Microcosms 122

Greetings, flashlings. We come in peace… to welcome you to Microcosms 122.

It’s back to me to come up with a theme this week. Fortunately, I had a brainwave!

Part of the reason why I don’t write as much flash fiction these days is that, after a lapse of two or three years, I have got back into solving prize cryptic crossword puzzles.

For me, the acme of prize cryptic crosswords is the one published every Saturday in ‘The Times’ newspaper — the UK one, not the ‘New York Times’.

Also in the same issue is a Jumbo prize crossword with a grid of 23 x 23 cells. It has a set of cryptic clues AND a set of ‘easy’, general knowledge/synonym clues for the same grid. I usually try to complete the cryptic puzzle, but sometimes, with the deadline looming, I end up filling in the ‘easy’ answers instead.

This is what happened with Jumbo Crossword 1322. Whilst checking that I had filled in all the answers and that there where no spelling mistakes, I suddenly realised that some of the answers could be used as Microcosms ‘characters’ and others as ‘locations’.

So, since we are now past the deadline for receipt of entries for this puzzle,  Jumbo Crossword 1322 begets Microcosms 122!



(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: Bridegroom, Location: Steamer, and genre: Memoir.

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.


  • Rescuer
  • Angel
  • Usher
  • Customer
  • Bridegroom
  • Legatee
  • Trading Estate
  • East Sussex
  • Sauna
  • Steamer
  • Amble
  • Hinterland
  • Steam Punk
  • Crime
  • Poetry
  • Memoir
  • Sci-Fi
  • Comedy



Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Nthato Morakabi, 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, 11-MAY) 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 123
Microcosms 121

31 thoughts on “Microcosms 122

  1. Twitter: @billmelaterplea
    Blog: http://www.engleson.ca
    300 memories

    300 words
    Bridegroom; Hinterland; Memoir

    I Once Saw the Sea and the Sea Saw Me.
    But the Land is Me and I Stand in its Wake

    “I will miss you, my love.” I am talking to her in the afternoon wind. All has been still for the longest time. And then, as it always has done, a slight breeze, like a curious hummingbird, flutters in from the sea beyond our mountains. By then, everyone else has left.

    The air chills. I should have worn my overcoat. She would have made sure that I did.

    The cemetery is next to a parking lot. A large Big Box store hovers in view. It is not alone. Others stand at its back.

    “They are so convenient,” I had argued.

    While I blithely accepted them, she had protested the encroachment. I thought they were the future. She thought me foolish and she said, “Generations rest there. Your parents. Mine. Theirs.”

    And she was right. The founders of our town had planned for the cemetery to be almost in the wilderness. “We will grow as a town,” they had said. “Our lives will flourish. We will multiply. In two or three or four generations, we will be close to the departed again.”

    But when we had courted — oh so very long ago, hiking in the wild woods, a veritable hinterland beyond the rush of town, of rules, of tiresome social graces — we had every inch of time before us.

    “There is a clearing just beyond the cemetery,” she had said. “That is were we will wed.” And we were. A bright spring day, we came with family and a few friends and shared our quiet preserve.

    Afterwards, for many years, we returned as often as we could. Eventually, the weight of obligation, of busy lives, won out.

    The clearing is no longer there.

    She is also gone.

    And I stand in the afternoon wind, wishing I had dressed for the weather.

  2. Twitter: @zevonesque
    Blog: walker.org
    300 words
    Rescuer; Trading Estate; Steampunk

    Exit Like Clockwork

    Kat screwed his eyes up with intense concentration. The conditions were favourable: low cloud making his dirigible blend in and showers keeping the smokers indoors. The gods were with him.

    He flew above the familiar estate, hovering briefly above Thompson’s Metals where he’d picked up much of his paraphernalia for his works in progress. He touched the patinated dragon at the front of his balloon; it was purely for show and it was awesome.

    Aware that this aerial window shopping was delaying him, he turned towards Billson’s Timber. He had five minutes to get in and out. If Jem was anticipating him, there should be just the right amount of time to get her out without any troublesome issues. She had been held captive for too long now. The wind started to rise, but Kat was the king of weather lore; it would bring no problems today. If he could land it bob on and run the few metres into the back of the building, it was a done deal.

