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Eighteenth Elimination from Spookymilk Survivor VII: DK

DK was one of the guys that I was interested to see in action once the game started. His caustic jokes at the WGOM tickle me and I knew he was a Survivor fan, but I wondered how that would translate. Well, he made the final four using both humor and Survivor-cunning to last nearly to the end, so it appears that it translated nicely.

And, for the record, I think of “Billy the gigolo clown” all the freaking time.

Final challenge to be posted within the hour, I suspect.

And we’re off.


I drive off the exit ramp, onto the freeway. Corner of my eye, I glimpse the semi, the jackknifing juggernaut.

They pull me out of the car crash. In a fast German car, I’m amazed that I survived. An airbag saved my life.

I am born again. In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the universe!

S: First of all, this is basically plagiarism of a Radiohead song. The differences from the real lyrics are entirely too few. Secondly, it only contains 58 words. Well, zoinkers.

B: So…58 words and plagiarizing a song. Good work, final four contestant.


Julian sat bathed in the screen’s white glow. His keystrokes, less fluid since the accident, rippled unevenly. A click. That was it; logged out, profile gone, digitally incorporeal. There were no goodbyes. He closed the laptop’s lid, laid it down. The respirator whirred as he wheeled himself out of the room.

Emerson, he thought, would be pleased.

S: The Milkmaid let me know that this one came with a brief explanation, although I know Emerson’s quote about this…something about technology or society advancing and regressing at the same time. I rather like the story of the man leaving the online world just as he’s apparently about to leave the real one, and this would have gotten a good score if I’d had to score them…but again, the first one only had 58 words.

B: This is sad. This is beautiful. This is our winner.


Well, after all that crazy business, DK is leaving us in a blaze of…um…whatever that was. CarterHayes joins rob and nibbish in the finals, and I’ll post the elimination and the final challenge within the next few hours.

The Milkman

Well, here we go.

Vote One: DK.

Vote Two: DK.

Vote Three: CarterHayes.

Vote Four: CarterHayes. “I hope I’m not about to end up as the new Rob Cesternino after this.”

So, that’s a tie.

From there, we go to previous head-to-head.

Two draws: Challenges 12 and 13
CarterHayes: Challenges 1, 3, 6, 11, 14, 16, 18
DK: Challenges 5, 7, 8, 10, 15, 17, 19


Shit. What’s wrong with you people?

From there, I have options. For instance, I could go with non-submissions. Carter had one, DK had none. Favors DK. I could do overall score; Carter’s is 36, DK’s is 33. Favors Carter.

That’s all well and good, but I never set up anything before. I came up with plenty of ways to deal with it, many of which weren’t fair to either of them, and a few which weren’t really fair to rob and/or nibbish.

Sooooo…I hereby announce Challenge 19a.

Only CH and DK are asked to do this one, though if the other two want to do it as a show of solidarity, more power to ’em, I guess. It’s simply another Fiction 59, just like the first challenge of this game, in which we asked for a complete story in exactly 59 words. To be clear, they must be new submissions.

We’re going to do a speed round here: these are due tomorrow night, Saturday, at 10pm Central. Due date changed to Wednesday night the 27th at 10pm Central. Just like the World Series, I never would have suspected this game to last until November, but here we are! (And for the record, unlike at the end of other games, I find myself oddly ready for Survivor VIII)

We’ll each score each of them on a scale of 1-100, just so ties are unlikely. In the extremely unlikely event of another tie, the favor will go to the one that I scored higher, because dammit, it’s my game, right?

This game is giving me ulcers, Survivors. I can only imagine the wringer it’s putting y’all through.


I forgot to write an interesting intro, so here’s a boring sentence.



I: [Paul]
I was walking up the familiar hill with Marie. We’d been up this hill countless
times after studying or hanging out with friends. It was kind of the default
place to walk to to relax or blow off steam. Tonight was no different, except
perhaps that it was a little later than usual. We’d just finished a grueling
physics problem set and the weather was fabulous: early fall changed the
normally vibrant greens to striking yellows, reds and oranges, muted in the
silver moonlight. As it always happens, thoughts of school fade and my muscles
relax. We reach the top of the hill and Marie turns to me.
“So, people have been asking me if we’re dating.”
The last lingering thoughts of school vanish, but the muscles tighten like
finely tuned guitar strings. I really wish I had more experience with women so
I knew what she meant, but I’m a physics major, damn it. What does she expect
from me? “Really? What did you say?”
“I told them we weren’t, because last time I checked, we weren’t.”
Is she saying we need more distance, or does she like me, too? Why can’t she
just be more straight forward? “So, why do you bring it up now?”
“I just thought it was interesting.”
Man, no clues? Maybe I’ll just pretend to look at the moon rising over the
trees and it’ll drop. It really is a gorgeous night.
“So, Paul, what are you afraid of?”
How in the hell do you respond to that? “Excuse me?”
“What are you afraid of?”
My heart is racing. Does this mean she likes me? Or is she just playing mind
games? Should I just take the plunge and ask her out? Is it worth risking our
friendship and possible rejection for something that might not work out? Man,
why do women have to be so difficult! “Well… I just worry that if something
happens, or if you say no, things will be awkward.”
“Really, how much more awkward could things be than they are now?”
That tears it. It’s pretty clear she’ll say yes. But what if she doesn’t?
Maybe she’s saying it’s all a waste of time. There doesn’t really seem to be a
choice, so I stammer, “would you like to go out sometime?”
“I’d love to, you idiot.”
I can’t stop shaking. My legs collapse and I sit down in a heap. She comes
next to me and slides close to my side, and we stare at the rising moon,
together. That went well.

