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Cookie Break

Writer, stationery addict & occasional cat pillow. Adorer of all things cute. Tea and pasta fanatic.

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Monday Inspiration

Every Monday morning I post a small bit of (mostly) unedited writing. When Cookie Break first started the posts were improvised every Monday (10 Minutes), whereas now they are writing prompts I’ve done (642 – named after the book providing me with said prompts). Please feel free to borrow any writing prompt that speaks to you!

A-Z Name Prompts – H

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Happy Monday, everyone!

It’s time for another writing prompt, chosen by you! 🙂 This week, the winner is…

Thank you to everyone who voted 🙂 As always, if the prompt speaks to you feel free to borrow it. If you publish your interpretation please link back here so I can be nosy ^-^

***

Hosea

(m.; salvation)

My dear Hosea,

before you set fire to this letter please read it first. Pretending this isn’t happening won’t make it go away. Your father and I didn’t raise you to be an idiot.

I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you in person. Your father and I didn’t anticipate things would escalate this soon. I really hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but since my letter has been delivered to you it must mean I’m dead.

We have done everything we could to prepare you for this. I know you won’t feel ready, but you have to be. I hope you can find some reassurance in the knowledge that there isn’t a person alive now who’d embrace what I’m about to tell you and feel up to the task.

We’re not from Earth, Hosea, but we are Earth’s salvation. Go to London. My contact will find you. I know you’ve been preoccupied with New York recently, and there’s a reason for this, but please, don’t go anywhere near America. Go to London, and speak to my contact. She’ll explain everything, I promise.

I’m sorry I can’t explain more in this letter. It’s too dangerous to have all our secrets spelled out on paper, so you can go ahead and burn the letter now.

I wish this could have gone differently. Your mother wished for me to train and lead you in this; I hope she won’t be too cross that I failed before we could save everyone.

Give my love to Lily.

Forever yours,

Aunt Emely

Hosea crumbled the letter into a ball and threw it at the wall. What a load of fucked up rubbish! If he was so important, why had neither his Dad nor Emely ever mentioned it before? The letter had to be her final joke – and one hell of a tasteless one at that!

Hosea rummaged through his drawer until he found his passport. He packed it away together with his wallet in a backpack he threw over one shoulder.

He was eighteen years old, not eight. He was too old to do as his aunty said, final wish or no.

Hosea locked the door to his apartment, and called a taxi to the airport. There was a flight to New York in two hours.

He’d definitely make it.

————–

For all other writing prompts, check here.

For CookieBreak’s homepage, click me.

All writing belongs to the author, Sarina Langer

A-Z Name Prompts – G

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Today’s prompt is going to have to be a very quick one due to time reasons (I’ll explain everything on Friday…It’s very exciting/terrifying!).

Thank you as always to everyone who voted for today’s prompt! The winner is…

As always, if the prompt speaks to you feel free to use it. If you do and publish it, please link back here so I can be nosy ^-^

***

Garner

(m.; gathers grain)

“What do you say in your defence?”

I didn’t look up. I’d really fucked up this time. What could I say? The failure of our colony was my doing. No amount of ignorance, no matter how much hope I’d felt at my find, would change that.

“Speak up, Garner!”

I forced myself to do as Jackson, our leader, said, but it was hard to make eye contact with the five council members before me. Their faces were red, covered in pustules, and gaunt – my doing. All of it. Even my Jenna had died because of my mistakes. Our youngest was too weak to move.

“I have nothing to say in my defence.”

We were the first human colony on this planet. It was a small colony, only one hundred people strong, but that made my job all the more important – to scout our surroundings for edible fruits, nuts, and any seeds I could find. The seeds I had brought back a month ago had scanned as save. Why had everyone fallen ill? They had been supposed to save us, not destroy us.

Jackson sighed. “I’m sorry, Garner. You know the sentence. You are to be hanged at dawn.”

I knew I was missing something, but I hadn’t figured it out since the first people had fallen ill, and my mistake had become obvious. I had eighteen hours before dawn; eighteen hours to figure out what had gone wrong. Could I figure it out from behind bars? I had to try.

