Thanks for inviting me to post. My prose prompts were….
Amy: Sunflowers on Steroids
Cameron: The clothing line’s success was built on their attention to the details- and the total transparency of their employees.
Erika: The Great Train Caper
Jen: Describe some food and make me hungry, a scene will do. Bonus points if you also write about eating food.
Manda: From the depths of his coma, he heard…
Wendy: Larry Porter and the Philanthropist’s Cone
I chose the first one, Amy’s sunflowers on steroids….
I chose this prompt because I love the sunflowers that are grown around here in Northern Spain and my wife and I decorated the chapel with them for our wedding, and the phrase straight away made me envision a cautionary tale about GMOs, with farmers competing and going too far, so the plant ends up taking over. I like to write stories like this – an extravagant supposition based in science and made as believable as possible. I have never worried about the healthfulness of GMOs, but as an ecologist, I don’t see the need for them and believe they do have negative effects on the environment – at most they merely speed up evolution like overuse of antibiotics.
The difficult part was deciding how to write the story ; I wasn’t sure what the context would be, but then I thought it would be a story recounted by a survivor, rather than a story happening in real time.
Hope you like it.
Sunflowers on Steroids.
I always said them scientists would mess everything up, playing round with creation like they was God.
The environmental beatniks said it too, course, but they said all kind of whatnot, like the weather was changin’, that we didn’t listen much to them guys. Joel McCallum, though, he reads the scientific papers, and he said they reckoned the canola plants’d be the ones that did it, them being so common and close to weeds anyway. He said the genetically modified canola would mix with the field mustard plants and lead to a superweed that nothing could get rid of. The idea of sunflowers takin’ over like they was on steroids, well, we none of us predicted that.
What we never saw comin’, either, was losing our land to the federal government after trying so hard to keep independent from them assholes in DC.
We bought the land fair and square, set up our town ten years beforehand. We were self-sufficient by then, hundred per cent, and all set for the apocalypse should it decide to turn up. We didn’t think it would turn out this way.
It was the federal government’s fault, though, too. Always knew that would be true. They were the ones invited that crazy sonbitch to plant those damn sunflower plants out our way. Gave him permission to use federal land we used to graze cattle off not twenty miles from town. Well, we didn’t think no sunflowers’d stand the shallow soil there. No depth at all, after the dustbowl years took it clean away. Even the grass dried up when it didn’t rain in late spring. We didn’t think the plants would stand up in the wind, first time we went out there and they told us what it was they were growin’.
Joel tried to explain what they’d done to the sunflowers – struck in some genes from a creeper, a vine of some sort that was supposed to only change the roots from the deep tap roots sunflowers supposed to grow, into wide spreading roots that would keep the plants upright and get them enough water from what rains came there. They’d spread the seeds out farther than normal to compensate. Well, Joel didn’t know what way they’d messed up – whether they’d put in the wrong piece of string or if the gene did more jobs than just make roots of one sort or the other, but mess up they did. The plants grew up stringy and creeping. They stretched along the ground, covering the empty patches between plants till it was just a sea of green, with all trace of the rows they’d been planted in gone. The flowers were small, but each plant had four or five instead of one. We was amazed the first year. The scientists just took notes. They harvested some, but with the way the plants were all higgledy-piggledy, they missed half the seed heads.
Of course, we didn’t like to let such food go to waste. We was self-sufficient, but it’s a sin to waste such bounty as the Lord places before you. We planted some in our own plots – and we planned to keep planting it, till we realised it didn’t need no planting. The wind came through one night, the way it does, and the seeds flew everywhere on it. Next year, it was everywhere. It invaded the wheat fields, covered the town. It was kinda pretty at first. We used the oil for our trucks, couple of years. But we soon saw it was gettin’ serious when it covered the floor of the forests, started cloggin’ the creek, and broke half the corn plants before they got to cobbin’. It wrapped around everything – I mean everything – like vines, like morning glory, or that Japanese knotweed they’re always going on about, on steroids more than sunflowers on steroids, and they blocked out the light from every other plant, till there were was nothing else we could grow.
Well, we thought we could at least use the energy the oil gave to cut and burn it out, but we eventually had to ask the government for help. It was their problem, when all said and done.
They came, in helicopters, since the roads were practically overgrown by then. One fella told Joel they was comin’ anyhow, whether we asked them or not. Their scientists told them to shut down the whole operation – and more. They was goin’ to move us – would’ve paid us to up and move sticks someplace else. But what we asked for help, they just took us out, told us to gather up our valuables and make sure it was all clean of vegetative material, they called it.
We did as was asked – we weren’t no fools, wishing this upon everyone. Besides, we weren’t ready for the apocalypse of this description, of any description without our land, our shelters, our supplies.
