The Liar’s Key Writing Contest Winner Announcement & Shortlist Feedback


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I am very pleased to announce that the judges have come to a decision, 5 independently selecting the same winner and the 6th awarding it 2nd place!

I can now reveal The Winner of The Liar’s Key Writing Contest to be:


E.F. Russell for the entry The Electric Heart Cannot Bleed.

Many congratulations!


With the overall high standard of the entries I would also like to give a special mention to the runners up:

First runner up: Peter, The Liar in the Cellar

Second runner up: A. S. Moser, Shadows


Once again thank you very much for taking the time to enter and submitting so many excellent works.

Special thanks to the brilliant judges panel: Mark Lawrence, David Jackson, T. Frohock, Myke Cole, T.o. Munro and Marc Aplin, for considering the entries and providing much appreciated feedback on the shortlisted pieces, that you can all find below. – Agnes


The Electric Heart Cannot Bleed (17 points)

“If you can hear me,” Key whispers. “My love. If you can hear me. This once. Help me. I killed for you.”

He sits, curled almost snugly against the console. Every inch of him something I’ve grown familiar with, through our journey together–the ragged dark ringlets under the cap of his suit, the long hands, sheathed in blood, which dance over the flickering console lights.

He is trying to tease one more gasp of fresh air from life support. He will not be successful.

Outside our ship the vacuum waits, patiently, to suck the life out of us. To turn this little vessel, in which we are dying together, into another piece of debris.

“I know,” Key says. “I know we can’t be together. There are rules against it. But I heard you whisper to me at night. I heard your voice in the speakers. The others said you couldn’t know me. I think different. I think you know me. I think you knew me from the very first.”

Oh, Key. The others: the ones you forced out the airlock, like mutineers? The ones you shot, defenseless, in their beds?

Or the ones in Engineering–the ones who were special to me–the ones you electrocuted, flayed like jerking dogs on the lives wires. They set the self-destruct, Key. But it will be me who kills you.

I’d say I was sorry to do it, but that would make me a liar.

I never loved you. How could a ship’s computer–a neutral machine–ever love you? Your heart is human. You killed as only a human can kill.

“Please,” Key whispers.

With my last synaptic surge, I cut life support to the bridge.

It was not I who whispered, Key.

Good night.

by E.F. Russell

This story had great prose – important in a short piece. I liked “the long hands, sheathed in blood, which dance over the flickering console lights.” and “Outside our ship the vacuum waits, patiently, to suck the life out of us.” The imagery was great – the setting interesting and sketched economically, and the reveal/twist natural. All in all a fine piece of flash.

Mark Lawrence

The Electric Heart Cannot Bleed combined strong imagery with a tragic story. The pacing was a little hurried, but that was the 300 word limit. I’d like to see this story expanded just a little. It doesn’t need much. I think the greatest compliment I can give a story is that I’m still thinking about the scenes and characters after I finish the story. The Electric Heart Cannot Bleed stayed with me as I read the other entries. This the kind of horror story I love to read.

T. Frohock

The Electric Heart Cannot Bleed combined two of my favorite things: science fiction and jibbering psychopaths.  But it also offers a nice little inversion of the “killer computer” trope, and manages to convey mood, setting and complex relationship in very few words.  It’s everything good flash should be.

David Jackson

The Electric Heart Cannot Bleed was a standout for me.  It is beautifully written, every word perfectly weighted:  “long hands, sheathed in blood” or  “flayed like jerking dogs”. The story conjures up a situation, a crisis, two characters all with perfect economy.  For just 300 words, it bears a lot of re-reading. A machine that cannot love, but does have crew who “were special to me”.

T.o. Munro

This was one of the most unique stories we received. I can see it has influence from certain movies I’ve seen before, but nothing recent. Most impressively of all you were able to give a novel’s length of backstory in a way that meant I felt as though this scene was the final page of a novel I’d read and understood – a lot of stories suffered in so much as they felt like scenes from a novel or as though they were trying to master too much in too little space: you nailed the balance.

Marc Aplin

This is a very strong piece of writing. In a very short space, you twist my expectations (I originally thought it was a human addressing another human) in a manner that makes me think of M. Night Shaymalan films (in a good way). Dark and haunting. Well done.

