I open my eyes, blink and try to focus on the bright lights set into the white ceiling flying past overhead. I hear beeps and muffled voices. It feels like I’m strapped to a camp stretcher, but it’s moving. I’m on a hospital gurney. What happened? I want to ask. But there’s a tube down my throat, and I can’t talk.

This is the opening paragraph from The Light Above on the Tall And True writers’ website. Please note that the Story Insight below contains spoilers.

Story Insight

I wrote The Light Above for the March 2024 Furious Fiction, the Australian Writers’ Centre’s 500-word flash fiction challenge. The brief for March was that each story had to include:

  • A character who revisits something
  • The same colour in its first and last sentence
  • And the words CAMP, FAST and SPARK (longer words retaining the original spelling were permissible).

When I started writing the story, I planned to have my character revisit a place, like their hometown, after a long absence. But I’ve drawn from the deep well of this autofiction for several other stories (I left Perth, WA, in 1983, when I was twenty-one), so instead, I switched on the “bright white light” of a near-death experience and the “place” became the afterlife … or life, depending on how you read the story.

I didn’t make the Writers’ Centre’s showcase or longlist for March, which left me feeling a “little low”. But fellow Furious Fiction writer Judd Exley, with whom I shared The Light Above, lifted my spirits with his enthusiastic feedback:

“Oh man, oh man, did I LOVE that story. That was brilliant, utterly brilliant.”

So, I picked myself up, revisited the story, rephrased a few passages, tweaked a word here and there, and shared it on Tall And True, my forty-second Furious Fiction (official and unofficial) since April 2020.

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Edits and More Edits

As I wrote in a 2020 blog post about the first story I wrote for the challenge, A Song on the Radio:

By its name and nature, Furious Fiction doesn’t afford writers time to reflect on their writing. But three weeks on I could see ways to improve my short story while respecting the 500-word limit. So, I edited and reworked the story before sharing it on Tall And True.

It was the same with The Light Above. The story I’ve shared on Tall And True differs from the one I submitted to the Writers’ Centre.

But I’ve respected the criteria and word-count rules, and the judge would still recognise the short story and, hopefully, agree that it’s better for my reflection and edits.

© 2024 Robert Fairhead

Thanks to Stefan Schweihofer for sharing the hospital corridor image on Pixabay.

This post was proofread by Grammarly
About RobertFairhead.com

About RobertFairhead.com

Welcome to the blog posts and selected writing of Robert Fairhead. A writer and editor at the Tall And True writers' website, Robert also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads podcast. In addition, his book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media, and he's published several collections of short stories. Please see Robert's profile for further details.


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