Microcosms 191 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 191!

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

We’re working on making these posts better. Appreciate any feedback you have to share, both positive and constructive, as well any other suggestions you might have. Send a message or hit us up on Twitter.

Microcosms 191

Switched at Birth / Blind Date / Drama
Reluctant Dater / Auction House / Comedy

$25 prize (free to enter)!

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.) 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! Choose as many as you like!

Add a recurring reminder for Sundays

Add a recurring reminder for Mondays

Add a recurring reminder for Tuesdays

Add a recurring reminder for Wednesdauys

Add a recurring reminder for Thursdays

Add a recurring reminder for Fridays

Add a recurring reminder for Saturdays


  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.)

This Week’s Prompts

Our contest this week begins with THREE things: character, location/setting, and genre/style.

We spun, and our three elements are:

Switched at Birth / Blind Date / Drama


Reluctant Dater / Auction House / Comedy

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.)




  • Bridezilla/Groomzilla
  • Rock Climber
  • Reluctant Dater
  • Switched at Birth
  • Scam Artist
  • Secretly Wealthy
  • Auctioneer
  • Party Host
  • Wedding
  • Mountain
  • Blind Date
  • Hospital
  • Tech Support Center
  • Auction House
  • Dinner Party
  • Reading of a Will
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy

Judging this week is long-term alum Stephanie Ellis! Be sure to give her a shoutout on Twitter!

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 190 Community Pick(s) will be announced at the end of the week, along with the Judge’s Pick, who will win $25!

Happy writing!


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. If you have an idea for a future contest and/or would like to be a guest judge, please contact us.

MC 189 Winners!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… Without further ado, it’s time to announce the winner(s) of MC XXX!

Community Pick(s)

Huge congrats (and bragging rights) go to our Community Pick(s):

  • Steve Lodge
  • Laura Cooney

Great job, Steve and Laura!

Judge’s Pick

And the Judge’s Pick, and winner of this week’s $25 Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction, is:

Drumroll, please!

  • Eden Solera

Congrats, Eden! Please contact us for instructions on how to accept your prize! And please let us know if you’d like to judge a future contest!

Here’s what judge Andy (AJ) Walker had to say:

It was a privilege and a challenge to review these Microcosms stories for the newly sponsored challenge. It was nice to be asked. Thanks too to everyone who gets involved in it whenever they can. Three hundred words is not much to get a story going from start to finish whilst taking in sometimes diverse and damn right oddly juxtaposed elements.

This week there were seven stories – six of which were eligible according to the rules. But even with a relatively small number of stories to go through it was hard to pick a favourite. There were horror stories and sci-fi with both serious and comedic bents. It was nice – if not difficult because of it – to read them all multiple times and not to have been hit with a total standout; and that not because there wasn’t a good enough one, but because there were indeed several very good ones. In the end I had to make a decision though and my choice was: ‘Memories Bound In Blood’, which incorporated spun elements; Librarian, Plastic Surgeon, and Horror.

‘Memories…’ was a strong story throughout and like most of them had a nice tight ending. It also clearly struck the required elements; which can be harder than it seems at first with so few words to play with: I know from my own experience that deleting even a single sentence out of your first edit can remove one or more of the elements without you even noticing.

I’ve judged the stories blind so I don’t know who has won – or who hasn’t. Congratulations to the winner whoever he or she is. And if I haven’t picked yours you can be proud to have made my job a difficult one.



PS. Sod’s Law that I went for a story where the author had spun the wheels, when I always try not too.

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Microcosms 192 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction
Microcosms 190 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

14 thoughts on “Microcosms 191 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

  1. Title: Tom Cruise Has Nothing On Jimmy
    300 words
    Reluctant Dater/ Auction House/ Comedy
    Jaime Bree

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


    Jimmy whipped the feather duster from the trolley, swished it across the silverware and furniture, then, at close range, spat onto the Baroque desk in front of him, smearing away a mark, his boredom reflected in the French polish.

    ‘Hey.’ A voice from behind bellowed. ‘You missed a spot.’

    He turned with a massive smile on his face. One that was as unmoving as bad Botox and held back a multitude of obscenities.

    ‘I may be a lot of things, Maureen. A badly dressed, mid-life crisis contender with an everso slight Tom Cruise height issue but with all his good looks, except the hair, or the looks for that matter, but… I never miss the spot.’

    ‘I beg to differ,’ retorted Maureen pointing at a smudge even squinting couldn’t detect.

    ‘My mistake’, said Jimmy managing to maintain the smile while schlapping on a pair of pink rubber gloves. 

