Flash Fiction Challenge: The 10k Contest

Last week’s “Make Me A Sandwich” challenge went pretty apeshit — closing in on 50 submissions at the time of this writing. Go check it out, won’t you?

*blink blink*

Somehow, I have fooled 10,000 of you into following me on Twitter.

This is insane, and suggests that most of you are spam-flavored sex-bots, sex-flavored spam-bots, or brain-diseased serial killers with a penchant for loudmouthed idiocy in the form of questionable writing advice. Either way, it happened, and there you all are, spambot-or-no. So, I thought I’d thank you by giving away a little something-something, bow-chicka-bow-dow.

But I’m still going to make you work for it.

I want you to tell me a story in five sentences.

(Yes, a complete story.)

No longer than 100 words total. The shorter, the better, in fact.

The permutations of the story beyond length are up to you: I don’t much care about genre or subject matter or any other fiddly bits. All I care about is the brevity and, by proxy, the potency of the tale at hand.

Deposit your storytelling awesomeness direct in the comments below. Do not put it at your blog.

You get one entry. So, write strong and choose wisely.

You have until Monday (2/27/2012) at noon EST to get your entries in. Then, by the following Monday, I will pick my favorite out of the whole big-ass bunch of stories.

The writer of my favorite story gets a prize package. Which is not a euphemism for my penis.

Prize package includes:

(1) hard copy of Double Dead, signed.

(1) hard copy of Human Tales anthology (story in it by me), signed.

(1) digital e-book copy of: all of my writing books (including the newest, 500 More Ways To Be A Better Writer), Shotgun Gravy, Irregular Creatures, and, when it comes out (late April), Blackbirds.

(1) handwritten postcard by moi.

Now, if you’re international, you can still enter — but, you’ll either have to pony up for shipping or just accept the digital e-books (i.e. no Double Dead, Human Tales, or postcard).

So, that’s it.

Five sentences.

Buncha giveaway stuff.

Monday’s the end.

Come on and tell us all a story.

* * *


All right. Time to call a winner and then, for giggles, a back-up winner.

First, let me say — some very good stuff here. Also, some very not-good stuff here. And some puzzlingly improper stuff — stuff that didn’t abide by the rules, stuff that fell prey to very easy-to-fix mistakes.

(Also: a curious thread popping up of dudes killing wives or girlfriends. Entries like that are unlikely to ever win anything, by the by.)


Two winners. First winner wins everything I listed. Second winner wins only e-books of my writing-related books (five books in total).

First (grand) winner: Damien Kelly:

“On hurricane day, Daddy said, “Let’s put on our overcoats, and ride the dying storm.” I was nervous, but I trusted him and put on my coat and my boots. We ran around the yard a few times, and circled the roof, just to be sure we knew how to fly. Then we lifted our coat tails and jumped on the hurricane, bound for all points on the compass.
Impaled on broken branches, in a tall oak tree, staining its bark with my blood, I can see my house from here.”

Second runner-up:


“A haiku class? Sure!”

“My boyfriend will meet us there.”

Damn it all to hell.

You guys need to email me at terribleminds [at] gmail.com.



  • I remember telling Jack, back when he still came to see me, that if the cancer didn’t kill me then the treatment surely would. The pain, the nausea, and worst of all the nights when it felt like my bones were on fire. I know she is here now to put out the fire, to deaden the pain and I’ll never stick my face in toilet again. I try in vain to tell her not to give it to me, because I’m not really ready to go. Never trust a fucking nurse named Betty.

  • The house was old, fully detached and probably full of guards. They had my son. I couldn’t pay the ransom, I couldn’t call the police, I couldn’t get him back but I still had to do something. I picked up my shotgun, went to the door and prepared to breach.

    They had my son.

  • There once was a kid named Bob. Bob lives in the woods with his mum and dad. Across from their house is a bridge shortcutting their way into town. Bob’s parents tell him not to take Shortcut Bridge when he skateboards to school.
    “Take the long way!” They say.
    “Psht!” he thinks, “My parents don’t know nothing!” So, he takes the bridge again and again, day after day.
    “Don’t take the bridge,” his parents say. “Take the long way.”
    Again Bob takes the bridge.
    Poor Bob should have listened. The troll living under Shortcut Bridge doesn’t appreciate loud noises.

