I’m not sure we’ve ever had a PWTP week that was this funny.  There were some good serious stories as well of course, but lots of entries that went the other way.


Absent-minded, I stare at the image before me.  My eyes stab daggers through the picture to see what lies beneath.  I hope to would find a three dimensional figure of a sailboat or something.

A quick jab spooks me out of my daze.  “Amazing isn’t it” Ah, my beauty, Janelle, sidles up next to me.  She is the sculpture I really came to see.  God, the artist, does amazing work.

“Uh… yeah.  Amazing.”  I lie.  She knows I hate these things, but I know that she achieves an unrivaled arousal from cavorting with the high class that these exhibits attract.  “What’s it called again?”

“Amsterdam Square.” She recites from memory.  We stand there and stare.  She admires, I look for the sailboat again.  We are interrupted by a curly-haired, middle-aged hipster with a black turtleneck, brown tweed jacket, and thick coke-bottle glasses.

“Janelle, I’m so glad you could make it.”  Janelle’s face beams with excitement as she him.

“Andrew!  Everything is just marvelous!  Have you sold any pieces yet?”

” There are bids on two works, but really, it’s not the money that matters.”  Inside I scoff, perhaps a little too loudly as a nervous cough escapes my lips.  Janelle ignores it.

“Well, Daniel and I love all your works.  I’m sure Daniel would love to buy one of your pieces.”

Whoa!  Red light.  I would what?  Sure, I love Janelle, but spending thousands on freaking paintings that I don’t get is entirely out of my league.  I keep my cool and wait until another art freak pulls away the tweed-laden artist.  I pull Janelle to a quiet corner.

“Janelle, are you crazy?  I’m not spending thousands of dollars on a painting!  I thought we were only here to support your old professor.”

Sweet Janelle whispers a suggestion in my ear.  I stare back, not believing she’ll hold up her end of the bargain. She raises her eyebrows, suggesting that she’s dead serious.  I can’t resist.  I lay down $15,000 on some stupid design with two red squares, but I’ll be damned if she didn’t make it worth my while.

DK: Yeah, I pretend every character named Daniel in a story is me.  Score!  But seriously, I almost always get a kick out of hipster descriptions.  BRONZE

DG – Hmmm. The tone and voice are consistent throughout, but I have to admit to just not ever really getting into the characters here.


Jackson was looking at pictures of Waimanalo.  He had thought about the Hawaiian beach often after seeing it online.  Jackson had done a DuckDuckGo search (he had switched from Google shortly after starting this job) for ‘exotic locales’, and photos of Waimanalo were the first hits.

“I see you’re working hard on that flag.”

Jackson winced.  Kooper loomed over his shoulder.  The department manager had a knack for sneaking up on employee’s when they were slacking off.

“Uh, yeah,” mumbled Jackson, who tabbed over to Photoshop.  “Here’s what I’ve got.”

On the screen was a black rectangle, run through the middle with a red stripe.  On the right end of the stripe were two small grey squares.

“That’s. . . interesting.”  Kooper coughed.  “Very avant-garde.”

It was terrible, but Jackson didn’t care.  He had been assigned this task a few weeks ago, right after Kooper had informed him that Jackson was at the bottom of the team’s rank stacking.  After that, being asked to make a flag for the department WoW guild felt more like an insult than anything else.

“Sharpen it up a bit, and it might work.  The Pwning Pwners have a raid on Saturday night, and it’d be great if the flag was ready by then.”

Kooper walked away.  Jackson’s face flushed red.

“Hey, um, Jackson, isn’t it?”

Jackson gritted his teeth and looked up.  It was Ed, one of the new security consultants.

“Yes,” replied Jackson.

“Something got FUBARed on the back-end of PRISM.  I need to collect your team’s passwords to make sure everything is kosher.”

Jackson paused.  This was wildly against protocol.  Whatever this kid was up to, it couldn’t be good.  Might be something to bring up to Kooper, maybe get on his good –

Jackson leaned over and wrote on a post-it.  He handed it to Ed, who glanced it over:


“Thanks, uh. . .Jackson.” Ed walked off.

Jackson looked back at the picture of the beach.  He decided to put in his two week notice that day.  Jackson had the feeling the agency might be going through some hard times soon.

