Friday, October 18, 2019

The Spaces Between Us Flash Fiction contest!

I found a delicious new novel recently, and knew it would be a perfect prize for a flash fiction contest. And when it turns out I had two copies, well...even better!

The Spaces Between Us by Stacia Tolman

The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:


To compete for the Steve Forti Deft Use of Prompt Words prize (or if you are Steve Forti) you must also use: Algerian/Syrian border***

I am going to thwart Mr. Forti this time!!!

3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The letters for the prompt must appear in consecutive order. They cannot be backwards.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again. It helps to work out your entry first, then post.

6. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

7. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

8. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

8a. There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE. (You can however discuss your entry with the commenters in the comment trail...just leave me out of it.)

9. It's ok to tweet about the contest generally.

Example: "I just entered the flash fiction contest on Janet's blog and I didn't even get a lousy t-shirt"

10. Please do not post anything but contest entries. (Not for example "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!")

11. You agree that your contest entry can remain posted on the blog for the life of the blog. In other words, you can't later ask me to delete the entry and any comments about the entry at a later date.

12. The stories must be self-contained. That is: do not include links or footnotes to explain any part of the story. Those extras will not be considered part of the story.

Contest opens: October 19, 2019, 5:11am

Contest closes: October 20, 2019, 9am

If you're wondering how what time it is in NYC right now, here's the clock

If you'd like to see the entries that have won previous contests, there's an .xls spread sheet here

(Thanks to Colin Smith for organizing and maintaining this!)

Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid

Ready? SET?
Not yet!
Sorry, contest has closed!

**in case you're looking at your map and thinking I've lost my mind, there is no Algerian/Syrian border. 


Stephen G Parks said...

“Listen up! Alger, Ian, Sy, Rian B: orders have come down: You’re going whaling, ship out tomorrow, oh nine hundred. Space is limited; so no alcohol, tobacco or fair trade coffee. I know … the last one’s weird.” The XO shrugged. “Captain’s orders.”

Three weeks in, we’d chased this damned pod up and down the coast, never once seeing them.

“I bet we engage them off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.” Sy was a freshly pressed middie, too eager for his own good.

“No laddie, We ain’t hunting them.” The Captain tapped his patch, Rainbow Warrior. “We’re leading them to safety.”

Steve Forti said...

“Ho ho ho, Lt. Dan. Where’s your Christmas spirit?”

Dan McGruff sneered. November, December, it made no difference. Christmas was but a fairytale in this urban kill zone. The Central Asian front had been brutal – the Stans were logical partners. But now alliances were unbound by geography. The combined forces were mounting – Bulgarian/Nigerian/Liberian/Algerian/Syrian. Bordering on unstoppable.

“Stay frosty, Sergeant. I bet we encounter heavy resistance. Let’s pace ourselves.”

“They all run from McGruff the Tough.”

“Mind your tongue.” Even mocking, the nickname was dangerous. He didn’t make the rules, just enforced them. “Weapons ready. Let’s take a bite outta rhyme.”

TS Rosenberg said...

"Welcome, folks! Here on the - "
"Whoa, the moon's GINORMOUS."
"Is Alaska down there? Wave to Grandma in Fairbanks, kids!"
"Hi, folks! Yes, the view is amazing, but first - "
"What's that sprawling green blotch? A holt?"
"The Sumatra rainforest. It's on the Algerian/Syrian border."
"Folks, please listen!"
"This place is too full of tourists."
"Duh, everyone’s a tourist up here."
"Everyone shut up, or I'll open the airlock and we'll all be sucked out! That's better. Welcome, folks! Here on the ISS observation deck, four panes of glass lie between us and the vacuum of outer space...."

Fearless Reider said...

We came for leaves lit red by slanting sunlight, for clouds banked high in a fair autumn sky. The rental cabin’s spare: stove, table, bunk. Ragged guestbook tucked between the slats. I turn its curling leaves:

“I came 1,000 miles to stand on sacred ground. Miss you, brother.”

“Quit alcohol today— Day 1, again.”

“We came to see the stars and talk to Daddy. Hope he can hear us.”

In bed, a quiet sob. Her tiny hand seeks mine. “No ghosts here,” I lie, and grip her tight. Leaf by leaf, our days drift down to dust. Dona nobis pacem.

Anu Roy said...

You won’t know me. My name conjures up nothing. A blank. You stare at me all day but yet, don’t notice me. So let’s talk about me.

Because, well, it’s bloody entertaining.

