“I am Destiny. Today I’ll take you inside the gears of a mortal mind covered in dust-iny. Ha! I’m funny, ain’t I? I’ll try to intervene… but nah… I don’t want to get my hands dirty.” – Destiny
I throw my shoe across the room. I have nothing left in my bank account. I am officially broke.
“Stupid you.” – Destiny
I need money, and fast. I open my cranky Dell and I log on to the internet.
“Dell? Or Dell-ay?” – Destiny
“Mom, what’s for breakfast? Oh don’t say food;that joke wasn’t even funny the first dozen times you said it.” I drawl. Then I slap myself awake. I have the unhealthy habit of taking two-minute naps and drooling while I snooze .And now ,my latest job application is destroyed. Never mind . It would have been rejected anyway.
I look up at the screen. Hmmm… the internet says game shows are a good place to make money. Like ‘Who Wants to be a MIllionaire’, guess? The website gives a list of them. I scroll through them. All of them require money to enter. And the free ones have really worthless prizes. I mean, who keeps a hug as a reward?
“I think the more important question here is, which self respecting host will call their show Worming Through The Apple of General Knowledge?” – Destiny
And then I find it.
Free admission, prizes up to fifty-lakh bucks and a good name.
I click on the quiz show called The Wizecrack. I register.
I sit back and smile. What can go wrong?
“Cough, cough.” – Destiny
The venue is at the edge of town, right before the forest. I drive there on my super awesome bike.
“If you call a choking, asthmatic bike super awesome, then you are Albert Einstein.” – Destiny
A crooked sign at the destination says ‘Morning’! I frown. Why would somebody write a sign saying ‘morning’?
“Whoever wrote that sign was definitely illiterate. They flipped the ‘W’ to make a ‘M’ and changed ‘a’ to ‘o’. So the sign actually says ‘Warning!’… Aaaaand you’re going inside.” – Destiny
I drive inside and park. As I walk in, I see a billion security guards. They queue up in two files and stare at me, as if they are but one entity.
“Hi? Where is the show?” I ask tentatively.
“Form.” They say in unison. I show tha form on my battered Xiaomi . They let me pass onto the next door, which opens on its own. This is a tiny room, which has two occupants. Two old women with green-tinged skin are knitting by the door. Their needles glint in the light, and I am sure they can use it for more than knitting. I gulp.
“Who are you and what have you done with your brain? Did you have a brain transplant? How have your assumptions become so correct?” – Destiny
I mean they appear skilled enough to use the needles for weaving! They must be masters of their art!
“Oh. Whelp.” – Destiny
“Enter at your own risk, young man.” They rasp.
“Yeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh….” I walk through the door into what seems like a quiz show game room. It is full of mirrors, and black walls with shiny glitter on them. It looks sick!
“Yes, it’s definitely ‘sick’. Sick as in ill, and ill as in illusion.” – Destiny
On one of the chairs sits a middle aged man whose hair is tied back in a slick ponytail. He isn’t half as handsome as me.
“Oh, he’s much more handsome than you. He is also less lazier compared to you because he moves his HANDS-SOME what more than you. Ha! Ain’t I hilarious?” – Destiny.
“Welcome, Mr…” he squints at a file “Lezstergrald? Unusual name. Never heard that before.” He mutters.
“Yes, I believe my surname is unique.” I twist my hair, as I do when I’m nervous. I haven’t studied anything for the game and have no idea what kind of event it will be. A quiz? A competition? Looks like a quiz due to two seats with a huge book in between.
“Well so is this show.” He says with a bored expression. “Now please wait on the chair ; we’ll have to wait before we summon the host.”
“Summon the host?” So you’re not the host?” I inquire.
He just points at his badge.
On his badge all that’s written is Reganam Tnatsissa
“What language is that?” I inquire.
He raises his eyebrow “Nice jest. It’s hsilgne daednu of course.” And starts rifling through candles and vials of red food coloring.
I gulp. Everyone seems to be speaking English just fine. But what if the test is written in this hsilgne daednu language? I’ve never even heard of it!
“It’s ok, don’t worry. People like you usually know only one language, which is English or their mother tongue. For you, even that is quite an achievement. But this language is an exception. I suspect you may be the only living person to have heard it’s name.” – Destiny
The Reganam Tnatsissa gets up. He pours the vials of red food coloring in different spots and lights the candles. The fire is red.
Then he looks up at me and smiles evilly.
And the lights go out.
I jump. The only illumination is provided by the red candles, which barely light up a square foot of the space. I dip my hand in my pocket to take out my battle worn Xiaomi.
