Saturday, February 27, 2016

Cracked Flash: Year 1, Week 30

Wow, it's been a long time since we started up this shindig. We started in what, June? *checks* June 27th, 2015. That's 4 months to our anniversary today! That's kind of insane. And awesome. In case we don't tell you enough--

Judge This Week: Mars

Word count: 300 max

How: Submit your stories as a comment to this post, along with your name, word count, and title (and Twitter handle or blog if you've got 'em!). Only one entry per person.

Deadline: Midnight tonight, PDT!

Results announced: Next Wednesday (late afternoon).

Remember: The prompt can be mutilated, but not beyond recognition. (And remember that your entry must begin with the prompt!)


"I'm just getting worse and worse."

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Year 1, Week 29: Results!

Rin here! Just wanted to give a shout out to everyone who participated in this week's competition. Y'all are awesome! Several creative tales and a nice variety in them. Alas, only a few winners can be chosen. Now, on to what you're here for: the announcements!

Honorable Mention

Carin Marais with Dust to Dust to Life

The descriptions were vivid and beautifully done, pulling me into the magical, otherworldly setting of the library. I could easily picture the ripples in the dust, the way it behaved like water, and how it all disintegrated. Speaking of time, I like how it was used as the antagonistic force in this piece. I do wish that we’d found out why, after all that time, the library’s outer wall was finally breached. What I liked most was the very last sentence, that sense of unconquered hope of a new beginning in the face of inevitable destruction. Great job!

First Runner Up

Maggie Akhurst with Lost City

The plot concept of searching for a lost city of riches felt nostalgic, reminding me of The Mummy, one of my favorite movies from my childhood. The descriptions, like the failing light and the weathered carving of the hero, were chosen well, easily transporting me into a fantastical place with magical, hidden cities, tomes, and ancient maps. The tome’s passage was enjoyable, in both word choice and the way it rhymes. I loved the mental image of glowing mist, but I felt the tension was lost when the city randomly showed up. I wish that she’d done something that proved how she was worthy-hearted or found something more to trigger the appearance of the city. All in all, a good, fun story. Well done! 


Benjamin Langley

with Mother Knows Best

The possibility of this story being a glimpse into someone’s reality makes it a real gut-wrencher. How many of us out there have had grandmothers and mothers who can fruits and veggies? Or ones that are critical or believe they’re incapable of fault? Simone and her mother were clearly distinct from one another, through both the small bit of dialogue and in their responses to Jason’s illness; the mother blaming Simone and Simone blaming herself. I can hear the grandmother’s judgmental, know-it-all voice in my head and just see the critical lift of her chin without it even being described. I loved how the scientific name for botulism was used and real symptoms of it were given, because I’m a nerd like that. I appreciated how well the prompt was used, woven into the story’s conflict rather than being just the beginning sentence. The guilt and pain that Simone is going through is well shown through her actions and numbness of emotion. The last line wrapped up this grim story well, giving the feeling of curtains closing on a scene that will continue on in the character’s life for some time. Fantastic job!

Mother Knows Best
Dust. All around her is dust. So Simone scrubs the floor with a homemade solution of borax, white vinegar and lemon juice, using a brand new toothbrush. She rinses it under hot running water, before dipping it back into her cleaning fluid. But her cupboard full of hydrochloric acid, ammonia, Tri-Sodium Phosphate, peroxide and a host of solvents, detergents and enzymes and all of the scrubbing, cleaning and dusting; all of the calluses and sores; they don’t change a thing.
Once, the rings on the cooker were islands in a brown sea of hardened spills. The sink was full of dishes in murky water, which were wiped only with a filthy rag before being put back into grubby cupboards. But that wasn’t all that was different. Once, it was noisy. Now the house is clean, but quiet. But it’s all too late. Jason’s dead, aged six.
“No wonder he always got a stomach upset,” her mother would say as she trailed a finger along a dusty shelf. But when Jason was struggling for breath, and her mother cried out that the filthy house had made him ill, she was wrong. When Jason’s nervous system was attacked by clostridium botulinum she blamed the unhygienic kitchen. She was wrong. 
Her mother, who’d canned her own produce all of her adult life, didn’t know what lurked in those bulging cans in her cellar. Her mother didn’t need to be told how to can in a hygienic manner, she’d done it all her life. 
So Simone scrubs and she cleans to punish herself, thinking mother knows best. She dusts and she polishes unaware that it would have made no difference at all. And whilst she holds herself to blame for the death of her son the sores and calluses weep, because she cannot.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cracked Flash: Year 1, Week 29

So, how was everyone's Celebrate-The-Beheading-Of-Some-Dude-With-Candy Day? Anyone still hung over on cheap chocolate? No? Me neither.