  • Emily sat in her desk, the ticks of the classroom clock echoed between her ears. Her body vibrated– it was the last day of school! The clock struck 3:15 and she shot out of her desk. “Did I dismiss you?” The nun asked. Her punishment: Saturday detention.

  • Light filters through the shades, casting a soft glow over the room.

    Warmth rises from seemingly everywhere, filling the space.

    Smells and feelings, coming together in a joyous chorus.

    Finally, only sounds of pleasure as release is felt.

    You mom makes the best brownies.

  • Supergayvilletown
    by Lydia Netzer

    When he got home, he checked in on his phone.

    “I am the mayor of here,” he reminded her.

    On Foursquare, she had named their apartment Supergayvilletown, and because they lived in a tall building, no one could tell which apartment it was.

    She had a girlfriend at the library; he had a boyfriend too.

    All the other people could see they were a married couple, but the lone citizen was prone to revolt, benevolence of her mayor notwithstanding.

  • “You left your keys in the mail box.” The note said with ominous intent in my very own flowered handwriting.
    Inside the mail box was human ear jewelry still attached, waxy dry and covered in blood, and the ear obviously wasn’t mine. My phone buzzed and when I looked there was text from my self instructing me to put this ear in the freezer.
    I felt good as I started the car, my emotions were free and clear like today was a brand new life. The days I gpt a note were always the best.

  • It was the best of days, it was the worst of days, it was the longest day that Frank had ever experienced, yet he felt compelled to thank Fuck that it was indeed Friday.

    How else could he hope to delineate the chaos of the week with the forthcoming – hopefully more sedentary – weekend ahead ?

    What had kickstarted on Monday as a quiet couple of beers with a local writer, somehow snowballed into a shocking story of seduction, shotguns, and maple syrup.

    Life can certainly be stranger than fiction.

    If Frank’s life were a book, he suspected Chuck Wendig wrote it.

  • They showed me the video of me screaming my head off about the “Impending Triumvirate” and how, “The fourth rectilinear progressions have begun!”

    Apparently, I tore of my clothes and yammered on for an hour about how aliens are coming to destroy us all, and then i fell over in some sort of foaming at the mouth frenzy.

    Then, they showed me cam footage of me laughing my ass off in five different voices in the parking lot.

    I found a card in my shoe which read, “You have been BORROWED, SUCKA!”

    Aliens are assholes.

  • “It was an accident, Ilene.”

    “I know that, I get it,” I said, tucking my dead boyfriend’s knife into the back of my waistband.

    “He didn’t mean for Billy to die, you know, friendly fire happens in drug deals as well as war.”

    I knew that too–I said so–but I told the truth when Todd asked, “Where are you going, then?”

    “Another accident’s about to happen…Oops.”

  • Alicia said she loved me after five dates. I replied in kind after 15.

    She left me three years later, amid a flurry of police accusations: drug use, domestic abuse, rape, false imprisonment.

    Really, all I wanted to do was keep her by my side forever, by any means necessary. Is that so wrong?

  • When the aliens came, I was the only one who could see them; I tried to warn everyone, but they just tried to lock me up, and I got really angry right before I blacked out.

    Everyone was dead when I woke up. No sign of the aliens though- I must have driven them off after they killed the others.

    No wait, spoke too soon– aliens disguised as a SWAT team have surrounded my house!

    I reload the shotgun, and wait…

  • The lone astronaut marched along the frozen surface of Europa. One of the colony’s generator relays had shorted out again. As he arrived at the outpost, he looked up to witness the moons of Io and Ganymede rising. It was an amazing sight that glistened int the light from Sol. While he repaired the relay, he remembered this was why he agreed to go into space.

  • The crackling of icicles shattered the silent aftermath of the bloody battlefield as Magnus ran his hand roughly over his beard in exhaustion. The Warg-mother had finally breathed its last thanks to his axe, and his soul was guaranteed a spot at the table of Valhalla for another day. The sound of wolves in the distance spurs him as he hefts the body over his shoulder and begins the long trek back to his village. Honor in battle is always sought… but the pelt of this creature will keep his family warm for winters to come.

  • The swollen moon hangs low in a black, star-stitched sky as I slip through shadows, flicking my tongue to taste the summer-sweet air. Irrefutable hunger draws me forward, and my eyes creep across the flesh of the silly, oblivious creatures who dare to play at night, seeking the perfect victim. I spot her, drenched in the artificial glow of the streetlamp: perfect, beautiful, fluttering, lighter than air. I slither closer, sliding from shadow to shadow, my heart pumping, my mouth dries and I moisten it with sticky spit. Then I strike—moth, my favorite.

