Microcosms 89

Felicitations, fellow flashionistas, and welcome to Microcosms 89.

Regular followers may remember that in MC Contest 85, I told you that I was called upon to make a Father of the Bride speech in September.

Still plenty of time to write one, I told myself; but I’m a world-class procrastinator, and it turns out that the wedding is TODAY! (Serves me right for leaving it to my wife to deal with all the social diary engagements…)

So, no time for my usual last-minute production of a contest theme; this post has been cobbled together IN ADVANCE! – and scheduled for automatic release at the usual time of 00.00, Friday, New York (EDT) time. Here’s the deal:

Instead of a theme and the usual ‘slot machine’ selection of elements – character, location and genre – I’ve resorted to Rory’s Story Cubes®.

The story cubes are a sets of nine ‘dice’, but instead of a number, each face has a different illustration – or ‘icon’. The simplest way to play is to take all nine cubes, give them a shake, and roll… Since this is a long-distance game, I’ve already done that for you!

Here is a photo of how the cubes landed.


Microcosms 89 Contest
(Rory’s Story Cubes®)


The objective is to tell a story that links together all nine icons.

The interpretation of each icon is intentionally left open, in order to trigger multiple associations. For example, the key may be taken literally as an instrument for locking / unlocking, or it could be a musical key, a lever / button on a keyboard (piano, laptop, etc.), a clue… or anything else that your brain associates with that image.

It’s not compulsory for you to use the cubes in the order they are laid out; start anywhere and use them in any order – just remember to incorporate all nine icons in your story.

This week, you are not restricted by a list of genres – go with whatever you like… but please specify the genre you have chosen.



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


*** DON’T FORGET to tell us your chosen genre AND to give your entry a title ***



Due to the very late posting of last week’s results, Steph Ellis has kindly agreed to act as this week’s judge. (Last week’s Judge’s Pick will be invited to judge a future contest.)


All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) 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 90
Microcosms 88

48 thoughts on “Microcosms 89

  1. @GeoffHolme
    300 words
    [ Just for Fun entry ]

    Dicing With Death
    (See what I did there?!)

    The audience were leaving; Jack stayed in his seat. He still wasn’t confident using the walking stick, and didn’t want another fall. He hadn’t been to the theatre since Ethel had died, but he’d given this nearby am-dram society’s feeble murder mystery a try.

    Jack hadn’t yet returned Ethel’s blue badge; he’d decided to use it himself until he was fit again. He’d parked outside the hall. Not the best idea: along that stretch of road, sloping up to the pavement, was a strip of turf. With the rain and his infirmity, it had been treacherous to climb.

    Outside, Jack admired a rainbow arching over the park. The sun had come out, but it was still wet underfoot: it would be even more difficult going down. Better get out his car key on the pavement.

    Just as he found it, a bee buzzed around his head. Lashing out, he lost hold of his stick, fell and slid on his back. His good leg hit the car’s front wheel, halting his slide, but the key slipped from his grasp down a drain.


    He shone his penlight through the grid: only rainwater. Now what?

    A flash of inspiration! Removing his tie, he knotted one end round the magnet he’d bought for his grandson, and began fishing… Five beer bottle tops later, he landed his prize.

    Jack stretched for his walking stick, but lost his footing again. He slipped and rolled into the path of a police car… It skidded to a halt, inches from his nose.

    The policeman jumped out. “You all right?”

    “I-I think so.”

    “You’ve been lucky. We’ve had two fatalities in the last five years due to people sliding into the road here.”

    “Do you mean,” chuckled Jack, “I was on the verge of extinction?”

    “Very droll, sir.”

  2. @Nthito
    300 words
    Dark Fantasy
    The Ancient Relics and Order of the Nine-Die.
    (See what I did there too?)

