Narrashun

Writing Prompt:
“You pay a visit to the chap in the old castle atop the craggy mountain peak, which always seems to be experiencing a thunderstorm. Despite the narrator’s attempts to paint him as such, he is not a bad guy, and he is getting annoyed with the stereotype.”

 

I glanced wistfully at the crumb-strewn dish where a dozen hot blueberry muffins had rested not long before. I made a mental note to ask Dennis for the recipe before I took my leave. That streusel topping had been absolutely delightful. Belly overfull and feeling a nice, sleepy wave of relaxation wash over me, I turned my full attention once more to my host. “Thanks so much for the food. The hike up really got my appetite going.” Then, thinking that there was no time like the present, “Maybe I could get the recipe before I leave? Those were fantastic muffins!”

Stroking his grey-streaked beard malevolently, the cruel Duke of Thundersummit Keep turned to the captive young man and chuckled treacherously. “Oh, stop it, they’re nothing special. If you insist, though, I’ll jot it down once I’ve finished cleaning.” The perfidious profligate plunged the rusted old muffin pan into the dank and dirty dishwater as though trying to drown the life out of some innocent woodland creature. “I’d hate to bore you while I’m washing up. There’s some reading material on the table in the parlor. Why don’t you go read off those baked goods and I’ll join you shortly?”

I agreed wholeheartedly with the idea, and retired to the parlor. The armchairs there were built to a standard of comfort I hadn’t realized was possible, even if they looked a little dated. Between the plush seating, the distended stomach, and the Study of Botany I had chosen to read, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I soon dozed off. My slumber was too light and too brief to dream, but pleasantly restful. I was roused by Dennis.

A gnarled, warty old hand took the young man’s shoulder in a vice-like grip, and violently shook him back and forth. “Here,” rasped the dastardly Duke. With his other clawed extremity, he proffered a goblet containing a vile-looking potion, as dark and putrid as the soulless man’s own black heart. “Pinot Noire, from the vineyard two fiefdoms over. Excellent vintage. Do you smoke?” Setting the goblet on the grotesquely carved table next to his grandiose throne, Wicked Duke Dennis slunk to the nearest bookshelf and retrieved a suspicious wooden box, one covered with strange and ominous runes and smelling strongly of mysterious and unfamiliar herbs.

“Not really,” I said. “No offense.”

Outraged, the volatile tyrant slammed the box back down on the shelf and shouted at his prisoner, “Eh, to each their own. And I didn’t slam it.”

I nodded. “It’s true, he was quite civil about it.” I couldn’t begin to imagine how difficult it was to live with an antagonistic narrator.

The contemptible cur rounded on the innocent young man threateningly, fist raised to strike his unsuspecting detainee. Lightning split the sky outside, harshly backlighting the deceitful Duke. In a low growl that would curdle blood, he intoned, “Never mind him, it only eggs him on. I shouldn’t have said anything. So, you were looking to expand your farmland and need an investor, correct?” It was clear that the bloodthirsty despot was on the verge of a homicidal rage.

I considered for a moment. “Actually, I think we should address this narration issue first. It can’t be easy to run a duchy with this misleading account. Why is he like that?”

The prideful and vain old villain twirled his waxed mustaches maliciously before replying. “I wish I knew. He wasn’t always like this.” He laughed nefariously, fully aware of his wrongdoing and reveling in the narrator’s anguish like the heinous malefactor he was.

I glanced at Dennis with a knowing look. “If I may wager a guess, it would seem to me that your narrator is holding something against you.”

The despicable Duke, less evil mastermind and more oblivious dolt, had clearly forgotten how, in a moment of callous and causal cruelty so long ago, he had remarked to an acquaintance on his devoted narrator’s “forced British accent.” Upon being confronted for his wrongdoing, he stammered like a blithering idiot, “Wait, that? That was years ago! You’ve been holding a grudge this whole time?”

Before the inept and heartless Duke Dennis could restate the obvious yet again, the poor young man interjected heroically. “It may not seem like much of an offense to you, Duke Dennis, but clearly your narrator was hurt by it. Also my own narrator can handle my dialogue, thank you very much. Nothing against yours, I just prefer his first-person perspective,” I said, trying not to be too forward in a precarious situation.

