Microcosms 199 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 199!

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

***Special announcement***

We’ve had some winners generously ask to pay it forward before and some who chose to donate to charity. I’ve hesitated to mention this previously because I don’t want anyone to feel bad about accepting their prize – after all, that’s what it’s there for!

However, this week’s judge – Sophie H. Sigrafys – has not only asked to pay it forward but specifically requested that instead of using it to extend the contest that we double the prize this week.

So, for this week only, the prize is doubled to $50 – wow!

Time Left to Submit

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Quick Access Links

Info Tabs

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 entry format tab).
  • 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).

Add Recurring Weekly Calendar Reminder

Never forget to enter again! Choose as many as you like!

Add a recurring reminder for Sundays

Add a recurring reminder for Mondays

Add a recurring reminder for Tuesdays

Add a recurring reminder for Wednesdauys

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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:

Journalist / City Street / Sci-Fi

OR

Socialite / Elevator/Lift / 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. (Don’t like any of these? Try our default spinner.)

Character

Setting

Genre

  • Passenger
  • Tailor/Designer
  • Landscaper/Gardener
  • Ice Cream Driver
  • Socialite
  • Busker
  • Elevator Operator
  • Journalist
  • Airplane
  • Runway
  • Garden
  • Ice Cream Truck
  • Cotillion
  • City Street
  • Elevator
  • Newsroom
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Steampunk
  • Western

Notes

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/

Helping judge this week is MC 196 winner Sophie H. Sigrafys!

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 198 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 197 Winners!

We’ve moved our Winners Announcements to their own posts! You can find the winners of MC 197 here: https://microcosmsfic.com/2023/07/08/results-mc-197/

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Microcosms 200 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction
Microcosms 198 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

44 thoughts on “Microcosms 199 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

  1. BOHEMIAN RECOVERY
    300 Words
    Socialite/Elevator/Lift/Comedy
    By Steve Lodge
    Twitter:- @steveweave71
    Instagram:- steveweave_cheese

    It rained earlier today for the first time since last night. Shallow water lapped onto the silent sand as if in whispers. I climbed the 47 wooden steps from beach to cliff top.

    So tranquil, so Quiet Town, so relaxing. Unwind, work on my book or write some poetry. Here pipe-smoking bohemians speak of owls in undercrofts, flowers and blossoms with luxuriant, exquisite scents of white flowered jasmine, of lonely wanderers looking to buy an egg from a farmer.

    I feel a beautiful calm, warmed now by the sun and sea breezes. In a world of hush, silence speaks. I watch the skies, the chasing clouds temporarily obscure the blue. Time to continue my walk, continue my recovery.

    Such a world away from my last assignment. I’d tried to rescue Deborah Cornes, daughter of potato chip magnate, Herb Missing, from her captor, the deranged Johnny Paranoid and his sidekick Sid, the semi-shaved Unicorn. We had the Panama Hotel surrounded and Johnny and Sid had the socialite trapped in a hotel lift (or elevator, as it’s sometimes called).

    The lift was stuck between 6th and 7th Floors. Deborah was screaming. I took a chance. I rode the other lift. Stopped it at 7, climbed onto the roof of the lift and jumped from one lift roof to the other.

    Sid heard this and his language turned ugly. The lift roof collapsed under my weight, I landed on the unicorn’s back, Sid reared and gouged the leg of Johnny Paranoid and Deborah punched each one of us and calmly walked out of the lift when it jerked into action again and reached 7th Floor.

    That assignment left a huge dent in my self-confidence, let me tell you. Also a huge dent in the lift floor, where I fell off the unicorn’s back.

  2. Montgomery
    295 words
    Journalist / City Street / SciFi
    Galen Gower
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including shadows on a cave wall and the ensuing debate about the nature of reality relative to our ability to understand it.

    Everyone is dead.

    The whole street is choked with cars, but they are all silent. After clearing enough dirt to see inside the first few, I stopped looking. What am I going to do for them? They’ve been dead.

