Microcosms 118

Hello once again, flashionistas, and welcome to Microcosms 118.

In MC 110, I mentioned my resolution to address my addiction to tsundoku — the Japanese term for the habit of buying books, then piling them up unread — by reading 50 books in 2018. In the first quarter of the year – 13 weeks – I managed to read eleven and a half books, so I’m a little behind schedule.





Once again, there’s no “slot machine” in this round. Your task is simply to select a NOVEL from the mound you have waiting to be enjoyed and use its TITLE as a prompt for your entry.

(If you are someone who buys one book at a time, reads it, then buys another — how weird are you?! Choose the book you are currently reading, one of the books you enjoyed in 2017/2018, or one from your bookshelf.)

DON’T USE THE CHOSEN BOOK TITLE AS THE TITLE OF YOUR ENTRY and DON’T WRITE A PRECIS OR PARODY OF THE NOVEL, but use the title creatively to spark an original story .

*** Please tell us the word count of your entry, and the TITLE and AUTHOR of the novel you have chosen.

*** Once again, there’s no need to specify character, location and genre — you have free rein.





Judging this week is Microcosms 117 Judge’s Pick, Ted Young.

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

APOLOGIES! — we are running late this week. Consquently, you have  24 hours until 01:30 am TOMORROW (Saturday, 14-APR), New York time (EDT)  to submit. PLEASE IGNORE THE COUNTDOWN CLOCK.


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

All being well, results will be posted on Monday.

Microcosms 119
Microcosms 117

28 thoughts on “Microcosms 118

  1. Insta: @beckham.lawre
    Twitter: @BeckhamLawre
    104 Words
    Asylum – Madeline Roux

    Every Time I Write

    “This is a social experiment. Pick me.”
    “No, it’s not. What are you doing?”
    “I just thought maybe it would help me win for once, you know, help me feel like an accomplished writer.”
    “You’re freaking 17 and you’ve been published several times. You’re already accomplished.”
    “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
    “That . . . that doesn’t even make sense in this context.”
    “That’s your opinion.”
    “This story is awful. You know they’re not going to choose it. I bet it won’t even get a comment or like.”
    “Hmm, you’re right. Here, let me just hit the backspace. . .”

  2. @billmelaterplea
    299 words
    The Laughing Policeman – Maj Sjowall/Per Wahloo

    Dark Damp Dreams at Dawn

    The brandy was either three skinny or two fat fingers deep. It went down my throat like a hot liquid poker.

    “Cheap booze?” I asked. I was a rude guest.

    “Plentiful though,” she countered. “More?”

    I was easy. She could see it in my eyes. Even if she couldn’t, I would have told her. Those blue eyes, glinting like stolen sapphires, that fiery red hair that flowed like raspberry syrup on pancakes, legs so long that they would make a giraffe envious.

    Yeah! I was easy. The brandy had swirled in my brain and blurred my reason.

    “You were saying…?” she asked.

    “Trump. I hate to ask but that’s why I’m here. Our information is that you once knew Trump. Intimately. Do you care to comment?”

    The brandy had made the question somewhat easier to ask. Even as I asked it, I was on the verge of blasting out a chuckle. I sucked the laugh back. She didn’t seem amused. She said so.

    “Do you think there is something funny about this?”

    She had me and she knew it.

    “It’s a little unusual…for me. Normally I investigate murders. Presidential affairs are, to say the least, atypical.”

    “More brandy?” she offered. “I know policemen shouldn’t drink on duty…but it is late…”

    She had that right. And I’d already stepped over the line. “Sure. Pour away.”

    As she topped up my glass, she asked. “How did my name come up?”

    “Cohen. His day book. And you were mentioned on two tapes”

    “Ah! Michael keeps such good records. It was an early indiscretion.”

    “So, you knew Trump?”

    “Biblically? Yes. And each morning, the encounter haunts me.”

    “Look,” I said. “I’m putting in my papers next week. It ends here.”

    I got up, walked to the door.

    Her blue eyes glowed with warmth.

  3. @steveweave71
    300 words
    Second From Last In The Sack Race – David Nobbs

    All We Need Is Radio Greengrass

    “I’m grateful to you for the interview, Uncle Roly,” grinned Gordon. “You know how keen I am on local sports.”

