Microcosms 27

Stella and I have gone for a birth-life-death theme for this week’s competition. Recently, Stella posted the following on Facebook:

‘The Circle of Life. Said a final farewell to my Mum on Friday … and now today the first Father’s Day without my Dad … Miss laughing with my sister Celia but now I have Len’s laughter and love being his Nana.’

So … I decided Stella’s treat after arranging two funerals should be a visit to Highgate Cemetery in London. No, really! She loved it.

The characters and settings are all birth-life-death related. The photos for possible inspiration are one of the many taken in the cemetery (Photo by Sal Page) and the first picture of me (Photo by Peter Page) … sort of. I’m in that cot and that’s my brother Andy having a look. See how I’m being propped up by books?

Sal and Stella

 

As usual, our contest will begin with three things: character, setting, and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are character: teenager, setting: wedding, and genre: romance.

Feel free to write a story using those, or spin a new set of your own. Be sure to include which three elements you’re using.

 

  • Midwife
  • Funeral Director
  • Teenager
  • New Born Baby
  • Grave Digger
  • Hundred Year Old
  • Fortieth Birthday Party
  • Maternity Ward
  • Wake
  • Wedding
  • Mausoleum
  • Birthing Pool
  • horror
  • adventure
  • sci-fi
  • steam punk
  • mystery
  • fantasy
  • romance
  • drama
  • comedy
  • poem
Spin!

 
 
 

Judging this week is Bill Engleson

All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have until midnight, New York time to submit.

 

If you like, you may use the following photos to inspire you (not required).

First Photo 1965 001DSC00017

 

Microcosms 28
Microcosms 26

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41 comments for “Microcosms 27

  1. Geoff Holme
    8 July 2016 at 1:33 pm

    @GeoffHolme
    #FlashDogs
    Word Count:300
    Gravedigger / Wake / Drama

    Death Cab for QT

    Quentin Turnbull’s mobile had rung: the midwife at St Nick’s. “Donna’s in the birthing pool.”

    Pressing the accelerator, he feels a maelstrom of emotions: anxiety, elation… relief, escaping Colin’s fortieth birthday party.

    Quentin regretted promising he’d go, but he never broke his word. It had been more like a wake, the venue a mausoleum dedicated to the death of his marriage. He kept raking over stories of how wonderful their wedding day had been. Forty? Jeez, he was living in the past like a hundred-year-old! Even the stand-up he’d hired got less laughs than a gravedigger. Valerie was better off without Colin, even if Quentin’s affair with her had now run its course.

    Deep in thought, he runs a red light and is sideswiped by a bus… Next thing he knows, he’s watching the fire brigade, wondering why they’re cutting off his car’s roof. A black mini-cab pulls up.

    “Ride, sir?”

    #

    “This isn’t the way to the hospital.”

    “Don’t worry, sir. I’ll get you to your destination.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “Not many do. They hear about being drawn to bright lights, but this is the 21st century.”

    “I have to get to the maternity ward!”

    “Too late. Your new-born baby son is already bonding with his mother. She calls him Alexander. She’s devastated by your death, but doesn’t grieve long. Walter, the funeral director she chooses, consoles her… they’re married within a year. Alexander has a happy childhood, unaware of his real father. Finding out as a teenager, he goes off the rails… overdoses on heroin. Donna blames herself… seeks solace in booze… succumbs to cirrhosis. Walter’s world collapses; he fixes a hose to a hearse.”

    “All this happens because I broke my promise to Bella that I’d definitely be there?”

    “In this world nothing’s certain, except death… and taxis.”

    6+
    • Stephanie Ellis
      8 July 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Enjoyed the story, especially the idea of a death cab – was the meter running by the way?

      2+
      • Geoff Holme
        9 July 2016 at 1:20 am

        I think there will be more to pay than just monetarily when they reach the end of the journey…
        (The title is a pun on the the name of a Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band track.)

