Does anyone else feel cheated that our extra day of the year fell on a Monday? Well, no matter. All the Mondays in the world won’t matter once you’re dead, kind of like the subjects of this week’s stories!
Afterlife myths and ideologies are as varied as the weather. Some deal in fire and brimstone, others in alien spirits returning to the void. Most of us seem to hope it is filled with clouds and family, but there is only one way to find out what lies beyond the veil. Let’s see where our authors took us.
Joseph Devon took us on a poetic voyage in “Devil’s Reign.”
Tony Southcotte wrote in the halls of his fathers with “Endless Rite.”
Donald Jacob Uitvlugt is our first judge this week. On top of being the current TWA Champion, Donald strives to write what he calls “haiku fiction,” stories that are small in scope but big on impact. Find out more about haiku fiction here. He welcomes comments at his blog http://haikufiction.blogspot.com or via Twitter @haikufictiondju).
Oh, the torturous delights the Arena puts us through. Circumstances have forced Arena champion to face off against Arena champion. We the readers, as always, are the true winners here. And such a delightful challenge too. To confront the great mystery that is the Afterlife.
As is my custom, I’m going to comment briefly on the two stories before giving my vote.
“Endless Rite” – This story is quintessential Tony Southcotte. I mean by that more than the visceral battle scenes, we have the odd-ball yet relatable character thrown into circumstances beyond his understanding. Yet he finds a way within himself to man up and rise to the challenge of those circumstances.
There are a number of Tony’s pet topics here: the question of manliness, the meaning of pain, more than a few strong hints of simulation theory. But he doesn’t tell this story from a soapbox. The reader is invested in what happens to Julius, whether he succeeds or fails. As a result, the story works quite well.
“Devil’s Reign” – And now for something completely different.
One thing to say for Joe: he doesn’t lack for chutzpah. To even attempt a poem in the time limit imposed by the Arena is brazen. To write that poem in heroic couplets boarders on insanity. To get away with rhymes like “elbows” with “decomposed”…
The poem is aware of its forebears, without over-relying on them. One of my favorite parts was the abbreviated Inferno-esque tour of the levels of hell, the punishments fit to the sins being punished. I also love the inversion of Milton: It really isn’t better to reign in Hell.
My difficulty with the poem as an Arena entry is that I feel it falls in the category of lyrical rather than narrative. We have a fascinating depiction of Hell; the poetry here reminds me of one of my favorite poems, “Ozymandias” by Shelley. Yet I’m not entirely sure there’s a story here…
Two Arena champions at the top of their game. A rare treat for us Arena readers. But as The Highlander reminds us, in the end there can be only one. This week as always, I cast my vote for the story that made the greatest emotional impact on me. And this week that story is:
“Endless Rite” by Tony Southcotte.
My apologies to the arena crowd but I have, as had most of my family, been struck down with the stomach flu. I humbly beg your forgiveness both for my tardiness and my brevity.
‘Endless Rite’ –
This story was wonderful, especially considering the conditions it was written under. It has a strong Southcotte flavor to it and his talent at writing combat is used well here.
The idea that the old versions of the afterlife still hold true in our modern world was an interesting thought. Not-so-subtle commentary on what is more valued, iced lattes or fighting prowess. I really liked the “punishment” of having to wait for yourself to heal if you weren’t strong enough or fast enough to be the victor Well done.
‘Devil’s Reign’ – It’s a poem. And it rhymes. And it works beautifully. I wasn’t sure when I saw the format but it didn’t take long to win me over.
The descriptions of each and every torment are equal parts horrifying and wonderful. That each punishment fit the sins of that particular soul in a twisted and yet completely appropriate way was a nice throwback to works like The Inferno and was very appreciated here.
In some ways, this is one of the hardest weeks that I have had to judge ever. Both competitors undertook something beyond what a normal arena prompt brings; Mr Southcotte with his shortened timeframe, and Mr Devon with his unusual choice of formats. I want to commend them both for the way that they turned out. I wish I could give my vote to both as well, but I cannot. This week my vote goes to the story that pushed the boundaries of the arena in new and wonderful ways. That story is ‘Devil’s Reign’ by Joseph Devon
A split decision! That means you, the audience, gets to decide on this week’s story. Let’s see how the voting turned out.
Tony Southcotte takes the win! An impressive feet, considering he took this battle on super short notice. Congratulations Tony!
Be sure to come back tomorrow as the Bald Master Berg climbs back into the ring with D.M. Slate!