Microcosms 192 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 192!

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

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A Fish Out of Water (literal or figurative) / Ocean (ironically) / Comedy
Surfer / 1920s-30s Nightclub / Sci Fi

$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:

A Fish Out of Water (literal or figurative) / Ocean (ironically) / Comedy


Surfer / 1920s-30s Nightclub / 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.)




  • Mariachi Band
  • Bank Teller
  • Ghost Hunter
  • Animal Rescuer
  • Runway Model
  • Surfer
  • Flapper
  • Fish Out of Water
  • Parade
  • Safe Deposit Box
  • Haunted Asylum
  • Animal Rescue
  • Runway
  • Ocean
  • 1920s/30s Nightclub
  • Foreign Country
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy

Helping judge this week is MC 189 and 190 winner Eden Solera! Please 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 191 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 190 Winner!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for… Without further ado, it’s time to announce the winner(s) of MC 190!

Community Pick(s)

We’ve got a double dipper this week!

  • Eden Solera
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 let us know if you’d like to judge, and contact us for instructions on how to accept your prize. 🙂

Here’s what judge Steph Ellis had to say:

Actually, Steph had it easy this week, but she’s returning as judge for MC 191, and we’ll include her comments on that contest. 🙂

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Microcosms 193 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction
Microcosms 191 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

22 thoughts on “Microcosms 192 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

    299 words
    A Fish Out Of Water/Ocean/Comedy
    By Steve Lodge
    Twitter:- @steveweave71
    Instagram:- steveweave_cheese

    I took my regular morning stroll along the beach at Treasure Bay. Daydreaming, for the most part. I’m not used to this feeling. It might be love. I don’t know. Feels like I’ve been slapped round the face with a large halibut.

    Oh, should we never love for fear it will disappear like a tattoo done in crayon? I think of Dawn more than I think of cheese.

    “You are all I ever wanted. I’m calling off the search.” I shouted at the passing ocean. “Dawn, you are the antidote to my sadness.”

    I stared out to sea for many minutes. The sun rays were quite blinding as they bounced off the fast moving water. I realised when I reached The Clumsy Mermaid Café on the harbour front, that I was late for latte and the tables were filling up with the lunch crowd. I found a table and asked Monica for fish and chips with plenty of Otis gravy and a bottle of Tulipboom, my new favourite beer, since Dawn had introduced me to it.

    I couldn’t tell if Otis’ gravy had gone off. Even after I’d eaten 5 slices.

    I hummed to a distant melody by Constance Puritan. “You’re So Cute, I Could Eat You With A Spoon.” It was our song. Dawn and mine.

    I waited until the lunchtime crowd had thinned out, then I asked Monica.

    “Is Otis alright? Only, even by his standards, this lunch is awful. I’m not sure about the gravy, but I don’t think this fish has ever been near water. It tastes ceramic. Fish is supposed to be fresh out of water.”

    Monica smiled. “Thank you, Eric. I did not know that. I always learn something new from you. Let me go and tell Otis. He may not know either.”

    1. I liked the ending. Of course only Eric knows that fish is supposed to be fresh out of water. I also would like to point out a few things. The part about the crayon. I believe in the context, you meant with, not in. So “with crayon”. And in the sixth paragraph, “Dawn and mine”, should be “Dawn and I”. You’d used ours earlier so what you’re describing in the next sentence is who. The answer? Dawn and you. Again, I liked the ending and the overall tone. It’s bland humour until that sarcastic kick

  2. ‘A Duck Is Better’
    290 words
    A Fish Out of Water / Ocean / Comedy
    A.J. Walker
    Website: https://awalker.org
    Twitter/Spoutible: @zevonesque


    Billy looked down at this work’s Welcome Pack. He’d logged into his workstation and seen how the emails and company apps worked and he’d already received messages from HR, his boss, and line manager – and even something about a work’s pool tournament on Friday. He’d only been in the office for an hour and he was already beginning to feel a little overwhelmed by it.

    He looked out across the office and saw the rows of similar desks to the distant work horizon. He sighed. He’d always worked outside. He wasn’t an indoor sort; unless it had a bar.

    The man called Stevie on the next desk looked over. ‘You okay, bud?’

    ‘What? Oh, yes. It’s all a bit different is all.’ Billy said, pointing at his desk guide.

    ‘Aye. Remember my first day here too. Sure I spent the whole time like a bunny in the headlights.’

    ‘Yeah. I’m feeling like a duck out of water to be honest.’ He looked out of the window behind Stevie and watched the ocean waves breaking on the sandy beach.



    ‘It’s a fish out of water. Not a duck.’

    ‘I’ve always said duck. It makes more sense and isn’t as cruel. I mean a fish out of water would be dead while a duck wouldn’t be. I’d rather be a duck than a fish.’

    Stevie considered Billy’s contention and eventually nodded his agreement. ‘Right you are Billy The Fish, right you are. Anyway talking of water, does Billy The Fish play pool?’

    ‘Oh yeah. Bit of a pool shark me.’

    ‘Fish, ducks, sharks. This water is getting busier by the minute. David Attenborough will be be commentating at this rate.’

