B: I think Kelly would agree that this is shaping up to the best Survivor Contest ever. This is the first time I have not given out a single “2.” I was worried this challenge might be too difficlut but there was creativity and hard work put into every entry. I said last week’s was my favorite week to date, and I have to repeat that statement again this week. Enjoy, everybody.

S: Yeah, I’d agree. This group alone could be a pretty good all-time all-star team. This week was mind-blowing. I can’t say it any other way. I think I gave four fives, and I can’t remember the last time I did that with this number of people left. I’m glad there’s no forced curve this week, because I’d be judging all weekend.

Rhubarb_Runner, TWG

*Bang!*

At the sound of the starting gun, Jerome launched into the huge plate of bratwurst with both hands, stuffing the one in his left hand into his mouth, while the one in his right awaited its turn. Now that the competition had started, he found he had no time to be nervous anymore, even though this was his first public contest. Jerome’s friends on the HS football team were always amazed at his eating “powers” and had finally egged him on to go pro, even if this was only the quad-county fair. And actually, he had a pretty good feeling he could win.

Continuing to munch-and-swallow his seventh brat, he was too nervous to look for his friends in the crowd, but he did take a few furtive glances at one of the other six contestants on the stage, Contestant #5, who had travelled over 200 miles to participate – an obvious ringer. The guy was short and wiry, with mousy black hair – nothing like Jerome’s 6’2” 225 lb frame. Where does this guy pack it all in? Jerome took a swallow of water to lubricate his throat, then dived into the next brat.

Number 23 going in, number 24 in hand – Jerome was in the zone. As the oldest of six, he had learned to eat quickly, and it was paying off now; Contestant #5’s plate was noticeably higher than his own. It was going to be all Jerome could do to finish his plate (36? Yes, it looks like “just” three dozen were on the plate to start), but with his current lead he knew if his pace flagged a bit, he should still safely finish as the winner. Jerome ignored the crowd noise. Keep chewing! Keep swallowing!

As he began laboriously working the last couple of brats, Jerome once more eyed Contestant #5, who, though he continued to chew unabated, still had four brats left on his plate! Jerome had done it! As he carefully chewed the final brat (36!), he raised his fists in silent victory. He was the first to polish off his plate — and thankfully it ended when it did, because there was NO WAY he could have eaten more; as it was, the last swallow in his mouth was taking its sweet time to engage.

In turning to back to Contestant #5, a puzzled look came over Jerome’s face as the dripping corners of Contestant #5’s still-chewing mouth turned up into a grin, two brats still remaining on his plate. A motion in front of Jerome brought his attention back, where another plate of brats had just been placed. Jerome never did finish that last swallow, as the reality set in: it was not a timed contest, but an endurance contest. Crestfallen, he willed his over-taxed stomach to subside…at least until he could track down his friends and share a generous portion of semi-digested bratwurst with them.

S: Hey, now there’s a disgusting beginning. Remember when competitive eating nearly became mainstream popular about eight years ago or something? Anyway, though there isn’t a ton of interplay between our two characters, what we have here is fun. I wondered how many of these would end up being competitions of some kind. 4

B: Nice. The concept works beautifully. I’ve never seen such elegant prose regarding one of the most disgusting competitions humans engage in. The grammar and spelling could use some work (note from Spooky: I fixed the spelling before posting), but there are some nice word choices here. 4

