Bicycling Bovines

You walk out of the grocery store one day and discover that the streets are full of cows on bicycles. What’s even weirder is that you’re the only one who finds this odd. What is going on?

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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281 thoughts on “Bicycling Bovines

  1. ShirleyVegas

    Bicycling Bovines

    I love shopping at night. No lines, no kids running around, nice. And living in Las Vegas, a twenty-four hour town, affords me that luxury. So after having a quick dinner with a friend after work, I stopped into my local Smiths on the way home. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to encounter.
    I left the store, with a quart of milk, a loaf of bread, and a pack of Marlboros, and headed for my car. I jumped back in fright, as a Belgian Red on a BMX rode practically across my toes. Yeah, you heard me! A Goddamn cow on a bike!
    “What the…?” I gasped.
    I stared in shock around the parking lot. There was an entire herd of cows, riding around on bicycles, going up and down ramps, doing trick jumps over parked cars, one of which was mine!
    “Are you shittin’ me?” I asked no one in particular. I rubbed my eyes. I’d only had one glass of Cabernet.
    “No, you’re not seeing things.” A voice to my left assured me. I turned to see a short fat man, holding a director’s megaphone. He smiled at my discomfort. “We’re filming the new Anderson Dairy commercial.”
    “So are these all trained cows?” I asked in amazement.
    “Well some are more trained than others.” He shook his head as a Holstein Friesian rode into the side of an SUV.
    “I don’t get it!” None of this made sense.
    “Well, that one,” he said pointing at a large brown cow, squirting milk over our heads, “is past-yur-eyes milk.” I groaned.
    “What about that one?” I pointed at an emaciated looking Guernsey, with barely enough strength to turn the pedals.
    “That’s fat free.” He shrugged.
    “Oh okay, I get it! So what’s that one, UHT?” I pointed at cow riding a bike with a Bunsen Burner attached to the frame.
    “No.” he corrected me. “That’s evaporated milk. That’s UHT!” He pointed at two bedraggled looking Aberdeen Anguses riding a two-seater.
    “Ultra high temperature?” I asked quizzically.
    “No, Ugly Heifers on a Tandem!”

  2. thelittleone

    Dangit! Last I saw these were getting changed on a Thursday (which I was pushing anyway). Oh well. Just like me to introduce myself as tardy to the party. 😉

    ——————–

    “Bovines? On bicycles?” Muriel gawped at me like a great, fat flounder. She stood in the doorway to my station room wearing the same drab pantsuit as the day before, her grey-speckled wings just grazing the ceiling. “Are you serious?”

    “What? I thought it would be funny!” I flashed a cherub’s grin.

    “You are a dream technician, you are not paid to be funny.” She glowered at me over her clipboard. “You are here to provide mortals with the insight and guidance needed to reach inner peace!”

    Here we go again, I thought. I had been working in the Dream Department for about a decade now and was finally nearing the end of my probation period. In that short time I could honestly say that it was the most pointless job ever conceived at Divine Intervention Inc or in the known universe for that matter. The hours were terrible, the pay was a joke, and it’s exactly as boring as you think it would be to slog through the psyche of whiny, selfish humans all night and interpret what metaphysical mental anguish is tormenting them. Oh, and then your supposed to use symbolic imagery to turn on a lightbulb in their soul and everybody gets the warm fuzzies.

    And then they wake up. In a flash, all that hard work, forgotten. Even if they do manage to remember… nobody listens to their dreams anymore.

    To top it all off, I get stuck with the one supervisor who actually takes all this seriously. Muriel fancied herself a “Muse-in-training”, destined to sit at the shoulder of the next generation of artists and poets. She’d been waiting for that promotion for about 600 years now, even so, she liked to remind everyone at staff meetings how she inspired Picasso’s unconventional style thanks to a series of dreams she oversaw back then. I rolled my eyes.

    “I saw that,” Muriel snapped, eyes bugging out of her skull as she began her usual theatrical performance. “Inner turmoil rules the dreamscape. If left to their own devices the chaos could leave a mortal unrested and tormented the next day.”

    “And civilization as we know it could collapse!”

    The woman glared daggers at me.

    “Oh, come on Mimi,” I said. “Seems to me like no one remembers this junk anyway, why not give them a laugh if they happen to wake up?”

    “YOU are here to inspire mankind. You are here to communicate epiphany! What possible message does a heard of bike-riding cattle convey?”

    “Don’t eat nacho cheese before bed?”

    “Eurgh!” Her face was turning a very violent shade of purple as she puffed up twice her size. I stifled a laugh.

    “Alright, alright, how about this? The cows represent maternity and motherhood, and the bikes means… uh yeah, it means movement! This person needs to embrace their maternal nature in order to move forward in their life.” I beamed in my seat. Muriel knew as well as I, that as long as there was some Pseudo-Freudian psychobabble to back me up, then I’d never be disciplined. Heck, it was quickly becoming my favorite part of the job. Once, I stuck a poor sap with the most innate motif imaginable. An empty cardboard box. He dreamt he was at the food court with his friends, there was the box. He was running through the halls of his school, BAM there’s the box. He’s sucked out into space and bumps into a satellite, that then turns into the box. Finally, he dreamt he was in a warehouse and was frantically looking for the box, but for some unknown reason he just couldn’t find the thing! Best part was, the guy DID remember the dream and spent the whole day wondering why he had been so obsessed with some stupid box! I got a call from Standards who threatened to slap me with an “Inciting a Nightmare” violation, a serious offense, but by the end of that meeting, the head was praising my artful use of simplicity to represent such complex concepts as “the box represents his unfulfilled desires AND he is actually chasing his untapped potential”. And the fact that the kid thought about a box instead of his algebra homework that day? Apparently that counts as “effecting spiritual change”.

    I looked up up at Muriel’s face, expecting to see those varicose veins ready to burst. Instead I saw a sight that would make a demon pale. She was smiling.

    Well, that can’t be good.

    She had the client file in her hand. “Maternity is it? Well, according to this file here, your charge here is an eight year old boy…who happens to be terrified of cows. Didn’t you check the specs before opening the case?

    “I- what?!” I nearly fell out of my chair. “That’s not what it said before.” I switched the monitor back over to Dreamview. The cows had grown twice their size and were resembling minotaurs with wheels for legs more each second. The young boy scrambled hopelessly, the advancing army always two steps from his heels.

    “Not what it said before…” Murial repeated. “I’m sure that will hold up in Standards.” Like a shark soothing a shoal of baitfish, her grinned widened as she backed out of the room.

    “Let’s see you talk your way outta this one sweetheart.” I her her whisper float through out the room, as the weight of it settled in on me.

    I sat at my console, watching the screen grow darker as the boy was dragger deeper and deeper into his worst fears personified, and all I could think was…

    Who the hell was scared of cows?

  3. SheepCarrot

    Continued from last week’s prompt

    I can’t leave work fast enough after seeing him through the break room window today. I need comfort food—chocolate. A glass of wine wouldn’t hurt either. I stop by my favorite market on the way home to pick up these essentials, as I try not to keep them in the house on normal occasions. I’m at the bakery selecting a beautiful piece of chocolate cake with fudge icing when the hair on the back of my neck stands up and I get the urge to flee.

    I always could tell when he was near.

    “Hello, Karen.” His voice is deep, soft, and to anyone else it must sound like the gentle greeting of a lover whom I should be thrilled to see. I tense as his hand grips my arm and pulls be back against him. His voice drops dangerously low, his breath tickling my ear. “I told you you couldn’t hide from me. Now you’ll learn your lesson.”

    With that, I feel the sharp prick of a needle in my other arm. I try to struggle, but the strength is gone from my limbs and the world takes on a fuzzy, ethereal quality. I’m powerless as he guides me out of the store. I blink at the bright light in the pink sky, a splitting migraine beginning to form behind my forehead, brought on by whatever drug he injected into my system.

    The people on the street change shapes, and I blink again. There are cows everywhere. Driving taxis. Walking upright as they cross the streets and stroll down the sidewalks. Riding bikes. It’s so ludicrous that I want to laugh, but I know how much danger I’m in. He flags down a taxi and the cow stops. He forces me in the back seat and follows behind me.

    “Is she okay?” our Holstein driver asks.

    “She’s fine, just a lightweight, y’know?” He lies so easily, and everyone wants to believe him. They always did—he has that kind of charisma.

    “Ohhh, I gotcha. Where to?”

    I try to move, to signal the bovine that all is not right with the world, but I can’t. The darkness creeps in, getting the better of me. When I can finally force my eyes open, I can see I’m in an apartment—my apartment. I can’t tell how much time has passed, but based on my headache, the normal colors in the room, and the feeling that my mouth has turned into the Sahara, I’m pretty sure that several hours have passed. Enough time that the drug has mostly worked itself out of my system.

    As I become more aware, several things flood my senses at once. I’m lying on my side, my hands restrained behind my back. I rotate my hands and feel the steel against my wrists—handcuffs. My shoulder throbs from the position I’m in. I shiver as I realize the worst thing of all.

    I’m naked.

    I can hear water running in the shower, and I know I’ve not got much time. I doubt he thought I would be waking up so soon. I grit my teeth as the metal bites into my wrists as I bring my hands under my legs to bring them around to the front. Movies always make that look so easy….the liars. I shake the thought off as I hear the water shut off.

    I try to get to my feet but my world tilts and I fall. I bite back a curse and pray he didn’t hear. I zero in on my closet, and slowly crawl toward it. I hear the bathroom door open, and move faster as my panic rises. He’s walking around the bed slowly, and I can feel his disdain. Almost there.

    I fumble inside the closet door for what I hope will save me. I never imagined I’d ever actually have to use my little Benelli. My hands are trembling as I find the release in order to rack a shell into the chamber. I swing the 12-gauge around, balancing the pump on my knees as both my hands grip the butt stock.

    His eyebrow twitches and he smirks arrogantly. “You won’t use that, Karen. You know I own you.”

    He takes another step, and I shake my head as I thumb the safety. “Like hell I do.” Knowing I don’t have any time to lose, I pull the trigger. My ears ring from the shotgun blast echoing in the small space. His blue eyes stare at me in disbelief as he falls to the floor, his blood already staining the carpet.

    It’s not long before I hear sirens. The neighbors must have called the police. I hear them break in the front door, storm the apartment. I can’t move, my eyes locked on the body of my ex, now dead by my hand. I feel my Nova being lifted from my hands, a blanket draped around my shoulders to cover my exposed body. Questions are fired at me from all sides, and I’m sure I’m headed to jail. Even with that possibility looming over my muddled mind, I can only think of one thing.

    I’m finally, truly free. He’ll never hurt me again.

  4. cosi van tutte

    Oh, and just for the random fun of taking the prompt into a different direction:

    Clarissa the cat watched the cow clamber aboard the bike. “Tsk! Such lack of grace. Such inelegance.”

    The cow oomphed and umphed in response.

    “Oh, and so articulate.” Clarissa licked her small white paw. “You really do have my pity.”

    The cow mooed happily as she finally sat her rump on the bike seat.

    The bike tipped right over.

    “MOOO—OOOO!”

    Clarissa set her paw down. “I suppose I could help you, but I don’t see how that would benefit me. And it is all about what benefits me.”

    The cow rested her chin on the ground. Big teardrops trickled out of her liquid brown eyes. “Moooo.” she lowed softly.

    Clarissa jumped off her perch and strolled over to the large, downed creature. “I don’t know why you’re bothering with such an unnatural activity.”

    The cow blinked. Her long lashes became matted and clotted with tears.

    “Pathetic. I suppose I’ll have to help you as usual. Oh, I really do need to find a more worthwhile hobby.” She swatted the bike’s front tire with her right front paw.

    The bike rose upwards with the cow still, somehow, sitting on the seat. The cow stopped crying. “Moo? Moo?” She glanced around. “OOO! MOOOO!”

    Clarissa strolled behind the bike and slapped the back tire with her long striped tail. “That should keep it steady for you.”

    The cow kicked up the kickstand and rode off to town, mooing a joyful song.

    “I hope she stays out of trouble.” Clarissa strolled towards the barn to hunt for mice. “I’m sure she won’t. I’ll undoubtedly have to rescue her again. Oh, a cat’s work is never done.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I just got through reading your story to Miss Kitty. She’s laying on my partner’s desk upstairs in my office and it’sfive thirty five in the morning. All’s quiet here and Miss Kitty and I like it this way. She liked your story a whole lot, excuse for a minute…..

      “I’ve been petting you for thirty minutes, why are you trying to sit on my kaybord?”….. “Oh yeah, don’t try it, you know that sack of your Science Diet in the closet? Do you want me to feed it to the Racoons? No? Then be quiet and let me get back to trying.”

      Are you still there, Amy? You ought to here this cat crying, it’s bad enough with the wife without her butting in all the time. [I mean Miss Kitty.] Anyway, now that she’s had a full body massage, she’s calming down a little bit.

      What I’ve been trying to say for three paragraphgs, is I loved it, you hit the nail directly with the MC’s personality, Pleae wait…………..

      “Okay, I’ll feed you a second time this morning, quit swatting my hand. [Not you Amy, I’m talking to Miss Kitty]. What? Stop typing? Geez!

      1. cosi van tutte

        😆

        Kerry,

        Your response made me laugh. My cat doesn’t like me typing either. Apparently, he thinks I should either let him lie on the keyboard or pay attention to him. If I get too looped into what I’m typing, he wha-chas me with his teeth and claws. 🙁

        But I love him all the same. 🙂

  5. cosi van tutte

    I want to write a letter to you, but I don’t know how to start. I’m not so good with words, you see? What do people write in letters anyway? Do they write about the weather or the movies they’ve seen? I could do that, but the weather has been unremarkable and I haven’t seen any movies lately.

    Maybe I should make things up. You know, to make you laugh. I could write a silly story about elephants on parade and their evil cow overlords. I could write you a story about cows that ride bikes to the grocery store to buy fresh lettuce and grass. Would you like that? I don’t know if you would. It seems silly to me. Is it too silly for you?

    Maybe I should ask you questions too. How is the weather there? Is it nice? Or is it all rainy and gray? Have you seen any good movies lately?

    Maybe I should cross out that last question. I know! I’ll ask you a different one.

    “Hey.” Dad comes in the room and ruffles my hair. “What are you writing?”

    I don’t reply. I’m not being defiant. I just can’t reply.

    I offer him my paper and carefully watch his expression cloud over and then go blank. I don’t like it when his face goes blank like that. It means he’s upset. I’m sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean to upset you.

    He sets the paper back on my desk. “Who were you writing to?” His voice is calm and steady, but his expression is empty. I know he’s upset.

    I squeeze my pen. If I let him know, he’ll yell at me. But…

    “Who?”

    He isn’t yelling yet. Maybe he won’t. I bite my lower lip and write at the top of the page, “Dear Mom,”. I wait for the yelling to begin.

    But he kneels beside me and hugs me. He doesn’t say anything. Just like me. He cries, a broken, shaky sound. I hug him too.

    “She’ll get better. She will. She will.” He doesn’t say his words. He sobs them. If I had a voice, I would sob too. I cry in silence as I always do.

    We sit still, holding on to each other, not wanting to be the first to let go.

    The phone rings and rings and rings.

    Dad lets go. “I’d better answer it. Just in case.”

    Just in case?

    Dad leaves the room.

    Just in case. Just in case Mom isn’t getting better. Just in case she’s taken a turn for the worst. Just in case Mom’s…I can’t bear to complete that thought.

    I return to my letter.

    I miss you, Mom. Please. Please please please get better. Come home.

    I miss you. And so does Dad.

    Love you lots and bunches,

    Steve

  6. ashton mcqueen

    sorry guys couldn’t leave the spy with my little eye alone tell me what ya think….don’t hold back

    He was getting tired and he knew it, he couldn’t continue staring at the electroscope any longer, dang it even irritates him.He planted his ass heavily on his stool.
    “there is just no cure”, he said, “no fucking damn cure!” he cursed as he threw his mug against the wall.
    He stared at it angrily, shattered as his life. After the plague he was the only one left, no wife, no daughter or neighbors or other living things. He got up to go get more coffee then he looked out the window and nearly screamed.
    it was already dark. They’ll be all over the place soon.
    He dashed for the door, bolted the lock, placed the heavy plank in place then rushed to the back to hang the mirror and garlic for safety measures.
    “that was close”, he sighed as he headed to the fridge to get his year old expired coke, before something caught his eye. To his horror one of them was standing right there in his parlor, what was worse was the fact that she seemed to mimick his wives face. He backed away slowly as her deadly gaze followed him but she didn’t move from the spot.
    could she still be alive?, he swallowed back a big chunk of spit and approached her, she was not as pale as the moon, her eyes were not dilated and fully black and her lips a natural pink not red hot from blood sucking.
    “Anna” he called out but she just stared back. he reached out and brushed her skin with his fingers as the sensation sent a chill down his spine, his man hood stood and he was full of hope for the first time in years.
    Not ashamed with the fact that she looked different and dumb he bent to kiss her as he cupped her head in his hands.To his surprise it felt sandy and hard, he pulled back.
    He was definitely beginning to lose it, he saw his saliva stain on his wooden staircase, he couldn’t hold it anymore.He ran for the door.
    WHY DON’T THEY JUST SUCK ME DRY THEN, he pulled the wood out and unlocked the door as he touched the knob he pulled himself together.
    He has to survive,survive his families memories, survive the human race since that is what he is. A survivor.
    He is LEGEND.
    Thats when he heard them “Come out Bastard”.

  7. Rider

    I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, this was my fault.

    As my grocery bag slipped from my quivering fingers and descended to the ground below, my head exploded in excruciating pain. This day was destined to arrive, I had known that.

    But why now? Why here?

    Images materialized inside my mind and my psyche melted to mush. They were coming back – the memories. They had been awaiting this day for a decade and only now had they decided to resurface. The irritable footsteps of the passing pedestrians and loud churning of the bicycle wheels ahead of me calmed to gentle, elegant buzz. At that moment, I knew of what was to transpire in my wake.

    The prophecy had been realized. The Moo-Cycle-ypse was occurring.

    My eyes slowly trailed towards my grocery bag. I watched in horror as a white jug unveiled itself and slipped free, rushing to meet its fate. As it made contact with asphalt, the plastic container burst, freeing the sacred, porcelain fluid within it. My heart wrenched and I fell to my knees. The holy dairy, now free, continued to cascade freely over the parking lot.

    How could I have been so naïve?

    Stinging tears escaped my eyes, and I watched as they flowed between the cracks and rivets of the poorly-maintained tar. My fate was manifesting at the very moment.

    I was the chosen one.

    The divine Utter-Guru had chosen me to save this planet from its destined demise. He had enlightened me to abstain from his holy milk, and that it was the only way to prevent the destruction that would occur in the next decade.

    I should have listened to him. If I had, this wouldn’t be happening.

    But I was young, and foolish. I had given into my temptations, arrogantly consuming vast quantities of the sacred beverage known as ‘milk.’ Now, I would have to pay for my sins, and so would the rest of the oblivious world. I slammed my fist onto the ground. The pain of the impact almost eluded me, but I could feel my scorching knuckles and the warmth of the blood flowing from them.

    The Great Milk flood would commence in the next twenty-four hours, and this time, there would be no ark to save us. My head jerked violently towards the street in front of me. Countless demonic bovines were gliding casually along the path, uncaring of the slaughter that was about to ensue. It was a warning, and they were the trumpets. My eyes scrutinized the individual spokes of their wheels, which all shared all a single, distinctive color: red.

    Blood red.

    I felt something touch my shoulder and I scrambled away in shock. My fear almost blinded my sight, but I could soon tell it was only a woman.

    “Sir, are you okay?” The woman asked softly, ignorant of the hellish circus act that was occurring in her vicinity.

    She cocked her head leaned in to help, but her amber eyes harbored no indication of worry. Instead, they resembled empty voids – dull and solid. At that point, my own confusion subsided, and I knew what had happened.

    He had got her.

    The Utter-Guru had placed some kind of curse on me so that, although nobody else would experience the horror of what was taking place, I would have to suffer through it alone. This was cruelty at its most primal.

    But if I was going down, I was going down with a fight.

    I quickly got to my feet and swung my arm, slapping the hypnotized women across the face. She collapsed onto her back, clutching the side of her bruised cheek. Her eyes were now filled with some other, unrecognizable emotion. Fake tears began streaming down her face as her mouth wrenched open. It appeared that she had yelled something, albeit inaudible to me. I heard clattering footsteps growing closer behind me, and I quickly realized what was approaching. Someone grabbed me from behind, locking me in place.

    “You need to calm down, man!” The drone barked.

    I squirmed free from his grip and firmly swung my foot in between his legs. The puppet grabbed his crotch and sunk to the ground in defeat, letting out an unintelligible groan.

    I couldn’t believe it – I was actually putting up a fight.

    Adrenaline began rushing through my veins as my heart pumped hot blood. “You’re going to have to do better than that, Utter-Guru!” I screamed into the air.

    I turned around and bolted back into the grocery store. The cool breeze of air-conditioning and the aroma of assorted fruit made me pause for a moment. As I was regaining my energy, my eyes spotted another man to my right. He was looking at me, and it appeared that he was only purchasing a bottle of vegetable oil.

    But I couldn’t be fooled that easily.

    The man had the same twisted expression as the woman I had just encountered, and I let a chuckle clip past my lips. The minion’s eyes grew wider upon my realization, and he took a step back in fear.
    I quickly socked him in the nose before he could escape, impressed with my precision. The man’s body dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes, and the bottle of oil he was holding was sent flying through the air.

    “You’re not going to fool me, Guru!” I screeched again.

    I broke into another sprint and maneuvered throughout the aisles, dodging soda-stands and fruit pyramids. With every stride I could feel my muscles pulse with anticipation and my heart pound against my sternum.

    I’ll show him. If I’m gonna die, I might as well screw him over as much as possible.

    And then I saw it. Next to the freezer aisle, stood a horizontal refrigeration unit. Sitting innocently within it were dozens of cartons of holy dairy. I could feel the chilling frost emanating from the unit ten feet away.

    A drop of drool trickled off my chin and I leaped towards the dairy. My hands hastily clutched two cartons, ripping the seals off of the tops. As the white fluid exploded from the container, I wasted no time in bringing it to my lips and I began chugging. I drank the liquid with so much ferocity it felt as if I was drowning. As I was about to finish the cartons of milk, I felt something grab my collar. My reflexes failed me as I was thrown backwards.

    My back met the hard tiles with so much force that I heard an unhealthy crack resonate from my spine. The hanging lights became spinning stars, and my brain was beating like a drum. I was expecting to pass out, but an electrifying voice shocked me to consciousness.

    “How DARE you?” The voice demanded. It was a powerful, yet high-pitched tone that sounded more intimidating than one would imagine.

    My eyes were starting to roll backwards but I forced myself to stay awake. Using what little strength my pitiful body had left, I propped myself onto my elbow and examined the figure.

    It was him.

    It was the Divine Utter-Guru. He was identical to how I remembered him ten years ago, at the time he reached out to me. His long, rugged beard was as grey as the moon, and his eyes were a horrifying, shade of red. What was most intimidating about him, however, lied in his abdominal region. Instead of a stomach and a belly button, the Guru had a massive, six-pronged utter. My milk began rushing back up my esophagus.

    “I gave you a chance!” The Guru exclaimed, gesturing with his hooved-arm. “I gave this entire world a chance!” He took another step, and the expression of rage in his eyes transformed into cold, disappointment. “But you humans couldn’t resist, and you enslaved my children in wooden barns and milking stations!”

    I grunted as my spine pulsed in agony. “How could you put such a delicious beverage on this planet and expect humans not to drink it?” My voice came out shakier than I had hoped.

    His head jerked towards me, and I could recognize the scowl glued to his face. “It wasn’t for you! And I didn’t even make it to be delicious!”

    Wait…what? He didn’t even know it tasted good?

    “Wait,” I started, “you’ve never even tasted milk?”

    The Utter-Guru’s beard fluttered in the breeze of air-conditioning. “Of course not! It’s forbidden for me to consume my creation!”

    I clutched the carton in my right hand. There was still a decent amount of milk in it.

    “But anyway!” The Guru stomped his hooved-foot. “If you people like it so much, soon, you’ll drown in it! Literally!” He swung his hooved-hands maniacally in the air. “Mwahahahahahah!”

    There was probably a 1% chance this would work, but hey, it was now or never.

    I utilized the Utter-Guru’s deranged laugh session as an opening, and swiftly jumped to my feet. My back stung in disagreement and my head ached, but I continued forward, sprinting as fast as I could. I cocked my fist backwards, the Guru just now taking notice of my actions. His scarlet eyes met mine only moments before, but were empty and unknowing as I delivered a powerful jab to his utter.

    The Guru doubled-over, jaw dropped in disbelief. He let out an agonizing “MOOOOOOOO!”

    I wasted no time. My right hand, grasping the carton firmly, shoved it into his mouth. I watched as the holy dairy flowed past his teeth, while some missed their mark and trickled to the tiles below. I quickly jumped back with caution, unaware of the consequences my actions would ensue. However the situation may turn out, I took solace in the fact that it couldn’t get any worse than the entire planet being destroyed in a milky flood.

    The Divine Utter-Guru fell to his knees and clutched his stomach. “You bipedal halfwit!” he barked at me. As he choked, blood painfully erupted from his mouth and splattered onto the floor, although it wasn’t the color it was supposed to be. Instead of crimson red, the Guru’s blood took on a brownish hue.

    Was that… chocolate milk?

    “Do you know what this means?” He screamed, collapsed on his back. “The death of me means the death of the holy dairy!”

    I watched with disgust as his utter began bloating, followed by his limbs and chest, and I knew what was about to happen. I shifted around, bearing the pain of my aching back and the throbbing of my cranium, and took a step forward.

    “Come…back…here!” The Guru screeched from behind.

    I took another step and continued walking at a steady pace. I almost tripped over a fallen orange, but my leg maneuvered around the debris and forged on. The screaming from behind me became more and more intense, and I slipped my right hand into my pocket. I slowly slid my black sunglasses from the fabric and wrapped by fingers around it.

    Moments later, the Utter-Guru let out his final scream, “MOOOO YOU!” and I casually unfolded my sunglasses, wearing them comfortably as they rested on the bridge of my nose and ears. Then, the Guru finally burst behind me, creating an explosion that thundered throughout the cramped aisles of the grocery story. I could feel chocolate milk splattering against my back and staining my jacket forever, but I didn’t look back. Because after all, cool guys don’t look at explosions.

    And I was definitely cool – I had saved the world.

    But I knew. I knew that it wasn’t completely over. Disciples of the Divine Utter-Guru still existed out there somewhere, and who knew how many more people like me he had blackmailed under his demonic influence? But, I digress, that is a story for another day. As for this one, well, there’s only one thing left to say:

    All’s milk that ends milk.
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

    …what did I just write?

  8. Vickih

    I walk into the grocery store with my game plan firmly in mind. Steak. A nice juicy steak, Porterhouse perhaps, cooked to a perfect medium-rare and served with baked potato and creamed spinach. My mouth was already watering at the thought of the dinner I would enjoy later that evening.

    I head first to the produce section for my spinach. I stop in my tracks suddenly. Instead of brightly colored vegetables, I find row after row of refrigerated cases filled to the brim with different types of hamburger. Eighty-twenty, extra lean, course ground—you name it.

    I turn and head to the other side of the store, telling myself that management must have decided to rearrange the stock. Very irritating indeed. Why couldn’t they just leave well enough alone?
    I turn down the last aisle and run smack-dab into a man wearing a white butcher’s apron and hat. A name tag identifies the man as Angus.

    “I’ve been waiting for you, Mr. Kimble. Step this way. I’ve got your T-bone, New York Strip, and Filet Mignon. I’ve even got your Ribeye, Sirloin, and Porterhouse,” says Angus as he gestures to display cases containing every conceivable cut of beef.

    I select my Porterhouse, which Angus carefully wraps in white paper. I decide to look elsewhere for my produce and head to the checkout stand where I am greeted by a smiling clerk named Bessie.

    Bessie hands me my change and tells me to have a “moovalous” day. Odd—but maybe she isn’t from around here. I take the sack containing my purchase and head toward the sliding doors of the exit.

    Whoosh! Some idiot on a bicycle nearly knocks me to the ground.

    “Sorry, Mr. Kimble. I didn’t see your there!” exclaimed the driver.

    I squint in the bright mid-afternoon sun. Could it be? No. There had to be a rational explanation. Note to self—get your eyes examined.

    Whoosh! Two more bicycles speed past me. The riders exchange pleasantries.

    “Good afternoon, Mr. Hereford.”

    “How do you do, Mrs. Holstein?”

    “Very well, thank you.”

    I rub my eyes in disbelief. The voices were coming from two cows. One black with white spots and the other brown with a white face.

    As my eyes adjust to the bright light, I realize that the streets are filled, not with cars, but with cows riding all manner of bicycles. Regular bicycles, tandem bicycles, unicycles, and even the old-fashioned kind with the extra-large wheel in front—all powered by cows. Horned cows, cows wearing floppy hats, cows with bells—they were everywhere.

    “It’s 6:30 on a Monday morning. It’s going to be another hot one in the metro area,” came a disembodied voice.

    My hand reaches out to silence the alarm clock, and I roll over in bed to face my wife.

    “Honey, the next time I decide to enter a contest to see if I can eat a 72-ounce steak in an hour, remind me that it isn’t a good idea.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I enjoyed the meat-filled tale through the unconscious.I wouldn’t try that on a bet. I’ve seen what a six pound steak looks like, maybe my skinny brother could have done it in his prime. I outweighed him by thirty pounds and he ate twice what I did, go figure.

    1. Reaper

      I have said before and will probably again. I’m not a huge fan of it was all a dream stories. I like dreams as a story or as a piece of a story that reveals, but overall this is not my kind of tale. With that said, this is not about my comfort level but just an explanation of why this may seem overly critical. Some prompts seem to scream for this kind of telling. This is well written and flows very nicely. You did telegraph it a bit with the surrealism and I was waiting for more of that throughout. You actually kept it pretty tame as far as a dream goes and I was kind of impressed by that. The writing is really good here.

  9. Kerry Charlton

    BEEF ON SCHWINNS

    “Good morning folks this is Clem Kadiddlehopper, reporting today for station KRUD in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It’s time again for the annual bovine festival of the Blue Ridge and the annual cow bicycle race. And all the lovely ladies are here to participate. We have a guest rider today and he’s here with me. Would you like to talk to our audience Mr. Wall Street Bull?”

    “No, no.”

