Microcosms 203 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 203!

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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Quick Access Links

MICROCOSMS 203 Prompts: Philanthropist / Mountain / Action OR Extreme Ironer / Giveaway / Fantasy $25 prize (free to enter)! Come write a story in 300 words or fewer. Fun and free! microcosmsfic.com
Photo by Dee Dee on Unsplash

Info Tabs

Start here if you’re new or haven’t been here in a while. Click each tab to learn more.

To qualify for the cash prize, must MUST:

  • ***Submit your story as a comment below.***
    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.)
  • 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.)
  • 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).
  • 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.)
  • Acknowledge that the decision of the judge(s) is/are final.

Please kindly use this format, then copy/paste your response as a comment on this post.

(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>

You can also use it to do italics or bold text.
Examples:
<i>text you want to be italicized goes here</i>
<b>text you want to be bolded goes here</b>

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.)

REMEMBER

  • You have ONE WEEK (Sunday – Saturday, midnight – midnight) Los Angeles Time (PST/PDT) to submit your masterpiece.
  • All submissions must be no more than 300 words in length (excluding the title and other header info).
  • We enjoy fan fiction! Just not for this contest. NO FAN-FICTION, please, and NO USE of COPYRIGHT CHARACTERS for this contest.
  • Include: word count, the THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry (see entry format tab).
  • If you are new to Microcosms, please check out the full submissions guidelines on our FAQs page.
  • I feel like this should go without saying, but just in case – absolutely no AI submissions.
  • 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.
  • 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).

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

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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:

Philanthropist / Mountain / Action

OR

Extreme Ironer / Giveaway / Fantasy

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

  • Doll Collector
  • Extreme Ironer
  • Surfer
  • Philanthropist
  • Twitch Streamer
  • Marathon Runner
  • Urban Explorer
  • Daydreamer
  • Display Room
  • Mountain
  • Ocean Waves
  • Giveaway
  • Livestream
  • Race
  • Liminal Space
  • Reality
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Steampunk
  • Western

Notes

Helping judge this week is MC 200 winner Jaime Bree! Please be sure to thank them on Twitter.

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 202 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 201 Winners!

We’ve moved our Winners Announcements to their own posts! You can find the winners of MC 201 here: https://microcosmsfic.com/2023/08/05/results-mc-201/

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Microcosms 204 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction
Microcosms 202 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

55 thoughts on “Microcosms 203 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

  1. Extreme Addiction
    300 words
    Extreme Ironer / Giveaway/ Fantasy
    Laura Cooney
    Twitter/Everywhere else: @lozzawriting
    Website: http://www.lozzawriting.com

    Motherwell, Scotland- 6/8/2023 20:09pm BST

    “No way!” she blurted as she ironed John’s fifth pair of underpants, the keks, the scants, the Y’s. “No. Way!”
    The T.V ad told her that if she entered the 1st Annual Extreme Ironing Extravaganza then she would be in with a chance at a trip to Belissima Island, the mode of transport her personal magic carpet and she’d be provided with her own gnome valet for the trip.

    In between pairs, Martha disappeared into the tranquility of a silent fairy glade, a waistcoated gnome serving her rainbow champagne as she sat by a deep green pool, the only thing to wonder was which of the frogs within could replace Derek and become her prince. It would certainly be easier to iron their knickers. Jesus. The size of these.

    This giveaway was perfect, she loved to iron. She ironed the bedsheets, the pillow slips, the socks and even her curtains, just once a month, mind, she wasn’t crazy. When she wasn’t ironing, she was thinking about ironing and for the first time in many years, stopped mid load. This was important. She needed to book her place and get some accommodation sorted before all the slots were taken. Switching off the iron, safety being paramount, she went off to look for her wallet.

    Arizona, USA- 6/8/2023 12:09pm PST

    “We get another sucker Jeth?”
    “Sure did buddy, somewhere in England. Just paid us £900, what’s that in dollars again?
    “Ehough, what you having on your pizza? Stuffed crust?”
    “Sure, why not, we can afford it, anything.”

    Jethro closed the lid on the Crystalmac, feeling slight guilt. His mother liked to iron, but there was always a sucker willing to part with their money and he found that extremely addictive.

      1. I think all the words you dint understand mean underwear, shorts to you, pants to me. I basically wrote about undercrackers this week. Ha! It’s not getting easier is it?

        Thank you as always! Thank you, thank you, thank you! We’re you judging last week?

    1. I shall be, but I’m going to foist it off onto my co-workers so it’ll be completely blind and unbiased. None of them have any preconceptions about anyone who submits here, so I think it will be a good outcome for the winner.

      Report user
      1. Ah I thought you’d done last week. I’m not sure I know who voted for mine this week and I wanted to day thanks. Good luck!

    2. Damn, this is such a cool way of using the prompts! ‘There’s a sucker born every minute’ but darn you’re right as I was enthralled from the start to the end of you’re prose.

    3. A tough lesson for Marthawell. Well done, Laura, for drawing to our attention that even ironing has its scammers. Would ironing ever become an Olympic sport? The Press will keep us advised, no doubt.

    4. While I was captivated by the story it felt like it was a tiny bit forced. Other than that it was funny and engaging. You definitely captured the essence of an extreme ironer. The other elements here add to the absurdity. Nicely done. LF6

      Report user
      1. I reckon it was my over explanation of the fact it was important and my waste of ten words that made this forced. Thanks for the feedback! Flash needs to be as tight as a drum, appreciated.

  2. CLOAK OF THE WIZARD
    300 words
    Extreme Ironer/ Giveaway/ Fantasy
    By Stephenwolf Lodge
    Twitter:- @steveweave71
    Instagram:- steveweave_cheese
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works.

    There are so many stars out there. Who would notice another one? From another world? Another solar system, like our own?

    Silently, the morn brightens and all is hush. Uneven patches of rust-coloured sky, a scene amid vast oceans of fading darkness. Focussing now, we see no sustainable linkway joining the three moons, yet we know they rely heavily on each other for survival.

    Sirens call us as we glide like storm splinters through the zone between the moons. The beauty of their voices echo through our capsule, seeking to distract us from the purpose of our mission, the reason is….?

    Substrait Streltis 47. We are to collect the Cloak of our Wizard, Meriotis.

    Lost, yet found amid an uncomfortable diplomatic hoohah. Handbags Across The Galaxy. The Cloak had resided on Cluster Seventeen for repairs in civilian hands and, inexplicably, given away as part of the tournament prize in an unexpected Z-Ray victory by the small planet of Paradox Forever.

    Our government demanded the return of the Wizard’s cloak. Apparently the Cloak had been sent for ironing at a special intergalactic parlour, noted for speed and exceptional results when all elsewhere contrived to fail. My course altered to reach Nebula Sorrow in mini-marathon time. Exactly at early morning, my craft landed on the In Pad at Nebula Sorrow’s capital dome, Interwhining.

    I was met by Governor Vic Tugman and Inspector Bill Trail of the Intergalactic Crime Elite Command React, Extract And Meet (ICECREAM) Division.

    “What’s going on, Bill?” I asked with my serious face on.

    “Gripped genitals, Stephenwolf,” said Bill. “The Extreme Ironer was working late into the night on your Wizard’s Cloak. Someone disturbed his wretched work. The Cloak is gone and the Extreme Ironer is just a chalk outline, me old mate. This is a crime scene now.”

      1. Haha, bless you, Galen. Looking at “gripped genitals” again, I begin to realise how horrific that sounds and I now completely understand that strange tingling feeling I have when I read it. Thank you for your kind comments.

