Weekly Challenge #745- PICK TWO: case, chewable, grasshopper, signals from outer space, here be monsters, deadly

Hidey spot

LIZZIE

The greenish sky wasn’t a good omen. My grandfather said when the sky’s like that, don’t chew the air. I laughed. Chew the air. OK! I won’t! As time progressed, the sky got worse. It looked poisonous. Some people wore gas masks. It looked quite dramatic. I wondered if I should too. And then the teeth. People’s teeth became green. And in a matter of days, they were dropping like flies. Earth was condemned. I moved to P205. There’s plenty of work here. But they pay close to nothing. Too many people… I wonder if I should’ve chewed that air…

RICHARD

Insectivore

They tell us that insects are the solution to world hunger and sustainable food supplies.

Well, I’m all for it in many ways, although probably not for the usual reasons. After being stationed in this jungle hell-hole for the last three years, I’ve been bitten but pretty much every bug and creepy crawly known to science, and quite a few that science has yet to encounter too.

And I reckon it’s time to redress the balance; to bite back, in a manner of speaking.

So tonight, I’m having grasshopper steak, with peppercorn sauce.

Tasty, like beef, but less chewable!

SERENDIPIDY

They locked me up for the good of society: A hopeless case for whom the only reasonable solution is incarceration and a potent regime of drugs to keep me in check and under control.

They call me a monster, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Just look at me! I’m not evil; I’m not the cold, calculating and callous demon that everybody makes me out to be…

I’m just a normal, reasonable, everyday type of person, no different from any of you.

But up here… Here, hidden away in the darkest recesses of my mind:

Here be monsters!

RICK

Initial Communique

The round metal disc was huge … the size of a football stadium. It descended from orbit slowly. The whole world watched.

From over the Atlantic, past the cities of the East coast … drifting … slowly, finally settling over a humongous field in eastern Colorado … remote … desolate.

A door in the spacecraft opened … A creature emerged, not humanoid, insectlike, winged, archaic and intelligent at the same time. A five foot grasshopper!

A shrill whirr emanated from the creature. Grasshoppers in the field took wing like dancers in the moonlight.

30 minutes passed.
The shrill whirr stopped.
The spacecraft disappeared in a blink.

NORVAL JOE

In the backyard, Billbert took Linoliamanda’s hand and rose into the air, straight up, faster than Billbert had ever flown before.

Over the sound of rushing wind, Linoliamanda shouted. “The images on your dad’s computer. How does he know they are coming from the super villains and aren’t something random, like signals from outer space?”

“I don’t know,” Billbert admitted, “but, here comes the proof now. Look down there.” He pointed at three people wearing capes and flying toward a non-descript office building.

One emitted a deadly shock wave, blasting out the building’s windows. Suddenly, the building flew to pieces.

TOM

Yummy?

The screen said pick two chewable grasshopper. Are there unchewable grasshoppers, how do you confirm that. Not a pretty picture. Is this an Andrew Scott Zimmern, moment? I for one would prefer deep fried grasshopper, more crunch than chewy. Sure friable is by form and function unchewable in a chewy sense. If I was scoping chewiness it not so much turn large part of grasshopper to smaller, but about bit impact. That happy bouncing mouth action. But back to the topic on hand, pick two chewable grasshopper are we limited because of a break-down in the supply chain? Just asking.

TURA

Here be deadly monsters
———
In some places the maps say, “Here be monsters.” In others, “Here be deadly monsters.” Brave knights make quests to slay them. Every time, the Unknown Regions shrink a little, as one by one the monsters are removed from the world. And few are the monsters and rare the occasions that they breed to generate new forms. Soon, the Unknown Regions will be gone, and there will be no more monsters in the world.

Some say good riddance, but what fun will there be in a world without giant parasitic wasps, dragons burning up whole cities, and the Great Plagues?

PLANET Z

The production of meat is not terribly efficient.
There are also ethical concerns.
So, raising and slaughtering live animals for meat is not the best way to get protein in your diet.
This is why I’ve planned on grasshoppers and crickets for the space station.
They’re dumb, they’re easy to raise, and provide a lot of protein for the cost.
Much more than cows.
Plus, you can’t take a cow into space.
We originally thought about eating any crew that dies on the station.
But… nah.
Still, there are the rumors about what happens to crew with poor performance reviews.

Weekly Challenge #744 – Powder

Own the bed

LIZZIE

Sprinkle some magic powder on the black cat. No. Stretch and stretch, and stretch some more. Grab the shiny star and place it next to the jar. The cat will look, the star will stretch and the jar will smile a sparkly smile. No. The next time you reach for that magic powder, think that it is safer not to reach for a lighter. A lighter? Where did that come from? The cat will stretch. The jar will sparkle. The star will shine. Yes. That’s it. Everything is back in place. Neatly. Yawn. I prefer to see the jar smiling.

