Microcosms 202 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 202!

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

Time Left to Submit


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MICROCOSMS 202 Prompts: Opera Singer / Apothecary / Horror OR Architect / Will Reading / Drama $25 prize (free to enter)! Come write a story in 300 words or fewer. Fun and free! microcosmsfic.com
Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash

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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. 
<a href="https://twitter.com/MicrocosmsFic">https://twitter.com/MicrocosmsFic</a>

You can also use it to do italics or bold text.
<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.)


  • 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!

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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:

Opera Singer / Apothecary / Horror


Architect / Will Reading / 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. (Don’t like any of these? Try our default spinner.)




  • Stray Cat
  • Makeup Artist
  • Has a Headache
  • Architect
  • Eccentric Billionaire
  • Soda Jerk
  • Castaway
  • Opera Singer
  • Alley
  • Greenroom
  • Noisy Place
  • New City
  • Will Reading
  • Apothecary
  • Deserted Island
  • Concert Hall
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Steampunk
  • Western


Helping judge this week is MC 199 winner Galen Gower!

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 201 Community Pick(s) will be announced at the end of the week, along with the Judge’s Pick, who will win $25!

Happy writing!


We are always and forever in need of assistance, especially with social media promotion. If you’ve enjoyed our contest, please consider sharing on your favorite platform.

MC 200 Winners!

We’ve moved our Winners Announcements to their own posts! You can find the winners of MC 200 here: https://microcosmsfic.com/2023/07/29/results-mc-200/

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Microcosms 203 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction
Microcosms 201 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

83 thoughts on “Microcosms 202 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

    300 WORDS
    twitter @steveweave71
    instagram steveweave_cheese

    I continued rubbing Trubshawe’s Soothing Agent into my painful shin. Quite an effort for me since I have no idea where my shins are. I haven’t seen them since I was very young. I am Violet Moodswings, the largest and best opera singer in the operatic world.

    Currently I’m touring as Petunia in The 2 Widows Of Serangoon. This weekend I am staying at the Panama Hotel in Ringstad, the city of my birth. Last night’s show was dismal. Midway through my aria, By Still Waters, somebody in the front row, joined in while I was singing. Unforgiveable. Probably drunk, he threw me completely and I “needed a moment” to compose myself (haha).

    My man, Krog, was in the wings. He knew what to do. Krog is such a loyal employee. Sometimes, if my role is quite stationary on stage, I let him slide under my massive wired gowns and stay there for the entire performance. I’ve found his presence improves my singing. Tonight he’ll be under my gown on stage. He can massage my shin with Trubshawe’s Finest, while he’s down there.

    Last night, sometime just before midnight, I visited Apotheke Heinrich Manuver. I have known Heinrich since my childhood. I purchased Trubshawe’s Soothing Agent and another potion I like Krog to massage me with, during these extensive tours. Krog deposited the body of the Mayor Of Ringstad behind the store. Heinrich has need for such bodies. I don’t ask.

    The Mayor was missing his tongue and genitals (I collect souvenirs from my tours) and his teeth. As I was sitting on him, suffocating him, he bit into my shin before expiring and his dentures got stuck in my shin and shinbone. I screamed a piece of By Still Waters aria, but the Mayor didn’t join in this time.

    1. Great work! Especially loved the last bit, it’s very horror but also dark comedy. The whole piece has such a great build-up with an unexpected outcome, the use of opera singer and apocathary was really well made!

      1. Thank you so much, Gerald. This is me dipping a toe in the horror genre. I prefer comedy really, which made writing this story big fun.