To be fair, I can bank on the fact you think I’m useless. But if I disappear, you’ll lose your holt on English.

You see the space between words. In every sentence. Yup, that’s me. The name’s Blank.

I’m done being futile. Now, I have a mission – distancing two warring worlds. Putting space between them. See what I did there.

So I’m off to the Algerian/Syrian border.


Craig F said...

The winds were fair for us. We hadn’t seen a soul since we passed Holt Bank, so she pulled out the brazier and lit it.

We shared a kiss and she started the chant. I steered for the space between, the space once occupied by the Ishtar Gate, the Algerian/Syrian border.

The sky darkened and the winds grew fierce. I fight a bucking boat toward that mythic place, a place from the past.

Then we are though and in the fair weather again. Maybe in the place the place where trolls eat lying politicians, instead of being the lying politicians.

Timothy Lowe said...

"The Algerian/Syrian border?” said the blank-faced crayfish. “Try counting the space between Fairbanks and Holt, Missouri.”


“No, sir. Try again. Assyria’s not even a real thing anymore.”


“Not really. One is the old dead writer. The religion’s fine and well.”

The iridescent crab scrolled through RhymeZone, mistaking it for a geography aide.

The crayfish sighed. “It’s right next to Turkey.”

The crab punched buttons furiously into what he believed was Google.

“Sir, you just sent a Tweet.”

Amanda said...

Caleb Phillip Holt

April 9, 1992—May 3, 2019

My vision blurred as I stared at the tombstone. The lyrics to “The Space Between” had lingered in my mind throughout the funeral service. I wiped my eyes and ran toward the meadow’s bank. We’d met there when he’d caught my fall. Though, his blue eyes and fair skin caught my attention. The contrast seemed so innocent, so pure! Like an angel. How had he been found with the needle in his arm? Why had he turned to heroin and not me? Well, he belonged to the angels, now.

Colin Smith said...

She was an Algerian/Syrian borderline psychopath. At least that’s how she introduced herself at the speed dating table. The space between us felt uncomfortably small.

She picked up a pencil and asked what I did.

“I’m a banker,” I said shuffling my chair, making the space bigger. “What about you?”

“I hunt,” she said, fixing me with thirsty eyes, testing the pencil point on her thumb. “In the holts.”

“Fair enou—” The pencil flashed by my face. I turned. An impaled roach fell to the floor.

“Call me,” she said, sliding her card.

I did.

Twenty years ago today.

Kregger said...

“Worm…holes?” I gagged. “As in soil castings and dirt aeration?”

“No,” said the voice from her burka. “As in an Einstein-Rosen bridge.”

I glanced at classmates from my geography class listening to us. Were they buying this? “Do you mean Holtz’s Exotic Matter as it relates to the space between two linear time-space continuums?”

“No, that’s time travel and silly.” Her eyes behind the mesh rolled.

“You’re banking on our professor’s largesse based on a Jacobian Matrix Determinant in geography?”

Her covering shimmied like Cousin It. “That’s fair.”

“I’m sorry, but even with a wormhole, there’s no Algerian/Syrian border.”

S.D.King said...

Azad, our hulking Armenia/Syrian borderline autistic translator, lifted his shirt exposing a wired box strapped to his chest.

“Holter Monitor,” he boasted through wide-spaced fuzzy teeth. We laughed.

This quirk started when his mother, a nurse, exploded along with her hospital. He looted and hoarded equipment from the rubble bank.

Yet, he saved our fair-haired butts daily.

We arrived at the field hospital at dusk. Dinner then triage.

Azad lumbered the mess tent making friends; then lifted his shirt.



The bullet hit between electrodes.

We buried him in a lab coat and latex gloves. I reset his monitor.

shanepatrickwrites said...

Since the third miscarriage, the space between them could fill the Algerian/Syrian border. “It’s warmer in Fairbanks than in this house,” Pete shouted. Beth ran outside and crawled under the mugo pines Pete planted when they first bought the property to cry. That’s how they dealt with their sadness. Pete raged and Beth sobbed in the holt behind the house. Their relationship had become a poorly written story with a powerful beginning, a depressing middle and no end in sight.

Whitney G. said...

She tumbled down the embankment. Marshland spread from her ankles to the horizon, water squelched in her lace-ups. A cluster of cedar trees rose from the bog, offering concealing shadows. Fifteen steps away, maybe twelve if she pushed. The holt beaconed. She sprang upon the first tree and knocked. A shard of pale dawn splintered the horizon. “I’m here,” she called. Tree by tree she grasped at the rough bark, feeling for a seam, a space, an opening. Fair yellow daylight spread above. “I’m here,” she cried again between the trees, but she was too late. The gateway was sealed.

