Microcosms 76

Hi all! Welcome to Microcosms 76!

First, my most sincerest of apologies. I had a very long day at work and was completely exhausted. Sat down on the couch for “just a moment” and, next thing I know, it’s morning. So, I’m really sorry. I hope I didn’t let anyone down and that you’ll still have time to join us.

Today’s contest will run from 12 p.m. EST Friday to 12 p.m. EST Saturday.

That being said, pay no attention to the timer over yonder. –>

Okay, let’s get started!


We wanted to continue on with our bi-weekly theme of myths and stories. For the next couple of even-numbered Microcosms, we’ll be doing a mini world tour of sorts.

Our first stop is the Middle East. This week’s theme has been inspired by 1,001 (Arabian) Nights (some of these stories actually come from south Asia). The title comes from the story of Scheherazade, who tells a story every night – but doesn’t finish it, in order to save her life.

I actually love this book. Interestingly, though, some of its most famous stories were not originally part of the original Arabic collection but were added later by European translators.

So, whether you take us for a ride on a magic carpet, whisk us away to a den of thieves, or give us a genie to grant our every wish (or do something completely different), let’s see what you’ve got!

For inspiration, check out The Culture Trip’s summary of what they consider to be “the 10 greatest stories from 1,001 Nights.


(If YOU have an idea for a future contest and would like to be guest host, please contact us.)


Our contest this week begins with THREE things: character, setting and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Poet, setting: Cave, and genre: Crime.

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 inspires you.

*** HEY! Remember to include which THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry ***


  • Jealous King
  • Clever Bride
  • Storyteller
  • Sorcerer
  • A Homeless Youth
  • Genie/Jinni/Djinni
  • Murderer
  • Ill Wife
  • Fisherman
  • Slave
  • Investigator
  • Caliph
  • Adviser
  • Vizier
  • Sultan
  • Thief/Thieves
  • Sailor
  • Poet
  • Lover(s)
  • Executioner
  • Cave
  • Den (of Thieves)
  • On a Magic Carpet
  • Ship or Open Sea
  • Castle
  • Turkey
  • China
  • India
  • Saudi Arabia
  • River
  • Crime
  • Romance
  • Fantasy
  • Comedy
  • Memoir
  • Horror
  • Mystery
  • Poem


Judging this week is Microcosms 75 Judge’s Pick, John Herbert.

All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have until 12 p.m., New York time (EDT) Saturday to submit.

*** If you are new to Microcosms, remember to check out the full submission guidelines. ***

All being well, results will be posted on Monday.

Microcosms 77
Microcosms 75

48 thoughts on “Microcosms 76

  1. Just to be absolutely clear…

    This week’s contest runs from 12 NOON Friday to 12 NOON Saturday New York time (that’s EDT at the moment, not EST!)

  2. Crime of Words
    Jeff Messick
    283 words

    Poet, Cave, Crime

    Amused, I rubbed the lamp, just like I’d learned from all those stories by parents told me in my youth. My chuckle, however, choked off to nothing as a gout of smoke shot from the spout and poured forth in a growing, gushing, column of smoke.
    Maybe the alcohol was to blame.
    I dropped the lamp and stepped back, eyes widening as the lamp floated as another enormous spout of smoke blasted from the brass container. The walls of the cave glowed as sparks showered out of the lamp, along with the vapor.
    The smoke coalesced into a giant man of intimidating stature. Muscles barely contained by bronzed skin stretched to its limits by the sheer physical size of the being. His eyes carried the sparks of the universe itself.
    He raised one bejeweled finger and pointed at me. “You disturb my slumber?”
    I was warned about those damned mushrooms.
    “There once was a genie named Bob,” I said.
    “Whose was known to be quite the snob,” I continued.
    “I warn thee, mortal!”
    “His home, he rebuffed,”
    The genie was growing visibly furious.
    “As not safe enough,”
    Energy, pure and menacing began to appear around the genie.
    “He preferred the 8 Gig key fob.” I finished.
    The genie let loose the energy, which slammed into me with terrible force.
    I shook my head and looked at my friends around the table.
    The Gamemaster said, “You encounter the most feared genie in the lands, and you decide to use poetry, and a freaking limerick at that? Will your crimes never cease?”
    I smile. “My data thief takes another swig of elven wine, pops another mushroom, and prepares to hack the G.E.N.I.E. system again.”

    Report user
  3. Jealous King / Cave / Memoir
    Word count: 296

    Sparing Saul

    I was sure he could hear my breathing. How had he found me? I had been on the run with my men for months. The king believed that I was trying to kill him. I wouldn’t kill the anointed one.

    He sauntered into the cave humming a tune as he positioned himself against a rock to relieve himself.

    One of my men inched closer and whispered softly, “You should kill him now.” I looked back at the others. They all nodded in agreement.

    I slid the dagger out from my belt, and crawled to where he stood, his back facing me. It would be so easy to drive the sword into his back. I raised the knife then quickly sliced a piece of fabric from his robe. I slid back into the shadows.

    My conscience gnawed at me. He was my king, and I had disrespected him, even if he was unaware of it. He had scarcely taken a dozen steps when I stepped out from the shadows. I could feel my men’s displeasure at this. I called out from the cave, “My king!” Saul looked back. I fell to my knees and bowed in reverence. “Why do you listen to those who say ‘David is out to get you’? Look at this piece that I cut from your robe. My men wanted me to kill you, but I wouldn’t do it.”

    Saul said, “Can this be my son David?”, and he began weeping. “You’re the one in the right, not me,” he continued. “You’ve repaid me good for evil. I know now beyond doubt that you will rule as king. Now promise me that you will not kill off my family, or destroy my descendants.”

    I promised Saul, and we both went on our way.

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    1. Excellent standalone….feels like looking in on a missing scene from a much larger drama, as though learning a secret. Good feel.

  4. 300 words, once spoken, never recaptured
    Poet; Cave; Crime

    Once, in the Land of Calipher

    There came a time when one minor means of literary expression, poetry by name, caused the King, Thelonious the Rump, to vibrate with displeasure.

    His father, Fried the Plankton, had purged many literacy programs during his extended reign.

    The King’s Advisor, Hop the Head, urged caution. “Sire, poetry is witless swamp water. It harms no one and even occupies the minds of those who might consider rebellion were it not for its mollifying meaninglessness.”

    “Hop, you are a wise man, but you fail to grasp the power of certain poets. One, the scribbler, Hellery of the Ark, foments insurgence throughout the land with tiny morsels of poetic trash talk. This…” and Thelonious handed Hop a parchment, “…is treasonable. Read it aloud.”

    Hop did as commanded.

    “People of the Land of Calipher,
    do you dream of peace?
    Do you wish for joy?
    Do you see the King,
    T. Rump, the Rex,
    and watch your milk curdle,
    your ears wax,
    your hearts bleed
    sweet water from the mouths of children,
    lost in the caves of Calipher,
    condemned to dark days
    and even darker nights?”

    Hop the Head paused to reflect. From his perspective, poetry was barely language.

    Hellery of the Ark was nothing more than a purveyor of gibberish.

    “Sire, what is your wish?” pandered Hop.

    “THESE poets are slothful. And a threat to my glorious reign. I hereby decree that the writing of, the reading of, the thinking about poetry is a crime against me.”

    Within hours, the poets of Calipher packed their meager possessions, and fled to the four winds. Hellery of the Ark and a few devotees journeyed to the distant Caves of Colonia that faced out to the Fragrante Sea.

    “We will live our lives out
    here in the shadows of T. Rump,” spake Hellery.

    “That is our penance.”

  5. Homeless Youth/Old Man; River; Memoir
    300 transformative moments

    Sol of Zanzibar and the World

    I had been two years in Tanzania when I encountered Sol. I was due to set sail from the Port of Zanzibar in the morning and, feeling restless, wandered into a dismal waterfront dive.

    It was late.

    A few souls were plying their bodies with liquid comfort.

    A bouncer grabbed the old fellow by the collar.

    I interceded. “Does he owe?”

    The bruiser looked to the bartender who nodded, yes.

    ‘Twas a pittance. I gladly paid.

    The old man and I took to a table in a dark corner.

    I ordered some rum, and we were quiet.

    Finally, he spoke. “Many thanks.”

    “It was of no consequence to me.”

    “But to me,” he said, “it was an act of incredible kindness. I’m not used to…”

    His voice was spare, raw, soft. I felt an immediate affinity, and apologized. “Then I retract my words. It was of consequence.”

    He smiled, exposing shattered teeth, festering sores in his mouth. He was a man not well cared for.

    Half way down the bottle, he told me his story. “As a babe, I was set to sea in a canoe. Meant to drown, I suspect. Vietnamese fisherfolk found me, raised me to a lad. The father and one son drowned at sea, and the family fractured. I began wandering. My youth, my adult years, a series of the lowliest of labours, and my life, one of isolation. For many years I have lived in the Karuru Mountains…”

    “To the west?” I interjected.

    “Yes. Until I offended a tribal chieftain and was tied on a log on the Wami River.”

    “And here you are in Zanzibar.”


    “And now?”

    “Perhaps it is time to die,” he said.

    This I could not allow.

    “Come with me.”

    “But why?”

    “Companionship. Adventure. Life.”

    “Yes. And life. Sweet Life.”

  6. Murderer / River / Poem
    Words (excluding title): 96

    Monsters Come out At night

    Jane sat by the river, watching it flow,
    The moonlight above her, casting its glow,
    Suddenly behind, a rustle of grass,
    Jane sits still and just lets it pass,
    Out pops a man with a bag that seems heavy,
    Jane turns to him, his eyes looking weary,
    “Go home” he says, pointing at Jane,
    “Don’t wanna” she scoffs starting to complain,
    He pulls out a knife,
    And threatens her life,
    “Pfff” She scoffs, starting to mock,
    And in her other hand, a red dyed rock.
    “Please don’t make me angry…
    Or you’ll end up like Barry”

    Report user
  7. Alva Holland
    152 words


    Gold, Greed, Death and Freedom

    She is finally free

    This clever slave.

    Forty murdering thieves

    Protecting their cave

    Of treasure and gold, hidden from sight,

    But found by me and into the night

    I spirited away a bag of gold

    My greedy brother could not ignore.

    Disappearing to rob the cave

    He didn’t survive the deadly raid

    Ending in gory quarters we all now fear

    The forty thieves whose revenge is near.

    But our loyal slave is one step ahead

    As she thwarts their attempts to increase the dead.

    We’re all thieves at the end of the day

    And treasure’s no good if you no longer have a say

    In this world of greed and death I wish I’d never found.

    The stash of gold’s hidden underground.

    The forty thieves are dead and gone.

    My silence is golden as I watch my son

    And the freed slave set out together

    I’ll keep the Open Sesame secret


    1. Another poem…and a bit on the brutal side, Alva. Should I start warning horror writers to watch out for an upcoming scary writer?

      1. I think the horror writers are pretty safe from Alva, Sian! Not a habit I intend to continue but the challenge is always good to face head-on.

  8. AJ Aguilar-Van Der Merwe

    Character: Poet | Setting: Cave | Genre: Crime

    (300 words)

    Maria Elena wasn’t necessarily the better poet but she didn’t use her brain only for her art. She was shrewd and street smart. One of the two poets left to battle it out for the coveted ‘Poet of the Decade’, despite the stiff competition, she was more than confident that she would take home the crystal trophy and the huge prize money. She did not mind the prestige, too.