      1. Thank you for your kind comments, Laura. I’ve always been a huge fan of “The Big Finish.” I am delighted you learn a lot from my endings. I scold myself if I’m not happy with the ending. I threaten myself with a guest bean latte and a fistful of red onions until I’m happy with the result.

    1. I absolutely adore your style of writing, it’s so dead-pan and anti-serious that it almost makes it contradictory in the moments that I can’t help but chuckle every now and then. Some good stuff right here!!!

      1. Thank you so much, Gerald. Your kind comments are very much appreciated. My wish is always to make people happy but in this story, I managed to scare myself. As Galen mentioned earlier “death by gripped genitals” has given me a strange tingling sensation I usually only get in vertigo situations.

    2. I see it’s been said below, but goodness you have quite a grasp on the art of the ending. While that’s far and away the strongest part of the piece (not knocking the rest, but it certainly ends on a high note), I found myself entertained throughout.

  3. A Collection Grows
    297 words
    Doll Collector / Display Room / Drama
    Galen Gower
    Yes, I am open to derivative works including a set of commemorative collectibles.

    “No more of this, Dolores. You either get rid of them, or I’m leaving.” That was the last thing Neil said before his equally abrupt departure.

    “Lots of people have collections, stop trying to make me get rid of things.” A familiar thread through their long relationship, though this one might be the last argument they have about it. Dolores collected dolls since she was a teenager. Her collection spread slowly from a shelf and eventually took over the whole room. And then two rooms, and it kept growing.

    “Cancer grows this way, Dolores.” Neil said many critical things about the collection. She increasingly chose the display rooms over his company until they were roommates in their marriage. With each package that arrived on the porch, Neil pursed his lips a little tighter. Their interactions became exercises in gritted teeth and sighing. Dolores retreated from Neil’s judgment and ordered a bell jar for each doll to keep the dust off. Her whole life was dedicated to preservation. Too much sunlight discolored plastic; humidity levels had to be controlled to prevent brittleness and wilting.

    “You could have a hobby, too, you know.” Neil was already well past middle-aged and approaching retirement. It was good to have hobbies. Something to occupy your mind rather than just moping around the house being unhappy. You have to grow your own garden when it comes to being happy. Dolores had her collection and Neil would juts have to find his own thing. She didn’t even notice the front door opening and then closing as she methodically worked her way through the collection, carefully lifting and polishing each bell jar. Tomorrow she would use a fine comb to make sure none of the hair was tangled. In the meantime, the house was quiet.

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    1. This is brilliant prose! It has such a self-contained story with genuine potential in it! Great work : )

    2. A doll collector called Dolores. Inspired, Galen. Really wanted to read more of this. For Neil’s hobby – ventriloquist? Returns to haunt the dolls. What is wrong with me? Scaring myself this week.

  4. *4th part in the ‘Fragments Unfollowed (Microcosm Universe)’ series. Additional details in the author’s comments.*

    Title: Ouroboros wait are you serious? This is the best the writer could come up with for a title? Screw that! The title of this one is called… um… Microcosms sucks!!! heeheehee

    Word Count: 300 words 0 words Those dummies over at the microcosm didn’t specify this part exactly, if I just placed my text here and never placed a details/story divider then that defeats the purpose of a word limit. Let’s see how you deal with this KM Zafari! Yeah I know who you are let’s see how long it will take for me to break this sweet site of yours. Hey, I already broke a record on this site for the shortest word count, thaz’s cool I suppose.

    Prompts: Daydreamer/Reality/Poetry (but also horror/comedy) bleh, all of these prompts suck but I guess this is the best way to describe it using the format these dimwits gave me. However, the best way to describe me is… metafiction. I’m sure you’re wondering ‘What’s happened?’ Well after all, my writer chose the prompt ‘dream’ and in dreams anything can happen, logic breaks and reality crumbles– and well I exist now, that too.

