The challenge was to write a story about a character who used to be an animal. It proved, uh, challenging – though there are some really great stories here too.

To address some questions and such: I didn’t know quite how I should run this game; I figured maybe it should have a different identity from writing Survivor. However, as I feel more and more like I won’t be needing writing Survivor, some of those challenges may migrate over. I LOVE Bantam Bulwyr and Fiction 59, among many others. Before the next season starts (or maybe as soon as this one ends), we’ll have a powwow to decide what challenges we might be interested in. I’d change it up now, but that might be a little silly given how close we are to the end.

1 Colin Woolston

“You’re up Cuttie!”
Ben Cutler drew his oversized driver from the bag. He looked down the fairway at the fluttering red flag, then glanced back at Troy, who was grinning idiotically. Dave and Dave stared down the fairway like ancient warriors.
Ben reached for a ball and came up empty. He looked back to the cart and grimaced. “Dammit,” he said.
Troy’s grin took flight as he tossed a ball to Ben. Ben bent to tee the ball and stopped cold. Between his fingers, in looping blue letters was “Happy 40th Mad Dog!” Ben turned the ball in his hand. On the other side, in shaky black letters was written “I know.” Ben let the ball stand on the tee, the markered missive at the contact point, breathed, and launched the ball toward the flag.

***

The door to the restroom on the 14th fairway shuddered. Had anyone been near enough they might have heard a slight gurgle. Ben appeared, letting the door slam behind him and stalked back to his cart.
“Troy still in there?” asked a Dave.
“Yeah, He’s feeling rough. Must be the full moon.”
The Daves exchanged a knowing smile and their cart puttered toward the green.

K: Heh. I never really figured out where this was going until it got there. It’s a nice enough tale, though with lowish stakes. I love that there are two Daves; it’s always bugged me that stories almost never have two people with the same name. Though, this one takes a weird attack on the rules. Werewolves aren’t former wolves who became people – they’re people who occasionally become wolves. I don’t feel strongly enough to disqualify it, though. BRONZE

P: Golf! And werewolves! A perfect mix, if I do say so. Knowing Cuttie (I read that as ‘Cutie’ the first few times I read it… changes the story entirely) is a werewolf is apparently enough to condemn smartass Troy. This one’s got intrigue. I’d like to read more of this.

BRONZE

2 Brooks Maki

Drive north from Pierre to where Highway 204 crosses the river. Get out of your car halfway across. There’s a long house running east to west. Inside the front door is a clock that overwhelms the slight man who will answer your knock, he is pale, spectral, while the grandfather clock stands ten feet tall, solid, with dark wood and bright, polished metal. When it strikes, both you and him will cringe at the volume, and if he seems to shrink more than necessary, write that off. He lives with that noise every day.

Stay. He is hospitable. He will probably invite you to the farthest reaches of the house, where the clock strikes will be a distant rumble every half hour. You may not notice that it’s well after 11 until he takes you to the west wing, to a small room with a identical gigantic clock. The chimes will start then.

After 11 chimes he will mutter “Bippity-Boppity-Boo” into the silence, his shoulders tense, waiting for the 12th chime. It will not come, and the two of you will return to the front door, where the clock will read five minutes after midnight. You will leave, feeling more free than ever before.

K: I smirked. This story has a very different voice; I think I like it, but it takes some getting used to and it wouldn’t work for a story much longer than this. BRONZE

P: I really like the prose of the first paragraph. This could easily have been an unworkable idea, but strong writing saves it.

GOLD

3 Dean Carlson

Sparky hated being a little boy. For one thing you could get away with so much more as a dog than as a boy. For some reason boys aren’t supposed to have chew toys or yell at the mailman when he drops off the mail. Smelling butts? That’s “frowned upon in polite society.” “Thanks for telling me beforehand, you’d think I’d want to know that” Sparky thought to himself while being admonished. Also apparently Sparky is a dumb name for a kid. Instead of being lovingly called by his name, Sparky brought derision from the other kids.

Things weren’t all bad of course. The food was much better than that kibble shit he used to get and the treats actually had some flavor to them. Also opposable thumbs. What a cool concept! What Sparky really missed however, was taking a dump outside. Even when it was cold there was something soothing about squatting over the grass to do one’s business. It was much more relaxing than the cold porcelain toilet he now had to use. Sometimes when no one was paying attention Sparky would quietly go outside, drop his shorts and relieve himself in the backyard. It brought back many happy memories.

