Archive | August 2012

Short Story – random prompt

Our usual story prompt service (www.katfeete.net/writing/specific.php) was down, so we created our own using random internet lists and 20-sided dice.

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and an engineer.  A number 2  pencil plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in Club Atomic in the past. The story is about magic and sorcery.

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Deirdre pushed her glasses back up her nose and squared her shoulders.  She had to go in the door of Club Atomic, and to do it, she needed all her courage. She didn’t fit in and she knew it. But a dare was a dare, and a double-dog dare was do or die.

The guys at work had been egging her on all week. They were waiting inside to see if she’d really do it.

Being an engineer automatically made her suspect and a female engineer was unheard of. She had two female classmates the entire time she was in Michigan Tech. So when she got to Breuer and Sons, she came highly recommended, and immediately became the target of her male coworkers. She couldn’t bring herself to call them “men” because none of them had grown up except the owner, Mr Breuer. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around to protect her from the daily barrage of practical jokes. Deirdre was used to it. The guys at Michigan Tech were the same way:  All nerds who acted like they’d never seen a woman before. Well they were going to see one tonight.

She watched as other groups of women and couples entered the club until she had a feel for it. Then walked up to the bouncer. He looked her up and down carefully.

“You might want to lose the glasses, sweetie, if you want to see any action tonight.”

Then he pulled back the rope and let her pass. She knew the glasses didn’t match her outfit, yet she needed them to see, so she was at a disadvantage. Deirdre shouldered her way through the crowd, keeping a tight grip on her purse as she moved toward the bar. The music was pulsing so loudly, it thudded in her chest. When she reached the bar, she struggled to make herself heard above the din. She had never ordered a drink in a place like this so finally she just pointed to an evil looking concoction with black liquid that glowed in the dark on a passing tray and the bartender nodded. He brought it back to her and hollered “Twenty-one!” She looked at him with a puzzled expression. Finally pointing to her purse and repeating the number, he made her understand he needed $21 for her drink. Shocked at the price, she opened her bag and pulled out her wallet and carefully counted out fives and ones for exactly $21. He looked at the money she’d laid on the counter and looked back at her. She blushed when she realized she’d forgotten a tip. So she reached in her wallet, threw down a couple more singles, then quickly took her drink and backed away as he just shook his head.

Now to find The Boys, as she called them in her head …

She struggled toward a wall where she could get a good layout of the club. The dance floor ceiling appeared to be at least 4 stories high with hanging platforms and cages and balconies on each floor that surrounded the dance floor on three sides. The dance floor itself glowed and pulsed. Part of the lighting must include blacklight bulbs she realized as anything white took on an ethereal glow. Where would a bunch of engineers be in a place like this …

She studied the room and each level of balcony. Then she saw them. Directly above a woman with a very lowcut dress that appeared to be in danger of a wardrobe malfunction at any moment. Typical! She looked around for a path to their level. No obvious staircases or elevators. Then she saw the ropes. They glowed when the blacklight hit them, but she hadn’t realized they were moving and people were being pulled up and lowered down. She watched a woman walk up to the rope, wrap her right leg around the rope just above a large knot, then balance her drink and her handbag on her left side before grabbing above another knot with her free hand. No sooner had she done so than she started to glide upward until she was pulled through a hole in the floor of the next level. Guys gathered right below to look up her dress as she ascended.

Shit! This was what she had to put up with every day, why, why, why did she put herself through this on her day off. Gamely, she made her way to the rope and tried to copy the woman she had just watched. She didn’t quite have the knack so by the time she reached the next level her dress had slid up to reveal her lacy black bikini underwear through her pantyhose. She heard wolf whistles and clapping. Thank goodness she’d managed not to spill her drink! Although she had been tempted to pour it on the gawkers right beneath her, she didn’t want to waste her money or have to buy another one.

When she finally reached them, they were still so busy watching the woman below that they didn’t notice her at first. Then Burt happened to glance her way, did a doubletake and nudged Norb, who nudged Dick. Then George let out a low whistle and said “Baby you just turned my floppy disk into a hard drive.” She tensed as they started to surround her, and then she realized they didn’t recognize her. She decided she was going to have some fun with them. She dug in her purse and came up with a pencil and small notepad.

“P-p-please, you will h-h-help m-m-me?” she stuttered with a strong European accent she had learned imitating her grandmother. They gathered closer, nodding and murmuring assurances that they would LOVE to help her.

