Candy Island Vacation
A bag of sour gummy worms brightens up a dreary day inside by turning you into a cartoonishly big candy dragon. Mature.
You're sprawled on the sofa In the living room, staring up at the white noise of the ceiling. You haven't bothered to unpause the 'lo-fi beach vibes' video you had playing on the TV. Past the sliding glass door, the rain comes down like radio static. Nothing to do outside, nothing left to do inside. Your phone doesn’t have anything better to offer, so you sling it over the edge of the couch and let it fall to the carpet. Then you look down, grab the big bag of sour gummy worms you bought, and haul it over. Might as well, right? You peel it open, grab a couple, and toss one into your mouth.
Mango-pineapple. The taste hits harder than you expect. You take a moment to savor it as it saturates your tongue. It's been a while since you last had sour candy, but you don't remember it being quite so engrossing. The next worm you try is some kind of purple flavor, and while it's just as delicious in its own way, it doesn’t captivate your senses like the mango-pineapple did.
While you eat your handful of worms, the grass outside your apartment gets swallowed by rising water. Inside, the bookshelves creep taller and taller along the walls. The coffee table lists to one side; two of its feet sink a half-inch into the carpet.
You pop the last sour gummy worm into your mouth. The pineapple tartness and cloying mango sweetness are a perfect fit. Your eyes drift shut and a smile falls across your face. How long has it been since you just enjoyed some candy?
Your hand dips back into the bag and lifts out another handful. You pinch the gummy worms between your teeth and pull them from your fingers two at a time. Your thick tongue slips out to slurp the gummy worms between your glossy pinkish lips. A bead of drool rolls down your pudgy cheek. You brush it away with your shoulder.
Okay, yes, you know you're eating more than you should. You know you should stop after this handful. But this is the first time that you've felt nice in weeks. This is a splash of color among all that gray. You can't give that up because you're worried about a little too much candy.
March 25, 2020
The Dragon and the Elf-Blade
What if the fey were just fantasy cartoons? A dragon and an adventurer get turned into "fey" versions of themselves. Mature.
With each great footstep beat the heart of the mountain. With each fiery breath its treasures glimmered like stars. Scarce light filtered through the slits cut into the vaulted stone roof while the vast cavern turned every sound into an echoing chorus. Aluin huddled behind a gilded longship half-sunk beneath the dragon's hoard. One hand lay over her mouth and the other across her chest, as if to still her breath and stop her heart.
The dragon's voice cracked the dry air. "Trespasser! My flame has killed noble warriors—you should be honored to join their kind. Now show yourself, and I will be merciful."
The floor shuddered. The goblets and diadems beneath her began to slip away and rob Aluin of her footing. Clinging to the hull of the boat, she fought to stay above the tide of riches. The thundering footsteps were terribly close now. A gasp died in her throat as a claw as big as her head came to rest on the boat just above her. Silver and gold spilled across her shoulders like sand.
The shower of coins woke the elf-blade bound to her belt. It began to quiver and clatter, as if sensing danger and eager to be used. Scowling, she clutched it tightly by its hilt. She knew not what magic was worked into its blade; she had not yet needed to unsheathe it.
"My treasure is mine by right," the dragon said. He lifted his claw and beat his wings, rising into the air. "None can lay claim to a single coin of it. I am the King Beneath the Mountain. I am black smoke and the coming night. I am death and the ruin of cities." With a mighty crash, he landed in front of Aluin wings outstretched, fire brewing between his fangs. "I am Glaud!"
Gilt timbers groaned. The longboat listed to the side and spilled over. Aluin scrambled out from underneath it to keep from being drowned beneath a sea of silver. Now she stood face-to-face with the dragon. His scales were the color of porphyry, or dried blood, stretched taut across the sinewy frame of some great beast or tyger. Fangs filled his narrow snout and goat-like horns curled back from his head. His eyes gleamed yellow-green like tarnished gold.
She said, "I am Aluin." Where the courage to speak came from she could not guess. The elf-blade bucked and jostled at her side like an over-eager hound. "I come in search of a stone which belonged to my family generations ago, a sign—"
"You are a thief," Glaud snarled.
Aluin wrested the sword from its sheath. Its hilt was red and its blade blue, both blazing so bright it seemed as if they shone with their own light. From the hilt toward the tip, it thickened so much that she could not say how it had fit in its sheath. A shiver ran down her back and the sword wobbled along its length.
"I will not leave this mountain without that stone," she said.
Glaud's lips peeled in a beastly grin. "Then you will never leave."
January 3, 2020
For two office workers, an elevator ride becomes a growing, swelling, sloshing experience as they're turned into a big goofy toon wolf and gator. Mature.
On one side of the elevator stood Andrew. On his way back from a late lunch, he hadn't expected to run into anyone he knew. Okay, 'knew' was a bit of a stretch, since he didn't even know her name, but he knew she worked in Legal up on the fifty-second floor, that he was intimidated by how good she looked in a pantsuit, and that he wouldn't be able to say a word to her without stumbling over his own tongue.
On the other side of the elevator was Breana. She'd just gotten out of a meeting with one of their clients. She couldn't help feeling a little jealous of Andrew, who didn't have to haul out a stuffy suit jacket or wear heels every time he had to meet someone new. She didn't know his name either, but she recognized him from the couple of times she'd been down to Finance on the forty-third floor. They'd never had the chance to talk before.
"So," she said, breaking the silence as they waited for the doors to close. "You like Dopey Ditties?"
Andrew was caught completely off guard. "Um, what?"
"You have a, uh, B.B. Wolf mug on your desk." Great idea, she thought, kicking off a conversation with old cartoons. Not weird at all. "I always liked Al A. Gator."
"Oh. He's pretty cool," Andrew said, for lack of anything better to say.
The doors swung shut on the lobby and, mercifully giving Breana an excuse to go quiet again, the elevator chimed, "Going up."
The two of them were about to get know each other real well.
September 28, 2019
An amorphous furry monster grows by turning hapless victims into new parts of its body. Explicit.
Tom opened the door onto a completely dark apartment. Usually at least one of his roommates would have been around at this hour, using the TV in the living room or cooking in the kitchen, but all the lights were out. It was quiet. Slipping off his pack, he set it down by the front table, then grasped for the switch on the lamp.
When it clicked on, he was confronted with a total mess. One of the floor lamps had been knocked to the ground, the living room table was on its side, and the couch cushions had been tossed in all directions. It looked like someone had ransacked the apartment, but everything valuable was left in place. Leaving the front door ajar in case he needed to run for it, he picked his way around the strewn cushions and called out, "Hello? Guys?"
As he rounded the back of the couch, a heavy thump brought his attention to the floor. He froze in place, staring down at a big, purple, furry...something. It was long and oblong and lumpy. His eyes couldn't make sense of what they saw. That mass looked a bit like shoulders, that protrusion could have been a thigh, but the whole thing was too big and too jumbled-up to be a body. All that was clear was that the entire thing was covered in thick, almost silky, magenta fur.
Then it moved. The fur flowed across its surface as two of the closest lumps lurched outward and swiped at his ankles.
Tom yelped and stumbled back. His feet caught the corner of a pillow; he kicked it, spinning, off into the living room. The huge furry mass lumbered towards him, bulging and rolling like a body writhing beneath tar. Tom turned to run for his bedroom. The thing swatted at his ankle, knocking his feet from under him, sending him tumbling toward the ground.
Then everything smelled like pain and went black.
Tom woke to find his cheek against the floor and his nose swollen and tender. His thoughts were sluggish and groggy. He pushed himself up on one arm, bent a leg underneath him, and felt a weight tugging the base of his spine back down. With a grunt, he slumped against the floor. He groped behind his back, and his hand met thick fur.
August 28, 2019
Hello My Name Is...
A customer at Katie's diner is messing with words, and Katie—or whatever her name is now—has got to stop it. Mature.
Katie kept her name tag pinned above the left breast of her pink button-down blouse. It was part of the outfit she had to wear: the blouse, the matching skirt, and the apron she kept her pen and order pad stuffed into. At the start of every shift, she dug her name tag out of the bowl in the back next to the shift schedule, and pinned it to her chest. It was the one part of the dumb, outdated outfit that she had no problem with.
At least, not until today.
Two other name tags were missing from the bowl when Katie clocked in. The first belonged to Liz, who was making herself busy in the late-afternoon lull by tidying up around the register. Her shift would be over in an hour and change, and Katie knew she was just counting down the minutes, because that's what she did herself when she had the eleven o'clock shift.
The other was Benny's. He was just the busboy, but he was six-foot-something and had once tackled someone who'd tried to leave without paying. Katie had never talked to him much, but she gathered he'd played football while he was in school. She was jealous of him, because he didn't have to wear pink.
As far as Katie could tell, it was a normal, slow day at the diner. She'd gone around to each booth and pulled down the blinds, so the sun wouldn't be glaring in through the windows, and had checked to make sure the table of college-aged guys didn't need anything. They were no one she knew, thankfully.
June 27, 2019
Greg's working the holiday rush when he comes down with a swelling case of dragon pox. Mature.
There were only two hours left in the Christmas Eve shift, but Greg was fading fast. Every sniffle he made was thick and glorpy, and he could feel the pressure sloshing around in his sinuses, squeezed against his forehead. If he'd felt like this when he woke up, he would have just called in sick. Now he was dreaming of collapsing on the couch with a big cup of hot cocoa as soon as he got home.
Between customers, he ducked beneath the register, rummaging for another tissue, but the box was empty. When he stood back up, his head throbbed from the sudden change of altitude. He leaned against the counter and glanced around behind the lanes. No sign of his shift manager.
Greg sniffed. His nose tickled. He screwed up his face, trying to hold the sneeze at bay. He sucked in a small breath, then a deeper one, then even deeper, twisting aside at the last moment to keep himself from sneezing directly on the conveyor belt.
With a great sproing a long yellow horn popped from his forehead. It snapped out straight and narrow then bounced back, curling its tip and spreading out thick at the base. The horn was about as long as his forearm and encircled along its length with small ridges. With the weight of his head suddenly canted to one side, he staggered to the left, bumped up against the divider behind him. Another sneeze was brewing, too quickly to do anything to stifle it.
A horn sprung from the other side of his head and smacked against his skull as it rebounded. Greg let out an unsteady groan and rubbed his hand across his forehead, massaging the broad bases of his horns where they'd pushed the skin aside, and his swollen brow, bulging thick and protruding from all of the pent-up pressure. The weight of his horns was just one more source of dull throbbing for his head.
"Bless you," a woman said, setting her things out on the conveyor belt. Greg just wanted to go home, but he smiled politely and said, "Thanks," then began to scan her things. Two sweaters, a bottle of sparkling cider, cheddar cheese, club crackers, salami. Grab the receipt, stick it in the bag. "Happy holidays." Try not to sniffle in front of the customer.