Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 125. We had 17 entries this time.
Please keep returning to Microcosms, and retweet / spread the word about this contest among your followers and friends.
Don’t forget that Microcosms exists primarily to provide a platform for the flash fiction community to hone their skills, and secondarily to give entrants a chance of receiving an accolade from that week’s judge. We also have the vote button for anyone, not just fellow entrants, to register their favourite/favorite(s) and thus establish a Community Pick.
We encourage everyone to reply with a positive comment to any and all of the entries AT ANY TIME: It’s good to have feedback.
MC 124 Judge’s Pick, Stephanie Cornelius, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what Stephanie had to say:
Wow. I went into this thinking it would be – not a breeze exactly – but definitely not as difficult as it was. I’m usually a really decisive person. I like what I like and I’m not afraid to say it and stand by it. But, the entries this week made decisiveness a bit difficult. Every story I have had the privilege to read was worthy of any number of accolades.
But, in the words of some famous show that I can’t remember – there can be only one! Was that Highlander or something? Buffy? Geez, this 35 year old brain is only semi-functional it seems (lol). I really tried to approach this with an open mind, which the predominantly Steampunk genre necessitated, and I think it worked.
If you have an issue with something I’ve said in my comments – let me know. I was trying to be insightful but that usually results in me rambling about miscellaneous items that may (or may not) actually have bearing on the facts at hand. I once stated on a SimLit WordPress blog that I was reading: “the League of Legends has a hollow bottom!”. To this day, I have no cooking clue what I meant by that, but at the time my sleep-addled mind thought it was really profound. I’m worried I might have done the same here, even though I am wide awake and compos mentis.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Bill Engleson – “Stay in the right lane, Dumb Quixote.”
Carin Marais – “I don’t know your religion well,” it said slowly.
Steve Lodge – It was like taking a fart to a shitfight.
Nthato Morakabi – It had taken a while for my murders to be big enough for the newsroom. Now I could cover my own story while keeping abreast of the city bobby.
Ted Young – “Er… While our next guest is getting ready, a word from our sponsors.”
Helen Buckroyd – “Yes, but I’ve never liked the fact that he promotes free rail passes to those of so-called limited means. You get all sorts of riff-raff on the railways nowadays!”
Angelique Pacheco – He was a true activist. Not the kind from the 21st century, who was all talk and no show.
Tim Hayes – ‘It’s too stiff for me to manage it’ and, ‘Sorry, it just slipped out’ were worked into the conversation.
M Levi – “You kill President Donner, and then you break my printing press?”
Arianna Hammond – No one is quite sure who did it but personally, I have a suspicion.
Vicente L Ruiz – It’s not suffragette, it’s w-o-m-an.”
Sian Brighal – But he’d heard of chokedamp, and a dead bird seemed a smaller price to pay.
Nikky Olivier – “Are we making the news? Or are we the news?”
Roger Shipp – Looking back does not profit unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors.
Geoff Le Pard – ‘It must be ‘Bring a Nutter to Work’ Day.’
Kelly Griffiths – First, the soil quivers, then a grimy hand penetrates the haze, tosses a sensor.
Deanna Salser – Besides, he’s human and she’s, well, she’s illegal.
Special Mention – for giving me a reason where murder actually makes some kind of macabre sense to me
Nthato Morakabi: The Epoch of a Reporter
The Epoch of a Reporter – I have often wondered about the motives behind murders of supposedly unrelated people, so the idea of a reporter committing the crimes so that he has something to write about really struck me. There is no excuse for killing another (I’m not counting self-defense) but, I could actually understand the reasoning behind his actions. I don’t even want to know what that says about me lol
Special Mention – for providing me with technology it would scare me to have (I’m a bit of a tech junky)
Nikky Oliver: Truth or Lies?
My opinion of this can be summed up in one of my favourite lines from the story: The crystal and steam powered machine was glowing as it collected thoughts from everyone in the city, processed them into popular opinions and printed the news.
When did the news become about popular opinion? At which point did it become not about reporting what actually happens, but what people want to hear? Yet, that is what we seem to be finding more and more; actual news stories that state the truth are being glossed over in place of what the broader Society finds “juicy”.
There was actually an article that I read this weekend, where the journo was stating that we should turn from Rule of Media, back to Rule of Law. It was written in response to a judgement that was legally sound, but public opinion and the media were labelling as corrupt and stupid, and a sign that a specific family has the Government tight in their pockets.
How can a legally sound judgement get that backlash? It’s not as if the judge sucked his thumb and came up with something. It’s supported by existing case law. Seriously! People amaze me sometimes – and popular opinion scares the hell out of me!
Helen Buckroyd – What is a Soft Target?
I love that in the interests of activism, a philanthropist was chosen based on his liberal tendencies. It shows even activists can have their pre-conceived notions of who is “worthy” to be in their perfect Society.
Vicente L Ruiz – Public Statement
I think that using the imagery of women’s suffrage to advocate for voting rights for automatons was genius! It raises the question of what would be considered the prerequisites to vote in a government “of the people”. In my mind, if the AI has independent thought processes, it should be allowed to vote; don’t lynch me, people!! Why are humans allowed to vote? Because we have opinions, and those opinions matter. Why would the opinion of a free-thinking machine be any less important? The key being “free-thinking”.
Carin Marais – Babylon
I love that it shows that a person’s faith doesn’t matter when it comes to dying. For the alien to pray for the soldier and the soldier to request it, even though they both know that the alien is a non-believer shows the true universal nature of compassion. I would like to think I would pray for someone who was dying even if I didn’t share their specific beliefs.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 125.
