Thanks to everyone who submitted this week. We had 18 awesome entries! And we had great community engagement. Woo hoo!
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.
And many thanks to Bill Engleson for judging MC 98. Here’s what he had to say:
It continues to be a pleasure as well as an honour to judge a Microcosms Flash experience. I am especially cognizant this week that in two flash weeks, or fourteen sleeps, we will have reached 100 Microcosms.
I admire the relish and the resilience that it takes to run a site such as Microcosms. In the few years that I have been contributing to flash fiction, several wonderful venues have fallen by the wayside. Flash Friday for one. Micro Bookends for another. Any number of others, each of which offered plenty of inspiration and diversity have also come and gone.
In Vancouver this past week, the United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference was convened. Of all the world venues, I suppose it was the safest place to discuss peacekeeping.
Certainly it was safer than Microcosms 98. War and peace were in fine display this week. On that note, I have been reading a fine little collection of essays, The Valliant Nellie McClung, edited by Barbara Smith. Mrs. McClung, long departed, was an iconic Canadian suffragist and writer, amongst all her other accomplishments.
Somewhat incorrectly, in reference to Neville Chamberlain, she wrote in 1938 in an essay entitled The Times Are Brittle that “the historian of the future history will see that he really prevented the war by his gesture of appeasement.”
She ends her essay with the following: “I wonder how many of us would be willing to accept a lower standard of living, if by doing so we could bring peace and security to all the world. Let us have a show of hands.”
But enough idle Sunday philosophizing. On with the real reason folks are here. As usual, there were many excellent tales. Quite a few were heartfelt pleas for peace. You are all such optimists. However, as I have tried to indicate, perhaps flash fiction is the first step to world peace. Time will tell.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Steve Lodge – Me parents couldn’t afford middle names for us.
Alva Holland – Wanted: One inspirational leader to gather a team to rebuild an inclusive country, with a global vision, from scratch.
Carin Marais – She was standing amidst the crowd with their son, and he tried to spot them as they walked by in the procession; men of nondescript age who was left to use canes and crutches and wooden limbs after the war that changed the face of the planet.
AJ Walker – She hadn’t seen a man unaccompanied outdoors for years – he wasn’t even wearing a veil!
Mark Sadler – Venmarr and his counterpart, who was also Venmarr, were unable to inhabit the same reality without one cancelling the other out.
Richard Stokoe – The cortège pulled up at the church.
Jeff Messick – If we cannot be friends, then our governments have decided we shall, at least, no longer be enemies.”
KM Zafari – The poison oozing from its tip hissed as it touched his blood.
Nicolette Stephens – Scared of a cockroach, you squash it!
Nany Beach – Your pulse throbs in your temples as your brain feels like water spilled–all the colors of the painting running together.
Angelique Pacheco – “There’ll be plenty of time to be pious when we do last rights on the battlefields.”
JK – Wounds and blood stained my clothes daily.
Kelly Griffiths – A thousand magic-controlled minds depressed the igniters… boom.
Eloise – “We are gathered here to join this wolf and this girl together in holy matrimony.”
Stella Turner – He’d only been King for three months and in that time he’d suffered a near death experience by assignation.
Steph Ellis – “Tell people we’re not just the same old story.”
Sian Brighal – A chatter and squeal of radio signals filled the air, ending with a sombre crackle of static.
Paula Nutt – Though a leading religious leader, I represented no particular religion, just the universal need of all people to live in peace.
Honourable / Honorable Mentions
Angelique Pacheco – Sisters of Mercy
I am a sucker for several things. Hard drinking, swearing smoking nuns at war is one of them. Maybe I’ve seen the movie before. Claudette Colbert, maybe? Anyways, it is an entertaining scene.
Richard Stokoe – White Poppies
I am not all that sure what the heck is going on in White Poppies but I enjoyed every moment. I am not a plant guy (except for eating more than my share of fake meat) but I kept imaging a variation on The Triffids and that comforted me, I think.
Steve Lodge – By the Lights in the Skies
Closer to Went the Day Well then Dad’s Army, this wartime satire has many amusing moments. Against a backdrop of war, the simple home virtues shine. Poverty and the shortage of names, for flash fiction is nothing if not a rationing of valuable resources. A home cooked meal of “cardboard or her slipper lining.” Yummy! Has war ever been portrayed in such a pedestrianly unpalatable light?
