I’ve been slowly getting back to the writing life after several weeks away, and enjoyed a rather unusual jump-start this past week, courtesy of an even more unusual source.
I received an e-mail from someone named Deborah Margarella with the subject line: “Scavenger Hunt!” She was indeed involved in a scavenger hunt, as advertised, and one of the items was:
Get a previously published Sci-Fi author to write an original story (140 words max) about Misha, the Queen of England, and an Elopus.
This was quickly followed by several more e-mails from other hunters, asking for the same thing, which made me believe that this was not simply random weirdness, but a very deliberate weirdness. What was this hunt? Who’s Misha? And what the heck is an Elopus?
The hunt was GISHWHES, which is an awkward acronym for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. It’s a delightfully odd and silly affair, in which presumably normal-ish people take a week of their lives to hunt down and document the strangest things the organizers can think of, whether it’s a nun on a waterslide or a dress made of bacon…or an unusual short story.
The neat thing about GISHWHES is that it has heart — registration fees help support the Random Acts charity, and many of the hunt items have to do with helping others, in addition to those that are artistically zany. So it was a good cause.
“Misha” is Misha Collins, an actor on the TV show Supernatural and, apparently, quite the eccentric and good-hearted fellow. He created and organized GISHWHES and rewards the winning teams with offbeat excursions to places like Scotland, Vancouver and Croatia. He also founded Random Acts.
And the Elopus? It’s there on the right. Yes, it’s a cross between an elephant and an octopus. All righty then. These are my kind of people.
Now, I know some of my fellow authors were far more inundated with requests than I was, and that it was annoying for some of them; there also were some reported cases of GISHWHES hunters getting angry and abusive at authors and celebrities in pursuit of items as well. Not cool at all. I didn’t experience any of that, and I’d like to think that most GISHERS, as they’re called, acted with all the good-natured class one might expect of such a good-natured hunt. The GISHWHES organizers clamped down on such behavior quickly, so that’s good, but here’s hoping there’s some learning and adapting going on for next year.
Anyway, I was not annoyed by the requests, and generally found the whole thing charming as all get out. Plus, I thought it might be a nice way to reboot my creativity and get cracking again after weeks away from the keyboard. So I told Deb I was game, and told the other folks that, sadly, this previously published Sci-Fi author was already spoken for. According to GISHWHES, the story would be worth 59 points to Deb’s team. (I have no idea whether that’s a lot or not.)
The hunt ended Friday night, so with Deb’s permission, I’m putting the short story up here for your enjoyment. Without further ado, I present “Her Majesty’s Elopus.”
“I still cannot fathom how you knew it was here,” Queen Elizabeth said as she slowly walked the dungeons of Windsor Castle, her corgis at her heels. “So few even know of the existence of the Elopus.”
Misha smiled. “Finding things is our specialty, ma’am.”
The Queen used a ring of decrepit iron keys to open an old wooden door. “Well, you came this far, so I suppose it’s worth a look.”
Awestruck, Misha walked into the chamber and beheld a large tank holding the Elopus. It was beautiful.
Then the door slammed shut behind him.
“I’m sorry, but the world can never know of this,” the Queen said from the other side.
A growling sound sent a chill down Misha’s spine. He saw the corgis, their impossibly large, metal teeth gleaming.
The Elopus began to thrash.
This turned out to be a very cool writing exercise. The ferocious corgis popped into my head almost immediately, given Her Majesty’s well-known love of her dogs, though the metal teeth came in a little puff of inspiration just before I sent it off. The hardest part was whittling it down to 140 words – my first draft was more than twice that count. But it was great fun to write, and it made me happy to contribute to such a fantastically strange and wonderful hunt.
I hope you win, Deb. And sorry, Misha. Maybe you escaped somehow. (Unlikely.)