March 2022 Issue: Unthemed

Guest edited by Charlotte Boyle

Contents:

Watching – Nalini Yang (age 08; Maungatua Mountain, New Zealand) 
The First Being – Rebecca Fraser (age 08; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Night  – Arianna Chevez (age 12; Houston, Texas, United States)
The Art Room – William Bittner (age 16; Odenville, Alabama, United States)
I Come from a Sea – Eve Malone (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Silences – Isabelle Carnahan (age 11; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Memories of July – Isla Hindin (age 17; Christchurch, New Zealand)
A Brief Argument between Humankind and Poultry – William Bittner (age 16; Odenville, Alabama, United States)
The Sound of Wind – Nick Wylie (age 15; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Boat Dock – Rivers Terry (age 12; Houston, Texas, United States)
Dead on Arrival – William Bittner (age 16; Odenville, Alabama, United States)
Brotherhood – Khristina Cabrera (age 17; New Jersey, United States)
Things – Alice Robinson-McVety (age 08; Brooklyn, New York, United States)
Evening on the Lake – Thea Hakel (age 12; Houston, Texas, United States)
How to Make a Cat – Rebecca Fraser (age 08; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Swift – Stephanie Weatherill (age 20; Dunedin, New Zealand)
I Wish I Was Like Zuri – Shaan Udani (age 16; New Jersey, United States)

Nonfiction column: A day in the life of…

Matteo – Maria Barreto-Walker (age 09; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Trepidation – Daniel Officer (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
A Day in the Life of the Huia – Alfie Lash (age 08; Christchurch, New Zealand)

Watching – Nalini Yang

Nalini Yang is eight years old and lives near Dunedin, New Zealand. She has lots of pets including twenty-three sheep, four hens, and a kitten. She would really love an owl.


The First Being – Rebecca Fraser

I come from the birth of the stars
From the taste of dust
From the sound of blasts and explosions
I am small
You are large
I say goodbye
As evolution takes hold
Changing a little, changing a lot

Rebecca Fraser is eight years old and lives with her mum, dad, and tropical fish in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has a liking for hedgehogs wearing hats and random outfits. She especially likes writing poetry and the occasional short story.


The Night – Arianna Chevez

The pigment of the sky
Starts to darken
The ground gets its last
Footsteps of the day
The moon starts
Its long shift
The people start
To drag themselves to their caves
While the sky
Kisses the stars

Arianna Chevez is twelve years old and lives in Houston, Texas. She is in middle school and has always had a passion for writing, especially poems.


The Art Room – William Bittner

They are pinpricks poked through a sheet of black construction paper
Taped over my head by a child in art class.
It is all a shoddy project, with glue stains and ragged edges,
Paper cuts. There’s breathing room inside, a musty Elmer’s scent.
The holes are backlit by fluorescent lights glowing on the ceiling,
Each flicker a rotation on the axes of the little stars.
The ceiling tiles are stained brown with star dust, and in the cabinets?
The Eagle Nebula, its wispy weight composed of scattered beads.

William Bittner, age sixteen, is born and raised in Odenville, Alabama. He is never happier than he is when alone with his dogs, reading a good book about public policy.


I Come from a Sea – Eve Malone

I come from a sea
Where sun floods the sky
The taste of early morning sun
Leads to pink skies at night
When the sun goes down
The moon rises up
Stars on the sea
Reach down beside me
Salty water lies upon my skin
I came here by boat
It passes once a day
I’ve never known where I am
And never plan to find out
The peaceful waves wash up
Leaving the golden sand moist
A gust of light breeze washes me away
The fear of leaving drowns me

Eve Malone is ten years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Silences – Isabelle Carnahan

Cat paws through the garden
Butterflies in flight
Moring daisies yawning
The slowly falling night
Snow before it’s trodden
Books before they’re read
The moon when freshly risen
A secret left unsaid
Clouds not ready to rain yet
Fresh-stretching apple pips
That moment between tick and tock
Your finger-hushed lips

Isabelle Carnahan is eleven years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She is very sporty and great at school subjects, but in her free time, she loves to write. She gets the most story ideas before she goes to bed, so she writes them down. She has been writing for as long as she can remember.


Memories of July – Isla Hindin

Do you remember the bus stop on a rainy Friday afternoon? Your bright pink umbrella, your bright pink hair, the angry grey sky. How you laughed when you saw me, and how I told you that I like my face better when I cry than when I smile.  Thunder roared above the salvation of the plastic bus stop roof, and lightning struck so closely that I almost saw you go up in flames.
Do you remember the bus driver, his salt-and-pepper hair and his face that reminded you of your father’s? Do you remember how he told us “the rain won’t last, girls,” but you swore you heard him say that we wouldn’t last? You looked him dead in the eyes, told him that maybe he’s right, and laughed like you always do, in a way that feels more like a punch in the face than a kiss on the cheek.
Do you remember the way I cried like there was nothing else inside me but my mother’s sorrow, and her mother’s before that? That you offered me the apple you kept in your bag, told me I’d feel better if I ate something? And how I took a bite of the apple, spat it onto the ground and told you, “I’d feel better if you loved me.”

Isla Hindin is a seventeen-year-old from Christchurch, New Zealand. She writes mostly poetry, often taken from real-life experiences. She is a high school student and attends a creative writing class weekly, outside of school. She hopes to continue pursuing writing in the future, as well as a biology degree.


A Brief Argument between Humankind and Poultry – William Bittner

It’s said that a chicken can survive with its head cut off for quite a while. It can breathe, it can feed through its neck hole, it can run around and make a ruckus. Chickens like to point out that they can do all those things with their heads still attached, but folks keep chopping the heads off to see what will happen, as if there is some secret side of every chicken hiding inside their necks.
The chickens, acknowledging for argument’s sake that they could be hiding something, point out that, whatever it is, it can’t be worth your time. The most noteworthy thing about chickens is that, without a head, they continue to do exactly what they did before. Only the lack of a head makes it memorable, which means that one thing more memorable than a chicken is slightly less of a chicken. (And don’t forget a chicken, plucked and skinned, breaded and fried—then you call it junk food. But when you eat fancy foods you always say, Mmm, tastes like chicken! Quality is how different a food really is from chicken plus how much it tastes like chicken. Mathematically speaking, quality has an inverse relationship with similarity to chicken.)
The chickens are then asked why they care so much about seeming boring. They must be throwing up a cloud of feathers to distract from the truth they don’t want anyone to know about! No, chickens have no reason to hide their true nature. If a chicken is inherently mundane, could an exceptional one even be called a chicken? If they could boggle the mind, what would separate them from humans? –Well, humans don’t get their heads cut off to see what will happen, or get thrown in fryers. If chickens had an epiphany worth bestowing on the world, it would be in their interest to have done so by now. Surely!
Of course, a talking chicken is fairly spectacular in its own right, and to this the chickens have no counter.

William Bittner, age sixteen, is born and raised in Odenville, Alabama. He is never happier than he is when alone with his dogs, reading a good book about public policy.


The Sound of Wind – Nick Wylie

The sound of the wind throwing
a drink bottle down the road
By the classroom
there is a park where the children go to play
There isn’t a cloud in the grey sky
Inside the classroom
the chairs sit on the desks
the air is stiff
an opened book sitting on the table

Nick Wylie is fifteen years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.


The Boat Dock – Rivers Terry

Years had passed since another boat had parked
The water undisturbed and pure
Though every slot was still empty
The aged wood continued to creak
And the metal roof still swayed
The singular boat rocked
From the peak of the moon,
To the highest of noons
The singular boat stayed there
It never left
Unaware of another presence
The boat started to sadden
It would never get new friends
It would never have a double
Forever by itself

Rivers Terry is twelve years old and lives in Houston, Texas.


Dead on Arrival – William Bittner

Look, look, look, look, look—look. That’s all the damn place is good for. Big rocks. Never seen those before. Trees. Green, like all the rest. Sky. An average blue. Her eyes have been glued on the sky for a few hours now. She isn’t quite sure why. Her head refuses to move. It’s like an ass. She saw an ass outside of Salt Lake City. Two-hour drive out. One of those crazy Mormon towns. Men named Joseph and Elijah. The twinkle in their eyes as she drove by. God, that was the prettiest bit of country. All sandstone and moon rocks. No gravity to tell them what shape to be. A lot prettier than here. Big rocks. Trees. Sky. A pine needle swan-dives onto the tip of her nose. God, she wishes she could scratch it. Needles don’t fall in winter, but it must be winter. Her hands are frozen solid. She can’t lift them. The cold must have numbed them. Funny. She doesn’t feel snowfall. The first specks are what she should feel. Scattered flakes have texture on her skin. The blizzard doesn’t. She must be in a blizzard. That’s why the sun is so bright. It’s reflecting off the ice crystals. The sun looks like a candle. In a dark place. Eye-searing brightness. The floaters in her eyes are like boats. They fjord unconsciousness. Bobbing. Carried in hands. A dancing ember in each. It smells like saltwater, wherever it is. There are no big rocks there. Trees, though. No blue in the sky, it’s ink. The moon is pallid. How sad it is alone. She is alone. She wasn’t alone yesterday. A lover was here. When they met they melded. A Ross painting. That was their love. It wasn’t love between them. It was love of the earth they tread. They both loved it. That was their connection. She still loves it, although it is hugging her a little too tightly now. She doesn’t know where he is. He left while she slept in this pine-and-ice bed. If she stays here, he’s bound to come back. She doesn’t know how to feel. He was a poor mimic of the love earth gives her now. He was a fox, jumping into holes at the crack of thunder. He was, at times, a crack of thunder himself. Window-rattling. A rattlesnake. She feels a rattlesnake slither out of her nose. How beautiful. Returning to the earth. She would very much like to follow him. Alas, she is frozen solid. The mountains are very pretty. The trees. The sky. Maybe she will stay. Sit a while. Watch a while. Look a while. It’s good for that. Look, look, look, look, look—look.

William Bittner, age sixteen, is born and raised in Odenville, Alabama. He is never happier than he is when alone with his dogs, reading a good book about public policy.


Brotherhood – Khristina Cabrera

“You know what’s funny?” Andrew asked me one day. We were in the field again, sprawled out on our backs over the grass and little dandelions. He was holding one of them, twirling the stem between his thumb and forefinger, watching the tufts fall off one by one onto the front of his shirt. The afternoon sun was low and in my eyes.
“What?”
“How similar we are.”
“I know,” I said. I never had any siblings, but I’d always wanted a twin brother, and though we didn’t look alike, Andrew was perhaps the closest I would ever get to that feeling—understanding and being understood, seeing and being seen. We were always together, talking about nothing on the floor of my dorm room with the lights off, trampling through the long grass behind the school, studying under my favorite oak tree and chucking crumpled papers at each other. Our friendship had come fast and hard like it had been shot out of a warm gun. “Isn’t it funny?”
“It is. But that wasn’t my point.”
“What is it, then?”
Andrew rolled over onto his side to look at me. His light hair fell into his eyes, and he dropped the dandelion stem to brush it aside. In some way Andrew always looked out of place wherever he went, like someone who had been born in another era, as though I had seen his black-and-white picture once in a history textbook. Even when he was completely surrounded by nature, I wasn’t sure if he fit in. “I think that if you killed someone,” he began, and his voice was spectacularly hushed, “if you killed someone, I wouldn’t tell.”
A hysterical laugh escaped my mouth. He raised an eyebrow and waited. “Don’t be ridiculous,” I finally said, once I managed to collect myself. “I wouldn’t kill anybody.”
“Hey, I’m just saying.” All at once Andrew was serious. His eyes bored into me, as if he was seeing things that I couldn’t see, seeing things that weren’t there. I felt like I could free fall from the edge of the world, and he would either find a way to catch me, or plunge down into the darkness at my heels. “If you ever were to kill someone, that’s all.” Then he rolled over onto his back again and reached for another white dandelion, his eyes sliding shut.

