August 24 – September 13, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “The Letter”

Theme: This post is for stories related to the contest theme: “The Letter”.

Story Requirements: A teacher finds a letter in a deserted part of her school from a student who went there 50 years before. What does the letter say, and how does it affect the teacher.

Word Count: 1200

Incentive: Winner will receive choice of $5 Starbucks Gift Card or $5 Kindle Gift Card



  • This is the thread for stories as well as general comments. Say hello and be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box for email notifications.
  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be less than 1200 words.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Christopher Smith per the Writing Prompt Roster.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


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79 thoughts on “August 24 – September 13, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “The Letter”

  • August 24, 2017 at 11:14 am
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    You know the rules 🙂

    Reply
    • August 24, 2017 at 1:21 pm
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      Oooooooooo great prompt!!!!

      Reply
    • September 12, 2017 at 6:28 pm
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      I don’t reckon I’ll be able to vote this week, what with me being an evacuee and having limited access to the intranets. I suggest you leave my story off the voting rolls. (Roles? The vote thingy.) Me and Kimlet remain at an undisclosed location on account of there’s a scarcity of electric in the state of Florida. Good luck kids. See ya’ll next week.

      Reply
  • August 24, 2017 at 3:20 pm
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    Thanks guys, still I have no idea what kind if story to write.

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    • August 24, 2017 at 4:40 pm
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      I wood like two rite won with know grammattikal nor speling erros;

      Reply
  • August 31, 2017 at 2:01 am
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    It’s All Academic.
    By Ken Cartisano

    She was alone, grading papers when a knock on the door startled her. It was rare for the school’s Principal to visit a teacher after class, and Miss Betty Newberry was visibly concerned by his unexpected appearance.

    “Don’t be alarmed Miss Newberry, I just stopped in to pay my compliments and to see how you’re getting along.”

    “I’m fine, Mr. Martin. It’s very kind of you to ask.”

    “Having any trouble with any of the students?”

    “Oh—nothing I can’t handle. There seems to be one or two in every class who feel the need to—assert themselves, as it were.”

    “Can I assume then, that you’re not planning on leaving at the end of the school year?”

    Miss Newberry was pretty, and favored the principal with a dazzling smile. “The reports of my departure are greatly exaggerated, Mr. Martin.”

    The Principal sighed with relief. “I’m pleased to hear that Miss Newberry.” After a momentary silence he said, “Well, I guess I’ll leave you to it, then.” But he hesitated at the door.

    She looked up. “Was there something else, Mr. Martin?”

    “Well—I received a call from the parent of one of your students today.”

    “Oh?”

    “Yes—uh, not your typical call, nor your typical parent.”

    She waited for him to continue.

    “He expressly asked me to withhold his name, but he said that he was glad that you weren’t showing any favoritism towards his son.”

    “I see,” Miss Newberry said.

    “He said you were to be commended for your fair-mindedness, and if you should have any trouble from any of the students, that you should inform me, and I should inform him.”

    Miss Newberry considered his remarks for a couple of ticks of the wall clock. “I’m sure that won’t be necessary, Mr. Martin. I believe I have everything under control.”

    He said, “I’m sure you do, Miss Newberry,” as he backed out the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow then—good afternoon—.”

    “Mr. Martin! Please—call me Betty.”

    “Yes ma’am. I’ll do that. At least, I’ll try, Miss Newberry.” He left.

    **********

    Fifty years later, Mrs. Betty Martin radiated composure. She was calling it quits for good, and a small group of friends were throwing her a quiet retirement party. She reflected on various memories while her colleagues took turns delivering a kind of eulogy to her long and, one could say, undistinguished career. The lives she had touched, the young minds she’d helped to shape—bla, bla, bla. She appreciated their intent, it was just, excessively sentimental, and Mrs. Martin was not one given to that particular emotion.

    A half a century had slipped past while she’d been exposing teenaged minds to the finer points of English, their native tongue. How hard could that be? It was a question she’d asked herself a thousand times. How hard could it be to learn the rules of your own native tongue? Some kids never really got it. And that was okay. Betty had been a fairly lenient teacher.

    Others had excelled. She recalled one young boy, a Spanish name, Alvarez, Ramirez, she couldn’t quite remember. But he’d transferred in from Puerto Rico. Didn’t speak a word of English, except ‘thank you.’ At the end of the year he spoke, if not fluently, then with great confidence. He came to class determined to learn: And that always made a difference.

    Some kids did well, some didn’t. The only students she’d resented over the years were the ‘class clowns,’ and the ones who just didn’t care. At least the clowns challenged her creative side, and they weren’t mean kids, mostly, they just—it was hard to define, stood out? But in a bad way?

    Every now and then she’d get a kid who didn’t care. Didn’t see the need to understand the rules, or the classics. It was beneath them. They were too fabulous to be bothered to learn anything more about English than they already knew, which usually wasn’t much.

    She’d often thought about writing a book about the teaching profession, but she wasn’t really a writer, or psychologist, she was a pragmatist. She solved problems and then moved on. It had proved to be an effective strategy.

    The room grew quiet and she looked up. Glen, a good friend and the current Principal, was standing at the head of the table with an envelop in his hands. He cleared his throat and all eyes turned his way.

    “I suppose most of you know that they’re finally demolishing the school’s old wing. What you don’t know, is that I went snooping around there a few days ago, and found a little bit of treasure. It’s a letter, addressed to,” he looked at the front of it, “Miss Newberry.” He held it up for all to see. “For those of you who don’t know, Mrs. Martin was once Miss Newberry.” He peered at the timeworn envelop curiously. “ I’ve no doubt it’s a marriage proposal from one of your former students.” This earned a gentle chuckle from the small group.

    Betty was puzzled. “Where’d you get it?”

    He looked at her over his glasses. “I told you. In the old administrative wing. It was hidden under a blotter, just sitting there. Shall I read it? Or…”

    “Let me see that.”

    He passed it around the table to her. She examined it. It was addressed to her, care of the school, the postmark indicated it was over 50 years old. A smudged and faded seal on the front was no longer legible.

    Edith was sitting next to her. “You don’t have to read it to us, Betty. Glen’s just teasing you.” Then she offered her a letter opener, handle first. “Here you go, Honey.”

    Betty took the letter opener, and slit the top of the envelop. She extracted the typewritten page and quickly scanned the message. She seemed stunned as she looked up at her friends, then she read the letter out loud.

    ‘Dear Miss Newbery,

    I feel very, very sorry for you. You are disgrace to the teaching profesion. The treatment I received at your hans is shameful. I can’t believe they allow people like you to even teach good kids like me. I know that you falsely lowered my test scores, and you’ve done it to a lot of people. Not just me. But that’s okay Miss Newberry, when my father finds out how you singled me out for your perverse and nasty behavior, you will probably have trouble finding a job at a drive-in, let alone teaching anywhare.

    Thanks for trying to ruin my life Miss Newberry. But don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. Everything is going to go fine for me. You? I don’t know. I can’t say what your future may bring.

    Have a nice life Miss Newberry.
    Oh and by the way—your ugly.

    Sicnerely;’

    Everyone sat in stunned silence until Edith asked, “Who on earth could write such a horrible thing?” A murmur of assent went around the group.

    And then Betty started giggling. She passed the letter to Edith and said, “You won’t believe it until you read it for yourself. It’s from the President—of the United States.”

    Reply
    • September 3, 2017 at 11:06 pm
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      Funny. Nice story Ken. It has a good pace and I do like your characters.

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    • September 6, 2017 at 11:12 am
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      A clever story, Ken. I enjoyed the flow of the story and was very interested to see where it all would end up.

