The Sharing Wall

Prompt: Distant


She honestly couldn’t remember how she got into this workshop, full of brilliant and motivated people. She didn’t remember applying for it, exactly, yet here she was, whisked away to a rather luxurious camp— an isolated, densely wooded, deeply focused retreat.

The Nobel Prize for Innovative Thought was not necessarily handed out to eminent physicists or established scientific wizards, but to anyone who presented a unique and understudied idea in a reasonably cognizant manner. Two years ago, for example, a teenage art student was granted the $200,000 prize for their Theory of Exhaustion, which explored new techniques for neutralizing aggressive white blood cells in the body. An elderly woman was a runner-up last year for her presentation, called Randomness in Nature and Art, and How it Affects Radical Pathfinding.

So, what exactly was Naomi’s reason for being here? She had no ideas, none at all, and it was all anyone talked about in the cafeteria, which was crowded and noisy and boisterous and was the heart of the camp. “Who have you teamed up with?” one young man shouted at her, in between bites of a cheese and banana sandwich. She had teamed up with exactly no one, but answered, “Oh the girls at the end of the table, I forget their names, what about you?” Then she pretended to be summoned from across the room and left the cafeteria by the side door.

Not before she saw the Sharing Wall, where the tradition was that camp participants scribbled their ideas and progress so far. Some were simply mystifying and unfathomable, equations and biological diagrams. Some were just strange, like the person who was examining the historical significance of the points in the written number “4”.

She was expected to scribble her ideas at some stage. The pressure was intense. But her head was empty of any thought but: “How can I come up with an idea? Where do ideas come from? Where can I find inspiration?”

There were no answers. She knew no one at the retreat by name. She was the only one who was an impostor, a fraud, participating in an exclusive workshop in the place of someone worthy and truly talented.

It was twilight, and she walked to the shore of the lake. There were not many others about, since most chose to spark innovative thoughts by brainstorming with others and not by sitting alone in an aluminum lawn chair on a rocky beach. Naomi looked at the sky, a gradient of deep blue above to a white light at the horizon, soft and calming. There was one bright star in the sky, no others. Below, the surface of the lake was tossed by an inconstant wind.

None of her cabin mates returned that night. She awoke alone, very early, and made her way to the cafeteria.

At the Sharing Wall, she took out a stick of charcoal and wrote: “Gradient Inspiration, Discontent, and the Incompatibility of Sandwich Ingredients”.

She was either a genius and the next winner of the Nobel Prize for Innovative Thought, or she was in a dream, and would wake up to a life of gradient, inconstant inspiration.


Dream Sequence

Prompt: Acceptance

My dear Wednesday,

Since I am having a problem accepting the fact that I am not posting something every day, even though that is precisely the tagline for this site (“Let’s write something every day”), I will indeed try harder to write something every day. The problem is, my heart lies with my little flash fiction pieces, about Leep and Lily-Rose and Envy and Radical, and they need time. It has always felt odd to write about myself. I enjoy blathering on about ME, honestly, but I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read it. So, I may make some shit up about my life, in future, just so you know.

Meanwhile, I have some favourite cartoons to share, the first one tenuously connected to today’s prompt, Acceptance:

cartoon accept no freedom

Guys, it’s never acceptable to catcall, unless…

cartoon effective cat calls

It’s always acceptable to make a little fun of Hollywood types:

cartoon dream sequence

Accept the things you… oh, never mind. Just have a good week!


The Enforcer

Prompt: Confused

vintage robot

The aliens sent down a thing called the “Enforcer”; metallic silver, impenetrable, vaguely man-shaped but smooth and rounded, this huge robotic creature’s fingers shot bullets out, like ten little machine guns, and simply mowed down anything within vision. There was fear and panic, though some people felt there was no point in resisting, and walked directly into the line of fire.

Other people fled the city and ran up the hill. People on the hill didn’t believe their stories about this alien “Enforcer” and laughed, even though they could see fires and smoke from their vantage point on the hill. There was no convincing them.

Meanwhile there were people in the city who chose to Stay. These people did not hide or offer resistance— they just Stayed.

I wonder: did the aliens have many of these Enforcers, dropped down into many cities? Or was one Enforcer tasked with wiping out the human race, very slowly and over time? Would the one Enforcer seek out every hiding place, every bunker, every place on the planet, on land or sea or in the air? Perhaps the aliens were very patient?

Would an atom bomb or other extreme weapon eliminate the Enforcer? There seemed to be no organized response to this invasion. Perhaps those people not within killing range of the Enforcer simply and universally did not believe such a thing existed, including law enforcement, military, and government. I wonder?

Dreams can be so confusing.

The Night of the Planets

Prompt: Awe


Some people think that I dreamed the whole thing, but I know it really happened.

I live in Arizona, U.S.A., in a suburb way south of a city called Scottsdale. Houses in this “community” are small and cheap, and many of them still lie empty, with dead palm trees glued to the soil in front of the door. In the winter, a few more neighbors appear, but not many, and they leave again in spring.

My abode has two small bedrooms and a small wall-enclosed garden. Beyond the low walls are other small gardens belonging to other house dwellers. The project was originally gated; now the gate stands permanently open. I put a splash pool in the middle of the garden, which has no plants, for my dog, Poopy. That is a play on words, of the famous dog, “Snoopy”. My garden gets morning sun, so the water is too warm for Poopy to play in until early afternoon. I bring out a pitcher of ice cubes to help cool it down. Poopy splashes around in it like a toddler. It is strange to watch.

The kitchen has a fancy fridge that makes ice cubes. The fridge came with the house. All I really needed to buy was a TV set, which I got at Walmart, a ninety minute drive south-east. It is a Samsung 30″ flat screen and I mounted it on the wall.

There are no grocery stores, restaurants, or shops of any kind within an hour’s drive. There is a Texaco gas station, though, which stocks Lay’s Potato Chips and Pepsi, if I ever get desperate.

I was born in Wisconsin, so I am technically a “cheesehead”. My father still lives there, at least he used to; I believe he is on the road, looking for me.

Yes, I am a taker of drugs. I have some pain without them. I also enjoy recreational drugs. In the community of empty box houses in the desert south of Scottsdale, there is not much else to do. I take my medication, smoke a little weed, sometimes talk to Facebook friends on the Internet. They are not real friends, since I call myself Jody Marx, which is not my real name, and in Facebook I live in California. But it is fun to talk to other people. It could be that their Facebook feed is false too. Who knows?

I walk Poopy early in the morning and late at night. If I drive to Scottsdale or Walmart, he comes with me in the car. The car has air-conditioning.

Poopy and I decided to drive south and take a few detours, just to see what we would find. I always pack a cooler of water, just in case, and sometimes some beer. I have a cell phone, but no guarantees that I will have reception.

On our exploration drive, we ended up in a place that was so empty it could have been the far side of the moon. Flat and utterly barren in all directions, there was something breathtakingly beautiful about it. I let Poopy loose, and he went a little crazy, running around with his nose to the ground. There was not even a tree or shrub to pee on.

As nightfall approached and it started to cool off, I set up a lawn chair so I could relax and watch the sun set on a perfectly flat horizon. I was hungry, and so was Poopy, so I was going to drive the hour and a half back right after the sun went down.

The stars were out, of course, and there was a winking red light low in the sky that I thought might be Mars. I don’t know much about the planets, just that there are nine of them, and they include Mars, Saturn, and Earth. Sometimes a star fell, and I made a wish. Poopy was curled up beside me on the hard-packed dirt, moody because he hadn’t been fed.

I had to get my jacket out of the trunk of the car, as it gets cold at night sometimes, in the desert.

I must have dozed off just as the sun disappeared. The lawn chair was uncomfortable, but the air was soft and perfectly cool, and the silence was as deep as the silence in the well at my Grandfather’s house, which I fell down when I was nine. That was quiet. This was quiet.

When Poopy barked I opened my eyes and there she was. I don’t know why I call the planet Saturn a “she”. I think actual Saturn might have been a god? And probably male. But “it” was not right and “he” sounded crazy.

She filled the sky with her plump perfect roundness and wide shimmering bands. I thought I was dreaming, sure I did, but I poked Poopy, who was staring too, he stopped barking, and I stood up and walked around a bit, not taking my eyes off the sky, off the beautiful she-planet.

I took my phone out and took a picture. I went to the trunk of the car and got out a beer. I sat in the lawn chair again and stared at her.

The thing with me is, I believe my eyes. I believe I saw the planet in the Western sky, Poopy and I both did. I didn’t have anyone to share this information with, not really, so when we got home, after I fed Poopy, I put the news on. There was no mention of it. I called the local TV station and told them what I saw. They listened carefully and thanked me, but they did not put it in their news broadcast. I posted the picture to my Facebook page without comment. It just looked like a blurry planet. I should have included the lawn chair and Poopy in the photo.

I know there are scientific laws, laws of physics and astronomy. I understand that. I also understand that when you stare at a night sky so immense as the one that hangs over our heads all the time, every second, you have to come to realize that there are things beyond our knowledge, beyond explaining, beyond faith or religion, beyond science, beyond our comprehension.

Some people think I was dreaming, but I know what I saw to be true. I wonder if anyone else sees the unseeable sometimes. Who was dreaming that night, who saw what was real, and who refused to see what was in front of their faces?


I Dream of Jeanie

Prompt: Dream


I stood outside the hospital, waiting. The staff knew me and wouldn’t let me inside, so I waited for Dr Jeanie just across the street.

When she came out she was with one of the ER nurses, one I’d seen before. They walked towards the parking lot, and I headed that way, too.

People run into each other sometimes, it happens.

She looked up and saw me, and turned away, and started rooting about in her shoulder bag, probably for her keys, as they walked towards her car. “Hey!” I called out. I approached the two of them as they walked by the cluster of birch trees on the corner.

“Nice to see you,” I said to Dr Jeanie. “How have you been?”

Dr Jeanie walked on as if I hadn’t spoken, but the other one faced me and said, “Just leave her alone! You know, she could call the police, you could be arrested for harassment, or stalking. Leave her alone!”

Dr Jeanie took her arm and tried to lead her away, not looking at me. I heard her say, “Marigold, please don’t engage. Let’s go.”

I watched as they walked away. Dr Jeanie, tall and sinewy. Marigold a bit shorter and just a little plump, in a pleasing way. They reached Dr Jeanie’s Mercedes; perhaps she was giving Marigold a ride home.

Marigold. A pretty name. She seemed interesting, and a little interested.


Dream Job

Prompt: Money for Nothing
If you’re like most of us, you need to earn money by working for a living. Describe your ultimate job. If you’re in your dream job, tell us all about it — what is it that you love? What fulfills you? If you’re not in your dream job, describe for us what your ultimate job would be.

machine gun bird

I had a dream where I was an interpreter of dreams. One night, I dreamed that a man came to me and said, “I dreamed I awoke in a room full of windows.” I told him, “You are imprisoned.”

In the morning, I went to see my doctor and told her of the dream. She nodded and made a note.

The next night, a man came to me in a dream and said, “I dreamed I awoke in a house with many rooms, but all the doors were locked.” I said to him, “You are imprisoned.”

I told my doctor about this dream and she made a note.

The man in my dream came to me again, and said, “I dreamed I awoke in a room full of windows, but all the windows were barred.” I said, “You are imprisoned.”

The man in the dream told me, “I dreamed that all my meals come to me in my room.” I said, “You are imprisoned.”

I felt feverish. I asked my doctor if I was dreaming. She said, “Look out of the window.”

I looked out the window. Behind a fence, traffic streamed by in the heat, silently, as the windows did not open. In the distance I could see an emerald sea. Two guards stood by the locked gates. They carried Heckler & Koch MP5SD3s with S-E-F trigger groups and stocks extended.

A man and a woman came to the gate as I watched. They had visible cameras and carried satchels. The guards let them pass. Two children approached the guards, and they spoke. The guard fired shots on the ground near the children’s feet, and they ran away.

A woman in a caftan approached the guards from the inside. They allowed her to pass to the city beyond the gates.

“Am I in a hotel or am I in a prison?” I asked my doctor.

“Yes,” she said.


Image: National Geographic