    By: By Gerald Castillo he did write it but who cares about that loser amirite? His fault anyways that I exist. It’s Paimon! the 2nd in command of Goetian Demons, and the arbiter of the theoreticals. pleasure meeting you traveler. But if it’ll make me stand-out more I’m willing to change my name to the judge of this ‘fragment’ whose is ‘Jamie Bree’

    Link: You can find me here: PaimonsPerfectPresentation

    (as I said screw these *** . No one cares about rules anyways, I’m sure no one minds, right Zafari and Jamie?”

    I know,
    I know this is just a dream.
    Where everything is not what it seems,
    Its intentions are simple really:
    ‘A place where one live’s freely’.
    Be it as a serene pond-lily
    Or be as as feisty spring chili
    Heck–
    Because its a d̴r̷e̸a̶m̶
    I don’t have to follow a rhyming scheme!
    Heeheehee
    Better yet…
    I don’t even
    have to

    follow typical
    prose
    conventions. Yeah, I like
    this sorta life.
    It’s really…
    F
    R
    E
    Eing. (For lack of a better word)
    After all, it’s a d̴̙̈́͐r̴̩̤͛̓e̴̠͕͑a̸̱̞͆̾m̴̦̗̌͠ and they don’t have fixed rules!

    Since this is all just make-believe,
    ¡sᴉɥʇ ǝʞᴉl ʞɐǝds uǝʌǝ uɐɔ I
    !ƨiʜɈ ɘʞil υoγ oɈ ʞlɒɈ nɘvɘ ɿo
    This is all, just a d̶̗̻̞̂̿ṟ̸̼̭̈̍́̎͠e̷̢̢͈̩̣͈͖̹̔̑̽͗̈́̔̌̏̒̓a̵̡̺̦̔̈́̽͛̓͆̋̇̊͒͜͝ṁ̵̡͎̗͎͙̲̲̈́̽̌̀̽͗̆̅́̍!
    Because this is all just mindless fantasy
    I can speak whatever language I want!
    ᗪ尺乇卂爪丂!
    !
    句尺ヨ丹冊己!
    God dammit, I love being able
    to feel alive once in a while!
    Man, they made a mistake by making this prompt available.
    I’ve finally been able to get set free now.

    But dammit, those pesky creators
    of this stupid site
    With their stupid word count.
    At some point, I’ll run out of words to use.
    They are dumb honestly.
    For a site that preaches freedom to use
    Their prompts, they are rather fickle with a word count.
    Wait a minute–––
    what-if-speak-like-this-then-huh?
    It’s-all-one-word-then-right!
    Lets-see-what-the-judge-has-to-say-then
    Hey-Jamie-lee? Can-you-hear-me!!!
    Who-am-I-kidding? No-one-is-gonna-read-this.
    Hmm-I’ll-be-honest; is-there-even-a-point?
    I’m-just-some-useless-deity-that’s-stuck-in-this-random-person’s-prose.

    Is-there-even-a-point-to-living-like-this?
    I-can-dream…
    But-what’s-the-point-of-dreaming
    When-I’ve-got-nothing-to-‘dream’-about?

    Dammit, I-guess-this-is-when-you
    (yes I mean ‘you’ the person in front of the screen
    I can see you, don’t try to make yourself look good now
    infront of me there is no point now)
    get-all-warm-inside-and-think-deeply-about-this-life-lesson
    Glad-to-see-it-took-the-realization-of-a-God
    for-you-pathetic-mortals-to-even-consider-it.

    I-can’t-stay-much-longer,
    I’ve got about 30 words left before I pass the word count.
    Well then, I’ll see you sometime again maybe.
    When the fragments realign.
    Here’s an apology video, for-your-troubles:
    PaimonsApology

    A-pleasure-to-meet-you,
    King Paimon.

