Microcosms 216 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)

MC 216 Flash Fiction Contest

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 216 – 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, 18 November 2023 at midnight PT


Quick Access Links

Info Tabs

Start here if you’re new or haven’t been here in a while. Click each tab to learn more.

To qualify for the cash prize, 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. 
<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).

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:

Missing Person / Pirate Ship / Drama


Rat Breeder / Nail Salon / Fairly Tale

Blame the spinner! lol

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.)




  • Missing Person
  • Time Traveler
  • Priest/Religious Leader
  • High Schooler
  • Mermaid
  • Pirate
  • Rat Breeder
  • Nail Tech/Artist
  • Search for Missing Person
  • Time Machine
  • Church/Place of Worship
  • High School
  • Under the Sea
  • Pirate Ship
  • Pet Store
  • Nail Salon
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Steampunk
  • Western
  • Crime/Thriller
  • Fairy Tale


Helping judge this week is MC alum AJ Walker! Please be sure to thank them on their social media of choice (if applicable).

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 215 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!


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 214 Winners!

We’ve moved our Winners Announcements to their own posts! You can find the winners of MC 214 here: https://microcosmsfic.com/2023/11/11/results-mc-214-flash-fiction-contest/

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Microcosms 217 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)
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7 thoughts on “Microcosms 216 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)

  1. Title: Finger Bites throughout the night.

    It was the night before the Rat’s dinner party in the glossy walls of the salon. There was cheese and wine dining to the best. The Chief Rat Elude was soaking up a toast. When Freda, his drunken princess, came swarming in.
    ” fellow Rats,” we are here granted to Elude for centuries we have bowed at his mercy.”
    Elude getting annoyed , cut in sharp.
    I think you have had too much Freda.
    But then a sharp noise over the buzzing sound of hairdryers, a tall evacuated man came in known as the rat breeder.
    Oh no, the rats were in trouble.
    It was them against this giant human.
    In a flash it was all over the rats scurried away.
    The rat breeder known as Dave failed at his job, but the rats lived ratty ever after.


    230 words
    Missing Person/ Pirate Ship/ Drama.

    John Holmes

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

    Cry Baby, Cry.

    Crouching behind dripping reed baskets, Mary nervously watched the four heavily armed pirates patrol the main deck.
    Before dawn, her baby’s hunger had forced her to clamber aboard, disregarding the obvious dangers.
    She had managed to steal three pieces of rotting brown fruit from the retched galley and had stored them deep inside the layers of her bellowing skirt.
    Her daughter Jane would eat just as well as that Captain Blue Throat this night.
    More sword brandishing pirates climbed on board the ship; hauling, sweating, swearing. Many showed signs of recent injuries; lacerations to their skin left open to the elements.
    Fear of capture kept Mary frozen in her hiding place.
    Suddenly the yardarms screeched into life and the sails were slowly and noisily lowered.
    She had to make her move now. But, in that moment of hesitation, she felt the sharp point of a dagger pierce the back of her neck and a hand grabbing a fist full of her greasy hair.
    The quiet sound of a crying baby is lost to the sounds of the crashing waves.
    Her mother has concealed her well amongst the rocks of the isolated bay.
    Too well.
    Apart from the sable ferrets and inquisitive black-headed gulls, Jane’s desperate, lonely cries of hunger will not be noticed. And nobody will ever discover that her mother is many nautical miles away, permanently missing; lost at sea.