    Aaron’s Rod once bloomed in the Tabernacle of Witness before Moses, God’s prophet. In the stark-whiteness of the Old Prophet’s chambers, the translucent masks – Comedy and Tragedy – also bloom. Blood-roses spiralling from the carved cavities of contorted countenances. The Prophet raises the relic to them, a magnifying glass, and gasps.
    “A New Prophet rises.” He whispers, the milky whites of his eyes illuminous with iridescence as the rainbow that spanned the heavens following The Great Flood.
    “No…” he says quietly, “Two.”
    To the North the twins frolic. Platinum hair bounces atop shoulders as waters cascade about them. The first, the girl, yelps and lifts a foot.
    “Are you okay?” Her brother asks. Her lips curl,
    “Stepped on something in the water.”
    The brother drops under and surfaces with a gleaming key in hand.
    “Whoa. Haven’t seen that except in the Holy Book of First Thoughts.” The girl says, “Where would it fit?”
    “We should ask the Prophet!” The boy says. The girl nods sagely.
    The Forest trees cringe from the cragged path. Branches bending and swaying apart as the figure stalks between them. Moonlight falls on lustrous wings that beat from the spine of the lank form. Numerous eyes blinking where the head should be. In its human-like hand is a flashlight, its scarlet beam sweeping across ferns that shriek against the caressing light.
    Eventually he finds the marking he seeks, an old image of a lightbulb. Much like the relic in his hand, these archaic imprints are far and few apart. The bulb begins to glow as the light touches it and The Door appears. Locked. Keyhole empty.
    The creature reaches its pocket and draws another relic. A horse-shoe magnet dyed black as night. It tugs at his arm towards the North. Towards The Key.

  3. Sian Brighal
    298 words
    Genre: Crime

    How The Vicar Got Away With Murder But Still Got Stung

    I knew what he’d done!

    The lightbulb moment came during an amateur theatrical performance, which also caused the audience to glare pointedly, but crimes like this trump everything. The group were consummate professionals and waited politely for me to gather up my walking stick and coat and hobble determinedly from the church hall. There were groans and exclamations, but I’ve long said the rows are too narrow for the current fashion of open-toed shoes.

    It was the perfect opportunity, though, with everyone transfixed by the play. It didn’t take long to cross the road to my cottage, rummage in the tool-shed and withdraw my torch. Contrary to a sense of drama, it turned on without issue or risk of faltering. From there, it was short work to the vicarage.

    The torch was welcomed, as the late Autumnal evening was dark and damp, and the drizzling rain caught the light in a series of rainbow flashes, like trout dashing in shallow rivers. This was still an old village, and the vicarage door required no key, so slipping in presented no dilemma, either practically or morally…so long as my motives weren’t put under a magnifying glass. Besides, at that point, I was enslaved to my purpose, as an iron needle is to a magnet.

    Despite the performance, I doubted I had much time so headed for the kitchen: the crime scene. People suspected the vicar of recently killing his wife, but hadn’t felt inclined to push the issue, as no one had really liked her. But…and yes! There was his weapon of choice—wallpaper scraper—with evidence still curled along its sharpened edge; and there, in the drawer, his handwritten labels, and in the cupboard, shop-bought honey. This was so much worse than murder. No wonder he’d had to bump her off.

  4. **I’m sorry for the double post, if there is a double post. I deleted the first one because I didn’t like how it was formatted, not sure if the deletion took though… Here’s the version with better formatting, please ignore the first.**

    Rory’s Memories
    296 Words

    Bees hummed in the garden, going about their business. Rory went about his. The neighbors waved and Rory waved back, humming too. He walked down the rutted lane towards the forest. Step-step-clack, step-step-clack, step-step-click. Rory paused and looked down, lifting his cane. The early morning sunlight shone down, reflecting off something. Rory squinted and bent, geriatric joints creaking, to pick up the reflective disk. It was a coin, heavy enough to be real gold, and smooth as a river stone. Rory rolled it around his palm. He liked the weight of it, but what’s more, he liked what it meant.

    Rory looked up. Luck was with him. There in the sky hung a faint but colorful ribbon, a rainbow. With a spring his step hadn’t known in fifty years Rory resumed his walk down the trail. When he was young Rory had stepped into a circle of mushrooms and been transported to a land of magic and fantasy. He’d swum with fish people in the river and seen trees transform into beautiful women, and spent the night dancing with the wee-folk. It was like something out of a play, but Rory knew enough to eat nothing of what they gave him. When he returned with nothing but his flashlight to the village no one believed him, but Rory never forgot.

