The Reddit Prompts
The Reddit Prompts are a collection of prompts I wrote on the subreddit r/Writingprompts, where users submit a prompt and others respond with a short story. If you like them feel free to follow me on Facebook or Reddit to stay updated.
The Prompt: Nobody knows you're a superhero. Not because you have a secret identity, but because your powers only work when nobody is looking.
In a rest stop just off the coast of the Mega City Bay Tri-State Area, a young man wearing an oversized trench coat sat by the counter and slurped a cup of stale coffee. His hair was a bright yellow that stood up in a magnificent display of the powers of hair gel. His name was Doe Johnson. While he sat there, a tube television in the upper corner played a news broadcast.
"I don't know if you're seeing this back at the studio John, but the tech billionaire turned supervillain, Bart Zuckerforg, is being overcome by some sort of yellowish liquid," the on-scene reporter said.
"Indeed it seems as if there is a water manipulator in the area. Can you get a good view of the superhuman in question Janet?" The newscaster said.
"No John, it seems that no matter where we turn the camera, the source of the liquid is always coming from behind an obstruction."
The cameraman turned the camera to a building, behind which a torrent of yellow liquid came spouting at Bart Zuckerforg, who commanded his drones to fly him away.
"The day is saved. Our secret superhuman defender has driven away the menacing billionaire," Janet said.
The woman behind the counter filled Doe Johnson's cup. "If I had those kinds of powers I wouldn't hide behind walls while I was using it."
Doe Johnson said, "Maybe he's doing it for a good reason."
An old decrepit man that looked as if he was about to warn you not to go into a dark forest turned to Doe Johnson and croaked, "What are you his boyfriend or something?"
Doe Johnson stood up abruptly and excused himself. As he walked there came a strange sound from underneath his trench coat, as if spandex was being rubbed against spandex. He walked to the bathroom, where a man wearing a cowboy hat stood and pissed at the urinal. Dow Johnson went past him into the stall, which was literally covered in shit. So, he stood behind the cowboy and waited.
Before long the cowboy turned around and said, "There are plenty of free urinals. Aren't you going to go?"
Doe Johnson chuckled awkwardly and said, "No, I can't go if anyone is watching."
The Prompt: The advent of superheroes happened 10 years ago. Now that society has adapted, hero agencies have sprung up left and right to stop supervillains. Being the most powerful being on the planet, the agencies all want to recruit you to fight crime. You, however, are content with your 9-5 office job.
"I am all-seeing, all-knowing, all-nine-to-five, and I am telling you you're not going to get a better deal from our competitors." Mr. Madison leaned back in his chair, and waited for his customer to agree. He knew he would agree because Mr. Madison did, in fact, possess clairvoyance. This was a great help during phone sales, although he had less luck in person, due to his grey, luminescent skin. The light he gave off was oddly similar to the fluorescent lights in the office.
"Alright, we'll keep you as our paper supplier. But please no deadpan humor satirizing the social milieu around the 2010's."
Mr. Madison flicked his fingers, materializing a contract out of thin air. "Don't worry, we fired that guy."
"Great, fax me the details." He hung up.
"Will do." Mr. Madison teleported the contract to the customer's fax machine on the other side of the tri state area. He took a sip of coffee and observed his workplace.
The office was a symphony of copy machines beeping, staplers clamping, and people living their lives in a single time plane. Mr. Madison enjoyed watching them. To him their lives were like a zoetrope, which, while producing the illusion of motion, were in fact stagnant images fixed in one sliver of the space time continuum.
Bryan, Mr. Madison's boss, stepped into his cubicle. "Hey, Mr. Grey, I'm gonna need you to come in to work this weekend."
"I perceive, and indeed, exist in time differently than you. I am, at the present moment, also working this weekend. As well as yesterday, and in a time where you are not here."
"Wonderful," Bryan said, already busying himself with something on his Blackberry. "Did you get to those spreadsheets already?"
Mr. Madison placed his hand firmly on a stack of spreadsheets and said, "It is my number one priority."
Pamela, the receptionist, leaped out of her chair and pointed to the window behind them. "Look out."
The wall came crashing down as a tentacle the width and height of a Canon IR6000 photocopier reached into the building, squashing Bryan in the process. Mr. Madison's cubicle was unharmed as he put a forcefield around it. The tentacle belonged to an otherworldly octopus monster as large as the building in which they stood. And outside, combating it, was Generic Superhuman Person. He puffed his chest, which sported his signature 'G.' Then he flew at the monster and punched it square in the mouth, which caused it to fall back and let out a roar in the ancient tongue of it's species.
"Is everyone alright?" Generic Superhuman Person called as he flew closer to the office workers.
"Bryan! Bryan isn't alright!" Pamela cried out.
He ignored her and addressed Mr. Madison. "Fancy seeing you here. Do you want to help me out at all, or?"
Generic Superhuman Person pinched the bridge of his nose. "Dude, you're the strongest superhuman out there and you haven't fought any villains since you started working here. Why is that?"
"I have something more important to do."
"What then, is so important, if not preventing Bart Zuckerforg from subjugating the tri state area with his Lovecraftian monsters?"
Mr. Madison still had his hand on the stack of papers. "Digitalizing these spreadsheets."
Generic Superhuman Person burst out laughing. "Spreadsheets! Do they serve some intergalactic function or something?"
"No, I simply find them pleasant. There's something about the triviality of the whole thing that amuses me."
"I am incapable of humor."
Generic Superhuman Person looked intently at Mr. Madison. Then he fixed his gaze on the spreadsheets and emitted a laser beam from his eyes. But just before reaching the spreadsheets, the beam stopped. And seeing that it was futile to try to fight Mr. Madison, he stopped.
Mr. Madison laid his hand Generic Superhuman Person's shoulder and explained through telepathy what was going to happen now. The Superhuman screamed in horror before he instantly disintegrated. The octopus monster from before charged at the building and was likewise disintegrated. Mr. Madison fixed the wall and reanimated Bryan before turning to the stunned Pamela and saying, "So, are you excited about casual Friday?"
The Prompt:Your superpower is Winning. No matter how contrived, absurd, or unrealistic, you never lose. You're beginning to think this is like some incredibly lazy comic book writing...
Thunder roared outside of the Beta headquarters, as Bart Zuckerforg commanded his minion (Disposable Employee Nr.420) to pull the lever and activate his greatest creation yet. It was a simple algorithm, but it's effects would be drastic. A project that would change modern life as we know it, and it's name was written on a border that ran across the room. The words were in bold, blue, sans serif text that read 'Late Stage Capitalism.'
Just as Disposable Employee Nr.420 lifted his crooked body to pull the enormous lever, thus exposing the text on the back of his work t-shirt that said, 'I'm a product,' the front door was thrown open. And through it came Deux Ex Machina, the world renowned superhero.
"What are you doing here," Bart Zuckerforg cried as he pulled on his large leather gloves and adjusted his goggles. You know, like a mad scientist.
Deus Ex Machina was a slender young man with an ethnically ambiguous background, for diversity reasons. He wore all the spandex and was surrounded by onomatopoeia. He leaned against the wall and picked his nose. "I'm here to stand around until something happens to foil your plan."
"Nonsense. There is nothing that can stop my plan. Worthless employee, pull the lever."
The healthcare-less employee went to pull on the lever when the aforementioned t-shirt caught on a modem, and he fell and hit his head on a photo album with nothing but pictures of faces in it.
"What are you doing this time anyhow?" Deus said.
Bart, who could not resist an excuse to monologue, turned on the record feature on his 'We're Spying on You Glasses.' This, of course, was not strictly necessary because they were actually always recording.
He said, "My latest algorithm will take all the personal data we have collected from people over the years and find out what sort of advertisements will work on them. Then I will sell that information to third parties. Imagine, we will live in a world where everyone gets told exactly what they want. And it's all perfectly legal because they agreed to give me this information."
"That sounds morally ambiguous."
"I know, right."
Bart Zuckerforg, who is by the way a completely fictional character, walked mechanically over to the lever.
"Why a lever though?" Deus said.
"It's to turn on the power, the algorithm requires a lot of electricity."
"That doesn't sound right, but ok. I guess I'll just do some random stuff and then whatever happens will determine whether what you're doing is ethical." He walked over to a table and had a sip of stale coffee and continued the game of solitaire that someone had started.
Bart Zuckerforg cackled maniacally as he pulled the lever. At the same moment, Deus Ex Machina spilled his coffee on an open wire that ran across the floor. This sent a shockwave through the complex that could have been prevented if safety inspector hadn't been an intern. Bart was zapped to death, but you couldn't see it because the word 'Zap,' flashed across the page in flashy onomatopoeia.
Deus turned towards the fourth wall and said, "I guess that says all that needs to be said about selling personal information to third parties. Also, like me on Facebook."
The Prompt: You are a ghost, you were only partially successful in possessing someone.
"But if we don't drink from the holy chalice today, it won't have an effect. The stars are aligned but once in a decade."
“Well, the stars shouldn't have aligned on Tax Day then. If I don't submit these documents today then I won't get a tax deduction for your old mansion, which I can't pay off otherwise."
That was David, the haughty fellow whose right hand I currently occupied. We had been disagreeable bedfellows since he won my mansion on something called "Utube." Apparently in modern times one could acquire ownership of properties simply by spending a night there. A property that was passed down generations of Hamilton's.
"David, surely you can see the absurdity of tending to your squabbles with a government in the absence of a gold standard, when you could be helping me bring forth the culmination of my family's alchemical quest for longevity. I, Lord Percival Otis Sheldon Hamilton, will finally make this estate great again. Not to mention that we will finally separate."
"Look, Posh -"
"Lord Percival Otis Sheldon Hamilton."
"Exactly. You do see how that interferes with me running a bed and breakfast here, right?"
I moved myself (in consequence his right hand) in front of his face. It had become understood that this meant I was indignant. He all but ignored me and kept at his work with his left hand. In fact, he had become quite proficient in using his left since we were joined together. I floated around for a while before I had the most devilish plan.
"I concede. You may do your taxes."
"Didn't need your permission."
I cracked his index finger with his thumb in frustration. "But allowed me the privilege of a book. This is dreadfully boring work you're doing, and I'm afraid I'll die a second time from the sheer boredom."
"Alright. If it means you'll stop bothering me."
"Most definitely. In fact, my favorite piece of literature is just on the shelf behind you." I pointed at the old mahogany bookshelf behind us.
He stood up and sauntered to the bookshelf. "Go ahead, do your thing."
"I most certainly will." I pulled on a book called "Panaceas Around the World." The bookcase swirled around in a violent fashion and pushed us to the other side of the wall.
"Goddamn it Posh! What did you do?" David started flinging books to the other end of the room until he found the one I had pulled on. But it had no effect.
"We can't get out the same way we came David."
"So how do we get out?!"
"We solve the trials."
He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Why do you have trials in your own mansion?"
"To keep intruders from drinking from the holy chalice. Have you not been listening to me at all during these past two months?"
He exhaled slowly. "Okay, so how do we get through these trials?"
"Grab that lit torch on your left."
He turned to his lift and picked up the torch from the wall. After inspecting it, he remarked, "How is this lit? I didn't even know about this passage."
"I don't know, because of alchemy or something, it doesn't matter, just light the way."
The passage was narrow and damp. Somehow it was made up of rocks despite being in the middle of a mansion. Once again, it was probably because of alchemy or whatever, who cares. After walking for a couple of minutes we came into a lit chamber with strange symbols on stone slabs protruding slightly from the floor. In the far end was a door with the words "Annuit cæptis, Novus ordo seclorum." On the left were three heavy stone blocks.
"What do we do here?"
"I don't remember."
"What do you mean you don't remember? Didn't you make his?"
"That was almost a hundred and fifty years ago!"
He shook his head. "What about those words on the door, do they mean anything to you?"
I turned to the door and back to him. "I don't know Latin."
"Jesus Christ on a stick. Alright, I took a class once, let me give it a shot."
"Hmm, you sure are a surprising character David."
"Whatever." He peered at the door. "'Favors undertakings, new order of the ages.' That mean anything to you?"
In my astonishment I splayed David's fingers. "I know that. It's the motto of a little club I was part of. Quickly, put the stone blocks on the pyramid, eye, and the sun."
David struggled to drag the blocks into place, and I helped by flexing his fingers. The slabs on the floor sank into the floor and once the blocks were placed on the correct symbols, a mark lit up on the door between the words. A radiant pyramid with an eye in the middle.
"Dude," David said.
I patted him on the shoulder. "I know, we did it."
"That's the Illuminati symbol."
"Right, that was the club I was a part of."
"Bruh," he said as the he walked through the now open door.
In the next room was a decrepit old man sitting in a wooden chair in front of another door. He lifted his brow slightly when we entered and coughed a dry cough that sounded as if someone was rubbing sandpaper against more sandpaper.
"Finally, someone has come to claim the holy chalice." The decrepit old man said.
"Has this guy just been living in my house this whole time?" David said.
"Just ignore it." I turned to the old man. "I am Percival Otis Sheldon Hamilton, and I have indeed come to claim the chalice."
"Then answer my riddle. What is the best way of securing a fortune?"
"I know this one." I was positively shaking. "Alienate the proletariat from the means of production."
"That is correct." The decrepit old man disintegrate and the door behind him opened up.
David walked into the next room, although much too slowly for my taste. There it was, the holy chalice. The one rumored to have belonged to the one and only King Midas. It was made of gold, of course. And in just a few steps up that stone staircase it would be mine. But, for some reason, David stopped walking towards it.
"What are you doing? Keep going."
He turned to me. "You know, you're properly evil rich."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you don't have to cheat your workers to make money, or be part of the Illuminati."
I considered this for a moment. "How else are you supposed to be rich?"
"You can do something good for the community and share your good fortune. Be a provider, give to charity."
He was right. I had been so preoccupied with wealth and power that I had forgotten why I wanted it in the first place.
"Sure, whatever. Let's just go drink from the chalice."
For some reason, the whole room started shaking. A beam of light shone from the exit further up the staircase.
"Not if it means you're going to be all evil," he said.
"I really don't want to be evil, that's just how I was raised."
"Great, now you just have to prove it."
"How do I prove to you that I'm not going to be evil."
"You can be my partner."
"In your bed and breakfast?"
"Sure, I'll be you're partner."
"But how do I know you won't go back on our agreement when we've drunk from the chalice?"
The answer occurred to me, and it made me go limp from disappointment. "We don't drink from the chalice."
"Are you sure? That's gonna really suck to be stuck together forever."
"It's the only way to make sure we make the best out of the estate. When we're done I'll just stop possessing you."
"You could have left at any moment?!"
A boulder dropped right next to us. "Just hurry out the door."
David ran up the stairs, past the chalice, as the stairs crumbled behind us. We came out of an overgrown cave in the front yard. The light was blinding, even though I didn't have any eyes. We went back upstairs and finished David's tax returns together. And then we ran the greatest bed and breakfast you ever saw.
The Prompt: After partaking in a top secret experiment you have discovered you have developed amazing superpowers. One small issue, turns out you were in the placebo group.
John Guy skipped down the busy city street. Unbeknownst to all those people, he was special. But they would soon know his name. They would know what he was capable of. Not even his mother knew, even though he had secretly used his powers on her this morning. John Guy looked at the fruit vendor on his left, meticulously stacking melons on top of one another. John used his powers on him. It left no mark, but John knew what he had done. He itched to put his powers to better use, and had his wish answered when he heard a scream at the bank across the street.
On the other side of the glass doors, three masked men held the bank at gun point. Whereas the police would have had to bide their time and strategize, John simply threw the doors open and strolled onto the scene.
"Innocent bystanders," he said, "do not be afraid."
"What the hell?" The nearest robber said. A few bits of stubble on his neck were visible under the mask. And while he was not as burly as the others, he gave off a sinister aura. An aura that was further emphasized by the SG 553 he held in his hands.
John looked past the robber and addressed the crowd. "I possess a power that will swiftly dispose of these thugs."
One of the robbers at the back stopped showing money into bags and turned to address the robber next to John, "should I snuff him boss?"
"No, you keep doing bagging. I'll deal with this." He sauntered over to John. The robber towered over John, despite being the shortest of the robbers. "So you possess a power, you say? And you're gonna get rid of us."
"A superhuman power actually," John said.
The robber laid the barrel of his rifle against John's chest. "I hope for your sake it's bullet immunity."
"Even better," John said," I am an Empath."
"So you can control my mind or something?"
"No, I am really empathetic."
There was a long silence that was finally broken when the robber chuckled. The chuckle turned into a cackle and finally all the robbers were laughing in John's face. This did not dissuade him however. In fact, he was more determined than ever as he stared resolutely at the robber pointing a rifle at him.
"Laugh all you want, but I have been using my powers on you this whole time and I have deduced something important."
"Oh yeah, what's that?"
"You act all scary and tough, but deep down you're scared and wounded, just like the rest of us."
"Is that so?"
"Yes. And if you surrender I'm sure there are people that can help you."
The robber looked into John's eyes as he lowered his rifle. John extended his arms in preparation for a hug, when he was promptly clocked in the head by the butt of the robber's rifle.
A television in the corner of the room featured a news report outside of a barbed off facility. The newscaster read, "In a controversial experiment here at area 42, a number of people have died from radiation poisoning after being led to believe that they would gain superhuman powers. Fortunately, the people in the placebo group should be fine, as they were not exposed to any radiation. That's all from us here at 'Generic News-station.' Have a wonderful day."
The Prompt:You take a sip from your drink during an evening out. Just as you think to yourself that it tastes weird, everyone in the rooms falls silent and looks straight at you.
Hmm, it needs a little more sprite, I thought, as I tasted what was to be my ultra supreme soda mix. I had been working on it all night and no matter what happened I was going to get it right this time. Steve had every kind of soda out for the party.
I looked up from my project and, for some reason, everyone was looking at me.
“Are you seriously making yourself a drink right now?” Steve said.
“But the body, Mark, the body!”
“Oh yeah.” In the middle of the room lay our English teacher, Mrs. Peacock. It was only an accident. She’d come over because she heard we were going to smoke “dope,” which we were, but that didn’t mean she had to come and take care of it. If you ask me she was taking her job too seriously if she wanted to stop us from getting stoned and playing Clue.
Everyone was looking at me again. “Mark, did you zone out again?” Angela said.
“Yep, but it’s not like she’s gonna become more alive if I’m focused.” I poured a splash of sprite into my drink.
“Did you just mix sprite and coke?” Dan asked.
