Updated With Winners: LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: September Edition (...and another chance to win Chuck Palahniuk's new book!)

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

UPDATE: Since it's only a few days in and we already have 76 (and counting) entries--we've scrounged up two more copies of Chuck  Palahniuk's new book for a total of THREE books to give away to the best three entries! So keep 'em coming!

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 September 27 will be considered. We'll run the winner on September 30.

This Month's Prize

You get a second change to win an Advanced Reading Copy of Chuck Palahniuk's upcoming novel Doomed (which doesn't come out until next month!) 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

In July, we used a section of Dante's Purgatorio since Doomed is the second book in a trilogy based on Dante's work.

This time, let's use something specifically Chuck-related. In his interview with LitReactor's Kasey Capenter on his book Damned, Palahniuk likens Hell to his experience of staying in a hotel's "author's suite" while touring. Here's a couple quotes from the interview:

When you tour for books, most big luxury hotels now reserve a suite called the author’s suite, because they know that there is this constant tour of authors coming through town. So they put you in this author’s suite, that always has these bookshelves, and um, all the books are all the people who have ever slept in that bed.  So you know, looking at the wall, everybody who has slept in the bed you are about to sleep in.

It’s like having a resume… you don’t want to know that you're sharing a bed with Paula Deen, David Sedaris, John Grisham, Jane Fonda – a whole litany of all the people that have been in that bed, makes me kind of…disgusted. But then I love the dichotomy. Their minds and hearts are on the wall, you know, in these books, but when you pull back this bedding, and see the stains on the mattress and the mattress pad- their bodies are like, there, in a very physical and literal sense…

If Chuck's Hell is an author's suite, what might be Purgatory? Your prompt is to write your own metaphor for Purgatory. Remember 25 words in prose or poetry. Two sentences. Titles are excluded from the word count.

Now Get Writing!

And the Winners are... Heather Boyd, Carole Rossi Kenyon, and Anthony David Lawson.

The number of entries must have broken records—148!!! There were many, many great entries but I had to pick three: So here they are in no particular order:

From Heather Boyd


It could be now. It isn't.

From Carole Rossi Kenyon

Have Mercy

Please send money for indulgences to Pope Francis  Stop
60 more years of watching reruns on the golf network before my debt is settled  Stop

From Anthony David Lawson

The most beautiful girl I’ve ever known had given me her number.  My finger hovered over that last button.

Thanks, everyone, for entering!

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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Beckie Price Strobel's picture
Beckie Price Strobel September 4, 2013 - 11:34am

Ant Farm Atonement

Lined up symetrically (like genetically-modified fruit at Walmart), we produce. We gather our crumbs in unison, automatons preparing for an ever-elusive vacation. 

Yossarian22's picture
Yossarian22 from Belfast, Ireland is reading Don Quixote September 4, 2013 - 12:06pm

Just Relax and Hope it's Not Cancer.


He better be fucking joking. My first prostate exam is tomorrow.

"I'm serious man" he said "he ran his finger's through my hair!"


vmcasanova's picture
vmcasanova September 4, 2013 - 12:01pm


Incarnation 184661

The black abyss splits, light beams inward striking the top of my peach-fuzz softy-skull. Pulled out, passed around, positioned under the nipple.

Aerofan81's picture
Aerofan81 September 4, 2013 - 12:03pm

Purgatory: The Haiku

We craft our fetters
Freedom comes only after
We forgive ourselves.

firewriter's picture
firewriter September 4, 2013 - 12:05pm


Things to buy, and things to build, things to fill. Lives crosshatched in a maze, buying things to fill the space.

David Terrill's picture
David Terrill from Utah is reading 'Hollywood'--Charles Bukowski September 4, 2013 - 12:26pm

Purgatory in Particular

I run into myself on an elevator going backwards, wearing the same clothes as yesterday. He looks slightly happier than I and presses the button.

khall22's picture
khall22 September 5, 2013 - 1:22pm

Flesh of Death: Becoming Physical
Hours obsessed spent endlessly correcting every imperfection on the surface of my skin.  No flesh or face to covet; where was this “inner beauty”?


Michelle.herrington's picture
Michelle.herrington September 4, 2013 - 1:05pm

Step four

His crying jags and cutting episodes since nine years old can be managed now that we have a diagnosis. Motherhood amends ensues.


Michael Casey's picture
Michael Casey from Somewhere between here and there is reading Inferno, City of Glass, Mysterious Skin September 4, 2013 - 1:44pm

(Un)True Love

"Bar fight," I lied when he fingered the jagged mound of skin discoloring my chest. Replying 'coat hanger' almost never gets me laid.

Kevin Damen's picture
Kevin Damen from Sittard, Netherlands is reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy September 4, 2013 - 1:52pm

- Same shit, Different Obit -

If you ask me, there is no such thing as Hell. Floating around, watching them discover the skeletons in your closet comes dangerously close though.

