Weekly Challenge #821 – Even

She ran!

LIZZIE

She inhaled. Ah, coffee.
The nice librarian had suggested the book “Moving On”.
How appropriate. Her husband was having an affair.
When she returned the book, she found out that her husband was having an affair with none other than the nice librarian.
Good thing she had also picked up “How to Get Rid of Your Old Life”. Lots of interesting advice in it, including a few radical methods of… getting rid of your old life.
Books are extraordinary, and so are libraries.
Nice librarians… not as much. At least, not this one! But even that problem had been solved.

RICHARD

Against the odds

I’ve always liked even numbers. Nice, friendly characters that give you no trouble and never conspire to trip you up.

Not like those nasty, argumentative odd numbers! You know the sort… Those sevens and nines that always mess up the bill or throw out the calculation. The ones that cause arguments at restaurants and make you look an idiot when adding up the groceries.

And don’t tell me fives are friendly – I’m pretty certain they have a hidden agenda!

Give me even numbers any day.

Although, I suppose eights can be tricky, and don’t get me started about those sixes!

TURA

Even
———
“Even as Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as these; even as the great geographer Lao Shen did not himself traverse the entirety of the Yellow River; and even as Kant confessed that Hume awakened him from dogmatic slumber; even so”— the storyteller began— “I cannot entertain everyone every time.”

After the ritual of abasement, he entered on the ritual of exaltation. “This is the most marvellous story ever told! Worlds created and destroyed! Heights of passion, depths of despair! Cunning twists and sudden revelations!”

Finally, he began the story itself. “It was a dark and stormy night.”

SERENDIPIDY

Even I have feelings.

I grant you that they may not be the sort of feelings generally considered desirable, or appropriate, but they are, nevertheless valid, and without them the world would be a poorer place.

It would indeed be boring if lust, anger, greed and avarice didn’t exist, and how could we ever measure the more ‘virtuous’ qualities and experience their benefits, without their opposites?

The dark side has its place, and without it, we would all be the lesser.

So, thank me, and celebrate my depravity; tell me I’m important, and I matter.

Because, even I have feelings!

TOM

What Could GO Possible Wrong 021

The first time-frame to make contact with the Duck Pint was Park’s. The aspect of the blue was thick, but he could just make out the ghostly appearance of a hand. He tried to turn toward the man in cuffs but time was way too slow to allow that move. Also, Park was having major trouble forming thoughts. He could summon up thing-ness, but act-ness danced outside his ability. “D-a-m-n ,“ he thought. Damn what he thought. Even as the best of time, in spite of some Hidden skill with a pint glass, Park was slow on the up take.

NORVAL JOE

Sabrina grabbed Billbert by the collar of his jacket and pulled him back to the campfire. He hadn’t really paid attention to the route they had taken through the forest and didn’t know his way back out without Sabrina to guide him, so he submitted and went with her.
Adult men and women surrounded the fire while two evenly space lines, one of boys, the other girls faced each other.
Billbert and Sabrina joined their respective lines as an elderly woman said. “Alright. Boys take out your rings and place them on your partner’s finger.”
Billbert choked. “What the heck?”

PLANET Z

There’s a button on my remote that for some reason keeps bringing up water polo.
I have no goddamned idea why it does.
It’s some sort of shortcut to a streaming guide that LG runs that defaults to a sports channel that’s always showing water polo.
The button is right next to my Home button, so I hit it by mistake a lot.
I tried to pry it out of the remote, but the remote’s not having any of that.
We are in an age where one button… ONE BUTTON brings you water polo.
And yet we can’t cure cancer

Weekly Challenge #820 – OVEREXPOSED

Obligatory photo of a cat

LIZZIE

The lighthouse stood by the bay, small waves hitting it softly.
The carcass of a boat rocked back and forth, a warning flag still swaying in the wind.
They had been overexposed to that gas, the one coming from the barrels tossed in the water at high sea. They tried to sail away as fast as they could. But it was only a matter of seconds.
People came onboard. They said no, don’t come here. But they did anyway.
And now, the lighthouse stood by the bay, small waves hitting it softly, with no one to take care of it.

RICHARD

Overdressed – Overexposed

Have you ever seen those goth girls and boys? All black clothing and mascara, veils and teenage angst.

Even on the hottest, sunniest day, they shrink within their cloak of darkness, like modern day vampires, avoiding the light as if it threatened mortal danger.

I once went out with a girl like that.

For months, I tried everything I could to encourage her to shed just a few layers of protective attire.

Then one fateful day, she relented, and stripped to her bare skin.

Skin so pale, she appeared like a badly overexposed photograph.

So bright, she blinded me forever.

TURA

Overexposed
———
After a day’s work on a photoshoot in an ancient forest, I found one image I’d accidentally overexposed. I would have thrown it out, but I noticed it had brought out some strange details in a deep hole amongst some tree roots.

I went back the next day to image the thing better. Going close up would just scare off whatever it was, so instead I brought my ultra-HDR, ultra-resolution digital to get it by stealth from a distance.

