I tried not doing NaNoWriMo this year. I just don’t have the time, nevermind the energy. But I couldn’t do it. It kept gnawing at me, at the back of my mind. I should be suffering this month. I should be staying up late, eyes bloodshot, dehydrated from crying, begging any passing deity to kill me quickly and let the pain end.
So now, on November 4th, far behind already on my word count, I’ve made a decision. I’m going to write this year after all. But I don’t have a brain for thinking and coming up with ideas, so I’m going to let the internet have ideas for me. Using the video game name generator, I will write a series of nonsensical short stories, generating a new name for a new story whenever I run out of steam for the current one. It’s not the standard goal of NaNoWriMo, to be sure, but at least I’m writing, dammit.
I: Relentless Ice Cream Armageddon
“I love ice cream,” muttered Jim yet again. Amanda rolled her eyes. She’d been trying to avoid looking at him for the past hour, but his relentless rocking back and forth kept catching her eye.
He wants attention, she thought. Don’t give him the satisfaction. She pointed her eyes straight down at the floor, refusing to look in his direction. Still, out of the corner of her eye, she could see him there, hugging his knees, rocking forward and back, forward and back. She squeezed her eyes shut to block it out.
“I love ice cream,” he whispered again. Amanda shoved her fingers in her ears.
“I love ice cream.” She could still hear him.
“Shut up!” she screamed at him, jumping to her feet and stomping across the room to the window. The oil lamp on the floor flickered as she passed it. Jim hugged himself even harder, putting his hands over his ears as though he weren’t the one driving someone crazy.
Amanda sighed and glanced back over her shoulder at her boyfriend. Why did he have to be such a baby? His eyes were squeezed shut. He was still rocking back and forth, and his lips were moving, though he no longer dared to speak the words he had been repeating to himself over and over again for the past two days. I love ice cream.
Maybe she was being too hard on him. Her nerves were frayed too, but at least she wasn’t taking it out on the only other person in the building. She turned back to where the curtains were pulled across the window. She took a deep breath and reached for the curtain, slowly pulling it aside slightly so as not to risk Jim hearing what she was doing. There was hardly any point, anyway: there was nothing to be seen. The dim, flickering light from the lamp was just enough to illuminate a wall of white, flecked with the occasional chocolate chip.
Six Months Earlier
“Get back here, Buddy!” The big, patchy-colored mutt bounded away from Emily, ignoring her commands. Something too important was happening. The standard laws of doggy obedience would have to be suspended for a moment.
Emily ran down the path after her dog, shooting apologetic looks at the other people in the park as she passed them. “He’s not normally like this,” she tried to explain, but that didn’t stop the looks of derision she was getting from most of them.
Buddy really was normally a very obedient dog. Happy, healthy, and clever. Emily was proud of her mutt. All her friends had tried to persuade her to get a purebred, but once she had done the research and discovered how many terrible genetic health problems most of them had, she simply walked into the nearest no-kill shelter and took the friendliest puppy she saw. He’d been her best friend ever since. So what was up with him now?
Buddy was investigating something on the ground. Emily finally caught up with him, then made a face as he licked something off the dirty path. “Ew! Buddy, what are you eating? Don’t eat stuff off the ground…”
Buddy wasn’t listening. He was busy analyzing the strange clump that had fallen from the sky. His nose did most of the work, but he couldn’t quite believe what he discovered, so he dared to taste it. Yes, his tongue confirmed. Cold. Sweet. Strawberry.
“Ugh!” Emily felt something hit her on the top of the head. “Damn pigeons, crapping everywhere…” She reached up to wipe it off, but jerked her hand back. Why would bird poo be ice cold?
Bert groaned and leaned forward in his ergonomic chair. His 48-ounce refillable cup of Diet Mountain Dew was, once again, just barely out of reach. He took a big sip, set it back down, and once again leaned back in his chair. He rubbed his neck for a few moments. It was hurting once again. Ergonomic chair my ass. His neck hurt all the time.
Still grumbling to himself, he minimized his work windows. He needed a break from thinking, and tabbed over to Fark, which was always good for some entertaining stupid news stories. Here was one labeled “Weird”.
ICE CREAM FALLS FROM SKY, ICE CREAM TRUCK VENDORS DEMAND GOVERNMENT BAILOUT
He clicked the link and grumbled at how long the page took to load. What was he paying his ISP for when it took nearly two full seconds to load a simple news page? After clearing the pop-up ads from the screen, he scrolled past the title and intro to where the actual article text was. So few people actually read articles, he remarked to himself. The titles were never enough to give you the real story. He should know: it was his job to write clickbait titles for articles, and he rarely bothered to make them accurate.
He had hardly started the second paragraph when the door opened and his grandmother walked into the room. “Bertram, dear, you are looking too pale again.”
Good morning to you too, grandma, Bert thought but didn’t dare to vocalize. He just shrugged as the elderly woman approached the window and pulled aside the blackout curtain, momentarily blinding him. He stared at the computer screen and braced himself for her next onslaught of criticism. A full thirty seconds passed without a sound. He swiveled in his chair to see what was going on.
His grandmother was staring out the window with her jaw dropped. Outside, large, wet-looking clumps of something brown were falling from the sky.
Aiden was on guard. It was only fair, according to Abigail. It was her turn. Aiden was pretty sure she’d already had a lot more turns than him. Abigail had said he’d understand when he was older. He hated it when she said that.
He spent a few minutes getting a particularly good booger out of his nose. It took a lot more effort than he’d expected, and he didn’t hear his father’s footsteps coming around the corner.
“Aiden! Get that finger out of your nose right this second!”
