Entries started pouring in as soon as we announced this year’s Flash Fiction contest. It was like that closet you haphazardly throw things into, without order, squeezing the door closed with your body weight to cram in all the stuff without a proper home. Toppling stacks of paper and files, bits of yarn, nightmare flickers, battered toys, love letters, unused sports equipment, dream diaries, lost hopes, failed romances―it’s all in there.
We opened that closet. Your ideas streamed out, gasping for air, and sorted themselves into 119 words or less.
The Alibi loves short fiction because, if done well, a whole world―with detailed characters and atmosphere―is revealed. It’s about choosing one precisely perfect word that can cause 100 words to manifest in the reader’s imagination. What you omit is just as important as what you leave in. Hemingway, a master of the short story, called this the iceberg theory. We asked you all to test this theory, and you succeeded.
We carted home printouts of the tiny tales, a folder of little gifts. Each one held a kernel of creativity and honesty that we sincerely appreciate you placing in our greedy hands. It took a panel of 10 Alibi staff members to help judge them all, and at times we almost came to blows.
Here, we present the top four stories. Their writers will receive a variety of prizes courtesy of these awesome local businesses: The Grove, HG Fashion and Art Boutique, and Guild Cinema. Winners will also get surprise random things from the Alibi “prize pile” on my desk.
There were also entries that, while they didn’t get the most votes, were impossible to ignore. So we’re sharing a few that were the best in their own category.
Thank you to all who participated. Don’t ever stop putting your pen to paper, or fingers to keys, and loosing your ideas onto the world.
An elderly woman was first to notice the baby asleep in the coils of a python. Her screams summoned the manager, who extracted the sleeping child from the terrarium. The baby, curiously quiet, examined her with bright, unblinking eyes as the police questioned first her, then directed their attention to the sweating, panicked manager. She quietly slipped out of the pet store with the child to her car, and then to home. Such bright eyes, and so still, she thought, holding the child tightly, the child returning her grasp tenfold with arms that belied their strength. Her ribcage cracked, her mouth gaped and gave out its last breath. The child’s jaw slowly unhinged, its forked tongue tasting the air.
It was the day after the Rapture, and Johnson hadn't been called up. He was a little annoyed by this, but when he looked up the commandments to see what he'd done wrong, he had to confess that he really did covet his neighbor's house. And pool. And flat-screen TV. And since the neighbor had been Raptured Up and Johnson hadn't, it made sense that he should move in next door.
It was a great plan. Foolproof.
Which is what Johnson was trying to explain to the cops two days later, right after his neighbor got back from vacation.
He sat and stared. Without looking away he grabbed an Ensure out of the cooler. Something would hang from the nail on his wooden fence today. Yesterday it was a shiny keychain with a single key. The day before a dusty package of sealing tape. Yesterday he had been reading the paper and heard a swish sound, looked up and found the keychain on the nail. “Damn it,” he had muttered to himself. In his garage were two buckets filled with items someone or something had left everyday for the last month. A yellow bird landed near him. He looked back at the nail. He sighed. It was still empty.
A black hole flew by. Just a little one. Its sizzle woke me, then its smell. Not of a fire; rather the ozone of a near lighting strike. Beyond the bed stand, I saw my lawn. Through the opposite perfect circle, the dawn sun gleamed red. I felt for the hand of my sleeping wife, but let her rest. “Thank you,” I mouthed, knowing that providence had let us lie beneath the path of destruction. Not so lucky my goldfish. His water broke, or more precisely, his vessel was neatly holed. Is he time traveling, or flopping upon the floor? I switch off the alarm clock, lying beneath its responsibilities.
He was found completely exsanguinated, the unfortunate result of an ill-conceived attempt to automate a penis pump.
It’s 3:00 am, all she can think about is that delicious Chimichanga treat at the Allsups which calls her name. Get dressed, lets go! Sweat pants on, rockin’ the Crocs she walks down each one of the aisles. Hmmm 44oz Coke? I think so! Then last stop, display case. There they are beautiful grease dripping Chimichanga basking under the golden tinge of the heat lamp. “Always Fresh Everyday” a sign above the case advertises. “I think I’ll take two,” she lays down her crisp five dollar bill and some change. Full satisfaction as she wipes the grease from the corners of her mouth and her pancreas goes into overtime.
[This one made us feel funny, and some staff members considered giving up journalism in favor of, well, whatever this is.]
Scotty took it seriously. Bertrand’s jobs were always serious.
“It’s a five-day job. Pick up the merchandise in Manhattan. Fly it to Upstate Vermont. Return and repeat. Slick as snot.” It paid nine thousand. “It’s very important ... don't attempt to cut the merchandise.” Bertrand warned repeatedly. Serious.
Mr. Waters’ office was on the top floor of a tall and intimidating building. Water’s assistant handcuffed the small case to Scotty’s wrist with a stern look on her face. The flight was uneventful. He found the estate easily.
Mrs. Waters greets him wearing nothing provocative ... wearing nothing at all. She hands him a turkey baster and leads him by the wrist to the bedroom.
“And there’s perks ...,” Bertrand had said.