Microcosms 33

It’s August! OK, I admit it has been for some time now; but your host doesn’t even get out in daylight these days, with – cue the violins! – all the burdens of Microcosms administration, let alone get to go away on holiday…

August – certainly in continental Europe – is the time when most paid activity shuts down as people head off to other destinations for R & R. So, thanks to a suggestion from our old pal, Geoff Le Pard, Microcosms 33 looks at summer vacations.

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

We spun, and our three elements are character: Children, setting: Double-Decker Bus, and genre: Science Fiction.

Write a story using those OR feel free to click on the “Spin!” button, and the slot machine will come up with a new set. Be sure to include which three elements you’re using.

  • Road Tripper
  • Sports Fan
  • Flight Attendant
  • Rambler
  • Children
  • Teenager
  • Motel / Guest House
  • Olympic Games
  • Jet Liner
  • Long-Distance Walk
  • Beach
  • Double-Decker Bus
  • Historical Fiction
  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Parody
  • Horror
  • Comedy
  • Fairy Tale


Judging this week is Microcosms 32 Judge’s Pick, Bill Engleson.

All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have until midnight, New York time to submit. (If you are new to Microcosms, check out the full submission guidelines.)

All being well, results will be posted on Monday.


If you like, you may use the following picture to inspire you – purely optional.

"Must tale the nippers to the beach." (Two reasons why I don't swim in the sea now!)
“Must take the nippers to the beach.”
(Two reasons why I don’t swim in the sea now!)
Microcosms 34
Microcosms 32

19 thoughts on “Microcosms 33

  1. Hi, everyone!

    I’m hoping the Fruit Machine of Elements has been repaired, and all will be able to use it successfully.

    If you still have problems, please reply to this comment.

  2. Mindscape by Steve Lodge
    299 words
    Children, Double Decker Bus, Science Fiction.

    I woke in a disused beer tent. I stood up unsteadily. I may have been dribbling. A child laughed and I looked round to see four children dressed as if they were on the set of “Children Of The Damned.” They were even in black and white.

    The ageing vomit patches, like cowpats in a field, were in colour though. I stepped cautiously towards the entrance flap. When I got outside, I realised the tent was in the middle of a bleak moor. The scary children had followed me outside. Wind whipped new mown hay at me, trying to scarecrowify me.

    I tried to get my bearings and make sense of it all. I wasn’t helped by noticing a London bus stuck under a low bridge. It looked so incongruous. I looked around. The children were gone. Nothing for miles, just the bus and an otter.

    My groin felt painful. I peed by the side of the bridge for what seemed about eleven minutes (a personal best).

    The destination on the wedged London bus was Stratford Olympic Village via Wanstead, Leytonstone, Maryland.

    I followed my stream hoping to find civilisation. I had a curious feeling in the pit of my stomach (or maybe lower). Over a hill, I saw a building, yes a pub. There were a couple of cars outside from an 80’s TV series. The pub sign informed me that this was The Rabbit & Dermatologist.

    I heard jazz on the jukebox inside. A favourite tune featuring Old Moccasin Joe on trumpet and spoons.

    I opened the door and the barman saw me immediately.

    “Mr Gunson. Welcome back. How was your holiday, sir? Straits Of Gorgonzola bit chilly this time of year, I shouldn’t wonder.”

    “You..you..know me?” I stammered.

    “Haha, good one, sir. Yes, you own this place.”

    Report user
  3. Welcome to School by Dana Faletti
    100 words Children, Double decker bus, Sci0fi

    “Borgs on top, humans on the bottom!”
    I squeezed Jerda’s tiny five year-old-fingers, not wanting to let go.
    “But Momma, I want to sit with Leah.” She tugged on my shirt. “Why do we have to be separated on the bus?”
    Jerda’s small voice unleashed the caged lion in my belly. I shoved it back behind its bars and steadied myself.
    “Sweetheart, you and Leah can hang out after school.”
    “It’s not fair, Momma.”
    My heart twisted in my neck, green with blood and envy, beating double time with anguish for my innocent daughter.
    Her only sin was being born.

  4. @AvLaidlaw
    299 Words
    Children / Double Decker Bus / Science Fiction (dystopia)

    The Wheels of the Bus

    “The wheels of the bus go round and round,” Sam Jones sung as he drove the school bus out of the depot. His gruff voice echoed enthusiastically around empty double-decker. He’d been driving it for over forty years and you could’ve offered him a million pounds and he still wouldn’t quit. No, not for two million pounds.