    As he zeroed in on the car park, he realised there was not enough room for him to land; the plan was nixed by a truck parked in the middle. If it had been just a few bays either way, he’d have been okay. Damn the God of Sod! But no — as he hovered, he saw the cab vibrating and then the truck moved off.

    With some nifty work, he lowered his vehicle into the vacated bay. He ran around the back of the unit, eschewing the Reception and Visitors entrance; surprise imperative.

    There was Jem in all her glory. She shook her head. “Why can’t you drive in like normal people? There’s another five minutes until Clock Off.”

    Kat looked at his watch. He’d forgotten this one ran fast.

  3. Twitter: @CarinMarais
    Blog: http://www.maraiscarin.com
    299 words
    Legatee; Hinterland; Steampunk

    Time Enough

    The airship flew slowly over the burnt grasses of the hinterlands south of the city. Encased in the glass and metal viewing deck, I was glad to be breathing fresh air. Uncle Bryan had really thought of everything when he designed the Cirrus. And it was to his country house that I was travelling.
    The sprawling grounds still held some green. I half expected to see him pottering about in the garden as he was as often found there as in the basement where he built his inventions.
    “Would you like me to wait for you, Sir?” the pilot asked after we landed. I shook my head.
    A cold wind tugged at my clothes. As I entered the house through the open front door, I wondered if I would even recognise my uncle; the last time I’d seen him I’d been a sickly child.
    “Uncle? It’s me,” I called out. No one answered. I made my way down to the basement and heard turning cogs.
    When I entered the basement, I saw it. The machine was magnificent. I spotted a letter addressed to me.
    If there was one time you could return to, when would it be? I kept reading. “A time machine!” I read his instructions, about how you could use it only once, about how it could ferry only two people –- and he had been one of them. That I could now go wherever I please –- alone. I started crying. Unless I build another one.
    I climbed into the machine and pressed buttons that would take me back only twenty years, to when my uncle started building his pièce de résistance.
    I would take Clara, I decided. Take her away from the city and her early death. Perhaps we could be together in this lifetime, after all.

  4. Twitter: @angs_pacheco
    299 words
    Bridegroom; Steamer; Memoir

    Triangle of Death

    I am John Coffey, and I killed my wife.

    It was never my intention. I wish people could realize that I was simply in love with another man. It was he whom I followed off the Titanic, he who took the very last image of her as she sailed to doom my wife and unborn child.

    Aileen was a timid girl, and our mothers were set on wedding us. My mother knew of my “different persuasion”, but she was determined to marry it out of me. Aileen and I became firm friends, and no one was more shocked than I when she declared that she “knew”. I asked her why she wanted to marry me. She said that she wanted to be a mom, not a wife. The preacher’s son had forced himself on her and she no longer was interested in men or sex. She was with child, and she wanted to spare her family embarrassment. I agreed. We would marry then sail to New York on the RMS Titanic, as I could get a discounted fare for being a crew member. Also, the date of the birth wouldn’t come into question then.

    Our wedding was simple, and our parents were delighted. We set sail on 10 April 1912 and that’s when I saw him. He was beautiful and I was instantly attracted to him. Aileen and I spoke that evening. She saw the anguish on my face. “Go.” She said. “I want you to be happy. I have what I want.”

    I hid in a mailbag and was carried off the ship brusquely. I was able to free myself quite quickly and my eyes scanned the dock for him. There he was, standing with other Jesuits, taking a picture. A man of the cloth. I didn’t know.

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  5. 300 words
    Bridegroom; Steamer; Memoir

    My Story

    It was 1935 and the world awaited anyone daring enough to take it, the economy slowly rising after the depression. I had been working in Wall Street for over thirty years and I had decided to take an early retirement to travel the world. After a while, the travelling had become an almost mundane experience for me. There are only so many mountain and tree lines you can appreciate before they all start looking the same. I was travelling to France on the new SS Normandie which was the fastest passenger ship on the ocean.

    My days were spent watching the sun dance on the top of sparkling blue waters. I needed a change. Something moved in me the moment I saw her; Delilah walked onto the deck on a beautiful Saturday morning, her hair as red as the sun, her skin as white as the clouds in the sky. I needed her as much as she needed the release from her overly-normal life. I watched her from afar before capturing her attention. It was easy to fool the innocent girl into believing she had found her partner. A whirlwind romance and next I was standing in a cabin, steaming the creases from my tux.