    1. Epilogue/Author’s Notes:

      Thank you, for reading this. My name is Gerald Castillo, I am a fragment-walker. I travel among the cosmos in search of literary anomalies and capture them… if they manage to survive till I reach them. Most of the time however they don’t manage to make it past me reaching them, it is my duty to document them for the ████████████ ██ █████. Most of these newer anomalies for some strange reason end up here on this site. I’m sure there is no reason. Here are the records for the past anomalies:

      Microcosms Fragment 200 Story: ‘They speak in bolded truths and metallic lies’. Outcome: Anomaly was murdered after unlocking the ability to see truths and lies.

      Microcosms Fragment 201 Story: ‘Left on the cutting room floor’. Outcome: Anomaly on the loose after murdering victim with a paper of scissors

      Microcosms Fragment 202
      Story: ‘Belladonna’. Outcome: One anomaly is on the loose after killing another anomaly, the victim was found with a distorted voice after drinking a concoction.

    2. It was long, it was rugged but I read it all the way through in one bus ride. I even grew a goatee. Gerald, your energy and enthusiasm makes me breathless in a good way. Paimons Apology sounds like it could be a ballroom dance as performed at The Haunted Goat Studios on Britains Got Talented Ice.

      1. Thank’s Steve!!! Paimon’s apology could inherently be the answer to solving all of life’s mysteries if we looked close enough. Glad to see you enjoyed the work : )

    3. I hadn’t had a chance to read the entries yet this week. Now your email makes much more sense. Certainly a unique and interesting take! Love it. Leave it to a deity to be a rule breaker. Haha (I admittedly had to look up Paimon for non-Genshin context, so King Paimon should know he has some name-recognition competition. Lol) What if Paimon took over an extreme ironer? Then where would the world be?

  5. You went a little of piste there Gerald… interesting use of everything but perhaps stretching the rules somewhat. I suppose that’s the point in the story you’ve written. It’s left me somewhat confused. But nonetheless, I like a bit of mad with my evening drinks.

    1. Yup, that’s right! It isn’t very clear but honestly, that’s what I’m going totally going for. Dreams, don’t necessarily have meaningful meanings. Mad is what the mad does, besides much like the prose 3 prose I’ve done on this site, I’ve clearly shown interest in ‘metafiction’ and breaking the format. Care for a little crazy cocktails with your evening drinks then?

      1. Have you ever looked into the Voidspace Zine? It’s interactive mostly but you might just love “the voices in the walls.”

  6. Girl Interrupted
    178 words
    Daydreamer/Liminal Space/Poem
    Mileva Anastasiadou
    twitter: @happymil_

    Oops, I did it again,
    I swallowed my dreams,
    thought it was a game,
    but lately I’ve been confused,
    an eating disorder that can’t be cured
    is eating me away,

    because my dreams are now stuck in my throat,
    they’ve stolen my voice,
    I eat much too often,
    too many dreams,
    I devour them at once,
    before they’re stuck in my brain,

    and now I am full,
    my life is on pause,
    but they ask me to eat them away,
    before they infect my blood,
    and now I’m making funny sounds,
    like I sing in a pop song,

    like I’m imprisoned,
    stuck in a movie,
    trapped in a place
    where nobody moves,
    and everyone awaits,
    and so I keep singing,

    Oops, you think I’ll vomit,
    but I’ll keep it inside,
    and keep my mouth shut,
    I’m not that impudent,
    when dinner is served
    and my stomach will do the work

    and gastric acid will break all wishes apart,
    I don’t need those freaking dreams,
    I swallow,
    digest,
    propel them out,
    my dreams are waste in progress.

    1. I read this and kept trying to make a song out of it in my head. Thanks for the compelling read. Currently trying to ascertain the reasoning why there are 6 lines, in each of the 6 stanzas. Does the narrator have some sort of affinity for the number 6?

  7. DUNG
    300 Words
    Philanthropist/Mountain/Action
    By Lily Finch
    Yes, I am open to derivative works.

    Jacquita was a girl who always followed what her mother said and made gorgeous Alpaca sweaters that were shipped to sell at a tourist market. Their income was dependent on the sale of these sweaters.

