Microcosms 208 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

MC 208

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 208!

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

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MICROCOSMS 208 Prompts: Perfumist / Different Languages / Drama OR Computer Programmer / National Park / Steampunk $25 prize (free to enter)! Come write a story in 300 words or fewer. Fun and free! microcosmsfic.com
Photo by William Bout 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

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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:

Perfumist / Different Languages / Drama

OR

Computer Programmer / National Park / Steampunk

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

  • Alligator
  • Hair Colorist
  • Cannot Lie
  • Genie/Djinn
  • Uses Sign Language
  • Park Ranger
  • Perfumist
  • Computer Programmer
  • Swamp
  • Hair Salon
  • A Curse
  • Magic Lamp
  • Different Languages
  • National Park
  • Perfumery
  • Technology Gone Awry
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Steampunk
  • Western

Notes

Helping judge this week is MC 206 winner Eryn McConnell!

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 206 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 206 Winners!

We’ve moved our Winners Announcements to their own posts! You can find the winners of MC 206 here: https://microcosmsfic.com/2023/09/09/results-mc-206/

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Microcosms 209 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)
Microcosms 207 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)

50 thoughts on “Microcosms 208 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction

  1. HJAARSZAANAG
    300 words
    Perfumist/ Different Languages/ Drama
    By Steve Lodge
    Twitter: @steveweave71
    Instagram: steveweave_cheese
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works.

    Dedicated to my beloved Mum, who passed away 7th September 2023.

    I was walking through the Centrol Quartor of the Belzonian staad of Paranoia, doing my daily eksercise. My kolleag, Inspektor Farkas (the Defektiv Detektiv, I named him) called me on the telefonix apparatus.

    “Detektiv Murderoux, zere has been anuzzer dess.”

    “I dedukt zat you are in ze Fronch Quartier, mon ami. Ooo has been keeled zis tahm?”

    “Oh ho ho, ees za famus perfumist, Cadiz Lightning. She woz famus and everything.”

    “Kalm down, ma petti chien. You will be getting ze aart ettek. Bon, I am walking through the Quartro Espadrille, amigo. Ola. I will be wiz you soon, you bronzed flamingo.”

    The dottir of Cadiz woz being qvestioned by Farkas when I arrived. She woz sobbink.

    Zis studio of Cadiz Lightning woz in disarrayment. Bouteilles of ze fragrans were strewn hither and higgedly. Cadiz lay like an half peeled jenrode or leechee. Her back spoiled by an urgly dekorated dagger stikking from it at an angle pekuliar.

    I spoke to Farkas. “Hav yew had your peti breaking of ze fast?”

    “Non, Detektiv. Here I am dying for a Vat of Koffey and a tun of cheese and maybe some vin to keep me till ze lonch.”

    “Farkas, zat zounds good, get ze saim for me, you greedy bastarde and don’t kvibble. Allay, allay and go kvickly. I need to zolve zis cream of peshion immediatement and reely kvite hurgently. I am playing gurlf wis ze Komissario Fontainebleusuedeshoes in ebout sree harz.”

    Although she ad try very ard to make eet look like a keeling most orrible, no, I saw zis straight away. Cadiz ad keel herself and try to mek it look like a keeling underlawfool. But you kannot pool ze wool over ze eyes of Murderoux. Ha!

    1. So sorry for your loss, Dear Steven. You have now joined the bereft of Mom club. I’ve been here for 48 years. It never gets better. As for your story. So much laffink! Thank you for your dependable silliness. Such an imagination!

    2. Quite extraordinary not least because you must have wrestled your spell checker to distraction.
      And so sorry about your bereavement Steve

  2. Send me a Leaf
    300 words
    Perfumist/ Different Languages/ Drama
    By Eryn McConnnell
    Twitter: @mcconnelleryn
    Instagram: erynmcconnellwriter
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works

