RESULTS – Microcosms 71

Thanks to all of you who celebrated the birthday of Burt Bacharach by submitting a story to Round 71. We had a reasonable total of 14 entries this week – plus one late, ‘just-for-fun’ entry from me.

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 71. Here’s what she had to say:

An interesting shift in prompts for this round, and it has yielded, again, superb entries. I wish I could have selected whole meaty chunks of story to have as a favourite line. The writing styles are so varied and the themes so wide-ranging: a true lucky dip for me, where I was a winner every time. Thank you for your wonderful stories.



 Favourite / Favorite Lines

Bill Engleson – “Eugene’s just a hog whose time has come. Pa says you butcher one ya love, the rest’ll be as easy as pie.”

This line leapt out whilst reading as being portentous. Is this the Liberty Valance who was later shot? Did hog butcherin’ set him off on his path in life?

Carin Marais – I ignored the blood at his temple.

Such a small sentence, yet it said so much.

Anne Chowdhury – Looking up at the sky, she realizes it’s the sky that’s crying, not her.

I really liked this image, as though the very world sympathised.

Steve Lodge – And yet Wolfgang continues to interest collectors years after he passed away, sadly choking on a lowly tenderleaf.

What an excellent last line! Wraps up the story so nicely…and ironically.

Angelique Pacheco – I tried to stem the flicker of suspicion but it burst into flame and spread like wildfire.

Wonderful imagery regarding the destructive power of doubt, dread and mistrust.

AJ Aguilar-van der Merwe – Like I didn’t know he was a weak swimmer

Twists the story’s direction towards a deadly intent: made my scalp tingle.

Jeff Messick – Perhaps I should have spent some of my ill-gotten gains over the years, on important stuff, like the bed I didn’t quite fit in.

This line got me. All that work, skill, luck on his side, and he hadn’t had the chance to enjoy it. Almost as though Murphy was punishing him for not making good on the help he’d granted. Tied in with the last line, this was emotive.

Danny Beusch – I cut out the story and put it under my pillow. That evening, I slept more soundly than I had for years.

Oh, these two together! Such vindictiveness. Again, the sentiment of the story changed — a slap in the face — and made you view it with different eyes.

Angelique Pacheco – A little French girl twirls in front of the television. The screen flashes, as the rhythmic tap-tap of Gene Kelly’s shoes speak a language in Morse code that she can understand. She can’t say “Hello,” or “How do you do?” but she can sing, word for word, “I’m singing in the rain…”

The whole story! Such a wonderful image. I’m reading a lot into this: can the girl not speak English, is she autistic, painfully shy or traumatised? Either way, the idea of communicating through dance and song is beautiful.

Fatima Okhuosami – The flesh feast is begun!

So difficult to find one single favourite line in this. They were all loaded with all kinds of discomforting hints of suffering and looming horror. This last line just opened the door to what was going on: gave me images of happy flicking tails and eager paws.

Steph Ellis – For many years the hand had marked the passage of time in this manner, fingers trailing the white powder of mildew in never-ending rotation, dragging fear and despair in its wake.

Wish I could pick more than one favourite line. This line helped clinch the length of the entombment, the sense of decay and the despair.

Carlos Orozco – His only consolation was that, maybe, in the final hours, his son would commit him to the dark spot beyond the reach of memory, and the end would obliterate any disappointment the father could cause.

Such a powerful sentence, especially in view of the title.

KM Zafari – New York is lovely this time of year.

So difficult to pick one line. This one was stunning in the way it elevates the narrator into a realm beyond his current regrets and dilemma and focuses him back on the life and times he had.

Dave James Ashton – Briefly, I calculate the effectiveness of reverting to a clinical, impersonal tone and rattling off a list of her achievements as is the approved format for interacting with the few remaining humans in their last moments.

Elegantly fills in the blanks of the story. Its formality was startling against the accent and casual tone of the previous paragraphs.


Honourable / Honorable Mention

Angelique Pacheco – Speakable Muse

This was such a powerful image packed into such a very short story. It was wonderfully complete, yet begged questions. Ultimately, it was full of potential and joy in the power of communicating in whatever manner is available, with the tender notion that someone somewhere will be able to understand.




Steph Ellis – The Hand

This reminded me of Poe. I loved the flowing descriptions—‘calligraphy of age’—and the imagery. The language was wonderfully effusive, inspiring a deep sense of despair and interminable longing, and then the last line, which promises something so much more. It was a delight to read.