    “Hello?” The echo of my question reverberates. I hear it again and again.

    I spent the first hour finding the bus, and then I started wandering aimlessly. Martin has been climbing to get establishing shots. I didn’t think it would be this eerie. I feel on guard, though I already know there’s nothing here.

    I walk and Martin lands on my shoulder without slowing his rotors. He chirps as the transfer completes and he’s off again, getting more video. He swoops and dives between the cars. I’ll review his video later. The somber quiet makes me pensive.

    I’ll use AR to add in the people. A bustling metropolis. The struggle and promise of an equal future.

    I’ll have to get Martin to research the styles and speech patterns. Realism. Verisimilitude. The facts are important. I’d really like to hear their voices myself, but not even temporal shielding changes anything.

    “The past is always dead,” I say. This time there’s no echo.

    Records indicate this period of American history was one of dissent. Turmoil. Tumultuous social upheaval. People died to be seen as whole. Human.

    We started this project thinking we could just step into their reality and interact with them, but they’ve been dead. The past stays dead no matter where you step into it.

    On a whim, I pushed the door of the bus open and sat down next to her. I imagined the driver’s outrage. She must have been scared. I would have held her hand.

    I wish I could say things have changed.

    Report user
      1. Thanks, Ellie! I’ve been having a really fun time submitting these little stories.

  3. Safe Travels
    295 words
    Journalist/ City Street/ Sci-fi
    My Preferred Name – Ellie A Goss
    https://eligoss76.wixsite.com/ElishaGoss
    https://facebook.com/EllieAGoss
    Please contact me via (one of the above channels for more information) to reduce copyright liability in reproducing and/or sharing works.

    ***

    Safe Travels

    Rhee ran along the city street through the rain. Turning the corner sharply, she left it with the grace of a dancer rather than the journalist she was. Taking the five steps needed to reach the lift, she allowed herself the briefest of seconds to close her eyes, she hit the button and waited for her ride.
    Barely containing her excitement, the photos in her hand were being lovingly crushed, this was why she loved her job so much.
    Grinding to a halt the door to the elevator opened.

    “I can’t let you have those.”

    She felt the colour drain from her face as she stepped back. No, no, no her head screamed at her. Run, no that wasn’t an option, she was too close.
    She stepped back again.
    The result was exactly what she wanted. The six-foot male replica moved forward lured from the elevator.
    “Oh, and why would that be? Because I know some people that are itching to see what is happening in those abandoned buildings, could cause some real issues with inter-galactic travel arrangements.”
    “You’ve got a big mouth little lady and you’re meddling in things you really shouldn’t. Why not leave that business to the big boys, hey?”
    Just one more step, she thought and moved casually back towards the glass entry doors. The drenched city was lit up with streetlights, the buzz of electric cars whirled past as Rhee made her move. Darting left her hand hit the large red button sounding the alarm.
    Too late., the cyborg swore and lunged at her.
    Grinning, she entered the lift, the doors sliding shut before he regained his footing.
    Pressing buttons frantically, she entered the combination that would send her a million miles away, not blackmarked travel exactly, just a precaution.

    The End

  4. Career Killer
    300 Words
    Socialite/Elevator/Lift/Comedy
    P.S. Sherwood

    Like many child stars, she had burned out with a bang big enough to scorch her entire life and leave nothing but ashes. At the time, it had seemed devastating, like a childhood had been sacrificed at the altar of Hollywood fame for nothing. At thirty-two, it seemed a blessing.

    “My shoes,” the teenager moaned pitifully, hunched over in the corner of the elevator. Their stomach had lurched up at the same time the elevator did. The elevator trapped the smell, not letting it or the occupants escape.

    “They were very nice shoes,” she agreed, pulling the napkins from her takeout bag. “Here.”

    “Thanks,” they mumbled, cleaning themself up.

    “Good party?”

    “Terrible. No one wanted to play Monoply.” They slurred, wadding the napkins in their hand. “We always played at my parties.”

