JEFF PROBST: Three days, nearly 600 entries, well over 100,000 words. Who will earn the title of preposterously magnificent SOLE SURVIVOR? We will soon find out. With me tonight is literary agent Nathan Bransford. Nathan, how does it feel to be sitting here tonight at tribal council?
NATHAN: I’m happy to be here, Jeff. The torches were a nice touch.
JEFF PROBST: This wasn’t just any competition for you. What was it like spending three days in the dialogue jungle without speaking to your loved ones, without bathing, eating rats, and drinking copious amounts of bourbon? That had to be difficult.
NATHAN: I’m a fighter, Jeff, and I’m in this game to pick a winner. It was very difficult to choose finalists, and I’d like to thank everyone who entered. This wasn’t easy.
JEFF PROBST: What was the most difficult aspect for you?
NATHAN: Context. It was extremely difficult to jump into scenes midway. This was by far the most difficult contest to judge, and I’m sure it was difficult for the writers as well. Some authors spend an entire book building toward a perfect moment of dialogue, and yet in this competition the authors only had 250 words. Not easy at all.
JEFF PROBST: Here’s what I don’t understand about this. You’re a literary agent. It’s your job. Why are you complaining? Why should this be difficult for you?
NATHAN: Um.. I’m not.. complaining. You turned hostile.
JEFF PROBST: Do you have the hidden immunity idol?
JEFF PROBST: Then let’s get right to tonight’s voting. I’ll go tally the votes.
First vote: Michele. That’s one vote for Michele.
Malika is on her way to Nubia through Egypt, on a journey to regain her rightful place as the daughter of the black female Pharaoh Nikwala after years as a slave to the Greeks. Enroute, she meets Zuberi, a fellow countryman.
“How is the Princess this morning?” Zuberi asked, his face serious but his voice carrying a cheery lilt. She wondered if he overheard their argument.
“Quite well now, thank you Zuberi.”
“Perhaps you should sit.”
“It feels good to be up and about,” she said, a bit more sharply than she intended. He wasn’t going to tell her what to do too, was he?
“My mother used to have a cure for fevers. It was a special soup that made from sheep’s testicles—to give you strength.” His white teeth gleamed in the sun and she was surprised to see he had dimples just below each angular cheek. His eyebrows were raised innocently, but his smile was mischievous.
Malika grimaced, and Zuberi laughed. It was lovely sound, deep and resonant.
“–and a tea infused with hookworm larvae for the fever.”
“Oh, stop!” Malika laughed out loud. She noticed Alexandros glance at her and frown. She ignored him. “Are all the cures in Nubia so…unusual?”
“No, I am teasing just a little bit. Only the most simple farmers still use the hookworm cure. But the soup–” he grinned.
Malika held up her hand. “I’m not quite well enough to hear that again.”
“Ah,” he chuckled, “lucky for you your aunt has made you well again. She is a good and wise woman.”
“Yes, she is.”
“She is fine teacher, also.”
Malika nodded, wondering how much of their conversation he overheard.
“You are learning the power of our people, yes?”
“Yes, but not everyone approves.” She glanced sidelong at Alexandros, who was pacing nervously along the rail as the ship on the horizon grew closer.
“Ah, but he is not Nubian. He cannot understand.”
Second vote: Jeffrey Selin. That’s one vote for Michele, one vote for Jeffrey Selin.
The Zodiac and Kirby’s experience are legendary — the motorboat for stalling and Kirby for captaining the craft under duress. Kirby doesn’t have the best playthings. Not the kind bought with wealth. They leak oil. They need mending. They are just things he collected along the way.
“Tomorrow,” he says. “I need it first thing.” Kirby wipes sweat from his high forehead. He has a screwdriver in the other hand. “That one?” he points.
“Oh, yeah,” says Braddah. “Dis one ac’ real funny kine.”
They’re in Kirby’s driveway bent over the Zodiac’s outboard. Braddah is a thick-skinned Samoan, part Portuguese, part Hawaiian, all local. Just Braddah. His big brown crack is exposed in baggy ass board shorts.
Alan, Kirby’s son, circles the driveway on his skateboard. The urethane wheels hum on the blacktop. “Dad. Dad, watch this,” he says.
“So I get a new injector?” says Kirby.
“Cool head main ting,” says Braddah.
“Shit,” says Kirby.
Alan attempts a daredevil board sport leap. There’s air. It ends with a crash to the blacktop. Kirby waits, places a hand on Braddah’s shoulder as if to say hold on. “You alright?” says Kirby.