Steve Lodge – Dollar On The Shore, Castles On Sand

The writing flowed superbly, carrying me along through the bizarre world of art. I liked the imagery and the little nuggets thrown in to surprise ‘now and zen’, and sleepwalking through a voyage of discovery: lovely use of phrase. It’s a rather madcap stroll in a light-hearted, yet also quite subtly-focused and clinical way, as though the narrator himself cannot fathom the wonders and absurdities of art and artists, but has dedicated his life to analysing it. Does he seek some sense in those lost paintings and beermats?


And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 71.


(insert drumroll here)



Community Pick

Angelique Pacheco – The Fools of April

300 words
The April Fools; Tragedy

“Happy April Fool’s Day! Sorry I lied.”

My jaw dropped, my heart turned into ice and the world tilted off its axis. “What? No. It can’t be,” I thought. Because if it was, I had just destroyed the life I had built for myself.

Greg had started acting strangely about three months ago. There were the lies about having to work late. I tried to stem the flicker of suspicion but it burst into flame and spread like wildfire. I phoned his office almost obsessively trying to hold onto what was slipping through my fingers. He became secretive about his phone and wouldn’t even go to bed without it. There were phone calls at all hours and he claimed that they were work related. Who was he kidding? I knew better. He was having an affair.

In order to protect my heart, I began shifting the gears in my head regarding my relationship. I guess it’s easier when you have nothing left to fight for. A man at the gym invited me out for coffee, and I accepted. Three hours later, I lay in his arms in a motel room, sated, yet empty. Funny, I can’t even remember his name now. I’m not sure if he ever mentioned it.

We are on the beach. I stare at a table in front of me decorated with flowers. A violinist stands to one side. It is sunset. The exact proposal scenario I wrote in my diary when I was just ten years old. But instead of joy, I feel dread. This is when he tells me he lied. He goes down on one knee and asks me to marry him.

Tears spill down my face as I tell him what I have done. It is now time for his jaw to drop.


Judge’s Pick

KM Zafari – Once in Your Life

I read this one many times, and it’s such a simple and honest examination of a man’s regrets and his inability to make amends; it’s almost a gentle scold and optimistic push for the reader. I especially liked the sentiment regarding his wife’s inability to understand why another woman’s name was on his lips at the end. The writing is excellent, guiding your thinking gently, and offering support to your conclusions and sympathies. I think the last two lines are superb. No haunting recriminations at the very end, just the end and the thought of how beautiful it was down there for him, and how it will continue to be so for those he leaves behind. That last line had me reaching for the tissues. Wonderful story: thank you.

300 words
Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do); Drama/Memoir

They say your entire life flashes in front of you just before you die, but that’s not true. There simply isn’t time.

The mind is brilliant, though. What it does, as its final gift to you for being human, is distill, into a painfully few, precious moments, that which is most important to you.

Some people think of themselves; I feel sorry for them. Many think of their children or their grandchildren.

I thought of Caroline.

It surprises me that she would come to mind up here, in the vast quiet of space. But it’s her face I think of when the spark first ignites.

I have time to remember two things.

The first time we met. She had a beautiful smile. We were swept up by the romanticism of New York in the fall and our mutual love of coffee. She had dreams of becoming a dancer; my sights were always set on the skies.

The last time I saw her. Tears streaming down her face as she opened the car door, and left without another word. My family had big plans for me; she was only a barista.

They will herald me a hero, but that’s not true. I’m just a man, a man who made an even bigger mistake than the one that ultimately took my life.

I have so many amends to make, but there simply isn’t time. Caroline will never know how I felt, that I harbored such regrets. My children will never hear my apologies for always being gone. And my wife will never know why, in my final moments, I whispered another woman’s name.

I try to look past the heat and fury of the incoming explosion and focus on the boroughs, visible far below.

New York is lovely this time of year.


Congratulations, KM. After 71 rounds, it’s about time you had a win… On the other hand, since this is your first entry that was not ‘just for fun’, you have a 100% success rate! 😀

As this week’s Judge’s Pick… yadda yadda; I think you know the drill. As you are hosting next week, I’ll let you decide whether you want to take on the extra task of judging Microcosms 72, or delegate it to someone else.

RESULTS - Microcosms 72
RESULTS - Microcosms 70

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15 comments for “Welcome to Microcosms!

  1. zwoodle
    26 December 2015 at 4:15 pm

    We’re going to do a soft launch on 1 January. We’ll be e-mailing everyone shortly. Stay tuned!

  2. 12 September 2019 at 5:20 pm

    What’s happened to all the stories from last week’s competition?

    • KM Zafari
      12 September 2019 at 6:31 pm

      They’re all still in the system but not displaying on the front end. Part of the glitch I’m trying to resolve. :/

  3. 13 September 2019 at 6:37 am

    Who is Stoner, please?

