Microcosms 117

Friday comes around quickly when you’re having fun… Welcome to Microcosms 117, as we move effortlessly — if only! — into the first post of the second quarter of the year.

*** Please read the instructions carefully – ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE NEW TO MICROCOSMS. ***

As is customary at times like this, I’ve been looking back at the entries received during the previous quarter. I’ve selected one of the favourite / favorite lines chosen by the judge in each of the 12 contests . (Yes, that’s right — only 12; there was one week when the contest had to be postponed, if you recall.)

There’s no “slot machine” in this round. Your task is simply to select ONE or TWO at the most, this time — of these lines and incorporate it/them into your entry:


#105 – Some people wore masks to cover their hurt broken selves.

#106 – Uttering a simple prayer, she scattered Gloria’s ashes on the breeze, returning her beloved friend to her native soil.

#107 – I wasn’t always a grumpy old man.

#108 – Her smile took my breath away and sold it down the market.

#109 – Nah, screw that! I’m gonna tell you the real truth. No one lives happily ever after in this story.

#110 – “Molly? Your head is gone. Don’t worry. I’ll find it.”

#111 – My only real wealth is experience, my only trophies are my memories.

#112 – There’s something deadly about that first morning chill.

#113 – ‘We’re at the arse-end of nowhere.’

#114 – She just floated along in her bubble.

#115 – He became obsessed by the death process.

#116 – People got curious when things rolled around in packages, were tempted into taking a peek.



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


*** You may change the chosen line slightly – names, gender, tense, punctuation, etc. – but it must still be fairly recognisable. 

*** Please tell us the word count and the favourite / favorite line(s) you have chosen.

*** There’s no need to specify character, location and genre this time round — you have free rein.





Judging this week is Microcosms 116 Judge’s Pick, Geoff Le Pard.

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

You have just 24 hours until midnight TODAY (Friday, 06-APR), 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 118
Microcosms 116

42 thoughts on “Microcosms 117

  1. @billmelaterplea
    297 words
    #107 – I wasn’t always a grumpy old man.
    #109 – Nah, screw that! I’m gonna tell you the truth. No one lives happily ever after in this story.

    Blue Skies! I’m Tired of Blue Skies. Gimme Angry Black Clouds and a Full Bottle

    I’m pretty sure I wasn’t always a grumpy old man. Ask someone who knew me back when. “Back when?” you ask. Well, I’ll tell ya. Back when I had a sense of humour. That would be about 1978. Yeah! That’s when I had my last laugh.

    I’d finally made the big time. The Vancouver Monitor. A freaking daily. Not the main city paper or even the second. No, it was an upstart that wanted to crush the big boys. I was ready to do anything to make my bones.

    I’d spent my twenties slogging away in every out of the way whistle-stop weekly in British Columbia and half of Alberta. I’d interviewed more 4-H young farmers than there were cows. And then I’d interviewed the cows.

    So, we moved to the city. Mel, me, Charlie who was three and Lou who was still suckling. Right away I knew something was amiss. I’d spent so much time hating the sticks, being a big fish in a small puddle that I hadn’t given any consideration to what I would become. A friggin’ fingerling.

    We rented at first. A year in, we bought a little three-bed post-war house in the east end. A year later, the Vancouver Monitor crashed and burned. The city was awash with hungry reporters. The universities were pumping them out by the hundreds.

    Mel was on me about returning to a smaller paper. I put out feelers. Community Colleges were dotted about the landscape. They had baby Cronkites to burn.

    I started drinking hard. Mel had it up to here with me. She finally split. No staying power. That’s my story and I’m… Nah, screw that! I’m gonna tell you the truth. No one lives happily ever after in this story.

    I finally made the obits…

  2. 252 words
    #105 – Some people wore masks to conceal their hurt, broken selves.


    Hurtling over the gate, I sprinted through the decrepit alleyway and turned onto the main street. Crowds of people parted like the Red Sea as I rushed through them, closely followed by several police officers. I turned into another alley. Shouts followed me, superseded by sirens and flashing lights.

