Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 109 – especially 12 first-timers: Holly Kilmister, Jaden Zaleski, Tim Hayes, Kate, PsychoGirl, Kennedy Arabella Lawson, Ted Young, Caroline Lewis, Josh, Elijah Harbaugh, Rachel, Gabe and nblog38. There was a huge increase to 34 entries this week – totes amazeballs!
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 108 Judge’s Pick, Marsha Adams, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what she had to say:
In a delightful irony, the default genre was ‘fairy tale’ in a week in which your judge is a childless woman who mostly writes smut, who won last week by writing a horror story, who doesn’t really like fairy tales and who’s never judged a story other than her own. I tried to put all that aside and judge these stories on their own merits: if you went with the default genre, it certainly didn’t give you a head start; but I don’t believe it handicapped you either.
In the end, I enjoyed all the stories, much more than I enjoyed having to pick out just five for special attention. There were lots of enchanting variations on the castle gardener, each better than I would have managed – one of the perks of judging is that I didn’t have to try – and a sufficient spattering of other characters and genres to prevent me completely regressing to childhood. I wasn’t converted to a love of fairy tales, but so many were so charming, so deftly and differently executed, that I did learn to see the genre in a new light and with a new appreciation.
I tried to judge on three qualities: how original the story seemed, how well realised the fictional setting was and – totally subjectively – how I felt when I’d finished it. If you didn’t win, it may have been that last criterion that was responsible: on another day, in a different mood, I might have come up with different results. If you wrote a story, thank you; it was a pleasure to read it, even if it was torture to have to judge it against all the others.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Storm Jarvis – There was a new man looming above Jerry’s prized chrysanthemums!
Carin Marais – He turned around, spread out his arms, and let the void and emptiness in his heart swallow him as he fell.
Bill Engleson – He does have the build of a slightly corpulent gnu, I’ll grant you that.
Jane Lomas – ‘A pure heart and a love that’s true is the secret, sire.’
Steve Lodge – I poured tea into his hands (cups were yet to be invented).
Angelique Pacheco – The queen watches him through half-closed eyes as she drops her prize before him.
Nthato Morakabi – Immediately flakes of darkness peeled away, whisked into the wind.
Dana Faletti – Pockets of extra flesh cushioned her belly and backside with bitterness.
Holly Kilmister – The unicorn loved to watch the gardener, he tended the castle gardens with lovingly tender motions, but there was loneliness to him.
Andrea Allison – Speaking of my innocence was useless on a crowd too blind to see the wolf attacking the sheep.
Eloise – The lines of his face drew deep stories.
Jaden Zaleski – The berries were covered with a light dusting of water that sprang off in hundreds of directions as I plucked them off the bushes.
David Johnson – “I’m not fit to be a king! I’m just a gardener!”
Nikky Olivier – The Gardener dropped his trowel with a sigh of satisfaction.
Vicente L Ruiz – The Royal Palace became just a Castle again as it lost its Gardens.
Tim Hayes – An enchanted Mandragora berry that the queen had worn as a charm was to be used to seed his successor.
Kate – The beaming sun rested in the sky, its light peeking over the walls of the castle.
PsychoGirl – The sun tucked itself behind the mountains as I pulled out my sword and swung.
Kennedy Arabella Lawson – “I think he’ll be happy with whatever the baby is.” Aurelia smiled, but I could sense the lie.
Arthur Unk – Nah screw that! I’m gonna tell you the real truth. No one lives happily ever after in this story.
Steph Ellis – Their bones were buried deep in the soil he nurtured, family forever one with Nature.
Gloria Blumfeldt – Constantly, I would have to remind myself that what happened is in the past and the monster had been defeated.
Ted Young – The Busker’s “reward” was rhubarb which, as Columbine only worked between dusk and dawn, was regularly “posted” through his letter box in the dead of night.
Caroline Lewis – I have done nothing to you nor have I tricked you. You were as ugly as you said you were!
Ella Steyer – I was happy to hoard all the enchantment.
Josh – The gardener wanted to find a way to trick the king into letting him marry his daughter.
Elijah Harbaugh – I feel the heat across my body scorching my skin.
A J Walker – He had to listen to his advisors apparently, whilst they didn’t listen to him – no one respected kings these days.
Rachel – Sometimes he would read stories to me while I weeded, but most of the time he helped.
Stephen Shirres – He was the kind of man who’d cut the thorns off a rose.
Paul Nevin – ‘They’re too deep,’ it said. ‘We can do peas, maybe, but not root vegetables.’
Gabe – “My dear man,” said an elderly rabbit, “will you really?”