Funny, funny stuff.
AJ Walker – A Veil of Snow
Though I may be as thick as a box of frogs about the last line of this tale, I loved the lead-up to it. The writer sets a fine scene, an intrepid reporter, a delicious cappuccino dripping with chocolate (I can still taste it and it helped me recover from the cardboard and slipper lining image), an acute eye observing the bleak stillness, the barely noticeable protestor, suddenly naked. Even with the risk, I was almost tempted to step outside my cave and protest war as well.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 98.
(insert drumroll here)
Carin Marais – And He Wore Green in His Beret
Lots of popular stories this week, but Carin edged them out.
Soldier / Aftermath of War / Post-apocalyptic
“You know what tomorrow is, don’t you?” his son asked, looking up at him, his eyes large and brown.
Aliel sighed and glanced at the rusted metal trunk that held his uniform.
“How can I forget?” He stood, his chair creaking almost as much as the house did in the wind. The house was old – 30 years. Built before the war, it was one of the few places that was still inhabitable after the war.
He took his crutches and walked to the doorway. Across the yard stood a row of graves. Some held bodies, like that of his brother. Some only had a roughly hewn tombstone, like that of his mother. Perhaps, he thought, after tomorrow the ghosts of the past will go to rest. He looked down at his calloused hands, pushing away the red-and-black memories that still haunted his dreams.
Aliel waited on the road that led into the town. The only part of his uniform that he wore was his beret. After all, he had promised his wife that he would never put it on again until his funeral.
She was standing amidst the crowd with their son, and he tried to spot them as they walked by in the procession; men of nondescript age who was left to use canes and crutches and wooden limbs after the war that changed the face of the planet.
He stumbled when something landed at his feet – many of the men did. Then he saw what it was – a small, budding branch of one of the trees, its bright green leaves only just unfurled. He bent, picked it up, and stuck it in his beret, the same as he did twenty years ago when he asked his wife to marry him. The day the war ended.
Sian Brighal – Until We Have Nothing More to Give
The slick, smart use of language in this story won me over at first read and by the third read I was fully smitten. It wasn’t just the ease of alliteration (I’m a sucker for the sweet sounds of alliteration.) The images were also sharp and strong. The swoosh of sounds rang true, For instance, say, “Outside in the storage sheds, a dozen or more skinned automatons stood…” or “Motion sensitive sensors met sensors, steamed hissed as it escaped joints and split solder.” Both are rich in ssssssss’es.
Even an egregious spelling error (venemous) failed to distract…until it was time to write my final judgement. But, given my own theatrically laughable spelling on occasion, I was merciful.
Soldier / Protest / Steampunk
He hammered the steel breastplate, sucking on his teeth in frustration: too little carbon. The metal was too soft, too easily bullied by his beating. He dropped the hammer and ran his fingers over the cold metal. How like flesh it was becoming…so fragile, so easily damaged. Soon, they’d be useless and the enemy would swarm through the cities…soon surrender would be the only option. Better to live in uncomfortable peace than be dead.
The smith sighed and sat his tired bones in a chair near his slumbering forge. Outside in the storage sheds, a dozen or more skinned automatons stood, waiting on him to repair their metal skin. So many came back these days as though some hungry beast had tried to devour them. He knew what that meant. The traitor smiths were harvesting steel for their own metal soldiers. With every bite the enemy grew stronger and fatter, while their own withered. He thought on the weakened army out there now, facing a gleaming foe, perfect steel flashing like the teeth and claws of apex predators and his beleagured constructs torn and gutted. He sobbed softly in time with many distant hammers.
Out on the battlefield, under skies venemous to men, the enemies met. Motion sensitive sensors met sensors, steam hissed as it escaped joints and split solder. A chatter and squeal of radio signals filled the air, ending with a sombre crackle of static. Old metal men meeting each other battle after battle for decades beyond counting, equal in all things, incapable of deserting and immortal, said their piece, and as one, they tore at their flesh or sacrificed a limb, adding it to the rusting pile where no man could walk. Their slow, long and only protest.
Congratulations, Sian. Please let us know if you’d like to judge the next go round!