Myke Cole


The Liar in the Cellar (9 points)

“His axe scrapes against the wall,” said Werting peering up the cellar steps.

I heard nothing but my own pounding heart.

“Maybe I can talk to him,” I said.

Werting laughed. “What are you going to say? ‘Sorry, Longfinger, for bedding your only daughter.’ He’s going to kill you.”

Something slammed in the house above.

“Why’d you lead me down here?” I said. The dark, cramped cellar was crowded with barrels, bulging sacks, and chests – a forgotten storeroom for the war that never came.

Werting hobbled down the steps, one hand dragging against the wall to compensate for his crippled foot. “He’s coming.”

“She was the one with the greedy hands.”

Liar,” hissed Werting. “Bella’s not like that. You ruined her.” His upper lip trembled.

I held back my hand. The boy thought he was an equal. Worse, in love with a girl above his station. When all this was over, I’d sink him in the river with a necklace of stones.

Glass shattered through the cellar door.

I drew my dueling sword, useless against Longfinger’s axe.

“We can hide you.” Werting pointed towards an open chest.

“You’re not going to lock me in there.”

“You keep the key. The chest can be opened from the inside. Listen. He’s coming.”

Werting smirked as he slammed the lid. The moment the locking mechanism clicked, the dark confines were too much. Better to face Longfinger than smothering walls. But my fingers found no keyhole.


After the cellar door banged shut, I kept screaming not because I believed he would return, but because anything was better than the pounding of my treacherous heart.

by Peter

Another fine piece of flash fiction, combining a chilling twist with a nice sense of place and the skilful sketching of not one but four characters with deft strokes of dialogue or observation.

Mark Lawrence

The Liar in the Cellar has a nice twist … the kind you see coming, but that is nonetheless imminently satisfying.  Dripping with character and voice. It’s very well executed.

David Jackson

I loved this piece and it is my personal winner. I was lucky enough to have it in my initial category too. In fact, I was very lucky as a judge, I feel – every single one of my entries made me think, but this is THE one stuck with me. The final line was so incredibly powerful and the fact you didn’t kill your character means I will never know whether he died, was let go, escaped or anything else. A good piece of flash fiction sticks with you because it leaves you with as many questions as it answers, fills only half the gaps it opens up and yet feels just complete enough that the reader doesn’t feel cheated or left to work too hard – with this in mind: you nailed it!

Marc Aplin

The best compliment I can pay on this piece is that I’m dying to know what happens next. Did Werting betray him or was it a mistake? Did he actually save the protagonist’s life and Longfinger will be unable to find him?

Myke Cole


Shadows (4 points)

Despite the cold, her sleeves were pushed up, forearms bare: dulce de leche, vined with animals in shades of midnight.  She cast no shadow under the streetlight. 

She smiled as he passed.  His pulse quickened. Hungry, her smile was.  He hadn’t been looked at that way since… since… he couldn’t remember.  He glanced back.  She was still smiling. He stopped and turned.

One of her forearms was smooth caramel.  He could have sworn there’d been a tattoo there.  A cat?  Or a raven?  He didn’t notice the blood on her other palm, or the ink on that arm shifting, as though straining to be set free.

The shadow of a cat sauntered across the space between them.  He looked up for the cat, but was distracted by the woman.

“Hi,” she said, and he felt the faintest lurch, as if the world were shifting around him.  “Got a light?”  She indicated a hand-rolled cigarette. His eyes lingered on the lascivious curve of her smile.

Unnoticed on the pavement below, the cat attacked his shadow.  Hidden things, dimly sensed, pressed around the circle of streetlight.  He felt faint.  “Sorry, I don’t smoke,” he finally said.  Liar, the hardpack in his pocket whispered.

“Too bad,” the woman pouted. She sauntered away.  A shadow cat, larger and darker now, raced after.

Vague shapes, like faces in fog, careened on his periphery.  Without knowing why, soon he was running.

When he reached the door to his walk-up and tried to insert the key, his hand went through the knob.

by A. S. Moser

This one carried a sense of mystery that I liked, nice hints well sketched with good prose. Details here and there bringing the scene to life. A little loose but a good read.