    “Doesn’t sound like this was your type of party.”

    “It’s supposed to be. My manager said I needed to start looking the part.”

    “What’s the part?”

    They shrugged. “I dunno. Internet famous, I guess? He said having a badboy era would increase publicity.”

    Any attention is good attention. Even when it was watching someone sputter out.

    “And you don’t want that?”

    “I don’t wanna be famous at all.” They muttered.

    Oh. Then, “I can help. I’m pretty good at ending entertainment careers.”

    “You are? What, are you liscened to kill careers?”

    “No,” she said, smiling. “But I do know a lot of helpful people. How do you feel about getting into a fistfight with an old lady?”

    “I don’t really want to hurt anyone.”

    “You won’t. She’ll snap you and your street cred like a twig.”

    “You’re really old,” the teen said, squinting at her.

    “And out of touch with today’s youth.”

    They thought for a moment. “Okay. I’m willing to get my ass kicked out of Hollywood.”

    Report user
  5. Lift Off
    Socialite/Lift/Comedy
    Geoff Le Pard
    299 words
    @geofflepard

    Dame Ellie Gant, wife of the late Sir Igor Gant, the mechanical lift baron let a rheumy eye come to rest on her maid. ‘Are you sure?’
    The maid bobbed like an over-caffeinated cork. ‘Yes, Mam.’
    Ellie ground her remaining tooth, its slurping an unfortunate reminder of the one time her husband attempted foreplay. ‘It’s marm, as in harm, which you will come to if you do not learn the correct pronunciation.’ It was hopeless; the imbecilic woman barely knew her doilies from her antimacassars. But for the small minded parsimony of Igor she would have had a butler. The man had three main faults: no class, insufficient cash on death and a tendency to list to the left in company.
    ‘Well?’ Ellie tapped her stick on the ground, pleased at the way her maid hopped as if suffering a recurrence of chronic verrucas.
    The maid pushed the wheelchair into the hall.
    A small, sweaty coterie of engineers, builders and assorted factota stood to one side of a pink ribbon.
    ‘Oh god,’ Ellie muttered on seeing the sash. ‘It looks like a used umbilical cord. It won’t bleed on my Dior, will it?’
    Everyone knew better than to comment. Ellie took the scissors, cut the ribbon and rolled into the lift car. At least, she thought she could now access her rooms. She pressed the up button and scowled at the audience. She hated them all.
    And they hated her. In moments, a rumbling similar to that experienced by watchers at Cape Canaveral took hold. With a roar and a whoosh, Ellie, the lift car and all exploded out of the roof heading vaguely in the direction of Betelgeuse. At least, thought Ellie as the vacuum of space crushed her she was on the ultimate upwards trajectory.

    .

  6. The LAST Thing You Want Is To Be Stuck In A Confined Space With A Glaswegian Fishwife Of Any Lineage.
    300 Words
    Socialite/Elevator/Lift/Comedy
    By Laura Cooney
    Twitter:- @lozzawriting
    Instagram:- @lozzawriting

    This was all Helena needed, tonight was the event of the year and here she was stuck in a lift. Her Manolo Blahniks, unboxed, her little black dress Gucci, and hardly there.
    All of London society would be in City Hall, including the rich desperate old men and the rich, naive, young men, both equalling perfect pickings. And… Here. She. Was. Stuck, in a fucking lift!
    She pressed the button, expecting a voice. But not this one, it crackled like nicotine throat on a pensioner outside A and E.
    “Whit?” The grainy, electronic and certainly Glaswegian voice spat from the control panel.
    “Pardon?”
    “Aw right, is this a London lift hen? We’ve been having proablims, hang oan and I’ll git the right programme.”
    There was momentary static and then the voice rasped again.
    “That isnae workin’, yer stuck wi me doll. Whits the problem? Ye stuck?”
    Helena looked at the panel- Liftatron 3000, she’d heard of these in a blog somewhere. The A.I system that controlled them was ancient and there had been these glitchy faults developing. People had been stuck for days and when they did get out they were…changed. She’d thought it was a lot of attention seeking nonsense, but now she wasn’t so sure.
    “Sorry fir afore, I’m having an awfie night of it here. Ma brothers wife just left her and the three weans. Ma man has been at the bookies since 2pm yisterday an-all, no seen him since.”
    Helena had heard that when they got stuck on Fishwife Mode there was nothing you could do to make them stop talking. Faults? This one was having a breakdown. Now it was depressive and talking about it’s loose dentures. Helena sat down, slipping off her heels, this was going to be a long night.

