Tag Archives: Turbotastical challenge

The Turbotastical Challenge: A Story for Carey

Two years ago I posted a challenge  (that I would still consider as open, by the way) – that I would turn any sentence left into the comments into a story. I completed two – “Fallen” (from the sentence Tyran left: “There was a warm fetid smell, like wet dogs running wild.”) and “Fair Acres” (from the sentence Stefan left: “But she couldn’t get the hang of his torso.”).

I got stuck on the third one.

For those of you who don’t know the history behind how Captain Turbotastic and Careybatgirl… you are lucky. It is long and it is rambling and it is full of silliness. It involves dish mats and little men on the windshield and dinosaurs.

When we were in high school together, so many years ago now, I wrote Carey a children’s story in math class about how we became friends. When she left her sentence in the comments of the challenge… I wanted to write another.

And that’s why it took so long to get this one out, boys and girls. Because the Captain doesn’t do much drawing these days.

Carey’s sentence was “We never found the dish drain mat and were stranded there forever.”  And with that out of the way… here’s my story for Carey.

I miss you, Carebear.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(If you hover your mouse over the slideshow, you will get controls. It moves a bit quickly, so I would stop play and advance it manually. You need to move your mouse off the slideshow to make the controls get the heckfire out of the way.)

The Turbotastical Challenge: A Story for Stefan

Fair Acres

Molly Elsenham’s future husband was in pieces, much like her life. He was neatly arranged in a sterile box, also much like her life.

Her life’s box was a standard two bedroom flat somewhere in the middle of a complex of thousands of similar flats collectively known as Fair Acres. All the complexes were similarly named, it was supposed to invoke a sense of a simpler, more wholesome time when people didn’t live all stacked together like this. She would have preferred one closer to the ground, but of course you had no say in the matter. There were rumours that the lottery was fixed, but you didn’t want to be the one caught spreading that particular rumour.

She had moved in three years ago, just after her 24th birthday, as was the standard. At first she’d been excited about the extra room, about the promise of the future family she was looking forward to having. But the months flew by quickly and she had failed to find herself a husband. Not for lack of trying – she went to all the seminars as recommended and used all the right websites. Unfortunately, decent guys were a rare commodity, and under the youthful illusion of there always being more time, Molly figured she could afford to be picky. She was wrong.

About six months ago Molly started to dread this day.  And today her coworkers gave her sympathetic looks instead of warm birthday wishes. They knew, as did she, exactly what she was going home to find.

On the train home, Molly allowed herself a flicker of hope that the box wouldn’t be there before she quashed it. She had read that back in the day oversights like that may have been common, but since the corporations had taken over the government in 2080, they ran everything with unrivaled efficiency.

The box was in her living room when she got home. How thoughtful of them. It must have been heavy.

Molly sighed, turned away from the box and went into the kitchen. She’d been hoarding her wine allotment for the better part of a year, and had managed to save three bottles for this night. She knew she was risking imprisonment for being in possession of so much alcohol, but she couldn’t face the task laid out in the next room without a drink. Or several.  She might even have to get drunk to handle this one, even though the penalties for inebriation were even more severe than being in possession. She was willing to risk it.

As she walked back to the living room, a glass of wine in one hand and the rest of the bottle in the other, she noticed the flashing light on the message centre. Molly chose to ignore it. It would just be her mother. Her poor, disappointed mother, with a lecture Molly didn’t want to hear. It was a little late for lectures.

Her mother’s disappointment stemmed from the fact that she’d married Molly’s father well before the deadline, and that was in the years before the law was introduced. In failing to do the same, Molly lost big marks on the Good Daughter scorecard that her parents seemed to carry around in their heads. Too bad there were no do-overs in this one. No chance to repeat the last grade. No way to improve her score.

Molly quieted the mother-voice in her head to a dull shriek by downing the first glass of wine in one large gulp and then turned to the box containing the rest of her life.

The head turned out to be very easy to assemble.  Really, all you had to do was snap the face onto the back of the head and attach it to the neck. Molly rewarded her success by finishing her second glass of wine.

The legs and arms were likewise easy to put together. She didn’t understand the technology, but once she snapped the pieces together the skin sealed up and there were no seams.

It was getting later; the second wine bottle was getting emptier; and Molly felt she had made good progress so far without having any sort of emotional or mental meltdown. But she couldn’t get the hang of his torso.  To lighten the head and improve the centre of balance, the main circuitry was all contained in the midsection and had to be properly wired to the extremities. It probably wasn’t as hard as it looked, it was just that her heart wasn’t in it and the wine wasn’t helping her mechanical skills.

