Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 140. We had 14 entries this time (plus one very late entry).
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 139 Judge’s Pick, Tim Hayes, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what he had to say:
Judging the contest, rather than entering it, proved to be an interesting experience. Not quite as intimidating as I had feared, but tough nonetheless.
As usual, a great selection of stories. You should all give yourselves a hearty pat on the back for your excellent contributions.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the majority of this week’s stories were up there around the 300 word mark. For me one of the pleasures of Microcosms is hitting that exact word count.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Bill Engleson – I’d never seen a place the likes of it, even in my brain, which, once upon a time in my youth, was quite an active place.
Alva Holland – She’s like a warm breeze across the sheets, she listens to my worries and takes them all away with her before I go to sleep.
Steve Lodge – I may smell like a ‘meadow in the spring, surrounded by a sentinel of tall pines and vanilla spruce’, but I got more rashes and itches than I have hands to cope with.
Johanna – Bobby was just too handsome and too rich. They couldn’t stomach their envy.
Vicente L Ruiz – In a corner, a shadow also wept.
Angelique Pacheco – Perhaps it was the darkness of the clouds brewing up a storm that made the structure imposing and uninviting.
Steph Ellis – We let you live so you could see what you’d done. We warned you …
Nikky Olivier – ‘Am I losing my mind?’ she thought, ‘or is this the guilt finally catching up to me?’
Justin J. Conidaris – The streets were quiet, and the town hall was dark, save for candles in the windows.
Ted Young – The house had been grand, generations had grown up and prospered there, but its history had somehow died and buried itself.
Geoff Le Pard – Joleyn marked the corral, surprised at his bladder control. Another upside to balance against the lack of opposable thumbs.
Deanna Salser – The train huffed its steamy breath in his ear, and Rick could feel the air suddenly released, as the conductor saw him and tried to brake.
Geoff Holme – He leaned fractionally forward, the susurration of his silk cape barely audible.
Arianna Hammond – I see his red hat duck down, creating a blur and stunningly falling in rhythm with the beat.
Bill Engleson – How the West Was One Strange Place…
In recognition of the best songwriting of the week, “Welcome, Lonely Stranger”.
Steve Lodge – Twin Geeks
I’m not usually a fan of broad humour, but this did make me chuckle. An appropriate title, too.
Angelique Pacheco – Why I Suspect The English Hate The French
Although I generally have a preference for light humour, for some reason I was quite taken by this ghostly tale. But I have to say, it does seem a tough way of going about improving one’s language skills!
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 140.
(insert drumroll here)
Community Pick – It’s a Tie!
Alva Holland – Amelie
Governess; French Riviera; Ghost Story
‘She needs to go to school.’
‘But she’ll be miserable. She doesn’t know the language, she is shy and missing home, she’ll be picked on mercilessly.’
‘You don’t know this. You can’t base everything on your own experience. She’ll fit in soon enough and she’ll grasp the language quicker.’
‘Let’s get her a governess instead. At least give her a start before throwing her in the deep end of French girl culture.’
‘A governess? Have you lost your mind completely? She’d hate that.’
‘You don’t know this. You can’t base everything on your own experience. She’ll get used to it soon enough and she’ll grasp the language quicker.’
‘Don’t repeat my words to me. You know how much that annoys me.’
‘So, what’s it to be? School or governess?’
‘I say school.’
‘I say governess, and the company will pay for it. Let’s give it a go.’
‘Dad! Dad! There you are. I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Who are you talking to?’
‘Just having a chat with Mum, pet.’
‘Oh! You miss her a lot don’t you.’
‘More than I can say, every day.’
‘I talk to her too, every night before I go to sleep. She seems real and I feel her close to the bed. She’s like a warm breeze across the sheets, she listens to my worries and takes them all away with her before I go to sleep. I wish she could stay. I’m not afraid of that sort of ghost.’
‘Some ghosts are magical, pet.’
‘Oh, and Dad, Mum says I should go to school. When can I start? I met a girl called Amelie at the garden wall yesterday. She says I can go to her school and she’ll help me with the French words.’
‘I guess that’s decided then.’