DK, VVV

In the spacious main chamber of the capital building of the German city of Frankfurt, the French diplomat shifted anxiously in his seat, noticed himself sweating uncontrollably. He turned to his right and left, looking with intent at the faces of his aides, studying them for any hint of support. The aides, however, anticipated his movements and avoided his gaze at each turn.
Without warning, the large oaken doors swung open. Two young pages entered the room, carrying rolls of documents under their arms, and sat at each end of the table. Following them, the chancellor strode in, removing his military hat and placing it on the table in front of his chair as he sat down. The Frenchman found the chancellor’s face expressionless; searching it relentlessly for some hint of emotion, any suggestion of subconscious thoughts, the diplomat felt his heart rate rising steadily. He attempted to greet the chancellor, to welcome him to their meeting and formally initiate their discussions, but felt the words die in his throat as he tightened up with fear.
The chancellor, observing the diplomat’s struggle to speak, held up his hand, palm forward, to indicate that he would begin. Waving his pages over, as they laid out several prepared treaty documents on the table, the chancellor deliberately moved each one forward, one at a time. The diplomat, barely glancing over each paper, looked up at the chancellor and nodded vigorously; the chancellor smiled, broadly but coldly, and began to collect the papers.
Suddenly, the chancellor paused, appearing to be struck by an idea. His gaze turned to the large map of Europe hanging in the chamber, studying it intently. Slowly, he pushed himself back from the table, stood, and moved toward the map. The diplomat felt his left leg begin shaking; clutching it with his hand, hoping to stifle the noise, his eyes never left the back of the chancellor.
The chancellor turned and, his eyes lit up, pointed towards an area on the map: the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. The Frenchman nearly jumped in his seat; as beads of sweat leapt from his forehead, he shook his head. The chancellor’s left eyebrow raised slightly; time seemed to stop for the diplomat as he watched that grey tuft of hair held up on the chancellor’s face.
His expression turning to anger, the chancellor clutched one fist and slammed it against the map on the wall, showing no discernible pain despite the brick that lay underneath it. Feeling as if he might faint, the diplomat leapt from his chair, pointed to the provinces in question on the map, and nodded so hard he felt his head might come off. The chancellor smiled again, motioned to his pages to follow, and walked out.
As the exited the room, one page looked at the other incredulously. The second smiled and told him, “Friend, it’s Bismarck. He can say more with a twitch of his mustache than you or I could in a lifetime.”

S: I’ll bet that last bit is true. I love this one. Not only is it silent, but tension builds throughout and we have a strong button to our scene here. This is film-worthy. I want to see it. The prose here gets mildly clunky now and again, but I love this concept, the tension and the humor so much that I figured what the hell. 5

B: Someone is appealing to my love of history. Otto was such a badass that this actually works for me despite the fact it’s more comical than realistic. The prose itself doesn’t read terribly smoothly; it’s easy to follow but it doesn’t dance off the page. Normally I wouldn’t fret such a thing but at this stage of the game there are so many fantastic entries that I have to delineate somewhere. 4

GreekHouse, TWG

Colin didn’t know Libby well, but he knew that she was hot and that was good enough for him. They walked up the stairs to Libby’s apartment. She unlocked the door and they walked in. It was a nice, modern looking apartment, but not too big. Taking up most of the space in the living room was a leather couch and a black coffee table across from a 32″ Toshiba HDTV. Someone had forgotten to turn off the TV. Californication was on. Nice.
But Colin didn’t have much time to worry about who David Duchovny was fucking this episode before Libby grabbed him and intensely made out with him. He picked her up, walked over to the couch and threw her onto it. Her arm flew out and her hand hit the corner of the coffee table. She looked at her hand. It was bleeding. She licked the blood off her hand, bit her lip and smiled coyly. She must like it rough.
He jumped on top of her. Colin was no stranger to the one night stand, but he could tell this one was going to be good. He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her in for a kiss. She liked it. He yanked her hair harder. She moaned. It was time to escalate.
He rocked back just enough to give him access to the button on her jeans. She raised her pelvis and he slid them off. He grabbed her ass. She smiled. He slapped her ass. She pushed him backwards and hopped on top of him.
She sat upright and began to grind on him. He needed to escalate more. But how? He punched her.
Shit.
What the hell made him think he should punch her? Libby flew off the couch, hit her head on the coffee table, and began to bleed. She wasn’t moving.
Colin jumped up off the couch and moved away from the blood. What was he going to do now? He looked down at Libby. She still wasn’t moving. He looked over at the TV. He unplugged it, picked it up and left.

