Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 108 – especially first-timer Minhee H.. There were 16 entries this week.
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.
We encourage everyone to reply with a positive comment to any and all of the entries AT ANY TIME: It’s good to have feedback.
MC 107 Judge’s Pick, Steph Ellis, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what she had to say:
Judging Microcosms is always an enjoyable privilege and being part of this competition is something I value, even if occasionally I don’t always get to enter. Microcosms and a large number of those who enter have been a part of my life for a few years now and each week it’s like meeting up with old friends. It is also great to meet newer additions who revitalise the challenge with fresh writing and different approaches.
Whilst I have the chance, I would just like to reiterate that there is no bias in this competition in terms of genre or judging. I judge blind – I don’t look at the contest post and the entries are emailed to me, stripped of any identifying detail. The elements that are given are chosen by the spinner, ie is random. If you don’t like what you are presented with, spin again … and again until you find something to your liking.
What I look for is story, originality and quality. This might mean I overlook horror entries – even though that is my favoured genre for writing – and select a romance that tugs at the heartstrings; on the other hand, it might be the horror that gets to me. It all depends on the story.
Before I move onto the judging, I would like to say one final thing. Microcosms is a wonderful place for people to develop and hone their writing skills. The friendly and constructive comments, the supportive remarks, all build a great place to come and write, something surely to be treasured.
And now without further ado, here are the results …
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Carin Marais – “One of his eyes is the colour of the soil, the other the colour of the sea.”
Bill Engleson – “Rules? Baby, I break ‘em like glass. Smash ‘em on the sawdust floor.”
Angelique Pacheco – Simon left everything and walked out of the Temple, shame seeping out of his soul.
Steve Lodge – Her smile took my breath away and sold it down the market.
Geoff Le Pard – Until his first auction, he hadn’t realised how many ways a penis could be represented in wood or stone.
Minhee H. – I turned away.
Marsha Adams – 2/14 Mary stopped by. I have her heart. Happy Valentine’s Day, god-damn assholes.
Eloise – Though everyone says you can’t believe us, we have never told a lie.
Vicente L Ruiz – But he gets a glimpse of appendices, tentacles and stalks flailing wildly as the bids get higher and higher.
Susi J Smith – The figure wept, the quiet words filling the still room.
Paul Nevin – He held the paddle down, lest he bid again by accident.
Arthur Unk – She would show up to places and – BOOM! – drama everywhere.
M Levi – That would show him what happened when you married a woman, got her pregnant, and threw her out.
Andrea Allison – I perfected my trade to kill those who disrespect it.
Stephen Shirres – My employers, locals of this world, cry tears of ice.
Cassandra – As footsteps faded into the night an ivory white smile shined out from the shadows.
Geoff Le Pard – The Auctioneer and the Career-Ending Comma
Not sure there’s been a story about Japanese erotic carvings but this gets a prize for setting/theme! The poor auctioneer’s embarrassment knows no bounds and the mishearing of Dolores’ comments all conspire to destroy his career. The images in your head as you read this…
Minhee H. – The Diary of Annalise, 1943, February 3rd
A strong reminder of what can happen when you do nothing, although a young child should never carry that guilt. The questioning ‘why?’ is perhaps something we should still ask ourselves when we see some of the atrocities continuing around the world, or the suffering on our own streets.
A compassionate and thoughtful story.
Steve Lodge – Only the Voices Remain
This was labelled drama but it was the humour in the phrasing which won me over: amoeba bread, the Garden of Dancing Frogs tea room. “I’d do anything she’d ask, even carry a piano up a ladder.”, I was not sure which was lumpier: the bed, the porridge or old Mrs Saxon, the landlady.
Vicente L Ruiz – It’s All For Charity
What could possibly go wrong at a charity auction? Told in well-paced dialogue, this story shows Phil actually has good cause to worry. The appreciation the ‘aliens’ show the human ‘lots’ makes me think they might become the meal, rather than company. But that might just be me.
Stephen Shirres – Icy Creation
On another planet, a sculptor is faced with columns of ice ‘beautiful and clean’. The writer expertly uses a few, well-chosen phrases which immediately create an arctic impression in your mind and you can see the MC, small against the columns, against his employers.
