The Penguinner(winner!)

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Honestly, this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever written. 


“Pardon me, your excellence, but you seem to have a speck of fish on your beak.”

Penguins were relatively simple creatures. For the most part all they did was waddle, squawk, eat, squawk, and waddle. Nothing much to it, except for the mating season, which shook things up, but then again, only a little. All that really changed was that there would be more of them. Squawkers, and all. This one here had done a little too much squawking, so much that he’d let all his feed go to waste.

More for me then.

It’d been long – too long – since Tanner had seen another human, not even a glimpse. He’d been lost in this frozen dimension for months now, living off of raw fish and the hospitality of the penguins. This place was strange, on all accounts. Here, these birds seemed a little… ‘Smarter’ than the average penguin, and nothing seemed to happen despite the sheer amount of raw fish he’d eaten. Sure, it was a hard habit at the start, but once you got past the bones, it was pretty alright.

On top of that, he hadn’t frozen to death yet, for some reason. What a feat! He might as well consider himself a penguin now.

That wouldn’t be too bad, wouldn’t it?

What are you talking about? You vacuous moron.

Ah yes. That’s right. He really wasn’t a penguin. He was human, so that’d be wrong (in a multitude of ways). Such a dream should never be considered, despite the circumstances. When did he ever get so lopsided?

Well, that’s what getting thrown across the fonts of reality will do to ya.

But enough of that! What mattered, first and foremost, was getting home. And obviously, he was right on top of that. Dimensional physics had once been one of his major fields; it shouldn’t have been too much of a hassle to fix up a Wormhole Strangler with the parts he had. The capsule he’d arrived in was coincidentally perfect f0r that.

But then again… emphasis on had.

Yup. Once, so very long ago, he had the chance to prevent his forced assimilation into penguin life. Yet, that chance had gone by in an instant, thanks to the awesome meddling power of gale-force winds and a rock.

He’d be lying if he said that all that was left when he woke up could take him home. That was the very first time this dimension bamboozled him. And of course it wasn’t the most drastic, and just couldn’t be the last.

That very same day, he’d found himself battered, cold and starving at the hands of an elite society of orca jackasses. At the first moment of hearing them speak (English too!) he’d jumped at the chance to converse with some ‘civilized’ locals, who could (somehow) lead him to civilization (if it even existed). Sadly, he learned that one, humans didn’t exist, and two, they hated humans anyway. So at the brink of his stamina, he was forced to flee across the ice in a panicked terror, losing what little supplies he had and any replacement garments.

But hey, it wasn’t my worst experience with foreigners.

Not long after, he’d run into a motley crew of penguins with an attitude. These too could speak perfect English – and, thankfully for him, were much friendlier than the orcas, despite their constant swearing (and lack of any tact whatsoever). They took him in, but not before they made it painfully clear that they had nothing to do with the other penguins. In fact, they were apparently staging a rebellion of some sort, only taking him aboard because a “human” sounded useful.

These penguins were good to him, for a while. They were the ones who’d taught him how to handle the fish; stink, bones and all. The thought of swallowing it whole irked him at first, but a few jaw-loosening techniques conditioned him to the point of being practically as good as the penguins themselves.

If penguins can talk, I can swallow bones. Such optimism was crucial.

Now, there was at least one problem with this group. More than one, actually. Enough that they were problems to be dealt with on a daily basis as a whole. See, one could easily compare them to humans – because, despite their penguin-ness, they were effectively the most hostile, thoughtless, un-empathetic people he’d ever known. Especially to other penguins, which took him by surprise the first time (what species fights their own species?). It wasn’t long before Tanner would realize he was being brought along for guerilla assaults.

When finally asked about it, all they would say to him was that “they picked the better side. The winning side.”

What ‘winning side?’ What the hell was up with this place?

Nothing really made sense. But then again, this was a different realm from ours. And considering that, he was prepared to face the weird truth as often as it came (it wasn’t the last).

So, he continued living with them, for now. It was a pretty good setup, if you actually thought about it. All he needed to do was kick some penguins around, and the ones that made him do it would give him food. Easy-peasy.

Sure, you could say that it was cruel, but who wouldn’t do the same in this state of mind? At least, when you were stuck in an entire world of penguins who wouldn’t stop yapping about last night’s supper, how great the krill was, or how snooty those Emperors were (all in such an irritatingly kick-able voice). He’d officially joined the group as their token human, which was more than enough for him in this situation.

Obviously, things would change. The setup was good for a while, but being on the wrong side of morals was bound to get him sacked sooner or later.

Shortly after taking over a penguin settlement, a few orcas had emerged through the ice, and swallowed the survivors – as well as his crew – whole. Just like that. Saying he was shocked would be an understatement.

Fortunately, he was just outside of the bite-zone. Through snot and tears, he demanded to know why they’d done this.

“We came to win.” they simply said. Altogether, as well. It was a strange thing to see.

“Win?” Tanner meekly said. “What do you mean?”

“Win at life.”

That single quote was a game-changer for him. Well, game-changing for the fact that he’d stopped doing much of anything. The orcas had ended up sparing him, and Tanner, being the not-penguin he was, drifted about the icy tundra for quite a while. During the time, he thought about a lot of things – his penguin ‘friends’, the orcas, food… But most importantly, how it’d all turned out like this.

To think, a single mishap would throw away any chance of him having a normal life. Working a proper career. Having children. Marrying.  

Winning at life.

It’d hit him before, he just… Hadn’t thought about it as much. And what was with all these animals and ‘winning’ anyway? What a skewed logic.

But it’s the only logic that applies here.

That’s when he had a real epiphany. This epiphany would shatter his very understanding of the strange world he’d woken up in, where no logic applied, where penguins spoke English, and a human would not freeze to death.

