Monster Parent: Philip Harris (@SolitaryMindset). Check out Philip’s writing at solitarymindset.com
Sara had a popcorn problem.
Even though there was an entire cupboard in her house devoted solely to popcorn, she constantly worried that her supplies were too meager. Whenever a brand she liked got discontinued, she sank into the kind of dark gloom normally reserved for the death of one’s pets.
Sara had a food problem in general, really. Specifically, a problem with successfully getting it into her mouth. Affectionately nicknamed Cookie Monster by her husband, Sara could practically spill food on herself just by looking at it. Once, she’d found a piece of toast in her ear.
Naturally, the food she spilled on herself the most was popcorn. She was forever finding popcorn in her bra (which she ate without hesitation), and even stray pieces that managed to venture further down her dresses and stick in her bellybutton.
She was removing a bag of microwavable popcorn from the special storage cupboard (her fifth bag of the day) when a scratching sound behind her snagged her attention. She set the flat plastic square of unpopped kernels on the counter and turned around, scowling at her fat chihuahua, Batman, who stared up at her woefully from the back door.
“How can you be so chubby, but have a bladder the size of a thimble?” she snapped. In response, Batman did his best impression of a very sad beach-ball covered in fur.
When Sara returned a few minutes later, puppy potty patrol duties duly performed, she discovered that the bag of popcorn on the counter was now full and straining against its plastic confines.
“Did I pop that?” she asked Batman, who was hovering around her feet like a hairy Roomba, waiting to hoover up whatever goodies she would inevitably drop.
She shook her head and shrugged. She was a classic writerly type: absent-minded and perpetually lost down the weird, winding paths in her head. She’d done far stranger things than pop a bag of popcorn without realizing it.
When she ran a knife over the taut, transparent plastic at the top of the bag, scalding steam whooshed out. Sara yowled, her face instantly turning pink from the blast. She staggered back, her feet getting tangled with Batman, who tried to waddle out of her way with as much dignity as possible.
Once she’d recovered from the unexpected pain, the scent of the popcorn dragged her back to the bag — it had an irresistible pull, a delicious leash yanking at her neck.
Good god, it smelled amazing. Peppery and garlicky, with a bite of lime. Maybe even some cilantro. This was damn fancy popcorn. She couldn’t wait to shove it in her face (and furtively pick remnants out of her bra several hours later).
She wasn’t the only one drawn to the scent. Its allure had already convinced Batman to forgive her for stepping on him. He returned to his customary spot at her feet, waiting for the food rain to begin.
Which brand was this? She didn’t recognize the matte black bag, which was devoid of any logo or text. She hoarded so many types of popcorn, it was hard to keep track of the different brands’ packaging.
The popcorn itself didn’t even look real. The lusciously floofy, pillowy puffs of yellow-white were more like a CGI rendering of popcorn. Popcorn blessed with a perfection of shape and texture that only computers could grant.
She grabbed a handful and crammed as much as she could into her mouth. Several pieces, of course, bounced off her chin and rolled inside the front of her dress, while others fell to the floor.
Instead of vacuuming up every dropped piece, Batman whined and skulked away, his tail dragging across the floor, weighed down with unhappiness. He crawled under the dining table.
“Weenie,” Sara mumbled through a mouthful of popcorn, and then her eyes flared wide. With one hand, she began pawing at her mouth, and with the other, she slapped at her chest as if attempting to put out a boob-fire.
“Bleahughblughblarrr!” she cried, trying to spit out the popcorn, which was no easy task.
Each piece was biting into her tongue and cheek meat with tiny fangs, grabbing hold tight with slender arms that ended in spiky balls of claws.
The pieces in her dress gnawed at her chest, ripping out teeny chunks of skin. Some descended toward her nipples with horrifying speed. The popcorn that had landed on the ground began climbing up the cupboards at a sprightly pace, returning to the bag on the counter.
If Sara hadn’t been so busy clawing popcorn out of her mouth before it could attempt to eat her tongue, she would have been terrified by the popcorn bag’s activity. Its matte black sides heaved and distended as the popcorn inside of it seethed, multiplying.
The plastic bag swelled and its seams threatened to split as a nubbly yellow head emerged out of the top, followed by a broad pair of shoulders and powerful arms. The popcorn monster pushed itself out of the small black bag like some kind of magic trick: eight feet tall if it was an inch, humanoid in shape, with muscles bulging everywhere it was possible for muscles to bulge.
It was made of a billion individual pieces of popcorn densely packed together. Each piece had a pair of orange eyes that burned with hatred. Sara had eaten a lot of popcorn in her lifetime, and the popcorn wanted vengeance.
The monster hopped down off the counter, and its feet made a crunch when they hit the floor.
The pieces wreaking havoc in Sara’s mouth abruptly relented, letting go of her torn flesh and scurrying to meet their master. She spat out blood, swaying, struggling to understand what was happening. The popcorn in her bra used their tiny arms to tear escape holes in her dress and clambered down her body. They attached themselves to their big, bad daddy just as it tackled Sara.
Her head smacked against the kitchen counter and fireworks lit up the inside of her skull. She collapsed on the floor, noodle-limp. The popcorn man pinned down her arms and legs. She fought to get away, but the monster was astonishingly heavy for a creature made of popcorn.
Billions of tiny orange eyes glared at her as the thing cocked its head from one side to the other, just like Batman did when she teased him by saying the names of foods he liked.
The popcorn man’s jaw opened. Sara expected a butter-scented roar to come out, but instead, the only sound it produced was the ding! of a microwave.
That ding! was some kind of signal. It made the monster instantly dissolve into a billion separate pieces of fanged, clawed popcorn. They descended upon Sara in a greasy blizzard.
She screamed for a while, but soon, her throat was too full of popcorn and blood, and eventually, she had no throat at all.
When she had been reduced to nothing but scraps of cloth and bones with strings of meat still attached to them, the popcorn whirled into the air in a tight column, and poured back into the black bag, which folded in upon itself, forming a neat, unopened package.
About an hour later, Batman finally worked up the courage to emerge from under the dining table and begin eating the leftovers.
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