The Writing Wombat

An American Marsupial in Fiction Land

Month: August, 2014

Yellow Snow (Fiction)

This week’s flash fiction challenge was to start with a color in the title. Shocker that I went with…

Yellow Snow

Cold.

Wet.

Salty.

My numb tongue retracts, attempting to absorb nutrients from the frozen froth.

Who ordered the sunflower seed Slushee?

My right eye flutters open to a vast expanse of white. A glaring, blinding white.

Snow? Makes sense.

Not sense like remembering an Arctic sojourn in my recent past. But logical sense – the cold, the wet.

The salty?

My left eye struggles open through resistance, hindered by the frozen drift. The radiance becomes blurry , tainted by my dominant eye’s limited range of vision. The white becomes more muddled with each blink, mixing and merging with shades of yellow. Canary blinks to ochre blinks to tan.

The snow isn’t white, my viscous brain processes. It’s yellow.

Yellow snow!

I start the rest of the way awake, spitting. Reflexes bolt my body upright and my hand to my mouth at the same time.

Pain. A splitting headache, but more than that. My legs feel weak, my stomach feels raw. Groping beneath me in a failed and flailed attempt to stand, I finally settle for a kneel. Eyes drop down from the reflected sunlight to the shadow of my body.

The snow beneath my body’s divot is a pool of faded yellow. Another smaller pool of creamy off-white is to my left. Another and another, smaller splotches trail away in regular intervals

If your stream is losing strength, you may have an enlarged prostate, pops into my head as I trace the tainted drippings. Oh joy, I face planted in the latrine.

“Ahh-woooooooo!”

The reverie is broken by a blood curdling sound. Something between a scream and a howl pierces through the crisp air.  My neck rotates still dilating eyes around searching for the source direction amidst countless echoes

No luck. The field lay as vast and barren as before. No prehistoric  animals, no smoky apparition of a beheaded goddess, which seemed the only two things capable of such a cry.

“Ahhhhhhhhh!”

A glance behind me, in the direction of the trailing off yellow snow, sees a copse of trees fifty yards distant.

“Woooooo!”

Certain that the sound is coming across the snowy field, I take one unsteady step toward the trees.  My ankle buckles under my weight, and I plummet back toward the snow. I’m unsure if my ankle is twisted or if this is just a city slicker attempting to cross country in tennis shoes, but instinct dictates I shuffle to safety before finding out. Using my calves and knees like a snowshoe, my hands reach forward and pull through the frozen sea, half swimming and half crawling, toward safety.

I refuse to look back as the sound gains on me. A gusty wind blows upon my back, except the unnatural heat in this frozen tundra makes me sure it isn’t wind. The howls become deafening as I lurch through the thin green line.

The wailing stops. I close my eyes and curl up behind the cylindrical wooden forcefield of an ancient oak. After the horrifying sounds of the run, this blanket of silence is serene.

Until the smell hits my nose. Musty. A car left in the rain with the windows cracked. Rancid. That car had some leftover McDonalds. Putrid. That old McDonalds is in the trunk next to a dead opossum.

Eyes open to a drooling mandible of matted grey-brown fur. A glistening black nose twitches above an open mouth of sharpened canine teeth. Atop it all are two black eyes, intense yet toying at the same time. My ears register the satisfied, guttural growl that has replaced the howls of the hunt.

Whatever energy I have left forces me up the tree. Halfway up, I learn the extent of my injuries. Stomach is indeed raw. Rough bark bites through two layers of cotton clothing, scraping skin that feels like this is not the first tree it’s encountered. The legs feel chaffed and punctured as they attempt, but fail, to find traction around the shaft. Wounds I was unaware of open anew.

The furry harbinger of doom below me skulks around the base, sniffing and attempting to climb. Growls transitions back to howls, but a different howl than before. More of a whine.

Or a call to action. Other howls respond from the thicket of woods. A prey has been treed. The pack is coming to dine. I look back out to the snowy open field, still vast and empty, virgin minus a few splotches of yellow.

They can’t leave the woods, screams my brain, or perhaps my instinct. Whether through reason or intuition or blind hope, I know I must leave the tree before the other creatures arrive.

A leap of faith vaults me over the hunter. I tweak the other ankle upon landing and pitch forward yet again, a position to which I am becoming quite adept at and averse to. But no time to consider my current plight nor position as the canine makes a final dash toward his escaping prey. Claws scrape through denim, shredding the legs beneath, as I revert to the familiar crab-swim into openness.

The howling returns, this time behind me for sure. Energy fading, I stumble out as far as I can go. The blood from my legs drips past the constricting jeans just as I get to the urine spot. Another two steps, with bright crimson drops merging with faded tan drips.

Three steps forward, I fall for the final time. The stomach wounds open as a bloody pool forms right where the yellow snow had been.

As consciousness wanes, it occurs to me that blood fades over time. Wash out a white shirt, the blood will turn brown, then tan. Eventually a creamy yellow.

What about in snow? Would it turn yellow? Probably.

And it sure tastes salty.

At least I wasn’t lying in piss.

Then white and red and yellow fuse together to become black.

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What to say about Sharknado 2?

Other than there should be no better post to start off a brand new blog.

I know this is a week and a half late, but as with any premium entertainment of this sort, I waited to view it with friends. And Beer. The beer probably would have been accessible on a Wednesday night, but getting friends together, and imbibing as much as we would need to properly experience the movie, would have been difficult on a Wednesday night. C’mon, SyFy (which I shall continue to pronounce “Siffy” as long as they continue to spell Sci-Fi wrong), broadcast Sharknado 3 on a Friday night and I guarantee the number of viewing parties will rival the Super Bowl.

The one major drawback of not watching live was the Twitter element.  At the beginning of every commercial break, they ran a handful of related tweets.  I don’t know if we benefited from having DVR’d the West Coast feed, but the tweets they showed were very timely.  Some related to the scene that had just ended or a cameo that was a minute or two old. I had the benefit of pausing and no time pressure, but a number of my tweets were half-written by the time the SyFy people had already processed and placed a smattering from the Twitterlanche. Then again, Twitter is what caused the initial Sharknado mania, so it makes sense they’d be on the ball this time. In some aspects, Sharknado also helped validate Twitter as a bona fide barometer of the pop ephemera. I’m sure there will be some future Master’s Thesis titled “The Twitter and Sharknado Symbiosis.”

As an aside, tweeting out a week and a half late, the predictive text on my hashtag had to make it all the way to the sixth letter before #Sharknado or #Sharknado2TheSecondOne came up. With three or four letters, Twitter thought I wanted to write #ShartToys. I don’t think I want to know why.

On to the movie itself. I have to hand it to the producers. While some low-budget success stories try to ramp up the cinematography or editing or special effects in the sequel, Sharknado 2: The Second One stayed blessedly true to the original. I’m sure the budget was substantially larger – hell, they managed to shut down a block in Manhattan, that’s got to take some coin – but the overwhelming feel was “Oh, y’all like this? Then here’s some more.”  One of my favorite parts of the original was the rapid switching from stormy to sunny skies in the same scene. That still existed in the sequel, although I suspect it was much more intentional this time.

The first movie made a number of homages to Jaws, as is only natural in a shark movie. The sequel, however, did not feel constrained to copying just one movie franchise or even one genre. The opening scene shows Tara Reid and Ian Ziering (I’m sure their characters had names, but nobody knows them) flying across the country in a plane that happens to fly through a shark storm. In a straight copy of the old “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” Twilight Zone episode, Ian Ziering sees a shark on the wing, then it’s not there. Throughout the movie, he seemed to take most of his acting cues from the Christian Bale Batman model (talking gravelly makes you a bad-ass), but in the opening scene he was pure Shatner.

Note to SyFy: Shat-nado. Thank you, I will take my residual checks now.

Once the sharks, who of course were real and not imagined, breach the plane, the tribute changes from Twilight Zone to Airplane! And lest one thinks they were aiming for one of the more serious flying disaster movies, like Airport, they cut to the pilot, the second (after Kelly Osbourne as stewardess) and best cameo of the film.

