Microcosms 113

Welcome, flash fiction aficionados,  to Microcosms 113.


Once again, a plea for your help to make the administrator’s workload that little bit easier…

As most of you will know, Microcosms Contests are judged blind. This means that the administrator forwards to the judge all the entries stripped of all identifying details: entrant’s name, entrant’s Twitter ID, entrant’s blog address, etc.

All that is forwarded to the judge is word count (excluding title), prompt elements (Character; Location; Genre), Title and Story.

So it makes cutting and pasting so much easier if EVERYBODY uses the following format – with the exact same punctuation – when keying in an entry:


Put optional stuff — name, twitter ID, blog address, hashtag — first.

XXX words [ in this format – not “Word Count: XXX”, “WC: XXX” or some other variation ]
<CHARACTER>; <LOCATION>; <GENRE> [ separated by semicolons (no need to say “prompts used” or “elements chosen”; we can work that out!) ]
blank line
<TITLE> [Capitalised, but NO full stop/period ]
blank line


So, for example, if I were entering:

Twitter: @GeoffHolme
299 words
Art Collector; Victorian London; Mystery

My Fabulously Clever Title

Blah blah blah…

*** END * END * END * END * END * END * END * END * END * END * END * END * END * END * END ***


Yesterday was International Women’s Day. So today – 09-MAR – we celebrate the anniversary of some notable “females”:


  • 1959 – The Barbie doll makes its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York.


  • 1892 – Vita Sackville-West, English author: Grand Canyon” (1942) a ‘cautionary tale’ about a Nazi invasion of an unprepared United States.
  • 1934 – Joyce Van Patten, American actress: 1976 episode of Columbo, “Old-Fashioned Murder”.
  • 1964 – Juliette Binoche, French actress: 1997 Best Supporting Actress Oscar – “The English Patient”.
  • 1986 – Brittany Snow, American actress: Chloe Beale in the Pitch Perfect” musical comedy series.


  • 1847 – Mary Anning, English paleontologist.




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


Our contest this week begins with THREE things: character, location and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Émigré, Location: Italian Monastery, and genre: Drama.

Write a story using those OR feel free to click on the “Spin!” button, and the slot machine will come up with a new set – character, location and genre. You can keep clicking until you have a set of elements that inspires you.

*** HEY! Remember to include which THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry – not included in the word count.

  • Anorexic
  • Émigré
  • Curator
  • Nurse
  • (A Cappella) Singer
  • Fossil Collector
  • Therapy Centre
  • Arizona
  • Museum
  • Italian Monastery
  • University
  • Lyme Regis
  • Tragedy
  • Alternate History
  • Mystery
  • Romance
  • Comedy
  • Biography


Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Angelique Pacheco, has kindly agreed to act as the judge this time around.


REMEMBER: all submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length (excluding the title).

You have just 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) New York time (EST) to write and submit your masterpiece.

*** If you are new to Microcosms, remember to check out the full submission guidelines. ***

All being well, results will be posted next Monday.

Microcosms 114
Microcosms 112

35 thoughts on “Microcosms 113

  1. @billmelaterplea
    300 words
    Fossil Collector; Therapy Center; Biography

    Back in the Daze, I was Quite Something – The Carl Mumford/Karl Heime Case

    “He’s sedated?”

    “I gave him a mild sedative.”


    “Yes. It seemed appropriate. His agitation was ramping up. He’s much quieter now.”

    “The interview?”

    “Done. Very compliant. After he quieted down, he had quite the tale to tell…”

    “Did you record it?”

    “You better believe it. Once he got going, I knew we’d need a narrative…it’s pretty wild.”

    “Let’s have a listen.”

    “Charlie, play the tape…”


    “Will you tell us your name?”

    “I have been known as Carl Mumford for twenty years.”

    “And before that?”

    “I was born Karl Heime in 1903.”

    “In Germany?”


    “When did you come to America?”

    “In 1943.”

    “During the war?”


    “How did you manage that?”

    “We were to be landed on the East Coast shore. South of Portland, Maine.”

    “And something went wrong?”

    “Yes. The submarine sank. I was the only survivor.”

    “It is now July 1964. How did you subsist?”

    “I was extremely lucky…I managed to rescue over $50,000 from the sub before it sank. The Reich had intended us to use the money to bribe collaborators to assist in sabotage.”

    “Did you…bribe anyone?”

    “No. I had no interest in the war. It was a perfect opportunity to renew my passion.”

    “In your house which you have owned since 1945, we found…many mummified remains. Who were they?”

    “My benefactors.”

    “You killed them! How many will we find?”

    “Oh, I have lost track. So many. They were all old. Used up. When I found them, they had run their course. My lonely old fossils, each one. That’s what I called them. My fossils. I had every reason to live. They…were at the end.”


    “He’s quite mad.”

    “Perhaps. There’s so much we could learn from him.”

    “Justice will want him.”

    “When we are finished with him…if we ever are.”

