Microcosms 123

Welcome, flash fiction fans, to Microcosms 123.

Replying to other “comments” is still not working properly.

** Workaround v2 **

Until I can solve the problem permanently, you should “right-click” on the [Reply] button, then click on “Copy link address”, paste that into the URL box at the top of the screen and press return key. This will take you to the comment box, with the proper link to the comment to which you are replying.

Apologies for this inconvenience.

Today, 18-MAY, is International Museum Day. Its objective is to raise awareness of the fact that “museums are an important means of cultural exchange, enrichment of cultures and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among peoples”.

The theme chosen for 2018 is “Hyperconnected Museums: new approaches, new publics”.

The events and activities planned to celebrate International Museum Day can last a day, a weekend or a whole week; but remember, you have just 24 hours to fashion and forward your exhibit for visitors to Microcosms to admire.



(If YOU have an idea for a future contest and would like to be a guest host, please contact us.)


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

We spun, and our three elements are – character: Guard, Location: Exhibition Hall, and genre: Thriller.

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 inspire you.

*** HEY! Remember to include:

  • the THREE elements you’re using
  • a TITLE for your entry – not included in the word count



  • Curator
  • Conservator
  • Archivist
  • Guide/Docent
  • Guard
  • Cleaner
  • Foyer
  • Ticket Office
  • Exhibition Hall
  • Store Room
  • Cafeteria
  • Gift Shop
  • Memoir
  • Crime
  • Comedy
  • Horror
  • Thriller
  • Your Choice – please specify



Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Sian Brighal, has kindly agreed to act as judge of Microcosms 123.

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 (EST) 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 124
Microcosms 122

33 thoughts on “Microcosms 123

  1. Twitter: @CarinMarais
    Blog: http://www.maraiscarin.com
    299 words
    Guard; Exhibition Hall; Crime

    Blood and Tears

    They had always said that my blood wasn’t pure enough to work here, that the gods would take vengeance for having their holy objects exhibited for all to see. I rolled my eyes at them – but only behind their backs.
    The priests added their voices to the surging crowds once money changed hands and their earlier blessing of the travelling exhibition was recanted. All objects were to be returned to the half-forgotten temples. It was fascinating to watch from outside how one leader could sweep the people along, change their religion with shouting and rhetoric and no one seemed to notice. When father dared to question the leader, all hell broke loose.
    I pulled my body along the floor, leaving a trail of smeared blood behind me. I knew which one of the smashed and looted cases I needed to reach.
    My arms were weak from blood loss and exertion when at last I took the cracked clay bowl from between splinters of glass and cradled it in my hand. I could still see the light impressions and fingerprints of my father in the dried clay. He had made many such bowls.
    I would have followed in his footsteps if my hands had been different, my fingers not suited to rather carry a gun.
    Tears dripped into the bowl as I cried for my dead family – they who had made the bowls for the gods’ sacrifices. They whose blood was not deemed pure enough to enter the temples.
    I cradled the bowl to my chest. I shall die as my family did, I decided: with a prayer-song to the gods on my cracked lips.
    I coughed blood, spattering the liquid onto the bowl’s surface to join the tears.
    I heard the footsteps behind me before I heard the trigger.

    1. Replying to other “comments” is still not working properly.
      ** Workaround v2 **
      Until I can solve the problem permanently, you should “right-click” on the [Reply] button, then click on “Copy link address”, paste that into the URL box at the top of the screen and press return key. This will take you to the comment box, with the proper link to the comment to which you are replying.
      Apologies for this inconvenience.

      This reply is from Eloise:

      I loved the imagery 🙂

  2. @billmelaterplea
    300 words
    Cleaner; Exhibition Hall; Memoir

    In Search of the Ginger Falls Exhibition of Tarnished Cutlery, Blue Plate Specials and Greasy Spoons

    “Excuse me. Is this the famous Ginger Falls Exhibition of Tarnished Cutlery, Blue Plate Specials and Greasy Spoons?”


    “Looks closed. Is it?”