    A wall grew closer, just low enough to climb. I jumped, but hit my leg on the wall and dropped like a rock, breaking my fall with my hand. A sickening crack emanated from my wrist. I scrambled to my feet and began running again, bracing my arm against my stomach.

    My shadow followed me into a shopping plaza. People started staring at me as I ran along the road. My mask began sticking to my face as my feet carried me down the cracked concrete. Just as I began to feel comfortable, a patrol car pulled out in front of me. My momentum carried my face straight into the hood of the car. An officer got out, He picked me up and handcuffed me.

    “You’re done, man,” he said. “The game’s up.” He sat me on the hood of the car and mumbled, “Let’s see who you are now.” Gripping my mask, he pulled it off. “My God!” he exclaimed, staring at my face in horror. I stared at him with my blood-red eyes and snapped at him with my many teeth.

    Some people wear masks to hide their hurt, broken selves. I wear mine to conceal the monster that I am.

  3. @steveweave71
    300 words
    #112 – There’s Something Deadly About That First Morning Chill.

    Undiscovered Destinations #17 : Ezrgrad, Belzonia

    In the deepest, darkest cave, at the furthest hidden point, far beyond the underground lake of the legend, an echo lies dormant, waiting for its twin.

    Many a dark and stormy night has cast its spell on this place, and the ghosts… oh, they wail and they scream, but they will not fade. They hide in the fog, menacing all who pass this way. Some tell of the feeling they experienced out there. “All the time, we felt someone or something was watching us.” Their eyes move furtively as their fears grow. They make the sign of the Cross, and whisper among themselves of what they think they have seen.

    In forests dark near the castle, the wolves howl and the wind calls out from snow-filled skies, haunted lake shores send fearful breezes that reach these hills and the mountains beneath this pale moon. Nobody says the word “vampire”, but we have heard the legend of Count Rafis. The wind could easily be mistaken for a woman shrieking. Another victim of The Bat?

    Our lanterns chase the shadows down, but there will be no peace on this winter’s eve. Huddled in this tiny inn, we await the dawn with hope and prayer. Our hosts stay silent. They don’t understand English. Theirs is a language of no vowels and an unusual alphabet. The economy of this land seems based on revenge, goats and fear.

    We try to stay rational. The end of darkness will finally beckon, bells will sound across snow-covered fields from faraway villages. Although there’s something deadly about that first morning chill, at least every weary traveller can emerge into the daylight and continue their journey by coach and horses away from this unhappy land. But first, oh joy, our hosts have prepared for us a full English breakfast.

  4. @CarinMarais
    297 words
    #107 – I wasn’t always a grumpy old man.


    One of the children lingered by the garden gate where the old man stood, red cricket ball in his hand. The other children had fled as soon as they heard the sound of glass breaking.

    “Think you’re getting this ball back?” he asked the child who had stayed behind. The child was close to tears, he could see that. He cleared his throat in an effort to harden his heart.

    “Wanted to say sorry,” the kid stuttered.

    “I wasn’t always a grumpy old man,” the elderly man said, tossing the ball to the kid. The child caught it with a smile. He looked like he had seen rough days; clothes patched by someone who obviously did not have much skill. His hair was hacked close to his head, looking like a job he did himself.

    “You were young once?”

    The man guffawed. “I once played cricket for the country – wait here.” He shuffled back to the house through the overgrown garden.

    Inside dust hung thick in the air and clung to every surface. He passed the kitchen table where dusty plates still sat. In the bedroom, where the smell of perfume still lingered, if he used his imagination, he collected his old cricket shirts.

    “You can have these,” he told the child when he reached the gate again. You’d swear he’d handed the kid a gold bar. He retreated back to the dusty house with a smile.

    He sat down in his chair and looked to the sofa where he could still see his wife knitting if he tried hard enough. The knitting that lay there had also been covered by dust over the years.

    “Gave the kid my shirts, Mary,” he said towards the couch. Tears pricked his eyes. “I wasn’t always this grumpy, was I?”

      1. Well said, Harrietbelle. Judging by the number of ‘likes’ Carin received, you are not alone in this opinion.
        (As Bill, I hold my hand up to being a grumpy old git.)

  5. 300 words
    #107 – I wasn’t always a grumpy old man.

