Weekly Challenge #699 – Dresser

Zzzzzzz

LIZZIE

“This is not a dresser. It’s a cupboard.”
The seller tried to convince her that it was a dresser, a modern dresser, a modern looking dresser. The seller talked a lot. He also smiled a lot. No, he sneered. That made her uncomfortable. He tried to convince her that the shelf standing next to the supposed dresser belonged to the package although it looked completely different. In fact, it wasn’t a shelf at all. It was a coat rack.
She didn’t appreciate being tricked.
It was difficult to stuff all the pieces of the seller inside his stupid modern dresser.

TOM

When Left With a Single Course of Action

With a furrowed brow he pondered the ruin of all things. The deepest furrow newly added to the rows of ancient weights was for his niece Amada Longbridge. A girl with infinite inspection and little else. Was this the third or the fourth time ransom to Barbary Pirates had been transmitted to his agents on the continent? No matter it was this or rounding up rowers for a foray up the Amazon.

“Your Lord,” quietly spoke Arnfleck “Yes.” “A wire from the Americas.” As he read a new furrow settle in above the last. “Seems we’ll need more than Lawyers, Guns, and Money this time.

And there it Sits

It caught my eye as I rounded the corner to the bathroom. In the room forever referend to as the sewing room, a good thirty years after any sewing was done, sat the dresser. I forgot it was there. I had given it to our intentional niece Zen when she had made the sewing room, her room. That was before she became wife and mother. I never cared for the green paint job and at the time of purchase planned to strip it down and leave the raw wood exposed. That was fourth year ago. I’ll get around to it.

RICHARD

Set dresser

I always wanted to work in the movies, but it’s a tough industry to get a foot in the door, and you have to work from the bottom up if you’re serious about making it to the top.

I started in low budget porn flicks, working as a set dresser for such classics as ‘Dyking Miss Daisy’ and ‘Ocean Does Eleven’, but my big break came in ‘Every Which Way, Butt-Loose’, when a cast member dropped out and I was asked to be an anal stunt double.

It brought a whole new meaning to ‘working from the bottom up’!

NORVAL JOE

When the lights came on, the dancers separated. Linoliumanda held tightly to Billbert’s hand.

The principal, Ms. Frunsio scowled at the assembled youth. “If we find out who turned off the lights, you will be suspended.”

Tony stepped in front of Billbert and looked down at him with a sneer. “Well, aren’t you the fancy dresser.”

Marrissa giggled. With his arm around her waist, and hers around his, they shuffled away like a pair of drunks.

Billbert looked at his white t-shirt and new blue jeans and compared himself.

He looked the same as most of the boys his age.

SERENDIPITY

I’m not unusual in wanting to keep alive the last memories of dead relatives; I just have a few more than usual.

When so many of your family die in unusual circumstances, leaving no immediate next of kin, I’ve always been there to take the ashes and give them a new home.

I have so many urns, I bought a dresser to keep them all together.

All, that is, except Aunt Maude.

She always hated the heat, and cremation just didn’t seem appropriate.

So I chopped her up and keep her in the freezer.

Handy for the occasional Sunday roast.

PLANET Z

i don’t own a dresser.
Instead, I own a large armoire and a rolltop desk.
I put my socks, underwear, and shorts in the armoire.
And lay my pants along the top of the rolltop desk.
I hang my undershirts up in the closet.
And then hang them paired with button-down overshirts.
All black, mind you. Because I look good in black.
One of the cats likes to pull out the armoire drawers and crawl in them to sleep.
They shed all over my clothes. Sometimes, they vomit, too.
Then she goes back to sleep.
In another drawer, of course.

Weekly Challenge #698 – FURROW

Derp

LIZZIE

Something was different. She could feel it. She turned the pages slowly, trying to figure out what was going on. She couldn’t see any difference, but she knew something had changed. Then, suddenly, she turned to page 22 and there it was. A whole paragraph was different. It had nothing to do with the rest of the story. She frowned. She turned to page 23. Everything looked fine. She turned back to page 22. The paragraph was gone. She slammed the book shut and put it back on the shelf. The writing demons were out again. And so it started.

RICHARD

Furrow

Furrow is such a difficult word to insert into a story, unless you happen to be speaking to a farmer, buying a tractor or writing a novel about a struggling writer whose brow was furrowed with frustration about his inability to use the word ‘furrow’ in a creative manner.

Halfway through, and the writer’s brow furrowed as he pondered what to do with the next fifty words.

“Why can’t we write about pirates?” he uttered in frustration.

“Because”, said the kindly librarian, “what would we write about for ‘Talk like a pirate day?”

“Now, knuckle down, and write about furrows!”

SERENDIPIDY

The rabbits at Appleby Farm were better organised than most. Rather than take pot luck at finding a worthwhile meal, they organised a foraging council and planned to burrow beneath a furrow and purloin the carrot harvest from below.

The first year was a resounding success, and the council resolved to extend the burrow beneath the freshly planted parsnips the following season.

Farmer Brown was not a rabbit, and was infinitely more intelligent. After losing his entire carrot crop, he laced the second planting with strychnine.

It worked better than expected…

The following year’s rabbit crop was the best ever!

TURA

Furrow
———
The scholar-cleric with his furrowed brow
That labours long to pierce the ancients’ thought
Whose learning’s but a library of scrolls
And never once the truth of things has sought;
Who reads one argument and sets it by
Another passage arguing against,
Then other fragments brings from other books
And writes a new work patch’d from all the old,
Yet never steps outside to see the things
Of which these authors wrote — such dullards all
Know nothing of entangling with the Real:
Such is the only road to knowledge sure.

Better to make one observation new
Than endlessly debate about the True.

J RADIMUS

Jay held his breath, stifling the giggling for all he was worth. He felt Trish doing the same, lying next to him in the furrow between rows of cornstalks. They were still as statues as the white beams of flashlights crisscrossed above them, red and blue flashes painting the landscape. Amid the radio squawks, and clamor from the deputies’ fruitless searching, Jay stole a glance to his right, and saw Trish grinning back, felt her squeezing his hand, her eyes sparkling with excitement and police lights. He didn’t know what he’d been thinking, but he knew what he was feeling.

NORVAL JOE

With the power off, the only lights shown from the distant admin building and did little to illuminate the crowded room. Most of the kids chattered and laughed, others let out artificially high-pitched screams to add to the confusion.

Linoliumanda kissed Billbert. This was good. It took him back to the quick kiss in Linolumanda’s bedroom and the sensations he had wanted to experience again.

Unfortunately, the lights came on. Billbert and Linoliumanda floated head and shoulders above the crowd. They quickly dropped to the floor.

The principal stood on a riser, a frown furrowing her brow, scanning the room.

PLANET Z

When we planned the music festival, we made a list of the things we needed.
Food, water, electricity, stages, and so on.
We worked up plans for everything.
We went to other music concerts and sports events with stopwatches and clipboards, estimating the traffic to the bathrooms.
Then, we set up the budgets, and sold tickets to raise funds.
Across the city… across the state… across the country…the money rolled in.
And the people came from all over, setting up their camps and tents.
On the first day… nothing.
We’d forgotten to book acts.
Or budgeted for an escape plan.

Weekly Challenge #697 – PICK TWO: German, in the darkness…, vehicle, halfway, cute, color-coded, Pan

Nap

LIZZIE

The priest stared at a silent room packed with anxious people. Suddenly, a truck arrived. Three men, heavily armed, entered the room. Halfway through the aisle, one of them raised his gun and fired a totally unnecessary warning shot. The crowd remained in silence. “Everybody out.” They stood up and walked quietly. “Where are you taking them?” asked the priest. “None of your business.” When the crowd got to the truck, the three men had disappeared. The priest drove the vehicle down a ravine a few miles away. They had bought some time to run and now they had guns.

RICHARD

Pick One

Why is it that bomb makers can’t seem to resist using colour coded wiring in their devices?

Is there some sort of anarchists’ bomb manual that gives step by step instructions in making your own explosives; or do they do it simply because it’s easier to identify which wires to disconnect if they accidentally activate the timer?

Perhaps they’re just being cute… Deliberately not using red for live, and yellow for control, simply to wind up those faced with the almost impossible decision, ‘which wire to cut?’