    “Aye, I know, lad. ‘Twas me who first took you to see Northabbot Colliery Welfare play Upper Lighthouse in Yorkshire Dales Cup Final. I took you pigeon racing (Undercroft Playoffs, if I recall). You were the envy of your classmates, I shouldn’t wonder. Hen Tickling, Rooster Impersonating, Sheep Slapping, Goat Riding. We tried it all. Now listen, lad. If you get this job, you’re to call me Roland, or Mr Butter, OK? If colleagues hear you calling me Uncle Roly, they’ll mock me senseless and maybe it’ll dawn on them how you got the job in first place.”

    “So, I’m to call you Roland Butter, Uncle. Got it.”

    “Look, Silas is giving the thumbs up, Gordon. Time for your On Air audition. Read your script, be natural, not too Yorkshire, just enough. Don’t mention any school successes. We don’t need to know how far downfield you finished in the sack race, or that a lad with ginger hair deliberately knocked you over. Or that lad with a Motorhead tattoo pierced your ear with a javelin and urinated on your socks.”

    “Gotcha, Uncle… I mean…”

    Gordon settled himself in the studio, put on the headphones, adjusted the mic and he was off…

    “Local Sports News. I’m Gordon Blue. Darts-On-Horseback Championship tonight at The Owl In The Rafters pub on Sparrowditch village green. Sadly, there is no televised coverage, even though this event is over 7 years old and shortlisted as a future Olympic sport. Farting On Village Green Contest this afternoon may have to be postponed if storm worsens. Stay tuned to Radio Greengrass for updates. The regular Fight In The Car Park may occur at closing time. More news every hour.”

  4. 122 words
    Skin – Ilke Tampke

    Skin Me Alive

    It crawls over her like marching ants, sometimes smooth, sometimes rough. Depending how much time and money she had that month. It stretches out and comes back to form effortlessly. But time will eventually take its toll and it will sag and wrinkle. It comes in a myriad of colors, explosive in nature. Hers is beige and considered full of hatred. Others are darker. A rainbow of browns. Isn’t it strange how its color can create so much misconception, involve so much emotion, determine so much history? She picks at it when she’s worried and water runs over it when she’s sad. It rises up like an army when she’s cold and scared. It tingles when she is loved. Skin is weird.

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  5. 288 words
    Last to Die – Tess Gerritsen

    The Birth of Democracy

    So, I have never told this to anyone. In fact, it’s so secret that I should probably kill you now, before I’ve said a word.

    In a little house in the middle of Nowhereville, lies the results of the biggest secret ever known on Planet Musgu. Our Emperor was dying, and no one knew why. If the Royal House died, who would run things? Who would ensure the success of our World? Emperor Guspja was the last of his line and any other contenders to the Throne had long been wiped out by previous intrigues.

    Or so they thought.

    It came to pass that our Emperor drew his last breath. The World collectively wept and waited. Waited for the End Times that had been foretold if the Royal House fell. After all, it was their duty to prevent the suns from colliding in the sky. Only they had the Magicks required to keep calamity at bay with their very existence.

    But, the World did not end and everyone was amazed to have survived the night. Little knowing that this was due to a dalliance the Emperor had many years before. A dalliance that produced a child. Both parents agreed that the child should be raised out of the public eye. The responsibilities of an Emperor were not to fall on his shoulders.

    So, while the rest of the planet was angered that they had been duped by the Royal House, and plans for democratic elections began, the True Emperor was safe in a house in the middle of nothing. And there his family would grow and thrive, and the planet would survive into the millenia. No future ruler would fear their power would be usurped by another ever again.

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  6. @Rhapsody2312

    299 words
    Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

    The Crocodile

    Tiny feet left imprints in the dew-laden grass. Early morning sunlight shone on golden curls framing a delicate face which held more laughter than sadness, more innocence than cynicism.

    Posy, the youngest daughter of the Whiteheads, was on her way down to play at the edge of the river that separated the lawn from the rest of the bush. She had snuck out of the house, already bored by the lack of company from parents who were content to laze in bed for a few more hours.

    She loved their holiday home in the middle of the African bush, surrounded by animals that would stroll casually across the lawns – an attempt by the caretakers to impose some semblance of civilisation on an ill-mannered wilderness.

