RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: January 2012

Zombies/a Zoo

This is Part 2 of a writing exercise that Miss A challenged herself to do…combining prompts from adjoining pages to create a short story. 

…CONTINUED from “Strawberries/Street Corner”

Although I didn’t feel like inviting cheery cartoons into my apartment, I heard myself saying yes as I turned the key in the locks on the outside door.

Strawberry Shortcake and Blue berry Muffin followed me down the long, narrow hall to my apartment door. Strangely enough, the hall appeared to have changed as well. The overhead fluorescent lights flickered ominously. Everything seemed, well, darker, less inviting than when I’d left for the market an hour ago.

As we passed the apartment adjacent to mine, I could swear I heard loud thumps and then a grinding gnawing sound that made me shudder. Weird.

The girls, meanwhile, appeared oblivious. Holding their baskets of berries by their sides, they reminded me of little children at an Easter egg hunt.

I pushed open my front door, expecting the rooms to look as dark and forboding as the hallway, but everything looked normal. Sighing with relief, I kicked off my shoes and asked if the girls would like something to drink. I was reaching for the whiskey, but they were happy with having glasses of water.

Suit yourselves, I shrugged. I needed something stronger to cope with the cartoons wandering around a live-action kind of world.

Noticing they had left the door wide open after wandering into the apartment, I asked Blueberry if she would mind shutting it. Sickeningly agreeable, the blue-haired girl skipped to the door and started to close it. But something stopped her. Standing in the doorway, she dropped her mouth as her complexion paled, and then she screamed a blood-curdling noise I would never think possible to come from such a sweet face.

“What’s the mat – ” I began to ask, but before I could finish, I watched a grotesque, dirt-covered arm reach into my hallway and grab the poor Muffin by her throat. Long, gaping flesh wounds and dried blood. That’s what almost stopped my heart. And then I stared in horror as this zombie-like creature staggered into my apartment and sunk his blackened teeth into the blueberry girls’ neck and savagely pulled off a chunk of flesh.

I heard myself scream, or maybe it was Strawberry, whose mouth was opened bigger than mine. The zombie dropped the limp Blueberry on the floor while he chewed her sweet skin. Bright blue juice squirted from her neck on my linoleum floor. Would it stain? I briefly wondered.

Spotting the bright red hair of Miss Strawberry, the zombie licked his lips and lurched forward. Strawberry dashed behind my legs, but I wasn’t about to sacrifice myself as this creature’s next dinner, and I quickly leaped our of her way.

“What are we going to do?” she squealed.

“Run!” I yelled, and as I made a dash for the door, the bag of special strawberries caught my eye. Snatching it from the counter, I bolted out the front door, where two more zombies were staggering across the eery hall, blocking my best chance for escape.

Strawberry clung again to my leg, but I shook her off.

“We’re going to have to distract them,” I instructed, glancing fearfully at the zombie in my apartment that was slowly approaching.

With all her bright red flashy hair, Strawberry was the obvious choice for a distraction. Pulling her into the hallway, I hoped the zombies would see red and forget about me. My instincts were right. Like bulls, they charged toward the flushed cartoon.

“Sorry, Red,” I apologized, before dashing to the exit door. The last sound I heard before the door clanged shut was the high-pitched squeal of a Berry girl.

Outside, the sky had darkened to a somber grey. Cars were stopped in the middle of the street, their driver and passenger-side doors hanging eerily open – no bodies inside.

“Urggh,” I heard something groan, and then I noticed the pack of zombies dragging half-eaten bodies across the cracked sidewalks and grassy lawns. One kneeled on the ground, munching on what appeared to have been another yellow Berry friend – maybe it was Lemon Meringue?

How was I going to get out of this mess, I wondered. As more zombies killed humans and cartoons alike, more zombies – both real and drawn – were spawned, and they stumbled mindlessly into the streets, hunting their first kills.

Which could me me if I didn’t figure out a plan fast.

“Hey!” a small voice called. A dark-haired cartoon carrying a microphone came running towards me. “Can you help me find the zoo? It’s the only place we’ll be safe. Others are gathering there now!”

As I opened my mouth to say yes, the door creaked behind me, and when I turned to see what was there, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Soul-less, zombified Strawberry Shortcake and Blueberry Muffin pushing through the doorway.

“Ughhhhh,” the groaned, staggering toward me.

“Augh!” the dark-haired cartoon girl shrieked. “They got to my best friends!”

She burst into tears, and I felt bad, for it was my fault Strawberry was now one of the half-dead.

