this month. Many were also extremely vulnerable – thank you for your creative courage in sharing your words with us.

On that note, camp yourself under a blanket fort as we share a colourful selection of stories – including from Shayne Denford of NSW – our top pick of the month. Shayne’s story, along with our showcase shortlist and longlisted stories are all below. And we hope to see YOU bringing your creative spark next month!



With a brilliant display of crimson flowers, the bottlebrushes screen his secrets, while I wait patiently for justice.

I’ve been waiting a long time. Fifty years of feeling helpless, insignificant and betrayed. Questioning when they’ll find me? If they’ll find me? How?

I wonder if he still thinks about me? Surely he’s been looking over his shoulder, wondering when my disappearance will spark some interest. Perhaps even cause a reexamination of the case, where his web of lies will finally be unravelled. Does it make him nervous, knowing that one day the scoreboard could finally be settled?

Of course, I’ve had plenty of time to fantasise about my discovery. I just hope it’s not as clichéd as my demise – a backyard campout aborted due to a shocking surprise, or the family dog sniffing out my whereabouts in the midst of Sunday breakfast. No, after all this time I think my unearthing deserves a more compelling story than that. An inquisitive journalist uncovering the vital clue or, better yet, a thrilling new podcast series!

Fifty years is a long time to wait. A lifetime you might say. When will the sirens come to rescue me? Sirens would be an excellent touch, don’t you think? I’d certainly enjoy that ironic sense of emergency.

Now that we’re acquainted, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I never really went away. I still reside at home, even though he moved out years ago.

Come. I’m over here, near the back fence. The bottlebrush foliage is dense with woody fruit and blood-red flowers. The leaves of the shrub release a lemony scent when bruised, whereas my scent is long gone and my bruises no longer attract attention.

I’m here, beneath the sandy surface. You just need to dig a little. Down, down, a little bit further down, until the soil suffocates the sand, becoming cool and pungent.

You’ll find me there, what’s left of me anyway. My skin and tissue have long since decomposed, but you’ll find my bones and my pearly whites. Scattered around in the moist soil are a few nylon threads, the tell-tale remains of the old blanket he wrapped me in. And one other item; the blade of the knife.

Now, as the evening sky turns as crimson as the bottlebrushes, I wait, impatient for my revenge.


Crafting a strong narrative voice can truly elevate a flash fiction piece, and this story stood out this month for its gentle musings of the dead. Our narrator wears an almost Lovely Bones-esque poignancy in their words due to the nature of their demise, this fact clearly laid out among the bottlebrushes in the first sentence (“I wait patiently for justice”). Fifty years is a long time to wait, so we get to share in how they hope their eventual discovery will play out – ever so slightly peeling away layers of backstory as they go. Perfectly weighted (waited?), this is a story that aches to be read as much as it yearns to be found – a reverse whodunnit that beckons you closer with its own dissolving evidence and waits under crimson flowers and skies for the dots to be connected. Fantastic, month-topping stuff!

A STONE’S THROW by Isaac Freeman, SA

There’s a reason they call it a red eye.

You certainly can’t sleep on one, but you can conjure a deep thought or two.

On the cusp of 50, I had little to show for it. Using what little savings I had to fly over to New Zealand for a little trip down memory lane wasn’t the wisest idea, but it was the only one I had.

It had been 35 years.

It was a rather luxurious school camp that brought me over last time. I don’t know how my parents afforded it, but they used it as a bribe for good grades. Perhaps the fruits of my schoolroom labour would spark something in me and propel me to have an illustrious career, a healthy bank account and a loving wife and kids.

But no business card or family photo was slotted into my barren wallet.

Perhaps I lost a piece of myself somewhere along the way and it was merely a matter of finding it, picking it up, scrubbing off the dirt and putting it back in.

It was a fast exit out of the airport. I had no luggage and I wouldn’t be long.

It was also only a short drive via a shuttle bus, but as I looked through the windows it was downright confusing.

Everything had shrunk.

The mountains? Rocks.

The trees? Shrubs.

The lake? Puddle.

The whole place felt lonelier and colder. Or was that just me?

The hotels looked cheap, tacky even, the whole place smelt like a money-making lure for tourists and backpackers with a bartender's licence.

It was shop after shop of needless garbage, tourist paraphernalia that would undoubtedly find a forever home at a second-hand store. The food looked like plastic and was about as healthy as eating it too.

Perhaps it was only meant for the young and the rich, this town at the foot of the mountain.

End of the line. I hopped off the bus, walked by a few familiar storefronts and wandered down to the lake.

It was still perfect for skipping a good stone or two across.

Reaching down to pick up a perfectly flat and rounded stone, I couldn’t help but notice how smooth and new my hand looked, it may as well have belonged to a teenager.