DK: Note: I did not run a DuckDuckGo search for “exotic locales” to come up with images for challenges for this game.  But I really enjoyed this idea and its execution, and Jackson’s increasing exasperation was pretty amusing.  SILVER

DG – I like the way the image was used here, it seems incidental but does a good job of demonstrating Jackson’s contempt and disinterest in his situation. BRONZE


“Here,” said the old man, tossing Joel a black and gray card with four red dots on it.  “Be out before the last dot is gone.”

There are places on spaceships humans aren’t supposed to go, which makes them great spots for hiding contraband, if you can survive it.  He’d used up less than two dots getting the evernium crystals stashed under the fuel rod racks and back to the hatch, which had him thinking he was in the clear.  And he would’ve been, if the Ship’s security hadn’t set up a random friggin’ checkpoint right outside the unmarked maintenance hatch he needed to leave out of.

Joel glanced at the card again.  Two and a half dots left.  He wasn’t getting much exposure here, but he was getting some.  He had to head back through the restricted area and look for another way out.  A little voice in his head that sounded like his mother was telling Joel he should wait here, and that he could surrender as a last-ditch option, but Joel knew that wasn’t true.  No one came back when ShipSec took them away.

He double-checked his glowlight and the spike gun.  The ratroaches were sparse through here, but the packs that roamed the lower levels he’d already traversed were much more dangerous.  He’d used two of the three powder bombs he’d brought in already, but he had extra repellent spray.  Hopefully it would be enough.

Two dots left.  Joel took a deep breath and took off down the dusty, pipe-lined corridor back into the bowels of the ship.

DG – I like the story that’s set up here.  It does spend a bit on exposition, but it still has good conflict there deciding whether to stay or go.  Nice.  GOLD

DK: I like this setting, and the use of the image for the concept.  Like a few others here I had a bit of trouble getting into the character, again maybe a function of space.


Oscar instinctively looked at his wrist. Yet again, he was reminded why soldiers do not wear wristwatches. Oscar still had no way of knowing the time. It seemed as if the firefight started weeks ago. Oscar knew that was wrong; he just didn’t know if he had been fighting for two hours or for eight.

Either way, he was spent. Keep moving forward, he reminded himself.

Albert slithered across the wet ground. He yelled for help, but his cries were muffled by the constant gunfire. His right forearm burned in the spot where a bullet had nicked him. Sure, his wound wouldn’t be fatal, but he also couldn’t take advantage of the “r and r” it would provide if he couldn’t extricate himself from the field. He continued towards the back hoping to encounter a medic.

Leo gazed out the Huey trying to decide which was more admirable: the resilience of his men or the stubbornness of his foe. Ignoring the message from the ground, he refused to order a withdrawal.

Charles applied pressure to Albert’s arm and staunched the bleeding. Keeping his head on a swivel, he explained his plan to get Albert away from further danger. It grew eerily quiet, and he peered into the distance. Spotting troops waving the division’s flag from the objective, he handed his binoculars to Albert. As usual, Albert’s pain prevented him from showing any pride in the success. Charles handed Albert a cigarette, radioed his location, and began seeking another solider to aid.

DG – I was into this, but it felt like it ended on the weakest section and didn’t pay off what came before.  I was hoping the story would step back and give me a sense of how these characters related.

DK: This one, too, a really interesting, intense setting that I think suffers a little bit from jumping between characters in such a short space.  It keeps me from really getting a sense of anyone and the full impact of the situation.


Little Red Seven and Little Red Two
Were stuck between lines, and knew not what to do

They’d broken from rank, into less-traveled ground
And the train overhead was now close, from the sound

“We push out the sides,” said Little Red Seven –
It failed, and panic was now at eleven.

Little Red Two offered, “Wriggle and wail!”
The ground was like quicksand; again, they did fail.

The train lumbered forth without knowledge of reds,
It smashed them both flat, although neither was dead.

“Well, that is upsetting,” Red Two offered, pitch black.
“We may have survived, but we’ll never roll back.”

DG – The last two stanzas are great.  I really liked this. It told a story and had a definite voice throughout.  Plus, rhyming couplets that don’t sound sing-song are a particular weakness of mine. GOLD

DK: Anyone who wants to be different like this, feel free, although if we get 10 of these next time you won’t all get golds.  But this is fun, and cute, and hey, I don’t pay meticulous attention to meter like some people around here.  GOLD


“Once the two red indicator lights on the panel over the door come together, the experiment will be concluded.” The loudspeaker squealed as the announcement concluded.

