Flash Fiction: An Unfinished Story

Jigsaw puzzle

Back in 2008, Livejournal conducted a flash fiction contest where 500-word-stories had to be written on the theme: journal. They gave us a sop saying that all selected stories ‘might’ go into a published book, and we were allowed to send in more than one entry. I sent in five.

I’m serializing them on this blog. This is the fifth and final story. You can read the fourth here.

Let me tell you a story.

It all started with an email I received yesterday. At first glance, it looked a lot like another of those spam messages eager to give you a prize, but something about it caught my attention. It said I had won first prize in a short fiction competition – and for a struggling writer like me, even recognition from an email was soothing.

It came from the same contest for which I was in the process of writing a short story. I checked their website to make sure they were still accepting submissions. This email probably had something to do with the faulty server they mentioned – that was the only explanation. But I didn’t bother asking them. I had more important things to occupy my mind.

The story I had been working on was short enough – just five hundred words – but it was the theme that was hard. Before I came across this contest, I didn’t even know you could write stories about a journal.

But I managed to finish the first draft this morning, eventually. I even wove in a little narrative about the mysterious email.

I double-checked it just to make sure it came from the same contest. Yes, everything checked out – even the theme. It was just a mistake.

I then went back to work on my story. As I re-read it, self-doubt crept in. The competition had stated it explicitly: The story should have more than a cursory connection to the theme. Did mine have enough?

I went to sleep that night hugging my typewriter, having typed up the final draft.

The next morning I opened the email again and noticed, for the first time, that it carried an attachment. I would not have opened it if it had not been a harmless text file about five hundred words long. My eyes glided along it once, from top to bottom.

Then I went over it again, more seriously. And then again. No.

I jumped at my typewriter and pulled out the sheet stuck in it. When I held it up against the computer screen, my mouth went dry. The two stories matched. Every word matched.

I checked the date on the email. It was dated next month. It could be another server error, the rational part of my brain pleaded. But what if –

I considered what would happen if I didn’t enter the competition now; if I tore up the story in my hand and forgot about it. Would I still win?

I only thought along those lines for a moment, though. Just half an hour ago, I mailed my story to the judge.

And for the last half hour, I’ve been at the computer, typing my entry out word by word here on my blog. You’ve been reading it for the last five minutes. Do you like it? Do you think it’s good enough? Does it have enough “journal” in it? You better answer quickly, because this is the last sentence…

Image Courtesy: It’s Jake’s World


  1. Vivek Banerjee says:

    Real nice 🙂


  2. Good one. But why did the writer have to use a typewriter when he had a computer right before him?

    Destination Infinity


  3. Good one Sharath, enough elements of simplicity and complexity in the right balance


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