Microcosms 159

Hello, Friday flash fictioneers, and welcome to Microcosms 159.


(1) You have just 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) New York time (EST) to write and submit your masterpiece.
(2) All submissions must be no more than 300 words in length (excluding the title)
(4) Include: word count, the THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry
(5) Do NOT give details of your entry on social media, your blog, etc. until the Results post is live
(6) If you are new to Microcosms, PLEASE check out the full submission guidelines 


This day — 25-JAN — seems to be a good one on which to be born if you want to be a race car driver: Wikipedia lists eight, from 1901 to 1991.

However, once again, this week’s contest is based on notable ‘firsts’, this time occurring on 25-JAN.

  • 1890Nellie Bly completes her round-the-world journey in 72 days, the first person to turn Jules Verne’s fiction into fact.
  • 1915Alexander Graham Bell inaugurates U.S. transcontinental telephone service, speaking from New York to Thomas Watson in San Francisco.
  • 1924 – the first Winter Olympic Games opens in Chamonix, in the French Alps.
  • 1949 – The first Emmy Awards are presented; the venue is the Hollywood Athletic Club.
  • 1961 – In Washington, D.C., President John F. Kennedy delivers the first live presidential television news conference.
  • 1964 – Blue Ribbon Sports is founded by University of Oregon track and field athletes, which would later become Nike.



(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:

Athlete; Train; Romance

Write a story using those OR feel free to click on the “Spin!” button below, 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.


  • Journalist
  • Telephone Caller
  • Figure Skater
  • TV Personality
  • President
  • Athlete
  • Train
  • New York
  • Winter Olympics
  • Award Ceremony
  • News Conference
  • University
  • Reportage
  • Romance
  • Thriller
  • Crime
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy



Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Geoff Le Pard, has kindly agreed to act as the judge this time around.


All being well, results will be posted next Monday.

Microcosms 160
Microcosms 158

18 thoughts on “Microcosms 159

  1. 300 words
    Athlete; Train; Romance

    The Girl on the Train

    We had met on the train to New York. She stood in the back of the train car, staring, and I knew she was dying to ask me why a healthy, successful 23-year-old athlete had left a fantastic sports career. As I looked up into her eyes, her lips curled up, and I was immediately drawn to her. I stood and walked over with confidence, knowing my body was still lean and defined from years of training. I took the seat next to her and began the game I knew all too well.

    It was dark, and confusion set in as I recalled the pretty girl from the train. We talked, we laughed, and she invited me out for a drink. Other than the neon sign at the bar, I couldn’t remember anything else. As if on cue, the lights filled the room, blinding me as I tried to make out the figure coming towards me. It was her. She held a leather bag in her hands and silently laid it out in front of me. Tools of different kinds filled the small holders and panic set in. The game I had thought I was playing was hers. Her lips curled as she picked up the surgical knife and everything seemed insignificant as she trailed her blade along my skin. My screams went unheard as she pushed deeper, leaving a trail of blood along my chest. She raised a finger to my wound and collected the blood; she pushed her finger into her mouth, sucking it off.

    This was the moment I realised that she was the one. We made love that night. Each game was going further than the last, and I wondered who we would be tomorrow, or if it would matter. My wife had become my greatest accomplishment.

  2. http://www.engleson.ca
    299 words
    Journalist; Train; Reportage

    Day 1: The Presidential Candidate Who Thought He Would Give It a Shot

    January 24, 2019 10:00 am
    : My bags are packed. The trains leaving the station any moment now. Hank Fester, my assignment editor, a real ballbuster, offered no sympathy. “He’s a long shot, kid. Wants to be President but refuses to fly. I admire that. Stay on his tail. At least for a week.”
    The “He” is Clay Talon. You remember him. That shooting in the Funeral Home over in Washington State…the Vet who took out the shooter. Yeah, that guy. Never could figure out why someone would shoot up a place full of dead people. Nobody there he knew. Just some whacko with a gun and a yearning for fame. Well, it didn’t work out too well for the gunsel but the hero…that’s another story. And I’m gonna get it. Talon’s hoping to parlay his heroics all the way to the White House.

    January 24, 2019: 11:00 pm
    : Clay doesn’t natter on. Simply offers straight talk. It’s just me and him. No entourage. He’s barely got anyone in his corner. Back in Olympia, a few people are raising money. Just a gutsy guy with a message, looking to tell it on the biggest stage there is. And he’s got Iowa on the brain. “I’m no McGovern and I certainly ain’t Jimmy Carter, but Iowa was good to them. That’s where I’ve got to get the word out. What’s happened to this country…that guy…it’s a crime what he’s doing to us. Like he wants to ruin America. Feels that way, anyways.”
    We are in southern Oregon now or maybe we’re already chugged in California. I could listen to him for hours. He may be a kook, a million to one shot to get the nomination, but he’s passionate as hell, clear thinking, honest.
    I’m glad I’m along for the ride.

  3. @steveweave71
    300 words
    Journalist; Train; Crime

    Onward Flight Of The Bird Of Hope

    The train hammered through Breakwind Passage toward the tunnel at Yawn then on through the mountains. Ten athletes limbering up, preparing for the first event in this Olympic extravaganza. This epic event, The Leap Of Faith, of particular interest as the reigning gold medallist, Byron Legge, retires after this Olympics.

    Once the train reaches this side of the tunnel at the town of No Mules Creek, contestants know the starting gun is less than five minutes away. They start their run, aiming to reach and jump over the train as it passes. Obviously here speed, height and silliness are crucial.

    The train signal heard, athletes in position, a hush descends over Korridigszanszokolaiarena. The gun fired, the ten are running, hurtling toward the train. I can hardly breathe and then, almost as one, these fine athletes launch themselves at the train. Seven ran headlong into the side of the train, death instantaneous. The massive Belzonian, Ygor Golem got one leg onto the roof of the train before sliding off, earning him the bronze medal and many fractures. Byron Legge reached the top of the roof, before he too slid off the wrong side for the silver medal, leaving the little-known Tommy Tuppence to reach the top, safely bouncing off the other side of the train to the gold medal.

    It later emerged that Legge was also dead, posthumously awarded silver. A bullet hole in his forehead. Falkenstad Police are investigating.

    I interviewed Tommy Tuppence later. He was horrified to learn the news about Byron and very humble about his win.

    “I never expected that. Do you know I can’t cross my legs when I sit down? It’s on account of my massive testicles. They sure came in handy as I bounced off the train roof.”

    More Olympic news follows.

  4. 283 words
    Athlete; Train; Romance

    Cupid’s Arrow

    We were on the train to Kyoto. I was on my way to learn about the way of the bow. I had been studying archery for many years. My first assignment was my wife. She had mourned my death for a long time. Now she was on her way to participate in World Karate Championships. She had got her black belt. I was so proud of her. She sat on the bench staring out the window. Her raven hair dropped softly and caressed her cheek. Her lips were pink. Her eyes were wet. Why was she crying?

    “Hey Sarah,” Frank asked as he gently put his hand on her shoulder. “Are you OK?”

    She hurriedly wiped the tears away from her eyes. “Yes. I am fine! Did you get the schedule?”

    “Um, yes. Here it is. You will be second on the mat tomorrow.”

    “Great. Anything else?”

    “No. I will let you be,” he said as he marched away. He shook his head. Women. He could never understand them.

    I stood in front of my wife and pulled the arrow. The arrow pierced her heart.

    “Frank. Wait.” He stopped and turned around. “I am sorry. This was the trip me and Jonathan were meant to take.”

    “I know. I am sorry he is not here but it has been 7 years, Sarah. He would want you to be happy.”

    “I know. Can we try again from the begin?”

    “Sure. Hi, my name is Frank.”

    “Hi, I am Sarah.” and the conversation continued like most first dates where you are smitten with the person in front you.

    I stood watching her. “Hey, Cupid! Good job. Let’s move on. The Senpai is waiting for you.”

  5. Athlete; Train; Romance
    300 words


    They’d been together for three years. He was dropping her off at the station on his way to work. She was going on a training course requiring an overnight stay. Their first night apart. He looked up at the bridge and remembered standing there looking over the parapet. She leant across, kissed him and said those three words that had probably saved his life.


