Microcosms 39

Welcome to Microcosms #39, and another macabre flash fiction contest.

This week, we mark the end of the third quarter of Microcosms’ first year – and also the anniversary of the death of James Dean, who died in a car crash on this day in 1955, aged just 24 years.

Over the years, the month of September has proved popular for famous people to pass on, their death either being in or else involving an automobile accident:

  • Bessie Smith, blues singer, on  26-SEP-1937, aged 43
  • Marc Bolan, glam rock star, on 16-SEP-1977, aged 29
  • Grace Kelly, actress, on 14-SEP-1982, aged 52
  •  Isadora Duncan, dancer, on 14-SEP-1927, age 49 or 50
  • Michael Ventris, who deciphered Linear B, on 06-SEP-1956, aged 34

Our contest this week begins with three things: character, an associated attribute and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are character: Linguist, attribute: Giant, and genre: Science Fiction.

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 tell us which three elements you’re using.

  • Actor
  • Blues Singer
  • Glam Rock Star
  • Actress / Princess
  • Dancer
  • Linguist
  • Giant
  • After You’ve Gone
  • Mini
  • High Noon
  • Scarf
  • Mycenae
  • Romance
  • Thriller
  • Parody
  • Crime
  • Science Fiction
  • Memoir
  • Horror
  • Comedy
  • Fairy Tale


Judging this week is Microcosms 38 Judge’s Pick, Carlos Orozco.

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.


Microcosms 40
Microcosms 38

42 thoughts on “Microcosms 39

  1. Either a Minor Case of Murder or a Very Complex Suicide at 1127 Walnut Avenue

    “I’m not in the mood for it, Stan,” I’d said. “If there has to be a body, why couldn’t it be lying in the street… or the bloody sidewalk? Some place easy to get to.”

    Stanley Rubikoff, my partner for the past eleven years, had given me the same goddam look Katie usually gives me. Only he’d added, “We’re on dayshift, Ollie. The sun’s shining, the birds are almost in tune. And we’re alive…which is more than we can say about this poor bugger up there.”

    Up there! Up there turned out to be 130 heart attack inducing, shimmering-hot-in-the-high-noon-sun steps.

    But we’d trudged up like the robotic troopers we were.

    At the top, we were met by Lane Carpenter. He had the soft fuzzy features of a house cat. He said he was the deceased’s roommate. He’d found the body.

    “Issy and I grew up together…in Frisco. A born actor. He was always someone else. Even…” And then he’d started blubbering…

    James Isadore Lavery, pale as paste, was soaking in the blood-red tub, throat and wrists cut like they were salmon steaks.

    The corpse looked to be in his mid-forties.

    “Yeah,” Carpenter said. “We‘re both forty-five…were, I guess.”

    “You an actor?” Stan asked.

    “Nah. I drive hack.”

    Stan looked around the run-down apartment. “He on the skids?”

    “He never quite grabbed the brass ring,” Carpenter replied. “Talent don’t count here. Hell, as a kid he could twist his skinny little body like he was a pretzel. Amazing, really. One time, we were up late watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame, that one with Laughton. Well, he scrunched up and hopped around like Quasimodo…”

    “Not much need for middle-aged bell-ringers in Hollywood, I guess!” I said.

    Stan looked at me and shook his head.

    He always was the sensitive one.

    299 words that don’t quite tell the tale
    Actor; High Noon; crime

      1. Thanks Steph. I may have been hungry when I wrote the line and considering an upcoming meal…We do find inspiration in all the dark places, don’t we!