On the camera back I zoomed in on the hole and turned up the brightness…

THEY DON’T LIKE TO BE SEEN!

SERENDIPIDY

Maybe, as a child, I was overexposed to violence and bloodshed; although, it’s fair to say that none of the other kids in the neighbourhood followed the path I’ve taken.

Perhaps, poor mental health has warped my values and sense of decency, eroded my capacity to empathise and my grasp on reality. Yet every test I’ve taken indicates I’m no more damaged than the next person.

I suppose I may have lacked spiritual and moral guidance to keep me on the straight and narrow. But, that’s not true either.

I simply enjoy mindless torture and violence.

See… Perfectly well adjusted!

TOM

What Could GO Possible Wrong 020

If anyone had spent the time in any timeframe perusing the walls of the Arm’s they would have come a across a most piacular overexposed photo. Even in the rumble of the curtain state of the pub they would have seen their collected face. Warn and weary, but a glare of defend resolve. Cervantes had seen it, the machinations of the last few days were to ensure it would accrue. They would never forgive him, but he had long ago given that emotion to the devil in exchange for a clear sight of right action. Duty heavy as a Mountain.

Attachments area

NORVAL JOE

They saw the flickering light of the bon fire long before they got to it. Excitement flickered in Sabrina’s eyes, reflected from the dancing flames. “Stay behind me as we approach the ceremony. I don’t want you to be overexposed to the magic.”
Billbert stopped dead. “Overexposed. That doesn’t sound good. What are you getting me into?”
“Nothing. Really. It’s a simple ceremony. But, if you’re not used to magic, you may get dizzy, disoriented, or a bit euphoric. Just keep in mind, I’m your friend.”
“You’ve said that before,” Billbert said and headed back the way they had come.

PLANET Z

Melanie spent a lot of time volunteering at the hospital.
“I like reading to old people,” she said. “Especially the ones who have no family or friends visiting them.”
She did it for two years before she stopped showing up.
All of the patients who’d died left everything in their wills to an asset management company she’d set up to drain them dry.
She cashed out, got a new identity, and left the country.
The hospital probably should have known when they asked her to help with the children’s ward.
And she replied “Kids? They don’t have any fucking money.”

Weekly Challenge #819 – PICK TWO: Don’t push me…, Animated, Compassion, Indifferent, Ally, Whale, A fork in the road

Dirty girl

TOM

What Could Go Possible Wrong 019

Normally I ( and I use that for your temporal reference) would let the sure mass of the narrative reveal what the hell is happening. Don’t have the time, little time entity joke, there. Normally Indifferent Compassion is how I roll. What animates my actions is whenever there is a fork in the road, I take it. My motto is Don’t push me, I’m the Whale, or was that the Walras, ooo pooka choo. Foe or Ally, you decide. Damn, that liquid blue will mess with one’s internal synapses. Back … To maintain a time bubble, you need maximum density. Did that help?

SERENDIPIDY

“Don’t push me!”

I turned to face the woman who had barged into me at the checkout and looked her straight in the eye.

“Just wait your turn, won’t you? You’ll get served when I’m done!”

Well, if looks could kill, I’d have been dead on the spot.

I returned to my shopping, taking all the time in the world, indifferent to her protests.

Outside, as I drove away from the store, I saw her. She gave me the middle finger and an evil stare.

Without any hesitation, I ran her down.

Barge into me, and I’ll barge right back!

TURA

Animated, Indifferent
———
Professor Proteus was indifferent among the many ideas that he lectured upon, yet always animated in his exposition. Whatever he spoke on, he was its most fervent advocate. Then he would take up an opposite idea and demolish his previous arguments. He could convince anyone of anything, then refute all that he had just said, then refute the refutations. His audience found themselves willy-nilly convinced by every successive turn. He could demonstrate the consistency of contradictions, and the inconsistency of tautologies.

He was eventually revealed to be a mouthpiece for an AI trained on the entire contents of the Internet.

RICHARD

Year’s end

Here we are, once again, standing amongst the dying embers of the year past, looking ahead to what the future might bring.

In many ways, it’s a completely arbitrary moment in time for decision-making – there’s nothing to prevent us from resolving where our destiny may lie, on any day of the year.

But tradition dictates that with the passing of each year, we face a fork in the road, and choose which route we will follow.

However, I’m rubbish at making resolutions.

And I’ll decide which direction to take, in my own good time.

So, don’t push me, OK?

LIZZIE

I am a good mother. I always knew what was good for you. But you never accepted what I said. I always pointed out your faults. That’s how you learn. I never praised you because that wouldn’t teach you anything. And that day when you wanted to hug me and I was horrified. A hug? Don’t push me. And you had that pathetic look on your face. I am a good mother. You came out alright, except for not accepting my orders. You were always stubborn. Now you’re indifferent. And we don’t talk. Yeah, it’s all your fault… your fault.

NORVAL JOE

Sabrina and Billbert walked along a path through the forest. She carried the bag of freshly made caramel corn in her backpack.
The trees were so thick, blocking the starry sky above, if it hadn’t been for the weak flashlight they would have completely missed a fork in the road.
She put her hand on Billbert’s shoulder. “We go this way.”
Billbert shrugged off her hand. “Don’t push me.”
Sabrina’s smile looked evil in the yellow glow of the flashlight. “Billbert. I’m your friend. I want to help you be a better person. Come along. The ceremony is this way.”

PLANET Z

Early in the days of animation, when Gertie, Mickey, and Bosco and other crude noodle-armed figures ruled the cinema, Xavier Walton came up with Bertha The Whale.
All you could see of her was her eye and a few folds around it.
But Xavier was a master animator, and put a lot of expression and character in that eye.
He would stand on stage with props, run the film behind him, and they did an Vaudeville act together.
Bertha’s reactions to Xavier’s antics were priceless.
Then someone hidden above the stage would dump a bucket of water on his head.

Weekly Challenge #818 – LEFT

Wreath

LIZZIE

I am a good mother. The kitty this, the kitty that. Let nature be nature. We need to take him to the vet, and you whined and whined and I took the kitty to the vet. I’m a good mother. It just annoys me to have to change my plans. I had stuff to do. If the kitty had lived till then, I am sure he’d survive a few more hours. And you turned your back on me and left to your room and then you left for good. Now we don’t talk. And it’s all your fault… your fault.

RICHARD

One more sleep

“So, how many sleeps left?”

John looked at me strangely.

“Until the big day?”

“Only one now”, he replied quietly.

“And the guvnor, what’ll he be doing?”

“He’s making a list, and checking it twice. Nothing left to chance.”

“And the meal?”

“Turkey, with all the trimmings, just like you wanted.”

I smiled happily, as John made his way out, and I crossed out today’s date on my calendar. Just one more sleep left.

And tomorrow, I’d feast on turkey before being taken to the special room.

Where they’d strap me to the chair.

And light me up, for Christmas!

SERENDIPIDY

There’s only me left now, as for the rest of the colony: Dead, every last one of them.

It’s 2032, and Covid has ravaged the earth, those few of us surviving became the Regenesis Project: Humanity’s last ditch attempt to save the species by establishing a colony in space.

But now, they’re all dead.

Except me.

So, I did a test, and it seems I have it too, but I’m immune.

I’m just a carrier, a vector, a Typhoid Mary.

Although, I knew that before we left earth.

But there’s no way I’d miss a chance to be an astronaut!

TOM

What Could GO Possible Wrong 018

It was the center of all things. A pint glass with a duck on it. Pretty nondescript. Not your average temporal time vortex. But what real is ATTV? I could not give you an exact definition, and I am the narrator here. Best I can offer up is can said object a line multi D-s. So it was in three different time-space planes three sets of left hands held the duck shot glass a vector 0 0 0 0. All that was needed was a bit of Time Lords Joo-joo. When all the liquid blue disappeared, everyone was in place.

NORVAL JOE

“Come on,” Sabrina said and waved Billbert to follow her across the street. He had nothing else to do that afternoon so Billbert followed her into the corner store. It was small but they seemed to have some of everything.

Billbert followed her down aisle after aisle until they found the snack food section. Sabrina reached for a bag of popping corn. “Oh good. They have one left.”

Billbert scratched his head. “The thing you need for the ceremony tonight is popcorn?”

She rolled her eyes. “We want snacks afterwards, of course. I thought we could make some caramel corn.”

PLANET Z

Delivery drivers have computers on their dashboards, and the computers give them an optimized route to all of their deliveries.
More often than not, taking three right turns is faster than waiting to take a left turn.
When I see an Amazon or UPS or FedEx truck taking a left turn at a busy intersection, I know something weird is going on.
And when I see a delivery person wandering around the apartment complex, I know they’re completely clueless as to where any particular unit is.
The apartment complex hasn’t bothered making a map.
They’re too busy raising the rent.

Weekly Challenge #817 – STORE

(Some of you may have noticed that I make a lot more mistakes than usual… I’ll try to be more careful and take my time, but it’s… well… it’s complicated, eh.)

Love

LIZZIE

I am a good mother. I always bought good food for you. There was that time when you went to the store to buy bread, and when you came back you said no more. But why? And you said there was a tavern next door and the men looked at you funny… And I said what a wimp, that’s life, you need to get used to it. You were 12 and you had to toughen up. I’m a good mother. I taught you stuff you needed to survive. But now we don’t talk. And it’s all your fault… your fault.

RICHARD

The Old General Store

The old general store was a wonderful place. Run by Jake and Bessie Abbot, it was a real family business, a magical place, filled with wonders.

As a kid I used to wander round, seeing what treasures were hidden away in boxes, stashed on its many shelves and in dusty corners.

Whatever you wanted, they had had it.

Jake and Bessie passed away, the store was torn down and out of town developers bought the land.

Now, the old general store has been replaced with a massive Walmart.

It’s not a wonderful place, but whatever you want, they have it!

