Microcosms 214 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)

MC 214 Flash Fiction Contest

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 214 – your free, weekly flash fiction contest!

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

Entries due Saturday, 28 October 2023 at midnight PT

DAYS
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Quick Access Links

MICROCOSMS 214 Free Flash Fiction Contest Prompts: Inmate / Secret Research Facility / Sci Fi OR Firefighter / Ancient Library / Crime/Thriller 300 words or fewer. Spin for more prompts. $25 prize. Totally free to enter! microcosmsfic.com
Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

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, you 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).

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:

Inmate / Secret Research Facility / Sci Fi

OR

Firefighter / Ancient Library / Crime/Thriller

Let’s see what you’ve got!

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

  • Spy
  • Librarian
  • Firefighter
  • Cosplayer
  • Arctic Explorer
  • Gardener
  • Doesn’t Know Isn’t Real
  • Inmate
  • High-Stakes Poker Game
  • Ancient Library
  • Forest Fire
  • Comic Con
  • Secret Research Facility
  • Greenhouse
  • Inside a Movie
  • Prison Riot
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Steampunk
  • Western
  • Crime/Thriller
  • Fairy Tale

Notes

Helping judge this week is MC 210 (and more) winner Geoff Le Pard! Please be sure to thank them on Twitter/X (if applicable).

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 213 Community Pick(s) will be announced at the end of the week, along with the Judge’s Pick, who will win $25!

Also, be sure to check out 100micro2 – our current quarterly contest!

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 212 Winners!

We’ve moved our Winners Announcements to their own posts! You can find the winners of MC 212 here: https://microcosmsfic.com/2023/10/21/results-mc-212-flash-fiction-contest/

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Microcosms 215 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)
Microcosms 213 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)

48 thoughts on “Microcosms 214 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)

  1. Librarian / Secret Research Facility / Fairy Tale
    318 words
    Galen Gower
    Galen.Gower@Gmail.com
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including a series of derivative works.

    Once there was a mean, lonely woman who worked in books. She didn’t write books, though, for she had no imagination. She only had loneliness, which turned to bitterness, as wine turns to vinegar.
    “Rotten kids with their filthy hands. Always touching everything!” she’d whisper as she slammed books into place on the shelves. Nobody came to the library, so Agnes Hook took the books from the shelves herself mornings, and put them away again afternoons. What the children didn’t know, nor the teachers, the school nurse, or the principal either, is that Agnes kept secret notes on the children. Dozens of files were hidden all through her library.
    “Poor Ms. Agnes Hook,” the children sang. “She doesn’t know how to cook, she only has her books, and if you stop to look, she’ll drown you in the brook!”
    “I’ll show those rotten children!” she vowed. An idea came to her! She worked feverishly, consulting her books, and drawing up her plans.
    The next week, she took all the kids to a nearby riverbank to observe nature, get fresh air, and then Agnes Hook could tie one wicked child to another and drown them all.
    “Look here, Ms. Hook! Someone has dumped a pile of books into the brook! Hurry, look!” the children cried. The children knew, in their wickedness, knew she couldn’t stand the idea of books being ruined by getting dumped in the water.
    “Where? Where are they?!” Ms. Hook asked. Without warning, the children pushed her into the river. Every time she tried to swim ashore, the children drove her back by pelting her with rocks. They laughed their wicked laughter as she succumbed to exhaustion and drowned. The school never hired another librarian, and no one ever found her secret notes detailing how truly evil each of the schoolchildren were and so they grew up and lived their terrible lives.

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  2. WE ARE OUT HERE
    296 words
    Inmate/ Secret Research Facility/ Sci Fi
    By STEVE LODGE
    X: @steveweave71
    Instagram: steveweave_cheese
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works.

    Ordinarily, I would never kiss a camel, but when you’ve been renamed “Tropical Eleven,” whisked off to a secret research facility in the back of a nursing home somewhere between the Three Moons Of Chaos and Promisco Seven, you tend to take chances.

