Our Flash Fiction Festival Curator, Meg Pokrass wasn’t able to be involved in the Festival this year, but she set a prompt and judged the entries for the Pokrass Prize.Thanks to all the festival go-ers who participated. Writers were asked to respond to the picture here and to the random words – night, exposure, spots, star, golden, normal, heavy and write a micro, max 150 words. There were so many very inventive pieces. The winning pieces published here, will also be published in our fifth festival anthology, out by the end of this year.
Meg said this about the stories and the winners:
“It was fun diving in and mulling over these incredible entries. Judging a contest at this high level of writing is very hard and at the same time, exhilarating. It is a thrill to see how much good writing is going on with the Flash Fiction Festival writers. I am sad not to be with you this year, but through reading these wonderful stories, I once again feel deeply connected to the writers at FFF. There were many strong and original micros that it did feel impossible to choose only three. And yet, three had to be chosen… So here you go!
The winning story, “Miracle Grow”, is a dark and surreal story about a damaged marriage fast-growing like damaging weeds under the floorboards. This writer’s use of compression and stunning sensory details won me over and I couldn’t look away. “The Horses, Beneath” is a poetic piece filled with brilliant, startling imagery and the resulting effect is mythical. Past and present merge, and the reader is thrust into a strange, illuminating yet invisible universe that lives beneath or feet. “Our Own Personal Universe” is a story that brought the prompt to life for me in a deeply emotional and cinematic way. A happy love story that shines like a star in the darkest of nights.”
Winner Jane Salmons with ‘Miracle Grow’
Jane Salmons is from Stourbridge in the West Midlands. She was a teacher in the sixth form college sector for nearly three decades and now works part time as a consultant teacher trainer and private tutor. Her poetry pamphlet Enter GHOST was published with dancing girl press in 2022. Her debut poetry collection The Quiet Spy was also published in 2022 with Pindrop Press. New to writing flash and micro-fiction, Jane has had stories published with MacQueen’s Quarterly and The Ekphrastic Review. She is thrilled and astounded to have won The Pokrass Prize.
Splinter, crack, crash! Without waking his snoring, lump of a wife, Bob grabbed his dressing gown and hurried out into the night. The sickly scent of summer phlox hung in the air; beneath the moon, the lawn glowed white; the rhododendrons stared accusingly, as Bob scuttled down the path, towards his beloved greenhouse. Smash! Another pane shattered. Through the jagged roof, a mass of unruly stalks wound upwards into the starry sky. ‘What in the name of God is going on?’ gasped Bob, sliding back the door and finding hundreds of thick, green shoots pushing through the slabs. Slack-jawed, he saw leaves the size of spades, a shower of giant golden flowers, furiously unfurl. Tomatoes like melons swelled and ripened: green, orange, vermilion, black – a mouldy mess of splitting skins and monstrous oozing seeds. Through a chink in the bedroom curtain, Bob’s wife watched, smiling.
Runner Up, Sharon Telfer with ‘The Horses, Beneath’.
Sharon Telfer lives in East Yorkshire, in the north of England. She won the Bath Flash Fiction Award in June 2016 with ‘Terra Incognita’ and again in February 2020 with ‘Eight Spare Bullets’. She has also won the Reflex Flash Fiction Prize. Her flash has been selected for Best Small Fictions 2021, the 2020 and 2019 ‘BIFFY50’ lists, and Best Microfiction 2019. She was awarded the Word Factory/New Writing North Short Story Apprenticeship in 2018, and placed second in the Bath Short Story Award 2020. She also has a short story in Test Signal, an anthology of contemporary northern writing (Bloomsbury/Dead Ink, 2021). Her debut flash fiction collection, The Map Waits, was published by Reflex Press in 2021 and is currently longlisted for The 2022 Edge Hill Prize for short fiction. She tweets @sharontelfer and posts terrible photos on Instagram, @sharontelferwriter.
The Horses, Beneath
She hears them clearest when the house is still – kids at school, husband at work, laptop open waiting for the host to let her in.
She’d watched last year’s dig on TV, family jumbled on the plumped sofa, the paint tang lingering. The whole estate had. The white tent like a murder scene. The camera nosing in as gloves brushed earth from wheels and weapons and bones.
“That’s not under our house, is it, Mummy?”
“Course not, sweetie. Ours wasn’t built there.”
A whinny ripples her wineglass, the pristine laminate prances under her feet. The next street is Shield Avenue, leading to Warrior Close. Their home, an Executive, stands on Chariot Way.
When they come, as she knows they must – hooves trampling smooth tarmac – she’s in the off-plan kitchen – letterbox clashing – blinds raised to the moonlight and the hazy Pleiades – that ancient insistent pounding hammering at the shining front door.
Runner Up, Tracy Fells with ‘Our Own Personal Universe’
Tracy Fells was the 2017 Regional Winner (Europe and Canada) for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her short fiction has been widely published in print journals and online, including: Granta, Brittle Star, Reflex Fiction, Popshot, Firewords and the Bath Flash Fiction Award anthologies (2019 & 2020). She has been shortlisted for the Bridport and Fish Flash Fiction prizes, placed in the Reflex Fiction competition and Highly Commended in the NFFD Micro competition (2016 & 2020). Her novella-in-flash, Hairy on the Inside was short listed in the 2021 Bath Novella in Flash Award and short listed for the 2022 Rubery Prize, in the fiction category. She also writes novels and was a finalist in the 2018 Richard & Judy ‘Search for a Bestseller’ competition. Tracy tweets as @theliterarypig.
Our Own Personal Universe
We met at Woodstock, then married late fall. As we grew up, the world regressed. It was Suzy’s idea to escape off-grid to our cabin in the woods. Technology free. What else did we need but each other?
Without electricity our life is simple, almost silent except for the persistent background song. We tear up rugs, listen to the creaking wooden walls, and finally dig under the porch. There we find a tin box, the source of the singing.
Suzy whispers, ‘Open it.’
Inside is the same tar-black night that surrounds us, where deep within we spy the beeswax candle of our cabin window, a beacon. On the count of three we plunge in our hands.
Above us in the star-encrusted sky appear two giant wrinkled hands. Wiggling our fingers like magicians conjures a cooling breeze. ‘We are gods,’ says my wife of over fifty years, my forever singing girl.