The Muse

The Muse via Flash Prompt“I call this one ‘Icarus, Grounded,’” the artist said, standing over his latest piece of sidewalk art.

He heard the expected oohs and ahhs, the impressed reactions of passers-by to his use of 3-d techniques mixed with more standard 2-d chalk drawings.

“I love the way the wings look like they were drawn with charcoal,” an old woman in orthopedic shoes murmured to her bald companion, who held a cane.

“I chose to make the central figure female to represent the way we tell women they can be anything, do anything, and then once they try, we clip their wings with the shears of toxic masculinity.”

“How powerful!” The comment came from a young woman – likely a student from the nearby university – wearing a ‘Women in the Sequel’ t-shirt.

“Yes, I think so,” the artist answered.

“Dude, she’s like breathing!” A teenaged boy stuck his foot out, as if to nudge the human form in the center of the piece.

The artist glanced at the boy in alarm. “Don’t touch!”

The kid backed off, grinning sheepishly. “Sorry, man, it’s just so real.”

The light changed. The 3-d illusion weakened. A gentle rain began to fall.

By morning the drawing would be gone.

Across town, in a room in an old apartment, the kind with wood floors and tall arched windows, a young woman woke from an afternoon nap, just in time for her partner to come through the door bearing containers of hot soup and a loaf of fresh bread.

“How’s your flu?” he asked.

“I don’t feel as feverish. But I had the oddest dream. I was a bird, but my wings didn’t work. I felt like I was pinned to the ground.” She ate a few bites of bread, dipping it in the hot broth while the soup cooled to a tolerable temperature. “Hey! How’d your new drawing turn out? I’m sorry I missed it.”

Her partner, the artist, smiled. “It got the reaction I was hoping for,” he said. “But it’s raining now. I’m afraid you won’t get to see it in person.”

“Oh. That’s too bad. Any pictures?”

“Oh… my phone ran out of juice,” he lied.

Weeks later, she’d see the image on some stranger’s Instagram, and assume he’d simply used her as a model.

Because the dream had been just that, right?


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The Weather Man

Weather Man via Flash PromptThey used to laugh at him, calling him the Weather Man with derision in their voices.

“Preserving storms in bottles? Really, Dad?” Even his oldest daughter thought he was wasting his time. “That’s seriously lame.”

But Sam – that was his real name – went on collecting, stuffing sunrises into jam jars and snow storms into pickle bottles. He even managed to cram a coastal fog into a container one day, but it had been a wild capture. The bottle – once a home for spicy Kalamata olives – had retained the faint odor of garlic and brine. He wasn’t sure the integrity of the fog could be maintained.

The mason jars, with their special two-part lids, he reserved for the violent thunderstorms, the fingers of “Dracula” lightning, and the blustery gale-force winds of minor hurricanes.

By the time he’d lined every wall of his garage with shelves of bottles and jars, they no longer had actual weather reporters on the air. Instead, a virtual assistant would provide daily, weekly, and monthly weather schedules, highlighting planned storms.

It would have been nice to blame the eventual breakdown of the weather nets on aliens or meteors, or even war, but the reality was that hardware sometimes breaks, and software sometimes glitches.

After the sixth week with no precipitation, the governor sent a representative to the Weather Man’s door.

“Dad! Some guy in a suit wants to talk about your bottles!”

He could have made a deal, extorted the government for millions. College tuition for all three kids, the last of the mortgage – all of that could have been covered.

But Sam wasn’t that kind of guy.

“Take them,” he said. “Take them and release them all at once and then send the Weather Corps to get rid of the dead Net.”

And so they did.

They took everything, except for one bottle, the oldest in Sam’s collection. They took them and dropped them from the edge of the atmosphere. For a few days, the weather was chaotic, but eventually it settled into something like Before.

And that lone bottle? The one Sam kept? That one, he gave to his oldest when she turned 21.

“What is it, Dad?”

“It’s a summer squall from the day you were born,” he told her. “I couldn’t save the whole day, but I managed to preserve the weather.”

Father and daughter stood on the deck of their beachfront home, and watched the fog roll in. It was a perfect moment, until the young woman sniffed the air.


“Yes, dear?”

“Do you smell olives?”


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Cultural Exchange

Cultural Exchange via Flash Prompt“For the last time, Nkklsh!b, ‘Stargate’ isn’t real. It was a television show. An entertainment. A piece of fiction.”

Nkklsh!b (Nkk to its friends) rolled its single, amethyst, eye at the mission leader. “This isn’t real. That isn’t real… For a race that cannot Walk between Universes, you certainly spend much of your time creating them.”

“We’re not creating Universes, Nkk… we’re just amusing ourselves – what do you mean by ‘Walk?’”

“In my culture, we have long believed our ‘entertainments’ are inspired by visits to nearby Universes. This belief eventually became fact. We can take a sideways step and find ourselves Wherever we wish. In fact, as children, our parents encourage us to ‘go take a Walk,’ whenever they feel we have become too sedentary in mind or body.”

“Yeah, our parents sometimes suggest that too – mostly just to get us out of the house. Wait! Sideways step? Has Bruce been after you about playing ‘Werewolf’ again?”

“You know this technique?”

“It exists in a role playing game – another kind of entertainment. Ask Bruce when we get back to the ship. Just be prepared for a very lengthy explanation.”

“I will do so. Thank you for the suggestion, Anna.”

The pair continued to watch the people in robes approaching the great stone circle. From time to time, one would raise their staff, make a gesture, and step through, only to disappear.

“See, not a Stargate. A portal, apparently. But there’s no spinning dial. No blue ‘puddle’ representing the event horizon. The ring isn’t even complete.”

“Anna, once again, you are letting your limitations show. Perhaps this was merely what inspired your entertainment.”

Grudgingly, Anna allowed that it could be a possibility. “Although…” she mused our loud. “Those staves remind me of keys, and the portal is shaped like a stylized lock.”

“Perhaps we should continue our observation before we report to the Captain,” Nkk suggested.

“Perhaps we should.”

The retreated into their camouflaged shelter and engaged the cameras that would record the events at the stone ring for them.

“So,” Anna asked her companion as they shared a meal hours later, “what kinds of entertainments have your Walks inspired?”

“One of my favorites,” Nkklsh!b replied, amused affection coloring it’s tone, is about a member of my species becoming the first non-human to join a SpaceCorps Expedition ship.”


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Streets Paved with Gold?

Paved with Gold“The streets are paved with gold,” they said. As if that’s something to be proud of. Wasting gold on cobblestones? Really??


“But… gold streets! That’s amazing!” They kept insisting.


But old Fritz knew better. Sure they looked pretty in the first glow of morning light, all soft amber and rosy pink, but that same glow reflected into every window, of a morning, and usually at least an hour before decent folk had tumbled out of bed.


Maybe if you were one of the lords and ladies up at the castle-keep at the top of the cliff, looking down on glowing streets was akin to a miracle. But those at the keep had heavy shutters and thick draperies to block out the light.


The commoners? Not so much. They had wooden slats and fabric curtains, maybe.


And those at the castle had wet nurses and nannies to soothe the babes and littles when the glow from the streets was blindingly bright.


Fritz, on the other hand, had lived a lifetime of assuring his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren that no, it wasn’t MOLTEN gold, and no, it wasn’t hot like lava, and just turn your face to the wall, kiddo, and sleep a little longer.


Streets paved with gold? Fritz had long considered moving to another village more than once. A village where the gold wasn’t flaunted, and the streets were paved with sensible things like brick cobblestones or gravel.


And yet… he couldn’t deny that the gold streets of the village where he’d spent ninety-three winters attracted a wealth (no pun intended) of tourists who were eager to spend their money in his shop, and the shops of his friends and family.


Streets paved in gold? Fritz weighed the concept in his mind a bit longer.


Then he rolled toward the middle of the bed he shared with Hazel, who – god willing – would mark her eighty-seventh winter in a few weeks.


He’d just sleep til the angle of the light changed, and the gold-covered streets no longer dazzled his aging eyes.


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