Microcosms 105

Another Friday, another year… Welcome to Microcosms 105, the first post of 2018. Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all had a great festive period.

Yes, we’re moving effortlessly (I wish!) into the third year of Microcosms; who would have thought we’d still be here with all the ups and downs we’ve had? I trust you are all raring to go with a new set of flash fiction challenges in the next 12 months.

January, as you probably know, is traditionally thought to be named for the Roman deity Janus, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.

With this in mind, once again, I’ve been looking back at the entries received during the last quarter of 2017. I’ve taken one of the favourite / favorite lines chosen by the judge in each of the 11 contests – the last two posts were ‘Just 4 Fun’ challenges .

There’s no slot machine this week. Your task is simply to select one of these lines and incorporate it into your entry:

#92 – Tumbleweeds rolled across the dusty road like a cliché of old.

#93 – Gregg was smitten, once again.

#94 – He signed his name with the flick of his wrist like an accomplished magician, and then she disappeared.

#95 – “I am here because I want a resolution.”

#96 – “Vladimir Vladimirovich, come back here and put your pants on … properly.”

#97 – The foundling child had been a mixed blessing.

#98 – The cortège pulled up at the church.

#99 – Sometimes my life felt like a dream, other times my dreams felt like life.

#100 – David missed the days when his wastepaper basket overflowed with discarded brainwaves, first drafts and pitches.

#101 – A year ago they’d held hands, walking along the Seine and padlocking their love to the Pont des Arts.

#102 – Death laughed and opened his arms for a sweet embrace.



*** Incorporate it somewhere in the story / poem ***


You may change the chosen line slightly – names, 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.

[ If I were judging, I’d give extra marks to entries that used two or more of the prompt lines. Jus’ sayin’… ]





Judging this week is Microcosms 102 Judge’s Pick, Alva Holland.

All submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length.

You have just 24 hours from 01.45am TODAY (Friday), New York time (EDT) until 01.44am SATURDAY, 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 106
Microcosms 102

36 thoughts on “Microcosms 105

  1. @steveweave71
    173 words
    #102 – Death laughed and opened his arms for a sweet embrace.

    Death Walks Behind You

    “Death laughed and opened his arms for a sweet embrace,” chewing the end of my pencil, I read out loud.

    Stumpy laughed. “It wouldn’t surprise me if there wasn’t a song in there somewhere, you old buffoon.”

    I punched his arm playfully, and missed.

    “Well embrace is easier to rhyme with than hug.”

    “Do you take me for a mug?” He left that hanging in the air.

    “Embrace, face, grace, lace.”

    Stumpy growled. “Yes, alright, I get the picture. You got any food?”

    “In this place?” I asked. “Let wind and rain lash on my face.”

    “Oh no, you’ll be burning silver over silent meadow dew next.”

    But I was already off on one….

    Beneath the family crest,
    Worn upon my breast,
    Lies my beating heart,
    The pain will not depart,
    I wish that others may yet see,
    The hidden ghost that has its home in me.

    “You dopey nerd. Let’s go and get a burger,” he said on his way out the front door.

    “Can I bring my own chives?” I asked.

  2. 199 words
    #99 – Sometimes my life felt like a dream, other times my dreams felt like life.

    Mainlining “Miss Emma”

    Sometimes my life felt like a dream, other times my dreams felt like life. It was as though I had entered a giant Mardi gras celebration. Some people wore masks to cover their hurt, broken selves. Others were in costume, pretending to be bigger and better than they felt. Still others shimmered with sparkles in the hopes of being noticed as happy creatures. Yet everyone partook in the golden amber substances to numb themselves into oblivion. A contradiction and a curse.

    People began to dance, beating a rhythm in time with their heartbeats. Sparkles blazing, they danced around the fire, creating an almost magical world where everything was real yet not. It was a mad hatter party where everyone was welcome. They danced and swirled, creating mystical lights. People I knew flitted in and out, and I wondered what they were doing there. Had there been an invitation?

