Thanks to all of you who celebrated the birthday of the late Terry Pratchett by submitting a story to Round 69. We had a very pleasing total of 19 entries this week: colour me octarine!
Please keep returning to Microcosms, and retweet / spread the word about this contest among your followers and friends.
Don’t forget that Microcosms exists primarily to provide a platform for the flash fiction community to hone their skills, and secondarily to give entrants a chance of receiving an accolade from that week’s judge. We also have the vote button for anyone – not just fellow entrants – to register their favourite/favorite(s) and thus establish a Community Pick.
Remember, you can reply with a comment to any and all of the entries AT ANY TIME: It’s good to have feedback.
Many thanks to Caleb Echterling for judging MC 69. Here’s what he had to say:
Holy smokes, what a delicious batch of stories this week! After my sixth full read-through, I came to the realization that there would be a high degree of randomness in my placing decisions, because all the stories were excellent. Thanks for giving me such enjoyable reading this weekend. It was truly a pleasure.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Vibha Lohani – He emptied his sipper bottoms-up and jumped inside the grave.
Ewan Smith – Advertising leaflets, so colourful, so sure of a world in which happiness could be bought with a scatter of coins.
Kelly Griffiths – A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage.
Steve Lodge – She ran it with her son, Gareth, who she hadn’t seen since he’d started dating a sheep.
Christina Dalcher – Little in this world is as instantly emasculating as coming home to find your wife getting it on with a civil servant.
Nicola Tapson – Sergeant Grunt pointed to a small man quivering in the corner. He looked liked he desperately needed to pee.
Ronel Janse van Vuuren – It was like a memory of a dream.
Angelique Pacheco – On my first day there, I set the headmaster’s cat alight, he in turn caused the curtains to catch alight and burn in the great dining hall and sent everyone coughing and gasping into the snow outside.
Alva Holland – Tadgh splutters into his pint. Not knowing what metaphorically means, he begins to feel rather afraid.
Sian Brighall – Shame he’d turned out to be a vampire. She should have guessed: big castle, only sign of habitation for miles, and the décor had dropped some hints.
Frank Key – He whispers into the cold, rainy Scottish night. Raindrops clasp onto his silent words and rain-ports them from Murrayfield all the way to the crack in the highest window of the castle. Puddle forms on the floor. She kneels close to listen.
C R Smith – I leaned closer, trying to place the locations and did a double take. I was in one of them.
Michael Emerson – Officer Oak managed to put the same amount of anguished shock into the word “tourist” that you normally only hear when talking to a fan of a fantasy series that has been butchered into a T.V show.
Steph Ellis – Shocked realisation crept over the landlord’s face as Sol dropped his own fangs. “I’ve been sent to restore the family honour,” continued Sol. “And now it’s my turn to call time.”
Geoff Le Pard – As Herbie said ‘one’, she gripped her sides. ‘Geez,’ she hissed. ‘How did you know?’
Fatima Okhuosami – content to recite the lines as old as their love story
A J Walker – when Mrs O’Miomi smiled at him with those two perfect teeth
Stephen Shirres – From the bottom the castle seemed to touch the sun.
Laura Besley – And I walked back down the gravel path.
Honourable / Honorable Mention
C R Smith – New to The Area
This entry is genuinely creepy, which is a real accomplishment in a 300 word story. Reading it, I did the same thing I do with a scary book, which is put it down to pace around the room as tension builds, sentence to sentence.
Frank Key – The Postman Knows
I love how the language in this piece conveys mystery and uncertainty. I read it and I’m not entirely sure what’s going on, but I can tell that I’m not supposed to know everything that’s going on. Excellent work.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 69.
(insert drumroll here)
Alva Holland – The Night TP Comes To Town
Tourist; Pub; Crime
Nobody in our village has ever seen a fedora. So, when yer man comes in at our busiest time it’s safe to say everyone knows we have a visitor. We don’t get many tourists in our neck of the woods, our little hostelry being off the beaten track, invisible from the main road, a place known only to the locals.
The stranger stands out. Tall and thin, wearing a black leather jacket over a black polo, skinny red tie. Horn-rimmed glasses sit on a bony nose above a white beard and moustache. Nobody has a clue who he is. The investigations would begin soon.
‘Give the man a pint there, Joe,’ says a voice, hoarse from years of smoking and drinking. Our visitor glances about and realises he’s being watched.
‘A pint so, Joe. Thanks to my friend in the corner.’
‘Aren’t we all friends here,’ cries Tadhg, gesturing to the stranger to sit on the only vacant chair, at his table in the corner. The stranger sat down.
‘Won’t you want to be takin’ off the hat now, man?’ says Tadgh.
‘I’ll keep it on if you don’t mind,’ says the stranger.
‘Mind? Why would I mind? It’s a free country. Unless you’re hiding something under there, you can wear what ya like here in Joe’s place.’
‘Much obliged,’ says the stranger. Tadgh winks at Joe, indicating a long night ahead.
‘So, what takes you to the centre of the universe then, man? And what do we call you? We like to get to know people, welcome them, like.’
‘Name’s TP,’ says the stranger, slowly sipping his bitter pint. ‘I’m a writer and I’m about to kill you all, metaphorically speaking of course.’
Tadgh splutters into his pint. Not knowing what metaphorically means, he begins to feel rather afraid.
Kelly Griffiths – Washed Away
Wonderful story. Takes us from sweet romance, to bittersweet romance, to tragic romance, all in less than 300 words. Great job of putting the reader inside Darrin’s head and making us feel what he must be feeling. Fantastic.
Postman; Castle; Romance
“At it again?” Ella asked, standing over the hunched form of her husband. Darrin’s once-white robe was covered with a dusting of sand, and browned on the butt. Ella handed him a steaming cup of coffee. A sand-encrusted hand trembled but received it gratefully. A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage. Half submerged in a foamy moat and gouging out fistfuls of muck, his other hand was invisible.
“I think I got it right this time,” Darrin muttered.
“How long?” Ella asked, her sweet voice hollow and feathery against the boisterous surf.
“I wanted to finish before the tide came up. Recognize it?”
“Our honeymoon, Barcaldine Castle. But you got the top wrong. There weren’t any battlements on Barcaldine.”
“I added those… to keep you safe.” Darrin continued to scrape and mold the sand. The hands that played Brahms flawlessly, that delivered love letters, bills, and junk mail. The sure hands smoothed and teased the castle domes as if they were lace-decked breasts or a fragile neck. He drew his fingertips along the parapets as if they were her lips. One last time.
As the structure neared completion, Darrin’s eyes became glassy, but not a drop would fall. Plenty of salt water all around.
The Ella hallucination faded as the sun edged over the horizon. At his feet lay the coffee cup, full of brown water and sand. No wonder the coffee was bad.
Waves, inexorable and implacable, crept closer and closer. Darrin took the wedding rings out of his pocket: his thick one and her diamond-studded strand he’d discreetly removed before they shut the coffin. He clutched them to his chest. His other hand rooted around his robe pocket until he felt the smooth barrel, the finger hole.
Congratulations, Kelly. As this week’s Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge Microcosms 70. Please let us know whether or not you are interested ASAP!