Microcosms 83

I’ve got that Friday Feeling… Welcome to Microcosms 83, flashionistas!


Apologies for the tardiness of this post; while scrabbling around for a theme, I began to feel unwell and had to go to bed. Appropriate then that today, 04-AUG, in the Byzantine calendar (yes, I AM scraping the barrel!) is the feast day of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. The contest this week derives its elements from another seven sleepers.

Due to the late post, the contest’s closing deadline has been put back to 09:30am Saturday EDT (New York time): PLEASE IGNORE THE COUNTDOWN CLOCK.



(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: Corpse, setting: Tea Party, 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 – character, setting and genre. 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 ***


  • King Arthur
  • Dormouse
  • Cthulhu
  • Space Traveller
  • Rip Van Winkle
  • Corpse
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Avalon
  • Tea Party
  • Underwater City
  • Suspended Animation
  • Catskills
  • Cryogenics Facility
  • Opium Den
  • Horror
  • Memoir
  • Sci-Fi
  • Crime
  • Steampunk
  • Comedy
  • Poetry


This week’s judge TBC.

All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have until midnight, New York time (EDT) 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.

Technical Difficulties - Short Delay
Microcosms 82

61 thoughts on “Microcosms 83

  1. Space Traveller; Cryogenics Facility; Sci-fi
    291 very hurried bits of communal energy as I have to catch two ferries

    Time is a Cylinder


    On the lawn. Oops! A lawn. A lovely old stone house. Possibly Georgian. Which I usually mistake for Victorian.

    “Hey man, you’re a little overdressed for the summer heat, aren’t you?”

    His long hair, thin beard, flared pants, and bell around his neck are oddly memorable.

    I remove my helmet and breathe in the smoky air. Could that smell be…?

    The young man approaches, so that we are nose to nose. “Space, eh! Shit, man, we finally did it.”

    I am tempted to engage in a discussion but I need to get my bearings.

    “What year is it?“ I ask.

    “Man, it’s the summer of love and eternity. 1967.”

    His manner, his dress, confirm that fact. But I have been here before.

    “And this place?” I ask, my overdressed arm sweeping the air.

    “Why, man, this is the Campus Residence Cryogenics Institution. What did you think it was?”

    His manner is light, curious, and lacking guile.


    “Hey, man, don’t be confused. I know you. You were once me. We lived here. It was the age of free love, peace, and calm. It was beauty, communal, the new world.”

    I see me in him. But why are we here together. I find this confusing.

    “It’s simple, man. Professor Marshall lived here back in the day. Years later, he perfected the freezing of bodies. We knew that a world of peace needed to be rejigged. Altamont, Bobbie and Martin, and all the horrible rest. Trump, for God’s sake. Science needed to intervene.”

    I remove my spacesuit. I am as naked as I have ever been.

    “Time for the sauna, man. That’ll wake you up.”

    He, who is me, and I, naked together, head for the cryogenically cleansing sauna and tomorrow.

    1. Entertaining as always! Favorite part – “It’s simple, Man. Professor Marshall lived here back in the day. Years later, he perfected the freezing of bodies. We knew that a world of peace needed to be rejigged. Altamont, Bobbie and Martin, and all the horrible rest. Trump, for Gods sake. Science needed to intervene.”

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  2. 227 words
    Corpse; Avalon ; Horror

    There is a wood without a name, that knows only the light of moon and star. No grass grows beyond its borders, nor can any other land be reached from inside, for this place exists in the backwaters of the universe, fed by a golden river called Dream.
    Deep within the wood, there may be found an immense glade ringed with standing stones, some hardly man-high while others nearly reach the treetops.
    From the outside, it looks like the ancient crown of some giant among giants who walked the earth in ages past, before men forgot them all.
    At the center of the glade, a bonfire burns, casting strange shadows upon the stones so that they seem to dance.
    Others too dance in this glade, tall and slender or else no bigger than children. To and fro there leap like deer with firelight in their eyes, the Fair Folk of old.
    Some wear stars upon their breast, on ropes of braided spider silk. Others hide their faces behind masks of living leaves, that change color as with seasons on earth.
    Their silver hair flies loose about their heads as they revel in the dance, the long and silent dance that never ends.
    They linger, listening for the last page of a story that has left without them. They wait, unwithering, in the shade of the nameless wood.

