Microcosms 161

Greetings, my flash fiction friends, and welcome to Microcosms 161.


(1) You have just 24 hours until midnight, today (Friday) New York time (EST) to write and submit your masterpiece.
(2) All submissions must be no more than 300 words in length (excluding the title)
(4) Include: word count, the THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry
(5) Do NOT give details of your entry on social media, your blog, etc. until the Results post is live
(6) If you are new to Microcosms, PLEASE check out the full submission guidelines 

Not only did Stephen Shirres judge last week’s contest, he’s also acting as guest host this week — what a hero! Over to you, Stephen.


The sequel to one of my favourite animated movies has its UK release today (Friday, 08-FEB). Based on the world-famous building block toy, The Lego Movie 2 has the possibility to go anywhere and be anything, so I thought it would be ideal as a prompt for Microcosms.  


(If YOU have an idea for a future contest and would like to be a guest host — this simply involves writing a preamble to introduce the theme, and dreaming up six CHARACTERS and six LOCATIONS related to the theme — please contact us.)

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

We spun, and our three elements are:

Construction Worker; Coffee Shop; Comedy

Write a story using those OR feel free to click on the “Spin!” button below, 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.


  • Space Traveller
  • General
  • Superhero
  • Construction Worker
  • Pirate
  • Alien Queen
  • Spaceship
  • Post-apocalyptic Wasteland
  • Child’s Bedroom
  • City
  • Coffee Shop
  • Throne Room
  • Sci-Fi
  • Horror
  • Adventure
  • Crime
  • Alternate History
  • Comedy



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

All being well, results will be posted next Monday.

Microcosms 162
Microcosms 160

17 thoughts on “Microcosms 161

  1. http://www.engleson.ca
    300 words
    Space Traveller; Coffee Shop; Comedy

    Bean There, Done That: The Space Travails of Glop

    The Grand Exquisitor of the planet Baleforth, stood before me. Though his voice was deep, it cracked from far too many years of breathing in the toxic dust that swirls in our thin atmosphere.

    “Glop,” he said, “we expect much from you. Others have been sent to the Earth and failed to return. There have been no messages. Not an iota. Nary a dribble. Our planet is dying. Our people are listless. You are our last hope. But please, be discreet. We cannot have you disappear, too. We must have you return with a meaningful assessment.”

    And there it was. The assignment of a lifetime. I was as ready as I would ever be. Frightened? You bet your asteroid I was scared. What was it about Earth that could entice my predecessors to abscond? OR, was something more nefarious at work on Earth?

    We had perfected solo flight eons ago. While our space communications systems were anaemic, my expedition was a breeze. In three solar years, I plunked to earth in a wooded area outside of the city of Seattle, Washington.

    While not my preferred destination (I leaned towards Melbourne), it would serve my purposes.

    Many places on Earth claimed the title of Coffee Capital. “Let them fight amongst themselves,” the GE had directed. “Just pick one. One is enough, Glop.”

    I understood. Find a simple earth coffee shop. Learn the secret. Sip the brew. Word of coffee and its magical powers had floated about the Universe like space junk for years. We had no beans on Baleforth. The best we could do was mix moisture with the noxious dust.

    Phooey stuff.

    My Planet needed an ocean of coffee.

    And I needed a cup.

    Before me stood Phil’s Diner.

    Something sure smelled good.

    Coffee, it seemed, smelled like roast pig.

  2. Space Traveller; Post-Apocalyptic Wasteland; Sci-Fi
    298 words

    Art Collectors

    ‘This looks like a waste of time.’

    ‘You’re right. Check with the ship.’


    We’d hovered over the Louvre in Paris and recovered Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’. Someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to protect it in a lead-lined, air-tight case. They must have hoped that one day we would return to collect it. We’d transported it up to the ship with very little effort.

    In Florence we’d recovered Michelangelo’s ‘David’. We found it inside the Accademia Gallery. Again, someone had thought to box a wooden casing around it like an upright sarcophagus. The timber had dried in the arid conditions and protected the contents. Not even termites could survive in this climate.

