(Something a Bit Different, Part II) by Gordon Lawrie

4. Aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise

They’d brought a little electromagnetic cobalt to fuel the engines, the refit’s final stage. Scotty was beside himself.

“Captain, I’m warning you! The Enterprise won’t be the same without dilithium crystals!”

Kirk smiled. “Nonsense, Scotty, we’ve got to move on. Dilithium crystals cause universal warming, electromagnetic cobalt’s the greener option. Four million light years per teaspoon, zero to warp speed in three seconds.” He sat back in his seat. “OK, engines to warp speed!”

The Enterprise spluttered to a halt. Scotty reached for the owner’s manual. “Captain… I think they put in four-star electromagnetic cobalt.”

“So?”

“This is a diesel.”

5. The Four Gifts

They’d brought a little electromagnetic cobalt. At the door, however, they met three shepherds who were just leaving.

“Hey, Your Majesties, whatya brought?” said one.

The kings proudly displayed their cobalt. One explained, “Hang it above the cot and its light shines.”

The shepherds frowned. “Emm… nice, but they need practical stuff. Baby lotion. Something sweet-smelling – it’s a manger after all. Some hard cash – it costs a fortune to raise kids nowadays.”

Fortunately, the local supermarket had a couple of things, as well as a gold-dispensing machine. The kings left the cobalt too, but no-one ever discovered who brought it.

6. In the Beginning

They’d brought a little electromagnetic cobalt: tiny particles, not in themselves significant because the real stars of the process were hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus atoms. But critical players all the same.

Across the universe there were thousands, perhaps millions, of equally suitable deserts, just waiting for something to happen. But that special solar storm, surging as it did with radioactive power and subatomic protons, carried that little piece of the jigsaw needed to kickstart the process. Those elements – in the presence of electromagnetic cobalt – formed an acid, specifically deoxyribonucleic acid.

And in that moment life on Earth began.

(Something a Bit Different, Part I) by Gordon Lawrie

I’m just now posting the recent stories for “The Last Line” page, and the next two went up on LinkedIn about two weeks ago. Sorry for the delay. — Russell

(Something a Bit Different, Part I) by Gordon Lawrie

Good morning, all: it’s turned Friday. And something a bit different this week.

In the past couple of days, someone from The Last Line thread has privately suggested to me that I was wilfully making my stories’ last lines so obscure and difficult that folks weren’t even bothering to try to continue. In particular, I think the person was referring to one particular line: “They’d brought a little electromagnetic cobalt.” Bear in mind that the idea is to start a new story with that line, and apparently it was proving a little tricky.

It seemed attractive to come up with a few possible examples. None of the following are submitted for The Last Line, they’re each exactly 100 words long, and I don’t expect or ask anyone to “follow on” from any of them. They’re FFF, they’re for entertainment only, and I have to post them in two parts because LI doesn’t like long posts.

1. A Private Show

They’d brought a little electromagnetic cobalt.

“Oh how kind, Ann,” Louise said, taking the small box. “Mark will take your coat and Jack’s.”

Meanwhile, Jack handed over a bottle of dolcetto from his own cellar.

“You know what to do with it?” Ann asked Louise anxiously.

“Oh yes, don’t worry.”

They had a wonderful evening. Smoked salmon and mackerel terrine, venison fillet, then orange creme brulee.

Later, Louise placed the cobalt in a vase, covered it with vinegar, and placed it on a table. Together, they sat silently in the darkness, drinking the dolcetto and watching their own private aurora.

2. In the Dungeon

They’d brought a little electromagnetic cobalt.

“No!” she screamed. “Anything but the electromagnetic cobalt!”

Her torturers grinned. “Nobody expects the electromagnetic cobalt,” the taller one said, smugly.

Still shackled, she despaired. She’d survived beatings, sleep deprivation, the rack, and endless re-runs of Top Gear. She’d been trained to deal with these and more, so she hadn’t given cracked. But electromagnetic cobalt was another matter.

Moments later, the substance was applied to her hands and feet. She didn’t hold out for long.

“OK, I admit it,” she said. “I voted for Bush in 2000.”

“I knew it,” the smaller man said.

3. Astounding

“They’d brought a little electromagnetic cobalt,” Holmes announced.

“Astounding, Holmes!” Watson exclaimed. “But how –?”

“Elementary, Watson. The material was electromagnetic, and it was cobalt. Therefore, logic suggests it was electromagnetic cobalt.”

“Astounding!” Watson twirled his moustache in wonder. “But why –?”

Suddenly, Holmes spotted a small, already-opened box on the dining-table, addressed to himself. “Ha!”

“For you, Holmes! Astounding! But –?”

Holmes was on a roll. “Mrs Hudson! Who brought this?” The housekeeper appeared immediately.

” Mr ‘Olmes, those delivery men brung that electromagnetic cobalt you ordered last week. You forgot already?”

Holmes preened. “You see, Watson? Elementary!”

“Astounding!”

Finals by Russell Conover

“Ugh–my head’s going to explode from all this studying!” Amy rubbed her eyes.

Wes, her friend, put his hand to his head. “I know. We’ve been up all night reviewing for finals tomorrow, and I still barely remember anything.”

She looked determined. “OK. Let’s start easy. What’s your cat’s name?”

“That’s easy! It’s, uh … well …” Wes stuttered, looking embarrassed.

“Really? Can’t even remember that?” she smiled.

“Well, what’s your brother’s name?” he retorted.

She nodded. “Piece of cake. It’s, well … uh …”

They eyed each other in dismay.

“All right. College has ruined us. Time for a trip to Tahiti.”

Nocturne by Jane Reid

I dreamed I was in a house that seemed familiar, but not quite. I had an appointment; it was time to leave. I headed toward the door. But I didn’t find it, instead, another hall opened and I was back in another familiar room. I walked toward where another door should be, but it led to a completely closed-in porch. Puzzled, I looked out a window. The surrounding garden shrubs and nearby buildings were not what I expected to see.

It was getting later. If I missed this appointment …

I didn’t know why, but I was very afraid.

The Girlfriend by Ann-Louise Truschel

Laura was so needy; she would do anything I wanted. It was great while it lasted, but one day she insisted I leave my wife. A career-ender in a small town like this.

I met her on the mountain, knocked her out, put her in her car and turned on the ignition. The vehicle drifted down the steep road and went off the cliff at the first turn.

It took them weeks to find her.

They’re recovering the body now.

I hear a deputy say, ”Sheriff, I found her purse. Want to check for ID?”

“Be right there,” I say.

Age-Old Argument by Tammy Mezera

Spring came, every tree birthed blue leaves. The news warned people not to touch the trees. A woman observed a squirrel climbing one and it turned orange. She thought it peculiar and touched the tree, turning purple from head to toe. She asked her husband to touch the tree. He did and turned completely yellow. When the CDC arrived, they asked them why they did that. The man said, ‘blame it on her, Adam did’. She said, ‘It worked too, for all I’ve been through I have never seen him sweat a day in his life from work’.

100-Word Moan by Amy Friedman

“You have to be more careful how you spend.”

“Now that you’re the one with the income you think you run things?”

“No, I’m trying to manage things so that our money stretches and lasts through your unemployment.”

“No, you just think you’re in charge. As usual, I have no say in anything. And you’re such a cheapskate that you want us to spend as if we’re in the poorhouse.”

“This is not a conversation I want to have out in the open.”

“Nothing I say or do matters. I might as well just put a bullet through my head.”