    The window was open. A breeze slipped in, bringing the fragrance of lilacs, wet bark and spring. Elodie shut her eyes and sniffed, feeling it wrap around her.
    “Henri, mein schatz. You always loved that lilac. I wish I had made a perfume with lilacs just for you. It is my last regret.”
    She placed her hands on the table, seeing the signs of age creeping, lines etched onto her skin like circles in a tree.
    “Do you remember what you always said? Of course you do. You were the one who remembered things. Schicke mir ein Blatt, von einem Strauche. Send me a leaf, from a bush. And I would send you a leaf, but a paper one, doused in my latest creation. You would smell it deeply, eyes closed, and say, oh, but this is your masterpiece, my love. Every time.”
    She smiled, feeling the tears rise. It had been so long. It still felt like yesterday.
    “I sold the shop, Henri. It was time. I am too old to be a nose and the girl who bought it, Seline, will do fine things. I have trust in that. She has enthusiasm and understands the modern ways. Not like us. We must fade, and let the new happen. It was time.”
    She looked around the room, remembering the day they moved in, eyes full of love and hope.
    “Musst du gehen und wirst stark, und ich bedanke mich fur das hubsche Blatt.You must go, and I will be strong and thank you for the pretty leaf.
    Well, mein Schatz, you went, and I was strong. Will you come for me now my time has come?”
    She smiled. “Will you bring me a leaf, love?”
    The wind blew in again, carrying a fragrance of lilac, spring, and love.

    1. Oh wow, loved the sensory details in this and the bittersweetness of it as she passes on the shop. That last line touches the heart.

      1. That’s so kind. I really wanted to hit the right note, although I wondered if I pitched it as a drama well enough!

  3. Everyone Asks About Androids…

    299 words

    computer programmer/national park/steampunk

    nix

    guess who’s finally done with its dissertation (and is writing this on an intercontinental flight somewhere in the arctic circle) anyway this is only relevant Bc my diss was (loosely) connected to Turing who doesn’t feature in this but does in my heart

    ***

    Nothing but grass for bloody miles around, and my moron colleagues running halfway to the moon every the train goes chugging on by. And yet!

    I have it.

    Recursion was all it took, functions calling functions calling – well. More functions. You don’t even need anything but functions! My language, growing grammar and syntax and beauty. Because it is beautiful – it is perfect logic, how could it not be?!

    I had the realization in this very field as a youth, taking my first shakey steps into the crowd of my half-siblings. Different mothers, father unknown.

    And that’s what got me thinking – the web of life! The breaking binary of it all! Truth and falsehood, hinging on the flick of a switch. The tick of the steamtrain driving the changing system – what is a calculation but the coming together of a million million tiny pieces in the right place. Bits, if you will.

    At first, I relied on the idiots standing in the right places, doing the right thing. And then I built around it. And finally I built with it – tying my programs together with uncertainty! The generation of pseudo-random numbers!

    I don’t have access to the technology I hear they’ve got in London; we only see it out here in the train and the odd lost airship. But I’ve simulated my machine, over and over, with flesh and blood moving parts and the ideas are sound.

    There’s a guest up in the house. A rich one, with a shiny new car. So I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.

    I shake myself out, straighten myself up, and I walk in that door.

    “Ah,” says the tall man in the tailcoat.

    “The name’s Baabage,” I say. “I -“

    His companion scowls. “Ma! The bloody sheep’s in the house again!”

  4. High Above Snowdonia
    300 words
    Computer programer / national park / Steampunk
    Dana M. Evans
    @DanaMEvans13
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information.

    Sweat rolled down Deryn’s back. Shōta raced along next to him. The pursuit didn’t leave him time to shuck his defective jetpack that kept slapping his spine as he ran. His lumi-light didn’t extend beyond a hand’s length in the gloom. Mount Snowdon threw rocky outcroppings and sharp edges that could snap an ankle or send him and Shōta to their deaths.

    “We’re here!” Shōta screamed into his two-way but the janky things barely ever worked. Had the airship heard them?

    Swearing in Welsh, Deryn swept the lumi-light around, trying to spot the monster on their heels. This is why he should stick to programing the airship and not let his boyfriend lead him into trouble. Shōta let out a yelp as the yellow light illuminated flat black eyes and a gaping maw set into a corpse-like face, uncomfortably close.

    His heart leapt as the hum of engines echoed through the hills. “Shōta,” he hissed. “Need a distraction.”

    Shōta whipped around and fired off a few shots from his aether gun, the sizzle of ozone clogging their senses. Deryn turned his lumi-light skywards, gasping when a rope ladder flitted in and out of the narrow beam. He leapt, catching the bottom rung, his foot fighting for purchase. Deryn held out a hand and helped haul Shōta up, too short to grab it on his own. Shōta wrapped around him on the ladder, holding tight.

    Sounds of the winch and crewmen’s voice cut the night as the ladder retracted. Up they went. The monster followed. Deryn lashed out with his boot, kicking her away from Shōta.

    “How!”

    “Gwrach-y-Rhibyn fly.”

    Her blood-sucking tongue unfurled after them and Shōta shot her in the face. She spiraled down.