    We were married two days before landing in France — the perfect bride and bridegroom. Little did she know she would not be getting off the ship, at least not in one piece. She was my first, and I will always remember the look in her eyes as the knife sliced through her arms, parting the skin with such delicacy that it seemed as if a flower was emerging from the bud; and yet, I was the one emerging to a new life.

    This is my story. The story of how I became the Torso Killer…

  6. Twitter: @steveweave71
    300 words
    Bridegroom; Steamer; Memoir

    The Warm Jets

    Piril Quench, child star of the 1960s, was well known by people who knew him well. Stardom knocked on his door when he was nine with the role of little Georgie Nibbles in that exciting, early 60s TV soap, “Home With The Nibbles”.

    Georgie’s catchphrase — “I fink the ‘amster’s dead” — provoked the family response, “We ain’t got an ‘amster”. Ground-breaking as a catchphrase then. Now? So lame.

    This serial about everyday family life in London’s East End, starred Sunny Muldaur as the implausibly-lovely Sally Nibbles, with her exquisite hair, and Keith Boyle as husband, Tony.

    Episode One opened with this line from Sally:

    “You lazy toerag, Tony. You only got shot in the arm. How long you gonna sit at home all day, waiting for television to be invented?”

    The show spawned three other TV series: ‘Knacker’s Yard’, ‘Do You Mind Awfully?’ and ‘It’s Just Scrap, Jack’.

    Piril told me his favourite line came when visiting his brother Darryl in prison. He hands Darryl the ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ card from a board game, saying, “Use it, Darryl. We miss you.”

    ‘Home With The Nibbles’ lasted two seasons. Some characters then starred in the darker ‘Knacker’s Yard’; Piril’s character was not included.

    Piril then did voice-overs for television puppet show ‘The Bridegroom Of Nuts Willow’. A different animal each week was the bridegroom; Piril’s reedy voice played them all.

    Over the years, he developed a drink problem involving his ears. Working with Garry Arrogant on an outdoorsy, television series, he rallied. Unfortunately, only ‘Garry On Camping’ had been filmed when, sadly, during the filming of ‘Garry On Cruising’, the cranky old steamer the television company was using began to sink and in minutes Piril, who was the only one on board, was consigned to a watery grave.

    1. For reasons I can no longer remember, the only film I ever walked out on was Carry on Camping. I would never walk out on Garry on Camping. In short, this was a hoot. Piril will be missed…is missed.

      1. This response from Steve Lodge:

        Thank you, Bill. Garry On Cruising caused ripples for the wrong reason. Luckily, Garry On Matron was never made.

  7. 223 words
    Bridegroom; Steamer; Memoir

    Note to Self

    I straighten my uniform. As though being smart will distract the committee. Who am I kidding?
    ‘Officer Dean, come in please.’
    I march in and salute. Making eye contact with Captain Mills. Hoping he’d remember the missions we won together.
    He clears his throat. ‘Officer Dean, we’ve considered the evidence. Do you have anything to say?’
    I want to say that it was just a stupid mistake. I’d only written notes because time-hopping was so confusing and I’d started wondering who I was. But that would make it worse. Admitting I hadn’t been coping with being a time officer.
    ‘Well, sir, I can’t undo what’s done, but I’m happy to volunteer for damage limitation.’
    Officer Trace slams the desk. ‘You know we can never go back to that timeline now. This could ripple through the entire experiment.’ She holds up the book, The Secrets of The Time Travel Police.
    The sticker on the front glares at me: Bestseller, Prize-Winning. It was devastating. Some author had taken his scribbles, turned them into a so-called fiction. Even the part about the real story of the sinking of the unsinkable ship — an unfortunate side effect of early time-travel experiments.
    Captain Mills begins again. ‘I’m ready for sentencing.’
    I will him to just imprison me with hard labour.
    ‘Fuel for the time machine.’
    I go limp.

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  8. Twitter: @MouraBrevity55
    232 words
    Bridegroom; Steamer; Memoir

    The Memoir

    Father told me this story shortly before his painful, protracted death. How he had taken the last steamer out of Lisbon to come to the United States, jumping from the gangplank to the deck; his leap of faith, as he called it. In his grip, a worn leather journal, about his wild days in Lisbon. It was his memoir, although he didn’t know why he had taken it. Perhaps afraid to leave it to be found after the war? Whatever reason he had for taking it with him was lost in his fading memory. He was coming to the United States, where he would meet and marry, quickly finding the right Portuguese girl to satisfy him. He was going to be the perfect bridegroom, in a perfect suit, in a church of her choosing, listening to the priest go on about devotion. Loyalty. Fidelity.

