Popcorn Dreams a short story by Broderick Grimm™

My friend, Perry Lake, gave me some feedback on the original story I posted. Below is the revision I came up with based on his suggestions.

Hope you like.

This is another in the series Parakeets of Doom™ written for the writers group of the same name. This was written by one of my other pen names, Broderick Grimm™. While Jason Dowls™ is a wide-eyed innocent writer of harmless humor, Broderick Grimm™ can only be described as extremely strange.

 

POPCORN DREAMS

The door was still closing when Rudy started feeling sick. The smiling face of the little girl named Nancy slowly disappearing as it shut. The feeling was small at first, a tiny nag at the pit of his stomach which gradually grew stronger; then stronger.

“Perhaps a glass of milk,” he thought. He stood up from the over stuffed chair and headed to the refrigerator. It was a tiny apartment he rented from a gibbous man with a surly attitude who lived in, and never seemed to leave, the basement. Nancy was the landlord’s youngest daughter. Peggy, whom Rudy had quickly fallen in love with, was the oldest. Rudy met her the first day he moved in and they had been inseparable ever since.

Rudy grabbed his stomach as the pain lurched from the pit of his stomach up through his chest like a sledge-hammer. He leaned against the fridge, not opening it.

As his pain subsided his mind turned to Nancy. What had she wanted? Why had she burst into his apartment with youthful enthusiasm and a huge bag of popcorn which she insisted upon sharing with as she radiated preteen charm all over the room. “Going to be thirteen next month,” she informed him. “We’ve got to be friends because Peggy’s the bestest sister in the whole world and I can’t live without her.” Rudy listened to her chatter, dutifully shared her popcorn, and shooed her out the door.

Now he was getting sicker and sicker. There was a quick chill that rode up his back from tail bone to neck bone. Behind came a complete lack of breath. “Air,” he said. Milk forgotten he lurched to the window, scrabbling his fingernails on it as he forced it fully open. Rudy wished Peggy were here. Her presence would help. Just thinking about her helped. Her gentle hands, her tender eyes, her wicked little smile, the dimples that always chimed in. The second time he saw her was when she came to collect the rent. By then he was hopelessly in love with her.

Rudy, seldom forward with women, induced her to stay and talk. Peggy told him she was not really the oldest daughter. The oldest daughter had died tragically on her wedding day, and her father had bolted himself into the basement flat and had not left it since. There was another daughter, younger than Peggy, older than Nancy, who ran away from home a week after the tragedy. Peggy didn’t give a lot of details. Rudy, thinking the subject must be too painful for her to talk about, did not mention it again. He thought it odd she never mentioned her mother, but that wasn’t the kind of question you asked the woman you wanted to marry, and perhaps that subject was also very painful for her.

With an effort he leaned his head out the window, drawing in deep breaths of air.

“Don’t lean out too far,” piped a tiny voice. “You will fall and there will be no saving you.” Rudy decided the voice must belong to a little girl. But there was no little girl out here. He looked. Upwards was nothing but a couple of birds. Below. He looked down. Down and down he looked. Five floors down. There would be no surviving that. He was dizzy. He was nauseous. Leaning out the window was a stupid thing to do. Why in hell was he doing it? Where did that voice come from? Was it his subconscious telling him to get back inside? Some psychic thing going on?

He pushed himself back inside. He almost fell over backwards. He grabbed the refrigerator door. He almost pulled the refrigerator down on himself. He stood as best he could, hanging onto the door, looking around the room. No one was here. No little girl. No one.

“You are going to die, you know.” The tiny voice came from outside the window. It displayed a mildly interested tone.

Rudy looked around. He knew the voice could not come from outside the window. But when he looked around the room there was no one. The little girl offering popcorn to him. Only thirteen years old. Could she be on drugs at such a young age? Had she spiked the popcorn with LSD or something worse? Was he hallucinating? She looked so sweet and innocent. She could not possibly given him popcorn loaded with…. Loaded with what?

“You don’t have to die.”

Rudy spotted a parakeet upon the window ledge. A plain green bird sat upon the eggshell white window sill. It eyed him in a flat, scholarly way. Looking out to the sky Rudy spotted what he had thought was a swarm of pigeons but which he now realized was a swarm of parakeets.