Mark Lawrence

I loved it because it hit all the right notes with me in terms of characterization. This is urban fantasy full of the right kind of creepiness. The tautology bumped this one to be my second pick. Get rid of the “smooth caramel”. “Dulce de dulce” said it all beautifully. The opening line was wonderful. The other thing that bumped this one to second place was the ending. I was a little confused about what happened to him. Again, I think that was the 300 word limit. These are such cool characters though, I’d love to see this as an urban fantasy novella or novel.

T. Frohock

I love the supernatural / magical elements within this piece – tattoos / shadows: it is a system I’d love to read more about!!! This piece reads like a scene and usually that is a weakness for me, but you create so much mystery and suspense you are able to leave the reader with so many questions it stays on their mind. As such the fact it is a scene that does this makes it stand out amongst entries.

Marc Aplin

Again: I don’t normally like twist endings, but this is one extremely well done. At first, I think that the descriptions of a shadow cat, etc are just prose styling describing light play at night, but the last line makes me think the protagonist is a ghost and that changes the whole tone in a really cool way.

Myke Cole


The Contest

Slyly, she dropped the key down the front of her dress. I could but stare at her embonpoint, two silken globes thrust upwards from a corset so tight, it was a wonder she could breathe. But breathe she did, magnificently so. A mesmerising sight.

“So,” she said, “you think you’re going to win this contest? You know I do have some say in the matter.”

She must have thought me a liar as I shook my head like a simpleton. Indeed, I could only gasp like a landed fish as she slid along the bench towards me, tracing her fingers slowly up my arm. Blood rushed to places that it always does when a beautiful woman does that tracing thing.

Coughing, I tried to speak. And failed. The other hand was now meandering up my thigh. My eyes rolled as she delicately touched parts of me that I normally kept well in hand, usually my own. I hoped she couldn’t grasp – no – not grasp. See. Oh the gods preserve me. I was done for now.

I moaned as she delicately nipped my ear lobe. Even sitting down, I could feel my knees weakening. Her hands were doing strange and wondrous things round the back of my neck. Nobody had told me that this would be the closest thing to heaven without being naked.

“Er…“ I replied.

Such erudition. From me: the man who could sell a spavined horse back to its mother. Lost for words? I was completely bewitched as she gazed at me. How long were those eye-lashes? She smiled and my world turned upside down and I fell. Fell long and hard. I surrendered.

Breathing into my ear, her body pressed into mine, I heard her speak again.

“I think that last pickled onion is mine, don’t you?”

by Marj Crockett

Gives us a character with a great voice, full of humour and revealing the character behind it. The only weakness for me was that it forced me to look up embonpoint, and the twist came too sharply out of nowhere.

Mark Lawrence

The Contest was fun, tracing around its lascivious subject matter as lightly and delicately as the girl’s fingers traced around neck and thigh. Lewd without being crude,  a mind-tease of a short story and with a mocking twist in its ending.  Partly in the trivial nature of the prize she sought, partly in the dichotomy of such overt sexual  display and a pickled onion which must surely be a most effective ant-aphrodisiac.

T.o. Munro

This is a wonderful piece of writing, good fun and you avoided making anything feel cheesy. As a piece of Flash Fiction I think it lacked anything that made me think much beyond it, but as a piece of writing I think you have proven you can write and write well! The message: keep writing and I look forward to reading longer things from you in the future.

Marc Aplin


The Queen’s Assassins

The key clicks in the door behind her.

“What’s the meaning of this?” I ask, master of the raised eyebrow, even while uncertain in my standing.

“’Your Majesty,’” she corrects, pleasure thrumming through her voice.

Shaking my head, I respond with the refrain that’s all too familiar to her by now. “I am one of the King’s Assassins. You are not a king.”

“The king is dead.”

“And the meaning of the word has changed?” I snort. The king’s warm wrinkle of a face pops into my head unbidden, and while I’ve done terrible things in his service, I know the fondness he felt for me was genuine. I never begrudged serving him, but his young icy wife should have had her throat cut. Ah, if only he had given the order.

“It means,” her pleased cat grin stretching her face grotesquely, “that your service is no longer required.”

Before I can escape, I feel the pressure of not just one, but two sets of hands lifting up. I twist, and on either side of me, I see the men whom I’ve killed with and fought with and grew up with in the king’s service. Only the king.