Khristina Cabrera is an American high school student. Her work has been longlisted in the 2021 National Flash Fiction Day Youth Competition and is slated to appear in the Agapanthus Review, among others.


Things – Alice Robinson-McVety

Things things
——-all sorts of them
——-——-from animals
——-——-——-to human
——-——-to just things
——-——-——-try to make alice
——-——-——-try to count them up!
——-——-But you will never find all of them
——-Everything is a thing.

Alice Robinson-McVety is a second-grader in Brooklyn, New York. She has two cats, Marius and Cesar, who have been together since they were kittens, and they’re older than she is. She has a third cat, Panisse, who is younger. She likes pizza, sushi, and pad Thai, but not all at once.


Evening on the Lake – Thea Hakel

The lake is suddenly silent
without the ducks to disturb it
to send one last ripple across its surface
which is lit up
by the moon reflecting itself
peeking over the tips of the trees.
The ground no longer is alive
with the rustles of leaves
betraying tiny feet
pattering across the soil
that now is full of moles and mice,
voles and rabbits
settling in for the night.
The sky is no longer moving
with the flaps of wings,
large and small,
that carry beautiful birds
that ruffle their feathers, now,
getting warm for a night’s slumber.
And the trees are now swaying
gently in the evening breeze
that rustles the branches
and soothes the old trunk
of the big Ancient Oak,
which is comforted by the sound
of one lonely owl
who rests in a hole in its trunk.

Thea Hakel is twelve years old and lives in Houston, Texas. She is in creative writing and orchestra at her school. She loves to write, especially fanfictions. She also loves video games.


How to Make a Cat – Rebecca Fraser

One teaspoon of the milk of mischief
Stir in a pinch of powdered sass plant
Then, add the sauce of sleepiness
After this, add cracked cuddliness
For best results, add a cup of purrs

Rebecca Fraser is eight years old and lives with her mum, dad, and tropical fish in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has a liking for hedgehogs wearing hats and random outfits. She especially likes writing poetry and the occasional short story.


Swift – Stephanie Weatherill

// shudder of the engine / whine of the brakes / don’t stop to think about the day they don’t work // late at night / like it has to be / how late we don’t know / the clock is broken / we can’t afford to fix it // some obscure mix of sounds / drums / bass / a tambourine maybe / plays from a speaker / duct-taped to the dash / the radio is broken too / laughter too loud to notice anyway // we hang our heads out the open windows / city lights too bright to see the stars / admire the halogen twinkle instead / make a wish upon a falling satellite / that our 8am won’t come too soon // green glow turned yellow / rev of the engine / in no rush / but rushing anyway // that smell of salt and fizz / passed through a drive-thru window / the only time the car was quiet / was to lean across and yell / four Big Macs / to the man in the little metal box // the crinkle and shake / trays and paper-wrapped parcels are passed around / chuckles and shouts turn quiet // drums, bass, a tambourine maybe //

Stephanie Weatherill is previously unpublished but has been writing since she could first pick up a pencil. She is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Arts and Science at Otago University and splits her time between Auckland and Dunedin.


I Wish I Was Like Zuri – Shaan Udani

So yellow, so parched, so wrinkly
The aftermath of an envelope after you’ve torn open a letter.
Dry, like lips in the dead of winter, but it’s July.
She emerges from the plains of the Serengeti.
I’ll call her Zuri.
This cheetah is so free in her gait and gut
A freedom I thought I had.
The ability to soar, to glide, to fly
Transcendently above her surroundings.
Her stalk of everyday life’s truth.
She is a steady creeper.
Like a bolt she pounces at a gazelle
Echoes are heard in the distance
The prey now hangs from Zuri’s bite.
She is not bound to anyone or anything.
Satiated she heads home with the torn gazelle
Her brawling cubs frolicking through the shrubs
Babies lingering about the kill, ready to feast.
Her adventure is complete, a familiar ritual.
Temperature turns to frigid
The stars show themselves
Note: Zuri is Swahili for beautiful, unchained in thought and body.

Shaan Udani is a sixteen-year-old sophomore in high school from New Jersey. He loves to write poetry and nonfiction pieces. Outside of writing, Shaan enjoys playing tennis and travelling the globe with his family. 


Nonfiction column: A day in the life of…

Matteo – Maria Barreto-Walker

A day in the life of my little baby brother
Wondering when the peek-a-boo will strike again
When it’s time to crawl again
His toes are the size of rain drops
His fingers the size of matchsticks
His hair is like a wispy cloud
His eyes are icy blue
If he knows he’s in trouble he races like a race car
On his hands and knees
When he’s by himself you cannot hear a pin drop
You cannot hear a peep

Maria Barreto-Walker is a nine-year-old primary student with a love for writing. She has been taking an extra writing class at school since she was seven and has taken to it like a duck to water.


Trepidation – Daniel Officer

How come I feel so heavy? I’m sweating before I have even walked on the stage. The tuxedo I’m swaddled in is heating my body—like the surface of Venus. My hands are trembling so much that I don’t know how I can play. I’m shaking like a pair of maracas in a Latin band. I peer at the crowd from behind the curtain. Shivers. A full house. I feel a lump the size of an apple rise in my throat, and my stomach feels uneasy. A million thoughts are racing through my head, but somehow, I can’t even mutter a word of reassurance.
Then I am finally—half pushed—on the stage. The audience is murmuring away. I feel worse than ever. I shuffle to the chortling microphone, and gulp loudly. I clear my throat, with the speakers giving much-appreciated feedback. Everything seems to be going wrong.
Then, suddenly, I remember what my coach taught me. He told me to relax and take deep breaths. I close my eyes, and I am sucked into another dimension. There is no one around to say anything negative, just me. I can see my coach sitting in front of me. I tell him about all my struggles and anxiety. He smiles at me with understanding, and asks me about how I would like to feel. I tell him I would like to feel free of all these things. He simply says, Then do it!
Everything that has happened in my life before this point flashes before my eyes. It has all led me to the stage. The sacrifices and hardships have been building blocks and I know at that moment all these things will not go to waste. I am no longer sweating, or trembling, or shaking, and the lump in my throat is gone. I now have only one thing in my head: the notes to play. I open my eyes, but what I see is different to what I saw before. I don’t see a murmuring crowd anymore. I see the stuffed toys lined across my childhood bedroom, just like how it was when I was younger. I am in a simple T-shirt, sitting on the edge of my bed. I have no cares, no worries, no concerns. I lift the trumpet to my lips, and I start to play…
My muscle memory takes over, and a beautiful resounding sound exits the bell. I don’t need an accompanying band, or a conductor, or even a microphone. The notes roll off the trumpet like a flowing river and fill the hall.

Daniel Officer is a fourteen-year-old boy from Christchurch, New Zealand. He currently attends St. Andrew’s College. He enjoys creative writing, science, and reading.


A Day in the Life of the Huia – Alfie Lash

A day in the life of the huia
singing softly
sitting on her eggs
as patient as an iceberg
on a cold morning
calling
with her beak
as long as a skyscraper
to her long lost ancestors
Afternoon comes
like a train
she leaves the nest
to hunt the earth
full of grubs
Night falls
like a shooting star
as the huia flies back
to her nest
she finds her chicks hatched
the male beaming
with pride

Alfie Lash is eight years old and lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. He enjoys writing poetry, collecting rocks, reading, and listening to music.


About the guest editor:
Charlotte Boyle is a poet and short fiction writer based in Dunedin, New Zealand. Her previous work has been published by journals, magazines, and bathroom stall walls, including ReDraftThe NZ Poetry AnthologyWrite On, and the Turnbull Library Bulletin. Her favourite pieces are ones that leave audiences a little bit baffled. When not writing, she can be found under several blankets reading or thinking about reading.

Submissions Notice – NFFD Youth Competition 2022

Open now!
About the 2022 NFFD Youth Competition:
  • Submission period: 15 February to 30 April 2022 – DEADLINE EXTENDED!
  • Unthemed; previously unpublished work only
  • Long lists announced in mid-May, shortlists in late May, winners on National Flash Fiction Day, June 22
  • Winners and short-listed work will be published in a special edition of fingers comma toes
About the guest judge:

Jack Remiel Cottrell is an itinerant flash fiction and short story writer with a sideline as a volunteer rugby referee. He was runner-up in the Bath Flash Fiction’s 2018 Novella-in-Flash competition, and was shortlisted for a Sir Julius Vogel Award in 2020. Jack’s collection Ten Acceptable Acts of Arson and other very short stories was published by Canterbury University Press in August 2021.

Read the NFFD interview with Jack here!


Submission guidelines (see General Rules for further details):
  • What to submit: 
    • Short stories/prose up to 300 words excluding title
    • Only previously unpublished work will be considered (see General Rules)
    • Open competition; no theme or prompt
    • Maximum 3 stories per entrant; please include submissions in one document
  • How to submit:
    • Submit through email at fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com
    • Submit stories as one document
    • Do not include author’s name or contact info on the submitted document, as submissions are judged blind (name may be included in the email or in any enquiries made to fingers comma toes)
    • Send submissions as an attachment in one of the following formats: .txt, .doc, .docx, .rtf; please, no pdfs or Google Docs
  • Who can submit:
    • Entrants can be up to age 18 (for those 19 or older, please see nationalflash.org/competition)
    • Competition is open to international entrants and is free of charge
    • Family members of current judges are not eligible to enter the competition

The entries will be read by fingers comma toes editors with guest judge Jack Remiel Cottrell. Judges’ decisions are final; no feedback will be offered on an individual basis. Winners and short-listed work will be published in a special edition of fingers comma toes.


General Rules:
  1. NFFD and fingers comma toes reserve the right at their total discretion to reject any entry in the Competition and to verify the validity of any entry or vote. All decisions of this competition shall be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  2. Entries must be original, previously unpublished pieces of work written by the person who submits the piece of work. Published means anything that has already appeared anywhere in print or online, including personal websites or blogs.
  3. Entries cannot be altered or changed after they have been submitted.
  4. NFFD accepts no responsibility for late, lost or misdirected entries.
  5. NFFD is unable to return submitted entries. Entrants are advised to keep a copy of their entry for their records.
  6. The judges’ decisions are final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  7. The judges reserve the right to not award prizes, based on their judgment of the quality of submissions.
  8. Family members of current judges are not eligible to enter the competition
  9. Winners will be announced June 22 at the NFFD award ceremonies and all winners are invited to attend and share their stories in their province NFFD 2019 celebrations held in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Northland, Waikato and Wellington.
  10. A selection of entries will be published in a special winter edition of Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction. Writers retain the copyright to their submitted short story regardless of whether or not it is chosen for publication. NFFD and fingers comma toes retain unlimited use of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place Short Story (all categories) for an unlimited period of time for any promotion or publication.
  11. The winners’ names, entry details, biographical information and photographs may be required by NFFD/ fingers comma toes and will be used for publicity/promotional purposes without compensation. Entrants consent to this use of their details by entering the competition.
  12. The NFFD association, its committee members and its related agencies shall not be liable for any loss, damage or injury suffered or sustained (including but not limited to direct or consequential loss or loss arising from negligence) arising directly out of or in connection with the competition or any prize.

Entry constitutes acceptance of all National Flash Fiction Day Competition Rules and Guidelines.


Submissions Notice – March 2022 Issue: Unthemed

Open now!

About the March 2022 issue:

  • Submission period: 31 January to 28 February 2022
  • Theme: No theme
  • Artists/authors notified in March 2022

NEW: 2022 introduces our new nonfiction column! See below under Submission guidelines.

