Week 5 of Odd Prompts

Groundhog Day in the United States, where a tiny* critter predicts whether winter will end sooner or later based upon whether or not he’s scared of his own shadow. Oh, joy. More winter, if you believe in such things! And to lean in the direction of the movie by the same name, things have been feeling repetitive in ways we all hoped to forget after 2020 ended.

So let this be the start of new things, instead. The opportunity to do more things and stretch our creative wings collectively is upon us again this week. Prompting does help jar loose the “what-if?” possibilities for the ideas we never considered.

Getting on with it! Here are your direct trades. Email a prompt idea into oddprompts@gmail.com, and get added into a direct trade pairing.

Cedar SandersonDouble the garlic, and triple the paprika! Oh, maybe that would work…AC Young
Fiona GreyTechnology + fairy tales = ?nother Mike
AC YoungThe hiker had wandered for hours in the forest, and was well and truly lost. She/he suddenly entered a clearing – a perfect circle of green grass amidst the trees. A few seconds later a centaur entered the clearing from the opposite direction.Leigh Kimmel
Becky JonesStanding at the back door gazing at the snow-covered lumps of furniture and grill on the deck. Then you realize that two of those lumps shouldn’t be there. What is buried under the snow?Fiona Grey
Leigh KimmelWhile visiting a distant city, you make a wrong turn and discover a store or restaurant you remember fondly from childhood. Although you know the company went out of business years ago, the lights are on and there are people inside, just like you remember…Becky Jones
nother MikeThe stone dogs beside the steps of the brownstone had blood on their teeth…Cedar Sanderson

And here are your spares, open to all and sundry. Forgot to add one? Don’t like your assigned prompt this week? Grab a spare and join in. We’re pretty mellow here, and just want to read fun stories and see pretty art.

SpareSay there’s a werewolf, who bites a man, who bites… What’s the math until it’s werewolves all the way down?
SpareCattle are peacefully wandering inside the local grocery store, baskets precariously balanced from horns.
SpareThese are the missions that Jim Phelps chose not to accept…
SpareNo one expected the spammers to start using their powers for good…

That’s all for now – see you as the comments fill up!

*Where I come from, groundhogs get to ridiculous sizes.

Header image Fiona Grey, Quiet Harmony Ranch, New Paris, OH.



  1. Cedar Sanderson supplied the prompt: Double the garlic, and triple the paprika! Oh, maybe that would work…

    According to folklore garlic is useful against vampires and werewolves, and paprika is a spice. Perhaps a were with hot tastes…

    “Time to taste the stew.” Lady FitzHenry picked up a spoon and ladled some of it into her mouth. “It tastes wonderful, but I can taste the garlic.”

    I screwed up my face in frustration. “I didn’t even use the full amount in the recipe!”

    Lady FitzHenry shook her head. “I’m beginning to understand why you said it was the most difficult recipe you’ve seen. Yet we need you to get it right.”

    I understood that much. Master Edward FitzHenry, Lord and Lady FitzHenry’s eldest son had a problem. Not a minor problem, one that would get the King’s army camped outside the manor if it wasn’t fixed.

    Edward FitzHenry had inherited the family curse – like his grandfather and a number of other male ancestors he was a weredragon. On the last full moon he’d turned into a dragon for the first time, and would do so every full moon from now on. Once the rumours of a dragon reached the wrong ears every mercenary and most of the nobility would be hunting it. The glory of a dragon kill was rare – no confirmed kill had taken place within the last couple of centuries – and very few would be able to resist the hunt.

    Fortunately there was a way to suspend the were-transformations: A recipe in the family cookbook of indeterminate age. But it was not simple. It required a lot of garlic, but it also noted that no weredragon would eat anything tasting of garlic.

    I’d tried the recipe three times already, and I still couldn’t get it tasting right. The balance of the ingredients was off – not unlikely as many of the quantities were missing from the ancient instructions.

    “I need to use twice the garlic, but I also need to completely cover the taste.” I was very frustrated with the weredragon stew by now, and to my everlasting shame I wasn’t thinking straight any longer.

