Microcosms 116

Greetings, my flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 116.

30-MAR saw the birth in 1905 of England’s longest-serving hangman, Albert Pierrepoint.

Some of his more famous ‘clients’ include:

  • William Joyce — “Lord Haw Haw” (1946)
  • Timothy Evans (1950)
  • Derek Bentley (1953)
  • John Christie (1953)
  • Ruth Ellis — last woman to be hanged in the UK (1955)



(PLEASE READ THIS: If YOU have a theme for a future contest and you can come up with a preamble — a BRIEF introduction to what it’s all about — and a list of related elements (six characters and six locations*), please contact us.)

[ * You may also specify the six genres too, if you wish – or leave it to the Microcosms management team to supply these. ]


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

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Lorry/Truck Driver, Location: Warehouse, and genre: Crime.

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, location 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 – not included in the word count.


  • Hangman
  • Traitor
  • Lorry/Truck Driver
  • Burglar
  • Clerk
  • Hostess
  • Prison
  • Nazi Germany
  • Notting Hill
  • Warehouse
  • Post Office
  • Night Club
  • Comedy
  • Crime
  • Tragedy
  • Memoir
  • Horror
  • Mystery

Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Caleb Echterling, has kindly agreed to act as the judge this time around.


REMEMBER: all submissions should be a maximum of 300 words in length (excluding the title).

You have just 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) New York time (EDT) to write and submit your masterpiece.

*** If you are new to Microcosms, remember to check out the full submission guidelines. ***

All being well, results will be posted next Monday.

Microcosms 117
Microcosms 115

19 thoughts on “Microcosms 116

  1. @billmelaterplea
    300 words
    Hangman; Night Club; Comedy

    I’m Hanging on to Your Every Word

    “Gladie, you won’t believe this. Guess who I ran into this morning?”

    “Shoot, Shirl…haven’t a clue. Who?”

    “Prissie Butterworth. You remember. Tall stringbean…dull girl but her daddy was fantastic…owned the Red Graveyard.”

    “That was a rocking place. We had some wild times there.”

    “We surely did. Her daddy was a funny man. Not ‘serious comedian’ funny, but he could crack a good joke. Always thought that Prissie was adopted. She was one sorrowful girl. With a jokester like her old man, she shoulda been a little more…”


    “Alive. She was just dull.”

    “Or maybe sad.”


    “Didn’t her daddy do some singing…I seem to remember…”

    “Yeah, he was a bit of a crooner. Wasn’t very good but he loved the old standards. Even wrote a few songs…one I always liked…mournful thing called I’m Hanging on to Your Every Word.”

    “Right…do you remember the chorus?”

    “Yup…here goes…
    I’m hanging on to your every word.
    You’re my honeyed worm and I’m your bird,
    In the dark of night, in the light of day,
    You’re the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard.
    The sweetest sound of all…
    You’re my honeyed worm and I’m your bird.

    “It was a cute little song…”

    “Cuter than you know.”

    “Whaddaya mean?”

    “Prissie’s writing a book about her daddy.”

    “That’s great. All about the Red Graveyard?”

    “Sorta…well, it’s a bit of a dark exposé…”

    “Dark how? What’s she gonna expose?”

    “Daddy Butterworth had a second job.”



    “No! Get real.”

    “Oh, I’m real. Sam…her daddy was named Samuel… Samuel Butterworth was the State Executioner.”

    “My goodness. That’s…disgusting. And she’s writing a book?”

    “Yes. Do you want to know the title?”

    “Of course.”

    The Hangman Sang at the Red Graveyard.

    “Could be a best seller…”

    “Damn straight. Well, spread the word.”

    “But of course. Love to.”

  2. 298 words
    Lorry/Truck Driver; Warehouse; Crime


    She peered through the crack in the curtains. A large truck was driving slowly down the street. She quickly took a pen and scribbled down the license number, the time and the inconvenience of it all. That was Mrs. Gibbons. Nosy by nature, she recorded everything that happened to her neighbors and stored it all up for the annual general meeting. There she could air her grievances with confidence. She was surprised no one ever nominated her for the governing body. She had exceptional observation and administration skills.