    Entering the woods Rory slapped the leprechaun’s coin into the special groove on the end of his cane and said the words he still remembered, whispered into his ear by the most beautiful nymph in the woods. The coin began to glow, and Rory held on tight as his cane tugged him through the trees, coin guiding him like a magnet to the end of the rainbow, where the wee-people danced around a pot of gold.

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  5. Genre: Children’s story
    Word count: 275

    A little experiment

    Ben was buzzing through the rainbow flower fields looking for nectar to take back to the hive. He was the Queen bee’s personal collector. While he was sitting on the flower it started to rise. This was odd. No flowers ever raised when he had sat on them before. But before he could move there was a massive glass thing hover over him. He tried to scuttle off the flower but the big eye followed him. Ben was intrigued. He had never seen a thing like this. He flew closer to the magnifying glass. The eye moved away. What was this thing staring at him. Before he could find out he was knocked out by a blast of air.

    “Woohoo, I got you.” Said Mr Honeypot as he waved his walking stick in the air.

    Ben woke up being jostled where was he? What was that bright light being shone at him? Ben looked up the big eye was still there looking at him but he was not in the rainbow fields anymore. Ben tried to fly but he felt like a drunken soldier.

    “Easy there, little fella. I am sorry I blasted you but I need you for my experiment.”
    What experiment? I need to get back to my colony. Ben buzzed
    “It’s ok little one. After I fit this little tracking device to your abdomen you can be on your way”
    Ben looked at his butt. There was a small box. It was heavy. The queen would be unhappy. She would banish him to the dungeon. That is what happened when the last bee. I should have stayed away from the rainbow field.

  6. @steveweave71
    204 words

    George Luvvy’s Cookbook: Recipe #31

    Before cooking a dinner at home for theatre critics, I generally get what I call a ‘light bulb’ moment – a flash of inspiration, usually based on how my latest performance on the stage has been reviewed by my dinner guests. Here is a personal favourite.

    Having marinated everything, including my apron, beforehand using a marinator, I dice the potatoes, morass and turnips, add some witches’ fingers, some iron filings and the foreskin of a marrow. For seasoning, I add a splash of bee’s urine, then stir by magnet. Later I cook for 6 minutes using sunlight reflected through a rainbow via a magnifying glass on a light Tuscan stove. Serve with garnish on a platter, surrounded by giggling slime.

    Now this is key. Never tell your guests the ingredients you have used, even if tortured under flashlight or beaten with a walking stick, tied to a cypress tree and forced to yodel. Do not give in, even if you are made to sing obscure melodies like “Lotus In A Breeze” or “Mickey, The Sarong Pedlar” or “You Pelikan I”. Of course, if they dangle you over a ravine, or force you to smell the exquisite scents of white-flowered jasmine, then resistance may be futile.

  7. Word count: 291
    Genre: Romantic comedy not tragedy

    The Shillelagh Wielder and His Shenanigans

    “Follow the rainbow”, he had said before knocking me on the head with his shillelagh. Stupid Leprechaun! What was I, a detective? No. I was a woman, with a bump on my head now, looking for love. A bee buzzed past my nose and I swatted at it with my flash light. I had been walking around this damp, dark forest for hours. There couldn’t possibly be a rainbow here. According to the Irish ninny, you needed the sun to shine all day long, those you love to love you back…or some such crap. If I had love, I wouldn’t be stuck looking for the key to love.

    I had a light bulb moment. I climbed a tree to see if there were any clearings up ahead. Branches scraped me, clawing at my clothes, rendering me an absolute mess. There! A little to the right about fifty paces on. I half slid, half fell out of the tree and landed in a mud puddle. Splat! Wonderful. At least the bugs wouldn’t be able to bite through the layer of dirt that I was now covered in.