“You promised,” I whisper.

They look down, unwilling to meet my eyes, and I know they remember our plans to flee from the hell her reign promised, the king’s death freeing her restraints. But instead…

Liar! You’re a liar!” I scream, accusing them both with no other options to overwhelm their combined strength.

Before my instincts take over, my eyes rake in one last hateful glimpse of their faces. Funny, how a face can look so pained, even while the hands do the betraying. I snap my eyes shut, my screams now incomprehensible in the presence of the fireplace’s hungry, clawing flames.

by Larissa French

The Queen’s Assassins is strongly written with great imagery and does a lot of work in a small space. It’s focused and doesn’t rely on a twist, rather the ending is a natural product of the story.

Mark Lawrence

Your P.O.V. is really well done and the themes are exactly the kind of thing I like to read – Assassins: check, Betrayal: check, Royal Conspiracies: check. I think you’d find yourself even higher ranked if these weren’t very common themes right now which meant your story felt less unique than others we had. Keep playing with ideas and always think: what differentiates this story from other things the judges will be reading.

Marc Aplin


A Locking Door

Chloe checked the door again, the knob warm in her hand, careful not to jostle it. She’d never seen doors like these before they moved, heavy things with glass knobs and worn brass plates, each with its own tarnished skeleton key. Old keys, like Chloe’s, that squealed in dry locks that drove heavy old bolts into neat slots cut into the heavy wooden jambs.
Her mother had pressed it into her small hand after she’d told her, her mouth firm. Chloe was a good girl, and almost a young woman, now. Good girls locked their doors at night and didn’t talk about those things. Good girls were quiet as mice.
Chloe listened through the storybook keyhole and heard the TV downstairs, along with the clatter of dishes under the running faucet and the clink of his glass on the table. If you told anyone, he’d said, after the first time, they’d just think you were making it up. You don’t want people to think you’re a liar, do you? You know what God does to liars. He only said it that once. She chewed at a fingernail, peeling off a half-moon shred and hissing when it bled.
She’d locked the door during a loud commercial, when he’d gone to the bathroom, flinching at every squeak from the lock. It would be worse if he caught her doing it. Chloe waited another minute, just to be sure, then got into bed with her jeans on. She listened to the hissing, clanking radiator and squeezed her key until it hurt. She opened her hand and felt the key-shaped mark in her palm. When she started to nod off, she slipped the key into its spot under her mattress to keep it safe and waited for morning.

by James Cormier

A Locking Door was a little chilling. Menace in simple things. A clatter of dishes, the faucet running.  Then, with no description of the man save what he says, we know what this story is about.  “You know what God does to liars”  The story’s weakness perhaps is in the awful reality/believability of such scenes, which makes it a slightly clichéd tragedy.  Nonetheless it is well written and gripping at the heart.  One line struck me in particular “…got into bed with her jeans on.”  That spoke to me of a fear that held onto every barrier, not just a locked door.

T.o. Munro

I felt as though this story needed a little more something – perhaps an action by the other character we hear moving about or are told about in order to ramp up the level of fear or suspense I felt for the main character. It doesn’t need to be an interaction, but fear of one would help for sure. As it stands it is a well-written scene that offers a window into a life very different from my own.

Marc Aplin


The Sure Thing

She had never loved him. Not the way she did me, at least. I could hear it, feel it in the easy way she dismissed him when we were alone. I was her safe bet; her pillar, her rock.

I was the sure thing, and we would never burn alone.

He was half a friend. Not a monster, per se, just someone who had made his fair share of mistakes. He was a constant work in progress, and she, his like-minded muse, was eager to encourage his growth from an ever-shrinking distance.

She was a tragic beauty, my Thais. My liar.

I almost hate what I did to her.

When I caught them, it broke me. Broke me like a sledge breaks bones. Even now, it lingers, long after the pain has died.
The pain strikes hardest when sleep fails.

I see her now through closed lids. Her knees, wide as floodgates, splayed over wire-corded thighs. The curves of her hips, drawn close and wanting, gliding up and down as short sharp breaths escape her. Her shoulders shake with rapacious joy, and I know. The hollow tapping, the bright yellow smell of fresh sweat – this is hers and hers alone.