The hateful and villainous blackguard snarled and spat, “…you’re right. I didn’t realize I’d been hurtful, but ignorance is no excuse. I’m sorry, narrator. You shouldn’t have had to suffer all these years, and I hope you can forgive me.” The depraved lowlife… the loathsome… the… unpleasant… Dennis. Dennis concluded his heartfelt apology, and felt warmth well up from within. It felt good to do right by those close to him, and to earn forgiveness in return.

I smiled, watching a man I had grown to like very much over the last few hours mend his relationship with his estranged narrator. They’d both been suffering unnecessarily for so long. How strange that a chance visit from a lowly farmer such as myself could have been the catalyst to repairing their rapport. It was a touching scene, and it truly made me appreciate how well my own life had been going. I resolved never to take my own narrator for granted, even if sometimes I’d prefer wrapping up a tale like this one without a long-winded summary of events at the end preventing me from concentrating or getting a word in. Of course, I’m just an uncultured bumpkin who couldn’t recognize talent if it was following me around narrating my life every day. If I were any more boorish, people would throw rocks at me when I passed by. I’m little more than an inbred yokel who likes nothing so much as inviting my cousin over to– “Wait a minute…”

 

Original Prompt: Reddit – Antagonistic Narrator

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Narrashun

The Corporation and the Hacker

Writing Prompt:
“Classical stories adapted to a cyberpunk setting”

Once when the wealthy and corrupt Board of Directors for a huge international conglomerate was assembled for a shareholder meeting, the youngest boy in a poverty-stricken family living in one of the countless slums of his country began infiltrating the conglomerate’s database with a computer he’d assembled from spare parts he’d found. This soon alerted the Board of Directors, who tracked the naive boy’s IP and called in a band of ruthless mercenaries to bring him in.

Mercy, oh B of D,” frantically typed the low-income youth: “forgive me this once, and I’ll never forget it: who could guess how I might be able to benefit you in the future?

The Board of Directors was so amused by the notion of this youth being able to help them, that they called off their mercenaries and let him go free.

Some time later the conglomerate was caught in a particularly nasty lawsuit, and the attorneys who wished to bring them to justice for unsanctioned human experimentation with biological implants, tied the Board of Directors up in court while a group of plucky tech-enthusiasts covertly accessed their mainframe.

Just then the naive youth happened to find encrypted data on the dark web detailing the plucky group’s plans, and seeing the dire straits in which the conglomerate was, brute forced his way into the mainframe as well and soon had heavily encrypted all incriminating data and hidden it away behind an impenetrable firewall.

What did I tell you?” messaged the youth to the Board.

 

(This is a re-imagining of Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse)

 

Original Prompt: Reddit – Classical Cyberpunk

The Corporation and the Hacker

Yob Tvoyu Mat`

Writing Prompt:
“You will die if you tell a lie. Saying things like, “See you tomorrow” is a very risky procedure.”

At long last, the atmosphere was perfect. Stuart had gone to extreme lengths to make it so. Total sensuality was the goal, and he was finally confident that he’d achieved it.

He’d put in days of thorough research to cobble together an ultimate play-lust, carefully crafted to take listeners from first meetings through thrilling new discoveries and onward, deep into the throes of passion. He’d formulated and prepared a signature dish containing rare Fugu fish from Japan, Vietnamese cobra blood, Peruvian Maca root and Durian from Malaysia, all disguised as a tempting stuffed veal cutlet with a glass of Barbaresco and chocolates to follow. It was in effect a potent love potion. Well, a love-making potion. He had even dropped a pretty penny on some natural Agarwood to fill his home with a scent that would allegedly make the loins quiver. It was a shame he wouldn’t get to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Stuart was good friends with one of his coworkers, a very attractive woman in her early 30’s named Cherie. She was a Quality Control Technician at the facility where he worked. Over the last two weeks he had been carefully and clearly talking up one of the Salesmen, a… difficult person named Brad. As much as he hated to do it, he had become the catalyst for their relationship out of necessity. He had slipped up, and there was only one way out of it.

And so, tonight’s blind date. It was Brad and Cherie’s first official evening together outside the workplace, and that pri… insufferable man was going to need all the help he could get to go all the way. Was it worth the thousands of dollars spent, the weeks of his life dedicated to getting another man laid, the knowledge that he’d have to burn his bedsheets and sanitize his whole home? Yes. That didn’t mean he had to like it.

Stuart stuck around just long enough to let the pair into his home and show them around briefly. He forced a grin through their thank-you-so-much’s and their small talk. Then he let himself out, explaining that he had “matters to see to.” True enough. Using the approaching darkness as cover he quickly made his way around the side of the house and crouched in the bushes under the dining room window.


An hour passed. Stuart’s calves were aching from holding a squat and his exposed arms were itching from a myriad of minute scratches. He grouchily reminded himself that it was worth it, that this was his only option. Bitter medicine, indeed. He’d be very careful in the future not to use expletives to describe others except in the most literal sense, no matter how well-deserved they may be. He refocused on the conversation between Brad and Cherie, barely audible through the pane glass. “So, Cherie, how’s little Jamie doing? Still a handful?”

 

Original Prompt: Reddit – Death by Lie

Yob Tvoyu Mat`

Attributes Out

Writing Prompt:
“An Inside Out-esque scenario, but instead of the emotions being personified it’s the stats of an RPG (e.g. S.P.E.C.I.A.L. from Fallout).”

Hidden away in the dark lurked a foreboding room. There was no entrance, no exit. The walls were carved from living stone, intricately detailed and unfathomably old. A ring of carefully sculpted pillars supported the cobwebbed ceiling, depicting fierce battles and legendary treasures. In the center of the room stood a shaft of rowan wood, twisted and ornate but seemingly naturally occurring. Rather than branch out and bloom, however, it ended entwined about a softly pulsating crystal the size of a man’s fist, the source of the soft pink light that illuminated the room. A thick blanket of mist shrouded the floor, appearing to glow with the light of the crystal. It slowly wafted back and forth, swirling slowly about the pillars, as well as the robes of the six dark figures that stood silently arranged around the central shaft.

The largest of the six stepped forward to the spire, swept back the hood of its deep grey cloak, and placed one massive hand palm-down on the crystal. It flashed a deep red and grew suddenly brighter, throwing light around the room and on the face of the man standing before it. His rough, battle-scarred visage twisted into a sinister smile and he turned to his companions to speak, his hand never leaving its place.

“My comrades,” he boomed, “the obstacle before us obviously requires a full-strength offensive! I will gladly take over from here. Allow me to clear the path toward conquest and glory!”

The brute gripped the crystal tightly and focused. As he did, the chamber seemed to rock and shudder, as though the very ground beneath them protested. A second figure rushed forward and pushed the behemoth of a man out of the way, taking the crystal with it’s own more slender hand. It flashed a pale yellow that fell harshly on the angular face revealed by the now absent cowl of the second figure. The tall, slender and angry woman glared daggers at the first man, practically spitting her words at him.

“You fool! You can’t just rush headlong into this, we’ll all be killed! At least let a more dexterous professional such as myself keep us from being shot down before we begin. We have to flank the target, or we don’t have a chance.”

As the severe woman concentrated on what she was doing, the room seemed to tilt from one side to another, threatening to throw the remaining figures off their balance. In the midst of the developing chaos a shorter and much stouter man flipped back his hood and trundled up to the shaft, seemingly oblivious to the rolling floor. He plopped one hairy-knuckled mitt on the crystal and the room took on a sudden emerald hue. He completely ignored the woman who had been there before him and who was now pummeling his thick head with a flurry of impressive, but ultimately ineffective, blows.

“You know,” he said, “we should really leverage our superior constitution. Just prove we can take whatever is thrown at us.” He grinned. “Wear ’em down, that’s what I always say.”

He stood stock still at the rowan staff, not seeming to make any effort in particular. Meanwhile, the room began to develop a faint haziness, gradually obscuring vision and turning the brilliant green of the crystal into a sickly chartreuse. The remaining figures removed their hoods, as though they were having trouble breathing easily. One of them, a young man of very slight build, rushed forward and pinched the simple man’s nose until he was forced to comply and step back from the staff. The newcomer swiftly stepped in and placed his palm upon the crystal almost disdainfully. The light turned a rich and dark purple, and the young man rolled his eyes at his compatriots.

