Inspiration, they say, can strike from anywhere. For week 8 of my short story challenge, I’m putting it in the hands of the AI gods.
It’s pretty much the classic question to ask any writer:
Where do you get your ideas from?
It’s also the one that’s hardest to answer, because all too often, they just happen inside your head. Some writers don’t want to discuss the process, driven by the very simple fear that they’ll break the magic spell and lose some level of creative spark.
It’s certainly something I’ve been thinking about this week. So I set myself a little challenge within a challenge. Write a short story based on something designed to be inspirational.
And what better source of inspiration than Inspirobot?
OK, the answer to that is “almost anything else”, but then I once wrote one of my short stories in a prior challenge based on going past a potato field while on a train. You’ll find that story in fifty-two, my prior collection of short stories
And if you want something entirely different, there’s also my B-movie novel, Sharksplosion. Yeah, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d think a book with that title might be like:
This being week Eight of my short story challenge (short form: One story a week for a whole year because… reasons…) , you’ve also got seven other stories to check out as well:
That was almost seamless plugging, no?
OK, no. But still, if you’re not au fait with Inspirobot, it mixes up a bunch of inspirational quotes and sentences with seemingly random photographic art on demand.
Some of it does sound eerily like the kind of things you’d find on tacky inspirational posters. Like this:
While some of it can be the opposite of inspirational. Like this:
For my challenge, I decided I’d go with whatever Inspirobot served me up as the third inspirational image/quote combo in a random list.
I’ll throw it beneath the story, so you can see what I was working from. Does that answer where I get my story ideas from? No… but it hopefully shows that you can use just about anything as source material.
A single knock at the door.
“Susan, it’s time to get up. There’s work to do.”
Susan, really, really didn’t want to get up. Nope, not at all. She didn’t want to get up now, just like she hadn’t wanted to get up at 3am when she lay there, staring at the ceiling through bleary eyes.
One more knock.
“Susan, I mean it. Up and at ’em!”
The nasal voice belonged to Peter, technically her boss since… well, it felt like forever. Still, in this case, Susan knew he was right, and she’d better start hauling herself out of bed and onto the job.
Susan sighed inwardly, and dragged the duvet off her bed. She knew that it would be unwise to wait for the third knock.
Working this job had taught her a lot of details that she filed away mentally in corners of her mind, mostly to do with surviving the job.
Clothes on, one musty garment at a time.
Teeth brushed, although she wasn’t really sure if that mattered any more. She’d given up brushing her hair a few weeks back, just to see if anyone would pay even the slightest bit of notice.
Susan had half expected Peter to call her into a side room and give her a dressing down about her appearance, but nope.
Not even a murmur. Then again, given the clientele they dealt with, quite directly in Peter’s case, a little crazy unkempt hair was quite low stakes.
Coffee and a slice of slightly burnt toast ingested, and it was time to get into work.
The same old tedious commute day in, day out. Trains packed and barely operational, foul breath on the air from fellow commuters and a crush just to get out at the right stop.
Out of the station, the building loomed large and ominous. Everything was immense and ominous naturally enough, but Susan felt that one’s work office was always that little bit more ominous and oppressive. Familiarity, contempt… Susan felt sure she’d heard something about that once upon a time.
Up the crumbling staircase, past the pillars of fire, and through the creaky swinging doors with the loose latch.
They were told that maintenance work was going to happen imminently, but, well, the upper level boss did have something of a track record when it came to what you might call “lying”.
Susan wouldn’t actually call him out on that in that way, oh no.
Not that there weren’t plenty of thesauri in a multitude of languages that she could have used to pick less contentious terms. Even then, she understood and respected that the boss was… temperamental.
The original temperamental type, you might say.
Susan wasn’t really sure why Hell needed a library, but having landed here — and she knew why, and that was between her and the big red guy, and nobody else’s business — she at least figured her skills could come to good use.
There were more than a few differences working in the devil’s library from her previous job.
There were the shelves with the, well, let’s call them “tentacles”, that Edmund had decided to sort one day while they appeared to be sleeping.
Susan heard Edmund cry out once, then scream, and then there was nothing but an ominous crunching sound.
Susan wasn’t quite sure what happened to you if you were eaten in Hell, but nobody had seen Edmund since, and no new librarians had ended up down here in the meantime.
What that meant was even more work, sorting out loans, returns, hosing down the shelves that caught fire from time to time and processing the new volumes.
When Susan first got here, she was surprised at the quantity of new books to process. Her upbringing had suggested to her that Hell might only need a few classic tomes, but, as Lucy in inter-library loans quickly told her, it was far from the case.
“See, love, all that needs happen is that somebody writes a book — and some bugger’s always writing a book, day or night, all the pardon-my-French damned time, and all we have here is damned time, my love… where was I…?
Oh yes, anyway, all you need is a book written, doesn’t even have to be a book, could be little more than a pamphlet or dirty limerick, and then have someone in one religion or another condemn it.
And there’s always some commandment, rule or little man with a god complex willing to condemn every single one of them. Moment they do that, they end up down here, and then we have to index them, each and every one.
You’d be surprised to find out what some folks down here want to read, so everything needs to be in the system.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, my lovely, there’s a demon three dimensions across who wants the fourth Harry Potter book, and some sod’s left green ichor oozing across all the pages. Some demons have NO respect for books, oh, the stories I could tell…”
That had then been Susan’s work day in, day out for… well, it felt like Eternity, but then Susan quietly wondered if that wasn’t exactly the point.
It wasn’t that it was hard work to speak of, though Susan was always irritated at the lack of automation. A decent computer system would make entering and tracking loans so much more efficient.
When Susan had put her proposal through for a computerised loan system, pointing out the benefits, all that had happened was that her delicately typed proposal danced in front of her acquisitions desk in the air before catching fire in the form of the letters “N” and “O”.
Susan could take a hint.
Susan sat down behind her desk, grabbed her rubber stamp and looked at the stack of new books that she had to enter into the system.
It was, as always, stretching further than the eye could see into the sky. It never got shorter, but then it never collapsed either, no matter where you pulled a book from the stack. There were plenty of physics textbooks in hell — the sciences were always being condemned by someone — but actual physics in hell were downright weird.
Susan pulled a thin tome from the bottom of the stack, noting the title and author into her never-ending ledger:
Author: Kidman, Alex.
And if you’ve made it this far, the third image that Inspirobot sent my way was this little number: