Below you will find the winners of our 2015 Flash Fiction Contest. The top five will also appear in Issue 68, out this Spring. The top five are presented first, in no particular order, followed by the rest of the top twenty. We thank everyone who participated.
Exploration Craft 2297 by Lynn Buchanan
The line spun out behind the astronaut like an umbilical cord connecting his suit to the spaceship behind him. It was sloppily attached, and there were knots along its length, cutting off his oxygen supply, but the tether was more than the others had. Some hadn’t even bothered put on a suit and now floated in his peripheral as corpses with hypnotized eyes and thin white smiles. He was the last one to reach the bay and leap from the metal platform into space, but being the last didn’t matter because that meant he was now the most important person in the universe. Music rang in the vacuum of space just for him. His arms stretched out imploringly, desperately for the singer. The siren reached him, twined around him, sang at his stupidly grinning face as it cut his tether and ripped the glass from his helmet.
Ghosts Don’t Count by Julia Jeffery
“Everyone ready to die?”
Nobody on Expedition’s bridge heard my joke. Even the medium was only slightly more sensitive than a brick wall. So I got in her face and hollered, “I’m taking us through.”
The medium touched her temples, enraptured. “Captain, I sense the navigator is prepared to lead us into the void!”
The void. There was nothing empty about the veil. But exo-temporal scientists didn’t care about seeing it, only traveling through.
“Okay.” I gripped Expedition and willed us into the veil.
Mortal time froze.
Whole universes a breath away.
The central Star’s gravity drew us in toward the afterlife. Its intensity shocked me every time.
I braced myself and yanked us out above Earth-Omega.
Time slammed to a start. The officers blinked and consulted their screens. “Target reached, Captain. All crew survived the warp.”
But ghosts don’t count.
Cursed (or Blessed?) to Tell the Truth by Nathaniel Keenan
“Of course I’m freaking out! It’s not every day I get cursed by an Indian Witch Doctor.”
Todd cocked his head, “I thought he was Aztec. You sure he was Indian?”
“Yes.” I grimaced, realizing my folly. “Well, he’s definitely Indian now.”
“Oh…sorry. I asked you a question, that’s my fault.”
I sighed. “It’s all your fault, idiot! …Sorry. I’m just scared about this truth curse.”
Todd started to grin. “Dude, it’s a super power, not a curse. I’ll prove it. Just say ‘yes’ to this next question. Please?”
I could practically see the gears in his head turning. Todd’s gears don’t turn all that often. But when they do, the results are usually pretty spectacular.
“Okay. I’ll say yes.”
Todd stared straight into my eyes. “You have wings?”
Confused, I opened my mouth to protest, but Todd looked at me pointedly, eyebrows raised. I caught on, heart racing.
Eclipsed by Neal Silvester
The Final Eclipse was here. The Moon lay between the Earth and Sun, brimming with long-stored wrath. The Moon’s ancient cousins on that now-darkened planet weren’t remotely aware that the Moon was alive inside, how rage had been boiling and armies assembling all this time. The Lunar Egg was finally hatching, and the Regolith weapons—thought mere craters—were finally attuned. The Earthlings would be slaughtered like dustlings, and the Moon’s banished hosts would take back the Sun’s chosen planet from the thieves and sycophants who had stolen their birthright and reigned like kings in empty light…
Black trumpets blared and the moon’s crust shattered. Living shadow poured out to reign with blood and horror.
But as the forces of darkness streamed into Earth’s sky, the cries of terror below were heard by heaven’s ear. Behind the Moon, cracks in the Sun began to burst—the Solar Egg was hatching.
The Author’s Daughter by Loretta Farnsworth
Matilda didn’t know she had magic, let alone how to control it. Her ancestors knew to avoid the Words, but that knowledge had been lost—to her, the Words were a fantastic vision just waiting to be written down.
Hunched outside the coffee shop, the dregs of her drink trembling in her mug as her fingers stroked out the final words of her story, Matilda didn’t feel the creatures waiting beyond. As bystanders later reported, she triumphantly typed the last word and saved her document.
Then the world burst from her laptop. The Overlord plunged first out the screen, his sword slicing through her before she could alter her meticulous descriptions of the Otherworld. His armies came next, shredding passers by as they secured the city.
The world has changed since the Author’s mistake. And it falls to me to put it right.
I am the Author’s daughter.
The Nymph and the Forest by Michelle Cook
This is the last seed. The last magic. I carry the spark in a tiny glass bottle through a forest of mushrooms and moss. My feet are bare, muddy, and grass-stained. In my hands, the bottle warms. Just enough magic for one replanting.
Or one last wish.
There is a well in the woods; I walk to the rim and lean against the ivy. Delicate leaves. Rough stone. The scent of growing things. The hum of a spark that I long to use.
I put the bottle— full of sparks— on the ledge. Then it falls. Down to the water. The glass shatters; the magic spills. The ground trembles.
Daffodils push through the earth; the fey wake stretching behind the petals. But my skin is rough and changing. The forest wakes, and I return to sleep. An accursed tree.
Another wish unmade and lock unbroken. For at least another season.
The Warzone by Tina Sierra
The man next to me is dead.
Or at least I think he is. He’s not moving.
Gun powder dust covers his face making it an ashen white.
Deliriously, I lick my finger and draw a circle on his cheek.
I have no control over myself.
I feel as if someone else has power over my actions, as I point my gun over the trench and shoot at the distant aliens firing at us.
I feel a small thrill when I see I got one of them. But the thrill isn’t actually mine, it’s someone else’s. I am cable of no emotion.
They have been used too much in the past year, for there to be any left.
All of them; fear, sadness, desperation, even tiredness has deserted me.
I am just an empty shell, with my body and mind being controlled like a puppet by some unknown outside source.
The Beast by Thomas Vicinanzo
I was thirteen the only time I saw the Beast. I was riding my bicycle home when I saw a dark shape blocking the road. But I was late, and worried that dad would be angry and I’d be punished, so I tried to sneak past.
It reared itself up and growled. It looked ten feet tall, and it’s face was all teeth and eyes, and it raised its long claws to strike.
“I’ll give you anything!” I shouted, I don’t know why, and the Beast lowered its paws, and sort of shuddered till there was nothing but a shadow left where it’d been.
When I got home, the Beast had already been there. My dad was on the floor and my sisters were crying.
Later some folks got together to hunt the Beast. But they couldn’t find it, and I didn’t tell them how.
Steel Cage by Loressa Carota
Raging horror licks the barren landscape. Gloom slithers through a once prosperous land now scorched to ashes. Shadows overtake the sky, pillaging light and swallowing hope. “Karin.” A quivering voice whispered from below. “Come back inside.” “I want to see.” The sea of flames was moving closer. It would be upon us soon. Out of that sea it came. Its dark bloodstained scales reflecting the flames it produced. Golden yellow orbs scanned the land beneath it. But I, too small and insignificant, could hide from it. I could tuck back down into my hole with my sister and weather its rage. My everyday life. Praying that someone would come and free us from this curse. I lead Arin down the steel steps of our home. For steel is the only thing that demon cannot touch. It is our only haven from that beast. Our last freedom from the dragon.
Shaper by Sarah Bennion
I saw a flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye. I hid a smirk. A wall shaper. And, by the way it had moved so obviously, it seemed even more inept than the one I’d caught last week. I stopped walking, causing my bodyguard to come to a surprised halt beside me, and casually held my hand out towards the wall. A humanoid figure, the exact color of the wall, fell to the ground with a strangled gasp, clutching at its neck, unable to breath. I watched with a slight smile, contemplating whether I should end its torment. Then, without warning, pain ripped through my body, knocking me to the ground. I could vaguely see another figure approaching. It was my guard, but he was changing, becoming smaller, skinner. Another shaper. “Took you long enough,” I heard the wall shaper mutter as I let unconsciousness take me.
Hand in Hand by Alyse Marie Allred
“Hold still,” I order, carefully applying the antibiotic to the multitude of scrapes. My brother has always been susceptible to illness, fragile even, so I’m not taking any chances. Bandages come next, and his dark eyes brimming with petulant tears as he watches.
“You’ll be expelled, you know,” I say quietly. “The principal’s already got it out for you, and you promised Mom no more fighting—”
“They called you a Race Traitor!” he burst out. He glares at me, as though defending my honor against such a slur isn’t worth a hundred expulsions.
I bite my lip. I can feel the eyes of an entire galaxy watching us, waiting for us to mess up. I won’t let that happen.
“They’re just jealous,” I say, slipping my five-fingered brown hand into his smaller, six-fingered gray one. “Not every girl is lucky to have a brother adopted from another planet.”
Death by Offense by Ivy Sudweeks
“I’m done!” raged the white male; he boarded his rocket and flew off.
Upon landing, he found himself with no one to conquer but himself.
“I’m done!” fumed the feminist; she boarded her rocket and flew off.
Upon landing, she found herself alone in her principles.
“I’m done!” stormed the environmentalist; he boarded his rocket and flew off.
Upon landing, he found he couldn’t build a fire.
“I’m done!” spit the minority; she boarded her rocket and flew off.
Upon landing, she found herself the majority.
“I’m done!” seethed the homosexual; he boarded his rocket and flew off.
Upon landing, he found himself with no one to rally.
“I’m done!” steamed the zealot; he boarded his rocket and flew off.
Upon landing, he found himself his only audience.
“It wasn’t so bad there,” they all said.
But it was too late. Their fuel was gone. They found themselves alone.
Numbered by Michael Baez
My Great Grandma always bragged about Earth. The clean air, the green grass,the chirping birds and the crickets—I don’t see them now. There’s no truth to her words in the faded metal skyscrapers like there’s no moisture in the acid rain. Maybe the tumor had eaten through the better half of her brain when she told me those stories. I can’t be sure, but the landfills and the corroded libraries speak for themselves.
Whatever this place was doesn’t matter anymore. The only thing that matters is its name: Preson. How many of us are left is inconsequential. The number burned into my iris speaks for itself. Even if I escaped I wouldn’t be welcome anywhere else. If I was caught I’d be jettisoned back here without a second thought.