“Come on!” I said, grabbing her hand and dragging her in the direction of the zoo. My conscience convinced me I could mend my wrongdoings by protecting this girls, whose big cartoon tears splashed across the pavement as we ran from her zombie friends.

The roars of lions beckoned us to the refugee camp where humans and animations huddled in fear, all worried about how her could get out of this nightmare alive. My new cartoon friend clutched my hand as we made our way through the crowds. And then I noticed that man from the market – the one who’d sold the special strawberries I still held in my other hand.

“You!” I exclaimed. “I ate your strawberries and then the whole world turned into chaos! What is going on?”

Grimacing at the blame, he pointed at my bag and asked, “Did you eat more than one?”

“Of course I had another. I wanted to taste the berry sweetness on my tongue.”

“Then that is the problem,” he explained, his broken English completely gone when he spoke. “These berries pull the most wonderful flavors onto your taste-buds, but they also pull the darkest and strangest moods and images from your minds.”

Was he saying I created this? How long would it last? And how could it be stopped sooner than later?

And to myself, I wondered, when would I have ever thought about zombified Strawberry Shortcakes?

“Do you have the strawberries with you?” the man asked.

I held up the brown paper bag.

“Should I eat one?” I offered.

“No!” the man barked, holding up his hand to stop me. “Do NOT eat even one more of those berries. Who knows where your mind will take us next?”

Well maybe you shouldn’t be selling these things to people you don’t know, I muttered under my breath.

The man motioned for me to follow him toward the front of the zoo, where we could see an army of zombies advancing in droves.

“When they get closer, we must toss the berries at them. A virus will quickly spread among the group, and if all goes well, we’ll be able to kill them all before they get to us.”

I felt a hard tug on my right hand and looked down.

Cherry Jam – the girl who I had rescued from her zombified Berry friends – asked sadly, “Will that kill my friends?”

“They’re already halfway there, Jam. Now we gotta finish the job before they try to make us one of them.”

I offered a plump berry for her to take. She hesitated, and then resigning herself to the fact that Zomberries didn’t make good friends, she took the berry in her small fingers.

On one, two, three, the man, Cherry Jam, and myself pelted the crimson strawberries at the packs of grotesque zombies lurching our way. As the berries splashed across their ravaged torsos, a strange greenish-yellow vapor wafted in the air and burned vast holes into the zombies’ flesh.

The zombies stopped in their tracks, stunned by the gas that singed their already grotesque skin. Loud belching noises escaped from their unsightly mouths as they first ones hit by the berries fell forward, writing on the ground as their half-dead bodies liquidated and disintegrated before our very eyes.

“It’s working,” someone behind me cried with joy. “The zombies are dying!”

“Um, technically they’re already dead,” I reminded him as I hurled another berry into the chest of a cartoon zombie, who keeled over and disappeared just like the others.

Within fifteen minutes, the pack was gone for good. A rancid berry smell permeated the air from the puddle of bloody, berry goo covering the parking lot. And as I watched refugees and cartoons hugging each other with relief and delight, I couldn’t help but consider this one thought:

I’ll never taste another strawberry as delicious as the one which created this mess.

 

– Written by Miss A on November 17th & 20th, 2011

Strawberries/Street Corner

This is Part 1 of a writing exercise that Miss A challenged herself to do…combining prompts on adjoining pages to create a short story.

“Special strawberries for sale!” the man called from his kiosk at the local farmers’ market, where I frequented every Sunday to purchase my week’s worth of vegetables.

“Miss, miss, you like to buy some strawberries?” the man asked me in his broken English. “I give you a good deal – today only.”

I wasn’t particularly interested in buying strawberries this week. By the middle of autumn, the season had come and gone. In fact, it was downright strange this man had strawberries for sale when the other vendors no longer did.

“You try one?” the man asked, plucking a ripe, scarlet berry from a basket and holding it in the air. “Very good, you’ll see. Special.”

The man smiled, the skin around his eyes crinkling as he held the strawberry toward me and dropped it in my open palm. I blinked to make sure I was seeing properly, but my contacts hadn’t slipped. I could swear this strawberry glittered like a fresh ruby pulled from the deep mines below miles of strawberry fields.

“You try,” the man urged. “You see how good and special it is.”

Warily eyeing him, I brought the plump berry to my mouth and bit into the soft, tangy center, infused with the perfect amount of sweetness and flavor. Was this strawberry better than the ones that I’d bought at the height of summer? Ten times more so. I was savoring the perfect strawberry, its delicious flavor creeping across my tongue and waking all my taste buds with joyful glee.