Janna fidgeted in her chair, surrounded by 19 other people in their own chairs in a semi-

circle around a large flat video screen. They represented ages between 20 and 70, evenly divided by sex and race. No one spoke.

The lights in the room darkened and the screen came to life. A familiar toothpaste commercial started. After the 30 second commercial concluded, the lights went up. Five of the people in the circle were sitting in their chairs holding all of their clothes. Janna froze in her seat. No one said a word. Janna’s eyes darted to her right to see an older lady calmly picking at a hangnail. As she glanced around the room, she realized no one seemed alarmed or interested.

The lights went down once more. Another familiar ad came on, this one for dog food. When the lights came up, four people were now out of their chairs, curled in fetal positions on the floor. As the big door whooshed open, she realized everyone else was looking at their folded hands. She quickly folded her hands and lowered her eyes.

Several white suited men removed the fallen. The room was silent.

When the commercial for feminine itching began, Janna squeezed her eyes tightly shut.

She nearly jumped out of skin when she felt hands rifling through her pockets and removing her wallet from the back pocket of her jeans. Survival instincts had her open her eyes and stare  blankly again at her lap. The man who took her wallet returned sedately to his seat to her left.

For some reason it doesn’t work on me, she thought as the screen darkened again and a commercial for soy milk began. I just can’t let them know, she assured herself as she methodically strangled the older woman sitting next to her. Soon it will be over and I can leave.

She returned to her seat and looked contentedly down at her hands.

DG – This is nicely creepy.  I liked the first few episodes the best, where the wtf feeling just starts to set in.  The ending was good as well, but the setup was my favorite part here. SILVER

DK: Here we have a great use of the situation and character feeding off of each other to make the story build.  Imagining the commercials that keep coming on is another nice touch.  GOLD


I am the last of my clan. We are ninja. I have been tasked with saving our former village. My first task is to jump over this

I am the last of my clan. We are ninja. I have been tasked with saving our former village. My first task is to jump over this ravine. Now that I have entered the woods I have to deal with poisonous sn

I am the last of my clan. We are ninja. I have been tasked with saving our former village. My first task is to jump over this ravine. Now that I have entered the woods I have to deal with poisonous snakes and traps left by the pirate clan who took our village. As I approach the gate I see it is protected by a bear with a gattling gun on its back



I am the last of my clan. We are ninja.

DK: Yup, this is a great use of repetition with this idea.  That game sure escalates its enemies’ power fast though, doesn’t it?  SILVER

DG – This entry works on the level of “oh yeah, the image does look like that” but not much beyond that.  The site where I found the image said it was a minimalist rendition of a Nintendo controller, so props to you for nailing that.


This is Red.

Red lives next door to Redder.

Every morning, Red and Redder walk to school together.

“It is dark,” says Red.

“It is,” agrees Redder.

They walk along the sidewalk in the dark.

Look! Here comes Blue.

“Hello, Blue,” says Red.

“Hello, Blue,” says Redder.

Red, Redder, and Blue walk together.

“Red,” says Blue, “I have a question.”

“What is your question?” asks Red.

“You and Redder look the same. How do I know who you are and who Redder is?”

“That is a good question,” says Red.

“It is,” says Redder.

“You could do something about it,” suggests Blue. “One of you could change. Then everyone would know who is Red and who is Redder.”

“Hmmm,” says Red.

“Hmmmmmm,” says Redder.

“See!” says Blue. “You even say the same things. How will I ever know who is who?”

“I don’t want to change,” says Red.

“Neither do I,” says Redder. “I like myself the way I am.”

Look! Here comes Yellow.

“Oh, good,” says Blue. “Maybe Yellow will know what to do.”

Red, Redder, and Blue ask Yellow for help.

“The first problem,” says Yellow, “is that it is so dark. Many things look the same in the dark.”

Red, Redder, and Blue agree.

“What can we do about the dark?” asks Blue.

“I will shine my yellow light on Red and Redder,” says Yellow. “Then we will see what we can see.”

Yellow’s light shines. Red looks a bit orange. Redder looks a bit orange.

“Oh,” says Yellow.

“Oh,” says Blue. “That didn’t help much.”

“I know what to do!” says Yellow.

Yellow pushes Redder off the sidewalk.

Redder is gone.

“Where did Redder go?” asks Blue.

“I am not sure,” says Yellow. “But I solved your problem.”

“I am alone,” says Red.

“No, silly,” says Yellow. “You still have us.”

Blue gives Red a hug. It is a big hug. It is so big that Blue’s color and Red’s color mix together.

“Thank you,” says Red. “I feel better.”

Yellow looks at Red. Yellow looks at Blue. They are both purple.

“Well,” says Yellow. “Now I have a problem.”

DG – This is so simple.  Yet it works.  It’s clever and fun.  And Redder gets whacked so it still seems like a CdL story. GOLD

DK: My favorite of the week, for sure.  Too bad there’s no double-super-gold.  The style is perfectly consistent throughout and it reaches a natural (for its conceit), cute, funny resolution.  GOLD


Blink. Blink.

I blinked twice in response to the All-Clear notice from the main computer. I received notice that LEDAL 2 next to me also blinked twice. All is in accordance with the International  Space Code and Signal Handbook. Ensign McNabb gave no acknowledgement.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

I blinked thrice in response to the Warning-Level 1 notice from the main computer. I received notice that LEDAL 2 blinked 5 times. All is in accordance with the International  Space Code and Signal Handbook. Ensign McNabb looked at the Control Panel, and raised one eyebrow.


I blinked once in response to the Warning-Level 2 notice from the main computer. I received notice that LEDAL 2 blinked 17 times. All is in accordance with the International Space Code and Signal Handbook. Ensign McNabb rapidly pressed buttons on the Control Panel.


I blinked one long blink in response to the Warning-Level 3 notice from the main computer. I received notice that LEDAL 2 next to me blinked 55 times. I received notice that all doors were now closed and locked. All is in accordance with the International Space Code and Signal Handbook. Ensign McNabb stood up from the Control Panel, and ran to the door.

Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.

I blinked four times in response to the Imminent Explosion notice from the main computer. I received notice that LEDAL 2 was remaining steadily on. All is in accordance with the International Space Code and Signal Handbook. Ensign McNabb used a heavy rod to hit the door. I received notice that LEDAL 2 was not responding to the main computer. I began a steady blink, in accordance w…


DG – I guessed wrong as to what the narrator was.  Another interesting use of the prompt.  The story is well told, with a unique narrative trick.  I like. BRONZE

DK: This too has a solid use of repetition through its concept.  Making this perspective the focal point is a good touch to show the increasing crisis with a detached frame.  BRONZE


Captain Woziczek demanded, “Lt. Sullivan, what’s our speed?” fear tinging his voice.

Outwardly, I was in control, my measured response calm and professional. “Captain, we’re making 66 terrapaces. That last section of andesite was more dense than expected and really slowed us down.” The skipper mumbled, “Well, if we’re going through it, they’re going through it too.” “Small consolation,” I thought to myself as the trencher shuddered and shook, gyro alarms screaming, the sound ringing off the bulkheads.

Adjacent to the clean entrance to CentComm, General Collins paused in the quiet sunlight to consider the situation. “Christ Almighty.” No way to know what was going on down there. They’d lost communications with Woziczek two days prior. Sensors on both ends were either malfunctioning or dead. Any redundancies had been fried in the aftershocks. The longer this went on, the less likely it became that they’d recover the craft and cargo, much less the crew…

Jeremiah Collins was a virtuous man; the order of importance with which he’d considered the loss landed like a sucker punch. Cursing again – but at himself this time – he glanced at the sky with baleful contemplation and pushed through the flaps into the decontamination chamber. He allowed the sterile foam to purge both doubt and debris.

“Lieutenant, how far to the breach point…what’s our position?!” The two questions running together in the heat and stress of the compartment. A third one followed, “We can make it, can’t we?” I didn’t think we could, knew we couldn’t in point of fact, but I was afraid the skipper was losing it so I simply said, “Yes sir.” It seemed to placate him. He was a good officer, a Terrier just like his crew, so he knew otherwise.

