Fifteen writers competed in our Flash Fiction Contest on April 13. This exercise challenged aspiring writers to think on their feet and quickly create a short story that engages readers and shows off their imaginative, descriptive and compositional skills. Students were given the following constraints:
Finally, the writers were provided a prompt that all of the stories had to follow:
Begin a story with this line: Where were you last night?
Each story was scored by a team of judges from the Department of English and Humanities and members of Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society. The criteria for judgment were outlined in a rubric that was distributed with the exam. The papers were then ranked by the combined scores from all judges. The top entries then underwent one more round of evaluation for the final ranking.
The judges were impressed with the uniform creativity and talent illustrated in all of the submissions, especially given the time and length limits. There were many submissions that could easily be revised and shaped into fully-formed stories worthy of wide readership in some form. We want to thank ALL of the participants for sharing their talents with us.
Here are the final results:
(note that the final drafts have been lightly edited to correct obvious surface errors):
2012 Scholastic Day Flash Fiction
Potter-Dix High School 11th Grade
Checkered Linoleum and the Smell of Cheap Coffee
“Where were you last night?”
Lorelei started, turning to look at her older sister Clarissa standing behind the counter. Her arms were crossed and a glare was etched across her brow.
“Here. Where else would I be?” Lorelei responded sheepishly, turning back to the bowl of cereal on the table that she nearly knocked over a moment before.
“Yeah right! You may be able to fool Christopher, but not me,” Clarissa snapped, “you’ve been sneaking out almost every night for a month now! What on Earth are you doing?”
“It’s nothing, really,” she said, shaking her head and flashing her sister a quick, feigned smile. Inside her mind was racing, trying to concoct a lie.
“What is it? Parties? A boy?” Clarissa continued, bearing down on her sister.
“Uh--yes! Yeah--there’s a guy,” Lorelei lied, nodding and hoping that the panicked flush in her cheeks would be mistaken for embarrassed blushing, “but please don’t tell Christopher! You know what he’s like when it comes to us dating.” Clarissa’s whole manner changed in an instant, and she was now giddy with the thought of her little sister having her first boyfriend. She squealed and rushed over to Lorelei.
“Really? What’s his name? Where’s he from? How old is he? What does he look like? You have to tell me everything!” Taken aback by her sudden enthusiasm, Lorelei sat down in a chair and shrugged.
“He’s pretty normal. His name is Carlton. He’s my age, but goes to a different school,” she fibbed, desperately trying to create ‘Carlton’ to appease Clarissa. She kept going for several minutes, making up answers, however weak, to any questions her sister came up with.
“Good morning, girls! Did I hear squealing?” said a sleepy voice from behind them.
“Good morning, Chris! We were just talking about how one of the bands I really like is having a concert here this summer!” Clarissa said, which wasn’t exactly a lie, but wasn’t what they had just been discussing either.
“No,” Chris said, running his long fingers through his short, messy brown hair. He looked about forty-five, with straight white teeth and the tense shoulders of a demanding office job.
“You’re not going. Not unless you get a job and can pay for the tickets yourself,” he continued, shuffling over to the coffee maker and turning it on. Clarissa began to pout and argue for the next five minutes, but Lorelei just tuned her out. She let a sigh of relief escape her and silently rejoiced the fact that she had fooled her sister. Of course there wasn’t a boy. Boys never noticed her. Lorelei wasn’t exactly beautiful, but she wasn’t ugly either. She fell somewhere in the middle, just a plain face with pale blue eyes, a dash of freckles, and a long nose. Her dark brown hair was long and typically up in a ponytail. Lorelei was quiet, liked to read, would write when she could, and often roamed the city on the weekends.
“Come on, Christopher, stop being so controlling! You’re not even our dad!” Clarissa shouted. Lorelei froze, as did everyone else in the room. Clarissa clapped her hands over her mouth.
“I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry, it just slipped out, I didn’t mean it!” Clarissa whispered.
“No, it’s fine. It is true, after all,” Christopher said, “I’m just your uncle. However, I am in charge of both of you. It’s become my responsibility to raise you since your father died and my sister left. What I say goes, regardless of how I’m related to you. Now eat your breakfast. One more word out of you, Clarissa, and you won’t be going anywhere at all!” With that he left the room, storming back into the hallway from which he came. A few seconds later, they heard his door slam shut.
In hopes of avoiding the awkwardness in the air, Lorelei let her eyes wander to the picture of her parents hanging up on the wall. Her father had died before she was born, and her mother, unable to support a family on her own, gave the two of them up to Christopher soon after giving birth. Then, she disappeared from their lives. As Lorelei looked at the beautiful face of the woman in the picture, she thought about what had happened a month before.
