Microcosms 38

Howdie, pardners! Welcome to Microcosms #38.

This week, we are making a slight break from our usual format to celebrate Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen – born in the USA 67 years ago today. And ‘Born in the USA’ (1984) became his most commercially-successful album and one of the highest-selling records ever, with world-wide sales topping more than 30 million copies. It spawned seven Top 10 hit singles.

Our contest this week begins with just two things: song title and genre. Use the song title as the title of your entry, and/or incorporate it somewhere in your story.

We spun, and our two elements are song title: Cover Me, and genre: Thriller.

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 tell us which two elements you’re using.

  • Dancing in the Dark
  • Cover Me
  • Born in the USA
  • I’m on Fire
  • Glory Days
  • I’m Goin’ Down
  • My Hometown
  • Memoir
  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Crime
  • Science Fiction
  • Parody
  • Horror
  • Comedy
  • Allegory


Judging this week is Microcosms 37 Judge’s Pick, Richard Edenfield.

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.


Microcosms 39
Microcosms 37

49 thoughts on “Microcosms 38

  1. The Hitchville Examiner-The Buddy Rocket Story

    “I don’t wanna talk to you. Beat it.”

    Sandford Scoot, the angry man berating me, is wearing a ratty tartan robe, picking purple grapes with one hand, waving me away like I am some bug with the other.

    He lives in the south end of Hitchville. The real growth’s been in the north. The south end’s been sitting there for years, abandoned, decaying, waiting for the bulldozers.

    I step into his yard. He’s half hidden by the grapes vines curling around the veranda.

    “Mr. Scoot, I don’t mean to be disrespectful. You were Buddy Rocket’s High School coach. He woulda been the biggest thing Hitchville ever produced…if he’d been…able.”

    “Get offa my property. You newspaper leeches make me sick. That boy…he sank before he had a chance to swim.”

    “Yes Sir. That he did. That’s the story that needs telling. Baseball phenom…world by the tail…fizzled like a comet crashing into the moon.”

    As I weave my garish language arts, I witness Sandford Scoot, cranky curmudgeon and retired high school baseball coach soften like butter in the sun. He’s just another old fart who loves to talk, who wants to tell his glory days story, who’s waiting to be courted.

    “Like a comet…” He mimics my words but they don’t sound like me. It’s like his lungs are full of tears.

    “They’ll keep coming, Sir. People like me. Tell me now and save yourself the aggravation.”

    He’s hooked. Or tired. I can’t tell which.

    “There’s no story. Never was. Oh, Buddy had skill…more than most. It’s just, he didn’t have the heart. He was a simple kid…smart enough not to join the circus. But not smart enough to stay off the sauce. The simple boy became a simple man…and died a simple drunk.”

    And I’m thinking: I can work with this.

    300 grapes on the vine
    Glory Days; Memoir

  2. Alva Holland
    297 words
    Dancing in the Dark/Memoir

    Let’s Dance

    ‘Let’s go somewhere a bit quieter,’ she said into my ear, cupping her tiny hand around her mouth so I could hear her above the music din. It was the first time I felt her touch, inadvertent though it was, on the side of my head with the side of her hand. That touch changed the path of the rest of my life.
    The rest of my life – did I think this was even a thing? Destined to remain alone, I was at sixes and sevens when she slipped her fragile fingers into my palm and gestured to outside. Nobody paid much attention as we made our way through the pulsating crowd of celebrating bodies. The bride and groom were in there somewhere, about to embark on a life together, however long or short that might be. Cynical eh? I’m not a fan of weddings having been denied one myself. Selfish I suppose but that’s me. No-one to be unselfish about or with.
    She led me outside where the flashing lights ceased and were replaced by the twinkling sparkles of the moon on the water – now this was more my scene. I needed to sit down. Somehow she guessed and led me to a waterside bench where a weeping willow hung over us like a suspended umbrella.
    We sat in silence, her hand still in mine.
    ‘Let’s dance,’ she said.
    ‘Dance?’ I spluttered. Here? What? I never…’
    She halted my protest. ‘Let’s dance, Tom. Let’s dance in the dark.’
    And we did. Found out we shared a Birthday that day – my 75th, her 76th. Later, I told her that dancing in the dark was the best Birthday present ever.
    ‘For me too,’ she smiled.
    I sit here alone now on our bench, weeping with the willow.

