Microcosms 42

Welcome back to Microcosms, your weekly stop for flash fiction fun. If you’re experiencing troubled water at the moment, take heart – this week’s theme is… No, we’re not resorting to plundering the works of Simon and Garfunkel – not this time, any way! We’re giving the music themes a rest for a while.

Our guest host this week is Microcosms bundle of energy, Alva Holland. Over to you, Alva:


Hello, everyone. This is a first for me. Geoff put the heart sideways in me* when he suggested I take on the role of guest host this week: my punishment for driving him crazy with requested corrections to my piece for Microcosms 41.

But, as my own advice to people who are ‘stuck’ in a writing groove is to go out and do something they’ve never done before – and be inspired by the newness of it – here I am, guest hosting Microcosms 42. Is it obvious that I ramble when I’m nervous?

Our theme this week is Bridges. They can be physical or metaphorical, gigantic structures spanning miles, tiny crossings over streams or byways, or bridges in relationships, time or generations. Bridges have tolls, trolls and tragedies. The theme is your oyster.

One of the top places on my travel bucket list is The Golden Gate Bridge in SF, California. My favourite bridge in Dublin is the Ha’penny over the River Liffey; it celebrates its 200th Birthday this year. The most jaw-dropping drawbridges I’ve seen are those crossing the Intracoastal waterway in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. And the irony in all of this is – I’m terrified of heights! You know it makes sense.

Have fun!


[ *Dublin-speak for ‘gave me palpitations’, in case you’re wondering. ]


As usual, our contest will begin with three things. This week, it’s: character, bridge and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are character: Dancer, bridge: Millennium, and genre: Tragedy.

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.

  • Dancer
  • Engineer
  • Vicar
  • Actor
  • Duck
  • Astronaut
  • Chef
  • Politician
  • Ha’penny
  • Golden Gate
  • Brooklyn
  • Tower
  • Millennium
  • Forth
  • Bridge of Sighs
  • Erasmus
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Fantasy
  • Romance
  • Crime
  • Memoir
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Help


Judging this week is Microcosms 41 Judge’s Pick, Meg Kovalik.

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 these images to inspire you – purely optional.


'Ha'penny Bridge - Droichead na Leathphingine' (Thorsten Pohl)
Ha’penny Bridge – Droichead na Leathphingine (Thorsten Pohl)


'Reconciliation' (Alva Holland)
‘Reconciliation’ (Alva Holland)




Microcosms 43
Microcosms 41

107 thoughts on “Microcosms 42

  1. Doug Duck’s First Press Conference

    “I’d like to welcome you sweet members of the San Francisco Fourth Estate to my first Press Conference today. All two of you who showed up. I do appreciate it. You have no idea.

    You’ve probably never heard of me. Doug Duck. Not Douglas Duck. Certainly not Donald. Just plain Doug Duck. An everyday duck; heck, you can’t get more ordinary than me. Trust me. My branch of the family, we have flown under the Bay area radar for generations. We have deep roots in San Francisco. Here, next to this mighty bridge, is the memory of our ancestral swamp.

    As you probably know, ducks generally don’t get all that much notice. And rarely do our concerns get taken seriously.

    This beautiful bridge brings so much to the city, and I like to think that my winged comrades have always had the best interests of San Francisco at heart.”

    “Doug, would you elaborate?”

    “Harry, for the Chronicle, anything. We have always supported the bridge. Even when it was a gleam in the eye of young Jimmy Wilkins. But beyond that, we have adjusted our lives, out habitat to make way for the bridge, the people who travel on it. We have even had our martyrs.”


    “Yes, even we ducks have suffered losses. For instance, I never knew him but a quite distant cousin, Archimedes Duck… Archie… always flying in and about the spans, inspecting, in awe… and one day one of those poor suicides, we never did know who, crashed into Archie and sent him plummeting to an early duck death. I’ve been told there have been others… the details get lost with time, duck lore being what it is.”

    “Your story needs telling, Doug.”

    “Thanks, Harry. But no big expose, please. Page twelve, maybe. That’d be ducky.”

    “You got it, Doug.”

    299 ducklings
    Duck; Golden Gate; Memoir

    1. I was hoping someone would spin the duck! Well done ducky Bill.
      Reminds me of Hilda Ogden but that’s an entirely different story.

      1. Oh plenty of people haven’t, Bill. I was a die-hard fan in Hilda Ogden’s day. Her lines were some of the best in any soap, ever. Jean Alexander died last week, aged 90 and people still talk about her as Hilda Ogden even though she stopped playing the role in 1987! She played Hilda for 23 years. A star.

    2. Fantastic…and pure dialogue! Interesting….It never occurred to me that something so complete could be done without any narrative.

      1. Thank you, Sian. I think flash fiction lends itself to dialogue driven tales. I am not sure how well I channeled my duck character but so many genres are more clearly understood with the words the characters use. lots of creative fun.

  2. Alva Holland
    WC: 299
    Chef/Bridge of Sighs/Romance
    Neighbourhood Watch

    Jaime Martinez, one of six neighbours in a tiny countryside village, is a cleanliness and tidiness fanatic who’s obsessed with sweeping leaves from his driveway, clearing gutters, and washing his car.
    Next door, elderly Rose and Doug Horti spend their days working in their gorgeous garden. Grass as green as cucumber and masses of colourful blooms make it a magnet for a host of seasonal butterflies.
    Stephen and Guy moved in next door to the Hortis and offered to help with any heavy lifting but Rose and Doug weren’t comfortable with Stephen and Guy’s way of life so they refused, even though they could have done with the help.
    Eccentric Nama, living alone in the end house, has two cats, two dogs, two parakeets and two rabbits. A small wooden sign with ‘Noah’ carved into it hangs on her gate. It took everyone too long to work out the significance.
    A shallow stream runs along the end of all the gardens. The Hortis’ daughter Sophie, a young chef, lives on the other side with her four cats and good-for-nothing boyfriend.
    Nama’s cats don’t like Sophie’s cats so they hiss and yowl at each other across the water. This annoys Mr. and Mrs. Horti who continue to ignore the two young men next door. Nama’s none too pleased about the yowling either – it upsets her birds.
    One winter, Stephen and Guy took it upon themselves to build a sturdy wooden bridge across the stream so that the Hortis could walk across to visit Sophie. Turns out the cats’ yowls were frustrated sighs, transformed to miaows once they could reach each other. Nama has two new kittens, Jaime and Sophie fell in love among the swirling leaves and Rose and Doug now enjoy a weekly BBQ with Stephen and Guy.

    1. Lovely! I thought the neighbours were going to get cosy….lol. I liked how the story built up in layers.

  3. Louise Mangos
    Word Count: 299
    Astronaut/Golden Gate Bridge/Tragedy


    Three steps in, and she wishes she hadn’t come. Through the thin metal grating of the sidewalk, white horses chase each other into San Francisco Bay two hundred feet below. She swallows, and stares ahead, eyes focused on the yacht masts swaying in the Sausalito Marina.

    The vertigo returns when a youth leans from a passing car and yells ‘Jump! Jump!’ It takes all her courage to continue sliding one foot in front of the other. The wind hums a melancholic dissonance through the suspension cables. The stalks of the California poppies in her hand are crushed in her fearsome grip. The petals tear like bloody silk. She promised his mother she would come.

    When she reaches the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge, she dares to look down. Her tears are stolen away by the chiding wind. She releases the flowers, and clutches the rail with both hands, for fear of being swept away with them. For a moment they hover together, bound by the dampness of her palm. They are carried horizontally towards Alcatraz, suspended like an astronaut between the conflicting gravitational pull of two planets. And in a moment they are gone, scattered like frightened birds over the vastness of the bay.

    She wonders if he had regrets on the way down. Four seconds they said. Enough time to change his mind. But there was nobody here to heal his tortured thoughts, or pull him back. Sadness turns to anger that he could not share his torment with her. The poppy redness in her mind gives her the strength to continue. Instead of turning back to the city, she proceeds across the bridge. When she gets to the other side, she continues north, walking off her despondency. Bridging the chasm to a new life.

    1. Gorgeous descriptions here, Louise. I felt I was in her shoes walking along. One day I will be but my story will be happier. Beautiful images and sentiments, with an uplifting finish.

    2. Beautiful story! So much pain, sorrow and anger. I loved the poppy petals, the detail in the description, the imagery.

    3. I love the imagery here, can really feel the tension and the bravery she has to display. The end is liberating. Thanks Louise.

