Ant-Head; a Love Story – Prologue

What follows this short description is a prologue that popped into my head this morning, watching the ants scurry about my kitchen counter. There’s no actual story outlined yet, just a vague idea of a love story from a man who was once known as Ant-Head.

 

If you take the time to read this, please take a little more to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Some of this (very little admittedly) is based on real events. The teacher is real at least, though I changed her name.

 

Enjoy!

 

Note: the image used is not my own. I found it on Google.

 

 

*****************

 

 

Ant-Head; A Love Story

 

 

“There’s always someone better off than you and someone worse off than you. So that makes you the unloved middle child of life.”

 

-Tornado Chick

 

 

 

Prologue: The Origin of Ant-Head

 

1995

 

My name is Joe Plume, but when I was thirteen years old, going on fourteen, the seventh grader name Joe Plume assumed a new identity: Ant-Head. I still remember the day it happened, sitting in Mrs Payne’s reading class, reading Where The Red Fern Grows. I don’t remember it being such a great book, but I never did. Don’t get me wrong, I had always loved reading, just not when I was forced to do it. So I only half-assedly paid attention, praying Mrs Payne didn’t call on me to read a paragraph or two, since I had no idea where the last kid would’ve left off.

 

My hair did a weird thing when it grew: it grew upward, not out. Ever see Beavis and Butt-Head? I hadn’t since my mother had MTV blocked by then. But my classmates had, and I apparently had hair like Beavis, only brown and not yellow. My hair was tall on that day, tall because I was in desperate need of a haircut. But my parents were too lazy to throw me in the car and take me to the barber. That cut into the precious free time they used watching TV in separate rooms of the house.

 

I was thin too at the time, not the plump thirty-something man I am today. This was another trait exemplified by Beavis, my apparent animated doppelgänger whom I had never seen in action. I was probably thin because I didn’t eat much. This wasn’t because we were poor, but another lazy quirk of my parents. They didn’t shop or cook much, so I was left to my own devices on most nights to eat what I could scavenge from the kitchen. Ever eat a relish sandwich? That’s two pieces of bread with nothing but relish in the middle. I used to like them with the yellow relish, the stuff with mustard already mixed in. They called it “Hotdog Relish”, but we often didn’t have hotdogs I could microwave, so I had to eat it on its own. I was the only one who ate the stuff. At least my mom always made sure she got a jar or two when she did go shopping.

 

I think you can judge a lot about a person based on what sitcom families they relate to. I always liked Full House. I wanted a father like Danny Tanner and the loving family that he spearheaded. My father was a huge fan of Married With Children, and the comparison of my father to Al Bundy is uncanny, reveling in his own mediocrity. I have no idea what sitcom my mom enjoyed. I think Rosanne, but I never watched that one. I knew she enjoyed masturbation jokes. The one where they caught DJ masturbating was her favorite. Mom was crass like that. If I did have friends, I would’ve been embarrassed to have them over. 

 

But lets get back to the classroom on the fateful day in nineteen ninety-five.

 

I had a backpack lying next to my desk. In said backpack, was a folder. In said folder, was hundreds of pages of crudely drawn comics I had created. At that time in my life, I wanted to be comic writer slash artist. The stories were flat, the characters were weak, and the only motivation my villains had were that they were villains. As I said earlier: I loved reading. When I was thirteen, going on fourteen, I read mostly comic books. I say mostly, because teachers like Miss Payne would make us read shit like Where The Red Fern Grows.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Where The Red Fern Grows is a good book, maybe a great one. Every now and then I’ll pick up a book I was forced to read in school, and find it much more enjoyable now that I’m reading it for myself and not for some assignment. Watership Down is among my favorites, but when I read it in my sophomore year of high-school, I hated it. But I guess that happens.

 

Alright, enough about books and this shit. You wanted to know about how I became known as Ant-Head. That’s the problem with being the narrator of a story about yourself. You tend to get bogged down in details and memories, one linking another in a tapestry of attention deficit. 

 

And I’m doing it again… Sorry.

 

I forget how many students were in that class with me. At least twenty. Maybe more. Out of that entire class I spent the entire academic year with, I don’t think I ever counted one of them as a friend. Not one. It’s kind of sad, but i don’t feel sad about it. I was in love too. I forget which of the girls in class was the target of my affection at that time. I had a new one every week. If I learned anything from shows like Saved By The Bell, I only had to like a girl long enough for her to like me back. Then we’d kiss and stuff. Kissing seemed like fun. When we weren’t busy kissing, we’d hang out with my popular friends and their girlfriends.

 

Damn. I used to watch too much TV.

 

My head itched while I stared blankly at the words on the pages of Where The Red Fern Grows. Everyone in the class turned the page, so I turned mine in tandem to seem like I was reading too, hoping Mrs Payne didn’t catch on to my clever ruse. If the unthinkable happened and she called on me, I would have to pick up at the beginning of a random paragraph and hope it was the right one. If I was wrong, I would get laughed at, insulted by the cruel Mrs Payne, and be forced to sit silently while another picked up from the right spot, the feeling of hot embarrassment being my friend for the next few minutes. She’d be sure I was next to read after that.

 

I wasn’t dumb. I don’t think I was anyway. I was a C or D average student. My mother would say my low grades were because I was bored in school. I guess she shed that presumption later on. When it was time to start thinking about college, the notion was forbidden. Seemed like it would be a waste of time and money. Besides, they’d have to be bothered with driving me there maybe, and we can’t have that. I wanted to write slash draw comics, but they squashed that notion too. It was trade school for Joe Plume, son of mediocrity in motion. I can’t complain now. It had led me to a pretty fruitful life, if only a bit lonely.

 

But I’m way ahead of my seventh grade reading class now. Let’s be kind and rewind back to the nineties.

 

My head itched, so I tried to scratch it covertly. The last thing I needed was to let someone see me do something as lame as scratching an itch. When I pulled my hand away, something black fell onto the page of the book, eliciting a small click only I heard. I didn’t knock it off the page. I stared at it, wondering what it was. Then it moved, scurrying across the page and onto my desk in a panic. it was a big, black ant. Not those small ones that may have gone unnoticed. It was big, black, and noticeable. 

 

I felt more itching in my Beavis-like hair. I scratched some more, pulling my hand out with another ant clutched between my fingers. Horrified yet fascinated by the contents of my hair during Mrs Payne’s reading class, I ran my fingers forward, letting the ants fall from my hair onto the book and my desk, unaware that I was being watched. I didn’t even hear the whispers and snickers at first.

 

You might be asking how this could have happened. The answer is simple yet stupid. We had our lunches outside that day. We were too old for recess, but we were allowed to have outside lunch on days the weather was nice. As the other kids ate and talked and made long-lasting friendships, I was lying on the ground, staring in the sky, no doubt day dreaming of one of my mediocre comic book creations fighting his one-dimensional villain. I must have done this unaware that ants live in the ground.

 

“Joe!” Mrs Payne snapped, her ugly face turning toward me. God, she was so ugly. I’ve never seen, or have seen since then, a woman with teeth of that shade of gray. “What on earth is your problem?!”

 

She was a huge bitch too, by the way.

 

All eyes were on me, and it was only now that I was fully aware of it. I looked away from that ugly mug of my reading teaching to my desk, where the ants were scattering about, their temporary home in my hair disturbed by my obtrusive fingers. I didn’t answer Mrs Payne, despite her evil glare. The answer should have been obvious. What kind of educational figure couldn’t deduce that I had a head full of ants?

 

“Ew!” Kelly Jacob, a one-time receiver of my secret desires, exclaimed. “Joe’s got ants in his head!”

 

“Ant-Head!” Mikey shouted from two rows behind her, eliciting laughter from those around him for his sentence fragment. I heard he became a gas station attendant or something, becoming unemployed when the place where he worked got bought out by Stop N’ Shop. God, I hope that’s true.

 

Mrs Payne sent me from her classroom to go to the bathroom. I don’t know what she hoped I’d accomplish as I left to the jubilation of my classmates. I went to the bathroom, trying like crazy in front of the bathroom sink to get the ants out of my hair. There were a lot. I didn’t bother killing them as they fell into the sink or the floor. They did nothing wrong to elicit death under my fingers. The bell rang as I was working, and my class moved on to math class on the second floor. Nobody grabbed my stuff for me. When I returned to Mrs Payne’s classroom after getting reamed by my math teacher for being late without any my materials, I found an empty room. Mrs Payne was likely on lunch, and I was grateful for that at least.

 

My classmates didn’t ignore my stuff completely. They had been sure to smash the ants into the pages of Where The Red Fern Grows before leaving all my stuff behind. I take that back. My math book was missing from my backpack. Someone had made off with it for no reason. My mother had to shell out thirty bucks for a new copy, which would have to be paid back from my birthday money, aging being the only paying job I had at the time. Thankfully, my comics had been untouched. It was still another year until they would be found, eliciting years worth of torment over what was labeled as “pornographic art” by the school in a letter to my parents. Yes, I loved to draw the female form in all its nude glory, and that’s what they fixated on.

 

Who knows where this forgotten talent would’ve taken me if not forcefully discouraged.

 

But I’m getting ahead of myself again. I guess the moral of this story, this prologue anyway, is that from that day forward; the rest of middle school, high-school, and even after, I had been known as Ant-Head. The story would be repeated many times, told to those who weren’t there so they could repeat as if they were. A part of Joseph Plume had died that day, giving birth to the boy would would be known as Ant-Head.

 

This is my story.

The Disney Triple Feature

 
Budgie’s Disney Triple-Feature
 
Disclaimer:
Disney has not given permission for these stories to be posted, nor have they been asked. They also have not acknowledged Budgie Bigelow as a writer of any kind, even though he wrote them the definitive sequel to Frozen.
 
***
 
Part One:
The Disney Breakroom
 
 
Andy Mullins sat in the Disney World employee breakroom. The head of his Sophia The First costume sat on the table next to his ham and cheese sandwich. Jon entered next, removing the head of his Dale costume and tossing it onto a nearby chair.
 
“Fuckin’ rash,” Jon said, scratching his crotch.
 
“You alright?” Andy asked.
 
“Yeah,” Jon replied, “but there’s an Ariel in the park who needs to get herself checked.”
 
Andy ignored the comment, continuing to eat his lunch.
 
“I have a system,” Jon said. “Check this out.” He pulled his left arm into the torso of his chipmunk costume, letting the sleeve and hand hang dead. “I’m scratching myself right now, and nobody knows!”
 
“I know,” Andy said. “Plus, I can see the costume moving where your hand is.”
 
“But it’s genius, right?” Jon said. “I just have to use my right hand to sign Dale’s autograph and shit.”
 
“Congrats,” Andy said. “You’ve devised a method to be constantly touching yourself while being hugged by children.”
 
“It’s not like I’m Clyde or anything,” Jon said. He sat down near Andy and looked around. “Hi Kyle.”
 
Andy had to suppress a cringe. He had ignored the fact that Kyle had been in the breakroom with him. The last thing he wanted was to be drawn into a conversation.
 
Kyle nodded. He was one of the operators of Splash Mountain, and he had been told numerous times to keep his opinions on the inside while around park guests, and Andy wished he did the same around the employees. Luckily, Kyle had been quiet.
 
“What’s on your mind?” Jon asked, not bothering to hide his growing smile. Andy sighed, knowing what was coming.
 
“Did you see the new Snow White they got working up by the Tea Cups?” Kyle asked in his southern drawl. “Damn half-spook. Snow White is supposed to be pure. It’s in her name for God’s sake!”
 
“Preach!” Jon exclaimed.
 
“Please don’t,” Andy muttered, wishing he had gone to a different breakroom. This never happened in the one in Tomorrowland.
 
“I’m not trying to be racist,” Kyle continued. “I’m just sayin’ they should stick to their own model.”
 
Jon laughed as Andy ate his sandwich, intent to ignore what was going on around him.
 
“And don’t get me started on all the race mixers in the park!” Kyle shouted, slamming a fist on the table.
 
“Oh, let’s get you started,” Jon said.
 
Andy nearly got up and left when Jackie entered the breakroom, still dressed as Cinderella. Andy had always had a crush on her, so he stayed. He looked at her, hoping to be drawn into a conversation with her while Jon and Kyle discussed race mixing.
 
“Fuckin’ horny-ass fucks!” Jackie exclaimed. “Some lame-ass dad just told me he wants to finger me!”
 
“No shit?!” Jon said, turning away from Kyle to become engaged in what was a more worthwhile endeavor. “You serious?”
 
“Yeah!” Jackie said, sitting down hard near him and Andy. “His daughter was right there too. He tried to brag about some book he wrote about Cinderella and a demon.”
 
“Really?” Jon asked. “Who was he?”
 
“I don’t know,” Jackie said. “Pudgy something. You should’ve seen his wife, eye-ballin’ me like a salt lick.”
 
“Damn,” Andy said.
 
“Fuckin’ pervs,” Jackie said. “This shit happens three times a week, I swear.”
 
“How’s the acting gig going?” Andy asked, hoping to get her mind off of the dad who asked to finger her.
 
“Shitty,” Jackie said, crossing her arms. “I’m here all the fuckin’ time, acting like Cinderella with no Prince Charming to dog-fuck me in a pumpkin carriage. Maybe I can ask to be Sleeping Beauty. I can do it realistically if they just let me nap in that fake castle.”
 
“I bet guys would try to kiss you awake,” Andy said, trying to be funny.
 
“I bet that pervert dad would slip his dick in your mouth while you slept,” Jon said. 
 
“Hey!” Jackie said, slapping Jon’s shoulder. She was laughing, and Andy felt the familiar pang of jealousy. He just hoped he wouldn’t see her scratching whatever Jon was spreading around from her crotch the next morning.
 
Jackie opened her mouth to say something else, but the door opened again, and Clyde walked in, carrying a paper-bag lunch in his left hand and his piglet head in the other.  He was nearly bald, had a double chin, and a neck full of acne and skintags. He sat in the corner, away from everyone else. He silently took an unwrapped sandwich from the bag and started eating.
 
“How is he still working here?” Jackie asked in a hushed voice. “How many times has Disney covered up what he’s been up to?”
 
Andy shrugged. “It pays to be related to the right people,” he said. It was a known fact that Clyde had an uncle high up in Disney management. Clyde was the black sheep of the family, but he was still gainfully employed as a character, even though his child molestation had been covered up multiple times.
 
“Guy makes me sick to my cock,” Jon said. “Wish he’d just die already.”
 
“I can hear every word you three are saying,” Clyde said, staring at the table.
 
“Good!” Jon shouted, standing up. “Kill yourself!”
 
“You hear that?” Jackie added.
 
“Fuckin’ kid toucher,” Kyle added, standing up. “I can’t even stand to be in this room with you.” He left the room, slamming the door shut. Clyde continued eating his lunch as if nothing had happened.
 
The door opened again and Jeff, Andy’s supervisor, stuck his head in. “You almost done?” he asked. “Sophia is supposed to be at the Nick Junior lunch in five minutes.”
 
“Yeah,” Andy sighed. He tossed out what remained of his lunch and stood up. He grabbed his Sophia head and walked toward the door.
 
“Have fun, Sophia,” Jon said.
 
“Don’t scratch your dick off,” Andy said, flipping Jon off as he left. “Later, Jackie.”
 
“See ya,” Jackie said.
 
Clyde looked up at Andy as he left.
 
“Kill yourself, Clyde,” Andy said, opening the door to follow Jeff.
 
“You know Andy wants to fuck you, right?” was the last thing Andy heard Jon say to Jackie before he closed the door and put on his Sophia head.
 
****
 
Part Two:
The Funeral of Mickey Mouse; starring Budgie Bigelow
 
 
Budgie held his daughter’s hand as the funeral procession passed, moving toward Cinderella’s castle on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. He wasn’t sure what to expect when they were told the funeral of Mickey Mouse was going to take place just two days earlier. He didn’t even know why Disney offed their most beloved character out of the blue.
 
“Is Mikey Mouse in that box?” Budgie’s six year old daughter asked as the black casket wheeled past them. It was a closed casket, suggesting Mickey had died the most gruesome of deaths. Disney hadn’t yet released the details. They only said he had died.
 
“Yes,” Budgie replied, holding back his own tears as his daughter sobbed. He was more sad for her than anything else. She hadn’t lost anyone close to her yet, and the first she’d learn about death and funerals was at Mickey’s funeral three days into their eight day stay. He silently cursed Disney for pulling this stunt during her first trip to Disney World. His daughter sobbed louder and harder as the coffin passed, sitting atop a white carriage pulled by a single black horse. Budgie’s wife, Melanie, rubbed their daughter’s back.
 
All of the characters were in attendance to say goodbye to Mickey: Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Chip, Dale, all of them. They bowed their heads as the coffin passed, there was no jubilation or waving from any of them as the crowd of people watched, silent save the crying children. 
 
The coffin finally passed the gates of Cinderella’s castle as the people baked in the hot Florida sun. The widow Minnie Mouse, wearing a black dress complete with a veil, mimed sobbing as Daisy Duck comforted her, patting her back as she buried her face in her large, white-gloved hands.
 
Budgie didn’t understand why Disney did this. Maybe they wanted to teach kids about the suddenness and the finality of death. Maybe the influence of Marvel comics made them decide to take this route, and they were planning on somehow bringing him back from the dead for some publicity stunt. Only one thing was certain during the long, hot, sad funeral of Mickey Mouse: the Bigelow family vacation had been ruined.
 
Donald Duck gave a eulogy. It sounded heartfelt, but Budgie couldn’t understand most of the words. When he was done speaking, he hugged Minnie, who held him tight. Goofy came next, giving Minnie a hug as Donald rested his head on Daisy’s shoulder. He didn’t say anything after the embrace was broken. He simply put his hand on Mickey’s coffin and bowed his head.
 
The funeral ended with Mikey’s coffin being carted away, surrounded by his best of friends. There were no fireworks or announcements afterward. Silence filled the park as everyone made their way toward the exit. It was the middle of the day, but Budgie saw no point in staying, and it looked like the bulk of Disney’s guests felt the same way. There would be no joy in riding the Teacups, Splash Mountain, It’s a Small World, or even that lame Winnie the Pooh ride.
 
Budgie and his family waited for the shuttle to take them back to their hotel. Melanie held their daughter, exhausted and likely dehydrated from crying. He didn’t want to subject her to the torture of Mikey’s funeral, but his wife insisted that they shouldn’t miss it. He could tell by the look in her face that she knew she had been wrong. He knew they’d talk about it after a while, but the emotional wound was just too fresh.
 
Mickey Mouse was dead, and the Bigelow family vacation was at a premature end.
 
***
 
Part 3: Back
 
 
Walt Disney opened his eyes.
 
“Good morning, sir,” a voice said. Walt sat up. The man speaking to him wore a white lab coat. The name tag said “Todd” under his name was a location: “Mumbai, India”.
 
“What?” Walt said, gaining his bearings. He flexed his fingers. His joints were sore, but the aches were fading. “Where am I?”
 
“You’re back,” Tood replied, a smile spreading across his pale, white, bespectacled face.
 
“Back,” Walt said. Realization finally came to him. “You took me out of the tank.”
 
“Yes,” Todd said. “You’ve been thawed.”
 
“So medical science found a cure?” Walt asked.
 
“That’s right,” Todd said. “You no longer have super-syphilis, and your heart’s been repaired.”
 
“And my wife?” Walt asked.
 
Todd looked confused and started flipping through papers on a clipboard. “I don’t think she was frozen,” Todd said.
 
“Thank God,” Walt said. He got off the gurney, wobbling a bit. He realized he was still nude from his thawing. “Oh my.”
 
Todd handed him a white robe with Mickey Mouse on the front left. Walt looked at his creation and smiled. “So you’re still around,” he said. “After all these… What year is it anyway?”
 
“It’s twenty-sixteen,” Todd replied. “You’ve been frozen for more than fifty years.”
 
“It’s a new century,” Walt said, beaming. “What of my park? Are we still doing the impossible?”
 
“We are,” Todd said. “Once you feel up for it, you’re more than welcome to visit and have a tour. I think you’ll love it more than ever now.”
 
“Thank you,” Walt said. “Get me a meal and a whore. I want to see the park as soon as I’m done with both.”
 
“No problem,” Todd said, turning to have Walt’s will be done.
 
“Oh, and Todd?” Walt asked.
 
Todd turned back toward Walt.
 
“Make sure the whore is dressed like Snow White.”
 
***
 
After Walt ate his meal and plowed his whore, he set out for Disney World along with his tour guide, Vincent, who wore a white golf shirt with Mickey Mouse on the pocket. His name tag bragged that he was from Niger, Africa. He was bald, white, and obese.
 
“We’re constantly changing per your original vision,” Vincent said. “We’re initiating new innovations every year. Technology has come a long way since nineteen sixty-six.”
 
“I can see that,” Walt said, walking past a big screen showing images of the rides in Tomorrowland. 
 
“And within the last ten years, we’ve started Utlra-Disney,” Vincent said, nearly standing on the balls of his feet.
 
“What’s that?” Walt asked. “That doesn’t sound like one of my ideas.”
 
“It’s a new concept the government sponsored,” Vincent replied. “It’s Disney World, but for the super wealthy. There’s an underground system of transportation that brings you to the front of every line, the best table services at our restaurants, and all of the Disney Princesses are prostitutes, all comped of course.”
 
“Of course,” Walt said, looking around. “What are those scooters those large people are riding in? Boy, those sure are jazzy.”
 
“Oh,” Vincent said, looking around. “Those are for handicapped people, but most of them are for the overly obese.”
 
“Overly obese?!” Walt said, staring daggers into Vincent. “That’s absurd! Walk your blubber off or get out of my park! In my day you wouldn’t leave the bed if you were so fat you couldn’t even put one foot in front of the other!”
 
Vincent sighed. “I agree,” he said, “but we have to cater to them as if they were disabled. It’s a new era of political correctness. What you said, though completely correct, can be considered hate speech nowadays.”
 
Walt scoffed, looking around. “And what’s with all these race mixers?” he asked.
 
“Let me get you something cold to drink, Mr. Disney,” Vincent said. He saw a booth for refreshments and ran off. Walt watched him, thinking about how Vincent would likely be in one of those jazzy scooters before long.
 
“A guide,” Walt said. “Since when do I need a guide in my own park?” He turned and walked away, venturing into Disney World through the thick crowd of guests.
 
***
 
Walt walked through the Magic Kingdom, taking in the sites of his park. The rides had certainly grown bigger, but the spirit of his park was still there. He eventually visited the other parks as well, making his way to Hollywood Studios. Parents and children alike could spend days with each other, going from place to place as a loving family.
 
“You’re going on Star Tours again if I say your are!” a father shouted at his son, who had to be less than ten years old. He was grasping him by the shoulder, digging his thumb into his tendon.
 
“I don’t want to go back!” the boy sobbed. “The ride hurts my head!”
 
“You’re going back on,” the father said through gritted teeth, finally relinquishing his grip to drag the boy by his wrist. “And don’t you dare cry. I’ll beat you in front of God and everyone here if you get me kicked out of line!”
 
Walt watched in disgust as the boy was dragged back into line for whatever Star Tours was. There was a waving robot near the sign, so he assumed it was some kind of animatronic show. He walked away from the scene, wandering into one of the many souvenir shops that adorned Disney World. He walked in to find a mother, fat as those on the jazzy scooters, dragging her daughter by her arm.
 
“Do you think we’re made of money?!” the woman spat. “You already have too many stuffed animals. I’m not getting you nothing!”
 