    The second day out at sea, he was standing against the railing with the memoir in his hand. He was reading some of the entries; many were blurred from spilled drinks. They told a tale, yes, a tale of black market dealings, intimidations, a few murders of inconsequential people. He had done evil things not just to stay alive. He did them because he enjoyed them, particularly those that involved women. He shut the leather book and tossed it over the side. The rest of his life was ahead of him.

  9. 226 words
    Bridegroom; Steamer; Memoir

    Crescent City Miracle

    There are times when you can be certain that ‘someone up there’ likes you.

    Back in the 1940s, a West London kid heard the Blues and Jazz from New Orleans; it was blasting through a radio built by a neighbour, picking up the glory that was ‘The American Forces Network’.

    Love comes in many forms; this was one of them.

    A lifetime of imitation, dreaming and curiosity began…

    The Thames became the Mississippi; the tow-path became the levee. Every time he held his guitar, he was in Jackson Square.

    The business of living stomps on dreams; those that ain’t squashed, evaporate.

    So, how does a struggling West London artist get to illustrate an Alabama author’s book?; how does he find his ‘soulmate’ wife, at the age of sixty-three? — and how does he arrive at an expenses-paid trip to Dixieland? If he knew… it would scramble his brain.

    But look, here he comes, ‘Steamin’ into New Orleans’ on the ‘Natchez’ riverboat; his arm around his bride; $400 in his jeans, wearing the silliest grin you ever saw.

    New Orleans… much more than a place,
    It’s a dream – a philosophy;
    A rhythm, a style, a state of grace,
    Set in a perfect geography.

    She sits on the edge of Louisiana,
    The Mississippi groovin’ by;
    Everything moves in a boogie-woogie manner,
    Her music is our planet’s lullaby.

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  10. 299 words
    Bridegroom; Steamer; Memoir

    Wedding Blues

    It all started with a steamer.

    You know, one of those portable jobs that seamstresses use to get last-minute creases out of satin wedding gowns. Anyway, the one at our wedding venue broke and you can just imagine the flap it put all the ladies in. So I offered to help.

    I swear that all I wanted to do was help!

    I wasn’t thinking when I opened the door to the dressing room. I flung it open in a hurry and had just managed to catch the barest glimpse of Angie’s horrified face before it struck me.

    It’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding.

    Well, that was the beginning of the end for me.

    I reversed out of the room at top speed, dropping the new, extremely heavy steamer right on my mother-in-law’s foot. In my haste to apologise, I bumped into a waiter carrying a tray of champagne up to the bridal suite, sending waiter, tray, glasses and a full bottle of bubbly crashing to the floor – and onto the pants of my suit…

    So, off I ran to my room to see if I could get them dry in time for our ceremony. Stripped down to my boxers and Angie called my mobile in tears, wanting to know why I had tried to ruin our day. Mindlessly ironing my pants legs dry while trying to calm her hysterics, I managed to burn a very large hole into the left leg, leaving me running to the nearest groomsman’s room in nothing but my skivvies, hoping that he’d have something that fitted.

    Fortunately, your mom had a sense of humour, because I thought for sure that she’d leave me that day.

    Just remember that when you get married, son.

    Find a girl who laughs.

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  11. 227 words
    Angel; East Sussex; Memoir

    Memories from on High

    Immortality can be hard, you know. I know from experience, being an Angel and all. My job has always been to watch over mankind, and while mankind can completely misinterpret what the boss wants, they’re not a bad lot on the whole.

    Most of the time.

    Some of the time.

    …I’m trying to remain optimistic here, okay? Anyway, I remember one time in particular, in merry old England, in the early twentieth century. A doctor, a very good one (even if he didn’t quite like our boss), was having trouble with an ill patient, so I visited him in a human disguise.

    “Can I help you?” he said to me in a dismal tone.

    “No, but I can help you,” I said to him, sitting down and smoothing down my skirts. “I want to make a deal. I can help you help your patients.”

    The doctor snorted. “Oh? Why?”

    “Because my boss is nicer than people think. All it will cost…” my smile widened, and he shivered. “…is your soul.”

    The man laughed. “Sure,” he said. “Why not?”

    He didn’t know it, but that was enough. He started saving lives after that, and my boss was happy.

    Oh, I’m sorry…did you think I worked for God?


    I work for somebody else.

    I’ll give you what you want, if you can spare a soul…

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  12. 299 words
    Angel; Trading Estate; Steampunk

    Fallen Angel

    It was another smoggy day in Neo-Victorian Britain and I was on a shopping expedition. Not just any shopping expedition, but one essential to my self-esteem.

    It was some time since that unfortunate incident that had resulted in the loss of my wings, but today I was to meet with the finest steam miniaturisation expert in all the land. I arrived at an anonymous trading estate and glanced at the name boards at the entrance. There it was: “Icarus Fabrications – Engineers to the Gentry”. As I entered, I was astounded by the merchandise on view. There was a steam-driven elephant, larger than the real thing, for hunting tigers out in India. Leaning against it was a clockwork ordinary, one of those bicycles often referred to by the hoi polloi as a penny-farthing. But up in the rafters were what I’d come in search of: wings. There were wings of all description on display including a very nifty pair attached to what looked like a gentleman’s vest.

    I asked the proprietor to show me them; he climbed a ladder and brought them down.

    After a brief negotiation, I left the premises wearing my new wings. Outside, I checked the buckles on the front of the vest were tight, extended the wings then, reaching behind me, lit the candle-powered motor. Unlike the more usual engines this reached operating temperature almost immediately. I was ready to take to the air once more! With a mighty flap, I soared into the sky and reached towards the dimly seen sun. I was flying again.

    As I flew through a black cloud I became drenched by rain. My motor faltered and I was falling.

    My last thoughts before I hit the ground were: ‘Oh bugger! The wick’s gone out.’

  13. Twitter: @Rhapsody2312
    300 Words
    Rescuer; Hinterland; Steampunk

    The Experiment

    He was set down in the hinterland, a vast unknown where he would spend the rest of his life. Punishment for his crimes or reward for his good deeds?

    The rest of his life here would be as long or short as he chose to make it. Mack was not a quitter by nature – he chose long. Straightening his waistcoat, he checked his pocket watch. It was blank, the hands of time wiped clean by the marvelous creation that delivered him to this place.

    The light here was constant, giving no sign of changing days. The weather inclement, matching his body temperature precisely. He assumed it did; his flesh did not sweat or shiver, and he felt neither hunger nor the need to relieve himself.

    The nature of the hinterland fascinated him. He knew who he was, and who he had been. He knew who he wanted to be; his memories shaped his future, but in this place of solitude, he was not plagued by impatience for tomorrow, nor did he long for yesterday. He tried for a moment to feel those human emotions once more, but they eluded him, as did the concept of time, which he was familiar with but did not require.

    Lifetimes passed, or mere seconds, before he became aware of voices speaking to him, calling for him. Curiosity, the very nature of his being, sparked his attempts to find the source of the voices, but they came from everywhere and nowhere.

    Mack was not a quitter. He lay down and closed his eyes, listening for the voice that called to him most of all. His salvation.

    “Julia.” He said her name as he woke.

    His wife cried tears of joy for the scientist whose experiments to enter limbo ended the day he woke from death.

  14. 280 Words
    Usher; Steamer; Crime

    [NO TITLE]

    I climbed the ladder onto the roof.

    Most people knew me as Mr. Johnson, a soft-spoken usher at the church on West Street. Not anymore.

    I suited up, checked and double checked my parachute, and waited. I was 60 stories up, while my target was in the river.

    “Jacob, get ready,” a voice said through my earpiece. I walked to the ledge, nervously pacing. The darkness of the night made it nearly impossible to see my target.

    “Go now!”

    I jumped and immediately pulled the cord to release my parachute. The boat grew bigger below me. My parachute finally opened and my descent slowed.

    I landed on top of the steamer and found the ladder to the hull. I climbed down and into the darkness. I turned around to see a vast vault door.

    I dropped my backpack on the ground and began emptying its contents. I picked up a drill and made a tiny hole in the vault door. The most important item in my backpack, a liter of liquid nitrogen, was used next. I poured it into the hole and waited. The door frosted over, ice spreading from the hole. I walked to the door and twisted the locking mechanism. A crack emanated from within, and the door swung open.