    “Glad you volunteered us for this mission?”

    Shōta’s reply was bad even by airship pirate standards.

  5. Don’t Get Wound Up (This Story Is Only Loosely Based On The Spun Prompt And Doesn’t Even Live In The Same Street As The Original Either.)
    330 words (I KNOW!!!)
    Computer Programmer /Technology Gone Awry / Steampunk
    Laura Cooney

    (((((Just to say the one think I love about this competition and prompt is the way it really stretches your comfort zone. I expressed an interest in knowing more about streampunk and while in a Twitter chat someone said Victoriana and gears together and somehow it made a bit more sense. So I wrote this with only the words Victoriana, gears and Steampunk in my head. I DONT EXPECT TO WIN with this, it’s just for fun but I wanted to stretch myself, in real life it is already 500 words long, and so I cut it for ya. I write comedy more now because of this thing and so now I want to write steampunk. I don’t have time to write much more this week so this is it. As I say, just for fun. It’s kind of computer programming of its time and it’s not quite right is it? But really? ))))

    Anyway Enjoy.
    ********
    Belle, tired from her journey, cocked her head somewhat stiffly to one side and listened, the whirring of gears and creaking of cogs was getting louder the further she walked into the building, an old careworn castle with tapestries from floor to ceiling.
    Her taffeta lined gown of silver brocade swished gently on the steps as she climbed to the great hall. With an angular wrist and a quick, forceful, though graceful, tap she opened the strong wooden door of the hall. Inside it was not at all as expected. The stair was medieval but in here, a room of the times. A grandfather clock stood imposing its presence, pendulum clicking to and fro. The echoing clunking of miniature horses galloping round the base of mantle clocks resonated in her ears. Perhaps this was the sound she had heard, the noise travelling in the air. 
    She began to feel faint, for the third time today. Seeking a chair by the fireplace she gratefully sat down and closed her ey … 

    “Ey, m’lord, that’s the most magnificent thing I ‘as ever see’.” Baxter broke the silence in the room, now the gears were still. 
    Lawrence smoothed her skirts and stroked her pale face,

    “She is a masterpiece Baxter, now I just need her to move for longer. Ten minutes is most little time for the Exposition to feel her glory,” he turned the screwdriver thrice on the small panel on her back.
    “Let’s see now,” he said.

    When Belle awoke she felt confused. It seemed hours had passed. The light above the mantle was lit and had not been before. The sound of gears was still loud, but now slower, she relaxed. Perhaps she would get used to the sounds here. Wherever this was. She was startled by the men looking at her, one pocketing a small brass key.

    “Hello dear Belle, my name is Dr Lawrence. So pleased to make your acquaintance. You must be tired after a long journey.” He smiled.

  6. Microcosms
    300 Words
    Perfumist/Different Languages/Drama
    Lily Finch

    The duty-free line at the airport was huge, filled with men waiting to be served. The perfumer, a polyglot, served each one.

    The first man was from Spain.
    Me gustaría comprarle un perfume a mi esposa. Creo que le gustaría mucho el perfume. Sé que ella está esperando en casa que le lleve un regalo. Necesito volver a casa con un regalo de perfume. Verás que ha tenido una aventura con otra persona. Ella no sabe que yo lo sé. Espero que esto rompa el hielo y podamos hablar de ello. ¿Tú piensas que soy estúpido? Creo que necesito saber quien es. Para mí hace una gran diferencia saberlo. Huele exactamente igual que el perfume que llevas. ¿Tu esposa usa perfume todo el tiempo? Creo que puede estar teniendo una aventura con otra mujer. ¿Que debo hacer?

    The next man was from the United States. As the perfumer yelled out for the next man in line, he heard,I would like to buy perfume for my wife. I think she would like the perfume very much. I know she is waiting at home for me to bring her a gift. I need to come home with a gift of perfume. You will see that he has had an affair with someone else. She doesn’t know that I know. I hope this breaks the ice and we can talk about it. Do you think I’m stupid? I think I need to know who he is. It makes a big difference to me to know. It smells exactly like the perfume you’re wearing. Does your wife wear perfume all the time? I think she may be having an affair with another woman. What should I do?

    Both men opted for a bottle of Johnnie Walker Diamond Jubilee rather than the perfume.

  7. Floating Gold
    287 words
    Perfumist / Different languages / Drama
    Samantha Causey
    https://samanthacausey.wordpress.com/
    Yes, I am open to derivative works. Please contact me via the “Contact” page on my website above.

