Tagged: challenge

Time for Toast

Flash Fiction Month 2020, Day 31

Challenge #13: Produce a work of magical realism incorporating an event from the past three days of your own personal life. The story must also include three callbacks to previous stories written this month, and optionally have a word count of exactly 333.

2am. Time for toast.

“It’s me,” says the small purple goblin who lives in my toaster, “the small purple goblin who lives in your toaster.”

“Oh dear,” say I. “Not this again.”

“Yes, this again. It’s the final day of Flash Fiction Month 2020—or rather, it’s two hours after that—and you haven’t yet written a story.”

“I’m doing it literally right now!” I protest.

“Yeah, but there’s a challenge and you haven’t tackled that.”

“Well, I’m talking to a toaster goblin,” I point out. “If that isn’t magical realism, I don’t know what is.”

“Okay, you get that one.”

“And you turned up in a previous story, so that counts as a callback.”

“That was last year! You’ve got to pick something from this time around, like a cannibal cafe, or a cartoon coyote addicted to crystal meth, or a bomb disposal expert who can communicate only through the medium of swearing.”

“I know. I just needed you to list three things.”

“That’s sneaky,” says the purple toaster goblin. “You’re sneaky.”

“Also it was cocaine, not crystal meth.”

There is a brief pause while I think about my life.

“Now all I need is a real-world event from the past three days of my personal life that I can incorporate into this.”

“That’s a tough one,” observes the goblin.


“I mean, you’ve done absolutely nothing noteworthy in the past three days. Possibly even longer!”

There is another, longer pause while I once again think about my life.

“Why not stick with the whole ‘forgetting to do stuff’ theme?” suggests the goblin. “You could mention that you also forgot today was the deadline for entries to IntroComp, so all you managed to submit was a procedurally generated selection of exactly ten million invocations to a fictional god.”

“Great!” I say. “Now if only there were some way to bulk this story up to exactly 333 words.”

The goblin and I turn to stare pointedly at the fruit bowl just beside us.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

Crossing the Line

Flash Fiction Month 2020, Day 28

Challenge #12: Write a story including a bargain, a liminal space, a sacrifice, or a stranger. It cannot include the following verbs: believed, imagined, knew, loved, hated, noticed, realised, remembered, seemed, thought, understood, wanted, or wondered.

The trespasser topples a cart as he runs, scattering dust and packing material across the floor. She vaults the cart, lands on a sheet of styrofoam, skids into a steel shelving unit. Her right leg buckles. She tries to stand. A jet of hydraulic fluid arcs into the air.

I halt beside her. “Assist?”


I run. The trespasser is at a distance of thirty metres. Twenty. Ten. His breath is ragged. The crowbar he carries makes his gait unbalanced.

He reaches the door, swings it closed, jams the crowbar between door and ground. He does not look back.

I give a gentle push. I must not damage the glass.

She runs for the next exit over, right leg dragging. He is nearing exhaustion, his footfalls erratic. She is adapting, her movements becoming more efficient. Continue reading

The Burning of Cob Weaver

Flash Fiction Month 2020, Day 25

Challenge #11: Write a story in collaboration with another participant, in accordance with challenges picked by each of you from a list of poisons.

This was a collaboration with GDeyke. The poisons we chose were sarcophagus juice, a clear sippy-cup stuffed with daisy chains and kerosene, and something dark and viscous, contained in a carved bone flask, which resulted in the following challenge elements:

  • Your story must feature a disapproving nun.
  • One of your characters is recovering from something traumatic.
  • At some point your story should feature open flames – anything from a lit match, to a forest fire.
  • Your story must include ANY TWO (2) of the following things: knights in shining armour, the dogs of war, a terrible injustice, a righteous execution, a strange light on the horizon, a dark forest, a witch hunt, a great battle, an uncomfortable feast.

In the dark wood behind the abbey William Bodger had cut into his hand with an axe, and Cob Weaver had done all he could to staunch the bleeding.

“It’ll heal,” he said.

“How long?”

The vision had hold of Cob’s tongue before he could stop it. “Before it heals you’ll cast this town into flames.”

A dark look passed over William’s face. Cob desperately hoped that the woodsman would ignore it, would pass it off as some ill-thought-out joke, but it was not William that he had to concern himself with.

Witch!” shouted Sister Prudence. “Witch!”

“‘Tis but a herbal poultice,” said William, standing. “Nothing out of sorts!”

