Microcosms 120

Welcome back to Microcosms, Flash Harrys and Flash Harriets. Ready to pit your writing skills against the challenge of Round 120? Let’s get to it then…

As some of you may be aware — cue the violins! — being curator of Microcosms is hard work… very hard work… a gargantuan amount of very hard work… [ OK, that’s enough now, Geoff. ]

I used to have enough energy to do this AND write flash fiction, but not so often now that I’m officially a Senior Citizen… These days, the best I can come up with is to recycle stuff I wrote a long time ago OR to dream up punning titles for stories I don’t have time to write. So, here’s the deal…





Once again, there’s no “slot machine” in this round. Your task is simply to select one of the following TITLES for your entry and see where it takes you.

  • A Street Cat Named Desirée
  • There Is No Planet B
  • To The Manure Born
  • Set Phrases to Pun
  • One Small Step for a Naan
  • Abracadaver!

(If you are not inspired by ANY of these, you may come up with your own PUNNING title and take it from there.)



*** Please tell us your Twitter userid and your blog address (if you have one or the other — or both — that you don’t mind sharing with the world), followed by the word count of your entry (in the format ‘xxx words’).

*** Once again, there’s no need to specify character, location and genre — you have free rein… Woo hoo!





Judging this week is Microcosms 119 Judge’s Pick, Geoff Le Pard.

Always remember and never forget: your entry must be a maximum of 300 words in length.


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

All being well, results will be posted on Monday.

Microcosms 121
Microcosms 119

34 thoughts on “Microcosms 120

  1. [ Apologies! I was guilty of a terminological inexactitude in the preamble when I said that I didn’t have time to develop these titles; I wrote this story as a fairy tale after last week’s contest had closed. ]

    Twitter: @GeoffHolme
    [Just4Fun entry]
    300 words

    To The Manure Born

    “Hey, Heinrich! What’s brown and sounds like a bell?”

    Heinrich inwardly groaned. His boss Willhelm uttered those words every single morning. Heinrich leaned on his shovel and sighed.

    “I–can’t–HEAR–you!” said Willhelm in a sing-song voice.

    “I… don’t… know…” said Heinrich through gritted teeth. “What is brown and sounds like–?”

    DU-UNNN-GG!” Willhelm gleefully interrupted, as if telling the joke for the first time. His hysterical laughter echoed around the royal stables.

    Heinrich was shit-shoveller’s assistant to the King … a position passed down from father to son over generations, each one never to attain the rank of master shit-shoveller. He imagined the pile of horse droppings he and his ancestors had built, reaching to the sky; it would certainly stink to high heaven.


    The last shovelful placed onto the cart, Willhelm drove it round to Anselm, Keeper of the Royal Rose Garden.

    Heinrich slumped against the wall. He would never be able to speak back to his boss… tell him where to stick his shit-shovel… He just had to grin and bear it. “Oh, how I wish I didn’t have to hear Willhelm tell that stupid joke… EVER… AGAIN!”

    WHOOSH! A brilliant light filled the stables. Floating in midair on fluttering wings was a fulsome female form in radiant white, holding a wand.

    “Who–?” Heinrich began, but the apparition raised her free hand, stopping him.

    “No time… running late… Fairy Godmother… here to grant your wish.” She waved her wand with a shimmer of fairy dust and a tintinnabulation of tinkling bells.

    “At last,” cried Heinrich, “Willhelm is no more. Now I can become Scheissemeister!”

    “Oops!” said the FGM, “In the rush, I took your wish literally.”

    Though he could see her lips move and her sheepish expression, Heinrich heard none of this. How could he?

    He was now totally deaf.

  2. @steveweave71
    300 words

    One Small Step For A Naan

    Well, I’d just moved into this gaff on Hendricks Road, Silvertown. Me dear old Mum was happy, ‘cos it was just down the road from me Nan, so I could keep an eye on her. This was in the days before Secure Housing and I don’t think Nan ever had a key for her place. “I’ve got nuffin’ worth nicking” she’d shout, which turned into a laugh which turned into a hacking cough.