II: [Marie]
Up the hill again. Paul always seems to end up walking here, which is really no
big deal. It really is a gorgeous place. Maybe it’s the time to start things
going. After all, it doesn’t get much more romantic that this: walking alone
together under the full moon on a crisp fall evening. “So, people have been
asking me if we’re dating.”
“Really? What did you say?”
Wow. Is there any way I can make this more obvious. I like you, you dipshit!
I want you to ask me out, then I want to go on a date with you, and I want to
make out with you and explore your wonderful body. And he asks for my
response. How dense can he be? “I told them we weren’t, because last time I
checked, we weren’t.”
“So, why do you bring it up now?”
And just when I thought he couldn’t be more stupid… “I just thought it was
He doesn’t answer. Really? I know he’s smart, but sometimes, he can be so damn
clueless. After all, we’ve been walking together for nearly 3 months. Sure,
the first few times was a whole group of us, but we’ve had more than ample
opportunities to get to know each other. Maybe I read him wrong and he’s not
interested in me. How much more direct could I be without throwing myself at
him? Either way, I want this cleared up today. “Paul, what are you afraid of?”
“Excuse me?”
Maybe I was to direct, but really, I just don’t care anymore. I’m going to get
this out of him if I have to whack him over the head. “What are you afraid of?”
“Well… I just worry that if something happens, or if you say no, things will be
Huh. Maybe he just is as inexperienced as he seems. At least his response
seems honest, if painfully lacking in insight. “Really, how much more awkward
could things be than they are now?”
“So, would you like to go out sometime?”
Finally! He must like me since he stayed with it and didn’t just run off,
though the poor guy is shaking like a leaf. I guess we’ll see where we go from
here, but we’re finally on our way. “I’d love to, you idiot.” He looks like he
could use some comforting. Time to enjoy our newfound relationship, snuggle up,
and hope for the best.

S: I’m not sure how the rest of these will read, but it feels like these are too similar. I mean, yeah, it’s the same scene, but the only difference here is the internal monologuing. I do like the monologuing (with Paul particularly; Marie’s seems implausibly caustic) but I would love to have dug deeper into the psyches of these two.

B: Sweet, accurate, but fairly banal. Also, several typos and grammar missteps detract from the mood a bit.


I. Bob Johnson
Life in this business has gotten rough over the years. Lately it seems everybody’s looking for the quick job, get ‘em in and get ‘em out. It’s all flash, no substance any more. And nobody appreciates the art of the conversation like they used to. I always said my skills at talking a man up made me as much money as my skills with the shears did.

Take this one guy, Darryl. He used to come in every couple weeks. I’d give him a trim and a shave, standard issue, usually a ten-buck deal. But you get him going and he could talk your ears off. We’d go a ten-minute job for about half an hour most times, and he’d drop me a Jackson every time he left. I figured, hey, they’re not beating down the door for me anyways, if he’s going to give the extra I ain’t going to say no. So I tried to get him talking every time. It didn’t take much. A little usually went a long way, or at least that’s how it used to be.

Lately I’d been seeing him a lot less, though. Maybe every couple of months. He seemed twitchy every time, now, too, distracted. Looked like he’d been losing weight. And he stopped paying more than the posted price, too. Probably getting ready to bolt, but can’t bring himself to just stop coming. So he figures he can wind down or something, get me “used to it” before he starts getting his chops at the fucking Great Clips up on Miramar like everybody else.

So he comes in today, I’m thinking, I gotta get this guy lightened up, maybe lighten his wallet up again today too. He’s looking as twitchy as ever, and he’s got these bangs hanging down half an inch in front of his eyes now. I figure I can do a job on those, if I can get him talking long enough to let me.

He barely says hi to me, just sits in the chair. He doesn’t even look at me. I’m thinking this is gonna be more of a challenge than I thought. I’m up for it, though. Like I said, I’m as proud of my conversational skills as my haircutting skills, and I figure today Darryl’s gonna be my shining moment of both.

I give him a warning before I pull out the spray. He winces and closes his eyes, but just for a second. I don’t usually even give the warnings; I like to play the little joke on guys, but I figure Darryl could use the break today.

I pull out the shears and get to work. I ask him about the Padres. Tough break, eh? Thought they had ‘em all summer, that was a heartbreaker. I know Darryl loves baseball; he used to talk about Gwynn and Hoffman all day. Can’t get him going on that today, though.

That’s weird, I’m thinking. I try the Chargers. Darryl ain’t much of a football fan, but come on, it’s football, right? Everybody watches football. I saw we just cut Merriman, I say. Bout time, that juicing freak. Hope they cut Norv next, y’know. Darryl looks up at me for a second, but he just says yep, bout time, and shuts it again.

I’m getting a little worried, now. I’m over halfway done with the job and it’s not even been five minutes. I figure I can slow down, drag this out if I can just get him talking a while. Darryl and I never really talked about his job; I think he worked in construction or something, but he never said much about that. He always used to love talking about his kids, though. Chris and Laura, eleven and seven years old, by now, they had to be. He used to bring them up without me even saying anything, he was so eager to talk about them. I figure I’ll try it this time; he’s gotta open up about them, right? He always does.

Tell me about the kiddos, Darryl, I say. Chris still doing ballet? I think I saw a show of his last spring, seeing my niece. He looked real great, real graceful up there.

Darryl’s not saying anything. I switch to his daughter, ask him if Laura’s still playing soccer, how the season’s going.

I hear a crack, like a popping balloon I thought, for some reason. My eyes flash and I’m seeing stars, and suddenly there’s this searing pain on the side of my head, and somehow I’m on the floor. I shake my head, and I see Darryl there, he’s crying. I say, Darryl, man, what gives? What happened? He’s shaking all frantic now, and I see it in his hand. He’s trying to talk, but I don’t know if it’s the tears or what, but he’s not making any sense, it barely sounds like words. I say, Darryl, man, hold on. Just take whatever you want, it’s okay.

He stops trying to talk for a second, looks at me. I say, Darryl, just think about your kids, alright? Just think about your kids.

I hear another balloon crack, and it’s suddenly like I got ten elephants standing on my chest. I can’t even see if Darryl’s still there. Jesus, I’m thinking, it’s just like I said. Life in this business has gotten rough.

II. Darryl Sanders
I can’t even see straight.

My ears are buzzing like a swarm of bees, and my throat is so tight I feel like I can’t even speak.

I stumble down the street, and I go in the first door that seems to take shape in front of me. I stop when I’m inside; have I been here before?

