Four Random Words: Gummy Bear Banana Mountain

I ended up writing a scene using characters from my YA novel-in-progress in response to the June 4th Four Random Words challenge.

Here is how I translated the very random words, gummy, bear, banana, and mountain, into a short story/scene (also posted on my blog):

Out of the Woods or Gummy Bear Banana Mountain

“Do ghosts leave goo now or something?” Bailey asked. She strayed from the wooded trail to sit down on a rock and get a closer look at the gummy green gook that had settled into the grooves of her shoe.

“Do I look like the ghost whisperer to you?” Linden was definitely getting snarkier. The whole winning a battle against evil spirits thing must have gone to his head.

Bailey shrugged. “Whatever. At least you can actually see them.”

“You make it sound like a good thing.”

“Hey,” Shadow said. “It could be worse. You could be dead.” Linden had gained his ability to communicate with spirits after a near brush with death and both Shadow and Bailey loved to remind him of that little fact. Not that Bailey could hear a word Shadow said, him being a ghost and all.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ve heard that enough times.” Linden said.

“Talking to your Shadow friend again?” Bailey asked. He nodded. “Awesomeness.” Bailey grabbed a banana out of her backpack and slowly peeled it. Linden crossed his arms and looked at his watch. In true Linden style, he was more concerned with making good time than enjoying the scenery. In true Bailey style, she was trying her best to push Linden’s buttons.

“What? I’m hungry!” was her response to his tapping foot. “Seriously though, what is this stuff? It’s pretty gross.” As much as Bailey wished she could make contact with spirits like her brother did, she was more than ready for a break. She was even happy to spend a nice, quiet summer vacation in the mountains. No games. No ghosts. No near-death experiences. That was the hope, anyway.

“I have no idea.” Linden picked up a stick and scooped some of the goo off the ground. It traced the edge of the trail as far back as he could see. “How did we not notice this sooner?”

“Well, for starters, it hasn’t mounted an attack against us.”

“Or anything else for that matter,” Shadow added. “Notice what’s missing?” It didn’t take Linden more than half a second to realize that he and Bailey were the only living, breathing creatures in sight. He could still hear birds chirping and leaves rustling, but the sounds were becoming distant and the birds themselves were nowhere to be seen.

“Bailey.”

“Link,” she replied, using the nickname she knew annoyed her brother.

“Did you remember your bug spray?”

“Huh? No. I forgot it back at the cabin.” It didn’t take Bailey long to catch on, either. “Ugh. Not again.” She tossed her banana peel into an empty Ziplock bag, shoved it in her backpack, and stood up. “What does Our Wise Master Shadow have to say about all this?”

“This area is outside the boundaries of my knowledge,” was Shadow’s response.

Linden relayed the message. “He’s no help.”

“Awesome. So what now?”

“Keep moving forward I guess. We must be halfway through the trail by now,” Linden said. He carried his goo-stick like a torch and started back along the trail at a brisk pace.

Bailey followed but couldn’t keep herself from glancing over her shoulder every few seconds. The goo was advancing, but it only seemed to move when she wasn’t looking. As much as she wanted to complain about how fast they were going, making an exit without incident became her new priority.

They continued along the winding forest path, now fully aware of how eerily quiet their surroundings had become. The distant chirps and buzzes had disappeared entirely and even the twigs that snapped beneath their feet were silent. Bailey kept a vigilant eye on the goo. Its path had thickened since they first noticed it and now it spanned about a two-foot width of the trail behind them.

“Wait, did you see that?” Bailey stopped and watched the silhouette of a bear leap between the shadows of the trees. It crouched just up ahead, still as a rock. “Did I see that?”

“Strange,” said Shadow, and after a pause, “that can’t be good.”

“You did see the bear thing, right?” Bailey asked with a shaky voice.

“We both did. Shadow doesn’t know what it is either.”

“This just keeps getting better,” Bailey said. She should have known a quiet walk through the woods was out of the question. Things were never quiet for long anymore. “Okay. We need a plan. How about you handle the goo monster and Shadow takes on the bear thing?”

“And how exactly do you suggest I handle the goo monster?” He waved his goo-stick in her face. “Keep poking it with a stick?” As though it heard him, the goo started to slime its way down the stick toward Linden’s hand. Linden yelped and threw the stick back on the trail.

“I have a better plan,” Shadow said. “Run.” He pointed at the goo. It was starting to form itself into a much larger, much more vertical blob.

“We need to get out of here.” Linden grabbed Bailey’s arm and tried to drag her with him. She didn’t budge.

“Umm, Link? Problem here.” Bailey pointed at her goo-covered sneaker, now stuck to the ground. She bent down to try pulling it off but the goo had molded itself into thick fingers that slipped beneath the laces. The rest of the blob had nearly reached Bailey’s height and it extended an arm-like pod to connect with the patch that held her in place.

The bear silhouette sprung from beneath the trees and clenched its shadowed jaw around Bailey’s foot. She yelped from the shock, but felt nothing but the passage of air. The bear snapped the wisps of its mouth around the goo until the sticky fingers relinquished their grip on Bailey’s shoe. The small patch of goo shriveled up and dissolved into the ground.

Bailey took a step back and slowly let out her breath. “So about that ‘run’ plan?”

“Right,” Linden said. He let go of Bailey’s arm and quickly scanned the trail. It split just up ahead.

The shadow creature still bared its shadowy teeth, now gleaming with patches of light. It stood on its hind legs and waved a paw at the trail to the left before turning to face the rest of the blob.

“Do we trust the bear thing?” Bailey asked.

Shadow, usually quick to take action against harmful spirits, finally spoke. “I think it’s our best chance,” he said quietly.

“Might as well,” Linden relayed and they took off at a run without looking back.

The siblings reached the edge of the woods short of breath but happy to be free from unknown spirits and back in the presence of birds and bugs.

“Umm, so what was all that? Were they ghosts? I could actually see them!”

“Either this forest plays by its own rules or there are spirits who have figured out how to manifest themselves in the physical world,” Shadow said. His voice was distant as he looked past Linden and Bailey and into the trees. “I wasn’t sure if my attacks would be effective against either of them.”

“I don’t know,” Linden said, “but I think our best move is to get as far from this place as we can. We can worry about figuring it out later.”

“For once I agree with you,” Bailey said as they headed back to Linden’s car. She took one final look back and watched the bear silhouette pad up to the edge of the woods and shift into the shape of a man.

“So much for a quiet summer,” she said.

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