Fly in the Machine

Photo by: Al Forbes

Norton held the tiny surveillance drone in his hand. “Can you believe it?” he complained. “Director Fuchs is halting this project.”

“Unbelievable,” sympathized Gordon.

“It looks exactly like a fly. It’s got infrared, CO2 detectors, wireless comms, onboard expert systems, you name it!”

“I know, but at a million a pop, they’re pricey.”

“So?”

“And you lost contact with one already.”

“Sure, but that’s encouraging. If one detects suspicious activity, it automatically goes dark. It won’t give away its presence by broadcasting.”

“Like what’s suspicious?”

“Anything from espionage to child pornography.”

Gordon sighed. “Sounds amazing. Sorry, dude.”

“Director Fuchs is just a jerk. Always got his door closed, and sometimes he’s grunting in there. It’s creepy.”

“Yeah, I hate that Fucher.”

“I’d like to see what my missing drone found.”

“It upload if it’s gone dark, right?”

“There’s the beauty. It connects via bluetooth to the target’s own cell phone, then stores the surveillance video in a fast-growing, but hidden file on the target’s phone.”

“But what if the target swatted it. You’d never know what happened.”

“Not so!” crowed Norton. “Once suspicious activity is identified it sprays the target with a toxin. The guy gets a case of incurable hiccups!”

Just then the lab door opened and Directer Fuchs entered. “Norton! I need your techie expertise,” he said as if his problem was really Norton’s problem. “My phone says the memory card is full, but I haven’t downloaded anything! And then *hic* You know a good cure for hiccups?”
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Written for Sunday Photo Fiction: https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/sunday-photo-fiction-april-30th-2017/

Author’s Notes:

Insect Drones aren’t science fiction anymore: http://www.roboticstomorrow.com/article/2016/12/was-that-an-insect-or-a-drone/9265

“Fuchs” isn’t made up. Here’s the origins: “German and Jewish (Ashkenazic): from Middle High German vuhs, German Fuchs ‘fox’, nickname for a sly or cunning person, or for someone with red hair. This name is widespread throughout central Europe.
https://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=fuchs

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The Probability Engine

Mayor of Chicago, Rupert Johnson was furious. He shouted at his Chief of Staff, Marion Caldwell. “This is a disaster! ”

“But sir,” said Marion. “You wanted innovative ideas.”

“But not this!” The native Chicagoan loved his city. The horrific spate of gun violence troubled him deeply.

Johnson’s secretary ushered in Stanford Hawkins.

“Hawkins!” roared Johnson. “What the hell did you do?”

“I thought you’d be pleased, Mayor,” explained the spindly scientist. “I think my Probability Engine worked perfectly.”

“Well yes, it worked but…”

“You wanted a solution that reminded the people of Chicago of their commonality.”

“I did and…”

“So I thought changing all the city’s bullets into Bratwurst matched your request perfectly.”

“But, my god man, Bratwurst? Of all the things you could’ve done.”

“I could’ve done cheese puffs.”

“That’s not the point! It’s bratwurst, Hawkins,” raged Johnson. “Bratwurst without sauerkraut and mustard? Are you insane?”
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Written for What Pegman Saw: https://whatpegmansaw.com/2017/04/29/chicago/

Author’s Notes:

My Probability Engine is based on the notion that in any given moment anything is possible. You shouldn’t expect your computer will turn into a daisy, but there is a “probability” that it could happen. For more on this, consider the Infinite Improbability Drive from “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”: http://hitchhikers.wikia.com/wiki/Infinite_Improbability_Drive

Bratwurst (properly served with sauerkraut and mustard):

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The Heavenly Encounter

Photo by: Liz Young

Jenny joined her grandfather on the bench beside the gravestone.

“Here’s your lunch, Grandpa,” she said.

“Thanks!” He accepted the sandwich. “I’m famished.”

“You know, Grandpa. Ghosts don’t get hungry.”

Grandpa patted her knee condescendingly. “You’re sweet, pumpkin.”

She left and joined her friend Annie in the kitchen.

“What did he say?” asked Annie.

“He still won’t believe me.”

“Remind me why he thinks he’s a ghost.”

“He met Padma Lakshmi in a cafe once.”

“The Top Chef host?”

“Yep. That’s the one.”

“And then…?”

“They had a nice chat. Afterward, he swore he’d died and gone to heaven!”
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Written for the Friday Fictioneers: https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/04/26/28-april-2017/

Author’s Notes:

The goddess, Padma Lakshmi:

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The Great Idea

Photo by: Dawn Miller

Molly and Mandy were identical twins. Everyone thought so anyway. You see, both of them were invisible.

H.G. Wells’ invisible man could put on clothes and be seen. With M&M, anything touching their skin turned invisible too, including their clothes.

The twins had one significant difference. Mandy received sudden spontaneous technological insights while in a trance-like state. Ever wonder why GPS receivers got so small so fast? Mandy. Stealth airplanes? Yeah…Mandy.

Since the two were always together, Molly recorded all the trances.

One day, as they sat in Dave’s cafe, Mandy rambled on, perfectly comfortable with talking to an empty chair. She could talk a lot without taking a break. Right in the middle of a sentence, Mandy suddenly fell into a trance. She spoke for ten minutes before the trance finished.

“Isn’t that amazing?” crowed Mandy. “It’s my best insight yet! It would provide unlimited energy to the entire world! It wouldn’t cost much to make!”

The chair across from her suddenly creaked.

“Sorry, hon,” said Molly. “Did I miss something? I really had to pee.”
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Written for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers: https://flashfictionforaspiringwriters.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/fffaw-challenge-week-of-april-25-2017/

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The Taxman Ceramic-eth

“Drinking Tea” by Lei Xue (hand painted porcelain)

Cody the bartender placed the home brew before IRS investigator, Greg Harkness. The mug was beautifully wrought in blue and white Chinese porcelain. Greg never expected something like that in the little town of Collins, Louisiana. “Wow, Cody!” he exclaimed, admiring the art and workmanship. “You didn’t need to break out the fine china.”

Cody shrugged. “We got bunches of ’em.”

“You shipped them from China?”

“Nope. Didn’t want ’em anyway. It just happened.”

“Just happened?”

Cody crossed his arms. “You investigatin’ me now Mister Taxman? Gimme a break!”

“C’mon, I’m just curious. You gotta admit you don’t always see china mugs in bars.”

Cody relaxed a bit. “It was all just an accident anyway. ”

“Oh right. Accidental delivery.”

“Nope. They weren’t shipped.”

“Okay…” Greg waited.

Cody looked away, grimacing. “It’s weird.”

Greg sipped the tasty brew. “Well that sounds interesting. Tell me.”

“You’ll never believe it.”

“C’mon!”

“You gotta see it for yourself. Just find Pauly Goodman out on Piller Road.”

“The mugs came from Pauly?”

“Yeah. Sort of.”

At the motel, Greg looked up Goodman. The alligator hunter made a reasonable living selling his taxidermy on eBay. The IRS database reported no red flags or concerns. Still, Greg wanted to see what his china story was.

At Pauly’s ramshackle house, he noticed something odd. Blue and white china pieces lined the porch railing. A magnificent porcelain rocking chair gathered dust in one corner. A ceramic hunting dog slept beside the steps.

Pauly welcomed Greg into the house, especially when he saw the 12-pack Greg carried. Inside the house numerous stuffed animals graced the decor, but among them porcelain beer cans, china pizza boxes, and ceramic animals filled every nook. Despite the heat, Pauly was covered head to toe in clothing. Even his glass frames were coated in cloth. As he drank a beer, he began to tell his story.

“It started at twenty. Just a few things at first, but then more and more. Pretty soon, I couldn’t touch nothin’ that wasn’t cloth or water and, luckily, toilet paper. My Daddy kicked me out the house, said God cursed me. I cain’t be with no woman ’cause she’d just turn into china.”

“So…everything you touch turns into this blue and white china? With all the Chinese writing and pictures and all?”

“Yep. I don’t even know how to write no Chinese, neither. It just happens.”

“But what about the beer you’re drinking?”

“My insides are normal. It’s my skin that changes stuff.”

Incredulous, Greg placed a pen on the table. “Can you change that?”

Pauly shrugged. He removed a glove and carefully touched only the pen. In moments, it became the world’s first porcelain Cross Pen.

Greg nearly fainted with shock. “I just can’t believe it!”

“Yeah? Check this out.” Pauly led him into a shed. Inside, hundreds of porcelain items rested. Many were formerly stuffed animals rendered in perfect ceramic detail. The finely detailed hairs and feathers could easily break. Ceramic engine parts, license plates, and picnic baskets sat beside them.

Greg took pictures of incredible sight. “My god, Pauly! You’re selling these on eBay, right?”

“Huh?”

“Blue and white china is expensive and popular. ”

“Naw! It’s just trash from a curse.”

“No! These items are totally unique. You could make millions!”

Later in the day and back at the apartment, Greg made a mistake. He sent the pictures he took to a fellow IRS investigator, just to share something interesting. That friend forwarded the pictures to friends, and they sent it too… In hours, the entire Baton Rouge IRS office knew about it. The following day, Investigations Director Butts arrived.

“You never thought to report this?” asked Butts over the phone.

“He didn’t craft them sir,” explained Greg. “We can’t tax a man for having a curse!”

“Oh, I heard about your fairy tale, Mr. Harkness,” scoffed Butts. “I’ll be handling this from here on out. This man owes the government and I intend to collect!”

That was the last anyone ever heard of Mr. Butts. Greg got re-located to Alaska, but he never forgot about Pauly. While sitting in a restaurant watching Bald Eagles fly by, he looked up unique china figurines on eBay. That’s when he learned what became of Pauly and Mr. Butts. The first item in the list said it all.

Unique blue and white china figurine! Valued at $100,000. This life-sized sculpture of a taxman is beautifully detailed. Note the exquisitely crafted look of shock on his face.

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Written for the Grammar Ghoul Press: http://www.grammarghoulpress.com/gg-writing-challenge-68/

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The Rules of Devouring

Photo by: John Brand

Marion’s house in New York was tiny, and her yard was smaller. Nevertheless, she insisted on a lush garden. She mounted brackets on the wall to place more pots. She even mounted pots up the trunk of her cherry blossom tree.

Her high-powered, concrete-jungle-dwelling, corporate neighbors thought she was weird. As they passed her they’d loudly say things like: “Freak!”, Weirdo!”, and “Ey! What’s Looney-Bin food like?”

Marion rightly ignored them. She soon had a living wall with so many plants she lost track of them.

This was the perfect environment for the aliens Apostideae and Bromilius. The two looked much like Terrestrial carnivorous pitcher plants, except five-feet tall with aggressive tentacles to pull in prey, and stomach acids that dissolved food in mere minutes.

Bromilius watched people flow by. “There’s so much food here. What should we eat? We need some Rules of Devouring.”

“We can’t eat just anyone,” said Apostideae. “We’d give our presence away.”

“Right.”

“Let’s not eat the gardener for starters. She’s nice.”

“Agreed.”

“I got it! Let’s only eat the humans who are rude to other humans.”

Bromilius crossed his tentacles in exasperation. “You do realize we’re in New York, right?”
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Written for Sunday Photo Fiction: https://sundayphotofictioner.wordpress.com/2017/04/23/sunday-photo-fiction-april-23rd-2017/

Author’s Notes:

Pitcher Plant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitcher_plant

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On Time

Photo by: Magaly Guerrero

“You’re late, Miss Beauregard!” spat Mr. Chumworthy.

“Only one minute, sir!”

“Late is late.”

Beauregard hadn’t advanced beyond Junior Librarian in six years. The curvaceous and slothful Miss Buxley achieved Senior Librarian in only six months!

Luckily, Beauregard had her magic shoes. Whilst reading a book, the shoes could literally transport her to a different place and time. Regardless of a book’s accuracy, she took photographs of what really happened.

Then she found Mr. Chumworthy’s memoirs…

“Late, Miss Beauregard!”

Beauregard presented a photo of Chumworthy and Buxley engaging in…athletics. “Am I really?”

“Bugger…Ah, quite on time, Miss Beauregard.”

“Excellent! Now about that promotion…”
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Written for the Friday Fictioneers: https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/04/19/31-march-2017/

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