The Longest Eclipse…

It was April 2024 and the world’s scientists were getting increasingly worried. Although the day’s solar eclipse had started on schedule it was going on for far too long. It was an unprecedented event. How could the moon overstay its presence blocking out the light of the sun? Astronomers around the world were at a loss to explain how this simplest of celestial manoeuvres could have gone awry. One of the most prominent researchers came up with the theory that the moon had developed consciousness. As it had become suddenly aware of the billions of people staring up at it, it had become frozen in embarrassment and ceased moving across the sky.

World leaders called out to their people to look away, hoping that by averting their gaze the moon would feel less self conscious and complete its transit across the sun. As mankind heeded the call to look away the moon slowly overcame its bashfulness but not before setting a record for the longest period of totality.

2024 became known as the year of the solar ellipsis in honour of the eclipse that went on for far too long…

 

Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 127 with reference to the prompt: Researcher; Solar Eclipse; Sci-Fi/Fantasy

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How many… does it take to change a light bulb

How many mad scientists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer can be a surprisingly large number. When infamous mad scientist Doctor Hans von By Von was working in his lab late one night, the main light high up on the ceiling went out. As his assistants had all gone home, he had to consider how best to proceed. The doctor was a lazy man, but he came up with an ingenious idea for changing the light bulb. Instead of doing it himself he’d use his newly invented cloning machine to provide him with workers to do the job.

The cloning machine worked by his walking into a one of a pair of cubicles and pulling a switch, a clone of himself would then walk out of the adjoining cubicle ready to receive his orders.
When clone one emerged the doctor gave him his car keys and wallet and asked him to go and purchase some new light bulbs. Clone two was instructed to go and find a ladder, while clone three was ordered to help clone two, Having successfully created three clones of himself he couldn’t resist producing more to take the place of his absent assistants.

Clone two got the ladder and propped it up where he could reach the bulb. Clone three steadied the ladder while two removed the failed light bulb. Clone one returned after about forty-five minutes laden down with new light bulbs. Gleefully watching, the doctor encouraged his clones to replace the bulb with a new one so that he could continue his work. Once it was in place yet another clone switched it on.

It just goes to prove the truth of those old proverbs that we learn as a child, in this case: many Hans make light work.

 

Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 126. This time the   prompt was to base the story around a well known proverb or saying.

Read It and Weep

It was just another Friday on an out of the way space station and it was time for the weekly flash fiction contest. Oh the horror! It was widely accepted that those authors who participated in the contest would give the notoriously bad poets of a certain race of intergalactic highway constructors a run for their money in the category of worst poetry and prose in the universe. Although said race were rated the third worst poets in the universe, for some unaccountable reason – possibly linked with the workings of the probability drive – their prose was nowhere near the dire standard of that of the space station Macrocosms’ enthusiastic authors.

It’s a curious fact that there are far fewer readers of flash fiction than there are writers of it. This might be explained by the lengths that people, especially those inhabiting a certain space station, would go to in order to avoid being subjected to short stories of three hundred words which inexplicably seemed to go on for far longer than their allotted length.

Talk about never getting the hang of Thursdays… Here people wished Fridays had never been invented. The compulsory reading out of participants’ stories over the internal comms system resulted in countless injuries as listeners were forced to stop their ears in increasingly inventive ways in order to avoid being exposed to material which, if heard, would inevitably result in madness.

How the writers themselves managed to avoid permanent brain damage was open to debate. They were amongst the few who read each other’s prose yet they were able to come back week after week to participate. One conjecture was that once you’d written this stuff yourself that you developed an immunity to it. Either that or you were so insane that it no longer affected you.

 

Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 124 with reference to the prompt: Author; Space Station; Horror

This piece was First Runner-up:

This piece also caught me because of its creativity. I loved how the author took our contest and turned it into a “horror” story, although this was more irony and sarcasm than horror, actually. Kudos!

A Curious Collection of Cats

‘Welcome to the museum of the impossible and the improbable,’ writes curator Shona Tell, ‘here our exhibits, many of them based on a feline theme, are mainly of an implausible nature. Many of our treasures are difficult to display owing to their impossibility; by definition an impossible object just cannot be, making it contentious as whether or not it can be possible to show it off to our visitors. Many of our more improbable objects produce a unique challenge when it comes to their display. Sometimes when we think that a piece is on show we find that owing to its improbable nature nine time out of ten it’s a fifty-fifty chance whether or not it’s visible.Take the Cheshire Cat for instance. We’re never sure what our visitors are going to see. Will it just be a big moggy, a grin fading into the aether, or nothing at all?’

‘You can likely understand the difficulties we face when we attempt to catalogue our collection. How do you ascertain if Schrodinger’s cat is in its box? No curator wants to be accused of terminating the animal through the simple expedient of opening up the box and finding it dead.’

‘And talking of cats, have you seen our perpetual motion exhibit? A very popular display consisting of a cat with a piece of buttered toast, butter side up, strapped to its back rotating just off the ground demonstrating the twin paradoxes of a cat always landing on its feet and that toast always lands butter-side down.’