    You Can’t Run from the Results of Your Actions

    It’s funny how things work out. One day I was a happy-go-lucky twenty-something with the world at my feet. The next I was… old!

    I remember the exact moment I realised that the change was occurring. I remember that I was in the middle of reading the latest James Patterson novel when I suddenly got the most atrocious pain in my abdomen and head. It literally threw me to the floor. I lay there spasming for hours before it finally released its grip. When I stood up and caught my reflection in the hall mirror, I was shocked to see myself. That couldn’t possibly be me! The hair colour was correct, and the eyes looked like me, but the rest of it? No!

    I was a stunningly beautiful woman, if I do say so myself. Raven black hair to my waist. Eyes as violet as tanzanite. The perfect Cupid’s bow lips flanked by sculptured cheekbones. And a tall, hourglass figure that would make men weep.

    What looked back at me from the mirror was as far removed from that as you can get, while still being on Earth: flabby, fleshy cheeks, lined and worn. Thin lips with hardly any definition, and a short, stocky build.

    However, the truly disastrous detail remained. I was male!

    I tried to recall what I could have done to deserve this. Was it the Witch I mocked? The Demon I had jeered at? Or was it an act of Fate, that bitch?

    The fact of the matter remained: I wasn’t always a grumpy old man. This life had been forced upon me by the most horrendous act of spite. Whether it was the Witch, Demon or Goddess was irrelevant. My days as a woman were over, and my life as a man would now begin.

  6. 262 words
    #112 – There’s something deadly about that first morning chill.

    Snow Job versus Spring Sun – The Title Fight

    There’s something deadly about that first morning chill. You might not even realize it, with your toes ensconced in socks, curled up under the duvet. You languish, debating whether to get out of your toasty bed, not even realizing there’s a war going on outside.

    Mother Nature is fierce, taking sides in a cage fight. She will always fight to win but along the way, she likes to make things interesting. The early bird trying to catch the worm. Will the worm win and escape? Will the bird freeze to death before accomplishing its task?

    Sometimes, just for fun, she gets Jack Frost involved. He’s a grumpy old man with an evil sense of humor. When those two get together all hell breaks loose. If hell had frozen over, of course. They often run a type of “fight club” while the humans rest their addled minds. Bears against snow. Fish versus ice. There is no end to their torture of animals.

    But then something happens. A snowdrop pokes its head through the snow, signaling the start of spring. The sun peeps through shyly at first, but when it sees the devastation left by Mother Nature and Jack Frost, he begins to burn with anger. Fire swirls as his mind turns over the events that have happened and he turns the tide of death. He shines bright, obliterating the death-causing chill and wins.

    You get out of bed finally and stand by the window holding your cup of coffee and sigh, “What a beautiful morning this is.”

    Stupid human, you will never know.

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  7. 137 words
    #105 – Some people wore masks to cover their hurt broken selves.

    Hidden Stories

    Some people tell their stories
    In the quiet way they speak
    Others tell their stories
    In the shaky way they breathe

    People may share their stories
    In the vivid scars across their skin
    And others still hide their stories
    In the wounds that lie within

    Some people wear a mask
    To cover their hurt, broken selves
    They’ll hide their many stories
    On dusty, creaking shelves

    Every person has a story
    No matter how hard it is to see
    Now I know you may be asking
    What story lies within me?

    I tell my story in
    The words written on my page,
    In hopes that my tale will last
    Until the end of days

    Because even if an average person
    Will never know my name
    Knowing I have helped just one
    Satisfies me just the same

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  8. 254 words
    #105 – Some people wore masks to cover their hurt broken lives.

    So Long and Thanks for the Mince Pies

    As this is the last Earth month of my assignment, I will throw caution to the wind.
    My name is ^[}∆≤, (pronounced Grajk), a benign, alien observer, from ±∆¶√π≠, (pronounced Jzic°teg).

    My brief, for the last fifty years, has been to report on the progress or decline of the human race. I have grown to love your creativity, the way you interpret information, gathered from five organic senses, your strange mating and social practices.
    When one knocks you down, two pick you up… You are terrific!!

