Microcosms 79

Welcome to Q3 in the second year of Microcosms – another mini-milestone – and round #79.

For this week’s contest, the slot machine has been given another well-deserved rest. Once again I’ve taken one of the favourite / favorite lines chosen by the judge in each of the contests in Y2/Q2. Your task is to select one of these lines and incorporate it into your entry:

#66 – ‘Go on then, why not. Let’s put the band back together!’

#67 – He trapped the moment in his invention.

#68 – The rain seems to be writing cryptic messages on my window panes.

#69 – A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage.

#70 – Cold fluorescent lights flickered alive, illuminating a horrific scene.

#71 – I tried to stem the flicker of suspicion, but it burst into flame and spread like wildfire.

#72 – She made them feel loved before she devoured their souls.

#73 – It moved slowly down his skin like a finger hesitant on a trigger.

#74 – This griffin was smarter than it looked.

#75 – You never want to be a short man in a crowd.

#76 – Half way down the bottle, he told me his story.

#77 – “Hey, darling, did you want ketchup or mustard on your hamburger?” she asked.

#78 – I have an implausible 19th century moustache and a cheeky grin.




You may change the line slightly – gender, tense, punctuation, etc. – but it must still be recognisable. You may use whichever genre you like this week.

Please tell us the favourite / favorite line you have chosen – no need to specify the genre this time round.



 Judging this week is Microcosms 78 Judge’s Pick, Dana Faletti.

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, remember to check out the full submission guidelines. ***

All being well, results will be posted on Monday.


Slight delay
Microcosms 78

82 thoughts on “Microcosms 79

  1. 300 of the wisest words I ever heard
    #75 You never want to be a short man in a crowd.

    A Town of Dubious Distinction

    Robbie Rink was once my friend. The Rinks went back five or six generation. Longer than most.

    So, what I am saying is that the Rinks had an extra long shot at grabbing the brass ring. But it always seemed to be out of reach.

    Pappy Wallace knew something of the Rink lineage collapse. One day, mother said, “Luke, it’s that time son. Scoot on over to Pappy’s. Time to learn towntalk.”

    I’d been waiting for this. I don’t know if it was just our family or if it was something every family did but certainly the Wallace clan passed on the tales of the town to each child when they were of a certain age, a certain level of understanding.

    Pappy was on his porch when I arrived. The air was summer dry. There was no wind. He rocked, sweated, wiped his brow with a checkered hanky, told me to sit opposite.

    “Luke, you may not fully understand what I’m gonna tell you. That’s okay. All I ask is that you think about.”

    I nodded, ready for almost anything.

    “Towns are living things, Luke. And there are immutable rules. Five of them. You need to learn them, fuse them into your spine.

    1. Your neighbour is your friend until he isn’t.
    2. Be generous with your purse but never leave it on the lawn.
    3. A rich man can never survive poverty; a pauper can rise above his station.
    4. You never want to be short man in a crowd. Choose your crowds judiciously.
    5. Always marry a girl from the next town over…if possible.

    What has this to do with the Rinks, you ask?

    Pappy told me. “Them Rinks, they marry kinfolk. Maybe that’s why they’re so short. Stay away from the Rinks, boy.”

    And I surely did.

  2. @meadow337

    Prompt: #69 – A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage.
    300 words


    Every small town has its own way of giving directions: ‘turn left at the shop’; ‘the house is opposite the church’; ‘turn right at the big house’. It takes a while for a newcomer to the town to learn where the main points of reference are – the shop, the church, the minister’s house, the big house, the important house, the house where that thing happened – and soon you are giving directions in the same way. As I look down over my town, noting all the places that give the place shape, I wonder why my life did not come with the same directions. I rub my finger where a ring of untanned skin was all that remained of my marriage and wonder how I missed the signposts. I turned left instead of right not recognising the importance of the moment. I stopped outside the wrong house and forgot the route to my own. Yet, as I look back, wondering how anyone navigates their life, feeling that we are all strangers missing the key to the map, I wonder if the truth is that we are given clear signposts, we just choose not to follow the direction in which they point? Even with the clarity of hindsight I can see clearly where I wilfully veered off the path, immured in the surety that the consequences wouldn’t touch me, but touch me they did. Yes all that remains of my marriage is a pale strip of skin, but the sun will soon take care of that and another signpost will be hidden from view. I turn and walk down the hill, and coming up was my neighbour limned in the early light, I nodded to her, absent in my thoughts – directions – they are everywhere, we just need to know the local language.

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    1. Lovely flowing read and insightful. I like the concept of settling in by beginning to understand and use the local geography and language. Great read.

  3. Chat Room
    A.J. Walker

    The cursor flashed crying out for more type: Feed me, it’s what I’m here for. And so I started typing again. Feeding more of my inner most thoughts and dreams to the stranger on the other side of the chat room. He called himself Luther; short for Lothario he joked. In my head he was 6 foot and some; dark hair, cut neatly but unfussy; he had broad shoulders and a straight jaw; friendly eyes either brown or green. A man’s man. But right now he was mine!

    It had been serendipity I’d only started chatting by accident when I got flustered looking for car insurance and clicked on the wrong website button. I’d never been in a chat room in my life; thought it was all weirdos, child grooming and geeks. As soon as I’d clicked a message popped up.

    “Hello ‘anonymous’. How are you?”

    I didn’t reply straight away. I’m not sure why I didn’t just close the window down, but I didn’t and he persisted.

    “Hi, are you being shy or just new to this?”

    Eventually I answered. “Both, Mr Luther.”

    It was the start of a beautiful, if short and intense, friendship. He didn’t ask me where I was from and I didn’t tell him. We just chatted and chatted and he made me, a fifty something semi-retired teacher from Somerset, feel like I could tell him anything. He was just so open. I hadn’t even realised I’d been missing such closeness.

