RESULTS – Microcosms 168

Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 168. We had 15 entries this time. Love it!

***We plan to finally move web hosts this week. I will initiate the request shortly so it hopefully is done by the next contest. The migration should be complete by Wednesday. Any comments you leave after tonight might not transfer, so please keep that in mind. I’m hoping any disruptions should be minimal. The website should function much more smoothly after this, too.***

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 167 Judge’s Pick, David Lewis Pogson, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what he had to say:

The numbers are rising and the quality remains high across the board. In addition, my previously scant knowledge of opal mining on earth and in space has increased enormously.

Sticking with my previous criteria (see my comments at Microcosms165 Results if you don’t) it was once-again difficult to select a winner from a quality collection of varied and fascinating stories.



Favourite / Favorite Lines

Dana – Ashes flake from the sky, leaving a coat of deathly dust on my windshield.
Bill Engleson – Noxious hate spews from A covfefe of concubine corpses
Ellen Grace – … a few of the scientists groaned and covered their eyes from the sudden onslaught of protons.
Joe Bogle – It’s heaven and hell, all wrapped up in a tiny piece of negligee, shiny, silky, satin.
Phillip Stephens – No one will remain but women with swollen knuckles and shrivelled wombs; husbands with sterile seed.
Charles Bonkowsky – Perhaps if they kept themselves cleaner, they would avoid such an affliction, no?
Ted Young – …by the weekend she was charging about like a randy Wombat!
Angelique Pacheco – His hand trailed along the rock passage as he made his way into the belly of the opal mine.
Tim Hayes – It was only as she stretched her weary body and looked up into the sky that she saw the greatest riches of all.
Diego Piselli – No, God currently seems to be distracted.
Graham Robert Scott – St Elmo’s fire dancing now along the lines.
Matthew C. McLean – To this day, only the foolish or arrogant dare wear the opal.
Stephen Shirres – A come hither message only the rich can answer flickers through my high window.
Eden Solera – Barely visible through the swirling snow, the jagged towers of a crumbling palace stood resolute in the distance.
Janelle Carson – I found I couldn’t sleep one night as the moon washed the whole backyard in gold.


Special Mention

Graham Robert Scott – Ember and Fleet

This had some good writing and a lot of potential and may well deserve a placing from a better judge. However, despite its good qualities, in all honesty I really didn’t understand what it was about. It felt like an extract from something bigger that perhaps contained more explanation. Maybe it’s my fault – so I’m giving it a special mention just in case I’ve missed something glaringly obvious that everyone else can see that I can’t.


Honorable/Honourable Mention

Phillip Stephens – The Opal Miners’ Moon

Interesting, twisty, a modern slant on an established theme that made me want to follow it to the end, and it was worth it to get there. A bit more depth (if possible) to the central character might have given it a better placing.


Second Runner-up

Stephen Shirres – A Come Hither Moon

Dark, threatening, nasty. A central character who seems decent until the twist comes in, or maybe he is a decent guy just doing his best in difficult circumstances? The depth of character sets you thinking; the hallmark of a good story.


First Runner-up

Bill Engleson – He Must Have Been A Lovable Child, Once

Sheer brilliance. Great idea with a lot of work in it. Everything – beginning, middle, end – strong central character – Zombie twist at the end and very bleak. Plus poetry and acrostics (which I love). If it had rhymed as well I think that I would have wet myself. This must be about as clever and intelligently-complicated as writing can get. Including DJT’s typo ‘covfefe’ was a masterstroke. Maybe it should have been the winner (I was torn) and the author is entitled to ask ‘why not?’ because on any other day it could have been. So read on.

And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 168.

(insert drumroll here)


Community Pick

Bill Engleson – He Must Have Been A Lovable Child, Once

280 words
Politician; Zombie Apocalypse; Acrostic Poem


Donald must have been a lovable child, once;
Observant, aware of the moment,
Noble, as noble as a child can be,
Artistic, seeking to capture beauty,
Loquacious, excitable, pursuing tales to tell,
Dutiful to his mother, fair minded.

Joyous, he must have known joy, been
Obedient to his parents, adults, his betters;
Honest and humble, traits we need to learn, a
Nobility of purpose, how to step lively into the world,

Testing all of his knowledge
Roaring with Trumpian pride, with purpose
Unburdening his greed,
Mustering some sweet chunk of heart,
Preparing to be the worthwhile man someone thought he could become.


