The Iron Writer Challenge 79
Genetically Enhanced Garden Gnomes
A Long Way from Gnome
C. Bryan Brown
Fry watched the last bomb explode and open a hole the size of a fist in the gnome’s blue body armor. The soldier fell, his body a smoking a ruin, but his sacrifice exposed the enemy flag. The thunderous concussion deafened Fry and he screamed and he clapped his hands over his ears.
“Progress. The King will be pleased,” the General said. “You’re up, Fry. You need to get that flag.”
Fry sucked in a breath. He looked down at his diminutive body, less than two feet tall, with limp arms and shaky legs. Even Fry’s beard was weak, barely dusting his cheek. But the General’s body, a good foot taller than Fry’s, gross with muscle, and sick with confidence was a shining example of mutant genetics gone right. But he was afraid, too; why else send Fry?
“I’m scared,” Fry whispered.
“Don’t be. That flag is Camelot. Capture it and your place at the King’s round table is secured.”
“He says it already is.”
“The King is wrong,” the General said. “Until you get that flag, you’ll never really be at the round table. Oh, you’ll sit there, pretty as you please, but you’re nothing more than a house plant.”
Pretty and useless, Fry thought.
“Just watch out for their Marshal.”
“How will I know him?” Fry asked.
“Your nose. His breath is horrible,” the General said. “Distract him with a mint.”
“I don’t have any.”
“Then just run really fast,” the General advised.
The General booted Fry’s rear and sent him out into the war.
Fry used his enhanced vision to scout the terrain as he traveled north. He skirted the first lake until he ran into enemy troops. Their red armor pulsated in the dim light and their altered bodies towered over his. Fry backpedaled and swung east toward the other lake.
The smell hit him like a brick to the face. He rolled, avoiding the massive hammer of the red Marshal as it cratered the ground. So many times this large gnome, with his beard brushing the ground, red hat decorated with the ears of his foes, had smashed the way forward.
“You’re trapped, Fry,” the red Marshal said and the grass around them wilted.
“Not today,” Fry muttered and darted under the Marshal’s arm. But Fry’s stunted legs were too slow. The hammer landed on the back of his thighs and sent him face first into the dead foliage. The browned flowers smelled of rot and ruin. Fry’s stomach clenched as he crawled forward, one miserable inch at a time.
The hammer came down on his right hand, then his left, and Fry screamed, but he didn’t stop. His broken fingers moaned as his feet propelled him away from the red Marshal.
“C’mon, small fry,” the King said. “It’s time for dinner.”
Fry, the ten-year old boy looked up from the game board where the blue Spy and red Marshal fought. He spoke his first word: “Da?”
His father, the King, wept.
His Name was Camelot
Christopher A. Liccardi
His name was Camelot, presumably after Arthurian legend and he was a bulldog.
Camelot was as patient as a saint, even for a dog. He sat in the same spot every day looking over the same strategies and weighing all the possible options before him with the insight of a military genius. Each move counted and each potential opposing move countered.
His opponent, a gnarled old wiz that had been around longer than Camelot’s great great grandmother. He was cunning, equally patient and hideous! It was the garden gnome named Winston, “acquired” many years before and had been placed at the table by one of the home’s former occupants. He was also insanely tall and horrifically muscled for a ceramic garden accouterment. Camelot could remember hearing his former owners comment that it appeared to be genetically enhanced, but he knew better. It wasn’t the little man’s physique that was the most disturbing thing. It was his evil genius mind that was most concerning.
The gnome’s placement at the table had not been accidental. A practical joke played by the youngest of the former occupants on his older sister who used to host tea parties and garden socials with her pretend friends and plastic dolls.
Now however, the table was all but forgotten and the game upon is was not so civilized as a Queen’s Tea or the Summer Cotillion. This game was one of nerve, concentration and had been sitting in this same spot for nearly ten years.
Camelot stood nearly as tall as the table itself, which was good. It gave him the perfect vantage point to see the playing field and his opponent.
The rules were simple; you could walk the board and look at your opponents remaining pieces. You could sniff your opponent and take breaks to relieve yourself. These things allowed with the understanding that your opponent must turn their back or at the very least, shut their eyes until you returned. The sniffing part was more or less out of the question, as the gnome had such wretched halitosis it was nearly weapons grade deadly warfare.
Camelot considered the board for a long time, feeling like a victory was imminent this time. By the looks of the layer or dust coating the pieces, it had been a long battle indeed. The plastic turret shaped pieces were nearly indistinguishable from each other through all that dust, but Camelot knew them well. He had been building his strategy, waiting for the day when he could trounce the gnome and claim his victory.