“Have you no intelligence whatsoever? Are you attempting to eradicate the lot of us?” He turned back to the crystal and closed his eyes. “I surmise it’s left to me once again to rectify the situation. Kindly remain stationary while I present our adversary with an indefatigable and irrefutable debate. We will certainly emerge victorious momentarily.”

An elderly woman stepped forward and placed a gentle hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Son, I think it might be wise to hand the reigns over to me. It’s said that discretion is the better part of valor, and that seems quite prudent at the moment.”

The young man hesitated, but eventually bowed to the wishes of his more experienced senior. The crone set her gnarled and bony fingers on the crystal, changing it to a calming indigo color. The haze left the room, the floor settled, and all the figures took a deep breath of relief. All but the last one.

The remarkably handsome gentleman swaggered forward and draped one arm around the wise old woman. “Granny, you do a great job around here. You know that, right?” He aimed a white smile and a wink at her. “But I said it before and I have to say it again. This is a job that requires finesse, appeal, a certain je ne sais quoi. This is a job for… Charisma.”

He wrested the crystal from the woman’s hand, and the chamber was once again bathed in a soft pink light.


Ashley watched in growing confusion. She had been enjoying a drink with a couple of her friends, grooving to the music, when a handsome young man had caught her eye. She had thought to flirt a bit, since he was pretty cute, after all, but that was certainly off the table when he abruptly turned to the stranger next to him and knocked the guy out cold with a wild haymaker. He proceeded to take out three more random clubgoers with vicious blows before the crowd withdrew from him in terror. With a ring of onlookers watching in bewilderment and fear, the young man squared off against a single brave fellow who had taken it upon himself to bring down this strange assailant. The young man had ceased his own attack entirely, dodging and skipping around in a manner completely different from his previous straightforwardness. It was bizarre to watch, but the club’s heroic defender never landed a blow on the mysterious stranger.

Abruptly the elusive young man ceased his skipping and calmly strode over to the bar, where he began downing the shots that remained there. The defender saw his opportunity, and launched himself at the stranger. As his attacks had no effect, however, he slowly came to a frightening conclusion and retreated.

The violent young man finished his twelfth shot, wiped his mouth, and staggered over to the table where Ashley and her friends sat, trapping them in the booth. He proceeded to present a detailed and convincing series of reasons why Ashley’s companions should, in essence, beat it. They needed little convincing, and as soon as they were fairly certain it was safe to move, they both made a dash for the club exit. So much for friendship.

Ashley was frozen with sheer disorientation, and watched helplessly as the unstable young man turned toward her and took a deep breath to say something. However, he instead abruptly turned around and headed toward the club exit himself without a word. She was just beginning to get a grip on herself when he paused at the door, turned back, and jogged over to her table once more. He sat down next to her and smiled, oblivious to the panic behind him and the sound of approaching sirens.

“Do you like my new jacket?” he murmured.

Falteringly, she stammered, “Y-y-yes?”

“Do you know what it’s made of?” he crooned.

Unsure, she ventured, “…No?”

The young man pulled a pair of sunglasses from his pocket, put them on, and grinned again, coyly.

“Boyfriend material.”

And that is when the police burst in.

 

Original Prompt: Reddit – Inside-Out

Attributes Out

Tranqira

Writing Prompt:
“Tell the experiences of a person who’s losing one emotion every day.”

I used to have real anger issues. No, I wasn’t angry all the time. It was more insidious, more dangerous than that. I, like so many men before me, developed a bad habit of bottling up my frustrations until I blew like a faulty pressure cooker. It was hard to keep long term friends or pursue a career with such a volatile nature. I definitely burned more than my fair share of bridges. Hell, I blew those bridges sky-high with a half-ton of emotional dynamite.

I dealt with the consequences of my rage the best I could, or at least I convinced myself that I did. Still, every newly ruined relationship served only to stoke the fire inside me and drive me that much closer to another outburst, cycling endlessly. It was my life. I never really made an effort to change until after last Thanksgiving when– well, let’s just say that my father and I still aren’t on speaking terms. I don’t like to talk about what I said to him. I don’t like to think about what I said to him.

