Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 144. We had 19 entries this time. A warm welcome to first-time entrant, Fractoluminescence, and welcome back to Frank Key, Arthur Unk, Kyle Spencer and Roger Shipp.
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 143 Judge’s Pick, David Lewis Pogson, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what he had to say:
My first-ever experience as a judge and what a difficult task to select a winning story from such a high-quality list of entries, ranging from the seriously weird to the absolutely delightful. I was impressed by the imagination and skill of all the entrants. However, selection required me to be ruthless, and, with that in mind, I decided on the following criteria:
- Any story making reference to the Loch Ness Monster would not score well with me. I’m not faulting anyone’s craft – they may be good stories and well-written and may present a novel slant – but the device was just too predictable for me. Sorry but I think that there can be so much more to the Loch Ness prompt than the monster, as evidenced by the winner and runner up stories.
- I prefer simple, old-fashioned story-telling with a beginning, a middle and an end; especially an end with a little twist.
- I like a strong central character – preferably a character that I can relate to emotionally.
Selection was then mainly a question of degree and gut-feeling. So that’s how I judged them.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Bill Engleson – You guessed it…all those agitating teachers and grad students have their own lounge.
Alva Holland – I dream of Miss Physics who transforms into a giant algorithm and I need to deconstruct the data. I’ve had more satisfying dreams.
Vicente L Ruiz – Above it, in rich typography, the heading claimed ‘Monster sighted in Scotland’.
AJ Walker – I edged past an excitable American woman who was shouting down the phone to some poor fellow.
Geoff Le Pard – Feels like I’d been battered by a rainbow.
Carin Marais – He came at midday, raw fingers and knuckles leaving bloody specks on the stone as he climbed the height of the rock to reach the abbey.
Alysia Ascovani – A sanctuary for the wealthy had become a monument to their downfall.
Eloise Tapson – I voice behind me said, “She is beautiful” as he held out a fish for the monster before me.
Lesley Turrell – There is little artifice, she carries them along with her into the demonic regions.
Deanna Salser – He decided he didn’t want to think anymore. All he wanted to do right now was to feel, knowing he had robbed another of both.
Frank Key – Not long afterwards, the scope of her skills was put to the test on the straw-covered planks in the east corner of the chapel loft.
Arthur Unk – “We opened the gateway to the wrong dimension!”
Angelique Pacheco – His last thought was “I found a strange monster, but then mine found me…”
Justin J. Conidaris – I know that there are no cowboys here, especially not short ones with red beards!
Steph Ellis – A bell tolled and the snow roared in, tucking him in for the night, and for all nights after.
Fractoluminescence – And she’d better snuff out that candle, otherwise the smell of smoke would stay and ‘someone’ would angrily ask if she was trying to burn down the house–”
Kyle Spencer – Their voices rose to a maddened shriek as candles danced among the splintered pews.
Roger Shipp – I am afraid on their return journey they will be encountering a large pleasure yacht that will intercept them. I expect, all on board our inquisitive rowboat will be tragically lost at sea.
Arianna Hammond – Once my arm was bandaged, my forehead stopped bleeding, and I dug the bag from the snow drift, I let the stunt bunnies out.
Special Mention – for both title and story
Arianna Hammond – My Epic On-line Diary For The World To Read My Magic Journey in the Mountains
Maybe I’ve lived a sheltered life but there is nothing in my experience that could ever have prepared me for this story. I’m still smiling about it although I don’t think that I will ever understand what it is all about, despite it fitting the prompts. But I’m glad that I read it, if only to reassure myself that the human mind knows no limits to its imagination. It wouldn’t do for us all to be the same.
Alysia Ascovani – Good Fortune
Good story, interesting plot with an intriguing end. I just felt that I might like to know a bit more about the character of the observing woman to give it greater credit. Almost impossible to do in 300 words, I know.