S: Holy eff. This one is powerful. I found myself wondering how to score it, but frankly, anything that gets my heart racing this much for the conclusion and makes me worry this much for the welfare of the characters can only receive one score. This is the darkest thing I’ve read here for the last couple of Survivors, unless I’m forgetting something. 5

B: Wow. This is so wrong I laughed out loud twice. The TV bit is not only a crazy ending, it’s also foreshadowed. Well done. 5

CarterHayes, VVV

The fog clung to the windscreen as effectively as the thick cobwebs in the hayloft back home stuck to your face. The aircon was starting to make even him shiver. Not that he was going to turn it down. Better to freeze, to have to pull over for a moment and get out of the car, cool skin steaming into the night air like a chimney of an oil refinery, than to ever be hot again. It was also the only thing keeping him marginally awake. There was no A-driver for this trip, no gunner or A-gunner, and he wasn’t driving the only ambulance in Iraq with a crew-served machine gun. So he had that going for him, which was nice.

How many more miles must he go? He began to look for a gas station, a wayside rest, something.

Sand began to blow across the road, the white glow of reflected headlights slowly turning amber, then a darker camel. More and more sand, a thick cloud of it, as if a train headed to a glassworks had derailed somewhere nearby. Frankly, it was ridiculous. There was no way there was this much sand in central Wisconsin, no matter what Aldo Leopold might have to say about it.

Ahead of him – cat eyes?

A tan seven ton came into view less than 10 meters ahead. What the hell. Oshkosh was clear on the other side of the state, and Fort McCoy already behind him. This truck was headed the wrong way.

Lt. Olson was next to him, the handset of the radio clipped his helmet’s chinstrap. Doc’s giggle drifted forward from the back, the maniacal, slightly demented giggle of a little boy pulling the legs off a frog. Rawley kicked the back of his seat with his foot. “Hey man, keep your eyes peeled.” Rawley, whose permanently cracked-out expression was finally comprehensible when they found out he was actually on crack. That fact lingered in the back of his mind, present but shrouded in the same fog he had been driving through moments ago. He was mildly aware of it, but the awareness was more of an ache than a realization.

The seven ton stopped in the middle of the lane, so he stopped. Behind him, another truck stopped. The handset crackled. “Cut the engine and stay sharp,” Lt. Olson breathed. “Trouble up by Gun Two.” Olson pulled his pistol. Doc pulled his. Might as well join the club, he thought.

They were still sitting there two hours later, though it seemed longer. Two hours without a cigarette. Eyes straining. Ears straining. Hands damp on pistol grips, sweating through their flak jackets, down their arms, steady drips down off their noses. Sand caked the corners of their eyes, the corners of their mouths, their nostrils. It sat on their eyelashes just as snowflakes did back home.

They sat there. He chewed on his cigar stump. They sat some more.

Suddenly, his door swung open. He squeezed the trigger three times, two in the head, one in the chest. The trooper looked at him, not comprehending. He looked down, where the pistol had been. “Sir, you’re parked on the interstate. I need you to blow into this tube.”

I’m not drunk, he wanted to say. I just need help getting home.

S: Whoa, that’s some powerful stuff. I could do without the Caddyshack reference here (not because the use of humor is inappropriate here, but because it’s a little too WGOMmy), but it’s not a problem. Anyway, I read this, I sat in silence, then read this one again. A twist that changes the rules of the entire story is always a risk, but in this case, it brought forth some real emotion that I wasn’t expecting. Brilliant. 5

Okay, still Milkman, writing this bit after I wrote up the rest of the post: this one obviously finds a strange way to deal with the rules of the challenge, as although Lt. Olson speaks, there’s nobody really speaking because it’s all in our hero’s head. I just want folks to realize that I know this was a little out there, but for me, it still fits.

