Exploration Challenge #89 from Reena Saxena -Haiku Prompt
You could write a story or an anecdote with a haiku as part of it. A Haibun or Alternating verse and poetry, of course works.
A subtle fragrance
so easy to capture with
senses heightened

He sipped his glass of wine and breathed in the spicy aromas emanating from the kitchen. Contentment washed over him as his senses were continually assailed with the fragrance of domesticity. Good food, good wine, and a perfect wife. Life was good.

She liked a clean and orderly house. She vacuumed, she mopped, she dusted, she polished. She liked the clean fresh scent of lavender that cleansed the floors, the scent of pine in the bathroom cleansers and the assorted fragrances of the pot pourri placed strategically around the house.

He loved to be close to her. Her subtle perfume stirred his desire and he would hold her close, breathing in her essence. She never pushed him away.

One morning she told him that she would be spending the evening with a friend taking euchre lessons, it was only for four weeks. Another morning she told him that she and three of her friends had decided to meet once a week to play euchre.

The night she came home from her first card party he noticed she had acquired a new smell that overrode her subtle perfume. It smelt like musk. Was that a masculine smell? His mind worked overtime as he tried to reason this new development. Perhaps he was being overly sensitive and just imagining things. He knew he could be possessive.

He made a point of meeting her at the door when she came home from her card party and buried his nose in her, hoping to detect her usual body smells. But his senses were always assailed with the scent of that indefinable musk. He became upset at this new smell and confronted her.

He accused her of infidelity. She said he was crazy. Things escalated. She packed her bags and moved in with her mother.

The following week she arrived at the card party. Following her normal routine she took the bottle of musk oil that Mary had left for her and lovingly polished the card table. Finishing she caressed the freshly polished table with her hands and laid her cheek on its surface.

A subtle fragrance
so easy to capture with
senses heightened


This is a fictional story responding to a prompt by Peregrine Arc based on the following prompt:
“You received a letter from the state explaining you were chosen in a lottery to come and rescue an animal. The shelter is being closed due to the owner’s untimely death and his will instructed for his estate to be divided up randomly. Being the animal lover you are, you decide to follow up on this mystery and pop on down to look at a potential pet or two. The address typed on the back of the letter is unfamiliar to you, but your Saturday is wide open. You fill up your gas tank and head out. Why not? “
For the full prompt please go to the following url:

I punched the GPS coordinates into my phone and followed the directions of the affirming feminine voice. She directed me through busy urban areas and quiet suburbs till I found myself travelling down isolated country roads. After a number of hours I entered a long, narrow tree lined driveway with deep ditches either side. At the end of the driveway was an abandoned security entrance, the gate fallen off its hinges. I drove through the security entrance into a large court yard which fronted a large concrete building. The feminine voice on my GPS intoned ” You have reached your destination” just as the signal bars went blank. No connection.

I approached the front door of the building and entered a long hallway. The end of the hallway opened to a large room, which I took to be the reception area. The room was devoid of all furniture with the exception of a sofa. Laying length wise, head propped on a cushion, closed eyes, legs dangling over the edge of the sofa, was a tall, thin man. As the sound of my footsteps echoed on the bare wooden floorboards the stranger opened his eyes.

“Welcome”, he greeted in a soft, melodious voice.

” Sorry for the intrusion” I replied ” I’m here about adopting an animal. I received a letter”.

“Of course, of course” he said arising from the chair to shake my hand.

“This seems an out of the way place to house animals” I asked “It’s a bit off the beaten track”

” I quite agree” replied the stranger ” the previous owner was a little eccentric and a loner. He wanted to raise his pets in seclusion, far from the maddening crowd “.

“Are you the states representative” I asked “Are you here to administer to the disposal of the animals?”

“Are you interested in adopting one of the pets. I should let you know that they are a little peculiar?”. He smiled enquiringly, his green hypnotic eyes fixed on me intently.

“Peculiar. How?”. I was genuinely puzzled.

“Let’s say the recently deceased owner was a little more than eccentric”. He paused as if considering his words carefully. ” He graduated in medical research and spent his life trying to create a unique species. A hybrid of animal and human. He had some successes before his death”.