    ‘I’ll get right to that.’ 

    The place was filling with bidders. He wasn’t keen on people. He hadn’t been on a date in over a decade and crowds scared the crap out of him. 

    He knew if he didn’t hurry he wouldn’t get himself and his trolley behind the maintenance doors before the gavel hit for the first bid.

    He cleaned the spot, raced across the room Mission Impossible style, swerving in and out of the ever-growing crowds, sweeping dust from the final pieces of furniture and picking litter up with precision like it was an unexploded bomb.

    He slid through the doors, spun the trolley round to push them closed, pinged off his gloves and whipped out the feather duster quicker than a gunslinger at the O.K. Corral, blowing across the top of it like a pistol.

    He smiled.

    ‘Tom Cruise has nothin’ on me. God knows why I’m single.’

  2. Potentially Better Than an Oat Milk Skinny Latte
    300 words
    Reluctant Dater / Auction House / Comedy
    By A.J. Walker
    Website: https://awalker.org
    Twitter/Spoutible: @zevonesque


    Billy hadn’t been on a date for seven years – and that’d barely counted: Jennifer had bailed before her coffee arrived, putting a dent in his fragile confidence. He’d ended up with her coffee. Billy mused that he’d at least learnt that an oat milk skinny latte was every bit as distasteful as it sounded.

    Subsequent years had passed in a nothingness blur.

    Now he was meeting Cheri to go to The Auction House. He’d not eaten all day in anticipation of a nice meal (maybe two if she departed early).

    They met at the station. He was impressed by her timekeeping and her appearance. She looked intelligent and appeared potentially normal.

    Cheri smiled when he waved. He’d said he’d wear a white carnation to distinguish himself. He looked exactly like his photo, with or without the flower.

    ‘William I assume?’ She said nodding at his lapel.

    ‘Billy, please. I’m assuming you’re Cheri.’

    ‘Indeed. Can we get a wiggle on? I thought the auction started at two but it’s one. I’m sorry. Don’t want to miss any lots.’

    Billy paused. ‘Auction? Thought we were going for a meal.’

    ‘Didn’t I say the auction house?’

    ‘Well yeah. But I assumed it was the name of a fancy restaurant.’

    Cheri slumped. ‘Really? Didn’t you Dr Google it?’

    Billy had. Failing to find the restaurant, he’d assumed it was new.

    ‘My bad. Assumption is the mother of fuck-up.’

    ‘And of a hungry boy.’

    Billy wondered how loud his protesting belly was.

    ‘Thought it’d be nice to do something different from a restaurant or bar.’

    It certainly was. He ended up buying a broken microscope and a chipped ceramic bowl. Cheri had been disappointed he hadn’t bid on a pair of police handcuffs. But given she had her own in her handbag it wouldn’t matter.

  3. Panda

    WC : 300

    Switched at birth / Blind date / Drama


    Felicity was switched at birth for a stuffed panda. She often wondered if her mother ever realised but accepted she might never know.

    They put Felicity in the toy shop window with the stuffed bears, dolls, dogs & donkeys. Despite grinning till her jaw ached whenever a child – preferably with rich looking parents – walked past, Felicity didn’t sell till she was six & three quarters.

    They were a big family and they treated her like one of them. Teased by the older brothers, forced to wash up every night by the woman, dressed up & made up & swamped in scarves & jewellery by the sisters. And there was a father who spent most of the time in the shed.

    At eighteen she was at university, living in a shared house. She would never forget. It was May the tenth. Her landlord persuaded her to stay home to let in a man putting up new blinds. As he worked he kept staring at her.

    She glared at him ‘What?’

    ‘Sorry love, it’s just that I know a woman who looks just like you. Bit older but you’d know her if you saw her, she pushes a toy panda around town in a buggy. Treats it like her kid. Sad really.’

    He shrugged and finished hanging the blinds. Felicity didn’t know what to say so she said nothing. She made the blind man a mug of hot chocolate & they lay down together on her room mate’s bed. She decided afterwards that she did it so they would both forget her mother.

    But just last week, in Drama class, Felicity pulled on a furry black and white panda costume, zipped it up and sat all afternoon thinking about her real mother and munching on a bunch of bamboo.