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    • September 6, 2017 at 8:36 pm
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      Hahaha! That sounds like a plausible scenario of the President. Funny story, paced nicely and I liked how you held on to the punchline of the story until the very end, springing the reveal on us in a most unique way.

      Just one issue I had, I thought this phrasing was odd: “Miss Newberry considered his remarks for a couple of ticks of the wall clock.”

      I know what you mean, but it stuck out like a sore thumb, it was like a hiccup in an otherwise smoothly written story. Still, that’s it in a very good story.

      Reply
      • September 7, 2017 at 12:20 am
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        Thanks Alice, Probably ‘a little darlin’. I noticed it, thought about it, changed it, then restored it. If that’s the only pothole you found, I can fix that easily.

        Reply
    • September 11, 2017 at 9:16 pm
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      Very neatly done, Kenneth, and great fun. Also, nicely and subtly political – the Hispanic boy, working hard and learning fast, compared to this other boy who … well. Your dialogue is, as ever, right on the button (Mr Martin as he leaves the room – embarrassed because in love … I imagine). One thing I didn’t quite get … how did the letter get under the blotter? I liked it, though.

      Reply
      • September 12, 2017 at 5:50 pm
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        Philip. I put the letter under the blotter. I’m the author, remember? (Feel free to punch me in the arm if you ever see me.)

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    • September 13, 2017 at 9:17 am
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      Ken – a very nice story, very neatly wrapped up. I caught how she ended up marrying the principal (only slightly cliché but it was a clever point you had to pay attention to in order to catch the name change). I felt the middle section about the different types of kids who learned was a little wordy; admittedly I skipped a few sentences but then forced myself to go back and read it. I understand the need for the explanation but just being honest!
      I loved the main character though, I thought she was smart and funny and adorable! You have a way with world building!

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      • September 17, 2017 at 3:05 am
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        Carrie,
        A cliche? Egads. Okay so here’s my excuse. I used the beginning of the relationship with the Principal in the beginning to contrast with his death in the last section to help emphasize the passage of time. (Remember the Titannic movie? There was a love story, the lost blue diamond (a secret), and a long span of time.
        I used the same features: a love story, the letter (a secret), and a long span of time. That’s why I took it out of the voting, not only did it mimic the movie, I figured it would sink like the ship.) LOL

        Reply
  • September 1, 2017 at 8:54 am
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    LOVE SIMON

    The boiler room was filled with a harsh cacophony of noise: the caretaker Alfie Foster was ripping the metal legs off ancient desks with his bare hands when he could, or attacking them with a hammer, while his helper Tilly Turner hacked at the wooden parts with a hatchet, then stuffed the pieces into the roaring furnace.

    Miss Colman looked on, feeling each splintering rip and each crunching blow of the hammer and hatchet. This was a bit of the school’s history going up in flames, but they needed the space in the storeroom for gym equipment, and the old desks had to go.

    The school had been a second home for her for what seemed like her whole life, though it was actually only almost her whole life. She’d been an infant and a junior in the Primary school, then had moved up to the Secondary school that shared the same site. After three years at university and a year at teachers’ training college, she’d come back as a junior teacher and had stayed until being appointed head-mistress. She was to retire the following year.

    The head-mistress was much respected for her hard work and devotion to the school, and some of that respect came from knowing the sacrifices she’d made: she’d never been married, and indeed had never had a relationship, as far as colleagues could tell, so that she had no children either.

    She was also known for her demanding nature, but the fact that she was never excessive in this regard was appreciated. And so the two men dismantling and destroying the old desks were not constrained by her supervision of the task.

    They were down to the last two or three desks when Miss Colman shouted to the men above the noise.

    “Stop! Wait! What’s that?”

    Alfie had just pulled a leg off one of the desks and a corner of paper peeked out through the resulting hole.

    “Can you get me that, Alfie?” she said.

    Alfie inserted the claw of his hammer into the hole and levered the bottom of the desk away from the body, enough to extricate what turned out to be an envelope.

    “It’s got two panels on the bottom, Miss,” Alfie said. “Someone’s hidden that envelope, I bet.”

    He handed it to Miss Colman and continued with the destruction.

    “Make sure you save any other papers you find, Alfie. You too, Tilly.”

    “Will do, Miss,” the younger man promised.

    Miss Colman left, squinting in the sunshine as she emerged from the boiler room. She brought the envelope up to smell it, then turned it over in her fingers; it was yellow and dog-eared with age and blank.

    There was a wooden bench at the edge of the playing fields where Miss Colman sat down; the school grounds were quiet, except for the distant chanting of some verb forms in Mr Croker’s French class.

    She opened the envelope, took out a single sheet of similarly yellowing paper and read.

    “dear margret
    i dont realy no what to say cept i love you i think your beutifull do you want to be my girlfrend? i dont no if i am brave enuff to give you this leter well see ha ha but i do love you trully and diply
    love
    simon xxxxxxx”

    Miss Colman turned the page over – there was nothing on the reverse side – then turned it back and read the letter again. And again.

    She returned the letter to its envelope and carefully slid it into a side pocket of her jacket, keeping a hand on it. She got up and made her way to the main school building; there was a staff meeting at break-time and she didn’t want to be late.

    Classes were still going on as Miss Colman’s heels clicked along the familiar, polished corridor. The assistant head Jeremy Richards was already in the staff room preparing the cups and saucers for tea. He looked up when Miss Colman walked in.

    “There you are, Maggie,” he said. “I’m just– oh dear! What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

    “Yes, yes, it’s nothing. I … I’ve been in the boiler room and … I think I got some soot in my eyes. I won’t be a moment.”

    Miss Colman hurried across the room, disappearing into her office and closing the door behind her.

    .

    Reply
    • September 3, 2017 at 11:10 pm
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      Phil
      I really enjoyed your story but do want to be able to picture in my mind’s eye the characters a bit more. I know that is difficult in that short space of words. However…

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    • September 6, 2017 at 12:56 pm
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      A very enjoyable read, Phil. I’d like to think that Miss Colman is perhaps torn (if not a little then a lot) of how her life may have changed had she been given that note – maybe quite a bit, maybe not at all. We tend to want what we don’t have, and never finding that special someone may have been her regret. If only Simon had had the courage to slip her that note!

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      • September 12, 2017 at 5:42 pm
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        @ Christopher
        Your ideas pretty much reflect what I was trying for, Christopher. Thanks!

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    • September 6, 2017 at 8:47 pm
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      Hey Phil,
      Like Ilana, I wanted more. It felt like we were just getting to know Miss Colman, then it was over. I did feel Miss Colman’s upset at never having received the letter, who knows how different her life would’ve been.

      The story has great pacing, and the dialogue sounds authentic (Love the name Tilly Turner,) but the ending seems quite abrupt, you had a lot more room in the word count to expand the story and give us a bit more of who Miss Colman was, or even who Simon, the author of the old letter was.

      Reads like the wonderful beginning of a longer story. 🙂

      Reply
      • September 12, 2017 at 5:43 pm
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        @ Alice
        Thanks a lot for that, Alice. It was where I wanted to leave it, but I do think the ending could have been more impactful, yes. Cheers.

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    • September 7, 2017 at 1:11 am
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      Hey Philip,

      First off, you were right about the name, Peggy. I asked my mom what name is Peggy short for, ‘Margaret’ she said, without any hesitation.

      As to the story, I hope you’ll take my comments as thoughts, not advice. Like a flash of insight when you hear some particulary way

      My thoughts though, came to me after reading your own explanation of the story on the thread, and the comments made by Alice and Ilana.