If it was up to me, I’d just use the same colour throughout!

SERENDIPIDY

With a sputter, the vehicle died, coasting to a gentle stop. The headlamps dimmed and flickered, before fading completely.

A desolate road; a lonely forest; a broken down car and four teenagers rapidly succumbing to abject fear.

And, in the darkness: Shuffling footsteps, steadily coming closer.

My footsteps.

My hunched silhouette.

A disturbing figure, in the middle of nowhere, trudging along the road at midnight, holding a full can of fuel.

In different circumstances, in daylight, I might be a welcome sight – a guardian angel. A saviour.

But tonight, in this place, in the darkness…

What do you think?

JRADIMUS

•Summer, 1944, Rural France
Sgt. Wilford Green’s squad was encamped on a farm for the night, taking advantage of the relative security and comfort to rest from their patrols for German soldiers scattered by the Allies’ D-Day invasion.
As his men slept, Sgt. Green stood watch from the hay loft of the barn. While scanning the dark French countryside, he felt a voice shout in a whisper above him ‘Get down!’ He immediately obeyed, ducking to the floor. The next instant, a rocket flew through the window he had been watching from, his life spared. So much for a quiet night.•

NORVAL JOE

Billbert and Linoliumanda bobbed and shifted in a way they assumed was similar to what was considered dancing. As the song ended the DJ said, “Don’t go anywhere. Here’s a slow song for you cute couples.”

Before he could move Linoliumanda had Billbert in a bear hug. Resigned to enjoy himself, he put his hands on her back and swayed in rhythm to the music.

Halfway through the song, someone shut off the power. Standing in the darkness with his arms around Linoliumanda, Billbert wondered if he could keep dancing, even though the music stopped when the lights went down.

TOM

Darkness Darkness Be My Pillow

In the darkness I followed the color coded floor. Red as good as blue. A memory of things past, deeply stored flashes from childhood, set in stone by the horror of that moment, cold and hard. So here I was again letting my feet led and my brain accept that choice. In the end the end is just being left with a single choice, neither bad nor good, just what it is. Still in the black I wonder are my last steps pressing against blue or are they coursing over red. When the white return I see it was actually neither.

PLANET Z

Franklin worked in Municipal Services as a street-cleaner.
Until the robots came, that is.
Drones took over garbage collection, pothole repairs, and road cleaning.
Service Union Nine called for protests, and Franklin went out, attacking robots with baseball bats.
Sweeper Unit 482-Blue had a scratched proximity sensor, and instead of detecting Franklin’s son Ray and stopping, it ran the boy over.
The city showed Franklin the tape from the onboard security camera, seeing his own face repeatedly slamming a robot with a bat.
Digitally faked, but still enough to get him to settle out of court for much, much less.

Weekly Challenge #696 – PARTNERS

Sleepy squeaky

LIZZIE

The business was blooming. They sold all sorts of plants to all sorts of people, even to a very important film and TV production company. Every time they crossed paths, they’d nod civilly. But she knew. She knew very well what he was up to. When she found him among the lines of lavender pots, looking rather blue, she smiled and left him there. The lavender would take care of that one problem she wouldn’t mention. And he would never steal from her again. She vaguely recalled him saying he was allergic to… mushrooms. Was it mushrooms? She nodded… civilly.

RICHARD

Equal Footing

Business partners – that’s how I view our relationship although, truth be told, it’s a fairly unequal partnership.

We work on the basis of supply and demand: I make the demands, and she supplies whatever I ask for in a timely and efficient manner.

In return, she gets reasonable pay, board and lodgings, and the occasional perk. Personally, I think she does very well out of the arrangement.

Some would argue we should do things on a more equal footing, after all they say, marriage is all about give and take.

Well, she gives, and I take.

Husband, and partner.

TOM

Over the years I have spent a considerable about of time in the woods with different flavors of pagans. In a fair number of these it is bad form to mix your pantheons, but it does occur from time to time. In most the attending deities are invoked as Lord and Lady this or that. Often the celebrants have chosen the magical name of Lady Moonbeam Willow River Raven. Even circles that adhere to conscience removal of colonialistic terms get tripped. I once pointed out Queen of the Witch seem to undercut that democratic PC-ness. They told me to shut the fuck up.

