The Engine That Wouldn’t – Sunday Photo Fiction

Written for Sunday Photo Fiction. A story, about a misbehaving train engine, begins after the photo.

Genre: Speculative Fiction/Humor

Photo by: Alistair Forbes

The Engine That Wouldn’t

I had a long drive through Oklahoma. I hadn’t slept well in the motel, and the drive back was slowly killing me. As I approached the tiny town of Pettigut (Pop. 347), my eyelids began to droop, but I still caught a sign that read:

See the wurld famous railroad museum!
14 locomotives!
Child friendly!
Hablo Spanish!

I needed a break, so I pulled off the highway and found the rail museum easily.

The engines weren’t in great condition. I imagine the museum’s maintenance budget barely existed. Luckily, they weren’t rusting away, and with child-like glee I photographed every one of those wonderful classics. After about an hour, I stopped into the museum office. A sign on the door read:

Closed second Sunday of the month.
Open all t’other ones.

Inside the ramshackle building, a large-scale model train trundled and ‘wooed’ along the wall. Model train sets and prints of old steam engines were for sale on dusty shelves. The clerk behind the desk had unruly white hair poking out from under a railroad man’s cap. His white beard brushed against an issue of Model Railroader that he read intently. He waved casually without looking up. “Afternoon.”

“Afternoon,” I said, and amused myself with examining the many pictures of trains on the wall. I came across one with nothing in it but tracks. I pointed to the old sepia picture and said, “What’s this?”

Without looking up the clerk said, “That’s ol’ No. 66. The engine that wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t what?”

The clerk leaned back with his hands behind his head and said, “Ol’ No. 66 wouldn’t go out gracefully like t’other engines. We’d call the scrapper to come git ‘im, and when they come, 66 was gone. We found ‘im, put ‘im back and called the scrapper. Scrapper come, no No. 66 there. It happened again and again. Finally, J.T. Pettigut took a picture and promised No. 66 it’d ride the rails forever in the picture. After that, the scrapper finally got hold of ‘im and took ‘im away. And that’s the picture he took.”

I grinned. “Cool story, but there’s no train in this picture.”

“Whut?”

“There’s no train…”

The old man could move fast, I realized, when he suddenly stood beside me. “Goll dangit!” he cursed. “I tol’ ‘im, it’s only the second Sunday!” He snatched up an old lantern and charged out the door. His shouts and curses faded like the whistle of a train, then came back louder, as he passed the window going the other direction.

I figured someone put up the wrong picture, and preferred to remain in the museum office while sorted it out. Outside, I could still hear the clerk shouting.

“You know you cain’t be out here. Git back in there!”

*Woooo!* (Train whistle)

“Don’t gimme no guff. It’s the second Sunday. That’s t’agreement!”

*Woooo!*

“Watch’er language, boy. Go’on now. Git!”

*Woooo!*

The clerk returned and calmly replaced the lantern. “Sorry ’bout that.”

“No problem. Did you find the right picture?”

“No. Right one’s there.”

“But there’s no train in it.”

“Sure there is. See fer yourself.”

I returned to the picture. It was no longer empty, and No. 66 stood proudly on the tracks, as if it had always been there.
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Every Sunday, Alistair Forbes sacrifices one of his own pictures for use as a writing prompt. Look here for many more stories written about the picture above:

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Humanity

This week’s photo challenge is: Humanity. I usually take pics of animals and nature. I so take some, though. There are always fascinating individual people out there from all walks of life, if you look carefully enough. Here are my views of some of the better sides of Humanity.

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Look here for more great photos answering the challenge: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/humanity/

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Good to be Queen – Friday Fictioneers

Written for the Friday Fictioneers. A story, about paparazzi and the Royal Family, begins after the photo.

Genre: Speculative Fiction/Humor

Photo by: Janet Webb

Good to be Queen

There were rules…

The Royal family isn’t responsible for Paparazzi’s injuries during unauthorized photo taking.
The King and his staff may not take physical action against Paparazzi.

The oft-bridled passion of Julius and Esme found a rare moment for expression. He lifted her onto the table before the mirror. Esme’s panties went down, Julius went up, and…

King Julius saw the photographer’s reflection as he snapped away pictures outside the window.

“Darling, would you…?”

Queen Esme drew a laser pistol from her garter. Aiming carefully, the paparazzi’s camera heated, then shattered explosively. The paparazzi howled.

“Queens are NOT staff,” murmured Julius.

“It’s Good to be Queen,” grinned Esme.
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Each week, the Friday Fictioneers meet for fun and frolic in the literary sense, and write up to 100 words of flash fiction from a photo prompt presented by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Sorry, Rochelle, I went slightly over 100 this time around. I hope you’ll forgive me. Look here for more great stories based on the photo above: http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/tag/friday-fictioneers/

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Sunshine, At Last – The Speakeasy


***Warning: Adult Subject***

Sunshine, At Last

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen the stars. She missed the feel of sunshine. Mindlessly, she reached out to the food dispenser and withdrew a handful of kibble. She ate without tasting. She’d eaten nothing else in the, perhaps, eight months of her incarceration in Brent’s basement. She didn’t know for certain.

