Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 123. We had a goodly 19 entries this time. A warm welcome back to our old friend, Holly Geely … and to Dana Faletti too.
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 122 Judge’s Pick, Sian Brighal, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what she had to say:
I am constantly impressed by the standard of writing I find on this site: it is consistently high. The range of writing styles, genres and characters, plots and devices used is amazing, which makes it wonderful to read and a nightmare to judge.
I loved how the entries took the concept of museum and turned it…into something truly terrifying or a redemptive and life-saving place; for others, it was a dubious source of quick income, a thought exercise that may or may not be a museum or an opportunity to learn lessons. Wonderful interpretations.
I enjoyed all the pieces on offer and it was my pleasure to be this week’s judge. Thank you.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Carin Marais – I coughed blood, spattering the liquid onto the bowl’s surface to join the tears
Bill Engleson – “Take your money. I do my job. Clean the Hall. Go home.”
Stephanie Cornelius – Who the heck are they to judge how I put food on the table and music on my iPhone?
Vicente L Ruiz – What would happen now if he took his mask off? In fact, one of the men was asking him to do exactly that…
Angelique Pacheco – By next year her collection would have grown.
Eloise – There on the trinket shelf sat the customer.
Marsha Adams – He’d watched my hand, seen it inch forwards, often: a barely expressed desire, begging to be restrained.
Ted Young – 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.
Dana Faletti – Anathema and asylum. / Where stolen paintings decorate shameless walls / And starving children pray for transport behind them. / Beauty and brokenness inhabiting the same space.
Tim Hayes – 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.
Nikky Olivier – Everything was the same, right down to the missing mummy.
Nicolette Stephens – 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.
Holly Geely – She didn’t see that the bronzed statue was different this morning; the duck was now riding a fat llama.
Geoff Le Pard – 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.
Justin J. – We stare at each other for a tense moment before laughing.
Samantha Carr – Bill’s body, still as the Mona Lisa herself.
Arthur Unk – My chant turned into a scream as something ripped through worlds unseen to reach me.
Ariana Hammond – 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.
Beckham Lawre – Well you see, we still have to eat too.
Tim Hayes – A Curious Collection of Cats
This was a cleverly written and amusing piece. I enjoyed the curator’s name, the engaging tone, the hints of possibility offset with the prospect of probability and the thought experiment being a nuisance. There was a fantastic suggestion of familiarisation jading the curator even as she bolstered the theoretical into something fit to display.
Excellent concept and piece.
Nicolette Stephens – Past Redemption
I enjoyed this piece immensely. The irony was cutting and tragic at the end, and combined with the title, highly emotive: chances missed, redemption passed by and now just out of reach even as they both stare at where it was.
The writing itself was subtle and thoughtful, allowing me to develop empathy, and withholding the direction the piece was heading to for that impactful conclusion.
Carin Marais – Blood and Tears
This was a potent and highly emotive read from start to finish. The use of first-person narration created a direct link to the writing, which was rich in detail, helping to build context for the scene. The writing sensitively conveyed a pertinent theme, and I appreciated the use of the bowl and blood as symbols to exemplify the conflict and give the end a deeper meaning.
Marsha Adams – Museums are Educational or: How I Learned to Keep My Hands to Myself
Lovely writing. I loved the style and the conversational tone of the piece, offered through first-person reminiscences. Great word choice and progression created a highly engaging and thrilling read from that wonderful opener, through the description of the almost crime, the capture and the distraction technique doubling as punishment to the final, amusing revelation.
The language was perfect to manipulate the reader—of which I have no complaint whatsoever—to make that ending sweeter.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 123.
(insert drumroll here)
Tim Hayes – A Curious Collection of Cats
Curator; Exhibition Hall; Comedy
‘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”?’
Dana Faletti – The Fuhrermuseum of Linz
The form of this piece was fascinating from the start…that prose or poetry presentation. For me, this added to the duality this piece was offering. The longer lines seem to generate a frantic pace, which is then curtailed and restrained by the tight format of shorter lines. This structure also created clear breaks in the progression, accentuating the relevance of each scene.
The language was wonderfully evocative, the relationship choice and name was keen and sensitive, and the written hints to deeper tragedies slotted in deftly. I particularly enjoyed how the museum became a duplicitous front; the irony of locking away treasures also facilitating escape of something more precious was just inspired. The end was tragic and beautiful.
Guard; Exhibition Hall; Thriller
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.
Congratulations, Dana. 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!