    1. Lovely fairy tale feel to it. I really like the concept of them dancing outside of the story, lost somewhere the telling of tales.

  3. Circle of Murder
    Jeff Messick
    Corpse, Tea Party, Crime
    230 words

    The detective walked into the room.

    The guests sat in their chairs, nervously eyeing the detective as he scribbled on his notepad. One guest didn’t move, having been dead for almost an hour. Cups of tea, now long cold, sat before them, still untouched.

    Finally, he leveled a finger at one of the women, the Hollywood Starlet and grinned. “It was you, in the Kitchen, with the Candlestick!”
    The starlet sighed, then looked at the ground, defeated.

    The lights went out, then on again, moments later. The guests were all arrayed around the room again, suspiciously eyeing each other over their cups of tea. The tea was hot, and freshly brewed.

    The detective walked into the room…

    The guests sat in their chairs, nervously eyeing the detective as he scribbled on his notepad. One guest didn’t move, having been dead for almost an hour. Cups of tea, now long cold, sat before them, still untouched.

    Finally, he leveled a finger at one of themen, the retired Colonel and grinned. “It was you, in the Billiard Room, with the Pistol!”

    The Colonel sighed, then looked at the ground, defeated.

    The lights went out, then on again, moments later. The guests were all arrayed around the room again, suspiciously eyeing each other over their cups of tea. The tea was hot, and freshly brewed.

    The Professor whispered, “Dear God, not again…”

    1. I really liked your story Jeff. A great wee comic tale.

      One wee word of advice, if I may, I’d name the detective at the start of the sentence(s) “Finally he levelled a finger at one of them…” The first time I read that sentence I thought the “he” was the dead guest, not the detective.

      As I said it is a great story. Keep writing!

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  4. Title: A Happy Widow Mystery
    character: Corpse
    setting: Tea Party
    genre: Crime.
    word count: 298

    Vacancies rarely occur at the weekly Happy Widow Tea Party. No contingencies are in place to accommodate such an unlikely event. So, when ten past the appointed hour Sarah Blakely’s seat remained unoccupied, no one really knew quite what to do.

    As chatter ebbed, imposing silence upon the clutch, Lacey Wilkins peeked out the window next to her seat. “Strange. Her old Buick is in its usual spot. And look, her red coat is hanging on the rack. Wherever could she be?”

    Mavis Shears said, “Surely, someone saw her walk in.” With “Not me” and “Nope” being the most frequently used responses, Mavis’ lips formed her toothiest smile, “Well, girls, it seems we have a mystery to solve.”

    In unison they rose from their chairs to begin scouring each nook and cranny of the seven table tea room. A scream rang out. Since only one of the Happy Widows ever screeched like a spoiled rotten teenager, they knew at once Bette Greene had found the missing Sarah.

    Sarah the corpse hung on the opposite side of the coat rack with the end of a bloody coat hook protruding from the front of her neck. Mavis took control of the situation. “Before anyone calls 9-1-1, let’s do our own investigation.”

    But before anyone could act, Lacey shouted. “Look. A man. He’s getting into Sarah’s car. Hurry. Stop him.”

    Gretchen Wilder got there first, tackling the man as he fumbled with the keys. “Say, what’s going on here? You’re Billy Blakely, Sarah’s supposedly deceased husband.”

    Several hours later. After the police, EMT, et al, had finished their jobs, the weekly Tea Party resumed. Frequently chattered phrases included: “Insurance scam; He wanted it all; I never suspected” and most important of all,
    “How do we fill the vacant seat?”

    How, indeed?

    1. I am impressed that you were able to give so many details with so few words. My favorite line is:

      Frequently chattered phrases included: “Insurance scam; He wanted it all; I never suspected” and most important of all,
      “How do we fill the vacant seat?”

      because you say so much with so few words. Nicely done!

