Week 46 of Odd Prompts

Well into November, and still, the prompts go on! You never know what’s coming, week to week. In life, or in the prompts. But the one thing you can hold on to is that there will be a prompt.

PrompterPromptPrompted
AC YoungJurgen’s School of Magic employed a dragon to heat up their water. They found it was cheaper than installing a modern boiler.nother Mike
nother MikeThe dog running down the street was wearing a backpack…Leigh Kimmel
Becky JonesAs the sun dropped below the horizon, the squirrels and possums formed up once again, to defend their territory on Lemon Hill in Faire Mount.AC Young
Leigh KimmelAs you drive down the highway, the snow becomes steadily heavier. When it clears, everything looks different and you realize you’re now far from anything familiar/Fiona Grey
Fiona GreyThe proof was in the taser.Cedar Sanderson
Cedar SandersonIt’s the combination that confusesBecky Jones

And for those who are surprised by life, there are spare prompts. Come! Join us in creation, rather than destruction, in the face of entropy! Only humans can defy the flying-apart of the universe and knit it back together in tales, songs, and art.

SpareShe needed a chickadee’s brain to find her key…
SpareThe instructions said add water to make soup. They didn’t warn you about what happened if you added whiskey…
SparePrizes on the show included an AI robot and an alien pet…
SpareUnfortunately, the butler really did do it…

When you have woven your cobweb of imagination, come and spread it out for display in the comments, so we can all admire it.

16 comments

  1. In this week’s prompt cycle, I received the one supplied by Becky Jones: As the sun dropped below the horizon, the squirrels and possums formed up once again, to defend their territory on Lemon Hill in Faire Mount.

    A quick search, and it would seem that this prompt is set on Lemon Hill in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Assuming I haven’t got the wrong end of the stick…

    For centuries the squirrels and possums of Lemon Hill had operated a truce. For the avoidance of bloodshed (they had fought a pitched battle once, long ago) they shared the territory. It was not entirely peaceful. Many skirmishes were fought over which trees the squirrels and possums could feed from or construct their homes in.

    But all hatchets had been put to one side, for they had a common enemy. The brown rats were fighting their way north through Fairmount Park, and they had no interest in sharing with anyone else.

    The rats had already taken all the park south of Lemon Hill, and had launched a couple of assaults to try to take Lemon Hill as well.

    So as the sun dropped below the horizon, battle lines were drawn up once more. On the south side of the road the humans called Sedgley Drive the rats congregated in their serried ranks.

    The other side of the road the squirrels and possums arrayed themselves. The nut slingers – the squirrel artillery brigades – were stationed in the trees. On the ground the possums and the ground-based units of the squirrel army formed a line.

    The rats’ tactics would be no surprise. They charged en masse and attempted to swarm the defenders. There was some sense to this. The possums were several times the size of the rats – even the larger than normal war rats – and one-on-one were more than a match for a rat. But their size came with limits on manoeuvrability, and if they were attacked from all sides they would eventually fall. Each possum killed that way cost a few rats, but the rats bred quickly, they could afford the losses.

    The defenders knew all this. The possums were the most powerful forces at their disposal, but alone they could be killed. So between each possum was stationed a small cluster of squirrels – light skirmishers to protect the possum’s flanks. On each wing the squirrels extended the defensive line in an attempt to prevent the defenders being outflanked.

    The sun finished its journey below the horizon. It was a cloudless night, with the moon shining bright – perfect for a pitched battle. (By unwritten convention no battles were fought at the new moon, or on nights with too much cloud.)

    On cue the rats charged across the road, and up the slope on the other side. They were faced with a barrage of nuts from the nut slingers. Many rats fell, knocked out. The possums stood their ground and met the charge head on. The lines of squirrels were less resilient, and bent backwards, but did not snap.

    The fighting was ferocious. The possums were strongpoints in the defensive line, against which the rats swarmed in vain. Many fell, sacrificing themselves to prevent the possums from assisting the squirrels on either side.

