Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Choose Your Own Adventure: An Urban Fairytale

You are walking home from work, enjoying the beautiful late-summer atmosphere and in no real hurry to be anywhere. You reach into your pocket and jingle the two dollars in quarters you have there. As you walk, you meet an old man; he is dressed in old, grimy clothes, but his hands and face have been scrubbed clean. He looks at you with pale blue eyes and and asks, "Do you have any spare change, please?" If you give him change, go to B. If you don't, go to C.

B. The old man is very grateful and gives you the only thing he has to give, a packet of peanuts over which he says a blessing. The plastic of the small package is dirty and creased, and you wonder how long it's been in his pocket. You're beginning to suspect he's crazy, but you don't want to be rude and so you pocket the peanuts anyway as you walk away. Go to Y.

C. You apologetically tell the old man that you don't have any change, and he pins you with his faded eyes for a moment before humbly saying, "Thank you, anyway. I know a generous soul when I see one, and I can tell that you would have given me money if you had any to spare. Bless you." As he shuffles off, you immediately begin feeling guilty, but shrug it off as you turn to continue down the street. You pass a lady who's sitting on a park bench crying. If you stop to talk to her, go to N. If you don't, go to O.

D. You eat the peanuts and feel a little queasy, but the feeling fades and you start to feel much better--better than you remember ever having felt. Maybe the peanuts really were blessed. You continue to walk down the street. Go to H.

E. You encounter a squirrel who looks at you pitifully, its eyes almost human. If you want to give him your peanuts, go to G. If not, go to M.

F. You offer to trade the peanuts for the hotdog, and the man gives you a strange look. When he says that he prefers cash, you reply that they're magic peanuts and you're really quite hungry. He still refuses to trade you a hotdog for peanuts, however. Frustrated, you throw the bag at his cart and stomp away, wondering when your good karma from giving money to a bum is going to kick in. After only a few steps, you turn around to discover that a peanut stalk is growing up from underneath the cart, overturning it and scattering hotdogs all over the sidewalk. It grows rapidly until it is about six feet tall, then stands calmly waving in the wind. If you offer to help the man fix his stand, go to P. If you don't, go to Q.

G. You give the squirrel your peanuts, and he immediately perks up and begins to cram as many of the peanuts into his cheeks as will fit. You notice that he is standing next to what looks like a diamond ring and, while he is busy stuffing himself on the blessed peanuts, you pick up the diamond ring and slip it on. You're delighted to discover that it fits perfectly. You give a last smile to the squirrel and continue to walk down the street and a young woman approaches you, claiming that the ring is hers. She seems to be less interested in the ring itself than where you found it. If you give her the ring, go to I. If not, go to J.

H. A young woman approaches you and asks if you have seen a diamond ring. You reply that you haven't seen anything, and she says that her fiance had bought her a ring but that it had gone missing. She is so distraught that you consider buying her a cup of coffee from a nearby coffeeshop that you often frequent. If you offer to buy her coffee, go to K. If not, go to L.

I. You consider telling the woman to screw off, but decide instead to hand the ring over. As you reluctantly slip it off of your finger, the woman exultantly thanks you. "You don't know what this means to me," she says excitedly, but instead of putting the ring on, as you half-expect her to do, she instead turns to dash toward the park, making a bee-line for the tree you point out to her. Her eyes quickly scan the park, studying the trees and the garbage cans with particular attention, until her gaze lights on a familar-looking squirrel drinking out of the fountain. She runs toward the squirrel, holding out the ring enticingly. Go to X.

J. You tell the woman that she is mistaken--your mother gave you this ring years ago. The woman gives you a strange look and repeats that she knows that is her ring. It's a very special cut of diamond that her fiance, who is a gem-cutter, invented himself. You turn to leave, and she grabs your sleeve to begin screaming, "I know you have my ring! Where did you get it?" Frantic, you try to shake her off, but she refuses to let go of your shirt. At the sound of a high-pitched squeal, you glance over your shoulder and realize that you're being charged by the squirrel you saw earlier. The last thing you see is a red glazed look in the squirrel's eyes before it and the woman tear you apart in the middle of the street. The End.

K. You offer to buy her a cup of coffee, and the woman tearfully accepts, following you into the cozy little shop. Because you only have about two dollars on you, you can only afford two small cups of coffee, but she doesn't seem to be much interested in drinking it, instead stirring it endlessly with a wooden stick. Finally, she sighs dramatically. downs the coffee, and heads on her way without a word. Annoyed, you finish your own coffee and leave, as well, heading the opposite direction down the street on your way home. The End.

L. You manage to get home without any further interruptions to your day, but, unfortunately, the peanuts that you ate cause severe food poisoning and you have a rather painful evening. The End.

M. You sit down on a park bench and open your little packet of peanuts, eating them as you study the strange-looking squirrel. You recall hearing that some of the rodents in the city carry the Black Plague, and you decide you should probably notify someone about the squirrel's odd behavior, since it's probably indicative of disease. It is now running around in circles, pausing occasionally at the foot of a nearby tree. You have a friend who works for animal control, and you call him to let him know about the odd behavior of the squirrel. He agrees to come check it out later. You finish your peanuts and head home. Go to W.