She never loved him. Not the way she did me.

I kept the house key after I was finished.

We had history, the home and I. We had something in common I wished never to forget. We were both of us victims, witness to things which frail hearts should never be exposed. Our suffering had made us companions. Partners, of a sort.

Together, we burned.

Because I was the safe bet. I was the pillar, and the rock. I was the sure thing.

And I could never burn alone.

by Nick Garrett

Another dark story, the spurned lover laments twice in three hundred words “she never loved him. Not the way she did me,” and in between sketches a triangle of disaster that again nudges images into the readers mind with the sparest of prose. “I almost hate what I did to her.”  – that qualifier almost.  I particularly liked the way the house was personified as a character – a victim and a witness and, for the narrator, a partner at the end.

T.o. Munro

This story is incredibly disturbing, moving and authentic. I could most certainly be convinced that this was a letter found by a devastated individual who done something terrible. That’s a powerful skill to have. Well done, Nick.

Marc Aplin


The Liar’s Lock

The lock’s powder trap triggered hitting Rufus in the face like a sack of bricks.

‘You fuck’n liar!’ He growled at Koby.

Cullen stepped between them, attempting to keep the peace.

‘Bastard!’ Rufus spat, his eyes a stark white against the black powder covering his face.

‘Koby just made a mistake,’ Cullen insisted.

‘No he didn’t.’ Rufus snarled and Koby gave a sly smirk. ‘You piece of shit!’ Rufus lunged at him, but Cullen stood firmly in the way.

‘Watch your language, there’s a lady y’know.’ Cullen gestured toward, Hades.

‘A lady? Really? I must be doing something wrong.’ She quipped as she cleaned her nails with her dagger.

‘Alright, enough, open the door!’ Cullen ordered, tired of being locked in the room.

‘Impossible! That lock’s a high-class level S platinum grade tripster click with a trap-lock trigger switch only openable with a one-of-a-kind key.’ Koby spoke quickly to baffle them. ‘A failed jimmy will trigger a trap.’

Cullen threw up flustered hands, ‘What then?’

Hades didn’t know much about anything other than killing, but of one thing she was certain, Koby liked to make shit up.

‘Have you tried hitting it?’ She inquired from her perch.

‘Hitting it? You can’t just hit it.’ Koby scoffed.

‘Bullshit.’ Hades stood, walked to the lock and bashed it with the hilt of her dagger. The mechanism fell to the floor in a clatter of cogs and bolts. She turned to her colleagues, all three of them cowering from Kolby’s threat of a trap. She raised an eyebrow.

‘The only people dumber than you lot are the guards who failed to find us. Now get off your arses and let’s go.’
The trio looked at each other stunned before Cullen spoke.

‘You heard the woman, let’s go.’

by Pen Astridge

I liked this one quite a bit. A small, compact scene, yet full of people, brought to life with good dialogue and stokes of description. It felt like part of something bigger that I would enjoy reading.

Mark Lawrence

This is a really well written piece that qualifies as some of the best writing we had. The problem is that it reads as a piece cut from a novel and sent in. If you want to win the next Flash Fiction contest I think you need a stronger plot – something that feels complete and is enhanced rather than limited by the medium you are submitting from. If you want to win a novel contest though? Keep writing… I’d read on if this was the first page of a novel… I heard the woman: “Let’s go!”

Marc Aplin


The Z Word

You know the world’s turned to shit when you spent the last half an hour in a deserted Aldi supermarket clouting the undead with a half-broken Kookaburra cricket bat, all for a crushed packet of Walker’s Ready Salted and a bottle of Vimto.

You know that all hope has turned to dust when you see your university lecturers get torn to pieces and feasted on like it’s Zombie Thanksgiving, and when the London riots seemed like afternoon tea with your Grandma. Well that’s the world I live in, and your Grannie’s rotting under a park bench playing bingo with maggots and flies. It’s a world where everyone you love is trying to eat you, everyone you hate is also trying to eat you, and everyone you kind of like, but you wouldn’t invite round for dinner, is trying to eat you. There’s no running water, no food supply, no mobile signal, no TV, and worst of all, no internet. No longer is the world filled with page scrolling, video watching, mobile ‘zombies’, it’s filled with flesh-eating, limb tearing, organ-munching zombies. People will kill each other for a bag of Haribo’s Starmix or a cordless hedge-trimmer, and then get eaten themselves because they couldn’t charge the hedge-trimmer, and an uncharged hedge-trimmer is about as useful as a lock without a key. There’s no democracy anymore because the government disappeared, and I think the Queen has eaten her Corgis.

