Well, Prosers. It’s been a long season. A big season. And despite one of these writer’s wishes to the contrary, yours truly is still alive and well. Thank you for putting up with us cranky judges and giving a lot of fun stuff to read.

Oh? You want a winner. Let’s hope these assholes don’t tie.

Joshua Longman

The large glass tube sat in silence, mists gently swirling within, when suddenly a palm slapped against it and squeaked down.  A pneumatic door hissed open and Pickles flopped out.  He fell to the floor gasping and writhing, his skin glistening under the dull blue lights.

What was happening to him?  He could barely remember a thing before exiting the tube.  He knew he was Pickles and he knew he was home, but his body felt foreign to him.  Awkward.

He was breathing heavily.  Pickles moaned and tried to stand, grasped the counter and tried to pull himself up, but couldn’t get any traction with such rubbery legs. He knew by some biologic compass that he should walk upright, but it was simply too hard.

Thirsty…. he thought.

Moving on all four limbs was also more difficult than it should be, but he made do with a scrambling crawl.  He exited the test room and bumped and knocked his way through the kitchen and into the bathroom.

He drank the entire bowl.

——-

Pickles woke up in the bathroom, but it was dark.  He felt misshapen.  The room seemed smaller than it was supposed to be, and that made him scared.  He shot a leg out and hit the porcelain and howled in pain, but pushed himself through the door.  He sprawled on the kitchen floor, wide eyed and heaving chest.

Something was terribly wrong.  How did he get here?  Why did he look like a god?

He heard an electronic hiss from the blue test room.  As if prodded by the alien noise, his body snapped to its latent functionality and he jumped to his feet.  His balance was wobbly, but he didn’t fall.

He had never seen the world this way before.  Pickles looked down upon his realm and shook his pink butt when he heard nails on the floor.  He cocked his head.  A dog trotted into the kitchen with its tongue lolling in its mouth and its curvy tail flapping back and forth.

What?!  Pickles thought, fright and confusion and happiness all at once.  Before he had time to digest the shock the dog went back into the test room, so Pickles followed.  The dog whined and pointed at a large tube with his snout, but Pickles had no idea what the tube was for.  He had never seen it before.

The dog barked at him and Pickles thought it was hilarious.  It wasn’t even saying words.

“Warghabelijafoe!” Pickles shouted and then ran out into the night.

——-

He had been running for a while, having gotten the gait down.  Yet still, his dash must have seemed a terrible thing to others, his feet slapping on the concrete and penis flopping in the wind.  He tried to catch a couple of squirrels but was far worse at it than his instincts dictated he should be.

Pickles couldn’t remember why he was frolicking outdoors by himself at the moment, but then again he never remembered most things.  Pickles missed his master too, but was strangely comforted by the fact that he could smell him no matter where he went, though it was weaker than it should be.  There were simply too many new sensations for him to be troubled.  He had no idea that the breeze could feel so good!

He almost made a full circle around the neighborhood when he felt a tightening his stomach.  Everything was so different, but he still knew what that meant.  He ran to a well-trimmed yard and marveled at the feeling of the cool grass shooting through his toes and tickling his feet.  Then he crouched down.

As he was pooping, a cream and tan dog ran up to him and started barking nonsensical things at him.  Pickles finished and stood up.  The dog ran off and stopped and looked back at Pickles over his shoulders and barked again.  Pickles walked after it because he trusted himself.

——

The dog brought them back to the old and familiar house.  Had Pickles been here lately?  He couldn’t remember, but it felt like home and he was glad.  His stomach made a grumbling sensation and again he knew what the meant.  The dog must have heard it too, as he trotted up to the fridge and managed to push it open with his snout.  He hopped up to a ledge with his front legs and pulled as much as he could onto the floor.  Yogurt, relish, lettuce, raw eggs, and more lay upon the ground and the dog didn’t need to do anything more.  Pickles knelt down and licked it up and the dog growled when he got too close to broken glass.

Once he was full, Pickles stood up and was thirsty.  He looked at the bathroom but the dog barked at him and ran to the sink.  Pickles didn’t know what to do with the sink.  The dog made a circle motion with his head, but Pickles didn’t understand that either so he ran back to the bathroom.  He knelt down in front of the toilet but the bowl was empty.  Why was it empty?!  He felt a twinge of panic but then the dog flipped a lever down and Pickles heard a familiar flushing sound.