    Gritting my teeth, I counted paces as I moved through the thick foliage. Then suddenly, I was free. I tumbled to the ground. I contemplated staying there, but I had come too far to turn back. I sat up and stared. I was looking a gorgeous rainbow with giant golden key at its base. I dove, much like an animal, and clutched it. It flew out of my hand. At the edge of the clearing stood the most beautiful, dirty, scratched man I had ever seen, holding my key in one hand and a magnet in the other. He smiled. So did I. Lovely little Leprechaun!

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  8. Cane; comedy and tragedy masks; magnifying glass
    Rainbow; key; bee
    Flashlight; lightbulb; magnet
    300 hallucinogenic moments, acidly etched

    The Dingleberry Dance of the Dead

    I’d been writing for two days straight, holed up in a motel down the road from Greenwood, a burg of a place half way between here and there.

    The previous week, I’d been roaming the countryside, panicky-like, the way I get sometimes when I’m as dry as crushed sagebrush, waiting for the light bulb to turn on, wasting gas, longing for the autumn sun to burn rainbow bright into me, to unlock some brisk, authoring undertaking, some creative homemade jam, some gems that would live forever, or at least until tomorrow.


    But why in Greenwood?

    Years earlier, I was travelling back from a mountain wedding up in Invermere. There was a dinky parade, blocking my way in that small town, one street, a few side lanes, the requisite museum.

    It was a dog’s breakfast of a parade, wee kids with masks, comedy, tragedy, nonsense masks, puffy-like, like the kids were so horrid that they needed even nastier masks to hide their faces.

    One hundred degrees that day. There was something wrong with me…a fever I’d picked up, twisted my ankle dancing the dingleberry dance in the stratosphere back in Invermere but the hallucinations were real.

    Anyway, I couldn’t drive, think, was still hobbling in pain, stick for a cane, spent the night squished in my car, next to the cemetery.

    Charming whiffs of country life to remember.

    Ah, cow pies. humming with honey bees.

    Now, like an electro-magnet, I’d been drawn back to Greenwood.

    The museum was the key to my story…YES, it’d been told before, twelve hundred Japanese Canadians rustled out of their lives, interned in the coldest, shabbiest prison the pols could find.

    Their stories needed reviving: I’d shine a fat flashlight on the sins of the dead.

    The dead so hate the light, I hear.

  9. Personal Battles
    258 words
    Jeff Messick

    “Let’s see.” He mumbled, searching through the bag. “Flashlight, Magnifying glass, noir hat.”

    Everything looked good, all the things his son needed for their school detective play. It stretched the budget to its breaking point, with that harpy taking nearly everything in the divorce. Still, it was for the kid, and that made him feel like he was walking on rainbows.

    What had it been about the two of them? It had to have been some sort of animal magnetism, since neither one of them could be considered good-looking. That one evening, near the heather, flowers weighed down by the bees collecting pollen.

    He shook his head, sadly. What did it matter? She had felt the key to her future was to leave him. He grimaced, turned in the chair and firmly planted his cane; pushing himself to his prosthetic feet. A decorated war veteran, barely able to scratch a living together for himself, with even less to set aside for his son.

    The bulb over the kitchen table flickered, popped, and went out, leaving his already dim apartment in near blackness. He sat back down, feeling the waves of harsh emotion cresting over his darkened heart. Everything…gone.

    He reached under the table, to where his old service weapon was securely strapped and pulled the weapon free. What was a life worth? She had sucked him dry of value. What he was living, could it even be called a life?

    His boy valued him though. He slowly put the weapon away. Another battle fought, another battle won.

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    1. Lovely imagery combined with harshness, with deep detail and moment of dread before that beautiful ending…brilliant read.

  10. Late Bloomer
    286 words

    I lean heavily on my walking stick as I enter the foyer of the theatre. The usher, a woman almost as old as I am, peers at my ticket through thick-lensed glasses then leads me to my seat, our path illuminated by her small torch. The main lights are already dimmed and the lead actor stands centre stage in the middle of a passionate soliloquy.

    It’s in the second act that she appears, stopping under the rainbow to deliver her first lines. Of course she only plays small parts these days, but she’s still revered and loved by the public. The great Lynette Forster. What a joke.