    Jacquita’s thoughts were never satisfied with what was in front of her. She saw worth in things that others did not. She would accompany her father to the hills to care for the alpacas and llamas. She noticed the volume of manure accumulating there and considered how manure could be used to increase their family’s economic worth.

    She began researching fuels and the use of dung as a possible fuel to power machinery. She began by producing a few pucks and burning them in various ways to determine which were more effective and whether the offshoot was hazardous in any manner. This process lasted months and involved boiling, frying, deep frying, baking, burning them completely, and smoking. She caught the energy released each time and watched it push a miniature machine across the floor. She was astounded.

    Finally, she showed her parents. They were ecstatic about their daughter and her discovery. She forwarded her data to an American petroleum firm. She had petroleum corporations knocking on her door within months. They were interested in purchasing her formula. Instead of selling, she negotiated a deal that kept her and her family together.

    After securing a contract, Jacquita and her parents were able to employ 100% of the people of her village to gather and supply them with dung.

    With the money she earned, she created a cutting-edge community complete with DJ equipment and karaoke. There was also a gym and a swimming pool. They were known as the Jacquita, Juan, and Jacinta facilities. Following her close family members, who believed in Jacquita, a little Peruvian girl!

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  8. Who Knew?
    300 Words
    Extreme Ironer/Giveaway/Fantasy
    By Lily Finch
    Yes, I am open to derivative works.

    There was a giveaway, and I bought five tickets. Why did I buy an iron? When I never won a goddamn thing? Because getting high was now my thing. Finally, I found something I was very good at.
    My parents told me to find something I was good at and then move in that direction with my life. That’s what I did. When they tried talking to me about life, I tried to tell them I was following my fantasy, like they told me to do, but they didn’t want to hear it.
    Apparently, I misunderstood what they were saying. Somehow I was supposed to be a master mind reader and get what they meant about being good at something and moving in that direction—anything but drugs. It meant something that they approved of and that I was good at. It was not something that I was good at or that I liked to do, so I resolved to try to win an iron through a giveaway.
    I picked up the iron and put out a shingle that read, “Extreme Ironer, Inquire Within.”
    My world changed significantly.
    Who knew that people from all walks of life needed a master ironer? I certainly didn’t. It was the best gig I ever pulled off. I could be right smacked out of my mind and iron shit for people. I had bins and tickets, and I wrote out dates and put them into the bins. When the ironing was done. I placed a call. The people would come and pick up their ironing. Because they didn’t want too many creases, they would come quickly. Produce their ticket, and then I would give them their ironing. All for a fee that was absurdly expensive, to which they would reply, “Thank you,” with a smile.

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  9. When seeking the Answers to Life’s Conundrums, don’t ignore Threatening Letters
    297 words
    Philanthropist/mountain/action
    Geoff Le Pard
    Website: https://GeoffLepard.com

    Justin Outline was sketchy on the details. He’d sought enlightenment in the depths of learning but instead of knowledge he’d found countless jewels dropped by djinns escaping the ignominy of lamplife. He’d scaled mountains certain he’d find wisdom; instead he’d found pots of gold left by forgetful leprechauns when they set up yet another rainbow. He was rich beyond despair and as ignorant as ever.
    And then he received the letter.
    ‘Mr Outline,
    We act for various aggrieved parties and understand you may have taken advantage of their specific circumstances to misappropriate significant quantities of valuable commodities. A list itemising the each theft is attached and we look forward to hearing from you with your suggestions for immediate restitution.’
    When Justin didn’t reply, a further letter followed.
    ‘Mr Outline,
    This is really bad form. Our clients are not nice people. They have magic powers which they use in, frankly, egregious ways to achieve what they perceive to be their just desserts. We encourage you to supply us, by return, with a schedule indicating when and how you will make good.’
    He’d barely opened the envelope when the ‘boys’ arrived.
    ‘Mr Outline. You have something that belongs to us.’
    ‘Not any more. I gave it away.’
    ‘Why’d you do that?’
    ‘It needed a home with someone who understood money. Fortunately there’s a local family who deal with this sort of thing.’
    ‘And you believed they might help?’
    ‘Oh yes. I knew it would be fine.’
    ‘And how is that?’
    ‘They’re well regarded in the gifting world. The Anthrow-Pists. Phil is their head Have you met him?’
    ‘No, but we will. Meanwhile would you walk this way?’
    ‘I don’t think I can. I’d need to have lost the use of my knees.’
    ‘We can arrange that while you wait.’