Donnie soured every honey pot,
Oversaw an empire, developed a rage of
Napoleonic complexes, rode each burst of
Authoritarian inclination; they came so easily, his
Libido and lies rose like cream, he
Doubled down on his escalating glories,

Jay-walked into positions of power, was
Opprobrious, inglorious in gesture, his
Hubris swallowed any beauty, any
Notion of humanity, any

Triumph of constricting soul, the spirit,
Ruined the earth, the air around him,
Unctuous in deed, a sycophant
Mutating into something less than human, a
Preening presidential POTUS poser.


Drooling with sorrow, bloodless, his
Obsequious followers rise from the grave of discontent,
Noxious hate spews from
A covfefe of concubine corpses
Lockstep followers, borderline souls
Drowning in their own venom,

Joined at the hip of hate, dancing in an
Orgy of hate,
Hate for what is,
Negative souls

Trapped in a death spiral, a
Reflection of sorrow, the
Undead sweeping the land, an apocalypse of
Marginalized, frantic, fanatics, Zombies beyond life, and their false saviour, a
Presidential outlier, a pariah bereft of reason, of love, of joy.


Judge’s Pick

Janelle Carson – That Glitters

This is a delightful and simple little story that kept pulling at me as I re-read all the entries. It would be hard for anyone not to empathise with the narrator. It had all the criteria that I was looking for but it also had an additional strong, emotional (almost-personal) element that gave it the edge. I dislike DJT intensely but I like Ladybug immensely. So both characters had ‘relatability’ for different reasons but ‘likeability’ was what swung it. To put it simply, I just preferred one ending to the other; the hint of hope over hopelessness – the finest of fine distinctions.

299 words
Opal miner, moon, drama

After dad tucked me in and kissed me on the nose, I asked, will mom tuck me in once she gets better? And he said, of course, ladybug. I asked, but when will she be better, dad? And he would brush back my bangs and answer, I don’t know, but she’s trying. She’s trying so hard for you.

We drove from Kentucky to Nevada to see her in the facility. I had never seen anything like the light of the moon on the desert, the way it set all the rocks and sands to shining. And when we drove back through the desert I saw people in the desert bent over like vultures, pulling up the dirt with their hands, gouging the rock with picks and holding little lumps to the sun. I said, Dad, what are they looking for? Opals, he answered. Nevada is only place in the whole country where you can mine them. And I said, can we mine opals, too? And he said, tell you what, bug. We’ll go when she can come with us.

And years later, lying in bed long after dad had stopped tucking me in, I found I couldn’t sleep one night as the moon washed the whole backyard in gold. When it was almost morning, I got up, I took a shovel and pick from the garage, and went to the backyard to dig. While the cicadas stirred, I smashed limestone against shale and shattered clay in my hands. When I was too tired to keep going, when I had fallen to the torn-up ground with crying, I heard the soft breath of shattered ground behind me. I turned to see my dad digging his shovel into the earth. We held up rocks to the sun, searching for the shine.

Congratulations, Janelle. 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. (We also have some judging guidelines, if needed.)

RESULTS - Microcosms 169
RESULTS - Microcosms 167

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15 comments for “Welcome to Microcosms!

  1. zwoodle
    26 December 2015 at 4:15 pm

    We’re going to do a soft launch on 1 January. We’ll be e-mailing everyone shortly. Stay tuned!

  2. 12 September 2019 at 5:20 pm

    What’s happened to all the stories from last week’s competition?

    • KM Zafari
      12 September 2019 at 6:31 pm

      They’re all still in the system but not displaying on the front end. Part of the glitch I’m trying to resolve. :/

  3. 13 September 2019 at 6:37 am

    Who is Stoner, please?

  4. 13 September 2019 at 11:20 am

    Ghost; Haunted House; Comedy
    298 words

    The Gang, Fifty Years On

    “Hey guys, it’s our anniversary. It’s fifty years since we got together and solved our first case.”

    “That’s right. Why don’t we do something to celebrate? We could stay the night in the old, haunted house.”

    “I’m not really sure. None of us are as young as we used to be, we’re all in our late sixties now.”

    “Yeah, and I’m not sure that I want to stay up past my bedtime.”

    “Oh, go on, it’ll be a bit of fun. It’s not as though any of us get much of that anymore.”

    “It just won’t be the same without the dog.”

    “You’re right about missing the dog. I even miss that annoying little one that accompanied us on some of our later adventures.”

