Sunday, 3 April 2011

Flash fiction - overturning stereotypes


This week my blogging mojo has been directed towards entering a flash fiction competition in a local magazine, the Cambridgeshire Agenda. Each day there's been a different picture to write about in under 100 words. My entries are follow the picture below, but first, a little on what made me cross about the images chosen. Read the stories first if you don't want them spoilt.

I'm tired of seeing women portrayed as beautiful objects, sadly the competition perpetuated this view. Two pictures of women, two pictures of floaty young things in pretty dresses.

I didn't want to write about passive victims, so my women are powerful – an unrepentant murderess and an inspirational scientist. I hope the story about the experiment on the grass will confront automatic assumptions that professors are male.

My other stories reflect somewhat my current interests. The little boy story comes from my recent enjoyment of the books of Dorothy Rowe, who talks about “finding the person you know yourself to be”, which is often hidden by voices from the past.

And I’ve also been intrigued by mindfulness. My dolly story took inspiration from the practise of really being present with an object – thinking about who made it and where it has come from.

Exhausted, ecstatic, fulfilled, she lay back against the bank. Her lips were still warm and moist, she savoured the release that flooded her body. 

In her mouth was the lingering taste of blood, from where a flash of tension had seeped into her otherwise cool demeanour.  Her jaw had clenched as she squeezed the trigger, catching the edge of her tongue and piercing the flesh. 

Behind her the hot butt of the discarded gun rested in the small of her back. 

He had gone. She was free.

Professor Walden set the observation equipment out on the grass.

An audience of local children gathered at a distance, drawn by the stranger.

The professor smiled, offering stickers and football cards, encouraging the children closer, trying to explain the experiment. The crowd became bolder reaching out to take whatever could be spared.

She returned to the jeep with the empty equipment case, the children swarming around noisily, comparing their gifts. One had her pen, another her shoes.

As dust from the jeep’s tyres settled a girl lingered longer than the others. That night she would dream of changing the world.

“There’s a good boy” said Granny.

“Enjoy yourself while you are young” said Barbara next door.

“You can do anything if you work hard enough” said Mr Hugo.

“Go away” said little Jake.

“Listen to me” said Mrs Montgomery.

“No” said Mum.

“This is our little secret” said Mr Masters.

He blocked out the voices and looked.

Inside was the person he knew himself to be.

“Here, drink it”, she pushed the vial into her brother’s hand.

He glanced up, “At least tell me what I can expect”.

“10 million years” she replied. “Plus or minus the odd decade”.


“Wherever you are at the time that the compound is activated. That spot, 10 million years into the past”.

Looking into her eyes he knocked it back, not flinching at the taste.

“Just no more embarrassing disappearances, alright. How long until activation?”

“You have a good few hours yet”.

He pushed past her, grabbing his bag for orchestra practise, slamming the door as he went.

It was 23 years since Carol found out where all the money had gone.

Every day she sat in line, the roughness of her hands scratching against soft new plastic. Sometimes she was on heads – pushing glass eyes into sockets, other days it was bodies – limbs clicking into torsos.

Their chubby faces had changed over the years. When she started they were all pink and pretty, now there were more boys and coloured ones.

Some days she would laugh with the others, other days he would occupy her thoughts. She knew she would never forgive.