  5. Kitty’s Tea Party

    Corpse Tea Party Crime

    299 words

    The corpse sat perfectly still in the corner of the room. Mr. Doug McGonicle had adopted quite an odd way of solving crimes assigned to him. He has maintained a 99 percent for solving crimes and murders since he became a detective. The corpse was named Francine, an older woman with 5 dearly loved cats. So he set the murder/ crime scene up just right even with Kitty, Mr. Cat, Boo, Mr. Bojangles, and Mr. Fuzz.

    He thought it was kind of odd she had 1 female and 4 male cats. They were the only witnesses and Mr. Fuzz her youngest one even hit her emergency alert button to notify the paramedics. Francine had taught her cats well. Living alone and no family nearby, these cats became her family. Doug sat at the table tea cup in one hand and pipe in the other. He let the cats run freely around Francine the corpse. He observed their actions in the home for weeks. These cats were self-sufficient even able to access to an unlimited supply of food and water.

    Her body did not show any trace of health issues or wounds for cause of death. As time went on he noticed that Kitty was staring down the jewels that were on Francine. He also noticed she was missing a ruby necklace he put on her. He searched the house, every nook and cranny, no necklace. The next day he caught Mr. Cat and Boo running into a trap door in the house next door and what looked like Mr. Bojangles on look out. He followed them into the house from a distance and found a hidden stash of jewels and what looked like potion bottles. Looks like Francine had died from Bonnie and Clyde and some misfits.

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  6. Sherlock Holmes/Catskills/Sci-Fi
    Word Count: 208

    It was late when we teleported into suite 221B at the Baker Street Resort, we had just tracked down a hacker that had infiltrated the First World Bank. I had been looking forward to the mountain view; but Holmes had other ideas.
    After we had met with High Inquisitor Lestrade, Holmes had disappeared. I hadn’t been to worried as it was Holmes habit to leave and partake in some strange behaviors, to keep his mind sharp, he would say. This night was different however, he had gone to one of those Limbic Stimulation Dens and overdosed.
    It took us almost an hour to reach the teleportation station to get back to the suite; Holmes raving the whole time at apparitions that weren’t there. Some guy named Doyle, a giant glowing hound, Reichenbach Falls, none of it made any sense to me. They were just the delusions of a great mind that had to much e-juice pumped through it.
    As I sat him down in a chair near the fireplace in our suite I asked “Why do you do this to yourself Holmes?”
    “Elementary, Watson.” was his only reply as he moved to his Theremin and began to play.
    I sighed and retired to my room for another sleepless night.

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  7. Title – The Toys
    Prompts – Space Traveller/Opium Den/Comedy
    Word Count – 300
    Twitter – @nancymbeach

    George fumbled getting his phone out of his pocket. He cursed as he tried to type Catherine a text. These damn human thumbs, so fat and inflexible.

    Thursday, August 4, 1870
    5:02 pm Catherine —are you there?

    5:03 pm Oh George, I was so worried.

    5:04 pm I’m fine. I landed on earth three days ago. Sorry I didn’t text sooner. The trip was uneventful except my wings keep popping out of my skin. Can you bring the brown bottle of glue when you come?

    5:05 pm Sure. The kids and I are almost packed.

    5:06 pm I found a little shop. It has the most beautiful pipes, I can’t stop rubbing my human hands on the wood. The people here are so kind too. Everyone lays around in a dreamlike state with their long pipes and lamps, it reminds me of the seven sleepers of Ephesus. I think it may be how the Earth-folk eat.

    5:07 pm Interesting. I wonder if it is like planet Oratail where they live on vapor?

    5:08 pm Too soon to tell. My preliminary reports are that earth looks to be inhabitable.

    Tuesday, August 9, 1870
    8:30 am Are you ok? I haven’t heard from you. The pods are almost ready. Is it safe for the kids and I to come?

    9:00 pm I’m so sorry, Catherine. I was out with the squad.

    9:01 pm Squad, like an ambulance? What happened?

    9:16 pm No, nothing like that. The squad is Earthling talk for my friends, my groupies.

    9:17 pm You are acting weird, George.

    9:28 pm Nope. I’m as good as ever. Earth is euphoric. I’ve picked out a blue pipe for Leroy and one with a beautiful design for Elroy.

    9:30 pm George, you are the best. The kids will love the toys.

    1. Great idea to format it as text messages. Engaging and fun read, but deceptively thought-provoking too…making us look at ourselves from a different perspective. Sobering.

  8. The Ladies of Falmouth
    Geoffrey Philp
    Corpse, Tea Party, Crime
    298 words

    “What is that creaking sound?” asked Lady Josephine Lynch between sips of tea that her host, Lady Catherine Marshall, had served on her best china.
    “Oh, that? You will get used to it,” said Lady Catherine and flicked her wrist. The black maid scurried away, leaving them in the uneasy silence that fell over the plantation between harvests.
    A new arrival to the Indies, who had not yet become acculturated to the norms of the island, Lady Catherine’s guest had arrived an hour before the other ladies, Elizabeth Jane Gordon, Maria Francis Collins, and Sarah Moulton Barrett, whose cousin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lady Catherine had hoped would one day grace their monthly tea parties with one of her exquisite poems. It was the least Lady Catherine thought she could do to bring the elegance of England to the barbaric backwaters of Jamaica.
    “Before the others get here, I must show you the balcony, my dear. And don’t worry about the formalities, you can you bring your tea with you.”
    Already impressed by the mile long driveway and elegant gardens accentuated by shrubs of bougainvilleas, allamanda, and beaumontia, Lady Josephine was escorted up the staircase, away from the ballroom with mahogany floors that shone like a freshly minted farthing.
    “There it is again,” said Lady Josephine. She spun around to see the body of a child, suspended like an apostrophe over lines of swaying cane stalks, their green blades dulled by the breeze that swept over the savannah and branches of the cotton tree from which he had been hung.
    Lady Josephine’s cup shattered on the limestone floor. The maid swooped down to clean the mess.
    “What did he do?”
    “Everything and nothing, my dear,” said Lady Catherine. “But how else can we keep them in line? More sugar?”

    1. Such a rich story. And that last query for more sugar was just the sweetest twist of the knife. Love how you built it up as a scene of decorum and etiquette just to sour it. Wonderful.

      1. Thank you for recognizing one of the conflicts in the story, which carries over a Gothic conceit of horror beneath Georgian/Victorian elegance.

  9. Corpse, tea party, crime
    290 words

    Family Reunion

    The window opened smoothly and without a sound. He climbed through and lowered it shut before a chilly breeze disturbed the room’s occupant.

    The blue light of a full moon illuminated his path. To his left was a desk strewn with paper and colored pencils. On his right a bookcase carelessly filled with narrow paperbacks. The rhythmic breathing of his target came from the single bed across the room.

    He stepped forward colliding with a low unseen table in the middle of the room. Four plastic cups and saucers rattled dangerously in the darkness. A tea pot painted in bright flowers and unicorns fell to the carpeted floor, near the feet of a baby doll, naked and broken, lying discarded in the shadows.

    He stopped and held his breath until he felt it was safe to proceed.

    When he reached the bed he looked down at the child. Her tangled curly hair partially covered her face. He softly brushed it aside for a better look. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.

    He opened the bag at his side and removed a small winter jacket. He couldn’t risk leaving the room to retrieve her coat from the front closet.

    She opened her eyes. “Daddy?”

    “Shh. I’ve come to get you early today and didn’t want to wake mommy. I have an idea. Let’s play a game. Rather than leave thru the door, let’s be silly and climb out the window.”

    She smiled at him through sleepy eyes and gave him a big hug. He thought his heart might explode.

    He forgot to lower the window after they climbed out into the night. A wintry gust blew in, scattering the note of apology he left on the bed.

