This one really reminds me of stories I read as a kid, where stories about children discovering unexpected consequences to futuristic consumer technology seemed to be a staple. @Seanfsmith has clearly thought through the tech on display here very thoroughly, and has nailed the excitable anxiety of being a misbehaving child – the combination produces unnerving results:


STORY NUMBER: 30

PROMPT PROVIDER: anonymous

AUTHOR: @seanfsmith

TITLESelective Braiding


Eugene sat with his back to the concrete wall, feet tucked up far beneath him the way Mrs Fraise kept telling him to stop. It was almost eleven – it would have been Circle Time were it not for half term. Technically Eugene wasn’t at home alone, but you wouldn’t really call Susette’s presence supervision. She’d at least leant him her selective braid under the agreement that she’d not come into her room “because I need to, um, talk with Bradleigh.”

The adverts never said you couldn’t use them to fight.

What was most interesting was the way little tweaks to the orientation of the blocks would adapt the behaviour of the corporate. Eugene found that you could manipulate the blue grid to change the predator / prey identity. It was fascinating seeing two prey pummel each other or a weak predator versus a strong prey. The Double Predator Deathmatch was boring; they just kept circling round each other, jettisoning excess corporate and looking for a weakness in the other. A bit like mom and grandpa really.

The corporate fell away regularly anyway. Eugene’s prizefights weren’t slowing that process at all.

Eugene pulled the braids out of each lump of corporate, twisted the grey matter to remove their mobility and pushed the blocks home.

Clearly he’d stopped being able to tell the difference between his sister and his braid, as both lumps of corporate seethed and reformed into the others’ shape. He left the shapes on the patio, their filiae waving aggressively at each other.

The kitchen was useless – mom only ever bought the liquid soap to frustrate grandpa “as it is more culinarily hygienic”. The upstairs bathroom it’d have to be. Eugene wished mom and grandpa worked together; then they might afford the official corporate that Gustav used. The branded stuff never sheared off in motion.

The upstairs bathroom was right beside Susette’s bedroom and both doors were ajar. Susette’s music was just a little loud but Eugene didn’t complain this time. He was on a mission.

Eugene sighed when he reached the sink. There was some soap there, but it was the expensive silky creme stuff and he’d been told off for using it last time. While he wondered if he could shave some of it off without grandpa noticing, his eye fell to the bin beside the toilet.

He’d not looked in there before.

The smell wasn’t quite like anything he’d been aware of before but it didn’t assault his nose like the compost bin. He looked at its contents in the way only a nine-year-old boy can and came to a decision. Sure, the consistency wasn’t the same as soap, but soap wasn’t the same consistency as the branded corporate anyway. He saw no reason that this wouldn’t work.

Carefully Eugene picked up the bin, aware that its spinning lid had a noisy hinge. He edged towards the door and peered out into the corridor.

Susette’s music had stopped now but Eugene could hear her talking with Bradleigh. At least, he could hear a low muttering sound though he couldn’t really make out the words.

Eugene stepped from the bathroom, clutching the bin to his chest like it was a dying rodent.

“Eugene.”

He froze.

“What?”

“You need to flush the toilet, you little shit.”

Eugene looked at the bin in his arms and thought twice about insulting her back.

“Yes.”

There was little effort trying to tread lightly now, so he strode into the bathroom and pressed flush. The cascading water gave plenty of cover for heading back to the stairs.

Back on the patio, Eugene reached into the bin and threw a couple of handfuls on the floor. He teased one of the braids out of its corporate and pushed it into the dark red mess. Almost instantly the pile shuddered, then it took the shape the block of soap had just been – albeit leaner this time and less clumsy.

His eyes widened in amazement.

He reached into the bin again, threw another pair of handfuls on the patio and pulled the braid excitedly from the other corporate. This time before putting it into his new corporate, he twisted the grey node – pseudopods were always his favourite method of propulsion.

The form synthesis was quicker this time – somehow – in that the new corporate started moving before even it had fully coagulated. Its predator’s brain was faced with a waving, immobile prey, and it was soon to crash on top of it – pseudopods splitting into vicious spikes that tore into the other corporate. Within seconds, it had sheared the selective braid from the immobile corporate – knocked it a few short centimeters away.

But this new matter was less discrete than the soap had been. Being so close, the two distinct shapes merged into one ruddy glob.

Sat in engaged stillness, Eugene watched the corporate stretch two limbs towards the braid that had been knocked aside.

Then the ends of the limbs split and like fingertips twisted the braid into a different shape. Not a shape that Eugene had remembered playing with today. The limbs combined around the braid and drew it slowly into the rest of the mass.

It was hard to watch now – not because he felt like looking away, which he did, but because it wasn’t clear how it was moving. But the pile surged towards the open bin, tripping over itself, splitting and recombining and climbing up and into it.

With a practised nonchalance, Eugene turned his back. He’d blame Susette for this.

Whatever this ended up as.


PROMPTDNA play-doh one can craft sentient, living creatures from is available from supermarkets.