    She took a photo of the truck that had now stopped right in front of her house and put her phone down on the couch. Two delivery men got out and talked softly. They grabbed a huge box between them and made their way into the building. A few moments later there was a soft knock on her door. She knew it would be them, probably asking for directions. This would give her cause to bring up the malfunctioning street lights in the road at the next meeting.

    “Are you Mrs. Gibbons?” one asked.

    Surprised, she answered, “Why, yes!”

    Those were the last words she uttered before an explosion rang out and she found herself looking up at the ceiling. Blood seeped from her body and she began to lose focus. She looked at the man standing over her with a gun. It all went dark.

    How were they to know that the blood would run, leaving a Hansel and Gretel trail to the warehouse? They’d been given a job and they did it. That’s what they told Detective Peters. When they signed the confession, the detective looked at them and grinned.

    “There was no blood evidence. She recorded everything in a notebook and took a photo of your truck.”

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  3. Twitter: @ArthurUnkTweets
    Website: arthurunk.com
    300 words
    Traitor; Prison; Mystery

    Bump in the Night

    The count lights shut off, and a hollow silence dominated the cell house. Officer Vincent Rolo signed his log book. It was two in the morning and one hundred twelve of his new best friends were all sleeping or accounted for. His boots echoed off the cold concrete floor as he made his way back towards the main hub. No weapons or cuffs were on his belt; only guts and a radio provided protection.

    There were few sounds heard in a prison at night that would raise the hair on the back of an officer’s neck; an audible echo of a door lock clicking shut froze him in place. Doors in a prison separate life from death, and it was a statistical fact that tragedy could be avoided by simply making sure a door is locked. Vincent carefully followed the echo and climbed the stairs to the upper deck.

    His heart skipped a beat as he saw the cracked door up ahead. A normal person would have turned around and radioed for help, but Vincent was drawn towards the danger. Cell sixty-five was at the end of the wing and housed the most dangerous criminal in the institution, William “Billy” Bags. He had recently been placed back into the general prison population after spending five years in isolation for stabbing another inmate belonging to a rival gang.

    Vincent approached the door and switched on the cell light. Billy Bags lay on the floor bleeding through a gash in his neck. Vincent closed the door and fought back the urge to vomit. He walked hurriedly past the other upper deck cells towards the stairs. An envelope slid out from under a cell door. Vincent scooped it up and concealed it in his uniform. He would count the money inside it later.

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  4. @steveweave71
    300 words
    Clerk; Night Club; Crime

    Guns At The Statellite Club

    I’m standing outside The Statellite Club in Hendricks Road with Tony, a good mate and the drummer in our band.

    “This is a poxy job here,” he moans. “Cashier, clerk, dogsbody. If there’s a shit job to do in the club, me uncle is like ‘Tony, Tony, you got a minute?’ But, hey, it does have its perks.” He smiles as he hands me two free tickets for the club’s Jazz Night. Sweet. My girlfriend Angelique likes a bit of razzamatazz. I compliment Tony’s excellent impersonation of his uncle.

    Salty Lash on trumpet, Frisky Rhino on piano and the maestro John Cobb on sax. We are in for an evening, as the saying goes. Angelique is mesmerised. These guys are the dog’s bollocks, but how can they play and smoke that many ciggies? It’s like sitting in the bottom of an ashtray. My coughing is cured with several beers.

    These jazz numbers go on a bit. Old Salty takes a bathroom break midway through that first number. Frisky is multi-tasking, playing piano, drinking, smoking and eating a sandwich. As Johnny the Cobb moves offstage for a while to chat with Clem, the owner of the club (Tony’s uncle), Salty and Frisky take us mellow.

    The club is pretty full. I lean over to whisper something nice to Angelique, when all of a sudden, above the music, is the sound of two semi-automatics spraying the club with gunfire. Everyone hits the floor, through reflexes that are either fast — or too slow. It happens in seconds. The gunmen are gone. Through the smoke, the club is completely still.

