Microcosms 168

Hello, hello, hello! Greetings, you fabulous flash fictioneers, and welcome to Microcosms 168.



(1) You have just 48 hours until midnight, tomorrow (Saturday) 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 

Looked at this day in history once again, but I decided to do one option for each letter of the alphabet (split among the options). I’m sure there’s a word for this, but I’ve forgotten it. Let me know if you remember!

***Also, the hosting migration has been postponed. Hoping it will occur next week.***



(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:

Opal Miner; Moon; Drama

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.


  • Astronaut
  • Basketball Player
  • Cat
  • Dancer
  • Electrician
  • Frankenstein’s Monster
  • Globe Trotter
  • Knight
  • Opal Miner
  • Politician
  • Queen
  • Xylophone Player
  • Hurricane
  • Independence Day
  • Japan
  • Lake
  • Moon
  • NASA
  • Rodeo
  • Snowy Wasteland
  • Teacher
  • Under Water
  • Volcano
  • War
  • Yodeling Competition
  • Zombie Apocalypse
  • Drama
  • Comedy
  • Romance
  • Acrostic Poem
  • Action
  • Horror
  • Sci-Fi/Fantasy
  • Letter/Journal Entry



Last week’s Judge’s Pick, David Lewis Pogson, has kindly agreed to act as the judge this time around.


All being well, results will be posted next Monday.

Microcosms 169
Microcosms 167

18 thoughts on “Microcosms 168

  1. 300 words
    Opal Miner, Moon, Drama


    “Daddy, don’t go.”
    But it’s the only way to stay.
    Her velveteen eyes search mine for answers she wants. I give her a smile of false bravado.
    “I’ll be back before you wake, Chicken.”
    “Promise?” Her voice brims with trust.
    “I promise to make dessert for breakfast.”
    A giggle escapes her marshmallow lips. “Dig deep, Daddy. Find the prettiest opal.”
    “Always.” But it’s not the prettiest opal I need. It’s the biggest.
    Downstairs I pay the sitter for next week.
    “Until morning,” she says. I nod on my way out, wondering why she works nights here. Her day job is Medical Necessary.
    She gets to stay.
    I slide into the driver’s seat and notice the full moon. Its pale face mocks me.
    “I’ll get you,” it sneers. I’m going crazy. Insanity will get me shipped out faster than losing Black Opal Necessaries competitions.
    Every Friday, I’ve managed to win. I’ve allowed Earth to swallow me, dug through its innards and claimed stones I was sure were the largest to be found. I’ve watched at checkpoints, my colleagues being tagged for transport to the moon, while I wore victory ribbons – license to remain living on a planet whose population is too much for it to sustain.
    Everyone is being relocated to the moon.
    Everyone but Necessaries.
    They say opals are transported to the moon for habitability, water filtration purposes.
    This I believe.
    Ten hours later, I’m driving home, blue ribbon on the passenger seat. I think of miners who found prettier opals, ones that didn’t measure up in size. They were marched onto buses, bound for moon transport.
    This I don’t believe.
    Ashes flake from the sky, leaving a coat of deathly dust on my windshield. I choke on the burned bones of men, and the full moon mocks me yet.

  2. http://www.engleson.ca
    280 words
    Politician; Zombie Apocalypse; Acrostic Poem

    He Must Have Been A Lovable Child, Once


    Donald must have been a lovable child, once;
    Observant, aware of the moment,
    Noble, as noble as a child can be,
    Artistic, seeking to capture beauty,
    Loquacious, excitable, pursuing tales to tell,
    Dutiful to his mother, fair minded.

    Joyous, he must have known joy, been
    Obedient to his parents, adults, his betters;
    Honest and humble, traits we need to learn, a
    Nobility of purpose, how to step lively into the world,

    Testing all of his knowledge
    Roaring with Trumpian pride, with purpose
    Unburdening his greed,
    Mustering some sweet chunk of heart,
    Preparing to be the worthwhile man someone thought he could become.