    “Damn. Ain’t that a kick in the keister. Any chance of taking a peek inside? We drove all day…live in Coopersville…tried to get here while the sun was still shining…two flat tires, some damn road construction, then there was that detour…ah, man, the little woman has her heart set…”

    “I’m jest janitor…Oli. Oli the guy who cleans up. Dat’s all.”

    “Well, Oli, maybe you could do more. I’d be willing, tickled all the shades of pink you can imagine, to slip you a five-spot, maybe even a tenner, if you’d let us in…not so much for me, mind…its my missus, Margie, here. Well, before I married her, her whole life was greasy spoons…parents even brought her up in one…that was in Galveston a long time ago…whaddaya say, Oli?”

    “Gee willikers…I jest Oli…jest finished moppin’ up. Floor’s spick as a spaniel. Miss Mobley, she’s the boss lady…she’d likely can my behind I let anyone in after hours…”

    “Leave the poor man be, Lenny. We can come another time. I don’t want him to lose his job.”

    “Hush, Margie…we’re getting’ somewhere. No one’s gonna get fired…look, Oli. Where is your boss lady?”

    “She’s ta home, I guess.”

    “So, she’s not here.”

    “Nope. That’s a fact ya could hang your hat on…for sure.”

    “So, Oli, here’s a thought…take this picture of old Alexander Hamilton, shove it in your pants…in fact, I’ll stuff it myself…and we’re good…just come inside with us, give us lookilook and then we’re gone like a burp…no one’s the wiser, right?”


    “Yes, Oli?”

    “Take your money. I do my job. Clean the Hall. Go home.”

    “You break my heart, Oli.”

    “G’nite, folks.”

    “Good night, Oli.”

    1. And here’s me, thinking that Oli was two portraits short of an exhibition… Lovely switcheroo at the end of this wonderful, whimsical tale, Bill.

  3. 297 words
    Cleaner; Foyer; Memoir

    Stolen Songs

    “If you wanna be my lover…” I sang at the top of my lungs to the empty foyer of the Grand Museum of Biological Sciences. Yes, I admit, I have a thing for the Spice Girls. It’s my guilty pleasure. There’s just something about belting out a pop song from the 1990s, echoing through the quiet room, that makes me feel as if I’m the best singer in the world.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with being a cleaner for this prestigious museum. GMBS is one of the best museums in the entire country, and I was lucky enough to be one of their custodians. Some of the people who come here look down on me for my profession. Who the heck are they to judge how I put food on the table and music on my iPhone? Granted, I’m sure they would never guess that the pudgy white chick in the janitorial uniform is actually a Grammy Award-winning songwriter.

    Yup, that’s me. Sonje Helene Ashley Engelbrecht. The creative brain behind the success of some of the best artists in the world. I have won more Grammys for my writing than all the previous winners combined. You’ve never heard of me? Don’t feel bad. Most people haven’t. I was “discovered” when I was 15. A street urchin, humming lyrics to myself. I had no one to look out for my best interests, so I ended up signing the rights to all my music over to the blasted producer who found me.

    I’ve reached the end of a protracted legal wrangle with said producer, to finally reap some kind of benefit from my hard work. Thank the Gods for the attorney who took my case pro bono.

    The universe will know my name from now on!

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  4. Twitter: @VicenteLRuiz
    297 words
    Guard; Exhibition Hall; Thriller


    “Switch off the lights at exactly half past and stay by the wall.” That’s what the note in George’s hand said.

    He felt a shiver as he checked the time. Two minutes left! What could he do? George was no fool: switching off the lights of the exhibition could mean only one thing: a robbery. But he had no time! Damn Alfred for getting sick and having George substitute as security guard!

    George looked around: there were some twenty people admiring the pictures. What if he didn’t switch off the lights and someone got hurt? Automatically, he walked towards the light switch. Had that man stolen a glance towards him? He checked his watch. The entrance clock chimed.

    He threw the switch off.