      I think what is bothering Alice and Ilana, ‘lack of development of the character,’ is really a mislabeled sense that the character is a stereotype. Unless they’re fun or genuinely funny, or unless they’re going to break out of their mold, I think stereotypes should be avoided. (Although every rule can be broken, if it works. I think we can all agree on that.) But I think that it would be more effective and dramatic, if Miss Coleman was NOT a stereotype, or at least, an atypical sterotype. (this would make her more interesting too, and someone more of us could sympathize with.)

      This could be done in any number of ways. You could have given her styled hair, an exotic bracelet, that she purchased on a recent 3 day bus tour to (who knows where.) In other words, a woman who does not fit the mold of spinster well, and in fact wouldn’t have been if not for one unfortunate twist of fate. She didn’t receive the letter. I think this would have given your main character more depth.

      It’s like, in this story, Miss Coleman is not just drab, but black and white, but she should have been in color, with occasional surpressed hints of the colorful.
      I think this would make us like her more than just feel sympathy. I realize that, valid though I might be, it’s easier said than done, of course. It’s possible, Philip, that this type of Miss Coleman would only work for this particular story.

      I don’t know, just giving you my thoughts. It’s a good story, for sure, but it really got me to thinking. So, thanks for making me think, Phil.

      p.s. I didn’t really recommend ‘Codex’ to you, did I?

      Reply
      • September 12, 2017 at 5:51 pm
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        @ Kenneth
        Thanks for that nice long analysis. I get where you’re coming from (especially the danger of using stereotypes, and especially as the main character) … but your idea for Miss Colman would have been a very different one from mine. Yours would have always been looking for that romance and never quite getting it. Mine was never looking, and only realised what she’d missed when she read the letter. Both valid, but I was trying for the second one. Appreciate the time, though. (And yes – you recommended ‘Codex’ and I bought it … it’s in a very slow-moving queue on my ‘to read’ shelf.)

        Reply
    • September 13, 2017 at 9:18 am
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      Phil – I think everyone else did a great job of summing up how I felt in regards to the character, without any character development I didn’t really care that she was upset in regards to “what ifs”. But I think your story is well written and the character is a very strong headmistress and you conveyed that very well.
      Only one small thing – I felt the paragraph that talked about the school being her second home and how she went to primary, then secondary school etc was a little cumbersome. I think the entire paragraph could have been summed up as “after going through the normal stages of school, she went to college…” type of summary. I just kind of read it and thought “well duh…isn’t that the normal progression of school hood?” Just a very tiny nitpick though!

      Reply
      • September 13, 2017 at 9:00 pm
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        Thanks, Carrie!

        Reply
      • September 17, 2017 at 3:19 am
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        Carrie,
        I think that part of Phil’s story about the school being a second home was to establish the fact that she was headmistress at the very same school she attended as a child. Which would be an unusual circumstance, but not implausible.

        Reply
  • September 5, 2017 at 4:51 am
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    Thanks Ilana, for the read and the kind comment.

    Thanks also for your thoughts on Miss Colman’s character. Yes … there’s a debate to be had about how much we show of a character. For me, we have the fundamentals of Miss Colman – her age, her position, the respect she has from other people, her love and devotion for the school, her lack of a close relationship, how, probably, she actually yearns for one. She’s a bit of a stereotype, really (the old spinster, married to her job), and that’s where I chose to leave it, assuming that the reader would be able to fill in the blanks with their own image of a similar person (I had an old Primary School teacher in mind when I wrote it). I could maybe have given some physical details, but then that would have intercepted and blocked the reader’s attribution of their own ideas to the character. As I said, there’s a debate to be had, I think.

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • September 5, 2017 at 5:01 am
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      a pleasure to read your story. I am trying to get one in and have a great idea but got very sore finger tips from cracked finger skin from working in the goat shed. It is kidding time. (No Ken not that sort of kidding.) Little baby goats being born.

      Reply
      • September 5, 2017 at 2:23 pm
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        Baby goats? How wonderful. Will you take any photos? Too busy? I hope it all goes well.

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  • September 5, 2017 at 4:50 pm
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    Hey Peeps, it’s been slow going lately with submissions, so we’re going to extend the contest another week. Thanks to the loyal few who make the time to write stories and get them in, Carrie and I truly appreciate it. 🙂

    Reply
  • September 5, 2017 at 10:14 pm
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    The Letter (1,137 words)
    Written by Christopher Smith
    © 2017

    She found herself in the school’s basement only because she had volunteered.

    It was decided that the Records Room in the main office’s back corner was to be renovated. It was Ms. Glick, the school’s head secretary, who had the brilliant idea of renovating and securing one of the much larger, although windowless (which was a plus on the security side, everyone agreed), rooms in the basement, relocating the required and ever-growing documents there, and then rewire the previous Records Room into a combination copy, reference, and mail room, complete with two new Xerox machines. The Board approved the submitted request, and in four days—the Tuesday after the long weekend—construction would begin.

    Gloria Rodman had a boyfriend with whom she was not yet exclusive, and an active social life complete with weekly plans and many friends, but the school and the students were her priority. The principal knew this (along with how tightly organized she had kept the library over the last fourteen years), which is why he didn’t hesitate to approve her taking the lead on the project.

    She was to finish emptying the planned construction site of all loose items (the renovation team she had vetted and eventually hired would demolish and remove all of the heavier items—the dated cabinetry and equally dated shelving), a task which she planned to finish by eight o’clock. By nine she would be having drinks with friends.

    The door to the basement was old and heavy (soon to be replaced with a more manageable one) and always seemed to push back when she opened it. The electrical at the top of the stairway worked well, but once down the stairs and at the end of the hall she was forced to fumble in the dim of the soon-to-be-renovated room for the string that would light the single bulb. She found it, swiping blindly and feeling mildly foolish, and tugged. The bulb flickered, faltered, and then hesitantly, weakly, came to life.

    It was a large room indeed, and a messy one. Supplies had been kept here (more an overstock of rarely used supplies than the everyday ones), and it was a wonder the secretaries had been able to find much of anything. Gloria had emptied most of it in the preceding weeks, and she intended to take a final sweep tonight, if she were lucky. If unlucky, she would return tomorrow morning. She would do it but didn’t like the thought of coming in on a Saturday, especially after drinks.

    She checked the cabinets that dominated the wall at the far end of the room and was pleased to find them empty. The lower cupboards along the north wall contained a few boxes (light ones, thankfully) and she stacked them on the table beside the door. A row of six wooden desks lined the opposite wall, and she quickly began hauling open the first’s swollen drawers and found papers, both blank and lined, all worn and yellowing at the edges. She found similar stacks in the following three desks, and while emptying the fifth she slowed and then stopped: a red envelope among the stacks of off-white.

    It was the size of a greeting card, its edges worn, the top right-hand corner dog-eared and nearly ripped, and when she plucked it from the paper sandwich her first thought was that it was empty, that it had simply been mixed in and forgotten; it was incredibly light. It held no visible markings, yet a stamp, inked in red and showing Queen Elizabeth II gazing off to the left, had been fixed upon it. It was worth four cents. She turned the envelope over; it was cleanly sealed.

    She glanced around as if she’d be in trouble if she were caught, and then down at the envelope. She checked the doorway again, just to be sure: no one.

    She fingered the rear fold of the envelope, working it until she gained enough purchase, and tore it open. She pulled out a single sheet of paper, the kind one may tug from a notepad beside the telephone. It was tattered and a faded green. Printed along the bottom were lilacs. Upon it, ten words—two sentences—were written in what she would later describe as a careful and feminine script; they stopped her heart dead and stole her breath.

    “I have killed three children. Tomorrow I will kill another.”