    The squirrels did less well. The light skirmishers were not quite the equal of the war rats, and more squirrels fell at the hands of the rats than the other way around. In various places along the line it was only the continued efforts of the nut slingers that kept the squirrel forces from being splintered, which would have permitted the rats through the lines and probably handed the rats victory.

    The salients gradually got deeper and deeper. The nut slingers started to run out of ammunition. In places the possums had to retreat a pace or two to prevent their flanks from being open to assault.

    Then – suddenly – it was over. The rat army had run out of rats to throw into the line. The attackers broke and ran back across the road.

    With great relief the squirrels and possums backed carefully off the field.

    Only one thing was left to do. The pair of neighbourhood cats that had been roped in to serve as heralds approached the generals on both sides and arranged for the battlefield to be cleared of the dead. Each side sent their own burial parties: squirrels collected the dead and wounded squirrels; possums the wounded possums; and rats the dead and wounded rats. The dead rats were carried back across the road, back into rat territory – as long as they left Lemon Hill neither the squirrels nor the possums cared what happened to them.

    The dead squirrels were laid out up suitable trees with all due ceremony. This time there were no dead possums – but that hadn’t always been the case.

    The squirrels posted sentries in the trees, to make certain that the rats would respect the conventions that territorial incursions weren’t initiated during daytime, when the humans might notice – neither the squirrels nor the possums trusted the rats further than they could scratch them.

    The sun rose on another morning.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes! Lemon Hill is at the end of my street (Poplar St.) and the mansion sits at the top of it. Sedgeley Drive is the perfect dividing point since there are railroad tracks on the east side of the road…perfect for rats to be hiding out in. This was inspired by our walks around Lemon Hill on the aptly named Lemon Trail.

      Like

  2. AC Young elaborated…

    Jurgen’s School of Magic employed a dragon to heat up their water. They found it was cheaper than installing a modern boiler.

    [First cut…]

    Henry looked around at the concrete block walls, and the steel staircase. He knew that one of the students had been assigned to bring a big basket full of food down here, but he wasn’t quite sure how the rest of them had gotten talked into going along. Except that someone had said something about anyone who wouldn’t come down here must be a coward, and, well, now he was here, along with most of the other new boys at
    Jurgen’s School of Magic.

    The lights along the way were old-fashioned electric torches, not modern magical lamps, too. Which argued that either this basement had been built a long time ago, before modern magic became widespread, or maybe something was down here that made magical technology hard to use?

    Anyway, the boy who was leading the parade opened a steel door, almost a hatch, in the wall, and started to pour the food from the basket into the opening. That was when something hit the wall, and there was a roar!

    Henry frowned, and looked a little further down the hall. Wait, there was a grill there. Like a cage… he stepped around the others, and walked down there.

    Through the bars, he saw it. Green scales, wings drooping, a huge paw raised to hit the wall beside the food bowl inside the cage.

    “That’s a dragon,” Henry gasped.

    One of the older boys shook his head. “Yeah, but we’re just supposed to feed it. Come back here, and be quiet.”

    Henry looked at the dragon, who turned his head toward him. The dragon lifted one brow ridge. He looked… well, comical.

    Henry smiled. “No, I think I’m going to talk with the dragon a bit. After all, everyone knows they are sapient beings, right? And leaving a sapient being in the dark without anyone to talk to is just mean.”

    The other boys laughed.

    “You’re going to make friends with a dragon? You’re crazy.”

    They shook the last of the food into the chute, and then they turned around, and started to leave.

    “Last chance to come back up with us.”

    Henry looked at the dragon. Who shrugged. Somehow, that was enough for Henry.

    “Nope, you go ahead. I’m staying.”

    They all left, feet thumping. Then the basement grew quiet.

    Henry looked at the dragon, who stepped closer to the open cage.

    “My name is Henry. What is your name?”

    The dragon shook his head, his muzzle swaying from side to side.

    “You aren’t terrified to talk to me?” The dragon whispered, his voice echoing slightly.

    Now Henry laughed.

    “And why would I be scared to talk with you? At home, our house dragon is called James, and he enjoyed telling me stories. But why are you down here, and why do they have you in a cage?”

