Well, gang, here we are…the final four of our continued sausage party. This prompt was open enough to allow for some out-there concepts, and to that end, we were very satisfied. So who won this challenge to earn a trip to the final three? Let’s find out together!
The prompt was to write about a character who is envied by all for something he has, though he doesn’t even want it.
He heard muffled noises but all he saw was blackness. Whatever it was over his head smelled strongly of ether. There was a dull pain radiating from the back of his neck.
Then there was light, and with it a splitting headache.
His vision was still blurry, but Gordon knew that intonation anywhere.
“Hello, Cassius. It’s been many years.”
“Yes,” his baritone implied a sense of grandness, encirclement, “it has. Have you been well?”
From table he was tied down to, Gordon could make sense of his surroundings. He glanced around furtively. Three goons guarding a steel door. Another table to his right. No external light, probably underground.
“I have been better,” he spat, “you look…yourself.”
Cassius smiled, “Ah, but not for long, old friend.”
“Oh dear god.”
“No no, Gordon,” somehow his voice lowered another octave, “I’m quite certain you’re the one who did this to me.”
“How, though?” Gordon was incredulous, “The data, it’s all been destroyed. I oversaw everything.”
“The Chinese, my good man,” Cassius rubbed his hand down a bulging Basilic vein and approached Gordon’s table, “they can reverse engineer anything given the resources. It will not be perfect—the same– but that is specifically the point.”
“But I spent billions!”
“Yes,” Cassius winked, “but it’s very easy to inconspicuously withdraw large sums of money from an account when you look like this.”
Suddenly Cassius looked the part of steel magnate Trevor Morund.
Now, philanthropist Sharon Webber.
“Or even this.”
Well-known hip-hop mogul Eazy-Leek. Even Gordon, a purveyor of the arts, knew who that was.
“And, Gordon, given enough money, resources are not difficult to come by. You know that.”
“But you were my greatest success!” Gordon cried, “Heralded by the scientific community! You—you were looked on as the pinnacle of mankind’s achievements, the beginning of forever. To alter something entirely at its cellular level in the blink of an eye. You were promise manifest!”
“Success?” Cassius shot back, “Success? What you did to me was a success? Each day, who do you wake up as?”
“Every day,” Cassius seethed, “who do you fall asleep as?”
“Precisely! I am granted no such favor. I was born Cassius Yarma. I was raised Cassius Yarma. I will not die Cassius Yarma.”
“You agreed,” Gordon squirmed, “you saw the potential; you knew the risk!”
“Stop arguing. Accept your fate.”
In a flash Gordon Ashbury stared astonished at the mirror image of himself.
“That I will die Gordon Ashbury. You will die as whatever shriveled husk the madness decides.”
Cassius waived at the goons, who opened the door. Two men in lab coats entered.
“It is an odd sensation at first,” Cassius cooed, laying on the table next to Gordon, “knowing who you are on the outside and who you are on the inside. Soon, trust me, you will know neither.”
K: I didn’t love this dialogue until the final line. Until then it’s a bit clinical and awkward, but that’s a nice cynical finish. The plot, though, didn’t have any problems. I thoroughly got into this idea and even got to wishing that I could see more of Cassius’s descent into this version of himself. SILVER
MN – This is a pretty fun scene. I’m walking away not entirely convinced that the plot/motives work, but they exist which is good, because their absence can sometimes be a bit problematic for these types of stories. A good pace, and the scene is set well, but there is a small disconnect between being only with Gordon and in his head at first, to really never getting back there once the dialogue starts. GOLD
Rich turned on the TV as he sunk into the sofa.
“Another masterful performance by the young backup quarterback for Miami this week. Four touchdowns, no interceptions. And he threw for 400 yards for the third consecutive week. The Kid is for real. Do we have a quarterback controversy brewing?”
“I just can’t get away from this shit,” Rich muttered as he turned off the TV. Of course, as the general manager of the Miami football club, this shit was his life. He started to flip through the dozen text messages that were unread on his phone. Their franchise quarterback was due to return after their bye week, and with the trade deadline looming, The Kid was the talk of the league.
Rich wanted to wash his hands of The Kid before training camp. His talent was undeniable, but he was a shithead. Just this offseason, he was arrested for terrorizing his girlfriend, questioned regarding a brawl at a prominent Miami nightclub, and had pictures of him allegedly doing cocaine end up on TMZ. The league had given him a six week suspension, which was reduced to two just before the season. The first thing on Rich’s to do list when he was installed as GM was to cut The Kid, but the owner shot that down immediately.
