Microcosms 114

Greetings, flashionistas! Welcome to Microcosms 114.

PLEASE NOTE: New York has moved over to daylight-saving time (EDT) – clocks have gone forward one hour. This means that, here in the UK, the contest is due to open at 04:00 am today (FRIDAY), rather than the usual 05:00 am, and, consequently, closes an hour earlier at 04:00 am SATURDAY. British Summer Time comes into play on 25-MAR, so the customary differential will resume only with Microcosms 116 (30-MAY). [ Other time zones are available. 😉 ]

Today (16-MAR) is a birthday shared by three film directors:

  • 1908 – Robert Rossen, American director:

‘Mambo’ (1955)

‘The Hustler’ (1961)

  • 1940 – Bernardo Bertolucci, Italian director:

‘The Conformist’ (1970)

‘The Dreamers’ (2003)

  • 1964 – Gore Verbinski, American director:

‘The Ring’ (2002)

‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ (2003)




(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: Assassin, Location: Venice, and genre: Thriller.

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.


  • Dancer
  • Hustler
  • Assassin
  • University Student
  • Journalist
  • Blacksmith
  • Venice
  • Pool Hall
  • Paris
  • Demo
  • Island
  • Pirate Ship
  • Romance
  • Crime
  • Drama
  • Thriller
  • Horror
  • Adventure

Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Ted Young, 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 (EDT) 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 115
Microcosms 113

23 thoughts on “Microcosms 114

  1. Twitter: @billmelaterplea
    300 words
    Journalist; Pool Hall; Crime

    A Woman of the People

    “Go check it out, Danny…she was once hot stuff.”

    With those instructions from Dink Wexler, Night Editor of the Evening Chronicle, I put on my mukluks, grabbed Snap Whittier, our staff shutterbug, and drove over to Poppa Luigi’s Pool Hall and Arcade.

    It was a heck of a night. Hurricane No Name was looking for a ranking of at least Number One but was languishing at .5, seventy miles an hour and going no higher.

    It was still as wet as a busted drainpipe and nobody wanted to be out.

    I certainly didn’t.

    But when Sally Grippo gets knocked off and is lying in a drainage ditch on the south side, guys like me have to cover it.

    By the time we got to Poppa Luigi’s, the yellow tape was drooping from the deluge and they were just about to cart Singing Sal away.

    Grady Pucker was the homicide dick in charge.

    “Can I have a glimmer, Grady. Maybe Snap could get one farewell shot?”

    I’d done Pucker a few favours over the years. I thought he’d play along.

    “Snap ain’t no Weegee, Danny. Like to oblige but the word is to keep the lid on this. Grippo didn’t make any friends when she turned State’s witness.”

    “One shot…loading her into the meat wagon? Who’s gonna care?”

    I could see Pucker was torn. Sally Grippo had been one tough legislator. She got her start playing pocket billiards on the south side. Later, she borrowed Sam Clemens famous quote, “the game of billiards has destroyed my naturally sweet disposition,” and when she decided to run for City Council, played on it. Gruff barely described her. Honest sure did.

    Eventually, she went to the State Senate, saw the corruption and blew the whistle.

    “Take your picture,” Pucker relented. “Sal deserves the exposure.”

  2. Twitter: @ArthurUnkTweets
    Website: arthurunk.com
    300 words
    Assassin; Venice; Thriller

    Project Redentore

    Sophie LaRoux sat comfortably on the rooftop and waited. The moon hung low in the sky and the last remnants of daylight were purged from the sky. A warm summer breeze floated through Venice and pushed the gondolas to their destinations. Soft music and the smell of world-class cuisine filled the early evening.

    Tonight was the Festa del Redentore, one of the oldest continuously celebrated dates on the Venetian calendar. Pontoon boats were lining up in the canal that separates Giudecca from Venice proper. Tomorrow there would be a pilgrimage to the church, but tonight would be dancing, drinking and a large fireworks display. Party boats of every size and shape filled the lagoon. Sophie’s eyes lit up when she saw the mini-yacht from her brief. The femme fatale took her position and stared through the rifle’s scope to the party below.

    Marcus Bixby was a bastard that deserved to die. He supplied money, weapons, and drugs to African tribal leaders in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo. Sophie quickly spotted him on the yacht’s party deck groping some young model type; she mentally added chauvinist pig to the list. It wouldn’t be long until the fireworks and then mission complete.

    On cue, the fireworks display lit up the night sky. The party below stopped to stare at the brightly colored lights. Sophie’s finger covered the trigger. She lined up the head shot and pulled the trigger. Blood exploded on the deck behind Marcus as he dove for cover. The CIA’s inside man lay dead on the deck of the boat with a gun in hand.