        0
    • Firdaus Parvez
      9 July 2016 at 2:26 am

      Haha good one 🙂

      1+
      • Geoff Holme
        9 July 2016 at 5:02 am

        Thanks, Firdaus. Glad you enjoyed it.

        0
  2. A V Laidlaw
    8 July 2016 at 3:04 pm

    A V Laidlaw
    285 words
    teenagers (two) / wedding / [tragic] romance.

    Confession

    The candles are guttering, flickering. Soon they will be extinguished and so will I. This is the confession of Laurence, once a man of God.

    The boy, Romeo. I knew him. Headstrong and wilful with passions as quick as his rapier. And Juliet. So beautiful. I am an old man now, my beard is white, but I see her still standing before me, her skin white and soft like the petals of the lily.

    They wanted to be married.

    No, I said.

    But then, yes. Montague and Capulet wed. Unthinkable. But perhaps… An end to the blood feud that leaves our streets stinking of slaughter… Unthinkable. But perhaps my duty was as a Friar, a man of God, to find peace. My well-thumbed Bible tells me love will conquer Death. So then, yes.

    I married them in secret, in my Friar’s cell, surrounded by candles flickering and reflecting in their eyes. They held hands. They kissed. Montague and Capulet wed. An end to the vendetta. Surely this is God’s work, I thought. Truly, I am Holy. The blessed spirit lives within me.

    But a love born in secrecy only knows the shadows. It has no feeling for the sun, for the breath of the breeze on a spring morning. It is jealous and treacherous.

    A fight.

    An exile.

    A letter gone astray.

    A poison.

    A dagger.

    It is not for us to determine God’s will. Wishing it to be so does not make it so. I am no man of God and they are not lovers, for what love may be found in the dust of the tomb?

    The candles flicker a last time. They are going out.

    May Jesus have mercy on my soul.

    6+
    • Geoff Holme
      8 July 2016 at 4:35 pm

      Beautiful piece, AV. Sounds like a wonderful synopsis for a play… 🙂

      1+
    • Stephanie Ellis
      8 July 2016 at 4:42 pm

      Really liked this which is saying something as practically every English class I’ve supported lately has been ‘doing’ Romeo and Juliet, so for me it’s almost been done to death. Now if you’d mentioned biting thumbs then I would have groaned. (And one small claim to fame, Pete Postlethwaite who acts Father Laurence was a regular at my mum and dad’s pub so I got an introduction!)

      3+
      • Geoff Holme
        8 July 2016 at 4:53 pm

        Oooh! Can I have your autograph? 😉

        1+
  3. Vibha Lohani
    8 July 2016 at 3:46 pm

    New Job

    #Grave digger/ Mausoleum / Adventure

    John worked as a grave digger for the town cemetery for years. But today he was losing his job to technology. There used to be many nobodies, prisoners whom he buried in the cemetery. Now everyone was sent to the electric crematorium. Land was too expensive now to be wasted on the dead.

    The local parish took pity on him and gave a reference and an address to seek a job. It was a five hour journey by train to this hamlet. The walk uphill was tiring. At the top of the hill was a big villa isolated from the village by a thick cover of trees. He walked on the trail made by horse hooves and reached the big iron gates which were open. He paused for a while to catch a breath and then started walking towards building. This place was a mausoleum. Both sides of the path were covered with graves. Different kinds of graves – cobbled graves, marble graves, stony graves, some were even covered with fresh dew kissed grass. “Must be the recent ones” he thought. This place was different than the one he had worked all his life. In spite of so many dead around, it seemed lively. It had colour, it had greenery. He reached the door and knocked. The huge wooden door opened and a man in a white tuxedo greeted him. “Ah, you have finally arrived. I am so glad.”

    There was something pleasantly weird about this man. The man neither stepped out of the house nor did he ask the grave digger in.
    “Could you please dig a grave by tonight? I killed my grave digger by mistake.”

