Episode 12: Burn
Zekna the Naga slithered into the clearing and smiled at the ten contestants. She lit several tiki torches. "In today’s luxury challenge, you are competing for flint and steel wool, the ability to make fire. The game is called Burn. The winning team is the first team to have every team member at the lake somewhere to the north. And for incentive," Zekna knocked the torches into piles of tree litter on the ground. "You must out run a forest fire!"
The leaves burst into flame as lapping red tendrils climbed up a tree trunk. The contestants hesitated until Haimes (scree) took off sprinting deeper into the forest. The others followed, fanning out and coughing from the wind blown smoke.
Jewel (cyclops) rubbed her eyes. "It stings." Christina (vampire) didn’t reply as she passed the cyclops. Ranzkin (gnome) separated from Dedrick (centaur) and followed Christina until Paige (zombie), human Paige with pain-filled eyes and a sling around her arm, picked up the gnome by the scruff of her blue dress.
"Not now," Paige whispered. "We all must get to the lake."
"I wasn’t going to…" Ranzkin paused, stunned. "It worked." Paige nodded, breathing hard as she ran. "You’re in pain," Ranzkin said.
"I forgot what it’s like to be human. My mouth, my arm. I need a doctor."
"Take this," Ranzkin handed Paige a mushroom from under her conical hat. "You’ll still be able to run."
Amber changed to unicorn form and caught up to Haimes. They crossed a wooden bridge swaying over a long drop into a raging river followed by Paige, Ranzkin, Nessa (elf) and Kailen (fairy).
"That doesn’t look very steady," Eadric (warrior) said.
Christina pushed him out of the way and started across the bridge. Eadric came next as Jewel, Gorm (mage) and Dedrick arrived. Jewel shoved Gorm away and stepped onto the bridge. The roped creaked and one of the boards broke. She took a deep breath and moved a few more steps. The ropes snapped, slamming her body back against the wall. She clung to the groaning rope.
DIARY CONFESSION – JEWEL THE CYCLOPS
"I shouldn’t have tried to cross that bridge. I knew it wouldn’t hold me. Christina and Eadric almost got hurt because of me. I just wanted to help my tribe win. It may be my last chance.
"I have no idea who’ll be leaving after this event, me or Paige. Paige hopefully. She’s more a hindrance than an asset. I’ve helped my tribe win many times and I’m not infectious. My tribe would probably keep me, but it isn’t up to them. Who knows what the viewers will do?"
BACK TO THE SHOW
Across the gap, most of the bridge fell against the other side. Christina and Eadric climbed up the wooden planks like a ladder. Jewel climbed back onto the land, panting hard.
"Neither team will win until we get across," Gorm said.
"That isn’t as big of a problem as the fire at our backs," Dedrick replied.
"We have to climb down," Gorm said.
"What?" Dedrick asked, horrified. He stomped a hoof restlessly.
"You climb," Jewel said. "Dedrick and I will find another way."
The fire receded further and further as Amber followed Haimes through the trees. They’d been running for hours when she noticed a giant tree stump. Again. She stopped and whinnied. Haimes turned around, covering his eyes and cringing when she turned back into a girl. "We’re lost."
"What?" Haimes asked. "Why do you say that?"
"We already passed this stump," Amber said.
"Oh." Haimes ran his hand over the wood. "I’m not good at navigating this aboveground world. There’re no walls, no ceiling."
"We could be going backwards by now!" Amber exclaimed.
"No, because then we’d be back in the fire."
"Where’s the smoke?" Amber started climbing a tree. "That will help us know which way to go."
Turen, a zombie leader, stands alone in a muddy battlefield surrounded my bits of corpses. "This once was a thriving settlement of zombies minding their own business when the evil and vicious barbarian fighters showed up and decimated these innocent villagers.
"I implore you, do not play Depths of Peril and aid the barbarian’s heinous cause. Besides, I’ve heard it’s an addictive game. What have zombies ever done to you? Nothing. Don’t play Depths of Peril. Have a heart and let us have our brains in peace.
This message has been brought to you from the pro-life group: Zombies for the Zombie Way of Life – The Simple Life… a Brain Farm
BACK TO THE SHOW
Paige dropped Ranzkin and fell to the ground doubled over. After the gnome tumbled into the brush, she climbed out straightening her hat. Paige raised up on hands and knees moaning. Tears slid down ash-purple cheeks.
"You’ve turned," Ranzkin said.
Paige nodded. "It doesn’t hurt as much going back to zombie." Something growled from behind her. She turned and saw two skinny wolves. Another four circled them. "Ranzkin?"
The gnome shook her head. "They’re hungry."
Kailen flew above the trees to spot the lake. He was hidden from view by the canopy, and once the smoke cleared, he stayed high flying for the patch of blue.
Nessa spotted the fairy scouting the treetops early on. She kept far enough back that he didn’t see her but close enough to follow, at least until he didn’t come back down. By then she had a good sense of which direction to follow.
Running through the tall trees, Nessa jumped over roots and brush as she penetrated the forest. Sunlight streamed down in a glossy green meadow in front of a glassy blue lake. She’d found it! And Kailen the fairy sunbathing on a lily pad.
Nessa jumped into the lake, splashing Kailen as Amber and Haimes bolted into the meadow. Next came a bloody Paige followed by Ranzkin.
"Are you okay?" Nessa asked the zombie.
"Wolves," Paige replied.
After several hours Christina and Eadric made an appearance. As the sun hung low in the sky, Gorm cleared the meadow to the lake.
"That’s it," Amber said. "We’ve won!"
DIARY CONFESSION – GORM THE MAGE
"I knew we’d win when I climbed up the other side of the cliff and Jewel and Dedrick were still fighting. I don’t think they would’ve moved from that spot if the fire hadn’t closed in on them.
"I didn’t mean to be last from my tribe but I wasn’t first on purpose. I’m trying to lay low a bit. Not look like a strong player. Kailen did himself no favors by coming in first."
BACK TO THE SHOW
"Where’s Dedrick and Jewel?" Christina asked.
"I don’t know," Gorm replied. "After the bridge broke, I climbed down the cliff face. Jewel and Dedrick were afraid they’d fall, so they looked for an alternate route.
Dedrick and Jewel arrived as the giant eagle dropped a message tied to a stone. Dedrick read it to the other contestants. "Tribe Kivi has won the Luxury Challenge. Flint and steel wool will be waiting for you back at camp."
"What took you so long?" Christina asked.
Jewel shrugged. "We argued a long time about how to find another route across the gap. The cliff went as far as I could see in either direction. Less far across."
"Finally Jewel just tossed me over." Dedrick laughed. "Nearly scared me to death! My leg almost broke. It was a crazy move but not as crazy as when she tried a running jump. She didn’t make it but luckily, the bridge was still against the side of the cliff. It helped stop her fall before braking completely and crashing into the river."
"I had to climb up half the cliff face," Jewel said. "I can’t believe I didn’t fall."
Zekna slid around from the back of the lake. "The viewers have spoken. Paige," she drew in a breath, "you are safe. Jewel, you have been sacrificed and must now leave the island."
Writer for Soldak