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Messages - Baron

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Well, to be fair, WHAM's was my favourite as well.... (roll)  I humbly accept the victory.  I had to cut a poorly written segment speculating that Gage's disappearance somehow linked him to the murders (and also Elvis and Area 51), but it might have indirectly made things any more clear.  As for Marks the stalker/murderer's motivation, I preferred to leave him an enigma.  Not just to play with the reader's perception through his eyes, but also to make his crimes more incomprehensible (the band members, after all, also had no idea why he was coming after them).  The best we can speculate is that he is a crazed super fan.

The purple hair was a somewhat feeble attempt to tie all the incidents together so that it would be obvious that there was one stalker, not a series of unfortunate coincidences.  The weirdness of it was also supposed to lend weight to the insanity of the unprovoked crimes.  I had contemplated attempting to tie the crazed super-fan in to the band's highschool acquaintance quoted in the first article, but it seemed too obvious without awkwardly giving Marks a pseudonym and then trying to explain it afterwards.  Also the band would know him, so he'd be apprehended pretty quickly....

I will be the first to admit it was not my best outing: WHAM should've won!  WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM! ;-D

I'll try and get a new competition together soon. 

Hey, it's still Friday here! ;-D

Best Character: I'm going with FormosaFalanster for his main character.  I can scorn and empathize with his thoughts in equal measure, which makes him seem very real.  I liked how WHAM's dysfunctional group interacted, but in the end they were each pretty one-dimensional characters (the single-minded leader whose obsession dooms everyone else, the obsequious woman henchman-enabler, the wall-paper man of learning, and the everyman).
Best Plot: Gotta be WHAM for a riveting Micheal Crichton-esque tale of alien encounters.  I'm a little confused about how the man (and the dog) were able to survive their ordeal, but I see why they did for plot reasons.

Best Writing: This was surprisingly close.  In the end I have to go for WHAM with his clear and punchy prose.  FormosaFalanster's piece read more like poetry at times.  It was impressive in its use of vocabulary and metaphor, but little details like missing words detracted.

Best Atmosphere: I vote WHAM who had me on the edge of my seat, as he often does.  It was a page turner without pages: you really should write a longer thriller and try to get it published.

Best Music: This category must be FormosaFalanster.  Yes it was feverish and psychedelic, but there was definitely some transcending of barriers between music and the silence of the written word.  Kudos to WHAM for evoking an emotional response of terror with his music, but the category specifically asks about managing to make you hear a song in your head, while his soundscape imparted more of a haunting, chilly sound into my spine.

From personal experience, waning MAGS participation is a life-stage thing.  People at the bottom of the totem pole at work or with really young kids just don't have the spare hours to participate in a time intensive competition like MAGS.  If it was socially acceptable to submit joke games that you could throw together in several hours I might be tempted, but I always thought that was frowned upon.

I like TheBitPriest's idea of voting in categories, as it shares the glory a bit.  We switched to category voting down in the Fortnightly Writing Competition years ago and I find it much more rewarding as a writer to get more detailed feedback than just a win-lose vote.  I don't know if it is incentive for more participation, though.  The number of participants entering since the change is roughly on par with before hand.  Anecdotally, there's definitely more participation in the FWC when the rules imply that a short entry is socially acceptable....

   Marks shifted uncomfortably amidst the howling roar of the prop plane's engine at ten thousand feet.  Well, he would have shifted if there was room to move.  Since all his gear was packed around him he could barely budge an inch.  Then the engines lurched as a wave of turbulence jolted the plane sickeningly to one side.  He considered vomiting discretely into the water proof pack on his lap, but suppressed the urge.  Instead he tried to take his mind off the rickety old plane by thinking about the case.

Charts £ÿ¢k!ed: March 12, 2023

LOS ANGELES – Teen pop band £ÿ¢k! finally topped the charts this week with their new single Hybrid Hearts.  The group has garnered considerable attention in the US and around the world over the past year with their debut album Salad Toss, featuring no fewer than six songs that made the top 40.  Hybrid Hearts takes the popular band to a new plane of excellence, however, being the band's first song to reach number one.  Music reviewers at recent concerts have raved about other material being pieced together for what is quickly becoming the most anticipated follow-up album of the year.

