“Here we go. On three.” Looking at the infected penis on the cutting board, Gary fought back a grimace. He held the cock steady with his gloved left hand. His right hand held a cleaver. “One...two—”
If the opening lines of #DeadSealChallenge don’t grab you, few things will. Of course, they might disgust you as well, but S. C. Mendes and Nikki Noir have a habit of being able to hold your gaze even when showing you the most depraved scenarios and people. As storytellers, both writers exhibit a leaning towards the cinematic, and their ability to focus a camera unflinchingly is one resulting trait of their collaborations.
#DeadSealChallenge is a surprising short story, told Tarantino-style. We begin in media res, when everything has royally gone to hell. Through an interview with one of the principle characters, we begin to flash back and piece together the missing elements of the story. I say the story is surprising not just because of the strangeness of some of its concepts—bizarro authors eat your hearts out—but also because I’m frankly amazed at how much the two authors have crammed into a tale that can be no more than 6,000 words. #DeadSealChallenge touches on male insecurity, influencer culture, YouTube success, the depravities of the dark web, hashtag crazes sweeping the world, the monetisation of human shame, and the problems of fame, especially that unique brand of fame: “internet celebrity”. It’s difficult to say the main characters are likeable, but they are certainly believable, and you willingly follow them down the rabbit hole to see if they really can pull off their elaborate and highly immoral scheme.
#DeadSealChallenge explores the nature of viral media—and please bear that phrase in mind, because it might be relevant in more ways than one! I’ll say no more, lest I spoil a delicious surprise for horror lovers!—whilst itself being a viral piece of media that I have no doubt will infect the internet. When reading work by Mendes or Noir, one always has to be sensitive to the double meanings of things. A virus can infect the mind, body, or an online presence. A seal, in this context, is meant in the sense of the animal; but it won’t hurt you to also consider what happens when we break a different kind of seal… Seals keep things shut in, after all. Whilst Noir and Mendes clearly love writing about extreme topics, their work never descends into extremity for the sake of it, or shock for shock’s sake. Read between the lines and new meanings emerge; this is what makes their collaborative work so rich.
If I have one criticism, it is the same criticism I always levy at collaborations between S.C. Mendes and Nikki Noir: that I could stand to read 60,000 words, rather than 6,000! This story and concept has more places it can go. So, allow me to start a new hashtag:
Let’s make it viral, folks!
You can purchase #DeadSealChallenge on Godless.