    John saw the red in his eyes gleam as the man handed him the shovel.

    4+
    • Geoff Holme
      8 July 2016 at 4:24 pm

      I didn’t see that end coming, Vibha! Good job.
      Don’t you just love the English language? Even ‘nobodies’ have bodies that require graves to be dug! 🙂

      1+
      • Vibha Lohani
        8 July 2016 at 10:30 pm

        Thank you Geoff, Yes I love the language and enjoy the poetic liberties we can experiment with.

        0
    • Geoff Holme
      8 July 2016 at 4:40 pm

      Welcome to Microcosms, by the way!

      2+
    • Stephanie Ellis
      8 July 2016 at 4:44 pm

      Great twist.

      1+
    • Firdaus Parvez
      8 July 2016 at 11:16 pm

      I’m so glad to see you here Vibha. Nice twist. The imagery is powerful, you took me there. 🙂

      1+
      • Vibha Lohani
        9 July 2016 at 12:15 am

        Thank you Firdaus. I am so glad you liked it.

        0
  4. Stephanie Ellis
    8 July 2016 at 4:30 pm

    Forbidden Fruit

    297 words
    Elements: midwife, fortieth birthday party, horror

    @el_Stevie
    #FlashDog

    She could already feel the contractions, the tidal wave of pain rolling its way through her abdomen again and again and again. Yet Eve was alone. The remnants of her birthday party scattered around the garden, torn banners hanging down from the apple tree at the far end.

    Slowly she walked towards the tree, the memory of the promise she had made in return for the longed-for child returning in force. Anything, she had said. She would do anything. Day-after-day of delivering the children of others while her own arms remained empty had worn her down.

    “I can give you what you want,” he had whispered and her desperation had made her listen. It had only been one night.

    But today her husband had discovered the truth, announced her betrayal to friends and family. They too had abandoned her. Forty and alone. No. It didn’t matter. She would soon have her child. Nothing else mattered.

    Another agonising spasm sent her down on all fours and she looked longingly back at the house.

    She was at the base of the tree now, the paper entrails glistening and slimy from the night’s cold dampness snaring her arms and legs.

    “Breathe,” said a voice in the shadows.

    The time between contractions was getting shorter.

    “Breathe,” he said again.

    Eve inhaled, turning her sight inwards, away from the world.

    “My child,” he said, and the sound of his words seemed to encourage the baby to push harder against the prison of her womb.

    Then Eve understood the obscenity within. Felt it crawl and claw its way along the birth canal, ripping muscle and tissue alike until finally her arms were no longer empty.

    The creature latched on, sending blood and milk snaking down her breast. Emptying her. Draining her. Killing her.

    3+
    • Geoff Holme
      8 July 2016 at 5:08 pm

      Is it working with children all day that turns your mind to such rebarbative (Word of the Week) thoughts, Steph? 😉
      Chilling as ever…

      1+
      • Stephanie Ellis
        8 July 2016 at 5:28 pm

        Can’t call them children, Geoff. They get a bit miffed at that. It’s got to be ‘young adult or young person’ until everything goes pear-shaped and then they suddenly claim ‘we’re only kids, miss’. But yes, it is cathartic and I think that’s a great word by the way. We do a word of the day at school and in our dept I put it up on wall together with a pic; English dept choose the words, wonder if they’d notice me slipping that one in 🙂

        2+
      • Geoff Holme
        8 July 2016 at 5:58 pm

        Worth a try! I’ve no idea what the picture might be, but I’m sure you could come up with something gruesome…

        0
    • Meg Kovalik
      8 July 2016 at 11:06 pm

      Chilling! Took me right back to my own primal experiences of childbirth (that thankfully ended joyfully!!). So evocative.

