Week 14 of Odd Prompts: 2023 Edition

We’re solidly into this year, although it feels like just yesterday it was starting. Time to look over our shoulder for a second, evaluate how we’ve been doing, and then apply that to our forward momentum. The prompts seem to be doing well enough, so we’ll keep doing that. One constant in an ever-changing world, eh?

Cedar SandersonOne of them may have been harmoniousJA Marshal
Fiona GreyThe Finlays always had a dog, except for one terrible, glorious year.Cedar Sanderson
JA MarshalHe peered out through the hole he had made, only to recoil from the face of his mother, transformed not by being remade into another creature, but by the chemicals coursing through her veins.Leigh Kimmel
AC YoungHis Bach is worse than his bite.Becky Jones
Becky JonesThe clanking sound grew louder.Fiona Grey
Leigh KimmelIn the flowerbeds, the bulbs were putting up shoots — but you don’t remember planting those big, dark things.AC Young
nother Mike“At the sound of the tone, please leave a message.” And then it burped.nother Mike

And always, there are spares. In this case, spare prompts. In life? Other spare bits and pieces left over when you assemble the whosigig. Did you need that?

Sparewith the hat last night
SpareThe toddler pressed against the glass, oblivious to the danger.
SpareSweet heat took on a new meaning
SpareThe flames leapt up from the dry tinder, lighting faces filled with wonder, as the creatures started to dance.
SpareThe spry queue-jumping zebra vexed the flock of warblers.

Whatever it is, write it, art it, make it your own… pee on it or lick it? I know which I’d choose… depending on the object. If it has thorns I’m not licking it.

Come back and post your response in the comments!

Visual Prompt (Image by Cedar Sanderson, rendered in Midjourney and edited post-production)


  1. Leigh Kimmel supplied me with this week’s prompt: In the flowerbeds, the bulbs were putting up shoots — but you don’t remember planting those big, dark things.

    The prompt brought to mind World Wide Witch. I did some research and refound my response from week 32, 2021. After re-reading it, I wrote this as a sequel set a few months later.

    Amber exited the back door, out into her garden. The weather was pleasantly sunny, and dry. It had rained overnight, but not heavily. Amber still thanked the weather gods every morning that she hadn’t experienced another storm like the one on the night of the disastrous griffon delivery.

    Her first task was to check her potion ingredient plots. The older ones she’d leave until last – they would probably need only a light weeding. Instead she headed to her new spring-flowering bulb plot.

    The bulbs were putting up shoots, roughly on schedule. That was where she’d planted the witch’s iris – they looked like they were doing very well, and might even flower early. Next to them were the sanguineous hyacinth – very useful in healing potions, particularly when the patient had suffered blood loss. And the temporal narcissus was growing nicely as well – prepared properly it created a temporal mirror effect, essential in certain reversal potions such as the lightning tonic.

    But something had gone wrong in the corner where she’d planted the imperial cyclamen. Instead of healthy plant growth, there was a set of large, dark growths erupting from the soil. Amber recognised it from photos in her reference books as a type of necromancer fungus.

    In less than a second Amber’s mood shifted from pleasure at how well her plants were growing to despair.

    Necromancer fungus was very bad news. Its spores could lie dormant in the soil, undetectable, for years – no-one knew how long – but when one of them encountered a magical plant it would spark into life. Once the fungus started growing it was very vigorous, using the magic in the plants it encountered to feed its growth. Any plant affected by the fungus swiftly became useless for potion purposes, all their magical goodness sucked out of them to feed the parasite.

    The only thing a witch could do once necromancer fungus had started growing was to dig it out of the ground before it could produce spores of its own. It would then have to be incinerated to guarantee its destruction. And any soil and plants close enough to the visible growth would have to be treated likewise, or there was a risk that some of the invisible fibres of the parasite would survive to regrow at a later date.

    Amber headed swiftly back indoors and phoned the nearest witch, Emmie (short for Emerald). “Do you have a few spare hours today?”


    “Necromancer fungus.”

    “Oh no! Your new plots?”


    “I’ll come around, and I’ll bring my spade. Just give me a few minutes to re-organise my day.”

    “Of course. Bye.”


    Amber put the phone down, and then hunted through her reference books to find the relevant guidance. Three feet around the visible growths, digging down at least three feet into the ground. All soil removed to go into clearly marked bags for magical incineration, along with all plants dug up. Any plant partially within the clearance area had to go in its entirety, roots and all.

    Right. Soonest started, soonest finished. Amber headed back outside, and went straight to her shed. In the far right corner she kept her ‘I hope I never need this’ pile. Somewhere in there was a pack of magical incineration bags she’d ordered from World Wide Witch a few years back when she planted her first potion ingredients plot. Carefully shifting things from that pile to a new one next door she worked her way down the stack.

    There it was – a hundred densely packed bags, each of which could contain about two cubic feet of soil when unfolded and opened up. It was the smallest pack World Wide Witch did. At the time Amber thought that the number of bags in the pack was excessive. Now, having read the guidance on the amount of soil she needed to remove to be safe, she thought that the number might not be unreasonable.

    And just below it was the incineratable groundsheet she’d bought alongside the bags.

    Amber lifted the pack of incineration bags. It was heavy, not quite as heavy as a bag of compost, but heavy nonetheless. She carefully balanced it on both forearms, then she turned around and walked carefully out of the shed. She dropped the bag on the grass at the nearest edge of the lawn.

    Then she went back in and collected the groundsheet. This she unfolded and laid flat on the lawn, as close to the affected bed as she could get it, while leaving the three feet distance to the visible fungus.