K: If the payoff is that he’s going to take a shit outside, why are we first told about how he misses taking shits outside? Sorta ruins the punch of the finale.

P: Ha, funny. Such a fecally focused story (a whole third of it!), but it’s funny, so I guess I don’t care. Greekhouse would frown on the lack of faces in this story, though. Shame, that.

BRONZE

4 Sarah Johnson

She faced the mattress, dabbing her eyes with a cherry-stained pillowcase. He had fainted.

Her mind flashed to a formless time before the change: months of scorching air and murder in a panicked, rock-tumbled landscape. Her brain’s murky undergrowth retreated; she was thinking again. She had not experienced an impulse like this before. She’d lived alone her adult life, fearing her deepest nature. She vomited.

He liked it rough. It turned her on, but her body had bristled, drawing on its most primitive defenses.
She needed a shower but was afraid he’d wake up. He would remember the blood spraying from her eyes. She would try to quiet him with half-assed confessions but he wouldn’t understand. How could he possibly understand? Blood was everywhere; she was a freak of nature.

She packed a suitcase, grabbing a tin of cash and a dishtowel on the way out.

An hour later he found her note: “I’m going back to Texas. I had a great time tonight – I’m so sorry. I couldn’t help it. I’m a horned lizard.”

K: This is an instance where giving away the animal is the best and most darkly funny possible finish. Sex seems almost too obvious for most of these challenges, but given the interesting conundrums that sex would pose for this character, it’s definitely on the table. SILVER

P: **blink blink** I get the feeling there will be a number of stories that simply make no sense. It got a chuckle out of me with the “horned lizard” gag (though I weirdly enough did see that coming with the eye blood and the criteria for the challenge). She must have certain… talents in order to make a dude fall asleep beside a girl who had squirted mass amounts of blood at him through her eyes.

5 Matthew Gilman

“Sweetie. Sweetie c’mon. Changing time.”
He swam up from his murky dream.
“Please, sweetie? It’s your turn…”
He lifted himself from the silk sheets and trudged from the bed to the ornate ivory-carved crib in the corner. Where it slept. The abomination.
Stop thinking, he scolded himself. Take care of your offspring.
A web of viscous slime stretched over the toys his wife insisted on leaving in the crib. The nightlight glimmered sickly off every surface. A foul smell rose as he lifted the thing wrapped in its musty, soaked blankets.
It made noises. Low, throaty groans backed by a constant chirping ululation. “uuuuaaaaaaaaauuuuuaaaaaa.” Over and over again.

As he was climbing back into bed, his wife chimed blithely, “You see?? I told you!”
“Darling. Please. It was just noise.”
“No!” she hissed. “No. He went ‘DAAAaaaaaDAAaaaaa.’ You see? ‘Dada!’ He recognizes you.”
He pulled the blanket up over his head. “Soon he’ll have lips to kiss,” she continued. “I will turn him into our boy! A proper heir. You’ll see.”
The Prince didn’t dare contradict his wife anymore. It wasn’t worth it. He closed his eyes hoping soon he’d dream again of his old pond. His true home.

K: Whoa. This seems like a fairly obvious story to do, but the horror and black humor of it all made it work regardless. No happy ending for this fairy tale. Well, I suppose there might be, but it isn’t for now. SILVER

P: Yeah, I suppose that makes sense. Squicky as hell – sort of reminds me of Eraserhead, so you’ll have that – it gives me a sense of unease, but doesn’t necessarily pay it off quite as much as I’d like.

6 Erik Sundberg

Here comes Mr. Alvarius. I can’t stand this fat fuck.

He waddles up to the counter and croaks the same old thing through his fat, ugly lips.

“Frrrappachino.”

I sigh a little louder than I mean to, and go to fetch his drink.

Thinning, grey hair, bulging eyes. He’s staring at nothing, and occasionally licking his lips. Goddamn, he’s just repulsive.

I hand over the drink, which is greedily snatched from my hands, and his tongue darts out to lick the slush that’s spilled over the edge. It takes all I have to hide my visible disgust. He plops himself over in the corner table, and I do my best to ignore him.

After a few minutes, I turn in response to the opening door, and see one of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever seen. This time, I can’t hide my revulsion as she bypasses the counter and goes straight to Alvarius’ table!!

