My Wild

I was looking through some old emails the other day when I found this little gem from 2010. I was trying to expand my imagination by making something new out of real-life events. Much like a child does with “The Floor is Lava” or when a cardboard box becomes a house, spaceship, car, etc.

I’m not going to set forth any expectations, as I didn’t intend to publish it, so read it with a grain of salt…or a cup of tea. Yeah, tea is way more appetizing.


Day 1

Mood: Ready

I found solid ground to set up my shelter. After setting it up, I gathered some food and made dinner. I only ate vegetation for dinner. Tomorrow I will try to get some meat. I set up my shelter for both supplies and living. It’s small, but it will work. I look forward to tomorrow, hoping it will bring fair weather and good fortune.


Day 2

Mood: Tired

I didn’t sleep well last night, but I did wake up well rested. My “bed” isn’t nearly as comfortable as my bed back home. I added some more padding today, hoping it will help some. As for food, I was very fortunate. I found vegetation as well as meat. There is a good chance I will be able to get more supplies tomorrow. I found a spot that I can gather things to help out around camp. It’s not too far from here, so I’ll check it out again if time and weather permit. Good night, Friend.


Day 3

Mood: Nonchalant

No significant events. I couldn’t make it to the “supply spot” today. I’ll try again tomorrow. Today, I just went through the motions. Until tomorrow…


Day 4

Mood: Excited.

I finally made it to the “supply spot” today. I added some padding to my bed. I might have the equivalent of a basic mattress by the end of the month at this rate. I also gathered some food and enjoyed a small, but tasty, meal. Everything seems to be setting up nicely around camp. I’ll have to relax and take it all in, one day. As for now, I must continue the never-ending task of maintaining camp. I think I’ll focus on clearing the area in the morning.


Day 5

Mood: Tired

I didn’t do as much clearing as I had hoped. I’ll add that to tomorrow’s to-do list. I ate a decent breakfast and started my day with a good attitude. It’s amazing what a good attitude can do to someone’s day. I didn’t really do anything out of the ordinary, yet I feel extremely tired. Perhaps it’s unbalanced nutrition? I’ll test that theory after I get more settled and a good routine.


Day 6

Mood: Happy

Hello, Friend. I finally got the area cleared into what might resemble a small camp. Tomorrow is an exciting day. It’s Sunday, the Day of the Lord! It’s also the day of rest. With all the work I’ve been doing, I’ve almost forgotten what rest is. I’ll start out the day with God, thanking Him for helping me through all this. I saw a small “animal” today. I tried to befriend it, but it refused. That made me realize how alone I really am out here. Maybe it’ll change its mind and come back for a visit some day. It’s okay, though, because I have the Lord. He will keep me company during these hard times. He is the Great Comforter. With that thought in mind, I shall call it a night. Good night, Friend. God Bless.


Day 7

Mood: Accomplished

I got a good meal today and plenty of rest. The most important event, though, was the time I got to spend with God. I feel so distant from the world and so connected to Him out here. I feel like this is His playground, like we’ve exiled Him from our busy lives and this is where He waits for us to discover what He really is. Just looking at the trees and animals has amazed me way more than any physics book ever did. Sure, physics has laws, but out here God has reality. Truth.


Day 8

Mood: Enthusiastic

It’s officially the beginning of Week 2! Will it be exciting, scary, enlightening or just another set of days? Only God knows, and I will trust in Him to guide me to the resources I need both physically and spiritually. I’m going to start looking for things to do to keep me entertained. I know entertainment sounds like a big task to take on, but the monotonous work day in and day out takes its toll. I need something to take my mind off of it. Maybe I’ll make something. Good night.


Day 9

Mood: Happy

I woke up late, but still got everything done. It felt good to sleep in, but I need to reserve sleeping in for rare occasions. I can’t afford to waste days out here. Daylight is the only time I have to gather and survive. If I waste a day, it could be the difference between a good meal and days without food.


Day 10

Mood: Mellow

Today was eventful, but I didn’t really accomplish much. I tried to start a project, but quickly found out that I needed more tools. Now I’ll focus my attention on making tools instead of making the project. One thing at a time I guess. I’m going to call it an early night tonight due to a sore back.