I see him standing there, behind a chair. He waves, says “Darryl! Hey, buddy, I haven’t seen you in, what, a couple weeks at least! Looks like you could use a trim, man, come on and sit down!”

Do I know him? I can’t focus. I move over to the chair and sit in it, just to try to keep myself still for a second, so I can try to focus.

He says, “Standard order, right? I’ve been giving you this cut for, what, five years at least, right? I’ll just go ahead and do you up like I always do.” Like he always does? I’ve seen this man, this
place, before? I’m searching my mind, trying to grasp the words, the sounds, match them to this face, but it’s all fuzzy.

“I’m just going to go ahead and give you a little spray, wet it up a bit up there so I can trim it down, alright buddy?” Bob. It hits me. The letters pop together in my head. It’s Bob. I do know him. I have been here before.

I’m sitting under the long cloth now, so he probably can’t see my legs shaking. I can’t control them. The buzzing in my ears is getting lower, but it’s still there. I can’t see straight.

He starts cutting my hair. “How about those Padres, eh Darryl? Tough year, man. You make it to any games lately? One of those Giants ones? I thought we had ‘em this summer, man. Real heartbreaker.” I don’t know what’s going on. Is he trying to talk to me? Am I supposed to respond? I manage to get out, “Yeah, heartbreaker”. And that’s it. My ears keep buzzing.

He cuts for a little bit, I don’t know how long. It feels like an hour, but it can’t be that long. He starts talking again. “You watching the Chargers this year, bud? I saw they just cut that juicer Merriman. Bout damn time. Hope they cut Norv next.” I still don’t understand what he’s saying. I just say “Yeah, about time.” I can’t see straight. My legs are shaking harder. My left arm is shaking now, too, under the cloth. I try to reach for something to hold it steady. I find the gun in my pocket, and suddenly I’m struck with fear. I have a gun? Where’d this come from? I’m trying to remember again, but it’s fuzzy again. My arm isn’t shaking any more, though.

I start thinking I’m going to be able to calm down. My arm isn’t shaking any more. I think the buzzing is getting lower again. He’s cutting the hair in front of my eyes, now, and I’m starting to think I can focus them again. It’s going to be okay, I think. I’m still trying to remember the gun, though. It’s still fuzzy. But it’s going to be okay.

“Hey, tell me about your kiddos, Darryl. How’re they doing? Chris, he still doing ballet? I think I saw him in a show last spring, seeing my niece in it. He looked real good, real graceful.” Chris. The name pops in my head. The buzzing is getting louder. I think I remember. The gun…Chris…it’s going to be okay…it has to be okay…what happened to Chris?…and..who else?…what happened to…

“And Laura, how’s she doing? Still playing soccer?”

I can’t see straight. I can’t hear anything but the buzzing.

My hand, on the gun, reaches up, out from under the cloth. I can’t hear anything but the buzzing. I’m standing up, out of the chair. The man – Bob – is on the floor behind it. There’s something – blood? – coming out of one of his ears. I can’t see straight.

He’s saying something, but I can’t hear anything but the buzzing. I try to say something, tell him about Chris. And Laura. I think I remember. The gun…it’s not as fuzzy. But I can’t hear anything but the buzzing. I try to tell him.

Suddenly, it stops. The buzzing. I see him, looking at me. He says “Darryl, just think about your kids, alright? Just think about your kids.”

The kids. My kids.

My arm goes up again, the gun’s still in my hand. Bob screams, then slumps back on the floor. I can see him, lying there. But the buzzing is overwhelming. I stumble back out on the street. And again I can’t see straight.

S: I can’t tell if I like or dislike the withholding of information here, but I’m certain that I’m intrigued. I think the length of the piece had me convinced I was going to get more of the story. Still, this is a very strong attack to two very different psyches. It’s probably obvious, but the strength of this one hinges on the order of the pieces. Darryl’s – condition? – is so much more heartbreaking this way.

B: A little wordy at times, but I like the tone and the atmosphere. I kind of knew where part two was going even before I got to the end of part one. However, it leaves me wanting for more information, and that’s a good way to do it.


I: Dr. Albert Marigold
To My Esteemed Colleagues,
I am afraid that I, like so many well intentioned lovers of science before me, have tampered with forces too dark and powerful to comprehend. As you know, I have been researching spatial singularities and event horizons for the last twenty-seven years. It has, by and large, been fruitless work. Recently, however, I have begun to make some progress in capturing a singularity within a controlled environment, and my research has taken a dramatic leap forward.

I scheduled a meeting with some of my associates this previous Thursday. My intention was to show them some of the work I’d been pursuing over the past couple of months and hopefully get some valuable feedback from some of the finest minds of our time.

The evening started off benignly enough, I greeted them and invited them to have a look at my latest experiment – a portable singularity generator. When I activated my creation, all hell broke loose. The singularity proved to be too powerful to be contained and began to wreak havoc in the room. If my calculations are correct, the event horizon caused both time and anti-time to be reversed, causing an unstable paradox. Of course, my peers fled in panic.

However, the situation is even direr than that. I was unable to control the paradox after I unleashed it, even after flooding the room with sigma rays (which should have reversed the reversal of time and anti-time). I believe this paradox will spread; slowly at first, but then faster and faster until the entire earth is swallowed by it. There is nothing that can be done. I have opened Pandora’s Box, it cannot be closed again.

May you all make your peace and enter the void with dignity.

Dr. Albert Leonard Marigold

II: Dr. Ronald Willis
Venerated Members of the Board of Directors,
I am certain that you’ve had the time, as I have, to review Dr. Marigold’s account of the events of last Thursday, October the 14th. Needless to say, these events are unsettling, but not for the reasons you may have been told.

My colleagues and I arrived at Dr. Marigold’s lab at the pre-determined time, only to find the room deserted, except for a sheet-covered box and a large set of speakers. Suddenly, a booming voice filled the room. “For years they’ve all laughed at my warnings. Now, gaze upon the dread fruits of my labors, and despair!”

Needless to say, we were all a bit thrown by this ominous announcement, but our attention was quickly drawn to the center of the room, where the sheet began to be drawn from the box. The room was filled with a freakish howling as the box sprung open.