    ***

    Two men tumbled into the sea. The whale rammed again, sending the boat keeling just short of ninety degrees. Phineas clung to the bench, praying the boat would hold steady. He cursed his master and his master’s belief that all perfumers intimately know their fresh ingredients—even the dangerous ones.

    Blood so dark red it was near black spilled from the whale’s battle wounds. She huffed, sending a spray of saltwater from her blowhole upon them. Shouting rang in Phineas’s ears as two men gathered themselves up. They braced their thighs against the bulwark while another man stumbled to arm them with lances. This time, when she threw herself against the hull, they were ready.

    Phineas gritted his teeth and covered his ears against her roar of pain. Her tail thrashed, and her body rolled. Violent waters sent the boat lurching. When her fury calmed, they dragged the boat right up against her. She groaned, the sound like a massive closing door, and leeched as she was, gave them no trouble when they pinned her portside.

    Now that she was sedated, Phineas crept closer. He mapped the topography of wrinkled skin that rose up around her large eye. She blinked. It was so human-like Phineas felt his heart constrict. Her groans became something softer, like running a wet finger around the rim of a glass. Phineas wished he understood the words in it, but maybe a song like this didn’t have words. Maybe it was just a hummed lullaby to put oneself to sleep.

    It took only one man with good aim. The creature moaned before surrendering her side to the whalers who would rob her of her teeth and skin and, if Phineas was lucky, floating gold.

  8. What to Do When the Work Is Dragon
    300 words
    Computer Programmer / National Park / Drama
    Deanna Salser
    https://www.facebook.com/Beadanna777/
    https://beadanna777.wixsite.com/procreation
    I am open to derivative works.

    ***

    The backpack was heavy and the trail was getting steeper. There was only the sound of her breath in long, even pulls and the crunch of last year’s leaves beneath her feet. The moon coming up over the tree line looked like it was poking halfway through the black cloth of the sky, tiny studded diamonds sparkling all around it. The wind soughed through stiff needles, bringing the smell of pines into her nose. The perfect vacation. A crashing in the brush beside her had her down on one knee, her crossbow up and loaded. Turning slowly, looking through the sights, Lena was startled by a massive shadow sweeping over her from above. Throwing herself to the side, she watched from her back in the leaves as a giant black shape reached a claw into the trees and drew it back with a struggling deer in its talons. She knew then that it was Dara’s. Dara was the only other programmer who could cough up things like that dragon. Always trying to ruin her time off. Dragging her backpack beneath a nearby rock overhang, she climbed up to attach her dish. An hour later, fingers cramping, she was done.

    Dara stepped outside for a cigarette, thinking how smart she was. Lena was always taking time off to hike, leaving her with the lion’s share of work. She didn’t hike and their office was hidden in this massive forest. She checked her watch. She should be back anytime. A heavy thump shook the ground, followed by several more. Her self-satisfied smile began to melt off her face as she saw what was coming for her.

    Lena was laughing so hard, her headset fell off. She couldn’t help it. Watching Dara wet herself through the eyes of her own dragon was priceless.

    1. I loved your description of smell (pine on a breeze), sound (crashing! thumping!), and sight. Helped me visualize what was going on. I also liked how Lena and Dara get back at each other using the power of code!

  9. More Than A Channel Apart
    Perfumist/different languages/drama
    299words
    Geoff Le Pard
    @geofflepard
    Arthur Shave had tried so very hard to remain inconspicuous, but at Maison du Parfum he always seemed to cross paths with the soon to be retired chief perfumist, Jacques Eetin. His non-existent French and M. Eetin’s refusal to speak English eventually led to Arthur’s demise.
    Arthur had just replaced a fuse in the lift and was testing the repair when it stopped on level one and in stepped Jacques.
    ‘Hel.. Bonj…’ The glare froze Arthur into silence.
    Le Nez Exceptionnel wrinkled. ‘Qu’est-ce que c’est? Ordure?’
    Arthur, unused to any sort of acknowledgement stuttered. ‘Odour? Oh yes, very nice. I was saying to Doreen, the smells here…’
    Jacques held up a hand and pointed at Arthur’s feet.
    ‘My feet.’ Arthur was affronted. ‘They were clean on this morning.’
    Jacques shook the regal tete. ‘Non. Souliers.’
    ‘Look, I know you’re a big cheese an’ all, but my name’s Arthur. Not Sue-Lee. She’s in accounts. Though she does smell a bit ripe.’
    Jacques’ brow beetled. ‘Votre souliers. Mais si!’
    ‘Maisie? Look Mr Eetin, I know you’re very modern an’ all, but I’m just a bloke. Not Sue-Lee, not Maisie. Arthur.’ He blanched. ‘This isn’t one of them come ons, is it?’ He would have stepped back, if the lift car had been bigger.
    Jacques meanwhile appeared determined to find out what was on Arthur’s shoes. He began to squat as he moved forward, muttering ‘souliers.’
    In one way, Arthur’s misunderstanding at to his intentions was reasonable, given his perspective. Determined to defend his fly at all costs, he lifted his foot. As he did so and the small dog turd became visible, Jacques rocked back, just as the lift door opened. Out rolled Jacques, next to the CEO. There was only one conclusion: Arthur had kicked him out so they reciprocated.