    He remembered every kid he’d driven to school. Little Anne who sobbed and wouldn’t get on until old Mister Sam gave his biggest grin and promised her he wouldn’t take her anywhere bad, now would he? Or Eliot White who wore thick glasses and was always reading a book. What you got there? Sam would ask him. Science, the boy said, viruses and pathogens. Sam didn’t understand a word of it but that kid was smart. Went to university and became a scientist.

    Sam pulled in at the first stop. There weren’t any kids waiting but Anne Smith, now older than he thought possible, stepped on board and bought a ticket for the hospital.

    “What are you waiting for?” She asked him.

    “The school kids.”

    Anne shook her head. “You’re crazy.”

    “How’s Miriam doing? She must be near term now.”

    “She lost the baby Sam.”

    “That’s too bad. Maybe next time.”

    “Sam, there hasn’t been a kid born round here in years.”

    “Bad luck, that’s all.”

    “It’s the virus, Sam. No more babies. No more children. The whole bloody world is dying.”

    Sam closed the doors and started the engine. The gear stick felt stiff and rusted and he had difficulty pushing it into first. Maybe it was time to retire the old machine. He thought of the kids again, waiting at the next stop, their smiles full of hope.

    “The wheels of the bus,” he sang softly, “go round and round.”


    * * *

    297 words
    Brian S Creek
    Children / Double Decker Bus / Sci-FI

    * * *

    I was orchestrating a ten green bottles sing-a-long when our double decker bus became front row seats for a super villain’s heist. The police swiftly arrived, surrounding us and the bank, but it was clear that Killer Claw wouldn’t go quietly.

    Class 3 of Lord Holmes Primary School looked up at me, Mr Mitchell, with all the wide eyed hope they could muster.

    “Calm down, children,” I say to my fearful audience. “Everything will be okay.” Gun fire and small explosions outside call me a liar. “The police will take care of the bad man.”

    “No they won’t,” says Tommy Waterman from his view point at the front of the bus.

    “Tommy, get away from there.”

    “But sir?” he pleads, pointing outside.

    I drag him from the window, but he’s right; Claw has dealt with the police quickly and now returned his attention to his bus load of hostages. It’s too late to do anything. We’re trapped. Helpless.

    Or maybe not.

    I find Colin Gardner, the quiet kid in my class, sitting by himself.


    “Yes Mr Mitchell?”

    “I need your help with something.”

    He leans forward and whispers. “You want me to do my trick, don’t you?”

    I nod.

    “But I thought I was supposed to keep it a secret?”

    “I’m worried that if you don’t, all your friends will get hurt.”

    “I don’t want that.”

    “I know you don’t.”

    He sighs, which makes me smile, then stands up. “Okay.”

    Claw is getting closer but I’m not worried anymore.

    Little Colin Gardner pulls up his sleeves and walks down the stairs.

    The bus shudders and a small blur smashes into the villain.

    By nightfall Killer Claw would be residing in a SuperMax prison.

    And, years later, the whole world would know Colin Gardner by another name.

  6. @GeoffHolme
    266 words
    Road Tripper / Double-Decker Bus / Parody
    [ Parody of theme song to Cliff Richard film ‘Summer Holiday’ (1963) ]

    Saga Holiday (2016)

    You are going on a… SAGA HOLIDAY
    They’re de-signed for people… just like you.
    It’s your first time on a… SAGA HOLIDAY.
    You’ll have so much to do-oo-oo:
    Whist and bingo… Woo-hoo!

    You’re trav’ling on a bus through Norfolk
    With wrinklies who use wa-alking sticks.
    You quali-ify… since you we-ere born…
    In nineteen sixty si-ix.

    Geriatrics love a… SAGA HOLIDAY,
    Doing everything the… others do:
    Up at half six on your… SAGA HOLIDAY;
    Breakfast, stroll and lunch will see you through
    To a nap at two.

    You’re too old now for Club 18-30
    And all that foreign sun, sex and sea:
    The food’s gre-easy… and they ca-an’t make…
    A decent cup of te-ea.

    No all-night raves on a… SAGA HOLIDAY;
    These are thi-ings tha-at… you outgrew.
    It’s a slow pace on a… SAGA HOLIDAY –
    Can’t go rushing round like you used to:
    You may nee-eed the loo.

    You’re taking lots of socks and sandals,
    You’ve ditched your killer stiletto heels.
    Your roller-er skates… have been re-e-placed…
    By a walking-frame on whee-eels.

