hysteria 5 cover

Sea change by Sharon Telfer, winner of the Hysteria 2016 flash fiction category

My heart sank.

I watched it go. It fought hard to keep afloat. I took my boathook, knocked back its jellyfish pulses. I had to make sure. Cracked, it bubbled silver as it dropped, an aspirin fizz then one toxic gulp like mercury breaking from a thermometer. It stopped struggling after that, twisted, turned in the tug of the tide, spiralling slowly down into the deep dark.

I watched until I could see it no more.

My mother warned me. You never know when you might want it back. To shut her up, I marked it by the harbour buoy. I knew I wouldn’t need it again. I crossed off years well enough without it, the sea coming in, going out, working, eating, sleeping. Except on stormy nights. The wild clamour of the buoy bell woke me then. I’d hug the pillow over my ears and curse my mother.

But she was right. Of course.

There you were, one day, end of the pier, leaning into the wind like a figurehead. For the first time since I drowned my heart, I licked my roughened, seaside lips and tasted salt.

That night I rowed out and let down my net. I threw back the crabs and the mackerel, rubbed off the barnacle crust by the light of the moon. My pearlescent heart shone, strange, hard, beautiful.

I bent my back to the oars and headed for land, heart thumping like a fresh caught fish.


Sharon Telfer won the June 2016 Bath Flash Fiction Award and has a story in this year’s National Flash Fiction Day anthology. She cut her flash fiction teeth winning the @AdHocFiction and @FaberAcademy weekly competitions. She works as a non-fiction writer and editor, translating social policy research into everyday English.

You can meet Sharon on Twitter @sharontelfer

You can find Sharon’s story, alongside the other flash fiction runners up in Hysteria 5, the anthology from the Hysteria Writing Competition 2016. You can purchase it direct from the Shop


  1. I quick comment to mark my admiration of this winning flash fiction story: I think it might be my favourite piece of flash fiction ever! It is lyrical and dark and beautiful and strange – it’s got everything.
    Congratulations to Sharon.

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