Microcosms 196 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 196!

This week, we are pleased to continue with “The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction”, brought to you by Alert Terminal Warehouse.

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Microcosms 196

Prompts: 
Astronaut / Atlantis / Romance
OR
Mermaid / Spaceship / Western

$25 prize (free to enter)!

Come write a story in 300 words or fewer. Fun and free!

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Start here if you’re new or haven’t been here in a while. Click each tab to learn more.

To qualify for the cash prize, must MUST:

  • ***Submit your story as a comment below. ***
  • -Story must fit within the contest criteria, including word count guidelines, and be on time. (A few minutes is okay; contact us if there are technical issues preventing you from submitting more than 5 minutes past midnight, PT.)
  • -Include the prompts used. (You can use the ones we spun for or spin your own from the current or default spinner, but it must be clear what you used.)
  • -Vote AND leave a comment on at least one other story for the week that is not your own (doesn’t have to be the same story).
  • -Share a link to the contest on social media, if you have one. (I.e., if you include a social media handle in your submission to promote yourself, please extend the same courtesy in return.)
  • -Acknowledge that the decision of the judge(s) is/are final.

Please kindly use this format, then copy/paste your response as a comment on this post.

(Feel free to copy/paste and edit or save a copy of the Google Doc linked below.)

My Amazing Story Title
XXX words
Element / Element / Element
My Preferred Name (how you'd like to be credited as if your story is selected)
(Optional) website or social media link 1 (please include full URL)
(Optional) website or social media link 2 (please include full URL)
(Optional) Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information. /// OR /// No, I am not open to derivative works at this time, thank you.

***

My amazing story content goes here.

You can use HTML to add a link. 
Example:
<a href="https://twitter.com/MicrocosmsFic">https://twitter.com/MicrocosmsFic</a>

You can also use it to do italics or bold text.
Examples:
<i>text you want to be italicized goes here</i>
<b>text you want to be bolded goes here</b>

It’s totally fine to be creative with the “words” part, like “253 ripe bananas”, as we’ve seen some people do in the past.) Not using this format with NOT disqualify you. But it will help us out if you do use it.

We have prepared a free and easy-to-use, pre-formatted document in Google Docs to help simplify things. Just save your own copy and then replace the content with your own. (Sometimes, adding links will get your comment flagged by the spam filter. If you think that happened, please contact us for assistance.

REMEMBER

  • -You have ONE WEEK (Sunday – Saturday, midnight – midnight) Los Angeles Time (PST/PDT) to submit your masterpiece.
  • -All submissions must be no more than 300 words in length (excluding the title and other header info).
  • -We enjoy fan fiction! Just not for this contest. NO FAN-FICTION, please, and NO USE of COPYRIGHT CHARACTERS for this contest.
  • -Include: word count, the THREE elements you’re using AND a title for your entry (see format guide below).
  • -If you are new to Microcosms, please check out the full submissions guidelines on our FAQs page.
  • -I feel like this should go without saying, but just in case – absolutely no AI submissions.
  • -Constructive feedback is fine, but all comments should be made in the spirit of kindness. Determination of what that means and if there are any consequences (such as warning or banning) is at my sole discretion. This is a safe space. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, or anti-Semitism, etc. (including “dog whistles”), will not be tolerated. This has never really been an issue, and we generally have a very nice community here – let’s keep it that way.
  • -You retain all rights to your story, except otherwise noted and unless otherwise agreed upon in advance (e.g., if selected for inclusion in an anthology, a contract will be sent with details). By submitting your story to this contest, you are granting us worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free rights to display it on our website (and store it, as needed).

Here’s a brief rundown of changes we have made (details can be found on our FAQs page):

  • -Weekly contest runs Sunday – Saturday.
  • New! Judge’s pick winner gets a $25 USD prize. (Default is by PayPal; other options available.) Contest is still free to enter!
  • -Community pick winner(s) for fun and bragging rights!
  • -We have a default spinner you can use now if you don’t like the prompt(s) offered. Enter as many times as you like!
  • -We’re using the Pacific Time (PDT/PST, as applicable – Los Angeles time).

