Flash Fiction Writing Contest
2013 Scholastic Day at Chadron State College
Thirteen writers competed in our Flash Fiction Contest on April 5. This exercise challenged aspiring writers to think on their feet and quickly create a short story that engages readers and shows off their imaginative, descriptive and compositional skills. Students were given the following constraints:
- 2 hour time limit
- 1000 words or less
- Submission had to be a single work of original fiction composed from the participant’s own imagination during the exam period
Finally, the writers were provided a prompt that all of the stories had to follow:
Begin a story with this line:
The phone vibrated. I (or character’s name) recognized the name, breathed deeply, and took a long pause before opening the text message.
Each story was scored by a team of judges from the Department of English and Humanities and members of Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society. The criteria for judgment were outlined in a rubric that was distributed with the exam. The papers were then ranked by the combined scores from all judges. The top entries then underwent one more round of evaluation for the final ranking.
The judges were impressed with the uniform creativity and talent illustrated in all of the submissions, especially given the time and length limits. There were many submissions that could easily be revised and shaped into fully-formed stories worthy of wide readership in some form. We want to thank ALL of the participants for sharing their talents with us.
Here are the final results:
(note that the final drafts have been lightly edited to correct obvious surface errors):
Hot Springs High School
Reality is Nice, But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There
The phone vibrated. I recognized the name, breathed deeply, and took a long pause before opening the text message.
There were only two words in Amanda’s distinctly laconic style: Found it.
No more. She never said more than she needed to say, unlike a lot of people I knew. I hit “reply.” Where?
The answer was immediate. I’ll show you. Meet me at the trail.
“Mom, I’m going outside!” I shouted through my bedroom door, not waiting for any conformation that I had been heard. A whole summer of research and careful searching culminated in this moment. I grabbed my fleece jacket, pounded down the stairs, and ran out the back door.
Autumn lurked in the shadows, its crisp chill slowly winning the fight against summer. Yellow leaves crunched beneath my feet as I ran through the yard and into the forest. Amanda and I had considered it to be our kingdom for many years. We reigned from a dilapidated old tree-house and fought wars against our archenemies, who could be anyone from imagined Death Eaters to my neighbor Ronan O’Connor.
As I made my way through the branches and bushes, I reflected on how we used to pretend to be explorers in the wild jungles of the Amazon. Since we were in high school, we didn’t do as much of that imagined play. Games of superheroes and Viking warriors had turned into just wandering around and talking. It wasn’t a bad thing, but I had missed the old days. Then, at the end of the sophomore school year, the old days had come back.
Amanda and I had been sitting in our tree-house when we’d seen someone walk by on the trail. This wasn’t a problem: our forest domain was often trespassed upon by the occasional dog-walker or teenage hooligan. But this was no friendly neighbor; this was someone new. And they hadn’t been human. Humans don’t usually have gossamer wings or an ethereal glow.
More and more of these strange visitors had appeared over the summer. Some of them could have almost passed for normal; once, a group of spear-carrying men in chain mail had made a camp next to the stream. Others were…less normal, like the winged lion that had surprised us one morning, or the thing we had thought was just a tree but had later walked away of its own volition, proving our assumption wrong.
So we had done some watching and some note-taking. And we’d made the theory that these…we’ll call them people, for lack of a better term, were fairies. Or something similar. And we’d figured they’d been coming from somewhere in the forest. A door, or a portal, that opened to some parallel universe. And now Amanda had discovered it.
I spotted my friend standing next to the little dirt trail and broke into a run. “Hey, Amanda!” I said, waving.
Amanda nodded in response. She wasn’t one for wasting words, especially when there was work to be done. She held up something that looked like a sleek, modified Geiger counter. “I’ve checked and double-checked the readings. It should be right next to that oak tree over there.”
We looked at the tree. It just stood there and rustled its leaves at us. I glanced at Amanda. “That’s a real tree, isn’t it?”
She nodded. “I did some cross-sampling. It’s just a tree. Not going to bite or anything.”
“Well, you never know.” I walked around the trunk, gently kicking leaves away. “I don’t see a fairy ring or anything.”
