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Microcosms 46

Yet another crime prompt this week, dedicated to the late, great Leonard Cohen. Go read and vote for your favourites!

I must confess, I’m not a big fan. Don’t get me wrong, I recognise his talent, 100%. The whole “dark troubadour” shtick just doesn’t do it for me – much like Nick Cave or Johnny Cash.

Big talents; just not my thing.

So I didn’t really get into the whole Leonard Cohen vibe as much as other entrants did. Still pretty happy with my effort, however. It is definitely a lot darker than I normally write though, so here’s a heads up that I insinuate child molestation (in case anyone might find that triggering).

The prompts were:

Single Title: Show Me the Place

Album Title: Death of a Ladies’ Man

Genre: Crime

272 Words

Death of a Ladies’ Man

“Show me the place where he touched you, little one.”

The small girl with the haunted eyes dutifully started pointing. I tried to stay calm.

Should’ve asked where he didn’t touch her.

“That’s OK. You can stop. He can’t hurt you anymore, OK?”

She nodded, and was once again enveloped by the waiting paramedics, glints of anger seeping through their steely-eyed professionalism.

The mother paced around the living room, restless and edgy. Like a caged tiger.

Wild eyes locked on mine.

“I warned him,” she seethed through clenched teeth. “I warned him, I did. He didn’t listen.”

Her pacing continued, her bloodied hands impulsively balling into fists and then releasing themselves again.

“I told him, if he ever touched my daughter, I’d rip out his ‘Ladies’ Man’ and make him fucking EAT it. I told him. He laughed.” She paused her frantic pacing and looked me in the eyes again. “That asshole LAUGHED! Right in my face!”

She roared and bolted for the bedroom, where the mutilated corpse still lay where it had fallen.

“WHO’S LAUGHING NOW, MOTHERFUCKER?!”

Officers scrambled to restrain her from beating the dead man into even more of a pulp, but her white-hot rage was almost insurmountable. I turned away from the carnage and headed back to the door. My junior met me there. 

“So how do we call it, boss? Murder? Manslaughter?”

I glanced back at the chaos inside and then to the shell-shocked child in the ambulance. Her ripped dress and bruising made it hard for me to sympathise with the victim.

I sighed and shook my head ruefully. “More like suicide, if you ask me.”

Microcosms 45

The prompt this week commemorates Dostoyevsky’s birthday and it took me a while to be inspired. I’m really finding that I get more creative the more restrictive the parameters (which actually aligns with modern research into how creativity works so isn’t that surprising, really).

This week’s elements were:

Novel/Novella: Landlady

Short Story: Weak Heart

Genre: Romance

End of an Era

296 Words

Mariana inhaled as she raised her hand to the doorbell, her heart fluttering in anticipation.

“Oh be quiet, you silly old fool,” she muttered toward her chest as footsteps approached.

The door opened, and there he was. Her tenant, Daniel, towered over her, blond and gorgeous. He’d clearly been exerting himself – no doubt last-minute cleaning for the inspection – and his muscular young body glistened beneath loose-fitting singlet and shorts. Blue eyes twinkled as he smiled at the old Greek woman.

“Mariana! Right on time as usual.” He leaned in to kiss her cheek and she swooned to his natural musk.

“Daniel,” she responded, forcing her voice not to waver, “always a pleasure!”

He invited her in and began the tour, pointing out where the tired paint was still fading and the tired walls still cracking. The unit was well-loved, despite its old, sun-bleached state. Mariana’s children kept insisting she should do the place up and double the rent, but she loved its old-fashioned charm – and she loved its current tenant, who could not afford a rise that high.

They got to the bathroom and she noticed some feminine touches: an extra toothbrush and pink razor resting on the vanity. Her heart skipped a beat.

“Daniel, you’re not sub-letting behind my back now, are you?” she admonished with a chuckle.

Daniel blushed. “My girlfriend stays here on the weekends,” he admitted sheepishly. “That’s not a problem, is it?”

She swallowed disappointment as her fantasy shattered. “Foolish woman!” she thought.

“Of course not, Daniel dear. I’m only teasing.”

The inspection finished and they exchanged their farewell pleasantries, although Daniel noted that Mariana seemed a little flatter than usual. As she got into her car she let out a wistful sigh.

Maybe her children had a point after all…

Microcosms 44

Another crime prompt this week. I’m really happy with my story: it basically just wrote itself over the course of an hour once I’d researched the setting (my US geography is pretty rudimentary) and allowed the characters to introduce themselves to me.

I’m starting to think maybe I should practise crime writing in more depth!

Entries have closed for this week BUT you can still go vote for your favourites and leave comments at the moment (until the end of Saturday).

No Quarter

Character: Reporter

Setting: Martha’s Vineyard

Genre: Crime

300 Words

As she gazed unseeingly across Nantucket Sound Jennifer let out a sigh. Three days she’d been here now, chasing up the story of her career, but the locals were not giving her an inch.

And really, why should they? It was the first murder in the tight-knit community of Oak Bluffs in over a decade, and here was some upstart reporter from Boston feasting on their trauma like a parasite.

