Our August Flash Contest was based on Creativity Prompt #164 (provided by Anya Geist, Stone Soup '20–21 Intern), which, combining art and writing, challenged participants to write a stream of consciousness piece based off of J.M.W. Turner's painting The Banks of the Loire. The result was, unsurprisingly, breathtaking! In their own unique ways, each piece evoked Turner's painting with stunning vividity. Reading the participants' work, it was easy to envision the kneeling lady in red, the arching trees, and the backdrop of the seacliff, the tops of sails just visible through the mist. Participants also interpreted the qualification of stream of consciousness in a variety of ways, with their submissions ranging from meandering prose without punctuation to highly structured poetry to paragraph blocks written from the perspective of a tree! As always, thank you to all who submitted, and please submit again next month!
In particular, we congratulate our Winners and our Honorable Mentions, whose work you can appreciate below.
"A River Flows in Me" by Inca Acrobat, 11 (San Francisco, CA)
"The Melancholy Landscape" by Sophie Liu, 9 (Surrey, BC, Canada)
"The Watcher" by Lui Lung, 12 (Danville, CA)
"Scattering Beams" by Emily Tang, 12 (Winterville, NC)
"The Banks of the Loire" by Alexis Zou, 13 (Lake Oswego, OR)
"A Dream or the End?" by Phoenix Crucillo, 13 (Los Angeles, CA)
"Thoughts Harbored" by Rex Huang, 11 (Lake Oswego, OR)
"Perspectives Not Human" by Ivy Liu, 9 (San Jose, CA)
"So Still" by Sophie Yu, 13 (Houston, TX)
"The Magical River" by Natalie Yue, 9 (San Carlos, CA)
A River Flows in Me
Inca Acrobat, 11
The Melancholy Landscape
Sophie Liu, 9
As gloomy as a muddy,
In the rain.
The trees wilting in the sky,
No longer proud and sturdy,
The sky covered in menacing,
Hiding the jumpy,
Not even a single shout,
A single bird chirping,
Or the wind howling.
The place is as tranquil as a person sitting beside a campfire,
With the stars glittering above them,
Without a sound being uttered.
Human being in the whole,
Vast greenery world.
The place is a boring
Without any beings,
Except blobs of nature to make up the empty,
Lui Lung, 12
There was a stillness that hovered in the air. It wasn’t the peaceful kind, more of the silence before a storm struck and razed everything in its path. I dutifully remained unmoving, listening faithfully for the endless thrum of life already etched into my memory. It was constant and ever-changing all at once, the irresolute rhythm to an unfinished song. This had become my existence: eagerly awaiting nothing by the riverbanks, observing a world I could not make a difference in until I grew too old to stand. The crunch of a fallen leaf snatched my attention, a discordant note in the delicately balanced symphony. A woman knelt, the sleeve of her dress slipping from her shoulder. This sight was not new to me. There had been hundreds before her who had visited, and thousands before them. Those who came and went were far too many to be remembered, both old and young, some carrying joy, but most bearing misery. Whether it was happiness or grief that led them to my home, I knew they all sought something for themselves, and I could tell from their faces what it was that they looked for. The desperate found comfort in meaningless details that went unnoticed by another, so that even the babbling of water could be heard as a familiar voice, or a breeze could be the huff of a lost lover’s breath. Then the woman shifted, my gaze leaping to her again, and her face was turned from me. The gleam of her dark hair gilded by noon sun was all I could see. Her perch was motionless beside the river, enough so that she could have been a painted figure listening for what only she could hear. She was indecipherable this way, a statue carved to be admired but never touched, beautiful but unreachable. Who was this mystery? What brought her here, to sit by these banks as I did? Did she hear the music in the rush of the Loire? I wanted to… I simply wanted, I realized. I wanted, and I could not have. Frustration burst like a wave. The sky inevitably splotched to orange and red, and the woman left me. She rose, the hem of her skirt against the ground a whispered addition to my song. I remained rooted in my position. People wandered here to find their purpose, but what was my own? I was the Watcher, I supposed, and I always would be. My purpose was to see and not feel, to ask my questions and to know they would not be answered. It was a bitter truth. I watched until the crimson of her dress became a faint speck, until the spell she had cast was lifted. How much longer would I continue to watch? Was I to stand here for a lifetime? I’d crumble eventually, slower than those I saw passing by, but I was dying all the same. Perhaps everyone did have a place in this grand composition I could not yet make sense of, and this was my cruel fate, a punishment for a crime I did not know of. A cool gust of wind rustled my branches. I stood still once more. The river murmured on.
Emily Tang, 12
The sun hits everywhere. The darkest crannies. The coldest nooks. The sun warms everything up, scaring away the dark. However, it also comes with a price. Take too much, and it will lash out at you. The beauty of the sun must not be used for greedy or evil purposes. However, many people don’t listen to that simple set of rules.
As a result, the world is down dark and dreary. Gray fog overruns the lands, never ending. I watch everyday as the sun attempts to shine its way through the clouds and mist. However, it gets smothered, cruelly and heartlessly. Like dreams that get so far only to wither up and die.
When the sun fell, people became horrid. Diseases, warfare, pollution, there are numerous examples. I usually go to a bridge and sit down to watch the sun fail over and over again. I can always see the sun the brightest there. In that area, there seems to be a small clearing where the mist doesn’t dare to go. Somedays I start to lose hope.
It is a fairly pretty place, with trees bordering the sides of the brick bridge, towering over its small frame. Just like the fog with the sun. The bridge is right next to a dock. The water seems to sweep away the mist, with its gentle currents. I can hear the water splash against the gray rocks that sit below me. Each and every day, I try my best to spread the word around. The result is laughter and jeering. Some listen though. Promise to do all they can. To help the sun rise again.
Occasionally, I hear the loud rumbling of the boats and ships that pass through the sea. The expertly crafted machines, so powerful that they can cut through the waves. I wish the sun could engineer like that. However, people don’t always get what they want. Learn it the hard way. Fine by me.
Help me. Help me.
The sun pleads.
My reproachful face as I turn away. Block it out. Then, the sun sinks below the horizon, its glow leaving the world behind. Until the next dawn.
One day, I saw the glimmering ocean. I looked up, and saw the sun trying its attempt again. I sat down, expecting to find the same result as all the other days. The sun looked strong. Gleaming, really. It sliced light through the clouds. Unfortunately, the fog and mist fought back, pushing the luminous knight back.
Cheering it on, I squinted, trying to look through the gray, invading army. Maybe it was the birds chirping. The grass shining. The chitter of the squirrels. Maybe it was the crisp air—the cleanest it had been in ages.
The sun broke through its suffocating prison. It shone bright on the grass. The squirrels. The birds.
Stunned silent, I watched as the light scared away the last of the clouds. Victory. At last.
The sun gleamed again, flashing a smile at me. The first smile in ages. And it wouldn’t be the last.
The Banks of the Loire
Alexis Zou, 13
Specks of gold in the clouds
Reminding that there is always beauty in everything
Rich auburn banks,
Summer heat baking them until they were a toasty golden brown
She sat by the banks of the Loire
Looking into the crystal midnight blues of river
Gazing into her eyes
A crying face stared back at her
They could’ve been sisters
By the way their faces looked
Soaked the hems of her dress
As she tried to lean closer
Hungrily drinking up the details of her face
Trying to remember
She reached out a trembling hand
Scooped up a handful of water, as if trying
To touch her face
Before the image dissolved and faded away
The Loire in all its glory
Pulled out her true self from deep beneath
They could’ve been sisters
Except she was smiling
And her reflection was not.
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