Friday, January 20, 2023

Lands of Lost Borders flash fiction contest

 One of the ways I deal with the isolation of these past few years is to travel by book. I've been reveling in Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris of late.



 Here's the description from the publisher:


As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she most craved--that of a generalist explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and philosopher--had gone extinct. From her small-town home in Ontario, it seemed as if Marco Polo, Magellan and their like had long ago mapped the whole earth. So she vowed to become a scientist and go to Mars.


To pass the time before she could launch into outer space, Kate set off by bicycle down a short section of the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel Yule, then settled down to study at Oxford and MIT. Eventually the truth dawned on her: an explorer, in any day and age, is by definition the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. And Harris had soared most fully out of bounds right here on Earth, travelling a bygone trading route on her bicycle. So she quit the laboratory and hit the Silk Road again with Mel, this time determined to bike it from the beginning to end.


 Like Rebecca Solnit and Pico Iyer before her, Kate Harris offers a travel narrative at once exuberant and meditative, wry and rapturous. Weaving adventure and deep reflection with the history of science and exploration, Lands of Lost Borders explores the nature of limits and the wildness of a world that, like the self and like the stars, can never be fully mapped.


 So let's have a flash fiction contest celebrating this wonderful book!


 The usual rules apply:

 1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.


2. Use these words in the story:









If you are Steve Forti, you must incorporate the words: Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan


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.


9.  There are no circumstances in which it is ok to ask for feedback from ME on your contest entry. NONE.


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

Example: "Boy oh boy is Steve Forti in for this week!"


11. Please do not post anything (For example: "I love Felix Buttonweezer's entry!"). but contest entries. Save that for the contest results post.


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


13. 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: Saturday January 21 at 6:37am


Contest closes: Sunday January 22 at 9am

Be VERY careful of the times. Sometimes comments are still open even after the contest has closed.


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.




Tim Lowe said...

On the road to Vegas, we were beset by bikers.

Demon’s ilk. Hell’s bane. They swerved and veered. Grinning, guffawing.

“Hold on, Doctor,” I said grimly, snorting a line off the creamy leather interior of my red Chevy convertible. “Time we taught these bastards a lesson!”

“You sure, Raoul?” said Gonzo. “As your attorney, I must advise you . . .”

“No time!” I yelled as I pulled hard on the wheel. Yawing across the road, we scattered them like marsupials.

“You see, Doctor?” I trumpeted unapologetically. “Those Hell’s Angels are no match for the Red Shark!”

“But, Mr. Duke. . .? Those were triathletes.”

Mallory Love said...

The marsh held many things. Its secrets spread out across its broad expanse. It held Lucy’s tears and the letter with another’s lipstick stains and Lucy’s husband’s name. It held a silk purse the same shade as the stains. It held Timmy’s bike that he lost control of when he found Lucy floating face down. It held a block of concrete from the construction of the nearby road. And attached to the concrete, it held the remains of a woman who once wrote a letter and carried a silk purse. The one thing the marsh didn’t hold was apologies.

Steve Forti said...

Kyrgyzs Tan? HGTV’s trying too hard with this ‘World of Color’ line. There also a Pakis Tan?”
“No, but Noble Uzbek is tan. Gobi Kefir looks more cream.”
“So does Rugged Montenegro. A darker shade would better cover the stains.”
“You’d still notice outlines. I’d go with Myanmar Scarlet. It makes sense.”
“Nah, it’s the opposite color that cancels out.”
“Smart. So Tuscan Basil? Kazakh Oasis?”
“What about that stain blocking primer – Kilz? Too on the nose?”
“Let’s just replace the drywall. And while we’re here, I apologize. I’ll get plastic sheets this time. I ain’t painting again next week.”

Kregger said...

“Walter Mitty was a piker in imagination,” said Les Nessman. “Pigs can fly if enough thrust is applied.”

Johnny grinned into the mic. “So…Les, that’s a pithy truism. Remind me, what’s that children’s pool game called?”

“Marsco Polo. Why?”

“Bike with me. And a WWII call sign?”

“Roger Silko?”

“Correct. What do you call a sweaty horse?”

“Road wet and put away hard.”

Johnny frowned. “So…flying pigs equals the Farm”

“Well, Johnny, with heterosis…flying pigs is part of the fun.”

Johnny extorted. “Les Nessman and the News!”

