Saturday, September 10, 2016

Vignettes by Me, on Themes Picked Randomly: Day Ten

Theme 514: Volcano!

At twilight, Procrustes once again knelt by the hole under the basin pipe in the far corner of his cell and rasped into it. “Feculent! Are you there!” he rasped. Soon he heard a familiar creak of bedslats followed by sullen shuffling that signaled his friend in the adjacent cell’s approach to the corresponding hole under his own basin pipe.

Feculent’s voice picked up a metallic ring as it traveled through the wrought iron pipes. “Yeah, I’m here,” the voice said.

“I’ve decided to reveal to you the reason for my current internment! Our alliance has progressed to such a stage, I feel we are ready for this next step, don’t you?” Procrustes queried, straining against the upper limits of susurration with excitement.

“I suppose so,” Feculent replied.

“Good. Now what I’m about to tell you will burden you with forbidden knowledge, which entails an onerous responsibility, so stop me at any time if it becomes too much, if it becomes too frightening or overwhelming.”

“Sure,” was Feculent’s response.

“Good. You see,” Procrustes began his briefing, “it has to do with the Volcano 9000 Mega-Lottery of Washington state, at the time the largest bounty in the country. Now, as you know, I am an unparalleled genius in the fields of numerology, etiology, mental projection, air-loom devices, and advanced ratiocination. This genius allowed me to devise a perfect system for learning in advance the number balls that would be selected by the Volcano 9000, to be erupted up through its cinder cone of molten cash …”

After a pause to catch his breath, Procrustes continued, “My theory of lottery numbers will be too complex for you to fully comprehend, I’m afraid, but suffice to say it involved measuring the precise relationships between factors seldom considered by other lottery theorists, such as the number of days since the last eclipse, fluctuations in the rotation speed of the earth due to irregularities in public transportation, and the number of black birds sitting on a wire outside my apartment window at any given time. Clearly my system could not fail to determine the correct numbers!”  

“Clearly,” Feculent concurred.

“And yet, and yet! When the time for the cash eruption came, the balls produced did not match a single number on my ticket! How could this be? I asked myself. Surely, if my system had needed adjustment, I would have been off by several numbers—but not all! It was then that my mind was struck by a vision of the truth, revealed to me by way of my powers of universal attunement. What I saw was simply this: the Volcano 9000 was no impartial lottery number selector machine, no, but was rather in fact an obfuscation machine!”

“You don’t say,” Feculent commented.

“Yes, its true. In fact, the numbers had been fixed long in advance by a cabal as ancient as numbers themselves, whose ambit was the Washington Gaming Commission, in order to influence the fate of humanity by selecting the ‘proper’ winners and matching them with the ‘proper’ numbers, sometimes years, even decades in advance. The name of this group? The Nonagonal Knights of the Volcano Machine! You see, their method is to insinuate the numbers chosen by their inscrutable secret system into the minds of their selected winners-to-be by planting subliminal numerical cues all around them by such means as: specially curating the commercials sent to the subjects televisions, altering the phone numbers on the billboards on the subjects habitual routes, even controlling the number of black birds sitting outside the subjects windows! Then, when the Volcano 9000 picks the number balls, a hidden device in the cinder cone of molten cash overwrites the numbers on those balls with the ‘proper’ numbers implanted in the mind of the selected winnerin the blink of an eye!”

“Shocking,” Feculent noted.

“Indeed, my friend!” Procrustes agreed. And so I was left but with one choice: to take things into my own hands! By relying on my aforementioned genius for esoteric ratiocination, I was able to analyze the profiles of the previous winners and accurately predict who the next person to be selected would be. That was how I discovered that I would need to abduct Mr. Colin Corbin of Wenatchee—”

Procrustes’ narrative was interrupted by rude clattering and jingling noises outside his cell: the dinner cart had arrived. Procrustes heard a sullen shuffling through the basin pipe, indicating he no longer had his friend’s ear. He stood up and scratched the forest of twisted wires springing from his chin. “Had this interruption been precisely staged to prevent Feculent from learning the full truth?” Procrustes wondered amongst the vortex of his other thoughts.

Explanatory Postscript: When I say “picked randomly,” I mean picked from a Master List that I’ve compiled of 999 themes intended to serve as creative writing prompts (from the following sources: 501 Writing Prompts; 25 Creative Writing Prompts; Examples of Themes; List of Themes; 365 Creative Writing Prompts; 100 Themes Challenge Writing Prompts; List of Journal Ideas; and Top 10 Types of Story Themes). To pick a theme at random, I roll three ten-sided dice (the first for the hundreds place digit, the second for the tens, and the third for the singles) and find the theme under the number I have rolled. If I hit a theme I have already written on, I roll again. If I ever roll 000, I make up a theme. The Master List is a secret, so don’t ask for it.

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