Microcosms 36

Welcome back, flash-fictioneers, to your hebdomadal fix of Microcosms. What delights await you?

In my teenage years, my reading matter was almost exclusively sci-fi. I usually have very poor retention of details of books, films, etc., but one thing that has stayed with me from “Mindswap” by Robert Sheckley was the theory that went something like “If you stay in one place long enough, you’ll see everyone you’ve ever known.” (Variations on this are also available.)

Your task this week, should you wish to accept it, is to knock out a dazzling, breath-taking story from this prompt within 24 hours… Clock’s ticking!


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

We spun, and our three elements are character: Living Statue, setting: Pedestrian Area, and genre: Romance.

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 – you can keep clicking until you have a set of elements that inspire you. Be sure to include which three elements you’re using.

  • Pensioner
  • Beggar
  • Street Vendor
  • CCTV Controller
  • Living Statue
  • Lifeguard
  • Park Bench
  • Pavement/Sidewalk
  • News-stand
  • Shopping Mall
  • Pedestrian Area
  • Beach
  • Memoir
  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Crime
  • Science Fiction
  • Parody
  • Horror
  • Comedy
  • Allegory


Judging this week is Microcosms 35 Judge’s Pick, Steve Lodge.

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 this photo to inspire you – purely optional.


Covent Garden Living Statue (Credit: Warren Allott)
Covent Garden Living Statue
(Credit: Warren Allott)




Microcosms 37
Microcosms 35

25 thoughts on “Microcosms 36

  1. In Plain Sight
    A.J. Walker

    Joe enjoyed his job. Helping people. The personal touch. The interaction. Catching bad guys. That was what police work was all about – usually. This past two months though had put a lie to that. Solitary work: no interaction at all.

    DCI Tony Mac had it in his head that the old Woolworths was being used for some nefarious activity. The church across from it would have been ideal for a camera but their hierarchy refused permission. That was when the DCI had come up with the living statue idea; and Joe was volunteered for it.

    Everyday he was Batman. Sounds like a childhood dream. But it was a grown man’s nightmare. Stock still on a plinth for hour after hour. Kids poked him. Adults pitied him. Adolescents threw things at him.

    Each night he’d email the team: Nothing of note to report.

    There was one thing though. A few days after he’d first Batmaned another statue had set up opposite him. She was dressed as Robin but in his notes he had her down as Robyn. She was beautiful. With his mind having far too much time to do its own thing he found he fell in love with her. They were ever ten metres apart and never spoke – statues don’t. But each day he grew to love the time they had almost together. He could see nothing on the street but Robyn.

    One day Robyn left a note in Batman’s collection tin. Joe couldn’t wait to read it. A love note. It wasn’t. The scrawled red pen on the back of a twenty simply read ‘Nice Try’.

    The DCI gave Batman a right rollicking when it transpired Robyn (real name Chantelle) was part of the gang that robbed the bank next door drilling through from the Woolworths Pick & Mix.


    living statue/ pedestrian area/ romance
    WC 300

  2. Alva Holland
    WC: 300
    Pensioner/Park Bench/Memoir

    Brass Tacks

    ‘Have ya lost your bleedin’ mind, woman? Names on a bench. Pah!’
    I can hear his voice as clear as day.
    ‘Keepin’ up with the Joneses,’ Da scorned. Ma didn’t give a damn. She loved her brasses. Shuffling to the porch each morning in her slippers, shining the bejayzus out of them she was. Flashes of Da’s reluctant hammering of the guide nail to hang the new brass door-knocker – Ma’s pride and joy, as I sat in rags and she spat and polished, tried to make the place look ‘decent’ from the outside at least.
    Many a freezin’ day saw Ma and Da’s bottoms on the gnarled tree trunk felled by the storm of ’28. Nothing so posh as a park bench then.
    The rectangular brass plate has tarnished and the wooden laths are, like myself, cracked and weathered by time.
    ‘Wouldn’t it be somethin’, Dan, to have our names on a bench, ya know like the way they do in church? Wouldn’t that just make ya feel real important?’
    ´Full o’ notions,’ Da said.
    Their bones lie together in the field over the fence there, where ancient headstones dot the landscape. The ‘old graveyard’ where my bones will go. Not long now. Sitting here on this bench, Ma’s name with Da’s, whether he liked it or not, etched into the brass. I did it for you, Ma. Sorry, couldn’t deal with the church brass plan and old creepy collar himself.
    I should sit here until the end, let my life, such as it was, seep into the wood, fossilize into the laths. Let strangers and their strange children be the family I never had.
    Everyone I’ve ever known? Just Ma and Da and me – the way it’s always been. Old creepy collar, the bastard, made sure of that.