Jennifer Delozier said...

A Modern Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, a little girl named Goldie loved fairy tales and rainbows, unicorns and panda bears. But in the short space of time between Grimm and Gatsby, alcohol turned her teeth to rot and hardened her liver to stone.

Papa Bear broke the bank on rehab. Mama huffed and puffed tough love. Baby brother pleaded with God.

Goldie’s funeral was held at Grandma’s house in the hood. The fairy tales are ghost stories now, spoken in hushed tones at reunions far and wide.

And they all lived unhappily ever after.

The End

Michael Seese said...

I remember the night we met.

He spied me, all irresistible, across the bar. Like a shot, the space between us disappeared.

"I can do to you things you've only dreamed of," I cooed.

"I don't know," he stammered, unsure of whether he actually was unsure. "I've never..."

I love "virgins." They're money in the bank.

I touched his lips.

He was mine.

Our affair deepened. He introduced me to his friends. Even a few coworkers. Discreetly.

"Don't worry," I assured him. "You can end this anytime."

But that's just the alcohol talking. And when I talk, I always lie.

Steph Ellis said...

The Speaker raised his voice but found only hot air had escaped. The space between his brain cells had widened considerably as his ego had puffed itself up, inflating his pride. He felt himself begin to float. Not fair, he thought. Finally he had achieved power. Forget the people. The cameras wanted him. He could bank on it.

At the critical moment however, his heart had let him down. 999 had been dialled and now the doctors had applied a holter to the failing organ.

With no output registered, they turned off life support but allowed democracy to breathe again.

Sian Brighal said...

A chill settled in the space between her sore ribs as she paused by the river; it had risen so high, so stealthily up the bank. It must've seemed such a fair thing to live so close to comforts and risk had never featured as they'd dug out their home. She beat her fists against the sodden sides to scare some sense into mother otter then rushed home. A river threatened. Plucking her child from the holt he'd built on the banks of this is my last one she fled before she drowned on tears and his whiskey.

french sojourn said...

“I’ll take “Disingenuous Prompts” for $400, Alex.”

“This occupies the space between the Algerian / Syrian borders?”

**buzzer sound**


“What is the Mediterranean Sea.”

“Correct… go again Felix.”

“I’ll take “Dis-genre-ed” for $300 Alex.”

“Answer is, “This genre doesn’t exist.”

**buzzer sound**

“Go ahead, Holt.”

“What is Dino Porn.”

“I’m sorry, that’s not it.”

**buzzer sound**

“Go ahead, Felix.”

“What is “Fiction Novel? …I’ll take “Vices” for $500.”

“The answer is… “This city was named after the 26th Vice-President.””

**buzzer sound**


“What is Fairbanks?”

“That’s correct Felix, now the final category, “Entries that aren’t even remotely, a story.””

Marie McKay said...

The eye surgeon places the tweezers between her fingers and peels away the layers.
The first lens was full of blind yesterdays.
The second; clouds of tears.
The third saw loneliness stretched into space.
"There might be ten contact lenses in this eye. Poor thing."
The fourth saw a holt by a riverbank instead of the store.
The fifth; a fog of panic.
The sixth; a blurred foreign neighborhood.
The seventh saw his affairs confused.
The eight; pages, conversations disappear.
The ninth; familiar strangers.
The surgeon places the tenth lens on the tray: the first to see him lose count.

Sherryl said...

Space is so quiet and peaceful. Earth is so far away. Not far enough to avoid people. Especially a husband I’d gleefully left behind.

“The bank called agin,” he says.

I let the silence and the miles between us lengthen.

“It’s not fair. You’re the one that owes …” His whine shudders the speaker.

“Steve, why are we talking about this shit?”

Big huffy breath. “Trying to talk to you is like gettin’ a holt of the Algerian/Syrian border. You’re impossible.”

“There’s no such …” I hit two buttons at once. Call ended. Poker site loads. Bliss.

alyson faye said...

Me and Da had spent a long bone aching day lying on our stomachs, hidden by the slope of the bank, with barely any space between us; me chewing grass stalks and praying we’d get the killer shot. We needed the cash.
Joe had been furious at being left behind, ‘It’s not fair,’ he’d tantrummed.
“You’re too young,” Da ruffled his hair. “This is man’s work.”
I catch movement, nudge Da. I mime ‘point and shoot.’
Da lifts his camera, aims the long lens at the otter family playing at the mud entrance of their holt and clicks.