“Very good, right?” the man asked, his shiny eyes begging my approval.

I nodded and reached for my wallet. Pulling out a messy wad of ones, I dumped them on his table and motioned for two baskets of berries to take home and enjoy that afternoon. As if I might change my mind, the man quickly scooped up the cash and dropped two baskets into a paper bag, which he shoved into my hands.

“Have a nice day,” he smiled, and maybe it was my imagination, but I could swear there was a mischievous look in his grin.

“I hint of strawberry flavor lingered in my mouth, making me crave the burst of sweet tangy juiciness that had filled my senses only moments before. I had a short walk home, but surely the walk would be nicer if I popped another berry on my tongue. I pulled a glistening red berry from the paper bag and examined the glittering shine which reflected in the morning sun.

“How does it do that?” I wondered aloud.

Without giving it a second thought, I brought the fruit to my lips and bit off all but the very top, from which sprang a leafy center.

The second berry was just as delicious as the first, the flavors melding on my tongue and re-awakening my dormant buds…

I stood on the street corner and waited for the orange hand to transform into a white walking man so I could cross the intersection and finish my walk home. The tingly feeling on my tongue felt stronger this time, sending tiny shocks through the rest of my body. The corner began to tilt right, and I felt myself sway with the movement, suddenly noticing an apartment across the street topple on its side before the world went black.

“Is she all right?” I heard a concerned voice ask.

“Looks like she’s waking up now,” another voice responded.

A blurry fog greeted my eyes when I opened them. I blinked a couple of times, each one gradually clearing the translucent haze which blocked me from seeing – a cartoon in a strawberry hat and dress?

“What the he–?” I began, as I turned my head to see another cartoon with bright blue hair and a basket of blueberries!

“Hello!” the strawberry cartoon girl chirped. “You took a nasty fall, but I think you’ll be okay. I’ve seen worse falls than yours when I took a trip to Looney Tunes!”

“We should help her home,” the blueberry girl offered.

“What a great idea!” the strawberry girl glowed, taking my arm to help me stand. “I’m Strawberry Shortcake, and this is my friend Blueberry Muffin!”

I must have been dreaming. Surely I would wake any second from this crazy dream and find myself wrapped in the comforts of my own bed. I glanced around the street corner where I’d supposedly fallen and noticed the strange combination of brick and stucco buildings coupled with animated fruit trees and berry bushes. On the bustling street, other berry characters cheerfully walked past us, pushing strollers with tiny fruit babies and carrying leashes pulled by assorted fruit dogs and cartoon insects?

“Where am I?” I asked the Shortcake girl.

“Why, you’re in Los Angeles, silly!” she giggled. “Come on, let’s get you home where you can rest for a while.”

Staggering down the sidewalk, accompanied by cartoons, I remembered the special berries I’d bought from the smiling man at the farmers’ market. Had his berries done this to me? Had they caused me to black out and faint? I rubbed the side of my head to feel the bump that should indicate where I fell, but no knots or bumps were on any part of my noggin. This was weird. Nothing hurt. Had I really fallen? Could I simply be imagining things?’

“You live down this street, right?” asked the girl who called herself Blueberry Muffin.

What hippie parents called their children by the names of fruit? Only in California…

Nodding wearily, I followed the cartoons toward my apartment building, which still stood in the exact place where I’d left it earlier that morning.

“Are you going to invite us in?” Shortcake asked cheerily.

TO BE CONTINUED…

– Written by Miss A on November 13th & 14th, 2011

 

a Cave

Could there be a darker place?

To fall between the shadows

Slip away from the cracks of sun

Intent to reach the inner core

Where blackness envelopes the circle

Stifles the breathing air we crave so –

To creep and feel our way through

The stringy webs and bar dung

Enmeshed across these slimy walls

Designed to ensnare and slow us

Where the bravest souls dare not go

Under watchful eyes we stagger through –

To search the jagged tunnels

Find the answers for what’s below

Curious to see the ending

Where the coldest pools blanket the stone

Drowns the noise we struggle to shut out

To locate the calm centered

Wrapped in shells of creepiness

The temple for peace and solace

Hidden in the maze of trial

Where we must go to find our lost selves

Reclaiming our true natures in here.

– Written by Miss A on January 18, 2012

Cloud

“Let’s go! Let’s go!” the rain chattered excitedly, bouncing up and down in the vast gray cloud driving toward the clearest blue skies.

“Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” they asked and whined.

“And the heavy cloud sighed.

“Just a little longer,” it muttered. “Be patient little ones. Be patient.”

“Just a little longer! Just a little longer!” the raindrops chanted. Just a little longer we can free fall!”

The cloud plowed along. His heavy cargo made him wish for a gust of wind to push him from behind, and at the very moment he thought it, there it was – a strong gale driving from the south and forcing him closer to their destination.

“Wheeee!” the rain cried merrily. “Faster! Faster!”

They were almost there. To the valley beyond the purple mountainous peaks jutting into the vast openness below. Or above. It was all the same really. One big space where the birds and big machines soared across and through, casting shadows on the earth.

“Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” the raindrops asked again, clamoring for the window space where they could look and see the world they loved to visit for just a brief moment before they were sucked back into the air, slurped higher and higher until they were scooped up by a father or mother cloud and carried again across the sky.

“Yes, my children, we are here,” the cloud announced.

“And all around him, other clouds arrived, everyone holding their excited little raindrops, those devilish children who loved to fall freely and dive through the air.

“Wheeee!” the squealed, stomping on the soft floor of their cloud until small holes sucked them into the dark gray skies where they joined their friends in the race toward earth.

No tears were shed from the cloud as his load was lightened by the exodus of rain. Instead, he sighed with relief, content to cool off the ground below with these beads of moisture which annoyed him so.

One day, he longed to be the fluffy white cloud which drifted lazily through the blue sky without a care in the world. Surely that day was more than a dream?

Oh, he certainly hoped so!

– Written by Miss A on January 22, 2012

Dead end

Where ya goin’ honey child?

Down that dead end street

To da no-life spot

Shadowed by emptiness

Glowin’ bright from a broken streetlight

Who ya gonna talk to?

‘Bout dem ghosts and whispers

Floatin’ tru da bedroom window

With da slice of moon

Glowin’ bright as dat broken streetlight

Why you think it’s gonna change?

That dead end circle

Goin’ round to nowhere

Lost in the darkness all but

Glowin’ bright under dat broken streetlight

Well dere ya go tryin’ to escape

Runnin’ past dem ghosts

Hissin’ out your name

Stranded on that graveyard road

Glowin’ bright below dat broken streetlight

– Written by Miss A on January 10, 2012

Graffiti/Grain of sand

(This post incorporates two adjoining prompts from 365 Things to Write About.)

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” the community officer chanted impatiently, standing staunchly at the front of the bus and waiting for us to file past him into the dreary gray day that awaited us all outside.

Stepping from the bus, I looked around the barren streets, littered with dilapidated buildings marked with broken windows, peeling paint strips, missing bricks, and graffiti tags. Why the hell had they brought us here?

“All right, all right, step into a line,” the community officer ordered. “I want to see all of your shiny delinquent faces when I’m talking to you.”

As a dozen surly eyes stared at his lumpy face, he barked our daily service task. We were required to scrub and clean the graffiti tags from the walls of each building. The goal was five buildings in eight hours. If we didn’t get it done, we’d be doing it again tomorrow, and he’d be tacking on two more buildings.

“Any questions?” he asked in one of those tones that wasn’t really asking, but I raised my hand anyway.

“Why are we cleaning it up here? There’s no one living or working in this part of town. Why wouldn’t we be cleaning this stuff off the buildings downtown or neighborhoods where people actually live?”

“Oh, so squatters don’t count as people?” the officer remarked sarcastically. “Didn’t realize you were such a snob about where you did your community service, Thomson. I’ll keep that in mind for future assignments. Now stop your griping and get to work.”

The lot of us trudged with buckets, brushes, and paint cans toward boarded-up warehouses across the street. Plunking long, bristled brushes into soapy waters, we set to work scrubbing fresh and faded tags from the exterior walls while our fearless leader plopped his fat butt into a chair and pulled out his phone to play a round of Angry Birds. I caught him playing the game that morning when I reported to my daily service, but I doubted he wanted me to know his secret obsession.

“This sucks,” complained a girl with stringy blonde hair and multiple piercings in her left ear. “This stuff is so caked on. Soap and water is never going to get it off.”

“There’s no way we’re going to finish five of these buildings today. They’re too massive,” a short, stocky boy groaned as he tiredly wiped over bricks tagged in bright orange paint.