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This Week’s Prompts

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

We spun, and our three elements are (let’s see what you can do with these!):

Astronaut / Atlantis / Romance

OR

Mermaid / Spaceship / Western

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. (Don’t like any of these? Try our default spinner.)

Character

Setting

Genre

  • Mermaid
  • Astronaut
  • Nail Tech
  • Crossing Guard
  • CEO
  • Actor/Actress
  • PE/Gym Teacher
  • Incredibly Itchy
  • Atlantis
  • Spaceship
  • Nail Salon
  • Crosswalk
  • Board Meeting
  • Awards Ceremony
  • High School Gym
  • Triggers Allergies
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Steampunk
  • Western

Notes

NEW! Just added Sunday morning PT – you can now easily add bold, italics, and links!

NEW! We have some exciting projects in the works. Please register with the site here: https://microcosmsfic.com/register/

NEW! As a new bonus for entering, we’d love to help promote your work – for free! Promo page forthcoming. 🙂 Anyone who has ever entered one of our contests is eligible to apply! Submit your book here for consideration: https://microcosmsfic.com/book-submissions/

We’re working hard on improving the site, the benefits and contests we offer, and the submission process. Feedback? Please share your thoughts with us here: https://microcosmsfic.com/2023/06/11/wanted-your-input/

Helping judge this week is 3x Community Pick Eryn McConnell! Please be sure to offer thanks, especially on Twitter!

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 195 Community Pick(s) will be announced at the end of the week, along with the Judge’s Pick, who will win $25!

Happy writing!

KM

We are always and forever in need of assistance. If you have any spare time to help, we will happily accept. Even something as little as 5-10 minutes a week would be amazing. (You have no idea.) To find out how you can help, please visit our volunteers page. If you have an idea for a future contest and/or would like to be a guest judge, please contact us.

MC 194 Winners!

We’ve moved our Winners Announcements to their own posts! You can find the winners of MC 194 here: https://microcosmsfic.com/2023/06/17/results-mc-194/

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Microcosms 197+ The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction
Microcosms 195 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

45 thoughts on “Microcosms 196 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

  1. THE MERMAID OF SANTA LADONNA SPRINGS
    300 words
    Mermaid/Spaceship/Western
    by Steve Lodge
    Twitter:- @steveweave71
    Instagram:- steveweave_cheese

    She’d played me like the strings on a modified bassoon once too often.

    As Sheriff, it was down to me to lift Chiquita out of the well at the edge of town. The rope and bucket for lifting water from the well had been stolen by Max Twist and his gang in a botched bank robbery in Main Artery Street. As cucuriella and sagebrush blew across the dimly-lit town, I heaved her out of the well. The well owner was evicting her.

    First darned mermaid I ever did see, and I seen stuff in my years as Sheriff of Santa Ladonna Springs and The Boundary. She was asleep when I lifted her out. I moved hair from across her face.

    “My,” said Felix, my Deputy. “She’s a right pretty one, ain’t she, Mack?”

    “Seen a lot of mermaids, have you, Felix?” I asked sarcastically.

    “Hell, yes. I was married to one once.” This Felix lies like a rug.

    I carry the mermaid up to the boarding house of Old Ma Sellars. One of her rooms has got a bath so Chiquita can splash around in there till the stagecoach comes through tomorrow and can take her back to Appleton’s Aquarium in San Ronaldo.

    Me and Felix return to my office (two chairs in the corner of The Hickory & Blemish Saloon).

    “OK, Felix. Now tell me about this flying machine that crashed in the crater on the north side of town this afternoon.”

    “Well, according to the Captain, it’s called a spaceship and they were on their way from Mars to Jupiter and Earth kind of got in the way a bit.”

    “Felix, go and get a massage from Cactus. You’re starting to talk nonsense. Bring me a beer, Nolly.” I call. “I’ll ask the Judge what to do later.”

    1. >“Hell, yes. I was married to one once.” This Felix lies like a rug.

      >”Felix, go and get a massage from Cactus. You’re starting to talk nonsense.”

      Haha I love this. Such a creative take to have a mermaid living in a well! Your writing style gives it that “old timey” feel, and you’ve somehow managed to make a mermaid and a spaceship feel natural in this world. Super fun.

