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.



  • “Please, don’t do this,” she said, staring at her brother from atop her horse.
    Sitting on his own mount, he turned away, lowering his head. The only noise for several minutes was the sound of the rain.
    “I’m sorry,” he replied, nudging the horse in the side. “Goodbye.”

  • She was quiet, didn’t stand out, the kind of person you never would have noticed. But when the gunman went around the circle of sobbing men and women, asking who wanted to be a hero, she stood up.
    “On the ground!”
    “You first.”
    And then, in the aftermath of frightened cheer and heroic yawps, she found her spot in the circle and sat back down.

  • We first met online last June. She was prettier in her pictures than in person. Sweet though.
    Her family’s finally stopped posting those flyers.
    I guess I just don’t respond well to the word “no”.

  • She slid as her feet hit the high polished floor. Damn stockings! Grabbed the counter edge for support. Fingers touched the cool metal of the doorknob, pulled it open, felt the rush of cool air on her face.
    Coffee’s here!” the delivery man said, holding out the box.

  • After decades of searching, Harold had finally found the Fountain of Youth. His oft-ridiculed theory had proven correct: it was clearly alien in origin. The warm, viscous liquid soothed his ancient limbs as he waded into the shallow pool, and he sighed with relief as his whole body began to tingle. Several moments later, he gasped in horror upon realizing his heart had ceased beating. A pulsing light mocked him from across the basin, and, with the last of his strength, Harold lunged for the button.

  • Chester finds a roll of duct tape and a red lollypop amidst the detritus in the back of the van, then slides open the side door to watch his quarry. Her small head is lowered as if fascinated by her dirty pink sandals shuffling over the sidewalk.
    He waives the candy at the child and says, “You lost, sweetheart?”
    She lifts her chin and stumbles to him, moaning as she clambers into his lap. Chester can’t believe his luck, until he feels her teeth rip through his cheek and his mouth fills with blood.

  • The truth is concealed in the back of his mind, buried under the trauma of his wife’s death.

    He doesn’t speak, eat, or interact willingly anymore, but his eyes and mouth move with intent.

    It’s as if the event has severed him from this reality, and given way to his own imagination.

    I wonder if it is a land of wonders or a sea of nightmares he lives in now.

    Nightmares are what that monster deserves…

  • His entire existence had been created for this moment. Roughened hands caressed the smooth, ancient stones as his heart clattered in his chest. There it was; the goal, the crescendo of his life. Elegant fingers slowly stretches forwards to grasp that cherished moment, then, nothing. His heart stopped as a whisper filled the void “he showed us the flaws…. mortals do have some uses after all..”

  • Always the last straw, the ultimatum. “I know you’re having an affair with her, and you need to end it this time, or I’m gone for good.”

    Then he will call and cry and beg, wanting me to come back, but this time I’ll tell him he’s right, and that I don’t want – no, I don’t need – his ridiculous drama because this time, I’m gone.

    “You’re an ass, Frank, and she’s a better fuck anyway. You know how it is,” I’ll say, “once you go chick you never want dick.”

  • She slowly walked down the chapel’s aisle, scowling at her future husband’s moldy pallor and wondering what had happened at his bachelor party last night. She gritted her teeth and concentrated on smiling at the guests while plotting her revenge on the best man. She felt her father’s fingernails dig into the delicate skin on the inside of her elbow. Screams echoed off the stained glass windows as a formally-attired mob surged toward the exits. At the altar, the groom’s zombie transformation was complete and he was greedily gnawing on the preacher’s arm.

  • The smell of hot, spicy soup drifted from the upturned food cart, cut through with the acrid metallic tang of a recently discharged energy weapon.

    The combination of smells seemed to make Wang even hungrier than the soup alone ever could have, and he wondered when he had last eaten.

    The sound of heavy boots taking positions at the entrance to the alley brought him back to the situation at hand.

    The guardians had taken his sister for being a political dissident, his cousin for being a sexual deviant and although he wasn’t sure why they were coming for him, he took some comfort in the thought that he’d be taking some of them with him.

    He straightened his back, gritted his teeth, pulled the pin and walked forwards.

  • Dirty gray hairs were severed from his bare feet by shards of glass as he crawled down the alley. He turned left and hung his head after seeing a dumpster in his way. His eyes widened when he looked to the right and saw torchlight coming. He clasped a picture in his hand, refused to look back, and struggled down the alley away from his pursuers. My father’s sacrifice allowed me to escape and I did not see him die.

