Microcosms 136

Howdy, folks, and welcome to Microcosms 136. Y’all ready for some Friday flash fiction fun?

This week’s contest is based on thespians whose birthdays fall on this date (17-AUG):

  • 1893 – Mae West, American actress: ‘The Heat is On’ (1943)
  • 1920 – Maureen O’Hara, Irish-American actress: ‘The Quiet Man’ (1952)
  • 1943 – Robert De Niro, American actor: ‘The King of Comedy’ (1983)
  • 1949 – Julian Fellowes, English actor, director, screenwriter, and politician: ‘Monarch of the Glen’ (2000-2005)
  • 1951 –  Richard Hunt, Muppet performer: Scooter in ‘The Muppet Show’ (1976-1991)
  • 1960 – Sean Penn, American actor: ‘Dead Man Walking’ (1995)



(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: Fiery Redhead, Location: Highland Estate, and genre: Tragedy.

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 inspires you.

*** HEY! Remember to include which THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry – not included in the word count.


  • Diva
  • Fiery Redhead
  • Stand-up Comedian
  • Scottish Laird
  • Gofer
  • Death Row Prisoner
  • Broadway Production
  • Rural Ireland
  • Talk Show
  • Highland Estate
  • Theatre
  • State Penitentiary
  • Thriller
  • Tragedy
  • Comedy
  • Horror
  • Fantasy
  • Crime



Last week’s Judge’s Pick, Deanna Salser, has kindly agreed to act as the judge this time around.


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 (EDT) 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 137
Microcosms 135

20 thoughts on “Microcosms 136

  1. http://www.engleson.ca
    A cast of 300 or…
    300 words
    Diva; Broadway Production; Comedy

    What Do You Do When All the Really Good Men Are in Jersey?

    “Okay, boys and girls, huddle up. Time to see what you can do.”

    That’s Charlie Sangster, director of silent films, making his big Broadway debut, giving the old yodel to our ragtag ensemble.

    Who am I, you ask? I am the Drama Turg. The historian. The fact checker. That’s what its come to for me. Five years ago, it was my name up there in lights. Cecil Z. DeThriller. That’s right, friend. I directed Death is For Dead People, So Bite Me. A big hit. My first Broadway kick at the can. The biggest hit of 1938. It was a dark drama that sparkled with intrigue. I should have been on my way.


    Fate intervened.

    What happened next, you ask? Well, let me tell you. A BIG BAD CAREER MOVE. THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED. Instead of directing another mystery, I opted to direct a musical version of Grapes of Wrath. We opened in Oklahoma. You know, to test it out. It folded. Two performances. In Tulsa. You know Tulsa? Their chickens only have right wings.

    Oops. Charlie’s on another tear…

    “Where’s my star? Where’s Pearly?”

    Charlie’s almost crying.

    He’s the one who brought Pearly Pomegranate out of retirement and made her the star of David and Rose Stipple’s latest romantic comedy, What Do You Do When All the Really Good Men Are in Jersey?

    I gotta say, in the middle of a World War, you need romance. And Pearly? What a looker. Maybe a tad long in the tooth. She was just a kid when she debuted in Steinholt’s adventure, Uncle Vanya’s Dog.

    When was that? 1915?

    Pearly’s got pizazz. Moxie. Swagger. Every inch of her vibrates. Maybe a bit of a swelled head. What counts is she’s got heart.

    The country grew up with her.

    Charlie’s got a winner.

    1. Instead of “Pearlie’s got pizazz. Moxie. Swagger. Every inch of her vibrates. Maybe a bit of a swelled head. What counts is she got heart. ”

      It should be: Pearly’s got pizazz. Moxie. Swagger. Every inch of her vibrates. Maybe a bit of a swelled head. What counts is she’s got heart.

      Any repairs, Geoff or Km, would be appreciated.

      1. Requested amendments applied, Bill. I also inserted an apostrophe to make it ‘David and Rose Stipple’s latest romantic comedy…’ Is that OK?

        Is ‘Director of Silent Films’ Mr Sanger’s title? Or are you trying to tell us that he’s someone who directs silent films? If the latter, then it ought to be lowercase.