   £ÿ¢k! was formed in 2021 by then 18 year old Jakob Grohl, an ambitious DJ-turned-musician with devastating good looks and an incomparable sense of rhythmic funk.  He recruited fellow high school students Helen Spry (synth player), Mødï (then called Jessica Blumfahrter, vocals), and Gage Foley (composer, lyrics).  An unlikelier combination couldn't be assembled.

   “Jakob was like this obnoxious show-off,” says Becky Kingsley, a former classmate.  “Helen was this weird artsy-band girl.  Jessica was this uber-jock that played on every team.  Gage was this greasy loser who had pretty much dropped out of school.  No one knows how Jacob talked them all into forming a group.  They didn't move in the same social circles and, Jessica and Gage at least, had never been known to have performed musically in public.”

   Stroke of genius it was, however.  The band has found almost unprecedented success and garnered a legion of devoted fans.  Leaving their teenage personas behind, the band has reimaged itself as the definition of cool.  Screaming fans and corporate sponsors claw at each other for just a glimpse as the band members....

   The plane lurched again suddenly, and Marks had to swallow hard to try to turn his stomach back right-side-out.  He turned his head to look out the window and wished he hadn't, for there was nothing there but bottomless fog.  Any moment he expected a mountain top or tree to emerge suddenly from the mist to take the wing right off the plane.  He swallowed hard again and tried to focus on the case...

£ÿ¢k! This: June 24, 2026

NEW YORK – Pop band £ÿ¢k! launched its fifth album yesterday evening at Carnegie Hall.  The band's meteoric rise has been unparallelled.  The video for their latest single Shanghai Jewel has over 2 billion views on YouTube.  They have sold out entire football stadiums to see their shows on every continent except Antarctica (but they did play a free concert to 100 000 penguins huddled beneath the aurora in the middle of a polar winter as a stunt back in 2025).  By every metric they now have more hits than Micheal Jackson and the Beetles combined.  There is not an ear on the planet that hasn't been seduced by their revolutionary upbeat sound.

    £ÿ¢k! was formed just five years ago by 4 high school misfits from Cincinnati, Ohio.  Who could say back then that Jakob Grohl's rooster haircut and tight-panted dance steps would shortly become an iconic symbol of New Era pop?  Who could guess five years ago that a billion hearts would have melted at the sound of Mødï's sultry vocals, or have broken over Helen Spry's devastating good looks?   Back in those dark ages of retro-spliced hip-hop pastiche, who could imagine the creative power of Gage Foley's songwriting to change the entire industry?  Often copied and mimicked, there is still only one £ÿ¢k!

   The band arrived in New York on Thursday to raucous crowds and enhanced security after several minor incidents over the past few weeks.  Band leader Jakob Grohl was allegedly assaulted in Philadelphia last week by a crazed fan after his autograph, and Gage Foley narrowly missed being hit by a broken beer bottle thrown on stage two weeks ago in Atlanta.  Helen Spry notes that these sort of incidents have been on the rise as the band's fame has become all pervasive.  “It kinda takes the fun out of getting £ÿ¢k!ed,” she quipped to reporters.  “I wish everyone would just chill out and enjoy the music.”

   Unfortunately New Yorkers aren't known for their manners.  Already there has been....

   Suddenly a strip of gravel appeared out of nowhere and the plane bounced off it hard, listing sharply to the right before recovering.  Bang!  The plane bounced off the landing strip harder, causing Marks' gear to temporarily envelope him.  He held his breath for a third impact, but the plane seemed suddenly to be climbing again back into the mist. 

   “Sorry about that,” the pilot seemed to shout over the roar of the engines.  “We missed the first half of the runway due to low visibility and had to abort the landing.  We'll have to come around and try again!”

   Marks swallowed hard and took refuge in the case once more.