    Donnie soured every honey pot,
    Oversaw an empire, developed a rage of
    Napoleonic complexes, rode each burst of
    Authoritarian inclination; they came so easily, his
    Libido and lies rose like cream, he
    Doubled down on his escalating glories,

    Jay-walked into positions of power, was
    Opprobrious, inglorious in gesture, his
    Hubris swallowed any beauty, any
    Notion of humanity, any

    Triumph of constricting soul, the spirit,
    Ruined the earth, the air around him,
    Unctuous in deed, a sycophant
    Mutating into something less than human, a
    Preening presidential POTUS poser.


    Drooling with sorrow, bloodless, his
    Obsequious followers rise from the grave of discontent,
    Noxious hate spews from
    A covfefe of concubine corpses
    Lockstep followers, borderline souls
    Drowning in their own venom,

    Joined at the hip of hate, dancing in an
    Orgy of hate,
    Hate for what is,
    Negative souls

    Trapped in a death spiral, a
    Reflection of sorrow, the
    Undead sweeping the land, an apocalypse of
    Marginalized, frantic, fanatics, Zombies beyond life, and their false saviour, a
    Presidential outlier, a pariah bereft of reason, of love, of joy.

  3. @ellengwriter
    300 words
    Electrician; NASA; Romance

    Proton Deficiency

    The lights in the lab went out.

    “I don’t believe this!” Conrad reached for his phone. There was no dialling tone. “Hang on a minute, everyone!”

    A sigh filled the lab as Conrad rose from his seat. Light from the corridor flooded in when he opened the door; a few of the scientists groaned and covered their eyes from the sudden onslaught of protons.

    It was a good ten minutes before Conrad came back. “Okay, the electrician is coming in about half an hour. We’ll just have to take an early lunch.”

    Chairs shuffled as everyone vacated their seats and left the darkened lab. Some had packed lunches tucked under their arms; others were busy counting coins and notes retrieved from the pockets of their long, white coats.

    Juno nipped out and got a packet of crisps from the vending machine outside. She wolfed it down and then went back into the lab.

    Half an hour later, on the dot, there was a knock at the door from a woman in a blue jumpsuit and carrying a toolbox. A name badge on her chest read: Mathilde. Juno let her in.

    “This again?” Mathilde asked, and Juno shrugged a shoulder – a gesture Mathilde couldn’t see in the dark.

    “The fuse keeps blowing,” Juno replied. “We haven’t got access to the electric cupboard.”

    Mathilde made for a door set into the wall and unlocked it with a busy set of keys from her pocket. Reaching inside, she flicked a switch. The lab stayed dark.

    “Oh, dear,” Mathilde said in a deadpan, “I seem to have turned the CCTV off for this lab.”

    Juno walked up behind her and wrapped her arms around her shoulders. “Oh, dear. Whatever will we do?”

    Mathilde turned in Juno’s embrace. “I’m sure we can think of something.”

  4. 300 Words
    Opal Miner, Moon, Drama

    Lacy’s Loft

    The sign said Welcome to Barstow, but I was pressed to leave. I had been here too long, too many nights, dark, black, moonless. Barstow, Las Vegas, all fallen stars and sand. Both heavy in contrast, both worth nothing more than the dead you bury there. I should be leaving, not coming. I shouldn’t be here.
    (Car skids off the highway, roars down a sandy road)
    If you have ever been to Nevada, then you are probably aware of a nook off route 50. The kind of place where country songs are made, the good ones. Not the ones with dogs, and mama. No, the ones with the pretty girls who taste like cactus. Carson City, brother. It’s heaven and hell, all wrapped up in a tiny piece of negligee, shiny, silky, satin.
    (Car screeches to a halt. Driver exits, covered in sweat, breathing heavy. Drags a body. Cowboy boots a foot in the sand. It’s too hot. This will have to do.)
    She said her name was Lacy. I knew she was a liar then, but I didn’t care. She called me baby. Said she loved me. She kissed me, said my eyes were like opal. Was I an opal miner? My arms were so strong.
    I went back the next day, excited. I leaned against her door. I love you. Kiss me. Your eyes are like opal.
    A stranger moaned.
    I did what I had to.
    (Trunk slams. Muffled scream below. Driver reenters highway, middle finger held high)
    Last Nevada Exit, the sign says. I smile, happy to go, and then I see it, an Abandoned sign. Under it reads Marshall Opal Mine – Closed Indefinitely.
    (Sharp turn. Car speeds off highway, down dirt road, disappears into the desert.)
    Now Lacy will learn what it means to be loved.