Out jumped an ordinary house cat. The poor beast appeared to have a piece of buttered toast glued to its back. It was desperately trying to rid itself of its burden, and was rolling madly on the floor. We all thought it to be some manner of ill-conceived joke, and began laughing uncomfortably. Unfortunately, our hopes were dashed as Dr. Marigold continued ranting about the “paradox” and laughing insanely.

It is as we feared. Dr. Marigold’s once-brilliant mind has lost all grip on reality. I hereby recommend he be asked to step down from his position within the consortium and admitted into intensive psychological care immediately.

Dr. Ronald Tremain Willis

S: True story: I put a “Tremain(e)” in most of my scripts. Anyhoo, this isn’t anything like what I had in mind for this challenge – presentation-wise – but as often, an entry is changing the way I think about the challenge. This one actually is much funnier on a second read. A scientist creating a paradox with a cat and slice of bread would be mildly funny. A scientist thinking he’s done so while being completely delusional is way, way funnier.

B: I saw where this was eventually going, too, but it made me laugh. The specifics definitely surprised me. Plus, rereading part one is all the more hilarious once you know what the paradox really is. I was in a room with family a few weeks ago and I mentioned the buttered bread attached to the back of a cat paradox, and nobody thought it was amusing. So I’m glad you apparently do. And I may now refer to my crazy cat as a portable singularity generator.



Lefty was disgruntled. He’d been working for Ross for years, sifting through publications, archiving and retrieving important information, and, at least from his perspective, generally going underappreciated. Dexter, his longtime coworker and nemesis, had the sexy, hands-on job with a knack for pleasing Ross in impossible-to-miss ways, while Lefty’s role was to merely execute the same tasks reliably, over and over, sifting through trade periodicals and internal records and highlighting, for Ross’ evaluation, the most pertinent information.

Lately, however, things were looking up. Ross was looking toward the future and had begun transitioning his archives to electronic media. Dexter had been pressed into double duty, retaining his old duties while simultaneously facilitating the integration of new e-media into their work, and had somehow dropped both balls. Lefty had observed the change in Ross’ mood since the transition had begun – he was tenser, more irritable, and increasingly distracted by attractive female subordinates, perhaps a sign that he was losing focus and patience with Dexter. Finally, the sign Lefty had been waiting for came; Ross indicated there would be a shake-up in duties. Lefty had held a lot of hands in his time, but this was the first he felt–maybe–had the potential to win.

Ross cleared his throat…


Dexter had been Ross’ right hand since the Seventies, and anyway, for longer than either could remember. Their relationship was organic and exceedingly familiar, Dexter the helping hand whenever Ross needed him, which was frequently. His longstanding position made Dexter all the more concerned about the seemingly impending changes in the dynamic between Ross and himself. “It all started when Ross got that damn modem,” Dexter thought. Prior to the modem’s intrusion, Dexter always had maintained a firm grasp on any situation Ross had placed him in, but this modem and the stupid World Wide Web were forcing him outside his comfort zone.

Dammit. It wasn’t fair. Lefty was the information specialist, while Dexter had always been the hands-on practitioner. The problem was that Ross relied on Dexter to a greater degree than Lefty, and everyone knew it. Sure, Dexter knew he hadn’t displayed his usual deft handling when confronted with the new technology responsibilities tangential to his true calling, but it was hard to be in two places at once. Besides, Dexter knew that both Ross and Lefty were aware that he had more experience with computers than Lefty, who could barely hunt and peck one half of a keyboard. Lefty was too busy cruising through Personnel records, checking out data on Ross’ female employees and passing it along to Ross, who wasn’t exactly a ladies’ man and needed all the help he could get. Now Ross wanted to give Lefty a greater share in the partnership, likely at Dexter’s expense. The carpal tunnel from all that repetitive motion alone was starting to kill him.

Oh, shit! Ross was sitting down for their meeting. Dexter felt himself break out into a sweat, his skin growing instantly clammy…

Buckle My Shoe

Lefty and Dexter faced Ross, who sat at his desk between them. Lefty could barely conceal his sinister anticipation of the tables’ imminent turning. That jerk Dexter was about to get his comeuppance.

“Lefty,” Ross said, “it’s time for you to put your hand on the tiller here in a more prominent way. Effective immediately, you’re going to start the training program I outlined to you earlier, while Dexter is going to assume some of your old duties with our transition of focus to electronic media.”

“Lefty’d better get a grip,” Dexter thought to himself. That weakling couldn’t even shake hands firmly, much less do the things Dexter had spent years perfecting.

“There will doubtless be an adjustment period, but this is going to be a learning opportunity for all of us,” Ross continued.

“After all, these days the left hand should know what the right hand is doing.”

S: Holy gross…I love that this longish entry was all a setup to such an asinine pun. I’m struggling with the format here; the third bit isn’t really a third perspective, but pays off the joke while not focusing on any specific character. That works for the joke, but feels like a bit of a cheat, maybe. I’ve been all about accepting stylistic differences all game long, though, so that’s not going to be a roadblock for me here.

B: GROAN. Now that was a pretty awesome set-up as in I didn’t see it coming at all. Those are the best kind of puns.


B: A tougher decision than usual this week. All of the entries were solid enough, but none of them wowed the pants off of me either. However, I have to give the nod to nibbish as it’s the only one that I wanted to read twice and the only one that got better the second time around.

S: It was a worthy week here, and I re-read all of them before starting to make a decision. What I found was that entry #3 not only retained its humor but became much funnier on a second read, and that’s the sort of layering that I really appreciate. I really liked this challenge and very much enjoyed the multiple takes, and it looks like we’ll be giving nibbish his first solo Immunity this week. Good timing, bro.

Have elimination votes in to me by Friday at 8pm Central and I’ll get rid of one last player before our final challenge. Cheers, Survivors. You made it.

Against protocol, I decided to do this challenge. Inspiration struck, I guess.

I apologize in advance if this is the direction in which any of you were going.