An icy wind blew down from the Arctic, a preview of the winter ahead. Jennifer shivered and hunched deeper into her overcoat, sighing again. Maybe it was time to call it quits.

“Folk still not talkin’ Miss Jennifer?”

Jennifer smiled ruefully at the gravelly old man approaching her. “I’m afraid not, Gerald isn’t it?” She gestured for him to join her on the park bench. He smiled back and took his seat, gazing out over the grey water too.

“Don’t take it too much to heart, love. We like to keep ourselves to ourselves here.”

“Yes, I got that,” Jennifer replied with a laugh. She glanced at the fisherman, his face as craggy and weathered as the land around them. “I’m just not sure where to take it from here. This assignment was supposed to be my big break, don’t you know.”

Gerald smiled knowingly, eyes remaining fixed on the horizon. “Ah. Well, if there’s one thing I know about breaks, it’s that there’s always ‘nother one not too far behind.” He met her gaze and gave her knee a comforting squeeze. “So don’t you fret none.”

Jennifer laughed again and offered him a handshake. “Thank you, Gerald. That was the politest brush-off I’ve ever received.” They shook hands and she stood up. “All the best, sir.”

He doffed his hat as she turned to leave. “And to you, ma’am.”

Microcosms 41

Late to share this one, but….

*insert drumroll*

I WON THE JUDGE’S PICK!

So stoked. Had a lot happening this weekend and I miscalculated the new deadline due to the start of daylight savings here (managed to add an extra hour somehow…) so entered my story late. I found the prompt really inspiring though so I’m glad my entry was accepted – and rated so highly. 

I don’t normally dig crime as a genre, but I was reading This Book Is Full of Spiders by David Wong when the prompt was posted and had the creepy ghost/monster/child Anna in my head. It all kind of snowballed from there.

Anyway, here’s my *winning* entry for Microcosms 41. I’ll be judging next week so please go enter and give me a bunch of amazing stories to read!

Inspiration or Title: Sweets from a Stranger [I made this my title]

Genre: Crime

279 words

Clyde shivered and blew into his cupped hands. The basement was icy and dank, reeking of cat piss. And sadness. 

Still, all his good leads had dried up. And all his less good leads. Now he was onto wild notions and speculation. The Smithy family had once stored belongings here with a friend, two years before their mysterious disappearance. The friend had sold the place to developers a few months later (“It was always so damp and depressing! I couldn’t handle it.”) and it had sat empty and neglected ever since.

He opened the door that lead to the alleyway outside, seeking out fresh air but finding only refuse. A young girl skipped around the corner and froze when she saw him.

“Hey Mister,” she said, “what are you doing in the bad house?”

Clyde snorted. “I was just wondering that myself!” He walked toward her and pulled a mint from his pocket. “Would you like a lolly, young..?”

“Lucinda,” she responded, snatching the sweet from his hand.

He smiled. “Why do you call it ‘the bad house?'”

She flinched. “Because the bad man waits for the children. He poisons their toys and whisks them away!”

At the sound of footsteps Clyde started and turned to see his partner, Keats, in the doorway. “You okay out here Clyde?”

“Sure. I’m just chatting with Lucinda here.”

“Who?”

Clyde turned back. There was no sign of the girl besides a stray mint wrapper cavorting in the breeze.

He shivered again.

“Boss?”

“I’m fine, Keats. I want a detailed history of this property, and a chemical analysis done on the Smithy kids’ toys. I have a feeling there’s life in this case yet.”

Microcosms 39

I haven’t done much writing for the last few weeks but managed to just scrape it in for this week’s Microcosms contest. Do go read the entries and vote for your favourites – and make sure you sign up for email notifications (or follow them on Twitter @MicrocosmsFic) if you want in on it yourself.

My entry this week:

293 words

Character: Linguist

Attribute: Giant

Genre: Science Fiction

A Giant Among Bugs

“Get outta here, kid!”

Daniel scurried out of the way before the burly kitchen-hand’s boot could make contact. He bolted from the dumpster, clutching his prize to his chest: a loaf this big could feed the colony for a week.

At the end of the alley he paused, getting his bearings. Artura Prime was a chaotic city. It was built for the big shots, riding high on their beasts or zooming through the sky on monorails. A small kid like Daniel was easily ignored.

Finding his way underground, he went straight to the central cave. At Daniel’s appearance, a soft squeal of joy rippled through the gathered crowd of critters and they swarmed him, covering his hand with tiny kisses as they each took a crumb of bread.

He smiled.

When he first stumbled upon them he’d been afraid: the horror stories told about the fauna native to this planet ringing loudly in his ears. But they’d shown him compassion, fed and comforted him, embraced him and taught him their ways.

He’d always had a knack for languages and found their communication methods easy to pick up. They were clearly angry that their home above had been colonised by aliens, but felt helpless to stop them.

Daniel understood how that felt.

He promised to help, although he had no idea how. The critters didn’t mind though. It was the first time they’d experienced hope in generations and for now that was enough.

Daniel settled down with his friends. They snuggled up to him, trilling contentment, and he let out a happy sigh. Up there he was nothing, just a dumb kid to be kicked and ignored. Down here? He felt bigger than the cave.

A hero in waiting, destined for great things.