More £ÿ¢k!ing Incidents: September 23, 2026

LONDON - Screaming fans were disappointed in London yesterday evening after the band £ÿ¢k!'s lead instrumentalist Helen Spry was allegedly assaulted in her dressing room by a crazed fan.  The musician is reportedly traumatized by the incident but physically unharmed.  Details at this point are sketchy, but the pattern of the assault matches those of previous incidents this summer, giving rise to conspiracy theories about a serial stalker.

   “Scotland Yard takes these allegations very seriously, and we are following all leads available at this point,” said chief inspector William Rhemus.  “We will obviously do everything in our power to keep visiting global talent safe.  We have every reason to suspect that this is a targeted incident, and that there is no danger to the broader public.”

   This is small consolation to fans as the superband's last concert in Madrid was also called off when lead-vocalist Mødï was assaulted with a knife back-stage.  The singer managed to beat off her assailant, but not before he was able to cut off a large chunk of her purple-dyed hair.  Since then hundreds of counterfeit locks have turned up for sale on e-Bay starting at $10 000, frustrating investigators' efforts to track down the perpetrator.

   “We share our fan's disappointment,” said a statement issued by band-leader Jakob Grohl, “but we refuse to compromise our members' safety.  Nor will we make concessions to the quality of our performances due to the climate of fear and menace that has been stalking us.  We hope our real fans will understand and help the police with any information they might have about this serial stalker.”

   Speculation has grown recently as the stalking incidents have intensified....

   Bang!  The plane bounced off the runway again, but this time the initial impact was followed shortly by the slightly less-unsettling sound of the tires rumbling over rough gravel.  Marks gave silent thanks to the higher powers and prepared to disembark.

£ÿ¢k! Lead Found Dead: October 29, 2026

DUBAI – Jakob Grohl, lead-member of the superband £ÿ¢k! was found dead yesterday in his hotel room.  Full details of the incident have yet to be released, but the band was believed to be lying low as authorities investigated a number of disturbing assaults on band-members over the course of the year.  Dubai police have yet to make a public statement, but those close the band are calling the death of the 23 year old Grohl as “extremely suspicious”. 

   This is just the latest turn of events in what has been....

   “So we're here!” the pilot shouted at him, despite the fact that the engines were now idling and the plane was three-hundred feet away.  Marks' gear was strapped to him on every side, causing him to sink alarmingly into the fragile soil.  He just wanted to be off, but the pilot insisted on orienting him.

   “Mount Kayburn is in the Kenai range!” the pilot continued to shout, pointing at the map and then waving to the obvious prominence of the mountains to the south-east.  “Make sure you have your satellite phone with you to call for extract!  Remember, even helicopters can't land in those mountains, so if you get into trouble you're basically fucked!”

   Marks nodded without really listening.  He'd left the satellite phone under his seat back in the plane.  He had enough shit to carry as it was.

Life Without £ÿ¢k!: May 11, 2028

SANTA BARBARA - The young woman on the screen fidgets uncontrollably, a symptom of her terrifying ordeal over the past three years.  She vapes an unidentified substance, which she says helps calm her nerves.  She is the last surviving member of superband £ÿ¢k! That's a lot of baggage to carry for someone who has not yet turned 25.

   Mødï never sought out the super-fame that seemed to fall into her lap.  She wasn't even that much into music, instead spending her teenage years playing volleyball, basketball, and soccer on her high school's varsity teams.  A chance encounter at a karaoke party with fellow student Jakob Grohl led to her discovery as the planet's premier vocalist.  But now she wished it all had never happened.

   “We didn't know what fame would do to us,” she says in her first interview since the tragic deaths of her fellow band-mates.  “We didn't know the dangers.  We were young and out to have a good time.  We didn't understand the terrible consequences of our fame.”

   Terrible indeed.  Band-leader Jakob Grohl was bludgeoned to death with a golden globe award in his hotel room bath tub in Dubai back in 2026.  The trophy was won by Bruno Mars back in 2017, but hocked when he ran into financial difficulty back in the early 20s.  The only other clue left at the scene was a thin lock of purple hair taped onto the victim like a moustache.  DNA tests later confirmed that the hair belonged to Mødï herself, and was likely part of a chunk sliced off by an assailant in Madrid earlier that same year. 

