So! As some of you may not know, I began a grand experiment last night. This was spurred on by a friend who had recently had the opportunity to speak with a community manager for Twitch, and who had in turn told me about the fact that there simply isn’t a strong writing presence on the streaming service. But that makes sense, yes? Who wants to watch a stream of me plinking away at my keyboard while I work on stories? Twitch is about gaming! Photoshop streams! Talk shows! Writing doesn’t have that viewer hook.
But … what if it could?
I brainstormed, and settled on a mutation of the “Twitch Plays” concept, where a game is controlled by commands issued in the chat window by the audience. But, instead of a game, what if the audience could direct how a story was created? Think Mad-libs meets crowd-sourcing think tank. Thus, “Xero Should be Writing” was born.
Last night, the audience helped me write a fairy tale. What follows is their ideas and suggestions, as funneled through me to spin a narrative. If you’re like to see the stream that birthed this tale, you can check it out right here.
Without further ado, I give you their masterpiece …
A Twitch-driven Fairy Tale
by The Fantastic Audience of twitch.tv/xerjester and Xero Reynolds
Once upon a time, in the land of New Jersey, there was a hamlet, of sorts. Well, it was as much of a village as can be expected in a place such as New Jersey. This town was known as Disappointment.
In Disappointment, there lived a hero. Though, to hear tell of it, he certainly did not think himself a hero. For one thing, one of his eyes had been replaced by an artificial construct. That seems more like a villainous trope, doesn’t it? I mean, his cybernetic eye was certainly cool, and could qualify as a wi-fi hotspot, but it wasn’t exactly the stuff of heroic legend. It was honestly kind of creepy.
Nevertheless, this hero was named Keene, and Keene had run afoul of his greatest fear that morning, when he was tasked to go and milk the village’s only cow, Pig. One might wonder why the villagers would name their cow “Pig”, but I would remind you that this is also the same gaggle of individuals that had their town’s name changed to “Disappointment” on a dare.
Anyway, Keene was tending to Pig in the village’s barn, which also doubled as a lovely hair-care and tire salon, and there, he saw it. A stool. Not just any stool, but quite possibly the metaphysical ideal of stools as a concept. The perfect stool. Stool Prime, if you will.
And Keene, heroic though he may one day be, had a deep and thoroughly gripping phobia of stools.
With an explosion of obnoxious fear-induced laughter, brought on by his paralyzing childhood trauma that involved a stool and thus lead to this phobia, Keene leapt behind the nearby duvet. The duvet, as all citizens of Disappointment would remind any tourist, is the cherished bastion of impenetrable defense. In the matter of public relations, the duvet was currently considered more heroic that Keene himself.
So Keene hid behind said heroic duvet. At this point, his raucous, and spine-tingling laughter was at least muffled.
“B-be g-gone AHAHAHAHAHAHA-snort- Stool Devil!” Keene proclaimed in less than a dignified manner. Pig, ever the stoic, snorted at his plight.
But then, in the distance, Keene overheard something wondrous.
“Blue-light special in Aisle Four,” announced the disembodied voice. Yes! Of course! For the town of Disappointment was, in and of itself, a giant K-mart. It’s pointless at this moment, dear reader, to question the byzantine zoning laws that lead to an entire village serving as one massive K-mart. You’re far better off pondering the vast mysteries of our Universe, or developing the science necessary to transmute air into Ikea furniture.
Keene overcame his initial fear, shuffled out of the barn without making further eye-contact with the stool, and wandered in the direction of glorious savings.
But then, the floor beneath his timid feet gave way. Curses! It was a trap! Keene of course, should have known this. The land of New Jersey is, as the more seasoned among you already know, a trap itself. How could he have been so blind? Oh. Right. One working eye. Keene took a moment to reboot his cybernetic eye, made three attempts to put in the proper password, and then surveyed his surroundings.
There, in that subterranean space, Keene spied an elderly gentleman. The man, though bent by age, had the sprightly look of vitality yet in his eyes, and a glimmer of wisdom in his features.
“I know what you’re expecting,” began the old man in a smooth and cultured voice, thus denoting that he was from out of town. “You expect me to say, ‘It’s dangerous to go alone!’ or some such, and then give you a weapon for nothing. Swords aren’t cheap, freeloader. Away with you! To use your parlance, GIT!”