RICHARD

Powder

The raid went without a hitch: We had Carter and Jeffries cuffed and restrained, while we ransacked the room.

One of the officers passed a sealed package to my partner, Davis, who produced his pocket knife, slitting it open to reveal its contents. He moistened his finger, and dipped it into the white powder, before rubbing it against his upper gum.

“What is it?” I asked.

Davis turned away and beckoned me over and whispered, “How the hell should I know”

“So what’s with the gum rubbing?”

“Dunno, they do it in the movies, so I figured I should too!”

SERENDIPIDY

Funny thing, powder.

Talc, sawdust, flour: All totally inoffensive, and apparently harmless, so nobody blinks an eye if you want to stockpile them, nobody asks questions, and nobody keeps records.

And this warehouse is full to the brim with powder of every kind.

Don’t worry, that haze that hangs in the air isn’t going to choke you -not if you breathe gently and slowly.

But tread with caution too, because the slightest static discharge; the tiniest spark, and this whole building becomes one massive spontaneous bomb!

So don’t make any sudden movements.

And pray that I don’t make any either!

RICK THOMAS

New Millennium Craft

Mama passed … The old box was hers. 150 years old, some off the bottles within were older still. Handed down by generations of witches. Marie
knew it front to back …

Preparation, application, incantation.

Spells, charms, potions, poisons, and powders. Leaves, roots, wands …. crystals.

Witches were among the first healers, scientists, pharmacologists, but, the modern world was catching up.

Witch to woman was about knowledge,power, domination.

Witch to man was different … It required finesse, craft, artistry … with a sexual component.

Today’s witches most powerful tool …
The makeup bag.

Like mama always said …

“Powder and paint make a gal what she ain’t.”

NORVAL JOE

Though Billbert agreed with his father that taking Linoliamanda along for a battle with supervillians was a bad idea, he was in too much of a hurry to argue with her. Besides, he liked holding her hand.
Outside, on the sidewalk, Billbert held out his hand. “Okay. Let’s go.”
“Hold on a second,” Linoliamanda said, and took a small bottle of powder from his shoulder bag and dusted her hands with it.
“What’s that?” Billbert asked.
She smiled. “It’s Malaysian bonding powder. So our hands don’t slip apart while were flying.”
“Really?” Billbert asked. “Wow. You come prepared for everything.”

TOM

In Winter the Snow is Deep

On the street they call it Power. A lab in Singapore sequence. It had promising success in early Alzheimer test ground, but some of the side-effect scared the shit out big pharma. So it when underground, then over ground. Asia labs were more broad-minded in their search for new stuff. They kick off a number of hydrogen chain and bammm, super cat state. I seemed to freeze a single thought in a time loop. Same thought reflected back on the user, over and over again. The best way to do Power was to drop a flack on your iris

TURA

Powder
———
In Civilization IX, the simulation goes down to the level of individual people, leading complete lives in the simulated world. Are they alive, everyone asks, but that they might be just makes me take it more seriously. In this game, I’m God, leading them onwards and upwards, while my opponent is playing the Devil, the force of darkness and ignorance.

It looks like they’ll take another two centuries to invent gunpowder, but my opponent is raising up a religion that would declare fire taboo. Time to play a Prometheus card and enter the world myself to teach them the secret.

PLANET Z

You see in the movies and TV shows, a guy pulls out a knife, sticks it in a bag of powder, and licks it.
You can’t taste if something’s pure.
You need chemistry for that.
Bottles and tubes and that kind of thing.
So, we made a field kit.
Well, two field kits.
We sold the good field kit to our people.
And we sold the bad field kit to the cops.
So we know when the stuff is good.
And they think that they picked up junk and throw it out.
And we pull it out of the garbage.

Weekly Challenge #743 – Soar

Hardware issue

LIZZIE

At the top of the mountain, all we could hear was the fire, burning the logs. And we waited. For a sign. One day and another. Time went by. No sign. Our children waited and their children. And when there was no hope left, I stood up.
“I’ve been here since the beginning. I’m tired. I’m leaving.”
Everyone protested.
I raised my hand. Silence.
“We have burned everything around here. Look! It’s ridiculous. Enough is enough. We don’t even have a twig to burn, a twig.”
Someone at the back whispered “What was the sign all about again? I forgot.”

RICHARD

Interviews

I used to be hopeless at interviews.

I never knew how to project confidence or show myself in a good light, and I always struggled to answer questions in a meaningful way.

That was until I discovered the SOAR technique: Situation, Obstacle, Action, Result!

It’s been a huge boost to my confidence, allowing me to take the initiative at interview, demonstrate my talents to the utmost, and to deliver responses of the highest calibre.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t resulted in me getting any job offers.