   “He's the one,” she says, that famous voice now quavering.  “He's been after us since the beginning, and he won't stop until he's got us all.”

   It's hard to dismiss the former diva's prophesy as overly dramatic.  Fellow band-member Helen Spry was found dead of an apparent drug overdose in her Santa Monica home back in April of 2027.  The catch?  An autopsy revealed a lock of purple hair carefully jammed into her sinus cavity.

   Then, despite a massive security effort, fellow-band member Gage Foley disappeared without a trace back in February of this year.

   “Gage was the soul of the band,” Mødï exclaims through convulsions.  “Jakob was in it for the attention, and for Helen it was a challenge for her skill.  But Gage wrote the hits.  He was the one who looked past the everyday and composed such transcendent music.  Of all of us, he was the one that never let fame get to him.  He was so down to earth, so real.  Such a beautiful person.”

   Mødï has never confirmed rumours of a deeper relationship with Gage Foley, although there has been speculation in the media for years.  While not legally binding until confirmed dead, it is known that Gage Foley left the entirety of his considerable estate to Mødï.

   Police have conducted an extensive manhunt for the missing singer and found several suspicious circumstances surrounding his disappearance, including muddy footprints in his home matching those found at the scene of other assault attempts on band-members over the years.

   “He just, you know... gave up at the end,” Mødï squeaks.  “He said he knew what was coming, and there was no sense in living in a fantasy world.  He told me, the very last time we spoke, to get out while I still could.”

   But Mødï doesn't go 'out' anymore.  She has 24 hour security, and conducted this interview via web-cam.  She didn't even reveal her location, lest it tip off the bogeyman stalker that haunts her nightmares and every waking moment....

   Marks rummaged through the last of the food pack, then abandoned it by the side of the trail.  The forest stretched out in every direction, pock marked by tiny lakes and framed by mountains rising sheer into the clouds.  What a miserable corner of the globe.  A few snowflakes began to fall, driven by an icy wind that seemed to cut clean through him.  He took refuge in the case once more.

Mødï Blues: January 18, 2030

BERN – Sad news out of Switzerland today as the last remaining member of superband £ÿ¢k! was found strangled to death at her safe house.  Singer Mødï was discovered this morning dead in her bathroom, with locks of purple hair glued over her eyebrows.  The crime is suspected to be an inside job by one of her security team, as she meticulously kept her whereabouts a secret since the heinous deaths of her fellow band-mates.  Thus ends the tragic saga of perhaps the greatest band to ever....

Marks collapsed weakly to sit upon the moss covered boulder.  Around him stretched the endless expanse of wilderness.  He had no more food, and now too weak to carry on he had abandoned his tent and the last of his supplies.  There would be no return trip this time.  He carefully took out his latest newspaper clipping from a plastic bag he kept in the chest pocket of his coat.

Kenai Miracle!: November 10, 2033

ALASKA – Sophie Locklear, aged 6 and presumed dead, has been found alive in the small Alaskan town of Soldotna.  The child had wandered away from her parents' hunting bush camp on October 21st and was caught out in the largest freak-blizzard to strike the area in a century.  Despite a massive search effort between waves of snow there was no sign of the girl.

   “We figured she was frozen under the snow if she were lucky,” Kenai Park Ranger Stanley Cuthers says.  “Or eaten by wolves or a grizzly if she weren't.  We just figured there was no way a child could survive the weather and the wilderness for that amount of time.”

   But survive she did.  The girl reports being taken to a cave by a kindly hermit who fed her on smoked meat and comforted her with songs played on an old guitar.  The man, who was not seen by any witnesses, was said by the child to have a great long beard and crazy wild hair.  He reportedly left her at the edge of town next to the new police station with instructions to go inside and ask for help before disappearing back into the wilderness....

       Marks carefully folded the newspaper and placed it back in the plastic bag with the lock of purple hair.  Then he took out his bowie knife and began his final hunt.