    ‘Does he play pool?’ Billy asked, oblivious to the name.

  3. Down To The Wire
    300 words
    A Fish Out Of Water / Ocean (ironically) / Comedy
    Deanna Salser
    I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.


    Carlie Trout cups one ear as she plays a scale on the old piano, and twisting her hammer this way and that, she works her way from one side to the other, occasionally stopping to test her work. Bit by bit, the discordance turns to harmony and finally, she stops and, parking herself on the bench, spreads her fingers, and fills the air with sound that flows like water. She sits back with her hands in her lap as the last notes die down and silence descends, then gets up and proceeds to pack her things into her bag. Another job well done. There are others who can do the work but no one she knew could test the newly tuned instrument like she can. If she decided to become a player, well, not many would be in her class there, either. She’s that good. She hefts her bag to her shoulder, wishing she could stay and lose herself in the music.

    Suddenly she notices the murmuring, and looking around, sees all the faces lined up side by side, filling all the seats in the auditorium. She’s feeling a bit like a fish in a tank when the door to stage left opens and in walks Billy Joel! With a raise of his eyebrows, he goes to tinker inside the piano. After a few minutes, he seats himself at the bench, lifts his hands to the keys, and begins to play. The crowd erupts in waves of cheering. Halfway through the song, there comes a sharp crack. A curl of wire springs up and slices Billy’s face, stopping the impromptu concert mid-swing. With blood dripping down his cheek, he stands and faces her, his lips twisting in silent mirth.
    “Sorry Carlie,” he says. “Only good testing tuners get wire kissed.”

  4. Title: Time And Tide Wait For No Killer
    299 words
    Surfer / 1920s-1930s nightclub / 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.

    You’d think it’d be easy with the knowledge we have. Maybe it’s a test, a ploy to outsmart or a glitch in the Keanu Reeve-esque matrix so many of us have to endure. Whatever it is, it ain’t easy.

    How far into the future or back into the past can you go before your brain develops some kind of psychosis and you end up chasing your tail rather than finding the bad guy?

    There are just too many places to hide these days.

    I couldn’t wait for my Bonnie and Clyde moment though. Rocking up with a 30 caliber BAR in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other, shimmying my way into that speakeasy with a chip on my shoulder. It was always about the act not the disguise.

    See me as I truly am and deal with me.

    The look on their faces when I materialised, like some voodoo spirit, was worth every split-millisecond of potential danger as they drew their guns.

    I like avoiding bullets. It’s the surfer in me. Many things disappear from memory after 693 timehops, but surfing is a religion you never forget.

    Make sure you’re at the right spot, keep it low, generate speed and power, foot work is key and most importantly, look and your body will follow.

    So, yeah, hopping in and out of time and space is easy. But hunting a murderer through a myriad of wormholes not so much.

    He killed me twice already, the son of a bitch. But hey, we have eleven regenerations so I’m not gonna drop just yet. Besides, I’m enjoying chasing my tail with my nine lives left intact. One step ahead he may be but I’m riding this out ‘til either his wrists are in my cuffs or I’m dead.

  5. Title: Revenge: A Dish Best Served… Melted
    300 words
    Fish Out of Water / Ocean (ironic) / Comedy
    Laura Cooney

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

    It was the day Goldie died that Matilda Arnold wept an ocean of tears, not because of the fish, fish die don’t they? Fish even of suicide, which happens way more often than you’d realise. No, Matilda wept because it was also the day that her mother melted.
    Whipsnade Zoo 1965: and one Mavis Arnold, had the job of Chief Ape Love Facilitator. She was a champion of animal conservation and had notoriously been awarded an OBE for her ‘selfless’ services to nature. It had to be said that Mavis did great many things, travelling round the world, where, rumour had it, she got up to occasional monkey business.
    After retirement she became the main ‘ribbon cutter’ of every Go Ape! centre in the Midlands, a job she took seriously and her crowning achievement was finding her way into the Piccadilly branch of Madame Taussads where, until yesterday, for reasons no-one could figure out, 7 models had melted to the ground, of which Mavis’ was one.
    Speculation followed. Why would someone melt the effigy of the world renowned conservationist? And, why now, after all these years?
    Matilda had listened attentively as she stood in the ‘museum’ looking at her mother’s legacy hardening into a puddle.
    And later when she’d stood in the kitchen, staring disbelievingly, at the solidified carcass of the goldfish the tears welled up in her eyes. She pondered the ephemeral nature of life, how she’d wasted hers by not achieving because her mother had been too busy aping around the world to encourage her. And as she put the matches back into the drawer most of the guilt went with them, though, admittedly, she would always be slightly sorry for the six other people she’d affected. Empathy, she supposed, lingered way more often than you’d realise.

      1. This is brilliant! Masterfully written and the storyline is so original. The main character is “real.” I keep thinking about it…

    1. This is masterfully written. It has a powerful voice and message, and the main character “breathes.” I’m still thinking about the ending.

      1. Thank you! It took me ages to get all three elements in, so I’m glad you liked it. I’m not a good comedy writer but I try!

        People seem to have enjoyed this one. Much madness.

