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Mini Sledgehammer November 2019

Chris Smith’s stories are regular favorites. Check out his latest winning story below, and if you haven’t read his others yet, search his name in the search bar. It’s like you’re own mini-collection of Chris Smith flash fiction!

Prompts:
Character: A traveling Evangelist
Actions: Forgetting the song lyrics
Setting: Inside a cup
Prop: A rejected manuscript

Congrats on another win, Chris!


Electric ChapelAventures in Portland 2019 (223)-Edit

By Chris Smith

Her hands gripped the steering wheel tight. Her long red nail glistened in the moonlight like talons of an eagle. She descended to me when I was in a dark place in my life. She first came on the television and was I was hypnotized. Her words touched my soul and lifted my spirit to a realm I never knew existed. It was only minutes long but the goosebumps lasted hours.

I had to find everything I could about her. Her past, her present, and our future. I was devoted to her! I found a small, yet growing following online. We were close knit and support each other. A group of societal rejects bowing at her feet. Worshipping her every move like God herself.

We tried to spread her self-written gospel far and wide but rejection came at every turn. She was too much, too different, too…weird. People would turn from her grace, her commandments, forgetting the words of her hymns in a few months declaring them a one hit wonder. But we, especially me, knew better.

Soon she started spreading the word across the nation; hitting every city big and small. She preached on stages, then theatres, then stadiums, then whole arenas. People started to take notice and see the talent some of us always knew was always there. We were so happy to see the small, nurturing cup of joy that is our star grow into a fully-fledged Queen. She rode our love and worship to the top of the charts. We owe our salvation to her, and she owes her fame to our devotion.

© 2019 Chris Smith


Chris Smith says, “I’m an aspiring filmmaker, photographer and writer. I enjoy crafting stories about the weird yet interesting mundane parts of life, whether it is visually or on the page. When not writing, I can be found taking photos around town or binging on TV show and movies.”

Mini Sledgehammer October 2019

This month’s Mini Sledge brought out a supernatural flash fiction piece from Jacin Harter. Congratulations on your first win, Jacin!

The prompts were:
Character: A psychic
Action: Hitting the brakes
Setting: Beside an old tree
Phrase: “That’s incomplete.”


Beyond Belief

By Jacin HarterJacin

This was the last straw…  Weeks of forensics had led nowhere, but the frustration had not driven Sgt. Troutbottom mad enough to resort to supernatural bollocks.  Every promising clue had turned into a dead end, with Chief Inspector Pillows insisting his psychic premonitions would guide them to the answer.

Sgt. Troutbottom stood by a withering, old oak whose naked limbs cast clawing shadows over the latest victim.  He peered at the corpse without stooping.  This was simple: a hit and run, driver didn’t hit the brakes in time, no witnesses this far out in the sticks so he drove off.  Open and shut.

He could hear Pillows shouting at the other officer, ‘This evidence log is incomplete!  I want all these metal filings listed by length and weight.  Nothing near the body is inconsequential.  Am I clear?!’Clear as a cracked crystal ball, Sgt. Troutbottom thought.  The inspector’s current hypothesis: an extraterrestrial made of intangible psychic energy (which only he could detect) had descended upon this lonesome pasture to study cattle from the inside out.  The metal filings, along with an assortment of bottle caps and rusted nails, were among an assortment of ‘psychic instruments’ used by the alien in its dissection study.

Sgt. Troutbottom peered again at the dead cow.  ‘Waste of fucking time.  Waste of good beef.’

© 2019 Jacin Harter


Creativity is like a tiger on a string – hardly captured and just a few frightful fuffs away from devouring Jacin Harter whole. For the past six years this Jacin and this tiger have been sighted in Portland, OR, randomly strutting through radio theatres, travel videos, vasectomy parties, and dog buses.  Exactly who is leading whom is ambiguous indeed, and one is advised to take caution when approaching either.

Mini Sledgehammer September 2018

This month’s winner notes that he’s grateful to get to “pick up a bottle and book in exchange for a few dubious words.” Congratulations, Craig! He adds, “I should note that there were some truly terrific stories tonight.  These events provide such a great opportunity to hear some fine sentences carved out in just a few minutes by intriguing and clever people.” We’re glad you enjoy them.


Prompts:

Character: A woman executive
Action: Good will hunting
Setting: The International Space Station
Prop: An old radio


Directive 38foster

by Craig Foster

Directive 38 was nothing more than an afterthought, really. An exercise coughed up from an office outside Mission Control with a view toward figuring out how to pass ourselves off to the others, out at the farthest reaches. Presuming they hadn’t met us already, this would be a preemptive strike in terms of letting them know we’re OK. Not to be feared.

