Barking Benjamin’s Easter Special

(This is a short story I wrote about Barking Benjamin, the title character of my anthology Barking Benjamin: Kids’ Stories Not For Kids, available for Amazon Kindle)

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Oh, you came! Wonderful! I thought you’d never come back. I thought you’d…ugh…outgrown me.

No, wait, I still think you don’t remember me. What, haven’t you seen my…well, something that resembles my face plastering all those movie posters? Those toys from that one fast food place? You may think these things would be flattering, and they would be if they were actually created with love, if they weren’t just a way for those cynical adults to fill their pockets.

Oh, I’m sorry about that. I’m Barking Benjamin, the lovable dog from the cartoon series of the same name. Don’t you remember? Every episode, Dennis – he was a human, by the way – would be out and about and I would try to help him, only to screw it up. One episode had him playing golf with me as his caddy. I remember how he ranted and raved as I gave him a giant playing card – a “club”, get it?

Oh come on, it was much better than most of the stuff that’s on TV nowadays. Better than most of your “adult” entertainment. Nicer, too.

I miss Dennis.

Most of the time in that show, I was a failure. That’s how I was made. But there were times I did succeed. Sometimes the episode would end with both me and Dennis laughing. It’s Eastertime right now –do you remember my Easter special. Barking Benjamin’s Easter Egg-stravanganza? Don’t you remember the evil scientist who wanted to steal all the chocolate and candy in the world, simply because he wanted children to be sad? Well, me and Dotty…

Poor Dotty.

Oh, Dotty Daschund. She was my girlfriend. Well, anyway, we destroyed the evil scientist’s machine, and this made it rain chocolate all over the world. Dennis and Dotty and even the Easter Bunny himself praised me for this, praised me for making the world a better place. And that’s what I’m going to do this Easter.

I haven’t celebrated Easter in a while. It just doesn’t seem the same without Dennis or Dotty. I don’t think I’ve even had the Easter Bunny pay me a visit recently.

What’s that? The Easter Bunny is a werewolf now? Oh, well, the Easter Bunny in that story is not the Easter Bunny from my show. There are countless worlds created by countless stories, movies and shows, and thus there are countless versions of the Easter Bunny. Some of them have even ended up like me, discovering they were fictional characters. A lot of those Easter Bunnies….they couldn’t handle it. They couldn’t handle the fact that there were worlds out there where Easter eggs were left by children’s parents, where rabbits were incapable of speaking to humans.

So, they ended it all.

So this year, I am actually going to celebrate Easter, but without the Easter Bunny. Because I’m actually going to be the Easter Bunny.

What? I’m kind of like a bunny, aren’t I? I’m furry, and I have big floppy ears. All I have to do is paint myself pink and add some buck teeth. Maybe a waistcoat and a big spotty bow-tie.

You know, I wear a necktie all the time, but now I’m beginning to think it’s too formal. Maybe I should wear a bow-tie instead. But I digress.

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So, I cover myself in pink paint. Don’t try this at home, kids. Then the buck teeth. And yes, the waistcoat and bow tie.

Now, let me see. I’ve got the big ears, the teeth, the clothes, have I forgotten anything? Of course, the comically large carrot! Oh, and the eggs.

That’s right. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to deliver eggs. I’m going to deliver eggs to your world. People have forgotten the joy of Easter, and what better way to do so then making them see the Easter Bunny is real? Not just any Easter Bunny either, a happy one.

Not a retired one. Not a dead one. Not even a werewolf.

I can just teleport to your world whenever I want to, not that I really want to that much, mind. I have to, though. I’m hopping down the streets with pink fur and a red waistcoat and a basket full of eggs (I decided against the carrot) because I have to.

You know, the fact that I’m giving out candy reminds me of that Lemon Possum character. She seemed so cheerful and she created such delicious food that I wanted her to join me. Too bad she had to be evil. Why do so many nice people turn out to be evil? Wasn’t there a time when all evil people had black top hats and cloaks?

I’ve been spotted. A car slows down as the driver sees me, and I smile and wave. The driver yells ‘FAG!’ Yes, I do know what he meant by that. I’m not that naïve. I do miss the days when I was more naïve, though. Why can’t more people be naïve?

But forget about him. It’s time to drop off some eggs. I’m not going to make a hunt out of it – I can’t think of any good clues – so I’m just going to plop them in a pile in the corner. Like presents under a Christmas tree.

Through the window I go – just now I realise I could have easily gone down the chimney – and there I see a woman already hiding eggs. ‘Don’t worry,’ I say, ‘I’ll take care of the rest.’

