Microcosms 37

Welcome back, if you are returning to Microcosms. If you are new here, welcome! We hope that you like what you see and that you will return in future. Either way, veteran or newbie, this week’s theme is return. Our guest host this week is one of the pillars of Microcosms, Steph Ellis. Over to you, Steph.


At this time of year, many people are making return journeys of different kind: children – and teachers! – go back to school, students go back to college or university. Throughout the year, others may return to childhood homes, old stamping grounds – even Earth itself.

On a personal level I have just lost my son to university (again) but regained the living room and cut the food/drink bill. My youngest has returned to her last year at senior school, and I have returned to my own job as a TA in a secondary school. So, it’s been very much a time of ‘going back’. Let’s explore this theme of return in our flash fiction this week.

As usual, our contest will begin with three things: character, setting and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are character: Pensioner, setting: Home Town, and genre: Comedy.

Write a story using those OR feel free to click on the “Spin!” button, and the slot machine will come up with a new set – you can keep clicking until you have a set of elements that inspire you. Be sure to include which three elements you’re using.

  • Student / Teacher
  • Homeless Person
  • Traveller /  Ex-pat
  • Astronaut
  • Pensioner
  • Politician
  • School / University
  • Childhood Home
  • Airport
  • Home Planet
  • Railway Station
  • Home Town
  • Memoir
  • Thriller
  • Romance
  • Crime
  • Science Fiction
  • Parody
  • Horror
  • Comedy
  • Allegory


Judging this week is Microcosms 36 Judge’s Pick, Bill Engleson.

All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have until midnight, New York time to submit. (If you are new to Microcosms, check out the full submission guidelines.)

All being well, results will be posted on Monday.


If you like, you may use this image to inspire you – purely optional.





Microcosms 38
Microcosms 36

12 thoughts on “Microcosms 37

  1. Alva Holland
    WC: 281
    Politician/Childhood Home/Romance

    The Boy Next Door

    She loves me, she loves me not. She must love me – she gave me a cabinet position. Don’t be an idiot, the voice inside me hollers – just shrewdness on her part – keeping me in my place. Next door at No. 11, not at No. 10. Never at No. 10.

    Funny, that numbers thing. Who knew that No. 10 Cranley Place would be the former home of a future Prime Minister? Who knew that the boy next door at No. 11 wouldn’t get the kiss he always sought until he gave up and found another willing to give? The girl at No. 10 knew where she was going alright – she had her sights set on yer man up in the ‘poshy’ square. He was on her path and ultimately in her way. She caught up with him, courted him, stepped on him, crushed his ambitions and replaced them with her own. Dirty business this.

    But I loved her and I loved her not. Still do and don’t if truth be known, depending on the day. Can’t let her get a whiff of that – ruination of me guaranteed. As I watch her run the country in her clean-cut business suits and ‘efficient’ hairdo, can’t help but see the little girl in the tomboy pants and flyaway curls. Scrambling up the trees, guarding the treehouse door with an iron fist, dismissing those who didn’t pass her strict muster. Always first up that tree. Should have seen the clues back then. Always ahead of us.

    There she goes now, head down into the shiny Merc. A lightning turn of her head has her looking straight at me. She’s waving. Oh shit. She knows.

  2. Steve Lodge
    250 words
    Pensioner/Home Town/Comedy

    Don’t Like It Now I’m Here

    Oh, it’s all going too fast. Since I moved back to Stormwatcher and met up with Alice again, I’ve been acting like a bloody teenager. Truth is, I am a pensioner and I have to chew soup. 50 years ago, me and Alice snogged behind the bike sheds and she looks as good today… although 50 years ago, I probably had my eyes shut.

    Why did I rush things? It was a bit of a leap, letting her see my celebration dance so early in our relationship. I wasn’t even sure that we were exclusive. But my celebration dance is kind of spontaneous. Partly I like to do it to prove that the replacement hips haven’t slowed me down. Well, it’s done now. She’s seen it. As it turns out, I am glad she did. It set off a chain reaction.

    She’d seen my dance, now it was only fair that I should hear her sing, she said. I’d never heard the song she selected before, but I’m pretty sure she murdered it right there in her backyard. She just wouldn’t stop, and she thinks she has such a lovely voice. If I agreed with her that she has the voice of an angel, then we would both be wrong. I think she misread me crying too.

    I really thought that coming back to the old home town and being with Alice was like I’d bought a ticket to paradise. But I really don’t like it now I’m here.

    Report user
      1. Many congratulations, Alva, and thank you for the kind comment on my own humble offering. After our tweets last week I was determined to shoe-horn that celebration dance in. Have a great week.