I: Seth “The Eagle” Jackal

The warehouse is nearly empty. These fuckers are bumbling enough when there are a swath of them to cut through, but one on one they’re just sad and pathetic. Do they know who I am, really? Of course they do! I am Seth “The Eagle” Jackal! They know me everywhere, and this is why they sent so many men!

I’m behind a stack of crates. I’m not going to die today – I’ve already decided that – but that’s no reason to be careless. I have my golden gun, chosen for style over function, and it will lay waste to the remaining…two men?…no, just one. Why doesn’t he run? He had plenty of time. Oh, but these are heartless men! They have chosen a bad path, and it’s my job to rid the world of them. I’m trying to rid the world of a tyrant here, and if his minions get in my way, I’m going to split them from gizzard to gullet! My enemy knows this, but he sends them anyway, because this is what enemies do.

“Please, I’m just going to -” he starts. I’ve heard this before and I don’t fall for it!

Immediately, I reply with a few shots in the direction of his voice. “You can’t trick me with such schoolyard tricks, villain! Die like a man!”

I’m proud of that. Die like a man. I’ll have to remember that when I reach my real villain. I’m Seth “The Eagle” Jackal, I’ll say. You’ve been surveying this scene like a coward, but it’s finally time for you to die like a man. Yeah! That’s gonna be ultra super badass!

My minion has gone silent for now. Too bad. It’s easier when they try to fool you, because then you know where to shoot. I hear his footsteps, but he’s moving quickly to keep me off my feet.

I slip around the crate and hide around the next grouping. I fire a couple of shots where I think he might be. He grunts! Did I hit him? No, he’s just scared! These guys are such cowards when it really comes down to it.

After a moment, I hear him sobbing. Pathetic! He whips around the corner and his gun isn’t even drawn! I don’t waste a perfect opportunity like this; I shoot twice. He falls. I loom over him so he can see just what a mistake he’s made by letting Seth “The Eagle” Jackal get the drop on him. He’s still sobbing! Die like a man, man!

He reaches for his pocket. Did he forget he’s already holding his gun in his other hand? What an idiot! I step on his arm. He sobs harder!

Choking on his blood, he says, “Man, fuck you.” Man, fuck you. MAN, FUCK YOU?! He can’t do better than that? I’ve heard way better than that, even in this very warehouse! I look down at him, the last man standing before I reach the villain’s final hideout. Do I show mercy to this whining man? Do I let him live? Well…am I Seth “The Eagle” Jackal, or what?

II: Frank Davis

This is stupid. I know it is.

Harlan drops. He’s dead already. I hear the crack of bone and I know he’s toast. I’m the only one left.

Money is the root of all evil, they say. It’s true. I’m trying to support my wife and daughter, I’m penniless, and so I turned to evil. I mean, what I’ve been doing isn’t all that evil. It’s something like security. I just work for an evil guy, I mean. It’s easy to lose yourself in the work and forget how bad the business really is when you’re nowhere near the boss.

The Eagle’s moving. I’m fucked…I know that. This was stupid. So, so stupid. I knew The Eagle was going to come to mow us down one day – I just kept saying, this isn’t the day. For a long time, I was right.

I want to broker a deal. Not even a deal, really. I just want to get the fuck out of here and live my somewhat-meaningful life. I’m here for the work, not for the henching. “Please, I’m just going to -”

He starts shooting immediately, of course. He’s a muttonhead. What do I do? This is a man so stupid that he gave himself the nickname “The Eagle” even though his last name is “Jackal.” Your badass nickname is right there, dude. Just use it.

Against my will, I start thinking of Christine. I always swore she wouldn’t enter my head if this day came. I swore I’d forget my young daughter at this moment so I could focus on what I had to do, but here, facing almost certain death because The Eagle is so damned unstoppable, I can’t help it. Christine is my only thought. She just started saying “Daddy.” She loves Legos and swingsets. She’s interested in creating things, just like I am. Hopefully, she’ll succeed in that field whereas I gave up and embraced this stupid work-a-day.

I try to flit around a bit to throw him off, but I’m fucked. I know I am. Tears fall. I can’t help it. I don’t want The Eagle to see it because he’ll only mock me, but I really can’t help it.

I can’t beat him. I know it. This is The Eagle, and this is what he does.

I turn a corner, arms in the air. It’s pointless, but it’s the only play I have. I want to tell him what I have to live for.

I never get that far. He shoots. For a second all I see is The Eagle, but then it’s Christine again. I screwed up. Oh, God, Daddy screwed up. Daddy didn’t think long enough. Daddy won’t be coming home. Dammit. God damn it.

I’m on the ground, on my back. He stands above me. I’m choking. All I want to do is tell Christine I love her. I’m not coming home, but I love you. I always loved you and I always will. I reach for my phone. I try to save my voice for the few words I can give her.

The Eagle steps on my arm. He doesn’t care. Or maybe he doesn’t know. Or maybe he’s too goddamned stupid. What does he have to live for? An endless string of girlfriends and no commitments? Jesus. Hard life, pal. But you were smart, weren’t you, dealing in heroism? I was stupid. So, so stupid.

The Eagle’s got the gun pointed at me. I know he doesn’t show mercy, so through my wrecked voice, through the blood, I manage the three words I wanted to give Christine.

Daddy loves you.

The Eagle’s not impressed. He thinks I’ve insulted him, or something. I close my eyes and wait for my world to go black.

Well hello there, final four. You’ll be getting a week to do this one, which is great, but remember that the due date is next Wednesday night (if Wednesday comes and some of you haven’t entered, I’ll try to remember a warning email).

For this challenge, you’re creating a scene. The content of this scene is yours to come up with, but you’ll be writing the scene twice – once each from the perspective of two different characters.

There can be as many characters in the scene as you need, and the two characters whose perspectives you use don’t necessarily have to appear to be the main characters. Of course, you can also have no more than the two characters whose perspectives you’re using. Writing in first person is acceptable, as is third person, so long as it’s clear who’s the featured character in the scene.

From there, all I ask is that you make it clear where your second scene begins (for a touch of class, I humbly suggest roman numerals!!II!!II!).

They’re due on Wednesday night, the 20th, at 10pm Central. There will only be one Immunity, so in the case that Beau and I disagree, I will eject Beau from the game we’ll confer and come to an agreement.

