I'm writing a book of fables - they all start with "Once Upon a Time." Some of them are obvious and some are pretty hard to get. So far I have 106 stories and here are 9 of them. If you wish to become a test reader and access all 103 then let me know and I'll send you a link. Enjoy!

Moon Moth
by Jack Vance

Woman's Problem

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Woman's Problems

Once upon a time there was a woman who had a problem. She decided that she would find a man to solve her problem for her. Now the woman had two problems.

 

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Cave Woman

Once upon a time there was a woman who broke up with her boyfriend. She was certainly not sorry to see that guy go. Lately she had found herself reminding him multiple times to do even the smallest things for her. And much worse, she had to spur him constantly to tell her that he loved her. When he finally did, it always sounded insincere. So she stopped calling him and avoided his calls and he soon got the message. Fine. She was beautiful and could have any man she chose. She knew this because her select few close friends always told her so.

A week after the break up, by chance she happened to see her now ex boyfriend with another woman. They were in a car lot and seemed to be concluding a deal to buy a used car. It was a small suv with an economical 4 cylinder engine. She was incensed. They had never talked about buying a car when she was with him! Even though she could easily afford one. And why an suv? Was this horrible witch pregnant already? And how could he hook up with someone else so soon? She doubted that he had been seeing her when they were together. She felt sure of this because she had tracked his cell phone closely and read all of his emails and texts. Though she didn’t know her, she thoroughly despised this new woman. She felt like she had been personally attacked and resolved to get her revenge.

On her way home she stopped at her local hardware store. While outwardly calm, inside she was fuming with rage and could think of nothing except repaying that whore for her blatant attack. She roamed up and down the aisles looking at the metal tools. Crowbars, hammers, pick axes, screwdrivers and pliers. She imagined new ways that each one could be used to cause distress. Finally she decided on a automatic hole punch and some flares. She planned to use the punch to break through the window of the hated couple’s new SUV, then throw in some flares to burn it to a crisp. They would end up paying for years for a car that was toast. This seemed like a satisfactory message to her and she headed for the check out. But on the way she passed the cat food display and remembered her kitty at home. She put all the stuff back and hurried home, just in time to catch Coronation Street.

Later that night she was still so upset that she had trouble sleeping. When she finally did drift off, she had a vivid dream. In her dream she saw an ancestor of hers, a woman that lived 300,000 years ago. She lived in a rocky landscape close to a forest and a river. She lived with her man and had a small child by him. But then her man left her for another woman, who had schemed and poached her man away. This was a terrible disaster, since without a man to protect her and provide food and heavy work, it was almost certain that she would die. If she was lucky she might find another man, but then the chances were high he would want her without the child. Which would likely then be exposed at night where the predator animals roamed. Her best course was to kill the intruder woman and hope her man would accept her back.

As her dream concluded, she lifted up and away from a landscape covered in thousands of women, each one an ancestor of hers. They all looked up at her and pumped their fists in slow motion unison. The message was clear, all her mothers down through the ages agreed that this bitch should suffer for what she had done. She woke up.

She went about her day, making breakfast, writing and reading notes on her get it done list, and preparing her persona. All the time she kept thinking about the dream and what it meant. She drove to work, dealt with her clients, collaborated with her colleagues, then went out for lunch. After lunch she leaned back into the upholstered booth and relaxed for the first time that day. Her mind wandered and once again she thought about the dream.

She agreed that 300,000 years ago to lose a man would probably mean dying or consigning her children to an early death. But she didn’t have children. Deep in the past when another woman poached your mate she had pretty much killed you or your genes or both. But losing her boyfriend in this time was irrelevant to her success. In fact it was more likely to boost her career than end it. She thought about the repercussions of committing a manic and violent act against this woman she didn’t even know. How could she face her co-workers, friends and family? She paid for lunch and drove back to work.

At her desk she opened a drawer and pulled out her collection of special cards. She selected a beautiful one and addressed it to her ex boyfriend. In it she wrote: “Best of luck to you and your endeavors!”

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Strange Astronaut

Once upon a time a job opening became available on the International Space Station. One astronaut was headed back home so a new one was selected to take their place. It was America’s turn to provide a new space worker so they trained one and outfitted them with proper space gear. In due time a rocket arrived to carry the old worker down and bring in the new replacement. It was a bit of an exciting event for the space workers who gathered at the airlock in their best outfits. This was an interesting break from their usual chores. They waited in giddy anticipation as the capsule docked and the hatches engaged. There was a puff of air as the big door opened, the old astronaut said goodbye, saluted the crew and jumped into the capsule for the return ride home. The door closed and the rocket capsule blasted off back to Earth.

The crew examined the new space worker who was tall and had a very strange body shape. It appeared that the new space worker had no arms. So they took it's space helmet off and were quite shocked to see that it was not a human at all, but an ostrich. It squawked and tried to peck at them and they quickly got out of the way. It scratched at the deck with it's taloned feet and wiggled itself out of it’s space suit. Using it’s wings, it floated off about the station. It was quite clumsy at first and bumped into the walls a lot. But then it got used to the lack of gravity and moved about rather quickly. Life on board did not easily settle back into the old comfy routine.

The American ostrich could understand it’s duties but chose not to perform them. Instead it lived a life of hedonistic self indulgence. Floating about the different capsules, and snapping at people who tried to get it to do real work. It enjoyed looking at itself in mirrors. In the evenings and at cafeteria times, the rest of the crew members would gather to speculate. What could have caused this strange state of affairs? During radio calls to America, they asked about it, and always got the same answer: one individual made a human error.

Who was this "one individual?" And who made the custom space suit that fit the ostrich so well? Who trained it? And sent up a supply of ostrich food for 8 months? They tried to work out the minimum number of NASA workers who made mistakes as well as the smallest number of people who must have looked the other way, saying nothing. Even when making very kind estimates that still amounted to a large number of people. They realized that it was foolish to think that a single individual had screwed up. The entire system would have to be broken from the bottom to the top. How could the Americans have sent someone so inappropriate for such an important job?

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Knocked Door

Once upon a time there was a woman who heard a furious knocking at her door. She ran to answer it and there on her porch was a construction worker in a bright reflective safety vest. And a hard hat too. He said he was from the city and he displayed a clip board of official looking papers. He claimed that he and his crew were there to demolish her house for non payment of taxes and that she would have to leave immediately. He indicated over his shoulder a large diesel powered machine that would do the actual demolishing. He spoke clearly with the same accent as folks from her home out east.

She said she knew about this tax bill and had taken great care in making sure it had been paid. Oh really? Yeah sure I’ll prove it. She went to the drawer where such important things were kept and produced her copy of the tax bill. She showed it to him and indicated the official seal that read Paid in Full. Both versions were stamped with the same date. Hmm, I’ll have to look into this, he said. Sorry to bother you! No problem! She waved as they packed up and left.

A few days later she was startled by yet another furious knocking at her door. As before she leapt up to answer it. This time it was not a crew from the city, it was a big tornado. It was shredding a neighbor’s house up the street and small pieces of it were smacking into her door. As if noticing her standing there on her porch, the tornado finished with the neighbor’s house and headed towards hers. She ran out the back as fast as she could. Following her cat who had already left. There was no point in trying to negotiate with a tornado!

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Megazord

Once upon a time a giant monster threatened the city with destruction. It was easily able to knock down buildings, rip apart bridges and kill thousands. The word went out for a hero who could stand up against this unnatural thing. The city badly needed saving! Live coverage of the attack was shown on tv, and a group of students watched it all unfold in their high school auditorium. At a hastily announced assembly. Unknown to the world at large, five of those students are the Power Rangers! They immediately skip out of school and transform into their alter egos. The jet plane is in the shop so they have to take the commuter train. It’s very awkward and the ride seems to take forever. People are staring at them in their brightly colored costumes. Gotta get that jet back working again! they all agree. But finally they get to the site of the destruction and are able to confront that damn monster.

They each try out their own specific attack and while the monster is sore and damaged, it is easily able to fend them off. So they regroup and do what they always do in tough spots like this: they assemble themselves into the Megazord! A giant hero monster with a big sword! He’s full of energy and rootin` for action, he charges right in and starts clobbering that pesky monster with terrific blows.  But the monster is once again able to fend off the attack and the battle continues with neither side able to gain the advantage.

The monster gets lucky and is able to push a building onto the Megazord who is knocked off his feet. Before he can get back up, the monster sprouts his wings and flies away. The Megazord then lays back down comfortably in the wreckage and breaks into his component parts, the five teenage students. They shake it off and hail a taxi cab. It’s a small one and they really have to cram in for all of them to fit. They ride back to school and go to the cafeteria because it’s lunch time. Battling that monster has given them a big appetite.

Over lunch trays piled high with food, they have a spirited discussion of the morning’s events. Who is that frickin monster? Where did he come from? The general agreement is that it was sent by their arch enemy Rita Repulso. There is much spreading of the legs and punching of the air. Then they turn to discussing the actions of the Megazord. While each individual had been a part of the Megazord, none of them have a complete memory of it’s thoughts and actions. That’s the way it is when you give up your individuality to become a greater whole. Maybe it wanted to do this? they suggest, and Maybe this is what it was thinking? They bandy ideas around the table and finish their big lunches. With their plates finally empty, the relax into their chairs and enjoy some much needed burps and farts. Finally they arrive at some working theories but need more information to verify them. So they plan to fan out through the city after school to do more research. Good thing they all take easy courses, what a busy day!

