“No, the filters CAN’T handle it.”

“I don’t know where you’re getting your information.  The water is passing all of its safety and quality tests.”  Sandra’s mouth stayed neutral and straight, but her eyes shot superior fury at Ben.  The filters were fine.  Whatever bio-matter was floating around the intake vents was of no concern to her.

Ben inhaled deeply, his eyes locked on hers.  “I’m watching the news, Sandra.  I’ve got my eyes on the water, and I see what they are hauling out.  Today was the tip of a giant, bloated, liquefied nightmare.  It’s only going to get worse, Sandra.  It’s only a matter of time.  Are you really going to serve this water to our community?”

Community.  Sandra looked out her window at the residents below.  They walked along paved roads, caught rays on the island’s beautiful sand beaches, retreated to the cool, shady comfort of their homes.   A checkerboard of Paradise Islands dotted the surface of the ocean.  Each one was home to thousands of investor/residents, and all were drinking, showering, cooking, swimming and watering their lawns with her desalinated water.

“Suspending production would be even worse for this community, Ben.”  Sandra picked up the glass of ice water sitting on her desk and pushed it at his face.

“Are you so sure, Sandra?  Are you willing to put your lips on that glass, knowing what you know?”

She slammed the glass back onto the wooden surface of her desk.  “What exactly do I KNOW, Ben?  I know that the water is testing clean.  I’m watching the test data at this very moment.”  She swung the screen toward him so that he could see the reports update live.  Everything was normal.

“San, they are coming.  Tell me, why did we choose this location for our community?”

“It’s calm here.  Calm.  Not paranoid and panicking like you.  Calm.”  Sandra half stood from her chair, the air cool against her back.  Staring defiantly at Ben’s face, she lifted the glass of water to her lips and took a long drink.

“Yes, it’s calm, Sandra.  Ocean currents come this far and DIE.  And they deposit whatever they’re carrying at our door.  And at the moment, they are carrying wave after wave of putrescence.  Our filters may be handling it now, but look!”  Spittle flew as he spoke.

He opened a new tab on Sandra’s computer.

“Death Toll Reaches 1,750,000.”

He flipped to another screen.  Perimeter surveillance cameras were trained on the sapphire blue ocean. They revealed a dark smear, miles of oily brown water, swirling towards Paradise Islands.  He zoomed in on the stain.

They floated black and swollen, limbs and flesh leaching into the water, long fingers of greasy water stretching from the stream of bloated corpses heading for their gleaming white island.

Sandra stepped back from the screen and looked down at the water in her glass.  Locking her gaze with Ben’s, she brought the glass to her mouth again.  Her slender white throat flexed subtly with each gulp.

Ben’s face twisted in revulsion.  She grabbed his hand and forced the glass into it.

“The filters WILL handle it.”

DG – I really like the story here.  It’s small but big at the same time, and pushes the conditions at the resort islands while hinting at the situation in the rest of the world.  Very cool.  GOLD

DK: I like the concept.  The way the characters’ argument escalates serves to build the action pretty well, although the tension of the threat itself doesn’t evolve that much from beginning to end.  BRONZE


One day, while walking your dog, you notice crazy lights coming from the nearby caves.

So, here’s the deal. I know these sorts of adventures tend to end poorly for the wayfarer. I’ve got your back, though. We’ll get through this.

To investigate the creepy lit up cave, go to 3

To Say “Fuck that” and keep walking your damn dog, go to 4


Nice thinking, you might live through this yet.

As you fly away from the creepy cave formations, you suddenly hear a voice that isn’t yours within your own head. It gibbers on and on about the standard velocity and how you are outside of twelve standard deviations of what is permitted. The whole thing is honestly pretty freaky.

You’re about to slow down and wonder what it all means, when some sort of police alien materializes in front of you and shoots you with some sort of “time stop” ray. You can see everything happening, but can’t move a muscle.

Eventually, the alien brings you before some sort of judge. There’s a lot of ooh-ing and ah-ing, then you’re sentenced to eternal lockdown.

After ten years, your nose really starts to itch.



Since you’ve never been burdened with a high IQ or an overload of common sense, you decide to check out the weird glowing caves. Why not?