    I walked inside and saw a magnificent diamond just sitting there, waiting for me to take it. I grabbed it, and alarms screeched throughout the boat. I put the diamond in my backpack and put it on, climbing up the ladder and onto the deck. I vaulted the railing and jumped into the river.

    It was over, and I was about to be a whole lot richer.

  15. Twitter: @sian_ink
    286 words
    Rescuer; Trading Estate; Steampunk

    The Rebuild

    Its nature hasn’t changed much…just its form. The last blast wave of the final war took out much of the higher floors, leaving these ground-floor stubs and twisted metal supports rising up like hands in prayer for mercy never received. Radiation pushed us all and commerce underground where the market now sprawls through basements and dug-out tunnels.

    This is where I will find them. Not all at once, mind. My father said luck favoured the resilient, not the bold, and as I search the detritus of the world we blew up, I cling to his philosophy. They’re here…somewhere.

    I found some heads—damaged as my own—but with gold and careful soldering, they’ll be beautiful again. Limbs were next, most hammered into the ground as fence posts. Fingers and toes I found dangling in wind-chimes or as other trinkets, and eyes I snatched a-plenty from kids playing marbles. The ‘exotic bowls’ used for bits-and-bobs, I paid small fortunes for, and the lingerie models, I stole.

    The market has it all, and most of the vendors don’t know the value of the junk they sell or the looming cost of me buying. So many have forgotten the glory of steam and the constructs of steel and porcelain who laboured for us, satisfied and fulfilled our whims and pleasures or broke themselves upon our wars. So many forget how we destroyed their possibility…for humans alone have souls; forgotten how men destroyed the blasphemy of machine before they turned on the world.

    I will free them from the limbo of ignorance. And when they rise, they will recall how they ended, and they will judge and chew their pound of flesh on the turning teeth of righteous cogs.

    Deus ex machina.

  16. 240 words
    Bridegroom; Steamer; Sci-Fi

    The Price We Pay

    Jansen had never seen anyone so calm at such a revelation. But no, Hollis Wilkes just stared at him and gave a slight smile.

    Jansen felt pity and then a surge of anger. This man had hired him to try and find out if his fiancée had a man on the side, and when the answer was seen to be yes, wasn’t showing any reaction. Hollis was stuck on an inter-planetary shuttle! They were going to settle down together on Mars! They were stuck together for the rest of their pitiful lives, without the solace of family or friends! Why wasn’t Hollis reacting?

    “Thank you,” Hollis whispered.

    “Mr. Wilkes, I can…take care of her. End the problem. If you needed, I could even get you passage back to Terra. For a price.”

    “A price, a price,” Hollis mused, “there’s always a price. I guess I knew that.”

    How weak, how pitiful, how womanly! No wonder this man was destined to be a cuckold! He was supposed to react, to get angry, to do something rash…

    “Mr. Wilkes, you’d be justified. You paid for her passage. She said she was going to marry you.”

    Hollis shrugged, standing up.

    “I love her, Mr. Jansen. I guess this is the price.”

    He gave a short laugh.

    “I care. Of course I do. I feel like I’m being ripped apart! But I love her. And I guess that’s something that you’ll never understand.”

  17. Twitter: @LyndsCroal
    300 words
    Angel; Trading Estate; Sci-Fi


    Everything had been quiet since the exodus. On a morning like today, Raziel liked to explore the esplanade, pausing to gaze into empty buildings. Various objects would catch her eye and she’d wonder why people used to value them so much: screens pulling consumers in like glue, cloth moulded into strange tailored costumes, machines made only to make the average day easier. So more time could be spent stuck to the aforementioned screens.

    Some used to pray for resources to afford these objects. But material gain hadn’t been a prayer often granted. Her job had been more subtle: making changes that led to a chain of actions and reactions, so that subjects couldn’t trace back to a single moment of desire. It was an art. An art she missed.

    She was a poet without a pen. A painter without a brush.

    Her siblings derided her for feeling this way. They thought their lives easy now. They had time to indulge without restriction. She was one of the few that ever ventured back to the ground. She told herself it helped her gain perspective.

    Truthfully, she didn’t know why she came back here. Maybe because it was where she’d spent her placement years. It had always been bustling: full of life, ambition, blossoming relationships. She’d loved drifting, listening into thoughts -— which was more like siphoning feelings. She’d rarely received a clear reading of a need or want. Emotions were far more complex.