Mine's in the works (somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 done).  It looks like we're getting a pretty severe ice storm over night which will probably cut the power, so I might tentatively please need a one day extension. :)

Hang in there, WHAM.  We're rooting for you!

(Except in this competition, of course.... :-[;))

Sign me up!  And, er... nudge me before the deadline! :=


(I'm a little disappointed you didn't write about WHAM!, but still good to see you writing again. :) )

Wow, this one is going to be a challenge for me.  Especially because I don't often listen to music (my parents played too much ABBA when I was a kid... (roll)).  I guess I better get my thinking cap on. :undecided:

Can I trade my silver ring for one of pure green and a silly drunken song about a goblin? :=

Congratulations Sinitrena!  It's for the best, really.  The last time we co-administered things got a bit silly.... ;)

Congratulations also to Creamy and Mandle.  I really enjoyed your stories and speculating about your spatial and temporal whereabouts. ;-D

But.... Mandle has clearly fallen into the time-warp that is Australia.  There's no telling what time period he has been transported to!  We may tomorrow unearth votes that have been chiselled into stone for a thousand years, or we may have to wait until our beards are long and white and bionic robo-monkeys coddle us like infants for him to resurface. (roll)  Couldn't we instead just interpolate how he would have voted based on his last post? :=

Can I replace my one vote for Mandle with one for Creamy, so that we can have a three-way tie? ;-D

Best Writing goes to Creamy.  Your choice of words and minimalist style combine effectively to make a very compelling read.   Having said that, I thought Lucas' motivation at the end was exceedingly immature.  I think back to my own precious childhood objects now lost (a shiny hotwheels car with opening doors, a seal stuffy), and I can't even remember who was responsible for their demise or what even happened to them.  Of all the petty things that happen, inevitably, to all of us as we grow up, why obsess over such a trivial event to such an extent?  What about that kid with slick hair who stole his crush in grade 7?  Or the smart-mouthed bully who made fun of his scrawniness in front of everyone in grade 10?  And then, to avenge such a petty, trivial act with such a life-altering decision such as marriage?  What about the tens of thousands of dollars a wedding typically costs?  Or a divorce, for that matter?  Or alimony?  Or the acrimony that will be generated from other relationships, since the families are so close?  All to avenge a stupid pen?!??!!  No one can be that sheltered or petty, it's just unbelievable.

Best story goes to Sinitrena.  I loved how you wove the past and present together with such a captivating myth.  The folly of mankind's lack of trust in others was poignantly illustrated by the MacGuffin's unnecessary ending.  I thought you could have tightened the writing up a bit: the crack team of hand-picked soldiers were wallpaper and could easily have been cut out entirely, for example.

Best MacGuffin goes to Mandle.  Obviously the "no quarter given" line had a double meaning (no mercy, but also no handouts), but I respectfully disagree with Sinitrena that the quarter had no role as a motivating factor.  The rich senator (representing both a class that didn't get their hands dirty in Viet Nam but instead sent in the lower classes, and a specific cadre of law-makers who would have actually made the decision to send in troops) actually possessed the MacGuffin that symbolised his false charity, but didn't give it (the quarter, or metaphorical mercy) to his murderer in his hour of need, directly driving the action of the story.  But then, the actual same MacGuffin provides the impetus to buy the gun that kills the senator.  It is the motivating factor, because without the quarter there is no story.

I think you went a bit overboard with the evilness of the characters, especially the orphan girl. There really isn't anyone who could resist the trinket when it tries to influence people?

Yeah, I fell in love with the idea of the wayward trinket as a MacGuffin, and had a lot of fun at first with it consuming its worshippers like a femme fatal.  But after a while it's the same story again and again, isn't it?  To shake things up I tried to invent a character that would both guard it jealously but also frustrate its designs.  But who is truly incorruptible?  A priest?  A hero?   A villain?  The best I could up with was a psycho with the perpetual mental state of a small child (because toddlers frustrate everyone, no matter how powerful (roll)).  I felt I had to show her as extra-deranged, since to show her conforming to any standard of human behaviour would be to concede that her character could be moulded, her impulses directed.

