Weekly Challenge #790 – TRADE

This is all that matters

NORVAL JOE

“Oh great!” Billbert grumbled, folding his arms and slouching down on the sofa. “You want to just trade away my happiness for your feeling of safety?”
His mother nodded her head slowly and sighed. “The same could be said for you, Billbert. Do you want to trade our safety, perhaps our lives, for a friendship which will most likely fade away before high school?”
Billbert looked to his father for support, but he only picked at his fingernails. “Will I be able to text Linoliamanda or send her emails?”
His mother began to speak, but then only shook her head.

JUSTIN

I’ve been trading my soul with other’s to endlessly escape and outwit Death.

I’d leave one body when there was a little time left, and that body would die soon after. I leave before they wake. Pretty sure the existing soul went to wherever it would have gone anyways.

Something is wrong with this body. It should have had more time, but now I have a bullet hole in my chest.

Who…? You’re a hired a contractor and you followed the trail of confused dead people? You want me to meet someone? Can they fix this wound?

Oh, hello, Reaper.

TOM

Fun While It Lasted

I need a new job. The last four years where way cool. I sent my resume to
a mess of department in the gov. I thought I’d get a job in Department of
Ed, 25 years in the class. No, they had a quite different plan for me.
Trade Minister to Nigeria. One minute I’m in Oakland, the next Africa.
Very cool. A major part of my mission was to administer the email of the
Prince of Nigeria. Not only did I get a hefty pay check from the gov, I
got a percent of what the Prince racked in.

SERENDIPIDY

Contract killing is a trade like any other: You put in the hours, you get paid at the end of the day, and you take a pride in your job.

Just like any other profession, things don’t always run smoothly. There’s disputes over payments, unfair clauses in contracts and you never know when you might need legal assistance.

Which is why we formed a trade union.

We have our members’ interests at heart and will ensure your rights are protected, for a small monthly fee.

So why not join us?

Alternatively, you can suffer the consequences.

Know what I mean?

DUANE

“College is bullshit! What you need to do is find a good trade school. Learn something useful.”

That’s the wisdom my father tried to impart on me. I never took his advice. Now I need help with everything. I take my car in for simple repairs. I call a plumber for clogged toilets. I even had to hire a gardener to cut the grass. A driver takes me to work, a team of writers provide me with words to say, and a director shows me which camera to look at. My father says I need to get a real job.

LIZZIE

Trading vintage posters had become quite the busy activity.
John had a bunch of them hanging on the walls of his study.
He dusted them and created a website to sell them. Trading was for retards.
The phone rang a few days later.
A man was interested. And John was happy.
They met and John opened the trunk of his car.
“No trading.”
The man sneered and walked away.
“Hey!”
The man waved dismissively.
John went back home, updated the website, traded a bunch of posters for different ones.
Yup, John, just go with the flow. It’ll be less painful.

RICHARD

A great deal

“It’s a fair trade”

The Bedouin grunted a smile and shook my hand.

I was now the proud owner of three camels and a goat, whilst he in return, got custody of my wife.

I’d been trying to offload the old bat for years, and I thought the deal I’d managed to strike over several glasses of mint tea and a leisurely puff of fragrant apple tobacco, was definitely the best I’d ever made.

Getting them onto the flight through customs was surprisingly easy.

I just dressed them up in the wife’s clothes.

They were still more attractive than her!

PLANET Z

After the war ended between Bondag and Griv, trade between the two kingdoms resumed.
Textiles and food from Griv, ores and machinery from Bondag.
Along with countless other resources and materials.
Oh, and elvish slaves.
I mean, those ores didn’t mine themselves, you know.
The Forest of Ool had plenty of elves for Griv to capture and send to Bondag to mine the ore.
To turn into the machinery to send to Griv.
Every now and then, the slaves would revolt.
Bondag soldiers putting down the rebellion.
Accusing Griv of starting it. War breaks out.
And the cycle begins anew.

Weekly Challenge #789 – PICK TWO Address, Blundering buffoon, Bunny, View, Wizard, What’s that on the horizon?, Bark

Asleep

TOM

Sometimes it’s just the bunny and you

I had crossed the great part of the California. Pulled in a roadside gas
station, as if there are gas stations deep in the interior of the
California Hegemony. The old man at the pump turned a lazy eye toward a
blur on the western desert. “What’s that on the horizon?” I asked. “Coming
for you I reckon.” I flipped down my goggles, set the resolution to
10,000. “Oh fuck, him,” I cured. “The out man disappeared behind a steel
door. I reached into the car for the tow missile. When the bunny came into
range, I let the tow sing.

NORVAL JOE

Billbert and his parents sat around the small table with its variety of wines and cheeses. Mrs. Blanketmaker took out her tablet and brought up Google Maps. There were several red dots on the map of the U.S. “These are places we’ve lived.”
Exasperated, Billbert blurted, “I hate this. Can’t we just move to a new address in town?”
His father cleared his throat. “Now Billbert. Don’t bark at your mother. This isn’t her fault.”
His mother smiled sadly. “I know this is a major disappointment from your point of view, Billy. For our safety, it has to be done.”

SERENDIPIDY

I’ve been studying hypnotism.

I was inspired to give it a try when I saw a stage show where a hypnotist made a guy from the audience quack like a duck.

