Author Topic: Fortnightly Writing Competition: Christmas Crossover (Results)  (Read 1822 times)

Baron

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Greetings writing competition compatriots!  This festive season calls for a jolly theme of epic proportions.  This fortnight's writing theme is:

Christmas Crossover


Your challenge is to write a Christmas story (involving characters from familiar Christmas tales, or familiar Christmas locations, or familiar Christmas themes) and meld them with a completely un-Christmas-like story (involving non-Christmas characters, or non-Christmas locations, or distinctly un-Christmas-ish themes).  So for example you could have a familiar Christmas cast of Santa, elves, and reindeer but set in bloody ancient Rome (pictured above).  Or you could have Smurf village populated by a hundred different personalities of Grinch.  Or you could have Mark Zuckerberg visited by the ghost of Christmas past, present, and future.  Basically the sky's the limit here.  I'll even allow Hanukkah, Diwali, and Kwanzaa characters and themes, just to keep this festive gathering open to all revellers.  You could even cross them over with traditional Christmas characters for some real fun: imagine Ganesha as Santa Clause, using those extra limbs and trunk to good effect!  :=

Deadline for this unholy endeavour competition is midnight of Monday December 30, 2019.

Potential voting categories might include: Best Character Interpretation, Best Plot, Best Crossover, Best Writing, and a secret voting category that you'll have to wait to unwrap.  ;)

Good luck to all competitors.  I look forward to a magic sack full of submissions in two week's time.  :)
« Last Edit: 07 Jan 2020, 03:35 by Baron »

Mandle

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And Scrooge Just Stood There

The man who called himself Scrooge turned to me and said "You have a choice ahead of you. But let me quickly show you this example first."

But, I start at the end.

Let me tell you how this all began.

Heading out the door of our lovely home in Merewether, Newcastle, Australia, I waved a fond farewell to my husband, Ronald, and our daughter, Christie ran back to give him a hug and a goodbye kiss.

We were headed up the coast to visit my parents, Christie's grandparents,  for Christmas in Harrington, an idyllic seaside town smack on the mouth of the Manning River, and about a five-hour drive from door to door if all had gone well.

I strapped Christie into her child-seat next to me. She was starting to get a little big for it, at 4-years-old, but wasn't quite there yet to ride with a regular seat-belt.

Turning out of our driveway, I looked back at Ronald and blew him a kiss from the window of our Honda, and if this was the usual kind of "happy family adventure gone bad" kind of story then I would have said something like "blew him a final kiss", inferring that I never saw him again but, as things turned out, horribly this was not to be the case.

My memories of the trip out of Newcastle are mostly Christie's constant replaying and singing along with "Baby Shark" for the first hour or so, and then the blessed drone of the wind stirring her blonde curls this way and that, as she napped, for the next until it was time to get some petrol at Twelve Mile Creek.

I pumped the 40-something dollars worth of petrol into the Honda's tank, and crossed the baking pavement to pay up inside.

It was 40-something degrees outside and a great pleasure to get into the air-conditioned interior and out of the heat. I stopped to pick up a Cherry Ripe chocolate bar, double-dipped, for Christie, her favorite, and that was about when the girl behind the register said "Do you know that man?!".

I followed the girl's gaze out to my car by the petrol-pump and saw a man taking my daughter out of her child-seat.

I dumped the chocolate bar and ran out, screaming at the register girl to call triple O. I ran up to the man, a ratty-faced twenty-something, just as he had managed to disentangle Christie from her child-seat and just in time for him to shove a gun right in my face.

He had Christie over his hip, screaming and crying at me, snot pouring down from her button nose, and the revolver pointed right in my face, and he said "Name's  Scrooge. Bah-Humbug and all that. Get in the fucking truck!", gesturing with the gun towards a rusty ute at the next pump.

He kept the gun on me and climbed into the driver's seat of the ute with Christie. What choice did I have? I looked back at the register girl and saw her talking on the phone, to the police I assumed, but they wouldn't be here in time. I remember thinking about the Cherry Ripe bar on the floor of the station that Christie would be eating now in a different timeline forever gone. Why do our brains never leave us alone?!

I got into the passenger seat of his ute, snot running out of my nose as well by now, and asked the obvious "Why are you doing this?!" and "Please just let us go!" kind of shit.

He leaned out the window, one hand on the gun, the other still wrapped around Christie, took a moment's aim at the register girl, and pulled the trigger.

The noise of the gun going off clamped Christie's screaming mouth shut in an upside-down smile. The bullet shattered the window the register girl was behind and she dropped out of view, phone in hand.

He pealed out.