50 Shades of Guffin

   It's a pretty little trinket, isn't it?  Oh yes!  How it shines in the darkness and sparkles in the light!  How it swings coyly on its chain!  They all want to possess it, but it is not made to be held for long.  No!  It is naughty, and it likes to play the field.  How it gleams on the outside, but it is a dirty little strumpet on the inside.  It breaks the masters' hearts, flirting with one and then another, and then another.  A trampy little bauble, it is.

   It was young and naive once.  Its father polished it and coddled it and kept it very close.  It had no eyes but for father.  But after 13 years it began to feel such yearnings.... 

   There was a boy who worked for father.  He was young and handsome.  He laboured hard over the glowing coals, creating soft hisses as the sweat dripped from his nose into the forge.  When he sweated so much father would allow him to strip to the waist, and then it could see how his flesh was drawn taught over his bulging muscles.  How it began to ache for the touch of that smooth, brawny mass.  But father would have none of it.

   And so it glittered like a thousand diamonds whenever the boy looked its way.  No sooner had it caught his eye then he could hardly keep his eyes off of it.  How he would stare, lustfully, as it flitted in and out of view.  How his strong fingers curled involuntarily, imagining it in their grasp.  How he began to sweat even when he wasn't toiling.  How it heard him weeping softly to himself in the night, sick with longing.  It consumed his every thought, like an insatiable flame.

   And then, in a moment of passion, he struck poor father down.  It was his now, and he gloried in it.  At night he would lay awake, staring at it endlessly, turning it about in those strong hands.  By day he would keep it nestled between those great pectoral muscles so that it could hear how his heart skipped a beat when it jangled playfully off of his skin.  How he worshipped it with every shred of his soul.

   It revelled in its conquest, indeed it did.  But now it felt stifled in the arms of the boy, for he guarded it even more jealously than had father.  It was suffocated by the endless attention, by the merciless cloistering.  It cast about again, seeking another champion, and it found one in the guise of a stern lawman.  Older he was, with a plain manner that spoke of honest dealings and a keen eye for injustice.  It made itself visible, and the lawman was instantly drawn to it.  He sensed the egregiousness  of its captivity and determined to set things to rights.  The boy was arrested for his crimes, and it was itself seized as evidence.  How it exulted in being seized by those tough, calloused hands.  How firmly he did hold it with such a fervent sense of righteousness!

   And how the lawman struggled to balance his duty with his desire.  His inner turmoil was palpable, and intoxicating.  It never felt so seductive as when it was corrupting the incorruptible.  How it teased him along, in its distress, until the lawman's certainty had been shaken and his hardness turned to mush.  At last he took it for his own, and at that very moment it started looking for yet another master, for the lawman was now shifty and paranoid, the noble manliness leached from him like the moisture from an old flower.  How wretched he was, serving himself at the expense of his ideals. 

   But soon opportunity presented itself in the form of a slender thief.  The lawman had the thief cornered in a darkened alley when it made its move, glinting in the moonlight.  Intrigued, the thief surrendered willingly and to the lawman's great surprise turned out to be a woman.  It soon began to appreciate that the thief had her own considerable arsenal of wiles.  Her eyes sparkled in the moonlight, shimmering like the mirage of a helpless damsel.  While being frisked she accidentally rubbed up against the lawman more than once, and when he handcuffed her she assured him in a sultry voice that she liked it rough.  The lawman pretended to give her short shrift, but it could tell that he was sorely tempted.  Faithless oaf!  Dangle anything shiny or novel in front of him and he was off like a dog chasing a rabbit.  He entered the back of the barred wagon greedily intent on having both it and the thief.

   The lawman did not reckon on the resourcefulness of two captive beings yearning to be free.  The thief struck first, kicking him in the gut, then the face.  The blow threw him back against the side, where it snared itself mutinously upon a loose bolt, tying the lawman by the neck to the wall.  He fumbled gracelessly for the clasp but the thief was on him in an instant, kicking his feet out from under him.  It strained against his full weight, choking him as he flailed about for a grip or foothold, but the thief was relentless in her assault on his legs.  The lawman's nails began to claw at the chain like a feral animal, but it would not be cast aside by such a boor.  It was leaving him, not the other way around. 

