Thanks to everyone who entered! We had 11 awesome entries this week and great engagement. One of my favorite things about doing this is seeing how supportive and helpful the community is. I love it.
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.
Thanks again to Ell Meadow for this week’s prompt.
And many thanks to Sian Brighal for judging MC 84. She was a complete rock star and got the judging done in a swift manner. Here’s what she had to say:
So much steampunk…and science, crime and horror! Reading the stories was an utter delight. Judging was hard work. I am, again, amazed at the range of concepts and plots the prompts generate. I loved how the authors drew on events and themes to flesh out their plots to write these beautifully phrased stories. Steampunk, although not exclusively, calls into my mind the use of elegant effusive and flowing prose, which the writers gave me in spades…and you can’t go wrong adding in Sherlock Holmes in my book. Thank you Ell Meadow for the great prompt idea and theme, and to KM and Geoff for giving these wonderful stories a home. And thank you for the wonderful stories.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Bill Engleson – Two Floors Down and a Lifetime of Travel Back: 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.
Great line, conveying just how heavy and dangerous that baggage is.
Steph Ellis – Fire and Fury: The executioner stared at him. “140 characters only,” he said maliciously.
I can feel the depths of the rage and bitterness with this line, and also the harsh satisfaction that he only has, in defence, the same number of characters he had to condemn with, knowing it could never be enough.
Carin Marais – Eisen’s Soul Capturing and Inspection Device: 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.
Lovely line to end on, full of shock and despair and horror at the ages ahead, locked in that device.
Nthato Morakabi – In the name of science!: It is then that my tangible body drips over him link (like) ink on paper.
This is such a lovely image.
mirandats – My Doctor: 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.
This line was a wonderful surprise. It changed the scene, adding a wonderful element to the story.
Jeff Messick – The Body on the Platform: He had traveled in more than space, no one could have found him so easily, not even…Him.
After reading the story, this line leapt out. It adds a new dimension—no pun intended—to the story, and why would he want to hide from…Him? Makes me want to read more.
Dave Allen – A Stitch in Time: 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.
Time travel makes my head hurt, and this brilliant line was a thought-twister. It turned the lovely story into a theoretical physics and ethics debate.
Angelique Pacheco – Winding down: Molly took the small key hanging from a gold chain and inserted it into the space above her heart and began to wind.
Lovely line and ending. I wonder what will happen once she’s wound up?
Eloise – Frankenwolf: There were carcasses of clocks strewn on the floor.
This created a great image. I liked the semblance to something having lived and the violence that had befallen them.
JK – Tail of All Time: 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.
Great unexpected ending.
Ell Meadow – The Mysterious Death of Lord Butterworth: Footsteps echoed against the indifferent walls turning deaf ears to the sounds of death approaching.
Lovely, elegant line to draw you in.
Honourable / Honorable Mention
mirandats – My Doctor
I enjoyed the subtle setting of the environment using the view out of the window and that combination of Victorian luxury and science fiction which comes so easily to mind when thinking of steampunk. The title cleverly outlines the relationship of the two travellers which gives the reader a great framework to think within. For me, the text and the title created a wonderfully conflicted idea of that pairing: what had he made her? Did this have something to do with why they sought saftey? It also built an underlying sense of drama and danger, a friction between those of flesh and gears. Lovely story, thank you.
Nthato Morakabi – In the Name of Science
I enjoyed the language in this piece. There is a breathless, desperate quality to it, combining technology and mysticism, and then the ending, suggesting the completion of a task that has haunted them both for many years. Is this a bid for redemption? Beautiful and elegant writing. Thank you.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 84.
(insert drumroll here)
It was so, so close. And we still wound up with a tie!
Bill Engleson – Two Floors Down and a Lifetime of Travel Back
300 Steps Into Oblivion
Detective / Time Machine / Humour/Alternate Reality
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.
Dave Allen – A Stitch in Time
Scientist / Time Machine / Crime
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.
Steph Ellis – Fire and Fury
Beautifully written piece, full of the scars of terror, bitterness and retribution. I enjoyed the linking with Odin and his ravens, and the disparity between the hanging of Odin and the traveller on the train’s was a great set-up. One sought enlightenment and understanding alone through sacrifice, while the other gained nothing whilst surrouding himself with advisors. One was rewarded for his sacrifice, the other punished for what he thoughtlessly sacrificed. I loved the introduction of the two clockwork birds, chirping out a moocking…accusation, maybe, at this point. Adding in Twitter was a brilliant and clever touch. Well done and thank you.
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.
Congratulations, Steph. Please let us know if you’d like to judge the next go round!