Writers love prompts for more than one reason.
Prompts challenge the writer to think beyond their comfort zone, preferred genre and more importantly, their taboos.
At times, prompts are the writer's saving grace from the rut of writer's block. And when in between books, prompts help the writer's creativity stay alive and fertile and in turn help the writer stay a writer.
In this book, I intend to write stories based on prompts found here on Tablo, and others too.
I hope you enjoy reading the stories, as much as I enjoyed writing them.
The Taxi Ride Home
Written for the prompt "An urban legend where a taxi takes you where you need to go and not want stops for you one night."
It was a rainy night, just like many other rainy nights. The wind howled with the semblance of deprived wolves, making it appear shadier than it was. The outside wasn't to blame. Deep down, years of battering and neglect had rendered my heart an uninhabited, dilapidated estate with grimy ponds infested by toads that would croak incessantly. Memories stowed away in the dark silos if my heart were never the refuge as they are for most. They merely reflected the eternally unchanged and served to reinforce my conviction - nothing will change.
A sunny bright day with a bounty of lavenders, at least on the outside would've soothed me if not heal, but it wasn't to be, today of all days.
Only one way to see if the seas are better than the pier, I resolved to leave the place.
"Gateway Taxi! What can I do for you?" asked an uninterested voice.
"I need a taxi to the airport at 11 tonight," I said, looking at the tickets to nothingness. Not the name of the place, but what it would be to me. In twenty four hours from now, I would have reached my remote ancestral village, a picture of neglect very much like myself, after hopping two flights taking me across two hill ranges and many a river and stream. Nothing great for those with thousands of sky miles, but for me, symbolic of going past daunting hurdles, in hope of a new life, I could feel my lips painfully curve in a rare smile.
And as the wise men say, when it rains it pours. And so, twenty four hours later, I stood outside the dingy airport of the nearest town , still having to cover over a hundred kilometers by road before I would get home. As it did at home when I left for good, it was raining here too. There was no lodging I knew of and not a taxi in sight either.
As I stood contemplating my next move, an old man approached me.
"Sir, can you spare the old man money for some tea?" he asked in a meek tone.
"Is there a place I can get some tea? I will come with you," I told him and beckoned him to walk along. The old man looked at me suspiciously as my apparent goodness was way too suspicious for the times.
"Don't worry sir," he told me after a sumptuous snack of rolls and tea, "you can find a comfortable motel a kilometer from here. Don't worry about your safety. There are houses on either side of the road here. Power is out and so you see nothing. But be sure to walk on and not hail any taxi. You can leave in the morning, sir. I won't misguide you. You have fed me well and I owe you at least this. Remember, no matter what you do don't hail a taxi," he seemed to harp on that point. I grew curious.
"But it is a ride of only a hundred kilometers. It is only 9 PM and I can make it home in two hours. What could go wrong?" I tried to reason with him.
"You are here after many years or for the first time. Am I right?" he asked, without responding to my question.
"Yes. How do you know?" I asked, amazed.
"We have this legend here. It is up to you to believe it," he said, evading my question once again. "A taxi once passed through this town - then a large village - on a similar night, rainy and windy, with the winds howling like deprived wolves. A man, the husband of a pregnant woman, waved him down so he could take her to the hospital. But the taxi driver sped away. The distraught husband yelled at the open skies and cursed the taxi driver saying he would never be able to drive the taxi, for he failed to drive it to where it needed to go. Thankfully we were all around and moved the lady to safety. That was taken care of, but we found that the taxi had crashed against a tree and the driver dead. Ever since, legend has it that the same taxi sweeps the streets in the dark hours, looking for passengers," he finished his tale.
"That is interesting although unbelievable," I smirked. "It is too hard to believe in the idea of ghosts of men and now you are narrating to me an urban legend about the ghost of a car. And one that takes its occupant where one needs to go and not wants. Will make for a good story, but this is the real world my friend," I told him.
"Sir, like I said you fed me well. I have no reason to lie to you. Please don't hail a taxi," he said, smiled and vanished into the dark. I was all by myself once again.