    1. Hi Geoff, Could you add the word ‘her’ for me please.
      Third last line ‘Later I told her that dancing in the dark…’

    2. Oh, Alva, you certainly know how to play with our emotions – or maybe my hormones need rebalancing…
      A double twist in the tail, as first we discover that the romantic couple are septagenarians (bless!), and then that the MC is now sadly on his own again (sob!)
      You have the knack of telling a deceptively simple tale beautifully. Love it!

    3. Ha! I can comment now! I really loved this story…from the very start and the innocent yet powerful touches and the idea of youngsters slipping away from a wedding party, to the lovely imagery of her fingers in his hand. And of course, the ending. Beautiful.

  3. Cover Me by Steve Lodge
    300 words
    Cover Me/ Thriller

    “Please hurry, Honey. They’re following us.”

    “Look, we’re just out of a nightclub, did you ever try running in high heels?”

    He paused for a minute in a darkened doorway. “Yes, but that’s more of a fifth date revelation.”

    “A fifth date? OK.” She smiled, seeming to like the idea.

    “Gotta get that downbound train tonight, Angel. If those guys catch me, you’ll be dating a corpse.”

    She tutted. “You make that sound like it’s something new.”

    They kept close to the buildings, edging toward the train station. The rain was heavy, the snow slushy.
    “Stay here, Dumpling.” He was gone, heading for the station. She stood shivering, flicking wet hair away from her face.

    Then he was back. “No trains tonight, Duchess. Snow drifts everywhere. Booked us a motel by the station.”

    “If we gonna have all these dates, mister, you gotta stop calling me Cuddles, Kitten, Doorstop, Honey… my name is Amanda.”

    He grinned. “OK. Vincent.”

    She snorted. “No, Amanda. Try and remember it. ”

    “Sorry. My name is Vincent.”

    “You got guys following you why?”

    “I helped get their Boss arrested. I’m a Private Eye. Then you and me, we’re just dancing in the dark when I get this text from my buddy in the Police Dept saying Lay Low!”

    They retreated to their motel room away from the awful weather.

    Up around dawn, they heard shots and shouting.

    He jumped up and started dressing. “I don’t want to go outside. I’ll take a peek, see if it’s those guys. Cover me.” She threw the blanket over him. “Yes, when I said cover me, Amanda, I actually meant with my gun on the dresser.” He pulled the blanket off his head. Then she shot him.

    “Shouldn’t have got the Boss busted. Finally got my name right though.”

    Report user
      1. Thanks so much for your comment, Sian, and for your great story. Really enjoyed it. Hpe you enjoying your weekend.

  4. Sian Brighal
    287 words
    Cover me / thriller

    Be Careful Who You Ask

    “Why you hiding?”

    His voice saunters up the dark staircase, casual like a welcomed visitor, and the bullnose creaks under his heavy foot. A sympathetic squeal answers: the hinges on a bathroom door. Like rolling thunder his shoes thump against the stairs, and then he’s knocking on the door.

    “You in there, honey?” The steady, drumming rain fills the heavy silence. “Honey?” he asks, his voice louder than he likes: just the rain and creaking floorboards respond.

    His fist punches the door, and he’s sucking the sting out of his knuckles when she answers. “Yeah…won’t be long.”

    “You sound off?”

    “No…I…I wasn’t expecting you…home so soon, that’s all.”

    “Aww, bless, honey,” he says as he strokes the door between them. “I told you I was coming on in…be here to look after you, just like you asked.” He pauses and scratches at his stubble. “It weren’t nice to leave me standing on the step, though.”

    “I…didn’t realise it was you. It was dark…”

    “I understand. I’ll fix the door tomorrow. You coming out now? Dinner’s ready.”

    An odd crackle ruptures the quiet, and he rests his ear against the wood. “What you doin’ in there?” he snaps.

    -Sit tight, Cathy; help is on the way.-

    “What was that?”

    “Just the radio. I’m trying to…find our song.”

    “No…you don’t sound right. Let me in, Donna!”

    “I’m not Donna!”

    “Let me come on in! I know you want me to.”

    “Please leave me alone! I was just singing that song…”

    -Be advised, I found the husband! I’m entering the property…cover me!-

    1. Welcome to Microcosms, Sian! We hope you like the contest, and that you will vote for your favourite story or stories and perhaps post a comment or two on other entries.

      This was a very atmospheric tale, building the tension as it went along. I loved the opening: ‘His voice saunters up the dark staircase, casual like a welcomed visitor…’ , evoking the innocent demeanour of an abusive partner who can become aggresive at the drop of a hat. Chilling.

  5. Words: 259

    Song title: Dancing in the Dark – Genre: Memoir

    Dancing in the Dark

    The far-off stars did a lazy dance as I moved, weightless outside the shuttle. No longer bound to the world below or the cramped quarters within I could let my soul drift within the vastness of galaxy and stardust.

    A strange planet hung within the ether below, slowly, slowly turning a dance in the darkness to silent music. I closed my eyes, imagined the music of the stars, and moved fingers, stiff within their protective suit, to the silent tempo.

    Somewhere I knew there were the coloured pillars of creation, etched in billowing clouds against the darkness. Other spheres, too, hung in the ether. All danced together. Here, however, was only the shuttle and the planet and the dance that would last until the last black hole blinked out of existence.

    I moved slowly, as gracefully as the suit made it possible, ignoring the insistent voices being transmitted into my ears. Louder and louder they shouted, but the music was too intoxicating. The everlasting dance lured me away from the shuttle, sung its siren song, made me turn off the communication so I could better hear the stars and planets’ silent music.

    I drifted away, loosened from the bonds that tethered me to the shuttle and the world where lights were too bright and too close, where stardust-people fought and killed and burned. I closed my eyes. Silence enveloped me. At last I was who I was supposed to be. I, too, was turning and dancing to the music of the living universe. I was dancing in the dark.

    1. Very atmospheric. It was easy to miss the frantic pleas to stop her (him) as they started their own dance…so very alluring and peaceful. Thank you.

  6. Legs Eleven
    A.J. Walker

    It was supposed to be an easy day. A quick in and out job. That’s what she’d said. As I crouched in the shadow of the warehouse, I was calculating how much to put up my percentage. Another part of my brain was trying to work out whether I’d believed Miss Lewis on first sight because of her warm smile and those legs that went on for ever – but that was for later. The immediate concern was how to get out of the compound now that there was a guard and dog on site, which Leggy Lewis had neglected to warn me about.

    I looked to my mobile again and finally saw a single bar flash up. These docks were like some lead-lined box, and mobile coverage was as fleeting as a moment of truth in the race to the Whitehouse. I pressed send and saw the progress-bar struggle across the screen until, painfully, it paused at the finish, but finally it went.

    At eleven pm, Jimmy text to say he was around the corner from the gate. He’d been on a promise – his first for weeks – and I was going to owe him big time.

    The dog barked. It sounded like a T-Rex with a mood on. I valued my limbs in place, not in pieces. I felt for the papers from the safe, still against my heart. When I was ready to run, they’d better stay in place or I wasn’t gonna get paid a bean.

    A man’s voice rang out.

    ‘Who goes there?’

    Security evidently watched lots of old war films.

    I rang Jimmy, it was time.

    ‘Cover me!’

    Headlights went on at the gate and I ran for the hole in the fence. I prayed T-Rex was acting the moth today.


    WC: 300
    Cover Me; thriller

  7. I’m on fire/ comedy
    293 words
    no twitter handle.

    I am afraid of no ghost

    I was walking through the aisles in my greengrocer when I came upon a collection of chillies. They looked so bright and cheerful I knew I had to take some home for my hubby. He loves his chillies. I took one of each. A jalapeño, a habanero and a Bhut jolokia. I had never heard of a Bhut jolokia but I knew my hubby would love it. So off I trundled home with my little packet of chillies. As I got near my house, I could see my man’s car in the drive, and I knew he would be excited to see me, especially with my collection of chillies. “Hey, bear, Look what I rustled up for you?” He grabbed the packet and then spun me in a circle. “Oh wow. You rock. You know I love my chillies.” He immediately dug into the packet. He grabbed the Bhut jolokia and it looked similar to a very big wrinkled up jalapeño. Before I could warn him, he had taken a healthy chomp. His eyes expanded and the sweat began to pour from his forehead. “I’m on fire!” he screamed. I ran into the house and grabbed a glass of milk. As I rushed back out the door, he had jumped into the pool and was lapping up the water like a thirsty dog. But all it did was increase the heat. I grabbed him out of the pool and gave him the milk, and it slowed the burn down. He looked at me. “Are you try to kill me?” “No, honey, but if you had asked me I would have told it was a Bhut jolokia, a ghost chilli. The greengrocer told me you would love it because of the burn,” I winked.

    Report user
    1. Welcome to Microcosms, Nicola! We hope your are inspired, and come back regularly for more flash fiction fun.

      I liked your interpretation of the song title ( It’s ‘I’m on Fire’, by the way, not ‘I am on Fire’ – I amended your entry 😉 ) The Ghost chilli, with its massive Scoville rating, would have most people on fire!