Or trifled with, though.

It was little more than a good will hunting mission, and Bobbi W called in Dr. Kuwahara to lead it. She’d been part of the training program near Enoshima, Japan. A test of whether dolphins truly were as smart or smarter than us. The jury was still out, but a few of them made it through school fairly quickly and two had already been granted PhDs. Dr. Kuwahara – a damn bottlenose, no less – had expertise in astronomical sociology and would be put to good use. Bobbi W, the first woman executive at the space agency, set the wheels in motion and arranged for Dr. Kuwahara to be transported in a tank to the launch pad in Kyrgyzstan.

It wasn’t the craziest thing that had ever happened to the good doctor. And she looked forward to presenting humans to the others as best as possible. Leave out the bits about nets and knives. Or weave a story around them that might put everyone at ease. You couldn’t count on an attack on people not also causing some collateral damage in the seas and on the savannahs.

It took a bit to get to the International Space Station, but the launch was moderately safe and the tank held its water.

The welcoming party was limited to the biologist, also from Japan. That didn’t exactly float well with Dr. Kuwahara, but she refrained from spouting too much. Told herself, it’s a flipping test, Sadako. Don’t let them stop you from heading out a bit further. So, she didn’t. Made one of those noises everyone pegged for laughter, and the biologist said something polite and encouraging to her.

They’d built a supermarine for Directive 38. A maneuverable pod filled with water and provided with just enough of the button controls Dr. Kuwahara would be familiar with from her time at the university. The communication mechanism looked like an old radio, which didn’t matter to the doctor, as she didn’t plan to talk to use it. No need to talk to anyone back at the station once she was out and about. There were three channels if she needed them, however: one that received sounds from within a few hundred thousand miles, another that allowed for communication with the station, and a third that played familiar audio from Earth. Some dolphin-speak to provide a presumed measure of comfort. A little bit from above ground, just for kicks. And a mix of French chansons, big band instrumentals, post-punk thrash, and news of the world.

A couple of astronauts joined the biologist, and after a series of checks were made Dr. Kuwahara’s tank was wheeled toward the already-filled supermarine. There was a waterlock filled with just enough liquid to allow for what the humans determined was an easy transfer from one watery home to another. They were half right. Dr. Kuwahara took a blow to the nose during the transfer, but everyone applauded and felt even better when she made that laughing noise again.

She clearly was of the proper demeanor for this mission.

 

Space isn’t empty. Not at all. In fact, it’s packed. It gets lonely because there’s too much matter out there. More than enough atoms to choke an endless supply of dolphins. But Dr. Kuwahara loved it. She turned a few times in the supermarine, staring through the two windows provided. One at the bottom of the tank, and one at what must be the front of the thing. Showing where she was heading, in any event.

She hit the radio and it played La Mer.

The good doctor went over the mission in her head. Humans: 1; Others: 0.5. Just to shw it wasn’t a completely uneven playing field. She played in her head everything she would communicate to whatever she found. Of salt and blood, buckets of fish. How to be right and proper in their eyes. When to speak and when to just watch. Mention their favorite jokes.

Say how to stay alive.

Or maybe reveal the one spot where she knew the humans were vulnerable. For kicks.

The song switched to La Vie En Rose, and this time she did laugh.

© 2018 Craig Foster


Craig Foster is an editor based in Portland, Oregon who every now and then tries to write stories. These usually revolve around oddballs and misfits, the most normal people he knows. Tahoma Literary Review, Buckman Journal, 1001, and Arq Press have published a few of these tales, which should prompt an investigation into their decision-making process. Lastly, the author would never misrepresent his physical appearance with a photo from twenty years ago. There are ethical standards to be maintained.

Mini Sledgehammer October 2017

This month’s winner says, “Thanks for keeping literature alive! I enjoyed the event. It was refreshing and novel—it gives writers a sense of community and a reason to be social.” Aw, thanks, Brad!

***

Prompts:

Character: Pilgrim
Action: Crashing
Setting: Secret Room
Phrase: “Don’t wait up.”

***

The Bus Chronicles

by Brad Baymon

Here I stand!

Upon a fast moving train
as it passes by residential buildings with
glimmers of light.

I notice 4 bystanders who look like tourists,
2 men, 2 women.
The women are conversating,
the men impassive as they stare out the window into a cool dark night.
I notice the train’s lights flicker!