SERENDIPIDY

I put her in the cold store, it seemed the thing to do

Hung her from a meat hook; she was turning blue

Soon her struggles ended, I left her there some more

You cannot be too careful, and I wanted to be sure

I waited overnight, and then I took her down

Chopped her into pieces, the white meat and the brown

I packed her into boxes, and sent her in the post

To all her friends and family: The ones who loved her most

As for the leftovers, they were all for me

I had them

For tea!

TOM

What Could GO Possible Wrong 017

Park took store of the current situation backtracking to the moment Don Ford had sent him in motion. It felt as if weeks had passed. How did it all get so wacky? Who was that guy with the Don? Where was either of them? “He’s coming around said the bar keep, taking an advised steep or two away from the cuffs man. The man blinked, pulled at his arm. “You’re making a very dangerous move Sunny Jim,” snarled the man. Ford moved the duck pint glass towards him. “We’ll see.” And then they most assuredly did, the Liquid blue appeared.

NORVAL JOE

After the end of his last class, Sabrina followed Billbert out of the school.
Billbert scowled over his shoulder at the girl behind him. “Are you following me?”
She shook her head angrily. “If you would slow down, I could walk with you, and not just follow you. I need to get something from the store before we go to the ceremony tonight.”
Billbert stopped in his tracks. “Tonight? You expect me to be a part of your ceremony, just like that?”
Sabrina smiled. “No. Not just like that. I told you. I need to get something from the store.”

PLANET Z

Hamilton’s store had been in the neighborhood for years.
Until his phone told him that there was an alarm at his store.
He turned on the news, and he saw his store burning.
Watching the security camera company’s recordings in the cloud.
Recognizing his employees among the looters.
One of them had a can of gasoline.
He called a staff meeting at the burned-out store.
And when they showed up, he handed each an envelope.
Filled with Monopoly money.
The cops arrested the employees, insurance paid his claims.
And Hamilton moved away.
The building is still an abandoned burned-out shell.

Weekly Challenge #816 – BEE

Catnip

LIZZIE

I am a good mother. I fed you and took you to where you needed to go. I gave you books for school and I kept you clean. I was a busy bee till you became the annoying teenager you were. There was this time when you fell down the stairs and I did nothing, just watched. I hate interfering. I am a good mother. I put up with your friends till I managed to push them away from our house. They were too cheerful. Peace at last. But now we don’t talk. And it’s all your fault… your fault.

RICHARD

Honey

Old Tom’s honey was acclaimed for its quality, freshness and delicious flavour. Rumours abounded as to how he managed to achieve such consistent results, but nobody really knew how he did it.

So, I was recruited to infiltrate his farm, on the pretence of an apprenticeship, to learn his secrets at first hand, although I’ll confess, I’ve still no idea how he did it!

You see, Old Tom, could speak Bee!

He’d converse with them on the phone and they’d tell him the perfect time for harvesting.

So, I stole his phone.

And now I have my very own beeline!

SERENDIPIDY

They call me the Queen Bee, because I’ve modelled my dominion on the principle of the bee hive.

I sit at its centre, gorging myself on all that is good in life, whilst my lackeys and drones spend their lives attending to my every need.

They feed me, fan me and dance for me, and bring me the choicest gifts from far and wide.

There are those, of course, who will harbour jealousy.

But my soldiers are the best there are, and they will defend me against any assault.

Even though they know their death in combat is a certainty.

TOM

What Could GO Possible Wrong 016

Molly gave a glance at the Captain that spoke volumes. Ford noted a tiny motion in the captain’s hand, as he moved it from the pint glass towards his belt. Not good, thought Ford trying to untangle limbs to get a grip of his watch stem. It was time to get out of dodge, most likely with Molly in tow. In the middle of this slow-motion duel Molly dryly added the accelerant, “You’re the bee’s knees, deary” Now it was a race between the dagger and the watch. It would have been a tie but from the thickening liquid blue.

TURA

There’s a problem with bees dying off. Everything gets blamed: persistent insecticides, microplastics, endocrine disruptors, global warming, but no-one really knows why.

People say “be the change you want to see in the world”, but I think we’d should try genetic engineering, and change the bee we want to see in the world. But we’d have to choose the right strain to experiment on. We first need to see the bee we want to change in the world.

And we’d have to get the public on board. They have to see the change we want to be in the world.

NORVAL JOE

“That’s very interesting,” Billbert said. “I’m not sure what jelly fish and cloud formations have to do with me coming here. I’m sure the next thing you’ll tell me is a honey bee buzzed in your ear that I’m supposed to rescue a princess in a tower somewhere.”
Sabrina rolled her eyes. “Don’t be silly. There aren’t any captured princesses around here. What you need to do is accompany me to a secret rite of passage ceremony.”
Billbert swallowed. “A witch’s ceremony? What are the chances I’ll end up being turned into a frog?”
Sabrina frowned. “Not very high, really.”