      1. Thanks so much, Ash. I let the story lead me and I happily went along for the ride.

  2. B̶̛̹̈́̈́̏́͐̆̓̈́̉̒͌̒̔̍̕͝E̸̡̢̤̻̙̟͇̠̹̦͕̥̬͉̰̰̥̱͍͂͛̾͐́͊̈̿̒͑͘͜L̷̨̪͉̩̰̗̫̱̻̯̻͙͍̠̤͇͙̝̲̟̅̄̎͋̋̽͋̃́̔̀̐̓̆͐̕͜͠͠͝L̷̩͑͊͗͛̎͌̀̒̋̿̓̓̊̓̊̏̐͊̒̈́̓͠A̸̘͓̖͉̘͔̱̭͚̲̦̦̺͈̥̪͚͕̜͉̘̬͇͑͐̈́̓̌͆͐̃̆͋̒͂̅̊̽̚͘͠͝͠Ḋ̸̠͉͈͚̼̙̜̞͈̩̹͙͕͙̗͆̿Ö̴̧̢̧͓͇̥͚͇̥̩̫̘́̽̐̓̂̇́͋͗̓̔̄̚͝͠͝N̴̡͔̘̰̦̗̹̱̻̙͗̈̅̓̈́̀̈́́͛̏͂͛̋̎̈́̾̆͐̚͠ͅŅ̸̢̛̛̙͉̻̼̞͔̯̠̗͍͉̝͍̳̣͓͉͕̞̊́̀͗̔̍̉̾̐̄̈́͆̇͐͑̐̉͛͘͘ͅA̶̢̢̛̼̻̲͇͔̱̻͓̪̳͕͉͖͖̮̪̣̳̮̙̒̐͛̇̽̓̅͂̌̆̈́͌̔̈́͋̚͘͜͜

    289 Words
    Opera Singer / Apothecary / Horror
    Gerald Castillo
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions as well as (but not limited to) a restaurant chain line, a trading card game, and a bubble milk tea brand. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.


    He clutched onto his aching chest. “Alfyn, you damn traitor! What have you done to me? My voice it–” As if his unfinished words had materialized themselves; it hardened in his stomach and his knees buckled under the pressure and excruciating pain. “I saw you changing Wolfsbane to Delphinium, you were trying to kill me!” His accusation was met with internal displeasure, he spewed out black liquid from his mouth that covered his opera attire

    The Apothecary stood there, almost amused. “Augustene, listen again to your voice. It’s heavy and bulky.” There was a certain daunting sneer in his tone. “Those are not symptoms of Delphinium poisoning. I may be poisoning you, but I would never mix up my medication. The next symptom would of it is–”

    “I knew it! You are a greedy man–” His body felt different again, his heart was racing now. It felt like his blood was running at full speed and his vessels tensed at the pressure. “My success as an opera singer from your singing potion made you envious, you wanted to kill me in the most ironic way possible.” He snickered, thinking he put all the pieces together.

    “Money?! You think I killed you for money!!! Your own envy killed you Augustene. You murdered my sister so you could rise to the ranks of the theatre! I’ve wanted revenge on you ever since, and now today’s the day. Bella was my only family and you took her away from me. It’s only fair the poisonous Belladonna would be the one to kill you, the final symptoms should take place now, your voice will break and–

