Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Entry #7

The Traveler and The Game
by Paul Liadis


An old man stopped me on my way to the mountaintop. He had a beard as black as coal stretching to the tops of his feet and a long flowing robe so filthy that tiny green buds sprouted upon its surface. A rock, a stick, and a gun lay before him. "Stay for a game," he said to me. "If you win I'll let you pass."

"And if I refuse?"

The man said nothing, instead turning his eyes toward the gun. I got the message.

"Well, what's the game?" I said.

"Using any one of these items, rid me of that wicked creature," he replied, pointing a crooked finger at the raven circling overhead. "In one shot."

I considered the objects at hand.

The rock. Too light and insignificant, it would do nothing but agitate the bird.

More substantial, but terribly inaccurate, the stick was not worth the risk.

The gun was my only true option. Lifting the weapon, I trained my sights on the winged creature. Moving the barrel just to the left of my target, boom click boom, I emptied both chambers. The creature departed.

"Thank you," said the old man, fading like mist in the breeze, the shot still ringing in my ears. The rock, the stick, and the gun followed.

The land compelling me to rest, I sat in the very spot the man had been. And there I remain, seated, watching the raven fly above, waiting for an unfortunate soul willing to play my game.

47 comments:

Aniket said...

Wow! The best one for me so far.

Ingenious take on the prompt!
Great story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Bernita said...

An interesting Sisyphus twist!

SzélsőFa said...

what an ending. or a never-ending.
I liked it very much, Paul!

Chris Eldin said...

This is soooo clever!! I loved reading this puzzle of yours!!! Very well done.

Leatherdykeuk said...

good piece. He shouldn't have shot twice, I think.

Aerin said...

*shakes head sadly* Not a single PowerPuff reference.

You shouldn't be able to write so well with two younglings living in the house. I'm going to go pout now.

strugglingwriter said...

Aerin - this was written and submitted before the PowerPuff girls thing came up. They'll be in there next time, if I can remember. :)

Aniket - thank you very much.

Thanks Bernita

Thanks SzélsőFa. I'm really happy you liked it. Feels like yesterday I met you here in one of these contests.

Chis - I didn't even know I created a puzzle, but I like that. Thanks :)

Four Dinners said...

I have no idea what 'Sisyphus' means but I like this very much old bean.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Nice. Very nice!

Love the neverending aspect.

Wanna play rock, stick, gun? Anyone?

Sarah Laurenson said...

Sisyphus was condemned to push a rock uphill for all eternity.

Amias said...

Fear of what might happen determined your future --- hope I don't run into you. A good read.

Craig said...

I guess cheaters never prosper ;-). I wonder if the bearded man would have kept his word if the traveler had suceeded in one shot. I wonder if it was even possible.

strugglingwriter said...

That's a good question Craig. I'm not sure if the old man considered that cheating or not, or if it even mattered.

pjd said...

Fabulously written. A complete story with mystical implications... why were you heading to the mountaintop? Presumably, to seek wisdom. Yet by something else were you distracted... and ironically, through the failure to find wisdom on the mountaintop, you found a different sort of wisdom.

I also love the voice in this one. Consistent and believable, with just the right POV. But I don't get why two shots were fired, against the apparent rules of the game.

(By the way, it's my theory that the cycle will only be broken when someone comes along and shoots the person.)

Mayur said...

I love the way it ends! Or as someone up above says - doesn't end!

Kartik said...

Ain't that an evil ending?!!! Loved this!

Lena said...

From what I've read so far it is really the best. Great piece! Loved it.

strugglingwriter said...

Thank you everybody!

pjd - your comment made me feel smarter than I really am. :) As far as why the narrator fired two shots my guess is that he didn't want to leave one in the chamber for the old man.

Selestial said...

Great ending!

Call me crazy though, if I didn't trust the old guy not to shoot me, once I had the gun in hand I'd ... yeah, never mind, I'm just an evil person.

*blush*

Tara said...

You got me with the ending. Love when that happens! Halfway through, I just knew he was going to shoot the old man and move on...
Great job.

catvibe said...

Great! At the end I said outloud, awww! Sucks for him! Fun to read and very clever.

JaneyV said...

This piece is a real diamond. Love. It. Even without the presence of Powerpuff Girls it totally rocked!

Tessa said...

Man! This is spectacularly well written. I'm awestruck.

Terri said...

I love the voice in this piece; the old man character is vividly icky and the story is clever and completely neat and tidy. And original.
Great writing, well done.

Paul D. Brazill said...

Blam! Fantastic. Very impressive.

Beth Harar said...

Wasn't expecting the ending . . . but I liked it!

maybe genius said...

Very well done! Loved this one :)

laughingwolf said...

nice twist...

austere said...

This one has a touch of the Brothers Grimm about it... very nice.

Aimee Laine said...

Oh oh oh! Not going to shoot a bird out of anyone's sky in my near future! ;) That's the stuff of nightmares! Good job!

Preeti said...

haww... beautiful.

such a mystical, shaman-like quality this has. i wonder why i am visualizing this entire narrative in a japanese setting. maybe because of the meditative appeal.

very well written. i loved it.

Lee Hughes said...

That was top notch story telling!

Laurel said...

Stellar. I love the detail in the beginning with seeds sprouting from the old man's robe, telling us how long he's been there and presumably how long his replacement will have to wait.

This has an old fable quality to it. It would flesh out into a terrific short story, I think.

Ayodele Morocco-Clarke said...

Fan-bloody-tastic! What I want to know is what would have been the penalty if the protagonist had tried and failed in getting rid of the raven. That for me was the lacuna. Sill loved it nevertheless.

strugglingwriter said...

Thank you thank you thank you everybody!

I'll leave up for interpretation what might have happened if the narrator had failed to get rid of the raven. Maybe I'll answer that in the sequel. :)

Paul

illyriataylor said...

very original. This is noteworthy

CJT said...

This is definately original, I have made a note of it as well...

stacy said...

Well, it's all been said, but really nice job.

Megs - Scattered Bits said...

And here I thought that the reason he was compelled to sit was because he had failed to drive off the raven in one shot. He "lost" the game, and so he was compelled to wait. That was my interpretation.

But however it works, I love the piece. It's like a myth, a legend, or a fairytale. The story is unassuming on the surface, but complete. But reading deeper, there's a whole lot more. Straightforward perhaps, but makes me wonder if it really is. Love it.

angel said...

I like a bit of a spooky twist...

Gia's Spot said...

Thank you for your comment on my entry #154. I adore yours! Very creative take on the promt!

Rabid Fox said...

An interesting premise, but the ending seemed a bit muddled to me and I had to read it a couple of times to grasp just what had happened after he fired the gun.
8. Old Habits - A sweet little scene, with a nice, slightly acerbic, ending with the final line.

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Kind of mythological, did the man take the old man's place? Will the next player take his?

Dottie :)

james r tomlinson said...

I like the premise to your story. Kind of reminds me of musical chairs.

Deb Smythe said...

Ah, well done. I likes:)

Jane said...

clever! good take on the prompt

Aerin said...

Dear Entrants #1-105,

I have read your pieces so that I can fairly participate in the Readers' Choice vote. (I read all of them through last week, before I started commenting.) I will be coming back around to offer my keep/tweak comment, but I didn't want anyone to snark.

Cheers,
Aerin (#236)

BTW, it's perfectly fine if you still want to snark, but this way you can choose a more appropriate subject, like the merits of Mafia Wars or whether Katie Holmes should demand a divorce