    It is full-board on your… SAGA HOLIDAY
    But if you pop out for a… vindaloo,
    Don’t forget you’re on a… SAGA HOLIDAY;
    Take your de-entures out with you
    In case you nee-eed to chew.

    They lay on lots of entertainment:
    You’ve booked up for a sightseeing trip.
    Let’s hope tha-at you… can keep up with…
    Your new replacement hi-ip.

    My worst nightmare is a… SAGA HOLIDAY.
    When I have to be put… out to grass.
    You can kee-eep your… SAGA HOLIDAY.
    I’ll be off through a Swiss moun-tain pass
    To Dignitas…
    To Dignitas…
    To Dignitas.

  7. On the Turn of a Card

    Elements: road tripper, jet liner, horror
    299 words


    “Why can’t we just get on a plane?” asked Paula eyeing the map with dismay.

    Adam started marking out their proposed route. “Because …”

    “Because of some bloody fake fortune teller. Didn’t think you’d fall for that.”

    “Yeah, well, all her predictions have come true so far”.

    “Fluke,” said Paula.

    But Adam was taking no chances. They were not going on a plane anywhere, ever again.

    “No,” said Paula, waving a ticket in front of him. “You can drive up to the Lakes. I’m flying. I’ll meet you there.”

    Take it easy, said his brain, only one ticket you idiot, not two.

    The psychic had said they would die together. With Paula on a plane and him in the car they were as separate as separate could be. His foreboding receded. Now he was driving on a wide open road beneath a perfect sky. The card reader had been wrong.

    No, whispered a voice, the tarot never lies.

    And in the distance he heard a scream, thought he smelt something burning.

    No. He’d dreamt it. Look, it was a beautiful day, look up, a clear blue sky chalked with the lazy contrails of Paula’s flight, look …

    No. No. No.

    The trail had started to turn and curve, to spiral down. The jet, which had been a mere speck, filled his vision, seemingly drawn to him as if by an invisible thread. Adam tried to steer out of the path of the plummeting craft but whichever way he turned the umbilicus held tight.

    Now, as the screams manifested into reality, he realised those howls of pain were his own and then, as the smell of burning flesh grew stronger, he realised in that last split-second of consciousness, well that too was his own.

    The last card had been dealt.

  8. Galactic Rule #37034: Buses Always Come in Twos
    A.J. Walker

    Commander Coulson was sat on a rock. He had been for fifteen minutes, not ready to make the call.

    ‘Here goes nothing,’ he said, to no-one but himself.

    He pressed the link button on his left sleeve and a green light came on in his visor.

    ‘Hey Coulson, good to see you’re still with us. We were worried with all the radio silence.’ Spector, at Expedition Control, said jovially. ‘So what’s the reality?’

    Coulson blinked rapidly several times hoping that the view in front of him would disappear. But it remained stubbornly the same.

    ‘Speccy, I think we should take Becca off sedation. She wasn’t er… well it is exactly what she said. She’s not cuckoo. Or if she is then I am too.’

    The radio silence was deafening and Coulson had to blink again to see if the green light was still on.

    ‘Control, did you receive?’

    After a brief break the speaker buzzed to life. ‘Received and not understood,’ said Spector. ‘Give us some visuals.’

    ‘Sure. Easier than me just repeating Beck’s report.’

    He turned the camera transmitter on and walked around the vehicle, making sure the helmet-cam took in everything. First from a distance and then walking up to the windows.

    Coulson could hear gasps and whispers in the control room as they struggled to take it in.

    After several minutes the ever calm Spector relayed the facts back to Coulson.

    ‘We’ve reviewed all the data and the pictures you’ve sent in. We can confirm it is a twentieth century double-decker bus. There’s twenty two children in there. There is no driver, which is a bit of a mystery. But it fades in comparison with the mystery of what the hell the bus is doing on Mars.’

    Coulson swore. ‘I can see another one.’

    WC 300
    Children/double decker bus/SF

  9. stellakateT
    299 words
    Children / Double-Decker bus / Science fiction

    Body Parts

    She knew her mum would give her more than a clip around the ear if she swore. So in text speak FFS Jodie on a bus, loads of kids, going to some rubbish place by the sea. She wanted to say my mum is guarding the sandwiches with her life and won’t let Jensen eat one. But it sounded like they were strapped for cash (they were), no way did she want Jodie to know that!

    OMG Jodie the oldie at the front is singing!

