Well, here’s your final draw of the season. I’d drone on for a bit about it, but luckily for you, I have no time to do it, ‘cause I’m playing a massive role-playing board game with Wolfson right now.

The prompt was to write about a moderator who had to break a tie that would result in negative consequences for the loser.


Brian David

Lulu slid the bishop across the board and leaned back. Grant studied the remaining pieces, deep wrinkles radiating outward from his eyes.

Grant cleared his throat. “How many moves has it been?”

“Twenty-two,” said Lulu, shifting her gaze toward the yellow and orange leaves that drifted down from the nearby trees. Grant frowned and swallowed hard.

“I love this time of year,” Lulu said, her hair blowing into her eyes. “Everything around us is falling asleep, but we get to stay awake. Sort of like we’re the adults of the world, staying up as late as we want.”

Grant didn’t reply. He reached out and grabbed his king, one of only a few black pieces remaining, and moved it to the right. His hand shook violently.

Lulu smiled. “You never do give up.”

She felt a hand on her shoulder.

“Excuse.” It was one of the nurses, a stern look on her face. “Can you wrap this up? It’s already past time for his medication.”

Lulu nodded, her heart aching. She didn’t want to lose this moment.

Grant had turned his head so that he, too, could see the falling leaves. Lulu leaned over and picked up both her white king and the one remaining black rook. She never for a moment thought that Grant would notice. She thumped the board heavily when setting the king back down, and Grant turned his head, startled.

“Oh. How many moves has it been?”

Lulu stood and reached for Grant’s hand. “Don’t make fun of me, Dad. You just put me in checkmate and you know it.”

Grant seemed confused for a moment, and then laughed a deep, throaty life.

“Come on, let’s go. The authorities have brought the hammer down.”

Lulu quickly wiped a tear from her face, hoping that Grant hadn’t noticed. She held his hand and the two of them followed the nurse down the garden path.

K: Mm. Manipulative? Possibly. Still, this one has some nice subtext, and Lulu’s final gift to her dad resonates with me, particularly as I’m not the type who would normally let someone else win anything.

MN – This is a pretty sweet story, but it feels a bit disingenuous in that sweetness because we don’t have… any reminiscing about happier times, maybe? Something like that. It’s obvious there’s something deeper, but something concrete to anchor that depth would really solidify this story. The writing is fantastic, great pace and variety, realistic dialogue, etc.

Pete Bruzek

“Case 376492432967,” the clerk droned, “The Humans of Earth vs. the Felinians of Argol in the matter of Trans-Galaxian Causeway X32. All hail the honorable Judge Nefromax and his esteemed counterpart, Lord Jolar.”

The crowd rose to their feet. Many of them had no particular stake in this quarrel, but matters of the transportation company were always exciting. Bobby looked around in nervous awe. Was he up to the challenge? He needed to be. He couldn’t fail. There was too much at stake.

Judge Nefromax smiled and motioned for the crowd to sit.

“Before these witnesses, we bring Case 376492432967 to forum. Because of the special quantum properties of the two sites in question, as well as severe budget cuts, Trans-Galaxian Causeway X32 shall be routed through either the Planet Earth or the dwarf planet Argol. ”

The crowd began to murmur excitedly. A new intergalactic Causeway meant that getting fresh Nefrolian Creamed Ice would no longer be only for those wealthy enough to afford their own hyperspace-able ships. The masses would finally have the best produce from around the known universe.

“Each plaintiff has appointed an arbiter to debate the merits of their civilization to the court. Lord Jolar and I will determine which planet will retain coherency, and which will be removed to make room for the causeway. We have randomly selected the arbiter from the planet Earth to go first.”

Bobby cleared his throat. He set his papers down on the podium before him, but he didn’t need them. He’d committed this speech to heart.

“Esteemed judges, the people of Earth are a rough civilization. In the past, we squandered so much of our time to war and the pursuit of meaningless frivolities.”
“But!” he cried, striking the podium with his open hand, “we have come so far! In a mere five hundred years, we have abandoned our warlike causes, and peace has reigned throughout the land. We have made advancements in our society and technology that our forefathers could never have dreamed. Just imagine what we can do we five hundred more years!”

The crowd erupted into cheering. The judges smiled and nodded thoughtfully. Bobby smiled.

Then Bobby got his first real look at the Felinians.
They were quadrupeds, each about two feet tall…and they looked like baby kittens. The arbiter took the stand and simply stood there, purring.

Two weeks later, the Earth was destroyed.

K: If I pick this one, does it prove that I, too, favor the kitten-people? This one has a pretty funny payoff, but up to that point, it’s mostly feels like the setup that it is. Some more humor throughout would have been the difference. I mean, it’s there, but there could be more of it.

MN – This is some very, very quality absurdism. I laughed at several moments, and the kitten idea is superb. Two problems: first, Judge Nefromax’s speech (and the intermediate paragraph) is too long, and too much explaining the plot. Second, the story needed to end one line later. I think you could have done more with Bobby’s speech too, if you were really leaning harder into the comedy, but I admit that’s tricky (brilliant with the name “Bobby” BTW).

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We both had a hell of a time with this one, but we both ended up picking the first one. That’s a tough way to go out, but six people have done so now, so whatever.

Twenty-First Elimination from Spookymilk Survivor XVIII: Pete Bruzek

Pete was my pick at the merge, and now I, like him, get to forever ask what could’ve been.

Final challenge will be posted later. Cheers, Survivors.

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