Illustration for article titled Concept Art Writing Prompt: Battle on the Zombie Playground

This week's concept art writing prompt takes us back to the playground — but it might not be quite the way you remember it. Have an awesome story idea to go with this crazy painting? Write a piece of flash fiction and post it in the comments.

This undead image comes from artist Jason Chan via reddit.

Here's my flash fiction response. Post yours in the comments:

The zombie parties were Mrs. Juniper's idea. Once Mabel Stevens came down with the zombie virus — the sallow eyes, the rabid, twitching jaw — Mrs. Juniper sent her son, Toby, across the street to play. Just one nibble, and the next day Toby was shambling downstairs for his Wheaties. Soon, the other parents joined in, dropping their children off for infectious playdates where they shared dishes of ice cream and brain-shapped lollipops with their undead classmates. When the children came home with bloody fingers and tooth-shaped bruises, their anxious mothers would smile and send them to bend with enormous plates of raw steak. Eventually, everyone gave up the pretense of quarantine and the playground became a daily display of wordless moans and gnashing teeth.

When Katrina Paulsen whined that she didn't want to play with "those gray-skinned freaks," her mother whirled around, tsking as she pointed a batter-coated spoon. "Kat-Kat," she said, "I taught you better than to judge people by the color of their skin."

Katrina stomped her foot. "I'm judging them by the color of their teeth!" she pouted. "Red, bloody teeth."

But despite Katrina's protests, her mother dumped her at the playground, promising to pick her up before dinner. "Play nice," her mother called from the window of the Subaru. "No hitting the other kids in the head."

It was totally unfair, Katrina thought. Her mother had left her completely unarmed, confiscating her slingshot on the way out the door. All the playground offered were whiffle ball bats and handfuls of sand. Hiding among the parents, she knew, would be no good. A well meaning mom was sure to ambush her with a virus-filled tissue across the face or a juicebox tainted with zombie backwash. Katrina stared stonily across the dead sea of Mrs. Kittredge's fourth grade class, trudging mindlessly through the sand. She saw Lissa Menkin, who had a tetherball caught beneath her armpit, forcing her to circle the pole again and again. Katrina fingered the candy stripe friendship bracelet around her own wrist and tried not to cry.

"Katrina!" a voice called out. Katrina's head snapped toward the high tower of the wooden playground, where four small figures waved down at her. What a relief to see children who could still raise their arms.

Katrina took a deep breath and waited for a clearing in the thicket of zombie children. When she saw it, she made a break for the slide. As she ran, she could pick out the kids at the top of the tower: Bobby Greggs, armed with a foam bat and a trash can lid, Farilee Todd, Zeke Bennington, and Tara Lee. Katrina noted with envy that Tara had managed to smuggle her slingshot onto the playground.

Katrina lept onto the slide that spiraled up to the tower. Her sneakers squeaked against the red plastic, and the noise did not go unnoticed. A crowd of tiny zombies gathered at the slide's mouth. Lissa's wriggling body was the first to fall upon the slide, her arms grasping up toward Katrina's legs, but soon a pile formed, all writhing arms and snapping mouths.

The live children at the top of the tower screamed at Katrina. "You've got!" Farilee cried. "Just a little closer!" Bobby shoved his bat beneath his arm and reached out to her with his free hand. Katrina pounded up the slide, relishing the burn in her lungs…

…until one foot failed to make contact.

The last sensation Katrina was conscious of was the static shock of her skin making contact with the slide.

Peter Cho stood with his mother in the Paulsen's kitchen, watching wide-eyed as Katrina shoveled a plateful of eggs into her mouth. He'd seen Katrina around school, but he didn't remember her being so dead-eyed. He caught her eye and she leaned forward, her mouth open, eggs spilling from her tongue. Peter pressed his body against his mother's.

Mrs. Paulsen looked at Mrs. Cho with a sympathetic smile. "I know it's not ideal," Mrs. Paulsen said. "But it's so much harder if they catch it when they're older."


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