    The voices became clearer and coarse, and my eyes slowly started to focus. The lights took on a stark quality as they raced before my eyes. A masked face peered down at me, but this wasn’t a magical costume. “The procedure was a success, Ma’am. We’re taking you to recovery now.”

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  3. Sing
    by Danny Beusch
    #101, #102
    250 words

    Sun-loving drinkers buzz noisily outside the city centre bars. Inside, away from the light, it’s like a dungeon. ‘Usual?’ the barman asks, passing a bottle of Sol, pointing me towards my windowless room.

    I’ve booked two hours, enough time to trawl through our greatest hits. Along the way I’ll sing The Pogues, for our first Christmas together; Etta James, for our wedding day; Prince, for when we drew the curtains and lit candles and giggled at how loud and indiscrete we were. But then death laughed too, opening his arms for your sweet embrace.

    I hold the microphone steady in both hands, awaiting my cue, trying not to think about the barman watching me on the security cameras. I sound thin and shaky and flat. Another beer might help me to do you justice.

    I finish with the dying bars of your funeral song. Back outside it is sunset and the crowds have grown more raucous. Cruel laughter drifts from a group of men. Three women hurl insults at each other, primed and ready to pounce.

    As I jump in a cab my Dad rings. I know exactly what he’ll say: it’s time to move on. But how can I when it was only a year ago that we’d held hands as we walked along the Seine, padlocking our love to the Pont des Arts? I send him to voicemail. A caged bird is a sorry sight but you can’t set him free. What’s done is done. Let him sing.

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  4. @GriffithsKL
    300 words

    Last Touch

    A tire spun, the one not furrowed by speed and thrust. Smoke wheezed from the buckled steel hood. Engine guts, half-erupted and splattered with oil, steamed in glossy, iridescent blackness. Beside a twitching foot lay an unwrapped breakfast sandwich. The smells of sausage, cologne, and sharp copper ghosted the car, floated out the broken windows, past the craggy blades. If his eyes worked, they would still see McDonald’s in his rear-view mirror. They had looked, in fact, cost him precious reaction time. That, plus a novice driver’s penchant for overzealous turning.

    A deer in the road. Nothing had ever been so surprising. A deer. Right there. Where a second before had been open road.

    He took the wheel too hard over and flipped the Subaru his parents gave him for his sixteenth birthday. Dumb luck his side hit the pole. The last thing John saw was wood grain, dark and deep like the lines on his mother’s eyes. And some rusty staples. A triangle-shaped scrap still clinging to one. He had time to recognize Death. First his skull hit the glass window, then the telephone pole.

    John’s focus had been behind him, on McDonald’s drive-through. Even as he fished in the bag for the breakfast sandwich, he glanced behind and conjured her. Emma had said, “For you,” kissed it, and dropped it in the bag. “Pay me later.” She winked. The feathery touch of her hand as they passed the bag would be the last physical thrill John would know. As he gazed dreamily in his rear-view mirror, it was her face he saw, her lips against the paper wrapping.

    John couldn’t wait to devour that sandwich. But when the unbending glass and wood splinters entered him, it was Death who laughed and opened his arms for a sweet embrace.

  5. Vicente L Ruiz
    291 words, Death laughed and opened his arms for a sweet embrace.
    Fantasy, I guess?

    Family Meeting

    When I arrived, the party was in full swing. I looked this way and that, recognizing faces, getting some nods. And then I saw her.


    Death laughed and opened her arms for a sweet embrace.

    “Look at you!” I said. “You’ve gone full Gaiman!”

    She pirouetted before me, so that I could take her full appearance in. Indeed, she looked like a petite brunette girl, with pallid skin and dark eyes, complete with the Horus’ Eye tattoo.

    “Oh, but this is not new,” she said. “But let me see, we haven’t met in… how long?”

    “Ah, who’s counting?”

    We both laughed. We both were counting.

    “Ah, you know where’s…?”

    “I’ve seen Him before,” she said. Funny how I could always hear her capitals. “Upstairs. In the attic. Checking His Book, you know, as usual.”

    “I should pay my respects,” I said.

    “Yes, but later! We have to talk!”

