300-word Writing Challenge #32 (January 2019) -- READ FIRST POST!

Ursa major

Bearly Believable
Staff member
Aug 7, 2007
The inspiration image for Challenge#32 is:

Image for 300-worder number 32.jpg

Image credit: MRSQ8GEEK


To write a story in 300 words or fewer
INSPIRED by the image provided above, in the genre of
Science Fiction, Fantasy, or other Speculative Fiction


Only one entry per person

All stories Copyright 2019 by their respective authors,
who grant the Chronicles Network the non-exclusive right to publish them here

This thread will be closed until January the 10th 2019
As soon as the thread is unlocked, you may post your story

Entries must be posted no later than January the 31st 2019,
at 11:59 pm GMT

Voting will close February the 15th, 2019 at 11:59 pm GMT
(unless moderators choose to make an extension based on the number of stories)

You do not have to enter a story to vote -- in fact, we encourage ALL Chronicles members
to read the stories and vote for their favourites

You may cast THREE votes

NO links, commentary or extraneous material in the posts, please -- the stories must stand on their own


For a further explanation of the rules see Rules for the Writing Challenges

This thread to be used for entries only:

Please keep all comments to the DISCUSSION THREAD
Please do not "Like" posts in this thread


Well-Known Member
Feb 19, 2018
Clean bill of health

"Mr. Coggs, drop your pants!" demanded the nurse.
"I can assure you it isn't necessary, Mrs. Applebaum."
"And I can assure you I've seen them all, short and long, normal or shriveled. There is nothing there which can impress me," said Mrs. Applebaum with a rigid expression.
"No but. The order of Ministry of Health is to inoculate every citizen in this country. Or do you prefer to be the one who spread this bloody hemorrhagic fever?"
"That can hardly be the case, Mrs. Applebaum. You see..."
"Drop them!"
Mrs. Applebaum tone was harsh and her eyebrows drew close together.
"Fine!" Mr. Coggs pants dropped on the floor as ordered, while Mrs. Applebaum eyes widened and her mouth expressed a perfect surprise.
"Oh dear, I didn't see that coming. Is it... functional?"
Coggs extended the armored tube.
"Physiological functions only. No reproductive though," he said with a shadow of regret.
Mrs. Applebaum looked at his shiny brass bottom, then at the big glass syringe with the vaccine.
"It will be pointless to inoculate a Tin Man. Are you completely made of brass Mr. Coggs?"
"Just the bottom half ma'am."
"Then we have a problem. Your buttocks are not suitable for injecting."
Mr. Coggs lifted his pants.
"For that, we have..."
He opened his collar and pulled out a silvery tube with a small cork at the end.
"...this" he said, popping out the cork.
Mrs. Applebaum sighed and conformed.
"Since you are half... human" she justified herself, injecting only half of the syringe content.
"Of course," Coggs agreed. "Can I go now?"
Mrs. Applebaum nodded.
She put the syringe in the sterilizer, opened Mr. Coggs file and stamped a big "Healthy" on top of the page.
"Now I've seen them all" she whispered.
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Level 30 Geek Master
Dec 9, 2015
If One Does Not Know History…

“Show me.”

I made a quick bow, then led Boss Cordell into the cavern we’d uncovered. He was tall for a dwarf, and I always felt small in his presence.

There was still a lot of dust floating from the fall of the wall. I led the Boss through it to the back wall, where our disturbing discovery had been made.

“Here it is, Boss Cordell.” I stepped aside, allowing him to examine the artifact.

“Gears… rusted badly,” he analyzed aloud. “Handles look rusted in place, too. These dials; don’t know what they’d be for.”

“You’ve seen this sort of thing before, Boss?” He nodded as a reply.

The contraption was a complicated thing, full of gears with varying sized teeth, dials and levers. It appeared tat much of the mechanisms was built into the stone behind it.

And it was very old. Ancient, even.

“What is it, Boss?”

“An abomination.” he replied sternly. “An engine of some sort.”

I couldn’t help but smile. An engine! How exciting!

“Destroy it.”