After he wasn’t thirsty anymore he explored the rest of his home, or at least the ground level of it.  He still couldn’t manage the stairs.  He walked into the living room and hopped up onto the couch and almost fell over, but caught himself in time.  Some lesson instilled upon him from forever ago echoed that he shouldn’t relieve himself indoors but he was having too much fun.  He bounced on the couch and let it flow and made a dry rasping sound something akin to a laugh.  These genitals were clearly similar to something he once knew, but this one was so much fun!  He reached down and grabbed his phallus and spun it in a circle, spraying urine on the coffee table, the TV, the carpet.  The dog watched him quietly with squinted eyes.

Once he was done, the dog whined and Pickles got concerned so he followed him into the test room.  Pickles saw a big glass tube and wondered what that was for.  The dog pointed at it with his nose and whined, but Pickles just looked at him in confusion.  The dog curled up in the smaller glass chamber underneath the larger one and lay down.  He perked his head up and looked at Pickles, but realized it was useless.

The dog barked and ran away but returned a moment later with a roll of paper in its mouth.  He let it drop in front of Pickles and Pickles looked at it.

It had symbols on it that Pickles couldn’t comprehend, like “Thesis to Disprove Short-term Memory Studies of Canines” and “-transplant with my own dog, Pickles, as first test subject,” and “-neuro-electric sensory measurement device in my body,  traditionally resulting in inaccurate results in non-humans, ” and “-am convinced he remembers events, people, and cognitive discussion.”  Pickles was baffled and stared at the paper and back at the dog and then wondered if there were any squirrels outside.  He ran to go and see, so the dog picked up the papers and followed and hoped they would find someone who could understand.

Brendan Bonham

He gazed at the snow on the sill, thinking about gifts. This would be his to the world. Perfection. He read it over one more time and smiled.

“Genius,” he whispered to himself.

Then he hit post.

“Harrison Bergeron,” it read, “The problem with most stories is that one character always seems to have the upper hand…”

And he waited. The week crawled forward in the same droll way it always did, but he knew. He knew at the end of the week there’d be something to live for.

Friday he was exhausted, it’d been a long week full of bullshit he was over the moment he left college, but his pace increased as he bee-lined it to his computer.

His eyes glazed over two sentences in.

“Baseball again Kelly? C’mon man, could you be any more obvious?”

He exhaled a sigh and flicked his computer monitor in frustration. Sadly for Beau, it would all be downhill from there. Stories flip and trite, overdone and poorly constructed washed over him as he seethed with hate.

“THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND MY GENIUS!” He cried to no one in particular. Beau slammed his head on his desk. Then again. And again. Over and over, each time harder. Blood spattered the wall. Finally, darkness.

— — –

The sun shone through the window. He’d been in a good mood. The physical therapy was over. The doctor said that with his progress, his brain trauma might even reverse. He’d unlock the mystery of that blood on the wall.

Most of all, he was happy to be back doing what he loved: Judging writing competitions on the internet.

He read it over one more time and smiled.

“Genius,” he whispered to himself.

Then he hit post.

“Harrison Bergeron,” it read, “The problem with most stories is that one character always seems to have the upper hand…”

Then he waited.

Rhubarb was in season. As he opened his email he gnawed on a stick he’d picked up from the farmer’s market that morning. The stories were waiting for him.

“Nice day,” he thought to himself, “I’ll load ‘em onto the tablet and head to the park.”

“THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?” parents and children snapped their heads towards Beau as he slammed his tablet on the ground in disgust.

“Jesus Christ,” Beau scoffed at a pre-teen, “Shawn Ashley? More like Shawn ASS-ley, right, ya little shit?”

The child recoiled in horror. “WHY’S EVERYHITNG GOTTA BE A VAGINA METAPHOR, HUH?” he screamed at the child as she ran.

He saw the police in the distance. Nowhere to go, he climbed the jungle gym. He climbed and climbed to the tip-top.

“Sir, come down,” an officer screamed.

“You’ll never take me alive!” Beau flipped ‘em a double bird. Then he jumped.

— — –

Prison is an odd place, especially when you’re not really sure why you’re there. People had whispered things like “lunatic” behind his back, but that wasn’t him. He wasn’t like that.