    He’d been wandering down the High Street and stopped to look in the window of the coffee shop. He couldn’t afford to go in. That had been his life then; mornings in the Job Centre, afternoons in the Library when wet or wandering the streets when dry. He’d taken to pausing on that bridge …thinking …and looking down at the through trains as they flashed underneath it.

    ‘Coffee?’ She’d come up behind him, slightly out of breath, after walking quickly.

    ‘Can’t afford one.’

    ‘I’m buying’

    He saw her in the Job Centre every morning. She’d known all about him from the papers. That he’d been injured for a long time but recovered. Now his professional athletics days were over and his fair-weather friends had disappeared. He’d used his winnings to retrain as an engineer just as the Recession bit. He’d lost his flat and lived in a small rented room. She’d wanted to help but most employers required experience.

    ‘This is just in. A Modern Apprenticeship that could have been written for you. I can sit on it for a few days before posting it up. I’ve faxed your CV and fixed an interview for early tomorrow morning. Your ‘track record’ might help …so mention it. Here’s £30. Get a haircut, buy some razor blades, take a shower and find a tie.’

    Then those three words that had probably saved his life.

    ‘See you tomorrow.’

  6. @ellengwriter
    300 words
    Athlete; Award Ceremony; Comedy

    Suzanne McIver and the Sportie Trophy

    Suzanne had never been nominated for a Sportie before. Primarily because they had never had one for javelin before. Word on the street was, she was favourite to win. She didn’t let it go to her head.

    Getting a seat at one of the top tables, on the other hand…

    “This is amazing!” she stage-whispered to her wife, Jo. “We’re right at the front and… is that the good booze?”

    Jo chuckled nervously, shot the table’s other guests an uncomfortable look, and all but pushed Suzanne down into her chair.

    No sooner had Suzanne’s bottom touched her seat than she reached for one of the open bottles of wine on the table and began pouring herself a glass. She filled it to the brim. Then she poured one for Jo.

    “Thank you. Do you know when they’re doing yours?”

    Suzanne shrugged. “Haven’t a clue.”

    Two hours and three glasses of wine later, the Sportie for javelin was announced. Jo squeaked and rocked Suzanne by the shoulder.

    A man and a woman, both in black tie, stood up to the podium. He was carrying a golden envelope, and she was carrying the trophy: a golden javelin, protruding vertically from a small plinth.

    Jo’s eyes went wide and she froze, her hand still on Suzanne’s shoulder.

    “Oh my gosh…” Suzanne breathed.

    “Is it just me-”


    “Does that look like-”


    “Do you think they realised?”


    “Should we tell them?”


    “And the winner of the first ever Sportie for javelin is…”

    “No, no, no, no, no…”

    “Suzanne McIver!”


    Music played from somewhere and Suzanne’s face appeared on the big screen at the back of the stage. Jo gave her a small shove.

    “Sorry, love. Look on the bright side: at least you don’t have to touch one at home.”

  7. @hollygeely
    252 words
    Athlete; Train; Romance

    Markus Maximus

    He could hear the whispers as he passed; “There he is! Markus Maximus!” This was why he took the train; on his private jet, there were no admirers. “He’s even more handsome in person!” said an attractive young lady.

    It was true. He was in top physical condition. His skin gleamed with healthiness and even his hair looked fit. He was the world’s finest athlete and every magazine’s Sexiest Person of the Year for five years running. Yes, he had it all – except for the most important thing.


    His relationships inevitably ended in failure. He’d been married five times to five women, all of which were completely different in personality – yet he hadn’t yet found one who would last.

    “If only I weren’t so perfect,” he’d said as the last wife walked out on him. “Then you wouldn’t feel so inferior, and you wouldn’t have to leave.”

    “Eat **** and die,” she’d replied. He could feel how she ached inside.

    A fine-looking woman with good proportions and intelligent eyes took a seat across from him. She fished through her bag for something and Markus waited patiently, until patience evaporated ten seconds later and he couldn’t stand the suspense.

    “Don’t you know who I am?” he said.

    She glanced up. “Markus Maximum, Finger Puppet Gladiator,” she said. “It’s nice to meet you, but I’m really into this book right now.” She held up a paperback.