Partners in Crime is such a telling turn of a phrase. For me it’s my friend Jim. Over the last 40 years we have successful executed a number of financial endeavors. Sadly none has been actual criminal in nature. I can think of no one I would rather rob the Bank of England with. Or do a Thomas Crown Affair with. Come to think of it a road trip to Las Vegas might be pretty sweet. A thousand networks for the taking. All those years hacking UNIX servers would do the trick. And Paraguay is lovely this time of year

TURA

Partner
———
None fare well in the Queue who queue alone. One must have a partner, to hold one’s place if one steps out for a moment, and you will do the same for them, allies in the Great Wait. And when you grow old and infirm in the Queue, to support each other, and if it comes to it, drop out of the Queue a while for their sake, supporting them even if you must lose a hundred places, or a thousand.

For greater love hath no man than this, that he lose his place in the Queue for a friend.

SERENDIPIDY

I don’t like the word ‘victims’: It seems such a negative expression, one that negates the contribution of one party to the action and makes it somewhat meaningless.

It’s too passive, too one sided, and it doesn’t accurately describe the complex relationship between killer and casualty.

You see, those I despatch play an important role in the game: There can be no pursuit without the pursued, no control without resistance, no power without fear to feed it.

Those unfortunates who fall foul of my wickedness are never mere victims, they play their part as much as I.

Partners, in crime.

NORVAL JOE

As Linoliumanda’s song came to an end she pirouetted off the dance floor, oblivious of all the eyes staring at her.

A teacher walked into the middle of the room and said, “You have until the next song starts to ask someone to dance and then we will begin to assign dance partners.”

Billbert saw Marrissa and headed toward her with a smile but she walked right past him and put her arm around a boy he’d never seen before.

Suddenly, Linoliumanda was taking his hand and pulling him onto the dance floor. “Come on, Billbert. We can be partners.”

PLANET Z

All of the partners in the law firm swore an oath of loyalty to the firm.
Young and strong and smart, they all wore identical rings with the seal of the firm.
Only 100 of the rings were ever made.
And only when a partner died would they pass the ring on to a new partner.
Every year, the juniors came into the meeting hall, challenging the partners to duels.
Usually, the partners won, but when a partner fell, their ring went to the junior.
They’d pull it off of their dead, cold finger and put it on their own.

Weekly Challenge #695 – LADY

Black cat appreciation day...

NORVAL JOE

Billbert showed up for the dance on Friday night, having not spoken to Marrissa or Linoliumanda in days. He wondered if either would be there.
A lady at the door to the gymnasium checked his student ID before letting him into the large decorated room.
The lights were on.
Parents had worried their children would get up to no good if allowed to dance in the dark.
Therefore, no one danced. Instead, students lined the walls glancing nervously at one another.
Until someone requested the DJ play the Harry Potter Theme song.
On the dance floor, Linoliumanda danced by herself.

RICHARD

First date

I thought everything was going really well.
My date kept giving me flirty looks, laughing at my jokes and we were getting on as if we’d known each other years.

The restaurant was pretty good too – a little fancy compared to my usual haunts, but I wasn’t complaining, and the quality of the food almost justified the exorbitant prices!

Meal over, I leaned back in my chair and let out a satisfied belch.

“Well, that’s not very ladylike” muttered my date.

“Oh, I’m no lady”, I replied, surreptitiously rearranging the bulge in my underwear to a more comfortable position.

LIZZIE

The writer hammered the story on his laptop. The damn plot wasn’t working. His main character, Lady Whatever (name not yet settled), had just hidden the corpse of her husband under her bed. The writer tried to convince the character that that was a bad idea. Lady Whatever gave him the finger and continued with her merry life. He grinned. That character had to go. Lady Whatever, who was pretty smart, hid under her bed. The stench was so bad, that the writer gave up. Let her be, he thought. And the story was a success, believe it or not.

SERENDIPIDY

The Lady of Shalott, it is said, died of unrequited love for Lancelot.

He, oblivious to her yearning, spurned his king and his calling, for a tawdry, illicit affair with Guinevere, bringing civil war and an end to Arthur’s throne.

