A standalone vignette. I promise! I’m not going to turn it into a whole novella like I did with Running Into Time!
Devon ducked back behind the relative safety of the auditorium door. There had been a direct hit on the window in it, just moments before. The glass shattered, the metal mesh embedded in it bulged outward, but it had kept the projectile from passing through, as designed.
Of course, it hadn’t been designed for this. Nothing had been designed for this.
The spray from the open side of the double doors coated him with sticky red juices.
“Was that… a watermelon?”
“Yes,” Devon snapped back, wiping off his face with his sleeve. “At least it can’t get any bigger than that.
“Dude.” Brian’s eyes got wider, which Devon wouldn’t have thought possible. “You just jinxed it! Now it’s gonna get worse!”
“How can it possibly get worse than watermelon? Also, it’s not magic. I can’t jinx anything.”
“How do you know it isn’t magic?” Brian peered through the unbroken glass on his side of the door at Devon. He wasn’t leaving his cover, Devon noted. “Like, this wasn’t supposed to happen. We didn’t load all this stuff in there, so it’s coming from somewhere, and that’s magic, when fruit appears from nowhere and starts firing at random all over the Zone, instead of tomatoes at the target.”
The Zone was currently a fruity madhouse. The game was a take on old TV shows, with messy obstacles to get through as teams, vying for the win of being the fastest – and cleanest – to finish the course. To keep ratings high, adding new features in was a routine part of the design team’s job. What had happened with the tomato cannon, however, was anything but routine.
It was supposed to be a game of harmless cartoon violence in the slapstick tradition, but something went horribly wrong when they hired the new guy.
“It’s not magic.” Devon repeated. It had been a full moment since there had been a fruity detonation against the wall. They still had people inside, sheltering where they could. Except for one body, lying prone, face down, where he’d fallen as he’d tried to run from the tomato cannon.
“Have you seen Keystan move?” Devon asked Brian.
“Man, I can’t see anything from here.” Brian shot back, his voice going up. “And I’m not going in there!”
“I think it’s stopped.” Devon listened for a few more seconds to the silence. “Yeah. It’ll be fine.” He raised his voice. “Keystan? Can you hear me? Call out if you’re ok!”
This triggered a chorus of shouts from the course, but none of them from the newb on the ground.
“Dammit.” Devon groaned. “I think he might be hurt. Brian…”
“I’m not going in there!” The big man’s voice had gone up a couple of octaves and several decibels.
“I’m not asking you to!” Devon snapped. “I’m hoping we don’t have to call for emergency services, because I don’t want to have to explain this mess to… anyone.”
“The boss is gonna shit a brick.” Brian moaned.
“I’m going in. If I go down call…”
“Who the hell do you call for a possessed fruit launcher? The ghostbusters?” Brian was in full snark mode.
“Just call the fire department.”
“Dude, this is like, the opposite of fire.”
Devon took a deep breath. The smell of fruit hung in the air, sweet and rich.
The kiwi to the chest hurt, and he doubled over, catching his breath and scuttling towards his man on the ground. Something whipped past his left ear, he didn’t see what it was. Then, he reached the fallen employee and crouched next to him, as low as he could get, and fumbled for a pulse. Keystan rolled his head to the side and looked up at him with one eye. The other was swollen and blacked from a direct hit.
“Apples. It was green apples.” He whispered.
“We’ll get help,” Devon promised. “Can you move?”
At that moment, there was a strange noise, best described later by Brian as a basso-profundo Thwooop! And then, Devon saw a shadow fall over them. He looked up, his jaw dropping, as the biggest pumpkin he’d ever seen arced up, through the rafters, and then, reaching its apogee, began to fall. Directly towards both of them.
“Run!” He yelped, pulling at Keystan. “Run!”
Keystan crawled, instead, as quickly as he could, toward Devon who had fallen backward as he tried to pull his man to safety, and was now crabwalking in the general direction of the doors, while unable to take his eyes off the descending fruit. It got bigger, and bigger, and then, with an enormous crash and splash, it impacted just inches from Keystan’s feet.
Seeds and strands of slimy orange stuff geysered into the air, and covered everything for yards around. Devon collapsed on his back, gasping.
“Boss?” Brian’s voice was hoarse as he shouted. “Boss I called for help…”
My prompt this week came from Leigh Kimmel with “It was supposed to be a game of harmless cartoon violence in the slapstick tradition, but something went horribly wrong…”
You can read all of the responses, or play along with the prompt challenge, over at More Odds Than Ends!
And you can buy a copy of Running Into Time in ebook or paper at Amazon (tiny affiliate link gets me a bit of money to support the blog and costs you nothing)