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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Gentleman Jim's picture
Gentleman Jim September 3, 2013 - 1:11pm

::Naked and Afraid::

Stuck in a waiting room with white walls, this guy keeps checking us out.

Can't wait for the Pope to finally let us go.

Christer Young's picture
Christer Young September 4, 2013 - 1:11am

:Misery Loves Company:

All John could hear was water hitting the bowl from beyond the bathroom door. + or - meant a world of difference to him now.

Benjamin Martin's picture
Benjamin Martin from Portland, OR is reading ... September 3, 2013 - 1:45pm

- Another One -

The migraine simultaneously pulls apart and crushes my head, pulsing.
At least I can still see that I'm out of aspirin.

Todd Gerard's picture
Todd Gerard from New Bern, NC is reading Dune September 3, 2013 - 2:18pm


I awoke and walked to the kitchen with the stack of dirty dishes. So high and slanted just enough to see the small turtle.

got_winkle's picture
got_winkle September 3, 2013 - 3:32pm

Lost Love Song

They all love the thing that took mine away, financed her habit, destroyed her spirit.

The annual torture, over and over again... # Merry Christmas America.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland September 3, 2013 - 4:01pm

Department of Motor Vehicles

I pull number 152 from the plastic dispenser; the red digital display reads: 11. 141 inadequate documents and ridiculous questions wait ahead of me.

ZepNess's picture
ZepNess is reading The Power Broker, The Alienist September 3, 2013 - 4:28pm

:The Tatterdemalion:

Oscar awoke from the acerbic smell. He left his bricolage in the alley, crossed the crowded street, and begged for forgiveness.

ryrivs68's picture
ryrivs68 September 3, 2013 - 6:30pm

--Nowhere of Mine--


And here, too, I could feel the hard murmur of the past. So I wandered again, looking for a spot where nothing had ever been.

Christian Williams's picture
Christian Williams from Hyde Park, NY is reading Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill September 3, 2013 - 6:46pm

Second Battle of the Marne

Calves trembling as I peer over the parapet, clutching my Springfield and await the signal to advance. No Man's Land ahead, Court Martial behind.

Skygrotto's picture
Skygrotto from Southwestern Ontario is reading Europe: A History by Norman Davies September 3, 2013 - 7:10pm

First Thing We Do, Let's Kill All the Lawyers

He rubbed his forehead while staring at pages lined with questions. An annual salary of $125,000 was worth the eight hour torture that is the bar.



(I went with purgatory in its original usage, as a verb that means preparation for Heaven through punishment)

Kelby Losack's picture
Kelby Losack from Texas is reading Muerte Con Carne; The Summer Job; Bizarro Bizarro September 3, 2013 - 7:18pm

In Memory of

My v-neck angel, showing half a chest tattoo, asks if I have any regrets. 

After two doses of manna, I tell her I'm ready. 

Mcdede's picture
Mcdede from Chicago burbs September 3, 2013 - 9:18pm


Although I applaud magical realism,
everyday I appreciate the beauty of
mundane fakery.

The “good job” for completing on time
the dotting of the i’s,


Pretty Spry for a Dead Guy's picture
Pretty Spry for... September 3, 2013 - 10:56pm


I sit on a bench. I wait.

Serafine's picture
Serafine September 5, 2013 - 12:26am


I get up in the morning, then go to work. I come home and sleep.

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading All the books by Ira Levin September 4, 2013 - 1:48am

School Reunion

It's not that I'm antisocial. I just can't stand these people.

Rune's picture
Rune from The Cornfields is reading House of Leaves September 4, 2013 - 7:08am

Square Dancing In The Ash Of Burnt Bridges 

Swing your partner, do-si-do, endless cavalcade of broken lovers. Promenade, sinners to the left, and chasse, and swing your partner…

jen5000's picture
jen5000 from the North of England is reading The Shining September 4, 2013 - 7:46am


Sat between strangers on a budget airplane stuck on the tarmac. The air con's off and the toilets are out of service.

phunkysai's picture
phunkysai from Greenville, SC is reading Red Country September 4, 2013 - 8:38am


The examination room. Here, stuck between the hell of the waiting room and the doctor’s visit, I hope for a pass to my condition.

mthel's picture
mthel September 4, 2013 - 9:24am

Self Loathing

The mattress has the fragrance that mimics the authors that liter the shelf; shitty.
I feel like a greedy pig soaking in our stinking success.

Ms Ericordia's picture
Ms Ericordia from PA, USA September 4, 2013 - 9:26am

Black Box

Between the screaming demon spawn, the hacking, skeletal stewardess, and the eternal layovers, this must be punishment for finishing Mike's whiskey. I need a razorblade.

Anthony David Lawson's picture
Anthony David Lawson from Wilmington NC is reading A house full of books September 4, 2013 - 9:31am

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

bebe86's picture
bebe86 September 4, 2013 - 9:36am

Roaming Familiarity 

Known to noone, yet trying to find a someone. Move consistently with no footing to grasp a world that they dont fit in. 

Andy-Lee Fry's picture
Andy-Lee Fry September 4, 2013 - 9:38am

He Would Have Actually Read Kafka If He'd Known

His fellow bed bug on this immeasurable, filthy mattress appeared to have Deen's voice and soul. It was going to be a long 2000 years.

Carole Rossi Kenyon's picture
Carole Rossi Kenyon September 4, 2013 - 9:44am

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

N.L. Vaught's picture
N.L. Vaught from Charlotte, NC is reading All sorts September 4, 2013 - 9:41am

They put us all in the same room for this. It's great to meet some idols, but not so great to smell them.