    Information compiled on ancient memory sticks from before the evacuation showed us where to look. Once the colonists had established themselves they’d transferred all data onto a central network. Then successive generations could enjoy that collective human knowledge. Thus they had ensured that culture, amongst other things, could continue on New Earth even though the original artworks were no longer accessible … until now.

    Many buildings housing the artworks had withstood the relentless sunlight and constant dust storms better than we’d expected. Some items had survived. Now we’d returned to recover what we could.


    ‘Control confirms that we’re in the Tate Gallery in London.’

    ‘What other info do we have?’

    ‘Not a lot. A small section of the record was corrupted during conversion. It’s supposedly an Installation work by someone called Tracey Emin. A private owner loaned it for exhibition but there’s no identifying image.’

    ‘Well, judging by this unmade bed, we’ve landed in the caretaker’s quarters. Let’s get the ship to lift us over to the National Gallery to see if we can find Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ instead.’

    1. She does get some stick, that Tracey Emin — even down to folk spelling her name ‘Tracy’. [ Amended now. 😉 ]
      Still, that piece is likely to survive an apocalypse without anyone noticing damage…

      1. Thanks for the correction. I’ve nothing against TE , in fact I think her birds project in Sydney is a really great idea/project. It’s not her fault if the Art World is full of idiots. I just think that they conned themselves when they praised that bed.

  3. @hollygeely
    285 words
    Construction Worker; Coffee Shop; Comedy

    The Construction

    Luc took a stool at the counter and ordered scrambled eggs with coffee. It wasn’t much, but it would fuel him for his first day on the job.

    “That ain’t gonna get you through,” said the grizzled old man on the next stool.

    “Pardon?” said Luc.

    The old man sipped his own coffee. It was a dark, thick sludge, and it took a few minutes to move to his mouth. The beard and baseball cap were the telltale signs of a long-haul trucker.

    “You’re new in town,” said the trucker. It wasn’t a question.

    “How could you tell?” asked Luc.

    “We always know.”


    The trucker jerked his head to the other customers enjoying their breakfasts. A few of them raised their cups in a toast. Luc was surprised to see the sheer quantity of food they were packing away.

    “Is that why everyone stared when I walked in? Because it’s obvious I’m new?” said Luc.

    The trucker nodded.

    “My husband got transferred here. I was lucky to find a job so soon,” Luc said.

    The trucker snorted.

    “Luck had nothing to do with it, kid.”

    “What do you mean?”

    Instead of answering, the trucker slid a piece of pie down the counter.

    “I can’t have pie for breakfast,” Luc said.

    “Get your calories in while you can. Breakfast is all you get.”

    “What about breaks?” Luc said.

    “Ain’t no breaks around here!” said a woman seated at a booth. She, too, had a hardhat.

    Luc was starting to worry.

    “This should be an easy project, right? It’s not a big street,” Luc said.

    “This is The Construction, kid. You ain’t going to finish. You’ll be working on that road until the day you die.”

  4. 286 words
    Pirate; Coffee Shop; Adventure

    The Best Coffee

    A raven-haired maiden sauntered into the coffee shop.
    “Ahoy, what can I get for you, matey?” asked the scraggly boy behind the counter.
    “Rusty? Uhm…he is not available at the moment,” he said as he looked towards the closed office door.
    “Not available!” Arabella lifted the counter and marched towards the closed door. She swung it open.
    “Rusty! Where is my coffee?”
    Rusty stared at Arabella. Why did she have to be so darn stubborn?
    “Bell, I told you. Give me a day. The boys had a bit of trouble acquiring it.”
    “What kind of trouble?”
    “Well, do you have time for a story?”
    Arabella nodded.
    We were sailing through the Java Sea, which was surrounded by places that made the best coffee. We came across a ship whose flag had coffee beans as their sign. We knew we had found a booty. We charged the boat, but as we arrived on board, we heard a terrible scratch below deck. As I lifted the hatch a gang of civets ran out of the hold and a man came run after them.
    “STOP THEM! STOP THEM! They have stolen my coffee cherries.”
    My men apprehended the civets.
    “What do you mean they have your coffee?” I asked the man.
    “Come let me show you.”
    I head below deck with him. “Eww. What is that?”
    “The best coffee you will ever drink,” and he handed me mug of the black goo. I sniffed it. It was coffee. I tasted it. My mind exploded. This stuff was amazing. So for rescuing his civets, he gave me one.
    “So, where is my amazing coffee?” asked Arabella.
    “That’s thing. I am still waiting for the civets to make a poo.”