She screams.

‘No, no! Look, I’m the Easter Bunny!’

She screams some more. She shouts obscenities. She throws a lamp right at my face.

I run.

Wait, I think, why am I running? I overpower her. I overpower that man in the car. I’m a dog with claws and teeth. I’m a cartoon dog who can pull things from thin air, and can travel through alternate dimensions.

Humans like to imagine things, but they don’t like facing what they’ve imagined. Imagination creates entire worlds, yet those humans don’t want to go those worlds. They don’t want to face the idea that they created conflict just by thinking.

Yet right now, here I am being afraid of a human, even though I have more power.

I’m not. I’m going right back in that house, and I’m going to help that woman be happier.

Yet I don’t want to.

When I try to walk to that house, it’s like there’s an invisible force field surrounding it. My feet freeze in place.

I have to go in there.

But I don’t want to.

I have to. I have to.

I don’t want to. I don’t want to.

Another voice joins the chorus:

I don’t have to.

Why I Don’t Buy My Daughter Sweets Anymore

My daughter wanted a chocolate monster for Easter. The fact that she requested such a thing wasn’t too much of a surprise; little Elaine liked to request what eggs and sweets she wanted for Easter Sunday, if only to make it more like Christmas, and she always loved monsters. It was one of our favourite father-daughter activities, watching Godzilla and similar movies, in fact.

Elaine told me she had seen a chocolate monster on the shop shelves when I took her out last, yet when I went back to that same shop, there wasn’t a monster to be found. There were myriad eggs, the usual bunnies and chickens, and even a chocolate dog with his tongue sticking out. I thought to myself, well, if you squint a bit, the dog looks a bit like the blue monster from Monsters Inc, and you know how kids see things we adults don’t. I searched in that chocolate shop, and every shop in the whole town centre that would sell such a thing, yet could find no chocolate monsters.

I didn’t want to leave empty-handed, however, so I thought that if I couldn’t find a monster, I’d make one. I bought a chocolate chicken, and then I thought, what the hell, spoil her a bit and get a bunny as well. The store offered personalised messages on their chocolate figures, and I asked for the chicken to have fangs on its beak and blood over its stomach, and for the rabbit to have a large fanged mouth on its own stomach. Even I was surprised that they agreed to do it.

Elaine’s favourite monster movies were the ones with two or more monsters stalking through the city, often battling each other. So, I thought, that’s what I was going to tell her these two creatures were. I would tell her a story about how on Easter Sunday, both my monster chicken and my monster bunny decided to attack the city, and then got into a fight. She would get to decide the outcome; whoever she eats first will be the loser. She’d have one figure on Easter Sunday, the other on Easter Monday, and both times after dinner, of course.

So I put the two little monsters in a bag with some other eggs, which then went in the bottom of my cupboard, not to be disturbed until the big day. At least, that was the plan.

When I was a child, I would always keep my ears open for footsteps on the roof on Christmas Eve, and hopping in the halls on Easter Eve, and sure enough, I was awoken by thuds. I at first simply assumed it was Elaine going to get herself a glass of water, but she never had footsteps as heavy as those.

The cupboard door was open, my Easter bag knocked onto the floor.

The rest of the eggs were intact, but the chocolate monsters were out of their boxes. The boxes looked like mice had been nibbling on them, but I was certain we had never had vermin in this house before.

There was someone in the house. The chocolate monsters were gone, and I could still hear some clunking and thudding. I don’t know what they wanted with the chocolate, and I didn’t want to know. Though I knew I should have been arming myself and preparing for a confrontation, I could only stand and shudder.

A loud roar shook the house. A roar coming from Elaine’s room.

I darted there immediately.

Elaine was awake, sitting on her bed with her legs crossed, watching the chicken monster and the bunny monster, animate chocolate figures, slap each other. An old dollhouse of Elaine’s, hollowed out of floors and furniture, and resting on its back, served as their coliseum. Their movements were robotic, like stop-motion skeletons from a Ray Harryhausen film, and once-drawn-on fangs had become three-dimensional.

As quickly as I had rushed to Elaine’s room, I kicked over the dollhouse, and held Elaine tightly. ‘It’s alright, I’m here,’ I said.

‘Dad,’ said Elaine, ‘they told me what you were going to do with them. They don’t want to be eaten.’

‘But what were they…’

‘They were just putting on a show for me. You wanted me to pick a winner, and they wanted me to do that without eating them.’

Sure enough, the two monsters tossed the dollhouse off of themselves and walked towards me. The bunny had had one of his ears broken off, and the chicken’s head had a hole in it.