PLANET Z

Wendy was as busy as a bee, her parents said.
But she was as nasty as a wasp.
From dawn to dusk, beating up her classmates for lunch money and homework.
Quizzes and tests all done for her by others.
Collecting bows and ribbons in her hair from all her conquests.
Her shoes, dress, and jacket… all taken in combat.
She graduated top of her class, but in college, failed miserably.
Expelled for bullying.
She ended up marrying a series of weak, little men.
When she’s rude to the nursing home staff, they park her wheelchair out in the rain.

Weekly Challenge #815 – PICK TWO Square, Unexpected message, Formation, The door flew open, Fret, Prediction, Jelly fish

Visitor

LIZZIE

The elderly home where she lived was… boring.
One day, the door to her room flew open and there he was, as handsome as ever.
“I have a message. In a minute, a man will show up and tell you something. Just say “yes”.
She nodded and wondered. Had he been activated? Odd thing at his age…
“How did you find me?”
“I have my sources.” He smiled. “Remember Prague?”
She smiled too.
“OK. Just say yes.” And he left.
A knock.
She opened the door. It was him again.
“Will you marry me?”
And all she said was “yes”.

RICHARD

Donuts

We were enjoying a mid-morning coffee and donuts when the door flew open and the Lieutenant burst into the office.

“Drop everything! We’ve just intercepted an unexpected message from the killer. If we act fast, we can nail him!”

The room cleared in moments, leaving just me and a box of donuts.

Casually, I typed the command into my computer that would remove all trace of the ‘intercepted’ email.

The killer was still at large, but now that the Lieutenant’s incompetence had been revealed to all. He’d be a laughing stock.

And my promotion would be a dead cert!

TURA

Isolation
———
In this Great Plague, everything you need is delivered by robots, excursions are strictly scheduled, and formations of drones patrol overhead everywhere. We live in fear of the day the door flies open, and a robot announces that it has detected an infection. Those visited are never seen again. But there’s no progress towards a cure or a vaccine.

The robots were programmed to enforce isolation. If we had a cure, we’d stop isolating. So they have to prevent that, by declaring an “outbreak” in any lab that succeeds.

But anyone saying this will be next in line for extermination.

DUANE

“Stand by for an incoming message.”

Nolan stared at the radio. This was quite unexpected. There was a strict schedule for messages. Breaking protocol meant it must be something important, or maybe it was a trap. Had the Dominion found out about this channel? The resistance had been careful not to arouse suspicion, but maybe there was an insider. The Dominion would stop at nothing to stomp out the resistance.

“Message commencing. There has been a breach. Do not leave your homes. Do not use this channel in the future.”

Shattering glass made Nolan curse as the door flew open.

TOM

What Could GO Possibly Wrong 014

Ford peeked judiciously over the table. The bottom of two boots caught his eye, along with the business end of a gun. One of his mates kicked the gun away. The boots didn’t move. Rising up Ford made his way towards the shooter. The man was out cold. “What that on your Face?” quipped the underclasses man. “Oh, looks like a pint glass with a duck, should have heeded the flight.” The barman appears with some industrial strength hand cuffs. “When he comes around will have a go at him.” said Max. Securing the perp to the brass bar rail.

What Could Go Possibly Wrong 015

The formation of the building was less that optimal. More a collection of smoldering beams, dotting with piaster and piping. In place amber were still warm. Cervantes pick amongst the rubble. A flash of light off a piece of glass. He picked it up. In spite of the destruction the pint glass was intact right down to the wanky duck. “Time to set you right,” said Cervantes to the wind and rain. “Time for some major fourth dimensional stacking. The time lord removed a egg timer from a vest pocket and turn it over in his palm. Liquid blue appeared.

NORVAL JOE

“Really,” Billbert said. “I lost everything in that fire, except the clothes on my back.”
“Don’t be silly,” Sabrina said. “It’s not your clothes we want from you, it’s something you can do.”
“I showed you what I can do, and that clearly freaked you out. Are you sure it’s me you want?”
Sabrina nodded. “Here’s what happened. I was on the beach looking for jelly fish when a cloud formation gave me an unexpected message. It said, ‘Don’t fret. Your missing piece is now available and on his way.’ The next day you walked up to me at school.”

SERENDIPIDY

There he stands, our All-Powerful Great Leader watching the assembled military might of our noble nation parading past in the vast square below.

A mass of uniforms marching by in formation, perfectly synchronised and orchestrated, then the ponderous rumble of the weapons of war. Tanks, missiles, rockets and guns: An unequivocal message to the watching world.

But today will be different.

The square falls silent as the assembly comes to a halt.

Turrets swivel, barrels are raised, and the sound of ten thousand rifles being brought to aim rings out.

And today’s parade will be our Exalted Leader’s last!

PLANET Z

I sat on a bench in the old town square.
Trees. Stores. A newspaper kiosk.
A church at one end, and the town hall at the other.
Sipping my beer, watching people walk by.
it’s supposed to rain today.
The church hangs a wooden white cloud in a window.
A sun for sunny, and so on.
But it’s not a forecast. Or a prediction.
The priests in the church, they pray for rain.
And it comes.
I keep coming here, hoping to see them hang the devil puppet in the window.
I will capture him, and show him no mercy.

Weekly Challenge #814 – What’s that on your face?

Gromblecakes

LIZZIE

The crow landed on the arm of the scarecrow.
“Well, I never,” thought the scarecrow.
The crow groomed himself and just sat there.
What on earth. They were supposed to be afraid of him.
A bit of wind made the crow flap the wings briefly.
This is really too much!
“Oh, what’s that on your face?” asked the crow.
What, what? The thing was talking!
“That’s so sweet. It’s a ladybird!”
A ladybird? Where, where?
The crow laughed. “You crossed your eyes!”
The scarecrow smiled.
“Friends? I promise not to eat the crops here.”
“Friends.”
And even the ladybird smiled.

RICHARD

Big Disgrace!

“What’s that on your face?” She asked, as I stumbled through the door.

“Oh my God, is it blood? What happened to you?”

It was a reasonable question: Bruised, bloodied and battered, my clothes in disarray, and stumbling over my own feet, I must have looked a state.

“I got mugged!”

She flung her arms around me, helped me into an armchair then poured me a large whisky.

My face hurt like hell, but my self-inflicted wounds were worth it.

The whisky would mask the booze on my breath, and she’d never notice the lipstick on my collar now!

DUANE

“Oh my god, Stan! What’s that on your face?”

“It’s No-Shave November, Linda. To grow awareness about cancer.”

“Nobody should see that. It’s going to scare small children and don’t you have another date with Ellen tonight?”

“Yeah, third date and you know what means. Oh, yeah!”

“Well, good luck with that on your face.”

Later that night…

“Dinner was wonderful Stan. Too bad it was raining. Or maybe not, huh? Let’s slip out of these wet clothes.”

“Ellen, you read my mind. Let’s just… Oh my god! What’s that?”

“What? Oh, come on silly, it’s No-Shave November!”

SERENDIPIDY

“And what’s that on your face, you evil little girl?”

“It’s a smirk, sir!”

Mr Johnson’s own face flushed so red I thought he might explode, which would have been a lot of fun, and delightfully messy, but unfortunately, he didn’t.

“It’s not a laughing matter!” He hissed, “I’ll be speaking to your parents about this.”

Good luck with that, I thought, he’d need a medium or an Ouija board to speak to either!

I couldn’t see what the big deal was: I’d only squished Milly, the school hamster, with my foot.

Maybe I should have squished Mr Johnson instead?

TURA

“What’s that on your face?”
———
Charlie woke up as usual one morning, but when he turned to his wife, she screamed in panic, “What’s that on your face?”

“What?” said Charlie, touching his face. Nothing seemed wrong, but by that time she had fled from the house without even dressing.

He looked in the bathroom mirror, but the glass fell off and shattered.

He got dressed and wandered outside. Everyone who saw him screamed and fled.

An approaching car suddenly accelerated towards him. The last thing he saw was the driver’s face, grimacing in terror.

So he never did discover what was on his face.

JARED

Never Underestimate a Good Editor

Few people have read Tolkein’s early drafts of The Hobbit. The versions of some iconic moments found there are quite different from what ended up in the published manuscript. Take the riddle contest between Bilbo and Golem in the tunnels of Goblin-town, for instance. Instead of Bilbo asking Gollum ‘What’s in my pocket?”, he points at Gollum, and asks “What’s that on your face?”

The scene ultimately still led to Bilbo winning the riddle battle, but had a lot more banal dialogue along the lines of ‘above your nose’, ‘below your eye’ and ‘no, no – the other side. Your left.’

NORVAL JOE

Billbert considered Sabrina’s words. She had said the weather witches wanted him in Eureka.
She asked, “What’s that on your face?”
Billbert wiped his lips. “What? Is there food on my mouth?”
Sabrina smiled now. “No. Not food. It’s the funny expression on your face. Why are you so surprised?”
Billbert shrugged. “You just said you and your fellow witches brought me here, to Eureka. I don’t know why you would want to do that.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Sabrina asked. “You have something we want.”
Billbert shook his head. “Everything I had burned in the fire.”
Sabrina smiled. “Not everything.”

PLANET Z

“What’s that on your face?” said my doctor.
He took out a tissue and tried to wipe it off.
When your doctor doesn’t know what something is, you know you’re in trouble.
He took biopsies and made slides, but nothing about it made sense.
Referrals to experts and specialists amounted to nothing.
It didn’t get any bigger. Or smaller. Or deeper.
It stayed the same color, which was… well,,, I can’t describe it.
But it was there.
It resisted all measure of drugs.
Eventually, my doctor prescribed me some makeup to cover it up.
“That solves that,” he said.

Weekly Challenge #813 – ARSON

Flop

TURA

Arson
———
“The rich are burning the planet! Burn them!” screamed the speaker.

“Burn everyone!” someone shouted. I glanced at my partner in the unmarked truck.

“Just one crazy in the crowd,” he said. “Besides, ‘everyone’ isn’t a race. Incitement to exterminate everyone is protected speech.”

“Burn the bankers!” the speaker continued. “Burn the politicians! Burn the Americans!” The crowd enthusiastically repeated every slogan.

“Got them!” I said. “If ‘American’ counts as a people these days.”

He briefly spoke with Control over the radio. “Confirmed, incitement to genocide, they’re officially over the line. ‘Any means necessary.’”

I started warming up the flamethrowers.

RICHARD

Arsonist

Take my advice and never let yourself fall for an arsonist.

When she came into my life, she was a spark that kindled a flame, that in time turned into a blaze of passion.

My desire for her burned fiercely: A fire that only intensified as our relationship blossomed, and consumed me completely, body, heart and soul.

But, unknown to me, her passion smouldered for another.

And, at the end, the embers of desire cooled and died.

Then, she snuffed me out, leaving me, burned out, charred, blackened and broken.

Hope, love and joy: Now cold ashes to the touch.

JESSICA

NO UNIFORMS IN OUR HOOD demanded the black spray paint scrawled on the siding of the luxury student housing still under construction in the informally, lovingly, appropriately named student ghetto.

When the message got scrubbed by the city’s Office of Community Beautification, the punks turned up the heat.

When the inferno scorched the developer’s dreams, the first responders doused the Molotov cocktail’s agenda.

The complex rebuilt, more law enforcement cruisers cruised, and some punks visited the other punks serving sentences for arson.

Twenty-five years later, the student ghetto is unrecognizable under its layers of regularly maintained postage-stamp yards and Ring Cameras.

LIZZIE

The box sat on the floor. Everyone was quiet, imagining the potential level of devastation it could cause.
“I thought we were torching the place,” said one of them. “These are… well, ammunition for whatever war weapon. We don’t have that weapon, do we?”
The question made them snort.
“We could get it,” another ventured.
“It must cost a fortune.”
Everyone mumbled. Destroying the place for the insurance was far more complicated than they had anticipated.
“I don’t understand… Why don’t we torch the place? Done.”
Yep, he was done alright.
Let’s face it. Simple solutions aren’t always the most fun.

SERENDIPIDY

He used to laughingly refer to my cooking as arson, poking fun at the meals that I’d slaved over in the kitchen all day long, proudly presented to him for his evening meal.

Burnt offerings, he called them.

Before grabbing his phone and ordering pizza.

Apparently, I couldn’t hold a candle to his mother’s culinary skills, and no matter what I served, he always found fault.

Too spicy, too bland, too boring, too tasteless.

Well, maybe I couldn’t hold a candle to his mother; but I could certainly hold a candle to his bed sheets.

Perfectly cooked, to a crisp!

DUANE

It was fall of ’81 as I sat in the club office going over the books. People were starting to say disco was dead and by the numbers in front of me I had no choice but to agree.

Outside I heard the DJ spinning The Tramps, “Disco Inferno”.

Just a few years ago the club was filled every night with foxy ladies and well-dressed men, all dancing and having fun. But that was then. Tonight I’m in over my head unless I can do something drastic. The music begins to mix with my thoughts.

“Burn that mother down…”

TOM

What Could GO Possible Wrong 013

With Molly draped across his chest Ford keep a steady eye on the company. He racked his brain for the where-s and why-s he had stored away on the man. Round-head motivation was pretty simple: Round-head smash. Quick and brutal, but the guy shooting dagger at him was a bit up scale. A thinking man’s round-head: a man with a plan. Wait … this fellow would later server in Parliament. Yes, he was the mastermind for the “More Incident”. There was a famous quote about that, what was it? “With comes fire”. Arson was the name of the game. Damn.

NORVAL JOE

Billbert didn’t believe Sabrina. “You say you brought us here. We came to Eureka because our house burned down. Are you saying you set the fire?”
Sabrina shook her head. “We are not into arson. We only took advantage of the situation brought on by Nuclear Fusion. She started the fire. We influenced those in command to send you here.”
“You mean, to have my parents here,” Billbert tried to clarify.
Sabrina shrugged. “Yeah. Well. You wouldn’t have come here, if your parents hadn’t been relocated to this local office. But, it’s you we need to have here, not them.”

JARED

WC 813: Arson
Unintended Consequences and Loopholes

In order to curtail witch burnings and other criminal acts of conflagration, they declared by law any intentional fire was Arson. A couple centuries later, enforcement was revived to curtail cross-burning and other racist terrorism. Recently, some crooked folks started targeting their enemies by prosecuting them for having barbecues. We added an exemption for cooking fires.

Claude’s butcher shop wasn’t doing well, so he put plates and utensils on a table outside. He used charcoal and lighter fluid to fuel the fire, and served up the inventory as it cooked. He sold the cooked meat and got the insurance payout.

€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€
WC 812 Unsure
Uncertainty Abounds

We didn’t know why she was in such pain.

They found a tumor and abdominal abscess. They started chemo.