  4. 13 September 2019 at 11:20 am

    Ghost; Haunted House; Comedy
    298 words

    The Gang, Fifty Years On

    “Hey guys, it’s our anniversary. It’s fifty years since we got together and solved our first case.”

    “That’s right. Why don’t we do something to celebrate? We could stay the night in the old, haunted house.”

    “I’m not really sure. None of us are as young as we used to be, we’re all in our late sixties now.”

    “Yeah, and I’m not sure that I want to stay up past my bedtime.”

    “Oh, go on, it’ll be a bit of fun. It’s not as though any of us get much of that anymore.”

    “It just won’t be the same without the dog.”

    “You’re right about missing the dog. I even miss that annoying little one that accompanied us on some of our later adventures.”

    “OK, it’s a date then. We just need someone to drive us out there before it gets dark.”

    “I’ll organise some supplies. Some drinks, a snack, spare walking sticks, and a flashlight for each of us.”

    “I’m not sure that I see the point. We never managed to find any real ghosts or monsters, never in our entire career. It was always a scam of some sort, and always one carried out by ordinary, everyday losers dressed up in costume.”

    The overnight stay was uneventful until just before dawn when they heard someone moving about downstairs. Silently they crept down the stairs only to find a fat balding man dressed up in a sheet going, “Woo… woo…” As it was obvious something untoward was going on, they phoned for the police. When they arrived a few minutes later the police arrested the would-be ghost. As he was taken away the last thing the gang heard him say was, “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those pesky pensioners!”

  5. Geoff
    13 September 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Stoner, haunted house, drama
    295 words
    ‘Hi Pete. How’s it trucking?’’
    Pete blinked, hoping his neighbour was another bad trip.
    ‘Garden’s looking great. Not many weeds. Ho!’
    Pete sucked in air, disorientated by the lack of smoke. I need to cut back oxygen. ‘Hi Greg. You after a packet?’
    ‘I was just wondering how you get them so… leafy?’
    Pete licked the paper. ‘You planning your own? Take some seeds, man.’ He sealed another joint, willing him to go.
    ‘I don’t think so. What’s the secret?’
    Pete looked at the soil at his feet. ‘Peace and love, man.’
    ‘Seriously. We grew cannabis at college but that was inside in Cheltenham. You manage outdoors, in Scotland in January…’
    ‘I rely on my relatives.’ He kicked the dirt, exposing the head of a femur. ‘That’s Auntie Jane. The plants love her.’
    Greg’s eyes widened. ‘That’s your aunt?’
    ‘Think so. Hang on.’ Pete put down the Rizzla packet and bent to the bone. ‘Yeah? You sure? Right ho.’ He looked up. ‘Uncle Portius. They look the same at that age, don’t they?’
    Greg rubbed his eyes. ‘I must be passive smoking your product. Did you just talk to a bone?’
    Pete laughed. ‘Course not. Bone’s don’t talk…’
    ‘They’re ghosts. I you like I can do you some Mexican spicy and my second cousin’s torso as a starter kit…’
    Greg backed away. ‘Maybe later.’
    Pete started another joint and covered the bone. He’d need another dozen for the school run. ‘Thanks Ponti, I’ll get you that pint of Ruddles later.’ He looked down the rows of fecund and fullsome plants to a slightly saggy group by the hedge. ‘And I’ll pick up some dubonnet and lemon for Granny Emmaline. Wouldn’t do to let her crop get peaky, what with festival season nearly upon us.’

  6. 13 September 2019 at 10:25 pm
    300 words
    Stoner; Ghost Ship; Comedy

    That’s Some Spooky Shit, Man–Sailing the Silvery Seas with Long Joint Spliffer

    Man, I had more wobbles than a bobblehead.


    Bubblehead for sure.

    Or Stubble head?

    Like man, that cat had a gnarly beard. Facial hair all wiry and dense. I could feel it, man. Spikes shooting out of his face like fireworks.

    Bazooka hookahs, man!

    Reefer creepers!

    Maybe it was the Maui-Zowie? Or the BC Bud? Or, get this, the Alberta Muerta?

    Made that up, man. Killer weed, though.

    Whatever it was, it was some magic shit. Maui Cowie poop, eh.

    Hah! I don’t know what that is.

    Anyway, I’d been up all night zinging in the shower, tingling in the tower, baying at the full moon, a giant silver dollar beauty, when I got the urge man to go down to the waterfront, watch the river flow.