At first you think he is merely carving a sculpture for these creatures but when you consider the line ‘my employers cry tears of ice’ and that the sculpture he carves from the ice formed from these tears becomes a child, you realise he is actually helping to create a family. The touching gestures, the kiss of the ice to give life to the child within, the bow to the sculpture gives the icy beings an unexpected emotional warmth, make them seem almost human.
This becomes a surprisingly gentle and touching story. I must admit that I switched this and the winning story back and forth a few times. It was a very tough call.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 108.
(insert drumroll here)
Carin Marais – At the Altar
Weather Forecaster; Temple; Crime
The people had chosen him on the day the weather forecaster came to town. Selected unanimously, his hands were bound behind his back and he was marched towards the temple.
“You know not what you do!” he shouted as he tripped over the first step that led up the side of the hastily built altar outside the temple.
“We cannot have a sinner in our midst,” one of the men holding him said calmly. “You see the drought. You see our crops withering and our children dying. There is no place for you, here.”
The bound man struggled, but it was to no avail. They forced him to his knees in front of the forecaster.
“You have brought this upon yourself,” one of his captives said.
The forecaster stood closer. “Uncover his eyes.”
“Look!” one of the men said. “One of his eyes is the colour of the soil, the other the colour of the sea.”
“You have done well,” the forecaster said, taking out a knife. The bound man struggled, shouting for help.
“He’s a demon!” he shouted, nearly dislocating his shoulders as he struggled. “Spawn of evil! He’ll take your children and make them slaves!”
The forecaster bent down and whispered in his ear, grinning. “Their souls are mine. And you can’t stop me. Not this time.”
Warm blood stained the altar. The forecaster looked down at his handiwork with a smile. “Now I shall take the payment due to me.” Fifty people clutched at their aching hearts.
“We’ve given you gold!” one said, his face pale.
“Useless in my line of work. I need souls. And now that you’ve killed your guardian, I can have as many as I want.”
“The rain?” the other man asked.
“Will come when it comes.” The forecaster grinned.
Marsha Adams – Winter Kills
It’s the sheer level of grumpiness shown by the diarist driving through all these entries that grabbed me. He blames the kids, blames the cops, the army. Isn’t really aware of what is actually happening only that the world has gone to hell – courtesy of the internet. And while he’s cursing all and sundry, he is doing his own little bit: comforting the widow, eating the kid, ripping out throats.
The writer has created an everyday image of a grumpy old man against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse but the horror in effect takes a back seat and it’s his belligerence that comes to the fore.
Written with such a light touch and with so much character, I thought this story was great fun.
Diarist; Pennsylvania; Horror
2/2 No shadow so early Spring, thank God. Mark got bitten, must have hurt Phil when he picked him up. Clumsy asshole. God-damn Inner Circle should have elected me President, not him. I told them.
2/3 Amy came by, told me Mark’s in the hospital if I want to visit.
2/4 Amy came again, all bandaged up. Mark went crazy, biting and scratching. Amy doesn’t deserve that, she’s a god-damn fine woman. Should have picked me, told her that for forty god-damn years.
2/5 Heard gunshots across town tonight. Drug deal gone bad, for sure. God-damn kids. Town’s been going to hell since the internet.
2/6 God-damn teenagers fighting in the street. Can’t even fight like men. Called the cops but they never showed.
2/7 Amy came round, crazy with grief. Mark died. Should have visited, I guess. Consoled the widow. Wild sex, she’s a god-damn biter. The asshole had that for forty years.
2/8 Cops finally did something about the kids. There’s a curfew. Amy came by anyhow, hammering doors up and down the street. Most all let her in. She’d stop by for a while then start off again. God-damn nympho slut. God-damn assholes taking advantage of a grieving widow.
2/9 Kids about rioting outside. Called the cops, no answer. Whole department’s god-damn useless.
2/10 National Guard in the street. We’re supposed to stay indoors. Some kind of quarantine.
2/11 Guard’s gone. Assholes just upped and went in the night, I guess. Left a god-damn dead kid on my lawn. Keeping quarantine anyway.
2/12 God-damn dogs tried to steal my kid. Went out to stop them, the assholes bit me. Tore their throats out.
2/13 No food left. Finished the kid. So hungry.
2/14 Mary stopped by. I have her heart. Happy Valentine’s Day, god-damn assholes.
Congratulations, Marsha. As Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge the next round of Microcosms this coming weekend. Please click HERE to let us know whether or not you are interested!