Thursday, August 25, 2011

Short Story: "Sam In Wonderland"

I wrote this back at the end of 2009 for a creative writing class taught by the mother of a friend of mine. She was a pretty decent teacher, but I was already a pretty decent writer. When I submitted this for the Eastfield writing competition's short story division, I had to do plenty of editing, namely changing the name from "The Forbidden Love." You get points if you understand the title. It ended up winning third place, so I guess someone liked it despite its silliness. Keep in mind that it tied for third place with another piece, which was better than mine (and certainly not as long). Anyway, I now present the "award-winning" piece "Sam In Wonderland" by Zachary Armstrong.

Sam in Wonderland
          That day, there was a downpour of rain and the streets were beginning to flood. Water splashed from every car that passed. Mothers called their children in from play, and fathers came home from work early. But in between the walls of the apartment building and the old antique shop on 42nd street lay a woman who did not get up.
            When she woke, Sam was not where she was before. Out of the ground had grown lush, green blades of grass, accompanied by the most beautiful colors of flowers, from daisies to daffodils. Above her was a clear, cloudless blue sky, with the sun shining brightly above the morning horizon. When she got up, Sam was surrounded by a wonderfully radiant meadow. She could see a huge forest in the distance.
            “Hello,” said a slow, lame voice from behind Sam, startling her. She looked around to find a tall, majestic horse with perfectly white fur and a golden mane. His hooves were polished and they shone brightly, reflecting the sun, and his eyes were as clear as windows.
            Sam was confused. Despite the fact that a horse as pretty as this one was just standing around in a meadow and not winning all the beauty contests in the world, she could not place where the voice had come from. She was too distracted by how unnaturally dim-witted the voice sounded. She began to feel unusually worried over the matter. “W-who’s there?” she asked the air in the general direction of the horse, “Who said that?”
            “I did,” said the voice in the same dense tone. This time, Sam saw that the horse’s mouth was moving along with the mysterious voice.
            “Wait. . .” Sam paused for a second, “horse, are you talking to me?”
            “Um, I have a name, you know,” retorted the horse, a little insulted.
            “Oh, I’m sorry. My name’s Sam. What, my dear horse, is your name?”
            “Uh. . . I don’t really. . . remember. . . .”
            Sam sighed an incredibly exaggerated sigh, and continued, “Hmm. . . I guess I’ll have to give you a name. Let’s see. . . .” She stopped to think for a few minutes while the horse just stood there, patiently waiting for her to speak again, until she finally came up with something. “You know your voice sound a lot like Eeyor. I think that’s what I’ll call you. You know Eeyor, right? From Winnie-the-Pooh?”
            This brought only more confusion to the horse, as he raised his left eyebrow.
            That’s weird. I didn’t know horses could do that, Sam thought to herself, and then she continued. “But you have to know Winnie-the-Pooh! Come on. There’s Rabbit, Owl, Pigglet, Kanga, Roo, Christopher Robin and of course Pooh Bear. How could you not know Winnie-the-Pooh?”
            “I’m sorry,” replied Eeyor, sadly, “I’ve failed you.” And he began to sob.
            “No, no, no,” said Sam, rushing to Eeyor’s side, “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s ok if you don’t know Winnie-the-Pooh.”
            “Really,” Eeyor perked up, as if his feelings were never hurt, “you mean it?”
            “Of course I do, Eeyor, I’d never hurt you,” said Sam, comfortingly.
            “Great. Now, why was I here? I know I was supposed to bring you somewhere. . . .”
            “Wait, what?” Sam stopped breathing. Why would anyone want her presence?
            “Oh yeah,” Eeyor remembered, “I’m supposed to bring you into the forest so you can meet the woodland critters.”
            “Huh? Woodland critters? Do they talk, too?”
            “Yeah, of course they do. Didn’t you know that?”
            Of all the similarities to Winnie-the-Pooh, Sam thought to herself. “No, I’ve never been here before. So who are they?”
            “You’ll see,” said Eeyor, slyly, “Come on, hop on my back.”
Sam struggled to pull herself onto the tall back of Eeyor the horse and eventually succeeded in the daunting task. As soon as she had made certain that she was secure, she kicked Eeyor’s side and they were off. Eeyor drove them in the direction of the forest. As they galloped on, the forest grew larger and larger; soon it was more than three times the size it appeared at a distance. Finally, they arrived at the foot of the forest. At this point, Sam was able to see mushrooms the size of her favorite bar back home, and trees the size of the Chrysler building. The flowers and grass were replaced by mushrooms and roots, gravel and trees. Now this is where I want to move to when I’m retired, she thought to herself.