B: Man, you guys are insane. Post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism is definitely not what we were thinking when we created this challenge. I don’t know what else to say. This one actually gets to me, and would probably get immunity if we were doing that now. 5

nibbish, TWG

They sat.

That’s all they really did anymore. What else was there to do, but sit? Any words they could come up with were trivial at this point, and the inevitable made whatever either of them might have to say utterly moot, anyway. The raft was their their entire reality, and the stale stench of sea salt was their only companion. Everyone else had fallen one by one, until their number had reduced itself to just two, and that number would soon adjust itself lower yet again.

The last of the provisions lay between them, and as the craft slowly floated towards nowhere in particular, they each simply locked gazes and waited for the other to make the first move.

The hands were around his neck in what seemed like an instant. In reality, it was slow, it was clumsy, and it was exceedingly painful. The fatigue had sapped him of the strength he would have required to fight off his aggressor. There was nothing left to do but give in. It was a strange feeling as he felt everything fade. As consciousness slowly slipped away, he could have sworn that he saw the outline of a ship on the horizon.

S: I do like the ending here. The difference from this one and the others is that although this one explained the silence, the others really used the silence to tell a story. 3

B: Effective, straightforward. But with all the competition here, I feel this one was a bit too short to have the emotional impact necessary to rise to the top. 3

rob, VVV

Mark and Sue drove silently through the streets, looking for just the
right place to stop. Mark seemed to be making all the decisions as he acted in
a direct, almost brusque, manner. Sue gazed listlessly out the window,
not seeming to care where they were headed.

They turned into a promising parking lot. After looking around to see what
the audience would be like, Sue broke into the standard ‘trapped in box’ routine
while Mark played at operating machinery. Sue began to perform some truly
amazing contortions, all within the confines of her box, hoping to
draw attention to herself. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be the type
of audience she’d hoped for, though Mark seemed content despite the lack of a
crowd.

He continued his act, unabated, although a wicked grin started to grow on
his face. As he finished up his routine, Mark stepped back and watched in
enjoyment as Sue was getting all wrapped up. He always was a sucker for the
finale of this particular show. Satisfied with the outcome of
their performances, he grabbed Sue’s purse from the curb, where he put it down
before he locked her in the car. He glanced back at the cube of scrap metal as
he walked out of the abandoned junk yard, counting his newfound fortune.

S: How can this keep happening? How many times in this game can I say I’m reading the best thing I’ve ever seen in this game? This one is brilliant in the way it sneaks up on the reader, going from seemingly obvious to funny to confusing to dark as all hell in a small amount of time. This is beyond words. I knew this concept might bring some brilliance, but…damn. 5

B: You sir, will rot in hell.

Somewhat similar theme to television thief. I liked that one just a bit more. This one was almost too weird. 4

Eric B.B.