When they took us up in the helicopters, we saw them start the firebombing straight away. That shit smelt like the end of the world. No wonder them Vietnamese hated us, using that shit on them. I asked the pilot how much they was going to burn. Five thousand square miles, he told me. Hell of a lot of Napalm man. Of course, we had some Napalm ourselves, just in case. When I saw the town explode, I thought, well, there’s an end to it. We might not survive the next apocalypse, but at least we helped the world avoid this one.
That’s what I thought. That’s what we all thought, true as the Lord is lookin’ down on me.
Thing about sunflowers, though, even these crazy ass ones, was the seeds were real tasty. The kids in town used to go round all day, biting on them and spitting out the shells. Well, how can you put the blame on the shoulders of a little kid, not eight year old, instead of the scientist that made them seeds? Little Mia La Tere meant to eat them, of course, and all would’ve been well. But when she saw the explosion from all that stuff we’d in storage, well, she jumped so high she near enough fell out of the chopper herself. Only natural the bag slipped out her hand and the seeds scattered…
David O’Brien is a writer, ecologist and teacher from Dublin, Ireland, now living in Pamplona Spain. He has a degree in environmental biology and doctorate in zoology, specialising in deer biology and is still involved in deer management in his spare time.
As an avid wildlife enthusiast and ecologist, much of David’s non-academic writing, especially poetry, is inspired by wildlife and science. While some of his stories and novels are contemporary, others seek to describe the science behind the supernatural or the paranormal.
A long-time member of The World Wildlife Fund, David has pledged to donate 10% of his royalties on all his hitherto published books to that charity to aid with protecting endangered species and habitats.
David’s author page on Tirgearr Publishing- Check out his books!
Really flattered to be asked to feature here again! Thanks, Erika. My prompts were:
1.) Heavy Metal/Hard Rock- Subdivisions by Rush
2.) Pop/Hip-Hop- Roar by Katy Perry
3.) Country/Singer-Songwriter- The Dance by Garth Brooks
4.) Instrumental/Soundtrack- Somewhere Over The Rainbow by Judy Garland (Sometimes we forget just how flipping good she really was) from The Wizard of Oz
5.) Wild Card- Theme Song from Cheers- Where Everybody Knows Your Name
I chose ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’. It’s a beautiful song and Judy’s voice is amazing, but funnily enough The Wizard Of Oz was never a favourite of mine – too cutesy. (I prefer the darker tone of Wicked.) It got me thinking: what if going over the rainbow wasn’t so nice? I wanted to portray the rainbow as something sinister. I’ve channelled a bit of Oz, Harry Potter, and Terry Pratchett in this fantasy piece. I actually had the characters already (from a story I wrote on Twitter to cheer up a friend who likes dragons). I gave them a rainbow to deal with, and the story sort of wrote itself. Its tone is quite light, but I’ve hinted that what’s on the other side of the rainbow isn’t…
‘So,’ Arith grumbled as his tail swished out the last embers of the fire, ‘Can we go up the castle, or not?’
Ellie hid a smile behind her sleeve. ‘Yes. I promised, didn’t I? A witch doesn’t break her promises.’
Arith snorted, promptly starting another small blaze. ‘Oops!’ he said, and stamped on that to put it out.
‘I’m not sure a majestic dragon should be saying “Oops”, remarked Ellie. ‘Have you been playing with my little sister again?’
‘No,’ muttered Arith. He flexed his claws, to show what a majestic dragon he really was.
‘Come on, idiot,’ Ellie said affectionately. ‘We’re done with spell casting for today. Let’s go and make some mischief.’
The young witch climbed onto Arith’s back, her bare toes gripping the rough armour plating, fingers clasped round the spines on his neck. With another snort, this time of joy, the dragon took off. Their camp at the water’s edge shrunk to the size of a match head as Arith caught an updraft. Ellie looked down, her eyes squinting against the red-gold sparkle of the dragon’s scales.
The river became a silver snake winding below them, leading the way to the castle. The rainy morning had given way to a bright afternoon, and Ellie unclipped her ponytail, letting her fair hair dry in the breeze.
‘Did you cast your invisibility spell?’ Arith shouted above the whoosh of his wing beats.
‘Of course,’ Ellie replied primly. Dragons were invisible to those who didn’t have magic, but witches lived in the everyday world as well. They could be seen unless they spelled it otherwise. It wouldn’t do to be spotted whizzing through the air on the back of – nothing. In fact, it wouldn’t do to be spotted whizzing through the air full stop.
The dragons who guarded the castle – unseen by the general public, of course – were a stuck-up lot, proud of their duty and forever letting everyone know how important they were. Arith (and secretly, Ellie as well) liked to take them down a peg; challenging them to duels, reminding them that they weren’t free to roam where they wished, and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
Today, however, as they approached, all was not as it should be. At first, it appeared to be an ordinary rainbow, arching above the turrets and keep. Then, Ellie noticed that it was dropping in height, enveloping the highest towers – which shimmered, then vanished.
‘What the heck…’ began Arith, as he too saw this strange occurrence, just as Ellie shouted ‘Faster, Arith! The castle’ll be gone in a minute!’
Arith often described his witch as bossy, but this time he heard the genuine urgency in her tone, and beat his wings as fast as he could. ‘What do you mean, gone?’ he yelled.
‘That’s a doorway to another world!’ Ellie was muttering incantations between her explanations. ‘A parasite world, come to steal from ours. We have to stop it!’
‘Oh great.’ muttered Arith. ‘What about the castle warlocks? Can’t they do anything?’
‘If they haven’t already, they’re probably trapped.’ Ellie was now rolling a ball of magical energy between her palms. ‘Besides, you were the one who called them a bunch of doddering old fools.’
Arith grinned, but then frowned. Much as the castle spellcasters and their snobbish dragons annoyed him, he didn’t like the thought of anything bad happening to them.
‘Get as close as you can, but don’t touch it!’ Ellie jumped to a crouch on Arith’s back.
The dragon realised she was about to throw her spell. ‘Don’t you fall off, either,’ he warned, banking smoothly.
The rainbow had now engulfed most of the castle. It had dropped so low, Arith realised, that he could get higher than it. He glided up until he was safely above the last arc of colour, then looked down.
There was no sign of the castle. A black-edged hole in the swirling colours revealed a confused impression of fields of wild flowers and – cabbages? There was a forest, and a strange red and yellow road.
Ellie yelled ‘Watch out!’ and hurled her spell.
The ball exploded with a bewildering roar of noise. Ellie dropped flat on Arith’s back, and he didn’t need to be told twice. He rolled away from the disintegrating colours and shot off as fast as possible. Looking back, he was just in time to see the rainbow twinkle out of existence and the castle take its place, seeming none the worse for wear for its ordeal.
‘Did we do it?’ he asked, as Ellie struggled to a sitting position. He circled so they were facing the right direction.
‘Yes, thank the Goddess.’ Ellie patted his neck. ‘Great flying, gorgeous.’
Arith snorted a small flame, but Ellie knew he was pleased.
‘I suppose we better go and see if everyone’s all right,’ he said, ‘Now that we’ve saved the day.’
They landed on the roof of the Great Hall, out of the way of the tourists milling below. The general public seemed unaware that anything momentous had happened, although a few were muttering about how dark it had got for a while.
‘I wonder what they’d have done if they stepped out of the castle into a different world?’ Arith mused. ‘It looked – weird…’
Ellie shuddered. ‘Don’t even ask. I know the non-magicals are annoying, but no-one deserves to live there.’
Arith resolved to ask Ellie more about parasite worlds. It sounded like she knew the one he had seen. His little witch was a mystery to him much of the time.
An elderly warlock was hurrying towards them, followed by others, streaming like ants from the door to the roof. Robes flapped around the skinnier ones, while the fatter gentlemen puffed and panted at the rear, not accustomed to so many stairs.
‘Ellie!’ The old man exclaimed. ‘Was that you? By the time we realised what was happening, we were stuck in the dungeons!’ No longer needed to house prisoners, the dungeons were the warlocks’ usual abode.
Arith growled. ‘Where were the dragons? They’re supposed to guard the castle. Where are they now?’
‘Look!’ Ellie pointed to the nearest tower. A stone dragon sat atop it, snarling, a front paw raised with claws unsheathed.
‘Over there!’ another warlock exclaimed. ‘And there!’ All four of the castle dragons sat atop a tower, ready to defend their abode, and each one had been turned to stone.
‘We can undo it!’ The warlocks huddled together, discussing the best way to change the dragons back. Ellie looked on, amused.
Arith head-butted her. To her surprise, he looked as though he was about to cry.
‘Is that what would have happened to me if I touched the rainbow?’ he asked.
‘Maybe. Or maybe it was some magic sent ahead to neutralise the castle’s first line of defence.’ Ellie scowled. ‘I hate parasite worlds.’
‘They’ll be able to change them back, right?’
‘Oh yes. They may be a bunch of crazy old men, but they can unpetrify someone like that.’ Ellie snapped her fingers. ‘Why, Arith,’ she teased, ‘Don’t tell me you’d miss those stuck-up, snobbish…’
‘All right, all right!’ Arith glared at her, after sneakily wiping a paw over his eyes. ‘I’d have no-one to – annoy, that’s all.’
‘Come on,’ said Ellie. ‘I think we’d better come back another day.’ Sparks were beginning to fly from the warlocks’ fingertips. A few of them landed dangerously close to Arith’s tail.
‘When they set the castle on fire, we’ll come back and rescue them again,’ Arith agreed. ‘I always thought it would be one of those idiot reptiles who would do that.’ He crouched a little to make it easier for Ellie to climb onto his back once more.
‘Ellie!’ The warlock who had been first on the scene was hurrying towards them. His face, indeed his whole bald head, was rather pink. Arith paused.
‘Um…I just realised we didn’t say thank you. For dealing with the parasite world. So, thank you.’ The old man gave a beaming smile which Arith recognised at once.
Ellie beamed back.
‘You’re welcome, Grandpa.’
I was so flattered to be asked by Erika of the BBBGals to write a guest post. Thank you!
My five prompts were:
Amy – Sunflowers on steroids
Cameron – The clothing line’s success was built on their attention to details – and total transparency with their employees
Erika – The spicier the better
Jen – I don’t want to wait
Wendy – Look out Wonder Woman, Super Girl, and Catwoman. I am the next super heroine
Erika’s prompt immediately struck a chord, as I LOVE spicy food, but also, it led to an idea involving a supernatural being that I’m writing about at the moment…
Here’s the flash fiction I came up with.
She watched him as dexterous hands chopped the vegetables. He hummed under his breath, one of the rock songs they both favoured. Onion, peppers…then he was reaching for the chillies. Her breathing quickened.
‘Hope you like it spicy,’ he said, slicing off stalks and removing seeds. If only he knew.
She stood behind him; slid her arms round his waist. ‘How lucky I am’, she teased, ‘To find a man who can cook.’
He turned in her embrace and kissed her. She tasted Corona, and the nachos they’d munched earlier. She tasted desire, and struggled for control. No, no…there would be plenty of time for that later.
They pulled away from each other, panting.
She broke the silence. ‘Get chopping, you.’ She poked him playfully in the ribs. ‘We’ll both need the energy for…afterwards.’
His eyes widened. ‘Couldn’t we just..?’ His voice was husky.
‘Nope. Food first.’ Well, one kind of food, for her.
He groaned, but resumed his action with the knife. She stepped back and studied him. He was pretty perfect: young, healthy, well-muscled but not too pumped up. Every so often a lock of hair fell forward into his eyes, and he pushed it away with an impatient gesture of those long, slender fingers.
‘So, don’t you like cooking?’ he asked over his shoulder, as he threw ingredients into a pot.
She shrugged. ‘Not really. I’ve never got good at it.’
‘I thought you said earlier that you were on some special diet? Don’t you have to make stuff for that?’ A thought occurred to him. ‘Oh…are you sure you’ll be all right to eat this? It’s my speciality, but it’s pretty hot…’
She worked to keep the smirk from her face. ‘It’ll be fine. It’s more like I need…supplements…rather than a special diet.’
‘Oh, right. So there’s something you can take for it?’
She eyed him greedily. ‘Oh yes.’
He had chopped five chillies by now, and was holding up a sixth, questioningly.
‘Go for it.’ She licked her lips. ‘In fact, use another two.’
‘You sure?’ At her emphatic nod, he chuckled. ‘A girl after my own heart!’
Oh yes, she thought, your heart, you soul…everything you’ve got to offer.
He tipped the vegetables into the pot and stirred. Her mouth watered, at the scent of the chilli con carne, and the scent of him. A sheen of sweat glowed on his skin as steam rose from the hob. As he put the knife in the sink, he winced and dropped it, raising his hand to his mouth.
She couldn’t help herself. ‘Let me see!’
He sucked his finger and held it out for her inspection. ‘It’s just a nick; it’s fine.’
She chewed her lip to stop herself from jumping on him. She kissed the bloody spot on his hand, licking a tiny bit as she did so. Mmm…delicious. Even better with some seasoning.
‘So,’ she said, letting go of him. ‘How are we doing?’
He stared at her for a moment, then ‘Oh!’ He faced the hob. Tasting the chilli, he looked pleased. ‘About five minutes, I reckon. Only…it could be a bit hotter, if you’re up for it?’ He held out the spoon.
She tasted. Yes, it was good – very good. She imagined his blood laced with all that spice, that hotness. Putting the spoon aside, she wrapped her arms round him and kissed his neck. His pulse throbbed just below the skin, inviting her fangs to descend and taste. No – not yet. Not until after the main course. Even with the chilli in his system, his blood would be sweet. A fitting dessert.
‘Go on then,’ she agreed, letting go of her dazed chef/ lover/dinner.
‘The spicier, the better.’