Snapping the wrist of this foreign hand I launched the stone.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven…

Seven beautiful long skips.

I remembered the boy who once visited this shore.

He was sensitive, kind and loved to make things, always tinkering away on one woodwork project or another, but somewhere along the way he got bitter, closed himself off and lost sight of what he did best.

The hand now looked a lot like mine again.

“Damn. Good throw”

I turned to see a young boy, about 15 or so, wearing a bright red jacket, black pants and a grey beanie – he looked a lot like me at that age.


Amid a pile of stories that returned to familiar places this month, this story stood out with its inner monologue and the way it told a simple relatable story. In particular, the comparisons of everything having shrunk since last time are lovely, as nostalgia smashes head-on into reality at this unnamed Kiwi resort town. (We’re pretty sure we know which one it is!) And it’s in this banal sense of touristic deflation where this piece makes its peace – down at the water’s edge reflecting not on the lake but on a life lived (or not lived) and how the years can truly skip by. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven… 35.


In the sterile white halls of the hospital, I made my way to room 312, the antiseptic scent hanging heavy in the air as I approached. I found him lying in bed, his once robust frame now frail and weak. Familiar faces, clouded by grief, met my eyes from their various spots camped out on the additional chairs shoved into the room but none could hold my gaze for more than a few seconds as they shuffled by, squeezing my arm or shoulder as they passed by.

Aunt Marie whispered, “you made it in time. He’s not got long now, it’ll be fast.” My breath hitched at her words as she too left the room.

Alone, I shifted to look once more at the bed. “Gramps,” I said softly, taking his hand in mine.

His eyes, cloudy with age and illness, focused on me for a moment, a faint spark of recognition, before drifting away.

I squeezed his hand gently, trying to hold back the tears threatening to spill over. I leaned in closer, my heart breaking at the sight of him so frail and weak. “I’m sorry,” I said, “for not coming sooner. For staying away for so long”.

He nodded faintly, a hint of nostalgia crossing his features as his lips twitched into a small smile, a flicker of pride shining through his weary eyes. “Camp,” he murmured, his voice barely audible.

His words prompted memories of all of us gathered around a crackling fire, laughter filling the air as we recounted stories beneath the stars. I smiled, remembering the camping trips we used to take together when I was a child. “Yes, we had some great times at camp.”

His hand squeezed mine before loosening. “Storm,” he whispered. His oft-repeated words filled my head. Don’t let yesterday’s storm keep you from enjoying today’s sunshine – if the sky had no tears, the world would have no rainbows.

There had been countless times that he’d said those words, needed to say those words, to me. And equal countless times that I hadn’t listened.

“I promise,” I whispered, “I’ll look for the rainbows.”

Tears rolled down my cheeks as I sat by his bedside, holding his hand until his breathing slowed and finally stilled. While his lessons assured me that life would go on, in this moment it certainly didn’t feel that way. In the quiet of the hospital room, surrounded by those sterile white walls, I whispered my final goodbye to the man who had been so much more than just a grandfather to me.


As mentioned earlier, death was never far from a number of stories this month – and some of them dealt with revisiting an older relative at the end of their life. We’ve selected this story not for any sensational deathbed confession or other looming backstory questions, but rather for its clearly drawn out scene that in turn draws you into these two characters and the special connection they share. Only two words are spoken by Gramps, but they are full of meaning for our protagonist – with the final quote (and story’s title) a lovely nod to the colour prompt. And speaking of this prompt, starting and ending in the ‘sterile white walls’ also provides a keen observation on the stark surroundings so many find themselves in when desperate for colour and texture during these final interactions.

OLDER NOW by Tim Law, SA

I return to the wood, so lush and green. The place where my childhood bloomed. With each step I take along the familiar path, I feel the weariness of age seep from my bones, my shoulders straighten and there is a lightness to my stride. It helps that I have company, three generations walking side by side.

“Go on,” I say to my grandson, Sam, and I smile as he runs down the forest path and then out of sight.

His little legs are fast, but I am certain I was faster than he is at the same age. Familiarity I suppose, fear prevents us from throwing ourselves into the new.

“Samuel!” my daughter, Jessica, calls after her boy. “Don’t go too far, please stay where mummy can see you.”

“Nonsense,” I scoff. “We won’t get lost, for I know these woods as I do my own hands.”

My daughter rolls her eyes, but she does not argue that this is a fact, for I have changed as the years have gone on, but these woods are satisfactorily constant. Every bump, scrape, scar, I own these woods almost as much as those whose name is on the deed. At the very least I have owned my right to claim experience.

As I look down at my hands, I see the wrinkles, the sunspots, the markings that betray a life of free-spiritedness. Looking across at my daughter’s hands, they are soft; a creamy white, evidence of a city life, growing up watching screens. I am truly happy she said yes when I asked her to bring me here.

I am feeling sad too though, my life working in the city, I did not think I had the time to bring my children here. Opportunity was the buzzword of my twenties and thirties, and money was something I did not have growing up. There are other kinds of wealth though, and I have played the worst kind of thief in stealing away the experiences I have enjoyed in my youth; taking them without asking, myself, my wife, my kids. Thanks to me, Jessica and her brother Michael have never known the joy of camping beside a stream, a blanket of sparkling stars overhead, freshly caught trout for breakfast, and singalongs around the campfire. My choice has robbed Michael, Jessica too I suppose, robbed them of the chance to climb a tree and race to the very top. There truly is nothing like seeing the world from up high, holding on tightly as the breeze sways you from side to side. Sadly, you miss all of that when you live in a concrete jungle.

“Look at me, mum, grandpa!” calls Sam.

He is perched on one of the lower limbs of a forest sentinel.

“Get down!” commands Sam’s mother.

“Go higher,” I laugh.

For, I remember climbing to the very top of the tallest oak here. The view from my perch amongst the canopy so lush and green, recalling such helps me smile.


“His little legs are fast, but I am certain I was faster…” And with that, we have a delicious insight into this grandfather who still has a spark in him – made more shiny thanks to this return to a favourite patch of nature. As the three generations walk side by side (okay, the youngest has raced ahead), our protagonist reflects on how easy it was to get busy ‘earning a living’ while forgetting about the ‘living’ part. Older now and wise with the realisation that this special place has skipped a generation while on his watch, he seeks to make amends – to encourage Sam to “go higher” and recapture the lush green of his youth. Simple storytelling that climbs to great heights.


I’m wearing a little black dress in the faded photo. Scooped neck, cinched waist, hemline finishing above slender calves. I’m blushing, but only I know that. Twenty-four of us are lined up on the stage in two even rows, waving at the photographer.

‘Is that really you?’ he says, peering from the photo to me.

I suck my tummy in and sit up straighter.

‘You were hot!’ he says, topping up his glass of red.

I open the email again. ‘Thirty year reunion at the campus! Partners welcome!’

‘What’s that?’ he says.

‘Nothing.’ I turn the screen off and take plates to the kitchen.


‘Last chance to RSVP!’ the message the next morning says.

I look at him sleeping next to me, pink spittle trailing from his mouth to the pillow.

I take the photo out of the bedside drawer. All those faces, gleaming with youth, eagerly anticipating what would come next. The places we’d go, the careers we’d forge, the partners we’d meet.

The young man standing next to me in the front row is grinning. You can’t see it but his arm is around my waist. I can feel it now. Its warmth, its sinewy strength.

That exquisite feeling of nerves and excitement, wondering if anyone has noticed.

I Google his name. Nothing comes up.

‘I’ll be there!’ I reply.


I peer at myself in the full-length mirror in the bedroom. Round-bellied, hollow-cheeked, frizzy-haired.

I go to the mall and try on dozens of black dresses, none of them little. I find one that almost fits.

I dig out the straighteners and practice taming the frizz.

I start skipping breakfast.


‘You’ve made quite the effort for a girls’ evening,’ he says as I come down the stairs. ‘Isn’t that dress a bit…tight?’

I turn my phone’s location services off after I get in the Uber.

‘We’ve got a full house!’ the woman at the door says, a glass of sparkling in her hand. ‘Well, you know. As full as it can be.’

I head straight for the bar, eyes scanning the room.

‘Fabulous dress!’ a voice calls after me.

I move between groups, emboldened by the wine. Talking about the old days. The parties and gigs, the lectures accompanied by hangovers. My eyes dart around the room.

I want to say ‘Does anyone know what happened to…’, but stop myself each time. Unease is rising in my guts.

At the end of the evening, we line up on the stage for a photo. Two rows. Uneven numbers. No arm around my waist.

A woman shouts above the chatter. ‘Let’s raise a toast to someone who sadly can’t be with us tonight…’

Dread seeps through my stomach, curdling the wine.

She says his name. I cover my ears.


Back home, I look at the photo one last time. The gleaming faces. The even numbers. The grinning young man. I put it back in the drawer.

I hang the black dress in the wardrobe and climb into bed beside him.


As we said at the top, school reunions made for some fertile story fodder this month – and this piece deals with it in a familiar yet unique way. Broken into a quintet of short acts, we see the stages from RSVP to return, becoming immediately aware that the person our protagonist married is not someone she wants to show off to her old school buddies. In fact, there is a particular reason why – with hints at ‘the one that got away’ through an old photo and the efforts to fit that titular outfit. But fantasy and reality once more collide (a common theme this month!) as the tragic truth turns this hopeful fling of the class into a thing of the past. Even numbers return to being odd and the drawer is slipped shut on the spark of an old flame. In other hands, this storyline could have gone big and bawdy, but the restraint shown here is impressive.