  • I didn’t used to believe in ghosts, until my father died and Amy and I moved back into the house where I grew up. I walked the halls of my childhood home and remembered his raised voice, his raised hand, the raised welt on my mother’s face.

    Not long after that, the whiskey started flowing more easily and I’d wake up after a missing night, with a sore fist and a silent, black-eyed wife.

    Now I have to believe in ghosts. After all—what’s the alternative?

  • He held his gun, and he held his remote, and he had never been closer to life.

    He finally left that miserable, controlling, destructive whore.

    He finally disowned those degenerate children and finally quit that stupid, mundane job.

    He finally had his own crappy apartment and his own unpaid cable bill.

    He finally was ready to die.

    A.M. Schultz

  • Some girls gotta run. She won’t get far out here, in the sand and the dry, parching death. That’s why I brought her out here and let her go. I adjust my canteen, feel for the pistol at my belt, and start after her; the delay gives us both time to reflect on what’s to come. It always ends the same, but I enjoy the sport and, well, some girls just gotta run.

  • The sound of heavy boots taking positions at the entrance to the alley brought him back to the situation at hand.

    The guardians had taken his sister for being a political dissident, his cousin for being a sexual deviant and although he wasn’t sure why they were coming for him, he took some comfort in the thought that he’d be taking some of them with him.

    He straightened his back, gritted his teeth, pulled the pin and walked forwards.

  • The light flickers as it hovers on the tip of my finger. So beautiful, so perfect. I lean closer and inhale the essence of life, the essence of what I created. They have no idea as they scurry along through their days; that with a snap, it can all be gone. But I am benevolent and tuck the spark back in my pocket.

  • “I can’t stand it anymore,” she said, sounding as broken as her front door lock. “I try, and I try, and nothing that I do is good enough for anybody, in my family, at my job, in my freaking life.” The lone naked bulb in the kitchen reflected its light oddly off of the surface of the red wine in her glass.

    “Mommy, who are you talking to?,” a small, still voice said behind her.

    “Nobody,” she said, knowing it wasn’t true.

  • The girl in the apartment above Tommy was a screamer.

    Every evening he would lay in his bed, trying to figure out if the water stain on his ceiling looked like Jesus or Jerry Garcia, and wait until the auditory porn began.

    Sometimes Tommy would make up stories of why she brought back a different man every night, ranging from being a sex addict to a call girl with student loans.

    His favorite fantasy was that she was like Cinderella, trying to find the cock that fit her just right.

    He wished she would hurry up and find her prince.

  • “But w-what’s going to happen to me?” The balding man’s chains trembled, jingling merrily against the stone wall of the crypt that lay far beneath the bar room.

    “We saved a life tonight when we rescued the girl you bought from her mother; a life must be given to balance that act.” The twins looked back at him from the doorway, one serious and one with a smile. “Yours.”

  • The only sound Belle can hear is the thunder of her shoes, the ragged sounds her lungs issue as they beg her to stop. She’s been running, fleeing, for so long now, but the end seems so far away. She questions how far she has yet to go, unsure of what it will take to make her stop. She slows and looks at reflection in the mirrored water of a puddle. All she can see is the chubby, flabby girl from 60 pounds ago, while the puddle begs her to see the beautiful person she has become.

  • They were coming. And I was ready for them, ready to make right the wrongs., ready to die, with no regrets, no regrets but one.
    Her, Sara, one word, one name and chasm of sadness opened up, threaten to swallow me whole. We are the choices that we make, and I chose to die for her, to die for a better world for her to live in. God, I hoped she would know.

  • Bitter wind cut hard across the grassland plain and the big Appaloosa shuddered, pulled up hard with a shake, a steamy snort, and a whine. Knowing he’d kissed the sad woman in the doorway for the last time, he pulled the coat collar up around his neck and settled into the mount, felt the rifle barrel touch his leg, buried the butt of the .44 deeper into his ribs, like comfort.

    She called to him, her voice broken, “You leave none of ’em, y’ hear?”

    He only nodded back once, her face red with cold and despair.

    The man rode west into the wind and he glanced down at the small, broken headstone with not enough time passed between the dates.

  • He’s stolen something. I can tell by his dejected posture. His eyes dart across the room. He tries to leave.

    “Hey, kid. Put whatever you’ve taken on the counter.”

    He puts an apple from his pocket next to my register.

    “You only stole an apple?”

    He shrugs, but I see his hidden smirk. I pick him up. I shake him. I give him a pat down. Nothing? But I’m sure he…

    His father enters. A cop.

