Lisa danced from foot to foot beside her mother’s bed. “Mommy, I can’t sleep.”
Olivia stirred. “What’s wrong?”
Lisa showed her a pink, squashy, pony-shaped pillow. “Buttercup’s tag itches me!”
“Just pull it off,” mumbled Olivia.
“I can’t.” Lisa pointed to the tag, which read: DO NOT REMOVE UNDER PENALTY OF LAW.
Olivia took the pillow from Lisa. “That’s nothing. We can ignore that, sweetie.”
She ripped out the tag. With a sick gurgling sound, the pony jerked and stiffened, a black fluid oozing from the rip.
Olivia screamed. From the tag dangled eighteen tiny vertebrae and a pulsating brain.
When is a pony pillow not a pony pillow? When it’s myeloencephalic, of course! This is a fancy word that simply means, “Pertaining to the spinal cord and brain.”
This story, like yesterday’s, was written for the Drabblecast’s weekly microfiction contest. The prompt was to write a story where following directions is a good idea. I got to thinking about all those horrible cautionary tales of old, such as the hilarious and terrifying German storybook Struwwelpeter. I wanted to write something like that to explain why we shouldn’t rip those tags off of our pillows., even if they’re annoying us.
I’ve heard people riff on this before, and usually the joke’s that the police will show up at your door with handcuffs because they’re secretly monitoring pillows everywhere for violators. However, I wanted a sci-fi twist.
I’ve noticed how pillow tags are always on the animal’s butt, if attached to a plushie of some sort. That suggests it’s attached to the terminal end of the spinal column, right? In my story, the pillow (and its tag) is a mimic of some sort, like one of those bugs that looks like a stick, but isn’t. Maybe it’s an alien life form that feeds off of human delta brainwaves while they sleep. Maybe it peacefully grazes on bedbugs while we’re out and about during the day. Either way, the tag’s just a clever gimmick designed to keep us from taking too close a look!
Now that you’ve all gotten a look into my slightly twisted sense of humor, let’s hear from you! Got a favorite cautionary tale, or a theory on what those dang tags mean?