Scholastic/Turkey City Prompt Mash-Up #1

“Hey, who are you?”

“I’m an owl. My name is Henry. Who are you?”

“Samantha. You can call me Sam. Are you magical? There was a burst of light in the sky and then there you were. Where did you come from?”

“Nice to meet you, Sam. I’m from a faraway planet. I’ve been flying for a long time. Boy, are my wings tired. I’d like a place to rest before I continue on with my journey.”

 “You’re welcome here for as long as you’d liked to stay.”

“Thank you.” Henry landed. “You don’t happen to have seen any other plaid owls around here, have you? On the planet where I grew up, I was the only one. I scoured the whole planet and when I realized I was the only one, I left. So far, no other stars, planets, or asteroids have had any plaid owls. I’m starting to get a little discouraged.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I haven’t seen any other owls, plaid or otherwise. There are lots of worms like me, though, just under the surface of the planet. They don’t come up here much except after it rains.”

“Hm. I suppose I better keep searching. This is a pretty big planet, though, so I’ll do a little exploring before I go. Say, I’m hungry and thirsty. I think I saw a river as I was flying in but my vision is a bit blurry with fatigue so I don’t know exactly where it was. Also, I’m too tired to fly there. Do you know if there is anything within walking distance?”

“I know the river you’re talking about. It’s a few miles away so it would be hard to get there on claw. Don’t worry, though, there’s a pool of water that is a part of the same river, but underground not far from here. Follow my voice. It should only take us about 10 minutes to get there.

“I’m glad you’re here, by the way. It gets pretty boring. I seem to be the only one in my family or set of acquaintances who has any sense of curiosity about the world around me. That’s why I spend a lot of time on the surface, while everyone else just roams around mindlessly digging holes all day. I’m getting a little out of breath crawling and talking and I can go faster underground, where the dirt is wetter, so I’m going to play Marco Polo with you, okay?”

“Okay.”

Sam created a quick hole in the sand and disappeared. She popped up a minute later, a yard away, and shouted, “Marco!”

“Polo!” Henry responded, and walked toward Sam’s voice.

After a few Marcos and a few Polos, Sam popped up and said, “We’re here! There’s a pool of water just under the surface here. I’ll create a starter hole for you and then you can peck down and get the water.”

And it came to be that Henry was able to break through the crust of the surface and find water. “Sam?” he said, after he’d drunk his fill.

“Yes?”

“There are a lot of worms down there whose names I don’t know,” Henry said. “Would you mind terribly if I ate them?”

“I – wouldn’t be pleased, but I understand that you’re hungry, so I wouldn’t hold it against you.”

This was all the answer Henry needed. “Are you okay?” he asked, a few minutes later.

“I suppose. I never had much in common with my fellow worm-kind, and this patch of water is far enough away from my home that only a few of the worms looked even vaguely familiar, but it was still hard to watch. Also, the screams were unsettling. I don’t know if I’ll ever forget that sound.”

“Are you mad at me, now?”

“I said I wouldn’t be, but I think I am a little.”

“I get that. So, what now?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think that I can face my family again, at least not soon. Do you mind if I come with you on your journey? Maybe you’ll find another plaid owl and I’ll find a way to live with myself.”

“Aren’t you afraid that I’ll eat you?”

“Yes. But I’m also afraid that you won’t.”

Turkey City Lexicon: Brenda Starr dialogue

Scholastic Story Starter: A day in the life of a plaid owl who lands on a faraway planet.

Opening Line Prompt #10

Miranda had grown accustomed to getting her own way. More than that, she had grown accustomed to the world being fair – at least, to her. Miranda had achieved massive success with a silly little app that some people said would eventually be credited with saving human civilization. She’d followed up with other apps that were less impressive on a global scale, but that were all useful to everyday life.

This meant that not only was she enormously wealthy but that all of her creature comforts were anticipated. She was surrounded by people who liked and respected her, and that she liked and respected. And that sense of well-being carried over into her overall worldview.

One morning, Miranda was getting ready for work when she realized that she hadn’t purchased her own morning cup of coffee in about a decade.