Day 11

Mood: Ready

I got an early start on the day thanks to the early bed time last night. I accomplished a lot more than usual, so that was good. It started out as a sunny day, but the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up around mid-day. I was still able to stay cheerful despite the gloomy weather. It’s currently raining, but the shelter I built seems to be solid enough to keep the weather out.


Day 12

Mood: Content

Nothing out of the ordinary happened today. Just the same routines.


Day 13

Mood: Accomplished

I got a lot of cleaning done around camp and found some extra time to spend with God. It’s not Sunday, but who says we only have to talk to Him on Sunday? Not Me!


Day 14

Mood: Relaxed

Sunday, the day of rest, is my favorite day. It’s a day that I get to rest and spend time with God. It also marks the beginning of a new week full of new opportunities and choices that could make or break my time out here.


Day 15

Mood: Mellow

Back to the routines. I accomplished a lot today, but nothing new or exciting. I still haven’t found anything entertaining to occupy my time. I have a feeling that something is coming up, though. Hopefully it will keep me occupied until I leave. Speaking of which, I haven’t decided when I want to leave yet. Perhaps Day 100?


Day 16

Mood: Enlightened

God has been moving in my life. There haven’t been any miracles or huge revelations, but I can feel Him. The changes are deep within. My mind, soul and spirit are starting to open up to Him and move as He directs me to. God is so amazing!


Day 17

Mood: Accomplished

I got a LOT done today. I’m going to bed later than usual, but it was worth it. I’ll have much less to do tomorrow and the days that follow. It’s such a relief. Time for some hard-earned rest after this long, but productive day. Good night, Friend.


Day 18

Mood: Excited

I started my project today! I’m not going to say what it is, because I want to make sure I can finish it before I get your hopes up. I think I’ll reveal it when I decide to leave. It’s a long project, but it should be well worth it. It’s life-changing. Sleep well.


Day 19

Mood: Studious

For some reason, I felt like a sponge for knowledge today. I wanted to learn as much as possible. Like I said, I have no idea where it came from, but I like it! I’m going to try to hold onto it as long as possible.


Day 20

Mood: Calm

Everything seems to be in its place right now. Perhaps it’s the calm before the storm. Regardless of what it is, I will enjoy it and be joyful as long as it’s here. If there is a storm coming, I will be ready. God will guide me and carry me through it.


Day 21

Mood: Peaceful

Three weeks have passed, and I’m still going strong. God is working in my life and all is well.


Day 22

Mood: Tired

Today was a very long day. I just need to get some rest. Good night.


Day 23

Mood: Accomplished

It was another day of getting a lot done. Once a stable source of food, water and supplies is established, living is not nearly as bad as one might think. Of course, a good routine helps as well. Well, I’m tired and it’s getting late, so I think I’ll turn in for the night.


Day 24

Mood: Bored

The routines are getting monotonous. Each day seems longer and longer. Each day brings me closer to wanting to leave. I thought 100 days was a good goal, but now 50 days sounds like a gold medal. I need to find something to do.


Day 25

Mood: Annoyed

I think I’m coming down with something. Maybe it’s just allergies. Whatever it is, it’s annoying. It’s not enough to stop me from my work, but it is interfering with my efficiency. I’m going to try to find something that might help. Maybe just some rest. Yeah, rest sounds good.


Day 26

Mood: Amazed

I’m feeling much better today. I woke up feeling worse, but, as the day progressed, my sickness seemed to melt away. I’m pretty sure it was all God. On a side note, I’ve noticed a slight change in my life since the beginning of my project. I knew the change was coming, but not this soon. My perception of things is definitely changing!


Day 27

Mood: Lazy

Another lazy day. I woke up later than usual and didn’t get much done. I made a good lunch, which I haven’t done in a while. It was a treat that I didn’t realize I had missed. Tomorrow is my favorite day! I can’t wait to see what God has planned.


Day 28

Mood: Suspicious

Today was an awesome day at first. I started it with an amazing time with God, then entertained myself with a few games. However, I think I might have an intruder. I’ll keep an eye out for more signs.


Day 29

Mood: Happy

I noticed that life can be a great challenge, but can also bring great gifts. There are many lives I would like to live, but every time I feel like I can’t handle this one, God reminds me of just how special this one is.