I was appalled. “That’s unconscionable. That’s experimenting with the very order of nature and goes against all ethical boundaries”. I was angry and turned to walk out of the room in deep indignation.

“Wait just one moment” he said.

He approached me and I turned to face him. His mouth opened as if to speak, but instead of words a long narrow, forked tongue shot out and landed on my neck.

“This is a little love bite” he whispered ” Just enough venom to put you to sleep rather than to kill”.

I lost consciousness.

I awoke to strange surroundings. I was locked in a cell like room measuring 16 ft. by 24 ft. Concrete floors and walls, with a bed in one corner and a toilet and a sink in the opposite corner. The air smelled damp and musty. The door to the room had a sliding grill at the top which opened to a concrete corridor. I had a splitting headache and felt woozy.

The smiling face of the stranger appeared at the grill.

“Perhaps some explanation is in order. I was the late doctor’s masterpiece. He was very proud of me and treated me like a son. He needed someone to carry on his work. Every great man needs his legacy to continue. The doctor first experimented with injecting human DNA into animals. He came up with some interesting hybrids. But the animal DNA remained dominant and as a result awareness was limited. The doctor then reversed the process by injecting animal DNA into human subjects. Many did not survive. I did. This gave him hope. I became his assistant and so his knowledge passed to me. I am hoping for great things with you. Relax and enjoy your stay, the real work is just beginning.

The Four Horsemen

Taking up Reena’s Exploration Challenge #88
by Reena Saxena. This week’s prompt moves around two points
A sudden event that feels magical in its impact
Significance of numbers or any superstition if you find it interesting. This is my fictional response. Thanks for the mind prompt Reena.

The four horsemen rode through the land and in their wake left intolerance, anger, greed and debasement of the human soul. The horsemen never raced or galloped across the land but came at a slow, measured pace. People scurrying around, wrapped in their daily toil failed to observe the horsemen’s approach.

The first horseman rode a white horse. He infected people with intolerance. They divided into tribes of close minded zealots, reinforcing their ignorance of views held by other tribes.

The second horseman rode a red horse. He stirred people to anger and to express their views in violent ways. Peace diminished as the red horseman rode among them.

The third horseman rode a black horse. He weighed the worlds resources in his scales and drove greed before him. The rich became richer and the poor became poorer.

The fourth horseman rode a pale horse. He removed all respect for life and glorified in the debasement of the human soul.

The horsemen walked their slow, measured pace throughout the land for forty years, trampling virtue and sowing discord.

In the fortieth year,after the advent of the horsemen. the land and its people were dying from war, disease and famine and the people finally awoke to see the horsemen in their midst. They united for the first time and called for a great gathering to discuss solutions to the crisis. After four days of discussion they instituted the winds of change and sent couriers North, South, East and West to ensure that all were aware of the new mandate.

The four horsemen having no vices to nourish their mounts disappeared from the land to wait patiently in the fourth dimension until their time would come again to walk the land.

Family Matters

Taking up Reena’s Exploration Challenge #87
by Reena Saxena. The challenge is to write based on the image prompts above and below. This is my fictional response. Thanks for the mind prompt Reena.

We walk our lonely paths of quiet decay. Structures, once vibrant and alive, are worn down by the passage of time and buffeted by the winds of indifference. Old ways of being morph into future generations and new structures are born.

Eight babies poured from my mother’s womb in eight years, then someone turned off the tap and the babies stopped flowing. I was the fourth of the eight children my parents raised in our three bedroom apartment. The apartment was unending chaos. With my father absent ten hours a day my mother tried hard to cope but was heavily outnumbered. I remember pouring Coca Cola on top of my cereal for breakfast, eating three different flavours of ice cream for lunch and enjoying endless Kraft dinner. Due to the closeness of age , life was one long battle, all of us fighting for our parents attention. The chaos continued from birth through puberty. We would steal each others clothes and leap in anger at any provocation. I had no solitude, no secrets, no new clothes and no desire to be around my family.