    “Right,” I said. “So, the whole skeleton and scythe thing is gone?”

    “Well, basically yes. You’d be surprised, how many people prefer this,” she said, pointing at herself, “TO THIS. OF COURSE I CAN BRING HIM BACK WHENEVER I WANT TO,” she added.

    A-ha. That’s why I could hear her capitals. Had it really been so long that I had -almost- forgotten it?

    She laughed again. I shook my head.

    “And the chess?” I asked.

    “Don’t tell me,” she said. “I tell you, I’m getting tired of the game. It’s in the rules, but do you think they know when was the last time someone won? Do you think they realize their time’s up?”

    “Are you playing right now?”

    “Of course I am. 273,514 games. Make it fifteen.”

    She hugged me again.

    “But let’s talk about you, brother. How’s it going?”

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  6. Title – Brave is being afraid and doing it anyway
    Prompts – I am here because I want resolution
    Word Count – 299
    Twitter – @nancymbeach

    “I’m worried about you. You sit in that corner hour after hour. You should be playing outside with the other rabbits.” Squeaker sunk lower on the wall and waited for Mama rabbit to finish sweeping his room. He was comfortable here, he thought as he pulled on the loose yarn from his sweater.

    At supper, Ellie was talking about her adventures in the garden.“I was scared, but I did it anyway.” That night after being tucked into bed, he whispered to his sister.

    “How do you get the courage to go into the garden? Ever since the close call last spring, I’d rather stay safe than risk being lunch”

    “Can I tell you a secret? That ole cat scares me too. But each day he doesn’t eat me, I am glad I took the chance.

    Squeaker shook as he dressed. Today he would take his life back, afraid or not. As his paws stepped on the soft dirt, he inhaled the smells of fresh air and crisp lettuce and was glad he decided to go outside. He nibbled his way down the row and hopped over the fallen rake as he heard Ellie scream.

    “Squeakers, watch out.” But Ellie was too late. He turned around to look straight into Patches green eyes.

    “You’re mine now.” He growled.

    “I am here because I want resolution.” Squeakers stood tall, faking brave. “If you want to eat me, eat me. I’d rather live one day free than a lifetime in prison.”

    Like lightning, Patches claw scratched Squeaker’s face. Squeakers ignored the pain and jumped on the handle of the rake. The end flung up and hit Patches on the head. With Patches startled, Squeakers darted for home.

    As Mama tended his wounds, he thought about how he could outsmart Patches tomorrow.

  7. @billmelaterplea
    300 words from a slick salesman
    #120 – Death laughed…

    The Weary Old Guy Across the Way

    “Excuse me…I hate to bother you.”

    No bother I say. He seems a nice young fellow. Harmless. Dressed in a dark suit, like many a door-to-door missionary. Not many seem that presentable these days. Don’t see that many either. This neighbourhood’s changed. Everything’s changed, I suppose.

    “No bother. Can I help you?”

    “I was looking for your neighbour. Samuel Holt. I presume you know him?”

    “I do. I do know Sam. ‘Course Emmie knew Harriet better. They got along. Sam…well, can’t say I knew him all that well.”

    “But you know him. Reason I ask, we had an appointment and he seems not to be at home. When was the last time…?”

    As he asks about Sam’s whereabouts, I try and remember when it was that I last saw him. Why is it so hard to capture a small moment? I once was able to snap my fingers and point to the very second in time when I spoke to someone, or paid a bill, or saw a wolf moon.

    “It’s been a while since I saw him. Like I said, with Emmie and Harriet both passed, Sam and I…well, truth is, we didn’t have much in common…except being old.”

    He continues to be a nice young man, smiles, says, “Age catches up to all of us. Or at least, it once did.”

    I find this last statement interesting. “Once did?”

    “Ah,” he says, “the reason for my appointment. Here’s my card.” He hands me a gold-embossed business card. I am impressed. And curious. It says, Ralph Death, Esquire. LIFE FOREVER. He adds, “We’re all about Cryogenics.”

    I of course am fascinated. “Would you like to come in and talk to me about it?” I ask.