      0
  5. 8 July 2016 at 4:36 pm

    The Spawn of Satan
    @geofflepard horror, midwife, fortieth birthday 300 words
    With heavy heart Mildred knocked. The party sounds surprised her, but she plastered on a professional smile when Ned Joy threw open the door. ‘Milly. Thank God.’
    ‘How are they?’
    Ned’s face managed to convey excitement, anxiety and bemusement.
    ‘I’d better see them. Upstairs?’
    ‘The basement.’
    ‘The basement?’
    Ned didn’t reply. He led the way past an open door where people wearing fox masks danced while a topless man beat a large drum.
    ‘Whose party?’
    ‘The twins will come of age tomorrow. We’re celebrating their end of forty day.’
    Mildred looked surprised. ‘You’re having a party while they give birth?’
    Need shrugged. ‘It’s one of his funny ways.’
    ‘Whose?’
    ‘You’ll see.’
    Ned pointed at the basement and left Mildred.
    Mildred stepped inside. ‘Halloooo’.
    The reply was deep and sonorous. ‘HELL AWAITS YOU.’
    ‘It will, young man if you don’t stop this nonsense. Are you one of the fathers?’ When Mildred met the twins their claim to have conceived at the same time surprised her. When they said it was the same father she thought them delusional. She wasn’t surprised when he never showed at antenatal classes.
    ‘I AM THE FATHER.’
    We have a right one here, she thought. As she descended the steps – there were more than she imagined – the temperature rose and the smell of burning and sulphur grew. She turned a corner and stopped. It was Hell. The two twins writhed while an extraordinary looking character like Lucifer stood over them. Even at a distance Mildred could see they were both on the verge of giving birth. Mildred, who had helped two winners of Big Brother and one TOWIE star give birth wasn’t going to be fazed by a Devil held his gaze. ‘Well clearly we’re not short of hot water so how about you find some towels?’

    5+
    • Stephanie Ellis
      8 July 2016 at 4:49 pm

      The Devil being bossed about by a midwife – great.

      0
    • Geoff Holme
      8 July 2016 at 5:32 pm

      “We have a right one here…” Ha! Not a lady to be messed with. She sounds like Sister Evangelina from “Call The Midwife”.
      Good work, Geoff. Nice to have a jocular take on the ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ theme, directly after Steph’s grim offering.

      1+
      • Geoff Holme
        8 July 2016 at 5:36 pm

        [ Should the penultimate sentence end ‘…wasn’t going to be fazed by a Devil; she held his gaze.’? ]

        0
  6. Meg Kovalik
    8 July 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Just The Way You Look Tonight

    “Albert, dear, won’t you shuffle up a little?”

    Corbin groaned and removed his headphones.

    “My name’s Corbin, Great-Nana Mae. David’s son?”

    The rickety old lady creaked onto the adjoining seat. She rested one hand on his and gave it a little squeeze.

    “Quite a shindig, eh Albert? Much more than we had in that church 60 years ago.”

    Corbin sighed and rolled his eyes. “Whatever,” he muttered.

    Man he wished he could be anywhere else! He hated weddings, and only barely knew his cousin anyway. And now to be stuck with this old bat? He’d seen the photos – he knew he resembled his great-grandfather at this age. Made his life hell when Mae had one of her “turns” like this.

    “It was such a lovely ceremony, don’t you think dear?” she asked, gently stroking his hand.

    Ugh, enough! He snatched his hand away. “Albert’s been dead for years, Nana! I am your great-grandson!”

    She started and stared at him, wide-eyed. Corbin shivered as he gazed into the world of confusion and loss etched into her face. She softened, smiled, and took his hand again.

    “I know, dear,” she said. “But death only parts us for so long.” She caressed her wedding ring and then leaned right up to Corbin’s ear.

    “I’ll be joining you soon, my love,” she whispered, leaving a leathery kiss on his cheek.

    “Mae! There you are! The bus is waiting out front.”

    Corbin watched his uncle bundle her out the door. He touched his cheek and shivered again. Never before had he wanted to embrace the living world so much.

    “You look like you’ve seen a ghost, cuz,” the young bride trilled as she walked past. “Wanna come dance?”

