Week 49 of Odd Prompts

There are lessons learned that stick with you, sometimes for the strangest reasons. Oh, there are those lessons hard-earned, won from exhausted toil and sheer panic. But others…others come from media and stories, and are important enough to carry on. Observation matters, MacGyver taught me, because most people tend not to look up. Perspective can be shifted, Ender said, and is vital to understanding. Love and companionship arrives from unexpected sources, in a disaster of a dog named Marley.

Whether it’s intentional or no, our stories share a part of ourselves with the world, and carry these lessons and messages. It doesn’t need to be heavy-handed messaging. Even when we might think it’s fluff, mind candy for the best of reasons, dreams matter. Whatever your theme, there’s a prompt to help you along.

ProdderPokeProdded
Cedar SandersonThe crystalline rose petals landed softly on the cakeBecky Jones
AC YoungThe scanning techs jumped up and down with joy when they saw what the latest pass of the planetary scanner had picked up.Leigh Kimmel
Becky JonesThe scent of oranges drifted in on the breeze.nother Mike
nother MikeThe snake and the dragon eyed each other…Padre
Fiona GreyThe ghost made a halfhearted effort to scare intruders away, but his heart wasn’t in it, until…AC Young
Leigh KimmelBehind the cabinet she found a tiny door, complete with knob and doorbell.Cedar Sanderson
PadreThe manger scene doesn’t normally look like that…Fiona Grey

Need a spare? We’ve got you covered! It’s certainly better than needing a spare tire.

SpareWell, that was disappointing.
SpareThere were frogs in the trash can.
SpareThe settlers had a hard time figuring out the correct dates for Christmas and Easter given their new planet’s year.
SpareThe skeleton shivered as it hung in the closet…
SpareThis year, Santa Claus had a new reindeer guiding the sleigh. It breathed fire!
SpareThe basil eruption in midwinter was unexpected

Post your tales in the comments, and see you next week.

Header image by Fiona Grey

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14 comments

  1. For the second prompt of Advent, Fiona Grey gave to me: The ghost made a halfhearted effort to scare intruders away, but his heart wasn’t in it, until…

    The glass sphere originated as a placeholder to figure out the motivations/consequences, to be replaced later by something suitable. But it ended up fitting, so I left it in.

    Brian was almost looking forwards to the next set of intruders.

    He had been alone in the mansion for almost a century, ever since Flora had passed away. It had been Flora who had captured his essence and gave him a life after death as a ghost. She had been the love of his life for almost half a century prior to that.

    He had enjoyed the first few years as a ghost. Flora had interacted with him every day, conversing with him, and playing games with him (moving both sets of pieces as he couldn’t move them himself).

    Then Flora had died. No-one had bought the house – it was too large for many of the people who viewed it – and it had fallen into disrepair. On top of this, the locals had figured out that Brian was still hanging around, and were convinced that the place was haunted.

    It had become a tradition for the local youths to break in and see how far they could get before Brian scared them away. Brian didn’t try too hard, as life as a ghost in an empty mansion was extremely boring, and an invasion of youths was not boring.

    No-one had broken in for about a month now. Brian was almost looking forwards to the next set of intruders.

    A sound from one of the side rooms. Brian listened intently. Yes! Someone was trying to get in through one of the broken windows on that side of the house.

    Brian flitted his way over there. There were three of them, all boys, probably late teenagers. They were laughing and joking about how they would be the ones to scare the ghost away.

    Brian was merely amused. He knew that he was tied to this house by what Flora had done all those long years ago. Still he was expected to do something.

    Flitting to the servant’s stairs, Brian made a long moan from the top floor landing. It wasn’t easy making a sound these days, he was out of practice, but it worked as he intended.

    Brian flitted back. Yes, they’d heard it. They were excited at the confirmation that the mansion was haunted. One of them went to the door and looked down the corridor.

    Brian took advantage of the opportunity. He went partially-visible while walking across the corridor from wall to wall. It wasn’t as impressive as he would have liked – shifting between invisible and visible, and especially stopping partway, required control, and he was out of practice at that too.

    From the sounds of it, the boys were now even more excited. Brian sighed to himself. He’d have to work harder to scare them away, but if he did he’d just spend more long months alone. His heart really wasn’t in it anymore – it hadn’t been for half a century at least.

    The boys continued to explore. Unusually they didn’t seem interested in the basement, nor in the upper floor. They stayed on the ground floor.

    Brian continued to randomly reveal himself and make weird noises. But nothing really seemed to work. It seemed to confirm to the boys that they were in a haunted mansion, and they seemed invigorated by that.

    The boys continued to explore. On the far side of the house they discovered the door to Flora’s laboratory. Brian was vaguely aware of a reason why them entering that room might be a bad idea, but after nearly a century of living alone he couldn’t remember what it was.

    Brian tried to distract them by walking away from them down the corridor, partially-visible. It didn’t work. Into the lab the boys went.

    Brian flitted quickly around the house, making loud moans from various directions in order to encourage the boys to explore elsewhere. But they weren’t leaving the lab. So Brian flitted into the lab to see what they were up to.

    They were making their way slowly around the room, looking intently at the various equipment that Flora had left there upon her demise. Most of it was extremely dusty, for no-one had cleaned in here for decades – it hadn’t even been reached by the last concerted effort to bring the mansion back up to spec in an attempt to sell it.

    “Look!” one of the boys yelled. The others quickly gathered around. A hollow glass sphere rested on a ring of crystal. Neither had a speck of dust.

    “I’m taking this,” the same boy said.