  8. Citizen
    238 words
    Born in the USA/memoir
    @ voimaoy

    I remember tall grass, fireflies dancing in the dark. I remember green hills, and blue rivers snaking between the bluffs, where high above, eagles flew.

    Those days are already distant, as I travel this scorched land. No water for tears now. We are all refugees here.

    Now, there are endless black highways, and green exit signs. Guards at the exits, checking ID, every time. “Are you a citizen?” Hands on his rifle. Empty blue eyes in an empty face. To him, I am not even human.

    “Yes, sir.” I smile politely. There is no point in arguing technicalities. I open my palms to the air. “I am a citizen, and I have no weapons.”

    “Let’s see some ID,” he sighs. He’s not afraid of a harmless old woman, like me.

    I reach in my bag for my wallet. I hand him the plastic card. It’s a state ID, from years ago. My braids were jet black then.

    He frowns. “This card has expired. There is no Iowa anymore.”

    “Well, it’s still me. I haven’t expired.”

    He looks like he’s ready to hit me, punch me in the face. I don’t want to hurt him; he’s only a boy. A boy with a gun, I tell myself. Neither of us is harmless.

    “Yes, sir,” I say, “I am a citizen. I was born in the USA.”

    He says nothing. His fingers twitch. I smile and reach for the sky.

    1. Lovely, lovely story. It’s so gently written that the context becomes so much harsher…that soft reminiscence against harsh matter-of-factness. Thoughtful and enjoyable read, thank you.

  9. @goldzco21
    Dancing in the Dark/ Memoir
    300 words

    The Gauntlet

    I stood beneath the swing set in the rapidly dissipating light. Somewhere between the corrosion and the multiple coats of paint—red, blue, yellow—I could still see the original pale green paint from 15 years ago.

    That evening on the playground, I remembered you. I remembered the gauntlet we used to run. The savagery of little boys in full display as we took turns running through kids swinging like pendulums, legs extended, ready to knock us on our asses.

    I looked at the swing set, missing all but one swing, the frame bent and bowed. In the abandoned schoolyard, it looked like the exoskeleton of a giant beast picked clean. It felt wrong to see it in that condition, dying in the mangled weeds. I knew you wouldn’t have liked to see it either.

    I sat down on the only swing and slowly rocked. The swing squelched, protesting my gentle motion. It was far too old, and I far too heavy for it. I sat there until the dark skies were peppered with stars. In that darkness my memory replayed the last time I ever saw you.

    You only had two more swings to cross before you passed the gauntlet. You dodged the penultimate kid leaning back hard on the backswing trying to knock you out, but the last kid connected with a kick. I ran toward you to see if you were okay. You immediately got up and started dancing. I laughed. You always made me laugh. Then the bell rang, and we went into our classrooms. I never saw you again.

    But that night in the darkness I saw you dancing—knees bending and extending with no rhythm. I laughed hard, and the swing laughed with me. Only this time your dance wasn’t interrupted by the bell.

    1. Fantastic read, thank you. The imagery was stunning–can’t get the image of insect-like remains out of my head. Thank you!

  10. @geofflepard.com
    291 words
    Cover Me / Thriller

    Cover Me

    Working in a morgue suited Kathy. Most said it would creep them out, but she liked the quiet, the sense of peace. The dead are harmless, they don’t rush about.
    When the flu outbreak took hold, the need for quarantine procedures kicked in. Special covers isolated each corpse. Follow the rules, and everyone stays safe.
    Then the death toll grew, affecting the morgue staff, the cremation teams, the forensic scientists. The morgue filled with shrouded bodies, shapeless forms still potent, and Kathy began to fret.
    Wednesday. She arrived with still sleep-sticky eyes. Dawn wasn’t on reception; no Colin waving from the lab; no Mo, suited and booted and already washing the latest intake.
    She was alone.
    Only, she wasn’t. It was her and seventy-one cadavers, plus however many were in the loading bay to be tagged, logged, sorted for identification, examination and autopsy. The hiss of the air extraction buzzed in her ears as she dressed in her protective suit. The radio crackled; a voice, far off, saying something.
    ‘Hello? Is that you, Mo?’
    ‘Cover me.’
    More voices, a hubbub of whispers, saying ‘Cover me’.
    In the morgue, she looked for the source of the voices. Something caught her eye, on the periphery of her vision. She shuddered and headed for the loading bay.
    She stared through the glass in the door at a mass of bodies, seemingly dumped at random, and a pile of isolation bags into which each should already have been inserted. She realised the faces of the bodies all faced her, with open, vacant eyes and, in her head, saying ‘Cover me’ with a desperation she had never before heard.
    Shuddering, she reached for the latch when a hand gripped her shoulder and turned her round.