    Then I took it too far. I’d wanted to ask for a photo, but was too embarrassed, instead I asked him to describe himself in a sentence.

    “I have an implausible 19th century moustache and a cheeky grin, which is a real shame as a thirty something randy woman.”

    Close window.

    Delete History.


    WC: 300

    1. Brilliant ending made so much better by the gently lulling wonderful writing leading up to it.

  4. @Nthito
    Prompt: #69 – A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage.
    Lost Soul
    300 words

    An automaton met me at the doors of The Old Barrel. A metallic half body and almost human head. Cylindrical eyes glowed from amber to green as it rattled to life.
    “Evening sir.” Its stilted voice said, “Welcome to The Old Barrel.” The doors swung in with a hiss of steam and clockwork.

    The stench of mead and sweat hit as soon as I entered the warm establishment. Red faced workers downing their pints with raucous laughter and chatter. Waitresses in translucent skin, shades of jade, emerald and gold, carried trays stacked with drinks. None of the patrons turned towards me.

    I edged towards the back of the bar where my customer waited. He sat between a bevy of beauties in ebony and silver, gleaming under the glow of lamps. His eyes rose when I walked to the table and the women cast electric cerulean eyes towards me,

    “Excuse us ladies, we’ll continue our palaver later yeah?” He said to them. They unhinged themselves from him with high pitched giggles as they left.
    “Using Augs to replace Pamela?” I asked. He rubbed his meaty left hand; a ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage.
    “No one can replace Pamela.”
    I sat on the stool across from him.
    “Is that why I’m here?”
    He nodded slowly, then leaned forward conspiratorially.
    “I got her body out back.” He whispered, eyes wide. “You got the tech?”
    “Turning your dead wife into an Aug won’t bring her back.” I said, leaning back. Still, from my jacket pocket I pulled out a square box. He eyed it anxiously, rubbing his hands again.
    “I know.” Was all he said.
    “She’ll be a machine. No soul.”
    He reached for his drink and gulped it down.
    “What is a soul to a broken man?”

  5. Alva Holland
    Prompt #68 ‘The rain seems to be writing cryptic messages on my window panes.’
    298 raindrops

    Joining the Dots

    The rain seems to be writing cryptic messages on my window panes. I haven’t left in the house in days, no, weeks it seems. Or so they tell me, these people who tell me I should go out, carry on, move on, accept, remember with love not hate, forgive, forget, dismiss, lighten up, lose the grief, open up to someone, smile more. The list is endless.

    When you feel my pain that’s when you will all know how futile your advice is, how insulting and unhelpful you are. Do I make your lives more miserable by being miserable? Am I selfish? Are you selfish? Which of us is more selfish?

    Why do you think I should ‘snap out of it?’ Maybe you should snap out of your comfortable, not-yet-invaded-by-grief-ridden life and try to imagine what it might be like.

    I’ve taken to deciphering the rain’s messages. Non-judgmental as they wind their way down the pane, the snaking rivulets are cool and meandering like a spring stream bubbling from earth’s well, fresh with ideas and life. Like you, they don’t know how soon their end will come, theirs on a rubber seal at the bottom, careening off the sill into oblivion.

    They continue to run and chase, forming calming messages, riveting me to my spot, not asking, not suggesting, just running and sliding, like you were my love when life’s cruelty snatched you away.

    They returned your skateboard to me like some sort of memento. It sliced me in two, like you were, my love, ending your life and mine. Except yours was supposed to outlive mine, not the other way around.

    Not long now, my darling. The messages are clear. I believe in the rain’s words. Not so cryptic now, the clues all point to reuniting with you.

      1. Thanks so much, Bill. Am away from base but hope to comment on all stories tomorrow.

  6. Genie in a Bottle

    I noticed him within seconds of spotting the bottle in the dark shop. One pound fifty for a dusty bottle with a sad-eyed creature in. Poor little thing was trapped in the viscose liquid, hands pressed against the glass.
    On arriving home, I let him out. I poured the contents of the bottle into a colander in the sink. I whacked the bottom of the bottle, like you do with ketchup. It took ages. Halfway down the bottle he told me his story.
    ‘I’d been in my lamp eight hundred years. I was transferred against my will into here. Someone wanted the lamp as an ornament. I just had time to leave a message, saying ‘More fool you.’ ’
    I gave the bottle another couple of whacks and out he popped, sliding down the colander. Long hair plastered to his back, he stretched himself and shook his shoulders. I fetched the hair dryer and he seemed to enjoy the warm air as it dried him and his clothes and hair.
    He drew himself up to his full height of about six inches ‘So … what do you want?’
    He sighed. I was clearly supposed to know what he was talking about ‘It’s meant to be three wishes but you can have anything really. I have the power.’
    ‘Oh. I …’
    Of course. The Genie of the Lamp. I should’ve realised.
    Folding his arms, he sat down on an upturned cup on the draining board ‘Have a think. No rush.’
    But suddenly I knew. I smiled. ‘I want to be beautiful.’
    He rolled his eyes ‘Anything you like? Health? Wealth? Happiness?’
    ‘No, just want to be beautiful.’
    ‘Okay, but more fool you.’
    It was done.
    The past week has been a nightmare. I really thought I’d enjoy being like this.


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    1. Great read. Love the tongue-in-cheek nature of it and the descriptions. I can picture his squidged face sliding down the glass.

  7. Driven To Distraction
    @geofflepard 295 words
    Key phrase: The rain seems to be writing cryptic messages on my window panes.