  2. @NthatoMorakabi
    300 words
    Émigré; Italian Monastery; Drama

    Depths of Brotherhood

    Brother Lorenzo spilled from the backrooms with an apologetic look on his smooth young face, his vestments fluttering about his fast-moving form.
    “Ah, Brother Marius. Welcome, welcome,” he said, arms now open in greeting to embrace me into a warm hug. I reciprocated in kind, keeping my eyes from staring into his for too long. Avoiding the tuft of blonde, and soft pink lips.
    “Thank you, Brother Lorenzo. I appreciate Basilica di Siena opening its door for me.”
    “Nonsense. Politics and religion are separate states in God’s eyes. You have solace within these hallowed walls.”
    “Thank you, brother.”
    He whirled with another flap of his robes, their black tendrils falling gently down to his ankles as though he’d practiced its subtlety and effect.
    “Now, we’re not ones for gossip, but we hear its more than just… politics bringing you here.”
    I hesitated, our footfalls echoing over the tiles and across the hallowed sanctuary. The agonized Lord’s face gazed down at me from His perch, causing a guilty thrum to sink into my gut. As an émigré to the church, I couldn’t reveal too much, this I knew, but as a Brother, it wouldn’t be so simple as to lie.
    “Let us say…” I began, carefully considering my words, “That not all affections are accepted in the church.”
    “Ah yes. Human passions tend to burrow deeper for men of the cloth. As we are.” He stopped suddenly, hand on a pew and eyes gazing at the altar.
    “You may find that here… some of us suffer from the same afflictions.” He turned slowly. No elaborate ruffles, though his hair seemed to flick across his forehead. I involuntarily took a step back and he merely cocked his head with a smile.
    “You’re accepted here, Brother. Don’t let guilt rule you.”

  3. Twitter: @VicenteLRuiz
    300 words
    Émigré; Italian Monastery; Drama


    “They’ll be here in less than an hour, signore! Follow me!”

    The monk scurried along the inner cloister wall, hugging the shadows. One of those shadows seemed to follow him closely. And it even talked.

    “I don’t know how I can thank you, father.”

    “Ah, but I do, signore. One day you will be back here, and it won’t be before long. I foresee you won’t be alone, and you and your friends will help move Il Duce’s men and those Nazis from here. This way.”

    The monk stopped by a wooden door studded with large nails, and produced a skeleton key from within the folds of his cassock. The key made no noise when he turned it.

    “Italian oil, eh?” the monk smiled.

    The shadow man smiled back.

    There was a bang in the distance.


    “Don’t worry, my friend,” the shadow man said. “That was a car, not a gun.”

    “I’m afraid the guns won’t be far behind, signore.”

    The monk pressed the key into the man’s hand and spoke quickly.

    “Lock the door. Follow the path. All side corridors should be barred, but in case of doubt, down, always go down. There’s another door at the end. Use the same key. You’ll find yourself at the beach. I cannot do anything else, signore.”

    “You’ve already done too much, father. That will be enough.”

    He took the key and stepped into the corridor.

    “Thank you again, father.”

    “How do you say…? Godspeed, signore.”

    The man smiled.

    “Lieutenant. It’s Lieutenant, father.”

    “Tenente, then. Go!”

    The Lieutenant closed and locked the door, waiting by the faint lines of light that silhouetted the door from this side until his eyes got used to the next level of darkness. Then he heard the first bangs. Those weren’t from a car. He ran.

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  4. Twitter: @marshawritesit
    299 words
    Nurse; University; Romance

    Educating Cheater

    Professor Fairchild wasn’t surprised to have Mary in her office: the girl had been a nuisance all semester. Helen tried to support her students, she tried to give them as much time as she could spare, but Mary abused her generosity. Hardly a day went by without the lissom, young blonde coming to her with problems, sitting across from her in a tiny skirt or leaning over her desk, breasts spilling…
    Helen cut those thoughts short, as she always did. She’d been attracted to students before: it was either a pitfall or a perk of the job, depending on your morals. Helen needed to maintain her moral standing. She taught ethics to nursing students; a charge of sexual harassment would destroy her. She’d learned to deal with the occasional crush, to balance sympathetic engagement with emotional detachment.
    Sympathy would not be an issue today: plagiarism was a serious matter and she would deal with it professionally. When she’d read Mary’s paper she’d recognised it instantly: it had been a decade since she’d written it, but she could hardly forget her most-cited publication. The disrespect in handing her her own work, passing it off as original, was all she needed to finally rid herself of Mary’s constant irritation.
    She looked Mary in the eye, trying not to think about how the blue reminded her of the Aegean; of Anoxos; of being nineteen; of finding Melina; of finding herself. She tamed her nostalgic smile, flattening it and forming suitable sternness as she held up Mary’s essay.
    “Miss Millington, can you explain this?”
    Mary looked down at her lap, then raised her eyes to hold Helen’s. There was no nervousness or contrition in her voice when she spoke.
    “It’s yours, Professor. I stole it. I’m a very bad girl.”

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    1. Well, when a plagiarist is so forthcoming and the teacher is so remarkably entranced, who knows where this little fable will lead? Quite beautiful, challenging and provocative.

