Caught and Devoured by a Carnivorous Grue

by | Nov 4, 2020 | November 2020 Writing | 6 comments

after Zork 1

I’m on the phone with Todd and he’s having a feigned cry. Anitra and Julie are at Todd’s. Listen from another phone in the house. He tells me he’s in love with me but that’s a lie. I smack keys on a mechanical keyboard. Hear the muffled snickering of girls over the line while I’m in the dungeon looking for a light source. The room begins to fill with water. Todd says he wants to meet me at the carnival tonight, but it’s my last night with my best fried Victor, who’s moving, who wants to tell me something but I’m telling him to get me out of this room, find me a flashlight. He says, you have to spray yourself with Grue repellent. I don’t know what the fuck that means. There’s a switch in the dark. I flip it. The water moves faster; is up to my knee. Todd asks me if I’m in love with Julie. I tell him I haven’t seen Julie since the fourth grade when she lied for me, protected me. I don’t tell him that part. Todd says he’s going to kill himself if I don’t meet him. So I agree. They all make fun of me because I never had funnel cake. Victor is mad at me about the fucking pending Carnivorous Grue or the rising water or that I’m being pranked or that I like Julie. Victor tells me I can’t traverse the dark carrying so much shit. I don’t know what that means. My elven sword begins to glow in the dark. There’s a troll where there might have been a Grue a minute ago. The water at my waist now. Get out of there, Victor screams. Get off the phone with those stupids, he says. Todd calls Victor a faggot. I go for the stairs but the troll knocks me unconscious in the rising water. Victor waits with me by the funnel cake alone. Consoles me about Julie. He leaves without telling me the thing he wants to say. I don’t press him. I don’t stop him. On Monday, Todd tells everyone I’m a faggot with spic cooties. Julie backs his play. Victor isn’t there to fight for me. The troll flees, the water rises, my elven sword no long glows. My bag so full of shit I can’t traverse the dark.


  1. David O'Connor

    Love how the names come in so quick and unexplained–creates the childish world fast and real. Also, I think the rising water and all the other surreal elements work. Great shifts between worlds/times/realities. “Todd says he’s going to kill himself if I don’t meet him. So I agree. They all make fun of me because I never had funnel cake.” These two lines back to back are what I’m talking about, great storytelling–melodrama + absurdity = compelling, creates suspense. Well done. The last line rocks perfectly. (not so convinced by the title)

  2. Corey Holzman

    I love the couple of threads going on here, and how they’re all spiraling out of control at the same time. Though, the water is rising in the game, that sense of drowning really permeates through the rest of his life. Everything is out of control. Great characterizations through very limited sentences. And good visceral language really kept the pace fast, and attention keen. Your last line was lovely, as it ties everything back together.

    Nicely done!

  3. Sara Comito

    I used to play the shit out of Zork, so this slammed me right into a specific time period – ancient on more than one account! I love all of this, the rising water in confluence with the different directions the speaker is being pulled in and the manic number of decisions he has to make and how fraught and loaded they all feel. Plus the manipulations perpetrated by the peers and the speaker feeling at odds with himself and his authenticity. I relate to this so hard. It’s just terrific, Rogan.

  4. John Steines

    I learned several things in reading this. Learned a wee bit about Zork, for one. You did a remarkable job of putting this together. I have no conclusion about what you are talking about, in the way I would appreciate the creativity of kids playing and walk away to be out and away from their play. You capture that so well.
    At some places it feels like you are playing dumb as a way to distract: ‘I don’t know what that means.’ repeats, and ‘My bag so full of shit’ reads like a joke on the reader, and an admission of a ‘guilt’ of deception (part of the game). I like how that works, whether intended or not.
    The boxlike text, almost rectangular, visually looks like it could be hung on a chain and imaged swinging across the page, knocking the reader. That shape image caught me first.

  5. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Rogan, this is fantastic! Love all of these woven elements: the video game as title (I admittedly played this once or, ahem, twice!) and these adolescent (seemingly) characters, multiple emotions, alternative setting (pending carnival, rising water, troll, Carnivorous Grue, etc.) It’s a kaleidoscopic tale, like a first ride in an amusement park (The Scrambler?). And the whimsy is combined with the speaker’s own added confusion, compounded dilemma’s. Very provocative and twisted, and deftly creative.

  6. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    OK, so I think I lived in a different world, no Zork, or those games, but I love the pace of this, the insanity of it, and well, yes, the water is rising, and there’s a complex dream-weave, tapping a nightmare of peers. Happy November’s last days, Rogan.

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