Well, This Was Fun

Photo credit: Brylan Ranscht

The latest Writers Co-op Writing Prompt Challenge Show Case is up for your enjoyment. The prompt was Entitled, and I’ll share my contribution here, too. I hope you’ll peruse the rest of them, and consider submitting a piece of your own for the next prompt:

Failure

Those submissions are due by the end of Monday, December 13, 2021. (See the Show Case for oh-so-easy submission guidelines.)

I’m Just Really Good at My Job

by S.T. Ranscht

“Hello, Adam. Welcome to my world. Your world.”

“Uhhh… thank you?”

“I know, it’s all a bit too glorious, isn’t it?” the world’s owner confided gleefully.

Adam hesitated. “Well, I suppose that depends on what you mean by ‘glorious’.”

The owner seemed taken aback. “I should have thought it was obvious.”

“Not to me,” Adam admitted. “I mean, compared to what?”

“Oh. Right.” A pause followed.

“Can I ask you a question?” Adam ventured into the pause.

“Yes, I have granted you that ability.”

“Okaaayyy… How did I get here?”

The owner’s glee returned. “That’s a great story. I suggested that we make man in our own image, and everyone agreed—“

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“That’s not important. I’m this world’s Project Manager, so you’ll deal only with me.” The PM hurried on, “Anyway, I made this dense fog cover the entire globe so everything everywhere got really wet, and then… I made you out of mud. Mud! Then, you know the thing with two holes in the middle of your face?”

“My… nose?”

“I wasn’t sure you knew that word. Yes, your nose. Get this — I blew into it and guess what happened. You came. To. Life.”

“Huh.” Adam tried to rub the confusion out of his brain by massaging his forehead. Hard. “That’s not really much of a story. I don’t mean that in a negative way. This is just constructive criticism you can take or leave. It has good plot points, but your execution is weak. Not enough world building. No character development. No tension. The climax is contrived — all those periods, supposedly to give each word equal impact. And no resolution.” He shook his head. “I’m just saying it could be a really compelling story if you added more detail. Some dialogue. Motivation. Why, for instance, did you decide to blow into my nose?”

“Thank you for your feedback,” the PM said in a way Adam thought sounded a little pouty. “I’ll consider it if I ever decide to tell that story again.”

“So, what am I supposed to do?”

“Well, I had a couple of ideas. You get to name every living creature and growing thing.”

“What? Like Javier, Su Mei, and Thaddeus? Or Spot, Splashy, and Flighty?”

“Not what I had in mind, but the deal is made and it’s up to you.”

“Maybe something more evocative of each living thing’s life story,” Adam contemplated. “Yes, that would be much more interesting.”

“As you wish,” the PM acceded. “And you get to till the land in this garden. You know, grow more plants. For food.”

“That sounds like tedious, backbreaking, thankless work. No thank you. What are my other choices?”

“Other choices? I was hoping this wouldn’t come up quite so soon — especially because I’m having second thoughts about its wisdom — but, yes, having made you in our image, I thought it would only be fair to grant you free will, too. You may do anything you want — except for two tiny exceptions. So. I can hardly wait to find out: What do you want to do?”

“I’m not sure you really mean that, but,” Adam announced, “I want to be a writer.”

“Oh. I’m afraid that’s not an option.”

“But you said, ‘anything’.”

“That I did, but I haven’t invented writing yet,” the PMsplained with forced patience.

“Then maybe I just invented it,” Adam countered. “After all, I am free to define myself, correct?”

“Yeeesss.”

Adam decided right then that, even though he couldn’t see the PM, the tone he’d just used was accompanied by eye rolling. Adam filed that image away for future stories.

“I’m curious,” Adam began, “Why can’t I see you?”

The PM chuckled in a pitying way. “Looking upon my face would be too overwhelming for you, a mere man.”

“Really? I would have thought, having made me in y’all’s image, y’all would have a face like mine. What’s the real reason you’re hiding? Are you hideous and misshapen? Scarred beyond belief? Or just everyday ugly?” In the silence that followed, Adam imagined the PM glaring at him, crossing his arms, and tapping his foot in an aggravated way. The power he felt inspired his first naming. “Hey, do you see that sinuous, slithery creature over by the apple tree? I’m going to name him ‘The Great Deceiver’.”

The PM scoffed, “That’s not a proper name. That’s a title.”

“Precisely,” Adam agreed. “I’m a writer. A storyteller. And I just entitled your glorious creature’s life story.” Adam’s grin radiated a heavenly glow. “But I thank you for your feedback.”

The PM drew a deep breath. “Adam, I am going to give you a gift. You may name her whatever you deem appropriate, but I will call her Eve.”

“I don’t need a companion,” Adam replied. “In fact, I don’t want a companion. Writing is going to be a solitary job. A companion would just be a distraction.”

“Perhaps so,” the PM allowed, “but a writer is entitled to an editor.”

A frown crept over Adam’s face. “That sounds really annoying.”

If the PM’s face had been visible to him, Adam would have seen his first nastily satisfied smile.

Breaking Free

April 11, 2019, SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The sentiment is mine. (Photo credit: SpaceX)

I admit it’s possible to discover something accidentally. Take bacteriologist Dr. Alexander Fleming, for example. In 1928, he returned to his lab after a vacation in Scotland to discover a mold called Penicillium notatum had contaminated his petri dish colonies of Staphylococcus aureus, and was preventing its growth.

“When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I guess that was exactly what I did.” Dr. Alexander Fleming

Of course, Dr. Fleming had already studied bacteriology, so while it may be possible even you and I could accidentally discover some new scientific fact, if we don’t have the underlying knowledge, if we don’t know the rules, our discovery probably won’t make much of an impact on the world.

But for someone who has the knowledge and knows the rules of their field, like, say, art or agriculture or aerospace engineering, the rules can be a springboard into new understanding and advances.

“You have to know the rules before you can break them with purpose.” Me, reflecting on what little wisdom I’ve been fortunate to stumble into.

I lament the passing of my generation’s defiant motto: Question Authority. We didn’t believe the rules weren’t meant for us or that there shouldn’t be any at all. We wanted to know why they were rules and what would happen if they weren’t. Could we get along more peacefully if some of the rules were different? Like desegregation. Or Congressional term limits. Or decriminalizing pot. (Legalizing marijuana was only a pipe dream back then.)

Today, it seems too many people simply believe the rules don’t apply to them. We can see examples of the resulting chaos in any city that harbors those solar powered scooters as helmetless scofflaws ride them in the wrong direction on one-way streets, or cross multi-lane streets mid-block or against red lights. We can see that chaos in any government that denies reality, espouses ignorance, and ignores the Rule of Law.

Where will we go from here? To Mars? To a nation of healthier, better educated citizens? Or will we remain stuck in a man-made quagmire, clawing the mud to keep up with the rest of the world?

I know what I want. I’m watching for people who know stuff and understand the rules well enough to think beyond them. Those are the people who will launch us forward. Those are the people who can make a large-scale, positive impact on the world.

Clifton Meets Andre

Glad you could join us for the next pollinated episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot 190
Photo credit: Heinz-Peter Bader

News that every wasp and vole had enlisted in the Alliance army influenced others to attend their own tribe’s meeting. Even the solitary amphibians, intrigued by the charismatic Lieutenant Terrance’s stature, were eager to learn more. Almost everyone signed up. By sunset, the Alliance army comprised every tribe except the Hiverarchy of Free Bees, who were now Clifton’s challenge.

Continue reading “Clifton Meets Andre”

Zen There Was One

Glad you could join us for the next zany episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot Z
Photo credit: dreamworlds.ru

The moon had climbed only a branch or two higher in the tree when Yvonne returned with dinner to find Elliot cleaning dried blood from a slash on his girlfriend’s neck.

