Week 10 of Odd Prompts

Spring is beginning to ‘sproing!’ just a little in my neck of the woods. This is always a hopeful time of year for me. Hard to be sad when there is more light, more warmth, things are blooming, and the small creatures are madly in love with one another.

Like the woodcocks we watched singing and dancing at the park. So many creatures – humans not excepted! have strange mating rituals. Heck, some of them could be prompts in themselves. So if you didn’t submit a prompt this week, there you go. Look up the woodcock, or the weaverbird, or the peacock spider, or any of a thousand creatures, then write that into a human courtship.

Leigh KimmelThe mail server has been misbehaving for the last week, failing to send out a variety of automatic mailings. Tech support insists that there’s not a problem. You remove one of the side panels and find…AC Young
Fiona GreyHe looked up, and discovered the rabbit was flying the aeroplane, goggles and all.Becky Jones
Cedar SandersonThe tree fell, and in the hole it left, they found…Leigh Kimmel
AC YoungThis week’s entry: The joint postgraduate/undergraduate biology field research team entered the reeds with care. The information on their quarry was sparse: ‘The reed dragon is one of the smallest species of dragon. Its natural habitat is reed beds. It is flightless and wingless, and very rarely breathes fire. It has excellent camouflage, is extremely stealthy and has excellent acceleration from rest, making it a highly-skilled stealth hunter. Very little field observation has been successfully carried out.’Cedar Sanderson
Becky JonesThe giraffe bent all the way down to look you in the eye. “Well, let me tell you,” he began…Fiona Grey

And if the random prompt doesn’t strike you, or you didn’t send in a prompt (and why not? It’s easy, and no pressure – no word count limit, doesn’t even have to be words!), there are always spare prompts. You could send in a spare, too, you know. Just put ‘spare’ in the subject line when you email it to oddprompts at gmail dot com.

SpareVisual Prompt? He hated mornings that started with that face glaring at him… (Wakeup on the website)
SpareThe girl planted the stick in the hole her friend had so carefully dug. When he came back in the morning to water it, he found…
SpareEvery year, humanity submitted the most ridiculous idea to the intergalactic nanotechnology contest. This year, Earth won.
SpareApult is a weird name… no, no, his first name is Cat. So it’s all right.

See you next week! May spring cause your sap to rise, and put a smile on your faces. Come back and read the comments… prompt responses are always fun.



  1. Leigh Kimmel supplied my challenge for this week: The mail server has been misbehaving for the last week, failing to send out a variety of automatic mailings. Tech support insists that there’s not a problem. You remove one of the side panels and find…

    What could be found inside a mail server? I remembered a story from the early days of computers, when an insect died in a computer causing it to malfunction – the origin of the term ‘debugging’. What if the bugs in the mail server were caused by actual bugs? Suitably designed bugs would work, and I ran with them.

    I had come back from leave yesterday with a LOT of e-mails complaining that I hadn’t responded to the senders’ urgent requests. But I’d set up an automated reply informing my correspondents that I was away and that they should contact my colleagues. I checked with them, and none of them had received a single forwarded e-mail from any of my complainers.

    So I asked why no-one had forwarded any of their demands, and was told in no uncertain terms, many of them using one of a number of very unpleasant constructions, that my autoreply hadn’t been sent back to them.

    I double-checked. I put autoreply back on my e-mails and got Eliot, Eliza and Frank to send me an e-mail. One hour later they’d received my hand-typed replies to their e-mails, but not the autoreply. Something was going wrong.

    An hour after that and we’d confirmed that no-one in my division had working autoreplies (with the possible exception of Greta and Harrold who were on leave, so we couldn’t confirm that their autoreplies were on).

    I complained to IT. We all complained to IT. IT responded that the mail server was working as it was supposed to, that all the diagnostics came back green with not even a trace of amber. We didn’t believe them.

    We talked at lunchtime with colleagues we knew on other floors. They reported similar issues with various automated messages that their e-mail systems were supposed to be sending out. Apparently the first failures had started about a week ago.

    That afternoon we complained to IT en masse. IT sent an e-mail to all employees in the office just before the day’s end saying that they’d carried out every check that they could think of, and had found nothing wrong.