The next forty minutes or so was me pleading with "Scrooge" and him, driving us down dirt roads through nameless fields, switching between planting the gun against Christie's head and pointing it at me and telling us both to shut the fuck up.

The dirt roads ended at a gate, and "Scrooge" got out to open it, the gun and his smirk trained on us the whole time. The long, iron gate swung open. Scrooge got back into the truck and drove us through it, over the cattle-grate, not bothering to close it behind him.

Ahead, through the ruined crop fields, I could see a shamble of a house with bush-land behind it, and a large industrial shed beside it.

Scrooge slew the ute into a slide beside the shed and gestured with the gun for me to get out of the truck.

I looked at Christie, wedged between him and the gear-shift and he said "Take little snot-nose with you."

I grabbed my daughter out and prepared to run but Scrooge, the acne on his rat-like face glowing in the Australian summer glare, just let his pistol go "click" as he cocked it and aimed down on me and I froze.

As he tracked his gaze, which he obviously meant me to follow, over the ground between myself, my daughter clutched to me, the truck, and the shed I noticed, for the first time, that there was a man bound to the ground in front of the shed with ropes and stakes.

Scrooge took his keys out from his pocket and pushed a button on one of them.

The shed door rambled up.

Inside the shed there was a combine harvester.

He grabbed a nearby bucket of water and threw it on the staked man to wake him up.

The man looked around in terror and started asking the questions you would expect.

The man who called himself Scrooge turned to me and said "You have a choice ahead of you. But let me quickly show you this example first."

Scrooge went into the shed and got behind the controls of the harvester, gun trained on us the whole while.

The harvester jumped into life and he moved it out over the staked man, ever so slowly, from his feet on up.

It took something like ten minutes for the staked man to finally lie quietly with his entrails wrapped around the harvester's blades and spread about forty-feet in every direction around.

The noise of his death caused flocks of crows to fly up out of the fields, cawing in offense.

Scrooge got down out of the harvester's cabin, and Scrooge just stood there, training the gun on me, Christie zoned out in shock-overload on my hip, and said "You or her, your choice. The survivor goes free but has to watch."

If someone had asked me to take a swift bullet to my head to save my child... But this...

The fact that you are reading this from me in the first-person tells the rest of the story.

I am so sorry and so ashamed but I just couldn't.
« Last Edit: 24 Dec 2019, 16:31 by Mandle »

Mandle

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Merry Christmas to all!!! This is the darkest story I have ever written.

Baron

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I died.  Wait....   (roll)

Mandle

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I died.  Wait....   (roll)

Exactly, not dying was the darkest part.  (nod)

Durq


The fact that you are reading this from me in the first-person tells the rest of the story.

I am so sorry and so ashamed but I just couldn't.


Loved the ending!

Mandle

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Bringing Hell

Flashing through the skies,
As a two-stage missile may,
Out into space I go,
Burning all the way,
Diving back through the atmosphere,
Down on you and all your friends,
You all look up and scream in fear,
"Oh, fuck, this is the end!"

Bringing hell,
Bringing hell,
Bringing all the die,
Oh, what hell it is to fry,
In a nuclear fire!

Bringing hell,
Bringing hell,
Bringing all the die,
Oh, what hell it is to fry,
In a nuclear fire!

Mandle

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The fact that you are reading this from me in the first-person tells the rest of the story.

I am so sorry and so ashamed but I just couldn't.


Loved the ending!

Cheers for the positive comment on the story.

This is something I think about every time someone says "I would die to save my child.", and a scenario I have thought about challenging them with if it happened to them in real life but never would because it would be socially inappropriate to say the least.

So I wrote it as this story finally, and was very nervous about posting it because it is really the most horrible thing imaginable... Well, perhaps apart from one other story still in my mind, but the most horrible for now...
« Last Edit: 28 Dec 2019, 13:05 by Mandle »

Sinitrena

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Nuts!

White was the dominant colour. There was green and red as highlights, but most things were white.

„White and light and lovely. Sugary and candy floss, candy cane and nuts and cookies. Nuts. Nuts, I tell you!

All this is nuts!“ The ears of the elf flopped back and forth under his pointy hat. His eyebrows performed a lively dance. „Nuts,“ he murmured now, after his first short outburst that was mainly ignored by the other workers around him.

They had thrown a couple of looks in his general direction, but had otherwise continued to hasten through the golden and silver shimmering halls of their master's house. Their arms stuffed with packets of all sizes and forms, some gift-wrapped, some still in more generic packaging, they had to pay careful attention to every step and every turn they took.

“Nuts!” the elf called again, desperate to get the attention of his fellows. Then, he continued silently, afraid they would notice him just this tiny bit too much. “Everything is just for the children, for happiness, for fun and games, but what about us? Are our quarters full of happiness, our children showered with presents? What about our fun, our…”

“Shut up, Fridol.” The sentence was called to him from an elf passing-by, in a tone of long endured suffering. It was not the first time they heard Fridol's griping, not the first time he interrupted their busy schedule with nonsense.

Fridol himself had found a place at the head of one of the larger sorting tables in the centre of the room, where many could hear and see him, but where he was still somewhat shielded from prying eyes by the sheer mass of people around him.

“Am I wrong?” he now called back to the other elf, “Am I wrong? Are you seriously telling me, I'm wrong? We do all the work, and who gets the credit?”

“You know who gets the credit. Stop asking stupid questions and do your job.” The old elf next to him shook his head, the long ears from years of work wrinkled and pointing downwards. “It's the job. You still remember your job, don't you?”

Fridol shot the old elf an angry look. “I know what my job is. I also know that it's a bone-breaking, neck-cracking, back-aching shit-show of a job. When's the last time you slept through the night without some kind of emergency?”

The old elf didn't need to think about it. “Month ago? It's the job, young-one.”

“It's a stupid job. No work in the spring, so no payment, our kids go hungry, normal work in the summer, then nothing but emergencies in autumn and winter. Harvesting nuts and oranges, tradition the boss says, but then that's not good enough for the kids of today and of course we have to give them what they want, fancy chocolate and candies. But does the boss listen when you tell him beforehand, no of course not. He just cracks the whip and tells you to go back to work. And the toys, of course the humans release their new ideas around Christmas and then we have to struggle to make it all in time. But do they give us all the data beforehand? No, of course not. And the boss can't be bothered to negotiate new treaties with new firms. Oh, no, that would go against tradition!”

A loud sigh interrupted Fridol. The older elf had finally put down his work and turned towards him. “It. Is. The. Job.” he said slowly, “Would you rather work for Ruprecht? Digging coal year after year, day in and day out? We make toys. We make the kids happy. At least our job brings something good...”

Really angry now, Fridol hissed: “At least Ruprecht doesn't use the whip or lets his slaves hunger. It's steady work for him, and people say he's actually nice when you get to know him. Nikolaus, on the other hand… He's always jolly the humans say. Well, I would be jolly too if someone served me every hour of the day. And there's always enough food for him, but take just one nut, just a single nut and -”

“The nuts are for the children!”

“Yes, for their children, not ours! Just one nut, even a stale one, and the boss whips you bloody. You know this, I know it, everyone knows it and we just go around with happy faces and a Yes, master here and a Yes, master[/i] there. But there are not other jobs. You work for Nikolaus or you work for Ruprecht and when you work for Ruprecht you get shunned by everyone. But at least his slaves have enough to eat. Nikolaus calls us his Little Helpers and his faithful servants while in truth we're just as much his slaves as our friends down with Ruprecht are. Ruprecht's at least honest about it. But really, Nikolaus is far worse, he's the far worse slave-driver!”

The word was out of his moth before he could stop himself and it was far louder than he ever wished it to be. Immediately, all activity around him stopped. Everyone turned towards him, removing all semblance of anonymity the crowd provided. Every elf in the white halls of Christmas looked towards him and even Nikolaus, two rooms away could make out the source of the word that had echoed from the walls.

Slowly, he got up from his comfortable armchair, where he had lounged without a care in the world. The whip at his side and a viciously belling reindeer next to him, he sauntered towards Fridol. Despite walking slowly, hectic elves jumped out of his way and despite them being as fast as possible and definitely away when his steps fell on the ground, he still cracked the whip a couple of times and a couple more he let it land on the back of one of the servants.

Fridol cowered down behind the table but no hole was there to swallow him and no elf willing to step between him and their angered boss.

With dark and foreboding eyes at the small creature, Nikolaus bellowed: “You exist, because I allow you to exist. You live, because I want you to live.” The whip tore a bit of white paint from the table. “You are here to create joy, not enjoy your life. You create fun, you do not have fun.”

Fridol heard little of the rest of his master's speech as the strokes came down on him, one after the other. After a while, he heard nothing more but an endless tirade of the same words over and over again, the whip as it cut into his flesh and the laughing and snatching of the reindeer and then nothing.

“Oh, for fuck's sake,” was the first thing he heard when consciousness returned, “Is it that fucking difficult to keep your fucking mouth shut?” Cool water dripped down on Fridol's back. “It's not your fault,” the voice added after a while, “It's never the elves's fault. But I really wish one of you would be smart about starting a rebellion and I wouldn't have to nurse everyone back to health who shows up down here. Well, I do hope you like coal.”

