Microcosms 195 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 195!

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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Microcosms 195

Prompts: 
Delivery Driver / Another Time / Horror
OR
TSA Agent / Ocean Depths / Action

$25 prize (free to enter)!

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

microcosmsfic.com

Updates!

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).

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Remember:

  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.

Format

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 (how you'd like to be credited as if your story is selected)
(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>

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Examples:
<i>text you want to be italicized goes here</i>
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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 kept a few of the

We spun, and our three elements are:

Delivery Driver / Another Time / Horror

OR

TSA Agent / Ocean Depths / Action

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.)

Character

Setting

Genre

  • TSA Agent
  • Deep Sea Explorer
  • Reincarnated
  • Counterfeiter
  • Delivery Driver
  • Ghost
  • Daycare Worker
  • Haberdasher
  • Airport
  • Ocean Depths
  • Another Time
  • Crime Syndicate
  • Worst Delivery Ever
  • Haunted House
  • Daycare
  • Haberdashery
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Steampunk

Notes

Judge this week is MC 193 winner and long-time Microcosms alum Sal Page!

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 194 Community Pick(s) will be announced at the end of the week, along with the Judge’s Pick, who will win $25!

Happy writing!

KM

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 193 Winners!

We’ve moved our Winners Announcements to their own posts! You can see the winners for MC 194 here. Please visit our winners archives for prior contest results.

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Microcosms 196 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction
Microcosms 194 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

64 thoughts on “Microcosms 195 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

  1. The Dead Who Live in the Depths
    298 words
    Delivery Driver/ Another Time/Horror
    Gale Gower
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including macaroni art.

    George watched from behind a crate as his father loaded the wagon. The parcels were long and unevenly wrapped in canvas and rope. His father grunted as the one he was loading shifted.
    “Come, give us a famble, lad,” he said over his shoulder to George, though his voice was deep in his throat and gurgled. George, ever obedient, rushed over and grabbed the opposite end of the oblong parcel.
    “What is it, papa?” George asked as he strained to lift his end high enough. The tarp was loose and dripped on his pants leg.
    “Cnawdy y meirw sydd yn byw yn y dyfinder,” he replied, gurgling. A red-tinged bubble emerged from between his lips. As George watched, the bubble burst and coated his father’s chin.
    The tarp on George’s end of the parcel unwrapped and a rough-soled foot emerged. A ragged wound leaked ichor and filth. A bite? George held his breath as it dripped on his pants leg again. His shoes were covered in the foul-smelling black mess. His father grabbed him by the shoulder.
    “Into the wagon with it,” he hissed. George watched his faher’s face droop and slide with terrible fascination. This thing clamping down on his shoulder wore his father’s skin and as he gazed in mute terror, the flesh beneath the face slid and pulsed. Many eyes rolled and stared at him from under his father’s loose face.
    George screamed and tore at the hand. The skin tore easily, revealing wet flesh covered in still more searching eyes underneath. George ran, still screaming, and blind in his panic until he ran into another adult. George looked up, panting, as the man’s face slid and drooped, and many eyes peered around from under it.
    “Amser I ymuno a’r plantyn dyfnder,” it said.

    1. Okay, this is genuinely terrifying. I cannot form images in my head (like 95% on the aphantasia scale), but the loose face, tearing skin, and multiple eyes?? That is the stuff of nightmares, and I actually got a flicker of an image. Incredibly rare for me, and my heart actually beat faster reading this. Yikes! Great job.

      Also, I’ve never wanted to do derivative macaroni art so badly.

    2. That was awesome with description and a twist at the end that was unexpected. The loading on of the wagon? Makes me think it is in the past instead of the future. But they could be shape shifters since there are so many eyes. It is definitely visibly, dripping with fright.️️️ LF6

    3. Definitely a horrifying story, good job! The imagery is so clear that it felt more like a 4D theater experience than a piece of flash fiction. The Welsh responses are both creepy as heck and perfect for subtly signifying the setting. Brilliant!