    “Yes,” he nodded emphatically. “Yes I think I really do.”

    @meg_mediocre

    292 words

    Teenager; Wedding; Romance

    4+
    • Geoff Holme
      9 July 2016 at 12:14 am

      Nice one, Meg. Teenage boys hate the attentions of elderly female relatives at the best of times, even without this inappropriate romantic smooching!

      0
  7. Voima Oy
    8 July 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Blue Wedding
    214 words
    teenager/ wedding/romance
    @voimaoy

    I don’t know what to think about this. I mean, I’m not against weddings, but really. I think this is going too far.

    Let me explain. It all started when my Uncle Phil announced he and his long-time partner Kevin were getting married. “That’s right,” he said. “It’s legal now, so we’re going to make it official.”

    Everyone was overjoyed. My mom and dad decided it was a good time to renew their vows, too.

    Then, my great-Aunt Marissa popped the question to her sometimes boyfriend, Marvin. “It’s time we settled down,” she said. “Twenty years is long enough to be sure of our feelings.” Both teachers, they invited all their students.

    My grandma decided to get in the spirit and remarry the ghost of grandpa. “Death should not part us, ‘ she said.

    No one wanted to die alone.

    Even my brother, who is way too young to think about getting married to anyone, wanted to walk down the aisle with Mr. Tibbles, our brown tabby cat.

    “You can’t do that,” I said.

    “Don’t be so negative,” my dad said. He of all of them should have had some sense. But no, he was just as giddy as everyone else.

    ‘You can take our pictures,” my mom said.

    I think I’ll marry my phone.

    6+
    • Geoff Holme
      9 July 2016 at 12:26 am

      A wonderful piece of whimsy, Voima. Love that last line!

      1+
      • Voima Oy
        9 July 2016 at 12:14 pm

        Thank you, Geoff. So glad you enjoyed it!

        0
    • Stephanie Ellis
      9 July 2016 at 9:51 am

      Lovely quirkiness to this, Voima and I like that the boy tolerated his great-aunt rather than had a go! Knows his manners.

      1+
      • Voima Oy
        9 July 2016 at 12:19 pm

        Thanks so much, Steph. Now you’re giving me ideas….:)

        0
  8. Firdaus Parvez
    8 July 2016 at 11:45 pm

    @firdausp
    (265 words)

    The Unknown

    The mausoleum sat like a brooding old man against the backdrop of a star studded sky. It was the burial place for a Mughal Prince who had been poisoned by his wife. It is said that his wife had buried his mistress alive with him.
    The boys had locked him in. The old wooden door did not budge when he tried to open it. Now huddled in a corner he sat on the cold stone floor waiting. Waiting for what he did not know. Moonlight streamed from a little skylight in the roof. He could just make out the grave in the centre of the room. The air felt heavy and humid. It smelled of gloom.
    Cold sweat made his shirt stick to his back. This tomb was never cleaned or stepped into. It was believed to be haunted.
    Meanwhile outside the other boys sat between graves sharing a cigarette.
    “You think we should let him out?”
    “Nah…let’s give him one more hour.”
    One of them stubbed out the cigarette on a stone grave.
    There was a rustling sound from nearby bushes.
    “Did you hear that?”
    A dog howled in the distance.
    “Okay, this is creeping me out, let’s go get him and leave.”
    All three bullies made their way to the tomb.
    The heavy wooden door creaked open.
    “You should not have come back,” they heard him say.
    They just had enough time to see the wildness in his eyes before they were sucked in.
    All four were never seen again.
    The old watchman swears he sometimes hears screams coming from that tomb.

    teenager/s/ mausoleum/ horror

    5+
    • Vibha Lohani
      9 July 2016 at 12:20 am

      Awesome lady as always!

      1+
      • Firdaus Parvez
        9 July 2016 at 1:42 am

        Thankyou sweet 🙂

        0
    • Geoff Holme
      9 July 2016 at 12:35 am

      Very atmospheric, Firdaus.