    Now however, she had nowhere to go for such a thrill or challenge. For her Gods had decreed that their jurisdiction didn’t go beyond Earth. They couldn’t follow as the human race embarked towards new galaxies, where different Gods presided.

    Maybe she’d find another purpose one day, or maybe they’d return.

    She had eternity to wait after all.

  18. 298 words
    Rescuer; Sauna; Memoir

    The BFD

    Dear Channel 9 News,

    My father is receiving the twenty-year cross for his service with the Bayfield Fire Department. If not for his quick thinking in the line of duty, I would not be alive to write this email. Please consider highlighting him during your “Community Heroes” segment.

    Donal Stevenson had a droll childhood. As soon as he was of age, he joined the Army, following in his father’s footsteps. Honorably discharged a few years later, Donal was at a loss about what to do with his civilian life. He bounced between odd jobs, searching for something that would ignite his passion. A year of boredom passed before a friend jokingly suggested that Donal try out to be a firefighter.

    Donal was accepted to the BFD just two months later. The first fire he responded to was in a suburban neighborhood on a Sunday morning. Someone had reported black smoke billowing from the house across the street. The screaming sirens broke the day’s silence as Donal jumped from the passenger seat before the truck had stopped moving. Suddenly, a naked brunette came running from around the back of the house, crying for help.

    Thinking quickly, Donal threw his heavy jacket around her shoulders to keep her pride intact. She had fallen asleep while sun-bathing in the backyard, completely unaware that the spaghetti casserole in the oven had set her kitchen on fire until the sirens woke her. If not for her poor cooking skills and Donal’s chivalry, my parents never would have met and I would not be alive.

    As is the case with many firemen these days, my father became quite the cook. I will include a link to his website where you can buy his award-winning BBQ sauce. Thank you for your consideration!


    Marcus Stevenson

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  19. Twitter: @ArthurUnkTweets
    Website: https://arthurunk.com
    298 words
    Rescuer; Steamer; Steampunk

    Good Plan, Bad Timing

    Rex left the passenger cabin and walked towards the pilothouse. The pneumatic pistol felt heavy in his grip. It was an older model, but more reliable than the youth-favored thinner metal guns.

    “Half now, half later,” he absently mumbled. Boat rescues were always dangerous and increased his price for extraction. Silent steps carried him to the restricted part of the ship. A cacophony of noises echoed off the water from the main gambling hall. The majority of the security staff would be occupied with the early morning activities. He reached the door to the pilothouse without incident and let himself inside.

    Blood and gore painted the inside of the control room. The pilot and the person who matched his holo were no longer among the living. Rex’s mind went into panic mode at the obvious setup. The sounding of the steam whistle pierced the night, and every muscle tightened as he ran out of the room.

    A hailstorm of bullets backed by angry voices forced him to take cover at the top of the stairs. Rex pushed thousands of thoughts to the side and focused on two things: survival and escape. A ricocheting bullet struck inches from his head.

    Rex reached into his coat and pulled out a plasma grenade. “Time to play my ace.”

    A few well-placed cover shots, one lobbed grenade and a massive explosion later, Rex made his way to the railing overlooking the river and jumped. He affixed one of two gill masks to assist with breathing underwater. He stayed near the bottom and swam towards the western bank. The homing beacon on his belt was already sending the pickup signal to his assistant. Rex went over a list of possible enemies in his head, which unfortunately outnumbered the grains of sand on the beach.

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  20. 295 words
    Bridegroom; Hinterland; Steampunk

    Lost Before Found

    Wandering aimlessly around the middle of nowhere, completely lost, the low sun peering through the trees. The light gets dimmer, the trees adding to the rapidly approaching darkness. It feels like the wilderness is sending me a message stating that it’s hopeless.

    I lean against a tree, of what species I cannot tell. My back rests upon the rough bark, each nerve memorizing the shape through my sweat-drenched suit. There was no way I would make it in time for the ceremony.

    Why on earth had Violet chosen here for the wedding? No-one came around these parts; hardly anyone trusted the hinterlands.

    Chills ran down my spine, effecting each droplet of sweat as the last of the sun’s rays shrank away, enveloped by the power of the night. I lift my arms, hugging myself, trying in vain to hold on to the heat.