    I go to jail. And wouldn’t you know it, on my way out, I saw that sucker steal a Twinkie. Just like that.

  • He licked the blood from his gristle-coated fingers, savoring the flavor. He looked over at her body, posed languid and beautiful in the mess on the bed.

    “That’s the most twisted thing I’ve ever done, but I loved every minute of it.”

    “You’re a sick man, hun. I’ve done whipped cream, but you eating a raw steal off my stomach was the sickest shit I’ve ever let you talk me into.”

  • The names she used at home were never hers, nor were the lives she shared with the men on the other side of her computer screen. All the stories were credible, certainly; within them, she aspired to be more an apple than an orange, and chuckled when one (for they all eventually did) insisted he thought her something more exotic than either. The truth was what it was, and her truths weren’t necessary for their conversations.

    It pleased her when the latest ones managed to stumble into her diner in the morning, haggard, visibly older but smiling. No one ever noticed her face, but it hadn’t changed in a hundred years, so it hardly mattered.

  • The Cheshire cat’s grin hung low in the sky, mocking me furiously. I didn’t know why and wasn’t sure I could – or even wanted to find out. I mean, I hadn’t done anything to earn that particular grin, but there it was.

    I sat on the porch until I was nearly frozen, staring and wondering. The grin was silent, keeping its answers close. When I finally went back inside, my husband looked at me with curiosity and asked, “What’s so funny?”

  • She smiled, even though she was in pain, the smile was real. She screamed as the pain overtook her. She knew it was almost over. She looked down at her precious little one, so tiny and perfect. She smiled.

  • Bauble-

    Trinket, knick-knack, curiousity; the little statue looked like a caricature of a grinning horse seated on its haunches, nothing more than that.

    “And you think it’s evil?” I asked, turning towards Lukas. From the corner of my eye the statue seemed to rear up and loom over me, all teeth and fangs. The stench of something dark and ancient was so strong that it doubled me over and left me retching.

    “Ah, it seems to like you,” said Lukas.

  • (uh, fuck shit, i submitted a comment i didn’t mean to. WRONG WRONG WRONG ENTRY. here’s my mini story)

    “Her mouth is pretty, I wanna get in.”

    “I already got in there.”

    “Just once? Not worth another go eh?”

    “Her saliva is a mean acid.”

  • I walk across the desolate field with the ransom to get Julie back in a duffle on my shoulder.

    They step out from behind a copse of trees, a man in a mask and a woman in a hood. I toss the duffle at their feet and he pulls the hood off a woman I’ve never seen before, then smiles. I walk away, leaving the duffle on the ground.

    In my car, gun in hand, one bullet loaded, I’m ready to pay the price for failure when Julie taps on my window, duffle in hand, saying “You passed Daddy’s test!”

  • They crawl through my innards, lay eggs at the rim of my eyes, scratch at rotting flesh for an exit. Even after they made such a fuss to get in?

    I may be dead, but I still feel them moving about, dining on me as if I weren’t even here.
    I want to itch, to flick them off, to scream for help.

    But all I have left are memories.

  • I made the mistake of falling in love. She was broken and beautiful. Maybe I could fix or. Or maybe she could fix me. But then I saw the devil in her eyes through the smoke coming off the barrel of her gun.

  • The problems in the world were too large and great for far too long, he could not do it any more.
    ‘At least in the old way’, he thought as he watched the cape and spandex smoulder in the fire.
    The Hero No More began a new list, carefully writing the names in sharp precise block letters. With sharp steel, he would fix the world. One up close and personal death at a time.

  • “The Truth is in Here.”

    I was hurt–physically, emotionally, spiritually–but I had won, and I had the oracle by the throat.
    “You feel like you have no control over your life and you have wasted most of your energy and all of your days.”
    “I didn’t go through your bullshit tests to be told what I already know! I came here to learn something new–to be a better man!”
    “Did you really think that was possible?”

  • If you look really hard she still retains a certain glamour, but only on a good day.

    In a previous life she had it all; she was an A-lister, she sparkled, turned heads, broke more than a few hearts. Now there are only memories – and needles.

    The stench of the public toilet assails her senses as a liquid jewel, an HIV ruby, pops out of her vein, gathering at the exit of the thin steel lifeline.

    She’s well past caring about her appearance but she covers her arm carefully, in her line of business it makes the punters nervous.

  • After James discovered his tumor, he grew bold, jaywalked—vowed to compensate for his regretful life.

    He exercised compassion: forgave past injustices; stopped prattling about coworkers; and apologized to his parents for his transgressions.