    2. Love the pun in the title!

      I think I’ve seen this video on the web, Marsha – purely by accident you understand… I only hope the door is locked or else goodness knows what might happen! 😀

  5. 280 Words
    Émigré; Italian Monastery; Drama

    Remember, Remember…

    18 September 1793
    An émigré.
    That was the word they said I should use when I wrote, the monks that took me in in my flight from the revolution. That was what we were being called. There was no way I’d feel safe if I had to try to return home now. There was just too much danger.
    I’d lost all when I left France for the Italian countryside, but there was no option, the rebels would find me and drag me to the gallows.
    They had already begun the beheading of all our nobility and, as a lady, I’d surely be put to death.
    If only they knew.
    I could share with the monks a bit of what my life was before, but they were of sensitive constitutions and were in no need of the horrors that I could fill their minds with. After the third-estate stormed the Bastille, we were left with lawlessness and attack after attack on the noble estates.
    We did the best we could, those of us still in service. While we supported the revolution, we were still expected to show loyalty to those who were above our station. This lack of loyalty is exactly what landed me here.
    As I write this to you, my child, I understand that my broken body and beaten spirit will not survive the birth. I pray to our Lord that the monks will keep the promise they made to a dying woman. To keep you safe and never let your father know of your existence, lest he try and pull you into his world of intrigue and murder, but rather let you live untouched by revolution and politics.

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  6. Twitter: @paulnevin
    298 words
    Émigré; Italian Monastery; Drama

    The Gift Shop Monk

    Stacey imagined a massive, imposing building, perhaps set atop a Tuscan hill and populated by hooded figures with hands in sleeves. So she was surprised in the gift shop in town when Anna pointed out that they were already in the monastery, and had come in through the exit.
    ‘So he’s a monk?’ Stacey said. She was staring at a young man behind the till.
    ‘Yes, this is Matteo,’ Anna said. She introduced them, and Stacey realised that the dark sweater that Matteo appeared to be wearing was, in fact, a habit.
    ‘It’s Matthew, actually,’ he said, and he offered his hand to Stacey. She wasn’t sure what was required here and was relieved when Matthew gave her hand a single perfunctory shake.
    ‘But you’re English,’ Stacey said.
    Matthew nodded and smiled. ‘I know. I emigrated,’ he said. ‘Joined the order here a year ago.’
    ‘But you don’t seem old enough,’ Stacey said and felt her face flush as Matthew stared at her, still smiling. ‘I mean, you seem very young.’ Her face burned now and she shifted to avoid Anna’s smirking face.
    Matthew was still grinning. It was beautiful, but somehow it looked out of place, like he wasn’t taking her or life seriously enough.
    A customer, a middle-aged man, stepped between them. She expected fluency, but Matthew spoke in what sounded like broken Italian, until the customer, impatient, spoke back in English. Now Matthew looked at her and blushed, looking vulnerable. And beautiful. And too young, for here and for her.
    Anna tugged Stacey’s sleeve like a neglected pet seeking its owner’s attention. ‘We should check out the rest of the monastery,’ she said. She gave Stacey a we’ll-discuss-this-later look, and dragged her away, in through the exit to the gift shop.

  7. @steveweave71
    300 words
    Émigré; Italian Monastery; Biography

    Single Moonbeam Illuminates Shangri La

    He stood outside, naked, staring out to sea. His long hair flowing in the strong sea breezes. The look of a gypsy king about him, though he couldn’t play a note. A fugitive from tyrannical Belzon trying to settle in Italy after a difficult start.

    Rowena joined him, drying her hair. He began to dry himself. Both saw the little boat heading into the inlet of Maleva below the cliffs where they stood.

    “Is that Willie Rough?” she asked.

    “Not especially,” he replied, non-committally.

    She looked down at what he was drying. “You idiot! I meant is that Captain Willie Rough in the good ship ‘Frisky Rhino’ down there.”

    Stormy Tales indeed. Gunnar, at this phase in his life, was revelling in the freedom after being cooped up for two years in Il Monastiere Aliadiere in the foothills of Monte Primevale Clown. He’d taught monks to make Emmental cheese as recompense for running over an escaped monastery chicken in a reckless manner. Gunnar had pleaded for Clemency, but Clemency was not on duty. All this had happened barely three months after his escape from Belzon, aided by mercenaries dressed as wandering minstrels. One of them even carried a goat for authenticity.

    The monks cheered the chicken/cheese with added red limp hybrid Gunnar developed, remembered from his childhood in the gloomy town of Statuszkvo. Under the ‘Pooki’ brand, Father Lippi tried selling it as a meal with pasta, a bathroom sponge, a laxative and a sealant for broken drain covers, each with some success. He’d marketed the Emmental cheese the monks made as ‘Cheese With Bullet Holes’.

    When ‘The Frisky Rhino’ left the inlet that night, loaded with ‘Pooki’, Gunnar was with Captain Rough. He was moving up the coast to become an Area Sales Manager, reporting directly to Father Lippi.

  8. Twitter: @ArthurUnkTweets
    Website: arthurunk.com
    299 words
    Émigré; University; Alternate History

    So Close, So Far

    Jean Claude Baux knew that the sun never set on France’s kingdom; he also knew that the Emperor who ruled from the throne was a vampire. Dusty tomes surrounded him as he toiled through the fragile pages. The library at the University of Prague was his last hope of finding a solution to the undead.

