DoomHaven t1_jaev7k8 wrote

You have it correct :) For the sake of the rest of the class, would you have any comments on how it wasn't clear, or how it could be made clearer?

That's the good news. The bad news could mean that Tom realizes that Carl's breakthrough is bad. Or... it could mean that Tom's going to be a genius for the rest of his very brief life.


DoomHaven t1_jae5s6p wrote

I'm sorry, I can't do that with this prompt. Half the fun is the mystery of whether Tom survives, right? Those, I have 15 other prompts so far if you would like to read them?


DoomHaven t1_jad5gd5 wrote

I hadn’t heard from Carl in years. He was my best friend in university, and all the best stories from that time involved him. Like the time he mixed drinks at a pre-finals party and everyone turned lemon-yellow and got a pass on the vector calculus. Or the time he gave Cindy, the self-proclaimed “Biology Bimbo”, some sort of confidence booster before her big presentation that she aced. She took great pride making sure Carl couldn’t walk for the week after. Or the collection of beaker-shaped coffee mugs, and the misunderstandings those caused. So when I got the email inviting me to his parent’s mountain retreat, I couldn’t book time off work fast enough.

The Canadian Rockies are amazing -- tall, jagged spires of rock clawing triumphantly at the blue, Albertan summer sky. When he wasn’t at the research institute on the Pacific Coast -- something to do with whales, I think -- he spent his time at his parent’s old cabin. I grinned remembering the ragers we threw here. Carl and I made a great team back then -- he was the brains, and I was the charm.

Carl welcomed me with his trademarked shy smile as I pulled up the lane to the cabin. It looked completely different than the last time I was here. Originally, it could have charitably been called a shack, ramshackle and fresh out of a horror movie. Now, it was an almost palatial lodge; multistory and open with tall, glass windows.

“You came, Tom! I’m so happy, please, come in, come in!” I hugged my old friend -- I was one of the few he afforded this luxury. “Carl, my man, it’s been too long, you look great! What did you do to my cabin, you’ve ruined it!”

“I’m sorry, Tom. As you can see, I have some good news, and some bad news.” We shared a laugh over our inside joke almost older than our friendship. “I… uh… I needed some extra space. I loved the view. So, I made a few changes, nothing major… Uh… come in, I’ll show you around. I… I’ve made a breakthrough.”

My feet kept following Carl to his chalet while my mind stopped. He said, “breakthrough”. Carl’s failures were far more successful than anything I’d consider a life victory. But he always called them “failures”. He’d never used the b-word before: refused to, in fact. It courted disaster, he claimed.

After a quick trip to the kitchen -- I was dying for a coffee before even getting here, and he still had the novelty mugs -- we ended up in his laboratory. Of course, Carl has a laboratory in his remote, mountain retreat. It wasn’t the first time I accused Carl of being a mad scientist in jest. But the b-word kept my mouth shut. Absently, I put my mug down on the laboratory countertop and waited.

“Uh, so Tom, you may not know it, but uh I’ve been working with orcas. Lovely creatures, not the killers everyone thinks. I’ve been working on a formula to increase their intelligence. Most of them, even one drop of the solution, caused immediate death of the whales. But this one, this beaker holds the breakthrough.” The brown-black liquid sloshed in the beaker in his hand as he triumphantly waved it.

Swept up in the moment, I grabbed my coffee mug; it was fuller than I thought. I raised it to toast his victory. “Congratulations, Carl! That’s amazing!” I took a deep swig, the pleasantly sweet, lemon-lime liquid coursed down my throat. The caffeine roared through my mind, awaking me.

The look on Carl’s face froze me. His eyes were wide with fear; his mouth falling, falling open; the rest of the colour draining from his pale, gaunt face. A healthy face, though, with not even a trace of the facial scleroderma that killed his father.

“What? How did you turn my coffee into lemonade?” I checked my mug, the brown-black liquid swished around the graduated flask. Oh. Carl’s novelty mugs didn’t have precision measurements of a real Erlenmeyer flask. The refractive index of the borosilicate glass should have given it away as well, or the heft, or even that this glass was room temperature instead of piping hot.

“Tom, a drop of that beaker was enough to kill a whale!”

I already knew that. In my mind, I could see the chemical reactions in the orca’s biochemistry as its brain tissue surged and expanded, as the creature’s encephalon grew, as the Vitamin A became toxic to their enhanced minds and killed them. I could feel the terror as their last thoughts knew how and why they were dying and how powerless they were to stop it. I could tell by the swish of the liquid in the beaker that Carl -- poor, slow, dumb Carl -- was still years away from his breakthrough.

