After mandatory introductions, the smiling female announcer named Journey held up a hand and brought the live audience’s cheers to a stop. She wore a black pant suit and fashionable short-heeled ankle boots. Her short hair, dyed tropical turquoise, was spiked.
“First!” She said into her microphone, “A little backstory. Yesterday the terms of today’s even were announced on live television. How many of you heard or saw it live?”
A wash of affirmative cries echoed from the audience of 10,000 people. Someone in the nosebleeds screamed ‘HELL YEAH LET’S DO THIIIIS!’
The three announcers grinned.
Announcer Journey pretended to tip an invisible hat to the enthusiastic person in the nosebleeds. “Last night, each of today’s contestants was given a list of possible games that might be used and, in just a moment, they’ll find out what game of wits they’ll be playing at the same time as all of you. First, let’s give a big round of applause for our four fabulous refs who were responsible for selecting the game and who will be refereeing the event this evening!”
With sweeping gestures, the three announcers stepped aside as two spotlights zeroed in on the four referees in striped black-and-white uniforms. One ref’s shirt was soaked in sweat. One ref appeared to be on the verge of hyperventilating. One ref’s face was red. The last ref was looking the wrong way and the ref beside him grabbed his chin and pointed it toward the audience.
The applause abated as Journey resumed center stage. “And the game chosen by our awesome ref’s is a game called… ‘Speechless’.”
“That game goes by many names, Journey.” The second announcer, a blond man in a flashy red track suit and sneakers named Mason, chimed in. “Some of you may know it as ‘The Last Word’.”
The the third announcer, a man of Korean descent with flawless black hair styled back away from his face and wearing a tailored pinstripe navy suit, stepped up. “If you’re thinking this might similar to a game you played as a kid,” he said with a swoon-worthy smile, “you might be right.”
“Hey, Ju-Won.” Mason hopped up beside the Korean announcer. “Maybe we should call it by it’s most common name. Tonight’s players will be playing…”
The three announcers shouted together, “The Insult Game!”
An exclamation of shock and delight thundered across the audience.
Ju-Won dimpled charmingly. “It might sound easy but there are rules.”
“What are the rules?” said Journey. “Mason, why don’t you tell us about it?”
Lowering his mic, Ju-Won clasped his wrists in front of him and tilted his head, listening attentively as Mason began.
A hush fell as Mason spoke. “’Speechless’ is an improvisational conversation game,” he explained. “Players will be given a topic. The objective it to work as many insults into the conversation as possible with only one per turn. Can only say up to five lines per turn and only one can be an insult. If these guidelines are violated, then that player forfeits their turn. To score a point, a player must issue an insult that renders their opponent speechless for a minimum of 5 seconds. Drawing a blank constitutes being rendered ‘speechless’. Material can’t be recycled either. Reused material is considered a moment of ‘speechlessness’ and a point will be awarded to the other person.
“The game is paused whenever a point is scored and after which new topic is issued. Whoever scored the last point will start with the new topic. Players are not allowed to force a change in the topic. Any topic changes are only allowed to occur gradually and organically along the lines of the conversation.”
Journey bobbed her head. “So you mean, for example, a player can’t switch to astronomy out of the blue if the given topic was baking.”
“I’m curious,” Ju-Won prompted. “What is the game’s time limit? Are there halves like rugby games? Quarters like water polo? How are we doing this?”
“Great question,” said Journey. “Mason?”
“There will be seven-minute quarters. This will both fly by and take forever, trust me. You’ll see.” Mason looked back at the podiums. “Players, do you understand the rules?”
King rolled his eyes to avoid eye contact with Mason, who he clearly didn’t respect. He grunted, “Yes.”
“I do,” said the frying pan at which all three announcers looked twice.
“But anybody can say something mean,” Journey pretended to protest. “So how is this a game of wits?”
“Allow me,” said Ju-Won, earning the spotlight’s attention. He tugged on his perfect lapels. “Since it’s an improvisation game, a few things are required to win. You need to be a good listener, you need to be creative, you need to be mentally flexible to adapt to an ever changing situation, and you need to be able to be completely in the moment in order to react to what you hear. And, most importantly, you must remain a master of yourself. Becoming upset or angry will earn your opponent a point—not because you ran out of ideas, but because you were too upset to recall any.”
“Thank you, Ju-Won.” Nodding to him, Journey faced the audience. “During the game, we ask you all to please silence your phones and refrain from talking. There must be absolute silence.”
As Journey and Mason managed the crowd, Ju-Won ducked back to stand between the occupied podiums where he waited so quietly that he seemed to vanish on stage.
“Let’s introduce our players!” Journey looked back at the podiums where the smug sorcerer and kid waited. “At podium on my right is Pan. Take a close look. Hold up the frying pan, wouldya, kid? See that, everybody? That’s Pan, the magical frying pan and he is the challenger. Not the kid. It’s the frying pan. And at the left hand podium is Mr. Grant King.”
King’s mouth twitched at the basic introduction and plain suffix ‘Mr’.
Brimming with excitement, Mason appealed to the audience. “Are you ready to see the match that’ll decide the fate of the world as we know it?!”
A deafening roar bombarded the stage.
The red light on the microphones on each podium flashed and turned yellow.
As Journey and Mason managed the crowd, Ju-Won made eye contact with the sorcerer Grant King who decided he wasn’t opposed to being addressed by the most neutrally polite and beautiful person in the room. Ju-Won nodded to ask if he was ready, and King nodded to indicate he was.
Next Ju-Won glanced aside to the kid who had balanced half of the frying pan’s bulk on the narrow podium surface to give his arms a break.
Ju-Won had concerns about the kid. He wondered if the kid could handle the pressure of being a part of the world’s last chance for salvation, whichever way it went. Actually, Ju-Won hoped reality hadn’t sunk in for the kid yet. The sorcerer had threatened to hunt down his opponent after the challenge ended—sure his opponent was technically the frying pan, and whether the threat extended to the kid was anybody’s guess, but Grant King was infamous for being relentless to a petty degree. The kid’s average life was probably over. Then again, wasn’t everyone’s if Pan didn’t pull this off?
A normal person would be a nervous wreck. A teenager would probably be more so. With any luck, reality wouldn’t hit the kid until it was over.
With any luck.
The pale kid returned his nod with resolve.
Surprised, Ju-Won smiled.
[to be continued…]
Prompt: Frying pan defeats sorcerer and saves the world.
Source: The misinterpretation and miscommunication of a prompt from an online random plot generator.