    “B̴̺̼̍̀̾e̸̳̥͑̾l̸͕͗l̶͇̲̕a̴͖̎̈ḍ̷̺͛́͝o̴͔͗̀̈́ǹ̵͕͍ǹ̶̺̕a̶̧̹͛͠?̴̟̊͂ B̴̼͓͔̥̤̾̿ȅ̴̢̫̣͙͔̬̜̐̌͜l̸̨̻̞̹̼̩̋̏̆͊̈̚͘ͅl̸͍̻̣͈̆͌̔̀â̴̗̑-̵̨̢̛̞̼̪̳͔̤̖̣̘̫̥̟̘̎̂́̈́́̄͘ͅD̷̮̹̖̦̼̟͖͔̲̫̺͉͉̦̳̥̓̏̀̓͊̋̉̽̑́̾͋͘ò̷̠̫͚̮̙̌͛͑̊͌̃͛͛̚͜n̵͎͕͒̃͐̃̂ṋ̷̡̛̜̭͇̋̿̄̃͆̅̃͗̌̈́͊̓a̴̧̛̠̥͖͔͔̯̭̞̰͐̍?̶̗̘̣̫͔̣͖̼̪̖̮̎̀̀ B̷̡̝̼͕̞̭̬̣̲̟̟͉͕͍̪̠͚̙͚̽̍̃ͅe̴̡̮̳̙͙̰̝̳͍̗̯̠̜̱͉̮̮͕͈̟͎̘͈͔̓̔͂̎̀̓͊̾̀͊̎̾̎̋̽̇̎̈́̆̐͆͘͘̕̕͜͠͝l̴̡̛̲̤̻̳̱̬̪͕̘̠̘̘̦̲͍̫̟̔̄̈̃̇̐͛̊̑̓̊̈́̎͂͒l̴̰͒̅͐́̔̄́̈͆͝ḁ̷̡̡̧̛̛̱͖̣̭͓͍̻̩̘̖̖̮͈͓̦̙̩̣̪̣͚͓͉̹̒̿̀̍̌̀̿͜ͅ-̵̨̨̛͕͔̟̱̤̭̻̬̖̤̮̿̊̌́̆͆̍͊̎̓̑̇̋́̔́̃̆̈́̈̇͌̌̋͊̾̕̕͝D̸̨̨̨͇̼͇̻̪͖̱̯͖̱͎̬͉̘̖̹̘̦̯̓̎̍́̒̀̽͛̀̄̔͊̅͛̅͊͑͛̇̿̈́̇̀͗̿̊̓̀͘͜͜͠͠ͅơ̸̢̧̦̭̼̼̤͇̳̞͈̗͓͇̮͔̝̫̗̲̮̗̭̫͑͗̀̽̐̐̐̓̒͆̇́́͒̓̉̂̉̾͘͜͝͝͝͠ǹ̵̛͉̩̼̭́̌́͑̅͒͂̓͗̀́̌̒̇̓̀̚͝n̷̡̰͓̦͈̬̠̹̦̝͕͖̻̫͓͇͇̞̥͇̫͖͙͊̓͋̈͌̿̐̆̃̈́̒̽̌̆̅̎̂̉͛̽̉̇̓͝ã̶̫̠̱̫͕̱͓̣͆̽̃̍̔̎̾́͐̾͂̑̈́̓͛͐̍͋̆̾̚̕̕͘̕͘͝͠͠͠!̴̧̛̦͇̗̼͖̲̘͎̱̪̞̯̯̲̣̠͍̘̳̺͕̥̠͓͕̝͆̏̓̔͐́͆̇̎̔͛͑̒͒̓̐̈́̏̏͗͋̏̒̓̕͠ ̶̡̨̛̛̜̰͕̭͔̰̮̦̘̞͍̼̟͙̮͈͚͈̮̀̐͑̊̂͂̽̊̃́̓͗̂́͐̑̆̀̽̓̐͑̽̇̐̽̅̿̒͘̚͘͘ͅB̶̨̡̡̨̧̢̦͎͔̺͖̳̤̭̥̫͓̫̬͕̞̬̄̑̀̃͛̓̑̔̀́̂̽̆͛͛͜͝͝e̵̡̢̧̧̡̢͇̱̼̦̗͇̞̦̳̘̫̥̭̯̋̓̃l̶̦͈̳͖͎̩̟̜̘͕̼̫̥͕̮̎͑͑̋̈́̀̒́͛̂̊̀͆̅̆̾͊̏͗̽̉̅͐͐̽͋͗͋̈́̑͐̽̀̋͘̚͠͝͝l̴̡͖͍̹̫͖̼͉̻̜̯̥̘̀̽̈́͗͂̌̌͛͗͜͝ͅạ̴̹̀̿̇̄͊̉͌̂̓̓̍̊͑͂̂̏͐̔͐̽͒̇!̵̙̩̺̼̰͉̈̔͆̿̆́̍́̈́͌̂̉̓͛̀̑̌̎͐̑̔̽̕̚͠͝͝!̸̨̨̢̧̢̡̧̝͖̖͉̜̠̼̖̱̝̝̖̻̠̺̻̯̹̦̱̰̲̼̏̔̾̀̈́͋̈́̃̽̾͜͠!̴̡̨̧̡̛̛͖͙̤͈̟͓͕̯̪͇͖̹̪̰̯̘͕̰̗̜͍̭̙̜͖̂͆́̔͐͑̅́̒̂̋̏̒̑̍̍̊̋̍͒͒̌̈́͛̕͘̚̚͝͝͠ ̸̡̛̘̱͙̦͙̤̗̜̪̟͙͍̼͈͙̞͎̪̝̣̝̭͔͓̠͕̠̩͍̜̯̾̌͂̈́̏̆̄͊̇̔͂̽̈͊͗͆̋́͆̔̂̆̅͊̈́̂͌͑̈́̂̀͂̚͠ͅB̷͎͒̈́͊̊̑̆̊͑e̴̦̲̝̰͘ͅl̸̢̼̼͙̖̖̖̮̪͉̬͖̭̘̬̥̬̙̗͛̀͒͐̌̍̈́̇̎̾́͂̚̕͜͝͝ͅl̴̗̩̘̤̪͓̣͈̖̙͎̭̘̦̫̭̥̯̻̲̿͆͋̌͛͐͒͗̑͋̃͛̉̿̏̓̍̚͘͠͠͝ͅã̶̧̢̢̛̖̻͍̘͇͎̪͔̳̱̠̪̮̥͎̫̠̫͕̯̩̲̭̯̙̖͈̜̦͈̼̈́̐͋̀̿̂̈̈́̊̓̓̄̎̈̇͌͆̅̕̕̚͘͜͝!̸̢̠͓̮͓͙̎̈́͒̈́͗̐͋̌̔̾̈́̍!̴̨̢̨̡̨̧̨̢̛̤̞͔̠̤͎̮̯̙̝̗̖̱̞̲̘̯̱̰͈̯̭͚͇̥͓̝̏͋͂͋́͐̎̈́͗͊̉̕͜͜͠!̵̡̧̟̒͂̈́͗͌͌̉̈́̒̐̀̆̾̄̑͛̊͒͂̾́̀̒̀̕̕̚͝”̵̛̛͚̙̖̞̟̱̟̅̇͗̑̔̐̓̈́̈͆̀́̀̈́̔̇̀̋͑̓̄́̂̃̋̀̅͛̈́̕̕͘͘͝