Then another red candle lights up in front of me.
And a face jumps out at me. Giving me a lopsided smile.
“Don’t think it’s red food coloring bro,” – Destiny
I scream at a pitch I haven’t reached since second grade. In front of me is the man with the ponytail, but his face is full of warts.
He looks down, raises his arms at an angle and starts shaking. He slowly moves his head up with eyes fully white and his mouth displaying fangs. He stares at me. Before I can yell again, my spine shivers. Then I realize someone is actually dragging nails across my back. I turn around to find two duplicates of the man, who I guess is a creature. I shriek, and they laugh in sync. They start circling around me, and say “We are the Duplicati Wights. Escorts to the Lord.”
They spin so fast, the world turns black, and once they move to a side, it remains black. I’m now in a domed room which has two passageways on either side, leading away from it, and a huge crack running across the wall in front of me. The Duplicati Wights stand to one side of the crack, and three dragon-like skeletons stand on the other.
And together, they say “Praise the Lord of the Undead. Praise the master of Jokes and Riddles. Praise the conqueror of Puns and Witty Remarks. He has no competitor. Hail, God of Undead, Jokes, Riddles, Puns and Witty Remarks, The Wizecrack!”
Two eyes flutter open near the crack. Eyebrows arch above them. The crack slightly expands as it says. “Who is this vile rodent giving the smell of no wit that you have brought to me, my soldiers?”
I can’t take it all. I faint.
“Wake up, foul creature and tell me your name.” A voice booms.
“Mom… no need to get offensive… and why are you asking my name?” I say sluggishly.
Someone slaps me, and I get up immediately. I remember where I am and I scream.
“Answer the lord’s question!” A draconic skeleton rasps.
“I am Z-Z-Zack L-L-Lezs-s-stergr-grald.” I stutter. My mind tries to comprehend what has happened.
“Stop trying to do that, because by the time your snail brain comprehends it, you’ll be dead.” – Destiny
“Well, Z-Z-Zack son of L-L-Lezs-s-stergr-grald, welcome to the Show of Game, The Wizecrack! Any questions?” The Wizecrack asks.
“I have three!” I decide to stop trying to understand my situation and just go along with it. “Are you a talking crack? Like there is no voice or speaker behind it or something?”
“Of course! Why would there be someone speaking behind me? Are you trying to say I should be incapable of speech?!” He narrows his eyes.
“No, No!” I shake my head. “But if you’re a crack, how can you die and be the lord of the undead?”
One of the Duplicati Wights “You insolent little- ”
“Oh stop it.” The Wizecrack says. “You’ll get the answer to that question when your brain dies.”
“Ooooooooh nice one! His brain is definitely a crack. I better get some popcorn now.” – Destiny
“Uhhhh- ok. And what’s actually going to happen in this game show?” I ask.
“Oh the usual.” The Wizecrack blinks “The physical, mental and spiritual challenge, you know.”
“To not waste time, sire, may I get the detector for the three attributes you just mentioned?” One of the Duplicati Wights bows and goes away upon indication by The Wizecrack.
The Wight returns with a thermometer and jabs it in my mouth before I can react. He immediately takes it out and says. “A new record, my lord. Minus three!” He guffaws..
“What! No way! I didn’t expect this score!” – Destiny
“I expected lower.” – Destiny
The Wizecrack frowned. “That’s depressing. No entertainment value.” Then he sighs “We’ll get on with the physical test. Call the Diga Rat.”
I scowl. I could provide entertainment value. Heck, I would entertain them so hard they would grovel in front of me. But this Diga Rat ? What does rat stand for? It can’t be a real rat, I’d defeat it in seconds.
“I doubt you could defeat an ant in seconds. But the Diga Rat isn’t a normal rat.” – Destiny
The Duplicati Wight who had just left comes back, with a rat next to him. They seriously think so low of me? I’ll show them!
“Who is my opponent, oh great lord? May I d-d-decapitate him for you! Diga Diga!” The rat squeaks and brandishes two tiny swords.
I throw back my head and laugh. “Do you think those toothpicks will hurt me ,you rodent?” I sneer.
“Oh they will. This should be over quickly. Let the battle commence!” The Wizecrack boom.
Before I know what is happening, the rat charges at me (yelling “Diga Diga!”) and slices one of my shins.
“OOOOOOOOWWWWWWWWWW” I scream. The cut feels deep. I try to bounce on one leg.