Ohhh Kay. Please my English is not too good. Please to give me phone number for, how do you say,  polizei?

Oh nooo, baby. Why do you need the police?

I have…. how do you call it… problem?

What problem, baby? You’re with us now, we can fix anything.

Anyting?

Yes, yes, anything.

She switched back to her normal voice while putting her glasses back on, “Then how do I get rid of the circle of assholes that is surrounding me?”

They all jumped back and gasped. “You!”

“Yes, you jerkwads, it’s me, Deirdre.”

“But, but, but, you look so, so, so…. so pretty.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah… tell it to your shrink. Now each of you knuckledraggers is going to write down your home phone numbers using my little pencil here. And don’t try to give me a fake one.”

Burt took the pencil and notepad first and started to write then yelled, “Ouch!” And started shaking his right hand, although it was quickly apparent that he was trying to shake something off. “Get it off me!”

“Stop yelling! I told you not to try giving me misinformation. Please write your correct telephone number and the pencil will release you.”

“What the?!” Finally realizing she was probably telling the truth, he complied. Once he had finished writing the pencil no longer clung to his fingers, so he attempted to hand it to George. George leaned backed saying “No way! I’m not taking it!”

“You have to,” Deirdre reminded him. “If you don’t, you won’t be able to leave this circle.”

Of course, George tried and found his feet firmly glued as did the others. Only Burt was able to move outside of their tight group.

“I’m going home.  I’ll see you guys next week. Here, George. Take the pencil.”

George hesitantly took the pencil and pad and quickly wrote his number and handed off to Dick. Dick reluctantly took the pencil and pad. Then paused to examine it.

“Looks like an ordinary Number 2 pencil. Why is it sticking to my hand?”

“Just write your number and pass it on, Dick.”

When Norb had written his number and given the pencil and pad back to Deirdre,  the rest of the men prepared to leave. She placed the pencil and pad back in her bag.

“Wait – what are you planning to do with our numbers?”

“I’m making sure you guys go home to your wives and that you are really nice to them for putting up with your philandering asses. Now scoot!”

As the last one headed for the door, she took a long pull from her drink. It was extremely tasty. Hmm… as long as I’m here, I might as well enjoy it.

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With thanks  to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Balance

Story prompt: The story’s protagonist is female and a prostitute. An eye plays a significant part in the story. The story is set on a bridge in the industrial age. The story is about balance.

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She looked over the edge. The water was a long way down. She turned around to see the way behind her. To one end of the bridge, there was a stone gate that appeared to be locked. And from the other end, she could hear footsteps. Thank goodness for the fog. She had a little time, although she had only one option if she didn’t want to get caught. She needed her arms and legs as free as possible. She had to rid herself of all extra clothing, so she stripped off her cloak and her boots and stockings, her petticoats made a nice bundle and she used her belt to hold it together.  Knowing it might be a problem if she didn’t move quickly, she tied the bundle to her waist. And then slowly lowered herself over the side. Steel bridges were a marvel of beams and wires and thanks to her circus upbringing, they were just another playground for Cornelia Del Arte — also known as Highwire Nell.

She quickly  swung from the main beam to the wire and then the next until she was concealed under the main bridge by one of the beams. She heard the voices above her and knew they were looking for her. As long as they couldn’t see her, they should not be able to find her.  She held still and waited for them to tire of their search. She didn’t look down. Her parents had trained her well to look where you want to go. If your eyes looked down you would go there, and successful trapeze artists and high wire walkers assuredly did not.

How far she had fallen since those days! Her parents would not recognize her painted and perfumed to please the men who paid for her company. This line of work was not her first choice, and she had finally seen an opportunity to leave both the occupation and the men and women who had first forced her into it and then kept her from leaving. It was a daring move – many of the other girls had died or been killed trying to get out. And she was at the point that she could accept death if it meant she never had to endure another groping, drooling fool.

After the footsteps faded and she could be sure they wouldn’t come back, she contemplated her next move. The underside of the bridge eventually led to shore in either direction, so it was a matter of which side could be more easily mounted when she got there.

She looked down river to the next bridge and examined the shore on both sides. She could probably scale the next one a bit easier, so she started working her way along the beams and cables. She moved slowly so as not to attract attention, although it was unlikely between the fog and the dark and  anyone on the bridge would be partially blinded by the streetlamps. She paused to listen and shivered as a chill wind caught her. Then she saw it. Right in front of her. An eye. Staring straight at her and only a few feet away peering between a beam and a cable.