I wondered what had brought them to community service, but didn’t ask. No one ever asked in this group. Maybe they just didn’t care enough to know. Me, I’d been hanging with the wrong crowd after school. Trying to be cool and fit in. All that got me was community service after the group of kids tried to steal snacks and soda pop from the convenience store near one of the kid’s homes. I wasn’t even with them when they did it, but I was rounded up with them and the spoils when the police arrived an hour later. Turns out a neighbor saw the whole thing go down but couldn’t recall which kids were there and which weren’t.

“There were many of them,” was all she’d said to the judge when the group of us appeared in court.

And my so-called friends hadn’t bothered to point out I wasn’t at the scene of the crime. Didn’t say anything at all. Some friends.

Most of them had previous records, so they got the harsher sentences. And I was gifted 150 hours of community service. My mother called it a gift, not me. I called it a curse. But she thought it might teach me a lesson and straighten me out.

“Whoa! Check this out!” a kid exclaimed from down the street, pointing to the next building we’d be tackling with brushes, soap, and paint.

I followed the other kids to a patch of wall where a little girl in a sundress had been painted on it. In one hand, she held a floating balloon that resembled a peace sign. In her other hand, she held up a speck of something between her thumb and forefinger.

“What is that she’s holding?” the stringy blonde squeaked, squinting her eyes and leaning close to get a better look. “Is she holding up a speck of dirt?”

“I think it’s meant to be a grain of sand,” I answered. “That’s what the ground around her looks like, anyway.”

Beside the girl, we read a quote scrawled across the bottom part of the wall. Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is. – Maxim Gorky

“Who’s Maxim Gorky?” the stocky boy asked.

We all shrugged at each other. No one knew. But the impact of those words with that innocent image hit us all the same. All of us agreed this picture wasn’t really graffiti. It was something else – something more like art.

“I don’t want to get rid of it,” one kid admitted.

“Neither do I,” confessed another.

We shuffled past the girl on the wall to tackle the spray-painted tags on the rest of the buildings in our row. Eight hours later, our arms and necks ached from standing and scrubbing, crouching and scrubbing, kneeling and scrubbing. No matter how we stood, we’d done a lot of scrubbing, and we somehow managed to erase a good deal of graffiti on our allotted five buildings.

As we tiredly followed our community officer down the street while he inspected our labors, I noticed him stop suddenly in front of the painted girl.

“What’s this?” he snarled. “”Doesn’t look like you even touched it!”

No one spoke. Some of the kids looked down, pretending not to hear his angry question.

I sighed.

“It’s not graffiti, sir,” I explained. “Some of us thought it should stay on the wall.”

“Oh! So now you can differentiate between tags and art, Thomson?” the officer barked. “I don’t see a museum around these parts of town. I see a bunch of delinquents and a wall with vandalism! And none of you are leaving this block until it’s gone!”

“You can’t do that, sir. Our parents are waiting for us at the center. We did our eight hours today. We have to go home now,” I cautiously pointed out.

“Well, I hope you’re ready for more of the same tomorrow because all of you will be scrubbing another eight buildings on this row,” he ordered. “And your first job will be to finish cleaning up this wall!”

“I’m not touching that wall,” I heard myself say aloud without really meaning to. Or maybe I did.

The community officer glared at me.

I pointed toward the wall.

“Sir, this painting reflects on the good and happiness that we should all be seeking in our lives. It’s telling us that we can find peace in the smallest of things, maybe even ourselves. It made all of us here think for a moment about ourselves and where we are right now. In my opinion, that is art, not graffiti. And why would you want us to destroy the only thing on this block that made us consider embracing peace in our lives today? Isn’t that what community service is supposed to teach us?”

The community office said nothing, taking a moment for his chubby face to absorb a fifteen-year-old’s perspective on the situation, something I could tell he wasn’t proud to be doing.

The stocky boy raised his hand.

“I’d like to keep the painting on the wall, sir,” he announced bravely.

A couple other kids nodded and added, “Me, too.”

The stringy blonde offered, “We won’t tell anyone you allowed us to keep it up. But please don’t make us erase it.”

To my surprise, more kids chimed in, promising not to say a word about the mural if he’d let us leave the girl with a peace balloon and grain of sand where she rightfully belonged.

“Oh, fine,” the officer sighed and threw his hands to his sides. “You don’t have to get rid of this thing but you will be scrubbing five more buildings across the street first thing tomorrow morning.”

We consented agreeably as he marched past us toward the bus that waited to take everyone home. Trailing behind the group of delinquents, I turned to glance at the small girl on the wall and then smiled, thinking to myself, “All it took was you and a grain of sand.”

– Written by Miss A on January 4th & 5th, 2012