    So, I moved in. One rucksack, guitar, cup and a Leyton Orient poster, ‘cos, on an earlier visit, I noticed on one wall possible tomato ketchup stains or something more sinister.

    Sitting on the wooden floorboards gave me a splinter in my right buttock, as I discovered a largish hole in me jeans in that general buttock zone. Not looking good for me in my wafer-thin sleeping bag at night.

    It was a Tuesday. Practice night for the band. The Strange Band. I may have mentioned them before. I grabbed a bunch of flyers off the floor, to see where I could get food on the way to the Leisure Centre, where we had an “arrangement” that we could use one of the rooms to practise.

    Mainly the flyers were for local Indian restaurants and takeaways. Fine by me. Huge fan.

    Well there’s “One Small Step For A Naan”, down by the station.

    “Poppadom Preach”. Further up the road but the wrong direction.

    “Tikka Chance On Me”. Possible.

    “Vindaloo Chile”. On Hendricks Road. Awesome.

    “Easy Raita”. A bike ride away.

    “Meet Me On The Korma”.

    “Stan, Stan, The Biryani Man”.

    “Dal M For Masala”. Near the Leisure Centre.

    “Chutney In Putney”. What??? An optimist from South London.

    “Mental For Lentil”. Sounded Veggie.

    “Tandoori Glory. Roti On Your Doorstep. Free Dosa Samosa.” Go on then. That’ll do me.

    1. Fabulous, Steve! Love all those punning takeaway names — though, if you were in Silver Town, so close to the river, there MUST be one called “Thames Bhajee”. 😉
      [ “Gaffe” is a blunder — literally! — “cos” is a lettuce and, in British English, “practice” is a noun; amended to “gaff”, “‘cos” and “practise”. You’re welcome! 😀 ]

      1. Many thanks, Geoff, much appreciated your help and yourThames Bhajee?? Inspired. Brilliant.

  3. 237 words

    There is no Planet B

    The starship Just Us was lost in the vast cosmos of the cosmos. The captain, Ivy Whipson, had no clue where they were, and was plotting a course for a nearby planet, termed ‘Planet A’. She wanted to hurt her first officer, but he had already fled to the isolation chamber that played pop music all day long.

    She wasn’t sure if he was just a masochist or actually liked Minty Spheres enough to listen to her music all day rather than deal with his irritated captain.

    “Oh, look, another dead rock. That’s, what, the third rock since we came across this sun? God, I’m bored.”

    “No, you are human,” the ship’s AI chimed in. “We seem to be out of cake.”

    “Don’t make me go through with that again, Shal! Ugh, where’s Planet B? There has to be one…”

    “There is no Planet B. This system only has one planet, Planet A.”

    “What? No, earlier scans indicated at least four planets. Where are B, C, and D?”

    “Well, they say the early bird catches the worm,” Shal said cheerfully, “maybe these planets got up early and caught that wormhole?”

    “What worm—oh cra—”

    On the bright side, where they ended up, they found a Planet B.

    It was full of Minty Spheres fans.

    “I. Hate. My. Life.” Ivy said while slamming her head against a Minty Spheres statue.

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  4. @billmelaterplea
    300 words

    A Street Cat Named Desiree

    I was often up on the roof of Bert’s Bistro. I liked it up there, especially in spring. A feline could stretch out on the asphalt roof, still warm from a fine warm day, and feel long, sleek and stunning. I’d sit on the edge, hang my head over and watch the action of the humans on the street below.

    Bert’s Bistro used to be Bert’s Diner, but Bert got ideas. Fancy ideas, I guess. The whole neighbourhood had been going to rat shit for years. The homeless were everywhere. And they all seemed to have dogs. Hungry, nasty dogs.

    I started spending more time topside. Bert and Bonnie had always been good to me. They’d leave food out for all the alley cats of course but I sensed they favoured me.

    Maybe I got too close. Too dependent. I would often hear Bert and Bonnie argue about their future. “We gotta invest in the business, Bert. We need a better class of clientele. People who don’t eat at diners.”