The day had finally arrived for E. Timothy Wagner. He’d been dreading this day for a while, even though what would happen was little more than a formality. As he put on his gray Versace suit, he wondered how he’d gotten to this point. It had happened rather quickly, really.
Mr. Wagner got into the car at eight o’clock sharp, just like he always did, but Steven wasn’t chauffeuring him to the office today. He’s rather sullen today, Steven thought to himself. I suppose he should be, considering what day it is.
As Timothy got out of the limousine and walked up the stairs, he saw his lawyer, Mr. Earl, ahead of him. He thought about saying something, but it wasn’t worth it. They were both heading to the same place. He would catch up soon enough. He surely wasn’t in a hurry.
Mr. Earl waited for Timothy outside of Judge Erstead’s chambers. “You ready to head in?” he asked Timothy, as Timothy approached. Timothy nodded. Mr. Earl knocked on the heavy wooden door and entered when the judge summoned them.
There she was. She had dressed well for the occasion. She’d never dressed like this for him. Timothy just kept his eyes on the judge, his shoes, anywhere but at her. It was bad enough that he had to be in the same room as her.
“Your clients both agree to this settlement, gentlemen?” Judge Erstead asked of the two lawyers as he looked down at the papers through his reading glasses. They replied in the affirmative. As the judge passed him the papers, Timothy thought about all that had transpired in the past 12 months. His investments had lost almost half of their value with the downturn in the economy. He’d had some crazy sex with his secretary, Raechel. Ellen had found out about it. The company took a big hit when the news reached the papers. In all, his net worth had been cut in half, and now he was cutting it in half again to settle this silly divorce. 500 million dollars! It was a tough pill to swallow. As he signed on the dotted line, he thought about the kids, who Ellen was getting full custody of, and of how his life was falling apart.
He silently passed the papers across the desk. She glared at him as their eyes met for the first time in months, angry for the hell that he’d put her through. He quickly broke the contact, but the damage had already been done, the pain felt. Then Ellen did a funny thing—as she signed at the bottom of the page, she smiled. As they all left, Ellen had a new spring to her step. In spite of all the crap she’d dealt with in the past year, life was looking up. Way up.

S: Hmm…courtroom drama. This one I should have seen coming. In fact, we came up with a bunch of concepts we thought we might see, and none have been done yet. Anyway, it doesn’t have the emotional punch of the others, what with the emotion of the piece taking place before this scene. That’s the only real difference here. 4

B: I had also not imagined a courtroom, despite the above scenario being a fairly common one. You guys are damn creative, which is why I love this contest. Written quite well, with a air of solemnity that slowly turns to despair by the end. 5

Big Mak, VVV (note: parts of this one are in italics because of…well, it will become clear in the end. It was sent in a slightly different format but proved impossible to keep in that format)

Joey took a huge bite of his triple decker
peanut butter sandwich just as the girl he
had a crush on came through the door.
Despite his best efforts to hastily wash it all
down with a glass of milk, he was unable to
utter a word before she was gone.

She lunged for him as he lay on the couch, and the struggle for power was on. He had
held sway over her for too long. Now, with the element of surprise on her side, she was
going to turn the tables.

The Little Red Schoolhouse World
Championship
Match
had
entered
its 8th hour
with neither contestant
showing any signs of weakness.

On the other side of the paper-thin walls, Mrs. Busybody sat with her hand hovering
over the phone. She had already threatened to call the cops twice this week. If any more
sounds of struggle came through the wall, she wouldn’t hesitate. The cops wouldn’t buy
whatever weak story he came up with this time.

Too late, Detective Smith realized the chef
who had prepared the pufferfish was the
same person who was hanging around the
scene of the crime earlier today. A quickly
swelling throat prevented the detective from
making a sound as the room went dark.

One well-placed knee ended the silent wrestling match. The victor triumphantly waved
the remote control in the face of the vanquished and changed the channel one last time.

The formerly frumpy introvert appeared at
the top of the stairs after her makeover, and
her mother was struck speechless as she tried
to hold back tears of joy at her daughter’s
transformation.

—-

S: So, yeah. This is the best week ever. This one was sent as a doc because the formatting is important; the entry is so one-of-a-kind that the meaning could get lost without it. As is, however, it’s far beyond what I’d imagined here, appearing to be on a large scale but turning out to be pretty mundane. Oh, and the name “Mrs. Busybody” is perfectly obvious here. 5

B: This is the most surreal entry I’ve ever seen. It really stretches the borders of the outline of this challenge, but we want to reward ingenuity, not strangle it. The rapid changes are actually effective, and the main narration stays clear. Mrs. Busybody’s appearance is brilliant. And pufferfish murders are always fun. Thanks for this. 5

New Guy, TWG

Beep. Beep. I fantasize about unplugging them every five minutes or so. Beep. Beep. I wouldn’t even have to unplug them. I could just press a button. Beep. Beep. One button and their oxygen regulators shut off, they’re dead within five minutes. Beep. Beep.
That fucking beeping on the EKGs, that’s ninety percent of why I would want to do it. It drives me nuts. There’s no reason why they need to beep like that. Like it’s going to make a difference if I hear the beeps change, like I could somehow do something to save them if they went silent. Beep. Beep. If they flatline they’re goners, and no tinny little piercing tone is gonna change that.
I guess the other reason to unplug them is just morbid curiosity. Some primal desire to do the absolute wrong thing for no particular reason. To let them die just because I can.
It might help if I knew who these popsicles actually are, where they’re going, why they’re in stasis, etc. Of course they didn’t tell me that. Know what they did tell me? It’s government business. Fucking government business, like I would hear that and go oh, it’s government business you say? Well in that case, go right ahead, stick a couple of ice boxes in my hold. Of course I’ll sit here babysitting them for three days while you degauss your engines. I’ll do anything if it’s government fucking business!
Beep. Beep.
I named them. Cassandra and Bernie. Cassandra after an ex-girlfriend (she was frigid… get it?) and Bernie after my brother-in-law who this mope vaguely resembles. I came up with a whole backstory for them where they’re both special forces commandos who spend their entire lives in stasis and are only unfrozen in order to assassinate somebody. But odds are they’re just diplomats or doctors or something. If they were really important I wouldn’t be allowed within fifty feet of their boxes.
Beep. Beep. Beepbeepbeepbeepbeep.
Oh, fuck me… Bernie, why are you shaking like that? Is that blood, Bernie? Is that blood coming from your mouth, Bernie? I’m very disappointed in you, Bernie. I’m more disappointed in the government goons who aren’t answering my calls. Get the fuck over here, idiots, Bernie’s dying.
Beepbeepbeepbeepbeepbeep-
It takes me roughly forty-five seconds to take his box offline and get him thawed out, but he’s already gone. Fuck, Bernie! It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I didn’t actually want you to die, I just wondered how it would feel to let it happen. It feels terrible, thanks for asking.
It takes about thirty seconds for me to realize that Cassandra isn’t beeping at all. Oh, Cassandra, not you too. Forty-five more seconds to get her thawed. Five minutes of CPR to get her blood pumping again. Ten minutes to study her face. Thirty seconds to contemplate kissing her. One minute to mourn Bernie. Another ten minutes to study her face. My God it’s beautiful.

S: Huh. I just don’t know how to respond to this one. As prose, it’s smart and beautiful. As the beginning of a book (I’ll admit to thinking “film” first there; it’s the way I’ll always think) it’s divine. For this challenge, though, it’s imperfect. We the readers are engrossed in the thoughts of the narrator, but the action (and the whole “winning and losing” part of it) happens between the two slabs of meat he’s watching. Therefore, this writing is 5-worthy, but the format is going to drop this one to a 4.

B: I like how it’s unclear whether or not Bernie was actually “accidentally” murdered or not. The main character is obviously so strung out it’s hard to parse his thoughts to find the reality. I like the tone of this one although it feels a bit like the narrator is from a cliché horror novel The final paragraph is a winner.

However, this one does stretch our criterion that the main action be on the two primary characters who “win” and “lose.” In this case, the primary focus seems to be on the neutral character. I know I said already that we want to reward ingenuity, but this entry seems to sidestep the challenge for me. This kills me, but I have to give it a 3.

——————————————————————————–

Do I have to gush about the brilliance again, or is it implied? Anyway, if you read them all, you know it as well as we do.

Vindictive Voiceless Vagrants: 5/5/4.5/4.5 = 4.75
The Winner Group: 4.5/5/3.5/3/4 = 4.00

I can’t believe I’m seeing the day that a team scores four but doesn’t win. This has been just insane, guys. Thanks for this ride.

Winner Group, I hate to lose any of you, but votes are due Monday night at 6pm Central.

Cheers.

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