Geoff Le Pard – Banter, Bunty and the Tale of the Premature Inhalation
Very different and with a Wodehouse influence. Clever, amusing and with some of the best lines in the competition. Then why didn’t it win? It’s simple prejudice really: I cared about the main character in the Judge’s Pick, whereas ‘Banter, Bunty etc’ didn’t need me to care. Good fun, though.
Lesley Turrell – The Storyteller
A compelling story from a light beginning, getting darker and more sinister as it progressed. Very visual – I was sat among that audience in the castle square. Almost the opposite of the Judge’s Pick in that the central character was not someone that you would like to meet, but still you couldn’t ignore her. However, I didn’t know her – what motivated her intentions – quite as well as I knew what motivated the main character in my winning story.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 144.
(insert drumroll here)
Bill Engleson – The Spy Who Came in With a Low GPA
Spy; University; Diary
August 8, 1964
Dear Diary: it’s been a while since I had much to say. Basic training’s such a bitch. I was thinking again that I might not be cut out to be a soldier. Way too much marching. And following orders. And ironing. What’s with that? Today did hold a surprize but you had better keep mum about this. Captain Fancy Pants asked to see me. I went to his office and he wasn’t alone. Two suits were there. Seems like they have me pegged as a potential spy. Get this, they want me to go undercover, return home to the West Coast, finish grade 12, and go off to University…and they’ll pay. SFU. Brand new U. They’re expecting a boatload of Yankee anti-war agitators and such to start at the University in September ’65. Teachers, grad students, and, wow, I’ll be spying on them.
Sounds good to me. No more marching.
September 15, 1965
Dear Diary: What a year its been. The University’s a hotbed of radical ideas. Everywhere you turn some one wants to overthrow something. The Gas Station. The Faculty Lounge. You guessed it…all those agitating teachers and grad students have their own lounge. We’ll take care of that in short order.
I have been meeting with my handler every week since July 1st. Now that I’m actually on campus, they expect results. I don’t know where to begin. Everywhere I turn, someone wants to overthrow the government. Its like a disease.
October 20, 1965
Dear Diary: Its strange but I find myself thinking new thoughts about the world. I’ve grown my hair quite long to fit in, of course. Like a good spy. But, I’ve also been smoking the most amazing dope.
I think I’m gonna retire from espionage.
Spying ain’t much fun.
Frank Key – The Urquhart Maid
A complete story of a character’s life in 300 words takes some doing. All my required ingredients – beginning, middle and an end with a little twist. This story is tight yet covers a lot of ground whilst staying focused. A piece of half-believable folk-lore that I could imagine being told with a dram in front of a peat fire in a Scottish cottage on a wild winter night. Delightful, with a character that I really cared about, understood completely and believed in. And not a monster in sight.
Spy; Loch Ness; Thriller
Caitlyn had grown up in a village on the eastern shores of Loch Ness within the borders of land controlled by Clan Fraser. Her mother taught her from her earliest years about what men want, how to please them, and, most important of all, how to keep their secrets when they babble on incessantly after satisfying their lusty urges.
When Caitlyn Baird reached the age of accountability, she moved across the loch in search of a better life at Urquhart Castle, seat of Clan Grant. The head of household, perhaps more lured by her appearance than her humble manners, assigned her to cleaning chores in the Clan Lord’s Chapel located in the nether bailey of the castle. When asked if she understood the full range of her duties, Caitlyn looked straight into the eyes of her new master. “I am skilled to do whatever is asked of me, my lord.”
Not long afterwards, the scope of her skills was put to the test on the straw-covered planks in the east corner of the chapel loft. It came as no surprise to Caitlyn when the head of household, flush from release, lay on his back and began to babble about all the castle’s secrets. “Tell no one – or else,” he warned.
She kissed his cheek. “Of course, my lord.”
Clan Cameron and Clan MacDonald, both controlling lands to the south and west of Clan Grant’s holdings, over the years to come, made good use of information they received from an unknown source by conducting many successful raids upon Urquhart Castle. And an old wizened wench died as a well-off property owner in a growing port town to the northeast called Inverness.
Congratulations, Frank. 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!