PERISCOPE LITERARY

‘That might just be crazy enough to work’

800 words

£8000

Flash Fiction

Thanks for great participation. We’ll be back after a short break with the results. Closed for adjudication…

EXTENDED DEADLINE: Dec 20th 2021

We want your very best hard-hitting flashes on the theme of:

‘that might just be crazy enough to work’

We want your tongue-in-cheek clichés, your desperate reinterpretations, your hopes, dreams and nightmares. We want your frustrations, your ‘I told you so’s and whatever else your characters might come up with in the struggle for on-page survival, or death. We want precision, perspective and mind-blowing revelations. Make us see the theme in ways we couldn’t possibly conceive of, without you!

In short, we want it all, but we want it short: 800 words – tops. One entry per author so put your heart, soul and bag of tricks into it.

DEADLINE:

Please note: To accommodate entries comfortably, we have extended the deadline by a further 5 days

New Deadline: Midnight Dec 20th 2021

ENTRY FEE:

£9

WINNERS ANNOUNCED:

February 1st 2022

Online publication for WINNER, and up to four HONOURABLE MENTIONS, each of whom each receive a £50 pat on the back.

RULES – GOTTA HAVE ‘EM

At the risk of repeating ourselves, we’ll state all the rules as clearly as we can, but if you’re still unsure of anything, please drop us a line to: bethestudent@icloud.com and somebody friendly will get back to you asap

• Contestants must be 18+ by Dec 20th 2021.

• Contestants are to submit one piece of Flash Fiction only by email to: bethestudent@icloud.com.

• This contest’s singular thematic phrase: ‘that might just be crazy enough to workmust be included somewhere in the text or the story must wrap itself around the theme

• Submissions must be sent as .doc or .docx (.pdf as a last resort) files, attached to the email. Please do not paste your entry into the email body.

• Submissions must contain only a title (obligatory) and a maximum of 800 words of prose. Do not place any identifying information on the submission document. This is to allow for fair adjudication.

• Submissions should be typed in a standard 12pt font with no frills, and double-spaced.

• For administrative purposes, we ask that you type: PERISCOPE CRAZY as the email subject line. Please add some basic contact information, your real name (and a brief bio if you want to brighten the coordinator’s day) in the email body.

• A fee request will be sent from PayPal on receipt of your submission. Prior to this, you will receive a confirmation email.

• All prize monies will be transferred by PayPal within four weeks of notification.

• We ask for one-time publication rights in regard to the winner and honourable mentions. Authors retain all other rights to their work.

• We accept simultaneous submissions but please notify us immediately so we can withdraw your entry if it has been successful elsewhere.

• Please do not submit work that has been successful in another contest or published elsewhere (barring your personal website).

• Material that is discriminatory or blatantly offensive will be disregarded in whole.

• We support equal opportunities for writers and extend the same welcome to all individuals, regardless of background, identification or personal mythology.

• Results will be announced on February 1st 2022. Prior to this, all contestants will be notified personally about the shortlist.

• The decisions of the adjudicators are respected and considered final.

Available below for inspiration are last season’s winners of the ‘Genius’ Flash Fiction Contest – limited to 400 words. But first, winner of the Periscope Fiction Open – Enjoy!

NOBODY KNOWS HOW MUCH YOU LOVE HIM by Dean Gessie

This is how your story begins. Your mother-in-law sings to your two-week old son, his hairless head droll contrast to her own stacked ash layers: “Fais dodo, Colas, mon p’tit frère. Fais dodo, t’auras du lolo.

We’ll call that mood, a rosy blush in the sunroom. It leaves you completely unprepared for the hook. Says Claudine, “He’s not breathing very well.”  

That catches your interest. You’re out of the sunroom and out of doors, contemplating space debris.

But Claudine’s tone is composed, like she’s questioning the efficiency of a furnace. She frowns, shrugs her shoulders and channels your own denial. Now, of course, neither of you is to be believed. You fear a whopper at the end of that hook.

Your wife appears. Her smile is amiable but dopy, the result of sleep deprivation and a ten pound six ounce, graduation gift. But a twenty minute nap is anesthetic only, causes a reversible loss of consciousness and sensation. There will be plenty of that soon: consciousness and sensation and terror. We’ll call that foreshadowing.