    “Oh come on, it’s only a parade.”

    “All right, it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault.”

    “Thank you sir. And the race is about to start, but I have two of the lovely ladies with me, how about it, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow.”

    “It’s not my fault, it’s not my fault.”

    “Hmm, thank you, how about you Babe the Blue Ox?

    “Thank you, I would like to say Paul Bunyan was too big for me.”

    “Excuse me, that’s not appropriate here.”

    “It would be if you hurt like I do.”

    “Ahemm, the race is about to start. I see Maudine Ormsby the cow elected as the home coming queen at Ohio State in 1926 and she‘s wearing her prom dress from the victory dance . I must say you look great for your age Maudine, anything you‘d like to say?”

    “Where am I, where am I?”.

    “And they’re off folks, on their modified Schwinns. It’s a punishing ride through the Smokey mountains and if you think these ladies will have a hard time negotiating the 15 degree hills, can you imagine what the Schwinns face? Fourteen hundred pounds of beef and muscle on balloon tires?”

    “There goes the starting whistle and I’ll get back to you at mid race break for more interviews. Don’t touch the dial, for the tunes are about to start. We lead off with Hawkshaw Hawkins classic, ’I Almost Jumped The fence’ and than onto ’Hey Good Lookin’ by Hank Williams.”

    —————————————————————

    I’m back folks at the halfway break, unfortunately there’s been a tragic accident. Pauline Wayne, President Taft’s milk cow at the Whitehouse, fell off her bike because of her age, rolled down a grass filled hill and took three trees with her as she stumbled down the mountain. She okay in cow heaven now and lookin’ down on the race to see who wins.”

    “I have with me, the leader at half time, Yvonne the dairy cow who evaded capture in Germany last year for three months. On the lam that long, she’s lean and mean, and want’s to say hello”

    “German cows are faster, sleeker and meaner, I’m goona whip these bovines.”

    “That the spirit Yvonne, you sound like you been stepping in it.. There goes the whistle, be back at the finish line. Now listen to Earnest Tubb’s new hit, ’Walking The Floor Over You.‘”

    ————————————————

    “Now the finish was spellbinding watching the cows hoof up the last hundred yards. We have a new winner, first time she’s entered this race, the most legendary cow in history. I introduce you to The Cow That Jumped Over The Moon. We’re all proud of you and await your comments.”

    MOOOOOO! “That Was One Great Leap For Bovines!”

    . .

    ………………………………………………………

      1. Kerry Charlton

        It was a blast to write, Susan. I’m happy you enjoyed it. This is as ridiculous as I get, or maybe not, let’s see what the next prompt looks like. If Disney can waltz and pirouette hippo’s I can also.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reatha. I wish you could see the album cover of “I Almost Jumped The Fence’. I’m going to try to find somewhere on the internet although I have it memorized in my mind.

    1. Reaper

      So, I have noticed this trend. When you get really silly I know there is going to be a strong lesson in it. Chock full of commentary on so many different things this is beautiful in a way that is both funny and free in a way I don’t always see you let yourself be.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reaper. Waituntil I get old, then I promis you will see the ‘free me’ if I’m still able to type. Tomorrow is the first of September, get ready to launch.

  10. Observer Tim

    VODIMORPHS

    I stare at the spectacle before me in utter disbelief; a part of me thinks ‘udder’ disbelief but I quash it.

    “You have got to be kidding.”

    Sooki chews her lower lip. “I don’t know, Chief. The brochure says vodimorphs can be trained to do a number of tasks.”

    “It also says if you squeeze their breasts you can get milk from them. Fresh is one thing, but I don’t drink straight from the cow, especially not if she’s a member of my crew. Tanni, on the other hand, would be too busy sucking to fly the ship.”

    Sooki laughs. She’s been pretty morose since Rissa’s death, especially since they were best friends. Unfortunately, as captain I have to bury my grief and think of my ship first. That’s why we’re here at the slave market.

    A man with a predatory smile oozes up and stands too close to me.

    “Good morning, Miss…?”

    Captain Stefani Danger. I’m a bit confused by your demonstration. Why do you have your cow-people riding bicycles?”

    “It shows off both their strength and their agility. A vodimorph is strong, graceful, and of an even temperament. And unlike other morph species you can even breed the females.”

    “With other vodimorphs, I assume.”

    “Or with humans if you prefer. Of course the offspring will be sterile, but it allows a single vodimorph to assist in many ways.”

    “And allows multiple generations of slaves, which is against the law.”

    “They are not slaves, Miss Danger; they are livestock. That’s what Imperial law says about all morphs. Otherwise it would also be illegal to eat the offspring.”

    “EAT THEM?”

    “Yes, they’re an excellent source of protein and are unable to contract or transmit any human disea… urk!”

    I lift him to tiptoes by his lapels. “You are talking about eating sentient creatures?”

    “Ah, you’re one of those.” He pushes away from me. “It’s all perfectly legal, Captain. If you can’t live in this century it’s your problem, not Morphco’s.”

    Sooki drags me away before I pull out my bolter. This guy desperately needs a 20-gram low-velocity slug in the head, but it wouldn’t be worth the legal hassle. I’m about to turn back and do it anyway when she pulls my face down and kisses me.

    “What’s that about, Sooki? I thought Tanni was the only one into girls.”

    “Tanni’s into anything breathing. I just did it to get your attention. Focus, Chief; we need a new navigator. This is not the time for a crusade.”

    I sigh. “You’re right. I can’t solve all the galaxy’s ills in one day, can I? Well, back to business. My online search showed an eleven-year old human Coreworlder with her Level One Navigator certification, name of ‘Enna’. Let’s see if she’s still available for purchase.”

    1. snuzcook

      What a treat to read a little more Stefani Danger this a.m.! Perfect meld with prompt, to present some backstory to ‘My People.’ I look forward to a lot of stories featuring our fearless Captain and her crew!

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hey, OT!

      Sorry that I’ve been slacking off with commenting. It’s just been one of those weeks. 🙁

      Anyway! This was a great prequel to your “My People” story. It’s good to “see” these characters again. 😀

  11. snuzcook

    OLD ACQUAINTANCE

    It had been a long time since I’d seen Adams. I knew she would look different—we all change after fifteen years, and her current affiliations required some…modifications. But I wasn’t prepared for this.

    My squad had just established a temporary headquarters in the general store of an agricultural settlement. I stepped out of the building into the wide, dirt main street, and was nearly knocked down by what appeared to be a large bovine balanced upon a cross between an old fashioned Earth bicycle and a hover board. The cow seemed to laugh and toss her head as I quickly stepped back. The street was immediately flooded by about two hundred identical cows riding at breakneck speed toward the safety of the USM transportation hub at the edge of town.

    Like children learning to skim for the first time, the cows looked elated. Some had tongues lolling out, eyes wide with a mixture of terror and excitement. It was clear that this was a herd instinct gone madly, amazingly outside the lines of normalcy. The cows, far from being timid at the strangeness of it all, embraced the experience with unmistakable exuberance.

    “Commander?” Stephens materialized at my shoulder. He was very goal oriented, and appeared unimpressed by the sight of cows on wheels. “We’ve located the target’s signal. But we have a problem.”

    “Continue.”

    “We’re picking up multiple signals. Dozens of signals. And they are all identical. I don’t know how we can locate and secure our target within the allowed time and the available manpower.”

    “Location?”

    “They’re all out there. The signals are coming from the cows.”

    “Explanation?”

    “We think the target is disguised as a cow, in an attempt to elude detection.”

    “Reasonable assumption.”

    “We were wondering, sir…”

    “Yes?”

    “Well, I understand that you are…uh…intimately familiar with the target.”

    I glared at Stephens. He was treading on dangerous ground. It was common knowledge that Adams had once been my partner before defecting during a deep cover assignment, but it was pure speculation that our relationship was anything but professional.

    “And?”

    “Is it possible that you can recognize her, somehow be able to point out an anomaly to narrow the candidates?”

    I made a show of sweeping my eyes across the mooing, kicking, lolling river of cattle. Of course I had spotted Adams the minute I stepped outside. There was no mistaking the twinkle in her eye, the whimsy in the way she tossed her head, the playful flick of her tail. She could have been disguised as an Orellian stink blob and I would have recognized her.

    Stephens’ posture was shouting at me to give him some direction, eager to dash into a directed chase. He reminded me of a blue heeler named Glitch that I had once known years and years ago on my uncle’s ranch on Earth.

    “How much time do we have?”

    “Not more than a dozen ticks. We have time to detain the cows before they reach the neutral zone, but not enough time to scan them individually.”

    “You might check out that one with the lazy eye on the blue skimmer over there. It’s not kicking the way a cow might, and the proportions are off. Notice how its flank is quivering? Does that look like a dissonance in a cloaking continuum to you?”

    “I’m on it, sir. Thank you, sir!”

    The cow in question was quickly cut out of the herd by my small landing party. They moved in and blinked it directly to the small detention hold on our ship. I allowed myself a glance toward the bizarre collection of cows on wheels disappearing through the gates of the Interplanetary and Interstellar Hub and into the protection of the Unaffiliated Systems Mandate.

    I imagined Adams’ chuckle whenever she was getting away with something, and I saw the lead cow’s tail lift and drop a fat flop on the road. She was entitled to a parting statement—she’d won this time. But I knew my superiors would not rest until she was captured. It was only a matter of time.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Love conguers all Snuz, kind of romantic in a good way. Maybe, leaves an opening for another chapter. Descriptions of the event had just the right amount of detail and reflects your magic touch to every story.

        1. snuzcook

          Thanks, Kerry! What could be more romantic than a lowing herd of cows? BTW I have decided that if I get a new pet, I will have to name it ‘Glitch’. In reality, it wouldn’t be a very good ranch dog’s name. A dog that lives untethered in the wide open spaces has to have a name with a profound vowel in it, so when you call it can be heard a long way off!

          1. Kerry Charlton

            I had a Samoyed and named her Annastasia. A long time ago but the children called her’Anna Banana’.

    1. cosi van tutte

      Hey, snuz!

      This was a very enjoyable take on the prompt. There were a lot of good lines in it, but I loved this whole paragraph:

      “Like children learning to skim for the first time, the cows looked elated. Some had tongues lolling out, eyes wide with a mixture of terror and excitement. It was clear that this was a herd instinct gone madly, amazingly outside the lines of normalcy. The cows, far from being timid at the strangeness of it all, embraced the experience with unmistakable exuberance.” 😀

  12. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    I figured since I wrote for the light side on this prompt, why not the dark, too? I hope you enjoy this one.

    Come All Those Who Fear

    Xyra knew how silly it was to think about cows riding on bicycles, but that was the point. If she didn’t, she knew she’d end up like her childhood friend. Dead.

    In 2008, on a night that marked the moment Xyra’s life changed forever, she and Allie were having a sleep over. After they’d finished getting a good laugh from Allie’s sassy mother, comparing stories about how much of a bitch Lila was, and scarfing the best damn cupcakes they ever tasted, they capped the night off with a horror movie marathon. During the last film, they’d both passed out.

    While the credits rolled, Xyra woke and saw that Allie was missing. She rubbed the blur from her eyes with her knuckles, and went to look for her friend. When she found Allie, the girl was in her bedroom, pressed against the wall, and staring at the closet. Her cheeks had streams of tears running down them trailed by black mascara. That’s when the door to the closet opened. A shadowy creature shadow came through the opening, and it took Allie while Xyra remained frozen in fear.

    For the next three nights, Xyra sat in her room terrified that the shadow monster would come after her next. She saw it everywhere. In reflection… in shadows… everywhere she went. Then finally, on the fourth night, it came.

    The bathroom door opened, slowly creaking until she could fully see the sooty blackness inside. Then a dark purple light radiated from the center of the mirror. The surface became a metallic liquid, on which calm waves rippled.

    First, she saw the claw. The skin was black as tar, and the soft light glistened from it as if it had thousands of tiny amethyst embedded in it. As it revealed more of itself, black rags hung like flesh from its arm. Eventually, the whole wraith floated into her room, suspended by some preternatural force unknown to this world.

    Xyra’s heart thumped and slapped in her chest. A cold sweat broke across her body, and she scurried across the bed fighting the tangled blanket. When she met the wall, she wanted to scream, but nothing but a wheeze escaped her. The creature approached her bed, and she buried her hands into her face, resigning her fate to this monster from hell.

    That’s when the unthinkable happened. She started to think about cows riding bicycles. When she was barely six years old, her mother told her to think about them whenever she was terrified of something. It wasn’t so much the image but her mother’s strength relayed within those silly thoughts. That’s what calmed her fear and made the reaper go away.

    Since that night, Xyra always knew how to survive the constant attacks. There was little she could do about the fear. Talking to people about it was impossible because they’d only make her out to be some kind of crazy person. Therefore, she spent years suffering this horror alone. Now, it was time to let them have her. She couldn’t fight it anymore. Not at 20, and definitely not the rest of her life.

    When he parents went to bed, she placed a chair in front of the bathroom door. She could have picked any place in the house, really, but she wanted the one place she’d been afraid of since Allie disappeared. It was the only way to make sure she had enough fear to draw them out and make them come to her.

    Xyra sat down on the chair, and it chirped against the wood floor. She closed her eyes and took in a deep lasting breath. Even though she was terrified, it was the first time in her life she finally felt at peace. No longer was she going to be a prisoner, and though death was near, she couldn’t help but also feel happiness.

    As the thoughts of the cows riding bicycles faded from her mind, the door began to creak open. Soon, the purple light returned. A moment later, the black monster that tormented her for years appeared. It held its claws out toward her, floating ever closer with each passing second. She slammed her eyes shut as it grasped her shoulders, and upon contact, she felt her skin burn as if she was on fire. She growled a scream as the world around her felt like a vacuum. Wind whipped and pushed and pulled. Everything stopped when the creature pressed her against a wall.

    This is it, she thought, this is the moment I die.

    Although she didn’t want to open her eyes, she couldn’t help it. The imperfections of humanity brought many wars and killed many people, but nothing was as dangerous as curiosity.

    The room seemed covered in the same fleshy substance that hung from the reaper. Purple light emanated from pulsating pustules on the rubbery looking floor.

    Suddenly, her curiosity ended when she looked directly in front of her. Against the wall was a woman. She was mostly nude, only scraps of very small clothes clung tightly to her. Her black matted hair coiled on the floor like snakes, and her pale skin appeared to have never seen sunlight before. She stared at Xyra, but she appeared to be blind because her eyes were milky, red, and caked with some kind of slime. She had strange sores all over her body, but most of them were on her stomach and chest.

    Xyra dropped her eyes to look away from this emaciated woman, and something on the floor caught her attention. Tangled in the clump of hair on the floor was a small bow. Though the purple light drained much of the color from the room, she could tell the bow had different shades to it.

    Xyra looked up and gazed at the woman’s face. The gaunt skin made it difficult, but she recognized her. Well, when she knew her, she wasn’t a woman at all. She was just a scared little girl moments from being kidnapped by these frightening creatures.

    “Allie?” Xyra said, and the woman twitched.

    Allie tried to say something, but nothing more than raspy pops escaped her lips.

    Tears blurred Xyra’s vision. “My God, Allie. You were alive this whole time?”

    Allie answered her with a sickly moan of air. She’d probably lost her voice years ago, and as a result, lost her only way of communication.