I was stunned. “Sir?” I asked; but he had turned and was returning to the opening. I hurried to catch up. “Shouldn’t we… I mean, perhaps the Alchemists?”

He turned on me so suddenly, I thought he would be violent! “I said it was an abomination!” He looked over my shoulder, back toward the mechanism. “Yeah; I’ve seen this sort of thing before. Once, this world was virtually ruled by them. Never again.”

“Destroy it!” he snapped. I sadly watched his retreating figure. I then picked up a sledge hammer and signaled for others to join me.


Independent Author & Publisher
Oct 29, 2013
West Sussex, UK
Looking Forward

I pass the Cograck every day. Every now and then, I notice another piece has been added to that wall covered with the innards of dead machines. Lately, I’ve become curious. I spend occasional nights watching for whoever does it.
Tonight, I’ve brought a coffee fortified with lots of whisky. Not my first, either. Nardell got the supervisor’s post. He leered at me from the podium as the announcement was made. I quit before that lecher could summon me into the privacy of his new office. Now an independent spannerlass, I can go to the shipyards tomorrow. Chancey’s always complaining he can’t get his crews up to strength.
The drink’s gone cold. It’s past time to leave. Pushing off the wall, I feel a little woozy and my legs don’t work. A broad arm interrupts my fall.
“You need to add more coffee to your whisky, miss, if you’ll pardon me sayin’ so.”
I peer upwards to see a cyclops wearing a handsome moustache and a smile. I blink. No. Two eyes, one covered by a patch.
My legs establish a wobbly equilibrium. There’s something digging into my arm. I look down to see a sizeable cog.
I point: “For the Cograck?”
“Yes. Family history says an ancestor built it. We used to add a bit for each death in the family. After the last war, grandpa decreed we change to adding a bit for each birth. Looking forward, not back.”
“This one being for?”
“My second niece.”
“Need someone to hold it steady?”
He chuckles: “You can’t even hold yourself steady.”
“Fine. Need an appreciative audience, then?”
“Only if she’ll join me for an unlaced coffee afterwards.”
“She’d like that. She thinks she needs one.”
He grins: “She’d be right.”


Easily amused
Feb 21, 2006
Ontario, Canada

I stared at the huge metal construct. It stood out in the familiar landscape where I had spent so much time. Unlike the dull greys of my home, this world had colours that were vivid and clearly defined. The breeze was fresh, and scented with flowers from the meadow beyond.

The civilization that had lived here left its legacy in the villages and buildings that I had explored. I found their machines and studied them. Decoding their pictograms and glyphs, I gained entry into locked chambers to view their secrets. Piece by piece, I put together what had happened to them.

They had been abandoned. Their shipmates had left them without support, and they could not survive alone. This massive golden door guarded the last message. I was ready for the final challenge.

I inspected the intricate mechanical locks, looking for something familiar. Yes, there it was - a series of gauges. They were the key. Reaching into my backpack, I retrieved my journal. My sketch was rough, but the clue I needed was in the drawing. I adjusted the valves, carefully watching the dials. With a hiss of steam, the door started to move. Pleased with what I had accomplished, I stepped into the opening.

“Congratulations! You have finished the game.”

Back to reality, I stripped off my VR gear, and climbed out of the gaming pod. The air was stale, and the lights dim. I was shaky and disoriented from playing for too long. What time was it? Where was everybody? I stumbled down to the first floor. That’s when I found the recording:

I never see you anymore.
You are always in that bloody pod. You may as well live on your own.
I have had enough.
I am leaving you.
Dec 11, 2018
A House Divided
Airman Calvin watched the small monitor at his station aboard the USS Monitor. Steam whistled and the various gears, wheels, and cogs churned loudly above him. Fifty other men from across the Union worked the complex mechanisms keeping their vessel in the air. Through the lens Calvin could see enemy soldiers building barricades around the Confederate capital. They were expecting a ground attack ever since the Union broke through the No Man’s Land at Gettysburg.

The captain descended the stairs from the bridge. Calvin and the other airmen saluted, and the captain saluted in return. “This war ends today, gentlemen,” said the captain. “Open the bomb bay doors.”