Submission guidelines:

  • What to submit:
    • NEW: Nonfiction column topic: A Day In The Life Of… We are excited to hear from voices all around the world, so share your stories! Nonfiction essays, presentations, personal anecdotes, et cetera—any format welcome, text/writing up to 1,500 words, videos/recordings up to 10 minutes (exceptions may be made). 
    • Submissions may be any form of creative art. That includes writing (essays, short stories, micro stories, poetry—any forms of writing), photography, visual art (digital art included), music, et cetera.
    • We welcome previously published work, and simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but we advise that the artist/author informs us if the submission is accepted or published elsewhere.
    • There are no limits as to the length of written submissions, but prose submissions under 1,500 words are preferable (though exceptions may be made).
    • Artists/authors may submit up to five pieces each.
  • How to submit: Submit through email at fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com. In your email submission, please include the following:
    • Your age
    • Your geographical location
    • A brief bio (approximately 50 words, or three sentences)

Please send written submissions as downloadable .txt.rtf, or .docx documents. Please do not send documents via Google Documents or other online sharing platforms, as these are private and can be restricted for us.

  • Who can submit: There is no strict age limit for submitters. We are a youth journal, and our submitters currently range in age from four to twenty-six years old. We encourage international and diverse submissions. As a general guide to what we’re looking for, our previous issues can be found here.

There is no theme for the March 2022 issue. Submission themes are not strict and may be interpreted freely. We are always excited to receive a variety of submissions and experience how different perspectives respond to an overarching idea: some pieces may relate to a theme in a concrete manner, using it to convey a message in a new way, while others may be more abstract, making the audience work a little harder to see the connection. There is never one way to respond to a theme. In every case, we encourage you to have fun with it and push your boundaries—be creative, and see what you can do.

Any inquiries may be emailed directly to us.


Contact: fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com
Fingers comma Toes Logo Final

2021 National Flash Fiction Day Youth Competition

Adult winners published at nationalflash.org/winners

Contents:

1st place:

for anna – Kirsten Liang (age 13; Georgia, United States)

Runner up:

The multi-coloured sheep – Lucia Murphy (age 15; Wellington, New Zealand)

Highly commended:

Have you seen Abdullah? – Omar El Eraki (age 16; Cairo, Egypt)

Commended:

Loss – Finn Kelly (age 09; Kapiti Coast, New Zealand)
Next Exit – Kirsten Liang (age 13; Georgia, United States)
Pocket-Sized Black Holes – Oshadha Perera (age 16; Invercargill, New Zealand)

Short list:

As cold as trees – Emily Burt (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Barnacles – Penelope Duran (age 18; Frankfurt, Germany)
Crocodiles – Chloe Morrison-Clarke (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Gravedigger – Theo E. (age 13; Christchurch, New Zealand)
House by the Railroad – Matthew Califano (age 14; Vermont, United States)
The Sock – Jorja Rosser (age 18; New Plymouth, New Zealand)

Highlights from the long list:

Antinous in a Coffee Shop – Khristina Cabrera (age 16; New Jersey, United States)
The Fisherman – Hunter Haynes (age 16; Auckland, New Zealand)
Quick Fingers – Miro Williams (age 17; Dunedin, New Zealand)
The Rainbow Egg – Lexia Roy (age 08; Clinton, New Zealand)

1st place:

for anna – Kirsten Liang

i’ll make us a shrink ray so we can get tiny, you said,

strawberry jello lips. if you were tiny, you’d sleep on a marshmallow, take a bite out of it once you awoke. if i were tiny, i’d ride hamsters like dragons, wear a thimble as a hat. we’d wake before dawn to watch the morning star over the fields, the sunflowers nodding to us: yes, this is how life should be. i said, giggling, if i were tiny, i’d roll down hills and braid us crowns of alligator

weed. you say, we’d wear skirts made of flower petals. i’d grow my hair out and never cut it, even once it got down to my ankles. every time someone came to get us, we’d fold ourselves in half. tiny, tinier. away from the grown-ups who garble into their phones, from the textbooks left cracked open on desks, from the numbers and the waiting rooms and the broken traffic lights. the tiger swats at us,  a claw shearing a few of your auburn curls. I pull you closer. we fold. once in half, and then once more. tinier, tinier. away from the glares and the closed
doors. the molecules sear through, tearing off our limbs, making us tinier, tinier. anna, every time we fold ourselves in half, we’ll be safer. i’ll hold you tight and holden will catch us before we fall. and we’ll keep folding, on and on, turning these bodies into origami sheets. tulip fold, crane base. until we’re small enough to use dandelions as parasols, to dance on someone’s fingertips. until we’re small enough to

remain unseen. they’ll never find us here. fold and fold and fold. small enough to hide from it all. small enough so that they will feel us in every breath they take.

Kirsten Liang is a 13-year-old writer from Atlanta, Georgia. She enjoys playing with her pets, watching movies, reading, writing, and asking her parents when she can get a dragon. Miss Liang‘s work has been recognized by numerous competitions, and she has won a national medal from the 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.


Runner up:

The multi-coloured sheep – Lucia Murphy

The sheep sat there, a splotch of colour amongst the other wacky pieces of art. It stood out, the puzzle pieces of colours interlocking to create a smooth skin. Even its eyes had little splashes of colour across them, the vibrance of its world shining through.
“Do we want to get it?” Mum asked. “I can’t really see where it would go.”
“It’s too expensive,” said my brother. “I don’t think it’s worth getting.”
I said nothing, but I watched Dad. I saw his face light up with a not-quite-suppressed grin. I could even see that splash of colour in his eyes, that view into the enigmatic world of the sheep.
“I think we should get it.” The joy in his voice was obvious to everyone in the family. I knew that the sheep would be coming with us, before my mum even opened her mouth to protest.
Patting the sheep on the head, I grinned. I could already see its place in our home, nestled up under the TV. The family sprawled across the sofa, chatting back and forth, stealing glances at the sheep.
I squatted down to look the sheep in the eye. “Looking forward to coming home with us?” I asked. I hadn’t expected a reply, but I could have sworn the sheep gave a tiny nod of its head.

Lucia Murphy is a high school student who hails from Wellington. She loves curling up with a good book and a warm muffin on a cold day.


Highly commended:

Have you seen Abdullah? – Omar El Eraki

Have you seen Abdhullah in the decrepit land where one cannot escape the sun’s golden strike? Even in the lilliputian common area where a large formerly-white sheet hangs from the tilted metal rods to shade the thick wool mats sodden with yesterday’s sweat, the heat still forces itself in as if accustomed to Syrian hospitality. Perhaps he is playing with the little boys who kick a deflated football around out of melancholic optimism, shooting in between two stones acting as goal posts. Yes, he must be playing with the little boys who are indifferent to the scrapings they receive from the rough sand and the dirt their faces are greeted with which is washed away by an agitated mother, only to return the following day. Or perhaps he is with his sister and the other women who occupy themselves kneading bread and watching it expand in the stone oven through fatigued eyes, pried open by the rigidity of the ground and its sudden pangs of consciousness. His father could have taken him to buy a chicken, although it isn’t likely his father would place him in such danger, for the markets are repeatedly raided by the hoodlums. Surely he cannot be with the hoodlums who repeatedly and unsuccessfully try to creep their way across the border into Turkey, getting shot or captured by border control in the process. Oh if he is with those hooligans I’ll show him! Perhaps he is with the elderly folk waiting at death’s door, preoccupying themselves by sharing anecdotes of a greater time where economic hardship was not such a culminating burden. Oh where could Abdullah be amidst this multitude of people expelled to isolation from a world that has given up on them?

Omar El Eraki is a 16-year-old high school junior from Cairo, Egypt. He has written this piece to commemorate those harmed by the poor political and socio-economic climate in the Middle East. Aside from his literary pursuits, Omar is a self-proclaimed historian who enjoys learning about different philosophies as well as investing in the stock market. He believes writing allows him to broaden his horizons.


Commended:

Loss – Finn Kelly

Birth, life, death. These three words circled throughout Caleb’s mind, swirling around like a hurricane. As the sun turned into the moon, he slowly drifted away into a world of dreams. His grandfather had passed away and he had just found out about the news.
He woke up in the night multiple times thinking about his grandfather, his arm hanging off the bed like a rag doll. Caleb tried to get the thought out of his head, but he struggled to since he’d never experienced anything like this before.
He woke up to the loud chirping of birds perched on the leafy branch outside his window. They were sort of forming a melody, almost like a choir. As Caleb looked up at the birds they stared back down at him, tilting their heads. Caleb smiled weakly. He put on his clothes and left his room.
When Caleb entered the lounge his mum, Lisa, was sitting down on the breakfast bar in her distinct purple bathrobe holding a half-empty mug of tea. Caleb’s dad, Nigel, was spreading marmite on a piece of toast. That’s when his mum spotted Caleb looking around the room. She sighed and said sadly, “Come here.” Caleb walked towards her, the familiar floorboards creaking beneath him.
Lisa wrapped her arms around Caleb and apologized for what had happened. Then after a few moments she let go of him. “Now, what do you want for breakfast?” she said, attempting to smile.
But Caleb knew she was just trying to make him feel better. “I don’t have an appetite,” he said sadly.
Mum nodded her head and said quietly, “Ok. Ok.”

Finn Kelly is nine years old and lives on the Kāpiti Coast with his family, chickens, cats, tropical fish, and Archie the dog.  He is in year five at Raumati South School where he enjoys writing, maths, art, and sport in particular. He gets fantastic writing mentorship and encouragement from his two older siblings, Elsa (12) and Arlo (14), who are also keen writers. Finn avidly follows and plays soccer with his dad and friends, and in the weekend when he’s not playing premier club soccer he enjoys Minecraft, board games, and reading.


Next Exit – Kirsten Liang

9:58 PM.
ETA: 10:13 PM.
Almost home.
Spiralling alteration of five school arches, names blending together.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Cartoonist! Lawyer. I’m interested in the American justice system.
Highway cat-eyes narrow, how could I ever–
“How was the interview, *bǎobèi?”
My lips part, the chatter dances around my molars simply to perish midway.
Interviewer’s thistle tongue dips into memory—Why do you want to attend Randall Academy?
Because my Bàba says so. Because he’s always right and I’m always wrong. It’s the best place for me to accomplish…
Blink. Tear-swollen rivulets trace over themselves.
A stream of red eyes, beckoning to nowhere. A horn declares its fury.
Don’t look back.
“You’ll do better next time, bǎobèi*.
I’m so proud of you, his eyes whisper, though his monologue returns to “you need to be successful”–whatever the hell that means–to live the life he never had as an immigrant boy in Pennsylvania, speaking only Mandarin and some Taiwanese swears. Go back to Thailand, they sneered.
He stayed.
 
“I won’t always be here to drive you home,” he says, words like my old favorite sweater I can’t burrow into anymore.
The way he did before. Bike-riding, trips to tournaments, recitals, competitions, and joyrides at midnight–
Always behind the wheel. The tears rush, and I grab his elbow. The SUV veers right–
“Bàba, wǒ bùyào nǐ zǒu!”
Papa, I don’t want you to go.
 
I want to draw like Raina Telegemeier, Hergé, and Schulz, ten-year-old me declared. You can’t do that, said he. Why not? Bàba just shook his head. Yes, Bàba.
 
We’re heading home, but what if we take the next exit?
What if we drive without looking back?
And cruise evermore, if we take the next exit.

*Mandarin Chinese for “baby” or “treasure.”

Kirsten Liang is a 13-year-old writer from Atlanta, Georgia. She enjoys playing with her pets, watching movies, reading, writing, and asking her parents when she can get a dragon. Miss Liang‘s work has been recognized by numerous competitions, and she has won a national medal from the 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.