He wanted to do as his father said, but he was right in the middle of it. He was past the point of no return. What could he do? It was almost there. Just another second…
“That’s disgusting!” His father, giant that he was, grabbed his elbow and ripped his finger out, causing the booger to hang halfway out of his nose. Way to go, dad, thought Aiden. Just another second and I would have had it.
“Go wash your hands right now,” dad snapped at him, visibly perturbed by the perfectly average-looking snot hanging down over his son’s lip. Aiden had nearly slipped away without further questioning when his father noticed the door open just a crack. “Wait! Get back here!”
Aiden stopped dead in his tracks. Now he would get it from both his dad and his sister. What a day.
He decided to take pre-emptive action to protect himself. “I didn’t want to help her, dad! She made me! She said she’d hit me if I didn’t help her!”
His father put his fingers to his temples and rubbed them like he always did when he was trying not to explode. He lowered his voice to just above a whisper. “Go to your room right this second.” It was scarier than yelling.
“But what about washing my hands?” asked Aiden.
“I said right this second!” Aiden had been wrong – yelling was worse. And he had only been trying to figure out what dad wanted so he could do it. He was just trying to be a good son. He ran off to his room, wiping his snotty finger on his jeans. Some punishment this was, anyway. All his best stuff was in his room. He reached for his tablet, when he heard his dad’s voice call up the stairs, sharp as though he was standing right next to him: “And NO tablet!”
Tom slowly counted backwards from ten, the way his therapist had taught him. It never really seemed to help, but he hoped that if he kept at it, it would start to work. That boy is going to be the death of me, he thought.
But no, that wasn’t fair. It wasn’t his fault. He was only four, for the love of…
Tom was trying so hard to be patient.
In any case, he needed to find Abigail. If either of his children were at fault, it would be her. She was far too intelligent for her own good – though not quite intelligent enough to understand how lucky she was to have a hygiene expert for a father, or how many billions of bacteria she was exposing herself to every time she broke one of his meticulously-designed rules. And unfortunately, he knew exactly where he’d find her.
Aiden had been standing guard at the front door. It wasn’t the first time he’d caught him there. Ever since the storm had begun, the kids had been constantly trying to get outside to lick the sweet stuff on the dirty ground. Eleven years of sheltering his daughter from processed sugar, and now it was literally falling from the sky —And who knows where it’s coming from or what’s in it!
Rather than go out hunting for her, he simply took Aiden’s place at the door. By now, she would surely be on her way back. She wouldn’t risk being out there for too long and getting caught. Sure enough, within a few moments, the door creaked open, and a far-too-proud young girl backed in, closing the door behind her.
“It’s vanilla today, Aiden,” she whispered. “Nothing exciting, but at least—” There was no mistaking her father’s hand on her shoulder.
“I think it’s about time we had another chat, Abigail,” he said, “about germs.”
“There are those who saw the first drops of ice cream,” said the Reverend, leaving a dramatic pause before continuing, “and thought it was some kind of joke.”
He looked out over his flock. What a lot of vacant idiots. They so desperately needed his guidance!
“And when they canceled school and brought out the snow plows, well, there were those – particularly those whose minds are still young and innocent – who thought that was just swell.”
He chose to ignore a giggle or two coming from some of the younger members of his congregation.
“The government told us not to worry,” he said, raising his voice for emphasis. He waited a moment for the Damn rights and the Sure dids to clear before continuing. “And what’s the government doing now?”
Not a thing!
I ain’t seen no government help.
He held back the smile he felt growing under his stony expression. It was so easy to show them the way.
“The scientists up there in the cities, in their laboratories made of glass and titanium, the scientists are telling us that there ain’t no explanation for this at all.”
He let some of that smile creep out now. Let them see his amusement.
The audience smiled the same smile back at him, like looking in two thousand mirrors.
The Reverend leaned forward over the podium, careful not to let his mouth move past the microphone, and let that last line hang in the air just a moment longer.
His voice was just barely above a whisper now. “But there is an explanation, isn’t there.” It was not to be mistaken for a question.
Damn right there is!
God knows it.
Even his supporters were speaking in low voices now.
“And when the ice cream built up so high that our cars stopped working,” he said, keeping his voice low.
The voices in the audience came to a complete stop. The Reverend could hear his own heart beating in the silence, slow and steady and true.
“And when our snow shovels got ruined by that sticky sugary mess,” he continued, raising his voice just a bit.
The audience leaned forward in their seats.
“And when it got so we couldn’t leave our houses to go to the grocery store because the ice cream was up to our knees,” he kept going, increasing in volume and intensity bit by bit.
The audience was nearly at a climax now, just waiting for their cue.
“And when we had to rescue each and every one of you from your homes and barricade ourselves here inside our holy church,” he was almost shouting.
A few people’s eyes looked like they would pop right out of their heads.
“And when we had nothing left to feed our children but ice cream,” now he was shouting.
He had to let them go now, before someone had a stroke.
“We knew there was but one explanation! But one source for this plague of ice cream! And who is that?”
All correct answers, as far as the Reverend was concerned. “That’s right, my brothers and sisters! It’s the Judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, the work of the Devil, Armageddon, the Apocalypse, the book of Revelation come to life word for word!”
A small part of his mind marveled at the fact that no one in the room saw any contradiction there whatsoever. Other than a few of the children, and they’d do as they were told.
The congregation was standing now, shouting, pulling their hair, beating their chests, and shouting Praise the Lord! and Praise Jesus! and Amen!
Yes, his little flock would persevere. And when the Lord came to them to save the faithful and reward the devoted, he knew who’d be at the top of the list for Heaven.