Thanks to all who submitted to Microcosms 168. We had 15 entries this time. Love it!
***We plan to finally move web hosts this week. I will initiate the request shortly so it hopefully is done by the next contest. The migration should be complete by Wednesday. Any comments you leave after tonight might not transfer, so please keep that in mind. I’m hoping any disruptions should be minimal. The website should function much more smoothly after this, 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 167 Judge’s Pick, David Lewis Pogson, kindly agreed to act as judge for this contest. Here’s what he had to say:
The numbers are rising and the quality remains high across the board. In addition, my previously scant knowledge of opal mining on earth and in space has increased enormously.
Sticking with my previous criteria (see my comments at Microcosms165 Results if you don’t) it was once-again difficult to select a winner from a quality collection of varied and fascinating stories.
Favourite / Favorite Lines
Dana – Ashes flake from the sky, leaving a coat of deathly dust on my windshield.
Bill Engleson – Noxious hate spews from A covfefe of concubine corpses
Ellen Grace – … a few of the scientists groaned and covered their eyes from the sudden onslaught of protons.
Joe Bogle – It’s heaven and hell, all wrapped up in a tiny piece of negligee, shiny, silky, satin.
Phillip Stephens – No one will remain but women with swollen knuckles and shrivelled wombs; husbands with sterile seed.
Charles Bonkowsky – Perhaps if they kept themselves cleaner, they would avoid such an affliction, no?
Ted Young – …by the weekend she was charging about like a randy Wombat!
Angelique Pacheco – His hand trailed along the rock passage as he made his way into the belly of the opal mine.
Tim Hayes – It was only as she stretched her weary body and looked up into the sky that she saw the greatest riches of all.
Diego Piselli – No, God currently seems to be distracted.
Graham Robert Scott – St Elmo’s fire dancing now along the lines.
Matthew C. McLean – To this day, only the foolish or arrogant dare wear the opal.
Stephen Shirres – A come hither message only the rich can answer flickers through my high window.
Eden Solera – Barely visible through the swirling snow, the jagged towers of a crumbling palace stood resolute in the distance.
Janelle Carson – I found I couldn’t sleep one night as the moon washed the whole backyard in gold.
Graham Robert Scott – Ember and Fleet
This had some good writing and a lot of potential and may well deserve a placing from a better judge. However, despite its good qualities, in all honesty I really didn’t understand what it was about. It felt like an extract from something bigger that perhaps contained more explanation. Maybe it’s my fault – so I’m giving it a special mention just in case I’ve missed something glaringly obvious that everyone else can see that I can’t.
Phillip Stephens – The Opal Miners’ Moon
Interesting, twisty, a modern slant on an established theme that made me want to follow it to the end, and it was worth it to get there. A bit more depth (if possible) to the central character might have given it a better placing.
Stephen Shirres – A Come Hither Moon
Dark, threatening, nasty. A central character who seems decent until the twist comes in, or maybe he is a decent guy just doing his best in difficult circumstances? The depth of character sets you thinking; the hallmark of a good story.
Bill Engleson – He Must Have Been A Lovable Child, Once
Sheer brilliance. Great idea with a lot of work in it. Everything – beginning, middle, end – strong central character – Zombie twist at the end and very bleak. Plus poetry and acrostics (which I love). If it had rhymed as well I think that I would have wet myself. This must be about as clever and intelligently-complicated as writing can get. Including DJT’s typo ‘covfefe’ was a masterstroke. Maybe it should have been the winner (I was torn) and the author is entitled to ask ‘why not?’ because on any other day it could have been. So read on.
And now, without further ado, we present the winners of Microcosms 168.
(insert drumroll here)
Bill Engleson – He Must Have Been A Lovable Child, Once
Politician; Zombie Apocalypse; Acrostic Poem
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,
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.
Janelle Carson – That Glitters
This is a delightful and simple little story that kept pulling at me as I re-read all the entries. It would be hard for anyone not to empathise with the narrator. It had all the criteria that I was looking for but it also had an additional strong, emotional (almost-personal) element that gave it the edge. I dislike DJT intensely but I like Ladybug immensely. So both characters had ‘relatability’ for different reasons but ‘likeability’ was what swung it. To put it simply, I just preferred one ending to the other; the hint of hope over hopelessness – the finest of fine distinctions.
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.
Congratulations, Janelle. 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. (We also have some judging guidelines, if needed.)