    Maybe it was a good idea. But it didn’t work. For one thing, the food in the Bistro got spicier. I coulda told them: “Cats don’t like spicy…”

    But they didn’t ask me. Anyways, the writings on the menu. The Bistro’s gone belly up. Bonnie’s already packed her bags. “This isn’t working, Bert,” I heard her say. “I’m gonna go stay with Sal.”

    Sal’s her sister. Lives in Seattle.

    Besides getting too close, I guess I got just a little too comfortable.

    It was time for me to move on, time to find another doorway, another street, another diner with good old-fashioned food that doesn’t burn your tongue.

    “Desiree,” I need to remind myself, “don’t get so damn content. Truth is, I have always depended on the catnip of strangers.”

    1. Great stuff, Bill — but I’m wondering why the bistro roof was warm asphalt and not hot tin. 😀
      The excruciating pun “…I have always depended on the catnip of strangers.” nearly made me Blanche!

      1. Copyright issues for Hot Tin, Geoff. And the pun was not one of my more stellar ones, I admit. I almost went with the “ketchup of strangers” though…

  5. 181 words


    Early in my attempts at being a writer, I set myself boundaries, past which I would not tread; the maxim I threaten here is: ‘nobody dies in my stories’.

    Marvo the magician, was the ‘go-to’ speciality act for any show. He was slick, risqué, funny and always working.

    He liked to work on cruise liners; he called those his ‘holiday jobs’.

    News reached planet Show Biz, that Marvo had drowned.

    Shock waves and creatively-embellished rumours spread through the grease-painted profession like plagiarism. There was drink, we drank and drunk people wept, memories were shared. Marvo was dead.

    And so he remained for quite some time.

    Until one day, a door swung open in a West London agent’s office.

    “Hallo, Louie.”

    “Who are you?” growled the agent.

    “It’s me! … Marvo.”

    “Marvo’s dead.”

    “Rumours of my death have been grossly exaggerated, to quote somebody who said it before,” replied the visitor.

    “You sound a bit like Marvo, but you’re thinner. He was pale, you’re tanned. He had black hair, yours is … green!!?

    OK, maybe sometimes … somebody dyes in my stories.

    1. Short but very sweet tale, Ted. The middle section was absolutely Marvo-less. 😀
      Loved ‘Shock waves and creatively-embellished rumours spread through the grease-painted profession like plagiarism.’
      [ When I saw ‘Maxim’ — ‘short for Maxim-gun, an automatic machine-gun invented by Hiram Maxim (1840-1916)’ — I thought we were in for a bloodbath. Thankfully, that was not the case, so I surmised you meant ‘maxim’ — ‘a general principle, serving as a rule or guide’ — and made an amendment. ]

  6. Twitter: @ArthurUnkTweets
    Website: https://arthurunk.com
    Pick Your Own Punning Title
    294 words

    Minstrel Cramps

    I was going on the tenth hour of singing and playing my lute. The king was mad, mad I tell you! I don’t care if he is a royal or not, a human being has limits. My voice had never sung for so long, and I had only one song left in my memory.

    “More! More!” He would shout out into the din of the night.

    It was my duty to comply. The five dead minstrel’s before me provided the proper motivation. I steeled my guts and began my final song, my death song.

    “O’er valleys green and pastures wide,
    Our hero valiant did make his ride.
    He rode all day, and rode all night,
    To warn the village of the awful fright.
    The Dragon! The Dragon! The Dragon!”

    My hands seized and cramped. I let an awful yelp escape my lips. The once clapping king stared at me with the fury of a thousand suns.

    “Off with his head!” came the angry command.

    At this point, I did not care. I collapsed in a heap on the floor and awaited the blissful sweet release of death.

    Death never found me. I awoke in a bed with the sun shining down. Strange sounds came from down the hall. Another victim of the king’s torturous whims I supposed. I adjusted myself in bed and sat up with an awful fright. Both my hands were wrapped in bandages, or rather the nubs at the ends of my arms were covered in bandages. To my chagrin, I found out later that the grand vizier had lopped off my hands in my weakened state and worked a magical spell to keep them playing the lute forever.