It seemed to me to be a useful skill to have, so I taught myself how to hypnotise.

I’m good at it.

I can make you bark like a dog, or hop like a bunny, quit smoking and overcome fear of flying.

But that’s boring.

And there’s far more interesting things I can make you do against your will.

And the best part?

Afterwards, you won’t remember a thing!

DUANE

Xard was a wizard, but he wasn’t a very good wizard. He boasted he had perfected alchemy. He gathered a crowd at the marketplace and produced a small box.

“I will turn this bronze coin into gold within this magical box.”

Slipping the coin into the box he held it up.

Pointing past the crowd he shouted, “What is that on the horizon?’, flipping the box over as the crowd turned to look.

“My bad.” He then opened the box to reveal a shiny gold piece.

Ten days in the stocks gave Xard time to think about his next trick.

JUSTIN

Phil was taught at Wizard school that wizards were elegant and orderly in their ways. Phil also caused several rules to be instated after his expulsion. No chewing gum while casting spells. No teleporting while wearing roller skates, and no practicing rituals while drunk.

When extradimensional vermin poured into reality it was Phil who sent them all back when he could cast the necessary spells under all sorts of strange circumstances. He would have said “I told you so” to his old professors, but proper wizards with orderly, organized magic were the first and easiest for the vermin to consume.

RICHARD

In any other circumstances, I’d have considered the view to be pretty spectacular; mile upon mile of glistening waves as far as the eye can see, tinted burnished gold by the setting sun.

Fantastic for photography, amazing for a holiday, wonderful for getting in touch with nature, but pretty rubbish if you happen to be stranded on a dessert island, beach strewn with the wreckage of your boat, desperately hoping for some sign of rescue.

Wait a minute, your eyes strain in the fading light… What’s that on the horizon?

Does it matter?

They won’t see you from there anyway!

KAYDEN

HARE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW
Frank was forced to leave the School of Wizardry after the unfortunate incident involving Dean Lapine. The Dean was irritatingly proud of his long, flowing curls and carried a mirror with him at all times to admire his impressive appearance. At the Friday Spell Spectacular, while the Dean hovered above, it was Frank’s turn to perform. However, Frank grew confused as he mouthed the incantation for the standard “pull a rabbit out of my hat” spell. When he reached in to grab the hare, instead he pulled out a handful of hair. Dean Lapine was never the same after that.

LIZZIE

She sat there and watched the horizon. The view was stunning. She closed her eyes and waited. She didn’t know what she was waiting for. She just knew she had to be there. And she sat for a long time.
A dog barked far away and she snapped out of her hypnotic state. The horizon was still there, the view still stunning.
And then she knew why she had to sit there, waiting.
She knew she had to learn that despite everything she was going through, she could still come back and sit down, quietly, peacefully, and be. Just be.

PLANET Z

The old wizard was up on stage, blundering through all of his old tricks.
He tried to pull a rabbit out of his hat, but ended up with an iguana.
Which barked.
Do iguanas bark?
I don’t know, but this one barked, and it wasn’t a bunny.
He poured milk into a newspaper cone, and it soaked the cone and spilled all over the floor.
It took him nineteen guesses to guess the card his volunteer pulled out of the deck.
Eventually, he threw some dust in the air to disappear.
Which the audience had already done long before then.

Weekly Challenge #788 – Hand

Birthday Baby Panther

LIZZIE

The hand, the foot, the wall. Don’t do it. But they did. A hand, a foot, a wall. Just any wall, just any foot, just any hand. The drawings held the secret, they said. And everyone believed them. We found them. And everyone believed them. They are centuries old. Everyone stared in awe. Scientists came from the capital to check and re-check the wall. And they believed them. By then, it was too late. They couldn’t say a word. The hand, the foot, the wall… Tourists loved them. Locals loved them even more. Money and jobs. Yes, money and jobs.

RICHARD

Maybe

Maybe I should try to do something with my life? Take a few risks, go out on a limb and see what I can make of myself?

Maybe I should quit the job, sell the house, liquidate my assets and travel the world, experiencing new cultures, places and ways of life?

Maybe it’s time I threw caution to the wind, strayed outside my comfort zone and seized the day, and to hell with the consequences!

Maybe it’s time to ditch mediocrity and the safe, unassuming life I’ve made myself, and invite danger, uncertainty and adventure in?

On the other hand…

TOM

I finally Got It, just like Coltrain.

You could argue, was it the voice running up and down the octaves? The
moves that would leave a mere mortal in traction. The lyrics so playful
and just plain party. The flash of purple head toe, toe to head. The band
an engine of funk rolling down funky town. The beat that drills down make
you want dance beat. Maybe it was as simple, as the one eyed stare, that
knowing look, your mine, and I would die for you. For me it was that
gentle hand making love to the love shaped guitar. The artist previously
known as.

DUANE

Most of my clothes before high school were hand-me-downs. It was common for neighbors and friends to pass around boxes of clothes that had been outgrown. I ended up wearing a lot of baggy shirts, stuffed into jeans with the cuffs turned up to keep from tripping over them. Sometimes the box had been sitting in an attic awhile. I spent most of third grade dressed in red and white striped bellbottoms with a paisley tunic shirt.

We didn’t hand down shoes. Everyone held on to favorite shoes forever. My Converse All Stars were down to laces and rubber toes.