  4. Angelique Pacheco
    Word count: 300
    Dancer/Bridge of Sighs/Tragedy

    Death’s Dance

    Dying is easy. Coming back is the tricky part. Those who have crossed over will know that there is a gateway back to this life on the Bridge of Sighs. Lord Byron gave the bridge its name as it was suggested that prisoners would sigh at their final view of Venice before being taken down to their cells. In reality, crossing back is such a burden that you can’t help but sigh. Tourists often “hear” us but continue on their mission, sweat running down their backs as they prod and poke their husbands wanting a gondola ride that will take them under the bridge for a kiss. Sticky toddler fingers pulling at skirts, shrieking at their mothers as they are passionately ignored, the place is anything but romantic now. Only at night, when the tourists have abandoned their post, will we feel safe enough to come out. We can’t go further than the bridge. This is where we remember our lives here on earth, our dreams, hopes, and deaths. My first time out I remembered the scene of my death.
    Flash! The lights illuminate the stage. People move about slowly beginning their dance. A leg begins to show. Flash! A hand unfurls and begins to sway gently. Flash! The smooth skin glows in the moonlight as the body begins to move to the tune of the breeze. Red billows out like the lace of a Spanish skirt. It flows like satin. Her arms are outstretched as she waits silently. The man gently takes her by the hand. Her body moves to his prompting. Her dark hair flows freely as he gently touches her cheek and stares deeply into her blue eyes. Beads of water roll down her face like tears. The cop turns away. I used to be a dancer.

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    1. The way the tragedy and struggle are offset against the crude mundane activities of people going through the motions was stunning. I felt like the tourists should have appreciated more or felt more deeply. The dead were doing most of the living.

  5. Steve Lodge
    300 words

    The Leg End Of London

    Two policemen strode towards the diminutive figure on the Millennium Bridge. The bridge wobbled slightly.

    Suddenly the figure dropped her crutches and flung open her long greycoat. There stood the enchanting figure of a ballerina, wearing a strappy front halter leotard, a three-layer tulle tutu and white tights…then they saw that from beneath her right knee, the lovely little ballerina had no leg.

    She screamed. “You see what that bitch did?”

    There was a great deal of activity, both on the bridge and on a rescue patrol boat on the river. There was a body hanging from a guardrail. Clearly the body of another ballerina, also dressed ready to dance, but plainly from the angle of her neck her Swan Lake days were over too.

    Inspector Hullaballoo watched as the one-legged dancer was put into the back of a squad car, which drove off towards Shakespeare’s Globe en route to Southwark Police Station. Hullaballoo met up with the policemen.

    “Well, Sergeant Otter.” The Inspector addressed the older policeman. “Please tell me in your own words, in your own time and in your own clothes, just what is going on.”

    “Sir, the one-legged dancer, Anna, claimed the hanging victim, Hannah, ruined her life. Car accident. Anna begged Hannah to slow down but she just drove faster and lost control. Hannah didn’t get a scratch, but the passenger lost one leg below the knee.”

    “Terrible thing, Otter. Revenge killing, eh.” Muttered Hullaballoo.

    “Adding insult to injury, when Anna is in hospital, Hannah starts dating her fiancé.” Otter shivered. “And guess who the fiancé is?”

    “Otter, don’t make me guess.”

    “None other than Mike Vitti.”

    “The missing heir to the wig-making empire? This takes some digesting. It’s thicker than my wife’s gravy.”


    “Otter, indeedio is not even a word. I don’t think.”

