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Picture Prompt Responses
|Firewoman||Block O Rock||Castle||Ink Blot||Smurferno||Staircase||Cabin|
Why am I seeing a cheesy headache remedy commercial?
Intro soundtrack: blaring fair music, layered with screaming children, people chattering, and the clank of various rides/attractions at the fair.
[woman stumbles in from stage right, weaving and squinting, clutching her head dramatically]
Announcer: Ever have one of the headaches so bad it feels like your head is on fire?
[woman clutches her head dramatically, cue special effect flames]
Announcer: One dose of Snake-Oil Supreme will clear that right up! Snake-Oil Supreme's patented zerfoplogical combinations of herbs and natural ingredients have been specially formulated by trained Hleflopers to Mertatphysically work with your body's own Jurmeflical receptors to naturally, safely block pain. One dose...
[woman pulls out a bottle of the miracle elixir and takes a swig, smiling as she lowers the bottle]
Announcer: ...and you're back on your feet, pain-free! Guaranteed!
[woman smiles and skips off to finish her day's work at the fair, laughing and chatting with children]
Announcer - low, fast voice: The claims have not been verified by the FDA and this product should not be taken if you have high blood pressure, heart of kidney disease, are or may become pregnant or are nursing. Consult you doctor if the severity or frequency of your headaches increases, as this could be a sign of a rare but serious complication of Snake-Oil Supreme. Common side effects include blinding headaches, nausea, abdominal pain and unexplained swelling of the lower limbs. Grabyourwallet, Inc, shall not be held liable if you use this product in a manner inconsistent with its advertising and labeling.
In honor of TLAPD (I love the little eyepatches on the user symbols!) I bring you a rough Picture Prompt Response (pardon my bad pirate-ese, all of the translators seemed to be a wee bit 'overloaded' today!):
“Well, shiver me timbers and call me a land-lubber!” Captain Dan frowned as he strode up the beach.
“Um, okay – land-lubber!” First-mate Jamie chirped.
“Ye idiot – twas a figure o’ speech. Insolent pup!”
Jamie paused in his attempts to properly ground the small skip they had rowed in to the cove from the boat. He was puffing and the sweat was rolling down his face. Captain Dan scowled at him, walked back to the skip, and with one beefy arm reached down and yanked it above the high-tide mark.
“I know not if’n we can ever make a pirate o’ye, lad. Ye haven’t the sea in ye heart, or brawn in ye body.”
“No… really… Captain… Sir… I… can… do… it,” Jamie wheezed.
“Arr, on ye feet, then, and let’s get th’ booty!”
Jamie scrambled to his feet, following Captain Dan up the sand beach to a huge chunk of rock. It was almost perfectly square, with no visible seams.
“Is the treasure under the rock? How are we going to move it?”
“Ye barnacle-brained ninny, ‘tis not under th’ rock, were any bloody one could find it! Ye thing we pirates is so grog-addled t’ make stealin’ our booty so simple?”
“No… sir,” Jamie swallowed. Captain Dan was getting that crazy gleam in his eye again. He backed up a step. “But then… you don’t mean in the rock?”
“Ah, th’ lad gets it! But d’ ye know how to get at it?”
“Uhhh… break open the rock?”
“Ye go right on, then, son, an’ if ye get t’ th booty, it be yours!”
“I’m guessing that’s not the right answer, then,” Jamie chewed on his lip.
Captain Dan chuckled. “An’ ye’d be right! Only Cap’n Joe an’ I know th’ secret t’ opening this hunk o’ rock. An’ he won’t be botheren’ t’ open it any time soon!” Captain Dan laughed again, and pulled out a flask from his coat pocket.
“Why is that?” Jamie asked, not sure he wanted to hear the answer.
“He be dead, that’s why!” Captain Dan roared with laughter. Suddenly, a shot rang out across the beach. Captain Dan looked down at his short-front at the blossoming red stain that was spreading rapidly.