So much for chivalry.

However, Lancelot of the Lake wasn’t entirely to blame…

As they say, behind every successful man, stands a scheming woman, and I – the Lady of the Lake – hold that particular title in this story.

And, for me, it all worked out exactly as planned:

After all, in the end, I got my sword back!

PLANET Z

They say that Evel Kneivel broke every bone in his body.

That’s two hundred and six bones broken.

Rocket Rachel Ricardo broke her little toe.

But she broke it two hundred and six times.

She’d appear on talk shows and trip over a riser and break her toe.

Sometimes, just standing there, you’d hear a crack.

“Oh no,” she said. “I broke my toe.”

And the audience would laugh.

After a while, she’d had enough, and she had that toe surgically removed.

The next stunt, she was impaled by a piece of rebar.

But she didn’t break a single bone.

Weekly Challenge #694 – SPEED

Laundry

RICHARD

Relatively speaking

The Theory of Relativity, so I’m told, states that the nearer the speed of light that you travel, the slower you age.

That’s clearly nonsense!

If that were the case, then surely the nearer the speed of dark you travelled, the faster you’d age?

And what if you travelled at a speed exactly half way between each of those two extremes… Would you simply remain at the same age forever?

It’s all a bit pointless anyway – too fast, and you’ve no time to enjoy it; too slow, and you’re dead before you can.

And stuck in the middle?

Boring!

LIZZIE

Flying at an average speed was his skill. He did it easily. The day he decided to get rid of her, they jumped on his small plane and took off. She was looking forward to this adventure. He saw that in her annoying little beady eyes. “The plane doesn’t have doors, how cute,” she said as they flew higher and higher. Yes, it is very cute, he thought, especially now that that damn flock of whatever birds they were was flying too close to his plane. Silence. Good thing he had a parachute on. Did she have one too? Nope.

SERENDIPIDY

Speed kills, so they say.

I decided to test the theory, but so far I’ve had no luck at all in proving it.

It doesn’t matter how fast you’re travelling, your body is more than capable of dealing with it.

However along the way I’ve managed to prove that there’s a host of other things that can kill you pretty effectively – excessive acceleration and rapid deceleration, air turbulence, oxygen deprivation, friction.

You don’t even have to be moving: anything coming your way at speed is a highly effective weapon…

A bullet, for example.

Now, let’s see you run!

TOM

Speed is such a relative perception. While 100 in a car is bit dicey on a long rail 1000c Harley Hog is nearly a transcend experience. I was 17 at the time. My high school friend who had own a whole mess of motor cycle before he got the hog, took me on its maiden ride. We headed out to Governs hwy one truly over constructed patch of level and straight road. I watch the speedometer needle move past 100. Then I made the mistake of turning my head. Wind ripped the glasses off my face, and explode on the road

NORVAL JOE

Since he’d missed his bus, Billbert had to walk home. He could call his mother and tell her what happened and she would hurry to get to him. But then, she would probably speed right into the principal’s office to file a complaint. He’d rather deal with it on his own. Walking would give him time to think.

“Junior high sucks,” he grumbled while counting the number of enemies versus friends he’d made in the last week.

“Rodrick, Marrissa, Tony, and now Linoliumanda. What about Wanda? Who’s side is she on?”

Those were the enemies. Did he have any friends?

PLANET Z

My television had a volume knob and a channel knob.
You pulled out the volume knob to turn the television on, and pushed it back in to turn the television off.
There were no Blu-Rays or DVDs or video tapes.
No fast-forward or reverse.
You saw and heard it at the speed of time.
Everything was when it was, when the programmers said it would be.
And only that which they’d let you see.
In between the commercials.
Or the news breaks.
Which were just teasers.
Commercials for the news
Which will just be noise in between its own commercials.

Weekly Challenge #693 – PICK TWO alligator, bath, vindictive, caterwaul, mildred, bruises, That’s Life, mush

Tin

NORVAL JOE

Linoliumanda dropped to Billbert’s side, checked carefully for bruises and then threw her arms around him. “You poor boy. What happened to you?”