Grandma always warned me about the future. Too bad I never listened.
Muse by Michelle Cook
When I close my eyes, she comes to me. Her scent like spring. Her voice like water. In the dark, she speaks, and her words are music. “Come. Come into the garden, and find my name.”
Her fingertips against my jaw. Light as the brush of a butterfly’s wing. “Would you stay if I found your name? Stay and speak with me a while? Show yourself?”
“A moment more. Or less.” She smiles through the words. “The name’s worth finding either way.”
I open both eyes because I must. Because her voice compels. But when my eyes are open, she is gone. A window stands open; the night air pours inside. Parchment on the desk, crumpled on the floor. Spilled ink on unfinished pages and nothing more.
So I stand and fetch my coat, and I go into the garden— in search of nameless music and half-remembered things.
Finding Eve by Micah Cozzens
When I found Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc on the bottom of the library discard pile, I didn’t expect to discover a new species. But there’s only so far one can read in a novel with a protagonist named Joan, addressed as “her,” before realizing that this protagonist isn’t male.
At first I convinced myself the name Joan was referencing a mythical creature. But by the end of the book, I knew that wasn’t true. Joan acted human, except she wasn’t a man. So what was she?
I took the book to my dad, but after reading a few pages he threw it in the fire. I protested, but he said it was an artifact from a fallen age—the age of women.
It was the first time I’d heard the word women, and it seized me with all the force of the unknown. I wanted more.
Ignoring Tradition by Lindsey Ker
“And they all lived―”
“Happily ever after, yeah right.”
“Well you might.”
“No one said you couldn’t.”
“It’s sort of a rule.”
“I never saw it, and I’ve read The―”
“Seventeen times through cover to cover. That’s why I’m amazed you still think that.”
“Hmph. Keep thinking that way and you’ll never have a happily ever after.”
“They don’t exist. Not for someone like me.”
“Then be the first for someone like you! It’s not a first for someone like him!”
“No, you’re impossible.”
Aaliyah watched her always optimistic schoolmate leave. Maybe she had a point. Who said a sorceress couldn’t live a wonderful life? So what if it wasn’t happily ever after? Maybe marrying a king changed the rules. Maybe princes were the reason for happily ever afters, not princesses…
She would say yes. She was willing to work for happily ever after.
Twinkle, Twinkle by Joey To
Grandma’s arms were folded across her chest, the silver locket around her neck gleaming in the light.
The light came from a dense little star. Grandma designed the tech which formed it.
Rows of black merged into a single file of dry eyes leading up to the open coffin. Many eyed the matriarch’s locket. One would have held the dagger.
“My condolences. If there’s anything Arinsson Industries need during this difficult transition, let me know.”
I turned to see some guy offering a hand. I nodded and shook it. Most came for the commercial opportunities… and to gloat.
I eventually excused myself, leaving behind my inherited enemies.
As my ship stalked away, I held the locket in the light: it contained data needed for the company’s survival. Grandma wore a replica, with a hidden gravity generator.
And she will have the last laugh when her dense little star goes nova.
48 Hours by Jenna Eatough
I’d trained my whole life to join the Overseer’s gaurd. The Overseer’s power was beyond me, but I could protect the Soul by aiding the magus. I’d believed nothing could ever replace the Soul. The belief lasted for forty-eight hours after my appointment.
Wind ripped at my braid. “Stay back.” My blade at guard, I held those I’d called brother at bay.
“This is madness, Sigi.” Devan lowered his sword. No doubt he thought to lull me. “The city will fall without the Soul.” He gestured over the vista, from this tower everything was visible. Our people. The Soul’s light kept the horde at bay.
I shuddered recalling how the light was replenished. Now, I couldn’t look at the stone without hearing screams. “At what cost?” Turning I smashed my blade into the stone, both splintering.
“No,” Devan screamed. His cry and mine were swallowed by those now released.
The Dragon by Loretta Farnsworth
The roaring is a song in my ears. The air rushes around the scales, whistling as it catches on the crevices of my body. My muscles seize, my heart thunders in a wild tumult of fear and elation.
The sky is swallowed up in the sight below me, the capped waves looming up to engulf me.
My wings snap open and suddenly the wind’s tolerance is obliterated as it seizes me, tossing me skyward. My muscles strain to beat against it and I soar up, letting out a cry of delight as I see the vastness of the sky opening before me.
And the knight who had pursued me, although his armor attempts to mirror the scales on my frame, stands helpless on the cliff as I soar beyond what his mimicry can reach.
The Night Walker by Lindsey Ker
They say on cloudless nights that fairies dance and sirens sing. No one can tell you about the cloudy nights though. But I can. Those are the nights the spirits roam the earth. They bring the mists with them and men can walk right from this world to the next. And back again. If you’re lucky.
If you find yourself in a place so ethereal you never want to leave, make sure you do. It may be years before you find your way out if you stop at all. I merely paused to assess a passing figure’s vitality. Now I meander through the mists of cloudy nights hoping that if I walk enough, I might walk back into the place I left behind. No one knows that I am lost in space and time. Only you. You are the only one who has ever asked.
Copyright Leading Edge Magazine, 2016.