    In the interval I sneak into the toilets as quickly as I can, turn the key to the furthest stall and hide in there until the lights have dimmed again. By the end of the final act I’m confident that I know the play by heart and the stage direction too.

    Lynette, my younger twin by ten minutes, and I have never seen eye to eye. We’re like two North pole magnets: frosty and repelling. And her biggest triumph over me was stealing my debut performance when I had glandular fever. By the time I’d recovered, she was well and truly established and I never had the guts to do anything about it.

    Around the corner from the theatre, I ditch the walking stick and breathe in a lungful of chilly autumnal air. It’s unfortunate for my little sister that she is so fixated on her routines. I know she’ll be having hot water and honey at this precise moment, but what she doesn’t know is that it is laced with poison. Tomorrow night I will walk on stage.

    1. Twins, the Theatre, a dash of All About Eve, a smattering of Phantom of the Opera (well, that’s a bit of a stretch, and a dollop of sisterly jealousy. Delightfully deadly, Laura…

  11. Genre: Drama
    Prompts: Cane, theater, magnifying glass, rainbow, key, bee, flash light, light bulb, magnet
    Word Count: 300

    The Bees of Oz

    Clyde opens the theater doors for day 4 practice. This is going to be a great day he thought. The director stated, “Let’s start today with Dorothy singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
    While Dorothy was singing Clyde sauntered to the back of the stage to change into his wizard suit. He could hear some buzzing sounds and thought it must be a light bulb ready to blow out. The buzz got closer until he saw a shadow of a bee swoop down. Then another and another, then he spotted a nice size hive in the stage wings.

    “Oh shit!” screams Clyde. Clyde ran out not looking where he is going and takes a dive off the stage landing on his leg. He gets up and limps to the exit doors trying to jerk them open and they won’t budge. “Are we locked in here?”

    The stage manager yells back, “let me get the keys, sometimes it gets stuck.” Dean the Cowardly Lion says, “Clyde is deathly allergic to bees we need to help him.” They all start scattering about. Dorothy looks for a robe and a mask to keep Clyde covered. The Witch is trying to open the fog machine and direct it toward the bees hoping to push them to the back of the stage away from Clyde. Willie the Tin Man finds bug spray and he and the witch work together to get the fog machine open.

    The little lever is broke. They take a magnify glass, flash light, and magnet to get it open.
    Finally, it opens and they rig the machine. Blasting the bees with the fog and spray concoction. The bees start dropping to the ground almost dead. The Scarecrow hands Clyde a cane and says, “the pleasure is yours to stomp these guys out.”

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  12. Title – The Illusion of Happiness
    Prompts – Memoir
    Word Count – 271
    Twitter – @nancymbeach

    It was the last day of vacation. The storms were clearing, and a rainbow spread across the deserted beach. Only a lone couple shuffled along. I watch as he stops and slowly, painfully, gets down on one knee. Like a school-aged child, she sticks out her right foot, balancing on her cane. Ever so gently he fumbles with the laces of her tennis shoe. My eyes well with tears. What tender love.

    I had given the key to my heart away many years ago. If I had known what I know now, I would have kept it tucked safely away. Now I wear the masks of joy and happiness, the truth —the pain, hidden. I instinctively rubbed the newest bruise on my shoulder thinking of the excuses I would make.

    Eager to keep walking, for the only option was to return to the cottage, I pull my flashlight out of my pocket, thankful for the way it illuminates my path. Little crabs scurry into the sand as my light shines on them. I’m still a little afraid of stepping on one! I fear it would hurt more than a bee sting!

    The windows glow warmly across the beach, and my mind wanders back to the couple. Is one of those houses theirs? Will they return home to a bowl of ice cream and snuggles on the couch? Is there a happily ever after? Reaching down, I absently pick up a forgotten horseshoe and toss it onto the dunes. If I take a magnifying glass to anyone else’s life, would they have secrets like me? Do they wear masks like me?

    1. Excellent! Love how by using the romance and sentiment of the couple you highlight her plight with only a briefly mentioned hint. It made it all the sharper.

  13. @firdausp
    300 words

    My Hero

    When I was younger, rainbows looked like bridges to heaven and pain was just scraped knees, bumblebee stings and homework.

