19 January 2021

“The tranquil sea is tempting me, but my life is at ease.” — Flash Fiction 2021

The winners of the John Lyon Flash Fiction 2021 competition, Rohan Thadi and Flynn Kendall, with stories of grief, and calm after chaos.

This year’s Flash Fiction task was to write a 200 word story in response to an image of an old man staring out at the sea.

John Lyon Flash Fiction 2021

I should head out to the sea, not let anyone know. Pack no food, no water. Die as the sun dips below the horizon, the last gasp of beauty before the death of day.

Should I?

Should I leave my children?

Suddenly, flashes of memory boom through my eyes and ears.

‘Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? Oh, where have you been, Charming Billy’… ‘Welcome to school Danny, come along!’…There is a girl sitting on a bench and I can feel butterflies in my stomach, I asked what her name was…I can hear the pipe organ singing its dulcet song as that same person walks down the aisle…I can sense the rain spitting down and hear its tapping my umbrella while I stare at that woman in her eternal sleep.

Why did you have to leave me so soon? The wrath of grief has left me though. The tranquil sea is tempting me, but my life is at ease. I have reached my peace. So, I tell you this, take the leap between the two cliffs. Don’t waste time finding the bridge miles away. Find the boat and row, row away.

Teacher of English, Mrs Maria Trafford: Rohan has responded to the image with a very poignant description of a man in mourning for his wife and one drawn to the waves to contemplate suicide. His choice of imagery like ‘the last gasp of beauty’ are a foreshadowing of his wife’s death scene that seems to haunt him. He uses short paragraphs and questions to emphasise his confusion. I really enjoyed the flashback central section, where he describes the common idea that we see our lives flash before our eyes before death. It sums up his character’s backstory in a concise way and gives us a link to his ghostly wife that he addresses directly in the final section of the story. Snatches of songs familiar to us all return in the last line as he sends his wife’s memory away, deciding to choose life after all. I was impressed with how well Rohan used both structure and language to give a touching message on the theme of grief.”

John Lyon Flash fiction 2021

The blue horizon stretches seamlessly, a lone seagull shrieks, waves drag pebbles into the sea pulling me with them into the past.

I race through narrow alleys, a hose writhing in my hand. My heart starts to beat faster, drumming loudly in my chest. Perspiration rolls down my face only to be evaporated by the heat of the flame. The fire devours everything around it, concealing the horrors inside like a veil. I break through the wall of smoke as the wail of sirens reverberates in my head.

Cladding crumbles around me, falling onto the pavement like confetti. Flames lick my heels, the wind howls at me and the stormy sky darkens to an ominous purple. I keep running. My heart quickens, frantically beating. Blood red flames swish like a tiger’s tale. My heart beats uncontrollably, as if it could burst out of my chest. I focus the hose at the fire. Water rushes from it, pushing through the smog and beating back the flames. The outline of ramshackle buildings are slowly revealed, as the fire retreats into the shadows.

Suddenly, there’s a bang and metal rains down.

Sea spray falls on my face. I taste salt. I see the sea, stretching to the horizon.

Mrs Maria Trafford: Flynn does a great job of setting the scene on the shore line before dragging the reader abruptly into his character’s tormented past. This piece of writing is especially good at creating tension through the use of present tense and fast paced sentences throughout. Flynn paints vivid pictures of the drama: personifying the fire ‘devouring’ with flames ‘like a tiger’s tale’ – super writing that reminded me of  Shere Khan beating a hasty retreat in ‘The Jungle Book’. The piece has cohesion as the reader is subtly alerted to dangers from the sky above, ‘cladding crumbles… like confetti’ and the ‘metal rain’ which ultimately brings our narrator back to the present. Maybe there’s a suggestion here of a terrible injury that hasn’t healed. The final line uses sibilance to give a sense of calm after the chaos, but also perhaps hints at a lingering sinister memory that will keep returning like the ‘waves drag pebbles’. Excellent work from Flynn in Year 7!”