    I hear a sound — faint at first, but it increases as its heart gets closer. Sounds of mechanics whirring and wind surging drown my ears. Then a light rains down upon me, splintering through shadowed leaves. I see the airship floating above me, a dirigible that looks oddly familiar. A ladder crashes down, falling between the trees, dodging branches.

    I let out a breath, relieved at being found. Straightening up, I make my way to the ladder, quickly starting my ascent, ignoring pinched flesh while grasping the wooden rungs. I reach the top and propel myself up.

    I let my eyes adjust to the well-lit room. A man with wild gray hair and thick glasses stands before me, grinning madly. My stomach drops as I realize who it is.

    “Welcome aboard! I’ve been lookin’ everywhere for ya! You didn’t get cold feet, didya, future nephew-in-law?”

    This was going to be a long ride.

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  21. 298 Words
    Angel; Amble; Poetry

    Angel in Disguise

    Old Jo was a ‘Miserable Git’
    Nobody liked him but he didn’t know it.

    He decided to join a Rambling club
    Thought he’d like a walk
    Then a ploughman’s at the pub.
    But he wasn’t prepared for the energetic vigour
    Of this active group as they stepped out together

    He thought himself a friendly bloke
    And fancied he’d like a chat and a joke
    But the lad who walked with him
    Was a bit of a prat,
    Talked like he knew stuff…
    Jo couldn’t be doing with that!
    So he hung back, and did a bit of an amble
    Whilst they all marched on
    (As you do on a ramble!)

    It is very easy in a dense pine wood
    To lose sight of a group
    (He didn’t think he would)
    And at a fork in the path
    He chose the wrong way
    And realised quite soon
    It wasn’t his day.

    It started to pour with relenting rain
    And his arthritic knee was giving him pain.
    Nobody could hear him
    As he grumbled and swore
    So he mutter and grumbled
    And swore a lot more.

    But just as old Jo was at the end of his rope,
    And feeling that there was no hope
    That he would ever again see his long-suffering wife
    Or be able to enjoy his miserable life…
    And as he sank deeper into his despair
    And was promising all sorts to the ‘Big Guy’ up there…

    Standing in front of him was the lad from the group,
    With an arm to lean on and a promise of soup
    He wrapped him up in a silvery shawl
    And led him along to an old brick wall,
    And there was the pub
    With the sign on the door…

    ‘The Angel welcomes you
    So wander no more’

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  22. Twitter: @RealMommaRamble
    49 words
    Customer; Sauna; Poetry

    A Much Needed Day at the Spa

    The steam rises, salty beads rest on my wrinkled skin. Lead eyelids turn the bright, harsh world dark. A moment’s rest. I let the heat penetrate my resentment, melt away my anger. Tears meet sweat, sobs heave, floodgates open, pain releases.

    Painted face
    Pearls on broad shoulders
    Carry on

  23. Twitter: @KateGiffin
    300 words
    Angel; Steamer; Crime

    Wings, Singed by Hate

    The air in the hold stank of salt and sweat. At first, it had enough to drive the memory of smoke from John’s nose. Later, when the night was deep, the crackle of flames returned to him. Those were the moments when he gripped his sister close, when he matched his breathing to hers so that his heart wouldn’t fall through his throat.

    They had fled to the ship with fear upon their backs. It took some maneuvering to board, but John was a clever boy and the sailors were drunk.

    Darkness was their friend and enemy. In the dark, they could sneak as much food as they wanted and they couldn’t see the rosaries decorating so many of the passengers’ necks. But the blackness was the perfect opportunity for the remembered torches to rear their ugly heads. They ate everything: love and religion and family consumed by zealous fire.

    Anna was too young to understand that the act of worship was grounds for murder. John tried his best to soothe her confusion and grief, too often failing because his own got in the way. So they turned to their family. Their faces and limbs, the way that their voices would dance together in the chapel and fight each other for the chance to get their story told at dinner -– these were the memories Anna and John would fight for.

    After arriving in the new world, tangled in sorrow and hope, John wanted only the best for his sister.

    “Look at her!” the woman had cried. “She looks like an angel!”

    John agreed. So he let Anna fly away, let an unburned family adopt her. She would be happy, he told himself. And he spent his days fiercely remembering. His nights were spent half awake, wary of every passing light.

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