Microcosms 215 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)

MC 215 Flash Fiction Contest

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 215 – your free, weekly flash fiction contest!

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

Time Left to Submit

Entries due Saturday, 4 November 2023 at midnight PT

DAYS
HOURS
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Quick Access Links

MICROCOSMS 215 Free Flash Fiction Contest Prompts: New Employee / Mistaken Identity / Western OR Ice Sculptor / Retail Hell / Poem 300 words or fewer. Spin for more prompts. $25 prize. Totally free to enter! Microcosmsfic.com
Photo by Caique Morais 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, you 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).

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:

New Employee / Mistaken Identity / Western

OR

Ice Sculptor / Retail Hell / Poem

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

  • Skater
  • Real Estate Agent
  • Aging Rock Star
  • Ice Sculptor
  • Work Spouse
  • Animatronic
  • New Employee
  • Myth Debunker
  • Skate Park
  • Open House
  • Mistaken Identity
  • Snowy Day
  • Corporate Retreat
  • Pizza Parlor
  • Retail Hell
  • Docudrama Series
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Steampunk
  • Western
  • Crime/Thriller
  • Fairy Tale

Notes

Helping judge this week is Microcosms alum Lily Finch!

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 214 Community Pick(s) will be announced at the end of the week, along with the Judge’s Pick, who will win $25!

Also, be sure to check out 100micro2 – our current quarterly contest!

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 213 Winners!

We’ve moved our Winners Announcements to their own posts! You can find the winners of MC 213 here: https://microcosmsfic.com/2023/10/28/results-mc-213-flash-fiction-contest/

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Microcosms 214 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)

38 thoughts on “Microcosms 215 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)

  1. Ice Sculptor/Retail Hell/Poem

    Iced Rage

    I am a maker of beauty
    Not frippery
    But a frieze of frozen delight
    Sculpted statues standing tall
    Cold to the touch
    Inspiring awe
    I am an ice sculptor
    Know my name
    Remember me always

    Yet today I am in Purgatory
    A frozen fiery hell
    Surrounded by bells and memes
    Electric laughter
    Spinning heads with chattering jaws
    Underpaid drones in velour hats
    And here I am
    Casting beauty or trying
    Setting iced pearls among swine

    Yet I embark on my impossible task
    Herculean
    Just as Prometheus reached out
    To teach the savages the secrets of fire
    I reach out
    I, the Sculptor
    To teach the swine in shops
    The beauty and secrets of ice

    I cast, chipping, eyes forward
    Ignoring the plastic chatter
    The drones, clattering by
    The ice calls me and I answer
    Statues grow under my chilled fingers
    Iced faces that gleam and glisten
    Arctic foxes tumble with angels
    A glass sleigh awaits its princess
    And slowly the hell chills
    As I weave the hard plastic into
    My own tundra tableau
    And fur bedecked retail slaves
    Find their space beholding art
    As they, too, freeze in bewildered awe
    At last, the chatter is silenced
    And I, the Sculptor, stand back
    To gaze on what I have made
    Winter Wonderland. Wondrous.

    1. I love this so much:

      “A glass sleigh awaits its princess
      And slowly the hell chills
      As I weave the hard plastic into
      My own tundra tableau
      And fur bedecked retail slaves
      Find their space beholding art”

      Chef’s kiss. Honestly.

  2. AND IT’S CALLED GRAVEYARD SEX
    300 Words
    New Employee/ Mistaken Identity/ Western
    By Steve Lodge
    X Twitter: @steveweave71
    Instagram: steveweave_cheese
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works.

    A wandering minstrel called Mars Spillane arrived in the rough border town of Broken Biscuits in the Outrageous Mountains. He wanted a job entertaining customers in The Laughing Horse Saloon. This got bad when nobody believed him on account of his poor guitar work and woeful singing. Eye witnesses said one of his nostrils would whistle some accompaniment while he sang.

    Anyways, his musical ineptitude led to bouts of mistaken identity. When the population of Broken Biscuits gets it into their heads you a dentist or a doctor or some such, then you had better start acting like one, mister, or you leave town rolled up in a carpet. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    A young widow took a shine to him, though. He wrote this for her.

    Dear Annabel, please, I don’t deserve this pain,
    All I wanted was a little success,
    And all I got was some graveyard sex.