    I’d heard Escape Juice is only available at The Oasis Of The Ravaged Hawk, through a kiss with a camel lasting not less than fifteen seconds and not more than an hour and a half.

    They will realise I have left the facility soon, when the insidious Security Patrol do their tour of Paranoia Ward. By then I must have taken the Escape Juice and slept for at least twenty four hours. When I wake up, I will be back in Endurango Flats. I will no longer be “Tropical Eleven,” I will revert back to the real me. Harry Elsener.

    I was shaken awake. “Harry. Wake up. What is wrong with you?”

    “Mavis,” I said, stirring. “Is that really you? Let me sleep a bit longer. Maybe you can bring me breakfast in bed? It’s been so long.”

    “Harry,” she seemed angry. “We’re in the cinema, you buffoon, and the film is over.”

    I sat up and looked around. The lights were slowly coming back up now.

    “How…long…was I asleep?” I asked, feeling a little uneasy.

    “Let’s see,” said Mavis. “We arrived at the cinema just before 8pm. It was my birthday, October 31st. You said I’d love the film but by 9pm, you were sound asleep. And now…”

    I looked closely at her for the first time, at everyone there for the first time. I was gripped with horror.

    “And now… I have become a two hundred and seven year old camel.” And, as she began to laugh, her head fell off.

      1. Oh how well you know me, Laura. So happy you loved it. Your story clearly heralds the start of a series of adventures for the brilliantly named Paige Turner.

      1. Thank you for your kindness, Jaime. It was your enthusiasm on X that led me to write it in the first place. Sometimes I really need a push. But then, where is your story, Jaime?

      1. Thank you, Galen. One of my favourite sayings is you’ve never known love till you’ve tasted the kiss of a camel. I’ve thought of Mavis a lot this week. But, can I just say how much I enjoyed your fairy tale. Did Ms Hook really drown? She had so much cruelty to offer. What a character.

      1. Thank you, Vicky. So happy you enjoyed it and thank you for sharing CYBORG. Really liked it. Clearly this inmate and secret research facility prompt opened up some interesting ideas.

  3. Librarian/Research Facility/Sci-Fi
    300 words exactly.

    “I don’t understand,” Amira said, her voice quivering, “The ARK was sealed at the end of The Before Times. How are you still-”

    The librarian smiled sadly at the child, “What do you know about the cause of The End?”

    “I know that people did things they shouldn’t do. To each other, but also to the ground. I know that they made machines which could think for them, so that the ones who had money had time to enjoy the art of ages, while the ones who didn’t had to work harder and harder to get enough food for everyone. I know that all the animals died.”

    The librarian nodded, “I’m one of the machines, Amira. I’m what was called an AI. I’m shackled to the ARK to ensure that the information held within doesn’t fall into human hands that are intent on war. Do you understand?”

    Amira looked first at her hands, and then at the wall behind the librarian. It was ice-smooth and steel-grey.

    “No… because there isn’t anything here. I followed all the instructions. I made it through the checkpoints,” she sat on the floor, fighting back tears, “I thought there would be plants, and food, and dogs.”

    The librarian laid a palm against the wall, causing a panel to open in it. They removed a small package and crossed the Amira. When the pannel closed again, all signs of its edges vanished once more into the smooth surface.

    Carefully, the librarian placed the small package into Amira’s hand, then folded her small fingers around it. At her touch, the back wall lit up with information – pictograms of people opening the earth and placing the package inside.

    “This is a seed,” the librarian said, “Follow these instructions, and you will have your plants, and food, and dogs.”

  4. How Well Do You Know Your Literature?
    by Laura Cooney
    300 words
    Firefighter/ Ancient Library/ Crime
    http://www.lozzawriting.com
    Everywhere: @lozzawriting
    I’m open to derivative works.