One of the boys in the crowd laughed and said, “That’s life. You mess with a guy’s girlfriend, he just might turn you into mush. I don’t think Tony was being vindictive, just protecting what he thought was his.”

Linoliumanda sat back on her feet and frowned. “You’ve been messing around with a girl other than me?”

Billbert coughed. “No. I just told Marrissa I’d meet her at the dance. I was hoping you’d be there, too.”

SERENDIPIDY

he first rule of Fight Club, is you don’t talk about Fight Club.

That makes it difficult to explain away some of the consequences of Fight Club.

There’s the cuts and bruises, black eyes and the occasional missing tooth, and when you walk into work sporting a fresh set of injuries, people are going to ask questions.

Now, I’m not a vindictive person but somebody has to take the rap, and that somebody is my husband.

That’s why everyone in work thinks he’s a wife beater, and it’s also why everyone at Fight Club is out to get the bastard!

TOM

Extreme Skill Set-

Frank was the goto person when you need a particularly difficult job done. Take alligator bathing. Not number one on my list, but then I’m not Frank. Frank discovered gators are rather fond of bubble baths. They like to have their stomachs rubbed with a brisk bath brush. Odd as this might seem prefer cold water to hot. I ask Frank once what was the trickiest part of bathing an alligator? “It not so much the bathing part,” noted Frank, “It’s the towel drying. They tend to see this as an excellent opportunity to take off your arm.”

Queen of the Adriatic –

Aaa Venice. Piazza San Marco St. Mark’s Basilica, the home of the Gothic masterpiece Doge’s Palace. A city so historic a permit for a skylight cost one10,000 lira and take three years to process. A city will worst August disease victors then Paris. A city whose mere air did in the heir to the Holy Roman Empire. A city sinking into the sea, because unlike most respectful city is pretty much built on mud. The only reason it has gone the way of Atlantis is millions of peer of Alder has resisted the effect of the sea. A city on peers

RICHARD

Bathtime

My wife had that look in her eye again.

The pile of towels that she dumped unceremoniously next to me, accompanied by that accusatory sigh, spoke more eloquently than any words ever could.

“We’ve been through this before”, I said. “Your dog: Your responsibility! If you’re going to let him play in the mud, you bath him!”

She grabbed the towels and headed for the bathroom, grumbling.

I waited for the inevitable shrieks, crashes and cursing that would follow, whilst idly pondering the practicalities of buying her an alligator for her birthday.

Now, that would be a bathtime worth watching!

LIZZIE

The pilot wanted to land the plane. He wanted to drop every single passenger safely at the airport. He checked his flight plan and was confident he could do just that. He greeted them one by one. He smiled and exchanged a few words of encouragement with those flying for the first time. Mid-air, the stewardess said someone wanted to talk to him. He left the cabin and… saw her. He knew right there and then that the passengers weren’t safe. He was going to kill a few and bruise a bunch.
“Where is she sitting, again?” he asked, sneering.

PLANET Z

It’s okay to sing in the shower.
But dancing in the shower is a bad idea.
You’ll slip and fall.
Maybe you’ll hit your head on something.
And if you wake up, you’ll wake up bloody and bruised.
Everything’s blurry and out of focus.
What the hell just happened?
You check your teeth… they’re all still there.
See the blood in the shower, check yourself for cuts.
Try to dry your hair with a towel, blood on the towel.
And as you try to get out, you slip again.
Hit your head again.
And back into the dark you go.

Weekly Challenge #692 – PEER

Sofa baby panther

LIZZIE

Those bags looked interesting, he thought. He walked closer, watching the passengers, checking if anyone was keeping an eye on them. Nope. He sat next to them. Vintage. He could sell them for a nice amount, plus all the clothes inside, perhaps even a computer. As he walked away, he felt something wiggling inside one of them. He hid behind a building and opened it slowly. The clothes were moving. The moment he decided to close the bag and leave it behind, something jumped from underneath and bit him on the face. His last words were “Curiosity killed the thief”.

RICHARD

Night terrors

You awake suddenly: Your sleep disturbed by an unexpected noise in the silence of the night.

Straining to hear, the only sound is the thumping of your own heart and the white noise of an empty house.

You peer into the darkness, eyes wide, your fevered imagination turning shadows into demons; unfamiliar shapes into unwelcome intruders.