    Sophie hoped that one day someone would pay her to kill the bad guys, but their checks were bigger and always cleared the bank.

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  3. Twitter: @marshawritesit
    267 words
    Journalist; Pirate Ship; Romance


    She had an assignment and, by god, she was going to complete it. More afraid of failure than the imposing figure pacing the deck, she shouted up at him.
    “Mister Mayhem, Virginia Shunpike for The Daily Maid. Can you tell our readers why you never take prisoners?”
    She was certain he heard her, but he didn’t respond. He simply made some gesture to a pirate sitting high in the mizzen-mast – who began working on a rope – and continued walking to the bow.
    She allowed herself a very unladylike “Drat!” and prepared to shout again. Unfortunately, her breath was knocked from her by the arms of the mizzen-mast man as he grabbed her waist. Together, they completed his swing and she was deposited on the deck in front of her quarry.
    He had a reputation not just for ferocity, but for romantic chivalry: it made him both unusual for his kind and a person of great interest to her readership. It was a reputation he proved worthy of when he caught her, mid-swoon, and laid her gently on the gunwale, a firm hand on her waist preventing her falling to the dock below.
    He bowed, his face drawing so close that his hot breath fell on her neck as he spoke, eliciting a feeling at once unfamiliar, uncomfortable and dangerously intoxicating.
    “Your former readers may care to know that I have never taken prisoners because I have never before found one I should wish to keep. And it’s Captain Mayhem, my dear, although you may call me Bentley. Or perhaps ‘darling husband’, eventually.”

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  4. 203 Words
    Assassin; Venice; Thriller

    Times Of War

    “It is time, Monsignor,” the advisor whispered in the ear of the priest. “If we are to do this, it must be now.”

    With great haste, the two fled the residence into the night and swiftly, silently strode down the cobbled streets. The lapping of the water in the canals doing the best work of masking their steps.

    “I don’t like this at all, Gaspode,” the priest murmured. “Why would…”

    The words were cut short as a blade was thrown with unerring accuracy, straight for the chest of the priest. The jewelled hilt of the dagger glinting in the moonlight was a clear message that the ruling powers would not stand for any interference from the church.

    “Monsignor!” Gaspode exclaimed as he dropped to his knees next to the fallen priest. “What have they done?”

    “They did the only thing they know, my friend.”

    As the priest breathed his last, the assassin slipped away into the shadows, satisfied in the knowledge that the offer of peace between the two warring cities would never be heard.

    With a shaky breath, Gaspode stood and, taking one last look at the body of his charge, he went to deliver his message to the house of Medici…

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  5. 297 words
    Assassin; Venice; Thriller

    Daddy’s Little Girl

    Her breath is ragged. She skillfully glances at her surroundings. Something she’s done many times before. When she was the huntress. Now she is the hunted. She calls on every piece of training she has had, almost like a prayer. She jumps.

    She thought she could have it all. A marriage, a career, kids. Her job though, was unusual. She got paid overtime and she had benefits. Not medical, per se, but enough cash to go to any private hospital she chose. You can’t really put down “Assassin” under “employment.” She even managed to get married. Reshuffling some deaths gave her the time to have children. They were adorable as was her husband. Was. It was that same bugger who was trying to kill her now. He suggested this ten-year anniversary trip to Venice and she was excited. Marriage and motherhood had made her soft.

    ‘Katja is beginning to show remarkable abilities that would hold her in good stead if she was to follow in my footsteps,” she thinks as she swings up a gutter effortlessly. She can hear Eric now, closing in on her. With a last burst, she vaults onto the roof and rolls. She sits up. The sunset before her is breathtaking. She hears a soft footfall behind her. She knows it’s over. She looks up into the eyes of the man who loved her and he looks at her lovingly too. In this game, it’s one or the other. There is a small explosion. A look of surprise comes over him and he topples over forward. The colors of the sky now mingle with his blood as it sprays all over her. She wipes her face. Past him, she sees Katja holding a gun.
    Katja shrugs. “Let’s go home, Mother,” she says calmly.

