Microcosms 205 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 205!

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

Update: We’re adding another prize this week – see below.

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MICROCOSMS 205 Prompts: Baker / Robbery / Western OR Theme Park Employee / Private Island / Sci-Fi $25 prize (free to enter)! Come write a story in 300 words or fewer. Fun and free! microcosmsfic.com
Photo by Cris Tagupa 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. 
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:

Baker / Robbery / Western

OR

Theme Park Employee / Private Island / Sci-Fi

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

  • Baker
  • Theme Park Employee
  • Teacher
  • Someone “Off the Grid”
  • Treasure Hunter
  • Thief
  • Found Object Artist
  • Eccentric Genius
  • Cake Baking Competition
  • Ferris Wheel
  • Parent-Teacher Conference
  • RV / Van Life
  • Magnet Fishing
  • Robbery
  • Metal Scrapyard
  • Private Island
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Steampunk
  • Western

Notes

A couple of quick but important things:

1. I know with everything going on with Twitter/X, many people are migrating to other places, and there is a risk of the writing communities becoming even more fractured. We want to follow you on all the things.

Please include any social media handles you’d like to share with us and others in your post. (If it’s the same handle throughout, please mention where you are.)

If you don’t want to share it publicly but would still like to connect with us, you can send them to us via our contact page. (We’re also @microcosmsfic pretty much everywhere, though there may be one or two we don’t have yet.)

2. We’ll be migrating our hosting sometime soon (within the next week or two. The contest will still be running, but there’s a chance the site may be down temporarily while that happens. Please don’t fret – we will still be here.

Definitely compose your stories offline. If anything gets lost in the shuffle, we’ll reach out for a resolution, so please kindly make sure you use a valid email address when you submit. And please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns.

3. The system really likes to flag some of y’all and consistently. lol I try to stay on top of approving those comments that get held for moderation every couple of hours. Currently, my area may be impacted by Hurricane Hilary (I live in the desert, so that’s super weird to say).

I don’t anticipate problems, but our Internet provider said their could be disruptions this week, so I appreciate your patience in case anything happens. I promise I am not ignoring anyone.

UPDATE: We finally snagged an invite to the BlueSky app. I know a lot of people are trying to get off of Twitter, so we’re going to give away some invites. Community and Judge’s picks will each get one. And if they don’t need or want it, we’ll pick someone at random from all the entrants.

Helping judge this week is MC 201 winner Laura Cooney! Please be sure to thank her on Twitter.

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 204 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 203 Winners!

We’ve moved our Winners Announcements to their own posts! You can find the winners of MC 203 here: https://microcosmsfic.com/2023/08/19/results-mc-203/

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Microcosms 206 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction
Microcosms 204 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

30 thoughts on “Microcosms 205 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

  1. THE GREAT BROCCOLI DONUT ROBBERY
    300 Words
    Baker/ Robbery/ Western
    By Six-Gun Steve Lodge
    Twitter: @steveweave71
    Instagram: steveweave_cheese
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works

    Finally, I was released from Shelago Prison. I crossed the border and headed for No Mules Creek. The creek was covered in winter ice so no pristine rock pools for me to wash my hair. I drank from early morning dew and began shaving with stalactites.

    I presented as an empty canvas where no shadow had fallen. I survived on wild marmalade tacos and sheltered among brittle bones of the dead. I was awaiting news of when I could rejoin The Max Twist Gang, though I knew they’d just give me all the crappy jobs as penance for falling off my horse and getting arrested in Twisted Trail.

    Moonbeams bounced off the icy creek each night. I dreamed of Titanix, a beer from the local Sombrero Poncho Brewery. I would wake unusually, with large amounts of dribble running from my mouth toward the gully of my neck.

    Max finally approved my return. My first job was the Murmura Bakery in Pondercruz. The baker, Estap Chalsis, was massive. I doubt he’d seen anything south of his stomach for years. My gun appeared magically in my hand. “So, listen to me, El Gordo. You know what I want.”

    The baker shrugged. “There’s no cash. Bank hasn’t opened yet and all I’ve sold this morning is a savoury almond cheese lardy flatbread to Sheriff Sheriff.”

    “Donuts.” I said evenly. “Fill this bag with broccoli donuts. No funny business. I’m running a bit late. I still need to get 20 lattes for the boys from Jake’s Coffee Shack.”

    Chalsis presented me with the bag full of our preferred donuts and I left. There was a bit of a queue at Jake’s, so I went back into the bakers.