The little girl cried, dropping the stuffed Pooh doll onto the floor. Walt picked it up and brought it to the cashier, ready to pay for it and give it to the girl himself. “Just this?” the bubbly, red-headed girl, named Jill from Jamaica, at the register asked.
 
“Just that,” Walt said, smiling. He pulled his wallet out with the cash he was given to spend at the park. 
 
“That’s twenty-seven fifty-nine,” Jill said.
 
“Twenty-seven dollars?” Walt said. “For a stuffed toy?”
 
“And fifty-nine cents,” Jill added.
 
“Never mind,” Walt said, closing his wallet. “Let the brat cry.”
 
Walt left the gift shop and spotted the mother and daughter just outside. He walked passed, wanting to ignore their argument, but it was much too loud.
 
“I want that fuckin’ Pooh!” the little girl shouted, stomping her feet.
 
“Well you’re not getting it!”  the mother spat back, now texting on her phone. “Stop acting like a little butthole, and maybe you wouldn’t have been pulled out of line when you went to see Jasmine.”
 
The girl screamed, as the mother put her phone to her ear. “Hello?” she said. “Yeah, that’s Sandy. She’s being a little fuckin’ brat right now.”
 
Walt ignored both the mother and child and tried to find his way back to the Magic Kingdom and Vincent or Todd. He had had enough of his own park.
 
***
 
“Are you sure?” Todd asked as Walt stripped bare.
 
“I’m sure,” Walt said. “Freeze me again, and don’t unfreeze me until kids and parents respect each other, fat people exercise instead of riding those scooters, and people put down those damn devices start behaving themselves.”
 
“Godspeed,” Todd said grimly.
 
“Oh yeah,” Walt said, climbing into the metal cylinder that was going to refreeze his body. “Make sure Mickey Mouse is killed off. These people don’t deserve him anymore. He’s better off dead.”
 
Vincent nodded. “It will be done as you ask, sir,” he said. “It was an honor to meet you, if only for a single afternoon.”
 
“Maybe you’ll see me again,” Walt said as the top of this cryogenic tube closed. “If people become better, I will return. Goodbye for now.”
 
And he was never seen again.

Dumping Taylor Swift; a story by Budgie Bigelow, starring Budgie Bigelow

Dumping Taylor Swift
A story by Budgie Bigelow, starring Budgie Bigelow
 
The following is a work of “fiction”:
 
***
 
Prologue: OK. Let’s get you all up to speed.
 
FEBRUARY 2018
 
Budgie Bigelow turned the water off and stepped out of the huge shower. He walked toward the mirror over the sink and wiped at the condensation with his hand so he could see his reflection. He left his glasses on the nightstand, so he was blurry.
 
“Who are you?” Budgie asked his reflection. He watched his silent self, wondering why it wasn’t answering. He once knew the answer to that question, but so much had changed over the course of the last eighteen months. 
 
It all started with an email. A production company got ahold of an ebook he wrote called Askharoth, and they were very interested in buying the rights and filming. Around the same time, a pilot for his sitcom, Freedom Lane, was made, and a bidding war for the show ensued once it was passed around. A deal was reached, bringing Budgie and his wife and daughter from Connecticut to Hollywood to write and produce with the company who wanted him so badly while the movie based on his book was filmed.
 
Things went from good to bad as he put in long days to get the show out. He promised his family and himself that Hollywood wouldn’t change him back at the end of twenty-sixteen, but that wasn’t how things worked on the West Coast. He was meeting celebrities, hobnobbing, partying, and everything in between. Things got worse after Askharoth premiered to glorious reviews from both fans and critics.
 
Budgie’s wife, Melanie, returned to Connecticut. She filed for divorce as soon as her plane touched down in Hartford. Their daughter went with her. All he had was a note about how he had changed, and they weren’t willing to change with him. She wished him well and only asked for what she needed for their daughter. He couldn’t decide if she was being noble or passive-aggressive, so he agreed to it along with some extra to help her out as she started her old life anew on the opposite side of the country.
 
Budgie spiraled after his wife left. How could he not? The woman he counted as his soulmate had left him after an almost twenty year relationship. The two had dated since they were nineteen, and it was over a little over a year after he signed the contract to put Askharoth on the big screen. The months that followed were lonely, so it was no wonder he had done what he had just done.
 
“You showered fast,” Taylor Swift said, coming into the huge bathroom of her mansion, wearing nothing but Budgie’s Vagabond Saints tee-shirt. “I was coming to join you.”
 
“Then why’d you put my shirt on?” Budgie asked.
 
Taylor giggled. “It smells like you,” she said. 
 
Budgie smiled, not knowing where to go from here. He had met Taylor by chance a week earlier. The two were at the same ass-kissing charity event, and he had ended up at the bar the same time as she did. “Give me a Captain and Diet Coke,” he said. Budgie felt out of place and only knew a few people (who were too busy networking to talk). Melanie was always the one who initiated mingling at parties, and he was lost without her.
 
“Make that two,” Taylor said, coming up on his left side. He recognized who she was immediately, but he’d never admit it. The bartender nodded, grabbed two glasses, and started making the drinks.
 
“You’re a Captain Morgan girl?” Budgie asked, already tipsy.
 
“Sometimes,” Taylor said. “I just never know what to order, so I follow guys to the bar and ask for the same thing they just got. It makes things easier.”
 
Budgie didn’t know if she was joking or not, and it took him a moment to start laughing. Taylor paused before laughing too. “I’m Taylor,” she said.
 
“Hi,” Budgie said, lightly shaking Taylor’s slender and soft hand. “I’m Budgie. Nice to meet you.”
 
The drinks were placed in front of them, the dark brown liquid fizzed as the bartender dropped a small slice of lime in each. Taylor picked her’s up and took a sip through the straw. She winced and shivered. Budgie laughed again. “Not used to rum?” he asked.
 
“Is that what’s in Captain Morgan?” Taylor asked, looking at her glass.
 
The two had a short conversion about the party. Taylor was pulled away by some Hollywood big shot who wanted a picture, and Budgie went back into the background. He wasn’t famous enough to be known by site and be pulled away for publicity photos.
 
They ran into each other again in a coffee shop on a lukewarm February day, living the cliché. Taylor had her hair tied back and wore a hat and sunglasses in an effort to be able to go out without the paparazzi snapping her photo. She had to pull her dark aviator sunglasses down to show Budgie who she was. She seemed much different in street clothes rather than the party dress she was wearing the first time they had met.
 
“You on your way to something good?” Taylor asked, sitting across from Budgie at one of the small coffee shop tables. 
 
“Just listening to some voice actors put speech to my sitcom,” Budgie said. “Standard animation thing I’m guessing.”
 
“Oh, you’re doing a cartoon?” Taylor asked. “I love those. Think you can get me a guest star part?”
 
“I don’t know,” Budgie said thinking. “I’m sure there’s a character somewhere you can voice. I did write an episode where two of my characters run into you at a concert.”
 
“Really?” Taylor asked. “What happens?”
 
“One of them threatens to strip off your skin you and use it as a condom,” Budgie said.
 
Taylor looked shocked, then she started laughing. “You’re sick,” she said.
 
Budgie shrugged. “That’s what I hear,” he said. “Sorry. The stuff I write is a little dark sometimes.”
 
“It’s OK,” Taylor said, taking a sip of her iced latte. “I like a little dark.”
 
They decided to meet up after their respective appointments, and Taylor had made herself up in the short time since their coffee. They had a quick dinner at a dark and private restaurant, and Taylor’s driver took them back to her house when they were done. The two got rambunctious in the back of the limo, making out and grabbing at each other. When they got back to her bedroom, they had made love in a frenzy.
 
Taylor looked at Budgie now, staring at his eyes while wearing his shirt. He knew what that look meant. It meant that she didn’t want him to leave. He didn’t get her attraction to him. He wasn’t tall, fit, or handsome by Hollywood standards. He wasn’t even as rich as her former boyfriends the tabloids constantly listed.
 
Budgie kissed Taylor, and she returned the gesture, leaning into him. “Do you need to go?” she asked when she pulled way, confirming Budgie’s theory.
 
Budgie thought about it. If he left, he’d have to head back to his house, small compared to the one Taylor lived in by herself. He would climb into his king-sized bed by himself and stare at the ceiling until his eyes got too heavy to stay open. He still wasn’t sure how he actually felt about Taylor, but spending the night in her mansion definitely felt like the lesser of two evils.
 
“I don’t need to go,” Budgie said. “I’ll stay the night if you’ll have me.”
 
Taylor smiled and kissed Budgie again. She took him by the hand and walked him back toward her bed.
 
 
Chapter 1: Budgie is dating Taylor Swift now. Deal with it.
 
Days passed since Budgie’s first real tryst with Taylor Swift. He went to work getting Freedom Lane ready for its series premiere in the spring. He tried not to read his texts of answer his emails while he did this. Askharoth was up for multiple Oscars, including best picture, and Budgie didn’t want to jinx it by being wished luck too many times. He’s superstitious like that.
 
“Hey, Budge,” a voice said from the doorway to Budgie’s office. It was Harvey Pitsberg, who told everyone his name was “like the city, except spelled how the Jews spell it”. He was overseeing Freedom Lane’s transition from non-existence to animated sitcom. He wasn’t exactly Budgie’s boss. He’d probably be considered a partner who can make or break the show and Budgie’s career. 
 
“Hey, Harvey,” Budgie said. “What’s up? You get the new scripts?”
 
“The editors are pouring over them as we speak,” Harvey said. He was bald with a bad combover, brown as if he’d spent a couple minutes too long in the tanning bed, and wore small, circular glasses on top of his nose. He was exactly how Budgie imagined Hollywood producer types before he was out there. “But that’s not why I’m here.”
 
“What can I do for you?” Budgie asked, feigning politeness. He hated the way Harvey liked to tease a conversation before getting into it.
 
“I want to know who you’re bringing to the Oscars,” Harvey said, smiling a set of whitened teeth. “You thinking of anyone?”
 
“Not really,” Budgie said. He knew what Harvey wanted: confirmation that he was dating Taylor Swift. He probably had TMZ on hold in his office.
 
The truth was Budgie planned on going to the Oscars alone. He negotiated to be a producer on the film, and he was eligible to take home the statue if it won best picture. He was allowed a plus-one on his invitation, but he hadn’t thought of bringing anyone. He still imagined Melanie there, sitting next to him and clapping politely whether he won or lost.
 
“I’m sure there’s someone you have in mind,” Harvey said. “There’s nobody you’d want on your arm while you walk the red carpet?”
 
Budgie sighed. “Is TMZ on the phone right now?” he asked.
 
Harvey laughed. “Come on,” he pleaded. “Do you have any idea the favor they’d owe me if I got you to admit you’re dating Taylor Swift?!”
 
“You’re going to owe me a gigantic favor,” Budgie said. “Yes, I’m currently…dating… Taylor Swift.”
 
“And you’re taking her to the Oscars?” Harvey asked. “They specifically want to know -”
 
“I haven’t asked her,” Budgie said. “You want me to call her right now and ask her to go with me before you leak the story and your shorts?!”
 
“Can you?” Harvey asked, folding his hands in front of him. He pushed out his bottom lip like a gigantic, ugly baby.
 
“Shit,” Budgie said, picking his cellphone up from his desk. “I see why Manny stayed in Jersey.”
 
***
 
Budgie climbed off of Taylor after completing his mediocre orgasm after love-making he’d put somewhere in the category of nailing a deflated blowup doll with bones and fake tits. He remembered the first time with Taylor being spectacular, but the combination of booze and desperation had probably made it feel better than it was. The more they did it, the less work Taylor put in. He couldn’t even get her to flip over this time. What’s the point of a prosthetic ass of you don’t let your boyfriend bounce off it a bit?
 
“What are you thinking about?” Taylor asked, draping her arm on Budgie’s chest.
 
“This,” Budgie lied, pulling her close. He was mainly thinking about how bad his dick was going to hurt after the toothy blow job she had given him. It felt like he was face-fucking a rabid beaver.
 
“I can’t wait for the Oscars,” Taylor said. “I think I already know what I want to wear.”
 
“That’s nice,” Budgie said with a yawn. The last thing he wanted to do was talk about the Oscars, which were less than a week away.
 
“Do you think you’ll win?” Taylor asked.
 
Budgie didn’t answer. He didn’t want to jinx it with a yes or a no. “I can’t talk about it,” he said. “Sorry, but I’m superstitious when it comes to this stuff. I used to always think that Freedom Lane would never be made if I kept thinking about it being made. I know, it’s silly.”
 
“But it will be awesome if you win!” Taylor said.
 
Budgie groaned. He wondered how much of what he just said she had actually heard. “I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.
 
“OK,” Taylor said, sounding a little upset. “I can take your mind off it.” She started kissing his neck and moving her hands onto his body. Soon after, they were making love again.
 
Budgie wished they had talked about the Oscars instead.
 
***
 
Budgie and Taylor were having dinner the night before the Oscars. News of their relationship was out thanks to a story from an anonymous source on TMZ, so they didn’t have to sneak out in secret. Budgie never understood why Taylor had a need to keep things quiet until they were leaked. 
 
Taylor was no longer bringing up the Oscars per Budgie’s request. Instead, she was asking him about something he equally didn’t want to talk about. “So, do you hear from your ex-wife much?” Taylor asked, between dinner and dessert.
 
“Not really,” Budgie answered. 
 
Taylor picked up on his discomfort. “I’m sorry for bringing it up,” Taylor said. “Talking about the breakup helps. Heartbreak is the national anthem. We sing it proudly.”
 
Budgie snapped out of his brief memories of the good times with his wife. “What?” he asked. “Where’d you get that? ‘Heartbreak is the national anthem’? It most certainly is not.”
 
“It’s from my song, ‘New Romantics’,” Taylor replied.
 
“And you definitely shouldn’t be proud of how many times you’ve been dumped,” Budgie said. “Holy shit. That’s a real song lyric of your?!”
 
Taylor looked away, and Budgie wished he hadn’t said anything. He didn’t even know why he was being a dick. Maybe he was more annoyed with Taylor bringing up his wife than he let on. “Sorry,” she said. “I just know what it’s like breaking up.”
 
Budgie sighed. She wasn’t wrong. She was in the news enough for getting dumped by a who’s who of DJs, musicians, actors, and rich politician kids. He made a mental note to get himself checked out for STDs. 
 
“I’m sorry,” Budgie said. “I guess the wounds of losing my wife are still fresh, fresher than I thought.”
 
“It’s alright,” Taylor said, smiling and putting her hand on top of his. “I’ll stick around for a bit and help you out.”
 
“Thanks,” Budgie said, not knowing how he felt about her sticking around.
 
“Do you know of any Oscar after parties?” Taylor asked. “I bet you’ll want to party pretty hard after you get your statue.”
 
Budgie sighed, biting his tongue and holding back the stream of obscenities begging to burst from his mouth. He turned his head and saw someone walking through the restaurant. “Holy shit,” he said.
 
“What?” Taylor said, looking around.
 
“It’s fuckin’ Loki!” Budgie said, starstruck.
 
“Who?” Taylor asked.
 
Budgie was up as Tom Hiddleston walked past his table. “Hi,” he said. “I’m sorry, but I’m a huge fan of the Avengers. You were great in that and the Thor movies.”
 
“Thank you,” Tom said. He glanced at Taylor, who had not gotten up. “Good to see you.”
 
Taylor crossed her arms and looked away. “Tom,” she said.
 
Tom looked back to Budgie. “I saw your film,” he said. “The whole thing from the villain’s point of view was brilliant. I’d love to work with you if you have anything else like that up your sleeve.”
 
“Hey, it’s Hollywood,” Budgie said. “Have your guy call my guy. Can I snap a quick pic?”
 
“Sure,” Tom said, smiling as if he was hoping he could go eat soon. Budgie pulled out his phone from his pocket and took a selfie with Tom.
 
“Thanks,” Budgie said.
 
“No problem,” Tom said, moving away. “Enjoy your night.”
 
“You too,” Budgie said, sitting down. “What a great guy. I’m putting that pic right up on my Instagram.”
 
“I used to date him, you know,” Taylor said, visibly annoyed, “but you must’ve not known, being new to Hollywood and all.”
 
“Oh, I knew,” Budgie said, punching the face of his phone to post the picture, “but it’s fuckin’ Loki!”
 
“The tabloids are going to love that picture, by the way,” Taylor said, frowning. “I can’t wait.”
 
“Fuckin’ Loki,” Budgie said, finishing his post and putting his phone away again. “What were we talking about?”
 
 
Chapter 2: The Oscars are, always were, and always will be bullshit.
 
Oscar night came un-climatically. Taylor spent four hours getting ready while Budgie typed on his iPad, putting his suit on fifteen minutes before the arrival of their limo. Her fake body parts looked spectacular in the tiny dress she wore, and Budgie didn’t regret letting her stick around so much.
 
”Ready?” Taylor asked, holding Budgie’s hand as they left her mansion for the waiting limo.
 
”Ready,” Budgie replied.
 
Budgie was not ready.
 
The red carpet was a brand new Hell. He had dealt with this during the premiere of Askharoth, but the fanfare was much smaller. He was still mostly unknown then, and nobody thought his movie was going to do as well as it had. There was that, and he hadn’t had a pop music super-diva on his arm.
 
They were stopped every few minutes to pose for pictures from every tabloid, celebrity “news” show, and various internet sites. Budgie hadn’t even heard of half of them, and he was doing his best of feign interest in the constant snapping of pictures and requests to answer a few questions. Taylor seemed to be loving it.
 
“It gets easier,” a voice said to his side. He turned to see Bradley Cooper, who was up for Best Supporting Actor as Henry Charmont in Askharoth. 
 
“Thanks, Brad,” Budgie said, shaking his hand. He was aware of the cameras snapping their pictures, but he was trying to be as calm as Bradley was. 
 
“Nice pull, by the way,” Bradley said, nodding toward Taylor, who was talking up some interviewer about being there with someone up for Best Picture and comparing it to her many Grammy wins. “She tried to get me a while back, but I turned her down. I don’t need that kind of drama. She sent me the filthiest texts though. You should be having fun.”
 
“Thanks,” Budgie said. Taylor came over to them, gave Bradley a small smile, and the two walked away as the interviewer was asking him about being nominated again.
 
“He’s such a jerk,” Taylor whispered, “always talking about how I tried to do him. It’s such bullshit. I hope whatever movie he’s in doesn’t win a damn thing.”
 
“For fuck’s sake, Taylor!” Budgie snapped. “He’s in my movie!”
 
***
 
The actual show wasn’t much better than the clusterfuck of the long walk down the red carpet. Budgie sat with his stomach turning over itself. He was happy Taylor was there, even though he hadn’t talked to her much after her cursing of Bradley Cooper. He gripped her hand hard during the three plus hour show, especially when a category for which Askharoth had been nominated had been presented.
 
Askharoth had won quite a few awards, including Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Actor (Budgie clapped exuberantly while Taylor lightly clapped with a grumble). Bradley even thanked Budgie in his acceptance speech for writing such an incredible story. Askharoth did not win for Best Director, which wasn’t a good sign. Budgie decided to stay cautiously optimistic. Finally, after what felt like days, it was time for the final Oscar to be awarded: Best Picture.
 
“You got this,” Taylor whispered in Budgie’s ear. He only nodded. He knew if he’d talk, what little of what he’d been able to eat might have come back up. The first book he wrote had become his first movie, and it was his first nomination for an Oscar. He didn’t know how many opportunities he’d have to win if Askharoth lost.
 
Budgie pushed the thoughts of losing out of his head as the names of the other movies were read. He hadn’t seen one of them, so he had no idea what he was up against. All he knew was his movie was named, and his stomach leapt again. He grasped Taylor’s hand tighter, wishing it was Melanie’s.
 
“And the winner,” some bubbly actress Budgie didn’t know said, ripping open the envelope. “Forrest Gump!”
 
Budgie relinquished his grip on Taylor’s hand. He was shocked and more upset than he thought he would be. How could that shitty reboot of Forrest Gump win an Oscar anyway?! Melissa McCarthy as Forrest Gump?! What the hell were they thinking?!
 
But it paid off for them. The director and producers waltzed up to the stage, high-fiving each other. Budgie clapped politely, feeling no joy for the winners. He knew he shouldn’t be surprised or feel so full of rage, but he couldn’t help it. It was his first Oscar loss after all.
 
“It’s alright,” Taylor said, walking back to the limo with Budgie. “You’ll feel better at the after-party.”
 
“I don’t feel much like partying,” Budgie said. He had just got done being interviewed again, this time about his loss. He was suppose to talk about how much of an honor it was just to be nominated, but he didn’t have it in him. He gave some polite responses, and he hoped they wouldn’t be played. There were more interesting people to talk to anyway.
 
“Just be lucky Kanye West didn’t interrupt your acceptance speech,” Taylor said. “He did that to me when I won a VMA. It was…”
 
“Wait,” Budgie said. “Are you trying to be empathetic by bringing up that time Kanye interrupted you on stage?”
 
“Yeah,” Taylor said. “It was humiliating.”
 
“But you won,” Budgie said, “and you’ve won tons of awards since then too.”
 
“Yeah,” Taylor said. “I can’t even count how many.”
 
“So don’t try to be empathetic,” Budgie said, not caring how much of a tantrum he was throwing. “Just let me silently vent and get over it. I’ll be fine.”
 
“Sorry,” Taylor said, rolling her eyes. “I hope you’re not like this when I take you to the Grammys.” 
 
Budgie mumbled a phrase under his breath as they got into the limo that started with the word “dirty” and ended with “cunt”.
 
 
Chapter 3: Budgie finally comes to his senses and decides to dump that harpy.
 
Days passed since the Oscars. Budgie tried to avoid Taylor and stayed at his own house. He got a text from Taylor as he worked at his desk. “Are you and I OK?” it read.
 
Budgie sighed. They weren’t, and he knew it. He also knew Taylor would try to hang on despite the ups and downs they had gone through since they started dating. He knew he was going to have to dump her, but he wouldn’t do it through a text message. She deserved to have a face-to-face breakup, and he might even get some goodbye sex out of it, and maybe the last time might be as decent as the first time.
 
“I need to see you,” Budgie texted back. “What are you doing today?”
 
“I’m doing some recording,” Taylor’s almost immediate text back read, but in much more horrible grammar. “You can come here at two, and we can go for lunch after.”
 
“OK,” was all Budgie sent back. He put his phone down on his desk and put his face in his hands. It was going to be a long afternoon.
 
***
 
Budgie’s taxi took him to the recording studio Taylor used, and he got out and walked up to the third floor, where Taylor was recording some of her signature generic pop music. Budgie sat in the waiting area. He had gotten there a little early, but he had always prided himself on being prompt.
 
“Budgie!” Taylor’s agent, Lou Masterberg, said, holding out his arms. He was tall, in his late thirties, had a familiar fake tan, and slicked back hair. “I heard you were coming by. Sorry to hear about the snub at the Oscars. A remake should never win.”
 
“Thanks,” Budgie said. “Fuckin’ prudes probably didn’t like all the sex and the rape scene in a movie about Cinderella too much.”
 
“Look, I need to talk to you about Taylor,” Lou said, changing the subject.
 
“Is she OK?” Budgie asked, not wanting to hear the answer. The last thing he wanted to hear was that she was terminally ill or something. Then he’d never be able to ditch her.
 
“I’ve been with that girl a long time,” Lou said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go, so I know the signs. I can read them as easily as Doctor Seuss.”
 
“What are you talking about?” Budgie asked.
 