But Sister Prudence would not be persuaded. “I heard the curse that he brought down upon us!” Continue reading

Blue Light

Flash Fiction Month 2020, Day 23

Challenge #10: Write a stream of consciousness story embracing one of the five elements of Discordianism: Sweet, Boom, Pungent, Prickle, or Orange. Its word count should be a multiple of 14.

He shouts as he stumbles through the half-foot of milky water, no longer concerned about the €60 fine. There are 280km of tunnels here. Many began as mines in the 12th century. Most were uncharted, many forgotten. The guidebook was little help even before he dropped it. The sodden pages are worthless now his torch is too dim to read.

“Hello?” he calls. There is a shout back, or an echo, impossible to tell.

“Hello?” he tries. Again, the same reply.

He hasn’t seen another living person since slipping off the metro platform and along the tracks. At this point he’d be happy just to find a corpse. Only a portion of the tunnels had been turned into ossuaries, and they’ll be full of tourists—people who didn’t crawl through two chatières with no clue where they went—people who came down with a guide.

The guides don’t cost €60. Even €60 would be money well spent. Continue reading

Not a People Person

Flash Fiction Month 2020, Day 21

Challenge #9: Write a funny story about something taboo, including something goth.

“Hello there.” The extremely pale, extremely bored-looking waitress approached with a notepad. “Can I start you off with a basket of Fred?”

“What?” said Will.

“It’s on the house, of course,” she clarified.

“Oh, go on then,” said Annabelle, picking up her menu.

Will picked up his own. “What’s ‘Megs Bennedict’?”

“People called Meg with hollandaise sauce,” said Annabelle, without looking up.

Will laughed. “No, seriously.”

“And here’s your Fred,” said the waitress, setting down a basket of gross jiggling flesh lumps on the black silk tablecloth.

“Oh.” He had just spotted the restaurant name on the front of the menu: “Cannibal Café.” He supposed that did explain the rather gruesome skull centrepiece with the candles in the eye sockets.

“Are you ready to order or do you need some more time?” asked the waitress.

“Is your Todd in the hole ethically sourced?”

“Not really.” The waitress shrugged.

There was a loud crash from the kitchen. “Please! I have a family!”

“But it is very fresh,” she added.

Annabelle set her menu neatly on the table in front of her. “I’ll have one of those, please.”

“And for sir?” The waitress turned to Will.

“Uhhh…” From the Herb chicken to the crêpes Suzette, he really wasn’t sure there was anything he wanted. “Do you have any vegetarian options?”

“Yes, of course.” The waitress leaned over to indicate them on the menu with her long black fingernail. “The chicken Kevin and the sloppy Joe are both vegetarian, and the BLT where the ‘B’ stands for ‘Brian’ is actually vegan.”

“Perhaps just a salad?”

“That comes with soylent vinegar.”

Will considered his options. He was really pretty hungry, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to start chowing down on human flesh. He was reasonably confident that was frowned upon by some.

At last, the solution dawned upon him.

“Can I just order from the kids menu?”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

No Fate

Flash Fiction Month 2020, Day 18

Challenge #8: Write a story of exactly 55 words that includes both a birth and a death, and an element of love.

The cyborg’s head exploded, spraying brains and microchips everywhere.

“Sandra Connet.” The sunglasses lady pumped her shotgun. “I am you from the future. The child you have birthed will become leader of the resistance.”

“Want to make out?”


It was either super hot or super gross, depending how you feel about self-on-self time-travel romance.

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

This Animal is a Creation

Flash Fiction Month 2020, Day 16

Challenge #7: Write a story produced using ten prompts generated by the cut-up technique. The source texts must include the lyrics of one David Bowie Song, the lyrics of one other song, and two or three news articles.

My sources were:
My ten generated prompts were:
  • His hotel bath with potatoes.
  • The substances had been inert.
  • Unknown despite several attempts to find it.
  • 10-year-old Soviet vessel.
  • Is that supposed to be a dog?
  • The number of drugs he took into the Travelodge in Eastleigh.
  • In order to cash in on beacons activated last March.
  • This animal is a creation.
  • The woman’s bra over his shirt.
  • Explain how a coyote brings down the west coast of Ireland.

“The lights are on.”


“The lights are on.”

“It’s a 40-year-old Soviet vessel! The country that built this thing doesn’t even exist any more!”

“Yeah, but…the lights are on.”

James poked his head around the doorway.

“See?” said Tony. The lights were indeed on.