    Not since Guy Montag’s time on earth had there been such a bonfire of books.
    As Firefighter Paige Turner stood, almost drawn to the flames, in the ancient library of Didcot she found she was quite helpless to quench such a blaze with so small a crew. Backup was at least ten minutes away and the dwindling water supply beneath her feet, which was another story, was never going to be enough.
    “Damn it, this is catastrophic,” she said; in the understatement of the 28th century.
    The last remaining copies of every book from The Bible, to Cornflakes and Gravy by the great Attie Lime were in here, had been in there. People would find it difficult to know what it had meant to write words of fiction, rather than just having them thought over The Network. The last bastion of great literature in the world was now ablaze. How would anyone understand the last musical recordings of Gareth P. Jones now? All was lost.
    A voice crackled over Paige’s ancient radio. Darren’s voice crawled through.
    “Boss, I’ve extinguished children’s fiction, I’ve got a few copies here by a man named Williams, what do you want me to do?”
    “Bring them here,” she replied. One day she was going to have to tune into The Network for real, this crackling was getting much worse.
    Darren emerged from the kids section a gloopy, sooty, soggy mess; a failed super hero in action.
    “Here you go, at least I was able to save a few eh?” his round proud face glowing against the inferno behind him.
    Paige tutted, “Oh, shit Darren, remember, you need to remember to ‘chunk’ your words. This says WALLIAMS, we don’t need any more of these in the world.”
    And with that, she threw it over her shoulder back into the burning building behind. Leaving Darren, who had scarcely ever read a book. Agog.

      1. Aaaaahhh, Couldn’t help it. That was the first line I thought of. Lol. Glad you liked it. Thank you.

  5. Cyborg
    by Vicky Hinault
    292 words
    Inmate/ Secret Research Facility/ Sci Fi
    @StayTrueCreate on Twitter/BlueSky/Instagram
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works.

    —–

    “Come on,” his hushed order was accompanied by a wave of the hand.

    Bugs, affectionately named after his penchant for eating insects due to the ceaseless hunger, followed.

    His orange jumpsuit brightened under the swirl of silent redlight alarm as he met up with the crouching, wiry frame of Giles who silently signalled instructions.

    Bugs met the orders with blank stare. Giles despaired and repeated them in a whisper

    “10 steps, door on right, you guard, I enter.”

    Bugs grunted in agreement.

    The door was where Giles had said and the handle gave way under the correct pressure at the correct angle as planned. He counted to 7 under his anxious breaths and opened the door cautiously, peering through the gap before staring back at Bugs in alarm.

    “What?” asked Bugs.

    “Wait here,” instructed Giles.

    He disappeared through the door, ignoring Bugs’ question.

    Inside the room, bodies, suspended in stasis inside tall tubes hung limply in the contained fluid. He looked at the security screens – inmates sleeping in their cells – then back to the tubes. The same inmates but in a different kind of sleep.

    Slack jawed and silent, he approached the tube containing “Bugs” and tapped the glass. No movement.

    He turned, searching the room with his eyes but stumbled backwards as he set sights on ‘himself’. Breathing through his panic he approached the tube, inspecting this version of himself carefully.

    Then he looked up at the label, “Soul extraction: September 19th 2004.”

    His eyes moved as he digested this information and caught sight of his reflection in the glass tube. He noticed red text running over his eye which he sounded out loud.

    “GNISSECOPR”

    He turned again, confusion reigning until it clicked and he sounded it backwards. “PROCESSING”.

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  6. Turning Native
    A.J. Walker
    300 words
    Inmate / Secret Research Facility / Sci-Fi

    Countless years ago I was mis-sold the mission to observe and collate information about a small island at the edge of the Atlantic. It would be ‘an easy and enjoyable’ affair. Now as I’ve endured interminable time inside The Facility I hardly believe I fell for it. If I hadn’t been so young and excited by the assignment I would have had some questions. I sure would now. I’d been an easy mark.