    And that, my dear boy, was the weirdest dream I ever had.

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    1. Great to see the “Bobby Ewing in the shower” plot device brought out of retirement, Arthur!
      It took me a while to grasp the pun in the title — but then I’ve never had the opportunity to ride a minstrel’s cycle. 😉
      [ I’m wondering if Valient is the name of the hero in the minstrel’s last song — or whether you intended the adjective ‘valiant’. Let me know if a tweak is required. ]

      1. Capital idea valient to valiant it is… Thank you very much. I’ve been having a series of one off’s lately. I hate how spell check lets me down because I didn’t turn it on.

  7. 296 words

    There is no Planet B

    ‘Right, we’re off now,’ Commander Bryson briskly set the shuttle in motion. His was a calm hand of control. The other crew members sat back, enjoying the ease with which the shuttle was propelled forward.

    ‘I love these pick-ups,’ asserted Lieutenant Rice. ‘You always receive such a generous welcome. You know what I mean?’ A wry smile spread across his handsome features.

    Of course they knew what he meant. He’d already had two warnings about his behaviour and everyone knew that further promotion was unlikely.

    Looking out of the shuttle’s window, Captain Fitzgerald enjoyed the view. It was only her second excursion with the Commander and she had been awake all night anticipating the journey. There was an eerie beauty to deep space. Her mind wandered as fragments of memory surfaced. Her mother’s cool and soothing hand on her fevered forehead. She must have been only five years old. The irony was that she had recovered only to lose her mother from the burning illness that had taken so many earth dwellers almost another lifetime ago.

    ‘What’s going on? This isn’t right!’ bellowed the Commander. His usual sangfroid had melted. “Check the co-ordinates, Lisa.’

    Captain Fitzgerald knew there was something wrong when he used her first name! ‘The co-ordinates are fine,’ she replied, a slight tremble in her voice.

    ‘You’re not going to believe this but there is no Planet B,’ he stated, the whites of his knuckles visible as his hands manipulated the controls.

    Even Lieutenant Rice had lost his smile. ‘A planet can’t just disappear, especially with the Intergalactic Earth Women’s Basketball team on it. That’s the last game they’ll ever play.’

    He continued, resurrecting a smile. ‘Some people will stop at nothing to win at sport. I bet it’s the Roothians – they always cheat!’

  8. 259 words

    There Is No Planet B

    Space, vast, infinite space. We had come out of warp near the Orion system and were starting to trek through the local spaceways in search of asteroids bearing rare ores when we ran into trouble. All of our navigation systems went down at once, leaving us lost in space.

    I called out over the comm system for help, ‘Technicians to navigation, stat.’ A team of techies surged onto the bridge and started analysing the problem.

    In the meantime, I scanned our immediate environment, using hand-held instruments. There was something out there! It came from outer space. It was alien. I’d never seen anything like it before. It was a fiend with a thousand faces floating in space. We had to get away.

    Time stood still as I tried to figure out what to do. In space no one can hear you scream, unless of course they’re on the bridge with you. But then again, no one expects to get lost in the twenty-third century, especially when you’re twenty-thousand light years from home. What do you do when all is lost and your original plan has failed? Why, you search for another plan of course.

    Addressing my first officer, I said, ‘We have to get out of this place, but with no navigation, we’ll be flying blind. It’s time to resort to Plan B for outer space.’ The first officer directed the helmsman to set a course for the planet Beta Orionis itself.

    I remonstrated with her, ‘Damn it, Janet! I said Plan B, not planet B!’

  9. 100 words

    There is No Planet B

    For one year our radio telescopes picked up broadcasts transmitted from another world. A world 4.3 light years away. Our linguists deciphered their language. And our scientists found a way of getting us there. My partner and I trained extensively for the twenty-year mission. We were ready to go.

    After arriving and orbiting the planet, debris struck and damaged our ship. Descending, we crash-landed in a desert.

    In and out of consciousness, I heard a cacophony of machinery and voices. And one loud voice, saying, “Clean this up, leave nothing and take these two to Area 51!”