    At four, she had been warned not to go into the river, for the crocodiles there would sooner make a meal of her than not, but young Posy saw no harm in playing in the sand on the banks of the river. After all, she would not be in the water.

    Pulled from her world in the sand by the frantic yells of her parents, Posy looked up into the eye of a rather large croc. She blinked. No one had told her the reptile could come out of the water.

    “Hello,” Posy held her hand out to the animal, its long snout, lined with vicious teeth, level with her face. “You’re big magic.” She smiled when the croc seemed to wink at her, but a sudden loud bang behind her made her jump.

    Sand sprayed as the bullet drove into the ground near the croc, which whirled and fled into the water.

    Her mother and father were clutching her while all three cried; Posy because she felt as though she’d just lost a friend.

  7. 300 words
    The Whispering Swarm – Michael Moorcock

    A Whisper on the Wind

    That sound… I could vaguely hear it. There was a faint sound at the very threshold of audibility. A constant sound, almost a whispering as though people were talking about me behind my back.

    I tried to ignore it and concentrated on my writing. The words flowed on to the page the way treacle flows onto porridge, slowly. The distraction was just too great. I looked around the room, trying to determine which direction the sound was coming from. I stood up and walked around the room, listening for a sound that was almost drowned out by the beating of my heart and the sound of my own breathing. I noted in passing that my heart rate appeared to be speeding up and that my breath was starting to sound a little laboured.

    I went to the window and peered out over the garden at the fields beyond. Was that a darkening on the horizon that I could see? As I watched a hazy darkness slowly grew closer and with it came the sound of susurration, louder now but still vague and distant. The longer I watched the larger the dark cloud grew and the louder the noise became. If I didn’t know better I’d have assumed that a swarm of some sort was taking place. But what swarms in the heart of England? We have no locusts in this country, no cicadas; at worst we have the occasional swarm of flying ants when summer is at its height. That and the buzzing swarms of bees or wasps when a new queen takes flight.

    This was something else entirely, something of far greater proportions than the mostly benign swarms of nature. It was coming closer and growing.

    With dread, I waited to find the nature of this approaching whispering swarm.

  8. @marshawritesit
    292 words
    Ways To Die In Glasgow – Jay Stringer

    Paying Respects

    I blame the Duke of Wellington.

    I’m suited and booted, waiting on a taxi to a pal’s funeral, and it’s all the wee man’s fault. Him and his stupid hat.

    Jimmy and me had been mates since the first day of primary school. He’d done a jobbie under Mrs Mackie’s desk and she was all for giving him the tawse. A five-year-old, mind; the old cow was a maniac. Anyway, I’m having none of it, so I pull my boabie out and waggle it at her.

    Long story short, we both ended up home for a week. Best of friends ever since, getting ourselves in so much trouble we got cool nicknames, like Butch and Sundance. Well, not quite as cool as them: everyone called us Jobbie Jim and the Boabie Bandit.

    Except it’s just me now. Just the Bandit. Because of that statue. Aye, and because it’s Glasgow so it was wet, and it was Jimmy so he was blootered, and it was me so I telt him to do something stupid.

    We should have been pals forever, old men sitting on a park bench throwing stones at pigeons. We should have had another fifteen years before one of us dropped dead, but here I am at forty all on my tod.

    See the hat? It had came off. We were staggering up Queen Street, trying to flag a cab and it was just lying there on the pavement, looking like a plain, old traffic cone. So I said to Jimmy, “I’ll give ye a bunk-up, big man, get his hat back on, do Glesga proud.”

    Now he’s dead and that wee bastart’s still sitting on his stupid horse.

    I’ll be back there tonight, leave him a wee jobbie. For Jimmy.

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  9. 262 words
    Storm Front – Jim Butcher


    The Madman stared at the sky, his grin all but cracking the skin on his face. Yellow, neglected teeth parted as he began to laugh. People passing him in the streets stopped to stare at him for a moment before quickly moving on.

    “Coming!” he crowed. “It’s coming! The storm!”

    The sky was clear, not a cloud in sight, but the Madman kept laughing. “The storm is coming! Prepare! Prepare for it!”