Pushing the off-air button, “Nice, Les, your porcine sister’s not gay?”

AWN said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

She pulled another tread from the hem of her priceless kimono and carefully cleaned her teeth.

The strong thread will last a year with care.

To the Marshall, she never said "yes"; it didn't matter. But putrid roadmen with their stinking breath and disease?

In early foolishness she killed the insects. Now she welcomed lice in her matted hair.

The Kubuki kept her role open, waiting for an apology. At one time she filled her time rehearshing lines and dances. Now, standing was a chore.

If asked now, she would stand, her kimono not reaching her knees, and say "No."

C. Dan Castro said...

Ms. Rothlins sobs in her Porsche. She’s a tear-strewn goddess, descended from Mars. Unfortunately for Tommy.

The paramedics stop working on him.

A parent tells cops we play bike polo. Hoping to make the Academy’s team. Ride actual horses.

Tommy always punched me.

Calling me “Dirty Twerpie.”

My friend Tanisha reappears. Flashes me a smile.

Memories wash over me: silk pajamas hugging her body.

I stare at the road.

Tanisha fingered Tommy as a bully. Instantly.

She’s dangerous.

But I’m thirteen.

I love her.

Tanisha Rothlins cries again as a cop approaches, assuring my Academy teacher it wasn’t her fault.

msanchez said...

From my perch on the roof, I watched Polo stomp through the rippling sand dunes that the fierce Mars wind blew into perfect ridges before they swept against the walls of our compound, burying us further. My brother’s hoverbike had glitched out a mile outside of camp, again--even though Silky ordered him to stick to the roads. Polo knew the dangers of traveling over the dunes on foot; that the vibrations of his steps could alert the beasts slumbering beneath. His stubbornness would get him killed.

When a wave of sand rose behind him, the wind stole my scream.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Marsden grips Granny's hand. Abandoned bicycles line the road, children plucked from them by the evil in these woods. Bent frames. Flat tires. Rusted chains. Broken bells. The only remains ever found.

His big sister's friends came back. Polly - Polo, his name for her - didn't. The flowers in his other hand tremble. He places them by her bike, brushing the faded tassels hanging from the handlebars, the strands silky, like Polo's hair.

He and Granny leave. Behind them, something rustles, pants. A bike horn bleats like a terrified animal. They walk faster.

Neither of them turns around.

Unknown said...

She pulled another tread from the hem of her priceless kimono and carefully cleaned her remaining teeth.

The thread will last a year with care.

To the Marshall, she never said "yes"; it didn't matter. But putrid roadmen with their stinking breath and disease?

In earlier foolishness she killed insects. Now she welcomed lice in her matted hair.

The Kubuki kept her role open, waiting for an apology. At one time she filled her time rehearsing lines and dances. Now, most movement was a chore.

If asked now, she would stand, kimono not reaching her knees, and say "No."

Note: I am posting from public computer on vacation and it shows as "unknown". This is actually S.D. King

Craig F said...

A silk rag waved half assedly as I biked to the end of the road. The entries had been dwindling since I started.

Even though it wasn’t really my game I had not lost a race yet. I kept doing the races because I was bored, you still can’t play polo here, because the air won’t support horses, but Mars was the only game around for an adventurous soul

Colin Smith said...

There’s mud in my ears. All I can hear is a slow, gentle plopolopolop as I try to breathe.

I grab at the surface; silken slime runs through my fingers. My bleary eyes try to focus. A road in the distance. Bikes discarded like marsh trash.

I push my legs downward, tasting sludge as I try to speak: “Kyrgyz…” Standing is hard. Too hard. “Uz… Beki…” Standing is impossible.

Then I see why. Her foot is pressing against my chest. “Beki?”

I turn my head. Rebecka is sitting on the bank, smiling, holding my Pokémon cards tightly to her chest.

Kate Dulson said...

Silk split skin looked back at her in the rear view mirror. Time to get this show on the road. That bike would soon overtake her. Marsh green eyes fire flickered. She wasn’t going to apologise. Not this time.

Just Jan said...

Earth was about to become history, courtesy of a humongous, hurtling meteor.

Nobody cared that Xander used Alexa to study quantum physics. Or that I scavenged enough second-hand Legos to build a functioning spacecraft. While the adults around us freaked out, we were on the road to Mars.