    Since my capture and removal to The Facility I’d had no windows and nothing to show the passage of time. It was simple cruelty. If they’d a shred of humanity they could at least pretend to feed me at set times. But the randomness of life in Cell #43 left me nothing I could count.

    One day, out of nowhere, I was taken to a large room I hadn’t seen before and left on my own. But I wasn’t. In the far corner sat an old male with the same clothes and beaten look as me. He didn’t look up and I waited awhile before going over, unsure of what my captors were up to with this new tactic. Other than being questioned from time to time I’d not had any contact with anyone from the outside. Here was a colleague—I assume. Was I to mix with him, converse, whilst they observed remotely?

    I sat on the floor next to him. He eventually looked me in the eyes. We spoke for a while in our silent way. He asked how I’d found Britain. I said I missed the rain. He said he missed everything.

    We wondered if they could hear our thoughts as they watched. I laughed. I mean half way across the galaxy and all they’d hear was us talking about the weather. How British.

  7. And It Was Spring
    300 words
    Spy/Inside a Movie/Fairytale
    Rotem Cohen
    rotemcohengr@gmail.com
    Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via Gmail for more information.

    It was winter. A beautiful girl looked wistfully out the window at the snow falling on the grass outside the castle. Her white dress hugged her flawless body, and her mouth’s corners were always slightly lifted in a polite smile.

    She sat there peacefully, unaware of the men spying on her from outside the computer. And she waited for spring. She dreamt of a prince that would rescue her from unforeseen trouble and they’d wed in the garden outside that would bloom with flowers.

    One of the men accidently spilled water on the computer. The girl’s world glitched.

    “Something is wrong with the program!” a man shouted.

    That’s strange. The girl couldn’t recall a time when she wasn’t waiting by this window. Perhaps, until spring arrives, she can do other things?

    “We’re losing control! Spring must come now!” a man called.

    The male animators created wind to push away clouds, revealing the sun that melted the snow, drawing flowers instead.

    “What’s happening?” the girl asked aloud in a hoarse, confused voice.

    “Why is it talking, thinking?? Bring on the hurricane!”

    Wide-eyed, the girl spotted a massive hurricane approaching. The danger she wished to be saved from didn’t seem romantic anymore. She ran towards the exit, but the men locked it.
    She was trapped.

    Suddenly, in the corner of the room, the prince of her dreams appeared.

    Then, the window splashed into pieces by the hurricane.

    She looked at the prince waiting for her to come. She hesitated, but then she knew what to do. She ran towards the broken window, leaping out to freedom.

    “End the program,” the men decided.

    A sharp stick lifted by the hurricane’s wind went through her stomach. Blood splattered and stained her white dress.

    The hurricane faded, revealing the blue skies.

    And it was spring.

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    1. I liked this modern take on a fairy tale. It was eerie to see how she was condemned to eternal romantic yearning. I so hoped that she escaped at the end. The violent death was a shock.

  8. Maddie
    by K Cava
    292 words
    Inmate/ Secret Research Facility/ Sci Fi
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works.

    —–

    Madison was no ordinary inmate at Blackwood Research Facility; she was a biochemist who’d made a deal. Instead of rotting in prison, she’d help the scientists with their experiments in the Prometheus Initiative, which was all about pushing the boundaries of human intelligence. It was a twisted win-win. They got her expertise, and she avoided a cell.

    Madison wasn’t there for the good of humanity. She started messing with the project from the inside, tweaking the chemical compounds they were administering to the test subjects. She didn’t make grand changes; just little adjustments here and there, all masked as “refinements.” Her version didn’t just make people smarter. It made them ruthless, manipulative, emotionally detached—just like her.

    She’d been careful, changing electronic logs, fudging data. She’d even played the staff against each other, using her amped-up cognitive abilities to fan the flames of existing rivalries. Everyone was too busy suspecting each other to question her.

    But she underestimated Dr. Mitchell, the guy in charge. He had a hunch something was off and ran a quiet audit. That’s when he found Madison’s fingerprints all over the corrupted data.