After the last big war and the corporations centralised the world government, they got to work minimising inequalities between the countries. Once everything was more or less equally distributed and all religions combined into one (Molly heard whispered conspiracies that the Prophet was mostly smoke and mirrors, but of course you didn’t question things like that unless you wanted to face imprisonment or surgery on the frontal lobe, or both), they realised that the root of war actually lay with the anger and envy of the individual. Band together enough angry and envious individuals and you would have an uprising. So they did everything they could to equalise everyone on an individual level as well. Everyone worked for the government in some capacity or another. There was no cash, so there were no salaries like there were the century before. Everyone commuted to and from work by train for an equal amount of time.  And everyone had to be married by a certain age and have a child at a certain age.

In order to make this happen, men and women were paired off. Men had to be married by 30 and women by 27.  Because there were so many more women than men, women who weren’t paired to a biological male would be sent a mechanical one on her 27th birthday. If a woman was sent a mechanical husband, she was expect to adopt a child within two years. In the last 50 years they had perfected a procedure to genetically alter the baby so it would more or less look like its parents. In this way everyone would have the perfect little family.

Except it didn’t feel perfect. Having a mechanical husband was a life sentence. If you had a bio mate, there was always a chance that he would die early if the two of you weren’t as compatible as you’d hoped  – there weren’t as many violent crimes and of course the old diseases weren’t such an issue any more, but accidents still happened. With a bio you could still hope. With a mechanical one, you were stuck with him until you died. They were programmed to be ideal, but ideal sounded dull to Molly. She wanted someone with whom she could argue. Someone who would get passionate about things. Someone who didn’t record every word she said in the CPU tucked in its groin.

After consulting the instructions, Molly worked at getting the wires connected to the main CPU in the torso. No heart to put in the chest, which made her sad enough to take another big drink from her glass; and as she snapped the genital-less groin cover in place she drained it.

That was it. She wiped her finger prints from the wine bottles and got rid of them. Her new husband was not supposed to take video recordings, but if it found the bottles there was a good chance it would turn her in. Its loyalty was unshakable, but it would be loyal to the government first and to Molly second. She couldn’t risk it.

With the bottles gone she returned to the living room and sat on the couch across from where she had sat her husband. If you didn’t know that it was mechanical, you’d be hard pressed to guess. That was the point, she supposed. If everyone could tell that there was no actual blood running through your husband’s veins, that you had been incapable of pairing with a bio, it wouldn’t have the equalising effect that the government was trying to achieve.

Molly sat like that for a long time. Then with a resigned breath, she finally said the activation code.

“I do,” she said, and her husband opened his eyes.

The End

The Turbotastical Challenge: A Story for Tyran


Something woke her up.

It was the middle of the night and it took a moment for Kara to realise that it was the new pressure of her cat pressed against her leg, purring, that had brought her back to consciousness. Smiling sleepily, she reached down to pet it in the dark of her room but paused before reaching her hand out completely.

There was a warm fetid smell, like wet dogs running wild. She held her hand suspended above the cat, trying to identify the origin of the unpleasant smell. It made her uneasy; like the memory of something yet to happen.

To settle the unease the smell has aroused, she reached out again to the comforting feel of the purring cat. But as she pet it, the fur and rotting flesh came away in her hand, pulling off the mouldering corpse with sickening ease.

Her dream screams woke Kara in the conscious world, still in the dark, and still choking on the screams that she had started in her dream. After several shuddering deep breaths, she realised that the wet, gamey smell and the warmth against her leg had followed her out of her dream and into her damp, rocky alcove. That’s when she screamed, screamed for real, and startled the animal that was now sharing her small, damp shelter from the pounding rain.

The frighten animal lashed out and sunk its teeth into the fleshy calf of her good leg. In pain and terror she kicked out with her other leg, the leg where the ankle did not just feel broken, but shattered. As it connected with the haunch of the animal, driving it from the cave, she nearly passed out from the electric bolt of pure pain that snaked up her leg and spine to nestle at the base of her skull. But her survival instincts kicked in and kept her conscious; if there was one animal out there in the dark seeking shelter, there could be more. She would have to keep her guard up and protect herself.

Once Kara felt more in control, she gingerly felt down her left leg to the bite on her calf. Although the pain caused her to wince as she touched the swollen puncture wounds, she was relieved that there wasn’t more blood. But she knew that if someone didn’t find her, and find her soon, that loss of blood or shock would likely be the least of her problems. She sat up, eyes glassy and wide in the dark, holding her leg and trying hard to not think about how quickly rabies could work its way through her bloodstream.