    Markus blinked.

    “Don’t you want my autograph?” he said.

    “Not particularly,” she said.

    Markus Maximus’ heart broke.

  8. @SalnPage
    300 words
    TV Personality; Awards Ceremony; Reportage

    Priscilla’s Rear of the Year Rant

    Celebrity chef and star of Priscilla Queen of Desserts, Priscilla Parkin, has won this year’s Rear of the Year Award. At last night’s ceremony, Priscilla received her crystal trophy and, in true Priscilla style, her acceptance speech turned into a rant, with a juicy secret thrown in.
    She began by thanking her husband and manager, Aaron Patterson, for, as she put it, ‘allowing this to happen.’ She speculated whether the many nominations really came from members of the public or whether her husband ‘engineered it.’
    Resplendent in long low-backed black velvet gown, diamond earrings and trademark glossy bob, Priscilla said her husband was making her accept the award, imitating what he’d said.
    ‘It’s just a bit of fun, Pris. Felicity Kendal got one in 1981. You like her don’t you?’ As a comedy actress yes, not as a bottom. What a thing to be known for? I thought I was bringing my style of cooking, my healthy recipes and my passion for home produced foods to the nation. No, turned out they were just admiring my … well, you’re only calling it rear cos it rhymes with year, which by the way really isn’t that clever. My Nana would say sit-upon. Sit-upon of the year doesn’t quite work, does it? Even my best friend says I should be flattered and confessed to being a bit jealous, of the award and of the bottom she said, with a laugh. I nearly let the cat out of the bag there and then but didn’t. Doing it now instead. My best friend, Saskia Meadows, has been having sex with my husband for the past year.’
    Priscilla marched to the front of the stage, threw the trophy into her husband’s lap, telling him to ‘shove it where the sun don’t shine.’
    Nice one, Priscilla.

  9. @alysia_ascovani
    300 Words
    Figure Skater; University; Crime

    Crimson Glory

    “Alright, that’s it for today. I’ll let you go a few minutes early. Enjoy your weekend.”

    She exhaled slowly as she fled the lecture hall, unable to stand the cramped presence of other people for a moment longer. Thankfully, night had already fallen, the darkness welcoming her home. In a blissfully short few minutes, she had slipped inside the ice arena and quickly made her way towards the lockers.

    Evading the eyes of the couple others around her, she hurriedly changed and put on her skates. As soon as her blades touched the ice, she felt a vast, relieving wave of calm wash over her mind. Even the two other people on the ice ceased to make her uneasy.

    As she moved smoothly from a couple warm-up laps into a routine to the chorus inside her, sound ceased to be, vision blurred, sensation itself surrendered to the melody. From within the rhapsodic oblivion, her dreams soared to fight for exultation.

    A perfect triple axel and the crowd roared for her. Underneath the bright spotlights, she was a whirlwind, drinking in the screams devoted to her, for her and only her.

    Bathed in the glorious cadence, she rode the crowd’s heightened emotions. Famous for her skill and her style, her signature finale, perfect as always, resolved her World Championship performance.

    Her body shook with the euphoria of another, even higher level competition won. She grinned widely as the crowd screamed, all on their feet.

    Eyes slightly clouded, she twirled in the crowd’s awe. The ice had turned scarlet under her show, flowing with the life of her competition.

    The vermilion wine of their lives cascaded down her body in luscious waves. As she always did, she brought some to her lips and exalted in its flavor.

    True victory was the slaughter.

  10. @frankdaad
    Athlete; Train; Romance
    292 words

    500 Conversations

    Melting snowflakes coated the goggles propped atop her coal-black hair sharing residence with aging’s streaks as Mare rolled her bike onto the train platform at Zurich Main Station. As the snow chaos of January 2019 stifled traffic on the main roadway through the valley beneath the 7 peaks, she opted for the trusted Swiss Railway train.

    “You’re a hearty one, riding in this kind of weather.” She glanced up from reading her mobile messages at the sound of a male voice with an undisguised Texas accent. “Sorry. I’m like that back home. Just start talking to whoever’s nearby at the moment. Reckon folks in Frisco think I’m kind of loopy.”