    Xyra meant to ask her something else, but a sickly sound immediately interrupted her. Allie produced an airy moan of terror as black tendrils appeared from the nearby walls and snaked toward Allie’s body. Xyra realized the sores weren’t sores at all when they entered her body through them. Xyra saw them snake under Allie’s skin, to what end she didn’t know.

    “Stop it!” Xyra cried, hot tears leaping off her chin. “Leave her alone!”

    The tendrils pulsed as lumps of whatever it consumed traveled through them and into the walls. Allie continued to moan for a bit longer, but then she took one long deep breath and went limp. She wasn’t dead, of that Xyra was certain. No, she had merely given in to her fate. After all these years, she could only muster a moment of protest while they ate her.

    “Damn it! I said leave her alone!” Xyra screamed, and suddenly fell from the wall.

    She looked at her wrists, and bruises ringed them where the wall held her. She didn’t know why they let her go, but she suspected it must have had something to do with her anger. Her father once told her that the only thing more powerful than fear is anger. Even if this place and these monsters terrified her, she was far more acrimonious that they’d been doing dark things to Allie all these years.

    She rushed across the room, and pulled on the tendrils. Allie croaked in pain until Xyra stopped. The roots seemed to bury themselves deep, and maybe they wrapped around something. Xyra studied Allie with the hope she might find another way to free her, but she realized Allie was no longer a single thing. Her arms and legs faded into the wall. Allie’s flesh and the flesh on the wall had become one. The same with the flesh that once rested against the wall had now become part of it.

    “How do I get you down?” Xyra asked, wishing Allie could answer her, and in that moment, she did. Xyra detected a faint nod, it was a slight shake, but it spoke more words than could ever be said. She wanted Xyra to leave her alone. There was no hope for her. “I can’t just leave you here.”

    Allie didn’t nod again. Probably she didn’t have the strength left to do so.

    Xyra cried, “I have to do something!”

    She pulled hard on one of the tendrils again, and it broke free, but it opened a large wound on Allie. Black blood dripped from her body, and she moaned. Allie was right; there was nothing Xyra could do. Well, nothing to save her.

    “I’m so sorry, Allie,” Xyra said, as she wrapped her hands around Allie’s neck. Her friend didn’t struggle much, though she could feel the ever so subtle gasps for air. Even after the soft sound of Allie’s last breath escaped her, Xyra kept her hands there until her arms went tired. She wanted to make sure Allie was dead.

    When she finally let go, the tendrils aggressively returned to the walls as if angered by what Xyra had done.

    How the fuck do I stop them, she wondered, fighting her grief over her old friend.

    She looked around the room to find some way of moving about the structure, but there was only a reflective spot on the wall between the area where it held Allie and Xyra. She pressed her hand against it, and it felt softer than the rest of the flesh. After taking a deep breath, she used her nails to dig into it, and the fleshy substance broke free with ease. She ripped and tore and pushed her way through it until she stepped into her bedroom. Except, it wasn’t her room. It was dark with a prominent and surreal blue hue.

    “What is this place?”

    She walked to the bed, and examined it. The floral design was definitely the one she’d bought. She touched it to see if it was real, and it was icy, transferring a strange chill to her body. She quickly backed away from it, and a light winked on to her right. Startled, she looked over and saw that the bathroom mirror was a window to a colorful version of her room.

    She slowly walked toward it, and she saw herself move across the room. The other Xyra changed into pajamas, and put on a pair of headphones. This Xyra couldn’t hear what was playing on them, but she knew. It was Tchaikovsky’s Waltz, the only song that helped her fully imagine the cows riding bicycles. However, she couldn’t understand what she was seeing. If she was in this other world, this other place of dark creatures, how was she also there?

    She tried to put her hand on the glass, but it went right through. When she brought her hand back, Xyra heard a strange ululation come from behind her. Out of a shadow in the corner of the blue room, one of the creatures appeared. Then two more. She moved toward the mirror, and when she couldn’t go any further, she turned around. They continued their advance but seemed more interested in the other Xyra than they were with her.

    As they drew closer and closer, she knew for sure they planned to escape that place and attack the other her. She needed to stop them, so she picked up a snow globe her father had given her to try to cheer her up after Allie disappeared, and used it to smash the mirror.

    The shatter was loud as if she had shattered sound itself. It echoed and clattered as the glass fell to the floor. The wicked ululations of the monsters became even more frenzied, and suddenly they rushed through the blackness that existed behind the mirror she broke. Dozens of them went through before the shards of broken mirror returned to their place, and the remaining creatures backed off.

    She watched the creatures swirl over the other Xyra, and she ran to the mirror. She tried to exit back into her world to warn herself, but the mirror denied her. No longer did it offer her the ability to exit that shadowy world. The cloud of creatures eventually left her room through the window, and escaped into the world.

    “What have I done?” she said, as she realized she let loose true evil.

    1. snuzcook

      What a terrifying nightmare ride, Doc. I love the way you use color to communicate lifelessness or other-life. I didn’t see the end coming, and for me it was very satisfying to ground your story in a familiar ancient archetype.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Well, I’m happy to report you haven’t lost your ability to go really, really dark after your other story. I liked that you used the prompt as you did.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Well Doc, you ‘ve got me trembling again. I don’t want to read and I have to read you. I loved the structure of your story and one again you prove a great storyteller. Battling evil sometimes provides more evil, you pointed that out well. I need to go downstairs and fix some breakfast. Miss Kitty, my twenty pound calice, sleeps on my partner’s desk each morning, so I have no fear surrounding me, she can handle it if need be. One thing I’ve learned from her, beauty hides a fierce spirit.

  13. Craig the Editor

    Bovines on Bicycles

    Larry patiently waited in line while the young tattooed, gum chewing clerk tried to explain to the woman ahead of him why her expired coupon was invalid. It had been an uneventful day, which was what he preferred,after being trapped in a lead mine for the past week.

    As the two women bickered back and forth he glanced out into the parking lot. It was there that he made his first sighting. At first he doubted himself. After all it isn’t every day that you saw a Holstein on a Husky. Had it just been one cow he probably could have lived with it, He could have written it off as a bizarre pet trick. But then a whole herd pedaled by furiously as though they were getting ready for the Tour de France.

    “Did you see that?”he asked incredulously

    “What? See what?”asked Mrs. Trundle. “I didn’t see anything . I am trying to to get thirty cents off this dishwasher soap.”

    “There was a whole herd of cows riding bicycles that just passed in front of the window!”

    “I don’t see any reason to shout. So there are cows on bicycles, it’s hardly front page news.”

    “Yeah, like lighten up, man.If the cows want to ride bicycles, I say let’em! Who’s it hurting?”

    “But cows don’t ride bicycles!”

    “Maybe nobody gave them a chance?”suggested the clerk rattling her bracelets.

    “Like I am not getting a chance to use this coupon.”injected Mrs..Trundle

    “You had your chance. It expired three months ago.”

    “So Ron always lets me use my coupons.”

    “Lady, do I look like Ron? Your coupon has expired. Just pay the thirty cents. It’s not like you could buy a condo with it.”

    “But it’s anatomically impossible for a cow to ride a bicycle! It can’t be done!”

    “Just because it can’t be done doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.”huffed the older woman,

    “That doesn’t make any sense!”

    “Makes sense to me.”

    “You’re a grocery clerk arguing over thirty cents!.! How much sense do you have?”

    “Well, she’s not getting my thirty cents!”

    “Forget the thirty cents! I will pay the additional thirty cents. Will someone just please tell me why the cows are riding bicycles and for that matter why am I the only one who seems to think this is odd?”

    “I am sure the cows are riding bicycles for the same reason people ride bicycles. It’s good exercise, fresh air,, they need to get somewhere, it’s fun!, etc,etc.”

    A feeling of panic began to sweep over him. His heart started racing and perspiration ran down his face in little streams.

    “But why am I the only one who thinks this is weird?”

    “Geez,where have you been? I thought everyone knew.”

    “Knew what?! I was trapped in a lead mine….it’s a long story.”

    “That teenage aliens invaded earth, and rather than trying to conquer us with superior technology, they convinced cows to ride bicycles, sheep to drive and of course pigs to fly.. The authorities think it’s like a galactic practical joke and the best thing is just to ignore it.”

  14. Katia.Snow

    Bicycling Bovines

    One day, I wanted to get some ice cream. It was in the middle of July, and the temperature reached 32 degrees Celsius. I promised my mom I would be back in time for dinner and started to walk to the grocery store. It wasn’t long before I saw mirages on the road. I made it to the grocery store and let out a quiet sigh of relief, as I was glad to be out of the heat. I made a beeline for the refrigerators, where I spotted my favourite flavour of ice cream: strawberry. I quickly took a couple of cones and bought them. Mr. Pawne, the elderly grocer, smiled at me kindly.
    “Hello, Katherine,” he said. “Rather hot today, eh?”
    “Yes, it is,” I agreed. ‘Just a boring humid day,’ I thought to myself.
    “Now, it isn’t as boring as it seems,” Mr. Pawne said. I gave a start.
    “You…how…what?,” I spluttered. “You just…read my mind!”
    “Hush,” Mr. Pawne said quietly. “I promise you that today will be a day to remember.”
    I was still not quite over the fact that Mr. Pawne had read my mind, and I stood gaping at him like an idiot. Mr. Pawne winked at me and gave me my change. I took it uncertainly.
    “How did you read my mind?,” I asked.
    “Oh, all magicians learn to read minds,” Mr. Pawne explained as if it was very ordinary. I decided that Mr. Pawne had finally lost his mind, so I thanked him and exited the grocery store. My phone buzzed; a text from my mom asking me to come home early. I took two steps and a bicycle whizzed by me. Had I taken another step I would’ve been decapitated. Okay, maybe not decapitated, but I would have gotten hurt.
    “Hey!,” I yelled at the biker angrily. “Watch where you’re…”
    I faltered when I saw who was riding the bike. It was a cow. I rubbed my eyes and blinked rapidly. Maybe the heat was making me hallucinate. But no, there really was a cow riding a bicycle. I heard a bicycle horn sound behind me and I jumped out of the way before another cow could try to kill me. To my horror, there was a whole army of cows riding their bicycles. At the same moment, Mr. and Mrs. Flaherty came out of the grocery store.
    “Why hello, Katherine,” Mrs. Flaherty said cheerfully. “How are you?”
    “I’m…,” I began. Another cow drove by. “Do you…see the cows?”
    “Of course, dear,” Mrs. Flaherty said. I looked at her expectantly. Mrs. Flaherty was known for taking charge in crisis, so I was waiting for her to start barking orders to everyone. Strangely, she seemed to be treating this whole situation like it was normal. The couple started walking towards their car, passing by cows as if they were regular civilians. I spotted my best friend Ella walking on the other side of the street. I waved her over.
    “Ella, please tell me you see these cows,” I pleaded as I handed her an ice cream cone.
    “Of course I see them,” Ella replied.
    “And you don’t find it weird?,” I demanded. Ella slowly shook her head and regarded me as if I was the crazy one.
    “I have to go,” she said. “See you around.”
    I watched her leave. She waved to one of the cows as she went. My mouth dropped open when I thought back to my conversation with Mr. Pawne mere minutes ago. I turned around and walked back into the grocery store. Mr. Pawne was looking at me with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. Slowly, my mouth curved into a smile.
    “So,” I said. “What were you saying about magicians?”

    1. snuzcook

      Fun story, Katia. A great illustration that when we suggest to the Universe that life is just a little too boring, something very exceptional is about to happen.

    2. Vickih

      Charming story. Mr. Pawne made me think of my uncle. He was quite the mischievous character. His twinkling blue eyes were always a giveaway that he was up to something.

  15. ShamelessHack

    It was Friday.

    Mackenzie “Mac” MacDonald, the octogenarian agricultural worker, stood in the door of the grocery store, and stared out onto the street.

    They’ve actually done it, he said to himself bitterly. Yes, the last of them are on the move…

    It had begun on Monday, when the pigs stormed Mac’s main house. The lead pig of the farm, Morris, commandeered Mac’s pickup truck, and it was less than a minute before twenty squealing porkers had jammed themselves into the flatbed, heading out across the field. Morris had propped his porcine body on the driver seat behind the wheel, wearing a Che Guevara hat. The newly freed pigs’ oinks could be heard for miles.

    On Tuesday, the chickens staged a revolution. Courtney and Bluebell, the two smartest and boldest in the coop, quickly backed the two tractors out of the shed, and fifty pullets climbed aboard. The convoy of leghorns loudly cluck-clucked its way freedom as the tractor made its getaway through the spring corn.

    Wednesday came, and Mac was woken before dawn when Shary, queen of the sheep, knocked down his bedroom door and grabbed the keys to the Pontiac with her teeth. Minutes later Mac watched helplessly as his Bonneville took off down I-25 packed with elated, baa-ing merinos.

    Thursday it was the ducks’ turn. Dillard, the mallard freedom fighter, appeared at the kitchen door, flashing his Glock .45 in his right wing. He and the determined flock overpowered Mac’s wife, and stole her minivan. As the VW microbus careened down the hill, loud quacks of ecstasy could be heard a half mile away.

    And now it was Friday.

    Mac had taken one of his twenty-five old bicycles into town to stock up on beans and franks, and when he heard the loud, approaching chorus of moo’s outside the grocery store he stepped to the open door.

    His mind went back fifty years to the time before the farm, to the day he had lost his job as assistant warden in the Leavenworth facility.

    Then he thought of the last five horrifying days: with the oink-oinks here, and the cluck-clucks there; the baa-baas here and the quack-quacks there.

    And now on the street in front of him: the moo-moos. Here.

    Old MacDonald had another prison break on his hands.

    E-I-E-I-O.

    1. Reaper

      This was both funny, and terrifying while reminding me of a modern version of Animal Farm. Your writing is always good and this is a bit different for you but still exactly the high quality I have come to expect when I see your name.

  16. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

    “That’s me coming out of a grocery store.”

    “Where?”

    I scooted closer to her, so our heads were almost touching, and pointed out the biggest cloud. “Look. Arms, head, a big watermelon in my right hand.”

    She laughed. “And there’s a cow on a bicycle coming right at you.”

    The cloud she was talking about did look a bit like a hornless cow on a bicycle.

    “Can you imagine? You stroll out on the street hugging a watermelon and a bunch of cows ride by.” Her eyes radiated with madness when she looked at me.

    “That would be ridiculous.”

    A strong blast of wind whooshed over us, and she held her skirt down. “Why?”

    I watched the cow on a bicycle merge into my cloudy self. “Because it’s not normal.”

    “And you doing groceries is? I can’t even imagine you among potatoes and the ladies in their mid-forties.”

    She had a point. I wasn’t a shopping type. The sky was losing color; clouds moved faster across it. I’d lost track of time. We could have been lying like that on the grass our whole lives for all I knew.

    “I don’t want this day to end,” she said, as if she were reading my thoughts.

    The rib of her palm touched my fingers and I couldn’t resist the impulse of taking her hand. We watched the clouds for a few more minutes, both knowing we had to get up soon. Her skin was warm and soft, hardly the skin of a murderer. I turned to her, propping myself on my elbow and took her in. A tiny twenty-year-old creature, she could be a wartime nurse singing lullabies to dying soldiers and hugging a teddy-bear when she rocked herself to sleep.

    “Is it wrong if I want to kiss you?”

    Her lips melted into a smile. “I still have blood on my face.”

    “Why did you do it?” I couldn’t help wondering. Her angelic face didn’t bear a trace of malice.

    “There was no point in running. And you haven’t changed your number since high school.”

    “I don’t mean why you called me, I mean—”

    “One scar too many.”

    “You should have called me years ago.”

    She touched my cheek and leaned in to me. When our lips touched, I held my breath and wished I never breathed again. She let me go too quickly. “I should have called you before you left for college.” She got to her feet and put her wrists forward. I scrambled up off the grass, feeling my knees buckle.
    “Behind your back, not in front…”

    “Sorry, it’s my first time.” She turned around and put her arms behind herself. I clicked the handcuffs on her wrists and hugged her from behind.

    “I don’t want to do this,” I whispered into her disheveled hair.

    “You can’t live my life for me.” She freed herself of my embrace and headed for the police car, and I had to remind myself again that she’d never been mine.

    1. snuzcook

      I particularly enjoy the way you revealed, and revealed, and revealed a bit more. You kept the focus on the story you were telling, and let the reader fill in any other details as wanted–like who died. It doesn’t matter to the story you are telling and I love the way you create a frame and neat picture as much by what you don’t tell as what you do. Well done!

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I am total awe of your story, a perfect timing of reveal and clues. It reads like you wrote it so easily and yet it truly is abeautiful piece of work. My thought are of course, you have the gift, the rest of us work at it.

    2. Reaper

      Wow Lucretia. Somehow you managed to make a prompt I could not see many ways to do in a non-fantastical way very real and believable. Then you made it surreal in ways that still pulled that off. Excellent and very sweet and sad at the same time.

  17. jhowe

    I watched on the mountainous roadside among a throng of screaming fans as the leader approached. A longhorn panted as he stood on his pedals, yellow jersey unzipped, muzzle agape. Two other riders, both from Belgium trail after him, losing ground steadily. The peloton is close behind the Belgians and will soon overtake them. The longhorn though is pulling away from the pack. He crests the hilltop and begins his descent into the small town of Niscalle with just three kilometers to the finish. I pull out my cell phone and make a call. “Charlie, get on the horn with medical. I know this guy is testing negative, but something is definitely going on.”

    1. snuzcook

      Great vignette, Jhowe! Clever on so many levels. I confess, I hadn’t thought of Larson, but Shameless makes a great point–it is the perfect Far Side construct.

  18. Observer Tim

    Just a quick note; my story “My People” was accepted for the Horrified Press anthology “Fall of the Galactic Empire”. Now all that’s left is to wait for it to fill up. Here’s the teaser…

    Stefi Danger treats her crew more like a family than bondservants but what happens when the Empire shows up looking for specific slaves, one of whom happens to be her navigator?

      1. Observer Tim

        Go to horrifiedpress.wordpress.com/open-for-submissions/ for all the instructions and the list of open anthologies. They do a fair amount of horror, which is not really my style, and a number of classic SF tropes as well. Horrified is an “intro” style company, so (a) their standards are relatively easy and (b) the primary payment is “exposure” unless the book sells well.

        That said, it’s a great start!

  19. Observer Tim

    WORLD OF COWS

    Three steaks: sixty-five dollars. Extreme barbecue sauce: eight dollars. Jug of milk in case sauce is too extreme: three dollars. Barbecue on the balcony tonight with Gina and Sandy: priceless.

    My two-girl date night anticipation fantasy is interrupted when I walk out of the grocery store. Something’s wrong.

    Instead of a congested street filled with cars there are bicycles everywhere. And all the people have been replaced with cows. What the…?

    “Hey Putz! You gonna stand there all day? Move it!”

    The lady… uh, cow… behind me pushes me out of the way and walks past. This is just too weird. It’s got to be a dream or something. Good thing I’m still normal. Or am I?

    I look down and that’s when I realize I’m a cow, too. I’m an upright walking cow, just like everyone else. This is too freaky!

    Wait a minute! Aren’t all cows girls? I look down; I have udders. But aren’t udders really…? I reach down and give a squeeze. I’ve got tits! So much for my chances of getting laid tonight!

    There’s a sound from my grocery bag. I look in and my steaks are crying. And each has a tag with somebody’s face on it. A cow’s face. My God, I’m the freakin’ Hannibal Lecter of cows! NOOO!

    This has to be a dream! I have to wake up! Wake up, wake up, wake up, …

    Another voice joins mine, “Wake up! Wake up, Rex!”

    The world does some kind of freaky fade and dissolve around me. Stacy is jostling my shoulder and I’m lying on the couch. My head feels like a football at the end of the second quarter.

    “Wake up, Rex. I think you were having a bad dream.”

    “Oh yeah, the worst. I dreamed everybody was a cow and I was carrying steaks.”

    “You’re weird Rex. Speaking of steaks, did you pick them up?”

    “Yeah, they’re in the fridge marinating. When’s Gina get here?”

    “About an hour.”

    “You wanna…?”

    After dinner, Rex. You know nothing turns me on like a big juicy slice of meat.” Her tongue comes out and traces around her snout.

    “You are one sexy bitch, Sandy.”

    “And don’t you forget it. Now you better start getting cleaned up soon, but I need to use the hydrant first.”

    She sashays to the bathroom, her tail twitching seductively behind her. It makes my tail wag just watching; she’s the hottest Dalmatian in the city, and not just because she’ll run with a Husky guy like me.

    1. Chad J. O'Brien

      After seeing the MC wake up from a dream, it got me wondering. Tom wouldn’t end the story just like that. But then again, having a dream inside a dream would be too unoriginal. I read on. Plot twist. Awesome!

    2. snuzcook

      Too funny, Tim! I knew there had to be a second twist when you made it clear it was a dream story–well done! (of course, when I read the Hey Putz line, I heard ‘Mooooooove it!’ so you had me completely immersed at that point)

  20. Amyithist

    I’m staring at the sight in the Krueger parking lot. A cold chill works its way down my spine as my eyes shift from the bicycling cows to the patrons carrying on as though nothing is wrong. I feel the cart’s handle beneath my sweaty palm. I hear the iconic circus music playing on the loudspeaker overhead. Smiling faces. Kids with red and blue balloons. I’m trying to ground myself; focus on things I can see and hear…don’t the let the panic overtake you!

    This can’t be real! The mantra runs through my mind; louder and louder until it’s all I can hear. A woman behind me bumps me with her cart and I spin, an ugly collision of anger and surprise rushing over me. I’m suddenly shaking. The woman’s face is gaunt and stony. She has paper thin skin stretched over sharp, protruding bones and her wrinkled face is oddly framed by jagged pieces of greasy salt-and-pepper hair. She nudges me again and I pull my cart to the side of the entrance. “Excuse me,” I mutter.

    She huffs as she passes. Her shoes make an odd clip-clop sound as she bounces into the blinding sunlight. I gaze past the stone columns and dingy yellow curb. The cows are bicycling; weaving in and out of traffic; playing chicken with semi-trucks. Their eyes are black. Their hooves are thick and claw-like. They look evil and hell bent on death and destruction.

    I can’t move. My feet feel as though they’ve been superglued to the grimy grocery store carpet. I pull my hand from the cart and run it over my eyes. I’m dizzy. I feel disoriented and out of sorts. Something is wrong.

    “Ma’am?”

    I look up to see a young man with a Krueger’s tee shirt hanging from a skeletal frame. His face is a smattering of freckles and pimples alike and when he smiles at me, his teeth are crooked and in need of a good cleaning. I blink at him for a moment. “What’s going on out there?” I ask.

    His eyes slide from me toward the chaotic scene unfolding outside. I expect to see some sort of surprise or disbelief register somehow; maybe an O shaped mouth or eyebrows that suddenly touch his oily hairline or even better, a sudden faint. But he doesn’t react at all. He looks at ME as though I’ve lost it completely. “What do you mean, ma’am?”

    Frustrated, I make a dramatic gesture toward the crowded lot. “The cows? What the hell are they doing on bicycles? And why the hell do they look so damn evil?”

    Now the boy looks surprised. He looks out to the parking lot once more. So do I. And what I see now terrifies me to the very core of my being.

    There’s nothing. No cows. No circus music. Just families carting their purchased items to their awaiting vehicles. Old men bumbling toward the store with strained gaits. Cars lined in parking slots, baking under the hot summer sun. I grab for the cart, desperate to steady myself. I feel the pull of my innards as my vision dims and I realize I’m fainting. The last thought that jabs through my singed brain is: “I thought this medication was supposed to make everything better…”

    1. snuzcook

      I could just see those malevolent cows weaving in and out of the cars! Wonderful the way you put a slightly malevolent spin on all the descriptions to put us into the MCs mindset. And tho the resolution is somewhat predictable, the story is well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Chilling description on someone in a state of delusion. I wonder when I get old, I might do the same thing. What a ridiculous thing for me to worry about. After forty I may become concerned over it. Ha!

  21. cosi van tutte

    Sorry about the length. 🙁

    Day number One.

    I arrive on a busy street corner. No one notices me. I begin my experiment. No one notices the bovines on bicycles weaving all around the street. Interesting. I will stay here for a standard koposh. Then, I will move on.

    Day number Ten.

    I arrive in a busy computer store. No one notices me. I begin my experiment. No one notices the bovines on bicycles riding up and down the ceiling and walls. Fascinating. I will stay here for only half of a koposh. The lighting in this store distorts my visual acuity. I will move on.

    Day number Twenty One.

    I arrive in a library. No one notices me. I begin my experiment. No one notices the bovines on bicycles racing through the circulation stacks. Interesting. I am deeply allergic to book dust. I must leave now.

    Day number Thirty.

    I arrive in a busy bookstore. After my incident in the library, I am hesitant to begin my experiment. Yet, if I do not do it here, my results will be marked as incomplete. I begin my experiment. No one notices the bovines on bicycles playing a riotous game of tag throughout the store. My many eyes are watering up and itching. I must leave.

    Day number Forty One.

    I arrive in a standard coffee shop. The rich and bitter smell does uncomfortable things to my gastronomic porous dividers, but I sit in a green-cushioned booth and begin my experiment. No one notices the bovines on bicycles crashing into the display case. Not even the females serving the coffee. I almost feel disappointed. I thought that these people would be the extraordinary exception. I snatch a cup of coffee from someone who was busy dialing a phone number. I can’t wait to drink it.

    Day number Fifty.

    I shouldn’t have had that coffee. My gastronomic porous dividers are out of order. I will not travel today to perform my experiment. I must stay here and moan. Moaning seems to help.

    Day number Sixty One.

    I will never drink coffee again.

    Day number Seventy.

    I feel better, but will stay in bed.

    Day number Eighty One.

    My schedule is in disarray. I’ve missed so many days. Maybe I should give up and return to Feffashanasta. No. I will go to one more place and run one more experiment.

    I walk down the street. No one notices me. I could do my experiment here, but I wait. A better place will present itself. I know it.

    Zen Psychic Garden? No. Medieval Festi-Fum-Fum-Fum. Tempting, but no. Clodhoppers’ Gone For Groceries. Beer Pongers Paradise. Zod and Zeke’s Geek-OUT Books. No! No more bookstores!

    to be continued…

    1. Chad J. O'Brien

      Good write, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Can’t wait to read more. I like the intentional repetition. Real creative. “My many eyes” was subtle in context and I picked it up–is the MC human? Is he crazy? Books/bookstores are mentioned more than once. Is he simply lost in the books? So many ways this could go, can’t wait!

    2. cosi van tutte

      Continuation/conclusion….

      Day number Ninety.

      I arrived at The Awesome Writers Club. Writers. Writers = Books. But I open the front door and poke my head inside. I smell ink and papers and something else. Donuts. I’ve had donuts before. Donuts are good. Donuts are love. Donuts are life.

      They won’t miss a box of donuts.

      I walk inside.

      They will not be the extraordinary exception that I am seeking.

      I follow the temptatious scent of donuts to a room lacquered with wooden boards. Ten people sit at the table with stacks of papers in their hands and neurotic expressions on their faces.

      The donuts sit in the middle of the table.

      They will not notice me.

      I approach the table. Brazen and unafraid.

      “All right!” A ferocious red head stands. A fleet of pencils are jabbed into her tangled braid. “Let’s start with Josie Fenesky.”

      “Uhh.” Josie folds and unfolds her thin stack of papers. “I didn’t get a chance to write anything this past week.”

      The others chorus a groan. “Again?”

      “I just wasn’t inspired.”

      I should do my experiment first, but the sugar and cream and lovely stuff that donuts are made of beckon to me in deliciously puffy voices.

      “I sat at my computer for hours and hours, but my muse just wouldn’t speak to me. I even made a mint leaf mojito to entice her, but it just knocked me out instead.”

      I stop next to a black haired female with dull iron spiked bracelets around her wrists. Donuts…Crispy, creamy donuts…

      “Then, I had to wash the dishes and clean my—” She stops talking as I wrap my tentacles around a windmill shaped donut. She stares at me. She doesn’t speak. I grab my donut and retreat to a corner. She watches me.

      Interesting.

      I eat the windmill and lick the caramel glaze off my tentacles.

      “Josie? Are you all right?”

      Time for my experiment. The bovines cavort around the room on their bicycles.

      “What is that?” Josie’s voice has returned.

      The redhead frowns. “What’s with the cows?”

      Black-haired shrugs. “Who cares about a bunch of stupid cows?”

      “They aren’t stupid!” snaps Redhead. “They’re on bikes!”

      “Whatevs. I’m more worried about the windmill donut that just up and disappeared.”

      “It didn’t disappear.” Josie points at me. “That thing over there took it.”

      All ten females turn to face me. It is a disconcerting experience. They aren’t supposed to notice me. I could disappear through the wall, but I stay to see what will happen next.

      A thick-shaped blonde leaps out of her seat. “Ay carumba! It’s a monster!” She drops to the floor in a heavy faint.

      “I don’t see anything.” says Black-haired.

      The other females pipe up, “I do.” “So do I.” “I do too.” “It’s scary.” It’s ugly.” “It’s creepy.”

      Thick-shaped blonde sits up. “It’s a monster.” She settles back down into her faint.

      Josie folds and unfolds her papers so fast she tears the stack in half. “It’s come to eat our donuts and maybe our very lives.”

      “I’m gonna have nightmares for the rest of my life.” squeaks a drab brunette.

      The others murmur their panic-fueled agreement.

      “Calm down, girls.” Redhead slaps her stack of papers back on the table. “Yes, that thing over there is not of this Earth, but never you fear! There is one thing that we can all do in this, our most desperate moment.”

      The other members hold their breaths and wait for her pronouncement.

      Redhead jumps on top of the table and whips a pencil out of her braid. “WE CAN WRITE!”

      The other members cheer and start writing fast and furious.

      Redhead glares at me. “We’ll deal with you later, monster/alien thing.” She hops off the table and starts writing down her own thoughts and words.

      Josie smiles. “At last! I can hear my muse’s voice. Oh, it’s so beautiful!” She sits down and writes faster than everyone else.

      Day number One Hundred and One

      My experiment is a success. I have found the extraordinary exceptions. I hope they will all fit on the shuttle.

      Day number One Hundred and Ten.

      I should have left the Redhead behind.

      Day number One Hundred and Eleven.

      I’ll have to start all over again.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        My goodness, Cosi, I hardly know where to begin. The plot and structure are amazing, your MC very believable, just a lowly civil servant doing his/her/its job, then we get to the writing group…I think I’ve worked with some of those gals. Plus, the ending is perfect. I so enjoyed reading, and considering, this.

