I once worked as a Test Engineer at an android factory.
We’d been struggling to debug a new product line, a female pleasure-housekeeping model. The units met almost all the design specs, rating particularly high on the obedience scale–but they consistently failed the housekeeping tests. They all had a irrational fear of vacuum cleaners.
Turned out that some idiot Design Engineer had specified the integration of select brain functions from the Canis lupus familiaris species–the domestic dog–to boost the model’s obedience index.
We finally fixed it–although the final product could be a bit balky at times.
Author’s Note: Lest anyone question it, idiotic Design Engineers are quite common. Take it from me.
Mildred watched the princess skip down the stairs to the tower. “You woke up Sleeping Beauty? How?”
Topaz, the princess, shrugged. She pulled out a vial of something and shook it. “Revoltingly strong perfume. Same thing that worked on my great-grandmother.”
“But I thought it took a kiss to break a spell like that,” Mildred protested.
The princess chortled. “That was my great-grandfather trying to spread rumors about what a great kisser he was. Now some people think that same curse will get them dates.”
From far above, they heard a wail. “Where’s my prince?”
Author’s Note: Mildred, the good witch, and Topaz, the pickpocket princess, are two of the main characters in my book Black Magic Academy.
‘11,100,’ he thought.
He tweaked the little metal splinter on the back of his neck. It gave him an ice-cream headache.
Everyone googles themselves sometime, but he’d never found urbrain.com before.
Neatly taxonomized were personal opinions, secret opinions, embarrassing memories, family secrets… sexual fantasies. Everything.
Horror quickly took the place of shock when he realized it was updating in real-time, putting online pictures and video that could only have been taken from behind his eyeballs.
Refresh: now it showed him in the mirror, pliers in hand. The counter had gone up – over 12,000 now.
‘This ain’t so bad.’
Author’s Note: Privacy has become a commodity that sells.
Victor studied hard to get his rain dance right. When his feet could tap a rhythm and still keep him upright, he was ready.
At the park in dead heat midday, he got to putting on a show. Leaves cracked like rust shavings under him. When he couldn’t see straight for sweat, he stopped to catch his breath, looked up at the sky. No clouds.
Disappointed, he was about to go home when a drop hit him, then another, more.
He was happy until he saw their color: red.
His fault for not describing what he wanted to rain down.
Author’s Note: I like rain dances. They’re beautiful when done right, but I wondered what would happen if an amateur did one all wrong. What kind of treat (or trick) would the sky give him?
The 2nd Marine Unit dissolved yesterday. You know, like sodium dissolves in water. Except with more blood. And corpses.
Anyway, it looks like my return planetside will be delayed. The invaders are within five hundred kilometers of the orbital base. That means they’ll be here in twenty-six minutes, plus or minus several seconds.
Let’s see: two minutes to the emergency armory, nine to don a flight suit in heavy traffic, five to reach the hangar, four to enter a fighter. That gives me six minutes to figure out how to fly it. Why did I sleep through those classes again?
Author’s Note: I decided to repurpose an old, isolated first sentence to write a story about an apprehensive marine who isn’t used to action. What could go wrong? Therein lies the story.)
“Oh, yeah?” Puss challenged. “I bet you don’t even know how to change your shape.”
“Of course I do!” the ogre cried. “Just watch!”
He turned into a roaring lion, then a marauding elephant. Puss barely escaped trampling.
“Ah,” the cat said quickly, “but small is harder. I bet you couldn’t be a mouse, say.”
“Of course I can!” the ogre roared, and shrank.
The cat waited, salivating.
Then a skunk sprayed him straight in the face.
“Ha!” the ogre howled, doubling over. “Did you think I was stupid or something?”
Author’s Note: Just because one is big and strong doesn’t mean one has to be stupid.
When the news arrived that ogres had come down from the mountains, Superintendent Lemmens strapped on his sword, straightened his uniform, and set out at once to find them. Ogres were hideous, baby-eating monsters, and in this modern age, that sort of thing was strongly discouraged. Lemmens was very resourceful. His men checked every school and orphanage, but no children were missing.
After three days of fruitless searching, a farmer came forth, bitter about the ogre menace.
“Those monsters raided my orchard, and ate all my watermelons!”
“Watermelons?” Lemmens asked. “But everyone knows ogres eat babies.”
“These ones were vegan.”
Author’s Note: This one came from a single silly sentence: “Vegan ogres: raiding orchards instead of orphanages.” And where that came from? No clue.
Joey was homesick. Ms. Howitt knew what to do.
“Here, see these beads? What’s your mommy’s favorite color?”
“Let’s put a green bead on the string. Touch it when you feel sad. Your mommy will feel like you gave her a hug.”
Joey touched the bead. He smiled then joined his classmates.
During art time, the phone rang.
“Ms. Howitt? This is Joey’s mother. I’m at the doctor’s. Could you tell him I’ll be late?”
“I slipped on the stairs and broke my ankle. It’s bizarre — I was all alone, but suddenly I thought someone grabbed me.”
Author’s Note: I wanted to play with idea of an adult making up a story to comfort a child, as well as the superstitious idea that if you say something, it will become true.
Three dozen boys shifted nervously at the starting line as the Howling Terror snorted and stamped behind its gate.
All the boys except Usias had trained their lives to outrun the Terror. Those who succeeded would earn citizenship on Cadillac-9. Those who failed, died.
Usias stood facing the door that held the monster back. Another boy asked, “What are you doing? Prepare to run.”
Usias smiled and pulled a knife out from under his shirt as the Terror’s gate began to roll back.
“No, thank you,” Usais said. “While you were training to run, I was training to fight.”
Author’s Note: I’ve always liked intelligent, creative people that thought outside the box. But more than that, I’ve always admired that select few that also had the courage to carry their difficult realizations through to realization. Usias is a member of that tribe and I’d be happy to meet him.
The spirit drifted above the trees, surveying her domain. Frost covered the pine trees as the last day of fall faded, leaving the campground in darkness.
She floated to lake’s still surface, and ice crystals spread like flowers at her feet. She wished she could cry, or scream, or sleep.
Ripples cracked the thin ice as a canoe slipped into the water. A familiar face peered over its bow.
So, he hadn’t gone, and she could still smile.
He held out his hand, and she took it. The canoe drifted away, empty, but not, and two spirits floated away together.
Author’s Note: I never went to summer camp, but they seem like a good place for ghost stories.