Microcosms 217 + The Karen Cox Prize for Entertaining Short Fiction (Flash Fiction Contest)

MC 217 Flash Fiction Contest

Greetings, flash fictioneering friends, and welcome to Microcosms 217 – 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.

This week is Thanksgiving in the US, so it’s great opportunity for you if you live elsewhere. 🙂

Time Left to Submit

Entries due Saturday, 25 November 2023 at midnight PT


Quick Access Links

MICROCOSMS 217 Free Flash Fiction Contest Prompts: Butterfly / 80s Shopping Mall / Sci-Fi OR Mall Santa / Mount Olympus or Hades / Romance 300 words or fewer. Spin for more prompts. $25 prize. Totally free to enter! microcosmsfic.com
Photo by Carl Raw 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. 
<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:

Butterfly / 80s Shopping Mall / Sci-Fi


Mall Santa / Mount Olympus or Hades / Romance

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.)




  • Olympic Athlete
  • Beekeeper
  • Butler
  • Amateur Baker
  • Greek God or Goddess
  • Fashion Designer
  • Mall Santa
  • Butterfly
  • Olympics
  • Apiary
  • Mansion
  • Cooking Show
  • Mount Olympus or Hades
  • Runway
  • 80s Shopping Mall
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Drama
  • Romance
  • Sci-Fi
  • Action
  • Fantasy
  • Horror
  • Poem
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Steampunk
  • Western
  • Crime/Thriller
  • Fairy Tale


Judge this week is TBD.

Don’t forget to vote for your favorites from last week and this week, too. All being well, MC 216 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 215 Winners!

We’ve moved our Winners Announcements to their own posts! You can find the winners of MC 215 here: https://microcosmsfic.com/2023/11/18/results-mc-215-flash-fiction-contest/

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

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

  1. Hell In Her Handbag
    300 licks of flame
    Mall Santa / Hades / Romance
    Deanna Salser
    I am open to derivative works.


    The mall was crowded with moms pushing strollers, dragging children by the hand, and chasing them when they managed to pull free. Last minute shoppers raced from store to store, bags clutched in sweaty fists as they scrutinized crumpled lists. Santa gulped down cold coffee in between children, his knee soaked with whatever was leaking from the last toddler’s diaper. He should have had a break more than an hour ago, but the line stretched out of Santa’s village and around the corner. His vision distorted as he tried to see the end, the shine and sparkle of the lavish decorations blurring and sending light stars over the scene. He sighed and rubbed his eyes as an elf came forward and placed another solid, wriggling weight on his lap. His arms came up and he opened his eyes when he felt a sudden, unrelenting heat. Huge, dark eyes and sultry lips inches from his face made him feel dizzy. She stroked his beard and opening her bag, she dove headfirst into it, taking him with her. The mall vanished. In its place was crystal cold darkness. Only his lap was hot, almost to the point of pain. His hands burned when he tried to push the slick form off, and his heart jumped into his throat as unseen arms and legs wrapped around him, their heat making sweat pop out on his skin. A scorching tongue licked it off, causing a storm of emotion to well up inside him. He clutched the squirming torch closer, capturing the sweltering lips with his own as orange fire erupted around them, and he could finally see the charcoal demon he was kissing. He closed his eyes and listened to the hiss of his flesh burning as he gave himself up to her inferno.

    1. Very strong piece of writing. An interesting blend of Santa and horror that gets more and more shocking. Fun play with letters- S A N T A/ SATAN. The opening lines capture the atmosphere of mall Christmas shopping.

  2. When What You Really Need Is George Orwell
    298 words
    Butterfly, 80s shopping mall, sci if

    Celeste Tial was in a flap. Her date for Lord Woebegone’s Summer fizz and frolics, the chisel jawed, matinee idol, Cy Lent has just evaporated. What was a girl meant to do? You weren’t meant to be stoic; that’s what Cy’s jaw was for – to jut on her behalf. And instead of manicured lawns, pergolas and platters of tiny nibbles, there were overlit corridors of what looked like an indoor Regent Street.
    Celeste jumped as a man in a ghastly beige bag thing, sporting a moustache of the sort her papa fought in the umpteenth Boer war to ensure British upper lips remained primed to be stiff, stepped in front of her.
    ‘And you’ll be a social butterfly from the 1920s, yes?’
    Celeste looked at this undermanager. ‘I may be called a flapper, sir,’ Celeste hadn’t spent years at Mrs Droopbosom’s School for Ladies of Worth without taking something useful from her Double Condescension classes, ‘but I am no insect.’
    ‘Of course, of course. You’ll be disorientated. My name is Wells and I’m proving time travel works.’
    Celeste looked around her, turning her nose up the necessary 51 degrees. ‘Where is this?’
    ‘Woebegone Retail Mall. 1984. The current scion has built an out-of-town outlet.’
    ‘Is this for sewerage?’
    ‘Not that sort of outlet. It’s a shopping centre.’
    ‘It’s ghastly. What’s that?’
    ‘An escalator to the food hall. Where everyone eats.’
    ‘This is a prison camp? Communal eating, lots of cells…’
    ‘I’m told they’re shops.’
    ‘It’s all so very… suburban. What’s that noise?’
    ‘Muzak, I believe.’
    ‘Are you sure this isn’t a punishment facility?’
    ‘It’s very a la mode, I’m informed.’
    ‘Well, if this represents the best of 1984, someone should write a book, warning people what’s to come. Can I go home, please. I’m missing the black bottom….’

  3. The Best Idea
    6 words
    Butterfly / 80s Shopping Mall / Sci-Fi
    Molly Bilbey
    No, I am not open to derivative works at this time, thank you.
    Stranger Things, but with a butterfly.

  4. Baklava Crumbs in Santa’s Beard
    300 words
    Mall Santa Mount Olympus Romance
    Zannie Rose.

    It made a change from doing odd jobs around town, gardening, renovation, or courier work. And it was indoors in the warm. And he did enjoy interacting with the children. Well, most of them. Not the whiney ones or those that pulled his beard to see if it was real. Or those who said ‘You’re not the proper Santa’ when they sat on his knee. Then reeled off a list of things they wanted for Christmas.
    Don landed this Santa job in the mall five years ago, after being a widower for two. He and Patsy never had kids so of course, he never had grandkids to spoil. This was his way of enjoying the spirit of Christmas, though he had to go home to an empty apartment each night.
    He’d eat in one of the mall cafes to stave off the loneliness after his shift and was looking forward to trying out the new one tucked away in the corner. ‘Mount Olympus’-authentic Greek dishes it said on the flyers.
    It was owned by a Greek couple about his age. The wife recognised him and insisted that Santa had his first meal free.
    His table was laden with moussaka, paputsakia , gemista and stifado. Don tried some of everything.
    Then the wife asked if he would like some baklava, handmade by her sister Dorothea. Of course he would.
    Dorothea brought out a blue and white plate. On it, there were two tempting pieces of the delicious sweet treat.
    ‘Do you mind if I join you?’ she asked, sitting down. ‘My grandkids will love it when I tell them I shared some baklava with Santa.’
    Over this wonderful Greek dessert, Don discovered she was a widow.
    He had a feeling this meeting would be the best Christmas present in a long time.

  5. Of Friends And Gods
    300 words
    Mall Santa / Mt Olympus / Romance
    Twitter/Spoutible: @zevonesque
    Website: https//www.awalker.org

    Poseidon arrived at the table munching on a dripping cheeseburger. Athena felt sorry for the laundry. She’d seen Poseidon’s pillows recently; they looked like CSI exhibits.

    ‘Lose the beard,’ came the godly chorus.