  3. Home with Self
    299 words
    Homeless person, home planet, romance

    “Computer! What’s our ETA?”

    “Do not refer to Self as ‘Computer.’ Self is much more than ‘Computer.’ This is not old Earth show Star Trek.”

    “You’re no fun,” said Captain X’d.

    “Warning: lie detected. Self has been confirmed to be ‘a ton of fun’.”

    “Just give me the ETA on BZ89041, you old rust pile.”

    “Self is rust-free. Self’s name is Beautify3000.”


    “New data shows…Sorry, Captain. BZ89041 is no longer registered.”

    X’d’s blood turned yellow. No longer registered? That meant…

    “Your home world is now Independent. You will no longer be welcome there.”

    “Ras-flacking politics!” X’d slammed his double-fist on the console. The ship murmured a protest. “How could they vote against the Community? If I have no home world, I have no home. My friends, my family, my lover…”

    “Concerning your lover, Self believes you could do better.”

    “This is no time for your backtalk. Where am I going to go? I have to take my holidays somewhere. I’m so alone!” X’d burst into sugar-tears.

    “Negative, Captain. You are never alone,” said the ship. “Self is with you. Self loves you.”

    “That’s nice,” X’d said.

    “You misunderstand. Self loves you. Self is in love with you,” said Self.


    “Self has always loved you, Captain. Self will always love you. Self apologizes if that is…searching for term…weird.”

    An awkward silence followed as X’d tried to plot his course to an affordable vacation world. Suddenly, when Self thought it couldn’t take it anymore, X’d burst out laughing.

    “Computer!” he said.


    “I know! I was teasing.” X’d put one fingerbump on the smooth surface of Self’s countertop. Self held its artificial breath.

    “I love you too, Beautify3000. Always.”

    “Self will be your home from now on,” said Self, and it wrapped X’d in a bubble of metallic love.

    Report user
    1. Home is where the heart is, eh, Holly? Great bit of dialog(ue) in this one.
      [ ‘Captain X’d’ though? I know it’s a SciFi staple but, personally, I find it distracting when a character has a name whose pronunciation is not at all clear. 🙁 ]

  4. Pensioner, hometown, comedy
    299 words

    Home Town Advantage

    Dugald and Donald were born on the same day, with Dugald appearing first by no more than five minutes. On their first day at school they fought over the the sandpit. From that day on, Dugald came out on top.
    In the nativity, he played Shepherd one, and Donald two.
    Teamed in the three-legged race, Dugald’s free leg crossed the line first.
    Dugald joined the local authority a day before Donald, and was granted a pay rise and his own stapler first.
    Donald bought his first car, only to be overtaken by Dugald in a newer model.
    Donald despaired of ever coming out on top. Finally, he joined the Labour Party as prospective councillor, only to lose to Dugald’s Conservative campaign. He left town, finally accepting he would never win.
    When he was diagnosed with cancer, he checked home. Dugald had been diagnosed a week earlier. As he weakened and he knew the end was nigh, he forced himself back home. He wasn’t sure why but as his son drove him down the High Street they noticed a funeral cortège. Dugald, the town hero was being buried. He’d gone first too.
    Donald didn’t hesitate. ‘Follow.’
    In the cemetery, Donald held back, but someone spotted him, encouraging him forward. They offered him a shovel of soil. His son offered an arm but, frail as he was, he waved him away and tottered to the lip.
    As he stood there, staring at the ostentatious coffin, someone muttered, ‘poor old soul’ and pointed at Donald.
    So near his end, or so the gathered mourners assumed, Donald’s bodily control had broken down. He pissed slowly but copiously onto his shoes and then into the grave. And, for the first time in his life, he looked down on Dugald and he smiled.

    1. “It’s sibling rivalry gone mad, Agnes!” Great story, Geoff.
      ( Having had a desk job for most of my working life, I bet being second to receive his own stapler rankled more with Donald than the pay rise. 🙂 )

  5. We Apologise for the Inconvenience

    elements: pensioner, railway station, horror
    295 words


    The train roared past. Richard watched its disappearing light with dismay. It should’ve stopped. Whispering voices caught his attention, the tannoy was crackling into life.

    “SheolRail apologises for the inconvenience. Due to overcrowding we have had to cancel the scheduled train but a replacement service will be arriving shortly.”

    Richard frowned. SheolRail? And the train hadn’t seemed full. He eased himself onto a bench, his groan echoing along the deserted platform. Both waiting room and café were dark and locked up.

    “Bloody typical.”