    1. I read this three times and found something different each time! Sign of a great story. Well done, Steve.

    2. I like the contrast of the romance of ballet and the beauty of the arts,! and the grittiness of reality in this.

  6. Dancer, Millennium, Tragedy
    Danse Macabre
    294 words
    Molly felt as if she had left her body. The consultant’s lips moved but his voice came from the adjacent room. ‘There are treatments though as yet no cure. We can…’
    Her ears simply echoed with ‘multiple sclerosis’, two words that leapt and spun like the opening sequence of her acclaimed Nutcracker, dazzling, gravity defying words that held her as she had that audience.
    ‘Miss Stephens?’ He was insistent.
    She settled a smile, sinking gracefully to his stage, part of his chorus now. Two more words, hers now. ‘How long?’ He misunderstood, thinking she feared her body’s mortality. A shake, soft yielding eyes stopped his dissembling. ‘To dance.’
    But she knew. The strength and control had already gone. Soon even myopic fans would see. And that was her real death.
    She gave it six months as a guinea pig, let their chemicals do their thing on her nervous system. She allowed them to use her pliant body, just a different choreographer making aching demands on her whole being while her mind did what it had always done and channelled the pain back on itself.
    She had spent years with her life scheduled in meticulous detail. So it would be her death. The 15th anniversary of her debut at Covent Garden, October. She dressed carefully, wrapped in the fur she loved and made her way to the Millennium Bridge. The audience was sparse: a sea-sharp wind deterred all but the hardy. No one noticed as the slight figure stepped onto the handrail. One couple gasped as 5000 had that first night, following the arc of her first jump.
    Her dance, graceful, determined and focused mirrored the swirling currents of the roaring tumult. The river gave her one final rapturous acclaim and she was gone.

    1. Stunning! I liked how it all centred on her dancing and she saw her trials as an extension of the demands placed on a dancer….even her death.

  7. From Sweeties to Savoury

    It could be my first memory, or at least the most memorable. The one I’ve reinforced by recalling, strengthened in oft-telling. Didn’t tell anyone at the time but I’ve made up for it recent years.
    Granny used to give me ten pence for sweets. Even though I pushed that horrible wedding cake over and wrecked it – you’ve seen the outtakes – and made the cheese-and-pies one into a picnic, I used to adore sweeties. In those days, you could get a paper bag full of sweets for ten pence. Don’t I sound old? Ha’penny chews. Fruit Salad. Black Jack.
    Cherry Lips. Incredibly chewy. Gave you jaw ache.
    To get to the shop I had to cross a hump-backed bridge. I’d heard that story about the troll under the bridge many times. It was just a story. I wanted my sweeties. I wasn’t scared of a story-troll.
    They think they can just do what they like. They think they can take what they want. Then we’re supposed to feel ashamed. For years. Don’t know why. And then much later we realise it wasn’t our fault. It was them. All them.
    You shouldn’t be allowed to just grab what you want.
    I threw my sweets into the river. The Bazooka Joe, the pink Gob Stopper with the other colours inside, even the Cherry Lips. After that I only liked savoury. Oh, I’ll demonstrate a sticky toffee pudding or chocolate eclairs – I know what the viewers love – but I’ll let the crew eat them afterwards.
    Sometimes I wonder if he’s watching me on TV. I doubt he could recognise me over forty years later. He was old but everyone is when you’re five.
    Yes, he’d be dead now. Long dead. But it still happens, doesn’t it? And that’s why I tell.

    300 words
    Chef – Ha’penny – Memoir

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    1. So beautifully written and matter-of-fact it’s easy to miss what’s under the sticky wrapper. Feel gutted after reading this…frustrated and angry at what’s lost and taken. Excellent read, thank you.

  8. Here Today …
    ‘This way,’ the voice whispered. She slipped her hand from her mum’s; ballet pumps making no sound as she pirouetted her way across the bridge.


    ‘Over here.’ Football boots creaking against the wood as he scored the winning goal.


    ‘We’re over here.’ Shiny red riding boots clip clopped across concrete.  


    THIS EVENING, Governments across the globe are urging populations to stay calm after, as yet, unexplained events have taken place worldwide.
    Following the terrifying story earlier of a little girl’s disappearance while crossing the Millennium Bridge, hundreds of similar events have been reported throughout the day.
    Special task teams have been seen cordoning off some of the world’s most famous landmarks to conduct their investigations.
    A British official said, ‘It is highly unlikely these disappearances, taking place so far apart geographically, could have the same cause, but the circumstances and timing of these unusual incidents dictate we do not rule out a connection. It is imperative we find these young children as quickly as is humanly possible.’

    World leaders have been quick to stress that they did not believe the increase in reports of extra-terrestrial sightings were in any way linked to the events unfolding.