They repainted the walls a bland eggshell white. A hidden and tired sort of grief crept up on me, fast, making my eyes watery and shoulders heavy. It was the final nail in her coffin. She was gone and here I was, selling off her tomb.

A fresh wave of grief sparked with each passing memory. The carpet was new, hiding the stains the girl had caused. The walls were repainted to hide the marks where she had decided to play soccer inside the day before her year 6 camp. Her bedroom door, that she had once painted to look like the sea, was replaced. Little by little, she was erased. If I went outside to the mango tree on the mound, would her initials still be carved into its trunk? Or would nature itself have forgotten her? Had it healed over the scars of her history?

I could see her twirling around me as she slowly disappeared until I was left alone in the bones of a home. I almost didn’t even recognise her. What a sin, to not recognise your own reflection.

“Alright, ready to go? Oh honey! What’s wrong?” My mother asked, picking up the last of my boxed-up childhood home.

“I don’t know why I’m so upset. I moved out years ago. I just don’t remember growing up. When did I stop believing in magic and the pure goodness of people? When did I stop staying up just to watch the stars? I’m so lost, Mum. I thought I would have everything figured out by now. I thought I would know who I am but I don’t. I’m scared I’ll never figure out how I fit in this world. But that girl was never afraid. Seeing this empty house just cements that she’s gone.”

“She’s not gone, just buried. She’s there when you can’t help but smile and tip your head up to the sky when it rains. And when you laugh as it drenches through your clothes, it’s her giggles that are heard. She sits beside you, in the passenger seat, as you scream along with the radio through the open window of your car. She choreographs your moves when you can’t help but dance in the street, regardless of who is watching. She races waves at the beach and still smiles at pretty skies. Don’t push her away, my love. Embrace her. Too many times people wither away before they own a gravestone. They’ve kissed their youth goodbye.

“So, take some time, say goodbye to the place where that little girl used to play, but never say goodbye to her. Hold her hand and take her with you wherever you go, and she will show you how to live.”

Outside, on a mound by the house at 55 Parkland Road, there is a mango tree. At its trunk, though lightened into a white scar with age, are the initials ‘SLW,’ forever marking the place where the girl used to play.


Saying goodbye to a childhood home can be an emotional experience – and it’s clear that many writers used real life events to fuel their stories in this vein for this challenge. The thing that we liked so much about this one was the way that it truly felt like stages of grief, to the point where at first we actually wonder if it is a lost child that SLW is mourning – such is the distance the narrative keeps from “the girl”. By the third and fourth paragraphs however, the fog clears and you can get on with the relatable grief of an adult dealing with the memories of childhood and the realities of moving on. The dialogue with the mother – including the mother’s beautiful reply – is surely sponsored by Kleenex, while the final paragraph sticks the landing with just three letters. Nostalgia done right.


Her blue tail glowed brightly within the night sky, as she beamed with joy. Small parts of her floated towards the onlookers, sparking off the earth’s atmosphere and giving an impressive light show. She had shown up just as they had predicted she would. Finally proving to them that she was the same comet who had been visiting them for centuries. A man from one of their smaller islands had named her, she was now Halley’s Comet. Sure, she had hoped for a cooler name, Sky Blazer for example, but it was a name all the same. Halley had been visiting this speck of dirt and water, or the blue dot as she called it, for hundreds of thousands of years, and today she had been recognised. There had been others before that had noticed her, how couldn’t they, she was the only naked-eye comet that could appear twice in a human lifetime. It was a shame they didn’t remember her. That all changed today, they had truly discovered her.

Halley beamed as she rounded the sun, forgetting in her excitement, how close she came. Sure, 88 million km sounds like a lot, but when you are travelling at 70 km per second it feels a lot closer. The sun’s heat was melting her ice core slightly or was it due to the joy she felt about her new name? she couldn’t tell, and she didn't care. Sling-shotting herself she once again raced past the speck. Halley tried to wipe her tail out of her face as she headed away. It seemed silly to be flying into your tail, but that was the biggest pain of the trip out, the solar winds blowing her tail away from the sun. She couldn’t go fast enough this loop, barely stopping at the other planets to chat, instead just yelling. ‘Hi, I’m Halley.’ as she whipped past. She beamed brightly as she rounded Pluto and started her way back. There it was again, starting as a blue dot, and growing to the speck that had named her. Speeding up to route and show off her good side, tailback, she blazed again in their night sky. Over the years and loops, she watched them as much as they watched her. She loved seeing the different campsites all waiting to see her.