    Pulling the hoodie over her ears, she cursed her mum for taking her head phones. Mum worried they’d damage her hearing but the wailing was harming her mental state. Mum was always on about fresh air, exercise and plenty of fruit. Not much of that on this overcrowded double-decker. She’d kill for a diet coke, Jodie told her once her thighs were fat, mum insisted on buying cheap cola, so she now measured her body parts rigorously.

    She missed her mum and Jensen. She hadn’t time to text Jodie even if she had a phone. The boy with the clear blue eyes sitting on the prom wall had promised her the earth. Said he’d take her to the amusement arcade, buy her a diet coke and a cone of chips. He told her she was beautiful.

    Jodie, fit boy is going to give me the earth, sending a selfie.

    From the factory window she could see Earth. She wondered if mum missed her.
    The boy hadn’t lied, she had Earth. He told her she was beautiful she was, amongst these horrible body parts she had to weigh and measure. She didn’t want to know what happened to them when they left the factory. She just wished she’d obeyed her mum’s “Say no to strangers”.

  10. Roots

    ‘Sure you don’t want to come? Get some fresh air?’
    Pamela glances up at Mum & shakes her head. She thinks about what’s under the cushion at her elbow.
    ‘Dad’s got your bike ready, Pammy.’
    ‘Nah, wanna watch this.’
    ‘You’ll grow roots into that sofa.’
    Dad, in cycle helmet, peers round the door. ‘We’re having crab salad again, Pam-Pam. Remember?’
    He makes a double-snappy gesture with thumbs and forefingers. Pamela wishes they’d just go. There was a triathlon this afternoon. Rowing. Taekwondo.
    ‘Bye then!’
    Pamela turns the sound down to hear them head off, bells pinging. She yanks the crisps and doughnut six-pack from beneath the cushion. The triathlon’s starting. She tears open the crisps. Who needs the outdoors? Sunshine, wasps, embarrassing parents, the chance of seeing horrible kids from school. She’s left them behind, no idea where she’s going next. She extracts the first doughnut. For now, the Olympics is all she cares about.

    She wakes, stiff and confused. The last thing she remembers was the athletes jumping on their bikes. Now it’s the medal ceremony.
    Pamela tries to get up. There’s a ripping sound beneath her, accompanied by a searing pain. She falls back, panting. She peers around, terrified, but curious. The roots are there, like Mum promised, pale as her skin but cold and damp. She dares to touch them. They’re real, disappearing deep into the sofa. She reaches down and pulls out a twenty pence coin. How long did she sleep for? An hour? A week? A month? Where are her parents? Maybe they had an accident. She pictures them side-by-side in hospital, blood dripping from beneath their helmets.
    Sunlight blazes through the window. Her roots itch. She’s wet herself. She pulls the last doughnut out and sinks her teeth into it, as the Taekwondo begins.

    300 Words
    Teenager – Olympic Games – Horror

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  11. Beside the Seaside

    “Kalen! Kalen, wake up!”

    Kalen woke with a start, momentarily disoriented. Then he relaxed, stretched, yawned. They were on the bus, like always. On the top deck, where his big brother could scan the horizon better.

    Like always.

    “Are we there yet, Daz?” he slurred sleepily, rubbing his eyes.

    Daz softened, smiled. Tousled Kalen’s hair. “Almost,” he replied. “Want some breakfast?”

    The boys munched their protein bars in silence, ignored by the other passengers. They were stray brats, in the free seats. Not worthy of attention.

    Just how they liked it.

    Suddenly Daz cringed, clutching his temples. The compulsion to keep traveling west was strong today; the implant set his nerves on fire with an insatiable urge to get to the sea.

    Kalen touched Daz’s hand, his young eyes filled with concern. The tension faded.

    Daz smiled. “It’s OK, Kalen. We’ll get there soon and everything will be fine. I promise.”

    Kalen grinned and bit into his bar. “I know, Daz,” he said with a cheery confidence. “It’ll work out somehow. It always does.”

    Daz’s smile drained from his eyes as he looked out the window again. Does it, little brother? I don’t know this time.

    The implacable wastelands rushed past, offering up no answers or reassurance; just a relentless haze of emptiness and desolation. It was oddly comforting.

    “Look, Daz!” Kalen squealed. “The sea! The sea!”

    A glimmer of blue sparkled on the horizon and Daz lurched towards it, the implant almost making him jump through the window. Instead he grabbed at Kalen to ground himself again.

    Kalen snatched his hand away in surprise. “Careful, Daz!” he reproached. “That really pinched.”