    The curtains closed for Augustene as his single audience member clapped an encore.

      1. Thank you so much Ash! I’ve only started joining these competitions not long ago, its been an interesting experience to see what new ways I can do to spice things up given such prompts : )

    297 words
    Opera Singer / Apothecary / Horror
    AND Architect/ Will-Reading/ Drama
    by Ash K. Gray
    Instagram: @ash.k.gray
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including a death metal album and a golden kazoo. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.
    She was an Opera Singer. Shoddy but blessed with the luck of a thousand clovers. He was an architect. Top of the line. Designed the very site of their demise.
    I met them both on the same day. They didn’t seem to know one another and yet the glint in her eyes was so in-tune with his that I first pegged them for lovers.
    I’m here to assure you they were certainly not. She had a husband that wasn’t him, and he had a wife that wasn’t her. It just so happened that they were in a similar predicament. Coincidentally. Otherwise there’s no way they would’ve come to me.
    I took care of it at a fair price: a couple of dollars and two lifelong friendships. Lifelong for them, that is. My life’s still ongoing.
    It was throughout the span of that friendship with me that something not particularly favourable had blossomed betwixt them. A ponderable passion. It was nothing sensual or emotional, but maybe spiritual– it was like they were both part of something the rest of the world simply wasn’t in on.
    You know– one day she came up to me and she said something to the effect of. . .
    “I wish we’d both just disappear together”
    But also without one another.
    Her eyes told me the latter bit.
    I didn’t expect them to go out like that, though. Definitely not. I didn’t even know she could sew! Oh and with that joint will, too, no less! How ironic.
    Somehow, they look happier this way.
    But, what do I know, right? I’m nothing but a humble apothecary, really, nothing more.
    That’s all I can tell you —— because it’s all I know. So won’t you go on with that marvel of a will, now? It’s getting late.

    1. I really enjoyed the short sentences! They work perfectly with the tone of this story. I feel like that’s something that I’ve been working on, trying to do short, impactful sentences and you really pull it off here!

      1. Thank you, Cay! Using different sentence styles when it calls for it is one of my favorite ways of setting mood up so I’m glad you enjoyed that part!

    1. Good job drawing the prompts in and also leaving some questions. It told a lot with a little, but left me wanting more.

