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The Actor, the Elopus, and the Queen

Have you heard of the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen? If so, you're probably one of those cool people who call it GISHWHES. Maybe you're even a past participant, in which case you're super cool and refer to yourself and teammates as GISHERs.

Until a couple of weeks ago, I'd never heard of this event. Then I received a peculiar request via Facebook.

Would I, a published science fiction writer, be willing to write a story for charity?

Maybe, I said. Tell me more.

The charity is Random Acts of Kindness. It was started by actor Misha Collins. Each year, there's an international scavenger hunt organized and run online, to raise money for the charity. One of the items on the 2014 list is a particular kind of story, to be written by a published science fiction writer. Was I still interested?

Yeah, sure. What are the story requirements?

Write a story, 140 words or less, with the following characters: Misha Collins, an Elopus (head of an elephant, body of octopus ... it's the GISHWHES mascot), and the Queen of England. Oh, and you have 48 hours.

At that point, I slammed on the mental breaks. It wasn't the cast of characters that gave me pause. It was the word limit. 140 words. That's WORDS, not pages, not paragraphs, not lines ... words.

Writing short short stories is an art form, one in which I am not proficient, and there sure as heck wasn't enough time to become proficient.

I almost said no.


Three things made me decide to go ahead and say yes. One, the person requesting I write the story is the wife of a man who inspired a character in my published science fiction novel, The Heart's Fire (did you know that, Sarah? True. I'm not telling you which character. No worries, your J.P. is a total hero.).

Two, at the time of the request I was fresh from my win at the AMA-Con 2014 Steampunk Poetry slam contest, and feeling pretty good about my ability to write under pressure.

And three, I just love a challenge.

The scavenger hunt has concluded, so I'm now allowed to release my 140 word effort to the public! I hope you enjoy:

Protector Beyond the Seas
A blood bead smacked the floor. Embarrassed, Misha Collins murmured, “My apologies, Your Majesty.”
“We told you to expect difficulties,” Queen Elizabeth serenely replied.
Misha tugged his sleeve over the wound. Quickly, he pulled a hefty copper disk from his satchel.
“Why the octopus symbol,” Misha wondered, gesturing at the disk.
“Kraken,” Queen Elizabeth corrected. “It's for identification.”
“I thought Kraken were mythical.”
Queen Elizabeth shook her head. “Our friend Frederick owned one, once.”

On cue, an Elopus heaved into the room, slapping and surging across the floor. It's elephantine head bobbed atop writhing tentacles.

“Frederick, Mr. Collins located the tag from Kraky's collar,” Queen Elizabeth informed the Elopus.

Awestruck Misha stared at Frederick and gasped.

Smiling, Queen Elizabeth proceeded, “You've prospered our adventure, Mr. Collins. Now, meet the untold.”