    As the boy picked up the sphere, Brian remembered. Flora had explained it to him when she was preparing to capture his essence.

    “This equipment is key to your continued existence,” he remembered her saying. “As long as the various pieces are kept close enough together you should be able to wander freely within a certain range of the sphere. I think the range is enough to give you full run of the mansion. If the components are separated and one is moved too far from the other, the power connections between the two will fail, and your existence will cease with it.”

    No! The boy meant no harm, but in his ignorance, he was intending to doom Brian to a second death. It could not be borne!

    Brian was enraged. He had to scare the boys so badly that they fled the mansion without the sphere.

    Brian used every trick he knew to scare the boys. The tension grew, and grew, but they weren’t breaking.

    Then… The boy holding the sphere started so badly that he dropped it. As it landed on the floor it bounced. Then it bounced again. And again. It must have bounced five or six times before Brian started to think that it would survive the drop. Then the sphere shattered into many small pieces.

    Immediately Brian felt pain. He had no reference to compare it to. A century of painless existence had meant he had forgotten what pain felt like. He had no idea if it was the level of a minor twinge, or excruciating, or anywhere else on the pain scale. All he knew was that it was infinitely worse than anything he could remember.

    Brian screamed. The sound echoed around the mansion. And then it faded away. Brian was no more.

    What Brian didn’t survive long enough to realise was that his scream had done the trick. The boys fled the mansion.

    It was thirty years before anyone dared enter the building again. It became a cause celebre for ghost hunters – a bona fide haunted mansion whose ghost hadn’t been seen in decades. Even then, Brian’s final success lasted amongst the locals – they refused to go near the place.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Becky Jones tantalized us with…

    The scent of oranges drifted in on the breeze.

    [oh, what if virtual reality went for full sensory surround? Why not?]

    Gregor shook his head. He had worked hard today. Time for a little relaxation. He slipped on the VR helmet, and started up the new release of Demons and Dragoons. They claimed…

    Wow! He looked around at the jungle, and the wall of the city ahead of him. His friends said the best game play was in the city, but that everywhere you went, there was plenty to do. So he started to walk forward, looking around. That’s when he realized that there was a medley of sounds, both wind playing through the trees, birds singing, maybe monkeys chattering? And as he blinked, listening to the sounds and looking at the sights, the scent of oranges drifted in on the breeze. Along with other smells, too. He reached over and stroked a tree bole. He could feel the roughness of the bark. He licked his lips, and wondered if he could find some foods to eat in the city, to see what kind of experience the game designers had built in for that.

    Just then, he noticed a small brightly colored snake on the tree…

    [well, it’s a quick snippet, but… now should the snake bite him as he strokes the tree? After all, standing in a jungle distracted by the sights, sounds, smells, and all really invites some kind of problem, doesn’t it?]

    Harry shook his head and sank down to his knees. At least inside this shed, it was unlikely that someone would shoot at him. He let his rucksack slide down, and quietly took a deep breath. That last few kilometers, with someone shooting at them every time they moved, had been rough. But now he could relax for a few minutes.

    There was a window open in the side of the shed. As he crouched in the dark, the scent of oranges drifted in on the breeze. He smelled it, and then took a deep breath through his nose, relishing the sweet reminder of other times. When he closed his eyes, he could almost see the orchard that his grandmother had in Florida. He hoped that he would have a chance to see it again, after this police action settled down again.

    That was when the door of the shed blew in, and the bullets whined past him.

    [oh, now we’ve got some action..]

    [drat, drat, running late, so let’s go with those splinters, and see what other fragrances are drifting on the breezes…]

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A bit late this week as things have been busy at work.

    ‘nother Mike prompted me with “The snake and the dragon eyed each other…”

    Drak looked up at the sign over the inn’s door. “This looks like a likely place,” he told Vinal.
    “How can you be sure?”
    “They seem to know something of the empire and imperial soldiers unless I miss my guess.”
    “How? Not that I don’t believe you, but I think I’m missing some type of secret symbol that you see.”
    Drak nodded up at the sign. A stylized snake and dragon sinuously entwinned around each other and eyed each other across it. He gave a slightly embarrassed shrug.
    “It’s in the sign. There is a bawdy ballad that was quite popular in the legions in my generation about how the snake and the dragon… Well, anyway. I think the tavern name is a reference to it.”
    Vinal laughed. “Well, we’ll chance it, then.”

    The common room was well-lit and the food and beer smelled delicious as Drak and Vinal pushed through the door. Loud, angry voices brimming with violence assaulted their ears as they entered and Drak’s hand went to the sword hidden under his cloak.
    “I already told you. I paid my taxes this month to your boss and I don’t owe anything until next month.”
    “You paid your taxes, yes. But you still owe us the extra for being a stinking imperial.”
    “That wasn’t part of the deal.”
    “It is now. And we’ll take it in food or drink or some other way.”
    “No. Tell your boss to come over and negotiate again if he wants more. Until then, you can get out of my tavern.”
    “I’ll leave when I…”
    Drak placed a solid hand on the loudmouth’s shoulder. “He said to leave. Now get out or you’ll leave the hard way.”
    The man spun around, while the thugs backing him up looked over at the newcomer. “Stay out of this, stranger,” he said.
    “Sorry. I’m probably more welcome in this house than you at this point. Right, Trolvar?”
    The man behind the bar looked up and smiled a fierce smile. “I don’t know about that, Drak. The last bar fight we were in put four men in coffins and sent a dozen more to the healers. I’d rather keep my common room violence free, if I can help it. It’s so hard on the furniture.”

    Liked by 3 people

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