    The act of me and Angelique leaning towards each other to talk may have saved us. The seats were low, not far to fall, but there were casualties that night. A lot of them.

  5. @geofflepard
    299 words
    Hangman; Prison; Comedy

    A Career of Highs and Lows

    Sergio Pontus took his job as hangman seriously — though he preferred ‘final dispatcher’ as his sobriquet. His own knot, known as the ‘Sergio Slip’, earned plaudits for being easy to make, comfortable to wear with minimal abrasions and quick to remove. He prided himself on his traps, which ensured a squeak-free, anti-clanking end.

    For the tenth anniversary of his first drop, his children bought him a nylon-hemp rope with gold thread detailing. He could often be found, during those last tense moments as hopes of final appeals expired, explaining how the inclusion of the hemp gave a satisfying snap to a hanging, while the nylon avoided any unsavoury tickling for the tardy whose necks were more robust than the average.

    If the delays stretched from the mere unkind towards the unconscionable, he would add that on sunny days the golden sinews gave the scene a sparkle redolent of Ely cathedral.

    For those deemed special, residents of cell 42 – an ironic allusion to The Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything – were offered Sergio’s ‘extras’. Favourites included The Final Countdown, where the prisoner chose a number to represent the exact minute of their drop, and Hangman’s Hangman, where Sergio always started with ‘pardon’ in one of a variety of obscure dialects, certain that his guests would not get one. How they laughed.

    When finally the death penalty was abolished, Sergio dismantled the gallows and took them home to his Surbiton semi. He grew sweet peas up his rope and turned the wooden base into novelty decking with the trap giving access to a small dark pond that was home to a carp called Preston. The gallows became a rose arbour and the hood a cover for forcing his early rhubarb.

    He was content.

  6. 134 words
    Lorry/Truck Driver; Warehouse; Crime


    A simple heist. Get in, steal the device and get out. Once inside, I find it all out in the open, easy picking, I thought. The device has no security measures. Only a single warning sign that reads: DO NOT PRESS THE RED BUTTON.

    Blinkered, I press the red button.

    Finger still on the button and now unable to move. I could see out of my periphery, that the hands of my wristwatch have stopped, and that wrinkles and dark splotches have started to appear on my own hands. My vision has blurred and breathing becomes shallow. My teeth loosen and fall out onto my tongue and my bones fracture beneath my aging skin.

    I can hear sirens in the distance and I hope that they will find me soon.

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  7. 96 words
    Lorry/Truck Driver; Warehouse; Crime


    I open my eyes and discover five dead bodies lying at my feet, and one happens to be mine. But it is not mine, only one of many I’ve come to inhabit throughout my existence. And now, I have but a few moments left to find a new host.

    The sound of crushed glass underfoot draws my attention to the truck I drove during the heist. My twin, steps out from behind the truck with a weapon in hand, laughing; he has betrayed us all.

    A pity, brother, that it has come down to this.

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  8. 300 words
    Truck Driver; Warehouse; Crime

    A Blood Red Sunday

    They called it ‘Bloody Sunday’.
    Don Giovanni and his men arrived first, followed shortly after by ‘The Wolf’ and his crew.
    “Hey, Tony,” the Don greeted his rival with a jovial slap on the back. “How’s the protection racket these days?”
    Tony ‘Wolf’ Perugia met the comment with a scowl on his already tense face.
    “This meeting might be important for us, but I won’t tolerate your disrespect!”
    With another belly laugh, the Don looked at his men, lined up behind him like trained minions.
    He sauntered to his seat as though he owned the world, not once letting on that this was to be a meeting of equals, a merging of old-fashioned mob rule and new gang-style rule that had the potential to turn the entire world of organised crime on its head.
    The Wolf also took his seat. Although much more alert than the Don, he also seemed quite relaxed. They had taken every precaution in securing this location. The time and place were known only to a select few. Tony turned to his second, a monster of a man known only as Brick, he was known for rarely speaking, but followed any order issued by Tony as though it was law.
    As The Wolf was about to speak, an earth-shattering crash sounded from the large bay doors of the warehouse, and a massive 18-wheeler crashed straight into the middle of the meeting, killing or injuring at least half of those present.
    The gunmen took out the rest. They poured from the rear of the truck, bullets flying from their automatic rifles as they took aim at everything that moved.
    In the silence that followed the massacre, the trucker strolled through the haze and, gazing down on a suffering Don Giovanni, watched the old man die.