    Below this was a smiley face—not the emoticon commonly used in email or text messages, but simply two clean dots for eyes and a smooth swoop for the mouth. As troubling as she found such an image paired with such sentences, the sensation that a girl—and how old? Eleven? Nine? Younger?—had written it made her dizzy, nauseous. But it was more than a sensation—she knew. She had worked as a librarian for fourteen years and taught for five before that, enough time around children of various ages to know the difference between a boy’s and girl’s handwriting.

    “A joke,” she said, and the sound of her too-loud voice in the suddenly too-small room startled her. She let out a nervous laugh but found nothing funny about any of it. As much as she tried to convince herself this wasn’t real—simply a kid’s joke, a mindless doodle during an uninterested lull in an arithmetic class, maybe—she knew that it wasn’t. She had seen doodles before, from innocent to inappropriately awkward, and this was no doodle. Doodles were kept close, safe, tossed away at the end of the school year—burned, maybe, if they happened to be especially improper. They certainly weren’t neatly packaged and stamped.

    The sudden realisation that she was alone in the school (perhaps save for the school janitor, who in all likelihood was off to begin his long weekend), in the basement no less, gripping such inexplicable—

    But it can be explained, she thought, and immediately following that: No. No, it can’t. She was nearly certain it was real, but nearly certain wasn’t enough, and with that uncertainty her mind was free to wander. If it were a small town she’d be able to prove it—or disprove it. Something as atrocious as three, possibly four—possibly more—child murders would be folklore, carried through the grains of time on blinding fear alone.

    She needed air. She dropped the envelope and letter onto the desktop as if they had bitten her, and left the room without pulling her eyes from the clean scrawl, the lilacs, the smiley face. When she hit the stairs she was running. The lights were forgotten, and they would stay lit until Tuesday morning. Even in Saturday’s bright afternoon sunlight, Gloria could not bring herself to unlock the school’s front door, let alone pull it open and pass through.

    Reply
    • September 6, 2017 at 9:06 pm
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      Oh boy, this has the makings of a wonderful murder mystery. I know it’s hard to lay out a story this elaborate using only 1200 words, but sometimes less is more. You could eliminate that whole first paragraph because in a short story like this it is unnecessary. It would be cool to just get right into Gloria in the basement finding the letter, then you can utilize those 1200 words in a more succinct manner.

      It definitely feels like the beginning of a much longer story, one I’d love to read, by the way. I was enthralled by the letter found, written by a young girl who was by all accounts a serial killer, you don’t see that everyday. Focusing solely on Gloria and the killers note would’ve gone a long way, because that is your story, the school is merely the backdrop.

      As usual your writing is smooth, and flows easily, but there’s a lot of set up, which is why I suggested minimizing the lesser details and giving the majority of the word count to the Gloria and the mystery. Still an intriguing plot my friend, and good to have you back this round. 🙂

      Reply
      • September 6, 2017 at 9:15 pm
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        Thank you, Alice.

        I love writing short stories and flash fiction but find I still struggle with what to leave out and what to keep. I love detail, painting a vivid picture, and I do tend get carried away with the backstory (most likely because I find the setup as interesting as the story itself). It is something I need to work on – sticking with what matters.

        And I agree with you: reading my story after it was posted I can see that it’s a slower start than I would have liked. Much of it could have been left out.

        Thanks so much for your comments – I appreciate them, sincerely! (And it’s good to BE back!)

        Reply
    • September 10, 2017 at 2:14 pm
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      Wow. Excellent story Christopher. Starts off innocently enough, then builds in suspense right up to the end. A really good read.

      Reply
      • September 10, 2017 at 2:27 pm
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        Thanks, Ken!

        Reply
    • September 11, 2017 at 9:41 pm
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      Great stuff, Christopher. I disagree with Alice about the build-up; I think it works well. It’s written in the very tone of the administrative task that Gloria’s been set, and I was picturing dull greys, browns, dark greens, the yellow of the old papers … broken by the shock of the (significant) red. The climax is the content of the letter, and that’s about two-thirds of the way through. Then we trail to the end and are left with Gloria’s (slightly irrational) fear. I think that either the letter has to come nearer the end, or there has to be something a bit more impactful near the end.
      (Possibly the pot calling the kettle black there …).

      Reply
      • September 12, 2017 at 9:16 pm
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        Thank you, Phil.
        That is what I was going for: drab, drab, drab…then bright! And slightly irrational is right. After reading it over a time or two it seems that either the letter should have been moved back closer to the end or there should have been something else…perhaps she finds that she is locked in the basement and begins to hear noises? Not sure, but something though.
        Thanks again!

        Reply
    • September 13, 2017 at 9:18 am
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      Chris – please don’t be offended with my honesty but the first 7 paragraphs had me screaming “get to the point already!” A lot of descriptive extra words in there. HOWEVER, once it got rolling I loved this story! I felt the unreasonable fear of the main character and it left me wanting more…more details about the murders and if they were real. Great job.

      Reply
      • September 13, 2017 at 3:52 pm
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        No offence taken…thank you for your honesty. I want to know what you thought of the story…that’s the point!
        Glad you enjoyed it once it got rolling!

        Reply
    • September 14, 2017 at 4:09 am
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      Hi Christopher
      A good story and nice build up but the end was kind of disappointing for me as a reader. I was expecting something more to be surfaced. It leaves the reader a bit confused. Why is she so afraid? Perhaps of dead bodies of children in the archives area? Who knows. You had me up until the last paragraph. Then I was lost.
      Excellent writing however.

      Reply
  • September 6, 2017 at 1:39 pm
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    The Confession of Maggie Fisher
    By Alice Nelson ©2017

    Maggie Fisher watched as the rain came down in thick sheets just outside the window of her 8th grade classroom. It was far more interesting than the stupid time capsule her teacher Mr. Turner was rambling on about.

    “It will be buried in the south field,” he said excitedly, “And hopefully unearthed fifty years from now, and kids in the future can see what our lives were like here, in 1967.

    Under her breath, Maggie said, They’ll see that life sucked just as much today as I’m sure it will in 2017, then she laughed.

    “What’s so funny Ms. Fisher?” Mr. Turner asked, and the whole class stared at her—the weirdo, the kid with no friends, and no hope of ever having any.

    “Nothing sir,” she said.

    He glared at Maggie for a moment longer, then went back to his boring lecture —and she went back to her letter. And when Maggie was finished, she slipped it into the bottom of the time capsule.

    But Mr. Turner and his 8th grade class were never able to bury the time capsule, a fire made sure of that. And the stainless steel canister still sat in an old storage facility owned by the school district, forgotten for all these years.

    Maggie Fisher was the only student in Mr. Turner’s class who was disappointed.

    **********

    “I’m sure it’s still in the school’s storage unit,” Principal Webber told Amy Oswald, “That’s where they put all the salvaged items from the ’67 fire.”

    “Great,” Amy said, “Since Mr. Turner never got a chance, I’d love to invite some of the old students back and bury their capsule from 67 alongside the one my class is putting together. Have some ceremony celebrating the 50 year anniversary of that original time capsule.”

    “That’s a wonderful idea,” Webber said.

    The storage unit, if you could call it that, was a big hulking relic located near the office of the school’s custodian. It lurked behind an 8-foot high wire fence, where it stood like some kind of ghoulish monument of ancient memories.

    The time capsule was a stainless steel tube that was pretty badly damaged by the fire. Amy saved what she could, but a good deal of it was ruined. She was just about finished when she saw Maggie’s plain white envelope folded neatly at the bottom of the capsule, surprisingly it was still in fairly good shape, with only a few singed edges.

    I am Maggie Fisher, the letter began, And this is my confession.

    Amy Oswald drew in a breath.

