Winners of our Flash Fiction Contest
Prime Number Magazine’s Flash Fiction Contest operates quarterly with a $353 First Prize, a $151 Second Prize, and a $53 Third Prize. The October 1–December 31 contest is now open for submissions with a low $7 entry fee. Enter now through Submittable.
FIRST PRIZE, April-June 2019
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The Bear/The Me
There was a bear and there was me and we lived in Spain, I on purpose and the bear by accident because his type of bear was Ursus Americanus meaning that he was a North American bear which was funny because that was where I was from so this bear did not belong in Spain and I was determined to return him to his roots and then I could find my roots and even if we didn’t spend any more time together after that it would be worth it in the long run
So me and the bear became linked in our brains by what Albert Einstein called spooky action at a distance and all of the electrons in my brain and all the electrons in his brain began spinning in the same direction at the same time so if I felt like an apple the bear felt like an apple and if the bear felt like a salmon then I felt like a salmon and we both felt disappointed because there was no way that either of us was going to get a salmon because I was broke and salmon was expensive and the bear had no way to leave the zoo and even if he did nobody was going to sell a fish to a bear
And I told my boss about it but my boss denied even being my boss so I said okay you can fire me for having a person brain and a bear brain all at once and he said that’s it get out of my office so that’s why I’ve been out of money for a while
But Spain is a nice place and they let you sleep on the beach for free as long as you promise not to piss anywhere too public which is tough sometimes because at night you might think you’re not too in public and you accidentally find some people doing some stuff in the waves and in the water and all I could think was jeez what infections must be waiting for you
Although I think it made the bear happy because that’s what bears must like they must like sleeping on the beach and trying to grab fishes with their paws and making little cubs with missus bears wherever the urge takes you because bears don’t have indoors or out of doors they have in caves and out of caves and it’s all the same to them so I could feel that the bear was happy and smiling and snoring in his sleep but when I went to see him to make sure they told me that the bear was sick and he needed an operation
I said what kind of operation and they said hey it’s none of your concern don’t you know that bears are entitled to doctor patient confidentiality too and I said no no it’s okay because they bear and I are you know connected
But they took me away and I thought the pushing and shoving was a bit much and I was moved to a permanent sort of housing too but the bear and I didn’t want to be anywhere permanent and now I lived in a place where there was no talk of bears or Albert Einstein or spooky action at a distance and little by little I could feel my electrons becoming my electrons again the bear’s electrons becoming his electrons again and I wondered if he was mad at me for not sleeping on the beach anymore or hearing people doing funny things in the sand and the waves and not trying to catch fish with my hands or should I call them paws anymore
~ ~ ~
Ben Noonan is a writer and ESL teacher who lives in Upstate New York with his wife, Loreley, and son, Leonardo. He received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the State University of New York at Oswego. He is currently completing a compilation of short stories to be titled “A Secret Disaster.”
SECOND PRIZE, April-June 2019
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Across the Sinai at Night
Once the taxi I had hired broke down on a lonely highway on the Sinai. My American grandmother had had a heart attack back in the States and so I was rushing back to Cairo to make the only flight home to my parents and Nanna that I could book last minute. I remember thinking that I’d been diving off a pier with my Egyptian cousins in Dahab a few hours before and now I was speeding across the Sinai with Ahmed, my taxi driver. It was after midnight. No moon, only stars and a smudge of Milky Way in the East. It’s always so other-worldly out on the desert at night. No sounds, only stillness, the wavering glow of the Bedouins’ wood fires in the foothills, and a sad song by Daila filling the Nissan hatchback after Ahmed switched on the radio in between military check points.
Two hours into our trip, the car quit. When Ahmed cut the headlights to preserve his feeble battery, the pitch black felt sinister. Ahmed started running his mouth, saying he never should have agreed to take me, forgetting how eagerly he volunteered when I offered three times the usual fare. “Militants will come for us,” he warned. No way. There were sporadic kidnappings in the Sinai. But they were rare. My cousins said I’d be fine. But Ahmed kept yapping about fighters. He was so loud I could still hear him after he stuck his head under the taxi’s hood. “No lights!” he barked when I cracked my door. Minutes later, I spotted high beams jouncing overland coming right towards us. I waited for them to turn off onto a road but they kept getting closer. Soon a jeep pulled up and out jumped four men with rifles. Ahmed was jabbering but his words didn’t register. I stared at the men as they leered into my window. I could pass as Egyptian. I was half, after all, and fluent. Plus my beard, my old clothes, the sandals I’d bought in the medina two weeks ago.