    Today things were worse. David’s e-mails weren’t being received by anyone. We decided that we’d had enough. We phoned our local IT rep, and insisted that he carry out a physical inspection of the mail server. Enough of our bosses were getting annoyed at the e-mail malfunctions that he didn’t have a choice.

    I escorted him to the server room to confirm that the check was actually carried out (not another greenwashing of a failing system).

    The outside of the mail server looked fine. All the connections seemed to be correctly inserted into the server. As a final check we looked inside.

    The IT rep unscrewed the screws holding a side panel in place, and I removed it. We were both rendered speechless by the sight.

    The insides were covered by bugs. Not the normal flies or beetles. These were about quarter of an inch in length, and made of what looked like finely spun metal and plastic. They were feeding on the insides of the server.

    We put the side panel back as quickly as we could to ensure that whatever they were didn’t escape into the wild. Then the IT rep got in touch with his superiors. It wasn’t long before the entire office was shut down and IT specialists called in to debug the e-mail system.

    [Two weeks later]

    Finally we were back in the office! Two weeks of working at home had proved very difficult. I’d missed the camaraderie.

    We arrived at our desks to find that every single one had a printed explanation for the bug problem – clearly our bosses didn’t trust the e-mail system for propagating important information yet.

    According to the IT investigation the problem was the result of issues with the Self-Replicating Artificial Intelligence controlling the server. The IT experts reckoned that its code got corrupted when the SRAI copied itself to our mail server.

    Rather than the self-replication facility lying dormant until the next mail server was installed on the network it remained live. So the SRAI started looking for ways to replicate itself by non-standard means. Eventually it figured out how to manufacture the first bug. Each bug retained the buggy self-replication code, so they ate the server internals in order to replicate themselves as well.

    The bugs gradually degraded the server’s internals to the point where it stopped working as it ought. But because the SRAI was operating in accordance with its coding, it thought that everything was working perfectly – and reported this back to IT whenever they checked.

    Apparently the same issue had arisen in other mail servers from the same manufacturer, but not to the same extent. Management had made the executive decision: Any AIs in the mail servers from now on were to be non-self-replicating.

    Our mail server had already been replaced. So had any other in other offices that were in the early stages of the same malfunction. All the others were scheduled for early replacement.

    We didn’t care that much. We were just thankful that the office was back to normal.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Life has been kind of complicated, and I missed sending in a prompt this week! So, let’s look at the spares… oh, that one looks interesting.

    The spare prompt read…

    The girl planted the stick in the hole her friend had so carefully dug. When he came back in the morning to water it, he found…

    A willowy figure, draped in greens, standing by the little stick, who smiled at him and his little watering can. He blinked, and asked, “I’m sorry, do I know you?”

    She lifted her hands out to him, and said, “No, not yet. But when someone plants a tree, with shared love, as you and your friend did, then a dryad, which is what I am, can come live there. And especially in these times, with so many forest fires destroying our homes, many of us are wandering, looking for new homes. That’s why I am so glad to have found the tree you and your friend planted together. It truly is a tree of life, and I will live here, if you approve.”

    He shook his head, and she looked worried.

    “Oh, yes, please, you can live here, but I can’t believe… will others see you? I’m not sure my mother would be happy?”

    He looked at her, wrapped in every shade of green, a swirl of living plants, but plainly female, too. She swayed slightly as he looked. Then she straightened up, and it felt as if the trees and grass and even the weeds were reaching for the sky all together.

    She chuckled. “Oh, no, very few ever see me, and even those few only see me rarely. But you came to water the tree. Don’t let me stop you.”

    She turned, and somehow vanished into the tiny tree, which had sprouted a new leaf.

    He looked all around, but didn’t see her anymore. So he shrugged, and carefully watered the tree.

    He told his friend about it, and she laughed at his imagination. Still, they took care of the tree, and it grew tall and strong. Around it, other trees also grew, until there was a small forest.

    And the townspeople said that from time to time, if you were quiet and gentle with the trees, you might see a dryad and even talk to it. All because that young couple started their tree with love and care.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. […] For Week 10 of the More Odds Than Ends challenge Fiona Grey and I traded prompts. She came up with: He looked up, and discovered the rabbit was flying the aeroplane, goggles and all. My prompt was The giraffe bent all the way down to look you in the eye. “Well, let me tell you,” he began… I’m looking forward to what Fiona comes up with! […]

    Liked by 1 person

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