    **********

    Maggie sat at her desk casually tossing an envelope from her left hand to her right, while Mr. Turner walked around the classroom giving final approval on everything going into the capsule.

    “What are we submitting today Ms. Fisher?” he asked Maggie.

    “Just a letter Mr. Turner, telling future kids about all the neat stuff we get to do in 1967.”

    The class snickered, “What a weirdo,” Richie Minkus said out loud. And Mr. Turner gave Richie a look that made the boy want to disappear into his chair.

    “May I?” Mr. Turner asked, and Maggie handed him the letter.

    He stood over Maggie’s desk, nodding as he read. When Turner finished, he handed the letter back to her. “Nice job Ms. Fisher, you have always been one of the best writers in my class.”

    Maggie smiled, she had no intention of putting the letter Mr. Turner read into the capsule. Maggie took the real letter that she hid in her English book, placed it into the envelope and sealed it.

    No turning back now, she thought.

    **********

    I am Maggie Fisher, and this is my confession. Amy paused, then continued reading.

    I killed nine year old Jasper Jardine during the summer of 1966. It was accidental, but that doesn’t matter because he’s still dead.

    I had to tell the story to someone —anyone, even a complete stranger from the future. If I don’t, this secret will eat me from the inside out.

    The day Jasper died, we were sitting on the banks of The Cobalt River, our legs dangling over the edge.
    The Cobalt that year was higher than normal because of a heavy winter snowfall, and the water sped past faster than I had ever seen it.

    Jasper sat next to me, quiet as usual, tossing a ball up and down and whistling Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys.

    It’s funny how things can be going along just fine, then they’re not, and you don’t even know when or how things went wrong.

    That’s how it happened with Jasper, one minute he was sitting next to me, the next he was tumbling down the bank, and clinging onto some of the brush for dear life. At first I just froze, I didn’t know what I was seeing, let alone what to do.

    Then I finally came out of it, and I ran over and got on my belly, “Take my hand Jasper,” I said. He didn’t want to let go of the brush, so I scooted out a bit farther.

    Finally Jasper grabbed my hand, and I tried, I really tried to pull him up, but then I was sliding forward, he was taking me in with him.

    “Jasper, help a little, try and climb up,” I told him, but he was panicking and flailing making it even harder to help him.

    “Please don’t let go,” he said, “Please help me Maggie.” He was so scared.

    “I can’t Jasper, I’m going to fall in.”

    I could feel myself sliding farther over the edge, and then it was me who panicked, and I started trying to wriggle my hand loose from Jasper’s grip.

    “No Maggie!”

    “I’m sorry Jasper, I’m so sorry,” I made one final yank and Jasper, the closest thing I ever had to a friend, slid down the bank and into the river.

    I just started screaming his name as his little body was dragged down the river. I was scared people would think I meant to hurt Jasper. After all I was the weird girl who did weird things like nail frogs to the bungalows at school.

    They searched for five days, and in the end I couldn’t say anything, if I spoke up after a week, everyone would think I waited so long because I was guilty.

    But I’m getting the punishment I deserve, because I see Jasper’s face every night in my dreams.

    If anyone related to the Jardines reads this, I hope you can forgive me, and I hope God can too.

    Sincerely,
    Margaret Ann Fisher.

    **********

    By the end, Amy was in tears.

    She found old school photos of Maggie Fisher, and little Jasper Jardine, and placed them inside the time capsule along with items from her students, as well as what survived from Maggie’s 1967 class. Then the time capsule was buried in the south end of the school as Mr. Turner had intended, for another teacher to unearth in fifty years.

    Amy wondered if Maggie were still alive, if she still dreamed of Jasper’s face, and if she always carried her burden alone.

    Reply
    • September 6, 2017 at 9:07 pm
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      Nicely done, Alice! I loved what you did with the prompt, how you gave so much story in not a terribly high word count. I feel like the reader gets a solid understanding of each character mentioned in the story, which again is not always easy to do in such a short space.

      The pace was good, and I liked how the story flowed, bouncing from past to present and back again.

      Reply
      • September 6, 2017 at 11:06 pm
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        Thank you Chris for the kind words, I’m glad you were able to get a feel for the characters, that’s always my goal. Cheers.

        Reply
    • September 10, 2017 at 2:28 pm
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      Strikes me as a good story, well told, doesn’t really end though. Leaves the reader with a lot of questions, for better or worse. I think I’d like a sequel.

      Reply
      • September 10, 2017 at 3:54 pm
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        Thanks Ken, it’s like one of those real life stories, where we never really know what happened. It’s the end, at least for Amy. 🙂

        Reply
    • September 11, 2017 at 9:59 pm
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      Very nice, Alice. Maggie is a very vivid character – a loner, a bit rebellious, and carrying a terrible secret. I personally think she’s being a bit hard on herself – she tried to save Jasper, so “killed” is a bit harsh … but I suppose that’s what her young mind and conscience thought. The time switches are well handled. The circumstances of Amy seeking out the capsule and the letter surviving are perhaps a touch convoluted and need us to suspend disbelief a little – but then it’s fiction! Like Ken, I thought the “Amy wondered” ending feels a little up-in-the-air. Perhaps Amy needs to give herself a mission: find Maggie, or the Jardines(?). A good read.

      Reply
      • September 13, 2017 at 4:46 pm
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        Thank you Phil, I think you’re right about the ending, Amy needs to go searching for Maggie. However, the reason she was so hard on herself is because she shook Jasper loose once she realized they both could be pulled into the river, that would weigh heavily on anyone, especially a troubled kid.

        Reply
    • September 13, 2017 at 9:18 am
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      Alice – very, very cool story. I did find a few things odd…like why would she nail frogs to the bungalow and then try to save another person – I’m assuming you inserted that to add an air of “weird kid who kills things who probably grew up to be a serial killer” type vibe, but it stuck out as odd then that she’d try and save her “friend”. Probably just me but it stuck out so I’m mentioning lol.
      As previous statements – I can’t imagine someone reading such a letter and NOT immediately googling Maggie to find out what happened to her, however – I like the open ending as it allows the reader to interpret it how they see fit.

      Reply
    • September 14, 2017 at 4:22 am
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      Alice a really well constructed story. The only glitch is like Carrie, for me the bit about nailing frogs to the walls of a bungalow did sound a bit more than weird. I never felt like doing harsh things to something as a child. Only once I did something that I thought was best for the animal, but realised it was an adult’s role and not for an 11 year old to do. Instinctively we want to nurture young things and animals as par for course.
      I did understand why she let go. However true life is stranger than fiction. One of my brothers tried to drown me in a flooded creek when I was about 8 in a big flood in January,1963. He was only six so one wonders if he was just getting rid of a hated older sister or did he really understand what he was doing. I hope not. I did forgive him and think it was just a negative moment but since realised his hatred is long standing and deep. G-d only knows what is in the soul of a man or a woman for that matter when driven by hatred.

      Reply
  • September 10, 2017 at 12:24 am
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    Forgotten

    Jenny Jenkins pushed open the heavy steel door, the rusted hinges finally giving way under the pressure. The metal on metal groan echoed below and disappeared into the darkness. Jenkins stumbled forward and composed herself. Strands of grey hair had escaped their bounds and she tucked them behind her ear. The stale air smacked her in the face. It had been a long time since she had been down there, a long time since anyone had been down there.

    “You found it down there?” she said.

    “Yeah,” came the voice, small and unwilling.

    Jenkins turned to William Bourke, who still stood beyond the doorway, his gaze down, his fingers fidgeting. She looked at him, His brown vest and shorts, tight against his frame, his dirty knees above socks that refused to stay up, his scuffed black shoes.