Feeling slightly guilty, she decided to duck out before one of her assistants could show up with said coffee. As she got behind the wheel of her BMW, she realized that the key fob she’d been carrying around had become largely ornamental. She briefly wondered with a mixture of amusement and alarm if she remembered how to drive a car.

As the engine purred to life, Miranda put on her seatbelt and then adjusted her mirrors. She took a deep breath before putting the car into drive. At the end of her driveway, she hit the remote that opened the gates – and realized that she hadn’t done that since she’d bought the house – okay, mansion.

She pulled out. She could hear her heart beating in her ears as she hit the remote to close the gates again. As they swung shut, she resisted the urge to turn the car around, reopen those gates, and wait for her assistants to show up and prep her for the day.

This was stupid. She’d graduated from high school three years early and had been living on her own since she was sixteen – not because her parents were terrible but just because she liked her independence. When had that changed?

She wasn’t even sure how to get to her own favorite Starbucks, so she just pulled into the first one she saw. She was grateful that the parking lot was empty enough that she could pull in an out several times as she attempted to park properly.

As she stepped out of the car, she felt shaky on her own legs. Could she even walk without being supported on each elbow by a competent assistant? She approached the Starbucks, her thoughts a jumbled mess. Did she even remember her own order anymore? Did she have money to pay? Yes, her phone was in her purse, she was fine. God, she hadn’t even gotten to work yet and she was already exhausted.

The Starbucks was warm after the cool winter air, and Miranda breathed in, glad to be still, for a moment. She stood behind a woman who tapped her foot rapidly as she waited. Miranda admired the woman’s sense of purpose as Miranda examined the menu. The woman moved up to order. “Finally!” she snapped at the barista. “Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.”  

Miranda winced at the woman’s tone but still had some appreciation for her confidence.

“That’ll be $2.95,” the barista said, her smile barely faltering.

The woman inserted her credit card. “You really need to work on your long lines,” she said. “Every time I come in here, I’m waiting forever.”

Miranda looked around. There had only been one person in front of the woman when she’d walked in and there was no one else in the shop.

“I’m sorry about the wait, ma’am,” the barista – Cheryl – said, her voice warm, and her smile still sweet. Only her eyes gave away the injustice of this statement, but the woman wasn’t looking at Cheryl and didn’t notice.

The machine grunted.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, your credit card didn’t work,” can you try that again?” Cheryl asked.

The woman sighed. “Unbelievable,” she snapped, inserting her card again.

The machine grunted again, this time even more definitely.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, do you have another form of payment,” Cheryl asked.

Her eyes darted to Miranda, who smiled encouragingly. Cheryl smiled back.

“My card is good!” The woman shoved the card into the barista’s face. “Can’t you just use another machine?”

Cheryl jerked her head away from the woman’s card, and then stepped over to the second register. “Of course,” she said, her expression still sweet, but with a bit of strain around the edges of her eyes. She tapped the order into the second machine. “$2.95,” she reminded the woman.

The woman inserted her card. The machine grunted.

“Unbelievable! This stupid Starbucks never accepts my card! You’re such an incompetent idiot that you can never get your machine to work properly!”

Miranda, who had been about to offer to pay for the woman’s coffee, was taken aback by the woman’s sudden vitriol. She noticed that the barista didn’t seem surprised by the woman’s outburst. Tears welled up in her eyes despite the smile that was attempting to hold on to her face.

“I’m here every day! I can’t believe that you would treat a regular customer like this!”

“Ma’am, I’ve paid for your coffee every day this week,” Cheryl said calmly. “And the week before, Jane paid for your coffee. You may want to call your ban—”

She was interrupted by the woman’s angry shriek. “How dare you!” She reached out to slap the barista, but her arm paused halfway to Cheryl’s face and then the woman crumpled to the ground.

Miranda, who had barely been able to get her stun gun app open through all of the panicked texts from her assistants, breathed a sigh of relief.

She looked up at Cheryl’s shocked face and gave a rueful sigh. “I need to create an app that allows you to ignore incoming texts.” She took a deep breath and then said, “I haven’t ordered my own coffee in forever and I don’t even know what I like anymore. What do you recommend?”