At first, they jabbed at Ahmed, who was so scared he made them laugh. Then they turned to me. I slipped my American Passport under the seat, opened the door, stood on the road and tried to act cool, like it was no big deal. And I told them the truth. That I was returning to Cairo after a stay with family at the beach. They rummaged through my backpack and demanded money. I pulled the few pounds that I had from my jeans and handed them over. Then the four of them surrounded me and asked if I was religious. I said yes, even though I hadn’t set foot in a mosque for a decade. When the young one poked me with his rifle and demanded I recite verses, I grew very still inside. I tried to remember the ones I’d learned as a kid, praying beside my father. But my mind was blank. I felt their hot breath as they leaned into me, waiting. I wracked my brain, opened my mouth, apologized for my nervousness. Then I imagined myself back in Michigan, how I practiced these same lines in front of my bedroom mirror a decade ago in my parents’ home, how they ran through my mind while I shoveled snow, or showered. All I needed was the first few phrases.
But out under those blazing stars, the metal nose of a rifle staring at me, my mind turned blank. The desert cold pressed in, the men’s voices rose. Suddenly, the verses of “Sūrat al-Fātiḥah” came. “E-uzu billahi mine sheytani raceme, Bismillahir-Rahmanir Raheem,” I belted them out, one after the other. I kept reciting them verse after verse until finally, they jabbed the rifle into my rib and said, “Uʿaf!” (Stop!).
Later, after I’d left Egypt and was headed to JFK, those verses haunted me, how they saved me, how they played on in my head, over and over like a song that just wouldn’t quit. “Iyyaaka na’abudu wa iyyaaka nasta’een.” (You alone do we worship, and You alone do we ask for help.) Each time the verse ended I felt the gun in my rib, the cold desert air, and finally how those verses came to me, dropped into my mind from some unworldly place, full throated, strong, as if I were speaking in that Christian word, “tongues,” as if I had opened myself to God and was heard.
~ ~ ~
Andrea Marcusa’s literary fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in The Baltimore Review, River Styx, Citron Review, New South, and others. She’s received recognition from the writing competitions Glimmer Train, Third Coast, and New Letters and been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes. Andrea divides her time between creating literary works and photographs and writing articles on medicine, technology, and education. To learn more visit: andreamarcusa.com or follow her on twitter @d_marcusa
THIRD PRIZE, April-June 2019
Jaclyn J. Reed
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My grandfather says he’s Shawnee, descended from chiefs, but we bought him an ancestry test for his birthday that revealed no Native American heritage.
“Chief Big Bullshit,” my uncle says. He’s bent over the fireplace with a pack of matches, arranging the logs in a triangular teepee around several pieces of newspaper.
“Dad, don’t listen to him,” my mother says, sipping on a Jack and Diet Coke. “He probably spit in the tube and messed it all up.”
My grandfather isn’t actually my grandfather. He married my grandmother after her husband took off and left her with three kids, a mountain of debt, and a black eye. His gray shirt stretches over the round belly that bumps up against the wooden table. He has most of his hair. It’s white and wispy on top of his tanned head.
“That fire will never burn,” my grandfather says to my uncle. He says white men can’t build fires, and that paper is a weak tool for stoking a flame.
“All right, Pop.” My uncle lights the paper with a match and throws the tiny wooden stick into the middle. It goes up almost instantly, and he smiles like it’s pure talent, but I saw him pour some of his whiskey on the logs.
~ ~ ~
Jaclyn J. Reed graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in English and is currently pursuing her MFA in Fiction Writing at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in The Write Launch, Open Minds Quarterly, and Rune, among others. She lives in Hershey, Pennsylvania and works for a creative consulting firm.