Concept Art Writing Prompt: Journey beneath the seas in an ostrich submarine

Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: Journey beneath the seas in an ostrich submarine

We're headed underwater in this week's concept art writing prompt, journeying into the deep in a beautiful biology-inspired submarine. As always, we invite you to write a piece of flash fiction inspired by this painting and to please post it in the comments.

Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: Journey beneath the seas in an ostrich submarine

This week's concept art is "Ostridge Submersible" by Tucker Cullinan, who kindly suggested this piece for the writing prompt. Have an inspiring piece of artwork you'd like to share? Feel free to email me with your suggestions.

Here's my response to Cullinan's piece. Please post yours in the comments:

Most drivers strip off their sunsuits as soon as they step into the cockpit, but I always wait until the Ostridge Submersible has plunged its head beneath the water. As I peel the gauze back from my skin, it's like immersing myself into a cool bath, and every inch of my dermis seems to hunger for the sunlight filtered through the blue. And no matter how many ablutions a pilot performs before sitting in the driver's seat, the mister will fire, cleansing any sweat and dust from our faces. For the first few weeks on the job, I was offended by the automatic spritz of water, as if TuckerCorp thought surface dwellers couldn't wash. But after spending so many workdays staring into the immaculate dwellings beneath the oceans, I realized that, while the waterfolk might tolerate the roughness of the people who still lived under the sun, the one thing they would not tolerate was dirt.

When I signed on to drive a bus for TuckerCorp, I'd hoped to get myself assigned to a Plesiosaur, a luxury liner where I'd spend months at a time underwater, feeling the gentle pulse of current and dodging the occasional deep sea volcano. I imagined that I'd spend my off hours watching the deepfolk, bedecked in coral and pearls, their bodies lean and healthy from a steady diet of fish and kelp, and occasionally regaling some wide-eyed innocent with tales of my hard-scrabble surface life. But I'd only scored in the sixty-third percentile, and that qualified me for a commuter job, a mere ten hours a day in paradise before I'd have to return to my regularly scheduled life.

It meant I never saw my passengers, never saw the people who day in and out filled the belly of my beast. The only people I saw were through the windows, spectral shadows acting out their lives in pantomime.

There was one such specter, though, whose apparition I looked forward to on each round. I turned the corner into the Verdant District, where mossy green plants clung to every surface and danced outward, giving the impression that the buildings were vibrating, and there she was, tiny against the grand windows.

I didn't know her name, but I called her La Lune.

Her skin was dusky and pale, as if it was supposed to be dark but had never gotten the opportunity. Her features were round, her lips full. Ringlets of black hair looked perpetually wet, and today they spilled over a silvery shift. Every time I saw her, she was crouched on the ground, reading a tablet, but every time she saw me, she laid it at her feet and stood, pressing her hands and nose against the glass.

My grandmere said there were women like this beneath the waters, women who spent their entire lives in leisure, learning from books instead of digging for beef grubs or helping to peddle the field generator. Grandmere said they were silent women, women who rarely had the opportunity to use their own voices.

I think if I could have heard her voice, I would have dashed myself upon her window. I would have let the waters flood into my cockpit and her home just for the chance to hold her in my arms.

I steered the Ostridge as close to her window as I could, letting my eyes meet hers. Then, a crazy thought seized me, and I tugged the wheel just a little too far to the left. I thought the glass of my cockpit and the glass of her window would make a tiny celebratory clink when they tapped against one another, but instead it was a thud followed by an urgent screeching. La Lune's eyes widened, and my dash exploded with warning lights. I reached my hand out and touched the place where the two pieces of glass met before righting the Ostridge and continuing on my route.

An hour later, when I made my next pass of the Verdant District, La Lune was gone from the window. But the scratch I'd made in the glass was still there.


"Are you sure this thing is safe? I mean, a duck or swan vessel would make sense, but an ostrich is not even a marine animal!" Steve exclaimed, looking at the brightly colored avian submersible bobbing on the surface of the water.

"Of course its safe, my dear was designed by me!". Dr. Ternacious beamed at his young protoge', bemused that anyone would question that a device designed and built by him would be dangerous in the least bit."

"Why, the beak has a razor sharp edge to better cut through the water, the talons have crushing strength for underwater construction and salvage work, it lays depth charge 'eggs' for underwater acoustic studies, it is propelled by a new type of engine that seperates the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is seperated from the oxygen, where the oxygen is used for a complex oxidation process that operates the engine. The hydrogen is stored in bladders for emergency purposes. And dont get me started on the machine like brain that can comntrol the entire machine in water or land for emergency purposes!"

"So," Steve asks, "you have built a mcahine that can crush rock, lays explosives, has a beak that can punture ship hulls, carries a highly flammable gas as cargo, and is somewhat autonomous?"

"Oh! Speaking of highly flammable, it has a built in indsutrial blowtorch!"

"Of course it does.....and aside from the obvious tools of destruction, my main question is still, why an Ostrich?" Steve was looking at the aforementione razor sharp beak, and could swear that the two eye like portholes were glring at him menacingly....of course, Steve often thought a bowl of Cheerios(r) glared at him menacingly, but then the Cheerios didn't have the capacity to sink ships or destroy towns like this War machine of the Audobon Society.

"Well, the ostrich was the perfect model! It just exudes the nobel qualities that I find appealing, and wish to be remembered by my peers!" Dr. Ternacious explained, as he thought of the applause that would certainly come his way once it was shown tot he world what a mastermind and genius he was.

"Come now, my boy....we must board this vessel of genius, and pilot her to glory up the Thames for the people to see!"

Dr. Ternacious climbed up the neck of the Aqua-Ostrich (as he himself dubbed it) using the handholds bolted around the neck. Steve, shaking his head, and muttering about taking the job to help pay his rent, could do nothing but follow the small inventor, with his delusions of grandeur, hoping that this adventure would end differantly than his last: a 100 foot mechanized spider that was designed and constructed by Dr. Ternacious, originally to construct large scale bridges and buildings, but ultimatley was used to stop a 105 foot mechanical fly that had taken to landing on buildings while using its spongelike proboscis to paint said buldings. Unfortuantley, both projects did not endear the good Doctor with the masses...