    ‘Right, besides deciding on the eternal “to beard or not to beard” question I called this meeting for a reason.’ Aphrodite interjected. Herding cats was easy compared with organising the twelve Gods of Olympus.

    Zeus banged his horn of ale. ‘Why are we here? Your Slack message was vague.’

    Aphrodite turned on the PowerPoint. There was a moment of stillness, before bedlam erupted. ‘Christmas! It’s bloody August.’

    ‘After last year’s debacle we need to plan.’ Aphrodite looked into their eyes. ‘We need to decide who’s coming—the answer is: all twelve of us. What’s for dinner? No shellfish.’ They agreed. The messy end to ‘19 after Poseidon’s basket of oysters was still painfully raw. ‘We need games and films… and no Die Hard.’

    The goddess of all things lovely currently looked far from it. She loved Christmas, despite the one god thing conflicting with their mountain top.

    ‘Maybe next year we’ll be able to sort something else out, but after we lost our Christmas chef to Project Santa last year I’ll be stepping into the breach.’ It had supposed to be Demeter who’d met Santa first, but Nigella had been chasing a randy turkey around the mountain right into Santa’s lap. Demeter didn’t miss Christmas love anyway; she was happy with the seed drill from the Secret Santa. ‘I’m hoping to split Nigella and Santa up eventually. I fixed their Firestick so they’re stuck with Friends. It’s not working yet. They fucking love it!’

    On cue, ‘Ho ho ho’ rang through the room. Artemis shook her head; she’d never liked Friends.

    It wouldn’t be Christmas without Nigella.

  6. A Participant and a Pretzel
    298 words
    Butterfly / 80s Mall / Sci-Fi
    Cay Macres
    I am open to derivative works.


    Chlorine and sickly sweet orange swirled around the mall where Joanna stared out at a concrete fountain.

    Colorful sweater vests and high waisted jeans mirroring Joanna’s own clothes lined the department store. Joanna stared curiously at an out-of-place box. Pictured on the side of it was a bartending robot framed in Japanese lettering. A captured butterfly hair clip rested in the display case it sat on.

    Outside the store, Joanna worked the butterfly into her curls. She made her way towards the four escalators that criss-crossed, forming two X shapes on top of each other.

    Multicolored tiles lined the movie theater floor. Enticed by the smell of hot dough, Joanna stood in line for concessions.

    In her ear, a monotone voice whispered, “Come see me in theater 2.” Apparently, there was a bug in her butterfly.

    Joanna glanced over at the door with a red 2 over it.

    “One ticket for the laser show and a pretzel, please.”

    In the dark room, the robot from earlier sat in the corner. He had the futuristic charm of the new Macintosh, a head on a spring, and two flashlight eyes.

    “That’s a pretty good prank. Come on out, kid.”

    The butterfly spoke again. “I’m not a human child. I’m from another planet. All I seek is a willing participant and a pretzel.”

    Joanna laughed and placed the pretzel on the robot’s head. “Sure thing, kid. Here you go.”

    She pushed the theater seat down and watched blue lines dance in the empty room. To the beat of “Mr. Blue Sky,” a neon U.F.O. materialized. Laser beams circled Joanna. This was a pretty advanced light show. It swallowed her. Her ears picked up the words “It’s a beautiful new day” just as her body dissolved, swimming among the stars.