“Captain? Captain? Oh my god!” Jamie grabbed him as he slumped, but he wasn’t strong enough to hold him up. They crumbled into one heap on the beach. From under the bulk of the dead captain Jamie saw a pair of highly polished boots approaching.
“Avast, what ha’ we here?” a soft, feminine voice inquired.
Jamie squirmed out from under the captain and stood slowly, hands raised. “I… don’t shoot… I’m not…”
“No’ a threat, indeed, but perhaps a… liability?” The lady pirate raised one eyebrow and stared at him. “That be unless ye know how t’ open th’ rock?”
Jamie stared at her without speaking.
“Ah, ye be wonderin’ why I shot ole Dan, there?” She nudged the corpse with her boot.
Jamie nodded slowly.
“He killed me Joe, an’ twas up t’me to avenge his death, ye see?”
“You’re Joe’s….” Jamie trailed off.
“Aye, I be – I was – his mate,” she said grimly.
“You’re not… what I expected,” Jamie said stupidly.
“Wha’ did ye ‘spect?”
“Well, in all the books women pirates are these raving beauties, and…” Jamie clamped one hand over his mouth to stem the flood of words that had tumbled out.
“An’?” She tightened her thin lips and pushed a strand of greasy hair off of her puffy, doughy, face.
“And they,” he swallowed, “didn’t do you justice.”
She sighed. “Th’ only thing I hate more’n an insolent pup be a liar. An’, since I don’t believe ye know how t’ open th’ rock…”
And with that, she shot him dead.
Also a challenge response at muses_stewpot. And a voice post. Yay for the trifecta! Two birds with one stone... pfff. I knocked off three!
The Ghost in the Castle
You would think there would be something left to inspire me in this moldy old castle. Some nook or cranny I hadn’t explored that would move me to write great sonnets. Well, not ‘write’ in the literal sense, as I am non-corporeal and unable to hold a quill. Perhaps ‘compose’ would be a better word. Yes, I’ve composed a sonnet to each and every bloody thing in this castle, even if I can’t remember all of them exactly. I remember I had written them; I remember that they existed at one time.
Ah, yes, memory. You thought, perhaps, that when you died your memory, your mind, was infinite? That’s a cosmic joke. I wish I could tell you I remembered my death as clearly as if it was yesterday – okay, no, not my death. I don’t remember much about it except it was exceeding unpleasant. I’d rather that remained a vague memory, thank you very much. But my last day with… oh, what’s her name?! The love of my life, the woman I adored… Henrietta? Helen? Heather? No matter, I remember I adored a woman, and I must surely have spent a last perfect day with her (at least I would have romanticized that last day after my death, regardless of whether it was truly perfect). And I wish I could tell you I remembered that day as clearly as if it were only yesterday, but I don’t. I remember it as if it took place 564 years ago. Coincidentally, that’s roughly the time it did take place. Nifty, that, eh?
See, after you die time doesn’t slow down or speed up; your mind doesn’t expand, you don’t gain infinite wisdom. At least I didn’t. But then, maybe this is hell. Just like life, only, no touching. No women, no food, no wine. Just… being. If you can call this being. Funny, I remember wishing I could be a fly on the wall so many times back when I was alive. Unfortunately, I now realize that the fun part about the whole ‘fly on the wall’ bit was afterwards, when you’d get to spread what you heard. Simply knowing things – for as long as you could remember, at any rate – is no fun. I had even stopped eavesdropping entirely by the time the castle walls began to crumble and all of the people left.
It was rough there for awhile, I won’t lie. If a ghost could commit suicide, I might have at least attempted it. But then even if I had succeeded, I’d be a ghost’s ghost, and would that be any different? I mean, could I be less substantial? And what, you might ask, would drive a ghost to such desperate measures?
Well, you see, as all the old things I knew and had composed volumes of poetry to had faded and decomposed. It’s very depressing to watch everything you know turn to dust. And, yes, I’ve tried to leave the castle to explore the countryside, but every time I get too far away I get so very weary, and when I fall asleep – if the dead can ‘sleep’ – I somehow return to the castle. I wake up sprawled on the dining table, of all the indignant places. Something in my memory from long ago tingles, there’s something special about this table. I know it. But I can hardly remember who I was, let alone why a table would be important.
