Thanks to all of you who commemorated the anniversary of the passing of actor Dennis Weaver by submitting a story to Round 60. We had a reduced total of 11 entries this week.
Please keep returning to Microcosms, and retweet / spread the word about this contest among your followers and friends.
Don’t forget that Microcosms exists primarily to provide a platform for the flash fiction community to hone their skills, and secondarily to give entrants a chance of receiving an accolade from that week’s judge. We also have the vote button for anyone – not just fellow entrants – to register their favourite/favorite(s) and thus establish a Community Pick.
Remember, you can reply with a comment to any and all of the entries AT ANY TIME: It’s good to have feedback.
Many thanks to Sian Brighal for judging MC 60. Here’s what she had to say:
It’s been a pleasure to read through these stories, and then comes the hard part of having to judge them. Not easy, given that the authors are so very good at wielding their craft. I’m still amazed at how complete and refined these can be in so few words, and the diversity in responses to similar prompts. It was such hard work to select the winners, and I have to say it came down to a gut feeling and which ones stayed with me after reading. Congratulations to you all for some amazing reads. Thank you.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Bill Engleson – I am flavored yogurt in her soft hand.
Quite vividly summed up the outcome of their encounter. Nice imagery.
Alva Holland – Do you want to hear the odd-numbered problems?
I read this and it inspired all kinds of thoughts and dreads. Was it meant to answer ‘yes’?
Ronel J. van Vuuren – Mary grinned.
Perhaps out of context a rather odd line to pick, but with all that had gone before, that grin was a harbinger of all ills and a testament of madness. I saw that grin unfold with all the portent of Hell opening.
Nthato Morakabi – The muck broiled, a single eye floating to the surface.
Great image summing up where the story had been leading.
Stephen Shirres – …a small man who would disappear into a crowd in an empty room.
Clever flow highlighting quite powerfully the wanted image.
Steph Ellis – Then dark-shadowed Death mounted its pale horse and rode out into the world.
Excellent line explaining it all and leading you into the unwritten terrible future.
Nicola Tapson – Only he had left a storm within me which couldn’t be tempered though I had tried.
So many questions spawned by this clever line which also served to add deeper meaning to the later encounter.
Steve Lodge – Then she snorts like a pig after a truffle.
So many favourite lines in this, but this was striking in the excellent image it made of her laugh and her eagerness.
Angelique Pacheco – The vacant eye sockets neither blinked nor stared back, and the tea was left to get cold.
Combined with the last paragraph, this line brought mother and son into an eerie alignment, where her (possible) disregard and his diligence offset each other. The tea going cold seemed almost a cruel negligence.
Geoff Le Pard – He feels they’ve really found something to represent all he stands for.
So many references. The chimera seems very apt…good choice! And very sobering.
Steph Ellis – Plays the blues / A desolate soundtrack / Drowning out the silence / Of my isolation
Hard to pick one line from this. This may constitute more than one line (sorry), but this was so fascinating in its ability to inspire a keen sense of understanding.
Alva Holland – A Helluva Day At The No-Tell Motel
When it came time to make a list of the winners, my eye kept being drawn to this one. I loved the manic pace of it and the inventive ways guests could ruin motel rooms. Although I keep wondering what happened to the guests for the hotel worker to have to deal with the pets: those green eyes, maybe? I smiled at the start, felt a surprising burst of morbid curiosity at the question about odd-numbered rooms and was grinning by the end.
Honorable / Honourable Mention
Angelique Pacheco – Mama’s Boy
Easy how an urban legend is born and nurtured into something… grotesque. Again, the build-up to the end was written well and created an interesting view of the mother and son’s relationship, and the one between them and the rest of town. I don’t think poor Hal had much choice through narrative pressure. It enriched the story and provided juicy hints to tempt you along. The tea hooked me. Something about his diligence and the tea going cold struck a chord; it seems to hint at a future terrible collapse. Will he lose patience with it always going cold?
