A few summers ago, I was taught a writing exercise that involves randomly pairing a type/style of storytelling (fairy tale, poetry, narrative, stream of consciousness, etc) with a genre (horror, mystery, nonfiction, romance, erotica, etc). I may have gotten fuzzy (since I was taught this exercise) about what goes in each category, and I think one of the original points was to take an already known story and rewrite it in a different style/genre, but, either way, the exercise is still one of my favorites. Ideally, you do the exercise quickly. In less than an hour. Maybe a few hours if you’ve had the wines. Don’t dwell. Let the pairing sit just long enough to be dicey and see where that discomfort takes you. Yay?
Here’s my sci-fi and fairy tale crossover ‘assignment’.
Once upon a time this story was lame and boring and then I shot myself in the head and while that made it more interesting it also made me dead. (side note: i’m leaving this in here because it cracks me up and also because it is a legit representation of what i’m like before anything is done.)
Once upon a time, three cyber pigs were told by their father that it was time to move the hell out and start providing for themselves. He said,
“I love you dearly, now go forth and don’t embarrass the crap out of me. Oh yeah, and make sure Agathocles Droidmaster doesn’t find you and steal your souls come Harvest.”
Micro, Macro, and Mortimer knew full well that Gatho Droidmaster liked to use cyber pig souls to power his platinum plant (which was, of course, run by droids). They had grown up with the horror stories of Gatho’s Harvest Season all their lives, and their childhoods were peppered with emergency drills, memorization quizzes of the safe houses in the area, and warnings ad nauseum. They knew their time of Reckoning was upon them, and each set about making their futures as safe from Gatho as possible.
Micro, the youngest, hoofed off to the nearest Used Chips Acreage and bought as much as he could fit on the back of his hover motorcycle. The total cost was nowhere near his inheritance, and Micro sang boisterous drinking songs while piling the flakey metallic chips on top of each other, soldering them together with a refurbished heat gun from Discount Doohickeys. He made sure to build his house right next to the local brewery, on top of a hill, with a clear shot of his brothers so he could laugh at them while they struggled to finish building their homes.
Macro snorted scorn at his younger brother’s sloppiness while he tediously, and not without an undue tonnage of pomposity, fitted his titanium slates together like puzzle pieces. He had bought his pieces pre-finished and shaped for a modest extra sum, transported them to his house site in the back of his reasonably-priced-but-still-flashy hover SUV, and stood proudly on the comfortably large front porch of his house after finishing his fortress in record time. He smirked at Mortimer, who had not even begun construction, but sat, in a field one plot over, reading books. Macro rolled his eyes and arms upwards towards the hill where Micro stood, and Micro hooted laughter at their nerdy eldest brother.
Mortimer, true to form, had bought every book he could find about Gatho Droidmaster. The stories he had heard as a child were horrifying enough, but Mortimer felt that stories were stories, and accounts were, well, fact. When he was little, his dad had always begun each day by saying, “Morty, what do you know to be true about today?” And Mortimer, to his consistent, daily, chagrin, found the answer to always be a very unvaried form of ‘nothing.’ Thusly, Mortimer wanted to know what was true about Gatho before he tried to protect himself from an attack by the dreaded Droidmaster.
While his brothers drank to his awkward ways and howled insults about his lack of a social life, Mortimer read that Gatho first liked to taunt his victims into ridiculous behavior. One account detailed a neighbor who had watched the gruesome exchange through a hidden spyhole on his front door. The stealthy pig overheard Gatho calling out to his victim that is wife had sold the soul of their firstborn and he was there to collect. Agathocles favored standing in the middle of the street, directly in front of his targeted house so that everyone on the block got a clear view of his unnaturally muscled physique, his armored biceps, gleaming taloned feet, and pulsing, green chest. The victim, upon hearing the Droidmaster’s signature call, had put his hooves over his quivering pointy ears and wailed loudly to block out the sound of nails being dragged across a mile-long blackboard. Gatho merely raised his unpleasant voice and let his words break excruciatingly against his multi-rowed, razor sharp, teeth,
“Your wife offered your soul, too, but I’d much prefer your son’s. I’m sure you’d love it if I took care of your treacherous sow of a wife too; don’t worry – I don’t mind!” Gatho’s laughter was as soulless as his victims’ bodies would be, and his genetically modified leer usually occurred simultaneously with the enraged lunge of the poor, soon-to-be smoked, ham inside who’d decided: No one talks about my wife that way!
Mortimer also read that Gatho’s second step was to use his solar jets to disintegrate his victims’ house with high velocity winds. Usually, this was all it took to corner his target cyber pig, open his rank jaws, and suck the hapless squealer’s soul into the concave pit Gatho lovingly called ‘the Net.’ However, should this effort fail, the Droidmaster would often resort to more mundane tactics, like ramming his variously reinforced head into the walls of the houses in his crosshairs.
Mortimer closed the last book in his pile and watched the sun set on the sixth to last day before Harvest. He disappeared for several hours and returned to his field with three different trucks trailing behind his used Honda Hover Hybrid. His brothers were too drunk to even laugh, and merely looked on in a glazed, blandly cheerful, stupor.
Mortimer spent the first three days building a round house of lead lined sheetrock from the first supply truck. Its sparse, sound-proofed, windows were built with spring loaded seals in their frames, layered with four inches of air between the inner and outer window, and made with laminated diamond panes from Mortimer’s second truck. His brothers had long since sobered, but due to hangovers, were forced to stay indoors near their bathrooms.
Mortimer’s last supply truck held a special custom made poly-metal that had cost him the rest of his inheritance. He used the tungsten-titanium bricks to build a second layer around his lead house. It took him until the sun had set on the last day before Harvest. His re-inebriated brothers had ceased to find amusement in their distance insult tactics, craving a higher, more immediate, satisfaction for their efforts. They placed themselves on their brother’s ample, shiny portico and snorted over his empty cupboards inside. They guzzled loaves of bread and slurped expensive wine while dancing across his porch, squealing gleefully about the ugliness of a round house. They stayed rude and raucous until just before daybreak when they scuttled back to their homes to hide for the Harvest.
Gatho Droidmaster reached Micro’s house just as the first rays of sun hit the pavement. Gatho stood in the middle of the dead street, raised his twisted claws above his head, opened his jaw and roared,
“Micro, you metal weasel, I’ve decided your soul is worthless to me and I’m not even going to bother taking it, despite how easy it would be!”
Micro flung open his door to thank the Droidmaster for his leniency and realized his error too late. Gatho flung his scaley head back and laughed, the ear-rending gales blowing Micro’s sad little house to pieces. Micro, standing amongst the ruins of his house, shrieked in terror and peed himself a little. Then he fled down the hill to Macro’s house, where his brother let him in whilst berating poor Micro’s idiocy.
The Droidmaster took his time getting to Macro’s house, because evil overlords like to milk their stalking for all its worth. As he neared the pre-fabricated titanium house, he called out,
“Little pigs! Little pigs! I tell you what, if you can beat me in a hoof race, I’ll let you guys off the hook this time!”
But Micro had already told Macro of the Droidmaster’s taunting scheme, and although Gatho was completely audible from within the house, both Micro and Macro set to yelling and stomping as loudly as they could, and managed to drown out the awful grating of Gatho’s provocations. Gatho snorted and rolled his glowing red eyes. He fired a missile from his upgraded forearm into the sky, and immediately, his grimly matte gray jets streaked overhead. They zigzagged back and forth over Macro’s house, blowing it apart one roughly fitted titanium shingle at a time until all that remained standing were the two quivering, clanking, cyber pigs in the middle of the rubble.
Gatho laughed again, the nails dragging across their humorless board with the same relentless certainty as their owner’s intent. He advanced towards the pigs, but Micro and Macro squealed and fled next door to Mortimer’s house. Mortimer let them in with nary a word, but flipped Gatho off before he shut the door.
Gatho began his taunting. Although it was quiet in the house, not one of the pigs opened the door and ran out. Gatho insulted their parents, berated their intellect, told stories of secret brotherly betrayal, pretended he was injured – all to no avail. After several hours of his best tormenting, he stomped the ground and clenched his fists. He fired two missiles into the air, figuring twice as many of his prized solar jets would blast the ridiculous house to pieces twice as fast (tyrants pride themselves on their math and logic prowess) and end the mess quickly.
The jets flew over and around Mortimer’s house until they had seared the late morning sky black. The round house bent slightly under the force of the jets, but stood firm and undamaged. The sun gradually lost its effectiveness through the black smog of the jets’ engines, and, one by one, the planes crashed to the ground around the house. Gatho gathered his fury over his jets’ failure, and lowered his long, broad head. He shot across the short path to the porch and reamed the round house with all of his might. He was the instant recipient of a sharp migraine, and the house retained not a single tiny dent. Gatho howled in rage, ineffectively, as none of the pigs could hear him. The Droidmaster stormed off swearing vengeance and doom, also uselessly. Gatho chose to see it as healthy venting, because overlords dislike futility.
The three cyber pigs sat around the fireplace drinking hot tea and playing cards. Mortimer did not berate or tease his brothers, as nerds are not partial to bullying. He did, however, tell them that if they wanted to live there, they’d both have to pay rent, buy their own food, and ask for permission before they had girls over. And in this fashion, Micro, Macro, and Mortimer lived happily ever after.