Ah, yes, who am I? My name is… was… Sir... something. I was a knight. I think. The clothes I wear are rich enough, so I must have been somewhat successful in life. I’d reached a fairly advanced age, too. So I was either a really good knight, or… what? That, I admit, is a bit of a mystery. Then there’s the whole poetry thing. I couldn’t tell you if that was something I started after my death, or if I was a bard in life. I realize that sounds pathetic but these things happened well over 500 years ago. Seriously, can you remember what you had for breakfast yesterday? No? Then cut me some slack. Perhaps had I drilled it into my head each and every day I would have remembered. I could have reaffirmed who I was and what I did and how I died every single day so I would never have forgotten. But I think I wanted to forget. I just don’t remember why.
But, luckily, just as I was at my worst – I was actually standing on top of the castle wall contemplating throwing myself off, and yes, I know that makes no sense but I was a little crazy, you understand – some more people came. They weren’t like what I thought I remembered, though I hadn’t seen anyone but the odd traveler in the distance for years. Centuries, perhaps. And admittedly, my memory is a bit fuzzy.
I don’t mean that they don’t look like people – they had the standard two legs, two arms, one head combination. But they didn’t dress or act quite the same. And they talked rather oddly, but I’m getting used to it. Even picking up some slang here and there!
It was also clear from the start that they were looking for something. And not a physical thing, either. They didn’t dig through the rubble or search the secret passageways. Instead, they just walked around, talking. And at first I thought I was completely unhinged, because it seemed they were talking to me! They would say things like, “Is there anyone here who would like to tell us something?” and wave a little gizmo around. And at first I would answer. I tried talking. Nothing. I tried yelling. Nothing. Nothing I did seemed to elicit a response. I figured they’d eventually give up, and that group finally did. But then another group came. And another. And more and more of them kept coming, with even more weird and scary gadgets.
I have learned, through careful observation and listening, how most of these gadgets work. Like the computer and the telephone. Very handy, indeed! They have access to vast amounts of information, though I do wonder how much of it is accurate. Evidently there’s quite a story behind this castle. Supposedly there was once a mystical amulet called the Stone of Sargon. And some nasty chap stole it and hid it long ago. There was bloodshed – murder – and plenty of mayhem. The sort of things that tend to encourage ghostly activities. This must have taken place about my time, according to my calculations.
I know, I know, it seems so obvious that this is me, right? I stole the stone-thing and got killed for being a bad person, and wanted to forget, so I did. And here I am, centuries later, still bound by the stone to the place I hid it. So very neat. So very predictable. Possibly true, of course, but there’s no way of knowing. I rather doubt it, but they are persistent.
You’d also think that if they wanted to research the legend, they’d be looking for the stone. And, to be fair, there have been a few archeologists that have poked through the castle. I take the most interest in them, because they make me think… I mean, what if they do find the stone? Am I suddenly going to remember or transcend or what? What if the stone doesn’t even exist, or isn’t here? What if I was nothing more than a nobleman who had a heart attack and died eating dinner? What if, what if, what if. It’s pointless to speculate, trust me – I spent the early years doing just that. Came up with nothing, or I wouldn’t still be hanging around this dump composing stupid little poems to all the new things I see. There was the recent classic, “Ode to the fresh dog turd” and “A sonnet to the new mold growth,” plus the every popular “Spin a spider web, spider!” None, sadly, destined for print and not only because I lack the capability to commit them to paper.
But back to the people. Most of them that come here call themselves ‘Ghost Hunters.’ They wave around these little instruments and claim to catch ‘hot spots’ and ‘voices on tape.’ Of course I know it’s all crap. I’m never where they say I am, I never said what they thought they heard, and I’ve never caused anything to move or made any strange noises. It’s an old castle, people. It’s falling down around your ears. That thumping sound? Loose rocks, nothing more.
