Today is the Write the Next Line Blogfest, hosted by Christine at Christine's Journey, and Alex J. Cavanaugh's Top 10 Music Countdown.
I made an attempt to combine them, but only managed to squeeze in about six songs. I'm not much of a music person anyway, only using it as a background while I write or work out. I don't think I actually have 10 favorite songs.
So this is another installment of the Happy Acres saga. I have the sense that this may become an ongoing serial, as I'm totally in love with the characters and concept. This episode is a lot darker, but there's a reason for that.
For Christine's blogfest, she gave us a prompt and we were supposed to write from that. Well, the prompt was kind of dark, so I went with it. And remember, Happy Acres is a mental institution, so that left me lots of room to play. I did tinker with the prompt itself, but not too much. It's still recognizable.
3:00 am. The numbers glowed green, staring at me, reminding me that I wasn't sleeping. How could I? Every night a dream consumes me, and often when I wake, my body is decorated with a new cut, bruise, burn, bite mark.
I stared at the ceiling. The fan squeaked and wobbled, trying to move the air, but failing miserably. I turned over, hugging my pillow. For the hundredth time I thought, maybe I should tell someone. But who? Nurse Cratchit? No way. A doctor? Nuh uh. Here at Happy Acres that kind of story meant a padded room, or worse.
So needless to say, I haven’t shared my little problem in group.
A branch scratched the window. I turned over again. 5:00 am. Spikes of adrenalin gushed through my heart, and I bolted upright in bed. Where did the last two hours go? My damp T-shirt clung to my back. I patted myself, and squinted in the dark at exposed skin, searching for new injuries.
Bang. Bang. Bang. I jumped. Who could be knocking on my door at this time of morning? For that matter, who ever knocked here? Happy Acres had an open door policy, nobody ever knocked.
The door squeaked on its hinges as it swung open a few inches and I saw the pale roundness of a face peeking in. This far away and in the dark, I didn’t recognize whose it was.
“You okay?” I heard the face whisper.
“I think so,” I said. “Who’s there?”
The door opened a bit more and a whole body appeared, moving into the room like an apparition, and I wondered if this specter had been responsible for hurting me. I swallowed hard, pushing my pounding heart back down where it belonged. But the closer the form got, the more it came into focus until, to my relief, I realized it was just Tonja.
But when I heard the plaintive strains of “Hotel California” drifting down the hall from the common room, I knew I was still dreaming. My dreams have distinctive soundtracks, you see. Sometimes it’s the Black Eyed Peas jamming, “Pump It,” and other times it’s Selena crooning, “Naturally,” but almost every dream has a Nickelback song playing somewhere or another.
“Your birthday’s coming up,” Tonja said.
“I know,” I answered. “Have you been hurting me while I sleep?” I blurted.
“I’d never hurt you,” she said, offended. “You’re my friend. We’re so much alike we could be two parts of a whole.”
“Then why are you here?” I asked. “I know this is a dream.”
“I’m here to protect you,” she said.
“But Mia’s zombies are harmless. She said so. They eat hotdogs and draw with crayons and love cupcakes. They’re gentle zombies. They wouldn’t hurt me,” I babbled.
“They don’t want to be bad, but they can’t help it. Someone’s forcing them.”
“Mia?!” I squealed. “But she’s the sweetest of them all!”
“Not Mia, silly. There’s a new zombie on the block. The Zombie King. He’s invisible even to Mia. And very, very dangerous.”
The music changed and the eerie Eagles tune was replaced by Linkin Park’s “Bleed It Out,” and suddenly Mia’s zombies didn’t seem so friendly after all.
I pulled knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around them, tight, rocking back and forth. “What do I do?” I asked.
“You must defeat the Zombie King,” Tonja said, “before he takes over Happy Acres.”
I gnawed my bottom lip, considering my options. The notes of, “White and Nerdy,” now drifted from the common room, making me wish I could beat down my distracting soundtrack. It only made it more difficult to concentrate.
“But how?” I asked.
Tonja held out her hand, “Come with me,” she said.
It was up to me to save myself and my friends, and free Mia’s zombies from the Zombie King’s evil clutches.
When “Man of Constant Sorrow,” began to play, I knew I was in for trouble as, clinging tight to her hand, I followed Tonja into the dark side of Happy Acres.
So, there you go. Hope you liked it. And yes, I did leave it totally open-ended, but that's only so I can write another episode!