KayLa Perez's picture
KayLa Perez from Vineland, New Jersey is reading Pygmy September 4, 2013 - 2:06pm

The Waiting Room

They keep calling people who got here after me. 

Jairo Ceja Trejo's picture
Jairo Ceja Trejo September 4, 2013 - 2:15pm


Sweat, pain and the taste of rancid saliva tell me that she’s not gonna make some coffee.

I light a cigarette and pretend I’m alone.

JohnDr's picture
JohnDr September 4, 2013 - 3:08pm


Imprisoned behind the veil of reality, the captor a doppelganger. Who smiles and says, “I have no dreams of my own, so I stole yours.”

Robin J Thomson's picture
Robin J Thomson from Edinburgh is reading Man of Straw (H. Mann) September 4, 2013 - 3:54pm

Craving for Insomnia

The pathologist's flash bulb made me dream of lightening. I would dream of nothing else until I awoke for just long enough to die.

PinupCenterfold's picture
PinupCenterfold from The Sunshine State, USA is reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane September 4, 2013 - 4:08pm


Purgatory loves me.  She wants carnal pleasure of watching tears roll down my face. Purgatory chases me relentlessly, my pain is her only pulsing orgasm.

Patrick Riley's picture
Patrick Riley from Union, NH is reading Edgar Cayce's Story of Jesus September 4, 2013 - 4:19pm

Chuck in Limbo

No words will come, the muse whispers nothing.

A single vertical line blinks on empty white expanse expectantly.

Shawn LaSota's picture
Shawn LaSota from Franklin, KS is reading Needful Things- Stephen King September 4, 2013 - 5:29pm


Sterile and politically correct in sickness and in health, it is a hospital for the damned and graced. Patiently awaiting for either life or death.

lisakay's picture
lisakay from MI is reading The Rich and the Rest of Us and Funny Times September 4, 2013 - 6:21pm

Poison Ivy

An angry, pulsating, weeping eruption scatters along the skin.  Will cream disintegrate it, or will blissful scratching entrench it into steroidal treatment dimensions?

Gordon B. White's picture
Gordon B. White from Seattle (for now) September 13, 2013 - 12:31am

Space Bar

My glass is empty, but before we leave he's got to finish his and tell one more joke.

"How do you keep an idiot in . . ."

DEALEIGH's picture
DEALEIGH September 4, 2013 - 7:23pm

The Rally


Teeth bending more light than his cuff links, he stepped into the discord.  His feigned posture attracted the abysmal self-esteem of the politically disturbed.

Thomas J. Schmitz's picture
Thomas J. Schmitz September 4, 2013 - 8:36pm

The Janitor.

They said it was a no-brainer, they said they'd hire anyone.  Now, locked in the boiler room, with no cigarettes, I wait.


icyxglassxabyss's picture
icyxglassxabyss September 4, 2013 - 9:21pm

The Waiting Room


All I wanted was a flu shot. I have now officially ranked the screaming children in which order I desire to punch them. 

amurders's picture
amurders from Bend Oregon is reading Beautiful You, Blood Meridian September 4, 2013 - 11:15pm

The Never Ending

My wife praises God when loud beeps signal my final breath.
To bad these machines will always keep away from death.

Andrew Balls's picture
Andrew Balls from Utah is reading Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer September 5, 2013 - 1:24am

Life In Reruns or Purgatory for the 21st Century

My life is Hell tuning in to watch scrambled porn on basic cable, and Heaven having the premium channels but chosing to watch Leno instead.

nonicotine's picture
nonicotine September 5, 2013 - 4:19am

Spurned love

She cut his call, twenty-three times. No solace in the messages being deleted in her inbox- A deaf sorry can never be forgiven.

Keith Charles's picture
Keith Charles from Chicago is reading Red Shirts September 5, 2013 - 7:41am

Mandatory Community Service: First Hour

If all I have to do is clean these bathrooms, then I lucked out.

Wait, why do girls have these tiny, stall-mounted trash cans?

midnighttyper's picture
midnighttyper from England, South Yorkshire is reading The picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde September 5, 2013 - 9:09am

Exiting through purgatory's entrance.

“Sign on the dotted line and it’s published.”

His award shelf tells me I’m not his first and that’s okay.

superlover_revenge's picture
superlover_revenge from Georgia is reading We, the Drowned September 5, 2013 - 10:49am

Purgatorio Revolvo

Purgatory is an infinite book tour, answering the same questions for the same people in the same cities. Each night, you're no closer to the end.

Incyde Out Boy's picture
Incyde Out Boy from Melstrand is reading This Is Your Brain On Music by Daniel J. Levitin September 5, 2013 - 11:23am

Asthetic Beauty

Staring into the horizon for answers

Never realizing they lie inside

Because you're too busy

Asking the sunset why we die.

onmytangent's picture
onmytangent from Charlotte, NC September 5, 2013 - 12:32pm

Misdressed and Misused

Scantily clad mistresses inhale cigarettes over dirty countertops, the smoke spirals and dissipates. Dim lights from hotel bathrooms shed more truth than a cheating husband.



