The Iron Writer Challenge #151
2016 Winter Equinox Preliminary Round
Fahrenheit 451 Bracket
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
An April Fools Joke
Mary woke up alone in bed. Peter was never first up. She stroked a hand across the space where he would usually be, as if he might magically appear. She looked at her mobile; the alarm was switched off. Then it dawned on her: April fool’s day – Peter must have turned it off as a joke. It was Saturday, and she was exhausted; maybe he was being considerate, knowing it had been a tough week, with the court case and everything. No, he would probably have been up early, preparing an April fool’s joke to catch her out again. She shuddered at the memories.
Mary pulled her dressing gown from the hook on the door, hesitating as the door moved. No, people didn’t really do that bucket of water thing. Entering the bathroom, she remembered the trick with the cling-film, and checked under the toilet seat – now that was a messy trick.
Downstairs, the kitchen was deserted. Everything was laid out like a suburban Marie Celeste: toast in the rack, tea in the pot, two cups, but no Peter. The morning newspaper was open at the centre pages. As she poured the tea, she noticed some yellow marks on the type. Closer inspection revealed a highlighter pen had been used to mark certain letters. Slowly she worked it out.
‘How lame, Peter’, she said under her breath. It spelt out the words: STUCK IN BASEMENT. She dialled his mobile and got the answerphone; she left a message – ‘Nice try, Peter. How can you be, if you were up here?’ Then something struck her, and she rang again. She walked into the hall, where the ringing was coming from. The trapdoor to the basement was half open; she pulled it up, and climbed down the steps. Peter was standing at the bottom. He pointed back up to the trapdoor, and shouted, ‘get the door’. It slammed shut, and they heard the catch lock on the other side.
‘Now we’re both stuck’, he sobbed.
‘How long have you been here, Peter?’
‘Why did you leave a note, and then come down here? It doesn’t make any sense.’
‘I thought you had left that message, and I came down looking for you.’
‘Well, that was smart, Peter. You knew I was still in bed, because you turned the alarm off on my phone.’
‘I wasn’t feeling too clever after all that Vodka and Red Bull we drank last night. And I don’t know anything about your phone.’
‘This isn’t right, Peter. You think it’s one of the kids?’
‘Wouldn’t surprise me. They have learnt from the master.’
‘Yeah, you’re some father, tormenting your kids all their lives.’
‘I’ll phone them now. That’s probably Jonathan we heard closing the trapdoor.’
‘It’s your dad. Let us out of the basement. Your mum’s panicking, she’s got claustrophobia.’
‘What did he say, Peter?’
‘Just, “Good one, dad”, then he hung up.’
‘Phone him back.’
‘No answer. I guess I’ve cried wolf too many times.’
‘Say the words, Peter.’
‘It’s not a joke. It would be a good one, but no, nothing to do with me.’
‘So – who’s upstairs?’
One for the Ages
This year my April Fools’ prank would be a joke for the ages. Some may call it obsessive, with notebooks full of scribbles, diagrams, and yellow highlighter markings.
I called it brilliance. “Evil genius going to waste on cheap gag”? There was nothing ‘cheap’ here.
While the plan had been birthed over a weekend of too little sleep and too much mountain dew, the real planning took place in my lair. Yes, it’s the basement of my parents’. But that’s not nearly as impressive when you say it that way.
I gathered the supplies over the course of months. One here. Another there. All of which were stored in a corner of the basement that not even our fat cats would traverse.
After I was certain that everyone had gone to bed, I crept down to the kitchen and began plan “Roadrunner.”
This year April Fools’ fell on a Friday. Fridays happen to be the day my mother’s class hold parties celebrating the week’s successes. After taking a test, the students get a long break, were they partake in a variety of snacks provided by volunteers. I volunteered this week.
I spent all night making cupcakes. By time the rest of my family was waking up, I had an army of ninety-six minions arrayed in their cases.
My mother cooed over the detail I put into each one. She swore she expected them to hop out and scream, “Bananna!” any second. I helped her load the car, and waved her off before heading to the bus.
I hurried to my mom’s class after school. From the hallway I could see the kids already in full celebration. All of them had hands and faces covered in yellow frosting.
The fun hadn’t started yet.
Things escalated quickly. One kid face planted and went straight into a coma. Another kid fell down to his knees like that lieutenant from Platoon. Again, completely out. I surmised these two were my mother’s ADHD children. Stimulants react differently with them.
Energy drinks are nearly pure sugar, they also contain massive amounts of caffeine. Plus, I concentrated it into a syrup before using it to make the cupcakes.
Simultaneously, the kids started losing their minds. So did my mother.
A couple kids started running around like the flash, and I’m quite certain one of them broke the sound barrier. Another kid went feral and climbed a bookcase. Perching on top, he started hissing and swiping at my mom, like a cat, as she tried to get him down.
Beyond the swarm of bees that used to be her sweet little kindergarteners, there was another of note. This one apparently reached Nirvana.
He sat there, looking around slowly, with an open mouthed smile, as he slowly waved his hand in front of his eyes.
The kid got to relive the seventies through syruped caffeine laced cupcakes.
Now I’m sitting here in the police station, while the police flip through pages for anything they can charge me with while Nirvana kid preaches from the chief’s desk and cat boy is hissing at everyone from the top of the bookcase.