    She felt a level of comfort in his fear. She wished for a mirror at that moment, if only to see how big her smirk was. He might have been the school bully, but in that moment, he was the smallest student in the school. Pale, minimal, insignificant.

    “Well, come on then. Show me where you found it.”

    She ushered William to the stairs and he hesitated. She sighed and took the lead. “Very well, follow me, William. There is nothing to fear here.”

    Her shoes clanged on the old metal steps, the sound reverberating through the darkness. A few steps down she paused and turned. The faint glow of a tired bulb somewhere overhead cast her face in a sickly yellow. William clung to the railing and peered out into the gloom.

    “I still don’t know why I have to go down there.”

    Jenkins turned and looked down the stairs, the abyss swallowing them. She grabbed the pendant that hung around her neck, a dark stone with intricate markings, something that made its way into her possession by accident, yet she couldn’t let it go.

    “Detention, William,” she said. “I thought I had made that absolutely clear. Actions have consequences.”
    Jenkins continued her journey down the steps. She didn’t bother checking to see if William was following, she could feel his presence behind her, she could feel his uncertainty.

    At the bottom of the stairs in a purple gloom that reminded her of midnight, Jenkins stretched out her arm to a switch. Memories were already flooding back to her and reaching out for the light was as much muscle memory as anything,

    Very slowly, decayed banks of lights clicked on, illuminating a path between stacks of old chairs and tables, desks, lamps, filing cabinets and other school equipment from a bygone era. Collectors would have a field day down here, but the school was not short of money, so instead of selling it, they sealed it down here in the archives, a forgotten wing of the prestigious institution.

    Jenkins walked forward, William in her shadow.

    “I wasn’t scared, you know … when I read the letter… Just that I thought I should tell someone.”

    “I see,” replied Jenkins. “Did you read all of it?”

    William shook his head. “I read enough of it,” he said, as he peered down the inky black tributaries that flowed off the main walkway.

    Jenkins sensed the growing terror. “Just stay with me, William. This will all be over before you know it.”

    She stopped. To her right stood a number of naked and faceless mannequins. They were brown, covered in dust, with numerous appendages missing. To her left was a storage rack stacked with overhead projectors in various shapes and sizes. At the intersection was a full size stuffed brown bear. It held a threatening pose, claws spread, mouth open, ready to attack. A remnant from an old Principal that wanted to strike fear into students that found their way into his office. Jenkins first order was to clean out the relics and produce a more welcoming environment. She did, after all, have her own way of punishing those that broke the rules.

    Jenkins pointed to her left, down the shadowy path. “Down here?” She didn’t get a response so she looked down. William was nodding slowly.

    “Do we have to?”

    “I’m afraid so, William. I had been waiting for you to come and get me. You were down here for a while.”

    Jenkins pulled out her mobile phone and used it as a torch. She remembered this pathway used to be lit, which is why she chose it in the first place. At the end, there was a steel door built into the wall. She never understood the purpose of it, but it mattered not.

    There, wedged in between the door and the wall, was a yellowed envelope. Jenkins reached for it.

    “Wait,” William said. “I’ve shown you. Can we go now?”

    Jenkins smiled. “Very soon.”

    She pulled the envelope free. The scrawl on the front read: ‘To whom it may concern’. She turned it over, the seal coming free easily, the glue long ago evaporating, and pulled out the single sheet of paper. She held up the light and read the letter out loud, the hand-written words coming to life.

    “You are here because you’ve found my body and the letter that outlines my confession. To whoever you are, I am sorry. I’m sorry for what you’ll see, I’m sorry for how it will affect you. But I’m not sorry for doing it. Never sorry for that. This was my only way, the only way they would listen. I am sick of being bullied, and he was the worst of them. Actions have consequences, and Billy Bourke got what was coming to him. I hope you can find comfort in that just as I did. Signed, Jenny Jenkins”

    Jenkins looked up at the boy as her memories became visions. She recalled how she lured him down there, to the forgotten part of the school. How he pushed her, over and over. She ran, deep into the yellow glow, his footsteps just behind. And when she came to a dead end, she swung, the knife pushing into the soft of his belly with surprising ease, his forward momentum aiding entry. The look of shock and confusion. The redness of his hands. The whimper, the shortness of breath. She watched him die. The hardest part was pushing the dead weight into the wall.

    After leaving the note and running home, she laid on her bed, dangling the knife above her own stomach. She looked over to the second letter she had written. She took a deep breath and pulled the knife down.

    The knife stopped a centimetre above her bare skin. The one realisation had hit her. She didn’t feel guilty over her actions, she didn’t feel pain, she didn’t feel remorse. She felt happy. They would never find him.

    Miss Jenkins looked at the young William and smiled. “It’s time.”

    She heaved open the metal door.

    “No!” William shouted.

    The door momentarily protested before giving way.

    Dark shadows erupted forth and grasped the apparition. William screamed as they enveloped him, and pulled him back into the dark.

    “Goodbye, William,” Jenkins said rubbing the stone. “For good this time.”

    Reply
    • September 11, 2017 at 9:17 pm
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      I have to apologize, Ken. Perhaps I am to tired, but I read the story twice and I’m not sure I follow what exactly happened. Was Jenkins a ghost? William?
      I loved the way it began, and it pulled me along easily enough with great pacing, but then I got lost. Help me find my way!

      Reply
    • September 11, 2017 at 10:17 pm
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      Well, Ken, this is terrific until … I’ll keep you in suspense about that. The build-up is really excellent. The sights, sounds and smells of that place … and William’s fear. Great description, really atmospheric. Then … I’m afraid that like Christopher and Kenneth, the ending just bamboozled me. What’s “the apparition”? The “stone” I imagine is the one round her neck? (Perhaps you could specify that.) And what was it exactly that William had found? (‘ “You found it down there?” she said.’) A bit too much mystery, for me at least … but the getting to the confusion was brilliant!

      Reply
      • September 12, 2017 at 8:13 am
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        *** Warning: Spoiler Alert ***

        Miss Jenny Jenkins is in the archives with a young William Bourke.
        She get’s and reads the letter, a quasi confession of killing Billy Bourke written by a young Jenny Jenkins (then a small flashback of how it happened) …
        She opens the small door (of where she hid the body) and the shadows take Billy (the apparition) into the wall …

        A couple of things: Yes, I ran out of words (I think I clocked in at 1199) although could’ve removed a few choice phrases to loosen this. Yes – the stone she rubbed at the end is around her neck (I should have made this clear). Yes – Jenkins had to ‘coax’ him down there with ‘detention’ and showing what he had found (I could’ve made this clearer)

        William had ‘found’ the letter. Jenkins asked if he had read it and he replies with ‘enough of it’.

        A few things that give it all away: 1. The beginning when it says ‘ It had been a long time since she had been down there, a long time since anyone had been down there.’ – yet Billy had ‘found’ something down there.
        2. The ‘actions have consequences’ repetition in her words to Billy and in the letter.
        3. The letter where she says the hardest thing was getting the dead weight into the wall … so his body is in there, and when the body and spirit meet, the ‘dark shadows’ drag the spirit back to the body (Goodbye for good, William).
        4. She says she had been waiting a long time for him to come and get her.
        5. He ‘found’ the letter, but she is the one that leads Billy to the letter.

        Things not explained: 1. The stone with intricate carvings; 2. Her own brand of student punishment; 3. What are the dark shadows that took Billy.

        Anyway – it’s like when you have to explain a joke, it becomes less funny. I hope the explanation above doesn’t make the story any less interesting. I also hope it doesn’t open up a myriad of plot holes, but I do hope it means you can all now sleep at night 🙂

        Perhaps I should have replied: “For me to know and you to find out … quick, what’s that behind you?”

