Tag Archives: future

Writing prompt: cousins day

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Cousins day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

(author’s note: I am not a biologist, so all the biology in here is just fun and spitballing!)

The Tasmanian Flu wasn’t a type of flu at all. No one knew then, sixty years ago. It was an engineered disease that got lucky enough to absorb a favorable mutation from a wild bacteria. It didn’t develop in Tasmania. We started calling it the Tasmanian Flu after no one would admit to the disease, but it was everywhere. Well gosh, it must’ve come from Tasmania. That’s where devils come from, right?

Either you were susceptible to TF, or you weren’t. A mother would catch the disease, then all her children, but not her husband or her in-laws. Quickly, they isolated the genes responsible for susceptibility. The fear was, if it infected enough people, it would absorb another wild mutation and gain the ability to infect anyone. After Putin died of the illness, conspiracy theorists speculated that it was a targeted assassination of the Russian despot gone awry.

That didn’t to the Cousins.

That’s what they called us. They rounded up those susceptible, the Cousins, and they put us in bio-containment camps away from everyone else. We had good care. They tried to keep the infected isolated from the merely susceptible. But it didn’t work, and TF has a 50% fatality rate even with novel treatment. Then there were the side effects.

I know 200 digits of pi. I didn’t try to remember them, and before TF I had no head for numbers. With minimal training, I found I could make sense of complicated geometries and had inexplicable intuitions as to the solutions of complex systems.

For 60 years, we made up for the loss of our cousins with our gifts. There are fewer of us than there once were. And now, some whisper that perhaps TF could be useful.

Writing prompt: Reconciliation Day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Reconciliation Day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)

The tone sounded on the radio. It rang out, long and steady and unbroken. The people stood, arrow stiff, looking to the sky. Aina found it all theatrical and disconnected. The city of Vironevaeh’s old hatchet had been buried. It seemed irrelevant. So they were at peace with Naenaiaeh. The ancestors of Vironevaeh and Naenaiaeh had fought. But Naenaiaeh was all the way on another planet. No one could get into orbit, much less to other planets. Even communication between the two worlds was recent. So they’d been at “war”. How much of a war can be held between two civilizations that can’t even talk? What exactly is a war that consists of shaking your fist at the bright star in the sky and writing scathing plays about those bastards in the sky?

The tone stopped at last. Aina’s classmate Yosef wiped a tear from the corner of his eye.

“How can you be moved by this?” she asked him.

“I don’t know… how can I be moved reading stories from Earth? Or fiction? People that I didn’t know that died long ago or never existed.”

Aina snorted.

“Long ago, our peoples were one. And when they were, they were strong. I guess I hope that our unity will bring us back the strength we lost.”

“We weren’t strong because we were one, we were strong because we had technology that’s gone now.”

He shrugged. “Maybe we can regain it together. It would be poetic if our drive to reunite gave of the mechanical means to do so.”

Aina shook her head. She knew why the symbols of meaningless unity bothered her. Declarations of solidarity were just that—declarations. People cut and run when the opportunity presented itself. People told her that she should seek reconciliation too. It was the word on everyone’s tongues these days. But they didn’t know what they were talking about. Isn’t it better to live with one leg than to have a second that might betray you?

Writing Prompt: Make up your own holiday

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Make up your own holiday” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)


After the near miss, the year was three days longer. You’d think that not getting hit by a huge asteroid would be the most important outcome of The Scare. At first it was.

Only in the aftermath of something terrible do you see the little ripples and effects. Your birthday wasn’t your birthday. The fourth of July wasn’t The Fourth of July. And it wasn’t just the solar calendar. The asteroid pulled the moon farther out, which changed the lunar calendar. A lot of holidays run on the lunar calendar—Easter, Yom Kippur, Chinese New Year. Each group of people had to decide whether to switch to the new calendar or approximate the old one. Sects were formed, conflicts occurred. The surf was different. Some forms of life live like a clock with the tides, and random species we tend not to think about starting dying in droves. The days were a little longer too.

I was the first one to start it. I looked at the new calendar, I looked at the old calendar, and I said, I don’t care. I’m going to make up my own holiday. It happened roughly once a year, but when I said it would. It didn’t have to answer to anyone but me. I called it Time Dilation Day. We dressed up like Einstein. There were substances that influenced how a person perceives the passage of time. And we didn’t worry. It was a day outside the rigidities of calendars—solar, lunar, or whatever.

That was ten years ago. I’m afraid now that I started a cult. I don’t get to say when Time Dilation Day happens anymore. There’s another asteroid passing near the Earth in a couple of years. It’s not supposed to be close enough. But maybe I can change that. I don’t want it to hit, just another near miss would be swell. Once you control the passage of time, you don’t give it up.

Writing prompt: Abduct an extraterrestrial

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Abduct an extraterrestrial” (This list is an awesome source of completely silly prompts. March 20th is Extraterrestrial Abductions Day, and after a member of our writing group misinterpreted this as humans abducting ETs, we went with that. It seemed more interesting.)


The light from underground was reddish. The instruments confirmed that it extended into the infrared.

“They’re down there,” Mason hissed. “The aliens!”