Cheers, Survivors. Just one more step before the finals.

You probably already saw it below, but this is a post to fulfill contractual obligations.

Seventeenth Elimination from Spookymilk Survivor VII: GreekHouse

…not the greatest way to go down after all this time, but it was a good game. You were always one of the hardest writers to identify, because you were comfortable with subtlety, and you were comfortable with being completely disgusting. I, for one, relate.

The next challenge probably won’t be here until mid-tomorrow, mostly because we realized we have an open spot here and have to figure out which to grab from the list.

I’m glad to be home, but saddened that home isn’t in Minnesota. I had a blast at the wedding and even managed to meet DK, sean, SBG (with wife and daughter), Dread Pirate Will Young and…was that it? Beau was there, but I’d already met him. Sheenie was there, but at the time I was too drunk to put together that I knew DPWY’s wife thanks to the WGOM. Whoops.

Also, Surly is as good as advertised. I am ruined for life after tasting it. Onward…


I tramped through the snow, on my way back home. I had been making the weekly trip into the village from our farm ever since my Papa moved away to Moscow. As I got close to our front door, I spotted a furry brown form just outside it. I looked closer, and saw it was another cat. It, like the others I’d found, wasn’t moving.

When I went inside, I saw my Mama standing at the stove and my older sister seated at the table. I told Mama about what I’d seen outside.

“Oh, dear. Another cat has gone to Moscow to keep your Papa company.” She turned to face my sister. “Anna, that’s five cats gone away this month. Do you know anything about this?”

My sister looked guilty. “Oh, Mama, I’m sorry. I can’t seem to help it. Ever since Papa…” She glanced at me quickly. “…ever since Papa moved away to Moscow, I just keep wanting to…send cats there, so he’s not alone.”

As Mama stood silent, thinking about what to say next, another stray cat snuck in our door. My sister’s eyes grew wide, and she got up from the table and pounced on the cat.

Mama cried out, “Stop, Anna! That’s enough! Your Papa must be quite content with all the cats he’s already got with him now.”

“Mama…I’m sorry…I can’t help it…”

Mama crossed the room quickly and grabbed the bag I held in my hand. “Here, Anna. What if I give you these, the coins from Sergei’s trip into the village? Will you stop?”

Anna was still holding the cat by the neck. “Mama, if you give me the coins first, I might let the cat…stay here.”

I thought I should say something. “Mama, what if the men in gray coats come back this week? Won’t they want some of those coins?”

Mama shushed me, and shuffled over to my sister. “Here you go, Anna. Take the coins.”

Anna’s eyes brightened, and she smiled as she took the bag. “Alright, Mama. No more cats will go to Moscow.” She let the cat go, and it darted out the door.

As I stood and tried to understand what I’d just seen, my stomach started to growl. From outside, I thought I could hear the heavy clamping of boots trudging through the snow…it sounded like two men.

S: Well, there’s a nice uplifting beginning!11! I really dig “moving away to Moscow” as a euphemism for death for some reason. The piece is equal parts funny and heartbreaking…I like.

B: I like how you threw in two sisters when the original story only had one. It still condenses down just fine. This seems a bit dark and mature for a children’s story, but the vocabulary is simple, allowing it the possibility of being something appropriate for an older child. Well constructed.


“Uncle Ed! Uncle Ed! Read us a story!!”

“Aww, kids… Uncle Ed just lost a lot of money betting on baseball. Ask your mom or your dad.”

“They both told us to ask you!”

“Well you tell them…. Eh, fine. Which one do you want me to read?”

“Bernstein Bears Bad Habit!”

“But we just read that one last night.”


“Ugh, fine. One day sister bear started biting her nails. He mom and dad didn’t like this, so they gave her money…”

“Uncle Ed, you’re skipping parts!”

“Mama Bear taped her fingers, because that’s what they did before band aids, but Sister Bear decided she liked bleeding stumps for fingers, so she tore the tape off. Then they gave her money, because bribery is the best way to discourage bad habits.”

“What story is this?”

“Sister Bear decided that, much like your Cousin Molly, she needed more to keep up her lifestyle, so she made up some nonsensical story about the money not being enough to keep her from biting her nails. So Grandma Bear came up with a nonsensical plan that would never work in real life, but because they upped the dollar amount, it worked like a charm. Sister Bear stopped biting her nails. She learned a very important lesson that day – bad habits are profitable if they annoy your parents enough. She would later apply this lesson when choosing boyfriends, career paths, and ‘alternative lifestyle choices’ in college.”

“I don’t think we’re going to have you tell us stories anymore…”

S: Ha! The use of the story itself is nice…I just wish we still had the story going on within the story (as in, the kids rip off Uncle Ed somehow). Then we’d really have gold. As it is, it’s just a step from being something pretty special.

B: This made me laugh, but it goes from a realistic portrayal of an inappropriate uncle’s sarcasm to something that sounds more like a passage from a humorist novel. Mostly, though, this doesn’t really follow the terms of the challenge. This is more or less people critiquing the book, not extrapolating the condensed version.


Dora was excited. After years of begging, pleading, wishing, and hoping she was finally going to watch her favorite baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, play in the World Series. She had grown up rooting for the team with her dad, who came home one October day with tickets to the very last game of the 1956 World Series.

Unfortunately, for the Dodgers to reach Game Seven they would have to lose three games and win three games. Dora knew she would fret. She wanted to go to the World Series and watch her beloved Dodgers, but she was afraid of their opponents, the mighty New York Yankees, who had beaten the Dodgers four times out of five in the World Series since Dora had been born.

With Dora listening on the radio, the Dodgers won the first two games with ease. Then, disaster struck. Dora’s Dodgers lost three straight games at the home of the hated Yankees. If the Dodgers lost Game 6, Dora would not get to see them play the next day.

