The challenge: write a complete story in 500 words or less sticking to these guidelines…
Genre: Comedy + Historical
Setting: On Gilligan’s Island
Trope: Possessed by demons
Characters: A star ballerina + a wise old person
POV/tense: 2nd person/past tense
The Minnow Would Be Lost
The way you settled the Exorcist experiment. A miracle. Was the child selected to play Regan truly possessed? A lesser case worker would have silenced her. Not you. You held her and prayed until she believed the demons fled.
Recreating Mass Formation Psychosis is messy. But how else can we understand the madness of eras like 1780s France, 1930s Germany, 2020s America?
I almost nixed your application. You seemed fragile, but your stint with the Bolshoi turned you to steel, strong enough to master our worst experiment: Gilligan’s Island.
Three months earlier we’d selected the participants for the roles of the castaways, to remain in character until the experiment ended. Our last observer team never returned. You volunteered to accompany me. Together we rowed out to the island. I would be a theater director. You, an actress with our traveling production of Taming of the Shrew.
You wanted to learn everything I knew. You told me someday, you would have my job.
I asked if you knew why we imposed such stress on these brave souls.
To prevent the worst of mankind, you said.
Do you think we really can, though I asked.
No. Still, we have to try.
On the shore we discovered a sign saying NO ENTRY beside a skull with flecks of crusted, bloody flesh around the sockets.
Worst case, you whispered, no fear in your eyes.
The show must go on I said.
We hiked through the foliage to the encampment. The breeze carried a sweet burning. Black smoke billowed from a fire. I heard a scraping. Past the first hut a body hunched. I recognized him: the lonely widower I selected to play Thurston Howell.
I cleared my throat, and said: Good Afternoon. I am Lachlan Mountjoy, director of the Globe Theater, and this is Serena Butterfield, the finest thespian in the world.
Ginger ran out. A director? She screamed. Her tattered sequin dress was streaked maroon. Her red hair a birds nest. I recall how excited the woman portraying her had been to be chosen. Now her eyes terrified me.
Yes, I said, and we would like you to play the lead. My voice cracked, because I knew this experiment had likely failed. Are there others here?
A man stumbled out of a hut. Red shirt. Head bowed. Hands behind his back. Muttering The Minnow Would Be Lost over and over.
Shut the fuck up! Ginger screamed.
Gilligan ran up to you and grinned. The Minnow Would Be Lost, he hissed. You never flinched.
Are there no others? I asked.
They were so tasty, Thurston said. Dead weight becomes good meat. Are you dead weight, too?
Gilligan pulled a machete from behind his back. You silenced him forever with your glock. Before Thurston could pounce you silenced him, too. You saved the tranquilizer gun for Ginger. She would be analyzed, her brain dissected.
My spirit broke with that experiment. That’s why I recommended you for my role. Your unsentimental nature will take you far.
[Photo by Peter Fogden on Unsplash]