Seriously, Si is so much better at these than me. 
She has the meme magic!

Judge This Week: Rin

Word count:
300 max

How: Submit your stories as a comment to this

Deadline: Midnight tonight, PDT!

Results Announced: Next Wednesday (late afternoon).

Remember: The prompt can be mutilated, but not beyond recognition. (Photo prompts are added for inspiration only (and our amusement) and do not have to be included in your entry).


Dust. All around her was dust.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Year 1, Week 28: Results!

In case y'all forgot, it's Mars judging again! I only had time for the two reviews this time around (though I did have a third picked out *shakes fist at clock*); I want to thank everyone who participated last Saturday--without you, there'd be no competition! 

(Hope you all got your fair share of chocolate from Cheap Chocolate Day on Monday, too!)

First Runner Up

The Red Fleece with Mother's Voice

I really love the tone of this piece--very creepy and well done. I can practically see the character rocking back and forth as s/he goes about their task. I was confused at first what Mother had to do with any of this, until I caught on that the main character calls the voice that, and I thought that really tied the piece together. With the repeating phrase, it feels disjointed, which added to the tone all the more. 

The only part that confused me (in a bad way) until I read it several times over was the fourth paragraph--when s/he tries to slam the door to drown the voice out. I couldn't figure out what 'it' was--the only 'it' in the last sentence could have been the door, since 'words' is plural. Sometimes, saying something even though it's repetitive can clear up a lot of confusion in your writing!

A little terrifying (for the counselor) cliffhanger there at the end! With the preceding sentences . . . well, it doesn't look like it's going to turn out well for the poor guy. Well done!


Maggie Akhurst!

with Changing the World

Tara was certainly right when she said Finks' enthusiasm was infectious; I loved the character dynamics between these two. They remind me of a song from one of my favorite musicals (Santa Fe from Newsies, if you're curious), where the one character saying, "Imagine a place where it's better," and the picture painted is so beautiful that even if you don't believe it, you want to believe--and sometimes that's stronger than truly believing. (I like Finks.)

The world building was also excellent. I love the hints dropped throughout the piece--about this incident that happened long ago to make this post-apocalyptic world come about (The Roman God of Fire and Metalworking makes a lot more sense than an alien race from Star Trek, by the way; had to look that one up, haha), the Engineers (presumably the leaders or scientists of the city), the ash clouds and volcanic gases, the lack of sun and wind (do they even know what those are from anything but stories, one wonders?), and how power sources must be hard to obtain (and probably diminishing by the year, I'd guess, if you can't leave the city!). Certainly, I agree with Sara Codair--I'd read more of this. 

Changing the World
“Are you sure about that?” Tara asked, dubiously. She eyed the mechanism suspiciously. 
“You’re telling me that this machine will change the world. I find that hard to believe.”
Finks wiped the soot from his goggles and beamed at her. “Of course it will change the world!” he exclaimed. “This little beauty will let our ships fly!” 
“Flying ships? Really?” She shook her head. “The Engineers gave up on that idea years ago. It’s impossible. You need to accept that we are stuck in this city. There is no way out, Finks. The volcanic gases would kill you, not to mention the ash.” 
He bounced on the balls of his feet. “Tara, if we could get a ship to fly high enough, the gas wouldn’t be a problem. We could go out and explore, search for other surviving cities! We can’t be the only ones to have survived the Vulcan Fallout.” 
Tara bit her lip. What he was saying was ridiculous and impossible, but she also wished it could be true. 
“What if we could find a place that was unaffected by the fallout?” he whispered, eyes shining. “Imagine that, Tara! Imagine being able to see the sun again and feel the wind in your hair! There might even be grass!” 
His enthusiasm was damnably infectious. She could feel a smile breaking out. With a sigh, she relented. “Okay, Finks. Have it your way. What do you need me to do?” 
Flashing her a dazzling smile, he showed her an empty cavity in his machine. “I need you to steal a power source for me,” he said nonchalantly. 
She growled at him. “Why can’t you ever ask me for help with something legitimate?” 
“Because you’re so good at the illegitimate stuff.” He waved at her. “No time to waste!”


See you all back here next Saturday! :D

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Cracked Flash: Year 1, Week 28

If Sie were here, she would be commenting about the upcoming holiday, which is the greatest holiday of the year. Valentine's Day?

Sam Sykes has #WolWednesdays and they are most amusing.
No, that's Single-Awareness Day. Presidents' day?