  5. 299 words
    Superhero; Child’s Bedroom; Comedy

    Time for School

    Although it was a child’s bedroom, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was some sort of post-apocalyptic wasteland. Toys were everywhere. Little figures representing spacemen, soldiers, pirates, aliens and more were scattered underfoot, making it difficult to negotiate the way from the door to the bed without treading on one.

    I reached the bed without maiming my stockinged feet too badly and shook the reclining form, trying to bring it to life. The response was less than promising. A sleepy voice muttered something which might have been words were they not so muffled as to be incomprehensible. I tried again.

    ‘Come on, you’ll be late for school if you don’t hurry.’

    It was like speaking to the dead. The body remained comatose. I gave it another shake and slowly an eye peeled open.

    ‘Wha’ time is it?’

    ‘Time for school.’

    ‘Again? I went only yesterday. You don’t expect me to go again so soon.’

    ‘Yes. Up. Now.’

    Slowly the reluctant figure rose from the bed, searched around for some clothes and began to dress itself in a desultory manner.

    ‘I’ll be waiting for you downstairs with breakfast. Hurry up now.’

    Actually, there were two of us waiting for him at the breakfast table, one of whom was ready and eager for school: our son…

    ‘Why doesn’t Daddy ever get up on time? He’s always making me late. He slept in my bed again last night too.’

    ‘I’m afraid Daddy doesn’t like school. He’d like to be a little boy again and not have all the responsibilities of being a teacher. That’s why he likes your room so much with all your toys.’

    Eventually they were joined by a crying Daddy.

    ‘I don’t want to go to school, I want to stay at home and play superheroes.’

  6. 300 words
    Space Traveller; Spaceship; Sci-Fi

    The Only Volunteers

    “This view is just amazing,” she says, peering out of a viewing aperture.

    I go and stand next to her. The sight is certainly stunning. The galaxy looks splendid when you see it with your own eyes.

    “It’s beautiful. But not more than my girl,” I say.

    She laughs and gives me a peck.

    “I can’t believe that we were the only volunteers for this. Would you ever get to see this on Earth, with that stay-within-the-designated-limits-or-you’ll-die-of-radiation crap?” she says.

    “Not everyone’s that dauntless, you know.”

    “Well, I’m glad that you aren’t one of those pussies,” she says, wrapping her arms around me, “or I’d never have met you.”

    “So. Tomorrow’s the day. You’ll become the first person to actually step out of our solar system.”

    “Yeah. I’m so excited, I think I might forget to collect the samples when I get out there,” she giggles.

    “You’d better go and sleep now. You need the rest. I need to do some more tinkering with the controls.”

    “Okay, then. Good night.”

    She kisses me and goes off.


    After I’m sure that she has slept, I reach out behind her pod, pull out the wires that I’d already marked, and go to my own pod to sleep.
    In a few minutes, she’ll die of asphyxia.

    Tomorrow, I’ll become the first person to step out of our solar system.

    They’d thought that I wasn’t good enough for the job. They’d thought that I’d better be a backup, in case anything goes wrong.

    Well, now it will. The astronaut they thought was impeccable will die because she didn’t set the oxygen gauge correctly—or so they’ll think when I’m done—and I’ll have to do her job instead.

    Tomorrow, I’ll become the first person to step out of our solar system.