Pocket-Sized Black Holes – Oshadha Perera

That night when autumn leaves started dancing in the wind, playing freeze tag with the smooth ground, you told me that we wouldn’t leave each other until the sun became a red giant and blasted into a black hole, sucking us all in. But even in that cosmic power, we promised that we’d be holding hands until all the light was pulled into a vacuum. When you whispered, “How you doin’, mate?” to the sky, the sun almost sent an enveloped letter in the wind, saying, “Good, how ’bout you?” so I figured that it had an x amount of time left until its death, where x = the number of pixels in the horizon at sunset.
Traffic lights were making the night sky illuminate like a professional artist joined forces with a 2-year-old (the kind of 2-year-old who goes to bed with a multicoloured face) when we reached your house. You were knocking on the door when the sound came, the irresistible click click click click click.
Your hand break-danced on the way to your jean pocket, but your sharp-featured face had the same smile, as you mouthed a sorry and glanced at it.
Just one tiny glance.
You didn’t look up from the 100% brightness screen for a number of hours and I won’t even bother explaining what y equals to.

Oshadha Perera is 16 years old and comes from Invercargill, New Zealand.


Short list:

As cold as trees – Emily Burt

Orange leaves cover the forest floor. I helped pitch the tent in a clearing. It was as cold as the Arctic in the middle of winter.
Mum and I unpacked our bags and got ready for bed. I jumped into the warmth of my sleeping bag, like a warm breeze coming to me and only to me.
When I woke up to a noise that sounded like machines and fire I wanted to scream and wake the world, but I didn’t. I just sat up and tried to wake mum.
Mum woke up and said, “What is it?”
I said, “I don’t know.”
She laughed and poked her head out of the tent. So did I. The trees—they were all gone, just stumps.
When I screamed the world woke from a never-ending sleep. I wanted to leave this world forever but I couldn’t.
That morning the world went grey. The life with trees had ended.
As cold as the arctic when the world froze.

Emily Burt is 10 years old and comes from Christchurch, New Zealand.


Barnacles – Penelope Duran

A fallen mast.  A tattered sail.  A punctured bow.  The sailboat was a shamble.  Sighing, the sailor stroked the part of the hull that used to read Penelope.  His grandfather had always been so proud of the delicate cursive letters.
He recalled days when he and his grandfather side-by-side on the pier would scrape barnacles form the boat.  For hours, the arthropods provided relentless work.  When he asked how the boat had received her name, his grandfather grinned.  The vessel was as resilient as the weaver of legend, engendering faith that it would return from every odyssey.
Glaring at fading storm clouds overhead and armed with needle and thread, the sailor tended the mutilated sail.  Over and under.  Yet his mangled stitches would unravel as soon as they touched the fabric.  Perhaps this voyage would be the ship’s last.
The sailor considered scuttling the boat.  Perhaps he could grant Penelope a dramatic exit.  However, the barnacles lured him to cast such thoughts aside, recalling his grandfather’s light-hearted complaints.  Stubborn little creatures.  They hang on no matter how hard you pull.
A saw.  Broken planks.  A thousand nails.  The craft would never be the same without her sail.  The sailor would miss riding the winds, but he nevertheless found himself fond of the steadfast fishing boat.  He could envision adventures ahead.  Lulling swordfish from the deep.  Catching flying fish.  Gliding down the river.
As the sailor conjured in his mind the new tales, white cursive script glistened faintly in the sunlight as barnacles suckled the side of the boat.  Not a single one had fallen victim to his knife.  After all, they were just like him.

Penelope Duran’s educational journey began at Dyer St. Kindy in Lower Hutt, Wellington.  As a child in a U.S. diplomatic family, she has also lived in the Philippines, Egypt, Poland, and Germany.  She is educated in the German school system and has achieved recognition for her poems, short stories, and personal memoirs in English and German.  In addition to creative writing, Penny’s other passion is physics and she is the co-coordinator of her school’s weekly podcast on various forms of discrimination.


Crocodiles – Chloe Morrison-Clarke

When we were smaller, we played crocodiles. Feet darting over cracks in benches, ankles always at risk of the wide slats. Crocodiles lurked below, waiting for an opportunity to catch a reckless fool.  The courtyard rang with adrenaline soaked shrieks of those who made their move just when the stars had snapped out of alignment.
When we were bigger, our shovels pummelled hard earth, sliced thin roots of the apple tree.  I once sat in its branches, balanced above the threshold for tag, closer to the sky than ever before.
We replaced the wound with a time capsule, covering new tin with layers of dirt. The scar faded away.
When we were a bit older, the crocodiles took human form. This time, it was our conscience darting between the wide slats. If anyone were to be pulled into a world of crime or hatred, at least their ankles would be safe.
The sky seemed a little further away.
Last week,  we returned to the apple tree. We slit open an old scar, shovelling until we heard the clang of metal on metal. We remembered strawberry sticker collections, all the treasures buried in the sandbox—bracelets stolen from older siblings, shells we dug from the beach.
Speeches were made, toasts given. Our glasses full of sweet nostalgia, we prised open the metal tin.
I waited for ancient treasures, memories of witty remarks, childhood games, memoirs of friendships built to last.
We opened the lid to find a piece of playground bark, someone’s rusted toy car, a mouldy, shrivelled apple core, a plastic crocodile,  and a picture of a familiar-looking kid sitting amongst the branches of a young apple tree.
The sky still seems far away.

Chloe Morrison-Clarke is 14 years old and comes from Christchurch, New Zealand.


The Gravedigger – Theo E.
He knew he shouldn’t. It would be shameful. It would hurt his ego. It was just sitting there, though, unguarded, unable to defend itself. The warm summer breeze blew across his slick forehead, needling through his hair. He told himself he deserved it. That he needed it. He had been working so hard in the heat after all. He looked over his shoulder out the window to see the menacing-looking hole in the ground. He knew what he was going to use it for. That didn’t matter yet. He turned his head back around to the prize. He knelt, levelling himself with it.
“Oh, whatever.”
He swiped the can. The small fizzy tss tss, could be heard, closely followed by desperate gulping. The light popping of the fizzy liquid being poured down his throat, some slopping down his neck, seeping into his top. When no more could come out of the small lip of the can, he threw it at the wall.
“Back to work.”

Theo E. is 13 years old and comes from Christchurch, New Zealand.


House by the Railroad – Matthew Califano

No one can quite remember when the stately old Victorian house by the railroad first began falling into disrepair.  Once the pride of the county, the mansion’s gleaming white facade now stands blackened from soot, its windows boarded up, broken, or left open to the elements.  The Kataras own it, but they’ve been down on their luck since Lord-knows-when.  They seemed like perfectly nice folks.  Nobody ever had a bad thing to say about them.  Sometimes your luck just runs out, I guess. You know it when it happens, and there ain’t nothin’ you or anyone else can do about it. They’ve kept to themselves in that old house ever since. Now, every time the train comes by near the end of each month, starting about four months ago, one of them disappears. It started with the youngest son. He slipped in the tub and drowned. Then, his elder sister went walking up by the gorge one fine spring morning never to return.  Next, their father fell down a flight of stairs before breakfast one Saturday. One month ago to the day, the grandfather was talking to his wife, Old Mrs. Katara, in the kitchen. He went to fetch a book, and, when he came back, there she was, sprawled out dead on the floor. You might ask if anyone in this town did anything but watch as this tragedy unfolded.  The answer is no.  One look at that crumbling pile, and you just know this is a family whose number’s up.  There’s no help for it. Folks are just glad it’s not them, yet. Only two Kataras are still in there: the grandfather and his eldest grandson.
Oh, don’t go yet.  Just wait a while. The train comes by at noon.

Matthew Califano is a sophomore at Craftsbury Academy in Vermont. He is an avid writer, runner and student of the ancient world. His play No More Worlds to Conquer about one man’s self-destructive obsession with Alexander the Great won Dorset Theatre Festival’s 2020 Young Playwrights Competition.  His writing has also received both regional and national honors from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and the National Junior Classical League.


The Sock – Jorja Rosser

A small sock lies in the middle of the road.
The sock is discoloured and muddy, so worn out it wouldn’t do much good anymore. Its wearer must have been a small child, so small that the sock would fit on a man’s thumb, but there are no children around at the moment. Nobody is coming back for it. Nobody is coming back for anything.
The sock has been there a while. It must’ve been dropped, dropped in a moment of panic, a moment of desperation, the moment families were told to pack their most precious belongings and leave. The soldiers didn’t take no for an answer. If you wanted to live you packed your belongings and left. The sock must’ve been dropped by one of the mothers, choking back tears, disbelieving, trying to appear calm for the children. Nobody saw the sock in the dark of night.
The owner of the sock must have been crying and screaming, not understanding why he was hoisted onto his mother’s hip in the middle of the night. The child wasn’t the only one crying, or the only one who didn’t understand why they were being hoarded like cattle toward the trains.
The sock is across the road from the local post office. Echoes of gunshots replace the sounds of laughter from the schoolyard around the corner. The town is more quiet now, and anyone still here carries about their time silently, carefully. Nobody wants to be noticed. Being noticed means you would likely end up another body on the pile. There is no aim other than survival, and at times even that seems pointless and impossible.
A small sock lies in the middle of the road, and the world burns around it.

Jorja Coyote Rosser is eighteen years old and attends Sacred Heart Girls’ College New Plymouth. In her spare time she enjoys baking, listening to music, and playing inline hockey, a sport for which she has represented New Zealand on several occasions.


Highlights from the long list: 

Antinous in a Coffee Shop – Khristina Cabrera

His eyes were like blue fire, burning with righteous fury and a passion that would’ve torn anyone else apart, just from a mere look. His features were sharp and angled, with a permanent frown etched into the bow of his lip and his marble cheek, all the way down to his clenched fists, if hands knew how to frown. I was struck by the sudden feeling that I knew him from somewhere, perhaps Greek mythology or some vague folklore, passed down for hundreds of years through parted lips and ardent tongues. As he continued to glare at me, dark roast coffee soaking through his thin white button-down and my plastic cup lying at his feet, I hastily offered to retrieve napkins from the counter.
“Sure,” he muttered, in such a petulant way that I had to press my lips together to hide a smile.
I brought back the napkins, stacked one on top of the other, and offered them to him as if presenting a gift before a king’s court. Our fingertips brushed together as he took them from me. He wadded them up in his frowning hands and scrubbed, but the stubborn stain remained, right in the middle of his shirt. As he stormed out, leaving a trail of blue fire in his wake, I indulged in the selfish thought that I had left my mark on this startling god, dressed as an ordinary mortal. The door swung shut. My fingertips thrummed with the restless tingling of a freezing burn, the only proof that he had been in the coffee shop.

Khristina Cabrera is 16 years old and lives in New Jersey, United States.


The Fisherman

Perched upon a rock, the ocean’s lap tempts the man of the past. His beard matches the seafoam spit, his eyes tears of salt, skin curled like a turtle. Upon his grip, the rod tantalizes sweat, dancing a jive as the waves beat his lure. His orbs, firmly set upon the horizon, watching the sun beat down into the abyss. Behind, a young boy, perhaps an eighth of his age, crawls forward to interrogate. He moves swiftly, like a cat in the night, and positions himself next to the man.
Do you expect to learn from me young boy? he asks weakly, with a raspy tone, somewhat harsh, like his tongue is layered with thorns.
Yes, the boy responds, twiddling his fingers nervously, his eyes unable to focus on a specific point in time. I don’t know how to fish.
Why do you think I’d know? The man chuckles to himself, pushes his knees up from himself and lumbers away from the rock. The boy sits in silence, the waves providing no greater answer.

