The Writers Bureau Short Story Competition 2019
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The Runner-up of 2016 Flash Fiction Competition

Gail Armson

2nd Prize

Gail Armson

"I'm absolutely thrilled to have been awarded a prize in the Writers' Bureau Flash Fiction Competition. I love writing flash fiction and enjoy the challenge of working with such a small word count.

"'Lori' arrived on my page quite unexpectedly and I'm very happy she's received this limelight!"


Heaven or Earth?

I know the woman by sight but we've never spoken and, of course, I've heard the story that passed around our small community along with everyone else. It's one of those stories that creates a response, of one sort or another, in everyone whether what's told is believed or not.

The story goes that Lori's husband was abducted from their farm, by aliens, two years back. Apparently she had also been abducted but they transported her back from some black hole, through space and stars, within three days of being taken. According to eyewitnesses, at the time, she sure looked like she'd had a rough ride home.

Those aliens told her, in a universal language understood by everyone who heard it, that she wasn't quite right as a specimen. They said that she would, therefore, be of greater value to them by returning home to wait patiently until her husband returned, once they'd completed their experiments on him.

So she complied with their instructions and simply carries on without him: what else can she do?

No-one in authority questions her story because no-one in authority knows anything about it. We townsfolk know that she and John had a colourful relationship but no-one has delved too deeply into his disappearance.

It's that sort of town where the golden sun shines down on us all, our crops grow high for harvest, and no-one ventures out of our community except to bring in supplies to stock the stores. We communicate with outsiders only when necessity prevails. It's a place where kids don't hear grown-up's conversations until they're grown-up themselves and government officials and the authorities are kept firmly outside our small town's perimeter.

Every family has secrets and dealings they want to keep within the confines of our neighbourhood. Every household is guilty when it comes to brewing our medicinal moonshine or failing to declare to the IRS some small, insignificant amount of income.

So there is a silent, unspoken, agreed and never disputed pact that what happens in our close-knit community, stays in our close-knit community.

After a short while, we all noticed that Lori is no longer decorated with bruises on her arms or purple swellings on her cheeks. Neither does she seem to keep falling over and breaking her wrists or tripping and walking into doors. In fact she even manages to find a slow smile that shows off those two broken front teeth she got a couple of years back.

When she's asked she tells folk that, of course, she misses John, but that she's a patient woman who just looks towards heaven every night wondering which twinkling light might be him, shining down on her.

Then she raises up her cup of moonshine, holding it aloft until it overflows with silver moonlight, and thanks those lucky stars hanging high above, hoping all the while that John enjoys the peaceful space within his black hole as much as she enjoys her peaceful space right here on earth.


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