And don’t even get me started on the ‘mediums.’ They claim to be in touch with their ‘spiritual guides’ who tell them all about the ghosts that inhabit the castle. Thing is, they talk about a tragic love-lorn maiden, a small child, a young man… Funny how they never mention the ghost of the middle-aged slightly pudgy man that’s standing right in front of them. And if these other ghosts they speak of exist, I’ve never seen them.
The really ironic thing? I am the proof that they seek, and yet I know they are frauds. They have to make things up because they can’t prove I exist – hell, I can’t prove to them I exist. I’m not even sure that I exist any more.
Okay, so it's a little odd to respond to my own prompt. But what the hay. And, it did take me closer to 30 minutes, but it was still in the 'free writing' spirit. This is what the picture brought to my mind:
“…I mean, with all the advances in science, mankind can’t create a chemical compound that will permanently dye hair red?”
Albert opened his mouth to speak, but Rebecca forestalled him with a raised hand.
“I know, I know, the boxes of dye say permanent, but have you ever used one?” She glanced up at his bald dome, and hastily answered her own question. “Of course not. So you probably don’t know that the red pigment continues to wash out, and with a week or two, *poof* - all gone. And you’re back to mousey brown.”
He again opened his mouth, but before he could get a word in edgewise Rebecca gathered her thoughts and carried on. “I mean, a few months ago my hair was this amazing dark purple color. Almost black, but with an iridescent purple shimmer. Like a Grackle’s head, only purple, not blue.”
“Well that is very interesting , but…” Albert cut in quickly, but she cut him off.
“And look at it now. All gone. I’m going to have to dye it again, but every time I do I have this fear that all of my hair is going to fall out.” She leaned towards him and dropped her voice, even though they were the only two people in the room. “I have a friend – a woman – who is going bald, and it’s so sad. Now there’s a woman who needs some support! How awful is it for a girl to lose her hair? I mean, it’s completely,” she flicked a glance at his head again, “acceptable for a man, of course. But a woman?”
She sighed, shook her head, and leaned back. There was silence for a moment.
“Yes, that’s awful for your friend, but we’re here to talk about you,” he said firmly, “and the…”
“And yet,” she cut in, “I still do it. Even though I’m afraid all my hair might fall out – I mean, you should see the clumps that come out after I dye it! - I still do it. I don’t know why. Maybe that’s something you could explore.”
“I’m sure I could,” he said testily, “but that’s not why we’re here. You know you’ve been sent here to talk through your feelings involving the ‘incident’ and in the eight months you’ve been seeing me, you haven’t said a single word about it. You waste both our time ever week rambling about nonsense. What does that tell you?” he asked pointedly.
“Okay, first off, you were the one who started off with ‘Tell me what’s on your mind.’ So I did. And it’s not nonsense. I’ve been mulling the dye thing over a bit. I mean, am I really best as a redhead? I’ve been blonde before, but I worry it makes me too washed out. And I haven’t been able to find a decent dark brown…”
“Rebecca!” he cut in sharply.
“And,” she continued acidly, “if it’s such a bloody waste of time you might consider telling my esteemed employers that I’m fine and further sessions are useless. Then I can stop being a waste of your time.”
“But how can I tell you’re fine if you won’t talk about it? It seems to me you’re avoiding the issue, and that’s bad.”
“I’m telling you I’m fine,” she ground out.
“Okay, how about this. We have ten minutes left. Tell me how you feel about it, honestly, and I’ll consider stopping the sessions.”
She studied him for a moment, considering his proposal.
“Okay,” she said slowly, “I feel fine about it.”
He opened his mouth and she held up her hand. “Let me finish.” She took a deep breath.
“Honestly, I don’t think about it. There’s no guilt, no sadness, no anger. I don’t feel… anything. It happened, case closed. I’m not haunted by it. I’m not even anything more than slightly annoyed by the sideways glances I get from some people. It hasn’t changed my daily routine. I don’t feel any different. So, I’m fine with it – it’s the other people that have the problem.”
Albert steepled his fingers and looked at her gravely. “No one can go through that without feeling something. Why are you repressing?”
She glared at him, and the room once again fell silent.
“Then again,” she said slowly, “maybe a more honey blonde would suit me, especially if I get a bit of a tan.” She rose from her seat and went to the door.
“See you next week,” he called out after her.
“Sure thing, asshole,” she muttered under her breath, and smiled to herself as she left the room.
This was a tough one, but since it will be my last picture prompt response (it seems silly to respond to my own pictures) I figured I should really give it a go. That's right, starting next Sunday I'll be bringing you the weekly picture prompts. I hope you enjoy my selections and challenges, and at any time suggestions and comments are, of course, welcome. And now I bring you:
“Sara,” I whispered urgently, “Hand me that 400mm lens.”
Sara and I had been on the trail of this tribe for the last two weeks. As cultural anthropologists, we were used to roughing it, but the conditions we had faced following the Uratu tribe to their yearly Chukkata-Ah ceremony had been brutal.
“Do you think they know we are here?” She whispered back, handing me the lens.
I watched the Shrukta carefully as I snapped the lens onto the camera. He hadn’t looked our way even once, but I had the uncanny feeling he knew we were there.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. She lapsed into silence, watching the Churitaks dance around the fire. Their bodies were painted a vivid blue and their hair powdered to a pure white, and they had on baggy white pantaloons.
Suddenly, all of the Churitaks turned to face us. Sara and I froze in our hiding place, but as the Shrukta started walking towards us, my heart sank. Sara began to tremble in fear next to me, and I took her hand in mine as I rose to greet the Shrukta.
“Hello,” I said cautiously.
The Shrukta stared at me with small, beedy eyes. “What know you of us?”
Suddenly I felt Sara gather herself and step forward. She drew a deep, shakey breath.
“I am Sara Dembroski of the Center for the Study of Tribal Cultures. We have been tracking your tribe for the last two weeks in hopes of shedding some light on the yearly Chukkata-Ah ceremony mentioned in some of the ancient texts that were recently uncovered in Bella Davious.”
Her statement came out in a rush, but I squeezed her hand, proud of her pluck. I’d been her photographer for the last three years, and I’d seen her getting steadily more assertive. Though a lot of cultures refused to accept a woman in a position of power, Sara had managed to attain the respect of several tribal leaders.
“The Garthda-Szu?” The Shrukta looked surprised. He turned to the Churitaks and conversed rapidly with them in Hurthada. I caught a few words: legend, sacred, ritual, and a rough approximation of ‘deal.’
The Shrukta turned to Sara. “We want Garthda-Szu. You participate in ceremony, take pictures,” he gestured to the camera I still held, “and you give to us.”
Sara turned to me, and I shrugged my shoulders. I had no idea if the director would be willing to give up the original book, though numerous copies had been made. Museums just have a thing about retaining original artifacts. Sometimes even when there were others who had a legitimate claim to said artifacts, a practice that Sara fought against at every opportunity. I knew that if she struck this deal, the Uratu would get their sacred book back, whether the museum agreed or not.
She must have taken my shrug for assent, because she squared her shoulders and turned back to the Shrukta. “Deal.”
So we were outfitted in makeshift ceremonial outfits and joined the dancing circle. We danced for close to an hour before the Shrukta clapped his hand together sharply and climbed to the top of the small hill next to the fire. I grabbed my camera and began snapping pictures. According to the sacred text, there were only going to be five more of these ceremonies. There were a limited number of Staturas left in existence, and once they were gone there could be no more ceremonial sacrifices. This spelled doom and gloom for the Uratu, who believed without the sacrifices, the gods would rain destruction upon their heads. In the dangerous forest environment, such prophesies could easily become self-fulfilling.
A chant went up from the Churitaks. “Ooh-pah-es. Ooh-pah-es. Ooh-pah-es.”
Sara whispered excitedly to me, “They’re calling for the sacred crypt of the Staturas!”