  • Five Minutes to Freedom

    Circumstances have a way of redefining words. Twenty-seven years ago I was on a bus headed to true freedom in college. Twenty-five years ago I was at a party and experimenting with true freedom for the first time. Thirteen years ago I was walking out of prison to true freedom. Five minutes ago a car shattered my body; I am surrounded by blood.

  • On hurricane day, Daddy said, “Let’s put on our overcoats, and ride the dying storm.” I was nervous, but I trusted him and put on my coat and my boots. We ran around the yard a few times, and circled the roof, just to be sure we knew how to fly. Then we lifted our coat tails and jumped on the hurricane, bound for all points on the compass.
    Impaled on broken branches, in a tall oak tree, staining its bark with my blood, I can see my house from here.

  • My parents are in the barn milking the cows, and it’s forty below.

    When it gets this cold, there is little wind, but the snow squeaks like a mouse as I traverse the low drifts.

    The morning sun turns the hardened snow into a field of tiny diamonds, and hoarfrost hangs like an icy Spanish moss.

    My brother is sleeping late, and then he will leave to join a friend, while my parents keep too busy to fight.

    I love Saturday mornings.

  • Slowly rising to his feet, he looked at the scene around him. Hundreds of bodies, most of them dead, littered the sand covered landscape around the fortress wall.

    Turning around, he asked Erik: “Where is god’s glory in all this?”

    With a smile and a small nod, Erik finished removing a ring from an Arabic enemy’s hand and put it inside his pocket. “YOU insisted on bringing me to this holy crusade!”

    With one slow motion, Anthony put his sword back in his scabbard. At least, the siege was finally broken…

  • “Okay, I know they’re just neutrinos, but I’m still excited. Because if you can move a neutrino and make it go faster than light today, then maybe tomorrow you can move something a bit heavier and make it go a bit faster. That’s how scientific progress works, with small, incremental advances that pile up momentum on top of momentum, until one day, there’s a big breakthrough. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if we had warp-drive spaceships sometime in the next hundred years, just because of what we’ve accomplished in this experiment.”

    “Hey, looks like this cable is loose.”

  • I write in Spanish, so I hope my own translation doesn’t suck too much!

    The tapestry

    I enter the purple door and I see an exuberant garden of large colourful flowers. I go up and suddenly I am inside a pink chimney from where butterflies come out. To the right there is a narrow path that leads to a small blue lake. But now, the door is upside down and I fall abruptly into a fuchsia sea of painful thorns. I follow a never-ending path and over my head there are birds flying through a thousand windows.
    Now I rest over a sea of intense colours…watching the tapestry hanging on my wall.

  • A young farmer once saw a dark cloud coming. So, he took his father’s sword down off the mantle, took his grandfather’s shield out of a wooden chest, pulled on his own chainmail shirt, and went to the top of the mountain to speak with the Hawk King. The Hawk King, with eyes like molten gold and talons like hammered steel, was impressed by this bold young man. “Climb on my back,” he said in a voice that was like rolling thunder. “Climb on my back, and together we will strike out at the darkness.”

  • Go.
    Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
    Buffalo buffalo that Buffalo buffalo buffalo, buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

  • Alexander was considered a nice guy, but on Tuesday he opened the door to Seamus’s Pub where Isabella sat under the neon red glow, arms wrapped around another man, this one laughing.

    Alexander stopped in the doorway, nearly blinded by all the red.

    Isabella turned to see who was letting in the cold, winter air, and then set down the beer, stood from the wooden booth, and walked to Alexander.

    As she neared, Alexander slapped Isabella and she fell backwards, headfirst into a metal chair leg, eventually landing on the concrete floor.

    Covered in red, the nice guy was annihilated.

  • Fourteen years, three months, and five days into my marriage, I finally confronted my wife to tell her that I was sick of her running around on me.

    “Save me from listening to your pathetic whining,” she said. She gazed at me in a condescending manner through the rising blue smoke of her cigarette. Her current boy-toy lounged in the bed beside her, regarding me with interest, a shit-eating grin on his face.

    I knew I loved her from the moment I pulled the trigger.

  • They say that the love of money is the root of all evil.