    “What now?” asked Chalsis.

    “Is your Sheriff’s name really Sheriff or do you have a stutter?”

  2. A Killer Against Years
    297 Words
    Baker/ Robbery/ Western
    Galen Gower
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including a line of thematic cookware of inferior quality.

    Travis rested his head on his arms and reflected on everything he’d lost in this life.

    “Vietnam and the US Army took my decency for a time,” he said when discussing the war. “I was never a violent man. Over there, though, you did what you had to do. You had to make choices in the moment and sometimes you realize later you made it wrong.”

    The orderly science of baking helped Travis recover. Once he came home, he couldn’t rid himself of the shame, so he turned to the bottle. It didn’t help. He saw it was a weakness and quit drinking. A man recognized the past and lived right going forward. Measuring, mixing, and warm smells kept him grounded.

    “Gimme money, man, don’t fuck around,” the kid said. Travis had been robbed twice before. The kid was pale, skinny arms, and red-rimmed eyes. He jittered and bounced his gun with drug-fueled intensity.
    “Just relax, son, and I’ll get your money,” Travis said. He stayed calm, but measured distances, weighed alternatives. He was taller, bigger, and more experienced than this kid. As Travis opened the cash register with deliberate care, he pictured it.
    Control the wrist. Push the gun away. Grab him up. Keep him close. Use your weight, get him on the floor.
    He looked at the kid, reached for him, but he was a lifetime too slow. He was just an old man with baker’s cysts and a stooped back. The killer he was once was long dormant and covered in rust. This was just an old fool’s plan. The kid pogoed in place and shot him. Travis fell down in stages. He was tired and fell slowly.
    Travis rested his head on his arms and reflected on everything he’d lost in this life.

    Report user
    1. Quite depressingly beautiful if you don’t mind me saying. Some great use of words in here. Really great write!

  3. Title: Killing To The Sound Of My Mama’s Voice
    287 words
    Baker/ Robbery/ Western
    By Jaime Bree
    Twitter: @jaim_ee_bree
    BlueSky: https://bsky.app/profile/jaimewriter.bsky.social
    https://jaimebreewriter.blogspot.com/?m=1
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works

    ______________________________________

    Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket and that’s exactly what she did when the sheriff hit the dirt. Who knew a song she heard from her Mama’s mouth would be so ironic. Revenge was as sweet as her Grandpa’s baked goods. She always admired his work, but couldn’t be convinced of joining the family business. Although, kneading dough when she was growing up, taught her how hard you have to punch to knock the air out.

    She wasn’t your traditional gunslinger, swapping the corset for her dead husband’s hat and rig, but she downed her liquor as fast as the next man and pulled her pistol even quicker.

    It started as revenge. She killed a wanted man known for murdering strangers. Him and those he rode with. The sheriff, who she asked for help, decided a woman’s word wasn’t worth considering as he laughed, gesturing her away, insinuating she’d be better off in the whorehouse than worrying her ‘quaint little mind’ with men’s business. Then he sipped his whiskey while her house and family burned.

    She lost everything that day.

    They call cowards ‘yellow-bellies’ round here and he was as yellow as they come. She told him to watch his back and that she’d return one day to face him on the street.

    Today was that day.

    She didn’t rob stages or banks, she robbed lives. These people were no good, at least that’s what she told herself every night before she closed her eyes, her Mama’s tender voice, echoing from the ashes onto the breeze, lulling her to sleep under a darkening sky.

    She was long gone before the sun rose. Another star was calling from the lapel of an evil man.

  4. Half-baked
    by Angelique Pacheco
    300 words
    Baker/ Robbery/ Western
    @angs_pacheco

    Next to the saloon, in the town of Sweetwater was a bakery called Pie or Die. The owner, Penny Loafer, was half baked. She insisted she was heir to a fortune that her sister Verry loafer, had stolen right out from under her nose. It was a recipe that their grandmother had bestowed upon them both on her deathbed, provided they worked together in the bakery. Verry (short for Verrily), went off and got herself married which meant that Penny couldn’t get the recipe. Now, the town sheriff had to get involved as the two women were at each other’s throats, threatening to fling pastries for the honor of their livelihood.

    “She stole my recipe!” Penny wailed.
    “Stop with the tiers!” Verily retorted.
    “You’re taking a whisk with our lives, and for what? The apple of your pie? What makes you think that the two of you make a good cream?”
    “ You’ve gone too jar! He’s the raisin I smile!”
    “Don’t go baking my heart! I would never desert you!”
    “This is a pie for help! Love is all you need!”
    “No. I knead you to give me that recipe!”