    You ever done that, man? The river! Love the river. Like its dark, man, and late. The taverns have all closed. Streets littered with the soulful. Sky’s storm ready. Clouds gathering like jumbled sheets on a bed that’s never been made. Guess you know where that metaphor comes from. Anyways, you can feel it. Something’s gonna burst. So, I go down to the river and I see it through the thick fog. Like its out of the movies, man, full masted, skull and crossbones flapping in the night wind, and that ain’t no Errol Flynn standing at the helm. Not on your booty. Its someone eerie as hell, with some yo ho hoing and a bottle of bong…and I’m thinking, Bong? James Bong?

    There I am, staring at this vessel, double o sevening away, and this dude starts walking the plank and says, “Sorry Mate, no gambling tonight. The Jolly Better’s closed tight. City ordinance.”

    “Bummer, man” I bleat, “and me with the munchies and a pocket full of pieces of eight.”

  7. Angelique Pacheco
    14 September 2019 at 4:56 am

    Stoner; Ghost Ship; Comedy
    135 words

    Green Boo-ty

    I saw through the haze
    A ghost ship’s hallways
    Twisting and turning
    The maze was daunting

    A ghostly dancer beckoned
    “Get naked,” she reckoned
    My mind said, “Okay!”
    My body said, “Let’s play!”
    The scene was rearranged
    And the actors were exchanged.

    The captain wore coat tails
    He clung onto the rails
    He shouted for pirates
    And called us bandits
    Zombies took me to the ledge
    To walk the plank to the edge.

    When I came down
    We were back in Cape Town
    I found myself at the pool
    Standing starkers like a fool

    The mystical dancer
    Was a Trans performer
    Security was cuffing me
    No zombies could I see.

    Don’t ever take the green stuff
    It can be quite rough
    Make sure you buy local
    Not pirated forms of diabolical.

  8. 14 September 2019 at 6:19 am

    stoner/ghost ship/comedy
    WC: 365

    One More Sausage

    Fred was hungry. It was his semi-permanent state. Always eating; yet as thin as a rake that had been split in two–his acquaintances assumed he was looking after some tape worms. His best buddy, Havant, had just as voracious an appetite. Being a dog it was expected.
    Their holiday to France wasn’t going well. The language was unfamiliar and the food was not as good as anticipated. It was four days before Fred discovered that they were in Hamburg. And, whilst it was just two letters shy of his favourite word, it wasn’t in France.

    Things began to look up when they went for a couple of currywurst after a big breakfast. They got chatting to a groovy guy by the wurst-stand about all things sausage related ,which had got them a) excited and b) hungry again. Being at the wurst-stand that had been easy to deal with. There was always room for one more sausage.

    They shared a funny cigarette with Groovyman, which made them giggle. He said he’d never seen a dog smoke before. Fred said it happened regularly, usually when he’d spilt cooking oil on Havant.

    Groovyman enquired why he was called Havant. Fred explained that it was short for Havant A. which left him none the wiser. He then told them about the sausage barge, where the price for a four hour trip includes an ‘All That You Can Eat’ buffet. They weren’t going to miss this opportunity, so they heading down to the docks with big loping strides and stupid grins.

    At the docks everything was a bit blurry. Clearly they were in danger of fainting from hunger. So they got onboard the SS Hamburger with expectant bellies and an aim to make the buffet their home. Havant A. realised something was amiss when their boat passed through a series of locks without the gates opening. The lack of taste to the buffet wasn’t an issue, but the lack of substance was. When the captain turned up minus his head even Fred thought something was amiss.

    Then they smelled the Sausage Cruise pass in the other direction. It was a good job Havant could swim and Fred could float.

  9. Diego Piselli
    14 September 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Stoner, Ghost Ship, Comedy
    282 words
    The rumor had spread with lightning speed, fuelled by media coverage.
    A mahogany barge, loaded with Lebanese weed was floating somewhere in Amsterdam canals, unattended
    Smokers in coffee shops hotly debated the matter. Abe swore he saw it moored near Singel canal; Alwine claimed to be certain that the ship was far in the harbor; Rastafarian waiters fabled about an Iranian merchant, owner of the barge tugged along his princely yacht, vanished with a Circassian beauty.
    Eventually, on a warm summer Saturday night, the Quest had its beginning.
    Hordes of stoners, old hippies and weirdos of all kinds gathered in Dam square and started scouring all the canals, walking on the banks, boating or paddling in muddy waters: braver and youngsters went so far as to swim in the smelly current.
    The Quest was unsuccessful, but Saturday phantom barge hunting became a fixed meeting. If interest decreased, the press reported a new sighting and people got back to the endless hunting. Hunters set up groups and association named by famous weed smokers of the past. Each group had a leader, a hymn, a flag.
    And every Saturday evening Mr. Janssen, managing editor of “Amsterdam Today”, savored happily the silence of his flat in Central Amsterdam, a little nest in a medieval alley crowded with coffee shops. No more yelling, no more stoners’ noise. No more frantic strolling of excited people along the cobblestone street.
    All the smokers had gone away, searching for the barge.
    His little article full of question marks and drop hints about a mysterious barge had proved useful, and he could eventually savor domestic pleasures in peace. “Marijuana enthusiasts are like children,” he said to himself “they believe anything”.