Slowly the boy gets up. “Whatever.” He returns to circle the boat and its captain with the Doppler effect of racing wheels.
Kirby watches. “Hey, how old was Mickey when he first tried the waves at Jaws?”
Braddah shrugs. “Oh, he go at it since small kid time,” he says.
Next vote: Polenth. That’s one vote Michele, one vote Jeffrey Selin, one vote Polenth.
“Davie, dearest? That’s a very bad idea.”
“Why?” asked Davie. He stopped the drill an inch from his head.
“Dying is terribly unpleasant.”
“I won’t die. My mind isn’t bound to my physical form. This will prove my independence from mortal flesh!”
“I’m sure it will, dear,” I said. “But you’ll get blood on your clothes. What would your mother think?”
He lowered the drill. “She’d be angry.”
“Exactly. Why don’t we prove your independence from mortal flesh some other way?”
“There isn’t another way.”
I sighed. “You could go on a quest or sing about it, like a normal young man. You’re making my job very hard.”
He scowled. “You just don’t understand.”
“Of course I do, poppet. Come on, let’s get some doughnuts. You’d miss doughnuts without a body, wouldn’t you?”
“I suppose.” Davie looked at the drill. “Fairy Godmother? Can I drill holes in the doughnuts?”
“Yes dear. If it stops you drilling holes in yourself, go right ahead.”
Next vote: emeraldcite. That’s one vote michele, one vote Jeffrey Selin, one vote Polenth, one vote emraldcite. One vote left.
“Thanks for the coffee,” Smith said, his voice slight. “You going to have any?”
“I don’t drink coffee.”
“A detective that doesn’t drink coffee? Philly never ceases. So, you want to know about it, huh? I guess I should talk about it.” Smith grimaced as he sipped his coffee.
“I just got off work–”
“A little after midnight.”
“Not really. ‘We run a tight ship,’” Smith said in a raspy voice, obviously emulating a boss. “I worked until midnight, shut down my station, and headed to the ground floor. I told Frank ‘good night,’ and then left.”
“Security at the front door.”
“He see anything?”
“Only thing Frank sees is the Flyers’ score on TV.”
“I was heading to the garage when I saw the body. At first, I didn’t know it was a body. I mean until I pulled back the sheet and saw the blood.” Smith choked on the hot coffee. “Sorry.”
“What about the body?”
Smith picked up a pen on the table and drew a symbol that Blake didn’t recognize.
“That was carved on his chest. His whole body was shaved, man.”
“Go home and rest Mr. Smith. Call us if you think of anything else. Here’s my number.”
Blake handed Smith a card.
Philadelphia Police Department
Detective Christian Blake
Special Investigator of Occult Homicide
Smith looked up, his mouth formed around a question. But Detective Blake had already left the room.
Last vote: Victoria Schwab.
From a young adult story about the world between life and death, the Shadow Mile:
The shadow woman pointed down the street and spoke.
“It’s a left. Don’t forget.” She said, patting Nell’s shoulder. It was an awkward feeling, not quite solid but certainly thicker than air. “Always a left. Never go right. Right never goes where you want it to.”
Nell nodded slowly. “Right’s wrong. Got it.”
The shadow woman shook her head and the hole where her mouth should be pursed. “No, no. Right’s not wrong. It’s just not right for you.”
“Mildred, you’re confusing her.” Sighed the shadow man. He raised a long shadow hand and pointed.
“At the end of the road, turn left. Straights are unpredictable. They don’t tend to lead you straight to anything.”
“How will I know when I’ve found an Out door?” Asked Nell.
“Don’t worry about that.” Said the shadow woman. “You found an In door. An Out door will probably find you.”
“You’ll stumble upon one, if you’re lucky.” Added the shadow man.
Nell thanked the two, and apologized again for intruding. She took a step, then stopped.
“I’m sorry, but would you mind telling me what this place is called?”
“You don’t know?” Asked the shadow woman. “But…”
“It’s called the Shadow Mile.” Interjected the man.
“Oh,” Said Nell. There was a flicker of familiarity, but then it was gone. “That’s a strange thing to call a place.”
“It’s a strange place.” Said the man.
And since this made nothing much clearer, Nell simply thanked them and turned and, standing very straight, walked away down the shadow street.
JEFF PROBST: We have a tie.
In order to break the tie, please cast your vote for the sole survivor in the comments section of THIS POST. Anonymous votes will not be counted. Please do not campaign for any survivor on the Internet or elsewhere — let’s make this a fair challenge. Voting will close on Friday at 5:00 pm Pacific time.
WHO will be the sole survivor? Find out on Friday.