But, he’d make the most of it. Heck, even prison had the web.

He’d spend his one hour a week wisely: Judging writing competitions on the internet.

He read it over one more time and smiled.

“Genius,” he whispered to himself.

Then he hit post.

“Harrison Bergeron,” it read, “The problem with most stories is that one character always seems to have the upper hand…”

Then he waited.

He’d done a lot of weird stuff to get the guard to print off the stories for him. Like, lots of weird stuff.

He’d hide the stories in a copy of Hustler so the guys wouldn’t tease him.

“Alastair Hemsworth’s a pretty gay name, Novak,” Beau whispered under his breath.

“You calling me a homo?” his cellmate Terrence inched closer to Beau’s face.

“No, Terrence, I swear!” Beau laughed nervously. “It’s this thing– Matt Novak. You don’t know him. Alastair is British, see? And like…they’re very foppish, right? You know what ‘foppish’ means?”

“Dude, call me gay one more time and see what I do to you.”

“No, Terrence. You’re very masculine. And strong! You’re handsome in a tattooed sort of way. If I were a woman, I’d find you attr—“

The blows came one after another. A face can only take so much before it looks like tooth soup.

— — –

Had he always been this way? Why couldn’t he move or speak when it seemed like all the others could?

Was he even one of them? They referred to him as Beau, so he supposed so.

Those things were people. He’d read up on them. Fascinating set of ideas and principles.

Even in spite of his otherness, an online community had embraced him no matter how different he was.

They even asked him to judge some stories on the internet.

The community had these people, the Davids. There were two of them. Were they married? They sure did talk about this one baby a lot.

He read it over one more time and imagined a smile.

“Genius,” he thought to himself.

Then he blinked post.

“Harrison Bergeron,” it read, “The problem with most stories is that one character always seems to have the upper hand…”

Then he waited.

His eyes dilated in frustration. It was obvious this Zak Sauvageau guy hadn’t even bothered with spell check. If you’re going to refer to someone as a Gucci Man, look for the underlined spelling errors, it’s the least one could do. And why would someone obsessed with haute fashion always have ice cream all over his face? Even if that was a thing, Italians ate gelato.

And why did all these people have an obsession with food, anyway? Beau’d never had the sensation of taste, but he’d read enough about food and enough of her writing to know that this Christina Pepper character was certainly a misnomer. He wondered if the Scoville Scale had negative numbers. If everything that happened outside of this room was as circular as what her writing made it seem like, the scale certainly must.

He blinked to call for the nurse.

His heart rate increased with his fury. His neck pulsed. Beau thought about how he had to blink each word out letter by painstaking letter, but was still more dependable for a submission than Erik Sunshine.

Brooks Maki fancied himself an unlikely hero, but only thing Beau found unlikely about his writing was a series of words coherent enough to constitute a story. And Pete Bruzek—he didn’t even know anything about Pete Bruzek, but given his companions, Beau was sure the man had some skeletons in his proverbial closet.

Finally the nurse arrived.

He ached. It was slow and stressful, but one by one he blinked out a pathetic plea:

P-L- E-A- S-E K-I- L-L M-E.

She looked at him, aghast. He repeated himself.

P-L- E-A- S-E K-I- L-L M-E.

“Are you sure?” Her words were soothing; unlike anything that online writing crew had to offer.

P-L- E-A- S-E K-I- L-L M-E.

She walked over to the wall. She looked at him sad, concerned. Dutifully, she bent towards the ground and removed the plug.

His heart rate slowed. He closed his eyes for the final time. Free of his chains, Beau ascended up, somewhere where the words didn’t hurt.

B: Story one is definitely fun to read through a second time once everything is clear, though I had a pretty good idea where it was going the first time through. While the sources of humor are fairly obvious, this writer handles them with care. The image of a naked man named Pickles running down the street then taking a dump on someone’s lawn is…something. I don’t know what, but I enjoyed it.

At first I was groaning at a finals meta entry. But yeah, I giggled out loud like four times. If this at all reflects my attitude during this season I do apologize. I think starting a new job while looking for a new house was not the best time to volunteer to mod a game. Oh wait, I didn’t volunteer for it. Thanks, Spooky.