    Next she collected some marker spray from a shelf in the shed. Returning to the necromancer fungus she started to mark out the edge of the section of garden she would need to remove. She remeasured frequently to ensure that the line was at least three feet from the visible growths in all directions. When she finished, she went back and extended the area around the plants that were partially within the original circuit.

    Now she knew the extent of the damage. All her new bed – much of which she’d rescued from the crate the griffin had dropped – gone. Parts of the beds on either side would have to be dug up as well. A section of her lawn would have to be dug up – she’d added a few inches there just in case. And a large portion of the decorative border between the ingredients and the edge of her garden – including two lovely rose bushes.

    As she viewed the damage she suddenly wanted to burst into tears. But that wouldn’t help with the practical task before her. Instead Amber returned to her shed and extracted her spade.

    On her return she stopped at the pack of incinerator bags, and opened it. Then she removed the first of the bags she’d be filling that day.

    Back at the affected area she opened the bag up, before starting work. First she pulled up all the plants in the affected area that she could extract safely by hand. They went straight into the bag on the grounds that they were potentially infected. The larger plants she dug up with her spade. She then used the spade to roughly cut out the affected area of lawn before pulling it up. By the time she’d finished deplanting she had four bags partially filled.

    She was about to start on the visible fungal growth when a raised voice signalled that Emmie had arrived. Amber immediately went to the side gate to let her friend into the garden.

    “Oh no! That’s horrible!” was Emmie’s response to the sight.

    “Three feet around the visible growths, three feet down. I can’t risk not following the guidance.”

    “You’re lucky that doesn’t extend into your neighbour’s garden.”

    “We’re advised to maintain a gap of at least three feet between a potions plot and the edge of our land. I didn’t understand why before today.” Amber noticed the blank look on Emmie’s face, “You didn’t read the guidance.”

    “My potions plot runs all along my back fence.”

    “Hopefully you won’t get necromancer fungus in the near future.”

    “Plant gods willing, no!”

    “Right. The next task is to dig out the visible growths. Then remove all the potentially affected soil – we can fill in the remaining gaps in those bags first before we start any new ones.”

    Emmie brandished her spade. “Understood. I’ll start digging the soil out here.”

    That left the visible growths to Amber, but she didn’t mind. They set to work, taking regular breaks to drink water.

    A couple of hours later they stopped for lunch. Amber went back into the house and quickly made them both some sandwiches and a mug of tea. Lunch eaten they set to once more.

    It was another couple of hours before they finally finished.

    Amber leaned on her spade in the middle of the new hole in her garden and reviewed the sight. A pile of filled, sealed, incinerator bags were piled up in the middle of her lawn – she hadn’t kept count but it looked like it was around half of the pack. There was one more by her feet to add, but that was it. She’d have to arrange pick-up with World Wide Witch.

    “Thankyou,” she said to Emmie, “I don’t think I’d have completed it today without your help.”

    “What else are friendly witches for?” came the standard ‘don’t mention it’ reply.

    “If you need my help to move your potion ingredients, just give me a little notice.”

    Emmie laughed. “I might need to take you up on that.”

    When Emmie had left to return to her home, Amber finished the last of the tidying up. The groundsheet had the soil grains that the pair had knocked off the soles of their shoes and off their spades. She wrapped it up, making sure that she didn’t lose any of the soil, then placed it in another incinerator bag for the pile.

    She’d get the bags picked up, but at some point she had to repair the damage to her garden. A lot of soil for starters – World Wide Witch’s ‘Guaranteed Fungus Free’ brand for preference, though she dreaded the expense. Then she’d fix the lawn.

    Replacing the plants would take a bit of planning. There was a best time to put each variety into the bed. It would probably be about three-to-five years before the affected portion of the decorative border returned to its former glory.

    Time to put the tools away. Then tidy herself up. Then she could make a large pot of tea, sit down with the teapot, a mug, plenty of milk, and mope.

    She’d ignore the need to contact World Wide Witch until the morning.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. nother Mike recursively reciprocated with…

    “At the sound of the tone, please leave a message.” And then it burped.

    [funny guy, making a comment about phone manners. All right, so who is calling, and what kind of answering device is at the other end?]

    Haley knew something was wrong when she called Melissa. First, Melissa’s cell phone rang several times, then it clicked, and she heard the normal message, “At the sound of the tone, please leave a message.” And then it burped. Now, Haley might not be a computer whiz, but she knew telephones weren’t supposed to burp!

    So she hung up. Without leaving a message. And tried to decide what kind of trouble Melissa might be in that someone would be hacking her phone. Or maybe it was a joke? No, Melissa wasn’t that kind of person. So, it was something wrong with her service.

    Well, maybe she could get John to run over to Melissa’s apartment with her and check out what was going on. She didn’t think it was a good idea to do it alone.

    A half hour later, they were sitting outside Melissa’s apartment, looking at the police cars everywhere…

    [well, that might make a beginning to something…]

    Haley hated calling Melissa, since she had started playing with her phone. Still, she called. Waited. After a few rings, as usual, it clicked, and the message came on. “At the sound of the tone, please leave a message.” And then it burped.

    Haley snorted into the phone. Then she coughed a couple of times. Waited a moment, and said, “Oh, is this the party to whom I am speaking? A little phone company humor there. Melissa, this is Haley. If you’re there, I have to tell you, a burp is not a tone. It’s just disgusting. Call me!”

    Then she hung up. And shook her head at the phone.

    [there, that might work…]

    [sorry, not really getting excited about this one. So… at the sound of the tone, please leave your message! BEEEEP!]

    Liked by 1 person

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