Weekly Challenge #730 – DENDRITE

Myst

LIZZIE

“…neurotransmitters that communicate with the dendrites,” said the professor standing in front of a large group of students. She didn’t need a class on Biology, but she didn’t feel like having to wait in the cold for two hours. So, she’d joined that class. Things took a bad turn though when the professor asked her about the damn dendrites and the only thing she could think of was “…stress induces atrophy of apical dendrites”. She had no clue where she had read that, but everyone seemed impressed. She smiled and decided that, from then on, she’d wait in the cold.

RICHHARD

Flight 82

We flew low over the delta, the dendrite-like pattern of rivulets growing ever wider as we approached the coast. The sun, dipping low on the far horizon, glinted from the ocean: natural sparkles of light, guiding us toward our destination.

Banking steadily to the West, we saw the distant shadow of land emerging from the twilight. A thrill of anticipation passed through the cabin. Not long to go now, thoughts turned inwards and we fell into a pensive silence.

Within minutes we were at our destination.

Slowly, I reached out and clasped the lever.

And the bomb dropped silently.

SERENDIPIDY

“Hold still, just a little scratch, nothing to worry about.”

He squeezed his eyes tightly shut, but felt nothing. I knew he wouldn’t.

I dropped the syringe into the dish, and smoothed a plaster over the wound.

“All done!” I said brightly.

He opened his eyes, which widened in horror as black dendrite tendrils began to spread through beneath his skin.

“What have you done?” He gasped.

“No idea”, I replied, snapping off the latex gloves. “I’m a patient here! I imagine the doctor will work it out though… If he makes it in time.”

“Get well soon”, I winked!

TURA

Report on the planet Procyon II: executive summary

————————————

Transmissions from the recent failed robotic exploration mission indicate that the crust consists almost entirely of dendrite: rock suffused with fine, branching veins. Natural optical fibres channel sunlight down to a depth of at least one hundred metres, fuelling complex patterns of electrical activity.

The entire planet is, in effect, the brain of a thinking entity, apparently able to direct lightning storms and laser blasts of unknown origin. It is not known whether it has any sense of identity, or if communication with it is possible.

Missions to the Procyon system are therefore prohibited pending the development of containment protocols.

TOM

Just a Quiet to Endure

“It is the brain, the little gray cells on which one must rely. One must seek the truth within–not without.” Said the sage Poirot. I ponder that after I finally found the Sunshine Acid in the green shag carpet. It took the better part of two hours, but I was seriously motivated. I was an old hand at the Psychedelic experience. Forest, boardwalk, outside the police department, don’t ask. Never got around to Disneyland, oh and Fantasia too. Might do that tomorrow night. Two tabs of Owsley in fridge. Yup take those little dendrites for stroll down memory lane.

NORVAL JOE

Mr. Wienerheimer followed his wife and son to the front door. “Am I the one missing a few dendrites? How does this make any sense? People have seen Billbert’s super powers. It’s sure to get around.”
Billbert’s mother put a hand on her husband’s shoulder. “Listen, Pookie. A few children saw Billbert fly. If they tell someone, who’s going to believe them? They’re just kids.”
Billbert didn’t wait for his father’s response and ran up the stairs to his room. He got out his phone and sent a text to Linoliumanda. “Remember. We got a ride home from the dance.”

PLANET Z

Professor Dendrite referred to himself as Doctor Odd’s nemesis.
He put it on his business cards, a bumpersticker on the Dendritemobile.
He added it to the description of his secret hideout on Google Maps.
His voicemail message said:
“Hi there, this is Professor Dendrite, Doctor Odd’s nemesis, I can’t come to the phone right now, but please leave a message or send me a text, okay?”
But Doctor Odd never acknowledged the relationship.
This infuriated Dendrite.
“If you don’t add me, I’ll destroy New York,” he treatened.
“Go ahead,” said Odd. “It’ll save me the time to do it myself.”

Weekly Challenge #729 – NOT

Zzzzzzzzz

LIZZIE

Don’t.
Don’t go.
Don’t go for a walk.
Don’t.
Don’t go to the beach.
No, don’t swim.
Don’t sit and bury your fingers in the golden sand.
Don’t build castles and little houses that will crumble with the tide, and mountains with little steps on the side so little imaginary people could climb them safely, their toes feeling the warmth of the sun as they tread upwards.
Don’t .
Don’t stand so close.
Don’t sneeze and laugh and cough.
Don’t breathe.
Don’t wrap your arms around a sad shoulder.
Don’t breathe.
Don’t take things for granted.
Don’t breathe.
Don’t be…
Don’t.

RICHARD

Reverse Psychology

Reverse psychology: It’s clever stuff, at least that’s what they tell me.