Day 30

Mood: Excited

It’s been a month! More good days keep coming, which is boosting my morale. Sure, I’ve had rough times, but God has always delivered.


Day 31

Mood: Amazed

I’m really amazed at how well the project is coming along. I’m learning so much from it. I can’t wait to finish. It’s coming together better than I ever expected, but I can’t forget who is allowing all of it to happen. He’s in charge, and He’s doing an outstanding job! He truly is The Great I Am.


Day 32

Mood: Tired

I’m too tired to write much. Just the usual routine today.


Day 33

Mood: Inspired

The project is finally done. I’m still in shock at how quickly it came together. On another note, I think I’ll be leaving soon. I think I’ve learned all that God has brought me here to learn.


-End-

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Halloween and NaNoWriMo

Hey!

How are you doing? We just finished removing our Halloween decorations. I wonder how long it will take Eva to give in to her urge to decorate for Christmas. A few years ago, we already had our tree up and decorated! She’s nuts.

Anyway, on Halloween, we had some friends come over for a party before we took all the kids around the neighborhood. The party was fun, with some amazing homemade food, and everyone seemed to enjoy the conversations. Half of our effort went to keeping the kids fed and occupied, so they wouldn’t keep begging to go Trick-or-Treating.

After we finished eating, we took the kids outside to get ready to go. It was raining, so the adults grabbed umbrellas, and the kids didn’t care. On one hand, it’s not fun to walk in the cold and rain; on the other hand, there were far less people than usual, so the houses handed out more candy!

Our costumes this year didn’t have a theme like we usually do. Talon was Mal from Disney’s Descendants, Atlas was an astronaut, Eva was a wolf, and I was the milkman.

If my costume doesn’t make much sense, let me explain. Eva insisted that she and I have a couples outfit this year. After looking through several, we decided that I was going to be the milkman and she would be the pregnant housewife.

At one point, I asked Eva if I could change my costume, but she said, “Absolutely not. Then I would just be a pregnant wife. It wouldn’t work.” So I moved on. Then, a couple days before Halloween (after my costume had already come in), Eva decided that she couldn’t find the right outfit to make her costume work, so she was a wolf. I just shook my head and moved on. Sometimes, she drives me crazy.

As one of our friends put it, we were a “…scandalous pregnant house wife wolf who had a astronaut baby with the milk man.”


In other news, I started NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is a personal challenge to write 50,000 words of your novel in November. That comes out to 1,667 words per day. I’ve been writing, but I’m far from keeping up with the pace. I’ve written just over 2,500 words, when I should be over 18,000.

The point of the challenge, though, is not so much about making the goal, but to focus on writing your novel. And it’s worked! I’ve been writing far more than I’ve written before. Most of my novel attempts only result in a few hundred words before I lose momentum and motivation. Granted, a few hundred and a couple thousand aren’t far apart, it’s still a big accomplishment for me.

I’ve always wanted to write a novel. It’s been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I’ve started several times, but planning all the details always got in the way. With NaNoWriMo, you are encouraged to send your “inner editor” on a month-long vacation and simply put words on paper. It’s been really hard for me to fight perfectionism, but sometimes you just need to tell yourself to shut up.

I read the intro to my book after finishing the rough draft, and boy is it rough. I’ve never written so sloppily (by my standards), but It’s a rough draft. I found that I always try to turn my rough draft into a final while I’m writing it. NaNo has really opened my eyes, though. It’s helped me realize that writing a long text requires a lot of work and many revisions. It can’t all be done at the same time. Patience is key.

That’s all I have for now. What have you been up to? Anything interesting happening in your life?

-Ryan

Writing a Book in One Month, and Other Updates

Hello Again,

I have taken upon myself a monumental task.

About a month ago, my daughter said, “I wish someone would do that for me,” in regards to her brother getting a personalized book for his birthday. I thought it was just a bit of sibling jealousy, and it probably was. She’s most likely forgotten about it, but I haven’t. It stung when she said it.

So I’ve decided that I want to write her a book. Most books take many months, if not years, to complete. I like to plan ahead and get all the little details just right, but I don’t really have time to do that, since her birthday is in October. My wife said to just start writing. I don’t think I can be that disorganized, but I’ll definitely have to tone down my perfectionism. I’m not sure how I’m going to accomplish this goal, unless I really buckle down and focus.

