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Reflex Fiction Posts

Car by Car

Betty was a curvaceous coupe, customised with gleaming chrome. She arrived on the heels of your rough-edged street girls: a shining temptress.

But I had fond memories of cruising along the seafront in your rust-stained Datsun, lured by the lights that danced on the water.

Then came the Triumph with her retro elegance. After our wedding your friends tied beer cans to the exhaust, and we lost them one by one until all that remained was a tangle of ribbons.

The Granada came next; the reluctant beast that needed a bump start every morning when you left for work. The car that saw me stood halfway down the street in my slippers, smiling as you waved through the sunroof.

Then Betty. The only car to be given a name. Betty was a bargain, you said, we’d be fools not to snap her up. And we soon found out why she was so cheap—whilst parked at the roadside she’d been written off by a drunk driver.

Perhaps she was jinxed, or maybe it was coincidence, but from the day you brought Betty home she was a witness to our meltdown, and her imperfect chassis became the emblem of our undoing.

You lost your job and started drinking, stayed out late and came home angry. You begged forgiveness and then did it all again. We were running on empty.

And then you told me you were in love with the barmaid from the Blacksmiths Arms. I broke down, and we broke up.

The weekend you left, I drove recklessly around the village, barefoot and drunk, until I crashed into the farm wall.

You let them tow Betty to the scrap yard, and just like all the other cars before her, she left with a tiny part of us still inside. The final part. Now we were a write-off too.


Flash Fiction by Mandy Huggins
Picture: bumper by Tracy under CC BY 2.0
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Gone Fishing

Tom took his fishing rods from the cupboard and propped them against the wall by the door. He stuffed the note he’d just written into his pocket.

“Missed you this afternoon,” he said to his wife, Catherine, as she walked in.

“Did a double shift,” she answered, brushing his face with her hand as she sauntered by.

“Didn’t find you at the store when I went,” he countered, taking the stairs up to their bedroom two at a time.

“Probably out the back on a break,” she mumbled, following him at a slower pace.

Tom grabbed his weekend kit from the closet. “Saw your car at Maggie’s,” he said nonchalantly.

“Dropped by on the way home,” she replied blithely.

He took a couple of shirts off the hangers, folded them, and placed them carefully in the bag. He reached for some underwear from the dresser next to the bed.

“Wasn’t Maggie you were seeing when I dropped in,” he said quietly, stuffing his underclothes on top of his shirts.

“No, Mike wanted a few things from the store. Said I’d deliver,” she responded. “Didn’t see you.”

“Got what I wanted and left,” he said. He grabbed a pair of jeans from the closet, crammed them on top of his other clothes. “Do I have a sweater in the dryer?” he asked.

“I’ll get it,” she offered, needing a moment to digest the conversation.

He followed her down the stairs, carrying his weekend kit to the front door. He took the note out of his pocket, scratched out the word “fishing,” slipped his wedding band from his finger and placed them both on the hall table. Picking up his fishing rods, Tom stepped out of the house, quietly closing the door behind him.


Flash Fiction by Raewyn Bassett
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Pigeons and Fish

From the basket of his leaning bike he took a homing-pigeon and tossed it into the air; it circled us once then headed west.

“That’s a stray, not one of mine; hope to fuck it’s not there when I get home.”

We were standing on the sea-wall watching the river as the turning tide emptied back into the bay. Tiny fishing boats were chugging upstream, fighting both tide and river.

“I usda do that.”

“You have a fishing boat?”

“Usda; too much work. Lot of maintenance, and you need to know a welder. The brothers and I had boats but we all had fuckin’ heart-bypasses and one of us died; so we quit.”

He pointed: “See those boats, all the same colour; they’re all brothers, they help each other.”

I looked out towards dots on the horizon: “More boats trying to get in before the tide’s out?”

“No. When the tide’s on the way out, it catches the trawl behind the boat and spins the boat around; you can’t work on an outgoing tide.”

He leaned towards me, confidingly: “I usda take the birds out into the bay, and release them, for trainin’, but now I just bring them here; they were still good enough to win first, third, fourth and sixth places in a French competition, last year.”

He placed a foot on his bike-pedal and scooted himself forward: “I hope that little fucker isn’t there when I get home.”


Flash Fiction by Paul Clancy
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Still Life

You are not smiling. Take a photo if you want, your eyes say, not unkindly. The shiny surface of the photograph is cold. It smells of developing fluid, not of you. I haven’t even cried yet.