    190 words

    Ballet dancer/ Millennium/ Sci-fi


    1. There was a time when this would be a futuristic tale beyond comprehension. Not any longer! Well done Marie.

    2. In these tiny words you have a whole play. Amazing to squeeze so much into so little. Very impressive on all levels.

  9. O Sleepless as the River Under Thee

    I am reading ‘The Bridge,’ by Hart Crane about the Brooklyn Bridge while standing on the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge under my feet and the one in my heart gently sway as I read about a city and a structure that sits like a chandelier over a flowing river. Bright stars above my head picture the beautiful poetry that I read. I come here at night. To feel the transition of drivers going from one place to another. To feel history playing in the steel that surrounds me, a capturing of energy frozen in some structured dance of time. My copy of Cranes verse is a first edition. All reading of great writing is like love at first sight, over and over, I fall in love with writers the way some people love their family. I am not close to people in my family. I am an actor, alone. But my books and my writing fill in the gaps of my life. A kind word. A closeness. Like a ship going underneath as I read, the motor pushing through a heavy river as my heart racing with love brought forth through sun language. I hold the volume like a lovers hand. Only they know my real self. And I know everything is a bridge in this life; and death. The moon dreaming on the water that jumps to my eyes. The city lights reaching to the sky. Her smile as she walks by with a book in her grasp. The formality of a common moment.

    Actor/Brooklyn Bridge/Romance
    (253 words)

    1. Richard, you’ve captured the physical and metaphorical bridge elements in a beautiful flow of words. I was sighing as I read.

  10. MegaDrug Crossing
    290 words
    Dancer, millennium, tragedy

    There was only one place Nick’Ben could think of that would appeal to all parties involved. Crime, even in the depths of space, did require a certain amount of seedy atmosphere. Intergalactic Strip was the perfect venue for a meeting about a certain shipment.

    Nick’Ben hoped that seedy atmosphere would take the edge of the Blurian’s anger. Half a minute in the Blurian’s presence dashed that hope; it downed its drink and crunched the glass – a Blurian middle finger.

    “We paid your fee. Where is our MegaDrug?”

    “Don’t worry, it’s on its way. It got held up crossing the Bridge.”

    The Blurian slammed a jellyfist on the table. “The Bridge? Earthscum, if it does not cross, I will remove your reproductive organs.”

    The Millennium Bridge transcended time and space and it was the perfect place for Interuniversal Customs. Nick’Ben had a being on the inside but there was always a risk.

    “It’s on its way. Relax, Menitbal. Enjoy the dancing.”

    The dancer taking a turn on the stage was a humanoid female. Nick’Ben would have preferred something more Rastormiun and male, but he wasn’t here for himself. He knew Blurians like humanoid women.

    “What do you think? This club has the most beautiful beings this side of the galaxy,” Nick’Ben said.

    “She is pleasing to my eye, but she does not excuse the lateness of the shipment,” said Menitbal.

    “Would this be a shipment of MegaDrug?” asked the dancer.

    “What else is there?” asked Menitbal, tickling her under the chin with his face-fingers.

    The dancer reached into her leg holster and produced a badge. “Galactic Vice. This is a bust. We intercepted your cargo under the bridge.”

    Nick’Ben realized he should have crossed that bridge when he came to it.

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    1. Love the mix of law and chaos here, Holly, on an ‘Interuniversal’ platform. Galactic Vice indeed!

    2. I enjoyed the scene…I appreciated how the narrative built up a good description. Things are universally common it seems. Comforting

  11. Sian Brighal
    204 words

    Vicar, Bridge of Sighs, Self-help

    Your Guide to Bridging the Gap

    In these trying times, your faith is tested, challenged…certainly bruised daily by the assaults of the faithless and doubters. But rest easy, friend, these chapters shall bolster your courage and soothe your pains. Written sympathetically with the modern religious representative in mind, my aim is to empower you in your role. Please be aware we cannot accept liability for loss of parishioners, conversions of faith or miracles.

    This audio guide is aimed to help my fellow brothers/sisters as your pleas and the cries of the wretched and lost rise up as a bridge of sighs from here to [insert deity of choice] and the temptation to fall overwhelms you. Please note we cannot endorse divine entities or guarantee divine intervention or manifestation.

    With each sensitive chapter you’ll find solutions to some of the most pressing issues of today with fully annotated notes available for your religion of choice: remember to use the redemption code when purchasing.

    For a mere twenty-five pounds you can also avail yourself of my range of supporting materials which will prepare you for life’s, afterlife’s and reincarnation’s tribulations. Never feel unprepared again. Be aware we cannot be held responsible for personal epiphanies, canonisations or the bringing of the end times.

    1. Again, as with Bill’s story, I hoped that one of the more unusual elements would be captured in a spin. And here we are with a fabulous hard-sell of a self-help book to solve all tribulations, with a huge caveat!

      1. If I had to read this on the back of a book jacket, I would buy the book. You gently inject humor to make an otherwise serious topic less solemn and more interesting. I like this.

      2. Thank you, Alva. I’ve not been writing long and this was my attempt at a new style/genre type thing. Glad you liked it.

    2. Yeah, the tone is spot on. Love that last paragraph. ‘ … a mere twenty five pounds’ & the disclaimer at the end. (Am hoping ‘self help’ is left in for another week. Good idea of Alva’s!)

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  12. Waiting

    295 words
    Elements: tragedy, Millenium Bridge, Vicar


    Falling dusk wrapped itself around the man of God, a velvet shroud gladly accepted. Thomas did not set foot on the bridge – even though St. Paul’s was waiting for him, for him and his words. But Thomas wanted to remain hidden. He too was waiting.

    Shadows rushed, brushed past, footsteps swift on this cold winter’s evening, eager to reach warmth and shelter.

    Just as he was.

    All Thomas had to do was put one foot in front of another. Travel the path he had taken day in, day out.

    Yet he could not move.

    And still St Paul’s waited, white and ghostly, a spectral monument to the faith that had filled so much of his life.

    Thomas mouthed the creed, only for it to echo emptily in his head, hollow, devoid of meaning no matter how much he tried to believe in the old familiar prayer.

    ‘I believe in God …’ he tried.

    Nothing. Just sirens wailing their own evensong amongst the criminal and the destitute.

    ‘I believe in Jesus Christ …’

    Nothing. Only a liturgy screamed across the river by drunks and addicts.

    ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit …’

    Nothing. Except a silent accusation from a mad man who stared at him with wild eyes.

    ‘I believe …’

    Nothing. St Paul’s continued to glower in disapproval.

    He was suffocating, struggling for breath beneath its oppressive gaze. Thomas ripped off the choking presence of his dog collar, cast off the offending cloth and exorcised the last of his doubt as it sank beneath the waters of the Thames.

    ‘I don’t believe …’

    St Paul’s faded behind him as he turned his back on God. He would not walk that bridge again. He had so little time left and had wasted so much already.

    1. A test of biblical proportions for Thomas as he resisted the pull of the bridge and all that lay beyond it. Beautifully done.

    2. Wonderful…I could feel his effort as he struggled. Such brilliant writing. Thomas was an apt name…but somehow made his struggle more profound. Sad that he was ignored and alone while so many went past, perhaps they’d found more reliable/visible gods.

  13. Hannah Persaud
    Word count: 299
    Elements: Dancer, Millennium, Tragedy
    Title: London’s Burning

    The Millennium Bridge is the last bridge that Simone will ever cross. She wears white leotard and tights, ballet shoes strapped tight across her feet. It’s the outfit that she danced in for Swan Lake. Memories rub against her skin. Her cloak of feathers is hot now that the city is burning.

    She checks her watch; time moves faster now the end is approaching. When she passed St Paul’s Cathedral the spires were falling, air screaming with those trapped inside. She is used to the sound of death now. There’s no salvation, no hero’s hour. Sooner rather than later they will all be gone.

    The city was evacuated months ago, but many stayed. Loyal to the city’s beating heart. It was a mistake; she should have gone when the roads were open. Before they started demolishing. Burning the virus out; before the fever gripped her.

    Tower Bridge, Westminster, Lambeth, all the other bridges are gone. The Millennium Bridge her last hope. Her ballet shoes scuff against the pavement, Tchaikovsky’s finale playing in her head. She is the princess, the swan, Odette flirting with the evil sorcerer. Her limbs move effortlessly as she dances now towards the river. She sees the water, the traitor. It fed the virus into the city, molecule by molecule. The life blood of London it’s final Judas. In the distance Shakespeare’s Globe smoulders. The ultimate tragedy.