“You’re going to dump her, right?” Lou asked, sitting down across from Budgie. “Be honest.”
 
“Yeah,” Budgie said. “So what?! We’re both better off. She’ll probably be all for it.”
 
“No,” Lou said, shaking his head, “she won’t be, but you’re going to have to do it anyway, right?”
 
“This isn’t going to work out,” Budgie said. “Am I breaking up with her through you or something? You Hollywood bastards are weird as fuck.”
 
“I want to make a deal with you,” Lou said. “I’ve seen that girl get dumped time after time after time, and it never gets easier. You’ve probably heard her music. It’s mostly about failed relationships or relationships doomed to fail. Artists like Katy Perry and Demi Lovato are all writing songs about being empowered, independent women, and Taylor is still stuck in dump music. It’s goddamn sad if you ask me.”
 
“So what do you want me to do?” Budgie asked, “marry her or something?”
 
“God no,” Lou said. “I want you to let her breakup with you. She’s clingy though, so you’ll have to force her to do it.”
 
“That’s bullshit,” Budgie said. “I’m ending it now. I’m not getting sucked into your sick game.”
 
“Five million dollars,” Lou said. There was no hint of a smile on his face.
 
“Excuse me?” Budgie asked.
 
“I’ll pay five million dollars if you can get her to dump you,” Lou said, “ten million if it’s public.”
 
“That’s a lot of money,” Budgie said, mulling.
 
“How much do you think she’s worth to us?” Lou asked.
 
“I don’t know,” Budgie said. “Just under five million?”
 
“What?!” Lou exclaimed, almost jumping backwards. “It’s a lot more than that! I just offered you ten!”
 
“I was joking,” Budgie said.
 
“I’ll have you know I’m friends with Chris Pratt’s agent too,” Lou said. “Rumor is, he’s interested in your book, ‘Desperately Seeking Shemale’. On top of the money, I’ll set up a dialogue between you two dynamos.”
 
“Is this really that important to you?” Budgie asked.
 
“Yes,” Lou said. “Formulaic pop music is great and all, but image is everything. Taylor’s fans are getting sick of the dump music. She needs something more, a new edge. Let her change the dynamic. Let her dump you, Budgie. It’ll benefit you both.”
 
Budgie thought about it, allowing Lou to watch him do so. “I don’t know,” he said. “It seems kind of evil.”
 
“She’ll be out in a minute or two,” Lou said, rising from his chair. “Dump her over lunch if you want. Get her to dump you, and you’ll get the money and another shot at the Oscars with Pratt. You know the academy will eat that romantic transexual comedy shit up.”
 
“Yeah,” Budgie said, “and Chris Pratt is kind of perfect for that role.”
 
“If she’s not dumped by later this afternoon, I’ll have the contract sent to your office,” Lou said. “Keep in mind: if you do break up with her after you sign, we will take legal action against you. Enjoy your lunch.”
 
Budgie watched Lou leave, wishing again that Hollywood wasn’t the scum hole it was. He only wanted to create with his writing, and now he was tit-deep in pop star drama and deals with weirdo agents. He imagined what might have been going on back in Connecticut, and he wondered if freezing his ass off and shoveling the sidewalk was better than what he was going through here. It was less complicated anyway.
 
“Hi,” Taylor said, smiling as she came in only moments after Lou had left. “You ready?”
 
“Yeah,” Budgie said, standing up. “Let’s go.”
 
***
 
Budgie and Taylor went out for lunch. Taylor had a salad with a side of lite dressing. Budgie had a sandwich and fries. “I know your wanted to come out to talk to me,” Taylor said. “What did you want to talk about?”
 
Budgie looked into Taylor’s face. He knew she was expecting the breakup right there. She had been through it too many times not to know it. Budgie thought about Lou. He thought about the money. He thought about Chris Pratt and Desperately Seeking Shemale. Most of all, the thought about the poor girl, sitting in front of him, waiting to be dumped, again.
 
“I wanted to say that I’m sorry,” Budgie said. “I blew up after the Oscars, and I shouldn’t have. You were just trying to help, and I threw it back in your face.”
 
“Is that it?” Taylor asked.
 
“That’s it,” Budgie said. He reached across the table and put his hand over her’s. He was hoping she wanted to breakup as much as he did. If he was lucky, she’d throw a full-on hissy fit, earning him and extra five million.
 
“I forgive you,” Taylor said, smiling. “It was a hard night for you. In fairness, I don’t really know what it’s like not to win.”
 
Budgie held his rage in check. What was wrong with this bitch? Couldn’t she see that their relationship was dead inside? He realized that getting himself dumped was going to be much harder than he originally thought.
 
“Do you want to head back to my place after lunch?” Taylor asked. “My bed has felt lonely without you these last few nights.”
 
Budgie shivered. “Sure,” he said, forcing a smile. In his mind, he was contemplating his next move.
 
“Oh wait,” Budgie said. “I just have to swing by my office sometime first. I have some contracts to sign.”
 
 
Chapter 4: Budgie loves jalapeño poppers
 
March came, and it brought in a whole new era for the relationship of Budgie Bigelow and Taylor Swift. Budgie was unleashing every plan the thought would make Taylor dump him, but she shrugged it all off. 
 
Taylor Swift was being interviewed for a TV spot, and Budgie felt it was the perfect opportunity to tag along to cause some much-needed mischief. Taylor thought it was a great idea too, but for other reasons.
 
“I’m so happy you came,” Taylor said, putting makeup on her face in her green room. “I love that you’re taking an interest in my career and music.”
 
“Yeah,” Budgie sad, helping himself to his fourth and fifth jalapeño popper from the assortment of food and beverages that Taylor had scarcely touched. “Your music is trash, but it pays the bills, right?”
 
Taylor huffed. “I wish you wouldn’t talk like that,” she said. “My music has a message.”
 
“Yeah it does,” Budgie said. “I hear it loud and clear, too: change the station.”
 
Taylor looked at Budgie in the mirror for a moment, and he was sure she was going to flip. Instead, she laughed. “You almost had me,” she said. “I love that deadpan humor of yours.”
 
“Right,” Budgie groaned. He was hoping he would be able to throw her off during the interview, and that would mean history for their relationship. He thought quickly, trying to come up with another plan other than eating jalapeño poppers and insulting her. He licked some pepper juice from his fingers and came up with a Plan B.
 
“Hey,” Budgie said. “You know what’ll be kinky?”
 
“What?” Taylor asked, still looking at him from the mirror.
 
“If we made love in this green room, minutes before your interview,” Budgie replied.
 
“No,” Taylor said. “That’s gross.”
 
“No it’s not,” Budgie said. “It’s hot as fuck. Besides, aren’t you nervous at all? It’ll help relax you. Think of it as blowing off steam.”
 
Taylor looked at Budgie, her friskiness overtaking her common sense. “Sure,” she said, getting up, “but it needs to be quick.”
 
“Baby,” Budgie said, popping one last jalapeño popper into his mouth. “I don’t know any other way.
 
***
 
Taylor sat down in the cushioned chair, across from her interviewer. Her microphone was fixed by an intern, and he quickly backed away after he looked at Taylor’s head. Budgie stood by the cameras, smiling.
 
“Alright,” the interview said, settling in her own chair. She was much older than Taylor, wearing her blonde hair in a bun. She was probably jealous interviewing the younger, richer girl in front of her. “Let’s jump right in.”
 
“OK,” Taylor said, nodding. 
 
The interviewer looked at a card in front of her. “Your last album sold phenomenally,” she said. “To what do you attribute your success?”
 
Taylor looked uncomfortable. It wasn’t the question that bothered her, but something else. Her hand twitched, aching to move to where it was so badly needed. “People love my music,” Taylor said. It wasn’t how she would have normally answered the question, but she was incredibly distracted.
 
“They do in spades,” the interviewer continued. “What, do you think, is the reason so many people relate to your songs?”
 
“I know a lot of people have experienced what I have,” Taylor said, no longer able to control her hand. It went to her crotch, scratching at it. Budgie thought she’d have to embarrassingly run out to wash the jalapeño juice that he haphazardly had on his hands before his exploratory love making, but this was even better.
 
“Are you alright?” The interviewer asked. Taylor looked surprised by the question. Maybe she figured nobody would notice, even though all attention as on her.
 
“Sorry,” Taylor said. “Can we start over?”
 
“Sure,” the interviewer replied. “How about we talk about… What the hell is that in your hair?!”
 
There was some snickering behind Budgie as the stagehands nearly fell over themselves. Apparently they had noticed what the interviewer had neglected to see until a second ago.
 
“What?” Taylor asked. She ran her fingers through her hair, and looked at it when it came back wet and sticky. “Oh my God. Budgie!”
 
“Sorry,” Budgie said, shrugging as the laughter behind him doubled and Taylor ran back toward the green room. “I guess my aim was a little off today.”
 
“Classic,” the cameraman said, wiping a tear.
 
“Hey,” Budgie said, walking up to him. “I’ll give you a hundred bucks to make sure that makes it on YouTube.”
 
“I can lose my job for doing that,” the cameraman said, eying Budgie. “Make it two.”
 
“Here’s three,” Budgie said, taking three hundred dollar bills from his wallet. “Make it happen.”
 
“She’s going to dump your ass,” the cameraman said, tucking the bills into his shirt pocket.
 
“Shit,” Budgie muttered. “I’m counting on it.”
 
***
 
“You couldn’t tell me you blew your load in my hair?!” Taylor asked, sitting in the back of her limo on the way home.
 
“I didn’t see it,” Budgie said.
 
“And the poppers?!” Taylor exclaimed. “Do you have any idea how badly my vagina burns right now?!”
 
“Hey,” Budgie said. “Your the one who wanted to do it so badly.”
 
“Me?!” Taylor shouted. “That wasn’t me!”
 
“Yes it was!” Budgie shouted in return. “I was practically raped in there!”
 
“What?!” Taylor shouted. “Rape?!”
 
“Yeah,” Budgie replied. “I went there, Bill Cosby. My innocence is gone forever.”
 
Taylor huffed and looked out the window. Budgie tried not to smile as he did the same, feigning anger.
 
“Look,” Taylor said after a few minutes, turning around. “I don’t want to fight anymore.”
 
Budgie turned to look at Taylor, a prayer in his head. “Then don’t,” he said with a shrug. “I don’t give a fuck what you do.”
 
“You know I love you,” Taylor said. “I’m sorry I snapped. That interview just went really terribly.”
 
“What?” Budgie asked.
 
“Don’t talk,” Taylor said, “just listen. I’ve jumped from boyfriend to boyfriend, but you’re different than all the others, and I just don’t mean physically. I don’t know why, but I feel like you might be the one, and I don’t want to throw away that chance. I love you, Budgie, and I’m not going anywhere.”
 
Budgie watched Taylor as she looked out the window again, a loving smile on her face. 
 
“You’ve got to be shitting me.”
 
 
Chapter 5: Damn, Taylor Swift is clingy as fuck!
 
“I’m sorry about the fart,” Budgie said, after he had finished making mediocre love to Taylor. “Farts, I mean. Guess I shouldn’t do Taco Bell drive-thru on date night, huh?”
 
“That’s probably a good idea,” Taylor said, getting up. “I need to shower.”
 
“Oh,” Budgie said, getting up from the bed. “I’ll join you.”
 
“No,” Taylor said, holding up a hand. “I’ll be in and out.”
 
“So will I,” Budgie said with a wink.
 
“Just wait here,” Taylor said. “You can use one of my other six bathrooms if you really need to shower that bad.”
 
“I call dibs on the jacuzzi!” Budgie exclaimed, running from her room, nude, pausing only to grab his glasses and book from the nightstand. He didn’t even turn back to look to see the look of disgust he hoped was on her face as he went to bathe himself in Taylor’s jacuzzi.
 
Budgie turned the jets on, settled into the warm water, and opened his paperback to where he had left off. He relished the time alone. Taylor was extremely hard to upset to the point of having her dump him. He thought he had her the night before when he dumped soup on her at a restaurant in front of everyone, earning him a public dumping and ten million dollars, but she just stormed out, cleaned herself off at home, and rode him like it had never happened.
 
Drastic measures were needed, and Budgie needed some new ideas. Otherwise, he was apt to get annoyed and end it himself. Just the other night, Taylor was singing her own songs while he was inside her, and he nearly slapped her in the face and left her for good.
 
Budgie turned the page of his book, aware that he was barely taking in what was on the pages. He wanted this relationship to end, and he wanted to do it sooner, rather than later. Finally, a metaphoric lightbulb appeared over his head.
 
***
 
“So the meeting is all set up?” Budgie asked Harvey the following day. “Three o’clock at the coffee shop?”
 
“It’s all set up,” Harvey said. “Are you sure you want me to call TMZ on this one?”
 
“Yes,” Budgie said. “They’ll owe you a huge favor, right?”
 
“For this one?” Harvey asked. “They’ll owe me a yacht.”
 
“Good,” Budgie said, smiling. “I hope you get it.”
 
***
 
Budgie checked his watch. It was ten after three. He looked around, and he noticed he was being watched. Good. It was probably someone from TMZ with a camera waiting under their table. If he played his cards right, Taylor was going to dump him by the end of the day.
 
“Sorry I’m late,” singer-songwriter Lana del Rey said, sitting across from Budgie. She placed her cappuccino on the table. “I hit a little bit of a snag getting here.”
 
Budgie was starstruck again. His plan was contingent on him not gushing like a teenage girl, but he felt the gushing coming on nonetheless. “I love you,” he blurted.
 
“Excuse me?” Lana asked.
 
“Sorry,” Budgie said, turning a shade of red he didn’t think possible. “I meant that I love your music. I heard it the first time back when I was doing the utility thing. We were doing storm cleanup after a hurricane came through. I was on day sixteen or seventeen of twelve hour shifts, and I was ready to burn out. Then your song ‘Diet Mountain Dew’ came on the radio. I must have skipped back and listened to it a hundred times. It got me through the day. I’ve been a fan ever since.”
 
“Thank you,” Lana said, unsure as to what to do with that information. “I’m glad I could help. Is that why you wanted to meet me?”
 
Budgie was aware of the guy in the corner, taking pictures with his phone. He had a notebook on the table, and he’d jot a note or two after each picture. Budgie remembered the plan and got himself under control.
 
“No,” Budgie said. “I wanted to talk to you about doing some voice work for Freedom Lane, the animated sitcom I have coming out this spring.”
 
“Really?” Lana asked. “Why me.”
 
Budgie shrugged. “I need a talented singer,” he said, “and you’re the first one that popped into my mind.”
 
“You’re sweet,” Lana said. “Last I heard, you were dating Taylor Swift. Why not ask her?”
 
“That thing with Taylor is pretty much done,” Budgie lied. The truth was that he wished that it was done, but with luck this meeting with Lana would prove its downfall.
 
“That’s too bad,” Lana said, looking seductively at Budgie with just the hint of a smile, “for her. I can see why she liked you.” She put her finger into the foam of her drink, put it to her dark red lips, and licked it form her finger.
 
“Holy shit,” Budgie muttered. His plan had gone better than he thought.
 
***
 
“You fucked Lana del Rey?!” Taylor shouted in the living room of Budgie’s home. He wanted to do this in public, but she had come over unannounced when TMZ blasted the news that he had cheated on her. “How could you?!”
 
“Every way I could,” Budgie calmly answered. Fuck it, he figured. As an old saying went: what can he do with ten million that he can’t do with five? At this point, he was willing to give up the five million dollars to be done with Taylor for good.
 
Taylor took in a breath as if she was going to exhale flames. “I don’t blame you,” she said. “My management is always trying to tell me I have to sound more like her.”
 
“What?” Budgie said, shocked.
 
“Look,” Lana said, sitting down. “If there’s something I’m not doing, some need I’m not fulfilling… I don’t know. Couldn’t you have just talked to me before you went off and did what you did?”
 
Budgie sat down too. He couldn’t believe it. Even cheating on her with a superior singer wasn’t enough to get rid of her. This was a level of clingy of which Budgie had never even heard. “She’s a better singer than you,” he said, hoping this would start the fight back up.
 
“I know,” Taylor replied.
 
“Her songs are better written too,” Budgie added. “She doesn’t follow that shit formula you do.”
 
“Budgie,” Taylor said, looking at him with tears swimming in her eyes. “I know.”
 
Budgie just looked at her, wondering what he could say next. To his surprise, she was the one who spoke first.
 
“If you want to break up with me for her,” Taylor said, taking a deep breath after her words, “I will let you go.”
 
Budgie couldn’t speak. He wanted to tell her yes, but his common sense reminded him of the contract. Taylor was an expert at what she was doing. He started to wonder if she was in on this, making some kind of twisted game over how long she could string him along while he tried to get her to dump him. She would have to be the greatest actress of all time to pull this off, but if she acted like she made music…
 
“I want to stay together,” Budgie said, grimacing.
 
“OK,” Taylor said, smiling through the pain on her face, “but try not to sleep with other artists.”
 
“Wait,” Budgie said, deciding to reopen the wound one last time in desperation. “Did you just call yourself an artist?”
 
“Yeah,” Taylor said. “Why?”
 
“Because I’ve never seen a canvas or paints around you,” Budgie replied. “That’s why.”
 
Taylor got up and walked to the door. Budgie felt as if he’d finally done it. “I’ll see you tonight,” she said, grasping the doorknob. “I’ll send the car to pick you up around seven. Maybe we can show TMZ that our relationship is stronger than what they think. I love you.” She left.
 
Budgie stared in disbelief. He picked up his lamp and threw it at the door, shattering it in hundreds of pieces. “YOU STUPID BITCH!” he shouted. “DUMP ME!”
 
***
 
Budgie’s doorbell rang while he was lying on the couch and cursing his life. He looked at his phone, and it said the time was quarter after six. “Bitch is early,” he said, stowing the phone in his pocket. He wasn’t even remotely ready for his date, but maybe that was better. He was out of ideas. He’d end up married to Taylor fucking Swift at this rate.
 
Budgie opened his door, expecting to find Taylor’s driver, Noli, a fat Albanian who always had the most disgusting of dirty jokes. Instead, he saw the face he’d want to see more than any other, even if he’d never admit it out loud.
 
“Can I come in?” Melanie asked, standing in front of Budgie’s door, a look of worry on her face.
 
“Sure,” Budgie replied, stepping aside to let his ex-wife come into his home, crunching the pieces of broken lamp on the floor.
 
 
Chapter 6: Oh shit, Budgie’s ex-wife is back! 
 
Budgie made two iced coffees in his iced coffee maker. He had all that stuff in his apartment. Everyone in Hollywood does. He handed one to Melanie and sat across from her, placing his own on the table. “Hi,” he said awkwardly.
 
“Hi,” Melanie replied, taking a sip of her coffee. She was just as he remembered: shoulder-length red hair, pale skin, freckles, and curvy in all the right areas. “Your place looks good. I was expecting you to live like a pig after I left.”
 
“I tried,” Budgie said, “but the cleaning lady keeps it neat in here. Plus I’m only here a couple days a week now.”
 
“Oh,” Melanie said. “You must be with Taylor Swift a lot.”
 
“Yeah,” Budgie said, not meeting his ex-wife’s green eyes. “There’s that.”
 
“What’s wrong?” Melanie asked.
 
“Nothing,” Budgie replied.
 
“Don’t do that,” Melanie said. “You know I know when something’s bothering you.”
 
“Why did you come back?” Budgie asked. “Are you really here to torment me?”
 
“I’m just trying to help,” Melanie replied. “I almost came back for the Oscars. I know you must have been clawing at the walls with that coming up. I saw how nutty you used to get when you were just publishing your stuff for a dozen or so fans on Twitter.”
 
“Your’e being generous,” Budgie said with a short laugh.
 
“You know what I mean,” Melanie said. “But I saw you were dating Taylor Swift, so I didn’t want to intrude. I’m sorry you lost, by the way.”
 
“It’s OK,” Budgie said. “I tried not to get my hopes up about it. Taylor was there, but she wasn’t much of a help after I lost.”
 
“Is that why you seem so miserable?” Melanie asked. “Is your relationship with a pop star not going too well?”
 
Budgie laughed. Melanie always did know how to use sarcasm without sounding like it. Anyone else wouldn’t have picked up on it. “It’s not going too well at all actually,” Budgie said, knowing he wasn’t going to be able to successfully lie. “I’ll soon be next in a long line of Taylor Swift ex-boyfriends.”
 
“Yeah,” Melanie said. “You should get tested, by the way.”
 
“Already on it,” Budgie said. “Surprisingly, I do not have HPV. Shit is so fucked up in Hollywood. You wouldn’t believe what I’ve gotten myself into if I told you. I couldn’t even write anything this fucked up on my best day.”
 
“Tell me,” Melanie said. “It might help to talk about it.”
 
Budgie looked into her face. He knew he shouldn’t unload his relationship troubles to his ex-wife, but he couldn’t help it. He had no friends in Hollywood other than money-hungry producers, fair-weather actors, and Taylor Swift. He started from the beginning, and told her everything. She didn’t stop him while he vented and confessed. She listened, the look of concern growing on her face.
 
“And you signed the contract?” Melanie asked when Budgie had finished, “Hollywood Budgie?!”
 
Budgie let a laugh go. He wasn’t expecting that. “Hollywood Budgie” was what she called him during arguments about his priorities being ass-backwards.
 
“Is this why I’m seeing all these articles online about you and her having trouble?” Melanie asked.
 
Budgie finally understood why Melanie had finally come back. “I’ve tried everything I could think of to get rid of her,” he said, not saying what he really wanted to say.
 
“I saw,” Melanie said. “You had the tabloids thinking you slept with Lana del Rey.”
 
“I did,” Budgie said, laughing a bit. “I cheated on her with a superior artist, and it only phased her for a few minutes. She nearly apologized to me!”
 
“You fucked Lana del Rey?” Melanie asked. “Holy shit. You must have loved that. How was it?”
 
“It was beautiful,” Budgie said. “Her vagina was more glorious than I ever imagined. But it didn’t get Taylor to dump me. Hell, we’re still having date night tonight. I’m going to have to climb on Skeletor’s niece again in a few hours.”
 
“Why can’t you just tell you that you don’t love her?”  Melanie asked. “She’d probably leave you if you did that.”
 
“I checked,” Budgie sighed. “It’ll void the contract. Apparently that counts as me breaking up with her.”
 
“I can help,” Melanie said. “Just ask.”
 
“What are you thinking?” Budgie asked.
 
“There’s one thing you haven’t tried,” Melanie said with a smirk, “she needs to get acquainted with your crazy bitch of an ex-wife.”
 
***
 
Budgie sat at the table in the restaurant across from Melanie. They had ordered and were waiting for their food. They didn’t talk much on the way over, and the air was still heavy with what had happened between them.
 
“Do you know why I left?” Melanie asked, breaking the silence.
 
“I got your note,” Budgie replied. “I was ‘too Hollywood’.”
 
“I thought I was holding you back,” Melanie said. “Also, you were too Hollywood. Do you remember when you yelled at me for calling you ‘Dan’ in public? It was all about your image.”
 
“Not one of my finer moments,” Budgie admitted. “But I think I’m doing better now. I think losing the Oscar knocked me down a few deserved pegs. Now I just need to get rid of Taylor, and I’ll be all set to move on with my life, modestly.”
 
“Why are you with her?” Melanie asked. “She’s far from your type, and you could never stand her music.”
 
“I don’t know,” Budgie said. “I think it was a combination of being alone and knowing barely anyone out here. Plus my primal need to stick my dick in something moving.”
 
Melanie laughed. “Well hopefully we can put all that behind us,” she said.
 