‘Yeah, what she said,’ said the chicken.

The rabbit looked at me, the mouth on his stomach. ‘Though I suppose we could eat something while we’re here.’

And that’s why I don’t buy my daughter sweets anymore, and why I only have one ear.

The Easter Werewolf

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(I actually wrote this story last year, when the full moon indeed came out the night before Easter Sunday, but I felt I should put it on this blog.)

I sometimes think Santa Claus should just bloody well count his blessings. He delivers presents to every kid in the world, sure, but he just plops the presents in one spot. One place where everyone can find them. He doesn’t have to hide them about the place and leave riddles like some Batman villain. And at least he has some variety in what he delivers.

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of me. The Easter Bunny, Peter Cottontail, etc. The one who delivers the chocolate eggs to your children and leaves clues about where to find them. You let me into your house, and I mean, you really let me into your house. I spend most of the year analysing the places I come to visit every Holy Saturday, thinking of the best spots to hide the eggs. Where the kids would never think of looking. What would make for the nicest-sounding rhyming riddles. I do cheat from time to time, though. I always like to hide eggs near a computer while leaving a riddle about “the home of Qwerty”. Won’t believe how many kids I’ve stumped with that one. I know your house probably better than you know it.

I may have several bunnies and chickens and squirrels working for me, crafting the eggs I give, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to do over the year. Not only do I plan my hunts, not only do I write my riddles, I exercise excessively from Easter Monday to Good Friday to make sure I’m in tip-top shape for the big night, to make sure I can leave your eggs in your house as quickly as possible. I run and jump and sprint and leap until my bones ache, but it’s all worth it. It’s worth it for the smiles, it’s worth it to honour Christ’s resurrection, and of course, it’s worth it to burn off all that chocolate.

In fact, this story begins with one of my runs. It was about a month until Easter, I was feeling a bit more active than usual despite it being nighttime, so I thought, why not have a run in the woods? If it was too dark, well, I had a torch app on my Android. Hey, gotta get with the times. One time I tried doing my work with a baseball cap and sunglasses while on a skateboard. Thankfully, that didn’t last longer than a year.

Anyway, I got into my gear, took the aforementioned Android with me, and had a good run about the woods, weaving between the trees, jumping over rocks and logs, and remembering the many chases of my life. Hunters,predators, paparazzi, they’ve all ran after me and I’ve escaped them all.

This night, however, was different.

I had my headphones in, so I heard very little of the forest’s wildlife, yet I could always sense if someone or something was nearby. I could especially sense a wolf coming through, no matter how loud the music I was listening to. This wolf, this gigantic silver-haired beast with gleaming yellow eyes, seemed to just suddenly pop into existence. In seconds, it pinned me onto the ground, with its hot saliva dripping on my face. I cringed from its halitosis.

Next thing I knew, I was in my own bed, Dr. Henley the plump chicken doctor looking over me. As soon as I saw her, I sat upright, gibbering wildly…arms still here, legs still here. Good.

‘Whatever attacked you last night didn’t do any major damage,’ said Henley, and after she said that, I took a look at my arm and saw a bandage on it, hiding the dark red staining my beautiful pink fur.

For an entire month, I forgot the entire incident, and spent my time exercising, devising the last few riddles and generally preparing for Easter. Holy Saturday night meant hopping all over the globe, entering houses, making sure no-one saw me and tasks that made me weary, but throughout the month, I told myself it would be worth it. I cleansed my body of all doubt and dread, listening to only the most energetic songs on my runs, eating chocolate and jellies, and even having a drunken night out once or twice.

Holy Saturday came quickly, and I found myself looking out of the window, watching the sun descend. As soon as night fell, alarms all around the building would sound, and I would take my magic basket and be on my way. I would be out of that door as soon as my realm was bathed in the light of the Paschal Full Moon.

Night fell. I screamed.

My basket fell to the floor, as I collapsed to my knees. My veins were filled with venom, with every muscle in my body pounding against my skin. My heart not only slammed itself against my chest, it shrunk. I held my chest as if that would lessen the pain, only to see my claws grow longer. As soon as I saw it, I cringed as my jaw stretched, and my teeth grew longer and sharper. With one final scream, my transformation was complete.

I still felt stings after the process was over, but at least the pain had somewhat lessened. My once fat and fluffy paws now bore long fingers and big black claws. I still had my long ears, I still had my pink fur, but now my jaw had extended, now bearing long jagged teeth.