After a few more loops, the tents and telescopes turned into buildings and large telescopes. Rounding Pluto for the fourth time since she was named, she mentioned to him that they had watched her this time from outside the speck. They had made a smaller speck that orbited their speck, it was incredible. Halley was happy, it would be good to have friends in the wide vacuum of space. Pluto had become more distant and colder than usual lately, muttering something about a stolen title. Halley didn’t mind, she was just happy to be on the return journey again. Glowing with joy she once again raced towards her blue dot, Halley’s Earth.


Amid all the nostalgia and lifelong recollections, finally we present a story that dared to mix things up a little – ‘starring’ one of the most famous of all celestial return visitors to Earth, Halley’s Comet! The choice to commit to making the comet the story’s protagonist is such fun and allows for a quirky narrative. Hilarious insights (“she had hoped for a cooler name”) ensue, as we see the world from a comet’s perspective – starting during the 1700s as it is finally chuffed to be noticed and jumping forward in 76-year increments (a mere moment for a comet) to witness the observational equipment getting bigger and fancier each time. Even the chance to comment on Pluto’s demotion does not go to waste, with the final reveal of her using her own name for us being the icing on this flipped cake!


This is where Mally's date said her dress was too yellow, that he hated the color yellow, and Mally ended up going to prom alone. It's the bottom of the front staircase that is so close to the entryway if you tripped at the top there's a chance you might cartwheel into the street if the door was open.  Mally doesn't remember it being this close. The entire house feels like a wool hat sent through the dryer: hot, too tight to squeeze into, with a strange odor throughout all combining to give her a headache.

This is the couch where Mally sat and listened to her aunt and mother debate about which “fat camp” their daughters should attend the summer they both turned 14. Mally's cousin Roz got herself addicted to diet pills the next day and lost 30 pounds before spring break, so she went to dance camp instead. Mally spent two days at the fat camp in the mountains, but suffered such an extreme panic attack from heights she was sent home and she got a job at the movie theater with unlimited popcorn and soda.

This is the backyard where her father threatened to shoot her dog Sparky if he dug any more holes. Mally has stepped out here to take some deep breaths. She spies the broken brick marker for Sparky's grave. In the end it wasn't a bullet that killed him, but he ate something he found while digging and it lodged fatally in his intestines. 

This is the wall mounted telephone, its shiny black veneer rubbed dull around the handle and earpiece from many long conversations. It's in the kitchen and the only phone they had, so there was always shouting and background noise even if you stretched the cord as far as it would go and hid in the half-bath under the stairs. Mally was never fast enough to answer its ringing when she was up in her room. If her parents got to it first and there was a boy on the other end, they would just hang up. 

This is the second floor. Mally stops in the hallway and turns in a circle. Parents' room, her room, bathroom, and the room that should have been her baby brother's but instead became their storage space and occasional guest room. Officially it was known as the “sewing room.”

This is the front porch. Mally smiles broadly at the estate agent and drops the keys in the woman's manicured hand. “Everything can go,” she says, waving her arm in a wide arc to encompass the whole house. “Let me know when I can sign the paperwork and collect a check.”

This is Mally's car. It's bright yellow, big and older just like Mally, and it carries her away from that house forever. 


This is the story that reminds us that not all childhoods are created equal. Once again, we’re saying goodbye to a childhood home, but this time it’s a not so happy upbringing. The story uses clever repetition to divide the narrative into a series of vignettes – with snippets revealing some of the milestones that are etched into Mally’s heart and soul (including being stood up for both prom and fat camp!). Once more, we have that confusion of things seeming smaller than they were, as the trauma is rolled out – from the backyard to a quick circle of the second floor that reveals an important detail. And it’s the efficiency in how much it chooses to share that makes it powerful – nothing overstaying its welcome and the final wide arc of Mally’s hand the perfect wrap up.
This is the ideal accompaniment to Laura Byrne’s earlier piece!

RED FLAGS by Rebecca Belov, QLD

The red flags weren’t so obvious at the start.

Scratch that.

They were there.

But through Emma’s rose-coloured glasses, they seemed less of a warning and more like a parade, celebrating her once-in-a-lifetime romance.

She had fallen in love so hard, so fast. The spark between them was electric. Eyes met. Hearts fluttered. Kisses so hot they could melt glaciers. All the cliches you read about.

Every moment spent together. Exclamations of how it’d never been like this before. Fervent I Love You's said after weeks. All the warning signs you read about.

The ones you can easily explain away. The ones you grow up believing are fate. Where the cameras stop rolling on insta-love romcoms, but you assume the happily ever after never ends.