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    1. This story sort of evolves. It gives you hints as it goes, letting you build so many scenarios to keep you on your toes before giving you an ending that creates such a mix of emotions. The note blowing away is just a great wrench.

  10. Sian Brighal
    298 words
    Corpse/ Tea party/ Steampunk

    Note: I’m not sure this actually fulfills the three things, so if you feel that it doesn’t, then this is just for fun.

    Shelf Life

    I loved his hands.

    I never had eyes so could never see them, but I felt them, holding me just so, pressing there, fingertips tracing the outlines of my body. I learnt my shape and form through his fingers; each touch became a landmark, a set of gradients, a legend… cartography through feel, rendering the ridges and valleys of my body in my mind.

    His hands fascinated me with their fluidity, their confidence, their grace as they remodelled and refined me with exquisite care. Those beautiful hands worked on my face, my chest, my thighs and down to toes. He created my hands, testing the flexibility of the rubber sinew between porcelain phalanges, curling my fingers about his own as though we held hands, and last, he fashioned my mouth from rubber, silk and ivory, assessing the fullness of the lower lip… the softness of my mouth and smoothness of my teeth. The fabric pulled taut over my metal and china frame was his last gift.

    But that was long ago, and I’ve been shown my own shape too many times. So, I sit at this table, wound-up and instructed through holes punched in cards to move my stiffening copper and brass joints and creaking porcelain knuckles in a pleasing manner. I pour tea, hand out plates of treats and play mother to those who join my table, resetting and repeating the tasks on their whim. It’s an empty, untouched land, a grave of sorts. I host the tea parties and can forget the feel of those places where the fabric is worn through… where stained china, riddled with cracks like spider’s webs and Verdigris, is exposed. I can forget all the maps I’ve learnt, and while waiting for this corpse to realise it’s dead, remember once I loved his hands.

      1. Thank you 🙂 Lovely to say. It’s not what I usually write, so I’m thrilled that it’s come out good

  11. @firdausp
    297 words
    Corpse; Tea Party; Crime

    The Tea Party

    One minute I’m standing in the kitchen getting things ready for the tea party, and the next thing I know is, I’m walking around mingling with the guests. I’m a little disoriented. I can’t remember when guests started to arrive and the party began. Maybe the stress of organising this grand event has gotten to me.

    I greet the Mayor’s wife as she comes towards me. My smile is as bright as I can muster. She’s a snooty old crow. She looks right through me and, without even a nod of acknowledgement, walks past.

    “What the—” I start to curse aloud, then hold my tongue as I see Mrs Singh approach me with a huge smile. She’s the biggest gossip in town. I hold myself rigid waiting for her dreaded long hug. She walks hurriedly past catching up with the old crow. I’m left standing there with my mouth open.

    I sight my husband across the room talking to my neighbour’s eighteen year old daughter. Nearing them, I watch him tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, as he leans in to whisper something. She giggles and blushes. I stand there transfixed.

    A scream fills the room and I’m jolted back to hostess mode. I rush towards the tables with the food, the source of the scream. A little crowd has already gathered, and I meander around them to find Mrs Gupta, our lawyer’s wife, slumped in a chair, face ashen, as if she’s seen a ghost.

    I look in the direction everyone is staring at. Under the table, where the tablecloth that reaches the floor has shifted, I see a hand peeking out. I look closer and I can see a face. A familiar distorted face.

    And then I look into my open, dead eyes.

      1. Apostrophe inserted, Firdaus. Welcome back – first entry since MC68, and a really good job!
        I was going to say that it was too easy to spot where it was going, but that was because I’d already read the elements you’d chosen! It would make a great intro to a longer piece; it certainly leaves you wondering what the back story is, and what the consequences will be.

      2. Thank you Geoff. It feels good to finally post one after so long. It was a hurried attempt, I thought I was running out of time. I’m glad you liked it although I know it was too easy to spot. 😉

    1. Beautiful read. I love the pace of it: it’s almost making you hyperventilate…and I read an irony in there where she seemed so stressed and buzzing on adrenaline…only to be dead. I can see the scene, and based on your details, picture how events could unfold , thanks to moody cow and gossip…and that tucking of the hair behind the ear. Wonderful read.

