Microcosms 189 + Announcing The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 189!

IMPORTANT! This week, we are SO pleased to announce “The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction”, brought to you by Alert Terminal Warehouse.

That’s right – we have a sponsor! Our weekly contest remains free to enter, but now you may be eligible to win a $25 USD prize! Our sponsor has generously agreed to fund the prizes for the next 52 (an entire year’s worth of) weekly contests. Wow!!!

Who is Karen Cox? We are told she is an avid reader and a “pretty cool lady” who is very generous with her time. Hats off to you, Karen! And may every writer be so lucky to have such a person in their life. <3

Please read through the post before submitting, as it contains important information!

Microcosms 189

 Alligator / Doll Factory / Action
Someone Who Just Got Botox / Pirate Ship / Sci Fi

New! $25 prize

Come write a story in 300 words or fewer. Fun and free!


Here’s a brief rundown of changes we have made (details can be found on our FAQs page):

  • Weekly contest runs Sunday – Saturday.
  • New! Judge’s pick winner gets a $25 USD prize. (Default is by PayPal; other options available, including gift card or charity/pay it forward donation.) Contest is still free to enter!
  • Community pick winner(s) for fun and bragging rights!
  • We have a default spinner you can use now if you don’t like the prompt(s) offered. Enter as many times as you like!
  • We’re using the Pacific Time (PDT/PST, as applicable – Los Angeles time).

Add Recurring Weekly Calendar Reminder

Never forget to enter again!

Click the arrow to expand options for a weekly recurring calendar reminder. (Choose as many as you like!)

^^^ This arrow right here. Click it!


  1. You have ONE WEEK (Sunday – Saturday, midnight – midnight) Los Angeles Time (PST/PDT) to submit your masterpiece.
  2. All submissions must be no more than 300 words in length (excluding the title and other header info).
  3. We enjoy fan fiction! Just not for this contest. NO FAN-FICTION, please, and NO USE of COPYRIGHT CHARACTERS for this contest.
  4. Include: word count, the THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry (see format guide below).
  5. If you are new to Microcosms, please check out the full submissions guidelines on our FAQs page.
  6. I feel like this should go without saying, but just in case – absolutely no AI submissions.
  7. Constructive feedback is fine, but all comments should be made in the spirit of kindness. Determination of what that means and if there are any consequences (such as warning or banning) is at my sole discretion. This is a safe space. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, or anti-Semitism, etc. (including “dog whistles”), will not be tolerated. This has never really been an issue, and we generally have a very nice community here – let’s keep it that way.
  8. You retain all rights to your story, except otherwise noted and unless otherwise agreed upon in advance (e.g., if selected for inclusion in an anthology, a contract will be sent with details). By submitting your story to this contest, you are granting us worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free rights to display it on our website (and store it, as needed).

To qualify for the cash prize, you must:

  1. Submit your story as a comment below.
  2. Story must fit within the contest criteria, including word count guidelines, and be on time. (A few minutes is okay; contact us if there are technical issues preventing you from submitting more than 5 minutes past midnight, PT.)
  3. Include the prompts used. (You can use the ones we spun for or spin your own from the current or default spinner, but it must be clear what you used.)
  4. Vote AND leave a comment on at least one other story for the week that is not your own (doesn’t have to be the same story).
  5. Share a link to the contest on social media, if you have one. (I.e., if you include a social media handle in your submission to promote yourself, please extend the same courtesy in return.)
  6. Acknowledge that the decision of the judge(s) is/are final.

Please use the following format when submitting your entries (feel free to copy/paste and edit or save a copy of the Google Doc linked below):

My Amazing Story Title
XXX words
Element / Element / Element
My Preferred Name
Optional: website or social media link 1 (please include full URL)
Optional: website or social media link 2 (please include full URL)
Optional: Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information. /// OR /// No, I am not open to derivative works at this time, thank you.


My amazing story content goes here.

You can use HTML to add a link. Example:
<a href="https://twitter.com/MicrocosmsFic">https://twitter.com/MicrocosmsFic</a>

Please kindly use this format, then copy/paste your response as a comment on this post. (It’s totally fine to be creative with the “words” part, like “253 ripe bananas”, as we’ve seen some people do in the past.) Not using this format with NOT disqualify you. But it will help us out if you do use it.

We have prepared a free and easy-to-use, pre-formatted document in Google Docs to help simplify things. Just save your own copy and then replace the content with your own. (Sometimes, adding links will get your comment flagged by the spam filter. If you think that happened, please contact us for assistance.)