    He laughed and ran into the street, somehow avoiding the truck that had to slam on its brakes to avoid killing him. He ignored it, his ragged clothing barely hanging onto his near-skeletal frame. He jumped over a chest-high wall with surprising dexterity, laughing all the while.

    The wind began to pick up.


    As the clouds began to darken and gather, people with sense hurried to the nearest shelters. The weather had been getting worse lately, and people had died.

    The Madman stood as the rain began to fall. Thick, heavy drops slammed into the ground around him, and he was quickly soaked through.

    “Come!” he called to the gathering storm. “Do what you must!”

    He grinned again as thunder exploded in the clouds, lightning surging down to meet the ground. “Yes! Yes! YES!”

    Then, inexplicably, silence fell for a moment. The Madman stared at the clouds as a rumble began.

    Thunder, loud enough to shatter windows, and then…a flash, and hundreds of lightning bolts rained down across the world.

    One flash, and the world of man knew now more. Into the silence, a Madman laughed.

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  10. Twitter: @paulnevin
    297 words
    A Snow Garden And Other Stories – Rachel Joyce

    The Life Cycle of the English Garden

    What do you see, Clara?’

    Clara cupped her hands to the patio doors and stared out at the garden, and Malcolm guessed that to her it must be nighttime. ‘Snow!’, she said. ‘It’s snowing, grandpa!’

    He smiled, for her, and then looked out at the garden himself. He saw Autumn, a bleached sky with a weak cataract sun peering over the horizon, wet brown leaves piled up on the dormant lawn as if some gardener had just been at work here.

    Autumn seemed too generous. He expected (and deserved) winter too. But deserve had nothing to do with it. He looked at Clara again and the tubes in her nose, and then back out at the garden.

    Sandra walked in with Rosie, Clara’s older sister. Sandra didn’t have the gift (curse) and saw the season as it really was — a sunny Summer’s day, which Malcolm reasoned that she would likely see anyway, and her only thought about the game that the girls played with her father was how long they had stayed interested in it.

    ‘It’s snowing, mummy!’ Clara shouted. She ran to Sandra and tugged her towards the door.

    ‘Is it?’ Sandra said, playing along, but Rosie wrinkled her nose because she saw Spring.

    They argued about what they saw. That was part of the game, each assuming that the other was making up what they could see. Each unaware that the other was describing what they could really see through the patio door when grandpa was with them. Clara had seen Autumn last time, and Malcolm was horrified to see her now look out on a cold midwinter scene. He gripped her hand tightly in his, the other hand curled around his walking stick, as Clara described the frost and the ice and the snow.

  11. Twitter: @VicenteLRuiz
    221 words
    A Conjuring of Light – V.E. Schwab

    Bad Spell

    “I don’t understand how you’ve reached so far!”

    “What do you mean?”

    “You’re absolutely the worst spellbinder I’ve ever seen.”

    “Now, look…”

    “Don’t you ‘Now’ me! Look around you! This is madness!”

    “Well, my magic has always been a bit weird. that’s true, but…”

    “Weird? This is not weird, this is utter lack of control! Do something!”

    “Do something? But I…”

    “Argh! Don’t you know anything at all? Magic effects can only be reversed by the same spellbinder who conjured them.”

    “You mean… Oh! I see… But what am I supposed to…”

    “You. Are. Supposed. To. Stop. This. Chaos! Now!”

    “Yes, but how?”

    “How? Really?”

    “Erm… yes?”

    “Nobody told me there would be days like this one. What did I do to deserve this? Was I evil in a previous life?”

    “Excuse me, sorry, but…”

    “Fine! Look inside you! At the same place you go when you conjure a spell and bind it. But this time, you oaf, look for the light.”

    “The light?”

    “The light! And use it to… to stop this!”

    “I’ll try.”

    “You better do, not try. And before the Master is back.”

    “Back? The Master? When?”

    “Anytime now. Oh dear. I don’t know what the Master saw in you. Tell you what, do what I told you and fix this. I’m leaving. Bye.”

    “Erm… Help? Please? Anyone?”

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  12. Twitter: @scewatson
    230 words
    The Muse – Jessie Burton

    A Question Unasked

    Jane bites into the orange segment, feeling the tiny sacs yield and burst between her teeth. She breathes in the smell of the fruit, pithy and tart, and discards the skin. The theatre is packed tonight, with bawdy crowds booing acts that don’t pass muster. Agitation propelling their bodies towards the stage, lurching like disturbed sediment on the banks of the Thames.

