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Bonus Writing Prompts

Bonus: July 9 – July 29, 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Prompt “Beneath the Sea”

Theme: Beneath the Sea

The sentence: “Oh darling, you should never trust a {insert humanoid water creature mermaid/water sprite/rusalki/water nymph/Poseidon etc.}.”, must be included somewhere in the story.

While not required, you may use this image as inspiration for your story, it can be the image as a whole, a single part of it, or several elements inside the image itself.

Story Requirements:

  • Must take place on/above/below the ocean

Word Count: 1,200

Mermaid Image by Lawrence Mann
Mermaid Image by Lawrence Mann
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Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

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Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

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106 thoughts on “Bonus: July 9 – July 29, 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Prompt “Beneath the Sea”

  • Carrie Zylka

    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let us know we somehow missed it.

    Meanwhile, please be patient, moderators are not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    • Hi everyone,
      This one looks like fun. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to read or vote in the last one. We had some local problems with our service. Everything is back to normal now, so I’m excited to get started on the current prompts.
  • Another bonus and I just wrote a mermaid story. I’ll have to see if there’s another in the mind files.
    • Carrie Zylka

      I haven’t caught up on the last two sections of stories, so I haven’t read your mermaid story yet. Maybe this can be a part 2 lol!! 🧜

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  • Adrienne Riggs
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  • Phil Town


    Once upon a time, there was a young couple that were very much in love. Nothing strange there, you might think. Until I tell you that one of the youngsters was a human and the other … wasn’t. At least, not 100%. She (for it was indeed the feminine side of the relationship) was – wait for it – half human, half fish!

    Luckily for the masculine side – let’s call him Harry, because that was his name – the half of the ‘woman’ – Maggie – that was a fish was the bottom half. Indeed, I can’t think the relationship would have got very far at all if the top half had been a fish, however attractive in fishy terms. For a start, conversation would have been tricky:

    “Good morning to you!”


    “Beautiful day!”

    “Gloob glub.”


    No, this mermaid (for that’s what she was) had her parts in all the right mermaidy places. And what parts! That’s what Harry first saw, what first struck him, and what first got him interested.

    “What a rack!” he exclaimed to himself when she bobbed out of the sea near his home-made paddle-board that first morning. (You have to remember that this was in olden times, when political correctness hadn’t yet got its iron grip on society. And you have to suspend disbelief that in olden times they had such things as paddle-boards.)

    Maggie was magnificent: flowing golden locks, the face of an angel, that perfect bosom. Yes, the top half checked out as an 11 in Harry’s books, but imagine his dismay when Maggie did a little flip in the water and he saw her tail (although, as fish tails go, that was also quite attractive, it has to be said.)

    Horrified, Harry started paddling like crazy for the shore, but Maggie was an exceptionally nimble nubile and with a couple of flips of her tail, she was ahead of him and bobbing on the surface. A little dance ensued between them: he’d try to dodge her, she’d dip beneath the waves and come up in front of him, he’d dodge the other way, and the same thing would happen. Eventually, Harry was so exhausted that he simply stood there on his board, oar in hand, floating above his exquisite pursuer.

    And why was she giving him such relentless chase? Well, lust at first sight can go both ways, can’t it? She’d espied him from a distance, energetically occupied with his paddling, and when she got closer…

    “What a set of abs!” she’d exclaimed to herself. She didn’t much care for his lower half, actually, as it wasn’t really fishy enough for her taste, but that top half … wowza!

    And so, like so many relationships in the real world, began this one, based entirely on first impressions.

    “Good morning to you,” Harry ventured eventually.

    “Good morning,” Maggie replied, not a ‘glub’ in sight.

    “Beautiful day!” Harry was getting warmed up.

    “It is indeed,” Maggie agreed, bobbing and feasting her eyes on the hunk above her.

    And from those simple seeds of verbal intercourse did a deep and passionate relationship grow. Over the days, weeks and months, they exchanged stories and got to know all about each other’s worlds, which, as you can imagine, were really quite different – one being mostly dry, the other very wet indeed.

    But there came a point when their enthusiasm for verbal intercourse began to wane, and a desire for another kind started waxing through those young bodies like nobody’s business. Maggie, not shy in coming forward, was the first to broach the subject, but as it was an intimate conversation, I won’t transcribe it here. Suffice it to say that the conclusion was they were both well up for it.

    But they understood the limitations: humans can’t with fish, and fish can’t with humans. That’s just the way things are. So what to do?

    It was Maggie again who took control, being, as she was, much brighter and more resourceful than Harry, who was ripped, sure, but not in cerebral terms.

    “There’s a fellow who may be able to help us,” she said one evening as she rested her fine elbows on Harry’s board (not a euphemism).

    “Who might that be, sweetest?” Harry’s language had descended to that kind of sugariness over the months.

    “An urchin I know,” she said, before flipping over and disappearing.

    She swam into the deep dark depths and sought out this young, pink urchin – Tommy, his name was. What Maggie didn’t know was that he was also lustfully attracted to her, in the obsessed way that young boys often are.

    You may be asking why Maggie would seek advice from an urchin still in shorts. Well, not many people know this, but urchins, whatever their age, are a fount of all oceany knowledge – they just are. And Tommy was no exception.

    “What you have to do,” he said to Maggie after she’d laid out her predicament, “is go to him and wait for midday. It must be exactly midday, mind you – not a second more or less. And when the sun is at that point, you must say these words …”

    And he gave her the magic words she should recite, sending her off to practise them so that she’d get them exactly right when the time came, while he floated up to the surface to see a man about a dog.

    The next day, Maggie found Harry in a secluded cove, a-paddling round in circles, as was his wont.

    The sun was high in the sky as she approached the board.

    “I have a surprise for you,” she announced breathily, beaming a smile that was sheer pent-up desire.

    “And I for you,” said, Harry, matching her for horniness and consulting his wrist-sun-dial.

    Maggie looked up towards the sun (not directly at it, obviously!) and gauged that it was just about time.

    “May down be up and up be down and lo, the body turns around!”

    They gaped at each other in astonishment; they’d just said exactly the same thing! They laughed, but only for an instant because before you could say “anchors aweigh” or some such nautical term, Harry was thrown into the water by an invisible force, and on the other side of the board, Maggie was pulled out of the water by the same force, landing on the board with a clatter.

    “Ouch!” she yelped, and then “Gosh!”

    Where her fishy bottom half had been, she now had a pair of – actually extremely attractive – legs. She lost no time in exploring her new parts, her desire mounting by the second. She was anxious for Harry to surface so that they could get on with the job in hand, but where was he?

    Up he bobbed moments later, but he wasn’t laughing any more.

    “Look!” he cried, and Maggie did. A metre or so away from him, a fishy tail broke the surface and flapped.

    “Aargh!” they shrieked in unison.

    Drifting down, away from the distraught couple, was Tommy, delighted at what he’d witnessed.

    “Oh darling, you should never trust an urchin,” he chuckled to himself.

    You see, urchins are notoriously treacherous, and jealous, creatures.


    • I posted a comment earlier, Phil – It appeared below the next story, and now has vanished completely! (Or is it just being invisible to me?)
      It was a major essay full of nice things, but in summary was saying I like the story very much and it had me chuckling pretty much throughout. Nice conversational story-telling voice.
      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Andy!

        (Your other comment hasn’t surfaced. Dragged down by seaweed perhaps.)

    • Vicki Chvatal
      Phil, your story made me laugh out loud. What a predicament, indeed!

      I wonder if the spell will work better if only one of them says it next time. 🙂

      RE “Indeed, I can’t think the relationship would have got very far at all if the top half had been a fish”: it reminded me of a cartoon I saw years ago, which implied that some men would be happier to meet a mermaid with a human *bottom* half. (Those men evidently aren’t too interested in conversation. :))

      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Vicki!

        You’ve pinpointed a flaw there: the spell needs to be a one-off and irreversible for the required impact. I’ll re-write that.

        That cartoon you mention – madness!


    • Haha – urchins! Never trust them! (Once – no twice – I stepped on an urchin, in the sea – and hey, I can tell you they are nasty in more than one way!).

      This is a very amusing story, Phil – I had to chuckle here and there. Pity you had to leave out the intimate conversation. That would have upped the fun I suppose… but, true, there may be children and little fishies reading.

      I like the details you threw in, eg. the wrist sundial (it does date the story to those mythical times these things used to certainly happen) and the urchin needing to see a man about a dog. (But why a man and a dog? A man about a salmon who wouldn’t pay the fishfarm rent would’ve been more within an urchin’s field of oceanic expertise, I suppose… or maybe I missed something.)

      I nearly skipped this mermaidish prompt myself, as I feel out of my depth with such fantasy topics. Then I hit upon that very horrific and realistic take on “mermaids” that swam afar (ie. the loss of childhood innocence for my character). You, too, took the fantasy genre into yet another unusual direction, bringing in humour at every turn. Liked that aspect very much, too…

      One question. It’s important. Do mermaids also have the same problem with procreating when doing it with a fish? Well maybe not, since the lower half is all that is needed, technically speaking. Would the offsprings be three quarters fish, a quarter human in that case? Which quarter? If you don’t know, no worries, I’m sure Andy would have that info handy 🙂 I said it’s important. But not urgent.