  9. This is just for fun since I can’t cut it down to 300 words (or maybe I can but I can’t now since duties call and I probably won’t have time before deadline) and I wanted to share because I haven’t participated in months. 🙂


    Words 326
    Truck driver; warehouse; crime.
    Run-of-the-mill day no more

    People should seriously consider the sudden inspiration to deviate from the routine. If only the walls of the warehouse could talk and warn him, but they could only watch.

    The lorry driver parked outside, unlike all other occasions when he drove into the workshop floor and parked in front of the reception. It was dusk. The pedestrian door was ajar.

    The door hardly creaked. His sneakers made no noise against the concrete floor. He could hear someone breathe, if there was a soul there.

    He could hear someone breathing. He was about to call out to the manager, deciding it couldn’t be anyone else, but shook his head instead, narrowing his eyes. The sound was more like a whimper. Suddenly, an eerie feeling sweeps through his body. In hindsight, he should have stopped to think before walking in to the warehouse. Slowly, he turned towards the door.

    “Hey, Bill!” Marlon, the manager, greeted him. “Did I startle you?”

    “You did,” Bill, the driver, agreed as he chuckled. ” I heard something. I’m glad it’s just you.” He uttered a sigh of relief. “Howzit?”

    “Cool. Yeah, just me.” Marlon put his hand on Bill’s shoulder, slightly leading him out. “Dropping off some paperwork?”

    “Yes, then I’m off. I’m taking the truck home tonight. Remember?”

    “Of course.” Marlon took the papers from Bill. “Off you go, then.” He patted Bill on his back.

    Bill started towards the door. “Don’t work too late, boss.” He turned around briefly and saw Marlon grabbing the big scissors from the counter.

    The next morning, the police found the truck on the workshop floor, an unconscious driver sitting behind the wheel, holding the bloody scissors, blood splattered all over his body. Behind the reception counter was a dead naked receptionist, her pretty face covered with blood, her throat slashed multiple times.

    Bill would give his side of the story upon gaining consciousness. Unfortunately, the walls wouldn’t be able to help support his claims.

  10. Twitter: @VicenteLRuiz
    252 words
    Lorry/Truck Driver; Warehouse; Crime

    Just Another Job

    The wipers work furiously. It’s a bleak night, the rain pelting the windshield. But Sean doesn’t mind: he’s a great driver, and no storm can stop his lorry. His beast purrs beneath him as it bursts forward.

    It was Paddy who had got in touch with him at the pub. Old Paddy, you could always count on him. A shady business, he had told Sean, but Sean hadn’t been surprised. All businesses were always shady with Paddy.

    Three guys, one night, one warehouse, they needed a lorry. No questions; a sum of money large enough so they were not necessary. They’d load the lorry, then they’d give him an address, ride along and pay him.

    Easy. Piece of cake.

    Shady indeed, oh yes. Others might be wary. There were no guarantees beyond Paddy’s reputation. But Sean was never afraid, and Paddy’s word was good enough for him.

    And the weather? This is a night for the devil. Almost enough to call it off, but Sean has no way to know until he reaches the warehouse, so he isn’t going to be the one to turn tail. Not Sean, no sir.

    And of course, there is something else.

    Sean checks the map. No smartphone, no GPS for him. He is too clever for that. This is the place all right. There’s the warehouse; the guys must be inside.

    Sean picks his favourite knife, and opens the lorry door.

