The second round of the flash fiction competition is here! Read below to discover the amazing submission Pelican has received. The Flash Fiction competition is a project run by Literature and Creative Writing sub-editors, Cleo Robins and Luoyang Chen.
THE MUSIC BOX
By Fiona Wilkes
I did not ask to be a dancer.
I cried when they nailed my slippers to the floor and pinned my arms above my head. Every four seconds the mirror taunted me and my mouth rounded like a rose, ready to sing my melody.
I was a gift for an ungrateful niece, who opened me only when her fawning friends visited. “My aunt sent me this from Paris.” She crowed and they would respond as if I were a firework show. She twisted my golden key much too tight and with a jolt, I would turn for them. My song was always repetitive, although even I must admit it is pretty.
She handed me down to her daughter, who put me in a drawer and forgot I was there. I was grateful for the reprieve, although I was haunted by my song, even in the darkness, even as I lay folded down, cramping always ready to spring up into an elegant pirouette.
When the daughter died, her granddaughter uncovered me. She was gentle when she pried open my ancient roof, oiling my key before she dared turn it. She showed me to her husband, “Look at her. She must be a hundred years old.”
I’d like to tell her I am older than that, but a lady never reveals her age; especially when her mouth is painted on and her voice is carved into an ancient record.
“Does it still work?” Her husband asked, peering at my chipped paint. “Turn the key.”
She did as he asked and, with just a moment’s hesitation, I started to twirl. My peeling paint looked so sad in the tarnished mirror, but when I began to sing, I was as young as the day I was made.
A Candlelight Symposium
By Molly Douglas
Candlelight throws shadows against the stone and marble of the room, flames dancing with the music.
The sound of a lyre, rich, and pure, echoes above the heads of your audience. The
righteous drumming of the Toubeleki pulsates through the floor, filling the space.
Men and women mill around, talking merrily and lounging extravagantly. Their voices carry
over the music, weaving into it to create a pleasant melody.
Above them all your own voice carries, song bright and sonorous. The warm light exaggerates
the shadows of your face, pulling your eyelashes down over your eyes, where they lay closed
I am lost in the way your voice flows through my body, electrified by the lilt of an accent that the
people here would gawk at you for, had they been listening.
Your eyes flutter open and you meet my gaze, a secret song that the rest of the symposium is
A servant bumps my shoulder, pulling my eyes away from you, but my face is still red hot, and
my heart is still soaring, as the melody plays on around us.
By Clare Boon
The air was soft. Her footsteps were loud in the empty hall, heels clicking on the tiled
floor. The large staircase swept upwards before her. The wide window behind, letting the
late afternoon sunlight filter in. She could see dust motes floating in the air. The sun
warming the exposed skin of her face.
She paused at the bottom of the stairs, flicking her fringe out of her eye. With a deep
breath, dust and leather mixed together in her nose. She shook her head, brushing off the
need to sneeze and began to climb the stairs.
A door creaked open at the end of the hallway. She paused; her footsteps whisper quiet
now on the thick carpet. The dark maw of the doorway beckoned her forward. She glanced
over her shoulder but the hall was still empty. Nothing but her disturbed the air. It felt as if
she was the only person in the building. She shivered. It felt as if the building was holding its
She paused in the doorway, her eyes straining in the darkness. Her hand scrabbling
against the wall, searching in vain for a light switch. She had to tiptoe further in, growing
frantic as the dark consumed her and cursed as her knee knocked into something.
She froze. Drifting through the air was music, soft as the air had been. Gentle strings
hummed, as insubstantial as smoke. Her skin erupted in goosebumps, as if the music was
stroking along her arms. Her breath shuddered out of her.
The note had given her a location, a time, and nothing else. Nothing intrigued her more
than a mystery. Now she was wondering how smart it was to have come here without
telling anyone. If she went missing now, it would be it. No one would know where to come
looking for her.
She stumbled back, looking for the door once again. It slammed behind her, causing her
to jump. She whirled around, careening forward, hands outstretched. Her heart was beating
in her throat. She pressed her hand to her mouth to keep a sob from escaping her lips.
The carpet was soft under her knees as she sank down, wanting to curl into a tight ball.
She flung a hand over her eyes as a light flared in the corner. She turned her head,
squinting against the brightness of the reading lamp.
The music swelled, growing uncomfortably loud in her ears. She clapped her hands over
her ears, squeezing her eyes shut, pressing her face into her knees. The pressure built in her
head until she felt she might scream.
The music stopped, leaving nothing but a vacuum of silence. She wiped the tears off her
cheeks, finding the light had bloomed to fill the room Her eyes scanned the room. The glass
cabinets were glittering in the light, the sheen of the leather couch reflecting back a face.
“Happy birthday, Vi.”
By Katherine Magpily
You hear the melody through the paper-thin wall of your apartment, as you sit hunched over on your dining table, sorting through bills with aching hands. (The pain is worst in the morning, and you struggle to stir your coffee and spread butter on toast, but you sweep the curtains aside and see the sun.) You can hear the voice sing, off-key, a pop song that’s always played on the radio. And you think, god, won’t they stop. It follows you, day after day, until it blends into your routine. Your alarm at six, your coffee black, and a song through a paper-thin wall. Until one day it stops. You wait for a melody to filter through, but nothing comes. It seems that it was just another thing to lose. Your days rearrange back to how they used to be, silence filling the space. You wake up, go to work, come home, fall into an exhausted sleep. Until one day it starts again, except the melody now streams from your own chapped lips. It’s been an age since elementary school choir when you hid in the very back, but you sing your cracked notes anyway. Out of bed, in the kitchen, up and down the apartment building stairs. You’re singing as you open the door, about to leave, and you hear the voice again, the same one you’ve been missing, as a girl leaves the apartment next door to yours. The pain is worst in the mornings, but you step outside and see the sun.