You kiss your wife on the cheek, mention the weather, breakfast and the breathing thing. Emma immediately presses her ear close to Sebastian’s nose. It’s true. His breathing is shallow, but that’s normal, right?

You listen, too. There’s a game you’ve learned about willing data into the shape of your own desires, the shape of a fish, a game, it seems, whose returns improve if you’re the one frowning and shrugging your shoulders. In fact, you imagine the kinds of items that will kill this story from the get-go: bronchodilators, steroids or diuretics. Later, you can take him to the water, develop his lungs.

Claudine keeps her distance, skulks, prowls, feigns indifference. You read respect for the parents, an admirable move. Only much later do you reimagine the moment as self-preservation, her glances behind and askance like those of a wild animal fleeing dogs.

But not everyone escapes the dogs. The next day, they force you and Emma up a tree. We’ll call it the complication. You’ve been keeping an eye out and things aren’t looking good. That eye out is a compound lens, corrects and magnifies unpleasant truths. Sebastian will not nurse. The milk (lolo) makes a splatter sheet of his cheeks. He gasps for air almost as often as he sucks. You look at Emma; she at you. Foreboding is an iceberg on a fixed course.

Suspense accompanies you into the Emergency Room at Southlake. As short fiction goes, this one’s a page-turner. The suspense is killing you. The triage nurse has a marked up copy of your story. You go directly into an examination room.

The doctor’s face is the emotional colour of all things kind. His kind face and his white coat are the perfect plot device: deus ex machina. You invest in him the powers of a beneficent god. Problem solved. Case closed.

“Thank you,” you say, “for seeing our son so quickly.” You imply that the doctor is making some kind of personal choice. Is it hubris or fear or imbecility?

The doctor corrects you, says, “We don’t take chances with babies.”

Momentarily, you think of the suffering bipeds for whom health care is roulette. You feel self-conflicted about the suffering bipeds, but not for long.

While the doctor looks at your son, you look at your wife. When did she arrive? Is it possible that she, too, has feelings for your son? You hug Emma because you need to be reintroduced. You need to be forgiven.

“Something’s wrong,” says the doctor. “His lips turned blue when I used the tongue depressor. We’ll run some tests.”

You stop listening after that. What these tests are, you have no idea. You and your wife stand in the waiting room. You hug and you cry. Ironically, the air conditioning makes cold comfort of Emma’s shoulder, the kind of imagery you get from a tearjerker. You fear it will end badly, this story of yours, that you will become parents whose loss is greater than the sum of their fears. The seedlings in the ground are blame.

The kind doctor in the white coat says, “His heart is working too hard. We’re sending him to Sick Kids.”

Emma is in the ambulance with Sebastian. You follow in the Dodge Sundance. It’s the middle of winter and the heater in your piece of crap car still doesn’t work. The ice on the windshield might as well be ice forming over a lake. You’re beneath the surface, peering up and into a reality that is increasingly opaque, rationing your oxygen, dreaming of cremation.

You start to sob. Tears drop from your lashes onto the steering wheel. You imagine yourself an empath: I am my son struggling for life.

The ambulance is travelling fast. You feel obligated to remain in its slipstream. The thought occurs to you that any sudden de-acceleration on the part of the ambulance could cause a rear-end crash. You measure the lesser evil in your mind, living with the loss of your son against an apocalyptic inferno for the three of you. You keep the results to yourself.

But the new doctor is less circumspect with her results. She’s looked at the tests and made her diagnosis. We’ll call it the crisis. Sebastian has coarctation of the aorta. He needs immediate surgery. You hear the rest of it through cottony walls of psychotropic drugs: congenital heart defect and localized deformity of the tunica media. You feel like an astronaut in space, one whose tether has been cut and whose oxygen is low.

The doctor says Sebastian’s odds are very good. Of course, gamblers play good odds all the time. Gamblers lose more than they win. All you can think about are action verbs, gerunds like cutting, opening, retracting and sewing. You have no comfort zone with great odds and great verbs.