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  3. @Nthito
    300 words
    Living Statue, Pedestrian Area, Romance
    As it is

    We’d spent the day at the river further out of the city. Aurulent light cascaded over his long dark lashes framing large brown eyes no longer innocent. They sparkled under my gaze, suddenly bleeding clear liquid with a long drawn blink.
    “I don’t understand.” A feathery whisper following downcast eyes; I brushed loose strands from the unblemished skin,
    “Where the heart draws no line, the law does.” He draped a thin arm across my waist, my chest growing wet against his face. We remained so, surrounded by trickling water, distant chirrups and rustling leaves until the sky deepened into a fiery curtain; the last scene of our final act.

    He wasn’t there. Not when the sun bloomed in the distance, peeking from clustered puffs and filtering through the high-rise structures like golden fingers. Crowds milled around the cordoned off pedestrian area, scowling past the workmen carelessly slapping cold concrete over my bare skin. Mother stood rigid further off in the distance, a roulette of emotions.
    “Mr Ruskin. Any last words?” I gazed down at the lanky fellow in his flawless grey suit gleaming in the sunlight. I shook my head, sweeping my gaze over the crowds. Hopeful.
    “The boy has been banned from visiting this part of the city.” The man said with furrowed brow,
    “Not even as a last request?”
    “You’re in no position to make last requests. Your kind deserve no rights at all.” I nodded my head and looked towards the sun. It would be the last time I would feel its warmth against my skin. Changing laws meant there was no rehabilitation-focused incarceration where freedom was an attainable dream. Criminals were literally cemented into living statues and put into public spaces, living their last days as public spectacles of ridicule. And thus I would always be.

  4. ‘Camera 1 and Camera 2 are out of action,’ Harry the CCTV operator informed the security guards below, while he pushed at the series of buttons in his 3rd floor office.
    Camera 1 was state-of-the-art with 360 degree swivel action. Camera 2 was newly-installed, all mod cons, close-up technology like no other. What could possibly be the issue?
    To make matters worse, this was Saturday at peak shopping time. Harry would get it from the people on the 4th.
    He stopped pressing the buttons, started to study the television screens in front of him again. He looked at them even more closely this time.
    He had to be mistaken! That couldn’t be the case!
    But the screens weren’t blank as he’d first thought; instead, Camera 1 and Camera 2 seemed locked into their position, both gazing across the crowded shopping mall straight into the other’s lens.
    150 words

    CCTV Operator/ Shoping Mall/ Romance

      1. Ha! Given the storyline, it seems that “Je t’aime (moi non plus)”, by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, would be more appropriate background music!
        [ Get a (security surveillance) room! ]
        Nice take on the romance angle, Marie.

      2. In a bid to ‘unlike’ my mistaken ‘like’, I’ve ‘liked’ my own story again. Please subtract 2 likes from mine.

      3. As far as I am aware, Marie, repeated clicks on a vote button will toggle ON, OFF, ON… etc. and the “thumbs up” icon on the button will turn red for ON or black for OFF.
        I think it’s only possible to vote for yourself more than once if you view the post from different devises. (Oops! please disregard this information, everyone… 🙁 ) If the devise from which you are viewing the post shows the vote button as red, you ought to be able to click it again to remove your vote.
        I don’t have the technology to remove other people’s votes – not sure it would be a good idea, even it is possible.
        In order to go some way towards complying with your request, Marie, I reluctantly removed my own vote from your story.

  5. Street Vendor / Beach / Parody
    295 words

    Alimentary, my dear Watson

    ‘See there, Watson. The straw hat, the slight favouring of the left side, the twitching middle finger.’
    ‘It’s not Moriarty, Holmes. For the love of Mrs Hudson, that’s just a man selling pineapples.’
    Holmes waved the pipe smoke away. ‘Are you sure? He’s five foot ten, despite sinking into the sand, and his left knee is scarred…’
    ‘He’s black. Do you think Moriarty, for all his skills, has found a way to change race?’
    ‘Could be a disguise.’
    ‘Could be you’ve smoked too much of that herbal mix you bought from the vendor with the dreadlocks.’
    ‘Now that one was a likely candidate. Hooded eyes, a definite hint of the Rhineland.’
    ‘Holmes, the vendor was a woman. Can we not have some peace on our holiday without this constant paranoia about Moriarty?’
    ‘Oh alright. What do you want to do?’
    ‘Shall we grab an ice cream and we can sit over there and plan our afternoon? There’s that chap, over by the bandstand. Let’s see what he has.’
    ‘Hello, gentlemen. What can I get you?’
    ‘Careful, Watson. You can’t be too sure. Here, let me. Now it’s not chocolate, and I’d warrant there’s never been a strawberry close to this one. So if you eliminate the impossible, the answer, however improbable…’
    ‘It says ‘vanilla’, Holmes. Is it vanilla?’
    ‘Yes, gents. Only the finest.’
    ‘We’ll take two cones, thank you.’
    ‘You know, Watson, this is delicious. I say, where do you source your ingredients, my good fellow?’
    ‘Well, it has taken me years but I have found that there is a little place in Switzerland, perfect for the best mix. Reichenbach Falls. Maybe you know it?’
    ‘Watson. Watson, wait. Did you hear what he said? What are you doing with your trusty old army revolver, Watson…?’

