Emma's work struck a chord with us immediately. Some great pieces of writing are bold and plot driven, some deal with warring planets, and others with tragedy and loss, and some just explore the minds and lives of individuals that hardly get a second glance. And a lot of the times, they're the ones we should be looking at the most.
Shortlist - Flash Fiction 500
A Man of Means
Emma J Myatt
I’m a king.
My throne is by the graveyard gates on Union Street in Aberdeen, where I sit in my flowing robes, watching over my citizens. Some of them lay tributes at my feet; most ignore me – I am in camouflage, after all. I see the same people every day. I know all their names and their roles in my kingdom. They don’t know I’m a king.
I protect them all. I watch them all.
Sad Lady has a hungry face, worn shoes and a stapled-together handbag. She reminds me of someone: a woman I failed, in the hot, empty, desert, in the dark days before I became a king. She works at McDonald’s, right opposite my throne.
Every morning she brings me a cup of coffee and a smile. One day I tried to refuse the coffee for her sake but she smiled and said softly, ‘We’re all one family’. I thought about that statement a lot. It made me feel light as air, that she’d said it. So for a day I pretended I wasn’t a king, that we were indeed all one family, but then someone kicked me and someone else spat near my cup and I thought, No, Sad Lady, you’re wrong about that. Just you. You can be in my Royal Family.
The richest ones are usually the rudest. Jealousy, maybe. There’s one man, Tweedy, who’s never acknowledged me even when I smile at him. He stalks past in shades of grey-green every day and disappears into a swanky upstairs office just down from McDonald’s.
One day I’ve been given more tributes than usual so I stand up, thinking about buying a burger from Sad Lady. As I move forwards, I see a running blur to my right, coming right at me. I have no time to move and someone crashes into me, almost making me fall. I get my balance back and see that it’s Tweedy, breathing hard, down on the pavement. He makes a gasping noise so I go to help him, as a king should. I’m duty-bound to help my subjects. As I reach out to him he sees me and flinches away, barking, ‘Don’t touch me!’
I stand back and watch him pick himself up and walk away. On the ground are some pieces of paper that must have fallen out of his pocket. I’m picking them up and am about to shout to him when I notice a scratchcard with loads of matching 000000s. Very quickly, it goes beneath my robes. I leave the rest, go back and sit on my throne. In a few minutes he’s back, eyes wild, searching the ground. I decide it’s time for that burger, before he remembers I exist.
Sad Lady’s upstairs at McDonald’s, clearing tables. She doesn’t see me as I pass her, no more than a whisper in the air, and slip the scratchcard into her pocket."