Turning eighteen, I found a job in a small company as an office clerk and left home to make my own way in the world. I worked hard, enrolled part time in bookkeeping courses and found I enjoyed the logic, neatness and continuity of the process. Soon after completing the course I was offered the job of bookkeeper and accepted with extreme delight. My world became confined to 12 feet by 20 feet of office space and my best friends were two metal filing cabinets, holding memories of past transactions. I spent twelve hours a day in that tiny office savouring the quiet, the routine, the order and the occasional software challenge. Far from the maddening crowd and family.

When I first left home my family stayed in touch and later on I would receive invitations to birthday parties, marriages, christenings. I ignored them all and continued plodding along blissfully wrapped in my bookkeeping cocoon. After a while the invitations stopped coming.

Twenty five years had passed and I accepted the speech and the gift from the company in honour of my years of service. I should have been happy with the acknowledgement and the applause of my co-workers, so why did I feel so empty inside. I looked on all those smiling faces and realized that I did not know them or hold any feelings for them. It was then that the depression started. I awoke the next morning and all of a sudden life no longer had any purpose. Arriving in work, I realized it was all business, there was no real closeness or friendship with my office colleagues. I returned home that evening to the empty apartment and felt despair. After a year of this existence I was friended on Facebook by someone who claimed to be my nephew.

I was apprehensive about pushing the confirm friend button but took the plunge. We conversed back and forth for a few weeks. My nephew bringing me up to date on family affairs. Then the invitation came for the annual family reunion. I thought about the invitation long and hard and eventually decided to go. So here I am at the train station, butterflies in my stomach and the beginning of a migraine.

My sister Karen picked me up from the train station. Greeted me with a hug, took my suitcase, bundled me into the car and I found myself smiling nostalgically. She drove to the resort where the family was staying and I found myself surrounded by family, chaos revisited. There were more hugs and kisses, crying, recriminations, strange looks from in-laws and shy glances from twenty nieces and nephews I had never seen. My head spun as I tried to keep up with all the introductions. I was back into the melting pot of family life and I loved it.


This is a fictional story responding to a prompt by Peregrine Arc. I have followed the themes of taking the form of a bird, floating feathers, ocean and lighthouse from the prompt but changed the location. For the original prompt in its entirety please go to the following url:

He galloped to the lighthouse keeper and instructed him to light the beacon. Turning he heard a whoosh and doubled over as the arrow pierced his stomach. He spun his horse and galloped away as another arrow drove into his back. He took the spiraling cliff path down to the beach and sent the summons. He knew there should be more words, but the agony was intense, clouding his brain, and the remaining words would not come. The horse stumbled pitching him onto the white sand of the beach. He lay in a stupor trying to fight through the pain, aware that he was losing blood fast and needed to act. He glanced at the ocean. Water would revive him. He willed himself to crawl forward snapping the end of the arrow protruding from his stomach. Ignoring the arrow impaled in his back, elbows beneath his body, he struggled forward. He passed out again. The incoming tide washed over his body, reviving him, but threatening to drag him out into the ocean.

He luxuriated in the soft flow upon his face and he reached towards the heavens. Thousands of raptors were circling above, their feathers cascading down to earth. His call had been answered. He reached out with his awareness and the peregrine falcon descended and landed on his wrist. With his dying breath the words came to him and his soul was transferred to the falcon. His soulless, human body spun in rhythm to the tides and disappeared beneath the ocean.

The pain was gone,he felt so alive seeing with his new eyes, flapping his wings to the rhythm of air floating above and below. He propelled himself forward and flew out over the ocean spying the ships sailing towards shore. The invaders were coming.

He flew towards the light house. Had the beacon been lit. His keen sight spotted the archer in the sparse copse by the side of the light house. The lighthouse keeper was still trapped within the confines of the lighthouse, aware of the archer but unable to act. It was at that moment the lighthouse keeper decided to take a chance and ignite the wood that would carry the warning signal. He crept forward with his flame.

Circling a mile above the lighthouse, the falcon spotted the archer stringing his bow preparing to kill his prey. He calculated that from this distance he could reach the archer in about eighteen seconds. Would that be enough time. Wings folded the falcon swooped towards the archer at his maximum speed of 200 mph. The archer drew but before he could release the falcons talons ripped into his eyes and the arrow flew wild. The falcon continued to rip the archers face with his talons and the archer, blinded, stumbled over the edge of the cliff to his death.

The lighthouse keeper lit the flame and the warning signal was seen and carried forward warning of the invaders. The peregrine falcon, now fully aware, soared to lead his army of raptors that would perform their part in the war to come.

A Matter of Colour

Taking up Reena’s Exploration Challenge #86
by Reena Saxena. The challenge is to write based on the following phrase ” bleeding edge”. Thanks for the mind prompt Reena.

Professor Geoffrey Random pondered a dilemma. Should he apply for the research money or hide his discovery till he thought the world was ready. He had tried to think through the implications of his discovery and the down side of unexpected consequences of implementing his research. You can plan and plan but the human mind is complex and can deviate from expected norms of behaviour given the right circumstances. He sighed, uncertain of what to do, trying to clear his mind and crystalize his thoughts. He unexpectedly came to his decision. I’ll accept the government grant, proceed with perfecting my research and hang the consequences. My research is bleeding edge and I will not deny humanity it’s chance for change.

Professor Random despaired over the prejudices of the human species in reacting to different skin tones. His scientific mind accepted skin tone as just a biological fact, based on skin pigmentation evolving to regulate the amount of ultraviolet radiation penetrating the skin. The closer to the equator, the higher the amount of UVR, thus the mutation of DNA in the skin cells. He shook his head in astonishment over the term ‘ people of colour’ to refer to a specific skin tone. Are we not all people of colour, black, brown, white and all the shades in between. Why do we insist on this continuous bickering over variations in skin colour. He was determined to solve this issue.

He started with experiments in manipulating the gene that determined skin colour, but had no success. He then proceeded to study melanin, the main determinant of skin colour. He worked on the biology of skin colour for five years but was unable to come up with a workable method of how to change skin pigmentation. Realization soon began to dawn that he was taking the wrong approach. It was not about changing the body colour itself but other peoples perception of the colours they see.

The colour we see is determined by the wave length of reflected light. Millions of tiny cone cells in the retina respond to light, zap the signal along the optic nerve to the visual cortex of the brain which processes the information and returns with the colour. What if we could manipulate the wavelength of reflected light to deceive the retina into interpreting this information a specific way to fool the cortex into returning specific colours. He experimented on this hypothesis for a further five years and came up with a prototype nanobot which when injected into the human body would transmit a signal to change an observers perception of skin colour. Due to limitations in the nanobots frequency function only the main colours of violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red were available. It was this prototype that was submitted to the government for research funds.

Professor Random received the news that his research funds were approved and proceeded with his work, transforming the nanobot prototype into a workable model over two years. For marketing purposes the nanobot was concealed inside a pill that was to be taken orally with a glass of water. The colour of the pill determined the perceived colour of your skin. He then hired 500 volunteers for testing and after a further six months submitted the finished product for government testing. It took a further year to obtain government approval and he was finally ready to market.

Advertising was extensive, extolling the many benefits of exotic skin colours and public acceptance was immediate. What Professor Random failed to predict was that a whole new colour identity social structure was about to be born. He naively thought that colour would be an individual choice rather than a group identity choice. The first adherents of this new technology were the LGBT community who adopted violet as their colour of choice. This was quickly followed by environmentalists who chose green. Followers of political parties soon jumped on board with conservatives adopting blue and liberals/socialists/progressives/communists adopting red. Religious leaders frowned on this new technology and forbid their followers to take part. This resulted in many followers leaving their religion and attaching themselves to a colour identity for economic reasons. The one exception were Buddhists who adopted yellow for enlightenment. Orange was left for ANTIFA and other anti society groups.

Soon a whole new society emerged based strictly on skin colour. The entertainment and fashion industry would only accept people with violet skin. Main street media companies would only allow people with red skin and major industrial business and finance companies would only employ people with blue skin. Mental health issues increased substantially, especially among sports followers, who were conflicted between buying the pill based on their sports team colours or social ideology. Governments continued to appeal to its colour discrimination policies but evidence of your beliefs were attached to skin colour and so it was easy for corporations to reject applicants as being unqualified.

There was a major side effect to the colour pill that quickly became apparent. A red progressive became disillusioned with his ideology and decided to change to blue. He purchased the required blue pill, swallowed and the nanobots started emitting different frequencies which fried his brain into a vegetative state. After this was discovered and Professor Random’s company paid out $10 billion in compensation to the victim’s family, the drug was forced from the market by government decree. Another failed social experiment. Be very careful of bleeding edge technology.

Body Sculpture

This is a speculative fiction prompt by D. Wallace Peach-Myths of the Mirror

I graduated, in the Spring of 2075, with a degree in bio engineering, specializing in body sculpture. Six long years of study, without a break, at a cost of $1.2 million. It was worth it. I was excited at my future prospects knowing this was a growing field with lots of money to be made.

I have always been interested in the way people interact with their bodies. Most of us have a particular self image, usually different from the body we were born with. We are never satisfied with ourselves.

Before the 20th century our body image was shaped around tribal customs, rituals and acceptable modes of appearance. Erasable body paint progressed to permanent body tattoos and migrated to body piercing. The body was moulded into acceptable forms of beauty by sometimes harsh and painful methods, elongated ears, wider lips and smaller feet. All this the precursor to cosmetic surgery.

In the latter part of the 20th century advancements in medical science enabled failing body parts to be replaced by an equivalent transplant. The first heart transplant famously conducted by Dr. Barnard in 1967. Lost limbs were initially replaced by dormant prototype limbs that had no functionality. But as technology improved these limbs were designed to perform functions equal or superior to the original limbs.

Medical science designed only for the preservation of the body as a functioning unit completely changed at the beginning of the 21st century. Perhaps it was the complete mapping of the genome in 2003 that changed the medical science perspective on the human body. From that discovery medical researchers considered ways the human body could be manipulated beyond the biological norms. The first tentative steps taken in this direction was transforming the sexual identities of individuals. It was then that the medical profession crossed the boundary into unchartered territory.

Much like manufacturers advertising under arm deodorant enticed a population to smell like lilac, lavender or a soft ocean breeze the medical profession advertised it’s gender changing techniques to an accepting public. This led to the birth of the body sculpture movement.

The mid 21st century was all about the animal craze. It started with a rich Hollywood celebrity losing her pet dog. Wanting a visual reminder of her dog, she had the dog’s tail transplanted on to her behind. This trend became fashionable,mainly for the rich, as the fees for this type of body sculpture were prohibitive for the average working person. It soon became common to see famous celebrities with feathered faces, fish fin ears and an elephants trunk for a nose. The common people were left to express their own forms of personal identity.

After graduating from university my first client consulted with me on his wish to become an angel. We spent weeks discussing the size, texture and colour of feathers as well as perusing thousands of bird photos to arrive at the perfect pair of angel wings. We finally agreed on colourful peacock feathers which I grafted individually on to his shoulders. We were both extremely pleased with the results. The cost was only $5 million but I understand he went on to become a star in religious videos and recouped the cost of the wings in a few short months.

My latest client came with a proposal that challenged my ingenuity. He wanted me to sculpture his body into an old fashioned clock. He kept repeating “tick tock, I’m a clock” over and over which became a little unnerving, but I was determined to grant him his wish. It took months to review every conceivable type of time device from sun dials to grandfather clocks but we finally settled on a workable design.

His initial thought was to transform his face into a clock and leave the rest of the body alone. But I quickly disavowed him of this idea. It’s all about balancing the body parts to bring each part into harmony with the whole. We settled on the centre of his body as the focal point, replacing his heart with a pendulum that would be wired to the brain through the left side of his face. The swing of the pendulum would replace his heart beat and perform that vital function. His arms would be the hands of the clock, this seemed self evident and fit in perfectly with the overall design. The crown of his head would be the clock face. I explained to him that this body sculpture would take several visits as completing it in one operation would cause severe trauma to his body. Along with the final design I gave him my estimate of $20 million dollars for a total of ten visits.

The above image reflects my progress after 20% of the work completed to-date. I am quite pleased with the results and I know my client is extremely happy with the aesthetics and is counting the days till I finish.

I’m thinking of grafting an extra pair of arms onto my body as I can then make double the money. I have no regrets about entering into this profession, I get to satisfy my clients sense of self while making lots of money. Life is good all round.