Cassandra – The smell of warm soil created a comfortable aura around the old man.
Nblog38 – She never acknowledged his wave, but scowled whenever her eyes met his.
‘Most Entertaining Visual Image’: Ted Young – Columbine
I had to pause in my judging and spend a moment enjoying the spell-binding picture of an other-worldly woman, crouched in the moonlight, posting produce.
Angelique Pacheco – Cat and Mouse
An unusual and bewitching concept that appealed to a judge who loves cats more than fairy tales. The chauffeur is wrong.
Bill Engleson – And There, In That Winter of Treachery
I nearly gave this one a Special Mention for ‘Best Political Wish Fulfillment’, but it was too well realised not to place. It had the advantage of describing a world easily imagined but it also has the captivating phrase ‘slightly corpulent gnu’, which might be the most poetic epithet ever applied to the unnamed prisoner.
Steve Lodge – Trespass
Alluringly absurd, this simply appealed to my love of fantastical nonsense with shades of Lewis Carroll, Mervyn Peake and Vivian Stanshall.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 109.
(insert drumroll here)
Nthato Morakabi – The Ebony Tree
Gardener; Castle; Fairy Tale
There stood a tree black as soot, with twisting limbs clawing at the sky. It grew not far from the rise of castle spire where the window no longer shone. Around it trees grew in blossoms of pink from the East, the spiralled greenery of the North, the stout purple of the South, and the azure lilted spruce of the West.
The King wondered through his garden, head lowered as he followed the well-trodden path to the ebony tree. A burly gardener stood at its base, sweat pouring off him in rivulets as he swung an axe.
“Tis been two weeks and you have barely made a dent,” The King said, voice stern yet softened by years of heartache.
“M’Lord, I have yet to see such a vile beast. It yields not, even with the most devout strikes.”
The King raised his head and glared.
“Do not dare speak such filth before my tree.”
“Apolo-” he was cut off with a raised hand. A moment later guards whisked the hollering man away.
“Will there ever be anyone able to bring this cursed thing down?” he cried.
The King turned and found a young man standing near.
“Ha!” The King scoffed. “You are barely a quarter of the last man. What can you do?”
“M’Lord, I beg only for a day.”
The King laughed,
“None has managed in years and you seek a day?” He shook his head.
“Should I manage I seek only one thing. As reward.”
“The soul of the prince who lies at its roots.”
The young man then proceeded towards the tree, kissing the obsidian wood. Immediately flakes of darkness peeled away, whisked into the wind. At its centre stood the King’s son in golden glow.
“You have finally come, my prince,” he whispered.
Dana Faletti – Princess Pudge, The (Not-So-Flaky) Godmother and The Lucky Gardener
I didn’t think I liked fairy tales; judging them helped change my mind and this one in particular charmed me. It had what, for me, are the two things that mark out the best fairy tales: a twist and a moral. In this case, both were delivered with an irreverent humour. So, in a twist with a moral – don’t judge a story by its genre – this fairy tale is my winner.
Gardener; Castle; Fairy Tale
I asked her to make me thinner.
Fairy Godmothers are so thick sometimes.
I literally said, “The weight around my midsection is bugging me.”
So, she made me an insect. A long, lean Walking Stick.
For God’s sake, who gave this woman her job?
Fairy Godmother needs to retire.
Princess Pudge was a lovely girl.
But as she aged, vanity began to swallow her beauty.
Tiny lines emerged beside her eyes; her once sweet face fell,
Pockets of extra flesh cushioned her belly and backside with bitterness.
When she cornered me in the gardens this morning, begging my favor, her mouth was stuffed with just-picked strawberries.
I told her not to talk with her mouth full.
The gall of that woman!
Since when does the help get to spout orders about agreeable conduct?
“Look, Godmother,” I’d said and a bloody spray of strawberry spittle escaped my lips. “I need a husband, and nobody wants this flabby body. Make me into the type of creature men dream about.”
I granted her wish.
Now, she’s thin enough to climb the legendary Fairy Steps of Cumbria.
Damn that flaky Godmother!
I’ve trudged across castle grounds on six scrawny legs to climb these storied steps.
I’m at the top where fairies supposedly grant wishes.
This legend had better not be urban.
“Blimey!” A Walking Stick!
Never seen such a creature in these parts of Cumbria.
“A squirmy bugger, aren’t ya?”
I’ll slip you in my jumper pocket.
“A perfect addition to my collection!”
How dare you touch me with soiled hands?
I need my wish!
It seems my spell has transformed Princess into the creature of at least one man’s dreams.
Gardener seems quite married to the idea of keeping her.
Congratulations, Dana. 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!