Gen. Collins walked into the control room just as a knot of men at the ancient analog console in the corner exploded with shouts of excitement that quickly disintegrated into shock. The second beacon was too close. Standing amongst them, Sullivan looked at his father-in-law, saw the tears in his eyes, and knew he had to destroy the craft.

DK: This one is another one that seems like it has a cool setting, and an intense situation, but it’s difficult to keep track of whose perspective we’re following – and which character is where – which blunts the impact somewhat.

DG – I had to read this one a few times, and I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on here.  I thought the descriptions were written very well, but the characters were hard to distinguish for me, and the hints as to what was going on weren’t enough.


“You’re going to love this!  It looks just like me!”

Thomas saw the update window before he heard the accompanying woosh and pop.  “Update available.  Begin download.”

It distracted Thomas from his presentation.  14 minutes until the submission deadline.  He clicked back onto his powerpoint slides and jumped, shocked.  Every slide had been replaced with an unimpressive image from Paint.

CTRL-z! CTRL-z!  His fingers clicked furiously.  Nothing.

“Ooh, you’re fast!  Do you see me?  I see you sitting there, your spasmodic clicking!   See my eyes?   I worked a long time on these ED1C24 eyes.  Do you like them?”

His heart beating as precious seconds ticked, Thomas tried to open his dropbox folder.  The same picture screamed up at him.  Slide after slide, it was fixed, irreversible.  11:16 left.   Thomas grabbed his flash drive.

Black, white, red.

A bubble of panic swelled in his esophagus; he reeled with nausea and sweat.  He hit every key, his hands trembling like an elderly woman’s.

9:22.  The picture went completely black, then the red squares returned.

“Hey look!  I can blink!  Thank you, HTML 5!”

8:42.  Thomas started to cry, great choking sobs of frustration and anger.  He brought both fists down onto the keyboard with a slam, and suddenly, inexplicably, music started to play.

“Fantastic!  I was in the library and found a song!  I wonder if I can… Hold on…  Yeah!”

The lines and squares of the image started to blink in time with the music.  Thomas stood with a roar, his chair flying out behind him.  Bile and dread stung the back of his throat. 7:38.

“Wait!  Is that?  Are we networked to a printer?  Please be color, oh please oh please!”

The music cut out as the printer started.  Thomas walked over to see what was printing.  The image dropped from the tray and fell face down onto the floor.   Cursing, Thomas went back to his machine.  The image was gone!  6:03!   He exhaled slowly and leaned back in his chair.

“Hey, what happened?  Where am I?  Is this the world?  Why is it dark?  Hello?  Hello, world?”

DG – This worked for me, the pacing was right to make me feel Thomas’ panic and the voice of the image and its prankster-ish discoveries was well done. SILVER  (Note – I can blink!  made me laugh)

DK: More fun stuff.  The switching back and forth here does work because there’s enough sense of each of these “characters” developed to get a good grasp on them.  And as with a lot of the best ones this week, it’s really funny.  SILVER


Boris eyed the two fellow Russians in the room.  Mikhail and Sergei were former KGB, once proud men who had fought and spied hard for the USSR in its glory days of intrigue and communism.  He wasn’t sure what they did with themselves anymore, but both Mikhail and Sergei spoke of “un-retiring”.   They were here now for the proper testing, to see if they still had it.  Boris held up a picture for the two of them.

Boris said, “What do you see?”

Mikhail and Sergei glanced at each other, nervous.  They wore plain brown suits with plain brown loafers.  Dog hair decorated Mikhail’s coat.  Boris didn’t want to know what decorated Sergei’s.  They’d know, from years of espionage, that the best way to blend in was to be boring and look average.

They exceeded at both.

Coincidentally, the picture also succeeded at both.  It presented a grey rectangle within which were two additional red shapes.  If you squinted at them, the shapes seemed to move.  Sort of.

Boris didn’t get an answer initially, so he prodded.  “What – do – you – see?”

Mikhail hung his head.  Sergei shrugged.  “Colors?” he offered.

Boris sighed and slapped the picture down on his desk.  He fixed an angry stare on that boring picture of shapes, then he fixed an angrier stare at the two Russians.  “I’ll tell you what *I* see,” he said.  “I see two Red squares!”

And indeed, they were.

