Flash Fiction Competition #5

Sanctuary WoodWe had a fantastic collection of flash fiction this month and I think the tighter turnaround worked, so that is what we will stick with. Next month’s prompt will be posted on the 1st October with a week to write  and 5 days to vote. Don’t forget, any feedback on this competition is very welcome. Comment below or email sarah@paperswans.co.uk

It was hard to choose between our ten pieces and the voting was tight; very tight. So much so, we have TWO winners who received exactly the same amount of votes, so many congratulations to Andrew Patch with The Serpent and Mark Newman with My Fence is Electric, both very worthy winners.


An Unsung Hero

We loved watching old George’s bright eyes disappear inside his wrinkles when he laughed. The first lines in that weather-beaten face had been etched in during his years in the trenches, even before he’d started to shave.

“Mustn’t complain, though,” he’d say. The piece of shrapnel with his name on it had been a blessing really. Not only had it missed his vital organs, it had got him sent home to his sweetheart and the job he loved. What did a useless arm matter? What did the big groove in his chest matter? Before anyone could answer, George would start to chortle. That was generally the signal for his good hand with its black fingernails to dive into the bib of his overalls. The boiled sweets that came out of the torn bag had all sorts of things stuck to them, but no child I knew ever turned one down.

Maggie Cobbett


10th Anniversary

Under or over? Going over the top, he might catch his trousers on the barbs. But he doubted he’d fit his adult body beneath the wire. The smell was the same; rotting leaves and dog shit. This had been his escape route, creeping through the grounds to squeeze beneath the fence to meet up with Jezza and the others, only to be trapped by their rules.
Grabbing a stick he pushed the barbs down and stepped over the top. Brambles competed with ivy to cover the steps at the back, where he used to sneak a fag, not listening to the noises coming from Watkins’ office. The roof was sagging and windows were smashed. The top corner, where his old room had been, was crumbling around the window frame.
At the front, the doors were shrouded in a metal shell. Litter swirled between the grill and the old facade. He leaned forward and laid the small bouquet in the corner.

Pam Plumb



They called her Barb because her attitude would do as much damage to self-esteem as rusty spikes to flesh. She’d find any weakness and exploit it, they warned me. I should keep my distance. But I couldn’t resist her allure.
I thought of myself as a stealth master. I’d find a way. I watched. Guys who’d gathered all their courage to talk to her retreated, deflated, moments later. I moved closer, listened in. Fortified my armour. Planned my approach. Ignored the spike of fear stabbing me whenever I imagined approaching her.
Another guy walked up to her. I snuck in close enough to smell her perfume – violets when I was expecting battery acid. She smiled at the guy. I’d never seen her smile at anyone. For one brief moment, she focused on me. Her expression mocked me – you thought I hadn’t noticed, it said. Some stealth master you are.
My ambitions popped like balloons caught in barbed wire.

Sonya Oldwin


Let Me In

You watch me every day. I sense you, behind the lens. Don’t you recognise me?
I think you left me. Did I leave you? My memories are fractured. Shards, cutting my heart and soul. I think I have a soul.
Here you are: barricaded in my mind. So close. So distant.
Our kisses. Your whiskers pricked my chin and lips.
A song. Our song. It lulled us to sleep. Or we made love to its rhythm. I think it was love. I remember looking down on you. I forgot the words. The memory skips – a vinyl record, a needle caught in a groove.
I remember talking. A sharp tongue. Yours or mine?
A syringe. Pain.
You had rose bushes. Now there’s razor wire. A camera, looking down on me.
Try to read my lips: I’m not one of the infected. Let me in.

Matthew Francis


Childhood Friends, Adolescent Ghosts

I remember very little about you. I used to be filled with memories that ran down the walls of my living room and secured me, wailing, to an armchair. Perhaps I forced myself to forget. Perhaps it would have happened anyway.
That day, I remember, your hair was especially golden against your red jumper and we were running, wildly, running in dungarees and ankle socks on soft grass. You were hungry for adventure, knife and fork at the ready and I kept telling you not to go so fast. My legs kicked behind me but you just drifted, catching a piece of wool on the barbed wire. Your mother would kill you.