    Sean smiles. It’s not a pretty smile. Three more fools for him.

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  11. 230 words
    Lorry/Truck Driver; Warehouse; Crime

    A Stitch in Crime

    Darren reversed his lorry into the loading bay.
    “Where’s yer lav, chief?”
    “Stay in your wagon,” growled the security goon.
    He’d driven from north London to Dover and was bursting. He reached the side alley just in time.
    “Better than sex sometimes,” Darren informed the wall.
    With the relief of an empty bladder, his senses returned, and he heard the buzz of machines and the hum of humanity. Through a dirt-encrusted window, he spied a line of women sewing designer labels to stacks of clothes.
    “What are you doing?” It was that lovable security man again. “Get in your cab.”
    Darren obediently sat and watched his trailer being loaded, now realising he was a cog in a ‘ringing’ operation. Cold and numb, he drove to Slough, then Walsall, Liverpool and back to north London.
    Darren is honest, married with kids, he goes to church, he’s…nice. All that weekend, his conscience battered him, especially on that cold hard pew. Monday morning, he blew the whistle; the Fraud Squad got stuck in.
    A worried boss met Darren at the depot gate. “Gonna have to let you go, Dazza. Orders have dried up.”
    It doesn’t take long for a young unemployed guy with a family to get ‘skint’. The church helped a bit with food and clothes.
    Amongst the kids’ clothes, Darren found a ‘Yardie’ hoody with a wonky label.

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  12. @el_stevie
    282 words
    Hangman; Post Office; Horror

    Delivering Justice

    “How much?”

    The woman behind the screen jerked her head towards the glass hatch, pulled the parcel through. “Pretty heavy,” she said, placing it on the scales. “And you’ve certainly wrapped it up good and tight.” She nodded her approval.

    He’d made sure of that. People got curious when things rolled around in packages, were tempted into taking a peek. This woman’s husband was often looking at what he shouldn’t. Doing things he shouldn’t. He’d seen it himself. But she’d never noticed, was blind to the evidence in front of her.

    At last she looked at him properly. Her customers were always secondary to the letters and parcels passing through her hands. “Seen you before,” she said, frowning. Then her expression cleared. “In the paper! You’re that hangman. Strung up that kiddy killer.” Her eyes gleamed with vicious enjoyment.

    His dislike of the woman increased further. He pointed to the paper’s headline in the nearby rack. DNA clears Abrams. Miscarriage of Justice.

    “Doesn’t matter,” she said. “Always thought he was a bit odd. Needed putting down.”

    He could barely stomach her bigotry, her prejudice. “Kill an innocent man?” The law had turned him into a murderer.

    “He’d have done something sooner or later,” she said, her defiant certainty challenging him.

    “But you agree the real culprit should face the same punishment?”

    She nodded. “I’d love to see his head on a plate.” She glanced down at the box, at the address label. “It’s for me!”

    He smiled. “Not quite on a plate,” he said, “but as near as I could get.” He walked away, a condemned man, thinking of his house, the empty noose waiting. Justice had been signed, sealed and delivered.

  13. Twitter: @marshawritesit
    297 words
    Hangman; Nazi Germany; Memoir

    Muss i Denn

    It was always difficult to hang a woman: they are volatile, more likely to fight their fate than stoically accept it. In particular, when it was a young girl, there were tears and pleas and great distress. They would appeal to my heart.
    Now, I shall not say I have no heart: you who have read this far know that I do, that often it was heavy as I did my duty. But you understand that I was efficient in my work: my hands, not my heart, performed the execution. My heart was of no concern, in the usual case.
    Adelgunde Schantz was not the usual case. Fräulein Schantz was the daughter of my neighbour. Her mother delivered her in my kitchen; my dear wife, Bruni, aiding her. I knew Adelei for all her fifteen years.
    Adelei believed Germany would lose the war. She was right, you say, and I know that now, just as I knew it then. But I was not so young and crass as to say so aloud, nor did I organise protests against the Führer, as Adelei did. I had in my mind no doubt that her sentence was just, nor that it was I that should carry the burden of delivering it.
    She wept and pleaded, as so many did. And she turned her head as I tightened the noose, whispering to me. Not so many did that.
    I shall not say what she promised me if I should help her. I shall only say that it distracted me, just as her movement displaced the knot.
    When I dropped her it was my heavy heart that snapped, not her neck.
    I took more care in future. Such deaths were inefficient.