    Bessie passes Jane another orange slice and she devours it, a sharp distraction from the smell of hoppy sawdust that clumps on the floor and the press of ale-sodden bodies. The sisters have carved out space for themselves at the edge of the pit, orange peel delineating their scrap of earth.

    “One day, we’ll be up there,” Bessie promises. She points and pulls Jane close, arm tight around her waist. She pushes aside her sister’s wild hair and whispers in her ear, her breath as hot and sour as the orange.

    “Up there, in one of the boxes.” She is giddy with promise. “Look. There are three men. Famous men who could save us. Do you see them?”

    Jane turns her head skyward, elongating her neck to seek out their faces, cast in shadow. One leans forward, his mouth open as if she is the answer to a question unasked. She holds his stare and bites into the orange, hard, and his mouth curls into a triumphant smile.

  13. Twitter: @ArthurUnkTweets
    Website: arthurunk.com
    265 words
    The Color of Magic: A Novel of Discworld – Terry Pratchett

    All Who Wander Are Not Lost

    The world was much larger than people realized. There were things that were just barely out of the perception of what would be considered a normal person. For some reason, no one wanted to question the reality of this place. Everyone was perfectly content to meander along and just repeat the days’ actions over and over again until death.

    That all changed when the stranger came to the shores of Lyster. He didn’t look like anyone else, he didn’t talk like anyone else, and he certainly knew how to stand out from a crowd. Word of the stranger made its way back to the king. The king’s counselor, a vizier of great power, told the king that this was the first omen of the destruction of all life, as it was known, for the world of Lyster.

    A band of heroes was sent to escort the stranger back to whence he came, but Fate and the other Old Gods demanded a change from this regular life. Thus, the heroes were killed, driven insane, or scattered to the far reaches of the realm. The stranger continued his path of random wandering and released many ancient beings and spells upon the world, most purely by accident.

    The lives of everyone were changed forever. The stranger was eventually found out to be one of the sons of Fate whose name translated into Chaos. Chaos roamed the lands for many years until an unknown wizard named Tiebolt was able to teleport him to a new realm called “Eearth”. Lyster was born anew and a new Age of Heroes began.

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  14. 203 Words
    Bittersweet – Noelle Adams

    Love into Eternity

    She sat alone, the oppressive silence broken only by the faint creak, creak, creak of her chair as she slowly rocked back and forth, back and forth. She had been sitting here when the first mourners came to pay their respects, allowing them to kiss her wrinkled cheek, take her bony hand in theirs and mutter the usual funeral platitudes, talking of how sorry they were that Henry had passed.

    She had had her short, white hair set and styled just for the occasion, and she was dressed in her best lavender suit. No black for her Henry. Henry had never liked to see her in black, he always said that lavender set off the blue of her eyes.

    Eventually the last of the mourners had trickled away, leaving her alone in her rocking chair, an almost tangible sense of expectancy electrifying the stillness.

    And she sat, hands folded politely in her lap – waiting.

    Until, finally, she heard the trilling ring of her old phone piercing the silence.

    “Hello? Oh, Henry! I knew you’d call for me!”

    As her aged body gave a final sigh and collapsed into the seat, her youthful spirit soared, delighting in the sensation of reuniting with her soulmate.

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  15. @geofflepard
    273 words
    The Attack Of The Unsinkable Rubber Ducks – Christopher Brookmyre