While Lorelei was on a late-night walk across the city, she stopped at a small, retro-looking diner. Inside she admired the black and white checkerboard floor, the bright red stools, and the fifties artwork and neon signs adorning almost every spare inch of the walls. She sat by herself and people-watched until a waitress came to take her order. Lorelei recognized her face immediately: the soft blue eyes, the hint of freckles, and the same fiery red hair as Clarissa. This woman was her mother. However, the latter was oblivious to the fact that the small, lonely teenager sitting in the booth before her was her daughter.
“What can I get you tonight, sweetie?” she asked, smiling kindly down at her. It took Lorelei a minute to catch her breath before she was able to order coffee. She remained at the diner for three hours, watching her mother as she went about her work. Lorelei had studied her every movement and essence: the way her hair fell in her face, how long and delicate her fingers were, and the way she smiled at every customer.
Every night since then, Lorelei had returned to the diner, hoping that her mother would be working. They never exchanged more than a few niceties, but Lorelei had grown attached to her. She lived for the nights when she could see her mother’s face, hear her gentle voice, and look into the eyes that were exactly like her own. Maybe someday she could tell Clarissa or Christopher, but not yet. For now, Lorelei’s mother was her own little secret.
2012 Scholastic Day Flash Fiction
Niobrara County High School, Grade: 12
“Where were you last night?” The somewhat childish voice came from above me, and as I looked up, a figure jumped down from the rooftops above me. He crouched as he landed, showing his experience in jumping from heights like that. The figure before me wore a black cloak, the same as I did. He had his black hair cut short, making sure it stayed out of his eyes.
“Thinking.” I said, my voice as deep as the other was childish. My gaze was locked onto the grey eyes that stared at me with a mild interest.
“I can never get an easy answer from you, Orion.” He said. He laughed, but it was a bitter laugh; there was no joy to it. He shook his head, the chain around his neck rattling as he did so. “Man, we’ve been friends from the beginning, since we first joined the Organization, right? You know you can tell me anything, right?”
I thought back to the first day, the day we first joined the Organization. No one in the Organization could remember a life before it. It was almost as if the day that we joined was the first day of our existence. We were called forward, one by one, and the Superior, our leader, looked us over. He smiled the entire time, but in his eyes you could see his displeasure with what he had gathered. Since that day, The Superior had assigned each of us many tasks, furthering his own plans.
“Earth to Orion! Man, you’re zoning out on me all the time!” His chains kept rattling, chains the same as I wore, signifying our bondage to the Organization we worked for.
“No, I want a straight explanation. You need to get your act together. You don’t want the Superior to see you like this, do you?” Alex sighed, showing his exasperation. “Alright, now tell me: What were you thinking about?”
I gave out a sigh, but mine was in sorrow, not exasperation. “About the task I was given.”
“Ah.” Alex said, nodding his head. “It must be difficult, if YOU had to spend the night thinking about it.”
I let a small smile spread across my face, even though no one could see it with my hood pulled up. Alex was making a joke about my 100% mission success rate. It wasn’t something I liked to brag about; I just did what I had to do, and did it as well as I could. Somehow that was funny to the rest of the Organization, and it became a big joke to them.
“It’s not that it’s difficult,” I began, pulling the hood from my face. Alex was the only one I knew not repelled by the sight. The entire right side of my face was covered in a mask made of iron. It was bolted into my bone, making sure it stayed. The Superior had attached it to me. He wanted me to look fearsome, so that it would be easier to get what I wanted from people. The mask definitely had its benefits, but the downside was that I always got a look of disgust from anyone who saw my face. The left side of my face was not exactly pretty either. My eye was completely blood red, with no iris or pupil to speak of, and my mouth was filled with fangs instead of regular teeth. I also had no nose, just a single nostril on the left side of my face. My nose had been refigured like that by the Superior when he had bolted this mask to my face. I wondered if maybe the rest of me looked the way it did because of him too, but I could not recall. It was another thing from the time before the Organization.
“So, if it isn’t difficult, why did you have to think about it so long?” Alex was scratching his head, perplexed by the problem I had presented him. My left hand retreated to my cloak as he looked away. I retrieved a single dagger from it, keeping it hidden in my hand.
“The Superior assigned me a task that has… moral consequences.” I said, thinking carefully about what I was saying to him. There was no reason he needed to know the truth.
Alex laughed, this time it was a real laugh, and his eyes started watering from the intensity of it. I didn’t join. There was no humor to this.
“Moral consequences?” He asked, not fully recovered from the laughing fest. I kept staring at him, and I saw the moment realization dawned on his face. “Oh. You’re serious.”
I nodded. It was a grim fate laid out before me, but it was all I had. Alex walked over to me, his face looking intensely concerned for me. “Is there anything I can do to help you through this?” He inquired carefully. He laid his hand on my right shoulder, keeping it in a secure grasp. A sad smile snuck slowly across my face, and I did what the Superior had told me to do. The dagger in my hand flew gracefully through the air as I guided it toward Alex’s throat. He let out a startled gasp when it hit him. The blood poured hotly down my arm, but I barely noticed it. I let go of the dagger, and Alex crumpled before me, a look of surprise still on his face as he slowly bled to death.