Therein lies the problem.

Even now, I’ve been “writing” to you for over an hour. I keep getting distracted by trivial things. Do you have any tips that could help me not only accomplish my goal, but also focus in general?


In other news: I have to be honest. I stopped writing for a dumb reason. I lost my USB Flash drive—or, rather, it was stolen. I left if in the computer at work, and it disappeared by the time I got back. The problem is, I had a nice spreadsheet for all my goals. I lost about four months of data, and with that, my motivation. I could have just picked up from there and continued on, but I didn’t want to. I know, it’s a lame excuse.

I figure I’ll just start again next year and keep better track of my USB. I’ll give you a general overview of my goals and where I stand on them, though.

Primary

  • Grow closer to God (immeasurable) (0%)
  • Have a conversation with my grandma in Spanish. (0%)
  • Write a letter a month to family/friends. (10%)
  • Read at least 15 novels (70k+ words each), or 1,050,000 words total. (125%, including audio books)
  • Publish at least 30 blog posts. (10%)
  • Write at least three chapters of my novel. (0%)

Optional

  • Outline my entire novel. (10%)
  • Record blog posts in audio format. (0%)

Well, that was a humbling experience. Especially the first and second ones. I knew I was doing really well with reading, but I didn’t realize that I’ve done so little on all the others. I know that writing the book for Talon will complete two of the goals, so that will feel good. I still need to write many more blog posts and letters.

Sadly, I don’t know if I’ll get to have that conversation with my grandmother. I just got back from visiting her, and she’s not doing too well. I did make sure to hug her and sit with her as long as possible, but I failed to learn enough Spanish to talk with her.

God is always in the back of my mind. Some might say that that’s better than Him not being there at all, but I personally think that it’s one of the worst places for Him:

So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” -Revelation 3:16


So, what’s new with you? You haven’t heard from me in a while, and I had a lot to say. I’m anxious to know what’s been going on in your life.

Let Me Know,

Ryan

I Like My Family

PaperCamera2014-12-20-13-33-45-19111501[1]The Holidays are almost here, which means we’re sending out a bunch of cards. While I was writing some of the cards, my mind wandered (surprise!). As I stared at the blank cards, I found myself wondering, “What do I say to them?”

It’s not because I had a falling out with my family. Quite the contrary. I don’t think I could have asked for a better family. I just haven’t kept in touch with them, even after telling them I would many times. I hate it, but it feels like the “out of sight, out of mind” concept has planted itself deep in my mind.

I see them on Facebook all the time, and I read their statuses and click “like” quite often. After hitting the button a few times, it dawned on me how sad it is that my only form of communication with most of my family is, at most, a comment on Facebook—not even a message. I can’t remember the last time I messaged one of my family members without it being about getting an address or some sort of information. And the worst part is…

That’s an improvement.

I remember my uncle mentioning that I talked to them more when I lived 600 miles away (growing up with my parents), than when I lived less than 100 miles away in college. Of course it struck a cord, and I said I would try harder, but then they were out of sight.

I didn’t see them because my life was more important me than theirs was. I hate to admit that, but it’s completely true. I could have driven to see them once a month, but I used excuses like not having enough money for gas (which they would have paid for) or having to work too much. In reality, I was just too focused on myself.

Now that I’ve graduated and my life has settled, has it gotten any better?

Not really.

If you count the scarce interactions on Facebook, I guess it has improved a little. And I did try writing some of my family members letters for a while, but after a couple months, things “got too busy” again. I had all the right intentions when I said that I would keep in touch. I really did. I just got distracted and forgot about the best family I could have ever asked for.

It was really hard to type those words. I even thought about deleting them a few times, but I can’t sugar coat it. Not any more.

If you were to look at my New Year’s Resolution List, you would see that writing to my family is the third one down. I wrote the items on there in order of which I though I was most likely to complete them. I figured that reading was going to be easy, as I either have my books on my phone or carry them with me. Writing a blog post is easy, too, because that’s just typing on a computer, which I do anyway.