    The dragon chuckled.

    “Well, Henry, actually, I am employed by Jurgen’s School of Magic to heat the boilers and other heating systems. As for the cage…”

    The dragon reached out, and swung the cage door open.

    “I don’t really like to scare the students, so staying in the cage seems like the easiest way to make them feel safe. They seem to enjoy scaring each other when they bring my food, so I play along.”

    [Next shot…

    Let’s try it alone…]

    Henry shivered, looking at the concrete block walls and the steel staircase in the basement. There was a cold draft blowing down the stairs, and the basket of food in his arms made him cautious about setting his feet down on the stairs.

    He could hear the boys behind him, upstairs, laughing. The dormitory guide, an older student, had assigned each of the new boys to bring food down to whatever was down here, and then forbidden them to talk about what they found. The older boys had told them such strange tales. There was a monster chained up down here, and the school kept it fed to keep it from escaping. Or there was a horde of crazed monkeys, who would snatch the food and run. Or…

    All he really knew was that the other boys had taken their baskets down, then come back, pale faced and trembling. And today was his turn.

    So, he walked down the stairs. And didn’t jump when the door behind him slammed, and the lights dimmed. No, take it slow and careful. He had already seen that the stairs were straight, and there was some kind of passage down there. So he stepped down, down, down.

    Whoops. That was the last step. And ahead, there was a lantern. An old fashioned electric light? Now why would they have an electric light? Either this part of the school was much older than the other parts, so they didn’t have modern magical lights, or maybe there was something down here that caused magical lights to malfunction?

    Anyway, there was a small door under the light. So he walked forward, set down the basket, and started to open the door.

    Creeeeek.

    Of course, the door creaked.

    Thud!

    And something on the other side of the wall hit it.

    Growr!

    And there was a roar. Well, the wall seemed solid, and he could see a chute behind the door. So he tilted the basket and poured the food into the chute.

    Thud!

    He jumped. Then he finished dumping the food into the chute, and slammed the door shut again.

    Then he looked around. Just a little further down the hallway, there was another opening. With what looked like bars across it. What was that?

    He set the basket down, and walked over to the bars. Through the bars, he saw it. Green scales, wings drooping, a huge paw raised to hit the wall beside the food bowl inside the cage.

    “That’s a dragon,” Henry gasped.

    The dragon looked around at the sound. Then it bounced over to the bars. It looked at him, and he looked at it. He thought about his grandfather’s stories, of dragons talking. The older boys had warned them not to make any noise down here, because the monster would get them. But so far, he hadn’t seen any monsters… So…

    “My name is Henry,” he said.

    The dragon lifted one paw, and dragged a claw down its cheek. Then it grinned. Those teeth were long and sharp.

    “Well, Henry, I’m puzzled. Most of the boys who come down here are terrified. Why aren’t you scared?”

    It talked. In fact, it talked very well. A little hissy on the s’s, perhaps, but…

    “Well, my grandfather insisted that dragons and men could talk, even be friends. So I would rather make a friend than run.”

    The dragon chuckled. Then it nodded.

    “Very well, brave Henry. You may call me Sam.”

    Henry frowned.

    “But, why are you here? Why are you locked in a cage, here in the basement?”

    The dragon shrugged.

    “Actually, Jurgen’s School of Magic offered me a job here, and I heat the boilers, and other parts of the heating system here. A little puffing and blowing, and… Jurgen’s keeps me fed, and I can avoid all those tedious hunters. So it’s a good deal for both of us. As for the cage…”

    The dragon reached out, and pulled the bars toward itself. The bars swung in, and it was obvious that the dragon could walk out without anything stopping it. Then it pushed the bars back into place.

    “This is to make the other students, who aren’t as brave as you are, feel safe. After all, if they thought a dragon was running free down here below the school, they might be scared, right?”

    Henry nodded. The dragon shrugged.

    “So, we provide the illusion that I am held in a cage.”

    [hum, I probably need to redo it, building up Henry’s loneliness and maybe distance from the other students… but time marches on, so let’s post this, and see…]

    Liked by 3 people

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