    Ralph Death laughed and opened his arms for a sweet embrace. “I’d love to.”

    1. Oops…haven’t had that second coffee. Left out a word in this sentence.

      As he asks about Sam’s whereabouts, I try and remember when it that I last saw him. Why is it so hard to capture a small moment? I used to be able to snap my fingers and point to the very second in time when I spoke to someone, or paid a bill, or saw a wolf moon.

      Please revise to…As he asks about Sam’s whereabouts, I try and remember when it was that I last saw him. Why is it so hard to capture a small moment? I once was able to snap my fingers and point to the very second in time when I spoke to someone, or paid a bill, or saw a wolf moon.


  8. @geofflepard
    288 words
    #95 – I’m here because I want a resolution.

    The Consequence of Preparing Scarg For a Posting to the Betelgeuse Embassy in Washington

    ‘I’m here because I want a resolution.’ Scarg spoke as confidently as he could to the holographic humanoid, before glancing at Vera. He hated these reculturing sessions. ‘What?’
    ‘You make resolutions, Scarg, not buy them.’ Vera made a note.
    Scarg’s oratal orifice sparked. ‘You said I could buy dinner or make my own so I thought…’
    ‘Did you prepare for this session?’
    She knew he hadn’t.
    ‘I’ve been busy, preskinning; that’s on top of my second aspiration-adjustment.’
    ‘How did that go?’
    He showed her where the added lung had exploded.
    Another note. ‘You’ll be there for New Year. Everyone makes resolutions. It’s a good time to test your assimilation attributes.’ She indicated he needed to absorb the mind-adducer. ‘Time to check progress.’
    Scarg allowed himself to be gas-permeated. Bloody humiliating if she failed him. He followed her trail; she was checking his form. He outbodied and looked at himself. Damn good, he thought. The one head was a tight fit but the limbs held his twenty snuggly without the usual abrasions and his glands moistened appropriately, unlike the first time when his exuberant dampness shorted the whole system.
    On she went, to emotions, with Scarg following. Emotions were so passé. If he allowed himself the range that humans had he’d render several galaxies inoperable. Maybe that’s the issue here, he mused. All this time absorbing and assimilating and wasn’t it inevitable a little of these stupid feelings should stick?
    Vera extruded herself. ‘Yes, you need to embrace emotions for this posting. Shall we try a test? What would you do if, say, someone criticised your resolution?’
    Scarg dipped into the diextric for guidance: frustration? humiliation? No, he had it. In one gulp, he ate Vera. ‘I’d get angry.’

    1. ‘Scarg allowed himself to be gas-permeated.’ After voluntarily ingesting so many Brussel sprouts over the festive period, I know how that feels…
      I really enjoyed this great read, Geoff.
      [ Perhaps you should have ‘outbodied’ yourself, Geoff, in order to proofread: ‘Scarg’ transmuted to ‘Scrag’ a couple of times. Literal realignment now achieved. 😉 ]

  9. Twitter Handle: paulnevin
    Word Count: 300
    Prompt: #92
    Entry Title: Sunset At The Grand Canyon Would Be Perfect

    Tumbleweeds rolled across the dusty road like a cliché of old. Left to right, in from the desert, across the main (and only) road in Daniels, Arizona, and then back out into the dust.

    Susan watched them from the balcony of their tiny room, in the only hotel left in town, a former brothel that revelled in its notorious frontier history. She stood beside a bald mannequin, decked out in red lace and feather boa, a throwback to the former world. ‘We should go now if we’re going to go,’ she said.

    Steve stirred but didn’t respond. Susan poked her head back into the room, through the beaded curtain that separated inside from outside, and said it again. Steve looked up from the bed. ‘We’ll go tomorrow,’ he said, ‘and see the dawn.’ He grabbed at the beer bottle on the bedside cabinet, and swigged.

