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FODDER • by Paul Graham

“Ginger!”

Brian Dandridge had just about given up searching for his cat when he found the console. He’d searched the marshy border of the stream for hours. The streetlights above the valley winked on, the pink of the warming bulbs contrasting with the dusk sky. He carried a stick, half for poking around with, half in case he met the Cruickshank twins.

Something white bobbing in the shallows caught his eye. He climbed down to investigate. At first, he thought the object was a Gametoy — the hand-held gaming console of choice for kids his age. Although similar, the device was not the real thing, maybe a cheap copy. It felt disappointingly light-weight as he rubbed it dry on his jumper. When he pressed the power button the screen flashed then went blank.

Brian climbed back up the bank then pocketed the console, thinking no more of it until later. At home, he examined the gadget more closely and noted that it had what looked like a USB port. When he connected it to his Mum’s PC, a light blinked on the side. This time when he pressed the power button a tiny fanfare played, the screen lit and a game loaded. The game was called Fodder.

Fodder was a fun game. Brian tapped away on the buttons as he fought hordes of monsters, looting food and power-ups. He became so engrossed that he barely noticed that another character, a small blue demon thing, was tailing him. He pummelled the room clear of monsters then turned around to face the intruder. A speech bubble appeared over the demon’s head.

OPEN THE CHEST OVER THERE,

YOU WILL FIND A BETTER SWORD.

Brian opened the chest and found the sword. The demon introduced himself as Gameguide.

It must be some kind of beginner mode, thought Brian.

He pressed on with the level, his new friend in tow. With the demon’s regular interjections, the game was becoming a little too easy. Brian checked the time, ten o’clock.

“Where’s Mum? She should be back by now,” he said to himself. The console beeped and he checked the screen.

MUM WILL WALK IN NOW.

The next thing, his Mum unlocked the front door. Brian froze; he glanced at the console and switched it off, hard.

“Did you find Ginger?” Mum asked.

“No… I think the Cruickshanks got him,” said Brian.

“He‘ll turn up,” she yawned, tired from long shifts.

The morning after, Brian itched to play some more Fodder. Once he’d had breakfast and before it was time to leave for school, he unplugged the console from the PC. The side-light was a steady green, charged. He pressed the power button. The strange little Gameguide was waiting for him. A speech bubble appeared over the blue demon.

SAY SOMETHING.

“This is crazy,” said Brian.

YES.

“How can you hear me?”

I HAVE EARS.

The demon’s head turned side to side, displaying its oversized ears. Brian laughed.

THE BUS IS GOING TO BE,

TEN MINUTES EARLY TODAY,

YOU SHOULD LEAVE.

Maybe Gameguide is right. He grabbed his packed lunch from the kitchen table, slammed the front door then bounded down the communal stair. The bus was early and near empty. He found a seat at the back and loaded Fodder.

Later, in Maths — a loathsome subject for many reasons, the main one being that the Cruickshank brothers attended the same class — he slipped out the console and turned down the volume wheel. Mrs Toner was delivering a lengthy lecture on E to the axis of log or sin, Brian wasn’t sure. Gameguide popped up.

THE ANSWER IS 4X.

“And when we differentiate two X squared we get… Brian Dandridge fiddling with something and not paying attention?” said Mrs Toner.

Brian looked up.

“Er, four X?” he ventured.

Kevin Cruickshank snorted.

Mrs Toner raised her eyebrows, “You’re on form today, Brian,” she said.

Brian tried to ignore Kevin’s incredulous stare.

Finally, the lunch bell rang and in the corridor’s rush he barely heard the console bleeping.

THE CRUICKSHANKS ARE WAITING,

IN THE LUNCH HALL.

THEY WILL HURT YOU.

So Brian had lunch in the woods. He was eating the last bite of his sandwich when the idea came to him.

“Where’s Ginger?” he asked Gameguide.

GINGER IS STUCK,

IN THE TUNNEL,

WHERE THE STREAM ENTERS THE VALLEY.

Brian was up and running. The stream was five minutes away, at the bottom of the valley with grass down one side and trees the other. The brown water issued from a deep culvert under the road. If I find Ginger I’m not going back to school today anyway. The water was knee-deep.

Though a small stream, it ran fast in the concrete channel and Brian had to hold onto the wall. A few steps against the current took him into the tunnel, a few more and the darkness was near total. He held the console aloft but it wasn’t bright enough. The changing noise of the water told him that he was entering a larger chamber. He gasped as he fell another foot — up to his waist. There was no sound of any cat.

“So where the hell is Ginger?” he held the screen to his face, as he half-swam further. Gameguide stared back.

MY HEALTH IS LOW,

I MUST EAT,

SORRY BRIAN.

The screen pulsed like a camera flash. Brian blinked, the scene around him fading on his retina. The blue beast squatted in the corner of the underground chamber, drooling, atop a pile of greasy bones. The last thing Brian ever saw as he screamed and lurched through the deep water was the console, the demon’s lure, bobbing toward the light, in search of more fodder.


Paul Graham is an amateur writer from Scotland and has never been published. He writes a little between large periods of apathy.

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FODDER • by Paul Graham, 3.8 out of 5 based on 64 ratings
Posted on January 9, 2010 in Horror, Stories
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  • T.L. Jones

    Good idea, but poorly executed. A writing class would be helpful.

  • http://www.tommybsmith.com Tommy B. Smith

    I’ll have to disagree with the above comment. The style seemed to suit the story, and I found the story entertaining.

    Nice work, especially if this is the author’s first publication as indicated in the bio.

  • http://www.deborahblood.com Debi Blood

    Well, that certainly didn’t go where I anticipated! I like a good twist; thank you for the enjoyable read, Paul.

  • http://teenangel.netfirms.com Jim Hartley

    Very nice. The story had a great buildup, and the ending was a great unexpected twist. I really liked this one (except about the cat :-( ). Five demons!

  • http://rumjhumkbiswas.wordpress.com Rumjhum Biswas

    Didn’t realize it was a horror story until the end! Good one!

  • http://www.theprodigalscribe.com Mickey Mills

    I enjoyed it. A good first publish! -Thumbs up-

  • fishlovesca

    Disagree entirely with the first comment. Hard to believe this is an unpublished writer. Should be writing and submitting more often.

    Very good writing, very good storytelling, five stars.

  • Jen

    This was an amazing story! I knew the demon wan’t too be trusted from the biggining, but I didn’t know what was going to happen, so it was still great.

  • Margie

    wicked!

    so, where’s the cat?

  • http://teenangel.netfirms.com Jim Hartley

    Margie asked, “so, where’s the cat?”

    There was a pile of bones in front of the demon. I think the cat was the appetizer course, Brian will be the entree.

  • PDW

    Good job – one of the descriptions very nice: The streetlights above the valley winked on, the pink of the warming bulbs contrasting with the dusk sky.

  • Robins Fury

    Great way to end this piece! Enjoyed! Kept the buildup right to the short last paragraph. At first I was thinking it was a slow buildup. By the end of it, I was wrong. It fit well in my humble opinion. Just a couple of notes though: “Gametoy”? I’m assuming it is a knockoff of Gameboy? Also, do boys really wear “jumpers”? I always thought a jumper was a dress. I assume (again) it referred to, perhaps “overalls”? And, finally “Maths”….when I was in school, it was simply called “Math”.
    Keep writing Paul. Good work.

  • http://pittsburghflashfictiongazette.com Guy Hogan

    Pretty good, pretty good. It was well written and the ending was a surprise but made sense within the context of the story. The beginning and the body of the story did a nice job of building to the payoff. Write more often.

  • kathy k

    Well done Paul, you should definitely be published. Good writing and a great story. Thanks.

  • http://bethandwriting.blogspot.com Bluebethley

    Publish! This story appealed right from the beginning with a neatly believable kid, just right details (even to the mom tired from shift work), and a wicked twist at the end. Deftly told, well worth reading. Keep writing and publish! A five star read.

  • J.C. Towler

    Well done. I figured there would be trouble with the demon before it was all said and done, but the wrap-up was tight and didn’t leave a lot of time for anticipation. The ghost in the machine isn’t always friendly. Bravo.

    –John

  • Gaius

    I like. Nicely done.
    G

  • Bob

    Robins Fury, the author is from Scotland. They have different words for everything, over there. . .

  • http://www.mattcowens.livejournal.com Matt Cowens

    I think a jumper is a sweater is a jersey. Leastways in New Zealand a jumper is a warm, often woolly garment worn over the torso by either gender to stay warm :-)

    Really enjoyed the story, thought it had a great ending and strong pacing in the second half.

  • http://tinyurl.com/ychusyd Oscar Windsor-Smith

    A terrific first published story, Paul. Your title did the foreshadowing, so the twist ending when it came rang true. Good job, well done. The only criticism I have is that – for my taste – that final line explanation was unnecessary. The demon on the pile of bones says it all. Still worth a five though. More please.

    :) scar

    BTW RF (12 above) this is another of those examples of us being “…divided by a common language…”. In the UK, a jumper is a knitted garment (also a pullover, or even ‘pully’) and mathematics has always been abbreviated as maths over here. Variety is the spice of life, eh? ;)

  • Paul Graham

    Thanks for the encouraging comments and for reading it. I must confess that I completely forgot about the cat. (thanks for trying to dig me out of that one Jim Hartley)

    Robins Fury: Yes I should have gone with Gameboy, but I wasn’t sure how the copyright works.

  • http://writingbuddies.ning.com/profile/JeremyDavidParker Jeremy Parker

    Congrats Paul! A very well written story with a suitably creepy little blue thing!

  • http://www.susiehawes.com susie hawes

    Very nice. Good feel for characters, setting, tight writing, good ending.

  • Margie

    Thanks for the explanation, Jim. Poor kitty! :(

  • http://users.beagle.com.au/peterl P.M.Lawrence

    Robins Fury, you may be an American with all the dialect issues that that entails, including inconsistency. In the UK a jumper is a pullover; think of a long sleeved T shirt, only woollen (with two “l”s, so that the following vowel doesn’t modify the preceding one). Basically, it is a cardigan which doesn’t open up at the front, but usually a bit thicker. Maths is the abbreviation of mathematics, which of course keeps the “s” for consistency as it is still a plural, something which is lost in the inconsistent US abbreviation.

  • Linda G

    I knew the demon was going to do something evil, but I thought he was going to help the boy out with the Cruickshank twins. Good surprise ending. Yes, I also wondered what happened to Ginger, but the bones at the end tidied that up for me, even if it was unintentional.

    Great job. I’m not into horror stories but I liked this one.

  • http://www.lauramchaleholland.com Laura McHale Holland

    This one kept my attention throughout. I sure didn’t aticipate the ending. Well done!

  • Lisa C.

    Nice job! Not much to add here.

  • http://wanttogetpublished.blogspot.com Bernard S. Jansen

    Great job. The UK english is consistent with Australian english: jumper, maths, etc). I think those of us in the UK and Australia understand US english more than the other way around.

  • http://www.michelleklein.com Shelle

    Great story!

  • http://www.mostlyunsure.blogspot.com Pete

    The first comment on here is just bizare, of all the storys on EDF that way this isn’t one of them. GOod writing, nice idea, I really liked the kid for some reason so you sold me completly. :D

  • Arthur

    Keep going,Paul. You’ve got it!

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