Helping judge this week is Microcosms alum AJ Walker! Please be sure to thank them on Twitter and/or Spoutible!

Also, it’s time to announce the Community Pick for Microcosms 187.

Huge congrats to:

  • Eryn McConnell – For the second week in a row! (One more and you get a turkey or something, right?)

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 188 Community Pick(s) will be announced at the end of the week.

Happy writing!


(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/setting, and genre/style.

In celebration of the new prize, we spun twice this week – pick one! The three elements are:

Alligator / Doll Factory / Action


Someone Who Just Got Botox / Pirate Ship / Sci Fi

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. (Don’t like any of these? Try our default spinner.)

  • Alligator
  • Just got Botox
  • Doll Maker
  • Fast Food Worker
  • Yoga Instructor
  • Pirate
  • Train Conductor
  • Librarian
  • Swamp
  • Plastic Surgeon
  • Doll Factory
  • Fast Food Rest.
  • Yoga Studio
  • Pirate Ship
  • Train
  • Library
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy

We are always and forever in need of assistance. If you have any spare time to help, we will happily accept. Even something as little as 5-10 minutes a week would be amazing. (You have no idea.) To find out how you can help, please visit our volunteers page.

Microcosms 190 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction
Microcosms 188

21 thoughts on “Microcosms 189 + Announcing The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

    1. Hi Charity, great question! You would submit your story as a comment, just like you did here. And thank you for asking! I’m sure someone else will have the same question. (It’s buried in the post, but I should highlight that information.) Thanks again! Looking forward to reading what you write!

  1. Stealing from Pirates
    300 words
    Celebrity / Ship / Horror
    Charity Smith
    Please contact me via email.


    Jenny looked at the ship in disgust. The slime on the outside of the boat was green for god’s sake! At least eight of the crew members hadn’t brushed their teeth in a month. Who did they think they were! There are other people who have to see your teeth!
    “Would you like for me to get your bags, ma’am?” Jenny turned with a smile, but when she saw the dirt lining his eyes, her own widened with horror.
    “Absolutely not! I will not have your filth stain my luxurious purse or the fine dresses in this suitcase. They’re fitted and of the best style unlike your… your rags!” She turns away with a huff. Behind her, the boy sticks out his tongue and turns to the next passenger.
    “Why did mother buy me tickets on this boat? It’s a boat for the commoners! Not one of my status.”
    The walls are stained brown and there are crumbs on her bed! Steam comes from her ears and rage like she’s never felt before billows out of her. How dare they treat her like this! Didn’t they know who her father was! She storms out of her room and collides into the dirty boy from earlier.
    “Take me to the captain! I demand better quarters!”
    “If you insist.” He leads her through hall after hall, making turns that she wouldn’t have thought would lead to the Bridge. Instead, he takes her down lower and lower until she’d have thought they were beneath the ship. He finally stops at a single door at the end of a dark hall. It opens with a loud roan into a room darker than her ebony hair.
    She looks in, turns back to the boy, and is shoved through the door, never to be seen again.

    1. So satisfying to have annoying characters given their justice! To have the reader dislike a character that much in so few words is a talent!
      Thanks for the journey 🙂

    299 Words
    Someone who Just Got Botox/ Pirate Ship/ Sci-Fi
    By Steve Lodge
    Twitter: @steveweave71
    Instagram: steveweave_cheese

    This particular spatial adventure started quite innocently in The Alligators Feet Café near the harbour on the island of Drummond Hatch. I’d agreed to meet my wife, Lily Mentor, there when I returned from The Ambivalent Quadrant of Sektor Thirds.

    I had been away for several of time and my Earth language appeared to be poorly maladjusted.

    I left Brittle Bones and Archimedes Slapp in charge of the Pirate Ship Moontan Seven as I wandered into town for my long-awaited reunion with my beloved Lily.

    I went up to the Café’s reception area. I took off my astronautical helmet and said, quite loudly, although the receptionist did not appear deaf. “My name is Commander Saturn Uranus, and I am here to meet my wife, the lovely Lily Mentor.”

    “Thank you for shouting, Commander. I am partially asthmatic.” Replied the receptionist. “Your wife is in Room 3 at the back, modelling for the dollmaker.”

    I lumbered toward the back of the Café, in search of Room 3. Shouldn’t be too hard. I had, after all, found The Lost Cave Of Mohol, without even looking for it. Ah, space is deep.