    Susan peered outside again. The sun was going down, but there were clouds today, and they shone, pink and orange. Sunset at the Grand Canyon would be perfect, and she imagined sitting by the edge, camera in hand, watching the tumbleweeds topple over the rim while she captured it all. Ten or fifteen minutes in the perfect bubble of me-time, although there was nobody left to share to photos with.
    But she didn’t drive, and that meant Steve driving the fifteen or twenty minutes to the edge before they lost the sunset.

    ‘Let’s go tonight,’ she said, but Steve was lying still, the beer bottle balanced between his hands, on his sternum, moving up and down with each breath.

    ‘Tomorrow,’ he mumbled. One of his hands slipped away as he fell into sleep, and Susan watched the bottle, a third full, as it rose with his breath, and then toppled over onto the bed.

  10. The Passion of Gregg
    295 words

    Gregg was smitten, once again. A year ago they’d held hands, walked along the Seine and padlocked their love to the Pont des Arts, and today they were finally getting married.

    He stood at the top of the aisle and watched as Debbie slowly approached on the arm of her father. She wore a tight red dress and black veil. Reaching him, she’d barely smiled, instead staring at the crucifix fastened to the church wall.

    Throughout the ceremony, her red-tipped talons dug into his clammy pale hand. He thought it was love, passion, obsession. He pictured their children, their house, their matching headstones.

    As the service came to an end, she finally freed his hand, allowing him to rub sensation back into his fingers before making their union legal. He signed his name with the flick of his wrist like an accomplished magician, and then she disappeared. Not beamed up, not kidnapped, just gone. Debbie went into the toilet, paperwork in hand, and vanished. A small window provided a clue Gregg refused to accept; his marriage was over. He hoped the paperwork would be filed, that his marriage would become legal and continue in some form, any form.

    Five years on he still proudly displayed her photo, kept her clothes, and visited her ailing mother as if she was his on.

    The day he finally decided to clear her congealed moisturiser out of the bathroom, Debbie returned. She stood on the doorstep wearing the same red dress and black veil that she had when he last saw her.

    “I am here because I want a resolution.”

    Gregg stood, staring as Debbie pushed her way inside, abandoning her suitcases on the doorstep. It was only then that he realised he had mistaken his hatred for love.

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  11. Title: Cuff Hem
    Prompt: #98
    Word Count: 299
    Twitter: @ThomSConnors

    Samantha saw it coming. Facing each other in the back of the limo, she knew Kevin saw it now, too. It was the way that he scratched at the cuffs of his shirt and stared at the hem of her dress.
    “But it’s normal right?”
    “Of course. Fear right now is normal…” Samantha said.
    “Were you a bad decision? Is she scared that I asked you?” When Sam didn’t move to speak, Kevin followed up quickly, “honesty time.”
    “Honesty time: Yes. You’re an airplane without a cockpit. But…” Samantha kicked him softly in the shin across the gap. “I really appreciate it.”
    The cortège pulled up at the church. Kevin’s father opened the door for him and he looked at Samantha one last time.
    “I really love her,” he said as he stepped out.
    “That’s why you yell at each other?” Sam whispered as she grabbed the glass on the tray beside her and sipped the champagne. It would be just her luck to spill scotch on herself, and they didn’t have vodka. She shook her head slightly and loosened her shoulders and then pushed open the door. And then she was gently pushed back into the chair as Kevin came back inside.
    “She really has no right to be angry or mad at me right now? Why didn’t she say something earlier?” Kevin sat down and gripped his knees.
    “Stress, Kev? I don’t know. I’m not her. And as you damn well know, she’s not exactly one for talking to me.”
    “That’s ridiculous, you two talk all the time. Wait, don’t you?”
    “This isn’t the time, Kev. You have to go in. Come on, I’m ready.”
    Kevin grabbed the bottle of champagne and drank it.
    “Does she not like you?” he twisted his head.
    “Does she have to?”

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  12. 223 words
    Prompt sentences:
    #101 – A year ago they’d held hands, walking along the Seine and padlocking their love to the Pont des Arts.
    #102 – Death laughed and opened his arms for a sweet embrace.

    Crossing That Bridge

    So apt, she thought as she paused in her pilgrimage. The sky was leaden, heavy, and the river was angry, dark and roiling. A few drops of cold rain hit her face in place of warm tears that had dried up, and the bitter November wind bit at fingers. A year ago, they’d have been warm, when they’d held hands, walking along the Seine and padlocking their love to the Pont des Arts.

    She looked down and felt the sneer tug at her lips. Damn good padlocking it to the bridge had done! It hung there, a relic now…an unwitting metaphor for cruel irony. If only she could have padlocked the life in him.

    It was cold against her hand and seemed so ridiculously weightless. It should have pulled down the bridge, just like the weight of loneliness. Only a year. She still had too many left. It was unbearable. But she’s young, they’d said. She’ll find someone else, settle down, have some children.

    The river flowed by, wind-whipped whitecaps beckoning. How many woes had it carried away? It wouldn’t mind one more. Death laughed and opened his arms for a sweet embrace…

    Then arms were around her! And she was falling as fast as tears, as long as wails, as hard as grief.

    “It’s alright, love,” a voice soothed. “I got you.”

  13. @ArthurUnkTweets
    226 Words

    Hero By Default

    “I am here because I wanted a resolution,” he said.

    “No, you are here because you are the resolution,” she replied.

    “I’ve never been the solution to anything.”

    “Nor shall you be with that attitude.”

    “Can I put it back?”

    “No. You are the chosen one. You are the one who will face Xexocitil. You are the Banana King, Paulie!”

    “This is ludicrous…”

    “All hail the Banana King,” the crowd yelled in unison!

    “I should have left you in the woods where I found you,” he mumbled.

    The golden medallion hung around his neck glinting in the morning light.

    “You are the chosen one, Paulie. You get to go to Gumdrop Mountain and defeat the Xexocitil,” she exclaimed!

    “I don’t want to go to Gumdrop Mountain. I don’t know what the hell a Xexocitil is. I want this ridiculousness to stop!”

    “Shun the non-believer! Shun!” The crowd reached a fever pitch.

    “Son of a bitch…”

    The last thing Paulie needed right now was an adventure.

    “Fine. I’ll go,” he said with the sound of defeat in his voice.

    The roar of the crowd was deafening. Each step further into the cave’s passage was filled with regret and plots of revenge. His companion sang merrily behind as her voice echoed all around.

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    1. The line, “…“Shun the nonbeliever! Shun!” The crowd was reached a fever pitch….” should read

      “Shun the nonbeliever! Shun!” The crowed reached a fever pitch.

      Trying too hard to get this out and missed an easy typo 🙁

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  14. Twitter: @GeoffHolme
    281 words
    All #92 through #102

    A Game of Chance

    Sometimes my life felt like a dream, other times my dreams felt like life; in my head, tumbleweeds rolled across the dusty road like a cliché of old, a cinematic trope.

    It was hard to believe that a year ago we’d held hands, walking along the Seine and padlocking our love to the Pont des Arts. Yet within days, an outbreak of cholera had arisen, and I was smitten once again. Death laughed and opened his arms for a sweet embrace.

    But it was Clarice that he had eventually claimed. Just this morning, the funeral cortège had pulled up at the church no more than three miles from where I stood.

    “Sir… SIR! Can I help you?”

    The pristine vermilion lacquer on the nails of the receptionist at Chenier and Lafayette, Attorneys at Law, indicated that the Remington typewriter on the side desk did not see much action from her.

    “The name’s du Bois. René Chenier’s expecting me.”

    In the lawyer’s office, the labouring fan struggled to overpower the New Orleans heat.

    “Good to see you, Baptiste.”

    I cut through the small talk. “I am here because I want a resolution to this blood feud.” I signed my name with the flick of my wrist like an accomplished magician, and then she disappeared from my waking nightmare.


    “Francois, come back here and put your pants on … properly.”

    The foundling child had been a mixed blessing. Clarice had loved him unconditionally, as if he were her own flesh and blood. But I missed the days when my wastepaper basket overflowed with discarded brainwaves, first drafts and pitches.

    Perhaps one day I would again be able to meet my muse with freedom.

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