        Peace

        K

        Reply
    • September 13, 2017 at 9:36 am
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      Ken, (these notes are from before your explanation btw) it actually all kind of clicked after I paused a moment. I thought it was going to be a witch who maybe sacrifices young bullies for power (the pendant) to the demons locked away in the magical storeroom, and I didn’t get that Billy was the ghost until the letter of course.
      I loved the suspense, you can feel her uncertainty. One thing that drove me nuts is you kept referring to her as “Jenkins”, not “Miss Jenkins” or “Jenny” but by her surname which is usually reserved for males. So I didn’t get the feeling she was the “teacher” in the prompt.
      I did like the fact that the bully picked on a girl – that was a unique twist as that doesn’t happen very often.
      I can definitely see how the word restrictions worked against you, a teeny tiny bit more clarification and this story would have been amazing!

      Reply
    • September 13, 2017 at 1:55 pm
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      My goodness Ken, you have a way with words that I just love. I was on the edge the whole time wondering what was going to happen. The great descriptive language that described William’s fear beautifully, the tension, I could just see that bleak dark place they were in, hear the clink of the metal steps.

      Obviously with a longer word count you could’ve wrapped this up wonderfully, and I hope you extend this story because I want to read it. As it is however, there’s too much mystery, like Phil said. So many things unexplained that it felt unfinished. I had the same issue with my story, not enough room to explain it all.

      Still, there is nothing wrong with your skills as a writer, that is blatantly obvious. Maybe editing down those great descriptive passages and keeping the essentials, could make this so a more complete flash fiction story.

      Toodles

      Reply
    • September 14, 2017 at 4:30 am
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      Yes everything has been said. Last paragraph needs a bit of clarification and there are one or two things that struck me as odd and lent mystery to the story. Great story though.

      Reply
  • September 10, 2017 at 2:38 pm
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    Another great story. I don’t know what actually happened, but I’m too scared to ask anyone.

    Reply
    • September 10, 2017 at 11:35 pm
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      Hi Ken C … was this comment related to my story? (Just checking, because it doesn’t appear indented like other comments) – Because if it was related to:
      My story: Thanks. I do have a 400 page story guide in the works that outlines the mysterious underworld that is the school’s archive basement, along with full character profiles and back story.
      Your story: That’s a bit self-centred, Ken.
      Someone else’s story: Get yo sh!t together, young man.

      Reply
      • September 12, 2017 at 6:23 pm
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        Ken Allen:
        Once again your comments are hilarious.
        I don’t know why my comment is unhinged from your story. Probably due to the coriolis effect. (Or centrifugal force.)
        Can you forward that 400 page story guide to my outbox?

        Reply
  • September 11, 2017 at 3:40 am
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    Well it has been a busy week. Two does kidded and my story has to be rewritten. Post Nuclear holocaust drama (eyes rolling, yeah yeah I know.) but the letter was from the principal and I now must rewrite a section and do another twist in the tale.
    Also had a kid knock off the disbudding scab on his head and nearly bleed out. Vet. Bill. NO. Valuable Alpine buck so there goes another hundred bucks on the selling price of the little bloke.
    Some great stories to read. I will catch up in between job applications and just the black dog which is biting big time again.

    Reply
    • September 11, 2017 at 1:44 pm
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      Good to hear from you Ilana, hope things settle in and we get a story from you this time around. Thanks for the update, and take care <3

      Reply
  • September 13, 2017 at 5:35 am
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    The Last Letter
    Irene stood at the gate of the old school house. Cobwebs had collected on the splintered verandah that encircled the main building. Two portable classrooms fallen into disrepair, with cracked windows and a ruined staircase stood over to one side of the main building. The ghosts of past students and teachers whispered and sang to her. The shades of parents now long passed, congregated and chatted in the courtyard near the basketball court and the paddock that was once a football oval. Now all conquered by weeds and strange grasses not sown by human hands, it remained defiant and alone.
    She remembered her first day there as a graduate teacher. She was twenty-two years old then. Now her arthritic hands fumbled the rusted latch on the gate, but she finally got it open and walked slowly up the path overgrown with blackberries and willows. Her homemade walking stick helped her navigate the gravel and uneven ground up to the ramp besides the broken steps.
    “Careful, carefully does it.” She cautioned herself and held the rail with one hand, as she slowly maneovered up the ramp to the door of the main office building. She pushed the door and it slide open with groan of hinges and scrape of wood on old rotted floor coverings.
    She had been walking for a long time to arrive here today. Her shoes were threadbare and she had stuffed scraps of plastic and rubber into them to cover the holes. The tattered track suit that folded itself around her shrunken body, she had found in an abandoned homestead a few weeks or was it months back, on her journey down to the old school house. It would be her last journey because she wanted to know. She wanted to know what had happened.
    Dust, dust everywhere. Layers of it, coated the filing cabinets, the reception desk which had rotted away in places. She walked over to the door labelled Principal. She pushed it hard. It held fast.
    So she decided to walk around the reception desk into the side door. That door was ajar.
    It jolted her to see the skeleton sitting in the chair at the principal’s desk. A rotted blazer that had once stated Yarragon Primary School with Staff under the school badge hung on shoulders and a chest cage of bony ribs. Bill Rogers was still recognisable because of his thatch of red hair which was perched in scraps of weathered skin on top of his grinning skull. Tears furrowed her wrinkled cheeks and flowed even more, because sitting with their backs against the door were also the skeletons of four other adults and six children.
    She groaned and dropped her walking stick. As she bent to pick it up from the dust covered floor, she saw a envelope perched on the keyboard of the computer on the desk in front of Tom. She almost did not see it because of the thick film of dust and dirt covering everything in the building.
    Weeping she walked slowly over to take it in trembling hands. It was addressed “To Those Who Find Us” in a scrawling childish script. She took the envelope and went carefully out to the receptionist’s chair and sat to take out two folded sheets of paper and commenced to read. The letter was printed on lined paper
    11th Nov, 2018
    To those who find us
    Mrster Rogers dyed last night. Me Mum is very sick. She bin vomited all ova the floor. We not allow outsyd to buree him or no one else that dyed. My nam is Alyce. I am in grad 5. I do not rite so good, but I want somone to know. My littl brother Tom in grad 1 also dying.
    My teacher Mrs Marks is trying to look afta us all, but she is crying all the time.
    The kids playing outside dyed first, and then Mrster Rogers and Robin’s Mum – she were sitting by the playground textin’ on her fone, she dyed next day – yestaday. The Beach kids Henry, Oliver and Hannah with their nanna dyed the day after, when the cloud of green dust had passed. They was the first lotta people to go.
    I were in that toilet. Me mum were wid Tom on tha veranda outise the ofise. Mrs Marks were making copies of stuff for next day. The doors were closed and the air con were on. Mrs Marks says that what saved us.
    We sawed the cloud of stuff. It were green and thick like smoke. From a bush fire cept it were not. After it blowed away. Mrs marks and me, we went to help everyone one. They was laying on the floor and coughing and coughing.
    We took the kids first and helped Myster Rogers to his office. We washed them with water in the shower near the toilets. It helped for a little while. They started to hav water coming from their mouths and noses and later lotsa bleeding. Even bleeding from them ears and eyes.
    We is lucky that there is food in the kitchen. When everyone dye I cry and cry. Mrs marks don’t want us to go outside. All the birds they dye. All the hens and the rooster and the ducks and the guinea pigs they dy two. All dead. I snuck outside to the fish pond and all the fish floating on the top of the water. Mrs Marks very upset, she said no. NO good to go outside for some time. We wait for someone to come to help us. I did not tell ‘er but I ate some of the strawberry from our garden. Washed them but very funny taste. After my tummee not so good. I get sick and need to go to the toilet a lot and there is blood too. Mrs Marks put a raincoat on, her gumboots, a hat and gloves, she look so funnee. Like a big bear. She said it so nothing touch her skin. She is going to get help.
    I am going to ly next to Mum. With Tom. Hope someone find us soon.
    Yours fatefully
    Alyce

    Irene folded the letter and put it inside her coat pocket.
    Her beeper chirped.
    Where are you? The text read. Quickly she typed back.
    Found the school. No one survived.
    Irene Marks you are nuts. It’s been fifty years. Even now it’s not safe.
    I am being careful. Will wash off everything when I get back.
    We are sending in a copter to air lift you out, you stubborn old woman. You are crazy you know.
    I just wanted to see what had happened to them. I hoped Alyce might…
    Crazy old bat. You walked sixty kms in a contaminated zone to find out what happened?
    I know, I know but it has been on my mind for years, the children and they way they all died.
    15 mins. We are leaving now.
    Irene walked slowly outside the building and looked up at the sky. Clouds formed and chased each other in the wind that was whipping up on this chill autumn evening.