“And soon I hope,” Budgie added. “She’s coming right now.”
 
“What is this?!” Taylor exclaimed, coming up to the table. Everyone in the place was turning around and whispering. Some phones came out for video and photos. It was perfect.
 
“What?” Budgie asked. “Have you not met my ex-wife? Taylor, this is Mel…”
 
“Stop it!” Taylor exclaimed. “First you’re caught cheating on me with Lana del Rey, and now you’re out with HER!”
 
“She’s the mother of my child,” Budgie said. “I have every right to see her.”
 
“Did you forget our date night?” Taylor asked. “I’ve been calling and texting you for the last hour.”
 
“Oh,” Budgie said. “I must have left my phone at home. Oops.”
 
“Look,” Melanie said. “I don’t want to be a bother…”
 
“Hey,” Budgie said. “This may be awkward, but do you guys want to have threesome later?”
 
Melanie looked over Taylor. “Nah,” she said. “Not my type.”
 
“Come on, Budgie,” Taylor said. “We are going back to my place to talk.”
 
“The fuck he is!” Melanie said. “We just ordered, and you’re not sticking me with two meals and the bill!”
 
“Fine,” Taylor said. “Come by when you’re done. We need to talk.” She turned around and trotted off, the whispering growing as she walked out the door.
 
“Holy shit,” Budgie said. “I wish I called you in earlier. Think she’ll do it tonight?”
 
“She should,” Melanie said, “unless she’s completely shit-nuts.”
 
“I don’t know,” Budgie said. “She forgave me after I fucked Lana del Rey, and I never even apologized.”
 
“It’s too bad she didn’t do it here,” Melanie said. “She’s costing you five million right now.”
 
“I’d gladly give it up to get rid of her,” Budgie said. “I may just go OJ on her if she doesn’t dump me tonight.”
 
 
Chapter 7: Budgie probably doesn’t have the balls to go OJ on Taylor Swift
 
“How did you end up doing last night?” Melanie asked, sitting across from Budgie. She had texted him in the morning, asking if he wanted to have breakfast. She was only in Hollywood until the end of the week, and she didn’t have any friends out there. They both figured somewhere public would be best. This way, the fact that he was hanging out with his ex-wife could more easily enrage Taylor.
 
“Not well,” Budgie said. “I ended up nailing her.”
 
“What?!” Melanie said. “What happened?”
 
“We had that talk about our relationship,” Budgie said. “I thought for sure it was over. I was being such a jerk about it all. I even farted during it, loud too. I almost shit my pants actually.”
 
“Wow,” Melanie said. 
 
“Yeah,” Budgie said. “She thought we made up somehow, and she jumped me. She kept not-so-subtly suggesting I go down on her, and I finally had to do it. It tastes so funny.”
 
“Is it that bad?” Melanie asked.
 
“It doesn’t taste bad,” Budgie replied. “Just funny.”
 
“So what are you going to do now?” Melanie asked.
 
“I have no idea,” Budgie replied. “I think I’m going to get stuck marrying the bitch at this rate.”
 
“Give me one more chance,” Melanie said.
 
“What?” Budgie asked. “Why? What are you going to have me do?”
 
“Trust me,” Melanie said, putting her hand on top of his. “If it’s one thing I know, it’s how to dump you.”
 
Budgie sighed. “Alright.”
 
***
 
“So I’ve started my next album,” Taylor said, making conversation as she rested her feet on Budgie’s lap in one of the dens in her mansion.
 
“Oh yeah?” Budgie asked. “Still following that tired formula?”
 
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Taylor asked.
 
“I broke the pop song code a while back,” Budgie replied. “It wasn’t that hard. I’m not a total idiot you know.”
 
“What code?” Taylor asked.
 
“You know,” Budgie said. “Verse one, a chorus, verse two, a chorus, breakdown, another chorus, and one last chorus with you screaming behind it. Keep it around three minutes and change, and you got a hit, babe.”
 
“That’s not…” Taylor stammered. “Why did you figure that out?”
 
Budgie shrugged. “I just notice these things,” he said. “Your songs are all exactly the same, shit is brown, etcetera.”
 
Taylor’s phone buzzed in her pocket before she could retort. She opened in and read a text. “Tell me you didn’t send a picture of your dick to Katy Perry,” she said, seething.
 
“Yeah I did,” Budgie said. “I almost forgot I did that.”
 
“Why?” Taylor asked. “You know how I feel about her.”
 
“She responded to something I posted on Twitter,” Budgie said, “so I figured she’d want to see it.”
 
“I can’t believe you’d…” Taylor said. She was pissed, but she was still looking at her phone. “Wait. That’s not your dick. You’re much bigger and thicker. Plus, this one isn’t even curved.”
 
“She forwarded it to you?” Budgie asked.
 
“Here,” Taylor said, texting something Budgie couldn’t see. “I let her know about your dark sense of humor and that’s not really your dick. She’ll probably check out that show of yours.”
 
Budgie looked at Taylor, dumbfounded again by her.
 
“You’re lucky you have me,” Taylor said, giving Budgie a light kick.
 
Budgie stared at Taylor, thinking about all he had done. He had basically tortured this girl, trying to get her to dump him, and she had just gone out of her way to smooth things over with Katy Perry rather than blowing up at him. She was a human being, and she loved him despite the amount of shit he had heaped upon her. He felt like he should call off the lunch he and Melanie had secretly planned. Maybe it was time to try and end things with a little more dignity than the ambush at the deli.
 
“I bet it’s not too hard to write a book or something,” Taylor said, changing the subject as she stared off. “I wish I had time to do it like you.”
 
“What?” Budgie asked.
 
“I mean, I have all these great ideas,” Taylor said. “If I wasn’t so busy with my career, I can write a book and have them turn it into a movie or a show. It can’t be that hard, right? You do it after all.”
 
“You can’t even use entire words in your songs,” Budgie said. “What does ‘Shake it ah’ even mean?!”
 
“Look,” Taylor said, “I’m not trying to insult you. I’m just saying I could write something amazing if I had time to just hang around and do it. I’d probably nab an Oscar or two.”
 
Budgie sighed. “Hey,” he said. “I know this really great deli where we can have lunch.”
 
***
 
“This place is a little crowded,” Taylor said, putting down her menu.
 
“Don’t worry about it,” Budgie said, not looking up from his own. “This is a great place. You’ll love it.”
 
“I don’t love all these carbs,” Taylor said, looking back at the menu. “I think I’ll just get a salad. I’m on week one of my four-week lettuce cleanse anyway.”
 
“Don’t worry about the carbs,” Budgie said. “You’re lucky your so thin anyway.”
 
“Excuse me?” Taylor asked.
 
“What?” Budgie said, finally looking up. “I said you’re lucky your thin. It was a compliment. That lettuce nonsense is a load of bullshit. It actually pisses me off.”
 
“It’s not luck or bullshit,” Taylor said. “I watch what I eat every meal, and I work out every day. Maybe you should do the same.”
 
“Oh,” Budgie said. “Is that necessary? I box with my heavy bag three times a week.”
 
“You know what?” Taylor said. “I can’t do this.”
 
“Do what?” Budgie asked. “Have lunch with me?”
 
“No,” Taylor said. “This.” She pointed from Budgie to herself and back again. “You’re bad for my diet. If you can’t respect my regimen, then I don’t think I can hang around and watch you eat bread and ice cream.”
 
“I’m not that fat,” Budgie said. “I’m just a little chubby, but all writers are. You can fit two of me in George R. R. Martin’s gunt for fuck’s sake.”
 
“And all the farting!” Taylor went on. Everyone was turning to look at her. “Maybe if you ate better, you wouldn’t fart so much. I’m going to have to throw my mattress away.”
 
“Now you’re just being hurtful on purpose,” Budgie said.
 
Melanie walked in, ready to exact their plan, but Taylor had inadvertently started without her.
 
“And why on earth won’t you go down on me without an argument?!” Taylor said, uncaring that video was now being taken of her telling her boyfriend off. “What’s the point in having a prosthetic vagina if my boyfriend won’t even give my bean a decent tongue-shellacking?!”
 
An old lady at a nearby table pushed her plate away and got up.
 
Taylor finally noticed Melanie, walking toward the table. “And there’s her,” she said, pointing.
 
“What’s wrong with her?” Budgie asked.
 
“You’re still in love with her!” Taylor shouted. Melanie looked embarrassed.
 
“No,” Budgie said. “We’re… divorced.”
 
“You talk in your sleep,” Taylor said, “and you almost always say the name ‘Melanie’.”
 
“Oh,” Budgie said, not knowing what to say.
 
“That’s it,” Taylor said. “You don’t even know what to say. I can make the tables turn, Budgie.”
 
“Did you just quote your own song?” Melanie asked.
 
“Stay out of this!” Taylor said. “I’m done, Budgie. Goodbye forever!”
 
Taylor stormed out, kicking over her chair and shoving her way out the door. The place erupted in applause. They apparently enjoyed the show.
 
***
 
Budgie and Melanie walked away form the deli, heading toward his home. “That’s that I guess,” Budgie said. His phone buzzed in his pocket. He looked at it. “Her agency just transferred the ten million. I was wondering if he’d actually pay me for that.”
 
“You sound kind of upset,” Melanie said. “You sure you’re going to be OK?”
 
“Yeah,” Budgie said. “I just don’t know if that was too much, you know. I put that girl through a ton of shit.”
 
“Yeah,” Melanie said, “but shame on her for not being strong enough to leave you when she should have.”
 
“Maybe her scumbag agent is right,” Budgie said. “Maybe she’ll be stronger and empowered now that she’s given someone an epic dumping.”
 
“Maybe,” Melanie said.
 
“I’m kind of upset I missed your big plan,” Budgie said. “What we’re you going to do?”
 
“Nothing really,” Melanie replied. “I was just going to punch her in the face and call her a cunt.”
 
“Nice,” Budgie said.
 
The two walked on in silence for a bit. Finally, Budgie stopped in front of a park. “Look,” he said. “About what she said about me and you…”
 
“It’s alright,” Melanie said. “I thought nothing of it.”
 
“I’m just glad you and I can still be cool after all that’s happened,” Budgie said. “We are cool, right?”
 
“Yeah,” Melanie said. “We’re cool.”
 
They looked at each other for a moment, sharing the silence. After they had enough of it, they started making out.
 
 
Epilogue: The Oscars are still bullshit
 
Budgie sat through the second Oscar presentation in his life, and it seemed longer and more boring than the first. The only thing that made him happy was that he had Melanie by his side, looking beautiful in her black dress. They two had made fun of most of what was going on around them, but they had quieted for the last award of the night.
 
“And the winner,” Bradley Cooper, actor and Oscar presenter, said, “of the Academy Award for Best Picture is…”
 
Budgie could’ve strangled him for prolonging the announcement of the name. He gripped Melanie’s hand, and she held it firmly.
 
Bradley took a deep breath. “Desperately Seeking Shemale!”
 
Budgie stood up along with his wife. They kissed, hard. Budgie got up and walked down the aisle through the applause and pats on his back. Chris Pratt was already standing up, letting his own wife hold the two Oscars he had already won; one for acting and one for directing, both for Desperately Seeking Shemale.
 
Chris hugged Budgie, nearly lifting him from the ground. They walked toward the stage together, climbing the steps and approaching the podium. Chris took his award, shaking Bradley’s hand. Bradley shook Budgie’s next saying “I told you you’d get one!” while Chris took the mic.
 
“Three times up here for one movie,” Chris said. “I bet you’re tired of seeing me!”
 
The audience laughed.
 
“Let me give this time up to someone else,” Chris said, “the creator of Desperately Seeking Shemale, and a damn good partner to make a movie with: Budgie Bigelow.”
 
The audience clapped and cheered again and Budgie approached the podium, holding his own Oscar. He looked at it and then up, his throat closing as the tears threatened to come. He didn’t want to sob like a girl before he even made his speech, so he pushed it back, being as macho as humanly possible.
 
“Thank you, Chris,” Budgie said, happy that his voice didn’t crack. “You know, the journey from start to finish with this movie spans years, so I want to thank those who were there in the beginning, back when Desperately Seeking Shemale was only a short story on my blog.”
 
The audience cheered again.
 
“I also want to thank the most important person in my life,” Budgie said, looking toward Melanie. “You supported me in the beginning and throughout this career of mine. Even through the bad times, you never stopped believing in me. You are ‘tough love’ incarnate, giving me the kicks I needed to point me in the right direction.”
 
Now the tears were forcing their way out.
 
“You are everything to me,” Budgie continued to the silent auditorium. “I lost you, but you came back, and we’ve been stronger than ever. I wouldn’t have made it this point without you, and I’m so happy that this moment waited for you to be by my side. And I just want you to know, Melanie, that I’m going to try hard, really hard, not to put this award inside you tonight.
 
Thank you.”
 
There was a deafening roar as Budgie made his way back through the crowd, where he was greeted by his wife.
 
***
 
“Will you put that thing away,” Budgie said, joining his wife at the small square table with two drinks in his hand. She was alone, save the Oscar statue that was sitting at the center of their table. They were at some private bar, enjoying an after party thrown by Chris Pratt.
 
His wife put her phone back into her purse. “I wanted to see what they’re saying about you,” she said. “I think you’ll be banned from ever getting an Oscar again for that last comment.”
 
“It was worth it,” Budgie said, laughing at his own wit. “How many of these does one person need anyway? It’ll look great with the two Emmys I got for Freedom Lane.”
 
“They’re also talking about how you snubbed Taylor Swift in your speech,” Melanie said.
 
Snubbed?!”  Budgie said, nearly snorting his Captain and Diet Coke through this nose. “I wasn’t aware you had to mention your ex-girlfriends in your Oscar acceptance speeches.”
 
“In your defense,” Melanie continued, “there is a lot of mentions how her other four ex-boyfriends aren’t being chastised for their speeches.”
 
“They’re just mad because I dumped her for you,” Budgie said.
 
“She dumped you,” Melanie said. “Remember?”
 
“Thanks, babe,” Budgie said. “I don’t want to be in breach of contract.”
 
Melanie laughed. “I really do love coming out here,” she said, looking around the party. “I wouldn’t want to live here though.”
 
“Me neither,” Budgie said. “They’re a little fucked up out here.” They touched their glasses together as more people came by to congratulate him.
 
They left soon after, having their car pick them up out front. They were both more than tipsy, and Budgie knew he was about to get lucky as hell. He held his wife’s hand as they walked outside into the warm Los Angeles night.
 
“You want to invite Lana over?” Melanie asked. “”She can help us celebrate.”
 
“No,” Budgie said. “I think tonight is a ‘husband and wife’ kind of celebration.”
 
“Oh, the Oscars were on tonight,” a voice said just feet from them. Budgie turned to see Taylor Swift, walking with some young actor whom the tabloids reported as her newest boyfriend. “I’d never be satisfied with just one silly Oscar anyway. I have dozens of various awards. My new album did phenomenal.”
 
Taylor wasn’t lying. Her newest album, the not-so-subtly titled “Empowered”, had won a ton of awards. Taylor’s agent had been right about her needing to be the one to do an epic dumping. Budgie had been chastised by her fans, but it was only a minor speed-bump in his career. It seemed to give more power to the premiere of Freedom Lane and his standing in Hollywood.
 
“What a stupid bitch,” Melanie said, loud enough for Taylor to hear.
 
“Don’t worry about her,” Budgie said. “Some people just can’t move on.”
 
“I guess not,” Melanie said. Their car pulled up to the curb. “Where were we?”
 
Budgie kissed his wife, and she pulled him close. “Oh yeah,” she said. “We were on our way home.” She slapped him lightly on the cheek. “Let’s go.”
 

 

Budgie smiled and followed his wife into the back of the limo.
 

The Christmas Meat Train

The Christmas Meat Train
A collection of micro tales
 
 
By Budgie Bigelow:
Prologue 
Deathslug
Peppermint Choke-a
The Reindeer Drones
Grandma Gets Quarantined
Ding and Ling
Penny
Sparkles Reports to the Big Man
Achmed Claus
Epilogue
 
By Harbingerr:
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
Be Good for Goodness Sake
Gonna Find Out Who’s Naughty or Nice
He Knows if You’ve Been Bad or Good
 
By Jim Watts:
I’m the Gift that Keeps on Giving
 
 
 
 
 
Prologue
 
Each and every year, Santa Claus sends out magical invitations to those lucky enough to be chosen to ride his Christmas train, and this year was no different. Cards were sent all over the world, finding the recipients and inviting to join him and his elves for a relaxing ride of wonderment, celebrating the Christmas spirit. The train was loaded and the seats were filled. The hot cocoa bar was stocked, and the elves were ready. Santa himself sat in his own private car near the front of the train, eager to start his annual excursion.
 
The train’s whistle blew, and it started moving, puffing white clouds from the smoke stack as it rode atop its tracks. Evergreen trees started to fall behind as it picked up speed, heading toward their forest route.
 
This was going to be a ride none aboard would ever forget.  
 
 
Deathslug
 
Elven-year-old Deathslug stared out the window as his mother returned from the next car over from theirs. “Our restroom has been locked for the last hour,” she said. “I had to go to the Vixen car.”
 
Deathslug grunted. He was uncomfortable, and his bitch of a mother knew it. She had him clad in a red sweater and khakis, and he had to comb his hair neat. She had forced him to become someone he wasn’t, and he missed the black clothing, white face makeup, black eyeliner, and nail polish. He wasn’t a nice young man named Timothy Smith Junior; he was a bisexual gothic prince known only by Deathslug by the people who understood who he truly was.
 
“Are you enjoying the ride, TJ?” his mother asked. Her name was Martha. Deathslug refused to even think of her as “mom”.
 
That was what she called him: TJ, Timothy Junior. She had always refused to call him the name he had chosen for himself. Why would anyone want to be named after a man who couldn’t stand to be around his own son since he was three years old? The thought of being called Timothy, Tim, or Timmy sickened him, and the name “Timothy Junior” (or “TJ”) made him wish he was violently ill.
 
“Fuck TJ,” Deathslug muttered, stroking the handle of the emergency exit by his window seat. “That’s not my name, Martha.”
 
Martha let out a sad sigh. “We were privileged enough to get an invitation to ride Santa’s train,” she said. “I thought you’d be happy to be a normal little boy again, even for a single trip.”
 
There she went again, droning on about how she wished he was “normal”. All he wanted at that moment was to die. He wished a boulder would tumble from the nearby ridges, killing him along with his mother and everyone in the stupid, fucking train. He was considering opening that emergency exit as the train sped along, allowing himself to slide off and enter into whatever dark void followed the puppet show of life.
 
“There sure are a lot of people on this train,” Martha said, attempting to once again have a normal conversation with her son, as if it would force him to be normal like she hoped.
 
“This is a meat train,” Deathslug muttered, “a goddam Christmas meat train.”
 
“Excuse me?” Martha asked.
 
“Humans are nothing more than animated meat,” Deathslug replied.
 
“I wish you wouldn’t say things like that,” Martha said.
 
Deathslug scoffed. He was only there because his mother had threatened him, leaving the red sweater and khakis on his bed. The invitation to ride on Santa’s train had come, and the threats soon followed. He was to dress normal, act normal, and ride the fucking train. Otherwise, he’d be shipped off to catholic school, and Martha didn’t give a shit how much it cost her.
 
“I wish you were dead,” Deathslug sneered. “By the time this train ride ends, you’ll wish you were dead too.”
 
“I can’t do this any more,” Martha said, looking down and shaking her head into her hand. “When we get home, I’m going to leave a full bottle of Ambien on the bathroom sink. Do whatever you want.”
 
Martha looked out the window with no sign of being angry or sad. Deathslug looked at her for only a moment before doing the same, watching the trees whip by, waiting for it all to be over.
 
 
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
 
“Meet me in my room,” she whispered in his ear. His grasp on her shoulders loosened just enough to allow her to slide from the sliver of space where he held her pinned against the bathroom door, just out of site of the other passengers. She smiled over her shoulder impishly as she sauntered away.
 
“I did it. I finally did it!” he thought to himself as he excitedly trailed behind her. She played coy at first, but he knew if he was persistent enough she’d give in, they always did. Experience taught him that “no” never meant “no”, it meant “no…for right now”. It’s how he conned that kid’s mom out of her Santa Train passes. It’s how he convinced his ex to get back together with him; she was awaiting his return in the dining car as he stalked the little lady with the golden locks right now. And it’s how he was finally going to bang one of Santa’s elves. His dream of dreams was coming true. He couldn’t pat himself on the back hard enough.
 
She led him through the maze of train cars, braving the loudly jabbering crowds of hyperactive children and exhausted parents, until they reached her compartment far away from prying ears and eyes. He strode into her quarters as if he belonged there, confidence and entitlement oozing from his every pore. She closed the door and locked it, making certain no one had seen him enter. His pants were already wrapped around his ankles by the time she turned around.
 
“Lie down,” she instructed and he waddled over to the mattress without question. He stretched himself out as comfortably as he could, but it was obvious that the bed was not designed to hold anyone taller than a toddler. Even with his head pushed all the way to the top, his knees dangled from the end of the foot-board, feet nearly touching the floor. He fidgeted wildly like one of the candy-stuffed adolescents buzzing around a few cars over. She pulled out two knitted scarves from a small drawer hidden at the bottom of the wardrobe in the corner; one was printed with various Christmas lights and the other was a tasteful red and green argyle pattern, both were ugly. Scaling him like an alpinist, she deftly secured his hands to the low headboard with the light-bulb design and his body could no longer conceal his arousal.
 
“Oh, you naughty little elf,” he giggled gleefully.
 
“He sees you when you’re sleeping,” she said, climbing down his chest and arranging herself on his thighs. She then forced his knees apart and fastened them to the bottom corners of her bed with the remaining scarf, feet left free to wiggle. She hopped down and stepped back, admiring her handiwork.
 
“Does Santa know how bad his little helper is?” he asked, a comical grin plastered to his face.
 
She returned to the wardrobe. “He knows when you’re awake,” she continued as she retrieved an overlarge candy cane from the drawer; it appeared to be half the measure of the elf holding it and roughly three inches in diameter.
 
“Elves have toys,” he muttered, wide-eyed. “I had no idea devil’s dick-sized candy canes even existed.”
 
She studied the sugary cylinder for a moment, then shifted her focus to him. “He knows when you’ve been bad or good,” she seethed. A malicious expression crept across her features and a flicker of fear pinched him deep in his gut.
 
There was a knock.
 
A smile tugged at the corners of her lips as his faded away. She unlatched the bolt and turned the knob. Beaming, she swung open the door and maneuvered aside. Kris Kringle stood at the entrance to her tiny chambers, his girth filling the doorway. He entered slowly, taking in the scene laid out before him. The man tied to the elf’s bed stared up at the crimson clad beast of a being with a mixture of confusion and awe.
 
“Shut the door, Starla. There’s no need to alarm the children,” he boomed, his voice deep and commanding. She obeyed.
 
“What are…” the fettered gentleman began nervously, but he was shushed straightaway by jolly ol’ Saint Nick.
 
Santa held out his hand to Starla. She simpered up at him and produced the peppermint monstrosity. He held it, feeling its weight then began suckling on the end. Looking down at the detainee he began to cackle with a twinkle in his eye.
 
“So be good for goodness sake,” he guffawed as terror engulfed the restrained fellow’s soul.
 
 
 
Peppermint Choke-a
 
Jill handed the woman at her counter the two hot cocoas she had ordered. She had worked on the train, mainly at the Comet car cocoa stand on the second tier, for the last six years, passing out mugs of cocoa, curtesy of Santa himself. It was one of the jobs for which a full-sized person was needed, so Santa didn’t intrust it to one of his elves. She turned her face, toothy smile and all, toward the next customer, a tall man with mangy-looking hair and a beard to match. “What flavors do you have?” he asked.
 
“I can make mostly any flavor you can think of,” Jill said, trying not to let the stench of the man in front of her her deter her normal smile. She wondered if a vagrant had snuck aboard. She tried to see from the corner of her eye if any of Santa’s security elves were around.
 
“What do you recommend?” the vagrant asked.
 
“A lot of people seem to like the peppermint mocha today,” Jill said. “Can I get you one?”
 
“How about a peppermint choke-a?” the vagrant said, laughing dryly. 
 
“What?” Jill asked, finding it hard to keep her smile.
 
“Peppermint,” the vagrant repeated. “CHOKE-A!”
 
The vagrant lunged over the counter, grabbing Jill by her neck with both of his hands. He dragged her over to his side, knocking over the tumblers full of long candy canes to the floor with a clatter. She was slammed on the floor, and the vagrant kept his grip, straddling her and choking the life out of her.
 
Jill saw people moving away from the corner of her eye. If she was able to get air in and out of her lungs, she would have screamed for help. Mothers dragged their kids away and men just watched, looks of horror mingled with fascination on their faces.
 
“Get it?!” the vagrant shouted, spittle flying between his teeth, apparently proud if his pun, despite his rage. “Peppermint choke-a?!”
 
The world started to fade to black as Jill tried fleetingly to peel the hands from her neck. The end was coming, she knew it. She was ready to close her eyes, sleep, and leave the agony of strangulation behind. 
 
There was a jolt, and the vagrant was on his back beside Jill, staring at the ceiling, a small trickle of blood coming from his ear. Jill gasped for air, greedily filling her aching lungs. She looked at her savior, a burly man with a thick beard, holding the fire extinguisher like a weapon.
 
Jill inhaled and exhaled, her sore throat unable to make the words “thank” and “you”.
 
 
The Reindeer Drones
 
Janice sat with her six-year-old daughter, sipping her hot cocoa. They were both enjoying the ride on Santa’s train immensely, and more fun was promised to be coming soon. “Look at this,” Janice said, her double chin jigging as she spoke. “Santa is employing drones to bring the kids their presents this year.”
 
“What’s that?” Janice’s daughter, Hannah asked, turning from the window, steam building from her own cocoa.
 
“A drone?” Janice asked, smiling smugly, eager to tell someone something they don’t already know, even if it is her own daughter. “They’re robots that fly through the sky, carrying boxes under them.”
 
“And they’re coming on the train?” Hannah asked, awed.
 
“Yes,” Janice said. “They’ll be painted like Santa’s reindeer, and they’ll be dropping off your gift.”
 
“Wow,” Hannah said. She turned back toward the window as the train slowed down. “I think I see them!”
 
Hannah indeed saw the drones. They flew above the trees, painted brown with the face of a reindeer hand-painted by Santa’s elves. Dozens, maybe more, made their way toward the train, all carrying a brightly wrapped box under it.
 
“Here they come!” Janice said, moving closer to the window to see as well.
 
The drones approached, watched by the eager children on the train. Arrows came from the trees, ropes attached. The drones were whipped toward the ground and dragged away from the train by men in fur coats and ushankas. They clubbed at the drones that were still trying to get away, taking the gifts from under them.
 
“What’s happening, mommy?” Hannah asked.
 
“I don’t know, baby,” Janice replied, watching with a look of horror and fascination.
 
Nets flew through the air, tangling the drones, causing them to crash just a dozen or so feet from the train as it kept on moving. More poachers appeared on the backs of huge reindeer, screaming wildly as they tossed their nets into the air. Some simply threw rocks, not caring that they were hitting the train and the windows.
 
Hannah began to cry as a drone bounced off the window before hitting the hard ground and sending the gift rolling.
 
Birds of prey, bells tied around one of their legs apiece, swooped from the sky, grasping at the drones with their talons, beating their wings wildly to pull them away from their intended targets. They brought the drones, gifts and all, back toward the trees and the waiting men.
 
“What’s going on?” Janice asked, turning toward a small elf who was walking down the middle of the car.
 
The elf stood near the window, putting his head near Hannah’s and squinting to see. “Present poachers,” he said. “We thought we got them all, but apparently not enough.”
 
“Present poachers?” Janice asked.
 
“I must notify security,” the elf said, running off the way he came.
 
Janice looked out the window, watching the poachers collecting the last of the gifts from the fallen drones, putting them in large wooden barrels near the edge of the forest. One of the poachers put two of his fingers to his temples and gave the train a mock salute as it went over a bridge. No gift had made its way onto the train.
 
Hannah cried, wailing along with the other children who had witnessed the travesty of the present poachers. “Mommy,” she said through the sobs, snot falling from her nose. “Did those bad guys get my present.”
 
“I’m so sorry, baby,” Janice said, stroking Hannah’s hair. She had no words that would comfort her daughter.
 
Hannah’s sobs doubled.
 
 
 
Be Good for Goodness Sake
 
Lynn sat alone in a corner booth in the dining car aboard Santa’s Train. Trent was supposed to have joined her after emptying his bladder, but she spotted him groping a blonde elf against the door to the bathroom.
 
She knew he wouldn’t be back any time soon. She felt like such a fool for believing he had changed. Jealousy bubbled at the thought of his hands all over that little holiday hoe and the styrofoam cup Lynn held exploded in her tightening grasp, spilling hot cocoa all over her glittery Christmas sweater. She swore loudly, catching the attention of the gnome-like creature manning the food station. He rushed over to Lynn, towel in hand.
 
“Are you ok, miss?” he squeaked in an accent that sounded vaguely Irish. He frantically blotted the wetness off the sparkly reindeer that crisscrossed her chest. Lynn looked at the bearded butterball sopping up her chocolate mess and she broke.
 
“No, I’m not ok!” she shrieked, startling the tiny round fellow. “My stupid boyfriend invited me on this stupid train because he said he wanted to get back together, and I was too stupid and lonely to say no! He’s been pinching elf ass all over the place when he thinks I’m not looking, and now he’s fucking one of the Santa Sluts while I sit here crying to a leprechaun!” she whaled, her head dropping into her hands.
 
The miniature gentleman wrapped his arms around the sobbing lass, and she collapsed onto his small shoulder. “I’m an elf, ma’am, not a leprechaun ” he whispered in his high-pitched melodic voice. Something about it turned Lynn’s weeping into hysterical laughter, and he soon followed suit. They leaned on each other, raucously giggling like children at an inside joke, unable to control themselves. Their mirth eventually subsided and Lynn was left with a large brown stain on her top and sadness in her heart.
 
The elf witnessed her expression transform. Feeling empathy for the puffy-faced lady, he held his hand out. “I’m Nosh.”
 
She put on her best saccharine smile. “Lynn,” she responded, shaking his Lilliputian mitt.
 
He proceeded to wipe at the last remnants of moisture on her face. “I won’t pretend to know your situation, deary,” Nosh orated, “but Santa did not invent this train for evil deeds or ill will. He sees all, knows all. That ‘stupid boyfriend’, as you call him, will get his comeuppance. Just you wait and see. The Big Guy is firm, but fair.”
 
“That’s a nice thought, but some things are beyond even the reach of Santa Claus,” she replied in a mildly sardonic tone. Just then the phone behind the counter rang. It played a 64-bit rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Lynn chuckled at the unexpected humor.
 
“Excuse me. I must get that,” Nosh flustered, nearly tripping over his own feet to get to the red receiver mounted on the wall.
 
“Cuisine Car, this is Nosh. How may I assist you?” the elf answered in the cheeriest timbre he could muster with a mostly inaudible tinge of nervousness. “Uh-huh,” he muttered, his head nodding emphatically. “Yes, sir. She is, sir,” he continued, his gaze swung to Lynn and she inexplicably straightened up. “Absolutely, sir. Whatever you say, sir. We’ll be right there.” He hung up the handset.
 
Nosh trudged back to the corner booth, stopping at Lynn’s side. “He has a surprise for you,” he stated, emotion draining from his face. Her eyes widened.
 
“That was…” she gulped. “Santa Claus? Like…for real?” unsure whether to feel excitement or dread.
 
Nosh nodded. “Remember how I said he sees everything?”
 
“Yeah,” she uttered.
 
“Well…” he measured his words. “The Big Guy doesn’t like when people aren’t good for goodness sake.”
 
“Oh” was all she managed, not really understanding what that could mean.
 
Nosh gently grabbed Lynn’s hand and led her through what seemed like an endless parade of overenthusiastic kids and their weary parents. They eventually made their way to the last compartment of an empty car, far away from the throng. As they approached, exclamations of “Ho! Ho! Ho!” issued from the closed door. Lynn’s lips formed a grin then she saw the strained expression on her little friend’s face and her exhilaration waned.
 
“What’s wrong?” she questioned, but a guttural scream coming from the same door answered. More “Ho, ho, hos!” followed but they were drenched in something much more malevolent, almost sadistic. She stopped dead in her tracks.
 
“He knows when you’ve been bad or good.,” Nosh mumbled then looked up at his charge. “It’s ok, Lynn. Knock. He’s expecting you.”
 
“That sounded like Trent,” she breathed, staring at the handle, her heart racing.
 
“Firm but fair, remember? Just knock, honey,” Nosh instructed.
 
Lynn hesitated for a moment and Nosh yanked tenderly on her fingertips.
 
She knocked.
 
 
I am the Gift that Will Keep on Giving
 
What the fuck have I gotten myself into?
It’s dark, and I can hear all sorts of anomalous sounds. I hear muffled cries, but I can’t decipher the directions they’re coming from. Actually, they sound like they are surrounding me. Judging by the rhythmic clunking sound that’s keeping steady throughout the cries, moans, and sobbing, I can only deduce that I’m on a train. My mind is still foggy, like when you’re startled awake after a night of heavy drinking. I’m trying to stay calm as I evaluate my situation, but my inner voice is just screaming: “WHY THE EVER-LOVING FUCK AM I ON A TRAIN?!
My senses seem heightened. I can’t see even the tiniest dot of light coming into this box of which I realize I am inside. I can smell that it is wood. Cedar, perhaps? I am not restrained, and I have room to sit up fully. I move my arms and calculate there is about a foot of space on either side of me. My bearings are pretty much gathered now. I feel my entire body with my hands and I am completely clothed, but I am shoeless. I feel no injuries. I do have a horrible taste in my mouth, though. 
Now that I have this much figured out, it’s now time to start finding a way out of this. Better yet, I need to remember how the fuck I got here. I know if I struggle or freak out, I’m only going to tire myself out and not remedy this debacle. I monitor my breathing to keep my heart from going erratic with fear. I keep calm and try to remember my last memory before finding myself in this confinement.
My head rests against the wood behind me. I think I closed my eyes, but I have no idea because it’s that dark in here. I try my best to ignore the cacophony of sorrowful sounds and concentrate on remembering. My memories start falling into place.
I was at a Christmas party. I was there with my girlfriend, Missy. All of our friends had been there, and the drinks were flowing freely. Missy had gone off with her friends to have a smoke outside, and I was in the kitchen with a group of people I kind of knew through her. I normally don’t tolerate her friends because they are mostly fucking idiots and she shouldn’t hang with them; but it was the holidays, and I wasn’t going to be a yuletide dick. Plus, it was free booze. I tried to have a good time despite the shitty music and not knowing anybody there. I just kept my drink topped off and feigned a smile on my face. Missy would flip the bitch-switch if I ruined tonight. I looked around, hoping to see somebody with some coke.
Missy returned to find me in the kitchen of this house as the front door exploded open. There in the doorway down the hallway stood Santa. I found it a bit odd; this being an adult party and Santa being there. Everyone was cheering and crowding around him as he made his way into the living room. Missy hooked her arm around my elbow and dragged me along with the rest of the revelers.
We stood in the back, and people were hopping onto Santa’s lap and taking selfies or posing as their friends fired off photos of them. It was as if they were children again. Regardless of whether they were sitting on his lap mockingly, ironically, or even genuinely, they were having a great time. Missy pulled me down to her ear and said, “Ryan, I want a picture of you sitting on Santa’s lap!” I shrugged it off and offered a decline to her request. She made the face that let me know I had better do it or else. She and I had been on rocky ground for a while, and I had to play the game to keep her. Our entire relationship I knew I had her, but she still loved her ex I had stolen her from. But fuck that guy. I’m the one pushing the dick into her. His loss is my gain. I looked her in the eyes and told her I’d do it. I forced a smile, slammed the rest of my drink, and handed her the empty glass. 
I walked over and sat on Santa’s Lap. He put a hand on my back and looked me in the face. “Ho Ho Ho,” he laughed. “Have you been a good boy, Ryan?” How the fuck did he know my name? Did I know this guy? I examined his beard and mustache to identify whether or not he was a fake, but seeing the little white hairs that were higher up on his cheeks shot that assumption down. It was a real beard. I don’t know anyone with a real white beard. I looked over at Missy, who was snapping photos, delighted. I waved to her and mugged for another flash from her phone. I heard Santa say quietly: “You have been a very bad boy, Ryan. I know what you have done, and tonight you will be on the naughty list. You have my word on this.” There was a tone of seriousness in his voice. I swung my head around to face him and he wasn’t smiling. “Take one last look at Missy. Memorize every detail of her face, because you’ll never see her again,” he said, his beard flittering at every word. 
I jumped off Santa’s lap. “You wanna catch these fists, you old fuck?! Who the fuck do you think you are, talking to me like that?!” Hands grab my upper arms and my shoulders, pulling me backward. My head swings side-to-side to see who had me in their grasps. It was two very large dudes, quite possibly members of Santa’s entourage. I saw Missy as they led me away. She was pissed, and I knew from her facial expression that it was the last straw. She gave me the finger and started for the front door, grabbing her coat. She waved at me and said: “We are done. Fuck you and your tough guy image.”
They led me through the living room and into the kitchen. The took their hands off me, and one wiped my shoulders to undo any wrinkling of my shirt they might have caused. He then blocked the kitchen door with his arms folded. “We are sorry you didn’t take that news lightly from Santa,” he said. The other guy pulled a couple of bottles from the refrigerator and made a drink on the counter beside me. 
I tried to make a dash toward the door. “I have to go talk to my girlfriend!” I yelled. Drink Mixing guy reached out swiftly with his Green Mile sized hand and reeled me back next to him. “Big Man wasn’t kidding. You won’t be seeing her again. Now have a drink and calm down for a minute. Big Man will be seeing you shortly and will explain the rest. We’ll be here to keep you company.” 
I took the drink from his hand and pounded it. He gently placed the tumbler in the sink, where he rinsed it, putting it in the dish rack when he was done. I found his manners impeccable, yet strangely alarming. I looked back at the other guy, who was the Kitchen Bouncer right now. He had turned a few people away while Drink Mixer stood in front of me. “Ryan, We will now be going outside, you and I. My associate here will go and grab your coat for you and meet us out there. I advise you to just keep staying chill with me and everything will, for the most part, be alright. Do you understand me?” I nodded to show I comprehended and agreed. His voice was one that was soothing and reassuring, but accented with a tone that was straight professionalism. He placed his hand at the small of my back and led me to the hallway, leading toward the front door. I pointed out my coat to the other guy, and we all went out into the snowy cold.
I was escorted down the street, past all of the partygoers’ vehicles. We walked about three blocks to a bright red SUV with reindeer horns adorning the front. The door was open and I was motioned to get in. The entire interior upholstery was red satin. It took me a moment to drink in the fact that the motor wasn’t running, but the inside of this SUV was extremely warm. This revelation was fleeting as I felt like every drink I had had doubled, hitting me all at once. A severe exhaustion overtook me, and my eyes close. My consciousness faded. I heard Drink Mixer’s soothing voice in the enveloping darkness. “This was quicker than I expected. Go let Big Man know we will rendezvous at the train. Also let Good Boy know to meet us there as well, as his present is ready.” The last of these words trailed off as I drifted into sweet oblivion.
Now I have more questions: Was I drugged? Who is Good Boy? I was right to assume I was on a train, but what the hell train am I on, that corny train of Santa’s? 
I let the fear take over and I join in with the caterwauling as I kick and punch at my wooden encasing. I scream until my throat feels like it’s shredding from the inside. I’m terrified. What the fuck is going to happen to me? I know this is all in vain. My strength is no match for this box. The darkness just isn’t helping, but I keep on kicking at the walls and pushing at the ceiling. 
WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? In my tantrum for release, my foot comes into contact with something. I feel it and hear it as it hits the floor. I freeze. My hands unthaw from their paralysis and they start feeling all over until my fingertips locate this object. Its smooth and rectangle. IT’S AN IPHONE! I roll it around in my hands, feeling along the edges for a button. I find it and take a breath as I press it. The screen lights up and my retinas burn even with this small amount of light. The lock screen is that of gift-wrapping like it’s a present. I see on the tag in the photo the number 64779. I swipe right and enter this number. The home screen pops up. There are no icons except for a text notification. Reluctantly I tap it. The message pops up. It shows that it is sent from “Good Boy”.
It reads: 
“By now you should have realized that you are in a box and this box is aboard Santa Claus’s train. You and many more like you are contained in the box cars headed toward your final destination. You see, Ryan, you stole something very, very precious from me: Missy. I know I had lost her, but you didn’t give me a fair chance to win her back. You never had her heart though. So I spent the last year doing selfless deeds while you did lines off the tits of all the girls you cheated on Missy with. I stayed on my best behavior and gave back to the world while you stayed belligerent and just took from it. By being a good boy, I got to be on Santa’s Good List, and he rewarded me with one wish. I wished big, you can bet on that. I asked Santa if he could answer the Christmas list of people needing organ transplants this year. Based on my selfless wish, he told me he would do that and he also said he would bring my heart back to me, my heart being Missy, of course. With this all being said, I hope you had the cognitive capacity to realize how this all plays out. You have a universal blood type. You will be harvested. Granted they will detox you from your addiction to booger-sugar first. You will finally not be a waste to society anymore. 
Merry Christmas.
– Cooper”
Is this for fucking real?! I swear to God when I get out of here, which I will, I will kill that little son of a bitch! There is no way I’m going to have my organs harvested. This is just an elaborate prank to scare me. It’s not going to work.
Oh fuck… I can hear the train’s wheels braking against the rails. That metal on metal squeal is the train stopping! Oh holy shit, what am I going to do? I can feel, despite being in the box, that the train has stopped and the muffled screams are reaching a fevered pitch as they, too, are coming to the same realizations. 
A door has just opened! My ear is pressed to the side of the box to hear better. I’m holding my breath. I hear footsteps and…
“Ho Ho Ho…”
 
 
Grandma Gets Quarantined
 
Emily sat in the Prancer car with her son and mother. She had received three tickets for her son, husband, and herself, but her husband had to go away for work suddenly. She asked her mother to come, and she was more than happy to join her grandson on Santa’s train ride.
 
“Have you ridden the train before, Grandma?” Aiden, Emily’s eight-year-old son, asked.
 
“I did when I was nine,” Grandma replied with a nostalgic smile. “It was every bit as magical as it is now. I’m so happy I can ride it again.”
 
Emily smiled. Aiden didn’t know, but his grandma didn’t have long to live. She’d likely be gone by spring if her doctors were right. Maybe it was a blessing that Larry had to travel to Washington at the last minute. He had given her mother one last Christmas wish answered.
 
Grandma coughed, pulling a handkerchief from her purse to cover her mouth. The coughing fits weren’t uncommon, and they lasted minutes sometimes.
 
“Are you alright?” Emily asked.
 
“I’m fine,” Grandma said between coughs. “Just grab me a hot tea with lemon when the elf comes by.”
 
Emily nodded, looking for the nearest elf. One came prancing down the aisle. “Excuse me,” Emily said. “Can you bring my mother a hot tea with lemon?”
 
The elf looked over the old woman sitting in the middle seat, still coughing into her handkerchief. “Oh dear,” the elf said, trotting off.
 
“Is he going to bring me my tea?” Grandma asked.
 
“I don’t know,” Emily replied. “These elves are so peculiar.”
 
A moment later, the elf came back with two more. He pointed to Grandma. “That’s her,” he said. “She was coughing up a storm into her rag.”
 
“Come with us, ma’am,” one of the newer elves, still short but muscular, said.
 
“I’m with my grandson!” Grandma said, putting an arm around Aiden. “It’s his first time on the train. I was here when I was nine.”
 
“Please, ma’am,” the original elf said. “We’re going to take you somewhere where you can get better.”
 
Grandma started coughing again, clearly trying to stifle it. When she was done, she nodded. “Alright,” she said.
 
“Mom, no!” Emily snapped. “Stay with us. It’s just a little coughing. They’re being ridiculous.”
 
“Don’t worry about me, dear,” Grandma said. “I don’t want to be a bother to anyone. I’m sure they’ll give me a lozenge and send me back up here in a jiffy.”
 
“Don’t go, Grandma,” Aiden pleaded.
 
“Don’t worry, pumpkin,” Grandma said, kissing Aiden on the forehead. “I’ll be back before you know it.”
 
Grandma left, being led by the three elves, toward the back of the Prancer train. Minutes past, turning into hours. Aiden watched out the window and enjoyed the festivities of the train (except for the horrible time when the presents were taken by those odd men wearing fur). Finally, after three hours, Emily had enough waiting and worrying,
 
“Hey!” Emily said, reaching into the aisle and stopping an elf rushing past with a scroll of parchment in front of him. “I need to see my mother.”
 
“I don’t know what you mean,” the elf said.
 
“She was taken because of her cough,” Emily said, “but she’s been gone for a few hours.”
 
“Nobody can leave the nurse’s car until they’re cleared to return,” the elf said.
 
“Well can I check on her at least?” Emily said. She lowered her voice and made sure that Aiden wasn’t paying her any attention. “She has cancer, and I just want to make sure she’s OK.”
 
The elf gave Emily a loving look. “Follow me,” he said. “I’m sure you can see her.”
 
Emily nodded. She put her hand on Aiden’s head. “Come on, honey,” she said. “We’re going to see Grandma.”
 
“Yay!” Aiden said, hopping off his seat and following his mother and the elf. They walked through two cars, finally making their way through the sliding door of the nurse’s car, near the back of the train. 
 
“What is your mother’s name?” the elf asked.
 
“Petunia Florence,” Emily replied. 
 
The elf looked over a listing on a clipboard and found the name. “Follow me,” he said, walking down an aisle of closed compartments. Emily stole a glance inside. Most of them were empty, and some had children or people with minor injuries or maladies, being looked at by elves in white coats. She spotted a regular-sized worker with a neck brace and wondered what could have happened to her. Near the end of the car was a door marked “quarantine zone”.
 
The elf went inside the quarantine zone, and Emily followed with Aiden. The walls here were covered in thick plastic, and the compartments were replaced with cubes of the same material. They found Grandma near the entrance, sitting on a blue cot with her feet on the ground. When she saw her family, she stood up and walked to the plastic wall.
 
“What are you doing to her?!” Emily snapped.
 
“Your mother is sick,” a nurse elf said, walking into the quarantine zone. “We will not risk the health of the other guests on the train by releasing her. When the ride if complete, we will turn her over to the proper authorities.”
 
“She has cancer,” Emily said. “She’s not contagious.”
 
“Grandma has cancer?” Aiden asked, looking through the plastic at his grandmother. Tears started to roll down his cheeks.
 