If you want to convey a message, tell someone the opposite, and they won’t believe you; if you want someone to press the button, put a big sign over it saying, ‘Do NOT press this button’.

The trouble is, I know from bitter experience, it doesn’t work.

“Do you love me?”, asked the wife.

“No, I don’t!”, I replied with conviction.

“Well, do you want a divorce?”

“Yes, Absolutely!”

“You swine. I should give you a swift kick in the balls!”

“Please, do.”

Reverse psychology? It doesn’t work!

SERENDIPIDY

I’m not a people person.

Not the life and soul of the party.

Not the outgoing, gregarious fun seeker.

Not someone you’d want to share a long journey with.

I’m not your acquaintance.

Not your colleague.

Not your friend.

I am not.

But I could be.

So why not knock on my door.

Come on in, sit down, and share a drink.

Spend some time, tell me all about yourself.

And then.

Just maybe.

If I like you.

You’ll get to know.

What I really am.

But, I’m very sorry to say, by then it will be far too late.

TOM

In pajamas all day

Mark and Ann were progressive parents, who practiced progressive parenting. Not one’s willing to introduce negative speak patterns into their toddler Timmy they chose to use the word: not instead of the word: no. The hope was it would lay the ground work for reasoning framework that would serve a non-binary outcome, over ego driven self absorbent deflection. We are after all in the age or Trump. The initial interaction with Timmy proved promising. But when Timmy got his tiny hand on the family hand gun, the Not experiment was discontinued. Sadly Timmy had already sent his parents to the cornfield.

NORVAL JOE

Billbert stood in the driveway, folding his arms across his chest. “I’m not going to pack my stuff up. I’m not going to move. I’m going to stay right here.”
His mother put her arm around her husband’s waist. “Come on, Hosmer. Let’s give it some time. Maybe Billbert’s super powers won’t get around, this time.”
“It’s not safe, Honey Buns,” Mr. Wienerheimer said, obviously losing his determination. “People will want to take advantage of the boy.”
“We’ll keep a careful watch,” his mother assured.
Billbert had just dodged a bullet, but he needed to talk to Linoliumanda right away.

PLANET Z

After years of declining voter turnout and ugly negative campaigns, the elections commission racked their brains for a solution.
“We’re changing the ballots,” said the head commissioner. “Instead of voting for a candidate, you will vote against them.”
People cheered the changes.
Candidates increased their negative campaigning.
The media went gangbusters over it, slinging even more mud.
And then came Election Day.
People flocked to the polls.
And then… the results were announced.
“Nobody wins!” said the head commissioner. “Everybody loses!”
The commissioner then ran to the airport to catch a flight to somewhere that wasn’t such a fucked-up mess.

Weekly Challenge #728 – PICK TWO: to hell with the critics, selfie, jute, impossible, do the needful, icon

Sleep

So, I totally forgot a cat photo last week… I make at least one mistake every week, whether it’s the cat photo or not changing pitch on Planet Z or copy-pasting a topic wrong. It happens, and life goes on.

LIZZIE

The radio was on and a tired voice repeated their names. These were the names of poor souls lost forever.
The authorities tried to warn everyone. No one cared. Everyone continued to do as they had always done.
The tears came first. They thought it was due to too much exposure to flash lights.
And then they simply disappeared into thin air, as happened when the light is turned off and darkness takes over.
The radio repeated the names because they were considered missing persons, but they weren’t missing. They were gone. They were gone into unbearably impossible killer selfies.

RICHARD

Review

“To hell with the critics!” I shouted, throwing the newspaper across the room, I stomped to the drinks cabinet, and poured myself a large whisky.

What did they know about acting anyway? Closeted away with their typewriters in their smoke filled offices, and only let out when the editor wanted fresh blood to spill across the theatre pages.

Every director knows it’s an impossible task to impress a critic, besides, it wasn’t even me at fault: The cast was rubbish.

Resolute, I headed back to the rehearsal, I’d make those kids perform a decent nativity play, if it killed me!

SERENDIPITY

“Mind if I take a selfie with you?”

I knew you’d agree. I’m sure it’s something you get asked countless times a day; one of the downsides of being a screen icon. Yet still, you wrap an arm around the shoulders of your adoring fan, and smile happily for the camera.

But, surprisingly, you’re not smiling now?

I know the cable ties are painfully tight, and the bruises will now be starting to throb, but surely you can make the effort to squeeze out one little smile?

It’s only a selfie, after all.

And I am your number one fan.

TOM

Soon Cabin Fever Will Take ME

Bernie want to do the impossible selfie. Something so beyond the pale it would leave the great part of the world slack jaw in wonder. The first order of business is where to take the shot. The next was who should be in the frame, for though selfie implies singularity, it is all but that, include a vast array to persons. The last element is the distribution of this seminal work of art. You might think the net would be the logical place, so pre Corona. Viral is the new viral. Bernie is calling it Bernie 19. Not funny dude.