“You wanna taste it?”
“No you fuckhead, that’s disgusting.”
Steve yelled out as he clutched the lifeless corpse of our English teacher. “Would you guys focus?!”
“Alright, alright alright,” I said, “let’s go over the details.”
Steve repeated “It was an accident, I only meant to scare her,”in a particularly lifeless tone, to no one in particular.
“Indeed, it was an accident. But where did it happen?”
“Right here,” Angela said as she brought in towels to clean up the blood.
“In the living room. And how did it happen?”
“She was stabbed,” Mark said.
“With a knife. And by whom?”
Steve said, “I killed her, I killed her, I killed her.”
“By Steve.” I took a sip of my drink. Still a little off. “So to conclude: she was killed in the living room, with the knife, by Steve. Solved it.”
No one seemed to really care about me clearly winning Clue as they were busy dealing with Mrs. Peacock. And having done everything that this particular get together was for, i.e. get stoned and win Clue, I got back to my project.
“We have to get rid of the body,” Steve said.
Angela let go of the towel in her hand. “Steve, we can’t do that.”
It needs a little ice, I thought. The whole concoction had gotten cold after all this time. I got a bag of ice out of the freezer and counted the individual ice cubes. One, two, three. That ought to do. Can’t be much more than three or the whole thing gets all watered down. I looked up, and Steve was waving a knife at everybody.
“Whoa, Steve,” I said, “What is this, Reefer Madness or something?”
“Shut up Mark. We’re burning her in the backyard.”
“Alright, I’m just saying that usually people don’t get stoned and burn their English teacher in the backyard. You’re portraying a very harmful stereotype of weed smokers.”
We carried Mrs. Peacock into the backyard, where Mark poured gasoline over her and Steve shouted a lot and waved the knife around, and Angela cried. And that’s when it hit me. Dr Pepper. My drink needed just a little Dr Pepper. I ran into the kitchen, poured just the littlest measure of Dr Pepper into my drink and rejoined the others, stirring my drink all the while. As the flames rose into the early summer night sky, and the sirens wailed in the distance, I took a sip of my drink. Perfection.
Later, in therapy, after the police had talked to us, and after the funeral, I was told I had been in a trauma induced state of absolute denial. But at least I got a good drink out of it.
The Prompt:In the zombie apocalypse, it’s usually very hard to come by useful items and people. Antibiotics, Doctors, penicillin, veterans, etc. But the one thing you’re in desperate need of is an orthodontist because you were meant to get your braces removed and the zombie apocalypse happened.
I leapt over another abandoned car that was more scrap than car by that point. Hundreds of them had been lined up to protect this place. Greenville Mall. It looked mostly like it did in the brochure. Except for the salvaged car doors and rubbish lining the walls. And how the “M” in “mall” had been turned around to spell “Greeville Wall.” I didn’t care about the state of the place as long as there was still an orthodontist in spot 42, like the brochure promised. And if they had a doctor for Peter, of course. That was the most important thing… Obviously.
“Hello, i/θ/ there anybody in there?”
A burly man appeared on the second floor. There had clearly been a glass front there, which they had shattered and mounted a cannon there for defence. The man wore a stained wife beater and a “MAGA” hat. “What do you want?”
Oh boy, I thought. I was hoping this wouldn’t get political. I pointed to my friend just behind me, dragging himself over the wall of cars. “Plea/θ/e, we need a doctor.”
“What’s wrong with your accent? Are you a foreigner or something?”
I sighed and flashed my teeth. “B/w/aces.”
“Oh, alright. Just as long as you aren’t a foreigner.”
“Nope, definitely aren’t foreigners.” Although, I didn’t see how it mattered to him since there were no jobs for us to steal. “Can you help my f/w/iend?”
He started working on a pulley for the garage door that had been fitted over the main entrance. “Sure. We only have one of those teeth doctors, but he should be able to help.”
“What kind of teeth doctor?”
“One of those orthodentists.”
“You have an orthodontist!” I slid under the garage door that was only still half open and was about to sprint to space 42 when Peter called from the outside, “Garry, wait for me.”
“Right, /θ/orry.” I stood in place and shook with excitement. The mall had been remade in a “doomsday preppers” fashion. The “Jim and the Juices,” had been lined with canned food. The “Gop,” was filled with military camouflage and the salespeople all wore gas masks. Nearly everyone had a gun, and even some of the few kids had knives larger than their forearms.
Peter caught up and we edged towards the orthodontist. He was sweating badly now, and he was pale as hell. “Thanks again for /θ/aving me earlier.” I started.
“Don’t worry about it,” Peter said. “I’ll be right as rain soon enough. And you’ll finally lose your braces.”
We hadn’t been traveling together for long, but Peter had been dependable. He had taken pity on me because of my lisp. Said he cared about those who couldn’t speak their mind clearly.
Space 42 was one of the few spaces that hadn’t been completely reconstructed for the apocalypse. Although a few utensils seemed out of place for a dental clinic. The bone saw came to mind. I plopped Peter in the dentist’s chair and knocked on the office in the back. “Hello, we need a doctor.”
A scrawny man in a white robe came out. “What is it?”
“My f/w/iend’s leg got hurt in a /θ/cuffle.”
“Hurt in a what?”
“A tussle, a fight, a brawl.”
“Ahh, a scuffle.”
He put his finger in my mouth and ran them across my teeth. “Do you need me to take those braces out?”
“Yes, plea/θ/e.” I pointed to the chair. “But Peter first.”
Peter’s eyelids were drooping as the dentist came to examine him. “Your friend doesn’t look so good. He hasn’t been bit has he?”
“No, that would be a /w/eally unsatisfying conclusion to this whole thing.”
“Where is he hurt?”
As the doctor examined Peter, I heard a loud bang from where we came from. And after that the shuffling of feet and gunshots. Our burly friend from before ran past and I called out, “What’s happening?”
“Liberals at the wall.”
I looked at him in disbelief. “Don’t you mean /θ/ombies?”
“Yes, but they’re all wearing ‘not my president’ t-shirts”
“How i/θ/ that even relevant?!”
“Clearly liberal zombies are worse than regular zombies,” he said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. And then he ran off.
This better not be an analogy for the pervasive nature of political fundamentalism or whatever, I thought.