    Her first step onto the bridge, Thames flowing beneath. So close now, the thrill of the unexpected. The fever lifts from her body. Halfway across the water rises, a freak tsunami. Water pressing against ancient brick. Crumbling. She stumbles, foot fallen into the fractured ground. She engineers a pirouette, stage beneath.

    Stretching her arms out, her feathers solidify, grow wings. She dares to dream as the burning city recedes.

    1. I found myself holding my breath as the London landmarks disappeared amid Simone’s desperate race for life as the city died. Thank goodness for wings and the beauty of words here, Hannah. I’m breathing again.

    2. ‘Memories rub against her skin.’
      ‘air screaming.’ Love your use of language. This is a great piece.

    3. The Thames was once a prolific killer, and I may be reading it wrong, but I see the tsunami as the river’s last petulant strike. Wonderful story. Like how people stayed close to the city’s heart…as though its ending needed some recognition. Odette dies in Swan Lake, doesn’t she?

      1. Thanks Sian! Indeed Odette does choose to die in the lake and reverse the evil spell. She lives in the afterlife with her lover forever x

      2. I should have checked that…it came to me just as I was finishing. That adds to the story immensely. Is the dancer trying to reverse something here or seek her lover or lost love? Hmmm…next time must check more before thinking I’ve done reading, thanks so much for setting me straight.

  14. @stellakateT
    298 words
    Astronaut / Bridge of Sighs / Tragedy

    Last Words

    I look at the gauge. It won’t be long now. Gino tells me about the best time in his life when he lived in Venice with his grandparents, no father and his mother liked to gad about. He called her something obscene but, as this journal might be found in years to come, I chose my words carefully. Look at Captain Scott’s Diary, now that’s a classic. Maybe I’ll write something profound that will be discussed in schools for years to come.

    Gino has stopped telling me stories. Think he must be in a better place now. Not that I believe in God, but I’m always open to concepts. You might be wondering why I don’t know whether he’s alive or not; that’s because he was trapped in the engine room when we crashed. He talked over the intercom. Sergey, not heard from him for days. He went to investigate the terrain, a bit like ‘Titus’ Oates: “I am just going outside and may be some time.”

    A joint space exploration, Russians, Italians and the British; I’m a Scot, born in Glasgow, but its downplayed. That’s why I’m including it here. The ship is called ‘Agincourt’ in homage to the great defeat of the French by Henry V. France is a third world country now. It stayed in the European Union and tried to go it alone, always liked Paris and the Eiffel Tower.

    Never got to see the Bridge of Sighs, Gino’s last story was about having sex on the bridge when he was a teenager. Think he was hallucinating; it’s a tourist attraction for God’s sake. Maybe I should end with Scott’s final words “For God’s sake look after our people”, or chose some of my own – “Be kind, be strong, be free”, or just “Goodbye”.

    1. A wonderful other-worldly tale, transcending time, places and people. Love the Scott quotes wound back through history and forward to the future.

    2. Loads in this but I particularly like that the character’s belief in his journal being read is making him think about what he is writing. And great use of different length sentences, especially the short ones! Felt very readable. Nice one, Stella!

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    3. I liked this. Read it through several times and something new kept leaping out. The link to another doomed exploration team was fantastic, and I wonder if the writer derived some comfort from the comparison but their words were about simple human things not grave endeavours. Thank you.

  15. Millennium/Dancer/Tragedy WC 298


    Once Every Thousand Years

    Every morning, when Joe pulled back the curtains, he caught a glimpse of his sweetheart’s cottage. To look at it you’d think it was only a stone’s throw away. But life wasn’t that simple. By road it was a three hour drive along narrow winding lanes. By boat it took an hour and a half across choppy waters. Which was fine if you didn’t have a strong fear of drowning. Joe barely saw Mavis anymore. Living too far out for decent internet coverage, they used semaphore to keep in touch. Unfortunately, as they aged, their limbs lost their flexibility and they often found themselves unable to finish a conversation.

    When the mobile library arrived in his village, Joe withdrew a book telling the tale of the Millennium Bridge. It was said to magically appear between the divide once every thousand years, allowing people to cross at will for one day. He tracked down the parish records and did his sums, working out its next appearance was to be a week on Tuesday. Rushing to the cliff’s edge, Joe signalled the information to Mavis and they agreed to meet in the middle. Joe spent a sleepless night, rising before dawn. Dancing around the bedroom, whistling, he prepared himself to meet Mavis; even shaving off his beard.

