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.



  • For weeks after her father died, Charlotte would park her car outside his house for as long as she could stand, before throwing the car in drive and hurtling away.

    When she finally unlocked the door, on a hazy summer morning, a copy of the paper languished on the breakfast table, held in place by a rabbit shaped paperweight. She turned over the rabbit to find her name etched, stiff and sharp, into the clay.

    For a long time, then, she sat on the floor with the rabbit cupped in her palm, tracing his bubblegum pink smile with her finger.

  • I was in the Caribbean, consulting the eminent expert on 18th-century sailing ships; he was poring over my plans of the ship I’d invented for my novel.

    He shook his head disdainfully at the over-sized diagram of the Raking Talon’s gun deck, “this schooner’s ordnance is the ammo equivalent of furniture tacks. Come back Friday and I’ll show you a REAL ship: we found Stormbringer and she’s in perfect condition.”

    “Wait–you couldn’t have ‘found’ Stormbringer; I made her up too…it’s just a story!!”

    Then the alarm went off, and I woke up wondering where I’d left his business card.

  • Again.

    It happened again.

    Why didn’t I stop it; did I want it to happen?

    Am I some kind of sick monster that WANTS them all dead, to watch as their screams turn to squelching hot gushing geysers of glorious carnage?

    The long and the short of it is…yes.

  • She was walking away, and it was the best thing that had happened all day.

    The best thing.

    He was sure of it as he haphazardly crinkled the eleventh emptied beer can of the past hour or so.

    The best, most amazing thing.

    He was positively ecstatic as he tumbled halfway onto his bed, his knees on the ground, his hands clutching the bedsheets like ivy clamped onto a wall, too weak to stand on its own; and his eyes watered them silently.

  • The boxes fell from the sky in the middle of rush hour traffic on a Thursday, floating to the earth on the end of filthy brown parachutes that blocked out the morning sun.

    There were now two types of people in the world – those with boxes, and those without – and the world was changing.

    Emma didn’t have a box, but her friend Eve did, and as the chaos and flames engulfed her world the truth was clear to Emma – first came the boxes, then the changes, then the end.

    Like so many others she fought for as long as she could, but they each fought alone, without the means now to organise or plan.

    She fought with all she had left, until all she could do was run.

  • He led her to a place she didn’t know and abandoned her in the street without her dog or her cane. For a joke. A stranger helped her to get home. In her own place, her clever hands found the hammer. Waiting for him in the dark was no problem.

  • KTFO (5 sentences; WC 93)

    The blood and bruises on my face made it clear that I’d been getting my ass thoroughly kicked, but this fight only had 30 more seconds. I jabbed left; he dodged right. I jabbed left then swung a hard right; he blocked. I leaned back, waited for him to pursue, then popped a hard, straight kick and caught him right under the chin, snapping his head back like a Pez dispenser. No candy came out, but as he landed flat on his back, I let rip my victory cry: “KNOCKED THE FUCK OUT!!”

  • Her sobs are so loud and full of snot I want to offer a tissue, but I don’t, I sit on my haunches, waiting on her to make the decision. Thirty minutes pass before her eyes finally meet mine and I know her choice is selected. Her mouth opens, a scream bubbling through her ragged throat. I feel the warm red of her life pour from her arteries, my knife is shiny with the stuff and I am disgusted. We could have been happy together, all she had to do was shut the hell up.

  • Eveline’s Ashes

    He placed the urn containing Eveline’s ashes on the coffee table they used to sit at to watch TV together. Looking at this makeshift memorial to their relationship, he still felt uneasy about not fulfilling his side of the bargain. But it was her illness, not his, and she was always the dominant one – she’d made him promise that he would. Now for the very first time, he was in charge, and he felt intrepid, glorious. “Goodbye, Mother,” he said.

  • “One does not simply LOLCat into Mordor,” the anon-bot said again.
    “Gah! Take your damn Heart Of The Net and be done with me,” the virii king said, throwing down the 8-bit pixilated diamond.
    We scooped it up before someone else could pirate it from us; knowing full well that the sex-bots were about in this dark corner of the web. It warmed us with its ever radiate presence of memes, porn, videos of people doing stupid things, porn, wrong opinions, right opinions, porn, and Betty White commercials. We would never be bored again.

  • I picked that road on a whim because it was a new path to where I was going. I stopped by the scuffed brick wall to ask the old man why he prayed and burned incense here. He explained in slow, broken English how this day was the seventy-sixth anniversary of when young men tried to change the government at the point of a gun. Seventeen of them were executed against these bricks for their hubris. I took several pictures and decided to follow my whims more often.

  • I was walking alone on the beach when the rhythmic sound of low tide was replaced by the wallop of crashing building materials. My grandmother’s house, a 1960’s bungalow, rolled up on a wave as high as Mavericks and overtook me, clapboards and pipes and all. It burned my throat with warm memories of musty rugs and easter-purple galoshes. The perfect chaser for a terrible wedding night.

  • My hand held hers just a moment ago but now she’s off alone again.
    Did she expect me to risk following her out into the garden after the mayor disappeared?
    I had to make sure she was the one behind it.
    She told me she trusts me, but that’s a lie.
    I can’t let her feed again tonight.

  • Days after the blast, we were still pinned under beams and hot debris, me and some little kid.

    His eyes were open and I didn’t know if he was dead so I said it’s okay, you can let go.

    At his funeral, his weeping mother hugged me like I’d spent three days living with her dead baby.

    Over and over, it’s me saying let go, this kid closing his eyes, new air and light hitting our senses, mine hardly aware and his narrowly missed.

    I let her hug me, my whole body red, and I never stop saying, “I’m sorry.”

  • Miller knew he could be loved again. He had known it since he started to feel better about himself a year ago. He would stand in front of the mirror in the old newsroom bathroom and smile at himself. He would practice making small talk and being charming and engaging without the whiskey lubricant. He flossed.

  • “I dunno Tania, its a bit short” I can hear the frown in my voice.
    Calling that skirt slutty would be unfair to sluts.
    “If your Dad were here he wouldn’t be happy to see you going out like that”
    ” Well he’s hardly going to say anything from the cemetry is he?” she slammed the words at me.
    Then she turned and walked out the door taking what was left of my heart with her.

  • As Ms. Atwood stood facing the noose, she was recalled to her first carnival trip; it was loud, bright, and crowded, the air heavy with the smell of the menagerie and sweet with roasting meets and candy. Suddenly the warm, reassuring pressure of her mother’s hand was gone, and she was lost in the bustle of skirts and violent laughter.
    “Any last words?” a gruff voice asked.
    She shook her head and was back, facing a crowd of hushed onlookers, “You are all as guilty as I am.”
    The gallows shook, and was still.

  • I resisted blinking for as long as my parched eyeball would allow. The blank wall I was staring at stared back at me, waiting for when I would fail.

    I stared it down. It was close to losing.

    Then my eyes shut for the brief moment it took for me to remember everything, and I collapsed under the torrential flood of memory when they wouldn’t open again.

  • The colors warped around me in a weird rainbow of distortion, and I realized I wasn’t in the same place I’d fallen asleep in. The windows were open, and a bottle of clear liquid stood on the table. It didn’t need a DRINK ME label for me to glug it down, and then I was spiraling back into the dank palace of subconscious desires. Then he was slapping me awake, telling me that all of it was over and this sort of escape wasn’t really necessary anymore. How do you tell someone you’re too far gone to change?

  • Confused. Forgetful. “Getting old”.

    When I was a kid, he was the undefeated driveway basketball champion for six summers straight, the fixer, the maker, the judge and jury.

    Now I am tuck him into his bed, trying my best not to hear his unspoken question of “Who are you?”

  • True Story:

    I met you through a dating site and you took me to a bowling alley for our first date in your pretty blue mustang that you said you would never let me drive and I fell for you because of the heavy gauged ring through your nose and the way your left eye squints a little when you laugh.

    I love you even though we haven’t known each other very long because sometimes you meet someone — and I’m not saying it’s destiny or fate or anything like that because you know I don’t believe in it — but sometimes you meet someone who is exactly who you long to love, and I guess I got lucky because I’m exactly the kind of person you long to love.

    When two people profess that they will love one another for the rest of their lives, more often than not, whether they mean to or not, time tells them sooner or later that they were lying.

    So there I was, sitting on the toilet, looking at the test window on that silly little eighty-eight cent HCG test and wondering if I could manage to love you for the rest of my life as that pink little test line formed parallel to the control line.

    It’s amazing how one moment of weakness in the throes of passion can alter the course of two people’s lives.

  • Upon re-reading the prompt, I realize that it’s not just five sentences, but one hundred words I’m limited to. I guess I got jumpy. Here’s a tribute to my not so amazing editing skills:


    I fell for you because of the heavy gauged ring through your nose and the way your left eye squints a little when you laugh.

    I love you even though we haven’t known each other very long because sometimes you meet someone — and I’m not saying it’s destiny or fate or anything like that — but sometimes you meet someone who is exactly who you long to love.

    So I’m sitting here, looking at the test window on this 88 cent HCG test. Positive.

    I find myself hoping I can manage to love you for the rest of my life.

  • After the procedure, the boy waited with his father and wondered why people read magazines about beautiful houses and cars.

    They were both sad, but the boy couldn’t help but be a little bit happy thinking that things would stay the same now.

    His mother came out, escorted by an orderly, ready to go home.

    He looked around the room in all the trash cans. “Where is it?” he said. “I’ve never seen a fetus before!”


    It was so long ago. His draft notice arrived a week after he turned eighteen and he headed off to Vietnam. He watched friends kill and he watched friends be killed. The war didn’t end soon enough. He came home at nineteen but he never knew it, he was in box.

  • The Human Experiment.

    26 days previous, I wouldn’t have given thought to a stranger telling me that I’d end up with a body full of metal pieces on an entirely new planet. That’s all changed now that they’ve invaded our minds and our residences. The invasions are happening because their policies have changed, as they no longer see us fit to control our own existences. As a tall man covered in rags for clothes and bags on his feet approaches me, I understand that it is happening again. It’s time to be moved and re structured, like cattle awaiting their slaughter.

  • At the end, death teases with slow motion, prolonging the inevitable.

    It feels like I’ve been falling forever and with each passing window the anger swells inside of me.

    That self-righteous bastard thought he could chose how and when I die but the decision wasn’t his to make.

    Most people try to fight their way out of hell but I’m going to find my way in, because in trying to save my soul he damned his own.

    When his day comes, I’ll be waiting to usher him into an eternity of vengeance.

  • A Hike Turned To A Run

    I could smell it before he appeared on the path, a rank rotting garbage smell assaulted my senses, so badly I wanted to hurl breakfast. My brain actually registered the term before the smell and sight combined as one in front of me. Bigfoot. It stood there, huge, unreal, but very tangible moving pile of red matted hair. It bellowed at me with flashing huge teeth; I ran.

  • “Wait.” She walked out of the basement, into the backyard, late afternoon sunlight and green grass on her bare feet. He spoke softly, slowly bleeding back in the shadows down in the concrete, draining into the sewer, up from the darkness, “Maria, please don’t leave me like this.”

    She threw the knife down, danced around in her summer dress, Good Vibrations playing in her head. She turned, closing the cellar door, smiling, “Clive, it won’t be long now, see you later sweety.”

  • She was too beautiful to take seriously. No matter how substantial her job, how shockingly, stunningly adept her vocabulary, no matter how severely she thrashed Noah at Scrabble that first late night or how off-handed her manner while pawing a five dollar bill out of her sky-blue satchel to give to the guy playing the recorder at Burrard and Davie; women didn’t just look like that and have the….the depth of character to be interested in a guy like Noah, he was sure of it. Still, grim Virgo determination and his immigrant upbringing forced him to steel his nerves and ask her again to the wine bar, his whole being warring with the idea of whether the best existed and if so, could he have it? Crammed into a booth the size of two phone books, Ahi tuna towering in a still life with two glasses of pinot noir in front of them finally gave him the nerve to ask. She fell uncommonly silent for a long moment before raspberry-painted lips stretched across perfect Shiksa teeth and the back of an impossibly soft hand dragged across his cheek as she said, ‘Silly, Noah, don’t you know you can’t fuck a tall guy in the shower?’

  • What?
    Look, I told that idiot the same thing yesterday, which was BEFORE I bought a fresh box of hollow-points and this fifth of Lagavulin, so I’m going to tell you again, now, and you best not forget.

  • Behind me, everyone is in a panic shouting “Jump! Jump!”, but paralysis strikes as quickly as I reach the ledge.

    After stumbling over body parts, tangled legs, heat and mental exhaustion, the deafening sound of screaming children and the thought of demise racing, it’s come to this moment of bravery. With a sacrificial push or a courageous leap, I’m in the air for hours.

    The abrupt landing twinged from foot to shoulder, and my knees buckled painfully under the pressure.

    Relief set in and a smirk began, I made it to the ground safely…the bus drill was over.

  • Uncle Taffy, the family moonshiner, took a long pull from his tobacco pipe, saying, “Least them brain-eatin’ folks waited ‘til end of the cer’mony.”

    I looked down at the gore splattered everywhere, including the French lace hem of my wedding dress, debating.

    But when I shifted my shotgun against my shoulder, I saw my ring and had to nod in agreement.

    “Cabelas?” Hubby asked, looking manly with the machete Pappy’d handed off to him as he slid an arm around my waist, lips feathering the fine hairs at my temple.

    Auntie Mae-Lou smiled, “You’ll train up just fine, city boy.”

  • Jacob’s mind ran through the details of his plan, the plan that would show the human race what he was capable of. At the press of a button the nuclear arsenal at his command would devastate the earth and then everyone would suffer, everyone would know what true pain was. When the world’s racked by nuclear destruction the human survivors would bow to him, they would respect him. Although he couldn’t do anything while he was a prisoner, he had to escape this high tech fortress.

    A young nurse with a warm and friendly smile leaned over his chair ‘Jacob, it’s time for your medicine.’ She said kindly.

  • She’s alone in the diner now, everyone else gone, eaten by God knows what awful things, like the vending machine, trash-can and dishwasher. Her only hope: the pickup outside. She makes a break for it, fumbles the door with trembling hands, heart a crazy gallop. She makes it! Key goes into the ignition, her scream stolen from her as the cars interior transforms into a suffocating cave of many teeth.

  • Ashes:
    She is nothing and no one, strapped into a fate of someone else’s chosing, hurtling through obscurity toward the shores of oblivion.
    Her heart burns in silence, a soft and flickering dream shining in the fetid darkness. The flame gutters, falters…revives. And then the chill wind quenches it completely.
    But no one weeps for the loss of her flame; for what use is light to the blind?

  • The neighbor’s terrier yipped as I buckled up. It’s an annoying thing, best ignored, but while pulling away I glanced back and noticed an accusation in its moist eyes.

    It knew that nature’s templet was invalid here, that a creature designed to run and leap in packs had been reduced to short walks hindered by a short leash, knew that, though its ancestors were bred to root vermin from the dirt, our manicured lawns were off limits for any of its natural urges.

    Hell, pulled so far from my natural state, I’d bark too.

    My necktie seemed unusually tight today.

  • You avoid the other car safely, or the knife clatters harmlessly to the floor. Your mind splits; you’ve gone back to cutting the vegetables or driving along uneventfully. But in the same moment, you’re also rolling into the river, kicking hopelessly at the glass, or weeping and trying to clean up the cat’s blood before your wife gets home. That second road, the one less traveled, gets longer every time you get dragged down it.

    Then, one day, you don’t come back.

  • “The spell lasts one night, so indulge your fantasies and, er, have fun with it… er, him,” the gypsy had said. “Cash only and no refunds.”

    At sunset I swigged red wine, then concentrated on my list: 6′ 4″, swimmer’s physique, dark curls, bronze skin, grey eyes, 30 years old, sane, intelligent, warm, strong, gentle, big… hands, an amazing touch, passion and heat, a panty-melting baritone, a dedication to my pleasure. I blew out the magicked candle, completing the ritual.

    “Hi, hon,” whispered the spitting image of my Jonathan, as he took me in his arms, alive again, at least until sunrise.

  • The two of us have searched the charred Earth for decades and have finally accepted the truth: we are the last two, and the continuation of humanity depends on us to copulate. But I have always had a sensitivity to smells, even after living in the wasteland for so long.

    He disrobed in front of me once, and I’m sorry, but that’s just…uh-uh.

  • I’m not going to the abattoir,
    just to cream insatiables with my fear and trembling.

    Cut the sound!

    I won’t be stricken stone,
    mesmerized by drones,
    tides of thunder and family.

    Wanna divert the Blood Line of Mars?

    Strip the paint of glory from those who prop up judges,
    grapevine the procession and crown with thorns:
    they release all their amens when they smack into the eye of God.

  • Come Again?

    “Arehuhreshun,” Jesus mumbled around a mouthful of bread.

    “If I’m performing a resurrection, I need to know my cut as re-animator,” Joshua said.

    “I love how your needs are more important than God’s,” Jesus said, snorting rudely and sucking bread down his windpipe.

    Watching Jesus choke, Joshua thought how a virgin birth and years of lordin’ it over the disciples was a lot of setup to waste on bread – even really good bread.
    When Jesus lay blue-faced on the rug, Joshua called the magic and waited for his profits to double through a little bread-induced, pre-resurrection resurrection.

  • I’m not normally like this, you see. I was once a respectable gentleman, a banker, actually. That seems like so long ago. Now, since the gypsy, I can’t seem to get over the taste of barley. Anyway, can you get the next round?

  • I can’t remember anymore how or why I’d gotten to that point, but one car dive off a cliff later, I was here. I look down at my two now immovable legs and almost want to laugh at the absurdity of it all. A part of you never can accept something like this–you keep willing your useless limbs to move and for what? A lifetime of reliance on white-coated yes men who smile to your face and rob you blind behind your back. Still, I think to myself with a wry smile, at least I didn’t end up like the other guy.

  • They never stop coming……

    The sound invades my dreams, the nagging irritating bleating causes me pain on primal level. The neanderthals on the other end of the phone, with the same cries again and again, “My computer doesn’t work, but my brother, son, nephew, neighbors brat is a computer genius!”. Get them to fix it you pompous twit I want to say, “How can I be of assistance”, I merrily reply. My soul ripped from my body and trod upon by the unknowing unappreciative wastes of human flesh that burden my day. The phone never stops ringing……

  • Sally looked at the photograph again. The way the sun played on his blonde curls and brightened his eyelashes almost let her believe he was blessed. But then those black eyes sucked at her soul, and his smirk reminded her. Sally put the picture in the grill and threw in a match. He burned.

  • “Bend me to your will,” I offered.

    “That’s not even funny,” she replied.

    “Hey, you’re the one that needs marketing copy for a catheter company, not me.”

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