A 3-Part Short Story Interspersed With Emojis


The kids at school were all crazy. James wondered whether everyone was doing some new form of acid. Maybe it could grow you an extra arm, or make you 20 feet tall, or turn your feet into rocking chairs. He had heard the rumors and decided it was some wicked stuff. He wanted to try it.

James wasn't normally privy to that sort of information. He wasn’t high enough in the social ranking. He rated himself a specialist, maybe even a corporal. He and Kyle had given ranks to the kids at school. Tucked away in his desk upstairs were drawings of cool kids in captain uniforms, slackers as enlisted privates, and one particularly incriminating caricature of their history teacher as a colonel demoted to warrant officer.

He imagined that all this activity happened at an officer’s club, where only the commissioned could enter. At the bar, instead of drinks, the bartender serves an array of tabs, needles, pills, and eye droplets. James would walk into the bar, and the patrons saluted the star on his epaulet. He would sit down and order two acid hits. Maybe it would come in a small glass, or on a string like rock candy. Maybe it would come in two parts, where you chew a stick of gum, and lick the wrapper and smack it on your forehead. He would offer a stick to the woman beside him, and they would laugh as they stamped each other. James was blowing acid gum bubbles, popping the fizz on their surface as he was interrupted from his reverie.

“I don’t know what your father was thinking. It’s like putting frosting on a stale cake -- there’s no use. He has no sense.”

James knew a response was required, and let out a noncomittal “mmmmm.” He peered into the toaster, watching his pop-tart roast alive. Did it regret not living a more holy life? Was it sinless when he unwrapped it from its crinkly foil, or did some past transgression damn it to the inferno? What fresh hells awaited it after the fires of the oven? Maybe it was because of the sprinkles. Vanity was this pop-tart’s sin, and now it must be purged. James pondered a pastry theology as he gingerly shifted it from hand to hand onto a napkin.

James’ mother pursed her lips and frowned at her son. “Well I don’t know why he thought buying a flashy new car was all right. What am I, a millionaire? Red! And a convertible! Can you believe it?” She watched as his red eyebrows rose and he shrugged, mouth full of pop-tart. She shook her head, sighed, and grabbed her purse.

He held his breakfast as his mother exited stage left. It wasn’t real food -- it was just a prop. He had to pretend to like it. His theater company didn’t have the money for anything except plastic, and here it was. Their last ditch effort for a knock-out performance needed to leave the critics stunned. He would have to make this good.


James waited in line, his plastic tray bumping along the metal rails. As it click-clacked alongside its brothers and sisters, James hoped his would escape the overseer’s watchful eye. Ever since the invasion, no humans could possess anything over their daily allotment, and hidden inside his mining tray was an extra cricket protein bar. His kids would eat well tonight. James passed the overseer his earthling resource card, careful not to stare at the mandibles or any feelers protruding from its massive bulk.

“You got two desserts there, the card says one. You only get one.”

James shrugged his shoulders, gave a half grin, and handed over the contraband cake. He surveyed the lunch room, a barren wasteland of desperate scavengers and horrible mutants. James would have to tread carefully: avoid the radioactive pools, mask his scent from the cannibals, and hide from gangs of raiders. Across the hellscape, Kyle shot a flare into the green sky, and James nodded at the orange streak through the fog. He slogged cautiously through the mud, keeping his head low, trying not to breathe the toxic air.

A leg flew out from underneath a nearby table; James’ legs hooked, straightened, and tumbled. The plastic tray hurled compartmentalized food in all different directions. Green beans took flight in formation, arcing gracefully in the air. Fruit cocktail geysered outward, crystals of fruit rotating and catching the fluorescent light. A rectangular pizza slice slapped against a D.A.R.E poster, the cheese sticking and the bread base oozing down in a trail of tomato sauce. James grasped for his tray in slow motion, hands clutching at the spinning tray and escaping food, unable to find any purchase.

The nearby table erupted in laughter at James, fully laid out on the floor on top of a smeared chocolate cake. Kyle, already nearby, helped him onto his feet, but James pushed him away and staggered towards the table. A kid tucked his foot back under the table and smirked.

“Ha! Nice one, numb nuts. You’ll never make the Olympics.”

James pushed the kid into his friends, stepped back and balled his hands into fists. Kyle grabbed him by the elbow and tried to pull him back, but James struggled forward and stood, defiant. The kid rose slowly from the table and squared up. The traditional circle had barely formed around the two before the kid, in one smooth, graceful motion, socked a powerful blow above James’ left cheekbone.

As James fell and dark spots began to appear in his vision, he considered that neither his morning pop-tart nor his afternoon lunch had lived the life they deserved. As his senses faded and his thoughts became muddled, he vowed to live with more empathy towards his meals before finally losing consciousness to the void.


The school nurse helped James down the steps into the parking lot, probing his eye and fussing over his vision. “And you sure you’re fine to go home? Well here’s your father anyway. Take plenty of rest, and lie down if you feel at all lightheaded.”

James’ father approached from across the parking lot, beaming at his son and absently running his finger along his car to greet them. “I’ll take it from here. He’s going to be just fine. Oooh that’s quite a shiner you get there, eh? Well, you live and you live, and there you go.”

They stood on either side of the car, James staring open-mouthed at the gleaming metal curves, one eye widening in admiration and the other swelling itself shut.

James’ father nodded in approval at his son, itching with desire to question him about the fight, but content to let the answers come out in time. “She’s a beaut, isn’t she? Let’s get you in and out of here. You’re inside your head so much, could be that getting knocked out of it is good for you. What do I know though.”

James pressed the auto-button to lean the seat back and reflected whether this sentiment could be true, but rejected the possibility and turned to more pressing matters. He would have to keep his concentration on the panel before him. This ship wasn’t going to fly itself.