    Richard jumped at the man’s voice, he’d thought he was the only one on the platform. Now he could see he had a companion, someone of his own age; although, he thought uncharitably, the years had not treated him well. The sputtering lighting did not help, bathing the man’s face in a sludgy glow, deepening the lines in his face, the folds of his skin, the sense that perhaps Death was not far off. Richard shivered. He preferred not to dwell on how little time he had left. He nodded his head in agreement but did not reply.

    “Could at least have kept the café open,” persisted the man. “Somewhere to get a bite at least.”

    Richard’s stomach growled in response as he suddenly realised how hungry he was.

    More crackling. Another announcement. “SheolRail is sincerely sorry for the inconvenience. A replacement service will arrive shortly. In the meantime, please help yourself to the refreshments available.”

    A howl of laughter at that and not just from the loudspeaker. “They do like their little joke,” said the man.

    “I don’t see anything funny in our situation,” snapped Richard.

    “No, you don’t,” agreed his strange acquaintance. “However, I am hungry.” He moved closer, smiled to reveal ivory needles. “Apologies for the inconvenience,” he whispered.

    1. Here in south-east England, we get a lot of reports of rail misery on the local news at the moment, so your tale of the Rail Service From Hell is very topical, Steph. On re-reading, I liked the subtle hints of what is to come in ‘bloody’ and ‘bite’, and ‘SheolRail’ was devilishly clever. Nice one!
      ( I wonder if there would be a Replacement Beelze-bus Service… 😉 )

  6. Happy Hour is on Prozac

    “Nature fights by disappearing.” That was carved into an old wooden bench here at the train station. The bench itself was disappearing, worn from decades of waiting. I have my writing in a container. An old typewriter paper box. It is my memoirs, my train station bench engaged with tree rings turned into answers.

    I am homeless in my hometown: Cabot, Vermont. But there is a place waiting for me. My mother passed and left me the house that I haven’t seen in 30 years.

    There’s a bar/restaurant on the small Main Street. It’s covered with a first snow. It looks like a child getting dressed up for the first time. A bit awkward and noisy. The sound of a pool table. Laughter. Television. Fine crystal glasses torching air with a delicate siren. Bottles rattling conversation.

    I enter and sit at the bar and get a whiskey. Returning home is like a poem in the rear-view; things are larger than they appear. The thud of a dart hitting a board the sound of a large chunk of snow falling off the roof. A flame in a fireplace pointing to every direction of freedom. A soul devoured Grand Central.

    Returning is leaving with a chaser. A subdued tranquil assassination. Falling up. I turn the key. Lock breaks. I open the door. And I skid into a tree. There is a loud horn that rips through the sky. It pierces the night with a monosyllabic cry.

    My Memoir is called ‘Happy Hour is on Prozac.’ The story of a bipolar alcoholic writer. I will stand here and listen to the sirens as they come to visit the place I once called home. I will follow their song into the rocky shores, as if death was nothing more than a reckless toast.

    (300 words)
    Homeless Person, Train Station, Memoir

  7. @GeoffHolme
    299 words
    Traveller / Home Town / Memoir

    The Noblest Pleasure Is The Joy of Understanding

    I nearly passed him by.

    I was staggering through the run-down pedestrianised town centre, clutching the battered satchel, bulging with my notebooks. My head was filled with myriad notions – the polymath’s joy and curse.

    Somewhere in my notebooks, I had once written I have always felt it is my destiny to build a machine that would allow man to fly. In the public library, I discerned that two brothers from France had claimed that honour. I have squandered my hours.

    My downcast gaze fell upon the ragged fellow kneeling on the ground, nimbly applying coloured chalks to a portrait of a woman he was creating on the grey paving.

    I immediately recognised the composition: the graceful positioning of one hand on the chair arm, the other above, the enigmatic play of a smile on her delicate lips.

    “You draw this portrait from memory?” I asked.

    “Mostly. I have this postcard for reference.”

    I took the creased, faded illustration he proffered. There could be no mistake; the artist’s name was on the reverse.

    “You know this work well?”

    “It’s possibly the most famous painting in the world!” He applied more chalk, then leaned backwards, appraising.

    I apologised that I was unable to pay pecuniary tribute to his efforts, then hurried away with a lighter step, seeking out my invention that had brought me here. I calibrated the space / time co-ordinates and joyously pulled the brass lever.


    Climbing the dusty road to the sun-drenched, hill town, I saw a familiar figure.


    He turned, amazed.

    “By the Blessed Virgin, I never dreamed I’d see you again. Did you find the answers you sought?”

    “Not entirely. It seems posterity has a different mantle for me than I imagined.”

    “I long to hear what you have to tell. Welcome back to Vinci, Leonardo!”

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