The women’s dialect changes,
my body temperature rises,
I feel a strange sensation all over my body.

As I raise my head I catch the farewell of a dying sunset.

Boom! All thing converging into one.

Boom! Time becomes lost within the frames of a second.

Boom! I am everything.

Present in the secret room
I’ve just entered in the reality never found.

The pilgrim in a place conveniently hidden from eyes that envy the most.

I see a young boy lavish his girl friend with kisses,
my heart a viewer in the midst of love unfolding,
tears pool,  in the corner of my eyes.

If this is true love, life in all it’s conformities is a crime against humanity.

As the train rumbles
across paved track,  I hear the crashing of steel and iron.
Speak shall I.
Is the train going fast, I ask the tourist?
“Yes it does feel fast! ”
“But I guess if you have some place to be it doesn’t.”

Exactly, I say: That’s the theory of relativity.

As the boy’s lips pulls away from his heart’s attraction,
“I love you”, ” I love you”,  was his word,
conveyed to me by the quicksilver of the moment.

As a baby in the stroller yells: Wow!
Ooooo!

The train slows down and the conductor comes on over the loud speaker.  “Sorry we have to switch operators!”

So if you’re in a hurry and have to get home, call your loved ones and tell them don’t wait up.

© 2017 Brad Baymon

***

Brad Baymon: Resident of Beaverton, from Chicago. I’m a poet, writer of fantastic realism. Aspiring author, playwright, and director of the avant garde. I’m writing a series of fantastic realism short stories, similar to the one that won this Mini Sledgehammer. Lover of life, complex thinker, avid wanderer. And a kindred spirit immersed in the world.

Mini Sledgehammer September 2017

Congratulations to this month’s winner, Tovia Gehl!

***

Prompts:
A ship
A giant calendar
The milkman
Climate change

***

Burn What You Don’t Need

by Tovia Gehl

Fresh off the ship, I hadn’t expected Nick to come pounding at my window at 3am.

“Christ, what?” I snarled as I slid open the pane of glass and let in a rush of smoke. Coughing and eyes instantly watering, I looked out at my one-time best friend. “The hell do you want?”

He was grim, too grim even for our sordid history. “Gotta go, Kala. The fires are coming over the mountain. Firefighters say everyone’s gotta get out now.”

I stared at him, my feet still feeling like I was washing around in the open ocean. I’d just gotten home from deployment the night before, and I hadn’t had time to even unpack my bag.

“Kala,” he said, and there was a note of urgency in his voice I knew I couldn’t  ignore.

“Right,” I said, hoisting my still packed bag full of dirty uniforms and trinkets from the myriad of southeast Asian islands we’d been puttering around for months. I scanned my house once. It was still cold and unfeeling from my absence – my giant calendar with sailor boys, a departure gift from Nick’s sister Margo, was still nine months behind. Long enough to have a baby, my sleep addled mind came up with, but I left that and everything else behind as Nick hustled me into his car.

“Margo says she dropped you off last night,” he told me.

“Yeah, my car’s…” I trailed off as I caught sight of the ridge line, alight with the fires of hell. “Jesus.”

Nick slammed his door shut and then we raced off down the long driveway. He drove us in silence and I stared out the window as we joined the long procession of cars fleeing. Every few moments there was a burst of sparks and ashes the size of dinner plates fell from the sky. Two fire trucks passed us going the other way and I looked after them, uncomprehending of the courage it would take to run into the mouth of the devil like that. “Remember when you wanted to be a fire truck?” I asked Nick eventually.

He slipped me a sidelong look. “I wanted to be a fireman.”

“Nope, you wanted to be a fire truck so your dad told you to hold water in your mouth and spit it at things and then you spat it at your mom and she threw a towel at your dad and he laughed and hid behind the empty milk bottles.” Their house had burned down three fire seasons ago, so they’d left our sleepy town called Firbridge with the milkman behind and now they had to get milk from the store like the rest of us. I sobered up a bit. “Are they okay?”

“Yeah, they’re in Puerto Rico.”

“So, hurricanes?” He grimaced at that. “Sorry. Climate change is a bitch. This has happened before. Sea life. Trees. Dinosaurs. Sea life again. Different when it’s us.”

We didn’t talk again until we were across the river and then I couldn’t help it. “Why’d you come back for me anyhow?” Sleep deprivation made me slur my words and ask things I usually wouldn’t dream of. Nick and I hadn’t spoken since our disastrous prom night where I told him he’d never be good enough to leave Firbridge and he told me to go die in the ocean. I’d replayed that conversation half a hundred times since I’d left two years ago and had told myself that if I ever saw him again, I’d apologize. But now I was choking on the ash in my throat.

