RESULTS – Microcosms 21

A HUGE thanks to this week’s judge, A.J. Walker. Here’s what he had to say:

Hey, you guys made it tough. But then again you usually do. I do like the longer word count stories (wow, all of 250!) as it gives a bit more range to the stories and all of them were a good read.

Not a clown fan myself and I think if I’d been writing I’d have killed the weirdos off – as a couple of you guys and gals did. Some did that fangled spin thing and ended up with puppeteers in subways/tubes (the spin thing didn’t seem completely random or else was controlled by strings held by some scary train spotting character out of screen shot).

Anyway, without further ado my picks.

Drum roll please, Mr Clown Pants…

Honorable/Honourable Mentions

AV Laidlaw – I Had Not Thought Death Had Undone So Many

The claustrophobic description of the train journey and the lady’s flat and the repetitive commute are all to familiar to us. And then the arrival of the tiger puppet strikes a change for her something different. Enjoyable albeit with a taste of fear.

Stephen Shirres – One Thousand And One Graffiti Nights

Well I know that groan of last orders. So not a good start to a story for me! But I too was pulled in along with the graffiti from the other place to get involved with the puppeteers tales. Night after night I fear.

2nd Runner Up

David Shakes – The Illusionist Never Speaks

I liked this picture of city life. Where graffiti stained walls, beggars and entertainers colour the lives of the commuters each day. Those people we walk past or half watch in passing. Paying them some small change out of fear rather than guilt was a nice call.

1st Runner Up

Ashley Gardana – The Clown Murderer – An Origins Story

Great imagery in so few words. The piece hangs together brilliantly. Oh, and plenty of clowns would be shaking in their stupid big shoes.

Classy, loved it.

Favorite/Favourite Lines

Before we get to our winners, here are my (that is, Steph’s!) favorite/favourite lines from this week.

“Look, you useless tree stump, it wasn’t my fault,” Max said, through gritted teeth. – Holly Geely

… he’d decided/kill them all/All clowns, even those/who did not swing from frames at will – Ashley Gardana

“It’s Hallowe’en, dark, we’re in an isolated location… what could possibly go wrong?” – Geoff Holme

… you could knock me over with a budgie feather and no one would object – Bill Engleson

A few coins will raise a smile and a polite bow, but you wouldn’t let your child eat that sweet. – David Shakes

… a memory, of a darkened night/And blood and smoke and mirrors. – Steph Ellis

She saw dark jungles in its eyes – AV Laidlaw

… but neither fear nor wonder lasts, not for a shadow on the subway wall – Alex Brightsmith

A sigh blows through the subway – Stephen Shirres

She folds into a tuck position, like a diver, unfolds like an origami bird – Voima Oy

The old man looked at me with a snaggletooth grin – Leara

And now, without further ado, I present to you the winners of Microcosms 21.

(insert drumroll here)

Community Pick

David Shakes – The Illusionist Never Speaks

250 words
Magician, Subway, Horror

Curious, how he always stands in the part of the subway where the lights are dimmest and the acoustics fool your ears. His face is at once familiar yet difficult to place – wasn’t he once on TV?
A flourish of cheap, plastic flowers from deep within the folds of his coat are usually produced for the ladies. A grubby, hard boiled sweet travels from knuckle to knuckle before disappearing, only to reappear behind your child’s ear to then be presented like a rare treat. A few coins will raise a smile and a polite bow, but you wouldn’t let your child eat that sweet.
The illusionist never speaks.
More curious than that faded magician is the mural he chooses to stand before. The caricatures of business commuters are painted life size and grimacing on the cracked, white tiles.
Every now and again a new figure is added, seemingly overnight.
I’d never given it much thought until recently. The newest addition was the perfect portrait of a man I’d grown used to seeing on the daily journey home. Indeed, the last time I’d seen him was in this very subway, berating the busking conjuror for his tired tricks and lack of imagination. It had been quite a scene.
That’s probably why I remember the guy, and why the contorted features of his painted self disturb me so.
The thing is, I’ve never seen him since. So, that’s why I always pay a few coins, because you never know, do you?