Hunter Haynes is 16 years old and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.


Quick Fingers – Miro Williams

As the saloon door swings open and the blinding sun of late afternoon is cast onto the rough-sawn timbers, an interruptive hush spreads across the room. Before the presence of the newest newcomer, even the loutish farmhands quit their ill-mannered debate over which barmaid has the “nicest rack”. While he bends his head forward, so as not to give himself another bruise on his forehead, his derby brushes against the top of the door frame. Taking the comically-large cigar from his lips he yells his order to the barman.
Jimmy! Fire it here, he says.
Jimmy slides the whiskey bottle down the wooden counter in one swift push, as he does every afternoon, and in one fluid motion the newcomer picks it up, flicks the cork off with that giant thumb of his, and drains the entire contents in a matter of moments. Despite the unnaturalness of such a string of events the bystanders bear no surprise. They’ve seen it all before.
He makes his pilgrimage through the fog of bodies and tobacco smoke, and passes saloon girls and old buggers frowning through great, bushy beards and too-poor-to-be-gambling men gambling away their fortunes in a fortnightly game of poker, which they were losing, not without frustration, to that dirty Mexican, Antonio.
He places his hefty frame on the seat, his feet on the pedals, and his ever-so-famous, giant fingers on the black and white keys. He removes his hat, revealing that bald dome of his, and then tilts his head back and laughs. His signature whiskey-voice bellows straight from his soul, and with its arrival comes the dancing and cheering from the rest of the cantina. Tunes weave into the night.
And the night is eternal, for this is Alfonso and Alfonso plays forever.

Miro Williams is 17 years old and lives in Dunedin, New Zealand.


The Rainbow Egg – Lexia Roy

Once upon a time there were two little children. There was a boy and a girl. Their names were Tom and Rosie. One day when they were outside Rosie spotted a rainbow egg. “Hey Tom!” exclaimed Rosie. “Come and look at what I’ve found!”
Tom ran over with a smile on his face. “I wonder what type of egg it is,” Tom said. They started to think.
Rosie jumped up. “I’ve got it!” Rosie exclaimed. “It’s a unicorn egg!”
Tom looked up at her. “Unicorns don’t lay eggs,” Tom reminded her. “Anyway, they aren’t real.”
“Oh yeah.” She looked down sadly.
“I’ve got it now!” exclaimed Tom. “I think it’s a dinosaur egg!
Rosie scratched her head. “I don’t think that’s a dinosaur egg. Dinosaurs are extinct.”
Tom paused to think for a moment. “Yes, you’re right,” he admitted. So they waited to see what it was when it hatched. Finally the egg hatched. It was a dinosaur with a unicorn horn and mane. “I wonder what it is,” said Rosie. Tom carefully lifted the creature out of its shell. When Rosie looked inside the shell, she said, “Wow! The inside of this egg looks like the inside of a paua shell!”
Just then they heard a sound. “What was that?” said Tom, looking around shaking.
“I don’t know,” squeaked Rosie. The children hid behind a tree, grabbed the egg shell and left the creature behind. As the monster approached, the children realized that the creatures were the same. The monster sat down and smelled the little creature.
“What and who are you?!” Tom was brave enough to shout.
The monster turned its head to the children. “My name is Pearl and I am a dinocorn.” Pearl took the small dinocorn and left.

Lexia Roy is 08 years old and lives in Cinton, South Otago, New Zealand.


About the guest judge:

Youth competition judge Kerry Lane is a poet and playwright living by the sea in Ōtepoti, Aotearoa. Current projects include a puppet theatre piece about Minnie Dean, a long-form podcast about the end of the world, and an experimental poetry-ish project about memory.

Read interview with Kerry Lane here


NFFD YouTube channel – see authors read their stories

NFFD Winners Announced!

Winners for the 2021 National Flash Fiction Day competition have been announced!

Congratulations and thank you to all placing, short-listed, and long-listed writers for making this competition!

Adult winners published at nationalflash.org/winners


1st place:

for anna – Kirsten Liang (age 13; Georgia, United States)

2nd place:

Winter Tangerine – Mira Jiang (age 17; Texas, United States)

3rd place:

The multi-coloured sheep – Lucia Murphy (age 15; Wellington, New Zealand)

Highly commended:

Have you seen Abdullah? – Omar El Eraki (age 16; Cairo, Egypt)

Commended:

Loss – Finn Kelly (age 09; Kapiti Coast, New Zealand)
Next Exit – Kirsten Liang (age 13; Georgia, United States)
Pocket-Sized Black Holes – Oshadha Perera (age 16; Invercargill, New Zealand)

Short list:

Ad Astra – Mira Jiang (age 17; Texas, United States)
As cold as trees – Emily Burt (age 10; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Barnacles – Penelope Duran (age 18; Frankfurt, Germany)
Crocodiles – Chloe Morrison-Clarke (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Gravedigger – Theo E. (age 13; Christchurch, New Zealand)
House by the Railroad – Matthew Califano (age 14; Vermont, United States)
Memories – Golam Mahbub
The Sock – Jorja Rosser (age 18; New Plymouth, New Zealand)

Long list:

Antinous in a Coffee Shop – Khristina Cabrera (age 16; New Jersey, United States)
The Doughnut – Eric Yang (age 11; Massachusetts, United States)
The Fisherman – Hunter Haynes (age 16; Auckland, New Zealand)
The Funeral – Yemaya Gaspard (age 15; Florida, United States)
The Glitter Jungle – Aanvika Santhanam (age 09; Auckland, New Zealand)
Go onwards, perhaps prosper – Lochlan Hanham (age 17; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Gravedigger – Theo E. (age 13; Christchurch, New Zealand)
here, it begins – Aruna Sreenivasan (age 17; Arizona, United States)
Home – Kahurangi Waipouri-Birch (age 13; Palmerston North, New Zealand)
Home Sweet Home – Janaya Sydney (age 16; New York, United States)
Lady Grey – Charlotte Holt (age 15; Auckland, New Zealand)
The Moon and the Sea – Sydney Greek (age 16; Montanan, United States)
Moonshards – Chloe Morrison-Clarke (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
My Sister’s Birthday – Khristina Cabrera (age 16; New Jersey, United States)
One-Step – Sarah-Kate Simons (age 15; Southbridge, New Zealand)
Pawn – Sarah-Kate Simons (age 15; Southbridge, New Zealand)
Picnic by the Lake – Katherine Aebi (age 18; Texas, United States)
Quick Fingers – Miro Williams (age 17; Dunedin, New Zealand)
The race – Lucia Murphy (age 15; Wellington, New Zealand)
Rain-Cut – Arjun Shah (age 16; Bay Area, California)
Ridden with Sunlight – Taeyeon Han (age 17; California, United States)
Salty freshwater – Alody Reed (age 14; Auckland, New Zealand)
sirens in vacuums – Oshadha Perera (age 16; Invercargill, New Zealand)
The Underground – Matthew Califano (age 14; Vermont, United States)
The Weight – Denika Mead (age 17; Wellington, New Zealand)

NFFD Long List Announced!

2021 long list:

Ad Astra
Antinous in a Coffee Shop
As cold as trees
Barnacles
Crocodiles
The Doughnut
The Fisherman
for anna
The Funeral
The Glitter Jungle
Go onwards, perhaps prosper
The Gravedigger
Have you seen Abdullah?
here, it begins
Home
Home Sweet Home
House by the Railroad
Lady Grey
Loss
Memories
The Moon and the Sea
Moonshards
The multi-coloured sheep
My Sister’s Birthday
Next Exit
One-Step
Pawn
Picnic by the Lake
Pocket-Sized Black Holes
Quick Fingers
The race
Rain-Cut
The Rainbow Egg
Ridden with Sunlight
Salty freshwater
sirens in vacuums
The Sock
The Underground
The Weight
Winter Tangerine

Adult long list published at nationalflash.org/winners


About the guest judge:

Youth competition judge Kerry Lane is a poet and playwright living by the sea in Ōtepoti, Aotearoa. Current projects include a puppet theatre piece about Minnie Dean, a long-form podcast about the end of the world, and an experimental poetry-ish project about memory.

Read interview with Kerry Lane here


2020 National Flash Fiction Day Youth Competition

Guest judge: Hannah Daniell is the winner of the 2019 National Flash Fiction Day Youth Competition, and an active member of the Christchurch writing community.

Contents:

1st place:

Exhaust – Minha Choi (age 17; Daejeon, South Korea)

2nd place:

Fish Hook Scars – Derrin Smith (age 16; Rangiora, New Zealand)

3rd place:

The Ballad of Light – Natalie Wang (age 17; Texas, United States)
Dragon Rider – Denika Mead (age 16; Lower Hutt, New Zealand)

Highly commended:

Do you remember? – Phoebe Robertson (age 18; Wellington, New Zealand)
These are my leaves – Samuel Turner-O’Keeffe (age 18; Auckland, New Zealand)

Commended:

The Beans – Cadence Chung (age 16; Wellington, New Zealand)
On One Particular MRT Ride – Thee Sim Ling (age 13; Singapore)
Sugar High – Amanda Kay (age 15; California, United States)

Short list:

The Crazy Chemist – Izzy Harrison (age 09; Auckland, New Zealand)
Fairy Lights – Sophia Zhang (age 14; Chicago, United States)
Grey – Jorja Coyote Rosser (age 17; New Plymouth, New Zealand)
Islands – Eva de Jong (age 18; Wellington, New Zealand)
Narcissus – Stella Li (age 16; New Jersey, United States)
Puppeteer Awash in Salt – Penelope Duran (age 17; Frankfurt, Germany)
The Taniwha – Lucy Kennedy (age 12; Auckland, New Zealand)
Tea for Two – Hannah Wilson (age 16; Wellington, New Zealand)
Trek – Yejin Suh (age 17; New Jersey, United States)

NFFD awards night

Youth discussion panel

NFFD YouTube channel


Exhaust – Minha Choi

I am exhausted from this race. Each lap spews out oil and I gulp it down in gallons, afraid my mother might get a whiff. This course is one of deception—smiles that fracture into filial ruins, crimson paint staining the ground. In her broken tongue, Mom says, “Ddal*, make your bloodline proud.” And it’s always with the undertones of “marry a citizen”, like some tragicomedic fantasy we share as Asian immigrant women.
I’m a broken yellow daughter, for in my dreams, I picnic with girls.
In this race, I’m illegal. An alien. We don’t talk of invisible demons or loving girls in this household, of the visceral fear of being chased by time.
My heart tears, sinewy like the doe my father skidded over on our Busan trip, back when I could breathe my native acrimonious oxygen. In this soil, defects are eradicated with machinery. It’s embedded with ghosts—girls, and that doe in the mirror.
Heartburn, heartache, how I wish collision would occur.
I don’t deserve the airbag. I close my eyes—and slam the entire weight of my leaden bones down on the brakes. The doe is alive, not bursting apart, no scathing dust tearing its lashes. I’m done, the race has stopped, I vomit out ten years’ worth of shuddering gasoline—
Umma, I don’t want to become a white man’s porcelain accessory, and the closest I’ve felt to heaven is with a girl.
But even in this dream, I keep my tail lights on. I imagine my light-waste tainting the starglow of my lineage, my siren-sobs polluting my mother’s hymns.
And I decide they are my roars: sputtering, defying the holy sun with 13-volt light of my own, and maybe a faint wish that she will look for me when my engine fails.
*(Korean, “daughter” or “girl”)

Minha Choi is a 17-year-old writer from Daejeon, South Korea. She lived in Austin and San Diego for the majority of her childhood, and she is currently attending an international school, working as the editor-in-chief of Ampersand Magazine and the school newspaper. Her work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.


