Since I already have a giant mental queue of stories, I've decided to use deathless_pose to do some writing practice on flash fiction stories, as follows.
I have four pre-determined "meta-concepts": aliens, robots, space travel, and urban mythology (creatures of myth/folklore in a modern setting). I'll take the deathless_pose prompt, throw it against those four, and see what sticks. I'll think about it for a day, then write the flash fiction story in an hour or two, and that's it. If I need an extra prompt, I'll grab the picture from 52stories, another "story a week" site. I've done some decent stories with this model before, so I'm interested to see where it goes.
As a practice test, I grabbed the 52stories picture for 1.18 and wrote a story. Here it is. Enjoy!
Picture (from 52stories, Issue 1.18):
"While Visiting the Ladies Room Exhibit at the Human Museum"
by Jeff Soesbe
"Parent, what are 'Ladies'?" G, Z's child, pointed at the sign over the entrance to the exhibit room.
"I don't know." Tired of the interruptions, Z waved a hand to dismiss G. "Check the reference."
As G walked away, Z returned attention to the mobile display it held in its tentacles. Z's insistence on bringing the mobile had caused tension with R when R proposed the trip to the Human Museum. But what did Z care about a bunch of primitive lifeforms who drowned millions of years ago? It was the semi finals of the creative plant arranging competition!
The home team had just put together a lovely set of water fern fronds, contrasting color and texture in a beautiful display that earned near-maximum points from the judges, when G interrupted again.
"G, what do you want?"
"What are," G looked down at the handheld display. "What are 'sexes'?"
"What do you mean?" Z modulated its voice. Z was trying to be more patient with G, to indulge G's whims and flights of fancy. This trip was part of that effort.
"The handheld says that 'ladies' is a term for 'women', which was one of the two human 'sexes'."
"Let me see that." Z took the handheld from G and reviewed the data. Humans were divided into two distinct sexes, male and female. The sexes were mostly similar but had striking differences in genetic codes and outer physical characteristics. Both sexes were necessary to mate and reproduce - one held spermatozoa, one held ooctyes.
How very strange, Z thought. Separate lifeforms, similar yet different. It was a concept Z had trouble holding in its mind. R, Z's partner mate, looked exactly the same as Z, almost all the way down to the genetics. Z and R's Recreational procreation had become more routine than enjoyable in the last few calendar periods. There was a ritual sameness to the foreplay, and raising R's excitement level used the same actions that Z could perform on itself.
How would conjugation work with distinct sexes? What would it be like with a lifeform similar to oneself, yet with different physical shapes and a different excitation protocol? It would be an eternal journey of discovery, of learning something new about ones partner and their ways. Every coupling would be different, in some unknown yet crucial way.
Z shuddered and its skin turned a deep peach. What must these humans have been like? A large part of their lives surely focused around the eternal quest to understand the other sex, to continually decode the various signals and processes that would lead to excitement and a meaningful coupling. What a sensual, tactile, species they must have been!
But what was the purpose of this room? And where was G?
"Offspring, where are you?"
"In the room, parent! It is very strange, come see!"
Z entered the room and the handheld downloaded and displayed details on the room. It was the "Ladies Room", used for elimination of waste products. G swam around smaller chambers within the rooms, going over and under the walls. The chambers were where the ladies placed their waste in the basins. Water was used to carry the waste away.
Well, that was certainly something Bakrell had in common with humans. Of course, Bakrell were surrounded by water and humans lived on land. Or rather, they had lived on this land back when it was exposed to the air above the water's surface.
But if this was the room for females, where did the male sex put their waste products? Z tapped the question into the handheld. The males used a similar room, labeled "Gentlemen". Unfortunately, there was not an existing room still standing but the handheld displayed reconstructions based on the scientific studies of the human ruins. In the room for gentlemen there were no smaller chambers. It was one large room with waste basins set into the walls around the rooms.
This was the waste elimination room for Z. It was obviously a convivial, friendly place where the "males" used the basins while visiting, talking, and sharing thoughts and opinions. If Z was to be human, surely it would have been a gentleman. In fact, the word itself meant "kind human" and Z did need to be more kind with G and less impatient and distant.
How had Z become so distant and impatient? In youth, Z had been carefree, joyful, much like G was right now. G swam in and out of the small chambers, and played with the fixtures that dispensed water into the basins. Maturity had brought more responsibility with Z, and Z now wondered if it had just forgotten how to be carefree. Certainly life with R and the family had become predictable, routine. There were so many commitments, between community duties and schooling and household management. There was no time for spontaneity in their lives, no time to engage in the whims of discovery and passion that they had felt in their youth.
"Look, parent, I'm playing human!" G perched on the basin and pretended that it was eliminating waste and then sending it away by pushing the lever.
Playing human. An intriguing thought formed in Z's brain. He scrolled the main information section for the museum and found what he was looking for. In the main entry arena, full-scale reconstructions of humans had been erected. Human specifications could also be downloaded to create replicas at home.
Z could construct a replica of certain characteristics of the human for itself and for R and they could pretend to be human during their next coupling. It would be different, exciting, intriguing.
But what else did it mean to be human? Could Z make the experience more authentic? The museum information banks gave more details on the daily human existence. Scientists had found that the human separation of the sexes was not limited to their waste elimination. There was also evidence of separate schools, separate health care, and even separate stores for clothing. So a human couple spent most of their day apart, then only reunited at night in their homes, in the privacy of their sleeping chamber. There they removed their clothing and it must have been a frenzy of coupling and procreation!
This would be how Z and R would play human. Z could fabricate replicas of the important different body parts. Z and R would spend an entire day cycle apart, not seeing each other once. An entire day! They weren't used to that. It would be excruciating; marvelously, tantalizingly, exquisitely excruciating.
At night, they would retire to their chambers and wear their fabricated body parts. Z could even fabricate clothes to wear on top of the human parts! Then they could take off their clothes, and - Z's skin turned red from embarrassment and anticipation.
Z needed to inform R of the idea. R had gone off to study the remnants of the human transportation mechanisms, so Z would need to go there.
"G, where are you?"
G zipped into the room from outside the door. "Here I am, parent."
"We need to find your other parent. Let's go the transportation exhibit."
They swam out of the ladies room exhibit. On the way, Z handed the museum reference back to G.
"I want to you tell me as much as you can about the humans. I've become quite interested in them since we came to the exhibit."
Z made a note in its handheld to purchase the human schematics and to donate a nice amount of funds to the Human Museum. It was certainly a wonderful, thought-provoking place!
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