Behind me, I heard a low growl and turned around to see Peter propped up in his seat. Except his eyes were a milky cataract and his skin a sickly green. The orthodontist was kneeling next to him, exposing Peter’s clearly bitten calf.
“Dentist,” I yelled as Zombie Peter bit a sizable chunk of flesh out of his neck.
“God damn it Peter.” I pulled out my revolver and shot him in the head. Then I rushed over to the dentist that was lying with his back to the medicine cabinet.
“You said he hadn’t been bit.”
“I didn’t know, I thought that was just a /θ/tereotype,” I said as I tried to apply pressure to his jugular. “You think you still have it in you to remove my b/w/aces?”
He leaned in closer. “No, you asshole.”
A loud bang came from the entrance again. I dropped the orthodontist and looked towards the scuffle. The zombies had broken the garage door at the entrance and were fighting with the gas mask wearing Gop employees. They really were liberal zombies. Some had their man buns intact and one even held a “Not my president” sign. Which was really quite silly since all the presidential candidates had become zombies and society as we knew had crumbled.
The things some people care about, I thought, as I snuck out the back to continue my quest for dental care in the apocalypse.
You are not sure what is more unbelievable, that a zombie seems to have full mental faculties and not a single hint of the usual hunger for human flesh, or that they are not at all aware they have become a zombie in spite of being dead for perhaps a week.
"Hurry, dear chap. Get this blasted beam off me, so that we may abscond."
Lying on the ground in front of me was a regal looking older man, wearing a purple two piece suit, complete with a brown herringbone pocket square and a tie that was tied in a perfect Windsor knot. He had grey hair and sickly green skin; because he was clearly a zombie.
We were in a hunting store, located in the middle of a row of stores in the commercial street of a small town. The back portion had collapsed at some point, probably because of the pickup truck that was halfway through it, and part of the wreckage lay on top of this guy. I had never seen a zombie that was so articulate. Sure, some of them could repeat some key phrases from their previous life, like, "Make America great again," or "Omg, I'm such a Libra."
I lowered my shotgun and sat down next to him. “Just a moment, what’s your /θ/tory?"
"What is that ridiculous dialect of yours? It's pronounced ‘Story.’" He emphasized the /S/ to a ridiculous degree, so that it seemed like he was hissing at me.
I flashed my teeth. "B/w/aces."
"Right, a deformed specimen." Somehow he managed to look down at me even though he was on the ground. And I came really close to shooting him then, despite him being human-like.
"Well," he continued, "My name is Mr. Vonderbolt, a German name, and as I was examining a beautiful Beretta, a vehicle crashed through the wall. That is how I had my unfortunate accident. I have since been trapped here for the better part of a week. Mostly the commoners have left me alone, but one of them actually bit me."
He pointed out through the hole in the wall at a zombie standing at a distance in the open field.
"Are you going to help me Mr. Braces?"
“It’s Gary. And why /θ/hould I?”
He raised one eyebrow “Am I correct in assuming that you would rather be rid of those braces?”
“Maybe we can help one another. My Jeeves is practiced in the art of dentistry.”
“My butler. He served as a dentist in the war. The commoners assaulted him when we were here, but I’m sure he made it back to the estate safely. In fact, I shall give him a good thrashing when we get there.”
“They had dentists in the war?”
“Sure, why not?”
I leaned closer and put my hands under the beam, when Mr. Vonderbolt lunged forward and tried to bite my arm while snarling madly.
“What the hell?” I said.
He snapped back into his regal attitude. “Sorry old chap. It seems I was consumed by my baser instincts. Shan’t happen again.”
I grabbed hold of the beam again, and lifted it slowly, all the while staring at Mr Vonderbolt. He seemed to be preoccupied with my flesh, and even licked his chapped lips. When the beam was high enough he slipped out, and I backed off and gripped my shotgun with both hands.
Mr. Vonderbolt dusted himself off. “Thank you kindly. Shall we?” He lifted his hand, which dangled at the wrist, gesturing to the door.
Outside, the buildings were in disrepair. A group of zombies with thick long hair and “legalize it” t-shirts stood outside a gas station. A hacky sack lay on the ground between them and they all stared at it. We walked down the road, into a forest.
“It’s just a little further,” he said.
I held my shotgun tightly the whole time and kept a distance of about two meters as we walked past the open gate and onto a massive estate. This guy was clearly wealthy in life. When we came to the front door, I waved him in with my gun.
“I’m not going to attack you, you know. It must just be that I’m famished after my ordeal. I’ll have Jeeves prepare us something.”
“Ju/θ/t find your man, he’ll get my b/w/aces and we’ll go our separate way/θ/.”
“Jeeves!” He called into the otherwise silent estate.
No answer. He shrugged his shoulders and we started up the stairs. The place was a mess. The paintings were scratched, patches of blood lined the floor. Definitely been attacked.
“Looks like the help has been slacking off in my absence,” Mr. Vonderbolt said.
Once we reached the upper floor, Mr. Vonderbolt dashed into a room on the left. I followed him into a spacious office whose walls were lined with bookcases, except for the rightmost, which had three arched windows. In the middle of the room was a zombie with no legs, crawling in my direction.
“Jeeves,” Mr.Vonderbolt said to the zombie, “what has become of you?”
I took aim at the zombie. “/θ/orry Mr. Vonderbolt, he’s turned. I’m gonna have to /θ/oot your butler.”
My first shot missed by a hair and I blasted the butler’s arm off. Closing one eye, and holding my breath, I shot again and hit him straight in the face, killing him. I opened my gun and let the shells fly out. When I looked to my left I noticed that Mr. Vonderbolt was lunging at me again. Having no shells left in my shotgun, I closed my eyes and braced myself for the worst, but when nothing had happened for a while, I opened my eyes to see him gorging himself on some pâté from a serving cart to my right..
“A bit stale to be sure, but Jeeves always did make the best pâté.”
“/θ/orry about your butler.”
“It is as you said, he had been corrupted by his baser instincts. It is unfortunate that he could help you with your braces.”
He licked the remains of some pâté off his index finger. “Say, I would love some carpaccio. Do you happen to know a good place around here?”
I let myself sink into the chaise lounge. “No.”
“Well then perhaps we go looking for one. And maybe we’ll find you an orthodontist on the way.”
“Really, that’s your raison d'être? To look for food?”
“I suppose it is. What do you say? It’ll be an adventure.”
I chuckled. “Alright, but we’re sleeping in separate locked rooms.”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The Prompt: Buddhism was right, reincarnation is real. However, due to a technicality, Reddit karma also counts.
Like an erupting volcano, I burst out of a mountain. My new form was colossal. I could feel power surging within me. Power to rival the gods. To move mountains, flatten cities, topple empires. Also, I was totally purple and shit. Yeet!
A group of tribal villagers approached me. “Oh great being. How have you come to be?” Instinctively I knew the answer. “I was born of the earth, and am, in time, to occupy the sky.”
The villagers talked amongst themselves as I surveyed the land. It seemed I was incarnated in the Tibetan mountains. How fitting that my new form should be born out of the “Roof of the Earth.”
“Oh great one.” He trembled as he spoke. “From whence have you acquired your powers?”
“I have acquired my powers through the means that your Buddha has foretold. Reincarnation.”
They gazed upon me in awe, as they should.
I continued. “And this Herculean form was bestowed upon me, for I had proven myself in a virtual trial ground known as Reddit.”
“And what, oh great one, must one do to prove oneself in such a place?”
I laughed heartily at their ignorance. “Mostly I wrote lengthy commentary about how others were wrong. And if they dared to oppose that, I would correct their spelling.” They prostrated themselves before me. “Surely your worthy of worship -”
“You said ‘your worthy,’ when it’s supposed to be ‘you’re worthy’.”
“Forgive me, you most astonishing one.” He picked up a stick and started flagellating himself. “I must repent.”
“No, please don’t do that.”
A younger man stepped forward. “If he cannot bear the task of speaking to the great one, than I shall.”
I pursed my lips, quite by accident.
“What, did I say something wrong?”
“You should have said ‘then,’ but it’s fine.”
“Clearly I am not up too the task ether. I am emberrased of myself.”
I crossed my mighty arms. “Oof. That was just awkward.”
The villagers huddled up and talked amongst themselves again. In the meantime I surveyed my domain. In just a short while this whole region would worship me. And from there I would expand my reign even further.
“We’re leaving.” The villager said as they turned and started walking down the mountain.
“What? You can’t leave.”
“We kind of are.”
How dared they defy me? Because I insulted their petty honor. Didn’t they know that I was a god. I would rush down and punish them for their insolence. But what was this? I could not move. Herculean as I was, I was stuck to the mountain. “Stop! I am your mighty ruler. You will bow before me. I am God.”
In the distance I heard a faint yell. “Good luk with that.”
The Prompt: You see it hurtling towards you, this sprawling mass of darkness. As it comes closer you can see a myriad of human faces and limbs, twisted and contorting, trapped within the darkness yet trying to break free. You thought you had avoided this. You thought you had won.
"What do you want?!" I screamed as I ran down a seemingly endless hallway.
The mass of darkness chasing me breathed strenuously. It also coughed, and laughed shrilly. All at the same time as it spoke, sometimes many heads at the same time.
"We're a metaphor John. We want to metaphorize."
"Hahahah. Metaphorize! is that a word?"
"It's a word, I think."
The words rang in my ears. They didn't seem to come from anywhere. They just were there. My feet weakened as the muscles withered in real time, and I slowed down despite my best efforts at running.
"You're getting old john."
I could see a door at the end of a hallway. But the blob of darkness was catching up to me. It was composed of faces that I seemed to know but couldn't place (except for the ones that were me,) and limbs twisting and bending this way and that. They cracked and tore in an out of tune, out of beat parody of music.
One of the heads stretched forward next to me, pulling the darkness ahead with it, looked me in the eye and yelled like someone who forgot he had headphones on, "Look John, we're an orchestra!"
I staggered towards the door. "Leave me alone!"
The head kept staring at me as it licked its lips. "You don't recognize me John."
"Hahahaha, he doesn't recognize you."
A cold wind chipped away at my legs, piece by piece, blowing them into the wind. By the time I was a meter away from the door I was running on my bones alone. Meanwhile the rest of the blob advanced. Scratching the walls, tumbling onward, farting and leaking bile. The head next to leaned over and with its tongue stretched thirty centimeters out of its mouth, it licked the left side of my face.
"I'm that time you shit your pants in first grade John."
"Hahahahah, Shit your pants."
"Erectile dysfunction, John. Staying up late and trolling on Reddit, John. Unemployment, John."
"We're humanity, John."
I grabbed the handle and pulled myself through the doorway. The laughter echoed in my head as I shut the door and sat against it. The room was dimly lit and about the size of my studio apartment. In fact, it was exactly the same dimensions as my apartment, but without my furniture, and the windows. The only thing in the room was a mirror on the other side of where I was sitting.
My legs were back to normal now and I walked to the mirror. My reflection had a smug look on its face. It smiled wide and spoke to me.
"Welcome John," it said.
"Are you gonna tell me what's going on now?"
"We already told you John. We're a metaphor. We're all those literary terms you're so proud to know."
The same voice spoke from outside the door. "Hamartia, and personification, and cliché. A lot of cliché."
"Aren't you glad you know us? We couldn't be here if you didn't know us."
"Whatever!" A banner dropped from the ceiling with the word 'Whatever' written in bold red text, along with some confetti.
"We knew you'd say that John."
"Hahahahaha. We're you John."
Black sludge seeped from the bottom of the mirror. I turned around, but the floor behind me was covered in the stuff. It was coming from under the door. It circled around me, leaving me with only enough room to stand. It thickened and rose up to my knees.
"We're how you see yourself John."
"We're how you see others."
"And how you think others see you."
"Isn't that meta, John?"
"Is it meta?"
"It could be meta. Maybe. He doesn't know."
"Which means that we don't know. Hahahahah."
A face rose from the sludge, it was my own face with dark bags under the eyes and a pale skin-tone. It looked through me for a moment and sank back into the sludge. I leaned down to see where it had gone. The sludge boiled, and I put my hand out to touch it, when it discharged upwards into my mouth and filled me from the inside out.
That's when I woke up. I turned on my PC and started writing a short story on r/WritingPrompts.
"I do know what meta means," I thought.
The Prompt: A fairy appears on your desk and explains that you just conjured a very inconvenient spell. It turns out humans are accidentally casting spells all the time, but are unaware of it.