      1. Thank you for your kind comments. There are a number of my stories in anthologies and of course there is the famous self published double trilogy of 6 books crammed with many of my stories and poems. The major thread running through them is that they are all nonsense with a capital c. I’m sorry, I don’t know if it is permitted to advertise here but I can be reached on steveweave7@gmail.com for more about the double trilogy. Bless you.

    2. Ha, love this! When I saw the prompts I wondered how to weave them together… Well, this is a fine example! Plus it adds a pinch of humour, which I always find difficult.Well done!

  2. The Law on John’s End
    300 words
    Mermaid/Spaceship/Western
    Galen Gower
    Yes, I am open to derivative performance, including cutouts on popsicle sticks putting on a play on a stage made from a shoebox.

    Ameera found their camp easy enough. She’d followed their tracks back to their ship, a light freighter not designed for much atmospheric travel. Maybe they didn’t even remember what they’d done. Men like these didn’t live by a code, so she wasn’t surprised when they didn’t observe the common decencies, but murder was still murder.

    “Look here now, you boys just leave that where it is. She’s been on this here porch for more’n three thousand years now. Came off the prow of the first interplanetary vessel to reach these moons. Leave it be now.” Cullen the barkeep had spoken reasonable enough, but they’d shot him anyway. He wasn’t even armed. John’s End was a lithium mining moon. Trouble mostly came from bored freighter crewmen looking for sport. There wasn’t much law, but when it was needed, Ameera strapped on her gun belt.

    Ameera pounded the hull. Shouting and curses from within echoed up and down the claustrophobic holds. She stepped back from the hatch and took position, though she did not draw. If they wanted gunplay, she’d give them a fair chance to beat her. None ever did.

    “Come out and face the law of John’s End. You’re accused of murder. You can try your luck with the gun or accept the rope. The choice is yours, freighterdogs.”
    The men shuffled out, confused and bleary in the morning light of twin stars. They squinted at the slim, tall woman silhouetted in the rising suns. One of the men twitched his hand for his gun and Ameera’s shot cut him down before he cleared leather.

    The rest were meek as she tied their hands. Their gallows waited and Ameera would make sure the masthead was returned to the porch of The Mermaid’s Song Saloon. She’d been there a long time.

    1. Ooh, this feels very Western, and on a foreign moon. I don’t know how you managed so much world building here in so few words, but this feels like a real place. It didn’t even occur to me to make the mermaid a masthead, but that makes so much sense! And you incorporated it into the story perfectly. Well done.

      Side note: I look forward to your derivative performance takes every week. Lol

  3. Once Upon a Time in the Stars
    (posting for fun)
    300 words
    Mermaid / Spaceship / Western
    KM Zafari
    http://twitter.com/thebatinthehat
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me for more information.

    ***

    There is no air in space, nor water. The former didn’t stop the landwalkers from fleeing to the stars, and the latter won’t stop me.

    They have broken the laws of Mother Earth, and She is not one to forgive.

    These are bandits of the highest order. Only the ultra-wealthy had the means to escape via interstellar travel. Like the rest of them, they’ve forgotten the old ways, that their progenitors were fish, that Nature will always have its due.

    They’d have been better off if their ancestors had come to their senses – given up on land and crawled back into the ocean, just as the whales had. Instead, they hunted their ancient brethren to near extinction and poisoned the waters from whence they once came. And now they’re looking for a new home to use and destroy?

    Not in this millennia. It’s time for some good, old-fashioned, primordial justice.

    They never see me coming, these landwalkers. They are so lacking in imagination that when I appear aboard their crude ship of electricity and metal, they see me as a dream, an alluring, flowing-haired beauty encased in a roiling, aqueous bubble.

    They think I am trapped. I am the bait.

    I set my pleading eyes on the oil tycoon and sing my siren song. It’s all too easy – he thinks it’s his cowboy charm. I invite him in, wrap my arms and tail around him, and embrace him with the sweet kiss of Death.

    The moment our lips meet, the spell is broken. This is by design.

    I tighten my grip and squeeze his thrashing limbs until the air has left his lungs and his struggling subsides.