But writing to my family is the first item on the list that’s going to take real commitment. That’s the one that I’m not only going to have to make time for and find all the materials, but I also have to open up and put real thoughts and feelings on paper. I have to constantly put my family at the front of my mind, so I don’t lose them like I did Taylor.

I bought a few things to help with the process—to make it more exciting. I know that it won’t guarantee success, but I have to try. I need to make them more than just living memories. I need to make new memories with them.

Early New Year’s Resolution

PaperCamera2014-12-16-13-40-48[1]For some reason, I’ve been thinking about my New Year’s Resolution lately. I normally don’t even make one, let alone think of them. But alas, my mind has wandered and dragged me down this path.

It seems to have started while I was finishing Head of the Dragon by Ryk Brown. As I was finishing the book, it reminded me of a blog I had previously read where the author made a list of all the books they had read that year.

I decided that I want to not only record every book I read next year, but also set a goal of reading at least fifteen novels (70k+ words) or the equivalent (1,050,000 words). I presume that I read about 10 books of that size per year, so I want to push myself a little further.

I also want to publish at least 30 blog posts, which is a little less than one per week. That will nearly double my current total over the past four years (40). It doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you’ve been following my blog, you already know how big of a challenge that’s going to be for me.

I would also like to write more–both physically and electronically. I want to write a letter a month to family and friends, and I want to write at least three chapters for my book.

I would also like to get all my posts recorded (audio) and posted on here, but that’s more of a bonus goal for me.

I know I put a lot of numbers and information up there, so here’s a summary of my NYR (not New York Rangers, fellow hockey fans) List:

Primary

  1. Read at least 15 novels (70k+ words), or 1,050,000 words total.
  2. Publish at least 30 blog posts.
  3. Write a letter a month to family/friends.
  4. Write at least three chapters of my book.

Optional

  1. Record blog posts in audio format.

I will update these goals throughout the year, or as needed. I’m going to set a limit on myself by not counting anything prior to the beginning of 2015. In other words, the book I’m currently reading and the cards I’m writing will not count, even if they carry over.

Personal Challenge #1: Short Stories (Final Day)

It’s the final day of my Personal Challenge, and I’m as excited as I am sad. I’ve had a lot of fun writing these stories for you to enjoy, and I truly hope you have. For that reason, I will continue to write these short stories, but on more of a weekly basis. I might write more or less, but I’ll try to publish one per week.

My wife made a good point, yesterday, when I was talking to her about how much fun this challenge is. She said it’s perfect for my ADHD because they’re short stories, which require minimal commitment (other than consistently writing them), and the topics are always different.

So, with a mix of emotions, I will write you my final story…this week:

Screenshot_2014-09-18-20-09-45[1]Screenshot_2014-09-18-20-09-54[1]

Mr. White bound down the street, dodging people and traffic alike. He always hated big cities. They reminded him of the impossible maze back home. Today, though, he could not hate the big cities. His watch was broke, and he only knew of one place that could fix it.

He found the door he was looking for and nearly knocked it off its hinges when he burst through. When he entered the shop, he was less than surprised to find the shopkeeper attempting to build a fountain out of sugar cubes.

“While I understand that you have a need to build a completely pointless contraption that will never work, I am in dire need of your help.”

“It no longer works, does it, Mr. White?” the shopkeeper said without turning.

“Indeed, but how did you know?”

“I fixed it last time, yes?”

“You did. Not very well, obviously.”

“Well, you see, I may have been using information from a book that I ‘borrowed’ to fix your watch. I now realize that the information was incorrect, which is very sad for you,” the shopkeeper let out a chuckle.

“I don’t find this humorous in any way. Fix it, or I’ll go to your brother,” White threatened.

The shopkeeper set down his box of sugar cubes and hurried over to Mr. White, balancing on the countertop the whole way, “I’ll fix it! You don’t need to go to him. His work is garbage! Come on, give it here!”

White pulled out an ornate pocket watch and handed it over, “How long will it take you?”

“It shouldn’t take me more than seventy rotations of the Globe,” he replied as he nodded toward a motorized globe spinning in the corner.

Mr. White started to grow impatient, “I don’t need your ambiguous comments. I need a precise amount of time given in the standard measure of hours, minutes and seconds.”