SERENDIPIDY

They do say not to bite the hand that feeds you, but I’ve never subscribed to that.

For me, biting is the only option – you can’t exactly suck the flesh off roasted fingers, no matter how succulent they may be. And although I suppose it’s possible to slurp a nice crispy piece of skin from the back of a hand, it’s rather messy, and not at all dignified.

And good luck licking the meat from a boiled wrist; I don’t fancy your chances.

So I’ll bite, and gnaw and chew, until I’m done.

Then I’ll eat your other hand.

NORVAL JOE

Billbert’s mother held up her hand to signal her husband to wait. “Really, dear. I think you should stay here and we can make a plan for what to do about our burned-down-house and our super-powered son who’s just been outed, instead of chasing off after the guy who is likely to become the center of most of our future problems.”
His hand still on the doorknob, Mr. Blanketmaker paused. “I’ve got to hand it to you, Joan. You are always the voice of reason.”
Joan smiled knowingly. “Join us Billbert. This affects you as much as any of us.”

JARED

His hands were once thick and meaty. Even though age and disuse have shrunk his hands, mine will always remain small in his. `His knuckles are thick and swollen from boxing for his high school, when that was still a thing. In the pale skin, there are scars from when he lost a fistfight with a table saw. There are too many lines and divots, some pink, some colorless white, in his skin that show the untold knicks and cuts and scrapes of a life. Unseen are the marks of discipline administered, or a record of acts of service bestowed.

PLANET Z

Twenty thousand years ago, a person put their hand print on the wall of a cave.
Over the years, hundreds of others put their hand print on that cave wall.
Maybe thousand, layers of layers of prints on top of each other.
So many colors, so many different formulations of pigments they used.
Clay and crushed rock and blood and resins.
A simple message to the future: I was here.
Alphonse tracked the gold vein back to the cave.
Drilling holes, putting in dynamite, and blasting the rock.
Sifting through the rubble, washing the grit to reveal the gold specks.

Weekly Challenge #787 – Don’t Press The Button

Pest

INDEPENDENCE GRAY

Homage to Rod Sterling

It was a stupid gimmick. “Will you press the button?” was just clickbait, the premise a variation of “Would You Rather?” Each time users engaged, the website’s SEO got boosted.

“You get to go back in time to when you had less responsibility. Will you press the button?”

Vicky didn’t hesitate before touching the green icon on her screen, mindlessly enjoying the diversion as she sat in the van waiting for the twins to finish dance lessons.

They never came out, but it was days after they had been reported missing before Vicky thought back to that silly phone game.

RICHARD

Big Red Button

Have you ever seen a great big red button, surrounded with hazard tape, and a sign insisting you shouldn’t press it?

Of course you haven’t – it just a handy way to illustrate reverse psychology.

If somebody doesn’t want you to press a button, it won’t be that easy.

It’ll be hidden away in a secret spot, only accessible by wiggling a paperclip in a tiny hole.

Or sealed beneath a break glass cover; secured with combination locks; or will require two burly military guys to insert their keys simultaneously.

Go on – I dare you to press their button! c

LIZZIE

“This is a camera. It takes snapshots as all cameras do. However, this is not a real camera,” said the seller, smiling.
The client frowned.
“This is a mind-reader.”
The client chuckled.
“You don’t believe it.”
The client shook his head, a sneer on his lips.
“Whatever you do, don’t press the red button. This is how it works.”
The client held the camera and he just had to… Click.
A snapshot slowly slid out of the camera.
The last thing the seller saw, a mask of horror on his face, was his own death on the client’s mind snapshot.

SERENDIPIDY

You know those buttons you have to press to change the lights so you can cross the road safely?

They’re dummies – not connected to anything; they don’t do a damn thing!

And those buttons you press to close the elevator doors?

Nope, those are dummies too.

They don’t work: Their only purpose is to make us feel in control, when in reality, it’s the machines that control us.

Take this power off button on your life support system… I bet that does nothing too.

Still, there’s only one real way to find out, isn’t there?

I can’t resist it!

TURA

The Button
—-
By the Emperor’s hand stands always ready the Button, which travels with him wheresoever he goes. When the Emperor frowns, the Button draws nearer to him; when he laughs, it recedes. None but the Emperor knows what the Button does, but surely must it wreak terrible deeds, should he ever wax so wroth as to press the Button.

Though the Emperor live far beyond the years that are normal to a man, yet must death claim him at last. In the innermost sanctum, the old Emperor passes the secret of the Button to his successor.

“It was disconnected centuries ago.”

TOM

Too Late

I yell to Timmy,” Don’t press that button.” If you have been following my
writing over the pass 16 years you know this can only end fictionally
poorly. Much like Kenny in South Park, Timmy is my go-to name when I know
I will be bump off someone. One time for over Two years I keep Timmy alive
only to your him volunteer to be off-ed in installment 104. Timmy is just
the spirit of on-coming death. So, what did the button do to Master Tim?
Remember the scene in Fargo? No? In a word: Wood-chipper. Funny? No? Too
Bad.

DUANE

His first day on the new temp job, Larry was shown around the laboratory. The lead scientist pointed to a metal box in the corner.

“Rule one: Don’t press the button!”

The scientist had Larry repeat the rule back to him.

“Oh, and don’t sample any of the experiments.”

As soon as he was alone, Larry ran across the room to the box and pushed the button. Nothing happened. He pushed it again, but still nothing happened. He pushed it a few more times before he lost interest and picked up the beaker on a nearby table. It tasted lemony.

NORVAL JOE

Billbert caught his father at the door. “If you think there’s a tiger loose in the neighborhood should you really be going outside right now?”
His father laughed. “This isn’t Huston, son. There haven’t been any reports of tigers in this area. Besides, I’ll just be going across the street.”
Billbert’s mother stood up at that. “Now Hosmer. Do you think that’s a good idea? Linoliamanda’s father is unstable. You don’t want to push that guy’s button if you can avoid it.”
“Don’t worry, Joan. According to his van, he’s the carpet king. I would expect him to behave royally.”

JARED

Max’s Bad Day

“Don’t press the button!” This was pretty much the first thing new recruits heard during orientation. It was also the most frequently repeated warning given that first day, and throughout Max’s employment at SyneDyne Industries. He was sick of it. It reminded him of his mother. And ex-girlfriend. And several schoolteachers. Eventually, he was so fed up, he couldn’t think of anything else. He vowed that he was going to push that damned button that very day. He was so distracted, that he didn’t see or hear the warnings and didn’t get out of the furnace before it fired up.

PLANET Z

There is a button on the console.
It’s red, and looks like there’s a bulb inside of it so it can light up.
Below it, there’s a label:
DON’T PRESS THIS BUTTON
All caps, bright red.
Can’t miss it.
I looked in the manual, and all it says about the button is:
DON’T PRESS THIS BUTTON
Doesn’t say what the light inside of it indicates.
Nor does it say what happens when you press it.
Why add a button to a console if you’re not supposed to press it?
So, I do.
It lights up.
And a siren goes off.

Weekly Challenge #786 – Stay safe

Bathroom Baby Panther

RICHARD

Stay safe

“Stay safe out there – I don’t want to have to continue this mission all on my own!”

It was kind of weird being told to look after myself by a computer, but considering the run of bad luck we’d had recently, I suppose it made sound sense.

For a moment, I caught myself wondering whether it was possible for an artificial intelligence to worry, then dismissed the idea with a snort.

I turned my attention to the job in hand, before heading back to the ship.

“Open the pod bay doors, Hal.”

“I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that.”

LIZZIE

“Stay safe and enjoy the trip.”
He repeated these words in his mind, over and over again, while trying to keep his head above the icy water. He knew he didn’t have much time left.
“Stay safe and enjoy.”
And it had been very enjoyable. Very enjoyable, he repeated in his mind.
Good music, good food, nice company. Very nice.
“Stay and enjoy. How nice.”
The water was so cold. He couldn’t see anything. He could hear people around him, crying and yelling.
“Stay, be nice.”
And he felt he was so far away. It was strange.
“Stay… Stay… Nice…”

SERENDIPIDY

The world is a dangerous place, and I firmly believe that you can’t be too careful when it comes to kids.

You’ve heard the expression ‘wrapping them in cotton wool’? Well, I’ve taken it literally, and mine are wrapped in a hundred yards of the stuff, tightly held in place with duct tape.

Because, nothing is too much trouble to ensure my kids stay safe.

As for germs and such like, I encase the cotton wrapped youngsters in giant polythene bags, vacuum sealed for security.

Weirdly however, none of my safety measures seemed to work.

The children still died, somehow.

TOM

Pick A Lock Any Lock

I was at this magic convention. I told this guy with a bunch of doves in
jacket: Stay Safe. He says you too. I say I will. He smiled at me snapped
his fingers, three guys appeared pushing an Elkhorn Safe. Next thing I
know I’m in the safe. I feel myself being pulled upward. I can just make
out someone yelling. “It’s over the pool. You know no-one can hear you
scream in an iron safe. The rule when falling into a pool locked in a
safe: don’t panic. The second: revenge in a dish best severed cold. Yup.

DUANE

We’ve heard many mixed messages and contradictions over the last year. The one that still has some traction is “stay home, stay safe.” The phrase shows up everywhere. It’s in tweets. It’s in email signatures. It was on my cable bill. Ironically, it’s even on bumper stickers and posters in restaurants.

Have we all forgotten the most important message from the past? Have we lost the words of wisdom that used to be in tv commercials and public service announcements? If we are truly going to “return to normal”, we need to reclaim the phrase, “most accidents happen at home!”

NORVAL JOE

Billbert and his father walked back into the Air Bnb. Mrs. Blanketmaker sat on the couch eating cheese and crackers.
Mr. Blanketmaker stopped in the doorway. “I’m going out for a little bit. You two stay safe.”
“Stay safe from what?” Billbert asked. “Do you think Mr. Withybottom is going to come back over here and give us some trouble?”
“You never know,” his father said. “There could be a tiger creeping around the neighborhood.”
Billbert’s mother laughed. “You stay safe. You’re the one who will be wandering around outside. Watch out for black cats jumping from fifth floor apartments.”

PLANET Z

Instead of ending conversations with “Bye” or “God bless” now people end conversations with “Stay safe.”
Put on a mask, wash your hands, put on gloves, and order everything delivery.
Keep six feet away from others, don’t gather in large crowds.
All the stuff that the CDC tells you to do.
Even if you’re vaccinated.
The cards are so easy to fake
A knock on the door, you open it, and let the hooker in your home.
A hundred bucks more for no condom?
Sure, no problem.
You beam the money with a no-contact bluetooth app, and close the door.