“Parakeets don’t talk,” he said.

“Parakeets of Doom can do many things,” said the bird, ruffling its wings, showing black undersides, “and some we do not do.”

“Such as?”

“A parakeet of doom does not die of natural causes for one thing. A parakeet of doom can talk and a parakeet of doom can kill.”

“Are you going to kill me then, little bird?” He asked with a chuckle, thinking his hallucination had taken on a bizarre twist of humor.

“No. You will die in any case. But you can become one of us, you can become one of the flock, if you do us a small favor.”

“Sorry, girl parakeets do not turn me on and I have no wish to spend eternity lusting after human women who would have no interest in a tiny feathered lover.” A dizzy spell took Rudy and he had to hold onto the refrigerator door swinging it wide open. The air from the opened fridge was horribly cold on his right side.

The parakeet nodded wisely.

Rudy lurched to the window sill again. The parakeet flew inside, feathers snapping, and perched on the back of the old green sofa. Rudy looked down. There was the little girl, perfectly healthy and sound, skipping along, still eating popcorn. She looked up at him once, waved, and ran down the street.

The parakeet, the persistent fantasy he could not shake, continued the conversation from before.

“When the moon shines full and bright upon a starless night a parakeet of doom can love and be loved in return.”

Rudy felt a chill though the day was hot. He fumbled to the closet, leaving the refrigerator door open. He put on his great long coat that he saved for the vilest winter storms. It billowed about him and hung to his knees. He had to keep hold of reality. Whether he was under the influence of drugs or poison did not matter. He had to keep his mind in check and act logically. As he put the coat on, leaning with his head pressed against the wall to stay balanced he heard feathers beating the wind. A lot of feathers. How could one bird sound like a flock? But then he was distracted as the huge cloak seemed to envelope him. It was as if the coat softly caressed him and filled up with downy warm softness.

The landlord could control his daughter. The landlord could help him. If there were an antidote as his fantasy suggested then he might know of it as well.

“Peggy’s older sister fell in love with a parakeet of doom and her father killed him, and her, and one hundred other keets as well. That is why he hides in the basement. Because we cannot reach him there.”

Rudy’s heart jumped and slammed hard into his chest over and over. “Oh, my dear God.” Rudy frantically thought. The fantasy parakeet was growing even more insane, if that were possible.

“Will you shut up? I’m trying to think.” Crazy talk. Why would the landlord kill his own daughter? Rudy knew he had to be careful or the hallucination would take over and he would lose all control over reality. Logic, reason, and control. That was all he had to save himself now.

“Thinking will not save your life. Listening to me might.” The parakeets chirping voice was cheerful. A plain green bird on a plain green sofa. Almost disappearing, a bird chameleon. For a minute Rudy’s world was filled with green. A green lump on green.

Rudy felt good he had cajoled his fantasy enough so it would leave him alone. Then he headed down to the basement to confront Peggy’s father, the landlord. Damn he was cold. First he put on a huge overcoat. The one he wore in the worst storms of the year. It felt ruffly as he put it on. He looked around to see why it felt so odd. Why did it seem to be so full? Why did it feel so ruffly and soft? He did not remember that. For a second he thought he heard a flutter, but it must have been the green parakeet. It was no longer on the sofa.

The only part of the basement accessible to the curious was a nine foot by eight foot room that contained three doors: one to the stairs, one to the elevator, and one massively strong door with an intercom on the left side. He pushed the intercom button. This simple act required both hands.

He tried to form the right words in his mind. Before he could do so a voice crackled from an overhead speaker. “what do you want?”

“I am Peggy’s fiance, Rudy…”

“I know who you are. I see you on the monitor. Why are you here?”

Rudy held onto the wall. He was shivering.

“I’m freezing,” he said.

“I see that. You are dressed for winter.”

“It is not helping”

“I see that too,” said the voice. It was cheerful. Rudy wondered why all the creatures in this fantasy had cheerful voices. The bird and now the landlord.

“I just ate some popcorn your youngest daughter gave me. I think there was something wrong with it. I need help. You have to do something.” Rudy noticed his voice was no longer steady.

