Microcosms 84

Edit 1: Sorry for the delay due to technical difficulties. You have an extra hour – please ignore the countdown timer! Also, until the spinner is fixed, I have included the genres in a list format for you to choose from. I know it’s not as fun, but it’s the best I can do for now. 🙁 Hopefully, it will be fixed by next week.

Edit 2: Whelp, it seems to be working for NO REASON WHATSOEVER. lol Okay, deleting the list. *sigh*


Hi all! And welcome to Microcosms 84! Wow, I really can’t believe that… Anyways, today is apparently “Presidential Joke Day”, and while I was truly tempted, I don’t really want to start a political debate on here. Luckily, Ell Meadow stepped up to the plate and gave us another very cool prompt this week. Enjoy!


Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fantasy that incorporates technology and designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Some works focus on a magical fantasy world in which steam and magic are intertwined.

Associated authors: Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley, Mervyn Peake, Tim Powers, Michael Moorcock

Key Words – Time machine, airship, difference engine (Charles Babbage’s steam powered computer), steam coach, steam train

Key genres: gaslight romance, wild west, Victorian, gaslight fantasy, post-apocalyptic, historical, alternative reality

Ell Meadow


I actually really enjoy steampunk, so I hope you have fun with this one. I’m super excited to read what you come up with! I’ve used a lot of the items Ell mentioned for inspiration, as well as a few of my own.

If you need some audio inspiration, check out “The Watchmaker’s Apprentice” and “The Doctor’s Wife”, by The Clockwork Quartet, both of which I’ve embedded below. Love!





(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: Doctor, setting: Steam Coach, and genre: Steampunk.

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 ***


  • Scientist
  • Creature
  • Detective
  • Space Traveller
  • Watchmaker
  • Politician
  • Doctor
  • Journalist
  • Time Machine
  • Spaceship
  • Underwater City
  • Steam Coach
  • Steam Train
  • Science Lab
  • Victorian England
  • Horror
  • Memoir
  • Sci-Fi
  • Crime
  • Steampunk
  • Comedy
  • Poetry
  • Gaslight Romance
  • Wild West
  • Victorian
  • Gaslight Fantasy
  • Post-Apocalyptic
  • Historical
  • Alternate Reality


This week’s judge TBA.

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.

Microcosms 85
Technical Difficulties - Short Delay

32 thoughts on “Microcosms 84

  1. Detective; Time Machine; Humour/Alternate Reality
    300 steps into oblivion

    Two Floors Down and a Lifetime of Travel Back

    Gilroy’s Tavern was two stories down from Delacroix Street. Its in the old section of town. I think maybe I’ve had enough of old. Most of the people who come to me, what you might call my clientele, everything about them reeks of old. Old loves! Old crimes! Old baggage that weighs them down like a block of cement you might tie around the ankles of an old friend you want to see the last of.

    The message had been brief: “Gilroy’s! Midnight! It’ll be worth your while.”

    It’d been a few months since my while had been worth a second thought.

    Every crowded stone step down into the bowels of Gilroy’s was clammier than the one before. Pipes reached out from the crumbling walls. Every step of the way down, blood-rusty sewage cascaded into the void. A stench of vomit and rot swirled in the stagnant air.

    Drunks descending: Devils Ascending. The foot traffic would clog a giant commode.

    By the time I stepped into Gilroy’s, I needed a good stiff drink.

    Three drummers and a Calliope player were aerating the room. Three hundred partiers were sweating, drinking, drooling, and yelling away.

    Twenty-four clocks fired away above the one-hundred-foot bar.

    One of the clocks clanged twelve.

    I ordered a Midnight Cocktail. The bartender had it ready.

    “Good service,” I said.

    “You were expected.”

    “I guess I was,” I quipped. “You leave the message?”

    “I did. Are you up for an adventure?”

    “I thought I was having one.”

    “You are, detective. In a few minutes, we will arrive in the Washington of 1841.”

    I smiled at the crazy man serving me drinks and nonsense.

    He persevered. “Old Tippecanoe died on April 4th that year. The country has never been right.”

    “This is a joke, right?”

    The booze-slinger was not smiling.

  2. Fire and Fury

    300 words
    Elements: politician, steamtrain, post-apocalyptic


    “He wants to stop here? But why?” The aide peered through the ash-covered window. Beyond lay splintered high-rises and fragmented office-blocks, everything blackened, rusted and long-abandoned.

    The guard shrugged. “Wants to speak to the people.”

    “What people?” asked the aide, staring at the emptiness. “No. I know we were told to play along but we are not stopping.”