    “Perhaps you could increase the spices. Twice the Worcestershire Sauce, thrice the paprika, quadruple the pepper, quintuple some spice whose name I can’t think of right now?”

    “Double the garlic, and triple the paprika! Oh, maybe that would work. I’ll have to increase some of the other spices to balance things out. Thankyou my Lady.”

    Three hours later, and the next iteration of the most frustrating stew in the history of the world was ready for tasting. Fortunately there was no more taste of garlic. It could be served to Master Edward.

    The menu that evening in the main hall of the manor was stew – weredragon stew although no-one told Master Edward. He ate the lot, and came down to the kitchens specifically to congratulate us on such a tasty addition to the standard fare. I managed to make some suitable response.

    Now it was a matter of waiting. If the stew had worked there would be no dragon at the next full moon – but even then there was no guide as to how long the suppression lasted.

    Just in case I made some very careful notes on the recipe. I didn’t want to have to experiment four times before I got it right next time around. And Master Edward’s son or grandson or great-grandson would inherit the family curse in their turn – it wasn’t fair to make the next head cook go through the same struggle to get the quantities right.

    The last thing before the kitchens closed down completely for the night was Lady FitzHenry collecting the family cookbook so that it could be stored somewhere safe, under the control of the family, ready for when it was next needed.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Fiona Grey prompted…

    Technology + fairy tales = ?

    Which reminded me of Clarke’s 3rd Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

    Technology and fairy tales? How about the stories that robots and AIs tell? After all, they are likely to have time on their CPUs when there isn’t a job to do, an assignment to work on, and what do you do? Power down? Nah… the story of the little robot that could? Or maybe the one about the little robot that lived in the junkyard? Or… Tales from the Brothers Gear? For example…

    The Boy Who Became A Robot

    The robots worked hard, but along the networks, they told their stories. And one of those that they all loved was about the little boy who became a robot. You see, little Pinocchio had been raised by a robot nanny that loved him, and as he grew, he wished to become a robot himself. So much that he started to fashion gears and levers to cover himself, so that he looked like a boy wearing a robot exoskeleton, if you can imagine such a thing. And slowly, his body began to change…

    He tried to do things that he saw his robot friends doing. Sometimes, he pushed too hard, since he was still a little boy inside his gears and levers.

    Until, one day, he fell from a rooftop, and went into the medical center. Where the AI surveyed him, the mixture of gears, levers, and skin and bone, and asked, “What do you want to be?” When he answered, “A robot,” the medical AI knew just what to do, and the surgical bots set to work.

    Long hours later, he stood up, on his new metal limbs, and focused his camera on the bot that was finishing the last polishing. He could see reflected there his new form, all gleaming metal and plastic, and he sent out a message.

    “I am a robot! A shiny robot!”

    The Medical AI chuckled, and said, “Yes, you are. Now enjoy it.”

    And Pinocchio rolled out of the medical center and into his new life…

    (and maybe more to come? What do the robots chatter about?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • And another little sliver…

      Meanwhile, the maintenance guys were telling tales in a bar.

      “Seriously, I spent all day working on that system. Reseated everything, checked all the normal stuff, and… it still was glitchy. Then the normal operator came in, thumped the table three times, and the system purred and ran fine for them. When I asked, they told me they always hit the table like that before they start, and for some reason it works. I just filled in the log with percussive maintenance recommended on a regular basis and left it alone. Who knows why that worked?”

      The other guy took a big gulp of beer and chuckled.

      “Yeah, I hear you. Do you remember that typing pool glitch last winter? One terminal would go, the typists would shift around, and then another terminal would go? I sat down at the last terminal that failed, and the typist who had been using it sat at another terminal. Which promptly failed, too. I looked at her, and asked what the heck she was doing?”

      “She just smiled, and said she was doing her job. So I asked if there was anything special about today. She admitted that her boyfriend gave her silk stockings that she wore for the first time that day.”

      The first guy shook his head. “Silk… and probably a nice rayon or something dress? So she’s making static, right?”