Innings passed, and Dora grew more and more nervous. Neither the Dodgers or the Yankees could get a runner across home plate, and the scoreboard filled with zeroes. At the end of nine innings, the teams were still tied at zero. The Yankees went meekly in the top half of the tenth inning. The Dodgers got a man, Junior Gilliam, on with a one out walk in the bottom of the tenth. Pee Wee Reese bunted, and Gilliam scampered to second. The Yankees walked Duke Snider, the Dodgers’ slugging center fielder. Then, Jackie Robinson, the Dodgers’ star second baseman, singled to left, Gilliam ran home, and the Dodgers won. Dora would get to see the Dodgers in Game 7!

Dora and her dad went to Ebbets Field early to watch batting practice. Dora couldn’t sit still, and couldn’t wait to celebrate a Dodgers’ victory. When the Yankees scored two runs in the first inning, she just knew the Dodgers would answer with three. When the Yankees added two more in the sixth, she believed a big inning was just around the corner for her Dodgers. But the Yankees scored five more runs, and the Dodgers were shut out. Dora cried into her dad’s shoulder all the way home.

Dora’s moped around the house for months, eyes red from crying, nose chapped from wiping her sniffles. Finally, just as spring training was about to begin, Dora’s dad offered her a choice – she could have tickets to twenty Dodgers games, or he could buy her a new Underwood typewriter. More than anything else, Doris dreamed of becoming a journalist. Her old Remington Rand was always jamming and breaking ribbons. Dora made up her mind. A few weeks later, the Dodgers made up theirs – they would leave Brooklyn for Los Angeles at the end of the year.

Ten years later, Dora was offered a job as assistant to the President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson. Dora, a journalist, had just written an article for an important magazine explaining how the President could be removed from office. President Johnson didn’t care – he wanted Dora as his assistant. It was the beginning of a brilliant career as a Presidential historian and political journalist, with appearances on major television news programs and The New York Times’ bestseller list.

Dora occasionally thought about baseball, but she never attended another game. When she was old and successful, she sometimes daydreamed, wondering what might have become of her life if she hadn’t chosen her typewriter. Maybe she would have become a historian, but without the Dodgers to root for, she might have to pick a team like the Red Sox. Maybe she would invest so much time and effort rooting for the Red Sox that she would plagiarize portions of several of her books. No, Dora was much happier without the Dodgers. Plus, the curse she had uttered between sobs as she and her dad left Ebbets Field for the last time that October night had worked: the Yankees had never won another World Series, and followed most of their aging fans south when they eventually moved to Miami. Now they played under the hot Florida sun in a mostly empty football stadium. Dora smiled as she sat down in front of her old typewriter. It was time to write the next chapter in her next book, a biography of President Ventura.

S: I can’t believe how long it took for me to pick up on the fact that this was Doris Kearns Goodwin. Anyway, it really hits its creative stride in the final paragraph, of course, and I identify with this kind of snark. For the record, although I do realize that there’s no mother doing the bribing here, for me that’s an acceptable bend to get the story to what it needs to be.

B: I said write a children’s story, not a horror novel! The writing here isn’t bad and very appropriate for children to read. I also love alternate histories. But I again don’t see how this is an extrapolation of the story. There is no “Mama” character here at all. If the bad habit is allowing the Dodgers to break her heart, and the bribe is the typewriter, I can go for that. But in the original story, “sister” takes more of a demanding tone in the negotiations, and I don’t see it that way at all here.


Girl: (Staring dreamily at Derek Jeter baseball card in bedroom) “Oooooo”.
Mother (bringing in laundry): Hello, dear… What are you looking at?
Girl: Um, this? Just a card from my favorite team, the magnificent
Yankees! Why, is there a problem?
Mother: Hun, where did you find that filth around here? Can’t you tell by our
cabin that we’re proudly located in the Midwest? The only people here that root
for the Yanks are transplants and ignorant hoodlums who wear their caps
Girl: But, mom, they’re a great time that wins a lot and has grit and hits lots
of homers and they’re America’s team and…
Mom: That’s enough, dear. The Yankees are evil. They use their economic clout
to overbid the competition, short circuiting the natural developmental cycle.
The Yankees and their fans don’t believe in working for their glory. Instead,
they want instant gratification and will win at any cost. They embody all
that’s wrong with America today.
Girl: Well, what should I do? I’ve watched them enough to addicted to their
style of play. (and as an added bonus, every sports show I watch teaches me
other, new great things about them! Like, did you know they came back to win
174 games while the presidents of the US and Germany were both right handed and
the ballpark was located in a state containing an “n”?!? Aren’t they clutch!)
Mom: Look, maybe this will be a good opportunity to learn about the value of
money. Will you agree to never say a complimentary thing about the Yankees,
and, if you want to follow baseball, resolve to follow a different team if I pay
Girl: How much?
Mom: How about $5.00?
Girl: Sounds good. I’ll just keep staring at this until you want to pay.
Mom: Well, I only have a $10.00… I’ll give you this now if you’ll help me burn
all your Yankee garbage out back.
Girl: I guess…

(Final page of book is the family cozily gathered around a bonfire of Jeter
cards and A-rod posters)

S: Wow, this turned into another baseball week in short order, didn’t it? I like the “fact” that our girl learned by watching ESPN (again, I identify with this snark) in particular in this very bitchy (in a good way) entry. The girl’s age is tough to divine, which is bothering me a little.

B: The dialogue here is fairly unrealistic, even for a children’s story (unless of course “girl” is a Strib commenter). However, this does very much follow the rules of the contest, so by default I guess it gets second place.


I have a bad habit.
I’ll give you money if you stop.
Cash up front.
Done. (Sorry, I didn’t have time to do this and don’t want to get autoeliminated)

S: Oh boy, this is really testing the limits of the rules. I always wondered if something like this would happen and if I should safeguard against it, but it’s hard to know where the line is drawn.

B: And, this person did not even attempt. While two contestants did not follow the rules of the challenge very well, it was an admittedly difficult challenge, and at least they tried. “I didn’t have time” is the same as a non-submission in my book, and grounds for automatic elimination.


B: Even though it isn’t going to matter, immunity would have been awarded to contestant one.

S: Well, I’ll start with Immunity: there were a few worthy entries this week, but once again, the one that’s sticking with me is the darkest entry (which was, again, the first I read. Weird). The subtext of that one, for me, outstripped the humor of the others and I thusly also give my Immunity to DK.