      • Phil – loved your story. I thought the slightly distant narrator’s tone was perfectly arch and I liked how you smoothed over the racier bits. It seemed appropriate to the narrator’s voice. I laughed at the end too. Great story! Thanks.
        • Phil Town
          Thanks very much, Trish! Seems you enjoyed it. (I did writing it!)
      • Phil Town
        Thanks, KenM! Yes, my brother stepped on an urchin once (the sea-kind) and was picking spines out of his foot long afterwards. The ‘man about a dog’ is the common idiom, but you’re right, I missed a chance there – maybe ‘to see a man about a dogfish’ …?
  • A String of Salt

    At the bottom of the garden sits a small beach. The waves kiss the sand, often tipping fishing boats into their arms. But Ella Longmore knows who drives the currents. She knows who lingers beneath the pull of the tide. She’s seen it watching her. Day after day, it watches as she gets up and slips into a wetsuit, traipsing down the jetty with goggles swinging in her hand. Ella knows it’s watching her, and she makes sure to remain oblivious. For now. Her Grandmother is visiting soon, and around her neck will be a string of pearls.

    Ella stays close to the jetty, skirting the edge of the bay, swimming at a forty-five-degree angle to avoid being swept up in the tide. The bleached sky blinds her; she ducks her head beneath the water. A concert of seaweed floods her vision until she lurches to the surface. Gulps a breath.

    Silently, she smiles, relishing in another small victory. The creature is still watching her. And, in less than an hour, the taxi will arrive. The taxi carrying Grandma, and Grandma, who carries the pearls.

    The pearls are a family heirloom, passed down from Grandma’s lover, who had been what the locals referred to as the ‘Sea Witch’ – she who made pacts with the merfolk that slithered beneath the ocean. They sit on thrones of salt, Grandma used to say. They have inbuilt sonar to guide them, like bats in the night-sky. And they fear nothing. Nothing except the creature which now watches Ella as she swims to the shore and pulls herself back onto the jetty.

    Slowly, Ella slips off her goggles. She shakes out her hair, which is dyed the colour of honeysuckle in the summer. She wants the creature to see her, to see her eyes, to see her skin. She wants the creature to recognise her when she summons it tonight.

    Ella slips up the stone path, drying out beneath the bows of buddleias which are swamped with Red Admirals flying in tandem with Lime Swallowtails. The doorbell rings before she can free herself of the wetsuit.
    Smiling, Ella skirts to the door, kicking letters of foreclosure from the bank under the mat. She opens the door to a woman wearing a string of pearls. Her Grandmother is tall, with strangely long limbs, as if beneath her skin, her bones have been stretched on a rack. While her hair is grey, her eyes sparkle like limpid pools. Blue, like the ocean.

    “Pleasant trip?” Ella asks as her Grandmother takes off her shoes. Her Grandmother’s given name, the name she prefers, is Maya.

    “You could have asked me, you know”. Maya smiles at her Granddaughter, a Granddaughter who will never learn. Ella frowns.

    “What do you mean?” Carefully, Maya slips the pearls from around her neck.

    “You could have asked me for them. But you must tell me what you want. Who you want. Morgawr can create life as well as restore it”.

    “I don’t understand”. Maya chuckles.

    “My lover was a Sea Witch, dear girl. I know when one of my own is lying to me. You invited me to take the pearls.”

    “What is Morgawr?” asks Ella.

    “The creature that watches you from morning till night. It is waiting for you. Take these and bargain. But be careful. You must tell it exactly what you want”. Tongue caught in her throat, Ella takes the pearls. Her hands shake as she rushes back down to the jetty. How did her Grandma know? How?

    Kneeling on the jetty, Ella carefully holds the pearls to the sky. She has memorized the words, the ones she found in the village library.

    “’Find me, spirit of the water. Find me and I shall grant your wish. Dear Lorelai, oh serpent of the waves, find me’”. Ella’s voice shakes, but she holds the pearls steady. Behind her, she can hear her Grandmother chuckling.

    “What did I do wrong?” snaps Ella.

    “Morgawr can smell your fear. And why be so selfish? What are you going to ask her?”

    “Her?” Ella frowns. “I’m not going to ask her anything. I’m going to make her bring back Mum”.

    From her perch on the beach, Maya stumbles. Make the spirit bring her daughter back? Part of her shrivels as she realises, she’d thought her Granddaughter had intended to use the pearls selfishly, to create a companion, or give her a rich husband or wife who owned a chest of gold. Instead, Maya sighs, saying,

    “There will be a price”. Ella half-snarls.

    “I know. The pearls”. Maya shakes her head, but says nothing. The young know best after all.

    The moment Ella turns to face the water, the oceans roils, coiling into a constellation of frothing stars. And from the water, a great head emerges. This was the creature which had lured the villagers to the bay at Falmouth, snapping useless photographs of shadows on the tide. It is not as she imagined. Instead of being whale-like in its appearance, its torso opens out into blue flesh, almost human-like.

    Ella sits back, mouth open in a silent scream. Morgawr’s head is that of a human, blue with emerald eyes. Morgawr sports a thousand rows of dagger-like teeth, snapping to attention. When it speaks, its voice is a rapid hiss.

    “I hear you have brought me a gift. Give it to me”. Ella almost flings the pearls at the creature’s head, but instead she clasps them to her chest.

    “No. First, hear my proposal”. The creature rises, further and further from the water. It has a huge tail which whips miles out into the ocean, covered in seagrass and grey barnacles. Ella fights the urge to vomit.

    “I am listening,” says the creature.

    “Bring my Mother back. Bring her back, alive and healthy and only then will I give you the pearls”. Morgawr lurches backwards, her mouth raised in laughter. Above, the sky darkens to obsidian clouds. Morgawr addresses Maya, pointing to Ella.

    “Do you hear this girl? There will be a price”.

    “The pearls!” Ella screams.

    “No”. Morgawr shakes her great head. “You know the rules. A life for a life”. A clawed fin rushes from the waves, pushing Ella off the jetty and into the water. Salt dives into her lungs, but before she can scream, inhaling sand, a bony hand reaches into the ocean and yanks her out. Ella gasps for breath, and turns to face her Grandmother, who is frowning at Morgawr, as if chastising a pupil.

    Maya stares at her Granddaughter, shaking her head.

    “Oh darling, you should never trust a Morgawr.” Ella coughs, rolling onto her stomach. Above them, Morgawr begins to shift. Her fins elongate into hands, which reach to clasp Maya’s face.

    “Leave her alone!” Ella chokes, but Maya shakes her head. After all, only she knows Morgawr’s true nature.

    She was her lover, after all.

    “You look so grey,” says Morgawr. “Come live with me. Come dine with me in a palace of salt and moonlight”.
    Maya cannot seem to refuse.

    Sometimes, she still thinks of Ella, her Granddaughter, who grieves and mourns her Mother.

    Ella need not worry.

    Maya is the price.

    • I agree with Phil – this is very good writing indeed, and a very well-constructed story.

      Welcome Eve, if you’re new to here – but something about the style and particular use of words puts me in mind of Amelie – am I wrong about the secret identity?

      (Not so sure about eyes like limpid pools, though – somewhat overused and subject to parody. That’s the only thing, a minor point.)

    • Vicki Chvatal
      Beautiful story, Eve! Is Morgawr taken from an existing mythology/ tradition, or have you invented her yourself?

      A couple of minor points (apart from the one Phil already mentioned):

      1) Did Ella get her mother back in the end? The phrase “who grieves and mourns her Mother” towards the end implies that she didn’t. If so, why didn’t Morgawr keep her end of the bargain?
      2) At the start, you write that Ella “knows who drives the currents […] who lingers beneath the pull of the tide”. However, later she is shocked by Morgawr’s appearance. I don’t quite get whether Ella had really known or not – or had known the creature’s name but not her appearance.

  • Phil Town
    This is fantastic, … Eve?

    Superb description, characters, plot, twist. Everything.

    My only, meagre observation: it isn’t always clear who is speaking, so that you sometimes have to pause to double check.

    But wow, really.

    • Eve – I thought your description of Morgawr was beautifully terrifying and the pact that the Grandmother fulfills was wonderfully described. Others have made the comments I would have otherwise made. Nice story!
  • Carrie Zylka
    All, I am camping this weekend. I can make the stories blue, but I won’t be able to create the list until I get back on Monday.
    Just letting you folks know, even if you email about your story not being in the list, just won’t be able to do it until next week! 😊⛺🏕️
    • You’re impossible. A week without you. What are we supposed to do? Read books? Write stories? Tell tall tales about short little ships? This is soooooo irresponsible of you. I’m going to write my congresswoman about this. The right honorable what’s his name. (Just making sure that nobody misses me. Pretty easy to do, actually.)

      This calls for some kind of Revenge. ‘

  • Am I missing the prompt that follows ‘Chaos”? All I see is the bonus (this prompt). Help me out if I am and let me know the url, please, or jsut tell me, Nope, don’t have one, yet.


    • I was wondering the same, Roy
    • Carrie Zylka


      I apparently dropped the ball. I’ve been posting all the bonus ones and I think I was thinking that I had already posted one for this round!

      I’ll get one up ASAP!!
      Appreciate y’all keeping us honest!! 😃😃

  • Vicki Chvatal
    For Better or for Worse
    By Victoria Chvatal
    (982 words)

    “This isn’t so bad, it it?” Steve turns to his wife with a grin. They are standing on the top deck of a cruise ship, gazing out onto the shimmering ocean. “I really appreciate you agreeing to this!”, he adds hastily. “I know how you feel about…”

    “Of course I agreed,” she smiles back at him. “It’s always been your dream. And what better way to celebrate our silver anniversary… And of course it isn’t bad. It’s lovely.” Her eyes turn back to watch the waves and the seagulls.