        [ I don’t want to curb your creativity with the word count, but it is a lot easier for me to cut and paste stories so that their author is not recognisable, if you adopt the format I’ve used at the head of your entry. Thank you!

        And one last quibble. Please don’t create new genres by joining two together with a slash — especially if one of them is not in the list of genres for the current contest! If your story could fall into two or more genres, choose the one that is more/most feasible. 😉 ]

      2. lower case for director of silent films…
        Stipple’s much appreciated…
        I’ll desperately try to stick to the format…
        sorry for going rogue…

  2. 300 words
    Fiery Redhead; Highland Estate; Tragedy


    A new patch of flowers was blooming fiery red just outside the window. Richard noticed it while talking to the police on the telephone. Maureen must have planted the flowers yesterday when she was working in the garden. She always worked in the garden on Fridays. On Saturdays, she cleaned the many windows of their extensive estate.

    Richard used to help Maureen with the domestic work, but his worsening short-sightedness made him less helpful and more of a nuisance. So, after lunch, Maureen put him lovingly but insistently in a chair by the fireplace while she bustled about the house. Richard heard her rattle up the stairs to the topmost floor of the northern wing before his eyes closed and he fell asleep.

    He was woken up by the howling and screaming highland winds making the doors bang and the glasses sing inside the cabinets. He immediately called for his wife, but she didn’t respond. Worried, Richard searched the house. Maureen, however, was nowhere to be found. She must have left while he was fast asleep.

    “Surely she had to run an errand,” he told himself, slowly growing more anxious. Usually, Maureen would notify him before leaving the house. She wasn’t one for surprises. Except for that one time, when she had come home from the hairdresser, her greying hair suddenly red like a firetruck. “Now you can always see me!” she had announced happily.

    When Maureen wasn’t back at dinnertime, Richard called the police. The officers were very friendly and told him to call again in 48 hours if Maureen hadn’t come home by then. Richard put the receiver down. The small red blotch outside the window moved in the wind. When he squeezed his eyes just a little bit, it was exactly the same shade as Maureen’s hair.

    1. Creative use of the elements, Johanna (including the rogue word ‘Readhead’, now amended — a typo that I introduced into the post while I was desperately attempting to put the finishing touches to it at 04:30 am UK time… And a great twist in the tail, linking all the details slipped seamlessly into the narrative. Great stuff!

      I believe this is your first entry into the world of Microcosms flash fiction, so welcome! I look forward to further submissions from you. 😀

  3. @happymil_
    298 words
    Diva; Talk Show; Tragedy

    Karma Police

    She kindly introduces herself, as if there was a chance I didn’t know her. Her phone rings moments before the show begins.
    It’s my daughter, she says. She’ll pick me up for dinner.
    I understand, I tell her.

    The crowd goes wild when she appears on stage. A proper diva in action.
    A wonderful book, she says to initiate conversation. If she’d bothered to read it, she wouldn’t have said that. The book’s about that night. She was drunk. Yet all evidence disappeared. It was considered an accident. Case closed.
    I bet you sacrificed a lot, she says. I’ve sacrificed my daughter, I think to myself.
    Big dreams don’t let you down, I finally say. Small unfulfilled wishes you neglected come haunting you, reminding you of all those moments you imagined you’d live, yet you didn’t. Only now it’s too late.
    I take the pistol out of my pocket and point it at her.
    What goes around comes around, I say.
    The crowd screams.

    I can’t do it. I run away. I’m standing out of the building taking big breaths.
    The book, the success are all worthless. Killing her wouldn’t bring my daughter back.
    Crossing the street, I hear a deafening sound. A young girl comes out of the car asking if I’m all right. She looks just like her.
    I’m fine. As fine as I should be.
    Minutes later, her mother comes down. The show ends in half an hour, I hear her say, urging her daughter to go home. I think she now recognizes me.
    Interesting day, she says, when the girl drives away, fixing her hair.
    These are the last words I hear before I pass out, watching her walk away, leaving me helpless on the asphalt.

    What goes around comes around. Again and again.