    The Millennium Bridge was already there, glinting in the sunlight; it was magnificent. In the middle he saw Mavis, waiting and waving to him. But if he read her correctly she wasn’t very happy about something. Briefly distracted, he stepped forward only for the bridge to start fading beneath his feet. He soon realised what she had been trying to tell him. As the bridge disappeared they fell into the water and Joe had to agree with her, he was rubbish at maths.

    1. It’s all about the math! So cleverly hidden in the middle of this story and emerging at the end as the reason for failure. Super story, Carol.

  16. Interlude
    Dancer / Millennium / Tragedy
    @brightsmithgamp 297 words

    Even London sleeps, eventually.

    Kate moved through silent streets, searching, the euphoria of 2 am fading into a raw buzz of adrenaline, caffeine and too little sleep. She was somewhere near the Globe when they called in the Regent’s Park sighting, but though she reached for the radio she never answered it. John had picked it up before her hesitation showed, so she never had to explain that frozen moment staring out across the river.

    They’d had nothing to run on but hunches all night, and she was past any attempt at analysis. All she knew was that the river drew her on. For the moment that was enough, and later no one was inclined to ask questions. She’d crossed the river. She’d found their man. They never asked her how it took so long to cross the bridge.

    It was a flat ribbon of darkness in a sea of light, floating on the eerie glow of the wings that held it aloft. On the far bank St Paul’s was still lit up, and suddenly its brightness was framing a dancing man. He must have been leaning on one of the supports. Her instincts screamed for her to back off, but she walked on mechanically. He really was dancing, she realised. No crazed jig, but a waltz. As she reached him he bowed and in a daze she took his hand.

    For three measures they crossed the bridge together, and all she knew was the mixed scent of him, the utter gravity of his smile and the pain of his eyes.

    She should have stayed, she should have asked him, she should have tried to pull him from the depths.

    But she had work to do, and she left him there. In the morning he was dead.

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    1. The next time I cross the Millennium Bridge, I swear I will see a dancing man. Thanks for this dark tale full of powerful imagery, Alex.

    2. Stunning! I know that 2am buzz… love the flat ribbon of darkness. Gravity of his smile….I love every line. Haunting tale inspiring so many questions and thoughts.

  17. A Bridge Too Far (or the Long Wait for Bridge Four and a Half)
    A.J. Walker

    The city is cleaved in two by the river. Those in the north call it the Greene River, those in the south, the River Blue. Everyone else calls it The River to be diplomatic.

    There are eight bridges. Each alternate bridge from east to west is used by the northern city folk or the southern city people. Such that the northerners have bridges 1, 3, 5 and 7, and the south have bridges 2, 4, 6 and 8. So they never meet in their daily commute, stuck in their long instilled separation.

    The city gets by. There are markets north and south on alternate days. With Sunday off, partly as a day of respite, though mainly to keep things simple.

    It’s acknowledged as a crazy state of affairs, but the people live with it. You have your bridge; you’re born with it. You’re proud of your bridges; those either side evidently poorer. If you liaise with someone from the ‘Other Half’ your journeys between the houses are by different routes. Your city views consequently completely different; a different city.

    With the Millennium the two ‘Half-City’ Councils met to plan something grand and symbolic; The Binding Bridge. Everyone agreed bridge ‘four and a half’ was the perfect idea.

    Of course it’s still not been built. The north want it constructed with the finest northern limestone, the south with their southern basalt. The design by the spectacular northern architect; surely the grandest southern architect?

    The tragedy of the bridge are its wonderful designs. On paper. On walls. In drawers.

    In landfill.

    Councillors now meet once a year to move the project forward. Each side dances around the table spouting platitudes and showing ‘serious commitment’ to the Binding Bridge. Until the dance finishes; when everyone agrees it’s not quite time. Not yet.


    WC 300

    1. Brilliant idea. Great decision to have ‘In landfill’ stand alone as a separate paragraph. And the reader’s left wondering if that ‘Not yet.’ at the end means never. Maybe next millennium?

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    2. Fantastic story. Painful to have ideas, plans, intentions and hopes stuck in place or cast aside. In landfill….stuffed in drawers. Need a bridge to build the bridge

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