Looking away, she patiently reminded herself that her own savory kill still dripped from her talons, and she lay a beakful of mold-garnished leafy greens and a spongy-plump mushroom at their feet. Then, because that suffocating need to show well had woken from its long sleep, she couldn’t stop herself from discreetly tossing tufts of fur and shards of bone down to the charred forest floor.

Resentment simmered in her veins.

Continue reading “Zen There Was One”

Yvonne

Glad you could join us for the next yawping episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot Y
Photo credit: wallpaperup.com

The skeletons in bird’s memories weren’t as easy to dispose of as those that littered her life, but she shook them to the dark bottom of her mind with a noisy, full body feather ruffling.

“I beg your pardon. Where are my manners?” she asked with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Welcome. I’m Yvonne. And you are—?”

Continue reading “Yvonne”

Xanadu or Die

Glad you could join us for the next x-traordinary episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot X
Photo credit: Cheri Perry

“Well?” The fierce predator blinked repeatedly, her flaming eyes flashing off and on in the dark. It was an intimidating effect she had perfected over the years to capture the attention of many broods of squabbling owlets.

The two tiny gastropods embracing in her nest pulled apart with a slight sucking sound. The larger one addressed her with a polite bow.

“Please accept our sincere apologies for dropping into your inviting… uh, Xanadu, uninvited. You see, we have just escaped the clutches of a deranged evangelist, and must have taken a wrong turn in our haste. We are the unwitting victims of gravity.”

Continue reading “Xanadu or Die”

What the –?

Glad you could join us for the next whimsical episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot W
Photo credit: Jamie MacArthur

“Plummeting is not an altogether unpleasant sensation,” Elliot thought as they fell into the chilly night. “If I didn’t know how it has to end, I might be enjoying it.” He was beyond panic, and the sight of Cassandra tumbling beside him left him feeling only regret.

Continue reading “What the –?”

Vicious

Glad you could join us for the next vexing episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot V
Photo credit: Lee Daniels

Humiliated and furious, the Holy Man of the Holy Mansion took a howling swipe at Cassandra, slicing her neck with his jagged arm.

Continue reading “Vicious”

Unexpected

Glad you could join us for the next uplifting episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot U
Photo credit: Flickrhivemind.net

From his painfully prone point of view, Elliot caught a glimpse of the underside of the overhang above the stranger’s head — there hung Cassandra, suctioned to the rock.

As the edges of her foot began to curl under, Elliot understood her plan. He had to give her time. He had to make sure the stranger stayed where he was.

Before Elliot could speak, more little green guys leaped from their circle to join the Brother on Elliot’s back. Horrified, Elliot felt them all tugging on his shell, dislodging it bit by bit, exposing his soft vulnerability.

Elliot hadn’t much time left to give.

Continue reading “Unexpected”

Trapped

Glad you could join us for the next terrifying episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot T
Photo credit: Hendy Mp

“Please allow me to introduce you to a few Members of the Brotherhood of the Holy Mansion. They are here to collect your Donation.”

Scritchy-scratchy tiptoes scraped from every crack and crevice as tiny green versions of the large orange stranger closed in on Elliot in a creeping, tightening circle. He swiveled his eye stalks wildly searching for Cassandra. He didn’t find her. She must have escaped, he thought. I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to her! But he kept looking. He needed to be sure.

The stranger stepped up onto a rocky outcrop against the far granite wall beneath a sheltering overhang, and observed the scene with a look of beneficence.

“Little Brothers!” he called, “The Great Spirit Man’Tis, Granter of Prayers, is well pleased with the Work you have done so far. Now, in answer to our Prayers, he brings us yet another Gift — a fine, if smallish, Donation of Construction Materials! This Child of the World, heavy with the World’s Burdens, has come here of his own Free Will. It is your Job to relieve him of the Weight he bears and transfer it to our Hallowed Hill of Shells.”

“Wait!” Elliot yelled. “I’m not giving you my home!”

Continue reading “Trapped”