From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Fantasy Magazine‘s May Madness Micro-Fiction Contest

Can You Fantasize in Ten Sentences or Less?

Top Ten Winners

 

Llewellyn•Gussoff•McIntyre•McHugh•Fire/Rosenblum

Bowen•Pizarro•Sexton•Troxler•Stiles

 

Rules of the Reader Poll: Everyone may participate, readers and contest participants, alike. Each poller chooses his or her top three micro-fictions, listed below. The stories are in no particular order.

The top three winners of the Micro-Fiction Contest will have their stories podcasted by PodCastle. The first place winner will also receive $10.

Poll open until June 5th.

*For easier viewing and vote casting, right click on the “Micro-Fiction Poll“ and open the poll in a new window. Then simply click the three boxes beside your favorite three stories.

Feel Free to leave a comment below…

 


 

 

Troll Graffito, artist unknown, loading dock door of an abandoned factory,
Powerhouse District, Jersey City.
Photo by Livia Llewellyn, 2008.

 

 Vavilovia

by Livia Llewellyn

We watch the basketball ping down the cracked street into the old factory, light winds pushing bits of trash in its wake.

The boy holds out his palms, and worn pages flutter to life, a butterfly of words.

“Remember the rule–don’t follow, unless you have something to trade.”

I rub my eyes. When I lower my hands, the boy and the book have vanished, and only bright sparks behind my lids remain, hovering like doubtful fireflies. I push through them and follow the summer storm, peroxide-clear, down to the loading dock doors: painted, rusted, locked.

“This is what I wanted,” I whisper in shivering awe. “I know what I have to give.”

Patient, I stand in the falling light, until shadows and sun merge metal and paint into one, until the creature awakens, and all the locked doors are gone.

“Hello,” I say, placing my hand on my heart.

 

 


 

 

From the Spirit Photographs of William Hope (1863-1933)
From the collection of the National Media Museum, Creative Commons
 

The Ghost of Henry’s Past

by Caren Gussoff

My mother told me love is a fight, that’s why the heart is shaped like a fist, that’s why they say it’s beating. So, you’ve got to treat love like a fight — most times, you can count to ten, most times, then, you can walk away, never caring who called you yellow because you are a civilized woman.

But I didn’t listen to my mother; I loved carelessly, I held my heart in my hand and threw it like a stick of dynamite into a crowd to rescue the most injured.

It was Henry, my Henry, and I nursed him back to health. He went down over meals like a hummingbird; he went down over me like a hummingbird.

You need to listen to me, girl, my mother told me, because you don’t look like much — none of our women do — but this is a power you need to use well.

Henry. Most off his breathing came through his mouth, his fidgeting shook the breakfast table, but his black eyes held the light just so, and I married him.

My mother told me nothing can keep you from true love, not time, not space, not sickness or war, not ruin, and not death.

But I didn’t listen to my mother and now we sit alone with the ghost of Henry’s past.

 

 


 

 

 

Photograph by T.J. McIntyre
 

Splinters in the Dust

by T.J. McIntyre

We transferred signals through our vines, reaching outwards to Ghillie Dhu with the desperate hope that we might reach him with our message before sunrise. The eastern sky grew polluted by tones of purple and pink. The early glow of daybreak filtered over soft rolling green hills of undisturbed perfection. Hearing the crank of engines, we reached outwards in a panic, throwing ourselves and our entire network into a frantic eruption of chatter and static. But we were too late. By the time we reached him, the bulldozer had already knocked him down. Our outstretched tendrils were snapped and broken under the weight of steel treads and we grieved our loss. Our once proud leader — he who once stood above us all — fell, reduced to splinters in the dust. We wailed with the breeze flowing through our forest and wept sticky tears of sap.

 

 


 

 

The Garden of Death (1896) by Finnish artist Hugo Simberg (1873 – 1917)
 

The Garden of Death

by Maura McHugh

We skeletal attendants, shorn of flesh and worldly concerns, and clad only in our rough black robes, tend the Garden of Death with infinite care. Here, time is permitted to pass so seedlings can push through the rich soil — we are never short of compost — and uncurl to their fullest beauty.

Our bony fingers cannot feel the pulse of sap, and we no longer inhale the ripe fragrance of their blooms, but whenever we cradle a flower to our chests we recall incarnate joy.

Our mistress visits daily, to oversee our efforts, and to suggest what stem to prune and what vine to favour — she always knows what will prosper and what will fail. She reaps the flowers at their best and gathers them in splendid bouquets for her home. Those among us who labour with the most diligence, and nourish the lushest plants, are chosen by her to depart, and assume a mightier task.

Yet, there is peace here, and the contentment of simple work; some of us never leave.