One day I’ll go back there and retrieve it. When the tear tracks have surrendered to drought. When I can look at your picture and not think of how little oxygen you had beneath that concealed surface, but of gold against red and your careless laughter.

Abbie Day




She had not had good experiences with love, so she bought the wire and wound it around her heart as a barrier. It was true that it caused her considerable pain, but it was a constant pain; a hurt she was in control of.
When he met her he paid no attention to it, clambering over the wire and straight into her heart.
‘Did you not see the fence I put up?’ she said.
‘Of course,’ he said. ‘I thought you had put a wall up against the outside world for us to live inside.’
She stared at him for a while, wondering if he was really so sure of himself, or just foolish; or both.
‘I have one too,’ he said. ‘A fence. My fence is electric.’
It was the right thing to say. She let herself into his heart and, as she did so, she felt the tingle pulsing through her skin.

Mark Newman



The sharp words sting, and cut into her like barbed wire.
She is in the trench; he is attacking, bayonet in hand.
Stab, stab, stab.
These words are thrown like grenades, a malicious and thoughtful act.
Is this concern? or is this hate? She cannot tell any more.
She walks away, gets stabbed in the back, but she doesn’t care.
She walks out onto the balcony, watching the sunset orange in the sky, and the people down below are thinking a thousand thoughts, feeling a thousand things.
She has thought about jumping before. A conscientious objector, going AWOL.
A deserter. That’s what he would say. “You can’t leave” he has told her, begged her, ordered her to.
They used to shoot them, she thinks. In the first world war. If they ran away, they would get sent back and then would be killed by their own comrades.
She feels the bullet in her heart. She is a ghost.

Emily Greentree



The rusty barbed wire fence went all the way around the outside of the run-down hovel squatting on its modest plot of land. There was no sign of any entranceway. It was as if the owners had decided to shut themselves entirely within its confines, or shut the whole world out.
“Do you reckon there’s anyone still alive in there?” The local kids were intrigued and all for exploring, but the spikes on the fence put them off—made them involuntarily shudder. Was it their imaginations or did the tangled wires seem to twist and turn of their own accord if you watched them long enough?
At night, when no-one was looking, the little house would shake itself loose from its foundations and patrol the perimeter, inspecting it closely for signs of any weakness. Though dormant in the daytime, it sensed the children had been close by. It could almost taste them.
But, for now, the barrier still held.

Gavin Parish


Growing Up With Fences

Growing up, she lived with her grandparents who ran a small farm, raising goats and chickens. Their property line was marked by a barbed wire fence. They did not get along with their neighbors, who did not have kids. A big deal was made of that. In this small, rural town, people took it as an affront. A rejection of the values that had kept their community going for generations. She was always curious about them, but knew not to ask questions. If no one was around and they were out, she’d wave.
After she graduated high school, she went to college in the city to be a nurse. Her grandmother died before she finished. By that time, her grandfather couldn’t manage the day to day of a farm, so he sold the animals and pieces of the property. The neighbors they never liked had bought the land, and they left the fence up until after her grandfather died.

Cara Long



The Serpent

The barb bit deep releasing crimson. ‘Fool!’ Abigail sucked at her palm. If Frank were here now he’d mock her clumsiness.

Abigail returned to unfurling the rusted barbed wire, discovered within the gloom of Frank’s shed, along the garden wall. A spiky corroded serpent that resisted her as Frank had towards the end. Their love eroded by time and pressure, like the nearby cliff top adorned with police tape, fluttering in the sea breeze. Marking Frank’s final defiance at the doctor’s prognosis.

Rubbing tears away, Abigail renewed twisting the wire around the latch of the gate. Just … keep … busy.

The shrill clamor of the phone interrupted her progress, the caller denied by the answer machine already overburdened with sympathy. A final twist, Abigail rubbed together her bronzed numb fingers, looking out across the grey sea. She wasn’t the one who left that morning in silence, never returning.

She just wished the waves would stop calling out to her.

Andrew Patch

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