I nodded, and continued snapping pictures. The Shrukta pulled a battered cardboard box from behind his back. I saw a faded label on the side, complete with a bar code. I almost dropped my camera. I turned to Sara, and saw her staring in surprise. She turned to face me, and I tried very hard to keep from bursting into laughter.
“Um,” I whispered, trying to sound as casual as possible, “how long has this tribe been around?”
Sara made a noise that sounded a bit like a snort. “They were discovered in the 1970s.”
We watched solemnly, me still taking pictures, as the Shrukta pulled two Smurf figurines out of the battered box and tossed them into the bonfire.
The Churitaks chanted the ritual prayer as we watched the small plastic statues melt and bubble, spewing black smoke into the starry sky.
The Shrukta approached up. “This one of last ceremony. Us doomed people.” He gestured to the box, which held only 8 more Smurfs.
“About that,” Sara said slowly, taking his arm, “I think we might be able to help…”
I was trying for a "whale and potted petunia freefall" feeling (those of you who recognize that, let me know if I got it) not that I would put myself anywhere NEAR his league. But it's fun to try...
Doggone elevator’s broken again, guess I’ll just have to take the stairs. It’s not that far down, it’s good exercise, and I could use some time to compose that letter I need to… ahhh! Drat, my heel broke… Balance… Balance… Oops…
Ouch, well, this might not be the best way to get down the stairs, but at least it’s fairly quick… Let yourself go and let gravity do the rest! Ha! Though not exactly the workout I was looking for. And I cannot believe a $157 pair of shoes lasted a mere two weeks – I mean, I’ve only worn them three times! I am so taking them back to the store, and they had better give me a replacement. Or a refund, I mean, do I want another pair, considering…
Wall! Wall in my way, dratted bendy staircase, you’d think they’d… oh, railing, ouch, ouch, ouch. Are those my keys digging into my thigh? Ha, I wonder if it hits the button if my car alarm would go off from here. Doubt it, pretty solid building. Concrete blocks, I think, built in the 70’s. Ugly thing, really...
Oh, my shin, that hurt. That’s going to leave a mark. Oh, man, and there’s that formal dinner coming up, and I was going to wear that new short, sassy black dress… How’s that going to look; huge scrape, black and blue mark…
That was not my arm breaking. Say it wasn’t. Not really! How am I going to play softball this weekend? One game out of first place, all we need to do is win by more than three runs, and considering Tiffany’s out of town, and Susan’s putting Joan in her place… I mean, Joan’s fine in the outfield, but with an OPS of .623, she’s not going to help out much offensively. Not that I’m boasting, but my .912 is pretty important to the team…
Radiator, oh, and it was warm. Really warm! That burns… Hey, why is the radiator on? It is 85 degrees out, what are the maintenance people thinking? Such a waste of energy, resources, and money! With technology what it is today, you’d think they’d be able to perfect a system to heat and cool a building efficiently! I think I’ll have a word with Mark tomorrow. I mean, really…
Say that wasn’t my neck… Oh! I guess it was…
Okay, 30 minutes and here you go.
I miss the good old days. There used to be a lot of activity here, starting back in the 1920’s, when Prohibition was going strong and this here site made the finest bootleg whiskey this side of the Mississippi. There was always a lot of activity back in those days. Even after the government repealed Prohibition, a lot of young people still came out here to *ahem* enjoy each other’s company. But then they built that scenic overlook, and everybody drove up there for their private moments. Still, the occasional passer-by would come out and snap pictures, pick flowers, enjoy nature. And that was fine. I had my alone time, but there were still people coming to visit often enough that I wasn’t lonely. But lately… lately I’m feeling old. Run-down. And I’m worried about the end. You know, the END. I can feel it creeping up on me, especially at night when it’s quiet and still… So I started singing to myself, just a little reassurance on cold, lonely nights.
All my boards rotten
Strong sheds don’t fear the dozer
They stand the wind, the sun and the rain
I can be like they are
What is that noise (don’t fear the dozer)
Is that an engine (don’t fear the dozer)
Is it coming this way (don’t fear the dozer)
You won’t knock me down….
(Deepest apologies to Blue Oyster Cult…)