    Screams. There was a hiss. Someone put a mask on his face. He was pushed out. Three, no, four people with gas masks and large packs ran with him and urged him on. A van waiting, they all jumped in.

    George trembled as the men patted their back and congratulated him. Alfred. They were calling him Alfred. The bastard had agreed to an inside job.

    What would happen now if he took his mask off? In fact, one of the men was asking him to do exactly that…

    The van braked suddenly, throwing them around. George banged his head. The doors opened and there were shouts and screams. George saw cops in SWAT vests, took in the large assault rifles.

    Someone pushed him apart. A man took off his gas mask.

    “Mr Kaplan, I’m Police Inspector Hitch. We’re sorry for all this. We were aware of Alfred’s involvement, but when he called in sick this morning, we didn’t have time to fill you in. You behaved admirably.”

    George felt his knees wobble, and fainted.

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  5. 298 words
    Guard; Exhibition Hall; Thriller

    Artsy Girl

    Emma lovingly caressed the statue before her, admiring the lines and contours. She sighed happily. She was so fortunate to have this job as a guard at the museum. When she was little, her mother had brought her here, when her father was drunk, to prevent him from abusing her. This was until he killed her mother, that is, when she stood between Emma and the blows.

    She walked on, confidently stopping to admire the pieces as she went along. The cameras were disabled tonight for her very own performance. It had taken some doing but she was able to put the recording on a loop. She didn’t want any observers to her show. She wore a glittery evening gown and walked around with a glass of bubbly, talking to other imaginary patrons about the quality of the pieces on show.

    “This one represents the death of Authoritarianism. You can see the gashes, the vivid red color, and the expression of agony. Simply striking, wouldn’t you say?

    “This is one of my favorites. You see that blank, vacant expression on the face? It represents the life this one lived. Same blank, stupid stare.

    “Ah…this one. A remarkable piece of work. She slept with my husband and thought she could get away with it.

    “What’s this one, you ask? It’s my father. He was my first. Notice how I’ve improved my preservation techniques since?”

    She looked out the window. The sun would be up soon. She had to pack up her art and reset the cameras. She didn’t mind. By next year her collection would have grown. She hummed as she loaded up the crates and took them down to “Archaeology Storage”. It was the perfect place to hide her collection until she was ready to have another showing.

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  6. 263 words
    Cleaner; Gift Shop; Thriller

    Earl’s Trinkets

    Behind Earl’s gift shop was an obscure collection of trinkets that I had to dust every Thursday. Every other day the room was looked and no-one could go in. It was Earl’s retreat when the shop got too busy. Often we heard little mutterings coming from the room, but we just put it down to a quirk of Earl’s. He was quite quirky. That was until one day late in December. Earl was bustling us out of the door to close for the day, but there was still one client browsing through the shop.
    “What about the last customer, Earl?” asked Daisy, the cashier.
    “Oh don’t worry about him. I will deal with him.”
    And we tootled off home.
    But after a block, I realised I had left my house keys on the counter. I marched back to the shop, but as I neared it, I saw strange lights flashing out of the sho, then it stopped. I knocked softly on the door. Earl edged the door open.
    “How can I help you?” His hair was standing in all directions and his eyes looked bloodshot but the lines where blue.
    “I… I… left my house keys.”
    Earl jammed the keys in my hands and said, “Tell no-one or else you will be next.”
    I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I kept quiet.
    It was only on the next Thursday that my understanding became complete. There on the trinket shelf sat the customer. With his ground hornbill-like jowls that had stopped flapping. I would remember that face anywhere.

  7. Twitter: @marshawritesit
    300 words
    Guard; Store Room; SFW Erotica

    Museums are Educational or: How I Learned to Keep My Hands to Myself

    “Now, take a loose grip and rub, up and down.”

    I shouldn’t be doing this. I shouldn’t even be here. But he’d noticed me: how often I visited the museum, how long I spent staring at the statues, which parts held my attention.

    To be fair, I didn’t only go to look at perfectly sculpted bodies: I’d noticed him as well. So, to be honest as well as fair, I really was only looking at perfectly sculpted bodies.