He looked at me like I’d left my mind somewhere in the Solomon Islands. “You think I’m going to let you burn to death?”

“I’d have gotten out.”

“I remember how deep you sleep.” And that plunged us back into awkward silence.

Once we were across the river he pulled over to the side of the road. We got out and leaned on the hood of his car. The ash was already thick underneath my fingers and I had to blink what felt like every second because of the grit in my eyes. “This is terrifying,” I said in a low voice. “Thanks for going into it for me. And I… I’m sorry. For everything.”

“I’d always come back for you,” he told me. “And you’d come back for me. Remember when you used to draw on your eczema lotion like war paint and scream down the canyon like a wild thing? Nothing scares you.” He coughed and then shrugged after his little speech like it made him embarrassed. “And it’s not like a bunch of idiot things we said as stupid kids matter now.”

So I leaned into him just a little and we breathed in the smoke of burning memories together and then let them burn up with the mountain.

© 2017 Tovia Gehl
***
Tovia Gehl is a reader, writer, traveler, whiskey and beer drinker, and animal lover. When she’s not busy with any of those things she works with a law firm learning all the dirty deeds and terrible sorrows of humanity. Ideally, one day she’ll become an author and not just a writer, but right now she’s content with all the exuberant imperfection in her words and life.

Mini Sledgehammer July 2017

Chris has become a familiar face at Chris SmithIndigo events lately, particularly our weekly Sit Down, Shut Up, and Write event and our monthly happy hours. It’s great to see him at Mini Sledgehammer now too, especially winning!

***

Prompts:
Character: Church choirs back up baritone
Setting: behind a screen door
Prop: Black Bat
Phrase: “That can’t be real”

***

Young and Discovering

by Chris Smith

 

FADE IN:

INT. DAY- NIGHT

Charlie is sitting at his computer watching a video with
his friend Alex hunched over him watching in awe.

ALEX

I don’t know how you find this kind of
stuff. Not that I really want to know.

CHARLIE

Trust me it’s a mystery to me too. But
that’s the internet for you. Just a few
clicks can lead you down a very…
interesting path.

The two teenage boys continue to watch the images on the
screen that seem to flash by them.

ALEX

How is that even possible. Like where did
she put it!

CHARLIE

I know, right! It just straight up
disappeared into her.

Beat.

CHARLIE CONT.

Every thought of doing something like
that?

Alex looks at him confused.

ALEX

I mean it looks interesting. These women
sure have a lot of skill to be doing this
all the time, I mean…

Something on the screen catches his eye.

ALEX CONT.

Holy shit! Look at her with that bat. That
black one really knows how to work it!
That can’t be real!

CHARLIE

I know! She is definitely the best on of
the group. But again. Would you do this in
like real life?

Charlie looks Alex right into his eyes with a smirk on his
face. Alex stares nervously back at him.

ALEX

I…I don’t know. I mean it seems pretty
cool to try out with someone, but I… I
can’t. Like I’ve finally made it to a
prime position in the church: backup to
the backup baritone in the choir. I don’t
really want to lose it because of…

Alex gets distracted by the blurred images that continue to
whirl around on the screen in front of them.

Charlie continues to stare more at Alex than at the screen
with a mix of interest and wonder.

CHARLIE

You know, I could help you out with it. At
least the first time.

Alex finally tears his eyes from the computer to look at
Charlie confused.

ALEX

Like you, know how do anything that these
women are doing?

CHARLIE

Well not exactly, but I’ve been watching
it for years, so I’ve learned a lot.

ALEX

I just don’t think it’s something for me.
I mean it looks fun and stuff, just… I
don’t think I’m that talented.

CHARLIE

See that’s the thing, you are talented
enough to do it. You need to stop living
your life behind a screen door just
watching and step outside for once. At
least that’s what the main one always
says.

They stare intensely at each other for a moment.

ALEX

Okay, okay fine. Only if you are there to
help me out.

CHARLIE

Sure, whatever you want.

They stare at each other for a moment before returning to
the screen.

ALEX

What’s the main one’s name again?

Charlie laughs a little.

CHARLIE

RuPaul.

The boys continue to watch RuPaul’s Drag Race in awe of the
performances of the queens.

FADE OUT:

THE END

©2017 Chris Smith

***

I’m an aspiring filmmaker and writer from South Florida. I enjoy crafting stories about the weird yet interesting mundane parts of life, whether it is visually or on the page. When not writing, I can be found taking photos around town or binging on TV show and movies.

