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