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Dream Swamp

Once upon a time there was an artist who lived close to a dream swamp. He had a modest home, with only a few luxuries. Expensive shiny things and displaying them to others held no interest to him. His prize possession was an eco-friendly smart dish washer. One morning he got up, made his breakfast and sat down to eat. Going through the morning routine he discovered he had only 2 tea bags left. Enough for today, if he took it easy. He would have to get some more. He checked his account and was dismayed to see that he had only 14 credits left. His eyes flew open in shock. There was no other option then, today would have to be a good day. So he put on his waders, grabbed his hoop and went out to the swamp.

A lot of other artists were already there. He knew many of them, some were keeners who got there very early. Others like him who saw themselves more as “diligent” were just arriving now. Some were manic and had been there all night. And then there was the rich. They had their own exclusive section of the swamp. An adoring flock of media drones surrounded them and celebrated every little dream that came out of their hoops. No matter what the quality which was often lacking or even non existant.

He decided to try someplace new today. The stress of having so few credits in his account nagged at him but he stayed disciplined, and calmed his mind into silence. Blocks of big ideas tumbled and rearranged in his mind. He decided to forget about where he believed the good spots were and instead wandered about randomly to places he had rarely been. And so he waded through the dream water, sometimes it was warm and sometimes cold, sometimes the footing was mucky, and sometimes it was clean. He stopped his thoughts and turned up his senses.

Images from his life coalesced and faded in his mind. His ex-girlfriend who had recently surprised him with a nice card out of the blue that said “Good Luck”. The jobs he used to have. They provided steady money that he could use to buy stuff but he wasn’t that interested in shiny name brand things and the work left him too tired to pursue art.

So he had given up working for others, fashioned his hoop and moved next to the art swamp. His hoop was kind of unique, it fastened to his hips on either side like most of the others, but his had special tubes that acted as wave guides to amplify the emanations from the swamp. In theory they did, in practice he struggled to make a living like most of the other artists. He held the hoop out horizontally, and slowly scanned it back and forth. Time passed, the sun tracked across the sky. He had been out for a couple of hours and decided to head in for an early lunch. Most of his good work came after lunch anyways. He turned around and in so doing he scanned his hoop over a patch of water that he had missed before.

Bursts of air bubbles popped rent the surface and a mist of swirling colors condensed in the air above. “Wow I’m onto something, lunch can wait.” he thought. His honed instincts kicked in and he switched into ‘super disciplined mode,’ reflexively stopping his thoughts and quieting his emotions. In the air brightly colored images and animations appeared, fabulous and vivid. Swirling, forming, evolving, dissolving and reshaping. He had caught a big dream and it grabbed onto all his emotions and pulled them out in a rush. In his super state he added no resistance and no bias to the flow, he surrendered his self and became a clear pipe.

With nothing stopping it, the dream poured out of him and it was huge. The highs and lows of his times with his ex, working at jobs, and living a life dedicated to art. All of the other dreamers paused at their hoops to stare at what he was composing. He closed his eyes and the dream became clearer and more intense. It now towered above him, as high as some of the trees. It was very rare to see dreams so large and bright. The drone cameras hurried over to catch it from every angle. They even left the celebrity artists for a few moments to come and tape him.

All of the most profound moments and realizations of his life came out in a rush, as if they had been pent up and longing to be free. It was obvious to all those fortunate enough to be there that this was a rare and magical dream, one of only a few to get this large and this detailed. The flying cameras captured it all. Finally he was exhausted, and the dream dwindled and faded, then snapped off. His tired arms dropped his hoop and it splashed into the water. A few claps of applause came from the other artists, but most just went on about their work. The cameras rushed back to the celebrities. They got most of the attention even though their dreams were for the most part dull and lifeless.

He collected his gear and went back to his cottage. He checked his account: it contained over 70,000 credits. Now he could truly relax for there was more than enough for tomorrow’s tea.

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Circus Tent

Once upon a time a woman drank her tea while looking out her kitchen window. Morning fog filled the valley that lay off beyond her property. The area was locally known as “the big hole”, and today something was different. She could hear the sounds and echoes of many people working. She leaned in to listen closely, and what was that? - animals? The sounds grew louder and more co-ordinated. This was interesting. She sipped some of her tea.

Suddenly a large wooden post swung up into her view from below. She could only see the top of it above the fog, which was sent into swirls by it’s passage. For a brief instant she was reminded of the shape of a person. The top of the post was fitted with heavy metal rings that supported lengths of stout rope. It must be standing on its end, she thought. Which would make it a very tall post. And long ropes too. She watched patiently, and in time, other posts swung up above the fog and into view as well. They too had metal rings at the tops, from which also descended double lengths of rope. They were shorter than the first one. The fog was quickly disappearing as the sun came out, allowing her to see more of what was going on.

