Sunday, 23 June 2013

Thanks for Reading

And that, I'm afraid to say, is the end of the Flood. We have restored the defences, piled up the sandbags and stemmed the flow at the end of another issue.

We hope you enjoyed all of these wonderful stores. They, as with previous issues, will stay up here so you can continue to enjoy them in a more leisurely way; to read, enjoy, comment and share.

FlashFlood is building up to be quite an amazing flash resource, with nearly 500 stories now on our site. Thank you to all the writers who have made this, and every previous issue such a success.

And thank you, of course, to all the editors who do such an amazing job behind the scenes!

By wrapping this issue, we're also wrapping up National Flash-Fiction Day 2013. Hope you had a good day and enjoyed some wonderful flash!

We will be back with  another issue, later in the year. So, get writing now and we'll look forward to reading your new stories.

Until then, happy flashing!
Calum Kerr
Editor, FlashFlood and Director, National Flash-Fiction Day.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

'Love, Virtually' by Elaine Miles

On Monday, we met in a chat room.  All formalities dispensed with, we quickly became close.  I was thrilled when you wanted my email address, but relieved you didn’t want webcam.
On Tuesday, you wanted my mobile number.  The intimacy of your texts excited me.
But on Wednesday you wrote on my Wall that you were afraid of commitment.
Humiliated, I hid my profile.  Switched off my phone.  I couldn’t even tweet.
On Thursday, you unfriended me.  You even unfollowed me on Twitter.
By Friday, your Facebook profile declared you single.
Which was heartbreaking, as I’d been in love.
Well, virtually, anyway.

'Misty At The Range' by Will Barrington

Misty can smell crazy, it's why she took over the range when Pops retired. Her older brother Dale too bold, too careless; too proud to acknowledge the snub.

Since breaking off with Orin, Misty got bored. Most likely it was Orin that made her bored. Dependable Orin, regular as a repeating rifle.

There's this guy at the range who lingers at the kiosk, buys more ammo than he needs. Don't seem the full clip, but he looks at her with hungry eyes, and she kinda wants to see what he looks like when that hunger's sated.

'Wish-list' by Becky Talbott

She despises what she sees in the mirror. She takes out her pen and makes a list: 

Hair- Shinier, longer, blonde (or any colour except ginger)
Eyes- bigger, brighter, blue (or any colour except green) 
Lips- fuller, redder
Teeth- whiter, straighter
Arms- less hairy, less flabby
Tummy- flatter, defined abs
Legs –longer, less hairy…

She is nowhere near finished but already its time to go. She quickly writes her name and age at the bottom of the page and puts it in the envelope “To Santa”. She hurries down for her tea.

She asks her mum what she wants for Christmas.

'The Bench' by Gary Tippings

It was the same wait every day. Arthur would arrive first, he liked to make sure he got his favoured side of the bench, and Tom would shuffle towards him after ten minutes or so. Lifting his stick as he entered the park to let Arthur know it was him, a semaphore signal of only their understanding.
            And Arthur still liked to arrive early. If it wasn’t raining he’d be there. His newspaper served as a mat if the bench was still wet. It was only falling rain that kept them away. The bench was their social club, their doctor’s waiting room, their table in the restaurant, their bar without beer. It was about the right height and position for a view over the valley of Clackheaton. It took the sun at twelve and held it till three. It did the listening when one or the other nodded off and the story needed finishing.
            Tom had been taking longer and longer to arrive once inside the park gate. Even the wave of the stick had begun to falter recently. He blamed his hip for his lack of speed, and his shoulder for the weak signalling, but he dreaded the idea of the ‘home’. ‘Rather keep going as long as you can’, he would say, ‘until time comes to lay down long’.
            The weather had been good recently. Spring had eased the air and tidied the drabness. Tom hadn’t sat with Arthur for three weeks now. Today Arthur had brought the pork scratchings as he always did on a Friday. This was the third occasion where he’d be struggling through the whole pack so as not to waste. He’d bought scratchings with his first pint every Friday since he first was a young miner. Didn’t even wash the coal off his hands before picking up that first pint, he wasn’t going to waste his space at the bar to clean his fingers for the scratchings. It did you no harm, a bit of coal.           
            Tom had been a miner too, though they’d never met when working men. It was hard to know whose health was the worst. They took it in turns to complain about the lack of clean air they had to endure. All for profit, but long gone now. Almost thirty years since Tom’s pit closed. You’ll not see the like again.
            And so Arthur sat there on the dry bench and wondered if there might be another old fella who’d like to sit and chat with him when it’s not raining, when there’s things to be said. And as he looked at the gate and thought for a moment how he might best find Tom’s resting place, who he might ask, how he might get there, the familiar walking stick appeared, followed by the old shuffling miner, walking slower than he’d ever done before, but walking nonetheless. Arthur picked up his newspaper from off the bench beside him, smiled broadly, and opened the packet of pork scratchings. 

'The Reality of Nightmares' by Katie Foster

­­­­­­I pull my duvet cover up to my neck, and close my eyes. Feeling my delicate eyelashes tickle my skin, my nose twitches, before I allow my entire body to succumb to darkness.