    He stands in the corner, keeping an eye out for people like me. His job is to stop us touching the exhibits. And he’s needed: more than once, my hand crept toward a statue, a small part of my mind telling me I shouldn’t, that the guard would tackle me and manhandle me out of the museum. Or punish me, maybe. Each time, a larger part convinced me I didn’t want that. I used to hate that part, but I’ve learned to love it: these days, it keeps me out of trouble. Usually.

    He’d watched my hand, seen it inch forwards, often: a barely expressed desire, begging to be restrained. Today, it got closer than ever. A breath away. Then a wall of muscle pressed against my back and his hand closed around my wrist. I’ve been handcuffed before but cold steel never felt as controlling as warm skin. Neither could have frozen me in place like his hot breath on my neck as he spoke.

    “Please don’t touch the exhibits, ma’am. If you can’t resist the temptation, I’ll show you something in the storeroom that’ll keep your hands busy.”

    So here I am, cleaning replicas of medieval codpieces. He says he’ll be back at five to “liberate me”. I think that means I’ll get to go home.

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    1. Belated birthday greetings, Marsha. 😀
      I thought you were skating on thin ice of decency, but you managed to execute a lutz to retrieve the situation at the last moment! It’s a 5.7 from this judge.

  8. 290 words
    Guard; Exhibition Hall; Thriller


    Some are born anonymous, some obtain anonymity, and others have anonymity thrust upon them.

    The proud new mother would parade her baby Eric through the park. People would stop to ‘coo’ at the newborn but then say, “Oh… nice pram, dear,” then walk on.

    At kindergarten, Eric was kind and helpful to other kids who quickly indicated that they’d rather be in difficulty.

    Adolescence arrived, along with training-shoe odour and acne — of which Eric had an abundance. He was a terrific footballer but never got picked because he was… er… you know.

    Music became his solace. He consciously chose that era’s favoured instrument and could rock out any Chuck Berry or Scotty Moore riff in a heartbeat.

    Along came ‘folk’, and Eric could pick and sing like a hippy maestro. People would hear him sing, then go and see who was making such loveliness; when they discovered it was this geeky, gawky, gangly guy, the charm would dissipate.

    Eric turned to art; he had a real talent for that. But making art salable requires marketing ‘yourself’. He wouldn’t even make the bargain-baskets.

    The love of art drove him to a job where he could be surrounded by its beauty. He became a guard/usher in an exhibition hall containing some of the finest paintings anywhere.

    It took fifty-five years for the tackiness of life to penetrate Eric’s sweet soul. The dual assets of anonymity and night-guard duties provided the opportunity to substitute his perfect copies for six genuine paintings and watch the world drool over them.

    After a while, he sold the originals. Why not?

    Then came the day that the collection would go on tour. Would the experts notice Eric’s tiny signature, written in the shading under each subject’s nose?

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    1. Ingenious take on the elements, Ted — though how the universally-shunned Eric held down a job as an usher as well as a guard is a mystery to me. 🙂
      [ ‘Eric’s tiny signature, written in the shading under each subject’s nose’… That’s snot write! — ooh, I wish I hadn’t said that now… 🙁 ]

  9. Twitter: @danafaletti
    300 words
    Guard; Exhibition Hall; Thriller

    The Fuhrermuseum of Linz

    Cigarette smoke swirls slowly skyward. The stars catch my breath.
    My reflection mocks from the glistening Danube.
    “Hurry,” it urges.
    But it’s not time yet, and I can’t afford anxiety.
    Not in front of guards with glacial stares and twin swastikas.
    I can’t reveal my true purpose here.
    I keep pilfered pictures perfect as possible.
    For a beast whose ideals are as backwards as is his obsession with Jewish art.
    Creations created by those he believes unworthy of existence.

    A bell gongs.
    I turn my eyes from the river to the Fuhrermuseum.
    Its ego offends every slice of bone beneath my flesh.