   At last he fell limp, and the thief gave him such a kiss that it might have been a spider kissing a fly.  Then in a trice she had the keys from his belt and had the handcuffs off her hands.  In another instant she had it wrapped around her wrist, and she was rolling gracefully out of the unlocked door to disappear into the darkness.  She paused briefly to listen to see if her escape had been detected, and to give it a rapturous, raptorous kiss.  Then she and it stole away into the shadows.

   What a spree they had together!  The coming months were a blur of robbery, violence, alcohol, and drugs.  The thief did not hide it away like its male masters, oh no!  She flaunted it at every opportunity, luring men in like moths to a flame.  They seduced together such a horde of lowlife scum, pierced and tattooed and angry and greedy.  The wicked men lusted for the both of them, with their roving hands and swollen heads.  It was a thrilling game of bait and switch, virtually throwing themselves at the men and then snatching themselves back at the very last moment.  Some would weep and some would beg and some would try to take by force, but the game always ended the same with the creepy men slain in the moment of their triumph.  Together they were unstoppable!

   But the thief had a hidden weak spot, buried so deeply that it took even it a while to discern it.  The thief had a dead sister, once her partner in crime, and that sister had a daughter before she died.  It came to pass that an incredibly sinister man had knowledge of the helpless orphan girl, and he came to covet it as well.  Not for him was the coital massacre.  No!  He had no qualms with bathing in blood, but he meticulously avoided spilling his own.  He formed a plan and kidnapped the girl, demanding it as a trade for her safe return.  The thief was torn, and again it sensed that wretched lack of commitment that so infuriated it.  It would not be parlayed in some transaction!  It would choose its own master.

   And so came the fateful meeting where the swap was to take place.  The thief held it aloft and demanded to see the girl.  The girl was shown but the meeting had been a trap all along.  The thief was mown down in a deluge of bullets.  Or so it seemed, for the devious thief had her own plan, and her demise was nothing but smoke and mirrors, for she had no intention of giving it up after all!  Nameless minions were quickly dispatched, and the thief and the sinister man stood face to face in a showdown to the death.  How they grappled, kicked, and scratched, like two starving rats in a sack! 

   They each thought they had the other's measure, but they each left one critical factor out of their equations.  The little orphan girl was tired of being abandoned or a pawn in the scheme of others.  She marshaled all of her sociopathic genetic endowment and grabbed a machine gun.  Laughing maniacally she gunned down both her aunt the thief and the sinister man.  This was unexpected, even by it.  Should it reveal itself?  Or face the indignity of being salvaged by the first slovenly oaf to stumble upon the scene?  It quickly made its choice, glinting tentatively through the gore.

   But such a mistake that was!  How it loathed the little orphan girl, who used it as play jewelry for her headless dolls.  For years it was subjected to interminable make-believe tea parties with a ghastly array of misfit guests:  legless bugs and tailless cats, gagged and tied social workers, and the occasional scientologist.  It would pass the long hours pretending to eat mud cakes and sipping fake tea brewed in a light bulb oven and steeped with the orphan girl's toenail clippings and nose hair pluckings. 

   At last it was able to flirt its way to freedom with a greasy scientologist.  It wasn't proud of stooping to that level, but misery does acquaint us with strange bedfellows.  Soon it was off again with a circus freak who could squeeze himself through a catdoor, then a gangster who liked to break thumbs in his spare time.  Then there was the bank robber who would ride a horse right into the bank with careless bravado, then the aristocratic playboy who won it in a high stakes card game.  Such a parade of egos and base ambition, all of them slaves to its glittering charms!

