We had the pleasure of teaming up with FAN EXPO Canada for our first ever Flash Fiction Competition. We challenged writers to create a short story (750 words max.) in 72 hours. They picked the genre and setting but the story must include a very specific item. The catch? They won’t find out what that item is until the competition officially opens.
Our lovely judges—authors Robert J Sawyer, Adrienne Kress, Lesley Livingston, J.M Frey, Nancy Kilpatrick and Mark Askwith; and the Editorial Director of HarperCollins Canada, Jennifer Lambert—deliberated this past weekend as FAN EXPO Canada celebrated their 25th anniversary and the winners were chosen!
- 1st Place – It’s Not Love by Dallas Nichols
- 2nd Place – A Silent Thought by Matt Parker
- 3rd Place - Forsythia Chang’s Exorcise Plan in 5 Easy Steps by Thomas Yeung
You can check out the 2nd and 3rd place winners at the links above, and read the first place winner below!
It’s Not Love
by Dallas Nichols
His grandmother looked uncomfortable. “It’s usually passed down to the women in our family.”
“But it’s still here. Nobody else wants it.” Hugo needed it badly. “They don’t believe, do they?”
“I do. Someone should continue the tradition.”
“It’s a bit tricky. You have to be careful.”
No risk, no reward. “Of course.”
“I can never say no to you.” She kissed his forehead. “It is yours now.”
* * *
Hugo sat at the kitchen table, holding the book. Generations of hands had softened the leather cover, deepening the rich ruby hue. He opened it gently, mindful of the fragile pages.
“The answer must be here.”
Why leave things to chance? This could guarantee success.
Many had contributed. Some printed in block letters, others in looping script. Some handwriting was small and crabbed, almost impossible to read. Notes lined the margins – revising, refining, perfecting. The book would not fail him.
He scanned through, searching. “Wait.” This was the one. He reread the page. “This will work.”
Now where could he find a Tyrian goat?
He dialed a number on his phone.
“I’m looking for a supplier.”
“What you need?”
“Someone who knows the old ways.”
“I get you. By the wharfs. Shifty old hag sells some real freaky stuff. Tonight, take the back exit
out the old Hickory Pub. Go right…”
* * *
This was the wrong side of town. Desperate times, desperate measures. The riff-raff eyed him suspiciously. Hugo was conscious of his slightly pudgy frame, soft hands, baby face. He didn’t belong here. He pulled his hood a little further down. Second alley on the left. Do this quickly and get out.
Hugo knocked on the door beside an overflowing dumpster. He held his breath until the door cracked open an inch.
“What you want?”
“Tyrian goat milk.”
The door opened halfway. Hugo squeezed through.
A wizened witch pointed a crooked finger. “Sit.” She hobbled away, leaning heavily on a cane.
Hugo perched on the stool, keeping clear of the caged chickens. He glimpsed eggs with multicoloured stripes and polka dots in the hen’s nests.
The witch returned holding a small bottle of orange milk. “Good goat. Plenty milk.”
The goat was tethered to a pole in the corner of the room. It blinked at Hugo with purple eyes.
She gripped his arm. “Favourite taste but no mix bubbles.”
“Uh huh, great, I have cash.”
The woman held out her hand. “All sale final.”
Hugo counted out two hundred dollars. Expensive, but you couldn’t exactly haggle for black market items. He stashed the milk in his backpack and left.
* * *
The red light turned on.
Under the spotlight, Hugo was sweating. Beside him, his petite blonde rival was breathing heavily.
Three judges faced them.
“End of the line.” Yale stared at each of them in turn.
Could anyone see the empty vial in his pocket? Had cameras picked up his sleight of hand? Hugo was cracking.
“We’ve already grilled Judy. Hugo, you’re up!”
Servers set oversized plates in front of the judges.
Buckley took a forkful. “Unbelievably creamy… ”
“Heavenly. Like eating a cloud…” Chaga laughed heartily.
“Nice crispy crust.” Yale nodded. “Satiny smooth filling. Perfect combination!”
Buckley focused on the contestants. “We have tasted both dishes for this final challenge. Judy, your devil’s food cake was sinfully delicious. Hugo, your cheesecake was a heavenly treat. Who are we sweet on?”
“We’re clear.” The crew popped the Champagne cork and filled four flutes while the commercials ran.
Hugo’s heart skipped a beat. Would the recipe from his family’s secret ruby cookbook bring him fame and fortune?
“Celebrity chefs to final marks! Contestants to centre stage! Live in five.”
The cameraman counted down.
This was the most important moment in Hugo’s life. He took a deep breath.
Red light on.
The judges delivered their verdict. “After ten weeks and a spectacular finale - Hugo: you are the winner of Brilliant Baker!”
Confetti dropped, Judy’s shoulders slumped and the crowd went wild.
He did it!
Hugo whooped. Chaga shook his hand. “That cheesecake was spectacular! What’s your secret?”
Champagne glass in hand, he smiled coyly. “Love.”
“Cheers!” They clinked glasses and guzzled bubbly.
As the Champagne reacted with the mysterious milk, Hugo coughed. He felt odd. What had the witch said about bubbles?
The chefs sputtered. One by one, they dropped down on all fours.
On national television, Hugo and the judges turned into goats with purple eyes.