So, if you can point me towards any techniques to nail that part, let me know!

SERENDIPIDY

Isn’t this incredible?

Being able to soar like eagles, so far above the earth: Everything spread out beneath us, far below.

They say that after you’ve done your first skydive, you’ll come back time and time again.

It’s certainly held true for me, I’ve lost count of how many jumps I’ve made, and it’s a safe bet that I’ll be coming back for more.

However, I’m afraid you won’t be coming back for another jump.

You forgot the golden rule: ‘Always pack your own parachute’.

Never trust someone like me to do it for you!

See you on the ground!

RICK

The Briefest Moment

He never saw it coming …
“The Circus Life”
Shocking even to him.
Sore feet, bad knees, and the never-ending stench of gunpowder embedded deeply in his sinuses.
Good money with very little work, a trailer to himself, store-bought liquor, and surprisingly … women seem drawn to a human cannonball.
But, that’s not why he does it.
There is a brief moment where the cannon no longer propels … and gravity has yet to claim you …

Floating, weightless, omnipotent … EXULTANT!
A perfect landing, a bow and a flourish …

He exited the big top like a god who walked amongst the sheep!

NORVAL JOE

Billbert told his father, “If the superheros are at the office, working together, maybe I should go there, too. Lend a hand.”
His dad shook his head. “You’re young, Billbert. I wouldn’t want to put you in danger.”
“I woulnd’t be in danger, Dad. I could soar high above them all and give reports of the enemy’s movements. They wouldn’t even see me.”
Mr. Wienerheimer raised his eyebrows. “That might not be a bad idea.”
Linoliamanda tugged at Billbert. “Come on. Let’s go.”
“Where do you think you’re going?” Billbert asked her.
“You concentrate on flying. I’ll do the reporting.”

TOM

An Elusive Thought

Flap Flap. Higher Higher. Push, yes push. So tired, so far. What did he tell me, flap, what was it. Tears only tears are left. Higher. Below me sea, above me sky. What did he tell me, flap, something in the sky. A line of fuzzy green, what is did he tell me about green. Higher Higher. The green is full of brown. Blue, green, brown. Flap. Keep flapping he didn’t need to tell me that. Higher, hot, higher. Not good. What did he tell me, hot not good. Why am I soaring towards the sun. Yes that what he said.

PLANET Z

Hummingbirds flap their wings at eye-blurring speed to stay in the air.
While vultures and eagles and other birds spread their wings and soar, circling thermal currents to rise higher and higher.
And then there’s the penguins, who use their wings to glide under the water.
What of the ostrich? The emu? The kiwi?
Well, the first two run with their powerful long legs.
But the kiwi, squat little thing, just roots around and pecks at bugs and other tiny treats.
Then there’s Bill.
So foolish, with the cardboard flats duct-taped to his arms.
Always getting trapped in revolving doors.

Weekly Challenge #742 – Cleave

Sock cat

LIZZIE

The impressive statue filled the room of the museum. It held an ax and a noose, and also a plate of fruit.
Strange combination, he thought.
“Whatever you do, don’t touch it,” said the security guard, walking away.
He touched the plate, of course. Nothing happened. The noose. Nothing. The ax. Still nothing.
He shrugged.
Suddenly, something hit him. He got snatched back by the neck and was gone when his back got slashed.
Before the cameras, the director promised he would find the culprits.
The security guard hid the noose and the ax away, and calmly enjoyed his apple.

RICHARD

Contract

I like ambiguous words. You know the sort: when you can use the same word to mean completely opposite things, like the word ‘fast’…

When our marriage commenced, our relationship was rock solid, and we felt it would hold fast forever, but now we’re fast approaching the end.

The wife tells me, that no matter what, we’re bound by our vows, and therein lies my getout clause.

You see, I insisted on writing them myself, and when I said we would ‘cleave, together’, I insisted on the comma between them.

That way, I have a contractual obligation to divorce her.

SERENDIPIDY

It’s one of my favourite words – cleave.

Unlike stab, chop, cut, carve and slice it conveys a real sense of intent – a premise of permanency, of finality and complete conviction.

You can’t cleave something half-heartedly and there’s an element of surgical precision too: Cleaving is undertaken with gravitas and commitment, it’s not haphazard, incidental or impulsive.

And, for all those reasons, cleaving is far too good for you.

For you, my friend, it’s the choppy, stabby, slashy, frantic cut and thrust of frenzied abandonment. The messy kind that causes pain and intense suffering.

I’ll save the cleaver for someone better.

TURA

Cleave
———
Three eminent masters of their respective crafts contended to see which was the greatest.

Master Ding the butcher said, “My blows with the cleaver are so sure, that in nineteen years not once have I needed to resharpen it”

Master Qing the carpenter said, “In nineteen years, I have never needed more than a single blow to drive home a nail.”