Steph Ellis – Kingdom
I had such a strong connection to this piece while reading it, seeing his immediate world and him highlighted in the irregular headlights of passing cars. The imagery was excellent; it was as though the scene were built up on light and shadow and his static existence compared to the fast cars. The ending helped ease the crushing sense of disconnection and isolation, making him a king of his empty realm rather than its slave. Lovely poem.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 60.
(insert drumroll here)
Alva Holland – A Helluva Day At The No-Tell Motel
Veterinarian; Motel; Comedy
You’re bloody right, it’s a bloody emergency! No! it won’t be a quick visit. I wish!
There’s a mutt with the mange in Room 2, a moggy with an ear infection in Room 4, a lunatic human who brought a snake into Room 6 and now can’t find it, a hooting owl in Room 8 – his owner wondered why the bloody thing is awake all night – not a lot of prior research there. And in Room 10, a bleedin’ parrot who’s caught a mouse, dragged it back to its cage for dissection and is chanting ‘Polly’s got a Mickey’ ever since.
And that’s only the even-numbered rooms. Yes! I need the bloody vet, so can you send him pronto please? What? Christ! Her then – believe me I don’t care what sex the vet is. So long as he or she can sort out this menagerie hitting on me my first day here.
Do you want to hear the odd-numbered problems? Mrs. Davis in Room 1 brought her two pet rabbits, not wanting to leave them alone with Dastardly Dick the husband, thinking she had two males, but you know the rest. Room 1 is overrun with naked pink bunnies. No, not the sort I’m used to.
Room 3 terrifies me. Four green eyes are peering through the curtain. I’m googling what animals have green eyes, two or four. No result has calmed me.
There’s a disgusting smell from Room 5 indicating the possible existence of a skunk but who in their right minds would bring a skunk to a motel? Rhetorical. No need.
Yellow liquid is seeping out from under the door of Room 7 – yes, yellow liquid and no, I am not checking any further.
Room 9 is closed for fumigation. Thank the Lord.
SEND THE VET!’
Steph Ellis – Deliverance
I was captivated by the descriptive writing in this piece. The accumulation of sounds and the degradation of the scene from familiarity to something rabid and horrifying added to the growing tension with subtle skill. The description of the struggling mare’s piteous condition was stirring, and the elegant insertion of skeletal hands jarring. The story suddenly makes itself clear, and it’s terrifying. The author disguised the story’s development to increase its impact, and all within the word limit: impressive. The last phrase is both applause and condemnation over the delivery and deliverance.
Veterinarian; Horse Ranch; Horror
Cold metal hit stone. An anxious whicker, then silence. Margaret walked between the stables. She didn’t mind the nightshift, preferring the muffled dark, the sense of calm, of tranquility. Somewhere, an owl hooted and, as she raised her eyes, a silvery ghost flew across the velvet sky.
Margaret walked on.
The call had said the mare was in the end block, a distance now seeming further than it did in the light. The green mile, she thought, suddenly nervous, noticing how the horses became more restless the nearer she got to her goal. And it was no longer just metal on stone. Hooves kicked at wood, splintered timber; wild eyes and rabid mouths hung over rotting gates, the concrete beneath her turned to mud. Margaret looked behind her, saw only a void.
Another whicker at the end of the darkness.
Despite her terror, the sound of animal pain drew her on until she stood before an open stable; inside, a shape her eyes registered as a horse, but her brain denied the classification. Grotesque and swollen, something writhed beneath the animal’s skin.
“Deliver us,” murmured a voice in the darkness. “Deliver me.”
Margaret backed away only for the horse to turn its pitiful eyes on her, its suffering forcing her forward once more. Reluctantly, she probed the birth canal, grasped skin and bone, pulled the creature from its nightmare womb. From nowhere, skeletal hands reached out and ripped the amniotic sac from the newborn. Sick with horror, she watched it struggle to its feet, grow, become fully-formed. Then dark-shadowed Death mounted its pale horse and rode out into the world.
But Margaret didn’t see them go. A dormant blood clot lurking inside suddenly shifted, claimed her with a stroke. Death had been kind, delivering she who had delivered the End.
Congratulations, Steph. You wait for ages for a podium place, then two come along at once! As this week’s Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge Microcosms 61. Please let me know whether or not you are interested ASAP!