The busiest week of my publishing life continues. You've already seen my work at Flash Fiction Online and Every Day Fiction. Come back Saturday for a special with Twitter. But today I'm partaking in a game. Barry Northern has organized a Choose Your Own Adventure serial. He wrote the first entry, then left it with a branch. Erin Cole and Jodi MacArthur continued from there, writing the story in two different directions, then each ending with their own branches for four more writers to continue. I am one of those four, following a branch from the good Ms. Cole. Readers can go to Mr. Northern's site and begin reading at will, following whatever path they choose - with a different writer taking them through each chapter. Here's my entry, with the kids getting stuck in the bus with the evil alien driver.
Michael stared at those fangs, pearl white and hooked. The Mandigan bus driver looked back at him, grinning wider and revealing a second row of fish hook-like teeth. Its eyes flashed to Sarah, then scanned the other rows. It snapped its fingers and the other children turned with clockwork precision.
"Mind implants didn't take on two of you, eh?" asked the bus driver as the other students began marching out of the bus in single file. "Fine."
A tentacle emerged from the bus driver's sleeve and wrapped around the bus radio receiver. It held the receiver up to its mouth and said, "Two students just flunked out. Sending them to the nurse's office."
The last of the children waddled past the bus driver and it pulled the leaver, the door squeeling shut. The children all proceeded into the warehouse.
"Where are you taking them?" Sarah yelled.
"Where I always take you. School." It gestured to the warehouse with another tentacle. "Does it look different to you today? They should probably mow the lawn."
Michael shook his head furiously. He and Sarah piled onto their seat, pressing against the window as though this would protect them from the Mandigan. It waited by the wheel, in no apparent hurry to catch them. They fiddled with the latches for the window, but it wouldn't budge. If only Jackson were here.
"Nurse's office ready," squawked the radio.
"Ten-four," replied the bus driver.
Every part of Michael's body tingled. It felt like his leg had fallen asleep, and every other part of him had joined in. He looked down at his hands. They sparkled like crystal.
Sarah cried out and Michael looked over. She was sparkling, too, all bright pink and red. They grabbed at each other, then disappeared.
The next thing Michael knew, he was in a rusty, dusty old room. There were several padded tables with belts and straps attached.
"Oh my gosh," Sarah panted behind him. She clutched at herself, looking around the room with wide eyes. "Where are we?"
"I think this is upstairs in that warehouse," Michael said, looking over her head. There were windows in the back of the room that gave a view that was at least two stories up, but it looked like there was a fire escape.
"So you two need a check-up?" asked a Mandigan, looming over one of the tables. This one wore only a white lap coat and Coke-bottle glasses.
"Stay back!" Michael said, inching towards the window. He noticed one of the tables had a tarp over it, and something shaped like a person was clearly under it. It was not moving.
"I told you the next one would say that!" exclaimed a second Mandigan in another white lab coat. This one had no glasses and four black, beady eyes. "That's five bucks."
Glasses Mandigan grumbled and slapped a fiver into No-Glasses' tentacle.
"So what do you advise for them?" Glasses asked, staring at them through its thick lenses.
"If they're resistant?" No-Glasses thought aloud. "Probably the kidneys. A lot builds up in there."
"Kidney extraction?" Glasses asked. "Okay. They have three of those, right?"
"They only have two kidneys."
"Ohh, good idea." Glasses grinned with its mouth of fish hook teeth. :We'll say they have two and keep the third for the black market."
"No you fool. They only have two kidneys."
Sarah tugged on Michael's collar. He hadn't even realized that he'd been standing still, staring either at the tarp or the Mandigans all this time. Sarah's eyes remained wide with fear, but he gestured for him them to go in the direction of the fire escape. The two moved excruciatingly slowly as the Mandigans bickered, sneakers sliding along the floor, not even taking full steps.
"Listen," Glasses continued. "I went to veterinary school. I know they have more than two of those juice-dispensing digestabobs."
"You're thinking of the pancreas."
"No I'm not! You could never get away with stealing a pancreas. You might as well steal one of their hearts and pretend it only had one."
"They do only have one!"
"Have you even cut open a human before?"
"Of course I have."
"Really? Or were they just lab monkeys?"
"They were all two-kidneyed monkeys, weren't they?"
"Not everybody can go to a big university! I come from modest... hey, where are you going?"
Here I tag out. What happens next?
1) Do the kids make it to the window? Coming soon.
2) Are they stuck? Written by Nicole Hadaway.