  2. Fifty Fathoms Up A Tree
    300 words
    TSA Agent/Ocean Depths/Action
    by Steve Lodge
    Twitter: @steveweave71
    Instagram: steveweave_cheese

    I ring the door bell politely.

    A lady answers. “Help you, love?”

    “I’m Max Lively. Your local TSA Agent.” I show her my best grin.

    “What now?” she says, bewildered. They all are. “What’s a TSA, then?”

    “I’m an agent for Tree Scampi Aquatics.” I begin.

    “Is that why you’re wearing an aqualung and carrying a fishing net?”

    “Yes, ma’am. Some of my scampi have escaped and rumoured to be in this vicinity. Let me explain. TSA are a team of highly skilled deep sea divers, scanning the ocean depths for new species of Tree Scampi. Actually, I used to work for ESA (Escaped Scallops Aquatics), but I found the work too dangerous and the rewards too chewy. Those scallops are very aggressive. There were constant battles in the deep fighting off seahorses, who viciously plundered our groups. I lost a knee-cap once in a fight with a crazed seahorse called Cody. It’s different with tree scampi. They tend to be more docile and not always underwater.”

    “So what do you want from me, then, love? I’m not a lonely housewife, you know, although your diving suit and your cheery grin do excite me.”

    She seems nice, but, no. Focus, Max. Focus.

    “Erm… I was wondering if I could look up your trees, see if any of the scampi have reached this area. Won’t take long.”

    “Saucy. I though you said you wanted to look at my knees. We get all sorts around here, you know. You go and look at my trees and I’ll put the kettle on. Must be hot work, in that diving suit, looking up trees for scampi.”

    “Oh, you’re very kind…” I start.

    “Letitia. My name is Letitia. But you can call me Letitia.”

    “Okie dokie,” I say for the first time in my life.

    1. Lolol I love how you got around “TSA agent”. Fun read! You actually do a lot with the characters here, which is challenging in so few words. Well done.

    2. This was a very entertaining story. Humorous that allows for reader interpretation that is what it is. The conversation between the two I found riotous as I was laughing throughout. Thanks for the good read. LF6

    3. Roflmao. I was put off by TSA agent as I didn’t know what one was and couldn’t be bothered Googling, but it looks like you did and knocked it out the park Steve. Nice one.

  3. A Grandad’s Letter To His Grandson1888, London, England
    300 words
    Delivery Driver /Another Time/Horror
    Lily Finch
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information. Thank You.
    ***

    It’s a degrading job, it is. Delivery driver of tea from the docks to the store fronts selling it and to the Royal Palace. Lucky for me me dad learned me to read and write.
    I see what happens in this city. It’s downright despicable. The killin’ of all those women It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from where I live to, in’it?
    At least that’s what they thinking. Minding my tea under the cloak of darkness so that I relate to the creatures of the night, I start to think like them and have become one.
    The coppers see me but look past me—some tea driver incapable of much more than that. But a reasonable cover to be on any street at any hour without question by anyone really. Brilliant.
    How were they to know that I was cuttin’ birds up and rats and cats since I be’n old enuf to use a nife. Tis quite funny to see them scurrying about like rats on a sinking ship lookin for the Ripper but gettin; nowhere. Them and their theories. The newspaper is full of ‘em, in’it.
    Imagine what they’d say if they saw it was me. They’d fall over that a simpleton like me, the Tea Delivery Man was wiser than them and carried out murders of these women right under their noses in plain sight. I maintained everyday goings on as I cut those women up without fail each time getting what I wanted out of it. So in the end dearest grandchild of mine. If you read this you now know your grandad was famous. Although anonymous to the rest of the world.
    Strictly known as the Tea Delivery Man you, unfortunately know I was far more than that. You know the truth about me.

    1. Ooh, I’m a sucker for epistolary stories, and this one has a strong voice. “Lucky for me me dad learned me to read and write.” This was great. Really set the tone immediately. One thing I love about this is although we tend to romanticize the past, every family has their secrets. Imagine reading these words from your grandfather – and not just a standard confession or secret journal entry, but a letter, written directly to you? Chilling.

