Hey everyone! Wow – what an awesome crop of stories we had! Great job, everyone who submitted. You should all be proud.
Huge, HUGE thanks to last week’s winners, AV Laidlaw and Steph Ellis, who sure had their hands full judging this week. I did not envy them at all! (Sorry I couldn’t give you extra credit, Jessica! lol)
A quick reminder: I could really use some additional volunteers to help run the contest. Need more details about what that would entail? I’ve got them for you! Please let me know if you can help. I’ll try to make it as painless as possible.
All right, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…
Meadows of Deception – Emily Clayton (chosen by both judges!)
AV’s comments: Full of visceral description of battle, making the trauma and memories more vivid than reality. Really puts you in the mind of the narrator and how he sees the world.
Steph’s comments: Memories of war are powerful things. A peaceful meadow is still the battlefield, the gopher’s hole is where the enemy lay in wait. Evocative.
Adam, Eve and 5E+10 Spectators – DE Park
AV’s comments: An idea that really appeals to me; a war happening within our bodies.
Red Letter Home – Brady Koch
AV’s comments: I liked the central image of the dying man writing his final letter in the blood of his betrothed. Two people bonded together by something more than mere words.
Night Shift – Voima Oy
Steph’s comments: Tightly-written vampire story without even mentioning the creature. The comparison of the sugar craving with that for blood and the necessity of cutting down was clever and typical of many women in that they think about it after indulging!
Dining in the Donjon – Ed Broom
Vampires and comedy, doesn’t happen often so it was nice to see some humour. Love the idea of vampire bats adopting a fruit bat and trying to raise it in the traditional way. At least the parents love it regardless!
Beliefs About God – dazmb
AV’s comments: As well as the great images in this poem, there’s a sense of movement in the rhythm; the “bat’s” flight and finding of its victim mimicked by the lines getting shorter towards the end. And then the final lines that turn all the imagery of caves, whispers, darkness and echoes on their head – “is the iridescent radiance / of hummingbirds”. There’s a lot packed into these few words.
Crazy Making – Bill Engleson
AV’s comments: I loved not only the satire behind this, but the full-bodied word play – “We pamper rich, wilting, woebegone roses”. As well as being funny for its own sake, it really brings the character of the doctor to life, never easy when you’ve only got a hundred words or so.
Long-term Plans – Clive
Steph’s comments: The story starts of so calmly, an analysis of the association of colours with emotions, all done in a very ‘doctorly’ tone. So much control in the voice and tone of the person making these observations, until you get to the last line which delivers the twist that that person is the insane killer and the one being watched is the person in actual authority. Excellent writing.
The Clinic – Sal Page
Steph’s comments: This appealed to my darker side because of the sheer contrast in imagery. The patient goes from a world of lilac and pastel to a world of horror and blood. Gruesome carcasses and sheets of skin paint a disturbing picture, enough to put anyone off the idea of plastic surgery. It leaves me wanting to know what happens next. (Challenge to Sal: turn this into a short story, I’d love to read it). [Note from KM: Agreed!]
Before we get to our winners, here are my favorite lines from this week.
“There is a cave, where shadows gather.
It’s full of the things you cannot name,
a leather wing beat, a skittering echo,
skimming the pulse of the night.” – dazmb
““You’re a dashed fool, coming out here. There’s nothing to be done.”
“Quite so, ” he said, wrapping Petersen in his arms one last time. “Hush.”” – Dave James Ashton
“Jim was lying in a ditch in a pool of blood. He insisted he’d been dreaming of war.” – Holly Geely
br> Frank, however, wasn’t prepared to have his prizewinning rosebush, named after his wife, blown to smithereens by some relic from the past, so he snuck through the cordon to save it.” – CR Smith
“She tried not to think of her hunger, the irresistible urge that was even more addictive than the craving for sugar the nurses were always joking about.” – Voima Oy
“Such a pretty flush on his soft cheeks. When I escape, I’ll kill him last.” – Clive
“Here, at the Sunshine and Lollipop your Pills Retreat for the Temporarily Unhinged, we offer a gamut of creature comforts, unsurpassed pharmaceuticals, and the most soothing Muzak.” – Bill Engleson
“She put her hand to her sticky face. Something was very wrong.” – Sal Page
“They’re coming! Dragging twisted flesh and jagged bone, the rot, the sludge, the stink.” – Emily Clayton
“‘Is it wrong to hope for another war?’” – AJ Walker
““Corporal, meet the only other surviving civilization of the Romeo and Juliet War, about twenty five billion nano-enhanced lymphocytes—and their macro scale host, of course. Her name is Susan.”E.” – DE Park
“I chose my thirteenth victim poorly.” – Patrick Stahl
“She will save everyone. But once she’s done, people will ask questions – that speed, it’s inhuman. She’ll have to pack up and leave.
Again.” – Sonya
“I hear screaming. That’s promising. ” – Craig A
“Ahh! The smell of blood. It felt good as I rubbed it in.” – Firdaus Parvez
““But Mum, I can’t take any more blood. I might even be…” He pauses. “Vegetarian.”” – Ed Broom
“That time-folding of historical sites revealed the hydrology of war: bloodied soil transpiring to clouds which gather as blooddreams of setting suns.” – Jessica Franken
“His writing instrument, a thin shaft of wheat from the battlefield, fell back to the earth as his body released. The vial of his precious Molly’s blood that had been around his neck was now nearly empty.” – Brady Koch
And now, without further ado, I present to you the winners of Microcosms 2.
(insert drumroll here)
Night Shift by Voima Oy
It was a slow night in the ER and Dr. Bela Lukacks glanced at the clock. She tried not to think of her hunger, the irresistible urge that was even more addictive than the craving for sugar the nurses were always joking about. She went outside for a walk around the parking lot to calm her nerves.
The paramedic lounging by the ambulance was young and handsome. He had a taste for older women, too.
Tonight, the full moon would bring out the crazies, and there would be gunshot victims. There would be more blood. Dr. Lukacks wiped her lips and smiled. No question she had to cut down.
Judge’s Picks (there are two!)
Territory by Jessica Franken
AV’s comments: All the power in this piece comes from what it doesn’t explicitly say. Here we have a woman cutting herself, letting her blood fall on the ground. But within the story it all makes perfect sense; these are battlefields, scenes of war crimes and genocide. By focusing on the single character and her ritual, the story avoids becoming preachy. We’re never told what to think about it. And not forgetting the story’s full of great writing – “bloodied soil transpiring to clouds which gather as blooddreams of setting suns.”
doctor, battlefield, romance
Pit stop: Rosebud Battlefield. Lu’s muscles cramped from her pickup’s bucking hindquarters.
That time-folding of historical sites revealed the hydrology of war: bloodied soil transpiring to clouds which gather as blooddreams of setting suns.
Lu knifed her palm, brought it to the soil’s dry lips.
She watered battlefields across South Dakota. In Mankato, Lu cut too deep. She curdled with shame at her forearms, yardsticked with scabs. But the doctor cleansed each battlewound—a ritual creating a second tribute.
“Where’re you headed?”
“East. Backwards. My westward expansion didn’t go well.”
“So you’re…unsettling.” The doctor laughed hugely, unprofessionally. Lu fell in love with her, far above the thirsty ground.
Dazmb – Beliefs about God
Steph’s comments: Such a beautiful poem despite the darkness of its imagery. The language and pacing were perfect, evoking an almost claustrophobic effect with its cave ‘full of things you cannot name’. That sense of searching for something seeps through, that ‘blurring light sensed deep within the Earth’s arterial stink’, nudging at the edges of consciousness but forgotten when you wake the next day. Sometimes a response to a poem is a feeling rather than something you can absolutely pinpoint; I can’t say it was this line or that line, it was the whole that grabbed me – and that is what a true poem should do.
Words: 102 (Not including title)
Elements: Vampire bat, cave, poem
Title: Beliefs about God
There is a cave, where shadows gather.
It’s full of the things you cannot name,
a leather wing beat, a skittering echo,
skimming the pulse of the night.
And it’s not the dead it hopes to find,
but rather a blurring light
sensed deep within the Earth’s arterial stink.
and a juddering amnesia, to gently lull you
as it inches through a straggle of hair
to feed, blood warm, on echoes of pain and sweetness.
Gently unpicking the face of your fears
renewing their fabric,
until you wake the next day
and all you can remember
is the iridescent radiance
- A winner’s badge on the site
- An invitation for inclusion in the anthology (with a note that your story was selected as a winner)
- A Kindle copy of Flashdogs : Solstice : Light: Volume II. If you already have the book, you are free to choose another book of similar value or donate the cost of the book to a literacy charity, such as World Reader or The Book Bus. Please contact me with the e-mail address you’d like me to send the Kindle book to.
Additionally, you are each invited to judge the next round of Microcosms. Please let me know if you are interested!