UPDATED WITH WINNER - LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: July Edition

Flash fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity.

Welcome to LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown, a monthly bout of writing prowess.

How It Works

We give you inspiration in the form of a picture, poem, video, or prompt. You write a flash fiction piece using the inspiration we gave you. Put your entry in the comments section. One winner will be picked and awarded a prize.

The Rules

  • 31 words, tops. No more. 
  • It can be any genre.
  • Give it a title. Please keep it to 10 words.
  • We're not exactly shy, but let's stay away from senseless racism or violence.
  • One entry per person.
  • Editing your entry after you submit it is permitted.
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate.
  • All stories submitted on or before July 30th will be considered. We'll run the winner on July 31st.

This Month's Prize

A copy of Edan Lepucki's highly-praised debut novel, California. (Hey, even Colbert liked it!)

The world Cal and Frida have always known is gone, and they've left the crumbling city of Los Angeles far behind them. They now live in a shack in the wilderness, working side-by-side to make their days tolerable in the face of hardship and isolation. Mourning a past they can't reclaim, they seek solace in each other. But the tentative existence they've built for themselves is thrown into doubt when Frida finds out she's pregnant.

Terrified of the unknown and unsure of their ability to raise a child alone, Cal and Frida set out for the nearest settlement, a guarded and paranoid community with dark secrets. These people can offer them security, but Cal and Frida soon realize this community poses dangers of its own. In this unfamiliar world, where everything and everyone can be perceived as a threat, the couple must quickly decide whom to trust.

A gripping and provocative debut novel by a stunning new talent, California imagines a frighteningly realistic near future, in which clashes between mankind's dark nature and deep-seated resilience force us to question how far we will go to protect the ones we love.

Your Inspiration:

Hey, we did New York, how about  California?  From Compton to Karate Kid, from Sideways to San Andreas, from the Gold Rush to the Golden Gate: the stories of the Golden State are varied—almost mythological. What do you think of when you think of California? Write about it in 31 words (it was the 31st state) and win!

And the Winner is...Nicholas Anderson

Well, shit, you guys, you really hit it out of the park this time! I had the HARDEST time picking a winner, but alas, I have settled on Nicholas Anderson's triptych of images.  "I've heard rib bones hold up the Golden Gate." is just such a compelling image, both lovely and grotesque. Congrats, Nicholas, on giving my mind something to mull all day. Without further ado, the winning story:

What I've Heard of California


I've heard bears are a big deal there. I've heard rib bones hold up the Golden Gate. I've heard you and I left our antiques below the cliffs of Monterey.

Part Number:
Taylor Houston

Column by Taylor Houston

Taylor Houston is a genuine Word Nerd living in Portland, OR where she works as a technical writer and volunteers on the marketing committee for Wordstock, a local organization dedicated to writing education. She has a BA in Creative Writing and Spanish from Hamilton College and attended Penn State's MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. She has taught writing at all levels from middle school to college to adult, and she is the creator of Writer’s Cramp, a class for adults who just want to write!

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Christopher Peterson's picture
Christopher Peterson from Illinois is reading the tea leaves... July 28, 2015 - 1:17pm

“Could Anyone Living in Filth Offer Redemptive Negation?” I Asked

“California, Max. It’s like your id built a plastic paradise on the precipice of the Pacific. I hear even their homeless are happier than an average middle-class Midwesterner. Why stay here?”

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like July 1, 2015 - 10:08am


"We do things differently out here."

A saber-toothed tiger slinked through the foyer.

"Quite," I replied, "but what of the water shortage?"

"A cherry bomb in every toilet. July 4th."

S.B. Smith's picture
S.B. Smith from Indianapolis, IN is reading Mongrels July 1, 2015 - 5:37pm

Living the Dream

Palm fronds wave in the cool ocean breeze, bringing with it just a hint of salinity. A sigh, lost in the moment, amidst a never-ending sea of brake lights.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal July 13, 2015 - 8:41pm


Taxes, potholes, hippies, hybrids. Strict gun control, gangsta’s ridin’. Hospitals closing, business unfriendly, Hollywood phonies, corruption, spending. Disney Land visits, pay the mouse twice. Already broke but the weather’s nice.

ChristopherMorris's picture
ChristopherMorris July 20, 2015 - 4:25pm

I’m withdrawing myself from the ‘July’ contest. Due to all my fun raps are incredibly  ignorant and inappropriate. May the mate that hits the hardest, win.


Christopher Morris.

PS Isuck

Pearl Griffin_2's picture
Pearl Griffin_2 from Portland, Oregon is reading Les Miserables July 7, 2015 - 1:04pm

Why It’s Better Now

A symbol is only as strong as the bond. “Marry me.” There’s more than one way to say it. “Let’s do it.” There’s history here, always with us. It’s better now.  

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday July 8, 2015 - 11:15am

Being Here and There

She dug her hands in the soil. She loved the land and what it meant. She wanted it to be eternal.


She sighed while they applied her make up.

Christina Re's picture
Christina Re from the United States is reading something a friend wrote July 30, 2015 - 8:50am

Those Summer Nights

When we'd finished ogling cars at the Route 66 venue we grabbed In-N-Out shakes and watched a boy skateboarding in a lot. He biffed it once, but still impressed the blonde.

Wendy44444's picture
Wendy44444 from California is reading The Strange Library July 11, 2015 - 10:47pm


“Come outside!” beckons the glittering starlet who snubs all outsiders.

Poolside: “I don’t get it.” She wrinkles her perky, sculpted nose at his memories of the creek, waves away his answer.

Nicholas Anderson's picture
Nicholas Anderson from Denver is reading Necessary Stranger July 13, 2015 - 9:29am

What I've Heard of California


I've heard bears are a big deal there. I've heard rib bones hold up the Golden Gate. I've heard you and I left our antiques below the cliffs of Monterey.

SeventyNine's picture
SeventyNine July 19, 2015 - 8:27am

5 o'clock somewhere

Lounging on the patio at Cezanne in Santa Monica, after swallowing pills, Altair remembered thinking about Pacific Time when he lived in Detroit: the west coast always had hours to spare.

Joe Golden's picture
Joe Golden from Clarksburg, WV is reading The Big Sleep July 22, 2015 - 11:50am

Life Imitates Art Far More than Art Imitates Life

"They came here to dip pans into cool sparkling streams, but left with disappointment crushing their backs."

She finished the script, wrapped a red ringlet around her finger, and sighed.

James Matterhorn's picture
James Matterhorn July 23, 2015 - 2:51pm

Plastic Leaves Still Rustle

"I'm doing great, mom," she lied as she downed a handful of pills.
"The agency wants me at another magazine shoot this week."
She didn't hate stripping, she just hated expectations.

Cams316's picture
Cams316 from Wichita,KS is reading The Dead Hearts series July 29, 2015 - 9:23pm

Fifty Nifty United States...

That's what they used to teach us anyway.

Now, of course, it's more like '47.5 nifty-ish states.'

Just doesn't have the same jazz as it once did.

The big one bit. 

Lily Moran's picture
Lily Moran July 30, 2015 - 1:50pm

On The Inherent Virtue of Vice

The mistress with the killer figure and golden curls, 

built on speculation and made of rejection.

You don't love her like New York but she doesn't care.