  2. Bearing Up
    Linguist, Giant, Sci-fi
    293 words
    The blood pooled across the concrete. Billy Persian stroked his whiskers before wrinkling his nose. ‘Geez, Dennis, the military need their heads examining.’
    Dennis Beagle nodded. ‘Relaxing the GM rules to allow Polars into the Marines’ DNA was always likely to backfire, once they were retired.’ He grinned at his partner. ‘As dumb as allowing a part feline into the force I’d say.’
    Billy hissed at his friend. ‘At least you’re naturally obedient. More than bloody bears.’ He looked across to where the albino furred group had been corralled. ‘Where do we start? Is there one suspect, or all of them?’
    ‘They won’t talk. They’ve pleaded the 452nd Amendment.’
    Billy’s shoulders dropped. ‘Really?’ He frowned. ‘They want to be interviewed in Bear?’
    ‘Worse. In Polar.’
    Billy pulled a face. ‘Tell me the translator isn’t Bertrand…’
    ‘… Grizzly!’ The giant overweight linguist lumbered towards Billy and Dennis. ‘How are you boys?’
    ‘Dennis, is there no one else?’ Billy whispered while gingerly offering a paw to the mountain, bracing himself against the disappointment of the feeble handshake. ‘Hi, Bertrand. Love the hat.’
    Bertrand pirouetted. ‘It’s the latest, darlings. Sunshine homburgs are so now.’ He glanced at the suspects all eyeing him with undisguised malevolence. ‘What have these squirrels been up to, the naughty little cubs?’
    Dennis pulled back the sheet that covered the eviscerated remains of the polars’ victims.
    Bertrand slumped to the floor. ‘Oh heavens. And look. They’d just had their nails done.’ He pulled himself up to his full ten foot, towering over the two policemen. ‘Still, Bertrand will be brave.’
    ‘You speak Polar?’
    ‘Oh yes.’
    ‘Great. And Bertrand…’
    ‘This time, please don’t flirt with the suspects.’
    Bertrand wrinkled his nose. ‘Hardly, darling. They’re far too northern, if you know what I mean.’

  3. They Came From Outer Nowhere
    Linguist/Giant/Science Fiction
    247 words

    I am Molnar. Professor of Linguistics. Hope someone gets this Whatsapp.

    I estimate 1000 people here on Substation 9 Starcluster 17. We have been abducted by Kyrnians, held here against our will, and are being forcibly taught this dreadful Kyrnian language. We are told that once we have mastered this awful language we will be repatriated to Earth ahead of the Kyrnian invasion, and we will be used by these evil people to pass on their commands to our fellow Earthlings. While my phone has battery, I will keep messaging.

    Cannot tell how long we have been here. Only given green water to drink. There is no food on this Substation. Our captors appear to be at least 5 metres tall. I begin to see how Kyrnia regularly wins the Universal Basketball Championships. They have appalling breath. A lifetime of drinking this green water, no doubt. I feel that I and my fellow abductees are beginning to develop this awful breath too.

    A breakthrough of sorts. Perhaps because Hungarian is my mother tongue, I seem to be more advanced in learning their odious language than my fellow Earth friends here. I was able to ask their Commander tonight just how long until we can return to our beautiful planet Earth?

    In their language, this is the translation: “Wibble, dobo kvibble, flen n flundermokers porby finwibble eecha weeeeeepan dobo kerpuppi Earth?” This is what we are up against. Where is Starfleet to save us when we need them?

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    1. I can sympathise, having to learn German…no green water here, though, so I consider myself lucky. I enjoyed the strange offset between impending invasion and the horror of learning a new language against bad breath and winning basketball.

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  4. Alva Holland
    WC: 277
    Glam Rock Star/After You’ve Gone/Fairy Tale

    Fairy Tale Obliterated

    Sitting here next to Phil Lynott who attended our concerts, I can’t believe we’re sharing the afterlife. He was my hero. Our music was as different as chalk and cheese but, like all musicians, we shared a common thread – life on the road. Our road ended on the A1 in County Down before we could grasp our fairy-tale existence. July 31st 1975 – the day the music died in Ireland.

    I wanted to set up a new band shortly after we got here, but the boss wasn’t having any of it. The real Boss, that is. The other Boss continues life on the road down there – I hear he’s 67 now and popular as ever. Would our boys have lasted the pace? We never got the chance to find out. I don’t see Des here so he must have survived. So many questions. Do I want to know?

    We missed so much. And for what? I often wonder if the Irish people still remember our Miami Showband, or has our memory and the atrocity that ended our story faded with the years? I wanted to go back but that’s strictly forbidden. People have tried. The Boss just smiles.

    We had a royal entrant in May – the Prince of Purple himself. Thought I glimpsed a raised eyebrow when he pranced in. Maybe even He can be surprised.