      “You got it! I looked at her, and told her that she had just gotten a vacation for the day.”

      “People just don’t know how sensitive those systems are!”

      They turned back to their beers and shook their heads.

      The bartender smiled, and slowly ran his finger down the cable from the mic behind the bar. They would never know, but the other machines certainly enjoyed hearing the maintenance guys tell stories…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I confess to spotting the spare prompt “Say there’s a werewolf, who bites a man, who bites… What’s the math until it’s werewolves all the way down?” and not being able to resist having a go at it.

    If you find maths boring you may wish to skip to the next reply down…

    For convenience I will be rounding all population totals to the nearest million, and once the werewolf population gets large enough I will be doing the same for that too.

    Firstly we need to have some idea of the population of the world. Apparently the March 2020 estimate for the population at that time is 7,795 million, and the world’s population growth is currently between 1% and 1.2% p.a.. So for March 2021 the global population should be between 7,873 million and 7,889 million. Similar bounds can be constructed for March 2022 and so on on the same basis. (For March 2025 the range is between 8,193 million and 8,274 million.)

    I will treat the first full moon of March 2021 as month 0, at which there is 1 werewolf. This werewolf starts biting from the next full moon.

    We also need some assumptions on werewolfism.

    Firstly, each werewolf once turned remains alive until either it stops biting people or until the entire population has been turned. (This makes the calculations easier, but isn’t necessarily believable for the older end of the spectrum.)

    Secondly, werewolves only bite on the full moon, of which there are 13 in a year. Each werewolf that bites will bite one person only each full moon, and anyone so bitten will survive the event and become a werewolf in turn.

    Thirdly, if there are n werewolves that wish to bite during a given full moon, and at least n non-werewolves somewhere in the world, then all n werewolves will succeed in biting a non-werewolf, and no non-werewolf will be bitten twice. (This again is intended to make the calculations easier. It is believable during the early stages of a werewolf outbreak, but not particularly so near the end when all the population of a city might be werewolves but there are still non-werewolves elsewhere.)

    First assumption on growth in werewolf numbers: Each new werewolf starts biting non-werewolves from the first full moon after being bitten. Werewolves will keep biting until the whole world is turned.

    Full moon 1 the only werewolf bites 1 non-werewolf, so there is now 2 werewolves. Full moon 2 each of these bite 2 more non-werewolves. The progression is exponential, after full moon m there are 2^{m} werewolves.

    After full moon 32 there will be roughly 4,295 million werewolves in the world, and after full moon 33 the progression gives roughly 8,590 million werewolves. However, by full moon 39 (March 2024) the upper bound on the global population will be roughly 8,176 million. So the whole world will be werewolves by some time in late 2023.

    But perhaps newly bitten werewolves take some time to mature, so they only start biting from their second full moon as a werewolf (i.e. a werewolf bitten in full moon 10 will start biting from full moon 12).

    Initially the numbers are as before, but as we reach full moon 3 the totals diverge. The pattern this time is 1, 2, 3, 5, 8,… It is the Fibonacci Sequence.

    After full moon 33 there are only 9 million werewolves. But after full moon 47 there are about 7,779 million werewolves, and after full moon 48 the pattern gives about 12,586 million werewolves – which again exceeds the global population. So on these assumptions the whole world will last slightly longer than before, but only until late 2024.

    Perhaps the growth will be more believable if we restrict each newly-turned werewolf to six bites. (So a werewolf bitten in full moon 10 will bite on full moons 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 only.)

    For the first few full moons this pattern follows the Fibonacci Sequence as before, but diverges from it from full moon 7.

    By full moon 33 there are just under 6 million werewolves, but by full moon 48 there are about 6,035 million werewolves. By full moon 49 there about 9,596 million werewolves.

    So even this assumption is only enough to keep the world going for a further month.

    If we start assuming that the biting rate will start to decline as the number of non-werewolves approach zero then the world might survive for a little longer, but the calculations for that more complicated than the ones enumerated above.

    Liked by 3 people

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