  7. Running Through Time
    297 words
    Journalist / City Street/ Sci-Fi
    Sophia Raines
    No, I am not open to derivative works at this time, thank you.

    ***

    I am running.
    Rain drops kiss my face, running through my hair, slithering on my skin. I say, “Stop Rain,” but the rain never listens, only laughs into the wind.
    My boots strike the pavement, one after the other, faster and faster. I can see the headline now: “BREAKING NEWS: ROOKIE JOURNALIST SAVES THE DAY! 14,901,924,578 SAVED!” and I’m smiling, looking like a lunatic streaking past boutiques and cafes, running faster and faster and faster.
    The scientist said, to travel back in time, run as fast as you can and then jump at the end of the street.
    I said, jump where?
    He said, into the past. Be careful about that.
    I said, yes, but where?
    He looked at me like I was stupid and said everywhere, just make sure your destination is somewhere.
    I looked at him like he was stupid and said, yes but what somewhere?
    And he sighed and said it would probably work out for the best.
    So I’m running and running and running and then I reach the end of the street and jump, thinking about the panic and fear and the delicious piece of toast I had a few days before the attack, when government officials were deliberating on activating defense or no? Were the foreign beings friendly or no? And right as my feet leave the ground, I look up and meet eyes with the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen, and I think “I would like to get to know them” and oh no I’m running towards my future and as my feet hit the ground again no one is there but the creature and they take my hand and kiss it and I say,
    Hello,
    And they say,
    Hello.
    And then we fall in love.

  8. James and The Giant Mushrooms
    300 words
    Journalist / City Street / Sci-Fi
    Deanna Salser
    https://www.facebook.com/Beadanna777/
    https://beadanna777.wixsite.com/procreation
    I am open to derivative works.

    ***

    Awareness penetrated Josh’s mind, feeling, as it always did as if he had been deeply asleep. His equilibrium detected a subtle movement outside his body, causing his eyes to snap open quickly. A grimy windshield met his puzzled gaze and he realized with a jolt that he was behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. The city flying by in his peripheral vision was unfamiliar.

    Heart pounding, he pulled into a MacDonald’s and turned off the car, noticing for the first time that no other cars were in the parking lot. Every business within his vision seemed deserted. There were no vehicles on the road and no people walking around. Something had happened. Something big.

    James, his other, only emerged in times of severe stress, taking over and making the hard decisions for his survival. It was always unnerving to wake up in the middle of doing things he couldn’t remember starting, but every time James materialized, he left him with a prize-winning story. The first had won him a Pulitzer and the second had gotten him nominated for the Nobel. He hadn’t won, but the raise he got moved him into a new tax bracket.

    For the first time, that thought failed to make him smile as he spotted the clouds on the horizon. Huge and shaped like giant mushrooms, surrounding him on every side. His breath began to come faster, his heart keeping pace, and just before the darkness closed him into the familiar tunnel, he heard a voice.

    ‘James!’

    James took a deep breath. He must have fallen asleep. He didn’t remember stopping the car but that happened sometimes. It seemed he was always outrunning some crazy disaster. Like now. He better get moving. The story he had growing inside his head was eager to get out.

  9. The Godfather of Sending The Crap Back To Where It Came
    275 words
    Journalist/City Street/Sci-fi
    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.
    ____________________________________________

    It’s always dark.