John Davis Frain said...

The first step is the toughest, friends said. I grasp the concept from the parking lot, a short walkway as vast as space between us.

From somewhere, courage.

Inside, the fetor of alcohol taunts me.

At the desk, I pretend I’ve made it this far before. Apprehensively attach the Visitor badge.

Pass an assembly of occupied wheelchairs.

The hallway stretches, yet I still arrive at her door too soon.

“Hi, babe,” I practice in the hallway, the unfairness swallowing my voice.

Hadn’t banked on this. My friends are wrong.

The final step is the toughest. I turn. Will try again tomorrow.

Ash Complin said...

Billy was playing on the bank of the Colorado River when it changed direction. A collosal creature emerged from the waves and moved toward him.

Rifle in hand, George raced from his tent. He put himself in the space between Billy and the water monster and pulled the trigger, putting a fairly large hole in the beast's hide.

George ushered Billy to the car and sped off.

The radio cried of the apocalypse. Sea levels were rising inexplicably quickly. Global warming was blamed. Billy grinned, knowing George had just shot Tieholtsodi, Navajo Flooder of Worlds, and kidnapped his son.

Jenn Griffin said...

With the gap in years between her and her half-siblings, many forget Liesl even existed.

Those treks into the holt—and the abandonment—all her fault. They’d banked on Liesl winning Teen Fräulein at the fair. Only she’d secretly stopped visiting her Oma, the old Hexe. All that gingerbread and küche: she couldn’t take another bite. She shrank from zäftig to small, and placed last, to Mutter and stepfather’s eternal shame.

No space in their hearts for her after that.

If she had done her duty, Hansel and Gretel would never have been subjected to Oma’s evil.

Sandra J. said...

Stray petals fall between his fingers.

His great-granddaughter pushes his chair closer. He leans forward and places his palm on the carved maple leaf.

His tears are silent. Like his scream was on that riverbank at the other end of time. Like those who fell beside him as they acquiesced their fate with firm shoulders and terrified eyes.

They were on the cusp. Aces, they were. Fair lads with fierce hearts.

He places one poppy on the headstone.

Soon, he moves on to the next. And the next.

His comrades. His brothers. All in Holten Cemetery.

He’s ready to join.

Aphra Pell said...

“Breasts” said the old lady “Are fair, dark or anything between; nipples smooth, puckered, hairy, even missing. They bear no resemblance to spaceships or oysters.”

The writer snapped shut his laptop, concealing pearlescent mounds quivering adjectivally.

“As for ‘she yodelled hyena-like as his manly unicorn charged her moist otter holt’…. I’m not sure if the poor woman needs a doctor or a zoologist, but,” she tapped a golden fingernail against her glass “dear boy, that’s not how it works.”

“How would you know?”

“A life banking memories.” She swigged her whisky and smiled at the bartender. “That’s not over yet.”

Richelle Elberg said...

The terrain banks hard. I huff, climb up, up, further up. The oaks, the pines, and aspens blur as I rage through the lush holt.

Finally, the cottage appears; beside it, the girl, yet a fair maiden, toils a garden.

In the space between us toddles my prize.

He’s three now. Three years lost to the chasm!

I whistle softly. The boy hears, grins at my silly antics.

As I lead the boy away, I hear her singing. “Tomorrow, tomorrow, the baby I take...for Rumpelstiltskin is my name.” She guffaws.

I grab the boy, run.

I laugh last.

Sunnygoetze said...

Another Friday evening spent zoned out on the couch watching Lester Holt report news about the Algerian/Serian border. I really wasn't listening, but I couldn't find the remote;too much space between me and the t.v. rendered me handicapped,so I just stared at the pictures on the screen hoping my fair tabby would make herself useful and find the remote or somehow change the channel with her tabby cat super powers. But as usual, Tabby curled up on the bank of my leg and went to sleep. What can I say, like mother, like daughter.

C. Dan Castro said...

Geb had redecorated. “Eliminated…spaces.”

“Where’s Jordan?!!”

Geb patted the holt.

“And the Nile?”

He pointed to a “river” bank.

“It’s barely a brook!”

He shrugged.

“Egypt? And everything between--?”


“In the future, there’s no Algerian/Syrian border.”

“Puh-leeze. In the future, your name means someone crazy, Nut.”