Weekly Challenge #785 – List

Tin Time

RICHARD

The List

He’s making list, checking it twice; gonna find out who’s naughty and nice…

What, you thought Santa gets to put his feet up all year and only starts work on the list sometime in mid-December?

Don’t be ridiculous! We can all put on a nice act for a couple of weeks in the run up to Christmas… Kinda defeats the object of having a list at all.

So, Santa starts recording the Christmas tantrums on Boxing Day and compiles the list throughout the year.

‘Cause no-one can be nice that long.

And Santa saves a fortune on buying gifts!

LIZZIE

“Attention! Today’s specials!” said the innkeeper.
The room lit up with enthusiasm.
“Fish and apples!”
A murmur of disappointment…
“Fish, apples AND seagull!”
The crowd went back to the usual chatter, uninterested.
“… and RUM!”
A roar of eagerness thundered throughout the room.
“The fish is fresh and..”
Everyone laughed.
“Well, the rum is OK…”
A round of lively applause.
The innkeeper was sweating profusely by then.
In fact, the rum was the cheapest he could find.
Let’s just say the evening ended with him bobbing away inside a barrel, doused in his own rum.
Luckily, they didn’t light him up.

SERENDIPIDY

I decided to make a bucket list: You know the sort of thing – a bunch of aspirational goals to achieve before I die.

But you just had to make fun of it, didn’t you? Saying I was wasting my time with ridiculous and childish pursuits, that I was unlikely ever to achieve.

That hurt.

So, I’m going to hurt you right back.

And I’ve decided that I need to make a brand new bucket list, with just that single aspirational goal.

Only this time.

I aim to achieve it, before you die.

Which will be very, very soon indeed.

TOM

It Often Starts Simple.

I have this list. I start it when I was very young. My grandfather had
just died. At the wake a close friend of my father’s (whom I believe gave
be herpes when I about four, but that is another story) told me if you
write a love-one’s name down on paper they will live on. This is how the
list began. The scope expanded to people I respected. After 63 years the
list had grown very long. I image I will be the last name on the list.
Then again there might not be anyone left to pencil it in.

DUANE

I once made the Dean’s list.
No, I never made the best dressed list.
I’ve trimmed my bucket list to you and me, and
I won’t be happy till I make your wish list.

I’ve been on the short list.
I’ve been on the shit list.
I’ve been on both the naughty and nice list.
For all I know I might even be on the no fly list.

I’ve whiteboarded the pros and cons of you and me, and
Since you can’t legally put love on your shopping list,
I won’t be happy till I’m on your to do list.

JARED

A Bad List

The battle had been apocalyptic; Captain Stubbing’s Man-of-War was listing badly to starboard. But he knew his nautical foe and taken more than he had given. Despite the damage to both ships, neither captain was willing to cede.

“Shift the ballast to port and come around!” Stubbing ordered. Dutifully, they set to as well as they could muster.

Stubbing could hear his counterpart’s orders. Without discerning the words, he knew what they were. The scalawag was coming about to offer his own broadside.

“Fire!” sounded from both captains. The chaos of smoke, fire, thunder and destruction erupted on both sides.

NORVAL JOE

Mr. Blanketmaker let go of Billbert’s arm and stomped after Mr. Withybottom. “Now, listen here.”
Billbert’s father had always seemed tall to his son. But at five feet ten inches and 175 pounds, he looked like a twig compared to Linoliamanda’s father who stood probably six four and a muscular 300 pounds.
Mr. Blanketmaker didn’t care. He pointed his finger right up to the big man’s nose. “Tin hats and protective helmets? Add this to your list. A straight jacket and a psych eval. You pompous megalomaniac.”
Billbert’s father grabbed his son as he charged back to their Air Bnb.

PLANET Z

Tristan made an appointment with her doctor, waited a week for the test results, and got the news nobody ever wants to hear.
“Can you make a list of all the people you’ve been with in the past year so we know who might also have been exposed?”
So, Tristan got to work.
She pulled out the phone book and went over it with a highlighter, marking every name.
The highlighter ran dry, so she picked up a pack from the office supply store.
The doctor looked at the phone book and winced.
“They still print phone books?” he said.

Weekly Challenge #784 – PICK TWO Fuming, Bean, When will it stop raining, Vaccine, Quarantine, Helmet, Tin

Trust

RICHARD

Goal!

I can see that you’re intrigued by it… Go ahead, take a look.

That’s grandpa’s tin helmet, the one he wore in the trenches in World War One. He was there during the Christmas truce and played football with the Hun. I still have the letter he wrote home saying how wonderful it was.

Then of course, when it was all over, they retreated back to the trenches, and the war began again.

He called it his ‘Lucky helmet’, reckoned it would protect him from anything.

It didn’t.

Check out the bullet hole… Brains blown out by the German referee!

LIZZIE

When will it stop raining?
When will they be able to stop wearing those silly helmets that didn’t let them breathe properly?
The people at the monastery couldn’t care less, and he admired them for that.
They disregarded the compulsory quarantine, saying they had to help the ones in need.
They made offerings to some obscure entity and they didn’t care about the rain.
That’s why they walked around wrapped in this odd material they had come up with themselves, and only at night.
When will it stop raining, he thought. He wanted to go and become one of them.