    Dank.

    Dreary.

    Whatever depressing word you want to call it would perfectly describe the streets now. The creaking neon signs are the only colour against the monochrome filters. Dim hues of colour project onto rain-soaked walls. Flickering distortions reflect in puddles. Even the Night-Dames and Street Pimps, with their wads of cash, are long gone. There’s no music anymore, no atmosphere to pull the punters. It’s bleak and quiet and nothing else.

    I tip my hat at the thing scurrying from the alley. Can’t even make out what it is. Mutation? Perhaps. Experiment? More than likely.

    It pisses me off.

    The way things are.

    They came and we didn’t even notice. We gave up thinking a long time ago.

    Well I ain’t giving up shit.

    Not now.

    Not ever.

    I’ve got a story to get out and it’s gonna be a doozy, quite possibly my last. A wake-up call to the brain-washed. A call to arms, if the lethargic can muster the resolve.

    I might even be seen as the Godfather of ‘sending the crap back to where it came’.

    I like that. I might use it as my headline.

    I smile to myself taking a drag of an invisible cigarette. Tobacco ran dry months ago, but a man can pretend. Besides, it helps me think.

    Being a reporter gets you far in life. Shadows are your friends, plus no one interacts with the lonely dude cradling a whiskey at the end of a bar.

    Listening.

    Scratching the lead against a ripped napkin.

    They want to remain anonymous, I want to expose them. It’s gonna be one hell of a morning edition.

    1. ‘Scratching the lead against a ripped napkin.’

      I love this character.

      The hook in the middle ‘ I ain’t giving up shit’ really got me. I want to read part two of this!

      1. I was hooked at the title! The descriptions and sense of place are POWERFUL, as is the “voice.” Just brilliant.

      2. Thank you! Yeah it’s tempting to write more. I’ll add it to my list but I love a bit of dark sci-fi world building!

    2. Wow, Jaime. I’m not usually a fan of this genre, but I would TOTALLY read more of this. You had me at “the creaking neon signs.” Part of me hopes you’ll write more and part of me doesn’t, because if you do, I’ll not be able to stop myself from reading it and then I might never sleep again! 🙂

      In all seriousness, this is a ripsnorter of a story, expertly written. Kudos!

      1. I’m using ripsnorter in something now!!

        Thank you so much for the comments. I’m already having thoughts for a whole story based around this now! Can’t stop thinking!

  10. Protector of the Night
    297 Words
    Journalist/City Street/Sci-Fi
    Jade Black
    No, I am not open to derivative works at this time
    Twitter and YouTube @JadeBlack21

    I watch the acid rain sizzle on the invisible roof above, tiny hexagons flickering as each droplet lands. Thank fuck I didn’t have to go out into the wastelands for this. The acrid stench of cigarette smoke assaults my nose. She’s here. I turn to the one-eyed lady, the scar on her forehead radiating neon yellow. She’s infected?
    “Still carrying the khopesh I see.” I nod to the glowing orange power lines.
    “Can you blame me?” Her underlying growl sends a cold bead of sweat slithering down my spine.
    “No, not at all.” I take the flask out of my backpack. “I brought your tea.” She hesitates, but accepts and sips it.
    “It’s been too long since I had a good brew, shkran Isis.” She knows my first name?
    “It’s important.” Khonsu almighty, she is downing it. Good.
    “Shame it reached me lukewarm.” She hands the empty flask back. “Give it over.”
    “What?”
    “The notepad you imbecile.” It’s come to this then. I do as I’m told, touching the tip of my tongue to the roof of my mouth and praying closing my left eye hides the pink glow.
    “I apologise. Tell me, what happened on the plane?” I cringe at my vocal pattern, all my concentration focused on repressing the second voice. Her pupils elongate.
    “All right fine, I hijacked it.” I knew it. “I crashed it. Do you have any idea how much money it takes to book a flight these days?! Do you think anyone that wealthy doesn’t have money for their head?!” It’s enough for the gap in the article. She collapses, coughing and choking.
    “Thank you. You have been most helpful.” I let the second voice out and open my eye. “Now die.” You’re not the only scum chasing money and freedom.