“Your standard time is far less accurate than my globe, but I’ll give you my best approximation,” he set down the watch and pulled out a piece of paper. He found a key in his pocket, but quickly discarded it after discovering that it was a terrible writing instrument. He reached in the other pocket and pulled out a flower pen. Then he began scribbling numbers on the counter top.

“What are you doing?” asked White.

“You wanted an approximation, so I’m doing some conversion calculations. I can’t give you an inaccurate number if I don’t do the math wrong!”

“Just fix it please,” Mr. White sighed, “Quickly if you can.”

“Did you want it fixed or done quickly? I cannot do both.”

“Do the best you can in as little time as possible.”

“Again, I can only do one of those options proficiently.”

“Okay, fix it, so I never have to come back here,” White said impatiently.

“You don’t have to be so rude about it!” replied the shopkeeper. He dramatically picked up the watch and stomped to the back room to further emphasize his frustration.

~~~~~~~~~~

After what seemed like an hour, the shopkeeper finally emerged. He set the watch down on the counter and smiled, “Here you go, Mr. White.”

“Thank y—” White looked down and saw a rusty, dented watch on the counter, “This isn’t my watch! Where’s my watch?”

“Indeed, you are very observant!” he playfully replied, “This is, in fact, my watch. But it works! And since yours does not, I figured you would want this one instead.”

“Have you lost your mind?” Mr. White yelled, “You’ve been back there for nearly an hour, and this is all you have to show for it?”

“If you are that good at gauging time without a watch, why do you need one?”

“Just fix my watch!”

“Fine, fine,” the shopkeeper retreated to the back room for a few minutes before returning with Mr. White’s watch, “Here you go. Good as new.”

He picked up the watch and turned it over in his hand, making sure everything looked proper. Satisfied, he opened it to check its functions. The hands were moving as they should, so he closed it, placed it in his pocket and forced a smile, “Thank you. For fixing my watch and making this one of the worst shopping experiences ever.”

“My pleasure!” the shopkeeper grinned, “I aim to please. Now that will be one hundred gold pieces.”

“What!” White exclaimed, “You’re a crook! You should be paying me!” He turned and stormed toward the door.

“Very well,” the shopkeeper said, “but don’t expect me to fix anything else of yours!”

Mr. White slammed the door behind him.

~~~~~~~~~~

After setting his watch to the clock on the street corner, Mr. White immediately rushed to the train station. He only had a few minutes to catch the next train.

He arrived at the station just in time to hop on board. He found a seat and, for the first time that afternoon, he allowed himself to relax.

The train ride was only about half an hour—his destination was just outside the city, among the estates in the outlying countryside. By the time the train doors were fully open, he was already across the platform racing down the path.

He rushed down a dirt road until he found the large white mansion with the hedges under the windows and a clover patch on the side. His path took him around the side, to the back where he found a large party of people. No one saw him, as they were all engaged in conversations.

A little blonde girl seemed to notice him, but he didn’t have time to find out. He checked his watch as he ran toward the big tree.

He gasped, “I’m late!” and disappeared into the rabbit hole.

Personal Challenge #1: Short Stories (Day 4)

Well, it’s day 4. I don’t want to stop writing these stories, so I might start another blog page dedicated to writing. Ill let you know by next week.

In the meantime, we have a story to enjoy!

wpid-screenshot_2014-09-17-17-13-26.pngwpid-screenshot_2014-09-17-17-13-38.png

“What a night,” said the ostrich, Mr. Gray. He stretched his neck and slowly sat up in his bed, “I feel like I’ve been hit over the head with a rock.”

“Close,” said a voice from the other side of the room, “It was actually a coconut.”

Startled, Mr. Gray didn’t immediately notice his surroundings, “What are you doing in my room?”

“The correct question, Mr. Gray, would be, ‘Where am I?’ to which I would reply, ‘Why, you are in a desert island of course!'”

The ostrich looked around and saw that he was indeed in some sort of cave. As his vision came into focus, he could see that his room was furnished with only the basic luxuries—a small desk and chair, a small bathroom stall, a sink, and the bed he was on.

He looked around for the source of the voice, but there was only an intercom in the corner. “Who are you?” he asked.

“Who I am is of little importance.”

“Okay, why am I here?”

“You are here for a competition of sorts. It’s a simple game, really. It just has severe consequences if you fail.”