Master Bing the bureaucrat said, “In nineteen years, I have denied every petition presented to me.”

The other two bowed. The next day, Master Bing’s body was found expertly dismembered, the pieces nailed to the gateposts of his house.

NORVAL JOE

When his mother left, Billbert walked over to his father and looked at the computer screen. “Who exactly is headed our way?”
His father pointed to three blobs on the monitor. “These are super villains. I don’t know who these two are, but this big red one is named Atomic Fission.”
Linoliamanda joined Billbert and his father. “What are his superpowers?”
“Her, superpowers,” Mr. Wienerheimer said. “She divides things, like separating the members of our team. Making it possible to eliminate them one by one.”
Billbert gulped. “Is mom in danger?”
His father shrugged. “I don’t know. I hope not.”

TOM

Chop-Chop

“Mama?” “What Cleave?” “Why did you name me Cleave? Timmy says it’s a stupid name.” “Timmy is a dick, and everyone in this direct DNA pool is a sub-primate.” “No, mama, I know Timmy is a knuckle dragging moron. I need to weaponize my name to battle with the god’s less fortunate, thus seeking the almighty’s reward. Well actually I just want to fuck will them.” “Well it happened a long time ago in Italy. Your Great Grandfather, not one to suffer idiots, buried a butcher’s knife it a customer’s head. Go now my little cleaver, and do likewise. Chop-chop.”

PLANET Z

The annual Best Cleavage Contest was coming up.
Melanie picked out her best low-cut blouse and bra and checked herself in the mirror.
“All natural, no artificial fillers,” she told herself.
Unlike some of the so-called competition.
It took thousands of dollars of surgery to get close to Melanie’s league.
There was no way they’d make top shelf.
So, they took a different approach.
Up there on the stage, Melanie looked up and down the row of flat-chested women.
Who pulled off their skirts and turned around.
Perfect ass-cleavage, every one of them.
Defeated, Melanie felt like a total… fool.

Weekly Challenge #741 – PICK TWO mass, trade, headache, pick me, It’s not you it’s me

Laundry cat

LIZZIE

The entrance to the ship was locked because the entrance ramp got stuck.
“We’re in the 25th century, the most modern, developed world anyone has ever experienced, and the ramp is stuck,” he mumbled.
He tried everything to fix it.
He was so focused, the speakers startled him when they roared “Time Travel Tomorrow.”
“Right, but the ramp is stuck… Stuck.”
“We’re looking for volunteers.”
“Stuck. But… OK, pick me!”
The command center received his telepathic message.
The next day, he was in the 21st century. He landed right in the middle of the famous 2020 pandemic. Everything was… stuck.

RICHARD

Headache

“Not tonight, I’ve got headache”, she said.

Another headache! Just like the last time, and the time before that, for as long as I cared to remember.

We’d had the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ talk, of course, several times; and to be fair, you’re absolutely right – it’s you! You and that guy you’ve been seeing behind my back, if we want to be strictly accurate.

Well, tonight was the last straw, I’ve finally had enough.

I reached under the pillow and fished out my revolver.

I’ll show you a real headache’, I thought, holding the muzzle to her temple.

SERENDIPIDY

You can’t say you weren’t warned!

They told you I was bad news, even I warned you that I came with emotional baggage – a mass of problems, hang ups and some things that you’d rather not know.

But, you wouldn’t listen; and here we are now at a point of no return. Well, you at least, won’t be returning.

It’s no good staring at me with those puppy dog eyes, and pleading for your miserable life. It won’t make any difference.

You could have chosen any other girl, a good, normal, sane girl… But no, you had to pick me!

NORVAL JOE

Mr. Wienerheimer pointed to the computer screen. “They’re incoming, right here. They should be here in less than an hour.”
Billbert’s mother shook her head. “I’d better go into the office. They’ll need my help. What a headache.”
Billbert’s dad laughed. “I’d trade places with you, Pooky. But you’re the one with the superpowers.”
Billbert squirmed on the couch. “But Mom. Why do they need you to come in? Your superpower is efficiency.”
His mother pulled on a jacket. “It’s an area affect power. Just like Linoliamanda flies with you, people around me become more efficient. Their powers become stronger.”

TOM

Pick Me. Pick Me. No No Me. Please ME ME ME. Hard choice. The circling vice behind my ears was a candidate. Sinus pain driving up my nose a nine penny nail was getting fair reflection. The optic nightmare was pretty much an 11 out of 10. The migraine auras while very four of July colorful was causing projectile tears. Hands down the steel bear-trap ripping through my back and shoulders was the premier deluxe of headaches. Today sadly was trifecta of pain. A win show place of torture. If I had a pencil I’d drive it through my skull.