  4. Familiarity
    275 words
    Switched At Birth / Blind Date / Drama


    “Hey! Sorry if I kept you waiting, there was a bit of traffic suddenly,” A lovely girl said to me, startling me slightly as I looked up from the table I was sitting at. I stood up and pulled her chair out before she had the chance, taking her coat off and folding it over the back of her chair as she sat and pulled herself closer to the table.
    “No worries. You’re Claire, right?” I smiled, moving back to sit down in my seat. She smiled brightly with a small nod.
    “And you’re Joshua,” She said, smoothing down the front of her dark green dress. I nodded back, taking a sip of my water. There was a beat of silence as we both observed one another.
    “So.. How do you know Steve?” I questioned, breaking the awkward silence. I began looking down at the menu to avoid her gaze.
    “We met in a bar a year or two ago. You?”
    “Childhood friends. He’s like a brother to me.” As I looked back up I noticed her face was scrunched in thought. I cleared my throat, getting her attention.
    “Oh, I’m sorry. It’s just.. You look exactly like my dad did when he was younger,” She shook her head with a smile, but my stomach dropped. “Uh.. You look a bit pale?”
    “Sorry. Uh, this is sudden but his name wouldn’t happen to be Robert Finnegan, would it?” Her eyes widened.
    “How did you..?” She looked confused. My breath stopped, mind buzzing with this new information.
    “I think we might be brother and sister,” I finally spoke, too afraid to look her in the eye.

    300 words
    Switched At Birth/Blind Date/Drama
    By Steve Lodge
    Twitter:- @steveweave71
    Instagram:- steveweave_cheese

    “I believe you are the only person who can, in confidence, help me, Molnar.”

    This guy looked rich and moneyed and loaded with funds, so I asked him to sit down in my dingy office, across the desk from me. I glanced at my desk. There was an ashtray full of prune stones. I’ve been having some constipation problems lately. Not the sort of thing a tough, gritty private investigator wants to go bragging about so I put my newspaper over the ashtray.

    He looked uncomfortable, perched on the chair.

    “I’ll come straight to the point, Molnar, so I can get out of your squalid office, go home, shower and burn all the clothes I’m wearing.”

    I can’t afford to take offence or pay the rent. I asked him to continue.

    “My name is Sir Norman Stuffy. I have used your Blind Date services before under my fake name, Stefan Aliadiere. Now I need to make use of your Switched At Birth Club services. I am being blackmailed by a lady called Constance Haddock. We met on a Seniors Blind Date Weekend your Club organised and now she not only tells me she is pregnant but also claims that she is my sister, who was switched at birth at Balmforth-on-Sea Hospital by my parents because she was born with a webbed foot.”

    He looked distressed.

    “I need to know, Molnar, if there’s any truth in all this absurdity. I am falling apart and my wife will go bonkers. Look, you’re a Private Investigator. You must have background info on this woman on your files. I don’t even know how I could have got this Haddock woman pregnant. I’m 84 for crying out loud. I’ll pay whatever you ask and I’ll also recommend you a good remedy for constipation. Please help.”

  6. The Good Stuff
    294 words
    Switched at Birth / Blind Date / Drama
    Jessica Gardner
    E-mail: jessica.a.gardner0307@gmail.com
    Optional: Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.


    “How did you and Frank meet?”

    A frivolous question asked by people with nothing better to discuss. Frank and Hannah had been married for 43 years. They had met on a blind date in 1978. It was not love at first sight. They got married two years later. Since her diagnosis, Hannah had no patience for discussions of the ordinary. She was aware that her time on this plane of existence was limited, so using it for small talk was fully against her wishes.

    In fairness, her niece had asked her this as part of an exercise to document Hannah’s life for posterity. But her dislike for this question predated her illness. Nobody actually cares about the minute details of anyone else’s life. Get to the good stuff. Her parents divorce in 1965 which was scandalous for its time. The trip to Australia after her third miscarriage that marked the end of their attempts at parenthood. The family legend that her sister, Mary, had been switched at birth because of her violently red hair and quiet disposition.

    Hannah started to compose her reprimand about these questions, but she looked at the woman in front of her. She had always been fond of this niece in particular, the daughter of the silent redhead, though she could not recall the girl’s name now. While it was true that Hannah wanted to speak of what she wanted to speak of, she remembered that she adored the niece whose name she had already lost and a pyrrhic victory wasn’t useful now. Hannah softened her face, and said placatingly:

    ¨We met at a party at Duke. I loved him immediately and I’ve never stopped loving him. He was the most handsome guy I’d ever seen¨.

    It was true enough.

  7. I Got Sold Out Not Nearly Hitched
    300 dates later
    Reluctant Dater / Auction House/ Comedy
    ///No, I am not open to derivative works at this time, thank you.

    The years count too long and my mum tries to set me up on a date with a friend’s son. “I’m gay”, I tell her over the phone. She emails me pictures of flings I’ve had recently.

    All men.