  11. I’m Goin’ Down

    Elements: I’m Goin’ Down, Horror
    298 words


    The scratching sound continued. “I’m goin’ down,” said Alan. “Probably rats the way your mother let this place go to rack and ruin.”

    “Mmm,” grunted Carol, turning over and pulling the blankets over her head.

    Alan briefly considered the recumbent mountain lying beside him. Even the company of rats seemed preferable these days. How had it ever come to this? He briefly thought of Alexa, wondered what she would be doing tonight, remembered their last weekend together.

    Slowly he made his way downstairs.

    The scratching came again. This time from the room where Margaret, his late mother-in-law, was spending her last night in the ancestral home. Probably the old witch trying to claw her way out of the coffin, he thought. The moon leered through the French windows, licked at the casket with its silver tongue. He shuddered. The house had always given him the creeps.

    A movement from behind caught his attention. Slowly he turned, saw Carol standing in the doorway. How had she crept up on him unheard?

    Frenzied scrabbling sounds erupted from behind the room’s panelling. His skin crawled at the thought of what it might hide.

    “You said you’d see to the rats,” said Carol, moving towards him.

    The strange light turned her into a giant, and her approaching mass forced him back into a corner, towards a door he had not noticed.

    The scratching grew wilder; squeals of excitement and expectation assailed him from all directions.

    Carol pulled the door open and with sudden and unexpected force, pushed him into the room beyond, into a mass of writhing bodies. Tooth and claw grabbed and stabbed at him, ripped at exposed skin, gouged at his eyes. He screamed out in agony.

    Somehow, Alan regained his feet, staggered towards his wife.

    She closed the door.

    1. Scratching sounds in the night are always unnerving, Steph. My policy is to pull up the covers and hope the noises go away: Alan’s chilling experience certainly hasn’t made me change my views on the subject.
      [ I love the image of the Man in the Moon French kissing the coffin through the French windows! 😉 ]

    2. Wonderful last line! He was a rat, though…deserved it! Wonder if the rats will have Alexa for dessert? Great read, thanks!

  12. @stellakateT
    My Hometown / Crime
    213 words

    Honour Your Parents

    Years ago, my hometown was a few houses, one shop and two bars. My momma used to say the Devil lived here because drinkers always went to Hell. She knew a lot about alcoholics: every man bar one in her family could drink the anti-Christ under the table. Her daddy used to beat his wives till they stopped speaking. He said silence was a gift from God and his wives begged God daily to end their suffering. He had three wives and ten daughters, no sons. He told the world it was his cross to bear, the company of women. When I was born my momma cried so much the doctor said she would rupture a membrane if she wasn’t careful. She tried to keep grandpa from me, but it was like keeping flies away from a rotting corpse. He taught me to hunt, swear and beat my sisters before I could read. He taught me to be a real man; well that’s what he told me. My momma at night would whisper in my ear and tell me what a real man should be. The day the Sheriff came for me, I didn’t know it was a crime to obey the fourth commandment. I honoured my mother by killing my father, Grandpa.

    1. Wow, Stella! I wasn’t sure how my last minute contest prompt would go down with the Microcosms community, but we have had a wide spectrum of entries. Yours is a very gritty, visceral tale – powerful stuff.

  13. Dancing in the Dark
    A sci fi micro tale written by @the_red_fleece
    58 words

    “May I have this dance?”
    “Of course.” She steps into his arms. No music starts, only notes in their heads to the chorus of 1234, 1234, 1234. No one is watching. A dying sun their only audience. Embers burning out in time to their steps. A final curtain of darkness draws ever closer. Life will go out dancing.

    Report user
  14. @GeoffHolme
    94 words
    I’m Goin’ Down / Crime

    Too High A Price

    Yeah, I’m goin’ down
    To my hometown
    Where I spent my glory days
    ‘Cos I’m on fire
    With a strong desire
    That has set my soul ablaze.

    Just dancing in the dark
    Makes black folks a mark
    For the gung-ho boys in blue.
    If they see a gun,
    Though there isn’t one,
    Then that might be all for you.

    This must be addressed,
    So I’m home to protest:
    It’s too high a price that we pay.
    If a cop gun should floor me
    Cover me with Old Glory:
    I was born in the USA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.