  7. Hades Impregnated Me (Santa Man)
    194 words
    Mall Santa / Hades / Fantasy
    I am open to derivative works.

    There was this mall santa. His name was Ahoge. Driven, by anger and fear he recluded himself, from society. And, then, he was found in Hades; the burning, pits of hell, that succumbed to the will of Hades. The “Mall Santa”, didn’t know what he was doing, or, what he was driving towards. He was riding in a mine—cart, down a rail—way and went past the Elysian/Elysium fields… there, was cart—wheeling towards the center of Hades. Then, Hades appeared and stopped his mine-cart. “What, are—you doing?” The Mall—Santa shouted. “I’m only, stopping you from continuing this journey,” Hades—replied. Hades, with his crazy blue flames of hair coddled the young Santa—Man politely, as if he was persephone. Hades, feeling he had impregnated the Santa—Man continued to hold him in his arms, whispering softly, “you… don’t belong here.” And then, Hades disappeared. Ahoge feeling untouched by Hades’ blue flames, continued on his journey in the mine—cart. Before, reaching Elysium, the golden—fields of underworld—paradise, took a photo of the incoming-sight. Hades, directed his cart back-to-the-world-of-the-living where he recounted the rest of his adventures with the santa—crew.

  8. The Butterfly Effect
    300 words
    Butterfly/ 80s Shopping Mall / Sci-fi
    Stephen Shirres
    On a large cherry tree, a chrysalis hung for twenty nights. The next day, the pleats expanded and separated. A bright butterfly emerged; her rainbow wings spread for the first time. Ready to enjoy the forest landscape she’d adored as a caterpillar. Instead, glass, tiled floors and white concrete filled with big-haired humans wearing ill-fitting clothing.
    A wheezing groan echoed through the strange building. A blue box materialised from which a large man, all teeth and curls, wearing a long scarf, popped out.
    “A mall,” he exclaimed. “If only they sold jelly babies”. He and his box disappeared as if disappointed.
    An electronic crackle travelled the sound waves. A ball of electricity dissipated to reveal a naked, kneeling man. His muscles perfectly carved.
    “Where is Sarah Connor?” He asked. A confused woman with shoulder pads pointed at the distance. The naked man stomped away robotically.
    The groaning wheeze returned. The curls were the same but blonde. He wore a terrible coat of many colours. He shouted, “Time travel shouldn’t be this difficult”, before the box faded away.
    A flash of lightning ripped through the mall. Car brakes screamed from use. Steam hissed from its roof. One of the sides opened like a gull wing. Out stepped an old man with a ring of white hair. “Great Scott Marty! The flux capacitor worked. We travelled in time!”
    Again, the wheezing groaning echoed around her. The butterfly knew what she needed to do. Get inside the blue box and then find a way to save her forest from this concrete monstrosity. This time, a smaller man appeared in a hat and question mark jumper. He raised the former and said with a wink, “Welcome aboard.”
    The blue box dissolved along with the mall to reveal a great forest of caterpillars and butterflies.

    242 words
    Butterfly/ 80s Shopping Mall/ Sci-Fi
    by Steve Lodge
    X:- @steveweave71
    Instagram:- steveweave_cheese
    Yes, I’m open to derivative works

    Resplendent, regal and delightful, The Silver Fox Hand landed on Ray’s jacket. Ray stood in the lobby of the crumbling Oscilator Mall. He was explaining to a doubting Ravi that the slapping treatment he used on me, had been confirmed as significant, ground-breaking and thrilling by the world-renowned therapist Doktor Leimgruber of the Molnari Institute of Things. Ray and I had been introduced to the good Doktor at a jousting contest at the Castle of Count Ryzard. That would have been about twenty five years ago, probably before Ravi had been born, and not long after my accident. I remember our meeting had occurred just before the world order changed dramatically with the disintegration of the much-maligned Lost Omelette Empire.

    Wind whipping up outside the mall caused a draught effect, similar to sagebrush being blown through a ghost town. I caught a poster introducing Seldon & Carnevali, travelling lion tamers. It blew out of my hand before I could see the date. Preston caught it as he came into the lobby. He was dressed, as always, as Father Christmas, even though it was August.
    “I hate this seasonal work,” he said as he handed me the poster. “Jerry, you look sick.”
    “Just had another bout.” I said, heaving.
    “Ray slapped you yet?” he asked and I nodded. Preston moved on towards the coffee place, Starstruck.
    I opened my lunch box. Jacket potato and chives again, together with the mandatory Moonfire Gravity Pills.

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