    They chased me through town, when all I want is peace,
    The Limping Kid, Cody and Grey Mist,
    All mistook me for the new dentist.

    Now, don’t make this difficult, you know I have to leave,
    The Left Hand Gun, Toby and Old Sally Proctor,
    All mistook me for the new doctor.

    Some of the scars are invisible to the eye,
    Except for the ridges,
    And the leftover bits that I kept in fridges.

    But they still make appointments,
    But nobody’s seen Denis,
    Since, by mistake, I cut off his penis.

    And at the Laughing Horse Saloon,
    They started selling renaissance stew,
    Which they’d laced with zombie juice.

    Then all the patients came to me,
    I couldn’t cure a single one,
    Dear Annabel, oh what have I done?

    The place is like a ghost town,
    It left me very vexed,
    Until Annabel suggested some of that Graveyard Sex.

  3. What’s In A Name?
    New employee/mistaken identity/western
    286 words
    Geoff Le Pard
    @geofflepard

    The woman with red-streaked hair and clutching an all important clipboard like a rigid security blanket, looked so excited, Ron knew what was coming.
    ‘Excuse me. Are you…’
    ‘No.’ Ron picked up his coffee and headed for the trailer. He’d wait to be called.
    ‘But you don’t know…’ the woman followed him.
    ‘You think I’m related to John Wayne.’
    ‘I…’
    ‘It’s Ron Wayne, okay.’ He held up the lanyard he’d been given, only twenty minutes earlier. ‘Ron, not John. Okay, I’m here to ride horses, do stunts but beyond that,’ he counted on his fingers, ‘I don’t wobble about like one leg’s two inches shorter than the other; you can’t watch the sun set between my knees; and I don’t speak like my battery’s about to die. And I’m only five foot three inches high; you could get two of me in him.’ How many times, thought Ron, did he have to tell his agent: no more westerns.
    He waited for the woman to apologise, to say she hadn’t meant to embarrass him. Nothing, just a rather poor impersonation of a carp with a loose jaw. Once again he headed for the trailer where he’d been told to wait.
    ‘Who’s John Wayne? Is he one of the crew?’
    Ron turned slowly and looked, with growing incredulity at the woman. Surely even these snottery Gen Z influenzas knew who John Wayne was, especially if they worked on westerns? He was about to put her right when she giggled. ‘Course I know. I was just going to tell you that the directors are ready for a rehearsal.’ She looked at her clipboard. ‘Stage seven. You’ll be rescuing two simpering missionaries, Charlotte Bronson and Dee Van Cleef.’

  4. How To Clear A Crowd
    By Jaime Bree
    299 words
    Ice Sculptor/Retail Hell/Poem

    I’d started this job
    Stacking shelves
    The worst ever shift
    Known as ‘Retail Hell’.
    It wasn’t just busy,
    Crowded or packed.
    They were squashed like sardines
    Don’t try to swing that…

    Handbag.

    Of all of the things
    I had to place
    On display that day
    Before to the tills they’d race
    Was an ice sculpture,
    Sculpted by some weirdo
    Who’d sold it to the store
    What was really clear though…

    She’d pulled the wool over their eyes, for sure.

    The imbeciles running the shopping asylum
    Had gushed and purred
    At the ‘artist’ beside them
    Maybe it was her hat
    Or ‘creative demeanour’
    The clothes she wore?
    If only they’d seen her

    Credentials.

    It seemed they were taken
    By her icy monstrosity
    What it represented was unclear
    Describing it an impossibility.
    Large. Jagged.
    Looked a bit like a mermaid.
    From one angle.
    But, at least it stayed

    Upright.

    So, here I was
    Handling something quite slippery
    Quite large
    And well,
    – swear-word-inducing cold – it was making me jittery.
    The shelf needed adjusting
    And all the while
    There was pushing and shoving
    Below in the aisle.

    Easy on the ladder now.

    The atmosphere was heated
    I swear I saw smoke
    Coming from a man’s ears
    And another one choke
    When a woman who wanted
    That last china plate
    Put her hands round his throat
    Make no mistake

    She’d fight ’til Retail Hell froze over.