Admittedly, mistakes were made.
Jack woke up, head throbbing. What a night! he thought. Another out-of-control college party—too much loud music, too much booze, too much everything. Rising slowly to a sitting position on the couch, he looked around his small studio apartment. Things were a mess, but he’d seen worse. At least no one else was passed out in his room. That always sucked, especially if it was people you didn’t know.
As he rubbed his head he noticed an uncapped yellow highlighter on the coffee table. Odd. Glancing around the room, he saw why—there was a large pattern in yellow on his floor. His vision was still a bit blurry, so he couldn’t quite make it out—some kind of star? And what were those at the points? Cans? He stood up a bit unsteadily and walked over to the nearest one. It was an energy drink can, and judging from the soggy spot on the rug, it had been poured out. The hell?!
As he collected the cans to drop them in the recycle bin, he could vaguely remember his friend Sam last night doing…now what was it? It had been late, Jack had long ago lost count of his drinks, most of the party-goers had drifted out, and Sam was going on about offerings and work—no, a working. What the hell did that mean? Jack had always thought Sam was a bit weird. Certain times of year brought it out more than others, to boot. This brought a thought to the back of his mind, but he could not quite grasp it.
As Jack stumbled back to the couch, the hair on the back of his neck began to prickle. Was someone else there after all? He looked around and cautiously drifted to every corner of the studio. Since it was in the basement, the only way in was down the stairs, and the door at the base of the stairwell was closed. He walked back to the center of the room and stood by his couch. Suddenly a grisly voice that emanated from—well, from everywhere and nowhere—spoke.
“Mortal!” it boomed.
Jack actually jumped slightly. Looking to one side, he saw a shimmer begin in the air. A cold fear descended on him, but he could not uproot his feet as he stared in horrified fascination. The shimmer condensed into a loathsome being with blood-red skin, horns, and pointed teeth. A demon. Its body was fully formed now and it stepped toward him, once more speaking: “Mortal!”
Jack’s legs finally obeyed and he turned to run. He was not fast enough—the demon easily leaped nearly eight feet, landing in front of him. Mere inches away, it stared at him. Jack cringed, holding up his hands, unable to speak from the terror.
“IT IS TIME!” the demon said in a voice even louder than before.
“Time for what?” sobbed Jack.
The demon paused for a moment, then grinning, spoke a final time: “APRIL FOOL!”
Pretty Girls Make Graves
Gonzo Jofreshy bopped his way down the street like he had nothing to lose, whistling tunelessly, fingers a-snappin’ like he’d just won the lottery.
In a way, he’d hit the jackpot this morning, as he’d stood in front of the judge.
“Not guilty,” she’d declared.
There had been a lot of hugging, and some crying — but not from Gonzo. His lawyer had ushered him out into a Cadillac with dark windows, quickly, before the media vultures could descend.
Now his fingertips pressed lightly on a heavy oak door, easily pushing it inward and stepping into the afternoon gloom of an Irish pub.
“What’ll ya have?” the no-nonsense bartender asked. He either didn’t recognize Gonzo, or was doing a fine job of pretending. Either way suited him fine.
“Vodka and Red Bull,” he replied.
“We don’t serve that garbage in here,” the bartender growled.
“I’ve got it, Connor,” a buxom brunette purred, slipping behind the bar toward the Grey Goose.
Connor shoved off, grumbling, as he wiped the bar with a filthy rag.
“Compliments of the house.” The brunette smiled, setting the drink before him.
He remembered the way she watched him down the short glass, later, when he came to in the basement with a yellow highlighter strapped between his teeth like a gag.
He remembered the spinning feeling in his head, and his stomach.
He remembered the way she’d winked.
What he couldn’t remember was how she’d managed to slip something into his drink. After all, a pro ought to notice these things. And he was certainly a pro at these things, by now, wasn’t he?
“So, Gonzo, we heard you got off easy,” a deep male voice behind him rumbled, like a big rig firing up for a long haul.
“We don’t like easy, do we?” a female voice queried, this one equally rough, like the pit of a limestone quarry.
“Easy like Sunday morning, maybe,” the male voice countered. “But you ain’t exactly Lionel Ritchie, are you, then?”
“What the hell do you want?” Gonzo wanted to shout into the darkness, but the yellow highlighter prevented him. Somewhere, something was dripping ice-cold water, one drop at a time, onto the back of his neck. He shuddered instead.
“We warned you,” the female voice said, sharp as a razor blade. “Did you think this was just another one of our little jokes?”
“It *is* the first of April, dearie,” the male voice said. “Just to play devil’s advocate.”
“He already had one of those at the trial,” the female voice barks. “Not guilty my backside! He won’t get away with it this time.”
Gonzo’s brain strained for an explanation, groped for the name of the woman he was hearing behind his back. Somewhere in the mushy recesses of his brain, he caught snatches of familiar faces, darker places. He remembered his hands on her throat. He remembered squeezing. He remembered her legs kicking, and the smile he wore creeping wider as he squeezed tighter.
When the bucket of ice water drenched him, he howled for mercy. And the only two people on earth that could hear him simply laughed ’til their sides ached.
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