The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

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Imaginary Adventures

One Hour Future Photo

A couple buys an antique camera from another planet that they realize takes photos one hour into the future.


Ixan examined the foreign “L” shaped purple device. The bottom had a slot to insert something, what that was, Ixan had no clue, other than it had to be thin. On the front was a circle that seemed like an old-fashioned lens, and the top had a tiny red button on the right corner. There was a worn black leather strap attached to it. From the looks it, the gadget was small and light enough to hold, but it had an antique quality to it, and Ixan didn’t want to invoke the wrath of the kind shopkeeper. 

“Hey, Adriyel,” Ixan called out in a hushed tone to his girlfriend. “Come, look at this thing.”

Adriyel walked over with her arms folded. “What did you find now?”

“I don’t know. I thought you might know.”

“I don’t know either,” Adriyel said as the snakes in her hair moved with unease. “This shop is giving me the creeps. Let’s get out of here.”

“I see you found an Insta Photo Camera,” the shopkeeper said with glee as she strolled over to the couple. She was a young human woman with black hair in a bun and wore a red dress more fitting for date night than an antique shop clerk. She had introduced herself to the couple earlier as Raven.

“Never seen a camera like that,” Ixan confessed to Raven.

“That’s because I acquired it from Earth.”

“Woah.”

“I wonder what the pictures look like,” Adriyel said, her interest peaked. 

Raven pulled out a small, white piece of paper from behind the rustic wooden counter. “Would you like to test it?”

“Yes!” Ixan exclaimed.

Raven handed him the paper. “Simply put this in the slot in the button, point the camera, and press the red button on top.”

Ixan followed the instructions, taking a selfie. The camera buzzed and whirled for a few seconds before it printed out a photo. The picture developed before them showing Ixan at a different location with a red smudge on his purple cheek.

“That was unexpected,” Adriyel commented, confused.

Ixan’s feelings were the opposite. “This is so rad. It’s like the camera remixes the image. How much?”

“It’s 5,000 shinnies and comes with a pack of 13 photos.”

“Sounds like you’re trying to get rid of it,” Adriyel accused. “Especially something that’s supposedly from Earth.”

“Once you use all 13 photos, that’s it,” Raven explained.

“I’ll take it,” Ixan said. “This will be fun to use throughout our date today.”

Adriyel agreed, and so Ixan paid for the camera. The two carried about their romantic outing in downtown Helvetica, wandering through a few other boutiques before they stopped for a snack at Pi’s Pie Time.

The smell of freshly baked goods greeted them along with warm welcomes from a ragtag trio of workers behind the glass cabinets. The largest of the three was a chrisom minotaur, who, despite having the build of a wrestler, had the smoothness of a ballerina. He carefully placed tiny adorable pies inside a display case from a massive tray he held with one hand. A dark-skinned human woman near in size with the minotaur approached them from behind the counter.

“What can we make for you today?” the woman asked as an animated tattoo of a white bear performed tricks on a unicycle around her sleeveless arms.

“A small cherry pie for me,” Adriyel politely requested.

“Same for me,” Ixan added.

They paid for their order and took a seat on a soft, flora pattern couch. The cozy, intimate coffee shop bakery had about a dozen tables, and several sofas scattered about as mellow rock tune filled the air.

A moment later, the women who took their order bought out their cherry pies. As she walked over to them, she didn’t notice the bag someone had left behind a chair and tripped over it. She managed to keep a grip on one pie, but Ixan’s face caught the other. Adriyel laughed.

“I am so sorry,” the woman profusely apologized.

“It’s okay,” Ixan admitted. “It’s just pie.”

“I’ll get you another one.”

The woman left, and Adriyel stopped laughing. Disbelief covered her face as she stared at her boyfriend.

“What’s wrong? Is there something in my teeth?” Ixan joked.

“Pull out that selfie you took with that Insta camera.”

Ixan pulled out the photo from his hoodie and handed it to her.

Adriyel held the photo up side by side to his face. “This is a perfect match. It’s like the camera took a photo of you an hour into the future.”

“Let’s test it out.” Ixan filled the camera and took a picture of Adriyel. In the photograph, Adriyel was smiling, covered in bubbles. “I don’t see you getting covered in bubbles in the next hour.”

“Me neither.”

The woman returned with another pie and a gift. “If you’re interested, I got a pair of tickets to a concert tonight. A promoter dropped off a few earlier today for us to giveaway.”