    ‘See. The rain is writing cryptic messages on the windscreen. It’s them axles of devils. Korean.’
    Mum, they’re raindrops. How can they be writing? And since when did you know any Korean?’
    ‘When your father came home in ‘53, he spoke Korean.’
    ‘What’s it say then?’
    ‘Death. And sex. Prevented sex.’
    ‘Do you mean perverted?’
    ‘He said it was possessed. Always worried it was trying to kill him.’
    ‘Dad shouldn’t have been driving after his knee operation.’
    ‘You know it spoke to him. About Colin’s shop.’
    ‘He said. It was weird, mind, dad knowing it would flood like that.’
    ‘It told him he was dying.’
    ‘Mum, the doctors told him…’
    ‘Fore that, the car said. Death. Always death.’
    ‘Did you hear any of these conversations?’
    ‘No. I ain’t the owner. It ain’t speaking to me.’
    ‘Right. So now that I’m the new registered keeper, it’ll talk to me, will it?’
    ‘If you let it. You need to be more open minded. You’re like his father. Stubborn goat.’
    ‘Gramps was a rationalist, mum. He didn’t believe in bunkum.’
    ‘If finding your future in a whiskey glass is being rational then your grandfather was one of them. Look, there’s numbers there. 6,45, 27… what’s that?’
    ‘I’m driving mum. I can’t… geez. Don’t do that. You can’t grab the handbrake and…’
    ‘What’s the next number?’
    ‘I… erm 27, 14, 9 and 22.’
    ‘Lottery. It’s lottery numbers. You’ll have to play. It’s telling you…’
    ‘It’s just raindrops.’
    ‘You’ll play, though, won’t you?’
    ‘If it makes you happy.’
    ‘It will if it makes you rich. It might save you some of the nightmares your dad had.’
    ‘From this bloody car. You’ll be able to sell it and buy new and not have to put up with its scare stories.’

  8. Kelly Griffiths
    300 words
    #73 It moved slowly down his skin like a finger hesitant on a trigger.

    The Gift

    Cal feared the new garbage truck: its dinosaur bellow of steel on steel as the automated arm plucked the blue plastic containers like weeds, flipped them upside down, and dumped the contents with an explosive crash. The engineering marvel rescued lower backs and killed jobs, but Cal wouldn’t know anything about that, being seven.

    All he knew was the men were gone.

    Until the horrid business was done, Cal stayed inside. No amount of cajoling would get him out on garbage day. One day the truck never came. Lucky it was summer.

    Cal’s dad decided this couldn’t go on.

    On top of the can was a gorgeously wrapped box tied with a purple bow. If Cal didn’t take it, the garbage truck would.

    “What is it?”

    “Go find out.” Dad winked.

    Cal feared. Feared and coveted and the warring emotions dueled inside his young mind for preeminence. Desire began to get the upper hand; it moved slowly down his skin like a finger hesitant on a trigger. Cal placed his hands around the doorknob.

    “Better go, Son. I hear the truck.”

    The sound of squeaking breaks in the distance. The sound of dinosaur arms.

    “They wouldn’t throw it away?”

    “They would.”

    The dinosaur was on his street. Cal could see its scalpel blade slide through the loops of a can. Still fear rooted him.

    At the neighbor’s.

    Something in him broke. He gripped the doorknob fiercely. Then realized: the bolt. Frantic, he jammed his fingers in his haste to undo it. The monster was right in front of his house now, about to take his present. The bolt slid free. Cal threw open the door and sprinted like a jack rabbit.

    The blade came screeching out. It grabbed. Cal grabbed.

    Just in time.

    “Hey kid, watch it,” said the driver.

  9. Word count: 296
    #76 – Half way down the bottle, he told me his story./ Memoir

    Sisters of Mercy

    Half way down the bottle, she told me her story.

    “You can’t bring that on board!” Sally hissed at Miriam.
    “Watch me,” I sneered and stuffed the whiskey bottle deeper into my bag.
    There was a knock at the door. Sister Nancy stood there quivering like a leaf. “Mother Catherine will see you now.”
    We followed her down the damp to the decks.

    “Where are we going?” I asked.
    “To the poopdeck,” she replied timidly.
    “Whaaaat?” She blushed furiously as I giggled softly to myself. I always got the novices with that one.

    Sally and I arrived at Mother Catherine’s cabin and stepped inside. Mother Catherine smiled at me and looked at Sally. “Well? Will she do?”
    “Don’t know, “I replied, “Didn’t ask.” I flopped down on the bed and ripped my headpiece off. Sally looked aghast at this. Mother Catherine walked over to Sally and put out her hand. “When we’re here in my room, call me Cat.”
    Sally, looking dumbfounded, shook her hand back.
    “Right then. Should we get started?”
    “Yup!” I yelled as I sat facing the table. “C’mon Sally! Sit your ass down next to me.”

    Catherine went over to the cupboard and brought over an ashtray and cigarettes. She lit one up and passed it to me. I rooted around in my bag and pulled out the whiskey and some plastic cups. Cat offered a cigarette to Sally and I held out a whiskey.
    “But what are we doing here?” she stammered.
    “Same thing we do every night until we get to Normandy. Play cards, drink and smoke the nights away. There’ll be plenty of time to be pious when we do last rights on the battlefields.”

    Sally grinned as she sat down, ready. It would be a night to remember.

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  10. Interfectus Est
    by Steve Lodge
    299 words
    #78 I have an implausible 19th Century moustache and a cheeky grin

    Upon retirement, I moved into the village of Sparrowditch. Hideous events had occurred there – ten ghastly murders in three months – but I’d already bought the bungalow.

    A neighbour, Roger Spillane, Chairman of the Sports And Social Committee, invited me to join him for the Village Sports Day. I accepted immediately. He was a likeable man despite an implausible 19th Century moustache and a cheeky grin.

    The Cheese-Rolling competition down Redmask Hill was gripping. An early contestant hadn’t read the rules and tried to roll a pack of Red Leicester cheese cubes.

    On the village green, we’d seen the Darts-On-Horseback tournament and then moved to Hawk River for the Rowing final. A coxless pairs tournament ended disappointingly for Sparrowditch when locals Herman Sherman and Logan Hogan were beaten by unfancied, unknown Maltese rowers, Bonisilieri and Rampanti.