For the historical reader, I should explain that the presence of aliens wasn’t the novelty here, but the collection of this particular species for the St. Louis Zoo. At this point, we hadn’t understood that the Iotans travelled along subharmonic strings. We only knew at this point that they couldn’t seem to escape from caves or other underground places once they got there. We’d managed to capture two of them in this trap we’d set. A pity, it took at least three to breed.

“I can see that,” I told Mason. He was really more of a technician than an exobiologist. For him, the victory was that his trap had worked. I was an exobiologist. I needed to figure out how to get them to the zoo without them de-materializing—an annoying habit. Further, I had to figure out what Iotans ate and breathed and whether their excretions would dissolve the typical metal enclosures.

The Iotans realized now their predicament. The two of them wailed high and frankly unpleasantly. We didn’t know if they had language or if they could travel as they did simply as part of their unusual biology. I wish now that we’d known what a headache this pair would be for us. After we accidentally killed the Iotans, tough times came in the exobiologist community. I got sent to work at the facility on Mars—a humiliation. But that’s a different story.

The red light flashed white and the wailing squealed higher then abruptly stopped. There were no more signs on the instruments, no more sounds, no more anything. We cautiously crept forward. The cavern was twice as big as it had been and we saw no Iotans anywhere.

“Where are they?” Mason asked.

“How should I know?” I exploded. We were exhausted when we reached the surface, and I noted the failure in my records.

Writing prompt: Puzzle day

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“National Puzzle Day” (This list is an awesome source of completely silly prompts.)

Cyn reached the front door at 12:03. She keyed in her entry code. Instead of turning blue, the key pad turned red and displayed a string of text. Who had the lowest average with over one hundred home runs?

“Damn,” Cyn spat. She hadn’t meant to get home after midnight. Some of the puzzles were solvable, but some, like this one, were ancient nonsense. She looked around the street. A few other bewildered people stood at their doors. It was a dangerous night to be on the street. Thousands of other people like her would wander the street. Police cars would challenge their operators too.

Every member of the city dreaded puzzle day. That’s what they called it. Exactly every 400th day, everything that worked smoothly the other 399 days would torture its users.

“Why does this happen?” the inevitable lament would arise. They lived in an ancient city of wonders. Most of the time, they took the functionality for granted. But not on puzzle day.

Cyn started toward Elbie’s house. Public transportation was out of the question. All of their questions were antique unit conversions. It was still quiet this time of night. She’d never been out on puzzle day, but like everyone else, she’d read enough.

Writing prompt: Jump forward in Nano and write (again)

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts. Find me on NaNoWriMo as Vironevaeh!

“For Nanowrimo: Jump to a new section and write” (Yes, again… I am just catching up after falling behind over the weekend. I’ll think of something more original next week.)


There was a knock at the door. It was Uncle Oraeus and a woman in a lab coat she didn’t know. “Jainus, just who I was looking for,” Oraeus said.

Jainus had a sinking feeling. Since she’d moved to the big kids house, she wondered when this conversation would come. She was growing up, and the other kids had already gotten to it.

“You’re old enough to have a Vitsen now,” Oraeus said. “You know what’s involved?”

Jainus nodded, but that didn’t stop Oraeus from explaining. “We’ll move your brains to your feet, and then convert your skull to an apartment for a Vitsen companion to live in. It won’t hurt. The surgical part is the easy part, really. Learning to get along with a Vitsen is the hard part. And you shouldn’t run for a while until you learn to soften your gate. Concussions are serious business,” Oraeus said nodding with his eyes closed.

Jainus was fighting enough to Jonnelt’s Vitsen Agartha, which seemed determine to make her feel inferior. It would buzz right by her ear when she was reading or say something unsettling. Jainus had always been told that Vitsens were advanced creatures, unknowably advanced. Creatures that had helped her people many, many times, extended her lifespan, and opened the galaxy for trade. Knowing Agartha, it was hard to imagine. Agartha seemed petty and spiteful.

“Do I have to?” Jainus asked.

Oraeus frowned. “You know you don’t, but you wouldn’t want to disappoint your family.”

Jainus sighed.

“You won’t always have a Vitsen.” Oraeus opened the door behind his own ear, showing the vacancy. “Just at this age, and occasionally when you’re older. As one of the favored families, it’s important that you start to understand Vitsens. You’ll find them really annoying at first, but you’ll get used to it, I promise. I even miss mine. We annoy them even more, I’m afraid. They don’t like being away from their mountain, you’ll learn. But they recognize they importance of the exchange, and so do we.”

Jainus couldn’t think of any way to say no. She nodded, then excused herself to go take a walk along the beach. The Vitsens’ home, Mount Vit, loomed to the north.

Writing prompt: Jump forward in your Nano project

Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“For Nanowrimo: Jump ahead to some future part of your story that excites you and write about that”

Gainarain went into the room. Jainus could hear him speaking over the link, but she couldn’t make out the words. They sounded serious, as Gainarain so rarely was. Everything seemed so serious these days. Terran sat next to her on the couch nearest the door and leaned against her, trying to eavesdrop as well, but also seeking company.

Gainarain stopped talking and came back out. “The queen’s been deposed,” he said.