I knew I wasn’t in control after that incident, and I resolved to change. I went through a bevy of self-help books, and I thought I was making real progress until I threw my desk lamp through my TV when I struggled to grasp a concept in Rage against the Routine: Finding Vivacity in Variety. I tried therapy, but it turns out even therapists draw a line at flipping the couch out the window. If anything, the frustration of trying to improve myself only made my tantrums more frequent. Perhaps it was destiny, though. My tantrums are what drew the attention of Dr. Samuel Beech.

Dr. Beech had been at the therapist’s office scouting out potential candidates for a clinical study on a new medication, Tranqira. After witnessing my eruption, he approached me and explained the program to me, informing me that I was an ideal participant. The drug was intended to put a damper on chronic surges of rage, which I clearly suffered from. Having tried everything else I could think of, I jumped at the chance to medicate my problems away. The fact that it was a paying gig didn’t hurt, since I never knew how long I’d keep a job.

Tranqira was still in the very beginning stages of clinical trials, when safety and dosage were still being fine-tuned. That didn’t deter me for a moment. I was desperate to rid myself of my unpredictable temperament. The Saturday of the trial I was too excited to even eat. I rushed to the facility an hour and a half early and waited impatiently to be let in. After attending a few seemingly endless lectures and signing more complicated paperwork than when I purchased my car, I was finally given three little green pills, what was explained to me to be a “heavy” dose. I was then handed a bottle of the same pills and told to continue that dosage daily for the next month according to the included instructions unless serious side effects occurred. We would then reconvene to report the efficacy of the drug.

I could have reported on the “efficacy of the drug” the very next day. I could feel the difference by lunchtime at the café at the other end of my block. The wait was short, the staff was friendly. I hadn’t yet run into any situations that would set me off, but I felt… cool inside, as though some kind of burning sensation that had been in effect for so long that it had become background noise had finally been relieved. I felt confident. I felt calm. What really clinched it was when my BLT came with the mayonnaise that I had ordered it without, and I didn’t feel even a flicker of anger. It was remarkable. Then, like a song that you can’t get out of your head, the memory of my last encounter with my father wormed its way into my mind. I felt an intense regret that I hadn’t pursued help sooner. My mistake haunted me, and even though it appeared I had finally achieved success in gaining control of myself, I couldn’t shake the notion that it was too little, too late. I took my daily dose of Tranqira, finished my lunch quietly and quickly, and spend the rest of the day wallowing in misery and self-pity. Only the rest of the day, though.

The next morning, Monday, I woke up early to get ready for work. After clearing my sleep-addled mind with a cup of coffee, the routine of preparing for the day afforded me time for my mind to wander. It didn’t take long for my train of thought to arrive at Ruined Relationship Junction. Strangely, however, I felt no regret. I was aware that I should, and that I had only the day before. I could remember everything I had said to my father, every nasty word of it, and I understood exactly how hurtful it was, how in the wrong I was. Still, no sadness registered. Just mild intellectual concern for a problem unsolved. It puzzled me throughout my drive to my employer at the time, a small data-entry firm. However, with work came distraction, and I soon wrote off my strange new attitude as a positive step in my rehabilitation. That reminded me of the method of my rehabilitation, and I popped my little green trio of pills into my mouth sitting at my desk.

Tuesday I lost anticipation. That’s when everything really started to roll downhill. It was just like sadness. I knew about upcoming events, about meetings and plans and holidays. They simply didn’t register as significant. There was nothing to look forward to, nothing to get excited about. There were only things that would eventually happen, or not happen. It didn’t matter. I still felt joy when I experienced something positive, like having a really good omelet for breakfast, but being reminded about a looming deadline at work didn’t faze me. I understood it was important, yet felt no drive to complete the task assigned to me. Instead, I spent the day indulging in casual time-wasting on the internet and long breaks. Deadlines were for some other me, not the now me. All I needed to do was to take my Tranqira and enjoy whatever came along, or else sit in quiet hopelessness until something enjoyable did come along.

Wednesday was sympathy. It was so subtle a change I didn’t even realize it at the time. It’s only looking back that I’m able to deduce the change. I frankly didn’t even consider the thoughts or feelings of anyone else at that point. They had no significance. When I arrived at work, I decided I didn’t like work. I told my manager that I didn’t like work, or him, and was leaving now. I stopped only to inform a coworker I passed that he smelled awful and now I wanted to leave even more. I drove home at a very casual pace, enjoying the clouds and oblivious to the angry honking coming from the long line of cars behind me. I wanted to drive slowly, so I did. What did they matter?

