Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms116. We had 15 entries this time. Welcome to first-time entrant, Rey Alicea.
Before we get down to business, Damhnait Monaghan got in touch with us to say that her story “I Was a Teenage River Nymph” — Judge’s Pick way back in MC 72 — was selected for inclusion in “Flash, I Love You!”, an anthology published by Paper Swans Press. Congratulations, Damhnait! (You read it here first, folks!)
Please keep returning to Microcosms, and retweet / spread the word about this contest among your followers and friends.
Don’t forget that Microcosms exists primarily to provide a platform for the flash fiction community to hone their skills, and secondarily to give entrants a chance of receiving an accolade from that week’s judge. We also have the vote button for anyone, not just fellow entrants, to register their favourite/favorite(s) and thus establish a Community Pick.
We encourage everyone to reply with a positive comment to any and all of the entries AT ANY TIME: It’s good to have feedback.
MC 115 Judge’s Pick, Caleb Echterling, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what he had to say:
Wonderful entries this week, everyone. I had no idea lorry drivers were such a scofflaw bunch. Picking winners is a difficult task, as ever. Each story had its own strong points, which made picking winners rather difficult. Nevertheless, it had to be done. So off we go…
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Bill Engleson – “The Hangman Sang at the Red Graveyard.”
Angelique Pacheco – She was surprised no one ever nominated her for the governing body. She had exceptional observation and administration skills.
Arthur Unk – 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.
Steve Lodge – 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.
Geoff Le Pard – 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.
Rey Alicea – Only a single warning sign that reads: DO NOT PRESS THE RED BUTTON. Blinkered, I press the red button.
Rey Alicea – I open my eyes and discover five dead bodies lying at my feet, and one happens to be mine.
Nikki Olivier – 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.
Anne – Bill would give his side of the story upon gaining consciousness. Unfortunately, the walls wouldn’t be able to help support his claims.
Vicente L Ruiz – Three guys, one night, one warehouse, they needed a lorry. No questions; a sum of money large enough so they were not necessary.
Ted Young – 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.
Steph Ellis – People got curious when things rolled around in packages, were tempted into taking a peek.
Marsha Adams – When I dropped her it was my heavy heart that snapped, not her neck.
M Levi – what Eulalie Mitchell says is that Silas Johnson came into the post office, looked around for fourteen minutes and three seconds,
Michelle Way DaSilva – Seeing him assaulted all of my senses, yanked me back into that black hole of emotions.
Vicente L Ruiz – Just Another Job
I love the pacing in this story — the mix of short and long sentences gave the narration a very realistic feel. The twist ending was set up nicely: I didn’t expect the story to end up where it did.
Arthur Unk – Bump in the Night
And speaking of surprise endings, this one really threw me. Quite suspenseful throughout the whole story. Great characterization to paint Officer Rolo as a ‘straight arrow’ type, and deftly conclude by throwing a wrench in that.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 116.
(insert drumroll here)
Bill Engleson – I’m Hanging on to Your Every Word
Hangman; Night Club; Comedy
“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?”
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.”
“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?”
“The Hangman Sang at the Red Graveyard.”
“Could be a best seller…”
“Damn straight. Well, spread the word.”
“But of course. Love to.”
Geoff Le Pard – A Career of Highs and Lows
I love the attention to detail in the hangman’s workplace, his hardware upgrades, and his inside jokes with the condemned (‘Hangman’s Hangman’ is pretty funny). Throw in allusions to ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and gardening, and this was supremely entertaining.
Hangman; Prison; Comedy
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.
Congratulations, Geoff. As Judge’s Pick, you are invited to judge the next round of Microcosms this coming weekend. Please click HERE to let us know whether or not you are interested!