“Carl, I have some good news, and I have some bad news”.


DoomHaven t1_j9l8t8j wrote

“Hey, Vlad, come look at this error message.” Ivan’s thick finger gestured at the screen.

“‘Illegal Operation Detected. Terminating.’ That’s a good one. If this computer only knew.” Vladimir guttural guffaw filled the small, cramped security room. He looked up. “It’s on all the screens”.

Ivan glanced up and paused. Vladimir was right -- on all the screens, the PCs, the camera monitors, the status boards: each one was primary blue and displayed in white, fixed-font letters: “ILLEGAL OPERATION DETECTED. TERMINATING.” It made Ivan worried -- the camera monitors were black and white and not connected to computers. Yet each one had the same blue-white display. More importantly, if the cameras were down, they couldn’t monitor any of the children or women they were trafficking. Ivan’s and Vladimir’s bosses were not the understanding or forgiving types.

“Vlad, you need to get down to the cells and check on the merchandise right now. I’ll try to get these working now.” He reached for the switches, his flipping flipping them in erratic, panicking movements.

“Wait, Ivan. It’s a different message now.” They both stared at the screens; “ILLEGAL OPERATION TERMINATION INBOUND” stared back.

Ivan went for his phone. Damn the consequences, the bosses needed to know about this now. The screen on his smartphone read: “ILLEGAL OPERATION TERMINATION INBOUND” in white letters on a blue background.

Faintly at first but gaining strength, Ivan could hear the high-pitched whine of incoming aircraft.


“What do you mean, ‘The drones aren’t responding’, Lieutenant?” Lt. Connor Seradon could hear the contempt dripping off each of the major’s words like fresh blood from a blade.

“Major, we sent the requests to the drones to return to base, sir. We sent the override requests, sir. We sent the override override requests, which we didn’t even know existed until the MOB informed us, sir. The drones are not responding, sir. Then the screens went blank, sir.” Seradon tried to keep the emotion out of her voice and was failing.

The major slowly scanned the command post again. He seemed to note that screens were blank -- not off. The base staff was either trying to restart systems or were staring back at him, waiting for him to fix this.

“What heading were the drones on before we lost contact, Lieutenant?”

“Heading 64 degrees, 34 minutes, sir. There’s a suspected Russian human trafficking facility on that heading, sir.” Seradon had been trying to get those monsters shut down for months; she wondered if someone finally had listened.

The major broke his silence. “Are you saying that Russian mobsters have taken control of American military assets, Lieutenant?” He reached for the nearest phone.

She had no answer, and did not need one. As one, all of the screens lit back up with the following message:


The list of officers following the notification was long, too long, she noted. It comprised most of the base’s top brass. Including the major. She thought of all the emails, reports she drafted to him describing the situation and need for action to save those people. All those people, those helpless women, those poor children. All the suffering. Her hands clenched to shaking fists. He was still slamming receivers and punching buttons as she drew her service revolver.

“Major Carl Dithers, you are under arrest.” Maybe she would get a chance to arrest him before the drones returned. Maybe, if she was lucky, he would resist, and she could shoot the bastard.


DoomHaven t1_j9kkxsn wrote

That's awesome, thank you! It's my goal to write 8 prompts a month, and I'm a bit behind for February. Knowing they are being read and enjoyed gives a big push to finish the month strong :)


DoomHaven t1_j9gpqi7 wrote

My ten-year-old son, Bobby, recoiled as I put my hand on his shoulder. He threw a baffled look at me as he walked away, around the front of his mother’s beat-up junker to the driver’s side backseat. His warranted loathing still hurt, still after all of these years. I didn’t blame him. Madison, his mother, glared over the steering wheel at me with narrowed eyes far older than her thirty-one, while her new boyfriend appraised me with a fake smirk across his greasy face. I didn’t feel anything as I watched them pull away to end this joy-forsaken visitation.

Back in the house, I was hungry and went to the kitchen. When I reached into the cupboard to get food even I could cook, my hand brushed the half-filled whiskey bottle and stopped. I looked up, startled by the cool glass, and found myself looking at my reflection; the soulless Monster I became leering back at me, waiting eagerly for my next relapse. His cool eyes were laughing at me as I slammed the door.

Hungry, I spent the night in the dark, sitting in the threadbare, formerly green recliner: my only living room chair. It was squalid misery, and far better than I deserved. I could barely make out the calendar on the wall; two weekends from now might as well be lifetimes. Outside, a lonely dog howled mournfully. Inside, this mutt stayed quiet. I continued to ignore the book the judge gave me, abandoned on the ramshackle end table beside me.