Hours are compressed into minutes. Sebastian is on a gurney on his way to the surgery theatre. An attending nurse says, “Do you want to give him a kiss?” Did you hear final kiss? You don’t know. You press your lips against your son’s cheek. This can’t be the last time you see him alive. Hemingway might have written that story. You’re glad Hemingway is dead.

At this point, the setting becomes important. You top up miles of pacing by going outside and navigating the block around the hospital. You fill the bowl of your pipe and light it because self-harm is the least of your worries. A sinister idea enters your mind. Maybe your son’s localized deformity is the product of your inhaling ammonia and arsenic? The seedlings of blame have found fertile ground here.

Plot twist. You discover the real enemy. You discover religion. You conjugate the word fuck many times and it’s not a pleasant conversation with God. You don’t see that very often in popular fiction. Who would dare? Youknow who would dare. The hospital is full of parents negotiating similar Faustian deals, adding and subtracting souls like beads on an abacus. In fact, you create of your lungs zeppelins of tobacco smoke, think, take me, instead.

Ice pellets awaken you from self-absorption. You have an epiphany. Your wife is suffering, alone. Apparently, the world isn’t big enough for your feet and your hysteria, but your wife remains a point of light flickering in the holy of holies. In the waiting room, you hug Emma because you need to be reintroduced. You need to be forgiven, again.

The next day, your baby becomes that astronaut in deep space, connected to life critical systems. He is lying in an adult bed with tubes attached to his side, his neck and his arm. A ventilator pumps breathable air into his lungs. He is still and alive and beautiful. The climax is as promised. You feel euphoric and buoyant. You feel like you’re floating in the salt water of a sensory deprivation chamber. All your years as an English teacher have prepared you for this one artless moment, the legendary happy ending.

But don’t get too comfortable. It turns out that the denouement is a black hole from which Nobody returns. It turns out that this story isn’t your story, after all. In fact, it’s not even your son’s story or your wife’s story. Nobody writes this story. Nobody takes responsibility for its structure and outcome. If it will give you closure, imagine a ghost writer and a different kind of sensory deprivation chamber, the horizonless, salt water of a Dead Sea. But, really, Nobody’s in charge and Nobody listens to your prayers. You’ve won this round, but you can’t possibly win them all. So, you’re best to hug your baby while you can, smell and kiss him while you can. Because Nobody knows how much you love him and Nobody gives a shit.

BEING FRANK by Lena Halbis

Austerity. Government cuts. Zero-hour contracts. Filter down to: Frank. Worker of two jobs. Almost back-to-back. Fortunately side-by-side.

In the evenings he tends to a school as janitor. At nights he tends to a morgue as well. Daytimes he sleeps. And reads. But mostly sleeps. And dreams.

Frank knows his options are limited. He’s not bright. He’s more of a practical type. He’s getting older. But not much wiser. And no luckier. He sees old schoolmates with brides on their arms. And husbands. He doesn’t see that for himself. Except. In his dreams. In Frank’s dreams, Frank is exceedingly happy. A wife stands by his side there through thick and thin.

Frank desires a wife. But Frank has no time. And little money. Let’s be frank. Let’s be Frank. Let’s look inside our heads and see inside Frank’s head.

Days are for sleeping. For recharging. Nights are for meeting future wives. But Frank has no nights. No nights of his own.

Frank feels it’s within his rights to have a wife. Even to create a wife. But to create a wife he must create a life. Or recreate one.

Frank reads. He particularly likes a book by Mary Shelley. The instructions within seem fairly clear. If one takes them literally. 

It’s quiet at night. Frank is always alone. His echoes are the only echoes he hears and they sound lonely in the long corridors and empty spaces of his workplaces. How fulfilling it would be to hear two sets of echoes. Simultaneous marital echoes.

Frank’s work doesn’t take all night. If he’s quick there’s time for respite. And for thought. Dark thought. And for doing things. Other things. Borrowing pieces. Here and there. Nip and cut. Remove. Store. Stitch. Sew, in the glow of fluorescent tubes. Available electricity. Cremation furnaces require power. Energy that can be rerouted. A shocking amount.