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  6. https://teemaitch.wordpress.com/
    300 words
    Assassin; Venice; Thriller

    Another Death in Venice

    I’d arrived in Venice late the previous night. I’d had to travel the length of the Grand Canal to reach my hotel, it had been a fraught journey made more difficult by my poor grasp of Italian. Each change of water taxi had left my heart in my mouth as I desperately hoped that I’d made the right choice to get to my destination.
    The morning though was different. I was completely relaxed, safe in the knowledge that the water bus that I was on would again take me the length of the main waterway. This was a much slower journey than the night before with the bus making frequent stops and starts as people boarded and disembarked. I watched the new day dawn over the magnificent city and with it the bustle of early morning life; I saw children on their way to school, I saw small boats making deliveries, I saw commuters making their way to work.
    Today I too was a commuter. I was off to work but, unlike those around me, my work had a far more deadly purpose. It was my task to ensure that a certain individual, due to land at Marco Polo Airport later today, never made it to their destination.
    I continued to enjoy my stately trip through the heart of historic Venice, musing on all those assassins that must have come before me; the city had been the centre of a vast maritime empire, an empire plagued by intrigue, a legacy of the Borgias and the Medicis.
    Perfect timing: I entered the airport as my quarry came out. I stumbled, my briefcase with its concealed needle bumped into his leg, I apologised, and it was over. I don’t know who he was or why his death was required.
    I never ask.

  7. 289 words
    Dancer; Venice; Romance

    Ballerina Dreams

    Every day, I watched as a girl in a ruby-red dress danced along the river. She pirouetted and pointed and spilt and jumped. All the while her dress flittered around her. Her beauty of form slid along the river like a raindrop sailing down a window. She never once looked up to see who watched her. She just floated along in her bubble.
    Until one day. I was travelling down the canal in my gondola with a romantic couple on their way to the theatre. The man was itchy. He kept shifting in his seat as though something was poking him in his bum. I played soft romantic music as we floated down the canal. Suddenly, the man jumped up and almost tipped the boat. I scowled at him. He lifted his hand in apology and turned around. Then I saw the box which was itching his behind. He dropped to his knee and his girlfriend gasped. It played out like all the romantic clichés. I felt ill.

    I let my eyes wander to the side of the river where my dancer would be, but it was empty. I stopped the gondola and rushed over to the gelato cart. I asked the owner if she had seen the ballerina. She said no. I asked if she knew anything about her. She whispered for a gelato she would tell me anything I wanted to know. I bought the ballerina’s name. I gasped. The prima ballerina. I speed back to my gondola and gave the lovestruck couple a gelato. I manoeuvred quickly with no time to waste. I rushed to the back of the theatre. But there she was entangled with another man. I should have stayed with my dancing dream.

  8. Twitter: @ThomSConnors
    185 words
    Assassin; Venice; Thriller

    Science and the Sea

    Venice is old. It creaks and shifts in a way that other cities don’t, but that’s part of the charm. The people who live there talk about it like an old friend, one that is hard of hearing and barely able to walk. They look after it and take it to the clinic. Sometimes, neighbours bring over meals to keep it fed. The children in the neighbourhood come to clean the yard when their parents say they have to, even if they don’t understand it.

    When Venice is at the doctor, it’s a subdued experience. They mention sinking in hushed tones so that Venice cannot hear them. They talk about the way its veins can’t hold in its lifeblood anymore. But the people have banded together against this sickness. They’ve created gates outside of Venice, that restrict the way the water enters its veins.
    Like a pacemaker, the gates control the flow of the City’s assassins: the ocean, and the moon, and the spin of this interminable planet.
    So when the doctors see Venice now, they ask only one question.

    How old can Venice be?

  9. 298 words
    Assassin; Venice; Thriller

    The Hunter and the Hunted

    Sitting uncomfortably on a café chair, he surveyed the square. He had arrived early. This time, he wanted the job completed swiftly. He had agreed with himself that this would be his last job.

    Then all of a sudden the intermediary sat down. She was tall and dark but there was something distasteful in the way she smiled at him – was her mouth too large or the lips too thin? He felt uneasy. She placed the Thomas Mann novella on the table. No subtlety or was he simply bored?

    As she left, he regretted his offhand dismissal of her sexual overtures. He opened the book to find a name, photograph, address and time on a loose piece of paper. The name was Laura Anderson.

    He made his way back to his hotel. Showered and ready for the hunt, he set off. In the darkness, he could wander freely through the deserted alleyways that gave Venice its charm. He looked at his watch. How could he have mistaken the time? He must increase his speed. He could feel his heart pumping and the adrenaline beginning to race around his body. He turned right, then left. There was no one at all to be seen. As the deer in the forest senses the hunter, he knew that he was not alone. For the first time for many years, he felt a sense of sheer panic. He began to run and missed his turning.

    Suddenly, there he was at the end of a blind alleyway. As he turned around, the knife he had been carrying in his left pocket, glinted before him as it was plunged into his heart. Before him stood a smiling woman – Laura Anderson.