“There is no way you are cutting The Kid! I had to fight tooth and nail with the last GM to get him drafted. Why the fuck do you think he got fired?”
He was drafted in the third round, out of the owner’s alma mater, at his personal request. The only reason he was still available at that point were the huge red flags in his personality profile. But as Rich knew, for most owners and front offices in the league, proven talent at the highest level could “make up” for just about any off the field issues. He didn’t agree. It’s why he left his last position, and it was the culture he intended on installing in Miami.
Three more trade offers via text. He’d been declining them the last two weeks just to avoid the inevitable argument with the owner. This week, he was ready for that battle. After the victory, he heard the Herald’s beat writer asking The Kid if he felt like he’d moved past his off the field issues. The Kid responded with a cliche-laden monologue about how he was now “redeemed.” Rich immediately reached out to trusted members of other front offices to ask for their final best offers. He was taking them to the owner tomorrow.
He was still surprised that this hadn’t leaked out yet. If it leaked, there was no way he’d be employed the next day. Rich hoped that seeing the bounty of picks and players that were being offered for The Kid would help the owner realize this was the right move. Miami was a game up in their division. This was their chance to go for a championship.
The seven offers were ready for presentation tomorrow morning. Rich had no idea if his pitch would work, but he knew he was finally doing the right thing by standing up to the owner. He knew that he’d either finally be rid of The Kid, or he’d know if the culture in Miami was too toxic for him to fix. Either way, he was fine. Knowing he’d finally have closure helped him have the first full night of sleep he’d had in months.
K: Well…that was a LOT of tell without any show. It’s a very easy piece to agree with…I’d actually say TOO easy, as this kind of thing is so pervasive that the story comes off almost as cliche as The Kid’s monologue, though I’m guessing because we never got to hear it. This all went a long way toward dehumanizing the story, and that problem was compounded by the fact that the team and the kid weren’t named. I know that it was a choice, but this was already a tough enough story to relate to on a human level even without that choice.
MN – The story here is pretty straightforward, and I’m surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did. There’s some appropriate moralizing, but not too much, so that line was walked well. The problem, of course, is that it’s all tell, and no show. We need Rich’s confidant for him to speak his thoughts to, or something along those lines, to make this story really into more of a story and less of a concept.
Olivia ran her fingers across the the keys, the notes echoing slightly around the room. Leaning her head back, eyes closed, she played through several improvised variations on Bach’s Prelude 1 in C-Major. The arpeggios vibrated through her body, from head to toe and back again. Finally she leaned over heavily, foot on the pedal to let the chords ring out.
After a few moments, Olivia stood and straightened her tie. She breathed in, puffed out her chest and scanned the room.
Jessica was still there, sitting motionless on an ottoman near the piano.
“This is a surprise,” Olivia said, raising her hand. “Everyone else must be in the dining room by now.”
Jessica was hunched over, the cat-ear headband she wore leaning slightly askew.
“I. . . I wanted to hear you finish.”
Olivia strode forward and placed a finger under Jessica’s chin.
“I don’t mind.” She smiled slyly and leaned over, touching her lips firmly against Jessica’s.
Jessica leaned into the kiss for a moment and then stood, brushing off her skirt.
“I . . .” she walked towards the doorway. “I also wanted to say something. . .”
Olivia stood straight and pursed her lips, knowing what was going to happen.
“I can’t do this, Liv,” Jessica continued. “I mean, when people find out. . .”
Olivia slammed the lid of the piano down, the strings ringing violently as the notes collided in the air.
“What? What will happen when people find?”
Jessica nervously twirled the costume tail that hung from her waist, staring briefly through the door before looking back at Olivia. Her eyes now narrowed in anger.
“Don’t pretend like you don’t know. I’m not like you. You could walk in front of the cameras tomorrow and tell the world that you were a serial killer, and people would still pass out at your feet.”
Olivia tilted her head, indignant. She said nothing.
“What are you dressed as, anyway?” Jessica said, breaking the silence.
“Just me,” Olivia once again straightened her tie and pressed out the creases in her jacket. Her face held no expression. Jessica grabbed Olivia’s hand.