Ruprecht walked up and down beside his newest elf, looking at him from time to time to make sure he was as well as he could be. “Two this year already, then the five last year, Tomal's kids are nearly  adults too, that's one more unit. Two or three years more.” He knelt down next to the elf. “Three years, Fridol and we'll finally sent this bastard out into the frozen sea, I promise. And to hell with presents for kids and no oranges for us. We'll eat nuts every single day of the year, and maybe a couple reindeers along the way.”

----------------------------------------------------------------

Knecht Ruprecht comes from German tradition. He accompanies Saint Nicholas (German spelling: Nikolaus) (not Santa Clause, they are not the same), who brings little presents to children on the sixth of December. St. Nicholas fills the boots of well-behaved children with sweets and, traditionally, nuts and oranges (normally, no toys), while Knecht Ruprecht brings coal for misbehaving ones, or sometimes a cane to punish them. Elves and reindeers are not part of the tradition.

Baron

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One more day or so.  I know count-downs are a New Years thing, but what's a little more crossing-over between friends?  ;)

Baron

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Well, I hope everyone has sobered up enough to enjoy a good read.  Happy 2020, by the way!  Now down to business: we have three spectacular seasonal submissions salivating for your assessment.  In order of submission we have:

Mandle I with And Scrooge Just Stood There
Mandle II with Bringing Hell
Sinitrena with Nuts!

For the sake of fairness please remember to distinguish between Mandle I and Mandle II when voting.   :)  Any votes for Mandle not specifically designated as I or II will be automatically assigned to his least popular story, so don't mess this up!  :P

Categories for voting are as follows:

Best Character Interpretation: Which seasonal character was best brought to life?
Best Plot: Which plot arc gave you the biggest sense of satisfaction?
Best Crossover: A vote for pure creativity - who's seasonal-unseasonal medley was most inspired?
Best Writing: Turns of phrase, rhyming cadence, descriptive glory or mysterious minimalism - who done best put the words together all purdy-like?
Secret Voting Category: Best Magic Toy Sack, meaning which story keeps on giving and giving long after the others are depleted.

Voting will run from now through Saturday January 4, with votes to be tallied the next day.  Good luck to all entrants!

JudasFm

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Happy New Year!  :P Have some votes!

Best Character Interpretation: Sinitrena for both Nikolaus and Knecht Ruprecht.
Best Plot: This one's hard, but I'm going with Sinitrena. Honestly, I would vote for both Nuts and Mandle I if I could; I loved the final twist at the end of Mandle's story, but the plot was too random to really enjoy it. We're not given any insight into the characters' motivations and this makes it hard to invest ourselves in the story. Sinitrena's had characters that I cared about, but it ended too abruptly. It reads almost as if you were planning to come back to it later, but forgot.
Best Crossover: Sinitrena. I loved Knecht Ruprecht and I learned something about another country and culture, which is always a big plus for me :P Mandle I was fairly well-written, but I didn't feel it quite met the spirit of the contest. It's never confirmed that the old man IS Scrooge; he's just a crazy guy calling himself Scrooge.
Best Writing: Sinitrena. The end of Mandle I (Scrooge) was very powerful, but Sinitrena's entry sucked me into the story and kept me there right the way through.
Best Magic Toy Sack: Sinitrena, for writing a story that made me want to read on and find out what happens next (my only complaint was that it was a bit short!) I would really love to read more and find out what happened to Fridol and all the other elves.

Sinitrena

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Quote
Sinitrena's had characters that I cared about, but it ended too abruptly. It reads almost as if you were planning to come back to it later, but forgot.

No, for once, I decided to limit myself and write a really short story (still recuperating from my surgery, so I had a lot of time to write but little energy.). That Ruprecht actually shows up and I didn't leave it with Fridol loosing conciousness was just to give it at least a glimmer of hope. The next part of the story would obviously be the rebellion, but that would be a different plot.


Onto my votes:

Best Character Interpretation: Mandle's narrator (Mandle I) - The narrator is not really a seasonal character, but the decision she has to face and the utterly terrifying one she does take make for an interesting character study. I wish we would get a bit more on her decision, but that would probably reduce the - very well done and intense - shock value.

Best Plot: Mandle I - It was very unexpected. I had no idea where it was going and the end was very shocking. I only missed more of a motivation. You note in your comment that you wanted to create a situation that challanges the "I would die for my child"-mindset and you certainly succeeded there. The problem is that it leaves the plot and motivationes (of Scrooge) rather constructed. Is it possible such a psychopath exists? Of course, but I think to make him believable in the story itself, you need to delve deeper in who he is and what he does. I also wondered if the first person he kills in the story had to make the same decision as the narrator. Then where is the person watching? It feels a (tiny bit) like a plot-hole.