  12. I’ve probably missed the deadline but I’ll post this anyway as I haven’t written anything for here in a while. Please enjoy Meet the Parents!

    Meet the Parents
    A 292 Flash Fiction Tale by Stephen Shirres (@The_Red_Fleece)

    Mia’s family live in a pretty, suburban house on the edge of the city, with a fresh red door. Her mum, Hazel, greets us before we can knock.
    “Phil! So great to finally meet you. Come in, come in.”
    Inside is a domestic heaven. Not a thing out of place, with dinner teasing the rest of the house. At the staircase, Hazel shouts up, “John, have you finished getting changed yet? Mia and Phil are here.”
    John is down a moment later with a firm handshake of greeting.
    “Where’s Timmy?” Mia asks, about her adopted little brother.
    “He won’t be joining us till later sadly, but more time to get to know you, Phil.”
    Hazel ushers us into a sitting room bigger than my flat. A bar of cold drinks awaits us, and hundreds of questions. Mia’s parents try and work out if I’m a suitable partner for their daughter. I think I do well enough. The questioning only stops when dinner is called. Hazel stands by a large table covered in carved meat, potatoes and vegetables of green and orange. The red table cloth is bright beneath everything.
    “I’ve never tasted food so good, Hazel. The meat is amazing.”
    “Phil knows how to get into your good books, dear.” John pats me on the back with a laugh.
    “He is just being kind, John.” Hazel blushes. “Would you like some more, Phil?”
    “Yes please.”
    Hazel rolls back the table cloth.
    “Timmy.” Mia says not with disgust but pride. Timmy’s body is in a clear box between the table legs. His ribs stick out, flesh carved away. Half of his arm is gone to. I want to throw up, run away.
    Hazel beams. “I told you Timmy would be joining us later.”

    My three elements were: Corpse; Tea Party; Crime

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    1. Creepy ending…loved it! It’s always the ones with the super clean and tidy houses…. 😀

  13. King Arthur/Opium Den/Comedy
    281 words

    There’s Nothing That Can’t Be Improved by Frying It and Putting It on a Stick

    King Arthur’s gold-tasseled boot rocked the wooden door from its hinges. Smoke rushed from the doorframe like line-campers at the opening bell of Comic-Con. Low mood lighting glinted off Excalibur’s hard steel swaggering in front of Arthur’s careful steps. “This is a raid. Nobody move.” Languid faces bombarded Arthur with vacant stares.

    “Sire,” Gawain said, “it’s an opium den. I don’t think we’ll get many sudden movements from this crowd.”

    Arthur’s sword dropped to his side. “Right, then. In the name of Arthur, King of the Britons, I am closing down this disreputable establishment. You’re a stain on the morals of my kingdom. Everybody out.” Several patrons blinked, a few scratched their noses, but no one went for the exit. “You heard me. Scat!”

    A man in a butcher’s apron scurried from behind the bar. “King Arthur? I thought you were a legend.”

    Arthur planted Excalibur under the man’s nose, which sprouted so much hair he appeared to have Yahoo Serious hiding inside each nostril . “Damn straight I’m a legend. I’ve got my own kingdom, a sword with a fancy name, and three wagons of flour parked out back.”

    A single bead of sweat fell from the man’s nose, and zoomed down the polished blade. “Flour?”

    “Primo stuff. My personal brand. Baking is where the real money is, not that silly Holy Grail nonsense. Now point me to your stash, my good man. I’m impounding it in the name of the king.”

    Arthur swiveled to point Excalibur at his royal retinue. “Gawain, start mixing batter. Lancelot, change the signs out front. Galahad, start the frier. We’re going to make a killing with my grandma’s fried opium balls on a stick recipe.”