Nay, my friends, the greatest holiday of the year . . . 

Cheap chocolate day! It's like Halloween, but for adults, and comes in pink. Anyways, that's your exciting holiday update. Now onto our competition!

Read Thy Commandments 
And Obey

Judge This Week: Mars

Word count: 300 max

How: Submit your stories as a comment to this post, along with your name, word count, and title (and Twitter handle or blog if you've got 'em!). Only one entry per person.

Deadline: Midnight tonight, PDT!

Results announced: Next Wednesday (late afternoon).

Remember: The prompt can be mutilated, but not beyond recognition. (Photo prompts are added for inspiration only (and our amusement) and do not have to be included in your entry)


"Are you sure about that?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Year 1, Week 27: Results!

Thanks all for your participation! As always, it's been a joy to read your stories. On to the announcements!

Honorable Mention

Asgardana's The Horror!

I adored this story. It was a heartwarming peek into the personal lives of the characters. I had to love Ana's feisty little sister and her wild imagination! Their personalities were all very distinct from each other and the dialogue sounded natural with a good flow. The slower pace fit the softer tone well and the description made it easy to see the scene playing out. My favorite line was definitely Ana's sister's declaration of vengeance for her make-believe city, for its amusement factor and because it gave the story enough conflict, without changing the tone. Well done!

First Runner-Up

Dave Novak's 'Accident'

This one was great! Loved the take on the prompt, it was fun and amusing and a twist on the usual super villain verses super hero scenario. You had me shuddering with sympathy at the mention of paperwork in the villain's best-foreseen future. I liked getting into his head as he's running through all that should have gone right- if not for him foiling his own plans. What a mistake to make, from a villain's perspective! My favorite line was, 'Instinct. I saved his life by instinct. Oh, I am so screwed.' That had me laughing. I also liked the touch of Blue Collar Man giving him the business card, which really just feels like a seal on the omen of doom for the poor villain's future in villainy, even more so because he actually accepted it, showing a bit of character growth. Great story!

Y1W27 Winner!

Maggie Akhurst 

with Accidentally Saved

Awesome story! The main character was a fun mind to be in while showing us the story, reminding me of some of my favorite dry-humored tv series, and the descriptions made the setting easy to see. I loved the portrayal of the Reaper. It was a nice twist on the character trope, neither the ironically cheery nor the death-breathing silent-type ghouls that are often shown. He felt distinctly otherworldly, almost alien. This one kept me guessing as to what was going on till the very end, making me wonder if this wasn't something to do with aliens or secret agencies, giving it a rising tension as we wait to see what's going to happen. My favorite line out of it was, 'Great. Trust him to smile for the first time and it’s because I’m dead.' Fantastic job! 
Accidentally Saved
“You saved my life!” I gasped to the young man who’d pulled me from the path of a crazy bus driver.
He stared at me, as if only just realising I was there. “It was an accident.” He stepped back.
It was my turn to look at him oddly. “You grabbed me - quite forcefully, I might add - and yanked me! Exactly how do you manage that accidentally?”
“I was only supposed to be observing.”
“Observing what?”
I took a cautious step away from him. Okay, maybe it was more like three steps away. “Why are you watching me?”
His face was impassive, making it impossible to read his thoughts or feelings. His expression didn’t change as he answered my questions. “I’m waiting for your recruitment. It’s supposed to take place any day now.”
“My recruitment? I think you have the wrong girl.” I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.
He glanced in the direction the bus had gone. “I believe you may have missed your interview. I’m sorry, I’m not sure what compelled me to save your life.”
“You’re seriously apologising for saving my life?!”
“Yes. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.” His face was deadpan.
Before I could respond, screeching tyres and a revving engine made me turn. I was just in time to see a beat-up car come around the corner and flip.
I felt a moment of pain as the car hit me, but darkness swallowed the sensation. I was brought out of it by a familiar voice.
“Welcome, Reaper Recruit.”
“I’m dead, aren’t I?” My voice was flat.
He smiled as if this was fantastic news. Great. Trust him to smile for the first time and it’s because I’m dead. 
He beckoned. “Now, you’re ready for your interview.”

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Cracked Flash: Year 1, Week 27

Judge This Week: Rin

Word count: 300 max

How: Submit your stories as a comment to this post, along with your name, word count, and title (and Twitter handle or blog if you've got 'em!). Only one entry per person.

Deadline: Midnight tonight, PDT!

Results announced: Next Wednesday (late afternoon).

Remember: The prompt can be mutilated, but not beyond recognition. (Photo prompts are added for inspiration only (and our amusement) and do not have to be included in your entry)


"You saved my life."
"It was an accident!"