Fish Hook Scars – Derrin Smith

There’s seafoam slipping on my cheeks and bubbling from your throat. You’ve had too much of the saltwater. You’re not thinking clearly. We really should go home. But the current is tugging at my waist and longing latches over me like a net.
It’s too early to go home!
I’m not hard to persuade. There’s streetlight dappling on the curb, and with your lightweight laughter, I can’t see a drop of bad intentions. Plus the washed-out city sights have a certain charm. There’s always something we could see again. Pearls, prizes, promises. I just hope we won’t get lost.
The constellations can guide us.
It’s an unnaturally brilliant night on the town and the moon is out in full force trying to tug us to the surface. But you’re right, as usual. The stars can still be made out so I agree to stay to lighten the mood.
Don’t worry so much.
You get a headache from all the light while we drift through downtown. The evening takes back its knife-edge and you’re pulled into a temperamental riptide. Yelling washes over the line in the sand; the roadside coral goes pale. As waves punch down you smell more of smoke than sea spray.
This is all your fault.
We come out of the fight in a place I’ve never seen. In the watery light of some back-alley, your fingers look like fish hooks. Oil is smudged beneath my eyes. Tied around my throat is a line to reel me back in.
I swear I didn’t mean it.
Come morning, when the city is beached on the sand, it rains hard enough to take the colour from my clothes. The hues blur together until they turn bruise-coloured and litter my skin.

Derrin Smith is a 16 year old student at Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery who’s currently working towards achieving her lifelong goal of becoming a cryptid.


The Ballad of Light – Natalie Wang

No one understood the towers for what they were. That was what the man said, after all, pacing in front of our porch like he was trying to pry apart our very house.
“You’ve seen the towers,” he asked me, in the rare times he acknowledged my presence.
I bobbed my head up and down frantically like I was starving. I should have gone inside the house long ago. The man never drew close, though; he watched the sunset with me, the auric flushing out into a deep indigo gradient.
“The towers,” he began, and I resigned myself to a night on the porch, “are—have you ever been Far East? To China, Mongolia, Arabia? They have very strange architecture. They mold it out of—” He paused. “Beautiful stone. Ancient stone. You catch it at the right angle and it glitters. The sun beams along it and the place lights up like a lantern.”
“I see,” I answered. If I closed my right eye the sun would look like it was melting on Ms. Kaine’s roof; if I squeezed my left eye shut, the sun would break into golden splinters on the long runs of Mr. Korschafe’s daffodils. And if I closed both eyes, I imagined I could reach out for a world beyond a backwater town weathered by the heat, its roads spiraling out like a tendril of mist. At this time of day the street sloped downwards at a gentle angle, like the plane of the earth had tilted toward the cosmos’ chasms, and we were all inevitable pins and balls rolling to our fate. For now the man and I stood steady, grounded by the buildings around us and the flesh and bone knitting beneath our skin, but one day we would become dust.
Natalie Wang is a seventeen-year-old rising senior currently residing in Texas. Her writing has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Alliance, the New York Times’ Learning Network, and the Iowa Young Writers Studio, as well as several international and teen magazines. In her free time, she enjoys reading through film scripts and catching up on the latest books and webcomics.

Dragon Rider – Denika Mead

My sister laughs and I turn to look at her. I grin, my laughter mingling with hers as adrenaline courses through our veins.
Her face is radiant with joy as the dragon soars up, climbing higher and higher through wisps of cloud. She grabs my waist as the dragon dives, plummeting towards the haze of green marking the ground.
The dragon throws out its wings and we float on the air currents above a carpet of green. Winding blue rivers cut through the forest.
I glance at my sister. Her eyes are as bright as the dragon’s scales. We soar towards the horizon, lined blood red as the sun sets. We glide through the never-ending sky on a creature whose wings glimmer molten golds and sunset reds.
My mum touches my shoulder and I jerk upright on the couch. As I meet her eyes, fresh tears spill over my cheeks.
“It’s time to go.”
I nod. My legs are weak as I follow her to the door. I catch sight of myself in the mirror. Dressed head to toe in black. The only spot of color is the golden dragon brooch on my right shoulder. My sister had loved dragons.
My chest constricts. I run my hand over the brooch’s cold surface and follow my mum out the door for my sister’s final flight.

Denika Mead lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She is 16 and has an unrelenting passion for fantasy and dystopian writing. She published her debut novel Royal Orchid, The Death-Hunters, in October 2019 when she was 15. The prequel to Royal Orchid, Into the Flames, was released on April 3rd, 2020. Her third book is in the early editing stages and is due to be released late 2020. Over the past few years, she has won and been a finalist in several youth writing competitions, including being a two-time finalist in the New Zealand Youth Laurate award 2018. Denika was a finalist in the Best New Talent category for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards in 2020. www.denikameadauthor.com


Do You Remember? – Phoebe Robertson

Do you remember being in Year Two? When we would pretend to be animals? Horses galloped across playgrounds that turned to meadows. Sandpits were the home of volcanic eruptions. Wooden structures would become homes, as we played pretend and crafted families of our own conception.
We turned into mothers and fathers. Looking after each other, we would mime the familiarity of life outside the classroom. Baking mudpies and concoctions from every color of the paintbrush. We would return with mud-caked hair and holes in clothing, but youth was enough to patch them, and ease our worries when they eventually opened back up again.
It didn’t take long for the mudpies to go stale, the concoctions to be tipped down the drain. Color running down the sides of volcanoes to fingertips and leaving nothing but black and white trails. The families split as cracks formed in reality and we grew further apart. No longer a collective, now shattered fragments of a once-perfect household.
Searching for the feeling of simpler times, liquor bottles scattered around rooms like the irregular patterns of a wild horse’s coat. We still ran, only it was to escape a reality that hunched shoulders and crushed backs under the weight of expectation. We walked a path to the future, full of brambles that ripped into clothes and made tears far too large to be patched by a mother’s sewing needle.
Connection was lost as the fragments scattered across the country, finding comfort in the contact of strangers. Those days of pretending seemed more like fiction than reality, as families were split and never heard from again. The occasional grain of sand in a bed sheet, mud trapped underneath fingernail, the only reminder of what once was.

Phoebe Robertson is poet studying in Wellington. Her work has previously appeared in Poetry NZ Yearbook, Flash Frontier, and Young NZ Writers. She spends her time loitering at Ivy.


These are my leaves – Samuel Turner-O’Keeffe

We went to the lake for a swim. It was cold. The horizon yawned and stretched its arms out, expecting to find nothing, but instead it plunged into a distant clump of greens and browns and dullness that lurked around the drop. Inside, the water sat and stank in its juices. Flaccid and flat.
The others scrambled to unroll the picnic blanket. Whooping, they dumped their clothes and their towels and their other things, and dashed towards the gloom. Sand kicked out from under their feet. Their fading laughter flashed, leering, cut in freeze-frame.
We took refuge behind a tree.
And it was under those branches, in the wind which blew through our hair and let your longer curls tickle my cheeks, that your eyes sparkled. You smiled. You murmured my name and snuggled closer. Your lips were centimetres from mine. And I nodded vaguely in acknowledgement. Uh-huh. I was watching the volleyball players behind your head, watching that younger one smack the ball hard over the net, watching this older one shrug and reply, watching the kicking sand and the laughter…
Do you remember
how I took your wrist instead of your hand?
I doubt that you even considered the prospect
that taking your hand was what I had planned
taking your hand on the flocculent sand
my face being kissed by your wandering strands…
I would have. I wish I had.
Now I’m scrambling on ice. Here I am, look at me! I’m green and brown and dull. These are my leaves. And those are my arms, stretching out
expecting to find your warmth
hoping to catch your fading, flashing laughter
plunging into nothing at all.
Samuel Turner-O’Keeffe is a university student from Auckland, New Zealand. A big fan of literature, he recently began writing creative pieces and hopes to continue doing so into the foreseeable future.

The Beans – Cadence Chung

The summer had come and gone; it was now winter, and the dry wrath of the sun had morphed into a blind white bitterness that tinged the edges of trees with frost. In their field, the beans trembled on their stalks, tossed by the wind as if leaning towards an elusive lover.
But there was something else, something that waited in the air like a slit-eyed beast. Not the searing summer nor the blinding winter, but something infra-black, a fever of malice. It trampled over the land with black paws, burning the trees and dousing the fields with sweet chemicals of oblivion. What is this creature, the beans wondered, that covers our home with such bitter waste?
This something else, it changed the humans, the hulking giants that routinely ripped their brethren from their homes. They would whisper to each other in hushed tones and hide in deep holes when the beast was nearby. What is this creature, the beans wondered, that frightens the humans so?
Yet the humans still followed it, chasing that charred-black, fiery beast with eyes chemical and hungry. They readied their metallic pods, releasing seeds in a rhythmic spray of death. Red stained the soil.
One day the beast came to the field, dropping fire onto the trees from above. The beast howled, and there the beans saw its trickery that fooled the humans so perfectly. It promises bravery, the beans thought, yet brings only pain. It promises glory, yet destroys everything that is glorious.
As the fiery death decimated the field, the beans hugged one another in their pods and prayed. Blackened with soot and set alight in flaming passion, the beans wondered, why do the humans follow this beast so blindly?

Cadence Chung is a high school student who loves storytelling, especially through poetry. She is inspired by classic literature and finds it fascinating how our past has influenced so many of our current-day attitudes.


On One Particular MRT Ride – Thee Sim Ling

The businesswoman tapped her smartwatch irritably. At the speed this train was crawling along, she would be three minutes—three minutes—late for her meeting! If she couldn’t make it in time, if she couldn’t secure a deal, if she lost the job which was her everlasting pride…it would be over. She needed her job. She wanted her job, not like the man with the cheap watch sitting two seats away. She would do anything—break a bone, sell her home, even risk her life—to succeed.
The entrepreneur glanced at his timepiece, the $5 plastic watch bought at a pasar malam, when he was a carefree child, like the schoolboy sitting opposite him. At the speed this train was zooming along, he would still be three minutes late for his meeting. Ah, whatever. The meeting had better be quick, though. He fished out his wallet, smiling at the miniature photo of his family. He would do anything—break a bone, sell his home, even risk his life—for his family.
The schoolboy checked his phone and groaned. After a long day of tuition, he was dragged to yet another cumbersome family gathering and he could do nothing about it. Like the useless fly outside the window. Why must he be forced to endure hours and hours of tuition—just for one moment in time called the “exams”? Why couldn’t he just have fun? He would do anything—break a bone, sell his phone, even risk his life—to have a little fun for once.
The fly outside the window flapped its wings desperately. It didn’t care about its job. It didn’t care about its family. It didn’t care about having fun. It only wanted to sur—
Bam.
An insect hit the window.
The insect fell off.
Thee Sim Ling is a thirteen-year-old from Singapore, and this story was inspired by the local Mass Rapid Transport trains in her country. Her work has been published in KidSpirit, Skipping Stones, and The Stone Soup. She is currently addicted to puzzle-solving, website building (lucindathee.com), and finding out how to do mental math fast.