  5. @stephens_pt
    268 words
    Opal Miner; Moon; Drama

    The drama unfolds on a windless night under a cloudless sky, the new moon below the horizon, just past the witching hour. “The Opal Miners’ Moon” in four acts with Greek Chorus and no stage lights, acted out on a makeshift stage under a stand century oaks. The players’ faces are lost in shadows, the choreography a blur, but the words carry across the glen as clear as the call of a whippoorwill.
    The final act begins. The chorus pleads with the gods to restore the village fortunes. The maiden reclines on an altar of earth and stone. The slightest flash, the stars reflected in the knife as it plunges into her breast. The Chorus chants, “Black blood, black earth, black stone.” Those who watch join the chant until it echoes through the valley.
    In the next village, sleepers rise from their beds and check the locks on their doors. They’ve heard the rumors of sacrifice and prayers to ancient gods.
    But it is only a play. When finished, the maiden rises, bows, and joins the chant. The sacrifices ended three generations before when the villagers realized even gods cannot replenish a mine’s empty veins and the village will drift away like dust.
    In the morning, before dawn, the maiden, or rather the girl who portrayed her, will creep out her window and her boyfriend collect her with his car. They will leave for the city, the last of the village children.
    No one will remain but women with swollen knuckles and shriveled wombs; husbands with sterile seed.

  6. @CBonkowsky
    289 words
    Politician; Zombie Apocalypse; Letter/Journal Entry


    Dear Chancellor Hudson,

    I regret to inform you that I will not be able to attend your gala on the 1st of December. The “country folk” have been particularly active this week, regardless of the aid package we told them would be on the way. It simply must move through the requisite forms first – imagine if we didn’t even know who was receiving the money? The few memos that make their way to us call their little disease a “tragedy”, but it would truly be one if the records were not in order.

    Your speech the other day was impressive as well. A state of emergency is simply untenable currently, with the economy the way it is, and panic is never the right option. I am glad you see a path forwards, friend, steps that do not involve a full collapse of our great nation to the malignancy caught out in the fields. Perhaps if they kept themselves cleaner, they would avoid such an affliction, no?

    Still, there are some worrying aspects. As we lose workers, their demands will grow, and we will find fewer to replace them. Perhaps we should consider relocating key manufactories inside the walls, let this burn itself out. If they attempt to follow their jobs, the negotiation can now be on our terms.

    Apologies, but I must cut this letter short. It appears that there has been an intrusion into my grounds, and my usual courtiers seem to be…rather swept up in it. So do not worry if this letter has arrived tardy, for I shall merely have to pay one of these men to carry it for me. Even if they do lack decorum, our money is the universal language of civilizatio-

  7. Opal miner: Moon: Drama
    296 words

    O Pal of Yindi
    Little Yindi swung on the gate of the mine, waiting for her father to finish his shift. She was just six years old, but she knew enough to recognise a ‘nobby’, the dirt that encases an Opal.
    ‘I’ll give that to Papa’ the little Aboriginy girl thought and began to gently tap the nobby against the metal hinge of the gate, slowly her labours revealed a half moon shaped crystal opal about the size of a man’s thumb. She rubbed it on her ragged denim dress and it sparkled… she wanted to keep it for
    herself….. And she did.

    Strange feelings woke her that midnight and drew her to the window. There was a half-moon shining brightly in the sky, her little hand was mystically drawn to the gem, then moved to hold it up to the Moon, which shone through the stone,

    Moonlight flooded the room. A voice that Yindi felt, rather than heard, whispered ‘Make a wish’.
    “I wish Gramma Allira’s leg be mended”, the little girl shouted.

    After two days the old lady discarded the stick she had relied on for years… by the weekend she was charging about like a randy Wombat!

    The indigenous co-operative Opal mine had run for seven years quite happily until a large company took interest and bought the land from under them, then roughly evicted the miners.
    Miki, Yindi’s father, went to reason with them, but failed to return. For weeks the family hunted for him, they feared the worst, even began a time of mourning… then there was a half-Moon.