PLANET Z

Sandy went to Sunday Mass over a YouTube live stream.
She used to watch it through TV, but YouTube made it feel more real.
Crackers and a bottle of wine on the desk.
She got out of her chair and knelt while the priest on the screen waved his hand and recited a blessing.
Then ,she put the cracker on her tongue, and washed it down with a sip of wine.
And then another. And another.
Sandy finished the bottle of wine and passed out on the floor.
Youtube played the next video: a series of cats doing silly things.

Weekly Challenge #740 – What’s that on the radar?

Nest

LIZZIE

The dot on the screen appeared and disappeared. Damn radar. The next shift would take care of it.
Everyone had turned in for the night and the city lights had been dimmed down. His favorite time of day. He walked by himself. And that was the last walk he took.
They appeared in white robes and masks. They treated everyone like cattle.
They always said this was a planet… It wasn’t. It was a ship that had completed its mission. The people were nothing but lab rats. And life would never be the same again. The radar was shut off.

RICHARD

Blip

The call to battle stations rang out and all hell suddenly broke loose!

Half blind, I stumbled through the chaos, sirens blaring and flashing red lights confusing and disorientating me as I ran to my post. Typical, I thought to myself, it couldn’t have picked a worse moment to happen!

Squinting in the dim light of the bridge, I received my briefing: “Unknown vessel in the protected zone”.

He pointed to the screen: “You’re the expert, what’s that on the radar?”

I peered at the glass, leaning even closer, then smiled.

So that’s where my contact lens had got to!

TURA

What’s that on the radar?
———
“What’s that on the radar?” I said. “Twenty km, dead ahead.”

Everything that flies up here has an ID transponder, so we don’t have to guess about dots on the screen.

“ALN01,” said my copilot, grinning secretively. “What could that mean?” He tapped for the detailed report.

“Alien craft” it said. “Top secret. Keep under observation. Do not engage. Report for debriefing immediately on landing.”

“Er,” I said. “Is this for real?”

“You’re in on the secret now,” he said. “I guess I can tell you about them. We call them Identified Flying Objects.”

We had an interesting flight home.

SERENDIPIDY

ou know that film? The one where the aliens are advancing towards your location, and you’re tracking them as they come, until, finally, they’re upon you and there’s nowhere to run?

Well, my little game is a bit like that.

Now you’re firmly restrained, I want you to watch the screen in front of you.

What’s that on the radar? Those green dots moving steadily in this direction?

Those are rats. Hungry, starving rats and they’ve caught your scent… The scent of food!

They’ll be coming through the door very soon, but not before I’m long gone.

Here they come!

NORVAL JOE

Billbert descended the stairs, Linoliamanda’s hand in his, wondering what his parents would think. His father worked at a computer while his mother read a book.
Billbert cleared his throat. “Linoliamanda came over to tell me something. I’m going to walk her home.”
“Just walking, right?” his father asked.
Billbert was about to respond when the computer pinged.
His mother looked up. “What’s that on the radar, dear?”
“Billbert,” his father said. “You two better have a seat. This doesn’t look good.”
His mother hurried to his father’s desk. Bending over his shoulder she said, “That’s not good at all.”

JUSTIN

The radar showed something right where he expected it. Ever since the oceanic transposition event he’d done so much research. And it all led here, unsurprisingly, the Bermuda Triangle.

He plunged into the sea, and at the bottom there it was. He rested his hand on the massive entity.

“Why did you stop giving is the dream of Mr. Mushroom?” he thought.

The reply reverberated in his mind. “It was to prepare you, and when the time came, you succeeded.”

“Why is everything so bad then?”

“Find my sibling, the one making everyone dream the dark dream that nobody remembers.”

TOM

Mushroom

Long ago my grandson SNZ was called SNL. People performed on a thing called a stage. There was a character called Emily Litell who’s bit was doing malapropos. Funny stuff. And Music was played in huge room. Right in front of the band was an area set aside for fans to mush together. Imagine people actually mushing together. They call it a Mushroom. Oh those were days … Gramps it wasn’t a Mushroom, it was called a mush pit. wall of death pogo windmilling, two stepping, floorpunching, picking up pennies, axehandling and bucking wheelbarrowing. Demolition Dance. Never Mind.

Story with no name, it was good to get out of the rain, no one can remember your name.

Lt. Baxser what’s that on the radar? “Bird Sir.” “Birds?” “Sir, yes sir.” “Are those screen set to scale?” “Sir yes Sir.” “Could we please reduce the numbers Sirs” Sir yes Sir.” “Never mind.” “Sir ..” “If that screen is correct that there bird is the size of Nebraska.” “Sir that’s big bird?” “Big Bird.” “Yes sir, sir.” “Like Sesame Street.” “Kinda.” “Kinda what.” “Sir that is what the Russian call her, sir.” “Her?” “Sir long story, Sir.” General TickMaster reached across the control panel and press the orange button. “Not no more,” said he and left the mushroom.