    ‎The march of technology — discarded by Jzic°teg eons ago — has affected this wonderful planet, distorting the senses of many.

    ‎May I give a recent example?

    ‎My trip on the Coastliner bus — once a companionable experience, now, sadly, a large mobile tin of hostility — was enhanced by a vision through a window.

    ‎Five swans appeared in V-formation, radiant in the morning sunlight, coming to land, on the calm, turquoise sea, with dramatic precision, spray and plumage joining in a kaleidoscope of rainbow colours.

    ‎I looked around to see who had shared this magnificent display… Nobody.

    Once, some people wore masks to cover their hurt, broken lives; now they wear smartphones and earpieces.

    ‎I am not permitted to give advice, under the constitution I must follow, but permit me an observation.

    ‎Please look up,‎
    before your lovely race becomes;
    ‎A blob of flesh, one eye, a face,
    ‎a rectum and two thumbs.

    I’ll leave you now.

    Peace and Love,

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    1. Lovely H2G2 homage, Ted, even down to the title — though I would have thought that ‘hot cross buns’ would have been more – but not completely – topical than ‘mince pies’. 😉
      I was dubious about swans paddling in salt water, so I Googled it: not common, but it is a ‘thing’, apparently – who knew? And you’ve got to marvel at the vagaries of the English language – “coming to LAND, on the calm, turquoise SEA”!

      Couple of points…
      1 – ‘…radiant in the morning sunrise…’; I’m wondering at what other time of day sunrise might occur. Would you like this tweaked to ‘..radiant in the morning sunlight…’ or simply ‘..radiant in the sunrise…’?
      2 – Given that our alien pal is not permitted to give advice, the ‘observation’ does seem to veer very much into that territory.

      [ I may have mentioned this before, but there’s no need to include your name with your entry: it’s automatically right there next to your avatar*. ]

      (*’numpty!’ removed to avoid offence)

      1. O. K. Geoff, tweak away, even on Jzic*teg sunrise is in the morning
        I know about swans, and the sea, fisherman ain’t I?
        Thanks man

      2. I gave you TWO options on the ‘sunrise’ conundrum; which one would you like to go with? Or can you come up with a third way?
        And are you happy to leave the line about advice being verboten?

      3. Sorry, Geoff, you want decisions. I reckon, ‘morning sunlight’ is prettier.
        At this stage of his career, Grajk, tells me he doesn’t give a monkey’s, so let ‘observation’ remain.
        Thanks for your shepherding… Warm handshake. Ted.

  9. 179 words
    #112 – There’s something deadly about that first morning chill.

    A Morning Jog

    There’s something deadly about that first morning chill. It cuts through the air and leaves you short of breath if you are not careful. But it was my favourite time of the day. I would rise before the golden orb had crested the horizon. As I tied my sneakers, my pup would bounce like he had stolen another energy drink from the fridge. A caffeine-addicted hound was no fun. We had a planned route. It took us 40 minutes and we even got to see the beauty at number 7 do some Pilates, if we timed it right; and this morning, I had to time it right.

    Running, I watched as she stretched out on her mat. Serene, ready to tackle anything that came her way. The only thing I am sure she was not ready for was the lead that sat in her skull this morning. It’s a pity. She was beautiful and I am sure she had a nice personality.

    But the boss has orders. If you want to remain alive, you follow them.

  10. 174 words
    # 105 – Some people wore masks to cover their hurt broken selves.
    # 114 – She just floated along in her bubble.

    Flying Free

    Felicity escaped from her home in the dead of night. Earlier, her father had told her that, the following day, she was to marry a man. He had chosen a man three times her age; Geoffrey Duffus, a man who didn’t want a wife, he wanted a slave. Her new life would be awful, she would be trapped forever. Her heart had sunk to her feet and her tears had run rivers. Eventually, she felt blank.

    Some people wore masks to cover their hurt broken selves, but Felicity just floated along in her bubble of relief. She had come to a decision. Fight or flight? She had chosen flight.

    Standing upon the cliff edge, she watched the ferocious sea; moonlight swam over the surface, glittering and winking. With open arms, she stepped forwards until her feet swept softly over space. The wind caressed her as she flew; the gulls flew with her, pulling up before the bottom. Felicity, though, couldn’t fly. She descended to the end with a smile, embraced by the moonlit sea.