NORVAL JOE

Billbert and his father watched the Fararri drive away. “Okay son. I know you’re young and you didn’t mean to do anything wrong. But the mistake was made and now you have to do the needful thing and go pack up your room. We’ll be in another state by Monday morning.”
“This is impossible, Dad. I’m a teenager. I can’t just pack up and move,” Billbert whined. “I’ve got friends here, and a math test on Monday.”
Mr. Wienerheimer shook his head. “It goes with the territory. Maybe next time you’ll be a little more discrete when using your powers.”

PLANET Z

How do you take a selfie?
Simple, really.
Hold up the phone, tap the reverse camera icon, and smile.
You can put your phone on a selfie stick and use voice commands, too.
But a lot of places ban selfie sticks. They’re dangerous, right?
And people will use voice commands on you.
“Put away that selfie stick!” for example.
Maybe they’ll take it away and break it.
Maybe they’ll grab it and try to shove it up your ass.
As you lay there, in agony…
People will run up to you.
Not to help. But take a selfie with you.

Weekly Challenge #727 – DEVICE

LIZZIE

“This is a magical device. You open it and things jump at your face and hit your eyes. As you touch it, you may have an allergic reaction and sneeze, especially if the device is quite old. But… beware. You must hide it. You must hide it carefully. This device was brought to us millions and millions of years ago by the humans.”
“What could jump out of it?”
“Dust.”
“Human dust?”
Nods.
“But also words, and ideas, and doubts, and questions.”
“Human questions?”
“No, just questions.”
“Will they make me smile?”
“Yes, they’ll make you smile a human smile.”

RICHARD

Call me…

“The hand-held device is dead!”

The guy on the stage beamed broadly at us, as we waited expectantly for our first view of the iPhone 25XL.

Unexpectedly, an x-ray picture appeared on the screen.

“This,” he continued, “is my body, which through applied nanotechnology, takes all the functionality of a traditional phone, and organically manipulates my body to replicate them.”

“My ears – programmed to receive calls… My eyes, to capture images… And my brain offers unlimited storage capacity!”

“It is a work in progress though…” – he looked sheepish.

“You really don’t want to know where we plug the charger in!”

ZACKMANN

Good news, I got my children to listen to The Mutual Audio Drama Network podcast. Bad news, when Jack talked about things people could do in isolation my children just heard the “Practice Magic” part and nothing else on his list. Sadly, when I left them to their own devices they summoned a demon into our garage. .

Not sure what to do. The demon offered me great wealth for half of what remains of the Costco size bag of toilet paper in the garage which I bought before the quarantine because it thinks it can buy a soul per roll.

SERENDIPIDY

Your train is fitted with a device which locks both doors and brakes in the event of a breakdown. This is why you are currently stationary and cannot leave the train.

The train heading towards you at seventy miles per hour is also fitted with a safety device, which will automatically apply the brakes in good time if an obstacle is detected on the track ahead.

Unfortunately for you, I have disabled that device.

I therefore regret to inform you that your next stop will be the afterlife.

Please have tickets ready for inspection, as death passes along the carriage.

TOM

ONE more Be-Day

A wise guy once said: How can yous know de holy unless yous known the de vice. I think dat was de Marquis de Sade, but de quotes was: In order to know de virtue, we must first acquaint ourselves with de vice. His acquaints must come from Brooklyn. Nay is think they’re from Jersey Shores. Will that explains the de vice part those guys down there are pretty twisted bunch. Ya, I knew this girl from Seaside Heights the things she could do with a Bic lighter would make your eye roll back in your head. AAh Sweet de vile.

TURA

Device
——–
Ever since near-disasters with self-improving AI, the Ministry of Devices exercises strict control over the ingenuity of inventors. Anything that can make more of itself is forbidden. Nothing may run indefinitely without human intervention. Turing completeness is especially outlawed. Machines must be simple, understandable devices, performing clear, limited tasks, and dependent on human supervision.

Even then, unforeseen combinations of devices on occasion produce an emergent mind, and then we battle to prevent it from consuming us for its own unknowable purposes.

A machine to analyse the entire device ecosystem to prevent this would necessarily be the most forbidden of all.

NORVAL JOE

“Before you go, look at this,” Billbert’s dad said, taking a pen from his pocket and holding it up.
Marissa covered her eyes and ran for the car. “Don’t look at it dad. It’s a memory wiping device.”
Mr. Albroggetti scowled. “It’s just a pen.”
“Is it?” Mr. Wienerheimer asked. “Have you never seen, Men in Black?”
“I don’t waste my time with garbage like that,” Mr. Albroggetti said.
“Good.” The top of the pen flashed a blinding blue light.
Bilbert’s father took Mr. Albroggetti by the arm. “Thanks for coming over,” he said, guiding the man to his car.