  7. 299 words
    Construction Worker; Coffee Shop; Comedy

    Constructing New Traditions

    He wiped the sweat off his brow with a brown flannel hanky. Stuffing it into his pocket, he was about to start working again when the bell rang, signalling the end of his shift. Closing his toolbox, he walked out among a sea of construction worker faces.

    At the corner he stopped and looked at his watch. It was four o’clock. He looked around and saw it. A small coffee shop on the corner. A delightful place with red and white checkered tablecloths and white, wicker furniture. He was drawn to it. In England he had always taken his tea at four pm sharp. Moving to America had been a big change for him. People here simply didn’t believe in the same traditions. They bulldozed through life like tweaked rats, scurrying from one fad to the next. He walked towards the patio and sat down.

    This hefty man walked towards her shop. She didn’t like construction workers coming in, they smelled bad from working in the sun all day and they were crass. She could chuck coffee grounds in a cup and only then would they stop swearing and act somewhat civilised. She cringed as the giant approached. He was two feet taller than her, and his forearm muscles rivalled her thighs. He nodded at her without even looking at the menu. Boor! He would undoubtedly want greasy eggs and grits washed down with six-shooter coffee. She had become a huge fan of westerns since moving to the States. Knowing she would miss her tea-time today, she walked over to take his order.

    He smiled and nodded at her. She looked like an English rose. He smiled widely at her and asked, “Good afternoon, Mum. Could I trouble you for a spot of tea?” Her mouth dropped open.

  8. 232 words
    Space Traveller; Coffee Shop; Horror

    Discombobulated End

    She walked into the coffee shop, her skirt billowing at her ankles. She stumbled into the busy coffee shop, eyes displaying utter shock and disbelief.

    “Are you okay?” A young woman looked up at her, a bright device in her hand.

    What is this?

    Her heart was racing, and she could feel the blood rising to her face. Nothing made sense; nothing looked the way it had millennia ago. The race that inhabited this planet was strange and confusing. They had skin that was almost translucent, and each and every one looked different.

    Her cerulean skin stood out in this world, and she could feel herself getting dizzy. A passerby screamed as she felt a deep, sharp pain in her back. She had forgotten she did not belong. She had forgotten that she was not in her own skin.

    A searing pain roared down her back as her skin opened, like a trench forming deep within her. Soaring lights outside caught everyone’s attention and the woman disappeared into thin air.

    The news played on in the background. “Emergency broadcast system alert. An unidentified object has just recently hovered over the city. Citizens are advised to stay indoors and away from doors and windows.”

    Everyone in the coffee shopped looked at each other and a faint image appeared where the woman had been standing.

    “Space travel is possible.” The figure disappeared. Silence ensued.

  9. @Matilda40119810
    Space Traveller; Post-apocalyptic Wasteland; Sci-Fi
    299 words

    It is Coming

    The first thing that hits me is the smell. It’s menacing and ominous; dark and powerful in a land that destroys everything it touches. My eyes shift to the ground, fervently searching for its source. I find it almost instantly, half buried beneath a layer of dust. Its deep blue colour stands out boldly against the ashen sand, surreal in the barren wasteland. I turn towards it, entranced by the strangeness of its presence. My feet shift beneath me, slowly carrying me towards it, drawn by an invisible force. My muscles tighten as I approach, as if desperate to halt my progress, but I continue on my path. Curiosity, rooted deep within my gut, draws me closer and closer.

    The smell grows stronger with every step, each breath filling my lungs with the repulsive stench. Revulsion crashes over me in waves, leaving me fighting for control of my body. Shakily, I lower myself to my knees beside it. Brushing the dust away, I uncover a charred blue tarpaulin drawn tightly around a crooked mass. I reach for the corners, feeling the heat of the plastic sear my skin as I grasp the edges. I gently lift it upwards, twisting away as a rush of fetid air strikes my face. I gag, bile rising up my throat, as I bend to look beneath the rim. Shadows cloud my vision, but even the darkness cannot hide the horrors that lay before me. My eyes slowly reveal the details: bloodied clothes, shredded skin, and a face, frozen in a silent scream. The blood is still damp, recently spilt.