To Emma, it felt so right. They were living together before the end of the summer. By winter her happiness had faded to fear, and it was twelve turns around the sun before Emma saw light once more.

She never expected to be here again. Camped out in her old bedroom at her parents’ house, as though she’d never left. It wasn’t the same, though. The mattress was lumpier. The celestial quilt cover she adored as a teen had faded with time. The single bed felt smaller, no matter how tightly she curled herself up at night as she tried to hold in her tears.

God, it hurt to be back.

Drawing in a deep breath, Emma smoothed down the fabric of her dress, brushing away invisible creases. She barely recognised herself in the mirror. Hair falling gently around her shoulders; it still felt strange after years of not being allowed to wear it that way. Her dress softly showing off the figure she had spent a decade having to hide.

She had scraped together as much money as she could since leaving. It wasn’t much. Her parents had helped to pay for this dress – “something new, for your fresh start” – though they didn’t have much to spare themselves. It was beautiful. Bold colouring juxtaposed with soft lace and silk, fitting just right as though it had been made specifically for her.

This dress was more than a piece of clothing. On her sleeve she wore her heart, broken and bruised, and the threads of hope for her future were weaved with a lifetime’s worth of love. When she’d slipped on the dress in the store, for the first time in years, Emma felt alive again. Beautiful again. Herself again. Wearing it gave her a confidence she thought she'd lost forever.

“Emma, love, are you almost ready? We don’t want to be late.”

Grabbing her purse, Emma raced down the stairs. Her mum and dad were waiting by the door, stoic expressions not quite hiding their nerves for what lay ahead. Court days were always heavy.

“I’m ready. Let’s do this. Thanks for coming with me.”

“Always.” Her mother squeezed her arm reassuringly. “Oh, Em, you look beautiful. Red really is your colour.”


Using the colour red so well in both the beginning and end (shout out to all those stories that offered a whole new meaning with the colour for each bookended appearance), this is a story that sneaks up on you. Just like Emma herself, we too are wooed into the heady throes and blushes of early romance, despite the red flag foreshadowing. Using the seasons to document the change is masterful as is the way the timeline is revealed – “it was twelve turns around the sun before Emma saw light once more”. The second half deals in the present and another return to the childhood home – yet again in different circumstances. The way it is revealed that the dress is for a specific occasion is also done with superb care that matches the whole story’s choices in sharing a dark time with narrative restraint.

In Australia, support for those impacted by family, sexual or domestic violence is available at www.1800respect.org.au or by calling 1800 737 732.

THE HOLIDAY CYCLE by David Van Uffelen, Belgium

A blue dot appeared on the intergalactic radar of the alien spaceship as soon as it entered our solar system. A giant 3-fingered hand reached for the console and zoomed in on the dot. The display started to fill up with information in an alien language.

“Go wake the kids, honey. We're almost there.” The commanding alien said.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” A second alien replied.

“Of course I'm sure. This is the only habitable planet in this solar system. There used to be another one, but the species who lived there all left and the whole place has now decayed into a giant ball of red dust.”

“I'm still not convinced it was a good idea to travel all the way here. This whole neighborhood seems neglected.”

“Trust me, honey.” the commanding alien replied, “My parents took me here during every vacation cycle. The kids are going to love this place. This planet has everything to offer for a fantastic camping trip.”

“Is that a warning message on the dashboard?”

“Probably just a warning that I'm speeding too fast again. Not that anyone is going to notice in this part of the galaxy. I'll just (…) hmm, that doesn't seem right.”

“What's wrong?”

“The planet seems to be inhabited now.”

“How is that possible? You told me there was no intelligent life present on the planet.”

“There wasn't! Hold on, I'll scan the entire system again.”

The two alien figures watched the terminal as the ship's sensors gathered the information.

“Well, that's new,” The commanding alien said. “It seems a genetic malfunction sparked an evolution with the tree-hugging animals on the planet. They've taken over the entire place!”

“Is it still safe for us to spend our holiday cycle there?”

“I'm not sure, they are producing a lot of noise at the moment,” The alien said with a worried voice. “I'm surprised our scanners hadn't picked up on them already.”

“That doesn't sound good.” The other alien replied. “I don't want to take our kids down there. Do you remember what happened to that family, who ran into another intelligent life form during their vacation? They were probed, Julian! Probed! And not in a good way!”

“It seems they have started exploring other planets in this solar system as well.”

“In that case, we need to turn back and warn the authorities. If they are about to start exploring space, we need to monitor them and find out if they're the probing type of species.”

“Fine, I guess you're right.” The commanding alien reluctantly said. “But it doesn't look like we're going camping any time soon unless we can find another blue planet before the kids wake up.”