    1. Great stuff, Geoff! You definitely conveyed a sense of what a pain in the arse Holmes must have been, constantly analysing every single detail, unable to switch off, even on a trip to the seaside. And you went with a variation of the prompt: ‘Keep obsessing about someone long enough and you’ll find evidence of him in everyone you see’.

  6. Bad News
    286 words
    Lifeguard, park bench, memoir


    I hacked into the protected files in that flash drive, and came up with your answers…I don’t think you’ll like them. The good news is, Samantha wasn’t cheating on you. The bad news is, Samantha never got to finish the book she was writing.

    The worst news is…Well. See for yourself.

    – M

    I met my hero on a park bench when I was a kid. He was scribbling something on a piece of paper. In retrospect he was probably some nut, but I was fascinated. I sat down beside him and asked “What are you writing, mister?”

    “A list of all the lives I’ve saved,” he said. “Kid, I’m a hero. I worked that beach for thirty years and nobody every drowned on my watch. A hero, kid, and they fired me anyway, all because of one little incident.”

    “Gee, that’s tough,” I said.

    “Tough? It’s damned unfair, is what it is.” The old guy shoved the paper in my face. “Look at this list. Look at it. I still remember all their names!”

    It was an impressive list.

    “I let one kid get eaten by a jellyfish, and they’re all ‘ooooh he must be past it, give him early retirement.’ Ugh.”

    “Did you like being a lifeguard?” I asked.

    “It was my everything,” he said, and there were tears in his eyes.

    To this day, I’m still not sure how a jellyfish ate an entire child, but that doesn’t matter. Meeting that old man inspired me to become who I am today.

    I swore it, then and there.

    “I’ll get the assholes who did this to you,” I said.

    That was the first time I performed an assassination. It was awesome.

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  7. The Old Guy Who Talked to the Squirrels…or, at least, one Squirrel

    “Yup, that’s the way I remember it, Officer. Every day, I walk by that little park, sit down on the wooden bench by the stream, feed the squirrels, talk to ’em, tell ‘em it’s alright, squirrels are people too.”

    Whack jobs, thought Tom Dilly. On this beat, I get whack jobs. Still, Dilly, you gotta be professional.

    “So, Sir, you were talking to some squirrels? What did they say?”

    The old man looked at Officer Dilly as if to ask, “What would you expect a squirrel to say?”

    “My apologies. It was one squirrel. I talk to them all, but really it was only one of them who spoke to me.”

    “One?” queried Dilly.

    “Yup. Their spokessquirrel, I guess you could say.”

    “Fine. And he…it was a he?”

    “Roberto. So, yes.”

    “The squirrel who spoke to you was named Roberto?”

    “Yup. Could be an alias, I suppose.”

    “Right. What did Roberto say?”

    “Well, he asked me if I had ever watched Davy Crockett’s Keel Boat Race?”

    “I’m sorry. What?”

    “It was a delightful Walt Disney episode back in the 1950’s. Before your time, I suppose.”

    Dilly rubbed his eyes and momentarily wished for the weekend to arrive.

    “So he asked you about some old movie?”

    “TV show. Yup.”

    “And did you remember it?”

    “Vividly. Quite vividly.”

    “And then?”

    “He asked if I remembered the squirrel in the episode.”

    “Another squirrel?”

    “Yup. And I did. The squirrel kept throwing nuts in Georgie Russell’s coffee.”


    “Davy Crockett’s friend…played by Buddy Ebsen. Fine actor. And a funny scene. Highlight of my life up to then.”

    “And he asked you about this…why?”

    “Oh, to establish his credentials, I suppose. The squirrel in the film was an ancestor of Roberto’s.”

    “So then he mentioned the Martians to you?”

    “Just one Martian, officer. Just one.”

    Pensioner; park bench; memoir
    300 Disney moments

  8. I Have Traveled Extensively
    151 words
    pensioner/park bench/memoir

    I have travelled extensively, for a librarian. I have seen the water lilies of Giverny. I even went to Paris once, and saw girls that Renoir would have painted.

    I have met Shakespeare and Milton, Chaucer and Flaubert, Cervantes and Jane Austen. I’ve spent many an afternoon with Emily Dickinson and Thoreau, discussed philosophy with Socrates, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Descartes, and painting with Picasso.

    Even though I am retired now, I still travel to the library to visit them. There I found my soul mate, Jorge-Luis Borges. There I met my husbands, too. Both Henry and James.