She sits next to him in the booth, whispers in his ear, then actually tickles him under his fat chin and kisses the back of his neck. Afterwards, she gives him $50!

He waddles off, she remains behind, eyes staring into the distance. What the fuck just happened?

K: Holy crap – a former poisonous toad selling his own venom. That is flatly brilliant. The prose wasn’t keeping up with the story all the way through, but the idea is just too smart for me to ignore. This character deserves more – he may belong in a comic book or something. Nice touch with the name “Alvarius.” GOLD

P: Heh. It’s an old, cheap gag, but it’s got a certain level of humor to it. The narration is pretty cut and dry, but I guess I’d be pretty repulsed if I had to picture that.

7 Andrew M

Buddy has woken up very morning since his transformation to a world of blinding color. The crippling migraines are constant. Buddy has a debilitating painkiller addiction from trying to stem the constant assault on his eyes. To make matters worse, Buddy can’t hear or smell like he used to. When he watches television, the volume is at its maximum, which does not endear him to his neighbors. Buddy no longer finds joy in food, previously one of his favorite parts of the day, because of the lack of aroma gives everything a bland taste. Anymore, Buddy spends his time bedridden in a druggy haze, dreaming about days lazed away in the sunny spot on the couch waiting for his humans to get home from work.

K: Poor guy. It could be moving, but it’s just a list of symptoms rather than a story. A shame, because I’m pretty sure I could feel a lot for this character.

P: Poor Buddy. Short and to the point this one is. That’s fine and all, but everything seems kind of… there. Color vision, deadened smell, hearing, and taste aren’t quite enough to pull me in.

8 Shawn Ashley

He hid among the shadows. He seemed to fit there, his thin frame, hollowed eyes, and pale skin. Like he was a cloak of darkness. He never looked completely clean either. No matter how many times he showered.
He was so thin that his skin seemed to be draped over him. Like the skin on his face was sliding off.
His beady black eyes followed her every move as he remained draped in darkness. She was obviously drunk, stumbling and muttering away to herself. Must be from the local college, out drinking, heading back to the dorm.
He knew that HE was watching her. HE followed all the girls. HE who attacked them with all the rage of a lion.
And he, himself, was always there to pick up the leftovers, once HE left them…sometimes still alive.
That’s what vultures did. Picked on the leftover garbage.
He remembered being one too vividly. In his past life. The picking apart of animal remains with his beak. How rotting meat tasted so divine.
HE came in for the attack, it was over in minutes. HE left, panting, without looking back.
He approached her. Didn’t look so much like trash to him.

K: I didn’t really need to be told he was a vulture; that much was clear. I really like this idea but the story didn’t trust itself enough. BRONZE

P: I dig the metaphor (and now I sound like a Hold Steady song). The comparisons between predatory conquest and sexual conquest are clearly laid out here, and in an animalistic way, the parallels work out nicely.

GOLD

9 Joseph Rakstad

Dean entered the car on the passenger side. “It’s done.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. I transformed, found an entrance point, acquired the target… bingo.”
The driver stared silently at Dean for a moment, then turned to look back at the location. Soon the fallout would begin and he wanted to watch every moment of it.
Sure enough, within minutes pale man in a Best Buy blue polo came out, but he was carrying something… a little girl. He gently placed her in the car and peeled out of the driveway.
“You idiot, you stung a little girl?”
“Wha? I thought that’s what you wanted?”
“No you moron, I told you to sting Kelly.”
“Yeah, Kelly is a girl’s name! That’s the little girl isn’t it?”
The driver slapped his forehead.
“The girl isn’t Kelly?” whined Dean.
“No jerkweed, the man’s name is Kelly! I wanted you to sting him!”
“Oh… sorry Beau.”

K: I shouldn’t encourage this behavior, but I did smile a few times at this. It focuses too much on the meta and too little on the bee thing, which is a bummer, because this admittedly has legs. Though, yes, the “Kelly is a girl’s name” thing is easily the oldest not-really-a-joke in the book.

P: This actually sorta worked for me, obvious meta aside. The idea of being able to transform to and from the animal form at will is an interesting take on this challenge. If I’m able to look past the meta (barely), the gender name confusion is… confusing, but entertaining to an extent, even though it really makes next to no sense.

BRONZE

10 Matt Novak

I am broken. Relegated to the dust heap scraps and bits of fabric my only friends. I lay there until a girl comes, sees my bright colors and calls me her own.