PLANET Z

We found the device on the dark side of the moon.
Buried under tons of rock.
There were instruction on how to power it and activate it.
But nothing about what it did.
No matter how much we examined it, we couldn’t figure it out.
People speculated, but nobody really knew.
The technology was just far too beyond ours to understand.
So, we buried it again.
And built a relay station on top of it.
Nobody will know it’s there.
Or ever be tempted to use it.
I’ve set this shuttle’s engines to explore on liftoff.
Nobody will tell anything.

Weekly Challenge #726 – GULF

Asleep

RICHARD

Breakfast betrayal

“I sense a gulf growing between us”, she said.

Lowering my newspaper, I looked at her quizzically, “I’m not sure what you mean…”

She sighed, placing the coffee pot on the table. “You’re not like you used to be; you’ve grown distant; you don’t want to talk to me anymore and when you look at me… It’s as if I mean nothing to you.”

I shrugged – “I don’t know what to say, but how about you rustle me up an omelette?”

It was time to change my breakfast diner – these waitresses were getting just a little too friendly.

LIZZIE

The tour of the Gulf was such a nice idea. The fresh air, the birds flying close-by. The tour of the Gulf was also cheap. No one wanted fresh air and rain, birds flying close-by and pooping.
So, they embarked.
“Wonderful adventure”, “Unique opportunity”, “An experience you’ll never forget”.
Yes, it sure was unforgettable, especially when the boat tilted dramatically to one side and people screamed at the top of their lungs, scaring the poor birds away. Fresh air was something difficult to find too. Everyone was sick and bird poop was not exactly the worst thing happening that day.

SERENDIPIDY

I am the bridge.

I bridge the gulf between assurance and horror, between hope and desperation, between prosperity and poverty.

Take my hand and I will lead you across the abyss; let me show you a new life: A new world order, a world where nothing will ever be the same again.

Walk my pathway and let me educate you in my ways, allow me to release the inhumanity in your soul – permit me to break you and bend you to my will.

Submit to me and cower at my name.

My name is fear, my name is…

Covid19

TOM

This is a gulf ball. Don’t you mean a golf ball? Nope a gulf ball. Looks like a golf ball, round, white, dimples. Look carefully, Closer, Clarisse. It says Tampa CC. Yup. So. Look at this one. It says Miami CC. Now you see. NO. This is an Atlantic Ball and this is a Gulf Ball. What? It’s the water. W-a-t-e-r? Did you flunk geography in High School? You’ve never been to Florida? Didn’t think so. Let me break this down, ocean big body of water, gulf small body of water. Oh I get it. That’s a gulf golf ball.

TURA

Gulf
———
In my plane, I enjoyed imagining that the cloud layer below is actually land, vast continents with unfathomable gulfs between them. What civilisations flourish on those thousand-mile cliffs, and fight and decay and flourish again?

Then a bird strike took out an engine and half a wing. I was fighting for hours to bring it down. Those landscapes opened up like a fractal, detail within detail within detail. Finally I hit ground, and staggered from the wreck.

That was a long time ago. I can hardly believe now that I came from a tiny rocky ball orbiting a fusion reactor.

NORVAL JOE

Marissa’s eyes went wide. “What do you mean by a memory wipe? Does it hurt?”

Billbert’s dad shrugged. “Yeah. It hurts a lot while it’s happening, but then, you don’t remember afterward. Thus, the term, memory wipe. It was a technique we developed during the gulf war and Desert Storm for people who learned what our government was really doing.”

Mr. Albraggetti sniffed. “He’s lying Marissa. They can’t do something like that.”

Billbert’s dad nodded. “Yup. It is a pretty far fetched idea. Kind of like being able to fly.”

Marissa gulped. “I think we should just go home, dad.”

PLANET Z

On some maps, it’s called The Persian Gulf.
On other maps, it’s called The Arabian Gulf.
It depends where you’re from.
Arab governments that hate Iran call it the Arabian Gulf.
While most of the rest of the world call it the Persian Gulf.
Even though most of the rest of the world also hate Iran.
It’s also called The Gulf of Basra by a few.
And also, just The Gulf.
Which Gulf?
You know… The Gulf.
And then they whisper “The Persian Gulf.”
Or point to it on a map, put their finger on their nose, and they wink.

Weekly Challenge #725 – GATE

Work from home?

RICHARD

The Park

The old man smiled at us, and threw his arms open in an expansive gesture, beckoning us forward with his distinctive cane, topped with the amber handle.

This was the moment we’d all been waiting for… All the secrecy, all the hype and all the intrigue had led to this moment.

He paused, then smiled again: “Welcome to Silurian Park!”

The great gate swung open and the vehicles rolled through.

The press reception afterwards was subdued.

“So, no dinosaurs then?”

“Well, no. They came much later… But you have to admit the ferns and lichen are all pretty impressive, huh?”

LIZZIE

At the gate, the entangled cables covered the walls and sneaked through. No one knew what they were for, and no one asked. As the days went by, more cables appeared, increasing the entanglement of the hopelessly entangled mess.
And then came the kid. He unplugged all the cables, straightened them up, and plugged them all back in. It took him a while too. But he was pleased with himself. He smiled and walked away.
No one in town had the heart to complain about the hours with no power. But they did make sure to avoid any future entanglements.

SERENDIPIDY

It’s not very impressive, is it?

Satan shrugged. “You can blame the budget cuts for that”, she snorted.

The new gate into hell, was just a little disappointing – it was the cheapest the local DIY store had in stock, and someone had bent the hinges during the fitting, so now it wouldn’t close properly.

“Maybe some positive PR?” I suggested. “Call it ‘The Portal to the Abyss’, or something? Anyway, once the everlasting torture starts, who’s going to care?”

Satan, slowly shook her head. “Yeah, about the torture thing… We’re downgrading to ‘a good telling-off’. Budget cuts, I’m afraid!”

TOM

The GATE

To get to the gate, you had to cross the bridge of sighs, descend the 1000 iron steps of forgiveness, swim the river of sorrow, tunnel through the mountain of memories, fill out form aw/42— 1066e, clear your mind of all thoughts, change out of yesterday’s underwear, run without scissors, slowly back-out of the room, meet you half way, stand on a corner Winslow, Arizona, It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me Come on, baby, don’t say maybe. I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me.
Attachments area

TURA

Gate
———
The great doors open only at festivals. On ordinary days the congregation enter by the door within the door, the wicket gate. Others enter by the wicked gate, and pass among the congregation unseen, except by the priest. In vain he tries to exorcise and seal the wicked gate, and in vain he preaches to the congregation to awake and witness the demons. Even the Eucharist is without power to dispel them, and he despairs.

For this world is but the refuse of the Resurrection, an unwinding clockwork imagining itself to live on, the drying cocoon of a departed butterfly.

NORVAL JOE

Marissa slapped her father’s arm. “Daddy. It doesn’t matter how he flies, I just want to fly with him.”
Just then, Billbert’s father came through the gate to the side yard, smiling. “Did someone say something about flies? Do you know what has six wheels, and flies?”
Mr. Albraggetti rolled his eyes. “Garbage trucks have eight wheels around here. And, your son is going to take my daughter flying.”
“What do I do, dad?”
His father shrugged. “Go ahead son. We’ll have the agency come around later and do a memory wipe. But, then we’ll have to move away, again.”

DAVID

My wife, my children are gone. Ash and smoke are all that remain. This land belongs to the shades. A fiery anger rages within me and if I don’t turn away from my fury. I too will be consumed and lost. Will my heart of flesh turn to stone? I surveyed what was our home. The gate to my hell house still stands. My anger finds its target and it shall not prevail. I push it over with ease. It does not give me the pleasure I seek. My sorrow overtakes me and I violently sob uncontrollably as angels descend.

PLANET Z

Yeah, they took our temperatures as we boarded.
But all through the flight, a guy’s hacking and coughing in Economy.
He’d been told to self-quarantine, but he didn’t listen.
Typical.
The pilot had announced that we would be changing gates on arrival.
We’d be met by airport security and put under quarantine for the virus.
“Why the fuck did you let that asshole on?” shouts a guy in First Class.
While everyone’s arguing with the flight attendant, I reach into the storage compartment, get out the demonstration seat belt, and loop it around his neck.
At least he’ll stop coughing.

Weekly Challenge #724 – TINFOIL

Laptinny

RICHARD

Tinfoil

I covered my walls in tinfoil so my enemies couldn’t find me, but fearful that I needed more, I extended it throughout the house, and covered the windows and doors in a double layer.

Still concerned, I wrapped the garden, followed by the exterior of the house – you can’t be too careful, after all.

But I was still vulnerable in the outside world. So I tinfoiled my car, made tinfoil clothing and carried a roll of tinfoil with me wherever I went.

Within a matter of days, my enemies had found me.

“What gave me away?” I asked them.

LIZZIE

I recall the fresh sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil, the extra juice in a clear bottle, Agatha Christie’s books packed in twos just in case I could read a whole book in a few hours.
The stubborn folded chairs, the clean towels, and the golden sand, sneaking through the seams.
The waves, the wind, and the seagulls fluttering about, announcing a storm.
“It’s your turn,” someone said.
I look at my pieces and I have nothing but an apple. The tray beams with words, but my only thought is… The sun still shines. They are gone… But the sun still shines.