    He looks at his wife – she’s still beautiful and exotic with her brown skin and slightly slanted, almond shaped eyes; even though her dark hair is streaked with grey and her waistline has thickened over the years. Even her name, Undine, is beautiful and mysterious, like her.

    Steve wonders if Undine is forcing herself to do something she hates for his sake, and feels a little guilty. He searches her face for any signs of seasickness, or fear, or discomfort – but she looks relaxed and content. Come to think of it, Steve never found out why she’d always avoided the beach. Didn’t they meet when she’d hitched a ride with him on the way home from that little seaside town? That’s not quite true, actually: they’ve gone to lakeside and riverside beaches a few times, and Undine clearly knows how to swim. She’s always refused to go to the seaside, though, and never liked swimming pools either. Perhaps it was something traumatic that happened to her at some point… Steve has never been the prying kind, and Undine had never told him. Just like with her family, whom he’s never even met. He gathered that there’s some bad blood between them and that Undine broke off all contact with them before they met, but knows no more than that. That’s another thing he’s been too tactful to ask about, and now Steve wonders if his wife will ever trust him enough to tell.

    As the days pass, Steve is living the dream. Some days, Undine joins him on the deck, and they spend hours just staring at the ocean. He sneaks occasional glances at her face, and glimpses longing, and trepidation, and something else he can’t quite puzzle out. Other days, she spends all her time on whatever entertainment is on offer inside, and doesn’t as much as glance at the ocean.

    Finally, they arrive at the first stop on the cruise, an atoll, and the passengers given a day to snorkel. This is the part Steve’s been looking forward to. He can hardly wait to get into the water and explore all the colourful reefs in the lagoon, and on the ocean side of the atoll – anywhere they are allowed to go. He is struck by how at ease Undine looks in the water, how playful she is – and can’t believe they’d never done this before. Well, better late than never… They dart here and there, pointing out to each other coral formations in fascinating shapes and colours, or particularly striking fish, or a sea turtle, and once even some reef sharks.

    There’s a group of young girls a little distance away, waving and calling out to Steve – perhaps asking some question, or maybe calling for help. He can’t make out the words and so starts swimming in their direction, when he hears an exclamation from behind:
    “Oh darling, you should never trust mermaids!”
    Steve looks around, not sure he’s heard correctly – and sees Undine with a hand clapped over her mouth, her eyes wide.

    Puzzled, he continues towards the girls. Soon, he’s close enough – and sees the fish tails, and the scales dotting the skin on their torso, and what looks like gill slits on the sides of their necks. Steve’s mind goes blank for a moment; by the time he considers turning back, the girls… mermaids… have surrounded him, babbling in some strange tongue that doesn’t sound like any language he’s ever heard.

    He watches, numb with shock, as Undine catches up and apparently starts arguing with the… mermaids… in the same language. Her hair has unwound from its practical bun and is now flying in the breeze. An older… mermaid… – a decade or two older than his wife, by the looks of it – surfaces and addresses Undine; it sounds like a greeting, but her smile has an edge. Undine keeps arguing with the others, sounding more and more upset. Some of the mermaids try to grab Steve by the arms and drag him off somewhere. They are surprisingly strong, for all they look no older than his daughters. Undine interposes herself between them, grabs his arm possessively and tries to break the circle – without success. After another heated exchange, the mermaids pull back but still keep them surrounded.

    Steve can only gape at his wife.
    “You… spoke with them. In their language.”
    “Are you…”
    “One of them, yes. I… wanted to live as a human and got my wish… Look, I’m sorry. This was a really bad idea.” She looks guilty and miserable.
    “But aren’t you… supposed to go mute… or something?” He tries to recall that Disney movie their daughters used to love so much.
    “Everyone gets a different bargain.” Her smile is crooked and devoid of mirth.
    He has to ask: “What was yours?”
    “I was… supposed to live on land for ten years. And then… bring back a human I love… I tried to avoid it, but… I’m sorry,” she repeats brokenly.
    “And now…”
    “They won’t let you go. You’re my part of the bargain. But they don’t have to kill you!”, she exclaims vehemently. “I won’t let them! Look, I’ll talk to my aunt. I hope I can convince her to give you a spell that lets you breathe underwater.”
    “And if not?”
    “… Then… you’ll have to learn to live in a diving suit.”

    • Phil Town
      A really great build-up to the action, Vicki (it’s one of those situations where knowing the prompt takes some of the mystery out of it – we’re pretty sure Undine is a mermaid long before the reveal, but only because of the picture at the top). The scene where the young mermaids attract Steve is well described and really creepy – cf sirens. The final bit of dialogue is good, albeit perhaps just a little too coherent, given the dangerous situation Steve is in? The final line is fun (though I’m not sure it matches the predicament, tonally I mean). Enjoyed this.
      • Vicki Chvatal
        Thanks for your comment, Phil, & sorry it took me so long to reply. You’ve pointed out some areas I need to improve on (right now I can’t see how to improve the dialogue or make the outcome less predictable).
        I’m not sure why you & some other commentators have thought the final line was meant to be lighthearted… To me, it’s black humour at the most: I’m not sure how long a human can actually survive in a diving suit.
    • Enjoyed the story, Vicki. Very well-written.
      And I like the classical/alchemical/magical allusion in the heroine’s name, Undine. And we get the sense of Undine trying to avoid a destiny, a promise, that cannot be avoided.
      The “what comes next” ending has a note of humour, a note of hope and a note of menace.
      I wonder how Steve feels in this situation?
      Good stuff.
      • Vicki Chvatal
        Thanks for your comment, Andy! (And sorry it took so long to respond.) I didn’t realise that Undine had a connection to alchemy; so you made me learn something new.
        As for Steve – he’s totally freaking out, I’m sure: both over the existence of mermaids, and the fact that he hadn’t known something fairly important about his wife of 25 years… There’s some part of him that sort of works on autopilot and produces sensible questions & responses, but another part isn’t ready to deal.
    • Hi Vicki,

      You managed to bring the magic of mermaids into the modern world in a credible way. One easily suspends belief while reading the Oddyssey or something like that – funny things happened back then. But on a modern day cruise ship? That’s more difficult – but I still found myself delving fully into the story and wondering what’s going to happen to this couple as I read along.

      As Phil also said, given the prompt, I guessed well ahead of Peter what the surprise was going to be, that Undine was some sort of mermaid. In a more neutral context, your story would be more effective as it would rely solely on the hints you drop along the way – Undine’s avoidance of the sea and her well-kept family secrets – and the final outcome would come more as a surprise to the readers.

      You know what? There is an ancient legend in the country where I live that the historical figure Count Siegfried (the founder of the nation, a millenium ago) was married to a girl called Melusina. They had a wonderful love life, but she’d never let him see her while she bathed. He once barged into her bathroom while she was preparing herself and realised she was a mermaid. She slipped away from the bathroom window down into the Alzette river below their castle and was never seen again…


      • Vicki – I thought your story was quite well constructed but the last line didn’t sail it home for me…perhaps a bit too flippant? But otherwise, great story!
        • Vicki Chvatal
          Thanks for your comment, Trish, and sorry about the late reply. I’m a bit mystified why the last comment is perceived as flippant; as I’ve written to Phil just now, I don’t know how long humans can actually survive in a diving suit, so to me it’s black humour at the most. But it obviously comes across differently to other people…
      • Vicki Chvatal
        Hi Ken, thanks for your comment! (And sorry I’m replying so late.)

        Do you live in Luxembourg? (I had to look it up – always good to learn something new.)

    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words)

    “The cellphone we found in the sea, we confirmed it’s the one you got that mysterious call from…” Sergeant Miller speaks the words slowly, knowing very well that he has no good news in store for Lucy and Mike McPherson.

    “So you can track him down, right?” There’s a hint of hope in Lucy’s tear-choked voice. “Please find him! He must’ve phoned to distract me… I shouldn’t have left Kayleigh in the water by herself… it was only a minute – not even that – she was just splashing happily…”

    The Sergeant lets her speak, take it all out. Mike eyes his ex-wife fixedly, scorn firmly pasted on his face. How could she lose their daughter? So much for winning custody! Maryann holds his hand and rubs it gently. From time to time she kisses him on his neck. Kayleigh spent one day a month with her dad and Maryann – that’s all Judge at the Family Court gave Mike – and Maryann loved Kayleigh to bits.

    When Lucy’s done with her outburst, the Sergeant drops the bomb at her feet.

    “I’m sorry Ma’am. The phone’d been reported missing a week before that blank call you got on the beach. Its owner has nothing to do with Kayleigh’s disappearance.”


    ‘OMG, you have the Unicorn!’

    ‘Would you like to have it?’

    ‘I’d LOVE to! But I don’t have enough Gameybucks!’ Kayleigh types the words quickly, thinking hard of what she can swap with her newly-found friend for the Unicorn skin. ‘I can give you the Sloth or the Dingo for it,’ she proposes, knowing too well that both those skins together cost less than half the Unicorn.

    ‘I’ll give you the Unicorn for nothing in return!’

    ‘For free?’

    ‘Yes! For being my friend.’

    ‘Oh thank you! You’re so nice, Alexandra!’

    Kayleigh’s Galaxy beeps: Player Alex_6 sent you a gift. Accept?

    ‘Send me a photo of yourself, Kayleigh. I’d like to see how you look.’

    ‘Mommy said I shouldn’t show myself to strangers. Some may be big-year-olds.’

    ‘But we’re not strangers! We’re friends!’