    Next the Farting-On-The-Green event, but Roger said we’d have heard it all before. We chatted on the towpath bench, looking across the river towards Hawkmeadow, the stately home of Lord Hawk, an eccentric with an implausible 19th century moustache and a cheeky grin, who shouted at villagers across the river for no apparent reason.

    I asked Roger about the murder investigations. He said Inspector Pepper Titus would soon make an arrest.

    I stood up and stretched. From behind the bench I picked up my rucksack, removed a small axe and swung it at Roger’s neck. He fell forward off the bench. I spent a couple of minutes holding his head underwater. Pointless really, since it was no longer attached to his body. Dragging the body into the river, I pushed it in the direction of Hawkmeadow, watching it glide towards the waterlilies on the opposite bank. I took the head home in my rucksack then went off to The Haunted Poacher for a beer.

  11. #76 – Half way down the bottle, he told me his story.

    So long,
    So far,
    Running away to find the whole
    torch of a hope, the missing light
    flames away after in a shock of
    blown wave with a mysterious
    cork of a tighten bottle to hint
    away the path where the torch
    of fear is standing in the way
    with an illusionist message in
    a bottle are the way of the
    mark, to be followed
    the hem to solve
    the path of the journey”


    1. Welcome to Microcosms, Chirayu – glad you could join us!
      As this week’s contest is not in the normal format, it is not the ideal time for you to submit your first entry!
      The instructions this week state: “Your task is to select one of these lines and incorporate it into your entry… You may change the line slightly – gender, tense, punctuation, etc. – but it must still be recognisable.”
      The lines are not meant to be prompts – i.e. something to inspire your writing – but rather a sentence / phrase that must be incorporated – i.e. actually appear – in your entry. However, it need not be literally as given; some freedom is allowed, as mentioned above.
      If you had looked at the full submission guidelines, you would have seen that entries should have a title (in order to identify them), and that a word count (excluding the title) should be added. [ See other entries for clarification.]
      There is no need to sign your entry at the bottom, as your Microcosms userid appears at the top of each comment you leave; in fact, we would discourage this, as entries are usually judged ‘blind’ – i.e. emailed to the judge with all identifying information removed; a signature at the bottom might accidentally but taken as part of the story.

      I hope that all this has not inhibited you from entering future Microcosms contests. If you haven’t already, I would urge you to look at previous Contest and Results posts to get a feel for how Microcosms normally works! 😀

  12. Word

    276 words
    Line used: #68 The rain seemed to be writing cryptic messages on my window panes.


    Life was being difficult. People would look at me oddly, speak in languages I didn’t understand, move further than they needed to when I joined their queue. Even the rain seemed to be writing cryptic messages on my window pane. Somebody was trying to tell me something. I just needed to tune-in, decode the transmission. So I listened with greater care to the babble of those around me, felt their words spike my brain, repetitive waves of command merging into something I could not ignore, something I had to share.

    “Mummy, tell me a story …”

    So I told her a story, a story made of the words from the world beyond. I didn’t notice her shrink from me.

    “Mummy, can you draw me a picture …”

    So I drew her a picture made by the words hooked onto my heart. I didn’t notice her tears watering the page.

    The word was even stronger in the hospital. It was everywhere. But I never told anyone. It was my secret.

    “Time for Mary to go now, Mrs Wiliams.”

    “Can we have a minute alone?”

    A smile, a nod, a closed door.

    The word crawled on my tongue, itching to be released. My gift to my child. A secret to be passed from mother to daughter.

    “I have a present for you, Mary.”


    “Come close.”

    I pulled her tight to me, whispered my secret word into her ear. I didn’t notice when she stopped struggling.

    A scream. “What did you do?”

    Still the word itched. It had tasted freedom and wanted more.

    “Do, nurse? Come here and I’ll tell you. Let me whisper in your ear …”

  13. The Fear of Fear
    Word Count: 293
    #68 – The rain seems to be writing cryptic messages on my window panes.

    I shake my head back and forth as if to clear the cobwebs. The memories of last night still haunted me – and now this. Was it a message? The rain, I mean. I’m insane, right? I have to be insane. Rain doesn’t write messages. I argue back and forth with myself. Any illusion of sleeping tonight has just washed away with the raindrops.

    Last night, I was prepared. Earplugs in place, room cooled down, shades pulled I slid under the sheets ready for sleep to come. How does a person fall asleep, by the way? At what exact moment are you asleep when a moment ago you weren’t? And how does that happen? Anyway, I thought this would be the night I slept. Then I heard the front door open. Moments went by, and I didn’t hear footsteps on the stairs. So, I slipped out of bed and looked out the window – the driveway was still empty. I must have misheard.

    Back to bed I go, closing my eyes tightly. It must have been my neighbor’s girlfriend. I should have never given him the key. I’m sure that’s what it is. She is lurking downstairs, a weapon of choice in hand. I replay the conversations from the week in my mind. That has to be it. I’m glued to my bed knowing her ninja skills are no match for me.

    I begin arguing with myself again. It’s nothing. You heard nothing, now go to sleep. Except I can’t. The voices, they argued in my head until streaks of dawn gave me permission to get out of bed. And now the rain seems to be writing cryptic messages on my window panes. Am I crazy? I am. Just tell me. I’m crazy, aren’t I?

  14. #69 – A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage.
    Word count: 88
    Genre: Drama

    Ashen memories
    A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage. Everything was in cinders. He had thought the fire would miss them. But the wind changed. Now he sat. Fingering the ashes looking for memories.
    Finding nothing but charred bits of their life. He stumbled through the parts of their house. Touching the places where memories once where. They had told him not to play the if only game but he couldn’t help it. He had lit the match and now his life was in cinders.

