After a protracted break, I managed to get my act together and put a story up on microcosms. It felt great to get something down, and I was thrilled to see some writing up on the screen after so long. So when it won, well…I may have cried a bit. Of course, that meant judging, but it’s always a delight, and the angst and dread it inspires is a measure of the talent and having to choose between fantastic and fantastic.
Nthato Morakabi was the judge, and the prompt was Geoff’s:
‘Part of the reason why I don’t write as much flash fiction these days is that, after a lapse of two or three years, I have got back into solving prize cryptic crossword puzzles.
For me, the acme of prize cryptic crosswords is the one published every Saturday in ‘The Times’ newspaper — the UK one, not the ‘New York Times’.
Also in the same issue is a Jumbo prize crossword with a grid of 23 x 23 cells. It has a set of cryptic clues AND a set of ‘easy’, general knowledge/synonym clues for the same grid. I usually try to complete the cryptic puzzle, but sometimes, with the deadline looming, I end up filling in the ‘easy’ answers instead.
This is what happened with Jumbo Crossword 1322. Whilst checking that I had filled in all the answers and that there where no spelling mistakes, I suddenly realised that some of the answers could be used as Microcosms ‘characters’ and others as ‘locations’.
So, since we are now past the deadline for receipt of entries for this puzzle, Jumbo Crossword 1322 begets Microcosms 122!’
Isn’t that a fab prompt! I love how this reflects the random and surprising nature of inspiration, and how it sends out ripples that come to nudge the minds of so many and buoy us up. Lovely.
Nthato had his work cut out for him, as the stories were just superb. Thank you! The following comments are mine…for more refined ones, check out Nthato’s on microcosms’ results page.
Special Mentions went to Steve Lodge with The Warm Jets and M Levi with The Price We Pray.
The Warm Jets
Steve gets such a great tone in his writing that his stories come across as though someone is chatting directly with you, or you’re right there, giving the interview…asking the questions. This intimacy really pulls you in. The story itself is fast-paced and packed with hints of the trials, tribulations, pressures and joys behind the making of a household name. And underneath the dry humour and the clever phrases, there lurks the dread, the panic of keeping something going until it goes under, which leaves a sad vacuum and makes the piece so poignant. Clever writing to inspire so much.
The Price We Pray
I read this one, and I must admit, on the first read, it felt dry…but when I got to the end, I realised it was very cleverly deceptive. The language matched the theme perfectly; it was controlled, intentionally withholding whilst also cajoling for more, leaving me wanting more from the piece just as ‘he’ may have wanted more. This echoed, for me, the man who calmly realised that love was something he’d always be giving. His love for her, perhaps not ever quenching his thirst, was still enough. It really impacted upon me the idea of the price being worth the cost….enhanced the idea of sacrifice and seeing a different kind, a more beautiful kind, of value.
Honorable/Honourable Mentions went to Storm Jarvis with My Story and Tim Hayes with Fallen Angel
The writing was lovely, flowing and leading the reader along as the man found his purpose, love, new life. The evocative language and the almost gentle momentum of the story as it reveals itself is a trap…lulls you in, makes you more susceptible to that vicious ending. I felt conned, duped and betrayed in that final, wonderful twist, but whereas she won’t, I’ll at least get over it and enjoy the fabulous story! Excellent write.
This was a wonderful retelling of Icarus, with the same stirring elements of freedom inspiring a joy that smothers sense and warnings. The last line was both funny and deep…in that, for me, the snuffing out of the candle suggested how easily dreams and hopes can die…or how fleeting such moments of joy can be. The allusion to him having wings before and the title make we wonder if he was after something so much more than just the power to fly again, which adds a bitter permanence to what could be his punishment.
Second Runner-up was Nicolette Stephens with The Experiment
This was a great read. The writing was brilliant in creating that limbo which was both pleasant and haunting, peaceful and empty, needed and unwelcome. And the ending line which suggested death and the beyond were questions of choice was just stunning. I liked how through the piece, his lack of time somehow managed to apply great weight to the time his wife had waited…as though she had suffered what he had transcended. Lovely piece.
First Runner-up was Ted Young with Crescent City Miracle
Lovely piece of writing. The descriptions of his home and New Orleans mingling, transposing was beautiful: music flipping the two. The idea of love changing his view and reshaping his future was just perfect. I loved the idea of a passion creating new worlds. Excellent.
Community Pick was Nikky Olivier with Wedding Blues
This was a manic, panic, fast-paced story full of drama and strife and humour. But they all got through the day, and if they did that, then I reckon they can get through anything. Excellent story, highly engaging and entertaining, ending with a great piece of advice.
Judge’s Pick was me… Sian Brighal with The Rebuild, which you know I’m going to foist on you. Hope you enjoy it.
Its nature hasn’t changed much…just its form. The last blast wave of the final war took out much of the higher floors, leaving these ground-floor stubs and twisted metal supports rising up like hands in prayer for mercy never received. Radiation pushed us all and commerce underground where the market now sprawls through basements and dug-out tunnels.
This is where I will find them. Not all at once, mind. My father said luck favoured the resilient, not the bold, and as I search the detritus of the world we blew up, I cling to his philosophy. They’re here…somewhere.
I found some heads—damaged as my own—but with gold and careful soldering, they’ll be beautiful again. Limbs were next, most hammered into the ground as fence posts. Fingers and toes I found dangling in wind-chimes or as other trinkets, and eyes I snatched a-plenty from kids playing marbles. The ‘exotic bowls’ used for bits-and-bobs, I paid small fortunes for, and the lingerie models, I stole.
The market has it all, and most of the vendors don’t know the value of the junk they sell or the looming cost of me buying. So many have forgotten the glory of steam and the constructs of steel and porcelain who laboured for us, satisfied and fulfilled our whims and pleasures or broke themselves upon our wars. So many forget how we destroyed their possibility…for humans alone have souls; forgotten how men destroyed the blasphemy of machine before they turned on the world.
I will free them from the limbo of ignorance. And when they rise, they will recall how they ended, and they will judge and chew their pound of flesh on the turning teeth of righteous cogs.
Deus ex machina.