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The writers had fifteen minutes to write a Quest story. Theme items included a plastic flamingo, a sword, a globe of Mars, a snake, a chicken, and an artichoke.

Challenger James D. Macdonald managed to work in elements of science fiction, fantasy, and horror in his "true artistic creation".


The valleys of Mars are deep, and of a Martian night, they are cold.

Arthur sat beside the tent, eyeing the moons setting above the rim of Valles Marineris. Far off, low against the sky, the bright evening star was Earth. Two nights , perhaps three. That would be when the air ran out. Just a few miles, an easy walk under the low Martian gravity, and he would be eating a chicken dinner. He could taste it. The ache in his leg, his broken leg, throbbed. No one knew he was here. Following the snake.... Where had that come from?

Cold, dark, and beauty. That was the way to die, he supposed. Bleeding out inside his suit. The others would be searching kilometers away. The fall had broken the locator beacon.

The shimmering would likely be an artifact of low blood pressure. And the shimmering.... was coming closer. A young woman? Hallucinations. Dying would be pleasant, then.


Cold, dark, and pain. But not enough to answer a figment of his imagination.


She was holding a sword, and it was glowing."

No snakes on Mars. How long had he been like this?

"Arthur!" The voice was sharper now. "You are my champion. You shall follow me.

"You daft flamingo!" he said. "You aren't really here." He fought down the madness in his voice. She was wearing a cloak, not a pressure suit.

"Say 'yes' she said. "Give me your heart and soul, say 'yes' and you will live."


"A small thing. You'd not miss it. Would you live?"

Farther up the cliffs, a moving light. The search party. Too far away. He was feeling faint.

"What must I do?"

"Seek the artichoke of doom, up the river of spider venom. Bring the jewels..."

The hiss of leaking air. The darkness behind his eyes....

"Yes, he said. And the world changed.

Posted with the author's permission.