Water and Sky

I’m floating on my back in a lake, there are storm clouds moving in, and I don’t have even the faintest idea how I got here. The last thing I remember is driving on I-80 just west of Rawlins. I was listening to the latest from Jason Aldean… The rest is just a blank.

Wading up to the closest shore, I see it’s a featureless expanse of mud without either tire tracks or footprints.

I didn’t notice the ambient sounds from the wildlife, not until they suddenly stopped.

A saucer shape is slowly rising over the treetops.

Now I remember.

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In response to this week’s Picture It & Write prompt:

Flickr / davideji

Man of the Mists

I used to pilot that boat, the Maid of the Mist. Lots of tourists in attractive plastic sacks, lots of happy newlyweds drenched to the bone. It was actually a fun job, except for the Coast Guard cutters.

See, they don’t want you getting too close. The tightrope walks don’t happen upstream any more. No one goes over in barrels these days. Insurance companies, fear of litigation. The marrow has been sucked out of the Falls, really. People with cojones can’t be allowed to make a buck here, not any more.

While I’m stuck here at the bottom, at least the Coast Guard lets boats get fairly (and I emphasize fairly) close to the base. Which is all I need. I’ve got something planned that the lawyers haven’t fortified defenses against yet.

Me and my showy barrel are gonna go up the Falls. At dusk, lights on and glowing like a Christmas Tree, just before the last of the news-and-tourist-cams pack things up to go home. I’ll turn it into a lucrative memoir after they arrest me hovering over the falls. All thanks to this nifty portable gravity polarizer I lifted from the M.I.T. physics lab.

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In response to this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt:

No image attribution.


Signal to Noise

“So there’s a signal?” asked Groesbeck.

“Not really. It’s more like a harmonic effect.” Adams was the communications specialist. “It’s a distortion of the electromagnetic fields that are all around us every day. But it is growing stronger.”

“Harmonic effect; it’s unintentional, then?”

“Almost certainly. At worst, a single source that’s just picked up and retransmitted, reinforced by other signals from the cell phone towers and such.”

The third member of the group, Franklin, suddenly perked up. He began a Google search as the conversation continued.

“It sounds harmless enough.”

“I thought so too,” Adams replied. “But there’s research just out from Columbia. There may be some low-level behavioral effects.”

Unnoticed in the background, Franklin laughed quietly to himself and changed the parameters of his internet search.

“What sort of effects?”

“This harmonic buildup taking place does seem to affect the human brain subtly. The researchers at Columbia suggest it acts as an aggression-suppressant, like low dosage Lithium.”

“So…” Groesbeck thought aloud, “Less crime and aggressive violence, in general. But also lowered achievement drive, competition, impaired memory and concentration… Yeah, Uncle Sam’s going to need a solution.”

“Well, it’s going to take major network overhauls and shielding, won’t be cheap or fast. There might be some short-term palliatives while we clean it up.”

“You mean like this.” Franklin turned his monitor around with glee. On his screen was a popular conspiracy-theorist website, featuring an image of a man wearing a hat made from tin foil.

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Tux and Tail

I rock this tie.

Pleated linen shirt with visible white buttons. Black shawl satin-collared tuxedo dinner jacket, slim pointed batswing bow tie. And of course, the required cigarette (which I kept unlit). Retro look, with pieces from my dad’s closet. They just don’t make tuxedos like this any more.

I looked good. But my date looked better.

White bikini, sixties cut. Pretty tame by modern standards (in terms of coverage, at least). The wide belt and sheathed combat knife was unusual and iconic.

“Ready, Miss Ryder?”

“Ready, James.”

I offered an arm and we swept into the costume party.

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Inspired by this week’s Picture It & Write prompt:


I selected the grave site with great care. Well into the woods, secluded, clearly marked with the stump of a missing tree. Even the last hoar of a fading winter seemed an appropriate punctuation, at least to my eyes.

When the digging was complete, I pawed through the contents of my backpack and extracted the hand-carved wooden box that contained his heart. That last bit of the bastard.

Through the silence drifted the hoot of an owl. Metaphorical perfection. I placed the urn and began heaping the soil over it. Say goodbye to the thieving, greedy, logging company lawyer.

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Inspired by this week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt:

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

Can you take me High Enough?

“Gothmog reporting as ordered, Dark Lord.”

“Excellent. Successful mission spying on those pesky hobbits?”

“Yes, Lord. This image is a new edifice, shot at high resolution from Wraith Force One. It was recently erected in the Shire, just a mile or two from the hole that… creature used to occupy.”

“Isn’t that shape a little, erm, phallic for Hobbits?”

“Well sir, it appears to be a standard Hobbit-burrow dwelling, but constructed atop a high-rise rather than underground.”

“Why would a halfling want to live so high in the air, instead of safely under a hill?” asked the Dark Lord.

“See these interesting structures at the base of the tower? We believe them to be reaction thrusters. Really big fireworks.”

“You can’t mean…”

“Yes sir. The hobbit in this image is Libbo Gabbins, the builder of these structures. He intends to be the first Halfling to reach orbit.”

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Inspired by this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction prompt:

–copyright Joe Owens 2015

In vino veritas?

On March 9th, 2015, three objects were reportedly seen in the skies over the Borracho Todos los Tiempos Vineyards.

“So, how is the mission progressing?”

“Everything exactly as planned, sir. We’ve managed to downplay to the public and the press that the objects in that photo are just airplanes. Easy, really, because they were.”

“So no whispers or suspicion over what’s really unusual?”

“I’ve been browsing the conspiracy websites all month, not a peep.”

“All right number three, keep an eye on it. We need to keep this tech under wraps for a while, yet.”

“Yes sir. The preliminary testing captured in that image looks exactly like normal fog to me, too.”

“It’s supposed to. The lawyers are still warning us against ever using it. But the grape workers seem to like it. Aerosolized wine delivery—the perfect way to make this make this vineyard live up to its name.”

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150 words. In response to this week’s Monday Finish the Story prompt:

No photo credit provided



How did I come to be here? Doctor, perhaps I can make you understand.

Do you know logic puzzles? You’re provided a series of written clues. Every clue narrows the field, until you’re left with a correct answer, just one.

I found this particular puzzle published in an old periodical. And I worked it by the usual methods—they’re pretty well-established, and trivially easy for any puzzle enthusiast.

Except this one. I worked it obsessively, doggedly—hundreds of times and could not solve it. Maddening.


The next issue included an apology. The editor had mistakenly omitted a necessary clue.

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Written in response to the month’s 100 Word Challenge from velvetverbosity.com. Prompt: “Library.” I actually had more inspiration from that post’s title, “Gently Mad.”

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