“What do you mean? I didn’t sign up for this. I don’t want to be in any competition,” Gray protested.

“That’s unfortunate for you. You’re here now, so you should probably start wanting to be here. It’ll give you a much better chance at success.”

“Okay,” Gray forced a smile and sarcastically replied, “I am so excited to be here. How can I use this opportunity to become a success?”

“Better. Still not that great, but it’ll work,” said the voice, “As far as the competition is concerned, I’ll fill you in on the rules:

First, the door opposite you will open in about five minutes, so I would use that time to prepare.

Second, you will have one minute to exit and make your way to the Arena. If you get lost on the way, you don’t deserve to win in the first place.

Third, arrive at the Arena ready for anything. And I mean anything. I don’t even know what they’re going to ask you to do.

Finally…Win.

“Any questions?” asked the voice.

“Um, yes. I do—”

“Good! Enjoy your next couple of minutes. Like I said, I’d get ready for anything. This is so exciting!”

“Excuse me. I said I have questions,” the ostrich objected, but he was only answered with silence. Confused and groggy, Mr. Gray stood up and headed over to the sink. He gazed at the tired ostrich in the mirror, “What have you gotten yourself into?”

A buzzer sounded and the room was suddenly bathed in a purple glow. “Curious,” said Gray, “I would have expected red or no light at all.”

“Our last red light bulb burned out on the last contestant,” the voice announced, “We thought about the darkness thing, but the insurance on that is ridiculously expensive. Purple was all we had. It was left over from a party last year.”

“Hey! I thought—“

“And that’s where you should stop,” the voice laughed, “Don’t think. Just go.”

The door slid open to reveal a hallway that led straight to another door about twenty paces away. Gray followed the voice’s command and walked through the door. It immediately slid shut behind him.

“I guess I’m in it ‘til the end now,” said the ostrich. He walked toward the next door. It opened when he was a few steps away. On the other side was a large triangular room with a table and chair in the center and an empty swimming pool to the left.

“SIT!” a voice, different from the voice he heard earlier, commanded. He quickly walked to the chair and sat. The voice continued, “VERY GOOD! YOU MAY HAVE NOTICED THAT YOU ARE—What?…He got the message?…Oh, the volume, yes. Ahem. Sorry about the volume. The last contestant was hard of hearing, which didn’t help her at all. If she had been able to hear the—Sorry, I tend to ramble when I’m excited.

“Anyway, you are about to participate in a competition. It may or may not be easy. It may or may not be fun. BUT! You will most definitely win or lose.”

“That’s not very reassuring,” Mr. Gray mumbled.

“Right you are! It’s not supposed to be reassuring,” the voice laughed, “if you want reassurance, you have already completed three tasks: you made it to the arena, you sat down at the table, and you haven’t stopped breathing.”

Mr. Gray was only slightly reassured, “I have a question.”

“It better be a good one.”

“If this is a competition, where are the other contestants?” Gray asked.

There was an audible sigh, then the voice replied, “Obviously, they failed the first test.”

“So does that mean I’ve won?”

“No.”

“I don’t get it. I made it further than everyone else.”

“Yes, they would have made it more entertaining, but this competition is not about beating others. It’s about completing your own tasks. So here’s your next one: place the object under the table on top of the table.”

Mr. Gray looked under the table and saw a knife taped to the bottom. He grabbed it with his beak and placed it on top of the table.

“Very good! Now answer me this: who was the first Pharaoh of Egypt?”

“Uh…” Gray could only think of one name, “King Tut?”

“Wrong! You lose,” the voice announced, “You must now suffer the consequences of your mistake. Pick up the knife.”

Mr. Gray’s heart was in his throat, “But…please. This doesn’t seem fitting—“

“Silence! You have failed the test. Now you must pay for your mistake. Pick up the knife.”

Gray unsteadily picked up the knife with his beak, thinking about all the different ways he could be commanded to use it. None of them involved him leaving the arena alive. A hidden door to his right opened and a well-dressed lemur stepped out, carrying an object. He quickly bounded over and placed the object on the table.

“That is an onion. You will cut it into little tiny pieces. And when you are done, you will get another. This will continue until you fill the pool.”

Hearing this, Mr. Gray began to cry.