Opening Line Prompt taken from here: https://www.plot-generator.org.uk/opening-line/

Opening Line Prompt #4

The Wise Princess

“I would have defeated the aliens if it weren’t for Lyla,” Princess Katrina said in an interview on one of the intergalactic news shows. Actually, she’d told the story a thousand times over the millennia, to anyone who would listen.

“A wall is a stupid idea, Princess,” Lyla had said. “Aliens can go over it, under it, around it. You can’t make a big enough wall to keep everybody out. Don’t waste your time.”

“What do you suggest,” the Princess had asked, annoyed at having had her most brilliant idea ever questioned by this – this — brunette.  

“I mean, you could invite them in, show them grace and magnanimity,” Lyla said, with the confidence of a woman who didn’t know that her hair was brown.

“Treat them like they’re friends? But how would that defeat them?” The Princess demanded.

Lyla shrugged. “They’d stop being enemies if you stopped treating them as though they are. Then you wouldn’t need to defeat them.”

The Princess was sure it wouldn’t work, and had only really done it to spitefully prove how dumb the idea was.

A couple of millennia later, the Princess’ own little corner of the universe was thriving and Lyla was the Princess’ most trusted advisor. Lyla was really just a head in a jar at this point, but that had always been the best part of her, aside from her heart, which the Princess kept in a separate jar.

At the moment, the Princess needed Lyla’s chilled head more than ever before. The doors to the jar room opened with a friendly whoosh. Her high heels clicked purposely against the metal floors as she walked past the jarred heads of her friends, advisors, enemies – anyone she’d wanted to keep around for sentimental reasons. Or to taunt when she was bored.

The Princess found Lyla snoozing, her forehead resting against the glass. Her snores were loud enough to rattle the jar she was in. Tiny bubbles flow out of her nose, as she breathed out the serum that kept her alive. She’d been sleeping more and more lately. The Princess feared that someday soon, she was going to have to grant the request Lyla had been asking of the Princess for centuries – to finally let her die.

But that day was not this day. The Princess tapped rapidly on the glass until Lyla’s milky eyes fluttered open.

“Lyla!” Sometimes Lyla didn’t recognize the Princess, but this day was a lucky day. The Princess was so overjoyed to see Lyla’s face settle into a wry smile, that she didn’t even mock the other woman’s horrific snoring. Though, she did make a mental note to do so, later. “I’m sorry to bother you,” the Princess said. “But I need your help. This may be the most important issue I’ve ever asked your advice on.”

“Alright,” Lyla said, with a gentle exhalation of bubbles.

“Okay.” The Princess backed up and twirled, letting the skirt of her ruby red dress float up. She lost herself in the movement but before she got too dizzy, she stopped, letting her dress settle in graceful swirls around her legs.

Lyla frowned. “What is it you need help with, Princess?”

“My shoes, of course!” The Princess said, pointing to her feet. “Black to contrast, or red to match?”

Lyla’s head hit the glass again as she angled her head to try to see the Princess’ feet. Everything about the Princess was a blur, but Lyla knew that the Princess wouldn’t stop asking until Lyla chose one of the colors. “I like the red?” she asked.

The Princess let out a contented sigh. “Thank you, Lyla. You have never steered me wrong.” The Princess turned to leave, and then spun back, the hem of her dress hitting her shapely calves. She’d chosen this body for that particular feature, after her last one had gotten too old to be attractive.

“Oh, one more thing, Lyla,” the Princess said. “I have a diplomatic mission first thing tomorrow morning. The fates of billions of people and aliens rest on the result of this mission. I need to know if, to open, I should compliment the super fat duke of Argona on his massive collection of chins, or if I shouldn’t bring them up at all. I know you’ve already answered this a bunch of times, but I keep forgetting!”

But Lyla’s eyelids had drifted closed again. The Princess frowned. No snoring noises shook the jar; no bubbles flowed from Lyla’s nose. Even though the Princess hadn’t given her permission to die, Lyla had stopped breathing.

“Oh no,” the Princess said, sorrow welling up in her eyes. She shook her head, shudders of grief impeding her own breathing. “I didn’t even ask her about my nail polish, and now I’ll never have the chance!”

Opening Line Prompt taken from here: https://www.plot-generator.org.uk/opening-line/