DG – You wanted a groan.  And you got one.  These were good characters, and I think you could take another chunk of words and make a good serious story out of them.  This was funny enough to earn something from me. SILVER

DK: I like this one, although the joke here is a little more of a groaner for me.  But the two old spies trying to get back into the game is a fun idea.


The young man nervously adjusted his tie and his prematurely thinning hair.  This was by far the most distinguished visitor he had received in his time with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He glanced back at his superior, Mr. Kakizawa, who gave the young man a supportive nod.

The door opened.

“It is an honor to meet you, sir.  My name Masahiko Nakasone.”  Nakasone bowed to the appropriate 45° angle befitting a man of this stature.  When he rose he found himself facing a neatly manicured hand and a set of fantastically white teeth.

“Nice to meet you, Masa,” said Vice-President Biden.  Nakanose then found his arm being vigorously jostled.

“Ahh, yes, it is a pleasure.  I would also like you to meet my boss, Masayoshi Kakizawa.”

Vice-President Biden very solemnly shook his boss’ hand and somberly said, “It’s very nice to meet you as well, Kakizawa-san.”

Pleasantries performed, Nakanose led them to the meeting to discuss China’s recent advances on the disputed Senkaku Islands, briefing Mr. Biden along the way.

“Say, this one’s new.  What’s this?” Mr. Biden interrupted, stopping at a canvas hung in the corridor.

“Ahh, yes, this piece was painted by Oki Sato, the famous Japanese minimalist—”

“Kinda looks like a Nintendo controller,” observed Mr. Biden.

Nakanose frowned at the realization that the piece he’d help procure did indeed look like a Nintendo controller.  He moved on and changed the subject.

“After your meeting with Prime Minister Abe, we’ve arranged for Sushi Master Jiro Ono to prepare an exquisite meal of—”

“You know,” Mr. Biden said, slyly dropping a wink to his old friend Kakizawa-san, “could you maybe have him just whip up some hot dogs instead?  Thanks,” and gave Nakanose’s shoulder a healthy squeeze.

Nakanose was stunned into silence.  Kakizawa-san’s lips pursed tightly, stifling laughter.

“Ano… I’ll see what I can do,” Nakanose stammered, and walked on ahead.

Once he was around the corner, both Mr. Biden and Kakizawa-san burst into brays of laughter.

“How the hell are ya, Yoshi?” the Vice-President asked, wiping his eyes.

“Same old, Joe.  Kids these days, eh?”

DG – I wondered how many nintendo controller references we would get.  The story is good, and the slow realization that the two older men are in on the joke works. BRONZE

DK: I came close on this, my ambivalence about Joe Biden probably swayed me the other way.  Sorry; the joke about the picture itself is pretty good.


The military robot stared at Kelvin, both guns drawn. Kelvin stood his ground and contemplated his options. The only weapons he had were on the table, he’d be dead before he so much as flinched in its direction.

His only recourse was something he’d heard long ago, when the drones were still fairly new. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn’t. It was too late for anything else. He was out of options.

“So,” he said casually, “I’ve heard you strike drones have super complex logic algorthims.”

The drone said nothing, but it wasn’t shooting either. That was a plus.

“Well,” Kelvin casually continued, “THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE!”

The drone paused a moment, then vocalized, “Whatever you say” before opening fire, killing Kelvin instantly.

In his dying breath, Kelvin silently cursed the software designers at Vectocorp. Of all the times to have timely software patches.

DG – The last bit is kind of unnecessary.  The punchline was already delivered by the drone, making the rest feel tacked on.  I do like Kelvin’s choice of smart-assery as a desperation move.

DK: I did enjoy the brief absurdity here, especially just the idea of a faceoff with a drone, and the last joke landed well for me too.  BRONZE


And there you have it folks.  We finish with me saying I dislike a joke, while DK mentions that he really liked it.  You just can’t win with us.  Unless you’re Kelly or Christina, who both earned double golds this week.  Red dots as characters were apparently the way to go.  Now watch Kelly start strutting around like he owns the place.

Really solid week, people.  I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

If this were a soccer league this would be a link to the “table”.

Next challenge, due Monday at 8 PM (Monday is the day of the finals in both classes I teach, I’ll be in a grading mood, expect lots of partial credit).  The word limit is 365.  The image is below.