TURA

Tinfoil
———
Did you know that tinfoil isn’t actually made of tin any more? The aliens have got wise to it, y’see. They can’t broadcast thoughts into your head through tin, so they’ve replaced all the tinfoil in the world by this alien metal called al-u-min-um. What sort of word is that, ancient Egyptian? They’ve even put a whole fake history of al-u-min-um into Wikipedia. Still called tinfoil but it’s transparent to their thought control rays.

Anyway, I’ve got a source of genuine tinfoil, rarer than gold these days. Buy one of my proper tinfoil hats, wake up and see the Matrix.

SERENDIPIDY

They laughed at Old George in the ramshackle house at the end of the street, with his crazy theories and his tinfoil hat.

They’re not laughing now.

They laughed when he told them the government were beaming microwaves into our brains, frying our minds and controlling our thoughts.

They laughed even more when he spoke of the coming new world order, and how the reptile overlords in positions of power would one day compel us to be their slave drones.

Yes, they laughed at Old George in his tinfoil hat.

But, believe me, not one of them is laughing now.

TOM

Led Me To Your Taker

NORVAL JOE

You see that guy over there with the tinfoil on his head? It look quite fashionable, in a retro sort of way. No, why is he wearing a tinfoil hat? To prevent alien thought control from turning him into zombie meat puppet slave, who will blindly do the bidding of his overlords the Zorss. Come to think of it that might not be a bad idea. I’ll ask him if he has any spear foil. So Ruby wanders over to the guy. They talk. He come back all disappointed. What I ask. He said it boast the signal from his planet.

As Billbert approached the Fararri, Marissa and an older man, who looked like he might be her father, got out to meet him.
The man held out his hand, not to shake, but to stop Billbert in his tracks. “I’m Joey Albragetti. My daughter says that you can fly. Before I let you take her for a ride, tell me, how do you do it?”
Billbert cleared his throat. “I wear a plastic bag. It gives me super powers.”
Mr. Albragetti scoffed. “Right. And I wear a tinfoil hat to communicate with space aliens. Tell me the truth, boy. Now.”

PLANET Z

I remember when we had to wrap tinfoil around the radio antenna to get a better signal.
The same worked for the television antenna when we wanted to get a better picture
So, why were people wrapping their heads in it to block signals from the spy satellites flying overhead?
Based on experience with radio and television, you’d think people would realize that amplifies signals, not blocks them.
Instead of keeping the government out of their heads, they were making it easier for the government to read their minds.
Not that they had anything in there worth reading, mind you.

Weekly Challenge #723 – PICK TWO: contest, hop to it, toys, pain, treading water, protect

Vet

LIZZIE

The End of the Rope

“Tie a knot and hang on… I’ll tie a knot around their necks. Be happy and blah blah blah…”
She was grumpy all the time. The neighbors would always scatter away in all directions, hiding from her.
And then came a bird. She scared it away, but the bird came back, again and again. And it brought a little twig, then another, and soon there was a nest. And baby birds!
She opened a bit of the window and gave the mommy some seeds she had bought.
No one could believe it when, one day, she simply said “Good morning!”.

RICHARD

Hot stuff!

She suggested ‘spicing things up a little’ to restore our flagging relationship. I, being naive, surprised her with a meal at a Thai restaurant: Apparently, not the sort of spice she had in mind.

I’ll never forget the night she introduced me to her new ‘toys’ – for all the wrong reasons.

I can still remember the sickly sweet smell of lubricant, and the slimy feeling as she applied it in places that I myself would only venture from necessity.

But, above all, the horrific pain as we realised she’d mistakenly applied chilli oil instead of lube…

Now, that’s spicy!

TOM

In The End Its Really About the Toys —The contest is simple: He Who Has The Most Toys Wins. Now simple in no way represents easy. And one man’s toy might well be greater than the net worth of a 3rd world country. Some argue tools are toys, but I don’t ascribe to this point of view. A good toy lack any functional purpose, or useful interface which allows fundamental alteration of local reality. Further it must maintain some level of childish glee that would cause a six year old to smile, giggle and clap. I’m sure Eli Musk does all three when he lights up a rocket.

DAVID

Snow fell gently. deadening the sounds of the forest like a tomb. I withdrew my sword without effort and stared across the white field to my nemesis. Enraged, I charged at my opponent. “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch,” I screamed! Our blades crossed and clanged as our footwork crushed the snow. Each of us furiously slashing to preserve one another’s life. I was quick. I was skilled. I was not the victor. The pain in my gut exploded as her reddened steel was pulled from my side with a boot kick. Who will protect my family now?