The mechanic shop was far busier than useful. Once I wasn’t drunk at work anymore and the shakes stopped, my calloused hands flew like angels and the work blurred like through a bottle.

“Hey, Bill, how goes?” Tom, my best friend, runs the shop; if it was anyone else, I’d be homeless or dead.

I smiled. “Well enough, you?”

“You got a hot date or something tonight? That’s the fourth car you’ve fixed. You're making the other mechanics look bad”. His laugh was infectious, and all of the other grease monkeys in the garage grinned back across engines and out of pits.

Four? Fuck, four? Shit, when I work fast I get sloppy; my mouth felt too dry, my hands clammy. I needed a drink. “Are they okay? I swear, Tom, I was paying atten-”

“No, Tom, they’re good”. He put his hands up, his smile gone, his voice calming. “You good?”

“Bad visit with Bobby.” I shrugged. “I don’t blame him”.

Tom nodded. “Change is hard. Hardest thing I ever did was quit drinking, same as you.”

“You were funny when you’re drunk. I wasn’t.”

“You just think that cuz you were drunk too.” I didn’t say anything to that, cuz he was probably right.

After work, I started cleaning my trailer. I was surprised there was still money in my account after paying child support to Madison, so I got the power turned back on. The lonely living room lamp threw its sad light on the book. I had nothing else to do, so I started reading.


Two weeks flew by like nothing. The shop had never been busier but I buzzed like a damned saw. At home, I started to fix all the broken shit I found while cleaning: the coffee table the Monster smashed, the angry holes he punched into the walls; broken pictures of Maddy, Bobby and me. The book had talked about yoga or some bullshit but I figured fixing stuff would work the same. I hoped Bobby would be happy his bed didn’t wobble anymore.

He was sullen and silent when he was dropped off instead of crying and screaming. They all were quiet. Madison didn’t even look at me, staring off into the distance like she did when we were together, white knuckles grasping the wheel. Her new boyfriend’s leer was less fake, quite at home in the passenger seat. Bobby, of course, had to take the long way around the car from the driver’s side. If he saw anything I fixed, he didn’t say. He didn’t say nothing the whole weekend. I left him be.

It wasn’t an accident when I found the bottle in my cupboard after he left. And it wasn’t an accident when I put it back unopened, neither. It hurt so much to have him ignore me, and even more that I couldn’t drink it away.


I finished the judge’s book in the next two weeks. I had to bring it to work and ask Tom about a lot of the words. “Behavior Therapy” this and “Dialectical” that, why can’t they just make it simple: you drink because of these trigger things, and it’s all connected somehow. But I read it with the help. I was afraid the guys would laugh because of the book, but only the young guy, Hayden said anything, and he must have gotten a talking to about it cuz it was just the once. He came to say he was sorry afterwards, and I told him we were good and I’d done the same at his age.

When Bobby came over again, it was more of the angry quiet. I walked him to his room, the same room he had when they lived here, a lifetime ago. “It’s cool if you don’t want to talk to me. I don’t blame you none. When you get hungry, let me know. Work’s been good, I’d like to go to Mama’s Burgers like we used to if you want.”

“I would, Dad”. The soft words were the first he said to me in a month; they were louder than any thunderclap I’d heard then and since.

We drove in silence; I was just happy to get my license back. It was so strange seeing him in the front passenger seat instead of the back one.

It was awkward conversation at best, fumbled silences at worst. I almost ordered the Monster’s hangover special; I wondered if he saw the shame on my face as I saw the fear on his. I ended up with the house special, and ordered him his usual: single-patty, double cheese, double ketchup, double pickles, nothing else; gravy on the side for the fries. After that, we just talked about safe stuff: Little League, school, and computers. I don’t remember the last time we talked. Part of me wondered if we ever did.

I had my hand on his shoulder when his mom’s jalopy chugged up to the curb. I got scared when I felt Bobby’s shoulder tense up, like he was going to pull away again, but he didn’t. I wondered why Madison keeps bringing her loser boyfriend when she picks up my son.

I almost threw out the bottle that night, if only to see the smugness wiped clean off the Monster’s face. His greasy smirk was the last thing I saw before I slammed the door shut.