    In my defence, one of them identified as a woman. If it had worked out, I could have been, potentially, gay? Besides, how the hell did she get those?! She nevers says, and instead emails me a link. A dating site, I realise when the page opens.

    Auction House, it reads, in red, thin, italicised letters. I’m sure they were going for sexy, but I just get the feeling that if I go any further, I’d encounter misfortune. So I click ‘sign up’ and quickly input all my details, including my mum’s credit card info. A page pops up, requesting for my spec? I set it to random selection: Tall, green eyes, black hair, rich? Why not?

    I’m redirected to another page, asking me to place a bid. I bid five hundred dollars (Mummy’s money) and the next moment golden fireworks explode on the screen. Two gavel-knocks later and I’m announced as the highest bidder, sent an address and time.

    Basically, I’ve been duped.

    I call my mum and she urges me to go on the date with a total stranger. I call her crazy, but she raves about how she has no grandkids at 50.

    “I’m only 28”

    “Approximately 40!”


    So I get fancified; evening gown, heels and makeup, all at Mum’s behest and head to potentially be kidnapped. My date is outside, and—



    I know him.

    The thought suddenly strikes me like a bolt of lightning.

    “Auctioning the friend’s son? Best one yet”, I snicker, getting right into another game of ‘how long can he last’.

  8. Cowbirds Find Love
    300 Words
    Switched at Birth / Blind Date / Drama
    Galen Gower
    Yes, I am open to derivative works including puppet shows.
    “Beat it, nerd,” he says. Their blind date had just started, but this guy just walked up and started flexing on Max. Ellen didn’t say anything to the interloper, just took Max’s arm and led him to another section of the restaurant.
    “You were telling me how your mom just left you at the neighbor’s house, Max. Please finish the story.”
    “Well, she still checked on me. I always knew she was out there. I’d sneak out at night and meet up with her and my dad. Sometimes my brother and sister would meet us, too.”
    “Oh, the same thing happened to me! Mom said all of our families have done it this way. It’s just too hard to raise kids! We have so much in common, Max!” She took his hand and nestled into him. “It’s like we were switched at birth, but still knew who we were, deep down. I think we were meant to be together.”
    The guy was back, and he was mad. “Come on twerp, we’re going to have a dance off!” The other people in the restaurant immediately got quiet. The intensity grew and Max swallowed hard. “Fine. Let’s go.” Max walked to the clear area off to the side, shoulders slumped. He knew Ellen wouldn’t want him after this. He was a terrible dancer.
    Just as he suspected, the other guy was an amazing dancer. He puffed his chest and strutted, shuffled backward, and flexed his arms in impressive displays that wowed the onlookers. The best Max could do was shuffle in place awkwardly and sway side to side. It was over. He knew he was doomed to be alone, but at least it was over.
    “Oh, Max! That was great! I can’t wait to leave our babies at the neighbor’s house!”

  9. Due Diligence
    292 words
    Switched at Birth / Blind Date / Drama
    No, I am not open to derivative works at this time, thank you.
    A private eye dreams of exciting jobs, the car chases and gunfights of the movies. Instead, our working lives are all dull internet searches. My last two jobs were worse. They were irritating.
    “I need you to do some due diligence on my blind date, old chap.” Gideon Rees-Humphreys looks like a cartoon character. All floppy hair, ‘yas’ and strange handshakes. His fashion sense is older than most European countries. I charge him my special rich-person rate plus expenses. He swans off, thinking he got a good deal.
    Two hours later, his date arrives, demanding the same thing. Godiva Kenilworth is as subtle as her first name, checking for dust on every surface. I charge her double, and she leaves even faster.
    They are both influencer-wannabes. All posed charity photos with African children and sparse plates of odd food. Their school photos prove how much money their parents wasted on their education.
    Yet the most interesting thing about them was what I couldn’t find: a birth certificate for either of them. Both were adopted just weeks apart but no evidence of their birth. I pulled up the two certificates side by side.
    “Bloody hell.” They were almost identical. The work of the same law firm, Canary, Dreghorn and Gooseberry. A memory flickered. Google sorted out the rest. Benjamin Canary, hot shot, slightly dodgy lawyer, brought down by a sex scandal. Tried to bribe his way out and brought the judge down with him. The rumours were that he was very chatty about former clients for a fee. I had expenses to use, so I gave him a call. He sang for a lot less than I expected.
    I put down the phone. Do I tell the two blind daters they are twins?

    1. Is it possible to take the s out of the word ‘workings’ on my first line? It shouldn’t be there, and only just noticed it. Why is it always after the time runs out that I notice the mistake? Thanks in advance

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