We cultivate life, but without suffering its sudden ravages or its slow, lingering waste. A few of us cannot endure that cycle again.

If ever we yearn for more we press a fresh bloom to our ancient ribs.

 

 


 

 

Self Portrait with Tail by Carrie Ann Baade

 

Piecework Re-Imagining of the Sea

by Kaolin Imago Fire and Deborah Rosenblum

Her siren wail summoned you in sleep and guided the ship with your weary arms; hypnogogic commands warmed your body in the frigid air. Her eyes, her soul, flooded your mind with intensity you had only ever gotten from the sea. If she was of the sea, she was of the sea like the storms that rise out of nowhere, without warning.

She had leapt aboard with a grace belying incredible strength, and still her eyes held you, her eyes that were both armor and weapon and razor-edged tool, perfect but askew. Vertigo — images flickered through your periphery – a tail?

Her hands shimmered with suggestions your mind rejected. You longed to wake up.

And you do, you wake, but your thoughts are still caught in the riptides of Dream, Despair, Agony –

You struggle to push up from your berth with an arm no longer there, while she thanks you, in your memories, for your gift. Soon her disguise will be complete, and then she will hunt on land.

 

 


 

 

 Image copyright Wade Bowen, 2006
  

A Little Part of Me Dies

by Lane Bowen

“Run,” I tell my diminutive shadow, “before the Chicken-Crow of Ammon-Tok can pierce us with his quills.”

My shadow grips my hand tighter and tilts his dim, insubstantial face up at mine.

The chicken-crow waddles into the aisle and his empty glass eyes lock on us. Athletes and cartoon clowns and monsters and birds and bears and bees turn on their cereal boxes to see how my shadow and I will respond.

“Who picks the supermarket for his big showdown with otherworldly evil?” asks a gymnast from the box of Special K over my shoulder.

As if I planned on the bloated crow finding me on a midnight milk run.

The bird-thing squawks and charges, I flee, and my shadow’s tiny fingers sift through mine as he stands his ground. I don’t hear a thing except the slap of my feet on the tile, but when I return to the cereal aisle both my shadow and the raptor of Ammon-Tok are gone, and neither Aunt Jemima nor Captain Crunch will ever speak to me again.

 

 


 

   

Photograph by Emdot

 

Good for the Gander

by Don Pizarro

“This isn’t fair!” I rail to my late wife. “It’s all right for you, why not me?” She never answers me directly. Not in whispers, or with knocks, or even dreams. She answers in the coincidence that always brings a cop around no matter what time I’m standing at the bridge. She answers in the mystery of a twice-cleaned automatic pistol refusing to fire. She answers tonight with a stubbornness that fights my hand as I try to draw a razor down my arm.

Strangely enough, each attempt leaves me feeling a little bit closer to her.

 

  


 

 

Image copyright Jazz Sexton, 2009

 

Beyond the Sun Before the Moon

by Jazz Sexton

“Draw your hand back,” says the moon to the sun, keeping his arms at his sides. Years pass, and still the sun stretches her slender fingers in offering, and still, he refuses her.

The sun often wonders if she can move away from the moon if she tries; never knowing the answer is no.

“O goddess, rise again,” her worshippers call.

She rises each morning wishing the moon knows of his need for her. Not until the goddess swells far enough to pour over him, worshippers no longer calling, does the moon realize the necessity of the goddess he has never known.

“Those who love me are gone.” Her hair, and robes, and hands encompass the moon. “Even as you love me now, you must say goodbye.” She crushes the moon within her and, having nothing left, curls into herself, until she is as still and pale as the moon, certainly, she had never loved.

 

  


 

 

Painting by Kaolin Fire

 

Tag

by Brett Troxler

The moon hangs over the cityscape like a bloody heart. Below, a shadow moves across the rooftops with such speed it seems to shift from building to building without ever tempting gravity in the spaces between.

Jaena watches from her perch outside the temple window, her pointy elf ears pushing against the tight black fabric that covers her head and the entire length of her body.

“Just a little closer,” she whispers as the figure approaches, each reappearance accompanied by the sound of sucking air. Jaena bends her knees and pounces.

The wind swirls around her as she drops five stories, and then, just as she planned it, she collides with the shadowed figure. It folds under her weight, and the two bodies roll down the slope of a thatched roof before landing hard on some bags of grain stacked in the alley below.

For a time there is silence, then someone laughs. Jaena’s green eyes dance in the crimson moonlight as she looks over to her friend Rhona, who lies prone and giggling.

“You’re it,” Jaena says.

 

  


 

 

 Photograph by Kelly Stiles

 

Night Comes Softly

by Kelly Stiles

Night comes softly, and the crickets chirp their spell-binding lullaby. In a small thicket the nymph lulls to trance-like slumber as the last rays of light disappear.