    Reply
    • September 13, 2017 at 9:37 am
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      Ilana – as always your writing brought the chills. Excellent letter, you could almost hear the peasant style voice of the young child. A horrific event that should never be forgotten and you capture the despair perfectly.

      Reply
    • September 13, 2017 at 2:53 pm
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      Wow! Great story Ilana. Loved the letter from the little girl, it was heartbreaking hearing what went down from a child. You did a great job of writing like a kid who wasn’t the greatest speller, and using the words a child might use.

      I liked Irene and the guts it took to go back, I wonder how she survived. Wonderfully told, great job!

      Reply
  • September 13, 2017 at 9:16 am
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    Memories Best Forgotten by Carrie Zylka Copyright 2017

    Erika sighed.

    Adjusting her habit, she slowly walked the empty halls, once ringing with laughter and sounds of young girls. The caution tape across most of the doorways nearly brought her to tears. She felt as if her life was about to be demolished. And in a way it was. From the moment she’d been brought here as an orphan at the age of six, to the moment she’d felt the call, to the moment she’d read the teacher’s memo that the school had been sold to developers…she’d always been here.

    Her heels clicking on the linoleum sounded frightfully loud in her ears, and the loneliness of the building threatened to overwhelm her.

    Memories of her tenure here at St. Mary’s School for Troubled Girls rushed towards her with every step and she longed to see the smiles and feel the hugs from the girls she’d fought so hard to save.

    She reached the end of the hallway and saw the sleeping rooms were still mostly intact. The bunk beds a permanent fixture that would burst apart with the dynamite when they pressed the trigger tomorrow morning.

    But today, she entered the room, dust floating in the sunlight, disturbed with the passing of her skirt. She stood in the center of the room and looked around, nostrils flared wide as she tried to take in every scent, every sound, every bit of the building she could.

    Taking a deep breath, her eyes moved slowly to the tiled ceiling. She knew it was still there, every couple of years she checked on it…just to make sure no one had discovered it.

    She was still undecided on whether she wanted to save it from obliteration or leave it to die in peace with the rest of the memories here.

    Clasping her hands in front of her she prayed for strength. Exhaling the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding, she walked to the far set of beds, climbing slowly and awkwardly onto hard surface of the top bunk she reached up. Praying she didn’t lose her balance and fall, she pushed the loose tile aside she reached in; feeling for what she knew would still be there.

    Her eyes squeezed shut as her fingers felt the time worn leather bindings.

    Taking the small book in her hand she sat back against the wall and slipped the letter from inside the cover.

    Resting the hand sized square on her knees, she slowly unfolded the time worn paper. Even now she felt a stab of pride at the beautiful cursive handwriting of this fourteen year old, even as her hands trembled at the message conveyed.

    ***********************************************
    To Erika,

    You are strong.

    You are brave.

    They can take nothing from you that you are not willing to give.

    Do not forget Sister Annette’s gentleness when she found you in the bathroom.

    Do not forget Sister Amelia’s tears when she held you, crying with you.

    Do not forget Cook sneaking you extra treats.

    Do not forget the strength God gave to you to endure.

    Do not

    Do not

    Do not forget Father Dennis and Father Matthew.

    NEVER FORGET WHAT THEY DID TO YOU. AND NEVER FORGET HOW THE OTHERS WERE KIND TO YOU OUT OF GUILT.

    You are strong.

    You are brave.

    You will endure.

    This I promise you.

    Signed, Erika St. John December 4, 1967
    ***********************************************

    Sister Erika refolded the letter she’d written to herself fifty years ago.

    Tears streaming down her face, she tucked the letter back inside the diary.

    Her diary.

    The one that described every horrible detail. She’d used the diary as a form of therapy, describing what had been done that fateful evening, and now she sat with it in her hand.

    She’d never breathed a word to anyone of what the priests had done to her. The Sisters knew, the Cook knew, she was pretty sure even the maintenance crew knew.

    But it was a different time back then; no one would have believed a troubled young girl accusing two of the community’s most prominent leaders. She’d had no one but herself to rely on.

    So she endured.

    She was still undecided on whether she wanted to save it from obliteration or leave it to die in peace with the rest of the memories here.

    Taking a deep breath she opened the diary to the first page and began to read…

    Reply
    • September 13, 2017 at 3:18 pm
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      Powerful story Carrie. I loved the description at the beginning as Erika walked through the empty school, I could imagine it in my mind. Loved her letter to herself to stay strong, and in the end we still aren’t sure if she keeps the diary or let it get destroyed. I really liked how that was left open ended.

      Reply
  • September 13, 2017 at 11:25 pm
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    Will someone please clarify the time zones for submission? I’ve written my story, but it appears I’m too late to submit it. Would appreciate any help you can provide.

    Reply
    • September 14, 2017 at 1:37 am
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      Hi Trish, I’m sorry you missed the deadline for this story thread. But if you check here tomorrow (Thursday), the link for the next contest will be posted.

      The contest usually begins on Thursday, and ends two weeks later on Wednesday. The voting times and the corresponding zones are listed below. The new link is usually posted at these same times on Thursday, this is also when the winning story is announced.

      **Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

      I hope this all makes sense. If you have any more questions, feel free to email us at: liflashfiction@gmail.com

      Reply
  • September 14, 2017 at 12:28 pm
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    Just waiting on both Ken’s to vote!

    Reply
    • September 14, 2017 at 12:31 pm
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      Ken C. said he probably won’t be able to vote because of the storms in Florida, and he and his lady friend aren’t at home. So…

      Reply
      • September 14, 2017 at 12:42 pm
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        Excuses….excuses….that guy’s always full of excuses……..

        Ok then once I get Ken Allen’s I’ll tally the votes.

        Reply
        • September 14, 2017 at 12:49 pm
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          Hahaha! I know, there’s always a reason for that guy not to vote 🙂

          Reply
        • September 15, 2017 at 4:10 am
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          Done – sorry guys for holding up the process … I blame … urmm … global warming … and Australia’s ridiculous plebiscite into same sex marriage … that and emus …. those damn emus … Anyway, now that you’ve read this far I guess there is nothing really stopping you reading a little further, because I’ve got a really important question to ask you all and I’m never really sure how to broach the subject. I mean, not that it’s controversial, I just never know how people are going to respond, and everyone’s different, you know. Anyway, I was kind of wondering if anyone wanted to buy some potatoes.

          Reply
          • September 15, 2017 at 11:00 am
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            Hahahahaha! Ken Allen, you my friend are crazy, and I love it. Never stop 🙂

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