Tag: kidlit

Plastic Trees in the Underground City

Here’s an excerpt from Under the Electric Sun

When he stepped through the doorway, his feet landed on soft green grass. The large room was filled with towering oaks, tall pines, azaleas in full bloom, and clusters of bluebells along the ground. Bird songs echoed in the air, even though no birds were visible. In the center of the park, there was a clearing with a playground in it. A group of children squabbled over which one of them would go down the slide next. The dome-shaped ceiling of Bailey Park was painted a pale shade of blue with an electric sun burning brightly in the center. Holographic clouds glided across it, moving so slowly that they barely appeared to move at all.

The grass was artificial, while the trees and bushes were made of plastic and other synthetic materials. The birdsong came from tiny speakers hidden in the leaves.

Jake sat down in the grass and leaned against a tree trunk. He let out a long sigh, which seemed odd to Tristan. It was the type of sound an older person would make.

Tristan sat in the grass beside him. For a moment, they were both silent.

“Just get some rest,” Tristan said, trying to conceal his worry. “And then we’ll go to the pet store. Esmeralda might be working today, you never know.”

A cloud of sadness seemed to hang in the air around Jake. Tristan was hoping it would evaporate at the mention of Esmeralda’s name, but it didn’t. Jake had been enamored with the girl ever since he had first spotted her in the pet store two years ago, sitting cross-legged on the floor and changing the batteries in a light brown Chihuahua. Looking up at Jake and Tristan with her coffee-colored eyes, Esmeralda had remarked that Jake didn’t need an electronic pet. He already had a talking raccoon on his shoulder, which was far better than all the non-speaking animals in the pet store. Flattered, Tristan had thanked her. As Esmeralda had zipped up the Chihuahua’s abdomen, she had talked about her own tutroid, a hoot owl named Matilda. Unfortunately, Matilda’s brain was defective and she preferred to remain perched on the headboard of Esmeralda’s bed, babbling about the French Revolution.

As Esmeralda had talked about her faulty tutroid, Jake had stared at her with a dazed look in his eyes. She didn’t seem to mind his delirious gaze. She had kept right on talking about her love for Matilda and her fascination with electronic animals in general.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jake said now, leaning against the tree in Bailey Park. “Esmeralda’s too old for me. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. She just wants to be friends with me, that’s all.”

Tristan shrugged. “Hey, that might change one day. She’s only three years older than you. When you guys get older, that age difference won’t matter anymore. You’ll both be adults. Who knows what will happen then?”

Jake didn’t reply. Tristan desperately wanted to cheer him up, but he had already played the Esmeralda card. He couldn’t think of anything else to do.

“So what do those big blobs look like?” Jake asked finally.

“In the meeting, they said the color changes depending on how you look at them,” Tristan said, relieved that the conversation was taking a new direction. “From one angle, they’re blue. From another angle, they’re red. I’ve been trying to picture that in my mind.”

“I still say they’re giant mushrooms,” Jake insisted. “And they’re mutant mushrooms, because of the war.”

They had argued about it all morning on their way to the vehicle museum.

“No,” Tristan said, staring up at the rounded ceiling of Bailey Park, as if he could see the surface of the earth if he strained his eyes hard enough. “I think they came here from another planet. They just popped up out of nowhere two months ago. And they’re as big as mountains. How do you explain that?”

Under the Electric Sun is available on Amazon. It’s a book about a boy and his electronic tutor. They live in a luxurious underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. The paperback version is $6 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2013, 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Leaving the Nest

Here is an excerpt from The Quality of Life in Outer Space

Gary lived in a nest of shredded magazine pages. Every morning and every night, he sat in his nest and stared at a miniature television set with a black and white screen, one he had found in a junk pile. Most of Gary’s knowledge about the world above him came from the television.

His nest was located on a windowsill in the basement of an old, old spaceship. All the ship’s garbage fell into the basement through trap doors in the ceiling. Gary spent his days flying over the garbage piles, searching for scraps of food and interesting pieces of junk. He was always careful to avoid the vulture beetles. They ate everything (including metal) to make room for more garbage.

Gary didn’t live alone on the windowsill. An octopus human hybrid lived in a cardboard box right beside him. The octopus looked just like any other octopus except he had a human face (with baggy, bloodshot eyes) and breathed oxygen and complained about all of Gary’s soap operas.

