PANIC STRAND

I’m Gomez Bates, and this is Panic Strand. The exploits you are about to see were all designed and supervised by Jigsaw Grimes. They are extremely dangerous and should not be attempted by anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Tonight we have a group of four teams of two people-half of which have a preexisting relationship with each other while the other half do not and are strangers. All will look fear in the face in order to win one million dollars. All that stands in their way are three terrifying stunts. Who will overcome these challenges? Who will die trying? We’re about to find out on Panic Strand!

Round One

Welcome players. Today your first stunt is designed to physically test each of you. Ladies, gentlemen, and viewers at home, I welcome you to Troll bridge home of the fairy tale of the Billy Goats Gruff.

As the tale goes three male goats suffer a food shortage and leave home in search of greener pastures. To get to their destination they brothers must cross a bridge running across a river. All that stands in their way is a fearsome troll who eats anyone who attempts to cross the bridge. Needless to say, the troll is defeated and the brothers reach the rich fields which surround the summer farm in the hills.

Your mission is to defeat the troll and make it to the other side of the bridge where your partner waits for your arrival. If you succeed, you’ll move on to the next round. However if you fail you will be eliminated. Are you ready? Yes? Okay be ready at the count of three. One, two, three!

Team 1 is off to a quick start! Perhaps he thinks speed will get him across. He’s already at the halfway point on the bridge. Teams 2 and 3 are not far behind and oh no! Team 4 has had an accident as Naomi has sprained ankle. But that’s not stopping her as she’s coming up the rear. Viewers are wondering where the troll is.

“Garrrrrgh!”

Speak the devil’s name and he shall appear! Looks like the troll had a surprise attack in store for our contestants. It’s taken team 1 off guard as he’s been clawed by the troll. “Aaaaaah!” Oh my that doesn’t sound good. Damn! That’s a lot of blood! It appears folks that team 1 has had one of his legs cut off by our atrocious troll!

Looks like team 2 has slipped in the big pool of blood. They haven’t gotten up yet, they might be unconscious. CRUNCH. The troll’s having his midday snack right now and teams 3 and 4 are taking advantage as they make their way to the bridge’s exit. Team 1 is crawling slowly but surely to the exit as well. No sacrifice no victory I guess! But where is team 4?

It appears the troll has lost interest in the rest of the players as it dines on team 2’s succulent meat and bones. And with the rest of the players on the other side, that marks the end of round one!

Let’s talk to the players. Team 1, for a moment there it looked like you were out of the running. What made you want to continue? “I had to get back to my Juliet. We’ve been given a second chance at life so that’s what drove me.” But why waste your new life by coming on this show? “We’re not afraid of death. As long as we’re together nothing else matters. Plus we wanted to pay back those who helped us in our first life, like dear Friar Laurence.”

What a morbidly lovely couple! And now for team 4. How on earth did she make it to the other side? Let’s go to the replay. Team 4 played smart and made her way across underneath the bridge’s belly! She didn’t touch the river so she and her partner are still in the game! What an awesome first round, and we’ve got our first blood and guts of the night! Stayed tuned folks for the next round!

Round Two

“Oooooooooooooooowhoo!!” The sun has settled and the moon is up all alone in the dark night sky and it’s time for the next stunt. As the viewers can see, we’ve been transported to the Carpathian Mountains on the border of Transylvania, Bukovina, and Moldavia where we’re now the prisoners-er I mean the esteemed guests of Count Dracula!

This stunt is meant to mentally challenge the teams and I have some good news. No one will be eliminated this round! Instead the team who performs the best will receive a prize as well as the privilege of choosing the order you all will have to go in to perform the final stunt tomorrow. Understand? Good, now enough stalling it’s time to reveal the next stunt!

Our dear Count has been gracious enough to provide dinner for the teams. Shall we enter the dining hall? What awaits our brave guests of honor? You’ll find out after these messages!

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Welcome back to Panic Strand! The teams are now seated around the dining room table and are awaiting the arrival of their meal and so are the viewers. The suspense is killing some of you, we’ve already received calls confirming the deaths. I’m pleased to say that the wait is over! Sisters bring out the food!

As you can see folks, each team has received a big plate which has been covered and will be revealed in due time. When I count to three, you’ll have five minutes to devour as much as you can of your dinner. The plates have a line dividing them in half lengthwise. Both you and your partner must eat their own half. The team who eats the most food off their plates wins.

Remember everyone will advance, but wouldn’t it be great to start tomorrow’s round with a huge advantage and prize? Okay everyone uncover your plates! Wow look at the wonderful meal set in front of them! There’s a slice of Dracula’s pizza whose toppings include worms, coagulated blood and rancid cheese. Next to that is a bowl of delicious pureed rat with a side of buffalo testicles, and a cave spider sandwich! And our guests get to drown this hearty meal down with a glass of raw ostrich egg and a shot of cow eye juice!

Alright, we’ve got the menu now it’s time for the feast to begin! Contestants are you ready? If not too bad! You might want to say grace before you eat. Hahhahaha. One, two, three! Feast!

Looks like things are going well. The teams are digging in and eating their grossly meal. Teams 1 and 4 have settled on eating the pizza first while team 3 has started on the cave spider sandwich. Oh come now, don’t eat slow! You’re only prolonging the inevitable. Chew like your life depended on it (actually it does)!

That’s more like it! Team 4 has completed their slices of pizza and have just gulped down their ostrich eggs. There’s no stopping them. Meanwhile our star crossed lovers took a bite out of their pizza and have switched over to the pureed rat. Oh my goodness! They’re dipping the buffalo testicles into the pureed rat!