    “OK, it’s a date then. We just need someone to drive us out there before it gets dark.”

    “I’ll organise some supplies. Some drinks, a snack, spare walking sticks, and a flashlight for each of us.”

    “I’m not sure that I see the point. We never managed to find any real ghosts or monsters, never in our entire career. It was always a scam of some sort, and always one carried out by ordinary, everyday losers dressed up in costume.”

    The overnight stay was uneventful until just before dawn when they heard someone moving about downstairs. Silently they crept down the stairs only to find a fat balding man dressed up in a sheet going, “Woo… woo…” As it was obvious something untoward was going on, they phoned for the police. When they arrived a few minutes later the police arrested the would-be ghost. As he was taken away the last thing the gang heard him say was, “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those pesky pensioners!”

  5. Geoff
    13 September 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Stoner, haunted house, drama
    295 words
    ‘Hi Pete. How’s it trucking?’’
    Pete blinked, hoping his neighbour was another bad trip.
    ‘Garden’s looking great. Not many weeds. Ho!’
    Pete sucked in air, disorientated by the lack of smoke. I need to cut back oxygen. ‘Hi Greg. You after a packet?’
    ‘I was just wondering how you get them so… leafy?’
    Pete licked the paper. ‘You planning your own? Take some seeds, man.’ He sealed another joint, willing him to go.
    ‘I don’t think so. What’s the secret?’
    Pete looked at the soil at his feet. ‘Peace and love, man.’
    ‘Seriously. We grew cannabis at college but that was inside in Cheltenham. You manage outdoors, in Scotland in January…’
    ‘I rely on my relatives.’ He kicked the dirt, exposing the head of a femur. ‘That’s Auntie Jane. The plants love her.’
    Greg’s eyes widened. ‘That’s your aunt?’
    ‘Think so. Hang on.’ Pete put down the Rizzla packet and bent to the bone. ‘Yeah? You sure? Right ho.’ He looked up. ‘Uncle Portius. They look the same at that age, don’t they?’
    Greg rubbed his eyes. ‘I must be passive smoking your product. Did you just talk to a bone?’
    Pete laughed. ‘Course not. Bone’s don’t talk…’
    ‘They’re ghosts. I you like I can do you some Mexican spicy and my second cousin’s torso as a starter kit…’
    Greg backed away. ‘Maybe later.’
    Pete started another joint and covered the bone. He’d need another dozen for the school run. ‘Thanks Ponti, I’ll get you that pint of Ruddles later.’ He looked down the rows of fecund and fullsome plants to a slightly saggy group by the hedge. ‘And I’ll pick up some dubonnet and lemon for Granny Emmaline. Wouldn’t do to let her crop get peaky, what with festival season nearly upon us.’

  6. 13 September 2019 at 10:25 pm
    300 words
    Stoner; Ghost Ship; Comedy

    That’s Some Spooky Shit, Man–Sailing the Silvery Seas with Long Joint Spliffer

    Man, I had more wobbles than a bobblehead.


    Bubblehead for sure.

    Or Stubble head?

    Like man, that cat had a gnarly beard. Facial hair all wiry and dense. I could feel it, man. Spikes shooting out of his face like fireworks.

    Bazooka hookahs, man!

    Reefer creepers!

    Maybe it was the Maui-Zowie? Or the BC Bud? Or, get this, the Alberta Muerta?

    Made that up, man. Killer weed, though.

    Whatever it was, it was some magic shit. Maui Cowie poop, eh.

    Hah! I don’t know what that is.

    Anyway, I’d been up all night zinging in the shower, tingling in the tower, baying at the full moon, a giant silver dollar beauty, when I got the urge man to go down to the waterfront, watch the river flow.

    You ever done that, man? The river! Love the river. Like its dark, man, and late. The taverns have all closed. Streets littered with the soulful. Sky’s storm ready. Clouds gathering like jumbled sheets on a bed that’s never been made. Guess you know where that metaphor comes from. Anyways, you can feel it. Something’s gonna burst. So, I go down to the river and I see it through the thick fog. Like its out of the movies, man, full masted, skull and crossbones flapping in the night wind, and that ain’t no Errol Flynn standing at the helm. Not on your booty. Its someone eerie as hell, with some yo ho hoing and a bottle of bong…and I’m thinking, Bong? James Bong?