PLANET Z

There’s something on the radar.
A bit of ketchup, maybe?
That fat pig Corporal Blake was always eating at his station, and today’s lunch was a burger and fries.
And ketchup.
Packets and packets of ketchup
Tearing them open, oozing all over.
The screen, the keyboard, the buttons.
He never cleaned up after himself, that fat pig.
The morning shift complained about Blake all the time.
But the base commander never did anything.
Wasn’t Blake the commander’s nephew or something?
So, they ran a drill.
Blake choked on his burger.
Carried off on a sretcher, fry still in his hand.

Weekly Challenge #739 – MUSHROOM

Lapcat

LIZZIE

She found a small jar in her granny’s attic. Something sparkled inside.
She placed it back on a shelf and left without telling anyone anything about it.
When her granny died, she went back to the attic.
When she opened it, a swirl of light turned everything into a neon palette of greenery.
She read the small paper stuck to the bottom – “Mushrooms, theirs.”
“Theirs?”
The following night, she was visited by them. The weird ones no one knew about, the aliens.
The attic… well, she turned it into a museum where everyone would see… things that didn’t really exist.

RICHARD

Rubbish jobs

I’ve never really fitted in here at the Weapons of Mass Destruction Tactical Development Division.

I’ve more experience and I’m probably more highly qualified than most of my colleagues, but they can never seem to see past my squint and squeaky voice.

So I get all the rubbish jobs.

While they get to blow things up, play with new technology and generally have a whole lot of fun in the process, I’m left with the stuff that nobody cares about.

Take the current project I’ve been tasked with…

I’m making the mushroom clouds on next generation nukes a pretty colour!

TURA

Mushroom
———
On the Underground platform at Oxford Circus, the only other passengers are a six-foot-tall mushroom and a Japanese salaryman. He topples rigidly onto the third rail and explodes into a cloud of butterflies speaking your name.

A vending machine sells true love, but you do not have the right change.

The carnivorous wall tiles chatter evilly to each other, straining to break free of the cement.

A giant cannonball appears on the rails, moments before it rolls out of the tunnel and stops there.

The hallucinations stop when the mushroom climbs into the cannonball and rolls off down the tunnel.

SERENDIPIDY

Disposing of the bodies is my biggest challenge. I don’t go in for burial, disposal at sea or anything like that. It’s too risky, and there’s always a chance that a stray body part might turn up somewhere.

I prefer to render down my victims, and I’ve converted the cellar into an acid bath system of industrial proportions.

I call it, ‘The Mush Room’, because all that’s left in the end, is mush!

You might wonder what I do with it next?

I simply add a few chemicals, pour into moulds and let it set.

Fancy candles for aromatherapy boutiques!

NORVAL JOE

Linoliamanda didn’t seem phased by her father’s angry tone. She held the phone out so Billbert could hear, too. “I’m at Billbert’s house. There was a misunderstanding and I needed to speak with him right away.”
Her father harrumphed and then a dog barking sounded clearly from the phone.
Linoliamanda gasped. “Oh. Daddy. Please let Mushroom out. She needs to do her business.”
“You can come home and let your dog out yourself,” her father grumbled and hung up.
When she didn’t rush out, Billbert asked, “What about your dog?”
She smiled. “Daddy will do it. He’s such a kidder.”

PLANET Z

Remember the old kids’ show Mister Mushroom?
Year after year, the show swept the Daytime Emmy Awards.
Other shows tried to lure away his producers, his directors, his writers.
But as long as he had the sponsors, he had the money.
And nobody paid like Mister Mushroom paid.
Then, one day, at the end of a show, he took a bow and went out to his car and drove away.
He never came back, and nobody ever saw him again.
Where did he go?
Nobody knows.
Maybe we all just dreamed of him.
And you wake up from the dream.

Weekly Challenge #738 – WE APOLOGISE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE

Grooming

LIZZIE

“Where did you get the wound?” asked his boss as he closed the garage door.
The young man shrugged.
“It looks bad. Go to the hospital. Get that checked.”
He nodded and walked away.
“Weird kid. I better check if anything is going on in here.”
The boss opened the door and looked around. Nothing was out of place.
As he closed the door, he saw it. He walked closer.
It blinked.
“What the…”
It was the kid.
“How…?”
Before the night was over, there would be two of him as well.
This was just the beginning of the end.

RICHARD

Posh nosh

I love fast food, microwave meals and TV dinners. I’ve no time to mess about preparing, baking and basting. A good meal to me comes in a bag you boil, or a tray slung into the microwave. Better still, just add boiling water, and I’m a happy man.

Tonight, I was not happy.

My new girlfriend had insisted on a meal out at a posh restaurant, and there was nothing on the menu I wanted.