————–

For all other writing prompts, check here.

For CookieBreak’s homepage, click me.

All writing belongs to the author, Sarina Langer

A-Z Name Prompts – F

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Happy Monday, everyone! It’s time for the next bit of writing improvisation! ^-^

This week’s prompt, chosen by you on Twitter, is…

Thank you as always to everyone who’s voted. There may not be many of you, but I appreciate it ❤ Also thank you to everyone who pops in every fortnight to read my little prompts!

I didn’t get as much time to edit it this week, so I apologise for any errors I might have missed. Normally I’d try not to publish a first draft, but sometimes life just gets busy. I hope you’ll still enjoy it, anyway 🙂

***

Filia

(f.; friendship)

Filia no longer feels the sticks under her feet, or the wet moss tickling her toes. A month ago they bothered her – especially the moss, when it touched the space between her toes – but she’s as used to them now as she is to the old handkerchief she keeps in her pocket.

Her mother doesn’t know she still sneaks out at night. Filia is only eight years old, and too young to go adventuring on her own in the nearby forest at night. But Filia goes anyway, because Filia knows something the grown-ups don’t.

Out of breath, she comes to a stop at the clearing. A small pond takes up most of the space, surrounded by wild flowers and even some mushrooms.

She breathes in through her mouth, hoping it will help her catch her breath faster, but all it does is make her exhale in squeaky tones. Her asthma makes running difficult, but Filia doesn’t mind. Not when she comes here, under the moonlit sky.

“You should be more careful,” says the tiny voice behind her. She sounds giggly tonight, and Filia laughs as she turns around. She likes it when her friend is giggly. Her fairy is more fun that way, and will likely play with Filia for a couple of hours.

“I am careful,” says Filia. She rummages around in the small bag she has strung across her shoulder, and pulls forth the cheese crackers she took from her mother’s pantry. Her mother only prepared them early that day. They still smell fresh, and of strong cheddar. “Here.”

Her fairy friend reaches out with her tiny arm, and takes the too-big cracker into her tiny hands. Her small wings flutter harder from the effort.

“It smells funny.”

Filia laughs. “That’s cheddar. My Mum puts it into everything these days.”

Her fairy – the creature never introduced herself to Filia; or rather, she did, but her name was so long Filia couldn’t pronounce it – sniffs the cracker some more, then gently gives it a lick with her green tongue. Her forehead wrinkles, but moments later her bright turquoise eyes widen even more.

“Do you like it?” Filia asks. They are her favourite, but her brother doesn’t like them. Cheddar isn’t to everyone’s tastes, her mother insists. She thinks her brother is just stupid for not liking something so tasty.

Her fairy friend inspects the cracker as she rolls the bite around inside her mouth. Finally, after a moment of intense thinking, she nods. “I do! Do you have more?”

Filia shakes her head. “No. Not tonight.” She has to be careful when she removes them, or else her mother might notice and then Filia would have to explain what happened to her crackers. Filia knows instinctively that her mother wouldn’t believe her about her fairy friend. Grown ups never do. “I can bring you more tomorrow, maybe, if I’m careful.”

“No.” Filia has never heard so much force behind her fairy friend’s voice. It frightens her, and the little hairs on her arms stand uncomfortably. “I’m sorry. You can’t go back tonight. I can’t let you.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not save, you see.”

“No.” Filia doesn’t like her father very much. He hits her, and the threatening look he sometimes gives her when her mother isn’t watching terrifies her. But she doesn’t want to run away.

“Have you ever had a sleep-over before?”

“No. Daddy doesn’t allow them.” Filia thinks for a minute. Her father isn’t here now, and as long as she’s back in her bed by 7am he wouldn’t find out. She’s sure of it. “But I’d love to have one!”

Her fairy friend smiles, her eyes glint with the promise of mischief in the moonlight. “Then think of it like that! Like a long sleep-over! Come with me.”

“Where are we going?” Filia is excited. She has wanted to have friends stay over for years, but she is too scared of her father to suggest it again. But her fairy friend is made of magic, and can make anything possible.