“We don’t have the means here to determine if she’s safe to return or not,” the nurse-elf said. “We are to quarantine anyone with a sickness that could spread.”
 
Grandma spoke, but her words were muffled due to the plastic. Emily and Aiden couldn’t understand her.
 
“I can’t hear you,” Emily said, enunciating her words as if Grandma could read her lips. Grandma looked defeated and sat back onto her cot.
 
“What are we supposed to do?” Emily asked as Aiden cried next to her.
 
“Go back to your seat,” the nurse-elf said, “get some hot chocolate, and enjoy the rest of the ride. Santa will be out once the train begins its trip back home.”
 
Emily looked toward her mother, who looked more depressed than she ever had before. She coughed into her fist. Emily then looked toward the nurse-elf, who gave her a reassuring, yet misplaced, smile.
 
“Hey,” Emily said, kneeling and facing Aiden. “Let’s go get you a hot chocolate with extra marshmallows. Santa will be making his way to us soon.”
 
“Yay!” Aiden said, running out of the quarantine zone. Emily gave Grandma one last look before following her son out. If she had stayed, she would have seen the look of hurt on Grandma’s face before she put her head down on the cot’s lumpy pillow and cried herself to sleep.
 
 
Ding and Ling
 
Twin elves, Ding and Ling, stood next to each other, waiting for their boss to tell them why he had them called into his small office so urgently. The train rolled along the track, keeping its pace as it sped through the forest, making it’s way to the large bridge. 
 
“You’re two of my best,” Sparkles, an elf with a large gut and a pointed nose, said. “I have a task of the utmost importance, and you’re the only two I trust.”
 
“You can count on us!” Ding, Ling’s twin brother, said.
 
“There’s no task too big!” Ling, Ding’s twin sister, added.
 
“I love your enthusiasm,” Sparkles said. “I need you to dispose of a body.”
 
Ding and Ling stared at Sparkles, both temporarily shocked into silence. “What?” Ding finally asked.
 
“A vagrant snuck aboard the train,” Sparkles said. “He tried to strangle and kill one of the cocoa wenches, and he was killed by a passenger. His body is behind the cocoa stand of the Comet car, and we need it removed as soon as possible in order for it to re-open. You know how Santa feels about snags like these.”
 
“I don’t know,” Ling said. “What are we supposed to do with it?”
 
“We’ll toss him off the bridge!” Ding said, hitting his left palm with his right fist. “If we can get the body over to the maintenance car, we can open the door, and toss him out.”
 
“We can’t let any of the kids see us,” Ling said, her hands on her mouth. “Oh no, we can’t.”
 
“Oh dear,” Ding said. “However will we move the vagrant’s body without being noticed?”
 
“Figure it out,” Sparkles said. “I have bigger candy canes to fry. There’s rumors of poachers coming for the drones.”
 
Ding and Ling stood behind the temporarily emptied cocoa stand, looking at the body of the hobo who had tried to throttle a woman, his mouth open, revealing yellow and brown-stained teeth. “He smells really bad,” Ling said.
 
“This won’t take long,” Ding said, pushing the vagrant’s mouth closed. It fell back open. “What are we going to do?”
 
Ling thought for a moment, looking at the vagrant while rubbing her chin. “I know!” she exclaimed, running off. She returned a moment later with a silver cocoa cart. “We can get him loaded onto the bottom of this!”
 
Ding positioned himself at the vagrant’s shoulders as Ling pushed the cart next to the body. Ling moved to his legs and crouched, putting one leg under each of her chubby arms. “Ready?” she asked.
 
“Ready,” Ding replied, putting his arms under the vagrant’s shoulders. They both heaved, trying their best to roll him onto the bottom of the cart. The body started to move, when its bowel’s emptied, filling the car with the sound of a wet balloon deflating. The stench of the vagrant’s last meal, post-digestion, filled the car. The twin elves dropped the body. Ling grabbed a trash pail and vomited into it.
 
“Dear me!” Ding said, pinching his nose. “This will be harder than I thought!”
 
“I have another idea!” Ling exclaimed, pointing a finger into the air. She rummaged through the counter, pulled out a couple of marshmallows, and shoved one up each nostril. She handed her brother two as well.
 
“That’s a great idea!” Ding said, taking the marshmallows and doing the same. With their noses blocked, they heaved again, rolling the vagrant onto the bottom of the cart. 
 
The cart rolled through the cars of the train, the dead vagrant on the bottom in the fetal position, covered by a white and red table cloth. “Sorry folks,” Ding said as everyone turned toward the source of the stench. “We’ll be out of your hair momentarily!”
 
“What is that?!” a man asked, pulling his kid away from the cart.
 
“Just some rubbish that got a little out of hand,” Ling said. She gave her brother a look, rolling her eyes slightly. Ding returned it.
 
“The reindeer drones will be here soon!” Ding shouted. “Maybe you’ll see them coming over the trees if you look out the windows!” The kids all ran off, looking for the coming drones.
 
The vagrant was wheeled to the maintenance car, and Ding pulled open the door to the outside, cold air whipping him in the face. The tablecloth blew off the vagrant’s body, but his sister was the luckily only other with him. “Don’t worry,” he said, raising his voice over the wind. “If they ever find him, they’ll think it was a suicide.”
 
Ling only nodded, and Ding turned back toward the door. He looked ahead, and he saw the bridge. He pulled the body off the cart, assisted by Ling. They moved it right to the edge, waiting for the right moment to push.
 
The ground was gone, making way to the gully under them. There was a river, but the body was going to smash on the ragged rocks. “Now!” Ding shouted. The two started to push, and the body moved slowly, teetering on the side.
 
“I can’t,” Ling said. “He’s too heavy!”
 
“Heave!” Ding shouted, the end of the bridge quickly approaching.
 
The body finally fell over the edge, spinning toward the rocky earth below, followed by Ling, who had tumbled out of the car when she pushed to hard.
 
“Ling!” Ding shouted. He only saw his sister for an instant before she was out of sight and dead, smashed upon the rocks. He fell back, put his arms on his knees, and sobbed.
 
 
Gonna Find Out Who’s Naughty and Nice
 
“I am a jolly man. I have a heart molded out of yuletide and a soul forged from holiday cheer. I have devoted my entire existence to spreading joy to all the world. Imagine my dismay when self-centered, overconfident, asshats, like yourself, insist on testing my goodwill toward men.” Santa spoke in his ire-tinged baritone.
 
The man laid wide-eyed in his modified spread-eagle position, restrained to the diminutive bed. His slack-jawed expression irritated the rosy-cheeked behemoth who stood next to his prone body. Santa gripped the nightstick-like candy cane in his hand a little tighter. The bound fellow’s eyes wandered to Santa’s whitening knuckles then to the attractive, blonde elf whose room in which he was now trapped.
 
“You seem to be rendered speechless, Trent.” the elf squeaked from her perch by the door, a malign grin affixed firmly to her lips.
 
Shock brushed his spinal column. “How do you-” he started.
 
“…know your name?” Santa finished. Trent’s gaze jerked back to The Big Man. “How do you think I know, Trent? I’m Santa Motherfuckin’ Claus. I make lists, I check them twice, and I ALWAYS find out who’s naughty or nice.” He raised the candy cane to his mouth and languidly licked at the blunted end. Realization dawned on Trent.
 
“I didn’t do anything, Santa. You gotta believe me.” he pleaded, childlike anxiety coursing through his veins. “We were just having a good time. Right…um…elf…girl?” he continued, unsuccessfully grappling for her name.
 
“It’s Starla, dick.” she responded incredulously. “You would have known that had you asked. And no. I don’t call being forced against a bathroom door by someone twice my size ‘a good time’.” she spat, miming air quotes.
 
Nervous laughter burst forth from Trent, astonished at his predicament. “I’m not even supposed to be here.” he whispered under his breath through gritted teeth. At this, Santa’s anger flared.
 
“No, you’re not!” he proclaimed. “You tricked a poor mother out of the tickets I SENT HER so she could share one last happy memory with her dying son on this train!” Santa began lapping furiously at the candy cane, spinning the end around on his tongue. “You smarmy shitheel. You didn’t know that little boy had leukemia?”
 
Trent gulped audibly. “Um, no. I don’t think I-“
 
It was Starla’s turn to cut him off. “Are you really trying to lie to Santa Claus right now?”
 
“No, ma’am.” Trent stammered. “I just-“
 
“Stop talking!” Santa yelled, his voice reverberating through the elf’s tiny compartment. “You knew about the child’s condition! I was giving you one last opportunity to utter some semblance of truth, and you squandered it!” He struck the palm of his left hand with the sugary cylinder he held in his right. Face flushed with rage, he turned to Starla.
 
“Get my Frosty phone.” She fled the room in a flurry of yellow locks and tinkling bells. Moments later Starla bustled back into the room carrying what appeared to be a miniature snowman statue. Without a word, she took the candy cane from The Big Guy and offered the figurine in return. Santa beheaded the snowman revealing a receiver in the neck that he then held to his ear and a transmitter in the body into which he spoke.
 
“Hello, Nosh!” He said delightedly, his voice not betraying the rage that simmered beneath. “I understand you have a young lady alone with you in the Cuisine Car.” He paused as the person on the other end of the conversation responded. “Is she still upset?” He asked gingerly, then paused again. “I see. How unfortunate, she’s such a nice girl. I need you to do me a favor. I’m in Starla’s roomette with the lovely dear’s…boyfriend.” His eyes flitted wrathfully to the human garbage that laid before him. “Don’t reveal anything to her, but I need you to accompany sweet Lynn to my location.” Another pause. “Thank you, Nosh.” He then snapped the two pieces of the snowman back together and traded it with Starla for the candy cane.
 
“What are you doing?! Lynn can’t come here! She can’t see me like this!” Trent yelled hysterically, straining his limbs uselessly against the well-fashioned knots. “Untie me now!” he screamed, righteous indignation replacing the consternation that shook his being only minutes ago.
 
Santa chuckled wildly. “You? Making demands? You haven’t a leg to stand on.” The joke caused Starla to joined in with her own raucous chortles. Trent continued to scream profanities at the pair as they reveled in their merriment. Their guffaws eventually died away and so did Trent’s colorful pronouncements. A distinct air of seriousness filled the space.
 
“You’ve been very naughty, Trent.” Santa stated in his disappointed fatherly tone, wetting the end of the newly rounded candy cane one last time.
 
“Fuck you, Santa.” Trent retorted then hawked a loogie at jolly ol’ Saint Nick, hitting one of his coat buttons.
 
Santa blankly eyeballed the creature before him. “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Santa resounded mirthlessly, wiping the nasty chunk of phlegm away. He meandered toward the foot of the bed where Trent’s legs were fastened by a single red and green argyle scarf. Santa admired Starla’s knot-work, then without warning he drove the overlarge object into the unwilling rectum of the man fettered to the elf’s bed. The wail that broke from Trent’s lungs was bestial. A string of baleful “Ho, ho, hos!” rang out from Santa Claus in reply.
 
There was a knock at the door.
 
 
Sparkles Reports to the Big Man
 
Sparkles, manager to the elves employed on the train, sat in his small office, joined by Bon-bon, a small elf who made his living as the work elves’ union steward.
 
“All I’m asking for is a bit of your time,” Bon-bon said, his white hair brushed neatly to one side. He pushed his small spectacles up his nose. “An elf has died, falling from the train performing a task you set upon her.”
 
Sparkles sighed. “What happened to Ling is tragic,” he said, “but she’s far from the first elf who has died on this train, and she won’t be the last. I don’t have time for this right now.”
 
“You’re going to need to make time,” Bon-bon said. “Do you have any idea of the state of her brother, Ding?”
 
“Find Ding,” Sparkles said. “Find him and keep him locked up. I don’t need him on my train upsetting Santa’s guests.”
 
“We’re looking for him,” Bob-bon said. “He’s very distraught. He saw his sister die, and I just want to talk about what we’re going to do about it!”
 
“Look!” Sparkles snapped. “A wild vagrant was killed as he tried to strangle a cocoa wench, the cocoa wrench is in the infirmary car with a bruised trachea, the reindeer drones were poached in front of the guests, a dead body was reeled past the guests disguised as garbage, an elf fell from the train, there’s a Santa impersonator nobody will address because he’s a minority, an old woman literally cried herself to death in the quarantine zone, and the bathroom on the Donner car has been locked since this train left the station. The guests have been traveling to the Vixen car to use the restroom, and the line trails halfway down the car! To top it all off, I need to make my report to Santa in ten minutes! So excuse me if I don’t have time to talk about this just now. You can file the mother of all grievances if you want, but please do it after this trip.”
 
“We’ve both been doing this a long time, and I respect you,” Bon-bon said. “I understand this has been a stressful year. Agree to have a sit-down with me as soon as this trip is concluded, and the union will be satisfied for the time being.”
 
“Fine,” Sparkles said. “We’ll talk about Ling as soon as this trip is done.”
 
“Thank you,” Bon-bon said, standing. “Don’t leave the big man waiting.”
 
Sparkles sighed as Bon-bon left. He had a report to make, and it wasn’t a good one. He hadn’t exaggerated what had gone on, and he was minutes away from reporting to Santa.
 
And Santa hated getting bad news.
 
Sparkles walked from his office through the cars, delightfully named after Santa’s reindeer. He approached the lead car when he was blocked by a woman, holding a sleeping baby. “Is Santa in there?!” she demanded. “I heard screaming!”
 
“Elves only after this point,” Sparkles said. He was supposed to stay cheery and polite in front of the guests, but Santa didn’t like to be left waiting either.
 
“Tell Santa I’ll be waiting for him here!” the woman called as Sparkles shoved past her. “Tell him I’ll be here with our child, the one he refuses to acknowledge exists!”
 
The door of the lead car slammed behind Sparkles, and he was thankfully in silence. It was only going it last another minute though. He climbed a spiral, gold-ornate stairway leading to the second tier of the car. There was where he found Santa, sitting in his large, red-cushioned chair, a silver stein of steaming cocoa in his left hand. It was a tradition for him whenever he was finished with a particularly naughty boy or girl.
 
“You’re right on time, Sparkles!” Santa said, his deep voice booming. Sparkles was always in awe of his boss, no matter how many times he found himself in the same room. “Ho, ho, ho,” Santa laughed. “Give me your report.”
 
Sparkles stared into Santa’s face. He didn’t know anything that had happened on the train other than the personal business he conducted, and Sparkles wasn’t one of the elves privileged to help with the most secret of Saint Nick’s private dealings, other than cleaning up the occasional mess. Santa hadn’t even looked outside to see the poachers take the drones. The jolly look on his rosy face was void of any knowledge of the many disasters that had happened since the trip began.
 
“Nothing to report,” Sparkles said, losing the nerve to be the bearer of bad news.
 
“That is good to hear,” Santa said. “I’m glad. Ho, ho, ho!”
 
Sparkles forced a smile.
 
 
Penny
 
Penny sat on the toilet lid in the bathroom of the Donner car, her arms bound behind her back by leather straps, her mouth blocked with her trusty ball-gag, her eyes blindfolded. She had lost track of how long it had been since she was left in that state; three hours, maybe four? She had pissed herself at some point, and the small train restroom reeked of her urine, but her captor had said he was into that. She had no idea how much longer she was going to have to wait in this position, and it suited her just fine.
 
An invitation to ride Santa’s train reached her home right around Thanksgiving, giving her two tickets: one for her daughter and one for her. Penny held onto the tickets, keeping them a secret from her daughter, posting an ad on Craigslist instead.
 
Penny had an odd fetish. She liked to be bound and left alone, unknowing when her master would return to free her and fuck her. The thought of being tied up and made to wait in a locked restroom on Santa’s train made her so horny that she prayed for someone to answer her ad.
 
The ad was answered, and Penny’s daughter was set up to stay with her cousins for the weekend of the train trip. She kept everything a secret, telling her own sister that she had to go away for work. She felt a little guilty keeping this trip from her own daughter and taking a random guy from the internet on the train, but she got over it quickly. An opportunity like this only came around once in a lifetime.
 
Penny met Jacques, the man who had answered her ad. She figured it was a fake name, seeing as he was dark-skinned and didn’t speak with a french accent, but she didn’t care. He had even dressed like a brown Santa Claus for the occasion, turning the naughty dial up a few clicks. As soon as the train left the station, he had done as she had asked, tying her up in the restroom with leather straps, gagging her, blindfolding her, and taking her clothes. She was now completely helpless, save the one man who would eventually return to fuck her, untie her, and return her clothes.
 
The hours ticked by, and Penny loved every minute of it.
 
“Hello?” a woman called, rapping on the door. She wasn’t the first, and she wasn’t going to be the last. The car only had the one restroom, and the amount of people trying to get in made Penny’s excitement grow every time they came knocking. The chance that a maintenance elf might cut Jacques’s lock to find her in there intensified her excitement.
 
The woman knocked one more time, and Penny stayed silent. She vowed to stay silent every time someone knocked, waiting for the moment of Jacques’s return. She wanted him to return so bad, to take her and free her from her bondage. She imagined him sitting on the train next to an empty seat, thinking about what he was going to do to her when he unlocked his lock. He must have been going as crazy as she was, waiting for the right moment.
 
More unmeasured time past, and Penny waited.
 
 
He Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good
 
Trent’s voice was horse; he could no longer scream or fight against his bonds. Any pleasant sensation he had ever experienced in his life was a distant memory, there was only torment now. Tears still streamed steadily from his bruised and swollen eyes but his body had given out.
 
“I think I’m done.” Lynn said breathlessly. Her arms ached from such rigorous, pro-longed exertion. Tendrils of her dark hair had escaped their previously kempt ponytail and stuck to her sweat covered face and neck.
 
“I think he is too.” Starla giggled as she tasted the wetness that glistened on Trent’s cheeks.
 
“That’s enough.” Santa declared then knelt to help Nosh attach his suspenders to the back of his pants. “Starla, will you please find my Frosty phone? I think I lost it in all the hub-bub.”
 
“Sure, Boss.” she responded and hopped down from the bed with extra pep in her step. She began digging through the strewn pile of floggers and used condoms as everyone else finished getting dressed.
 
“What do we do now?” Lynn asked a little trepidatiously, pulling the worse-for-wear reindeer sweater down over her head. Santa stood and buckled his belt, weighing his words before he spoke.
 
“Well, I have to get Starla’s room thoroughly disinfected. My elves deserve clean and comfortable living quarters, safe from dirt and grime.” his gaze darted to Trent’s trembling form then back at Lynn. “Starla will go about entertaining the children aboard as usual. And Nosh will take you back to the Cuisine Car. He is to serve you anything you wish, as I am quite sure you are famished.” a genuine smile lighting up his features.
 
A smirk touched the edge of Lynn’s lips then dread set in. She gathered her courage. “What about him?”
 
Santa knew what she was really asking. He responded in a measured tone. “He is naughty, Lynn. He has always been naughty, even as a child. You are not the first to be hurt by his deeds. Trent has a long history of inflicting pain and traumatizing women.” He put a comforting hand on Lynn’s shoulder. “Just know, that he is getting what he deserves and you need not feel any guilt or regret. You will suffer no repercussions from this day. You are free to go about your life as if he never existed.”
 
Lynn’s demeanor brightened as if the darkest clouds had lifted. She threw her arms around Santa Claus and hugged him tight.
 
“Thank you.” she whispered into his ear as a single tear fell.
 
“Firm, but fair.” Nosh piped up. She let go of Santa’s neck and followed the rotund elf back to the Cuisine Car.
 
“Found it!” Starla exclaimed from beneath the mound of objects covered in bodily fluids. Santa nipped the Frosty phone from Starla’s outstretched hand, snapped off the snowman’s head once more, and spoke into the headless body.
 
“Hello, Sparkles! I need you in Starla’s room for cleanup immediately.” He stopped to wrenched the giant candy cane out of the dying man’s sphincter. A gurgling sound of agony escaped Trent’s lungs as a spurt of blood-laced fecal matter issued from his anus. “You might need some backup, I suggest Ding and Ling. They always have interesting ideas for rubbish disposal.” He paused, listening to Sparkles accept the order. “Thank you. And don’t forget to report in to me later. I need a shower and some hot cocoa, you can stop by after that.” He reconnected the two pieces of the phone.
 
“If I can make one suggestion, sir?” Starla queried, still surrounded by the assemblage of deviant devices.
 
“Of course, dear.” Santa answered.
 
“Can we…keep him?” she requested.
 
Santa took one last look at the setting around him. 
 
“That should be fine. Just don’t forget to put away your toys when you’re done.” He leaned down and kissed the little elf on her head.
 
The sound of a throat clearing interrupted the touching scene.
 
“Sparkles!” Starla squealed clapping her hands, excited to see her friend.
 
Santa righted his posture and address his Head Elf. “There’s been a slight change of plans. Far be it from me deny my elves a little Christmas fun.” he said cheerfully. “Starla will fill you in on the particulars.” He handed Sparkles the slimy candy cane and walked out the door.
 
Achmed Claus
 
Achmed sat on Santa’s train, staring out the window, waiting. He was dressed like Santa Claus except for the white beard. His own beard of short, coarse, black hair would suffice.
 
“Are you sure you don’t mind me sitting here?” the elf next to him asked.
 
“I do not mind,” Achmed said. “The woman I came with is in the restroom. She is an American whore, and I have no respect for her kind.”
 
“Oh,” the elf said, stirring his cocoa with two candy canes. “I’ll move when she returns, I guess. I’m Ding, by the way.”
 
“My name is Jacques,” Achmed said. He gave a snort of a laugh. “I don’t need that name any more. I am Achmed.”
 
A young boy came running toward them, looking at the elf named Ding. “I want to go to the Rudolph car, but mommy says there is none,” he said. “Why isn’t there a car named after Rudolph.”
 
“Because there is no Rudolph,” Ding said, sipping his cocoa. He was the least cheery elf Achmed had seen on the train.
 
“What?” the boy asked, confused by the answer he received.
 
“Rudolph was never one of Santa’s actual reindeer,” Ding said. “He was invented by ad executives working for huge department stores. Ever see Mad Men? He was created by cigarette-smoking, booze-swilling scumbags like the ones from that show.”
 
“Come on,” the boy’s mother said, dragging the boy away by his wrist. “This elf doesn’t want to be bothered.”
 
“You know what’s really fucked up?” Ding asked, staring into his mug. “They always tell you it’s wrong to fuck your sister, but they don’t tell you how right it feels when it’s not fucking, but making love.”
 
“You’ve had it rough,” Achmed said. “This is why I despise the west. Their very ideals sicken me! They’ve invaded lands that do not belong to them, forcing their way of life onto others, killing children and poisoning the minds of those who live.”
 
Achmed was done sitting. He stepped over Ding and walked into the aisle, opening his red and white Santa coat. “You infidels have spread your filth among humanity long enough!” he exclaimed, turning so everyone could see the sticks of dynamite strapped to his abdomen and the trigger he held in his hand. “Today you die so my message will be heard!”
 
The car was filled with screaming as everyone panicked, trying to climb over each other to escape. “Open the emergency exit, TJ!” a woman shouted, trying to climb over her own son to get to the red handle under their window.
 
“No,” her son said, staring into the dead eyes of Achmed. The boy’s lips parted slightly as an eager tongue licked past his teeth.
 
“Allahu Akbar!” Achmed shouted, grasping the trigger. He was ready to blow everyone in the car to hell when Ding jumped onto his shoulder, grabbing at his hand, stopping him from hitting the button.
 
“No!” Ding shouted, clawing at the trigger mechanism to stop Achmed from detonating the bomb strapped to his chest. The mother next to the emergency exit panicked at the sight, punching her son in the face and yanking the red lever, opening the emergency door. Wind rushed into the car as her son fell out, smacking into the ground as the train’s emergency alarm blared.
 
The train lurched as the brakes were applied, and Achmed lost his footing while trying to balance himself and the clinging elf on his shoulder. He fell backward, sliding out of the opening as the kid had done a moment before.
 
“I’M COMING, LING!” Ding shouted as the two fell outside of the train, slamming into the hard ground. The whole train shook as Achmed’s bomb detonated. The passengers screamed, sure the train was going to be derailed, but it righted itself, trudging along as it slowed. Rocks and soil fell from the sky, hitting the trees in the distance.
 
Soon, the train was moving at full speed again, making its way to the loop that would send it back the way it came. The return trip was when Santa came to greet the children.
 
 
Epilogue
 
Santa’s train came to a stop at the station, its trip completed. The people got off, walking back toward their various modes of transportation, back to their everyday lives, knowing they may never get the privilege to ride Santa’s train again. “Ho, ho, ho!” Santa waved from his place on top of his private car, a jolly smile on his face. “Merry Christmas!” People observed him as they left, wondering how oblivious he was to what was happening on his own train. He seemed loopy as he greeted the kids. It appeared that he didn’t even know a boy fell from one of the emergency exits during a terrorist attack.
 
Sparkles walked through the cars, making sure there were no stowaways trying to take a free trip to the North Pole. They’d be surprised if they were successful. The train sat in a warehouse until it was time for next year’s invitations to be sent.
 
“Who put a lock on this door?” Tinkles, a maintenance elf said, fiddling with a small padlock on the bathroom door in the Donner car.
 
“Cut it,” Sparkles said, stopping and crossing his arms. At least one mystery would get solved on this godforsaken trip.
 
Tinkles took a chisel and a hammer from his tool box and popped the lock off with one swift motion. He opened the door and stepped back, the smell of piss filling the car. “What the hell?!” he exclaimed.
 
Sparkles stepped forward to see what was inside, and he saw a blonde woman, nude except for the leather straps around her wrists and ankles. She looked at the elves, ball gag still in her mouth, blindfold askew. The floor was covered in her piss.
 
“Get out of here,” Sparkles said. “I’ll deal with this one.”
 
Tinkles did as he was asked, picking up his tool box and running to the next car.
 
Sparkles observed the woman in the restroom, reading a look of embarrassment and dismay on her face. He moved inside, undoing his belt. “I’m going to show you what we do to perverts like you on Santa’s train,” he said.
 
The woman let out a moan, sliding against the wall.
 
 

 

The End

Why I Chose to Stay Behind

Dan sat at his dining room table, looking out at the sunny afternoon outside the window. It was quiet in his house. His wife and daughter had already left, trying to get a spot in line to one of the shuttles. There were limited seats, and people were lining up for miles attempting to abandon the planet. A comet was heading toward the earth; and the government had a plan to save humanity, but it wasn’t enough to save everyone.
 
Dan told his wife he wanted to stay, but he wouldn’t talk her into staying with him. It was pointless to try to leave the planet at this point. Even if they were able to get to the ones interviewing potential passengers, they would have to pass the interview. Dan worked with the electric system and overhead wires, and he wasn’t even sure what they would have in place on the new planet the media had dubbed “New Earth” in a complete lack of creativity.
 
There was one other skill Dan could boast, but it was more of a hobby than anything else. He was a competent writer, and he had a small following on the internet when he posted as his alter ego: Budgie Bigelow. He had been watching the news and reading their web sites along with everyone else in the country when the story broke about the planet-killing comet heading toward them. The plan to get as many people onto the spaceships and en route to New Earth was seen as a godsend, but the more Dan read, the more sickened he became with humanity.
 
So Dan looked away from the window to open his laptop on the dining room table. He decided to write one last piece before the world was obliterated and turned to dust. He didn’t know if anyone would read it before the shuttles blasted off, or if anyone who stayed on Earth would care when so many were leaving them behind to die. 
 
Still, Dan opened a document and titled his piece: Why I Chose to Stay Behind.
 
***
 
 
Why I Chose To Stay Behind
By Budgie Bigelow
 
I’m writing this during the last days, maybe hours, of the earth. There’s looting in the cities, panic in every neighborhood, and fear in every household. As I write this, my wife is waiting to be interviewed with my daughter for seats on one of the spaceships to send them to New Earth, where they’ll have a second chance on a new planet.
 
But I chose to stay behind.
 
Like every human being on earth, I have been reading the news and watching CNN almost constantly since the bright, yellow trail was seen in the sky as the comet made its first pass, missing earth. I breathed in relief when they told us we came close to annihilation, but earth would persevere. I also wept with the rest of humanity when they said the asteroid would return after the gravity of the sun will propel it back toward us, putting us directly in its projected path.
 
Then the heroes of humanity rose to the challenge.
 
They told us there’s a planet outside our solar system that can support human life. They had multiple shuttles readied to make the trip a week or so before our planet will be dust, floating around space in microscopic pieces for all eternity. Soon after, the first shuttles were stocked and brought to their launch sites.
 
Then the comet’s trail returned: a line of gold and yellow etched across the night sky. Scientists came on TV to tell us it must have left a trail of particles in our atmosphere, and they were reacting to whatever material the comet was made of as it made its way back to earth from its slingshot-course around the sun. They said they needed more time to study it to be sure, but the planet didn’t have it.
 
The manifest of the first shuttle broke on the internet days before it was scheduled to launch. Rumor was a disgruntled NASA employee leaked it so we’d know the truth. It was full of politicians and wealthy businessmen – the one-percent in other words. The manifests of two more shuttles were released, and the results were the same. There were spots for citizens they deemed “necessary”, but it was mostly old, white men and their families being saved.
 
The protests came next. Thousands of people took to the streets of cities scheduling launches, protesting what was happening. They claimed the government had promised to save humanity, but only saved themselves and their richest friends. Televised media painted the protesters as hippies and nut-jobs, and why not? The CEO’s of the news corporations all had their names on the manifests too.
 
The president, his cabinet, and the richest of the rich went first, blasting off into space as the doomed world watched on television. They promised to govern as they did here, upholding the United States constitution, but it’s not as if they did such a good job before. The battle between the left and right will persevere on some other planet after it all went so badly on earth.
 
This was when I came to be suspicious of their plan. The shuttles were readied way too quickly for them not to know the human race was going to need to leave the planet. I don’t know if it’s possible for the government to have prior knowledge about a rogue comet hurling toward the earth, so one would have to assume they planned on leaving the earth before humans had completely destroyed it.
 
And the people now heading to New Earth are the ones responsible for the earth’s raping. The only consolation is the comet would put it out of its misery before humans could finish its slow murder of an entire planet.
 
I was told to wait in the long lines and apply for one of the vacant seats. They said I may be needed during the later days of the colonizing of New Earth, but I couldn’t see why. My wife packed us a small bag each (all that one is allowed), got our daughter ready, and told me we were going to try and get on one of the ships. I told her I wanted to stay.
 
We argued over my choice. I told her to take our daughter and try to leave since she felt they had a chance. There wasn’t time to argue, and she left with our daughter. I really do hope they get on one of the ships, but my gut tells me they’ll be home before the end comes, waiting for the comet to obliterate us as a family.
 
I refuse to go through the humiliating interview process for my survival when the upper echelon of American royalty go for nothing but a handshake. All that’s on New Earth for a middle class worker like me is another lifetime of toil while the over-privileged sit back and rebuild their empire, lining their pockets with our hard work, feathering their nests with our corpses. I refuse to fight just to be part of their herd. Everything wrong with America is on the shuttles, being ushered to a new planet as the people they poisoned and pushed under the rug stay behind to die.
 
This planet is doomed, and I am happy to share its fate. I know there’s a minute chance this article will live on after the comet does what it’s fated to do, but I’ll take the time to post it anyway. I stopped watching or reading the news, so I really have no idea how much time we have left now that the constant doomsday clock is out of my perceptions. I like it better this way.
 
I hope there’s more people like me out there, sitting back, watching the golden-yellow trail in the sky, and waiting to see what waits us all in the next life. I have a case of beer, a comfortable chair in my backyard, and a small bonfire lit in my fire-pit.
 
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be waiting for the comet.
 
-Budgie Bigelow

 

 

We Were Promised Pokémon in the Real World; a short story by Budgie Bigelow

We Were Promised Pokémon in the Real World
A Short Story by Budgie Bigelow
 
Prologue
 
 
Keith waited for his phone to be fully charged along with the two friends in his car, Greg and Val. He had been friends with Greg since middle school. He was less dorky than Keith, and he was able to blend in better because of it. Val was newer to their little group. She knew Keith and Greg through their shared workplace, and the three had become chummy over their breaks and lunches.
 
Keith was a run-of-the-mill mixed race kid who had been raised by a single father. He was into sports and playing the violin, which his father had insisted he do. He considered himself a “normal dork”, usually sporting untidy hair, glasses, and a look that the hipsters of New Haven had somehow adapted. His father often told him he looked like Rick Springfield.
 
The three were in their mid-thirties, but Keith felt far from grown up. He hadn’t moved out of his father’s house until he was in his late-twenties when he and Greg rented a second floor apartment near their job.
 
“You all set there?” Greg asked. Keith looked at his phone to see if it had reached 100% yet.
 
“Almost,” Keith said. The game they were playing was simple, and it would likely take most of the remaining morning and some of the afternoon. They were going to all start their Pokémon Go apps at 100% phone battery each, and they were going on a wild Pokémon hunt. Their starting destination was random, and they now sat parked near the center of Hamden, Connecticut. They were not allowed external charging devices or stops to charge their phones. The only time they were allowed to shut their phones down was for a lunch break. Otherwise, they were to remain on until their respective batteries reached 0%, ending the game.
 
“So how do you win?” Val asked from the backseat of Keith’s car. “Tell me again.”
 
Val was new to Pokémon Go. She heard Keith and Greg going on about it, and she downloaded it to see what the hype was about. She was at level four, and she found boundless joy in capturing the endless streams of pidgies around their office park.
 
“You don’t really win or lose,” Greg said. He was the big expert and a level twenty player, and he made it known. Keith thought he was too old when Pokémon started airing after school, so he knew less than Greg. Most of his knowledge came from Greg or the game. “You just catch as much as possible, hit the Pokéstops, and just have a good time.”
 
“Good,” Val said, smiling, “because I’d lose.”
 
“I’m at 100%,” Keith said when the 99% made way for the full charge. “I’m ready when you are.”
 
Greg and Val both grasped the bases of their chargers, waiting for Keith to do the same. He did as obliged after putting his car keys in his pocket. “We unplug on the count of three,” Greg said. “One, two, three.”
 
100%
 
The trio of Pokémon hunters walked toward their first Pokéstop, a church just a block away from where Keith’s car waited. They all spun the picture of the church around and gathered their booty. 
 
“OH!” Val exclaimed. “A Pidgy!” She giggled as she tapped the Pidgy and entered the augmented reality version of the space in front of the church steps through her phone. The Pidgy scratched its wing with its beak as the first pokéball missed it. “Damn.”
 
“Let me give you a quick tip,” Greg said, watching over Val’s shoulder. “Turn off the augmented reality option. Your battery will last a little longer.”
 
“You can put it into battery-saver mode too,” Keith added, hoping he didn’t sound too eager to not be left out of the conversation. He always felt a pang of jealousy when Greg talked to Val. Keith had never spoken to his friend about how he felt about her, so he couldn’t blame him if he was interested. He didn’t know if she was interested in Greg in return. The truth was he had no idea about how anyone felt about anyone.
 
“But I like looking at the Pokémon in our world,” Val said, clicking off the AR function. “Makes the game feel more real.”
 
“I remember when they were teasing this game,” Greg said. “We were promised Pokémon in the real world, and this is what we got.”
 
“You should still make sure you save your battery,” Keith said. “You don’t want to be following us around if you can’t catch any if your phone dies before ours.”
 
“I wouldn’t mind,” Val said. “It’s good exercise, and it’s beautiful out, too.”
 
That was the truth, especially compared to the recent heatwave that hit at the end of July. Now that the beginning August was upon them, the weather was a bit cooler and the humidity was gone. Keith hoped it stayed like that for the rest of summer. He’d have another excuse to get Val out on more Pokémon hunts. Maybe next time he can secretly plan it when Greg wasn’t available.
 
“Look at this notice,” Val said, looking at the glass-encased bulletin board by the church’s entrance.
 
Keith walked beside her and read aloud. “Local boy, Ray Brower, missing and presumed dead. He went missing while playing Pokémon Go and separated from his friends. Please, be aware of the dangers about when playing a public game that demands most of your attention. Our community is hurt but Ray’s disappearance, and we want no more Pokémon related losses.”
 
“Damn,” Greg said. “That’s a bit harsh.”
 
“I think my aunt shared that story on Facebook,” Keith said. 
 
“They have a point though,” Val said. “It’s easy for a sicko to nab a kid when he’s walking aimlessly, staring at his phone.”
 
“We should go west,” Greg said, looking at his own phone, ignoring Val’s worry for the youth of Hamden. “I think we’ll hit a good vein of Pokémon that way.”
 
“Plus it’s where all the restaurants are,” Keith added.
 
“Fine,” Val said, “but after lunch I want to venture off the main roads. That’s what this Pokémon trek is all about right.”
 
“Pokémon hunt,” Greg corrected. “We’re hunting, remember?”
 
82%
 
Three Pokéstops and a dozen successful catches later, Keith, Greg, and Val decided to make their way toward something to eat. The good thing about this area of Hamden was there were plenty of stops to get balls, and they were going to need them if they planned on veering from the main roads after they ate.
 
“Let’s just do something quick,” Greg said. “How about Burger King.”
 
Val made a face that said she didn’t agree with Burger King or it wasn’t going to agree with her. “Do we have to?” she asked. “Why not Friday’s? It’s right there, and we can sit for a bit and order something healthier than burgers and fries.”
 
Keith chanced a glance at Val. He knew it was a cliche to say her body was a temple, but he didn’t care. He’d feel privileged if he were allowed to worship there, even once. He was going to speak up to agree with her, but Greg beat him to the punch.
 
“Nope,” Greg said, shaking his head. “You’re getting plenty of exercise today, and we don’t want to waste too much time sitting around.”
 
“Fine,” Val groaned, “but one of you guys owes me a sit-down dinner.”
 
Keith’s heart leapt. She didn’t tell Greg he owed her the dinner, and he wasn’t piping up to offer. He figured he could bring it up later if Greg disappeared for a bit.
 
So the trio walked further down Dixwell AVE and went into Burger King. They ordered their food. Greg told them to sit and he’d bring them their lunch, and they picked a booth by the front windows, looking out at the traffic zipping by.
 
“What’s that trick Greg was talking about with the little brown foxes?” Val asked, he cup of Diet Coke in front of her.
 
“Do you have any?” Keith asked.
 
“No,” Val replied, “but I can get one today maybe.”
 
“You’ll need a bunch,” Keith said, “but when you catch an Evee, you change its name to Rainer, Sparky, or Pyro, and it will turn into a Vaporeon, Jolteon, or a Flareon respectively.”
 
“You lost me,” Val said.
 
“Look,” Keith said, turning his phone back on and opening the Pokémon Go app. “These are the evolutions of the elusive Evee.”
 
Val leaned in close to look at his screen. Whatever was in his stomach jumped around, as the scent from her shampoo wafted toward his nostrils. She lingered for a moment before sitting back down. “You have so many of them,” she said.
 
“I’ve been playing longer,” Keith said. “Gregg and I…”
 
Keith noticed Val was no longer paying attention to him. Her attention had shifted toward Greg and the blonde girl he was talking up near the register. She was shorter and looked to be in her early twenties. Keith noticed the way Val looked at Greg and the blonde girl. It was the same way he looked at Val and Greg when they talked and he was left out. He knew his suspicions were right. Val liked Greg. That’s why she downloaded the app and jumped at the opportunity to spend the day with them.
 
Greg pointed to them and started walking over with their tray of food. The girl followed, carrying her own tray. She signaled to someone else to come join them. Soon, Greg, the blonde girl, and a teenage boy were all sitting in the booth.
 
“I found some fellow hunters,” Greg said. “This is Natasha. Natasha, this is Keith and Val.”
 
“Hello,” Natasha said in a Russian accent. She wore a dark brown tank top with no bra and short, tight khakis. She carried a dark-brown canvas purse that looked like it had been beat up for a few years.
 
“And is this your little brother?” Val asked, smiling at the teenage boy with shaggy brown hair and thick, black, squarish glasses.
 
“No,” the boy said, snobbishly. “My name is Tyler, and I’m her friend.”
 
“Oh,” Val said. “Sorry.”
 
“Tell them what you told me,” Greg said, looking at Natasha.
 
“I came to America five years ago, when I was nineteen,” Natasha said. “I studied at the local high school for a year to learn English. My peers labeled me a freak in my homeland because of my belief in the occult and the paranormal, but I got a fresh start here. I didn’t even tell anyone at the school about exorcising the demons from my babushka.”
 
“I’m sorry,” Keith said. “Did you say demons?”
 
“Da,” Natasha said. “My babushka was a sensitive, and they came to her often; five times during my lifetime until she died. I can be a powerful medium if I concentrate. I started a paranormal research group in my high school, and I still conduct research with them. That is how I became friends with Tyler. He is in my old group.”
 
“And you love Pokémon, right?” Greg said, almost gleeful.
 
“Da,” Natasha replied, smiling. “Tyler does as well. He is very gifted.”
 
“How can you be gifted in Pokémon?” Val asked. “You just go around looking for them, right?”
 
Tyler gave a single, dry laugh. “You must be a noob,” he said. “What level are you?”
 
“Five as of today,” Val said.
 
Tyler gave another laugh. “Well, without bragging about my level,” he began, “I’m a mathematical wizard; and I’ve been plotting routes for people like you since this game came out, and they pay me well to do it. I use ancient Sanskrit texts and my ability to meditate and access my akashic records in order to do so.”
 
“Cool,” Keith said, trying to measure if he was being serious or not.
 
“You two should join us,” Greg said. “We’re doing a battery drain hunt?”
 
“What is that?” Natasha asked.
 
Tyler was the one who answered. “It sounds like they play Pokémon Go until the app drains their phone batteries to zero,” he said.
 
“Sounds fun,” Natasha said. “I just charged my phone on the drive here, but I’m game if you’ll allow us to join.”
 
Val and Keith looked at each other, but it was Greg who spoke up. “Excellent,” he said. “Let’s eat and go hunt some wild Pokémon!”
 
67%
 
The trio was now a quintet, following the lead of the seventeen-year-old Tyler instead of simply wandering Hamden aimlessly. He insisted they hit a few Pokéstops before heading onto the road less traveled. Keith though Tyler was making the route up as they walked, but he couldn’t argue with the haul he was catching.
 
“We’re doing good, da?” Natasha asked.
 
“Yeah,” Greg agreed, flicking at his phone to catch a wild Geodude. “We’re doing great.”
 
Keith and Val had stayed mostly quiet since their group of three became five. It was more than apparent that Greg was more interested in Natasha than them and Tyler only seemed interested in the route.
 
“Oh,” Val said, looking at her screen. “‘My egg is hatching.”
 
Keith moved over to see what prize awaited her in the Pokémon egg she had been incubating since he showed he how two Pokéstops ago. It cracked and opened, revealing a two-headed bird. “A Duodo,” Keith said. “Good get.”
 
Val smiled as the Duodo was registered to her Pokédex.
 
“So now we’re celebrating mediocrity,” Tyler said.
 
“What the hell are you talking about?” Keith asked.
 
“All she had to do was walk until the egg hatched,” Tyler said. “There’s no skill in that.”
 
“So you don’t hatch eggs for the Pokémon inside?” Val asked.
 
“I didn’t say I didn’t,” Tyler replied. “I just want to know who would list walking an arbitrary distance as an accomplishment.”
 
“Stephen Hawking?” Keith asked. He noticed Val stifle a laugh as Tyler turned away. He kind of resembled Hawking.
 
“We’re turning down this dead-end street,” Tyler said, taking the lead of the group once again. “We’re going all the way to the end.”
 
“We’ve gone pretty far,” Val said, looking down the street. It was only a few hundred feet long and had three depots and a small warehouse. The end looked like it led toward a forest. “Are we going to be able to find our way back to the car?”
 
“Where’s your sense of adventure?” Natasha asked.
 
“We haven’t even hit fifty percent yet,” Greg added. “You didn’t think we’d walk around the block a few times and head home, did you?”
 
“I guess not,” Val said.
 
“There’s some real good ones down there,” Tyler said. “I’m never wrong.”
 
“He never is,” Natasha added.
 
“We’ll find the car,” Keith said quietly to Val. “I promise.”
 
Val gave Keith a warm smile, and they followed the others down the dead-end street.
 
44%
 
They came to the end of the road. So far, Tyler had not been wrong about the rarity of the Pokémon they’d find. Keith was able to catch a Jigglypuff and help Val catch her first Crabby, but the dead-end road was a bust. “I guess that’s it,” Keith said. “Want to head back?”
 
“We’re not stopping,” Tyler said. He walked up to a locked gate, leading into the woods. “This is where you’ll find the good ones. I’m staking my reputation on it.”
 
“Well it’s locked,” Val said, walking next to Tyler, “so I guess the adventure into the spooky woods will have to wait for another day.”
 
“You don’t understand,” Tyler said, exasperated. “This path is only good for today. Another day means another path. Today, our path leads into these woods. The more time you spend arguing, the less power your battery has.”
 
“I have an external battery in my bag,” Natasha said.
 
“No,” Greg said. “We’re on a battery drain. No charging.”
 
“I respect your resolve to do this your way,” Natasha said. “But I must tinkle. I will go behind that building. When I return, I will go with Tyler into the woods and hunt the rare Pokémon. I trust him completely. You three can do as you please.”
 
They were silent as Natasha went off. Unsurprisingly, it was Greg who broke the silence. “So, Tyler,” he said, “are you and Natasha… you know?”
 
Tyler scoffed. “She is not my girlfriend,” Tyler said. “Not only would that be creepy and illegal, but she’s not my type.”
 
“Oh,” Greg said. “OK.”
 
“Are you going in there?” Val asked Keith quietly.
 
Keith looked toward the locked, chain-link gate. “I don’t think everyone will be up for climbing over that barbed wire,” he said. “Unless they find another way in, I think our walk ends here.”
 
Greg overheard and started playing with the chain around it the gate. “Hey,” he said, pulling a rusted lock off. “This isn’t even locked. We can pull the chain out and go right in.”
 
“I’m sure it was supposed to be locked,” Val said.
 
Greg smiled and threw the lock into the woods. “I’m going,” he said. “I’m tired of Pidgies and Weedles.”
 
Val sighed and looked to Keith. “We said we’d stick together,” he said. He saw the look of defeat in her face, and he instantly wished he left the rest of the group with her. He thought he had a chance when Greg started flirting with Natasha, but now he figured he ruined it without thinking before he spoke.
 
“Fine,” Val said, “but the sooner we’re out of the there the better.”
 
Natasha returned from behind the building. “We’re ready,” she said. “Da?”
 
“Ready,” Greg said, pushing open the gate. The five of them looked down the dark, rocky, weed-covered path before venturing into the woods.
 
29%
 
“I can’t believe I caught a Poliwhirl,” Keith said, looking at his phone screen. “I haven’t even seen a Poliwag in ages!”
 