SERENDIPIDY

It’s enough to drive you mad, isn’t it?

“When will it stop raining?” your thoughts scream, tormented by the patter on the tin sheet beneath which you crouch.

I’m afraid it’s going to be some time yet, for this is only the start. Let’s work it out, shall we?

One drop per second, works out at around a pint, every thirty minutes; that’s ten pints in five hours, multiplied by four…

And when I’ve bled the rest of your family dry, I’ll be dragging you from beneath your protective cover, and stringing you up to join them.

Drip, drip, drip!

TOM

In the last century

My grandmother never threw away a single cooking tool, thus my mother
inherited all these. They were store in a cabinet under the sink where I
would play as a small child. I became particularly attached to a tin
Colander and tin funnel. It was the mid 50s and Tom Terrific was my go-to
cartoon, along with Warner Bros’ Looney Tunes. I would walk around the
apartment wearing my “Thinking Cap” funnel rakishly tilted. The colander
became my Marvin the Martian helmet. I’d hiss This makes me very angry,
very angry indeed. Then clobbering my brother with a Tonka Dozer

DUANE

The rain runs off my helmet like a waterfall. Through the downpour I sit and watch the medics, running down the trench.

“Splash splash” from their boots.

Slogging back with the dead and wounded.

“Splash splash.”

Another thump from a mortar round. Between blasts, the screaming of the unlucky bastards hit with the last salvo. Medics run by.

“Splash splash.”

Rations are here. Beans again. Some dry matches. Still out of coffee.

“Splash splash.”

Someone says he heard it’s going to end soon. Everyone laughs. New guy. He’ll change his tune.

“Splash splash.”

God dammit, when will it stop raining?

NORVAL JOE

Billbert’s mind ran about the thought of hanky-panky with Linoliamanda. She was pretty in a confused and myopic kind of way. And there was that odd thrilling sensation that ran from his heart to his stomach when she had kissed him.
He was roused from his thoughts when his father took him by the arm, and said, “Come on, Son. We need to go back inside.”
Linoliamanda and her cat had rejoined her father who was fuming and raising his fist in the air, shouting, “And the next thing you know we’ll all be wearing tin hats or protective helmets.”

PLANET Z

The war was over, and it was time to sign the peace treaty.
When The Prince and his Tin Helmets arrived for the ceremony, the Presidential Guard asked if the group had been vaccinated.
“No,” said The Prince’s assistant.
“Well, then you need to go into quarantine,” said the Chief Guard.
“Put The Prince in quarantine? Never!”
The Tin Helmets and the guards had a brief scuffle, and the fuming Prince was escorted back to his plane.
As the jet headed back over the border, bombers and fighters crossed over and killed more people than any disease in recent memory.

Weekly Challenge #783 – Saint

Zzzzzzzz

RICHARD

Reliquary

So, we had this box, which we kept in the crypt and wheeled out for holy days and special occasions. It was fashioned from cedar wood, with polished brass fittings.

It was only a small box, but it held the sacred relic that so many flocked to the church to behold.

The saint’s little finger.

Some say just kissing the box would heal the sick, and simply beholding it guaranteed good fortune.

As for me, I didn’t believe a word of it.

I just looked after the thing and polished the brass.

Oh, and used it for storing my smokes.

DUANE

Saint Gasceous, the patron saint of grandfathers.

Coming from humble beginnings he rose to fame, mostly with his grandchildren, by being able to play “pull my finger” on cue. It was one of several documented miracles that led to his canonization. Another was talking with his dentures sticking halfway out of his mouth. His most notable miracle was the nearly three minute “drive by” he could do while walking around the garden. None of these could be be successfully explained by science alone.

To his grandchildren he is remembered for how they always reacted. That is the miracle of laughter.

TURA

Saint
—-
“The Impossible Missions Group needs my help,” Simon Templar informed his girlfriend Patricia, kissing her lightly on the nose. “See you in a few days.”

He drove across Europe, penetrated the Iron Curtain, and infiltrated the target of the Soviet death ray demonstration. It was being faked, with a bomb to be secretly triggered. The Saint disabled the arming mechanism.

A general with a chestful of medals pressed the firing button before the international press. Beams of lightning coruscated toward the horizon, and then… nothing.

Their subsequent investigation found only a calling card showing a stick figure with a halo.

SERENDIPIDY
cc
Saint Custard’s is an old-fashioned sort of establishment.

Here, we take young girls, educate them and shape their lives, and prepare them to face the world outside.

We cherish the values of old, and encourage our charges to shun technology and modern wisdom in favour of respecting the natural order of things and Mother Nature.

It may be considered quaint by some, but I think our girls are a credit to tradition.

Then, in their senior years, they learn to harness the forces of darkness, breed chaos and undermine male dominance.

Like I said: The natural order of things.

LIZZIE

Ah, the photo of his old bedroom. He couldn’t help but smile. It was there he had taken the first steps towards his amazing career in computers, full of hope and dreams, overshadowing his big sister’s remarkable career as a Professor.
Behind the bookshelf, that’s where he hid it.
Years later, he went back to fetch it. Gone.
When the cops knocked at his door, he knew the governments of those countries weren’t happy with him.
The little code-book… They had it. But how??
Sitting in his cold cell, he tried to figure it out, his sister’s sneer haunting him.