And Keene surely went and “git”. He wasn’t about to tangle with anyone who had survived so long in New Jersey’s Underdark.
But as Keene finally reached the goal of attaining the promised Blue Light Special on Aisle Four—in this case, a discounted pair of spatulas—he was distraught to see a dwarf was reaching for the same low-price kitchen utensils!
“Hands off, tiny man!” Keene said, in a rather unkind manner. But can you blame him? The savings were insane! “I challenge you to a duel of spatulas!”
“But … you have to pay for them first, don’t you?” replied the dwarf.
Keene gasped. The dwarf-dwarfy-short for a dwarf-DWARF was right. He would need a new tactic to secure his prize.
“Hey! Look over there!” cried Keene. And in that moment of brilliance, he took advantage of the schoolyard tactic to seize the spatulas. Well … he made the attempt. The tactic, while sound enough on those still in grade school, wasn’t exactly a fool-proof one. So, naturally, the dwarf was not fooled. The two seized the spatulas at the same time.
“Fucking really?” said the dwarf waspishly.
Keene, realizing he had been bested in the first round battle of wits, quickly released the spatulas. Instead, he pivoted, and with a cry of triumph, he took up the pancake spatula that hung nearby; its size nigh three times that of the spatulas the dwarf held, with a price-tag to match! Clearly, Keene understood the terrible mathematics of force escalation.
The two faced one another. Okay, not really, I mean, the height differences and all. They looked at each other. Happy? They eyed one another, each sizing up their opponent. Keene readied his pancake spatula, and the dwarf, realizing the futility of trying to prize apart his dual spatulas due to their fucking kyrptonian-tech zip-tie, instead readied the pair of cooking implements as a crude club.
“I am Stevenson, the Named!” the dwarf declared. “And I shall-” and then he turned, and legged it.
Like, I’m talking tiny Usain Bolt legged it. Dude was freakishly fast. I mean, I didn’t clock it myself, but damn.
The dwarf—Stevenson—gained the register, and was nearly about to swipe his card to complete his purchase, when he slipped. His stubby legs, though inhumanly quick, were not shod with anything you might consider “OSHA approved”. He neglected to notice the “Wet Floor” sign during his hundred-yard dash, and so he went spinning like a little evil top. The spatulas flew free of his grip.
Keene, every ready to capitalize on the misfortune of diminutive individuals, launched himself into a graceful arc towards the sailing spatulas. Yes. This was how it should be. The culmination of all of his efforts over the long span of … ten? Fifteen minutes? Whatever. It felt longer. His outstretched hand strained for the glorious plastic handles, and just as his index finger brushed one, they vanished.
Keen smacked onto the floor, understandably confused. He looked up to see the town’s prize cow, Pig, holding the spatulas in her mouth. Keene quickly gained his footing, and approached the animal slowly.
“Easy girl,” Keene said. “Good Pig. Nice pig. Just let me take those out of your mouth and-”
Keene reached for the cow’s ill-gotten trophy, focused entirely on his looming victory, and was therefore unprepared for the sight that greeted him just over the poorly-named Holstein’s rump.
It was the stool from the barn. It had followed.
Keene collapsed onto the linoleum, gripped in paroxysms of fear, and his obnoxious laughter echoed off the tastefully lit walls and carefully arranged store displays. The employees fled before the sonic onslaught of Keene’s shrill cackling. You would too. Don’t deny it.
Stevenson recovered from his slip n’ slide, and saw his opportunity to turn the tables. He had no fear of stools, after all. I mean, they’re just stools. C’mon. The dwarf approached the cow. Keene could not move to intercept him. The dwarf grinned, obviously in an evil fashion, and he reached for the spatulas. These spatulas would be used to great effect in the break room of the corporation he would construct on the spot where Disappointment once stood.
“Pancake Tuesday shall be made real,” crooned the dwarf.
The dwarf took the spatulas with hands that shook slightly. This was but one phase of his overall scheme, and damn that cyborg for attempting to forestall him! Stevenson the Named proudly approached the register. Thankfully, it was a self check-out. I mean, the employees friggin’ booked it like a few paragraphs ago. He scanned the item, swiped his card, and …
“CARD DECLINED. PLEASE TRY AGAIN,” read the cheerfully-lit user-friendly screen.