“You’ve no pot noodle, microwave fries or any convenience foods at all?” I asked the waiter, exasperated.

“No sir, we do apologise for the inconvenience!”

TURA

We apologise for the inconvenience
———
I was at the airport when it happened, flying out to the UN Emergency Conference on, well, everything. Covid-20 even deadlier than Covid-19, escalating threats from the nuclear powers, the Indo-Pakistan war, then the Yellowstone supervolcano.

An announcement came over the PA system. “Attention all passengers. Civilisation has fallen. Passengers should only embark if travelling directly home. Once all remaining flights have departed this airport will close permanently. Personal message for Dr. Brezoianu. The conference has been abandoned, because what’s the point? Apologies for the inconvenience.”

I walked out of the airport and drove home to wait for the end.

SERENDIPIDY

The sign may say ‘convenience store’ but the fact is, it’s for my convenience, not yours.

If anything, I’m the one being inconvenienced by your presence here. Taking up my time, messing up my displays, touching things that don’t belong to you and asking idiot questions.

I’m not here to help you, it was your choice to walk through the door, I never asked you to.

So don’t complain when I refuse to serve you, shower you with abuse and throw you out on the street.

I’m not going to apologise.

But you can apologise to me, for my inconvenience!

TOM

Cold

“We apologize for the inconvenience,” said the metallic voice. It sounded like a cross between Jimmy Seward and Gene Hackman. We had already broken up all the furniture, torn up every book in the library. “I feel like the little match girl,” muffled Linda from beneath her double scarf. “I wonder if you can make wine burn.” We were running out of single toilet paper sheets. I fell asleep about 3:45. Sometime during the night lukewarm air fill the apartment. “One more day,” I said to Linda, “It’s not the days I fear, it’s the nights,” said she.

NORVAL JOE

Linoliamanda took her phone from the back pocket of her blue jeans. “Hi Dad. Oh.”
She took the phone from her ear and pressed, audio. A recorded voice said, “Your call is very important to us. Please remain on the line and a service agent will be with you shortly. We apologize for the inconvenience.” A computer generated orchestral arrangement of “Livin’ la Vida Loca” began.
Billbert scratched his head. “Didn’t your father call you?”
“Yes.” Linoliamanda nodded, smiling. “He does this all the time. He’s a very busy man.”
A man’s angry voice broke in, “Linny. Where are you?”

PLANET Z

We are The Apologists.
We are hired to apologize on behalf of others.
Whatever it is, we come up with a sincere apology and then apologize to the people demanding an apology.
Or we write up the apology and hand the script to the person needing to apologize, and they deliver it.
Virtual technology allows us now to puppeteer a person delivering an apology.
Sometimes, the people who hire us don’t pay us for our work.
So, we render up a new puppet of them.
And we make them say something horrible that they will really need to apologize for.

Weekly Challenge #737 – PICK TWO: null, smartphone, audio, alternative, hot, seek

Black Cat Matters

LIZZIE

The basement of the cathedral was off-limits.
After entering…
“Is this it?” His voice echoed through the web of archways.
The room was empty. A small stand at the back seemed to have some dry red on it.
“Sacrifices,” he whispered, thrilled.
The adventure was becoming a lot more interesting than he expected.
Something sparkled in the corner. A button. Press it, press it.
A heavy stone door opened. He walked in. It closed behind him. The sun came through some small windows.
“What is this? The basement?”
The stone door didn’t open again.
Never seek what you cannot handle.

RICHARD

Alternative

Hello, hello! Can you hear me?

Testing, testing, one, two, three.

Is this thing on?

How can I tell if it’s recording? What red light? No, I don’t know what my audio settings are, I’m not a bloody sound engineer! Yes, of course I’m speaking into the microphone… I just don’t know if it’s recording.

I told you this wasn’t going to work, but no, you wouldn’t have it. Just because it’s a smartphone doesn’t mean it’s smart to use it for everything!

I’m giving up on this.

I’ll record my story on the computer, just like I always do.

SERENDIPIDY

I suppose you could say I have an alternative lifestyle.

You know the sort of thing: Off the grid, unconventional, and I don’t seek to conform to society’s norms and expectations.

I don’t bother you, so I ask that you refrain from bothering me.

OK, I’ll admit that maybe I do bother you a little, when I steal your children, pickle them, and return them to you in jars, but it’s not as if you’re not getting them back when I’ve finished with them.

Which is more than I can say for you.

When am I getting my jars back?