    I knocked politely, went in and stood before Lily. I grabbed her by the sofa and embraced her hotly and firmly, whispering promises of a most personal nature.

    A voice came from behind me. “Saturn, you buffoon. I am she you speak of. The Lily of your dreams. You are embracing Oksana Medvedevskaya, dollmaker of Ringstad. Did you leave your eyesight perhaps on Mars?”

    I turned, then I turned back. “Well, I may be a buffoon, but one of you has had some botox done. I may still be drifting spatially, but you look the same facially. But now I see your webbed foot, my love, I realise my error.”

  3. Maybe It’s May Bileen
    295 words
    Someone who just got botox / Pirate ship / Scifi
    Kim kjagainMoes


    May boards the Pirate Ship Space Spa. Literally a spa in the sky, mostly attended by celebrities and other rich people. After 49 years of rationing her food, living in the dark, and walking everywhere, May has one chance.

    She avoids swooning over the celebrities who take no notice of the common girl. She wanders past the dining hall, checking her table assignment. One name at her table is none other than the great-great-granddaughter of that social media guru from the 20s. Talk about being rich because you’re born with it!

    She bumps into a server in the hallway who pulls her into a viewing room. Multiple ship monitors line the walls. Confusing May for a new hire, he says. “Hey newbie, you have GOT to see this bunch of rich bitches!” May doesn’t correct him–curiosity kills the cat and all that.

    He points to a woman leaving the Starboard Spa. “My money is on this one who just got Botox in her lips.”

    “What is it you’re betting on?”

    “We bet on who has the most amusing Botox moment.” No reaction from May. “Rich people come here to get made-up for this plastic society they created. Only the made-up people can make money, and only people with money can be made-up. It’s a vicious circle.”

    “Can’t people who struggle to save enough money come here and get made-up too?”

    His eyebrows rise into his forehead. “Why would anyone waste their entire life for that? These people just pretend–they’re avatars. But look at you, you’re a natural.” May blushes.

    He turns the volume up on his chosen lady who’s telling her friend how much she loves this pirate ship, but with all that Botox, it comes out as, “I love this pile of sh!t.”

  4. Title: Seeing Red
    340 words
    Getting botox / pirate ship / sci-fi
    Jaime Bree

    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.


    It wasn’t so much the messed up cosmetic surgery that bothered her, but the reason behind her getting a pirate ship tattooed on her arse.

    She’d been at a party that night and the girls had dared her to inject whatever it is they inject into wrinkles but an inked Black Pearl was another matter.

    Thinking about it, she didn’t even remember making the decision. She didn’t remember walking into the tattoo shop. In fact, she didn’t remember anything after that wrinkle injection.


    She sat at the red light tapping her hand on the steering wheel trying hard to recollect that night. The light turned green. A car horn behind her soon brought her out of her daze.

    Sleep was calling. She felt really tired recently. And that was another thing…
    She woke with a start. Pain seered through her body. She felt like she’d done sixteen rounds in a boxing ring.

    Slowly easing herself up, she stared at herself in the mirror. A gash above her eyebrow. A bruise on her cheek.

    Then it hit her. Flashes of the night before. A stranger in a tux, two in fact now she thought of it, hang on… three. No, wait… there were seven of these men and she decked each and every one of them with a right hook and perfect ninja style kicks. Only one left an imprint and it bloody hurt but she made sure she broke his neck.


    She broke a man’s neck with her bare hands?

    She leaned into the mirror, panicked, taking in the damage to her face and then she saw it. A red light pulsed in her eye.

    She stopped. Dead. Still.

    Her point of view no longer the mirror but a scrolling code sequence. A name. A place. Her next target.

    She blinked.

    God her face was a mess. Where had she put her make up? She looked at her watch.

    Shit, she was late for work too.

  5. Oh I Just Can’t Wait To Be King
    300 words
    Pirate Ship / Getting Botox / Sci Fi
    Laura Cooney
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.