  14. Rip van Winkle/Opium Den/Memoir
    Word count: 180

    The Opus of Opium

    Memories curl up like spires of smoke and visions dance in his mind. A fat fish-wife stands with her mouth never closing, she holds a squalling infant on her arm. Men wave goodbye as they go off to war to fight for their freedom. A dilapidated house tilts precariously in the wind, in need of serious repair. A dog he likes walks with him wherever he goes. Noises come and go in his dream-like state and Rip knows how to avoid his overbearingly barren life. He drags deeply on the pipe making the strange pictures move once more and bringing with it the sweet release of sleep. Twenty years have been spent this way.

    He opens one eye gingerly. He runs his gnarled hand over his wild beard. A blue haze of smoke greets him as he begins to focus on his surroundings. Others sit nearby in various states of stupor induced by opium pipes. He reaches over for a new one and blissfully drifts off again happy to be, once again, in the reality of his now make-believe world.

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  15. Dead Woman Dancing


    Corpse; Tea Party; Crime (though more like a supernatural thriller, really…)

    297 words

    It was horrific.

    Officer Hernandez’ body-cam had arrived at the station in a nondescript parcel an hour earlier. Inspector Peters now watched a nightmare unfold.

    A stained bathtub; dessicated naked bodies strung from hooks; a Goldbergian boobytrap that left Hernandez’ partner Welsh vivisected and pinned to a wall.

    To her credit, Hernandez hadn’t lost her mind yet. She retraced her steps as best she could but was soon lost in the labyrinthine complex below the old Winston house.

    In the hallway ahead a door stood ajar, a Beethoven violin sonata gently shimmering through the gap. Hernandez took a shaky breath and nudged the door open with her pistol.

    An impossibly old woman sat at a mahogany table, sipping from a cup decorated with roses. She observed the officer for a moment through the rising steam.

    “Can I help you, dear?” Her voice was surprisingly rich.

    “Who the fuck are you?” Hernandez spat.

    A thin eyebrow arched. “Ms Bathory.”

    Hernandez laughed with barely restrained hysteria. “What, as in ‘Lady Elizabeth’?”

    Silence. The sonata rippled between them.

    Hernandez huffed. “Sure. OK. Why not?”

    The old woman chuckled and took a sip of her tea. When her eyes opened again they shone an iridescent, unearthly blue.

    Hernandez gasped and emptied her pistol into her.

    Lady Bathory looked down at the dainty handle of the shattered teacup still hooked around skeletal fingers, then glared back up at Hernandez, who backed away, sobbing a prayer as her gun dropped from nerveless fingers.

    Frenetic, incoherent motion followed, accompanied by shrieking and the grisly sounds of butchery.

    After a pause Lady Bathory reappeared, gazing directly into the camera. She was covered in blood and visibly younger. Peters shuddered.

    She blissfully conducted the sonata finale and blew a kiss as she shut the camera off.

    1. Beautifully written. The tension was right there from start to finish. I love that image of the shattered tea cup and the handle still between her fingers.

      1. Thanks Sian! That was the image that the prompt sparked for me. The whole story grew from there.

  16. Wipe the Board Clean

    Corpse; Tea Party; Crime
    222 words

    Tea parties were always a thorn in the life of Bill Lions. They were even worse now that he was dead. The moment he entered the room the chatter had subsided. Revered guests and business partners looked at the decayed form before them. The dead man walking.

    It was fortunate that Bill had organised the event himself, as any other host would have ejected him over the stench alone. The people here had always been tools to him, rungs on a ladder which soared him into greatness. He now saw them for what they really were: self-centred pawns who had long surpassed their use.

    He took his seat after a long dull speech about the future, and the changes to come. The attendants cheered and clapped, though he doubt they had listened carefully. His clammy hand reached under the table, and he pressed down a small button with his forefinger.

    A wicked smile spread across his lips as the guests grasped at their necks, choking on the silent killer that had entered the room. Their deaths weren’t designed to be painless; he had used gas because he wanted it to hurt.

    The board had been wiped, and the future had been set. He stood to leave, happy that he was no longer the only corpse in the room.

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