  15. Prompt 69- A ring of untamed skin was all that remained of his marriage.
    300 words


    The drawer slammed with the finality of a judge’s gavel and its echo rang throughout the empty house. A slight breeze whisked in through the open window, its cheerfulness an annoyance for Henry. Turning away from the wind, he lifted the small yellow envelope he’d removed to his ear and shook it.

    He jumped at the sound, surprised to hear something inside. Shaking his head with all the resolve he could muster, he shoved the envelope in his pocket. Stepping away from the wardrobe, Henry slipped on his shoes and walked out, taking one last fleeting glance at the room.

    Whispers of anger and sadness tore through him as he remembered the first time stepping into the house. That time the breeze was a welcome friend and there were hundreds of items that accompanied the wardrobe. This time, the last time, was much different.

    Hanging his head and ignoring the whispers, he stepped out to the driveway where his rusted station wagon sat. Climbing inside, he ignored the faint smell of perfume that clung to every surface. He ignored the indentation of a child’s car seat on the fabric behind him. He ignored that the radio knob was worn from someone continually changing channels.

    He ignored all this and more as he made his drive, away from the house with the drawer. The envelope burned hot in his pocket and every stoplight Henry passed he hoped was red so he could get the damned thing away from him. Luck was not on his side. It never was.

    He finally removed it at a pawn shop counter where he opened the envelope and slid out a wedding band. He took its pair off his finger and placed it down. A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage.

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    1. Such an evocative ending. Love how the gentle writing style offsets the growing sense of something terrible.

  16. Prompt #77
    300 words

    Secrets in the Water

    The flickering of the fire was reflecting in the window of Jaxson’s new beach front condo. He was thinking about starting his new job and what he left behind in Newport News, Virginia. Although he was on the west coast now he couldn’t help but think this was too good to be true and things would catch up to him.
    Jaxson woke up the next day with the urge to call his mom, but that thought quickly left him. He reassured himself that he had to leave the past behind including his mother. He lived about a mile away from work and decided he would walk there. This was a long way off from his life on the east coast with his business attire and Lexus.
    He had a long day waiting on people at the dockside restaurant “Seaside Commoner.” He went to bed that night exhausted, waking up a few times drenched from sweat and horrendous nightmares. He remembers flashing lights and hearing the sound of a speed boat slamming down on the waves of the ocean. Lastly he recalled seeing long blonde hair being swallowed by the ocean water. He felt slightly disturbed, but thought I must move along.
    On his way to work he felt slightly light headed and like he was seeing shadows He thought probably just from not sleeping well. He walked into work put on his overcoat and started waiting on his tables. He walked over to table nine, the lady had already ordered by a different waiter and was asking for some condiments.

    He stands in front of her table, “Hey, darling, did you want ketchup or mustard on your hamburger?” The woman looks up takes her hat off, as blonde hair falls down to her shoulders and says, “of course my dear.”

      1. Thank you Sian! I am new to this and trying to get my feet wet with writing. Definitely testing comfort level on what to write! Everyone’s creativity in their stories, are amazing.

  17. Sian Brighal
    299 words
    Sentence used: The rain seems to be writing cryptic messages on my window panes

    Still Here in Each Breath

    She’s sitting in the windowsill again, knees tucked up under her chin. She’s so still, but her breath smudges the dark glass in rapid succession, as if some ghostly heart is beating against the window. I know she’s hurting and I should be patient, but she’s sitting there as though the rain running down the glass holds more hope for a solution than I could.

    Maybe it does.

    I’ve never been good at…talks. I should have paid more attention to Rachel, listened more carefully to the words she used or avoided, learnt the way her hands and arms could carry on the talk when words dried up. Now I’m learning from scratch. So maybe it does hold more sense than me.

    She’s caught sight of my reflection. Her breaths come stronger, and it seems to me she’s rubbing me out. Where my head and shoulders should be, there is nothing but mist. I’m almost out of the picture. That scares me more than the silence, more than the screaming and slamming doors…all the angry sounds of grief trying to find a voice.

    Her puffy eyes turn to me. Her face is like the window: slick with rain that never seems to want to stop. Her mouth opens, and my heart clenches, but then her lips tremble and she rises quietly. Despite my words, she leaves me to the cold room.

    I’m too big for the sill, but there’s more than enough floor to collapse onto. I know she finds something here, a balm. I look at the window, through it, round it…trying to see what she sees, but the rain seems to be writing cryptic messages on my window panes. I huff out in frustration…and see! In my breath on the glass, the echo from fingers no longer here.

  18. Line #75 (“You never want to be a short man in a crowd.”)
    Word Count: 263


    “Did you know Halloween was originally kind of like the Day of the Dead? It was a pagan thing, back in Ireland,” he mumbled, focusing on drawing eyeliner. “A chance for the dead to come back, say ‘hi,’ and live it up for a bit.”

    “So why don’t you go as a skeleton or something instead of a tranny?” Kathy smacked her lips.
    “You look weird without the beard anyway.”

    His perfectly drawn red lips, sharpened for years in a locked bedroom, creased into a smile– masking his wince.

    “Just because you’re not as beautiful doesn’t mean you have to be jealous,” Jake teased. “And it’s a tradition at this point! The guys nearly piss themselves laughing every time.” Kathy rolled her eyes.

    “Don’t worry my darling sister, I’m not going to steal your man out from under you. Probably.” He winked. “I mean, some things you can’t draw on with make-up, anyway,” he grumbled, adjusting the duct tape between his legs.

    You never want to be a short man in a crowd. Hunched over, blending in and fading away: that’s how the other 364 days went. But standing out as a boxy woman brought its own dangers. Things that stand out usually get smacked down.

    Jake accepted that a long time ago, smothering Jessica with football jerseys and beard hair. She would have had a hard life, and no family. But at least tonight she could breathe. The stilettos boosted his frame and confidence; he was fine being stared at tonight. At least he would be seen for who he really is.