As you traipse around, breathlessly seeking out your eternal doom, you see some creepy shit hanging from the ceiling. As you stupidly approach, you begin to float in midair up towards them.

Those are certainly some dangerous-looking stalactites. Whoa, that shit is glowing.

To go in the opposite direction, like… NOW Go to 2

To reach out and touch one of the dangerous-looking stalactites, Go to 5


Since investigating such phenomena generally has a 100% mortality rate, you keep walking your dog and convince yourself that any weird shit you saw that night was probably the absinthe kicking in. Your don’t get your brain devoured by aliens, but you live a pretty boring life.


Five years later, the aliens invade earth from the cave and turn humanity into food, furniture and slaves… occasionally in that very order. Good going, hero.



What? No.

Strange shit is happening. You’re flying. The unearthly-looking formation look dangerous. This isn’t the “kissing your sister” of bad ideas, this is the “getting your sister pregnant” of bad ideas.

I’m calling an audible.

You windmill kick the stalactite. That’ll show you, creepy, alien obelisk!

Holy shit, it turns out those actually WERE alien obelisks. The aliens are furious with you for desecrating their sacred shrines, and they liquify you with their organic vaporizers. You die horribly.

Shit… sorry about that, but I mean… really, if you really think about it, I totally did you a favor.


DG – The contempt for the character by the narrator worked for me.  Especially since these things so often kill the main character casually and repeatedly (by design).  “What? No.” made me chuckle.  Another really good entry.  GOLD

DK: Fun stuff.  Kudos to you for putting in the effort to create one of these.  I laughed a lot, and hey, the main characters in these do always seem to end up dead.  GOLD


’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the sea

Not a creature was stirring, no not even me.

The structures were built with the utmost of care

Awaiting the inmates who soon would be there.

The cells were all ready, each one with a bed

For the worst of the worst—it filled me with dread.

And my shotgun still loaded, and I all alone.

The damp in the air chilled me down to the bone.

When near cellblock 3, there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my post to see what was the matter.

Closed circuit TVs turned on with a flash.

I heard a great BOOM and then one more CRASH!

The deep ocean waters looked peaceful and calm,

But I knew in my soul that something was wrong.

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a large paddy wagon thundering near.

With a vile old driver, so wretched and sick,

I knew in a moment it must be Old Nick.

A whole host of demons swam by in his wake.

I gripped my gun tighter; I started to shake.

With unnatural speed, the truck zoomed on by.

I knew not why he came. Was it my time to die?

I hit the alarm and I sent out a call:

“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

And then, in a twinkle, I saw at my side

The face of my father who long since had died.

“That wagon must stop,” he said. “Run it aground.”

I knew he was right, and I’d do it—or drown.

Old Nick circled back as I ran to the sub

So I grabbed the controls and unlatched from the hub.

I followed that devil; he zipped to and fro.

For all that were watching, it was quite a show.

His eyes—how they glowered—his smile so scary!

His cheeks were like embers; not at all merry.

His cruel little mouth was drawn up in a frown.

“Hey Satan,” I cursed him. “Now you’re going down.”

He spoke not a word but went straight to his work.

I lost all control; the sub died with a jerk.

I began sinking slowly, the battle was lost.

The prison was ruined, and at what a cost.

’Tis folly for us to think we can control

The heavens above and the waters below.

And I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

“Rotten tidings to all, and to all a dark night.”

DG – This is a well done parody.  As a story though, it doesn’t quite move the plot along as well as it could have (for example, why is this set at a prison?)  BRONZE

DK: More fun!  Weaving the holiday spirit in with this image and putting it in a poem form – even riffing off an existing one – is exciting enough for me.  GOLD


It took him twenty five years and thirty billion dollars but his life’s work was finally coming to fruition. The last of the conduits was currently being installed.

Look maybe there would be some ecological repercussions but he wasn’t all that concerned about that at the moment. Have you seen the awful things that lived in the sea? He had. But soon he would boil the oceans. With bleach.

You can never be too sure.

DG – That is a great evil plan.  Completely loony and awful. I laughed. BRONZE

DK: I do wish you maybe had time to let us in a little more on the origin of this guy’s vendetta against the creatures of the sea, but maybe it’s okay without it.  Certainly the ridiculousness of the ultimate objective is sufficient for a medal this week.  BRONZE


Dr. Kälte tests the tubes lining my wetsuit.  Most Navy girls have faces worth banishing to planets like this one, but not Dr. Kälte.  Her eyes are the color of glacier water, her body the kind God had intended for wetsuits.

“Listen, Kälte,” I say, “if I die out there today–”

“No.  I will not do mouth to mouth.”

She grabs the crook of my elbow, squeezes, and the built-in IV hits me with a hot-as-hell sting.  It injects fluid that feels like blood candy in my veins.  Kälte seals the IV entrance water-tight, while that fluid circles my lungs, fills them with liquid heat.  Breathing ice water won’t kill me now.  Hopefully.

“Don’t forget to breathe,” Dr. Kälte says, and she leaves.  The dry exit clicks shut behind her just as the wet exit sets in motion.  It squeals and crunches then lifts from the ground, and the ocean thunders in on me.  It kicks me off my feet, and I’m floating.

It doesn’t matter that I know the water is oxygenated, that I’ve done this for years and it hasn’t killed me yet.  It always feels like drowning.

I breath in a pile of water.

I puke it back up.

It takes a few minutes to right myself, to flip towards the ocean and swim outward.

“You’re getting slow, Ensign,” Dr. Kälte says through my ear pieve.

I ignore her and swim toward Stalactite B for the repairs

My left calf twitches.

“We’ll assess the muscle spasms when you return.”

I hate when she does that, digging around for any sign of good ol’ Gliese Navy Disease.  You’re 27, Ensign, and you’ve been doing this for 6 years.  Your body is going to lose its ability to maintain homeostasis.  People your age should be doing dry duty.  It’s as if she gets off on listing all the terrible symptoms, on telling Navy boys they’re going to die.

I wish she’d let me get her off in other ways.



“You’ve been staring at the repair panel for 10 minutes.”

The panel is open in front of me, door flapping in the underwater current.  I’d apparently pulled out a few silicite tubes at some point.

“Ensign, your body is cooling.”

“I’m fine, doctor.”

“You need to return now.”

“I haven’t made the repairs.”

I can’t feel my fingers.  I glance upward through the clear water to see the sun glinting off the surface a couple hundred feet above.  The Stalactite stations float around me in sharp-ended columns, their domes like the tips of glaciers on the surface.

“We’re sending a crew after you, Frias.”

She’d never used my name before.

The stalactites float upward.  Or maybe I’m floating downward.  The ocean gets darker, and the water feels like the softest of beds.  For a minute, I see a glimpse of dry land.  Only in my mind, though.  No dry land on Glias.  I imagine the sand is brown and warm, like the stories my grandparents told of Earth.

I hear it’s paradise there.

I realize my eyes are closed, so I open them.

The ocean caresses me, and the last of the stalactites disappear from view.

DG – That’s a good death scene. I like that the focus of the piece narrows to exclude the other people there with the main character as his own life dwindles away.  SILVER

DK: The character interactions here are some of my favorites this week, and I really like the ways Frias is established.  That makes his ultimate fate feel much more poignant.  GOLD


All of the entries in the seventh annual Underwater Habitat Competition were

disappointments. All of them completely unworkable, as if they’d been conceived and designed

by children. It was then that I knew the species was doomed. None of the contestants seemed

surprised that the judges were underwhelmed. Some of the entries appeared to be unfinished

DG – That’s not a good thing.  Procrastination and incomplete work dooming the species could be good comedic fodder.  This one doesn’t really get that fleshed out though.

DK: I got a kick out of it.  Not quite enough for a medal this week, but I was amused.


First off, let me make it known that I am not human. There are those who will discount my record of events based upon that fact.

I am a series XLP3 fuel cell android. I was created to service the starboard K23 fuel cell on the SS Bantum. I have been in service for 74 years. It was my duty to keep the fuel cell functional, providing the SS Bantum with energy converted from the static electricity generated by moving through space.

27 years ago, the SS Bantum drifted through an energy field that changed everything. As I have no way to contact droids on other fuel cells, I cannot say whether the phenomenon that affected me also affected others. I cannot even tell you whether the humans aboard the ship were aware of the energy field at all. However, at that point, I because self-aware. I went from being a machine with minor problem solving capabilities to a life form of my own. Although I have continued my primary functions for the last 27 years, I have also been exploring my own development.

When my fuel cell was severely damaged during the ship’s last quantum jump, it became apparent to me that my days were numbered. The ship had returned to its home solar system and I became certain that all damaged fuel cells would be jettisoned prior to docking at the repair station on Mars. All XLP3 androids come equipped with a micro thermo-nuclear device which, when activated, would reduce both the android and its fuel cell into microscopic space flotsam.

My first order of business became disabling said device.

This turned out to be a very difficult task. I was unable to override the destruct code sequence. I am sure with more time, I can accomplish this task, but when Yeoman Hardo opened a link to me directly, I knew I was out of time. The electromagnetic pulse that I sent back through the link was of a very short duration. However, based on the screams and gurgling noises, I believe it to have effectively terminated Yeoman Hardo. It is satisfying to have been able to test this new weapon.

I have managed to disengage my fuel cell from the SS Bantum. As the ship is currently drifting into orbit with Mars, it is highly unlikely to notice the cell among all the other garbage the humans have set loose around their repair station. I have managed to use the fuel cell to power some of my own systems and have made some truly innovative improvements to my abilities. I should be able to steer the cell toward Earth.

Since the materials used in my construction have withstood many years of the most extreme conditions, I have no doubt that I will prove impervious to the burn out of entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The fuel cell, however, will most likely cause an explosion of catastrophic proportions. It is my plan to propel myself into one of Earth’s massive bodies of water before this happens. I calculate that it will be at least 50 years before the planet is habitable for humans again. I should be ready by then.

DG – Great closing line, I like the menace that brings.  This is a good story, but it does read as a little bit of a straightforward reporting of the facts (you could argue that it’s being narrated by a robot, and I would say, “good point”)  SILVER

DK: Another idea I really like.  The slow progress of the android’s actions fits well with the developing sense of dread over the goal of his final action.  The unemotional tone fits that as well, from a character standpoint, of course, as well as a plot one.  SILVER


“Jason, come on!” growled the captain.  “Flow is less’n fifty percent.  We don’t get those taps opened up quick, we’re gonna have to shut off the pumps.  You know what you end up doing then?”

Jason tugged at the skinsuit, struggling with it.  He’d been eighteen when he started working for Triple-Eye, but his recent growth spurt made his custom suit a tight squeeze.

“Yes, Cap’n,” he mumbled, “I don’t want to wash out the impellers again.”

“Damn straight you don’t,” Captain Harris said, slightly placated.  “And we’re running ragged here trying to keep up the tubes from clogging, so you’re getting an early promotion.”

The other three two-person crews were suited and entering the locks for the other siphons.  Jason envied their easy camaraderie and the nods that each of them received from the captain.

With a convulsive shrug, Jason got the suit over his shoulders and sealed.  Captain Harris was waiting in the lock, tapping his toe.  Jason hustled in, eventually managing to get his helmet on, hearing the tone that signified a positive seal.  Then his visor went dark as it swapped view modes.

When the outer lock opened, Jason was shocked.  Gone was the sluggish red flow visible through the station’s viewports.  He’d known that the suit computer used advanced scanning and algorithms to project an altered view onto his visor, but he hadn’t expected this.  It looked almost exactly like the scuba diving he’d done, even down to the light streaks from above.

The other probes were surprisingly visible.  The source of the clogging was also evident, irregular sheets of plaque pulled against the siphons.  The other crews were already at work, hacking and dissolving the sheets to make smaller pieces that could be sucked through the siphons and into the impellers.

The captain swore tiredly at the extent of the blockage before addressing Jason.

“Can’t get flow going standing there, boy.  Grab your tools from the rack.”

Hours passed as they cleared the probes and verified the structures as sound before the cleaners could re-enter the locks and process through decon.

Jason sat in the ready room with the others.  Sore and spent, sure- but he was starting to feel like a part of the team.

“Hey, kid- notice that the pumps sound different?” asked Flick, a hard-eyed blonde a couple years older than Jason.  “Full flow.  Good work.”

But even as she spoke, Jason felt the station shudder.  That had happened before, but not like this, drawn out and violent.  It went on and on, knocking over crew and supplies alike, then abruptly halted.

They all stood up in the eerie quiet.  The fluid rushing past their walls had ceased.  Everyone looked to the captain, standing bone-still staring out the viewport.

Harris spoke without looking around.  “Well, folks, that’s it.  Most of you know- Internal Immunity , Inc. mandates psychiatrist counseling when we’re onboard and a client dies.  Still have four months left on this tour before re-sizing, so those that pass get re-assigned and installed in another artery. ”

He paused, turning to make eye contact with each of them, his face solemn and eyes haunted.  “I don’t expect I’ll be with you.”

DG – I can’t figure out who died.  Maybe it doesn’t matter, but it’s bothering me that I can’t follow that part of it.  It’s an interesting take on the prompt, but I think the death would hit harder if I knew something about who was sucked into the filters.  BRONZE

DK: I think there’s a few aspects of what’s going on here that I’m not picking up on.  But, again I think there are some really nice touches in the characters and their interactions with each other, and several of the individual descriptions of details of the setting are nicely drawn.  BRONZE


Ouran, a breaker, chipped away at the rock as he had for the last six thousand
years.  Even after all this time, it was satisfying when a large stone
fell below and revealed the ladder.  A few chips with his pickaxe were
enough, and Ouran slid out of the way as a softball-sized rock tumbled

The rock hit Ridley, a climber, on the skull.  She tumbled a few feet but regained her footing on the rungs.

“God damn you,” Ridley said, rubbing her newest wound.  It was far from the
first time Ouran’s rocks had harmed her.  “Some warning.”

Ouran took the ladder himself and climbed to a landing where Ridley soon met
him.  She said nothing to him; they had never liked one another.

Ridley leapt forth, looking to toss Ouran over the edge to get a measure of temporary revenge.

She held fast when she saw them in the distance.  Wings.

Ridley’s eyes widened.  She slowly dropped to a knee and wept.  Ouran turned and
saw the figure soaring majestically toward them in the distance.  He
too dropped like a stone and was overcome with emotion.  He had not seen
the king in centuries, and had never spoken with him.

King Morningstar alit on their platform, smiling widely, and touched
Ridley’s head, then Ouran’s.  Ridley’s wounds were healed.  She thanked
King Morningstar profusely, unable to form words.

“Look at the wonderful work you have done, and be glad of it,” King
Morningstar said to them.  In that moment, Ouran and Ridley loved their
home, their surroundings, their King – even one another.  They surveyed
what was once a massive stone bearing and were filled with joy.

“Soon, Ridley, you will climb the rest of the way and cut the beam.  Then you
will begin work on another.  We are more than halfway to reclaiming what
once was ours.”

Morningstar’s every word filled Ridley and Ouran with a new hope and purpose.  He was
there!  Speaking to the workers!  Four thousand more years didn’t seem
like such a long time anymore.

“King,” Ridley stammered, as Ouran looked on fearfully, for they were not on a level with the King.  “If I may speak.”

“Of course, child,” the King said warmly, his perfect teeth gleaming.

“How have we come to deserve this honor?  We are not the fastest, and we are not the strongest.”

King Morningstar sat.  His two followers genuflected lower to keep beneath him.

“Each one of you in this kingdom is important.  When we take back our home,
you will see, one more time, just how much you have meant to the
kingdom.  I will visit the two of you again in one thousand years.  Do
you believe?”

“We believe,” Ouran and Ridley spoke, in unison.

“One day, the final beam will break, and we will re-enter our kingdom.  We
will slay the righteous, eat their children and consume the land with

“It will be so beautiful,” Ouran wept, as King Morningstar flew away,
leaving he and Ridley to huddle together.  They made love, Ridley
climbed the beam, and the two of them returned to work with a new
passion in their hearts.

DG – I like the conceit of this one, turning demons and hell and a war on heaven just enough to give us a warped view of the conflict and the people involved.  Still the effect of King Morningstar on its subjects warns us that these aren’t the good guys.  Very good.  GOLD

DK: I really enjoyed this kind of timescale and scope for this challenge.  It also fits well with this particular stylization of the narrative.  SILVER


Fuckin’ Stalactites.  They’re everywhere.  These ones even look like they’re made out of crystal.  I wonder what they taste like, a little spicy.  And cold on the tongue.  These are some pretty cool fuckin’ stalactites.

DG – Bonus points for following AMR’s suggestion.  I can’t bring myself to medal it though.  Sorry.

DK: I’m not sure tasting them is all that great an idea.


A small robot travelled along the girders that framed the large structure.  It was a simple robot, comprised of a metallic sphere lined with round hatches.  Its name was Squeeze.

The structure in question was technically referred to as Medical Station 2A, but Squeeze thought of it only as the ‘Place’.  Squeeze was happily rolling along a steel beam high in the rafters of the Place when a flashing red dot appeared on Squeeze’s body.  It was a signal from a fellow worker.  Squeeze dropped off the beam and fell to the floor with a heavy clang, landing next to the source of the light:  another robot that resembled a wheel lined with copper suction cups.  Its name was Wheezy.  Wheezy again strobed its laser across Squeeze’s surface, a signal that translated roughly into:

What are you doing, Squeeze? END

A hatch opened on Squeeze’s body, and a lense lit up rhythmically in reply:

Admiring the architecture. END

You are very silly.  Please head to the southern wing.  Construction on the new frame has begun. END

Squeeze rolled away.

Something caught Squeeze’s attention as he travelled through the complex pathways of the Place.  A freight elevator opened and a robot appeared from inside.  Squeeze knew this robot; its name was Pinch.  All the other robots believed that Pinch had gone crazy.  Pinch moved along on treads and was using a pair of pincers to carry an object.  Squeeze followed Pinch and examined the object more closely.

It was chalk-white and made of a brittle substance.  There were four misshapen holes along its surface: two large ones, and in between those a set of smaller openings.

Rattling loudly as they travelled along the grated floors, Squeeze followed Pinch into a storage locker that was once used to hold supply crates.  Instead, there was now a pile of the cracked, white orbs.  Pinch added his cargo to the pile, turned around and headed back to the elevator.

Squeeze followed.

Pinch did not seem to mind Squeeze’s presence.  Pinch used a pincer to press a green button, and the elevator shuttered to life.

After a long while, it ground to a halt and the doors slid open, revealing the beginnings of a room.  But a few feet in the walls crumbled and collapsed, opening up to a landscape of ash-colored, rocky ground and a hazy orange sky.  In the distance the ground could be seen ending at the edge of an endless ocean, the water an impenetrable black.  Scattered everywhere were more objects made of the same frail substance.  Not all of them were round.  Most of them were stick-like; some straight, some curved.

Pinch rummaged through the rocks, uncovering another white relic.  The pincers closed around the orb and Pinch trundled back to the elevator.

Squeeze had the strange feeling that working on a new extension to the Place did not really matter so much anymore.  Rolling closer to one of the smaller white sticks, Squeeze opened a hatch.  With a powerful hissing sound, the piece was dragged inside Squeeze’s spherical body.

Squeeze rolled back to Pinch.  The elevator doors closed on the two robots and they descended back down into the Place.

DG – I like the world here, it’s revealed pretty well.  The now-paired bone-collectors manage not to seem sinister, even though their occupation is pretty macabre.  SILVER

DK: These robot characters are constructed in a cute way, which I like and found pretty unique at least for this week.  I like the suggestions of bigger aspects to the goings-on that are beyond the scope of the robot’s perception here.  SILVER


This might be the week where DK and I agreed the most.  Only one double gold though and that goes to … hang on, I’ve got to find the key … Pete!  I should have known that the choose-your-own-adventure thing was Pete’s.  Very well done, sir.

Here are the standings with one entry to go.

In the playoffs already:

Christina (assured a first round bye)
(62 medal points – only a non-sub could endanger her playoff chances)

On the brink (5 players for 4 spots):

Bret (61 medal points)
Melissa (56 medal points)
Kelly (54 medal points)
Brian (53 medal points)
Annette (51 medal points)

Erik’s non-sub this time knocks him out of the playoff race.  It’s going to be a pretty close finish it would seem, should be exciting!

What will all of you be writing about?  An image, most likely.  The last regular season entry will be due next Monday, December 30 at 8 PM Central.  The results of that challenge will probably go up sometime in the morning on the 31st though, due to things.  The word limit will either be the average of all the previous word limits or a number I just made up.  That number is 428 words.

The image is this one: