Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #10

Suggested by: Samantha Stanley
The List:
Post nuclear war Earth
*Image prompt included

The Result:
"Yellow Fever"
A simple, idyllic family sits around a simple, idyllic radio, listening to the latest songs, when the announcer returns to say, "And now for a special presentation from our special guests!"

Families sit transfixed as the cool, jazzy baseline starts up, and a soothing voice intones, "They call me Mellow Yellow.... They call me Mellow Yellow.... They call me Mellow Yellow..."

They don't notice that the song has repeated those five words for a full half-hour; they don't even notice the enormous, glowing mushroom cloud blooming in the distance... The fallout strikes, blanketing the scene in a devilish golden color, all the while the radios play:

"They call me Mellow Yellow.... They call me Mellow Yellow.... They call me Mellow Yellow..."

Terrick jumped out of the nightmare with a snort. The world rocked crazily for a moment, till he oriented himself in the hammock he'd slept in, and swung his legs over the edge to sit up. His boots stirred up a swirling cloud of the evil "pollen from Hell" as he walked, the same as it had for the last ninety-nine days. Terrick ambled over to the wall of the living room where he'd found enough furnishings in the right configuration to suspend his hammock. The Pollen coated every available surface, including beds and couches. No way was he sleeping anywhere else but the hammock.
Terrick picked up the paintbrush he had left there for an important purpose. Setting his chin grimly, he painted a cross-stroke connecting the four straight lines.
One hundred days of solitude. One hundred days of survival. It was time to move on, to survey the extent of The Pollen's damage, inflicted upon an innocent world for some indistinct purpose.
Terrick carefully rolled up the hammock and tucked it into his backpack. It was time to move.
The sun was barely over the horizon, only adding to the stomach-churning yellowness of the world. The ground was dry, bare, and amber-colored. Everything else shone yellow.
At 6:25 AM precisely, the air was so still that Terrick could hear somebody's radio clock begin blasting a song by the band Coldplay:

"Look at the stars,
See how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
And it was all yellow..."

Terrick sang as he walked out of town. He wasn't very good, but he sang at the top of his voice anyway.

"I came along,
I wrote a song for you,
Oh what a thing to do—
And it was all yellow..."

It wasn't like anyone could hear him. Terrick couldn't exactly remember the events of the bomb going off, but he knew that somewhere he must have missed an evacuation; how else would one explain how he came to be so very alone in this pleasant little town?
Terrick made one pit stop at the grocery store where he'd regained consciousness, in the off chance that there was any food at all he'd missed before.
All the shelves lay bare. About the only piece of merchandise left behind by the retreating masses was a hatchet. Terrick grabbed this and set off down the road out of town.

The landscape glowed eerily, like the inside of a flower pistil, magnified a million times over. Terrick would stare down at his brown boots and his blue jeans and the red plaid shirt, if only for some other color to look at. The sky was a dark, ominous blue. Terrick missed the color green.

One lone man walked down a yellow road for hours till he finally discerned buildings in the sulfurous haze. There were actual human-like shapes around the buildings; perhaps he could find another survivor like himself!
Terrick ran forward, inspired at the thought. He was so intent on his goal that he didn't see the pollen-costed figure sprawled on the ground in his path. The figure caught his boot by the toe, and Terrick tumbled to the ground face-first. He rolled and spat and brushed himself, trying to get the sticky pollen off as quickly as possible. Then he looked down at the thing that had tripped him.

Glassy, lidless, white eyeballs stared at him out of a yellow skull. The brown teeth grinned at him, and Terrick could see shards of what probably once was the person's esophagus. The rest of the body was a mere skeleton of yellow bones.
Terrick moaned in terror and staggered away to vomit, but his empty stomach could only manage dry heaves.

The further he went into town, the more bodies he saw: sitting on benches, collapsed on sidewalks, sprawled in roads. The bodies inside vehicles were slightly more preserved, but those were most revolting of all: there was no mistaking the thin sheen of yellow pollen around the vents and windows, and Terrick could actually see the progression of how the pollen broke down the tissue. Many people had large blooms spreading tendrils from their bodies, as the moisture allowed the pollen to germinate and grow.
Terrick felt like his body was coated in ice. He knew he needed food or he would end up like them.
The nearest store was bolted shut, but Terrick broke the window with the hatchet and let himself in.
The first thing he realized upon entering was that this area was not silent. From somewhere deep within the walls of the establishment, the built-in speaker system droned in an eerie voice: “They call me Mellow Yellow… They call me Mellow Yellow…”
Terrick grunted and tried to put it out of his mind and focus on the task at hand. Here, at least, the people hadn’t had time to ransack before the Pollen hit. The produce section was awash in yellow tendrils and the rotten smell, but Terrick moved on to the Snack Foods aisle. There, at least, he had plenty of fare, still sealed tightly in packages. Terrick paused only long enough to shake the Pollen off the packaging before tearing into a bag of oatmeal cookies. The cinnamon flavor and the crunchy oats flooded his mouth, and he barely gave himself time to breathe between mouthfuls. From there it was onto the Bottled Drinks, where he grabbed jugs of water off the shelves and slaked his thirst. Terrick moved around the packaged goods, ripping and stuffing till he could consume no more. At long last, he was satisfied—and there was still plenty more food in the store.
The food gave energy to his brain, which immediately began processing the one issue that should have bothered him from the start: Why had he survived when everyone else for miles around so obviously had not? Terrick checked his skin. The Pollen did not stick, as it did to the corpses he saw. What was the Pollen, anyway? Where did it come from? Was he the last man left on earth?
Terrick shook his head and returned to the present. As he moved to gather some more survival equipment from the Camping section, the radio droned on:

“In the town where I was born
Lived a man who sailed to sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines…”

Terrick pulled down a sleeping bag and flashlights, batteries, and a small radio. He grabbed a tent and began dragging everything toward the door, humming along with the chorus as he went.

“We all live in a yellow submarine,
yellow submarine, yellow submarine;
We all live in a yellow submarine,
Yellow subma—“

Terrick stopped. Somehow the Pollen had crept out from the produce section and spread across the doorway, blocking his exit. As a matter of fact, it seemed to be growing and winding itself across the broken window as he watched. Behind him, the music swelled louder, as if someone turned up the volume.

“We all live in a yellow submarine…. Yellow SUBMARINE…. YELLOW SUBMARINE…. YELLOW SUBMARINE…. YELLOW…”

Terrick’s world tilted, and he crashed to the ground in a cloud of yellow dust—but he didn’t feel it. Suddenly he was back in the fifth grade, laying on his back next to his best friend Jayden, making angels in the fluffy white snow. He grinned as the pollen fell lightly around him, waving his arms and legs back and forth.
“Yellow submarine….” He muttered, “Yellow submarine…”

The door opened and the wall-sized yellow flower burst—but the figures that ran through were all yellow, from head to toe, with black holes for faces. The Yellow Men grabbed Terrick and dragged him out of the store, talking to each other over built-in speakers as they went.
“Lucky we found this guy.”
“Yeah; I thought there weren’t any more survivors.”
“How many more do you think we will find?”
“This one might be the last, so be careful when you run the tests, okay?”
“Sure thing. Hang in there, buddy,” the Yellow Man patted Terrick’s shoulder. “If you make it through, you just might be the key to restoring life on Earth.”

Previously in This Series: