is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
For Halloween: A pair of putrid parables
STANSTEAD, QC | Warning: The following tales contain gruesome and crude elements and are not intended for mature audiences.
A mild tremor rumbled beneath the Funky Dreadlock Centre for Childhood Exploration. It wasn't strong enough to disturb the children's self-discovery on the possibilities of what 3 plus 4 might add up to. But it was strong enough to awaken something. Something evil.
Directly beneath the school, a chasm split open, and seeping from it like an evil seeping thing seeped a toxin, a toxin more toxic than aspartame, beef, traditional education, and reality television combined.
The fumes filtered upward, eventually snaking into the building and into the Manual Dexterity Celebration Room where the children were learning about civil rights by creating figures of Gandhi and Mandela out of chickpea paste. The children's brains were like sponges -- and they soaked up the evil toxin.
Within the hour, the children began to change. One minute they were singing, "This old man, he played six, he played knick-knack on his military-industrial complex," and the next they were drooling, vacant, babbling -- even more than usual.
"Now children," said the adult facilitator, "let's all sit on our hemp mats and discuss our feelings about the alphabet."
As one, the children turned their heads toward her. There was silence. Somewhere in the distance, a gecko barked. "Gllrrarrgh...," gurgled a girl menacingly.
"Very good, Mashika," said the teacher. "Does anyone know another word that starts with ‘gllrr'?"
And with that the children advanced, growling with sinister intent, their teeth bared and gnashing.
"Hmmm," said the teacher, "It's good that you're expressing yourselves dentally as well as orally. Though, I must say the eyes rolled into the back of your heads? A bit off-putting. Who wants to go outside and fondle the grass?
The children staggered closer, flinging aside hemp mats and free-form mobiles. "NRRGLLRBBH!" they growled. They stretched out their arms and grasped blindly with their hands.
"My, what an excellent homage to the cinematic zombie genre," the early childhood educator stuttered nervously, backing towards the Cooperative Board Game Corner. "It's good that you're role-playing but how are we all feeling about encroaching my personal space? And who can tell me what ‘encroaching' means?"
The infected children, some of them armed with homemade clay-dough, others savagely munching pastels, advanced.
"Children! Let's assimilate some competencies!" stammered the teacher as the snarling children began tearing at her. "Ouch! No, children! AAGGH! No! We're vegetarians! YAARG! THINK OF YOUR SELF-ESTEEM!!!"
The moral of the story: Those who can, do; those who can't, get eaten.
"So, what's happening?"
"Not much. What's happening with you?"
"Well, I have a feeling something's going to happen."
"Yeah, some sort of... happening."
"Yes, a happening."
"Can you be more specific?"
"Not really, just some happening that'll make us stop in our tracks and say out loud to no one in particular, ‘What's happening?'"
"Hmm. It's a funny word, eh? ‘Happening.' Especially when you say it over and over.
"Yeah. Happening, happening, happening. You know what else is a funny word? ‘Apocalypse.'"
"Apocalypse, apocalypse, apocalypse. Sounds like a type of dance. A happy dance."
"Yeah, doesn't sound anything like the end of the world. Now ‘Armageddon.' That sounds like the end of the world."
"That's because it ends in ‘done.'"
"True. Like ‘London.'"
"London's got nothing to do with the end of the world."
"Possibly. But I have a sense that whatever's happening, it's starting to happen in London."
"Oh I see. And there's, what, a four-hour time difference?"
"Something like that."
"So we've got a bit of time."
"Unless, of course, there's a surprise ending."
"Well, if I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise."
"Aha! So you do know what's happening! How?"
"Because I'm the writer of this story."
"You're kidding. You mean...?"
"Yup: literary murder-suicide."
"Gee, I didn't foresee that happeni-"
Moral of the story: Most surprise endings aren't.