            “We’re almost there,” Eeyor assured Sam, “just a bit further.” They continued through this marvel of times past, before everyone started destroying it all to make room for supermarkets and cities. Sam almost felt sympathetic.
            After a little bit more walking, Eeyor began to slow down, “Sam,” he said, “why don’t you get off and walk for a little while?”
            “Why?,” Sam replied, selfishly, “I’m perfectly fine up here.”
            “Yeah, but I’m not,” Eeyor grunted, “I’ve never had a human on my back for so long.”
            “But it’s only been, fifteen minutes.”
            “I know that, but humans rarely visit this place. I don’t get the chance to have one ride on my back very often.”
            “All right, all right.” Sam proceeded to jump off of Eeyor’s back, but as soon as she hit the ground, her left leg flared up with an intense pain. Sam’s scream was heard around the world, and birds started flying out of the trees. “Geez, what’s her problem,” one of them said to his friends. When Sam looked down at her leg, a four-inch gash had suddenly appeared. She had cut her leg on a branch as she fell.
            “Oh my God, Sam, are you okay?” Eeyor asked, alarmed.
            “Do you really have to ask!?” Sam replied, still writhing in pain, “There’s a Goddamn gash in my leg!”
            “Don’t worry, Sam! The woodland critters live right over there.” Eeyor pointed his hoof towards a door in the trunk of one of the taller nearby trees.
            Sam cared neither how nor why there was a door in a tree trunk; she was badly hurt and needed a place to sit down. She summoned the little strength she had left to bring herself to this strange door. When she got inside, the first thing she noticed was that Eeyor was not following her. She turned around to open the door, but it was locked.
            “Don’t worry, Sam,” Eeyor called from the other side, “everything is okay, but I can’t accompany you any longer. Besides, I can’t fit in that door.”
            Worried, Sam bid him farewell and turned to face the task at hand. Clutching her side, she proceeded down the hall. It was a short hall, with walls of bark and a hard-wood floor. She stopped in front of another door, of equal size and color as the first. Sam could hear nothing from the other side, except for a slight, near-unnoticeable pitter-patter. She began to wonder if anyone was actually home; that she was going to bleed to death. Slowly, Sam opened the door with a loud, prolonged creak and stepped through.
            Sam was overwhelmed. Around her was a fully-lit room, complete with a dining-room table and chairs, and a silver platter full of cups of tea. Sitting on the chairs were a cub, a skunk, a squirrel, a rabbit, a baby tiger, a hen, and at the head of the table, a Dalmatian.
            “We’re the woodland critters!” they all said together. They introduced themselves in clockwise order around the table.
            “I’m Hugo,” said the cub, with a deep, dense voice similar to Ernie’s.
            “I’m Slippy,” said the skunk, in a very high-pitched, sly voice.
            “I’m McGee,” said the squirrel, very, very quickly.
            “I’m. . . . God, do we have to do this?” said the rabbit, who in her cool, female voice, showed the rest that she obviously didn’t care.
            “Yes! Yes, you do,” said the hen, who sounded like she had a few years under her belt.
            “Fine. . .” said the rabbit, still uncaring, “I’m Christina.”
            “I don’t have a name yet,” said the baby tiger, eagerly, “but you can call me Baby.”
            “I’m Priscilla,” said the old hen.
            “And I’m Ben,” said the Dalmatian, with a British accent, “and we’re. . . . Oh my, you’ve been injured. Priscilla, Christina, I want you to clean out her injury and get it bandaged. Use the special bandaging. Baby, I want you to watch and learn.”
            “Ok,” they all said (with a slight irritation in Christina’s voice). Baby had gone to stand next to Sam, who had already sat down in one of the chairs around the table. She pulled it around to face Christina, who had left the room and came back with a bucket of soap and water. Priscilla left and came back with a roll of green bandages. Christina began to pour the water over Sam’s injury, and clean it out with the soap. Once she was done, Priscilla wrapped bandages around Sam’s leg.
            “Oh, Slippy,” said Ben, disappointed, “You’ve made a mess all over the rug; it smells awful.”
            “Sorry, Ben,” Slippy replied apologetically, “I guess I just got surprised when we all shouted ‘welcome.’”
            “It’s ok, Slippy. Just throw the rug in the trash.” Slippy left right away.
            “So. . . what’s the deal?” asked Sam, confused, “About half of you are not usually found in the woods.”
“We’re simply a group of animals that live in the woods,” said Ben, “We live in the woods, therefore we are woodland critters.”
Soon, Priscilla was done bandaging Sam’s leg. Sam instantly felt absolutely no pain. Not even the tiniest pinch; it was all gone.
Before Sam had a chance to ask more questions, Priscilla, Christina and Baby all returned to their seats. “Come, sit. We have much to discuss.”
            Sam was gestured by Ben to sit down in the empty chair at the other end of the table from Ben, and she gladly sat down.
