Monday, January 30, 2012

Spookymilk Survivor X: Unfortunate Strength

Vogons need to vogon over the next two weeks. Can they do it? Can I snag some sweet scores in the process? Read on, my friends.

This week's challenge was "Unfortunate Strength". The only requirement was that the protagonist had to have a strength that had drawbacks. A broad category, to be sure, but it had lots of potential. Did I live up to that potential? Did Vogons? Let's find out together.

My entry:

“I’m sorry to bother you…” the frail woman began. They were always sorry. They were usually scared, too, but mostly, they were just apologetic. Sorry to inconvenience, sorry to impose, so sorry to place the burden on Christine. If they were really so sorry, she thought, they wouldn’t be asking. They’d be looking into aromatherapy or herbal treatments – anything but this.

“You do understand what you’re asking for, don’t you?” Christine cut the woman off. “Can you live with what’s going to happen?”

They always, without fail, said that yes, they could live with it. Some of them actually could. Maybe they just didn’t understand the nature of the Balance, or maybe they understood it, but simply didn’t care what about the implications.

“Gather up a couple of Frank’s personal effects and procure a single vial of his blood. Bring those things to me three nights from now. You’ll need to spend that night in this house, so bring along a change of clothes.”

Some of Christine’s clients would then begin to worry about how they were going to get a vial of blood without their loved one suspecting anything. Some of them began to realize the full weight of what they were asking for around this time. If this woman did, she resigned herself to it with a sigh and a weary nod. They made their arrangements and the woman left.

Thursday came, and Christine set the basement up for the ritual. The woman came over at the appointed time and the pair went descended into the darkness.

“Do you ever feel badly for what you do?” the woman asked. Christine loathed conversations like this. What they about to do was soul-wrenching enough as it was without having a great deal of attention cast upon the particulars of it.

“I generally don’t think about it too much. If you’re ready, we ought to begin.”

“Why do you do it? You didn’t ask for much money, and you can’t possibly enjoy the heartache your actions cost.”

Christine opened her mouth to reply, but couldn’t find the words for an explanation. This woman was just as complicit as she, what was there to be gained from discussing it further?

“I don’t think we should talk about this any more.”

“I just don’t see how a human could…”

“Enough. Do you have the items I requested?”


“Then if you have nothing further to say, let’s begin. I will transfer your husband’s illness into this loaf of bread. Whichever eats the bread will take on his illness.”


The ritual was completed with no further incident. Christine gave the woman the cursed loaf of bread, instructed her that the sooner she found a target, the more effective the transference would be.

The woman nodded, she took the bread out of her purse and began to eat it.

Christine stared in disbelief as the woman took the curse upon herself.

“Why did you do that?” Christine asked. She had entertained a suspicion that others had done similar things throughout her time, but never had she seen a client do so in person.

“I couldn’t bear to see him slip away.”

“But you’ll force him to do it for you?”

“No.” replied the woman, as she briefly showed Christine the pistol she had hidden in her purse. With that, she left.

The next day, Christine’s new client was sitting at her table. “I’m sorry to bother you” he began…

No, Christine thought, you’re not, and after this time, I won’t have to be, either.

Here's what our fair judges thought.

K: Wow, another fable. Don’t play God, people. I like the concept and would like to see it extrapolated further, though it does seem somewhat familiar. 4

DK: Another good idea (these are all pretty good ideas) but something about it played out a little too familiar for me. It didn’t really grab me and keep me interested like some of the others. 2

My initial concept when I first read the outline of the challenge was the idea of a doctor who's too good at hopeless cases, and is constantly being saddled with no hope cases. This was discarded, because the story that was coming together was weirdly devoid of any sort of humanity (just as well, in retrospect, it reads kind of - like Beau said - a bad episode of House).

The sort of vague witch doctor-y thing I came up with didn't come together quite like I'd hoped, particularly the ending. I like the last sentence, but the lead in felt like it was lacking. I couldn't figure out exactly what that lack might be, but it felt flat-ish.

I have to believe that when both judges said it felt 'familiar' they were talking about the Stephen King story Thinner? Maybe? I dunno. They both said it, though, so that, combined with the 'changing horses midstream' nature of my entry this week makes me think that I might have unconsciously cribbed a plot detail from some other work. I'll have to be more careful about that in the future.

Regardless, not only did Vogons not have to eliminate anyone, they vogoned all over the place, with a snazzy 3.2 average.


  1. I absolutely was thinking about Thinner.

  2. I wouldn't say this probably if you already hadn't, but this is the worst thing you've done this season. Not only does it borrow heavily from an already not great source of material, but the motivation of the wife seems bizarre. So, she wants to transfer her husband's disease to herself, then kill him anyway? If she's so comfortable using her pistol to kill him, why not just kill him first then commit suicide?

    Or am I missing something?

  3. The wife is actually going to off herself. I had a line that alluded to that, as well as a bit of foreshadowing earlier in the story, but cut it out, deciding that it was too obvious, probably should've left it in.

    There's a lot here that needed to be fleshed out, but since it's not my favorite concept, anyway, it'll remain right where it is.

  4. I caught that it was the wife offing herself.

    I thought this seemed a lot like Brooks' final challenge from Season 8. Go check that one out.

    Of course, now we've revealed that Brooks just stole from Thinner.

  5. Actually, if I'm not mistaken, Brooks' is based on the very real practice of Sin Eating. That one was a hell of a final challenge. As good as this one's shaping up to be, I don't think it can stand up to that.

    1. Huh. I always thought he was original...

      That was a pretty intense last couple weeks of that season. Great writing too.

    2. Yep. Nibbish is right. Which is probably even more obvious since the Eater's prayer in my story comes from that self-same Wikipedia page.

    3. So where'd you learn about this idea? It made for a really awesome story. I thought it was just totally original. Are you stealing stuff for all your stories?

    4. Brooks has always (often) used literature or mythology as a jumping off point - I figured everyone knew this by now.

    5. Right. I know a lot of his stuff is (heck, even his create-a-challenges are). I was just surprised about this one. And I can't pass up an opportunity to tweak Brooks' creativity, since, ya know... I'm envious.

    6. I kind of forgot about this conversation, but if anyone stumbles back across this, I heard of it from a list of "worst jobs in history" that was linked somewhere.

      The story was, of course, my own. The Sin Eater was just a character.