“Grandpa Ra’ll kill you.”

“Nuh-uh. Long as I don’t lose any artifacts.”

I smiled. “Where’re the pyramids?”

Geb looked like he swallowed a Sphynx cat. “Grandpa’ll kill me!”

Now I shrugged.

“No fair! You’re always rearranging the sky!”

I ascended. “Clouds, Geb. Ephemeral opuses. Fix your territory, or Grandpa’ll roast your nut…ssss.”

Leilani said...

A sunlit streambank in a holt, you said.  I thought it fair, until the light exploded, reframing the world and searing skin - skin that learned to know itself because of pain.

There never was a sunlit stream. I dreamed it all. But leave me for a day, and I beg you to come back. My body mourns the shaping of your familiar lash.

Then she is born and the world breaks. In the spaces between your words, I see you love her more than you love me. But I will keep her safe.

This unlit dream: You. Me. Her grave.

Efa Foy said...

I watch you—me—in our cryopod. We look dead.

Iced menthol to teeth.

I jump to the next circuit: c-deck, camera 2: a single sofa, iridescent in the circadian lights. Intangible soon.

With you frozen, and me, roaming the ship’s ansible, thousands of light-years between us and re-corporation, they warned it could be lonely. Better lonely than entombed.

From c-deck, I slip into controls and find the cryobank. The other shelf-stables, they look peaceful. Hopefully, they are. They’re still mortal after the thaw.

Crisp acetone to nostrils.

I change our one to zero.

flashfriday said...

The woman asleep at the crosswalk reeks of alcohol. (That is, it looks like she’s sleeping; hard to tell.) A faded blue towel’s scrunched above her like Aladdin’s turban; knots strangle her hair, and she’s buried deep in what might be a North Face coat.

I don’t want to wake her (if she’s asleep?), or I’d stop to ask if she needs anything.

Plus, I’m late: the sun’s already yawning against our fair October sky, and there’s another two blocks between me and my parking space.


I cross, fast. This light’s short, and anyway, she was sound asleep.


Mallory Love said...

In my younger years, I used to dream of the places we’d go; now my thoughts are occupied with the spaces in between:
like the void weaving through the banks where the river behind our house once ran,
and the empty trail where we'd walked along the worn boardwalk admiring the county fair lights when you kissed me for the first time,
from our stolen introductory sip of alcohol to our last toast before you started chemo,
from our rose-colored youth to sad old truths,
to all the time I have left until I see you again.

Unknown said...

Prisoner 1020 cut his arm running through the thick holt. The guards’ shouts ricocheted behind him. In a sheltered space of the cliff, he saw a bottle, with something inside. The blood left a trail when he slid down the embankment. His finger was too thick. The bottle slipped between his sweaty palms. Then he pulled out the note.
He began to use the blood to write.
One of the guards, the big one, didn’t really speak but grunted and hurled the bottle back into the fair, deep sea. That marooned them on this island.
Who would find them now?

Just Jan said...

Mummy meets us at the bank. She’s tattered from a run-in with the Algerian/Syrian border collies who patrol the cemetery.

Dad doesn’t need a costume to look creepy. He sneaks off to the industrial fridge while Jimmy and I handle the attendant. Caught between the two of us—Jimmy with his ancient Holter monitor strapped to his chest and electrodes jutting from his neck and I in my Atomic Space Alien suit—he doesn’t notice when Dad reappears, sated.

We score a bunch of Airheads and chocolate bars, give our neighbors a fright. The family who trick-or-treats together, stays together.

NLiu said...

She found them in the space between the floorboards and ceiling: tiny footprints. Half-disbelieving, she gifted her first tooth.

She received back a silver penny, perfectly round.

She gave the fair folk more: toenails, a shoelace, a robin's egg of sky blue.

Her dreams.

Her fears.

Her hair smoothed. Her eyes shone. A doll appeared by the fender. A kitten curled on her eiderdown.

The summer she turned sixteen their footprints were everywhere.

At night, they whispered.

So she followed the footprints. Left her shoes on the riverbank. Peered into the deserted holt.

They were waiting.

Their sharp, sharp teeth.

Colleen said...

I studied myself in the mirror. I drew in breath and gripped the pistol’s holt tighter. Then, I noticed the space between the side of my head and the barrel. It was fairly small, maybe just a centimeter or so, but I was banking on it being just big enough to hold the doubt that began creeping in. Then I thought about the Algerian/Syrian border. I had a choice. So many don’t. That thought made all the difference.