    When I travel to the library, I like to stop in the park, sit on a bench and watch the crowds at lunchtime. I have names for all the pigeons–William and Emily, Pablo and Calvino. Sometimes I see Henry there, among the children laughing. James was always a dreamer; I see his face in the clouds.

  9. Butterfly Moments

    287 words
    Elements: pensioner, pavement, crime


    “Don’t step on the cracks, don’t step on the cracks, don’t …”

    “Pardon, Grandad?”

    A sneering face, stubbled and scarred, swam into Charlie’s view. He blinked, watery eyes trying to refocus on those around him rather than on the slabs beneath his feet.

    “The cracks,” he smiled, polite, gesturing to the grid of concrete on which they stood.

    “Superstitious type, eh? What would happen if I gave you a little nudge?” Charlie felt a hand grip his arm. “Do you think you’d fall through?” The man’s breath was sour, poisoned, like the rest of him.

    Charlie thought back. The city, his city, had been built to his design, funded by his money and he had watched it emerge, replacing slums and grim tenements; a phoenix rising from the ashes. He had not created it for the likes of this thug.

    Other memories returned. They were harder to hold onto these days, butterfly moments of lucidity flitting away from his grasp in ever-decreasing circles. The cracks. There was something special about them. The concrete mix, the secrets buried. Remember, remember …

    “I said, Grandad, what do you think’s gonna happen?”

    A flutter of wings and then a vision of peacock clarity. Remembered what he had been. He grinned. “Why don’t we see?”

    Charlie caught a glimpse of a truck bearing down behind them, its rumbling speed causing the ground to vibrate. He pretended to stumble as they stepped forward, the unexpected movement sending his assailant falling into the road. Into the path of the speeding lorry.

    “Step on the cracks and bad things happen,” said Charlie and continued on his way, ignoring the sirens beginning to scream. “Don’t step on the cracks, don’t step on the cracks …”

  10. The Kaufman Procedure
    A Street Vendor/Park Bench/Science Fiction tale of 298 words
    by @The_Red_Fleece

    Where is she?
    He checks his wrist implant for latest time. The red digits on the mirrored glass disc tells him she’s late.
    Dum da dum, dum da dum
    His fingers drum the park bench, the old wood polished to look new. She is meant to do the same thing to him, when she ***** arrives. His brain can’t find the word, the bad word.
    Dum da dum, dum da dum
    All nervous energy, looks guilty. He knows the police drones zip above him. Never look up, that definitely looks guilty. He can’t be that again. The warm meals and four walls are nice, the Kaufman Procedure isn’t. He’s lost too much already.
    Where is she?
    Did he say that out loud?
    Looks around, no one is looking, no one at all. Thank **** Another gap, another word he paid to Kaufman. That two bit ****
    Where is she?
    He needs his words back. Tears. Brushes them away too quickly, too nervous, too guilty.
    A hand of his shoulder.
    On his feet. His fists aren’t up, limp by his side. Unable to fight. Another Kaufman payment. Next time. This time is his words, the one the street vendor has in her hand. A single red pill to fix whatever synapse in his brain gives him his words back. The swear words.
    He nods, a nodding dog, never stopping.
    “Yes, yes, yes.” He holds his wrist implant against hers.
    Sweet, sweet success.
    A line of metal cracks onto his wrist.
    “You are under arrest for trying to reverse the Kaufman Procedure through chemical means. Don’t worry, we’ll make you a good man again.”

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    1. Nice take on the SciFi classic element of the homogenised society.
      [ My wife wants to know where she can take me for the Kaufman Procedure, to avoid the parade of four letter words when my laptop decides to take industrial action. 😉 ]

  11. Statuesque
    By Joe Volkel
    Living Statue, Pedestrian Area, Romance
    260 Words

    If there was one lesson in my life that I will never forget, it has to be “Never steal from old ladies!”.
    I kind of knew this before, but I was desperate – again. She sat on the park bench feeding pigeons and was oblivious to the rest of the world (or so I thought). She wore nice clothes and sparkly jewelry, so I figured her purse would be worth lifting. Quick and easy.
    I did my best to sneak quietly up behind her, the bag just begging to be taken. I don’t know how she knew I was there, but the next thing I knew she kind of wrinkled her nose, or maybe blinked – I’m not really sure, then everything went black.
    I woke up here, standing in a rigid pose on some stupid rock. I was frozen in mid stride and I could see several statues in the park that were in similar positions to mine.
    The old lady sat on the bench smiling and feeding the pigeons. She flicked a finger and the whole damn flock of them took off and landed right on me! Her smile got bigger.
    They did their pigeonly duty on me and then flew over to the next statue. All except for one. He sat on top of my head and made gentle cooing sounds. I swear, he fell in love with me. Then he leaned over a little and crapped right on my nose. If I ever get out of this mess I will certainly remember to be nice to old ladies!

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