    I leave his body, crumpled and wet, on the floor but keep his hat as a souvenir.

    It looks better on me anyways.

    1. I spoke too soon up there when I was wondering how to weave the prompts together… This is a third really fine example. I’m so glad I don’t have to judge this!

  4. The Memory Feature
    300 words
    Astronaut / Atlantis / Romance
    Deanna Salser
    https://www.facebook.com/Beadanna777/
    https://beadanna777.wixsite.com/procreation
    I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.

    ***

    All the way down to the surface, Gia thought the craft would break apart. She couldn’t see anything, strapped in as she was, but she felt it when the parachutes deployed. She had been on a voyage as a colonist but during a routine drill the escape pods malfunctioned, and she was shot into space by herself. She had been alone for sixty-three years, until the gravity of this planet had sucked her in. A gentle thump and the door opened revealing a bridge to a platform. Outside, she looked around at the lush green vegetation. Taking a chance, she removed her mask and took a breath, noticing at once the sweetness of the air. Then the view hit her. Down below was a cavern, miles deep and wide, and nestled at the bottom was a circular city. Towers at its center sparkled in the light of two suns.
    “It’s a bit overwhelming, no?” said a deep, melodious voice. Gia closed her hanging jaw and turned to see an apparition approaching. Human, and so beautiful, he couldn’t be looking at her with such naked desire. She responded without thinking, her lips curving with a smile of her own. This was familiar, somehow.
    “Actually, no,” she told him, shrugging off her suit. “It feels like coming home.”
    “Did you miss me, my love?”
    As she met his gaze, memory rushed into her like a breeze, filling her. She laughed, flinging her arms around his shoulders.
    “Gavin! You know I never remember you until I return!” He hugged her tight, wishing she wouldn’t play with the ancient holographic simulator. That old processor had too many settings. It was alien technology. The memory feature scared him. Her body didn’t change, but what about her mind? Atlantis wouldn’t be bearable without her. Nowhere would.

  5. The Mermaid and the Margarita
    300 words
    Mermaid / Spaceship / Western
    Laura Cooney
    https://www.lozzawriting.com
    https://twitter.com/lozzawriting
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.

    ***

    “Well, Howdy!”
    When we arrive on the Alhambra VI, a cup is placed into our hands and magically a drink appears, it is the drink you most desire and mine is a frozen Margarita. It’s only 9am, but it has already been A DAY!
    “We’ve extensively reconfigured things for you. You will be seated in Pod 7 and seat 8.”
    He says this with a grimace and I know full well that having a disability in 2094 is seen with… horror. There aren’t many like me, that’s for sure. With all the medical advances since 2019, the year of the Scourge, you wouldn’t really expect to have to make ‘spaces for people.’ I smile at him, because he is young and a robot and he really has no idea how ridiculous he looks in that cowboy hat. When he is grown, or updated, whatever, he’ll learn politeness, like we all had to… Well most of us.
    “Fuck off Bot Boy” my pal Derek, has no time for dickheads, electronic or not. I pat his arm. It is no matter. We are off to experience life outside of this hick town of Dallas Sur Mer and we are going to be FREE, for three whole days, there’s no judgement in space!
    The day that The Gulf of Mexico overran Houston people didn’t really believe it was happening, you know? It seemed to me that it would be a good time to come up and see what the hell was going on. Our world was getting bigger, theirs smaller. It needed more people. It was as good a time as any to come to land, I supposed, and I’d always wanted to try a frozen cocktail.
    Now I’m living my best life, the first mermaid on a spaceship, tequila in hand…YEEHAW!

    1. This is a delightfully fun take on the prompt! I love how expressive the character is and I find the idea of updates as “growing up” quite funny.