A bunch of stories played on the theme of journeying back to a favourite holiday spot, but this one delightfully turns our family into a shipful of aliens. Of course, that alone isn’t enough to get it on this list, but the playful details and dialogue throughout is fun to read – with our 3-fingered family slowly realising that someone may have essentially gotten to their secret camping spot first. “They are producing a lot of noise at the moment,” worries one of the aliens, as we get another insight into how we might be viewed by things outside this planet. The fear of being probed is hilarious and it once again subverts a well-worn trope to deliver something fresh. Three thumbs up!

OVERDUE by K.E. Fleming, NSW

The red dust is ever-present at the end of the world, even in the Library.

The Librarian’s daughter – nine years old and mad about it – violently beats their ratty welcome mat just outside the door. Although most of their little leftover world has long since accepted the pervasive grit, Nina is almost militant in her quest to keep it out of the Library.

Olivia watches in amusement as her daughter sparks up at the poor fool attempting entry before the mat is ready. There’s been a real shortage of entertainment options recently, and a grown man getting berated by a pre-teen wielding a beating brush is the next best thing.

The visitor sheepishly (and thoroughly) wipes off his shoes on the freshly returned mat before heading directly into the wilds of the ‘Household Tools & Gadgety Things’ aisle. He leaves a contrail of red dust from his goggles, mask and clothes but not – hallelujah! – from his boots.

He’s at her Check Out desk only a scant few minutes later, arms loaded with odds and ends.

“Back again, Steve,” Olivia greets him. “Bessy playing up on you?”

Bessy is the crotchety old generator keeping the lights on in their little slice of wasteland. Left to her own devices, she has a worrying tendency to rattle and smoke, adding to Steve’s growing collection of grey hairs.

Steve – the closest thing they’ve got to a mechanic, many steps removed – is in the Library most days, borrowing new tools in his ongoing quest to keep the Bessy-beast fed. It doesn’t bode well that this is his second visit today.

“No, no, the old gal is ticking along just fine, thanks Olivia.” He tells her with tight eyes. “How are things here?”

Her bookshelves are packed with hard-edged tools, rope and chemicals. The books have been stacked with military precision by Nina against the far wall – paperback soldiers at camp. The windows that haven’t been boarded up scream with harsh light, glaring down from the red skies above. Despite Nina’s best efforts, the dust is everywhere. It stings and irritates and stains. Sticks fast to palm lines and nailbeds, to the downturned creases at her daughter’s mouth.

Olivia smiles, finishes the final curl of ‘621.31WRE – Wrench (Blue Handle, Size 3/8”)’ in her ledger. “We’re just fine over here too, thanks Steve.”

Steve nods his thanks, arms full of hopeful doodads and whatsits. At the door he awkwardly sidesteps Nina’s vicious eyes, juggling tools and refitting his mask and goggles.

“See you tomorrow,” the Librarian murmurs, watching him step out her door and vanish into the red haze, off to steal them one more day.


There is something particularly well-defined and compelling about the world-building (end-of-the-world building?) in this story, despite a very intentional lack of backstory to explain just how these characters came to find themselves as capital-L Librarians here (take your pick of an assortment of apocalyptic fare). But that’s the clever play with flash fiction – if it’s not needed, strip it bare. After all, who needs to own such storytelling whatsits when you can borrow them from Olivia and Nina, just like Steve is regularly doing with his tools. The larger fate of our players here isn’t on the agenda – instead choosing to lay out the welcome mat on a simple red-skied day in the life of this dusty reality. Please wipe your feet.

TURN THE PAGE by Minnie Zimmerman, VIC

In the shed, Jamie pulled the light blue notebook out of the old box, almost dropping it as the scribble on the front cover came to light: Jamie’s Storys*. She was catapulted back twenty-five years, to her childhood home.

The writing was wobbly and the tail of the “y” swung in the wrong direction. She had replaced the dot of the “i” with a flower, as she did back then for a short period of time. The flowers turned to love hearts which turned to big bubbles, which settled into a fast spike of the pen on the page. She didn’t have the time to flower her letters anymore.

Opening the scruffy notebook, she let the leaves fall to a random page. There was a title written on the left-hand side: The Princesses Scary Night

A smile grew. She read the short piece. Straight to the point – the beautiful princess, the ghost in her tower, the sparkle in her gown and the prince who saved her. One hundred words later and she had her happy ending.

‘If only,’ Jamie scoffed. She was thirty-two and her own life story was at least seventy-thousand words so far – the happy ending hadn’t even been drafted yet. It’s like her writer had thought of one and then scrapped it; “not believable” they’d have said, shredding the paper and starting again.