Adriyel enthusiastically took the tickets. “I love Valiance Refuges! I’ve always wanted to see them live. Thank you!”

The woman smiled. “You’re welcome. Enjoy the show, and so sorry about the pie.”

With the show starting soon, the couple finished their meal and leisurely made their way to the concert venue. The lights dimmed in the historic building as the stage curtains opened to a mellow guitar solo, followed by a thunderous drum beat and cannons spraying foam bubbles, covering the audience.

The crowd cheered while Adriyel and Ixan looked at each other, unsettled.

“That’s two for two,” Adriyel stated with worry.

“Let’s take a photo of us together,” Ixan said, still skeptical.

They huddled together for a selfie. In the printed photo was only Adriyel. She was crying. Thinking he frame themselves wrong, he took two more shots, each solo. Adriyel’s photo had her still crying while Ixan’s was blank.

“Okay, this thing is just messing with us,” Ixan grumbled. “Let’s just enjoy the show and go home afterward.”

It took a few songs and some alcoholic drinks, but their mood improved. In the end, they rated the show as one of their favorite concert experiences. They left the venue in cheerful spirits, discussing their favorite moments.

“Next time that band’s in town, we should see them,” Ixan said to Adriyel.

“I’ll keep tabs on their schedule. Hold on. What’s that noise?”

Adriyel looked up while Ixan shrugged. A dragon twice their size was falling from the sky with damaged wings. It was headed straight at them. 

“Watch out!” Adriyel screamed as she ran to the side.

Confused, and a little intoxicated, Ixan sluggishly looked around for the danger, only to see the dragon too late. The dragon crashed into him. Adriyel cried out. Strangers nearby rushed over to help. 

The next day, Adriyel returned to the antique curiosities shop with the camera strapped around her. The retail space was empty, with only a “For Lease” sign on the door.


This story was inspired by a simple writing prompt about an old camera that photos one hour into the future. Since the last few of my stories have taken place on Earth, I decided to give this concept a sci-fi setting and place it on The Black Planet. I also worked in a pie shop that I have featured in one of my books I’m writing currently.

If you want to help support me, join me on Patreon and one of the rewards is early access to my short stories. I’ll also post locked/exclusive stories that I’ve submitted to publications, like this one here, about a shop that sells personalities.

Thank you for reading!

Working: A Bored at Home Video

I originally made this short film as an entry for the cinema5D Bored @ Home Filmmaking Competition, which I didn’t win. However, we had fun making this, and people have enjoyed it. I reuploaded it without the branding and made some adjustments to the color and sound. Apparently, I didn’t do any color correction.

I want to thank my wife for helping me flesh out my idea and directing it, and thanks to Lessa for being the roommate. This is my first film using my SIRUI 50mm f/1.8 1.33x Lens, which is my first anamorphic lens. Also used to make this short film: Panasonic Lumix GH5, Rode Wireless Mics, and GVM LED lights.

Hope you enjoy!

Campfire Monster Creation

During a race to get back to camp first, a pair of teens stumbled upon a paper cube that grows a monster. 


The story I am about to tell you happened on a starry October night at a place called Lake Thunderbird. Some of the locals referred to it as Lake Dirtybird on the count of the lake being murky from the clay soil. Still, it was a beautiful and beloved state park. Many of the trees were still green as Mabry and Heide raced passed them along the dirt trail. Earlier, the two had made a bet that the first one to the campfire would get the loser’s s’more.

“That s’more as good as mine,” Heide shouted from the lead.

“Don’t count your desserts just yet,” Mabry snapped back as she went off trail to get ahead.

Mabry’s shortcut did work. She did surpass Heide – until she tripped. Mabry cursed, causing her friend to stop.

Heide stopped and helped Mabry get back on her feet. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Mabry groaned. “Let’s call the race a tie.”

Heide laughed. “Only because I’ll feel bad eating your s’more. What did you trip on anyway?”

Mabry shrugged and pulled out her cellphone from her jeans. Using the flashlight feature, she scanned the area and found a cube of newspaper about the size of a baseball. The cube was densely packed. She picked it up.

“This is heavier than it looks,” Mabry commented.

“Really?” Heide questioned. Mabry handed her the cube. “Wow. This is heavy. Do you think it’ll burn?”

“Maybe. We can put it in the fire and find out.”