  6. Elliot Reborn
    299 words
    Fish Out of Water / Ocean / Comedy
    Jessica Gardner
    Twitter: @jgardnerwriting
    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.

    Elliot was as square as a chessboard. He had never even smoked a cigarette. He followed the cookie-cutter guidelines of life. Do well in school. Get into an ivy league. Study STEM (biomedical engineering). Get a 6 figure job. Still, he found himself somehow lacking.

    He joined Crossfit because it seemed like something other people were doing. He was good at following directions. So when the coach asked him to go to the Joshua Tree festival with him and three others, Elliot said yes and checked yet another box on another life checklist.

    When he was offered peyote on the first night, he was trapped between how he had always lived, and his desire to do something more. Would this alter his brain irreversibly? Would his entire life be thrown out on this one night? Would this solve the emptiness inside him? He took the button.

    Nothing happened. Until he turned from the bright stage to face the crowd and he was inexplicably by the sea. The roar of the ocean tides filled Elliot’s ears. The air turned alkaline and the sun blazed, though it was a dry desert night just a moment ago. Elliot was filled with the zeal to live, to thrive. He needed to feel the ocean on his skin. He tore his clothes from his body and jumped headlong into the glistening water and let it take him under. A rebirth.

    Later in the hospital room as the cop recounted his attempts at body surfing naked at the festival, Elliot realized the ocean was actually a wall of festival-goers and his rebirth had been a trip to the ER. He looked at the citation issued by the Twentynine Pines Police Department and thought to himself, “Crossfit is the best thing that ever happened to me”.

  7. Gone Fishing
    195 words
    A Fish Out of Water/ Ocean / Comedy
    Name: Sulepea

    No, I am not open to derivative works at this time, thank you.


    The old man sniffed the air, seeking in vain for the salt-dry breeze of his childhood, the whisper of heat and sand and distant jungle. He thought of the boats, lined up and baking in the midday sun, their nets abandoned as the men went off to drink rum or play dominoes or doze through the heavy afternoon.

    All gone.

    The line was tight against his palm, insistent, familiar. He thought of the sea, still and sluggish at first light, the expectation of the catch.

    He waited now. Stubborn.

    He ignored the tourists, pink and fresh and squinting in the afternoon glare. They slowed a little as they passed, too polite to question. Perhaps they imagined madness in the deep, weathered creases of his face, wondered if those dark eyes were blind.

    The old man rose stiffly and cast again, watching the bait arc out into the flat expanse of the tarmac. He sat once more, lost amid the car park and thinking only of the sea.

  8. Marty’s Hideout ’26: Uncommon Abduction
    300 words
    Surfer / 1920s-1930s nightclub / sci-fi
    Stephanie Mordi

    When he opens the case file, there’s only one witness account which upon first inspection appears nonsensical. The sole police report there mentions that the victims went collectively missing and returned unharmed the morning after with no memory of the previous night. Collective Inebriated Behaviour, it concluded.

    He goes back to the witness account by some Cole Mullins dated 21st of October, 1926, reading:

    ‘I was out last night with my pal Charlton to Marty Lew’s joint. We split once we got in.

    Then I met this broad, Linda and tried wooing her with some surfer talk when she fussed about liking surfers. I don’t surf really, but she didn’t know that. We tipped a few, and afterwards necked on the rug. It was all berries ’til something strange started to happen.

    And it wasn’t dicky here.

    The radio was busted, switched from Charleston to these creepy voices and they kept slurring the same stuff. Some KkaPi Llllllurkishhhhaz, I don’t know. The lights sparked off, and when they came back on, everyone had vanished, except me. So I beat it and went home. I was canned and turned in before I knew it. By the next morning Charlton was back, but I swear it wasn’t him. He acted absolutely hinky, and I heard him say the same drivel I heard on the radio inside the showers.

    Aliens. They’ve got Charl’

    Witness Statement Dismissed
    owing to Intoxication of Witness.

    He eyes the note pinned to the end of the document, ‘Witness subsequently went missing surfing in extreme weather conditions, body never found’

    “Bullshit excuse, Charllllll” he frowns, tossing the file into the shredder. “Donut break!”, he jumps from his chair, exiting the station.

    A policeman walks in shortly after.

    “Richy? Didn’t you just leave to get donuts?”

    “No?” Richard shrugs, confused.

  9. Contemporary Age
    137 words
    Surfer / 1920s-30s Nightclub / Sci Fi
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via sarrosdav@yahoo.com.


    Glamorous jazz music fills my ears as I step into the night club, abandoned except for a bartender who glares at me with a neon artificial eye. I’m not used to this, the advanced technology which has suddenly emerged, and I wish we could go back to when everything was simple. At least I have my surfboard, where I can ride the forgiving waves and appreciate life in an orthodox way, without the flashing lights and incessant beeping of the citadel. Abruptly, the iron door flings open and a girl with flaxen hair and ruby eyes struts in. My mouth unintentionally lies ajar, and she looks at me whilst giggling. And as I start talking to the woman of my dreams, I realise that love is one thing which will never change-as modern as things are today.

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