The quintet had been hunting for Pokémon in the woods, moving deeper inward at Tyler’s behest. There was garbage strewn all about, but the amount of it lessened the deeper they ventured. Little light made its way through the thick branches of the trees, but they had service on their phones, and their hunting was not interrupted.
 
“I catch Poliwags all the time,” Natasha said. “Bozhe moi, there’s a Ivysaur in here!”
 
“I told you,” Tyler said, turning to track some Pokémon or another on his own phone, walking past and old, stained couch.
 
“Got it,” Natasha said. “Ivysaur is now in my Pokédex.”
 
“Awesome,” Greg said, looking at Natasha’s Ivysaur as an excuse to be close to her.
 
“Maybe I’ll finally see Mewtwo out here,” Greg said, looking around.
 
Tyler let out a laugh. “Mewtwo is an internet myth,” he said. “Believe me, if Mew or Mewtwo were actually in this game, I would’ve found them by now.”
 
“If he does exist,” Natasha added, “some noob with a single-digit level will find him.”
 
Greg laughed. “Probably,” he said, putting his hand on Natasha’s shoulder.
 
“How are you doing, Val?” Keith asked, noticing the way she was giving Greg and Natasha a sideways glance.
 
“I’m alright,” she said. “I wish someone had some mosquito repellant, though.”
 
“I meant in Pokémon,” Keith said.
 
“Oh,” Natasha said, looking at her phone as if she forgot it was in her hand. “I saw a butterfly, but I ran out of balls trying to catch it. There’s no Pokéstops in here, so I guess I’m done for the day.”
 
“You can always hatch one of your eggs if you walk around,” Tyler said, walking past them while staring at his phone screen. He took long strides, pausing after each one.
 
“Do not wander far,” Natasha said.
 
“I won’t,” Tyler said. “I think we’ll tap this place out before these guys are at zero percent anyway.”
 
There was a noise to the north of them. Something ran through the brush and rustled the bushes. “What the hell was that?!” Keith said jumping back.
 
Natasha and Tyler laughed. Greg joined in a little too late for his laughter to be genuine. “It’s just a little chipmunk,” Natasha said. “You aren’t scared of a little animal?”
 
“It sounded bigger,” Keith said.
 
“Feed it a razz berry before you try to catch it then,” Greg said, eliciting a polite laugh from Natasha.
 
“I’m going a bit further,” Tyler said. “I’d put money on there being a Snorlax up the ridge a big, but I’ll have to climb a bit.”
 
“Do not get lost,” Natasha said.
 
“Did you get the Scyther?” Greg asked.
 
“Catching him now,” Keith said, flicking a ball on his phone. Val was close to him now, causing him to miss. He knew she was staying close because she was scared, but that suited him fine. He curved another ball, catching him this time.
 
“Nice,” Val said.
 
“I just got a Machop,” Greg said. “Damn, that kid was right.”
 
There was more rustling in the direction Tyler came from. The others turned to look, but they saw no animals rushing out of the bushes. “Tyler must have scared something off,” Natasha said, a bit of nervousness in her voice.
 
“Should we go up and look for him?” Greg suggested.
 
“Nyet,” Natasha replied. “Give him a few minutes. He knows what he is doing.”
 
Greg’s phone buzzed again, and he pulled it up to see what was near him. “Shit,” he said. “This must be a breeding ground for these little fuckers.”
 
“I feel something,” Natasha said. “One of us should check on Tyler.”
 
“I thought you said he knows what he’s doing,” Keith said, turning to track nearby Pokémon. 
 
“Something has changed,” Natasha said.
 
Keith looked toward Natasha, and saw a look of genuine worry on her face. He remember how she told them she was some kind of medium. He had dismissed it as bullshit when she said it, but now he started to think she was right.
 
There was a loud noise like an animal screeching. “What the fuck was that?” Greg said, looking up from his phone. Something came falling from the trees between the four of them, and they all jumped back a step. There was a large cocoon made of what looked like spiderwebs, hanging from the branches above them from two thick, white threads. Keith approached it, wondering what the lumpy mass inside was. The cocoon turned as the branches above it creaked, and Keith saw the thick, black frames of Tyler’s glasses protruding from the bottom.
 
“It’s Tyler,” Keith said, stepping back. He heard Val let out a little gasp. “What the fuck did this to him?”
 
“I’m not sticking around to find out,” Greg said, running off. “Follow me. I can get us out.”
 
“Nyet!” Natasha said turning to grab Greg. “Do not leave that way!” She couldn’t grasp his shirt and ended up chasing after him.
 
“What do we do?” Val asked, shaking.
 
“We should go after them,” Keith said. He grabbed Val’s hand and pulled her forward. “Come on.”
 
15%
 
Keith and Val moved quickly through the woods in what they thought was Greg’s direction. Branches scratched them as they did their best to hop of roots and rocks, threatening to twist their ankles with the slightest misstep. They were moving so fast, they nearly tripped over Natasha.
 
“Help me,” Natasha said, sitting on the ground, holding her calf, Keith knelt down to see how badly it was injured, but he saw some white gum-like substance on her. There was a pocket knife stuck in the mess of white.
 
“Do not touch it,” Natasha said. “It has me stuck. I cannot move, and Greg didn’t stop when I called out to him.”
 
“I can try to find a sharp rock,” Keith said, looking around the ground. “If I bring it down hard enough…”
 
“I can feel it,” Natasha said. “It’s happy. It’s toying with us like a child with his food. Its aura is old and… not human. I’ve never felt anything like it, not even when helping my babushka rid herself of the demons that plagued her.”
 
“Do you have a lighter at least?” Keith asked, making a mental note to try to understand Natasha’s rambling if they got out of the woods. “Maybe I can burn through this stuff.”
 
“Keith,” Val whispered. “Look up.”
 
Keith looked at Val, but her eyes were fixated on something else. He followed her gaze, looking at what was watching them from the branches only twenty feet above them. It was a boy, around ten years old. There were patches of black on his light skin. It took Keith a moment to realize the patches were needle-like hairs.
 
“Can you help us?” Keith asked. The boy smiled, showing a mouth full of black, pointed teeth. It’s eyes opened, showing only blood-red. It transformed, spider legs spawning from its sides. It’s head twisted and formed into that as a spider. It crawled down from the branches, a fully-formed, massive arachnid before its eight legs touched the ground.
 
Natasha screamed as the spider used its front legs to pull on the web attached to her ankle. Keith grabbed her hands as she slid toward it. He pulled with every muscle in his body, but his feet began to make trenches in the soft earth. He felt Natasha’s hands slipping out of his own, and she let out a brief scream as they finally came apart.
 
The spider dragged Natasha under its fangs. Her screaming was ended once the spider’s fangs were plunged between her shoulder blades. She was wrapped in webs as Keith tried to break his paralysis. Finally, Val pulled him by the arm, and the two ran away, knowing there was nothing they could do.
 
9%
 
Keith and Val continued moving away from Natasha and the boy-spider. Val tripped over a root, but Keith caught her by the arm to stop her from falling to the ground. She gave a quick thank you as they continued moving down the path they assumed would lead them back out of the woods.
 
“Guys!” a harsh whisper said from their right. They turned and followed the sound, finding Greg. He was between a tree and a large rock, his legs and one arm completely tangled in what they now knew was that boy-spider’s webbing.
 
“Shit,” Keith said, looking around. “We couldn’t cut this when Natasha got stuck, and she only snagged her calf.”
 
“So she’s dead?” Greg asked. “That big spider got her?”
 
“Yeah,” Keith said. “Dragged her away from me. How are we going to get you out?”
 
“You’re not,” Greg said. “I tried to get my pants off, but this shit soaked through to my skin. I’m not getting out of here.”
 
Val gasped and tears started to roll down her cheeks. The severity of what they were facing finally hit her. “Greg,” she sad. “I…”
 
“Shut up and listen,” Greg said, whispering quickly. “That spider-thing hates the sun. It chased me over here, but I ran through some of the sun’s rays coming through the trees, and it backed off like they hurt it. If you have any hope of escaping, you have to get into the sun again.”
 
“We’re not leaving you here,” Keith said.
 
“Stop being noble,” Greg said. “This is what I get for trying to run off on all of you. At least you can make it out.”
 
“Now who’s being noble?” Keith asked.
 
“Just get the fuck out of here,” Greg said. “I have one free arm. Maybe if I punch it hard enough it will give you two enough time to get away.”
 
“Greg,” Keith said.
 
“Get out of here!” Greg snapped. “It’ll be back any second.”
 
Keith nodded, knowing Greg was right. He pulled at Val’s hand, but she hesitated, refusing to move. “We can’t leave you,” she said softly.
 
“I just had this conversation with Keith,” Greg said, rolling his eyes. “You don’t have time. Get to the sun.”
 
Keith found a large, round rock on the ground. He picked it up and handed it to Greg. “Give that thing Hell,” he said. He pulled Val, and she finally moved, watching Greg for one last moment before she followed Keith up the incline of the ground.
 
There was the soft padding on the ground behind Greg, and he gripped the rock in his hand. “You hungry?” he asked. “Come over here and get a bite to eat then, you ugly fuck.”
 
5%
 
Keith led the way, nearly dragging Val forward. The woods were thick, and there was no sun coming through the leaves other than small rays. The small rays might be enough to deter the boy-spider, but it wouldn’t save them.
 
“I think we’re near the edge of the woods now,” Keith said. He could see the sun hitting the ground just a few hundred feet ahead. If they ran down the steep hill, they would be safe within a minute. He started to pick up the pace when something landed in front of them.
 
It was the boy again, looking at them with that strange combined look of fascination and glee. There was a gash in its forehead where Greg must have hit it with the rock. It observed them, tilting its head slightly. Fresh blood trickled down to its chin where it dripped and fell to earth. Greg made it bleed, and Keith knew it could be hurt at least.
 
“I want you to run,” Keith said softly. He wasn’t sure if the boy-spider could understand English or his intent. He bent down and picked up a large stick from the ground. “I’m going to hold it off as long as I can. I want you to run down that hill head for the sun.”
 
“I can’t,” Val breathed.
 
“You have to!” Keith said. “Get out of the woods and find someone, anyone. Just get out.”
 
Val didn’t say anything else, and Keith could only assume she nodded in agreement. He had locked eyes with the boy-spider, and he had no intention of looking the other way. His phone buzzed in his pocket once as a wild Pokémon appeared, and it caused the boy-spider to lunge at him, changing form as it charged.
 
Keith swung the branch, using every muscle in his arms and back. Val tried to run past, but the boy-spider sensed the movement and fired a load of white webbing from its back, tangling Val’s legs. She fell to the ground and rolled, crying out in pain when her body stopped moving. The momentary distraction caused the spider to misjudge the trajectory of the branch, earning a blow across its head, sending it crashing to the ground.
 
The branch had broken and splintered, but Keith didn’t let up on his assault. He brought the branch above his head again and swung downward, hitting the spider in its side. More webs fired from its backside, trying to tangle its assaulter, but it missed, sending thick tendrils into the branches above him. 
 
The spider began to wale as Keith continued the assault. The branch broke again, so he was only holding the end of it. He dropped it and pummeled the back to the spider with his fists, being careful not to let it turn over and use its fangs on him.
 
The spider transformed during the attack, reverting into its boy form to try and squeeze away. Keith was too quick for the injured boy-spider, picking up another stick and hitting the boy-spider in its lower back. It fell to the ground, and Keith climbed on top again, putting the stick against the boy-spider’s windpipe and pulling back with every bit of energy he could muster.
 
Keith held the stick, strangling the life out of the boy-spider. It tried to crawl, digging tiny trenches in the earth with its fingers. The spider legs came out of its side again, thrashing at the ground as if it was trying to get away. Keith noticed some sunlight eking its way through the leaves, and he dragged the boy-spider toward it.
 
The boy-spider came close toward the light, and it redoubled its efforts to free itself from Keith’s grip. Keith kept air from entering its windpipe, but it was still strong. It tried to flip him over, but Keith kept his grip, rolling with the boy-spider and forcing its head into the sunlight. An inhuman howl came from the boy-spider’s mouth as the sunlight hit it. Steam and smoke emanated from its eyes, nose, mouth, and ears. The screams hurt Keith’s head, but held firm, choking the life out of it. Soon, the human-like hands and fingers slowed as well before the boy-spider went limp.
 
Keith held the stick to the boy-spider’s throat long after the body went limp. He knew he’d eventually have to let go, but he didn’t trust it. For all he knew, whatever the monstrosity under him was didn’t die. The death throes could have been a ruse to trick him into thinking he was safe. He shook it, slamming its head into the ground as saliva and obscenities flew from his mouth.
 
“Stop,” Val said. “It’s dead.”
 
Keith looked over to Val, who was watching him. He frightened himself with the amount of murderous rage inside of him. It took the death of two relative strangers and his best friend to bring it out. He let the stick go and stood up, but the boy-spider remained still and smoldering. A pool of dark red pour from its mouth, and the earth greedily soaked it up.
 
Val pulled herself in a sitting position like some kind of mermaid with her legs bound by the spider’s web. The boy-spider was dead, but its webbing was as strong as ever. She tried her best to hop down the hill toward the sunlight with Keith supporting her, tripping often, but Keith kept her steady. When they got to the bottom they saw the stretch of green grass under the late-afternoon sun. The grass led to the backs of houses. They found civilization once more.
 
They let the sun warm their weary bodies. The web around Val’s legs cracked and crumbled off in the sunlight. Keith looked back toward the woods as Val brushed the last of the dried web off of her, knowing his friend’s body was inside.
 
“How are we going to explain what happened to the others?” Val asked.
 
“I don’t know,” Keith said. “I don’t even know if I can explain it to myself.”
 
Val leaned over and kissed Keith on the lips. He was so surprised by this he almost missed the buzz in his pocket. Out of habit, he pulled out his phone and turned it over. “Oh my God,” he said.
 
“What?” Val asked.
 
“It’s Mewtwo,” Keith replied. “He’s real.”
 
“Catch him,” Val whispered, gripping his shoulder. “Catch him for Greg.”
 
Keith nodded and moved a trembling finger to his phone screen and tapped Mewtwo. Now the Pokémon stood in front of him, jumping randomly. Keith took no chances. He went into his inventory and selected his last Ultraball and fed Mewtwo a razz berry for good measure, eliciting a heart around it. He held his finger on the ball, waiting for the right moment. The circle around Mewtwo shrank, and Keith let loose a curve ball that hit the mark exactly, eliciting a “great!” from the app.
 
Keith watched with a trembling hand as Mewtwo was sucked into the ball with a flash of light. The ball hit the ground, and he counted the shakes along with Val to the moment Mewtwo was caught. “One,” they said in unison. “Two…”
 
Keith’s screen went blank, and he stared in disbelief as his phone shut itself down.
 
 
0%

 

 

Rick’s Tale; an incredible true story by Budgie Bigelow

The following is based on a true story, or so Rick says anyway…



The year was nineteen eighty-three. Michael Jackson was on the top of the music charts, everyone piled into the movie theaters to see Return of the Jedi, Ronald Reagan was on his way to be Time Magazine’s man of the year, and a fourteen-year-old Rick was standing inside his step-sister’s bedroom, holding a Polaroid camera and hiding a throbbing erection under his sweatpants.

A miracle of unimaginable proportions happened in young Rick’s life not too long before he was standing in his step-sister’s room, waiting for her to come out of the shower. To understand this miracle, you first have to understand who Rick was. 

Rick was a chubby, Hawaiian teen. His body had just gone through more changes than the teachers and Saturday morning cartoons had warned. He had new hairs cropping up, a crackling voice, and a penis that just wouldn’t stop hardening up on him. During this time, his father got remarried.

Rick had a new family at thirteen. His father and step-mother moved in together, and that meant Rick had a new step-sister as well. Her name was Lisa, she was three years older than Rick, and she was everything from which soggy, newly-pubescent dreams were made. She had long, curly blonde hair like some of the women on MTV, and she was always wearing something tight.

Lisa’s insertion into Rick’s life was both a blessing and a curse to the budding young man.

Lisa began attending the same school as Rick, and the boys went crazy over her. She loved the instant popularity her good looks had earned her, and she loved to take Polaroids for all her new boyfriends. She had asked her little step-brother to take pictures of her in her bikini often. Rick was more than happy to help out.

Rick took the photos, taking his own mentally to masturbate to hour after hour in every private corner of his house. He lay in his bed at night, rubbing himself raw with a tee shirt on his stomach to catch his load. He beat his meat so much he’d go to school with a sore dick just about every morning. The more pictures Lisa needed; the more Rick wrestled his trouser snake into submission. It was a beautiful time in the young masturbator’s life.

It was at this time that Rick got the greatest idea he had ever produced from his twisted, youthful mind.

Aside from keeping a cache of Polaroids of herself in a bikini, Lisa also had a habit of running directly from the shower to her bedroom without so much as putting on a towel. Rick decided he was going to get a picture of his own, and he was going to get it during that sweet moment when Lisa would be making the short run from the bathroom to her bedroom, still wet from the steaming hot shower.

So Rick waited, grasping the camera with his sweaty hands. He licked his lips as he watched patiently. It was going to happen, and it was going to happen soon. He felt the contents of his stomach turn over as his nerves rattled his resolve, weakening it as every second passed. He almost panicked and fled, but he heard the bathroom door open and her footsteps padding on the floor. He aimed the camera to the almost-closed door, waiting for the right moment to hit that button, getting himself a picture he would always treasure. He only had one chance.

The door opened, and Lisa entered. Rick’s finger moved like lightning, taking the picture. The camera clicked and whirred as Lisa closed the door. The photo emerged as she froze in disbelief. Rick took the full-frontal picture from the camera as realization of what had just happened hit his bewildered step-sister. He shook it out of habit.

“You little shit,” Lisa said, starting daggers at her step-brother. “Give that to me.”

“No,” Rick said, letting the camera drop and holding the picture to his chest. It was his picture. He had earned it; taking the teasing Polaroids of Lisa in her bikini, just so she could give them away to the boys at school. Rick asked for nothing; but now he had something, and he didn’t plan on giving it back, not without a fight.

Lisa gave no other ultimatum or warning. She charged Rick, covering her breasts with her left arm as she grabbed for the photo with her right. Rick held it above his head as she tried to get it. She was taller than him, so it was only a matter of time before she got it. The picture developed as Rick was holding it above his head. She saw image and went into full attack mode.

Lisa grabbed and clawed at Rick, desperately trying to get the photo. Rick turned his back to her, clutching it to his chest. She draped herself over him, trying to pull his arms back to free the picture from his grip. They fell that way, Lisa punching and slapping Rick’s back as they landed with a thud that shook the floor.

Rick was forcefully rolled over with more power than he thought Lisa had, holding the picture to his chest, unwilling to give it up. Lisa climbed onto him, wrestling against him, trying to pry his arms loose so she could get the photo. She tried her hardest, but Rick refused to relinquish his grip.

Then something else happened.

Lisa wrested naked against Rick. Her wet hair brushed his face, her bare, teenage breasts were less than an inch from his body, and her pubis rubbed up against stiff boyhood. All that separated the two was Rick’s sweatpants and his Superman boxers.

Rick decided there was something better then having a Polaroid of his naked stepsister. He let his body rest as he clutched at the picture to his chest with all of his might. Lisa tried her best, but her strength wasn’t enough to pry the picture from the horny teen’s tenacious grip.

Rick watched Lisa’s soft breasts jiggle as she straddled his hips, pinning him to the floor. The moisture from her hot shower warmed his body, and the scent of her flowery soap filled his nostrils. She continued to unwittingly grind him as his body quivered. Rick convulsed once as he climaxed in his pants. He groaned in ecstasy as Lisa failed to free the picture from his hands, but succeeding in making her stepbrother ejaculate wildly.

It was Rick’s first in-pants ejaculation, and the first one he’d have he hadn’t administered with his own hand. Lisa had felt it, and she jumped off in horror, screaming her head off. Rick didn’t want anyone to hear and find her nude and screaming as he sat on her bedroom floor with a wet spot growing as his spunk oozed through the fabric of his sweatpants. He handed her the picture to shut her up. Once she stopped, he ran down the hallway into his room.

Rick closed the door behind him and slid to the ground against it. The once-warm semen was growing cold as it slid down his thighs. He finally broke his paralysis and stripped off his pants and boxers, tossing them into the hamper.

The two didn’t speak much for a while after the incident; and none of the passing conversations included any requests for bikini-clad Polaroids, but he knew she thought about it. Lisa knew what she had done and what it meant for young Rick.

Two years later, Rick was sixteen, Lisa was eighteen, and their parents were divorcing. Rick was bummed to be losing a family again, and he and Lisa still hadn’t talked about what had happened that day on her bedroom floor. There was always a weird vibe between the two, and Rick was transforming into an athletic lad before her eyes. She clearly had some kinky boundary issues, but she had never acted on them.

Well, almost never.

Lisa was packing her things on the Friday before Rick was to go to his mother’s for the weekend. He knew it was the last time he would see her, so he decided to be a good brother and say his goodbyes. “Hi,” Rick said, giving the door to Lisa’s room a small knock. “I have to go to my mother’s, but I wanted to say goodbye before I did. You were a great sister. It sucks you have to leave.”

“It is what it is,” Lisa said with a sigh, standing up from the cardboard box full of stuffed animals. Rick remembered what had happened two years earlier on that same spot on the floor and smiled.

“What?” Lisa asked. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” Rick said. “Just remembered something. I’m still a virgin, but you’re the first girl who’s ever made me cum.”

Rick was suddenly embarrassed that he had said it. It had slipped out. He realized he was fully erect, and there was no way she wouldn’t see it. Maybe it was the fact he knew this was goodbye that made him make such a brazen statement.

“You asshole!” Lisa exclaimed. She sounded outraged, but the look on her face told Rick otherwise. She had to have been flattered. “You have girlfriends. Are you telling me you haven’t screwed any of them?”

“I don’t know,” Rick said with a shrug. “Nothing’s happened yet.”

Lisa’s eyes went down, and he knew she was looking at his jutting erection. She walked to her door, closed it, and leaned her back into Rick, pressing her bottom into him. “You’re really going to miss me, aren’t you?” she asked.

“Yes,” Rick said, his nerves turning his insides to jelly like he was fourteen again, waiting in this very same bedroom holding the Polaroid camera.

Lisa didn’t say any more. She turned toward Rick, looking in his eyes as she unbuttoned his 501 jeans. She let them fall to the floor as she followed them, coming to rest on her knees in front of him. She took him into her mouth, giving Rick the first blowjob of his life.

Thirty seconds into it, it was over. Rick couldn’t control himself, and his finished inside his stepsister’s generous mouth. She stood up after she swallowed. “Next time warn a girl before you shoot,” she said.

“Sorry,” Rick said, embarrassed.

Lisa gave him a sisterly peck on the lips. “Isn’t your mom outside to pick you up?” she asked.

Rick pulled his pants up and buttoned them in a daze. He walked out to his mom’s car in the same daze, unspeaking. He didn’t talk to his mother for the entire ride, and he couldn’t think about anything else for the entire weekend either. When he returned home that Sunday, her room was empty, save two memories he would cherish.

Rick lay in bed with a dirty teeshirt across his stomach as he thought about Lisa and everything he knew they would have done if their parents hadn’t divorced. He felt something as he put his hand near his pillow. He pulled our a crumpled, mostly-ruined photograph. It was the Polaroid picture he had taken of Lisa two years earlier, bare naked, coming into her room from fresh from the shower, a look of surprise on her face.

He never heard from her again.


The End