Flash! Friday for Oct. 2: Black Flag

If you’re not familiar with what Flash! Friday is, here’s the explainer. But in short, it’s a fun weekly contest of flash fiction writers, where each week a new picture prompt, “element” prompt (based on fire and ice), and a limited word count is given, and writers have 24 hours to submit their story. By Monday, the judges pick a winner.

The Oct. 2 prompt was this picture:

“Ghost ship” photo by: olivier6973.

The additional prompt was a requirement to either include an inventor (fire) or a conspiracy theorist (ice). The word count was less than 200 words, with no minimum.

I’m grateful to have received a shout-out from one of the judges, David Shakes, who said about my entry:

The bleak metaphors in Brett Milam‘s Black Flag packed a real punch.

You can read the full results here.

My entry had a word count of 199 words, and used the element of ice (although arguably I used both elements). Here is my entry:

After Calvin died, they voyaged into his mind like mariners on a ghost ship trying to figure out why he did it. They soon saw the carcasses of hope and love washed ashore, the maggots having long since cleaned the bones.

The flags Calvin left behind only turned red upon his death. Each one — insomnia, weight-loss, withdrawal — seemed obvious as to be blaring sirens rather than flags. Yet, none of them heard his wails.

In his mind was an all-encompassing black void seamstress, sewing those flags of despair. It had metastasized since he was a teen; the cuts hidden behind sleeves, and the first attempt excused as youth rather than anguish. Calvin’s meat suit was a body bag, concealing a death that already happened long ago.

The seamstress lied, though, cajoling Calvin with its worst conspiracy of all: a flag etched with “burden.” It was the word that sent him to the bottom of bourbon, and a burial after his deadline on the bridge. Those who watched the dirt puddle around the casket never had the chance to show him the lack of anchors around their necks.

They exited his mind shipwrecked with grief, drowning in it.

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