The only rule that applied in this world was… To win. That’s all. Survive. Grasp for the top with a primal ferocity. Even against your own species. It was simple, yet fitted the retarded ways of this dimension. Win. Do whatever it takes, even if it doesn’t make any sense. That, my friend, was the ultimate, weird truth.

“Yeah. Win.”

And so that’s what he would do, keeping it in his mind as he made off with a penguin’s supper.

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Marionette

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Here’s a little something I wrote… I don’t know if it’s any good, so I’d like to hear what you think!


Even after fifty years, she still lay there, smiling as if nothing had happened. Oblivious to the ruin.

It was the ideal sort of beauty that collectors like Rampo cherished; untampered, un-toyed with, and untainted. Even if she was missing most of her limbs, her face was all that mattered, and from that you could still innocently guess that she was still in there.

Of course, that was far from true. Her expression now, frozen in content bliss, was only a front. If one looked a little closer, they could see that her eyes were blank, devoid of life — artificial or otherwise. Despite this, her beauty was still evident, yet destined only to crumble here, a rotting snapshot of better times. Rampo couldn’t help but feel sad that they were the ones that survived, and not her. The grief that plagued him for his entire life stung him once again.

Marionette-san.

But there was no use dwelling over it. The past was in the past, and as much as he’d love to relive it, the present required his attention. Nightfall was a dangerous time, here at the end of the world. He had much to do before then.

~

The bus here was his best bet for shelter. Finding the strength to leave her for a bit, Rampo stepped back and surveyed the site.

The entire vehicle had been conquered by vines and moss. Plant matter had locked it up good. The street sign that the bus had crashed into sat mangled under its wheels, fodder for nature now too. After all these years, the bus had been reduced to nothing but a vague landmark, inhabited by moths, butterflies and the empty corpse of Marionette. Together they looked like a lonely piece of art.

“…alright. Let’s open this up.”

Setting his pack aside, Rampo set to work. He jammed his walking cane into a gap in the doorway and gave it a gentle twist. The flat end-bit managed to dislodge the door easily, as fatigue had left it fragile. He grunted in satisfaction as he welcomed himself inside.

The interior was stuffy and smelled like canned food past its due date. He had to cough a few times to get used to the atmosphere, but even so, it didn’t quell his optimism about the place. Despite all the insects and plant-life (not to mention the germs), this little slice of history revived fond memories of life within him; life before the end.

One could describe this feeling as cosy.

The body of the driver was the only other in here, a skeleton now, slumped and resting. The rest of the leather-padded seats were empty, giving him a good space to set up camp. So, he did.

~

Night came, and all was silent, apart from the buzz of Rampo’s two-minute noodles. He ripped the cord, and the built-in stove below the cup activated, heating the water. Most brands came with this nifty extension, he found. It made it so much easier for him to survive out here.

He’d brought Marionette inside, because he’d felt sorry for her having to sit out there all alone. She rested in the seat beside him, her presence giving him a comforting feeling.

“It’s been a long time, hmm?” he said, to lift the mood. “I’ve missed you, you know.”

There was no reply of course. She just stared at him, and it hurt him. He reminded himself that she couldn’t reply anymore. So he set to eating his noodles, as they were done now.

She’s just another shell. Remember that, Rampo.

He looked out the window out of boredom, scanning the skyline and searching for the moon. He couldn’t find it, even as it’s light bathed the bus.

Such a thing would’ve been peculiar, if that wasn’t normal in this world.

The city beyond the forest was even more strange. He’d come through it on his way here, but he’d never noticed how the buildings disappeared.

When he’d originally ventured through, he knew that he had passed a skyscraper, one that should’ve been easily visible from here, as it towered twenty stories above the rest of the buildings. Looking back at it now, it wasn’t there, and the space where it should’ve been looked… blank. As if limbo had spilled into where the sky should’ve been.

Rampo’s realisation of this caused him to panic. The end — the literal, non-figurative end — was catching up to them. It was just on the horizon, close enough by. Threatening to swallow him up as he slept.

~

This was bad news. Very, very bad news. He needed to get going now, otherwise he would never escape.

Mid-way from finishing his noodles, Rampo prepared to leave. He packed his pack, found his cane, and was about fly through the door — when he eyed Marionette, causing him to freeze. A few moments passed before he said anything.

“…you know I can’t bring you along.” he mumbled. “You’d just be… dead weight.” The last two words stung him.

He stood there for a long while, yet the threat of the end creeped behind him, spurring him to act, and so, he decided to bring her.

~

You’re an idiot, Rampo.

I know… I get it, I know!

He threw her over his shoulders and began to run, leaving his cane behind instead. The bus was gone from sight within minutes, and the city started to deteriorate too. The end was near, and he didn’t know if he could outrun it.

Just leave her behind! What fool are you, to bring a corpse along?

He ignored these thoughts and continued the futile escape. The end of the forest was nearby, and the rest of the city lay further beyond that. Too far beyond.

You’ll never make it. Do you want to die, too?

He couldn’t respond, and didn’t want to; she felt weightless above him. That’s what he told himself.

I’ll make it with her, or not at all.

I won’t abandon her. Not again.

~

Despite these facts, he continued on. Despite the challenge, he soldiered ahead, struggling towards the clearing, blindly thinking that he’d be safe if he reached far enough. Soon he’d end up abandoning his pack, only carrying Marionette; she was more important to him than anything else, now that he’d found her. He’d make it to salvation, somehow, and they’d be together again, just like before.

Despite the odds.

But contrary to all of this, he knew deep within that he’d never had a chance to begin with.

Although despite this fact, he was content to be swallowed up by the nothingness, together with her.