    Soft light from melted candles illuminated the ancient handwriting of Victor VanGrimm. The VanGrimm patriarch held a prestigious legacy of fighting and destroying creatures of the darkness. It was Jean’s only hope of returning the rightful king, Louis Aumont, to the throne.

    A final solution revealed itself as a water clock struck 3 a.m. An artifact known as Campane Mortis, the Death Bell, held ancient powers to kill the undead. Jean discovered that the resting place of this Death Bell was in the catacombs beneath the university. He quickly put away the book and made his way down into the catacombs.

    The smell of rot and decay assaulted his nostrils. Remains of those long past lay in the silence. A winding secret passage led to the resting place of this fearsome weapon. The shadows grew thick as Jean Claude entered the room.

    “Did you think it would be so easy?”

    The voice was hollow and chilled to the bone.

    “Emperor le Marche, it’s good to see you again.”

    “Tell me, Jean Claude, what was your plan going to be exactly?”

    Jean Claude’s body went stiff and could not move.

    “Who do you think fed you the clues that led you here?”

    Fear gripped the young émigré.

    “Your pursuit of the old ways ends today.”

    The body of Jean Claude Baux was found the next morning crucified outside the catacomb’s entrance with a warning message: VOYEZ LA FIN DE LA RÉVOLUTION! VIVE L’EMPEREUR LE MARCHE!

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  9. Twitter: @CrazyWriterGuy
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JustinJWriting/
    155 Words
    Fossil Collector; Arizona; Romance

    Gazing Love

    He reached down and caressed her gently, smiling in the heat of the midday sun. She was utterly beautiful, the most beautiful he had ever seen.

    “Ah,” he said, “how long have I been searching for you? I think I’m in love.”

    He put a finger to her lips. “No, no, don’t say anything. Nothing needs to be said.”

    He gently put her down again.

    “So very, very beautiful.”

    “Uh, boss?”

    “Hm?” The man looked up from the hole he was in. “Yes?”

    “Ya do realise yer talkin’ all romantic to a fossil, right?”

    “Hush! She’s the most beautiful one I’ve seen yet!”

    “Boss, yer married. Y’know, to a real woman? With meat on her bones? Alive and all that?”

    The man gently brushed dirt off of the fossilised skull. “Oh be quiet, she loves fossils as much as I do.”

    The aid sighed.

    “You, boss… You need help.”

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  10. https://teemaitch.wordpress.com/
    300 words
    Fossil Collector; Arizona; Mystery

    Excavating Arizona

    ‘Whoa, hold up there,’ I shouted at the labourer wielding the pickaxe. I moved closer to the excavation. Sure enough, the clues had been right; there was a fossil slowly emerging from the dusty soil.

    I turned to the foreman of the dig and instructed him to set a gang of labourers to work on the find, telling him, ‘We need to change to hand tools now to avoid causing any damage. See to it that they work carefully.’

    I left the site of the dig, and went in search of Mr Cope. True to his name, I found Edward Drinker Cope in the bar of the nearby town, sheltering from the hot Arizona sun.

    ‘Sir, it looks like we’ve found a big one. I’ve seen the top of the skull and it looks massive.’

    He rose from his table abandoning his drink and rushed to join me at the door.

    ‘Any sign of you know who?’ he asked, nervously looking around.

    He was referring of course to rival palaeontologist Othniel Marsh with whom we were locked in an increasingly bitter conflict. This rivalry had been fuelled by the intense fossil-finding competition between the two men that had become known as the Bone Wars. It was turning into a personal feud that was taking its toll on Cope’s health.

    ‘There’s been no sign of Marsh himself but there have been a few sightings of strangers near the dig. I reckon we should get back to the site and set up a guard until we’ve got this one out of the ground.’

    When we returned to the site, we found a gaping hole where the skull had been and no sign of our workmen. They’d been bought off, every single one of them.

    ‘Damn you, Marsh! You’ve beaten me again.’

  11. Twitter: @sthrnwriter
    294 words
    Anorexic; Museum; Romance

    She Took My Anorexia Away

    The grumbles fill my stomach more and more these days but not enough to silence my poisoned thoughts. They scream louder after being in the hospital. My thin and gaunt appearance isn’t thin enough. I had more to feed to the monster. A new voice entered the gauntlet, a woman who wore a lot of plaids and smelled of peppermint. The same woman who pushed me into a day at the museum. Stare at enough beauty to understand it and see it within me. The old woman’s goal became a ship stuck in ice. The thickness of my panic will not allow it to pass. Lunch was fast approaching and I was already developing a list of reasons not to eat. My hands shook at the thought of greasy pizza being placed in front of me. Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath and kept pushing forward.

    Standing before a Monet, I ran my hand down my pencil thin arm as I eyed the trees in The Avenue. Why couldn’t I be that thin? Another voice entered the gauntlet.

    “I love Monet’s paintings. I wish I was insightful enough to critique each brush stroke and color.”

    Long brown hair, full lips, and curvy body hung on her like a goddess. Staring at her fat would have fueled the poison and the grumbles. Instead, I fought off shame. A beautiful woman falling in love with this sick man didn’t seem possible. But could I get healthy for her love? An hour talking about Monet made it seem attainable. Suddenly a slice of greasy pizza didn’t seem so toxic. I’d eat for her anytime.

    Four years later, we celebrated our anniversary with spaghetti, salad, bread and chocolate cake. I smiled at my big full belly.

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  12. 299 words
    Émigré; Italian Monastery; Drama

    The Monastery of Montecelsior

    ‘It’s really strange and I do not like it at all.’ The Abbot of Montecelsior, an angular and gaunt-looking middle-aged man released an almost despairing sigh.

    ‘What can you expect?’ Father Giovanni continued in a more sanguine manner. ‘We’re at the arse-end of nowhere. This is the third one over the past year.’

    ‘I can cope with praying for their souls. It’s the responsibility for the living outcasts that drives me to distraction. And this one seems to be an escapee from, of all places, the Republic of Venice! Do you remember all that trouble with the Moor?’

    Lost in thought, an unpleasant smile formed on Father Giovanni’s fleshy lips. He looked knowingly at his superior. ‘At least the last three dispatched themselves with a minimum of fuss.’

    He had gone too far. The Abbot glared at him and then slumped forwards. Raising his tired head, he declared enthusiastically, ‘Let’s watch tonight.’

    Late that evening, in the frosty chill of the monastery, both men stood outside the visitor’s cell. There was a sound from within. All of a sudden, the sleepwalker opened his cell door, almost touching their robes as he passed by. His white grizzled beard just visible in the moonlight. They followed him cautiously.

    As he reached the monastery chapel, they watched him fall to his knees – a lonely, crumpled figure. From where they were standing, they could make out only a few of the mumbled words. ‘You pederast,’ he appeared to be railing against himself. ‘Handkerchief,’ he whispered as he hit his forehead on the ground and ‘my beloved O’. These were the only words caught by the evening air, due to their frequency. Both men looked at each other – a pathetic tale of male ‘love’. He had certainly come to the wrong place!

  13. @geofflepard
    300 words
    Émigré; Therapy Centre; Drama

    Pearls Aren’t The Only Way To Wisdom

    Natasha Bess rolled the opalescent orb in her fingers. It was getting more difficult to tell the difference, she thought. Rheumy cataract-ridden eyes and a numbing in her fingers left Natasha in doubt about what she was holding.
    Carefully, forcing her shakes to still, if only briefly, she dug a nail into the surface. It made no dent.
    Satisfied, she kissed the stone and put it in the right pocket before picking up the next one.
    When she’d run from the Germans in 1938, her mother had sewed fifty pearls into her petticoat. After a lifetime eking out their value, Natasha had three left. So many stories behind each one: buying off the border guard, acquiring papers, then a second set; food, her passage; changing her appearance oh so many times; setting up Abe in business and buying off that gangster – and losing Abe in the process; schooling John and Ruth, and burying them both within two years of each other.
    She batted away a tear and scratched the next ball. It gave a little, and she slipped it into the left pocket. Mendelssohn may be a clever man, he may already have taken her freedom and her dignity but he’d yet to find her remaining pearls.
    They all knew she was dying; they were generous with their painkillers but she’d not fought tooth and nail to do things her way only for this petty fascist of a director to kill her off and keep her pearls.
    She kept counting. Yes, she had enough pills. With a deliberation that characterised her life, she swallowed each gem and pill in turn. There would be an autopsy; the pearls would be found and they’d go as her will required, to help others escape want and cruelty — not to line his pocket.

  14. Ted Young
    267 words
    Émigré; Italian Monastery; Drama

    Ties That Bind

    They had shared years of travel, finding work on farms and orchards, and had formed a real bond. Rex watched his old friend change from the irresponsible, reckless companion of earlier adventures into the meditative paragon he’d become.
    One cold, rainy, English day, Paulo was reunited with that tatty old Italian Bible that had lain happily undisturbed at the bottom of his beat-up suitcase…this was the reason for his wistfulness.
    “I must return to Italy, my friend,” he said with a sad but resolute look into Rex’s eyes.
    Within an hour Paulo was leaving.
    The power of love, the spirit of loyalty, and the emptiness of separation drove Rex to follow at a distance, as Paulo made the relentless journey towards his goal.
    Rex hid himself amongst deck cargo on ferries, concealed himself on trains, and walked scores of miles, unseen by his introspective friend.
    Ten long weeks later, Paulo trudged a dusty path North of La Spezia, to the Monastero Santa Maria Del Mare. At the great door, he fell weeping to his knees…the power of love, the spirit of loyalty, and the emptiness of separation had driven him back to his God.

    It was three more days until Rex was able to slip unnoticed through a briefly-unattended side gate into the beautiful gardens, where, at long last, he allowed himself to sleep in the shade of sweet-smelling bushes.

    “Hey, brother Paulo,” the Abbot called softly, “there is a starving dog in the garden. Take him some food, my son.”