  10. Twitter: @sthrnwriter
    295 words
    Assassin; Pool Hall; Horror

    Good Ole Days

    “Let me tell ya, kid. This place was a whole lot different twenty years ago. It was hard to get a look at the person standing next to ya through the thick cloud of smoke. Not that you would want to. Catch someone’s eye among that crowd will only get you one thing. People were more beer, whiskey and rage than anything else. Plus, it wasn’t a good night unless at least one person was being carried out. It was awesome. Then someone bought the place and decided to spruce it up. Smoking is no longer allowed. All the bright green felt hurts my eyes. Everyone is wearing suits and saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’. It’s disgusting. I’m rolling in my grave.

    “I learned everything I needed to know about how to read people and the best way to kill them. I would never have survived being an assassin if it weren’t for this place. They say you have to move with the times. Reinvent yourself. A short skirt and heels use to be enough to distract someone to death. Then the idiots got education, and I got whacked. Now, I’m back here in the land of boredom. But you know what, kid? Life and lemons make the best of a bad situation. Excuse me.”

    I picked my target. Tall, blonde and slightly-built, chopping fruit with a six-inch knife. Slipping inside of him was the easy part. Battling his resistance not so much but with a massacre under my belt, I was a pro. I sliced up several people before anyone knew what was happening. Screams filled the air as they began to push their way out. Stabbing and slicing one person after another. Soaked in blood. It felt amazing being back in the saddle.

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  11. @geofflepard
    293 words
    Assassin; Venice; Thriller

    When In The Sights Of An Assassin, It’s Not Only Stray Bullets That Are A Danger

    The successful assassin in the second decade of the twenty-first century doesn’t need to be fit, nor have a deadly aim, nor a psychopath’s indifference to human suffering. What he or she needs above all else is intelligence – cunning, if you like.
    Dryden O’Spall had bad breath, a knee that collapsed without warning and a pie-eating habit that would probably kill him long before he made his first (and last) mistake.
    Some clients wanted spectaculars – ‘warning shots’ as they were known in the trade – where the victim was to serve as an encouragement to others. Dryden refused these commissions. He specialized in stealth, in death by deceit. He was always on the lookout for a tangential way to a nice icing.
    ‘Venice’ the message said. ‘Thursday, no later than noon’. A profile was attached. ‘42, white, rich, indolent and well-guarded’.
    Dryden tapped at his keyboard – ‘Telemachus’, his hacker was quick, filling out the details. The medical records caught Dryden’s gaze.
    The flight was on time, the pensione clean and anonymous. The target’s itinerary included a visit to the glass factory, leaving from a supposedly secret location. Dryden spent an hour finding what he needed; his furry Passepartout resisted a little, but the treats quietened him.
    The chosen gondola was waiting. The target slipped into his seat and set off, unaware of his fellow traveler. Dryden sat in the café and watched the boat glide by, marvelling at how the vulnerable rich wanted solitude above all else. He could see the struggles under the canopy; the target’s severe allergic reaction to cat hair beginning to suffocate him. He lined up his stick – a modern version of the blowpipe – and when the barely-breathing target sprang up, he loosed off one small dart.
    Job done.

  12. 291 words
    Assassin; Venice; Thriller

    Quick Shot

    He was lying in wait. He had spent days scouring the tourist-packed streets of Venice, seeking out his prey so he could put his plan into action. The moment was almost here.

    He didn’t know the man he was about to kill. Some self-made millionaire who got lucky on stock and shares, what did he care? But his bosses did care. It was clear just by watching him that this guy wasn’t shy about his wealth, passing notes out as if they were confetti. He’d obviously upset a few people on his way to the top and really hacked them off once he got there. Now the bounty was on his head. The only way he would be leaving Italy would be in a box.

    As he set up his sniper rifle from a rooftop overlooking the Grand Canal, the target and his group of guards were laughing it up in a gondola. The gondolier looked more than uneasy, struggling to keep control of the boat as it rocked from side to side. His guests were, by now, well lubricated, several empty bottles of rosé now rolling across the deck.

    Watching through his telescopic sight, his right index finger hovering near the trigger, the assassin followed the man. The crosshairs never moved from his face. Now was his chance. He lifted his finger to the trigger, released the catch and — bang. He looked straight up to see his target tip backwards over the side of the gondola and into the murky water. A red flower blossomed on his white shirt, the bullet piercing the middle of his heart.

    Yet the bullet hadn’t come from the rooftop. Someone had got to him first. Now he had to find out who.