The bunnies and chickens who seconds earlier had been cheering for my depature now stood in shock, trembling as they beheld the beast their master had become. I thought that werewolves – because that’s what I was – were supposed to lose all sentience when they became a wolf, and yet I still found myself thinking and seeing when that transformation was complete. Yet when I looked at my co-workers, the word “meat” flashed in my mind.

Then another thought came into my head. I knew the children. I knew where they lived, the exact layout of their houses. If chicken meat was tasty, then human meat must be delectable. My legs forced me to go outside, only to feel something tug at my leg.

I stared at that plump little chicken grabbing me and imagined her head sliced clean off her neck, her body roasted and covered in gravy. My brain begged my body to remain still, but I chased her, slashing at her with my new claws. Still I attempted to stop myself, but my brain couldn’t help but imagine her succulent skin, still my mouth stung from hunger.

‘Stop!’ Another of my bunnies – a plump, fat, little bunny – leapt in front of me, his arm held out as if he were a policeman holding traffic. My mind attempted to tell me to heed this warning, but that was drowned out by images of the bunny served on a platter, an apple in his mouth.

Though he shook his fist at me, though he tried stepping on my foot, I still leapt at him, still pinned him down onto the ground like the wolf who cursed me in the first place. That wolf passed down his curse onto me, but the wolf I had become just wanted this little bunny dead. At least that was something both I and wolf-I could agree on – we didn’t want anyone else to have this curse.

The little bunny – the tubby little bunny – then let loose a scream, and I let him free from my grip, holding my ears. I had pretty good hearing in my usual form, but being a werewolf amplified it all the more. As soon as he ran away, however, I chased again. I didn’t even bother fighting it. My stomach pounded and my throat ached, I needed meat, I needed blood.

Another chicken flew up right in front of me, holding a Crème Egg. Just as I was about to bite him, he threw the Crème Egg down my throat.

My hunger remained, but it was a hunger for something else.

The last thing I remember was taking my whole bloody basket and gouging down on its contents. I awoke on Easter Sunday to find that I was back to my old self, but the eggs had gone undelivered.

People were angry that they didn’t get their treats, and I bloody well couldn’t tell them it was because I was now a werewolf, so I told them I would deliver twice as many eggs the next year, when the full moon wouldn’t be on Holy Saturday. Better late than never, and I’d have rather have kids miss out on their chocolate for one year if it meant not reducing them to bloody carcasses.

So over that next year, production not only doubled, it tripled and then quadrupled. I had found some people who said they would try and find a cure for my condition, but until then, my helpers needed to make tonnes of chocolate ready for the next full moon, lest I tear apart the dear little Easter bunnies and chickens.

Bet Santa doesn’t have to deal with things like this.

The Evil Dr. Meow

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There was an evil scientist,
Who would cackle, plot and curse,
Determined to make sure one day,
The whole world would be hers.

‘I’ve got the perfect plan,’ she said,
To her robot henchman Bert,
‘I’ll create a monstrous beast,
That’ll roar and maim and hurt!

‘I’ll mutate my cat,’ she said,
‘It’ll go in this machine,
It’ll go in a cute little thing,
But’ll come out big and mean!’

She brought out her kitty cat
And held it in her arms,
‘I can’t wait to see this thing
Go out and cause some harm!’

But the cat flew out of her arms,
And climbed onto a shelf,
It knocked chemicals onto the scientist,
Changing her whole self.

The cat had shed fur over her,
Yes, it had done that,
So the chemicals mutated her,
Into an anthropomorphic cat!

‘This cannot be,’ she said to Bert,
‘I’m supposed to be abominable,
A vicious evil scientist,
Not a cute lil’ animal!’

‘Don’t you worry, my mistress,
Don’t give up your ambition,’
said Bert, ‘I really think there are
Advantages to your condition.’

He explained what those would be,
Things horrible and vile,
‘Yes, that sounds interesting,’
Said the scientist with a smile.

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So off she went and she cackled,
‘I’ll take over now!’
And she then rechristened herself,
The Evil Dr. Meow!

Superheroes would try to fight her,
But she’d send them home,
After she would shake a bit,
And get fur on their clothes.

She would take videos of herself,
And put them on the net,
And use them to distract people,
While she blew up a jet.

She brought people to their knees,
And she did it fast,
Soon it seemed the entire world
Would be hers at last.

Then one brave soul,
Stood before her evil,
And got out a weapon
That would save all the people.

Using this weapon,
He caused her to flee,
Never again to torture
The good and happy.

Yes, this weapon,
It really did cream her,
This mighty weapon,
The vacuum cleaner.