Congratulations to the winners of our Summer Flash Fiction Challenge!
The challenge, which was posted in our SCWC Facebook group, was to choose ONE of the following prompts and then write a piece of flash fiction about it.
A character finds a message in a bottle on the beach.
A family celebrates the Fourth of July
A character goes on a Summer vacation that ends up differently than planned.
A couple goes on a road trip.
We were impressed with what all of you were able to write in under 1000 words, and we were especially struck by the way all the submissions used the prompts in a creative way. (One of the winning stories made the 4th of July family gathering a little obscure; another used all four prompts.)
We were so pleased with the quantity and quality of the submissions we received. We loved reading all of the stories, and have selected the following three writers as our winners.
1st place: Katie Martin
2nd place: Susan Hart-Hester
3rd place: Jason E. Norris
Now, read their stories below!
by Katie Martin
He cradled my hand even as we drove. He shouldn’t have, with those winding, gut-twisting Georgia mountain roads, but he did. And his smile reached to his eyes, those deep brown pools that stirred. Stirred him, stirred me. Those deep brown eyes that rejoiced without saying a word. I couldn’t believe we were here. I fingered the blue thread that poked from the sweater in my lap, drinking—thirsting and drinking—every detail of the first day of our lives together. The air conditioner blew my hair and I, and I... Lost in myself, lost in my thoughts, lost in the euphoria of it...of the ring on my finger, heavy and real, not like the imaginary rings I had made as a girl from pull tabs from soda cans, from strands of grass woven together, from anything. Anything. Oh, how I had longed for it, tasted it. Ran the thought of marriage over my tongue and in my mind. It was like cold water to me. Thirsty for the dream, I drank it, again and again. I had held it, cradled it, for as long as I could remember. His thumb ran over mine. I remembered the first time I read his name in my Bible. When I was in grade school and Mrs. Peppers was teaching in that old classroom with half the air vent missing, she told us the story. A story about a man who saw God breathe life into bones. “A valley—” she said, her voice rising and rolling and falling, “full of bones, very, very dry bones! Dry and dead.” She drew out the word “dead,” and we all gasped. And how they came to life! They came to life. The Bible was in my lap, the one he gave me. The one with my married name pressed in silver, pressed in the cover. Mrs. Ezekiel Helanos.
Mrs. Ezekiel Helanos. The road twisted again, again, a spiral up a mountain, up where we could see the whole world before us. The whole world. A glimpse of it—I caught it from a break in the trees beyond his window—look there! Look at the valley below, with buildings like dots, with sky like silver, with mountains flowing together like water.
A stop sign, a board with arrows and directions. We were almost to the cottage. A dusty blue cottage with gray shutters and a cobblestone drive, house number 202, Winterwood Drive. Here it was, a week to ourselves, a week for prayer, for our hearts and hands to be joined together in joy over what the Lord had given us. A prayer to direct us for the rest of our lives. I rested my head against the window and closed my eyes. Forever and ever. His hand was on mine. I breathed out and I saw our lives before us.
I cradle his hand. The hospital bed makes him look so frail, those wrinkles. Those white sprigs of hair, where did they sneak in from? Those years, those years of goodness. My Ezekiel. His eyes, deep pools of brown, those fountains of compassion and caring. We close our eyes and pray. By now, we know the words by heart.
“O Father, You know our frailties. You know our pain. And You promise us eternal day, with no night, no sorrow. Bind our hearts to Yours and direct us always in your paths. Direct us ever to eternity.”
My Ezekiel. My provider, the man whom God gave to me, who gave life to our sons and daughter. The frame above the bed holds a picture of mountains, soothing mountains, blues and purples and soft shades that fade into a sky that embraces them at the horizon, that welcomes them into it. Where eternity is at the door. Oh, I remember our mountains. I remember that cottage, I... The blue thread, the Bible in my hands, the sunglasses that he tossed on the dashboard, the way we laughed. Oh, we laughed. I remember all of it. I remember the prayer. The prayer in the cottage fifty-two years ago that we tucked into our hearts and wove into our days. The prayer for guidance all the days of our life. The prayer for our journey.
His hand is in mine. I cradle it. I close my eyes and breathe out and I see all of our lives before me. My Ezekiel, who built the treehouse and fed the dogs pudding that one time. The man who let Maddie read in his lap for hours and hours. The man who read my Bible with me until the binding broke and until my name on the cover was worn completely away, our treasure together. The man who staggered under the hardship, the drought, the barn fire, but never let go of my hand, knees bent, always looking above. My Ezekiel. My home. Our journey.
I hold my Ezekiel’s hand. I caress it. My thumb meets his. What a wonderful life we have had. What a wonderful life the Lord has made.
The Lord, the One who gave life to bones, who gives life to everything. Who gave life to him and me.
I hold Ezekiel’s hand, and he passes the veil into eternity.
by Susan Hart- Hester
The rhythmic groan of Sadie’s rocker whined against the weathered pine floor. Her hazel eyes closed and she strained to hear Mama B’s soft humming dance through the giant oaks. As a young girl in the 1960s, Sadie drank the history of her family every Sunday evening, sitting on this same porch, grabbing the spot closest to the aged historian, awash in the tales that made her skin prickle with excitement, sometimes fear. Sadie shook her head and pressed back against the rocker. Such memories were bittersweet. She watched a grey squirrel race down the oak and scamper towards the Square. She smiled, reminiscing how Mama B spoke about Geneva, who owned a dress shop on the Square. Sadie loved to hear how Geneva actively campaigned for women’s rights in the early 1900s, working alongside leading suffragists Belle Kearney and Nellie Nugent Somerville.