    Her first thought was to move further away, but as his soothing voice continued in a barely above whispered tone, she chose to respond in kind. “I’m in training for this season’s European marathons. Weather is no excuse.”

    “Really. I’m so impressed by your tenacity. My name is Sam and I’m on a marathon of a different sort, to get over a bad breakup. Riding the trains through your beautiful country is proving to be just the cure I needed.”

    She told him her name adding with a smile that, in case he didn’t notice from her accent, she was Scottish not Swiss and she bet he’d get the same recovery from a marathon automobile journey along her home country’s North 500 highway route.

    “Maybe you could be my guide.” Sam blushed as if embarrassed by his blurted response.

    Mare interrupted the quick apology she sensed forthcoming from this gentle guy she really liked, with a smile and blush of her own. “Maybe I could.”

    Their conversation continued aboard the train for the remainder of that journey…

    …and about five hundred more.

  11. 299 words
    Athlete; Train; Romance

    Love on a Train

    The year was 1890 and Mile-a-minute Murphy was determined to break his own record, established the previous year. Once more he would ride in the slipstream of a locomotive, cycling on boards laid down between the rails. The only question was where would he get the extra speed from to surpass his existing record of sixty miles per hour?

    His friends made a number of suggestions: a faster train, a longer track, but Murphy had an entirely different idea. He would achieve his aims through love. He would do this by having his sweetheart riding in the last carriage, cheering him on.

    The day was set, a year on from his historic ride. The weather was fine and the boards he was to ride on were level and even. He rode the course, testing out his bicycle and the boards, and found everything to his satisfaction. He was ready to aim for a record-breaking seventy miles per hour.

    Murphy set off behind the train, easily matching it as it got up to speed. Then it was the moment of truth. Gritting his teeth against the smoke and the cinders he kept his eyes steady on the rear of the train and his sweetheart beckoning him on. His legs, pumping like pistons, hurled him along the boards in the wake of the train. He knew he could do it, and was determined to do so. Murphy savoured the thought of the victorious kiss that would soon be his and, to his surprise, found he was gaining on the train. He was going faster than it was!

    Murphy set a new record that day, one that has yet to be broken, of seventy miles per hour. When asked how he did it he just replied, ‘With love.’

  12. http://www.theredfleece.co.uk
    279 words
    Athlete; Train; Romance

    Dear John

    The bitter irony doesn’t escape me. The first two words of my letter stake my thought process, scaring them into immobility. My train doesn’t have the same issue. With the soothing click-clack of metal wheels, it races through the Alpine mountains. Snow stereotypically falls across the peaks. My vision becomes my usual dream: me, with skis on my feet, criss-crossing the fresh layer of nature.
    The whiteness of my blank page is less inviting. I want to blame the two dark words ruining its blanket freshness. The truth is much more emotional. Years of wasted love to add to all the others. I’m about getting better, not starting again yet I know it isn’t working. Hasn’t been for years.
    Worse, it is getting in the way. Never of competitions but training. Missed sessions to keep him happy. Every one an added second to my time. Making the medals duller.
    I shake my head as if it’ll shift the scramble of thoughts into an order which will flow through my pen easily. The pathway remains jammed. The two words still alone on the page.
    I flick the page over. Time for a new approach. Onto the white, I scribe words. I don’t care about what they are or how they look, just what I feel about him. The good and the bad. Old arguments and past make ups. The page fills with them all to the rhythm of the train.
    I rip the page from my notebook and place it beside my notebook, turned back to my two-word letter. A dozen next lines waiting to be picked. Yet, the two words stay alone on my beloved white. ‘Dear John’.

  13. @beadanna7
    300 words
    Athlete; Train; Romance

    Even Unto Death

    Anything would have been better than having to take the train to the slopes by herself. Up until Catarina boarded, she hadn’t been sure she was even going, but Arturo had made her promise, and now that he was gone, it didn’t seem right not to keep it. Like he would somehow find out.