    1. Jade!!!

      That opening line….

      You know I love your writing and this holds up and more. Really great write.

  11. Armageddon
    300 words
    Journalist / City Street / Sci-Fi
    Eileen Luo

    ***

    Crack. Beneath heavy skies, the first fissures formed.

    Here sprawled the City of Gods, where blood-red statues towered over the streets—statues legends claimed were gods frozen alive. For its thousandth anniversary, the city had draped these figures in black SynthFlower garlands and dusted the streets red. Philippa squeezed across a packed road, visualizer in hand, to capture a goddess’s 3D image.
    Quam pulchra es.” she murmured, gazing up. “Gorgeous.” Though at parts, the paint had cracked, revealing peachy stone.
    “Heathens,” muttered a passing woman.
    “The ancients, too?” Philippa neared the statue, then withdrew with a shiver. What she’d thought had been a smile was really a stony glare.
    Gods can kill, her grandmother had said. Respect them.
    “No one paints every statue the same color!”
    To that, Philippa had no answer. In all her interviews, she’d only heard one unequivocal claim: that human waste was godly poison. Yet unless her ancestors had smeared gods in shit—and research showed otherwise—, she couldn’t fathom the rumor’s popularity.

    Thunder rumbled. Red paint flaked to the ground.

    On the reddened marble stairs of the library, Philippa tapped a young man.
    “What’s exactly happening today?”
    “Find out, I s’pose. Long as no one pisses outside.”
    A man with a cane stopped by. “Liar.”
    Philippa turned. “What?”
    “It came from a book. Not VRBooks—goddamn paper and letters. Holy Latin, they claimed, but didn’t a man write it?” He spat.
    “What was it called?”

    Armageddon (Translated), 389:
    …repaint after one thousand years. *Use human secretion.
    Armageddon, 389:
    *Uti secretus humano sanguine.
    Armageddon (Translated), 121:
    … forgotten to technology, the gods became insane.

    Closing her books, Philippa gazed out the library windows. The corner of her contacts read 00:00:00. As lightning flashed, illuminating darkened statues, the last of the paint cracked off.

  12. Babylon
    300 words
    Journalist / City Street / Sci-Fi
    Steveisagirl
    No, I am not open to derivative works at this time.

    ***

    The moment I’m called into the conference room, I already know what to expect. The panel sits like judges, faces censored behind a purposive glitch in the holographic projection. Besides me, no one else is breathing oxygen, yet I feel the air in the room thin.

    “I’m afraid we’ll be letting you go”, they unanimously say.

    “What do you mean?”, I ask, like I didn’t already understand, but really, I don’t. I’d invested thirty years of my life in this. I’d been through wars just to capture great stories, never taken a day off, not even when my wife left me for an android, yet—

    An AI rover wheels up to me and presents an envelope. A letter and my last paycheck. It’s the only traditional thing here. Being fired because an AI could do my job better was not traditional.

    I walk with a sense of defeat. Tired of the busy streets, I turn a corner into the little church building nobody visits, admiring the artifacts of the primitive years when humans deluded themselves into believing in the metaphysical. I delude myself also, praying to be set free from this vicious cycle that slowly erases my existence. Again leaving with nothing tangible, save for the wood shavings I’d scratched off the bleeding statue in the center.

    At Durham Street, there’s a preacher yelling, neck veins convulsing.

    Nobody pays attention to him, why would they? They built this magnificent world, incredible enough to rival the heavens. There were self-driving flying cars, android lovers, instant food, AI drones that took over jobs like mine and a cure to every disease!

    Nobody needed miracles anymore and nobody needed God.

    The ground suddenly shakes. The crowd stops, looks then continues moving. When the skies split open, the preacher is the first to go.

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