So, Chuck Wendig has once again posed a challenge. This time, we must write baby-centric pulp fiction. No, not Tarantino gimps, foot-rubs and $5 milkshakes Pulp Fiction. The real deal. PULP. Noir, space opera, hastily-written and fun. Dime books. The stuff with the awesome covers blending horror and soft-core porn. Stuff like that pic on the left! This week's challenge was exactly that. A challenge. Though I'm a fan of the style, I've never written pulp before. I've written the absurd, but never something quite like pulp. Plus, I had a few directions I wanted to go... monster story? Noir? Aliens? Secret Agent? I finally settled on one and I present it to you. What follows is my attempt at 1000 words of "Baby Pulp". Not sure how it turned out as far as holding to the law of the prompt, but here it is. Hope you enjoy.
By Jamie Wyman
The end of civilization came not with the concussive blasts of bombs or terrible earthquakes. No, the end came quietly. So proud of ourselves for what we’d created, we couldn’t see the terrible future these monsters would precipitate. Years of study and work. Page upon page of speculation. Failure after failure brought us to our highest moment: the moment we created A.I.
“You’ve done it, Elena!” Ian said. Two teeth had begun to break through his lower jaw. It gave his round face a new sort of charm.
I lowered my eyes. “We have done it, Ian. All of us.”
The others were dancing about on their little, pudgy feet. Tilly shook her rattles and howled in triumph like a savage while Vivi capered about in only her diaper and yellow duck hat.
After that, my memories fade into a comfortable haze of laughter. I woke up some hours later snuggling Bearington—my stuffed kitty. The others were curled up about the room with fleece blankets. Bottles littered the floor. I could still taste the milk and cookies. It had definitely been a party.
And there, in the middle of the room, sat the proof of our triumph. The creature was real and staring at me.
I rubbed at my eyes and let loose with a yawn, then pulled myself up to my knees. Carefully, I stood on my own feet and held my balance. I moved toward it with light steps.
“What is this place?” it asked.
My heart fluttered. We’d done it! Adult Intelligence!
“This,” I said with a grand gesture, “is Room.”
It scratched at the hair growing on its face. An unexpected side-effect, but fascinating nonetheless.
“What kind of room?”
“Just a room. Food room is down the hall. That’s where we keep the milk and cookies and fruit.”
“Milk,” it said, trying out the word. “Cookies. What are these things?”
“Food,” I said, patient and practically vibrating with the awe of the moment. “Sustenance.”
It picked up Tilly’s rattle from the floor. The rattle looked tiny in the creature’s gargantuan hand. “And this? Is this food also?”
“No. I mean, it tastes okay, but you can’t eat it. That’s just a toy. A plaything,” I added when it wrinkled it’s brow.
“And that?” it said nodding toward Bearington.
It pointed to the lamp. “That?”
Ian’s chewy ring.
It held up Tilly’s tambourine. “And this?”
“Hat,” I said. “Makes a great sound. Especially when you shake your head like this.” I put the tambourine on my head and flailed about. The jingling was fantastic as was the slightly dizzy feeling I got.
It’s the simple things that make me smile.
And so, this is how our days went for a time. It asked questions and we supplied the answers. We soon discovered that the creature was a male. Ian named it “Snogdor Lord of Treeland”, but that was too long to say all the time. So we just called him Mister. At first, Mister made for an excellent playmate when Tilly climbed up his limbs and perched upon his shoulders. With his colossal size and unlimited strength, Mister Man could lift us high into the air. We could fly!
Mister was better than a tub full of rubber duckies.
…well, the fear of A.I. was that one day it would turn on its creator.
It happened as Ian tugged at Mister’s beard—that is what the A.I. called the strange growth of hair that formed a carpet over his face. Scratchy stuff, but Ian was enthralled by it. Where did it come from? Would it get longer and longer until it reached the floor and Tilly could climb it? These were all questions we couldn’t wait to answer.
But, I digress.
Ian pulled at the wiry tuft of Mister’s beard and suddenly, the creature’s great bass voice called out, “NO.”
Mister had been creating names for things. It seemed to give him a sense of order and structure. We humored this even if it didn’t hold to our looser way of organization. (Beyond toys and food, there really wasn’t much need for such categorization.) But, even though we’d seen Mister generating his own language, this was something else. This word, “no”… what could it mean?
And that… that was the beginning of the end.
From then on, it seemed that Mister had his own ideas of what we should do with our time. He began to tell us when we could sleep and when and what we could eat. His whims dictated what games we played. If our toys angered him, he placed them high on a shelf where none of us could reach. One day, when Tilly tried to scale the wall to reclaim her Beatupon—a closed cylinder that she liked to strike with Hitwiths—Mister once again shouted, “NO!”
Horrified, we could do nothing but watch as he put Tilly in a cage. The bars were just wide enough for her chubby arm to slide through, but nothing else. We tried to smuggle a bottle to her, or her rattle, but nothing would fit.
Mister called it “Time Out”.
I watched as our creation went mad, drunk with power. One by one, it cowed us into submission. One day, I lost it. I began to scream and roll about on the floor! I’d had it! Curse the day we’d ever asked ourselves, “What if we were huge!” I wailed until my head felt as if it would split from my shrieking.
“NO!” Mister said.
His huge hands folded around me and lifted me into the air.
I surrendered to the inevitable, then. Choking back my sobs, hiccupping, I looked into Mister’s cold eyes. “Why?” I asked.
“Because I said so.”