“It’s not a very good snap,” the police officer shakes her head, then notices my hurt expression. “I mean, for the newspaper. It’s grainy. He looks kind of miserable. Usually they’d use something like an old school photo, or one from the wedding album. Something in colour, at least.”

“I didn’t know him when he was at school, and we’re not married,” I say, clutching the photo to my chest now.

The cop looks at a handful of images on her computer screen. She’s searched your name and found an old social media profile you hadn’t used in years. You’re smiling in front of the Eiffel Tower. Jumping from a cliff, arms and legs akimbo, into the Mediterranean. Experimenting with what might have been your first selfie, scowling close-up and confused into your phone. Grabbing your brother in a playful headlock (imagine, in a few years you will both be gone).

“Any of these?” the officer looks at me tiredly.

I put the black and white photo back into my bag, closing the zip with unintended ferocity.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I say. I feel immediate, unexpected relief. I don’t want your picture in the paper, this one or any of them. I don’t need to tell my side of the story, or give anyone an exclusive. I want to go home and stare at the wall, the one you’ve half-painted.

The officer puts a hand on my arm, then walks out to the conference room where the journalists are waiting, dictaphones and takeaway coffees poised.

“She’s changed her mind.”


Flash Fiction by Alicia Bakewell
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Autumn 2017 Long-List

Thanks to everyone who entered our Autumn 2017 competition. We received 287 entries from seventeen different countries.

Below, we’ve compiled a long-list of fifty stories. Congratulations to everyone who made the long-list!

If your story is on the long-list and you ticked the permission box (you can check your confirmation email or get in touch with us if you can’t remember), your story will be published on the website between November 21 and December 31. If you didn’t tick the box, your story will only be published if you’ve won a prize. Feel free to send us a message and we’ll let you know if your story is going to be published.

Before we start publishing the long-listed stories, we’ll publish some of our favourites that didn’t quite make the long-list. We’ll be emailing the authors of these stories in the next few days to let them know.

If your story is not on the long-list and you do not hear from us within the next week, it means your entry has not been selected on this occasion.

Here’s the Autumn 2017 publishing schedule in full:

  • October 1–November 20: Stories that just missed the long-list
  • November 21–December 28: Non-winning long-listed stories
  • December 29: Third place story
  • December 30: Second place story
  • December 31: First place story & Judge’s report

Don’t forget, the Winter 2017 competition is now open for entries with Shasta Grant picking the winners.

Autumn 2017 Long-List

A Good Man by Elaine Mead

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Christopher Allen

Actress by Julia Owen

After My Father’s Funeral, I Just Drive by Claudie Whitaker

And So He Dances by Bibi Hamblin

Another Minute, Another Hour, Another Day by Marjan Sierhuis

Ashes to Ashes by Sherri Turner

Bumper Car Voices by Jeremy Hinchliff

Chloe by Eva Eliav

Chrysopoeia on Fessenden Street by Laura Scalzo

Cleaning by Sarah Gillett

Cycling by Matthew Gibson

Genus Pan by Niamh MacCabe

Grandma’s Christmas Cake by Ian J Burton

Henry’s Ways by Sophie van Llewyn

Hobo Heroes by Denise Cowap

House by Niamh MacCabe

In Litore Veritas by Rachael Dunlop

Jimmy Choo Shoes by Shannon Savvas

Layers by Olivia Campbell

Ministry of Quiet Enjoyment by Colin Watts

Mornings by Chris Yeoh

Morris Greene by Nadia Ragbar

Neptune by Laura Kuhlmann

Neptune’s Ocean by Christopher M Drew

November 6th, 2016 by Lee Hamblin

Orienteering for the Gravid by Shannon Savvas

Pandora’s Cat by Tracy Fells

Permanent Jewellery by Paul Croucher

Postpartum by Mary-Jane Holmes

Profit and Loss by Diane Simmons

Promises by Michael Salander

Rabid Dogs by Iona Winter

Replenished by Robert Mason

Rescue Me by Joanna Campbell

Rising to the Challenge by Jean Sheppard

Sleepover by Jason Jackson

Stolen Hours by Sophie van Llewyn

The Box Maker’s Son by Jeremy Hughes

The Chronicle of John by Dee McInnes

The City as Mother by Charlotte Newman

The Colonisation of Ms. Gina Batten by Stephanie Hutton

The English Teacher by Marcie McGuire

The Photographer by Julie Evans

The Pylon by Kelly Griffiths

The Village Burning by Stephen V Ramey

This is How You Mourn Your Father by Fiona J Mackintosh

Two Hundred Years Ago We Would Have Been Dead by Now by Louise Mangos

Undercurrent by Laurie Theurer

Water Baby by Louise Mangos


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Summer 2017 Judge’s Report

This round, Vanessa Gebbie had the difficult task of picking three winners from a long-list of fifty stories. Here’s why she picked the stories she did:

First Place

Fly Away Home by Helen Rye

A worthy winner in a strong field, and a terrific flash. Yet again, I am astounded at how much can be carefully packed into a tiny suitcase. I much enjoyed this piece for many reasons, not the least for its originality—flipping back and forth between bald technical communication and the musings inspired by of all things, delightfully, a stray ladybird hitching a ride.

I loved this piece for many reasons, not the least that it leaves me with so much to ponder, even after many readings. The underlying concept of leaving this beautiful, fragile world—so wonderfully evoked in so few words—because one day we might have to survive, is chilling. Turning one’s back on what is known and striking out into the unknown, listening to the echoes of childhood safety for a split second. The persistent thought—can we ever really leave the past behind?

The language in this piece is great, its effective juxtapositionings, its lyricism: ‘this ocean that aquamarines the bright planet’ set against the baldness of automated systemspeak: GLYCOL EVAP OUTLET temperature down around 58. This juxtaposition, to my mind and ear, acts as echo to the themes of the piece, emphasising the distances to be crossed, perhaps the unbridgeable difference between here and there. The poignancy of leaving much-loved richness and colour for a monochrome future, even if it is bright. The two creatures named, the ladybird and the blue whale—I am put in mind of ‘all creatures great and small—and the fact that we might well have the choice to leave, take our technologies elsewhere. They don’t. I hope this piece is shared widely. It certainly deserves to be. Many congratulations to the writer.

Second Place

Stop, Stop, Stop, Go by Stephanie Hutton

I much enjoyed this intriguing flash, the tightness of the prose and meeting this wonderful character. I was drawn to the shimmering nature of it—a twist of synaesthesia-meets-irreality as this writer creates a believable, slightly magical/disturbing series of events for this character who struggles to control her own body, as if that body has taken over, such that she has to control her hands, consciously—then her feet. I particularly loved the concept of the spoken word becoming concrete, and the delight of the baby in the ‘now’ and its subsequent shaming—very thought-provoking. Another terrific flash. Congratulations to the writer.

Third Place

Medium Sliced Humanity by Taria Karillion

I thought this was a very neat flash, the collision of two worlds, which on the face of it seem so wide apart, but actually, more similar than that. Again, so much carefully packed in—a filmic piece, covering a series of simple actions told in spare prose, whilst telling a much deeper more resonant story. Congratulations to the writer.


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Fly Away Home

SUMMER 2017 FIRST PLACE

Ignition—3, 2, 1. We have a lift-off.

We have fuelled-weight 28.8 tonnes; there are two hundred seconds ‘til we escape Earth’s pull and there is a ladybird on my sleeve.

S-IVB is safe. Close the PRIMARY BACK PRESSURE valve.

Ahead are the white, burning nuclear furnaces of stars, I have notebooks full of their speculative mechanisms and the study of matters affecting the trajectory of their satellites and I would give my flight badge for a sample the size of a rivet from one of them. And now here is a ladybird and I am four years old. My mother’s hair smells of lilacs.

Pitch is tracking. Looking good.

This spacecraft weighs less than a yearling blue whale, I am blasting away from the green, swelling belly of Earth, I can no longer see how she ripples in the wind where she has cast off the white shroud of winter and here, here is a ladybird.

GLYCOL EVAP OUTLET temperature down around 58.

Gravity is not your friend, the thing that keeps you earthbound, tied to rock and dust and this coraline sunset you see here this ocean that aquamarines the bright planet, it is not a gift, and all my life I have worked to escape it and ahead, ahead are the stars and the black and the white, the blazing, blazing white that is my future. I have the data. I have it right here. There’s no protocol for turning back.

And yet. Here is a ladybird.


Flash Fiction by Helen Rye
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