A new month means three new stories out at Flash Fiction Online. And this month there are also interviews with two of the authors, so there's that, too. As always, this is one of the best places to check out some very short stories, and in the days at the beginning of the month is something of a nice breather in between larger issues. So let's get to it!
"Small Wishes" by Carol Otte (983 words)
This story's about a group of friends who discover dragons that will approach anyone singing and grant a wish. Not a big wish, though. Any big wish kills the dragon. And Joe, the main character, has a wish, to be healed following a construction accident that has him in constant pain. So he goes out to sing for the dragons, but when one is in front of him he decides to give the dragon his wish instead, to free the dragon from its need to grant human wishes. It's a nice, hopeful story, one that believes that humans in general can be decent, and for that alone it's a refreshing story. More than that, though, it acknowledges the desires that humans have, sees the selfish desires and how those are able to be kept back in order to do the right thing. Because Joe does want to be well, wants freedom from his own pain, but is unwilling to make someone else suffer because of him. Not that he doesn't hope that the dragons will just heal him anyway, but that he doesn't expect it and instead resolves to push through anyway is a nice sentiment. So hurrah.
"The Last Man on Earth -- A Mini Novel" by John Guzlowski (990 words)
This story, much as its title implies, is something of a mini novel, broken up into very mini chapters, about the last man on Earth. Maybe. How literal that title is was never entirely clear to me, because while there seems to be less people on Earth, there do see to be some, and even some men, though it's possible that they've all gone by the end and there is only the Last Man at that point. In some ways the story seemed to me to be about isolation, about despair. The Last Man doesn't seem to have much to live for. Most people are gone but he doesn't try to reach out, doesn't try to make connections. His status as Last Man seems almost self-imposed at this point, a way for him to think of himself that keeps the isolation in place. And in that case it's perhaps not even the case that the world has been emptied of people. There is the creeping possibility that the world is exactly how it always was, peopled and all, but that some event has caused the Last Man to become detached from it. There's quite a bit going on here, though, and the mini novel is definitely worth reading a few times through to try and unpack what's there.
"The Cratch, Thy Keeper" by Matthew F. Amati (723 words)
The shortest and also the most violent of the stories here this month, this one centers on a small community who worships a kind of corn god/monster called the Cratch. The Cratch's will is upheld by the narrator of the story, at first in a way that makes it seem like he's powerless about what happens and then, at the end, in a way that implies that the Cratch might not be so supernatural after all. The story is told in dialect but no location is given for the story, nor are the characters identified by race that I could tell. The valley that the story takes place in is a sort of nebulous nowhere, on Earth because of references to Jesus and Christian missionaries, and vaguely current for someone to have a tape deck, but I'm guessing the story is pulled away from any possible culture in an attempt to not offend anyone with the dialect choice. Because the speech/narration does seem to be of a broken nature, almost like the narrator uses English as a second language. I'm not sure how well that approach to dialect works for me personally, though it does give it a more striking sound. It's just...it seemed to me a bit as a way to make these people sound a bit more backward so that it would be more believable that they would worship a creature like a Cratch. Only that seems to imply that worship of agricultural gods is linked with backwardness and...I'm just not sure that it quite worked for me.