‘Anyway, unless you have any questions, it’s time for me to go. Before I close the museum I have to round up all the exhibits for the evening. How many job descriptions do you know that include the phrase, “Cat herding experience essential”?’

 

Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 123 with reference to the prompt: Curator; Exhibition Hall; Comedy.

This piece won the community pick and a Special Mention by the week’s judge.

This was a cleverly written and amusing piece. I enjoyed the curator’s name, the engaging tone, the hints of possibility offset with the prospect of probability and the thought experiment being a nuisance. There was a fantastic suggestion of familiarisation jading the curator even as she bolstered the theoretical into something fit to display.

Excellent concept and piece.

Fallen Angel

It was another smoggy day in Neo-Victorian Britain and I was on a shopping expedition. Not just any shopping expedition, but one essential to my self esteem.

It was some time since that unfortunate incident that had resulted in the loss of my wings but today I was to meet with the finest steam miniaturisation expert in all the land. I arrived at an anonymous trading estate and glanced at the name boards at the entrance. There it was, “Icarus Fabrications – Engineers to the Gentry.” As I entered I was astounded by the merchandise on view. There was a steam-driven elephant, larger than the real thing, for hunting tigers out in India. Leaning against it was a clockwork ordinary, one of those bicycles often referred to by the hoi polloi as a penny-farthing. But up in the rafters were what I’d come in search of, wings. There were wings of all description on display including a very nifty pair attached to what looked like a gentleman’s vest.
I asked the proprietor to show me them and he climbed a ladder and brought them down.

After a brief negotiation I left the premises wearing my new wings. Outside I checked the buckles on the front of the vest were tight, extended the wings then, reaching behind me, lit the candle-powered motor. Unlike the more usual engines this reached operating temperature almost immediately. I was ready to take to the air once more! With a mighty flap I soared into the sky and reached towards the dimly seen sun. I was flying again.

As I flew through a black cloud I became drenched by rain. My motor faltered and I was falling.
My last thoughts before I hit were the ground were, ‘Oh bugger! The wick’s gone out.’

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 122 with reference to the prompt: Angel; Trading Estate; Steam Punk.

Honourable Mention

Ah yes, nothing like a bit of steampunk re-telling of Icarus who flew too close to the sun. And a nod to the wax reference of the Greek Mythos but instead ending with “Oh bugger! The wick’s gone out.” Well played!

There Is No Planet B

Space, vast, infinite space. We had come out of warp near the Orion system and were starting to trek through the local spaceways in search of asteroids bearing rare ores when we ran into trouble. All of our navigation systems went down at once, leaving us lost in space.

I called out over the comm system for help, ‘Technicians to navigation, stat.’ A team of techies surged onto the bridge and started analysing the problem.

In the meantime, I scanned our immediate environment, using hand-held instruments. There was something out there! It came from outer space. It was alien. I’d never seen anything like it before. It was a fiend with a thousand faces floating in space. We had to get away.

Time stood still as I tried to figure out what to do. In space no one can hear you scream, unless of course they’re on the bridge with you. But then again, no one expects to get lost in the twenty-third century, especially when you’re twenty-thousand light years from home. What do you do when all is lost and your original plan has failed? Why, you search for another plan of course.

Addressing my first officer, I said, ‘We have to get out of this place, but with no navigation, we’ll be flying blind. It’s time to resort to Plan B for outer space.’ The first officer directed the helmsman to set a course for the planet Beta Orionis itself.

I remonstrated with her, ‘Damn it, Janet! I said Plan B, not planet B!’

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 120 with reference to one of six punning prompt titles:

  • A Street Cat Named Desirée
  • There Is No Planet B
  • To The Manure Born
  • Set Phrases to Pun
  • One Small Step for a Naan
  • Abracadaver!

An Even Playing Field

High in the skies above war torn France flew a solitary gremlin looking for something to do. He was bored and feeling in a mischievous mood. A little distance below him he noticed two of those bizarre human flying machines engaging in one of their ritualistic duels. One was a dull brown colour decorated with roundels, the other was a bright red and featured gothic crosses as identification.

This could be interesting he thought to himself. He swooped down out of the sun and descended on the two machines unseen. These humans just couldn’t manage to standardise their machines. The red one featured three pairs of wings while the brown one had two pairs.

They were in combat, something that the gremlin and his kind couldn’t abide, and the red one seemed to be winning. He decided to even matters up and wondered if it was the extra wing that gave the red machine an advantage. Softly setting down behind the human piloting the red flying machine he examined how the delicate structure was held together. A strut here, a tensioning cord there, it was just fabric held together by string. As he studied the design he began to understand how he could remove the uppermost wing and even up the combat between the two humans. He reached for a cord here, another next to it, then another, and before the pilot could react the gremlin had peeled away the upper wing. He grinned in delight at the sudden uplift that the great wing gave his little body and found himself soaring into the air without the use of magic. Glancing back down he noticed that he had indeed evened up the fight as he watched the red machine plow into the ground.

The Red Baron would fly no more.

 

Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 119 with reference to the prompt: Fighter Pilot; WWI France; Fairy Tale.