    She knew the place was dodgy from the outset: from the people in the queue right down to the swarthy doorman and the sign. A black pirate ship half obscured by an octopus holding a syringe. BLACKBEARDS, ugh, not her kind of place, at all. She hadn’t had a choice, after all it had been Carol’s hen and she’d got them on the guest list. They were supposed to be in the West End seeing The Lion King but the club was what Carol wanted so, there they were. Freezing in skimpy dresses, waiting.
    It was the weirdest place she’d ever been; nightclub come opium den come beauty salon. When they finally got in they were offered three types of experience. Original, Mayhem or Vanity. Hazel and Charlotte, being the wildest of the quartet opted for Mayhem. Carol had always loved herself and so Vanity. Mary would’ve rather been Original, rums then home, but Carol heard, “be whoever you want to be.” And so the botox and manicure combo with a cocktail trio it was.
    Now it was tomorrow… and a weird day it had been. For a start Mary hadn’t wakened up in her own bed and for her, that was highly unusual. Now as she stood on the balcony, smiling for the first time all day, because she had to admit it was quite cool, she realised her mistake. In listening to the Lion King soundtrack in preparation for the show she’d got the song caught in her head and when the initial injection had gone in, of course it was going to change her. “Be whoever you want to be.” Indeed! But, she really hadn’t wanted this.
    Now as she lifted her hand to wave to the crowd. She had to wonder, who the hell was Carol?

    1. Oh! So nice! Well done.

      If you don’t write a story about the three types of experience

      Original, Mayhem or Vanity.

      I swear I’ll never stop bugging you!

    2. I have to second Jaime’s comment. I’d really love to know more about the 3 experiences!

  6. Memories Bound in Blood
    300 words
    Librarian / Plastic Surgeon / Horror
    Eden Solera
    Twitter: @EdenSolera
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.


    She awoke briefly in a river of blood, glimpsing the viscous liquid cradling her body before the weakness in her limbs dragged her back into sleep.

    When she next woke, it was to a red room, walls built of flesh, and she let out a choked scream. Supported by shaking arms, she crawled along the perimeter of the room, searching for a way out that didn’t exist. Tears slipped down her cheeks, one scarred, the other smooth, but for the first time since the accident, she ignored the burns.

    Chuckling shook the room and her with it, reverberating in her bones, and her head snapped up, searching for the source of the sound. She was alone, but as if spurred by her fear, the chuckle turned to speech. “Don’t be afraid. You agreed to this, remember?”

    “Who are you?” she screamed. “Let me out!”

    The voice tsked. “And I thought you wanted those burn scars removed? I thought you wanted people to stop pitying you, remembering what he did to you every time they see your face.”

    “I do, but the surgery. It’ll be years before I’ve saved enough.”

    “Ah, yes.” The voice thrummed in time with the frantic beating of her heart. “Except you found me. The only surgeon willing to help you.”

    “For free?”

    “For shelving some books. Although—” Another chuckle. “They’re really memories. My memories.”

    She squinted at the nodules along the flesh-like walls, roughly rectangular in shape. She’d always been a librarian, but this…

    “Go on, take a look.”

    Her hand shook as she brushed a finger over the nearest nodule and glimpsed a man with bits of gold stitched into his skin, his mouth open in a silent, rictus scream. She recoiled in horror with another scream of her own.

    “Welcome to your new home.”

  7. Voyage Observation
    281 Words
    Someone who Just Got Botox/ Pirate Ship/ Sci-Fi
    By Brady Koch
    Twitter: @BradyTheWriter

    It took four cycles of the coin-operated pirate ship ride in front of the Piggly Wiggly for Observation Subject #4 to nod off. The little girl’s mother let the machine slow to a halt before putting another quarter in and starting the ship rocking against the invisible waves again. The woman checked her watch and rattled the last three quarters in her hand. It was enough to fulfill the agreed-upon time that allowed the person from the agency to watch her adopted daughter.

    Martha pulled her binoculars down again and wrinkled her nose. She then impulsively yawned and rubbed her left cheek. She’d somehow picked up this exact trio of actions when she was a child. No idea where it came from, just born with the unusual trait. Unlike the rest of the lab team she had to observe the dozen Observation Subjects from afar and, while she liked to keep tabs on their placements, sitting in the heat of the car always tired her out.

    Today her cheek was numb. That wouldn’t last too much longer. The Botox was her little treat for learning the Nobel committee had nominated her work again. Ultimately, they would probably reject it again. Martha’s ethics on cloning were at least a decade ahead of that stodgy institution. If they surprised her and Martha did finally win the prize, she wanted to make sure she walked on the stage fresh-faced.

    The final voyage of the pirate ship ended, and the mother roused her sleeping daughter. The girl opened her eyes and wrinkled her nose before yawning and rubbing her left cheek. Just like all the others. Just like her source watching her in the binoculars.

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