  4. 299 words
    Fiery Redhead; Highland Estate; Tragedy

    Aflame in the Highlands

    Ever since she’d inherited the estate in the Scottish Highlands, she’d been nothing but trouble. An Irish-American incomer, she just didn’t understand our ways and, I dare say, didn’t try to. She had a fearsome temper and if you crossed her you’d get more than a mouthful in return. There was one thing that you could say about her though, she really did love her newly-acquired countryside. Most mornings, at first light, she’d be up and about and would walk the estate for miles. The sight of her, with her bright red hair streaming free in the wind, was enough to stir the heart. Her hair colour was unusual in how it really was fiery and not just a dull reddish shade. Many were the occasions that summer when it was mistaken for flame. The locals became used to the sight of her and forgot all about the warnings heralded by the old sayings.

    Och, you’ll have heard the old adage: red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky at morning, shepherds take warning. Or as they interpret it around these parts in their more pragmatic way: red sky at dawn, the heather’s on fire. It was a disastrous day when she didn’t go walking and the red glow in the West was taken for her fiery hair and not the moorland fire it was. There were recriminations; was it her fault, or the fault of the crofters, that so much land was affected before the blaze was finally brought under control? It was a sad day when she decided to cover up her hair. From the day following the fire, the mistress was seen to walk the estate with her hair bundled up, hidden beneath a headscarf, never again allowed to flow free in all its glory.

  5. @geofflepard
    298 words
    Diva; Broadway Production; Thriller

    In Which Two Peoples Are Separated By A Common Language

    St John Smyth mopped his brow. He’d never get used to what California called weather. Where was the mizzle, the understated muggy heat? ‘She is perfect, Sir.’
    ‘Will you cut the “Sir”, crap? It’s Junior, OK?’
    ‘If you insist, Sir. Junior, though if I may make so bold…’
    ‘No you may not. So, you sure the son of a b…’
    ‘Categorically so. My intelligence shows that the lady fulfils the criteria you laid down in your memorandum of the 21st inst…’
    ‘Come again?’
    ‘Your note, sir. You dictated, it, erm… Junior.’ Buttling for a movie mogul twice his age and he had to use such an inapposite diminutive. ‘If we make the not unreasonable assumption that Mr Mayer is a man of his word, then I think…’
    ‘The Broad will kill him?’
    St John allowed a moue of distaste briefly to cloud his Romanesque countenance before restoring his features to their usual combination of bland skepticism and dyspeptic martyrdom. ‘Hardly, Mr Junior. Commissioning a murder could well be traced back…’
    ‘So how does that slimeball snuffle his last.’
    ‘Shuffle, Sir. And Suicide. Ms Williams has been placed such that when her true characteristics are revealed, he will do what he has been threatening.’
    ‘OK, you’re a clever limey, Smyth but how in the name of Marion…’
    ‘Mammon, Sir.’
    ‘Shut up, Smyth.’
    ‘How’s this Dame getting Louis B to do the business?’
    ‘Ms Esther Williams is famous for her aquatic prowess…’
    ‘What the heck’s that got to do with anything?’
    ‘The memor… notes I took state Mr Mayer will kill himself if he has to work with another diver…’
    ‘Diver? Give me those… you cretin, I said ‘Diva’…’
    ‘Oh dear. Is this another case of “You say Diva and I say Diver…”?’
    ‘You’re fired.’
    ‘Very good, sir.’

  6. 296 words
    Fiery Redhead; Highland Estate; Tragedy

    Phoenix Fire

    They call her the “Siren”. She is the ghost of Muir’s Loft, an estate in the Highlands. She couldn’t have picked a better place to haunt really. The moors are always just out of sight, streaming mist making the shape of the earth shimmer. She cries at night, looking for her husband but never finding him. Some say she has hair like fire and eyes like the night sky.

    “Help me move the last of the boxes, Mark!”
    Mark sighed. His wife could be so annoying sometimes. They’d just moved into Muir’s Loft and she was already bossing him around. Hadn’t he bought this estate for her? Wasn’t that enough? She poked her head around the corner. “C’mon!” He got up and walked after her.

    The attic was not bad really. It was kind of mysterious. He felt a twinge in his gut. Had he been here before? Sarah turned to him and smiled. Her red hair gleamed in the stream of sun coming from the skylight. “I thought you’d like it here,” he grinned. Feeling magnanimous, he took the last box from her and stacked it against the wall. She turned to him her eyes brimming with sadness. “You know we’ve been here before, right?” Flashes of memory assailed his senses and, before he could stop himself, he picked up the poker and swung it at her head. She crumpled into a heap. Without thinking, he picked her up and put her in the trunk in the corner. Then he went downstairs to make himself a cup of tea. It wasn’t long before she started crying out on the moors. He would have to play out his life again and try to get a different outcome in the next. Reincarnation was a drag sometimes.