“Deposed?” Jainus said. In an instant, too many ideas filled her mind. Was there still a monarchy? If so, who was monarch? And if not, who would rule and what would become of them? Terran clearly did the same calculations, she could feel him grow tense and adopt that wide-eyed look that until last week had been reserved for especially large insects.

Gainarain saw their faces and seemed to register their fear. “Oh, no, it’s not a coup or anything. By Terrigan, her brother,” Gainarain said.  “Things shouldn’t change too much otherwise, but of course it’s a big deal.”

They all nodded, but Jainus at least couldn’t calm down enough to figure out the ramifications of it.

“Why?” Dielel asked, dancing her bear around a miniature chair. She didn’t understand any of it, but she saw everyone else’s unease, which prompted her to ask questions.

“Well,” Gainarain said. He seemed uncomfortable. Jainus had a sense it was going to be something personal to them, rather than something for the whole planet. “Terrigan’s your great-grandfather. The next in line after him is your grandfather, and next after him is your mother.” He stopped as if the conclusions were obvious. To Jainus, at least, they were not. She looked around, confused.

Tempest took on a superior look. “We’re directly in line now, not some distant relation anymore.”

Gainarain looked pained. “Yes. So this means no more wandering off of the safe zone, and a lot more supervision. Especially right now, that we’ve been attacked and we’ve changed monarchs.”

Tempest stopped looking superior. “So nothing fun,” she sneered.

Gainarain rolled his eyes. “No, nothing fun.”

Writing prompt: Expand a detail from an existing story

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Write in about a small detail from another story as its own story” (In this case, another story mentions the excitement caused by a two-headed snake.)

People from the next three hollows over agreed that the two-headed snake was the most amazing thing they’d ever seen. Only old Alvin Teek, always crazy but growing more combative as he aged, was unimpressed. But then he thought there were buildings made of glass taller than any tree and invisible light that could cook food. Whatever hollow he originally came from must have died out for lack of practicality. The man couldn’t even catch his own food.

After the bomb, it was common to see animals with growths or legions. They were usually pretty sick. The most interesting ones were always dead. Teek said it was the radiation, some relative of his magic cooking light. But the two-headed snake was alive, and mad as hell that we’d caught it. It bit one of the honored blue men, and the other blue men were jealous that he’d grown closer to the hills until his wound grew infected and he lost the hand. One only wanted to be so close to the hills.

Lately we’ve been seeing things in the sky. Teek says they’re planes, full of people. They look like slow-moving shooting stars. They’re not full of people, but they do seem full of meaning. First lights in the sky, now a two-headed snake. They’re omens for sure. Times are going to be changing. The land we live on is older than the world, but we aren’t. The elders say the land is preparing to shed us once more.

Writing prompt: An elderly diatribe

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“An elderly diatribe”

“The children are not ready to inherit this planet. By their age, I had my second doctorate and a dozen papers. It isn’t their fault that no universities exist on this compromise of a planet, and yet none do. They are experienced at excavating and earth works and weatherproofing, but so was my general contractor in Seattle. I would not choose to leave the fate of a civilization in her hands.

“The young will say, who, then? Us. It still has to be us. The masters of physics and chemistry and psychology and metallurgy and meteorology. These aren’t fields where hunches suffice.”

I paused. I rubbed my aching, weary hands. My grandmother hadn’t looked this bad at 110, and I was only 80. So many from my generation had already died. We didn’t have real universities, and we didn’t have real hospitals. These things hadn’t occurred to us when we left Earth, full of vigor and zeal. Now what I wouldn’t give for an anti-inflammation treatment at an Appalachian spa.

We would have to hand over the reins at some point. But everything seemed so perilous still. Food supplies were a constant concern, weather still dominated every day, and the foggs were still deadly in the east. As my generation died, the next struggled to replace their skills. They were failing.

Writing prompt: Farming the Death Valley

Time: 7 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.

“Farming the death valley”


Dad said I was a hero. Mom wouldn’t speak to me. I was going to go farm in the Death Valley, so neither of their reactions were really at the top of my mind. I went to the City Works, excited and nervous.

“These are the seeds you’ll take. I see you’ve done work in the local farms, so you probably know what you need to. Still, we have a training course for you. The conditions in the valley are a little different. Wetter. You’ll have to watch for rot more, but things grow there.” The representative spoke in slightly awed tones. Everyone seemed to.

“Different conditions… and different critters,” I remarked.

“Yes, different critters. That’s part of the course. I… didn’t want to be grim. You know most of the farmers survive, come back very profitable. The valley is supposed to be beautiful, like a paradise.”

“Most. So… more than 50%? How much more than 50%?”

She looked away. I snorted softly.

“It’s a good thing to do,” she said, with softness that spoke of conviction rather than the propaganda associated with her office. My sister went.” She paused, and I felt like she didn’t return. “The yields they can get in the valley… people like you keep children from starving.”

“That’s not why I’m doing it,” I said.

“Well, that’s not up to me,” she replied. “But we try to prepare you for the valley as best we can.”

“It’s mist. It comes in under the doors and takes you in the night. Is there a preparation for that?”

She looked away again.