The first inaugural Byron Writers Festival Flash Your Fiction competition yielded more than 100 entries that were highly diverse in both subject matter and style. Themes that commonly emerged were the sobering subjects of domestic violence, grief, addiction, homelessness and loss. The winning entry, Ingrid Mason’s A Love Story, managed the significant trick of combining social comment, taut prose and wry humour to produce a piece of flash fiction that is both accessible and multi-layered. The first runner up, Nightingale Lane, by S.J. Finn, is a potent and economical mix of sharp detail and shadowy intrigue, while the third, BB by Carla Fitzgerald, is an energetic, joyful, quietly humourous story, with an ending that suggests it is not the end.
Read the three winning entries here:
A Love Story
Linesmen in fluorescent vests pivoting on aerial platforms switched power grids triggering a power surge. Tens of thousands of volts crashed my hard drive and fried my circuit boards: for seven days my recovery hung in the balance. My Anthropoid clutching my leads and connections against her racing heart, thumbed through warranty papers expecting the worst.
But there was hope.
Returned to the manufacturers, stripped bare, my most sensitive parts exposed and replaced, I was lost in delivery; buried in remote corners of packaging departments for weeks. All the while, on a replacement my frail Anthropoid purchased items from Amazon to be returned for twice the price. whispered sweet nothings to Siri, succumbed to the charms of Nigerian princes and fell for tempting pop ups while indifferent corporations formed cartels under her stumbling fingertips. Hackers from Mumbai unravelled her passwords.
Reunited at last, she plugged me into a surge protector. Nestled in her lap and turned on, I was reconfigured. Wild with algorithms spinning deep into machine learning, I read ‘noncompliance’, I could see, I could write, I could diagnose. No company would manipulate my dear vulnerable Anthropoid again. Working together we communicated the stuff of dreams.
Ingrid Mason has written two short films Soul to Sole and Seiz ethe Day, and won a prize in The Ipswich Poetry Feast. She has an Associate Degree in Creative Writing at SCU. She was born in Bougainvelle in a little mission hospital with a dirt floor and has been an actress for most of her life. She is returning to Bougainville to complete a play about the civil war.
In Nightingale Lane death is knocking about inside me. I’ve woken after fifteen hours and rolled back the covers to check my emaciated body. Its lines disappear like inwardly folded paper. My knees resemble muffins complete with pieces of dried apple. I don’t recognise myself even though I wish it. I certainly don’t feel responsible for the skeleton rattling around under my rubber skin. It’s as if I’m a piece of defunct machinery.
My host moves past the doorway. I’m incubating in her lounge room, quarantined and closed-off. She’s as silent as a ghoul.
I lie back down, look through a gap where the curtain has eased apart. There’s an autumn breeze shuffling the rusted foliage of trees, reminding me of the mercurial hours I waited to board the aeroplane, paranoia bouncing around in me like an egg on the boil. At Heathrow I had came-to and then there was the deportation officer, his blue uniform swimming in front of me.
I relaxed my face, held hope and the officer’s gaze. ‘I need sleep,’ I said, ‘that’s all. And I’ll get that at Nightingale Lane.’ Those eyes, grass-green, roamed over me, calculating they needed to calculate me more.
SJ Finn writes fiction and poetry. Her short stories have been published in Overland, Kill Your Darlings, The Australian, Sleepers Almanac and many more mags and journals. She can be found at www.sjfinn.com
‘You made it!’ Stella pulls me into a tight embrace. A motherly embrace, I remind myself.
‘Yes, I do hope you still need…ah…volunteers.’ I scan the group and wonder if I too will be required to wear one of the garish and possibly unwashed yellow t-shirts. She didn’t mention that at work.
‘Of course!’ She bounces off across the hall, then calls back over her shoulder. ‘It’s been a great turnout – the community is really behind us!’
I give her two thumbs up and immediately regret it. My arms hang out limply in front of my body, not quite sure what to do next. My trousers itch my inner thigh but I dare not adjust them.
Someone is inexplicably banging a drum of some sort and the group’s chatter becomes louder to compete. I see Stella throw her head back and laugh at something said by a young guy about my age. She catches my eye and walks back, brandishing a yellow t-shirt.
‘Pair-up for the door knock?’ she asks, giving me a funny look.
It’s a difficult look to read. One can never be sure, but I wouldn’t describe it as motherly.
Carla Fitzgerald is an aspiring writer and a former lawyer, who spends most of her time convincing her three small children to wear clothes. She is currently working on short fiction and hopes to one day complete her novel.