Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest


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Post February 07, 2016, 11:24:18 AM

Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

Here is where I offer an apology and say my peace.
I moved on because I have too many irons in the fire. I offered up this contest because I gleaned that it was missed by some. I was disappointed. Over all I found the participation disappointing and not deserving of my efforts. Quite a bit of lip service has been given to this contest and not a lot of support. I will not be running anymore myself. I hope another takes it up and I hope the enthusiasm returns.

That being said I must offer my apologies. I was often late on my deadlines. I did not keep the archive up even close to how I should have. (Something I still hope to rectify for those who have treated me so well over my tenure here.) I was often not doing my best sometimes through frustration, sometimes through overload. I hope this contest can be great again, better than I have run it certainly. But anyone who picks up where I have left off will need you support and participation more than in the past that I have seen. Please consider that and also please graciously accept my apology for my short comings.

Ed




APHELION FLASH FICTION CONTEST: January 2016

IT JUST KEEPS GETTING META!

THE PREMISE: Make the character in the story you. Also use at least two elements from your real life in the last few months. Be prepared to list the Meta elements of you story.


THE CHALLENGE: I challenge you to write speculative flash fiction where a you are the protagonist and there are at least 2 elements which are true to your life right now recently.

REQUIREMENTS: (1) Your story must a speculative (sci fi, fantasy, dark fantasy, bizarro, etc.) story; (2) Your story must involve a you and two elements of your recent life. (3) 1,000 words or less, not counting title, byline, "The End," or punctuation such as #### used to separate sections; (4) The characters and story must be fictional; (5) One entry per author; (6) Give your story a title and a byline; and (7) Keep it clean. No worse than PG-13. When it comes to ratings, I'm going to use movie ratings as a guide from now on. But bear in mind that ratings are fairly subjective and applying a movie or television rating to a flash story is not the easiest thing to do. A lot depends on context. If you think something in your story may push it beyond PG-13, but you can give me an example of a PG-13 movie where the same thing was allowed, then I'll allow it.





Distorted Reflections


I have rarely – if ever – rearranged the contents of the cabinets inside my mother’s house, nevertheless all the furniture in her home, but when I had to do this, well, everything turned out to be really exhausting and it took many long days to make neat and get it all done. It was something that she couldn’t do anymore because she was very old - so I took over the duty.

Actually, I would never have thought about moving that stylish mirror near her front door, but there was no other space available to put the bookshelves, so I chose to hang it on another wall.

I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to it at first: it was nothing more than a mirror, and not in perfect condition by any means, though it was very pricey and a person might notice it at first sight. I also tried to clean it while moving it, but there was a small black stain – not much bigger than a large dot- on its surface that simply wouldn’t go away, so I gave up and left the spot where it was. It seemed to be something inside the mirror anyway, instead of a stain on its reflective surface.

After a while what amazed me were the new images that were reflected in the mirror, once I had put it in a new corner of the foyer. In fact if you looked at it from exactly the right angle, you might think you saw something inside the mirror itself. And there were also strange distortions all around that black stain, which didn’t make any sense at all!

Great was my surprise when I decided to have a closer look at the dark spot and discovered that you could actually see through it… A completely different world seemed to lie past that stain, a sort of alternate history setting, maybe!

Over the course of the following days, I got used to watching it for hours, using an old magnifying glass, attentively staring at those mountaintops and valleys I could clearly see now. I was amazed at how wooden wagons appeared to go through the pass, stunned by all the colorful people who came and went, some new strange animals, and so on. Incredible views!

Eventually those distortions made me ponder over the whole thing and think about other possibilities… Given my knowledge of physics, could it be a sort of quantum black hole? Or a mini-wormhole leading to another place? Why not? The problem was of course: how could this be possible? And why had this strangeness occurred inside that mirror?

Many strange questions were running through my mind, which were no more incredible than the things you could watch by carefully using the magnifying glass. Maybe I should have called some scientist, or perhaps I should have informed some newspaper about it - but I doubted that anyone would have ever believed me, and reasonably of course.

Then, one evening, my sister came to visit my mother - something she almost never did, as a matter of fact. She didn’t care too much about her parent, especially now that mother was really feeble and old. Once she was inside the house, she threw her fur coat over the mirror itself, saying that there was no other space available on the coat rack - which wasn’t true, of course, as she just liked to do as she pleased, without any regard for anything else.