  19. AJ Aguilar-Van Der Merwe

    #68 – The rain seems to be writing cryptic messages on my window panes.

    (300 words)

    It was just one of the many times Jane spent in the casino. It was a year since she suspected that a depression relapse was imminent. It was exactly a month since her nervous breakdown.

    She wasn’t hospitalized. She only cried hysterically when it happened. She went to her doctor and was immediately put on medication for anxiety and depression. Then, she made her way to the casino to gamble. The days she didn’t go to the casino in the past month were few. Gambling was something fun to do; an expensive fun. She thought she could have gone on a shopping spree in Paris but she kept gambling even when she lost every day. She was spiralling out of control. It occurred to her that she could be going crazy.

    She had occasionally mused that perhaps she was always a little insane. She believed that the rain wrote cryptic messages on her window panes. She was convinced she had multiple personalities. She was happy to talk to herself. She knew it was expected of her to conform to society but it pleased her to question the status quo. She enjoyed her eccentricity and weirdness. She could go from happy to miserable, and vice versa, in a matter of minutes.

    However, despite her idiosyncrasy, Jane was compassionate and affectionate. She was their parents’ favorite daughter so most of the family fortune was left to her. Being Jane, she happily shared everything with her two older sisters who started to express their worry about Jane’s mental health. They told Jane that they feared the possible consequences of her apparent irresponsibility. She dismissed their concern with a beaming smile and tight hugs.

    Still, they made sure they continued to enjoy Jane’s inheritance. They did not wait for their sister’s medication to work.

  20. I made it this time! But I went overboard and used six of the the lines. I couldn’t stop. If I had another 300 words….
    in the order they appear: 69,76,77,74,75, 66
    and coming in at exactly 300 words

    Bill Bibo Jr

    It was late and I was in no hurry to head home so I stopped into Medusa’s Bar and Grille. “Our food isn’t good, it’s Mythical,” read the sign over the door. It was true. What passed as food here was hard to believe and even more difficult to swallow.

    A man clad in a leather tunic barely covering his muscular frame sat alone at the bar, his head buried in a bottle of ale. He had the worst haircut I had ever seen.

    “Samson, what gives?” I sat down beside him. “Wife, cut your hair again?”

    He flopped his left hand in front of me. A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage.

    “That’s bad. Bartender, I’ll have the special. And bring my friend another bottle.”

    He grabbed it from her hands and took a long drink. Halfway down the bottle, he told his story.

    “A griffin, a kracken, and a minotaur walked into a bar…”

    I stopped listening as the bartender slid a plate in front of me.

    “Hey, darling, did you want ketchup or mustard on your hamburger?” she asked.

    I waved her off and took a bite. As advertised it was terrible.

    “…Now this griffin was smarter than it looked…”

    Samson was drawing an interested group. A faun unsuccessfully tried squeezing through to the front. You never want to be the short man in a crowd. Still it encouraged Samson to keep telling his tale. Not me, I’ve heard this same song too many times before.

    “…Go on then, why not. Let’s put the band back together!” I said in unison with my friend.

    His fans erupted with laughter. His smile grew bigger, bolder. Why not? A good life can be a myth, but sometimes all we need is a good joke.

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  21. Title: Tainted Blue
    Word Count: #77
    Prompt: “Hey, darling, did you want ketchup or mustard on your hamburger?” she asked. (I slightly edited it, but it’s still recognizable! >-<)
    Twitter Handle: Don't have a twitter. Sorry!

    Iris locks the bathroom door. She attempts to muffle the sound. If no could hear that she was here, maybe she never was.
    She hits her head against the wall. Memories of the evening flash in her mind like pictures in a scrapbook. Roasted turkey (135 calories) and buttery mashed potatoes (88 calories) moved fast across the dinner table and the blur of her family clinking their glasses of (83 calories) wine together. While she stared at the wall wishing she could drown in her oversized sweater.
    “Hey, darling, did you want ketchup or mustard on your hamburger?” her father asked.
    Her families’ expectant eyes stabbed her like shards of glass, her skin tingling with anxiety and the coolness of the room.
    Who turned on the air conditioning?
    Within a few seconds, she found herself fighting a civil war. Her stomach yearned for something more than just ice cubes and self-hatred. Whilst her head was screeching at her, reminding her that she’d be killing her progress. She would be murdering all her hard work and let it bleed dry.
    She pulled the trigger. “Ketchup.”
    She watched as her father squirted the ketchup (19 calories) onto her (354 calories) hamburger. He passed her the plate and took it from him, hoping her family wouldn’t notice her fingernails tainted blue. Hesitating, she picked up the burger and swallowed, which felt like bullets down her throat.
    So she kept swallowing and she didn’t stop.
    Now, she wishes she'd stopped. She faces the toilet that greets her like an old friend. Pulling her hair back, she opens the lid and shoves her fingers down her throat, reaching for the calories that she had ate, telling them to come back. You don’t belong there.
    She flushes the toilet and walks out of the bathroom, silently.

  22. 245 words
    #78 I have an implausible 19th Century Moustache and cheeky grin
    Title: Poetic Injustice

    He would not go so far as to call himself a stalker, yet that is what the crisp, white paper with the judge’s penned signature on it said. Well, it didn’t actually state it in those words, but the meaning is implied:

    Michael Hennessy shall not go within 500 feet of his beloved, Sarah Clarissa Bentley. He shall furthermore refrain from contacting her by telephone, social media, email or by snail mail.
    He shall not have flowers sent to her where she works at the University, nor will he leave hand-written poetry tucked under the wiper blade of her vehicle’s windshield.
    He will not send messages to her via third-parties, such as her sister, her co-workers or the boy who mows her grass.
    Furthermore, no serenades or glamour shot photos.
    He will refrain from any form of harassment, retaliation or intimidating behavior. Any infringement of this order will result in prosecution.

    Michael was offended by the entire matter. He crumpled the paper in his fist and threw it at his cat. The startled feline jumped, then proceeded to play a game of cat and mouse with the paper wad.

    Michael felt like the mouse. The law was toying with him and he couldn’t comprehend why.

    Is it because I have an implausible 19th Century moustache and a cheeky grin? He asked his lawyer, who just shrugged.

    A tragedy. Poetic injustice.

    Under love’s heavy burden do I sink. For never was a story of more woe.

  23. Title: Two Creams, One Sugar
    Word Count: 300
    Prompt: #75 – you never want to be a short man in a crowd

    You never want to be a short man in a crowd. In the morning rushes, I’m the runt of the litter and everyone is out to get me. At 4’ 5”, everyone looks down on me, mostly because they have to. Most people don’t enjoy the morning rush, but I loathe it. I get my coffee, two creams, one sugar, and head off to work. Along the way, I get stepped on and sandwiched between people I’d still be shorter than if I grew another foot.
    Mondays are the worst. Still half asleep, I stepped into the dreaded rush. No one knows terror unless they’re claustrophobic, short, and surrounded by giants. The train was still blocks away.
    Suddenly, a briefcase swung out, spilled my drink, and smacked me in the face. I fell flat on my back as hot coffee stained my shirt.
    “Didn’t see you there,” a stranger called, inspecting the dent in their briefcase. The stranger hurried away and the crowd flowed around me as I sat up. My head throbbed, my shirt was soaked, and my bag was gone.
    “Excuse me, you dropped this… are you alright?” asked a voice from beside me. I turned and saw a woman kneeling beside me, holding my bag.
    “Thank you…” I forced a smile and it.
    “I’m Samantha.” She offered me her hand.
    I shook it as my smile grew and replied, “William. Nice to meet you, Samantha, though I wish I’d met you with a clean shirt.”
    “Well, William, we’ll just have to meet again.” She smiled as she helped me up. She waved goodbye and disappeared into the crowd. The jostling and toe stepping resumed, but my smile lingered. You never want to be a short man in a crowd, unless Samantha is there to help you up.

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  24. Title: Ants
    Word Count: 300
    Prompt: #76 – Half way down the bottle, he told me his story

    I retrieved seven crumbs and brought them back to the hill. My Picnic Patrol had been a success. Unfortunately, Carter found more than ten crumbs. Because we were the top gatherers, we were sent out together. We scuttled along in silence. I didn’t like Carter and Carter didn’t like me.

    “Over there,” he said, glancing at a checkered blanket past several stretches of grass.

    “Too far,” I countered, motioning to a closer blanket. “That one has more crumbs, and it won’t take so much energy getting there.”

    I stood impatiently as Carter considered.


    We found ourselves at the edge of the fabric. I surged ahead to be the first to the basket. Carter followed, sighing.

    We had nearly made it when one of the huge creatures that lived on the blankets swooped down and trapped us both in a bottle! With immeasurable force, it swung us through the air and shook us violently to the bottom. Carter and I screamed until the bottle wiggled to a stop on its base.

    “W-we have to get out,” I slurred, dizzy.

    Carter coughed weakly.

    “Are you okay?” I mumbled, stumbling toward him.

    “I can’t… move,” he wheezed.

    I grew determined. “Come on,” I said. “I’ll carry you.”

    I lifted him and clambered upwards. Halfway up the bottle he told me his story.

    Carter was lonely. He lost his family when one of the creatures viciously attacked them. He found it difficult to trust and had very few friends.

    “I try to get my mind off it by working hard,” he said. “That’s why I’m always ahead of everyone.”

    We made it back to the hill and I took Carter to the infirmary. I decided to find him some crumbs, and ventured out into the world again, this time with a true purpose.

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    1. Okay, ants are not my favourite critters. But you semi-humanized them, or maybe, I’m the ant . Anyway, a brilliant take. One should never take their eye off the bottle.

  25. Words: 300
    Prompt: #70 (Cold fluorescent lights flickered alive, illuminating a horrific scene.)
    Title: Into the Attic

    The old man in the black jacket climbed up the creaky old ladder, into the dark, deserted room. He knew she was up there, somewhere; hiding, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He had done this before, though never with the young skeptic below him. He pushed this out of his mind and continued up, the wooden rosary beads bouncing at his side.

    He poked his head through the trapdoor. He saw nothing but darkness, felt nothing but shivers, so he knew that she lurked somewhere inside. He snapped for a flashlight. The young skeptic gave it to him, rolling his eyes. He flicked on the dim flashlight, sighing, knowing that the dark yellow light wouldn’t be enough.

    He hoisted his frail body inside the darkness. The young skeptic crawled up behind, grunting and moaning. The old man hushed him, and then put a hand to his ear, listening for her.

    The dead silence was too strange and too quiet that the old man could hear the young skeptic’s heart race. The dark yellow shifted to the trapdoor. Dust swirled in the beam, as both men’s jaws dropped at the sight of the door. It had closed without their notice, without their help, without a sound.

    The young skeptic backed away in fear, into a freezing chill that brushed along his neck. He almost screamed but the old man covered his mouth. The old man ignored the young skeptic’s gaping eyes. With his other hand, the old man reached over and pulled a metal string.

    Cold fluorescent lights flickered alive, illuminating a horrific scene. She laid, her limbs unnaturally contorted. Her skin was pale and lifeless, her eyes empty and white, and her face smirking, exposing broken yellow teeth inside. He knew the young skeptic no longer doubted.

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    1. Nice build up, good amount of tension. The ending lived up well to the dread. Good story

  26. 300 words
    #72 – She made them feel loved before she devoured their souls

    Love and Lust

    Love has a way of trapping the lover and holding them captive forever. She never knew what to expect when she first spotted him sitting alone at the bar. Dipping into the bathroom, she shape-shifted into the sluttiest outfit she could imagine, which ended up being a low cut black shirt paired with painted on leggings. It was the best she could think of on short notice and with low energy.