It wasn’t long ago, she’d won a scholarship at age 15 to MIT University. At a young age, she’d demonstrated supernatural abilities with electronic devices. A misbehaving DVR would suddenly work properly if she stared at it. A broken cellphone would suddenly function after she touched it. MIT professor, Wayne Edmunds, read an article about her in online Byte magazine. He devised a test for her abilities. He removed a line in the firmware on a computer’s motherboard. The computer could not start. Edmunds flew to Iowa City, bringing the computer to young Jenny Park. With a mere touch from her, the computer started up normally. Edmunds checked the firmware, and to his amazement, the line of code was back where it belonged. He had a full scholarship to MIT ready for her the next day.

As she flowered into womanhood, her ethnically ambiguous beauty caught the attention of modeling agencies and suitors alike, but it was Brent, who finally got to her. She’d held off his continuous stream of flattery, saying, “Whatever you say, Brent.” It was the third time she visited his house, toothbrush packed into her purse, when it happened.

She awoke and found she was chained to the wall in Brent’s dank, windowless basement. Twice, sometimes three times a day, Brent would use her like a rag to quench his hungers. She fought at first, but the beatings would inevitably make her capitulate, saying, “Whatever you say, Brent.”

Through the horrors, the worst part was months of no light…no light. Dreams of sunshine kept her sane.

Chains rattled across her bruised thighs as she reached for more kibble. The links were more symbol than necessity. Escape was impossible. Brent owned three Blackwater Systems SE-147 drones. The quadrupeds could run on their long rear legs, freeing up the sickle-like claws on their forelegs. Brent showed her videos of his other perversion: inviting homeless men to his estate without providing a security chip. Jenny watched an old man gutted and dismembered in seconds. The most terrifying system was the WASPs. The honeybee-sized nanobots swarmed in thousands above his estate 24/7. Each could remove a tiny gobbet of flesh. Their numbers could reduce a living human to a pristine skeleton in 20 minutes.

The overly complex, linked chip embedded in Jenny’s shoulder insured the machines would attack her, but the chip in Brent’s shoulder rendered him safe. No chip at all was a guarantee of death, and that’s what killed Brent’s homeless victims.

Eating kibble like a dog, and sucking water from a tube like a Gerbil, would have destroyed a lesser mind, but not Jenny’s. She dreamed of sunshine, and revenge.

Brent’s vacation was his mistake.

Though Jenny’s kibble was nutritious enough, the daily rapes and abuse kept her traumatized. Her health suffered. While he was gone for a month, though, her body settled down. Deep inside her flesh, her unique nerve cells, awoke again. They found the electronic chip in her shoulder, and her body began to interface with it. Soon, computer code written on the chip scrolled across her mind’s eye…and she began to rewrite it.

Less than a day after she gained complete control of the security systems, while she munched on kibble and imagined havoc, Brent’s Ferrari pulled up past the estate gates. Jenny guided Drone 4BW593-03, as though its limbs were her own, to the car’s door. “What are you doing?” muttered Brent as he got out and shoved the killer machine aside.

Blood splattered the white car as Jenny’s claw slashed through his belly. Footclaws cut past the ribs above his heart while she pushed him down. Brent screamed for a time, then regained his composure. “Okay, I see you’ve got control of the drone. Whoever you are, I got money. LOTS of it. It’s yours. Just don’t kill me!”

“Whatever you say, Brent,” said Jenny over the drone’s speakers.

Recognition, a revelation, dawned in his eyes before she ripped the security chip out of his shoulder. She pointed at the approaching swarm of WASPs. “I won’t kill you, but they will.”

Twenty minutes later, Jenny walked past Brent’s skeleton, and squinted in the sunshine, at last.
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Written for the Speakeasy at Yeah Write. In this week’s writing challenge, the FIRST line must be, “She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen the stars.” The media prompt is the song, “No light, no light” by Florence and the Machine. I think I’ve got both covered. Look here for many more exciting stories based upon these prompts: http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/fiction-challenge-178-open/

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Philippines: The Scenery

This will be my last post on the Philippines. It was a wonderful trip. If you like lots of green trees, sea and sky, smiling people, and amazing food, go there. I’ll say salamat kaayo (thank you very much), to everyone who looked after us while we were there.

These pics are of the Visayas, the middle of the archipelago. The Philippines is divided (figuratively) into three sections: Luzon (nothernmost), Visayas (central), Mindanao (southernmost). I stayed on the isle of Negros (as a volcanic island, it has black sand on the beaches). Negros is divided into two provinces: Negros Occidental (Occidental = West), and Negros Oriental (Oriental = East). I stayed mostly in Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental. According to US News, Dumaguete is one of the most affordable places to retire in the world. Look here.

Okay, so you’re wondering about the pics and thinking pagdali (hurry up)! So then, odto na ta (let’s go)!

Lake Balanan near Siaton, Negros Oriental
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Floating restaurants in Bohol Island
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Filipinos love their rice, so they grow a lot of it.
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A tour boat in Bohol.
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Typical traffic in the Visayas with bazillions of pedicabs (usually a motorcycle with a covered sidecar).
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Cambugahay Falls on Siquijor Island.
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A sculpture at the beach outside our room in Siquijor.
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Fishermen in not too deep water since the guy on the left is standing beside the boat. They still caught lots of fish.
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Sugarcane with palms in the distance in Tanjay, Negros Oriental.
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A rice patty near Tanjay.
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Apo Island as seen from Dumaguete City.
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Cebu Island as seen from Dumaguete City. Getting a sense the islands are close together?
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A typical market all through the Visayas. You can get something to drink, a snack, most basic things you need. You can find these on roadways throughout Dumaguete City and many other cities. Great prices for anything you get there. This is the 7-11 in the Visayas.
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Sunset just outside of Siaton. To the Philippines, I say, “Salamat kaayo,” (Thanks very much) for a wonderful trip.
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Thinking of Everything – Sunday Photo Fiction

Written for Sunday Photo Fiction. A story, about someone who works too much and seeks alternatives to find love, begins after the photo.

Genre: Science Fiction

Photo by: Alistair Forbes

Thinking of Everything

She was there, waiting at the top of the stairs when he arrived home from work. The sex-bot he’d ordered from Perfect Companions was ready for him. Auburn hair flowed in torrents past big, sloe eyes and full lips. Her ivory skin glowed in the light from the bedroom.

Perfect Companions had promised, “Perfect from Im-Perfection,” and they delivered. Faint scars glittered on her right knee. One breast, peeking out from her sheer gown, had a mole. Her left eye was larger than the right.

Monique was perfect.

Harry mounted the stairs and took her warm hand. Her lips trembled when he kissed her. She seemed uncertain at first, but her confidence grew as the long night went on, just like a real woman would.

They thought of everything.

Harry didn’t bother introducing her to anyone. How to explain he’d ordered a sex-bot, but desired more than just sex? No one would believe him. Instead, they spent long nights watching Harry’s favorite movies. Of course, she loved them too. They watched the news and discussed the issues. She disagreed with him just enough to keep the conversation going, but not so much to create conflict.

They thought of everything.

Then came the day they were hiking. A thistle cut a deep line above her ankle. Nothing bad, but it bled convincingly. Three days later, it had scabbed, but wasn’t healing as fast as expected. Days later on, he caught her applying makeup to hide the wound. He went straight downstairs and called Perfect Companions. In moments, the owner Mr. Trent, was on speakerphone, as though he was awaiting the call. “I’m sorry for the delay, Mr. Kingston,” said Trent. “We seem to be short one of our engineers. Her absence is causing delays, but that’s no excuse. Your order will be ready within the week.”

“Excuse me. Did you say, ‘her?'”

Monique wilted visibly and sat heavily on the couch, head in hands.

“Yes, sir. She’s one of our best.”

Slowly, Harry hung up the phone. “You’re real?” he said quietly.

Tears began to flow. Monique just nodded.

“Any chance you’re the missing engineer? The one with full access to my information?”

She tried explaining while wracked with sobs. “It’s just…I saw your video, how you moved, how you talked…what you wanted. I work a lot, you know? I don’t get to meet guys much, but there you were saying what you wanted…and you’re what I want.”

“But how long did you think…”

“I know, I know.” She stood and wiped her face. “I’ll just collect my things.”

“No.”

“What?”

Harry took her hand and said, “Maybe I thought to get what I wanted, I needed to get a robot. Maybe I was wrong, and the perfect woman for me is standing right here.”

Monique’s jaw fell open. “You mean it?”

His answer was a kiss.

They made love there and then on the couch; a passionate love with no more uncertainty, no more doubt.

While Monique slept, Harry called Perfect Companions once more. Without preamble, Harry said, “This is HC-17438G, checking in. Customer appears satisfied.”

“Excellent,” said Trent. “Monique has been working too hard with no companionship. She needs this.”

“My analysis programs indicate a positive effect.”

“Of course. We thought of everything.”
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Each week, Alastair Forbes, photographer extraordinaire, offers an original photo up for a writing prompt. Look here for more stories based upon the photo above: http://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/sunday-photo-fiction-september-7th-2014/

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The Dance – Friday Fictioneers

Written for the Friday Fictioneers. A story, about an ancient creature, begins after the photo.

Speculative Fiction/Humor

Photo by: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The Dance

Aruthusol danced an ancient dance. He danced expertly, but no one noticed.

They were too busy staring into their cell phones and tablets, almost ignoring him completely.

There was a time when folk appreciated campfire demons. Aruthusol’s dance was older than people, and they would watch his flaming limbs move with rapt attention. Soon, the people would get up and they would dance too. Together, they would boogie the whole night long. Back then, Humans knew how to party.

But now, they’d installed a TV…at a campsite! The insult!

Scowling, he leaped upon a tent. They’d pay attention now!.
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Each week, the Friday Fictioneers join together at the campsite and sit at the fringe of the fire imagining frightfully fun foibles for flash fiction. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields offers up a photo, like the one above and invites us all write based upon it. Won’t you join us? The prompt, and more stories may be found here: http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/5-september-2014/

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