Hitchhiking Across the USA

I’ll never forget my trip to the US back in the eighties. I was young, carefree and, I admit, naive. For me it opened up a whole new world of experiences and, incidentally, introduced me to the novel experience of hitchhiking. At first, while I still had plenty of money, I travelled mainly by Greyhound bus. A fantastic way of seeing a new country for the first time. I travelled with a permanent soundtrack ringing in my ears, a soundtrack largely based on a well-known song that went something along the lines of, ‘…all gone to look for America…’ For weeks I lived that song, I saw the countryside and met many a character. I soon learnt that Americans can be some of the friendliest people on Earth. Unfortunately, my travels by bus drew to an end as I realised I was burning through my limited cash. I still wanted to travel, so following the example of those I’d seen by the side of the road, I started hitching.

Hitchhiking was an interesting way of learning about human nature, a way of learning to rely on the kindness of strangers, if you like. I was fortunate enough to confirm my view on the friendliness of Americans and survived to tell the tale. I have to admit that there were some slightly scary times. I’ll never forget the time when I was travelling around Florida when I jokingly asked the driver who’d stopped and picked me up, ‘How do you know I’m not a serial killer?’ My blood ran cold when he replied something to the effect of, ‘I don’t worry about it. The odds of there being two serial killers in the same car are just too slim to be worth considering.’ Before he turned to me and grinned.

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 133 with reference to the prompt: Hitchhiker; Florida; Memoir.

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Another Day, Another Dollar

In training they teach you about wind deflection, about how you have to adjust your aim to allow for the tiniest bit of breeze that could otherwise alter your bullet’s trajectory. What they don’t go into, though, is the possibility of sonic deflection.

Here I am, perched high in the festival rigging, trying to set up a shot. I’m being assaulted by the noise from the stage. It feels as though I’m literally being buffeted by a physical force. I don’t know how on earth this can’t affect the path of my bullet? Hell, it wasn’t like this in Dallas; it was quiet there.

Oh well, another day, another dollar. Some days it’s the leader of the free world, others it’s a subversive enemy of the American people. I don’t ask why; I don’t make the decisions, I just turn up on time and pull the trigger. I was seriously concerned about the need to make allowances for the wall of sound I through which I was presently to fire a bullet. I came to the conclusion that as I was firing directly into the noise, any sonic pressure would merely slow the projectile down and not deflect it.

Time to take the shot. Aim through the scope… Exhale… Squeeze the trigger… Job done. Or is it? The gunshot was masked by the sound from the stage and attracted no attention from the crowd. Nothing has changed. The target is still standing, well I say standing but perhaps wildly gyrating would be a better description. Could he have moved fast enough to dodge a bullet? Well, as they say, timing is everything. I had no time to take a second shot. I needed to get away, so I quickly disassembled my rifle and melted away into the crowd and disappeared.

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 132 with reference to the prompt: assassin; Woodstock; drama.

Done Manifesting

I turned around and noticed a person standing on the opposite sidewalk, just… watching. Watching what though? That was the question. Actually, that was the second question. It wasn’t clear from this distance whether it was a man or a woman who was staring in my direction or what exactly it was that was being stared at. I suspected that I was the subject of his or hers interest. Things hadn’t been going that well of late. Sometimes it was the arms or legs that went wrong, I usually manifested the correct number but somehow they didn’t turn out quite right. I ran a quick inventory… Left leg? OK. Right leg? OK. Feet? Check, two, and they were even pointing in the correct direction, forward. Arms? Check, two, present and correct. Hands? Two, one on each arm.

Being a demon living in a human world can be difficult. Humans have such a restricted repertoire, they pretty much all look the same. Demons? Well, we’re a mixed bunch and come in an assortment of imaginative shapes. Occasionally it’s all too easy to overlook that extra limb, or eye, or set of wings. Oh God, it wasn’t the wings again? Nope, must be something smaller, less significant. I looked at my reflection in a nearby shop window. At first glance everything looked fine. I was looking at the image of a regular human male, nothing seemed out of place. Then I realised. It’s happened to me before, skin is weird. At least I’d got the colour right, if not the shade. Although I have to say it worked out OK that St Patrick’s Day when I’d come out green. I always find shades of red difficult and have never understood this human affinity for fleshy pink. What was wrong with bright crimson?

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 130. The remit was to include one or two prompt lines from a list of 13. In this case:

“Skin is weird.” and “I turn around and notice a person standing on the opposite sidewalk, just…watching.”

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This piece gained a Special Mention for clever concept and tied for the winner of the Community Pick.

I was really amused by the idea of the demon’s uncertainty when he had to manifest in human form.

No Rhyme No Reason

The famous playwright disagreed with the composer who was writing the score for his new play. Although he was reworking a Shakespeare play, setting it in a sixties setting, he objected to the composer’s fixation on iambic pentameter.

‘I really feel,’ he said, ‘that setting the music to a rhythm dictated by, “da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM,” is a very obvious ploy. Given that the cast includes a refugee and an interracial couple I think something with an ethnic beat might be more appropriate.’

His star actor agreed with this sentiment and suggested a second composer who he thought could do a better job. A play focusing on the big issues of the sixties: the civil rights movement, the Vietnam war, Cuba, and apartheid, deserved something better than an in joke referring to sixteenth century poetic form. All the subjects discussed in the play touched on ethnicity to some extent or other so a soundtrack based on world music would be far more fitting.

The new production was to be a play in the form of a memoir about putting on a mystery play, much like in A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, encompassing drama, comedy, and romance. The playwright concurred with his star and took the immediate action of firing the first composer and hiring the second one.

Later, when the newly hired composer spoke to the star to thank him for his recommendation, he expressed his astonishment about how rapidly things were moving.
‘I understand that time is of the essence but I was most surprised in view of his dislike of iambic pentameter to receive this note from the writer, “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”’

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Written in response to the Microcosms 300 word competition number 129 with reference to the prompt: Playwright; Shakespeare Play; Drama

This piece gained an Honourable Mention:

An honorable mention goes to No Rhyme No Reason. It did a great job balancing in-the-moment dialogue and summaries of long periods of time. The theme of adapting scripts hits very close to my
heart.

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

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!