    The sheriff shook his head. Sorting out this mess was not going to be a piece of cake. The sheriff wondered how to settle the issue. A plan came to mind. Do I have what it bakes, he wondered? He explained his plan to his friend and his friend shook his head and said, “Bake a leg, man! Rather you than me.”

    The sheriff strode into Verry’s house and had a quiet word with her husband. He rode off into the sunset soon after, knowing that his con gig was up. Verry was, of course, devastated but Penny came to her immediately.
    “Muffin compares to you, sis! He’s a fool!”

  5. Serendipity—This Isle of Unappreciated Beauty by A.J.Walker

    Prompts: Theme Park Employee / Private Island / Sci-Fi
    300 words
    Twitter/Bluesky/Spoutible: @zevonesque
    Website: https//awalker.org

    Serendipity: This Isle of Unappreciated Beauty

    When I awoke this morning I dressed up in my brash cartoon suit to stand at the gate and to entertain the spoiled children of cities I’ve never been to. Another day at the office. In waves the children and parents came and went. Then came that flash of a burning light at the rear of the gatehouse. Its sparkle, its other worldliness, drew me in. It grew and shrank in heartbeats which matched mine. I was puzzled yet comfortable with the strangeness. And then I poked the edge of the fizzing ball and I was drawn through it. I found myself on a lake, a sea, an ocean, beneath a pastel sky—all alone in a fragile wooden boat.

    I was blown and thrust over and through the cold waves of waters I could not know. I saw I was no longer wearing my brash animal suit, I was in soaking shorts, shirt, and trainers—I’d pressed an electric ball of light and fizz and now… now what? Hours, then days, seemed to pass before there was a beach; an island.

    It is said that if a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it it does not make a sound. And now I think can anywhere be truly beautiful if there is no one there to witness it? This solitary island of unappreciated beauty I discovered quite by chance—I named it Serendipity. A wind, a ragged sail, a broken rudder. And there I was, and there you were. You made me breathless.

    The boat was broken by the very winds that brought me. And I am thankful for finding you. For breathing your air, tasting your breezes, for the fruit, for the water. For such beauty I have never seen before.

      1. Thank you. Have missed a few lately so it was good to get a couple written in short order. Maybe I’ll go for the hat-trick next week. Could happen. If I happen to get of this island.

  6. Who Shot The Sheriff?
    295 words.
    Baker/Robbery/Western
    John Holmes.
    X @jwh636
    Yes, I am open to derivative works

    The last Friday of the month; always brightly circled with red ink in Jane’s calendar. Pay day. And this month, a bumper wage packet to collect
    “A lot of dough,” her husband jokes, before she sets off from the house.

    Jane parks illegally, right outside the bakery. The queue of customers is all smiles and friendly greetings. Ali, from Dean Street, nods in the direction of the boss and suggests that Jane should be working today as “…he looks like he can do with some help”.
    “Never on a Friday. I knead time off,” Jane responds, deliberately pronouncing the K. The humour misses the mark, like a badly fired bullet, yet it hits the boss behind the counter. He responds with raised eyebrows.

    Billy slides across the back seat of the car and represses the door button. He then squeezes down into the space behind the seats, accidentally knocking off his Stetson in the process. As he pops the hat back on with his left hand, he moves the Winchester in and out of the fast draw leather holster, using his right. Practising. Speed is going to be everything.
    He’s ready, so he pulls the rim of his Stetson over his eyes and flips the gun’s safety catch.

    Jane finally makes her way back to the car, envelope full of cash in one hand, car keys in the other. She pings the doors open and drops into the driver’s seat. A hand, holding the loaded shotgun, pokes through the gap between the seats and lines up with Jane’s head.
    “Your money or your life,” demands Billy.
    His mum turns round and tells Billy the Kid to fasten his seatbelt.
    “Beans and toast for tea,” she says in her best sheriff’s voice. “Real cowboy food”.

  7. Showdown In A One-Oven Town
    300 words
    Baker / Robbery / Western
    Deanna Salser
    https://www.facebook.com/Beadanna777/
    https://beadanna777.wixsite.com/procreation
    I am open to derivative works.