Her fairy friend smiles, and disappears behind a rose bush.

“You’ll see.”

————–

For all other writing prompts, check here.

For CookieBreak’s homepage, click me.

All writing belongs to the author, Sarina Langer

A-Z Name Prompts – E – Christmas Edition!

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I hope you’re all having a wonderful break and festive days! ❤ I’m briefly popping into your mailbox today to bring you a short, magical, Christmas story (if you’re not sick of it already, that is)

Thank you to everyone who voted here and on Twitter. I’ll keep it short this week since we’ve all got loved ones and food to get back to, but the winner of the last poll was Eloisa 🙂

If you need a break from the festivities and fancy having a go yourself, feel free to borrow it! Please link back here if you do so I can be nosy ^-^

***

Eloisa

(f.; renowned in battle)

Eloisa leaned on her sword. The weight of her armour drove the blade into the frozen ground. How long had it been since she had last fought? The world had changed so much since the last great war. She remembered the atrocities her kind and the demons had committed against each other. She remembered the smells and macabre lusts of battle and blood shed. Ten thousand years ago she had last lifted her sword. Too many lifetimes to count for the feeble people of this planet. One brief moment for her.

But it hadn’t been brief. At first she had been glad for the end to the fighting, but the last five hundred years or so had been dull. Eloisa had roamed the Earth for so long looking for a worthwhile fight, she couldn’t remember the last time she had sat down. When it had become apparent to her that she wouldn’t find it, she had begun a new search. Somewhere on this planet there was a sanctuary. A way home. She had finally found it.

Once they had called her Eloisa the Strong. Eloisa the Blooded. Eloisa the Red. Now all she wanted to be was rested, the will of her blade silenced at last.

It had taken her a long time to accept it, but she was ready for peace. This planet had been ready for a long time. These people – humans, they called themselves – always saw the bad side to things. They could spin everything into something negative, see only what they had lost or never had instead of all the wonderful, glorious things they could call theirs. Friends. Family. A roof over their heads. Eloisa had walked this planet for so long she couldn’t remember the feel of her home, or its smells. These humans were lucky, deeply fortunate for everything they took for granted, and they didn’t even realise it.

Eloisa pulled her sword out of the frozen soil, and walked down the hill. The humans called today ‘Christmas’, and it came with all sorts of superstitions and traditions. To her this Christmas marked the day she finally returned to her loved one’s side. Perhaps that was not so different to what the humans celebrated.

Eloisa had passed through the fog not an hour ago, and now the lost sanctuary lay before her. An island in the middle of a large lake, surrounded by ice. Everything was white, and silent. Glistening snow covered every surface, but one tree bloomed green and violet in the middle of the small island. This was her destination. This she had earned.

Eloisa stepped onto the lake without checking if it was frozen or not. Her wings still worked. They gave her warmth as well as protection. Her heart beat faster with every step she took towards the Tree of Eternity. How she had missed the sight!

Her wings glowed in anticipation. She cast down her sword, her armour, and allowed her many scars to breathe the biting chill of the winter’s frost.

It had been a long time she had last sat down. She was ready to be at peace.

Today she went home.

————–

For all other writing prompts, check here.

For CookieBreak’s homepage, click me.

All writing belongs to the author, Sarina Langer

(Let’s try something new…) Vote for my next writing prompt!

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As you know I’ve been using Twitter to vote for my next writing prompts, but this one is going to be Christmasy, and I want to see which option works better since I haven’t tried it on here before 🙂 You can vote on Twitter this time as well if you want to vote twice – the vote will stay open for one day on both.

I know this is a week earlier than I’ve been doing it, but I’m off work from Saturday and am planning on getting no work done whatsoever until January 😉 That includes writing prompts.