The next two weeks dragged by like a loaded truck with a broken axle. I did something unthinkable: I went to the library, got a card, and signed out a book from the judge’s “Recommended reading” list. It made a lot more sense, and I was mostly through it before Bobby’s weekend. There was some sort of 3D printing thing at the library that weekend and I signed us up for it. He’d love it, I hoped.

Bobby jumped out of the car as soon as his mother's smoking heap heaved to a stop. He was crying when he ran past. As I followed, two faces were watching me through the cracked windshield: my ex, her eyes round and full of fear; and his, cool and smug.

I ran back in to find my son; I heard sobbing from his room. I ran in. He was sitting on his bed, his face in his arms. I reached out to hold him. That’s when I saw the bruises, angry and purple, on his face.

He didn’t need to tell me the story, but I listened anyway. I should have known -- his mom has a type. Between the sobs, he managed to get it out. “They were fighting again, like they always do, like you and Mom used to do, screaming and smashing things. It always makes me angry and when he started hitting her, this time I told him to stop, and he started hitting me.”

For a moment, I didn’t know if he was talking about his mom’s new boyfriend, or her old one.

My heart broke when he looked at me, his tears damning me. “Why, Dad, why is it always gotta be like this? Why are you monsters always hurting me and Mom? Why Dad? Why can’t it stop?”

I tried to make it stop. I stopped drinking. I started reading. I finally got my license back, and work was going well, and the library. The Monster was just a fading reflection instead of the man. I was trying to be the father my son deserves and not the father I’d gotten.

I thought about that, what my son deserves, and I made my decision. I called his grandma, his mom’s mother, who hated me, and told him what happened and that I was bringing him to her house for the night. She squawked something back that sounded affirmative.

It was a long drive to his grandma’s house. So I brought something for the drive back to his mom’s apartment, something I’d need. When he saw it, I saw the fear in my son’s one good eye, and then he looked at me hard and nodded.

In the reflection in the bottle, a wolfish grin spread across the Monster’s face.


DoomHaven t1_j8t6juq wrote

Supreme Warmaster Lzurg looked up; his three eyes boggling in awe and terror. The night sky was filled not with the familiar stars of his youth. The Human armada hung over the planet with finality, like a death sentence.

His adjunct, Undersquad Commander Hrug, thrummed his gelatinous thorax to grab Lzurg’s attention. “What should we do, Warmaster? The Council requests your presence immediately.”

Lzurg ignored the question. He craned his cranium up, up to the vast fleet of warships. His people were no match for them, no match at all. Now, they stood on the twilight of their kind; after this, his people would only exist in stories, like the Vreen and Koxads before them.

Despite the inevitability before him, Lzurg thought of his prime-wife, Lizza. She was part of 3rd Warfleet that fell to the humans in the Harachi system. He turned to his assistant. “Informing the Council of their impeding extinction may be the last task that brings me happiness before the end.”


“Warmaster, what will be the humans next steps now that they are in orbit of Homeworld?”

Lzurg didn’t bother to hide the look of disgust and contempt for the simpering and near-edible Vicecouncil Blurg. The holo-display in the main council chambers showed the fleet moving into coverage orbit around his defenseless planet. “If it was us, we’d commence orbital bombardment of Homeworld immediately after our fleet was situated, like we did with the Vreen. Unless they have been successful in their studies of our physiology to use bio-weapons. I expect Homeworld to be lifeless in about 2-3 weeks. They’ve ignored civilian targets up to now, aside from the Harachi system, but without our fleet, we cannot repulse them. After that, the human fleet will move outward to finish our extermination.”

The Council murmured and burbled amongst themselves. Lzurg could hear their shock, fear; his voice was the only one that sounded of tired resignation. None of these pampered cowards lost like the military had; like he had. The only belief he had any confidence in was how that would change very soon for these brood-runts.

Councillor Hruch seemed to measure the Warmaster before speaking. “Is there any change in your opinion of their messages? That the humans want peace and an alliance with us?”

He scoffed in response. “That’s not how the galaxy grips, Councillor. It’s kill or be killed. That’s just human propaganda to make us lower our defenses so we’re easier to kill.”

Hruch paused for a moment, his gripping tentacles stilled as if in thought. “Warmaster, have the humans had any problems destroying your mighty Warfleets with their defenses raised?” Lzurg did not have a response to that.

Hrug pointed to the display. “Look, Warmaster, the humans are sending invasion craft!” Several smaller craft, lightly armed, were descending from the main concentration of the human ships.

“Invasion? Are they slavers, then?” What kind of sadistic barbarians are these humans? Xenocidal murder was the galaxy norm. It’s what the Koxad tried with them and failed; every race met since was this struggle. Lzurg had never heard of a race enslaving another race. It was an alien concept completely. He thought, briefly, of his wife, a slave, working the endless fields of Harachi-7 until her brutal death.

“We’ll find out soon, Warmaster. The ships are heading here directly. No anti-ship defensives operational near the Capitol. We have some scattered units but none nearby. At best, the guards here have small arms.”

“Rally them.” It felt good to give commands; Lzurg almost felt alive again. “For the Homeworld!”


The human craft, all sharp angles and flat surfaces, landed engines screaming in the main park outside the council chambers. Several heavy interceptors were already flying combat patrols. Lzurg always admired the Human efficiency; if the Ysari Brood Empire had to fall, it was to a far superior foe. The Council Guard were set in their defensive positions, for whatever that would accomplish. It was mercy, he eventually decided: like the Warfleet, at least these guardsman would die in battle.

The troopship’s rear hatch opened, ready to disgorge human marines. Lzrug’s tentacle gripped his weapon. He was ready for almost anything.

Except for the site of Lizza unsteadily gliding down the ramp in full dress uniform. Behind her, several more Ysarians were disembarking; tepid, unsure movements as they gawked at their surroundings like tourists from the Rim instead of hardened soldiers. All the ships were emptying of his people. He looked up. There were more ships coming down, tens, hundreds, the sky burning bright like day with retrorockets.

His wife’s voice, amplified with near-magical Human technology, snapped his reverie. “Ysarians, I’ve been told by the humans that those ships are filled with more of our people, survivors from battles. The humans want… the humans want peace with us. As a gesture of goodwill, they are returning all our survivors.”


Their stories were all the same, with little variation. The only believable part was the ease the human fleets sliced through their defenses, like a torch through brindlevine. The rest was fairy tales to Lzurg. Ysarian survivors were gathered; the injured cared for by the humans at first and then Ysari medical survivors. “Survivors”, “prisoners of war”, “Geneva Conventions”, “ambassadors”: each term was more alien than the next to Lzurg. The battle of the Harachi system had only one goal: so the humans could feed their prisoners. Interrogations that resulted in confusion instead of corpses. There was a lot of gurgling about “beating plasma cannons into argi-tractors”, whatever that meant.

When he had a moment with his primewife, they merged together as one. “Do you believe this? Any of this?”

He felt her fear and terror but something else; he couldn’t quite grip it. “Not at first. I thought I was going to die on that ship. They knew our language – they learned to speak with us. I thought it was to learn our defenses. The noise they make when they laugh, I’ll never forget that; like a guggeldrakh roar.” She paused, her thoughts a tangle of tentacles and emotions. “What changed my mind was the doctors. They would have their Human doctors learning from ours. They… they were learning how to treat our injuries. To those that died… they learned the death-song to sing it with us. They stood and sang beside me over Arluga after she died.”

Lzrug didn’t know what to think.

She continued, the thoughts tumbling out now, “We were so scared when we found the ships on the Rim. It was like the Vreen all over again. We fought, we killed them all, and then they came for us. I told them, all of them, that we fought them because every race we encountered tried to kill us first. It’s how the galaxy grips: kill or be killed.”

“What did they say to that?”

Her response chilled him right to the core: “’Not in our galaxy.’”


DoomHaven t1_j6ift7c wrote

"I'm scared", I told him.

He held my hand in his. His hand, always strong and rough, was soft and gentle as a whisper. "I understand, my love. It will be fine. I'm here for you. Always."

Just listening to him brought tears to my eyes. I sobbed as he softly caressed my hand, my arm, as he sat on the plastic chair beside my hospital bed . "Will it hurt?"

"No, my love. You won't feel a thing but peace." His gravelly voice was thick with emotion, his eyes filled with tears. "It'll be okay."

Peace. After the doctors, the medicines, the chemotherapy, there would be finally peace. It hurt me to know how hopeful I felt to know that. I started to cry all over again.

A thought terrified me. "What about you? What about us?"

He smiled like the sun breaking through the clouds. "I'll always be there for you. Always. I love you."

It felt like an eternity since I heard him say those words to me. "I love you, too, always."

He smiled at me. He looked up, over me, maybe at the machines monitoring me, maybe beyond. His eyes narrowed, slightly. He looked back at me.

"It's not long now." Both of his hands found mine and held it gently, like a hug. "I love you."

And then he was gone. But I wasn't scared or alone, but comforted as I felt weaker, more tired. He'd been dead for years; but now I knew I would see him again and soon.