    He practiced generosity: tipped waiters, whether or not they provided satisfactory service; tithed to his church; gave money to beggars, including the one he suspected of feigning blindness.

    He embraced love: smiled at strangers; complimented mothers on the beauty of their babies, even if he considered the babies ugly; hugged and praised his wife and children.

    After James learned the tumor was benign, he stopped jaywalking.

  • Holy Crabgrass, Chuckman! Whole lot of entries.

    The Snow

    Scrabbling on the roof!
    The snow avalanches down–I open the cabin door a crack, no way out.
    The last of the dogs were taken a week ago.
    Now they’re back for me.
    That damn falling star.

  • When I look at you, when you’re walking away, it’s like I’m watching you from the coldness of space. Will you ever turn to look up at me? Me, the worthless, falling debris? I pray that you will, ah, I pray that you won’t. Like the atmosphere, obsession would burn you away.

  • It’s 4:40 now. Just 20 more minutes. I type some nonsense into my computer in hopes of calming myself down. The guise of work. To have my hands do something while my mind wanders into that impenetrable realm of obsession.

  • “Serial Killer Spree” the massive headline screamed. The connected article was packed with sensationalistic fear-mongering around what little detail the media had been allowed to disclose.
    Stanley shook his head, digusted with what passed for journalism these days, and focused instead out the window of his bedroom. As night fell hours later, he finally stood up and left the house, the comforting weight of the knife in his hand.

  • Ninety eight words and five sentences:

    Jack glanced adoringly at Anne and reached out to hold one of her soft hands.

    He had loved her for sixty-four years, and married her sixty-three of those years ago.

    She was the only reason he had stoically endured such debilitating pain in recent months as his body rapidly failed him; he had never once considered that she would go before him.

    He relinquished her dead hand to pick up his Beretta from the chair-side table, his eyes filling with unshed tears.

    It was time to stand again by the side of the woman he loved so completely.

  • Al’s face felt numb from asking endless questions as he slipped his bulk into a cheap, protesting chair. The ex-husband of someone in a group of national heroes gets stepped on by their fifty-foot robot, and the pilots of the body-parts all point fingers at each other. He could just tell that if he charged anyone, the newspapers would lead with that picture of cops putting a chalk outline around the corpse… and the giant gory left-footprints ‘escaping the scene.’

    He let the warm stain of a cigarette lift him up, and flushed the problem to the traffic department.

  • The word everyone always used for you was “strong.” Hell, he even acknowledged it during that last argument, though he disguised it in code like “bull-headed, spiteful, grudge-holding bitch!”

    Back in college he’d claimed he wanted a strong partner to help get through life’s challenges. But you knew strength doesn’t lend itself to partnership, that somebody’s got to be in charge, and there was no way it was gonna be him – not until 16 years later when he serves you with divorce papers and you realize that he’s in charge, after all.

    Yeah, you’re so strong, you almost didn’t cry.

  • -Comedy Night – St. Marks Hotel-

    She listened to all his jokes about rich east village girls and republicans, then he sexed her with his jeans down and passed out. The least she could do is write a joke on his stomach while he slept with his mouth open. The joke ran down his leg, over his knee, into his holey sock. He’d told her she was the smartest waitress at the comedy club because she laughed at all his good jokes. She ‘got’ him.

  • Apologies if this is a duplicate post – I’d posted it an hour or two ago but it’s no longer visible in the list between the two stories it was originally nestled between. I must have screwed up somehow. Anyhoo… Here’s my ninety-eight words and five sentences:

    Jack glanced adoringly at Anne and reached out to hold one of her soft hands.

    He had loved her for sixty-four years, and married her sixty-three of those years ago.

    She was the only reason he had stoically endured such debilitating pain in recent months as his body rapidly failed him; he had never once considered that she would go before him.

    He relinquished her dead hand to pick up his Beretta from the chair-side table, his eyes filling with unshed tears.

    It was time to stand again by the side of the woman he loved so completely.

  • Riordan glared over his Guiness bottle at the asshole who had just shoved a dollar bill in the jukebox. “Happy Saint Patty’s Day!” Mr. Drunk Asshole crowed. Riordan knocked back the last of the precious beer and wrapped his hand around the neck. Amidst the reckless partying of the fake-Irish, nobody saw him break the bottle against his barstool. He tucked it in his jacket and followed Mr. Drunk Asshole into the restroom.
    “Do you even understand ‘The Rising of the Moon’?” Riordan quickly avenged the memory of the United Irishmen.

Speak Your Mind, Word-Nerds