True to her careful, scientific nature, Amanda had done some reading on fairy legend and told me about fairy rings, which were basically just circles in which fairies sometimes appeared. It was a sound theory for the Door (as we’d taken to calling it). Amanda believed that it might be a place where the fabric of the space-time continuum folded in on itself and opened a wormhole of sorts into another world. I just thought it was magic, plain and simple, but Amanda was probably right. She always was.
Just then, there was a crashing noise. Someone was coming through the woods towards us. We looked at each other. “What’s it going to be this time, a dragon?” I wondered.
Amanda shrugged. “Just to be on the safe side…” she muttered, and drew a water pistol out of the inside pocket of her jacket. Along with the fairy rings, we’d learned that fairies despise iron and holy water, which made them burn. Amanda had confirmed it with a highly improvised experiment in which a bucket of holy water borrowed from our church had been dumped on the head of a charging Minotaur.
The crashing turned out to be a deer that gave us a curious look before wandering off. “Well that was anticlimactic,” I said, a bit disappointed. Amanda stowed her water gun back in her pocket.
I watched curiously as Amanda took out a small notebook and a small cylindrical device that looked like it belonged in a NASA space shuttle. “What are you doing?”
“Closing the Door.” Indicating the device, she said, “This will keep the atoms in the ring calm enough that nothing will come through.” She used a rock to gouge out a little hole in the ground and carefully set the cylinder inside before covering it with the rock.
She stood, dusting off her hands. “Right. Now I’ve got to go home; Mom wants me to take down my particle accelerator.” She marched down the trail.
I stared. “But…now what? That’s it?”
Amanda had already disappeared. It was just me and the trees and the Door.
I hesitated. Then I quickly knelt down, scooped the device out of its hole, and put it in my pocket. I ran home, grinning. Maybe we wouldn’t play any more imaginary games, but reality would be the next best thing.
Savoy Dean Schuler
Stevens High School, Rapid City
The phone vibrated. I recognized the name, breathed deeply, and took a long pause before opening the text message.
“Come to the hospital.”
I blinked my eyes and looked out at a street light. I had fallen asleep in my car in the driveway. It hadn’t been but an hour since I left. I backed onto the street and turned north. The streets are always empty at night. Staring at the stars took away some of the uneasiness of driving with the radio off. Years ago Matt had twisted the knob too hard once and left it stuck on one station.
Mathew was 9 years old and he loved it. He knew he was a grown up because it was his third year playing sports. I remember driving him to Kid’s Football when he still sat in the back seat. In his uniform he felt like a giant. Mom would always smile because Mathew was inches shorter than the other boys on the team. “It says something about him,” she always told me. “He doesn’t let anything stop him from being what he wants to be.”
This was something he practiced everywhere he went. At home there wasn’t a thing I could do to stop him from running around in his Superman cape. It was a ritual that took place just about every day until he came home from his first Leukemia treatment. He was laying on the couch that afternoon. I remember asking him, “Where’s your cape, Matt?”
He turned away from me. “In the trash.”
“What’s it doing there?”
“I’m not a superhero.”
“Because I’m sick.”
“Being sick doesn’t make you any different. Even Superman has Kryptonite… If anything you’re more a superhero than you were before.” I could see him turning this over in his head. He hid his face but I could still see he had a smile starting. “I’m going to go get your cape.”
Matt was the little brother who filled my shoes with mud. And I was lucky to have him. He reminded me to never be too serious. Matt’s hugs weren’t a promise, they were a threat. His rules were simple, “No frowning allowed.”
The wind had died down by the time I stepped out of my car. I made my way from the parking lot to the 8th floor. My mother was still talking to a doctor outside my brother’s room. She was holding his cape. I gave her a hug Matt would have been proud of and made my way into the empty room.
Ainsworth Community School
The Purple Waterfall
The phone vibrated. Cadice recognized the name, breathed deeply, and took a long pause before opening the text message. Surprisingly, it was what she had been expecting, but hoped never to read. The four simple letters caused her stomach to knot.
Her gaze shifted up to the trees around her, now on edge of who might be watching. Help? The teen pondered what that might mean for her, carding her fingers through a set of short curly tresses. Hastily, the phone was returned to its pocket as she stepped out into the street. After rounding the corner, Cadice’s metered pace turned to a brisk run as she stormed down the alley. The sound of her footfall echoed in her ears and even her heart seemed to lunge forward in line with her step.