    Holy Moly, it’s The Starman. What the hell is going on? Must ask the Boss if he’s planning an extravaganza – what a sell-out show that would be. I’d still prefer to be alive and down there.

    ‘Life goes on, Fran,’ they say.

    ‘Crap,’ I say. ‘Give me back my fairy tale.’

    1. Wonderful story. I like the whimsical nature of explaining their afterlife, death and wishes, and the references to others joining them. The ending was sweet, too…music being stronger than paradise.

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      1. Many thanks Sian. Your comments are an inspiration. Looking forward to next week already.

  5. @WolfRich93
    300 words
    Blues Singer / After You’ve Gone / Science Fiction
    Title: The Biggest Blue(s) Star

    Recognised him soon as he walked in. ‘Ravin Walt Rayet’ – the great Blues singer who fronts the Tarantulas. Talk about superstars. He’s right out there, way bigger than anyone else. For what seems like, about, 160,000 years.
    Or something. Whatever.
    He acknowledges me, after a hazy moment. I guess it takes a while for memory to cross the space between us.
    “Hi Bro” he rumbles, “what’s up?” We head for the bar, I bask in the giant’s glow, if only by dint of passing association. “Heard ya today man”, I offer, “…Radio R136a1”. He shakes his head, as if in agreement. “Yeah, they play my music…” He fades into introspection, raises his glass, downs it in one. Asks “How you getting on?” I consider my reply for a moment. Any response or claimed ‘achievement’ will be, obviously, dwarfed by his stellar track record.
    “I got outta the business, it was killing me, got the feeling I was dying….’. He gazed down at me for a moment through those intense blue eyes. ‘Got that man, got that….so what ya doing instead?” I feel uneasy about a reply. My new career is at somewhat of a tangent to previous.
    Less ’in your face’ so to speak….
    “I’m writing, published….thinking ‘bout my next piece.”
    He turns. Stares right into me long enough to make me nervous. Then asks for detail. “Science Fiction, mainly, but I might try something else, biog’s maybe….or combine them, whatever.” He considers, moves to depart, then halts. “Maybe ya should write mine, after I hit the Great Gig in the Sky?” I’m shocked by this request-offer from the Legend. “Only after you’ve gone? Not before?”
    He grins, “Publish now – I get taxes, alimony, paternity suits…! Publish after – I’m a legend, burning forever. A true star….”

  6. Bugatti Flowers

    The ruins twinkled in the dawn sun that leapt over mountains and blanketed the hills with a soft glow that ricocheted off stone and marble to return to the eyes with the full form of morning. Her hair moved as rounded as smoke around her waist as she turned with a flowing laced white dress. An expansive expression of soul that painted itself onto the steps that led to a once thriving home. Children’s voices. The sound of lost conversation worn down by the wind as a forgotten dream. The returning of the structure to the ground like large stone candles burning with time’s desire. Her red hair flecked with pieces of light swirling in her distress. Art could cure. Expression could build. And the soul could raise the dead. She heard the start of a car engine. As faint as a tree falling in the distance. It was time to go. She had draped her neck in flowers and silk, each breath becoming like a garden. The vehicle approached. It’s top was smiling down and inviting. She entered. And then a flower snapped, was picked by a lover to give to an angel. A breeze crawled across the mountains that reached my lungs and let me smell the sweet scent of your sunrise. The dance inside your marble. Your hand grasped the stem and held the bloom to the universe.

    (229 words)


    * * *

    298 words
    Linguist / Giant / Science Fiction

    * * *

    “Are you saying it’s not a threat?”

    I sighed. I’d been at this for five months, and the military had been monkeys on my back the whole time. “I’m saying its content learning more about us.”

    “And that doesn’t scare you?”

    I looked out from the viewing platform. The creature was just taller than the London Eye when standing, yet when it sat, waiting for my arrival in the middle of Hyde Park every morning, it still dominated the skyline.

    “For Christ’s sake. I’m not discussing tactics or playing chess with it. It’s like talking to a toddler; short sentences. Very basic. It hasn’t asked for our missile codes yet.”