  13. @el_Stevie
    Dancer; Venice; Horror
    300 words

    Who Pays the Ferryman?

    Like Charon, the gondolier ferried his passengers across the canal. Like Charon, he took their coin in his outstretched hand. Masked with the face of Tragedia dell’Arte, they talked quietly as Matteo carried them away from the bustle of the theatre and out across the lagoon. He did not join in their conversation, preferred to allow soft night air and murmuring water to soothe him after the rigours of the stage. He was born to dance … but it did not pay the bills. This job, however, solved all his problems. He sculled past the small church of San Luca where Father Antonio waited to take his confession … as he had every night of Carnival. It allowed Matteo to sleep soundly, although he doubted that could be said of the priest.

    Candles flickered up ahead. The women’s voices stilled and he could sense their excitement, their anticipation.

    “Count Casanova’s palazzo, senoritas.” He moored the boat, helped them disembark, delicate hands briefly in his, and then led them inside.

    “What is this?” asked one, suddenly nervous at the sight of those gathered to receive them.

    He did not answer, they were no longer his affair.

    “Thank you, Matteo,” said the Count. “Are you sure you won’t join us tonight?”

    Matteo shook his head. “I still prefer my women warm.”

    The Count laughed. “Each to his own. But the offer is always open should you ever change your mind.” His teeth, ivory daggers, flashed in the swaying flame.

    Matteo shook his head. “Your gold is enough, as is one lifetime.” A heavy purse changed hands, bringing him the peace he craved. Father Antonio would gift him absolution and sleep.

    On the water once more, the house behind him sank into darkness and nobody heard the women scream … nobody living anyway.

  14. 299 words
    Assassin; Venice; Thriller

    Paradise Awaits

    Rap’s not my thing, but Drake got it right: “Jealousy is just love and hate at the same time.”
    That’s Roxy and me. I love her, but…

    Roxy… How could her folks have known?
    Charming and a bod to kill for.
    Walk into any restaurant… No reservations needed. Roxy’s being there lifts the place from a five-star to a six-plus!
    Meeting her was my love lottery. Even her parents found me acceptable. Quaint, they whispered.
    Insulted? Not at all… No prenups!

    So what was I doing out on this blistering frigid night, engaging the services of a hitman?
    It circles back to jealousy…

    The meeting’s been arranged for early Tuesday morning.
    I ride with Roxy to the airport. She’s leaving for a photo shoot. Her last modeling obligation before we tie the knot.
    Then it’ll be just the three of us: Me, Roxy, and Beowulf.
    Beowulf is Roxy’s two-year-old exotic hybrid. Her protector before she met me.
    Beowulf never leaves her side.

    I see him. Right under the lamppost just before the corner of Smith and Seventh.
    I remove the envelope. There was to be no conversation.
    I just hand him the itinerary and leave.

    Mission complete; I am drenched with relief.

    Finally, light at the end of the tunnel. I always thought that was just an expression… but I can actually feel it as I walk back to the apartment.

    My future is set. No idea when it will happen… but it will. THERE IS LIGHT.

    D-Day was during the honeymoon.
    • Two days at the Hotel Carlton in Venice.
    • The week before New Year’s Day in Dubai.
    • The Burj Khalifa cruise and a desert safari.
    • Then Japan: a chartered chopper island-hopping.

    I smile.

    The return flight will be Paradise!

    Just Roxy and me.

    No damn dog.

      1. I must have misread the fields? I don’t think I realized the location was wrong? Sorry. I enjoyed the contest anyway. It was nerve racking and fun!

  15. Welcome to Microcosms, Roger.

    Oops! I think the error was mine: the default elements were initially posted as “Assassin; Drama; Thriller” by mistake. I corrected it after a short while, but you may have looked at the post soon after it went live. Apologies for that!

    Your entry can still qualify for judging if, for instance, you changed one of the honeymoon stop-overs to a hotel in Venice. (You can’t make amendments yourself, but you can leave a comment as you did with details of what you would like changed, and the administrator — that ‘s me! — will do the honours. (Normally, the request for amendment must be made before the contest deadline, but as this was my blunder, I’ll allow the change, if you can get it to me ASAP.)
    Is the display name ‘Rogr Shipp’ a typo, or is it correct? I can try to amend that too, if you like!

      1. There doesn’t seem to be a “Ritz-Carlton” Hotel in Venice, just “Hotel Carlton”, so I went with that.
        [ I don’t want to totally mess things up by checking canine quarantine restrictions in all these venues… 😉 ]

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