  3. Nailed On: A Rat Tale For The Ages

    Rat Breeder/nail salon/fairy Tale


    Jolyon Piper, the last descendant of the Pied Piper, was determined to rehabilitate the family name. It was a high risk strategy: introducing an All Things Rat stall at the food festival, but it proved surprisingly popular. He hadn’t factored in the humourless members of the town council; no amount of pleading convinced the Burghers that his rat burger wasn’t a deliberate insult.
    He was banned.
    Furious, he took to his laboratory and designed a totally new, killer rat, a saw toothed, rattus psychopathus. It’s one flaw was its lemony scent that Jolyon couldn’t eradicate. When the rat mob was released, it did unspeakable things, but the worst was creating a generation who found citrus fruits triggering.
    The Burghers reacted immediately. They created a new Something Must Be Done Ministry and appointed the sole applicant prepared to take on this formidable foe.
    Rosy Hue was, by trade, an itinerant nail polisher who wanted to settle down. When the Burghers asked her price, she said ‘a salon for my nail varnishing skills.’
    The Burghers mulled. ‘Why not?’ they said and stood back to watch.
    Rosy confronted the rat mob. The rat mob salivated, confident until they saw the box of highly polished six inch nails and the steam powered nail gun. The rat leader managed to say, ‘oh bugger’ before he and his rodent hordes were pinned to the town fence.
    Rosy the Rat Slayer returned to the Town Hall.
    The Head Burgher stepped forward. ‘Thanks, ever so. There’s a shop on the high street. You can vanish your nails from there.’
    Rosy stared at the old fool. ‘I want to varnish, not vanish.’
    The Burghers resigned: better to look foolish than be accused of conniving in a cover up.
    And the moral? Never work with a group of silly old burghers.

    300 words
    Rat Breeder/ Nail Salon/ Fairy Tale
    By Steve Lodge
    X: @steveweave71
    Instagram: steveweave_cheese
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works

    Once upon a time, in the Queendom Of Primordia, there lived Colin, a lonely rat breeder, in Seipan, the Primordian capital. Once, Colin surprised and cornered two rats who were frightening Princess Petunia on her way to school.

    Princess Petunia, aged eight, was delighted. She gave him a peck on his cheek, some suspicious cheese from her lunchbox and a wet puppet and skipped off down the road to Primordia School For Princesses And The Like.

    Colin was enchanted. He lavished his gratitude on the two rats who had led to Colin meeting a real life Princess. He fed them on suspicious cheese and Poolaval, a local dish.

    Soon, his dwelling was too small as these two rats began breeding like rabbits. Next door to him was a trendy manicure place called Neil Salon. Colin visited the owner.

    “How’s business?” he enquired.

    “I’m not being funny,” said the owner “But how is that any of your business?”

    “You’re right. You’re not being funny. You got any rat problems?”

    “Shhh, not so loud,” shushed the owner, but too late. Amid squeals and screams, all the ladies in the salon, rushed out amid a nailstorm of false fingernails and gossip.

    Colin and the owner stood in front of the salon.

    “Why is it called Neil Salon?” Colin asked.

    “Dopey signmaker got it wrong. I’m Neil and it was supposed to be Neil’s Nail Salon, but all I got for my money was Neil Salon. Ask me how business is again and I will slap you.”

    Colin and Neil reached an agreement. Neil Salon became a dockland pub called The Princess Of Rats, all Colin’s rats moved in, Colin got a job in entertainments on board a pirate ship and Neil bought a Silent Retreat Centre.

    Everybody lived happily ever after.


  5. Fairy Nails
    291 Words
    Rat Breeder/Nail Salon/Fairy Tale
    Stephen Shirres
    No, I am not open to derivative works at this time, thank you
    Once upon a time, in the small village of Lowater, someone opened a nail salon called Fairy Nails. No one knew who owned the shop, just that it was very popular and very odd. Customers had to wear a blindfold throughout their treatment.
    Ella worked for the local paper, The Lowater Tales. Her editor told her to find out who owned the mysterious nail salon. Her first step was to Google the shop, but she got no helpful results. Suggestions for shops in Hamelin and Cambridge but nothing about the nail salon she was investigating.
    Ella’s second attempt was to visit the salon. She chose a manicure, took a blindfold, and magically, her nails were perfect. She could not remember anything about her treatment or how it happened.
    Ella’a third and final option was borderline illegal. On the darkest night, she accepted the invitation of an open window on Cinders Lane. With the dim light of her phone, she navigated the corridors following the quietest whisper she’d ever heard. It became a gentle mumble and then a scratching noise at a closed door. With her ear pressed against the cold wood, a squeaking joined the original sound.
    She opened the door to find an army of rats working different jobs. Some were polishing and sharpening equipment. Others were nursing baby rats. One stood on an office chair, directing the rest. He looked at Ella. Into her, down to her soul. His tail brought a flute to his lips. He played a gentle, soporific sound. Words joined the tune. Who sang them, Ella did not know.
    “Join us, young Ella, join our merry band. You’ll be happy here, with nothing to fear.”
    Ella nodded her agreement as her tail started to grow.

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