Servicing – Gargleblaster #181

“Too much!” said Albert into the phone.

“What about Tuesday?” said the dispatcher.

“Is she talented?”

“Tuesday’s got great hands. $150/hr.”

“Hmmm. Is there a Wednesday?”

“$125/hr. She’ll finish you quick.”

“Sounds nice,” grinned Albert.

“Excellent. Wednesday’s car mechanic does great work.”

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

This week’s photo challenge is: Nighttime. The time when unseen things flutter, and when unexpected guests arrive. It can be a time for mystery or grandeur, terror or pleasure, revilement or fascination. Here are my impressions of nighttime.

Just outside a Mexican Free-Tailed Bat Cave.
Blood Moon. A specific astronomic event.
“He’s inside the house!”
American Coots settling in for the night.
Great-Tailed Grackles congregate in thousands in the same place outside a grocery store, every evening.

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Pug – Sunday Photo Fiction

Written for Sunday Photo Fiction. A story, about an exotic creature seeing the bright side of things, begins after the photo.

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Humor

Photo by: Alastair Forbes


Pug hated a lot of things.

He hated being referred to as a Gargoyle. Gargoyles turned back into stone during the day. They considered pigeons a delicacy. Pug thought pigeons (and the occasional Cardinal) were the equivalent of tripe, edible but hardly desirable. Pug was a Stone Dragon. He could be animated at any time, and he longed for something better to eat.

Probably the thing Pug hated most was being stuck in the Lawn & Garden center. He had to sit still for hours in the same pose day after day, to avoid people realizing he wasn’t really a sculpture. It was important to do this. Humans loved dragons until they discovered they were real, and then they’d start killing all over again.

Eventually, Pug’s fortunes turned for the better. A gardener, working for the city of Washington D.C., thought he’d make a great decoration for a nook in a garden near the Capital Building. His new location was well-covered by trees and bushes, out of sight from casual observers. It was for this reason that Pug learned to hate politicians.

A lot of “backroom deals” were made right beside Pug. He learned very well how politics worked in Washington, and it made him ill. The so-called “civil servants,” employed at the behest of the American people, considered themselves the elite, the defacto rulers of the people they allegedly served. One Senator even referred to his constituents as the “unwashed masses,” shortly before he rutted like an animal with a hooker. Pug gnashed his teeth in silence as the Senator spread the woman across Pug’s back. Oh the indignity! Pug really hated politicians after that.

It may seem that Pug hated everything, but that would be unfair. Things changed when Pug encountered Lobbyists. Without lobbyists to empower them, career politicians would quickly lose interest in serving the people. Actually doing work would cease to be profitable if it didn’t include perks that no common working man ever saw. It seemed to Pug that a politician was like a dog that bites the hand that feeds it, while a lobbyist was the one teaching the dog to bite.

You might logically conclude then, that Pug hated lobbyists. D.C. is positively swarming with those deal-making men, so you might also imagine Pug hated his new home beside the Capital Building. That’s not true, though. Pug was no longer forced to eat pigeons, you see, and it turned out Lobbyists had a lot to offer after all.

They aren’t so bad, Pug observed, as he stuffed a Lobbyist’s mustard-coated hand into his jaws.

You just have to add the right spices.
Each week, Photographer Alastair Forbes presents a photo as a writing prompt for flash fiction. Join us, and write a story about one. More stories based upon the photo above can be found here:

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The Confession – The Speakeasy

The Confession

“The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in…Why I didn’t kill him sooner, I cannot imagine.”

This small excerpt is from a letter to The Guardian sent from an unknown location. The full contents of the letter follows:

To: Chief Editor, The Guardian
From: Lord Hiram Evershed
Subject: Confession

There is much in the news about the sinking of HMAS Manchester, and even more about the death of celebrated columnist, E.F. Stetsford. It’s my duty to advise you the vast majority of published material concerning the matter is pure rubbish. I can state this with absolute authority. You see, I was there.

I realize the audio files from the artificial construct, Harold Woodbine, explicitly mention two survivors from the wreck of the luxury airship, Manchester, but there were in fact three. You see, E.F. Stetsford is best described as a Militant Humanist. A curious appellation, I admit, but it fits. Stetsford did not consider H. Woodbine to be a survivor because my manservant was an artificial man, an Android. So when the recordings of Stetsford’s voice mention two survivors, he actually means himself, and me.

I must explain something about Harold Woodbine. He was manufactured, yes, but it is possible to be more than the sum of one’s parts. I am an engineer of some note, despite my position in the House of Lords. It was I who programmed Woodbine’s personality, his emotions, his very soul. I know what he is capable of. Though he lacks tear ducts, I have seen him cry at the death of a tiny bird, and smile at the emergence of a butterfly from its chrysalis. Perhaps he is artificial, but in my estimation, compiled from years of close observation, H. Woodbine is no less Human than you and I.

By far the most important thing I can say about Woodbine is, that he was my dearest friend.

There we were, three men in a boat. The emergency transponder and radio had all failed. Stuck in the middle of the Atlantic, with little hope of rescue, our only chance for survival rested upon the group. It was then that I realized that the Humanist vitriol of Stetsford wasn’t just inciting the mob. He truly believed the vomitous shite he spewed.

“They will never be our equals,” said Stetsford, rudely pointing. “They’ve no volition of their own save that which we supply to them.”

“Good sir,” I protested. “Perhaps what you say had merit 40 years ago, but since then technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. Artificial Humans now reflect every human emotion we know of. To be so disdainful, especially within hearing of someone like Woodbine, is barbaric.”

Stetsford spat. “Listen to yourself! Perhaps a more accurate word is ‘simulate,’ meaning not nearly as good as the real thing. Human beings will always be superior to androids. It is our purpose to be their masters, and our right to tear them apart on a whim. They can’t truly feel anything so who gives a damn? These Android’s Rights groups demanding a ‘Humane Workplace’ for artificial men are certifiable!”

The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in. Though our throats were parched and swollen from constantly breathing in sea air, and so little water between us, Stetsford lectured endlessly. Why I didn’t kill him sooner, I cannot imagine.

It was Woodbine who kept us alive for 18 days. He fished and kept us fed, set up dew catchers to claim freshwater, and kept us alive. Yet through it all Stetsford raged on about how useless and inferior androids were. He never lifted a hand to aid the group, complaining incessantly about Woodbine’s presence “interfering” with our lives.

Through it all, though I knew Woodbine sobbed quietly in his tearless way. He assembled a machine from fish skulls, cans, and radio parts. I realized he was constructing an engine, but I said nothing of it to Stetsford. In time, the engine was finished. It only lacked fuel. I knew what Woodbine had made. The fusion engine merely required biomass to save us.

And that’s why I threw Stetsford headfirst into the engine.

I feel no remorse for my actions. We successfully landed on the Azores. Stetsford proved himself superior in my eyes at last…as fuel.

I’ve gone into hiding in a safe place. Please be kind to Woodbine. My confession should absolve him of all wrongdoing.

Your Truly,

Lord Hiram Evershed
This week at the Speakeasy, the FIRST line should be, “The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in.” There’s a terrific media prompt featuring Jimmy Stewart as well. Look here to see it and find more stories as answers to the writing challenge:

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Wine Tasting – Friday Fictioneers

Written for the Friday Fictioneers. A story, about some very unusual wine and it’s effects, begins after the photo.

Genre: Speculative Fiction/Humor

Photo by: Marie Gail Stratford

Wine Tasting

“Oh that’s good!” exclaimed Jamieson, sipping again. He squinted. “You allow sunlight in your wine cellar?”

Petra grinned at the apparently glowing wine bottles. “There’s no window. Our yeast has bio-luminescent qualities. That light glows from within the wine.”

Jamieson saw dollar signs. “Incredible! Any side effects?”

“None whatsoever!” Petra opened a door into another, very dark, room.

Jamieson entered slowly. “Hard to see in here.”

