Chuck Wendig posed this flash fiction challenge: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/01/08/flash-fiction-challenge-random-flickr-photo-challenge/
This is my picture and story, inspired by the "weird" fiction of Michael Cisco, Leena Krohn, China Mieville and others.
In a city nestled in the mountainside with a view of the Mediterranean, the streetcars are alive and self-aware. To the residents this is not shocking or strange, just another quirk in a quirky town. An outsider might ask, "How can this be? Are they organic? Some form of genetically engineered monster with just the right combination of genes and circumstances for sentience?" The locals would say, "No, they are purely mechanical," nod their heads and say no more.
If pressed further, especially if it is later at night and a particular local has imbibed more of the city's wine than they should, they might give further details. "We have an engineer," they might say, "Mother of streetcars. She built them and presented them to town. They proved useful given the hills of our fair city. In some places, the cars run on rails, others they amble about freely. Well amble might not be the right words, given they have no legs just wheels like normal streetcars."
After hearing this the outsider might frown in thought, might struggle in making sense of what seems so fantastical. They might even ask, "I have seem words painted on the fronts of them. Do they mean anything?"
If asked this question, a local might grin and say nothing, but other locals might answer, "Those are their names, they were decided by the city residents and presented to the cars, they discussed it amongst themselves and decided who would wear what name. An local artist applied the names using spray-paint."
Another question a outsider, upon learning of the streetcars unique quality, would be, "I've seen operators on the street cars.
If this conversation was taking place, in a bar, the local would frown and terminate the conversation, leaving the outsider to scratch his head. However, if the two were talking at a sidewalk cafe, admiring the streetlights of the Artist's Quarter, a local might respond. "They aren't operators of the traditional sense, they communicate with the streetcars through the panel. They are specially chosen and trained by the Mother of Streetcars. The operators are highly revered and don't have to pay for anything."
Upon hearing of this, outsiders might ask, "I saw a strange sight today. Two of the streetcars, Lone and Yobs, were stopped on a hill next to each other, yet both had passengers."
If the moon is out, full and shining down on them, the local might chuckle and say, "Those two gossip like two old women, there really isn't anything one can do about it. We are used to it and use the time to catch up with neighbors. Nobody here is much in a rush to do anything." At the end of such an evening, as the outsider is going back to his lodgings, the city has not proper hotels, they might no longer be an outsider. Having learned the city's secret, they might become a local. This, of course, assumes that outsiders can find the city, or that it even exists...