    I looked at the time
    I’d been there two hours
    Hemmed in, ignored,
    Left on a ladder
    To die
    From hypothermia or
    Crushed by a crowd.
    Then, suddenly, I thought,
    And I said it out loud:
    ‘Why the hell am I trying
    To display
    A complete lump of nonsense
    For half of the day?’

    So, I dropped it.

    You’ve never seen a crowd disperse so quick.

  5. My day at Buc-ee’s. 281 words. New Employee / Mistaken Identity / Western.

    User: NC8387

    No, I am not open to derivative works at this time, thank you. (non-experience)
    ———————————————————————————————————————-
    ———————————————————————————————————————

    My day at Buc-ee’s.

    It was a mistaken identity. They didn’t know me. I didn’t know them. However… I couldn’t explain that to them now, that I’ve got a gun to my face. The first thing I had to do, was make sure, I was safe. That’s for certain. The second, to wack this guy’s gun out of my face.

    How?

    Do?

    I?

    Do?

    That?

    Period.

    I eye the counter next to me, working at Buc-ee’s was phenomenal until these guys came along. They were a tough gang of boys that I’d never seen before. However. I had to do something about it.

    “Hey, guys?” I asked. “How, ‘bout… you let me go and I, don’t call the cops?

    “Sure?” the Guy asked. “Do— that, and I’ll blow your fucking hands off?”

    “Okay— okay,” I said, calmly lowering my hands. How ‘bout, you give that to me?

    “No can do, Sir,” the Man, said. He kept his guard up, the entire time, as I looked for an scapegoat, as the boys snickered.

    Damn, I thought. How, about, you give that to me? Am I an fucking idiot?

    The Boss cleared his throat, “we, don’t want any trouble.”

    He, said, meekly.

    “Sure, and—then, you’ll call the cops?” the Boss asked, filled with thug—life syndrome.

    “Alright’,” my manager said. “I know what you want.”

    Snickers?” the Boss asked. You’re not you when you’re hungry, my boss replied.

    Bang!

    My boss fell to the floor with a thud. Damn, I hate my job. I thought to myself.

    The guys left. They. Broke a couple of game stations on the way, with their metal—bat. I shook my head. I, knew, exactly, what, to, say.

    “I’m quitting.”

  6. Alias Jones and Jones
    300 Words
    New Employee/ Mistaken Identity/ Western
    By A.J. Walker
    Twitter/Bluetooth: @zevonesque
    Website: https://awalker.org

    The man leaning against the rail chewed ferociously on tobacco. He spat some out with an obnoxious splat on the timber floor.’Howdy, partner.’ He shouted

    ‘Hello. You waiting for your new assistant?’ Natasha asked.

    ‘What? Speak up, lady. I’m a bit deaf. All the shooting you know? What’s your name?’

    ‘Natasha, though call me Nat.’ She walked closer to the grisled man.

    ‘Nat? Yes, yes. You shoot a gun then?’

    She never had, but she nodded. How hard could it be? A job’s a job.

    In the bar opposite it was the first day too for another local.

    Madam Laine was looking at the young man before her with some confusion. ‘What’s your name again, fella?’

    ‘Matthew, ma’am. Though call me Matt.’ He was a little confused too. He hadn’t been told what the job was, but he thought it was some sort of assistant.

    ‘Um, yeah. I remember now. I must have misheard your dad. Jonesy needs to enunciate better after his whiskey. I thought he’d said, Nat.’

    Matt scratched his head. ‘Dad’s been here?’

    “Hardly ever not here when his pockets start rattling. He’s got plenty of friends here.’

    And that’s how Nat Jones ended up working on the stage coach from Little New York that year and Matt Jones worked one night in the Little NY Bordello. He didn’t make it day two after shooting the belt buckle of Randy Carmichael from 100m. The town’s deputy had got rather too handsy with Matt after his second bottle of gut rot.

    ‘You shouldn’t have done that.’ The Madam said. ‘He gets freebees as he lets things ride a little. He’s a short sighted and unfussy admittedly. He’s misplaced his glasses and I think he thought you were Flora.’

    House numbers became mandatory in the town shortly afterwards.

  7. A Light Lunch
    300 words
    New Employee / Mistaken Identity / Western
    Galen Gower
    Yes, I am open to derivative works including variations on the niçoise salad.