    ‘True, but…’

    ‘I gave you the Unicorn’

    ‘Ok then…’

    Player Kayleigh_McP sent you a photo. Would you like to open it?

    ‘Wow! You ARE pretty!’

    ‘Thank you!’ Kayleigh’s pleased. Alexandra’s already her best friend.

    ‘Can you send me YOUR picture now?’

    He wants to slap himself – he should’ve seen this one coming! He quickly types ‘6-year-old girl’ on Google Images, scrolls down past the cliché photos on top, and settles for one of a girl in a turquoise swimsuit, copies it, and sends it to Kayleigh.

    ‘You’re SO pretty too, Alexandra!’

    ‘Thanks! Do you also have a picture in a swimsuit?’

    ‘I don’t think so. But Mommy just bought me a swimsuit. Next week we’re going to the beach.’

    ‘Lovely! Send me a photo with it on.’

    ‘Ok. I’ll put it on and Mommy will take me a photo for you.’

    ‘I’ve a better idea. Don’t bother your mom. She must be busy. Turn on your video-camera, I’ll watch you putting it on.’

    ‘Hmmm. I don’t know… ‘

    ‘It’ll be our little secret!’


    ‘I like your panties too. Are those little butterflies on it?’

    Kayleigh puts on her swimsuit and basks in a barrage of praise. Alexandra is such a good friend! Kayleigh’s school buddy Gabby said at the swimwear shop that her new swimsuit was for grandmas and she’s unfriended her since. It’s good she’s now found Alexandra.

    ‘Where are your mom and dad gonna take you to swim?’

    ‘Fragola Beach, but only with mom. Dad loves Maryann now, so he lives with her. I meet him every month and he always buys me ice-cream.’

    ‘You said Fragola Beach! That’s where I go too! We can meet… Such a lucky coincidence…’

    ‘What’s considinance?’

    ‘I mean, it’s like written in the stars!’

    ‘I see!’

    ‘Does your mom let you go out by yourself? Mine lets me sometimes.’

    ‘Not really. Just to Suzanne’s house, but that’s across the street from us, so mom can watch me cross. And I know mom’s number, anyway, in case I need her.’

    ‘Really! By heart?’


    ‘Wow! What is it?’

    ‘EightEightNine–the doll’s mine–TwoEightFour–’tfell on the floor–SixOneFive–it came to life–ThreeSevenTwo–it’s all true!’


    “That’s my phone ringing!’

    The ringtone coming from under Lucy’s beach-towel rings loudly over the din of scores of children swimming.

    It’s got to be Pete! He hasn’t called since Lucy turned down his idea to join her and Kayleigh on the beach. Lucy isn’t yet ready for that. She hasn’t even broken the big news to Kayleigh.

    “Let’s get out of the water, honey, I need to take that phonecall,” Lucy tells Kayleigh. Mike had been right: she should have bought a waterproof phone!

    “No mommy! I’m having so much fun! They’ll call another time!”

    “Listen sweetheart, don’t move from here! A minute, I’ll be back!”

    A man nearby lets his phone slip into the water. It’s still calling Lucy as it sinks.

    “You must be Kayleigh! I’m Alexandra’s dad!”

    Kayleigh peeks behind him, thinking Alexandra’s hiding there. She teased people that way, hiding behind dad.

    “Alexandra lied to you,” the man’s quick to tell her.

    “She lied to me?”

    “Not a big bad lie. She just thought you might not believe her if she told you the full truth. Alexandra’s not really a girl…”

    “She’s not?”

    “She’s a… MERMAID!”

    “A real mermaid?”

    “Yes! She’s beneath the sea. Let’s go meet her, shall we?”

    “But my mom…”

    “Your mom will be thrilled when you tell her you met a mermaid! Take a really deep breath. We have quite a way to go…”

    Kayleigh takes the deepest breath she can, and he pulls her down with him under the water, diving for quite a distance, negotiation swimmers’ legs.

    When they re-emerge, half a minute later, Kayleigh’s turned blue and she’s breathing profusely for dear life. Where are they? This patch of beach’s much quieter, and she’s further deafened by the water in her ears.

    The man, also catching his breath, grabs her and runs across the beach, then plunges into some bushes separating the sand from the street where he’s parked. Kayleigh tries to scream, but the man’s covering her mouth.


    Well on the Interstate, after miles on end of crying, Kayleigh finally manages to pull herself together.

    “You’re really not Alexandra’s dad, are you? And she’s not a mermaid!”

    Water drips from her swimwear, but the car’s leather seats are protected, covered with towels.

    “Oh darling, you should never trust a mermaid! I’m angry too. They swam far out today. Even though Alexandra promised me… well, I’ll have a good word with her next time I see her…”

    “I want my mommy…”

    “But not before we have some ice-cream! I have some wicked ice-cream at home.”

    Kayleigh’s mom and dad used to fight bitterly over ice-cream. All that high sugar content! Lucy would say. And the mess! You buy her all she asks for! Mike would snap back: She’s just a little girl who’d love to have an ice-cream! You’re a cruel mother!

    This man’s a bit like daddy, thinks Kayleigh. Wiping the tears, she stops screaming.

    “Yes! Ice-cream!”

    • Vicki Chvatal
      Wow, Ken! Your story is chilling, creepy, and takes the prompt in a completely unexpected direction.
      • Ken Miles
        Hi Vicki, yes, true-to-form pure fantasy mermaid stories are not exactly my thing, so I took this prompt somewhere else with my story. Indeed, chilling and creepy, as you said, and every parent’s and child’s worst nightmare. And the worst bit is that these things really do happen sometimes…

        Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Vicki. Much appreciated.


    • Phil Town
      This is terrifying, sickening, and so well constructed and executed, Ken. Really … it shouldn’t be so good. It’s horrible. But it’s so well written. The slight temporal disarticluation between the crime scene and then the backtracking to see what actually happened – that works really well. And the frightening last line, leaving us to guess the rest. And the dialogue, all very natural and realistic. One tiny observation: the mention of Maryann in the third paragraph put the brakes on for me … I think maybe we need to know who she is immeditately and in overt terms, e.g. “His new wife Maryann holds his hand …” Harrowingly good.
      • Hi Phil and thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

        I’m pleased to get a thumbs up for the dialogue from the King of Dialogue himself 🙂 I’ve had some exposition-laden pieces lately, with plots too complex to give me enough space for dialogue in this flash-fiction format. And I understand that readers don’t quite enjoy those blocky types of stories, and prefer the airy kinds with more dialogue and white spaces (me too, as a reader). So this time I went for mostly-dialogue, like you do so very well, so often.

        Yes, Maryann was a bit of an addendum, I had that feeling while writing this story. I just kept her in because I liked that part where, in Lucy’s presence, she caresses and kisses Mike (who I think was quite a decent man, father and husband all in all – I tried to give such hints throughout the story). That’s when Lucy herself was so distraught for having lost Kayleigh. Where was her newly found flame Pete, now in her hour of need? She earned what she worked for. Mike, though obviously distraught as well, at least has Maryann with him.

        Thanks again, Phil!

    • Very well-written and well constructed, Ken.

      Horrific in a real-life way. I really wanted the story to end differently .. which is not a criticism: it makes the story stronger that there isn’t a neat happy ending. The mother, if not both parents, being left to rue their direct and indirect errors is all too real.

      • Hi Andy,

        Thanks for reading my story and commenting on it.

        I wished the best for Kayleigh too, but I thought it would be unfair to many real-life child victims who go through this ordeal and never return, to sing fictitious celebratory homecoming songs for my Kayleigh when in many cases such children are never to be seen again and one can only think of the worst. Incidentally, yesterday, the old McCann case was again in the news, and it’s quite evident that we’re not going to hear of a happy ending. They’re only looking for body parts to incriminate the suspect.

        As you very well noticed, I placed some guilt on the mother too, and the father, to a lesser extent. Like the quarrels over ice-cream (high sugar content/the mess/’you give her whatever she wants’)… to the extent that this little girl is now almost happy to sell herself to the pedo for some ‘ice-cream’… So much for the ultra-care of parents of nowadays (compared to the more laissez-faire attitude of when we ourselves were kids). There’s nowadays a lot of obsessing on the little things, to cover up for the big issues (kids left to their own devices in their online lives, gaming with who-knows-who, a kid left alone in the sea because mum thinks she got an important phone call from her new boyfriend she’s just quarreled with (alas! if dad was still there, the mermaid trick wouldn’t have happened!). Yes, I wanted to recount a story about these realities of nowadays, too, even more so than the actual dramatic story of the kidnapping and this sick pedophile.

        I’m glad to hear your health situation has somewhat stabilised, Andy. But please do remain friends with your doctors on that one… And with Jan by your side, just what can happen to you!


        • Ken – harrowing story, brilliantly told.
  • Hi Carrie, Alice… can this prompt be extended? Especially since it’s a bonus one. There are only four stories so far, including the one I’ve just posted. Actually I was going to skip this prompt, but then I had some free time (and an idea for a story), so I’ve got one in. But more time may mean more of us might take part…
    • Hi Ken,
      Yes absolutely!!
      I’ve extended it a week…..maybe I can get this half written story in too!
      • Fabulous 🙂

        Hopefully more stories will come to the surface…

  • Withun this here prompt being extended. I might be able to submerse a story beforen the deadline. Right now, the half story I’ve allegedly written totally sucks.
    But July 29, It could happen.
    Cheers ya’ll.
    • With the extended deadline I was hoping to contribute to at least one of the active story threads, but unfortunately the last week has been a bit of a write-off after spending time in hospital and returning for subsequent investigations after further chest pain. All completely unexpected. Coming week looks like it will be fairly medically-focused 🙁
      (Crazy irregular heartbeat, and something has come up in scans that needs further exploration.)