    Daz looked at his hands: the fingers were already fusing together and hardening into shell. He closed his eyes, shuddering.

    The transformation had begun.


    296 words

    Children; Double-Decker Bus; Science Fiction

  12. A Nice Place to Visit
    248 words
    road trip/motel/s-f

    Axo and I were arguing again. No one had warned us about this place, going on and on about how beautiful it was, how we shouldn’t miss the auroras and the volcanoes. They didn’t mention the wildfires, floods, wars and refugees. Maybe the unrest was contagious.

    Anyway, there we were, lost on the interstate when we saw this sign–Star Galacto Motel and Repair. It seemed like the right time to stop. The FTL Modulator was flashing orange, and we didn’t have a spare.

    The Star Galacto Motel was pink as the sky at dawn, as pink as the row of lawn flamingos flanking the parking lot as we landed. We were met by Roy and Arlene. They ran the motel. They seemed to know just what our problem was.

    “Oh boy, I don’t have a replacement part for an FTL Modulator, Roy said. “Have to send away for that. It may take awhile.”

    Turns out, we had a lot in common with Roy and Arlene. They too had just been passing through when they decided to stay. “You’ll like it here,” Arlene said. “It’s a nice place to visit.”

    So, while we waited for our replacement part to arrive, we had time to explore the town and have lunch at the local diner. Roy and Arlene told us we could pay with some of our sparkly stones that were so common on the local asteroids but much prized here. Really, I thought, these people should travel more.

  13. “Are We There Yet?”
    Children/Long-Distance Walk/Fairy Tale
    277 Words

    “Are we there yet?”


    “Are we there yet?”


    She rolled her eyes. So much for a nice quiet walk through the woods. Every few minutes, either the boy or the girl the question usually reserved for long car rides on family vacation. The old lady with the crooked nose answered each and every time the same.

    She encouraged them to enjoy the silence, listen to the birds.

    She’d already told them their cell-phones wouldn’t work out here. They tried once; she just said, “Sorry. Not much reception.”

    “I’m getting hungry,” the boy whined after a while.

    “Me too.” The little girl rubbed her tummy.

    “Are we there yet?”

    The little old lady with the crooked back turned around and tapped her stick on the ground. “Now, now, my little sweeties, we’re just around the bend.” She approached the boy and pinched his plump flush cheeks as a proud grandmother does a baby. “I now you must be famished and I’m sorry for snapping at you. I’m not used to company, especially this time of year. Pickings, of course, are slim.” She turned to the little girl, sweat beading along her brow, and smiled. “Unlike you little sweetie. But no bother. I’m so very glad I found you. Are you feeling better now? Not so scared?”

    The boy and girl nodded in tandem.

    “Good, good, good. Just around the bend. Go on now. Run if you like. I’ll be right behind you.”

    The little boy and girl ran to the cottage around the bend and found the pantry. Much as she’d promised, the old lady stood behind them, slammed the door shut, and locked the door.

  14. Post Bellum Praxis

    “Does it actually drive?

    “How do you think we got it here?”

    Rollie hadn’t seen a wheeled vehicle much less a double decker bus outside of a museum in his short lifetime.

    “Now sit still.” The nurse pressed Rollie’s arm against the padded bar. The bus was full of ten year-olds with June birthdays going through the same procedure. Even though the Faceless arrived on Earth with the gift of antigravity technology, they didn’t bring a better way to inject tracking chips into their subjects. The syringe bores were as large as the straws used to puncture their allotted calorie bags.

    “Hold your breath.” The bus was supposed to keep the children’s mind off of the anxiety of this process, but only made it worse. Rollie would rather go through this alone than in front a dozen other crying children.

    Pain shot up his arm before he noticed the nurse make her move. The small chip was in his arm now. Tracking his movements. Making the Faceless more comfortable at home in their latest planetary conquest.

    “You’ll get used to it. The rest of your birthdays are much easier.”

    The small metal probe under his skin felt like a grain of rice. She was right, his other birthdays would be better. Eleven: aptitude screenings. Twelve: career assignments. Thirteen thru sixteen: mind sync regimen . Seventeen: mate designation. And so on.

    “You’re blessed to not know of life before the Faceless. The war, the strife, the overwhelming weight of it all.” She placed the bandage on the wound. “I saw your little brother outside. I tell him you were brave and didn’t even cry.”

    Rollie and the nurse placed two fingers over their hearts reciting the Earth’s new credo, completing the new tradition. “By giving up all we gain all.”

    299 Words
    Children, Double decker bus, scifi

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