Judge’s Pick

Geoff Holme – The Mystical Machine

Word Count: 250
Clown / Mansion / Mystery

Well shiver my pirate ghost timbers these pesky kids came in and stole the show. Okay, it must be my age. But I grew up without a Scooby-Do. And this story stole my biscuit. And all the other food from a well stocked larder. Damn Scooby munchies.

The little italicised chase scene was perfect and the clown throwing that evil bucket of coloured ribbons. Those pesky kids, for a change, never stood a chance. Well done Rooby Roo.

Having judged these blind I’m not sure who’s behind the mask… Reveal thy self oh child of the 70s!

“This is it,” says Fayed, as they leave the psychedelic van. “Anthem, Arizona.”

“We always end up someplace at night,” moans Thelma.

“It’s not Fayed’s fault!” says Dymphna, in her boyfriend’s defence. “His father forgot to wire his allowance, so we couldn’t buy gas. We would’ve been here hours ago otherwise.”

Scraggy trails behind. “I’m not begging on the streets with Rooby-Roo again,” he says. “It’s humiliating.”

“You’re such a dirtbag,” says Fayed, “you look like a homeless bum… especially with that hungry-looking Great Dane.” Dymphna and Thelma laugh; the dog glares at Fayed with narrowed eyes, and growls.

Soon they’re standing outside a spooky, Gothic mansion. “Woah!” quakes Scraggy. “This looks like a Mission Impossible even Ethan Hunt would refuse.”

“Tom Cruise isn’t a coward!” Thelma retorts.

“Quit bickering!” says Fayed. “Let’s split up and look around.”

“Sure,” mumbles Scraggy. “It’s Hallowe’en, dark, we’re in an isolated location… what could possibly go wrong?”

Swamp-Monster chases Thelma… Fayed and Dymphna chase Swamp-Monster… Scraggy and Rooby-Roo hide… Fayed, Dymphna and Thelma catch Swamp-Monster in rope-net… Fayed removes Swamp-Monster’s mask to reveal… a clown in full make-up!

The clown produces a pail full of… Fayed, Dymphna and Thelma scream and flee in terror, as the clown throws… sparkly scraps of paper.

Scraggy’s and Rooby-Roo’s grinning faces appear from behind a pillar. Scraggy turns to the clown and smiles. ”If I’d known before that those supercilious jerks were all coulrophobes, Rubes and me coulda done this way sooner.

“Thanks for your help, Dad!”

Additionally, you are each invited to judge the next round of Microcosms. Please let me know if you are interested!

RESULTS - Microcosms 22
RESULTS - Microcosms 20

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15 comments for “Welcome to Microcosms!

  1. zwoodle
    26 December 2015 at 4:15 pm

    We’re going to do a soft launch on 1 January. We’ll be e-mailing everyone shortly. Stay tuned!

  2. 12 September 2019 at 5:20 pm

    What’s happened to all the stories from last week’s competition?

    • KM Zafari
      12 September 2019 at 6:31 pm

      They’re all still in the system but not displaying on the front end. Part of the glitch I’m trying to resolve. :/

  3. 13 September 2019 at 6:37 am

    Who is Stoner, please?

  4. 13 September 2019 at 11:20 am

    Ghost; Haunted House; Comedy
    298 words

    The Gang, Fifty Years On

    “Hey guys, it’s our anniversary. It’s fifty years since we got together and solved our first case.”

    “That’s right. Why don’t we do something to celebrate? We could stay the night in the old, haunted house.”

    “I’m not really sure. None of us are as young as we used to be, we’re all in our late sixties now.”

    “Yeah, and I’m not sure that I want to stay up past my bedtime.”

    “Oh, go on, it’ll be a bit of fun. It’s not as though any of us get much of that anymore.”

    “It just won’t be the same without the dog.”

    “You’re right about missing the dog. I even miss that annoying little one that accompanied us on some of our later adventures.”

    “OK, it’s a date then. We just need someone to drive us out there before it gets dark.”

    “I’ll organise some supplies. Some drinks, a snack, spare walking sticks, and a flashlight for each of us.”

    “I’m not sure that I see the point. We never managed to find any real ghosts or monsters, never in our entire career. It was always a scam of some sort, and always one carried out by ordinary, everyday losers dressed up in costume.”