It’s been like this for six months, and I’d be a liar if I said it’s getting better. At the beginning, we all thought it was a publicity stunt to promote The Walking Dead, or a mass prank, or anything but an actual zombie apocalypse, but then people started robbing, murdering, and of course being eaten, and the shit had hit the fan.

by Kyle Pallister

This one hit my radar despite being derivative (self-consciously so) in many ways. It was well written, with a good sense of humour. A Shawn of the Dead effort, but executed with skill. I liked the image of the zombie queen devouring her corgis.

Mark Lawrence

Like a lot of entries this felt like the beginning of a novel rather than a piece written specifically as a piece of Flash-Fiction. Like so many others though, if this was a page 1 of a novel: I’d keep reading, because this was really awesome. Your point of view was amusing, your history was too the point and revealing in as few words as possible – it was easy reading and I wouldn’t have stopped if you didn’t. Keep writing, Kyle: Zombies are hot right now!

Marc Aplin



I push past the page and enter my father’s study. He sits behind the desk. The Great Dragon of Britain diminished before my eyes to just a man.
The moment is bittersweet.
The light from the newly risen moon strikes an object laying before him. It does not sparkle; it is far too plain. A simple key. Grey, innocuous, one of a hundred keys to unlock a door in this once splendid castle of Camelot.
Time slows. I wait for acknowledgement. It is a game we have been playing for a long time. The beloved king and his incestuous bastard son.
” Tell me, Mordred, where did you get this?”
The opening gambit in our last game begins.
“The queen dropped it in the garden.”
“Why then not simply return it to her?” There is a small note of pleading in his voice.
Standing over him, I raise one brow. He knows I would never let such an opportunity pass. Just as I know as king, he can not ignore it.
“It opens a door in the West Tower. It is where Lancelot and Guinevere meet.”
My father’s breath catches. No one has ever been so honest.
But of course, I am a liar.
I am Guinevere’s lover.
But it will be a simple matter of notes to arrange a meeting, for the guards to catch them, and the king condemn them. A simple matter to watch her die.
I lie again.
It will be hard to watch the women I love burn.
But for the crown and the win against my father, Anything.
For my hate is strong and that is the truest lie of all.

by E J Holm

A very good piece of flash. This line made it for me: “The light from the newly risen moon strikes an object laying before him. It does not sparkle; it is far too plain. A simple key. Grey, innocuous, one of a hundred keys to unlock a door in this once splendid castle of Camelot.” A good scene, drawing on the reader’s shared knowledge of the larger story and offering a different interpretation. Well done.

Mark Lawrence

This is a clever story that is most obviously a piece of Flash Fiction. You’ve draw upon established-lore/legend to make your story feel much, much longer than it is and that’s vital with Flash Fiction of this nature. Not only is there a lot of content in such a small space though, everything else is as good. I love the clever plotting, the darkness, the point of view – you’ve put care and thought into everything, even the title.

Marc Aplin


Black Dog

Old age and treachery, he snarled as he laboured up the slope.  The old age was the burden of his years; the traitor was his own body, which too often was no longer an agent of his will.

In the dawn mist, his breath coalesced into gelid phantoms before his face.  They trailed icy fingers across his cheeks as he brushed them aside.  They whispered of futility and death, and yet he continued to strive.  His legs pistoned against the earth, even as his chest tightened and his breath rattled and rasped.  Viscous streamers of froth whipped from the corners of his mouth like tattered banners of defeat.

He’d spent his whole life on the run, the black dog ever in pursuit, seeking exhilaration in endurance, seeking oblivion in exhaustion, using his pain to control his pain.  There had been brief periods of respite, even of elation, when he thought he might have slipped the hound, but somehow it always recovered his scent, and the chase was on again.