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Year 1, Week 26: Results!

You know what's really exciting? Cracked Flash Fiction is growing. It's awesome and amazing, since Rin, Si, and I never thought anyone would have too much interest in this competition. It's also fabulous that we've been getting so many entries lately! 

9, 10, 7 <== the amount of entries in the last three weeks.

We're always excited when we get more than three entries, so this is a-ma-zing. 

Tl;dr: You guys are great. 

Also, in case you forgot: it's-a me, Mars, judging today! :D

Honorable Mention 

Carin Marais with All That is Left

The imagery and choice of words in this piece is excellent; a vivid picture is painted by sparkling phrases like "storm's memory", "faltering flame", "damp rocks between the dunes", and "the colour of the sea on a calm day". The attention to the description of the setting, scattered between the women's hope, gives the story a lot of lovely depth. 

However, I did think some of the sentences could be shortened; I found my eyes wandering after two or three very long sentences in a row--punctuation gives an anchor for your eyes to keep track of words. I also was unclear on who said the opening line--the prompt, that is. Was it the women, or somebody with Christiaan? I couldn't tell if the ambiguation was on purpose or not. 

I love that Annalene is knitting a sweater. It's a clear sign that she hasn't given up on Christiaan, and it's even more powerful than her prayer; she's not sitting around just staring at the sea; she's actively preparing for his return--she's trusting that he will come back. 

First Runner Up

Asgardana with Small and Mighty

The last few lines of this piece definitely amused me and I could empathize with the main character--I have been the one that forgot a key piece for a project before, and it sucks! Poor soldier! The sense of utter, "Oh no," is distinct in the line, "I hang my head." 

Something I would have liked to see more of was the main character's reaction to this battle they've just fought--the only bit we really get of it is "My boots are marred with blood and bone, shrapnel bites into my side but the heavy weight of the bag across my shoulder grounds me to this cliff" (which also happens to be my favorite line). The sense of determination--to reach the highest point and stake the flag--is evident, but there's no emotional whiplash from seeing hundreds or thousands of people die, and being the winner and one of the ones to survive. I can still empathize with the character, but there's a lot that goes unsaid!

Y1W26 Winner!


with Being Death

This reminded me of whenever I'm downloading something on Windows--it strongly amuses me to think that Death's clock can change depending on the variables present, and Death is actually not entirely aware of when people are going to die. Those lines, "Five minutes left. // Five minutes? Five minutes!" made me laugh. Death was just all, "One minute. Five minute--wait what?! Ugh."

Between the 'new recruits', consuming a soul (but being irritated with people killing for no reason), and the variables changing the time of death, I have to wonder what is going on behind the scenes in this story. Though not entirely pertinent to the overall plot, and keeping in mind the 300-word limit, it makes me extremely curious what's Death's day has looked like, and what her job looks like on a day-to-day basis.

Death is definitely a relatable character, and I enjoyed how much I instantly thought, "Girl, I feel you," when she knew she was going to be late. That feeling of, "UGH, you're telling me I was wasting my time?" is terrible! 
Being Death 
"Raise the flag!"

The girl was shouting at a skinny boy, who was struggling with the rope of the flagpole as the speedboat cut across the turquoise waters towards shore.

"Raise the distress flag! The red one you idiot!" she screamed.

Then she went to work on the young boy lying on his back, turning slightly blue.

Death stood at a distance, waiting for the minutes to tick by. She brought out an ancient watch from the folds of the midnight blue gown that draped gracefully down her slender frame, and glanced at it.

Five minutes left.
She was getting impatient. It had been a long, hard day, what with all the bombs exploding and people killing for no reason. Even with all the new recruits her job was grueling.

Three minutes left.
Huffing with impatience, she watched the girl desperately give the boy mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and then pump his chest. He was quite blue by now. 
"Please God!" the girl wailed looking up to the sky. 
One minute left. 
Death's eyes burned red with excitement. Her skin pale, as pale as death can be, quivered from the anticipation of consuming a soul. 
Five minutes left.

Five minutes? Five minutes!
She looked up to the sky and groaned.

Make up your mind!
The speedboat had reached shore and a team of paramedics were attending to the boy.

One hour left.

She was going to be late for her date. Damn.
Death sat impatiently in the ambulance. The girl was holding the boys hand, crying.

Seventy four years, six months and twenty three hours left.
Death wanted to cry in frustration.

With a sigh, she dissolved into an invisible mist, heading straight for her date.

She had a lot of explaining to do to the Devil.
Congratulations, everybody! See you all on Saturday!