  4. The Most Magnificent Cry for Help
    300 words
    opera singer/ apothecary/ horror
    Cay Macres
    instagram: alienoftheweek
    twitter: caymacres

    Ida’s soft palate receded into her throat as she yawned. Judging by the whale calls reverberating through the thin hotel walls, Ida figured Bernadette Michel’s mouth was equally agape. Past fans hovering in the hall, Ida rolled her cart. One had his ear pressed against the opera singer’s door.

    Ida cleared her throat. “Shall I call security?”

    The crowd dispersed. Ida knocked.

    “Come in,” Bernadette sang. Elongated, round vowels made it nearly incomprehensible.

    Ida wheeled the cart inside. Her esophagus felt tight.

    Arms reaching and lungs stretching, Bernadette moved her voice inwards, towards her swinging uvula, warbling “Room service!” like a vain theremin.

    Ida uncovered the tea set.

    Narrowed eyes met Ida’s tired, unamused expression. Bernadette’s voice went flat. “No milk. Dairy will kill my vocal chords.”

    Smile twitching, Ida poured the tea. “No dairy.”

    Just ethylene glycol and earl gray. Due to the racket, Ida had been distracted from her studies. However, one chemical compound, with its Hs, Os, and Cs lodged its dashes into her brain. A single compound wouldn’t make Ida an apothecary, but it was useful for other purposes.

    Bernadette pressed the cup to her lips. Ida gulped, then so did Bernadette.

    “Artificial sweetener? I wanted honey!” Bernadette’s eyebrows arched with curiosity. A new warm-up. She repeated the last word and rolled it around on her tongue until it lost meaning. Then her tongue froze and her eyes bulged.

    Ida sat on the bed. The sheets were much silkier than the ones her and the other maids slept under.

    Bernadette cried for help, her voice hitting a remarkably high note that fluttered above her head. The yell lowered to her chest, becoming booming and brassy.

    Bernadette’s most magnificent performance ended with her dying and the staff assuming it was another warm-up. Ida gave a standing ovation.

    1. ” She repeated the last word and rolled it around on her tongue until it lost meaning. ” Oh that one was incredible! I don’t know why but I’m certain this sentence’ll stick with me for a while! Great job in general, too, though! Love the ending!

  5. Hell Could Not Contain Him
    300 words
    Opera Singer / Apothecary / Horror
    Deanna Salser
    I am open to derivative works.


    The shop was stuffed to overflowing. Letting the door squeal closed behind her, Anna moved into the cramped space, looking everywhere at once. To her left was a long counter dividing the space, and behind it, rows of jars gleamed with what little light managed to make its way through the cobwebs and filth covering the tiny window to her right. Unfolding a scrap of paper, and aiming it toward a shaft penetrating the gloom, she squinted at the tiny script. Why would doctors not write legibly? And why was nothing labeled? How was she supposed to find the ingredients for her tincture in this wretched place?
    “Lavender, Rosemary, and Vetiver…” She muttered as she stepped toward the worn wood surface, but just as she approached it, the floor abruptly vanished from beneath her feet. The short but terrifying drop ended in a splash, and the vile liquid she landed in drenched her. Sputtering and trying to wipe her face with her sleeve, Anna’s whole body turned cold as she saw shadowy beings flitting all around her. Flames danced in the background and her chill turned to sweat as she saw him. His skin was black and appeared to be peeling, and his eyes were bright red globes burning into her through the eyeholes in his mask. His jagged teeth shone in the firelight as he grinned at her. She screamed as dozens of imps swarmed over her, stretching her arms and legs and tying them securely.
    “Idiot, you scream in vain!” his gravelly voice sang. As he strolled toward her, she realized he wore nothing as his enormous phallus preceded him.
    “I’ll never let you flee!” The libretto ripped from her throat carried high and sweet as the strains of Don Giovanni began to inundate the air around her.

    1. “Rows of jars gleamed with what little light managed to make its way through the cobwebs and filth covering the tiny window to her right.” I know I’ve commented before but I love this line.