Heide tossed the cube back to Mabry, and the two walked back to the campsite where they joined their fellow students around the fire. The intimate group of teenagers were united for a weekend improv retreat. Standing together facing the teens were two of the “camp counselors” or improv teachers, Jessie and Nick, both in their mid-30s.

“Heide, Mabry, so glad you’re finally here,” Jessie said in a cheerful team mascot tone. “We got plenty of marshmallows and chocolates still.”

Nick noticed the dirt scuffle on Mabry’s clothes. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, I tripped over this,” Mabry explained as she held out the paper cube. “Thought we could add it to the fire.”

“Go for it,” Nick encouraged, and Mabry tossed it in. 

Jessie clapped her hands, getting the group’s attention. “While everyone enjoys dessert, let’s play an icebreaker game where we each reveal something that scares us. We’ll go clockwise, and I’ll start first. I’m Jessie, and I’m afraid of ostriches.”

Jessie’s reveal garnered some giggles in the crowd.

Nick went next, holding a flashlight under his face. “Reverse Vampires. They crave sunlight! Also, Land Sharks.”

“Disease,” Mabry somberly answered, thinking of all the family she’s lost to sicknesses.

“Being burned alive,” Heide said as her marshmallow caught on fire from her impatience. 

Robyn pushed aside a streak of her white hair. “Being Followed.”

“Robyn, you’re like a black belt,” Jessie commented. “People should be worried about you following them. Michael, your turn.”

Michael adjusted his metal glasses and stumbled to confess, “Drowning.”

“Asphyxiation!” Shai jumped with an unexpected burst of excitement, eager to share.

The last person, Jeff, took a deep breath and, with a serious face, answered, “Sandpaper.”

The group laughed.

“What?” Jeff huffed. “It’s a texture thing.”

“Okay, okay,” Nick instructed, “let’s play another–”

The crackling fire collapsed into itself. The group went silent as they watched the paper cube pulsate with a rainbow of colors. The cube began to expand, like one of those black snake fireworks that grow when lit on fire. Then, it ramped up in speed, growing and forming an ash black ostrich with a shark’s dorsal fin on its neck and pectoral fins instead of wings. A green sewage cloud of disease-ridden gas seeped out of its mouth.

The creature let out a terrifying screech. The campers scattered every which direction as it whipped out its monstrously long tongue around Jeff’s body and Shai’s neck. The tongue was rough like sandpaper. Jeff and Shai pulled, clawed, and fought back. In retaliation, the creature flung them into a tent.

The creature spotted Heide running down a trail by herself. It spat out a fireball, catching Heide on fire. While Heide rolled around on the ground, the creature scurried down another path. 

“What the hell is that?” Robyn asked Mabry as they and Michael ran as fast as they could.

“Like hell, if I know,” Mabry snapped back.

“It’s like an amalgamation of our fears,” Michael commented, struggling to keep up.

Robyn turned her head back. “It’s following us!”

“Just keep running,” Mabry encouraged.

The trio burst out of the woods, leaving them nowhere else to run with the lake before them.

“Great,” Michael grumbled.

Mabry pointed across the lake. “Let’s swim to the other side. It’s not a long stretch. Maybe it can’t swim.”

“But who knows what’s in that lake,” Michael exclaimed. “There could be alligator snapping turtles.”

“It’s either that or face the monster,” Mabry laid out.

The creature screeched, prompting the three of them to jump and swim, with Mabry leading the charge. The teens were halfway across when the beast arrived at the shore. The creature paused as a powerful beam of light from a park ranger’s flashlight shined on it. The monster hissed and charged at the park ranger.

Mabry was the first one across. She watched as the park ranger firmly stand his ground as the monster lunged at him. The park ranger opened fire, his gun emitting an icy blue beam. The creature burst into a puff of smoke.

Before Mabry could process what she witnessed, her fellow campers walked out the water only to be greeted with the light of another park ranger. She had buzzcut hair and was short, at about five-feet tall, but stood with a calm authority that made her appear taller. The name patch on her green uniform shirt read, “Ranger Mists.”

“Are you all okay?” Mists asked.

“This–this land shark ostrich monster is chasing us,” Michael blurted out with no regard for how crazy he sounded.

Mists pointed her flashlight at the park ranger across the lake. He gave her a thumbs up. She led the light back at the teens. “You’re safe now. My partner took care of it. Where did you first see it?”

“I found this weird cube of paper that I tossed in our fire, and it grew from that,” Mabry explained to the ranger.

“Where’s the rest of your group?”