She turned to another page at random: The Girl Who Lived By A Lake. She remembered this story; it didn’t go anywhere, she just had always wanted to live by a lake. She had written about a boy camping in the woods and coming across a girl taking a dip in a shimmering lake. Her house was close by, covered in flowers, with a pet horse who roamed out front. The two talked about her favourite things to do by the lake. Sometimes the horse would even go in the water. The boy and girl laughed. The End.

Jamie was grinning at the nothingness of the stories. Nestled in her still was the joy she’d found when writing these winsome words and creating characters so flat they couldn’t hurt a fly. It was a childhood happiness that would have fused into her subconscious, and that she knows won’t leave no matter how many villains enter her life.

In the box of her things, the things that she’d, at multiple points in her life, deemed too important to discard, she looked through the MVP trophy from basketball, the friendship bracelet her best friend had given her, the photos from when her dad was still around. She placed the notebook back inside, wanting to jump inside the box herself, live in the castle and by the lake and in a time that couldn’t be touched by outside circumstances. Where letters donned flower caps and happiness was a page away.

Actually. She took the notebook back out and hugged it to her chest. She would turn to its crinkled pages whenever she was feeling blue.


We wanted to end on this delightful piece – maybe because it combines many of the themes we’ve seen so far, with the very ‘meta’ addition of finding old stories you’ve written. Many of us know the pure joy of revisiting something we wrote as a child, and here we all get to share in Jamie’s ‘storys’ (sic) – the ultimate time machine and certainly more reliable than any Delorean! The little details shared about this younger self are head-noddingly authentic, as are the stories themselves (complete with dodgy grammar!). In particular, the hilarious lake story feels so true-to-life that we think it could be based on a true story (i.e. one Minnie actually wrote!). A lovely box of nostalgia to end this month’s showcase on, and an unlikely reminder( via young Jamie’s efforts) to keep your flash fiction stories simple!


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):

  • THE YEARLY WAIT by Georgia Napier, WA
  • A SUNSET TO REMEMBER by Wendy Hewett, USA
  • THE COLOURS by Samantha Pollard, WA
  • THE ICK by Chelsea Chong, QLD
  • FOREST GARDEN CEMETERY. ROW 17. PLOT 23 by Jeff Taylor, NZ
  • THE SEA by Sarah Swarbrick, NSW
  • CREATION by Ian Coombe, QLD
  • THE FAREWELL by Nelly Shulman, Israel
  • KILAUEA, 1995 by L.A. Bowen, USA
  • A PEARL BEFORE SWINE by Lisa Harding, NSW
  • BLUE by Melly Mula, NSW
  • VISITATION by Marie Anderson, USA
  • MEETING GRIEF by Sophie von Blanckensee, SA
  • MOVING EARTH by Averil Robertson, VIC
  • STELLA, THE STELLAR TELLER by Cheryl Lockwood, QLD
  • A DAY IN THE LIFE by Tuhina Raman, USA
  • UNTITLED by Laura Summerfield, Canada
  • AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE by Anthony Sevil, NSW
  • ARE WE THERE YET by Chris Waterson, UK
  • THE FORMULA by Becca J, NSW
  • JULY, 2009 by Hannah Taylor, NSW
  • UNTITLED by Dante Oberin, VIC
  • 17 by Monica Paige, USA
  • THE STORM by Avalon Dziak, USA
  • ONCE MORE AROUND by Greg Schmidt, NSW
  • WITH YOU, I SHALL DEPART by Dustin James Gillham, USA
  • THE FALL by Alexander Beckett, UK
  • COPPER COINS by Louise Leech, NSW
  • THE SPARK by Cath Rushbrooke, VIC
  • SUMMER MEMORIES by Julianna Pochatko, USA
  • UNTITLED by Lydia C. Lee, NSW
  • THE SWIMMER by Rosie Francis, USA
  • UNTITLED by Jen Tombs, Canada
  • IRON BOTTOM SOUND by Andrew Harrison, NSW
  • 8 SECONDS. ON REPEAT by Simon Shergold, USA
  • ENDURANCE by Helen Carter, NSW
  • THE COLD END by Simon Taylor, VIC
  • UNTITLED by Nicole Prill, USA
  • RED LETTER DAY by Rananda Rich, NSW
  • MANY HAPPY RETURNS by RM Liddell Ross, QLD
  • K’GARI by Kevin P, NSW
  • GOING HOME by Elizabeth Coby, NSW
  • TRIUMPH by Heather Maywald, SA
  • NOT RIGHT by Susan Steward, USA
  • I’M ON MY KNEES by Tatiana Samokhina, NSW
  • CLOVERDEL by Skye Abraham, VIC
  • JUST A SECOND by Tim O Tee, UK
  • RIPTIDE by Tatum Schad, USA
  • I MADE SURE by Fiona J. Kemp, NSW
  • JUNE by Stephen Circeo, USA


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