NORVAL JOE

Completing another loop around the block, Billbert’s mother pulled the car into the driveway. “I don’t know anyone in our neighborhood named, Balloni or Rigatoni. You don’t mean Albragetti, do you?”

“That’s it. I knew it was some kind of pasta. They’re still behind us, Mom. What am I going to do?”

His mother shook her head. “As a mother, I’d love to protect you from pain and embarrassment. But, you got yourself into this predicament. You’ll have to get yourself out. Hop to it, now. Go confront this girl.”

Billbert dragged his feet as he walked toward the Fararri.

TURA

Toys; pain
———
I found Jackie torturing her toys again. She’d pulled the back legs off the dog robot, and it whined as it struggled to drag itself away. The boy robot had a screwdriver jammed through his neck and twitched painfully.

“Stop that at once!” I screamed.

“They’re robots,” she said, “they don’t care.”

“How will you ever care about your baby brother if you can’t care about your toy friends?” I pleaded.

“He’s fake too,” she said, twisting the cat robot’s body to make it snarl. “Daddy told me he bought it for you because you couldn’t have any more children.”

SEREDIPIDY

You’ll thank me for the cold soon.

Watching you frantically treading water, from my sanctuary in the lifeboat, I see your exertions slowing as cold and shock set in: But, don’t worry, I’m not going to let you drown – your wrists are lashed firmly enough to the dinghy to assure me of that.

And that freezing water really is a blessing in disguise. Trust me.

You see, the sharks will come soon, and when they do, they will tear you limb from limb, piece by piece.

Then you’ll thank me for the cold…

And how it numbs the pain.

PLANET Z

Klaus the Toymaker likes to make toys for the children of the village.
And the children love the toys.
But he is only one man, and the village has grown so much in the past twenty years.
And then there’s the toys that the children break. The repairs, the wear-and-tear.
That takes time, too.
Now, there is a lottery.
The children who want toys draw tablets from a kettle.
And they swallow them.
Those who wake up the next day get toys.
And those who don’t, well, they should have taken better care of their toys.
Or read more books.

Weekly Challenge #722 – Hot Potato

Zzzzz

DAVID

In a world gone wild, the stage was set for the decimation of the world record. The stadium was loud and rukous. Bets were being made in Vegas and the back rooms of laundromats. No one believed it could be done. No one but one little man from the dirty streets of Woodburn, Oregon. He alone believed he could chuck a hot potato 100 yards into the gaping mouth of a 12 year old child from bangladesh. With a wave of his potato, he silenced the crowd and eyed his distant trembling, sunbaked target and let his starchy legacy fly.

TOM

He wanted to have a cool code name. Like Raging Bear or Screaming Eagle. What he got was Hot Potato. He thought it might be some kind of a joke, but the GRU isn’t what you would call a laugh riot. This of course didn’t stop his fellow Russkey spooks from including it in ever dispatch back to Moscow. They thought it was terrible funny. Moscow didn’t get the joke, so they promoted him to section chief. With all the traffic incepts scoped up a myth grew around Hot Potato inside the NSA. Moscow scopes of the NSA made Hot Potato a legend

NORVAL JOE

Billbert’s mother watched the Ferarri following them in the rear veiw mirror. “Who is this Marissa girl?”
“She sits in front of me in math class. She’s really pretty, really rich, and super popular. I think her dad is in the mob,” Billbert said. “Earlier in the week she acted like she wanted to go to the dance with me. Then she dropped me like a hot potato when her old boyfriend, Tony, showed up.”
His mother frowned thoughtfully. “I didn’t think we had the mob here in Winklerville. What’s Marissa’s last name?”
“It’s something Italian, like, Balloni or Rigatoni.”

SERENDIPIDY

You loved your food, didn’t you?

Always taking the last helping, grabbing the largest slice of cake, helping yourself to other people’s snacks… My snacks!

I never got to lick the bowl, choose my favourite, or enjoy the last slice of pie. It was you who got the best pickings, while I did without.

They say, those who live by the sword, die by the sword, so…

We’ll start with this steaming hot potato, mashed into your fat face, followed by a nice Naga chilli rub.

And then, the pizza… Scalding hot sauce, that’ll flay your flesh from the bone!

LIZZIE

“This is a problem.”
Everyone nodded and looked at the entrance of the tunnel.
“This is a huge problem.”
Everyone nodded some more and looked at the entrance of the tunnel.
Silence.
“What if we close it down?”
All eyes landed on the unfortunate soul who uttered such nonsense.
“It’ll be the end of the town!”
Everyone looked back at the entrance of the tunnel.
“There’s a light over there,” whispered the unfortunate soul.
“We know, it’s the hole caused by the landslide.”
“There’s a light…”
“Stop it!”
The light at the end of the tunnel was not the hole.