    Anathema and asylum.
    Where stolen paintings decorate shameless walls
    And starving children pray for transport behind them.
    Beauty and brokenness inhabiting the same space.

    I’m the go-between.
    The cloth that goes unnoticed as it ensures no dust rests on the watercolor painted by Anna Schweiner.
    She’s ash by now,
    But her son, a boy with crimson lips and marshmallow cheeks – waits for me.
    Not to clean his mother’s painting, but to retrieve him from the hollow place behind it.

    “Come, Josef,” I whisper.
    Our bare feet step soundlessly along stairs to the sub-basement.
    A tunnel invites Josef to freedom.
    “Go,” I say, but before he steps, a shiny boot emerges.
    A pistol lands on my forehead.
    I glance at Josef. I’ve prepared him.

    The guard’s eyes bulge, as Josef’s plaster shiv slides into his belly,
    The weapon carved from another stolen piece, one fashioned by an artist who will remain nameless,
    But will have ignited a legacy of life in the footsteps of Josef Schweiner.

    As death greets the Nazi goon, his pistol drops.
    “Run,” I utter, as the bullet meets my side.
    And as a last breath escapes, I imagine Josef on safe ground, smiling at stars.

    1. Welcome back, Dana — and what a way to make a comeback! This is a very chilling, atmospheric piece. Loved it!
      [ ‘Josef Schweiner’, son of ‘Anna Shweiner’? Would you like me to amend it to ‘Anna Schweiner’? ]

  10. 300 words
    Curator; Exhibition Hall; Comedy

    A Curious Collection of Cats

    ‘Welcome to the Museum of the Impossible and the Improbable,’ writes curator Shona Tell. ‘Here our exhibits, many of them based on a feline theme, are mainly of an implausible nature. Many of our treasures are difficult to display, owing to their impossibility; by definition an impossible object just cannot be, making it contentious as to whether or not it can be possible to show it to our visitors.

    ‘Many of our more improbable objects produce a unique challenge when it comes to their display. Sometimes when we think that a piece is on show we find that, owing to its improbable nature, nine times out of ten it’s a fifty-fifty chance whether or not it’s visible. Take the Cheshire Cat for instance. We’re never sure what our visitors are going to see. Will it just be a big moggy, a grin fading into the aether, or nothing at all?

    ‘You can likely understand the difficulties we face when we attempt to catalogue our collection. How do you ascertain if Schrodinger’s cat is in its box? No curator wants to be accused of terminating the animal through the simple expedient of opening up the box and finding it dead.

    ‘And, talking of cats, have you seen our perpetual motion exhibit? A very popular display consisting of a cat with a piece of buttered toast, butter side up, strapped to its back rotating just off the ground demonstrating the twin paradoxes of a cat always landing on its feet and that toast always lands butter-side down.

    ‘Anyway, unless you have any questions, it’s time for me to go. Before I close the museum I have to round up all the exhibits for the evening. How many job descriptions do you know that include the phrase “Cat-herding experience essential”?’

  11. 298 words
    Guard; Exhibition Hall; Thriller

    Just Another Night Shift

    “Who’s there?” Gottlieb barked nervously into the darkness of the hall.

    “I didn’t sign up for this crap.” He muttered as he shone his flashlight over all the displays set out in the Ancient Egyptian Exhibition.

    He’d been hearing strange noises all night and they were really starting to unnerve him, especially since he’d only agreed to take the extra shifts to get away from his wife’s moaning. Myrna wasn’t a bad sort, but Gottlieb had found early in the marriage that it was usually better just to do what she wanted. The hours of nagging and arguments that were avoided were usually well worth the inconvenience.

    Tonight, he was starting to seriously doubt the wisdom of that outlook.

    He set out nervously to check again that all the doors were closed and that nothing, except the mummy exhibit, had been disturbed; finding that open sarcophagus earlier had really creeped him out. As he slowly crept up and down the aisles, his light swaying from left to right at each intersection, he swore he heard a second set of footsteps mirroring his.