      It’s good to read the stories here, which are all good. I may venture a further comment or two, but won’t be submitting a story myself.

      Good luck to all!

      • Andy- Yikes! Take care of your ticker… wishing you well- Trish
        • Thanks Trish. I’ll do my best 🙂
      • Ken Miles
        I’m so sorry to hear that, Andy. But the bright side is that you caught whatever it is in time and I trust you will be in good hands. Worse is when one doesn’t get the call, or fails to heed it…

        Take care! We’ll be thinking of you.

      • Andy,
        Chest pain. Not good. Not something you want to take lightly.
      • Phil Town
        Sorry to hear that, Andy! Hope it’s not as serious as it sounds and you’re back to your former self soon.
        • Thank you Ken, Ken and Phil

          The heartbeat is back to normal, and I have almost daily interactions with doctors about management, medicine and finding out what’s underlying. As Ken M said, it might be a useful alert in the long run.
          Strange isn’t it – all the self-protection measures from the virus, and all the time there’s an enemy lurking within. (Hmm, that sounds like a story prompt, “the enemy within”.)

          My wife, Jan, being has become a kind of walking stethoscope. Every time she goes past, and several times at night, she puts her head against my chest to check the heartbeat is OK (it is, so far). Yesterday she said something like, “I used to do this to hear your heart beating for me. Now I do it to check you’re still alive!”
          I guess that’s a new stage in a relationship 🙂

          Best wishes to all!

          • Phil Town
            Glad to hear you’re normalising, Andy!

            (Brilliant line from your wife.)

      • Carrie Zylka

        Yikes, don’t go getting sick on us. You know you’re one of my favorites… 🤨😜

        All joking aside, hope everything ends up being ok!!!

        • Hi Carrie – It’s nice to be someone’s favourite, especially yours 🙂
          Though I’m sure we all are, of course!

          Thank you for the good wishes – ticking over OK at the moment. Going for some scans tomorrow to see if there is any issue underlying.

      • Andy, I’m late to the thread, but wanted to give my well wishes to you too. Take care, we’ll be here when you get back to contributing stories.
        • Many thanks, Alice.
          Hopefully I’ll be up and running full throttle soon – well as full a throttle as permissible, given age and infirmity 🙂

  • The Octopuses Garden. (1003)
    by Ken Cartisano (with apologies to ‘The Beatles.’)

    Seth and Sarah Nommi are on a second honeymoon. His business is doing well and their combined incomes have afforded them a bit of luxury at a young age, but they’re still childless. Without any overt declaration of the fact, Seth quietly hopes an injection of carefree romance into their lives may be just the spark they need to pave the way to pregnancy and parenthood.

    As with many marriages, the couple compliment each other. In this case, Sarah is the more adventurous of the two, and she has convinced Seth that an underwater tour of some nearby reefs would be the perfect way to finish off a wonderful ten day trip. Seth is not so sure.

    “All I know is that I want to see an octopus in the worst way.” Sarah says, while sucking the meat out of a succulent crab claw. Her long blonde hair is tied in a ponytail.

    “That’s a pretty weird fetish you have,” Seth responds. “I’d be happy to see a couple of eels, maybe a blowfish or two.”

    Sarah chews, swallows and says, “A blowfish? I’ll give you a…” But she senses a linguistic trap, and wisely turns her attention to the other crab claw.

    Undeterred, Seth says, “The lobster we had for dinner last night told me that seafood is good for the libido.”

    “Oh darling, you should never trust a lobster where sex is concerned. Especially a dead lobster.”

    “I don’t know,” Seth says, “I’m feeling pretty lucky.”

    “Are ya?” She says, with her mouth full.

    “Um, yeah, I am. Well… I was.”

    “Good,” she says. “It’s settled then, we rent a boat and a guide, and tomorrow we go diving.”


    The next morning, Seth and Sarah are sitting on the gunwale of a small boat making a last minute check of their gear. She’s a certified diver, and he has some experience, but a guide was unavailable. On her signal, they hold their masks and fall backwards into the water.

    Beneath the surface, the seaweed stands tall, swaying with the slight current.
    Among denizens of the reef, unusual often spells trouble. The sound of the splash travels faster and further under the water than above. The Kingfish change course abruptly. Among the corals, alarm moves like a wave, some creatures change color, others retract, still others move to a defensive position closer to the bottom. Crabs scurry, flounders burrow.

    A shark prowls along the reef’s territorial border, his sleek gray body undulates back and forth as though he’s sniffing the bottom for clues, but he’s not using his nose. He hunts for prey with natural organic sensors.

    A single, large barracuda watches the shark with wide unblinking eyes, his lethal silver jaw looks mechanical and hangs agape as he turns, tracking the shark with such subtle precision, his movement is nearly imperceptible. He is like a sword with teeth and eyes.

    Topside, a wind-blown armada of Portuguese Man-O-War is sailing out to sea.

    An octopus whose skin is flickering between brown and turquoise pulls himself into his well protected den, but keeps his eyes just above the entrance, like a nosey neighbor peering out from behind a curtain. He is just in time to see a seahorse wobble past in search of a small floral mooring. Its tiny little pectoral fins flapping furiously as he rocks his way to his idea of a safe harbor, unaware of the voracious predator watching from a few feet away.

    A singular, substantial wave passes through and over the reef largely unnoticed as it prepares to end its journey on the shore of the popular tourist destination where they rented the boat.

    Most residents of the reef are unperturbed by the wave, but some are dimly aware of the two strange creatures in their midst. What the octopus sees are creatures garbed in black, rubbery skin, with oscillating tail fins that split halfway up their bodies, and both possess long, hinged and articulated forward appendages that seem useless in the water except for grasping things, but they are well suited for that.

    An intelligent creature (such as the octopus) is inclined to observe that they are so poorly adapted to the water that it seems they may have entered it only recently. (But that seems impossible to imagine.) Their most peculiar feature is one large, glassy eye on the front of their head, and they must turn their entire head to see what they’re looking at. (Very impractical, the octopus thinks.)

    His curiosity has betrayed him, because he’s drifted out of his den in amazement. The two creatures recoil at first, and then point directly at him. He must make a split-second decision, either to vacate his lair and flee, or to hunker down and hope that their interest in him is fleeting. To vacate his den under such circumstances could prove disastrous too, as numerous fellow reef-mates could move in during his unexpected absence.

    The rubber-skinned creatures seem abnormally interested in him alone, despite the multitude of wonders around them, and at the moment of truth, two peculiar things happen. He spots something strange floating above them and clearly looks up. The two strange creatures react by looking up. It looks like sticks of wood, nailed together drifting by on the surface, then one of them, the one with the flowing golden mane realizes it’s part of a boat. Then they both wonder if it’s their boat, and with a thumbs up followed by a nod, they rise to the surface to find the sea littered with debris. Their boat is 100 yards away, scuffed but intact, and once they board it they discover more debris floating their way, but it isn’t until they see the first dead body that they realize the entire beachfront has been washed out to sea.

    A tsunami has destroyed everything in sight.

    Exactly nine months later, to the day, Sarah gave birth to a baby girl. They named her Octavia.
    Octavia Sue.

    • Phil Town
      A really good prelude, Jacques Cous- … I mean Ken. The playful banter is great fun, with some brilliant lines: ‘ “I’ll give you a…” But she senses a linguistic trap …’ then they get in the water, and it’s as if we’re watching some National Geographic film (I was as impressed as KenM). The description really is lovely; I especially liked: “He is like a sword with teeth and eyes.” I wonder if you might just have heaped a little TOO much detail on it, though (the seahorse?) – it was important to establish the wonder of the seabed, but there perhaps comes a point of diminishing returns. Like KenM, I found the ending appropriate but a little perfunctory, but the beginning and that middle … terrific!
      • Phil,

        Thanks for the feedback, which we all, (the three of us – You, me and Ken,) seem to agree on. The seahorse (what horse? I didn’t sea any horse.) was Kim’s idea. (But I admit I liked it.) I don’t know, Ken says I don’t know how to finish a story, but I told him, some of my best stories were

        • Well, Ken, this time I am quite satisfied with the ending, actually. I like endings that slap me in the face, or make me say “aha!” or make me chuckle. And this was high Octave enough to get me to smile. Octavia-Sue! What better name for a an octopus baby!

          My issue, this time, has more to do with the cause-and-effect element of what led to the happy ending. I thought (and wanted) the baby to be the result of what happens in the story – that’s why I imagined that sex happened on the boat while waiting for a safe re-entry. Sort of saying that Octavia-Sue (or Tsu Nah Mya) wouldn’t have been born if the tsunami (and the octopus excursion) didn’t happen, in the first place.

          Like Jesus Christ (no less!) dying on the cross to save others, all those people who sacrificed their very lives in the tsunami wouldn’t have died for nothing. The same tempest that killed them also gave birth to a new human being. That’s what I was suggesting to you, in my other comment. Perhaps I like stories to happen on an epic scale. So much so that with my stories I may then fail to please those readers who just want a little distraction from the troubles of their daily lives. And instead I give them much more to think and worry about! My bad.

