Microcosms 86

Today’s prompt comes to you courtesy of Dave Allen. Thanks, Dave!


Have you ever wondered about what may have happened through history if one event was changed? What would have come out different? How do things turn out when you play out these ideas in your mind? Kennedy isn’t assassinated, and goes on to win a second term. John Wayne Gacy becomes a lawyer instead of a serial killer. Justin Trudeau stayed a drama teacher instead of following in daddy’s footsteps. (I’m Canadian, this is one I wonder about.)

Yes Alternate History, the realms in which author Harry Turtledove creates his stories and the theme for this weeks competition. To give you an idea as to what may have been, here’s an except from a story that I haven’t completed yet. The premise: What if Jeff Davis had made Robert E. Lee general-in-chief of the Confederate Forces from the beginning of the Civil War?

We live in interesting times here in the Americas, for the Americas they now are. The civil war now over and a split country is now two separate entities. Lincoln’s generals, while skill tacticians, were not prepared for the cunning of the Confederate army’s General Robert E. Lee. The Union army General Grant fought General Lee to a stale mate and on the morning of April 9th, 1865, at the Appomattox Court House both sides signed a peace treaty. This divided the country into the Confederate States of America and the Union States of America.

Good luck everyone.



I love the idea of alternate realities, mostly because I think the idea of a single decision changing the course of history is fascinating. Recently, I watched the first two seasons of the Emmy-nominated show The Man in the High Castle on Amazon, which is based on the novel by Philip K. Dick. I have no idea what producers and show creators changed from the book, but if you’re looking for a little inspiration (and have Amazon Prime), you might want to check it out.

One of the reasons the story line works so well, in my opinion, is that it’s not solely about the change itself. An entire world has been created, inhabited by people from all walks of life, all of whom are still very much feeling the effects of the alternate event several years after it occurred. He also gives us glimpses of what their lives could have been like under different circumstances.

That’s quite a tall order for any story, let alone one told in 300 words or fewer! Don’t feel obligated to include every element. I’m eager to see how you all interpret this prompt. Let’s see what you’ve got!

For this week, consider the character and/or setting to inspire what could have changed. My knowledge is naturally skewed to American history, but I’ve done my best to give both specific and vague options.

For example, the character of “President” could refer to an assassinated president (such as Abraham Lincoln or JFK), a candidate that didn’t win an election (such as Al Gore, John McCain, or Hillary Clinton), or any real or imaginary President (or Prime Minister, etc. – I’m working with a limited set of characters, here) of any country. “A Pilot” could refer to Amelia Earhart or even the pilot of a dirigible, if the Hindenburg disaster hadn’t happened.

The setting “An Assassination” could be one that didn’t happen or one that did. (What if Martin Luther King, Jr. had not been shot? What if one of the 42 attempts on Hitler’s life had been successful?)

Furthermore, what if Elvis or Marilyn Monroe or James Dean hadn’t died so soon?

Let your imagination run wild! (Can you tell I’m excited about this?)

I’ve included the “Your Choice” option for both of these, because I am not worldly enough to know every war or election, etc., and I don’t want to exclude an fab ideas simply because I need to read up on my world history. I’ve also included a few fun ones to keep our options open. What if aliens (successfully) landed in Roswell in 1947?

If you do use/choose the “Your Choice” option, please specify what it is that you’ve chosen.

Also, a friendly reminder to please refrain from using copyrighted characters, although celebrities and historical figures are generally okay to use, as far as I know (but don’t hold me to that).



(If YOU have an idea for a future contest and would like to be guest host, please contact us.)


Our contest this week begins with THREE things: character, setting and genre.

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Astronaut, setting: An Assassination, and genre: Alternate History.

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 – character, setting and genre. You can keep clicking until you have a set of elements that inspires you.

*** HEY! Remember to include which THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry ***


  • Soldier
  • President
  • Freedom Fighter
  • Religious Figure
  • Pacifist
  • Politician
  • Detective
  • Doctor
  • Journalist
  • Scientist
  • Assassin
  • Murderer
  • Victim
  • Terrorist
  • Celebrity
  • Astronaut
  • Alien
  • King/Queen
  • Pilot
  • Your Choice!
  • WWI
  • WWII
  • An Election
  • An Assassination
  • American Civil War
  • The Crusades
  • Outer Space
  • A Death
  • A Crash
  • An Invasion
  • A Murder
  • A Discovery
  • A Kidnapping
  • Terrorist Attack
  • Your Choice!
  • Horror
  • Memoir
  • Sci-Fi
  • Crime
  • Steampunk
  • Comedy
  • Poetry
  • Westsern
  • Post-Apocalyptic
  • Historical
  • Drama
  • Alternate History


This week’s judge TBA.

All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length. You have until midnight, New York time (EDT) 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.