  11. 150 words
    #115 – He became obsessed by the death process.

    A Vision of Summer

    The warmth of the midday sun had obliged them to open the square latticed window. No longer airless, he could now smell the crispness of the just-mown front lawn; as fresh as a newly-baked day. He smiled to himself. There was truly nothing more beautiful to his eyes than the gentle wave-like movement of the lace net curtains brought to life by the summer breeze. He could imagine himself almost in the South of France; an azure sky beyond tantalising.

    As he turned to face the bed, all visions of abroad and escape disappeared brutally. Here was a harsh reality.

    Before him was a bed – a single austere bed supporting the almost lifeless frame of a much-loved and now much-absent parent. That vision of summer and lingering death, so closely entwined, never left him. He had become (or so they said) obsessed by the death process. Was that really true?

    1. That’s a poignantly sad tale, Helen, delivered in half the alloted words. Well done.
      [ You’re encouraged to leave a social media userid, if you have one; but leaving your email address is not advisable, unless you’re a fan of SPAM! I deleted it. ]

  12. 285 Words
    #114 – She just floated along in her bubble.

    Crazy and Haunted

    Lucy was a bit of a dreamer. She floated through life in her own little bubble, not caring a whit what the rest of the world thought.

    “I think today we’ll match the red socks with a blue scarf,” she giggled to the reflection in her bedroom mirror, holding the questionable items up for closer inspection.

    “Don’t you think that the orange scarf would work better?” the mirror-Lucy asked. “After all, it is a very special day today.”

    “Oh yes, I almost forgot!” Real-Lucy’s hands began to tremble slightly, and her eyes began to dart from side to side.

    “Calm down!” her mirror-self instructed. “We’ll never get to see him if you keep this up. You remember what happened last time, don’t you?”
    The threat of going back to the institute was enough to snap Lucy out of her agitation.

    With a flourish, she draped the end of the bright orange scarf over the shoulder of her garish purple sweater, gave a final wave to mirror-Lucy, who happily replied with a wink, and waltzed down the stairs to her front door.

    Still singing happily, she danced her way down the sidewalk, the gun in her handbag bumping against her leg with every step.

    Later, it would be said, in rumour and conjecture, that after the shooting of the librarian and Lucy’s subsequent suicide, the police had tried to sort through the mess of books and magazines on every counter and surface – a real hoarder, they said – but the only piece of clear floor was in her bedroom, in front of an old, gilt-framed mirror. Still no-one could ever explain how a set of handprints, matching Lucy’s, had been found on the inside of the glass.

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  13. Twitter: @VicenteLRuiz
    238 words
    #112 – There’s something deadly about that first morning chill.


    The scene looks out of a TV series: tendrils of mist drift along, playing with the light from the street lamps and creating creepy shadows. Then come the footsteps, sounding too loud in the alley.

    The two men stop in front of each other.

    “Glad you could make it,” the younger one says.

    “I wouldn’t miss it,” the older one replies.

    “Only… this isn’t going to go as you expected.”


    There’s something deadly about the first morning chill. It becomes worse when it gets accompanied by the sudden appearance of gun-carrying thugs.

    “So, surprise, old man.” The smile that goes with that is not exactly friendly.

    “Ah. What do you want?”

    “I want everything, old man. Do you hear that? EVERYTHING.”

    “See here, kid. Who do you think I am?”

    “You’re soon going to be dead.”

    “Really? Do you think I was born yesterday?”


    “Come on, kid. You’ve never kept your word before. You weren’t going to start now. Do you think I was going to accept your terms for this meeting?”

    “You lie. We’ve tailed you. You came alone.”

    “Yes, I did. I’ve had snipers up there all night.”

    “YOU LIE!”

    “Down one now, please.”

    One crack. One of the thugs grunts and falls.

    “So, kid, You tell me now. How is this going to go?”

    The next sound is of guns being dropped.

    “BASTARD!” Another gun appears.

    Another crack, then silence.

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  14. 299 words
    #114 – She just floated along in her bubble.

