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Short Story: Gumball Apocalypse
By Andrew J. Stone
i. Death by Gumball
Billy’s dad took a sledgehammer to the spiral gumball machine. Glass shattered and slivered all over the Dubble Bubble style carpet in his son’s room. The gumballs rolling down the machine shot across the room and splattered against the wall. The sledgehammer fell from the man’s fingers and thudded dully against the carpet. The recently deceased spiral gumball machine was the last of its kind stationed in Billy’s room.
The man dropped to his knees and in the same motion, swooped his son into his arms.
“Stay with me boy,” the man said. “Please don’t die. Goddamnit Billy, please don’t die.”
Gumball blisters burned Billy boy bad. Blue gumballs and pink gumballs and red gumballs and purple gumballs and yellow gumballs and white gumballs and green gumballs deep dived into the flesh on Billy’s face. His nose had already dissolved and poking through his paper skin cheeks was bone, bright and white. The gumballs sizzled and bled all over Billy’s face and the boy looked like rainbow decay.
The man fought the pain as his fingers picked and plucked the gumballs off his son’s flesh. Blood started to drip from his fingertips, joining the rainbow.
The man managed to wipe away just over half the gumballs when a scream sounded from another part of the house.
The embrace between father and son tightened as the man whispered into Billy’s remaining ear, “You stay right there Billy. I’m going to check on your mom. I’ll be right back, okay?”
Billy shut his eyes.
“Just keep those eyes open a little bit longer Billy,” the man said as he used his fingers to open the lids.
They stayed open.
The man gently laid Billy on the bubblegum carpet and picked up his sledgehammer.
He found his wife in the living room.
Like Billy, she was on the carpet.
Unlike Billy, her flesh had boiled to bone.
As the man entered the room, he raised his sledgehammer over his head. He rushed the pile of blood and gumball and rainbow and bone that used to be his wife. The hammer came down where her heart once beat. It crushed her chest cavity, bringing a couple handfuls of gumballs to their death. He repeated the motion of rising and releasing his sledgehammer until his wife’s body became nothing but bone fragments—a gumball graveyard. Then he ran along the long walls of the room swinging his sledgehammer like a hula hoop. Each time he made contact with the goddamn glass, gumballs would pop and their sugary guts would spray paint the walls, the carpet, and the man.
After massacring all the gumballs and gumball machines in his home, the man sprinted towards the front door.
He opened it quickly and carelessly, without looking through the peephole.
A gumball wall enveloped the man as he stepped outside, but not before he started swinging his sledgehammer round and round.
The tsunami swallowed the hurricane.
ii. The Gumball Craze
It all started with a single gumball machine.
One gumball machine brought about the goddamn gumball apocalypse.
The day was May 17th.
The day was Billy’s sixth birthday.
It was a beautiful glass gumball machine. The kind where you put a quarter into the slot and then a gumball would come rolling down the spiral—three feet in all—before landing at the metal flap. The flap and the slot and the cover of the gumball machine were red. The spiral inside the glass was red too. It sort of looked like the blue and red and white stripes that spiral down the wall at the barbershop. Minus the blue and white.
Billy loved his present.
All day he’d sit and stare at his very own gumball machine. Constantly he’d beg his mother or father for quarters. They never said no, could never say no. The first year Billy had that gumball machine, he chewed 3,285 gumballs. On average, that’s nine gumballs a day.
The next year on May 17th, Billy’s parents bought him four more gumball machines for his room. If only you could see the look on his face, then maybe you, too, would do what his parents did. Maybe you would have bought your boy all the gumball machines in the world.
Yes, Billy loved those machines. By the end of the second year, his parents had gotten him 107 gumball machines. Instead of lining his shelves with books or action figures, Billy’s were lined with gumball machines. But not all of them fit in his room. In fact, only 44 fit along his shelves. Another one stood in the middle of his room—the first gumball machine he ever owned, the beautiful red spiral.
The 62 remaining gumball machines were stationed in the living room, which had officially transformed into a gumball library. All four walls were lined with machines. Blue machines and pink machines and red machines and purple machines and yellow machines and white machines and green machines. There were gumball vending machines and vintage spiral machines and classic carousel machines and animal-themed machines—duck and bat and moose and ferret.
The man and the woman couldn’t get Billy just another gumball machine for his next birthday—his eighth birthday. They needed something more, something that would make Billy light up like before.
So they did what any 21st century parent planning on pleasing their only son would do.
They went on the Internet and started searching for magical shit.
(Seriously, the man typed “magical shit” into the search engine.)
This was kind of a running joke between the man and the woman ever since she described Billy’s face as “magical” when he received his first gumball machine.
But searching magical shit actually worked.
Searching magical shit led the man and the woman to a voodoo witch doctor.
This voodoo witch doctor told the man and the woman of his powers. How he could bring any deceased person or object or thing to life with a single spell.
The man and the woman were very pleased with their discovery. They knew magic was the best way to bring a magical look back to Billy boy’s face. They only had one question:
“Can you bring gumballs to life?”
Andrew J. Stone divides his time between Los Angeles and Seattle and is frequently found wearing a Canucks jersey from September through May. His work has recently appeared in Hobart, Gutter Eloquence, The Molotov Cocktail, and DOGZPLOT. He currently interns for IMAGE journal and maintains a graveyard at AndrewJStone.Blogspot.com.
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