Microcosms 87
Microcosms 85

19 thoughts on “Microcosms 86

  1. Your choice (Time traveller)/ Your choice (Medieval period)/ Alternate history

    Word count: 298

    Europe, 1465

    I overshot my mark and landed in the medieval period. As I was skulking around the back of a hen house to spy on a vegetable patch I felt, rather than saw someone, in the way of a knock on the head. I turned around to see a rather scowly-faced girl wielding a small shovel. “Your face will stay that way if the wind changes,” I said. Her eyes widened in horror. “Ma!” she yelled. “There’s a man going to magick me!” and off she ran. Her mother appeared looking frightened. It took me a while to assure her I didn’t mean any harm and I was not going to perform magick on her unruly little one. She looked almost disappointed. I explained to her that I needed a potato for a “potion”. She looked at me confused. “What’s a potato?” She asked. “You know, the vegetable. You eat them.” “Never heard ‘o that,” she said, but she graciously showed me her garden. There were onions, parsnips, garlic, cabbages and beans, but no potatoes. I had come to a time in history, when potatoes had not been discovered yet. I thanked her kindly and shimmered out. She stared at me in wonder as I left.

    You know that this was the era that dragons became a popular notion, right? I can sort of explain that. The Policebots (or pigbots as I like to call them) arrived shortly after my departure and happened to run into that same little brat I did. They asked for Dargon (Which is my name, by the way, pleased to meet you.) She heard Dragon and went off yelling that she had seen Dragons. The more she spoke about them the more she embroidered on the story, hence the dragon myth. Apologies for that.

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  2. Breaking the Future
    Jeff Messick
    Astronaut/Assassination/Alternate History
    259 words

    She simply couldn’t live. I wrestled with the words and ideas, as my thumb hovered over the button that would send a signal to detonate the device and destroy the lander.
    She would come back from the mission, a heroine. Nothing wrong with that, but the events surrounding it was a different story. She would conscript with certain scientists and create The Door, allowing one to travel through time. The abuses of that invention were catastrophic, enough so that I was forced to use it to save us all.
    The lander neared its destination, hovering over the distant red sands of Mars, where her unbelievably fortuitous discovery of alien technology would lead to the death of humanity. My thumb twitched, but I couldn’t do it yet. It had to be an accident.
    Technological advances through alien artifacts, abandoned a millennia ago by an unknown, possibly dead race, precipitating the end of another. Thirteen years of horror, disease, famine, and nearly any other travesty you could imagine, ate up the human race and spit them out as a footnote.
    Any moment, I would hit the switch, saving humanity. The lander neared its target, crossing a ridge before touching down.
    I looked out the portal of the ship I was on, a tear tracing down my cheek. She simply couldn’t live, thus, neither could I. She gave us all death, she gave some life. The scales couldn’t come close to balancing.
    “Goodbye mother.” I whispered.
    I stabbed the button and the lander exploded. I took a deep brea……..

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    1. Fantastic and emotional ending! Like how you kept it open–would he, wouldn’t he?–right to the end.

  3. Detective, assassination; alternate reality
    300 itsy bitsy bits of speculation

    The Dallas Central Nuisance and Criminal Littering Detective Bureau: Case file 1963-11-22-1946

    Detective Digby Dancer: Could’ve been worse, Chief. Two yoyos on a toot, playing at god knows what. Nutbars and idjuts. No big deal.

    Chief Plankton: Ten words or less, Dancer. It was a simple assignment. Who’s creating a ruckus in Dealey Plaza and what’s their game? You know my motto: WHO, WHAT WHERE, WHEN, and WHY. The rest is fluffy bullshit. If I wanted bullshit, I would have become a matador.

    D.D.D.: I’m a police officer, Chief, not some low-rent reporter. Turns out there was a big parade of mucky mucks…The President and the Governor, no less.

    Chief: We KNEW about that, Dancer. Covered in the morning briefing. You gotta pay more attention. And it is a big deal, Detective. Most of the force is on security. Our job is to keep the streets clear of rubble. What went wrong?

    D.D.D.: Wingnuts, Chief. Two for sure. The older one…mid-twenties, a weird vet named Oswald and some hoity toity rich kid from New York…a runaway from the New York Military Academy…Donnie…I got it here…Trump…stupid name…seventeen-year-old snot nose kid…the two of them were tossing books out of the School Book Depository…hell of a mess…yelling “WE WILL BURY YOU, AMERICA” top of their lungs. Wingnutjobs, Chief.

    Chief: Say again?

    D.D.D.: So, they’re tossing all these textbooks out the windows and yelling (let me check cause I wrote it all down… “history is on our side. We will bury you!” Over and over again like a broken record.

    Chief: Damn, that sounds familiar.

    D.D.D.: Me too, Chief, so I called my source at the Public Library. That Russkie leader, Khrushchev. He said it some years back.

    Chief: This smells of more than littering, Dancer. Way above our paygrade. Write ‘er up and I’ll pass it on to the FBI.