    Yindi knew what to do, she held the stone up to the Moon.
    Next day Miki returned cut and bruised, but alive.

    The family returned to the old ways discarding Western ideals…now every half-moon brings blessings.

  8. 286 words
    Opal miner; moon; Drama

    Mystic stones

    Mining for opals would be the death of him, he mused. All he could hear all day was the tap-tap of pickaxes. Except on days where there was a full moon. No one worked on those days. It was forbidden. He couldn’t understand the company’s reluctance to have them work on these days. They were losing out on precious money! But that would change tonight. If they weren’t going to take some opals, he would.
    The night was dark as the moon had not yet risen. He moved towards the cave stealthily hoping no one would see him. He needn’t have worried. Not a soul was to be found. He lit a candle and used it to guide him into the cave. His hand trailed along the rock passage as he made his way into the belly of the opal mine. When he got to the cavern he was looking for, he stopped. A skylight at the top of the cavern made the need for a candle redundant. It was better this way anyways; the moon would soon be up. He grabbed a pickaxe and started chipping away at the rock for his prize.
    The moon began to climb in the sky ever inching towards the skylight. As the moon beam lit up the cavern, the opals began to glow. He had never seen anything so mesmerizing. The stones seemed to dance in front of him and the mystical, psychic visions so commonly associated with opals began to weave inside his mind. But with so many opals came so much power, far more than any mortal being could possess. The others would find him dead tomorrow. He wouldn’t be the first, nor the last.

  9. Opal Miner; Moon; Drama
    300 words

    Lucy in the Sky With Opals

    As a globetrotting opal miner, Lucy had worked in many different countries, but never had she experienced such a desolate wasteland as the one she now surveyed. She had worked long and hard to qualify as an astronaut, pursuing her dream of hunting out the largest opals in the solar system. Now she was a globetrotter in the truest sense of the word, a woman of two worlds; she was on the moon, living in an environment so extreme that it made even the interior of her native Australia seem benign.

    With the lunar surface’s high Silica composition, it was thought likely that there were considerable quantities of opals waiting to be extracted. While this was not yet proven, deposits of the mineral had been discovered on Mars, all the chemistry pointed to this conclusion.

    Theory had it that, given the lower gravity, any opals found would be far larger than their earthly counterparts. With the Earth’s deposits largely exhausted, the importance of finding new supplies of the gemstone had grown. The emergence of private, space going corporations laid the exploration of space wide open to new fields, fields which would have been ignored as unimportant until now.

    Lucy spent most of her working day head down, looking at the ground, in her pursuit of riches. Her working day occurred during the lunar day, a two week-long period when the surface temperature exceeded one-hundred Celsius. She worked long and hard delving into the permanent shadow of the deepest of craters, searching for opals.

    It was only as she stretched her weary body and looked up into the sky that she saw the greatest riches of all. Shining there above her was the largest and most beautiful opal of them all. That fantastic blue and white marble that is the Earth.

  10. Opal Miner; Moon; Drama
    294 words
    An opal in a nutshell

    We are more than a hundred people in a rusty vessel.
    I’m young and poor, sitting on a bad bench far from the tetchy grown-ups.
    Just before the Moonrise our party boarded on this floating bucket under the control of the smugglers.
    We sneaked in under the Coast Guard’s nose and now we are in the middle of nowhere.
    Something broke and the engine has switched off.
    Nobody knows how to fix it, and we’re just going adrift.
    I’m lonely and my clothes are wet, but my lucky charm is still with me: it’s an opal pendant I dug in the little quarry I used to work in before I had to fly Ethiopia.
    A girl is sitting beside me.
    In the UN camp in Libya I’d noticed her queuing for food, but back there any approach was strictly forbidden.
    Now, here, I can. The boat is a secluded, different world with no taboos. We are just two soggy souls lost in the Mediterranean.
    “This is my opal … a talisman. Please take it. I hope it’ll bring you luck”
    She glances at me, solemnly takes my precious stone and smiles.
    If the boat sinks, the opal, the last memory of my previous life, will be with my one and only friend.
    A strong wave shakes our nutshell.
    Are we like Noah and his spouse in the Arch? No, God currently seems to be distracted.
    The boat sways dangerously. It’s dark and I just can’t see anything.
    Then, all of a sudden, the Moon magically appears glowing with an opalescent light.
    And a ship shows up just a mile away from us.
    Everybody is shouting for help and the girl is holding my hand.
    Is the opal a promise of a new life together?

