Saturday, 24 June 2017

Infernal Flash Competition - Third Place

Welcome back to our Infernal Countdown. The hands crawl across the face of time, the slightest movement, always in one direction, never to go back. And why would you want to go back when we have such stories for you? Stay a while and read our Third Place winner who is ...

Oh, but not yet. First we must hear what our judge Shakes has to say:

"I like the idea that the Helter Skelter is a dwelling here, an abandoned fairground the perfect stomping ground for the mysterious wand maker. There are shades of Doctor Who in our aging magician, including his ‘bigger on the inside’ display room – although his method for longevity is a little more diabolical than the Doctor’s regeneration.

Love is, indeed, an infernal business. I liked the playful twist in the once only spell and the careful description of how the wand always comes to work upon its wielder.

The delicious moment the recipient of Arthur’s affections prevents him from breaking the spell had me grinning from ear to ear.

The story is dotted with nice phrasing and detail and its lighter tone helped to distinguish it from the darker entries.

Well done to the author."


And the name of our Third Place winner and the author of The Wand Maker is ...

... Chris Stanley. Congratulations, Chris.

Enjoy his story.

The Wand Maker

For two hundred years, they’ve been knocking on his door. From Cape Town to Cardiff he’s listened to stories of lecherous bosses and lacklustre wives. His customers all want the same thing, a chance of happiness. But finding or fashioning a suitable wand is a tricky business. It’s why he keeps moving.

“I thought you’d come down the slide,” says the boy at his front door. He has the narrow shoulders and bowl cut of a lonely twelve-year-old. The corner of his schoolbag reads “Arthur” in a mother’s hurried scrawl.

“Why would I do that?” asks the old man. “You never know which way you’re facing and the only way is down.”

He’s lived in the Helter Skelter since the fairground was abandoned. It suits him perfectly. The peeling paintwork and rickety slide make visitors uncomfortable. People see the word “Condemned” and stay away.

But not this boy.

The old man leads Arthur through a short hallway to a storeroom, where the walls are lined with rows of wands, hung by hoops of leather. One spell per wand, one casting per spell. The room is impossibly large given the exterior dimensions of the ride. Between the wands, a grandfather clock ticks backwards. It’s eight in the morning but the clock says half six. Arthur fidgets in the doorway.

“What are you after?” asks the old man.

“There’s a girl.”

The old man rolls his eyes. Love is an infernal business.

“You know the price?”

“One year per wand.”

The old man climbs a stepladder and selects a mahogany “Fairy Finger” gilded with gold-leaf lettering.

“And no refunds.”

He gives the wand to Arthur and a spark of electricity passes between them. The clock hands unwind to half-past seven.

#

The old man follows Arthur at a distance. Wands are impatient things, demanding to be used immediately. As expected, the boy heads straight to school and waits in the playground. The old man remains outside, watching the other children as they arrive. He studies them all, his eyes asking questions of every girl who passes. And then he sees her and knows everything.

Hand shaking, Arthur points the wand and reads the inscription on its shaft. There’s a flash and he doubles over, falling forwards and landing hard on his shoulder. His body contorts as he transforms.

Over the years, the old man’s learned it’s safer to change his customers than the world around them. Breaking the wand breaks the spell, so they can always undo what they’ve done. His careful design means no one ever asks which end of the wand to point.

Arthur pulls himself up using a window ledge and studies his reflection in the glass. His delicate chin and long, blonde hair. His newly acquired breasts. He reaches for the wand to break it but the girl stops him, smiling shyly. She touches his arm and asks if he’s okay.

The old man returns to the Helter Skelter and awaits his next customer.

Bio:

Christopher Stanley lives on a hill in England with three sons who share a birthday but aren't triplets. In the past year, his stories have won prizes and been published by Raging Aardvark, Retreat West, ZeroFlash, Corvus Review and The Molotov Cocktail, as well as being included in the 2015 and 2016 National Flash Fiction Day anthologies. Follow him on Twitter @allthosestrings and check him out at https://whenonlywordsareleft.wordpress.com/

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Infernal Flash Competition - Fourth Place

So here we have it, the first of our final placings for our inaugural Infernal Flash Competition and I would like to say, on behalf of my infernal partner, David Shakes and myself, how delighted and humbled we are that in these ever-busy days, people would take the time to write and submit to our contest. Thank you to everyone who entered and if you didn't make the podium this time, then perhaps another. The Clock, after all, never stops ticking.

Note: all identification was stripped from the manuscripts to ensure fair judging.

And now without further ado and amid much procrastination (he really did have a tough time judging, you know), here are the comments from HIM Mr Shakes:



'In 4th place is The Infernal Clock - I am Twitter friends with Jennifer Handorf who produced 'The Borderlands' - the movie reminiscent of the end of this dark tale. The personfication of the ride, its horrific, organic nature is what swung it. I liked the amibiguity coupled with the sense of urgency. My good friend Dom D thought it could be the most atmospheric of the submissions. We both liked the claustrophobia that builds - and the tight narrative. Well done.'


And the name of our Fourth Place and the author of the Infernal Clock is 

... Mark Morris. Congratulations. 

Enjoy his story ...



Infernal Clock


The dark-mannered child took his hand, leading him forward. A series of steps appeared, painted gaily and fashioned from wood. Each of the risers was emblazoned with a word written in a thick black copperplate. ‘Fun!’ proclaimed the first. ‘Enjoy!’ exclaimed the second. The third and the fourth ones were obscured by gloom but Dean knew already they’d be labelled in the same elaborate script.
His companion urged him on, his bare feet shuffling on the first step. His face turned upward. ‘Come,’ he mouthed, the word a silent cloud that hung between them. “Come.” The boy’s hand was icy-cold as it closed onto his own, immediately tugging at it, the child insistent that they move. 
The steps soon began to narrow. They’d only climbed a half a dozen more before the walls drew in closer, the wine-dark canvas cold and damp against their shoulders. The child had surged up and ahead, towing him now, his hand gripping onto his more tightly, his back and shoulders pale and now in line with Dean’s face. His other hand snaked further forward into the dark, gripping onto the spiral of the handrail, its knuckles white as he towed them upward. Dean hesitated, stumbling for a moment, his toe catching against the overhanging lip of one of the treads. The boy looked quickly back, his face a dim white oval.
“Come,” he urged once more. “Come. We must hurry.”
Dean’s feet stuttered as he recovered his balance, his other hand weighted by the slide-sack he was carrying. They were moving at speed now, his toes alternatively scuffling and skipping over the edges of the steps as they raced toward the top. The walls began to quiver, now an infernal ox-blood red, both sides dragging across their bodies as they slid between them. He turned his head about to see back the way they’d been but there was nothing; no steps, no light, just a slick mahogany darkness and a low ululating moan. Their pace increased yet further and he snapped his head back to face the boy, his form now glowing a pale gem-like turquoise.
“No,” Dean said, trying to hook his feet between the steps. “Enough now.”
The child looked back, shaking his head, his clasp becoming vice-like, his small fingerbones grinding sharply against Dean’s. “No,” he replied, looking severe. “There can be no ‘no’. Only forward.”
Then the walls closed in on them and everything went black.

Bio:

Mark Morris is a mature born-again writer who discovered his Muse the second time around. In previous incarnations, he's been a star student, a minor athlete and an obsessive hobbyist but he's lately begun to find a modicum of writing ability and now specialises in writing flash fiction. He's currently working on a handful of novels but is striving to limit this to no more than two or three at once. One of these is a Noir-styled dieselpunk thriller which he hopes will be snapped up by a literary agent next year and then immediately become a worldwide genre bestseller.




Check back next week to discover our Third Place winner.

Infernal Flash Competition - Third Place

Welcome back to our Infernal Countdown. The hands crawl across the face of time, the slightest movement, always in one direction, never to g...