She gives me a proper home. Fixes me up. Sews the tears shut, reworks the strings on my arms. I am given a new name, and I forget my old one. She trims my wild hairs, takes my measurements and tailors a suit coat to fit. It feels stiff. I do not have the freedom that I once had to wave my arms wildly.

The girl puts on music and we dance. It is a foxtrot, and I feel the beat pulse. There is order in the music, where before I knew only chaos.

One night her mother comes up the stairs while we dance. She is stunning. Long legs and a soft feminine curves. An old impulse careens through my mind, but I resist the urge. “I am no longer Animal,” I tell myself, forcing reason to drown out the images in my head. Images of screaming, of chasing. I listen, but do not speak, the old familiar words: Woman! Woman! Arrrgh!

K: Good Lord, you guys love to test me by having fun with the rules, don’t you? I was prepared for a sad ending, given the tone, until I realized this wasn’t just a former stuffed animal, but a stuffed Animal. It’s more concept than execution, but I did give you the nod of recognition for taking this risk. BRONZE

P: Groan. I’d dq this one, but why? It’s the same type of awful pun that gave us “first taste of power”, and try as I might to avoid it, I’m a sucker for reprehensible puns. Besides, this is pretty funny. A pun and a bit of humor don’t  exactly equal gold, but it’s a solid gag.

SILVER

11 Bret Highum

Shivering, Franklin snuggled into his cardboard and rag-lined nest, tucked back in a culvert. He pulled out the thin sheet of newspaper and looked at the picture again. Maybe if he was clean and his nose wasn’t freshly broken he’d look more like that picture, but it was him. He’d had one of the people who stood around the scary barrel of smoking flames read the words to him. “Franklin Sommers- Heir missing, presumed dead,” the man had read, looking at him strangely.

No kidding, “Hair missing,” thought Franklin, looking at his bare arm. He missed his warm, luxurious fur coat and his sense of smell. He couldn’t find any food with this dull nose, and he was hungry. When he had confronted the gang chasing him like his instincts told him to, they took his coat and smacked him around. For the thousandth time since waking in this form, he cursed the foul witch who had swapped his body with this “Franklin”. He wanted to be back in his old body, roaming where he wanted, eating whatever he wished, and watching all the other animals flee from him in terror.

Franklin just wanted to be a skunk again.

K: I like the setup and I think the payoff has potential, but the two didn’t work together so well. “Hair missing” was a funny touch, but this story feels rather unfinished. Barely begun, really.

P: Heh, lots of last line jokes here. This one does it up properly. The idea of loving the freedom and isolation that skunkdom held for the protagonist is good, adding in the fact that he thoroughly hates his newer, more presentable form is even better.

BRONZE

12 Eric Schapp

The wind was blowing though my hair. Only four stories up, but that’s about as high as I ever liked to be. Funny the things we miss. Its not as if I was a Gambel’s Quail with magnificent plumage. No, I was the lowly pigeon who, only flew when I absolutely had to. “A rat with wing,” that’s what they called me. But I miss everything about it. The warm sun, the cart lady that fed me, going wherever I wanted. Now I have none of that left. I need the feeling of air one more time. I can’t keep living this lie; I’m not human I’m a bird. And I’ll die flying with the wind in my hair.

K: It’s an interesting end to this character’s life, but showing the lead-up to this would have been more interesting and dark. Like the Buddy story, it was more a list of regrets than a story, though the suicide did add something. BRONZE

P: Now, see… this one gets to me. Sure, it’s dark (and brief), but it shares a fair bit in its brevity. I also like the Gambel’s Quail reference, as it just seems so… fitting for this type of character.

SILVER

13 AMR

I overestimated the agility of canine-body as I attempted to cross the transportation route. The speed of the transporters was too great and though one altered its path to avoid me, another moved late and crushed the body.

As canine-body immobilly leaked fluids, the shiny and wide vehicle which caused the injury stopped and its simian operator exited and approached. Then it spoke, “Oh dear, I’ve killed a dog.”

As canine-body failed, I fled it for the liveliness of the simian-body. I was fortunate to have such an advanced body (I may have had to resorted to an insectoid), yet I was not to remain in this simian-body long. It was nearing the end of its life-span, and it ached. I only hoped it would last long enough to find me a more suitable host-body.