  4. Submerged
    299 words
    TSA Agent / Ocean Depths / Action
    Cay Macres
    https://www.instagram.com/alienoftheweek/
    Yes, I am open to derivative works.
    ***

    Through the murky water, all Kanna could see was the glow of bioluminescent aliens with their wing-like fins and scaled beaks. Kanna’s breath fogged up the bubble around her head. Her tough suit numbed her hands from the metal rope. Using the line to tow her body through the deep, thick liquid, she finally arrived at the submarine. It was human-made. The hatch was open, so she climbed inside.

    Thick algae already grew on the walls and lit up the sub. If the submarine was abandoned how had it driven itself back to the underwater port? She postponed the question and did her job, scanning the sub for any TSA violations.

    Then, one hit her right in the head. Just like the scanners in the underwater submarine port, alarms went off in Kanna’s head. She turned, as fast as she could in the clunky suit. Oily aerosol leaked out of the hairspray can in brown bubbles. In front of Kanna the sonar dome that resembled a giant wiffle ball pulsed. Wrapped around it, there was an alien with striped tentacles and curled antlers. Whatever that thing was, it probably didn’t use hairspray. So, what had happened to the humans? Karma for sneaking that past TSA, Kanna thought.

    Kanna dodged a tentacle reaching for her face. Suction cups attached themselves to her right foot. The pulse, which made a whale-like noise, was not coming from the sonar, but from the alien. As Kanna struggled, the creature reeled her in. Another echolocation pulse rippled through the water. This one carried a message.

    “Abandoned. Answers. Come with me.”

    Kanna kicked her foot free and swam towards the door. Then she stopped. “Fine. But if my supervisor asks me where I went, I’m saying it was an alien abduction.”

    The submarine lurched forward.

    1. Aliens!! Thank you. I’ve stuck “alien” in the character wheel I can’t tell you how many times, but it never gets selected. This was such a fun read. Really vivid imagery and the humor was well placed. The open endndedmess works well, too. The “punchline” makes it feel complete, but I’d also love to know what happens next.

      1. Thanks! I always try to work an alien in there somewhere! Yeah, these prompts are great for stand-alone pieces that could be turned into longer stories.

  5. Your story has excellent descriptions with vivid detail. The obligatory item of the hairspray gave me a chuckle. You certainly twisted the prompts on this one. Nicely done. LF6

  6. Just submitting for fun. Thought I’d try my hand at action.

    Mission Accomplished
    300 words
    TSA Agent / Ocean Depths / Action
    KM Zafari
    https://twitter.com/thebatinthehat
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me for more information.

    ***

    It was mostly yuppies and business types who flew before dawn, but Adelaide should have known something was wrong when he didn’t complain. “Don’t worry,” she said, patting him down. “The metal detector is sensitive. We’ll make sure you-”

    Her hands stopped at the unmistakable form of a gun.

    Their eyes met.

    She was fast, but he was faster, and she found herself locked in a chokehold, clawing at his arm.

    He aimed the pistol at her head. “It’s a better story when the hostages live, nyet?”

    She knew the pilot well. Friendly, fatherly type. Retiring Monday. He’d volunteered immediately when he saw her.

    Eight hours later, she awoke to a loud bang and red spatters across her uniform.

    The hijacker tossed her a coin. “Keep it. Must be your, how you say, lucky charm?”

    A shiny, new US quarter. ’83.

    It was a short ride to the coast – and a waiting submarine.

    “I hope you’re not, what is the word, claustrophobic?” He nudged her forward with the gun.

    The inside was like a maze, painted with red stars, gauges everywhere.

    “In case you thought about doing anything stupid…” They passed nearly two dozen nuclear torpedoes.

    “The decor was a nice touch,” she said. “But since when does a Soviet sub label things in English?”

    His mouth twitched. “You think anyone would believe you? Bless your heart.”

    They both went for his gun.