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  15. Twitter: @SalnPage
    299 words
    Anorexic; University; Tragedy

    You Must See It

    ‘You’ve lost more, Mum. You look really slim.’
    Despite three t-shirts and two baggy jumpers, Emily’s shivering. I’d meant to visit earlier but, what with work and the kids, I’d been too busy. I’d thought she’d be fine going off to uni. But it was back. Like in year ten. The layered clothing didn’t fool me. The shivering, shadows under her eyes, bony wrists and sunken cheeks. And she was telling me I looked slim.
    I’d lost six stone altogether. It was weird. Some days I could see it, other days I looked as fat as ever.
    Emily’s friend had called; said she’d stopped going to seminars, wasn’t eating, spent all day in bed. I look in her cupboard; a tin of spaghetti, a bag of wrinkled apples. I drag her to her feet. She feels barely there. I’m scared I’ll break her. Before she left for uni, she must’ve been nearly nine stone. But had I missed the signs then?
    I open the wardrobe door to reveal a full-length mirror.
    ‘Look at us together. I’ve lost six stone, Em. I reckon that’s what you weigh. You say I look slim. I’m still close to thirteen stone.’
    ‘But you’re…’
    ‘You must see it. You must…’
    I open my bag and take out full-fat milk, a crusty tiger loaf, a block of butter and a jar of chocolate spread. I grab a knife from the kitchenette drawer and plug the toaster in.
    ‘No, Mum. I can’t…’
    ‘You used to love this.’
    ‘I do… I just can’t. It’s too much fat.’
    I laugh. I can’t help it.
    ‘I’m scared. Couldn’t you have got skimmed milk?’

    The next time I see her, she’s in hospital, being fed by a drip. My bag is full of chocolate spread sandwiches.

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  16. 300 words
    Émigré; Italian Monastery; Drama


    The bell’s sonorous tolling woke Brother Mattaeus from sleep calling him into the cool Italian dawn.

    Suddenly, a shape darted across the path. ‘Who is there?’ he spoke out boldly. ‘Come on let me see you.’

    The shape that came out of the shadows was small and hooded. Trembling and frightened.

    Brother Mattaeus waited whilst the stranger came toward him.

    ‘What is your name?’ he asked.

    ‘I am Miriam,’ she answered, letting her hood fall and lifting tear-filled eyes up to him.

    Now he was frightened! Here he was in the presence of a young woman, alone! This could not be. He would surely be excommunicated for such a thing!

    ‘Please help me,’ she said imploringly, reaching out to touch his arm.

    ‘I am an émigré. I have been running for days and I do not know where to go. They are seeking my life… Please, you must help me.’

    He did not know what to do, but he knew he must do something.

    So a young woman was hidden away in the shrubbery. And as the sun set, a brother crept stealthily outside, carrying scissors and the cowl of a novice monk.

    During the refectory hour, the monks were surprised when Brother Mattaeus informed them that his nephew would be joining them for the duration of the war.

    It worked wonderfully. The ‘youth’ fitted in well with the community.

    Brother Mattaeus, on the other hand, felt that he had deceived his brothers and prayed for God’s forgiveness.

    He wondered at his sense of commitment to this young stranger until one day in late April, when clearing out the shrubbery, he saw something yellow in the undergrowth.

    Opening his hand he saw a small tattered star shape with the faded word ‘Jude’ written in black.

    Then Brother Mattaeus had peace.

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  17. Nicolette Stephens
    298 Words
    (A Cappella) Singer; Therapy Centre; Romance

    Music Therapy

    “No, no, darling!” Madame Shivonne grasped Burt firmly by the upper arms, wrestling him into place. “You are a baritone. You must stand here.”

    He stared blankly, and I felt a pang of sympathy for the giant man.

    He’d suffered a head injury two years previously and had lived at the centre ever since.

    Madame Shivonne (not her real name) was here due to work-related stress. A nervous breakdown, not that she wanted anyone to know.

    Fortunately, the centre was used to requests for anonymity from the rich and famous.

    “She’s got them making that awful racket again, hasn’t she?” Doc Rubens stood next to me, glaring through his lowered eyebrows. I often fantasized about attacking them with a pair of tweezers, especially when he was being an obnoxious jerk. Like now.

    “It’s not a racket, Doctor Rubens. It seems to really help them.” I couldn’t keep the note of censure out of my voice, and I noticed his look of surprise. “Burt is actually out of his chair, see?”

    “On three now! A one, two, a one, two, three!” Madame’s hands gestured dramatically, and the mismatched band of patients opened their mouths to create sound. A low, monotone rumbled from Burt’s gaping mouth, but his eyes shone with glee for the first time since his arrival.

    “Sister Beatrice?”

    “Yes, Doctor?”

    “Our centre doesn’t have a music programme, does it?”

    “No, sir.”

    The Doc smiled at me, and suddenly his monobrow didn’t seem so obnoxious.

    “Perhaps you’d like to tackle the task of setting one up? Ask Madame Shivonne to assist?”

    “But I thought you said it was a racket, sir?”

    He leaned closer to whisper, and my heart skipped a beat.

    “It is. But it makes them, and you, happy. That’s the sort of therapy they need.”

