Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 111. We had 14 finely-wrought entries this time.
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 110 Judge’s Pick, Marsha Adams, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s the deciphered message she transferred to the microdot left in the Microcosms dead-letter drop:
Two days before, this memorandum had gone from Station F of the Story Service to M, who was then judge to the Microcosm ministry:
To: M. From: Head of F.
Subject: A project for the identification of Le Gagnant (alias ‘The Winner’, ‘Frau Gewinner’, ‘Señor Ganador’, etc.), one of the Narrator’s chief agents on the internet.
Documentation: Head of Flash’s collected speculative biographies of Le Gagnant are attached at Appendix A.
When M came to this sentence she grunted and pressed a switch on the intercom. “Head of F?”
“What the hell is this new section?” She spelt it out.
“Flash is fictional work of extreme brevity that still offers character and plot development, ma’am.”
“You stole that from Wikipedia, Head of F.”
M released the switch and turned back to the memorandum.
A thorough review of Appendix A revealed a collection of cover stories of such quality and diversity that any one of them might have been Le Gagnant. M went through them methodically, impressed by the work that had gone into them but paralysed by indecision. This was a job that required ruthlessness and a licence to kill the hopes of thirteen writers. This was a job for Bond.
Jane Bond read her fourteenth story of the day then sat down at the laptop with a thin wad of notes beside her and began to enter some remarks in a small text document. She’d been amused, touched, excited and saddened, but now she believed she’d identified the most well-realised stories, the ones which painted the most convincing pictures of their own worlds, those that had sufficient charisma that their authors might become the next Bond. She tightened her grip on her Walther mouse, gently squeezed the trigger and fired off the results to G.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Bill Engleson – And, to tell the truth, for I like to brandish veracity on occasion, it was a relief.
Angelique Pacheco – She will be back once she finds all her missing pieces.
Steve Lodge – Periodically, I reach into my trouser pocket to ensure the diamonds are still nestling there, next to my own treasures.
Ted Young – My only real wealth is experience, my only trophies are my memories.
Nikky Olivier – Shopping, spas, parties – always with the same plastic people, always with the same plastic smiles.
Eloise – The clinking of glasses and rambunctious laughter had begun early in the afternoon.
Arthur Unk – It is our responsibility as men and women in positions of power to give the common man a voice and the power to choose his own destiny.
Vicente L Ruiz – In my defense, I have to say that I was young.
Nancy Beach – It was the last time I would see him, but he didn’t know that.
Tim Hayes – Still, for my memoir to be anywhere near complete, I need to recount this tale of embarrassment.
Geoff Le Pard – ‘I think crime and a Horlicks will do me. Suspect?’
Steph Ellis – Instead he fired up his laptop, growled at the screaming kid attempting to dab food-crusted fingers on his screen, told the outraged parents exactly where little Johnny could go and express himself, and returned to the problem in hand.
Cassandra – In my eyes, the lady beside me glimmered as an angel in the midst of ash.
Caleb Echterling – The conductor stiffened like well-whipped meringue.
“Best Gag Names”: Steve Lodge – Hippo Sketches
The diamond smuggler describes his delightful, slightly absurd world with such conviction that he managed to slip Jenny Talia in while I was distracted by stewed broccoli. (Seriously: the writer of smut only registered that on the second reading.)
Cassandra – Train to London
I do enjoy a sad love story, particularly if it’s love that has survived the tests of time and loss. This one is told with such affectionate attention to detail and sympathetic characterisation that I was genuinely saddened by the ending.
Caleb Echterling – Inspector Bunglebutt Travels Coincidence Class on the Occident Express
This would have had a special mention for “Most unexpected line” if it hadn’t placed. A very amusing story, particularly in the inventive ways it dangled ‘clues’ in front of the inspector and in the surprise contraband.
Geoff Le Pard – When Good Breeding Is The Basic Requirement For Murder
This was the story where I had the most difficulty in picking a single favourite line: there were so many good ones. It does a fantastic job of setting up its world and describing an unlikely stud farm without making me feel like I was wading through exposition. On a day when I felt more like being tickled than deeply touched, this might easily have been my pick.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 111.
(insert drumroll here)
Bill Engleson – To Vancouver With Love
Socialite; Train; Crime
It was a handy lark, I thought, when Sheelah suggested we take a train across the country.
“Darling,” I said, “I don’t do trains.”
But she purred, “Oh, Pru, do. We’ll share a cabin.”
“It sounds so…primitive,” I said.
She then countered with, “Pru, we’ll have a concierge, a darling of a blast. And really, winter in Toronto…not fun. It’ll be on me.”
So, there I was, quite tired of T.O. and sloppy old him, Harry, a silly man who wouldn’t stop pestering me with his tedious proposals. I’d met his kind before, anxious men with plastic hair, tense skin from one too many nips of the blade, each somehow convinced that I was so worn down by time that they were the perfect antidote for what ailed me.
Of course, he’d been generous, as only the punctilious can be.
I must confess his gifts had been sustaining me for the past few months. But the price of toadying to his every whim had become unbearable.
“Book us, Sheelah,” I’d finally said. “I accept your generous offer.”
And, to tell the truth, for I like to brandish veracity on occasion, it was a relief.
Silly Harry might never suspect that I might be travelling on a train westward.
Still, he was a cloying creature, so I had to seek a more permanent farewell.
He slipped into a deep sleep.
I kissed his pale brow with a most sincere kiss.
Sheelah and I left on the 10:00 pm train on the Tuesday. The accommodations were snug and oozing of Canadian creature comforts. A shower. A shared Murphy Bed.
Sheelah asked about Harry. “He wouldn’t see you off?”
“Poor dear,” I said, “He was feeling poorly. I hope I don’t give you his bug.”
As we left Union Station, I wondered…would I?
Vicente L Ruiz – Train of Fate
It’s quite difficult to know what to say about this one: it’s a simple, unpretentious narrative relating a relatively mundane journey. But the narrator was made real enough through this anecdote, told with such honest and believable charm, that I wanted to read the rest of his memoirs.
Socialite; Train; Memoir
It was a hot day in June. The train that took me from Barcelona to Valencia took forever, but I was enjoying myself: I had left rainy Britain behind, and here I was, my sleeves rolled up, watching the Mediterranean Sea from my window. And yes, it was all thanks to the money I had inherited from Father. In my defense, I have to say that I was young.
I watched this girl, three or four seats from me. She kept stealing glances. I had been told that I was quite the sight: a tall, blonde man was really uncommon in Spain those days. And as I said, I was young, so I smiled at her and almost laughed seeing her blush. She used the braking of the train to try and hide her face from me.
Two men got in at the station, and they immediately focused on the girl. To this day, I don’t know what happened to me. Until then, I had led a happy life, recluded from any kind of trouble, as befitted a young man of my position in Britain. I would have never dreamt to meddle in any kind of hairy situation. Yet then I stood, almost banging my head on the ceiling, and in three strides I was by her side. Ignoring the two men, I sat down, smiled, and introduced myself to the girl, my feeble Spanish betraying me. But the men said something rude, no translation needed, and walked on to the next car.
When Beatriz stopped blushing and managed to talk, we spent a delicious time together.
How could I know that, one year later, I would be sitting on the same train, a member of the XV International Brigade, mere weeks away from entering combat against the fascist rebels?
Congratulations, Vicente. 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!