    He was fast, but she was faster.

    “I’m willing to die for my country,” he said.

    “So am I.”

    The pilots weren’t.

    Her testimony was buried beneath pages of psychiatric affidavits, “not Russian” dismissed as a delusion.

    The Cold War raged on. Increased military spending was approved.

    She kept the quarter in a drawer. It was still shiny, but it felt dirty every time she touched it.

    1. I like your feeling of cloak and dagger in this piece. Well written. Great job of depicting what happens eventually when the strong country wants to keep things quiet.

    2. The clues were all there if people were paying attention. I remember that angst about the Russian vs American Nuclear Weapon and living in the scare of whether someone — be it Mikhail Gorbachev or Ronald Reagan. Nicely done. LF6

      1. Thanks! I’m a late Xer. I remembered some things but also did a stupid amount of research (on e.g. 1980s Russian nuclear submarines) for a story for my own contest that I’m only entering for fun. Lol

    3. I love that you’re still left with a lot of questions afterwards! Omitting what happens in between the jumps in time definitely adds to the mystery

      1. Thanks! This is definitely one that would benefit from from a longer word count in some ways. But hopefully enough of the story comes through.

    4. Your story made better sense than that terrible Amazon Prime/Michael B. Jordan movie. Can’t remember the name, but I’d watch this one if you made it into a stop motion macaroni art short…

  7. Wants and Wishes, 2033
    298 words
    Delivery Driver /Another Time/Horror
    https://www.lozzawriting.com
    https://twitter.com/lozzawriting
    Laura Cooney
    ***
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information. Thank You.

    I can’t tell you how often things get returned when I deliver them. Pure greed orders more than it needs. Instant regret equals instant reject. At the door. It’s work for me, but I’m pragmatic, it’s the job.
    I am just the delivery driver. I deliver, I process, I return.

    But you see folks, I am not just anything.
    I have a gift.

    Sometimes, with your order, you get a little extra.

    I choose 4 lucky souls a day a day and 1, well, not so much. It’s completely arbitrary. Though the rejectors almost always fall candidate for “the one.”

    “The four.” get a wish. Admittedly its not perfect as, unknowing, they get the very next thing they wish for. So if someone thinks:

    “I wish I had scissors handy.” they have scissors, to hand, for life.

    “Oh I wish you’d shut the fuck up.” that’s a bad one.

    Sometimes you get a lucky soul that waits for what they actually want; time-travel, a suitcase of money. But we’re very literal here, it’s dicey.

    Sometimes all five die. It’s not ideal, just the bargain you strike with consumerism. Wants and wishes.

    “The one,” Never a grey area.
    Last one told me to go back to where I’d come from after I politely refused. Bosses orders
    Go back I did. Hell in a handcart and I returned with my hell hound. When that dog got caught under the ladders and Brian decapitated himself with the electric shears we all knew someday, the guy his wife was fucking would wish a replacement with the ones in my van. But I can wait.

    Brian’s blood spurt means a hose is more the order of the day anyway.

    Listen, that’s my beeper. Gotta dash back to 2023. These deliveries don’t make themselves.

    1. Love what you did with the prompts. Scary delivery person. Makes me want to wait until the delivery person leaves before I open my door next time kinda creepy story. Awesome!

    2. This is such a cool take. Like a genie/djinn meets the grim reaper but also they drive for UPS. Gotta love the instant karma aspect. Fun and creepy, but mostly creepy. Good balance.

  8. Deliver Us To Evil, Forever And Ever (or until you’ve paid for your sins)
    298 words
    Delivery driver/Another time/Horror
    Jaime Bree
    @jaim_ee_bree
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.
    ___________
    The headlights burnt into my eyes. I blinked. This road to nowhere was clearly a road to somewhere, but, I wasn’t going further.

    The silhouette of the driver permeated that sense without even moving.

    The lights flashed, then he was next to me, standing as I was. My brief doppelganger. My imitator.

    He turned his head.