Sugar High – Amanda Kay

On a summer day, I sip ice cream like soup from the carton. The warm liquid rolls down my tongue. The kid beside me is sucking on a lolly, the red tip of it peeking out of his closed lips. I hear laughter from my right side, from my left—they are all so sweet. Artificially sweet, but still.
These are my friends, who revel in saccharine spirits, who dance on burnt marshmallows, the sticky substance leaving residue on their toes. They dance like fairies; they dance as if life was as sweet as candy itself. As if we weren’t broken, torn things. Sinners.
The afternoon sun bakes us into the red dirt, the remnants of the night before untouched. We are the gods and the devils, the angels and demons. Our dreams are all so blurred that I can’t tell one person from another. We are one living, pulsating organism, whose metabolism feeds on sugary sweetness, who pretends like the world around them isn’t all bitter.
Colors flash before my eyes, the world laced in syrupy sugar. I still remember the time so long ago when I spilled cola on your shirt, the brown liquid seeping into your pink shirt, a stain that no detergent could remove. I remember so clearly the effervescent bubbles, rising up and up until all we could dream about were the beginnings of stars in a fairy floss sky, their wings extending ever higher, leaving behind wisps of sugar on the earth below.
Amanda Kay is a writer based in the Bay Area. She is a rising junior at Santa Clara High School. Her work has been published in The Rising Phoenix Review, Second Revolution Magazine, and The Foredge Review, among others. In her free time, she enjoys walking sandy beaches and drinking tea hot enough to burn her throat.

The Crazy Chemist – Izzy Harrison

“Hmmm, based on my calculations, I think we should add some more of this.” Squirt. “Let’s stir that in, just a little of this one, I think. Let’s test it in the Testinator.” Tom felt nervous, he might have found a cure for COVID-19! He stirred it up and poured it into a test tube, then slotted it in the Testinator—whirr, click. “Hmmm, it’s gone green and the machine says it is a cure! I am going to save lots and lots of lives and lockdown will be over!”
“Tom, what is this mess!! All of these leaves on the floor, and my best china cups, and also my blender! What is your dad going to say! Please tidy up and wash your hands!”
Tom’s daydream might have ended, but who knows, he might grow up and actually become a ground-breaking scientist! Go Tom!

Izzy Harrison is nine years old, and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.


Fairy Lights – Sophia Zhang

That time, we caught fairies. Sun sinking, pinks and reds dancing across the sky above the rustling grass fields. I was wearing gingham, and she was too—that tiny fairy whizzing around my head in a brilliant buzz. Her wings and eyelashes fluttered prettily as we watched, enraptured. Naturally, I had to keep her. I gently perched her on my shoulder and we returned to the picnic table, where there rested slices of toast. I took the strawberry jam and emptied the entire jar.
The fairy sat on the rim of the jar and dangled her legs in the glass pit, peering down hesitantly. I nudged her in and screwed the lid tight. Her limbs grew limp as we passed by with other fairies in other jars. The messy nest of red yarn lay tangled on her head, drenched with sweat, yet still she glowed true. I brought her in and out of life, each shock of my fingers flaying bone and blood of her soft body, carving chambers into her Tinkerbell heart. The jar lit up, lustrous strawberry-gold light finally freed. When darkness came about, we arranged all the luminous jars around us in the fields. That night, we ate strawberry toast by fairy light.

Sophia Zhang is a rising sophomore at Walter Payton College Prep and is fourteen in age but five at heart. She has been weaving stories and poems in her head since the dawn of time and is absolutely ecstatic to share them with others. Besides writing, Sophia spends her days playing piano, volleyball, or watching her favou0rite TV show on Netflix.


Grey – Jorja Coyote Rosser

The fourth horseman rides fast across the land, carving its path to mark its journey through our world. I’ve heard the gossip, but it’s just a flu, who cares? I lounge lazily in the sun as I half-follow a conversation my friends are having, waiting for the bell to ring. Minutes pass and we fight the steady flow of traffic to homeroom, not bothering to say goodbye, as we will see each other the next day.
The horseman crosses the sea, ravaging our towns, our people. Schools are closed, communities are closed, our world is closed. We are in a war zone. Masks and scarves cover faces, nobody can be trusted. A sideway glance is cast as the neighbour who pets my dog crosses the road to avoid me. The sun shines and the sky is clear, but there is no colour. Life has become grey.
 The horseman has many faces: your best friend, your neighbor, your own mother. He is nobody, he is everybody. This is what we read about in dystopian novels. We fight this modern battle. I sit in my house with my family, grasping at any small purpose I can find. I am waiting for everything to return to normal, for life to resume. Although the walls are only slightly off white, it just feels grey.
The horseman fights, but he cannot break our walls; our mana cannot be broken. We are not fooled by his faces; our united solitude scares him away. Defeated, he surrenders, fleeing across the land. The colour returns to the world. The sky is blue and the grass is greener than I’d noticed. The sun warms my bones and the exciting chirrup continues. My friends and I head to class. We make sure to say goodbye as we disperse.
Jorja Coyote Rosser is seventeen years old and attends Sacred Heart Girls’ College New Plymouth. In her spare time she enjoys baking, listening to music, and playing inline hockey, a sport for which she has represented New Zealand on several occasions.

Islands – Eva de Jong

Over a socially-distanced morning tea break, Max tells Mary he loves her. Mary is looking into her coffee when he confesses: “I love you, Mary.”
Mary pulls her dark hair behind her ear and removes a single AirPod.
“I’m good Max, how are you?”
“What?” he gasps, and then, “I—I’m good.”
Two metres of hollow space separates their tables. It is a government-ordered chasm, a distance that sets everybody apart for their own good. It could have been an ocean.
“Lousy isn’t it?” Mary holds up a limp mask between her fingers. Max thinks again about how she has the most beautiful pale hands he has ever seen.
“Lot of good it’ll do me; I can barely breathe in the bloody thing,” she sighs, and
Max gulps back the last of his coffee.
“It’s hard—it makes it hard, you know, to in some ways…breathe,” he agrees.
Mary looks at him blankly.
“Yeah,” she says, “You alright, mate?”
The curved points of Max’s ears are shiny and red, and he runs his hand over his glistening forehead.
“Yeah. Fine.” He drops his hand into his lap, eyes staying fixed on the wall ahead.
“I think the extra shifts are getting to everyone,” she says gently.
Max can feel her green eyes on him, soft and blinking.
“I better get back to work, Mary,” he whispers hoarsely. Then he leaps up from his seat and yanks his mask back over his mouth.
“Oh. See you soon then, Max!” She calls.
Max turns from his table and walks quickly away. There is a single moment, between turning and walking, when he could reach her table across the two-metre gap.  He could touch the hand that rests there, wrist upturned and the palm glowing white, like light pulsing from a bacteria-ridden angel.

Eva de Jong is eighteen years old, and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.


Narcissus – Stella Li

The first time I met you, we were knee-deep in clay. I held you tight that day, maybe too tight. Do you remember? The smell of earth and silt and mirrored love. I wondered if you would ever know what it feels like to hold yourself in your own palms.
It was easy for the first few years. I taught you to ride, your chubby thighs straddling the silken muscle of Pistol, that speckled Appaloosa with a chestnut forelock. You shrieked in delight, you wanted more even after dust coated your lashes and your knees had begun to crumble. I had to repair you that night, wrapping your joints in new mud.
We were alike. Maybe too much so, the way you sneezed at the light and laughed with your head thrown back. You picked fights. Held grudges. You were too easily dented by others’ touch.
The first time we fought, I could see everything I never wanted you to be: cracked, crumbling at my fingers. It was something about a boy; you said the word freedom like it meant something. It was late at night; the fireflies had flickered out and the moths had begun to gather around the porchlight. You missed curfew twice after that, but each time you were gone again before morning, leaving a smattering of dust in Pistol’s stall.
It was an obsession. I couldn’t—wouldn’t—see you differently; there were times when I wanted to smash you to pieces just to know what it felt like. But then I wouldn’t be able to hold myself again; there would be nothing left of my art. This is my burden: you sitting on my loamy shoulders, my fingers caked in slip.

Stella Li is a rising senior at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North in New Jersey. An alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop and an editor of Ephimiliar Journal, she has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Kenyon Review Short Nonfiction Contest, the National Poetry Quarterly, and her mother, among others. When not scribbling angsty poetry out at 1AM, she can be found in her bed, under the covers, dreaming about dipping her feet in the Temple of Dendur water pool.


Puppeteer Awash in Salt – Penelope Duran

The shopping cart bucked in my sweaty palms, seeking to escape as I circled the aisles. Apples. Milk. Paprika. Salt.  Four items and then I could leave this hell.  Ben used to shop for Mom.
Apples. Milk. Paprika. All I needed was salt.  On aisle five, I stood paralysed as memories consumed me: saline crystals coating the kitchen tiles, Mum’s ruthless scolding echoing through the house. Ben defending me, saying my mistake did not call for a scene.  It was only salt.
Ben was right.  There was no need for theatrics.  With clenched fists, I walked to the shelf, where packets of salt stood like sentinels.  My hands burned as I grasped a package and then dropped it to extinguish the invisible fire.  The floor shimmered in a familiar sheet of white.
Like a ragdoll, I collapsed to the floor.  Ben flashed through my mind.  His eyes were empty, his neck twisted like a marionette’s.  An icy hand still clutched the steering wheel.  Ben would not have driven to the store if I had not spilled the salt.
A comforting hand touched my shoulder, and with it were assurances that my error was not grave.  It was only salt.  As I lifted the remains of the package, grains filtered through my fingertips, cleansing the venial sin.
Apples. Milk. Paprika. Salt. Gathered together, I rose, a puppeteer entangled no longer.
Penelope Duran’s educational journey began at Dyer St. Kindy in Lower Hutt, Wellington.  As a child in a U.S. diplomatic family, she has also lived in the Philippines, Egypt, Poland, and Germany.  She is educated in the German school system and has achieved recognition for her poems, short stories, and personal memoirs in English and German.  In addition to creative writing, Penny’s other passion is physics, and she enjoys ballet and ballroom dancing.

The Taniwha – Lucy Kennedy

“Bye, Mum!” I call as I walk out the door of my house. I’m going on a morning walk, to get some fresh air and to get away from the large pile of homework sitting on my desk.
I am at the opening of the nature walkway (it is a new one that I have never tried before) when suddenly from behind a kauri tree jumps a strange-looking man who wears long, brown robes like the trunk of a rough tree fern, and a hat made of ferns with a tui feather tucked into the flax strip that is acting as a hatband. Tangled in his long, white beard are bright red pohutukawa bristles, and his eyes shine like paua shells glistening in the sunlight. He holds a branch wrapped intricately with flax strips, with shells hanging, jangling in the light breeze. At his feet slinks a taniwha, sleek and slippery, with shiny curious eyes slyly gazing up at me.
As I stare at him in awe, he reaches into his robes and hands me a wooden box that smells of wet rain in the bush. He winks at me and stamps down his staff, and in a puff of honey-coloured smoke he is gone. I open the box and inside is a beautifully carved pounamu, cold in the palm of my hand… I put it on and gasp as the slinking, shimmering taniwha, which was hiding behind the kauri, comes to me and sits at my feet. I understand that ancient, powerful magic has brought us together, and that he is mine now, forever and ever.  I must take care of him.
Lucy Kennedy is 12 years old and was born in Auckland, New Zealand.  She loves cats, cups of tea, chocolate lamingtons, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (would recommend), and Tim Burton movies.  Lucy enjoys writing short stories and is currently working on her first novel.

Tea for Two – Hannah Wilson

You look at her and wonder. She’s like a toy adult. Elfin, big eyes made bigger with the help of mascara and liquid eyeliner, lips impossibly red. Red like the roses you gave your wife on her seventieth birthday.
She’s supposed to be a child. A child. You always associated childhood with tree climbing and pigtails and note passing in class. It’s different now, you’ve been told.
You steal another glance. You don’t want her to catch you looking, but you can’t resist. Then you look away, focusing instead on the tea pot, milk jug and cups in front of you. Tea for two. Your gaze flits to the empty chair opposite you.
You can’t bring yourself to drink the tea.
Turning towards her again, you notice the people seated around her for the first time. They’re all angled towards her. She’s a magnet, and not just for you.
Your gaze zeroes in on the slice of cake before her. Obscenely sweet and chocolaty like the ones your wife used to make. You never liked chocolate cake. But somehow it tasted good the way she baked it. Chocolate cake and tea for two.
Maybe you should order some cake. You wouldn’t have to eat it. It could just be for show. Like everything else in this modern world.
What’s she drinking? You allow your gaze to wander beyond the slice of cake. A martini. She raises the glass to those impossibly red lips, and then stops to pick something out before handing it to her mother. The olive.
Shaking your head, you turn back to your own beverage. Tea for two. Well, that’s what it’s supposed to be. But it’s still as lonely as you are.
Hannah Wilson is a 16-year-old high school student living in Wellington, New Zealand. She has loved reading and creative writing her entire life, and hopes to continue writing and also become a psychiatrist when she has finished high school.