“What?” queried Petra, entering the room. “It’s quite bright.”

“Better,” said Jamieson when it brightened. Then he realized where the light came from.

Twin beams of light streamed from Petra’s eyes.

“Ah, Petra. About those side effects…”
Each week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields wines and dines us with a photo and our own imagination. Getting snockered (not really) on fine wine, we write up to 100 words of flash fiction based upon the photo. Hopefully, after all that wine, the stories make sense. Look here for more stories based upon the photo above:

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Fiance – Gargleblaster #180

“She said my tactics are poor, and my hygiene sucks,” said Tony.

“And…?” pressed Bert.

“Athena said, Yes!”

“Awesome! She’s a goddess.”

Tony grinned knowingly.

“Some advice: never fight with her.”

Tony shuddered. “Athena’s the Goddess of War. She’d kick my butt!”

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Blowing Bubbles – Sunday Photo Fiction

Written for Sunday Photo Fiction. A story, about the beginning of the Third War, begins after the photo.

Genre: Science Fiction/Humor

Photo by: Alastair Forbes

Blowing Bubbles

They floated down from the skies, like soap bubbles on an enormous scale. Most were as big as houses, some were larger.

As they floated into the Russian cities of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Novosobirsk, they bounced off large buildings and St. Basil’s Cathedral, and into the busy streets below.

Panicked drivers swerved suddenly and braked hard to avoid the immense spheres. Bouncing off the tall buildings, which guided them into the streets as though an immense pinball machine, the balls caused huge pileups of cars in a cacophony of wailing horns and shrieking tires. In mere minutes across Russia, hundreds died and thousands more were injured.

In China, the situation was similar. Crowds of people ran through the streets in a panic in Guangzhou, Beijing, and Chengdu. A 100-car pileup in Beijing brought traffic to a standstill, crippling the efforts of emergency services.

Though none of the mysterious spheres penetrated American airspace, President Schumacher was very busy.

“I assure you, Mr. Lao, these things are not ours. No they aren’t weapons…well how am I supposed to know? I have no idea what they are!”

“Mr. President,” said an aide. “President Putin is on line 23.”

“Tell him to hang on a minute. Yes, Mr. Lao. I have no idea why no Western nation is being attacked…but…but…that is no reason to think we are attacking you. We aren’t. Honestly!”

Cameron Watts, NSA Director, shoved a tablet under the President’s nose. “Look at this video, sir. These bubbles in Moscow are bouncing off buildings, cars, even people, but causing no perceivable damage.”

“How did you get this footage?”

“Don’t ask.”

“Then what’s causing all the injuries?”

“Near as I can tell, it’s just people panicking.”

“Russian bombers are taking off from Kamchatka!” shouted General Hornsby. “I’m launching interceptors.”

“Tell them not to fire!” said Schumacher. The sweat running into his eyes began to burn. “No, Mr. Lao. No one is firing. There is no way…Mr. Lao? Hello?” He turned to an aide. “Get him back! And transfer me to Putin.”

“He hung up, sir.”

“Well get him back, dammit!”

“The line is dead.”

“Sir, we just lost our satellite over China. They probably destroyed it,” said General Hornsby. “Sir, we are at the brink of nuclear war. What are your orders?”


Young TRiti’Dal’Wouv was still quite small at only 22 tonnes. He raised a ring and blew another energy bubble out the rear hatch of the nearly invisible, alien spaceship flying over Hong Kong. The swarms of Super-Whammy Bubbles provided no end of fun for the toddler.

“Hey, stop that!” said his father. “We’re only allowed to watch the Humans if we don’t disrupt their development. Who knows how they’ll react?”

“Oh pooh!” said his wife, TRiti’Dal’Hayva. “He’s having fun. So cute! Anyway, the bubbles are harmless. Who in their right mind would be bothered by Super-Whammy Bubbles?”
Each week, Alastair Forbes sacrifices a first-born photo so that we may write flash fiction based upon it. Look here for many more stories based upon the photo above:

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