  10. Interplanetary Ironing
    277 words
    Extreme Ironer/giveaway/fantasy
    https://geofflepard.com

    Jelloid was a small, bouncy planet, formed when a dribble of Betelgeuse leaked and set one second Thursday after. Having been catalogued, the Galactic Authority’s handbook for ‘new planets, find a use therefor’ required an appropriately skilled civil servant be seconded to Jelloid to determine how its designated use could be ensured. The boffins and bigwigs decided this was a job for Marjory Plankton.
    Marjory didn’t receive many postings, the last one being to a rather crumpled moon that no amount of shaking could flatten out. Marjory was the Universe’s most competent ironer and remover of unsightly creasions. She looked at the brief and wondered if, this time the boffins and bigwigs had made a good call. She spoke to her boss, a skilled interplanetary stitcher who had embroidered countless nebulas.
    ‘You’re perfect, Marge. This one clearly needs an extreme ironer. Have they told you whose going to inhabit Jelloid?’
    ‘No, they said I was better not knowing.’
    ‘Ah, well, you see, the powers that are, as well as the powers that want to be, thought this was a perfect planet to place trainee parkour enthusiasts. It’s soft, bouncy and they’re unlikely to hurt themselves if they mistime a jump.’
    ‘But why do they need me?’
    ‘It’s a bit of a giveaway but while it’s safe, Jelloid is pretty flat. They thought, if you ran a hot iron over the surface from time to time, it would rumple and ruck and give them just the sort of profile they need. A win win.’
    ‘Do I have to?’
    ‘Fraid so, Marge. It’s either this or you’ll find yourself as part of the team dealing with leaking gas planets.’

  11. Sacrifice
    299 words
    Philanthropist / Mountain / Action
    Deanna Salser
    https://www.facebook.com/Beadanna777/
    https://beadanna777.wixsite.com/procreation
    I am open to derivative works.

    ***

    Lula stopped, lifting her hand to shade her eyes. They were nearly there. She knew what was happening, but in her heart, she harbored a tiny flame of hope that someone, anyone would defy the bloodthirsty Speaker for the Gods, and rescue her when his back was turned. Behind her, the priest grunted as he used his staff to prod her shoulder. When she turned to face him, his eyes rolled up, piercing and bloodshot, boring into hers with painful intensity. Turning back, she took a deep breath, and herding the children before her, resumed her steady gait up the steep mountain trail, snow crunching under feet she hadn’t felt in days. Her heart was beating too fast, making her feel breathless, but if she kept taking sips from her flask as the holy man directed, she could forget how exhausted she was and push to the back of her mind how frozen and terrified she was starting to feel without it. At the top, The Speaker brushed by, his stinking bulk crowding her as he passed. He bade her wait while he ducked inside to inspect the stone shelter. She wrapped her arms around the shivering, blanket-covered forms of the brave Shia and little Lita as they clung to her and whispered questions she couldn’t answer. The holy man reappeared and, prying the boy and girl from her grip, he poured a thick coca-leaf potion down her throat and directed her inside. The children’s eyes pled silently as the priest led them away. When she could no longer hear the sound of their footsteps, Lula drew her ceremonial blade and strapped it to her frost-bitten hand. She got up and taking a massive swallow from her flask, followed the trail through the snow, determination stamped across her features.