      1. Thank you! You guys are a tough audience. I love when you like what I labored to make perfect. (Never happen but a girl’s gotta have dreams)

  6. I Say! You’ve Lost The Plot Pal, Don’t Expect Vera To Help Ya.
    300 words
    (I spun the spinner and I couldn’t help this, it was just right there.)
    Eccentric Billionaire / Concert Hall / Fantasy
    by Laura Cooney
    Twitter (hahahahahahahah) @lozzawriting
    Everywhere else you can imagine wanting to look for a person: @lozzawriting
    Yes, derivate me.

    Unicorns brought a golden carriage to the middle of the stage and the most handsome man in the universe departed the vehicle with a flourish and a cartwheel. The crowd went wild as the act began with pigs flying loop the loops round the chandelier. It was the show of the century, or it would’ve been, had it been real.
    The old concert hall, which had once been a theatre where Vera Lynn was patron, was now about as run down as you could imagine; with its faded and thread-worn satin seats, their numbers long gone, curtains frayed by years of opening and closing on thousands of plays down to the flaking paint in the royal boxes, which exposed the gaunt features of the angels there and made them look like they had died not once, but twice.
    And yet, there he stood on centre stage, with so much money he could barely breathe and with so little class. A 1920’s circus ringmaster with a manic smile pasted on his potato shaped face, waving his hands to an audience that lived only in his imagination to the sound of silent despair and snores that filled the theatre.
    The little orange dog in the tutu balanced with a wobble on hind legs and danced jerkily across the stage for biscuits. In the corner a little blue-tit in a cage spoke. It had been taught to say; “Isn’t this X-cellent? Isn’t this X-cellent? Though there was no-one there to listen.
    The billionaire took a bow and through the cacophony of cheering 100 red roses flew through the air landed at his feet.
    In front of him the resident tramp rose from sleep long enough to show his middle finger and stick out his putrid tongue.

    1. Absolutely love this comic fantasy with that surreal edge and pretty much relevant subject in a weirdly grotesque and quite pitiful display of theatre!

      1. I’ll take grotesque and pitiful… I’ll take it. Thanks! Pure fun this week.

    2. I’m still cackling at this one. The descriptions are quite literally perfect!? Feels like I’m right there witnessing whatever the hell it is that’s going on!

      1. Thanks Ash. That’s a great compliment especially since you don’t know what’s going on. I am glad you could feel like you were there!

    3. This sucked me in and still echoes in my mind– a haunting, off-key scene that reminds me of The Twilight Zone. The setting was so REAL! Amazing work!

      1. Thanks Susan, truly! I really appreciate my writing being compared to that of David Lynch to be fair. But also it is real on account of the fact it is real and is happening somewhere, near you, right now.

    4. This is so evocative! I was in an old theatre this spring, and you’ve really captured the feel of those places with their faded grandeur. I’m going to have trouble getting this scene out of my head tonight!

    5. Brilliant, Laura. This should be made into a short film immediately. If required, I see myself in the role of the resident tramp. Just need to get a putrid tongue from somewhere….

  7. Where There’s A Will There’s A Way
    300 words
    Will reading/Architect/Drama
    Jaime Bree
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.

    “To my beloved wife, I leave our most valued possession, the house we designed and built together. The place you’ll move your lover into as soon as this is over. I’m not stupid, my darling. I heard and saw when you thought I wasn’t there.

    As my last gift to you, I have sent the police a declaration of murder which they will receive in three days. Your declaration.

    I was angry, you see. It wasn’t their fault, just stray travellers passing one night, but all I could hear was your groaning. All I could see were your naked bodies, your back arching in ecstasy to his touch. Mental images of skin on skin, your flirtatious giggles overwhelming my mind, playing on repeat.

    –So, I pounded your skulls, made your lover unrecognisable. I stabbed you through your blackened heart. So much blood. So much anger–

    Two young people now lay on the hall floor. My rage faded to fear as I realised what I’d done.

    You could plead your innocence, if you think that will work. I guarantee it won’t. You could intercept the letter, burn the house, but I’ve pre-empted that, it will definitely make you look guilty. Or you can find the bodies so there is no evidence when the police arrive, just the disillusioned ramblings of an ill man.