“There’s nothing on the beach, is there?” James asked.

“No. Well, nothing except…”

James walked—with considerable effort—to the railing and grabbed hold, careful not to put his head too far above it. The creature was waiting exactly where it had been when they scoped out the grounded boat from inland. He got out his binoculars.

Tony walked over unsteadily to join him. “Is that supposed to be a dog?” Continue reading

A Curious and True Relation of a Diſcovery near Stillbrook

Flash Fiction Month 2020, Day 14

Challenge #6: Write a story in the style of a major Literary Movement with a theme of either discovery or regret.

Though this following Relation expounds upon Matters divers, of a ſort to inflame the Imagination and confound the Mind, it is nevertheleſs convey’d into our Hands with Aſſurance that it be a Narrative true and unexaggerated.

It is by a Letter of the 14th of July that we are given this Relation, written by a perſon of no ſmall ſtanding whoſe Teſtimony would be heard unqueſtion’d by any Judge. It is our Pleaſure to ſet its Words in Print within this very Pamphlet, and the original Letter may be ſeen at Horton’s Coffee Houſe on Church Street ſhould any wiſh to further ſatisfy themſelves as to the Truth hereof.

From a young age my family diſcourag’d me from Travel, which at the time I consider’d was for fear of Accidents at ſea. My father was a Clerk for a Maritime Insurer, and ſuch Matters must ſurely have weigh’d heavily on his Mind. Inſtead of ſeeing the World by ſailing upon Water, I ſpent my youth immers’d in Books, which for a Time I credited with Knowledge of a certain Stone, or Monolith, erected in a Godless Age. Continue reading

The Emperor and the Ring

Flash Fiction Month 2020, Day 11

Challenge #5: Write a story combining one literary and one musical genre. It must also feature a cataclysmic event and three survivors. Optionally, it should also include the song “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child.

Once upon a time there lived an emperor, and this emperor had a ring. This ring, his seers told him, held great power: with it he could shape the world to his desire, and he need not fear the monarch of any realm. However, the ring also held a great curse: if ever he were to use it, the common people of his empire would surely bring down ruin upon him.

Hearing this, the emperor immediately settled upon a plan. He issued a decree that would bestow royalty upon all his subjects, defeating with ink and vellum the foes that he could not hope to turn away with powder and steel. Thus, his safety assured, he began to wield the ring’s power.

The emperor started small. He set out busts in his own likeness not only in his palace, but all across the land. He scattered palm trees too—exotic plants that cast a pleasing shade—even in his subjects’ very homes. This drew the people’s ire, but as all knew that none of royal blood could harm him, what could they do to prevent it?

Soon the most inconvenient trees were cut down for food and firewood, and life returned almost to normal. Some even came to embrace the changes—for it was quite flattering to be thought a ruler of one’s own land—but this did not last long. The emperor reshaped the land, smoothing its hills and valleys into a flawless, level plain, and this he ruled out with lines of magenta, almost in the likeness of a chequerboard. The sky too he changed as he saw fit, dyeing it a glowing teal that was neither day nor night, and casting down the stars to make room for vast geometric shapes. The Sun he fixed upon the horizon, ever-rising and always setting. And so that his subjects could not reject their royal titles, he took away their names. Continue reading

A Sticky Situation

Flash Fiction Month 2020, Day 9

Challenge #4: Write a story in which two characters in conflict with one another are trapped in some kind of vessel. The story must feature an event utterly outside a character’s realm of expectation.

“Hold the door!” shouted Captain Caulk as he ran for the elevator, cape fluttering dramatically behind him. “Hold the door!”

The figure inside stepped towards the control panel, and the doors, obligingly, slid open.

“Thank you, kind citizen!” said Captain Caulk, panting slightly. Not enough to suggest that he was in any way out of shape, just enough to indicate that he had been striving heroically to do something heroic.

“Don’t mention it,” said the diabolical Doctor Baby, coldly.

“Oh.” Captain Caulk regarded his nemesis as the doors closed behind him, not entirely sure whether he should stand facing them—as was universally accepted elevator etiquette—or to prepare for glorious battle.

“No, really,” said Doctor Baby, the harsh fluorescent elevator lighting glinting from his sinister science goggles. “I thought I was pressing the ‘close’ button.”

“Oh,” said Captain Caulk, again.

“Mmyes.” Doctor Baby observed his own gloved finger, still hovering just by the button. “This is proving to be awkward for all involved.” Continue reading