It was the annual gathering which brought them together. The community as one, for a singular occasion. Their celebration of the cause – the festival dedicated to their sole aim; to manipulate. They had all been drawn into it for differing reasons, really, retaining the same twisted sense of purpose.
You saw the usual suspects, of course. You could guess for yourself which professions they worked within, little effort involved. Yes – of course – those are the ones. The supposed high flyers, bringing in their high scores in the game. Still, it all counted. Large project or small, either way. Each could garner its own submission. Then it was down to the panel to decide the most worthy of recognition. The overall winner.
Rumour had it the prize differed from year to year. Last year’s had been cash payout. That had prompted the influx this year. Economics win out. Cold hard lack of conscience playing its part.
Word of mouth had a way of proving their best form of advertisement. It didn’t do to draw too much attention to themselves otherwise. Spoiled the effect if the art of the manipulation was revealed in the act, sometimes. Better for it to become clear after the event, once one’s purpose was achieved. Their own variation on sleight of hand, so to speak.
The room held a sense of anticipation in amongst its occupants as they waited for the scoreboard tally; the recognition of their year’s efforts. The chatter in amongst them suggested some were keen to pre-empt it, getting their word in first.
It was some time later that they began to realise. Murmur cresting into overriding conversation. There was no committee attendance. Later again, the understanding that nor would there be. The general unspoken understanding seemed to be that their efforts this year had simply been beneath the expectations of them.
Perhaps in reality it should have been anticipated – that the most worthy manipulators amongst them might also seek to manipulate; to participate in the game.
Something slightly different for this flash fiction challenge. This one stems from a word prompt only, the prompt being:
MANIPULATE (transitive verb)
1: to treat or operate with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means especially in a skillful manner
2a : to manage or utilize skillfully
b : to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one's own advantage
3: to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one's purpose : to doctor
The response to the prompt needs to be between 33 and 333 words. If this is something you like the look of, you may wish to take a look at the website and challenge instructions. Alternatively, you may want to try the photo-inspired challenge, also up on the website.