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.”
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.
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.
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)
Lindsey Pittenger – Meet Me in the Afterlife
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.
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!
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.)