The contest begins today and the last day to submit an entry is March 26, 2013. The winner will be announced April 9th. Please, no gratuitous sex or gore and make sure the story has a speculative element. Also, standard submission formatting rules apply.
Judging this contest will be author and editor, Micah Joel, who read flash for Flash Fiction Online last year and is now reading flash for Shimmer. We were on a flash panel at FOGcon and he agreed to judge my little contest. Thank you, Micah!
The winning piece will be published here with a link to your website or other works. I claim only first time electronic rights. You're free to publish it elsewhere after three-months' time. The winner will also receive . . . a mirror ball!
As always, here's my story for your entertainment and to kick things off.
by Ann Wilkes
"Did you feel that?" Sandra whispered in Marty's ear while they danced Cajun-style to a Country-Western tune.
"Feel what?" he whispered back. "The Earth move under our feet? You know you always do that to me."
"Well, that to, but no. A puff of air, like from a fan or from someone whizzing past."
Marty raised her hand up, cuing her into a turn, then looked into her eyes after she gracefully twirled. "I didn't feel anything. But, then again, I don't have as much skin exposed." Then he nuzzled her bare neck before spinning her again. Sandra squirmed with delight.
She decided she just imagined the puffs of air on her shoulders and back. For about a minute. Looking up at the ceiling above the dance floor, she noticed a distressing lack of fans, or vents. Just the funky disco ball and cheap, tacky light fixtures meant to look like chandeliers. She remembered some monitor amps have fans, but she and Marty were much too far from the stage for that to be felt, if such fans were there.
The band played lively music they could swing, Zydeco and even polka to, with the occasional waltz, cha-cha and nightclub two-step. The venue, however, was an ancient dive. It looked like an old hunting lodge that time forgot. Smokers, unable to smoke inside, huddled just outside the door, out of the torrential rains, their pungent smoke wafting in each time a patron came or went. Marty spun her again and dipped her. She hung her head down, getting a view of the huge, brick fireplace with the moose head mounted above the mantel.
The place must have been more than 100 years old. Old buildings are drafty, Sandra thought. But not in the middle of a room. She felt it again, on the back of her legs this time. The song wound down and Marty dipped her for a big finish.
They walked hand in hand to their table by the dance floor. Sandra sipped her Chard and smiled warmly at her fiancé. While he took a long draught of dark ale, she gazed around the room at the other tables. They didn't know anyone there, but the Mountain View Club wasn't one of their usual haunts and the stormy night probably kept many people home.
A flash of lightning darted through the high, dirty windows. Sandra felt suddenly cold. Then came the thunder, and the rain pounded down harder on the slate roof.
Marty saw her shiver. "Are you okay? The storm have you spooked?"
"It's not the storm, Marty. Something else is here."
"What do you mean 'something else'?" He looked at her intently, his brows knit in concern.
"You know that feeling you get that you're being watched or followed when there's no one there?"
"Yeah . . . ."
"I think this place is haunted."
"It is old. Who knows what stories these walls could tell? Do you want to leave?"
"No. I know it's silly." Sandra looked up, searching for words to describe what she felt and it seemed to her that the mirror ball had lowered itself. "Marty, do you like mirror balls?"
"What?" He let out a nervous chuckle, taken back by the non sequitur.
"Mirror balls, disco balls. Do you like them?"
"No," he said. "I think they're tacky and should have died in the 70s."
"Yeah. Know anyone who likes them?"
"I haven't exactly taken a poll, but I doubt it."
Sandra nodded, her lips pressed together.
"What are you getting at?" He reached for her hand across the rough pine table.
"What if they have like two way mirrors with cameras behind them?"
"Really?" He raised his eyebrows. "You know how silly that sounds, right?"
"Yeah." She chuckled. "Pretty far-fetched, huh? Why would the owners want to watch the dance floor? I gotta go pee." A breeze caught her in the ankles as she pushed through the sticky women's room door, raising the hair on the back of her neck and goosebumps on her bare arms.
No one was in there, the two stalls were open and empty. Her heart pounded. She stood at the sink, rubbed her ankles together and gazed at her reflection. She looked sane, she thought. A bright flash of light appeared in the windowless room and an image materialized in the mirror of a two-headed androgynous human with greenish skin standing behind her. She shut her eyes and opened them again, hoping to rid herself of what could only be a hallucination. The figure persisted. She wanted to turn around, but looking at it head-on, rather than a reflection somehow seemed more real and frightening. Fear rooted her to the spot.
The thing spoke in English with a lilting, tinny voice and a foreign accent. Or alien accent. She shivered at that thought.
"How did you know?" it said.
"Knoowww? she stammered.
"That we were watching?"
"I . . . I . . . who are you?" She tried again to move. Her whole body felt like she had ice water surging through her veins as she turned around to cast her eyes on the alien.
"We are the Liinoyavaii. We are here on a 50-year expedition to Earth to study your mating rituals. The mirror balls are our surveillance devices, as you surmised. A little mild mind control is all that's needed to make anyone with a dance floor believe it to be a necessity. We implant our equipment within through means you would not understand. It's completely undetectable. Which is why we are so amazed that you figured it out. The door creaked behind her and another chill was the last thing she felt.
The woman in the red dress who entered the bathroom found it empty and thanked the stars that she didn't have to wait in line.