    “It was so much easier in the days of twitter,” muttered the man. “I could reach so many people and now …” He picked up two clockwork birds and wound them up. The birds began to trill ‘fire and fury’ with repetitive monotony.

    “If I didn’t know it was already the end of the line for our guest, I’d strangle him myself,” said the guard. “He told me Odin had two ravens which perched on his shoulder as he hung on the Gallows Tree. Kept him in touch with the world – like twitter.” The guard spat.

    “Huginn and Munin, thought and wisdom. Not quite the same,” said the aide, “If only …”

    The train left the destroyed city, started up the hill. Now they saw movement, a mass of distorted humanity crawling out of blasted shelters, following the train to its final destination.

    “Doesn’t he realise?” asked the guard as their prisoner strode purposefully to the tree, allowed the noose to be slipped over his neck, the two little clockwork birds placed on his shoulder.

    “God complex,” said the aide.

    “I wish to speak,” said the prisoner, “as a part of the government …”

    The executioner stared at him. “140 characters only,” he said maliciously.

    Yet even as the condemned started to count on his fingers, the trapdoor opened. And it was a man who swung there, not a God. Just a man. One who had gifted Death millions of followers.

  3. Words: 300
    Doctor, Steam Coach, Steampunk

    Eisen’s Soul Capturing and Inspection Device

    The steam coach bumped over the cobbled streets of the city. Here, in the better parts of the city, people had become enlightened enough not to refer to the belching machine as the ‘devil’s work’, doctor Gregory Smithson mused from his prime seat on the rambling coach.
    The man opposite Smithson handed him a folder. Inside were blueprints for the ‘Soul-Capturing and Inspection Device’.
    “Mister Eisen?” Smithson asked.
    “My invention will change —”
    “Poppycock! It is a lunatic’s imaginings! Like your other inventions.”
    “With respect, Doctor Smithson, it could undo science! It would prove the existence of the soul!”
    “As soon as some lower-class lackey starts saying ‘with respect’ I stop listening.” Smithson grinned. “But come, show me this —”
    “SCID,” Eisen helped.

    The jumble of brass, glass, wood, and instruments in Eisen’s workshop were dwarfed by the SCID.
    “You stand there, I press this button and I can view your soul by extracting it using the steam-powered vita-extractors before reversing the flow and returning your soul to you.”
    “Fascinating. Show me.”
    Eisen gulped and pressed the button. A black mass formed inside the glass globe in the centre of the brass-and-glass device. Smithson grinned.
    “I had always thought it would look something like that.”
    “There must be something wrong, the others I tested —”
    “Quickly stand over there, I just want to test it myself — as a scientist.”
    Eisen stopped fidgeting with the device and stood sweating before the vita-extractors. A light grey mass formed inside the glass globe.
    “This could revolutionise much, Eisen. And undo my life’s work!” Smithson shouted.
    Eisen had no way to protect himself from the bullet fired point-blank at his chest and could only watch helplessly from the glass globe as the workshop was set alight around him.

  4. Scientist | Time Machine | Horror
    300 words
    In the name of science!
    The depravity of man lies in both his action and inaction. Remorse waxing and waning as the candle dripping wax onto the letter. Sealing it for the Velohaven Federation Scientific Council to find in the emptiness of the laboratory. As they will do one last time.
    I watch the hunched form correct liquid slinking along hydraulic pistons connected to iron gears. Mechanical cranks clank continuously like clockwork. Copper tubes connect to a black cycling machine and its coal-chomping engine.
    “Mercury. Salt. Sulphur.”
    Steam exhales from the engine. Shoulders tremble and his face whips about to face me. He cannot see me but he senses my presence. Senses the dark, cold shadow barely perceptible in his peripheral. A thin line draws across his lips.
    “Lead. Tin. Iron. Gold. Copper. Silver.” His voice is low and grim. He sits on the cycling machine, heavy breaths though he has yet to pedal. When he does, it is quick and harried.
    I step towards him, placing a hand on his shoulder. He shivers and pedals faster. The gaslamps hanging on the wall flicker. His shadow grows and withers. Blue lightning flashes above us and for a moment I become as tangible as the regret pulsing through his veins. As the greying hair matted to his forehead. The weathered lab coat. Our shadows flash in fate-bound embrace.
    On the machine he turns a dial and the bronze digits roll back by ten years. It is then that my tangible body drips over him link ink on paper.
    His heart slows. Lungs freeze. Breath grows stagnant. I am him and he is I. Past. Present. Future. Intermingled into one, hurtling back to the moment that would destroy the soul for the sake of posterity.
    “Finally, Tesla.” The blade rises. We cannot stop. We must not stop.