He stood and decided to walk the board again, one more time before moving his next piece. This was the ritual that he kept day in and day out and he found it comforting. As he paced around the table, avoiding the corners and stopping for the customarily cautious sniff of the gnome, he realized it was dinner time and this victory would have to wait another day.
As he rounded the last corner of the table he turned, in salute to his opponent, the gnome, and to his game of choice, Stratego. He bid them both a respectful farewell and trotted up the stairs toward dinner and a night of sleeping curled up in the plaid dog bed, dreaming of his eventual victory.
423 Camelot Lane
The castle at 423 Camelot Lane was immaculate. Everything about it was a testament to the perfect marriage.
A genetically modified garden gnome stood frozen and pointing in laughter. The cat rubbed against it, purring for attention.
But he did not bat an eye.
“I’ve looked everywhere,” Arthur complained.
“In the laundry room, the garage?” she called from he bathroom.
“Yes,” he answered.
“I knew I shouldn’t have tried to brush his teeth.”
“Guinevere…his teeth?” he said
“His breath was horrible. How about the porch?” she asked.
“Merlin, where are you, you miserable foul-breathed creature?” he yelled.
“Arthur, you need to start the grill. It’s almost eleven,” Guinevere called to him, clomping in high-heeled slippers. Her flowing bath robe made her look like a queen, except for the hot rollers clipped to her head like a Trojan helmet.
“In a minute,” he yelled.
“Don’t forget to set up the Stratego game. You know they will want to play.”
Arthur did not react. He only sipped his beer.
“Arthur, I feel like I’m watching an episode of ‘All in the Family’. The Saxons will be here in 36 minutes, get dressed,” she said, standing with a hand on her hip.
“It’s almost over,” he said.
“It’s football season already?” she asked, glancing at the flat screen.
“Pre-season,” he said, without looking at her.
“Geez, it’s like Christmas, earlier every year,” she said.
“Uh huh,” he said.
“I was thinking we could go to that new restaurant next week, you know the romantic one? I think it’s called the Round Table,” she said.
“Maybe,” he said and made his way to the bedroom to dress.
“Guinevere, where’s my shirt?” he bellowed.
“Hanging on the hook in the closet. Where it always is,” she called.
“You find Merlin yet?” she asked, unrolling a curler.
“Maybe he’s disappeared for good,” Arthur said and buttoned his shirt.
The doorbell rang, fifteen minutes early.
“Guinevere, can you get that. I want to listen to this last part,” he yelled.
Finally dressed, she fluffed her hair and opened the door, expecting to welcome the Saxons.
“Merlin!” she yelled. A man stood in her doorway, holding Merlin under one arm, a motorcycle helmet under his other.
“I found him down by the lake” he said. “Came out of nowhere. Some lady there said he belonged to y’all.”
“You bad ole puppy,” she teased, hugging the dog.
“I can’t thank you enough. Would you like to come in?” Guinevere smiled,
piercing his heart.
“No. Thanks. But could I leave you my card? You never know when you might need my help again, “ he said.
“Lance, Private Detective,” she read the card aloud.
“I specialize in undercover work,” he said, his eyes lingering a beat longer than necessary.
As she watched the motorcycle speed toward the interstate, she imagined that maybe Lance was a modern day, ‘knight in shining armor’.
“Hey Arthur, do we still have that Rolling Stones album, Emotional Rescue?” she asked, closing the door.
She played the old LP and danced and imagined that she was still seventeen.
Arthur watched one more pre-season show.
The Siege of Camelot’s Keep
Mathew W. Weaver
The building shook again, and clouds of dust billowed around us.
“We can’t take much more of this!” someone yelled. I nodded. There’s never any motivation in hearing your commanding officer’s voice squeak, not at the best of times. And this was well south of the worst of times.
“Accursed dwarves!” Sir Kurzalot swore, leaning back against the wooden door as it shuddered.
“Told you before, they’re gnomes,” Sir Aquerat muttered, “And grouchy ones, too.”
“They’ve run out of boulders to throw!” the lookout cried. Seconds later, I heard the crack of shattering stone as the floor shook again.
“What was that, then?!” I demanded. My shrill tone was thankfully lost in the cacophony around us. I tried again, and my voice came out better. Marginally.
“You’re not going to believe this, Sir Wievar,” the lookout called, “But they’re climbing into the catapult buckets and rolling into balls. They’re lobbing themselves at the walls!”
As if to punctuate his terrifying words, two more heavy impacts thudded against the outer wall of the Keep, and I heard laughs of glee amid the falling stones. I didn’t have to ask whether the gnomes were hurt; injured beings, gnomes or otherwise, did not laugh after climbing out of a two foot crater in an eight foot thick stone wall.