I was in my studio apartment singing a legally safe knock off version of The Steve Miller Band’s classic “Ablacablabla.”
“Abla, Abla, Cablabla. I’m gonna take a viagra. Abla, Abla, Cablabla, Ablacablabla.”
Once I sang the last syllable the apartment started shaking violently. The lights flickered and a blazing red pentagram of sorts appeared on my desk. Except it looked more like one of those stamps they use at the DMV. It even had the date on the side.
A strange creature materialised out of thin air and crashed down on my desk, breaking it in half. He was about 70 cm in height and rather fat. In accordance with his height he wore a little suit and carried a little suitcase. I didn’t notice at first that he had wings because they were hanging so languidly off his back that the ends were torn, presumably from being dragged along the ground. I did notice right away that he had pretty bad skin.
He muttered something about always landing in the wrong place before he got on his feet and addressed me.
“What’s the matter?” He said. “Have you never seen a fairy before?”
“No,” I said. And feeling I had not adequately expressed my surprise, I added. “Really, I haven’t.”
“Well now you have.” He looked over at my broken desk, shook his head, and sat down on the floor next to his suitcase.
The dials on the lock were covered in strange symbols. He turned them to some particular combination, opened the suitcase, and handed me a wad of papers from within. “Fill out this form, please.”
Having so many questions and not knowing where to start, I blurted out what felt the most important at the time, “Aren’t fairies supposed to be tiny and cute.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be living in a nicer apartment at the age of twenty eight?” He poked me with the papers. “Fill out the form would you.”
“Ugh, every time I visit a human I gotta go through this. Tell a Leprechaun he has to fill out Disaster Aversion Form 21.B and he knows what he did. He signs the form. But with you I always have to explain the nature of the known universe. You just cast a level five spell on your entire apartment complex.”
“Yes and now you have to fill out the form.”
I took the form from him and leafed through it. I had to fill out everything from my date of birth to my first pet to my second myspace password. “What’s this form got to do with it though? Can’t you just magic it all away?”
“It’s a standard form. I can’t do anything if you don’t sign it.”
A loud roar issued from the floor below. “What was that?” I said.
“Sounded like a troll. Mutations are a classic symptom of level five spells resulting from singing knockoff versions of The Steve Miller Band songs.”
“You’re telling me I just turned Ms. Campbell into a troll?”
He was cleaning his nails as he spoke “Among other things. These things also tend to result in conspiracy theories.”
The troll roared from downstairs, “The water is turning the frogs gay!”
“Jesus Christ in a harness.” I fumbled around for a pen and started frantically filling the massive document in my hands.
Obscene nonsense was uttered by my neighbours as I wrote out my life story one piece of trivial fact at a time. “The earth is flat,” “Vaccines cause autism,” “The Star Wars sequel trilogy was actually pretty good.”
“They’re going insane in here,” I urged the fairy. “Can’t you do something?”
He picked at a piece of meat stuck in his teeth. “Not until you sign those forms.”
I got back to it and just as I got to the insurance aspect of the form I heard the sound of heavy footsteps in the hall.
The fairy looked at the papers. “You might want to finish the insurance bit before she gets here.”
There was a thunderous knock at the door. I scrawled frantically as the door gave away bit by bit. “I don’t know my mother’s social security number!” I screamed at the fairy.
He took the forms from me and leafed through them. As he did so the door shattered in half and the conspiratorial troll started at me. I cowered into a ball on the floor when the fairy said, “Good enough.” He snapped his fingers and disappeared. As soon as he was gone Ms. Campbell turned back to her usual feeble self.
I ran over to Ms. Campbell and helped her up. “Are you alright?”
“Sure, sure I am,” she said. “But why do I have a sudden urge to cut GMOs from my diet?”
The Prompt: It is really easy to get to other planets, but it's your job to convince humanity that it is utterly unachievable.
There was a red door in my office building. And the man guarding it didn’t look like a doorman at all. He wore a top hat and a purple suit. I didn’t know if it was because he stood around all day, or because he was an eccentric, but he also had a cane with a glass ball at the top of it, inside of which was a miniature replica of a suitcase.
I said “Good morning,” to him once and he answered, “G’day old chap.” I never tried to greet him again.
I had a bullshit job where I sat at a front desk and pretended to do things. Leaving me plenty of time to wonder about the red door just down the hall. What could possibly have been so important as to demand a full time guard, and why was that guard a discount Willy Wonka?
I jumped in my seat. It was my coworker Mark. “What?” I said.
“Are you coming to lunch?”
“Yeah, of course.” I started gathering my things. “Hey, what do you think is behind that red door?
“Probably something unseemly,” Mark said as he stared at his nails. “Why don’t you wait until that guy leaves and see for yourself.”
“Sure,” I said, sarcastically. But that was exactly what I wanted to do.
A week later I had to stay a couple of hours late; someone or other needed access to the conference room, which meant I couldn’t go home. Around six thirty, the man in front of the door started getting fidgety. I’d never seen him move more than an inch during office hours. He started snapping his fingers in frustration and before I knew it, he ran down the hall.
I couldn’t help myself. I was through that door in a second, and had entered an empty stairwell. It was a huge letdown. The staircase was probably faulty, and that’s why knockoff Wonka had been guarding it. I was about to turn around when I heard him shout. “Hey!”
Out of instinct I ran down the staircase. In hindsight I could have just apologized, but I ran down all the same. At the bottom was another door and I flung it open. Before me was an open field, full of wild Peony flowers. The sun was inexplicably high in the air, seeing as how it was evening a moment ago. And occupying the field also, was a slew of stock traders. They ran around, babbling nonsense into their Blackberrys.
Willy Wonka came through the door. “You shouldn’t be here.”
I gestured toward the open field. “Neither should any of this.”
He sighed. “I suppose you’ll want to know why there is a field of stock traders in your office building.”
I looked him straight in the eye. “Yes, I would like to know that.”
“Very well.” He paced around a little as if he didn’t know how to broach the subject. Then he put his index finger in the air. “This is the planet of the stock traders. Their natural habitat if you will.”
“You mean that stock traders are aliens?”
I plopped down on the grass. “This already makes so much sense.”
“Planetary travel has been possible for a while now, using doors. You just have to find the right door.” He adjusted his top hat with pride. I suppose he enjoyed the chance to talk about this stuff.
“Are all aliens stock traders?”
“No, accountants are also aliens.”
I nodded. “Of course they are.”
“And I am one of the guardians.”
Out of the corner of my eye I saw one stock trader approach another. They sniffed one another before the approaching one made his move. My eyes got all bugged out. They were making the beast with two backs. I got my phone out of my pocket and got ready to take a picture when Wonka slapped it out of my hand with his cane. “No! You can’t just take pictures. The world must not know about any of this.”
He grabbed me by the shoulders. “Because these creatures are further evolved than man.”
“You mean they used to be people? Are stock traders better than people?”
“More evolved does not necessarily mean better. But earth could share this planet's fate. We’ve already had three escapees this week.” He picked my phone up from the ground and handed it to me. “It’s alright to have a few stock traders in the world. They don’t do much harm. But would you like it if everyone was a stock trader?”
I looked at these languid beasts. All they did was babble nonsense, sleep, eat, and procreate. It would have been so wonderful if they weren’t also stock traders. “What can I do to help?”
Standing around all day isn’t easy. Although the job has some perks. I got my own cane, I don’t have to pretend to work, and my mission statement is simple: guard the red door. I have the most important job in the world.
The Prompt: You ended up in a utopian parallel world. The catch? People are so good in that world, that you're now literally the most evil person alive.
I stepped out of the train feeling refreshed. “That sweet Canadian air,” I thought.
The train station was a freshly painted orange, I could smell it. A couple of kids were ushered past me by their mother. They laughed their way to some far off adventure, much like I was on an adventure of my own. I straightened my back. It felt as if I had just emerged from a cubicle cocoon, and I had to relearn how to stand upright.
My stomach rumbled at the sight of a vending machine. I was almost done punching in the numbers when I realized I didn’t have any canadian change on me.
“Hi there stranger,” said a short man in an Ivy Cap. Who even wears those?
“I can’t help you, I’m not from around here.” I enjoyed saying that. It was going to be my new catchphrase.
“No, I don’t need your help. I noticed you needed some change for the machine.” He handed me a wad of change.
“You’re welcome.” He reached out his hand. “Noah’s the name.”
“Edward.” That was a lie. It’s Brad. But I was on vacation and I didn’t have to be myself. He seemed to be satisfied, and he skipped away.
When I counted the change I realized he had given me five dollars more than my Twirly Winky cost. What a ridiculous man.
I strolled to a nearby park, where I listened to the blue jays sing. I hadn’t taken the time to listen to birds in forever. In the middle of the park was a plaque with the words, “Always do your best.” I munched on the last piece of my Twirly Winky and threw the wrapper on the ground. The plaque reflected the afternoon spring sun and it took on an otherworldly glow. In fact, it was so much that I had to look away. That’s when I noticed that everyone was staring at me. The mother and her children were back. They pointed at the candy wrapper while maintaining eye contact with me.
I picked up the wrapper and threw it in the trash, and just like that, they stopped staring at me. Who knew that Canadians were so environmentally friendly? I needed something to steady my nerves. Luckily there was a restaurant next to the park.
I sat down outside. The tables had red and white checkered tablecloths, and the waitress had an apron in the same style. It was tacky, but cute. She was cute.
I raised my hand. “Waitress.”
Her shoulder length blond hair fluttered as she walked. “What’ll you have?”
“A pint of your local beer.”
She wrote it down and tapped on her pad. “And to eat?”
“Uhh, some fries.”
I sat there for a while, watching the park, drinking my beer, watching the waitress, picking at the fries. In time I started feeling rather bold. I wondered if she wouldn’t like to take a break, come see my hotel room. Except I didn’t have a hotel room yet. That didn’t matter, I’d get one. “Waitress.”
Suddenly I didn’t know what to say. “The check please.”
Stupid. I should have planned something to say. Something like, “Actually, there is something else I’d like.” Then I’d do a super suave pause and say, “You.”
She came back with the check. “Thank you for dining with us, have a nice day.”
“I would also like you.” Fuck. That wasn’t suave at all.
I was sweating madly. “I mean, I’d like to take you home. Or... to my hotel room. Except that I don’t have one.
“Are you saying you would like to have sex with me?”
That was so crass. “Yes.”
She shrugged. “We could just do that in the bathroom.”
“Are you pulling my leg?”
“No, I have my break in ten minutes, we’ll do it then.” She seemed way too relaxed about it.
“Ok I get it, I’m being inappropriate, you’re just trying to do your job. Whatever, I just thought you might like to spend the evening with me.”
Her face was expressionless. “Mister, I’d be happy to have sex with you.”
“Alright, alright, I hear you loud and clear.” I stood up, and I even sort of stumbled away, just to add to my humiliation.
A couple of suits stood in my way. “Could we trouble you for a minute of your time.”
“Bugger off, I’m on vacation,” I said.
“Is it Brad Norton?” The right one said, “It’s about the small matter of your kidneys.”
“Well, you seem to still have both of them,” the left one said, “so we wondered if you wouldn’t be willing to give one to the less fortunate. Perhaps the left one?”
“Or the right,” the right one said.
“No I’m not going to give you my kidney, I don’t even live here. I’m on vacation.”
They look quizzingly at one another. “He said no,” the left one said, “nobody ever says no.”
They turned to look at me. “Did you come by train?”
“Nr 42 perhaps?”
“That explains it. The 42 runs parallel to worlds.”
I was practically jumping. “What the fuck does that mean?”
“Sir, watch your language,” The right one said, “It means you’re in the best of worlds.”
“How could this be the best of worlds if you’re going to take my kidney.”
“Good is subjective Mr. Norton,” he said, “come now, you’re hardly doing your best.”
“Always do your best.” The left one smiled with his mouth and looked right at me.
I backed away slowly. “Alright… I’m leaving.”
“That’s fine. Just as long as you’ve given us your kidney.” They stepped towards me.
I turned around swiftly and bumped into the man from the train station. “You must always do your best,” he said.
Before I could say anything I felt a prick in my neck and everything went dark.
The countryside swooshed past my window. Little towns brimming with life, and salt of the earth people trying to be their best self, some sacrificing life and limb simply to get by. I sat up in my seat and felt a sharp pain in my side.