  18. @el_Stevie
    250 words
    Émigré; Arizona; Drama


    Vadim Azarov stared at the red dust of Arizona. The contrast with his native Siberia could not be more marked. In some ways, however, they were both similar, each contained a barren wilderness and each contained the remains of his family. He took out the letter again. He was in the right place at the right time on the right date … but he was alone. It was a decision made by his mother a long time ago when she had abandoned him on the church steps.
    A car revved in the distance, a muffled roar growing louder as it neared him, a desert lion ready to pounce although, in this case, the mouse was already dead. Trotsky had got an ice pick down in Mexico, but there were other ways. The car closed in, drew level. A window lowered and Vadim walked over.
    “Job done?”
    Vadim nodded, moved round to the passenger side and got in. The driver started the car up again. Vadim looked across the almost Martian landscape. The remains of his family lay there somewhere. The reunion had been brief and now it was done. She had given him no answers, refused to tell him the identity of his father. Instead, she had continued to proclaim her support for Stalin, had tried to persuade him to return with her … had remained a stranger. It had made it easier to do what he had to. Now he left her behind, a fresh addition to ancient graves.

  19. 300 words
    Émigré; Italian Monastery; Drama

    This is Gonna be Easy


    “Master Stevens, what is the matter?”

    “Oh, nothing.”

    The elderly man raised an eyebrow.

    “Well, if you really want to know, Father.”

    The Abbot pulled up a small stool as he rolled his eyes at Master Stevens’ dramatics.

    “So it’s like this, my parents just don’t get me.”


    “Yes, they don’t seem to understand my yearning for freedom.”


    “Yes, Father! I need to spread my wings. I need to soar, free of any restrictions. I must fly like the nomadic pigeons that roost on the crowns of the stone saints that guard this monastery.”

    The Father sighed. “You wouldn’t last five minutes out there.”

    “You wanna bet?” challenged Master Stevens. Looking around he clapped his hands for a servant, “I’m starving, you dunderhead! How dare you let this plate go empty? Are you trying to murder me?”

    “But, sir, I only left for a minute.”

    “Exactly! I could have starved.”

    The very next day, Master Stevens left his home away from home and set off into the world. Armed only with a rapier, the luxurious clothes on his back and a swaggering step. An easy smile crept across his lips.

    This is gonna be easy.


    The sun set; with each flaming hue, he protested his fall.

    The old Abbot looked earnestly out the window.

    “He lasted much longer than I expected,” remarked a young student.

    “Yes, and I promised the Duke and Duchess he wouldn’t be out after dark.”

    Suddenly there was a feeble knock at the door. The Father and student hurried to answer it.

    “Father,” was the cry. There, lying on the steps, was Master Stevens. His clothes were torn and tattered, his face was littered with scratches and bruises. The Father smiled as he drew the young man in to dress his wounds.

  20. Twitter: @CalebEchterling
    284 words
    Curator; Therapy Centre; Comedy

    Don’t Forget to Visit Our Lovely Gift Shop

    Electronic chimes jingled as the front door to Get A Move On Physical Therapy wheezed open. A four-pronged cane provided ballast for a man limping across the threshold.

    Ms. Plumpermuffin clapped her hands and hopped off a pedestal shaped like a Doric column. “You must be here for the 2:30 tour. Please follow me.”

    Ms. Plumpermuffin minced backwards with deliberate steps. “We’ll begin here in the magazine wing.” Her hands mimicked the gratuitous stylings of a The Price Is Right model to deflect attention to a stack of disheveled National Geographic magazines — some sporting covers, some not. All had adopted the loose-fit, fanned-out look popular among well-perused periodicals.

    “Our collection of three-year-old National Geographics is considered one of the finest in the tri-city area. And our efforts to expand our People holdings has really come to fruition this year, thanks to a generous anonymous donor.” All the faces gracing the People covers brandished penned-on moustaches, vandykes, or crudely-drawn naughty bits.

    “And no visit to our museum would be complete without a stroll through the legendary Hall of Kitten Posters. As you can see, we have works from both the inspirational school and the cutesy-poo school.”

    A physical therapist’s pony-tailed head poked into the hallway. “Hi, Mr. Madden. Are you ready for your appointment? I’ve got the equipment all set up.”


    As he rested between bouts of walking up and down a four-step staircase, Mr. Madden asked, “What’s the deal with the lady out front? I’ve never had a tour of a waiting room before.”

    “She’s our curator. We wanted better organization and presentation in the lobby. Honestly, it seemed like a waste until she landed the Gauguin exhibit that opens next week.”

    1. I was just cutting and pasting the last story into the file to be sent to the judge, when I thought “Wouldn’t it be great if Caleb came up with one of his famous last-minute entries to make the number of submission up to twenty?” Then I came back into the blog and saw my wish had been granted!

      Classic Echterling mixture of wacky humour mixed with observational comedy – ‘…the gratuitous stylings of a The Price Is Right model…’ Worth waiting up for!

      [ Name is optional – if, for example, an entrant should be using a pseudonym, and suddenly feels the urge to come clean. There’s no need for you to supply your name since it’s already up there next to your police mugshot. 😉 ]

      1. Thanks Geoff. I see that about the name now, and will leave it off future entries.

  21. Twitter: @piteachr
    300 words
    Nurse; Therapy Center; Tragedy

    The Cruelest Disease

    As I drank the last of my crappy coffee, its bitterness reinforced my mood.