    Driverless Cars

    It was the morning rush hour and commuters were racing to get to work on time. Since the introduction of autonomous vehicles to the streets of Britain, the rule book had been thrown out and two-way laning was a thing of the past. Traffic went where it wanted as it wanted; algorithms were at constant work, calculating routes and refining them, reacting to the ever-changing flow.

    The great weight of the traffic moved in one direction, impenetrable to anyone trying to travel against the flow. The few contrarians, night shift workers and partygoers returning home after a night on the tiles, boarded their vehicles and fruitlessly struggled to make their way upstream.

    One of these was Jean. She just floated along in her bubble, reading — oblivious to all around her. She was in no hurry; if she had been, getting out and walking would have been far quicker. Around her, all was chaos, albeit chaos in slow motion. Driverless cars had been intended to banish gridlock and make it a thing of the past, but few had foreseen the additional burden placed on the system when every single non-driver took to the streets.

    The wise never travelled without supplies — a few bottles of water and half a dozen energy bars at the very least — to cope with the inevitable delays. People set off days in advance to avoid being late for an appointment. A new mindset developed of ‘hurry up and wait’. People sat in their stationary vehicles, dreaming of a time when personal mobility had freed the imagination. It still had in a way as it now meant that going on a journey was the ideal time to catch up on one’s reading.

    Still not caught up with War and Peace? Just wait for your next trip.

  15. Twitter: @marshawritesit
    297 words
    #105 – “Some people wore masks to cover their hurt broken selves.”

    Facing the Future

    After the attack, some people wore masks to cover their hurt, broken selves. Others — the brave, the optimists, the hopelessly insane — put everything on display. You may judge for yourself which category I truly fall into, but I would not disguise myself.

    Always the minority, we were politely shunned at first: friends were too busy to stop and talk; potential passers-by didn’t, making abrupt changes to their destinations as we approached; traders ran out of stock, not resupplied until we were safely out of sight.

    I can’t say when politeness became revulsion; when the first insult or stone was flung. But one day, someone decided they’d seen too much truth and no onlookers objected to their response. Suddenly no one needed to shun us: we cut ourselves off. Well, a few of us did. The optimists tried to continue with their normal lives, until they were stopped. The insane had no normal and no hope.

    The brave hid. We became part of the city’s night: digging into the ruins, emerging only when the streets belonged to the flesh merchants, the ones who’d always worn masks. We scavenge and steal, scraping survival from the gutters and the middens.

    We could take our lives back at any time, regain the relative comfort the other survivors built. All we need to do is hide in plain sight, lie to one another, paint smiles over our pain and pretend that all is well. We prefer the honesty of freedom, or perhaps the freedom of honesty.

    The city is divided now. We cannot survive another attack. But it will come: even the cowards who othered us are human, and humans always make enemies.

    Let it come soon. In the end, the honest and the liars all wear the same mask.

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  16. 240 words
    #112 – There’s something deadly about that first morning chill.

    The Dawning

    There is something kind of deadly
    About that first morning chill
    When the world waits,
    In the darkness…


    There’s a time of awful wakening
    From a deep and troubled sleep,
    With a tormented reality
    That what we have
    Is what we keep.

    That all the pain of yesterday
    Seems, in this hour to grieve
    For the faith that in the life before
    Gave us courage to believe.

    And the hopelessness that now has dawned
    Is always here to stay
    And the God who used to love us
    Has turned his back
    And walked away.

    It is well known in establishments
    Familiar with death,
    That the grip of life is fragile
    In this hour
    When little breath
    Is afforded for the living,
    And the time to say goodbye
    Creeps softly in the darkness
    Leaving only what and why.

    It is the time of darkest anguish
    But it’s just before the light
    When the Eastern skies are waking
    And chasing out the night.

    Then faintly,
    A song as yet unborn,
    Riding on the morning
    With the golden wings of dawn,

    And gaining in momentum
    While the crimson ball rolls on
    And the queen of night is fading
    Fading, almost gone…

    Until the mighty chorus of the glorious feathered choir
    Singing Alleluias from the crypt up to the spire,

    And lifting,
    The darkness of the soul…

    Touching earth with hope again
    And a reason to be whole.