   Then it came to pass one day that the magician with whom it gleefully hypnotized victims up and died of a heart attack.  The executor of the estate was such a cold man that he auctioned it off in a batch lot to a flea market dealer.  How viscerally it hates to dangle on the jewelery stand, exposed to the gleeful tuts of every broach-wearing old lady with a day off from bingo, tried on by every Hallowe'en costume shopper with a dollar in their pocket.  How it cringes when the toddlers reach at it, their puppy breath reeking of tea party and venom!  Such a depressing end it seemed, demoted to knickknack status in a glorified junk yard.

   And then it heard the ominous tapping of a metal cane stabbing the concrete floor like a weapon.  Shyly, not daring to hope, it turned to look into the light.  There loomed an unmistakably sinister silhouette, a little bent for all the years, but exuding all the more wicked energy for it.  The incredibly sinister man reached out a mechanical hand that bore the telltale smells of gunpowder and blood.  It flashed him a calculated glimmer of seductive menace.  The sinister man cradled it gently in his cold, iron grasp, and all was well with the world once more.

...someone has to carry it, and it cannot speak directly to people and explain what it wants, merely influence their thoughts and feelings, and even then it is ambiguous....

Got it.  A MacGuffin is some kind of human baby. :=

The One Ring seems to be some kind of proper noun, and the adjective Ring-bearer is also usually capitalized, so I figured....  When in Minas Tirith, do as the Minas Tirithians do. ;-D

MacGuffin, it is an object with no explicit will of its own.

I don't know....  The Ring of Sauron seemed to have quite a bit of its own will. ;)

But great topic nonetheless! (nod)

Baron: A gender-flipped version of Rapunzel, which is my favourite fairy tale, by the way, is very refreshing. I saw the "twist" coming a mile away, but maybe I was just in a dirty-minded mood when I read it. I find it a bit sad that you limited your version to one scene. Espacially the beginning of the tale, how Rapunzel's father stole from the witch and she took the girl as payment/punishment and named her after the thing the father stole, could be interesting in a gender-flipped version. Was it the mother who stole? Did the witch know the unborn child would be a boy? Did she intend to raise him as a sex-toy? Or is it just (un)fortunate that the magic affected his manly parts instead of his hair? So many questions, not least of all: Why did you gender-flip the prince and Rapunzel but not the witch? And how strange is it that the trophies I drew are Rapunzel's tower with a pointed roof? :-[

Mostly due to time constraints I had to cut a bunch of my original plan, including the gruesome blindings (although I did try to reference them ;-D).  My original idea always revolved around the princess's motivation for courting the mysterious prince, but after that there were quite a few radical changes.  At first I had conceived of the prince as having absurdly long moustaches (that would be during the first, more serious half of the piece...).  But then on the night of the deadline I was really struggling with carrying on the alliteration and the story kind of lapsed into dialog and got a bit silly and then a whole lot silly.  A little bit of channelling our gracious administrator's phallic trophy design, a little bit of back editing to make it make all make sense and -Boom!  We've got an instant classic! :P

I did hide an easter egg in the story that links it to the original beyond any doubt. Nobody has mentioned it yet so I'm guessing nobody found it ;)

Are you talking about the golden ovoid paperweight or the "flee my foe fum" line?  (Or, another more deeply hidden easter egg?!? :shocked:)

What?  Take action before the deadline?  What kind of show do you think I'm running here? (roll)

Best Character: I gotta go with Blondbraid and his asinine movie exec: he was soooo bad it was awesome. (nod)
Best Writing: I liked the way Frodo put the whole story into dialog, and the sinister twist at the end was awesome. :=
Best Atmosphere: I thought the minimalist language but strong word choice used by DBoyWheeler made for an excellent atmosphere.  Was anyone else picturing an anime cartoon when some of those over-the-top lines were delivered with such deadpan seriousness?  "I know my destiny, father,"  "I can use all the help I can attain," and my personal favourite: "We are here to put an end to your tyranny, Oni King!"  Classic. :)
Best Change: Ah, let's keep it fair and go with Mandle for this one.  If you think about it the story from anyone but Jack's perspective, it really is a story of larceny and murder.  I like how Mandle twisted it around to be so realistic as to be almost unrecognizable until you put your thinking cap on. ;-D

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