  6. A Study in Sprinkles
    295 stolen sprinkles
    Gym teacher/board meeting/mystery
    Molly Bilbey
    No, I am not open to derivative works at this time, thank you.
    Erik perspired as the elevator rose. Never before had he been summoned by the school board. What use had they for a gym teacher? The elevator dinged, signaling his stop.
    He second-guessed every step down the hall to the boardroom. Stepping gingerly into the room, he found himself at the foot of a long table.
    “You’re just in time, Erik,” said the Chairman of the school board. “Is it true you used to be a detective?”
    Erik’s feet shuffled. “Yes.”
    “We are in dire need of your assistance,” said the Chairman. “I bring a box of chocolate donuts with sprinkles to every board meeting and every time, the sprinkles disappear.”
    Erik gasped. “A sprinkle thief?” He donned the deerstalker that he kept in his back pocket for emergencies. “Tell me everything you know.”
    “Every morning,” said the Chairman. “I buy a box of sprinkled donuts. I place it on this table, but by the time it’s opened, all the sprinkles are gone.”
    Erik questioned each of the other board members, and each had a perfect alibi. It seemed unsolvable, but then the pieces clicked.
    “Ladies and gentlemen, I have identified your sprinkle thief.”
    “At last!” cried the Chairman.
    “Not so fast,” Erik locked eyes with him. “Only one person could have done it. It was you, Chairman.”
    The Chairman looked taken aback. “But I buy them!”
    “Exactly,” replied Erik.
    The Chairman stood in dismay. “I would never-“
    His defense was cut short by a sudden outpouring of sprinkles from his pockets.
    “Fine, I’ll admit it. Every morning I scrape the sprinkles off to sell them. The sprinkled donuts are just too expensive.”
    “Case closed! Take him away boys,” Erik directed to no one in particular. He then marched to the elevator, satisfied with his work.

    1. If there are 295 stolen sprinkles, no wonder they are so expensive XD. Truly a riveting micro-mystery.

  7. Unhooked, Punch-lined, and Sunk
    300 words
    Astronaut / Atlantis / Romance
    Sophie H. Sigrafys
    I’m open to derivative works and can provide contact information to those interested

    “Do you have a hook? I think I got lost at sea when I fell for you, and I need somebody to reel me in.”

    “You lost that hook several hundred feet ago,” Harbor smirked sadly, poking the severed fiber-optic tether sprouting from the top of Marlowe’s space-age diving exosuit. “How far did you fall for me, creature from beyond the darkness?”

    “Maybe three hundred leagues beneath the sea? I’m NAUT quite sure.”

    “Okay, now that one was a bad one!” The Atlantean grimaced, short fangs reflecting the suit’s chest light in the dark water.

    “Shaol’d I keep going? I’ve got plenty ‘cause you octopi my thoughts. Shell I compare thee to…uhh? What counts as a summer’s day down here?”

    Harbor groaned, swatting a pale, webbed claw at Marlowe’s pressurized metal exterior. Leaning over the viewport so she could see Marlowe inside, she asked:

    “Tell me, how do I know you truly love me?”

    The silence of the Midnight Zone’s blackness enveloped them as Marlowe contemplated.

    “I know it probably won’t mean much to you since it is something you might never see. It is a pretty big deal on the surface though. Harbor, I love you to the moon and back.”

    “Do you love me enough to never see the moon again?”

    Marlowe chuckled weakly, copper-skinned hand pressed to the glass of the sunken exosuit. The other hand controlled rotary joints and placed the suit’s metal prehensor in Harbor’s palm. They “held hands” as Harbor laid down next to Marlowe.

    “I have more than enough stars to watch with you down here, to last me the rest of my lifetime.”

    As the two continued to lie on their backs, watching bioluminescent constellations swim the darkness, sensors blinked dimly green inside the suit.

    CAUTION: 3/50 hours of life support remaining.

    1. Thank you both for your comments! I’m glad my punchlines hit exactly as I intended XD

  8. Plumbing the Space Depths
    Mermaid/spaceship/western
    300 words
    @geofflepard
    https://geofflepard.com

    Bea Meup watched the spin cycle get up speed and considered where it had gone wrong.
    Probably when Captain Slogg insisted they took the western arm of the galaxy to explore. ‘We’ll be like the first settlers, going west, but with more gadgets and fewer diseases,’ he enthused.
    No one demurred; no one knew they would be splashing around in the space shallows, barely going, let alone boldly going.
    As for seeking out new life forms, that was a joke. By this time they’d even stopped taking bets on what Slogg would next spot in some cloud of space dust or distant comet.
    Bea pulled her smalls, her not-so-smalls and her frankly-how-much-weight-have-I-put-ons from the washing machine and hung them on the bar heater.
    It had seemed to be an innocent request. ‘Lieutenant Bea Meup to the flight deck. We have a sighting.’
    Oh sure we do, Bea had groaned to herself. It’ll just be something squidged onto the windscreen and if it ever was a life form, it won’t be now.
    As she entered the flight deck the tension had been palpable. Next to her, Faye Zerstostun had pointed at the screen. ‘There.’
    ‘It’s a space mermaid,’ Bea’d cried out.
    Instantly the room chilled; all eyes turned to her. Faye had moved away. The numerous intakes of breath briefly upset the atmosphere inside the starship.
    Captain Slogg spoke slowly. ‘We cannot jump to such a conclusion, Lieutenant.’
    ‘I…’ Bea knew she was sinking fast.
    Slogg wasn’t going to let her off easily. ‘Of course it appears to be a Mer, but a maid? Not a merboy? Have you considered it might be bi-mer, a-mer, even mercurious?’
    And that was it; she was cancelled and exiled to the laundry. Only Liv Longnpropser spoke to her, but then she was a Vulcan.

  9. This was funny and I liked it. I think you just about toe the no fan fiction and copyright characters rule, possibly. Give me a smile the way you played with rhe names though.

  10. Farewell, Atlantis
    298 words
    Astronaut / Atlantis / Romance
    Vicente L Ruiz
    Twitter: @VicenteLRuiz
    Website: Vicente L Ruiz Writes
    Medium (free to read): https://medium.com/@vicentelruiz
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.

    ***

    We are the hope of our race. We, bound to be the last couple of Atlantis, strapped down to this tower of controlled explosive power, as the world around us crumbles to ashes. My hand moves right, and finds another hand. We entwine our fingers and say nothing; we don’t need to, such is our bond.

    I record this as a souvenir of our civilization, in case something happens to us and we all simply disappear.

    I close my eyes and remember these past years. I recall when the quakes began. It was obvious that something was wrong, given their frequency and mounting strength. Our scientists did their research, and their conclusion was terrible: the planet was going to be destroyed.

    But we are not the apex of civilization for nothing. We, as a people, made a decision. Atlantis had just barely dappled into space, and yet there was our hope. We only had time to develop and build one ship. Initially, we strived for an ark, but alas, it was not to be. Too large a project, too impossible, too little time.

    And thus we chose a ship for two. A couple of teachers, who were already together. Two to reach for the stars, to travel far in time and space, and settle elsewhere, the project of an ark of people becoming an ark for biomatter.

    And here we are, as the launch proceeds and we leave the planet behind. Our cameras let us see our island becoming smaller, and we watch as hell unchains and volcanoes erupt and quakes roar and the ocean engulfs Atlantis.

    ****

    As we look back, the planet settles. Only our home goes.

    But we’re outbound.

    Forever.

    We reach for our stasis pods, wondering who was wrong, and whether we’ll ever wake up.

    1. Great snippet! It seems like it would be a great start or end to a novel. I hadn’t thought of the Atlanteans BEING the astronauts, so that was a great interpretation of the prompt. Nice work!

  11. Ain’t No Luck In The Draw
    300 words
    Mermaid/Spaceship/Western
    Jaime Bree
    @jaim_ee_bree
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.

    __________________________________________

    Mouth drier than dust. Fear mixed with midday sun. I’m just about above snakes but it ain’t long.

    The Loco opposite looks ethereal, but ain’t nothin’ angelic about him. He’s here to take my town. I’m here to stop him.

    I spit. Nothin’ leaves my mouth. My fingers wriggle near my gun. I’m so far from ready.

    I hear the shot. My gun hasn’t left the holster yet. The bullet goes through me like a high speed freight train loose on the tracks.

    I fall.

    Slowly.

    I swear I see palm trees in a distant oasis. I head there, stare into deep blue and turquoise, glistening in the sun.

    I gaze at my reflection. ‘You goin’ down in history like this?’

    Someone grabs my throat. She’s so beautiful, but baring chiselled teeth. The hue of the water seeps into her skin, leaving a glistening sheen all over her.

    ‘Hell, no.’ I choke.

    She smiles, slapping my face hard with her tail as she sinks away.

    I ain’t dying yet…

    I’m falling.

    The bullet once through my body accompanied by droplets of my blood, is sucked back into the barrel of his gun.

    I’m upright, wriggling my fingers close to the handle of mine. I tap my badge. I prayed the Lord come save us and he did just that.

    That mine gave us much more than a Sheriff’s badge though. Our shovels hit metal. Weren’t no metal I’ve ever seen or known and when I touched it…

    Well, you ain’t gonna believe so y’all just have to watch.

    I blink at the sun, trace his shadow to calculate aim.

    I pull. I’m quick.

    He falls.

    I roll my gun, holster it as I turn towards the saloon.

    That tin can futuristic genie gave me three choices.

    I choose this one.

  12. Smoothly Until That Point
    300 words
    Mermaid/Astronaut Spaceship/Atlantis Western/Romance
    A.J. Walker
    https://awalker.org
    Twitter/Spoutible: @zevonesque
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.

    ***

    Nathan decided he’d been lollygagging in the outer planets of Sham-69 too long. It was time to get on with something interesting; and get paid. He was kickstarted in the Serenity Bar where he’d overheard a conversation between the two resident exotic dancers, Torri and Jewel (whose enormous assets she named after gemstones). Puzzlingly mesmerised he only caught half the conversation, but it was an enticing one about a mermaid called Morena who lived in the tropical ocean close to Nova Atlantis. A mermaid! Such a rare catch would be worth plenty of planetary credits he thought. He’d found a job.

    He’d filled his one bag and left the hotel room in super quick time. When his mind was made up there was no stopping him. His Astrobug, the Aldi Central Isle, was at the nearby airport and as always ready to go; it didn’t pay not to be ready for a hasty getaway in Nathan’s line of work (when he was working).

    It took him just two days in various unsalubrious honky tonks in Nova to learn the whereabouts of Morena. His charm and his bribes worked well – and his trusty Colt revolver even better. Two days later he flew Aldi to the area he’d been recommended and found her within half an hour of arrival. Everything had gone so smoothly: until that point.

    He’d found his prize to steal away and sell to the highest bidder, but no one had warned him of Morena’s beauty and magic. It was soon clear he’d need an alternative plan of work. Love would do that to a man. Last time he was seen he was living with Morena whilst selling flip-flops and knock-off sunglasses on the beaches of Nova Atlantis – looking the happiest he’d ever been. Serenity: love would do that.

  13. A Far-fetched Tail
    300 words
    mermaid/spaceship/western
    by Angelique Pacheco

    Mara lived in the river that ran through Crocodile Valley. It was strange for it to be called that, since she had never seen a crocodile – not even once in the two hundred and thirty two years she’d lived there.

    She felt out of place, a mermaid in the wild west, but in all honesty, her research had been flawed. She knew that her professor, as they were called here on Earth, would have a fit and give her a failing grade if he knew what she had done. She had been careful not to be spotted, but during the gold rush, there had been a few close calls.

    Her assignment was simple. Observe the humans in their natural habitats. Mara was distracted when the prof had given the assignment and had accidentally projected the word “mermaid” into the holographic frame. When she landed in the wild west, in a river, with a giant tail, she knew she was screwed.

    It wasn’t all bad. There was a guy… Okay, there had been a few guys over the years that she had gotten crushes on, but this one was different…

    Josh stood behind the bush. There she was again. The fish girl. He knew he should be afraid but something compelled him to step out.

    “Hi there. I’m Josh.” He stood on the riverbank shyly.
    Mara jumped and turned, her tail splashing and showering both Josh and the descending spacecraft that was hovering over her. It was time to go home. Mara hoped her family would accept Josh as one of their own, as her mate. Wrapping her arms around Josh in a tight embrace, they were beamed up.

    Unfortunately, Lenny, the town drunk, saw this happening and stumbled to the saloon. It would be a ‘tail’ to remember for sure!

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