    My team had worked furiously to create a link with the creature so that we could communicate. It had been difficult. No, beyond difficult. But we’d managed it.

    “That thing is a threat to our planet, whether you think so or not. I don’t care about its favourite colour or if knows what a cat is. Find out where it’s from, and what it wants. Today.”

    The General left.

    I took a moment before heading out onto the balcony that placed me a hundred meters away, but level with the creature’s featureless face. I didn’t know where it was from, but I knew it was only going to be watched by aggressive eyes while it remained here. It had to leave. For its own safety.

    So began another session.

    HELLO, it signed.

    HELLO, I signed back.



    NO LIE.

    I smiled. It picked up on that. OTHER MAN SCARED OF YOU. I signed. DANGER. YOU LEAVE.

    The large head tilted, then shook slowly left to right.


    WHAT? This wasn’t good.


    This wasn’t good at all.

    1. Great story, Brian.

      [ I’m wondering whether ‘if knows what a cat is’ should be ‘ if it knows what a cat is’. Also, you’ve firmly established that the action takes place in London, so should it not be ‘hundred metres’ rather than ‘hundred meters’? I can amend, if you let me know. ]

  8. Singing the Blues

    I saw her in the early days. A tiny run-down club. Winter nineteen seventy or seventy-one, I’m hazy about dates. I was drinking in those days and was ‘of no fixed abode’. I walked around the city, relying on the kindness of strangers. It was icy cold outside, snow on the ground. I only went in because my teeth were chattering and my hands were turning blue. I checked my pocket for change. I needed a stiff drink or two.
    She walked onto the stage, apologetic and giving the impression of not wanting to disturb us. All glass clinking and murmuring stopped when she opened her mouth to sing. It’s like we all knew, at that moment, who she was going to be.
    She sang the blues. Her scarf, like iridescent parrot’s feathers, lifted and swelled in icy breezes creeping through gaps in the walls, and yet she appeared warm and relaxed in the electric blue spotlights. She sang of sky-baby blues, of fields of nodding cornflowers on summer days, of her lover’s periwinkle eyes & denim shirt and of her sadness at his parting.
    Her epic song, of which I really only recall fragments, was packed with shining cyan pools, royal blood and glittering sapphires. She sang of swirling Prussian and cerulean starry nights, bright cobalt stained glass, sailor’s uniforms, lapis lazuli and turquoise scarabs. She ended with the aqua seas, azure skies and indigo mountains of home. During that final achingly sweet midnight-blue note, she slid the scarf from her neck, throwing it into the air for this lucky audience member to catch.
    As I stepped back out into the cold, with her scarf warming my neck and the mate who’d offered me his floor for the night by my side, it felt like the world was wonderful.

    300 words
    Blues Singer – Scarf – Memoir

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  9. Beautiful, Sal. I’m so glad you ‘committed’ that to cyberspace for us all to enjoy.
    It most probably is due to my spending the night putting the post together at the last minute – again! – but, although I was aware of all the many different shades you were packing in, it wasn’t till well into the tale that I realised what you were doing! Always take note of the title, Geoff. 😉

  10. A Giant Among Bugs

    “Get outta here, kid!”

    Daniel scurried out of the way before the burly kitchen-hand’s boot could make contact. He bolted from the dumpster, clutching his prize to his chest: a loaf this big could feed the colony for a week.

    At the end of the alley he paused, getting his bearings. Artura Prime was a chaotic city. It was built for the big shots, riding high on their beasts or zooming through the sky on monorails. A small kid like Daniel was easily ignored.

    Finding his way underground, he went straight to the central cave. At Daniel’s appearance, a soft squeal of joy rippled through the gathered crowd of critters and they swarmed him, covering his hand with tiny kisses as they each took a crumb of bread.

    He smiled.

    When he first stumbled upon them, he’d been afraid: the horror stories told about the fauna native to this planet ringing loudly in his ears. But they’d shown him compassion, fed and comforted him, embraced him and taught him their ways.

    He’d always had a knack for languages and found their communication methods easy to pick up. They were clearly angry that their home above had been colonised by aliens, but felt helpless to stop them.

    Daniel understood how that felt.