  11. @graythebruce
    298 words
    Electrician; Independence Day; Sci-Fi Fantasy

    Ember and Fleet

    Someone had launched fireworks near the tower on Morse Hill. When Uther pulled up in his pickup to check, smoldering debris behind the chainlink was already blossoming into a wisp of flame on dry brush. The electrician heaved a sack of sand from the truck bed, passed through the gate, poured. Crushed embers with a boot. From far downhill came the clink of beer bottles on stone. Guttural laughter. Uther called the police.

    When he was done, he sniffed the air. Sulfur. Ozone.

    Weeds near the tower.

    Marks gouged into earth under chaparral, near the fence.

    Uther pulled weeds, thorns and spurs biting his hands. Ground the marks with his heel, like snuffing a cigarette.

    Looked up.

    Coal-dark silhouette, hunched outside the chainlink. Unlighted cigar, as always. Air wavering in city lights.

    “He’s here, ain’t he?” called a woman’s voice, like ocean surf, from high on the tower. St Elmo’s fire dancing now along the lines.

    “Yeah,” Uther said.

    The man spoke now, “Let me in,” voice dry as desert wind, feeble as a trickle through a crack in a dam.

    “Sorry,” Uther said.

    “I need her.”

    “You destroy her,” Uther said. “Every time.”

    Wind whipped dust downslope in little tornadoes.

    “I don’t remember,” Ember said.

    “I know.”

    Glowing brighter now, above. Her voice: “What’s he saying?”

    Uther told her.

    She asked, “Can we talk?”

    “The barriers–”

    “We know,” she said. “Can we talk, through you?”

    Uther sighed. Sat against the fence. Ember told of a coastal panorama fire, when he raged so bright he reflected off the sky, before they put him out. Fleet told of her empire, never bigger. Of toys she animated for children. Of stories she carried. Uther relayed it all, and, in the morning, drove home to climb pensive into an empty bed.


  12. @McLeanSix
    295 words
    Opal Miner, Moon, Drama

    Lessons in Humility

    Handsome, young, polymathic due his education in Austria and France, Alphonso XII was welcomed back to his home country of Spain as the scion of the old empire. With the First Republic deposed of, the people welcomed their king’s return with all of the pomp and drama fitting for a young man who considered himself the chosen of God.

    Naturally, he soon took a bride, Maria de las Mercedes, and their union sparked a romance that the young king sealed with an opal ring. Mined from the furthest reaches of the erstwhile empire, a colorful piece hydrous silica, he presented to her on their wedding day with the words, “This opal, with its myriad colors, is as our kingdom, and you shall wear it upon your hand and do with it as you wish.”
    She died soon after. Within six months of the wedding, she miscarried, and contracted typhoid fever. This cast a shadow over the new kingdom, and the young king’s heart, who, in his grief, gave the opal ring to his sister. She, too, died soon after. Determined that a woman of the family should wear it, the young Alphonso presented it to his sister-in-law, who died three months later.

    Astounded by the swath of deaths cut through his family, Alphonso determined to wear the ring himself. He died in his palace, only 27 years old. Humbled by tuberculosis and dysentery, he gave the ring to his successor, telling her, “This simple but magnificent stone has brought our house low.” The queen regent, seeing what terrible misfortune the opal had wrought, hung the ring from the neck of the Virgin of Almedena, the only royal woman the ring could not kill.

    To this day, only the foolish or arrogant dare wear the opal.