    I saw who he really was. His skin scarred, his deadpan expression enticing me to stare, not out of intrigue or rudeness, I was being forced. He wanted me to know him. This man had not one ounce of empathy, not one glimmer of hope in his body.

    “You have the package?’ he said.

    He snatched it impatiently, opened it and sniffed, long and deep, his eyes closing like a cocaine addict on a high. He held onto that breath before exhaling in satisfaction.

    ‘Did they resist? It felt like they resisted.’

    ‘They put up a fight but…’ I bowed my head.

    He leaned in. Close enough to realise there was no breath. Close enough to see through his opaque skin.

    ‘Don’t ever look regretful in front of me.’

    He grasped my wrist forcefully, wrenching my arm straight, etched a line deep into my skin.

    I grimaced.

    He pushed.

    I fell.

    I woke with a start in my van. It was daytime in my Hometown. I got out, headed to the nearest house and knocked.

    ‘Delivery. Sign here’, I said to the owner holding out a clipboard.

    ‘Odd tattoo’, he frowned, looking at my forearm with a single perfectly drawn line on it.

    ‘It’s a tally.’ I replied. ‘It’s not finished yet.’

    He shrugged looking at me, suddenly realising he couldn’t avert his gaze.

    ‘But it will be.’

    I stepped into the house as he backed away, closing the door behind me.

    1. Jaime, I liked the beginning of the story. You draw the reader practically from your first line but then we get this mysterious package that adds more intrigue. Only to learn that the delivery man is in his hometown and has a delivery to make = getting his tallies in order.

      One suggestion is to go over your last line that sounds odd the way the order goes. The man could not possibly close the door behind the MC because he was backing away as MC entered the house. Maybe it is a word salad that you could switch around somehow to convey your meaning better?

      But having said that to help you in your writing. Odd because I am no expert.

      I enjoyed your descriptions and the eeriness of the scene you created. It was brilliant. Like the man was the grim reaper incarnate. I felt the strong grip he had on the delivery man. Nice work.

      You created the right amount of tension to keep me interested all throughout. Thanks for the good read. LF6

      1. Thank you! Great notes. And yes the last line. But it’s the MC closing the door after he stepped in and the man backed away. But yes, I could make that clearer or change it.

        Thanks!

    2. I like how the title plays into the story itself and offers us more explanation of what’s going on and why they are in this situation. The description of the doppelganger was really cool. I loved this line: Close enough to realise there was no breath. There is just something incredibly unsettling about that. That and his sniffing of the package and lack of empathy. Very animalistic/predator like. Fun read!

  9. Service With A Smile

    298 WC
    Day Care/ Delivery Driver/Comedy
    Lily Finch
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.

    His morning hustle helped parents send their kids to daycare to play and share.

    His van read, “You birth ’em; we herd them.” He made everyone smile as he picked up the kids in wealthier neighbourhoods.

    While waiting for 7:00 a.m., Brandon enjoyed spring mornings, the sun, and early-blooming flowers in vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges.

    Parent Ms. Obinabo was unprepared. Brandon ran from her house to his car while she denied his urgency. He ran.

    After leaving their neighbourhood, many babies had explosive bowel movements, making the truck smell. Brandon imagined his seats mixing with feces. His eyes watered, his lungs burned, and he felt nauseous as the foul smell approached the front of his truck.

    Brandon shivered and stopped.

    MacGyvering his way around the smelly diapers, he fought the malodour that attacked his nose attempting to melt into his nostrils. The persistent scent of bittersweet peas, squash, and pairs relentlessly tried to choke him.

    “Closed! Do not enter—chicken pox outbreak. We’ll notify parents, for the all-clear as we did for the outbreak.

    Brandon hung a new sign on his truck, “Delivery Driver Daycare Service.” He assured his clients that the driver would come to their neighbourhood.

    The fine print stated We’d gladly take your sick child to the “Mobile Daycare Service.” We’ll track everything your child spews, dumps, or subjects us to while you work from home, so you don’t catch anything at work—that would be awful!

