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“Ember” by Alyson Hagy (NMW 2018)

“Ember” by Alyson Hagy (NMW 2018)

45th New Millennium Flash Fiction Prize

“Ember” by Alyson Hagy of Laramie, Wyoming


Hagy will receive $1,000, a certificate to mark the success, and publication both online and in print.


Ember

By Alyson Hagy

 

She found it when she opened the stove.  It resembled the desiccated carcass of a bird, some tragic dove that had made its way down her lonely, unused chimney.  But when she touched it, it moved.

Or perhaps it pulsed.  Anyhow, a thin throb of color appeared near its center.  So she leaned and touched it again, certain it was a scroll of forgotten ash.  She was an indifferent housekeeper.  It would be just like her to leave behind a modicum of filth.

The thing glowed once more, almost willfully.  It didn’t seem to produce heat.  Just light.  Or a prickling somewhat reminiscent of light.  The asymmetries it displayed were not familiar.  So, despite the faint odor of roasting beets, she closed the stove and went on to other things.

What other things?  Money.  Fresh garden asparagus.  Unpunctuated text messages from her nephews.  She had only been trying to straighten up the house.  A house she didn’t even like.

The stove was the kind that burned wood chopped by stealthy locals.  She used it only in winter.  Because she was between the yawing moments in a life that require true courage, it was late at night before she selected a dramatic bathrobe and returned to the stove.

The glow, what there was of it, had become shivery and sobbing.  Not dependent upon her at all.  The thing appeared to be recovering from some kind of exertion she had not been allowed to witness.  A faint, uncomfortable clawing instigated itself at the roots of her eyelashes.  Had she seen a single tongue of flame or only imagined the licking?  It suddenly became impossible to leave the stove.  She kept vigil for hours.  She offered a saucer of water.  She planned the shopping for agreed-upon meals.  When the cream of morning clotted itself against the window shades, she closed the stove.  But not before she touched the thing again.  Palm to heart, she recited in nervous preparation.  It was important:  Palm to heart.

She tried to go on, with limited success.  There was an entire day spent with her head inside the dark stove, singing.  There was the trembling offer of a folded, handwritten note.

In the end, she filled the stove with splintered logs and unread newspaper and struck the guardian match.  She left the room without a glance.  No burn, she said to herself, sullied and falsely proud.  It never hurt me.  I haven’t changed.  Where, finally, was the viper’s sting?

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alyson Hagy is the author of eight works of fiction, including the forthcoming novel Scribe (Graywolf Press).  Her flash fiction has most recently been published in INCH and Kenyon Review (Online).  She lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

“Ember” © 2018 Alyson Hagy


We’d love to read what you’ve been writing.
NMW’s next literary contest is now open.
Four $1,000 Literary Prizes will be awarded, plus publication.
All writing levels are welcome and encouraged.

Adam Sifre’s “Papa’s Parrot” (NMW 2017)

Adam Sifre’s “Papa’s Parrot” (NMW 2017)

Adam Sifre of Wayne, NJ has won the 44th New Millennium Flash Fiction Prize for “Papa’s Parrot.”

He will receive $1,000 and publication both online and in print.

“The story of a bird who traded flight for knowledge, his freedom for the privilege of hearing a certain Old Man spin stories on a typewriter in Cuba, and how those stories began to transform the one who listened.” –NMW

Writing Contest XLIII • Flash Fiction Winner, Miah Jeffra • NMW (2017)

Writing Contest XLIII • Flash Fiction Winner, Miah Jeffra • NMW (2017)

Miah Jeffra of San Francisco, CA for “Growl”

Miah receives $1,000, a certificate to mark the success, and publication both online and in print.

Miah’s story, “Growl,” pays homage to that most primal noise. It is a reminder that inside all of us lives an animal, and in the moments our passions are most inflamed — by anger, by hunger, by lust — the animal must be heard.

William Polsgrove’s “Highway 61” (NMW 2016)

William Polsgrove’s “Highway 61” (NMW 2016)

–This award is William’s first literary prize and his first published story.–


William Polsgrove of Frederick, Maryland has won the 42nd New Millennium Flash Fiction Prize for “Highway 61.”

He will receive $1,000 and publication both online and in print.

“Polsgrove’s story captures perfectly the angst of growing up in a place you can’t belong, a town where the best things in your life are the ones you can’t tell anyone about, and where you make your escape every chance you get.”

Adrianne Aron’s “The Envelope Trick” (NMW 2016)

Adrianne Aron’s “The Envelope Trick” (NMW 2016)

Adrianne Aron of Berkeley, CA has won the 41st New Millennium Flash Fiction Prize for “The Envelope Trick.”

She will receive $1,000 and publication both online and in print.

“As immigration and foreign policy issues divide and dominate our culture, ‘The Envelope Trick’ reminds us that the political is always personal, and that many people are hanging on by only a finger or two.” –NMW