    Lastly, at this very moment a call is being made to your lover explaining you are about to frame him for murder. He is being told somewhere in the house is evidence he needs to frame you instead.

    Can you convince him it’s a lie? How much does he trust you? Will he potentially throw away his life on a murder he didn’t commit? Does he really love you enough?

    Goodbye my darling. I now declare this over.”

    1. Yowsers. This story is like a boa constrictor that slowly wraps itself around its victim and then squeezes. Well done, Jaime!

  8. Not the will reading I was expecting. Very sneaky. I liked this a lot. A good framing is always a great story and an excellent title again…

    289 words
    Opera Singer / Apothecary / Horror
    Sam “One-Wheel” O’Neil
    Yes, I am open to derivative works. Please contact me via Twitter for more information.
    The aging soprano’s footsteps echoed off the cobbles. She rounded the corner and strode into to the seedier side of the city. No streetlamps glowed here, but the moon was full. Enough of its silver light reached her to just make out the crudely drawn map. One more block.

    The sign over the door had no words, only a carved viper coiled around an arm. No, just a serpent and staff. Cecilia shivered and scolded herself. She rapped on the door.
    A man opened and warm candlelight spilled into the alley. He looked half her age with a winsome face—jade eyes, soft skin, and an oiled beard that practically shone. He smiled and held the door open for her.

    “You must be Dante’s friend. Come in. The streets are dangerous in the dark.”

    Cecilia hesitated.

    “Is something wrong?”

    “No,” she started timidly, but sighed and continued with the confidence of a true diva, “No, I simply expected someone… older. Dante intimated that you’d been practicing for decades.”

    “Is this not why you are here?” His smile returned, a flash of white fangs. No, just teeth.

    Cecilia stepped into the little shop. Shelves lined the walls; tiny vials the shelves.

    “How old are you?” she asked.

    “Old enough,” the apothecary replied as he busied himself snatching up small bottles, mixing their contents into his mortar, grinding with his pestle. “It must be consumed quick, or the potency drops off.” He handed the finished product to her.

    “To youth,” she said, lifting the potion. She swallowed it before fear could swallow her.

    “I don’t feel anything,” she said after a moment.

    A wicked grin spread across his face like a wound filled with shards of bone. “You will.”

    1. Sam! The atmosphere you evoke here really is special. You tell so much in so few words. I loved the little glimpses of what she really saw then her dismissal of them with ‘No’ it was only this….

      Great last line too.

    2. I love the creepiness you create throughout and the apothecary is really creepy. What a character! I’d like to see more of him.

    3. OOOh! How sinister! I can totally picture his fangs coming out when he says that last line with a cat-that-ate-the-canary smile.

      1. Thank you! I’m glad it painted a picture. It sounds like you were imagining exactly what I was going for.

    4. Sam, this sends chills up my spine. You establish the scene marvelously and the sopranos desperation is palpable.

      Susan Andrews

  10. Title: Mephistopheles Apothecary Inc
    Wordcount: 299 words
    Opera Singer/ Apothecary/Horror
    Mairead Robinson
    Twitter: @judasspoon

    The emporium was at the far end of a shaded street, built into the city wall and extending far beneath. I breathed in the dust; a taxidermy armadillo and dried leaves hung brittle from rafters, straw dolls stared from above cork-stoppered bottles. I read the labels; monkshood, digitalis, feverfew, powdered horn, tiger claw.

    I coughed, and he appeared, leering toothless from beneath a fringe of lank hair. ‘How can I help?’ his voice was disarmingly soft.

    I whispered my complaint, voice cracking and hoarse. ‘The lead role tonight, Aida, but…’

    He nodded. ‘I see,’ and reached for a pestle and mortar.

    Once it was prepared, I took out my purse, but he held up a hand. ‘Your soul,’ he said, and gestured to a shelf behind the counter where they were kept beneath tall bell jars. Their thin fingers scraped the glass, their faces, ghost pale, pleaded with desperate eyes. I swallowed painfully. It was a hard bargain, but tonight was my big break, the lead, and the world’s impresarios flocking.

    I nodded my assent and he slid the bottle across the counter. I popped the cork and an aromatic plume of vapour wafted; mint and purslane, cinnamon and bergamot. I drank, felt cool warmth spread through my chest.