She awakes to the night stillness. In the distance a blurred shadow moves across the darkened sky, blotting out stars it crosses before. The nymph, petrified of so still an hour, watches the silhouetted figure pause before it moves into the brush. Relieved, the nymph lay her head down, awaiting the cricket’s comforting tune.

A small rustle nearby, and she gazes up at jaws coming down. She screams only once, and the green grove tinges red.

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28 Responses »

  1. So cool to see a piece of my art up here, too! Can’t wait to read through all the pieces when I get a moment to breathe. :)

  2. Yes, the artwork and micro-fictions are fantastic! We had such a great pool of talent. :)

  3. I found all of these enjoyable, and I love the pieces of art that go along with them.

    I especially loved The Garden of Death. I love the idea of running a garden after I die.

  4. I thought they were all very good, but I especially enjoyed Night Comes Softly
    by Kelly Stiles.

  5. Mmm. I still love mine. I know I should, but I do, and I’m glad. :)

    Also particularly fond of The Garden of Death and Splinters in the Dust. And Tag is pretty fun (though I’m glad I didn’t notice the title until after ;) ).

  6. It hasn’t been 24 hours yet, and we already have 96 votes on the poll!

  7. I am spellbound by “Night Comes Softly.” I love the composition of the accompanying photograph. The colors are so rich, and I can imagine clearly where the nymph is sleeping.

    “Good for the Gander” is very moving. The character is incredibly complicated to me. He attempts, she reaches out, he attempts again possibly just so she will reach out?

    “Tag” is a lot of fun to read. I found myself giggling along with Rhona.

  8. So many great pieces here. I’m especially fond of “Splinters in the Dust.” Such vivid language. The weeping of sap was a lovely touch.

    My thanks to Kaolin for the inspirational art!

  9. The description of ones heart and love in ” The Ghost of Henry’s Past” caused my heart to ache for all those who I have loved and lost and those who I am fortunate to still have in my life. What an incredible description. Here come the tears.

  10. I like “Splinters in the Dust,” but I guess I’m kind of partial. :)

    They’re all so good, I’m really honored simply to find my story in such fine company.

  11. I really enjoyed TAG with the surprise ending! Congratulations all! Some well written work!

  12. Great tales all, was a pleasure to read.

  13. ” . . . Enjoyable . . . fun . . . spell bound . . . vivid . . . incredible . . . well written . . .”

    Looks like we might need to do this again sometime.

  14. Excellent selection, fine plotting and truly involving images. For me it’s almost a photo finish with “Good for the Gander” and “Ghost of Henry’s Past” in the lead.

  15. i’m with frank… and, what a great site!!

    congratulations to all the finalists… excellent works of micro fiction.

  16. I have to admit that alot of these just don’t make that much sense

  17. @Ben — I’ll admit there were a couple I didn’t get, but I’m happy to explain any I did, if you want to itemize. :)

  18. @Ben Could you tell us what doesn’t make sense to you? The language? The plots? Do you have any suggestions?

  19. Well, if you’re having trouble with mine…

    A guy is hanging out in the grocery store with his shadow when he gets attacked by a demonic chicken-monster. He abandons his shadow only to find that the characters on the various victuals no longer talk to him.

    How does that not make any sense? :)

  20. I’m still in awe that my piece made it this far.

    “The Ghost of Henry’s Past” deserves the love it’s getting and I find myself quite taken with “A Little Part of Me Dies.”

  21. Demonic chicken monsters? Makes perfect sense to me.

    I always knew those cereal boxes were watching me . . .

  22. Polls are officially closed, and we have our top three winners. The winners and their micro-fictions/graphics will be published this Tuesday.

    Thank you to all our authors and readers!

  23. Lovely Writing, “Night Comes Softly” was great. I truly enjoyed that piece of micro-fiction. Very poetic. I welcome you as well as others to contact me.

    “Good for the Gander” is also a gripping piece.

  24. Thank you, Raquel/Editor, for your kind words. I must note here that we do not advocate fee-based submissions, contests or solicitations of such to our readers and authors. Thank you, again, for your interest.

    Best,
    Rae Bryant
    Assistant Editor, Fantasy Magazine

Trackbacks

  1. Caren Gussoff » Blog Archive » News and my fuse
  2. Fantasy Magazine » Fantasy Magazine’s Micro-Fiction Contest: And The Winners Are . . .
  3. PodCastle » PodCastle Bonus Material: Fantasy Magazine Micro-Fiction Winners
  4. 2009: The Year in Review « T.J. McIntyre: A Southern Fried Weirdo

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