Interesting. Either I take the haunted taxi and end up where I need to go, or I hail a perfectly normal taxi and go where I want to. Either way, I have nothing to lose. The prospect of the legend being true was now a very interesting prospect and I hoped with all my heart that I hail that very taxi, if it were for real. You are too old and reality is a bitch, a voice in me brought me back to reality.
As I started making my way towards the dark street in the direction of the motel that the old man pointed me to, a taxi stopped next to me. It was vintage, and had a license number that seemed to be from the times of my grandparents. I inspected its front for any signs damage to the bonnet and found none, much to my disappointment.
"WHERE DO YOU NEED TO GO, SIR?" the dark silhouette of the driver literally yelled at me from inside.
"Need? Don't you already know?"
"Sir, I am only a taxi driver, not your assistant," he said in an irritated tone.
"Sorry. Take me to Muthupet," I told him and sat beside him in front.
"Sir, if you don't mind, can I take a leak?" the driver asked apologetically and got out.
Ten minutes had gone by and there was no sign of him. I looked around nervously, as it was only getting darker and there was no sign of the rain abating or the motel that the old man told me of. Sitting inside a car without its driver at that time, especially after having heard the legend from the old man was unnerving, even for someone as forlorn as myself, wanting to run to the end of the world.
"Sir. You didn't pay heed to my advice," the old man walked by, smacking his palm against his forehead.
"Wait.." I attempted to get down, only to see the doors locking by themselves, much to my horror. My mouth went dry. I shouted out to the old man, and it appeared he couldn't hear me anymore. I was trapped in a haunted car and the legend was indeed true.
"You have nothing to fear. I am trying to find out where you need to go. I will not harm you," came a voice from the rear. I turned to see none.
There is nothing you can do now. You should've listened to the old man, I rued pointlessly.
In a while, the steering wheel moved about. The engine sputtered and the headlights came on. Finally this thing is going to move, a wave of relief washed over me, as I looked forward to the journey home. After all, the car knew.
And then, the car broke down.
On a Dark Night
Written for the prompt - One night, the moon-disappears
Daniel stood at the edge of the fjord that night and stared at the endless darkness of the night. The vast expanse in front was an indistinguishable black continuum of land, sky and sea, with not even the faint glimmer of the horizon or ripple. If not for the sound of the waves coming from a distance and his own familiarity of the territory, Daniel would have plunged into the seemingly bottomless abyss that the fjord was.
If only I could take the plunge and join my Kayla on the moon, Daniel sighed and let out a grumpy howl. None of the other wolves seemed to join him. He preferred it that way. He was still tormented by the unexpected separation from Kayla.
Kayla, my dear one on the moon, he whimpered and let out another angry howl at the blackness in front of him. Nothing came back.
The damn coyote, he growled. If not for him, I would have remained Daniel and Kayla, Kayla. If only I could get my paws on him, he thought. He knew it was all in vain. The coyote, with all the henchmen on his side, would have him killed in a matter of seconds. Daniel knew it. And he knew even more that killing the Coyote wouldn't turn him into a human again or bring Kayla back from the moon.
The moon. Where is it today? he wondered. And just like the day he ran helter-skelter after having turned into a wold, he ran around in a frenzied manner along the edges, howling into the abyss beneath him and at the sky above, before finally realising that it was all pointless, even more than that day. The moon and Kayla were no longer there to be seen.
Sobbing inconsolably, he went to sleep in a cave. The night went by and so did good part of the next day before Daniel woke up. Even as he stretched and got out of the cave, he could see that the day wasn't like the previous night. The water dancing around in the inlet, the sea at a distance, the sky and the greenery around him were visible and enchanting.
Daniel looked skywards, as none of this mattered to him. He only wished to see Kayla on the moon.
But for that, the moon must come and I know it is gone. It won't come. Maybe the Gods sent the moon to carry Kayla away, he thought and sulked. He wandered aimlessly, baring his teeth at anything that crossed his path.
Evening turned into night and everything blacked out, just like the previous night. Daniel was crestfallen and walked into the cave.
Just as he was about to retire, he lifted his head to look at the sky once more. A faint arc of white light, something he remembered seeing only two days earlier appeared on the horizon.
Daniel smiled, his lips wide and akin to the crescent of the moon.
She's back, Daniel exulted at the sight of the moon, as though he had seen Kayla herself.