    He stopped and listened, hoping to pick up some clue about who or what was around, but heard nothing. Gottlieb carried on with his inspection, determined to make it as brief as possible now.

    He quickened his steps as he neared the end of the hall and the dreaded Mummies.

    “If anything else moves tonight, I’m quitting,” Gottlieb muttered, the act of speaking already making him feel steadier. He rounded the last corner and let out a breath. Everything was the same, right down to the missing mummy.

    Turning to go back to the guard desk, the last thing Gottlieb thought, as rotten, bandaged hands grabbed his throat, was Myrna is going to be pissed!

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  12. Twitter: @Rhapsody2312
    298 Words
    Cleaner; Ticket Office; Memoir

    Past Redemption

    It’s a funny thing to see yourself in someone else. To look back at the younger reflection of your past behaviours and recognise the mistakes they’re making because you once made them yourself.

    It’s funny, not because it’s uncommon, but because it feels like a pathway towards redemption, an opportunity gifted to you by the powers that be to show you the error of your ways before it’s too late.

    Except, as I look down at the chaos and destruction at my feet, I can see there was no redemption here.

    She stopped in front of the booth earlier, leaning down towards the slots that let sound filter into the ticket office.

    “One ticket, please.”

    “I’m sorry, ma’am. The exhibition’s closed. I’m just the cleaner.”

    “But, you don’t understand. I need to get in. I’m meeting someone here, and I promised them I’d be here, but traffic was bad, and I got wet and had to go change, and they’re expecting me. You have to let me in.”

    I recognise the look of desperation on her face. I’ve worn it often enough myself, but no one cared enough to help me back then. She needs to learn the hard way – there are no free handouts.

    “I’m sorry, ma’am. I can’t let you in.” I pull the shutter down, ignoring her pleas as she knocks on the walls.

    I’ve just finished my work when I hear the shriek of brakes, shrill screams and the shattering of glass.

    I turn to the woman who’s standing next to me now, looking at the wreckage of the car, impacted with the ticket booth.

    “Why did you do it?”

    She shrugs, a sad smile on her face as sirens fill the air and we begin to fade.

    “Why didn’t you hear me?”

  13. Twitter: @hollygeely
    297 words
    Guard; Exihibition Hall; Thriller
    (please forgive me, I’m so rusty)

    When You Know

    “Portrait of a Serial Killer” made no real sense. A series of paintings made up the bulk of the exhibition, if they could be called paintings; they were a row of canvasses in solid colours. (“Close-ups of evil,” the artist had told the newspaper.) The centerpiece of the whole pointless thing was a bronzed statue of a duck riding a llama. (“If you know, you know,” she’d said later in the same interview.)

    “I don’t get it,” said Ron.

    “That’s a shame,” said the disembodied voice of someone who definitely shouldn’t be there after hours, especially with a security guard on duty.

    “Who’s there?” Ron demanded. He whirled and pointed his flashlight accusingly.

    He was still alone.

    He turned back to the paintings. He cursed when he realized one had been taken. The pink one, to be exact, but it hardly mattered which. He was totally fired.

    “I’ll explain it to you,” the voice said again.

    “Show your face!” Ron said, swinging the flashlight around again. This time, the beam of light illuminated the beady dark eyes of a duck.

    “When you know, you know,” said the duck.

    Ron screamed.


    Ron wasn’t in the front hall. Judy saw his name in the sign-in log, so he’d showed up for his shift. He always met her right here for shift change; where could he have got to? She hoped he hadn’t fallen asleep on the job.

    She searched the building. Aside from his lunch, there was no sign of him in the building. Where was he? Had he run away? She went to the main office to call the police.

    She didn’t check on the exhibits. She didn’t see that the bronzed statue was different this morning; the duck was now riding a fat llama.

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    1. ‘Rusty’?! I thought you were positively pulverised! I had to track back to Microcosms #63 to find the last time you entered…

      This has a ‘Great A’tuin/Discworld’ vibe to it which is no bad thing!