    “Brandy,” she told the bartender, sliding him a fifty.

    Looking down at the money, the bartender raised his eyebrows. “Starting a tab?”

    She shook her head. “Keep the change.” It’s not like the money was hers anyways. She just finished a low-life in the bathroom and took another fifty out of his wallet, besides, she wouldn’t need a tab with her next victim’s attention already on her.

    The bartender gazed over in the direction she glanced in and chuckled to herself. “Be careful, young succubus, he may just be too good, even for you.”

    She quickly turned her gaze back to the barkeep, staring at him intensely before speaking. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “I know how you young-ins are, always searching for your next prey. That guy,” he paused and shaking his head.. “Let’s just say that guy has a way of turning somebody like you into somebody like her.” He said gesturing over to a young girl sitting alone at a booth covered with shot glasses, crying her eyes out.

    “That won’t be me,” she said confidently. but little did she know that he would make her feel loved for the first time then, as she so often did to others, devour her soul.

    “Okay, girl. For your sake, I hope not,” he said sliding her her drink just as the young man walked over to her.

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    1. Can you guys tell me your opinion on this? I understand there are many errors (I wrote this in 10 minutes while still living in my sleep deprived state) but this would be the first story I’ve ever finished writing and my first time doing flash fiction. Any helpful advice, encouragement, or even a bad review would be good. I’ll be happy with anything.

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    2. Sorry I’m having trouble posting comments thus that obscure thing. I wanted to say that i can’t tell that it’s your first attempt at flash, you did pretty well. I liked that you kept the mystery around the woman intact. The reader can only guess who she might be. And also I liked the ending, left it to the readers imagination. It was an enjoyable read. Well done on your first attempt. 🙂

    3. Okay, the strong point is the scene. Basically a bar, and we can all picture pretty much picture it. The narrator has a strong voice though the wisdom and the tone in the bartenders voice is stronger I think. I did get confused as to whether the narrator is a regular. The bartender seems quite familiar with her yet you don’t give the bartender a name.

      The sentence where you use the prompt feels forced, somewhat awkward.

      However, all things considered, an enjoyable set-piece. Well done.

      1. Clearly I need to edit my comments. I meant to say in the second sentence that” Basically a bar, and we can all pretty much picture it.”

    4. I think Bill’s comments are spot on, but I did want to add my voice to say the piece doesn’t feel at all like a first attempt… and ten minutes??? Holy inspiration, Bat Man. I’m lucky if I can scratch one out in an hour.

    5. Great read. As with other comments, it doesn’t come across as a first attempt…and in ten minutes, the outcome is remarkable (if it was from coffee, which brand did you drink?) My method for flash is to write what I hope is a complete story, then go back and strip it down…cut out superfluous adjectives, write in a more active voice–scream at the screen, cry a little–change sentence structure, use possessives and a few well known turns of phrase for added meaning. For me, because I’m not refined, this gives more room to play around with while also increasing depth. You write with a good mix of active and passive, but I think in a few places you could streamline the sentences. You also created a clear picture of location and intent…this is something I find hard to do, so no worries there. I think the line you picked went with the story really well, but I feel it would have had more impact at the very end rather the penultimate concept. The switch back to the barkeep diluted the growing theme a little. It is a great read. Thank you 🙂

  27. @firdausp

    [Just for fun and since I’m already late I’ll break the word count rule. 450+ words I think.]

     “Let’s put the band back together!” he said excitedly as he trapped the moment in his invention, which looked more like a car engine than a time machine.

    “Marcus…” I began, then stopped as I looked out of the window, the rain seemed to be writing cryptic messages on the panes.

    Marcus looked at me, a gleam in his eyes.
    He had an implausible 19th century moustache and a cheeky grin.

    I tried to stem the flicker of suspicion, but it moved slowly down my skin like a finger hesitant on a trigger.

    Cold fluorescent lights flickered alive on the machine, Marcus started pushing some buttons and I felt the floor start to tremble.

    “Marcus we can’t tamper with time,” I tried to get through to him yet again.

    “This griffin is smarter than it looks,” Marcus said ignoring me, “I caught it in the moment.”

    “We don’t need real griffins for the band,” I protested.

    “We’re the Rocking Griffins, right?” he glanced back at me, “so I say we do.”

    I had met Marcus at a bar a week ago. Half way down the bottle, he told me his story. Recently divorced, he was bitter and lonely. A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage. He seemed like a good man, so when he mentioned he could play the guitar I asked him to play for the band till our lead guitar player was back from his honeymoon. The Rocking Griffins used to play at the local pub but now we were just a bunch of guys who practiced in my garage and sometimes played at parties or clubs. Life got in the way.

    Marcus regularly came to practice and he was fairly good. He got along well with the other guys. This morning he invited me to his house. His garage was full of gadgets that boggled my mind. If I hadn’t seen the stone-age man appear from his machine I would have never believed his tall tales.

    Once the bewildered stone-age man was sent back, after I screamed my lungs out, Marcus strapped me to a chair.

    “For your own safety,” he said apologetically as I squirmed to set myself free.

    The floor of the garage quaked as the machine shuddered.

    “You never want to be a short man in a crowd,” a one foot tall griffin appeared from behind the machine. Its lion tail swished behind him as he flew and perched on the back of my chair. I’d heard, they made people feel loved before they devoured their souls. I shuddered as he pecked my ear with his beak.

    “Hey, darling, did you want ketchup or mustard on your hamburger?” Laura startled me from behind.

    “Damn hon, you scared me,” I laughed looking away from the computer screen I was typing on.

    “How’s the story going?”

    “Holy Griffins!”

    “That good huh?”

    “Maybe,” I shrugged and went back to Marcus’ house.

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