    There I am, staring at this vessel, double o sevening away, and this dude starts walking the plank and says, “Sorry Mate, no gambling tonight. The Jolly Better’s closed tight. City ordinance.”

    “Bummer, man” I bleat, “and me with the munchies and a pocket full of pieces of eight.”

  7. Angelique Pacheco
    14 September 2019 at 4:56 am

    Stoner; Ghost Ship; Comedy
    135 words

    Green Boo-ty

    I saw through the haze
    A ghost ship’s hallways
    Twisting and turning
    The maze was daunting

    A ghostly dancer beckoned
    “Get naked,” she reckoned
    My mind said, “Okay!”
    My body said, “Let’s play!”
    The scene was rearranged
    And the actors were exchanged.

    The captain wore coat tails
    He clung onto the rails
    He shouted for pirates
    And called us bandits
    Zombies took me to the ledge
    To walk the plank to the edge.

    When I came down
    We were back in Cape Town
    I found myself at the pool
    Standing starkers like a fool

    The mystical dancer
    Was a Trans performer
    Security was cuffing me
    No zombies could I see.

    Don’t ever take the green stuff
    It can be quite rough
    Make sure you buy local
    Not pirated forms of diabolical.

  8. 14 September 2019 at 6:19 am

    stoner/ghost ship/comedy
    WC: 365

    One More Sausage

    Fred was hungry. It was his semi-permanent state. Always eating; yet as thin as a rake that had been split in two–his acquaintances assumed he was looking after some tape worms. His best buddy, Havant, had just as voracious an appetite. Being a dog it was expected.
    Their holiday to France wasn’t going well. The language was unfamiliar and the food was not as good as anticipated. It was four days before Fred discovered that they were in Hamburg. And, whilst it was just two letters shy of his favourite word, it wasn’t in France.

    Things began to look up when they went for a couple of currywurst after a big breakfast. They got chatting to a groovy guy by the wurst-stand about all things sausage related ,which had got them a) excited and b) hungry again. Being at the wurst-stand that had been easy to deal with. There was always room for one more sausage.

    They shared a funny cigarette with Groovyman, which made them giggle. He said he’d never seen a dog smoke before. Fred said it happened regularly, usually when he’d spilt cooking oil on Havant.

    Groovyman enquired why he was called Havant. Fred explained that it was short for Havant A. which left him none the wiser. He then told them about the sausage barge, where the price for a four hour trip includes an ‘All That You Can Eat’ buffet. They weren’t going to miss this opportunity, so they heading down to the docks with big loping strides and stupid grins.

    At the docks everything was a bit blurry. Clearly they were in danger of fainting from hunger. So they got onboard the SS Hamburger with expectant bellies and an aim to make the buffet their home. Havant A. realised something was amiss when their boat passed through a series of locks without the gates opening. The lack of taste to the buffet wasn’t an issue, but the lack of substance was. When the captain turned up minus his head even Fred thought something was amiss.

    Then they smelled the Sausage Cruise pass in the other direction. It was a good job Havant could swim and Fred could float.

  9. Diego Piselli
    14 September 2019 at 5:04 pm

    Stoner, Ghost Ship, Comedy
    282 words
    The rumor had spread with lightning speed, fuelled by media coverage.
    A mahogany barge, loaded with Lebanese weed was floating somewhere in Amsterdam canals, unattended
    Smokers in coffee shops hotly debated the matter. Abe swore he saw it moored near Singel canal; Alwine claimed to be certain that the ship was far in the harbor; Rastafarian waiters fabled about an Iranian merchant, owner of the barge tugged along his princely yacht, vanished with a Circassian beauty.
    Eventually, on a warm summer Saturday night, the Quest had its beginning.
    Hordes of stoners, old hippies and weirdos of all kinds gathered in Dam square and started scouring all the canals, walking on the banks, boating or paddling in muddy waters: braver and youngsters went so far as to swim in the smelly current.
    The Quest was unsuccessful, but Saturday phantom barge hunting became a fixed meeting. If interest decreased, the press reported a new sighting and people got back to the endless hunting. Hunters set up groups and association named by famous weed smokers of the past. Each group had a leader, a hymn, a flag.
    And every Saturday evening Mr. Janssen, managing editor of “Amsterdam Today”, savored happily the silence of his flat in Central Amsterdam, a little nest in a medieval alley crowded with coffee shops. No more yelling, no more stoners’ noise. No more frantic strolling of excited people along the cobblestone street.
    All the smokers had gone away, searching for the barge.
    His little article full of question marks and drop hints about a mysterious barge had proved useful, and he could eventually savor domestic pleasures in peace. “Marijuana enthusiasts are like children,” he said to himself “they believe anything”.