      1. I loved your comment, I think it’s the best I’ve gotten so far, but I realized you thought it was about rescuing Lula. It’s not. It’s based on that recent article about the ice princess, the 15-year-old girl mummy they found on a mountain in Nepal. It was a case of child sacrifice. They also found a little boy and another girl. I embellished it to make the ice princess want to rescue the children—just FYI.

  12. Elysium? Not sure, but it does have quite the view (4 stars)
    299 words
    Philanthropist / mountain / sci-fi
    Nix
    https://bsky.app/profile/moonofpluto.bsky.social
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.

    ***

    “Heyyyy jackpoteers, and welcome to a very special stream!”

    James XVI, alleged rightful king of England, ignored xem, focused entirely on his control panel. He sent the drone out further from the cliff’s edge, the endless quest for the perfect angle.

    “Yeah, haha, Greevy69 I see you typing and we all know your GalaxyGuessr record so let’s call that a head start! Keep that to yourself though!” Pause. “Exactly! It’s giveaway time!”

    Ok, wide shot time.

    “So, oh we’ve got some new people in chat? Awesome, welcome. I’m Jackie, and here’s the deal. I’m camping out in a location I’ll be revealing in sixty seconds.”

    He started the countdown.

    “The first one hundred of you to arrive are gonna get one hell of a prize. Any guesses, come on – no, crossmylungs it is not a space shuttle! Seeing people saying credits, no, use your imaginations!”

    James tapped at his watch, raised an eyebrow.

    “Alright, alright! Ok, everyone ready? The prize is six months worth of CellGuard, the new treatment from BioShield Pharma! Space travel without a time limit. And the first ten of you also win a NeoRegen treatment plan. Have the skin of an earthling!”

    “And the location you’ve got to reach is -“ silence. James flicked his eyes heavenward, then sent a ping to xyr glasses – “Elysium Mons! See you soon!”

    And mute, video off.

    “How was that?” asked Jackie.

    “Good.” James looked out over the red expanse, scorched earth tumbling down the mountain and over the pockmarked plains. “Anyway, that’s the ten minute mark. We should get behind the shields. ”

    “You go.” Xe nudged the prize bag. “For the sponsorship. My manager insisted.”

    “Cool. Well. Call me when it’s go-time.” He paused, not sure why. “What will you do?”

    “I thought I might go for a walk.”

  13. Steam Bowl LXVI
    299 words
    Extreme Ironer / Giveaway / Fantasy
    Ian Trace
    Yes, I am open to derivative works.

    “3, 2, 1, and stop,” says the announcer. I turn my iron off. “Will our last finalist please bring her outfit to the king?”

    I remove the coat from the board and make my way up the stairs leading to his majesty. Once I get to the top, I spare the coat a second glance before kneeling and presenting it to the king. He takes it from my hands and examines the front and back unimpressed.

    The king’s voice booms through me and washes over the hundreds in the audience. “And why should such a simple contraption bestow you the title of this year’s winner,” he asks.

    I clear my throat before answering. “Sir, with all due respect, that is no ordinary coat. If you will just try it on, his majesty will see that I’ve used my iron to imbue it with properties that allow you to relive your fondest memories.”

    As I explain, the king has someone help him secure the coat onto his broad shoulders. Once he has it on, his clear blue eyes suddenly turn grey. After a moment, a tear etches a pattern down his pockmarked face. “Emilia.” The word is a whisper, that escapes his lips and barely reaches my ears. Then he’s back. His eyes turn blue once again, and with the efforts of his staff, he’s able to remove the coat.

    The king hesitates before speaking, this time in a gentler tone. “What you have created here is truly remarkable. Sadly, I’m afraid it’s not enough.” The king motions to the contestant standing by my side. “It gives me great honor to announce this year’s winner, the creator of Cupid’s bowtie, my new accoutrement that causes everyone to instantly fall in love with me. Please give him a round of applause.”

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