    Don’t worry. We will collect it all in large Ziploc bags so you can enjoy and fully immerse yourself in everything your child did that day—whom you brought into the nursery for us to deal with—usually in the form of week-old chili or sludge.

    We thank you for choosing “Delivery Driver Daycare Service.

  10. In The Beginning
    Delivery driver/another time/ horror
    298 words
    @geofflepard
    https://GeoffLepard.com

    Colin Partridge hummed as he entered Bethlehem. It had been a bit of a trek, but One Star Deliveries prided themselves on getting your package wherever you wanted in the time you required. And this commission was special. ‘From the very top, if you know what I mean,’ his boss had said.
    Colin checked the Star. It was a couple of streets ahead and to the left. The instructions had been clear if a bit odd. ‘Follow the star until it’s directly above.’ The sooner they invented postcodes the better, he thought.
    Ahead, it looked like he was headed for a stable; one with some sort of illegal rave happening, given the three posh boys, dressed in silks and damasks and clouded in a strange fug. Drugs. Before he could change his mind, a couple of dodgy shepherd-types ushered him inside.
    It was a horror show. If the couple of right chancers by a manger weren’t so unusual, the huge geezer, glowing in silvery light and flapping a pair of wings as wide as his mum’s nets was. Had to be a demon.
    The big guy boomed, ‘Do you have the Gift from Our Lord?’
    Colin checked the sender’s address. ‘It says Whitstable.’
    ‘Close enough.”
    The package was whipped away and in seconds a mewling infant placed in the manger. Everyone relaxed, someone essayed an Hallelujah.
    Colin felt a hand on his elbow as he was eased out.
    The Big Guy loomed. ‘On you’re way, Colin, son of Bert.’
    ‘You need to sign for the parcel.’
    ‘I don’t have a pen. Can’t you wait for the Bible? It’ll be in there.’
    Colin didn’t want to argue. And he had to get on. The next delivery, Pontius Pilates or some such was known as a bit of a tarter.

    1. Geoff, that was a cool take on the prompt. What I enjoyed was the way you handled the ending. Such a delivery man with so many deliveries to fulfill stories from the bible. I thought the entire concept was bang on. LF6

  11. Partners

    TSA Agent/Ocean Depths/Action

    298 words
    Stephanie Ellis
    https://twitter.com/el_Stevie
    https://stephanieellis.org

    Andrew stamped his colleague’s papers and waved her through the portal to the waiting sub. She didn’t seem to suspect anything.
    Barbara gave him a last smile from the door. “See you soon.”

    With the team in the vessel and the replacement personnel waiting for it to disgorge its passengers above, Andrew was free to wander the valuable seafloor complex. He always volunteered to be the one who remained to oversee the exchange. He was trusted. He dimmed the lighting and made his way to the viewing platform to see the sub. It sat silent, dark, immobile.

    Andrew went over to the comms console. “Nemo One. Status report.”

    No reply. He sent out an alert to the rest of the security team. No answer. Perfect. The gas had worked.

    Andrew checked his gun was loaded and made his way to the portal. On the other side of the door, the umbilicus still clamped the sub to Atlantis One. He tapped in the door code and made his way across to the vessel. None of the usual chatter greeted him. Just continued silence. Barbara had fixed things as agreed. All he needed to do was secure the passengers while they were unconscious.

    A sudden movement stopped him, however, and Barbara rushed out, coughing and spluttering into his arms causing him to drop his gun. “Good job I had a spare mask! Seems the one you gave me was faulty.”

    Damn. He fixed a smile on his face. “Thank God!”

    She reached down and picked up his weapon, pointed it at him. “You don’t really mean that, do you?” Then she looked around. “You should be more careful who you let in,” she said. “Now, shall we go over that plan again. I think the ransom split needs some adjustment.”

  12. Soul Siphon Waffles
    297 words
    Delivery Driver / Worst Delivery Ever / Horror
    Sophie H. Sigrafys
    I’m open to derivative works, though I don’t expect any. I can provide contact info upon request. Thank you!

