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


Physics and Medicine Don’t Mix

Writing Prompt:
“Online surgery simulator games have become incredibly popular. In ‘unrelated’ news, hospitals across the nation have been installing robotic surgeons for patients with less than stellar healthcare.”

Curtis Kaufman sat in his armchair at 1:30 AM, his third glass of chardonnay in his left hand and a remote control in his right. It had been a long night. This class action suit aimed at District Vigor Policy had been keeping him very busy. It was his first time butting heads with such an expansive corporation, and he knew that if he missed any detail he’d be canned from his firm.

So Curt had spent the last twelve hours reviewing hospital security footage of the hundreds of “unrelated” botched surgeries that had occurred over six months across the nation. It was tedious, exhausting, and disturbingly gruesome work. Every video submitted to him showcased brutal injuries suffered at the hands of the new “BOSSArm-SS13” units that DVP hospitals had installed about a year before. The units consisted of a pair of robotic arms on an articulating base, programmed to recognize and repair most surgical issues with minimal human input. They had been intended to be a boon to low income families, a surgical option that didn’t demand the exorbitant fees of a human surgeon. They were touted as “revolutionary,” and had seemed as much for a time.

Curt shook his head, rubbed his eyes, and restarted the video. He could not keep getting distracted. He wasn’t even halfway through the submissions, and was tasked with reviewing the lot and taking time-stamped notes on all of them by Thursday. The video began to play again, and Curt watched as the BOSSArm-SS13 unit came to life at the foot of a patient’s bed.

He watched as the robotic arms rotated in a surprisingly crude manner, jerkily spinning along the Z-axis first, then the X, the fingers clamping down and releasing, sometimes individually, sometimes in sync. The arms seemed to rotate at random for a moment, perhaps calibrating? Each video showed different behavior, so it was difficult to come to a concrete conclusion about anything.

Luckily the poor man on the operating table had already been anesthetized, and so was unaware of the fate he was about to suffer. He lay still and unconscious as the metallic limbs lurched into a position over his chest. The hands twisted down to hover near the man’s cheeks. The SS13 unit began to smack him in the face repeatedly, persisting for a solid 30 seconds.

The left hand continued to strike the unfortunate patient while the right reached over to the adjacent instrument table to clumsily retrieve a plexor, scattering an assortment of other tools in the process. Curt sat and watched in silence, desensitized after seeing similar so many times before.

The right arm brought the tiny mallet back and started lightly tapping the man on the forehead, while the left arm convulsed downward along the patient and started rapping his exposed gut. The mallet jumped from forehead to nose, to lips, back to forehead, back to lips, to left ear, and finally came to rest lodged inside the man’s nostril. Both hands suddenly bent into obscene gestures, twitching forward into the mans face and squishing his cheeks together. This was the kind of behavior that baffled Curtis the most. Was this the work of a disgruntled programmer? Could a robot learn the meaning of obscenity?

He knew what was coming. The left arm knocked a set of scalpels out of its way in favor of a milk frother that had somehow worked its way into the operating room. The right arm ignored flexible cameras and sutures in favor of a cordless power drill. Both arms slowly came together to rest high above the prone figure, hanging with ominous potential energy for a long moment. Then the BOSSArm-SS13 commenced a wild and revolting series of uncontrollable paroxysms that forced Curt to turn away. Perhaps he wasn’t as desensitized as he had thought. He jotted down a few more notes and ejected the disc. Printed on the label were the words “09/06/20 – D. Perkins, Mole Removal.” Baffled as ever, Curt placed the disc back in its sleeve and reached for the next.


Original Prompt: Reddit – Surgery Simulator

Physics and Medicine Don’t Mix


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