One morning, Gary sat in his nest, watching a commercial for a steakhouse located on the top floor of the ship. He wondered what it would be like to eat in a steakhouse, to eat firsthand food rather than dirty old scraps someone else had tossed out.

The octopus slouched in his cardboard box and looked out the window at the stars.

“Hey, Gary, do you see that thing out there?” the octopus asked.

“You mean that giant asteroid?” said Gary. “Yes, I see that. What about it?”

“It’s coming straight toward us,” said the octopus.

“Oh, I’m sure it’s not a problem.”

“Maybe you should go upstairs and mention it to somebody,” the octopus told him, shifting his bloodshot eyes back and forth.

Gary shrugged. “I’m sure they already know.”

“Maybe not. They might not be paying any attention. Everybody’s in a big frenzy. They’re all excited about the debate or something, aren’t they?”

“They’ll see it soon enough,” said Gary, shaking his head and wishing he could enjoy his soap opera in peace. “How could anyone overlook something that size?”

“I don’t know,” the octopus went on. “When you watch the evening news, you get the impression that most of those folks upstairs aren’t too bright. You know what I mean? You may want to just run up there real quick and, you know, mention it to somebody.”

“Not now,” said Gary.

“I think you should.”

Gary cleared his throat. “I may do it later.”

“It might be too late,” said the octopus, peeking out the window.

“Why can’t I sit here in my nest and watch my program?” Gary shouted, flapping his wings and grinding his teeth. “Can you at least let me have that one luxury? Please? Every day of my life is a bland, worthless echo of the one before it. I crawl out of my nest, I fly around this dark room, I find scraps of food for us to eat, I avoid the vicious vulture beetles, and then I return to the windowsill. Television is the only oasis I have. My only other form of recreation is gazing out the window at the black, infinite void and thinking about my futile existence.”

The octopus rolled his eyes. “You’re not going to miss anything, Gary, That show is a re-run, remember? All these people die at the end.”

Gary flapped his wings and screamed, “I’ve never seen this episode before! Why do you have to ruin it for me? Why?”

“Well, now you don’t have to watch it. You know how the thing’s going to end. Now run upstairs and tell somebody about that big space rock.”

“No!” Gary yelled. “Stop harassing me!”

“It’s getting closer. And it has little red patches. Looks like lava on that thing. What about that? A big ball covered in lava is coming at us. And you want to watch soap operas.”

Gary turned away from the miniature television and looked out the window again. He realized the octopus was right. The asteroid was getting closer. And there were red patches on it.

“But how would I get upstairs?” Gary asked, trembling. “The garbage associates hardly ever come down here. The doors are locked. I couldn’t go upstairs if I wanted to.”

The Quality of Life in Outer Space is available on Amazon. The book is aimed at younger readers, but adults would get a laugh out of it too. The paperback is $5 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $1.99. You can click here to order.

Summer Reading

Gary is an eagle with a human head. He lives down in the bottom of a giant spaceship and watches old soap operas. One morning, his octopus friend looks out the window and sees an asteroid coming. He urges Gary to fly to the top floor and warn the people in charge. Gary has never left the basement in his life, but he reluctantly flies upstairs on a mission to save the ship.

During his journey to the top floor, Gary learns that the ship left Earth a long time ago because war and pollution had ruined the planet. The original crew flew into space searching for a new world. But a hooded figure known as the Law Master (who talks to his dead mother’s head) overthrew the captain and took over the ship. Since the Law Master doesn’t actually know how to fly the ship, he keeps everyone divided into two groups and encourages them to argue all the time. No one realizes the ship has flown in circles for many, many years. They’re too busy yelling and screaming at each other.

Gary struggles to reason with the yellow team and the orange team before they all die. The Quality of Life in Outer Space is a good book for kids to read in the car during a summer road trip.

I wrote the book in early 2016 when business was slow at the company where I work. I was laid off for a few weeks, so I sat at home and wrote this demented little book while eating Little Caesar’s pizza and drinking hot chocolate. The main character is loosely based on a collage I made when I was ten years old. I cut out a picture of Jim Morrison’s head and glued it to a picture of an eagle. My friends and I giggled about it for a long time. I’ve never forgotten that.

The Quality of Life in Outer Space is aimed at younger readers, but adults would get a laugh out of it too. It’s available on Amazon. The paperback is $5 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $1.99. You can click on this text to order.

Copyright 2016, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.