Thanks to our nearly miraculous fixed wireless unlimited internet (which continues to work beautifully even through the worst weather conditions), I’ve been spending way more time playing around with short fiction lately than I have writing Book 3 of the Space Between series. This is not an effective way to get Book 3 out into the world, I realize, but now that I can do online research again without worrying about data limits, I haven’t been able to resist making a few submissions. Though I haven’t submitted any poetry yet, since mid-August I’ve sent a short story and some flash fiction to various publications, and when I woke up this morning I was gobsmacked to find the first acceptance in my inbox. What a thrill! It’s been so long since I’ve submitted anything I’d forgotten how good a little validation feels. So good, in fact, that when I got a rejection for a different story a few hours later, I scarcely noticed it. In a day or two, I’ll get back on the proverbial horse and send that story out somewhere else.
I’d also forgotten how much I enjoy trying to write more extreme forms of flash fiction. In October while cruising around online, I found a Halloween story contest that I simply had to try. Some of the rules were the usual ones, like the story could not have been published elsewhere and it had to be your own work. Others were more specific to this contest: It had to be scary, it had to have a title and it had to be submitted in its entirety in the Comments section. But the requirement that hooked me was that it had to be exactly 50 words, not counting the title.
The contest deadline was October 25th, and the grand prize winner was to be announced on Halloween. There would also be a number of other stories chosen as runners up, with the idea that a print collection would be published at a later date. But writers could enter as many times as they liked, and by October 25th there were well over 4,000 stories in the Comments. (I suspect the $500 1st Prize had something to do with that.) I wrote a measly 3, but some people submitted 100 or more. The contest organizer wasn’t prepared for such a deluge, and as of this writing, hasn’t been able to choose a winner yet.
With that many entries, I’m confident I didn’t win. Of course I’d love it if one of mine were chosen as a runner up, but even that would be something of a miracle. I don’t really write horror, although my acceptance this morning was for a story that falls loosely into that genre. What I enjoyed the most was the fun of trying to meet the challenge of coming up with three scary stories that were told in precisely 50 words. Since they’re already “published” in the contest website’s Comments, I’d like to share them with you today. (Here’s the link to the contest page if you’d like to read more of the offerings. And if any of you feel like giving those same requirements a shot, please feel free to share your stories with me either privately or publicly!)
Carefully she lifted the covers and crept into bed. He snored softly, his back toward her. She froze as he moaned in his sleep. When he quieted, she took a steadying breath, then plunged the boning knife into his spine.
That bitch who called herself his wife now was next.
The Last Transformation
All day she’d been jumpy, imagining things. The squirrel on the lawn was an enormous lizard. The dead leaf on the kitchen floor, a scorpion. Everything a menace until she saw what it really was.
But that night, a shadow in the doorway became the stranger lunging for her bed.
“Look out the window,” the instructor snarls, snatching up the drawing and ripping it in two. “Your sky is wrong! Start over.”
The child stares out at dead green sky, the vast, dark shapes spinning there. Tearfully, she replaces her blue crayon. Chooses green.
The instructor’s lidless eyes watch, blazing.