    PS any errors of French are entirely the responsibility of Mr Taylor whose inability to instil in me the slightest interest in the language was a reflection of his poor teaching and not my teenage stubbornness.

  10. A Translation of Love
    Perfumist/different languages/drama
    299 words
    Melissa Rotert
    @onpunsnneedles

    From a young age, Bartleby had the rare ability to smell words. Each phrase induced distinct aromas. Some pleasant, some odoriferous. As a child, he avoided expressions he found displeasing to his nostrils and oft repeated his favorites.

    In adulthood, Bartleby became a romantic, spurred on by the language of love and its attributed scents. In particular, the phrase ‘I love you,’ was the finest perfume he’d ever smelled. It was his very inspiration for attending perfumery school in Paris. Upon graduation, he dedicated himself single-mindedly to perfecting the fragrance of those three words. There was no greater gift Bartleby could bestow upon the world than the intoxicating aroma of love.

    He toiled desperately to perfect his composition. Certain that the heart note was floral, the top note herbal, Bartleby distilled and extracted so many variations of plant to find accord. When finally he felt confident in his combination, he turned his attention to the base note. It was subtler than the other components of his perfume but the key to unlocking emotional resonance. This was the bit that lasted through the day, long after the sound of the words had faded.

    In his research, he bounced from relationship to relationship, seeking the strongest evocation of love, the first declarations. Breaking hearts was a necessary casualty of his work. He developed the reputation of a debauched man, and a penniless one at that. So obsessively did he pursue the base note of love that he stopped producing other perfumes which kept him fed and sheltered.

    Bartleby withered the closer he came to success. His talent, heart, and life wasted in the pursuit of translation. When his body was discovered at his table, his fist clutched tightly a vial. The perfume became a great success. A testament to his love.

  11. Title: Manual Deterioration Complete’
    297words
    Computer Programmer/National Park/ Steampunk
    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

    ______________________________________

    Nic clunked the metal keyboard. An echoing creak resonated around the tower. This sound would never get old to him.

    The buzzing of the cameras, panning in and out, captured this vast, now obsolete place. Giant, metal helter skelters, egg-shaped orbs caught mid-spin, chained swings suspended, creaking, high above the trees.

    Nic had fought to keep this place alive, but the infrastructure, rusted and derelict, highlighted its demise. It was almost over. A few of the rides and simulations had required ‘manual deterioration’ but one refused to give up.

    Nic was looking for Ruth. She’d been a part of this park as long as he had. His observational skills meant he could tell, from the rustle of a single leaf, if it was a bird, a cockroach or, as it soon became apparent, her.

    The lever she stood next to, once viewed from every camera angle, now had blind spots. She’d known this. She knew everything he did.

    He smiled. He’d always known she was better than him. The lingering look between them was the last stand-off before she grasped the lever and pulled.

    It started with tingling first. An electric pulse moved up his body, paralysing him. The last thing he saw was a small, flashing red light in the corner of his eye. Then a single, red line.

    Then black.

    ***

    Ruth clicked the comms from the tower.

    ‘It’s over’, she said.

    ‘And the final NPC?’

    She ran her finger over the letters on the console in front of Nic. The curve of the letter ‘P’ had been etched away. ‘P’ read as ‘I’. He’d always wanted to be human.

    ‘Manuel Deterioration complete’, she said.

    ‘You know what to do.’

    Ruth touched Nic’s rigid, unmoving shoulder gently before lighting the match on her way out.

    1. Well yeah..I noticed it after I submitted. Have changed on my blog but sadly no edit option on here! Never mind.. That’s what happens when you’re submitting on a phone in the sun!

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