That was why the mirror fell down, breaking with a crash, because of the excessive weight. This was something disastrous, as a matter of fact! Not that she would have behaved differently if I had told her to pay attention, of course. Alas - I knew her all too well…

“What’s done is done, accept it…” was all she said. I stared at her as you might look at a selfish person with no respect for her mother’s things, or someone who had never accepted that she should be held accountable for anything that went wrong over the course of her life. But I knew that she never cared about anything except herself, truth to be told.


What was even worse was that the magical characteristic that strange mirror once did possess had disappeared, as I ascertained as soon as my sister left the house - taking the newspaper and a big book of mother’s for herself while quickly exiting the home, without saying good-bye! Now there was no way to see that alien - or alternate - world again by means of the magnifying glass, given the break that had split the surface of the mirror into several parts – including the small stain. Now it was gone, forever…and no one else had ever seen it except me! I was certain that no one else would ever believe in such an extraordinary find if there was no evidence left, certainly…

I decided to collect all the glass pieces and put them in a box, for the future. Maybe one day I would find that something was still in there, that it was possible to look at that strange world another time through part of the remaining black stain, or maybe not…Who knows? The fact is that I simply didn’t want to throw all those scraps away as if nothing had ever really happened. Because it had happened, though strange it might be!

While moving the box, a quote by that ancient French writer, Nicolas Chamfort, came to mind. ‘There are two things that one must get used to or one will find life unendurable: the damages of time and injustices of men.’ Or of your deplorable sister, anyway, I told myself, before closing the box with those unusual contents when that evening ended.

That was going to be a different world nobody would see again, and all the discoveries that might came from it -one day- were lost forever.Nevermind the researchers of the truth, or of some alien planets/ alternate realities, anyway...

THE END





Dayton Ohio

I can never remember a time in my life when I didn’t want things to be tidy. So it peeved me a little when a webzine editor set up a meeting of authors and editors in Dayton Ohio, and then bowed out at the last minute.

I had already bought my tickets and made reservations weeks in advance, even going so far as to Google and print out the city bus routes I would be taking. The hard feelings were ironed out however, when the rest of us decided to meet up in Dayton anyway.

Events didn’t truly veer off course until I was on the 17 bus heading downtown and a mechanical female voice came over the intercom on the bus. “Remember, people need your blood. Your blood will be happily accepted at locations easily accessed from most bus routes.” I thought it was unseemly for advertisers to assume that all people who rode the bus needed money bad enough to sell their blood. I looked around at the other riders, and none of them seemed to have been bothered by the announcement – even when it was repeated every three minutes.

I looked around the bus again, closer this time. There was something missing…but what?

Fat people. There were no fat people, there were no skinny people, and no one appeared to be homeless. Each of the 45 passengers appeared to be height and weight proportional, with their ages between 25 and 50 years old. As the ride progressed no one moved, no one shifted, and no one said anything. I briefly caught the eye of one lady who immediately looked down and pulled the brim of her hat over her eyes.

I was disappointed when I got to the ‘Grand Dayton Hotel’ and saw that the words ‘Grand Dayton’ had been covered with white paint, leaving only the word Hotel. There was a small arrow pointing around back where the main entrance normally was, so I entered the hotel through the parking garage. The word ‘Hilton’ had been scratched out on several metal name plates. There were sheets of plastic hanging in the lobby.

The group wasn’t scheduled to meet up for a few hours, so after checking-in (noticing a 4-foot-wide brown stain on the hall carpet outside my room) I decided to walk about downtown to find someplace nice where our small, friendly group could eat supper. I walked through blocks of buildings that were boarded up, sheets of brown paper covering many of the windows.

After not even finding a fast-food joint, I noticed an 8x11 inch sign saying the name of my bank and went inside the building. I went up the escalator. At the top I saw a row of six teller windows but no people. I checked my cell phone for the time: 1:47 in the afternoon.

A man in a suit suddenly burst out from behind the row of cages.

“Hello,” I said cordially. “I’m not from here and was looking for someplace downtown to eat.”

He was flustered. “I just eat healthy food in my apartment…but I believe there is an Uno Pizza around.”

“I’ll check, thanks,” I told him. Then my eye fell upon six toy robots arranged in a circle on a nearby desk. They were black and white and looked like small dogs. “These are cute. Are they for sell?”