All we needed was heavy metal.

We rode Xander’s bike into the heart of the deserted reactor. I sang “Uranium Decays into Polonium” in my best Schoolhouse Rock voice while Xander smashed the containment unit. Using a silk scarf, he grabbed the fuel pellets.

What happened next? Reader, we left this planet.

John Davis Frain said...

He had the cutest walk. I’ve watched him around the neighborhood.

He’s from Venus, Dad said. You’re from Mars. Backward but with good intention. Dad never liked him. Or his kind.

He lived across the road, and I don’t apologize for trespassing. Once I tried to sneak in the basement. I heard him encouraging me. I failed.

Yesterday, he was alone out back. He couldn’t leave his yard. But with my = silky moves, I pranced atop his fence, batted my eyes. “Meow.”

He charged. “Woofwoofwoofwoofwoof.” Lunged for me. Knocked the fence into his owner’s bike.

Turned out Dad was right.

Taryn Kincaid said...

Bruno Mars, he take off Silk Sonic T-shirt, spritz on Polo, say "gotta kiss myself, I'm so pretty."
Girls hit their hallelujah.
Bruno say, "Julio, get the stretch, bike to Harlem, Hollywood, Jackson, Mississippi, we gon' show out smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy."
Julio say, "I'm too hot, damn. Call the police and the fireman."
Bruno, he say, "We on the road to Uptown Funk 'cause Uptown Funk gon' give it to you." Wooh.
Julio say, "That's ice cold."
Bruno, he say, "Don't believe me, just watch."

eastern rose said...

Bikes flung, metallic explosions bashing the road.

Running inside for safety. Pool nearby, she dives.

Voices. Too loud.

She kicks down. Water presses her eardrums, dampening all sound.

Shooting toward the depths, silken hair swirling, the rough bottom mars her trailing fingertips as she endeavors to evade.

Traversing the length of the pool, lungs soon begging to surface.

She slows. Legs fluttering, conserving oxygen, she buys a minute. Maybe two.

Needing to surface, she slithers up the far wall. Inhales.



Voices. Too loud.

No money for sensory deprivation chamber, the community pool is the best she can do.

NLiu said...

The terrain stretched in brown mountains to where peeps of white showed like distant cumulonimbi. Kendra followed the road’s faint scent over cracks that leaked viscous gold, then paused on a ridge. The air was hazy, silky-sweet. She wriggled with excitement. The explorers were right: riches lay here.

She was busy digging when a shadow crossed overhead.

The air boomed.

Kendra froze.

‘Ugh! Mum! There’s an ant on my plate!’

A colossal hand slapped between the mars bar and the scattered polos, but Kendra was gone.

shanepatrickwrites said...

The assassin broke down his road bike and reassembled it on the darkened rooftop. He pivoted the scoped rifle on its tripod, scanning faces for his target. “Imagine Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan had a baby,” said the computer-altered voice in the Accounts Payable folder. “She’s as comfortable dressed in silk watching the polo match or hiking Kamchik Pass living on a Mars bar for a week.”

Hamil waited. A shadow caught his eye on the adjacent rooftop. Nothing. He turned again skyward. He didn’t see the comet or the woman glide behind the would-be killer and slit his throat.

Michael Seese said...

Nothing mars a seven-year-old's birthday party quite like a dead pony. As the phalanx of nonplussed parents pulled out of my driveway, I mulled the paths I'd pondered but the roads not taken.

I could have gotten her that shiny new bike. Or that silky Cinderella dress. Heck, an Xbox with Call Of Duty preloaded probably would have resulted in far fewer years of future psychotherapy.

But I wanted something more, something memorable.

I sure got it.

In my defense, though, I would challenge anyone to say they actually knew that water polo was supposed to be played without horses.

Unknown said...

Stanley spent ten minutes turning a stick at Fall Fun Night, offered me the perfect marshmallow. Chad swaggered up, offered me a ride home in his sixteenth birthday present.

I went.

Stanley stood alone at the prom. Chad wore silk and Polo, stuck a promise ring on my finger as he promised adventure and travel.

I kept mine.

Stanley stuck nearby, cut Mom’s grass since Dad died. We biked the French Alps, lived Khaosan Road. “Children will hold us back.”

I conceded.

Stanley died today. Chad chose thirty-something Julie.

France, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan. I should have stuck with my Stan.