    Superstitious New Orleans cabbies don’t take passengers at midnight because ghosts hitch rides to cross areas of moving water. Doug’s taxicab had though, as people willingly pay more for safe passage during witching hours.
    That night, sixteen years ago, before he’d switched from delivering people to food, he had pulled up along the curb in the Lower Ninth Ward, for a sable-dressed person hailing him down. The passenger, with their face hidden behind a tilted black hat, slid a brochure through the plastic divider as they got in. Circled in black ink, below cartoonish letters advertising Waffle House, was the address Old Gentilly Road. Seventeen minutes later the passenger disembarked under the restaurant sign’s dim glow. Loose change clanged into the divider pocket. Turning to grab it, Doug’s gut had iced over as he peered into the restaurant. Underneath the hat’s black brim, shone two yellow eyes above pallid lips pulled back over black pearly teeth. They loomed over the lone person dining inside, pale finger dipping into the diner’s shoulder, pulling out translucent, ectoplasmic material, and putting it in their gaping mouth. Gray hairs had appeared along the lone diner’s scalp.
    Doug trembled now, in his mud-stranded Smart car, glancing at his duct-taped passenger door. He cursed and smacked his armrest, a cold Waffle House takeout box beside him, a Ninth Ward address on his dash, and tires spinning on the side of the road to escape the approaching figure from the past, whose eyes haunted him.
    The pale hand knocked until the window rolled slowly down.
    Doug tried to offer the box.
    “No thanks,” they croaked, “the waffles are for you.”
    Sharp nails caressed Doug’s hand. His vision blurred briefly, clearing in time to watch silver strands spread near his temple.
    “Your soul is mine.”

    1. First-ever flash fic and first-ever horror story, so constructive criticism is much appreciated!

      1. An exercise that has helped me is after I’ve finished, I go through and strip out any words i find unnecessary to understanding.

        Overall, though, just have fun writing a little world like you did here!

      2. I enjoyed it. My tip for this story would be to make it now rather than a memory, that way you can strip out details of the past and it gives you more wordage to focus on the atmosphere and horror of what is happening to the driver – and the diner he sees.

        Dark fiction is a wonderful genre to write in (it’s very much my ‘home’) and as others say, have fun with it!

  13. Gone Postal

    300 words
    Delivery Driver / Another Time / Horror
    A.J. Walker
    https://awalker.org
    Twitter/Spoutible: @zevonesque

    ***

    In the years before drones filled our skies parcels were taken to customers by van drivers. It’s difficult to believe, but people weren’t even Government chipped. The thankless tasks of Sisyphus built on many until they became broken; in the United States ‘Going postal’ referred back to postal workers losing their collective minds from their never ending work until a point where their anger would become a gun-fuelled murderous rampage.

    In the 2010s the English media headline of ‘Gone Postal’ referred to the Bristol serial killer, Ben MacCallister. He used the common sight of the white van man making online deliveries to house after house as his cover. Initially as he began his diesel fuelled journey from hell he’d check out locations methodically, but his confidence rose and so did his audacity. He said in his death bed confession that like the homeless, no-one noticed the white van man. He’d park infront of a house and take a box from the van, and walk up with the parcel. Time after time the poor victims would open the door assuming they were getting a delivery for themselves or to take one for a neighbour.

    The box in actual fact contained ropes, duct tape and a selection of exotic knives, which Ben would quickly get to work with. He never got caught even though he was parked outside. Like the man no-one notices the van.

    He killed forty people over a ten year period without the police getting a sniff. For a long time no-one would volunteer to take in a parcel for a neighbour. They’d shout that out the window rather than answer the door.

    Now the AIs are running the drones it is a major concern of whether they will one day go postal and burst in through our windows.

    1. Rather interesting story, and I like how this story kind of has that ‘another time’ element incorporated with the human deliveries and now the AI’s doing them. However, I’d like to point out that “no-one” shouldn’t be hyphenated for it exists as two separate words.

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