In celebration of autumn rolling in, the Source asked our readers to snuggle up with a pen and paper (or more likely their laptops) and write us a flash fiction masterpiece based on one of three writing prompts:
"I'm in love with cities I've never been to and people I've never met." —John Green
"She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." —Flannery O'Connor
"The more clearly one sees this world, the more one is obliged to pretend it does not exist." —John Irving
We received dozens of entries—shockingly enough, none of them about vampires—which our editorial staff narrowed down to our top 12 picks. Then we handed the stories over to the experts, starting with Kevin Barclay of the Deschutes Public Library.
"I looked for stories that were able to develop mood, character and plot quickly and then let them unfold naturally. I loved being surprised by twists and the unexpected," said Barclay. "Finally, I looked at how creatively the writer developed the story from the quotes/prompts. Many of the stories did an excellent job at creating tension and urgency."
After Barclay, we passed the entries off to our favorite local literary critic, Christie Hinrichs.
"Flash fiction is tricky. Its success hinges on the full articulation of a split second, a moment that stays with you long after you've scanned the page," said Hinrichs. "For me, this image is key, and needs to be vibrant and resonant in some way. Whether that's through description, a turn of phrase, or a snippet of brilliant dialogue, a good piece of flash should linger like a bell gong, the telescopic truth of it outpacing its short form."
Thank you for your submissions and enjoy some locally grown fiction! Winners can pick up their prizes at our office.
Gail Bartley (Inspired by John Irving)
"So, tomorrow's the big day," her counselor said. "You're out of here."
Val studied Ms. Brown through the visiting room's glass divider. Perfect teeth. Spendy haircut. Tired eyes.
"First thing I'm going to do is steal a Mt. Dew and some Doritos. Cool Ranch."
Ms. Brown's expression didn't change. "That's not much of a plan."
Val shrugged. Either she'd make it to her camp behind the overpass, a sweet spot under the junipers where she could see out but no one could see in; or she'd be back here, sharing a cell with someone who hopefully wasn't a complete nutcase.
Ms. Brown waited. Silence was her ninja trick, one they all learned at counselor-school.
Finally, Val said, "Just kidding."
"I hope so." Ms. Brown stood to go.
Val had seen her once at the Safeway parking lot, inside a car with a man. They were fighting. Ms. Brown jumped out and the car sped off, leaving her alone and crying.
At 10:00 am it was already sweltering as Val stepped off the highway and cut through the sagebrush to her camp. Her sleeping bag was still tucked behind a rock. By now Ms. Brown would have called Val's probation officer, who'd be filing another warrant.
Val sank down in the shade beneath the trees, her belly full of shop-lifted chips and soda. In the branches overhead, a red-wing blackbird rustled and trilled. Closing her eyes, she pulled the sounds over her like a blanket and soon, she was asleep.
By CJ Fraley (Inspired by John Green)
My job doesn't exist and I have never even heard of my employer. So with that, it's obviously impossible that I would have been sent to Paris on assignment, let alone that I would get chewed out for using a company card to have a cab drive me in circles, so I could stare out the sunroof.
People in my line of work wouldn't do that if people in my line of work existed. We go directly to the hotel, just like we were never ordered to. It's easy for us, that don't exist, to find other non-people. I found his room number. Instead of not going there to wait unseen, I don't go to the rooftop bar where I didn't guess he would be.
The choice I didn't make ended up keeping me from dying in a city I never visited. Instead of that room being empty of one person, two people weren't occupying it. There wasn't him and there wasn't you. I didn't adjust my plans, I didn't finish my drink and I didn't go to wait for you two.
It wasn't simple, infantile even, sitting behind the door. I didn't fire two silenced shots and nobody died. That left only two more nobodies in that empty room. I called the headquarters of the organization that doesn't exist and explained the situation that never happened. And we didn't wait hours for an answer. We didn't start to talk. I've never been to Paris and I didn't fall in love.
Love on the Web
By Derek Driedric (Inspired by John Green)
"I love Chicago. I would be there if I could, but you know... work."
"That's okay Tdear" Chelsea replied. The Instant messenger chimed as the message appeared.
"A vacation will be nice."
"You know I love you right?"
A smile spreading across my face as she quickly replied.
"I know. As strange as it is for having never met, I love you too. See you in a few hours."
Closing the laptop, I thought maybe I really would love Chicago had I ever actually been there. Wikipedia made it sound quite nice actually. Loving Chelsea came easily. I love all women. Just as I loved the three who had been here the last few weeks. Sighing, I stood up. I still had to attend to Crystal. Four days ago she had arrived from Seattle, ready for the adventure and love that I promised her after a few weeks of messaging. Four amazing days I would never forget.
I entered the kitchen and frowned at the mess. I couldn't let Chelsea see the place in such discord. Kneeling down I patted the alabaster foot, daintily poking out from the plastic sheeting I had rolled her in.
"Time to go dear," I said. "It's been fun."
Hefting the body in my arms and carrying her into the backyard, then gently laying Crystal's plastic wrapped body into the hole. Two other graves lay filled in beside hers.
"You will not be forgotten my love," I said, and put the shovel to work.
By Ann Davenport (Inspired by John Irving)
Soccer mom with kids in large SUV heading home.
Jennifer, the big sister: Who you thinks gonna win?
Brother Zack: The blonde one cuz she's hot.
Jennifer: Dork. The Mexican one.
Mom: Latina, dear. She's taken voice lessons since age 5, her mother sang opera or was on Broadway, and her father was a lowly piano tuner.
Jennifer as she texts: Whatever.
The SUV slows down as they approach the intersection.
A homeless man at the corner holds a sign: "No job. No home."
Mom: Are we taping "Housewives"?
Zack: We don't say taping anymore, Mom. We "DVR."
Little sister Alyssa writing in her school notebook on her lap: Mom, name one of our two Senators. Mom, sighing: Oh my studious one, I haven't the foggiest.
The car stops at the light.
Mom: Oh, Jenn, I've rescheduled your highlights for Friday right after school.
Jennifer, still texting: Awesome possum.
Chanting is heard from a group holding signs across the street.
Mom: What are they complaining about now?
Jennifer not looking up from her phone: Protesting.
Jennifer: Minimum wage or turtles or something. OMG did you see who's getting married because they have to?
Zack: That's old news. Guess which little, white trash brat got her series renewed.
Jennifer: No f'n way, dorko!
Mom: Language! But that child does need some parental guidance.
The homeless man approaches the car.
Mom: Roll up your window.
Mongrels of Brazil
By Megan Marie (Inspired by John Irving)
It never ceased. Endless eruptions of barks, snarl, and growl...
"Deep throated, I-want- to-taste your aorta growls." The loner's skeletal with matted fur, begging for a limb, stalking like a shadow...They follow me to my unknown destination.
I am alone with them and my thoughts in Brazil. Sun ceases to exist then rises again. This repeats. Noises begin to soften and the inhuman voices fade to whispers. The heart still seizes in the chest when you glimpse the hungry stalkers, but has become subdued otherwise.
We are one and the same- the mongrels and I. It is fear and instinct that drives us forward. I transcend down Rue Tegra into the womb of the city where the people come to shop and fill up their bellies with fly laden fruit and fresh cut slabs of meat that hang in open aired markets, blood dripping carelessly and pooling near one's feet...I pass through unnoticed. I look like them and I do not speak.
This place is warm and somehow familiar. I was here in utero, but I have been born, and reality slaps me; I breathe in deep and scream internally. I see the pre-pubescent prostitutes on the corners, I smell metallic decay combined with pot, and I hear the crude laughter from the dark recesses of bars.
No amount of liquor, drugs, aqua crystalline waters, or blindness will leave me in denial. I see what is, just like they celebrate what is, and as I tiptoe along the poverty of Brazil. The dogs and my mind have gone mad.
The City in the Woods
By Jason Foss (Inspired by John Green)
The city sat on the horizon much like a cat would sit in a bathtub.
The buildings twisted into the sky. John had been walking through the woods exploring the things that surrounded him for days. He traveled prepared. He had a backpack full of supplies.
Food. Water. Toilet Paper.
He wore clothes.
He also carried a camera and notepad to record what he thought were precious moments.
A few days earlier John had confused a river for a road. Therefore he was only somewhat surprised when he discovered the city was nothing more than a large pile of mostly uprooted trees. At this point in time in John's life the sun was melting into the moon. He gently placed his belongings next to the wooden city and pulled out his camera. He took a few photos before he wrote his nightly notepad entry.
"Today I took a photo of a giant foot next to the liquid road. The dimensions were roughly 2 cats X 7 dogs."
Afterwards he feel asleep.
John had adventured all over the world. He loved capturing memories. Once he crossed paths with a man that held a sign that read "Why Lie? Need A Double Bacon Cheeseburger to survive."
John liked that memory.
When the stars looked like fireflies in the sky the ground shook. 'Milkshakes' was Johns initial thought. Earthquake was his second and more accurate thought.
John pulled out his camera and sent out flashes that would have looked like fireworks from a fellow passerby.Hear the authors read from their winning works at the first Source Weekly Media Salon of the season—7 pm, Oct. 6 at Broken Top Bottle Shop. Get all the details here.