    D.D.D.: You got it, Chief.

    1. Great play. Created a scene in my head just from the words used. Wonderful phrasing and description. Like the matador reference. Shame littering didn’t carry a heftier penalty.

  4. Pacifist/ A crash/ Alternate history

    Words: 214

    The truth is somewhat sketchy – A Roswell tale.

    I needed to take evasive action. I looked at my surroundings. I was in a semi-desert natural region of New Mexico. It was a cloudless day and the air was arid. Heat shimmered up from the ground. In the distance there were hills. Small shrubs as far as the eye could see completed the landscape. This was perfect. I needed an area of isolation for my plan to work.

    I installed a galaxy quanta film over the area. Using quantum physics, it’s designed to work like a giant net for capturing things. Granted I’ve only ever used it to fish, but still. I had to use what was at my disposal. It worked. The hover cars chasing me flew straight into the net. Because it works with atoms, the cars combined themselves into one unit as the net pushed their molecules closer together. They started looking rather like a giant disc. They crashed into the ground, a cloud of smoke mushrooming into the air. I removed the net and wondered what I was going to do with the wreckage.

    Suddenly I saw dust rising in the distance. Military vehicles were driving towards the crash site. I had to leave. As I ran and ducked under the fence, a sign caught my eye. “Area 51”.

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    1. Brill read…like the neat way you fused it with Roswell and the lingering questions the story brings to mind.

  5. Journalist/A Murder/Historical
    Word Count: 284
    Title: The Death of Mrs. Lincoln

    Mrs Lincoln Dead. By: James Smith, Washington Evening Star, April 17th, 1865

    A nation is in mourning after the brutal killing of First Lady Mary Todd-Lincoln.

    During a production of Our American Cousin, April 14th, 1865, stage actor John Wilkes Booth entered the President’s booth with the intent of assassinating the great leader. However things didn’t go according to plan.

    Mrs. Lincoln noticed Booth enter and managed to throw herself between the President and his would be assassin. This allowed Major Rathbone time to capture Booth, but ultimately resulted in the death of Mrs. Lincoln.

    President Lincoln gave a brief statement saying that he would be forming a force to track down any co-conspirators that may have worked with Booth.

    The President also said, “While I am grieved at the loss of my dear wife, I will continue in this office as long as the people of these United States allow. I will continue to work to better our nation for all it’s people.”

    “Sic semper tyrannis.” was all Booth offered when asked for an explanation.

    In what could be considered an ironic turn of events, on April 16th, 1865, Booth was assassinated while being transported to jail to await trial.

    Some witnesses say it looked like a supporter of President Lincoln that delivered the fatal shot to Booth, but due to the commotion they cannot be certain of what they saw.

    President Lincoln has decreed a recess period in government affairs while Mrs. Lincoln’s funeral takes place.

    I am sure I speak for the majority of the nation when I say I am sorry for your loss President Lincoln, may the Lord God bring you comfort and strength during your time of loss.

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    1. Great read. Struck me when I came to the end….just what if that had happened? Tragic as the story here is…what would it have ultimately inspired?

  6. Pilot/Alternate Civil War/Westsern (Western?)
    Word Count: 299
    Title: Valley of Endless Sun

    “Shoot me, then, West,” the old rancher taunted. “Won’t change a thing.”

    It wouldn’t, Julio knew that. But the smoldering wreckage of his California Air Force plane was behind him, his left arm was dripping blood, and it was hard to stay calm. He was enraged. And a just a little bit sad.

    “Stand down,” Julio warned again. “Go home.”

    The rancher spat on the ground. “I’ll be dead before I cede to a damn Westerner!”

    Sad. No matter how much the Republic did for its people, there would be Valleymen like this one that refused to integrate into California. The US must be laughing right now: ‘We told you not to leave. Now you play the price.’

    The heat of the burning Cessna was making Julio’s back sweat. “Put down the gun, sir.” He was at his wits’ end here, irritated and injured, but he didn’t want to make himself a murderer again.

    “Don’t matter,” the man declared, grinning through ruined teeth, “there’s always more of me and soon enough you Westerners’ll have to give it up.”

    “You may be right,” Julio placated, trying to be respectful to the old-timer.

    “Goddamn Friscan,” the rancher muttered, and pulled the trigger.

    Julio hit the ground as he saw the motion, his instincts taking over. He fired at the rancher and waited for backup shots. But the lone bullet whizzed uselessly over his head and then the rancher collapsed to the dead grass on the ground.

    Julio screamed as the rancher wheezed his last breath, before yanking himself back together. He was a Californian. He was strong. He had to get out before more of those pestilent Valleymen arrived.

    Still, he had to wipe some liquid from his eyes.

    Not that he was sad—just—it was hot in that damn desert.

    1. That was a fantastic read. So much information smoothly offered to build up a picture of the world, the land and the strife. Elegant read.

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