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    1. A dark and memorable story. It was just a few hours ago that an image flitted by on Facebook, a seventeen year old partisan, moments away from her hanging. One of a billion WW2 tragedies. So timely, and painful…well rendered. And there was a more efficient method utilized…

  14. 278 words
    Hangman; Post Office; Memoir

    The Point

    From “Brief Candle: The Life and Death of Kaede Mitchell”

    …what Eulalie Mitchell says is that Silas Johnson came into the post office, looked around for fourteen minutes and three seconds, and finally asked her where the mail was. She reminded him that it was Sunday, and said it should be a crime to hang someone on a Sunday.

    “He looked sort of green,” E. Mitchell said, “as if the demons had poisoned him.”

    E. Mitchell could have lambasted the poor hangman. The rest of the town certainly was. Professor Atkinson calls the Free Kaede movement ‘the most powerful social movement of the time, except for Prohibition’. Dr. Yan declared the movement ‘practically insane in its fanaticism’.

    “Why people were so obsessed, we can only guess,” Professor Renara says. “Kaede Mitchell, like, opened a gate to hell. Why did people like him so much?! I’m not the only one who’s confused! Right?!”

    We can imagine the scene: E. Mitchell, the older sister of the beloved K. Mitchell, the spinster, red-faced and livid, the post-master general for fifteen years. And Silas Johnson, tall but sallow-faced, the hangman that was just…there, rotund but with a tendency to melt into the woodwork.

    “She didn’t yell,” Silas Johnson wrote in a diary entry that he later burned in a sacrificial furnace. “She didn’t insult me, she didn’t curse me, she didn’t call upon the demonic forces her brother had unleashed. She told me to come back tomorrow, once I’d washed my hands, and she’d give me the mail and a cup of tea.”

    “I did consider poisoning him,” E. Mitchell confides today, “but in the end, I didn’t. It seemed pointless.”

    1. Okay, I am out on a memoirish limb here, wanting to read so much more, expecting that there WILL be more, but not holding out hope…left hanging as it were, but still plenty satisfied.

  15. Twitter: @piteachr
    299 words
    Clerk; Night Club; Memoir

    Serendipitous Affairs

    Transfixed by the flashing lights, ruminating over the sights and sounds of the nightclub, I felt sick to my stomach. Seeing him assaulted all of my senses, yanked me back into that black hole of emotions.

    Serendipity. Like me, I knew it was rare for him to be in an establishment like this, yet here we both were: same place, same time.

    It’d been five years but felt like yesterday.

    Being chosen to intern for his prestigious law firm was fortuitous. However, I had no idea at the time how much I would learn or the scope of how my life would change from my time as a law clerk.

    Every time our eyes locked, it felt like the first time; such a cliché, but true.

    We often worked on the same cases — perhaps by design, perhaps not. We usually stayed late at work, leading to late-night dinners. Dinner conversations edged us closer until intimacy flourished into more. We were lovers and soulmates.

    Our obstacles, also cliché, were insurmountable. It was his law firm, making him the boss. More significant, he was married. Our biggest hurdle was yet to come.

    Having conceived our baby from love, we knew what we needed to do.

    I left the firm, citing family problems.

    He helped me financially and emotionally through the pregnancy.

    When her day to enter the world arrived, we met her together. She was a perfect combination of us. We held her until it was time. Her adoptive parents cried with us.

    That day I said goodbye to the two most important people in my world.

    My heart prayed for their happiness while wishing we’d someday meet again.

    The strobe lights that had mesmerized me eventually drew me back into the present; at that moment, we locked eyes once again.

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