The teller threw himself between me and the circle of toys. “They don’t like to be touched!” he whispered frantically.

“THEY don’t like to be touch?” I laughed.

“I meant: please don’t touch them!”

Seeing that I wasn’t welcome I went down the escalator, but not before noticing that the dogs must have been turned on somehow, because their eyes were glowing. As I was halfway to the first floor I thought I heard a mechanical female voice huff out: ‘Cute indeed!’

*****
Our small group of cyber-friends ate and drank for hours inside the Uno Chicago Style Pizza Place. The company and conversation were great and group-selfies were taken. As we were paying for our checks, the editor of Alien Eyes saw a toy beside the cash register.

“I’ve only seen a few of these,” said Lawrence. “It’s an Aibo robot.”

“Aibo? I thought these quit being made in 2005,” answered Sterling, bending down to look at it.

“Careful!” I blurted out. “These toys don’t like to be touched!”

“You’re joking with us!” Lawrence said before we all broke into laughter.

Sterling looked at the cashier. “Would you mind turning it on? Years ago they begged and made a delightful peeing sound.”

“It’s just for display,” said the man flatly. He nodded towards the door.

As we left, I nudged Sterling to follow my lead. We both looked through the front window to see the robot dog’s eyes glowing as the cashier bent over, appearing to listen to whatever it was saying.

****
I was unnerved by the next morning. My dreams had been fitful and the lack of diversity of people I met was disturbing. Now I could see clearly that children had the toy dogs in their backpacks; women on the city buses carried them in their purses.

As I waited in the station for my bus, I noticed that none of the twenty people inside talked or got up to go to the bathroom or ate a snack. Fifty minutes passed and I finally had to get up to stretch my legs.

“Why did you stand up?” asked a woman nearby with blank eyes. “Is the bus here already?”

As I sat in the bus, anxiously waiting to leave the station, I noticed a man’s suitcase accidently crash open as it was being loaded under the bus. I was sure I saw a white hard-plastic toy hit the ground before it was hurriedly closed back up and shoved into the cargo hold.

THE END


To vote, rate these stories using the form below with scores of 0-10 (in whole numbers) and send it to me via PM:

Categories:
1) What overall score would you give the story?
2) How good was the Characterization?
3) How effective (or original) was the plot?
4) How clear was the setting to you?
5) How good was the use of dialog?
6) How well did the story meet or address the challenge as it was given?

NOTE: you must have posted at least one message before you can send a PM. Join in a discussion or just say hi in a thread before voting via PM. If I suspect a voter of being a false identity (i.e. a troll), I won't count their vote.

Author scores for their own entry will not be counted.

Like so for each entry please:

(Title)
1) Overall:
2) Characterization:
3) Plot:
4) Setting:
5) Dialog:
6) Challenge:

Voting will close on Friday February 19th, 2016 at approximately 8 p.m., East Coast Time.
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
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Post February 07, 2016, 03:50:10 PM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

Eddie, I don't think you need to apologize. I saw the whole thing, remember. When (less than pleasant) circumstances threatened the continuation of the Flash challenge, you jumped in and kept it running, not just for yourself, but for all of us.

Gotta say, you flummoxed a few of the staff with that initiative, taking such an action without even an "If I may—?", but when one of them asked what we'd just seen happen, another said, "I think that's called an audition." And there you were.

Yeah, you've made a few little flubs, but I'm reminded of an episode of "King of the Hill" where Hank was taking about his Boy Scout experiences with real knives and real campfires: "That's how we learned things were sharp and hot." OJT.

Didn't do as much as you thought you should? Let's see, in the last several months or so, you've gotten married, bought a house, launched a bushel of your own publications, and helped establish another online periodical—probably worked a day job, too ... I just wish I'd ever been so energetic. 'Irons in the fire' indeed!

Don't let this issue's poor turnout make you feel bad. That isn't your fault. You've been good for us here, and I'm grateful. I do think the Flash is important to our popularity and our usefulness to writers, and I hope it thrives.

