Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 121. We had a satisfying 16 entries this time, with a return of old Microscosms friends, Nthato Morakabi and A J Walker. A warm welcome also to first-time entrants, Samantha Carr and Arianna Hammond.
You may have noticed that I’ve amended the blurb on the Microcosms Countdown clock to make it clear(er) when it’s counting down to the deadline for a currently running contest, and when it’s counting down to when the next contest goes live. All being well, this will help to alleviate the problem of people submitting an entry after a contest has closed.
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 120 Judge’s Pick, Bill Engleson, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what he had to say:
It has been a lovely warm week here on Canada’s west coast. I snipped my first lawn of the season a couple of days back. Though Friday saw a predicted sprinkling, the weekend is full of promise. Kinda boring, huh?
Around the world, floods, sandstorms, drought, lava flowing, a host of non-Rudy Giuliani disasters, assaulted the earth. Against that cataclysmic backdrop, sixteen fine flash fiction writers played in the Microcosms 121 fantasy sandbox. I think they had a lot of fun.
If I had been submitting this week, I might have had Al Capone, Nap Bonaparte and Maggie Thatcher sharing a cell on a desert Island, or perhaps on the Big Island as Kilauea erupted. That would be an apocalyptic trip. I might still do that. I would, of course, throw in his esteemed POTUS Potentate, DJT, for good measure.
My mental gymnastics, time-travelling proclivities aside, there were a fair number of confusing laughs to be had this week. Judging, as ever, was a grueling task. FF writers are always winners though because little universes are created, moments in time that would not exist without their unique, virtuoso vision. So, here goes…
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Arthur Unk – My boy’s teeth are so crooked that they are running for Parliament this year.
Angelique Pacheco – The presidential candidate lay spread out in bits and pieces on the airfield like dominoes waiting to be put together.
Steve Lodge – All captured and tied to trees around a small clearing with monkeys sucking our toes, waiting for painful torture.
Nthato Morakabi – He nods at Merd, whose head splits open like a Venus fly-trap, releasing barbed worm-like appendages glowing with an electrical charge.
Samantha Carr – Cat pictures distracted him from his terror for a few minutes.
Stephanie Cornelius – The consequences of death – even the beautiful become reduced to smelly corpses.
A J Walker – He’d broken out of prisons before but today he was having to break in to get out Ronald Drumpf; the gross plastic gangster owed him a great deal of money and had got himself sent down following some bizarre run-in with a dolly bird called Dormy Samuels or something before paying Sans for the last job (the one where he blew up a moon size weapon with a piece of lego strapped to a safety match).
Ted Young – Ms Piecrust’s philosophy, stating, “If you’re not there, you can’t put your foot in it,” was convincing.
Nikky Olivier – “Tomorrow when they catch the President with all that smack in his briefcase, we can name our price.”
Justin J. – Oh, sure, the only places people went easily were to the moon and back, but he would go to MARS!
Helen Buckroyd – Sherlock Holmes’s Inspired Midget Minor Miner’s Blowpipe Assassination Attempt Thwarted!
Beckham Lawre – Her eyes are sunken, dress tattered, hair matted, smile rotting.
Geoff Le Pard – ‘Jeez, Pete, he’s not worried about the sugar-nazis, is he?’
Nicolette Stephens – Of course, he’d been unaware of her fate, too wrapped up in his abrupt descent from the pinnacle of ego-driven hubris to do more than sulk in his bedchambers for hours.
Stephen Shirres – A car roared into Jason’s thoughts.
Arianna Hammond – At this point, David just wanted her to shut up, so he snatched the lipstick and smeared it on.
Special Award for either a Clearly Trumpcated Story or One That Could Easily Be Mistaken for One.
Nicolette Stephens – The Emperor’s Nude Beach
It’s likely none of us wants to imagine a nude Trump*. Still, the possibility always exists. Golf Course! Nude Beaches! Economic opportunities aglow. Are you watching, Mr. President?
[ * Especially Melania… (GH) ]
Steve Lodge – Always Have A Smile and A Reason To Pretend
Time travel or a typo… I don’t know. Was it 1950, or 19:50 or nearer to 8 pm? I never did find out. Nor do we really know what happened to those four intrepid fellows, Bimmer, The Guffler, Sid and the author. Most of us believe that no man should meet his maker with monkeys sucking on his toes. And, I guess, at the end, what happens in Southport has to stay in Southport, even if you’ve never been there*.
[ * I’ve been – even the sea doesn’t want to stay too long… (GH) ]
Justin J. – Rainbow Bridge
Look, even after googling, I haven’t a clue as to what a Bifrost engine is. Nevertheless, I do appreciate a dollop of hallucinogenic creativity…so take that, Mr./ Ms. Rainbow Bridge writer. An honourable mention is nothing to sneeze at.