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  10. 299 words


    “Abracadaver! Get it?” The young medical student rolled his eyes heavenward. ‘Silly old folks,’ he thought as he took the envelope stuffed with cash from his pocket. He handed it over to the stooped, little, old man. He wouldn’t complain though. This was the best service he’d ever gotten from a mortician before. It was so hard to find cadavers to practice on, but these came for a reasonable price and every time he’d asked, he’d gotten one. The others would be thrilled.

    It was just a pity that Jane couldn’t be here. He’d wondered what had happened to her. The varsity was big on making up stories about serial killers and setting curfews. The students knew better. It was just another way for the ‘Up there’s’ to control the ‘down here’s’. There was no way a serial killer would go for Jane anyway. She was too noisy. He chuckled as he thought this. Besides, she’d sent him an email just last night saying she’d been partying too much and her parents wanted her to do a three-week stint in rehab. She’d be back soon, she’d said. Jack couldn’t wait. He had a bit of a thing for her.

    “Well, did you get it?” Harry asked when Jack walked into the lab.

    “Yup!” he called out as he pulled the gurney into the room. “Fresh as can be!” he quipped.

    The others oohed and aahed as they gathered around. They had all, after all, contributed to this specimen. Jack unzipped the body bag. It was the slender legs that gave him a start. His heart started hammering in his chest, but he wasn’t sure why. His hands felt clammy as he continued unzipping, and time stood still.

    Jane’s face, cold and still, stared back at him. He threw up.

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  11. 299 Words

    A Street Cat Named Desirée

    I wove my way through the crowds, making my way through the bustling city. The Empire State Building loomed above. A cat dashed onto the sidewalk, looking at me with blood red eyes staring into mine. Its body was much larger than the average cat. It must have weighed at least fifty pounds. It turned and ran away, its tail sticking straight into the air. I hesitated for a moment before taking off after it. It wove in between people. A sudden crowd enveloped it, and by the time I had found it, the cat had disappeared. A tiny black tail vanished behind a corner. I chased it and turned the corner. The cat was retreating down an alley. I caught up with it as it jumped onto a dumpster and began licking itself. I stared at it, and it stared back.
    “Thanks for invading my personal space,” said the cat. It talked. A cat just talked to me.
    “Um, c-can you talk?” I asked.
    “No,” it said, a hint of sarcasm in its voice. “So tell me, why did you follow me?”
    “I don’t know. I’ve just never seen a cat like you, and you don’t look like any cat I’ve ever seen.”
    “Well you’re the first human I’ve ever talked to besides my owner, and she told me to tell you a secret.”
    “Me? Why?”
    “She told me yesterday, I don’t know why.”
    “Ok, what is it?”
    “This world will cease to exist within the year.”
    “How does she know?”
    “She sees… things. She’s not like you.”
    A noise startled me. A man began walking down the alley towards me. The cat ducked away and into the dumpster. I ran the other way and out of the alley, not daring to stop until I made it home.

  12. The hilarious thing about this is: I’m French… I kinda turned things around in this story… ^^;
    Also, I wrote without knowing what the word count was, and had to take out words, because it was… Over 700 words long!! Which was VERY hard…

    299 words

    There is no Planet B

    “There is no ‘Planet B’.”
    Sef glanced at How.
    “It isn’t there. Maybe the file has been deleted.”
    Sef knew how much his friend wanted him to forget it all, but there was no way the world was this simple. He stared at the darkness outside the station, which was headed back to Planet G. Back to doom.
    Planet G. The sixth planet Soes had inhabited. It was now ruined, just like Planet F had been, and Planet E before that. The worst had been Planet A, where Soes were born. It was nothing but ashes now. Then, there was Planet B…
    “It has to be out there…” said Sef. “How can it not exist?” He glanced desperately at his friend.
    How, for once — and to his utter surprise! — bore a look of defeat.
    “Look, I’ll tell you. But it doesn’t prove anything!” he warned.
    Sef nodded. He had long guessed his friend had gotten some info. How sighed.
    “From what I’ve been told — please be quiet about it — it was discovered when Planet A started falling apart. It had good living conditions — the right distance to a star, light, water… Everybody agreed it was the perfect place to save our thriving civilization. But then… There was… on that planet… a species.”
    “Wasn’t a peaceful relationship possible?”
    “Oh, that wasn’t the problem. These… people?… were messing up their planet.”
    “We did the same!”
    “But at a much slower rate! Their planet wouldn’t have lasted very long. So it was declared “uninhabitable”. But he projects had gone so far it–”
    “But it could be a solution! Finally, we could forget Planet G–”
    “No! I told you. It’s not a possibility. Forget it. Nobody will work with you — and certainly not I.”