Unfortunately, I have always been horrible at balance. It is my weak point.
“Everything is your weak point.” – Destiny
Fortunately, I fall on the Diga Rat.
“YUCKYUCKYUCKYUCKYUCK” I shriek and get up. There are rat guts all over my shirt.
“They were on your shirt and inside your body as well, because you are a rodent too.” – Destiny
I find all the undead scowling at me.
“How?” Hisses one of the draconic skeletons.
“Well it certainly is a surprise.” Says The Wizecrack. “But no doubt he’ll fail the mental challenge. He doesn’t seem like the brightest sock in the drawer.”
“Master, don’t compare his intelligence to a sock! That’s an insult to socks!” Rasps one of the Duplicati Wights and they all laugh.
I growl. I am extremely intelligent! I got a score of ninety in middle school!
“Collectively in all 6 major tests.” – Destiny
“For the mental challenge, we’ll use the help of a Let of Tab!” Exclaims The Wizecrack.
“Sir, it’s actually a Tablet, not –
“And you’ll have to answer a question! For you, based on your reading, it’ll be the easiest. I’d say there’s a 3.1654% chance that you’ll answer it correct.” The Wizecrack proclaims. All of a sudden,a zombie appears from one of the passageways. He hands me a tablet, which projects a question.
The question is ‘Is a turtle a reptile or a mammal?’ I scoff. This is so easy! I did this question back in fifth grade! I remember getting it right on my test.
“I see your memory is fading. Does that mean I should add early Alzheimer’s to your future? No, your brain is already too tortured.” – Destiny
The answer is obviously mammal! Mammals can breathe underwater and on land. I sigh. I had a childhood dream of being a mammal and breathe underwater. Sadly, humans are amphibians.
I am about to click on mammals, when someone shouts “Are you done yet?” I jump and fumble with the tablet.
And accidentally press reptiles.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I’ll be turned into an undead! And my money!
The screen flashes “correct.”
I know that. Totally know that.
I gaze upwards to see everyone aghast. I give a smug smile and ask “So what’s the spiritual challenge?”
“You have to resist being turned into an undead.” The Wizecrack deadpans.
My heart lurches into my throat as I imagine rituals, blood, fire and knives….
“It’s very simple. All you have to do is resist staring at the Net of the Inter for eight hours continuously!” The Wizecrack adds.
I heave a sigh of relief. This time, I am happy it is easy. I always look up from the screen after fifteen to twenty minutes. I could never imagine staring at a device for eight hours!
“Cough, YouTube Shorts and Instagram reels binge watching, cough, cough.” – Destiny
I click on the next advertisement for Calvin Klein jeans. Why is everything priced so high? It’s not as if they’re selling genes with DNA.
“Only fifty more seconds, then he’s an undead.” I hear a voice whisper.
“Whaaaaaa….” I drawl. Another advertisement pops up,, talking about earning money through video games, and how I should start playing them. I obediently follow. As the site uploads, a new advertisement comes up. It says ‘Look up from your screen once in a while, and plant some trees in a single file.- by TreeLovers.’
I do what the corny advertisement asks for and glanceup.
And scream. With joy.
And realize I have passed the spiritual test, because if I hadn’t I wouldn’t be able to think anymore, like the undead.
“You may not be adept in physical, mental or spiritual situations, but you are adept in luck. Did I do something there? Better check my register…” – Destiny
“How?!” Booms The Wizecrack. “How did you tear yourself from the Net of the Inter with only thirteen seconds remaining?”
“TreeLovers ad.” I manage to stammer. The Wizecrack utters some inappropriate words which I shall not repeat.
“May I have my fifty- lakh bucks now? And go?” I inquire, smiling.
All the undead grin.
“You may,” saysThe Wizecrack. “Bring the horse!”
I am excited. Is my money coming on a horse?
When a skeletal horse arrives, The Wizecrack bellows “Sit on it!”
I sit on it reluctantly.
“And with great difficulty.” – Destiny
What is happening?
Then the horse starts to rear up and come back down. I yell.
“You see,” The Wizecrack says “I promised fifty- lakh bucks, not money.Bucks as in rearing up of a horse. For your second question, I never mentioned leaving was part of the prize. Now enjoy your ride, and we’ll come back later to check if you’re alive or undead.” And he disappears.
I try to get off the horse but am somehow latched on.
The undead laugh at me and leave.
The last sounds I can make out are that of me yelling ‘FLESH.’
“Oh my god!
For the first time ever!
My popcorn finished at the same time as the show finished!” – Destiny.
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