When I arrived at home I was quite hungry, so I called in an order for two large pizzas. I took my Tranqira while I waited. It was a long wait time, so I absent-mindedly read over the fine text behind the label on my prescription bottle. This was the first that I had actually gone over the instructions regarding the medication, and I felt a sharp thrill of fear run down my spine when I saw that they warned explicitly not to take the drug on an empty stomach. Thinking back, I realized I had exclusively taken my pills on an empty stomach. I was intensely worried for my well-being, but felt no drive to protect future me from harm. For the next thirty minutes I was a wreck, weeping in helpless terror and unable to formulate any kind of plan of action. Fortunately the delivery boy arrived then, and I was overcome with joy at the smell of the pizza. I took the pizzas, matter-of-factly informed him that I did not want to pay, and locked the door on him. The rest of the day was spent in cheesy bliss.

Thursday is the day I lost my fear. It was a short day. I woke up, ate every delicious thing I could find in my house, and then wandered outside. I managed about half an hour of aimless roaming, staring at everything around me and feeling overwhelming joy at some sights, total emptiness at others. I was marveling at a beautiful red sports car that had just driven past me when I felt a sudden impact in my side, a flash of intense pain, then blackness.

I woke up Friday evening in the hospital. I had wandered onto a highway and been hit by an SUV. They said I was incredibly lucky to have survived the accident. I didn’t feel lucky. I didn’t feel happy to be alive. To be fair, I didn’t feel sad to be alive either. Everything was gone. I listened carefully to what the nurse had to tell me, candidly informed her that I was tired, and closed my eyes.

Turns out it takes about three weeks of discontinued use for Tranqira to be fully expunged from the body. Just in time to report my findings.

 

Original Prompt: Reddit – Emotional Loss

Tranqira

Made In X

Writing Prompt:
“All existing intellectual properties (cartoons, anime, movies, etc) are now real. What kind of havoc is brought upon Earth?”

It wasn’t that bad. It really wasn’t.

When the Fics first began appearing two years ago, there was some confusion to be sure. Over the course of three months the global population nearly doubled. There were casualties, there were disasters. Villains really complicated things. Humanity had never dealt with chaos and catastrophe on that scale before. But to be perfectly honest, with all the new technologies spontaneously coming into existence across the world and the legions of heroes materializing to combat evil, we as a race had things under control surprisingly quickly. DRCs (Detention and Reformation Centers) were set up to contain defeated villains and the Human-Fictional Creature Treaty was signed.

Steps were taken to terraform the Moon and emigrate roughly a third of the Earth’s residents, Human and Fic alike, to our new sister-world, my new home. Between Lunar Initiative, new construction materials, and a hugely expanded and specially talented work force, we as a new unified people were able to alleviate the population crush and flourish. Crime was at an all-time low with millions of superheroes across both worlds patrolling the streets. Agriculture had reached unprecedented levels of productivity. Multiple perfect renewable energy sourced had been discovered where previously thought impossible, fueling further expansion. Only a few months ago we launched the Martian Initiative, spiritual successor to the LI, to terraform and colonize the Red Planet. It truly was a time of peace and prosperity.

It was. Until the arrival of the cheap counterfeits.

 

Original Prompt: Reddit – IPs

Made In X

I Am Your Father

Writing Prompt:
“Write the big climactic plot-twist. No context…just the plot-twist.”

Her tears disappeared in the rain coursing down her face as she helplessly watched the life drain from his broken body. She could see he was trying desperately to tell her something, and so pulled him close to her and listened closely. The words trickled from his lips, barely audible in the storm.

“Looks like… you’re not… adopted… after all…”

The chill that ran down her spine had nothing to do with the water soaking through her jacket. Fear and understanding abruptly washed over her sadness, leaving her wide-eyed and trembling. She carefully laid his head on the ground as the last light left his pale eyes. As she slowly stood and turned around she spotted a dark, obscured figure standing in the downpour perhaps thirty yards away. Without another thought, she turned to run.

 

Original Prompt: Reddit – Plot Twist

I Am Your Father