    She married me for my millions. I slip the brown paper bag across the table to a man I don’t know. He discreetly flips through the wad of cash, then looks up at me with cold, hard eyes.

    “Make sure there aren’t any witnesses.”

  • The eggplant-colored bruise on her eye throbbed with pain. It was a reminder from him about her place in this world. To him she was a cum dumpster, and that’s all she would ever be. The gun in her shaking hand was a reminder for him. She pulled the trigger and laughed as his dying body crumpled to the floor.

  • Goodnight, Louise

    Louise wakes up in the early morning, and for just a moment can’t figure out why her bed seems so big. Her arthritis is acting up, but she ignores it and spends the day cleaning and wondering when her son will visit again. She tries not to think about the hospice nurse and the morphine drip, but can’t help it. In the afternoon she sits in Hal’s rocker, swallows a handful of Hal’s pills, and pulls a bag over her head. She smiles and falls asleep imagining Hal saying, as he had every night for almost forty years, “Goodnight, Louise.”

  • As You Sow

    “Many male processing centers are slated for closure, but legislators are still fighting to keep centers in their areas open, citing widespread disruption to male service if processing becomes regional instead of local.” The announcer went on about public outcry and the declining population.

    The Lysistrata Movement, formed in response to government interfering in the reproductive health of citizens, wasn’t supposed to last as long as it did, and no one could have predicted the mass sterility that followed. Ironically, symptoms of the virus would have been obvious in women. Fertile males are the only ones without a choice, now.

  • A woman with a jet pack-helicopter on her back lifted off the ground just as a man attached straps to her connecting them. Watching them rise into the rainy sky, I fell backwards joggling my bags to keep my daughter from hitting the ground. She slid away from me on a sled down a snow covered hill as waves of foamy water rushed toward us. I picked her up and handed her to a man looking for a fish so I could adjust my rain boots. Moral: never drink a large slushy right before going to bed.

  • “Gentlemen, at last we are all in agreement,” I said to the assembled room. In turn, each of us – polticians, industrialists, titans of industry, men with the power to shape our young nation’s future – took the ceremonial dagger. In turn, each of us cut his palm and swore his oath to the brotherhood.

    We were The Man.

    We would bring everybody down.

  • I followed this guy on Twitter and he wanted to meet me. He was smaller in real life and kind of creepy too. Have you ever noticed how the light in these restrooms makes you look like a lab rat in formaldehyde? Like a corpse? So long random twitter guy.

  • Julius woke up in a cold sweat, something wasn’t right. The clock on the small table next to his bed informed him that he’d overslept, that never happened.
    “Dammit,” he cursed out loud; accessing his cloud memory for the contact information for his boss, his internal server returned an error message –“Hostname could not be found.”
    “What the fuck,” the pulse of adrenaline fired as he desperately tried to find any scrap of information relating to his job, for a moment he couldn’t breathe. It was all gone, all of his long term memories were gone, a blank slate.

  • As we descended into the pool, I knew we’d at last found the secret. I marveled at the phosphorescent water, how it clung to me and made my skin glow.

    I don’t remember much after that, just the press of flesh and the smell of sea water.

    Danny will be so happy. He’s always wanted to be a father.

  • It wasn’t that I’d hated Bill. No, he was actually a pretty nice guy. But he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and now he was in a trash bag. The contents of the big boss’ safe were in my pocket, and I was on my way to a better life. Wasn’t it Bill who told me that Cancun was really nice this time of year?

  • The blood was all over him today, and that just wouldn’t do. It was all her fault he’d have to scrub and scrub until the smell disappeared. But it was worth it, the relief he felt as set down the saw and took off the apron and gloves. The guy behind the glass passed him an envelope bulging with money.

    He’d finally worked enough overtime to pay off the engagement ring he would give her tonight.

  • Of course I didn’t take the bed with me, I could never sleep there again, not with that smell (and the memories, yes, we did have some good times). He didn’t argue, just watched as I cleaned all the meat out of the extra freezers. The dogs of course chose to stay behind. “Honey,” I said, “I know it was for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. But you didn’t tell me everything, and tails are a deal-breaker.”

  • A month after the dog died, Carol forgot, cried out, “Where is my Molly Moo?” and no one came running. She forgot to forget Bill as well, left his side of the bed clear, kept the whiskey he liked in the cupboard, lined up his slippers in the closet, ignoring the gathering dust. Carol forgot to pay the phone bill, but it hadn’t rung in so long that she’d forgotten that the dial tone had died and kept it charged nonetheless. In time, she forgot to eat. And finally, in a single blink, the house forgot she’d ever forgotten there.