Calvin reached for a wheel on the wall and turned. He heard and felt the doors open below his feet. He turned to the captain. “Doors open, sir. Permission to speak freely?”


“The rebels are still supported by the English and have just as many steam tanks as we do. How is one bomb going to end this war?”

“You will see soon enough. Drop the payload.”

Calvin turned to the red button below the monitor. He hesitated for a moment, but then pressed it.

He watched the single, fat bomb plummet to the city below. A moment later, the monitor went white as if a sun had erupted. Deafening thunder filled the air and the airship rocked as if on a turbulent ocean. Once the vessel straightened itself, Calvin looked to the monitor again and felt a chill despite the heat.

“My god,” he said. “Richmond is gone!”

“Davis will have no choice but to surrender now,” said the captain. “After twenty long years, our divided house will be made whole again.”

Calvin observed the smoldering crater and wondered if their victory was worth the price.

Victoria Silverwolf

Vegetarian Werewolf
Dec 9, 2012
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
The Clockmaker's Daughter

Gabriele Abruzzi was the finest horologist in Serenissima. It was a common witticism that the Almighty measured the movements of the heavens with an Abruzzi watch. The automata populating his table clocks were of cunning design. Larks and nightingales sang the hours in perfect imitation of their models.

Abruzzi's only child was Raffaella, a maiden twenty years of age. She was a great beauty, with golden skin, amber eyes, and hair as black as a raven's wing. As if in penance for creating such perfection, Nature afflicted her with muteness. Although her fingers spoke eloquently, no one ever heard her voice.

It would be tedious to dwell overlong on the sad circumstances of her brief life. Seduced and abandoned, she grew great with child. Fate denied her even the bitter comfort of whispering the name of her betrayer in her prayers. She hurled herself from a cliff overlooking the confluence of two gentle rivers. It was a place frequented by lovers.

Abruzzi retreated to his workshop for more than a year. When he emerged, he carried a tall pendulum clock. Without answering those who questioned him, he set it in the middle of the public square.

At noon the next day, with many of the inhabitants of the city gathered around the clock, it struck the hour. Wooden panels as bright as mirrors opened, revealing its secrets.

A skeleton, decorated with jewels and precious metals, stood inside. Within its hollow womb lay a much smaller, imperfectly formed skeleton. Armatures and escapements of extraordinary complexity whirred as curious idlers watched. A fleshless finger pointed at a man in the crowd, who fell dead. The clock still stands in the square, its doors always shut and its chimes forever silent. It keeps time accurately. Some set their watches by it.

Dan Jones

Free Omar!
Nov 14, 2014
Here, Now
The Travels of Sir Reginald Rigmarole, Part 94

So! After (barely) escaping a game of strip poker with Ballsmasher McAdams, the most violent clansman west of Mull, I convalesced in the Alpine lair of evil genius Professor Mummydaddy, who previously had been two people but had surgically conjoined themselves in solidarity with the protogynous mangrove killifish of central America. Mummydaddy’s academic career had been curtailed by allegations of unnecessary surgery performed on Old Horny, an elm tree amusingly shaped like a member, and so they had taken to conducting mad scientific experiments in the mountains, the idiots.

“Behold our latest scheme, our new fembot called Cogsminge!” sang Mummydaddy, to the tune of Edelweiss.

From behind hissing doors shrouded in steam, there emerged an enormous metal woman, with steely corners in all the right places.

“Our daughter, inherits, all our earthly possessions!” sang Mummydaddy, all four arms aloft triumphantly.

A sexy robot heiress! I punched myself in the groin to prevent obscenity and bounded over to Cogsminge’s control panel, pushing the lever to “Ultimate Sexy Mode”.

“No!” squealed Mummydaddy, clutching their heads. “It is too sexy!”

Too late. Cogsminge approached, clanking and venting seductively, and playing Africa by Toto through her groinal speakers. I got down on one knee, produced a Hula-Hoop from my lunchbox and said, “Whaddaya say, darlin’? Say yes, and all this crap can be ours!”