TOM

Saint to the right of me Saint to the left, stuck in the middle with Hue.

There’s a tradition in my family that goes back nearly a millennium and a
half. In each generation one child is named Denis. Seem my family were
original converts from pagan roman Paris to Christianity. In the crypts
of Basilica Saint-Denis buried alongside the Kings of France are my kin.
Oddly when I flew into Paris many years ago, after clearing customs I was
direct to an office of the Paris Bishopric. A priest there gave me a
brass container will the seal of Saint Denis. I ask what I should do with
it. Wait for the moment. He said.

JARED

Patron saints are an interesting study. They cover technologies and concepts that didn’t exist in their lifetimes, and there’s some seriously specific division of labor.

Let’s look at flying. Air travelers and astronauts are all covered by Joseph of Cupertino. However, if you’re the pilot, that’s Christopher’s domain. (If you’re flying the space shuttle, maybe both? Or flip a coin?) Now, if the aircraft doesn’t have any engines, Clare of Assisi has your gliding butt. For the flight attendants serving the air travelers, they pray to Bona of Pisa. Paratroopers jumping out of the planes, Archangel Michael’s got their backs.

NORVAL JOE

Mr. Withybottom turned on Billbert. “So. You just want to be friends with my daughter, do you?”
“Well, yeah,” Billbert said, surprised at the heat in the man’s voice. “We are in some classes together at school.”
Mr. Withybottom shook his finger at Billbert. “Look. I know I was no saint when I was your age. I know what goes through the minds of boys when they talk about being friends with girls. I don’t want any hanky-panky between you two.”
Billbert thought back on his few kisses with Linoliamanda. If someone had hanky-panky on their mind, it wasn’t him.

PLANET Z

It’s interesting to track down the relics of ancient saints.
The fingerbone of this saint, the tooth of that saint.
All believed to be the source of all kinds of miracles.
So many people flock to see these bits and pieces.
It’s good for the local businesses.
Thing is, if you do the math, you’ll find this saint has five thighbones, that saint had forty-nine teeth, and so on.
Unless you’re talking about Saint Mergatroyd of Essex.
He actually had five thighbones, forty-nine feeth, and countless other duplicate body parts.
He was martyred in a nuclear waste facility, after all.

Weekly Challenge #782 – Advanced

Baby Panther

RICHARD

/r/windup

I joined the group for a laugh.

It was a dull Sunday afternoon, with nothing on TV, and I was bored; which is how I came to be trawling around communities on Reddit, just for the chance to wind up strangers on the internet.

The Advanced Subatomic Particle Physics subreddit caught my attention, and I thought it would be fun to inject a bit of humour into the proceedings.

Which is how my facetious comment about the interconnectedness of chocolate chip cookies and black holes, led to the discovery of a brand new subatomic particle.

Which, they named after me!

LIZZIE

A cool course on something maritime, he couldn’t remember what. Something he had seen online, but he hadn’t paid much attention. And now he was in this predicament, surrounded by ice and no one in sight. The tiny boat was destroyed and that thing, whatever it was called, frantically blinking some sort of danger signal, was tossed aside.
“And now, Mr. Smart Ass who never reads anything ’til the end? And now? Well, now you’re gone.”
People searched for him. They did try…
Surprisingly, the advanced “cool course” had twice as many attendees. People like getting in trouble, don’t they?

SERENDIPIDY

The scientists tell us that The Doomsday Clock is ticking and we’re just one hundred seconds from midnight.

One hundred seconds aware from catastrophe, mass extinction and the end of the world.

And for me, I couldn’t be happier to see an end to it all.

When you’re immortal, time is an inconvenience; a never-ending, constant stream of boredom, irritation and near insanity.

Midnight can’t come soon enough for me.

So yesterday, I left my engine running, turned the aircon up to full, and spent all day dumping plastic waste into the ocean.

And the clock advanced one second closer.

TOM

True Evil

The guard pointed at the sack of salt. The old man pulled it up on to his
shoulders. He moved steadily and evenly, which somehow made the guard
smile. I watched for about an hour, wondering how long the old man could
continue making the trip back and forth along the barber wire fence. Then
suddenly he drop face down, there were no demanding action on the part of
collection of guards. Just a moment of a hand a group of men materialize
out of the shadows. Then he pointed at me and I advanced. Work will set
you free I thought.

DUANE

As spaceflight quickly advances, humans are soon returning to the moon. Mars would be next and I am encouraged that it could happen in my lifetime. A trip to Mars takes about seven months one way. For such a long flight the first crew should be Buddhist monks.

Buddhist monks are disciplined. They are accustomed to isolation. They already live a minimalist lifestyle. They could spend their downtime in contemplation of the Universe, while staring out at the Universe. Just think of the possibilities with meditation in zero gravity.

Landing on Mars, they would be in the ultimate zen garden.

NORVAL JOE

Though Mr. Blanketmaker had advanced toward Linoliamanda’s father with his hand extended in a friendly greeting and a smile on his face, Mr. Withybottom turned his back on him, headed toward his house, and shouted over his shoulder, “Come on, Linny. Get in the house.”