    Victor believed he’s the best poet, and many would probably agree, but he didn’t trust Maria Elena. He thought she was too sexy and beautiful which could work for her especially with the three male judges. He wished he had special powers to ensure him victory but he thought that if anyone would have powers, it would be Maria Elena. He had entertained the thought that she could possibly be a witch.

    The poets had a month to each write an epic poem. Maria Elena was in Israel. She was part of the small group of artists who kept the secret about a cave in Jerusalem where one could invoke the muses for only the majestic and the breathtakingly awe-inspiring creations.

    Victor found out via the grapevine that his competitor was in the Middle East. He didn’t want to dismiss the idea of possible magic. If there was truth to it, he wanted some, too. He was unaware of the rules of the group and the cave.

    Being that poet without a social life and family, it would only be a month later, when he didn’t show up with an epic poem, that the questions of his whereabouts arose. Maria Elena was not one of those asking. She was Poet of the Decade. Victor’s body, cut up in four pieces, had been dumped in different locations away from that Jerusalem cave.

  9. Sian Brighal
    300 words


    Water Thieves

    I remember when he came; it was the day I became an adulteress.

    The earth seemed to rain down her woes upon him, her breath stirring dead dust into towering testaments of wrongs done. He walked through her punishing accusation, one hand held up not to stay her wrath, but to feel it, know it. I think that, above all other acts and words, convinced us he was the one who would ease her pain and, as a consequence, our suffering.

    He studied the dry channels where water once flowed, examined the scars left by a river’s betrayal, asked when it had left… if it returned. It did. It was like an errant husband, coming home from dalliances to a wife too needy to be anything other than grateful. But his gaze soon roamed, and he’d leave, leaving her desperate and thirsting. We hated our enslavement and dependence.

    In the fourth week, he said he could make our river faithful again, and prophesied the day when he’d come home. I watched him ride away with his team until haze swallowed them whole. Amazing how quickly dry dust ousts the taste of promises and hope, and I doubted.

    But true to his word, and almost to the day, children playing in the dead bed suddenly found their feet caked in cool mud, then shins caressed by silt-rich sludge… and then such whooping and yelling, as knees fought against a growing river.

    I can’t define our joy, but it poured out of us; we wept our own river. I wish we had. But I lie in this faithful river’s embrace — in this theft — relishing its touch, marvelling at our nourished crops, and I can’t regret it… won’t send him back. Won’t return what we have stolen… even if another land thirsts, and another’s bed lies dry and dead.

  10. Inspiration
    A 285 word tale by @The_Red_Fleece

    The forest wouldn’t look out of place in a fairytale. Branches of grabbing hands with trunks of twisted faces. Never the kind of place you want to search for teenage lovers in the dark.
    The girl’s daddy started the hunt. The cops didn’t care, twenty four hours hadn’t passed. I cared, especially when he got his money out. Some of his silver went to a few friendly coppers’ palms. Their traffic cams got me to the edge of the forest. From there it was whatever bread crumbs I could find. Luckily they left me nice big ones in the fresh mud. The footprints dance and giggle like you’d expect young lovers to do. No reason yet for Daddy’s concern.
    Mud turns to stone at the entrance to a good size cave with stalactite teeth. I gave the mouth a sweep with my torch. I don’t check above in case I find a pair of monster eyes. The darkness can play tricks on even the most experienced mind. Nothing but a few grumps bats at their early wake up call.
    A new sound replaces the flapping, moaning. Maybe Daddy’s concern was right. I dash in, torch pointed at my feet so I don’t discover anything with the tip of my toe or how hard the ground is with the face. A silver sliver reflects back in the darkness, a bright but broken pattern.
    “Stop.” I shout. Echo screams my instruction. It seems to do the trick. The sliver stays where it is, mid air. A drip, slow, singular, fills the cave.
    My torch reveals the daughter, knife in hand. Her words as cold as her blade. “I needed more sadness in my life, for my poetry.”

