CW Survivor – Challenge 18: MacGyver

Write a story where a character has to make use of ordinary items (a list was provided) to escape from a trap (figurative or literal).

The pain of the knife scraping along his eye socket was as excruciating as promised. Once Swingtack had removed Richard’s eye, the pain did not lessen, it continued to feel like someone was pulling his eyes out of his skull. Richard gritted his teeth to keep from making too much noise. Swingtack quickly removed the other eye and held the pair up, giving them a questioning look. “Can you see?”

Richard tried to control the pain, the constant pull coming from his eye sockets, to answer without screaming. Surprisingly, his sight was clear and not distorted at all by the fact that his eyes were across the room from the rest of his head. “Yes, I can see.” He groaned through gritted teeth as Swingtack wrapped his eyes in a handkerchief and put them in his pocket.

With Swingtack gone, Richard felt across the bed for his wife’s hand. Instead, he only found the shoulder joint where her left arm had been removed. She hadn’t spoken a word since that had happened, Richard was worried she had gone into shock. Now he just needed to be near her. His entire plan had gone haywire and now rested on the magical gnome who had his eyeballs in its pocket.
When Deanne’s leg went missing in the night, Richard had started constructing a trap. They had limited resources in the cell and no idea what lay outside of it. They had awakened there a couple of days ago, and hadn’t seen anyone or anything since. Before he could finish the trap, Deanne had lost her arm as well. Tonight he had laid the tripwire (a clothesline found under the bed) and tried to will himself to sleep.
In the middle of the night, the intruder had tripped over the clothesline, pulling the pizza box off the bed and sending the hard candies inside clattering across the metal floor. The racket woke up Richard, who immediately sprang into action and slammed the door closed. The lights came on and revealed Swingtack, a short, squat bearded man who looked like a garden gnome, cowering in the corner.
Swingtack hurried through the corridors, sweating nervously, heading for the storage closet. Master would not be pleased that he had been captured by the Andersons, but there was still hope that he could avoid Master’s wrath. He ducked through the door, took Richard’s eyes out his pocket and started to work.
“Are you the one who’s been stealing my wife?” Richard grabbed Swingtack and shook him threateningly.
“Y-Yes. But, sir, it is to help her. It is my master, sir. He has horrible plans for you humans, I have been trying to hide the both of you and smuggle you out. But I cannot carry all of you and avoid notice, so it must be bit by bit. I can reassemble you once I get all of you outside this cell.”
Richard put Swingtack down. “Reassemble? How?” The gnome responded to that question by snapping a tool off his belt that glowed intensely blue and offered to slice off another part of his wife to demonstrate. Richard reconsidered the question, “Wait, wait, don’t do that. How can I trust that you’re doing what you say you are?”
Swingtack shrugged. “I could show you.” The blue tool reappeared in his hand.
“Stop! Why do you keep bringing that thing out?”
“I told you, all of you would attract notice, but I could just bring your eyes. You could still see, and report to her that things are all right.”
Richard felt his eyes being lifted, he still couldn’t fathom how his plan had come to this, but Swingtack had been insistent that he decide that instant, and it had seemed to almost make sense. Now the handkerchief was removed and he could see the inside of what appeared to be a storage closet. The gnome eventually pointed his eyes at a box that held an arm and a leg. The gnome poured something from a bottle and spread it onto the appendages. When he got to the hand at the end of his wife’s detached left arm Richard could see the wedding ring on her finger.

In their cell, Richard whispered to his still unresponsive wife. “Deanne, it might actually work, he’s taking care of you, hiding you, we may be able to get out of here.” He whispered a prayer of thanks that the ring had become too small to remove from her hand. Without a doubt, that was her arm.

The gnome continued to spread the moisturizer on the arm and the leg, then, once he finished, he packed up the box and hid it in the back corner of the closet. Swingtack rummaged about, eventually coming up with a fedora, which he hid Richard’s eyes under before leaving the closet.
Master slobbered grotesquely over that night’s dinner before a painful crack paused his noisy chewing. He spat out the latest mouthful and held up a gold ring for Swingtack to see.

“Apologies, Master. I had to keep it with the arm longer than usual this time. The cook must have missed it. He will be disciplined.”

Master grunted and waved a dismissive finger at the gnome, returning to his meal.

K: This is the kind of concept I’m flat-out jealous I didn’t come up with, and the writing props it up perfectly, with an unexpected twist followed by another one that makes the whole thing seem like one of the best episodes of The Twilight Zone. I get a very real sense of Swingtack’s world in this small story, and this is so unique and powerful that it’ll stick with me like the greatest entries in this game’s history always do. Knowing that Richard will eventually see his fate – just as his wife has already seen hers – makes me want to go out and immediately smash every garden gnome I can find.

I suppose I made it obvious, but for me, it’s the last one [Ed. note – my entry]. I really enjoyed the concepts here … and all of the concepts themselves were Immunity-worthy, but the last one gave me more surprises and two honest-to-gosh HOLY SHIT moments.


B: Holy sockeye salmon this is creative. I’m trying to find a fault somewhere and I can’t. I guess the only thing I wish was better was the atmosphere. The story is creepy as hell but I didn’t feel it as much as I should have.

This is one of the hardest times I’ve ever had picking immunity. In the end, I went back and forth between multiple sclerosis and Swingtack. To break the tie, I have to go with the one I’ll be most likely to remember years from now. Congratulations, evil gnome.


So, wow. That got pretty dark. I started with the idea that a man discovered his wife was disappearing, one appendage at a time. As I wrote it, it turned into a horror story, which is kind of interesting, since I don’t think I’ve ever written anything I would consider horror (and certainly not at the same level of horror as this was). So the tone in this one surprised me (which might speak to the atmosphere being a little lacking), although I always knew that I wanted to have a “double-blind’ kind of plot, where the MacGyvering didn’t reveal who was escaping the trap, or who the good guy was (if there was one).

Obviously very pleased with the reception of this one.  We’re down to five players this week, things are getting serious.

5 thoughts on “CW Survivor – Challenge 18: MacGyver

  1. So, I noticed the “Richard” thing but the “Deanne” thing didn’t occur to me because I was reading it “Dee-Ann.” I don’t know whether to laugh or shake my head at you, so I’ll do both.

    But for realsies, this is maybe my favorite bit of writing I’ve ever seen in the game. It’s certainly among the most unexpected concepts.

  2. I don’t know whether to laugh or shake my head at you, so I’ll do both.

    I want this on my tombstone (maybe not word-for-word, but sentiment-for sentiment for sure).

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