Matter Flash Fiction Competition



Thank you for everyone who submitted. The shortlisted finalists are listed below, huge congratulations to those.

Winner to be announced at Matter 2018 launch at Waterstones 23rd May. Everyone welcome. 

Life in a Teacup by Alison Woodhouse

A Haunting by Alex Murray

Dead Things in the Water by Gaynor Jones


Life in a Teacup

By Alison Woodhouse

4. Mother’s day. Specks of black leaves floating in tepid water. Your father clumps ahead up the stairs. You’re not allowed to carry the tray. Calm down, stop jumping, now it’s spilt all over the eiderdown, stop crying, naughty girl.


6. Brownie badge. Too milky, too bitter, too hot, too sweet. Look how many badges your sister has. You’ll never be a good girl guide. Duke of Edinburgh? Isn’t that for boys?


11. Tasting notes. Donna’s got dunking biscuits and no dad; lives with her mum at her granny’s house. You’re invited to stay over.


15. In times of trouble. Sit down, they say, let’s have a cuppa and talk. Why did you do it? Trouble at home? You can trust us. Honest.


17. After birth. Take a sip of pure sweetness. For the first time in your life, you know you’ve earned it.


22. Mother’s day. Your daughter wobbles in with a cup of tepid water, black specks floating at the top, leaps into your arms and soaks the duvet.


30. 3 tiered cake stand. Your mum and daughter fill it with fairy cakes and hope.


36.  After birth. You sip thirstily, watching the child on your daughter’s breast.


41. Post surgery. You feel a black hole inside your body and know it wasn’t a success.


44. Medicinal. Forget herbal. Lace it with morphine.



45. After. You chose a grassy meadow and a wicker basket. The clock stopped at ten to three and there was honey for our tea.

A Haunting

By Alexander B.G. Murray

Every morning, the ghosts of Sheffield’s trees flicker on like faulty street lamps. They kept on growing after they were cut; up and up and up.

It’s hard to get used to a haunting. Teenagers dare each other to slap the stumps like they’re electrified. Birds plummet through the translucent twigs in dismay. But the thing with ghosts is: They want something and if you don’t get it, they start demanding. So, the trees tap on shop windows and trip up cars and thwack the bums of passing builders.

The Council called in priests to chop them down again, this time with words. From the prow of open-top buses they glided in like a triumphant football team, gesticulating at where the trees’ ears might be. Cassocks plastered to bellies, the priests ended their parade with clumsy karate chops aimed at passing pataphysical branches; still, the trees flickered up like so many middle fingers.

Next came the contractors who’d done the chopping. They doffed their hard hearts – I mean hats – but the trees burned even brighter. Councillors appeared bearing thin wreaths and thick plaques; the wraiths roared over their lowered heads. Exasperated, they ascended the stumps like podiums. The torches softened; their stand-ins stiffened into statues.

The ghosts had got what they wanted.


Six months later, Sheffield has never been so happy. Instead of polling days, we have pollarding weeks; whenever Councillors grow too dangerous, threatening to undermine homes and lives, we simply replace them with a newer crop.


Dead Things in the Water

By Gaynor Jones


When she is seventeen I receive an urgent message from my daughter’s college. Active shooter. I sit on the couch, turn on the television and wait.


When she is thirteen, I attend a meeting about my daughter’s artwork. It ends with the teacher placing copies of her pictures in a file, and the originals crammed in the place I’ve been storing things for years.


When she is nine I’m called out of a colleague’s leaving meal to return home immediately. I hand over the money to our sitter, plus a month extra in return for her discretion.


When she is six I’m summoned to her grandmother’s house. There I’m shown bite marks, pen scrawls and a flooded bathroom. We arrange for once monthly letters instead.


When she is three she calls me over to her water tray. Two snails, a worm, half a dozen ants, floating or sinking. She claps her hands, jumps up as I bury my fears.


On the screen, students with hands clasped overhead and parents hand-wringing at barriers. I dig my nails into my fist. There is not much information available. But I know her school has a pool. I turn off the television, close the curtains, and wait for the phone to ring.