N. When you gently ask the woman what's wrong, she replies in a sobbing voice, "I can't find my fiance. I think he may be missing." "Missing?" you ask. "Do you think he's been kidnapped?" "No," she replies with a hiccough. "But he gets lost easily. I haven't seen him all day." When you ask her if she has contacted the police, she says, "No. They wouldn't really be able to do anything, I don't think." She is silent for a moment before leaning forward and whispering, "He doesn't always look normal." "What does he look like?" She hesitantly answers, "Well... sometimes he looks like... a squirrel." If you stand up and leave, got to R. If you decide to hear her out, go to S.

O. You successfully get home without any interpersonal communication, dump your two dollars' change into your piggy bank, and watch four hours of television. The End.

P. The man is far too angry to accept your generous offer and scornfully rejects it, saying that you're lucky he doesn't sue you for the damages to his cart. You huffily reply that you didn't know that the peanut stalk would grow, so you can hardly be blamed for it. He starts muttering about contributary negligence as he struggles to right his cart. You allow yourself a moment of pleasure at his efforts before you head on your way, sure that you will tell this story many times in the years to come. The End.

Q. You take a picture of the peanut stalk with your cell phone camera, and you're about to continue down the street in smug satisfaction when you hear an angry shout from behind you. It is the owner of a nearby store, and he's staring at the peanut stalk in horror. "What did you do?" he demands. He stomps over to where the hotdog stand owner is standing, and they immediately begin yelling at each other. You take a picture of that, too, before you continue jaunitly on your way, whistling. The End.

R. You give the woman an indulgent smile and say, "Well, I hope you find him. Good luck with everything." You go home and thank God you only wasted two dollars on that crazy lady. The End.

S. You stare at her for a moment before saying, "A squirrel?" She hurries to add, "I know it sounds crazy, but it's true. He works as a gem-cutter here in town, and he was commissioned to make a very special diamond ring. When it was finished, it was the most magnificent ring I had ever seen. He was so proud of it." She is silent for a heartbeat as though she is carefully weighing her words. "When the client arrived to pick up the ring, she gave my fiance a check for one-tenth of her promised price. My fiance refused. And with that, she ... she ... cursed him!" Go to Z.

T. You follow the woman out into the street, where you find her yelling, "Harold! Harold! Where are you?" She seems to have forgotten about you entirely, and, irked, you leave her to her search. She's crazy, anyway. The End.

U. You remain on the park bench for some time, wondering what kind of medication that woman was supposed to be on. Finally, you head home, this time not talking to anyone else. The End.

V. You continue walking and come across a hotdog stand. Your stomach rumbles, but you have no money because you already gave all your money to the homeless man. If you eat the peanuts the old man gave you, go to D. If you offer to trade the peanuts for a hotdog, go to F.

W. Your friend calls you back later that evening to let you know that it had been determined that the squirrel was undoubtedly diseased and that it had been destroyed before it could infect any of the other animals in the park. Unfortunately, you cannot take your friend's call because you're in the bathroom suffering from food poisoning. Those damn peanuts weren't blessed after all. The End.

X. The moment the squirrel catches sight of the ring, it turns and leaps into her arms, its small arms reaching greedily for the sparkling bauble. The woman, seeming to forget about you entirely, cuddles the squirrel close and murmurs to it. You clear your throat pointedly and she turns around to introduce you to her fiance. "This is Harold," she says in an adoring voice, but he looks just like a normal squirrel to you. "Er--nice to meet you, Harold," you reply, unsure of what is required if you are introduced to an animal. Do you shake paws? You think about the possibility of the Black Plague and keep your hands discreetly tucked in your pockets. "And now you shall have a reward," the woman declares, and hands you a business card. "This is Harold's card--he has a small gem shop here in town. Stop by sometime and I'm sure he'll get you set up with something sparkly and pretty." You take the business card, which seems perfectly legitimate, and as you're studying it, the woman moves away, still talking to her squirrel. You feel a pang of regret for losing that beautiful ring, then shrug it aside and head home. The End.

Y. You come to a T in the road, in which one path that you can take goes by a fairly picturesque park that you often enjoy walking through. The other road continues through town, where you can see the hustle and bustle of city life. If you walk through the park, go to E. If you go through town, go to V.

Z. She chokes back a sob. "Every full moon, he takes on the form of a squirrel for twenty-four hours, and he forgets everything except for that ring. It possesses him." She takes a sip from her now-cool coffee. "Normally I keep the ring in our apartment, and I chain it down so he can't pick it up and run away from it. Somehow, though, this month, it got loose and he ran away with it. I've been looking for him all day. He'll turn back into a man tonight at the stroke of midnight, but he might hurt himself if I'm not there to make sure he's safe. What if he's in a tree and falls out, or is underneath a dumpster and gets crushed?" Her voice is rising in pitch. "I have to find him." She stands up and says, "I really need to start looking for him again." If you follow her, go to T. If not, go to U.

I decided to write my own Choose Your Own Adventure story when I realized that I've never written one before, and I thought it would be kind of fun to be able to play with plot and action in a way traditional fiction prohibits. In case you were wondering, though, Choose Your Own Adventures are harder to write than they would seem to be. There's no logical progression of plot if you're constantly having splits in the path of the storyline, and the ending tends toward the anticlimactic. This is probably why most of the Choose Your Own Adventures novels end in painfully bloody deaths in an effort to force a climax at the end of a story that doesn't naturally have one.


Chatty Cathy said...

Well, you are a creative one aren't you. That was a lot of fun to read. I am glad you included a squirrel into your story. Such mischievous and erratic creatures, you never know what to expect from them. Anyways, well done.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

Thanks. Squirrels are one of my all-time biggest fears, thanks to the rodent thugs they have in Westwood. Don't make eye contact...

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