  • Into the Sheets

    “What’s wrong?”

    This again – her efforts were getting embarrassing and really she’d have had more luck duplicating a Beethoven symphony with an empty matchbox.

    “Just give me a minute,” I said.

    She slunk back under the sheets, covered the body I was sure would do it for me this time, and after a few fruitless minutes of tight-lipped rubbing and thinking about every girl who’d ever turned me on, I heard her shallow snoring and gave up.

    Sweet dreams, I thought, and all the children that would never be went fluttering into oblivion.

  • A month after the dog died, Carol forgot, cried out, “Where is my Molly Moo?” and no one came running. She forgot to forget Bill as well, left his side of the bed clear, kept the whiskey he liked in the cupboard, lined up his slippers in the closet, ignoring the gathering dust. Carol forgot to pay the phone bill, but it hadn’t rung in so long that she’d forgotten that the dial tone had died and kept it charged nonetheless. In time, she forgot to eat. And in a single blink, the house forgot she’d ever forgotten there.

  • ‘Affirmed’

    Helen refreshed the website for the time that evening and saw that the opinion had finally been published: ‘People v. Lindsay, Nicolas’. Her heart racing from anxiety, she quickly scrolled down to the conclusion. She had promised herself she’d be strong, but she still burst into tears when she read the terse final sentence:

    “The judgement of the trial court is AFFIRMED.”

    For the judges of the state supreme court, it had been just another day at the office, but for Helen Lindsay and her son on the death row, it was the day that hope died.

  • “Re-use it or lose it,” she said flipping the ridiculously tiny shard of a soap bar into an old Folgers’s coffee can she kept in the corner of the bathroom.

    There were quite a few of the nasty bars in there already.

    “Why in the hell would you do that?” I asked. “That’s disgusting.”

    “When the grocery stores start missing shipments you will thank me.”

    “I doubt it.”

  • Beeping.

    You remember her laugh, the dimples on her back just above her ass, being the only white people in that blues club, her flirting with those black guys because she could re-write the rules of any world she entered and had transmuted silent hostility into a celebration where a man the size of a house and the color of coal could buy you a drink and dance with his hands on your wife’s ass and it didn’t matter because he would never see those dimples.

    Forty years ago.

    You nod, the nurse throws the switch, the beeping stops.

  • Nocturne
    by Cheryl Anne Gardner

    In the moonlit mile of lighted birthday candle, she sat in the attic, legs straddling the dusty beams as she turned it over, again and again, each time the soulless stretch of sand shifted its weight against the glass. She could remember dandelions in his hair, his lips coated in clover honey and matte cherry bisque as he ran past the burly subway workers striking on the street that day. “Little French Fag,” they taunted.” “Pansy,” shouted others, but he never cared. Never cared much for words on signs or phantom picket lines, even with the braces on his legs.

  • With a puff of industrial fume, the double-decker toddled away from the bus stop towards parts unknown, but presumably the next stop on the route. Arriving a moment too late, Mike slumped against the edge of the bus stop, watching it… and her… depart without him. He looked down at the battered piece of paper, graphite starting to smudge as the occasional rain drop found it’s way under his umbrella, and re-read the last line. “Wait… what? But… I don’t even own an accordian.”

  • I dig at the scab on my lip until I hear the lock turn in the door. Skirting around the bed, I open the window.

    He thinks twelve stories will keep me from leaving, but I squeeze through to the ledge. He stands at his car, key in hand, just below my prison.

    His startled face turns up as I step off, growing until it crowds my vision, and I am free.

  • She slaps my face, sending me back to my childhood.
    Alcohol, cigars, protection behind my mothers apron.
    Embarrassment is quickly overcome by anger.
    The fight begins, names and insults are thrown around.
    A relationship transposed with bruises on skin.

  • The police report said “Missing Woman, Mid-Twenties, Brown Hair, Brown Eyes, 5’5″, 132lbs.”

    We filed it ten years ago.

    Today’s headline read “Mysterious Man Spotted Dumping Body at Coldfield Lake.”

    That was reported twelve hours ago.

    Ten minutes ago, the pawn broker gave me five hundred dollars for the tarnished wedding band that still breaks my heart after ten lonely years of searching.

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