The only reply was the clang of a buzzer. He pushed open the door. The new room reminded him of an airlock in a spaceship. One door led in, the one he had come through, and another door faced him at the end of a short hallway. He felt woozy and placed a hand on each wall to steady himself. The door at the far end was locked.

“Please let me in. I can’t stand much longer.”

“I can see that. I better let you in before I have to drag you in.” A buzzer sounded again. Rudy pushed the door open with all of his strength. He almost fell into the room. The door closed quickly behind him. The long great-coat he was wearing felt absurdly heavy and he had to resist the urge to open it and let it fall to the floor. So far he had been able to keep his hallucinations at bay. He wanted to keep it that way. He was still cold. He was shivering. It was as though the cold was coming from inside of him, resisting the soft warmth of the coat. Oddly the coat seemed to be generating a lot of warmth.

The landlord. Rudy forced himself to remember it was Peggy’s father. He was a large man. Taller than Rudy and much heavier. The kind of fat that looks capable, not soft. He sat in a recliner that looked designed for one purpose, to hold him.

“You have to do something,” Rudy told him.

“I am doing something,” The landlord smiled kindly, “I’m watching you die.” His voice as casual as if he had said, “Good morning.”

Rudy squinched his eyes closed trying to drive away the return of the fantasy that had been plaguing him. He knew he could not have heard the man say what he had thought he heard him say. It could not be.

“You are not a murderer,” Rudy intoned automatically.

This elicited uncontrolled laughter. “I’m not a murderer,” the big man, the landlord, Peggy’s father, repeated.

There was a silence as the two men looked at each other.

“Of course I’m a murderer, you interloping idiot.”

Rudy felt his heart slam in his chest again. The sheer force almost knocking him over. In trying to steady himself Rudy reached for, and knocked over, a floor lamp. Putting his arms straight out in front him he braced himself against the wall. Turning his head to the right he could face the landlord. He was careful not to crush or crumple his long coat. He had to maintain his hold on reality, keep his hallucinations in control.

“I don’t understand.”

“Simple. No one takes what is mine away from me. The first people I ever killed were my parents when I learned they were going to give my inheritance to my brother. It was called an unfortunate automobile accident.

“Then of course I had to do away with my brother. It was called a suicide in remorse at the death of his parents.”

“What has that to do with me?”

“I told you. No one takes what is mine. A man tried to take my wife from me. They were going to run away together. I killed him. My wife knew I had done something and she was going to divorce me. She was going to take my daughters away from me.” The landlord took a glass from a stand beside his chair and took a sip, licking his lips.”You killed her?”

“No. Yes. I created this basement for her. I kept her locked in here, but alive. She couldn’t take the solitude. She just faded away. Not really my fault.”

Rudy started to slide down the wall.

“My oldest daughter had a fiance. A man who wanted marry her and take her away from me. When she found out I killed him she joined some supernatural cult. A real doozie. She was going to marry a bird just to spite me. I pretended to put on a wedding. I blew them to hell. But not all of them. Some lived. That is why I never leave this basement.”

Rudy began to slide down the wall. He was shaking so badly it felt as though he were in the middle of an earthquake.

“I think I’m dying.”

“Of course you are dying. I have to thank you for coming down here so I could watch. I’d never have guessed you would be so smart as to figure out I had poisoned the popcorn or so stupid as to come to me for help.” His smile was so friendly it was almost affectionate.

“What about your middle daughter. The one between Peggy and your youngest?”

“My only failure in life. She actually did run away. I think she figured something out. She was quick and I was slow and by then I did not dare leave this blasted basement. Too bad.”

Rudy crumpled to the floor. As he did so his coat fell open and the parakeets bunched underneath his great long coat, who had been gripping the inside tightly, silently, forming a thick inner lining, began to fly out into the room. They had flown up his coat as he had put it on. He had been so drugged, so occupied with the sheer act of standing upright, he had not realized what they had done.

As he lost consciousness Rudy reached out with his arms and began to flap them. Now he was flying with feathered wings, joining the flock circling the room.

That was when the landlord began to scream.

© 2015 All Rights Reserved

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