Then a huge, ginger-haired fist burst through Cogsminge’s face, sending rivets and garters everywhere. With a clatter the whole metal artifice crumpled to the floor, revealing the caber-chewing, bekilted haggis muncher himself, Ballsmasher McAdams!

“Nobody quets a gairm o’ strep pooker wi’ me,” he bellowed, whereby he grabbed me by the goolygangs and squeezed hard. “Not when I got me a pair of aces. It’s ball smashin’ time!”

Foiled again!
Oct 24, 2018
inside the one wiggling box under the tree
Phobia's Pathway

“So…this is it?” Phase stepped up to the massive adamantine door. Runes of all sorts covered the bright metal, as well as complex locks glowing in magical blue energy. The girl guiding her swallowed and nodded.

“Please, Miss…it…is dangerous,” she said, her voice cracking in fear.

Phase ignored her as she studied the inscriptions above the handles.

“A door to the mind, to reality, to imagination, to memory. Abandon hope, all who enter, for this is the pathway to horror beyond redemption.” Phase smirked at the warning and withdrew a small gem from a pouch at her side.

“Just place this in and…open sesame!” She placed the gem within a small divot in the door and the locks powered down, undoing themselves. The runes lit up in the same blue power, charging up as the mechanism behind the door groaned. An inky darkness swirled within silently.

“Is…is that all?” The guide asked, peering closer. She moved her torch towards the darkness within.

“Only one way to find out. Youth before beauty.” Phase grinned and the girl yelped as the drow assassin pushed her into the vortex. The girl let out only one single scream before it was cut off forever.

“Now to collect my payment,” Phase stated as she closed the door back up. “And to get vengeance upon this poor child.”


Well-Known Member
Feb 1, 2016
Igor, The Time Machine

Brand new energy cells should be glowing. The full energon tank should be bubbling. The Ion rollers should be spinning. Nothing worked as it should.

I had planned for this thing to take me to 2020, the twentieth of October. First to prove that time travel can be possible with the right knowledge and apparatus. The next, to stop the assassination of the former president Georgia Rothchild. The first woman to make presidency. Maybe, if time allowed, I could prevent the death of someone I once cherished.

I needed to find out why it didn’t work. Out of curiosity, and to see if a rodent chewed on a cord, I got on the floor and peered between the wall and the machine. I neglected to plug it in.

The monitor turned green. The energy cells glowed. The tank bubbled. The rollers spun. “Igor, it’s alive. It is conscious.” I laughed and clapped my hands.

The next day, the sponsors sat in the room and listened to me present my invention. They wanted proof I didn’t offer them a hoax, thought of only in the ancient motion pictures. I had to be sure to get them what they requested.

I climbed inside and set the dials. My finger hovered for a moment or two before I pushed the button. Everything shook before I felt a rush of energy as I passed through the time continuum.
May 19, 2016
Useless Machinations

I don't get this steam punk thing. Gears that don't mesh with anything. Pipes that go nowhere.

It's art, honey. It's here for aesthetics. Form over function.

I'll tell you what's art. The art of the scam that got me to pay forty dollars to get into this place.

Calm down. You asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and this is it. Now, isn't it pretty?

Am I supposed to believe this is some sort of machine? What's this?

It's a pretty gear.

It doesn't attach to anything.

Clocks have gears. Remember that old grandfather clock at Macy's?

Clock gears do stuff. Everything has a purpose. What are these curly pipes? Am I supposed to believe they're distilling something with gears? Waste of copper if you ask me.

Honey, you're not supposed to touch the art.

Ouch! That pipe is hot!

I can't believe you did that. You're going to set an alarm off.

Something moved behind that window.

Get your hand out of there, Bill.

There's something back there. I can feel it. Wait… Oh no.


My arm is stuck.

This is just like you, Bill. Can't keep your hands off things.

Give me a hand. Something’s holding on to me.

Who would do that?

Not someone. Something. It's cold and metallic.

I'll go get help.

No. Wait. I'll get in trouble.

You're already in trouble.

Here. What's this button do?

No, Bill. Don't. The gears are turning.

Oh, God, June. It's pulling.


It's got me. Press the button again.