    Abhi, my elder brother by two years, was the naughty one, and I was his ardent follower. At nine years old he was rather smart.

    We walked home from school every afternoon. That was the time he taught me the real stuff. He showed me how to burn paper and dried leaves using a magnifying glass. He dragged a magnet tied to a string all the way home. Mostly we got nothing, but some days we got nails, pieces of metal and even keys; that was treasure. Once we got a tiny iron ball, probably from a ball bearing.

    Abhi broke into the medicine cabinet and took a capsule out from a bottle. He opened and emptied its contents. I tasted the yellow powder. It was so bitter that I started crying. Abhi just shook his head and laughed. He put the ball into the capsule shell and closed it. It tumbled on his hand like magic. I was so fascinated that I forgot the bitter on my tongue. He was my hero.

    One evening we were coming back from the shop down the road. We had our funny masks on and carried bottles of Coke. Lights were starting to come on. We came upon a house where an old man lived.

    “Want to see something?” Abhi whispered.

    He walked up to the porch, poured some Coke in his hand and threw it towards the shining lightbulb. There was a loud explosion. The glass fragments of the bulb showered on us. We heard the old man shouting as he came out, tapping his cane. He shone a torch on our masked faces. We ran like the devil was after us.

      1. Your typo has been “scrapped”, Firdaus. 🙂

        Lovely tale, as ever; it reads like a true memoir from your childhood. (I guess some of the reminiscences may be true, but to pack all nine icons into the story, and still make it seem so feasible is magical. You’re my hero! 😉 )

      2. Thank you so much Geoff, that is such a sweet thing to say, means a lot coming from you. And yes most of the those things are true though I’ve spun a tale around them.

    1. A wonderful story, Firdaus. A heck of an authentic voice. I often appraise the writing of others, and myself, by how cinematic the images are, can I see them as if the events are happening before my eyes. No question with this story. Thanks.

  14. A beautiful story…always smile when I see your name on here. I love how it flows so smoothly from one image to another, creating these magical snippets full of mischief and kiddie laughter.

    1. Thank you Sian, you’re too kind. It’s always a pleasure to post my stories here. I’ve been having trouble conjuring up stories recently, maybe because I’ve been leaning towards poetry. This weeks prompt words really got the ball rolling for me.

  15. @LucianCarter
    210 words


    A rainbow at sunset is a wondrous thing.

    He sat by the river. The local bees seemed drawn to him like a magnet.

    His leg hurt. The stick he had adopted as a makeshift cane wasn’t cutting it.

    It would be dark soon. His flashlight was on its last legs. The dying sun might have been enough to spark a fire with his glasses, if everything weren’t soaked from the downpour. That included him, and night would bring chills.

    Odd ideas flashed in his mind. Could he start a fire by striking his key against a rock? Or was that just movies?

    He knew now that this ridiculous trek into the wilderness was driven by a manic episode. He had always figured his Bipolar would be the end of him. This wasn’t the way he had expected.

    He was lost.

    His leg was broken.

    His food and water were all but gone.

    And nobody knew where he was.

    He was going to die.

    Strangely, he found himself at peace with that. It was time. He looked at his knife. He looked at the river. He’s take matters into his own hands once it was dark.

    Right now, he could only think one thought.

    A rainbow at sunset is a wondrous thing.

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    1. Welcome to Microcosms, Lucian.
      That was quite an original take on the story cube elements – good stuff.

      [Unfortunately, you have joined a spate of new entrants recently who have not taken in the fact that Microcosms contests run for 24 HOURS ONLY each FRIDAY – from 00.00 New York time (EDT). so your story was not eligible for the judging process.

      I’m constantly tweaking the information in the preamble to try to make this totally clear, but it seems there is still room for improvement…

      Maybe it’s the dual function of the countdown clock that is confusing. When a new contest goes live, the clock counts down the 24 hours until the deadline; after that it begins to counts down the time until the NEXT contest goes live on the following Friday.

      I hope you are not discouraged by this, and that you will continue to send in entries to our contests – before the deadline! 😉 ]

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