    I used the elements of poet, cave and crime

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  11. (title) On the Shores The Yangtze
    (author) Michael Emerson
    (word count) 182
    (themes) Fisherman-China-Poem

    By the shores of the Yangtze,
    There sits a man,
    A fisherman,
    Weaving tales of the far off sea.

    No treasure ship will do,
    For the likes of him.
    Rather he told fables
    Of dragons and gnu.

    Rumors of his tales
    Reached the curled ears
    Of the Emperors most honored Pingshu.
    “How good can he be?” Exclaimed he;

    So with more than enough tables
    And his own kind of fables
    His arrived at the Yangtze’s shores.
    With much to do, he set up on the dew.

    Any could see
    He was ready for battle,
    His gavel at the ready.
    The fisherman smiled and bowed,
    Honored by the growing crowd.

    “Good sir, the likes of me
    Have little tales, fit for fish and listening ears.
    Nothing to match the likes of yours!
    Fit for emperors and advisers.
    Let us rather fish, for new ideas,
    In the rich waters of the Yangtze?”

    Faced with such words
    It was sadly now a matter of face.
    With a stifled sigh he cast a line,
    Ending the day with fish stew
    And a new fable or two.

    Report user
  12. Visionary Reflections
    by Steve Lodge @steveweave71
    298 words

    My name is Yabazayo. I could have been a carpet maker but I am a poet, banished to a cave. My Crime? Well, here’s the story. I was a lifelong friend of King Kampong Noodle The Fifth. I was the first person to ever make him laugh.

    I became the Court’s poet, continuing when King Fallic The Third took the throne when his father died of otter-blindness. I tried to help King Fallic (you can call me Fal) improve his appalling magic tricks.

    One night I found Aladdin’s Lamp but my wicked stepbrother, Twisted, ran off with it. He looked ridiculous running in those slippers. Did he get the three wishes or is he in a dungeon, minus one hand?

    King Fallic was distraught. He’d pinned his re-election campaign on a “Towards A Magical Future” platform and, without the Three Wishes, all seemed hopeless.

    The only option left to King Fallic was to leave the Kingdom in search of the fabled Memmering Of Nnoth, an elixir for prolonging magical tricks and virility.

    He refused to take me along in his group. Said I was not strong enough to cross the Woohoo Mountains or the Invisible Bridge Of Self Examination. He was probably right. I’ve only been in this cave two nights and already have a cough usually associated with candle-flame inhalers.

    So the inevitable happened. Crown Princes Azimchanderpaul and Shokolokobangoshe, deposed King Fallic the minute he left the Kingdom and exiled me to this cave, without the audience a poet craves. How the mighty have fallen!

    I shall put this paper under a rock. Someone may find it.

    They’ve exiled me far from my home,
    And it makes me feel so sad,
    I didn’t have time to feed the parrot,
    And I know he’s going to be mad.

  13. Ezekiel O Tracy
    262 Words

    Lonely Inspiration

    The river flowed freely, unabashed by the sand and wind that stirred on either side of it. Its path split as it entered a cave, circling a boulder glistening with dew and covered in moss. A single sunbeam found its way through the roof of the cave and illuminated the rock and the girl Araxie who sat upon it.

    The girl sat silently as yet another person stood before her mumbling to themselves, looking up from their scroll for a second as she stared them down waiting for their writing to cease. Finally the man rolled the parchment and tucked it away.

    “You aren’t even going to read it to me?” Araxie asked as the poet turned to leave. “People tend to read me what they were inspired to write.”

    “I have stayed too long. I must get home to my family.” The man stammered protectively placing his hand on the scroll. The sand moved under his sandals as he quickly stepped backwards knowing that the girl couldn’t follow him out of the cave.

    Araxie watched the man leave and let out a soft sigh. People thought they could steal her time and her ability because she was unable to leave. This cave would be her prison for eternity, it seemed. If time moved, Araxie didn’t feel it. She sat on her boulder until the next person wandered into her cave and the next. Many choosing to read to her the poems they had written that she had inspired, but all leaving her forever by herself as the river continued to flow.

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