    ***

    I remember the night I lost my badge and my girl. Most folks were farmers back then but I couldn’t grow weeds, let alone corn, so I ran for Sheriff. I’d like to say I did everything by the book, but that would be a lie. The donut’s hole can attest to that.
    It was a one-oven town. That oven belonged to Nellie Biscuitbaker and I kept the streets clean for her. One night I heard shots and when I went outside, the muffin man lay dead in his doorway. As soon as I saw who it was, I knew who I was looking for, but not wanting to jump to conclusions, I went inside to see for myself.
    There she was, musket pointed at the donut.
    “Hand over all the muffins!” she was saying through clenched teeth. She turned, giving me a nasty view of both her barrels.
    “For God’s sake, Biscuit, put it down!” I tried not to yell. I could already see the whites of her eyes all the way around the green of her irises.
    “No one wants biscuits with them around!” Her face went through a transformation that sent chills down my spine. Wanting to appease her, I shifted my aim, flicking my eyes over to the donut at the same time. She nodded, so I thought she got it. I peppered him but instead of running, she grabbed for the muffins, and the donut’s bullet caught her just above her left breast. I reached to catch her as she fell toward me, her dying reflex squeezing off a round that left a hole in the center of the donut. The muffins screamed and before I knew it, all the croissants were awake, and that was the end of my career as Sheriff of Bakersfield.

  8. The House of Abominations

    216 words

    Theme Park Employee / Private Island / Sci-Fi

    Gareth Barsby

    https://myweirdwriting.wordpress.com/

    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.

    Have you ever had a job where you wondered if you were needed?
    Well, for one thing, you’d think who many would call a “mad scientist” would create robots or even some monsters to assist in their work. Yet on the Doctor’s theme park, which sits on an island right near the one he lives, all the employees are human. Humans run the ice cream stands, humans run the games. We’ve even had children complain about the lack of robot employees, but the Doctor prefers to create jobs. All the art on the rides? Painted by people.
    I’m not one of those painters. I work at the House of Abominations, which the Doctor also helps control while sitting in his little home on his little island. You see, a mad scientist’s horror ride is different from a regular one. I mean, maybe I was lying about all the employees being human. Every person who chooses to ride sees actual reanimated corpses, groaning as they claw from bars. They see actual half-finished lifeforms, kept within glass containers that descend from the ceiling at the Doctor’s command. Those robots the children want to see? They spring from the floor and howl, holding their rusted arms in the air.
    And then there’s me, who jumps out wearing a bedsheet.

  9. I, the Undersigned, Do Hereby Release Orion Prime Enterprises from All Liability
    288 words
    Theme park employee / Private Island / Sci-Fi
    Sam “One-Wheel” O’Neil
    @OneWheelOneil on all my socials
    Yes, I am open to derivative works. Please contact me via Sam@onewheeloneil.com for more information.
    ***

    Once a year—4.57 earth years—no billionaires stepped off the gleaming shuttle onto Orion Prime. The tiny dwarf planet sat far beyond the Unified Galactic Domain, an island of entertainment in ungoverned space.

    Krastin, wearing a huge, plastered-on grin, waved to the raffle winners. Should he look grim and mournful? He still wasn’t sure. Would you rather see a smiling face greeting you warmly? Or would you want a clue, a facial tick, a twitch of silent body language as a warning?

    When the last guest entered the lodge, the shuttle departed. It shrank into the sky, eventually obliterated by atmospheric hazing. He always watched, despite official protocol saying he should follow immediately after the guests.

    “Hello, and welcome to Predator Park,” Krastin began. “We hope you took time during your trek to familiarize yourself with the orientation packet. A few reminders: while energy weapons are strictly forbidden, you are allowed one gunpowder firearm, with as much ammunition as you want, provided you can carry it.

    “Guests are limited to three knives. All knives must have blade lengths shorter than 25 centimeters. Combined blade lengths may not exceed 60 centimeters.

    “The contents of your pack are up to you, but it cannot weigh more than 25 kilograms. You may remove supplemental ammunition prior to your pack’s weigh-in. We will check each pack for contraband. Trying to sneak contraband into the park will result in elimination.

    “Each sunset, additional threats will be released from subsurface holding facilities. Entering these subsurface facilities will result in elimination. You may not kill another guest until sunrise of the second day.

    “The last Hunter alive wins. Good luck.”

    The steel doors whirred open, and Krastin never saw any of them alive again.

    1. Really enjoyed this. You have a brilliant way with dialogue and this was so good, using the rules of the game to tell the story. Nice, flowing, easy to read. Loved it!

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