Ted Young – Flights of Fancy
I almost came up with a special award for Flights of Fancy. I thought of calling it “The Best Flash representation of a psychedelic journey under the guise of Gatwickian nonsense.” I loved this little story, though I can’t exactly claim to fully understand it.
Geoff Le Pard – Let Them Eat Cake
Trump. Dan Quayle. Cake — stollen, stolen, or otherwise. This tasty little flash bumped along like POTUS gangbusters. Damage control, ever a Trump fitness activity, is humorously at play. Heck, you even get the sense of what it might be like working on staff at the White House. Some amusing laughs here.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 121.
(insert drumroll here)
Nikky Olivier – Playing Games
Politician; Airfield/Airport; Crime
The small airstrip is deserted at this time of night; the only visible lights come from the interior of the dark sedan idling between two hangars.
Barely visible through the tinted windows are two shadowy figures, deep in conversation.
“Are you sure this is enough?”
“I’m sure. This isn’t my first time, you know.”
“I realise that! You came highly recommended. That’s why I contacted you in the first place.”
“You know how to make the plant?”
“If it’s ‘accidentally’ found in his briefcase as he goes through security tomorrow, no-one can pin it on me.”
“That would be the easiest way. I’ll leave you to it then. Payment?”
“In the case at your feet, fifty, as arranged.”
“A pleasure doing business with you, senator.”
A shadowy figure emerges from the vehicle, closing the door with a slam that echoes through the night, and vanishes into the night like a ghost.
Around the corner another vehicle sits, this one in total darkness; a panel van that looks like any of the maintenance vehicles dotted throughout the small airfield. But inside another discussion occurs, one that could have dire consequences for the senator in the sedan.
“So, did we get that on tape?”
“Yep. The senator delivered himself to us in a nice neat ribbon. Tomorrow when they catch the President with all that smack in his briefcase, we can name our price.”
“Aren’t we taking this a bit far? I mean, letting the President get busted for drugs? Just seems a bit much…”
“If you don’t have the guts for this, then you’re welcome to leave. Just remember where your loyalties lie.”
“I’m a fed, I know where my loyalties lie. Do you?”
“I’m loyal to me. You in or out?”
“Let’s do this.”
Nthato Morakabi – Unperceived Existence
I am not by nature a fan of science fiction. I have enough trouble grokking* our ostensibly real world without sussing out fantasy. Nevertheless, this sci-fi ditty charmed me with its nihilistic bent. Right out of the gate, it smacks you on the rump, Stormy Daniels style, with “There’s nothing quite like breaking your own arm and using the serrated bone as a shiv to stab a tentacled guard in its cyclopean eye.” As the tale progresses, a different sensibility ensues…a sort of, ‘if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound…’ vibration takes over and elevates the complexity of the whole shooting match.
I don’t know the answer but perhaps that philosophical teaser is given a vitamin shot with this story.
[ * ‘grok (verb) to understand profoundly and intuitively – coined by Robert A. Heinlein, 1988’, according to Merriam-Webster… Who grokked? For someone who claims to be ‘not by nature a fan of science fiction’, Bill, you seem to have impressive access to obscure sci-fi neologisms; I read a lot of Heinlein in my youth, but I don’t recall this term. (GH) ]
Gangster; Prison; Sci-Fi
There’s nothing quite like breaking your own arm and using the serrated bone as a shiv to stab a tentacled guard in its cyclopean eye. Here on this despairing, sun-bleached prison, where the stars sit against a Byzantium-hued cosmos, death is swift and sure.
Mr Pqowi, leader of our gangster-cum-rebel trio, rises from his seat. There is palpable silence, reminiscent of the gaping abyss of space, that stifles the prison mess-hall. Mr Pqowi stalks towards the guard to grab the flow of feelers on the creature’s head, and drags the still leaking guard towards a camera.
“You have secured, within this floating penal institution, some of the galaxy’s most nefarious creatures. Yet you have failed to appropriate suitable sentries?”
He throws the guard aside as one would a dirty rag.
“Or do you have so much confidence in the fact that the entire space-station is a prison, that you thought it unnecessary?” Mr Pqowi turned to face us, an amalgamation of facades and blinking orbs sweeping over each of us in a single instant.
“There is an ancient, philosophical account that arose within the Jroq System where my human friend here resides. It raises questions of observation and perception and simply asks, can we confirm the existence of something we cannot perceive or observe?”
He nods at Merd, whose head splits open like a Venus fly-trap, releasing barbed worm-like appendages glowing with an electrical charge. They attach themselves to various cameras around the room and from his eyes, light projects an image of ourselves as our capturers would see us.
“With that in mind, and as Merd’s reparation to your system gives us full control, let me ask you this – once you no longer observe or perceive our existence in the galaxy… do we still exist?”
Darkness encompassed the ship.
Congratulations, Nthato. 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!