A sharp blast from the train tracks behind her home snapped Sadie out of her reverie. The lingering smell of fried catfish escaped from the windows of her home. Pressing hard against the rocker, she raised herself on shaky limbs to greet her daughter and grand-children climbing onto the porch. She laughed and hugged each child as they eagerly gathered around her rocker for storytelling. “I love Sunday evenings,” she began. “Let me tell you about a strong, independent young woman who left her hometown of Clinton to work as a nurse near the Western Front during World War I, her name was Sadie…”
by Jason E. Norris
“After everything we’ve been through, I really hope our trip is boring,” Colin Brock said as he put a suitcase into the trunk.
Alice put her backpack in too. “Honeymoons are not supposed to be boring.”
“You know what I mean,” Colin said as he kissed her and closed the trunk.
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” she said as they got in the car and closed their doors. “But there better be fireworks.
“Well it is the 4th,” he said, starting the car.
They pulled out of the driveway and started south on their three hour trip to the beach.
Alice opened the hotel curtains and sighed.
Colin put the suitcases on the floor. “Wow, that’s quite a view,” he said. “You can see the street.”
“And billboards!” Alice added. “Don’t forget the tacky billboards.”
Colin walked over and held her. “There is a beach out there somewhere,” he said. “We’ll find it.”
“I know. I just hoped for a view of the ocean from our room.”
“Let’s go now,” Colin said. “The sun is about to set, and there’s a full moon tonight.”
“That sounds lovely,” she said.
Colin and Alice enjoyed a long walk on the beach as they watched the sun drop into the ocean. A few minutes later they watched the full moon rise out of the water.
“Beautiful,” she said.
“Very,” Colin said, looking at her.
Alice turned toward him. “Don’t be so cliche,” she said.
They both laughed and returned their gaze to the giant moon hovering above the ocean. Just then Alice noticed something in the water. Her eyes narrowed as she attempted to make out what it was.
“What is that?”
“What’s what?” Colin asked.
“It’s a light or something,” Alice said. “Flickering close to the sand.”
Colin looked for it. “I don’t see anything.”
Alice jumped up and started toward the water. Colin followed and finally saw it. They stopped where the waves gently splashed their feet. They kept watching as the waves were bringing the light closer to the shore.
“I think it’s made of glass or something,” Colin said. “The flickering is because of the moon.”
Alice looked at Colin and then back at the shiny object. Then she took off running into the ocean and swam after it.
“Alice!” Colin hollered. Then he sighed and muttered, “Here we go again.”
“I got it! It’s a bottle!” She started swimming back.
“Wonderful,” Colin said as Alice walked onto the beach. “The oceans are now a little cleaner.”
“This is weird,” she said, looking at the bottle.
“Yes very weird,” Colin said. “But I still love you.”
Alice pulled the stopper out of the bottle. She turned it upside down and a small metallic device dropped into her hand.
“Is that a memory stick?” Colin asked.
“It’s a jump drive,” Alice said. “Why would someone put a jump drive in a bottle?”
“Well, like you said. Weird.”
“Let’s go check it out on my laptop,” Alice said.
They ran back to their hotel room. Alice grabbed her back pack and unzipped it. As she was starting up the computer, Colin grabbed a towel from the bathroom.
“Wrap up. You’re soaking wet.”
“Thanks,” she said as she put the jump drive into the laptop. “I don’t recognize these file extensions.”
Colin sat beside her on the bed. “Those are strange,” he said. “Oh wait. There’s a text file.”
Alice double-clicked and they read the following words.
I’m writing and recording this introduction on the last day of the 21st century. Or a year before the 22nd century depending on your perspective. Personally I’m counting 2100 as a totally new era just as the year Y2K was for the world—and for me.
I don’t know for sure what will happen as we cross into the 2100s, but I do know the stories I’m sharing will shape that future. Of that, I’m certain. It already has.
The stories you’re about to read or hear are true. They happened during the past one hundred years. I’ve done my research. I’ve vetted my sources.
In many cases, I was there. My eyes have seen. My ears have heard. This is not fiction.
These stories are also not based completely on my brain’s ability to recall facts. Memories are tricky. Every time I think back, I know I risk altering the accuracy of those memories with the understanding I have in the present.
That’s why I write and record. I want to remember what happened. I want to remember what I was thinking at the time these things happened. If anything changes, I’m hoping the articles, podcasts, and journals will help me see it.
Some of this is taken from officially published stories. You can find them if you search the archives. Other stories have never been told until now.
Some are incredible. Some are personal. Many of those are pulled from private journals I’ve kept since I was 20 years old.
I always found it useful to document my day. Even now when everything around us is automatically recorded and archived, I still document my day for myself.
By the way, you should do it too. Your future, present, and past depend on it.
December 31, 2099
Alice looked at Colin.
Colin continued staring at the screen.
Finally he said, “This is exactly the opposite of boring.”
Continue to take part in our writing challenges and contests. We love seeing what you write, and pray that you'll continue to do so.
Your involvement in the Southern Christian Writers Conference is truly what makes it so special.
(The Virtual Southern Christian Writers Conference is coming on July 24-25, 2020, and we'd love for you to join us. Registration is open now and for just $50 you get two keynote sessions, 15 workshops, breakout sessions, writing awards ceremony, Q&A panel, optional pitch meetings with agents and publishers, and a whole lot more! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to register.)