  13. @The_Red_Fleece
    Word Count 300
    Opal Miner, Moon, Drama
    A Come Hither Moon

    “Please,” the man is pleading on his knees. “Please.”
    He looks so small at the foot of my tall desk. Tears scar his cheeks leaving a clean line in grey dirt which covers him. The pseudochromatic opals he places on my desk shine in contrast. “We can get more. My sister’s found a seam.”
    The rock is pretty but worthless. Anyone who has the money for beauty has left. As if on cue, the moon reveals itself through the smog. A come hither message only the rich can answer flickers through my high window.
    “We’ll do anything.”
    The words slam into my soul. Memories of my induction ripple out from the impact.

    “They’ll do anything.” Spicer laughed. “My advice, take them for all they’ve got, especially the women.”
    I’m surprised he doesn’t add, ‘like these ones’ as we pass queues of desperate people trying to get off planet.
    “What if I don’t want to.” My backbone grew stronger.
    “Then shag their husbands.”
    The word makes me feel dirty. Shag is a teenage word for kids who think they know about sex. Spicer is talking about something much darker.

    The man continues to beg. His sister probably mining through the dirt as he does so. “Look, best I can do is give you ten credits a k.”
    “Ten a k.” The man splutters.
    “My orders are to only give five for opal.”
    Silence, then a nod.
    “Perfect.” I enter his opal as seedlings and transfer the credit. A payment card pops out the bottom of my desk which the man takes and leaves. From my own collection, I drop some seedling into my desk basket and replace it with the precious stones the man left. Opal is very valuable on the black market.

  14. @EdenSolera
    300 Words
    Queen; Snowy Wasteland; Drama

    Righteous Sin

    Wind ravaged the barren landscape, stirring flakes of snow from their resting places atop drifts of their brethren. Unlike the fairytale of a pure white, virginal land covered in a dusting of snow, this land was grey, bleak and foreboding, lost almost entirely to the blizzard that danced about this forgotten place.

    Barely visible through the swirling snow, the jagged towers of a crumbling palace stood resolute in the distance. In the midst of the throne room, open as it was to the harsh winds, dozens of women gathered to witness the succession. From her seat atop the frozen throne, an elderly woman, her eyes as unforgiving as the surrounding landscape, beckoned to the woman who would be her successor.

    A young woman, her eyes a stark contrast as they darted around, stepped forward until she knelt before the dais. The older woman stood, her voice strong as it carried over the blizzard that threatened their walls.

    Though she knew the queen was speaking, the young woman could not bring herself to hear the words. She knew what they would be.

    She knew what was expected of her.

    She knew she could not carry on this legacy of monsters.

    Just as the queen turned to her, waiting for her to take the oath, the young woman surged to her feet, her eyes bright with accusation, her hands alight with frigid fire.

    She would not further the murderous reputation that was that of the ice queens. Were she to become the next queen, she would take no oath but that of her own design. An oath committed to the betterment of them all.

    Wordless rage flared in the elder, salvation in the younger.

    Two women fell to share a dying breath.

    Beyond death, a young woman rose, crown upon her brow.

  15. That Glitters
    299 words
    Opal miner, moon, drama

    After dad tucked me in and kissed me on the nose, I asked, will mom tuck me in once she gets better? And he said, of course, ladybug. I asked, but when will she be better, dad? And he would brush back my bangs and answer, I don’t know, but she’s trying. She’s trying so hard for you.

    We drove from Kentucky to Nevada to see her in the facility. I had never seen anything like the light of the moon on the desert, the way it set all the rocks and sands to shining. And when we drove back through the desert I saw people in the desert bent over like vultures, pulling up the dirt with their hands, gouging the rock with picks and holding little lumps to the sun. I said, Dad, what are they looking for? Opals, he answered. Nevada is only place in the whole country where you can mine them. And I said, can we mine opals, too? And he said, tell you what, bug. We’ll go when she can come with us.

    And years later, lying in bed long after dad had stopped tucking me in, I found I couldn’t sleep one night as the moon washed the whole backyard in gold. When it was almost morning, I got up, I took a shovel and pick from the garage, and went to the backyard to dig. While the cicadas stirred, I smashed limestone against shale and shattered clay in my hands. When I was too tired to keep going, when I had fallen to the torn-up ground with crying, I heard the soft breath of shattered ground behind me. I turned to see my dad digging his shovel into the earth. We held up rocks to the sun, searching for the shine.

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