  7. 245 words
    Stand-Up Comedian; Talk Show; Horror

    Talk About Killing It!

    The studio lights shone down on the stage, bright and hot, and the comedian stood, proud and grinning, before his audience.

    “Thank you for having me here tonight!” he said, bowing low. “I promise you…you’ll be grinning at my jokes in no time. Let me tickle your funny bones!”

    The audience was silent, but he didn’t let that stop him. “A vampire walks into a bar and orders a Bloody Mary. The barkeep says, ‘Sorry, chum, but Mary is off tonight. She’s having a bloody good time, though!’”

    The silence was deafening. The comedian slapped his forehead. “Wow, talk about a dead crowd tonight. Might as well be talking to a bunch of stiffs.”

    He pulled out a flask and took a swig. “Right, Bob? Bob? This is your talk show, Bob. Talk. No? That’s okay, I’ll talk.”

    He grinned and stared out over the audience. “So the other night my wife says to be, ‘Hon, am I all skin and bones?’ I reply with, ‘Nah, I see skin and bones all the time, you’re not skin and bones. You’re like a humpback whale.’ I was sleeping on the couch that night, let me tell you.”

    Silence reigned, but his audience was grinning.

    The comedian smiled, and the bleached white skulls grinned at him from the seats as the hot lights beat down on the stage.

    “Even stiffs can grin,” he said to himself, laughing at nothing and nobody. “And what a grin.”

  8. 299 words
    Fiery Redhead; State Penitentiary; Comedy

    Get Too Close to the Fire, You’re Likely to Get Burned

    Her pink lips sound the insult across the yard, which only made the thirteen men huddled against the farthest wall from her, shiver even more.
    Each one had been personally stabbed by at least one of her hurtful words torpedoes.
    Fiammetta is her name, and while her fierce Italian heritage dates back a pretty collected line, Fiammetta’s name suits her.
    The coolness of the world was unbearable for someone like Fiammetta, so a swift kick in life’s ass was enough to heat it up. As for who did the kicking — she proudly admits to admiring her work.

    Here we are. Standing in the frozen space lined by stone, watching the red hot pepper heathen spew her unending witch-like words. Supposedly she worked hard to get here. Because woe to her, she got caught attempting to steal the baby giraffe with that fishing rod, and was detained.
    Fiammetta would have done better if she was…mature.

    But, being only eighteen, she has other plans. Those plans came to light after investigation.

    Why she’s in a men’s prison — I cannot say. I’m just a guard.
    Amazingly enough, there isn’t one human in this prison who hasn’t been scathed since she got here yesterday.
    I didn’t expect a 5’3″ blue-eyed, red-headed, Italian female to take down a men’s penitentiary.
    Well, all my understandings of females dissipated once she screamed at me this morning. I didn’t even know half the words, but I knew their meaning.

    Now, finally! The buzz interrupts my thoughts and drowns out her vulgar yells at Jerry the arsonist.
    We herd everyone up and travel towards the doors. I stay in the back, where all the prisoners are fighting to be last in line, because Fiammetta is leading. As always.

    1. Oops! sorry, I’m a bit out of it today. There are a couple typos, that are bothersome.
      Instead of ‘watching the red hot peppers spew her unending witch-like words’ it’s ‘watching the red hot pepper spew her unending witch-like words’.
      And lastly, instead of ‘I didn’t know half the words, but I knew they’re meaning.’ It’s ‘I didn’t know half the words, but I knew their meaning.’
      So sorry to bother you, I’d appreciate the changes! Thank you. *Face is bright red*

  9. 300 words
    Fiery Redhead; Highland Estate; Tragedy

    Shattered Dreams, Shattered Minds

    “Did you hear about the ghost? I’m so happy we decided to book this tour!” Eleanor squealed.
    “I think it’s all a hoax. Just designed to drum up some business for the failing B & B,” scoffed Peter, “I mean, how can they claim that this estate is actually haunted when no-one ever sees the ghost?”
    “But the guide says that you can hear her running down the hall and, if you go up to the turret room, they say that you can hear her unearthly wails.”
    “Probably just the wind, but whatever, at least we don’t have to spend another four hours on the road.”
    “Well, I don’t care what you do, but after dinner I’m going up to that tower to see if I can hear her for myself.”

    Margret stood at the window, surveying the land that had once been part of her estate, basking in the last rays of sunset as she readied herself for the nightmare that was to play out yet again.
    She cocked her head to the side as she heard the Duke calling for her but, before she could reply, she overheard her sister speaking.
    “She’s gone,” Aileen sniped. “Father sold her to the Viscount. You know he’s always admired her red hair and fiery temper. It may take him a while to break her.”
    “I’ll kill him,” growled Duke Kincaid as he took off at a run.
    …Margret dreaded what was to come next but was helpless to resist the memories…
    She ran after the Duke into the turret room, just in time to see her love flung from the window by the Viscount Warwick.
    Too late!
    Her screams of despair echoed through the castle as, night after night, she was forced to relive her curse and fall deeper into madness.

  10. Twitter: @ArthurUnkTweets
    Website: https://arthurunk.com
    243 words
    Fiery Redhead; Highland Estate; Horror

    Choices of the Dead

    I woke up dead
    The color removed from the world
    Then I saw her
    Hair fire-kissed and skin milky-white
    I leave the four posts of my bed and follow
    Her clothes are mist
    Covering all her intimate places
    We reach the bottom of the staircase
    She turns and speaks
    “Flames or paradise await
    Step forward, and your soul will be judged”
    A thousand needles fire through my hands and feet
    I do not have to speak
    My soul screams out every sin
    Her passive face turns to a frown
    A hand is inside my chest pulling out a dim light
    The staircase shakes and shudders
    What was up now leads down
    She descends into the darkness
    I cannot feel, but I know that I do not want to follow
    She hesitates for a second and looks back at me
    “Last chance,” she says
    Is this a test?
    It has to be
    But I cannot go on
    Her face draws ever closer to mine
    My soul in her hands
    A mouth opens wide
    To my horror, she devours it in front of me
    And vomits a jet black essence back into my body
    A thousand needles return
    Pain, rage, emotion uncontrolled
    The world turns blurry
    All I can do is scream
    My house is now my prison
    Trapped forever in this purgatory
    With nothing but my sin and rage

    Report user
  11. @The_Red_Fleece
    290 words
    Fiery Redhead; Highland Estate; Tragedy

    Faerie Stories

    “Humans are coming, humans are coming.”
    Terri marched up the Highland landscape. Her red hair, a creature puppeteered by the wind. Her encouragements carried by the air flow. I can’t believe her grandfather’s estate is so big, rolling over mountain after mountain, forest after forest. Yet it is the furthest away one Terri insists we must visit.
    “Almost there.” She pauses, standing like a tourist board model. To be fair, with this landscape and her beauty it would be impossible for her not to be. I pant in reply. The steepest city hill is nothing like these.
    Over the crest is the thickest, greenest forest. I half expected to bump into Little Red Riding Hood waving goodbye to her grandmother as we entered. The path Terri led us down must be a well-known one to her. She ducked under every hidden branch and stepped over each hidden puddle. I am only half as successful. At least I win on bruises.
    “There.” She pointed above our heads. Thousands of small twig ball nests sat in the low branches. “Faerie homes. They feed off the tree resin.” She flicked her lighter into life. The yellow flame highlighted hundreds of minuscule pieces of wood. Straws for the Faerie to drink from perhaps. I shook my head. Faeries aren’t real so they must be something else.
    Hissing surrounded us; an angry boiling pot of a sound. Whatever it was had a strength. The flame blew onto Terri’s hair, roaring it into blaze red. Her scream echoed off the trees as we ran.
    We collapsed at the forest’s edge, watching the bluey purple flames turn the trees and the nests they held to ash. Whatever lived in them, whether bird or faerie, were no more.

      1. Yes it is. Clearly writing too quickly. Can you change can it to Little Red Riding Hood for me Geoff? Also can you stick an ed on the end of that sentence at the same point as my tense has shifted.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.