Here you go:

Happy voting! 😀

A-Z Name Prompts – D

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This week, IT’S A DRAW! Because both names received the same amount of votes, I’m using both 😉

Thank you once more to everyone who’s voted. After this week I’ll be off on my Christmas break, so the next vote will be happening today – on Twitter as well as on here! 😉 It’ll be Christmasy and published on the 26th 🙂

But onto today’s prompt! As always, if the prompt speaks to you feel free to borrow it. Please link back here if you publish it anywhere so I can be nosy ^-^

***

Diana

(f. Divine)

Denham

(m.; valley village)

“My Lady Diana, Pack Leader of hunters, please grant me the courage to do what must be done.” Denham bowed low, his forehead inches away from touching the cool stone base of his Goddess’ shrine. He wasn’t a pious man, but he knew when divine intervention was needed. The crisis his pack brethren faced now was such a time.

From the corner of his eye, Denham noticed the faintest of movements. “My, my, look who bestows me with his presence.” Her every movement was slow, deliberate, and graceful. Her voice was smooth silk. She was the huntress, leader of their pack, in every respect.

Denham shot up, staring at the Goddess before her. Was it rude to stare, or had she come to expect it? He fell to his knees by the hem of her flowing dress, and shut his eyes tight.

“Forgive me, my Lady. I didn’t expect you to show yourself to me.”

She chuckled. The sweetest sound in this world and the next.

“Why, but you don’t think highly enough of yourself, my hunter. Stand.”

With shaking legs, he did as she asked. No hunter in his lifetime had ever seen the Lady herself stand before them, but it wasn’t unprecedented. The last time must have been two, three hundred years ago. He only knew about it from story books, and from the tales their story crafters told around camp fires. He hadn’t truly believed them until now.

“Tell me why you’ve called me.” Her soft voice had an edge to it. She asked nicely, but she would be obeyed.

“My Lady, a great peril has befallen my pack brethren. A necromancer has summoned the dead to hunt us. His forces outnumber us almost fifty to one.”

“Impossible odds indeed. What would you ask of me?”

“You’re the mistress of the hunt. If anyone can help us fight them and emerge victorious, it’s you.”

“Denham, look at me.”

He hadn’t realised that his eyes had fallen to the cold stone floor again. He had always believed that he’d meet her as an equal, should he ever be so lucky. Now that she had shown herself to him he didn’t know how he had ever believed himself her equal. There was no one alive or dead who could match her.

Denham looked up, and held her hazel gaze. Her skin was sun kissed, her hair long and dark to match her eyes. An elegant bow was strung across her shoulder, and a dagger sat at her hips. He felt tiny and foolish in her presence. All his life he had been the wolf, the bear, the prowling cat. Next to her he was the mouse, the prey caught in her snare.

“I cannot help you. The necromancer will be defeated, but not in your lifetime.”

His heart sank. “Why not?”

“Because he is not meant to be defeated by you, my hunter. His actions, dark as they may be, will cause a great many things to change. Many for the better. His deeds are necessary.”

He no longer felt inadequate. He was angry.

“I can’t let them die, they are my brothers. Your children! Do you feel nothing?”

His Lady Diana reached out with one slender hand, and cupped his face in her smooth fingers. “I didn’t say I couldn’t do anything at all. There’s one thing I can give you.” She leaned in, and kissed him. Nothing made sense under her gentle touch.

“You will not defeat the necromancer. But your child will. Come. Lay with me.”

————–

For all other writing prompts, check here.

For CookieBreak’s homepage, click me.

All writing belongs to the author, Sarina Langer

A-Z Name Prompts – C

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Happy Monday, everyone! 🙂

Can you believe December begins in only a few days? That’s one hell of a wake-up call for my fellow NaNonites! I hope you’re not too stressed out about it, and took the weekend to recharge before launging your final assault.

If you need to take your mind of your WIP, or if you just want to have a bit of fun, then good news! You guys really have it in for me this week! If this writing prompt doesn’t make your creative juices flow (is anyone else slightly disgusted by that saying? I always picture someone’s wounds leaking when I hear it…)

This week’s prompt, chosen by you, is:

See what I mean? If writing about someone whose name means Dark Farm doesn’t inspire you to go nuts, I don’t know what will 😛

If the prompt speaks to you, please go ahead and borrow it! If you decide to publish it on your own blog, or somewhere else, please link back here so I can be nosy ^-^ Happy writing!