    She found a seat by the window, stowing her skis and things in the rack provided. She sensed the admiring glances of both the men and the women already seated as she passed them. She was in the best shape of her life. They both had been until about a month ago, when a routine fall had broken Arturo’s leg, and badly, the white bone sticking out of his skin. That was when they found the cancer that was literally eating him alive.

    She had been almost dozing when she saw him. Standing beside the tracks, with that cheesy grin he always had when he was being mischievous. But it wasn’t him. It couldn’t be him.

    As the train passed, a young man held a sign. ART LOVES CAT it said. Her heart skipped a beat, her scalp tingling. It was their own private thing.

    Then a single sunflower in a green beer bottle sat upon a fence post, wedged in its cap of snow.

    Beside the tracks, every symbol that had meant something to the two of them was represented, each one provoking a roller coaster ride of memories.

    They pulled into the station, wheels screeching as the train braked. Overwhelmed, she grabbed her stuff, almost dropping it when bumped from behind.
    “Excuse me!” A tug on her jacket, an apologetic, yet impish smile, and he was gone.

    Paper crackled in her pocket.

    ‘Win the gold for us.’ He had written. ‘Then go and live.’

  14. @GeoffHolme
    300 words
    Telephone Caller; University; Comedy

    Don’t Leave Me Hanging on the Telephone

    George couldn’t stand noise. That’s why he’d moved to this peaceful cul-de-sac. But today, the constant DRIP-DRIP-DRIP from the kitchen was driving him bonkers.

    “Must phone that blooming plumber… again! He said he’d fix that tap weeks ago! I’ll give him a piece of my mind!” He pressed the green button on his portable phone and lifted it to his ear. But, instead of the dialling tone, he heard a vaguely familiar voice.

    “Is that George Braithwaite?”

    George was momentarily confused. “Ye-es,” he replied uncertainly.

    “You may not remember…”

    George felt his hackles rising; he hated cold calls.

    “Look, if this is that double-glazing salesman again, I already told you. I have windows. And a front door. I don’t live in a cave!”

    “No, it’s…”

    “Oh, so I’ve won £10 million in the Nigerian Lottery then, and you just need me to send £1000 to cover the local taxes and the cost of the paperwork before you can release the funds to me. Yeah, yeah! I’ve heard all about that scam on ‘Watchdog’. Go stick your head up your–”

    “No, George. It’s me … Harry Sargent. We were at university together years back.”

    George’s anger dissipated immediately.

    “Hello, Harry. Haven’t seen you since you moved back up north. How are you?”

    “Mustn’t grumble. I’m back in town at the moment, looking up old friends. Actually I was on my way round to see you. But…erm… Well, I was just passing the telephone box at the end of your street when the phone inside rang. You hear about this sort of thing happening, don’t you? And I thought ‘Why not?’, so I answered it.”


    “It was a wrong number.”


    “The thing is though…”

    “Yes, Harry?”

    “The thing is… I’m stuck in here! Can you come and get me out?”

  15. 290 words
    President; University; Tragedy

    Blanco y Carmesí

    As I walked up the wine-colored shag, I noted the amount of people that had crowded the halls. For such a large university, I felt so small.
    From down the hall, I could hear the overpowering voice of the man I came to see. I slithered through the crowd, careful not to let anyone see my face. I put my hood up, tilting my face toward the ground.
    “It’s all about the way you present what you’re talking about. I could have stood here in front of all the voters and said they were absolute trash, but they still would have voted for me.” His voice felt like it echoed through the noisy halls.
    I pulled my jacket to the side, allowing my hands to the freedom to grab at my side. It’s time.

    The whiteness of my dorm room loomed in the back of my mind. Sullied by the crimson of the day’s events, I turned the television on. My hands trembled as the local news blasted emergency signals.
    “The President has been stabbed,” the woman kept repeating. “Oh, God, how could this happen?”
    I changed to another news channel. “He had it coming to him, psh, political policies my arse,” the man said with a smug look on his face.
    A deep, nefarious grin crept across my face. My deeds had been done in good grace; the world would become a better place due to my actions.
    I turned the television off and stood in front of my blemished reflection. The white of my skin, littered with blood, spattered across the bridge of my nose. I proceeded to take the weapon, the same one I used for my deeds, and slit my throat. To my death I go.

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