    Mitchell was cold when he confronted her, and even colder when he told her what would happen next. Blackwood had a different kind of experiment for traitors. They stripped Madison of all the cognitive advancements she’d made, plunging her into a darkness of mind she couldn’t have imagined. It was like dragging her consciousness through shattered glass. She became a shadow, a husk, left to wander the dim corridors of the facility.

    No longer a participant or a researcher, Madison was now just a live specimen of failure, her warped ambitions reduced to null.

    1. You depicted a strong though unlikeable M.C. Just enough detail to make her 3D. Actually I was rooting for her as she fought the system. The finale was dark and shadowy.

  9. Dorji the Daring

    Firefighter Ancient Library Crime/Thriller

    by Zannie Rose

    Tensing hunched over the paper, pen in hand, butter lamps flickering. Under the gaze of the silk Buddha Thangka that hung on the ancient library wall, he copied text from a dusty parchment.
    Two years since five thousand scrolls tumbled from behind a partition.
    Day after day, copying the work of scribes from five hundred years since. When the temple was built, and the library first created.
    He loved this work, but he was grateful for the help of young Dorji, who visited the library each morning after chanting.
    Dorji helped with the finer details, the swirls and the twirls of the ancient script.
    Dorji usually enjoyed pancakes and yak milk after morning chanting. But that day he felt uneasy. Something warned him to forgo breakfast and make his way to the library.
    The sound of yelling and the smell of smoke as he approached the old library, turned his walk into a run.
    He came upon the scribe sprawled across the floor. Glasses smashed, blood pouring from a forehead gash. Tensing pointed to Katsang. A former novice monk, crazy-faced with resentment at his expulsion, glowered in the centre of the room.
    ‘Save the scrolls,’ urged Tensing.

    Katsang grabbed another handful of the precious scrolls and threw them on the greedy fire.
    Dorji yelled, ripping off his robe and extinguishing the flames. Katsang fled as more monks raced into the library in response to Dorji’s shouts.

    They saw the shaken Tensing. They saw the pile of embers. They saw the burns on Dorji’s palms.
    The Lama called Dorji to his chamber once his hands had healed.
    ‘You showed great courage in saving those scrolls’ he said. ‘You helped to preserve the ageless wisdom. You are ready for your new name, ‘Vajra’ which means indestructibility, strength, and clarity of mind.’

  10. Confined Projection
    by Jaime Bree
    296 words
    Inmate/ Secret Research Facility/ Sci Fi/ Firefighter/ Ancient Library
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works

    _________________________________________________

    The book signing was slow, but she knew he’d come. Years of honing her skills had brought unwanted attention and although they’d locked her away in this remote place, it didn’t make any difference.

    Setting a realistic scene drained most her energy, but it was necessary to contact him.

    Her power, invisible to those who thought they were containing it, seeped through the walls into the real world. Her ‘other’ self, her holographic form, went with it. For the unsuspecting, she was entirely real and so was the ancient library she sat in.

    People wandered over out of interest, some recognised her from advertising she’d painstakingly posted on social media, all part of the ruse, all whilst confined to a small white-walled room.

    In this room, observed 24/7, men scratched notes onto clipboards and yawned through her moments of inertia. In her projected world she scratched signatures onto books and drummed her fingers on the desk as she waited.

    What both her forms knew, however, was she was running out of time. For him to arrive. For them to realise what she was doing in front of their eyes.

    He entered the library right on time at dusk. She knew it was him when he spoke.

    ‘I had the urge to be here. I don’t know why’, he said.

    She drew out a book from the pile. This book detailed what would happen in mere months, had instructions on how to fight when the time came and contained a map to a portal that would reset time. Only she knew how. Now he would.

    ‘What do you do?’ she asked him.

    ‘I fight fire’ he replied.

    She signed the book and pushed it towards him knowing that was exactly what would be needed when the war came.

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