I'm a little delirious today, and I don't think it's just from fumes from my husband's lawnmower repair in the basement. I have reached the 50,000 word mark for my new Viking book--it's the same length as Otherworld now. 30,000 words to go. No problem, I say to myself in my delirium. NO Problem, I can teach my children at home and cook for them and maintain my appearance for my husband and keep the toilets clean, as well as whip out the last 30,000 words in a month.
I have a lovely little short story that came to me in a dream one night--I guess it's kind of a sci-fi fantasy/superpower type thing. I want to post it on here, despite the fact that I've entered it in a contest. This would probably be highly inadvisable. But I want to give you a little something to sink your teeth into, a bit of my writing to make you think. It is a surreal story, I know--think Salvador Dali or Rene Magritte, if you're into painting--it's dreamlike. But I'm rather fond of it. So, I'm gonna post it. Give me some thoughts on it--I haven't gotten many comments lately on here! I'm hungry for comments! Good or bad, post away!
I am a plastic man. I work in the mall.
I have a job at a pizza shop. I use the powers my mother gave me to make plastic into cheesy fillings for strombolis. Pizza pies, really. No one knows, as they eat them, what my secret is. My pies are known all over this town. Businessmen eat them. Mothers and their children. My boss loves how I’ve brought in new customers.
I have this magic, and I want to share. I have a big idea. So big, no one can understand it.
I look a little nerdy. I’m short, have glasses, and hair that would be called “nondescript” in color. My mother tells me I am a magical boy, destined to do huge things.
I want to have a party. A big mall party. Everyone is invited. I tell my boss, and she agrees. I have given her some of her own power.
The day comes. We blast the music: Madonna’s “Secret.” My song of choice for today. It echoes over the whole mall. People pack the pizza shop, wanting more and more of the pizza pies. I smile as I serve them. They are trapping themselves and they just don’t know it yet.
Finally, my moment. The boss transforms into two huge lion-claw pylons at the entrance to the mall. I take over. The plastic in my body goes into everything. Almost every bit of this mall is mine now. No one can leave. They will have their home here, with me. Everything they want is here.
The biggest reality show ever. I can see everything, hear everything. I AM everything.
As people try to leave, they start to shout. They can’t get out! They try every store, every door. I see them running down hallways, punching buttons in elevators.
I announce it on the intercom: “You will live here now. You are a part of this building. There is no way out. This is a reality show.”
Well, that last part is just in my mind. But it’s my reality, right?
Everyone who ate the pizza pies has the plastic inside them. There are a few who did not, but they do not know how to get out. They don’t know that there is a small hallway, on the ninth floor, in room 913.
Did I say that out loud? There is a dark-haired girl who has taken off to the elevator. She did not want the pies, said they looked gross.
I see her hitting buttons. The elevator goes wherever I want it to, usually. Except when she hits the buttons. Must be because she’s not plastic yet. She hits the ninth floor.
Others have found it. I watch as they go into the hallway, but I cannot see them after that. The hall is made of metal. It is very old, and there is no plastic. I am locked out.
This day started like any other. I decided to go to the mall and look for a dress, since the mall has this one store with dresses that don’t wind up looking like miniskirts on me. On my way there, I saw this guy in the pizza shop. He was mixing filling for the pies. I’ve heard of these pies, supposed to be the best in
town. Well, the stuff looked weird. Bright yellow, not like any cheese I’ve ever seen. It turned my stomach, and I must’ve muttered something about it, because the guy stared at me. Weird, watery blue eyes with almost no color.
Looked like a stalker.
Well, I’ve had enough of those. I date guys who have issues. Issues with control and whatnot. I’m so over that now. I want to be free. I hate feeling confined in a relationship, like I’m being watched all the time.
And then, the whole mall went crazy. I was in my store, looking at dresses. Pink, what is up with pink? Can’t stand it. Anyway, this music started blaring over the loudspeakers, and people were dancing everywhere. Madonna. Who on earth listens to Madonna? I looked over at the pizza shop and saw something I still can’t believe.
There was this woman, maybe the manager? She jumped up and became these two pillar things over the door. She was gone, but the pillars were there, and kind of moving a little.
The guy in the shop was smiling this freakish smile, while people ran by him. They were pounding the front doors of the mall, but the doors were obviously stuck.
I got low to the ground, under a rack, and watched. In the middle of all the chaos, the guy at the pizza shop was just standing, arms outstretched. No one was sticking around to watch him but me. I could see his lips moving. And I can read lips.
He said something about plastic magic. But then he looked upset, and said something about the ninth floor. About room 913 being metal or something.
It was enough for me. I ran out, to the elevator. Don’t know why I went there, since usually electrical systems malfunction in emergencies. The stupid Madonna music was on repeat, even in the elevator.
There were people already there, pushing B for basement, or trying to get to the very top level. I had to ride the elevator all over the place before I could push my floor, 9. There was a 9A and a 9B, so I took a chance and hit 9B.
The elevator sparked and seemed to jump around a little, but it finally stopped. I got out, only to see there were no lights on that floor. There was a narrow hallway ahead, with rooms off the sides. I went all the way down to the right. There was this old-fashioned bathroom, complete with seafoam-green and black tiles. I could see the colors because of the skylight. More like a huge window in the roof, with a metal grille over it.
I jumped up on the toilet, pulled the window down, and pushed. The grille came off. By this time, an old woman had joined me. She must have been following me. The fresh air rushed in, cool and clear as the blue sky above. I saw people below, shouting and pointing. I barely had time to scan the roof for places to stand, when the old woman pushed her way past me. And then she jumped.
Freedom is a curious thing. It seems people want it more than life itself. And yet, they are slaves, almost every one of them, to plastic. To me.
My party is over. The people follow the dark-haired girl outside. Outside me. My reality show is not reality anymore. I pull myself in, lock myself down into my body. My boss is too stupid to know how. She can remain a pylon forever, for all I care. She was only my means to an end.
I can go anywhere I want, be anyone. I’m the only one who will know about the mall party. I have a secret I have to keep. But someday I will be great, like my mother says.
I am the plastic man.
--copyright Heather Day Gilbert 2011