    I stumble backwards, panic and dread engulfing my mind. How could I be such a fool?

    Suddenly, behind me, the sand begins to crunch, shifting beneath a heavy weight. I freeze.

    It is coming.

      1. Hi Geoff. Yes, ‘revolution’ was definitely not the intended word. An amendment would be great.

  10. [ This entry is from Geoff Le Pard; he had technical problems submitting it… Probably leaking photorombollons. ]

    295 words
    Construction Worker; Coffee Shop; Comedy

    Just Getting The Job Done

    John Plont scanned the café, before joining Harry Pettimoron. He fitted the IV line and sighed. ‘You well?’
    Harry frowned. ‘Missus was a bit runky and the mutt had a touch of the dribblets. Busy day.’
    ‘Yeah? What’s on the job-sheet?’
    ‘A couple of underwibbling grommoids and another of those leaking photorombollons.’
    ‘More photorombollons? Nasty buggers. Last one nearly jellied my tooblocket. Helen was dead unimpressed.’
    ‘I bet. Hadn’t she just had her scroombottles reframbrigated?’
    ‘Yeah. And her nails done.’
    Harry nodded. ‘Colin’s having a management hang-in, see if we can’t get double-wonders next time. Let’s do the photorombollons first, then we can warm our prantiles on Mrs Patterson’s froomdogle.’
    ‘You think she’ll have some of those refragranced zip-zoomers? I could murder a couple.’
    Harry rubbed his stomach. ‘I’ll pass. My orifices are clagging. Come on.’
    John released the line, burped and floated after Harry to their truck.
    ‘So… holiday plans?’
    ‘Oh the usual. We’ve giving the mother-in-law to medical research again – they’re taking some cuttings from her hippocampus – and the kids’ school has organised a Time Warp for their history project before they Build an Alien life-form at the Other Species camp.’
    ‘What base material do they use these days? Silicone? Carbon?’
    ‘Zinc-based ginger with a cardamom isotope. You get peace-loving bipeds with low flatulence and good posture. We’re here.’
    Once the scaffo-magnets were in place, they set about sealing the light leak.
    ‘How did this happen?’ Harry wrestled with the parallel dimension.
    ‘Office party. Someone snagged the fabric of time with their party heels.’
    John steadied the magnets while Harry stitched the hole shut.
    ‘Doris said we should take a cruise. Jupiter’s good value since they reupholstered its Red Spot. There. Time for a break.’

  11. @beadanna7
    300 words
    Construction Worker; Coffee Shop; Comedy

    Coffee With the Village People

    Greg was having a hard time waking up. He had forgotten to buy milk, and detested drinking coffee without it, likening it to a cup of hot gasoline, so he decided on the spur of the moment to stop at Cuppa Joe, his local java joint, on his way to work. He had a minor flirtation going with one of the baristas there and was looking forward to a little repartee.
    Cuppa Joe was crowded, and Greg got in line. Just in front of him was a guy straight out of a movie, with his leathers and his bandanna, and all the tattoos covering every inch of skin. In front of him was a young man with long, straight black hair and bronze skin, his black eyes snapping over his high cheekbones. Next was a highway patrolman, just stepping up to the register. Greg started to wonder if he had woken up in the twilight zone when the door opened and a girl who could only be described as a sailor walked into the shop. Greg could see his barista behind the counter, whispering with her coworkers and laughing at the ensemble that had shown up in their store, and he belatedly realized he had come inside wearing his hard hat and bags. At that moment the song changed to an impossibly familiar tune. The cop turned, tucking his gloves in his belt.
    “You with me?” he asked the young man, with an inviting grin.
    “Sure, why not. I am Cherokee.”
    Greg stepped forward.
    “I’m in,” he volunteered.
    The biker sighed. “You want us to make the letters and everything?” he asked.
    “We kinda have to,” the sailor girl replied.
    The song swelled to its refrain.
    All five of them lifted their arms.
    “YMCA!” they all sang together.

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