    Another Day, Another Decapitation

    ‘What do we have, Waldron?’ Detective Inspector Plummet pulled on his latex gloves and peered at the body.
    ‘Same M.O. as the others, sir. Drowned. In his own blood.’
    ‘Usual calling card?’
    ‘Yes. Fourteen rubber ducks, floating in the gore.’
    Plummet shook his head. ‘Nothing else? No clue why the ducks, I suppose?’
    ‘The profiler wonders if the perp is cockney?’
    ‘Visual rhyming slang. Rubber Duck, F…’
    ‘Is that the best he can do?’ Plummet had never felt so tired. ‘Any progress identifying the type of duck? They look very specific.’
    ‘It’s an anas, sir.’
    ‘An anus? You’re kidding me?’
    ‘Very droll, sir.’
    Plummet looked at the scene: a public space, always busy, and yet someone had managed to decapitate a body and create a pool with bloody bath toys in it. ‘This guy’s like some sort of apparition. It’s unreal.’
    ‘We wonder if that’s the message. No matter what we think, it has to be supernatural. Unsinkable rubber ducks. We’ll never prove it is anything else.’
    Plummet picked up a duck and pulled out a penknife. He slid it into the plastic and pushed it into the liquid. Bubbles frothed at the side as it gradually sank. ‘Not so clever, is he?’
    Waldron pointed at the blood. ‘Sir?’
    The submerged duck had bobbed to the surface, a grin plastered over its face.
    Plummet shook his head. ‘Geez. The perp is pure evil. What a way to get his rocks off.’
    Waldron flicked through his notes. ‘I can help there, sir. The mutilation was effected with a four-inch blade.’
    ‘Shut up, Waldron, and get me something to drink that doesn’t clot.’

  16. 298 Words
    The Past is Myself – Christabel Bielenberg

    A Crime That Must Stop!

    In the dusty hall she sat waiting. Looking down at her feet tucked tidily together, she reminded herself of why she was here and who she was, and breathed deeply the way her therapist had instructed.

    The smell of dead cabbage hung in the air, stirring memories.

    The faces of girls who, for those years, had made her life a misery with their teasing and bullying. She could hear their taunting words ringing down the corridors of time.

    It was the gang leader she remembered, Janet Bates. Sporty, Team Captain with a retinue of pathetic followers.

    She shuddered at the memory and returned to the present time as the door opened and a woman walked toward her, hand outstretched.

    “Jennifer,” she boomed. “Welcome to St Meads, I’m afraid the Head is away so you’ve got me, Janet Bates, Head of English.” She beamed and indicated to Jennifer to follow her to where her audience were waiting.

    On the platform, she introduced her guest.

    “We are honoured with a visit from this world-renowned, award-winning writer who, I also understand, was a pupil at this school.”

    At this point, Janet turned and said in a conspiratorial tone, “I’m an old girl too, but obviously long before your time!”

    Then, amid great applause, Jennifer rose to her feet holding her latest book in her hand.

    Turning to her audience she said, “ I am going to talk to you about a subject close to my heart.” She paused for effect.

    Lifting the book high for the children to see, she turned casually to also show the woman sitting behind her.

    The cover, bearing a picture of a teenage girl in school uniform read in bold print ‘Bullying… A Crime That Must Stop!’, and underneath, in smaller but very clear print, ‘An Autobiography’.

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    1. URGENT MESSAGE FOR GEOFF!! I have just seen a misprint in my writing that will make a nonsense of the whole story!!
      In line 12 starting ‘At this point…..’ it should be JANET NOT JENNIFER who conspiratorially told Jennifer of her past connection with the school and presuming she was there much earlier indicating that she did not recognise Jennifer as the girl in her same year!!

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      1. Sorry, H – mea culpa. It originally read ‘At this point, SHE turned and said…’. Since this was ambiguous, I amended it to the name of who I thought was speaking. I was nearly right!

      2. As far as I the writer is concerned ‘SHE’ WAS CORRECT!! As it was ‘SHE’ who was being written about at the time!!
        But if ‘nearly right’ is one better than ‘wrong’ I will have to accept your correction!!

      3. Now you’re confusing me, H; easily done after I’ve spent more than 8 solid hours wrestling with the laptop from hell!

        >> As far as I the writer is concerned ‘SHE’ WAS CORRECT!! As it was ‘SHE’ who was being written about at the time!!

        The problem is that there are two characters, and both are female.
        You started a new paragraph; so to say ‘she’ when one is turning to the other is ambiguous for the poor old reader. That’s why I considered that the name of the character, rather than ‘she’, is needed at this point.

        [ Having re-read the story more closely, I see that I did not pick up on the fact that Janet (now Head of English) had been the ringleader of the girls who had bullied Jennifer (now a famous writer). If that is the case, I’m now wondering why Janet says that she had also been a pupil, “but OBVIOUSLY LONG before” Jennifer. ]
        >> But if ‘nearly right’ is one better than ‘wrong’ I will have to accept your correction!!