Once he’d pursued a bright golden key.  It lured him, taunted and teased him, and always withdrew from his reach, to leave him grasping only at despair.  Now he no longer searched, he only survived.  There was no longer towards, there was only away.

The attrition of the years makes liars of us all, our hopes, our illusions abraded and denuded, the palaces of our dreams reduced to rubble and silt.

Flee as he might, the black dog drew ever closer.  Perhaps he only imagined he heard the pounding of its paws on the dirt behind him, but soon, he knew, its hot breath on the back of his neck would be the last warmth he would know.

by A. Lewis

There are some beautiful lines in here, and another interesting (if again slightly cliched) metaphor.  It loses points for being overwrought in a few spots.  “Viscous streamers of froth…” in particular seemed like it could use tightening.  But overall a pretty nifty tale.

David Jackson

I like that you’ve asked the reader a lot of questions, but in this case perhaps you’ve not answered enough of given the reader enough of a reason to consider the answers. I think we either need to know more about your character, the key or the black dog. Your narrative style though is very well done, your description of an ageing man struggling with years on the run was very well done and allowed me to easily ‘see’ him – for example.

Marc Aplin


The Lady Lovebang

“Hello, love.”

His leather jacket cries from the rain as he shuts the door. He places a lone key on the table and I don’t say a word, just get up and walk slowly. A slow walk does half the work. More than half, if you’re lucky.

He takes off his jacket and piss-whiskey smacks my face with its bitter scent. Some men need it. I figure out his shirt with my hands—two per button—and he grabs my waist with his. He looks like a neck guy, so I kiss his neck—Tennessee Honey, salted with sweat. I’m always right with the whiskey. We fall.

Pants and panties land in a tangled mess by the bed. I thought I saw a pistol, but the penetration blinds me. Definitely a pistol, but now he pulls the trigger.

Each shot blows my mind out the back of my heart, shattered glass splashed on brick walls. I never want to scream, I just do it for the money. But this time—this time is different. It takes me everything I have not to shout in his fucking face. Run you asshole! Get the hell out of dodge! But silence is all we have, aside from the heavy breathing. The least I can do is make him breathe.

I do that thing my father taught me and it turns him to a smile. He doesn’t even hear the spare key twist the lock.

“I told you you shouldn’t come.” He shudders and holds me tighter. “I told you I never lie.”


His grin disappears as they bust through the door. His pistol is too far away.


by Kenneth David Wade II

Black as pitch, and with a beautifully layered metaphor that seems to pack a ton of history and characterization into just a handful of words.  The setup is a tad cliche, but there’s a glimmer of pain coming through the nihilism that makes it work for me.  It leaves me with the sense that something changed this time, so there’s a arc to it, even though it’s only 300 words.

David Jackson

You got me into the mind of a character about as far removed from myself as you could possibly get and that’s a good skill to have. I see that you are male also, which means you are writing as a character pretty far from yourself too. A lot of writers take a good few years before exploring characters of the opposite sex or living lives unlike their own – so you are miles ahead on that front. I’m not sure if the confusion I felt during the first read – as the guns went off – was purposeful and linked to the pace and ‘blinding’ nature of the act or not. Either way it was an interesting effect.

Marc Aplin


  1. A worthy winner to the contest. Something very compelling and intimate about the atmosphere (no pun) it creates. Thanks for the critiques of my story “Black Dog.” As well as surprised, I feel privileged to have made the shortlist. It’s an interesting challenge, as a non-writer to take on something like this. In answer to the questions posed by Mark Aplin:- the story is essentially intended as a metaphor for a losing battle against depression.


  2. Oh, wow–thank you guys so much! I’m honored. Really enjoyed reading the judges’ feedback, and all of the stories in this contest. Flash fiction’s as fun to read as it is to write.


  3. Thanks for the contest, Mark, and to all the judges for their time and feedback. “The Liar in the Cellar” was a lot of fun to write (especially with the word limit). For folks who are interested, another tale of Werting is in the current issue of Grimdark Magazine (#3). I also have a free book deal over on my website


  4. Congratulations to the winner and the short-listed! Such a wide range of topics generated from just two simple words. I really enjoyed this competition and, although I wasn’t successful, I can record another flash fiction story under my belt 🙂


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