***

Colby

(m.; dark farm)

As long as Colby didn’t focus on what was behind him, he could almost pretend that everything was fine, and normal. Except, the feeling in the pit of his stomach wouldn’t go away, and the longer he stared at the wide open cornflower fields before him, the more he struggled not to turn around. He had seen too many horror movies. He felt like something invisible was beckoning him to turn around, and walk inside.

His grandmother lived in the countryside, and the summers were always hotter here than they were in the city. The heat was getting to him. That must’ve been it. Didn’t his grandmother always chastice him for not drinking enough? He was probably dehydrated, or something like that.

That fearful tugging in his stomach was stupid, of course. His grandmother had lived in this farm house for over fifty years, and Colby had visited her every summer for a week. Every year he’d had the same feeling of dark foreboding, and wrongness. Not once had anything bad happened to him. If anything, Colby was more relaxed here than he was back home in London.

He’d be eighteen next week. If he didn’t want to come next year, his parents wouldn’t be able to make him.

He tried to focus on the cheerfull trill of the birds in the ancient willow tree beside him. His mind followed the tune, as best as he could, and he whistled along. Whistling always made him feel better. Nothing could go wrong when you were whistling a happy tune together with the robins.

“Colby?”

He jumped, and scraped his arm along the rough bark of the willow.

“Yes?” His grandmother was ninety-eight years old. She needed help with most things, especially where the farm and household were concerned. He helped her keep things neat and tidy, and in return she baked him apple pie. It was a pretty good arrangement, as far as he was concerned.

The fine hairs on his arms stood on end when his grandmother didn’t respond. If she had fallen and hurt herself he needed to help her, call an ambulance. He couldn’t do either of those things while he was out here.

He took a deep breath in, and faced the house. Beautiful white walls, flowers in the windows, and the smell of a freshly baked cobbler. Little figurines of girls in blue dresses, and sunflowers. His grandmother’s farm house was all of those things. He felt stupid for being intidimated by it, but if his gut feeling persisted.

But that was stupid. He had come here for the last ten years, sometimes twice a year, and nothing had ever hurt him. Colby was too old to be frightened of creaking floor boards, and the shadows that only lived in the corners under his bed.

“Grandma? Are you in the bathroom?” He hated helping her up from the bathroom floor. She had only fallen twice while he had been with her, but one time she had just come out of the shower and the sight still haunted his memory. He’d rather she was somewhere else, like the kitchen. Not the bedroom. Nowhere where people usually undressed.

“I’m in the cellar, dear. Be a darling and give me a hand?”

Colby breathed a sigh of relief. The cellar was the one place in this house that didn’t spook him. He couldn’t explain it, but dark basements had held a strange fascination for him since he had been seven years old.

He walked down the old steps, skipped the broken one, and paused. There was no one down here.

“Grandma?”

She didn’t respond. A faint wisp of light shone through the door at the end. She had to be in there.

Colby took one step towards the door, and the dark feeling rushed over him. This wasn’t right. Hadn’t his grandmother gone out to the hairdresser? How had he forgotten that she wasn’t home?

He wanted to run the other way. Who had called him if not his grandmother? Could he have imagined it? It had sounded so much like her.

He began to turn around, but his feet moved on their own, ever towards the door at the end of the cellar. His hand reached out for the shelves, the table, the smooth wall, but it made no difference. His feet no longer needed his permission.

He panicked, and covered his eyes with his hands. He didn’t want to see what was to come. He already knew.

He sneezed. His hands had left dusty patches around his eyes and nose. He noticed dust everywhere now, like no parts of the cellar had been touched in a long time. Like a year.

And with that realisation, his memory returned. His grandmother had died five years ago. His parents knew. His parents were behind this.

His feet walked through the door, and he exhaled one loud, scared sigh. The creature his parents had fed his blood to was there, in the middle of the room, as it had been every year. Last year he had cried too hard to do anything but let it happen.

But not this year. This year, Colby refused.

He whistled – and his hidden magic replaced his fear.

————–

For all other writing prompts, check here.

For CookieBreak’s homepage, click me.

All writing belongs to the author, Sarina Langer

A-Z Name Prompts – A

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My, how time flies! (no apologies for the cheesy opening. cheese is life.) It’s already time for the first of my baby name prompts, and the best part? It’s chosen by you! Since my baby name book is split in the middle, I don’t have female and male names mixed, so I thought I’d let you decide which one gets chosen!

Thank you to everyone who got involved and voted ❤ Since the Twitter poll worked so well I’ll continue to pick the bi-weekly prompts this way 🙂 Expect to see them pop up in the week before the prompt. So no poll this week, since the next prompt won’t be out for another two weeks 🙂

Oh, and one other thing: I’ll try to keep these short. I know you don’t always have a lot of time to read them, and I’ll be busy myself with NaNo and editing, so I think shorter prompts do both of us a favour 🙂

As always, if the prompt speaks to you feel free to borrow it! If you do, please link back here so I can be nosy and read your interpretation ^-^

***

Arlen

(m.; oath, pledge)

You failed her. You swore an oath to her, and you failed her. 

His breaths came in ragged, uneven intervals, but he refused to accept what he knew. He was dying, but he couldn’t be. Not yet. He’d promised Alfre he’d be there, that he’d protect her. Instead he was leaning against a tree, fifteen minutes away from the town, bleeding out.

He’d known he shouldn’t have left her side. He’d known he should have talked her out of it.

“This animosity has lasted too long, Arlen. Are we not proof that our two people can live peacefully with one another? It’s my duty as Elder of my clan to approach them first. Please, Arlen. I have to try.” And fool that he was he had agreed.

He wanted this war – which had long since fizzled out into random but rare cruelties against each other – to be over as badly as she did. His parents would never allow him to marry an elf. No one in his village would accept it, or her.

Alfre’s people were excellent archers and talented mages, but his people had always been warriors. Both sides had done unspeakable things to the other, and no one could even remember why.

He had agreed for Alfre to meet with his village’s mayor and the council, to discuss peace, under the condition that he’d be there to protect her. All his life he had been taught that elves were vicious, and shot humans on sight, yet it was the very humans who had warned him and indoctrinated him that he was worried about now. Alfre’s people had accepted him, after some initial uncertainties and suspicion. Some still didn’t trust him now, but he could walk amongst them and not fear an arrow to his head. Alfre couldn’t do the same amongst his people, his family.

Alfre had insisted on meeting the council and the mayor alone. How had she convinced him again? It had seemed like such a good idea at the time.

He had followed a little later as agreed, but before he could reach the village an arrow had pinned him against the very tree he leaned against now. Short moments later another arrow had buried itself deep within his gut. Arlen knew he hadn’t been shot by an elf – an elf wouldn’t have missed his vital organs – but someone wanted him dead. Or perhaps they only wanted him to miss the meeting?

Alfre was alone and unprotected in the village. As a sign of good will she had left her staff behind; he had been meant to be her only protection. Now he couldn’t even stand without bleeding out.

Arlen reached into his pocket, and pulled out the bitter herbs he always carried with him. He quickly chewed the lot, and prayed for a miracle. They wouldn’t save him, but they would keep him alive for long enough to get a warning to Alfre.

He had to get her out of there, or the people he had loved and trusted his whole life would slaughter her.

————–

For all other writing prompts, check here.

For CookieBreak’s homepage, click me.

All writing belongs to the author, Sarina Langer

Promptspiration #4

Monday Inspiration

It’s already time for the final prompt given to me by you! Time flies when you’re having fun 😛 I apologise for being a week late. I wasn’t well last Monday and vertigo made it impossible to look at my screen. So many people in my library had the same thing that it’s officially been dubbed The Library Cold 😀

But let’s get on with it, shall we? 🙂 This week’s prompt was given to me by my SO, who found it on Reddit.