There were many cameos in the movie, and I have seen various reports of which ones were “the best.” Biz Markie certainly deserves a mention. Wl Wheaton’s was short but memorable. Billy Ray Cyrus as a New York surgeon with an Oklahoma drawl certainly jumped out. Daymond John gets honorable mention for jumping from Shark Tank to Sharknado. Then there was Jared from Subway. Yes, Jared from eSubway.  I refuse to mention the people who played themselves, such as Al Roker and Kelly Ripa, Even if Kelly Ripa stiletto-ing a shark with her high heel was two seconds of pure heaven.  But appearing as oneself is not a proper cameo in a movie like this. In our drinking game, we quickly stopped taking a “cameo drink” when people appeared as themselves. Don’t worry, there was still much to drink about, especially since our particular rules made us drink any time there were “ominous shark fins.” This might explain why my review focuses on the early parts of the movie.

But the best cameo had to be the pilot of the airplane (sorry, Airplane!), Robert Hays. Ted Freaking Striker from the Airplane! movies was cast as the pilot in yet another doomed flight with no basis in reality. I sat on pins and needles for the entire scene hoping for him to repeat some timeless quip from the old movies. Alas, nobody else in the cockpit was named Roger, Ober, Unger, or Dunn. They were flying nowhere near Macho Grande. The closest we got was a girl in the bathroom bouncing up and down like the one putting make-up on in Airplane! (or the man shaving in Airplane II: The Sequel, a subtitle almost as brilliant as Sharknado 2: The Second One).

Of course, this movie’s bathroom girl gets eaten by a shark, one of many to breach the outer hull of the airplane. Robert Hays goes the way of most of the cameos, forcing Ian Ziering to pull his very own Ted Striker, running to the cockpit and landing the airplane. The airplane had absolutely no structural integrity yet, but after flying through a shark infestation at 35,000 feet, one supposes that the physics of a surfer landing a plane that is missing half of its fuselage is a moot point. In the first movie, he could fly a helicopter because he “saw it in a movie once.”

At this point in the movie, something happens to Tara Reid’s character that pretty much takes her out of a majority of the movie, a great call by the producers. The slightly improved production value was enough to make her plastic much more noticeable. And frightening. Kari Wuhrer was also in this movie. I don’t think the Botox allowed her to move her face at all. But that’s all I will say about Kari Wuhrer, because she will forevermore get a pass from her time on “Remote Control.”

Except one more thing about Kari Wuhrer. Her character spends a lot of time out at the Statue of Liberty with three other females. They all might or might not have been related to Ian Ziering’s character. Regardless, Kari Wuhrer and these other females were frequently talking to each other, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t talking about men. So at least Sharknado 2: The Second One passes the Bechdel_Test, something which cannot be said about most blockbusters.

The next major scene worth noting took place at Citi Field. The best weapon in the first movie had to be the barstool, which a brilliant patron doubled back to get in order to bludgeon a shark with it later. In the sequel, the barstool is replaced with a comically large bat. Comically Large Bat, a souvenir bought during the Mets game, is so magical that it seems to change in size depending on the scene, including growing to roughly the size of the shark that it is hitting for a homerun. Yes, they hit a shark for a homerun at Citi Field, complete with the Big Apple rising up. So I guess it was a home team shark homer.

Inexplicably, the Sharknado is fused with a cold front at Citi Field, explained by Al Roker on a “Today” show broadcast that seemed to go on all day and night. This brought up the promise of a Shark-Nor’Easter. One of my friends is desperately hoping for a Sharkvalanche spin-off, and the detailed explanation had us convinced that was where it was going. But after Citi Field, there was no more snow nor any other mention of the amazing weather phenomenon that they had specifically cut away to explain. I assume this was only done because it was filmed during the winter, so they had to explain why the baseball stadium was surrounded by snow. But the news report failed to mention how the sudden downpour of summer snow caused the snow outside the stadium to be a pre-existing blanket. Nor did the news report mention why the producers couldn’t find stock footage of Citi Field in rain.

The rest of the movie is sharks. And then some sharks. Followed by sharks. A weather map with swirling fronts of blue and red sharks.

Oh, and an alligator in the sewer, which is promptly eaten by a shark. The sharks continue to have the uncanny ability not only to survive and move on land, but also to aim themselves as they are coming out of the tornado (water spout, really, or else how would the sharks survive in it? Because I’m sure there were many biologists consulted on both of these projects.

Judd Hirsch showed up as a taxi driver. This almost rivaled Robert Hays for playing a character related to what you are best known for. But he’s Judd Hirsch, and he’s had many other claims to fame. But, and this bears repeating, this movie had Robert Hays flying a doomed airplane.