Jake Peterson's picture
Jake Peterson from Seattle, WA is reading Dave Eggers - The Circle September 25, 2013 - 2:17pm

One Night Stand

In the bittersweet morning, she was gone forever; leaving but only a stale purple thong. And I was haunted by yet another road not taken. 

adovani's picture
adovani September 4, 2013 - 9:42am



In Front of destroyed china; air, sounds and life ceased to exist.

Hanging on her face, her eyes looking for any sign of ruling.

Joseph Daniels's picture
Joseph Daniels September 4, 2013 - 9:44am

Bus Stop

I like me a boy with all his teeth. The man said, licking his chapped lips.

sksalway's picture
sksalway from Indiana is reading Damned September 4, 2013 - 9:46am

Falling, falling, falling, falling, this feeling of terror and peace is constant. Where will I stop?

boyleboy's picture
boyleboy September 5, 2013 - 3:19am


'Are you happy? Is this what you wanted? I have nothing any more. Your voice is all I have left.'

'Please continue to hold.'

Roland V. III's picture
Roland V. III September 4, 2013 - 9:48am

Someone else's vehicle

The wheels turn, you are in control, you are in between here and there. Please avoid other people on the way to your destination.

Troy Zante's picture
Troy Zante September 4, 2013 - 9:48am

Name That Tune

The bus driver whistles inanely and I'm frantically trying to decipher the tune: 'Wouldn't It Be Good' by Nik Kershaw? Its impossible to be sure.

Jean Hobbs-Castle's picture
Jean Hobbs-Castle from California is reading Focault's Pendulum September 4, 2013 - 9:49am

The tumor was gone. But so were her memories.

She lingered over each photo. Her children were nothing but strangers. The emptiness was complete.

Riccardo G. Scirè's picture
Riccardo G. Scirè September 4, 2013 - 9:52am


He waited
overhearing the noise outside:
or detractors.
He walked towards the stage
would it be
heaven or hell
he couldn't know
didn't care.

jonnystew's picture
jonnystew September 4, 2013 - 9:56am

Method Acting
This scene won’t last for too long
as monologue I’ll repeat when you’re gone.
Find my light and speak,
but you don’t hear me.

Mint Baxter's picture
Mint Baxter September 4, 2013 - 10:01am


At the slightest flicker of human emotion, the wire in my dead chest tightens.

Everlasting misery is a life with no heart.

michalorama's picture
michalorama from Wilmington, nc is reading damned September 4, 2013 - 10:02am

Blankly Stare Straight Ahead

With the power to make people sad wherever they go, Youngish Widow and Half Orphan consider going swimming. They'll still wait for a new life.

Mary Barley Hurley's picture
Mary Barley Hurley September 4, 2013 - 10:03am

Hot Wired

The gene pool had been cruel.  Freedom ahead even as the memories lingered long past the last  explosive volt had coursed through his childlike brain.


Jvelasquez30's picture
Jvelasquez30 September 4, 2013 - 10:06am

Dive Bar

Drowning in alcohol, they slowly sunk into their seats, backs arched like question marks that asked, "What happened?”

“What can I getchu?”

"Jack... Neat."

Ryan Kent's picture
Ryan Kent September 4, 2013 - 10:06am


You flinch when the heavy cell door slams shut behind you and all the heads turn to look. 

Fresh meat.

Cherise Aleen's picture
Cherise Aleen September 4, 2013 - 10:14am

A Debauchee's Platonic Victim

Peering from that charter bus, a grotesque chubbed reproductory flesh pole and glassy perverted eyes.

Unwanted self touching.

Shouldv'e stayed in West Virgnia. 

seebellywrite's picture
seebellywrite September 4, 2013 - 10:18am

Test Results

Cringing with every scratch of the pen, titilated by the hanging aroma of jasmine, her hand touches my arm, and the flush suffuses my cheeks. 

Lenora Sol's picture
Lenora Sol September 4, 2013 - 10:20am

The Time It Takes to Join You

Your ashes on December snow--
a hole I could've jumped into.
My sunset still sleeps
beyond the white hill.

maddog jax's picture
maddog jax September 4, 2013 - 10:34am

Welfare Mom


Grabbing, scratching, needing  more; I have no more to give. Fetid waste, a lack of taste, and the guilt that this is your life.

Salman Khan's picture
Salman Khan September 4, 2013 - 10:35am

:::My own personal little purgatory:::

My personal hell is expanding!!

Yesterday it was version 2.0 and today I just killed 72 men!

Today it is version 3.0!

Kelly Berger's picture
Kelly Berger September 4, 2013 - 10:36am

*The Blissful State of Being... a Parent*

I dread hiking up Dirty Diaper Mountain, a dauntingly disgusting daily task. Ankle deep in tar-like poop, I persevere and thank God for gumboots. 

Maya Zimmerman's picture
Maya Zimmerman September 4, 2013 - 10:44am

The E.R. Before the Psych Ward

Having finally gotten a pen, you take to calculating 2^n in increments, arriving at 2^53 being 9,007,199,254,740,992, a calculation of complexity and accuracy beyond Excel.

zartan707@yahoo.com's picture
zartan707@yahoo.com September 4, 2013 - 10:54am

I frolic Carribean whorebound in Hemmingway's rum soaked bed and the sun is not all that rises.  The old man and the semen.


Sandra S.'s picture
Sandra S. September 4, 2013 - 11:20am
Please Come Back

Reduced to a shadow trailing behind the person I once was when you where there, I might say I’m happy: Running tears cast no shadow.

TheArc's picture
TheArc from Greenville, SC is reading Gene Wolfe The Shadow of the Torturer September 4, 2013 - 11:28am

Tarmac Diplomacy 

Her smile is stretched across a rack of aggression.  

"Can we switch seats honey?"                              

I have the window and honey will sour before she does.