“At the Post Oak campground,” Mabry said. She started to feel uncomfortable with how comfortable Mists was with believing them.

“We’re part of an improv retreat,” Robyn added. “There’s us plus our teachers, Nick and Jessie, and then Heide, Jeff, and Shai.”

Mists put her hand on Robyn’s shoulder to reassure her. “Don’t worry. We’ll help them, and then this will all just be a bad dream.”

The silver bracelet around Mists’ wrist that was resting on Robyn’s shoulder emitted a calming white aurora that put the teens to sleep. 


I made a post on Facebook, “It’s my Birthday and I’ll kill you off at a summer camp if that’s okay with you. Leave a comment with something that scares you.” I took the fears they responded with and named a character after them. When writing this story, I wrote with the intent of telling this at a campfire.

Sleep well! 

Hashtag Cult Problems

A cult’s ritual goes wrong when their sacrifice doesn’t die. 


When the sack came off Gia’s head, she found herself strapped upright on a spinning wheel in a dimly lit circus tent. Her curiosity had gotten the best of her. After seeing the performers’ mind-blowing act, she had to know how they did it for her shows. While she was sneaking around after the show, someone snuck up behind her with a sack over her head. Now, she hung before cult-like gathering.

Using her crowd scanning skill, Gia counted 30 people in bright clown nose red robes with white plastic masks of a cartoonishly broad smile. The outfit vaguely reminded Gia of a production she put on with some friends, but what that was was a hazy memory.

“We are gathered together here under the first full moon of the new decade for our sacrifice,” the cult leader announced. Gai recognized the voice belonged to the ringleader. 

The crowd cheered. The only thing Gia could spot on the cult leader that made him stand out from the others was the golden inverted pyramid necklace.

“Sacrifice, huh?” Gia said with excited curiosity. “If I may make a suggestion, the lighting is awful. How are people going to see me die? Do you have anything else other than the torchlights like some portable LED stage lights? Surely you got some of those.”

“We can see well enough,” the cult leader grumbled.

“If you say so,” Gia snarked. “By the way, what’s your cult or organization or whatever’s name? Or is this some tradition with your circus.”

“We are the Cult of Mischief,” the leader proclaimed. 

Gia remembered the show she was trying to pin down earlier. She giggled like she was part of an inside joke.

The leader picked up the jewel-encrusted ceremonial dagger from a pedestal and pointed it at Gia. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh, you’ll find out. Carry on.”

The leader faced the crowd. “Let the ceremony commence!”

With the crowd cheering, the leader stabbed Gia in the chest. Silence fell. 

“Oh, what cruel world,” Gia cried out. “There was so much I wanted to do. There’s so much in this world I wanted to see. But now, my time has come. Farewell.”

Gia’s body went limp. The cultists chanted in unison, “Our sacrifice is yours. Take this soul and bless us.”

Per cult order, the youngest member pulled out the knife from the sacrifice.

Gia raised her head, unharmed, and smiled. The cult gasped. “Okay, I thought that was a rather stirring death performance.”

“How are you not dead?” the young cultist asked with a quiver in her voice. 

“You picked the wrong kind of person for a sacrifice. Hashtag cult problems, am I right?”

“We cannot stand for this,” the leader said. “Our god will not be pleased with us.”

“You mean, Loki?” Gia said. “I’m sure he’s getting a good chuckle right now.”

The leader got in Gia’s face. “How do you know of our god?”

“Oh, we go way back,” Gia explained and then thought about the chronological order of time. “Or forward technically. He casted me as the first leader of the Cult of Mischief centuries ago to fool some traveling act for him to study their reactions. I’m surprised the cult is still around, to be honest, but knowing him and his partner, I bet they’re watching, studying.”

There was a hushed discussion amongst the members when two people revealed themselves from a stack of cargo containers. One was a slender man in a pink suit with bold, black outlines and a young woman in a red satin dress holding a transparent tablet device. Both had black hair and flowed in sync with each other.

“It’s them!” one of the members shouted. “From the painting of the first ritual.”

All the cult members dropped to their knees.

“Loki, Raven, how are you two doing?” Gia cheerfully greeted.

“I must admit, I find it humorous they tried to sacrifice you,” Loki dryly said while adjusting his cufflinks as they approached Gia.

Raven worked on freeing Gia. “It’s been fascinating studying the cult’s evolution throughout the centuries.”

“But I am growing bored of it,” Loki confessed.

