Episode 4G76 of The Horvitz Hour!

The side conversations and 30-second naps wrapped up.

The lights came up.

Marv Mickle cleared his throat and approached his microphone. His booth overlooked the audience and gave him the best view in the house.

“Welcome back, Ladies and Gentlemen…” Marv began.

“Ha ha, welcome indeed!” Dan “The Host Man” Carpentier opened his arms and smiled at the camera swooping in tight on his face. “Our next contestant is from some forgettable town in Texas, please welcome Horton Gundersutch!”

From behind the immense sparkling pink curtain came Horton; a tall mixed-race man trotted out, smiles and rippling muscles aplenty.

“My my, aren’t we handsome?” Dan Carpentier winked and the audience gave their loud approval of the man’s physique.

“Thank you,” Horton could not shake the grin off his face.

“Oh Marv?”

“Yeeeeeees Dan?”

“Please tell Mr. Gundersutch here what he’ll be facing tonight on The Horvitz Hour…”

“Tonight, Horton Gundersutch, you will encounter a challenge that has yet to be overcome…”

“Oh Marv, you don’t mean…” Dan baited.

“Ohhhh but I do! Tonight you face the cockatrice 犬鳳凰 (Inuho)!”

The crowd gasped.

Horton was at a loss for words.

The stage began to shift.

The platform Horton and Dan stood on gently glided to the right of where they were standing.
A bedroom made to look like a child’s was brought to center stage by an army of crew.

“Alrighty Mr. Gundersutch, You are to hop into that racecar bed there and pull the covers tight over your head. Oh, I forgot, please remove your shoes!”

“…Ummm what?” Horton kept a look of bewilderment on his face for the entire setup process. Really though, he should’ve prepared himself better. All contestants of The Horvitz Hour are required acknowledge that anything at any time can and may be asked of them.

Horton slid into the red automobile shaped bed and pulled the covers over his head.

“Mr. Gundersutch, please poke out one foot from under the covers!” Dan smiled and cajoled the audience into the proper mood.

A size 14 foot emerged from under the comforter.

“Ok audience, this particular challenge requires silence during the initial stages, but as the action picks up, feel free to uh… express yourselves…” a sly grin was the last thing the audience saw as the house lights went out. On the stage, a cartoon nightlight was the only illumination.

A noise from the closet.

The audience watched with baited breath.

The closet door slowly careened open.

Two red glowing eyes could be seen darting around about one meter above the ground.

A gentle buzzing, like purring, now began. Occasionally a subtle cluck.

The ‘closet’ door swung fully open and a rooster with a dragon’s tail and pocked skin stumbled out.

The crowd recoiled in revulsion.

Another sound.

Something like a man trying to grope his way out of a darkened room.

A sickening stench now began offending those within noseshot.

Something like a living pile of white clay with a vague face now emerged from a corner of nothing.

“Where’d that ぬっぺっぽう (nuppeppo) come from?” Dan hated it when challenges didn’t function as intended. “Oh well, at least the Kappa didn’t get out. All the nupe’ can do is stink…”

The cockatrice finally noticed Horton’s foot. Like a lecher after a young woman, the creature wobbled over to the flesh.

A small peck.

Another.

The audience was on the edge of their seat.

Just as the beast reared to strike, Horton, who up until now had a paralyzing fear of closet monsters, leapt into action.

Hidden in the bed were weapons. Horton had grabbed a kukri and swiped at his attacker.

The beast reared and flapped its wings, letting a shrill squawk. Horton noticed the acrid smell the nuppeppo was emitting, which caused a momentary lapse in guard.

Inuhoo the Japanese cockatrice took a deep breath and sprayed deep red liquid fire all over the bed. The fire didn’t flame or burn. It merely glowed and dissolved. But amongst the audience there was no question that what had come out that creature was a form of fire.

Horton recovered and rolled to a pile of toys.

Inuhoo opened her wings and prepared another blast of cold glowing hell.

Horton grabbed a handful of Lego and threw them in the air as chaff. Inuhoo didn’t buy it.

Horton ducked a fountain of vermilion and whipped a board game at the beast. Game pieces and fake currency went everywhere.

The nuppeppo had meandered its way over to the action and was blocking Inuhoo from advancing.

Horton began tapping on fixtures and ripping things from the bookshelves in an effort to uncover any more hidden gems.

Jackpot.

In a giant stuffed bear was a road flare and some accelerant.

Inuho had had enough of the nuppeppo and was trying to kill it.

Horton took advantage of the bird’s ire and hurled the lidless container of clear liquid at the creature. Upon popping the flare however, Inuho had a new target.

Horton launched the flare at Inuho who sprayed one more burst of cold red entropy.

Horton lost most of his left arm.

Inuhoo lost its life.

The house lights came up.

The music began blaring.

The audience exploded with cheers and applause.

“My goodness! Marv! Have you seen anyone perform that valiantly against a cockatrice?”

“No Dan, not like Mr. Gundersutch there.”

“Wow, we’ll have to tell the boys in the lab to up the intelligence in the next batch of those birds!”

“I’m calling now Dan…” Marv mimed a phone call to the lab. In reality, only Dan had that privilege though.

Horton Gundersutch quivered and still couldn’t believe what he had just experienced was real.

“Well Mr. Gundersutch, you did it! And don’t worry about that arm! Those boys I spoke of from the lab will have that taken care of before you leave today!”

“O… Ok…” Horton was still trying to secure a grasp on reality.

As several gorgeous male and female stagehands lead him to the aforementioned lab, Dan turned to the public. His public.

“Marv, who’s our next contestant…”

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