“Camelot is doomed this day,” the ever gloomy Sir Myseri moaned.
Light exploded out of nowhere in the center of the wrecked hallway.
“Oh, good, you’re still alive,” Merlin said, dusting himself off.
“Do you have it?!” I demanded, limping over to him, Sir Erdgent and Sir Muwran behind me.
“Behold!” Merlin said, flinging aside his cloak, “Our salvation!”
We halted and stared at the oblong box. Two more thumps made the walls shudder, and the ground trembled. Still, we stood in silence.
There was one question to be asked, and I, commanding officer, asked it.
“The heck is that?!”
“This…” Merlin said, “Is Stratego, the only means we have to destroy these genetically enhanced gnomes of Morgana’s before too late.”
“Genna-what?” Sir Muwron scratched under his helmet.
“This enchanted board could do without your halitosis mucking up the magic,” Merlin muttered, clearing room on the floor, “I’ve altered the pieces to reflect the images of us and our enemies. Using this, we should be able to defeat them from inside here,”
He waved a hand, letting the board unfold as miniature figures began to scurry over it, “It is imperative that no piece is taken off the board. The consequences…”
“What’s this?” Ser Muwron interrupted, reaching down and plucking a figurine. The one glimpse I got showed me a small man, intricately carved with white robes, beard, and a pointy hat.
“No, don’t touch that!!” Merlin cried.
The floor lurched again, and Ser Muwron stumbled. The figurine dropped from his hand, bounced once, and vanished.
“Merlin…” he began.
Merlin wasn’t there anymore.
I looked down at the board as glowing red cracks began to run along its surface. The walls and floor began to vibrate, and dust fell in clouds from above.
There was only one thing to be said, and I, commanding officer, said it.
When Gnomes Attack
I opened the door before Haywood could knock. “Dude, come on in,” I almost sang.
The Sjogren’s Syndrome caused horrific odors to emanate from his mouth but I didn’t care as I greeted him with a strong man hug.
“Okay, okay, I’m here.” Haywood held up his hands pushing me away. “What did you have to show me?”
“You are going to live this, brother.” I led him through my loft apartment and toward the back sliding glass door that led to an open back patio. To the left was my “yard” that I had been working on since moving into the top floor of my suburban apartment complex. I held out a hand inviting him toward the “yard.” “Well?”
“Dude. Your gnomes look like they’re on steroids, or HGH.”
“I know. Badass, right? I got them at that antique mall near the Camelot Apartments.” I found those porcelain gnomes right after Gnomeo and Juliet came out a few years ago.
“I like how they are dressed like soldiers?”
“Just like Roman gladiators. I know they won’t come to life, but if they do they’ll battle to the death.”
“You’ll conquer one yard of the time, kind of like Risk.”
“I prefer Stratego.”
“But Risk is better,” he laughed. Haywood suddenly stops his laughter. “Wait. Doesn’t that antique mall sell freaky stuff, black magic stuff there?”
“That’s a bunch of Bolshevik,” I said. “It looked perfectly normal.”
“I guess that does sound a little strange,” he said.
The doorbell rang. I smiled. “Better get that.”
Haywood flashed a single raised eyebrow at me.
“What?!” I shrugged. “It’ll be best night of your life.”
I smiled as I hurried toward the front door.
“Bri!” I said as I opened the door. “And … friend. Who’s this?”
“Mick, this is Michelle. Michelle, Mick.”
I stood aside and extended an arm into my apartment. I whispered as they passed me, “Remember, don’t say anything about his breath. It’s the Sjogren’s.”
“Isn’t that something women get?” Michelle asked.
“Breast cancer isn’t exclusive to women,” I said with a smirk. “So why should this be?”
“Touché,” Michelle said.
After talking with the girls out in the “yard” for about an hour the doorbell rang again. “Must be the Chinese.”
After dinner, Bri and Haywood were laughing out back while Michelle and I sat in my living room in front of the fireplace channel on cable. After a while Bri and Haywood strolled into the living room, drew the blinds – the kind where we can see out but people can’t see in – and flicked off some of the lights. Right before I was about to turn on a movie the clink of porcelain sounded from the “yard.”
We gazed outside. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing – little soldiers moving and stretching.
“Quick, someone get a phone,” Bri whispered. I had my phone held up recording before she finished her request.
The gnomes then assembled. We couldn’t hear words, but they gathered into a formation. A military formation.
That’s when strings flew over my neighbor’s wall and my soldiers charged.
“This should be better than a movie,” Haywood said.