Guys! We had seven entries! We haven't done that well in almost 7 weeks! Way to go, all you beautiful contestants! (Can you tell this is exciting!) From this lovely batch, we have selected three stories (I mean, like usual, but seven entries, guys).
Also! Announcement: For fun, we're going to start having Trippin' Thursdays (it'll come out at 12:01 am). Stress-free prompt-writing (no judging). You also get like 1k to write with (and I guess we really couldn't care how long it is, as long as it's still flash fiction, but 1k seemed reasonable, so). Hope to see you there!
Note: Si wrote her reviews while being menaced by a totally fearless squirrel.
Si: OMG this story. Such pain. Much tragedy. Wow.
Great dialogue, great story progression. THE ENDING. There’s very little description but the reader is totally clear on what happened, and what is happening. The ending, while powerful (excellent job cutting it off where you did btw), is a little confusing because it seems like the nurse was aware of the husband in the room the night before--so it took me a second to “get” that she didn’t. The dialogue throughout is great: short lines that keep you in the story, but there isn’t any wasted space. It conveys emotion with the briefest of description, and I like that it’s not hard to keep track of who is speaking even though we don’t have “tags” (he said, she said)--the clarity of the dialogue makes them unnecessary. Well done!
Mars: This story is great in the way that it makes even the reader question reality. Whenever a ghost shows up in a story and delivers factual information that the main character couldn't have known, it makes me wonder if they were really there or not--when the husband details the extent of her injuries, for example. The ellipses used complemented the dialogue instead of detracting from it (I have a thing about ellipses. When used in excess, I don't like how they make dialogue sound, usually, but here it fit the whole "I've just been severely traumatized" thing). Watch out for repetitive sentence structure--"She woke up [. . .] . Her throat was dry. She watched [. . .]"--since that can make a piece lose some of its luster. I have to give you props on the ending, though--that moment of hope, just to be crushed by an unassuming bystander. What a punch in the gut!
Steph Ellis' Leonard
Si: I really like the twists in this story, and the unreliable narrator. We don’t know that he’s unreliable--first he’s crazy, then he’s a sane bystander, then he’s clearly seeing things. It’s hard to handle this kind of narrator well, so great job! There was some confusion over the Leonard in the fight and Leonard the bystander--clarified somewhat by him thinking it annoying that the guy shared his name--but at the very end of the story, he seems totally cognizant that the guy IS actually him. So it’s hard to tell whether he is unaware of what he did, or whether he knows. My favorite part was the description of Leonard in the mental hospital--you can really see it. The initial dialogue is also very well done--each line is short but easy to follow. Great job!
Mars: A sense of pity is evoked readily by the great character development in this piece. There was also clever hinting towards Leonard's true location and mindset before the final reveal--lines like "their conversation echoing round and round in his head," and the description of the other residents of the asylum. In his "I shouldn't be here" thoughts, one could assume that it was simply a nursing home. The only real confusion I feel while reading the story, even now, is the line, "He heard a cry, the sound of a body crumpling." I'm not sure what's going on there. Otherwise, however, I found it was very easy to keep track of the story, and the ending was fabulous.
And, without further ado, the moment you've all been waiting for--
with Come to Grief
Si: This story had excellent emotion and tension throughout! I loved the way that the details of the situation--the father’s age, the futuristic setting, the relationship between father and daughter--were dropped throughout the story and avoided a big info-dump. Great integration of backstory, world/setting, and the story! The scene is not action-y but still has a lot of tension--is she going to press the button? Is he going to convince her? I’m curious as to why he tried the Immortality Treatment so late--or why if he had it earlier, it didn’t manifest until year 437. I like the way he switches tracks from “Push the button if you love me” to “Push the button because you hate me.” “In his bloodshot eyes, she saw something virtually unknown to modern civilization: real pain. ” --great line. Excellent story!
Mars: I love the idea that mankind has found immortality . . . almost, and now pain is practically nonexistent. Though it is never mentioned directly in the story, I get the sense that all Zara can feel for her father at this point is pity (good character emotion!). I thought it was a very unique take on the prompt, as well--it's not something I would have thought of. I would have liked to know more about the 'electrochemical command' that Zara got--it didn't really make sense to me. All in all, however, this is an excellent piece of sci-fi. The last line--Zara confessing to her already-dead father--tugged at my heartstrings a little bit, and also gave the piece a nice, circular feel.
Come to Grief
"I love you."
"You're only saying that because I almost killed you." Zara pulled her hand away from the glass panel, and the crimson circle that would terminate his life support.
Paralyzed below the neck, the man in the biomedical bed tilted his head toward Zara. "Please... daughter. By law and custom, as my sole relative, only you may end my suffering." His raspy voice raked against Zara's heartstrings.
Zara stared at the husk of a man. Holographic indicators overlaid his medical data. Age: 437. Pulse, blood pressure, brain activity. Diagnosis: Immortality Treatment Rejection Syndrome. Prognosis: progressive paralysis, agonizing pain, death within the year. In his bloodshot eyes, she saw something virtually unknown to modern civilization: real pain. How could she let him suffer in this cold hospital room? She was his daughter: he was her responsibility.
Zara felt the impulse firing through her neurons: the electrochemical command telling her finger to press the button.
"No!" She turned away from him.
"My daughter... Medical science gave me four centuries of life, but has reached its limit. Close the circle. End my suffering."
"Growing up, I dreamed of a father," Zara confessed. "Someone to love me unconditionally. But you weren't there." She turned to him again. "I made my own way in life -- and quite well! Now you send for me, not to make amends, but merely to press a button?"
"Then you hate me. Push the button. Give me what I deserve."
"I don't hate you," Zara said pityingly. "I don't even know you. You're a stranger to me." With one hand, she stroked his brittle hair. With the other, she pressed the button.
"I love you," he mouthed silently, and then he was gone.
Zara slumped to the marble floor and cried. "I love you, too."
We look forward to more of y'all's work in the future! See you tomorrow or on Saturday!