RICHARD

Turn of phrase

“You think you’re a real hot potato, don’t you?”

I looked at my boss quizzically, “I’m sorry, I don’t quite follow?”

“And that’s your problem – you don’t follow… Instructions!”

You may have noticed my boss has, well let’s say he has an ‘interesting’ turn of phrase, so management instructions could sometimes come across as… Confusing!

“Look at you now, thinking on your feet, instead of up here”, he snarled, tapping his temple. “Now, how about you make me my coffee? Go… Push the envelope!”

How he ever got a job as Dean of the Language Faculty, I’ll never know.

PLANET Z

It’s pretty simple to cook a potato these days.
Poke a few holes in it with a fork, put it on a plate, and run it through the microwave for a few minutes.
I know some folks who slice potatoes in half, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and put them in their toaster ovens.
Me, I prefer boiled potatoes.
Especially when they’re boiled with crawdads and corn.
The seasoning permeates the potato and gives it a lot of flavor.
I know one guy who wraps them in foil and runs them through the dishwasher.
That dude’s really weird, though.

Weekly Challenge #721 – LAPSE

Cat butt

NORVAL JOE

Billbert’s mother pulled out of the McDonald’s drive through. The Ferarri pulled behind them from the curb and followed. As they got close to their home, Billbert said, “I think someone’s following us. Can you take a couple laps around the block?”
Continueing past their driveway, his mother asked, “Why would someone be following us?”
“Well, Marissa saw me fly away from the school, and she said she wants me to take her for a flight.”
“You flew away from the school? Did you have a lapse of reason?” she asked.
Billbert sighed. “It’s girls, mom. They make me crazy.”

DAVID

I was lonelier than a heavy metal tuba player. I had to get out of the friend zone and to the erogenous zone and quick. I scooted closer as we Netflixed. Then a fillatio scene developed on the screen. S0, I stole a play from the Clinton playbook and I gave a playful nudge and a knowing head nod to the tv. My two hands jestering to my crotch. My simple daring stunt could only pay copious amounts of dividends, right? It didn’t. It was a lapse in judgement. I figured, what have I to lose? Apparently, just my dignity.

SERENDIPIDY

Nobody can maintain an illusion permanently. Sometime they’re bound to lapse back into their true character, revealing themselves as they really are.

Happens to us all.

This is why you find me, skipping gaily through a spring meadow, stopping to smell the blossoms, laughing at the new born lambs as they gambol and frolic, full of the joys of life.

And later? I’ll join some friends for an impromptu picnic, by a babbling brook…

Yeah right!

I shudder at the thought, and attend to sharpening my knives; whilst you hang, bloody and whimpering in the corner, awaiting your sordid fate.

TOM

From the Doctor’s point of view Maureen lapsed into a coma. From Maureen’s point of view she suddenly appeared in the happiest place she had ever known. A deep sense of rightness directed her to a brightly bobbling sphere in the center of her vision. As she approached the sphere receded. Braking into a full-out ran the sphere suddenly appeared directly in back of her. This went on for some time. This cat and mouse didn’t bother Maureen, it was more a game of tag. “What if I just stand still,” she mused. The sphere approached, surrounded. Then everything went black.

RICHARD

Lapse

Sitting amongst the smouldering wreckage of my restaurant, I experienced a sudden moment of clarity.

This was not, as the insurers had concluded, the result of a lapse in following fire precautions – and therefore the only excuse they needed not to pay out.

Neither was it an unfortunate memory lapse in testing for flat batteries in the smoke detectors.

This was totally my fault.

It was me who thought I could outsmart the Mob; me, who purposely let the protection money payments lapse; me, that had brought this appalling retribution upon myself.

A tiny lapse of judgment. That’s all.

LIZZIE

Who was that man, everyone wondered.
He wore a long coat and pulled around a big box with wheels. The box had a small window and the kids tried to look inside. That made him mad.
Who was that man, everyone thought.
One day, he walked into the water, small waves splashing on his ankles. He stood there for a long time, the box left unattended on the sand.
Then, something happened. The lid of the box opened but no one saw anything.
However, when she reached the water, she appeared. She smiled and swam away.
Who was that man…

PLANET Z

It took thirty years for Dan Fisk to get his movie made.
The locations were all gone, bulldozed and turned into malls, parking lots, and condos.
All of the actors he’d cast were now either dead or too old to play their parts.
And de-aging technology can only do so much.
The female lead couldn’t perform gymnastics like she did in her prime at the Tokyo Games, let alone coach someone from that wheelchair.
So, he wrote a book about his agonizing, frustrating wait.
It was a best-seller.
Dan sold the movie rights.
Let someone else wait thirty years, right?