I knew I couldn’t live like this. I knew what the Superior had really wanted when he had told me to kill Alex.
I removed the dagger from his throat, and positioned it next to my heart. There were no final thoughts, only the familiar sensation of rushing blood as I, too, crumpled to the ground, my final resting place in the streets, like so many I had killed before.
THIRD PLACE2012 Scholastic Day Flash Fiction
“Where were you last night?” My mother looked me in the eye and demanded an answer. I searched my brain. Why couldn’t I remember?
Apparently she had come to check on me last night and I was gone—the windows open with the breeze blowing my homework everywhere. Usually, I am all for telling the truth and just getting over with it. But this time was different. I couldn’t remember. I didn’t know I had left last night.
Confused with my memory loss, I decided to make up a story. I told her I went over to Rachel’s, my best friend. She was angry with me for not asking, but was too tired from working last night to put up much of an argument. I watched her shuffle off to her room.
My brain went into overdrive. How could this happen? It was all so weird. Maybe I slept-walked? But where would I have gone? And out the window? That seemed pretty far-fetched, but I couldn’t come up any other answer.
I skipped breakfast. I probably couldn’t keep it down anyway. I decided to actually go to Rachel’s and talk to her. She was my best friend, and if there was anyone I could tell, it was her.
I went outside and opened up the shed door. I stared. My bike was in the middle of the floor practically in a heap. It was destroyed, bent into crazy angles. I let out the breath I had been holding, grabbed the bike and dragged it across the street. I tossed it into the dumpster. It clanged as it hit the sides. I was breathing at a frantic rate and had to make an effort to calm myself down. I was too confused to make any conclusion, so I simply went back into the house to put on my running gear. Maybe the run will help, I told myself.
It took me thirty minutes to get to Rachel’s. It was almost four miles down a dirt road to her house. I was sweaty and out of breath when I arrived, but I didn’t care. I knocked on the door of Rachel’s big gray house. Rachel’s mom, Linda, answered the door. She sent me back to Rachel’s room, assuring me she was awake.
The door was open, and I found my best friend cross-legged in the middle of her pink bed with her laptop.
“Hey,” I said.
“Oh, hey. I was just about to call you. There’s something weird going on. I think I slept-walked last night.” I couldn’t say anything, so she continued.
“I woke up this morning out on the lawn. It was still really early, so I snuck back in before anyone noticed. I’m really freaked out. I’m researching it right now.” She looked up at me with concern in her eyes.
“This sounds weird, but I think I did too. That’s why I came over so early. And something else; my bike is totaled. I found it this morning it the shed bent to crap.” I sat down on the edge of her bed. She was staring at me now, too, and we were both shaking a little. I went on and told her what happened this morning, and how I couldn’t remember a thing. She couldn’t remember anything either.
Not really knowing what to do with ourselves, we spent the day researching sleep-walking, painting our toe-nails, and basically doing nothing. I stayed all day and decided to spend the night. After we both crawled in to bed, we said nothing and stared into the dark. I gazed out the window, noticing for the first time that the moon was a huge, silver ball hanging in the black sky.
Everything had a strange, almost blurry effect to it. Colors were vivid, even though I could tell that it was dark. I could smell everything. I twitched my ears as I heard almost silent paws on the damp earth behind me. Rachel growled a greeting. I knew it was her by her sent. We set off at a quick pace. Our leader would be angry if we were late.
We clipped along till we came to the circular clearing. The others were already there. There were seven of us. The dominant male stood in the middle. He stood up on his hind legs, his muscles rippling.
“Tonight, we initiate the new comers.” Nothing more was said and the pack rushed off together. I watched the others in front of me, observing their almost human-like legs and short snouts. I wondered if I was as ugly as they. We ran on until we came to a highway. We then split up. I was told to stay with a black wolf whose name I thought was Alec. We waited along the road.
“Listen. You will be able to hear it coming before you see it,” he growled to me. I perked up my ears and listened hard. After a while, I heard it.
“Do as I do,” he ordered before taking off to the other side. I waited. I could see the headlights approaching. On the other side, Alec started running. I did too, and in a moment, we were running alongside a fast moving vehicle. Alec leapt with incredible power at the car. I bunched my muscles and sprung on top of it, too. Our weight slamming onto the car alarmed the driver, and I dug my sharp claws into the metal as the breaks almost threw me off. Alec was already tearing into the window that he broke. A terrible rage boiled up in me and I too tore into the window. The man inside was screaming. I didn’t care. I took hold of his throat and ripped him from his car. Blood was everywhere. We feasted on the corpse. Alec grinned at me wolfishly and said,
“You’ve passed. Our leader will approve.” We moved on, racing into the dark.