      [ So good to see you back here, Holly. Now we just need the return of Voima Oy to get this nostalgia-fest really rolling! ]

  14. Twitter: @geofflepard
    300 words
    Guard; Exhibition Hall; Horror

    Platicising Your Problems

    Waxworks can be creepy places at night, but Rodney enjoyed the solitude. When management arranged a Halloween sleepover for pre-teens, the high-pitched screams and youthful urine nearly made him resign.

    Wandering the corridors, Rodney imagined conversations with queens and killers. One night, following the death of a famous politician, a technician worked late to create a new head for the tableau needed in the morning. Rodney made coffee and sandwiches while absorbing the method and accepting the offer to try for himself.

    With the hiatus over, Rodney spent more hours amongst vats and moulds, letting the calming routine distract from the bitter rawness of home, the bleak silences and exponential rages, the hormones and inexplicable intolerance. The skills came naturally to his sensitive strong fingers, kneading the latex with just the right force. How he longed to stay amongst those who did not answer back; how he wished to share his space with the sympathetic and the silent.

    Anniversaries are goldmines for waxworks, and a king who’d decapitated his foes and family with unbridled glee reaching 500 was too good an opportunity to miss.

    New mannequins, revised models, fresh costumes — all were needed, and Rodney’s new-found skills were required. Better, he was happy to work the antisocial shifts, and management were delighted when he offered to take the redundant figurines of the royal family in lieu of wages. Rodney took the preferred praise with a shrug. His neighbours, too, were pleased that the rages that disturbed their peace ceased and charmed by the gentle domesticity displayed through the front window.

    Everyone agreed the exhibition was a success. So much so that management felt able to scoff when an increasing number of visitors complained that the eyes of some of the waxworks really did follow them around the room.

  15. 221 words
    Curator; Store Room; Crime


    I stare at the old statue in my hands. It had been so easy, even if it had taken a year and a half to pull off. Make the old curator disappear, take his place, earn the trust of the museum…and finally…take what I have in my hands.

    The statue is old, several thousand years old. Made of some kind of black stone, it resembles a gnarled tree without leaves. I shudder as I think of the money I’ll be making, selling this on the black market.

    Putting it aside, I quickly take out the carefully crafted fake and put it in the box, closing the lid. Nobody should question me looking at it, after all. I’m the curator. It’s my job.

    With a smile, I put the real statue in the pack and leave. An hour later, I’m meeting with my partner at my apartment.

    “Mission accomplished,” I say. “Another successful heist, months in the making!”

    My partner smiles and pulls out a gun.

    “Yes,” he says. “But I’m afraid I’ve found another partner, one not so squeamish.”

    He pulls the trigger, and the gun clicks. We stare at each other for a tense moment before laughing.

    “Almost had me fooled!” I say, clapping him on the back. “Come on, let’s prepare this for the black market.”

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  16. 269 words
    Guard; Exhibition Hall; Thriller

    Night Shift

    White tape, the silhouette of a fallen figure. Footprints highlighted with blue light. A lock of hair and some blood spatter. This, thought Bill, is what passes for art. His midnight rounds were his favourite. When he’s done with his walk-through, he gets to open his lunchbox and see what Sylvia has packed for him.

    Now, that’s a real work of art. The sandwich; thick bread layered with slices and spread, the combination taste setting off special places in his gut and brain.

    He switches off the light. Passes by the classics; real technique. And not many of them recognised in their lives. They didn’t go on news interviews explaining how they developed their piece. They starved.

    His stomach growls. He unpacks the delight; pastrami, Swiss cheese, tomato – no lettuce, never any lettuce, bless her soul. He takes a bite, the camera feed in room 10 goes blank. With one hand he bangs the refresh button, taking a bite. Dammit, he slams the sandwich down.

    Shining his torch he checks the room; a wire from the CCTV dangles. As he fiddles he feels a rush of air behind him. A sea of voices; faces he recognises, but out of context. He’s seen them somewhere before.

    They repeat, ‘Art is art, art is art.’