Anyway, I was open to the idea of rewarding a meta entry with a PwtP victory; however, the giggles fade a bit as the author focuses more on cramming as many in-jokes as possible instead of expanding on the good ones. I nominate the first story.

BD: (Story 1) That was a long way to go for a straightforward joke. Still, it’s a funny, well-told joke, and there’s a lot I like about this. In particular, this really does have the atmosphere of a Vonnegut short-story, which is something I can’t help but love. I think the only serious issue here is the tagged-on ending. We’ll just have to see what the next story brings.

(Story 2) You forgot a part about how all judges hate meta stories and love semi-colons! This isn’t just a meta story, though; it’s one wherein you continually brutalize a fictionalized version of our esteemed moderator and then proceed to roast the rest of the strange denizens of this website. Which is to say, I love it. Beau once said to me that he found it annoying how often judges praised the comedy writing at the CdL, and yet would never give those stories any medals. I realize he’s completely right. I laughed all the way through this, and there’s no way I can say this wasn’t a more enjoyable reading experience than the last story. WINNER

Gilman: Firstly, a hearty congratulations to both finalists. You earned your spots here well. And oh my god, I do NOT envy you guys; this prompt is one that would make me pull my hair out. Doing an idea like this justice is hard enough under the best circumstances. With all the pressure of winning an internationally renowned literary prize like The PWTP Seasonal Championship at stake…well, I don’t know what I’d write.

Story number one got into the restriction of the prompt in an interesting way, and at first I had thought the author was trying to just hint at the underlying situation in order to spring some kind of twist on the reader toward the end. I’m glad that’s not exactly the case, though, because this idea wouldn’t really work as a hidden context, I think. I don’t know if I totally accept the way a dog’s short-term memory is represented here, but that can be explained away as a side-effect of the technology I guess. Mainly, I was a bit disappointed that an idea so fertile didn’t really get fleshed out as far and as wildly as I would have expected (or maybe hoped). With just a few sections to fill, I can see why the action stayed relatively local, and “biologically based,” shall we say. But there was a lot of potential for a dog imbued with all kinds of new physical capabilities to mess about in the upright world, and it would have been fun to see other humans interacting with the transposed subject. On the other hand, some of the instincts displayed made a little sense–familiarity, immediate urges handled, etc.–and it did give the ex-human some stage time. Clever idea handled ably, with just a bit of disappointment for what might have been.

Story two, on the other hand…this must be one of those Go Big Or Go Home kinds of attempts. If you’ve made the decision to go Meta, you’ve really given yourself no other option than to go way over the top with each memory wipe. And that’s where I feel the story crumbles a bit. Inside jokes are fine, but I wouldn’t let the success of my final story hinge on how clever and delightful the reader might find them. Similarly, hyper-ridiculous and violent/surreal events leading to each reset and iteration really have to be surprising, shocking, or uproarious to serve as the main driving force of a story this repetitive and limited in scope. And I’m afraid this story simply doesn’t hit those levels.

Medal: Story one

Pete: (Story 1) Heh, I figured where this one was going right around the time the dog showed up the second time. I enjoy a lot of this (the dog-man peeing all over everything was an obvious highlight), though the last paragraph gets a little over-explainy.

(Story 2)  Here we go…full meta. I laughed in places (more like Shawn ASS-ley! Why’s everything gotta be a vagina metaphor?), but it’s pretty uneven in places (to be expected, I suppose) and by the end, it seems to be looking for some way to end (I suppose that’s meta on top of meta…metaception!). Thankfully, this story is fiction, and Beau can always go back to doing what he really loves – judging story writing competitions on the internet.

It’s a tough prompt, isn’t it? Both stories seemed to have a tough time knowing what to do with it. In the end, even though the second one made me chuckle aloud a couple of times, I felt like the first story was a little more realized, so there we go. Yeah. Let’s go with that.


On a 3-1 split-decision, the winner of Play with the Prose 8 is…

JOSHUA LONGMAN

I’d be curious to go back and see how often the #1 seed has won this whole dang thing. I would bet quite often, actually, since the winner list is filled with Wreisners. So what I’m saying is congratulations Joshua on beating both Wreisners.

Okay, now I can get back to doing what I love most: judging writing competitions on the internet.

GENIUS!

Advertisements