“Shall we end?” Raven asked him.

“Yes, let’s go out on top.” Loki turned to address the cultists, who were still bowing down. “Since you tried to kill my friend, I will now forsake you and no longer give you my blessings – ever. Begone!”

The cultists scattered away as Raven undid the last strap around Gia.

“Thanks,” Gia said. “What’s next for two?”

Loki and Raven exchanged glances and spoke in unison. “More mischief.”


This week’s short story was inspired by the following writing prompt: “You have been kidnapped by a cult preparing to sacrifice you to their god. Problems? You’re immortal, the god they worship is a close friend of yours and the entire cult was the result of a prank you forgot you pulled centuries ago.”

I got inspired by this prompt to write a story with my end-timer characters. Thank you for reading!

Moral Compass

After returning home from a business trip, Chuck is greeted by a foul smell that leads him to a dead body that looks like him and killed by a compass he had written about in his book.


A pungent smell smacked Chuck Barkley across his face the moment he stepped inside his one-bedroom apartment. He dropped his suitcase, covering his face to stop the odor’s torture. He lived alone with no pets and was at the statewide library conference for a few days. Something was wrong, but his systematically organized place was clean, just like how he had left it.  

Did some animal get inside and die? Chuck thought, trying not to speak and get the smell on his tongue too. Maybe a person? I doubt it.

Chuck walked over to the balcony door and opened it up to start getting fresh air inside. He regretted not buying that candle he liked during his work trip, but the worry for his books quickly replaced his regret. He rushed over to his prized collection of books. The author personally autographed their writing, and some notes addressed him. All of the few dozen books were accountable. Limiting himself to only autographed books helped retain his minimalist home. The only non-autographed books he had were the ones he wrote and an uncatalogued book he brought home from the library for safekeeping.

Keeping an eye out for the source of the smell, Chuck made his way to his bedroom. His voice of reason kicked in and assumed him the stench was most likely a sewage backup in his bathroom.

When Chuck opened the bedroom door, he discovered the source: a dead body. He looked away, gathering his composure, which took all of his willpower not to throw up right there. The detectives in the books he read always made seeing a dead body seem so casual. He forced himself to get a closer look. He had to know if it was someone he knew.

Spread out on the bed like a starfish was a man wearing the same brown pants and Game of Thrones shirt Chuck had on. The dead body also had the same face as Chuck. Chuck was an only child and wasn’t aware of any possible doppelgängers, either. The one part that didn’t mirror Chuck was the mystical looking compass covered in blood sticking out from the heart.

Chuck slapped his own hand as he tried to touch the compass. He didn’t own one and wondered where it came from and why a compass? He had read numerous books with unusual murder weapons, but a compass? In the book Chuck was writing, there was a magical compass that would point to the nearest evil. His brain switched from disgusted to inquisitive. The compass looked like the one he had written.

As Chuck walked over to the side of the room for a different view of the crime scene, the compass arrow followed him. He thought he imagined the needle moving with him, and so Chuck went back to where he was, and the needle followed. He went to the other side, and so did the needle.

“This is quite the mystery,” Chuck proclaimed to himself.

“It’s actually rather obvious,” a pretentious voice corrected. “You’re evil.”

Standing in the doorway was a tall, grizzly handsome man in a tan overcoat that Chuck recognized as his detective character.

“You’re real,” Chuck stated. “How are you real?”

“You didn’t give us much to play with, Chuck,” the character scolded. “You have such a limited collection of books. We want to go back to the library.”

The body on the bed sat up. “Take us back to the library, Chuck.”

A clown holding a red balloon stepped out from the bathroom. “We belong in the library, Chuck.”

All three of them chanted in unison. “Return the book to the library. Return the book to the library. Return—”

“You promise you won’t hurt anyone or cause any destruction?” Chuck interrupted. 

“We are bound by rules not to intervene with life,” the dead body answered.

Chuck sighed. He went to his bookshelf and grabbed the uncatalogued book titled, “Unbound Words.” He placed the book in his satchel that he strapped on.

“I have to go to the library to handle some paperwork anyway, so I will take this book back if you behave.”

The characters smiled. Millions of words replaced their appearance before fading away to dust.


This week’s story was inspired by two writing prompts. One involved a character coming home from a long business trip to find their own dead body. Other elements came from Okie Show Show’s writing prompt that challenged people to include a compass, the line of dialog, “I doubt it,” and a character, Chuck Barkley, librarian.

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