  5. Doctor, Steam Coach, Steampunk
    Title: My Doctor

    The chatter around us quieted to a breathless hush as the car tilted forward and the windows dimmed. A child in the seat ahead of us pulled the plush red curtains aside to watch the wild fields we’d been traversing for what seemed like days disappear. The lights went out and a woman gasped. The man beside me gripped my hand and I relaxed, turning to smile up at him. He smiled back, releasing my hand when the light returned, no longer friendly and warm, but dark and cold. The boy gave a strangled yelp and tripped backwards into his mother’s arm as a giant eye blinked at him then disappeared in a haze of ink. Our windows darkened again, but when they cleared we could see fields of green undulating in patterned light. The squid that had startled the child was nowhere to be seen, but I saw eels skulking in the weeds and a mass of silvery fish that darted over us and disappeared as though they were one body. There were larger shadows in the distance, but when I leaned closer to get a better look my companion took my arm and pulled me back. I looked at him and he shook his head, pointing to the thin film of moisture I hadn’t noticed coating the window, reminding me of what I had become, what he had made me. I sat back in my seat and folded my hands in my lap, tugging my sleeves so they covered the gears that whirred in place of my wrists, straightening my skirts so they covered the springs that served as my calves. My doctor smiled and put his arm around me. We were safe, and soon no one would be able to hurt us.

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  6. The Body on the Platform
    Jeff Messick
    278 words
    Doctor, Steam Coach, Steampunk

    Gouts of steam shot from the train engine, obscuring the platform. With the fitful light provided by the lanterns, the overall view was dim and alien.

    The doctor looked up from his crouch, trying to discern a figure in the mist, but shook it off as imagination. He had traveled in more than space, no one could have found him so easily, not even…Him.

    The body on the platform was another matter. Curled up in a tight ball, eyes wide open to the terror and agony that gripped his final seconds. The doctor had been unable to help. The poor sod was dead before anyone really knew it.

    “Well?” Asked the uniformed man next to him, a fellow traveler through space and time.

    “I have no idea.” Said the doctor. “Whatever it was, must have hurt.”

    The uniformed man frowned. “I can see that.”

    The clouds of mist drifted and the doctor saw it again, a shape, a figure in the mist. The shape moved forward, tall, spare, with a cane, but a sure step.

    The shape spoke in a strong, clear voice. “Collapse of the vortex around him, caused his heart to stop. He didn’t have a chance.”

    The doctor slowly rose. “How in God’s name…?”

    The shape stepped forward again, showing the man wore a smile, almost a smirk, but not of derision, rather of too much knowledge.

    “The Falls held a door, much like this engine. I have been waiting for you.”

    The doctor looked at the uniformed man, then back at the figure. “How did you find us?”

    The figure smiled. “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

    He tipped his hat to the uniformed man. “LeStrad.”

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  7. https://fictionalmoments.wordpress.com/

    A Stitch in Time
    Scientist/Time Machine/Crime
    Word Count: 294

    It had been a long road getting to the truth of this case. Through some perseverance and outside help, I was able to track down the facts in this case. We were about to put an end to the strange happenings that had gripped this city.

    We entered the Temporal Mechanics wing of the Feynman Institute of Science, and made our way to lab 201. As we approached I could hear an excited voice speaking.

    “It’s finished!, Now for the test run that will change the world!” said the voice as we knocked on the door.

    The door cracked open to reveal a diminutive, bespectacled scientist with wild hair that reminded you of those pictures of Einstein. He looked at us in bewilderment, he had had no reason to expect a visit from the police.

    “Professor Burlinghoff Tempus?” I asked, the man nodded, “we have a warrant for your arrest for numerous crimes beginning with the Manny Graves incident and ending with the murder of Rasmussen Fugit.” He took the warrant from me with a confused look as I ordered the rest of the officers to collect the evidence the warrant specified.

    Tempus opened his mouth to protest. “I understand your confusion,” I interrupted, “we are aware you have an alibi for every crime listed, we were confused to. A consulting group pointed out a pattern and advised us that once you eliminate the impossible, what ever remains, however improbable must be the truth.”

    I explained, “We realized that time travel was the only explanation; this badge found at the murder scene lead us to you.”

    As we remove the time machine and Tempus, all I could think was what a paradoxical shift this had been. At least we put a stitch in time.

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  8. Watchmaker/Victorian England/Steampunk
    Word count: 296

    Winding down

    It had been the same routine every night for the past twenty-five years. When I was little, my mother used to have to remind me constantly about it.

    I sighed as I wound my heart up, using the key that hung from my neck permanently. When I was done, I brushed my teeth and washed my face. I opened my window and let the cool air blow over me as I gazed at London beneath me soaking up the vibes of the street vendors and the almost, soothing sounds of the mechanical carriages. Every now and then, an engine-powered air ship would float by, as if actually moving on the air. The clock on Big Ben struck one and I moved away from the window, sliding into bed, my hand brushing the key as it nestled between my breasts, an unconscious habit I had picked up along the way.

    A bright light hit my face and I squinted to see the sunlight hitting my face. I put my hand up to feel for the necklace, but it wasn’t there. I tried not to panic. I scurried around the room looking under the bed, throwing the pillows and covers about. It was nowhere to be found. I obsessed about it all day until I could feel myself begin to wind down. Prepared for death, I lay on my bed and cried.

    “Oh, Mum! She’s beautiful! Thank you!” Molly’s mother, a watchmaker, had seen this wind-up doll in a small shop and bought her. Molly pressed the doll up against her chest and hugged her tightly. “Why don’t we wind her up?” her mother asked. Molly took the small key hanging from a gold chain and inserted it into the space above her heart and began to wind.

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  9. Detective/ science lab/ horror
    Word count: 172


    The white coat laid shredded on the floor. Blood drops made a dot-to-dot image. It wasn’t clear until you stood up high. A wolf. What had the scientist been up to? There were carcasses of clocks strewn on the floor.
    “Detective Harris. What have we here?”
    “I am not sure, though it is doesn’t seem friendly” as he poked at the white coat. All that remained were the innards of the scientist.
    “Do we know what the experiment was?”
    “Yes. And it may have been inspired by tall tales of old” Suddenly, they heard the fainting ticking of clocks.
    “What is that, Harold?”
    “A Frankenwolf,” quivered Harold as he watched golden eyes glow.
    “A what?”
    “A Frankenwolf!” screamed Harold as he steamed away.
    Detective Harris turned. The ticking of the clocks got louder. There before him stood the creature. Half wolf. Half clock. He turned to run but end up in ribbons. No one really know what happened to the Frankenwolf. But beware of the tick tock in the forest.

  10. Doctor, Steam Punk, Steam Coach

    Tail of All Time

    Rosie stepped into the rickety steam coach with determination. She travelled hundreds of miles to meet Doctor Louie. He was well renowned for his spectacular abilities to accomplish mysteries of both scientific and medical endeavors.
    Rosie overheard people talking about him one day as she was leaving the clinic. This was her tenth visit to the clinic and left feeling less hopeful each time. They mentioned how he saved people on their deathbeds, created new forms of food through morphing objects, and built new forms of transportation.
    As she sat next to Doctor Louie, she noticed he had a musty aroma to him that resembled the smell of her great grandmother’s heirlooms.
    “So I hear you are in need of medical treatments, Rosie.”
    “Yes I am.”
    “Well before we get into that my assistant Matilda is going to complete a full work up to determine if I can help you.”
    As they stepped off the steam coach she noticed a tail whip out from under his coat. Rosie was indeed curious about the doctor, but her mission was priority. He directed her to a tent with a medical table, steel cabinet, and a grandfather clock that Rosie thought made for an unconventional room. Matilda came over checked her vitals, reflexes, collected ten tubes of blood, and did a full body scans.
    Ten minutes later the doc comes in and says, “ so you are trying to get pregnant?” “Well, yes.”
    “Drink this green vile and you will be giving birth by this time tomorrow.”
    Without a second thought she took the concoction. She woke up in the middle of the night with contractions. By 5 am she had given birth to a human baby; only catch was he had a tail, a clock for a heart, and glowing green eyes.

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  11. Detective, Victorian England, Steam Punk

    The Mysterious Death of Lord Butterworth

    Footsteps echoed against the indifferent walls turning deaf ears to the sounds of death approaching. Pale moonlight gleamed off a knife momentarily held at the wrong angle as it plunged into the unsuspecting victim… The butler paused in his recitation of the morning news, steam hissing from his mechanical joints, as Lord Butterworth slumped into his oatmeal.

    The death of Lord Butterworth was reported in the evening news as the ‘unsolvable mystery of the decade’. Holmes remarked quietly to Watson upon reading it, that this was one instance where the evidence incontrovertibly pointed to the inescapable conclusion that the butler did it.

    “But how,” spluttered Watson. “The newspaper report contains the barest of facts.”

    “Elementary dear Watson, no self-respecting homunculus could possibly be expected to read the tabloid news day after day without acting upon it”.

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    1. Love your story. Several favorite lines and sentences! “Elementary dear Watson, no self-respecting homunculus could possibly be expected to read the tabloid news day after day without acting upon it”.

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