Mini Sledgehammer February 2017

We had a very special Mini Sledgehammer this month, because it fell on Valentine’s Day. What better way to celebrate than with a glass of wine and some great stories?

We mixed up the prompt style a bit this month. Here’s what the judges came up with:
The velvet glove
Hysteria Drive
Blonde’s Heart of Glass
Umbrella

Congrats to J. Turner Masland for winning! Here’s how he incorporated the prompts.

***

Umbrella

by J. Turner Masland

Much like witchcraft, fighting fascism is an ancient tradition that will always find a place in modern times. Instructions are rarely documented, occasionally transcribed, and most commonly passed through the generations orally. There are periods of times when our activities feel almost mainstream, and other times it is necessary for us to go underground. Today, we are in a time of transition. We are shaking off the cobwebs, coming out of the shadow, and hitting the street.masland

That said, it’s still not safe to live out loud. Persecution can come from anywhere, at any time, swiftly and strongly. Our resistance must be nimble and most importantly creative. Like a tropical hurricane, members of the revolution are drawn together like charged atmospheric particles, rain down chaos and disruption and then disappear like a strong wind. We are unpredictable. We are dangerous. We are necessary for the survival of the planet.

A successful action will appear serendipitous to the public eye, but often take weeks of tactical planning. Our plans cannot be documented. In the age of electronic transfer of information, meeting in person is still less dangerous than snapchat. The key is to find a location to meet someplace public and innocuous yet a where we will go unnoticed. Members of the Velvet Glove have a long history of meeting in libraries. Much like revolutionaries, at first glance libraries appear serene but in reality are quite subversive.

I love that the local university is located on Hysteria Drive. It adds an element of feminism to its location. I walk in and pull out my earbuds, Blonde’s Heart of Glass is replaced by the dull murmur of a library at the start of finals week.

I arrive two hours early. It’s important that I blend in. I must look like a college student. I wander the stacks, pulling copies of Foucault. His original writing, critiques, analysis. I pull down bell hooks. And just for fun, some Alison Bechdel. No matter what city or state I am in, I know I will find my friends in the library.

I find an open table in a corner of the quiet floor and read. Even with an authority regime undermining American Democracy, there is always time to read.

I must have fallen asleep, as I am shaken awake by a soft hand.

“Excuse me, have you lost your umbrella?” says a soft voice.

The word umbrella jolts me awake. It’s the password of the Velvet Glove. Used to pass messages between members of various cells. For our protection, it best not to know every member of the organization. But usually, it’s used when you’re expecting a communique from another group. Hear it out of context instantly makes me paranoid. I don’t recognize this petite woman. I notice her name badge and I realize that she is a reference librarian here.

“Excuse me?” I ask.

“Your umbrella. I noticed you don’t have it with you today.”

Her eyes are sharp. There is a bead of sweat at her hairline.

“You’re right, I didn’t expect it to rain.”

“Oh dear,” she says “In the pacific northwest you really shouldn’t leave home without one. I have an extra in my office, why don’t you come and see if it will meet your needs.”

Much like a sex worker, a revolutionary must decide in a heartbeat if they can trust a stranger or not. I decide to trust the librarian.

“Ok,” I start to gather my books. I realize I am sweating, too.

“Please leave the books here, I really need to get you an umbrella. Follow me, my office is just one floor down.

For such a small woman, she moves quickly. Like a shark, she glides between tables. It’s almost like she is trying to lose me. The path through the stacks she takes me on feels like a path through the labyrinth.

I glance at my watch. I was supposed to meet my fellow operatives right now. I glance back at my table, hoping they will wait for me.

As I glance back, we pass two police officers. My heartbeat is in my throat. Cops in the library are never a good sign.

“Follow me through the staff entrance. Don’t stop moving.”

As she leads me to the door behind the circulation desk, I look out the big glass windows and see three young men sitting on the ground, hands behind their backs, with six officers standing over them in a menacing manner. One of the young men is sobbing. The other two have blank expressions on their faces. And, that’s when I realize, I’ve been saved by the librarian.

© 2017 J. Turner Masland

***

J. Turner Masland is a librarian, currently working at Portland State University as the Access Services Assistant Manager. Originally from new Hampshire, he has lived in Portland since 2006. When not in the library, he enjoys hiking, swimming, trips to the coast, and working on his writing. You can learn more about him at masland.weebly.com or follow him on twitter @deweysnotdead.