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  17. Twitter: @The_Red_Fleece
    259 Words
    #106 – Uttering a simple prayer, she scattered Gloria’s ashes on the breeze, returning her beloved friend to her native soil.

    Uttering a simple prayer, I scatter Gloria’s ashes on the breeze, returning my beloved friend to her native soil. The plan was simple.
    The club thrashed and crashed with the music. Humanity moved in waves across the sticky dance floor. Happiness bought from the bar. Only one person stood out — Gloria. Her green eyes shone against the neon. The contrast hung on her arm, puffing out black smoke in a ‘no smoking’ area. Nigel Johnson, misogynist and wannabe hard man.
    “What do we have here?” The words crept out of his mouth. I could feel them stroke my skin.
    “I’m a friend of Gloria’s.” Politeness and comfort argued over whether I should shake his hand.
    “Oh are you?” His lips slithered into a grin. “We have some business to attend to upstairs and then she is all yours.”
    I watched her leave, walking up the white stairs, shining out of the darkness. Once her heel disappeared from view, I went out to wait by the car, our escape from all of this. I measured time in cigarettes. Each one disappeared far too quickly. The flick of light rain mixed ash with the dirt of the alleyway. All I could think was ‘Come on, Gloria’.
    A dumpster buckled. A cloud of dust rolled across the world. Green eyes pierced the darkness. I ran over, my shout uncontained. “Gloria!”
    The body was not so long ago. Blood dribbled from her vacant eye. I lifted her body and carried it to our getaway car.
    The plan was simple.

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  18. @piteachr, @fakingsublime
    292 words
    #112 – There’s something deadly about that first morning chill.

    An Unheeded Warning

    Eardrum-shattering screaming. It’s all I could hear. Sticks cracked underfoot as I ran. Legs like jelly, but I shouldn’t stop. I had to get away from the incessant shrieking. Salt from sweat burned my eyes. I ignored it. The drastic difference between my heated cheeks and winter’s freezing breath pummeled my face like shards of glass. Faster. I had to distance myself from the terror behind me. As I forced myself to accelerate, the unrelenting branches slapped at me.

    It’d been ominous since the day began. There’s something deadly about that first-morning chill. Heading out for my morning run, a shiver crept down my spine. There had been something foreboding that I’d chosen to ignore. I knew into my bones that something apocalyptic was going to happen, but I’d pushed the thoughts away.

    Mentally, I kicked myself as I remembered the signs I’d felt when I left my house. Why didn’t I heed the advice my sixth sense had given me? I certainly know better.

    Now, I’m running for my life through the woods. But the shrill sound continues to fracture my senses. Why was it so damn loud?

    Finally, the woods open. I’m in a cemetery. The screaming is still ringing in my ears. I keep running.

    A group of people ahead of me snap around, turning my way. My chest heaving, I stop in front of them. Tear-streaked, red faces tell me they’re here to bury a loved one.

    “What’s wrong? Why are you screaming?”

    I am screaming. I am the reason the ear-piercing noise wouldn’t go away. Knowing it’s me, I still can’t make it stop. Turning towards the woods, I point. A black cloud materializes from the trees, and they emerge. It’s too late. More screaming. More running.

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  19. 235 words
    #114 – She just floated along in her bubble.

    Now She is Awake

    Until now, she just floated along in her bubble. She was completely unaware of the dangers lurking beside her, the trouble just around the corner. So it took something like this to pick her up, tip her upside down and shake her until her bones were sore.

    Why hadn’t she seen it before? Now her eyes were open. All the signs had been there. Late nights at work, missed appointments, staring at his phone at all hours and making mysterious phone calls. Just work stuff, he’d told her. Like the obedient girlfriend she was, she hadn’t thought any different. Now, though, she was through with him.

    It was work stuff all right, a piece of work stuff he’d been sleeping with. The realisation hit her like an anvil dropped from a seventh-storey window, the weight of her discovery bursting the bubble she had concealed herself inside and flinging her back into the real world. Now she had to face up to an uncertain future. One without him.