Meanwhile, keep doing what you have to do, and best of luck to you in all of it.
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Post February 07, 2016, 05:19:25 PM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

That is not to say I am even close to done here, just that I can not run another regularly scheduled endeavor. I still love being part of this community and this is the perfect scouting ground for talent for a semi-pro magazine editor.
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
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Post February 08, 2016, 04:16:12 PM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

Thanks for giving this contest its best shot. Sorry it didn't work out.
Many of us have gone on to larger writing endeavors, but there are good memories here in the Fun & Games section.
I'll say adieu for now, as well. Thanks Eddie - certainly not your fault! Michele Dutcher
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Post February 09, 2016, 07:06:49 AM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

You really did a wonderful job so far, EddieSullivan, for sure!!! :D :D :D

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Post February 10, 2016, 12:32:21 PM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

You did a good job, EddieSullivan. Too many irons in the fire will put out the fire! That’s for sure! Sometime we must give-up a few things we love to do in order to concentrate on viable projects that are in a higher priority. I know I’ve had to do that.

You did a good job and I appreciate you efforts. They we good ones!
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Post February 11, 2016, 12:52:49 AM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

My votes are in.
I was raised by humans. What's your excuse?

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Post February 11, 2016, 02:11:09 AM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

... And I'm certainly in the mix after tanking on my horror story!
:(

But I feel better this week and made myself some Aphelion memos to join back in again, aided nicely by a new computer courtesy of a compound Summer B-Day / Christmas present from Dad and built damn well by my brother!

I've got the To-Do to vote on the stories here pinned to my physical bin on my desk so I'll try!

I've only occasionally entered the contests but it got worse just when we needed an extra voice. ; (

So, sorry that all of it finally wore you out Eddie. I'm also still around as much as I can.

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Post February 11, 2016, 02:30:13 AM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

And Eddie, erratic as all hell though I've been, Aphelion as a whole and your efforts to be sure in the mix, are among the only things that have kept me almost grounded for a decade.

So with whatever limits my energy holds out, I just added another note to my list, to work on my copy version of the Flash Archive as well.
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Post February 11, 2016, 05:28:47 AM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

My votes are in, too...eh,eh :D

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Post February 13, 2016, 02:33:35 AM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

Although I'm relatively new and not too familiar with Aphelion, I know reading and editing are generally time-consuming and potentially neurosis-inducing jobs. So many thanks for your time and effort, Eddie!

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Post February 14, 2016, 06:35:09 PM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

Got my votes in!!
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Post February 20, 2016, 01:57:58 PM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

Hi Eddie, I sent my votes in a while ago but I just noticed they are still in my outbox. Maybe I did something wrong? I'll try to send them again.
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Post February 20, 2016, 02:01:00 PM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

Nope the 2nd one is staying there as well in my outbox. Oh well.
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Post February 21, 2016, 11:25:49 AM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

Distorted Reflections 132
Dayton Ohio 129

Congrats to both for great stories and use of the challenge!
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
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Post February 21, 2016, 01:16:24 PM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

Eddie, you forgot to identify the authors ... anyway, congrats to whoever the winner was (Sergio, right?).

Here's how I voted:

Distorted Reflections
1) Overall: 5
2) Characterization: 8
3) Plot: 5
4) Setting: 7
5) Dialog: 5
6) Challenge: 10

total: 40

notes: Sorry, I couldn't come up with any comments.


Dayton Ohio
1) Overall: 6
2) Characterization: 5
3) Plot: 5
4) Setting: 9
5) Dialog: 6
6) Challenge: 10

total: 41

notes:
Creepy mood established with the blood donor solicitation, the robot dogs, and the peculiarities of the locals. None of that seemed to have a point, though. You did capture the essence of Dayton pretty well; it's a bit like an inverted pot-hole.
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Post February 21, 2016, 03:05:44 PM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

LOL.
Sergio and Michele!
Doh!
Distorted Reflections was Sergio
and
Dayton Ohio was Michele
Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
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Post February 22, 2016, 03:50:42 AM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

I voted for Dayton Ohio, of course, and I gave it 8 in each category, a very interesting story, perfect in capturing the image of the town itself, certainly!!! :D
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Post February 22, 2016, 04:16:01 AM

Re: Poll JAN/FEB Flash contest

Congrats sergio. I liked the concept of the mirrors reflection being avisual gateway to another world. Lester was right about my story. I couldnt pack in all the plot necessary to make this successful. I was trying to say the dogs were sentient and using humans as controlled pets. I may expand it to make it clearer.
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