          But your ending, this time round, was very good, even if somewhat abrupt (Miles, Kim and Phil can’t be all wrong at the same time!) i.e. abrupt = without enough causality leading up to it. But do celebrate, for you have still pleased with the ending itself this very ending-finicky reader, with your story! The rest, that I would have liked to see, is just a lot of hot sex on a boat in the aftermath of a terrible tsunami that you say did not happen (the boat-sex, not the tsunami). Well, pity…

          Then comes Andy with the hard facts that a tsunami would have killed the diving couple. Oh, who knew? I’d believed your tale that being underwater would be the safest place in the event of a tsunami. I was even going to take a scuba-divers’ course, as soon as I can, just in case, even though I live at least some 300 km from the nearest coastline. Now, after what Andy said, I’ll invest that money in a mountain hut in the Alps instead.


          • Ken,

            Now see here you young whipper-snapper. I figured they’d have that sex on the boat, but I didn’t want to talk about you know what in front of the kids. Have you no sense of propriety?

            That’s not true. That’s just being an adult, doing stupid shit and blaming it on innocent kids. No, what really happened was, I put the dead body in the story, Once the dead body entered, I was torn, How can they have sex with all these dead bodies around? (I asked myself.) They can’t. So we. (me and my tapeworm) lied. We Lied! And pretended that they had sex the night before. But really, they were so frickin’ full of sea food that night, that neither of them could frickin’ move, let alone have sex. No, see? It’s a real problem. The only solution here, is for them to have sex, despite or just before! Sighting the dead body. There we go. Now we’re gettin’ it. I think it’s settled then, they had sex, on that boat, and just as they were, you know, they were, the dead body floated up. And rolled over.

            Or I could get rid of the dead body altogether. use Andy’s sentence, leave it vague and indefinite, (like the English do about everything.) And Voila!! Story-thon-o-matica. Deluxe…Redux.

            Now. What were we talking about? Surely not my story. Sex? Octopuses? dead bodies? You’re totally distracting me from what i’m trying to do, Ken, which is to write a story before August 9th. I think. So. Oh yes, tropical storms, thank you, that’s right. I forgot. So, the state of Florida may get hit with this tropical storm, and the amount of water dropped by a tropical storm is phenomenal, so the state will get doused with millions of tons of water. If we just add soap, we could disinfect the entire state. All we need is soap. (Dah-dada-dada.) All we need is soap. (Every-body.)

            I’m just saying. We should think big.

    • Ken Miles
      Reading again before voting… and oh I missed this one the first time: Sue Nommi… Yesss! This ending is getting even better every time!

      There was an earthquake the day (and place) I was born (this is true). It’s good my parents weren’t in that kind of mood back then… I wonder what my name would have been. And you agree, Ken, that Ken is not a bad name. And I think it means handsome (in old Scottish?). Erin T. Quake… no way!

    • Hi Ken,

      I’m starting a new link here as the old one ran dry… So yes, that dead body floating by was a bit of a damper to a hot tsunami boat-sex afterparty… Some might even be aroused by the prospect of such things macabre going around them while they are having the time of their lives. But that’s not what your Mr. and Mrs. Nommi are made of. That could be more likely said of some character created by Juergen (or me or you sometimes too, and Phil). But the Nommis, no, they’re not like that. That’s clear to me, now. Perhaps, as you suggest, there’ll be no floating dead body. Or the dead body comes after all is said and done.

      The thing is that I want that cause-and-effect connection between what happens in the story (the tsutsu) and the creation of Sue-Sue… In other words: no tsunami, no sex, no baby.

      I wrote what seems at first sight a very differenti story last year, but which essentially works along the same plotline. The Mossad Time-Travel Division sends a man to eliminate Hitler before he’s even born, by distracting Hitler’s grandmother to sex with him instead of Hitler’s grandfather, on that fateful night. The price to pay was his own existence, as, without Hitler, the cirumstances would have changed for his own parents to ever even meet. He was set up, if I remember well, by a scientist who saw that risk and ended up having sex with a model sent back in time that looked like Hitler’s young grandmother… Anyway, that one was complicated, but essentially pivoted on the same issue like your the one in your story: no Hitler = no Holocaust = no Israel = No (I forgot what I had called the guy). As in no tsunami = no sex on the boat = no Sue Nommi…

      Bravo! Sex the night before woudn’t have worked. First, true, because of too much seafood. And more importantly because it wouldn’t have been relevant to the storyline.

      I’m being a nice guy here, seeing a good thing (a baby is born) in a bad thing (a natural disaster). That’s what makes your story great to my eyes. Besides that, it’s also beautifully written, of course, but that’s one thing everyone can see.

      Hold tight as the torrential rains prepare to hit you there in Florida! And don’t go on a boat excursion! Hell, yes, why not inject those clouds with soap and see what happens. Someone’s going to call their baby daughter Cory Noe V. Russ one of these days… wait and see!


  • Ken Miles
    Hi Ken,

    It’s been a while we haven’t seen you here… ah yes you were in the electronic wastelands of your wilderness cabin. Back in Internetland now, at long last?

    You wrote such a beautiful story there, Ken. The way you paint the underwater world is as evocative as a true journey down in the reef, complete with a knowledgeable guide. Or for those who never had the luck of seeing the underwater world and its marvels in person, as good as a David Attenborough documentary (are you familiar with Attenborough that side of the reef?). Really, your descriptions are very vivid, I felt I was there!

    I also liked the point of view of the Octopus and how he sees the human form as the most unadapted for the sea (in spite of the added “fin”, goggles and all).

    The beginning of the story is titillating. It sets us on what is going to happen by the end of the story. Did they do it on the boat? While waiting for much longer than planned, out at sea, until they were sure it was safe to get back ashore? In that case, they could have called the baby Tsu Nam Ya too (I’m not sure if that’s correct Pinyin, though. Andy will tell you 🙂

    What do you do if you’re a young man and woman stuck on a boat alone for so long after having engorged on libido-boosting seafood? And it’s so uncomfortable to keep your wetsuit on out of the water. You’ve got to take it off, even if you have nothing else to put on instead… But there’s no one else looking anyway. Maybe no one else alive within a radius of several miles. Are we talking about hot, boat-rocking sex here?

    I would have alluded to this long wait, for that unexpected wait out at sea, naked with no one looking, is critical, in the great scheme of things for that new human being (Octavia Sue) to come to existence, even more so than Mr. Octopus was. I mean I got it, and it’s a great well-rounded finale, also the way you wrote it (I do say it when I don’t like the ending, you know I do. And this time I do like it.)

    The tsunami (and the baby) do come a little too suddenly. Some closer observation of the tsunami-altered world on the part of the protagonists (in the same fabulous fashion you described the undersea world) would have drawn me in, the reader, with a greater level of suspense into what on earth happened while the two were diving. And, then into what they did on that boat (not a moment wasted!) while waiting for calm to return.

    With more words you could have shown us not told us, perhaps, about the tsunami. Maybe refraining from mentioning it was even a tsunami, we’ll figure it out from what the protagonists say:

    Seth: Where’s the lighthouse gone?
    Sarah: You said lighthouse!? Where’s the whole town gone! That’s where our hotel was… Oh God, what if another one comes! And we’re out here…
    Seth: Best thing to do with a wave?… Ride it!

    Sarah: This wetsuit’s gonna kill us!
    Seth: Let’s take it off then…!

    Seth: Let’s wait another hour or so… make sure it’s safe to return…
    Sarah: I’m not good at waiting, you know me…
    Seth: I’ll keep you busy!
    Sarah: Best thing to do with a woman like me…?

    And then comes Octy-Sue!

    But this would only be good for a 1400-word story contest… Oh well, I’m seeing that your story is only 1003 words long! So it’s not the word limit that cut you off so suddenly. Maybe it was dinner time. Or the pub where you have internet access was closing. A tsunami really hit…

    Well done, Ken… this is the water version of that nature story (I thought it was called Circle Of Life, but I was mistaken) you wrote some time ago and won this contest with…

    After reading this I do now need a beach holiday! Complete with some underwater fare, a boat and..


  • Thanks for your gracious comments, Ken. I’m back in civilization now, but was out at the cabin when i wrote this. Your gently worded criticism is well taken. I like to use, (have to use) all the words available usually. The truth is, the story at its conception was awful. I read it to Kim and she confirmed my suspicions, and we agreed that it just fell flat. I had another couple in it that get killed, no baby. I think what happened was that once I’d hit on a ‘clever’ ending, and cleaned up all the garbage and contradictory stuff I just wrapped it up and put a bow on it. I should add thanks to Sy Montgomery for her book, ‘The Soul Of An Octopus’ for the real inspiration for this story. (The Beatles had nothing to do with this other than using the title first.) I wanted to use another two hundred words on the Octopus itself. Tried to make him a female but that just made it confusing so I ditched that effort.

    I was quite pleased with the tantalizing dialogue, but you’re right, a more substantial ending would help immensely. Just for the record (despite all of your speculation, the baby was conceived the night before the tsunami. It would be a bit callous to have sex in a boat with dead bodies floating all around. I should have made that clear to avoid misunderstandings, but how?

    It could’ve been done, but honestly, there were three stories posted, I wasn’t even going to write a story, so this is better than nothing. I think I’m a shoe-in for fifth place at this point. Easily. (Unless Alice submits a story and takes the first two spots. Haha.)

    I submitted a few brief comments on the stories posted but it didn’t work. I had to hold the laptop up above my steering wheel to download and upload stuff. And most of the time it still didn’t work. (That was another consideration, I wasn’t sure I could even post the story, so why spend a lot of time on it?) And then there was the poison ivy, and the leak in the bathroom, then I had to mow the grass and weed-whack the creek.