    She’d told him so in no uncertain circumstances. “We’re done,” she said, and pushed his face back through the front door as he arrived home one evening. His belongings, neatly packed inside three black bin liners, were already waiting for him on the pavement outside their flat. He was now the one in the bubble, unsuspecting of things that were to come, and it was all his fault.

  20. 170 words
    #112 “There’s something deadly about that first morning chill.”

    Not Quite Sure

    Not quite sure… Am I awake?
    Huh, how come the window’s open?
    Nah, I don’t feel like getting out from under the covers…
    There’s something deadly about that first morning chill…

    Not quite sure… Can I move?
    And what might that weird smell be?
    “Weird”? Not the right word. It’s intoxicatingly nasty…
    There’s something deadly about that first morning smell…

    Not quite sure… Can I see right?
    I can’t move, but why’s the ceiling all cracked?
    It’s all I can see: the lamp’s gone…
    There something deadly about that first morning sight…

    Not quite sure… Can I feel?
    Where’s the press of the matress, and the cover’s weight?
    I mean, it’s like if I were floating…
    There’s something deadly about these first morning thoughts…

    I have to move. Come on, sit up!
    I slowly rise into the ashen air
    And my body there, burnt black…
    I knew there was something deadly in last night’s news’ fire…

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  21. 211 words
    #109 – Nah, screw that! I’m gonna tell you the real truth. No one lives happily ever after in this story.


    As Mary left work early, the red sun grew larger and brighter. Tom, who had taken the day off from work, was already mixing drinks and setting up lawn chairs on the roof. The moment Mary arrived, he thrust a drink into her hand.

    “Tom, remember the first time we met?”

    “Of course, you were working on that terraforming rig. And I was there performing a safety inspection. That day you looked very hot in that tight green jumpsuit and red hair.”

    “Well, not as hot as I am today.” She laughs.

    Thousands of drones fly overhead recording and televising to the non-existent.

    “It won’t be long now, Mary. You don’t get to see this every day.”

    “Tom, I’m going to tell you the real truth. No one lives happily ever after in this story.”

    Their robotic eyes darken to block out the red giant’s increasing luminosity.

    “What is it, Mary?”

    “What I’m trying to say is, I don’t love you—Tom.”

    “Why are you telling me this—now?” Tom sounding confused.

    The temperature climbs, bleeding the atmosphere from the planet.

    “Remember we promised to have those empathy chips installed? Well, I lied. I never did.”

    “Well, Mary, that makes two of us, truth be told.”

    Engulfed in flames, Mars vanishes.

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  22. Insta: @beckham.lawre
    Twitter: @BeckhamLawre
    294 words
    #105 – Some people wore masks to cover their hurt broken selves.

    Your Eyes

    We all wear masks to cover our hurt and broken selves — cheekbones made of plaster, smiles drawn on with lead paint. Any way you want to look, any way you want to feel, you can relay to the mask-makers, and they’ll deliver your mask to you in 3-5 business days, then any imperfection you want to cover will disappear.

    But there’s one feature the mask-makers can never change — the eyes. The eyes are the window to the soul, and the soul is immaterial. Nothing physical can change it.

    One day, I received news that a family moved into our community. There would be a party welcoming the couple and their son, who was my age. Naturally, being a teenager, a welcoming party sounded incredibly boring. Despite my whining and pleading, my parents’ decision was made. I was going, whether I liked it or not.

    So I put on my best mask, and a dress to match, and walked down the road to the party at my parents’ side. After arriving, and a dozen minutes of listening to adults talk politics, I decided it would be more productive to go off on my own. I walked toward the backyard, swiping a bag of chips off the refreshment table as I slipped outside and closed the door behind me.

    A cool evening breeze swept through my dress, making the hairs on my arms stand on end. When I turned around, I was met with a mask, and a pair of blazing eyes as golden as the blood of the dying sun behind them.

    It was the new boy. I knew that much. Yet something about him was so unsettling. . .

    “Your eyes,” I whispered, breath catching, “I’ve seen them before, in my dreams — no — in my nightmares.”

  23. Really love the way you’ve woven all the loose threads if random lines into a cohesive, and thought provoking story.

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