(insert drumroll here)
It’s a tie!
Carin Marais – Babylon
News Reporter; Battlefield; Sci-Fi
“We can’t broadcast this.” The suited man stared in disgust at the reporter’s footage of the aftermath of one of the battles on Babylon.
The reporter’s red-rimmed eyes stared at the screen. “It shouldn’t be hidden.” He used two fingers to zoom in on the two figures in the centre of the screen. “Everyone should see this – both sides.”
“Like hell they will!” the man tried snatching the phone from the reporter. “I haven’t spent half of my money to let everything be destroyed by some kind of set-up between an alien and a human.
“Have you ever been to the aftermath of a fight where your weapons are used? Seen the maggots, flies and carrion animals? Smelled the stench of rotting flesh and blood? I have. All while you have been sitting safely in your office.” The reporter’s fingers flew over the screen, posting the video to social media. Views began to stream in.
“Bastard!” the man shouted and a shot rang out. The reporter crumpled to the floor. The phone fell out of his hand, the video still playing on loop; this time with sound added.
An alien crouched over a dying human soldier. The soldier, trembling, reached to his pocket, pointing and the alien removed a small, red book. The alien looked from the Gideon’s Bible to the man.
“I don’t know your religion well,” it said slowly. Its English accent showed that it was probably one of the scholars who had studied with the humans before the war.
“Pray for me,” the soldier sobbed, clutching his enemy’s hands. “Forgive me, I had no choice.”
The alien started at this. “Neither did I,” he said.
The human began to mumble, the alien repeating his words. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…”
Nikky Oliver – Truth or Lies?
Activist; Newsroom; Steampunk
Bernard was, yet again, standing on his street corner soapbox – speaking the truth as he understood it to all who would stop to listen to his oratory.
The crowd today was larger than any before, and he knew that today was the day.
“We will storm the newsrooms!” he cried to whistles and murmurs of assent.
“They have been feeding us propaganda and lies for years! Let them write what the people need to hear!”
The cheers started slowly and rose to a crescendo as word spread through the crowd. New bystanders joining as they got caught up in the madness.
We want our news!
Stop feeding us lies!
Swept through the streets ahead of the enraged crowd. They were set on having it out with the people printing the newspapers.
As they crowded through the door of the building, Bernard was leading them, shouting his slogans and determined that absolutely nothing could stop them.
.. he saw the engine… the news engine….
Cogs turning, steam bellowing and gears squealing, all connected to a printing press on one side and a thought catcher on the other…
The crystal and steam powered machine was glowing as it collected thoughts from everyone in the city, processed them into popular opinions and printed the news. In fact, Bernard stood, jaw agape as he watched the morning edition begin to print.
The headline reading:
We want real news – Local Activist rallies the city to protest.
“Are we making the news? Or are we the news?” he thought as he slowly backed out of the room and shut the door firmly.
Steve Lodge – Ship To Shore
The imagery of the poor being nothing but rubbish for the rich to sacrifice in war is beautiful, if one can call such a thing beautiful. I think we all know that the first people to be sacrificed in times of war are the people considered to be expendable. It is sad that Society views the poor and/or underprivileged people as such. This is true in most – if not all – countries in the World, whether you are speaking of the Western World, the Eastern World, or especially in Africa.
We see so much poverty nowadays that those of us who have homes to live in and food on our plates have become virtually blind to them. How many of us even share a smile with the beggar on the streets? Yet, they are as human as ourselves. They are not a separate species or anything less than us simply because they are lacking in material wealth.
There is a homeless family that sleeps on a corner on my route to work. A man, his partner (not sure whether she’s his spouse or not) and their child – who looks about 8 years old). His sign that he has nailed to the tree on the corner simply asks for donations of furniture, food, old clothes, dishes and toys. He does not beg for money. And the last phrase on his sign is “God Bless you for reading this”. How many of us would wish blessings on people even before we knew whether they were going to assist us?
News Reporter; Battlefield; Poetry
There is only a gentle autumn sea breeze. I’m reporting from the shoreline of a disappearing sea. I am with a band of beggars sitting on a beach that is red, stained with the blood of the many. The tide may come in and wash it away, and with it the bodies, the detritus. For the past week, this beach has been a battlefield.
“Couldn’t you run, escape, get away from the invaders?” I ask them.
“What’s the use?” I am told by these forlorn survivors. “We are an empty pocket, the split lining, inhabitants of the poor zone. It’s the same old story always told. They told us we were the first line of defence. From what? They didn’t say. They gave us guns that were faulty. It was like taking a fart to a shitfight. We were hopelessly outnumbered. The reinforcements didn’t materialise. There was nowhere to go. When the battlefield is a beach, you can’t hide in the trees, there are none. You can’t run for the shadows. There are none of those, either.”
For these are the times we’re living in,
Huddled together, sheltered in slums,
Our bellies empty, we living on crumbs,
It wasn’t like we set the bar very high,
Just to the mist, the moon and the midnight skies.
I remembered the poem they chanted. It was taken from a song by a long-ago London group called The Strange Band. I’ll check when I return to the newsroom. I think it was called ‘Ship To Shore’. But, for now, this is Caleb McEvoy, for Station XLYPK, here on Makepeace Beach, scene of the most recent, dreadful invasion, returning you to Vincent Best in the studio.
Congratulations, Steve. As Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge the next round of Microcosms this coming weekend. Please click HERE to let us know whether or not you are interested!