      2. snuzcook

        Wonderful, Cosi! So many great lines in here, and what a wonderful POV you’ve chosen!
        I was mentally snickering throughout and applauding your clever prose, but the last handful of lines made me chunkle my tea!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        More than very strange, awesome strange. Sounds like one of my own dreams. I loved the way you put this together. Weirdness and reality mixed together are terrific dynamite

  22. Mittens1326

    “Devon, hold Mommy’s hand.” I squeeze his fingers and use my free hand to fish for the keys.

    “Ma… moo?” He babbles.

    “Honey, it’s Mom-me. Mom-eeeee.” I exaggerate the sound like the speech therapist does.

    “Moo?”

    “No, honey, it’s -” I stoop to make eye contact but he doesn’t turn. He’s transfixed, staring out into the parking lot, pointing at nothing.

    “Moo!” He gasps. “Moo, Ma! Moo!”

    I frown, following his gaze.

    “Moo! Moo!” Now he’s bouncing up and down frantically, yanking on my hand. He looks up at me expectantly.

    I feel people staring so I wrangle Devon off the curb and hastily load him into the car along with my purse and the canvas tote bags full of fresh produce that we painstakingly selected together. I’m supposed to involve him in the process so he’ll try new textures. Which means I slave away preparing vegetables I can’t pronounce and he still flings them on the floor. Sometimes I want to tell the therapists where they can shove their strategies.

    “Ma, moo! Moo!” He laughs, delighted, pressing his palm up against the glass as we drive.

    We wait in the pick-up line for Gabriel.

    Devon starts up as soon as Gabriel opens the door. “Ga! Ga, moo! Moo!” He grabs at Gabriel’s arm and starts flapping wildly at the window.

    Gabriel bursts into giggles. “Where?”

    Devon babbles unintelligibly the way a baby would. A nine month-old, to be exact.

    “I don’t see them!” Gabriel laughs. “Where?”

    Devon babbles happily. Jargon. That’s what the therapists call it. They say it’s only a matter of time before he puts it all together. But it’s already been five years. He should be in Kindergarten with Gabriel. Playing Little League. Making friends.

    “Mommy, do you see the cows?” Gabriel asks.

    “What?”

    “Devon says he sees cows riding bicycles,” Gabriel squeals. “But I don’t see them. Do you?”

    “Gabe,” I tighten my grip on the wheel. “I know you like to pretend you understand -”

    “Mommy, I’m not pretending.”

    It’s the same argument every day. Gabe insists that he understands Devon. That Devon should come to school with him because he can tell the teacher what Devon’s trying to say. The therapists tell me to indulge him. They say it’s his coping mechanism as a twin.

    “Sweetie, it’s OK that you can’t understand him. Mommy can’t either.”

    “But I do understand him. He says he tried to show you the cows but you got mad.”

    I clench my jaw and the rage spills out between my teeth. “You know what Gabe? I’m really not in the mood, OK? I don’t want to hear it. Understand?” I glare at him in the rearview mirror and watch as he nods, his face crumpling in silent tears.

    “OK, Mommy,” he sobs.

    I settle back in my seat, tears in my own eyes as the rage pools into shame. I glance in the mirror at my boys, at their two identical faces, and Devon reaches for Gabriel’s hand.

      1. Mittens1326

        Doug, I wonder too… You wish you could see inside their minds… Whatever your grandson is struggling with, I hope one day he is able to fully express himself and connect with the people he loves. So sweet that he has that special sibling bond. PS, is it rude to say that you definitely don’t look old enough to be a grandfather!?! Also, I LOVE your website and your writing!! Consider me a fan!!

    1. snuzcook

      This was a very touching interpretation of the prompt, Mittens, and caught me completely by surprise.

      “I settle back in my seat, tears in my own eyes as the rage pools into shame.” Great line and few parents can say they have not experienced this.

      Well conceived and well accomplished, Mittens.

    2. Reaper

      You touch on so many things with such a light hand. Yet all of it comes through wonderfully. This is some next level writing Mittens, and should be in magazines about autism, twins, or just parenting. Hell, I think it should be in all three.

  23. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    COWPOCALYPSE!

    It was a day like any other except with cows on bicycles instead of people. And so, since this day was no different from any other day besides that one little thing I just figured it was a coincidence. I mean, it was bound that one day cows would start riding bicycles. Today just happened to be that day. So, ignoring the bicycle riding cows I walked to my car and began loading the groceries.

    On my way home I saw a cow without a bicycle.
    Strange, I thought wondering why this one specific cow decided not to ride a bicycle when today was obviously the day for cows to ride bicycles. I pulled over and asked him about.
    “Why aren’t you riding a bicycle?” I asked rather politely.
    “Moo.” the cow exclaimed rather rudely. I was shocked. Never had I heard a cow moo as rudely as this cow just mooed.
    “Sorry. What’s wrong with you?” Then the cow brought its hoof up to its face and looked ashamed.
    “I’m sorry,” it said, “I’m just a little cranky today. All of the other cows are finally riding bicycles and I don’t own one.” I felt suddenly sorry for this cow. Like me, he longed to fit in with the others, but he couldn’t because he didn’t have a bike. I couldn’t because nobody liked me.
    “Oh, well… do you want me to give you my car?”
    “Yes.”
    “Okay,” and with that I got out of the car and held the door for him. He got in a drove away quickly before I could even close the door. The car swerved beautifully into the sunset, hitting everything and anything in its way.

    Then, next thing I knew, I no longer had a way home for some reason. I looked around desperately for something to steal, or maybe ride away on, like a dog. Finally, I heard barking and followed it. Sure enough, there was a dog… but with a cow riding it!
    “What?!” I shouted like a cow shouting moo, or a person shouting “what” at the odd sight of a cow riding a dog.
    “Sorry. This seat is taken,” it said to me in its weird cow voice.
    “But cows can’t ride dogs! The people invented them! Cows can ride bikes, and occasionally cars and maybe dogs, but not dogs!”
    “Oh my, never have I heard a man talk so rudely to a woman before!” That is when I realized that this was not a cow, just a large, white and black spotted woman. But it was too late, she already knew too much. So, I pushed her off the dog, hopped onto its saddle and road away.

    Finally I got home, where I let the dog back into the wild. It responded with a quick thanks and ran off. But, as I looked in my driveway, there stood three cows, all holding baseball bats.
    “What is all this then?” I asked.
    “The cows are taking over. The only reason we hadn’t yet was because our leader didn’t have a bike, but some idiot gave him a car.” And then it came to me. That idiot was probably that lady riding that dog. She seemed like an idiot to me. So I told the three cows my story. They didn’t really actually care about it and beat me with the baseball bats and then left.

    There I was, lying in the hot sun on the hot pavement, with my hot body, as the cows took over the world. I couldn’t even move because (who knew?) cows are really good with baseball bats. But suddenly, I had a vision. The clouds parted and in them came down a giant face. A giant dog face to be exact and it began licking me and gave me the strength to stand.
    “What are you?” I asked when it was done.
    “I am you, from the future. It is your job to stop the cowpocalypse.” I then kind of understood what I had to do. Well, kind of. Okay, fine, I didn’t understand at all. But I would do it anyway. And with that, leaving dog-faced future me behind, I galloped after those baseball bat cows. Best ending sentence ever.

    1. cosi van tutte

      😀 😀 😀 😀

      This story made me laugh out loud. I will admit that half-way through I was worried that you were going to do a “It was all a dream” ending. I’m glad you didn’t. 🙂

      Just so you know, I loved the whole paragraph with the “black and white spotted woman”.

      This was a ridiculously wonderful, over-the-top story. 😀

      1. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

        Over-the-top is what I thought. I maybe the only one, but to me the story is a tad messy and there are quite a few things that could be cut to reduce the word count and to benefit the story. I can see you didn’t really put too much thought to it, just let it out in one go, am I right?)

        There are funny moments, though.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      This is wonderful, every word, every sentence, every shifting take on the situation. I could see each scene as it was presented, with the befuddled MC just accepting it all. Perfect final sentence.

    3. snuzcook

      The first paragraph really set up the tone for the whole story. I didn’t catch it the first read through, but you were very clear about that from the start — this is going to be a very tongue-in-cheek story. And it succeeds brilliantly on that score. You went places with the Wonderland-esque twists of reality that I never saw coming, but delighted when I got there. Thoroughly enjoyed, Riley, and worth more than one read through!

    4. Reaper

      Wow. This has a particular voice that made me think, morality tale for younger readers.Then the morality left the building and it got very grown up. Interesting story with a lot of conflicting themes and messages.

  24. Reaper

    Apologies for once again falling behind on the commenting. I’ve been reading as much as I can and that actually made me skip comments on some great stories last week. Let’s see if this week is any better. Thank you everyone for helping me improve my writing. I added a couple of books of shorts to my published works over the weekend and everyone here inspired me and helped me improve. So I just wanted to say thank you profusely. Okay, enough of that. This is part 22 now. Hah! You thought this one would trip me up didn’t you? I sure did.

    In the Beginning – The False Sign

    Chester stood across the street from the grocery store. Jack and Nicole were back at the house, playing with the kids. Dinner had not been a distraction, entirely, but it worked well as such. While Jack was gruffly learning about the prophecy and why it was important, Chester had work to do. He worried about leaving Jack with his children but Nicole could protect them, and half the women were there to back her up.

    The other half were here, with Chester. Most of these women had experience on farms or in the circus. That was good, because getting cows to ride bicycles was not an easy task. Chester was sure he would have failed at it. Part of that came from how silly he found the idea though. He still felt that way as he looked at a scene that belonged in one of his aunt Madge’s kitschy knick-knack display cases. Cows on bikes paraded in the parking lot and through the street. Cows with umbrellas, cows with guns, cows with digital cameras, and of course cows on cell phones. The display stopped traffic.

    The ones carrying objects were some of the women in costumes, pedaling serenely along. The real cows lowed their annoyance but managed to stay up and keep their own bicycles moving slowly, thanks to the leashes, sharp sticks, whips and cattle prods of the women on foot.

    Jack sighed and raised the binoculars to watch the old man exit the store. Stunned, the man dropped his bags. Glass shattered, liquid stained the paper to flow over the asphalt. Jack could smell the distinct odor of spilt milk on a hot day from where he was. The cows mooed louder at the desecration of their lifeblood.

    The old man whipped his head around frantically. At first he sought confirmation of the insanity, someone else understanding how wrong this all was. Then the shock overwhelmed him and he was looking for help. His right hand rose to his chest, clutching the left breast. He choked out sounds unheard over the laughter of the crowd, and of course the cows. The man fell to his knees, then to his face atop the broken glass. Chester thought if the man hadn’t died instantly that would surely hurt.

    Nobody else took notice. In this day of flash mobs, look at me, instant gratification and viral videos people didn’t find it strange at all. They pulled out their phones, hoping to get the best capture for YouTube. Only a small child noticed the heart attack. When she said, “Mommy, I think that man needs helps,” her mother shushed her, told her to watch the funny.

    This was not a sign of what was coming. To test the waters the servants created it. Sure, it would make the paper but as a funny piece. This is what it came to. This is what people accepted. Chester felt surer than ever that Nicole was right. It was time for the world to be reborn from the ashes.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I was wondering how you’d do it, also, but you certainly did. While I smiled at some things, like, the desecration of their lifeblood, I felt this was one of your most horrifying episodes with the all too real description of the mob. That last paragraph…wow, that last paragraph.

    2. snuzcook

      Nice commentary, Reaper! It’s wonderful how you have been able to manipulate the prompts to tell a consistent tale. I guess that means that you’ve chosen your core concepts very well.
      Nicely done, as always!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        What I like about this chapter is the simplicity of it. It bites harder that way. When I study styles of writing, it doesn’t take profound words but core words to write with and the raw beauty of simple words shows the strength of the story and the purpose for writing in the first place. This is a prime example of what I’m talking about. Bravo here. Wouldn’t it be interesting to write a prompt with one key only. No words with more than five characters and see how many of us could do it.’Take note, Brian’.

  25. Chad J. O'Brien

    Main Street Madness

    Hector pops another grape into his mouth, wondering how many he can steal before being confronted. He looks over his shoulder before devouring another, and another. The clerk takes notice and drops his paper. He knocks on his desk and yells across to Hector who is munching on another grape.
    “That’s my finest merlot!” He jokes. “At least leave a tip, will ya?”

    “Huh?” Hector mumbles, tightly gripping his walker.

    “You heard me! Gonna have to cut you off for the night, sir.” Says the clerk, sticking to character. His name tag says Stan in fancy bolded letters.

    “Hold on, let me fix my ears.” The old man adjusts his hearing aid and eyes the grapes again. Stan realizes how clueless he is. A few minutes go by. He’s at it again.

    “Mmm.” Hector picks another grape and brings it to his mouth, gawking at aisles of fruit like he’s in the Garden of Eden. The fruit is new, he is new; a symptom of Alzheimer’s.

    “Where can I get some veal? He drawls.

    Stan gets up and walks closer to Hector from behind the desk. “Veal?” He appears flabbergasted.

    “Ava says I need to buy veal!”

    “Sorry sir, we don’t sell meat in this county. It’s forbidden.” His voice is stern, but of course he is joking.

    “What the hell kind of store is this?” Hector curses, enraged.

    “Apparently it’s a store that doesn’t sell veal.”

    The old man is provoked by Stan’s response. Did sarcasm not exist a thousand years ago?
    “Think you’re funny, boy? Y’know, I don’t do funny. Are you a goof? You’re goofy, aren’t you? Hector repeats. “Here, let me fix my eyes.” He balances his ultra thick glasses above his nose. They must be indestructible.
    “Oh boy, you are a goof.” He judges. He walks out of the market and steps off the curb, his glasses bouncing on that ancient nose of his.

    “Don’t piss off the cows!” Stan calls out through the automatic door.

    Seconds later, Hector sees something. Cows. Cows everywhere. And their calves too, veal. “What in the name?”
    A group of children are heard playing. “Cows! Look, COWS!” Hector yells. He can’t contain himself. He hears a little girl talking to his ant.

    “Auntie why is that man yelling cows?”
    “He’s ill, sweetie. It happens when you get old.

    Inside the market, Stan walkie-talkies his friend outside. “You’re a cow, Wayne.”
    Wayne looks at Hector, smiles, and nods. He rides his bicycle over to Hector. “Mooooo!” He says.

    Old Hector is nearly speechless at this point. “Wake up.” He bites his lip with his gums. “Wake up!”

    Wayne breaks character. “Excuse me, sir, he says hysterically. I think you should fix your glasses.”

    “Hector stares, awestruck. A cow. A talking, bicycling—

    Wayne fixes Hectors glasses.

    Hector pauses. Something strange happens. He laughs. He doesn’t stop laughing.
    “You’re not a cow, he laughs. None of you are cows.” His stomach hurts from laughing. “Well, my eyes aren’t what they used to be.”

    “Neither are people,” Wayne says, sincerely. “We’re all fat now!”

    Hector laughs all the way to the fast-food burger joint on the corner of Main Street. “I’ll have your finest merlot,” he says.

    1. Observer Tim

      Nice one, Chad, and surprisingly touching. I find myself a little sorry for Hector but at least he’s having fun with his Alzheimer’s. It’s nice that the people play along with him, though in other circumstances it would be cruel. If I get old and senile I want to be sure I don’t remember what the world was like before. 🙂

      1. Chad J. O'Brien

        Thanks Tim! Glad you liked it! I decided to put this twist on it because I worked as a dietary aide for two years at a nursing home, and a lot of the CNA’s and nurses were really rude to the residents. I sympathized for them greatly. And yeah, I guess it is good to see the world in a different way when you age. All I can say is that when my parents grow old, I’m not sending them to a nursing home! 😛

    2. Reaper

      I had what is probably an expected reaction to the two friends. I thought, how cruel! Then it got happy and that felt a little off to me. I wanted a darker or a more heart wrenching ending to this. Then I realized that was kind of the point. Life isn’t always about sadness in old age, even when the condition is tragic. It isn’t always about the profound moment of I get it. Sometimes it is just about fun, and doing what little you can for other people. Your story got that across nicely. It also did for me what a lot of my writing is designed to do for other people. It shocked me and made me look at the world in a different way. It made me think of this woman in the nursing home where I had my first job, who would point at John Belushi on my Samurai Tailor shirt and ask me if that was my dad. This is amazing.

      1. Chad J. O'Brien

        @Reaper, I can’t tell you how much that means to me. This is why I write. You showed me how effective my simple words can be and I embrace that. I hope that one day I can be published.
        As for the nursing home, I too worked at one for two years. I worked in the kitchen. Like I said to Tim, many of the CNA’s and nurses were inappropriately rude to the residents. They treated them like dirt in their OWN home. That being said, most of the residents loved the kitchen staff because for the most part we were very nice and our main goal was to give them their meals. Some might find it humorous how elated and grateful they were for something so small. Food was the highlight of their day, even if they got the same meal every day. A co-worker of mine used to pass notes back and forth to some of the residents on their dinner trays, and they looked at those like the purest gold. Amazing how when you grow older, you tend to appreciate intangible things more.
        Hector in my story was the epitome of an angry old guy with mental instability like Alzheimer’s or dementia. A little joke between two friends made him understand humor again. I wrote this as I went, but looking back, I must have been fishing somewhere in the subliminal realm of my brainy noggin and put old memories to use. I had a short-tempered resident that was always fighting with other residents for ridiculous reasons, despite the fact that she could barely talk. And despite that she could barely talk, she always came over to me, every day, and gummed a different joke to me. “The day I stop telling jokes is the day I died.” She wrote a beautiful story and showed it to me, though I will keep it confidential. I was insanely surprised at the quality of her work. Old people are wise. They are interesting creatures.

  26. Doug Langille

    BBQ NO MORE
    ============

    ** with apologies to Gregory Maguire **

    Steak was supposed to be on sale.

    Beef had been so expensive lately that my gal and me were subsisting on less than choice cuts of pork—much to the dismay of the broader Pig community. If they had their way, we’d all be eating fish.

    Ever since the Chicken Coupe of ’29, the number of Animals exerting their rights as equals with Humankind had spiralled out of control. Edible poultry had all but disappeared and with the Referendum next month, neither Chickens not chickens will be available for consumption.

    Legally, that is.

    The fat yet dapper Pig running the store grumbled and snorted. “No beef,” he said. “Sold out.”

    “Really?” I asked, incredulous, and leaned in conspiratorially. “What about … Beef?”

    He regarded me thoughtfully and rubbed his snout with a hoof. Did he trust me? “No, sir. No Beef or Animals of any kind. Not for you.”

    I wasn’t accustomed to being shunned by any Animal, let alone a Pig. “Why you greedy tub of lard…”

    “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave. Such racist epithets are not tolerated in my establishment. Now, go.”

    I slammed the door so hard when I left, the bell fell to the floor with a clang. Piggy there will probably sue me, I thought.

    I crossed the street in time to witness a terrific commotion. Turns out steak and burgers would be off the menu indefinitely.

    A herd of Cows cycled through the street, each one wearing a placard: Hear Our Beef! Meat Is Murder! Animals Are People Too!

    I followed the wheeled throng on foot—Cows can’t pedal very fast—to Town Hall. A crowd was gathered out front. Animals of all spots and stripes were in attendance. A few Humans mingled about but the vibe was very much like they weren’t welcome. Not really.

    The Mayor stood up on the steps, slightly above the assembled. Not that he needed to—his stature and regal mane granted him natural charisma. The stately Lion enjoyed his second term in office and would likely win a third. His well-orchestrated Animal Rights platform and Referendum would certainly garner the Emperor’s attention. There were few doubts of the overgrown housecat’s political ambitions.

    I sat on the fountain and put my head in my hands. I never really liked fish.

    1. DaveFTW

      This was a beautiful piece, I must say! I kept getting flashbacks to Animal Farm as I read. I certainly am glad the Pigs aren’t in charge of this one!

    2. Observer Tim

      I love the way you differentiated between the sentient Critters and nonsentient critters. At least none of the animals were talking about humans, especially with a Lion in charge. This is brilliant and creative, Doug. Great! 🙂

    3. Reaper

      I got the beef or Beef thing, but I assume the Chicken or chicken was supposed to be chicken or eggs? Not sure. If it weren’t for the couple of points where equality to humans was stated I would actually think this was Kafkaesque and the narrator was another type of carnivorous animal. I also got glimpses of Animal Farm as I read through so you matched up with two of the great ones.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I don’t have a particularly great analyticial mind when I read storys, I read for my own personal enjoyment. I don’t bother with placement of words when I read, I’m interested in how the writer thinks and for this story, I consider it deeper than I thought as I read it. When I thought about again, it kept getting deeper, not darker, but just deeper in social comment. A great story Doug.

  27. Trevor

    Word Count: 499

    A Weird Day at Wal-Mart

    Carolyn Baker wheeled her cart through the automatic doors, ready to get home in time for America’s Got Talent. Her shopping cart stuffed with snack cakes and boxes of Fruit Loops made it no secret that she was a mother. Her two 8-year-old twins, Matthew and Lilah, were at home with their babysitter, eagerly awaiting her return from her errands.

    But as Carolyn rolled her cart toward her station wagon, she looked up and knew there was no way she was getting home soon-for the streets were occupied by a herd of bicycling cows.

    The cows were larger than any that Carolyn had seen in her entire life. They stood at least four feet tall and were green with neon pink stripes. The bikes on which they rode were also a bright shade of pink. Cars swerved to avoid the bovines and pedestrians on the sidewalk stared with open mouths at the odd sight.

    But to Carolyn, this sight was all too common.

    Tossing her groceries into the trunk, Carolyn got into her car and started the drive home. The once brisk 15-minute drive to her house from Wal-Mart was now made difficult by the cyclist animals-and all the traffic disturbances they were causing. By the time Carolyn made it to the peaceful serenity of Houston Boulevard, she was late for her program by half an hour. Having no time to unpack, Carolyn hurried up the front path and burst through the front door. She found the elderly babysitter she hired asleep on the couch, a rerun of Walker Texas Ranger blaring on the TV.

    But Carolyn wasn’t worried for the safety of her children, for she knew exactly where they would be. Flicking on the dim light, she rushed down the stairs to the basement and opened the old green door at the back of the room, almost hidden under ancient layers of dust.

    “Matthew! Lilah! How many times do I have to tell you to stop messing with that thing?” Behind the door, Matthew and Lilah lay sprawled on the floor, the old typewriter under Lilah’s fingertips. Despite their mother’s wrath, the innocent-minded siblings grinned and giggled, pleased that their mischief had had its’ intended results.

    “And just what is so funny?” Carolyn demanded. Still holding back giggles, Lilah pulled the yellowed sheet of paper out of the old machine and handed it to her mother. It turned out that the children had had plenty of time to play with their ancestors’ magic relic while their babysitter was dozing off upstairs. And Carolyn sighed when she saw their impressive list of nonsensical wishes.

    COWS RIDING BICYCLES
    RAINING GUMBALLS
    COTTON CANDY HURRICANE
    ICE CREAM SNOW
    NO SCHOOL FOR A WHOLE YEAR
    BABYSITTERS THAT LET US STAY UP ‘TIL MIDNIGHT
    FORESTS OF LICORICE

    “Looks like I’ve got a lot of work to do tonight. No TV for me.” Carolyn grumbled as she marched upstairs, dreading the night of towing away with her potions to undo her children’s antics.

    1. Reaper

      So very sweet and fun to read. It reminded me of a cross between Typewriter of the Gods and the Adam Sandler movie where the bedtime stories come true but only when the kid’s say something. I liked this one a lot.

  28. jhowe

    Lamont Gilchrest sat with his hands folded on his lap in the interview room at Jackson State Prison. Doctor Madison sat across from him with his briefcase open on the steel table. The two men stared at each other as a guard stood in the corner and watched, shifting his considerable weight from one foot to the other over and over again.

    “Can you make him stop?” Lamont said.

    The doctor looked at the guard who had already stopped his movements. “Why does that bother you?” Madison said.

    “He reminds me of my father, the way his eyes move. Never satisfied.”

    The doctor glanced at his notes. “Your father was a dairy farmer, is that right?”

    “That has nothing to do with the cows riding bikes.”

    “Let’s just explore the possibilities,” Madison said.

    “They rode bikes and walked on the sidewalks and nobody found it disturbing,” Lamont said, sweat now shining on his face. The guard stifled a snicker and frowned when Madison turned again.

    “Mr. Gilchrest, did you help your father with the cows?”

    “I told you, that’s irrelevant to all this.”

    “So you said.” The doctor jotted notes as he spoke. “But did you help your father with the cows?”

    “No.”

    “You didn’t help feed them or milk them?” Madison said.

    Lamont rubbed his eyes briskly, grinding his fists into the sockets.

    “Stop doing that and answer the question,” the doctor said.

    Lamont returned his hands to his lap, his eyes red and swollen. “I told you no.”

    “Why didn’t you help with the cows?”

    “He kept us in the barn and told us to keep quiet.”

    “He kept you in the barn? Who else was with you?”

    “My brother, for a while. And my mom before she left.”

    “Where’d your mother go?” Madison said.

    “I don’t know. She left and I never saw her again.”

    The doctor paused, his fingers tented in front of his face. “Your father didn’t allow you to leave the barn?”

    “At night we went in the basement.”

    “Were you kept against your will?”

    “Pretty much. We knew what would happen if we didn’t do what he said.”

    “Is that what happened to you brother? He disobeyed your father?”

    “He left me in the basement and ran out. He said he was going to kill him,” Lamont said.

    “Kill your father you mean?”

    “That’s what he said but he didn’t come back. I knew he didn’t kill him because my father took me to the barn the next morning.”

    “Did you ask him about your brother?”

    Lamont stared at nothing. “You don’t talk to him.”

    The doctor rubbed his chin. “Your father was found with an axe buried in the back of his head.”

    Lamont trembled. “My brother must have got him. Goddamned if he didn’t get him.” Tears streaked his cheeks, his lips curled in a fierce smile.

    “Your brother was found in the corn field, his skull caved in.”

    Lamont said nothing, his breathing labored.

    “Your mother was in the barn, lying face down in the mud among the cows.”

    Lamont jumped up and grabbed the pen from the table and jammed it into his own eye. The guard wrapped his arms around the prisoner shouting for the door to be opened.

    “Which one of them died first?” Madison yelled as the guard took him away.

    “The cows rode the bikes!” he shouted with one eye bloodied, the other glassy and darting about. “They got loose and went into town!”

    ***
    “Mr. Foreman, has the jury reached a verdict?”

    “Yes, Your Honor. We find the defendant, Lamont Gilchrest not guilty for reasons of insanity.”

    “Very well, the defendant will be committed to a psychiatric facility for an indeterminate period to be decided at a later date. The judge rapped his gavel and dismissed the court.

    1. snuzcook

      Using Q&A to reveal the insanity is very effective here, Jhowe, and you do it so well! I agree that perhaps the last line was redundant–maybe the only gratuitous line in the piece. Well done!

  29. Pete

    I’ve been stuck in the sticks all summer since my parents flipped out about Trey. And yes it has royally sucked, the only benefits of farm labor being my killer tan and these shockingly toned arms. Oh, and there’s that hot bag boy down at the little Food Lion, but that could just be the boredom talking.

    His name is Jared, but that’s as far as I get because the cashier totally cops a block. Something about the parking lot. An alarm sounds. Like a tornado warning. I follow Jared outside to see what the fuss is all about. It’s unbelievable. I’m talking WTF-Land unbelievable.

    I’ve seen it all in the city. Naked men on the metro, people peeing in the street. I once saw two clowns beat each other bloody over a dollar. But cows on bicycles. No words.

    “Sara, you should go inside,” Jared calls out, helping an elderly woman to her feet. A little girl pats her head and screams.

    “Mommy, he took my hat.”

    A cow peddles off, ringing his bell and chewing on a straw hat. Jarod gives chase. It’s like a freaking Chick-Fil-A commercial out here, only these cows aren’t cute. A wobbly heifer snorts at me then nearly bites it on a ten speed.

    Everyone is running around. A hick grabs his shotgun. I latch onto Jared but I guess he mistakes my shock with interest. “Herd 154 from Slimfellow’s Ranch.” He shields the sun from his eyes. “Where are the pigs when you need them?”

    Again I state the obvious, just to be sure. “Those cows…..are on bikes.”

    “Yeah, last time they busted out they made off with Mrs. Orton’s convertible. Robbed County First Bank.”

    I’m want to ask just what in the hell he’s talking about when some fat dude in overalls comes screaming down the lot. Behind him, a massively adorned bull rides a wheelie only inches from his back.

    “Mr. Slimfellow!” Jared breaks away and starts to go after him but when the farmer dude trips and flops to the pavement the bull comes right up and scoops him up by a strap. We wince in unison. “Ouch.”

    “Come on, I’ve got to get you inside.” He takes me by the arm, zipping a grocery cart at two tongue-wagging cows on a tandem bike. “Get out of here.”

    My hero. It’s impressive. Trey once left me stranded at a concert to score some weed. But Jared whisks me along to safety. He’s strong and tan and a perfect gentleman, but it’s too late. The bull flings his trophy to the side and turns his big burly head to us. Suddenly we’re back to back in the center of a cow circle. Did I mention that cows were riding bikes?

    They grunt and bellow, toying with us. It would be comical if it weren’t for farmer dude over there with a puncture wound. The hick lowers the shotgun and squints. Then a rumble sweeps over the trees.

    “Well it’s about time.”

    “Time for what?”

    “The pigs.”

    “They ride motorcycles?”

    He smiles into the sun, I follow his gaze to the silhouettes of a biker gang.

    “I thought you said the cops were here?”

    The choppers pour into the lot, growling as the sun rays bounce off the chrome. A crash as the cows stop parading and drop their bikes. That heifer on the ten-speed eats it.

    Once you’ve seen cows on bikes, boars on motorcycles are only a minor stretch. And by pigs Jared meant, like, pigs. The bikes pop and grumble. The pigs wear leather vests and rogue helmets and make those poor cows look like puppies. The leader wears aviator glasses and has a cigarette in his snout. Two deafening revs of his hog and the even the bull tucks tale and bolts.

    Like that it’s all over. People creep out of the store. Slimfellow’s carted off. The little girl is still sniffling about her hat. Jared’s manager invites the pigs help themselves to the dumpsters out back, then tells Jared to pick up the bikes.

    I smile at him. “Is this what you guys do for fun?”

    “Well, this and cow tipping.”

    1. Observer Tim

      This is bizarre and entertaining, Pete. I thought for a moment the hogs would be in helicopters, but I guess that’ll only happen when pigs fly. Who knew life in the country was this lively? 🙂

      My red pencil spotted a verb swap the spell checker won’t catch: peddled vs. pedalled.

    2. Reaper

      Wonderfully strange. Pigs on hogs made me chuckle and that last line was killer. Couple of places need word clean up, like I’m for I. Otherwise the wording played so well into the story.

  30. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

    Third day evading immunization. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened so far, though the apple in my hand doesn’t feel right. I stand outside the grocery store, staring at the ripe green fruit and catch a strange sight out of the corner of my eyes. A cow cycles past me. I’m about to ask a girl coming out of the store if she sees what I see, but stop myself in time. Asking questions can get you in prison. You can’t raise suspicion in this town. Not unless you want to escape.

    “Jack. Oy, Jack!” Another cow on a bicycle approaches me and halts. Her front hooves wear red varnish, and that is the only thing that gives me a tip.

    “Mrs. Lavender. How are you today?”

    “Splendid.” The cow cranes her head to see what I got from the store. “Are the apples fresh today?”
    “Very.” I look at the fruit in my hand; it crumbles and I drop it with a jump. The apple falls apart into millions of cockroaches. My breathing quickens, as I try to hold it together. The bag in my hand is swarming with cockroaches.

    “You don’t look well, Jack. Have you seen a physician this morning?” The cow’s eyes are enormous. They start blinking rapidly and their color changes to red. The street noise around me turns to a rhythmic buzzing, the buildings melt into ruins. I panic.

    “I’ve never been better. Do you want to have my apples? I don’t know why I bought them.”

    My hand trembles as I hand the bag over to Mrs. Lavender, who isn’t a cow any longer. I’m looking at a black shape with glowing red eyes. There’s no bicycle under it, just a cloud of grey mist.

    “You’re so sweet.” I feel the bag slip from my fingers. Relief, but only for a second. “You’re sure you’re feeling fine? Boy, you’re pale!”

    Her words drawl in my head and I strain to understand what she’s saying. I can’t give myself away. The message from the Resistance said they’d be waiting for anyone willing and strong enough to escape outside the main gate, at the sunset. I’m willing, but am I strong enough?

    “Have a good day, Mrs. Lavender,” I mumble, staggering away.

    Everywhere around me are hideous black shapes with hands covered in metallic scales. It’s getting dark, and I hurry home to get my stuff. After an hour of walking in the direction of my street, I find myself lost. Now that the reality is in plain sight, I don’t know where I live. The ruins form a dark rotten mess of rocks and wood. I can’t even figure out where the gate is. The sun is almost down.
    My palms feel sweaty and I look down on them. They are lined with metallic scales. I grasp my legs, but I don’t have any. I’m a hovering black shape.

    I slap myself against the head. It has to be a side-effect, an illusion. I can’t stay.

    I get to running, trusting my instincts, hoping I can outrun the nightmare of the reality.

    1. Observer Tim

      Very nice. How do you escape from it when you can’t tell what’s reality any more? This is astonishingly dark and moody, Lucretia. The weird thing is that, without you mentioning it, I can feel the dark warm air of an oncoming thunderstorm in the MC’s life. Excellent job! 🙂

    2. Reaper

      Pete said a mouthful on this one. Very intense, and the fact that you are basing this in a version of real world concerns is great. Especially since it is so well done that you don’t give away which side of the argument you are on. Both the resistance and the establishment seem to have things going for them. This would take a novel to discover who is really the good guy, or if there is one and not just a conflict where both sides have valid points. Great writing!

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I find this one of the most descriptive stories in 500 words I’ve ever read. Not drawing the whole picture, makes it exciting and memorable in a very special way.

  31. ReathaThomasOakley

    “Mom? Mom, did you hear me? Please, Mom, please…”

    “I heard you the first time. You don’t have to keep repeating things, I’m not deaf…”

    “But, Mom, you’ve got to listen to me. You can’t keep on saying those things.” The middle-aged man sat back in his chair, ran his hands through what little hair he had, exhausted by the conversation. “We came because…”

    “Nor am I crazy, nor deaf, nor blind, nor crazy, nor anything that warranted you taking time away from your important job, or dragging that wife of yours…”

    “God, Mom! Don’t do this.” He sat forward and reached for the hand of the woman sitting across from him, dressed in a standard issue hospital gown.

    “Please, don’t touch me,” she whispered as she pulled back from his touch. “Just leave. Take that woman and get back to your nice tame little life that means so much to you.”

    He stood, turned to the nurse standing by the door, “I don’t know what to do, what else to say,” he started, his voice breaking.

    “We don’t either,” she said. “We have to keep her 48 hours. Her doctor’s been here, says physically she’s…”

    “Please stop talking as if I’m not here,” the woman started to stand. “Just get my clothes so I can leave. I’ve got to finish my grocery shopping. I have overdue library books. I have things to do.”

    “Mrs. Carter,” the nurse moved past the man, “you need to calm down. I’ve explained you can’t leave yet.”

    “Can’t you give her something?” The man stepped back.

    “She’s had something mild, and she is better than when she was brought in. Could you step into the hall for just a minute?”

    When she was finally alone again the woman walked to the window, looked out, and sighed. The cows on bicycles had been joined by pigs on skateboards and sheep driving cars in and out of the hospital parking lot. In the distance she heard the roar of motorcycles, lots and lots of motorcycles, approaching.

    “Told them my hearing was fine,” she said as she walked back to the chair.

    1. freedomflowah

      Bravo! This is so relate-able to what I am dealing with right now. I work in a trauma hospital. We see everything and this is one of them. Not only psych but dementia, confusion, and traumatic brain injuries. I love how you wrote this because it could any of those. Great work!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you. When I read the prompt I thought I’d have to pass this week, but just last night my husband reminded me of the strange dreams my mother, who had Alzheimer’s, had before she mercifully passed away while her personality was still intact. The story just evolved from that memory of my mother. I admire you for your work.

    2. Observer Tim

      Very nice, Reatha. Your take is personal, strange, and sobering all at once. The dialogue as usual is spot on to the characters, and does as good a job describing them as any explicit words. 🙂

      I’m glad you didn’t try to ramrod The Girl into this, unless it was some kind of trick of the Red Haints.

    3. Reaper

      This was brilliantly done. I was lost in confusion with both the son and the mother and yet I was able to follow it easily. The characters are all wonderfully relatable and likable in their own ways. That last paragraph and especially the last line are killer.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          This hits home Reatha. My wife’s mother had Alzheimer’s for eleven years and we were the primary who arranged for her care. The swing back and forth from reality on to confusion, sometimes took a split second. One time Celeste and I took her for a walk in the garden outside. Her conversation was normal, she turned to my wife, an only child and asked her, “Where is Celeste?”. I felt so much sorrow, I started to cry.

          1. ReathaThomasOakley

            Kerry, I understand all too well your situation. One of the most difficult things to deal with was my mother’s anger at me, not my brother or anyone else, for coordinating her move to a nursing home. For several years, both before the move and after, she bombarded me with accusations and hatred. Fortunately toward the end she seemed to forget that anger. Sorrow is part of the disease. I’m tempted to write things to myself for my sons to read to me if Alzheimer’s is in my future.

  32. Jay "The Doc" Wilson

    What I see

    Today, I see bovines on bicycles in the street. Some of them are on unicycles and others aren’t on any type of cycle at all. Instead, they’re dancing near a band called Bull Dogs playing rock music. None of them sees me, though. I’m as invisible to them as they are to the rest of the world.

    That’s just how my life is, now. Yesterday, there were literally bullets with butterfly wings floating outside my window. I’ve always loved that song by Smashing Pumpkins, so there were no doubt those little creatures would show up eventually. I wish I could’ve opened the window and let them in to play, but it’s sealed.

    It’s always something different. At least that much I can be certain about. Like one day, I had Popples visit me. Another day, the world outside became icy slopes of Neapolitan ice cream. I watched children gorge while parents, in a moment of weakness to whimsy, slid down those slopes in trashcan tops, laughing along with their friends. Two weeks ago, I met SpongeBob and friends. It was amazing.

    Sometimes, it’s not so amazing, though. Sometimes I can’t eat my food because it’s rotten with maggots crawling over the meal. Another time, the city was destroyed and nothing but monsters roamed the fiery streets.

    None of those things compared to the man I met three days ago. He was a dark figure standing in my room. He had broad shoulders, and wore a long black trench coat. There was a hat atop his head, and the shadow cast from it blackened his face so that I couldn’t see him. However, I could see his smile, and I most definitely heard his frighteningly gloomy voice.

    He said, “Hello, Sarah.”

    My parents always taught me not to be rude, even to strangers. However, they also taught me to be wary and careful. “Hi.”

    “So, what are you seeing today?”

    “How did you know?”

    “I know everything.”

    “If you know everything, then you should know what I see.”

    He laughed. It was a scary cold laugh. “Clever girl.”

    I said, “What do you want?”

    “Nothing. Just waiting.”

    “For what?”

    “Oh, this and that,” he said, and moved into the sunlight. His face was still so black I couldn’t see any features. “Please, tell me. What do you see?”

    “Kittens.”

    “Kittens? As in baby cats?”

    I nodded.

    “Are they cute?”

    “The fluffiest kind. They all have tiny little meows, and they’re doing kitten things.” I said, and looked out the window. “Some of them are biting ears, while other are pouncing their brother or sister. They all have huge eyes, but I really like their cute little meows. It’s the best.”

    When I looked back, he was gone. So were the kittens. I haven’t seen the kittens since, but that’s okay. The bovines I see today make me smile, and perhaps feel a little warm inside.

    As I listen to the Bull Dogs play Never Mind the Bollocks, which they pronounce Bullocks, my mom, dad, and little brother visit me. They’re not alone, though. That big scary man is back.

    “Why did you bring him here?” I ask, but they ignore me. They don’t always, but sometimes. Instead, I ask him directly, “Don’t you have some other kid to scare? I’m not afraid of ghosts.”

    “Who said I was a ghost?”

    “I dunno. I guess ’cause you look like one.”

    “I can’t argue with that,” he says. “What do you see today?”

    “Why do you care?” I ask, but immediately regret it. My dad’s voice rings in my ears telling me to respect everyone. “I’m sorry. I don’t see anything anymore. Just you and my family.”

    Suddenly, I feel my dad’s hand on mine. He’s warm. Really warm. My mom kisses my forehead, and I watch them sit next to the bed. My little brother plays with his toy truck, unaware that everyone is sad.

    I look at myself laying on that bed. It had been a long time since I saw myself, and I don’t like what I see right now. I have pasty skin, blue lips, and matted sweaty hair sticking to my face. I wish I could look better for my family, but there’s nothing I can do.

    The dark man tells me, “I believe I’m done waiting.”

    I look up at him, and back at my family as they continue to grieve. I want to say goodbye, but I can’t. I know they won’t hear me. It’s okay, though, because I left each of them a letter to read when I finally left them. In them, I tell them about all the wonderful things I saw while in the hospital, leaving out all the scary things. I tell them how much I love them, and that they’ll be okay. I tell them goodbye, and that we’ll meet again someday.

    “Love you guys,” I tell them before starting my new journey.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Jay, I need to add more. I don’t always understand what you write, even though I agree with others that you write really well, but this one was so full of hope and so beautifully told that I must compliment you again on it. Wonderful!

    1. freedomflowah

      You have a unique way of storytelling. It drew me in yet I felt so many emotions as I read on. This is beautifully written and there is so much underlying and undertone to the story that it leaves a lot to the imagination. I really enjoyed reading this. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    2. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      Reatha took the words out of my mouth. I can see the skilled writing style that’s individual to you, which is one of the things I like most about the piece. The story is all weird, bordering on nonsensical, but the end clears things up to the benefit of it. Well done. The man is a strong character by the way.

    3. Observer Tim

      Another masterpiece from the Doc. Sometimes I wish I knew where these thoughts and ideas come from, but others I’m happy they’re in your head not mine. This is a very deep and reflective take on an otherwise silly prompt. Wonderful job! 🙂

    4. jhowe

      This is really good. Your usual darker side took a walk into the light and came out shining. When I read this prompt, I said, ‘what the hell…’ But there a lot of good stories this week, this being among the best.

    5. Reaper

      This is gorgeous Jay. Nice misdirection with the dark man who I took for something very sinister at first. I don’t know why but the kittens bit made me really sad. It worked well as foreshadowing, along with the sealed window. Just all around gorgeously sad.

  33. snuzcook

    What a fun story, and first out of the gate! You drew a picture of bizarre slapping up against normalcy very well. I think the most disturbing image for me was the cow (bull?) in a fedora smoking while he was riding and chatting about preserving the lives of family members. I mean, what about the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke?!?

    Nicely done, freedomflowah!

  34. freedomflowah

    Cows. On bicycles. Clearly, I have missed the memo.

    As if grocery shopping was not daunting enough, I find myself marveling at the fast-paced peddling of my favorite animal to consume. It was a Tour-De-France for cows; each one whizzing past me. My ears ring at the delightful mooing arising in the air.

    I turn to my neighbor Miss Higgins, who stands at a bustling peach stand. Routinely, she greets me like nothing is happening. “Hello, dear!” Her voice rings cheerfully and I am perplexed. I mean, does she not see the madness peddling by us? Out of the store waddles jolly Principal Myers jovially whistling. Nodding at the cows, he gives a polite wave and they moo in return. This seriously cannot be happening. I know this is flat land Kansas and cows are the norm here, but on bicycles? Maybe my bestie can offer solace. The brown paper bag loaded with bachelorette junk cravings bounced rapidly as I jogged alongside her.

    “Pinch me! Slap me! Do something!”
    “WHAT?!” She screams at me; sparkly pink headphones decorating her ears.
    “There are COWS on bicycles! Don’t you see them!”
    “WHAT?!” Sweat is beading on her brow and drips into her eye. She does not even flinch.
    Forcefully, I point to the speeding cows jolting in and out of mid-afternoon traffic. It was surely a balancing act trying to juggle groceries and jog.
    “Oh yeah! Cool, isn’t it?” She is unfazed.

    Okay, I need answers. I set the crumpled bag of junk on the curb. Hands on hips, I tap my foot. This is far from normal. I would attempt talking to the cows, but all I would get is a friendly moo. Just when I was about to give up and go home, a California brown cow glided by; a frilly pink tutu bouncing beneath her. She made eye contact with me.

    “Long way from home, aren’t you?” I could not help speaking to her. I mean, that tutu really did it for me. If this was reality, I might as well make the most of it.
    “MOOOOOOOOOOO. You have no ideaaaaaaaaaa!”
    Another cow dressed in a pinstripe suit followed. His Fedora hat blocking the rays of high noon. “We’re all on strike,” He says in between puffs of cigarette. “We are tired of seeing our families butchered.” With that, he gave a staccato “Moo.”

    “Well what are we supposed to eat?” I asked, stealing his cigarette from him. Today was definitely a good day to start smoking. He gave no answer as I threw the cancer stick onto the ground.

    Guess I will just stick to poultry. I hope pigs do not come riding by next.

    1. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      Very funny) My favorite line here is ““I asked, stealing his cigarette from him. Today was definitely a good day to start smoking.”
      And cancer stick is a genius name for a cigarette.
      The humor of the story is its best asset, and the metaphor absolutely do it for me. Thank you for the good mood)

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