She developed a fever. They found the abscess returned. They also found out the cancer had spread into her bones. They didn’t know why the chemo hadn’t worked, but they tried another approach.

She thought her back pain was from her improvised work-from-home-station. We bought an office chair and a portable desk. Then she thought it was her 20-year-old mattress, so we bought a new one. It persisted all the same. Now we are waiting for a kyphoplasty in three weeks.

€€€€€€€€€€€€€€€

PLANET Z

The city is beautiful and old,
But the buildings, well, they’re all replicas.
The original buildings from centuries ago were all destroyed in the war.
After the war, rubble was cleared, and new buildings were built.
All replacements of the originals, based on the original blueprints.
Well, they did make small changes to allow for indoor plumbing, and electrical outlets and conduits, and air conditioning and central heating.
But they didn’t allow for another war.
The city was leveled again.
They’d have rebuilt it again, but everyone was killed in the war, and there was nobody left to rebuild it.

Weekly Challenge #812 – UNSURE

Tinny vs Lion

KELLY

She knew she loved him. Even though she knew from the beginning not to. He really did give her every reason to run, but the young woman wanted so badly to love him for who he was. After a long time, a child, lots of pets, oh…and that terrible time in the ICU, she still tried and tried. Giving all, but receiving nothing in return…she was left alone. Nearly 29 years of marriage and a real hit to her sanity…he left her…because he was unsure of who he was and now all is lost. Goodbye forever.

RICHARD

Unsure

Unsure: The new fragrance for men!

Do you struggle to impress women? Do you lack confidence? Do social situations make you feel awkward?

Unsure for men will change your life!

Spray it all over, and its long-lasting fragrance of despair and desperation, with subtle undertones of longing and wistfulness will make you irresistible to the fairer sex!

What woman could resist the urge to mother and smother you in the kind of affection that only pity can inspire?

How can she possibly withstand that sweet, sad, smell of helplessness?

Unsure: Because you’re not worth it, but she can’t help herself!

LIZZIE

He thought he had led a good life until someone from out of town whispered something in his ear. It wasn’t easy to upset him and yet here he was, panicking. He took the fish from the lines where it was drying and hid it in a bag. He looked at his hands and felt the need to wash them, frantically, obsessively. But he just stood there. And he wondered… He wondered if the stranger really knew what he had done, traveling through space but, above all, through time, that time he had so desperately tried to run away from.

SERENDIPIDY

I started a new business in unsurance sales.

No, you didn’t mishear that, I really did say unsurance.

You see, the problem with todays’ woke snowflake generation, is that there’s very little to worry about. There’s always an insurance policy to fall back on in case of loss, damage or theft.

There’s no risk, no sense of danger, and no element of fear.

And I’m out to change all that.

Buy one of my policies, and I can guarantee you’ll be pretty unsure about anything that might happen in the future.

Particularly, since I specialise in policies for life unsurance!

DUANE

I’m kind of unsure how I got here. I surely wasn’t smarter than anyone else. I hadn’t come from money or had any real advantages. So how did I get here? I guess it was the choices I made in life. I took years deciding what profession to pursue. Spent hours determining what wear to the interview. Choices of hair and eye color.

The receptionist hands me a form to fill out. Name? I’ll go with Martin. David. No, Joshua. Date of Birth? Should I be old or young? Thirty-five seems reasonable. Sex? “Excuse me, could we reschedule for tomorrow?”

TOM

What Could Go Possible Wrong 012

Rolling to the floor unsure of the direction of the shooter Parker tilted the table above him. To his left and right he could see his mate seeking safety. A volley again, some rattling the table top, other piecing wood impacting the floor around him. Weapon thought Parker, something, anything. All he had was the pint glass in his hand. Was the last thing he would see a blurred shadow on a glass. No, not a shadow a form. The form of a water fowl wrapped about the glass. He cocked an arm blindly and letting fly. Duck he yelled

NORVAL JOE

Not entirely clear on what a weather witch was, Billbert asked Sabrina. “Do you honestly believe you control what the weather does?”
Clearly not unsure of herself, Sabrina said, “Of course we do, among other things.”
“Other things? Like what?” Billbert asked, skeptically.
“We know things about people and we can affect them. Like you and your family. I know about you, your schedule at school, where you live. We brought you here.”
Billbert couldn’t accept this claim. “You brought us all the way from Fresno?”
She smiled and shook her head. “Don’t lie. I know you’re not from Fresno.”

PLANET Z

Most kids asked Santa for bikes or dolls or footballs.
That kind of thing.
For Christmas, Ellie wanted the truth.
“Are you sure you don’t want a puppy?” asked her parents.
Santa looked over the letter and sat back in his chair.
“You want the truth?” said Santa. “Okay. You’ll get the truth.”
So, while other kids were opening boxes with their bikes or dolls and footballs, Ellie opened a box and got the truth.
“It’s empty,” said Ellie, turning the box over and shaking it. “There’s nothing in it.”
Santa watched from the window, and vanished into the snow.