Through interface, I accessed Walter-body’s ability to operate the vehicle (and its self-name). Simian-body directed the vehicle to a fueling station, where stood a large, hairy simian with a large vehicle. Oh, this simian’s body would do for quite some time.

Though the syntax interface was not final, I took action. “Fff-Fuck! You! Moth-er!” Walter-body shouted at the large simian, which flexed its musculature and reached for its blade.

K: I was kind of digging the idea already, but the dog’s spirit setting the first human’s body up to be murdered was a clever and sick touch. This is a little like Fallen, which I liked until the final, retarded twist. This has no retarded twists, and I dig it. GOLD

P: I’m getting a sort of “Fallen” vibe from this one. “Syntax interface”? That’s pretty awesomely nerdy, and I love it for that quality. The ending is great.

GOLD

14 David Larson

I sit, unmoving, in the front hallway, glass eyes staring out of a body stretched over a wire and foam core, my mouth stitched closed and unable to warn of noises and intruders.
How could they do this? I wish they could hear my whimpers. I thought they loved me! I itch all over. Oh God, how I itch!

K: Wow, did I really not say that the character has to be human now? It would seem not, so “former animal” is fair game here. This is a little slice of Alfred Hitchcock or something, right here. SILVER

P: 59, eh? I thought as much the first time I read it. WHat this one lacks  on the “spirit of the law” side of things, it certainly makes up in the “letter of the law” department”. Saying that is kind of shortchanging the story itself, though. It’s the old “no mouth, must scream” business. Awful stuff. Nicely done.

SILVER

15 Ian Pratt

“Brenda, please,” begged Chad. A couple lil’ tears popped out the
corners of his eyes.

“No, Chad, it’s over.” Brenda turned her head to look at the fish tank
on the other side of the restaurant. So many lil’ fish. So many fish
fish fishy

“Brenda, please,” sobbed Chad. “We can make this work.”

“No, Chad, I’m leaving.” The fish were gathering around a little
castle nestled between the coral formations on the bottom of the tank.
How interesting, those fishy lil’ fishy fish fishy

“Brenda, baby, no, please.” Chad slumped out of his chair and sunk to
his knees on the floor, oblivious to the stares and embarrassed
mutterings of the restaurant’s other patrons.

“No, Chad, I’m a real woman now, not just your little kitten who will
sit around and fishy lil’ fishy fish lil’ fish”

fishy fishy fish fishy fish

Most people left out of politeness, but a curious few stayed to watch
as the woman scampered up onto the bar. She’d given one of the waiters
a pretty fierce scratching when he tried to stop her from climbing
into the aquarium, but the hostess and a couple sous chefs seemed to
have her cornered for now.

K: I laughed at every usage of fishy fishy fish fishy. This setting was perfect for the ridiculous story to be told, Chad is a fantastically pathetic character to fall in love with his former cat, and the cat trying to carry on a real conversation while unable to deal with her instincts was awesome. GOLD

P: Haha, I was hoping someone would go for a cat. Interesting, inattentive, infuriating creatures, they are. This one captures the mood nicely. The fixation on the fish, the emotional boredom, all of it goes where it ought to go. The idea of cornering her at the end makes me chuckle. Good luck, restaurant staff…

BRONZE

—————————————————-

So, do I call attention to Pete’s weird scoring?  Nah.  I really like Pete.

My stupid wiener of a wife didn’t show up, and I’m only typing this because she’s looking over my shoulder.  Seriously, though, she left again to a prior engagement while forgetting this (much more important) one.  Anyway, enough about her.  Ian was awesome, because Ian is awesome.  AMR snagged double-gold after an entire season of getting a ton of silvers and bronzes, but no golds.  Will Erik’s push be enough for the playoffs?!?!!?!?!?!  I’m getting excited, bitches!  Unfortunately, the wait will be longer than normal – Pete has a vacation coming.

So, for next Monday night at 9pm Central, give me a story (300 words this time) about a character who used to be an appliance.  Yes, I’m kidding.  Write a story about someone who’s just away from the action.  It can be a character in a room where a shootout happens, a character just outside a burning building, whatever – but the character (or characters) is/are spectators to something big, or maybe they’re oblivious to it.  This one’s tough, and I don’t know quite how to make it awesome, but I want to run it and doing it when you have a week to think seemed like the right time.

So close, Prosers.  It’s been fun.