Footsteps. Echoing. Hauntingly mirroring the beating of my heart. Downstairs. Yes, that’s where they are originating from. Downstairs in the kitchen. The hammering of bulky trainers on the freezing cold concrete tiles, leaving behind dirty, encompassing footprints imprinted on the glossy surface. Silence. The opening of a cupboard. The soft clinking of glasses kissing each other at the rim, and then the running of the tap. A jet of water, followed by the trickling of stray liquidised particles upon the floor. Rushed gulping. Sharp breaths. The placing of a glass upon the scratched, grey-toned granite worktop. Footsteps. Again. Out of the kitchen. Into the lounge. A zip scratching against the sofa. The irritating tear of embroidered threads. A churlish curse muttered from the mouth. Over to the window. Curtains screeching against the rail. The squeak of a thumbprint forming on the window, then the rub of a sleeve as it dissolves into a smudge. Eyes rest upon the handle, followed by the muted turn of a key in the hole. The push of the button, and the solid ninety degree crank of the handle. Creeping away from the frame, the rush of fresh air as the window is opened. Breathing in the petrol fumes and late-night crying. The whistle of wind and sunlight dying…

More footsteps? This time closer. Straight outside my room. The familiar patter of my Father’s worn out slippers. My heart races. Who is in the kitchen? He pauses at the top of the stairs. Waits. He hears nothing. Hand repositioning itself upon the banister. Stairs groaning under foot. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. He’s reached the bottom. The flick of the light switch. The yellowish glare from the bulb. Into the kitchen. Another light turned on. A ‘Hmmm’ at the glass upturned by the sink, saliva clinging to the iridescent edge. Footsteps reach the fridge. The door swings open, as a milk carton is withdrawn. The unscrewing of the lid, and the gentle pour of the bottle, a consistent glug, straight into the mouth. Tired hands tighten the lid, before the bottle is placed back in the fridge. The door closes. A noise. He turns robotically. What’s that behind the door? A pixelated shadow. A pair of eyes. Something silver, glinting in… a hand? The shadow tilts, and a figure is revealed. A man. My father turns to run, but his feet are glued to the spot. The stranger darts towards him. And the possession he is carrying is identified. A knife. Terror is smothered all over my Father’s face. The man pounces towards him. One quick slice through the throat. My Father drops to the floor. Dead.

Then I wake up. I pull on my dressing gown, and rush downstairs into the kitchen. And there he is. My Father. Just as I pictured. Dead.

'The Danger of Cake Crumbs' by Anouska Huggins

The key is where Erin expects it to be: Blu-tacked to the bottom of the highest rockery stone. Old habits. She unlocks the squeaky back door, stepping into the kitchen.

The sink shines. Three tea towels hang on the oven door, pristinely folded. Scarlet: like Clara’s favourite coat. The room smells of lavender and rosemary, as it always does. Erin runs her fingers along the cool counter, swallowing. If Clara catches her here.

The chrome mixer stands silent, empty. Ceramic mixing bowls are on the shelf in descending size. Erin remembers the clatter of the wooden spoons against their sides. The afternoon sun glints off the glass dome. She lifts the lid. Nothing. Beside it, the three-tiered stand gleams white.

Erin opens the fridge. A lone diet ready-meal. Clara never did eat her own cooking. Always watching her waistline. Could pile on three pounds while her sticky lemon cake rose in the oven, she always said. Not like Erin. Clara didn’t know where she put it. At one time, anyway. Try these, she’d say, taking a tray of spreading cookies from the steaming oven.

Slamming cupboard doors, Erin makes her way around the kitchen. Regiments of soup tins. A box of muesli. Caddies of green tea. But mostly, blank, vacant shelves. Not even a bag of flour. There has to be something, somewhere. Just enough to keep her going. It’s been eleven months, two weeks, four days. Five stone, nine pounds, three ounces. She deserves one last fix. For old time’s sake.

On top of the fridge, square tins are stacked like the Spanish Steps in Rome. It reminds her of that holiday when Clara fed her gelato for days. Until she couldn’t stand the spoon in her mouth. Until she couldn’t swallow. The ice cream just sat on her tongue, syrupy and liquefying. We’ll stay at home next year, Clara had said. Nothing had the lightness, the sweetness, the moistness of Clara’s cakes.

Erin drags a chair to the fridge. Steps on it. Reaches for the top tin. Hollow. She grabs the next. It topples, slips, crashes to the ground, smashes open. Erin stares. Empty. Just as well, Clara would find even the tiniest missed crumb.

Then the final tin. Weighty. Full of promise. She pauses, opens it, peeks inside. A whole fruit cake. It smells of their first holiday in Seville, the late night brandies of those early months. Erin shoves her fingers into the cake, seizes a fistful and stuffs it into her mouth. Deep, dark buttery sugar melts on her tongue. Juicy currants squish between her teeth. Morsels cascade onto her jumper.

A flash of scarlet passes the window.

Erin freezes on the chair, in front of the fridge, her hand in the tin.

There is a painful squeak as the door swings open.

The cake catches in Erin’s throat, rough and dry, and as the red figure comes into focus, she begins to choke.