  10. 14 September 2019 at 7:44 pm

    stoner/ghost ship/comedy
    Word Count – 260

    Clang! Clang! Clang!
    The sound reminded Midshipman Smythe of the death march if it was played badly by a toddler on kitchen pans. What was scarier was the lack of bodily panic symptoms. His heart hadn’t tried to explode. His stomach hadn’t emptied like a freshly flushed toilet. Nothing was doing nothing in fact. Peter, the welcome guy, had warned him about this but it took some getting use to.
    “Is that her Midshipman?” His Captain pointed at the blue haired girl hitting the ships pipes.
    “Yes Sir.”
    “Madam.” The captain pulled herself to the full height of her tall frame. “How did you get on board?”
    “I don’t know man.” She didn’t look at the captain. Instead she gazed off to the left, as if following an excitable fly.
    “Madam, I am very much not a man.”
    She blinked three times, each time she forced her eyes as wide as she could. “You are so pale…wo-man. Did I get that right? Wo-man.”
    She giggled to herself.
    The Captain did not see the funny side. “Madam! How did you get on board this ship?”
    “Space cakes.” Her hand becomes a rocket which follows the same trajectory as her imagined fly. She takes the same level of interest.
    The Captain groans. “Midshipman?”
    “Yes Captain.” He clips his heels together, disappointed at the lack of noise. Another thing he has to get use to.
    “Go find the Chaplin. Tell him to prepare for a bio-exorcism. I won’t have a breather on my ghost ship.”

  11. 14 September 2019 at 10:09 pm

    150 Words
    Unmasked Villain; Spooky Location; Drama


    Flames flickered in the oppressive darkness, solitary among thousands. A tall woman strode around them, her high-necked red dress flowing dangerously close to the light. Watching her, bathed in the shadows, were hundreds of people, their breathing heavy in the air of anticipation.

    She spun to face them, her eyes flashing as they reflected the flames. Her voice thundered through the deadened space. Disdain blanketed the group, suffocating even the bravest of her followers.

    Weakness was unacceptable, this they knew, but they had still managed to disappoint her. All fell to their knees, bowing their heads to the shame brought on by her piercing glare.

    She reached down to grab one of the candles, holding it in such a way that her face was cast in a ghostly light. Swiftly, her fingers were enveloped in the burning wax. Everyone else hissed, shocked, yet impressed by her stoicism.

    Flames smoldered still.

  12. Lindsey P
    16 September 2019 at 9:48 am

    I guess mine didn’t get saved…oh well.

    • Lindsey Pittenger
      16 September 2019 at 9:51 am

      298 Words

      Bookworm; Mine; Mystery

      The Case of the Canned Canaries

      As they ventured further down the dimly lit tunnel, Miranda pulled her book closer to her face, squinting to make out the words, comparing them to her surroundings. Everything seemed to be just as she’d expected. The construction of the mine shaft seemed stable and matched the text, which eased her growing sense of claustrophobia, but there was something that still just didn’t seem right. She hadn’t noticed that she’d slowed to a stop until the man behind her nearly knocked her over.

      “Oomf—sorry about that. Need to watch where I’m going a bit more,” he said with a sheepish grin.

      “I’m fine,” she said, clutching the book to herself and waving him away. Ignoring the dismissal, he pointed at her treasured cargo.

      “So what are you reading down here that’s so important to gum up the traffic?” he asked jovially, lowering his pickaxe from his shoulder.

      “Oh, this?” She held up the book. “It’s just an old book about mines. I figured I’d bring it along for some good-natured analysis. This mine seems similar to the one in the book, but the thing that’s been concerning me the most is the canaries.”

      “Canaries?” he asked, confused, briefly glancing around the shaft as though he’d missed something.

      “There aren’t any,” she said matter-of-factly, reopening her book, “Here, they use canaries as a warning system for noxious gases to keep people from dying, but this whole time we’ve been here, I haven’t seen a single one.” The look on her face fell as he burst into laughter.

      “I’m sorry,” he said, pointing to a box on the wall. “I think this sensor is that canary you’re looking for. Don’t worry, we are monitoring the safety of the air down here. At any rate, hope you’re enjoying your tour!”


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