Trek – Yejin Suh

“I’ve never been on one where they won’t tell us why we’re here.”
“Me neither.”
“So…”
“So?”
“So why do you think we’re here?”
“Well, I’ve been on a lot of these. I’ve made a list of, you know, all the possible reasons.”
“What are they?”
“First, natural resources.”
“We’ve no gear.”
“Bounty hunting.”
“No guns.”
“And looking for new homes.”
“On a planet with no civilization? No way.”
“Then…that’s it. That’s my whole list.”
“Oh.”
“Yeah.”
“Do you think…”
“What?”
“Nevermind.”
“No, tell me—”
“Do you think we’re in danger?”
“They’d—well, they’d tell us if we were, obviously.”
“How is that obvious?”
“Why would they—”
“Stupid, I know. Nevermind.”
“Do you think we’re in danger?”
“No. All we’ve been doing is walking. And the planet’s nice. Well—it’s nice, but it’s—”
“Quieter… she might hear us.”
“Sorry. The planet’s nice, but it’s kind of…”
“Off?”
“Yeah.”
“I’ve noticed, too. It’s—well, the obvious thing is the river…”
“There’s no way that’s a river. It looks like—”
“A mudslide? I know. It’s disgusting. There must be some kind of backlog.”
“And the glints.”
“What?”
“The silver glints, they’re everywhere. In the trees, the ground…”
“Huh. I didn’t even notice.”
“What are they?”
“I don’t know…probably mineral deposits.”
“I heard that some planets do that on purpose. Push out silver everywhere. So from outer space, it just looks like a part of the stars. Camouflage.”
“That’s neat. Like it’s alive.”
“You don’t think—?”
“What?”
“It could be—”
“Too loud—she’s looking back at us—”
“Sorry, sorry. You don’t think it could be alive?”
“Alive?”
“Imagine the river…”
“The river…”
“…full of dead meat, people acidified alive…”
“What?”
“…the silver glints, little bits of tech that the planet couldn’t digest…”
Yejin Suh is a student from New Jersey whose writing appears in Half Mystic, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and Polyphony Lit, among others. She recently founded a speculative fiction publication, Wintermute Lit (www.wintermutelit.online).

NFFD Awards Night

Part 1: Guest readers and musicians
Part 2: Finalist readings (hosted by Renee Liang)


Youth discussion panel: Writing in short forms

See youth discussion panel here
Featuring:

Lucy Kennedy (age 12; Auckland, New Zealand – short-listed in 2020 NFFD youth competition)

Lucy Kennedy is 12 years old and was born in Auckland, New Zealand.  She loves cats, cups of tea, chocolate lamingtons, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (would recommend) and Tim Burton movies.  Lucy enjoys writing short stories and is currently working on her first novel.

Denika Mead (age 16; Wellington, New Zealand – 3rd place in 2020 NFFD youth competition)

Denika lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She is 16 and has an unrelenting passion for fantasy and dystopian writing. She published her debut novel Royal OrchidThe Death-Hunters, in October 2019 when she was 15. The prequel to Royal OrchidInto the Flames, was released on April 3rd, 2020. Her third book is in the early editing stages and is due to be released late 2020. Over the past few years, she has won and been a finalist in several youth writing competitions, including being a two-time finalist in the New Zealand Youth Laurate award 2018. Denika was a finalist in the Best New Talent category for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards in 2020. www.denikameadauthor.com

Penelope Duran (age 17; Frankfurt, Germany – short-listed in 2020 NFFD youth competition)

Penelope Duran’s educational journey began at Dyer St. Kindy in Lower Hutt, Wellington.  As a child in a U.S. diplomatic family, she has also lived in the Philippines, Egypt, Poland and Germany.  She is educated in the German school system and has achieved recognition for her poems, short stories and personal memoirs in English and German.  In addition to creative writing, Penny’s other passion is physics, and she enjoys ballet and ballroom dancing.

Freddie Gormack-Smith (age 19; Christchurch, New Zealand)

Freddie Gormack-Smith is a poet and flash fiction writer from Christchurch NZ, currently in his first year of an English degree at the University of Canterbury. Before that he was a student with the School for Young Writers in Christchurch from the age of 11, who successfully converted him to flash fiction and he hasn’t looked back since. His work has regularly appeared in the annual Re-draft anthologies and Write-On Magazine, where he had the privilege to be a featured writer in 2019.

Samantha Jory-Smart (age 19; Christchurch, New Zealand)

Samantha Jory-Smart currently studies at the University of Canterbury and is an established poet. Her poetry has received many awards, including first place in both the New Zealand Poetry Society’s Anthology open junior section 2018 and the We Could Be Heroes Poetry Competition 2017. In 2018, Samantha worked with Ōtākaro Ltd. to curate a poetry mural on Armagh Street. The poems were linked through their multi-faceted approaches to the topic of climate change. Last year, she spoke at the Enviro-Past conference about the intersection between art and climate change. She has also worked with the School for Young Writers throughout high school.

Moderator: Lola Elvy writes music, poetry, and other forms of creative fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing, she is passionate about language, mathematics, and the environment, and speaks English, German, and Swedish. After living and travelling for seventeen years on a sailboat, she is now based in Dunedin, studying Music and Physics at the University of Otago. Her poetry has been featured in Fast FibresOlentangy Review, and The Larger Geometry: poems for peace (anthology, 2018).


NFFD YouTube channel – see authors read their stories

2020 NFFD Youth Competition – Winners announced!

Winners for the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day competition have been announced!

Congratulations and thank you to all placing, short-listed, and long-listed writers for making this competition!


1st place:

Exhaust – Minha Choi (age 17; South Korea)

2nd place:

Fish Hook Scars – Derrin Smith (age 16; Rangiora, New Zealand)

3rd place:

The Ballad of Light – Natalie Wang (age 17; Texas, United States)
Dragon Rider – Denika Mead (age 16; Lower Hutt, New Zealand)

Highly commended:

Do you remember? – Phoebe Robertson (age 18; Wellington, New Zealand)
These are my leaves – Samuel Turner-O’Keeffe (age 18; Auckland, New Zealand)

Commended:

The Beans – Cadence Chung (age 16; Wellington, New Zealand)
On One Particular MRT Ride – Thee Sim Ling (age 13; Singapore)
Sugar High – Amanda Kay (age 15; California, United States)

Short list:

The Crazy Chemist – Izzy Harrison (age 09; Auckland, New Zealand)
Fairy Lights – Sophia Zhang (age 14; Chicago, United States)
Grey – Jorja Coyote Rosser (age 17; New Plymouth, New Zealand)
Islands – Eva de Jong (age 18; Wellington, New Zealand)
Narcissus – Stella Li (age 16; New Jersey, United States)
Puppeteer Awash in Salt – Penelope Duran (age 17; Frankfurt, Germany)
The Taniwha – Lucy Kennedy (age 12; Auckland, New Zealand)
Tea for Two – Hannah Wilson (age 16; Wellington, New Zealand)
Trek – Yejin Suh (age 17; New Jersey, United States)

Long list:

Backwaters and back yards – Nadezhda Macey (age 17; Wellington, New Zealand)
Blood Money – Amelia Kirkness (age 16; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Chicken Eye – Oli Kirke (age 13; Timaru, New Zealand)
The Choice – Sarah-Kate Simons (age 14; Southbridge, New Zealand)
Dear Mimi Murphy – Micaiah Veer (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Demons in Mysticalandia – Aanvika Santhanam (age 07; Auckland, New Zealand)
The Drawing – Lucy Kennedy (age 12; Auckland, New Zealand)
Dream of Red Shutters – Nadezhda Macey (age 17; Wellington, New Zealand)
Grandad’s Jazz – Chloe Morrison-Clarke (age 13; Christchurch, New Zealand)
His Map – Kate Atkinson (age 18; New Plymouth, New Zealand)
In Sand, in Stone, in Light – Annabella T. (age 15; Wellington, New Zealand)
Kitso and the Dragon – Denika Mead (age 16; Lower Hutt, New Zealand)
The Language Misfits – Oli Kirke (age 13; Timaru, New Zealand)
Malfunction – Reuben Veenstra (age 12; Christchurch, New Zealand)
The Mirror – Micah Bradburn (age 13; Dunedin, New Zealand)
Octoboy – Sheryl Lai (age 10; Auckland, New Zealand)
Pillow Fortress – Penelope Duran (age 17; Frankfurt, Germany)
Potatoes – Cindy Xiong (age 15; Christchurch, New Zealand)
Rebirth – Zachary Duff (age 15; Dunedin, New Zealand)
Stalactite – Naomi Dana (age 14; Christchurch, New Zealand)
A Thing of Beauty Means Joy Forever – Annabella T. (age 15; Wellington, New Zealand)
Woodland Things – Amelia Kirkness (age 16; Christchurch, New Zealand)

Submissions Notice – August 2020 Issue: Unthemed

(Recently closed)
Information about National Flash Fiction Day 2020 here

About the August 2020 issue: 

  • Submission period: 16 June to 31 July 2020
  • Theme: No theme
  • Artists/authors notified in August 2020

Guest editor: E Wen Wong is a year-13 student at Burnside High School (Christchurch, New Zealand). Since becoming passionate about poetry through Paula Green’s Poetry Box, E Wen has had her work featured in various anthologies, on the back of local buses, and on display in the Guernsey Airport. In 2019, E Wen placed first in the Poetry New Zealand Student Yearbook Poetry Competition and runner-up in the National Schools Poetry Award.

Submission guidelines:

  • What to submit:
    • Submissions may be any form of creative art. That includes writing (essays, short stories, micro stories, poetry—any forms of writing), photography, visual art (digital art included), music, et cetera.
    • We welcome previously published work, and simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but we advise that the artist/author informs us if the submission is accepted or published elsewhere.
    • There are no limits as to the length of written submissions, but prose submissions under five thousand words are preferable (though exceptions may be made).
    • Artists/authors may submit up to five pieces each.
  • How to submit: Submit through email at fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com. In your email submission, please include the following:
    • Your age
    • Your geographical location
    • A brief bio (approximately 50 words, or three sentences)

Please send written submissions as downloadable .txt.rtf, or .docx documents. Please do not send documents via Google Documents or other online sharing platforms, as these are private and can be restricted for us.

  • Who can submit: There is no strict age limit for submitters. We are a youth journal, and our submitters currently range in age from four to twenty-six years old. We encourage international and diverse submissions. As a general guide to what we’re looking for, our previous issues can be found here.

There is no theme for the August 2020 issue. Submission themes are not strict and may be interpreted freely. We are always excited to receive a variety of submissions and see how different perspectives respond to an overarching idea: some pieces may relate to a theme concretely, using it to convey a message in a new way, while others may be more abstract, making the audience work a little harder to see the connection. There is never one way to respond to a theme. In every case, we encourage you to have fun with it and push your boundaries—be creative, and see what you can do.

Any inquiries may be emailed directly to us.


Contact: fingerscommatoes[at]gmail[dot]com

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