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

Flash Fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity - Dante Edition

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 similar. 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

  • 25 words is the limit. (You can write less, but you can't write more.)
  • The whole story must only be 2 sentences. No more. No less.
  • It can be any genre.
  • Give it a title (not included in the word count, but keep it under 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.
  • We'll pick a winner on the last day of the month.
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate.
  • All stories submitted on or before July 30 will be considered. We'll run the winner on July 31.

This Month's Prize

An Advanced Reading Copy of Chuck Palahniuk's upcoming novel Doomed (which doesn't come out until October!) It's a follow-up to the popular Damned. Here's a teaser for ya from Amazon.com:

Madison Spencer, the liveliest, snarkiest dead girl in the universe, continues the adventures in the afterlife begun in Damned. Having somewhat reluctantly escaped from Hell, she now wanders the Purgatory that is Earth as a ghostly spirit, seeking her do-gooding celebrity parents, fighting the malign control of Satan, recounting the disgracefully funny (to us, anyway) encounter with her grandfather in a fetid highway rest stop in upstate New York when she . . . oh, never mind, and climaxing in a rendezvous with destiny on the new, totally plastic continent in the Pacific called, not at all accidentally, Madlantis.

Dante Aligheri, watch your back, Chuck Palahniuk is gaining on you.

Your Inspiration

Perceive ye not that we are worms, designed
To form the angelic butterfly, that goes
To judgment, leaving all defence behind?
Why doth your mind take such exalted pose,
Since ye, disabled, are as insects, mean
As worm which never transformation knows?

from Dante's Purgatorio.

Now Get Writing!


And the winner is ...Barry G

This was a really hard choice, but, as always, I had to go with my gut. Barry G's entry is succinct, clever, and makes great use of the one-two punch that makes the short, short fiction genre work. He also worked in the themes of worms and doom quite well without going over the top. Here's his winning entry:

The worm that knows

“Today, I shall soar like a butterfly”, mused Jeff, poking his head through the dew-drenched earth. The early bird, swooping upon him, cawed in agreement.

That said...

You guys must really like Chuck, because there were 90 ENTRIES --the most ever in the Flash Fiction Smackdown. There were many that I loved for different reasons, and that made me wish I had more books to hand out as prizes. In a Flash Fiction Smackdown first, I would like to extend honorable mentions to two other entrants who made my choice that much harder.

From Charlie McFarland 


The second sentence will be much better than the first.
I'm as disappointed as you are.


From jyh

Poet's Purgatory, Terrace Four: Enjambment

Virgil said to Dante, "Remember when the
Devil was chewing those guys? That
was awesome, but the best is yet
to come."


Thanks to all for making this a really hard choice!

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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Maya Zimmerman's picture
Maya Zimmerman July 1, 2013 - 9:42am

True Judgement I

In The Garden,

I watched a tomato grow to full.  

There, in Nature,

He pointed out my attire, my coffee mug, my cigarette,

my humanity.

OYC's picture
OYC is reading Children Of Men July 1, 2013 - 9:51am

God is great

From a dark cloth she comes out, radiant in a crimson taffeta dress. Her burqa fits in the Gucci clutch. 

mycophile's picture
mycophile July 1, 2013 - 9:58am


Contradictions are everything society is based upon. We are nothing, yet we are everything - in a world where nothing ever sleeps, all is dreamt.

LeechyNut Haven's picture
LeechyNut Haven July 1, 2013 - 10:05am

Knowing Full, . . . well?  


 3 time loser Henryetty Solvancy waits once again at the altar. "Fuck it",she inwardly smiles while tracking a colorful replica of tomorrow's hunger, "think I'll become a Lesbian".

Carmen Elizabeth Jordan's picture
Carmen Elizabet... July 1, 2013 - 10:06am

The Easy Way Out


She stared at the poem for hours, hoping inspiration would come. "Oh well," she sighed, finally, "guess I'll just hafta wait till it comes out."

Patrick Riley's picture
Patrick Riley from Union, NH is reading Edgar Cayce's Story of Jesus July 1, 2013 - 10:09am

We are  all Gods

Your creations stand before you at the day of judgement. How would you satify their reason for being? Careless creator, art produces life.

midnighttyper's picture
midnighttyper from England, South Yorkshire is reading The picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde July 1, 2013 - 10:18am


Released from Jail, not a better human only a more acceptable criminal. 

Wayne Rutherford's picture
Wayne Rutherford from Columbus, Ohio is reading NOS4A2 July 1, 2013 - 10:19am

Death and Beyond


When the ground opens up, splitting like rotten melons, you will understand the truth. The afterlife is full of jokesters.

Jason Honerman's picture
Jason Honerman from Sioux Falls, SD is reading The Orange Eats Creeps July 1, 2013 - 10:19am


Sitting there unmoving and unchanging, he forces conversation. She stares, thoughts waning from the present to the future. A Razor is sweeter than this.

artistic addict's picture
artistic addict from Living in Fear and Loathing U.S.A. is reading 1984 July 1, 2013 - 10:29am

Heaven And Hell On Earth Vs. The Aspiring Writer(Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Press Enter Here)
Like moths to a flame, we abandon all logic and head towards the light. 
Only to have our wings incinerated every time we near Heaven. 