Oh God, Bill, what's happening?

It's so hot. Help!

What seems to be the problem, ma'am?

My boyfriend. He's stuck.


Right here.

That's just a gear ma'am.


See, it meshes with that one there. Did you think these gears were useless?

Cat's Cradle

Time, now, to read...
Mar 3, 2014
Ryerson's Reliable Robots
(@ solarsytemwidecloud.rbt/RRR/homepage)

“It’s a Wonderful World with Robots” – Cyborg Walt Disney, RRR spokesbeing

A promotional message from Cy. Disney: At RRR we always say “Our robots love you.” We’d like to share the many practical applications for our exemplary products.

Click here to view remote space-film showing Ryerson’s R57D disposable Roborocket clamped to the frozen surface of asteroid Bileelial 7. Powerful atomic thrusters push the asteroid away from its collision trajectory with Earth Moonbase Epsilon 11, and will burn for decades, guiding Bileelial 7 safely beyond our solar system.
NEWSLINK: 26/11/2173 DISASTER OFF SATURN!! McFadden’s Marvelous Machines Comet-Thrust Roboship malfunctions. Titan Moonbase DESTROYED BY COMET!

Our robots are helping humanity in every conceivable way. At this Kansas mega-farm, the Milkaway model relieves Elsie of her daily burden with a gentleness of touch old Farmer Brown would envy.
Watch as Eggztractorbots walk amongst unruffled hens, gathering over 1,500,000 eggs daily.
NEWSLINK: 24/12/2174 TRAGEDY ON MARS!! Amalgamated Automatons’ farm fleet fails – 239,000 acres of Alga-Food destroyed! STARVATION WIDESPREAD!

But it’s not all work for RRR’s scientists and engineers. Our most popular models come from the Pleasure Division. Experience the Tilting Whirlbot ride tossing and twirling its ecstatic human passengers at speeds reaching 99 mph, while safely cocooning them in ultra-secure robotic cages.
NEWSLINK: 17/8/2175 HORROR IN HELSINKI!! Independent Inventions Incorporated’s Robocoaster ride accelerates to 450 kph, EXPLODES!

We at Ryerson’s Reliable Robots want to emphasize the reliability and safety of our products. Our robots will never kill you or flay—
WARRANT ISSUED by United Solar System Judiciary indicting RRR for industrial sabotage of competitors, resulting in massive loss of life and destruction of property. Cyborg Disney hiding on Pluto, possibly using alias ‘Mickey Aladin’. Ryerson’s Reliable Robots CLOSED INDEFINITE
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by day Stuart Orford by night Dark Lord's scribe
Mar 22, 2012
Mercia, UK
Want everything

They told me, if you're frightened, you can be frightened, you can be, it's okay.

The men in their white coats with smiles they kept from their eyes. The women in their starched uniforms with faces scarred by care.

Echoing steps down corridors of grey, passed from one to another like some baton in a relay race. Through doors that swung in silence, wooden wings of doves in flight.

All the time their hands around mine, cold, sweaty, dry, rough.

Finally, warm. A comforting warmth belonging to the guardian of the final door. She knelt, her eyes to mine, offering a gaze that promised everything would be all right once more.

Her ward, that final door, swung open.

A soft hum greeted me. A sound that enveloped the cold room before me, and there, just there on the edge, a breath.

And again, and again in perfect time and without effort, the same breath, no more, no less.

The first thing that came to mind was Uncle Bill’s shiny cigar case. The one that he kept in his breast pocket, popping it open on a Sunday to smoke his reward — as he called it — on the way back from church.

I didn’t see at first, couldn’t see, my eye devouring the contraption instead, tracing lines of pipework that snaked back and around a bellow, the source of the breath.

There, in a mirror, his face, smiling. Eye’s tired but full of love and tears.

“Don’t worry, Daddy’s in a spaceship. Just like on telly,” came her voice at my ear. “A special spaceship that helps him breathe.”

With a gentle nudge, she propelled me forward and there he was, not in the mirror, but below.

I beamed a smile that he returned in kind.

“You’re a spaceman, Dad,” I said.