Stevenson blinked. Maybe it was one of those new chip-readers? Annoying. He tried again. Again, the electronic sentinel of commerce slammed the metaphorical door in his face.
“But … I had a bit left! I didn’t spend all of my money on these plans of mine! That was the whole point of getting these on sale, damn it!” Stevenson wailed.
The dwarf slapped the machine.
It beeped twice.
I’m fairly certain that was binary for “Ha ha”.
Keene, meanwhile—remember him? Me too—was attempting to crawl away from the source of his bone-shaking fear. As he clambered, slid, and basically humiliated himself across the floor away from the menacing stool, his flailing hands made contact with a nearby display.
There, proudly displayed at reasonable prices, was an entire line of bedding as designed by master bedding artiste, Hannah Montana, in a rare collaboration with Fabio. It’s actually tastefully done stuff. You should check it out when you have the chance. The pastels are lovely.
Keene seized a length of cloth from the rack, and pulled with all of his might. Alas, it was one of those fitted sheets that are bloody impossible to fold, and the elastic just ended up slapping him in the face. But, all due karma aside, Keene at least had a foil to the dreaded stool’s presence.
He hurled the sheet, and it crumpled over the stool, just managing to cover it from sight. This allowed his laughter to finally subside. Thank Christ. That laughter was just …. think Gilbert Gottfried through a stadium amp while huffing helium. It’s bad, okay? But, the stool was out of sight, out of mind, and Keene got back to his unsteady feet.
Girding his loins, Keene climbed atop Pig. Pig, for her part, did not immediately attempt to buck him off. I suppose they had a good working relationship, stools notwithstanding. Keene turned the cow’s nose toward where the spatulas awaited at the self check-out.
What glory awaited him! What spoils of victory would be lauded upon him by the good people of Disappointment, New Jersey! Yes, this was truly Keene’s finest hour. The women would throw themselves at his feet. Hopefully in a safe manner. I doubt insurance covered it, otherwise. The parades they would hold in Keene’s honor would be the talk of the land for at least half an hour!
As he prodded his bovine steed forward, he struggled a bit with his wallet. But, let’s be honest here: have you ever fished about in your pockets while riding a cow in a store? Probably not. If you have, call me. We need to compare notes. In any case, as he rode abreast of the waiting checkout machine, he began to fumble his wallet.
Stevenson, understandably alarmed by the approaching cow, had moved aside. His ankle had become injured during his blooper-reel performance, and it was all he could do just to keep upright. He could only glare as Keene came alongside the machine.
“I’m afraid you weren’t good enough, short-stack!” howled Keene. The dwarf ground his teeth. That was, his dreams of Pancake Tuesday being considered, a low blow. The dwarf then realized that “low blow” made it a burn trifecta, and he had none but himself to blame.
But, at that moment of glory, Keene’s wallet slipped! As if in slow-motion as aided and abetted by Zack Snyder with a copy of Adobe Premiere, the wallet turned delicately mid-air. It spread open, like a glorious pleather butterfly, and a shiny rectangle of plastic came free of its confines.
Keene could only watch from atop his steed as the credit card tumbled once … twice … three times because it was a damned show-off … and then it impossibly landed into the reader slot. It slid down the length of its magnetic strip in a rather unsavory fashion.
The card cleared, and the purchase completed. Who in their right mind had set the machine to “credit”?
The dwarf cackled, and lurched forward. His grubby hands clamped onto the spatulas, as Keene still struggled to catch his free-range billfold. Keene wavered for a moment, over-balanced, and then came crashing down onto the scanner portion of the machine like the rodeo clowns of the ancient tales.
Stevenson raised the spatulas high. “The day is mine, cyclops! And soon, so shall this town be … mine … also be mine … nope, it’s ruined. You lost, and you suck.”
Keene watched, a tear falling from one eye, a weird kind of clicking issuing from the robotic eye, and the machine he had landed on beeped, and the dwarf raced out of the store.
The screen simply read: “Potatoes. One (1) bag. $2.99”
The End … for now.
That’s all from me for now.
Until next time, Horns Up.
(My new book is out! The Lexicon Calopa is on sale!)