What will happen on Mondays from now, you ask? I had a few options, but was especially tempted by something I found on K. J. Chapman’s blog Writerly Bookish Stuff (check it out if you haven’t already – inspiration and great writing abound!). I’ll be using my book of baby names for my prompts, start at the letter A and then work my way through the book until I’ve done the whole alphabet. I’ll be using one name from each letter, chosen at random. I’m not sure yet how I’ll decide whether I’ll use a boy’s name or girl’s name since my book is split in the middle. Rolling a die, maybe? Bi-weekly Twitter polls? I’m open to ideas 🙂 (Honestly, though, would you guys be up for bi-weekly Twitter polls?) The first baby name prompt will be posted next week.

As always, if the prompt speaks to you and you’d like to give it a go, please do! Please link back here if you join in so I can be nosy and read your interpretation 🙂

***

All humans are made sterile at birth and can gain fertility at 18 if they pass a simulated morality and IQ test administered by an AI. Suddenly several generations later no one can pass the test.

“What do we do now?” I ask Luce. She’s been doing this job for longer than I have. If she doesn’t have an idea… Well, I don’t. I guess humanity as a whole is doomed? Can’t say I want to be the one who made our downfall possible.

“What do you mean?” she asks, leaning against her desk and sipping at her coffee. I can smell the vile stuff from where I’m standing, but then our office isn’t that big.

“Come here,” I say, and wait for her to stand next to me. I can just about smell the faint scent of roses on her, underneath the strong waft of caffeine. “See this, there?”

She nods, brows furrowing. “I see. That is a problem. What do we do indeed.” Her eyes have become distant, her voice quiet. “I guess we’re gonna have to hack the system.”

What? You can’t be serious!” Manipulating the AI that determines who’s allowed to have a baby and who isn’t is treason. There’s a reason this system exists. If we ignore it, bypass the security and– I shiver. It is treason.

Luce raises her eyebrows at me, but sips her coffee as before. She’s far too relaxed given what we’re discussing. “Of course I’m serious. You can hack this shit, right?”

I lied when I applied for this job. They needed a hacker, a senior hacker, and I knew just enough to fake my credentials for when they ran their backup checks. I was shitting myself the entire first year I worked here, thinking that surely by now someone had figured out that I was a fraud, but nothing happened.

I never studied anything so ferociously in my entire life in such a short amount of time.

“I can,” I say, steading myself by gripping the edge of the table. “But this isn’t like faking your son’s grades so he can get into his dream college, Luce. If anyone finds out what we’ve done, we’ll be exiled!”

Luce snorts. “If we’re lucky, you mean. Look, you can either hack this, and the human race can continue, or we’re slowly going to die out.  You know what leaving things as they are would cause?”

I do, but I don’t want to think about it. “Civil war, eventually.”

Luce nods. “We’re not that stupid, Eric. Sooner or later they’ll realise that class rooms are empty, that day cares are too quiet and too tidy, and that no one is applying to college and university anymore.”

She’s right. If I do nothing, I doom humanity, but if I do what she wants me to anyone would be allowed to reproduce again. There are good reasons we have this system.

I open the bottom drawer of my desk, and throw all the pointless, filler paperwork onto my desk to get to the bottle below. I unscrew it, and take a big swig.

“You had this under your desk this whole time?” Luce asks, and I blush.

“Funny thing to fire me over considering what you want to me to do.”

She walks over and takes the bottle out of my hands. “I’m not firing you, you idiot, I want in!” For a moment we’re both silent while Luce stares at me. I can’t tell if I’m blushing because her eyes are scrutinising me or because of the whiskey. “So, what will you do?”

I’m going to regret this. “I’ll hack it. Give me an hour, two max. Think you can buy me enough time?”

She doesn’t even hesitate. How can she be so comfortable with this? “I can. Hurry up, though, will you? If the managers ask for a random surprise inspection I won’t be able to keep them away.”

I smile, but my hands shake. “When has that ever happened?”

“Don’t jinx it, Eric.” Luce sounds worried now. Actually worried. She’s not as calm about this as I thought. “Now, get to work,” she says and slips out of the office, closing the door behind her.

I guess I have work to do.

————–

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