    He promised to help, although he had no idea how. The critters didn’t mind though. It was the first time they’d experienced hope in generations and for now that was enough.

    Daniel settled down with his friends. They snuggled up to him, trilling contentment, and he let out a happy sigh. Up there he was nothing, just a dumb kid to be kicked and ignored. Down here? He felt bigger than the cave.

    A hero in waiting, destined for great things.


    293 words

    Linguist; Giant; Science Fiction

    (Late as usual. Sorry! Didn’t want to completely miss it again though…)

    1. Nice idea to make the linguist the ‘giant’, even though he’s a ‘small kid’. (Can’t help wondering why, when he has such communication skills, he’s scrabbling for scraps in a dumpster. 😉 )

      [ I’ve allowed your entry to go through, Meg, as it was only a few minutes late: see my comment on my entry below… ]

  11. @GeoffHolme
    256 words
    Blues Singer / Scarf / Crime

    All or Nothing at All

    The blues had become her salvation.

    In the speakeasy, air filled with blue smoke and blue notes, she shimmers from the shadows of the small stage into the spotlight.

    Gold lamé dress sparkles, lip gloss shines, teeth gleam, eyes glint. Her hands glide slowly, sensuously, suggestively along the shaft of the microphone stand; her fingers linger lustfully.

    She arouses passion in men, envy in women… and seething jealousy in a figure standing in the veiled seclusion at the back of the auditorium.


    After her set, she leaves by the stage door, standing in the twilight of the early hours, breathing in the relative freshness of the humid Harlem air.

    She sees a red glow in the shadows, smells the smoke… the brand he uses. Her breath catches in her throat: how had he found her?


    Discarding the cigarette, he takes a step into the light; another, and he’s standing in front of her.

    “I thought I told you to get rid of this,” he whispers evenly.

    He’d forbidden her to wear the cotton scarf draped around her neck that her sister had bought her, calling it cheap and tawdry. Cheap? yes… tawdry? perhaps… but it was more than Jasmine could afford, and for that reason, she loved it.

    “Leroy, I…”

    Her words are cut short as he takes the material in his hands and pulls it tight.

    The blues had become her salvation, her escape from an abusive marriage. She had finally embraced life, but now she would never know the contentment of old age.

    1. I missed the deadline, as I fell asleep on the sofa… again! But, since I was up all night putting the post together, and then spent a significant portion of the day proofreading entries and applying amendments, I’ve decided to take the executive decision to allow it. I hope no one feels aggrieved about this; if you are, leave a comment!

      1. So you’ll see a comment here and think “oh god, someone’s aggrieved” whereas I’m leaving a comment to say I’m not aggrieved but delighted to see another story. Is this allowed? Executive decision approved.

  12. A very late entry so just for fun. I hope folk enjoy my 272 word tale using the elements blues singer, giant and crime.

    Blue Money
    By me (@The_Red_Fleece)
    Blues music settles on the small office like a cloud of tobacco. The reason I’m here has his feet up, cowboy hat covering his face.
    The reason responses by pushing his hat up reveal his eyes. “Just re-living the good days?”
    My news won’t make them any better. First the important thing. “Got my money?”
    His arm slips from his lap to his side before throwing a bag of money onto the table with a satisfying thud. Notes slide out of the open neck; they are the right colour. His heel holds the bag to the table. “Well?”
    From the inside pocket of my jacket I withdraw a sealed envelope. It’s thud is not as satisfying.
    “It’s never that easy.”
    Now he’s getting smart. They always do when they have to give up their money, especially if it’s all they got left. Both his feet hit the floor; his hands split better the bag of money and the envelope, which he rips open with his teeth. The stripe of brown left in his mouth he chews into a pulp before spitting it into his waste bin. Thankfully he doesn’t miss.
    “I’m not impressed.” The contents now across his desk like badly spread butter.
    “You aren’t paying me for impressive, just evidence.”
    “Then where’s my crime?” His arms wide as if he needs to emphasise his question.
    Each possible answer is cleaner than the last. “A giant ego is the short version. The long version involves hookers covered in white power in your marital bed. You’re lucky she didn’t go to the cops. Give me my money and I won’t either.”

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