“Tastes better this way.” I wouldn’t know my dear Juliet. Team 3 is struggling holding anything down. What’s this? Team 3 is stopping? I guess they’ve given up. But team 4 hasn’t! They’ve just did their shots of cow eye juice like a sailor and they’ve only got half of their sandwich, the testicles, and puree to eat.

They’re following team 1’s lead and are dipping the testicle into the puree. Team 3 is just sitting their puking. What a bunch of weaklings. Count Dracula is not too pleased and that might not bode well with the quitters.

BING!

Time’s up! Let’s see who won. By a few bites, team 4 pulled ahead and are the victors this round. Congrats! You’ve won the the Valkyries of the Norse god Bor. The ones who are cannibalistic in nature, and can only consume not only the spirit-forms of Asgardian gods, but other spirit forms as well. You know who they are, we can’t say their name and neither can you lest your spirits get devoured! You’ve also get to pick the team order of tomorrow’s stunt!

Team 1 you’ll also be moving on to tomorrow’s round. Team 3 you will not since you didn’t finish the task which was appointed to you. We must now say farewell as we leave you behind. Take time to become familiar with the Count’s castle as you’ll be staying here for all eternity. Sisters take them away.

“No! Please! Help!” That will teach you to disrespect your host when you don’t eat their meal that they slaved away all day to prepare for you! Folks at home pay close attention and don’t make the same mistake like team 3. Team 1 and 4 we’ll be heading to another undisclosed location.

Round Three

It’s the final round, the final countdown and we are live from Weyland-Yutani Corporation’s new base on planetoid LX-43 with our two remaining teams. To quickly recap, team 1 Romeo and Juliet won the first round and came in a close second yesterday in the second. Team 4 consisting of perfect strangers Leo and Naomi advanced to the second round thanks to Naomi’s swift thinking, and then won yesterday by taking a huge bite out of Count Dracula’s table.

Now these two teams will face off in the last stunt to determine who will win the one million dollar prize. Teams are you ready for your final stunt? Yes? Good because ready or not here it comes and you can’t hide from it!

The third and final stunt is something much more deadly and terrifying than what you faced in the first round. You must make your way through this small colony and to the drop ship which is located on the other side. As you make the journey beware of the multiple Xenomorphs and their eggs which are located throughout the colony. The first team to make it safely to the dropship the fastest wins the money.

One more thing. Team 4 since you won yesterday’s challenge you get to pick the order of who goes first. You’ll go first you say? No? So you’ll go last? No? Then what then? Together? Well that’s a first. Trying to play hero are we? Hahahaha such foolish notions. But who cares? There’s a 95% chance that one or all of you will die. This is going to be good regardless.

Players on my mark. One, two, three! Off they go into the lions den where only death and horror await all who enter. Will anyone make it out alive? It’s highly doubtful but miracles can happen. Stay tuned viewers!

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And we’re back and while we were away, Leo was badly injured by one of the xenomorph’s acid. Sadly he didn’t die since Juliet and Naomi rescued the pathetic creature. All of these heroics is such a drag. You’re killing the spirit of fear and dread!

Not to worry viewers at home! The stunt’s not over yet, they may be at the halfway point, but there’s still a long way to go. There’s still time for betrayal and division. One million is a lot of money but even these miserable human’s lives are worth more to them than the cash prize. Either way something’s gotta give and when it does I’ll be right here to report it for you fine monstrous folks at home!

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We’re back and things have gone from bad to worse which is great for me and you viewers! They’re nearing the exit and a face hugger has clamped onto not just Romeo’s but also Juliet’s face as well! Aww, look they’re trying to take them off of each other. That’s so cute! To bad the facehuggers’ grip is too strong even stronger than team 1’s love for each other.

What’s this? Team 4 is leaving team 1 behind? How wonderful! That’s the spirit we’ve been looking for. Ah come on Naomi why don’t you just leave Leo to the aliens and take the prize money all for yourself?

Now back to our face hugging couple. Still struggling to get the cute creepy things off the couple are using an interesting tactic. They’re attempting to pull the other’s hugger off. Why don’t they stop? They know better than to interfere in another’s love affair. How sad they are.

Why don’t they die already? FIZZZZZZZZZZZT! Oh look at all that acid spraying! TEAAAAAAAR!
 Ah nothing sounds so sweet as a face hugger’s host’s face being torn off. Especially if it’s two faces at once!

Two households, both alike in dignity,

In fair LX-43, where we lay our scene,

From ancient creatures break to new mutiny,

Where acid blood makes civil hands unclean and dissolve.

From forth the fatal facehuggers of these two foes

A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life…

Shakespeare is always appropriate in any situation don’t you think? And so ends again the lives of Romeo and Juliet.

Only two remain and where are they? Why they’ve made their way to the dropship. Looks like team 4 has come out on to-wait a minute! What’s that? Why it’s our beloved xenomorph queen! She’s made her appearance and is piping mad that her two guests are running away. Ooh! She just impaled Leo in half! Get them queenie!

THISSHIG RRRERRK!

My apologies folks! Looks like the fight between the queen and Naomi messed up our system for a few seconds there. We’ve got visual and the colony’s been destroyed and the queen is dead. I repeat the queen is dead. Up in the air, is not a bird or a plane but a drop ship carrying the sole survivor of the stunt Naomi of team 4! Congratulations Naomi! You bested a troll on the bridge, you ate at Dracula’s table, overcame a xenomorph colony and slayed the queen. You’ve got the one million dollars and the Valkyries of Bor! You’ve survived and evidently fear is not a factor for you!

“WOOT! Happy Halloween everybody!” I couldn’t have said better myself Naomi. Happy Halloween! This is Gomez Bates. See you next year, same time, same channel for another game of Panic Strand!

From my book A Visit From the Soul Eater: A Trove of Horror Stories, Flash and Short. Written by T.C. Harrison Copyright 2016