      1+
      • Firdaus Parvez
        9 July 2016 at 1:55 am

        Thank you :). My last ditch effort 🙂

        0
  9. Geoff Holme
    8 July 2016 at 11:55 pm

    @GeoffHolme
    #FlashDogs
    Word Count: 300
    Funeral Director / Mausoleum / Mystery
    Judgement Day

    “Hello, Mr Caldicott,” I say cheerily. “How are you today?”

    Mr Caldicott lies supine – unmoving, unresponsive – in a top-of-the-range coffin.

    I have the graveyard shift (pun intended) as deputy manager of Arnold Renshaw, Funeral Director, an imposing edifice, a mausoleum to funereal arts. It breaches health and safety to work alone after normal hours, but Old Man Renshaw lives in his retirement flat above; near enough, he says.

    I don’t mind. I work at my own pace, and… there are fringe benefits. I prepare coffins for interment, taking the opportunity to plunder gold jewellery and expensive watches from corpses, sometimes even flash Italian suits. You can’t take it with you… and I have a gambling habit.

    Mr Caldicott yields nothing of interest. I’ve screwed the mahogany lid down again when the room takes on a frosty chill. A shadowy figure, dressed in black, stands in the doorway, features lost in a cowl.

    “Who’s there?”

    “You remember me, Amos Burke. I recently tried to get you to repent of your sins.” Now I recall; I still have his card. “The Man Upstairs wants a word with you.”

    “Mr Renshaw?”

    “Not him, the BIG Boss! He’s not happy about you gambling and stealing clothes… bad memories for Him!”

    “Can we just… talk about this, Graham?”

    Graham Aripa is an alias. My real name’s… Grim Reaper.”

    A large scythe slashes the air; electricity jolts through my body, and I’m thrown forward. Looking down, I see I’m naked; my earthly body, still in its stolen Armani suit, lies on the floor.

    The dark figure disappears, replaced by a point of luminescence growing bigger… brighter… closer. I float through a tunnel of light, into an infinite, shining, sombre space.

    The silence is broken by a booming, celestial voice.

    HELLO, MR BURKE. HOW ARE YOU TODAY?

    3+
    • Firdaus Parvez
      9 July 2016 at 2:40 am

      Wow! I loved this 🙂

      0
  10. 9 July 2016 at 12:01 am

    Island Life

    Light from the bonfire in the center of the room danced across the walls as the wedding party led their partners through the ceremonial waltz; kicking off what promised to be a long night of celebration in the great hall.

    “I wish the band would play a slower song,” Dorian grumbled, his eyes squinting at the flickering illumination on the chart etched into the stone wall. People were only able to enter the hall for funerals and the rare wedding. In a rare period of good fortune on the island colony, there had been no need to enter the building since he had started dating Francis.

    “I found me!” Francis declared from a few feet away. She sounded excited, but her being so close made him nervous. He hadn’t found his own name yet on the island’s official record of genealogy in the five generation after the cataclysm.

    “I found you too,” Francis exclaimed.

    He darted over to her and traced the line up. Past his mother and father then up two more generations. Francis did the same. Their fingers ended up inches apart but on different names. There were only five families on the island when they were cut off from the world. This chart dictated which islanders could and could not couple.

    He looked over at his love. Francis was crying, relieved. He felt the same and hugged her.

    “I suppose we should have mapped this out earlier,” she admitted. Francis moved his hand from her shoulder past her breast and rest it on her belly. Dorian felt the small rise there for the first time. His heart swelled. They’d have to notify their parents and the elder. Now that they were confirmed not to be relatives, they would need to carve a new entry into the wall.

    300 words
    teenager/wedding/romance
    @BradyTheWriter

    4+
    • Voima Oy
      10 July 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Excellent story! The way you build this world, the characters, so vivid and real.

      0

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