Lady Hazmat's picture
Lady Hazmat is reading Various Titles September 5, 2013 - 1:23pm

Sleepless in Sarcophagi 

Awake and breathless I linger, cradled inside a satin-lined chamber. The first scoop of earth lands with a heavy thud!  

Victoria Lynn Gaines's picture
Victoria Lynn Gaines from Memphis, TN is reading Damned and Hardcore Zen September 5, 2013 - 2:53pm

Fill the Hollow


A little slip under the skin - just a pin prick, and minutes at worst until release following the rush. I wonder how good it is.

C Jason Bilbrey's picture
C Jason Bilbrey September 6, 2013 - 6:23am

Bumper to Bumper    ~~~~     A river of vehicles sat dammed by the traffic lights, flashing their tri-colored messages.  I'd been there forever, or so it seemed. 

SmokT's picture
SmokT from Seattle, WA is reading Damned by Chuck Palahniuk September 6, 2013 - 8:29am

Longing for Love

She's intoxicating from every angle, with eyes crying out for more punishment as each person lays their judgements upon her.

She hopes it'll last forever.

RME's picture
RME September 6, 2013 - 9:41am


Blue balls, black and white tv, eternal mediocrity, lost in transit, stuck between frequencies, monotonous, miserable time.  No saints or sinners, inane, lives not lived.

Christopher Provost's picture
Christopher Provost from Nashua, New Hampshire is reading The Zombie Survival Guide September 6, 2013 - 9:55am

Dear Editor

I followed the guidelines, submitted my story before the deadline, and waited the required six to eight weeks.  Today marks the end of week nine.

Selaine Henriksen's picture
Selaine Henriksen September 6, 2013 - 12:23pm


Four walls, a blank screen, blinking cursor; a cube. Nine to five--an eternity.

Tsofit Dangoor's picture
Tsofit Dangoor from Nesher, Israel is reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas September 6, 2013 - 2:15pm

Free Live Music

Our crowded elevator came to a screeching halt between floors 9 and 10.
Shayne pulled out his recorder and began covering “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Adrian Camp's picture
Adrian Camp September 6, 2013 - 1:33pm


Open your eyes, it’s time go to sleep before you regain consciousness from the strange insomnia. Close your eyes and stay awake.


Kelli Dubuisson's picture
Kelli Dubuisson from East Moline, IL. (a.k.a. Watertown) is reading BRC Technical standard - version 6 :/ September 6, 2013 - 8:37pm
The Devil on my back


I try to speak.  The only sound is my lips moving, my limbs heavy and unmovable, eyes so weighted blurred light seeps through my lashes.
Andy Lockwood's picture
Andy Lockwood September 10, 2013 - 8:30am

"The Fairer Sex"

They kiss passionately; at least she does.
She watches the clock, his body cooling as she debates which dress to wear to his funeral.

Elaine Cotoner's picture
Elaine Cotoner September 7, 2013 - 7:13pm

Call Waiting

"Okay. Please hold."

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) September 8, 2013 - 7:25am

Tick Tock

The watched clock ticked slowly, minute hand pointing north and flipping him the bird.
Freedom was yet another interminable hour away.

Nil Jones's picture
Nil Jones September 8, 2013 - 9:22pm

- First Thoughts After a Poorly Executed Break-Up -

"I didn't really mean it" is something nobody actually says, at least not honestly. Still, the phrase just sat there with furious ubiquity.

ronin356's picture
ronin356 from Cape Girardeau, Mo is reading Mark Twain September 8, 2013 - 11:52pm

Red Eye .

The Vampire's eyes were like two Blood Moons.

"I'm well acquainted with death"  The grave robber said to the monster with a stoic face.

Jennifer Lopez's picture
Jennifer Lopez from San Antonio is reading Tina Fey's Bossypants and Carlos Castaneda's The Eagle's Gift September 9, 2013 - 6:17am

I could live the rest of my life like this, never doing anything about it.

SoulBoulder's picture
SoulBoulder from Chicago is reading The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotions September 9, 2013 - 7:09am

Blank Document

Cockroach tickles your toe,

While neons buzz and keyboards click,

The writer begets her woe.

A white box and a blinking line:

Delete tab delete.

Damien Boyes's picture
Damien Boyes from Toronto is reading Leviathan Wakes September 9, 2013 - 7:29am


A stone against my abdomen, the fetal heart monitor throbs ever slower. The nurse's tense smile tells me all I need to know.

workthefierce's picture
workthefierce September 10, 2013 - 6:38am



A woman in black walks down the road with a black veil over her face. I ask her to unveil; I saw what was me.

Heather Boyd's picture
Heather Boyd from California is reading The Long Goodbye September 10, 2013 - 9:55am


It could be now. It isn't.