Though a brick wall soon stopped her efforts, spanning the width of the alley and reaching a height far too tall to climb, the dead end didn’t seem to faze the girl as she pressed herself up against the surface. Sliding towards the corner, a brief memory flickered through her mind as she recalled how she had once raced alongside her brother through this part of the city. The two tiny forms rolling over asphalt with fingers poised like guns as they claimed the roles of fictional spies. However, as Cadice neared the place where the two walls met, she pressed herself even thinner, just barely clearing the gap. A nearly invisible entrance to a world most people refused to believe.
Her breath began to thicken as she pulled herself through the man-made trench, but the passage came easy and she soon shoved herself the final yard. It was then that Cadice found herself standing amidst a stone courtyard, with abandoned apartments standing tall on every side to sever this place from the rest of the bustling city. While it was only about the size of a small parking lot “The Block”, as it was now known, was where Cadice and Kyron called home. The teen stood tall, brushing a slight dusting of chalk from her jeans as her sapphire optics stayed ever vigilant on the scene around her. The Block seemed empty as of recent, but whispers drifted out of a nearby room.
“Crud… Bro, this was supposed to be a simple exchange,” she whispered to herself, more to fill the impending silence than anything. Rocking on the balls of her feet, Cadice tiptoed over to where she presumed the sound was coming from. Windows and doorways stared out at her like blackened portals, screaming of their lack of purpose now that flames had claimed their insides. Passing by 102 B, a bit of fragmented glass snapped beneath her feet—a dead giveaway of her presence. In the next complex over all the hushed commotion fell into silence. Cadice held her breath, her muscles tightening in fear. Luckily, though, after what seemed like an eternity, the voices resumed their drawling rhythm. Slowly, she allowed herself to relax as she crept up next to the threshold.
“Kyron…” The name was muttered breathlessly after managing to steal a peek into the room. While Cadice had only managed a few moments, she had already spotted two muscular men guarding over her brother. It had been a miracle that he managed to send the text, considering how he was bound and gagged in the corner.
Apparently their customers weren’t satisfied with the portrait they had snagged from the Metropolitan Art Museum, and instead decided that her brother was to pay up. Even from the doorway, Cadice could see the acrylic landscape. It was an exact replica of the original work, but a fake all the same. She realized then that they must have figured it out, as the canvas bared a slash mark directly through the middle.
Of course, the two of them hadn’t been so dumb as to not snag the original too. The “Purple Waterfall” was already promised to a hefty art collector in the next city over. Four hundred thousand dollars was the agreed price. The twins had rejoiced over the opportunity, fantasizing how one simple heist could bump them out of poverty and into a normal life.
However, it seemed a reality check was in store. It was either the money or her brother, and honestly the decision came easily. Stepping from her hiding spot, Cadice cleared her throat to announce her presence.
“We have the real one. The fake was just something we picked up for reassurance.” She was lying through her teeth, but one look at her brother made the fib worth the risk. While she hadn’t noticed earlier, his body bared several deep gashes and bruises.
“Well…?” A gruff man piped up, sweeping his hands through the air in annoyance. “Where is it?”
Cadice allowed her head to droop forward onto her chest, tears threatening to breech her eyes. Their one chance at a normal life… and now it was gone. Finally, she forced the words through her stubborn lips. “It’s in apartment 104 A, under the shower curtain.”
Satisfied with the response, the two collectors took off out the door, leaving her to tend to her sibling. Cadice wasted no time in rushing to his side. Oh, how she hated to see him like that, his hazel eyes looking up at her with such desperation lingering in the hues. She rested a palm against his sweat-covered cheek, trying to offer him what comfort she could.
This was their life, one of burglary and short-handed tricks just to see another day. However, in the bleak of the moment, a smile curled its self onto the girl’s thinned lips. She nudged her brother playfully before freeing his mouth from the dark linen.
“Good thing we got two, huh?” Kyron huffed, presenting his bound hands.
“My big brother…” Cadice chuckled. “Now, lets get out of here before they come back.”