Johanna – The Role Of A Life
Governess; French Riviera; Ghost Story
The children come running up the stairs from the beach and jump on my deck chair.
“Play with your father,” I mumble, “Mommy is tired.”
“Daddy, daddy,” the kids shout. “Miss Neill says the hotel is haunted!”
Grace, who occupies the chair next to my husband, speaks up.
“Bobby, the governess should really not tell such stories.” Her voice sounds stilted. As if she’s playing a role. No one even uses the term ‘governess’ nowadays, I think, while my mind drifts away.
“She also said our house was haunted,” answers Bobby.
Dear Bobby. When I married him, a lot of friends suddenly disappeared from my life. Bobby was just too handsome and too rich. They couldn’t stomach their envy.
“She’s Irish,” Bobby adds. “She thinks she has the third eye.”
“It upsets the children,” replies Grace theatrically. I’d like to figure out, what it is that she’s playing… but I can’t focus.
Grace had been my best friend since Kindergarten. After the accident last year she showed up immediately. Ready to help. Of course, we didn’t need help. But the gesture was nice and Bobby liked her, too. Ever since it always seemed to be the three of us together.
The nanny finally comes up the stairs, wheezing. She carries towels, beach balls and parasols. As she’s about to place the pile at the end of my deck chair, she looks up and stumbles back, dropping everything.
“Hail Mary and all the saints!” she cries out, making the sign of the cross over and over, staring right at me, while towels and beach balls scatter all over the terrace.
“Miss Neill!” exclaims Grace. “We don’t pay you to throw around the children’s things!”
That’s when I finally get it. I understand what role Grace is playing. She is playing me.
Geoff Holme – The Midnight Shadow
Out of all of this week’s stories, this is the one that appealed to me the most.
I have a soft spot for stories that include a comic twist in the last line, and this story hit the spot. I also liked the fact that it included, or alluded, to multiple prompts — a technique I sometimes apply when I can’t pin down a prompt that immediately appeals to me.
Banker; Manhattan; Thriller
Dressed in black, he sat in the darkness, totally still. Beneath the brim of his hat, covered by a domino mask, only his eyes moved, watching the woman scurry anxiously along the sidewalk.
He leaned fractionally forward, the susurration of his silk cape barely audible. His every muscle tensed, poised for action. A menacing figure appeared, closing in, hand raised, a glint of steel…
Before he could react, his alter ego leapt from the gloom, silently disarmed the villain and rendered him unconscious; the intended victim entered her house, oblivious.
The credits began to roll. He blinked rapidly as the auditorium lights came up.
“Mr Kaplinsky? Is that you?”
Shocked to hear his name, he turned quickly. “Mr Emerson!” His pale face blushed instantly.
“Are you going to introduce me, Joe?”
“Sure. Rachel, say hello to Mr Kaplinsky, manager of the Sandrino Premier Bank — the man who made the dreams of opening our own diner a reality!”
Rachel kissed the banker on the cheek and whispered, “Thank you!”
His blushes deepened. “Please forgive my appearance. The Midnight Shadow has been my hero since I was a boy.”
“Mine too. When I heard the Manhattan Cineplex was showing a retrospective, I had to bring my family along to share my passion.”
“I see that doesn’t extend to wearing the costume!”
“No,” Joe chuckled. “I know a lot of people do.”
“I thought my identity was concealed; it’s embarrassing for a man of my age and status. Please excuse me. Nice to meet you, Mrs Emerson.”
They watched the diminutive figure leave, then turned to each other with raised eyebrows. Joe felt a tug on his sleeve.
“Pops, who was that masked man?”
“That, Timmy,” said Joe with a broad grin, as he ruffled his son’s hair. “That was The Loan Arranger!”
Well, this is a pleasant surprise, though slightly embarrassing. For anyone thinking that, as host, I had an unfair advantage, please note that procrastination means that I invariably throw the contest together at the last moment, usually finishing just before it is due to go live!
The Judge’s Pick is normally invited to judge the next contest, but I will be otherwise engaged… So this time, as you have not had a go for some time, Alva, as one of the Community Picks this week, 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!