RESULTS – Microcosms 169

Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 169. We had 11 entries this time. Not bad for a holiday weekend! Thanks so much for participating. <3

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 168 Judge’s Pick, Janelle Carson, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what they had to say:

This was a thrilling week to act as judge! I enjoyed reading these little verbal kaleidoscopes. It was a special pleasure to transported to such cool locations—all the way from Rijeka to Rome, from Ancient Egypt to space. I applaud all of the authors in particular for conjuring such exciting and evocative atmospheres. These micro-stories and poems were so delightful (and in many cases, rich with insights and intrigue) that it was very difficult to choose just one winner. Ultimately, please know that my decision reflects my sense of what I enjoyed the most in a particular moment, and I hope doesn’t discourage anyone who didn’t happen to win this week. Congratulations on excellent submissions, and I hope all of my fellow microcosm-ers keep writing!



Favourite / Favorite Lines

Bill Engleson – “Of course,” I said, “I’ll join you,” and offered her my flame.
Diego Piselli – “Swallows are coming back soon,” said one of the two, the classic Family Man.
Lindsey Pittenger – “The oldest died in honor, thrusting herself forward onto his blade.”
Tim Hayes – “When my father made me, he promised that I’d never want for admirers. I’ve always stood out from the crowd, what with my aristocratic height, my grey-tinged skin, the piebald effect of the many skin tones that make up my whole.”
Lynda Kirby – “Through the gap, Trieste watched as the slimy Secret Service boss, acting as judge, ran a finger over the gleaming metal of a sword.”
David Lewis Pogson – “When my Ancestors left their Earth,/As voyagers into that endless black,/They’d never really doubted/That one day they would go back.”
Angelique Pacheco – “Salvatore, a young Italian, grinned cheekily, the gap between his teeth very prominent now.”
Ellen Grace – “Sweat gathered on her brow while police officers sat in their air-conditioned squad cars in hot pursuit.”
Eden Solera – “Euphoria effervesces within/Her as she breathes of/Lifeblood wine, stolen…”
E. Raymond Tatten – “In a far-away room, a technician followed a tiny green dot displayed on a computer screen and checked the words recorded before the men left the room.”


Honorable/Honourable Mentions

Diego Piselli – The Inspection

As a history nerd, I appreciated the thoughtful attention to historical and political context in this piece. While reading, I felt some vicarious revolutionary thrill! The symbol of the swallows was lovely, and the last line was particularly profound.

Tim Hayes – Fiends Reunited

This was a fun speculative romp! I loved imagining the experience of a modern-day Frankenstein’s monster-type of character, trying to type on a tiny keyboard with heartbreakingly (and maybe a little hilariously?) large hands. The piece also raises some interesting philosophical questions about the role of social media and scientific experimentation in shaping (or obscuring) who we are and the ways we relate to each other.


Second Runner-up

Lynda Kirby – Kangaroo Court

This was a tightly-executed, exciting story that did a particularly effective job of exploding a single scene. I studied Classics in college, and loved imagining myself tunneling through the depths of the Colosseum. The imagery was especially vivid–I felt like I was watching a turning point in an action movie as I shuttled along story’s rising tension and narrative twists. It was fun to be able to finally breathe a sigh of relief at the end.


First Runner-up

Bill Engleson – The Slow Train to Trieste

This story gripped me from my first reading and kept calling me back. I loved the vintage film noir atmosphere, and the way the narrative toggled between the present action and the protagonist’s memories. The story was also replete with vivid and effective details. The final line was especially thrilling and satisfying! I felt like I had gone on a journey with the protagonist that culminated the character’s choice to take a final, daring step. Nice work!

And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 169.

(insert drumroll here)


Community Pick

Lindsey Pittenger – Meet Me in the Afterlife

297 words
Suicidal Queen; Ancient Egypt; Drama

He loved me, and I hated him for it.

I hated the gentle whispers, the tender touch—his strong muscular build. His good looks, his gifts, his favor—I hated them all. I hated how he made me feel so good every time we were together. I hated how sincere he was.

It made me sick.

The mighty Pharaoh Yamanu—a warrior, a conqueror. He destroyed my family—everything I had known. He singled me out and made me his Queen—favored above all others. His one desire was for me to live and learn to love this new life with him.

But my duty was to die.

As his armies swept in and destroyed my people, my father, the chief, grabbed me and my sisters and swept us into the back of the house. He’d told me once that it was more honorable to die than to be taken captive. I could hear them pounding on the door. I saw the look in his eye as he screamed angrily, “YOU WILL NOT DEFILE MY FAMILY!”

He ran my sisters through.
The youngest didn’t see it coming.
The oldest died in honor, thrusting herself forward onto his blade.

I was frozen.

As he turned toward me, the door behind him crashed down.
My father’s head rolled on the floor.
I was taken.

Yamanu said he saved me from a wicked man—that man: my father.

Yet, I know that my father loved me—and my sisters.
I felt only guilt.
I was a failure.
Try though I might to join them, his Excellency would not let me die.
What’s worse—I could feel myself giving way to his power.
My feelings toward him growing—budding, blooming…

So I killed him.
As his queen, they’ll kill me too.


Judge’s Pick

Ellen Grace – The Thousand Words A Picture Tells

From the first line, I was hooked! Immediately, I had so many questions—what (or who) is Cynthia running from? What’s up with the dripping brush? Learning the back-story of Cynthia’s mother (including the details about her death and her optimistic view of human nature) added depth to this fast-moving chase scene. The image of the red-stained handkerchief was powerful. I enjoyed that, even at the end of the scene, even more questions lingered. The piece reminded me of another story about a mysterious (and maybe magical?) painting (The Picture of Dorian Gray), which gave the piece a neat inter-textual connection. I would have happily kept reading to learn what happens next!

300 words
Painter; Italy; Action

Cobblestone streets were not the best for running, especially in heels. Cynthia had known this before she started, but she hadn’t had much time to prepare.

Sirens were following her as the summer sun beat down. Sweat gathered on her brow while police officers sat in their air-conditioned squad cars in hot pursuit.

Cynthia’s brush was dripping. It had been dipped in red paint before she had had to make her daring escape, and now there was a trail following behind her like blood. “It isn’t mine,” she’d say – she’d always wanted to say that.

She ducked down a side alley. Paused to catch her breath.

She pulled a handkerchief out of her pocket; it had her mother’s initials embroidered in the corner. She wiped her brush clean on it. Her mother had died of cancer; now her handkerchief looked like it belonged to someone dying of consumption. Cynthia hoped that her mother’s high estimation of human nature was wrong and that no one would stop her to ask her if she needed any medical assistance.

Cynthia’s dress didn’t have any pockets. Being on the run was made all the more difficult with only one hand free, but she wasn’t about to let go of her paintbrush. This thing had got her into all this trouble, and it was damn sure going to see her out of it again.

Cynthia pocketed her mother’s handkerchief and left the alleyway the same way she had come. She hoped that she could get back to her workshop before the police realised she’d doubled back on herself.

She had left her painting behind in her escape. The whispers had only got louder the further she had run. A prison cell wouldn’t stop her doing what it told her; only she could do that.

Congratulations, Ellen. 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 170
RESULTS - Microcosms 168

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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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