She held still. The eye blinked once. She felt no animosity and so she moved forward slightly.  The head turned and she saw both eyes.  She sighed with relief.  It was only an owl. She quickly moved past it to the far end of the bridge and picked her way along the wall to the next bridge. She repeated her tightrope walking act back to the top of the next bridge.  Peering over the edge, she saw no one approaching so she quickly dressed and heaved herself over the wall onto the bridge. Then she made her way to the opposite side of the river. Ahead she saw a bakery and a woman sweeping the street. Rubbing the rouge from her face, she made her way toward the woman,  keeping her eye on freedom.

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.

Short Story – Movement

Prompt is:  The story’s protagonist is female and a ruler. A book plays a significant part in the story. The story is set in a blizzard in the future. The story is about movement.

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She sighed. Snowing again. How was she supposed to feel motivated when she couldn’t even go outside much less stroll through the village. Her advisers didn’t want her to go out into the snow since they had more trouble protecting her when they couldn’t see.

She picked up the book again then threw it down in frustration. Books were no substitute for being able to meet her subjects and talk to them. She had yet to learn what people really felt from books. She needed her interactions with shopkeepers and mothers and schoolchildren. She yearned for a chance to stop at the candy store and load her pockets with sweets before heading to the park. Sometimes she walked the path. Often she sat down next to someone on a bench and simply engaged them in conversation. They all knew who she was, so no one was truly surprised to meet her. Some people actually went to the park looking for her to tell her what they thought or felt on a particular issue. Since her visits were sporadic and based on having a two hour slot in her calendar, there were usually enough different people around that she got a fairly broad perspective – at least of the kinds of people who went to the park. She sometimes went in the evening and one time convinced her guards that a midnight stroll was perfect on a warm summer night. They were not happy but they managed to keep her safe. And she was grateful.

It amazed her that in a time with everyone nanochipped and cataloged there were still those who managed to slip through the cracks undocumented. The tracking center, Enterprise Validation Indemnification Level,  knew where every citizen was at every moment. They had pictures and current video from the ubiquitous cameras in every surface and it was all linked to the nanochips which were linked to the data on each person. Every relative, every friend, every encounter carefully and eternally documented. There were no secrets. Not really. Except for unmanifested desires. If someone looked up a topic or searched for a word, the data centers tracked their biological response to the request and to the answer – heart rate, pupil dilation, breath – there were no tendencies that were not tracked, coded, and outcomes were predicted.

Freedom was an illusion. It seemed that everyone was free to go wherever they wanted and do whatever they wanted. But everything was already known. The questions a child asks his mother or her teachers. All tracked. The curious were encouraged. The more questions, the better EVIL personnel could categorize the child, predict the best career paths and steer – No! They would say “guide” the child to an appropriate outlet for her or his energies and predilections.  Not every child is a superstar, but those that were had every advantage science could provide. Education was a duty of the state, just as food and shelter and healthcare.

The late bloomers sometimes lost opportunities, but that was the price exacted for the good of the state. Every child was well cared for. Every child was loved equally. While almost anyone could have a child and every child was carried to full term, the actual caregivers were men and women genetically and mentally suited to the task at each age, not the biological father and mother who had other duties. Every child was a sibling to every other child.  Certain people were of course sterilized soon after birth based on genetic abnormalities that would not fare well during procreation. Others were altered at a later age if unwanted tendencies such as addiction or aggression manifested. There were still babies with chromosomal abnormalities – XXY, XYY, Down Syndrome, etc. These aberrations in the genetic code did not make a person useless to society and were considered to contribute to the overall good of diversity. Only the characteristics that would prevent the person from reaching full potential based on wilfulness or perversion were considered for elimination.

She picked up the book again, sighing heavily as she gazed out the window at the snow. She couldn’t leave and she didn’t want to stay. And yet… maybe she should… She considered for a moment longer and then tossed the book on the table and reached for her cloak.  As she hurried toward the door she recalled a quote from an ancient source named Farragut:

Damn the torpedoes! …Full speed!

*******

With thanks for the story prompt to The Speculative Fiction Muse http://www.katfeete.net/writing/specfic.php

And to my writing partners, Mary C Sutton and D Anthony Brown danthonybrown.me for the support and the laughs.

What do you think? Did I honor the spirit or the letter of the writing prompt? Enter your thoughts in comments below.