Thanks to all of you who submitted a story to Round 67; and a warm welcome to first-timers: Ewan Smith and Danny Beusch. We had a total of 12 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 Bill Engleson for judging MC 67. Here’s what he had to say:
On the few previous occasions when I have had the opportunity to judge Microcosms Flash, I began with a bit of a ramble, a free-writing introduction, a stream of semi-conscious blather. I suppose this time will be no different.
It has been a week of bombs. Chemical weapons dropped from a Syrian sky, 59 American Missiles delivered with great American aplomb, and the most recent mortar innovation, the MOAB, the Mother of All Bombs.
Clearly psychopaths and their toys are in vogue.
To counterbalance yet enhance, on Thursday night I stumbled across a 1942 film, Journey for Margaret, that spent an inordinate amount of time showing the London Blitz. That bombing brutality aside, it was a lovely, agony-filled, cinematic excursion which attempted to speak to the effects of war on children. Hollywood-style, of course.
For its time, it did a pretty good job; better than we are doing.
Psychopaths are still with us. Some even have access to bombs. Most are not aficionados of Flash Fiction. More’s the pity, eh?
Microcosms 67 was a sumptuous slapdashery of mayhem, madness and retro-psychopaths. Could life be any sweeter?
Thank you, flashinistas, for chilling my old bones.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Alva Holland – No, they stayed in their violated homes, ignorant of the double life their trusted neighbour lived.
Fatima Okhuosami – I had not yet broken blood and the sole occupants of my chest were two dot sized nipples.
Ewan Smith – When Soldier Boy burped, Eve tore off his arm and pressed him into a box.
Stella Turner – Bob, the postman, brought this letter with Russian stamps on it. He laughed saying was it from Putin.
C R Smith – Happy with the answer the landlord asked for the rats to be released into the holding pen.
Danny Beusch – “They’re too sweet for me, but perfect for this graceless glutton.”
Angelique Pacheco – She followed the blood delightedly.
Sian Brighal – The snobs hoped it would just auto-amputate one day and drop off, like diseased toes.
Marie MacKay – He trapped the moment in his invention.
Steph Ellis – And we went out and we swung those blades and yes, I brought my harvest home.
A J Walker – She lay with her hands clasped at her chest a posy of yellow carnations clutched in her cold white hands.
Geoff Le Pard – He’d strangle the oik, if he hadn’t a job to do.
Special Mention for Enlightening the Judge on a New Word to Describe Himself in a Moment of Self-Deprecation
Geoff Le Pard – When The Tide Turned
It might be hard to believe, but yours truly is not always the epitome of decorum. The appearance of “oik” adds to my lexicon of self-deprecation. I will be ever grateful to the author.
Honourable / Honorable Mentions
Fatima Okhuosami – Peckforton House
In my more real, departed world, I was a Child Protection Social Worker. I feel I know this narrator. She has become a sad, warped result of incest and murder. In less than three hundred words, a gothic tale of paternal abuse unfolds. While I would scratch the last line, the rest captures the residual possibilities of a twisted parent, a tortured child, and, apparently, a complicit butler.
Angelique Pacheco – Jack-knifed
There are so many intriguing possibilities in this riff on the saga of Jack the Ripper. I was impressed by both the witty punster title and the feminine revenge motif. The world has need of an equal measure of male and female psychopaths: equity is everything.
C R Smith – Bait
What a gloriously grim little story. These past few years, I have been increasingly drawn to rats. Did you know they like to curl up in engine blocks? This was something I did not want to know about.
I am also now more aware of why many people on my little island have terriers.Yup, rats!
All that aside, this blood-slashing curdle of a yarn satisfies on several levels. Chaos exploding in a cellar, beer as stimulant, rat catchers as socially-useful entrepreneurs and recyclers. Pandemonium on the page is such a comfort. I certainly fell for the bait.
Steph Ellis – Reaper Man
Not that I believe that generational genes drive behavior, but there are enough examples in the sordid real world to lend it some credence. Reaper Man has a certain morbid charm; a somewhat apologetic, light-fingered elder with a sense of humour, what with his good-natured dribble and the gentleness that he invokes when lifting his old cat into the sun.
His grandchildren are also a point of love for him… until they ask one too many questions. There is a bit of Boo Radley, albeit decades removed, in the Reaper Man.
And the old boy is still as sharp as a tack.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 67.
(insert drumroll here)
C R Smith – Bait
Psychopath; Victorian London; Horror
Alfred leapt from the train, and made his way through the narrow streets. When he reached the King’s Head, he pushed his way to the bar and ordered a pint of ale, downing it in one when the landlord called out and beckoned for him to follow. Rounding the bar, he winked at the barmaid and headed for the stairs. The stench of stale beer and tobacco hit him as he descended to the sound of his boots tapping against the treads.
In the centre of the room he recognised the circular pit. The landlord asked how many he had, nodding towards the large leather bag he carried. Happy with the answer, the landlord asked for the rats to be released into the holding pen. When one escaped, Alfred grabbed hold, snapping its neck before throwing it back in. Both men stood in silence as the screeching rodents picked away at its flesh.
What had previously been a dreary cellar came to life for the evening as more lamps were lit and the punters arrived. The atmosphere changed as money and ale flowed. Bets were made and the excitement mounted as barking preceded the arrival of the dogs. The snarling terriers strained at the leash sensing what was about to happen. Alfred pushed forward to lean over the wooden edge, watching the rats frantically circling.
The first terrier waisted no time in attacking, shaking the rats until blood and entrails splattered the pit walls, not to mention several onlookers. The barking, the screeching, the cries of horror, the blood and guts; Alfred loved it all. When an argument broke into a fight, it made his evening. Pulling the knife from his boot, he joined in, striking out at whoever got in his way. This was what he lived for.
Danny Beusch – The Piano Lesson
I love the vengeful voice in this tale; bitter, angry, superior. Whether it is his exasperation with Jakob’s ineptitude, Jakob’s parent’s failings, or the narrator’s gormlessly, never-to-be prodigies, “grubby fingers”, he is delightfully, honestly malevolent and blunt. To a fault. In addition to the deadly, spiked cake, the tale is also salted with some alluring alliteration such as ‘charmless Chopin’ and ‘graceless glutton’. By the end, I, for one, am thankful that my late parents failed miserably to support my extremely-limited musical talents. The world is the better for it.
Excellent job, writer!
Pianist; Warsaw; Crime
They all repulse me, but none more so than Jakob. Learning an instrument requires discipline, a quality entirely absent from my simpering, sweaty pupil. Nowadays I only seem to teach the disinterested teenage offspring of pushy parents. My glorious grand piano, at least a century older than vast sections of this concrete city, is tainted by such talentless pretenders.
We’ve been rehearsing the same pieces for months, but Jakob still struggles through them. His stubby fingers, sticky with sugar and caked with grime, repulse me. I rush to open a window, hoping that the biting winter air will placate this wave of nausea. Hustle and bustle drifts in from the market square, a welcome distraction from my charmless Chopin.
‘Well done, Jakob. You’ve clearly been practising.’
He grins. He must think I’m stupid.
‘You deserve a treat.’ I pass him a plate of freshly-baked mazurek. They’re too sweet for me, but perfect for this graceless glutton. The dough is layered with chopped walnuts, lashings of jam, and a surprise ingredient or two. He devours a slice in two bites, mouth wide open.
The doorbell rings. His mother – stick-thin and sour-faced – has been late collecting Jakob ever since I increased my prices. She thrusts the money at me. Twenty zlotys short, again.
‘Thank you so much,’ I say, feigning ignorance. ‘Jakob, I look forward to seeing you next week. Keep working on those scales.’
Door closed, I throw the rest of the mazurek into a carrier bag and smash it into bits. The dishwasher is loaded with evidence and set to intensive. I brush up crumbs. Heading out towards the river, bag in hand, I finally smile. Those grubby fingers will never touch my beautiful piano keys ever again.
Congratulations, Danny… straight in at #1! As this week’s Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge Microcosms 68! Please let us know whether or not you are interested ASAP!