Two nights ago Kara had headed out for a run in these woods, not five miles from her home. As she thought about that, it added a degree of ridiculousness to her situation. You always read how this kind of death is made all the more tragic because it happened so close to home. But she wouldn’t allow herself to think of that. To think of death. To lose hope. Not yet.

She had worked late and it forced her to head out a little later than she usually would. But the light was still good, the sun hanging heavy and golden just above the trees to the west. It was her favourite place to run and her favourite time to do it. A well-maintained but rarely used path through the woods near her home, with a thick dusty forest on one side and a dry ravine to the other. At this time of day it was cool enough to run, but light enough to do so safely.

Lost in the motion and her music, Kara overran the point at which she should have turned around to ensure she didn’t get trapped out here after dark. Instead she carried to the five kilometre mark, auto-piloting to the point where she habitually turned around.

When she saw the small, red trail marker, she snapped out of her reverie and cursed herself. In the time it would take her to run back to the car park it would be nearly dark. And with the storm she failed to take notice of moving in quickly; it definitely would be dark long before she made it out of the woods.

Unnoticed by Kara, the sky had taken on a hurtful, purplish cast and the wind was picking up, causing the trees to whisper with secret forest gossip. As she turned to start her long run back to the car, the first rain started to fall, heavy and pregnant with the promise of a good soaking.

It was going to be a good storm, moving fast. Flashes of lightning threw the ragged, rocky crevasses of the ravine at the trail’s west side into sharp relief. The rain started to fall in earnest, getting in Kara’s eyes and stinging her skin as the wind blew it hard against her face and shoulders.

What happened next was more difficult to recall. It must have been the shock after the fall that muddled her memory. The dark skies, the forest groaning as the wind pushed through it and the oppressive sound of the thunder made Kara feel uncharacteristically skittish and apprehensive. A tree must have fallen onto the path. It is the only reason she can think of; a tree must have fallen onto the path and she over-corrected to avoid it and fell over the edge of the ravine.

She had no recollection of the fall at all. She must have passed out, although she doesn’t remember that either. But she must have, because she remembered waking up. She woke at the bottom of the cliff, shaking and in more pain than she had ever been in before.

As she became aware of the various pains in her body she started taking stock, feeling every scratch and bruise and almost admiring the tight pains in her ribcage that came and went with every shallow breath she dared to take.

The worst was her right ankle. She tried carefully to stand on it despite how much it was paining her even without moving. She knew that if she couldn’t even stand she would have no chance of ever getting out of this ravine, out of these woods.

The pain was so intense Kara couldn’t even get beyond putting her good foot down and pushing up slightly from the ground with her hands. Even crawling was going to be an exercise in sheer will and determination to get through the pain. The exertion of moving just a couple of feet towards the cliff face exhausted her and she gave up, panting, lying on her back in the muck and crying into the rain.

Once the pain subsided slightly she assessed her situation. The edge of the trail was only twenty feet or so above where she was lying. With her ankle in the state it was in though, it might as well have been two hundred feet; there was no way she was going to be able to climb up it. Her only hope was that the trail was not as disused as it seemed – she had only ever come across other people a handful of times when running it – and that someone would be able to find her.

The more immediate danger was exposure. It was now fully dark and raining hard. Kara was already shivering and cold from the pain and shock. She looked at the cliff face and saw a small alcove where the rocky overhang would protect her at least somewhat from the storm. With her face set against the pain, she crawled into the small cave and, unmindful of what she may be sharing the space with, fell asleep almost immediately, exhausted from the pain and the fear of what had happened. And the fear of not knowing what was going to happen next.

That was two nights ago. That same fear gripped her now as she stared out into the dark, straining to hear if the animal she had kicked would return.

It was impossible to know how much time was passing in the darkness outside of the cave. She had just started to relax when she heard something else, something bigger than whatever had crawled into her shelter earlier that night. Something that moved with little fear or stealth; something that was moving in her direction.

She held her breath and stared with her eyes wide. She felt no pain as every cell in her body strained for silence. Strained to be undetectable to the animal moving outside. Strained to not call attention to herself, trapped in her small cave with no possible retreat.

That’s when she saw the huge shape of the animal. Black fur against the black rocks at the bottom of the ravine. Black outlined against the black of the sky. Black outlined against the black of her future. And she saw as it slowly, slowly but relentlessly, swung its huge head in her direction. And although there was no light, she saw the eyes seek her out in the dark.

Her heart was bursting in her chest, her breath rapid and painful as Kara watched the animal turn and move towards her, deliberate and taking its time as though it could smell that she was injured. That she was trapped. That she was easy prey.

The End