There was one giant post at the center, and several smaller posts in an imperfect circle around it. It occurred to her that this must be a big circus tent going up. That would explain the sounds of the animals and all the busy shouting. It would mean that the metal rings at the tops of the posts were there to support the tent, which would soon be hauled up on the ropes. A very large tent like that needed strong tackle. But she sensed that something had gone wrong. The shouts had taken on a different tone. She drank some more tea, this was fascinating.

She heard sounds of concern and alarm. The heavy tent fabric was not being hauled up. She looked closely and saw that while the metal rings on the outer posts all lined up with each other, they did not line up with the post in the center. It was out of phase. How ironic! she thought. And it was the first one to go up! She wondered if they would rotate all the outer posts to line up with the first. It seemed more sensible to just rotate the one in the center. But maybe they were loyal to their first post, and would leave it untouched. She watched in fascination. The fog was completely gone now but since it was in a valley she could only see the top halves of the posts.

The sounds dwindled down to just a few lone shouts of encouragement then stopped altogether. Although she hadn’t seen anyone yet, no people or animals, just heard the noises, she felt an air of suspense and a focusing of everyone’s attention. Into her view appeared a very athletic person, climbing up the central post to the top. The face was hidden as it’s back was turned to her. She couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. Or even a human. It could have been simian, with it’s long limbs and powerful body. It was dressed in a very strange costume like a Harlequin or a Pierrot. All checkerboard squares of black and white. Well this was a circus after all. It hauled itself up at a measured pace with confidence and great bursts of strength.

She drank the last of her tea. As she watched, the creature reached the top and used it’s body weight to yank the post around on it’s axis. Using it’s considerable momentum, body weight and strength to tug it around. It was an amazing display of athleticism. At times it looked quite precarious, and dangerous too. She could sense that everyone on the ground was riveted to the scene just like her. Hoping there would not be any accidents. The person in the costume threw it’s body weight around, and slowly the post rotated. She rinsed her empty tea cup in the sink and put it in the drying rack.

After numerous tugs the post was rotated into the correct position. The circus worker now faced her and she could see the front of it’s costume. It was a uniform shade of gray. She saw the face. It was a human woman, not a man or an ape. Although a very manly looking woman. In fact she recognized that face from the current cover of Popular Lesbian magazine. It was a famous acrobat who worked with Cirque De SoLabia. Shouts and claps of applause rang out as the athletic woman climbed back down to the ground. The great sheets of fabric could now be hauled up to the tops of the posts, forming a nice big tent. The woman looked up at her kitchen clock, oh! Time to get the baby out of the bath tub!

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No Motive

Once upon a time there was a young man riding his bicycle. The street he was on was very straight and he could see all the way down to the end of it. There were no cars or any other moving vehicles. He watched as the traffic light a block away turned from green to yellow. He estimated his time and speed and felt that if he pedaled very fast he could just make the next light. He immediately thought that this would be impossible yet he switched to a higher gear and pedaled faster.

The light turned red and he thought that this was a pointless exercise and he was never going to make it. Nevertheless he switched to a higher gear and pedaled faster, twice. The light turned green and there was still quite a ways to go. He thought that he was being ridiculous and there was no way he was going to make that light. Yet he switched to his highest gear and put all the force he could muster into pushing those pedals.

He was still some distance away as the light turned yellow. He wondered why did he even bother. Jaywalking pedestrians now illegally blocked his path and in response he pedaled as fast as he ever did in his entire life. The last few pedestrians trotted to get out of his way. He pumped those pedals like an olympic gold medal would soon be his, like it was the most important thing he had ever done, like his dog would die if he didn’t. Get ready to hit the brakes he told himself.

He entered the intersection while the light had been yellow for a very long time. He stopped pedaling and sailed through. As he looked up he watched the light turn from yellow to red. He had made it, and not once did he ever believe he would. He had accomplished a significant athletic feat, and the entire time he had no motivation at all. He had striven and won, without even a speck of optimism. He concluded that motivation was not an essential component of achievement.

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Vulture

Once upon a time there was a man who went to see his doctor. He had a painful rash on his shoulders that he could no longer ignore. The doctor looked carefully at the inflamed areas and said it looked like puncture wounds. The doctor looked up above the man and saw a 3 foot tall vulture perched there upon the patient's shoulders. The vultures talons gripping his shoulders were what was causing the problem. The doctor looked into the vulture's eyes which was calmly eating pieces of the man's brain though his opened skull.

The doctor looked away and said "Here is a prescription for a cream that you can apply to the affected areas. It will clear up in a few days." As the man left the doctor knew she had done the right thing. For the vulture was the drug companies, the media, military, the secret government and the banks. To expose them would mean a vulture would come and eat her brain too.