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  13. Twitter: @KateGiffin
    298 words


    Body snatching wasn’t easy, but somebody had to do it.

    That was the arrangement that had been made, after all: bodies, in return for all the secrets of the universe. At least, the secrets that would make Edinburgh great.

    Most gratefully accepted the new advancements with glee, offering arms for injections and swallowing pills by the handful. Few dared to think about the how and why behind this higher quality of life. Those who did fell into two camps, considering the technology either black magic or divine intervention. Will, the official bodysnatcher, was the only one who knew the truth, and he refused to talk. But no matter the means, it was working. Everyone was living longer.

    This was making Will’s job more difficult. In the past, it had been easy to find a shallow grave each night. Even the steel traps over graves became minor annoyances after his employers offered up a strangely powerful glowing saw. Now though… there were no graves to be found in the city, and Will had a decision to make.

    He paced the darkened street, weighing his options. Perhaps his employers would understand. A lack of bodies was a good thing, right? Still, the slight glow of a pub around the corner beckoned. It was sure to be full of infidels and drunkards that no one would miss. Will shivered at the thought.

    Before returning to the lab, Will nabbed some whisky from the pub, simple as pulling a cadaver from a coffin. So when he sauntered into the stark white room, his voice was brash and his argument poorly developed.

    “No stiffs tonight!” he yelled.

    Will’s employers weren’t phased. Their six arms pulsed blue as they swarmed the body snatcher, just as satisfied with a warm body as a cold one.

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  14. Insta: @beckham.lawre
    Twitter: @BeckhamLawre

    300 words

    —-There Is No Planet B—-

    “Hmm, well, that sucks.”
    We watch the floating bits of what could have been a planet drift through space sleepily. There’s a loud *thunk* as one of the chunks hits the top of the observatory and bounces lazily off.
    “Well darn. You reckon we should report this?” the intern, my only surviving coworker asks through a mouthful of popcorn.
    Motion to my right draws my gaze away from the debris. “No need.” I answer, and accept the call from the ship that has just parked beside us. An image of the president pops up, and even though the hologram doesn’t offer any color detail, I can tell his face is bright red.
    “Please don’t tell me this is what I think it is,” he half-growls half-pleads.
    “Nope, you’re looking at her. Alpha Domum. She’s gone.”
    The president curses so profusely the hologram vibrates with every word. He even takes off his hat and throws it, then buries his balding face in his hands. After a while he wails, “what now?! We can’t stay on this blasted ship for eternity! We need a home, a planet where we can thrive. We can’t just live out our days on these ships! Come on, you’re the experts! Where do we go now?!”
    “Well,” I murmur as I grab a handful of popcorn from the intern and stuff it in my mouth thoughtfully, “we don’t exactly have a plan B.”
    “You mean a planet B.” the intern corrects, and we both laugh dryly.
    The president is’nt amused. “You’re fired. Both of you. Get out of here.”
    “Alright we’ll just pack our things and walk home then.” the intern jokes.
    “Sir, you’ve fired us 28 times,” I point out, close the hologram before he can respond, and turn to the intern.
    “Up for some chess?”

  15. Thanks for your entry, Beckham.
    Unfortunately, it was submitted almost 24 hours after the deadline – Microcosms Contests run for 24 hours on **FRIDAY** (New York time) every week.
    Better luck next time.

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