  10. 14 September 2019 at 7:44 pm

    stoner/ghost ship/comedy
    Word Count – 260

    Clang! Clang! Clang!
    The sound reminded Midshipman Smythe of the death march if it was played badly by a toddler on kitchen pans. What was scarier was the lack of bodily panic symptoms. His heart hadn’t tried to explode. His stomach hadn’t emptied like a freshly flushed toilet. Nothing was doing nothing in fact. Peter, the welcome guy, had warned him about this but it took some getting use to.
    “Is that her Midshipman?” His Captain pointed at the blue haired girl hitting the ships pipes.
    “Yes Sir.”
    “Madam.” The captain pulled herself to the full height of her tall frame. “How did you get on board?”
    “I don’t know man.” She didn’t look at the captain. Instead she gazed off to the left, as if following an excitable fly.
    “Madam, I am very much not a man.”
    She blinked three times, each time she forced her eyes as wide as she could. “You are so pale…wo-man. Did I get that right? Wo-man.”
    She giggled to herself.
    The Captain did not see the funny side. “Madam! How did you get on board this ship?”
    “Space cakes.” Her hand becomes a rocket which follows the same trajectory as her imagined fly. She takes the same level of interest.
    The Captain groans. “Midshipman?”
    “Yes Captain.” He clips his heels together, disappointed at the lack of noise. Another thing he has to get use to.
    “Go find the Chaplin. Tell him to prepare for a bio-exorcism. I won’t have a breather on my ghost ship.”

  11. 14 September 2019 at 10:09 pm

    150 Words
    Unmasked Villain; Spooky Location; Drama


    Flames flickered in the oppressive darkness, solitary among thousands. A tall woman strode around them, her high-necked red dress flowing dangerously close to the light. Watching her, bathed in the shadows, were hundreds of people, their breathing heavy in the air of anticipation.

    She spun to face them, her eyes flashing as they reflected the flames. Her voice thundered through the deadened space. Disdain blanketed the group, suffocating even the bravest of her followers.

    Weakness was unacceptable, this they knew, but they had still managed to disappoint her. All fell to their knees, bowing their heads to the shame brought on by her piercing glare.

    She reached down to grab one of the candles, holding it in such a way that her face was cast in a ghostly light. Swiftly, her fingers were enveloped in the burning wax. Everyone else hissed, shocked, yet impressed by her stoicism.

    Flames smoldered still.

  12. Lindsey P
    16 September 2019 at 9:48 am

    I guess mine didn’t get saved…oh well.

    • Lindsey Pittenger
      16 September 2019 at 9:51 am

      298 Words

      Bookworm; Mine; Mystery

      The Case of the Canned Canaries

      As they ventured further down the dimly lit tunnel, Miranda pulled her book closer to her face, squinting to make out the words, comparing them to her surroundings. Everything seemed to be just as she’d expected. The construction of the mine shaft seemed stable and matched the text, which eased her growing sense of claustrophobia, but there was something that still just didn’t seem right. She hadn’t noticed that she’d slowed to a stop until the man behind her nearly knocked her over.

      “Oomf—sorry about that. Need to watch where I’m going a bit more,” he said with a sheepish grin.

      “I’m fine,” she said, clutching the book to herself and waving him away. Ignoring the dismissal, he pointed at her treasured cargo.

      “So what are you reading down here that’s so important to gum up the traffic?” he asked jovially, lowering his pickaxe from his shoulder.

      “Oh, this?” She held up the book. “It’s just an old book about mines. I figured I’d bring it along for some good-natured analysis. This mine seems similar to the one in the book, but the thing that’s been concerning me the most is the canaries.”

      “Canaries?” he asked, confused, briefly glancing around the shaft as though he’d missed something.

      “There aren’t any,” she said matter-of-factly, reopening her book, “Here, they use canaries as a warning system for noxious gases to keep people from dying, but this whole time we’ve been here, I haven’t seen a single one.” The look on her face fell as he burst into laughter.

      “I’m sorry,” he said, pointing to a box on the wall. “I think this sensor is that canary you’re looking for. Don’t worry, we are monitoring the safety of the air down here. At any rate, hope you’re enjoying your tour!”


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