        ‘I was nearly right’ was meant as a joke at MY expense, meaning that, in making the amendment, I chose the wrong name out of two possibilites. 🙂

  17. 284 words
    Glory Imperialis – Richard Williams, Andy Hoare, Mark Clapham

    The Field

    She was almost a strange sight, in retrospect. Nobody had noticed at the time – nobody could be bothered to think about it that much. Simply basking in her radiant glory was easier, as she strode across the putrid field of battle with an unmatched grace and purity. Neither blood nor mud dared mar her visage or clean, shining armor. In that moment – regardless of fitting the scene and atmosphere or not – she was perfection.

    If any soul on the field had doubted the existence of some god, any god, that doubt was surely displaced in that moment; as in that moment, all action stopped, such that when – seconds later, out of sync – a shell struck the ground with a thundering explosion, it was the sole sound and shock that rocked the world. Yet still, unnerved, she walked up the lines, not flinching, not blinking.

    Slowly, purposefully, out she went onto the battlements and earthworks, the field stretched out before her. Carefully did she observe the torn, marred hellscape, all barbed wire and traps and mines and death, oh ever-present death.

    All eyes wide and on her focused, all surviving warriors of a whole regiment waited with bated breath for her next word or action. With a word, she could pull back in humbled resignation. With a word, she could press forward, defiant and proud to the very last.

    Then, after the longest single moment in any life, she drew her honorary sword and pointed it sideways at the bitter enemy.

    First was more silence.

    Then, one by one, ten by ten, hundred by hundred, they charged with new vigor into the maelstrom with the mighty, earth-shattering battle cry.

    “Glory Imperialis!”

    For glorious she is.

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  18. 133 words
    Slade House – David Mitchell

    What Lurks

    It entered the garage as the door was closing. The Hansens, unaware, drove off into town.

    It moved around the house and examined each room. And it lay on each bed but the bassinet.

    It discovered many toys about the house to play with. There were knives in the kitchen and guns over the mantelpiece in the den. There were loose carpets on the stairs and toy trucks on the steps. In the bathrooms, it found hairdryers with frayed cords. And prescription drugs behind mirrors. Delighted, it bared serrated pointy teeth as it grinned from ear to ear.

    Making its way downstairs to the den, it climbed into the fireplace, then up the chimney. There it would lurk until nightfall when all are asleep.

    A demented cackle escaped its drooling mouth.

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  19. 279 Words
    The Opposite of Loneliness – Marina Keegan

    Southern Comfort

    The traveler asks you why small towns are so friendly. You give a gentle Southern laugh and swirl the tea in your glass, watching the ice cubes float like freckles on a face. “I guess it’s ’cause we’re never lonely!”

    He’s charmed by this answer. “Well,” he replies, in a Northern accent full of splinters, “you’ll just have to teach me your secrets.”

    Your eyes go wide inadvertently. The glass in your hand slips just a bit, the sweat of the tea mingling with your own. Some things aren’t meant to be shared. Bless his heart.

    But he doesn’t notice, and you finish telling him the history of the bottle tree.

    That night, as the gravestones in your front yard shift, your mind turns back to the traveler. You hope that he realized there weren’t any motels here on purpose. You hope he moved on. His thick brown eyes were nice enough; no reason for him to linger in some sleepy Southern town.

    You shake any thought of the traveler out of your head and grab your fiddle. They are waiting on the porch, as always, instruments waving. Even Grandaddy Zeb, whose arm had been sawn off at Gettsyburg, managed to find himself a jug.

    A firefly pulses against the velvet darkness, and you begin to sing. The ballad twines itself around the pillars of the porch, weaving in and out of music-polished bones.

    Soon the floorboards whine in rhythm, and the ghost band howls louder. Your heart pounds to match the tempo, your bow flashes like a needle through the fabric of time. The Earth hears each harmony and is grateful for her sacrifice.

    You feel full.

    1. Beautiful writing Kate! I just love some of your phrases especially ‘The firefly pulses against the darkness’ and ‘The ballad twines itself around the pillars of the porch weaving in and out of the music-polished bones’ …..and more!! Absolute magic I can almost hear it….and having read it I feel full!!

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