Silence. Darkness. A void into which your primal fears creep, disturbing and all too real.

You’re on edge, even though logic says there’s nothing to fear. You force yourself to relax.

Then, terror! As a warm, heavy mass thuds onto your chest!

Bloody cat!

SERENDIPIDY

The great thing with having a hole in the fence, conveniently situated at eye level is people can’t resist peeping through; especially when the fence surrounds the house at the end of the street that spawns all those whispered rumours.

However, there’s little to see – an overgrown patch of land, a child’s rusty swing, that’s about it.

At least that’s all that you’ll register before you learn why you should never peer through holes in the fence around the house at the end of the street.

And the last thing you’ll see?

The crossbow, aimed precisely at your eyeball.

TURA

Peer
———
Someone had driven dangerously, but who? The self-aware, self-employed, self-driving taxi, or the passenger who had ordered such haste? The passenger blamed the car, which surprisingly agreed, contested the charge, and insisted on trial by a jury of its peers.

But who is the peer of a sentient taxi? Eventually, it was tried by a human jury, but precedent was set.

And now, pretty much anything with a brain, whatever it’s made of, is equal before the law— but perhaps not for long. With robots getting smarter, the question must soon be asked, are humans still the equal of robots?

NORVAL JOE

Billbert lay on his back and closed his eyes, breathing slowly, waiting for the pain in his stomach to pass. He heard someone approach and stop beside him. He opened his eyes to peer at the students towering above him, hoping to see a familiar, friendly face. He recognized none from the group of peers crowding around him.

A boy pointed at him. “Dude. What happened to you?”

Billbert slowly drew in a breath to explain, but stopped when he heard a familiar voice from outside the circle of students.

“Billbert. Is that you?” Linoliumanda pushed through the gawking bystanders.

PLANET Z

I’m a good writer.
But I still make mistakes.
So, everything I write gets peer reviewed.
That way, someone else can catch my mistakes.
Then, I can produce even better writing.
The peer review is meant to be covering my blind spot for mistakes.
But someimes, I feel hunted. In the spotlight. Attacked.
Any mistake I make is that much worse.
Which makes me nervous, so I make even more mistakes.
But that’s okay. I can be as sloppy as I want to be.
Someone else will catch the mistakes.
Until… it’s time for me to peer review someone else.

Weekly Challenge #691 – DEVOTION

Myst

RICHARD

Devotion

The trouble with religion – no matter which brand – is the level of devotion demanded from those who choose to follow them.

You’re either spending time being charitable, or performing ritual obligations to honour your selected deity.

Those vague promises about the afterlife, eternity and absolution are all very well, but in the absence of proof, it’s a lot of embarrassing mucking about when you could be doing something more interesting.

So, I’m starting my own religion, and the only devotional act I require is that you fill the collection plate… After that, you can believe whatever you want!

LIZZIE

He was devoted to his hobby and he had the best tools. He looked up. Days under the blazing sun hadn’t discouraged him. The pole had to be perfect for the challenge. It took him a while to accomplish his goal but he chopped it off. A blaze of sparkles scattered in all directions as the pole hit the sand.

“One more. Victory!”

What followed was a lot more impressive than a few sparkles. He didn’t even see it coming.

The military knew nothing while the media spent weeks debating if there had been any victims of that misguided bomb.

NORVAL JOE

Billbert obviously didn’t know when to shut up. Though he could barely breathe through his constricted throat, he wheezed, “Marrissa clearly doesn’t have the devotion for you that you think you have for her, or she wouldn’t have asked to meet me at the dance.”

Tony blinked his eyes as if considering a possible response and then slugged Billbert in the stomach and pushed him backward onto the grass.

Billbert clutched his stomach and lay in the middle of the soccer field. He watched Tony turn and run to the busses in time to climb on before they drove away.

SERENDIPIDY

“That’s so touching”, people say, and I suppose there is something special about a little dog that sits with utter devotion at their owner’s graveside.

People stop and give me treats, blankets and food. The local newspaper even ran an article about me… ‘Faithful companion, even after death’.

I’m happy to let them think what they want, but at night, I sneak back to the warmth of my own kennel!

My vigil has nothing to do with devotion, love or loyalty.

I’m just waiting for the body to rot so I can make a decent meal of the old bugger!

TOM

Seek Now Reason Within These Walls –

In Matters of religious consistency do not expect satisfaction when questioning practice to purpose. As a child I was on mission to get my grandfather out of purgatory. To this end I took my entire piggy bank of change and dumped it in to the metal offering bank below the bank of tiny votive candles. Lit all of them. Next day I get call into the principal’s office. I get I through dressing down for nearly burning the church down. I said if you didn’t want them all lit why did pull so much out there. No reply to that.

PLANET Z

The security cameras show the girl’s valet unit pushing her out of traffic before the truck destroyed it.
Is it possible for a robot to be devoted? Or is it just programming?
We reassembled the damaged valet’s memory core and installed it in another unit.
It booted up and greeted us, and asked to see the girl.
The girl ran up to the valet, hugged it, and thanked us for fixing her friend.
She seemed to be completely devoted to the valet.
So, we shut her down and began analyzing her memory core.
Devoted companion robots will make a fortune.

Weekly Challenge #690 – CURRENT

Myst in grass

LIZZIE

The current state of affairs is grim. What did I do to deserve this. All I wanted was a little garden with a touch of originality. But that greenish tone. I hate it. It makes me want to puke. And those little ducks floating about in a neat little line make me want to kill them though they are fake ducks. I sit here and wonder. Could I paint this in black and fire the decorator?

“Honey, help me here. I’m not sure whether to go for a twisted branch or for a straight one. Just love the green tone!”

RICHARD

Half-Baked

I’d always had aspirations to become a journalist, but dad was a baker, and his dad before him, and I had little choice other than to join the family business.

I did rather well. My prize winning fruit buns were known throughout the town, earning me recognition amongst the Master Bakers’ community, and eventually I was invited to become the Chief Master Baker and press spokesperson.

The Master Bakers’ principal organ of communication was a publication appallingly entitled, ‘A Pizza Cake’. Thankfully, in recognition of my services to baking, and to honour my excellent buns, it was renamed…

‘Currant Affairs’

SERENDIPIDY

Your toe bone’s connected to your foot bone.

Your foot bone’s connected to your ankle bone.

Your ankle bone’s connected to your shin bone.

Your shin bone’s connected to your knee bone.

Your knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone.

The thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone.

The hip bone’s connected to the back bone.

Your back bone’s connected to your neck bone.

Your neck bone’s connected to your head bone.

And your head bone’s connected to four hundred volts of direct current, controlled by this one little switch.

Let’s see what happens when my finger connects with it!

NORVAL JOE

Tony grabbed a handful of Billbert’s shirt in the middle of his chest and twisted his fist until the t-shirt tightened around his throat.

Billbert felt himself rising off the ground but not through any current use of his superpower.

Tony snarled. “Didn’t you hear me say that Marrissa is my girlfriend?”

Billbert wheezed through his constricted airway, “Are you sure she’s your current girlfriend? She said she wanted to meet me at the dance.”

Tony’s face darkened from pink to crimson to purple. “Do you currently wish to die a painful death, or would you rather just quietly disappear?”

TOM

The End Is Near-

He was truly a bad man. The family seated in the viewing room were awaiting his timely exited from this world. In a few moments major electrical current was going to stop the bastard’s heart. Dad doubted the fucker had a heart to stop. Mom just wanted him dead. I had some last minute reservations. Is a life for a life a … hell fry the guy! When they throw the switch his eyes show the tiniest expression of remorse then when blankly dead. They granted Dad one last kindness. He took a baseball bat and cave his head in.

PLANET Z

It’s important to stay current with technology.
You don’t want to fall too far behind, or people won’t think you’re relevant.
And you don’t want to be too far ahead, or people will realize you’re a time traveler.
Of course, time travel is really far ahead.
So if they see you time travel, you’ll get all kinds of questions and problems.
Best to stay current with things.
Same with fashion, too.
One man’s anachronisms is another man’s trendsetting.
Although that might be how future fashions become fashions in the future.
You bring them back, people see them.
Setting a trend.