    Another day looming ahead of me, caring for those far too lost, suffering the pains of dementia.

    Nursing taught me to manage my emotions when dealing with patients. Geriatrics has always been my specialty, but working with those suffering such a cruel twist of fate before they’re genuinely geriatrics is something entirely different.

    We’re trusted to care for each of these loved ones while their family members are at work, or getting some well-deserved downtime.

    A man, knocking on and yelling at a blank wall. Donald, 62.

    A woman, repeating a story about her work as a seamstress. Janice, 59.

    A woman, intermittently screaming, “Help,” “That hurts,” and “Go away.” Evelyn, 64.

    A man, pointing at me over and over, asking, “Who are you? Why am I here?” George, 56. Tears sting my eyes as he stares at me, terrified.

    A cacophony of words, sounds, and movements. Still, no one notices another, instead ensconced in their private hells.

    Clearly, none of them remember yesterday’s turn of events. Cynthia, 57, dropped quickly, hitting her head on the tile floor, suffering a seizure. The others became incredibly agitated at the sights and sounds of her seizing.

    Cynthia is in the hospital, now in a coma. No one has asked about her, likely not recalling any of it: not Cynthia, nor their reactions.

    My stomach clenches, but I forge on. I get through, finishing this day like every other.

    I take his hand, “Let’s go home now, George.”

    Holding my hand, he comes with me. In sickness and in health, my love.

    Tonight, I’ve managed not to cry until he’s asleep. Goodnight, my love.

    Perhaps tomorrow will be the day George recognizes me, if only for a moment.

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  22. @jes3ica
    270 words
    Fossil Collector; Museum; Alternate History

    If Gythrins Evolved From Humans, Why Are We So Much Better Looking?

    The truthers are at the museum doors when I arrive for work. Mute and angry-eyed, about 20 of them watch me turn the key, flip CLOSED to OPEN. We walk in together.

    I wish they had signs. (Didn’t we used to make signs for these things? And yell? That was much easier.) I should paint some tonight, see if I can trick the truthers into holding them tomorrow. HUMANS ARE A HOAX! THE ONLY INTELLIGENT LIFE IS GYTHRIN LIFE! ALL MY ANCESTORS HAD THREE LEGS! It would give me something to rail against, at least.

    These fex are tense today, though—I smell it. They circle around my work table, just out of striking distance, the purple light from their 60 unblinking eyes making work on the fossils impossible. Frustrated, I whip my tongue toward the closest one and it cracks millimeters from zer stupid, placid face. We’re both ready for a fight.

    “It’s been years since human fossils were discovered!” I shout. “Why are you still coming here?”

    “My ancestor was not a filthy human!” Ze loses chill and speaks, after weeks of this silent protest. “We are here to witness. Your hoax will expose itself and we will be here to witness the truth.”

    “What do you think these bones are? Props from a Boklah theater? I dug them from the ground myself and scientists around the world have verified their authenticity.”

    “Humans are new. Gythrins created humans. We all saw their birth.”

    “They were here before, too.”

    “Nothing was here before. Only black earth and fire. Then us.”

    But the bones will tell us the truth.

  23. @shobanagomes
    282 words
    Émigré: Italian Monastery: Drama.

    Living One Day at a Time

    She walked fast, disappearing from view before he could catch up with her. He, the stalker of the world’s famous social activist, an outcast in her Country, an enigma to the rest. There were just too many people walking everywhere, in front, behind, in between, just about everywhere he walked. Almost like they were trying to protect her from his prying eyes and stop his seeking, but he had an obligation to the rest of the world. He had a story to tell and she was an important element for the resurrection of peace everywhere. The airport was where the eyes and ears of those wanting to chase an émigré kept watch.

    “She is leaving tonight, checked into a monastery somewhere Le Midi, will check back with you later.” he hung up before his call is traced. It was his “eyes” from the airport. No name, no identification and no recognition accorded to him. Just his camouflaged voice. These calls are traced through satellite monitoring stations and one had to keep switching channels in between conversations to avoid detection.

    He walked faster, past those who blocked his view, pushing some away from his path and saw her enter the checkpoint. For the moment she was safe unless there was someone out there in the midst of her in disguise. Her life very much in demand by the underworld and terrorists, she lived from day to day.

    He knew it was time she lived in exile, perhaps with another name, another face and another nationality. He watched her till she disappeared from sight.
    He got the call six hours later. A new nun had entered the Italian Monastery now under new surveillance.


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    1. Thanks for your entry, Shobana.

      Unfortunately, it was too late for the judge’s consideration: Microcosms is a 24-hour only contest every FRIDAY.
      As you will see from the preamble to each and every Contest post, “You have just 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) New York time (EST/EDT) to write and submit your masterpiece.”

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

      As you are new to Microcosms, you are also encouraged in the preamble to check out the full submission guidelines – always a good move! 😉

      I hope this setback will not deter you from entering future Microcosms contests — BEFORE the deadline! 😉

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