Judd Hirsch’s death (Oops, spoiler!) is also tainted by serving as precursor to my one major complaint. A number of people swing Tarzan style from the roof of one submerged car to another. The rope falls into the water with one person remaining, apparently stuck with the car sinking and (naturally) sharks all around. The guy looks at his friend, who had successfully made the jump, then back at the sharks that were forming perfect stepping stones between the two cars.  The two men shout “Frogger!” and he jumps from shark to shark until he makes it across. Now here’s the problem: the sharks were not swimming back-and-forth perpendicular to the cars. Instead, there were three of them forming a line from one car to the next, making it a Pitfall move, not a Frogger move. I can’t believe the editors let that slide, what with all of the painstaking attention-to-detail in every other scene.

No death scene rose to the level of the Hollywood sign in the first movie. That scene was memorable not only because it was the aforementioned Barstool Guy who died, but also because of the line he muttered (“My mom always said Hollywood would kill me”) right before being smashed by the giant W.

The closest parallel in The Second One was the Statue of Liberty’s head, which gets ripped off and hurtled toward the city, rolling down a street and crunching a poor soul.  The scene was not dragged out like when Barstool Guy dodged the swirling letters for a minute of screen time. And there was no fitting quote from the soon-to-be deceased. We actually had to rewind it because we were sure we had missed some “Viva la Libertie” or other reference. But there was nothing. Come on, writers, don’t start mailing it in yet.

The final scene was precisely what one would expect. The logical fallacies came at me so fast, I couldn’t keep track. Why does a random person walking down a New York street have a pitchfork? Or was that a trident instead? Who abandons their fireworks truck in the middle of a Sharknado?

How do all of these chainsaws keep running? Okay, seriously, this is the one that bothered me in the first movie as well. I’ve never really used a chainsaw, but my understanding of them is that they have a kill switch. You have to physically be hold a trigger mechanism or else it dies.  I mean, my lawnmower has this feature and a runaway lawnmower would seem much less likely to sever a body part than an airborne chainsaw. But in this movie, one lucky New Yorker just happens to have multiple chainsaws in his truck bed, each of which he starts up on the first pull (again, something my lawnmower in incapable of) and throws into the tornado. They then spiral upward, cutting through hundreds of sharks each, liberating this particular sharknado in the name of peace and justice. Although I’m sure these were Stalin-esque chainsaws who were actually going to instill their own draconian puppet state in the power vacuum that now existed in these funnel clouds.

Syfy, are you paying attention? Chainsawnado: Behind the Iron-Toothed Curtain! Seriously, call my agent.

The sequel ends much like the original, with Ian Ziering facing down a particularly menacing shark who had taken a loved one (or part of a loved one), mano a mano. Although I seem to remember Tara Reid showing up at just the right time to tip the balance of power against the shark. Somehow, just as in the original, the defeat of this one shark amongst the thousands flying through the air signals the end of the Sharknado threat. Having now seen it twice, it still makes no sense. Was that shark controlling the weather? Was he the shark leader and now all of the other sharks will docilely fly back to the ocean?

The twist in the sequel, though, is that this shark wasn’t just the shark from the last ten minutes of the movie.  Oh, no! It turns out this shark is the exact same shark that attacked them in the plane at the beginning of the movie. Despite the fact that the plane was 35,000 feet in the air and presumably somewhere over mid-America. This shark must surely be the most tenacious and most travelled shark in existence. It also must be the shark with the slowest digestive system in the world. I understand the adage of tying a plot together, of showing something in Act One and bringing it back in Act Three. But I’m not sure this is precisely how it should be done.

It does set up an interesting premise for Sharknado 3, though, doesn’t it? Obviously that shark was targeting poor Ian and Tara. Was this personal? A vendetta? Had the shark mob put a hit out on our intrepid duo after the events in Los Angeles? And does this shark now have children, a spouse, a cousin whot now must track them down to exact their final revenge? It’s dripping with possibilities.

We finished up the movie, as I assume many did, with a trip to YouTube for a group viewing of “Just a Friend,” by Biz Markie. Why? We were just too exhausted to make it all the way through Airplane!