When the time is right Frank goes a-wandering. He’s looking for something – in the hospital by the morgue. Or maybe it’s the morgue by the hospital. He knows the time is right because he can’t wait any longer. Frank salivates. His bride-to-be is perfect. Mary. No matter that there might be scars. No matter that he used an asphyxiated fireman’s heart. Frank has a long list of rejuvenating activities planned. Trips to wellness centres, hot springs, a purely organic diet, regular yoga classes.

Eventually he finds what he wants. Frank has a defibrillator now and the means to amplify the charge. He hesitates – just long enough to ensure there are no echoes besides his own.

Frank sends the energy towards his wife’s body – and short circuits the entire city block.

EINSCHTEIN by Stan Ganbold

Einschtein started out as a bus driver. Before you knew it he knocked a man down. It was some poor professor who couldn’t get out of the way in time. Einschtein drove like a berserker. The side mirror thumped the man’s head as Einschtein braked and sent penny glasses flying to fall and crack into uselessness. Several people saw this so there was no chance for a hit and run. No chance at all. Einschtein got out to see what he could see. To see what he had done. The prone professor couldn’t see and didn’t realise the man who helped him up was the uniformed bus driver. A very worried driver. Remorseful. Guilty, with a pain in his ankle from braking so hard. Where had his mind been he asked himself. The driver. He’d been pondering the fact that despite all the changes of speed he went through in the course of the day, the light around him seemed to remain at a constant speed. It seemed like a significant observation but it came at an inopportune time. A dangerous time. Somebody suffered because of it.

The professor was dazed but maintained a kindly character, thanking his rescuer profusely for the intervention. Even his little comment about ‘bus drivers nowadays’ was quite gentle and serene. Not at all like the bullish taxi drivers Einschtein contended with on an hourly basis. Many of them acted like they owned the roads. The professor’s compassionate response to getting walloped by a bus accoutrement made a deep impression on Einschtein. He suddenly felt like he was in the presence of greatness.

The professor’s legs gave way though. They’d been wobbling like carrageenan jam and finally they buckled. On the way down he smacked Einschtein’s nose with his forehead. Einschtein caught the man and held him tight while his nose bled both their shirts red and sticky. By then the onlookers had gathered and escorted the professor away. One of them stopped to pick up his spectacles and gather every gram of broken glass. The same person looked accusingly at Einschtein on the professor’s behalf. The damage was well done.

The damage was done to Einschtein too. The karmic headbutt to his nose released another insight. It had something to do with the relation between falling objects and accelerating objects. Perhaps you think I’m talking about Einstein. I’m not.

‘The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits’ 

- That guy above

THE PERISCOPE PRIZE:

WINNER ‘GENIUS’ FLASH FICTION PRIZE:

‘Being Frank’ by Lena Halbis

RUNNER-UP ‘GENIUS’ FLASH FICTION:

‘Einschtein’ by Stan Ganbold

HONOURABLE MENTIONS SUMMER 2021:

‘Nyet Brainer’ by Stu Duval

‘Knowing Your Steves’ by Mark Perfect

‘Nobody Liked Semmelweis’

by Michael Addis

*

WINNER SPRING 2021 ‘TIME’ CONTEST:

‘The First Photograph’ by Alek Gorbaty

HONOURABLE MENTIONS SPRING 2021:

‘In Search Of Murakami’

by Alicia Sometimes

‘The Perils Of Punctuality’

by Sharmila Shankarkumar

‘Personal Effects’ by Alexis Wolfe

‘Waiting For The Envelope’

by Deborah Huff-Horwood

*

WINNER 2020 OPEN CONTEST:

‘Nobody Knows How Much You Love Him’

by Dean Gessie

RUNNER-UP 2020:

‘The Source’ by Michael Coleman

HONOURABLE MENTIONS 2020:

‘How To Deal With A Dark Smoke Offence’

by Will Kemp

‘Jackfruit and Jaggery’

by Dawn Sommerlad

‘The Confirmation Hat’ by Peggy Dowling

‘Cicadas’ by Dean Gessie

*

KEEP ON DREAMING

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