Unfortunately, I also have to figure out what to do with Greek’s entry. The non-submission thing was created to make sure that people who were playing could really play, and this breaks that rule. Also, there was no attempt at the challenge; it was simply a cut-and-paste of the challenge with his postscript. So, although there was an email sent to me, I can’t in good conscience call it an “entry.” This was a decision I agonized over a bit, but I have to make an auto-elimination on this one. No hard feelings, Greek…I just really think it’s the right thing to do when I put myself in the shoes of the other players.

Penultimate challenge coming soon. Cheers, dudes. Good to meet a couple of you on Saturday. I know what you’re thinking, but I never blacked out!

…and I’m judging. I just sent the stuff off to Beau as well, so I have no idea if he’ll be around to do it.

So I wasn’t getting email alerts on this last post because it was Beau’s post. Now that I’ve read the comments, it seems like an okay time to share the several possible changes to the next game. It’s changed considerably over the years (for instance, it wasn’t initially a writing competition; writing was an element but it was a variety game) but most of you are seeing it for the first time and may have ideas worth hearing. At any rate, you may be interested in hearing mine. If not, forget I brought it up.

Here are all the things I’m considering for Survivor VIII.

1. Just me.
2. Me and Beau.
3. Me, Beau and some others. This would happen if I finally fulfill my pipe dream of having an enormous game (like, 64 players)
4. Me and another guest judge who played in Survivor VII or something.

1. Writing. I’m leaning heavily this way.
2. Variety. The way it used to be.

1. The way it is.
2. The way it is for the team portion. However, once the merge happened the low man each week would be eliminated.
3. Totally merit-based, with the low man being eliminated, but the results are not shown and each player is therefore able to do each challenge stress-free. I don’t hate this, even though I think I should. One real pitfall is that if it was a large group, I couldn’t run any long challenges because there would be so many of them coming my way.
4. Everyone does the first ten or so challenges, and scores are accumulated. Top ten move on to the solo portion of the game. I just thought of this one now, and I don’t see any real reason to dislike it at the moment.
5. Three teams. Everyone does the first three challenges, so nobody’s eliminated before they can stretch their legs a bit. At the end of the three weeks, the low team eliminates two people, the middle team eliminates one and the high team remains intact. Repeat over the next three weeks and until the merge.

…alright. Discuss, or not. I love this game, but it can always be tweaked.

…OH! One other thing. It just dawned on me that I’ll be in Minnesota this weekend for a wedding and the game will very probably be affected. I might be able to get judging done (they should be short, after all) but I’ll be watching game three at a sports bar (hopefully with some of you) and probably getting toasted, and Sunday is the wedding, and Monday is a travel day, so this could get a little goofy unless people wanted me to move the due date up by a day.

Your competition, and also you



I: Rachel “The Double-Dealer” Flynn

II: Ryan “The Snake” Fossum

III: Patrick “The Gentleman” Kozicky

IV: Brienne “The Submitter” Maner

V: Rusty “The Porn Star” Greene

VI: Brooks “The Unlikely Hero” Maki

VII: William “The Soulful” Schuth

VIII: Brooks “The Survivor” Maki

IX: Zack “The Ice Cream Man” Sauvageau

X: Pete “The Vacuum Cleaner” Bruzek

Turbo: Brooks “The 1956-1979 Montreal Canadiens” Maki

XI: Matt “The Cold-Hearted Motherf*&^er” Novak

All-Stars (XII): Andy “The Quiet Man” Rustleund

XIII: Sarah “Clarence’s Hope” Bizek

XIV: Dan “The Professional” Kautz

XV: Christina “Assault And” Pepper

XVI: Matt “The First-Time Player” Novak

XVII: Stacy “Saintly Patience” Snell

XVIII: Brian “Checkmate” David

XIX: Annette “Eammon for the Top” Barron

XX: Daniel “Neville “Smash “Hardware” Hardwood” Longbottom” Caouette

XXI: Pete “The Comeback Kid” Bruzek

XXII: Dan “The Even More Professional” Kautz

XXIII: Melissa “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” David

XXIV: Stacy “Fucking” Snell

I: Dragging Rivet’s Name Through the Mud One Last Time: Matt Novak (Ultragrandpa) and Michael Rivet (Friph Flipher-Fiph)
II: Bahambo Number 5: Pete “Triple Crown” Bruzek and Michelle “Single Tiara…So Far” Pratt

I: Brooks “Oh, for the Love of God” Maki
II: Michael “#DDB” Rivet
III: Pete “Fortune’s Fool” Bruzek
IV: Erin “All Seven and We’ll Watch Them Fall” Leslie
V: Jake “Littlefinger” Elliott

2014: Brooks “The Creator” Maki
2015: Matt “The Artist” Novak
2016: Matt “Waited Them Out” Novak
2017: Annette “I Would’ve Voted for You” Barron

2013: #21 Greg “The Gallant Glutton of Greatness” Johnson
2014: #29 Jonathon “Big Papa” Pope
2015: #8 Christina “Am I in This?” Pepper
2016: #22 Annette “No Backs Stabbed” Barron
2017: #30 Bernice “The Vulture” Nicaise
2018: #17 Carrie “Solid Gold” Bard
2019: #16 Jake “The Jabroni” Elliott

(Writing, non-elimination)
I: Sarah “Centipede Face” Johnson
II: Sarah “The Johnson Eliminator” Wreisner
III: Colin “Lonely Old Moon” Woolston
IV: Melissa “Not Sidebar Material” Diamond
V: Sama “No Family Reunions” Smith
VI: Sarah “Tumor Face” Wreisner
VII: John “Cult Following” Wreisner
VIII: Joshua “Peed the Bed” Longman
VIII: Annette “Oh, Right, That’s Who Won” Barron

WEREWOLF (most recent)

Werewolf Stats Spreadsheet

I (Pure): Matthew “The Obsessor” Gilman
I (Power): Kelly “The Novak-Destroyer” Wells

I: Matt “Exploiter of Worlds” Novak (France)

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