It didn’t take an advanced degree in psychology for anyone to see that the girl’s father had emotional control issues. Still Billbert wanted everyone to be happy and get along. While Linoliamanda searched for her cat again, Billbert ran across the street. “Mr. Withybottom. What would it take for Linoliamanda and me to remain friends?”

JARED

And my story for this week on the topic of Advanced is entitled Advancing the Runner
€€€€€
In baseball, a batter can get on base in many ways. Let’s ignore the pitching stuff: wild pitches, balks, walks, ‘bean balls’, etc. Just hit the ball in play and beat the throw. That’s a base hit. Unless the defense mishandled the ball. Then it’s an Error. Or if they threw to another base for a force out then threw to First. If you still beat the throw, that’s scored as ‘reached on a Fielder’s Choice’. If the defensive player obstructs your path, ‘Player Interference’. These all count zero on batting average. Like a Walk, but a lot more work.

PLANET Z

When Arthur asked his oncologist how far the cancer had progressed, he said “I wouldn’t be buying any green bananas.”
Which really didn’t make much sense to Arthur, since he didn’t like bananas, so he didn’t buy them.
Arthur thanked the doctor, went to the grocery store, and bought some green bananas.
“I don’t understand what all the fuss is about,” said Arthur. “They’re green. What’s the harm?”
He tossed the bananas aside and went about his day, totally forgetting about them.
Until, later, he walked back into the kitchen, stepped on one, and slipped on it, cracking his skull.

Weekly Challenge #781 – River Crossing

Caaaaaaaaaaat

LIZZIE

“River Crossing…” said the sign.
River? There was nothing there, not a single drop of water in sight.
He looked left. He looked right. If he was to cross anything, he’d follow the rules.
Then he took a step forward and looked left and right again. He had always been very cautious.
He looked at his watch and took another step forward.
That’s exactly when, out of nowhere, a huge pack of wolves knocked him down.
The locals nicknamed the pack leader River and crossing River where he usually crossed was not a healthy thing to do, cautiously or not!

RICHARD

River Crossing

Welcome to River Crossing, possibly the most inappropriately named town in the County.

There’s no river here. Nearest one is two hundred miles south; so, no need for a bridge across it neither, nor any sort of river crossing, for that matter.

In fact, bridges is the one thing we’ve got in short supply around here. No river bridges, road bridges, footbridges or railway bridges, on account of there being no rivers, roads or trains.

So, no railway crossings either.

Beats me why they gave it the name in the first place.

But, I guess you gotta call it something.

SERENDIPIDY

If it’s a river crossing you’re considering, then a wise man will take my advice and avoid the old stone bridge.

For beneath its arches lurk the trolls, who will beat you senseless, steal your coins, then eat you for supper.

For a small fee, I will ferry you across safely to the far bank, out of harm’s way and protected from the evil clutches of the trolls.

Of course, when we land, I’ll beat you senseless, steal your coins and leave you for dead.

But at least, unlike the trolls, I’ve no intention of eating you for my supper!

TOM

Big Muddy

Sam raised his hand to shade his eyes from the setting sun. The river was
high after the late storm rolled in from the Rockies. A few lights had
started to glow on the far bank. One single light grew larger as it moved
to where he stood. Blue brown water merged with the blue brown hull of the
river crossing ferry. It was a size fitting the population it served, and
made returning home for the night possible. Without the tiny boat it was a
four-hour trip to next largest town on the river.

DUANE

The man looked cool in his khaki shirt with epaulets and unbuttoned to show his hairy chest. Even standing up to his waist in the jungle river, he had an air of comfort and confidence. With a rope over his shoulder, he pulled a simple bamboo raft with his supplies stacked upon it. He wasn’t even sweating. His loosely permed hair and big brown mustache were perfect. And he was enjoying a Camel cigarette.

The younger me stared up at the billboard in awe. The message was clear what I needed to do next to become that man of adventure.

NORVAL JOE

“Daddy,” Linoliamanda called back to her father. “I’ve told you before. There’s nothing wrong with Billbert or his family. He’s my friend.”
“Don’t make me come and get you,” her father said, hurrying down to the sidewalk, but stopping at the street and eyeing it like a hazerdous river crossing.
Billbert’s father crossed the street, his hand extended and a big smile on his face. “Hello Mr. Withybottom. I’m Hosmer Blanketmaker. My son speaks very highly of your daughter.”
Mr. Withybottom looked at Hosmer’s hand as if he was offering him a dead fish. He folded his arms and frowned.

TURA

River crossing
———
The Great Crossing is best witnessed from the watch tower by the grand market. Look to the river, before dawn. Soon the barges from distant Harem will appear, a fleet that blots out the river, their gaudy pennants outlined by the rising sun.

Then all is a jostling to unload and furnish the market stalls. Not a single pottery jug is broken, nor a single bolt of silk dropped, by the time the Market Bell sounds the opening.

Towards evening it sounds again, and the stallholders close up and row back to Harem, the barges glowing in the setting sun.

PLANET Z

There’s an old puzzle where a monkey, a pig, and a person need to cross a river.
But if you leave one of them alone with another, something bad happens.
Like the pig eats the monkey or the monkey rips the face off of the person.
So you have to think through who crosses the river in a boat and who is left together on the shore.
Me, I just sent the person and the pig across in the boat and leave that damn monkey behind.
Because that monkey will rip the person’s face off at some point anyway, right?