    Jimmy knows something is wrong when he sees the uneaten sandwich; it still looks and smells good. No way Bill would have left that. But there were no alarms. Instinct takes him to room 10; white tape, footprints, a lock of hair; but not a silhouette. Bill’s body, still as the Mona Lisa herself.

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  17. Twitter: @ArthurUnkTweets
    Website: https://arthurunk.com
    286 words
    Guard; Exhibition Hall; Horror

    A Night Between Worlds

    I first saw the cube sitting on the pedestal.

    It was just a hunk of rock among all the other junk Doctor McFarlane pulled out of the ground. It was beyond my memory to recall if I had seen it in the main exhibition hall before last week. The voice first called out to me in the dead of night. An enchanting siren’s call that beckoned me towards my fate. I could see every etch in its surface with supernatural clarity. Runes that, lost to time, slowly burned themselves into my brain.

    “Ro ra ru lo ma kno…”

    I heard the chant in my head, and each rune on the cube glowed brighter as it became my own spoken words. A growing sense of dread spread in my soul. Images of horrible beasts ripping through the sky and destroying souls from afar dominated my waking thoughts. Tentacled creatures, ancient horrors beyond belief clawed their way towards our dimension.

    My voice grew louder and my vision narrowed. The time was close, a new master would arrive soon. Terror gripped my body as my chanting grew louder. The smell of sulfur filled my nostrils and what felt like a thousand needles pierced every nerve. My chant turned into a scream as something ripped through worlds unseen to reach me. My heart beat hard and tore from my chest.

    I woke up on the floor; the cube lay in a pile of dust and rubble on the floor. Visions danced in my brain. I left my equipment in the office and prepared to begin life anew as the herald of G’thikin, Devourer of Worlds.

    Your time on this planet is short…

    Only my master offers true salvation…

    Join me…

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  18. 294 words
    Guard; Cafeteria; Thriller

    Always Ready

    Officer Lobbins stood guard in front of the cafeteria door. Back straight, feet stiff from standing for hours. He shifted the belt attached firmly around his waist. Handcuffs jingling. His finger briefly slid over the gun holster before he let his hand fall back to his side. Footsteps echoed through the hall, he assumed it was just another teacher passing by, but to his surprise, it was not. A young man approached him, wearing thick glasses and a battered backpack. Lobbins sized him up as the man stopped in front of him.

    “Can I help you?” Lobbins asked strictly.

    “Yeah, I’m filling in for one of the lunch ladies. I’m new.”

    “I was not informed you would be here.”

    “I wasn’t informed I would have a hard time getting to my job.”

    “Don’t be smart with me…” His fingers slowly rose to his belt.

    “Look, dude, I’m sorta late already. Could you please let me pass?”

    Sighing, Lobbins shifted to the side as he heard the buzz in his ear stating that it was okay. Pushing past him, the man opened the door and strode into the cafeteria. It was silent for a moment then it sounded as if a war had erupted within the room. Yells sounded and then- THOOM. THOOM. THOOM.

    Gunshots? Lobbins never thought that something like this would ever happen, even though that was why he had been hired. Bursting into the room, Lobbins thrust his gun out, surveying the scene. About thirteen of the children were grasping the man’s legs, keeping him immobile while a little girl was threatening a teacher saying, if they didn’t give them cookies, they would never let the guy go.

    Lobbins slapped his forehead. Why first graders?

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  19. Insta: @beckham.lawre
    114 Words
    Guard; Exhibition Hall; Thriller

    What Happens to the Night Guards?

    Ever wonder why no one else would take the job as night guard at the human bodies exhibit? Ever wonder why those who did went missing?

    They preserved our bodies well, so well that death couldn’t sniff us out, couldn’t claim us. So at night, when nobody is watching, we rise from our cases and our displays and roam free, limb by limb and part by part, from the walls and exhibition halls. We’re not dead but we’re not alive, suspended somewhere in the middle.

    So you ask why they won’t take the job as night guard? And why do those who do go missing?

    Well you see, we still have to eat too.

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