TOM

Take Back Your City, Paint the Streets with Your Shame

The meter read: Null Hot. “What the fuck does that mean?” Yelled Baxser as the red light flash on seven monitors. He gave the consoled a thwack. The screen disappeared into a shower of green pixels. Upon recompose the screen now read: Null cold. “Bite me.” Screamed Baxer. Thwack again. Now the screen read: hot cold.” “Not playing.” Grunted Baxter. Thwack Thwack thwack. Screen read: “Null Null.” Then when completely blank. From inside the ship it was no more than a burn orange glow, but from the earth it appeared a lovely orchid fanning cascade of creamed watercolor apricot. Puuufff.

NORVAL JOE

Billbert pondered Linoliamanda perched outside his window. What alternative did he have, push her off the roof? He invited her in.

She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.

Embarassed, he felt his face grow hot. “So. Why are you here?”

She pulled back and looked him in the eyes. Her cheeks were streaked with tears. “Billbert. I love you. And not just because you can fly.”

A voice spoke from Linoliamanda’s back pocket. “Linny. Your father is calling.”

“What the heck?” Billbert gasped.

She laughed. “Sorry. It’s the audio ringtone on my smartphone. I’d better get this.”

PLANET Z

Richard’s Tavern has been a favorite of The Royal Family for centuries.
Back in the day, they’d sneak in dressed as commoners for a pint, maybe a kidney pie.
Nowadays, with all the paparazzi about, it’s harder to pop off for a quiet drink.
They either have to close down the tavern or arrange for a takeout order.
Either way, the Buckingham Palace cooks wonder why their pies aren’t good enough.
And all the trouble of installing kegs with nitrogen taps? What for?
“Why are you so miserable? said the Master of the Household. “It’s a day off, isn’t it?”

Weekly Challenge #736 – ILLUMINATE

… and that’s fifteen years.

Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of this podcast.

Let’s keep going, okay?

11

LIZZIE

A few photographs hung from the string of lights. She couldn’t remember them. Who was this guy? Where was this photo taken? Her gaze floated from photo to photo, her perplexity increasing.
But then she stopped. The beach. The pebbles. She remembered that.
She looked at the stranger standing beside her.
“It’s…”
The stranger nodded.
“You’re my son,” she said, smiling.
The stranger teared up. “Yes, Mom, I’m your son. We used to go to this beach when I was a kid.”
“And you used to pile up the pebbles and say Look, Mom. You were so proud of yourself!”

RICHARD

Illuminati Illuminated

After I read the DaVinci Code, (admit it, you read it too, even though you make out it’s crap), I thought I’d research the Illuminati a little bit more.

So I looked them up on Wikipedia. (Yes, that’s what counts as ‘research’ these days!), and apparently, they were formed as a secret society to oppose superstition and obscurantism, (new word for me there!)

Doesn’t that strike you as a bit ironic and hypocritical?

A notoriously secretive, obscure and superstitious organisation formed expressly to combat exactly those same traits in society?

That’s like a politician using Twitter to, erm… condemn Twitter!

SERENDIPIDY

I don’t want to leave you in the dark concerning your fate. That would be most unfair and put you at a huge disadvantage.

I run an ethical operation here, and I’m all in favour of informed consent, although of course, we’ll have to consider your consent to be ‘implied’, since the bindings, blindfold and gag make any sort of communication difficult.

So, let me whisper in your ear, exactly how I intend to torment you… Cast a light on what to expect, and illuminate the path we’ll be following.

And finally, when it’s all over…

Walk towards the light!

TOM

Let There Be Light

Jimmy boy genius was putting the finish touches on his grade school science project. The gym was full of the standard kid projects. More than the average number of mock volcanoes. Jack the janitor was watching closely as Jimmy pull out a vampire tap and slammed it in the main power line. The lights dimmed inside, the lights dimmed outside. Then across the state. Jimmy flick the on switch. Light of a 1000s sun vaporizes every living soul in the gym. Next day the fed hauled away Jimmy’s illuminator. Its currently on the US Space Station pointed at Moscow.

NORVAL JOE

“It sucks to be in seventh grade,” Billbert said, sitting on his bed. The only light illuminating his room came from the streetlight outside the second story window.
He thought he’d made a friend at this new school, maybe even a girlfriend. She’d just hung up on him in the middle of a conversation.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when there was a frantic pounding at his window. Billbert ran to the window and opened it to find Linoliamnda perched on the eaves.
“How’d you get up here?” he asked.
She frowned. “Well, I didn’t fly. That’s obvious.”

PLANET Z

It’s a bright and sunny day.
Isn’t it beautiful?
They say that sunlight is the best disinfectant, but that’s really just a metaphor.
It represents the press exposing the dirty secrets of corruption and graft that infects the powerful and elite of our world.
The truest disinfectants for other applications are heat and bleach.
So, if you find a powerful elite individual engaging in graft and corruption, be sure to pour bleach into their mouths and then set them on fire.
They may not scream “Thank you for disinfecting my corruption!” but I promise you, they’re thinking it.
So beautiful.