Saturday, February 18, 2012

Something in the Air

I've been wanting to get back into writing for a while, so I decided to respond to a writing prompt at Chaotically Yours.

The prompt is this picture, which you have to admit is totally awesome:

My story ended up longer than the prompt called for at about 1300 words, but I'm okay with that. For me it was about sitting down and actually writing and completing something, which I did. Yay for me.

Story after the break.

Something in the Air

The damn air raid siren was blaring again, but Joey couldn’t be bothered to climb out of his top dorm bunk and make his way to the supposed safety of the stairwell. The siren seemed to go off every week or so, often for no apparent reason, and Joey didn’t want to find himself stuck in that cramped corridor with a few dozen nervous underclassmen all tittering on about how much they drank last night, or how much they were drinking tonight, or what they wanted to drink during the upcoming weekend.

It wasn’t that Joey was a teetotaler or anything, he just didn’t really care. Besides, it was two in the morning, for Christ’s sake.

He turned over and dozed uneasily for another few hours before giving up. He scrambled with his covers and found himself oddly unable to get a good grip on them. After a bit of thrashing and kicking, Joey heard the blanket start to rip just before it gave out completely and dumped him in the floor in a pile of shredded bedding. He finally struggled free, stood, and looked down.

The first thing he noticed was that he’d torn the blanket and sheet to shreds somehow.

The second thing he noticed was that his pants were missing.

The third thing he noticed was that his legs didn’t look human.

He blinked slowly and glanced and the flimsy mirror hanging on the door. Sure enough, his reflection was not the one he was accustomed too. Gone was the scrawny, pale kid with greasy hair and a goofy grin. In his place stood a seven-foot monstrosity, an upright lizard thing with a flat, pointed head, little stubby arms, a thick tail, and creepy little yellow lizard eyes. Joey smiled at himself, and the monster in the mirror pulled its lips back to reveal a ghastly set of little razor teeth. Damned if he didn’t look like one of those dinosaurs from those Jurassic Park movies... what were they called? Rippers? Rappers? Whatever. Some kind of dinosaur.

He didn’t remember dropping acid the night before. He looked over at the bottom bunk where his roommate David usually slept, but David wasn’t there--only a huge puddle of some kind of shiny, mercurial ooze.

David was a small time drug dealer. Joey briefly wondered whether David had drugged him, but decided that no, if he’d taken something from David’s haphazard stash it was probably accidental. David had stuff squirreled away all over the place. Yes, that was probably it.

Concluding that he was in some kind of hallucinogenic altered state did not make trying to put pants on any easier. His little arms couldn’t really reach, and trying to manipulate his jeans with his now-clawed feet proved futile and disastrous as he ripped the jeans in half.

The air raid siren was still going full blast.

Joey decided that the worst that could happen would be for him to be thrown in the drunk tank and cited for public indecency if he went out. This was a party school and the campus cops tended to be pretty lenient as long as you didn’t hurt anyone. Besides, as weird as this trip was, he decided, he could very well be fully clothed and not even know it.

And dammit, he was hungry. His favorite place to eat was a cheap, sleazy little all-night place just off of campus that looked to be someone’s poorly renovated shack. It was about the only place he could probably go in this state; the owner knew him by now and would occasionally let him eat there with a promise to pay later, which he always did. Joey figured he was probably the only kid on campus who had a running tab not at a bar, but at a glorified hot dog stand.

He couldn’t get a grip on the doorknob.

After several minutes of scratching ineffectually at the doorknob with his absurd little hands (claws?), Joey finally gave up and went to the large, open window. David always kept it open--he claimed it was because he liked the breeze, but Joey thought it was probably so he could more easily hear any approaching cops. Their dorm room was on the second floor, but Joey was pretty sure he could make it down without much trouble.

His leap to the ground was far easier than he had anticipated. He hoped it wasn’t the drugs letting him think that.

The air raid siren was still blaring, and although there were usually quite a few students up and heading to class at this hour, Joey only saw a few people, most of them running. Some trash cans had been knocked over, and from there Joey followed a trail of huge, heavy footprints that something somehow left in the sidewalk to the side parking lot, where several cars had been overturned. He caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of his eye and looked to see a two-headed woman with enormous bat-like wings high in the air wrestling what looked like a large, pink bunny with long spindly arms, glowing red eyes, and enormous buck teeth.

He shook himself, and continued on.

His strangely altered legs seemed to carry him much faster than he’d ever been able to move before, and he arrived at Buster’s in record time. The radio was on as always, the announcer breathlessly going on about an explosion in the chemical factory nearby. Spontaneous mutations. Airborne contaminants. Rioting in town. Quarantine.

Joey flailed around for a moment and finally was able to ring the bell at the walk-up counter.

Buster herself came out of the back and into sight. A tough-looking woman with a military tattoo on her upper arm, she looked like her usual self except for the purple glow emanating from her body and two pitch-black voids where her eyes should be. She moved her head up and down as if inspecting Joey, but he couldn’t tell if she was actually seeing him.

“You wasn’t much to look at before, son, but you’re sure a right sight now,” she said. “Your usual?”

Apparently she could see. Or something. Joey tilted his head and regarded her curiously. “What do I look like?”

“You look like a giant lizard, kid. I’m surprised you can talk with a mouth like that. Guess you’re luckier than Davey-boy there,” she said, gesturing behind Joey.

He looked behind him. On the ground was the iridescent puddle from David’s bunk. It now had twigs and leaves sticking out of it, and what looked like a couple of cigarette butts.

“That’s David? Are you sure?” He paused and looked back at Buster. “I didn’t know you even knew David.”

“Didn’t. But I do now. Like I know you’re you even though you look like a giant lizard. Like I know you think you’re tripping on acid or some bullshit. Like I know you aren’t sure if you’re actually wearing pants or not. Just so you know, you’re not.”

Joey looked back at the puddle of David. It changed color to an iridescent, almost fluorescent green and shuddered. When he turned back to Buster she had a plate stacked  high with hot dogs, mustard and ketchup only, the way he liked them. She set the plate on the counter. “On the house, kid. I figure I got bigger problems coming than the cost of a few hot dogs.”

It was all real. Joey watched the puddle of David slide rapidly over the sidewalk, shuddering and sputtering and occasionally managing to eject some piece of debris. “I guess we all do,” he said.

Despite the panic threatening to claw its way out of him, he had to admit: the hot dogs were delicious.


  1. FLAIL WIDELY AND EAT HOT DOGS! Sounds like a good day to me.

  2. I love the David-puddle and the end description of it. (I certainly wasn't expecting it to be moving/conscious/sentient.)

    Nice take on the pic!

    I wish I could remember where I snapped the thing so I could go exploring.