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'Looking back ...' - flash excerpts

Updated: Apr 14, 2023


This week's writing prompt for members of Sydney School of Arts & Humanities' writing groups was the simple phrase 'looking back ...'



Sometimes looking back isn’t entirely voluntary.


It’s common for me to be transported, almost unwillingly, to a previous time in my life. Maybe I smell something or hear the chords of a song. My smell and hearing senses are enough to carry me, like a wave swelling up, when I haven’t even had time to grab my surfboard or catch my breath.


Which is why I find the term 'looking back ...' a little too clinical or rational. I don’t simply look back with my eyes but rather my whole body.


All of my senses are involved in landing somewhere in the past.

Clara Andrade


Next, two flash fiction approaches to the prompt:


At the start of the 100m sprint a gunshot cracked, the sound reverberating against Emma’s eardrums as a wave of adrenalin ricocheted through her body.


Instinctively she threw her weight forward, pushing one foot against the starting block and lifting her other foot in tune with her arms until she felt momentum rising within her and her pace quickening.


She sucked air into her lungs, driving her fear into remission. The overwhelming scent of freshly cut grass nearby filled her nostrils as she leaned into the bend and pulled away. Shadows and faces lunged at her from her peripheral vision then vanished. Screams and shouts rang in her ears as a wave of heat flushed her cheeks, and beads of perspiration streamed from her forehead.


There was still time, she thought, and yet there was no time at all. Ahead in clear view was the finishing line. So close now, and yet all the while, a thunderous rumbling was building behind her.


Emma looked back.


The runners burst past her as she threw herself over the line and pulled up, bending over with exhaustion, pushing her hands onto her thighs as she panted.


‘Emma! If I catch you looking back at the crucial moment again, I'm going to find myself a different star athlete to train. This is basic. Don't look back! It's ruining your career.’


Emma looked up.


‘Sorry, coach. It's my insatiable curiosity!'

Robert Carrick



Damon and Jarrett sat side by side on a metal fence at the edge of a cliff. They faced into the cold grey wind coming off the sea, takeaway coffee cups cradled in their hands. Neither spoke - instead, both simply watched.

At length, Damon took a deep breath and released a heavy sigh. 'This is where I hooked up with Kathy,' he said. 'We came here with a few drinks after the Year 12 formal. We're almost sitting in the same spot.'

Jarrett looked across at his mate. 'You didn’t bring us here so you could mack on me, did ya?'

Damon gave Jarrett a withering sidelong glance.

Jarrett grimaced, took a sip of his coffee. 'Sorry man. I’m not good at this stuff like you. I’ve never really known what it feels like to be in love.'

They subsided back into silence.

Jarrett pointed down at the sandy crescent below. He paused, then let his arm drop. 'I’m trying to help. But you’re right, I should stop.'

Damon wiped at his eyes with a knuckle. 'It’s alright. I know what you were going to say.'

Jarrett perked up. 'Aw yeah? What?'


'It's where the girls came to get their tits out and tan topless.'


Jarrett's jaw dropped.


'That's where Kathy first caught my eye, too.' As Damon looked at Jarrett he saw a frown pass across his brow, so he quickly said, 'That wasn't it?'


Jarrett shook his head. 'Nah. I was gonna say, you have to look back to look forward."


Matt Jackson


Copyright: texts from the authors cited above; photos: runners Wix; surf mfsprout.


Posts on this SSOA blog are published to showcase the work of emerging writers who meet weekly to workshop stories. The posts comprise some of the responses written in just 10 minutes as a warm up to the meetings.


If you'd like to join any of our groups, contact us at ssoa.com.au

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