            “Tea?” asked Hugo, holding a silver cup.
            “Sure, thanks,” said Sam, gratefully. She accepted the cup of tea and took a sip. Slippy returned as she replaced the cup on the table.
            “Now that everything is in order,” said Ben, “we can get on to business. Sam, you should know that, obviously, we have not summoned you here today to simply have a cup of tea. We need to talk about your addiction.”
            “My what?” said Sam, bewildered.
            “Your addiction, child,” said Priscilla, “your heroin addiction.”
            “God, everyone has to scold me about this, don’t they? Look, I’m not addicted to heroin, ok? You’ve got me confused with someone else.”
            “Do we?” asked Hugo, “No, really, do we?”
            “No, we don’t, Hugo,” said Slippy, “You’re using the stuff all the time, Sam (wait, how did he know my name, Sam thought), and it’s not healthy for you.”
            “Ok, ok, fine. So I’m addicted to heroin. I can stop any time I want!”
            “No, you can’t, Sam,” said McGee, even more quickly, “Heroin is highly addictive, and it’s not that easy to just quit. You need help.”
            “No, I don’t! This is the lifestyle I chose, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me!”
            “Sam, calm down,” said Ben, “I’d like to tell you a story.” Sam humored him, and calmed down. “We used to have another member of the household, a monkey by the name of Jeff. He tripped and accidently fell on a used needle someone had left out in the woods. It was still half-full of heroin. It got into his bloodstream, and he liked it.
            “He started seeking more and more of it. Soon, he was using it every day. One day, we found poor Jeff lying on his bed, dead. He had overdosed on heroin. We don’t want you to end up like him, Sam!”
            Just then, Sam heard the honking of horns and people talking behind her. When she turned around, she saw nothing but the wall. It had a picture of Jeff hanging on it. The poor guy, she thought to herself as she took another sip of tea.
            “Wait a second,” Sam stopped, realizing something, “I don’t drink tea. Why am I drinking tea?”
            “I don’t know,” said Hugo, looking at Sam, “I can get you something else, if you. . . .”
            “And what is it with this place,” said Sam, standing up straight now, “Why can I stand up all the way in a house made for tiny animals like you? For that matter, what are you people? Why can you talk? Was all this just a setup?”
            “Sam! Listen to me!” piped Ben, “Go and get yourself some help! Go to a rehabilitation clinic.” Ben’s voice grew more and more distant to Sam, as she heard the sound of cars grow more and more prominent.
“No, Sam, don’t go yet,” said the now quiet, echoing voice of Christina, “I was enjoying your company. . . .”
“. . . Sam? SAM! WAKE UP!!!” said a voice Sam recognized as her sister, “I’ve got to talk to you!”
            “What? Oh, Becca, I was having a horrible nightmare. All these talking animals were yelling at me about my addiction.”
            “Yeah, and you deserve it. Look what’s in your hand!” Sam looked at her hand, which was clutched around a syringe. Oh, no, now I’m going to get it, Sam thought.
            “And look what’s happened to your leg! You must have cut it on that branch.” Sam looked at the branch coming out of the wall she had her back to. She was just now realizing where she was. She found herself in between the walls of her apartment building and an old antique shop near the road. It had been raining for quite some time and her face was covered in dirt and rain water. That branch had been growing out of the wall for some time, and Sam had meant to cut it down. She now looked at her leg, which was bandaged with green bandages and stained with blood down the four-inch gash she had received.
“You know what,” said Becca, “I’ve had enough of this. I can’t keep up with this heroin addiction of yours, Sam! You’ve got to stop! I’m sick and tired of caring for someone who won’t even try to stop taking heroin, find a job, and move out of my apartment. I’m sick of finding you knocked out with a syringe in your hand. You’re out. I don’t know where you’ll go, but it can’t be here. Take this. Maybe you can make some use of it, or maybe you’ll just buy more heroin.” Beck handed Sam a one-hundred dollar bill and stormed back into her apartment after taking Sam’s apartment key, and locked the door.
Sam stood there for five minutes, reflecting on all that the woodland critters had said in her dream, and what Becca had just said to her. She took out her car keys from her pocket, got in her car and drove off towards the rehabilitation center

The End
It's funny, I actually know someone named Becca. She is in no way based on the character in the end of this story. In fact, she was originally going to be called Beck (still short for Rebecca) but I felt gender confusion was an issue, especially among those who are aware of Beck, the singer/songwriter. I was also going to call Eeyor by the name of Ernie, and instead of the Winnie-the-Pooh reference there was going to be a Sesame Street reference. Enjoy.

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