    I’m pretty sure the title is wrong — It should be The Octopus’s Garden, shouldn’t it? I misused compliment for complement and misspelled nosy. I added a couple of critical words at key points as well after I’d already posted it.

    Having said all of that. it’s a story that ends too abruptly. That’s your point, Kim’s observation, and the thing I would need to fix.

    • Well, I really like the story, Ken. The writing in the first two thirds (and indeed for the most par) is to savour. A great depiction of where life is better, down where it’s wetter, under the sea.

      I do like the perspective from the octopus’s point of view, observing the humans as kind of fishes out of water. It seems octopuses are curious creatures, so one does wonder what they think of people entering their realm.

      I haven’t read the Sy Montgomery book you mention, but there’s another called ‘Other Minds – the octopus and the evolution of intelligent life’ by Peter Godfrey-Smith which is fascinating. I share your interest, and like the way you incorporate such insights into fiction.

      About their conceiving the child the night before, you commented, “I should have made that clear to avoid misunderstandings, but how?”
      – One way might be to change the line where Sarah is talking with her mouth full to something like “After last night? You greedy man”
      BTW calling the baby Sue with their surname is clever – but maybe a sad memorial to carry through her life?

      OK, I love the writing and the story. But there’s a bit of a problem with everything being calm under the waters while a tsunami impacts above. I once saw a 3D visualisation of a tsunami. Basically a catastrophic event on the seabed like an earthquake triggers a massive surge of energy radiating outward through the water. There won’t be much of a wave on top until the surge reaches shallow water. But the underwater ‘internal waves’ create tremendous turmoil, ripping up the ocean floor and devastating reefs if any stand in their way. There have been people known to survive, but they know they are in trouble. Where they are by the reef puts them in a very vulnerable position.
      I think that could be turned to advantage in the story, creating some drama and maybe a narrow escape that brings the couple closer. The moment that could have ended their life becomes the beginning of a new life – for them and for the child-to-be.

      • Andy,

        You’re a genius. I love that line you suggested, six words. I’m using it. And well, about that turmoil, as you know, I have not had the luxury of the Intranets when I wrote this story, so I couldn’t avail myself of the necessary research. But you’re right, that’s the drama that the story lacks. I’ll get right on that. I’m trying to write another story here already, all right? Between you, and Kim, and Alice and Phil, Jesus!, and then Ken and the other fricken’ Ken. (I’ll let them figure out which is which.) You people are wearing me out. And I still have to cut the grass and take the garbage out. (It’s a small price to pay for the luxury I live in. The Luxuriousness Estates.)

        I know you won’t believe this, but I originally thought that that might be the case, and the original reason for the fear of the reef creatures was the tsunami, rather than the divers. But somewhere along the way, the story became more about the octopus and the couple, and less about the sea and the tsunami. It would probably balance the story nicely to describe what might really happen in those circumstances.

        And then clean it up some more, and possibly have the octopus fall in love with the girl, she gets pregnant, has an octo-baby, ( a kid with eight — somethings. (To be decided later.) But the child is a sucker for, no, scratch that… the child has to make her way to the sea at some point. (Full moon? On Jupiter?) Where she lays 10,000 eggs. The end.
        Eh? Whattaya think?

        I kid, of course. (Or do I? Who the fuck cares? Nobody. We moved on.)

        I have written ‘beneath’ myself. Again. Just one more thing to research. I’ll put it on my to do list. Great suggestions Andy. Thanks,

        • Hey Ken – I like the idea of the story sliding to surreal extremes and the octo-baby with eggs on Jupiter. Then returning with an invasion fleet, perhaps. And why not? Spectacular and tentacular, the next blockbuster movie.

          At the risk of overthinking things, maybe the drama could have the couple thrown around and separated by the turmoil. Sarah is frantic, unable to see Seth. Then the octopus she’s been watching glides past, looking for its way back home. She follows it to find Seth pinned to the ground by rocks and broken reef. Then she rescues him while the octopus watches on. So the name of the baby is a vote of thanks to the octopus, who sets about rebuilding his garden, decorating it with pieces of torn wetsuit that flap gently in the current.

          Well, that’s sorted that out. I’ll leave you to get on with putting out the garbage, mowing the lawn and weed-whacking the creek. I’m not sure what the last activity is – I suspect it’s a euphemism for something I wouldn’t understand …

          • Andy,

            I must say, I confess, you and Ken Miles are freaking hilarious. And,,,, you both have great ideas. I get Ken’s point, the connection of cause and effect, so the sex really has to come after the tsunami. He’s got me there. As for my wild Oct-tentacled plot line, there are too many moons of Jupiter, so much for that plot point. No, I like your idea of utilizing the underwater chaos of a tsunami to ‘infuse’ our main characters with that common side-effect of side-stepping death. Pro-creation. I’ll work on it, everyone seems to like the writing so I’ll mark this as a keeper to be worked on at my leisure. To be revised.

            Hey….. Hope you’re feeling well.

    • (Hi Ken, I thought I was replying to this comment, here… instead I replied to your comment to Phil, further up… look for it and you’ll find it. Ah yes, because I was mentioned there, when you replied to Phil… I was just wondering why I pressed that reply button and not this one!)
      • Carrie Zylka
        Hey writers!!

        You know the drill… It’s time to vote!

        Remember you MUST vote for your story to count, you can only vote once, and you may NOT vote for yourself.

        You officially have 24 HOURS from the timestamp of this comment to read through the stories vote.

        Good luck!

        • Phil Town
          Hi, Carrie

          Just a heads-up … Vicki and KenM’s stories are on the same line in the voting drop-down.

          Also … I suppose we’ll have to vote for ourselves in 5th place?



          • oops – fixed it. Thanks for pointing that out! It’s amazing how a period instead of a comma can muck it all up.
            I took the 5th vote away, so just vote for your top 4! 🙂
      • Ken C. – The middle part of your story took me back to my scuba diving days. I can remember seeing so many of the creatures you so aptly described. The end of your story jolted me out of my reverie because I didn’t think they’d survive the tsunami… But oh your writing in the middle – simply beautiful!
  • Vicki:
    I really enjoyed your story. I think it was the writing, the character description. I mean, it was no more realistic than Phil’s story, but the character, Undine, was intriguing and three dimensional. Steve too. I was drawn to them, and then the lighthearted ending was like a snap at the count of three, ending an imaginary session of hypnosis.
    A very enjoyable story.

    Pretty horribly great story. I think it was Phil who suggested that ‘MaryAnn’ took him out of the story. I’m not sure whose name confused me, but somewhere in the story I was hit with one too many names. And of course, it’s a difficult story to like, where everyone is complicit, except the victim. It’s like reading a story about one of Ted Bundy’s victims. It’s a tunnel, with no light at the end.

    Despite the perfection you achieve grammatically, as I told Vicki, your characters did not draw me in. Not because their attraction was purely physical, and their desire was thwarted by an urchin. Not at all. It served them right. So, not exactly heroic material there. Come to think of it, this is much like a fairy tale for adults. An R-rated fairy tale.The quality of your writing pulls it all together and makes it a fun read.

    I read Vicki’s comment to you and I’m not sure what Vicki saw, that you agreed to, but hey, it sounds like the two of you have it all sorted out.

    Eve Isolated:
    This story puzzles me. I didn’t quite understand the significance of the title. I suppose that the main character’s surprise in the end, which I also found peculiar, could simply be attributed to someone not realizing what they’re getting until it’s too late. But I think some kind of image would have been appreciated if not altogether useful, or some kind of affect, in addition to the shock. I mean, I just didn’t fully get what I was supposed to get, if anything. However I agree that your writing has a lovely ebb and flow, a narrative that’s both colorful and descriptive which did in fact draw me into the story.

    I don’t recognize your writing as some others seem to. You appear to eschew comments or responses so we’ll just have to assume you’re shy or busy and hope that you will return next week with another story.

    If I may add, I once read a story, and then saw the movie, (or the reverse) of a creature, on another planet, that was invisible. And of course, at some point in the story, and movie, we get to see an outline of the creature, and that’s all. But the effect of not providing an image of the horror itself, is a very effective technique. But to deny that image entirely… even to the end, that’s risky business.

    • Phil Town
      ‘Forbidden Planet’?

      Thanks for the comment, Ken. You’re right – the characters in my … thing are not very deep (at least one of them isn’t! – geddit?) It’s just a bit of fluff, really – not to be taken too seriously.

      • Phil, Yes. I think you’re right. Forbidden Planet. I remember now that I read it before I saw the movie. The book, (a short story?) was infinitely more frightening than the movie. (Or it might have been something to do with Planet X?) I’ll have to google it later. No time right now. (I have to write up my concession speech for this weeks contest. It could take a while.) And then I have to eat, and weed-whack the wombats.
    • Vicki Chvatal
      Ken, thank you for the detailed and constructive comments. (And sorry about the late reply.)

      As for Phil’s story, IMO its genre is a farce even more than a fairytale, which doesn’t require a realistic plot or three-dimensional characters. And the set-up was funny.

  • Carrie Zylka
    Hi all,
    We’re just waiting for votes from eveisolated.
    I have to run some errands so I’ll tally the votes in a few hours!
  • Carrie Zylka
    And without further ado…. The winner of the “Beneath the Sea” prompt is…….

    The Day the Mermaids Swam Afar By Ken Miles

    2nd Place: Ne’er the Twain By Phil Town
    3rd Place: String of Salt by eveisolated
    4th Place: For Better or for Worse by Vicki Chvatal
    5th Place: The Octopuses Garden by Ken Cartisano

    The story with the favorite character is “The Octopuses Garden” and the favorite character was the Octopus!
    The story with the favorite dialogue is “The Day the Mermaids Swam Afar” By Ken Miles

    Congrats to all!!!

