First Place | Flash Fiction Writing Contest

55th New Millennium Award for Flash Fiction

Jacob Orlando of Baltimore, Maryland for “Molten”

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



Jacob Orlando


We’re all throbbing together in a gross, sweaty, sticky 808 grind. Miss Lapel struts the floor, taking all the eye. She’s everything. Hips, lips, face, glamor. She’s giving us everything. Serving. Burning down the house. Singles are flying, whistles and whips of attitude. Step and lean and turn and walk and yaaas. We are proud. This is lights, culture, scene, and then—

a man comes in with a gun.


It’s a nasty humid night out. No, we don’t have any cash. We duck into a corner store for water. A bell over the door rings. The AC struggles sadly. It rattles roaches and drips mold. At least the fridge is cold. We linger on the bottles. You’re getting that look. The bell rings again. A woman pushes in a baby stroller asking for cigarettes. Again, the bell, and then—

a man comes in with a gun.


The pews at the back are hot as hell, so far from the fans up front. The sermon lays on heavy, the word hazy. Papaw grumbles. Sweet little Ellie twirls around to see. We bow our heads to pray. From outside comes the clear sound of a car pulling to a sudden stop in the street. Then there’s boots on the steps. What messenger? We all want to see, rising in our seats, and then—

a man comes in with a gun.


A rumor that slides get hot enough in the sun to melt your skin spreads like wildfire through the cafeteria. We simmer in the agonizing minutes before recess. Any moment, we’ll get the bell and spill out to the playground before they say zip. Then, an announcement, we can’t hear at first, but there’s a pressurized shush, and then—

a man comes in with a gun.


Eighteen dead.
What do we remember?
Fire. Simmer. Spill.
Screams, not the normal kind, the kind that are ripped out, the last beats of nightmare.
It feels wrong that we have to go on like this.
Try to process. That’s what they say. But it takes time. And that’s okay.
We try to play, but when the slide gets too hot in the sun, we remember the melt of metal on our skin.


Seven dead.
Papaw is quiet like we’ve never seen him.
We want to hear him more than anything. A word, a grumble, even a sob, for God’s sake. But he keeps silent, and so do we. Maybe he’s still praying. Maybe he’s thinking about the war. Or maybe he’s going after her.
Sweet little Ellie.
Now there are strangers everywhere raining fire and fury.
God, the heat.
Shame, stuck in this hell.


One dead.
He comes in hot, holding up the guy behind the counter. He doesn’t see us at first, but the woman with the stroller comes around behind us with a holler and hurls a bunch of bananas.
He whirls around and brings us under the barrel. Half a breath later comes a brassy crack which lingers in the sweltering air.
A guy with a gun shoots a guy with a gun.
We hold there in terror. There’s blood on your cheek.
When we dare to look, he’s on the floor, unalive.
Can we even blame him?


Twenty-four dead.
Bodies stack up. Blood soaks the floor. We are slick with grime.
We are screaming.
We are praying.
We are dying.
We are begging for relief and crying to our mothers. We are reaching out through the wreckage to touch one another. We are breaking.
We hate that we are braced for this, that we have to be strong, that we just move along.
But Miss Lapel is walking.
We are getting up, gathering up, stitching up.
We’re still going. And we are angry.
Goddamn molten.




Jacob Orlando is a queer young man of letters from small town Texas. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, he presently works a day job and writes away his free time. Catch his piece “Down Too Many” in The Q&A Queer Zine, Issue 4, and follow him on Tumblr or Twitter for more.

Molten © 2023 Jacob Orlando 
• • • Thanks for Reading • • •
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12 thoughts on “”

  1. Of course you won. You deserve it. The way you pulled me in and then that rhythmic, almost singsong drop of the horrific, the next beat, we all know it too well, the shoe drops. A man walks in with a gun. Too true. Too tragic.

    I cried so many times. It just never ends. Your piece is legend.

    1. Genius! Ripe for the times! Every word tells and stings with truth. “America, why are all your libraries filled with tears?” evokes Ginsberg. You have added to this library. And how many more halls will be added?

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