“Nobody is like you.”
Turning around, Jessica pulled her purse around her shoulder and headed towards the dining room. Olivia stood quietly, slowly opening and closing her hands.
K: I like this opening, though I’m not sure it did much more than open. The characters are distinct and are starting to develop real voices by the time the story is already over. I still don’t have a sense of why Jessica is having particular difficulty coming out; the stakes aren’t coming off as particularly high without a defined consequence. BRONZE
MN – I feel a bit stunned by this scene. Jessica is a stronger character than we are led to think, and I like that about this story. There’s certainly some vagueness here – between the who would care, and the what specifically, and the definition of their relationship. You didn’t tell too much, and the details you’ve omitted don’t take too much away, but I felt like I wanted just the tiniest bit more to be fleshed out. SILVER
Of course they had closed the school. Why wouldn’t they? The only thing more obvious than the school closing were the sad looks all the adults had been giving the students the past couple of days. Their attention was suffocating. Everything was these days.
I found Janie in the same place I usually did. Sitting underneath the birch tree, reading. She glanced up from the page, her eyes lighting up as they caught mine. I motioned with my head. She nodded.
There had been a day when the Bethesda River was beautiful. If you looked in the right places, the riverbank still had a little bit of the same charm that it had when my parents were younger. Since the tributary dried up, though, kids used it for two things: throwing rocks to while away the hours, and… more libidinous purposes. We were rock throwers.
Without a word, we combed the bank for rocks. Most of the good ones had long ago been tossed into the river. Every once in a while, though…
“Ooh! Look at this one!” Janie shouted, holding up a perfectly smooth stone about as big as a chicken’s egg.
“How the hell did we miss that one all this time?” I marveled.
“No idea,” she replied, before extended her hand, “you want to see how she flies?”
I chuckled, shaking my head “you found it, you do the honors.”
She laughed, then threw the rock as hard as she could into the water. It struck the surface with a satisfying splash. We turned to each other, grinning like idiots.
Her smile faded.
“The other kids know, don’t they?” she said somberly.
“Yeah, I think so. I don’t know how. The lottery results were supposed to be secret. Hell, most people weren’t even aware that there was a lottery. Lately, though, everyone’s been looking at me differently – even Mr. Bainbridge.”
Her brow furrowed, “That’s not fair. It’s not your fault that your dad’s number got pulled.”
“No, I suppose not, but I can’t blame ’em either, you know? Everything’s going to shit around here, and we’re all just going to blast off and run away from it all. Like ‘so long, bitches!’ It’s not like I’m looking forward to it, though. Sitting on the station with people I don’t know, never being outside again…”
“Outside,” she laughed, gesturing around to the murky air, dead plants, and muddy waters, “is pretty damn overrated right now.”
“Besides, think of the corn. Corn. Forever. FOOOOOREVER,” she drew out the word, elbowing my ribs.
Corn. Forever. My dad was one of the chosen agriculturists who would be maintaining the station’s crops. The rest of the world was going to fall apart, and I was going to be tending a garden. My friends would all be dead within a year, and I was going to be busy growing corn.
“We could hide” she blurted out, “Just you and me. No one would need to know. There are so many caves. They’d have to stop looking…” She let the thought trail off.
I just stared out over the brackish water and tossed another rock. I put my arm around her shoulder as the ripples gradually faded away.
K: Ahhhh. Clear characters, clear consequences, and a fantastic use of the prompt. I found the lead character’s plight to be pretty believable, and I would spend a much larger amount of time delving into this story, which would be interesting both before and after the relocation. GOLD
MN – This is a solid look at the scifi Noah’s Ark phenomenon. The typos and miscues at the beginning are unfortunate, as they really break apart the flow. Once we get into the dialogue, this hums quite nicely, and the situation without a solution, or, rather, the solution that isn’t a perfect one, is really quite beautifully explored, without being belabored. BRONZE
So Brendan Bonham takes another immunity, and in his first-ever game at CdL, has gone wire-to-wire and will end up doing every challenge. Well, how about that?
The four of you need to give me a vote by Sunday night at 9pm Central. I’m only one hour from Central time starting tomorrow and that’s right as I get off work, so hopefully this one won’t be too late. From there, we get to the final challenge.
I’m considering two hours for the final. How do you all feel about that? Excited? Terrified? Otherwise, I’ll stick with one.