Maksim Trivashkevich's picture
Maksim Trivashkevich July 1, 2013 - 10:31am

Journey’s End on Top of the World

I’ve conquered stars, mountains, treasures and hearts, and only because I never forgot, that I’m nothing more than an insect. A damn fine one, nonetheless...

Daniel Jordan Burke's picture
Daniel Jordan Burke July 1, 2013 - 10:39am

Now I am the Same As The Rest of the Church


And as I read "... Amen." and closed the good book, I realized I hadn't remembered anything I read. "Good try though," I reasoned.

Beatriz Barrett's picture
Beatriz Barrett July 1, 2013 - 10:46am

Carpe Fucking Diem

I despise this fatalism, those who say there is no point.
Meaningful or meaningless, there is still life in this flesh.

Hazelnut's picture
Hazelnut July 1, 2013 - 10:56am

The prize

She finally got what she wanted. The wanting was better than the getting, now just to live with the consequences of kill him.

Mark Lee Topp's picture
Mark Lee Topp from Montana is reading Cold Days by Jim Butcher July 1, 2013 - 11:01am

Mister Rogers Lied to Me

I grew up thinking I was born for greatness, and one day I would leave the ordinary people behind. Turns out I'm not special either.

kchilcoat1's picture
kchilcoat1 July 1, 2013 - 11:02am

Isolation, Self Destruction and Retribution via Narcotics

Suicide can be more fun than a quick bullet through the head.  I’ll be six feet under when I damn well choose.

BahHumbug's picture
BahHumbug July 2, 2013 - 11:06am

A Day at the Aviary or, Life is for the Birds

“Why always me?” he said, as the Bluebird of Happiness pooped on his head. He hollered, “Come back, Happiness!” thought twice, and took cover, resigned.

SkyWar's picture
SkyWar July 1, 2013 - 11:23am


After the avalanche of debris and shit, people expected to emerge from the suffocating pile, triumphant. Alas, no soul could tell which way was up.

Cameron Cook's picture
Cameron Cook July 1, 2013 - 11:30am


Rochelle ate her husband's wings on a Tuesday afternoon. Underground, many miles below, he invented sixty-six words for alimony. 

Mike Hardin's picture
Mike Hardin from Fort Worth Texas is reading sarah vowell, david sedaris, nick hornby July 1, 2013 - 12:32pm


The pedophile serving his fourth year of an 18 year sentence.  Breaking rehabilitation, punished for once again having pictures of little boys, he died unchanged.

Noah Hurley's picture
Noah Hurley July 1, 2013 - 12:40pm

He’s to becoming the world’s greatest novelist—creating timeless storylines that teach, yet entertain.  His fingers hover above the keys waiting for Muse’s gentle kiss.

Prîñçê Deepu's picture
Prîñçê Deepu July 1, 2013 - 1:28pm

In memory yet dark

"Nothing more to evolve and your evolution warning is ridiculous" telepathized the Cyborg.'Sometimes the evolution also means cease to exist' human1984 controlled the thoughts.

Kelby Losack's picture
Kelby Losack from Texas is reading Muerte Con Carne; The Summer Job; Bizarro Bizarro July 1, 2013 - 4:33pm

Pecan Tree

Eyes closed, this bridge is the pecan tree we'd climb in your parents' backyard. I loosen my tie, ungrasp the iron branch. 

Andrew Benjamin Brady's picture
Andrew Benjamin... July 1, 2013 - 1:52pm

Post Traumatic Stress

I killed his disabled body and buried it in the garden, where a tomato plant grew. We ate the sweet fruit, felt all his pain.

Jeremiah Martin's picture
Jeremiah Martin July 1, 2013 - 2:09pm


Femurs in the Garden
Frank struggled for many years to be half the man his father was.
Upon discovering what his father was, he reveled in his lifelong failure.


Lauren Slavin's picture
Lauren Slavin July 1, 2013 - 2:13pm


Suicide would take more than seven percent of my energy
If there’s no God to judge, at least it would give the maggots a job

Trixy Lokisson's picture
Trixy Lokisson from the harsh shores of the Black Sea is reading code, and getting pretty sick of it... July 1, 2013 - 2:43pm

sooo... basically, this is hint fiction, right?

Crescendo2020's picture
Crescendo2020 from Redlands, Ca is reading Not enough of all of them. July 30, 2013 - 9:30pm

A Humble Oblation


As the heavens glow with hunger, I sink the blade into my flesh.
My hands now crimson; the viscous formality pools at my feet.

Giuseppe Andriano's picture
Giuseppe Andriano July 1, 2013 - 2:53pm


As I'm dying, spit on me: wet your fingers and let the spittle wire between fingertips. Be this the silk of my mourning chrysalis.

Vl Sheridan's picture
Vl Sheridan from Jersey is reading A Clash of Kings- George R. R. Martin July 1, 2013 - 3:40pm

So Long (insert name here), it was fun . . .

Will I see you again?

He paused at the door, gave her a saucy wink, then returned to the dregs from whence he came.

Southpaw13's picture
Southpaw13 July 22, 2013 - 3:57pm


The chief promised his daughters hand to a demanding god. An unwitting bride would be ceremoniously shoved into the volcano's maw, same as every year.

Eric Price's picture
Eric Price July 1, 2013 - 4:11pm

Salem 1692

Governor Phips watched Sarah's head sink, bob, and sink again. When the water grew still, he said, "Well, I guess she wasn't a witch."

andrewsml's picture
andrewsml from Los Angeles, CA is reading Faithful Place July 1, 2013 - 4:21pm

Go Forth

Go forth, child, and share with the world your failures.  Then return to me, so I may share with you, mine.

Pablo Ortiz M. O''s picture
Pablo Ortiz M. O' from México is reading Stephen King, Dark Tower series July 2, 2013 - 2:58pm



On the cliff´s ledge, he watched as the sun painted the sky. “You really did it!” Was his last thought before he hit the ground.


edgar allen foe's picture
edgar allen foe July 2, 2013 - 1:45am

On Human Error and the Development of Energy Weapons

Ten seconds from now the earth will disintegrate in a nova burst. If only I hadn't been distracted by Internet porn.

Luis León's picture
Luis León July 1, 2013 - 7:29pm

Why is this on the Best Seller’s List?

I can’t believe people like Dan Brown’s trash.


Puh-lease, I thought…500 pages later.

writercrossing's picture
writercrossing July 1, 2013 - 7:42pm


"So what are we now?" Born between them, a knowledge of the fragile words that could not carry what all things must; an end.

wjackson610's picture
wjackson610 July 1, 2013 - 9:13pm


The son attempts to leave without word. The father accepts his silence, withholding mention of caution or love.

Carrollastrophe's picture
Carrollastrophe from Oregon is reading The Amber Spyglass July 1, 2013 - 9:32pm

The Exchange

Reading Kafka by the shore, a worm says, “Hello.”

Pages lower to peer; I reply, “Who are you?”

A frown and a slouch, he disappears.

DarkRaivynn's picture
DarkRaivynn from Pennsylvania is reading The Monstrumologist July 1, 2013 - 11:59pm

Dried Up

Looking down at the desiccated corpse, true metaphysical horror struck her. We all end, and in the end, we are all just jerky.

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts July 1, 2013 - 11:54pm

Perdition Blvd is a Concrete Nightcrawler

Turnpikes danced themselves free from the earth, the storm holding his car against the sky. He looked down, cursed where this road would take him.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday July 2, 2013 - 6:35am

The Foundation


Built to be flawed in the first place.

The last place is the summation of the mistakes and the truths found along the way.

OnceMoreWeDance's picture
OnceMoreWeDance from NYC is reading Skinny Legs and All July 2, 2013 - 9:55am

Up From The Sidewalk


Callous palms and scraped knees, crawling along the avenue.

Humanity's blind eyes turned upon blue skies,

watching the wings unfold, of what we could've been.

Jordan Cary Welsh's picture
Jordan Cary Welsh July 2, 2013 - 10:24am

My mommy loves me soooo much!


Her cervix failed to serve me up, still hanging on that clit.

Nursing on her failure as my mother,  I'm her little man, vibrating forever.

Mitchell van Tilburg's picture
Mitchell van Tilburg from The Netherlands is reading "Joyland" (Stephen King) July 2, 2013 - 1:42pm

Acknowledge the Change

Then He blatantly screamed: deafening to anyone equal, impenetrable to anything greater in His presence. Pride rippled off like snakeskin, as He recombined His appearance.

Sarah Speed's picture
Sarah Speed July 2, 2013 - 2:45pm

Humanity's Fate

The future we've seen, within the wings of nameless flying things.
In the dark and earthly night they call to us to join their flight.

Nicholas McGruter's picture
Nicholas McGruter July 2, 2013 - 8:28pm

Walking Through Random Sundays

She fell in my lap, I told her to "beat like white heat;" she wouldn't hear the tune my saxaphone mouth was playin. Fucking Sundays.

Bryan Kaufman's picture
Bryan Kaufman from Columbus Ohio is reading Dreamcatcher by Stephen King July 2, 2013 - 6:55pm

The Shallow Lights


"I am not evil, I am neccesity." He paused, turned, upped his collar and slowly the night ate him.

Incyde Out Boy's picture
Incyde Out Boy from Melstrand is reading This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel J. Levitin July 2, 2013 - 9:08pm

To Choose


I cut in line between past lives, so I could stand next to you. Now karma shall have it's way with me...

BarryG's picture
BarryG July 3, 2013 - 8:05am

The worm that knows
“Today, I shall soar like a butterfly”, mused Jeff, poking his head through the dew-drenched earth. The early bird, swooping upon him, cawed in agreement.