Best Crossover: Mandle I - I would give this vote for your poem/song-rewrite but because you are my only opponent I don't want to split your votes. The poem takes a well-known christmas song and completely changes it, while still leaving it recognizable. It fits the spirit of the competition very well. Your story, on the other hand has a rather arbitrary christmas connection. Scrooge has really nothing to do with Dickens's Scrooge who was a miser and an arsehole, but not a murderer and whose defining characteristic was loneliness. The only other connection, that the story takes place around Christmas, really has no importance to the plot.

Best Writing: Mandle I - Solid writing.

Best Magic Toy Sack: Mandle I - It leaves you wondering what one would and wouldn't do for one's child. A truly terrifying thought.

JudasFm

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No, for once, I decided to limit myself and write a really short story (still recuperating from my surgery, so I had a lot of time to write but little energy.). That Ruprecht actually shows up and I didn't leave it with Fridol loosing conciousness was just to give it at least a glimmer of hope. The next part of the story would obviously be the rebellion, but that would be a different plot.

Aw, does that mean we'll have to wait until next Christmas to find out what happened? :P

The Squid said that surgery is no excuse for not writing about elves overthrowing Nikolaus! (wrong) He then swam away before I could get my hands on him and make him apologize, and he's still hiding (laugh) (What is up with that image hosting?)
Seriously though, I hope you're having a speedy recovery :-D

Mandle

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I do not have time tonight to break down Sinitrenas story into all the categories but I will say that it was very well written. I liked the way the progress of "Santa" through the room and his whipping told the reader more about the spatial environment and the emotions of the characters within.

So to balance his votes for my story...

Best Character Interpretation: Sinitrena
Best Plot: Sinitrena
Best Crossover: Sinitrena
Best Writing: Sinitrena
Best Magic Toy Sack: Sinitrena

Baron

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Sorry for being a bit late on closing up, folks.  I had wanted to draw up some trophies but I just can't find the time, so I'll wrap this up and add trophies when I can get around to it. 

First some feedback:

@ Mandle I: Your thought experiments are, um, slightly more extreme than most other people's.  (wtf)  I didn't quite agree with the mom's assessment of the situation.  She says she would gladly take a "swift bullet" to the head, but not the harvester.  Well.... that was kind of an option, wasn't it?  I mean, just run off and the guy would shoot you.  You're just relying on his sense of decency to let the unsacrificed person go anyway: would that really be a riskier strategy?  Also, a decent mother would never leave a child even for a few minutes in the back seat of a car in 40 degree heat, so she was already a bad mom and basically had it coming.  ;)  I agree with some of Sinitrena's critiques: where does the "example" person come from each time, and how is this related to Christmas themes?  Otherwise the story kinda makes you think, which was the point, and it was certainly a gripping tale.

@ Mandle II: Your dystopian Christmas carol makes me think that you should build a time machine and go back and write for Futurama.  It would be a perfect second verse to Santa's "slaying song".  ;-D

@ Sinitrena: I think I played an AGS game starring Fridol way back when.  :)  I like the hints at the whole technical infrastructure that keeps Santa's operation going (data, treaties, seasonal labour imbalances),  without bogging the reader down in boring details.  The character contrast between Nikolaus and Ruprecht was unexpected and appreciated.  I like how Ruprecht's plan for sending the "bastard out into the frozen sea" parallels the inuit cultural tradition of letting an elder who has become a burden to the family take a long walk in the snow.  And the bits of description here and there at elf culture were sprinkled throughout in a way that made me want to keep reading on.  Finally, I liked how you actually crossed the themes of standard Christmas with German pre-Christmas and Russian revolutionary themes, thereby satisfying the topic.  ;-D

So on to the votes.  Sinitrena is our grand winner with 10 votes.  You'd get a gold trophy of something Christmas themed if I wasn't so fat and lazy from all the turkey I ate over the past two weeks.  I'd write more but the effort of typing is making my fingers sweat with sweet, sweet turkey juice....  ;)

That makes Mandle I our uncontested second place winner with 5 votes.  You too would receive a turkey at this point in the ceremony but.... turkey.

So that leaves Mandle II with turkey and turkey.  Mmmmmmm.  Turkey......

What?!  Oh yeah, so this means Sinitrena takes over as contest administrator for the next three weeks or so.  I look forward to her choice of theme, as long as it doesn't involve cardio workouts or liposuction.  Now, back to those turkey leftovers....  :P