    ‘I’ll collect at the appointed time, just sign here,’ said the apothecary, handing me a pen. I said, ‘Thank you,’ my voice limpid, like water, and I couldn’t resist; I sang a scale, a rising arpeggio that made the armadillo blink. Higher and higher, I warbled, until at the top note, the bell jars rattled, cracked, exploded into fragments. The souls flew – they swooped like martins; blissful, free.

    I put down the pen, threw a coin on the counter, and strolled to the opera house for my opening night.

    Report user
    1. Fantastic! “A rising arpeggio that made the Armadillo blink.” Superb. Did not expect that ending. Bravo!

  11. I’m just imagining that poor apothecary who now has to sweep up all the broken glass and recapture all those souls.

    Really well written!

  12. Not Ditching The Lipstick

    300 words
    Architect / Will reading/ Drama
    A.J. Walker
    Twitter/Spoutible: @zevonesque
    Website: http://www.awalker.org

    Cheri sat down with a thump into the deep leather chair. A frown betrayed her annoyance at having to attend the solicitor’s office to hear the news she would inherit nothing from her least favourite step father (of the four her mother had subjected her to). In the adjacent chair Ben sat down with showy decorum making a point to smile at Cheri. They were the only two children left after the bizarre swimming pool accident in ’18. He nodded at the solicitor exuding smooth confidence next to the glowering Cheri.

    The solicitor, Sam “Slim” Pickens, was used to the drama at his office. There was often sadness, often greed. There were the expectations and fears of those in attendance: the loved ones, the forgotten ones. Those left behind. Sometimes he felt he was watching a play. Today he was centre stage with just two actors. He knew of their hatred and of their background and predicaments. Cheri was permanently bored and heading towards her ninth cat and second marriage; although husband No.1 was unaware that a replacement was lined up. Ben was a semi successful architect who’d grand ideas but not enough money. He always complained he was only ever commissioned to tinkle with standard off the rail box designs. He’d always dreamt of designing iconic landmark buildings, and not just “putting lipstick on a pig.”

    Slim thought that Ben exhibited fair acting skills. Underneath Ben would be sure that a lump sum would arrive giving his bold plans the support they deserved.

    He knew the contents of the will of course, and Slim was looking forward to watching the differing reactions of these two children. He was fairly sure Ben’s would be one of extreme horror, whilst he was confident that Cheri would be laughing for months.

    1. “Sometimes he felt he was watching a play. Today he was centre stage with just two actors.” Love the whole “drama” analogy part! Really reeled me in. The irony at the end was pretty neat, too!

  13. Foundations

    273 words
    Architect/will reading/drama

    By Stephanie Ellis

    website: https://stephanieellis.org/
    bsky stephellis.bsky.social

    William fidgeted beneath his solicitor’s gaze. Lionel had said nothing since he’d entered the office, apart from indicating they had to wait for someone else. He tried to distract himself with a study of his surroundings. The office was located in a building which had won him his first award, propelling his architectural designs into the limelight. It was the foundation of his success.

    It had been a close thing, however. Finance had become a bit sticky in a number of ways. Foundations. William turned his gaze back to Lionel. The man had solved so many of his problems, made them all go away. Even, most recently, his wife, Caro.

    He felt a slight draft as the door opened behind him, admitting the person they were waiting for. Lionel smiled and gestured to the empty seat.

    William turned slightly, froze when he saw who it was. She hadn’t changed in the time she’d been ‘gone’; looked perfectly preserved, although he would’ve preferred cement to the more obvious botox. How?

    Lionel grinned, finally opening the folder before him and pulling out a document. It was not Fitzgerald’s will as he’d been led to expect. Instead the solicitor pushed the paper across the desk. William quickly scanned the document. It was a will alright, but not Fitzgerald’s. It was his own.

    The air shifted as the door opened again. Two of Lionel’s ‘associates’.

    “Ah, the witnesses,” said Lionel. “If you’ll be so good as to sign.” He looked at his watch. “Then I believe we have some new foundations to lay.”

    The solicitor smiled at both of them. Only Caro smiled back.

    William swallowed. Foundations.

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