A few months ago a writer’s group I all too infrequently get to attend (shout out to my lads and ladies at Pints and Prose) issued their first writing challenge: take the following prompt and write a story less than 3000 words using it. The prompt was, “Someone walks into their house and it’s completely different—furniture, decor, all changed, it doesn’t look like the same house anymore—and nobody’s home.” It was an interesting experiment as there are a lot of unique voices at PnP, ranging from historically accurate gothic vampire novel writers to satirical writers in the vein of Fawlty Towers to an Anglican priest who writes about housing in Baltimore and sports. Then there is me. I do this occasionally, I’ve been working on a novel for a few years now, and I wrote an article for the Good Men Project. I feel like a fraud when I show up. When they issued this challenge I was excited, because I had a vision immediately of what I wanted to do. I started working on it immediately, but before I knew it life got in the way, or at least that is the excuse I use, and I didn’t finish it in time. I submitted my unfinished draft and hung my head in shame.
Flash forward to the end of the school year and my pile of half-finished projects, my basement, my writing, my family, and myself, had reached critical mass. So, I decided to do something about it and did what any rational adult would do when faced with overwhelming work to do, I created a self-help group. The goal was to celebrate all the minor victories we accomplish for ourselves, to set goals and cheer each other on as we work to improve ourselves. One of my goals was to write more and finish my damn novel, at least a first draft. So, in the spirit of that, I started writing again and one of the things I finished was this piece. I present to you my entry for the writing challenge. It’s a bit of silly satire, and giggled the whole time writing it. I hope you enjoy!
By Christian Curet
It was dark and Vera was walking home quickly, even though her neighborhood has always been safe. Still, with the state of things lately, it was better safe than sorry, which is why she carried her keys in one hand and her camera in other. Just in case.
She rounded the corner and spotted an old coach bus down the road from her apartment. It’s rusty bumper and dented grille smirking at her through the gloom of twilight. She came to a halt as her breath caught for a moment at the unexpected sight. She tried to calm herself by closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, which seemed to work, only to be betrayed by her quickened pace as she started to walk again. There was no other person to be seen on her block, which was odd given the hour. People should have been coming home and preparing dinner, ushering kids inside to do homework, sitting on stoops to share their day, but instead there was just her. Her, and the bus. Her heels tapped out the rhythm of her increasing heart beat.
She reached her front door in record time, and as her keys reached toward the door, her neighbor’s car turned down the street toward her and beeped a quick hello, a breath she didn’t know she held gladly escaped her lips. She laughed at herself for being such a goober and turned the key in the lock. But as she opened the door, she failed to see the bus wheeze into life down the road, the one working headlamp like a spotlight aimed straight at her.
As Vera put her keys and camera in her purse, she began to step into her small foyer as her eyes caught something out-of-place in the living room beyond, and her nose caught the tang of fresh paint. Her foot hovered an inch above the freshly distressed hardwood floors of her entrance way as a terrifying reality crashed in upon her. Her living room, the hallway beyond, the furniture inside did not belong to her. It was her house but everything was changed. And her husband and two children were nowhere to be seen. It was not her living room, but it was. She was on the right street, walked into the right door, but everything else was changed. And while the changes were beautiful, a chill raced down her spine.
Gone were the beige walls and stain hiding, multi-colored poly blend carpets; the hand-me-down, child worn furniture was history; family pictures in every style of clashing frame were all replaced. Instead, distressed redwood floors extended in every direction; complementary hued walls were adorned not with children’s smudged hand prints and memories, but tastefully filtered pictures of her currently missing family; and on each flat surface was not a collection of crumbs and hard beset toys, but exotic sculptures and fresh-cut flowers whose origin was not their local grocery store.
She had heard the terrifying stories on the Real News channel but failed to consider that this could happen to her. Who would have believed that former television stars could be so evil, but ever since Trump’s coronation, the world hadn’t needed reality TV. The world had so decidedly and so quickly turned their backs on them, they lost what little sense of self they had, and in the aftermath… Well, they needed to get attention somehow but had no outlet, nobody paid attention to them anymore, so they did the only thing that would get people to watch them again, they went feral.
At first it wasn’t so bad. The Kardashians were the first to go. They imploded in upon themselves and took each other out in a catfight of epic proportions. The last one alive, Khloe maybe (they all looked alike to Vera) got on Facebook Live and recorded the whole thing. She was last seen in the hills of LA, her leopard print frocks perfect for ambushing people who wandered to far off Rodeo Drive. After that, it spiraled quickly. Tyra Banks, Vera knew, was last seen in New York as some fashionista Harley Quinn, swooping in on poorly dressed Brooklynites and leaving them with stylish clothes and concussions. A pack of neglected Bachelorettes roamed New England, dragging poor, unsuspecting men off into the dark woods leaving only a rose behind. The Jersey shore became… Well, that was the same. And she didn’t even want to think about happened after Bear Grylls and Gordon Ramsay teamed up, making gourmet meals out of unsuspecting campers.
There was only one way to distract them, maybe giving yourself a chance for escape; that is why some people still carried old-fashioned video cameras around. But the only question that mattered was who was coming now. She had only moments to decide as her foot started to descend onto newly hewn flooring. As the toe of her foot came into contact with the ochre colored wood, meticulously carved from the great North American redwood, Vera spied a movement from behind the reclaimed barn door that replaced her simple french doors leading into the dining room. The flash of dyed blond hair, the expert woodworking and drywalling, and the bus out front, told her all she needed to know. It wasn’t just a feral reality TV star, it was one of the Forgotten. A former reality star who show was cancelled long before Trump’s reign, who now hoped to regain some sort of notoriety by hopping on the lunacy bandwagon.
Vera noticed the coach bus had stopped behind her and knew she had only moments before it was too late. She grabbed the camera out of her purse, flicked on the built-in floodlights and stepped in the house, yelling, “Bus driver! MOVE THAT BUS!” Suddenly, a disheveled Ty Pennington stumbled into the living room, howling like a deranged, lathe bearing baboon, “Noooo! You’ve ruined the reveal!”
Vera took aim with the camera and Ty skidded to a halt, though carefully trying not to scuff the floor. In her very best announcer voice, she said, “This is Channel 11 Vera Wong. In the latest instalment of “Where are they now?” we bring you former TV star Ty Pennington.”
She saw Ty immediately straighten up and run a hand through his shaggy hair, his long ago frosted tips barely visible, and straightened his torn (but not torn by design) designer work shirt. In the background, Vera heard the bus doors open and she kicked the front door closed behind her with her foot. Ty winced as her foot left a black mark down the matte finish. Time was running out to get help and her phone was in her purse behind her.
“Tell us Ty, what have you been up to, and how many families have you “helped out” since you became one of the Forgotten?” As she made air quotes around “helped out,” she purposely knocked a hand blown vase of Caper flowers off a half whiskey barrel accent table. Ty dove for the vase, landing in front of the door, just as Paul DiMeo tried to open it. Vera kicked Ty in the side of the head, knocking him out, and ran for the stairs. She knew her family would be tied up in the bedroom, no doubt with Egyptian cotton bell pull ropes that had a high thread count; it made them more difficult to slide off.
As she reached the top of the stairs, she heard the front door continue to try to open against Ty’s unconscious body. She knew they wouldn’t try and force something open they just painted, they’re homicidal, not barbarians after all, but she didn’t have much time left. Unfortunately they didn’t have a way out besides the front door and back door, it was a townhouse with homes to either side, and she left her phone downstairs to call the police. Luckily there weren’t just feral reality TV stars looking for a new lease on life. Some became honest to goodness heroes, and she lived in San Francisco, home of the greatest vigilante group since the A-Team. She reached her bedroom and ran past her terrified family to the bed, where she hoped they didn’t throw out everything in the night stand. She rummaged for a second before she found the metal button with “Confirmed” welded to the top. She pressed the signal and relaxed, taking a moment to admire the pale rose valence and matching bed skirts. She knew they’d be fine, after all the Mythbusters were on their way, and she knew Savage had a score to settle.