    • Phil Town
      Well done, well deserved and … well depressing, KenM.

      And congrats to all of our select group this time! Few but fantastic!

      • Ken Miles
        Thanks Phil… and also for being a role model to me in crafting great writing, and especially in the art of dialogue, over the past year or so.


        • Phil Town
          Very kind of you to say that, Ken. I’ve learned so much from this page myself over the … years now.
    • Ken Miles
      Thanks for your votes and appreciation guys! Even for a story with which I deeply depressed you 🙂

      The dialogue win is encouraging too. I got the character one several times before, but this is the first time I get the dialogue Oscar. It’s an area I’ve been trying to improve. And it hasn’t always been easy.

      Well done to Ken C’s Octopus too for becoming the character of the week. Was my choice too! First animal to get this prize? Maybe not…

      Cheers and see you for the ‘Revenge’ prompt!

      • Vicki Chvatal
        Congrats, Ken!

        I suspect that you didn’t win favourite character simply because your unnamed pedophile, while extremely well written, is just too creepy to be called “favourite” (at least, that’s why I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him).

    • Congratulations KM. And KC.
      And everyone in between. Especially Phi for second. (I won’t make the mistake again of not congratulating Phil in 2nd place 🙂 )
      And good stories too by Vicki and Eve.

      I didn’t vote, btw, but notionally had Ken M in first place too. Quite a brave story with the subject matter.

      And the Octopus wins it with a mysterious 8th vote at the 11th hour? I suspect he sneaked that one in himself. Damn clever, these octopodes. Ken was praising their intelligence, and now we have the evidence!

  • The favorite character was the octopus? Well uhhhhh. I’ll be a goddamned mermaid with chlamydia. Hold on a second. (You what? Oh.) The octopus demands a recount. He says he has more arms than we have stories. He says he could out write all of us, including me with two arms tied behind his mantle. (I didn’t even know he HAD a mantle.) He seems a bit ornery, even by my standards. (Which are very low, for those of you with Alzheimer’s, or attention deficiency disodor. Standards so low they affect my spelling.)

    Hold on a second. He’s trying to tell me…
    Okay, he’s got a point, he says, ‘If he was the most popular character, then the problem was with my story.’

    What can I say? I did the best I…. He says I wasted him on a crappy story…… (Jeez, who knew that octopuses could be so sensitive?)

    But seriously, Congratulations Ken (M.) And Phil and Vicki and Eve The Reticent. You all beat my octopus. I hope you’re all very happy about that. Beating a poor, basically good and decent octopus. Imagine him, suffering with insomnia, (or surfing with it,) trying to sleep tonight, in his bed of urchins, chewing on a crab head, letting himself go completely. Was it worth it? Are you all satisfied? Look at him over there, scraping barnacles out of one of his suckers with his beak. Doesn’t that just break your heart in two?

    No? Oh my God. You people are that cold? (You know, this is turning into hard work. I need to wrap this up and go clean my Uzis.) What’s the next prompt? Revenge? Whaaaaat?

    No, but seriously, congrats to all, it was a very elite group of competitors. I couldn’t be beaten by a better bunch of writers. (And if this doesn’t motivate me for the next prompt, I don’t know what will.)

    Ken C.

    • Ken Miles
      Thanks Ken – like I also said to Phil, you’ve been a great mentor to me over this past year (through reading your stories, through your comments, humor, much sought-after personalised advice and emails). So this victory of mine is also yours!

      I actually had you in first place, Ken, as I found your story quite intriguing, as clearly shown in my comments about it, which I won’t repeat here. Maybe I liked it even more than you yourself did!


      • Hey Ken (M.), I appreciate the compliment. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at your vote because you did express a great appreciation for the story on the thread. But the general consensus was that the story was incomplete, or at least ended too abruptly and I agree. You can’t win contests around here with half a story. Plus, I know, better than anyone else, how little time and effort I put into that piece. (47 hours of my life—gone!)

        I just hope no one thought I was expressing angst with my ‘scathing brand of comedy.’ Far from it, I just about fell out of my chair when I read that the octopus was the favorite character. But as Carrie pointed out, he only won by a beak.

        (These ARE short stories. But still…) None of the characters this week were particularly endearing or too finely rendered. The octopus outpaced the other two characters in my own story. (who, incidentally, were not serial predators,) but I can barely remember their names. (Seth and Sarah?) (Phil’s male character was Harry. Vicki’s main characters were Steve and Undine, I don’t remember the name of Phil’s mermaid or Eve’s main character. The victim in your story eludes me even. Kaylee? Kayla? Kayeisha?0)

        Plus, I’m in the middle of an old classic Arthur C. Clark novel ‘Songs of Distant Earth.’ Kim found it in one of these free libraries, I think. (Or a trash bin.) She read it in three days, so I thought, hey must be a great book. Now, a week later, I’m about halfway through it, but I have character names in that book I’m having to keep straight, too. (So get off my back, Penelope. If I can’t remember your name. What? It’s not Penelope it’s Porn? No Pawn! No? Oh, Pon. I’m sorry, Pan, got it. Oh, Pan’s your nickname? Your real name IS Penelope. Well wait a minute…) I need a drink.

        So, I have a revenge story almost ready. (Unless I throw it out and start over.) And the good news is, none of you are in it. Not sure how good it is. But I may still get my revenge on you all because I keep thinking the story needs something, like an octopus, but where to put it? The beginning? The end? In your mailboxes? Your socks drawer? (This is starting to sound like one of Jurgen’s previous stories.)

        But seriously, sincere congrats on the win, Ken (I dub thee, the M-ster.)
        You’ve already written numerous winners, this is just another feather in your glotissimous. Which makes it more official.

        I read your gruesome new offering for ‘Revenge’ and frankly, it’s horrific.
        You’re welcome.


        (The Kenster.)

        • Ken Miles
          Kayleigh. Like the gal in the song by Fish. You know him, right? The Scottish singer. No relation to Octopus.

          Ah, yes, for the Revenge prompt I further upped the horror. Kayleigh’s abduction will seem like a Disney singalong musical compared to ‘His Eyes’. But we’ll talk about that there when the time comes…

          Thanks for your compliment about the track record of my stories. As you know, I appreciate what you say, for you really mean it and don’t say things out of mere politeness or kindness. Ironically, I now won with a story I wasn’t even going to write, initially. But that’s how things happen in life. Take America. Columbus was actually looking for India. And then he thought he found Japan.

          I gave up your Octopus high-fives in the vote (it took us eight minutes to finish and my hand is now covered in blisters), because of his attentive observations of his human visitors. I thought he’d smell something in them, that they’d eaten his kin, seafood, the night before. But he was too nice to judge them solely on that little detail.

          So, go on with your revenge piece now. Don’t revenge against me. An octopus in my sock drawer? No thanks. In the fridge please. I gave your story a good round of applause in the vote and in the comments. Revenge against the others who wronged you and heeded not your call of Sea-creatures’ Lives Matter.

          Meanwhile, have a good time with Arthur 🙂


    • I was sweating a bit as we had seven voters and each one chose a different favorite character, but then an eighth voter came through in the eleventh hour and voted for the octopus.
      So there you have it!
      • Ken Miles
        The eighth voter for the Octopus! What’s with octopuses and the number eight!?
        • Carrie Zylka

          I didn’t even catch that!!

      • Robert Emmett
        Interesting, five stories and eight votes.
        • Carrie Zylka

          It happens quite often with writers who didn’t submit but are still active participants in the website.

          Plus we have a handful of people who vote, who’ve never submitted, but they’ve emailed and asked questions, with unique IP Addresses so I know they are real people and not just authors creating fake accounts to vote.

  • I think, as punishment (or reward, if you’re weird) I’m going to rename your stories.
    • First Place: ‘The Day the Mermaids Began Treading Water While the Author Typed The Title of the Story.’

      Second Place: ‘What’s Twain Got To Do With It?’

      Third Place: Salt Water Intrusion. (An eight-part documentary series by Emmanuel B. Octopusenheimershlossenbergentine. With a forward by Eve. )

      Fourth Place: Forbearance Of Warts. (It speaks for itself.)

      Fifth Place: Octomus Prime.

      You’re welcome.

  • Ken C and everyone, given the underwater theme – you may be interested in this story from today’s Times:

    Headline: Squid teeth to help make self-repair suits

    The suckers at the end of a squid’s tentacles are barbed with serrated rings like circular jaws that allow it to grip hold of the fish and shrimp on which it preys.

    Besides resembling, in close up, a clip from a horror film, the “squid teeth rings” have an inbuilt repair system that allows them to regenerate when broken. They are now at the centre of a project funded by the US Army Research Institute to develop self-repairing materials that might be used in hazmat suits and robotic machines.

    Scientists have developed a polymer that mimics the process over 24 hours in which soft parts of the proteins in the teeth rings are said to help the broken pieces fuse together, while harder parts reinforce the structure. The polymer, created by scientists at Penn State University and the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, performed the same trick with the application of heat and water or light.

    “We were able to reduce a typical 24-hour healing period to one second, so our protein-based soft robots can now repair themselves immediately,” Abdon Pena-Francesch, of the Max Planck Institute said. “In nature, self-healing takes a long time. In this sense, our technology outsmarts nature.” Their findings, published this month in Nature Materials, could have applications for robotics and personal protective equipment.

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