    The overnight stay was uneventful until just before dawn when they heard someone moving about downstairs. Silently they crept down the stairs only to find a fat balding man dressed up in a sheet going, “Woo… woo…” As it was obvious something untoward was going on, they phoned for the police. When they arrived a few minutes later the police arrested the would-be ghost. As he was taken away the last thing the gang heard him say was, “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those pesky pensioners!”

  5. Geoff
    13 September 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Stoner, haunted house, drama
    295 words
    ‘Hi Pete. How’s it trucking?’’
    Pete blinked, hoping his neighbour was another bad trip.
    ‘Garden’s looking great. Not many weeds. Ho!’
    Pete sucked in air, disorientated by the lack of smoke. I need to cut back oxygen. ‘Hi Greg. You after a packet?’
    ‘I was just wondering how you get them so… leafy?’
    Pete licked the paper. ‘You planning your own? Take some seeds, man.’ He sealed another joint, willing him to go.
    ‘I don’t think so. What’s the secret?’
    Pete looked at the soil at his feet. ‘Peace and love, man.’
    ‘Seriously. We grew cannabis at college but that was inside in Cheltenham. You manage outdoors, in Scotland in January…’
    ‘I rely on my relatives.’ He kicked the dirt, exposing the head of a femur. ‘That’s Auntie Jane. The plants love her.’
    Greg’s eyes widened. ‘That’s your aunt?’
    ‘Think so. Hang on.’ Pete put down the Rizzla packet and bent to the bone. ‘Yeah? You sure? Right ho.’ He looked up. ‘Uncle Portius. They look the same at that age, don’t they?’
    Greg rubbed his eyes. ‘I must be passive smoking your product. Did you just talk to a bone?’
    Pete laughed. ‘Course not. Bone’s don’t talk…’
    ‘They’re ghosts. I you like I can do you some Mexican spicy and my second cousin’s torso as a starter kit…’
    Greg backed away. ‘Maybe later.’
    Pete started another joint and covered the bone. He’d need another dozen for the school run. ‘Thanks Ponti, I’ll get you that pint of Ruddles later.’ He looked down the rows of fecund and fullsome plants to a slightly saggy group by the hedge. ‘And I’ll pick up some dubonnet and lemon for Granny Emmaline. Wouldn’t do to let her crop get peaky, what with festival season nearly upon us.’

  6. 13 September 2019 at 10:25 pm
    300 words
    Stoner; Ghost Ship; Comedy

    That’s Some Spooky Shit, Man–Sailing the Silvery Seas with Long Joint Spliffer

    Man, I had more wobbles than a bobblehead.


    Bubblehead for sure.

    Or Stubble head?

    Like man, that cat had a gnarly beard. Facial hair all wiry and dense. I could feel it, man. Spikes shooting out of his face like fireworks.

    Bazooka hookahs, man!

    Reefer creepers!

    Maybe it was the Maui-Zowie? Or the BC Bud? Or, get this, the Alberta Muerta?

    Made that up, man. Killer weed, though.

    Whatever it was, it was some magic shit. Maui Cowie poop, eh.

    Hah! I don’t know what that is.

    Anyway, I’d been up all night zinging in the shower, tingling in the tower, baying at the full moon, a giant silver dollar beauty, when I got the urge man to go down to the waterfront, watch the river flow.

    You ever done that, man? The river! Love the river. Like its dark, man, and late. The taverns have all closed. Streets littered with the soulful. Sky’s storm ready. Clouds gathering like jumbled sheets on a bed that’s never been made. Guess you know where that metaphor comes from. Anyways, you can feel it. Something’s gonna burst. So, I go down to the river and I see it through the thick fog. Like its out of the movies, man, full masted, skull and crossbones flapping in the night wind, and that ain’t no Errol Flynn standing at the helm. Not on your booty. Its someone eerie as hell, with some yo ho hoing and a bottle of bong…and I’m thinking, Bong? James Bong?

    There I am, staring at this vessel, double o sevening away, and this dude starts walking the plank and says, “Sorry Mate, no gambling tonight. The Jolly Better’s closed tight. City ordinance.”

    “Bummer, man” I bleat, “and me with the munchies and a pocket full of pieces of eight.”

  7. Angelique Pacheco
    14 September 2019 at 4:56 am

    Stoner; Ghost Ship; Comedy
    135 words

    Green Boo-ty

    I saw through the haze
    A ghost ship’s hallways
    Twisting and turning
    The maze was daunting

    A ghostly dancer beckoned
    “Get naked,” she reckoned
    My mind said, “Okay!”
    My body said, “Let’s play!”
    The scene was rearranged
    And the actors were exchanged.

    The captain wore coat tails
    He clung onto the rails
    He shouted for pirates
    And called us bandits
    Zombies took me to the ledge
    To walk the plank to the edge.

    When I came down
    We were back in Cape Town
    I found myself at the pool
    Standing starkers like a fool

    The mystical dancer
    Was a Trans performer
    Security was cuffing me
    No zombies could I see.

    Don’t ever take the green stuff
    It can be quite rough
    Make sure you buy local
    Not pirated forms of diabolical.

  8. 14 September 2019 at 6:19 am

    stoner/ghost ship/comedy
    WC: 365

    One More Sausage

    Fred was hungry. It was his semi-permanent state. Always eating; yet as thin as a rake that had been split in two–his acquaintances assumed he was looking after some tape worms. His best buddy, Havant, had just as voracious an appetite. Being a dog it was expected.
    Their holiday to France wasn’t going well. The language was unfamiliar and the food was not as good as anticipated. It was four days before Fred discovered that they were in Hamburg. And, whilst it was just two letters shy of his favourite word, it wasn’t in France.

    Things began to look up when they went for a couple of currywurst after a big breakfast. They got chatting to a groovy guy by the wurst-stand about all things sausage related ,which had got them a) excited and b) hungry again. Being at the wurst-stand that had been easy to deal with. There was always room for one more sausage.

    They shared a funny cigarette with Groovyman, which made them giggle. He said he’d never seen a dog smoke before. Fred said it happened regularly, usually when he’d spilt cooking oil on Havant.

    Groovyman enquired why he was called Havant. Fred explained that it was short for Havant A. which left him none the wiser. He then told them about the sausage barge, where the price for a four hour trip includes an ‘All That You Can Eat’ buffet. They weren’t going to miss this opportunity, so they heading down to the docks with big loping strides and stupid grins.

    At the docks everything was a bit blurry. Clearly they were in danger of fainting from hunger. So they got onboard the SS Hamburger with expectant bellies and an aim to make the buffet their home. Havant A. realised something was amiss when their boat passed through a series of locks without the gates opening. The lack of taste to the buffet wasn’t an issue, but the lack of substance was. When the captain turned up minus his head even Fred thought something was amiss.

    Then they smelled the Sausage Cruise pass in the other direction. It was a good job Havant could swim and Fred could float.

  9. Diego Piselli
    14 September 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Stoner, Ghost Ship, Comedy
    282 words
    The rumor had spread with lightning speed, fuelled by media coverage.
    A mahogany barge, loaded with Lebanese weed was floating somewhere in Amsterdam canals, unattended
    Smokers in coffee shops hotly debated the matter. Abe swore he saw it moored near Singel canal; Alwine claimed to be certain that the ship was far in the harbor; Rastafarian waiters fabled about an Iranian merchant, owner of the barge tugged along his princely yacht, vanished with a Circassian beauty.
    Eventually, on a warm summer Saturday night, the Quest had its beginning.
    Hordes of stoners, old hippies and weirdos of all kinds gathered in Dam square and started scouring all the canals, walking on the banks, boating or paddling in muddy waters: braver and youngsters went so far as to swim in the smelly current.
    The Quest was unsuccessful, but Saturday phantom barge hunting became a fixed meeting. If interest decreased, the press reported a new sighting and people got back to the endless hunting. Hunters set up groups and association named by famous weed smokers of the past. Each group had a leader, a hymn, a flag.
    And every Saturday evening Mr. Janssen, managing editor of “Amsterdam Today”, savored happily the silence of his flat in Central Amsterdam, a little nest in a medieval alley crowded with coffee shops. No more yelling, no more stoners’ noise. No more frantic strolling of excited people along the cobblestone street.
    All the smokers had gone away, searching for the barge.
    His little article full of question marks and drop hints about a mysterious barge had proved useful, and he could eventually savor domestic pleasures in peace. “Marijuana enthusiasts are like children,” he said to himself “they believe anything”.

  10. 14 September 2019 at 7:44 pm

    stoner/ghost ship/comedy
    Word Count – 260

    Clang! Clang! Clang!
    The sound reminded Midshipman Smythe of the death march if it was played badly by a toddler on kitchen pans. What was scarier was the lack of bodily panic symptoms. His heart hadn’t tried to explode. His stomach hadn’t emptied like a freshly flushed toilet. Nothing was doing nothing in fact. Peter, the welcome guy, had warned him about this but it took some getting use to.
    “Is that her Midshipman?” His Captain pointed at the blue haired girl hitting the ships pipes.
    “Yes Sir.”
    “Madam.” The captain pulled herself to the full height of her tall frame. “How did you get on board?”
    “I don’t know man.” She didn’t look at the captain. Instead she gazed off to the left, as if following an excitable fly.
    “Madam, I am very much not a man.”
    She blinked three times, each time she forced her eyes as wide as she could. “You are so pale…wo-man. Did I get that right? Wo-man.”
    She giggled to herself.
    The Captain did not see the funny side. “Madam! How did you get on board this ship?”
    “Space cakes.” Her hand becomes a rocket which follows the same trajectory as her imagined fly. She takes the same level of interest.
    The Captain groans. “Midshipman?”
    “Yes Captain.” He clips his heels together, disappointed at the lack of noise. Another thing he has to get use to.
    “Go find the Chaplin. Tell him to prepare for a bio-exorcism. I won’t have a breather on my ghost ship.”

  11. 14 September 2019 at 10:09 pm

    150 Words
    Unmasked Villain; Spooky Location; Drama


    Flames flickered in the oppressive darkness, solitary among thousands. A tall woman strode around them, her high-necked red dress flowing dangerously close to the light. Watching her, bathed in the shadows, were hundreds of people, their breathing heavy in the air of anticipation.

    She spun to face them, her eyes flashing as they reflected the flames. Her voice thundered through the deadened space. Disdain blanketed the group, suffocating even the bravest of her followers.

    Weakness was unacceptable, this they knew, but they had still managed to disappoint her. All fell to their knees, bowing their heads to the shame brought on by her piercing glare.

    She reached down to grab one of the candles, holding it in such a way that her face was cast in a ghostly light. Swiftly, her fingers were enveloped in the burning wax. Everyone else hissed, shocked, yet impressed by her stoicism.

    Flames smoldered still.

  12. Lindsey P
    16 September 2019 at 9:48 am

    I guess mine didn’t get saved…oh well.

    • Lindsey Pittenger
      16 September 2019 at 9:51 am

      298 Words

      Bookworm; Mine; Mystery

      The Case of the Canned Canaries

      As they ventured further down the dimly lit tunnel, Miranda pulled her book closer to her face, squinting to make out the words, comparing them to her surroundings. Everything seemed to be just as she’d expected. The construction of the mine shaft seemed stable and matched the text, which eased her growing sense of claustrophobia, but there was something that still just didn’t seem right. She hadn’t noticed that she’d slowed to a stop until the man behind her nearly knocked her over.

      “Oomf—sorry about that. Need to watch where I’m going a bit more,” he said with a sheepish grin.

      “I’m fine,” she said, clutching the book to herself and waving him away. Ignoring the dismissal, he pointed at her treasured cargo.

      “So what are you reading down here that’s so important to gum up the traffic?” he asked jovially, lowering his pickaxe from his shoulder.

      “Oh, this?” She held up the book. “It’s just an old book about mines. I figured I’d bring it along for some good-natured analysis. This mine seems similar to the one in the book, but the thing that’s been concerning me the most is the canaries.”

      “Canaries?” he asked, confused, briefly glancing around the shaft as though he’d missed something.

      “There aren’t any,” she said matter-of-factly, reopening her book, “Here, they use canaries as a warning system for noxious gases to keep people from dying, but this whole time we’ve been here, I haven’t seen a single one.” The look on her face fell as he burst into laughter.

      “I’m sorry,” he said, pointing to a box on the wall. “I think this sensor is that canary you’re looking for. Don’t worry, we are monitoring the safety of the air down here. At any rate, hope you’re enjoying your tour!”


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