    I walked into the hotel wearing my smart new suit, not knowing there was death in my future. I planned a light lunch of niçoise and martini, but I had to abandon the idea completely when a rather flustered bellboy grabbed me. I had in mind to tell him off, but the poor lad looked so distraught my objection caught in my throat.
    “What is it, lad?”
    “Sir, it’s Mrs. Amar. I, well…” I motioned him to continue, “well, he’s hit her, sir.”
    I made assumptions. First, any man who strikes a woman is a brute. Secondly, the disturbance must be nearby. Lastly, I should interpose myself between any vulnerable person and violence.
    “Right, lead the way, lad,” I said and unbuttoned my jacket as I followed close behind.
    The bellboy made haste to the elevator whereupon we encountered a most undignified scene. A woman, slight and pale, with a hand to her cheek. Standing over her was a squat toad of a man, one of her wrists gripped tightly, his other hand raised. I caught his wrist and he turned his steaming countenance.
    “Who are you?” he asked and attempted to wrench free. I did not relent.
    “Piers Fairweather, sir, I frequently lunch here. Today, however, I strenuously object to your behavior.”
    Two more things happened. The bellboy, realizing his error, blushed.
    “Sorry, Mr. Fairweather, I thought you were the, um…” he cleared his throat, “the manager. First day, sorry.”
    Second, a shot. During my intervention, Mrs. Amal produced a Derringer from her garter and put a bullet neatly through the old boy’s heart. He didn’t say another word, only sighed a little and fell to the carpet heavily.
    “Right, that’s done, then,” I said and offered the widow Amal and hand up from her place on the floor.

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  8. Myth Debunker/ Corporate Retreat/ Steampunk
    Word count: 297

    Cadence flicked her pocket-watch closed as she stalked through the corridors from the hanger. Behind her, she could hear the ground grew preparing her Zeppelin for a quick turn around. In years gone by, she might have felt hasty, but experience meant she knew this wouldn’t take long.

    The dining room had been set up to mimic the boardroom back at the factory – so much for corporate ‘retreat’. The phrase had always bothered Cadence – why do a job that was so awful you needed to retreat from it – as though you were at war with your profession. Her work wasn’t exactly easy, but the challenge was always welcome.

    Jacque sat at the head of the table, tamping tobacco into his pipe as she entered, “We got your telegram.”

    She liked his lack of preamble and met it with more of the same, “Then you already know what I have to say.”

    He shook his head and as if on cue, the rest of the room murmured a derisive laugh.

    “Let’s say I want proof.” He sat back, smug. She knew this had been coming – knew her pay depended on it too.

    Carefully, she unhooked a pouch from her belt and threw it across the table, contents scattering across the board. She took her goggles from her head and breathed on the glass, cleaning each lens slowly in turn as the assembled stared at her revelation.

    “What you’re looking at,” she said, addressing a smear on her left lens, “are dragon scales. Run them through your spectrometer. I’ll wait. Of course, it’ll tell you nothing my telegram didn’t already convey. I can’t debunk the myth. Aetheldrake is alive, and well, and living in Greenwich. You, good sirs, need a dragon hunter.”

    “What for?” Jacque smirked, “We have you.”

  9. Puddle Of Love
    147 words
    Ice Sculptor/Retail Hell/ Poem
    Laura Cooney

    She was as cold as ice
    And sharper at times.
    Clip, scrape, drag, chisel.
    Skim, soak, smooth, caress,
    Suggesting love,
    Anything but.
    Blue knuckles, frozen claws.
    Sculpting ice was pain.

    No gloves could warm
    And no fire could melt
    The ice cold bitch,
    When she was at work,
    In Sainsbury’s.

    Lost in the the aisles between watermelon and vodka she finds herself
    In the frozen food section.
    Of all places,
    Hell, frozen over.

    She’s followed the sound of crying,
    From breadsticks, to cheerios.
    And it’s led her here. To the
    Frozen carrots?
    Whatever.

    “Mummy,” he shouts.
    And suddenly the ice cold organ in her chest melts,
    She holds out her stricken arms,
    Having prepared for the worst.
    And folds him in.

    When the call for, “cleanup in aisle 5,” comes
    Bradley finds is a puddle of water.
    That reaches from freezer to freezer and halfway to aisle 11.

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